Growing bookworms: The importance of historical fiction for kids

When I was in high school, history was an unpopular subject. It was so unpopular, in fact, that when the time came for the Grade 9’s to chose their subjects for Grade’s 10 to 12, the school paired history with typing, home economics and business economics so that the girls who chose this less academic combination were compelled to take history. This was how I ended up in a history class with mainly girls who hated the subject. I loved history and I took it through choice. My other subjects were maths, accountancy, and science. In South Africa, English and Afrikaans were compulsory subjects at the time.

I never really understood why my peers didn’t like history as it was a subject always loved. I’ve said it here before, however, that I was a very wide reader from a very young age and I read a lot of books set in the past. Among my favourite books by a South African author, were the collections of short stories by Herman Charles Bosman. This is what Wikipedia has to say about Herman Charles Bosman:

Herman Charles Bosman (5 February 1905 – 14 October 1951) is widely regarded as South Africa’s greatest short-story writer. He studied the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain and developed a style emphasizing the use of satire. His English-language works utilize primarily Afrikaner characters and highlight the many contradictions in Afrikaner society during the first half of the twentieth century.

On reflection, I realised that I have acquired a love of history because all the books I had read allowed me to include the facts and dates I learned into the fascinating backdrop I had acquired of life at the time. I could visualise the homes, lives, and loves of the Afrikaner people I learned about during the sections on the Great Trek and the Boers wars though my reading of Charles Bosman’s works. I also read books by South African Boer War veteran, Deneys Reitz.

My learning of international history including the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution (including the Luddite uprisings), and the Tudor period were coloured by my reading of certain books, in particular, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and Shirley and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I found it easy to remember my history because I entwined it with my understanding of life at the times as presented by these great novels.

I was delighted when I discovered that history is a popular subject at the college for boys my sons both attend. Gregory chose to take history to matric (along with IT, maths, advanced maths and science which shows that its mixes well with any subject combination) and Michael looks set to follow in his footsteps.

I am bowled over by their history curriculum and the amazing why they learn about the past through source documents, cartoons, and many other interactive and interesting modes compared to my school days of rote learning. My sons are also taught history from the perspective of how historical events have influenced the present which makes this subject a lot more useful. It helps them to see how people’s actions and reactions have set the path for the future and resulted in both the good and bad in society we see today.

I believe it is vital for kids to understand history in an expansive and wide context so that they can value the freedoms and benefits their forefathers fought and die to leave as their legacy. For example, what young girl would not value her vote if she knew about the suffering and hardships of the suffragettes who paved the way for the achievement of this equality for women.

I wonder how many British children know that compulsory education for children aged 5 to 14 years was only introduced in 1918. How many American children know that compulsory education laws were only passed by 1900 and then only in 32 states, with the other states following by 1930. 1930! That’s less than 100 years ago.

Modern children are so fortunate to have an education and the opportunities for self improvement that come with it. It isn’t equal for all yet, but there are lots of people who believe passionately in educating children and who work really hard to implement change and improvements in education.

Understanding and learning about real people in a historical context makes their passions, sufferings and beliefs so much more compelling. It is difficult to hold on to prejudice if you’ve read novels like I am David by Anne Holm, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Patton.

Historical books also teach children interesting information about how people survived in the past. I’ve always remembered the chapter from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder when Pa cleaned his gun and made bullets. There is also a chapter about how Ma made butter and coloured it yellow. Little House on the Prairie has a scene when Ma is helping Pa build their new log cabin and a log falls on her foot. The difficulties and dangers of life on the frontier were illustrated; there was no help to be had for an injury or if the family fell ill.

I learned a lot about the limitations of medical knowledge in the mid to late 1800s through my reading of the What Katy Did series by Susan Coolidge. I will never forget Katy falling out of the swing or Amy contracting, and nearly dying from, Roman fever. Such scenes induce great feelings of empathy and compassion in the reader.

It is for all these compelling reasons that I wrote While the Bombs Fell, a fictionalised biography of my mom’s life as a young girl growing up in a small English town during World War II. I wanted to capture and preserve her memories of life for ordinary people living through this extraordinary time so that others, children in particular, could read it and remember how life was during that time.

What are your thoughts about historical fiction for both children and adults? Do you see value in learning about history in through a good story?

About Robbie Cheadle

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Robbie Cheadle is a children’s author and poet.

The Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie writes a monthly series for https://writingtoberead.com called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/ where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Day #5 wraps up the 2021 WordCrafter “A Ghost and His Gold” Book Blog Tour

A Ghost and His Gold Book Blog Tour

This week we’ve had a wonderful tour for the paranormal historical novel, A Ghost and His Gold, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle. The author of this wonderful book prepared a guest post, including an extract, for each stop, and we also had two beaming reviews and a fun and entertaining author profile.

If you missed any of the stops, you can find the links below. You can still stop by and learn more about this exceptional work of literature. We’d love to see you there.

Day 1 brought us a glimpse of the inspiration and history behind this fascinating story and my review of the book, here on Writing to be Read.

Day 2 introduced us to one of the author’s favorite characters, Peiter Van Zyl, a Boer commando, who represents one aspect of the history portrayed in this cleverly crafted tale. It is on Writing to be Read, as well, (due to technical difficulties on Patty’s World, but I’m told she’ll be posting something special on her new blog site on Wednesday, so be watching for that).

Day 3 brought us a delicious recipe for a traditional South African dish, which is eaten by the characters in the story, showing historical accuracy and impecable research by Cheadle, on Jessica Bakker’s.

Day 4 offers insight into one of the historical figures referenced in the story, and a wonderful author profile, created from an interview with Barbara Spencer on Pictures from the Kitchen Window.

Day 5 finished off the tour with some historical background for the story’s setting and a review by Victoria Zigler on Zigler’s News.

A Ghost and His Gold, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

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A Ghost and his Gold – Roberta Eaton Cheadle -Book Tour – Day 3

For Day #3 of the WordCrafter “A Ghost and His Gold” Book Blog Tour, we’re over at Jessica Bakkers’ blog site, and author Roberta Eaton Cheadle is explaining how to prepare one of the traditional Dutch dishes that her characters share in her book. Both educational and mouth watering, this post may make your tummy rumble and your reading list grow. Come and join us.

Jessica Bakkers

I am lucky enough to bring to you, not only a new paranormal history book from Roberta Eaton Cheadle, but also a description of one of the historically accurate meals enjoyed by the folks in “A Ghost and his Gold”…something that sounds delicious, even if I can’t pronounce it! Enjoy and celebrate the tour with Roberta, and check out details below for a great give away offer!!


A Ghost and His Gold Give Away

Each stop on this five-day book blog tour will offer the opportunity to win a $10 Amazon gift voucher. (*Winners must be able to retrieve Amazon US gift vouchers.) Author Roberta  Eaton Cheadle will also give away 2 paperback copies of A Ghost and His Gold. All you have to do to enter is drop by each tour stop and leave a comment!


The origins of potjiekos and a recipe:

The Dutch hutspot came into existence…

View original post 907 more words


Welcome to the WordCrafter “A Ghost and His Gold” Book Blog Tour & My Review

A Ghost and His Gold Book Blog Tour

Today is Day #1 of the WordCrafter A Ghost and His Gold Book Blog Tour with an interesting guest post by author Roberta Eaton Cheadle explaining how she came to write this wonderful paranormal historical novel. I hope you will join us at each of the tour stops because this tour has a great giveaway! Each stop on this five-day book blog tour will offer the opportunity to win a $10 Amazon gift voucher. (*Winners must be able to retrieve Amazon US gift vouchers.) Author Roberta  Eaton Cheadle will also give away 2 paperback copies of A Ghost and His Gold. All you have to do to enter is drop by each tour stop and leave a comment!

And now, please welcome Roberta Eaton Cheadle as she introduces us to A Ghost and His Gold.

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How A Ghost and His Gold came to be written 

A Ghost and His Gold started as a simple short story idea. I was reading up on Ouma Smuts, the wife of Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts who served as the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 to 1924 and from 1939 to 1948, when I came across an interesting ghost story involving their house. 

Ouma Smuts lived with her husband and their children in a house in Irene near Pretoria, the capital of the previous Boer South African Republic (Transvaal). The house is now a museum which I have visited many times. The original tin roofed house is quite spooky with each room featuring a scene frozen in time. Jars of Ouma Smuts’ home-made preserves and pickles are still on the shelf in the pantry. There is an open book on the table in Jan Smut’s former library, a wonderful room which is lined with books from floor to ceiling. 

Smuts Museum

Photo credit: https://showme.co.za/tourism/smuts-house-museum-irene-market-centurion/

It was during one of my tours of this museum that I first heard that the second-best bedroom, off the dining room, is purported to be haunted. The idea of a ghost interested me, and I decided to research it further. 

The story goes that the farm ‘Doornkloof’ was originally owned by a Boer family. Their house was built on the same spot that Smuts eventually put up his house in 1909. The previous owner had fled one night during the 2nd Anglo Boer War when it became clear that the Bristish forces were marching on Pretoria and his farm was in the way. Not wanting his family to end up in a concentration camp, he buried his valuables including £30 000 worth of gold and left hurriedly, never to return. There is no word on what happened to the farmer, but it is said that his spirit still lingers in the house on his old farm. 

The story of the ghostly farmer who is said to haunt the Smuts’ family home was so intriguing, I decided it needed to be told. Of course, any story about South African history is never going to stay short so it grew.  

After a few months of research and writing, it was a novella of 30 000 words. At that point I sent it to my developmental editor, Esther Chilton for her review and feedback. Esther loved the story and came back with some wonderful comments that set me off on the road to further developing this story. 

The history of South Africa is complex and involves more than one point of view, specifically that of the British, the Boers, and the native Africans. As I researched more about the time when the ghostly farmer lived, I discovered that the Boer and British perspectives on the Second Anglo Boer War conflict and vary. I also discovered that there is little recorded history about the involvement of the native Africans in this war. 

To accommodate these different points of view and to provide a reader with a holistic overview of this war, its causes, circumstances, emotions, and the role it played in setting the stage for the future of South Africa, I decided to introduce three ghosts: Robert, the British soldier in Mafeking during the siege, Pieter, the Boer and my depiction of the “ghostly farmer”, and Estelle, Pieter’s daughter from a previous marriage to an Englishwoman.  

The lack of recorded history made the inclusion of the native African perspective more difficult, but I introduced a few supporting characters who told their side of this story based on the information I managed to glean from hearsay, a thesis I discovered about the native African concentration camps, and other non-fiction and fictional works set in this period. 

I hope I have done all three perspectives justice and achieved my goals of providing insight into the psychology of this terrible war.  

The history is wrapped up in a paranormal tale which involves a modern couple and exposes their history and personal career mistakes which are, in many ways, a repeat of the past. 

Relevant extracts from A Ghost and His Gold 

Excerpt from A Ghost and His Gold

The Blurb 

After Tom and Michelle Cleveland move into their recently built, modern townhouse, their housewarming party is disrupted when a drunken game with an Ouija board goes wrong and summonses a sinister poltergeist, Estelle, who died in 1904.  

Estelle makes her presence known in a series of terrifying events, culminating in her attacking Tom in his sleep with a knife. But, Estelle isn’t alone. Who are the shadows lurking in the background – one in an old-fashioned slouch hat and the other, a soldier, carrying a rifle?   

After discovering their house has been built on the site of one of the original farms in Irene, Michelle becomes convinced that the answer to her horrifying visions lies in the past. She must unravel the stories of the three phantoms’ lives, and the circumstances surrounding their untimely deaths during the Second Anglo Boer War, in order to understand how they are tied together and why they are trapped in the world of ghosts between life and death. As the reasons behind Estelle’s malevolent behaviour towards Tom unfold, Michelle’s marriage comes under severe pressure and both their lives are threatened. 

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Purchase links: 

TSL Publications (paperback) 

https://tslbooks.uk/product/a-ghost-and-his-gold-roberta-eaton-cheadle/

Lulu.com (ebook and paperback) 

Amazon  https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Gold-Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/dp/1913294943 

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About Roberta Eaton Cheadle 

Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I am a South African writer specialising in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. I am an avid reader in these genres and my writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.  

I was educated at the University of South Africa where I achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. I was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.  

I have worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and have written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. I have won several awards over my twenty year career in the category of Transactional Support Services. 

I have been published a number of anthologies and have two published YA books, While the Bombs Fell and Through the Nethergate. I have recently published my first adult novel called A Ghost and His Gold which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War. 

Other books by Roberta Eaton Cheadle 

Through the Nethergate 

Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather, but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own. 

In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise. 

With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself. 

Follow Roberta Eaton Cheadle at: 

Website 

https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog 

https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Goodreads 

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19631306.Roberta_Eaton_Cheadle

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites/?modal=admin_todo_tour

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A Ghost and His Gold

My Review of

A Ghost and His Gold

A Ghost and His Gold, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a cleverly crafted story that takes three lives from the past and converges their stories within the main story, which takes place in the present. Characters with depth drive this paranormal historical novel.

When Michelle and her husband, Tom, move into a new home, her future seems to be full of promise. But strange occurances soon lead Michelle to believe that her new home is haunted, and what’s more, Tom’s life may be in danger. In her efforts to unravel the mystery of what is going on in her new home, details in the lives of three ghosts, from the time of the second Anglo Boer War, are revealed: A British soldier named Robert, a Boer commando named Peiter, and a young girl named Estelle, who harbors anger and vengence against both Tom and Michelle.

As Michelle struggles to unravel the mystery of these ghosts and how they are connected to each other and to her new home, she uncovers a mystery in her own life, one that threatens to tear her marraige apart. Can she learn the truth and find a way to help them all before the vengeful poltergeist takes Tom’s life?

Cheadle has done her homework, and the South African history related within is quite educational as well as entertaining. Readers will be riveted to their seats as the tale of each ghost is revealed, with each of their stories being equally captivating. I give A Ghost and His Gold five quills.

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“No Secret Too Small”: A historical western novel

No Secret Too Small

I always love reading the historical western novels of Loretta Miles Tollefson, and No Secret Too Small was no exception. It has all the attention to detail that I’ve come to expect from her Old New Mexico Novels, placing me into a setting and time that no longer exist, yet Tollefson makes it feel oh, so real, even if only for the time it takes to read the story. Loretta Miles Toleffson masterfully paints a visual picture for the mind’s eye, bringing historical times and events to life with brutal clarity.

Miles’ Old New Mexico Novels are skillfully written to feature many of the same characters at various points in time. So, while No Secret Too Small features Alma, who was introduced as a baby in Not My Father’s House, (see my review here), this story is easliy followed when read as a stand alone book. This story is a part of more than just the saga of one family, it is a part of a piece of history, a time when living was a gamble, in a land where survival is no game.

No Secret Too Small speaks to that struggle to survive, but it also speaks to the racism and predjudice of the period. Old New Mexico in the 1800’s is no place for a woman alone with two children. But pride is a funny thing and that is just where Alma and her mother and brother find themselves in a time of civil unrest and rebellions, after her mother discovers the truth about her father’s heritage. We receive Alma’s story through her young eyes, as she watches her mother struggle to survive as she discovers and deals with the predjudices she didn’t even realize that she had. Alma learns much about the world and human nature, much of it too ugly for such young eyes to view. She yearns to return to her valley, and to be a whole family once more, but she has little control over the adult world around her. She can’t make her father come for them any more than she can make her mother decide to return home.

If you like historical novels that paint their periods vividly for readers, and features characters you can care about, then No Secret Too Small is a must read. A well-crafted story that holds the reader’s interest until the last page has turned, Tollefson draws you into the story and takes you back with her characters into times long past with period details that have obviously been well researched. A story that will no doubt touch hearts, I give it five quills.

Buy Link for No Secret Too Small

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Lost Village of Delta

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My earliest years were spent in Westernville, NY. Right down the street was the beautiful Lake Delta, a place we visited frequently. My parents and I played on the beach. We walked the trails through the woods. One day my father mentioned that when he used to fly his plan over Lake Delta, he could see the foundations beneath the water. That puzzled me – why would there be foundations down there? Were they like the shell fossils we found in our backyard sometimes?

trees near body of water photo

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

He explained that a village used to be there, but it was flooded to create the lake. My imagination went wild. He also told me that my grandmother’s house on the farm where we lived was moved from the lost village. That amazed me, and gave me my first glimpse at history. My fascination with Lake Delta continued, but we moved to a neighboring village and didn’t visit the state park as often.

One day, the Westernville Town Clerk, Mary Centro, spoke at my hometown about Delta. My mother and I attended the lecture, and we were enthralled. I wanted to write a story at once, but I didn’t know where to take it.

My parents moved back to Westernville and I met with the town clerk to discuss Lake Delta in more detail. She told me about walking the land while the lake is low and finding treasures washed up on shore. The next year, my parents and I walked the lake, but we didn’t find anything. Again, I felt the need to write about the lost village of Delta, but I didn’t know who my main character would be yet.

The town clerk wrote two non-fiction books about Delta and my dad bought copies. While visiting my parents, I looked through them, and then did some research online. I learned that one house hadn’t been torn down the first time they flooded the land. It wasn’t until later, when the water receded, that they demolished it.

That was my story. A little magic seeped into the tale, and Lottie came to life. You can read about Lottie in DELTA, my first historic fiction novella that is appropriate for teens and adults.

A woman in antique clothes near a swamp

About the real Delta…

landscape photo of riverand pine trees

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

New York State decided it was time to expand the Erie Canal. Many of the ports along the canal were no longer being used, because shipping goods by train became the more popular method. Shipping by train was cheaper than shipping via canal. It wasn’t just the price, though, that encouraged manufactures to choose train travel. The modern barges that were needed to ship the goods couldn’t go on the Erie Canal, which was too small and far too shallow. The water level of the Erie Canal tended to fluctuate. By expanding the Erie Canal, the ports would flourish once again. Many farmers were excited by this. They would be able to transport their goods to cities elsewhere in New York State. Expanding the canal required the use of five reservoirs. These reservoirs would provide enough water to keep the level of the canal even. New York State chose Delta because they would only need to build one dam.

The village of Delta rested inside of a deep valley. This made the perfect bowl-shape to fill with water from the Mohawk River nearby. Flooding Delta meant that privately owned land would need to be seized by the government. Everyone living on that land would need to move elsewhere.

In 1903, surveyors arrived in Delta to measure the land and create maps. In 1908, New York State officially authorized that Delta would be cleared to make way for the reservoir. Blue evacuation notices were presented to the village’s five-hundred residents, forcing them to relocate. One hundred buildings were torn down and destroyed. Some, however, were dismantled and moved to other towns in the area, where they were rebuilt. People moved away and their village became a reservoir. The dam was completed in October 1912. Water first went over in May of 1916.

Despite the great expenses incurred in the relocation of the Black River Canal, it closed in 1921.

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Jordan Elizabeth is a fantasy author who is obsessed with history and ghosts.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.  The photo above shows Jordan on the shores of Lake Delta.  You can often find she and her son enjoying the beach.


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Into the Catskills

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

I’m a huge history lover, so anything old has always sparked my interest.  I imagine that an old building can tell me the secrets of the past.  If I walk through its ancient doors, I’ll be transported back in time.  I’ll be able to experience everything that came before.

It hasn’t yet, but I’m still hoping.

One day I was bored, probably tired from work, and decided to look at abandoned buildings online.  I was scrolling through Pinterest and voila, there was a beautiful, crumbling resort.  The image showed an old pool.  Vines crept up broken windows and ferns fought their way through cracked cement.  It was beautiful and haunting.  I clicked to learn more, and discovered it was a resort from the Catskills.

daylight environment forest idyllic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In their heyday (1920s through the 1960s), the Catskill Mountains were home to numerous fancy resorts.  People came from all over to experience the thrill of the mountains.  Many New Yorkers left the city to experience the calm of the country.  The popular movie, Dirty Dancing, takes place at a resort in the Catskills.

Overtime, interest waned.  From articles I read online, it seems that the readily people could travel on airplanes to distant wonderlands, the less they wanted to travel upstate.  There are still some resorts left and I hope to vacation there someday.  I must admit, though, the abandoned resorts fascinate me more than the ones still standing.

abandoned ancient antique architecture

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While looking at more pictures of those abandoned resorts, a story idea came to me.  The world ends and the remains of civilization are holed up inside a crumbling hotel.  Thus was born my post-apocalyptic novella, BUNKER BOY.  If you decide to read it, let me know what you think!  I’d love to know if it has inspired you, too, to check out the old memories of the Catskills.beautiful blond young woman in black hood looking at camera

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  She is most likely gazing at something in awe, something she will soon include in one of her novels. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


Want to be sure not to miss any of Jordan’s Writing for a YA Audience segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Jeff’s Movie Reviews – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Jeff's Movie Reviews

Revenge as Entertainment

by Jeff Bowles

Quentin Tarantino isn’t necessarily known for subtlety. While his films are often genius—featuring nonlinear storytelling, irascible and energetic dialogue, and a certain unabashed love for B-movies and trashy 1970s grindhouse filmmaking—they are also incredibly violent and tend to feature characters who are more nasty than nice. That’s not really a minus in today’s entertainment landscape, nor was it especially considered as such in the 1990s, when Tarantino burst onto the scene with unexpected violent delights like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Yet something new has entered the 53-year-old filmmaker’s bag of tricks: history revision, the kind that allows him to brutalize some of the most notorious bad guys of all time.

In Inglorious Basterds (2009), Tarantino shot, burned, and blew up Adolph Hitler in a French movie house long before WWII ended in real life. In Django Unchained (2012), he took the fight to American slavery, unleashing a bloody revenge romp on a vile and inhumane southern plantation. There’s a certain catharsis to be experienced by, in some passing fashion at least, hurting old ghosts that hurt us still. Especially here in the United States, where as a collective, we’re still very much bound by the sins of the past. Tarantino, for all his faults as a filmmaker, has always been extraordinarily fearless in allowing audiences to exorcise our collective demons. Love him or hate him, he’s got a style and aesthetic all his own, and he doesn’t apologize for all his excesses and bloody genius madness.

Which is why Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, his 9th film and fourth in a row to feature a historical setting, hits so close to home. This time around Tarantino takes us on a trip to late-1960s Los Angeles, home of an American film industry churning out movies and TV shows in a hilariously fast and loose fashion. The streets are full of hippies, the soundscape is constant rock and pop hits and saccharine advertisements, and the personalities involved crave fame and public exposure like some people crave cigarettes dipped in LSD. Without spoiling too terribly much, the historical bad guys this time around are the Manson Family, and though Charles Manson himself only appears onscreen for a few minutes, his demonic presence is certainly felt.

See the source image

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an aging cowboy actor who hasn’t had a decent starring role in years. He spends most of his time drinking, lapsing into coughing fits, and playing mustache-twirling heavy of the week on any network TV show that will hire him. His best friend and stuntman Cliff Booth (a delightfully chill yet dangerous Brad Pitt) takes care of him as best he can, but he hasn’t performed any stunt work for the former rising star since Rick lost the lead gig to Steve McQueen in a little movie called The Great Escape. Rick has a house in the Hollywood Hills right next door to director Roman Polanski and his new wife Sharon Tate. Here’s where the alternate history kicks in, folks. Younger audiences who know nothing about the Manson Family murders will undoubtedly experience Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in a much different fashion than the rest of us. Needless to say, the film cruises along Sunset Strip with a heavy mind and an eerie sense of impending doom, even when the action is relatively light and comical.

After Cliff engages in an ill-advised backlot sparring match with non other than martial arts legend Bruce Lee, he’s got all the free time in the world. Cliff picks up a vivacious hippy chick he’s been eyeing around town and drives her home to an old Western movie shooting set a large group of young, creepy, dangerous beatniks have converted into their own personal crash pad/drug den. Dakota Fanning plays a particularly dead-eyed Squeaky Fromme, and her interactions with Pitt are devilish. It’s the little historical flourishes that really make this film sing.

To go much further into the plot would spoil the ending, but look, when Tarantino gets his hands on real-life monsters, he goes all the way. Which isn’t to say Once Upon a Time lacks heart. Tarantino is a seasoned, mature filmmaker, and his characters spend much of the movie dealing with the limitations of their own flawed humanity. You really have to feel for DiCaprio’s Dalton, who has long ago confused success for self worth. And Margot Robbie shines as Sharon Tate, an absolute vision of 1960s femininity and grace.

The only real question we’re left with after the credits roll is if it’s earnestly healthy for our collective culture to, say, blow up Hitler or bathe an old plantation house in blood. In brutalizing the villains of history, has Tarantino allowed us mass catharsis, or has he just developed his own brand of big-budget revenge? It’s a forgone conclusion, but realistically, we are in fact dealing with the Manson Family. The actions of three of their members one late August night still ring out as some of the most atrocious and disgusting of the 20th century. Like it or not, Tarantino seems to tell us, we live in a world full of hate and murder, and in the year 2019, when mass shootings happen almost every week, what’s a simple movie got to do with human decency and justice?

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a masterful expose of the human psyche circa 1969. It’s funny, stylish, chock full of delicious old rock and pop tunes, and yes, it’s got a beating heart that ultimately outweighs the brief but vivid extreme violence that defines its climax. Tarantino has another winner on his hands, though the conversation about his impact on a culture reeling from gun violence will most likely continue.

Writing to Be Read gives the film a solid nine out of ten, but this movie reviewer has to wonder, will there ever come a time healing and revenge are not synonymous?


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, is available on Amazon now!

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You can keep up on what Jeff’s been watching and catch all of his great movie reviews the third Friday of each month. Subscribe to email or follow on WordPress today


“Not Just Any Man”: A Journey into New Mexico’s Past

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A true western makes you feel the landscape, and Not Just Any Man, by Loretta Miles Tollefson does just that. Tollefson’s use of present tense narration and vivid visual imagry don’t just help readers see the scene in their mind, but actually puts you there. Woven into true events in New Mexico’s history, Tollefson portray’s the landscape as it was, with a storyline and fictional characters which could have been, and for as long as it takes to read the book, maybe they were.

Gerald Locke is not just any man. He’s a man of mixed race, trying to find a place for himself and acceptance from his fellow man, which he believes might be found in the frontiers of what is today, New Mexico. In Gerald’s time, it is a vast land filled with open spaces and wildlife, plentiful with opportunity, and Gerald has hopes of finding a spot where he can settle down and live comfortably, but first, he must raise the funds to embark on such an endeavor. He hasn’t planned on sharing his dream, but when he makes the acquaintance of Suzanna Peabody, new dreams in which she is by his side begin to foster as he makes his way following the rugged life of a trapper. Upon his return to Taos, he finds his dreams haven’t changed but his doubts have grown. He’s not the same man he was when he set out. Will Suzanna have him when she learns just who he really is?

Tollefson’s masterful use of third person present tense and her vivid descriptions make this book seem like a journey into the past. I give Not Just Any Man five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“The Pain and the Sorrow”: Historic Fiction at its Best

The Pain and the Sorrow

The Pain and the Sorrow is a western which takes a true historic tale and crafts the details to the in a way that makes Loretta Miles Tollefson’s rendering not only plausible, but probable. Her background as a journalist is evident in every historic detail included, and in the Author’s Note at the end, she offers up the discrepancies in the reported facts and her reasoning for the choices made as she crafted the details into this heart wrenching New Mexico legend to make it come alive. It gripped me and I didn’t want to put it down. I couldn’t wait for the story to unfold.

From the view point of a young New Mexican girl, the story takes on a feeling of sadness in addition to the unbelievable horror of the originally reported events. Charles Kennedy offered food and lodging to weary travelers in the mountains of New Mexico for a price, but Charles had a temper and a lust for money, and those who stopped there didn’t always leave. Charles was an old west version of a serial killer. So claimed his young wife, Gregoria, when she appeared in a saloon in Etown one night after walking ten miles in the bitter cold to get away from her abusive husband.

A western with a female perspective, attention to the historic details, a story that compels me to keep the pages turning and characters that make me care. What more could this reader want? I give The Pain and the Sorrow five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.