Ever since I was small, my parents told me we had to eat five or more vegetables a day. Unfortunately, while the fruit and vegetables may look the same as when I was a child 50 years ago, today they are inferior. The other day I spoke with a friend who moved here from Europe in the 70s. I mentioned I didn’t want to eat genetically modified fruit or vegetables. She said, “But, we live in New Zealand. They don’t grow genetically modified plants here.”
The truth is farmers worldwide use hybridized and genetically modified seeds and spray their fields with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, and herbicides. Researchers like Weston A. Price have proven that vegetables have dropped their nutrient content by 90% since the 1930s. These days the only way to eat nutrient-dense food grown in healthy soils is to buy or grow our organic fruit and vegetables. I pay a lot for organic produce. At the same time, I am developing and expanding my vegetable patches so we can grow more of our food.

I’m keen on planting more fruit trees at home. However, space is limited as we already grow a fair amount. There are the veterans my parents planted: the plums, lemons, bananas, and grapefruit. There are three feijoa and two apple trees I have put in, as well as two fig trees, although I’ve espaliered the latter to keep them from outgrowing the section. Then I have lime, clementine, and kumquat trees growing in large outdoor pots. To add more at this stage, I have to consider dwarf varieties. The dwarf trees are too small to yield enough fruit, so we buy semi-dwarfs. I’ve planted nectarine and apricot. When buying trees, try to buy direct from the nurseries. And check the labels first to make sure the trees are self-pollinating.

Once home, plant trees in spots with adequate sun. Fertilize regularly. Prune fruit trees at least twice a year. However, do not prune when borer is flying, which in the southern hemisphere is November, December, and January. Another tip is to feed your fruits and vegetables, especially citrus trees with trace elements. Trace Elements Chelates is a good source, available in New Zealand.
With your vegetable beds, keep it simple and plant the vegetables you want to eat. But remember to dig in your ‘soft’ fertilizers like blood & bone or fertilizer teas to the beds and leave for a week before planting.*See my post, Backyard Gardeners2, for the recipe for fertilizer teas. If you live in a highrise or apartment with no access to a garden, it is possible to grow vegetables in planters, grow herbs in pots on windowsills, and have small cloches indoors. However, when you grow plants this way, you provide every nutrient the plants could need, which takes special know-how. Try googling a step-by-step guide or looking it up on YouTube for a tutorial.

Here in New Zealand, we still have a month of winter before us. It has been an ideal time for growing spinach, kale, silverbeet, and brassicas like cabbage or broccoli. I have two beds growing broad beans, which I will dig into the ground next month. It will fix nitrogen in the soil, ready for planting spring crops in October.
August is the time to plant potatoes as the seed potatoes become available in New Zealand prior to spring. You can grow them in garden beds or in containers.
The container method requires a Flexi tub, available at hardware stores for $7 – $11. Drill four holes near the bottom but on the sides not on the floor of the tub. Quarter fill the container with potting mix. Don’t be tempted to use compost in planters or containers. Always use high-grade potting mix or garden mix. Space out about six seed potatoes on the soil and cover with a bit more potting mix. Water them daily and make sure to liquid feed every two weeks. And remember to vary the fertilizers, to keep things lively.

When your potatoes sprout green leaves, add another layer of the potting mix up to the level of the first two leaves. Carry on caring for your plants and as the plants grow, keep filling with potting mix. After four to six weeks, the tubs should be nearly full. The plants might eventually flower and then wither away. At that point, tip out the tubs and harvest the potatoes.
The garden method requires a trench dug across the bed half a spade in depth. Put seed potatoes spaced apart at the bottom of the trench and cover lightly with soil. As the green shoots and leaves come up, add soil and keep adding earth until you have built your trench into a mound running along the vegetable patch. When the greenery above ground starts to fail and wither, it is time to dig up your crop of potatoes. Yum! There is nothing like the taste of homegrown.
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol


Life can be difficult if all you see is everything that’s wrong. Start focussing on what’s right, what’s good, what’s constructive. If you want to feel better, you’ve got to think better. ~ Mufti Menk

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

August 3 question – When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?
Whew! Talk about a challenging issue for authors, especially unpublished writers. When you’re starting out and unsure of yourself, you wonder do I follow my ideas or try to write for the bestselling genres? If an author wants a long career, can they afford to ignore the demands of the market? That is the million-dollar question.
When I started writing picture books in the 80s, agents and publishers said you couldn’t write about cats or dogs because they were overdone. Although that didn’t stop everyone else from writing about them. When I started writing children’s chapter books in the 90s, they warned against writing about witches or wizards for the same reason. Since then the Harry Potter phenomenon happened, so, yeah, thanks, guys. Several years ago, everyone was writing about vampires, then it moved on, and everyone wrote about zombies. I didn’t bother. Suffice to say, I stopped worrying about what the market wanted long ago.

I guess I’m fortunate. Being a hobby writer, sales are not my main focus.
I don’t strive for originality, either. Over the years, I’ve learned that the prose has to come through me in whatever state it arrives. Then I enjoy tinkering with the muse’s gift. After all, isn’t most of an author’s time spent on editing rather than the original free writing? It’s up to us how much we change the form.
At the editing stage, I appreciate the input of critique groups. I feel they give insight into how readers might think or feel. My sister always urges me to leave my stories untouched. Her point is that too many cooks can spoil the broth. I get it. However, I value the opinions of my critique group, feeling that at some stage, an author does need to consider their audience, even if they self-publish and their audience is few.

The danger is when you overdo the critique and meddle to the point that the essence of your creative intelligence gets diluted. Was it Terry Pratchett who said if you question the muse too much, you might stuff the whole thing up? I’m paraphrasing. But it was something like that.
Creativity is a divine splash of energy in our brains. My dear elderly friend, Meg, used to call it ‘the inspired whatevers.’ The writer’s task is to watch for when the muse might strike and endeavour to catch ‘the inspired whatevers’ straight off the ether. I remember one writing teacher telling us that we had to ‘grab the first word given, and from there, the rest would come.’ That has been true for me with my fiction. Sometimes, I have failed to catch the first word, which resulted in floundering, unable to get started. But, if I catch that first word, then we are away. The rest of the story tumbles out of the cosmos, ready and willing. That magical feeling occurs when art can happen, that tingling when you capture the spark. We authors act as the conduit for the sublime. As do all artists.

During the editing stage, we turn into alchemists. We try to bash and hammer the divine spark forcing it into a round hole. We take inspiration from the ether and try to make it fit within the standards of storytelling. I remain uncertain about how to get the balance right. How much do you add, and how much do you lose? It’s a constant balancing act.
How about you? Do you strive for originality with your writing? Or do you try to conform to current literary expectations? What do you think?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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I’m never truly happy with everything I ever put out. There’s always something I can improve on. Phrase a sentence better. Make the message pop. Not be such a dullard. But facing that doubt is part and parcel of the writing life. ~ Stuart Danker

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https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com

This week I got together with a friend who wanted to discuss the story she’s been working on. Let’s call her Jane Doe. Jane has realized that she primarily wants to write books. As long as I’ve known Jane, she’s always mentioned her stories. She has finished the first draft of her debut novel. The problem she is up against now is she works full-time to pay the bills. Yet writing takes lots of time also. Jane works when she wants to be writing. Then, when she writes, the time disappears in a flash, and she has to go back to her job again.
Every author deals with this. Jane Doe is not the first. Over the years, dozens of people have told me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” And, these days, anyone can with easy access to numerous self-publishing avenues these days, from Amazon to Wattpad, to B&N Press, and aggregators, such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords for distribution. In the last five years, more books have been self-published than have been printed since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450. The market is simply glutted with fiction.

Ease of publication aside, writing is a brutal business. The reality (though I did not tell Jane these facts) is that only 5% of authors ever hit the big time and make enough money to retire from their day job. 95% of authors will sell no more than 100 copies of each book. There were a lot of bitter realities I did not tell Jane about. See the bite marks all over my tongue.
The only people who write books are starry-eyed newbies (who will never write more than one or two novels at most) or those poor souls who can’t NOT write and are therefore doomed to continue stabbing away at the keyboards all their live long days, whether they ever sell anything or not. Jane Doe is one of the latter. As am I. For us, “the time goes by in a flash” whenever we are writing. I remember, many years ago, telling my landlord about the time issue, and he said, “Yes, it’s like that when I’m painting. Time disappears into a black hole. You look up and realize hours have gone by.” I have repeated the black hole saying a lot over the years because when things strike you as ultimately true they bear repeating.

My friend Jane Doe and I are the same. We have no choice but to write, no matter what the outcome. We write when we’re happy, we write when we’re sad. We write when we have free time. We write when we’re busy. We write during the week, on the weekends, at night, and on holiday. We’re not chasing the Booker Prize, hoping to gain fans or fame, or to win a publishing deal (although all those things would be nice), we’re writing because it comes as naturally as breathing or thinking or talking.
For me, writing fiction started as a bid to escape from the mundanity of bottles and diapers as a seventeen-year-old stay-at-home-mum. It worked. There was no need for any other therapy. Having that creative outlet and being in the zone gave me positivity in an otherwise tricky situation. When you find the things you can do in this life that makes time disappear into a black hole, all is well with the world. In unstable times we need more sources of positive energy, these resources anchor us. They give us strength.

So I encourage Jane with all my might. I have offered to read her story to give some overall critique, and she will do the same for me. The first volume in my next series, currently written in the rough, needs a ton of work. So we embark on a journey together.
I have always been a writer. It’s a joy, a beloved part of me. Some of us write because we want to author a book one day. Some of us write because we have to. Hopefully, the end result is the same, and there is more beautiful, inspiring, revealing, humanizing prose in the world for people to imbibe. Because in times of stress, we turn to the arts.
What about you? What is the thing you most love to do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“For me, euphoria is simply the act of waking up, making my coffee, and sitting down with a book and being able to read.” Elliot Page

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I have finished reading my twelfth novel for 2022, The Dragon Defenders, Book One, by James Russell. In New Zealand, you can’t move without hearing about this author and this series. Every time you browse through a secondhand bookstore, firsthand bookstore, or library, you are apt to see one or other of the five-volume series pop up. Whether it is Book Two: The Pitbull Returns, Book Three: An Unfamiliar Place, Book Four: All Is Lost, or Book Five: The Grand Opening, The Dragon Defenders series is everywhere. As is the author, the self-published James Russell, who tours Indie fairs and conferences, featuring as a bestselling author. A big fish.
Recently, I picked up the first book in the series and could hardly wait to see what all the fuss was about. I think I started reading The Dragon Defenders the same night I bought it.

The middle-grade novel series follows the adventures of Paddy and Flynn, brothers who live with their parents and little sister Ada on an island populated by dragons. Brought up isolated from technology and today’s world, the boys spend their days honing their bushcraft outside. They are self-trained sharpshooters with their slingshots and bows and arrows. Athletic and strong, the boys have excellent surviving skills. When a group of egg and dragon poachers led by a guy called Pitbull come to the island, Paddy and Flynn must outwit them, aided by their pets – Clappers (their horse), Lightning (their falcon), and Coco (their dog). The boys use a combination of planning and tricks to save the dragons.
There is a lot of action at times. The boys are proactive risk-takers. Nothing is too violent, however, and the author’s message of not taking revenge on one’s enemies makes a timely point of difference. The feature of extra digital content is a bonus, which the reader accesses through a device or smartphone. It’s the sort of multimedia feature that kids love these days. For an old fuddy-duddy like me, it was a novelty to see the maps and videos appear, yet it also felt like a distraction from the more important business of reading. Digital enhancement is not my preferred way of imbibing a book. I prefer the paper versions. I find it hard to get lost in a fantasy world when I’m fumbling with my smartphone.

If you asked me my main takeaway? I’d say too much exposition. In the opening chapters, the author tells us a lot about the characters, setting, etc. ‘They were allowed to explore the natural world, and as little children, they got hurt. A lot. There may never before have been two children with so many bumps and scrapes, bruises, and cuts.’ It’s the sort of thing we get rapped over the knuckles for by modern tutors and critique groups. I recall reading the Harry Potter novels with the same sense of surprise at the amount of exposition. These days the arbiters of style recommend less is more. Yet, J.K.Rowling’s book sales are only rivalled by the Bible, and James Russell is one of New Zealand’s bestselling authors. For some writers, the rules don’t apply. Good on him/them for sailing above the prevalent writing mores. They are staying true to themselves, and we need more people like that in this world.

The only other mark against this book was the inclusion of a swear word. We don’t swear in children’s books, generally speaking.
James Russell is also the author of the best-selling Dragon Brothers Trilogy of picture books (The Dragon Hunters, The Dragon Tamers, and The Dragon Riders). The Kiwi author launched his first book for adults, Mine – A Surfing Odyssey on North Sentinel Island on June 1, 2021. He lives in Auckland with his wife and two young sons.
The Dragon Defenders, Book One, is a gripping adventure for 7 – 12-year-olds. It is a solid start to the series, and I always applaud a happy ending.
My rating: Three stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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‘As you’ll have realized by now, Paddy and Flynn were born adventurers.’ ~ The Dragon Defenders


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In June 2015, I had my first book launch planned for September of that year. My greatest fear was public speaking, so I knew there was no way I could deliver a speech at the launch without serious help. After some searching the internet, I discovered Toastmasters. The non-profit educational speakers’ organization began with Ralph C. Smedley in the United States, and now boasts 352,000 members in 141 countries. With more than 16,400 individual clubs worldwide, there was a club within a ten-minute drive of my house. I rocked along that week, joined up, and was assigned a mentor. What is a mentor? A mentor is a person who provides guidance and support to empower a protégé to reach their goals.

In Toastmasters, they assign a mentor to guide each new member for the first six months. Debbie was my mentor, and she was brilliant, yet not even she could help me with my nerves. Public speaking is the number one fear for most people, and for me, it felt debilitating. The way I managed the fear was by tightly controlling my speeches. I would start work on them two weeks before the due date. I would write out the idea and edit it endlessly until every word was in the exact right place. Then a week before the presentation was due, I would start memorizing the piece. I would work on it line by line, learning and rehearsing until finally, I knew it verbatim.

On the day of the meeting, in a state of high anxiety, I would pace outside rehearsing my lines. Only after giving my speech could I finally relax. The months went by, and I survived. I successfully delivered the keynote at my book launch and even won a speech competition. Somewhere along the way, the challenges of Toastmasters became fun. Far out, I thought, is it true that I have conquered my greatest fear? It was “a feather in my cap,” as my father used to say.
Then came the day an evaluator gave a speech evaluation that stopped me in my tracks and changed my trajectory forever. On that day, I remember being secretly pleased with my speech because I had recalled every word perfectly.

Mike was my evaluator. He was one of our best storytellers. Mike could come up with a speech on his way into the club and deliver an amazing piece a few minutes later. He said, ‘Your speech was fine, great. We’ve said it all before. But…you speak as if you’re talking to yourself in the mirror. You’re not connecting with us, just reciting something you’ve learned by rote. My challenge to you is to stop memorizing your speeches.’
Whoa. I was thunderstruck. My face was burning. This advice came three to four years into my Toastmasters journey, and I had memorized all my speeches until that point. I felt utterly humiliated. Scurrying home that day with my tail between my legs, I cried my eyes out. I swore I would never return to the club again! But Mike had issued me a challenge. Could I give a speech without memorizing it? I didn’t even know. Looking it up in the educational material, I saw that Toastmasters recommend solidifying the central ideas and that you learn any quotes, dates, or numbers but resist memorizing the rest of the content. Oh, geez.

For my next speech, I hatched an idea, wrote four words on a card, and attempted winging it after only two run-throughs. I felt like a hot mess. Without a clear path mapped out before me, I was sure I fumbled about for the words. Nevertheless, I did it. The second speech without memorizing was a bit easier, and the next one was a bit easier again. Then, I began to experience a real change, the back and forth, the give and take, of connecting with the audience. That’s where the magic lies. Mike’s honesty had released me from a self-imposed prison, my little cage. It was a whole new day.


Here’s the thing with public speaking. I have learned that it’s not about projecting an image of perfection onto your audience or trying to look like something you’re not. It’s about sharing your views, your thoughts, your feelings, your perspective – who you are – with others authentically. It’s about being present in the moment with your audience. That’s when you get truly memorable public speaking, and it’s also when the content comes across as the most meaningful.
It’s a process and I am still learning to the best of my ability, one meeting at a time. These days I even get to “pay it forward” by mentoring new members and passing on what I have learned, which really is a great feeling! In the words of John Ford, You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.
Why not have a go and try public speaking. You might surprise yourself!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“A WINNER IS JUST A LOSER WHO TRIED ONE MORE TIME.” ~ GEORGE M. MOORE, JR.


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

July 6 question – If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?
I always try to answer these questions as honestly as possible by going with the first thought that comes to mind. My dad used to say that the gut reaction was always right. My gut feeling when I read this question? I would live in the books I’m writing. It sounds like a self-congratulatory thing to say. But every time I get precious hours to pour into my new story, I dive into this imaginary world and love spending time there. My writing has always been my way of escape and still is.
If you’d asked me this question a few years ago, when I was working on editing my middle-grade series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I would have wanted to go there. The trilogy took me a decade to write. I became so familiar with the environment I had created that I knew every nook and cranny like my own home and garden. The world, and the characters, were like family, a part of my daily reality.

When I started work on my present children’s series, it was a thrill to build a new world and unfurl my wings over unique and unknown landscapes. This year I have had a ball developing the story bible for this series, figuring out the setting, and beginning to picture it clearly in my mind.
They say that writers write for themselves. That is certainly true for me. Often, in my life, and especially in the last two years, I write the sort of world that makes my heart sing. I can’t tell you any more about that world right now, not until the stories are close to finished. Time has taught me not to speak about my stories while they’re in the nascent stages, for fear the muse will exit stage left and leave me cold. Besides, this is the genesis stage and requires nurturing and sustained silence.

When I started writing fiction for children, I was a teenage mum stuck at home with a baby. All my friends were off traveling the planet, having the times of their lives. My only way to escape the humdrum of nappies and housework was to climb out that golden window of my imagination into a better place. Creative writing was my saving grace. Literally.
Neil Gaiman once famously said, ‘I’d like to say a few words on escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds themself in.’

Like Neil, I’ve never understood why people look down their noses at escapism through literature. There are far worse things in the world. And considering the state of affairs on the planet at the moment, frankly, we need all the escapism we can get. It’s benign, nourishing, affordable therapy. And it works. As J.R.R. Tolkien reminded us, the only people who warn against escape are the jailers.
I want to provide that escape route for my readers. And I seek the same haven, too. There’s no place in the multiverse I would rather be than living inside my own story worlds. So, yes, please, sign me up.
A close second would be the world of Moomintroll.
Which book world would you escape to and why?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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‘Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been.’ ~ Neil Gaiman

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I have finished reading my eleventh novel for 2022, The Gypsy Crown, by Kate Forsyth. It is the first book in the six-book series, The Chain of Charms, published in 2006. Kate followed this with The Silver Horse, The Herb of Grace, The Cat’s Eye Shell, The Lightning Bolt, and The Butterfly in Amber. Recommended for grades 5-9.
Set during the time of Oliver Cromwell (1658), Emilia and her cousin, Luka, are Romany gypsies (the Rom). The story starts with two gypsy clans coming together for the marriage of two young members. They make a wedding agreement. 13-year-old Emilia, Luka, and other family members travel to the nearest village to sing and dance to help raise the dowry. But singing and dancing are considered the work of the devil. The gypsies are captured and imprisoned, then threatened with hanging. Only Emilia and Luka escape, with Emilia’s horse, Alida, a pet dancing bear named Sweetheart, a trained monkey called Zizi, and a faithful dog, Rollo.

After a hair-raising journey, Emilia, Luka, and their animals make it back to the matriarch of their clan, the Queen of the Gypsies, Maggie Finch. The matriarch tells them the legend of the chain of charms. Long ago, a gypsy matriarch had broken her chain of charms, giving one charm to each of her five children, and ever since then, the luck of the Rom had turned foul. Maggie Finch gave Emilia the gypsy crown, her first charm from the chain. She tells the children if they can gather the charms from the other gypsy families, it would help bring their family freedom and turn the tide of fortune to favour the Rom.
The Chain of Charms series follows the adventures of Emilia and Luka as they seek to find each of the families that hold the charms on their quest to reunite the legendary chain. The first book, The Gypsy Crown, sets the stage for the five books to follow and establishes the high stakes involved. Emilia and Luka have a deadline. They must free the imprisoned members of their families facing the gallows. Whew!

I love historical fiction, and I picked up this slim volume purely because it takes place in England at the time of Cromwell’s rebellion. Historical fiction can be hard to write convincingly, and I always read with curiosity to see if the author has managed to live up to the challenge. It didn’t take long to feel reassured she had. As well as adventure, there is historical value in a book like this. The reader will learn about life in the 1600s. I learned something new because prior to reading this, I was unaware they persecuted gypsies. Across Europe, punishments included flogging, torture, branding, mutilation, hanging, and shooting. These details put the reader firmly on the side of the Rom. Who doesn’t love a good underdog tale?
Once Emilia and Luka get into trouble and are on the run, the action becomes high octane, and I was on the edge of my seat. At first, I was annoyed that they took the bear, Sweetheart, with them. How do you run for your life with a bear in tow? It seemed an insurmountable problem. But what it does very successfully is to pile on the tension. Brownie points to Kate Forsyth.

Who is Kate Forsyth? I was curious to know, as the book surprised me (in a good way). Kate writes with assurance, yet I’d never heard of the author before. It surprised me to read her biography. Kate has a doctorate in fairytale studies, a master of Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, and is an accredited master storyteller. The girl is over-qualified! She writes Historical Fiction, Children’s Books, and Fantasy. Born in Australia, Kate is now the internationally bestselling author of 40 books. She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.
My only beef with The Gypsy Crown is that it was too brief. The subject was so meaty and could have included a lot more historical details, but I inhaled it in two sittings, leaving me feeling short-changed. I wanted to get to know the characters more, too. However, since the idea is to entice the reader into the next book, it succeeds on that level. And since I assume the story length would be ideal for child readers, it is an easy-to-read, engaging story that all children would enjoy.
My rating: Two and three-quarter stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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‘They can imprison us and beat us, but they cannot stop our hearts from feeling and our minds from thinking and our tongues from speaking, can they?’ The man heaved a great sigh, and then repeated, very low, ‘Can they?’ ~ The Gypsy Crown


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I have finished reading my tenth novel for 2022, The Dead of the Night, by John Marsden. Sequel to the powerful, critically received Tomorrow, When the War Began, this book is equally compelling. This is one of those happy situations where the second book is as good as the first. There are seven books in the Tomorrow series by this popular author, A Killing Frost, Darkness, Be My Friend, Burning for Revenge, The Night is for Hunting, and The Other Side of Dawn. The Dead of the Night is the second book in the series, also known as The Ellie Chronicles.

The Tomorrow series is based on a horrifying premise. A group of young people leaves on a camping adventure in the Australian outback. They return to find their country invaded by an army. The invaders have ransacked the teenagers’ hometown, and everyone has been rounded up in prison camps, leaving this one band of teens to survive on their own. At the end of the first book, Tomorrow, When the War Began, Corrie was shot in the back and Kevin had taken her to the hospital. The Dead of the Night takes up the story a short time later when Ellie, Homer, Lee, Robyn, Fi, and Chris decide to brave going into the hospital to see if Corrie’s okay and discover Kevin’s whereabouts. They get the answers they wanted but then have to run the gauntlet to return to Hell, their hiding place in the bush. After a lot of teenage angst about their lot and the nature of warfare, the gang decides they can’t sit around forever. They need more supplies for living in Hell. They want to take action against the army that invaded their land, took over their homes, and took their families prisoner.

Ellie is the narrator. A wonderfully imperfect human being, Ellie is an honest and relatable protagonist. Ellie, Homer, Lee, Robyn, Fi, and Chris make a smaller more manageable group of characters. Despite their inexperience, this doesn’t hold them back or make them think they would be unable to make a difference. These young people are clever, resourceful, and daring enough to think of creative solutions. Through Ellie, we see how the gang has toughened up since the first book. They are turning into warriors. It is rewarding, especially when they meet another guerilla group of adults, Harvey’s Heroes, whose outdated views, odd rules, and meaningless attacks mess everything up.
Our brave teens make meaningful foray after foray. But war is no walk in the park. They face the reality of violence and have to kill people to survive. Blood and guts galore. It makes the stakes life and death. Poor Ellie suffers greatly over her killings. The nature of warfare is debated in various ways throughout the entire book. Every death has a meaning and a consequence which is as it should be. Whew. It was hard to read and just as hard to put down at times.

Despite the striving for survival and the strife of war, the cast is still made up of fallible teenagers. They fall in and out of love, make mistakes, suffer emotional rollercoasters, and (gasp) touch one another. This series is for the Young Adult market and not appropriate for underage readers as there is a sex scene between Ellie and her boyfriend, Lee.
Our heroic gang inflicts damage on the enemy, especially at the end of the book, where some homemade bombs include the ingenious and diabolical use of humble kitchen toasters. I felt the characters were believable, especially our heroine Ellie who is a little spitfire. The story is a non-stop adrenalin ride once you hop on board, and also, it is also emotionally satisfying. If I saw another book in this series on the shelves, I would probably buy it.

I admire John Marsden’s writing. He is solid. When you see his name, you know it’s a book worth reading. Marsden finds unique ways of expressing feelings and navigates the large cast with ease. Born in Australia on September 27, 1950, Marsden writes for the Young Adult, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Nonfiction markets. His first book, So Much To Tell You, was published in 1987. This was followed by Take My Word For It, a half-sequel written from the point of view of another character. His landmark Tomorrow series is recognized as the most popular series for young adults ever written in Australia. And, rightly so.
My rating: Four stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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Write something that’s worth fighting over. Because that’s how you change things. That’s how you create art. ~ Jeff Goins


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One of the frustrating things about tending your home vegetable plot is when you do everything right: you prepare the soil, plant the seeds, fertilize, water, and tend your plants, and then find them half-eaten by little critters. Pest control is a big issue for gardeners, large-scale and small-scale alike. While it is tempting to use poisons, it does pay to be aware that these products are toxic to the environment. In years past, I used to sprinkle slug slam pellets around my garden. But our gardening tutor told us the pellets contain a neurotoxin that might make it into the food chain. It is safer to use homemade solutions. For slugs, use a “beer trap.” Cut the bottom off a plastic bottle. Fill with beer or Brewer’s Yeast with some warm water added. Partly bury it in the vegetable patch. I put two beer traps down, and they both caught six or more slugs each in the first couple of days. It worked a treat.

For snails, they like to hide in dark, cool places during the day, so make them one! You can create a hidey-hole for them by cutting a v-shaped doorway in a plastic plant pot and setting it upside down in the garden. But make sure you put a rock on top as mine blew away in the first strong wind. Empty the pots regularly and dispose of the snails. Our gardening tutor said one student put his snails in a bag in the freezer. But the problem was his wife found them and had a fit! My mother used to squash them. Euw! It’s up to you. However, why not try a homemade remedy. It’s better for the environment.
When you are starting out as a gardener, it is worthwhile to spend the money on a few quality items that will last you for years. For instance, it is worthwhile to invest in a good trowel and a good spade. Also, spend the money on a good sprayer. Wash all tools and dry them after use. Mud left on a spade will eventually degrade the metal. Wash the spray bottle out thoroughly after use. Leave it with the lid off.

Buy seeds from suppliers online, as they work out a lot cheaper. Here in New Zealand, Kings seeds are a great source. I bought five packets for the same price it would have cost me for two bags from a retail outlet. Always plant them in a seed raising mix. Sieve the potting mix before you use it. Push the seeds into punnets as deep as two of the seeds. Cover with soil. Put your punnets of planted seeds on trays and fill the tray with water, so you are watering from the bottom, not the top. It will prevent you from washing the seeds too deep into the soil. Remember to put a sign on the punnets saying the vegetable variety and date you planted them. If the punnets still have water in them an hour later, throw the rest of the water away. You want the soil to be moist, not wet.
Don’t be tempted to plant a whole packet of seeds. Count them out, just a few at a time, and stagger the planting, so you don’t have all the same vegetables fruiting and needing to be eaten at once. I buy seeds with a friend. We pay half each and split the packets in half. Seeds get old. So it means you don’t have too many to plant, and they are always fresh. It works well for us.

As for the water in your garden, rainwater is best. We have a water tank harvesting rainwater from the roof. Watering during the dry times means using the town supply. This water is full of Chlorine and Flouride and so on. To counteract the detrimental effect of the chemicals, add one drop of humic acid to each gallon of water.
If you’re going away, take a plastic bottle and cut the bottom off. Then drill a few holes near the mouth. Leave the lid on. Fill the bottle and bury it with the lid pointed down near the vegetables. The water will leak out slowly over the days.

If your seeds take longer than three weeks to sprout, they will not grow. But, for those which sprout, let the plants reach a decent size and turn the punnets over on your hand until they come out in your hand. Gently tease the seedlings apart and plant them in your beds far enough apart to have room to grow. Read the back of the seed packet as they will often have information on the space required between plants. Pack the soil up to the first two leaves to be firm. Always handle seedlings by the leaves, not the stalks. Water them in when it’s raining and use very diluted fertilizer tea. To deter the birds from disturbing the seedlings, spread mulch liberally around them. The mulch will retard weeds and retain moisture in the soil, so it’s a win-win. Or put up a homemade scarecrow. And if necessary, you can always use bird netting at least until the vegetables get established.
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I have finished reading my ninth novel for 2022, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. Winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal, A Wrinkle in Time was the first book in the Time Quintet series, followed by A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters.
Any writer who has a few years behind them will know about not starting a story with the worst opening line ever, ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’ I can remember one writing tutor teaching us how to grab the reader’s attention with the first line. The old chestnut, ‘It was a dark and stormy night,’ was trotted out as the perfect example of what NOT to do. In other words, it is so banal as to send a reader running for the next book. No one told Madeleine L’Engle. A Wrinkle in Time starts with that very line. I gasped out loud, I tell you. I was impressed at the same time. So surprised was I by this bold choice of the first line that I read on with avid curiosity to see how this story would play out.

A Wrinkle in Time starts with great promise. The first chapters are thrilling.
We meet the Murry family through the eyes of Meg. I warmed to our protagonist instantly. Who could resist such a deeply flawed, tetchy, troubled character? “I’m full of bad feeling.” Meg is so honest about her resentments, but why is she so angry? She lives in a cozy home amid a rambling garden. Her beautiful scientist mother is understanding and gives “Meglet” space to be herself. Also, sharing the house are her siblings, the twins, Sandy and Dennys, and the youngest member of the family, the enigmatic Charles Wallace. However, there is sadness lurking in the background. We discover their physicist father has been missing for years. It’s the thorn in Meg’s side. In Chapter One, the family meets an odd friend of Charles Wallace who blunders into the house during a fierce storm. The strange little woman Mrs. Whatsit arrives dressed in rubber boots, an overcoat, a pink stole, and scarves of many colours and says unexpected things like “Wild nights are my glory.”

When Meg and Charles Wallace go to look for Mrs. Whatsit and her friends, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, they join forces with another boy from their area, Calvin, who insists on going with them. The three old women help the children travel via tesseract or a “wrinkle in time” across the universe. They visit other worlds. Along the way, the women tell them about dark energy which is consuming the universe. The three children are determined to stop the Darkness.
They reach a planet called Camazotz where they find Meg’s father trapped. Camazotz is controlled by an evil brain called “IT” which takes control of Charles Wallace. After a period of being scared of IT and distraught about their inability to free Charles Wallace from his mental enslavement, Calvin and Meg manage to free Mr. Murry. They escape (just) to another planet where Aunt Beast heals Meg. With renewed strength, Meg frees Charles Wallace through the power of her love, and the group makes it back to Earth. However, the children still have not managed to touch the Darkness. They may have made it home, but we know the danger is not over.

My predominant response to this book was one of disappointment. It started with such promise and a banging protagonist in Meg. The three old women were mysterious, while Charles Wallace was some sort of genius and different. But, as soon as they left Earth via the wrinkle, things went downhill. The three old women remained undeveloped. I wanted to know more. The planets visited and subsidiary characters like the Happy Medium were not described enough to satisfy any questions. Meg, who was so feisty at the start, hardly spoke a sensible word throughout their planetary travels. I constantly expected more of her, yet she didn’t step up until the final part. And Charles Wallace, who was so clever, turned into a helpless minion of IT until Meg rescued him. The book won a prestigious award and is the childhood favourite of many. But, upon finishing this book, there is no way this side of a tesseract that I would seek to read any more of the series. My humble apologies to fans and the author. But for me, this book failed to deliver.

Madeleine L’Engle was born in New York City on November 29th, 1918. Her interest from the beginning revolved around writing poems and stories, which reflected in her poor grades. When she was 12, she moved to the French Alps with her parents and went to an English boarding school in Switzerland. Returning to the United States two years later, she graduated from University with honors in English. Before meeting Hugh Franklin, her future husband, Madeleine published her first two books, A Small Rain and Ilsa. Hugh was an actor, and Madeleine became an actress to improve her skills as a playwright. She and Hugh married and had three children together. She died in 2007, aged 88. She had published sixty books in her lifetime and is the most well-known for A Wrinkle in Time.
My rating: Two and a half stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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From ‘An Interview with Madeleine L’Engle:’ “Which of your characters is most like you?”
“None of them. They’re all wiser than I am.”


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