Lens Artists Photo Challenge #64: Countryside and/or Small Towns

When I studied abroad in Spain in 2006, we had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling around the country, both with our university group and on our own.  We saw not only the main cities of Spain, but also the beautiful countryside.

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We took a quick day trip to Segovia, a beautiful city with a rich history.  From the castle, we saw this amazing view of the city and the surrounding countryside.

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Our group took a trip through the south of the country later in the fall.  We traveled through the region of Castilla-La Mancha and saw some of the old windmills made famous by Don Quixote.

You can find more countryside and small towns at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

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Relaxing by Coloring Turtles

In the summer, my work does this thing on Thursdays where you can go during your lunch break to color or play checkers or do sudoku. You guys won’t be surprised that I always go to color. They have coloring books full of sea life, but I gravitate toward the turtles.

Turtles were my sorority mascot, so it goes without saying that I have a lot of turtle stuff, and also that my sisters purchased so many turtle things for my kid (who can easily say “turtle” now).

They have markers at work, which is a nice change for me since I use colored pencils at home for my Star Wars coloring book. My favorite technique for these pictures is to pick a set of three colors to alternate in one section, then pick a slightly different set of three for the next section. I did that here for the turtle flippers and the water.

Sometimes I don’t have time to get through a whole picture on my break. I’ve tried doing this turtle several times before finally taking one copy home to finish!

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The finished product

I also picked up coloring sheet when we were on vacation in Florida last year: more turtles!

I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety recently, so coloring is really helpful for my mental health. I always feel better after coloring! I did this one while watching Empire of Dreams, a cool Star Wars documentary from 2004; you can check it out on Netflix.

Sign the Petition: eBooks for All

#eBooksForAll Join the fight.

I’ve blogged several times recently about how publishing companies are making it difficult for public libraries to purchase copies of popular, new release ebooks.  I was unable to read VE Schwab’s wonderful Vengeful for four months because the publisher Tor would not sell the library a digital copy until then.

Now, Tor’s parent company Macmillan has announced that it will only sell a single copy of each new ebook to each library for the first eight weeks after its release.  That’s a single copy per library, no matter how big or small.

I disagree with this policy as I feel it hurts libraries and their patrons unfairly, and if you feel the same I urge you to sign the American Library Association’s petition opposing Macmillan’s policy.

Sign the petition at ebooksforall.org

I also personally will not buy any Macmillan/Tor ebooks until the policy is changed.

Macmillan is concern that library lending is cutting into ebook sales, but they have released no data to back this claim.  They are hoping that frustrated library patrons will choose to buy the book rather than wait (for example, my longest hold for a single copy book on Overdrive right now is optimistically estimated 8 months).

But the general public is not aware of the details of the ebook deals between the publishing industry and libraries, so those frustrated patrons will probably blame the libraries for not providing adequate service.  This puts the libraries is a really bad position, especially in districts like mine where the public library is funded in part through voted tax levies.

I rely on library ebooks heavily for my reading, so I believe Macmillan’s policy is bad news for me.  I have already signed the petition, and I hope you will do the same and also spread publicity about this topic.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #63 – Magical

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Ireland is one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited, and what could be more magical than a stone circle?  This small circle was on some farmer’s hillside in the Beara Peninsula.  I admit this in kind of cheating because I already used this picture for a similar challenge with WPC: Magic in 2016.  But I just love this photo!  No one from our group went back in time through the circle, though.

Our tour guide actually had to work some magic of his own to get us this close, because there was a herd of cows in this field when we arrived.  We were about to hop the fence into the field (with permission), when he noticed there was a bull in with them!  Luckily he was able to calmly and gently herd them away and we were able to safely approach.

Maybe the cows also appreciate the magic of the stone circle.

You can find more magic at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

Review: We Hunt the Flame

I heard a lot of hype about this YA debut fantasy; its Arab-inspired setting was a huge draw for me.  But ultimately, my feelings about We Hunt the Flame were complicated.  In short, I’d probably give it 3 / 5 stars, and I’m not planning to read any future books in the series.

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From Goodreads:

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king.

When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

The world building did end up being my favorite thing about this book.  I loved the setting of Arawiya and its countries, based on ancient Arabia.  We learn a lot about its government and culture, including food and rituals.  The author drops in Arabic words frequently, which I liked.  Some of the fantasy even ties into the cultural aspects with appearances by mythological creatures like ifrits.

The story was pretty engaging.  Although a bit slow to begin, it really picks up about a third of the way in, once Zafira and Nasir meet on their quest.  There are some nice twists at the end, several I saw coming and several I didn’t.  The characters were all pretty interesting, but I can’t say I really fell in love with any of them.

The fantasy and romance aspects were fine, nothing really special or new.  Zafira reminded me strongly of Katniss from Hunger Games because of her home life situation, her prickly personality, and her talents with a bow.  The overall tone of the book as well as some of the fantasy elements reminded me of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

The prose was one aspect of the novel that did stand out to me, being rather pretty and flowery, even going almost into poetical forms at times.  While it was nice, it also was not particularly easy to read.  I frequently had to stop and re-read sentences or even whole paragraphs to figure out what had actually happened.

Occasionally, the writing seemed overly detailed in a confusing way.  For example, one of the side characters I ended up liking the most was the young general Altair, but during his introduction scene I couldn’t get a read on him at all.  He is described, all within about a page, as having a “cheery voice” and a “wolfish grin,” while “anger feathered his jaw” and he spoke “hateful words,” yet “he acted as if everything were a jovial affair” and had the “eyes of a hawk.” Huh?

Overall, I enjoyed We Hunt the Flame, but I didn’t feel that it really stood out among other current YA fantasy except for its setting and world building.