No Room For Regret by Janeen Ann O’Connell
No Room for RegretNo Room for Regret by Janeen Ann O’Connell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is difficult for me to rate. I definitely enjoyed it at times, but then I found that I was exasperated by it at others. It’s listed as a historical fiction and it definitely qualifies, but it is most certainly a romance novel as well.

I had no idea that I was reading a romance until toward the end, although the clues were there. Not that this is a huge issue, as I’ve read some romances before and they were perfectly fine reads. Just not my cup of tea.

But the real issue for me was this: When introduced to the protagonists, Blay and Tedder, I was struck by their incredibly unfortunate story of being sentenced and then sent to Van Diemen’s Land to serve the rest of their lives, or so it seems. They’re in chains, they’re starving, they’re struggling, they’re being whipped, and they’re just generally miserable. How will they escape this misery? I wondered excitedly.

In the most boring way ever. That’s how. Shortly after they get off the ship, the story turned south for me. Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed it. I kept reading. I wanted to know more. O’Connell did an excellent job. But! But a normalcy set in that rankled me.

Keep in mind that I don’t want to give away spoilers. Throughout the latter half of the book, the characters would experience a conflict within their normal, boring lives, and it would be resolved within a few pages. No cliff hangers. Each chapter ended on a happy, “everything is going to be all right, and I’m sure glad I was arrested and sent here” note. It certainly became tedious.

UNTIL THE END! The book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, just enough to drag you into the next book in the series. Will I read it? Maybe. A big maybe.

The character I’m most interested is William Blay, one of the children of the Blay who heads the story. I’m not going to say why, but he has a little adventure that intrigues me a lot.

Next, I want to say that Tedder’s story of how he got arrested really resounded with me, and I was incredibly disappointed with the way the author handled him. The poor man got the short end of the stick.

All in all, it was an excellent read. It kept my attention despite the normalcy near the end, and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Australia and/or romance stories.

I’m giving it 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. I was given this book for an honest review.

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The Costume

So I got my model, and I had my photographer lined up. What’s next? Well, she needed to look the part. I needed something directly from the book, and Samara was described as wearing mammoth skin, black leather, with a brown-and- gray fur.

My first stop was Hobby Lobby and Walmart, where I bought a few things:

This was the fabric I purchased, and I know there is very minute difference between the two black ones in the picture, but they were very different in person. The black fabric from Hobby Lobby was softer, more supple than the faux leather from Walmart.

I had a friend, as I mentioned, who intended to put this together for me, but much to my horror, he was not getting back to me. So I took the fabric over to another friend’s house and attempted to sew it myself on his sewing machine, using a pattern I bought.

What a huge mistake that was. A tailor, I am not.

Fortunately, about halfway through the day, I got a call from my tailor friend. “I’m ready to work on that costume,” he said, and I was on the other end practically leaping for joy. “Great!” I responded, I’ll be right over.” What I didn’t tell him was that I already started it on it. To his great dismay, he discovered that when I showed up at his house.

“What the hell did you do?” he asked me, when I pulled out the butchered tunic that was way too large for my daughter. Looking abashed, I said, “I was trying to get started. I had a pattern. It said it was for 6-10 year old children.” What the pattern meant by that age though, was that it was meant for 6-10-year-old children of GIANTS.

Well, he took my stuff, and I didn’t hear back from him for days.

In the meantime . . . I went to work on the kukri, and I took pictures of the process. I had to think about how to make this blade. I didn’t have a forge, and I definitely didn’t have time to learn how to make one.

What I did have was a grinder. I thought to myself, I can possibly get a large blade and cut it down to size. I ran to Harbor Freight and bought a machete for $5.99

Oh wait, let me back this up. In addition to the knife, I also had to carve some buttons for the costume. We wanted it to be as authentic as possible so, in lieu of mammoth tusk, I used deer antler (that’s about the same, isn’t it?).

Then I went online and looked up ancient Siberian carvings (because my tribal people are loosely based off of them), and went to work. We had decided on toggles, and I finished them in short order:

Okay, back to the knife. I decided to use the excess deer antler to make the handle. I cut out the blade and the handle, then glued them together:

So there’s the basic kukri. Now came the hard part. I went online to look up pictures of sabretoothed cats. I needed something with its mouth open, and I found this:

I needed to carve the cat into the handle!

I have never carved anything like this before. Not that I had zero experience. After all, I am a jeweler and spent a good part of my life making jewelry out of lost wax. Still, this was a different beast (like what I did there?). I had to carve a three-dimensional cat’s head into a deer antler. Well, I went to work, and I think it came out just fine:

See how that progressed? Finally, I had to put on the finishing touches, such as the engraving and the gem. Considering it is a prop (although a functional one), I just hot glued the gem in place.

Yes, that is Arabic. If you want to know what it says, you must read my book! ūüėČ

Making the knife was very fun.

Okay, so I had two days to the photo shoot, and I still hadn’t heard back from my friend. I had asked him if I could come over to take progress pictures, and the response I got was, “There is nothing to take pictures of.” So I was getting nervous.

The Saturday before the shoot, we went to board game night and my tailor friend showed up. As nonchalant as I could be, I asked, “Where the hell is my costume!!!” Well, not quite in that manner, but you get the idea. He told me that he would have the finishing touches done that night, and I could come get it before the shoot.

I will talk more about the next day in part three, but here is the completed version of the costume. It came out wonderfully.

That’s my daughter in her Samara costume. She says she is going to be Samara for Halloween.

Come back next week for Part 3. I will show off the pictures from the photo shoot.

Fresh Ink Contest Logo
 
 

“But the old woman shook her head and said, ‘Oh, you dear children, who brought you here? Just come in and stay with me. No harm will come to you.'” 

For young aspiring authors, the Texas Book Festival and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) hosts the Annual Fresh Ink Fiction Contest. “Young” means whippersnappers (although I still don’t know what that means), or rather, that you must be in middle school or high school to submit your book to the contest.

From what I read, this contest runs a different theme or subject every year. This year, they chose the theme, “What Really Happened.”

I would personally like to know “What Really Happened,” and, fortunately, I will be able to find the winning stories published on the Texas Book Festival website.

The last day for submission is on May 18th! So get over there and submit!

~ Michael C. Sahd

P.S. Bonus points if you know where the top quote comes from! Let me know if you recognize it in the comments below.

Distraught Soldier
 

 

When people think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the first thing that comes to their minds is typically war, or more specifically, the traumatized soldiers who return from war, jumping at the slightest sharp noise. Rarely do people think of children when they hear the term.

However, children can and often do experience trauma. The list of events that can cause PTSD in children is a long one.
I am not, however, here to teach or rant about child abuse, although the topic is totally rant worthy. I am particularly interested in the effect of natural disasters and traumatic losses on children. “Why?” you may ask.

Well, I have a book in the works that involves a young girl who loses her entire family to freakish events, and I’m trying learn how children deal with grief on such a large scale.

Want to share what you have been researching this week? Feel free to leave a comment!

~ Michael C. Sahd

 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding Book Cover

 

 
 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Spoiler alert**

A group of young children survive a plane crash on an uninhabited island. Quickly, the survivors attempt to recreate civilization by creating a tribe and voting for a leader. The tribe quickly dissolves into anarchy. Only a handful of the children grasp onto civilization and rationale through the entire book. By the end of the book, most of the children have lost their innocence and degraded into barbarians.

The book illustrates a great adventure story with plenty of action. I can’t say I cared for William Golding’s writing style, but the story and the meaning behind it makes this book well worth the read. Lord of the Flies symbolically shows the bestial nature of the human race.

The symbols that I found the most interesting were:

  • First, the title, Lord of the Flies, is the translation for Beelzebub (a demon, and in some cases, Satan). I understand that Beelzebub is the demon of decay and famine, symbolizing what happens to the children’s innocence and sense of civility while on the island.
  • Piggy, the one child in the book who insists on civilization, is a pudgy, asthmatic, almost-blind boy. Ironically (or perhaps predictably), he is also the most intelligent and rational. I understand a person like Piggy needs civilization to survive, but I think the portrait of this character says something about a different kind of decay when humans depend too much on civilization.
  • Finally, the children are rescued by the British Navy, which is off to go fight in one of the bloodiest wars in history. I believe this rescue is to tie together how the story told on the island reflects the degradation of humanity as a whole.

Overall, I give this book four stars because it is amazing, despite the distracting writing style. Leave me a comment to let me know what you thought of this book, or of my review.

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~ Michael C. Sahd