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text 2018-10-02 13:10
18 Splendid Vacay Spots to Pack Your Bags For

10 years later, it won’t be exciting at all to brag about the hours you spent at the office! But it would absolutely be thrilling to talk about the sharks you saw while sailing through the oceans and the heights you first got scared off while you glanced the world from those sky-scraping mountains!


The world is soaring high with magnificent hues for you to get tinted in and unmask the magic of breathtaking rivers, cliffs, valleys, and forests. So give it a break, calm yourself down and sneak out from your bustling life making it standstill for a few days! Let me tell you about some spell-binding destinations that’d be perfect for you this year to set off to! Pick your favorites from the ones jotted below, find peace and reboot!

Istanbul, Turkey

This beautiful mélange of the East and the West will take you past some stupefying mosques, minarets, and palaces along with ferry rides over the Sea of Marmara.

Prague, Czech Republic

One of the most popular destinations it is with a bunch of old towns and castles taking you to the era of kingdoms and thrones!

San Francisco, California

Head towards this fog loaded city to witness the great Golden Gate Bridge, ride in the cable cars and take over some wine tours and tastings.

St. Lucia

This island country lets you relax on the warm sand along the beaches, glare into the clear skies beside waterfalls and dive into the depths of the oceans.

Costa Rica

Take a walk in the forests, see the smoke emitting volcanic mountains and get crazy selfies with the wildlife creatures in the finest parks here.

Santorini, Greece

It’s a stunning blend of the whites and the blues. You’ll be enthralled to wander in the streets amid the spectacularly built houses here.

Rome, Italy

The capital city of Italy has some fascinating masterpieces of architecture, art, and culture together with some captivating ancients and ruins.

Bilbao, Spain

The food lovers should definitely hit it as this city has some of the best restaurants in the entire world besides a rich culture and architecture.

Phuket, Thailand

It has all at one place! Oceans, mountains, rainforests and an amazing culture of Asia will unwind you for sure!

Lisbon, Portugal

Climb up this hilly city to visit its historical museums and pastel color coverings on the houses and buildings.

Budapest, Hungary

Get relaxed at this city of spas and baths and look on how the splendid Buda and Pest meets through the chain bridge here.

Vienna, Austria

Vacay on this largest city of Austria and see the astonishing work done by great artists on historic buildings here.

Chicago, Illinois

Ape up on the monstrous buildings and skyscrapers in Chicago and get to know how it all looks from above.

Bratislava, Slovakia

You get here some real peaceful moments around the old hamlets and fine vineyards with no crowds hovering over.

Petra, Jordan

Petra will make you take a ride on camels, show you forts and the mesmerizing stones of the Middle East.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Visit this bewitching city made of huge stone walls and limestone paved streets to hush your inner chaos. Top Vouchers Code, an online discount provider, has a massive collection of travel portals to feed your needs for an exotic holiday booking.

Valletta, Malta

This sunniest city will make your heart sing along the restored churches, enticing palazzos, and ancient constructions.

Cuba

At this lively spot, you’ll be all yourself while stepping forward in streets surrounded by beautifully painted walls and vintage cars.

 

 

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review 2018-09-30 14:48
Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen
Cambridge - Susanna Kaysen

London, Florence, Athens: Susanna, a precocious young girl growing up in 1950s Cambridge, would rather be home than in any of these places. Uprooted from the streets around Harvard Square, she feels lost and excluded in all the far-flung cities to which her father’s career takes the family. She always comes home with relief—but soon enough wonders if outsiderness may be her permanent condition. Written with a sharp eye for the pretensions—and charms—of the intellectual classes, Cambridge captures the mores of an era now past, the ordinary lives of extraordinary people in a singular part of America, and the ways we can—and cannot—go home.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Kaysen takes the confusing route and writes a novel featuring a protagonist with the author's name, so keep in mind when reading this -- the Susanna of this story is fictional (but kind of not...wow, I'm not helping here, am I? LOL)

 

At the novel's start, 1950s era fictional Susanna is the precocious, book loving daughter of an economics professor and a former professional pianist. The family relocates often, but wherever they set up home base always seems to be a house full of music, learning, and comedic matchmaking attempts among the house staff. Even young Susanna comments that home life is such a warm and fun environment, she dreads time spent having to attend school. Kaysen offers so many heartwarming interactions within this family, the reader almost begins to feel cheated they're not a member themselves!

 

Even though the child version of our protagonist clearly displays a dreamer's soul early on, full of curiosity about the world, part of her also longs for a stable, established place to call home once and for all. This yearning becomes the basis for her attachment to the college town of Cambridge, Massachusetts. But as she moves beyond childhood into adulthood, she comes to find that even such a town as this with, its picturesque exterior, is not guaranteed to have all the answers her soul craves. 

 

There's no clear-cut, linear progression, per say, to this novel's plot, more like  strung-together episodes of the character's remembrances over a lifetime. What this book does really well is illustrate that sense of nostalgia that people tend to develop when they become increasingly distanced from their memories over the years. Hard disappointments, given enough time, tend to morph into these glowing vignettes that have the older you smirking, "Those were the days."

 

There is something in Susanna (the character) that rings very relatable to many: boredom with school, struggles with math, a love of books. Readers even get a bit of a crash course in Ancient Greek history! There's one section I found especially charming, where little Susanna offers her nine year old perspective on things after her first experiences with reading Greek mythology. 

 

Where the story gets a bit bogged down is in the background minutiae ... great at first, but in some portions of the story the richness turns to overindulgence and ultimately "reader bellyache". Examples: Susanna's teen years -- the description of her first period went on for several pages. Then the environmental details. At first, it's lovely. Especially for any readers enamored with all the best of Massachusetts life: walks around Cambridge parks, vacations on Cape Cod, etc. But after so many pages of it with not much else going on, it can border on tedious. Though this could be argued as a case of reader preferences and what you're in the mood for when you dive into this book. 

 

Cambridge is not the easiest book to explain or class, and it might not be for everyone, but I'd argue there is a definite audience for it. There are for sure some great take away lines I was noting, such as a pessimist being "a disappointed optimist" or the Daria-esque "my long, agonizing apprenticeship in failure had begun." LOL  

 

University town setting, bookish references... a bluestocking's dream! The opening sequence alone -- that first whole page of an artistic deconstruction of the novel's first line -- just screams " word nerds unite!"

 

 

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review 2018-08-16 07:45
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier

Philip Ashley's older cousin Ambrose, who raised the orphaned Philip as his own son, has died in Rome. Philip, the heir to Ambrose's beautiful English estate, is crushed that the man he loved died far from home. He is also suspicious. While in Italy, Ambrose fell in love with Rachel, a beautiful English and Italian woman. But the final, brief letters Ambrose wrote hint that his love had turned to paranoia and fear. Now Rachel has arrived at Philip's newly inherited estate. Could this exquisite woman, who seems to genuinely share Philip's grief at Ambrose's death, really be as cruel as Philip imagined? Or is she the kind, passionate woman with whom Ambrose fell in love? Philip struggles to answer this question, knowing Ambrose's estate, and his own future, will be destroyed if his answer is wrong.

Amazon.com

 

 

Orphaned at a mere 18 months of age, Phillip Ashley is taken in and raised by his much older cousin, Ambrose. Over the years, Ambrose grooms young Phillip to one day take over as heir to Ambrose's Cornish estate. Then the time come when Ambrose embarks on one of his frequent trips to Florence (where he spends the winters so as not to aggravate his health problems). This year though, Ambrose writes to Phillip to say he has become quite enamored by a woman by the name of Rachel, a distant cousin. The letters continue to come, illustrating the rapid development of the relationship. Before long Ambrose sends word that he and Rachel have married.

 

Ambrose extends his stay in Florence, renting a home there. Ten months away from England, his letters turn from that of a blissed out newlywed to being saturated in melancholy.  The letters get alarmingly more frantic, showing a mental breakdown. A year and a half passes and Ambrose's letters begin arriving in near illegible script and a distinctly paranoid tone. Then one last cryptic letter comes urging Phillip to come quick to Italy, writing "she watches me... Rachel, my torment."  Unfortunately, Ambrose dies before Phillip's arrival, so explanations regarding Ambrose's state of mind at the end remain elusive. 

 

Phillip returns to England to take up his position as the new heir to Ambrose's estate. Shortly after settling into this new role, he gets word that Ambrose's widow is due to arrive any minute and wishes to spend some time on the land that meant so much to her husband. 

 

The novel is narrated by Phillip. Through him, we get a first hand account of his initial impressions of Rachel, even how he imagined her from Ambrose's letters. He gives her a pretty hilarious ripping (describing what he imagines pre-introduction) but in person he finds her quite beautiful and beguiling. Still, he can't entirely shake suspicions that she may have had something to do with Ambrose's unexpected passing. They have a bit of a rocky start, but later Phillip chocks it up (at least in part) to Rachel having difficulty with his physical likeness to Ambrose. 

 

 

Also in the mix is Phillip's longtime friend, Louise --- honestly, my favorite character in the whole story. Her quietly slipped in snark! When Rachel first arrives, Louise later remarks, "Mourning certainly does not appear drab on her." Reading that brought to my mind the scene in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind when Scarlett goes to that first dance / social event after being widowed. But it irked me how annoying and almost bratty Phillip was around Louise. His poor behavior left me feeling like he certainly didn't deserve a friend of Louise's caliber. 

 

A historical note in the edition I read from mentioned that du Maurier may have based Cousin Rachel off of Ellen Doubleday (wife of Nelson Doubleday of Doubleday Publishing), whom it was speculated Daphne had "confused" (as the historical note worded it) feelings for. Going into a du Maurier novel, it's often a given to expect a certain level of mystery to the plot. With this one, there were bits of mystery / intrigue here and there, but overall I didn't find as much suspense as I would normally expect from her work. Rachel was painted a bit like a Borgia in the beginning, but the element of suspense fizzed out a bit as the story progresses. While Rachel is undoubtedly an intriguing character, du Maurier doesn't quite land the full punch in terms of the character's level of sly dastardly-ness.

 

 

 

 

 

But true to her reputation, even here du Maurier does leave questions for the reader to work out. Was there a deeper motive behind the birthday plan? I was perplexed by Phillip's decision!

 

Even so, I appreciated the subtle wit sprinkled throughout passages of dialogue. It's what held my interest during the bits where not much else was going on! 

 

So how does the recent film adaptation hold up? Honestly, I preferred the film! One of the troubles I had with the book is the feeling that sense that du Maurier was not sufficiently answering all the questions or conflicts she posed in the book. But the film expands on what du Maurier offers and gives readers some nice closure on some of those topics, particularly with the film's ending. Some scenes in the film were so beautifully shot they reminded me of Impressionist paintings... it was hard not to be instantly captivated! 

 

 

 

Some changes that caught my attention though:

 

* The whole scene Rachel has in front of the Arno River seems to be cut from the film. The thoughts she had in that book scene, in the film she speaks them to Rinaildi.

 

* Rachel Weisz, cast as Cousin Rachel, plays the conversation regarding Italian lessons in a rather weepy tone, which threw me. The way the scene is laid out in the book, I imagined the lines delivered with much more of a dark humor with a side of steely glint in the eye vibe.... but the 2nd fight later on was shot just about how I pictured it!

 

* The candles! So many candles SO close to canopy bed drapes! Made me wonder about fires on set lol

 

* It might just be me on this one, but I felt like some scenes had some odd close-ups, strange angle choices, and sometimes even just straight up out of focus. 

 

Overall, the film adaptation is pretty faithful to the book. A good chunk of the dialogue in the film is actually pulled verbatim from the book text. Not surprisingly though, the film does blaze through a number of plot points in the interest of time. One of the major reveals near the novel's end actually shows up smack in the middle of the film!

 

I would definitely recommend reading the book first to experience all these little nuances yourself, but either way there's a pretty good story to be had here... the film brings out what the book dropped off! But as Roger Michell, the film's director, put it: "Of course, the best version of all, perfectly cast, impeccably lit and designed, with the greatest soundscape, most dizzying score, infinite budget and cast of thousands, will always be the one projected into the keen reader's imagination as she or he turns the pages that follow."

 

 

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url 2018-08-07 12:14
Leonardo's "To-Do" List
Da Vinci's Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image - Toby Lester

(Source)

 

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review 2018-05-17 22:18
All the Way to Italy
All the Way to Italy - Flavia Brunetti

Little has grown up in San Francisco, but is a native of Italy. For a good portion of her childhood she was raised by her Aunt Sira in the States. Little and Sira packed up and left Italty after an incident happened concerning her mother and father that caused Little's mother to leave them. Now, Little's father has died and Sira has asked Little to come back to Italy. Little reluctantly returns to her home knowing that she must help sift through her father's things. Little's return also brings back partial memories, things she can't piece together from her time with her mother and father-a symbol, an argument. Little tries to piece together what secret her father was hiding and what made her mother leave; however, the one person who could tell her is no longer alive and Sira is keeping her mouth shut. Little embarks on a trip around Italy trying to figure out the secrets her family has kept, but may unlock more within herself.

A journey of self-discovery and family secrets, All The Way to Italy is a fascinating adventure. With poetic writing, some of the first lines drew me in: "She wanted to tap the man's shoulder and ask him if a place can ever shake off the people who had belonged to it, or if those tendrils would feed her nostalgia forever..." I was also immediately curious about Little; we never find out her real name and her situation is unique. Sira was an immediate favorite with her sage advice and marvelous attitude. Through Sira, there are glimpses of what Little's father was like along with amazing stories of the siblings during WWII. However, Sira is reluctant to give up her brother's secret, setting Little on a trip around Italy. With Little's adventures, we get a very intimate view of some wonderful places around the country that are usually left out of the travel guides. I loved Little's description of Rome as " a city that had adapted to modern times without losing its antiquity." Through Little's trip, Little does not figure out anything about her family, although she does discover more about herself and what she would like to do in life. I do wish the story line with Little's mother, Delila was fleshed out a little more as well as some of the historical sections. There are a few hops back through time to when Sira and Little's father were children during World War II and it seems like there was a lot of potential to build the context of the mystery with Little's father. Overall, a heartwarming and beautiful story of finding your way. 


This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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