All posts by S.W.Lothian | Author

MG Book Review | Anni Moon and the Elemental Artifact | Melanie Abed

Anni Moon and the Elemental ArtifactANNI MOON AND THE ELEMENTAL ARTIFACT (AM1)
by Melanie Abed
Published September 30th 2014
by Oculus Print
Amazon purchase |
Kindle edition

Anni doesn’t know about Elementals, Funk, Zephyrs, excited talking Bat-Rat creatures, and, least of all, Dragons. All that changes when her best friend, Lexi, is kidnapped and forces beyond Anni’s control trap her on a hidden, floating island in the Elemental world.

In a race against time, Anni sets out to save her friend. Along the way she finds allies among the Elementals, but she is also presented with a choice, one that might help save Lexi. If Anni agrees to an ancient, open-ended contract, will her sacrifice cost her more than she’s bargained for? Or will it land her in the middle of an age-old war between the humans, the Elementals, and the dreaded Fectus?  – GOODREADS


My Review

Anni Moon is the story of two orphan girls. They’re the best of friends, Anni and Lexi, who live together at a private girl’s school, Waterstone Academy, which has been owned and run by a family for many years. In fact, it’s the very same family who are their guardians.

Their whole life is turned upside down within a short period of time when both of their guardians mysteriously disappear and the girls learn that the school is to be sold to the mean old Mr Orge Murdrock. With no guardians around to look out for them, they are told that they can no longer live at the school. They have nowhere else to go, and the girls hope that things couldn’t get any worse. That’s where the plot thickens and their hopes are dashed.

Lexi suddenly disappears, and without hesitation Anni begins to search for her. That’s where readers are led on two separate journeys that are intricately weaved together. One follows Lexi and the other follows Anni. As the plots unfold, Melanie Abed gradually reveals details of another world that lays hidden behind the everyday. And it seems that one of the girls knows more about such a place than she had ever revealed. This secret life of Lexi is an underlying mystery that Anni learns of and tries to solve, while desperately trying to track her down.

As Anni’s search begins, she unwittingly enters into a contract with a mysterious hidden force that both guides and confuses her along the way. She moves from one challenge to the next and proves that she is a very strong willed girl. She never waivers in her determination to find her missing friend and I feel that Anni is a great role model in perseverance for young readers.

Being the first book of the series there was a lot of building in the first half, and I found that the storyline noticeably ramped up in the second. Once Anni had found her feet, made new friends and had set her goal, I found the journey was easier to follow. I think that came with becoming familiar with the characters and being able to focus more on the story rather than learning what’s what and who’s who in the zoo.

Some parts of this book reminded me of an Alice in Wonderland type adventure. It was full of unexpected transitions and journeys from one odd setting to another, and there was a host of weird and wonderful characters to get to know.  One thing I found was that I had absolutely no idea who to trust. The writing was easy to follow and plenty of clever twists kept me guessing and changing my mind from page to page. I was definitely hooked to find the answers about Lexi’s disappearance and of the magical hidden world in which Anni found herself.

I loved the cover of this one too, it grabbed me as soon as I saw it. The cover and other great illustrations inside were expertly crafted by Melanie’s husband, Hisham Abed.

In a nutshellAn enchanting tale, Anni Moon’s adventures should appeal to young girls that dream of magical places. Her strength of character should also teach some valuable lessons.

Recommended for readers 8+.


Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.


Drop over to Melanie’s website for extra info about Anni Moon and her adventures by clicking the banner below.Melanie Abed Banner

 


Book Panel 2

Book Blitz Giveaway | Stellarcadia (Adventures of Caramel Cardamom #3)| Julie Anne Grasso

 

I’m thrilled to throw my support behind Mother Daughter Book Reviews as they host a Book Blast for the third and final book in the Adventures of Caramel Cardamom middle grade science fiction trilogy by Julie Anne Grasso: Stellarcadia.


About the Book

Stellarcadia by Julie Anne GrassoSTELLARCADIA
(Adventures of Caramel Cardamom 3)

by  Julie Anne Grasso 
Published December 24, 2014
Publisher: Independent

Pages: 128
Recommended Ages: 8 to 12

Caramel Cinnamon is one lucky elf. She can hardly believe she’s invited to attend the first Intergalactic Youth Summit, on-board the Stellarcadia.

Her friends can’t wait to go “hyper,” but even the thought of it chills Caramel to the bone. However, nothing could compare to the icy reception she receives upon her arrival. Keen to get to the bottom of it, Caramel stumbles on a dangerous conspiracy, but no one will believe her.

In the exciting conclusion to The Adventures of Caramel Cardamom Trilogy, Caramel will have to do more than outwit her enemies, she will have to convince her friends to take her seriously. For ages 8-12.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

The Early Buzz

“The book is also a perfect mix of magic, science, and technology. Don’t be surprised if readers get to use their imaginations and learn something. Julie Anne Grasso has proven herself to be an original and versatile author…”
~ 5 Stars, Ilana W., Amazon

“Couldn’t put it down.” ~ Jemima P., Goodreads


My Review

This third instalment in the Caramel Cardamom series adds another mystery solving adventure to Caramel’s belt. The main plot centres around our favourite elven hero being part of the inaugural flight of the shiny new Stellarcadia space ship. Along with a group of high achieving teens, she embarks on the journey of a lifetime and takes part in an on-board conference that showcases their talents, set to culminate in the longest hyperspace jump ever undertaken. But, as usual, our Caramel just seems to look for trouble. She’s never one to shy away from her instincts, especially when they tell her that something is wrong.

As the journey unfolds Caramel spends much of her time trying to convince her friends to help her get to the bottom of her suspicions. I like her never-give-up attitude, and that she sticks to her guns, even when the odds are stacked against her. I do wish that her friends would take her word more easily though, given her record for sniffing out trouble. I suspect that the main character’s qualities would have great appeal for young girls who love a hero that portrays confidence, while having an underlying vulnerability that they can relate to.

Although we meet a few new acquaintances in this book, the core cast remains the same as the previous books. At 128 pages it’s not a long read, but I imagine it’s perfect for the target readers. A not too long, not too short read with mystery and excitement rolled into a neat package. It has a great looking cover too that just pops.

In a nutshell
This is a fun adventure that Caramel Cardamom fans will lap up like a trough of cupcakes.

Recommended for 8+ readers who like a good mystery.


About the Author: Julie Anne Grasso

Julie Anne GrassoWith a background in paediatric nursing, Julie Anne Grasso spent many years literally wrapping children in cotton wool. Every day she witnessed great courage and resilience from the tiny people she cared for, which inspired her to write stories to encourage and entertain them.
She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Danny and their little girl, Giselle.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter |  Goodreads

* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

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Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: March 25, 11:59 pm, 2015

Open: Internationally

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Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Julie Anne Grasso and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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YA Book Review | The Hunger Games – Catching Fire (HG2) | Suzanne Collins

HG 2 Catching FireCATCHING FIRE (HG 2)
by Suzanne Collins ★★★★★

Kindle edition / Amazon purchase

Against all odds Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and its harsh rules.

Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have secured, for themselves and their families, a life of safety and plenty. They will live in fancy houses in Victory Village, their families will never be hungry again, and the cruel games are behind them. But there are rumours of rebellion among the other districts, and to Katniss’s horror, Katniss and Peeta are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. The Capitol will not be fooled again.

Suzanne Collins continues the amazing story of Katniss Everdeen in this second novel of the phenomenal Hunger Games trilogy. GOODREADS


My Review

Catching Fire is another great instalment in the Hunger Games Trilogy. It picks up not long after the surprise result of the 74th Hunger Games, with Katniss and Peeta settled into their new lives at the Victor’s Village in District 12. They are soon to embark on a victory tour of the districts to reinforce the strength and domination of the Capitol, and remind the people of their place in the pecking order.

With her success in the Hunger Games, Katniss has unwittingly created more of an impact than she realises and the rumblings of a rebellion are coming to the boil. As the name of this book suggests, the spark of defiance that she showed during the games is slowly but surely catching fire across the districts. Katniss has become the symbol of defiance and hope.

President Snow (what a shifty guy) is keen to keep his hold on power and makes thinly veiled threats towards Katniss to ensure that she doesn’t promote any thoughts of uprising  during the tour. She needs to tow the line to keep her family and friends safe, and continue the on-camera romance with Peeta. It’s a tough gig, but she has no choice.

Suzanne Collins really captures the extremes in Katniss’s thoughts, and does a great job of enabling the reader to relate to her constant struggles with her conscience. It seems that the more Katniss tries to remain cool and calm, the more her charisma gives courage and hope to the downtrodden.  The fate of the old man who saluted her from the crowd gave warning of worse things to come.

Once the big twist is revealed and the victors find themselves heading off to the arena again, the pace and drama picks up. I had hoped that there would be some sort of united stand and refusal to play the game by the contestants. Without giving anything away to those who haven’t read the book I can at least say that I was satisfied with how things panned out in the end. This series is full of surprises and Johanna’s final act teaches that things aren’t always as they seem.

I watched the movie after reading this book, and easily spotted the sections that had been dropped (eg. Katniss meeting some runaway girls in the cabin who were searching for the fabled District 13). So, which one did I like the best? Well, I try not to compare books to movies, and to just accept them as different ways of telling a story. Yes, books give more details of thoughts and settings and decisions than a movie, but a movie can show so much in an instant that would have taken a lot of explanation in a book. The main thing for me is enjoying the story. Each medium gives a slightly different perspective of the story, which I like. They both have strengths, they both have weaknesses. So, my favourite out of book and movie is… a tie.

In a nutshell

A great second instalment in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I loved this one as much as book 1. It held me captive from start to finish.

Recommended for anyone with a love of characters who overcome hopeless situations and exciting plot twists.


Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.



Book Panel 2

Magic Kingdom | Walt Disney World | Florida

In my opinion, Magic Kingdom is the big sister of original Disneyland Park in California. It has basically the same layout but it’s bigger. This park has that traditional Disney feel and consists of Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. All of which have been favorites to millions of visitors over the years and contain a great selection of entertainment and rides.

Magic Kingdom - Main Street

Every time I visit a Disney park I’m so impressed with the level of detail, the beautiful gardens and the cleanliness. As soon as a leaf jumps from a tree to the ground a smiling Disney cast member swoops in from nowhere and sweeps it up.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they have a retirement centre for elderly leaves hidden away somewhere.Magic Kingdom - Christmas Wreath

As expected, Main Street was scattered with elaborate holiday decorations that my wife wanted to bring home. It took a bit of convincing that we didn’t have a lamp-post at home to hang this wreath from, but finally she agreed with my logic. So, to compensate we decided to pick up a coffee and cake and charge up ready for the day ahead.

IMG_3396_editedIf you want to see some great cakes and snacks, then make sure you check out what Disney offers (but don’t expect anything less than a full-on sugar overload).

It was such a shame to eat poor, Olaf… but he was delicious, and it was his job to be eaten :)

 As the day elapsed, the crowds increased to a level where there were plenty of people, but nowhere near as many as we’ve seen during the summer season. Scores of die-hard fans wore odd-looking hats, little princes and princesses were everywhere, and whole family groups travelled in packs wearing identical t-shirts like ‘Simpson Family Holiday Tour’ or ‘Disney or bust 2014′ (click here to see what I mean). Scooters and strollers seemed to multiply like rabbits and the were some pretty sizeable stroller parks outside the rides.

Fantasyland (Upgraded)

Fantasyland has undergone a recent expansion, which  has added some truly unique experiences that aren’t offered in California (ie. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Belles’ Castle and the brilliantly themed adjoining areas).

Belle's Castle
Belle’s Castle in the new Fantasyland extension houses the Be Our Guest Restaurant

One thing that we wanted to do was dine at the new Be Our Guest Restaurant, but potential travellers be warned, it books out months ahead. Unfortunately we missed out on getting a table. It was such a shame, because we’ve heard great things about the theming and food, as well as the great service.

Fantasyland - Journey of the Little Mermaid
Fantasyland – Journey of the Little Mermaid
Magic Kingdom - Fantasyland
Gaston’s in the new Fantasyland extension
New Fantasyland
Part of the new Fantasyland extension
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the new Fantasyland extension. Not sure where all of the passengers are in my pic – they must have fallen out!
New Fantasyland
Part of the new Fantasyland extension
Tips and Tools

Like me, my kids are huge ride fans, so much of our time was spent heading from one ride to another with random snacks of Churros, Mickey Ice-cream Sandwiches and drinks along the way. We’ve been to enough theme parks over the years to know how to manage and deal with long ride waits.

FastPass+, which was included in our tickets, was a great tool to help avoid the long lines. It allowed us to ‘book’ ahead for three of the most popular rides for the day. In between bookings we were free to roam and take advantage of other rides that had short lines. Of course, we loved all of the big name favorites, like Space Mountain (although I think the one in California is better), Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Carribean. We missed out on the Haunted Mansion, though, as it was closed :(

If you want to make the most of your time in the park, it’s all a matter of looking for the places away from crowds. Parades are a magnet for people, so if you head to places away from the parade you’re bound to find something that’s normally packed. And try not to arrive in an area that has shows just when it ends and the masses are exiting. They’re all going to stop at the first things they see, so you could find yourself trapped in a wave of people and swept into something that you hadn’t planned to do. Another tip is to keep an eye out for the many short cuts and quiet areas that are scattered around the park. Some of them can make it seem like you’re almost the only people in the park. It’s a nice break.

The free Wi-Fi in the park was great too, especially for visitors from another country who didn’t want to have a huge bill shock for roaming charges when we got home. FastPass+ worked well and the free App even allowed us to reschedule and change our FastPass+ plans along the way. As the guide maps below show, there are just under one trillion attractions to choose from.

WDW MK Guidemap - Front
Magic Kingdom Guidemap – Front – Click to see a larger version
WDW MK Guidemap - Back
Magic Kingdom Guidemap – Back – Click to see a larger version
Mickey’s Christmas (Un)Party

One extra event that we wanted to attend was Mickey’s Christmas Party, so we purchased tickets a couple of months in advance  ($$$ in addition to our park tickets). The spin was that it was an exciting and spectacular exclusive party event on selected evenings during December. It promised ticket holders access to the entire park after the normal closing time, with special Christmas entertainment, fireworks and some special food and drinks.

Unfortunately, we had a terrible night and feel that we blew our dough straight into Disney’s pockets. It was super crowded, even worse than I’ve experienced at any Disney park in the summer peak season. I feel that Disney got it wrong. They forgot about the customer experience and sold way too many tickets, which made it next on impossible to partake in any of the included food and drinks, or to see any of the entertainment. It was like we were in a giant tin of sardines, ready to burst as soon as the seal on the tin was broken. Most of the big name rides were also out of action for much of the night as well. So you arrive at a ride – it’s closed – move to the next ride – oh, it’s closed – move to the next one – sorry, it’s closed.

Magic Kingdom Main Street
The early crowds around 6.30ish. By the time the night was underway there were plenty more.

(Rant time) Don’t you hate it when you find a spot, sit there for over an hour before the show is due to start, then as soon as the first note sounds the people in front of you hoist their kids onto their shoulders, blocking the entire show for anyone behind them. And when you’re in such a confined space there is no way to escape or move to try for an altered view. You just need to wait it out, look down at your toes and listen to the music. I’m over 6 feet tall, and always conscious of blocking views in movie theatres etc., so if I couldn’t even see the show it must have been even worse for shorter people, and impossible for kids. Why do some people have no thoughts of others around them? I was a tad annoyed and my kids didn’t get to see any of the show. It was a huge disappointment for them. I don’t believe this would have had such an impact if the crowds were at a reasonable level, and it was possible to exhale and move slightly to alter our view. It’s the only time I can remember that Disney have missed the mark.

To top the night off, just before the fireworks, it started raining and didn’t stop for the rest of the night. I know the weather is beyond even Disney’s control, but with all the other disappointments of the night it was just like the icing on the cake. The tickets were an expensive night out for a family of four and definitely not good value (Rant over).

Some final words (and pics)

(Smiling again) I could rave on about the Disney experience and the wonderfully consistent Disney service (except for Mickey’s Christmas Party) that you get from cast members (without the expectation of a tip), but I think the best way to show the beauty of this park is in photos. So here are a few more of my favourites from our visit (I’ve got a thousand more where they came from).

Magic Kingdom Entrance

IMG_3232

IMG_3208

Goofy parade

IMG_3233

Mickey Minnie parade

In a nutshellOur days at Magic Kingdom were great and there was more than enough to explore, discover and enjoy. The crowds during the day were reasonable and FastPass+ and free Wi-Fi worked a treat. The park was also decked out for Christmas, which added another layer of stunning detail and atmosphere.

Recommended for anyone and everyone who would like to escape the real world. But I definitely don’t recommend Mickey’s Christmas Party, unless Disney make changes to how they run it.


Check out this cool video of the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom. You might spot a familiar face. It’s included if you purchase a Disney PhotoPass package.


Be sure to take a look at my other posts about our travels as they go live, or check my previous Travel Adventures posts for the ones already published. If you’re not a current follower, just click the FOLLOW button on the sidebar.

PS: I have no affiliation or relationship with WDW, except that I am a customer and fan.


Book Panel 2

YA Book Review | The Hunger Games (HG1) | Suzanne Collins

HG 1 Hunger GamesTHE HUNGER GAMES (HG 1)
by Suzanne Collins ★★★★★

Kindle edition / Amazon purchase

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. GOODREADS


My Review

It’s official… I’m a Hunger Games fan.

The Hunger Games has been a phenomenal success for Suzanne Collins. I had always avoided this series due to the violence, but suddenly realised that I shouldn’t judge it without checking it out. So I finally gave in to the hype and watched the first movie. I liked it, and decided to read the series before watching the next movies.

This book explores a raft of contradictions (wealth/poverty, truth/lies, story/reality) and a constant blizzard of conflicting emotions and thoughts from, Katniss, the main character. I describe this book as a dystopian society mashed with Big Brother and Survivor, topped off with the good old fashioned family entertainment and finality of a Roman style arena battle to the death. But the arena’s equivalent to an eviction/tribal council is a far worse fate for the losing contestants than having their flame extinguished by, Jeff Probst, and then basking in 15 minutes of fame. If you don’t win, you don’t live. It’s simple.

Overall, it’s a tragic tale of society gone mad that I hope stays as fiction. I found the story very engaging and liked that Katniss was so relatable.  She was just a no fuss, loving, intelligent girl trying to survive the oppressive conditions of District 12, whose noble act threw her into the nightmare of The Hunger Games. I think she kept that grounded vulnerability, and true dedication to her family all the way through the book.

I’m not really a romance junkie, so I don’t usually pick up books that have it, but I do understand that the love triangle in this book between Katniss, Peeta and Gale adds a layer of complexity to what Katniss has to deal with. I have written these comments before moving onto book 2. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in the next books.

In a nutshell

I must confess… I have become a Hunger Games fan. Recommended for anyone who likes to support the underdog, and who isn’t put off by romance or violence.

It’s a great read.


Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.



Book Panel 2

Walt Disney World Resort | Florida

walt-disney-world-resort

We recently visited WDW and stayed for 9 nights. It was the first visit in 15 years for my wife and I, but a first for our kids.  The driving force behind our vacation was to celebrate our daughter’s cancer remission. We’ve learned since her diagnosis that life is precious and that you need to create memories and do things while you can. You never know what tomorrow brings.

mickey-mouse-iconWe timed our visit to be during winter for two reasons. One was so we didn’t have to endure the high heat and humidity of a Florida summer. The second was to experience the extra level of brilliant holiday detail that is blanketed across the parks and resorts.

About Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World in Florida is a place built on dreams that also fulfils dreams for everyone who visits. It’s like no other place on earth, with its amazing theme parks, pristine parklands, exclusive highways, beautifully maintained gardens, free Disney transport, and resorts of every description. The list goes on.

To try to describe the size and scale of WDW is difficult to explain, so let’s try a comparison. It is actually 21 miles (34 km) southwest of downtown Orlando, and it covers 40 square miles, or the size of San Francisco (that’s twice the size of Manhattan).  That seems almost too amazing to comprehend. They employ over 62,000 people who are there to provide that great Disney experience that isn’t matched anywhere else. If you’re keen for more interesting facts then jump over here, but make sure you come back.

The resort consists of a range of theme park/areas…

  • Magic Kingdom – my post is here
  • EPCOT – my post will be online soon
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – my post will be online soon
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom – my post will be online soon
  • Downtown Disney – my post will be online soon

…as well as a selection of water parks (which we didn’t visit), and 34 amazing resorts that cater for a wide range of tastes and budgets.  We chose to stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (my post will be online soon). When you stay within the Walt Disney World Resort it’s like you’re in a bubble, away from the rest of the world. For some, I can imagine that it could overload the senses, but at the same time it allows you to forget about the troubles of the world and just enjoy yourself.

Click the map for a larger view
Click the map for a larger view

Nowhere else have I ever seen roads so well designed, which are free of traffic snarls and frustrations, and so easy to get around. The free buses are always on-time, clean and comfortable, and the drivers are friendly and clearly enjoy their job. Disney are also experts in crowd control, so even though you spend plenty of time in lines, you’re nearly always moving and being entertained as you spot amazing details in everything that you see. It works like a well oiled machine.

MagicBand

A great newish feature at WDW is their amazing MagicBand. It’s a wristband that’s not only your pass, but it’s also full of other great features. Upon arrival at your WDW hotel you are presented with a cool (and very Apple-like) box, which contains your MagicBands. Each pass is nicely presented like a watch, and personalised names are printed next to each one. To save any mix up, your name is also printed on the inside of the band.  Fancier collector bands are also available for purchase and it’s just  a matter of taking the tech from one band and putting it into another.

Disney MagicBand

During your stay the MagicBand gives you all kinds of super powers across the entire resort. You just hold your pass to the Mickey readers around WDW to open your hotel room, pay for your food and drinks, pay for your shopping, enter the parks (along with your fingerprint), enter the FastPass+ entrances on rides. It’s so convenient and works a treat.

Photo Source – http://wdworldnews.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/disney-magic-band-elite-daily.jpg
Photo Source – http://wdworldnews.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/disney-magic-band-elite-daily.jpg

Yes, I know that Disney are very clever, and that such convenience makes it easier for visitors to spend more cash. But keep your head in check and take advantage of its amazing powers.


In a nutshell

Theme parks may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but you just can’t help but  salute everyone at  Disney for  their brilliance, creativity and the level of detail that they put into everything they build.


Be sure to take a look at my other posts about our travels as they go live, or check my previous Travel Adventures posts for the ones already published. If you’re not a current follower, just click the FOLLOW button on the sidebar.

PS: I have no affiliation or relationship with WDW, except that I am a customer and fan.


Book Panel 2

New York, New York | What a Wonderful Town (Part 2)

New York is a destination that most people dream of visiting and it was great to be back there after a 15 year absence. It was especially great to be sharing it with my family and be part of my kids’ first visit.

IMG_2792

I had never been to the Statue of Liberty on my previous visits, so dropping in on the lady was on our must do list. The boat ride was calm and relaxing and the weather was wonderful, and to visit such an icon for the first time was definitely a great experience. We had pre-booked tickets to go up into the pedestal, but missed out on the crown as they’d sold out months before our trip. I have to say that climbing all of those stairs showed me how unfit I am, and I regretted not taking the elevator, but the view and experience was well worth it.

View of Manhattan from Liberty Island
The view of Manhattan from the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty group shot
The obligatory family selfie.
Surviving artwork from WTC in its new home at Battery Park
Surviving artwork from WTC in its new home at Battery Park. The Freedom Tower is in the background.

After returning from Liberty Island to Battery Park, it was only a ten minute walk to ground zero. We wanted to show our respect to New Yorkers and the victims of 9/11 , and to reflect on how the world changed on that day.

The 9/11 Memorial has been created where the WTC towers once proudly stood. It is a sacred place for the people to gather and remember, which has been beautifully and respectfully designed.

Rows of trees thrive amongst ample open space that creates a perfect zone for reflection amongst the towering buildings and traffic-laden roads nearby. A single tree that had survived that dark day has been nurtured and replanted, it serves as a perfect symbol of resilience and survival against the odds. Even though hundreds of visitors surrounded the memorials, they were largely silent. The calming tones of the water cascading deep into the footprints of the towers seemed to overwhelm and erase the sounds of nearby traffic.

9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower
The size of each memorial is huge and deep. The people around the edge show its scale. The new Freedom Tower is in the background.

I felt moved by the flowers and messages that visitors had wedged into the engraved names on the plaques. Beyond the names was a narrow lane of water around the memorial’s entire edge. Its calm, almost glass-like surface was perfect for reflection, as the water gently spilled over the infinity edge, taking our thoughts with it down into ground zero.

9/11 - Memorial
A lane of perfectly calm water with an infinity edge surrounds the central void.

It was a place that is hard to describe. Usually,  memorials I visit are for things that have happened long before my time. It was a different experience to be at place built to remember something so  tragic from within my lifetime. Memories flooded back of where I was and what I was doing when it happened. It was the year of my son’s birth, I worried for what the future held for him and for future generations.

Next, we passed through security and entered the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which has been created within the basement areas of the towers. Described in the simplest of terms, it is remarkable. If you ever go to New York City, it is a must to visit. Words can never express such a place to the same level as actually being there. Perhaps the following photos can provide a glimpse.

9/11 Memorial Museum

9/11 Memorial Museum
The final pillar to be removed from the site has been returned. It is covered with messages (and even flowers) from those who cleared the debris.

9?11 Museum - Final pillar

9/11 Museum - Twisted Metal

To stand in the exact spot where the bomb exploded in the 1993 attack was confronting. On another day, in another time tragedy had filled that very place not once, but twice. The twisted metal beams, remnants of foundations and footings still embedded in the ground, the shattered ‘survivors’ stairs, a crushed fire truck, and a surviving section of the communication spire. The list goes on. To see actual remnants from the WTC attack was both incredible and humbling.

9/11 Memorial Museum - Escape

9/11 Memorial Museum - Stairs

9/11 Memorial Museum - Fire Truck

9/11 Memorial Museum - Communicatons Tower
If you look carefully at the photo in the information stand, you will see a small white circle. This is the part of the communications spire in that circle. It once sat proudly at the top of one of the towers.
9/11 Museum - Foundations of WTC Tower
All that remains of the base of the WTC Towers.

We sat in a simple room with total strangers in complete silence, and watched the stories of victims projected onto the walls. It reminded me that most of us want the same thing – peace, tolerance, respect – and to learn from the past.  It’s impossible not to be moved by such a place.

No day shall erase you from the memory of time
No day shall erase you from the memory of time – Virgil

Well, it seems that this short holiday post about our trip to New York has become a lot longer than I planned, so I had to break it into two parts (part 1 is here). Thanks for hanging in there.

Our 2014 New York City memories are filled with Rockefeller views, crisp winter air, Salvation Army volunteers dancing with bells on every corner, towering skyscrapers, yellow cabs, holiday decorations, uber-crowded sidewalks, the magical attraction of Times Square, the charismatic Statue of Liberty, Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue, a wintry Central Park, the moving 9/11 Memorial and Museum that rekindled memories of that day, the accents, the coffee, the bagels, the souvenirs … and most of all the people who are like the city that surrounds them … welcoming, resilient and proud.

New York skylineNew York, New York, you’re a wonderful town.

Be sure to take a look at my other posts about our travels as they go live, or check my previous Travel Adventures posts for the ones already published. If you’re not a current follower, just click the FOLLOW button on the sidebar.


Book Panel 2