London Visit – Summer 2017 Part 3: Getting into Tourist Mode

Left to Right: Rosetta Stone; Reports from a Roman Soldier; Lewis Chessmen

British Museum

The rush hour ends around 9:30, so taking Underground trains is a little cheaper after that. I met my friend around 10:30 and we went to the British Museum. It’s got an awesome Egyptian display. Many other eras and people are represented too, but that’s the one that stands out to me. Seeing the Rosetta Stone was neat too.

Got to experience more stairs here. The view’s pretty neat as you climb the stairs that dominate the center of the British Museum.

I finally got into tourist gear. Bought some souvenirs. A couple of pairs of socks with the Rosetta stone design and a few other odds and ends totaled 27.94 pounds.

Note on VAT: I’d never really known much about it, but from a consumer point of view, it’s awesome. Okay, so tax is never awesome, but it is nice to have the price you see be the price you pay. In America, you just get used to tacking on an extra dollar or two to whatever you’re buying. Tax varies by state. What is taxed varies by state. New Jersey sales tax is 7%.

Fantastic Fast-Food Lunch

Found a Shake Shack. My poor, deprived friend had never had Shake Shack before so we had to eat there.

Imperial War Museum

After greasy food fortification, we hopped back on the Underground and made our way over to the Imperial War Museum. IWM sponsors several attractions, but this time, I mean the actual museum.

I don’t think we expected to spend as long as we did in there, but there’s a fascinating walk-through of WWI and WWII all the way up through the modern conflicts. The WWI and WWII displays caught my interest much more than the modern stuff, but I can see it having a lot more sentimental value for others who know active military people over there. I remember one thing with commemorative stamp sheets made for each of the hundred and something fallen soldiers from the recent conflicts.

Plane in IWM.

Bought more souvenirs. Won’t list them because some are gifts not given yet. 😉

Everywhere you go, you can be sure there’s a gift shop. It’s intriguing to see how the stuff they sell differs. Couldn’t bring myself to spend that much (2-4 pounds) on pens or pencils.

Need to Catch Up?

Part 1: Preparation, Planning, Cost

Part 2: Arrival and First Day in the City

In the mood for chess?


Movie Review: 4/5 Dunkirk

Note: I don’t own the rights to the picture. Pretty sure it’s just one of a dozen different versions of the movie’s promo posters.

Summary:

You know what happens. It’s kind of like watching Titantic in that you have a general gist of the story. The taglines are pretty cool. There are a few very sentimental and moving parts, but by and large, I think they missed several opportunities to humanize the film.

Additional Comments:

  • It’s visually stunning and as gorgeous as a war movie can get. Lots of explosions, but nothing gory.
  • While on the short side, the movie is like watching one giant, long battle scene.
  • The way they chose to edit it made certain parts choppy. Nighttime, daytime, nighttime, and so forth.
  • I really wish I knew all of the character’s names. In the beginning, they did little lettered parts telling you the obvious like you’re now watching the air battle or the sea battle. How hard would it have been to add like 8 letters telling us some of the guys’ names?
  • I’m okay with there being little dialogue. The middle of a firefight is hardly the getting to know you time, but even a well-placed flashback would have sufficed to give the viewer more of a reason to care about these people and their fate.

Aside: Hearing British accents again was kind of fun for me since I’d just gotten back from a 10-day trip.

If you want to check out that series, go here.

Conclusion:

It’s a beautiful movie that’s well-worth seeing at least once in your life. I’m not sure if it’s a buy the blue ray and play repeatedly sort of good, but it’s definitely good. Certain elements would have made it better, but overall, it’s a solid war film.

Check out the Soundtrack


London Visit – Summer 2017 Part 2: Arrival and First Day in the City

A West London borough

Arrival

The 8:35 flight from Newark got into London’s Heathrow Airport around 8:30 at night local time. There’s currently only a five hour difference time-wise. Jet lag wasn’t too bad for me in either direction. I’d had to get up at 3:40-ish to get picked up and get over to the airport, so even though it was only 4:00 according to my internal clock, I was more than ready for bed. I think it was still 11:00 local time before I actually got into bed, but I didn’t stay up too long.

First Day in the City

My friends dropped me off at the Underground station around 9:30 the next morning. I bought a one-way ticket into zone one so I could go pick up my London Pass stuff. Used a twenty pound note for a 5.50 pound fare and ended up with a pocket full of coins. Literally. Fourteen shiny pound coins and a fat fifty pence coin. It was like winning a jackpot in Vegas.

Phone Adventures in London

As I got out of the underground station in zone 1, Leicester Square, my phone said “welcome abroad.” Two minutes later, it said, “by the way, you’re over $100 in roaming charges. Call us. We can save you money.”

I was like “Say what? I already took care of it.” Anyway, ended up sort of bumbling my way in the right direction to go pick up my London Pass stuff, but was also distracted by needing to call the phone company. After a 10-minute conversation, got that mess sorted. I’d called before the trip to take care of getting a plan for going abroad, but for whatever reason, it didn’t kick in. Lady on the phone was nice enough though.

In a way, I’m glad that it happened this way because I would have inadvertently blown through all my data in no time, but the lady on the phone described how to turn off cellular data roaming when I didn’t need it.

Finding the London Pass … More Adventures

Okay, so finding 11A took some serious doing. It helps to read all of the directions. I walked up and down a street watching the numbers change and skip right over 11A. I’d even seen it from the other side. However, I didn’t read the part of the directions that said go underneath the ticket booth that’s located in the middle of the road. That part of the directions happened to be on the next page from the rest of the directions just by luck of the draw.

Who puts 11A in the middle of the road?

The sign for 11A was in cute small letters partially under the ledge of the ticket booth’s roof. So you can only see it from one side. Anyway, once there, the nice, large sign said go down the stairs for the London Pass. I did. This was my first experience with narrow, treacherous, shady, tightly-wound staircases in England. Success! Got the London Pass and spent a few minutes down with the free wifi basking in the airless glory of having found it. When I needed to breathe again, I left the itty-bitty ticket booth thingy and loitered outside it until my other friend found me.

The Rest of Day 1 in the City …

We walked around a fair amount looking for a decent place to eat. I think we settled on a pizza joint. Might have been Pizza Express, which are all over that city, but it could just as easily have been a different small pizza place. I kind of think it was one of the locations in the London Pass Dining Guide.

The Margarita pizza I ordered was giant. I ate half of it … maybe. Luckily, my friend helped finish part of the rest so it didn’t got to waste.

Landmarks

After lunch, we walked some more. After meandering over to the Thames River, my friend pointed out all the major landmarks within view. The London Eye, Tower Bridge, and the Elizabeth Tower were visible. Then, we walked over to St. Paul’s Cathedral. That would have been covered by the London Pass, but my friend didn’t have such a pass. I didn’t want to pay the entry fee of ~20 pounds to get in and get out. We’d not planned to see that anyway. First experience with bag checks, which are everywhere in that city.

What is not everywhere are rubbish (garbage) containers.

First Museum

Most of the major museums in London are free. I believe the first one we actually walked in was the Museum of London. Fitting. This one talked about the history of the city. I bought postcards. Later, as my travels continued, I’d find out that I’m a sucker for postcards.

Tower of London

In days gone by, going to the Tower of London pretty much sealed your doom. These days, they charge about 22 pounds to walk in the gates. After the bag check, of course. We got to the Tower of London pretty late. Twice, the people asked if we really wanted to go in knowing that we wouldn’t be able to see everything and there were no more guided tours. We managed quick tours of the crown jewels and the White Tower and a very, very quick tour of the tiny thing called Torture at the Tower. Nice way to end the day.

Crown Jewels didn’t wow me as much as I expected, but that’s because it mostly consisted of fancy spoons and decorative gear and armor for this or that coronation. It’s worth seeing to say you saw it, but not the highlight of my trip.

The view of the While Tower from the queue to see the crown jewels.

Fine Dining

By the time we finished with the London Museum and the Tower of London, we wandered around a little more in some authentic British weather. The skies decided to dump a few liters per second on people’s heads. Great fun. So, soaking wet, we wandered about some more and made our way to another place in the Dining Guide. We walked in. We walked out. The dining guide failed to mention it was a bar that served only snack type foods, not full meals.

Nearby, we found a really nice Italian restaurant that had a few people sitting in. The rest of the official dining area was abandoned, which I’m going to attribute to the early hour. I had pasta with Bolognese sauce. For the life of me, I can’t remember what that place was called. I did better most of the rest of the week remembering where I went. Promise.

Back to Base

My friend nicely escorted me to an Underground station that would get me back to where I needed to go. The first walk from the Underground station to my friends’ home was very long. Partially, I believe that’s because of the rain, but it’s also a decent 15 minute walk I’d never done before. Things look a lot different from a car.

Conclusion:

The first day certainly involved a lot of walking. I consider it my whirlwind tour of the city of London.

Need to Catch Up?

Part 1: Preparation, Planning, Cost

Gearing up to travel? Grab some books and stuff.


London Visit – Summer 2017 Part 1: Preparation, Planning, Cost

Left to right: Tower Bridge, London Eye, Elizabeth Tower (and Big Ben – under construction)

London, England …

It’s a place steeped in rich history and buried in tourist attractions and gift shops. Home of Tower Bridge, The London Eye (sponsored by Coca-cola), and The Elizabeth Tower (which holds Big Ben). Seen above courtesy of my spiffy iPhone 7.

Why go to London?

Well, I was gonna go to Honolulu, Hawaii last year, but that didn’t work out. Long story, lots of tears, but as proof that all things work out eventually, the London trip was amazing. One huge bonus to going to London is that I know people there. Staying with friends has the benefit of getting to see them more and saving on lodging. I also got to meet an online friend who I’d “known” for 15+ years. Bonus – he was more than happy to play tour guide through most of the trip.

What had to happen to get there?

  1. Bought a plane ticket.
  2. Bought the 10-day version of The London Pass.
  3. Went to a foreign exchange place close to my apartment and changed about $400 over to pounds.
  4. Packed a small suitcase with 10-ish days worth of stuff.

How much did it cost?

  1. plane ticket: $1115.06. I actually paid much less because I had a credit of about $700 from the ticket I’d bought to Hawaii. Surcharges for transferring plane tickets stink by the way.
  2. 10-day version of The London Pass: $310.09. It was in pounds, so I got hit with a fee for paying with USD. Incidentally, I probably could have gotten away with the 6-day pass, but as long as you intend to do about two things each day that are applicable, I’d say it’s worth it.
  3. Three hundred pounds: ~$400. There are fees to switch currencies and the British pound is stronger  (worth more) than the US dollar. I got a fairly decent rate compared to other exchange places.
  4. Snacks – $20. I packed some snacks for the plane and waiting around in airports, but I didn’t really use much of that. Granola bars make for walking around and standing in queues (lines) much more bearable.

*At the end of this series, I’ll show you my complete list of comparisons and observations between the US and the UK.

What did the journey look like?

On the way there I had a window seat …

Left to right: taxing in Newark airport; Newark seen from above; clouds somewhere over the US.

Left to right: More clouds somewhere over the Atlantic; the sun somewhere over the UK, first glimpse of London, England.

What did you see there?

Tons of stuff really. I’ll write a few more posts with what happened each day as well as my casual review of each thing.

Just in case you need snack ideas…


Awesome Audiobooks: 4.5/5 Hound’s Bite by E.J. Stevens

 

Summary:

Ivy Granger’s a snarky faerie princess. The main plot can be summed up in a quest to save harboursmouth from Herne the Hunter and his hounds.

Additional Comments:

– Not sure where the psychic detective part comes in since this is my first experience with the series. I’m assuming the detective bit had more to do with earlier stories. This story just has her running around the city trying to forge alliances and save the human population from a few crazy plots. There’s some mystery but very little detective work.

– The character voice Ivy has is awesome, but you gotta like snark.

Content warnings: quite a few references to adult content (lots of innuendo); quite a few curses (and a few hexes thrown in too); definite references to the occult – can’t really escape that with a book stuffed full of mythological creatures (kelpies, faeries, vampires, etc).

– Side characters are well-developed, but I think that’s to be expected in a book 5 of a series. There are references to events that happened in previous volumes, but the work feels complete enough that you can jump in here without feeling too lost. There’s an opening for more without sounding like a blatant “buy my next book” plea.

– Narrators were well-picked. It was interesting to have a male and female split the narration duties. The sound effects were okay. It didn’t bother me, but I also don’t think it enhanced it too much either.

Conclusion:

If you like your heroine’s strong and weird, Ivy Granger’s the faerie princess for you.

 

As Always …

If you want the chance to get the audiobook for free, please join Audiobook Readers’ Edge. This will most likely be on Matchmaker.

If you’re an author (or a narrator) with an audiobook you’d like featured, sign up for Audiobook Authors’ Edge.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

Awesome Audiobooks: 4.5/5 Quest of the Dreamwalker by Stacy Bennett

Disclaimers: Forgive any spelling issues I heard the audiobook. And I don’t own the rights to the pic. Got it off of audible.com.

Summary:

Cara’s a dreamwalker who’s practically raised by an evil sorcerer bent on gaining immortality. Captain Mason Khourey and Archer are mercenaries who get caught up in a tangled web of danger and intrigue. (Totally was not picturing the name spelled like that.)

Additional Comments:

– The world-building is fun, but a few aspects aren’t really fleshed out. Cara’s abilities aren’t really fully realized. I think that’s probably because this is book 1 of a longer story, but still, we’re told she’s a dreamwalker and then given maybe 2 glimpses of this at at play. Could be because it’s part one of a longer story.

– The characters are great, though I will say Cara kind of got annoying. I ended up liking Falin a lot more than Cara and she came into the book like 8 hrs into the story. There were a few points when she does something massively stupid that made me raise an eyebrow, but I can understand to some extent the necessity in moving the plot forward that way. It’s just not pretty.

– Several plot points fall under “well, that’s convenient” but it’s still a very compelling story.

– The end twist is excellent. But then the book continues, opening up a new aspect to the journey, which really messes with the sense of closure that could have been had.

Content warnings: at least 2 “adult” content scenes; graphic violence and disturbing images

– The narrator’s performance worked wonders in bringing the story to life. It’s a long story, but he handled it well. The voices are distinct and pleasant to listen to.

Conclusion:

If you’re a fan of the genre, this is definitely a series to snap up.

 

As Always …

If you want the chance to get the audiobook for free, please join Audiobook Readers’ Edge.

If you’re an author (or a narrator) with an audiobook you’d like featured, sign up for Audiobook Authors’ Edge.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

 

 

Awesome Audiobooks: 5/5 Stars Princess Kayla and the Dragon Who Wouldn’t Clean Up

5/5 Princess Kayla and the Dragon Who Wouldn’t Clean Up

Most of the things I’ve been reviewing have been available through audible, but this one came through it’s own app.

Summary:

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a choose-your-own adventure type book. This one’s pretty much summed up by the title. It’s about a 10-year-old princess who takes it upon herself to solve the kingdom’s dragon problem. Basically, Gorof and his hoard are taking over all the caves the villagers like to shelter their livestock in. Oh, and his hoard makes a lot of noise.

Additional Comments:

– I made it to the best ending first, but being me, I had to go back and see some of the other endings.

– The narration’s clear and the words highlight so you can read along with the narrator if you wish.

– I am totally not the right age bracket for this story, but it’s still a fun, cute read. This is definitely a kid-friendly book. I was sort of secretly rooting for some more realistic, adult or YA endings, but alas, tame, nice endings it is.

– The scrolling down part was harder than it needed to be, but it all worked out.

Conclusion:

If you have a kid in the right age bracket, this is the perfect fantasy read along adventure.

As Always …

If you want the chance to get the audiobook for free, please join Audiobook Readers’ Edge.

If you’re an author (or a narrator) with an audiobook you’d like featured, sign up for Audiobook Authors’ Edge.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

Prime Student – Oh, how I wish I was still a student.

Kindle Unlimited

Free Kindle Reading App

Awesome Audiobooks: 4.5/5 Stars The Kili Wanna Affair by Scott A. Combs

4.5/5 A study in ridiculousness

Summary:

A semi-competent ensign gets assigned as the liaison to Kili Wanna with the job of getting them to sign a treaty with the Galactic Guild. What follows is a series of predictable yet amusing events.

 

Additional Comments:

– Don’t take the book too seriously. If you’re looking for serious, you are definitely in the wrong place.

– At times, the book was kind of annoying, but I broke it up with a family drama/romance book so it’s all good. In the end, it leaves one with a mildly amused feeling, which is a great note to end on.

– The narrator did a lovely job with all the voices. Definitely worth getting the audiobook. Grab the free kindle version and you usually get a discount on the audio.

Content warnings: brief mention of nudity, a few sophomoric references to George’s breasts, and a few curses. Most of the curses were confined to tick-tick-pops.

– Sali Terri’s a dude, so of course George Shooters is a lady.

– I love Bethel. She’s hilarious, and she does everything.

– You can get a feel for the tone of the book by some of the names. i.e. Snookums, royal cat like thing. I won’t attempt to spell that because I heard the audible version.

– The characters are more like caricatures, but that’s definitely done on purpose. Sali’s a (lovable) bumbling idiot who happens to get everything right. George is a top-of-the-class, straight-laced sort who ends up being the assistant for the bumbling idiot.

– The style’s like A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy without quite so much dry humor. (It’s more in-your-face stupid humor like Flex being an Arnoldian and always wanting to break things or maim people.)

 

Conclusion:

Amusing opening to what’s sure to be a series of galactic misadventures.

 

As Always …

If you want the chance to get the audiobook for free, please join Audiobook Readers’ Edge.

If you’re an author (or a narrator) with an audiobook you’d like featured, sign up for Audiobook Authors’ Edge.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

Audiobook Reviews: 3.45/5 Stars The Girl in Seat 24B by Jennifer Peel

 

Summary:

Carly’s left to fend for herself emotionally and practically become a single mom because her husband, Michael Bishop, decides to pursue some career opportunities.

Additional Comments:

– It’s predictable.
– There’s excellent character development in everybody but the main characters. I love Joseph Xavier and his family. Even the in-laws progressed believably. Michael, not so much. Carly … yeah, I can believe her character development.
– I was really hoping it’d turn into a murder mystery at several points. That says a lot for the author’s skill to make realistic characters, but annoyed typically isn’t the vibe you want for 95% of the book.
– I heard the audiobook and the narrator did a lovely job. There weren’t too many voices she needed to do, but there were quite a few emotional moments that she captured nicely.
– I had to take the book in small doses, but luckily, I had a scifi study in ridiculousness to balance out this family drama thing.
– Although the characters were pretty realistic, their circumstances were not. Besides the major plot of “I don’t love you anymore” Michael walking out for 80% of the book, everything else works out like a dream.

  • Carly has 0 wants for money. Her business just flourishes from nothing to she’s turning down jobs left and right. She’s a social media hit with her wonderful pictures, and so forth. Even Michael, as he pursues his new career goals, he gets plush assignments and book deals thrown at him. The two kids are wonderful in every way. Oh, there are a few references to crankiness, but otherwise they’re little angels who love each other. There’s references to trouble with the in-laws but throughout this journey they’re nothing but supportive and loving.
    Content warnings – a few curse words; adult themes
    – I can’t speak to grammar because I heard it read to me, but aloud, it flowed decently well.

Conclusion:

If family drama’s your thing, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s basically one woman’s journey to survive a stint of single motherhood while her husband’s an idiot then her battle to forgive him once he comes to his senses. (All that can be gathered from the book description.)

As Always …

If you want the chance to get the audiobook for free, please join Audiobook Readers’ Edge.

If you’re an author (or a narrator) with an audiobook you’d like featured, sign up for Audiobook Authors’ Edge.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

Awesome Audiobooks: 4.5/5 Stars Mercy’s Prince by Katy Huth Jones

Summary:

Prince Valerian, second son of Lavathia’s king and queen, suddenly finds himself Crown Prince. Thus, he’s thrust into a role he hadn’t trained for during a time of war. Mercy too finds herself in a position she’s not prepared for.

Additional Comments:

– For a fantasy romance book, there’s absolutely no interaction between the leading lady and the handsome prince for the first 1/3 of the book. I listened to the audiobook and it was well over 6 hours (of 15-ish) before they even met.

– The overarching plot’s not particularly unique, but the book’s awesome. (Second son finds himself the Crown Prince and has to grow into the role.)

– The author has done a nice job creating characters you can care about.

– I will admit I found the description of Mercy’s home life tedious after a while. The Brethren come across as a creepy little backwards cult. (i.e. arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to the leader. Not teaching girls to read and so forth.)

– I would have prefer Mercy be slightly older, especially given where the book took the characters in the end. (She’s 14.) Even for a fantasy world, that’s really young. I do love her healing gift though. I enjoyed how her character developed throughout the course of the story.

– The side characters were reasonably fleshed out. I love Kieran. Love the name, but the character’s great too. He’s very loyal but also believable.

– The section with the dragons was surprisingly very quick.

– The bad guy’s a tad overdone, but he fits the role of loath-able villain well.

– Love the narrator.

– The climax happened an hour before the conclusion. That’s a really, really long denouement.

 

Conclusion:

It’s long but it’s great.

 

 

 

As Always …

If you want the chance to get the audiobook for free, please join Audiobook Readers’ Edge.

If you’re an author (or a narrator) with an audiobook you’d like featured, sign up for Audiobook Authors’ Edge.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

Audiobook Edge and it’s Matchmaker Program are completely free now, but if you wanna donate anyway, go for it 😉

Er, just do it as a friend b/c otherwise, you’re basically just paying paypal.

Prime Student – Oh, how I wish I was still a student.

Kindle Unlimited

Free Kindle Reading App