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review 2018-03-06 14:58
The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix
The Space Between Words - Michele Phoenix

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy. During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution. 

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?




American tourist Jessica is recovering in a Paris hospital in November of 2015, the day after the Paris attacks.


"Did a lot of people die?" I asked. I had to know.


The nurse nodded, and I saw tears in her eyes too. "Many," she said. Then she took a deep breath and added, "But many survived." She patted my hand where it still gripped her wrist. "I know you are americaine, but you are French now too."



Trying to heal from the injuries she sustained as an attendee of the death metal concert, Jessica is encouraged by friend Patrick to return to their apartment in town to continue her recovery. As time passes and she begins to show signs of physical strength returning, she feels compelled to return to the States, but Patrick thinks it would be good for her, mentally, to go on with their trip as planned. He stays insistent through her many refusals until he eventually wears her down and she agrees to his idea. 


There was a muddiness to mature adult friendships -- the expectation that they would lead to something more. That they should. And after that night, with our relationship more clearly defined, we'd moved forward more freely, autonomous and intertwined, an unusual duo bound by similar passions and complementary interests. Patrick and I knew what connected us was rare. It didn't matter anymore how others wanted to define it. 


One stop on their journey takes them to a little out of the way antiques shop where Jessica comes across what turns out to be an old sewing box, a box she later discovers dates back to the 17th century. Inside a hidden compartment, Jessica finds the journal of one Adeline Baillard, whose writings explain her fight to escape the Huguenot Persecution. Their crime: being Protestant in a Catholic nation.


There are only a few scant entries to Adeline's journal, giving the impression that she was hurriedly writing an account of her experiences in secret during the time of the persecution. A driving need to know how Adeline's story ended gives Jessica something to focus on other than her PTSD induced nightmares / hallucinations. The process of going on a hunt for the truth also gradually brings Adeline around to a modicum of healing in regards to her own traumatic experiences & memories. 


I'll just get this upfront right now -- this will likely be a tough read for PTSD sufferers. Chapter 17 is especially intense. Being a sufferer myself, I can tell you a number of passages in this book had my nerves on edge or me suddenly in a puddle of tears reading of Jessica's (fictional) account of the attacks. Also, imagining the fear someone in Adeline's position had to live with on a daily basis... this novel was one whopping emotional drain! But in a good way! 


"I want to believe that there's a force for good in this world and that the force won't let the bad have the final word. It doesn't explain or undo the darkness, but... I think somehow it covers it with light." 


~~ Grant


Note for sensitive readers: Within the excerpts of Adeline's journal, there are some brief scenes of brutality depicted, as Adeline writes of the torture endured by those who refused to convert to Catholicism. There are also some gruesome scenes illustrated during Jessica's descriptions of the shootings that occurred at the concert venue. 


Some of my favorite bits: 1) OMG, I ADORED Nelly, the tour guide at Canterbury Cathedral! Her wit and grandmotherly sweetness!  Also neat that in her author notes at the end, Michelle Phoenix reveals that the details of the adventure to the church that Jessica and Grant go on is based on a trip Phoenix herself took to the same church. 2) I found myself moved by little Connor and his visions of "shiny ninjas" (you'll understand this once you read the book).


The one knock I would give this story is the "common misconception" conversation about Grant and Mona. Just found it annoying that all these little things going on between them gave the impression that they were a couple and then they casually explain they're brother and sister, but people often get it confused. Well, dang. Introduce yourself as siblings at the start and we won't have a bunch of confused readers later! But Iater on I kinda saw why Phoenix might have written it this way... we need the brother available for confused feelings / possible romantic tension between him and Jessica! But still, annoying. 


I'd definitely recommend this one over Phoenix's Of Stillness And Storm. I found the plot here much more complex, entertaining and emotionally moving. I'm strongly anticipating her future works! 


Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, persisting in faith... 


FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2018-02-17 22:54
The Big Book of AutoCorrect Fails by Tim Dedopulos
The Big Book of Autocorrect Fails: Hundreds of Hilarious Howlers! - Tim Dedopulos

In theory, autocorrect is a genius feature that saves you from embarrassing errors. In reality, it seems to have a mind of its own, turning your innocent messages into inadvertently scandalous texts that could appall hardened war criminals and make veteran hookers blush. Fortunately, one person's humiliation is another's hilarity, and this big book gathers the very best (or worst, depending on your point of view) failed fixes, presenting them in the popular "bubble" conversation format that captures the progressive confusion, distress, and comedy as the autocorrect goes rogue.




Pretty much exactly what you'd guess from the title, just a hilarious gathering of autocorrect fails. Consider yourself warned though, the good majority of these are pretty dirty (sexually) or off-color/ definitely not PC in tone! That said, I honestly LOL'd on nearly every page. The curator of this collection gives his readers a tip to consider when crafting future texts: "For goodness' sake, be especially careful when using the words duck, aunt, election and tentacles."


* "butthurt potatoes"
* "5 inch Nazis"
* "should grab a bear sometime"
* "flapping horse ship"


Some pages here and there were just okay but honestly I appreciated that because it gave me a "breather" break between the funniest bits! Don't expect things to get too deep or literary, just enjoy it for what it is and allow yourself to laugh-cry for a bit :-)


American readers, be aware that this is published by a UK publisher, so there are moments of British slang here and there. The one that threw me personally was "spanners" but apparently that means "wrench"?

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review 2018-01-10 22:31
Where Peacocks Cry by Maureen E. Wakefield
Where Peacocks Cry - Maureen E. Wakefield

To Jancey, seventeen and brought up in the isolated surroundings of the Fisherman's Rest, the storm which brought Dion Challen to the modest inn to seek shelter was a handmaiden of Fate, a messenger of Romance and a purveyor of dreams come true. So she eagerly accepted the marriage he offered, not realizing that Dion found in her less an ideal bride than the reincarnation of a beloved sister now dead.

~ from inside dust jacket




Jancey Grant is seventeen and working at her family's B & B, The Fisherman's Inn. One night, a violent storm drives Dion Challen and his cousin, Mark, to the door of The Fisherman's Inn, seeking shelter while on a road trip. While they hoped to be back on the road the next day, Mother Nature had other plans. With the roads blocked from the nearby river flooding, Dion and Mark hunker down and wait things out. It is during this waiting period that Dion and Jancey have a surprise whirlwind romance that leads up to Dion proposing marriage. Jancey, naive Jancey, assumes it couldn't anything but honest, passionate love that spurs Dion to do this, but the reader is let in on his creepier inspiration. It turns out Jancey strongly resembles Dion's deceased sister! 


Prior to the wedding, cousin Mark does try to dissuade the two from going through with it, as he knows Dion's motives are superficial and weird and Mark, though he doesn't know her all that well at this point, feels compelled to protect young Jancey. But his pleas fall on deaf ears all around and Jancey officially becomes the new mistress of Challen's End, the ancestral estate of Dion's family. 


While everything is bathed in a rosy newlywed glow for the first few weeks, it's not long before Dion's peccadilloes   -- lying, manipulating, drinking too much, "chasing skirts" -- start to rear up and make periodic appearances. At first, Jancey has all the excuses in the world to dismiss her husband's behavior but after awhile even she reaches her limit and turns to Mark (in friendship) for support. When they first met at the inn, Jancey, consumed with attraction to Dion, convinced herself that she mostly disliked Mark. After a year's time, she can't imagine what gave her that idea, as she realizes she actually feels more at ease around him than Dion! Jancey, now over a year wed, is floored at the realization that she swore undying love and fidelity to a man that had actually only managed to provide her with a few moments of peace and contentment! So where does she go from here? What does she do for the rest of her life in the pursuit of happiness?


I first discovered this book years ago at one of those Friends of the Library sales where you buy up discards for super cheap. Intrigued by the premise (and sold on the 10 cent price tag at the sale), I decided to give it a shot. I read it and for some reason, all these years I've had this memory of absolutely loving it so it's stayed on my shelves. Well, here recently I decided to pick it up again to see if it still held up in my mind and for the life of me I can't remember what about this story I was so in love with. 


Don't get me wrong. It's definitely not terrible, it's just SUPER safe. What I mean is that there is something here plot-wise that wants to scream REBECCA by Daphne Du Maurier so badly ... and there's the slightest flavoring of that, but it just never quite gets there. Jancey is cringingly naive, and Dion ... bland as a rice cake, really, not sure what Jancey got so caught up in, other than maybe it was a result of being semi-isolated at the inn and little to no exposure to hot guys near her age means dang near anything starts to look promising after awhile? Mark is the obviously more attractive choice right from the get-go but for reasons not all that well illustrated, Jancey is just not feelin' him. 


It seemed like Wakefield tried to get a creepy vibe in with Dion making multiple references to Jancey's uncanny resemblance to his sister (maybe ol' Maureen had a little Poe on the brain, because for a minute there it seemed like she might go with a dash of House of Usher) ... but not much more is ever really done with that and the focus from then on stays on Dion being a weasel of a guy. The upside is Jancey does find her girl-power backbone in this whole process. 


That's why I say it's a cutesy, safe, almost-mystery. It was originally published in the 1970s and it definitely has the feel in the writing style. Fun for a re-visit but now ... nope, no longer on my keeper shelf. 

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review 2017-10-19 05:52
Mr. Bean's Diary by Robin Driscoll & Rowan Atkinson
Mr Bean's Diary - Robin Driscoll,Rowan Atkinson

A hilarious diary presents a zany chronicle of a year in the life of Mr. Bean, from his New Year's resolutions to the trials and tribulations of romance, poetry class, and run-ins with the local police. 





*This review is based on my 1993 edition of this book. A second edition was released in 2010



First published in the UK in 1993, Mr. Bean's Diary is the result of teamwork between Robin Driscoll (British actor / writer for the Mr. Bean show) and Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson. Here, fans of the show will get a peek into Bean's daily scheduler, which offers hilarious insight into his wacky psyche (not to mention his wild inventions!). 



Sometimes there's some cutesy humor -- Bean having a brief flirtation with the idea of marriage, so he decides to stalk a librarian who catches his eye. Then there's a darker vein of humor, almost in the style of the Ace Ventura "LACES OUT!" bit. There's also some trouble with the police thrown in. One of my favorites was Bean's trip to a psychic medium, where he tries to connect with his mother to ask her where the plunger is so he can unclog the sink (funny, but in a way also rings a little sad). He also mentions posing a question to Charles Dickens regarding his novel Edwin Drood, to which the apparent reply was "Haven't made up my mind yet." :-P Longtime fans of the show will also see plenty of nods to classic content, such as Bean's love of Shirley Bassey and of course regularly avoiding interaction with the landlord Mrs. Wicket. 



The attention to detail on each individual page is quite impressive. It's fun to spot things such as tea stains, blood splatters, passport photos of the back of Bean's head LOL, pressed insects. There's even one page layout that features a pressed flower on one side with faint flower residue on the other! 



Some of my favorite entries:


* His telephone directory in the front: "God -- Everywhere (Literally, apparently)"


* Has a bad day, writes "Whiskey is lovely" in squiggly, run-off cursive. 

* Jan. 19th: "12:15 Lunch in park. 12:25 Left park (too much poo)"

* Feb 15-23 blank entries, Feb 24th "FOUND DIARY!"

* July 27th: "Scream ---> Pull Self Together"

* "Christmas Day, 1992: "3pm -- The Queen"


Also be sure to check out the bonus flip book in the upper right hand corner featuring Bean's car!



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review 2017-10-09 04:16
The Blitzed Brits
The Blitzed Brits - Terry Deary,Tracey West

I knew what these were when I bought them (I bought three) – written for a much younger audience – but given the woefully little I know about world history, I figured anything was better than nothing and as I tend to think straight history texts rather dull, ultimately, I probably wasn't that far outside its target audience after all, in terms of attention span.


I started with this one as it was the thinnest, and thankfully, I knew most of it already - I'm not that ignorant after all! - but there were a lot of details I didn't know.  The obliteration of everything that indicated a location, for example.  Business signs that indicated the town/village/city name had that name painted over; public transit station names were removed.  I also didn't know there was such a time gap between the first blitz and the second.  And I will always know that in a stream of terrible years, 1942 was by far the worst for the homefront in terms of legislated deprivation.


Some of the stories were funny, of course.  The one about the girl who, listening to her mum about strange men approaching her during the blackout, accidentally put her own father head first into a pig scrap bin had both MT and I giggling.

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