estate

365 Challenge: Day 198 – Bilt

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Bilt: shortened name of the Dutch family who founded Biltmore, where I toured this week and took pictures of a great man’s estate (different Vanderbilt in the picture)

bilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt was a man who developed great wealth for his family during the mid 19th century. Their name was originally Dutch, and part of it was dropped when they immigrated to the USA in the 1600s. “Van” in Dutch means “from” and “Bilt” was the town in Europe where they lived. Thus was born the name Van-Der-Bilt (Coming From Bilt). His grandson, George Washington Vanderbilt, inherited the least amount of money in the family, being the youngest of all the boys. He was also responsible for taking care of his mother after his father died. When his mother was told by doctors to go south to Asheville to heal her respiratory problems, George took her there to ensure she recovered, but she soon fell in love with the town. It was here that he built the beloved Biltmore estate, which gets its moniker from his family’s surname / town and Scottish moors, which were one of his favorite things to see. He changed the spelling and thus was born this great estate. Today’s post covers all the pictures from the “Roof Top” tour, where you will see the ornate limestone carvings, the domes, the observatory, various components of the roof and the gorgeous, sweeping views around the property. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

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About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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365 Challenge: Day 197 – Estate

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Estate: A ‘few’ pictures of the Biltmore Estate from yesterday’s tours in Asheville, Nort Carolina

bilt

Ryder is on vacation in NYC. He sends me pictures and videos each day of his walks, playtime and morning treats. He wanted to tell you all that he’s very happy and wishes he was on the trip with me. He’ll return for his own posts next week. As for the Dads, we spent most of Saturday and Sunday touring the Biltmore Estate. I could generate tons of posts from this part of the trip, and I may do a few special ones upon returning; however, for now, it’s just the pictures from the basic tour. I went on an Upstairs/Downstairs Tour which shows you everything basically comparing it to Downton Abbey. I then took the Roof Top tour which shows you all the inner workings of the estate’s technology, construction and rooftop peaks. Yes, I was all over the roof and thru crawl way spaces and attics. And the final tour was in an outdoor vehicle all over the grounds. More to come, but enjoy the pics from today’s general tour of America’s largest privately owned estate home.

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About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

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4 out of 5 stars to The Art of Hiding, a family drama novel published in July 2017 and written by Amanda Prowse. I adored this book and am so glad I read it; let’s get right into the review.

hiding

Why This Book
A few months ago, I’d finished reading ‘The Idea of You,’ by this author. I really enjoyed the book, and when ‘The Art of Hiding’ showed up on my NetGalley feed, I had to request it. I forgot that they approved my request until last week, when I went to select whatever was next to be published as my next book to start reading. I’d been so busy writing my own novel, I missed the publish date for this one. So I quickly read it in 2+ days to get caught up.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Nina McCarrick, a mid-30s mother of two boys, 10 and 14, lives a wonderful life on a beautiful Southampton, England estate. That is, until her husband unexpectedly dies and she learns all was not what he’d been telling her. Suddenly losing her life high up on the hill, she’s forced to turn to all her friends and family for assistance. One person takes her in, helping re-build a life for both Nina and the boys. Nina begins to learn the difference between losing your own identity and being part of a married couple. Sometimes, it isn’t a good idea to give up control of all aspects of your life, as when it comes crashing down, you’ll have no idea what to expect.

Approach & Style
I read this novel through Kindle Reader on my iPad over the course of two and a half days. It is about 300 pages long, divided into 15 chapters, all told from Nina’s perpsective in third person point of view. The language is simple but meaningful; it reads itself as you feel immersed in the world Prowse has created for her readers. You could probably read this all in one day over 4 to 5 hours if you kept focused, and it would definitely be an enjoyable read.

Strengths
Prowse tells intricate family stories full of complexity and drama; not so much with everyone around the main characters, but within their small family unit. I felt the same way about one of her other books, and I’ve now come to realize this is her style; this is who the author is and what she excels at.

Nina is easy to relate with, given she is a new widow and has young boys to care for. She has no job, her skills are mostly outdated according to anyone she runs into. You immediately feel a strong connection with the woman, wanting to see her succeed. She’s a wonderful mother. She doesn’t sugarcoat the truth either. She dances around it a bit, hoping not to devastate her children, but she also knows hiding their situation will do more harm than good.

It’s not a suspense story, yet I only put it down because it was midnight and had to wake up early the next morning. You feel as though the events unfold right in your own living room as you are reading, and simply do not want to miss a moment of the beauty and pain inside this family.

Concerns
Very little with this book. It wasn’t a huge and amazing story that captures a tremendous amount of ground. It’s simple and thought-provoking. I felt it could have used a little more clarity around the death of the father and the days leading up to it. At the same time, it all came as a shock to Nina, so why shouldn’t it come as a shock to readers, too. But in the end, I would have connected a bit more strongly if I had some current history. Just a smidge.

On occasion, the relationship Nina had with others felt a bit fake. I thought it was necessary to the plot in some places, but it was a little too much in other places. Sometimes the balance between her being a lonely and hidden wife versus a lonely and hidden widow losing everything wasn’t as clear as I’d have liked it to be. A few extra paragraphs explaining how she interacted with her ‘friends’ before she became a widow might have helped give it more substance and a range between the two people she needed to be during the course of the book. I also think her ‘lows’ weren’t low enough, meaning she needed to struggle more in finding a job, not being able to pay bills. There was some of this impact, but a few things were a little too hunky dory for my taste.

Final Thoughts
Amanda Prowse is quickly becoming 1 of my top 10 favorite authors. I actually marked five more of her books as ‘to-read’ today since I’ve read two and given then both 4’s. I’m going to search NetGalley after I post this review to see if I can get my greedy little hands on more. This woman can really write stories that straddle that line between heartbreak and the promise of a better day.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Review: Abigale Hall

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Abigale Hall
Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars to Lauren A. Forry‘s Abigale Hall, a mystery and suspense novel I received via NetGalley and Skyhorse Publishing as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you to both for this opportunity, as I enjoyed the book and have posted a review below.


Story

Rebecca, 12, and Eliza, 17, are orphaned sisters in 1940’s London shortly after the end of WWII, their mother dying from the German Blitz and their father committing suicide after several issues post-war. The girls were awarded to their Aunt Bess, who could barely afford to keep herself above water due to a gambling problem. When she can’t take it anymore, Bess sells them to an elderly man in Wales who needs help around his estate. Rebecca seems to suffer from some emotional problems and needs constant supervision, while Eliza was hoping for a proposal from Peter.
Eliza could live on her own, but won’t let her sister be alone; and then they are both forced to leave without any notification to any friends.

When the sisters arrive, they are taken to Mrs. Pollard who runs the estate; however, both girls quickly learn they will be mistreated far worse than they had been by their Aunt Bess. Eliza begins to hear stories about several missing girls over the last 30 years — who once worked at the estate — but vanished under mysterious circumstances. As Eliza looks out for Rebecca, Rebecca begins to grow more sick and is eventually taken away by Mrs. Pollard to the hospital to get better. Eliza finally meets the master, Mr. Brownewell, who comes from a long line of very peculiar men; however, he seems to carry his own tarnish, as the townspeople suspect he killed his fiancee nearly 30 years ago when he thought she was looking at another man in the wrong way.

Eliza tries to keep things status quo as she searches for the answers, but soon discovers she cannot trust anyone. Eliza also begins to hear and see the ghost of Victoria, Mr. Brownewell’s late fiancee, roaming the halls, claiming to have stolen all the missing girls. Meanwhile, Peter realizes that Eliza has been kidnapped and tries to find her, but many people — all caught up in the macabre game being played — stand in his way, nearly killing him a few times. When he finally finds Eliza, he steps right into a trap set by the villain behind the entire Gothic horror. But who is it? And who will survive…


Strengths

The characters are vivid and intense. And there aren’t a tremendous amount of them, which certainly helps make it a good story. You’ve got Eliza and Rebecca who are the sisters dealing with the situation. Their Aunt Bess plays a role in the send off to Wales. Peter is chasing after Eliza. Peter’s got 3 or 4 people he interacts with on his search. And in Abigale Hall, there are 3 or 4 characters who help run the estate. Plus the ghost or not-so-dead Victoria (you will have to read to find out)!

The estate, Thornecroft, is a beautiful setting but has a ruthless charm about it. Abigale Hall is one of the main rooms / areas, well described, but keeps you guessing whether it’s a good or a bad place to be. The concept of ghosts is used intricately and constantly keeps readers wondering whether or not the characters are loopy or really seeing what they think they are seeing. It helps you stay focused and want to keep reading each chapter to figure it out.


Suggestions

I thought the book was a little longer than it needed to be. It wasn’t repetitive, but at times it felt a little too drawn out. I assume it’s to build the fear factor and the thrill of the chase; however, at times, you want to skim a few sections just to see how far the author was going to take each of the scenes. With a little more editing and focus on key word replacements, I think it could have really put the fear in a few more readers.

All of the characters were just mean. Maybe that’s how it was in the 1940s after the war and in England, but I felt like I just wanted to smack several of them for the way they treated each other; and I’m not even counting the villains in the book. Even the ones who were friends or even just acquaintances felt like they had a bit of a nasty tone about them. It could be totally realistic, but it was a bit of a turn off for me.


Comparisons

At many points in the novel, I kept thinking about the direct comparison to Daphne du Maurier‘s novel Rebecca, and that’s not considering both books have a main character named Rebecca. Both books have sprawling estates with a Gothic haunting ghost; Rebecca has Manderley and Abigale Hall has Plentynunig’s Thornecroft. Both have a very menacing but possibly innocent caretaker. Let’s see a rumble between Mrs. Pollard and Mrs. Danvers!

There are some interesting themes about shoes in this book that made me think of the Wizard of Oz witches… between Dorothy’s shoes and the legs of the witch underneath the home that crashed into Oz, you can’t help but see the comparison when one of the characters in Abigale Hall ends up with a head in the oven and nothing hanging out but a pair of legs.

Plus, both the sisters have trouble with their shoes the entire book. Was a little odd!

Not to mention Hansel and Gretel pushing the witch in the oven. So many re-appropriations of fairy tales could be seen.


Final Thoughts

I’m glad I read the book, and there were definitely parts full of horror the creepy factor. I was hoping for a bit more macabre, and the end certainly brings some intensity and major crazy… but it should have pushed the envelope a bit more to truly be a horror book. It’s a good read, but I didn’t think “wow, this is an awesome and scary book.” I’d read another one by this author as the writing flowed well and created memorable characters. But give me something even more gruesome next time!

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: The Turn of the Screw

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The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perhaps America’s greatest writer from our Realistic period, James’s ghost story sets itself above all the rest — and he has a lot to choose from. Consider this story a nanny’s mind game – but who is in control?

I studied James in my college years, even dedicating an entire semester to several of his works as one of my independent studies in my English major. Something about the way James told stories spoke to me, and I felt a connection to him as a person and as a writer. Many of his works annoyed me (The Golden Bowl, ugh!) but I still appreciated them. With Turn of the Screw, it was a master class in so many ways.

The plot is still open to interpetation: who is telling the truth? who is alive? who is actually sane?

All the same, the story is quite simple but oh so complex. It’s a study of intense psychology where the reader has to determine who is playing this game and who is merely a pawn.

If you like a bit of paranormal, and you are comfortable with a variety of impulse interpretations, you can learn a lot about how to draw in an audience from this book and James himself.

It’s more of a long short story, or a short novella, probably readable in one sitting over a few hours. It’s a good escape from today’s literature with a balance between flowery writing and direct plot and character development.

Take a chance. You will definitely have strong opinions.

View all my reviews