Friday, 15 June 2012

"The Oracle" by KB Hoyle


“The Oracle” by KB Hoyle

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Summary
A year ago Darcy Pennington had no real friends. A year ago she’d thought that magic only existed in fairy tales. A year ago she would have laughed at the idea of other worlds.
Then everything changed when she’d visited Cedar Cove Family Camp and stumbled into a magical gateway to a world called Alitheia.
It is the summer before freshman year and Darcy and her five friends have come back to Cedar Cove Family Camp and Alitheia. This return is bittersweet because her elusive purpose in the magical realm continues to evade her. Egged on by Tellius, the boy prince she is prophesied to marry, Darcy rebels and impulsively “petitions” an entity called the Oracle and requests it give her information as to her purpose. In order to receive her answer she must travel to the Oracle, and so she embarks on a journey along with her friends and Yahto Veli, the nark. Too late she realizes her selfish entreaty has thrown the entire outcome of the prophecy itself into question and endangered everyone. Uncertainties mount between Darcy and her companions as they fight their way through enemy territory to locate the Oracle, and an unwelcome visitor from Cedar Cove adds a layer of mystery that none of them are prepared for. 
But the perils of the quest are nothing when compared to what lies in wait for her in the lair of the Oracle. There is a cost associated with every question asked– a cost that may be far greater than Darcy is willing to pay. And someone may choose to make the ultimate sacrifice to free her from it.
My Thoughts
Camping in Australia is rather different to how it is portrayed in the novel “The Oracle” by KB Hoyle - well at least it is different as far as my limited experience is concerned. This fact however does not limit my enjoyment in “The Gateway Chronicles”, of which “The Oracle” is book 2. I grew up on the Narnia Chronicles and was always a sucker for an alternate universe and a fantasy world of mythical creatures. I’ve been lucky enough to read both of the first two books in the series; the first book was a great introduction to KB’s writing style, the setting of Alitheia and the many astounding characters and creatures that are found there. The second book is awesome... and tonight I’m going to share with you an excerpt from the novel.
Enjoy!






“The Oracle” an excerpt chosen by KB Hoyle
They charged forward. The night was dark as pitch, but they dared not light a torch to give away their position. Terra and Lupidor led the way, and the narks brought up the rear, all of them needing less light by which to travel.
Darcy was tempted to curse every time she tripped and stumbled as she clawed her way through the forest growth, but she refrained, foolishly fearing Yahto might take up her mother’s promise to wash Darcy’s mouth out with soap. She was contemplating a more intelligent way of expressing herself when, without warning, her feet fell away beneath her. She cried out as she slipped down the side of a moss-covered embankment.
“Whoa, I’ve got ya!” Tokala said. He’d caught her arm just before she’d fallen all the way down. He made as if to set her on her feet, but a howl issued behind them, not far away at all. “On second thought,” he muttered, putting his shoulder into her middle and hoisting her up. “Come on, everybody, let’s move!” he called insistently, jarring her as he jumped down the embankment.
Lupidor! she called. How close are they?
Close, he answered. But . . . they have been distracted by something! I don’t know what it is, I—
His voice cut off as coldness descended around them like a fog, and Darcy felt a jolt of terror rip through her stomach. Something much worse than wolves, she feared, was upon them.
 The forest went silent, and then they heard it: hundreds of wolves crying out with painful, terrified howls that echoed around them like ghosts.
Darcy grunted as Tokala slung her roughly to the ground.
“I cannot fight an enemy I cannot see!” he cried, and he put steel to flint to light his torch.
Tokala’s torch sputtered to life, revealing darkness, utter and tangible, surrounding them like a cage. They could hear the wolves, but they still couldn’t see them. Black fog curled around their feet, lapping against their skin and chilling them like ice water. The fog above was held only momentarily at bay by the flickering of Tokala’s light.
“What—is—this?” Dean chattered. “It’s—so—cold!”
Darcy shivered, more from fright than from the cold. An unnatural terror had invaded her bones, and she wanted to simultaneously dig a hole to hide in and run for her life. It took all her willpower to stand up and cast out her link, seeking to touch the minds of the wolves, not to talk to them but to locate them.
“The wolves,” she breathed, balling her hands into fists to keep them from shaking. “They’ve stopped. They’re . . . terrified!”
“No kidding?” Perry sounded as though he was trying to joke with her, but the hollowness in his tone belied his true mental state. He was just as afraid as she was.
The torchlight wavered. Tokala’s hand was shaking, and he stared at it in horrified wonder, as if he had never seen himself react that way before. The darkness above them continued to descend.
“What is this?” Tokala echoed Perry. His handsome face was pale as a ghost’s in the wan light. “Is it tsellochim?”
“No,” Yahto’s voice sounded out of the darkness. “It is something worse. No tsellochim has an aura this strong.”
“Then . . . what? Tselloch himself?”
“I don’t know,” Yahto responded with a slight tremor in his voice.
With a hissing sputter, Tokala’s torch went out and darkness fell. The fog touched her head, and Darcy took a deep breath.


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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

"Legacy of a Dreamer" by Allie Jean

"Legacy of a Dreamer" by Allie Jean

Published by and Available from

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Allie Jean and TWCS Publishing House

SUMMARY
Chantal Breelan is a ward of the state, living under the care of a woman who is cold and heartless. Her past is a mystery, and her future is even more uncertain. She can’t recall why she had been taken from her parents and so she’s left with nothing but an empty hole where her childhood should have been. When she awakens from her nightmares, she’s left with terrible, violent images, as well as a boy whose face is oddly familiar, yet can’t be placed.
Scared and alone, Chantal begins to confide in an imaginary friend – a shadow in the shape of a man who stands in the corner of her room. She is comforted when she believes he listens to her.
On her eighteenth birthday, Chantal is forced to leave her foster home. She moves to New York City, but the start of her new life doesn’t begin as smoothly as she’d hoped. In this environment, she faces a whole new set of challenges.
One night at a subway station, Chantal meets a young boy who runs away from her, and she’s compelled to follow him down into the tunnels. But this Rabbit Hole reveals a world where reality is a nightmare. Her dreams are clues to her future, and her life becomes twisted and dangerous when she learns that things that go bump in the night are not just in fairy tales and childhood stories.
MY THOUGHTS
Allie Jean’s “Dreamer Series” has a great deal of potential and it all starts with “Legacy of Dreamer” an intriguing mystery about a haunted young girl Chantal Breelan, whose past has been plagued by troubling events and whose future is uncertain. Chantal, a ward of the state, leaves the dubious security of her foster home after coming of age and begins to forge a future for herself; she secures herself a place to stay, starts a friendship with a neighbour and looks for employment... until the past intrudes and the real story is revealed. 
It is here that we are formally introduced to Nick / Mathias, a hero in this tale. I say “formally” because we had already been introduced to Nick (in the very early stages of the novel), but the legitimacy of his character was in doubt as he was woven into the shadowy dreamscape of Chantal’s imagination and ever present nightmares. Nick and Chantal form an alliance to fight against the force that oppose them and together they make a great combination. So it was no surprise when their romance unfolded quite naturally, despite the troubling circumstances they found themselves. 
Here’s what worked:
I enjoyed the way “Legacy of a Dreamer” started and the pace at which it developed.  Allie Jean created a semi spooky mystery and continued to build the plot and the suspense as the story continued. I liked that both the past and the future was mystery - this created a great deal of uncertainty in the present, which kept me turning the pages searching for answers.
The characters worked well together, they were flawed, earnest and touched by the hardship of others.
There were several supernatural action / battles scenes that I thought were well described and would possibly translate well into film sequences. The shadowy figures were a highlight - Nick / Mathias being the stand out character and the evolution of his relationship with Chantal.
There is a twist, rooted in Chantal’s past that changes the whole story line - I loved it, but I won’t say more or it will spoil the story for you
Here’s what didn’t work:
I am not convinced that all the characters mentioned in the opening chapters are necessary to the story, and some were mentioned with apparent unnecessary detail; though this is hard to confirm, especially with more books in the series still to be released... perhaps their inclusion is quite important. 
The ending felt a bit rushed to me and I would have liked a little more detail, but again, there is always the next installment for that.

MY RATING



☕☕☕+


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Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Last Keeper by Michelle Birbeck

The Last Keeper by Michelle Birbeck
Published by and available from 

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Michelle Birbeck and TWCS Publishing House

Summary
Fifteen hundred years ago, Serenity Cardea took the life of the only vampire she ever regretted killing—Henry, her sister’s husband. With her sister brutally murdered, Serenity had little choice but to grant Henry the only request he had: death.  Centuries later, Serenity is no closer to discovering who betrayed them or instigated the massacre of her brothers and sisters.
The vampires want dominance—over their food, the other races . . . the world. To get it, they’ve systematically hunted down and slaughtered the only ones standing in their way. The Keepers.
As a Keeper, Serenity is tasked with protecting the delicate balance between the creatures of the world: Vampire, Witch, Were, and Human. Her kind exists to ensure that no single race sways the balance, dooming the world to destruction.  
They're on the brink of extinction, with no sign of return. Now only two remain, and Serenity’s last brother is facing death, leaving her standing alone against a never-ending tide of vampires, all wanting one thing: power.
Then she meets Ray Synclair, a history professor in training with a passion for centuries past, and the harsh reality of her limited time comes crashing down on her. He is her weakness. His mortality is the countdown on Serenity’s life, and with each passing second, it comes closer to the end, for both of them.
She must uncover the secrets of her people’s past and find out who betrayed them—and who is still doing so—before it’s too late.
Serenity’s days are numbered, and Ray will be drawn into a world of myth and legend, where just being alive is enough to get him hunted down.
Because the only way to kill a Keeper is to kill their partner . . .

My Thoughts
I enjoyed the novel "The Last Keeper" by Michelle Birbeck, it started well, introduced the characters, set the scene and alluded to the plots's directionality, successfully building upon and compounding my interest with the looming sense of disaster.
The characters were well rounded and described, with a solid mix of dialogue and action - both factors are huge prerequisites for me as it enables the reader to identify with the characters. Then came Ray, and with him came a budding romance, complete with all the angst and tension a fledgling relationship deserves... that sense of looming disaster continues to grow, and grow... until you realise it was never going to end well, and that's just the first half of the book!
Ha Ha, that's about all I can tell you without having to place a spoiler alert. What I can tell you though, is that there is a twist to this tale that left me in awe of the clever trickery of the author. Did she cheat? No, rules are made to broken, but what she did was cheeky - withholding some of the historical information of the characters that paved the way for a peculiar turn of events. I'm undecided how I feel about it, and I am almost sure that Annie Wilkes - of Stephen King's "Misery" would call Michelle Birbeck "a dirty bird".
So read the book, decide what you think and leave a comment below...




☕☕☕+




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Friday, 27 April 2012

Hellenic Immortal by Gene Doucette

Immortal by Gene Doucette

Published by and available @


An enthralling  tale of an immortal man, and the subsequent challenges he faces as being the only one of his kind. Language, people, technology, cultures, and customs all change over time, forcing him to re-adapt, time and again. But one careless moment around the invention of photography changes his existence. Now his secret is revealed and those who would seek to exploit and market his gift of immortality ruthlessly seek him.




Hellenic Immortal by Gene Doucette

Published by and available @


Summary


“Very occasionally, I will pop up in the historical record. Most of the time I’m not at all easy to spot, because most of the time I’m just a guy who does a thing and then disappears again into the background behind someone-or-other who’s busy doing something much more important. But there are a couple of rare occasions when I get a starring role.”
--Adam the Immortal
An oracle has predicted the sojourner’s end, which is a problem for Adam insofar as he has never encountered an oracular prediction that didn’t come true . . . and he is the sojourner. To survive, he’s going to have to figure out what a beautiful ex-government analyst, an eco-terrorist, a rogue FBI agent, and the world’s oldest religious cult all want with him, and fast.
And all he wanted when he came to Vegas was to forget about a girl. And maybe have a drink or two.
“I am probably not the best source when it comes to who invented what. For a long time I thought I invented the wheel.”
--Adam the Immortal
The second book in the Immortal series, Hellenic Immortal follows the continuing adventures of Adam, a sixty-thousand-year-old man with a wry sense of humor, a flair for storytelling, and a knack for staying alive. Hellenic Immortal is a clever blend of history, mythology, sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, mystery and romance. A little something, in other words, for every reader.

My Thoughts


In Hellenic Immortal, the tale of Adam the Immortal continues. Many millennia have passed since his birth, and his exploits have intermingled with mythology. There are those who without seeing, believe in his existence, a select few within a government agency who can actually confirm it, and an imposter who usurps his identity for his own nefarious and demented gain.

The existence of this imposter has created a serious problem for Adam. Folk who should trust him have put their faith in a mad man, government investigative forces believe him guilty of a devastating crime, and the mad imposter has awoken a beast capable of global devastation. And did I mention theres a prophesy foretelling Adams doom?

Poor, poor Adam. Not that you can feel sorry for him. No, you'd much rather he "suck it up" and wade into battle, all the while continuing his "complicated" relationship with alcohol.

I consider the first book in this series, Immortal, to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. As such, I was seriously keen to read its sequel, Hellenic Immortal, and Gene Doucette more than delivered. He was again successful at intermingling past and present storylines and bringing the reader up to speed on the backstory in a humorous, but adventurous way that leaves you in a state of anticipation. You just know the ending will be epic!

I'm betting there will be a third book in the series, which will hopefully reveal more about the ever present and mysterious redhead, Eve. There's more yet to this tale and I can't wait for another lighthearted journey, as retold through the wry memories of our reluctant hero, filled with adventure, controversy, and dry witticisms as Adam irreverently gives his take on various historical and religious events. So hilarious!

If you haven't read Immortal, you should, but be prepared, you won't want to stop there. BUT that's where you're lucky, because thanks to Hellenic Immortal, you won't have to.
So light a fire under your Kindle and get reading. I want you all to help me pressure Gene Doucette to complete the next one.





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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

"The Six" by KB Hoyle

"The Six" by KB Hoyle
Published From and Available @


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Summary

Darcy Pennington hates her life. She is an insufferably average teenager with no real friends, crushing social anxiety, and an indescribable sense of not fitting in anywhere. A change in her dad’s job forces her to attend Cedar Cove Family Camp the summer before her eighth-grade year, and Darcy once again finds herself on the outside of a social circle of teenagers, with her only advocate being an awkward girl named Samantha Palm. The only problem is, Darcy has no desire to be friends with her, but as the hostility from the other teenagers increases, she decides to return the friendship.

When Darcy begins to experience strange magical occurrences, she comes to believe she’s either losing her mind or on the brink of a discovery that could give her purpose in life. After unwittingly stumbling through a magical gateway to a new world called Alitheia, she convinces Sam and the other four teenagers to travel there with her, and despite their earlier hostilities toward her, they eventually concede leadership of their small group to Darcy. Once there, they learn the “arrival of the Six” was prophesied hundreds of years before, and that they must expel an ancient evil from the land. In the end their lives, and the fate of Alitheia, will hinge upon Darcy. Will she have what it takes to fulfill her mysterious purpose? Or will she fall prey to a deadly foe?

A Little Teaser

Darcy tried not to get too excited as she pattered down the hall toward Rubidius’s cottage entrance. She was still spinning from the fact that he was actually going to work with her, and her hands shook as she knocked on the wall next to the curtain hanging in front of his doorway. From

experience, she knew that the sound would resound as a knock on his door in the cottage, and she waited expectantly for his gruff “Come in!” but it didn’t come.

Frowning, she knocked again, this time a little harder. Surely he hadn’t forgotten about her. Her fears were baseless, though, as the curtain abruptly pulled open and Rubidius poked his face out. His curly hair and beard were frazzled, and he was red-faced and sweaty.

“Is it time already?” he barked. “Well, come in, come in. I just have a bit of a mess to clean up.”

Darcy followed him into his cottage and surveyed the “mess.” His cauldron, which was usually boiling by the fire, was overturned on the floor and scorch marks gave evidence to its landing next to its spilled contents. Rubidius was nursing a burn on his hand and mumbling angrily to himself. Darcy immediately knew that he wouldn’t be in a pleasant mood this morning.

“Um . . . what happened?”

“What happened? This confounded experiment happened!” Rubidius shouted. “Why give us the drive to complete an impossible task?” He shook his good fist in the air, and Darcy got the impression that he was not talking to her. “First, it’s too hot,” he continued, mumbling quickly, “and then it’s too cold. The next time it’s too viscous, and when I try to correct that, it gets too opaque and gives off a foul odor. What is a self-respecting alchemist to do?” He waved his hand over the mess on the floor, and the spilled liquid started rapidly drying.

Darcy surveyed the scene. “Does this have anything to do with turning lead to gold?”

“Does it have anything to do with it? It has everything to do with it!” He gestured wildly and Darcy jumped.

“But why is it so important?”

The master magician mouthed at her like a fish out of water for a solid minute before turning away without giving her an answer. When his floor was clean, he dug a jar out of his cupboard and applied a thick salve to his burned hand. As Darcy watched him do this, she had a revelation and giggled. “Did you throw your cauldron?”

He scowled at her. “Impudent,” he said, but he didn’t deny it. Darcy sat in a chair at the table and smirked.

My Thoughts

"The Six" by KB Hoyle begins by highlighting how "insufferably average" the main character is, and by association her friends as well. Each member of "The Six" would be readily identifiable personalities in any school ground. I found that this was an important consideration, don't most teenagers feel this way? Haven't we all at some point felt "insufferably average"... even as adults? It allows the reader to acknowledge their own feelings about themselves and affords them the opportunity to reflect on this through the character they most identify with.

Darcy is a contrary character who simultaneously wants to be accepted by her peers while avoiding close and sustained interactions with them. In the camp setting, she is definitely an outsider, as all the other teens had been meeting there annually for many years. She is further isolated by her own social ineptitude and her underlying fear of rejection and often deceives her friends to enjoy solitary moments. It is on one of these occasions that Darcy first stumbles on the alternate universe of Alithea.

Alitheia is a magical place, that is well described by KB Hoyle, with many of the characters and creatures within displaying some quite endearing attributes. Darcy's first visit there is brief, but she is soon able to return with all of her friends in tow. This is where the real action begins, and I'll not divulge much of the story from here.

Like the humans in "The Chronicles of Narnia", the six teens all have a mission to complete and their own personal journey of self discovery to follow. They each learn to value both themselves and each other. Darcy's lessons are the hardest learnt, as she is not only "insufferably average", she is insufferable! And often sullen to boot. She makes herself hard to love; it's hard for her family, her peers and it will be hard for you too as a reader. Her internal conflict is essential though, and she'll make many poor decisions that will help the story progress.

You'll keep turning the pages, hoping that despite it all, things will work out alright in the end... Here's to hoping that Darcy will come see herself as her friends see her, that she will learn to love them and forgive herself... Before it's too late.

I enjoyed this young adult book, even though i am well beyond the "YA Genre". It was the individual characters that really set this book apart. KB Hoyle is quite adapt at making them real. In "The Six" I was able to reminisce about my own high school days and the many types of people that populated my group of friends. I may not have really liked Darcy throughout much of the book, she made too silly and hurtful decisions based on her own poor self esteem (I may have done that too, and who likes looking into a mirror, when your inner nasty is on display?), but she did show significant development throughout this novel and I look forward to more of her journey as "The Gateway Chronicles" continue.


☕☕☕☕
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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Behind Closed Doors – By Sherri Hayes


Behind Closed Doors – By Sherri Hayes

Summary
Elizabeth Marshall spent the last nine years doingall the things she was supposed to do. She went to a good college. Married aman with a promising future. Elizabeth even had a nice house in a respectablepart of town. There was even the promise of 2.4 kids in her future. From theoutside everything looked picture perfect.
Then one night, the world she lived in camecrashing down. Six months later with her husband dead and her friends gone,Elizabeth moves to the small town of Springfield, Ohio to start a new lifewhere no one knows who she is or about her past.
Christopher Daniels enjoys the simplicity of hisbachelor life. After his divorce three years ago, he swore off women. He has nodesire to change that philosophy.
When Elizabeth Marshall moves into the apartmentbelow his in the small Victorian house, she makes him reconsider the motto he’slived by for the last three years: women are trouble. She is everything hisex-wife is not, and it doesn’t help that she is his fantasy come to life.
He is determined to resist her charms; however, when someone sendsthreatening messages to Elizabeth, he finds himself in the role of protector.Can he protect Elizabeth and still resist the pull she has on his body and hisheart?

My Thoughts
Features – What worked
A single linear story effectively described through the dualviewpoints of both the hero and heroine – a holistic view to the development oftheir relationship.

A generally well-paced story line, with enough clues strategicallyplaced to allow the reader to solve the mystery as it unfolds.

Flaws – What didn’t work
Some characters are referred to but not adequately described
Some questions left unanswered

I quite enjoyed this book and would happily read more work fromSherri Hayes

BehindClosed Doors” describes two people Elizabeth and Chris, who are separatelytrying to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. This endeavour is made muchmore difficult by past hurts that have caused them to doubt others andthemselves and is further complicated by their growing awareness of each other,and their burgeoning relationship that neither one is prepared for.

I really enjoyed reading about their relationship as it progressed andfelt that Sherri Hayes was quite successful in rendering it’s blossomingnature, with all the necessary angst and unworthiness that generally burdenstwo mature people with emotional baggage. The sexual tension is also builtovertime and is particularly nice when you can read about this from bothperspectives.

Our main characters have a lot to overcome before they can hope torebuild their lives they must each face their own pasts and those who withmalicious and anonymous intent seek to obliterate any happiness they may find.How much will they have to endure before they can rest and will theirrelationship survive the constant bombardment from outside forces?
As the intrigue unfolds, Sherri presents many suspects to help buildthe suspense. The clues, are all there for an observant reader to discover andI was able to peg the culprit with relative ease. I did feel that the motivewas not totally believable, either that or perhaps more effort could have beenspent on detailing the pathological nastiness that would have been simmeringbelow the surface.

Overall “Behind Closed Doors”, was a great read and will keep youturning the pages; even if you guess the identity of their tormentors, you’llbe invested enough in main characters that you’ll continue to read, hoping fora happy ending. A happy ending that seems more and more unlikely as the storyunfolds.

☕☕☕☕


You can purchase this book from The Writer's Coffee Shop
You can follow the author on Twitter using @Sherri_Hayes

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Monday, 26 March 2012

The Last Keeper - By Michelle Birbeck

The Last Keeper - Michelle Birbeck



Summary



Fifteen hundred years ago, Serenity Cardea took the life of the only vampire she ever regretted killing—Henry, her sister’s husband. With her sister brutally murdered, Serenity had little choice but to grant Henry the only request he had: death.  Centuries later, Serenity is no closer to discovering who betrayed them or instigated the massacre of her brothers and sisters.
The vampires want dominance—over their food, the other races . . . the world. To get it, they’ve systematically hunted down and slaughtered the only ones standing in their way. The Keepers.
As a Keeper, Serenity is tasked with protecting the delicate balance between the creatures of the world: Vampire, Witch, Were, and Human. Her kind exists to ensure that no single race sways the balance, dooming the world to destruction.  
They're on the brink of extinction, with no sign of return. Now only two remain, and Serenity’s last brother is facing death, leaving her standing alone against a never-ending tide of vampires, all wanting one thing: power.
Then she meets Ray Synclair, a history professor in training with a passion for centuries past, and the harsh reality of her limited time comes crashing down on her. He is her weakness. His mortality is the countdown on Serenity’s life, and with each passing second, it comes closer to the end, for both of them.
She must uncover the secrets of her people’s past and find out who betrayed them—and who is still doing so—before it’s too late.
Serenity’s days are numbered, and Ray will be drawn into a world of myth and legend, where just being alive is enough to get him hunted down.
Because the only way to kill a Keeper is to kill their partner . . .

Arthur Streeton "Fires On (Lapstone Tunnel)", 1891



Reference: Figure 1
Artist: Arthur Streeton
Title: Fire’s On (Lapstone Tunnel)
Date: 1891
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 183.8 x 122.5cm; 204.7 x 142.7 x 6cm frame
Collection: NSW Art Gallery

“Completed on site at the mouth of a railway tunnel under construction in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, the painting depicts the death of a railway worker in a premature explosion. However, the human drama is overshadowed by the heroism of the landscape itself.”[1]

Arthur Streeton produced the painting “Fires On” in 1891 at a time when there was a dawning awareness of the greatness of the Australian Landscape and it’s people. A century had passed since the English settlement and the birth of the Australian Federation was eminent. The harsh life of the bush along with the resilience and sheer necessary creativity of it’s people had been romanticised in the works of Henry Lawson (1867–1922) and Banjo Patterson(1864–91), the shearers, the drovers and the swagman where becoming legend, there was intense curiousity and fear surrounding the indigenous Australians and the uniquely beautiful native flora and fauna were being illustrated and published in scientific journals. All of this led to a sense of pride in the Australian way of life and a desire to represent the country in all it’s harsh beauty accurately, it was no longer acceptable to mix nostalgia with fact and paint the Australian landscape in a Brittish attitude.
In 1886 there was a nationwide call to “fill our National Gallery with representative works of our artists and our nation, its early historical scenes, and pictures of the true rude life that must have and did exist in the early days of the colony.” This led to the development of a National School of Australian Painting and plein-air landscape artists were being “urged” by their fellows to leave ‘the suburban bush’ and ‘paint the national life of Australia’. Arthur Streeton like many other Australian artists had been entranced by the landscape and demonstrated a desire to represent this “sun burnt country” and it’s occupants in a genuine manner capturing “the light, colour and character of the local landscape”
With regard to the painting “Fire’s On”, Arthur Streeton, the artist spent many days at the site of the Lapstone Tunnel as it was being constructed, sketching and completing studies in watercolour, often lamenting the medium drying too quickly in the heat. In a letter to Frederich McCubbin he described the landscape and his subsequent choice of pallet as “a perfect blazing glory of white orange cream and blue streaks here and there where the blast has worked its force”, as he endeavored to capture this initially in watercolour and later in oil. He appears to have established a rapport with some of the workers throughout the time he completed his studies, commenting on their interest and appreciation of art, and of taking cover together from the blasts “work a while -then again "Fire! Fire's on" - and off we go, and then work again”. 
The landscape itself was dramatic and the life of the workers he was befriending was harsh and unpredictable, Arthur Streeton had no way of knowing that on one particular day as he arrived “at his cutting (sic)”, he would encounter tragedy. He wrote that all was “serene as I work & peg away ... 12 o'clock ... & now I hear 'Fire! Fire's on!', from the gang close by ... BOOM! & then rumbling of rock. The navvy under the rock with me, & watching, says, 'Man killed' ... more shots & crashing rock we peep over; he lies all hidden bar his legs. All the shots are now gone except one, and all wait, not daring to go near; then men, nippers, and a woman hurry down, ... and they raise the rock and lift him on to the stretcher, fold his arms over his chest, and slowly six of 'em carry him past me ...”
The surprise death of a worker became a subtext of the final painting, an unexpected addition whispering from the mouth of the tunnel amidst the scale and prominence of the mountain.
“Fire's on” captures the essence of a distinctly Australian theme, and is “possibly the artist's greatest evocation of Australian heat and sunlight”. It is successful in depicting the landscape’s harshness in the sheer exposed rock faces and the stoicism of the Australian people, seemingly insignificant but ever forging through and into the heart of Australia.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Quote

"In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire"
Ralph Waldo Emerson - American Poet

My Only - by Sophia Duane



My Only by Sophia Duane
Published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop

Summary
Adam James’s life is far from perfect. A talented drummer from a small suburb of Chicago, he keeps to himself, downplaying his abilities, thinking that he is less than all those around him, including his popular twin brother, Aaron..

When a free-spirited new girl with a troubled past moves in across the street, Adam’s eyes are opened to a new world of possibilities. Olivia Cartwright’s philosophies on life give her a deeper understanding of the world. An instant connection between Adam and Olivia draws them closer, but he wonders why anyone would choose him when a better version exists, particularly when Aaron also takes an interest in her.

Will the friendship with Olivia change Adam, or will he continue to close himself off in his own world?

Adam has a choice to make: risk his friendship with Olivia or fight for something more. 
It seems Adam has a lot to learn about love….and life.
Review
I started this book believing it to be a romance. When I opened the first page and realised it was also of the young adult variety, I groaned, even worse. So, I was surprised as I turned the pages, at the depth of emotion and the sensitivity evident in every aspect of this book. The teens represented in the pages are broken, damaged. Even, apparently well adjusted and popular Aaron… All of them have faced death at an age when they should have been invincible. They had faced death but had not dealt with it, because after all, “how do you process that?”

My Only, is also the story of a love triangle that divides twins, pits brother against brother, fact against theory (this analogy is brilliant) and sadly there can be no winners. The angst between the brothers is well rendered as they vie for the love of the new girl in town.
Adam is “theory”… He likes a girl, but does nothing about it.
Aaron is “proven fact”… He likes a girl and “acts”.
They are twins and have been compared all their lives but it is their differences that alienate them now. That, and Olivia. One is inherently nicer than the other and I’d like to tell you that the good guy wins… But that would diminish the actuality that makes this story especially profound.

I came to a point in the story where the conflict was such that I couldn’t see a way forward for the brothers as a family unit, if either if them continued in their pursuit of Olivia. It seemed that neither brother was going to be able to accept the other being with her, and have it be believable. It was only through the quirky and honest character traits of our heroine; “Experience. People. Figuring things out. Being a good person.” Those are the things matter to her, that this crisis is successfully overcome and Sophia Duane should be acknowledged for this.

Don’t fooled, it’s not a happy story, but it’s not overly heavy either. Reflective… And philosophical? “Life’s too short to let sadness overpower you for long periods of time”, is a major theme of the novel but that doesn’t quite encapsulate it either. It should be triumphant but it’s not. It’s much more complex and rightfully so. I think Adam best describes the overall emotion of the novel when he said “The thought I’d just expressed felt heavy and I wished I’d felt lighter after having released it, but I didn’t.”

I loved almost everything about this novel, except the epilogue. I am characteristically never ready for those and contrarily to the ideas expressed in My Only I didn’t want to make my peace and move on. I found myself wanting to process it!


☕☕☕☕
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