Daily Deals: Chocolat, The Secret Of The Sirens and Chess
Today Amazon offers Chocolat by Joanne Harris for $2.99.
Vianne Rocher and her 6-year-old daughter, Anouk, arrive in the small village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes–“a blip on the fast road between Toulouse and Bourdeaux”–in February, during the carnival. Three days later, Vianne opens a luxuriant chocolate shop crammed with the most tempting of confections and offering a mouth-watering variety of hot chocolate drinks. It’s Lent, the shop is opposite the church and open on Sundays, and Francis Reynaud, the austere parish priest, is livid.
One by one the locals succumb to Vianne’s concoctions. Joanne Harris weaves their secrets and troubles, their loves and desires, into her third novel, with the lightest touch. There’s sad, polite Guillame and his dying dog; thieving, beaten-up Joséphine Muscat; schoolchildren who declare it “hypercool” when Vianne says they can help eat the window display–a gingerbread house complete with witch. And there’s Armande, still vigorous in her 80s, who can see Anouk’s “imaginary” rabbit, Pantoufle, and recognizes Vianne for who she really is. However, certain villagers–including Armande’s snobby daughter and Joséphine’s violent husband–side with Reynaud. So when Vianne announces a Grand Festival of Chocolate commencing Easter Sunday, it’s all-out war: war between church and chocolate, between good and evil, between love and dogma.
Reminiscent of Herman Hesse’s short story “Augustus,” Chocolat is an utterly delicious novel, coated in the gentlest of magic, which proves–indisputably and without preaching–that soft centers are best. –Lisa Gee, Amazon.co.uk
Some words about the Author
Joanne Harris, part French and part English, found the inspiration for her novel Chocolat in her own family history and folklore–herself having lived in a sweet-shop and being the great-granddaughter of a Frenchwoman known locally as a witch and a healer who once disguised herself as an apparition of the Virgin Mary to shock the local priest. Harris, who studied at St. Catharine’s College in Cambridge where she received a BA and an MA in French and German, teaches French in an English school and lives in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and daughter.
The Secret Of The Sirens #1 (Companions Quartet) by Julia Golding is in the set of daily deals.
The first book in the “Companions Quartet” Secret of the Sirens picks up where JK Rowling left off concerning the Society for the Preservation of Mythical Creatures fantasy enthusiasts. It’s a classic hero’s journey with Connie, a twelve-year-old newcomer to Hescombe, Great Britain, as the heroine. Unbeknownst to her, she is a descendant of a long line of companions to mythical creatures, but she thinks her ability to get along and communicate with animals is just another reason why she doesn’t fit in to the regular school scene. She has transferred from several different schools and finally ends up living with her eccentric Aunt Evelyn, a threshold guardian, unsure of letting Connie know of the existence of the secret society. When it appears that Connie not only should be a member, but the highest ranking member as a universal companion to all mythical creatures and the only one who can save them from the exploits of modern-day business expansion, she fully supports Connie’s gift, and becomes her ardent protector, as well as a loving aunt. Battling the Shapeshifter, an evil force that threatens the human world, Connie and the other companions, along with the help of the mythical creatures, save an oil tanker from crashing upon the sharp rocks and spilling black oil throughout the sea. The evil force appears to be destroyed, but Connie senses it will re-gather and confront her, the universal companion, in the future to again tempt her to help him destroy humankind. This is a great fantasy that is well written and riveting to the reader. An underlying message about saving our environment is intertwined throughout the story, and it also integrates characters of diverse ethnicities. It is a wonderful start to a series that will quickly develop a following. — Children’s Literature, April 2007
Some words about the Author
Julia Golding’s debut novel, The Diamond of Drury Lane, won the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize and the Ottakar’s Children’s Book Prize in the U.K. She lives in Oxford, England. While working as a diplomat in Poland, Julia Golding traveled high and low, from the Tatra Mountains to the bottom of a Silesian coal mine. She later joined Oxfam as a lobbyist on conflict issues, campaigning at the United Nations and with governments to lessen the impact of war on civilians living in war zones.
Chess is a free game today only.
Since its origin in India more than 1,400 years ago, chess has become one of the world’s favorite pastimes. This culturally transcendent game of strategy and intellectual warfare now unfolds in the palm of your hand with AI Factory’s challenging Chess app.
Based on AI’s innovative Treebeard gaming engine, the app allows you to play chess with a more human style. It’s a trait not found on typical chess programs and represents a modern approach that pays homage to the grandmasters of this ancient board game.
The chess engine that eventually evolved into Treebeard sprouted back 1976 within the chess program Merlin. In the nearly two decades that followed, its code morphed and had a notable appearance from 1997-2003 as the force behind Shotest, a world-renown Shogi program. Shogi originated 1,000 years ago after the early, Indian version of chess moved east from the Asian land mass to the Japanese islands.
In 2004 the Shotest engine was reworked for chess and renamed as Treebeard. The first appearance of its current form came with the release of the Global Star Tournament Chess II program, and it drives Microsoft’s MSN Chess.
The game analysis Treebeard uses is unique and proprietary to AI Factory: unlike conventional programs, the engine does not search millions of positions to counter your moves. Instead, Treebeard uses a probability-directed search to examine fewer positions but with greater detail.
With such a powerful engine driving AI’s Chess app, your mental mettle will be tested, and, when combined with the app’s well-designed user interface, you have the opportunity to hone your chess game to a sublime point.
Featuring 10 levels of difficulty, Chess is suitable for novice and expert players alike. Treebeard employs intelligent-weakening for the lower levels, which makes it perfect for beginning players, too. There’s also a complete chess-move manual included for those completely unfamiliar with the game.
While there are many unique aspects of the app, one in particular proves helpful in improving your game at any level: the Show CPU Thinking option. Once activated, Chess reveals which move Treebeard is considering next by placing a blue border around the piece the computer wants to move and another around it’s targeted square.
If you want to try your moves against a person rather than a machine, the app also has a two-player mode. Just like when you play against the computer, the manual mode allows you to use a game clock that limits play from 5 minutes to 60 minutes and moves from 5 to 60 seconds.
Chess’s user interface presents players with three chessboard layouts and three choices of chessmen to customize the feel of your game. In a game’s Match Settings screen, the handicap adjustment feature offers an interesting twist, whether you’re playing against the computer or a trash-talking opponent. In both modes you can choose to handicap the white chessmen by removing a pawn, knight, rook or queen. If playing the black chessmen against the computer, this option is particularly handy when testing your skills against Treebeard’s higher levels.
After checkmate, you’re immediately presented with the option to step back through each of your moves to see how you won, or lost, the game. Chess also stores your gaming history and generates statistics based on your level of play against Treebeard.
The app features full touchscreen and trackball capabilities. The free version of the game is supported by unobtrusive banner ads.
Whether you’re playing against Treebeard or against a living opponent, Chess will help you continually push the limits of your game.