Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday Snapshots - October 29th, 2016

Hosted each week over at West Metro Mommy Reads, this is what Saturday Snapshots is all about:

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

I'm dipping into the collection of photos I've taken and posted over on DeviantArt this week. There's nothing newer than the photos already posted on All Booked Up, so I'm looking into the older photos now.

Between the weather and work, I just haven't had a chance to take the camera out in the last week or so.

Which leaves me with these two:

A Cabbage White butterfly which seemed to like the new rock gardens we installed in the front last year. It was certainly obliging enough for photography.

I'm not certain what the flower type is, but I was having fun trying some different angles.


Monday, October 24, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - October 24, 2016

Well! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this meme is still going strong. I've been a participant since the days it was hosted over at J Kaye's Book Blog, and then on Book Journey. Now It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted at Book Date.

The idea of It's Monday! What Are You Reading is to share the books you read last week and also what you are currently reading. I've discovered the hard way that it's a dangerous meme for your TBR piles as frequently I end up adding books to my wishlist thanks to the intriguing descriptions and reviews that others share.

Anyway, last week I read or at least finished two books:

Voyager (Outlander 3) - Diana GabaldonThe first was Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.

The amazon.com product description:
From the author of the breathtaking bestsellers Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, the extraordinary saga continues.

Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her... and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her...the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland... and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite—or forever doom—her timeless love.
An excerpt from my review:
Detailed and at times a bit gruesome, Voyager grabs you by all your senses and sweeps you along in unexpected directions. This was a bit of a transition book, closing off the Culloden storyline which filled the previous two books and carrying the characters into new adventures, as well as introducing us to new characters along with the return of some unexpected characters from the previous books. There are also some new hints as to how time travel and the stones work.

Middle-Earth: Visions of a Modern Myth - Donato GiancolaThe other book I read last week was  Donato Giancola's Middle-Earth: Visions of a Modern Myth.

The amazon.com product description:
From the brush of Donato Giancola, one of the world's most recognized and lauded fantasy artists, comes a book filled with new illustrations that apply his legendary Renaissance craftsmanship to J. R. R. Tolkien's fantastic Middle-Earth. Dramatic lighting and deft draftsmanship reminiscent of master painters like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer explain Donato's popularity with millions of fans, as well as the numerous Hugo and Chesley Awards he has received. This long-awaited, moving, and beautiful voyage through Middle-Earth — a must-have for eager genre readers everywhere — offers a refreshingly new exploration of literature's most beloved fantasy realm. From Helm's Deep to Mount Doom, Donato takes readers on a colorful tour filled with warriors, wizards, dragons, and dwarfs. Throughout he exhibits his astonishing technical virtuosity with every scene he brings to life, while also demonstrating the delight and wonder familiar to all true devotees of Middle-Earth.
An excerpt from my review:
Interestingly, I found on going through his book that my favorite style of image are the pencil crayon and chalk illustrations on toned paper. They remind me of both the Degas sketches I've seen and also of an exhibit I once saw of Leonardo Da Vinci's sketches. Ever since then, I've been rather partial to that style of art.
This was a very quick book for straight reading - I picked it out for a few reasons, including just that. Other reasons included wanting a real change of pace from solid novels and also wanting to capitalize on the flurry of Tolkien-related items going out on social media thanks to the upcoming new books. Regardless of my reasons for actually reading this book (which had been sitting on my TBR lists for the last five years, I'm really glad that I did.

The books that I'm currently reading are:

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

The amazon.com product description:
It began in Scotland, at an ancient stone circle.  There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past--or the grave.  Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once buy twice.  Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became legend--a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child.  Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in frontier America.  But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century.  Their daughter Brianna...

Now, Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the stone circle and a terrifying leap into the unknown.  In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history...and to save their lives.  But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past...or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong...
This is the sequel to Voyager, which I finished reading last week. I have to admit that I have no idea of how long it's going to take me to finish reading this one, but I'm looking forward to the journey.

The second book I'm currently reading is one that again has been on my TBR list for a couple of years now. However, despite the fact that I'm finding it to be absolutely fascinating reading, I'm thinking that it may get put down yet again so I can focus on Drums of Autumn.

There and Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Origins of The HobbitThere And Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Origins Of The Hobbit by Mark Atherton

The amazon.com product description:
*Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.* The prophetic words of Galadriel, addressed to Frodo as he prepared to travel from Lothl√≥rien to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, are just as pertinent to J.R.R. Tolkien’s own fiction. For decades, hobbits and the other fantastical creatures of Middle-earth have captured the imaginations of a fiercely loyal tribe of readers, all enhanced by the immense success of Peter Jackson’s films: first The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and now his newest movie, The Hobbit. But for all Tolkien’s global fame and the familiarity of modern culture with Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam, the sources of the great mythmaker’s own myth-making have been neglected.
Mark Atherton here explores the chief influences on Tolkien’s work: his boyhood in the West Midlands; the landscapes and seascapes which shaped his mythologies; his experiences in World War I; his interest in Scandinavian myth; his friendships, especially with the other Oxford-based Inklings; and the relevance of his themes, especially ecological ones, to the present day.
I'm only part-way through the first chapter and finding this to be fascinating going. So far, the author has been comparing The Hobbit and Roverandom to each other and also to other children's literature of the time.Then there are the extra details on things I'd already been somewhat familiar with: that the names of the Dwarves of The Hobbit came from Scandinavian literature, but I hadn't known that those names had meanings, or what the meanings were.

Honestly, this is a book where I feel like I need to have a notepad and pencil out - and a lot of quiet time to absorb what I'm reading.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday Snapshots - October 22, 2016

Saturday Snapshots is a meme hosted each week over at West Metro Mommy Reads. It's been a while now, but I used to be a pretty regular participant in the fun. I've decided to return to this meme this week.

Saturday Snapshots is described as:

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

I'm posting two photos this week. The first is of a chestnut-backed chickadee:


Chickadee

The second is from some time last year IIRC, and is of a bee on a flower.


Photos both taken at Rathtrevor Provincial Park.

I posted a photomanipulation based on the chicakdee photo a few days ago as well as part of my post "More Photography".

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Middle-Earth: Visions Of A Modern Myth - Donato Giancola

Middle-Earth: Visions Of A Modern Myth - Donato GiancolaMiddle-Earth: Visions Of A Modern Myth
Donato Giancola
Underwood Books
Copyright: 2010
978-1599290478

The amazon.com product description:
From the brush of Donato Giancola, one of the world's most recognized and lauded fantasy artists, comes a book filled with new illustrations that apply his legendary Renaissance craftsmanship to J. R. R. Tolkien's fantastic Middle-Earth. Dramatic lighting and deft draftsmanship reminiscent of master painters like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer explain Donato's popularity with millions of fans, as well as the numerous Hugo and Chesley Awards he has received. This long-awaited, moving, and beautiful voyage through Middle-Earth — a must-have for eager genre readers everywhere — offers a refreshingly new exploration of literature's most beloved fantasy realm. From Helm's Deep to Mount Doom, Donato takes readers on a colorful tour filled with warriors, wizards, dragons, and dwarfs. Throughout he exhibits his astonishing technical virtuosity with every scene he brings to life, while also demonstrating the delight and wonder familiar to all true devotees of Middle-Earth.
I've had this book since 2010/2011 and I hadn't read it yet? I don't know what I was thinking! Middle-Earth: Visions Of A Modern Myth didn't deserve to languish on my TBR pile anywhere near this long.

Alan Lee and John Howe have been two of my favorite Tolkien illustrators for the longest time. As of today, they've been joined by a third artist: Donato Giancola. His book of Tolkien artwork is spectacular! There are scenes from The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, but also a scattering of pieces from the older myths that make up The Silmarillion.

Donato Giancola has an extensive gallery of his artwork on his website, and that's where I found these examples:
Interestingly, I found on going through his book that my favorite style of image are the pencil crayon and chalk illustrations on toned paper. They remind me of both the Degas sketches I've seen and also of an exhibit I once saw of Leonardo Da Vinci's sketches. Ever since then, I've been rather partial to that style of art.

Middle-Earth: Visions Of A Modern Myth is a very quick book to go through on a cover-to-cover read, however you can spend quite a bit more time admiring each of the gorgeous plates - or at least I can. I certainly found the book to be money well spent, and I'm going to be returning to it to admire the pictures over and over I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Another New Tolkien Book!

November is going to be a good month for Tolkien fans (Based on Canadian release dates. It looks as though the USA ones are earlier.)! First of all, there's the new Facsimile first edition of The Hobbit - released for the 80th anniversary that I mentioned back in September, and today I found out about this one. Not to forget about the Beren and Luthien book which is coming out in 2017 - and for which I currently cannot find a non-e-book listing!

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun - J.R.R. TolkienThe Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
J.R.R. Tolkien
Ed. Verlyn Flieger
HarperCollins
Release Date: November 3, 2016
978-0008202132

The amazon.com product description:
Unavailable for more than 70 years, this early but important work is published for the first time with Tolkien's 'Corrigan' poems and other supporting material, including a prefatory note by Christopher Tolkien. Set 'In Britain's land beyond the seas' during the Age of Chivalry, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun tells of a childless Breton Lord and Lady (the 'Aotrou' and 'Itroun' of the title) and the tragedy that befalls them when Aotrou seeks to remedy their situation with the aid of a magic potion obtained from a corrigan, or malevolent fairy. When the potion succeeds and Itroun bears twins, the corrigan returns seeking her fee, and Aotrou is forced to choose between betraying his marriage and losing his life.
Coming from the darker side of J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, together with the two shorter 'Corrigan' poems that lead up to it and which are also included, was the outcome of a comparatively short but intense period in Tolkien's life when he was deeply engaged with Celtic, and particularly Breton, myth and legend. Originally written in 1930 and long out of print, this early but seminal work is an important addition to the non-Middle-earth portion of his canon and should be set alongside Tolkien's other retellings of myth and legend, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur and The Story of Kullervo. Like these works, it belongs to a small but important corpus of his ventures into 'real-world' mythologies, each of which in its own way would be a formative influence on his own legendarium.
Verlyn Flieger has a reputation as one of the great Tolkien scholars, having written several highly recommended books on the subject as well as more recently editing a number of new editions of Tolkien's books. This is sure to be an interesting one that I'm looking forward to reading.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New and Upcoming Releases

There are always new and interesting books coming out. These are a few of the ones that have caught my eye that have either just been released, or are going to be coming out over the next couple of months:

We start with:

Tempest: All New Tales of Valdemar - Mercedes LackeyTempest: All New Tales Of Valdemar
Ed. Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: December 6, 2016
978-0756409036

The amazon.com product description:
Twenty-four authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.

The Heralds of Valdemar are the kingdom’s ancient order of protectors. They are drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages—and all are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. These inborn talents—combined with training as emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, warriors, and more—make them indispensable to their monarch and realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horse-like Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. The Heralds of Valdemar and their Companions ride circuit throughout the kingdom, protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.

Now, twenty-three authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.

Join Elizabeth Vaughan, Fiona Patton, Jennifer Brozek, Brenda Cooper, Rosemary Edghill, and others in twenty-two original stories, including a brand-new novella by Mercedes Lackey, to Valdemar, where:

A Herald must crack an ancient code in a historic tapestry in order to arbitrate a dispute over land and lineage…

A Healer’s daughter flees the noble family that has trapped and enslaved her mother, and must seek help to free her mother…

A young woman who hides her clairvoyant powers from her town’s Karsite priests ForeSees a threat, and must risk revealing her Gift to save her community…

A Herald finds his assistant has been abducted by a man upon whom he had levied a heavy fine, and must foil the kidnapper’s plans to save his charge…
Mercedes Lackey's anthologies have become an annual tradition over the past several years. Most of them have been Valdemar-themed, but there have also been a couple set in the Elemental Masters world too. As always, the stories vary, but often they carry over characters from previous anthologies as well. I know I'm looking forward to seeing who and what show up in this one. Makes a great Christmas gift for any Valdemar or Mercedes Lackey fans too.

99: Stories of the Game - Wayne Gretzky99: Stories Of The Game
Wayne Gretzky
G.P. Putnam & Sons
Release Date: October 18, 2016
978-0399575471

The amazon.com product description:
One of the greatest sports figures of all time salutes his heroes and takes us inside the game as few others can.
From minor-hockey phenomenon to Hall of Fame sensation, Wayne Gretzky rewrote the record books, his accomplishments becoming the stuff of legend. Dubbed “The Great One,” he is considered by many to be the greatest hockey player who ever lived. No one has seen more of the game than he has—but he has never discussed in depth just what it was he saw.

For the first time, Gretzky discusses candidly what the game looks like to him and introduces us to the people who inspired and motivated him: mentors, teammates, rivals, the famous and the lesser known. Weaving together lives and moments from an extraordinary career, he reflects on the players who inflamed his imagination when he was a kid, the way he himself figured in the dreams of so many who came after; takes us onto the ice and into the dressing rooms to meet the friends who stood by him and the rivals who spurred him to greater heights; shows us some of the famous moments in hockey history through the eyes of someone who regularly made that history.

Warm, direct, and revelatory, it is a book that gives us number 99, the man and the player, like never before.

Unbreakable: 50 Goals in 39 Games: Wayne Gretzky and the Story of Hockey's Greatest RecordUnbreakable: 50 Goals in 39 Games: Wayne Gretzky and the Story of Hockey's Greatest Record
Mike Brophy and Todd Denault
McClelland & Stewart
Release Date: October 18, 2016
978-0771017551

The amazon.com product description:
In only his 3rd NHL season, Wayne Gretzky set the unbeatable NHL record - scoring 50 goals in just 39 games. A book for the devoted Gretzky fans, and books like 99 by Al Strachan.

Unbreakable: 50 Goals in 39 Games, Wayne Gretzky and the Story of Hockey's Greatest Record sets out to chronicle that unforgettable streak of 39 games in the fall of 1981, when a 20-year-old wunderkind from the town of Brantford, Ontario, captured the imagination of not just the hockey world but the world at large and emerged as both the game's biggest star and it's most recognizable face.
Published on the 35th anniversary of this remarkable feat, the story of this unforgettable season is chronicled by renowned hockey authors Mike Brophy and Todd Denault. Based on new interviews with Wayne Gretzky and with those who surrounded him during his magical run at hockey's greatest record, Unbreakable: 50 Goals in 39 Games, Wayne Gretzky and the Story of Hockey's Greatest Record will detail on a game-by-game basis Gretzky's stellar run towards hockey immortality, through extensive research and the reminiscences of those who were there, including teammates, and players from opposing teams.
 Both of these books will probably be on any hockey fan's Christmas list.

And here's one for the Star Trek fan:

The Star Trek Encyclopedia, Revised and Expanded Edition: A Reference Guide to the FutureThe Star Trek Encyclopedia, Revised and Expanded Edition: A Reference Guide to the Future
Michael Okuda
Harper Design
October 18, 2016
978-0062371324

The amazon.com product description:
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the classic show, a fully authorized revision of the popular reference companion: a two-volume encyclopedia featuring a completely new design, stunning new full-color photographs and illustrations, and 300 pages of new entries, packaged in a specially designed and shrink-wrapped deluxe slipcase.
When it debuted in 1966, the Star Trek series quickly became a pop culture phenomenon, inspiring six spin-off series and thirteen films—including Star Trek Beyond, opening July 22, 2016—as well as books, comics, games, toys, and more. One of the largest franchises of all time, Star Trek’s overall box office revenue totals more than $1.93 billion to date.
Since it’s initial publication twenty-five years ago, The Star Trek Encyclopedia has been the go-to source for everything related to the franchise’s canon. Packed with highly detailed information, including brief episode and film synopses, no other book has come close to offering the same wealth of insight into the Star Trek universe. Now, The Star Trek Encyclopedia has been thoroughly revised and redesigned for a new generation of fans. This updated and expanded edition includes 300 more pages, information, photographs and illustrations, and offers exhaustively researched and detailed entries on the characters, ships, and events from the last fifteen years of Star Trek television shows and films, including Star Trek: Voyager seasons 4-7, Star Trek: Enterprise seasons 1-4, and Star Trek Nemesis. It also features material detailing the recent big-screen films Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Packaged in a stunning deluxe slipcase, this two-volume set is a must-have for every Star Trek fan’s library.
I know at least one person who will be drooling over this book!

For the Outlander fans:

The Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official Guide to Seasons One & TwoThe Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official Guide to Seasons One & Two
Tara Bennett and Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 18, 2016
978-1101884164

The amazon.com product description:
Get an exclusive look behind the scenes of the first two seasons of Outlander with this official, fully illustrated companion to the hit Starz television series based on the bestselling novels.

It was only a matter of time before Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander saga made the leap from book to hit TV series, and the millions of readers captivated by the epic romance of Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser have eagerly followed.

Now the must-watch drama has inspired this must-have guide, which reveals that it takes a village (or perhaps a Scottish isle) to bring the breathtaking world of Outlander to life in front of our eyes. Spanning the first two seasons of the Starz network sensation, The Making of Outlander leads readers behind the scenes and straight into the action as cast members, writers, producers, musicians, costume designers, set decorators, technicians, and more share the many adventures and challenges they face to make this sweeping saga come alive on the screen.

In exclusive interviews, the show’s stars, including Caitriona Balfe (Claire), Sam Heughan (Jamie), and Tobias Menzies (Frank Randall/Black Jack Randall), discuss the daunting task of embodying some of fiction’s most beloved characters—and satisfying the high expectations of devoted Outlander readers. Executive producer and showrunner Ronald D. Moore looks at the inner workings of the writers’ room, shares his crew’s travels to the authentic overseas locations, and chronicles the brainstorming, building, breakneck pacing, and boundless energy that make everything from the show’s architecture to its outfits period-perfect. In addition, the book examines all the Outlander episodes through exclusive interviews with their writers and directors, providing fascinating facts into the making of each hour.

Best of all, The Making of Outlander offers a veritable feast of lavish photographs—including an array of images spotlighting the stars in all their characters’ grandeur and up-close personal portraits. Featuring an introduction by Diana Gabaldon herself, this magnificent insider’s look at the world of the Outlander TV series is the companion all fans will want by their side.
Definitely a book for the fans of the TV series. I know I'm going to see if I can get a look through a copy of this book in the near future!

To go along with the Outlander material, I've also discovered that they are releasing an Outlander season two soundtrack:

Outlander: Season Two (Original Television Soundtrack)Outlander: Season Two (Original Television Soundtrack)
Bear McCreary
Release Date: October 28, 2016

I'm really looking forward to this one! They had some of the best music in season two. My copy of the season one soundtrack is one that I play frequently, so I'm eager for this. It opens with the french version of the Skye Boat Song, and goes from there, including the music from the episode "Prestonpans". Unfortunately, there aren't samples for most of the tracks yet, so I'm having trouble remembering which tracks specifically were favorites. Looking forward to hearing them all again though!

Calling all audio-book fans!! Until November 2nd, the price is right on this one:

The Dispatcher - John ScalziThe Dispatcher
John Scalzi
Audible
Release Date: October 4, 2016

The amazon.com product description:
Zachary Quinto - best known for his role as the Nimoy-approved Spock in the recent Star Trek reboot and the menacing, power-stealing serial killer, Sylar, in Heroes - brings his well-earned sci-fi credentials and simmering intensity to this audio-exclusive novella from master storyteller John Scalzi.
One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone - 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.
Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher - a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death's crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.
It's a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it's too late...before not even a Dispatcher can save him.
The Dispatcher is free until November 2, 2016. 
John Scalzi has written some very good science fiction - the first book that come to mind are his Old Man's War series, which I've enjoyed a few times now - especially the first two books, Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades. This one sounds interesting too, especially at the current price.

Shadow of Victory - David WeberShadow of Victory (Honor Harrington)
David Weber
Baen Books
Release Date: November 1, 2016
978-1476781822

The amazon.com product description:
The Mesan Alignment is revealed, and, for Honor Harrington and the Manticoran Star Kingdom, this means war!

Unintended Consequences

Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as planned.

The Mesan Alignment has a plan—one it’s been working on for centuries. A plan to remake the galaxy and genetically improve the human race—its way.

Until recently, things have gone pretty much as scheduled, but then the Alignment hit a minor bump in the road called the Star Empire of Manticore. So the Alignment engineered a war between the Solarian League, the biggest and most formidable interstellar power in human history. To help push things along, the Alignment launched a devastating sneak attack which destroyed the Royal Manticoran Navy’s industrial infrastructure.

And in order to undercut Manticore’s galaxy-wide reputation as a star nation of its word, it launched Operation Janus—a false-flag covert operation to encourage rebellions it knows will fail by promising Manticoran support. The twin purposes are to harden Solarian determination to destroy the Star Empire once and for all, and to devastate the Star Empire’s reputation with the rest of the galaxy.

But even the best laid plans can have unintended consequences, and one of those consequences in this case may just be a new dawn of freedom for oppressed star nations everywhere.
I really need to go back and play catch-up with this series. I hate to admit it, but I've rather lost track of the events and plot threads, including the various spin-off series. However, I still go back and re-read some of the earlier books in the series. Now I just need to really settle in and do a systematic re-read to get caught up on events. 

Voyager - Diana Gabaldon

Voyager - Diana GabaldonVoyager
Diana Gabaldon
Seal Books
Copyright: 1994
978-0440217565

The amazon.com product description:
Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her... and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her...the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland... and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite—or forever doom—her timeless love.
Voyager is the third book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, following on Dragonfly In Amber. For those of us who are picking up the story ahead of the third season of the Outlander TV series, don't be surprised to discover that you are already familiar with parts of the first third or so of the book. They briefly covered that part of the story in the concluding episode of season two. Personally, I hope they come back and give this section of the story a deeper treatment in the new season as it's one of my favorite parts of the book.

Detailed and at times a bit gruesome, Voyager grabs you by all your senses and sweeps you along in unexpected directions. This was a bit of a transition book, closing off the Culloden storyline which filled the previous two books and carrying the characters into new adventures, as well as introducing us to new characters along with the return of some unexpected characters from the previous books. There are also some new hints as to how time travel and the stones work.

I read Voyager over the course of the last several months - somewhat sporadically I must admit, but even so, the book was easy to pick up again each time and it consistently pulled me back into the lives of Jamie and Claire.

It will be interesting to see how the third season of Outlander compares to the book. For the previous two seasons, it had been years since I read the books. This time it'll only have been a few months.

Currently, I'm looking forward to really getting into Drums of Autumn, the fourth book in the series, although with the reading speed I've been going with on the last book, I can be expected to have it finished sometime in 2017!

Monday, October 17, 2016

More Phototgraphy

Over the Thanksgiving Weekend, I was back out at Rathtrevor park. Although I had hopes of seeing deer, the owl, rabbits or some interesting birds, my best photos ended up being of something completely different. Mushrooms.*

Mushrooms

Mushroom
These were only two of the several varieties I saw over the course of that walk, and the two best photographs. I have to says I still think the dirty and wet knees and elbows I ended up with in my efforts to get these pictures were worth it.

I've also been playing with some more photomanipulation. I was inspired on this one by an article I read off of Facebook a couple of weeks ago. I thought it was also a Digital Photography School article, but can't seem to find it in their feed. At any rate, the article was about using different textures and opacity levels to create effects in photographs.

This is what I came up with:


I rather like the effect I got, and plan to play around with this style of image a bit more. I think though, that I need to come up with a collection of different photos suitable for use as textures, as right now I could only find two or three in my collection. Some possibilities that come to mind include different types of paper, or cloth or sand.



*Partly inspired by reading the article on photographing mushrooms from the Digital Photography School website: http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-photograph-mushrooms-toadstools-and-fungi/

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Photography

This is one of those hobbies that seems to come and go for me. Of late though I've really been into it - and I've been having a fair bit of luck in the photos I've been able to get. Most of the time recently I've been taking my camera to Rathtrevor Provincial Park, which is moderately nearby.

Possibly one of the reasons I've jumped back into photography is that I discovered the ViewBug website and I now live in hope of one day winning one of their contests (reality says "not likely!").

Anyway, I've gotten a few photos that I'm really happy with.

This one's of a particularly tame rabbit that I see at the park nearly every time. I know they say not to approach or feed the animals, and I don't. This one though, tends to come up to me. Obviously other people do feed or otherwise try to attract the rabbits.


I think we got quite lucky to see this fellow! One of the other people walking in the park pointed it out to us, and the owl seemed to be quite happy to pose for me. This was the best of the photos I took of him.

To go on with the animal theme, I finally managed to get an in focus photo of a seagull in flight. It's just coming in for a landing here.


I've been admiring the various flower and droplet photos around, and got the chance to try and take some myself the other day. This was the best, and I'm quite happy with it, though I do want to try taking more of these photos with different flowers too.

I could keep going because I've been enjoying taking these photographs, but I think that four is enough for now. That doesn't mean though, that I won't have more photos to share in the future.

Closer To The Chest - Mercedes Lackey

Closer To The Chest (Book Three Of The Herald Spy) - Mercedes LackeyCloser to the Chest (Book Three of The Herald Spy)
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 2016
978-0756409012

The amazon.com product description:
Herald Mags, the King of Valdemar’s Herald-Spy, has been developing a clandestine network of young informants who operate not only on the streets of the capital city of Haven, but also in the Great Halls and kitchens of the wealthy and highborn.  In his own established alternate personas, Mags observes the Court and the alleys alike, quietly gathering information to keep Haven and the Kingdom safe.

His wife Amily, is growing into her position as the King’s Own Herald, though she is irritated to encounter many who still consider her father, Herald Nikolas, to be the real King’s Own. Nonetheless, she finds it increasingly useful to be underestimated, for there are dark things stirring in the shadows of Haven and up on the Hill.  Someone has discovered many secrets of the women of the Court and the Collegia—and is using those secrets to terrorize and bully them.  Someone is targeting the religious houses of women, too, leaving behind destruction and obscene ravings.
          
But who?  Someone at the Court?  A disgruntled Palace servant?  One of the members of the Collegia?  Someone in the patriarchal sect of the god Sethor?  Could the villain be a woman?  And what is this person hoping to achieve?  It isn’t blackmail, for the letters demand nothing; the aim seems to be the victims’ panic and despair. But why?

Mags and Amily take steps to minimize the damage while using both magic and wits to find the evildoer.  But just as they appear to be on the verge of success, the letter-writer, tires of terror and is now out for blood.

Mags and Amily will have to track down someone who leaves few clues behind and thwart whatever plans have been set in motion, and quickly—before terror turns to murder.
First off, this was a fairly quick read. I finished it last night, so only two evenings. However, I think that's been true of the other two books in this set, starting with Closer To Home, as well as the previous Mags series (beginning with The Collegium Chronicles: Foundation). Regardless, one of the reasons it was a quick read is simply that I couldn't put the book down! Mercedes Lackey kept me guessing all the way through regarding who the villain was and their possible motivation.

Closer To The Chest opened another window into Mags and Amily's lives together, one I really enjoyed reading. Based on the ending though, I don't know if there is going to be another book about these characters. Of course, I think I said that about the Collegium Chronicles a couple of times too, so I don't know. If not, I'm looking forward to seeing what aspect of Valdemar's history Mercedes Lackey chooses to write about next. I've grown to count on the yearly Valdemar novel over the last couple of decades.

There's been a trend towards Mags' type of character in the Valdemar world over some of the more recent books/story sets. We're on the third character of this sort now: Alberich in Exile's Honor and Exile's Valor, and also Skif in Take A Thief.

I think I'm going to end up going back and rereading all of the Mags books soon, if only to refresh myself on all the details I've forgotten. After all, the first book telling his story came out back in 2008! Honestly, that's something I try not to think about too closely, especially as I've been following the Valdemar novels since the Mage Storms and Mage Wars trilogies first came out.

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