Prelude For Lost Souls (Prelude For Lost Souls #1), by Helene Dunbar ~ 3.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: August 4th, 2020

384 Pages

Synopsis: For readers of Nova Ren Suma, Maggie Steifvater, and Maureen Johnson comes a spellbinding tale of choosing your own path, the families we create for ourselves, and facing the ghosts of our pasts.

In the town of St. Hilaire, most make their living by talking to the dead. In the summer the town gates open to tourists seeking answers while all activity is controlled by The Guild, a sinister ruling body that sees everything.

Dec Hampton has lived there his entire life, but ever since his parents died, he’s been done with it. He knows he has to leave before anyone has a chance to stop him.

His best friend Russ won’t be surprised when Dec leaves—but he will be heartbroken. Russ is a good medium, maybe even a great one. He’s made sacrifices for his gift and will do whatever he can to gain entry to The Guild, even embracing dark forces and contacting the most elusive ghost in town.

But when the train of Annie Krylova, the piano prodigy whose music has been Dec’s main source of solace, breaks down outside of town, it sets of an unexpected chain of events. And in St. Hilaire there are no such thing as coincidences.

I was so excited when I saw the gorgeous cover and read the premise of Prelude For Lost Souls. And you know what? It wasn’t bad. However, I wasn’t blown away by it like I thought I would be.

This is a unique, and quite imaginative plot driven story, which I really appreciated. I swear it’s getting more and more difficult to find a book out there that doesn’t contain at least some elements that remind you of a previous one. Rest assured, that’s definitely not the case here. For those of you familiar with Lily Dale, the real hamlet made up of mediums and spiritualists in south western New York, it served as the author’s inspiration. St. Hilaire however is quite a bit darker and has some strong fascist overtones. There is definitely something underhanded going on in terms of The Guild, and there’s not a lot revealed in this first book, so I’m looking forward to what comes next.

The weakest part of the book lies in its characters. Anna and Dec both have what should have been fascinating backstories, but they and the dialogue between them come across as rather flat, which makes it difficult to connect with them. The saving grace though is Dec’s best friend Russ, who also gets his own chapters. I absolutely LOVED him! All the emotions and passion I was looking for in Dec and Anna poured out of Russ’s pages.

The middle of the book slows down a bit before picking up toward the end, which perfectly sets things up for the sequel. All in all, while not perfect, Prelude For Lost Souls, has me hooked, and I’m eagerly looking forward to revisiting St. Hilaire and its secrets.

 

New York Times Front Page ~ Sunday, May 24, 2020

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Today’s New York Times front page is a grim reminder of what this pandemic has cost thus far. As you’ll see, the entire page is comprised of the names of those who have succumbed to Covid-19 in the U.S. There are 1,000 names listed which makes up just 1% of the almost 100,000 lives lost. You can enlarge it and see these were people from different age groups and all walks of life. The toll is just…staggering. So, as everything opens back up and people fight over things like wearing face masks, perhaps some reflection is in order.

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They were not simply names on a list. They were us.

 

The new editor for WP

For anyone who’s nervous about WPs new block editor (like me), which is scheduled to debut on June 1, Fraggle has kindly provided an easy to follow tutorial.

Fraggle's Other Place

All well here so far, nothing new to report, we still have hedgehogs, we still have a broken magpie. Apparently the old classic editor is being superceded by the new block editor, and that will happen on June 1st. Or not, I’ve also read that it isn’t happening until 2021, so who knows.

When ever it comes, it seems to be upsetting older people, and long term users of WP who are used to the classic editor. I’ve been using it since it came out, so long now that I can’t remember what the old editor was like! The Guttenberg one has been through a few changes, and it really isn’t hard to use. Seriously folks, it’s no big deal. We olduns just don’t like change, or are scared of the unknown when it comes to tech, but we are all capable people when it comes down to it. The…

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Family Fridays #9

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Well, guys, another week has gone by. Here are the latest numbers from Alabama. There are now 13,414 people who have tested positive for Covid-19, and 529 who have sadly passed away. From last Thursday that’s an uptick of 2,313 positives and 56 deaths. In the last fourteen days there’s been a staggering new 4,336 cases. In the last 24 hours alone, there have been over 674 new cases. As you can see, cases are still steadily rising and the rest of the news is even more worrying. There’s been a huge uptick in numbers in our state capitol of Montgomery, and the mayor, Steven Reed, has warned that the city’s healthcare system is “maxed out.” While as of right now they’re not expected to run out of ventilators, last night they were down to one ICU bed and had started sending patients to Birmingham which is 90 miles away. If the numbers keep growing, he’s considering issuing a shelter-in-place order (I’m sure THAT will go over well). But you’d never know anything was wrong going by the governor’s office. As of today, arcades, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and daycares are open for business. Starting on June 1st educational institutions and summer camps will have the green light, and sporting events and competitions can begin on June 15th. My husband and I continue to self-isolate most of the time, but here’s what I’ve observed.

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The majority of people are still NOT wearing masks or social distancing in stores, pharmacies, or even at mass gatherings like the in-person graduations that are taking place. Why in God’s name is this such an issue? Seriously! This is common sense. This shouldn’t be about politics. If I wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from you, I’m protecting you. If you reciprocate, you’re protecting me. IT’S. THAT. BLOODY. SIMPLE. Yet thanks in no small part to the petulant Toddler-in-Chief, this has become another insane hot button political argument. I have allergies plus asthma, and I live in the South where temps are already in the high 80s and 90s, so I realize that masks are uncomfortable. But you know what’s more uncomfortable? Being hooked up to a ventilator for days or weeks at a time. Alone except for the masked medical personnel taking care of you. In pain and terrified you’re not going to walk out of the hospital alive. Here’s what I say to those screaming about their freedoms being violated: “I don’t care about your personal ‘liberties’ right now. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is showing that you care about and respect others. Unless you have a health condition which makes wearing a mask an impossibility, you are a poor excuse for a human being if you refuse to wear one!”

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Phew. Sorry about that. I know I’ve ranted about this before, but this petty partisan codswallop is ticking me off!

 

I hope all of you and your loved ones are safe and well. Feel free to chime in and give an update on how you’re doing in the comments. (Or if you want to tell me off for my rant, feel free to do that as well).

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For this week’s positivity I’d like to share the new initiative known as #PasstheMic.

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For the next three weeks, celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Hugh Jackman, David Oyelowo, Penelope Cruz, and many more, will be taking turns handing over their social media accounts to experts in regards to Covid-19.

Julia Roberts kicked things off yesterday with her interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, so check it out.

Stay safe and stay well my friends!

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Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 21, 2020

Here’s Brendan’s latest NYC update, which is definitely the most positive one since he first began writing these posts two months ago.

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It is hard to believe that we are already approaching Memorial Day! When this whole stay-at-home thing started, it was still winter; now we’re approaching summer!

Everyone in my family continues to remain physically healthy, thankfully. I also continue to have employment, even as there are millions upon millions filing unemployment claims in the United States. Emotionally, while it’s not always easy, it definitely helps that NASCAR, which is one of my family’s favorite sports, is back on television–when the races come on, they are a 3-5 hour reprieve from all the COVID stuff going on in my city, state, country, and world. I just hope that the races can continue to be done safely, and that nobody gets sick! I’m optimistic, though, because it seems like the sport is taking a lot of precautions.

As for statewide indicators in New York, things for the most part continue to trend…

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Home Before Dark, by Riley Sager ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Dutton Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: June 30th, 2020

384 Pages

Synopsis: In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the house really haunted by evil forces as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits, became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes, and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous by Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint of a history filled with dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.

The first book I read by Riley Sager was Final Girls (2017), and with each book he writes he just keeps upping his game. Home Before Dark kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, had me nervously checking my pantry and linen closet as I walked by them, and has quite possibly ruined one of my favorite songs, Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music for me for life!

There are two stories at play here. The first takes place twenty-five years ago and is told through the book House of Horrors, by Ewan Holt, which is an account of the family’s twenty-two day ordeal in Baneberry Hall. The second takes place during the present day, and follows now thirty-year-old Maggie as she desperately tries to uncover the truth of what happened all those years before.

Maggie is somewhat aloof and remote, but given what her life has been like, who can blame her. She’s had Baneberry Hall following her around for most of her life, and to top things off she has no memories of her time there, and she’s positive her parents have lied to her and everyone else about what happened. It’s made her reluctant to trust anyone, yet I wound up quite liking her. She does have a compassionate side, and her determination to discover the truth, even when it upends her entire world, is something to be admired. I also liked Ewan, and while I disagree with some of his decisions, I understand how desperate he is to save his family. The secondary characters play small yet pivotal parts, and a couple of them have some quite interesting backstories that tie into Baneberry Hall.

The house itself almost becomes a character in its own right thanks to Sanger’s vivid details. I have a picture in my mind of not only what Baneberry Hall looks like, but what the atmosphere feels like after being the site of so many tragedies. There is more than one mystery that needs to be solved, and the path to the answers is a twisty one indeed. I thought by the midway point that I pretty much had everything figured out, only to be proved wrong multiple times. It drove me nuts, in the best kind of way!

Home Before Dark is a pulse-pounding, suspenseful tale of horror and mystery that will leave you questioning everything. It doesn’t have a lot of blood and gore in it, but this proves that you don’t always need those graphic elements to instill true terror. One word of caution: if you’re not a fan of snakes, they’re in here in all their creepy, slithery glory. For readers already familiar with Riley Sager, this is another knockout from him. For those who haven’t read his books, I guarantee that if you try this, you’ll immediately want to scoop up his others.

 

Sir Tom Moore: Knight of the Realm

I featured Captain Tom Moore in a Family Fridays post three weeks ago, and Pete has shared the wonderful news that this hero is receiving a knighthood!

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Not long after the news media began to tell us about the impact of the Coronavirus pressures on the staff of the NHS, there was a feature about an elderly man who was hoping to raise £1,000 to donate to NHS charities in their honour. Known as Captain Tom Moore, he was a 99 year-old retired man who had served as an Army Captain in WW2, with the famous ‘Forgotten Fourteenth’ Army in Burma. With limited mobility now, and using a wheeled walking frame, he was determined to walk one hundred circuits of his garden, before his 100th birthday.

Using a donation page set up by his family, he quickly raised that money, and much more besides. So much more, that he decided to keep on walking until the actual day of his 100th birthday.

By the time that day dawned, he had raised over £30 MILLION pounds!

That huge…

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Words To Remember

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This election that’s coming up on every level is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy—that has become a stronger impulse in American life.

~ President Barack Obama ~