… written by Diana Peterfreund

One of the most underrated writers I’ve read has to be Diana Peterfreund. I’ve read a few of her works and I LOVED them! But you don’t hear a whole lot of hype around her books.

In her Rampant series, she imagined a world where unicorns are not cute and cuddly, but highly dangerous, and only a certain group of girls can keep the beasts in check.

In her Stars series, she imagined world ruined by unchecked advanced technology, where society tries to strike a balance between what is what is good and what is dangerous while dealing with the descendants of those who were negatively affected by the bad technology. Does that make your head ache? Well, she does this while using two fantastic stories for her base plot, Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, and she executes it well.

Her first book in this series, For Darkness Shows the Stars, is one of my absolute favourites! I go back to different passages in that book from time to time – it does help that Persuasion is one of my favourite Jane Austen books.

I also appreciate that she doesn’t give you a lot of info-dumps while trying to get you to understand her worlds. I enjoy the fact that her stories are so vastly different and her worlds enchanting.

… written by Maureen Johnson

I read a lot. And, I have a book blog – or, at least I had one until I couldn’t keep up with life and blogging about books a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to resurrect it, but I haven’t quite found the time, and, if I was being honest with myself, I want to blog about books AND more, so… I’m merging my sites. I’ll leave my book blog up, but I thought I’d highlight some books that I really enjoyed reading to start the transition to everything in this blog.

I’ve read several books by Maureen Johnson. I like her humour and her Twitter feed.

Of the books I’ve read by her, The Name of the Star is my favourite.  Take a girl from the United States, place her in an English boarding school, add some murder and mystery with a touch of Jack the Ripper and you’ve got The Name of the Star.

On the more contemporary front, 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope, transports the reader to different cities across Europe, where a girl finds out about her aunt and herself. After reading the first book, I created a map of Ginny’s adventures, yes, that’s my creation, though, why Google Maps is telling me that I do not own the map any longer is really lost to me!

Another of her contemporaries is Suite Scarlett. This one is set in a hotel in New York – one owned and ran by Scarlett’s family.

Finally, there was a time when Zombies v. Unicorns was a thing in the not so distant past. Here’s a clip of Maureen Johnson, as Sarah Palin, talking about why Zombies are better.

I still don’t like running

halfmarathon

I did it! It happened! I completed a 13.1-mile race, and I got a medal to prove it!

I survived my first 1/2 marathon, but I haven’t been bitten by the running bug. I do have a greater appreciation for those who can do this in half the time it took me to finish (3 hours 26 minutes), and I have come away with a better understanding of my running style. However, running is not the first thing I’d do for fun. I prefer walks – slow ones, where you can marvel about your surroundings, or your walking companion(s).

Now that I am free of pain I might do it again, as long as it’s another fun run and I am not expected to finish the course in less than 3 hours. I will most certainly train better next time.

diagonally

While the run was the focus of the weekend, I have to spend a few lines reflecting on the near-perfection of Diagon Alley.

I loved that it was hidden away, behind an unassuming building. I loved the fire-breathing dragon atop Gringotts! I absolutely enjoyed the new ride. I still love Frozen Butterbeer and Fizzing Whizbees. But most of all, I loved the use of interactive wands to bring a splash of wonder to the park experience. Great job, Universal! Not only do you have more people buying wands, you also added a layer of interactivity to the park. If only there were more sections!

Next stop, Universal Hollywood!

Snow. Five Things (17)

Miles ran: 17.1 | Miles cycled: 0 | Steps: 258,297

— Thing One —

On Friday night, a light snowfall began. The light of the moon reflected off the tiny flakes causing an ethereal glow. Have you ever considered the beauty in freshly fallen snow?

Of course, 24-hours later, back and shoulders burning from shoveling thrice in the same spot to see the ground, I considered a snowblower. The snow threw me off my running, but today I ventured out again, happy to see at least three other people running in the park with me and no snow/ice on the path.

— Thing Two —

Being stuck indoors can be a drag, but I’ve recently picked up my reading again and managed to finished two books while stuck indoors. The Malediction Trilogy was recommended by a reliable reading source, and it wasn’t until book two in the trilogy that we both realized that book three will not be released until May!

It’s nothing entirely different from the typical YA fantasy lot – curse, creatures with magical powers and a protagonist who isn’t aware of their special abilities – but what did make it stand out from its compatriots was the lack of the dreaded love triangle and insta-love that seems to plague the shelves and turned me off of YA fantasy for a little while.  After finishing the second in the series, I started looking for other reads and have since pre-ordered four books (book three included). One of which downloaded this Thursday and which I have already finished.

— Thing Three —

I have also been catching up on Doctor Who. I have two episodes (excluding the special) that I need to watch, but I’m afraid to finish watching them because I’m so sad about what happened in Face the Raven.

— Thing Four —

In other attempts at being healthy – or eating well – I have joined Blue Apron and received my first package this week. It was a bit of an inconvenience – the address mix up and all – but I finally got the box delivered to my home and made two meals from the three.

If there is one thing that Blue Apron teaches you, it’s that cooking isn’t difficult and making delicious dishes isn’t a hard task.

— Thing Five —

I helped a friend out this week, and it involved taking out my guitar – which I belatedly realized needing its strings changed, badly! That night, I felt a strange buzzing energy pushing through my weariness, it has been a while since I played/lead in this way, and it felt really good. Coming from a period where I have contemplated quitting, I think this was the best thing that could have happened. I have to think on this more, but it’s quite a thing.

~*~

Five Things (16)

Miles ran: 14 | Miles cycled: 0 | Steps: 146,506

I’ve gone and done another crazy thing …

— Thing One —

This week, while complaining about signing up for a half marathon, I decided to sign up for the 5 Boro Bike Tour. I think I’m sabotaging myself. I did it six years ago, on a borrowed bike, having no training, so I don’t believe that it would be a problem. At least, this time, I do cycle some (though no miles logged this year).

I’m riding with a team, a total of seven people. I’m certain it will be great. (She says, as she tries to convince herself that riding forty miles, after a few weeks of running thirteen would be great).

— Thing Two —

The Symphony Chorus is back in rehearsals, and my heart is happy! Last October I joined this group of singers and instrumentalists, all volunteers who sing in churches across New York (and other places). A friend of mine introduced me to the group and the first time I sang in a concert with them, I felt a strong sense of contentment. I’m looking forward to our Spring concert and the other concerts along the way.

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— Thing Three —

I had the pleasure of breakfast with friends. Getting up early and running is one thing, but getting up earlier to run so that I could meet with a friend for the best meal of the day is pleasing. I’m not a morning person, but I can get behind meeting people for pancakes, or omelettes.

I’ve also had the pleasure of sharing a free lunch with colleagues. We ordered from Maple; I got the chicken with roasted carrots and quinoa. It was delicious. I’m certainly going to order from Maple again. If you’re in Manhattan I suggest you check them out!

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— Thing Four —

In an attempt to continue using products that contain ingredients that occur naturally, I found a site, Meow Meow Tweet,  that makes deodorant creams. I can make my own, but seeing as I just finished the batch that I made, I thought I’d try their version. So far, I like it! I think I might try to use shea butter in my own mixture when I decide to make it again.

I found the deodorant cream in (what I can only call) an alternative pharmacy – which is a new favourite place of mine – called Stanley’s Pharmacy. I tried their sore throat tea – it was delicious – I think I’ll try others from them as well.

— Thing Five —

This week in pop culture, I saw the first two episodes of the new Shadowhunter series and the new Tarantino movie, Hateful 8.

I liked the little changes they did (from the book) in the Shadowhunter series; I think it was a good move. A lot of the story (in the books ) focused on the romance than the rich and vibrant world of the Shadowhunters – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, I don’t think it gives a film/show much material to work with, so adding a some new characters and stories fleshes things out a bit more.

Moving on to Hateful 8. It sits at #4 in the list of six Tarantino films I’ve seen, but it still had all the key factors that make a Tarantino film great.  He does an excellent job with the visuals and the directing, as well as in the stories that he created.

~*~

 

Five Things (15)

Miles ran: 4 | Miles cycled: 0 | Steps: 65,497

Time seems to move slowly when you pay it no attention but slips through your fingers when you notice. I turned around, and suddenly it was 2016, and that leads me to …

— Thing One —

A new year, a new page, a new chapter, and in a moment of temporary madness, I signed up for a half marathon. The Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon, to be precise. I hate running, but I hit the submit button anyway. I think I did it because of runners, in particular, runners who speak of running, poetically. You know who you are!

Also, for some reason, thirteen miles didn’t seem so far at the time; however, walking from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Botanical Gardens does. I might regret this decision.

— Thing Two —

Because of the above, and because I don’t want to hurt after this run, I’ve decided to train – which means running, which means, running outside, which means … why did I think this was a good idea in the first place? This past Tuesday was run day. And it was 11 degrees outside. And the cold seeped into my bones. I thought I’d never be warm again. Apparently, I tend to be dramatic when it comes to running.

— Thing Three —

And then my car refused to start. Turns out, I needed a new battery. It’s been six years since I bought my car; I guess it’s the battery’s time. It served me well, and will be missed, but I like putting my key into the ignition without having to worry if I would need a jumpstart.

— Thing Four —

My new binge-worthy Netflix show is Murdoch Mysteries. I started watching Season One a while ago and recently picked it up again. I love the idea of a turn-of-the-20th-century detective using scientific methods to solve crimes. There is a lot of humour sprinkled throughout and I think that any 21st-century person will enjoy the tongue-in-cheek references to modern technology that they imply. 

— Thing Five —

If you’re looking for a funny, fantastical, futuristic, post-apocalyptic, fairytale retelling, YA novel, then have I got the series for you! The Lunar Chronicles was one of my favourite recent reads. Absolutely love the female leads, though I wish the male leads were fleshed out as much as the ladies. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Melissa Meyer has to offer.

 

Goodbye; Hello.

A year that started out expectantly ended in despondency. Yet, it wasn’t all gloomy, 2015; there were several rays of light in the cloudiness that seemed to follow me. And those spots of sunlight are cherished.

I will remember with fondness the meals that I shared with friends who reached out and offered a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. The coffees we drank and the desserts we consumed as we talked for hours about the happy and the sad. The words of encouragement and the whispered prayers that passed their lips. I experienced some genuine friendships this year, and I am forever grateful.

The joy of music that reignited in my heart at the end of the year (while suffering a hard blow to my self-esteem) in the form of The Symphony Chorus. I am so happy that I found this group this year. Their affection and passion for creating music together bring me peace – more than I’ve felt in a very long time. There’s something energizing about singing with them on Monday nights and in concerts.

Although it was tough for a few months, the satisfaction of finishing a huge project was a highlight this year. There’s nothing more gratifying than completing a complex project.

And of course, the fact that 2015 is over and my family is intact is a blessing. The angels were working overtime with this lot, but I’m glad that all my aunts are fine and that we are ending the year with everyone alive and well.

So, here we are, we’ve completed another orbit around the sun, and we find ourselves beginning a turn. I hope this rotation brings life, and once more I find myself excited for what it might hold.