Words To Remember

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The source of peace is within us; so also the source of war. And the real enemy is within us, and not outside. The source of war is not the existence of nuclear weapons or other arms. It is the minds of human beings who decide to push the button and to use those arms out of hatred, anger, or greed.

~ Dalai Lama ~

Whimsical Wednesday ~ “Hors Piste”

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Hi everyone. I just noticed that for some odd reason Hors Piste will no longer play in its entirety. It’s a shame because in my opinion it’s one of the best short animations I’ve seen. Since you’re only able to watch the trailer now, I’ve made a new selection for today’s Whimsical Wednesday that I hope will make you smile.

 

 

 

 

Belle Révolte, by Linsey Miller ~ 2.5 Stars

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

Release Date: February 4th, 2020

384 Pages

Synopsis: Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.

Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.

Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emile enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.

But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, Emilie and Annette must work together to help the rebellion end a war that is based on lies.

Belle Révolte is another book that initially caught my attention because of the interesting cover. Unfortunately, I struggled to finish this standalone. Both Emilie and Annette are two strong-willed girls trapped in a society which doesn’t offer much to females, yet they refuse to be forced into the roles they’re expected to play. I really liked both of them and was cheering them on throughout the book. I also loved the transgender and asexual representation which I haven’t come across that often in my reading. It was naturally done and didn’t define the characters. 

Now unfortunately here’s what didn’t work for me. First, the pacing was all over the place. Some sections the book seemed to drag interminably, while others moved so quickly it left me confused. While I was very interested in the political aspects of this French-inspired world, the magic system, which is an integral part of the storyline was underdeveloped and also left me bewildered. There were times that I found myself having to go back and re-read passages to try to make sense of what was happening, and even doing that I wasn’t always successful. To be honest, if this wasn’t an eARC from NetGalley and the publisher, I most likely would have given up. 

Overall, while Belle Révolte had some shining moments, they just weren’t enough to dispel the negatives for me. This is the third book I’ve read by Linsey Miller, and I’ve had similar issues with all of them, which leads me to conclude that she’s not the author for me. However, she has numerous fans so please don’t let me discourage you from giving her a try, especially if you’re looking for YA fantasy with diverse characters and interesting politics.

 

Australian Fires

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Australia has been battling bushfires since September, and there seems to be no end in sight. As of this morning more than 12 million acres have burned which is roughly the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

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Eden, New South Wales ~ January 5th, 2020

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Fire-spawned thunderstorms over New South Wales, January 5th, 2020

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People being evacuated in Omeo, Victoria ~ January 5th, 2020

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As of yesterday, 24 people have been killed, and at least 6 are missing in Victoria. It’s feared that half a billion animals thus far have perished including 30% of the koala population.

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A severely burned kangaroo shaking hands with a teen after being given water in New South Wales.

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If you’re in a position to help, here are some organizations you can donate to.

Australian Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.au

NSW Rural Fire Service: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au

Queensland Fire: https://www.rfbaq.org/donate-to-rfbaq

The Salvation Army Australia: https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/donate

World Wildlife Federation: https://donate.wwf.org.au/donate/2019-trees-appeal-koala-crisis#gs.qcymno

RSPCA NSW: 
https://www.rspcansw.org.au/donate

Wildlife Victoria: https://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au

Wires: https://www.wires.org.au/donate/emergency-fund

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The River: The Complete Story

Pete has set his latest story, “The River,” in the US, and given that he lives in the UK and has never visited here, he’s done an impressive job capturing the flavor and vernacular of a small American town. And unsurprisingly it’s another captivating tale. If you enjoy authors like Harlan Coben, I highly recommend you give this a read!

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This is all 21 parts of my recent fiction serial, in one complete story.
It is a long read, at 23,940 words.

We used to lay on the grass by the bank, the sun in our faces. Most of the time, the river flowed by fast. But on really hot days it seemed reluctant to move, like liquid chocolate, or molasses.

The dragonflies hovered over the water, and every so often, we heard the plopping sound as a fish took a bug off the surface.

Close to our favourite spot, it wasn’t deep enough for swimming. But a short walk along the bank led to a place where there was enough water for a shallow dive, and a welcome swim during the hottest summers. Whenever we got out of school, or during the holidays, you would be sure to find us there as long as the sun was out.

There…

View original post 23,808 more words

Brightstorm (Sky-Ship Adventure #1), by Vashti Hardy – 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Norton Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: March 17th, 2020

336 Pages

Synopsis: Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm receive devastating news: their famous explorer father has died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. To make matters worse, the Lontown Geographical Society finds Ernest Brightstorm guilty of sabotaging the expedition of his competitor, Eudora Vane. But a mysterious clue leads the twins to question the story they’ve been told—and to uncover the truth, they must undertake the journey of a lifetime.

Joining the ragtag crew of a homemade sky-ship captained by the intrepid Harriet Culpepper, Arthur and Maudie race to South Polaris to salvage their family’s reputation and find out what really happened on their father’s doomed expedition.

Brightstorm is a propulsive and compelling fantasy adventure set among the vibrant landscapes and dynamic characters of Vashti Hardy’s vividly imagined world.

First, how gorgeous is that cover? Doesn’t it immediately make you want to go grab a copy? Well, I’m happy to say that the story lives up to that wonderful cover. Brightstorm is one of the best middle grade reads I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite a while, and I’m thrilled to feature it as my first review of 2020!

This story is not only a fascinating fusion of fantasy, science fiction, steampunk and historical fiction, it also draws inspiration from the real life story of the Scott Expedition to the South Pole. It’s a thrilling adventure which captivated me from the very first page and had me racing to the finish in just a little over three hours. The characters, from Maudie and Arthur, Captain Harriet Culpepper, and ship’s cook and comic relief, Felicity Wiggety, to the villainous, pink-loving, Eudora Vane, are brilliantly written. Maudie with her scientific genius is a wonderful female role model for STEM, and Captain Culpepper is as well. Arthur, who was born without one of his arms, has never let that stop him from accomplishing what he wants, although his impulsiveness can get himself and his loved ones into trouble. The satient animals like the Brightstorm’s faithful winged companion, Parthena, and the thought wolves are wonderful creations and add even more to an already exciting tale. The ending perfectly sets things up for the next book, Darkwhispers, and that brings me to my good news/bad news. The good news is that the sequel is coming out in February. The bad news is that if you want a print copy it looks like it’s initially going to be released in the UK, but not the US. Thank goodness for Book Depository which offers free shipping worldwide! If you have a Kindle though it’s already available for preorder on Amazon.

So, just to be clear, I haven’t had this high level of excitement after reading a children’s book since I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by Rowling, and Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman. If I wasn’t retired I’d be ordering multiple copies for my library in order to push them into the hands of my young patrons, and organizing book discussion groups! Brightstorm has been receiving accolades in the UK since it was released in 2018, and in my opinion they’re entirely well-deserved. This is a book that will win both juvenile and adult fans. Vashti Hardy is a storyteller extraordinaire who weaves magic with her words and illustrations. If you enjoy authors like Rowling, Pullman, and Lemony Snicket, you need to read this. And if you’re not familiar with these authors but you like the sound of a fantastic rollicking adventure featuring intrepid orphans and plenty of villainy afoot, I urge you to try this!

 

 

The Woman in the Window, by A. J. Finn ~ 4.5 Stars

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Back in December of 2017, I had the pleasure of reviewing The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. As the long awaited movie is being released in May, with the amazing Amy Adams playing the lead, I’ve decided to repost my old review in hopes of convincing any of you who haven’t read this twisty mystery, into giving it a try. At the end of the review I’ve included the trailer as well.

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Thanks to Edelweiss and William Morrow for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: January 2nd, 2018

448 Pages

Synopsis: What did she see? 

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbors. When the Russells move in, Anna is drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

The Woman in the Window is a debut novel that’s been buzzed about for months. There’s even a movie in the works already. In cases like this I’ve found more often than not that the book just can’t live up to all the hype. However, in this instance, it actually does.

For Hitchcock fans you might have thought reading the synopsis that it sounds like the classic Rear Window. And you’d be absolutely right. Only in this case instead of the lead character being laid up with a broken leg like Jimmy Stewart, Dr. Anna Fox has severe agoraphobia which keeps her trapped in her three story New York brownstone. She’s completely alone except for her tenant Daniel, who lives in the basement, her psychiatrist, and her physical therapist. She has a husband and daughter but they’re separated, although they talk everyday. Her days for the last ten months, for the most part consist of taking pills to control her anxiety and depression, and drinking too much wine. She also loves watching old black and white movies (mainly Hitchcock), and watching her neighbors through her Nikon camera. When she witnesses an attack in her neighbors house across the street, no one believes her. The neighbors deny anything happened and the police find her not to be credible. Soon even Anna begins to question herself.

Anna is one of the most complex characters I’ve come across this year. She was a successful psychologist herself until an unknown trauma destroyed her life ten months previously. I had already begun to guess what happened long before the trauma that put her in this state was revealed, but the heartbreaking details still managed to shock me. I found myself frustrated by her drinking and pill popping while at the same time sympathizing with the pain she was in. And once Anna witnesses this crime across the street, well that just adds a whole new level to her suffering. But what I loved the most about her was by the end of the book she was a much stronger woman than she gave herself credit for. To be honest, if I had gone through what she does, I’m not sure I would be able to persevere. 

The beginning of the story is a little slow, but as it progresses and you get to know Anna and the other characters that are introduced, the pace picks up. I don’t think I’d call this a thriller but more a simmering suspense. The twist at the end did catch me completely unaware. 

In my humble opinion, The Woman in the Window stands out from the other books that have come out in the wake of novels like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. There’s a claustrophobic, noirish atmosphere introduced from the first chapter, and that, coupled with the two puzzles: what happened to Anna ten months ago, and has she now indeed witnessed an unspeakable crime, kept me feverishly turning the pages in search of the answers. 

I highly recommend this for fans of slow burning suspense, sketchy characters, and twisty plots. I guarantee that by the time you’re at the halfway point you’re going to have a difficult time putting this down. I also promise that Dr. Anna Fox will stay in your mind weeks after you’ve finished the book.