Tag Archives: M.M.Kaye

Recent Reads

As part of the book challenges I joined, I wanted to write reviews of every book I’d read. I’ve not had the time to recently and the longer I leave it after reading, the less detail I can remember to write about. So here are some brief summaries of books I’ve read so far this year that I haven’t yet reviewed.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)

This is still my favourite fairy tale after almost thirty years, and I loved it on re-reading as an adult. It deserves its own post and I have no problem with reading it over and over again in order to give it the attention it deserves. The story follows Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, the seventh daughter born to the King and Queen of Phantasmorania, who at her Christening is given the gift of being ordinary by a crotchety fairy. So she grows up with freckles, mousey hair and everyone calls her Amy. In true fairy tale fashion there is danger and romance, but with a twist and a lot of humour.

The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)

I backed this book on Kickstarter after falling in love with Jake Parker’s art for The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. It was worth the eight month wait. I’m more of a wannabe comics fan, which I suppose doesn’t make sense as I am a fan but I’m not in the slightest bit knowledgeable and comics are an expensive habit so I never am going to be knowledgeable. Being such a visual medium, and being a bear of little brain, I also find comics impossible to read aloud to children. It’s like audio description for television: very clever and not something I can do! The ten short stories in this volume are wonderful, and completely moreish. I want more of every world Jake Parker has created. I’m very glad I backed this and will read it many times, and when MG and DG are a bit older I might even let them borrow it too!

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)

I put off reading this novel for ages because it’s not a genre I’m particularly interested in and I didn’t want to dislike something from Shirley Hughes! It took a few chapters to suck me in but the story was compelling and the characters beautifully drawn – in words, not pictures. I hope Shirley Hughes writes more novels and I won’t care what genre they’re in because the writing shines through and makes this novel irresistible. I’m glad I got over my mini-phobia and read this book.

Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)

I got this second-hand and started reading it one evening, only to find I’d finished it in one sitting! For some reason the mystical element at the end, with the gypsy curse appearing to be real didn’t sit right with me despite the entire book being fantastical with juvenile detention camp inmates digging a hole 5ft deep and 5ft in diameter every day. But somehow it all seems to make perfect sense as you read it, and Stanley Yelnets and Zero make good believable characters. It’s a weird and wonderful narrative that pulls you in from the start. Oddly enjoyable.

Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2009)Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2009)

I bought this at the Oxford Children’s Book Group event and started reading it because  Katherine Langrish was  a great speaker and the descriptions of her work sounded just my kind of genre. I’ve just realised what this reminded me of: Redwall by Brian Jacques, although it’s been years since I read any of that series and Dark Angels isn’t about mice! The 12th Century Welsh setting with monasteries and castles is a backdrop to a very human tale. There may be elves, angels, devils and ghosts but they often seem dream-like so this works as historical and fantasy fiction. I loved the world envisioned in this book and the ending holds hope for a sequel. Wolf and Nest call Elfgift their little sister but she seems like their daughter too and I really want to find out more about their relationship. More, please!

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)

This novel has garnered high praise from many quarters and I ended up reading it in one day, in between child-wrangling. It’s not a book to read if you’re after a happy tale, because this is very depressing. It is also compelling and very readable. It’s set in an alternate 1950’s and the places are described as the motherland, the homeland, zones… It’s a miserable existence for Standish and his grandfather but they’re surviving. There are some horrible events in the book so it’s definitely not for younger children but it’s a chilling glimpse into a world that could have been and well worth a read.

Opening Lines

I used to want to be an author. I used to read avidly, literally hundreds of books a year. And I wrote, and wrote. But this was way back in my teens and early 20’s, now I’m 36 it’s been 15 years since I wrote regularly and over 10 years since I wrote anything at all. But inspired by the Children’s Writer blog and behind-the-scenes writing comments from (too many to mention) picture book authors and illustrators on Twitter, I thought I might revisit a story that’s been in my head all that time and write it for my girls…

My aspirations to be an author have faded over time, and I don’t have the patience to really write at this stage in my life but I thought I could manage a short story just for my girls. I hoped to be able to pull the threads of my ideas together, put the words in some sort of order and sort out the ending so it worked. Ideas are easy, writing is the hard part!

With that in mind, I started to think of the opening sentence(s). Perhaps just writing the story down first would be the best idea, but it’s been in my head for so long I thought I’d start at the beginning. Fiction Fridays have taught me that the first sentence can really sell a book to the reader. The story is a non-traditional fairy tale, so I looked for inspiration:

“Once upon a time there lived a King and a Queen who weren’t very good at it.” The Tough Princess (Waddell & Benson)

“Once there was a Dragon who was convinced he was TOTALLY TERRIFYING.” The Totally Terrifying Three (Oram & Melling)

“Once upon a Tuesday the king was in a hurry as usual.” The Kiss That Missed (Melling)

“Once upon a time, there was a deep, dark forest, where monstrous trees groaned, terrible beasties moaned and wiggly woos waited to tickle your toes.” Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure (Stephenson)

“The trouble with Dragons is… Dragons make Dragons and they make some more till there are wall-to-wall Dragons making Dragons galore.” The Trouble With Dragons (Gliori)

“Long, and long ago, when Oberon was king of the fairies, there reigned over the fair country of Phantasmorania a monarch who had six beautiful daughters.” The Ordinary Princess (Kaye)

The Ordinary Princess isn’t a picture book. It is however a perfect fairy tale. I think it’s the book I want to write. Except it was already written over 30 years ago! It definitely deserves its own post.

After looking at the inspiration, I thought about the opening lines for “my” story. Hmmm, maybe I’ll think about writing again in another ten years… 🙂