The Last Mile by David Baldacci

The Last Mile is the latest exciting thriller by David Baldacci. It follows on from the events in the previous novel Memory Man and features FBI Special Agent Amos Decker an ex footballer with hyperthymesia. This novel concerns Melvin Mars who, like Decker, was a promising American Football player until, at the age of twenty, he was arrested and convicted of the murder of both his parents. He now awaits his fate on Death Row. However Mars gets a reprieve when someone else suddenly confesses to the killings. This confession has the potential to make Melvin Mars, guilty or not, a free man.

Amos Decker, newly hired on an FBI special task force, takes an interest in Mars’s case after discovering the striking similarities to his own life: Both men were talented football players with promising careers cut short by tragedy. Both men’s families were brutally murdered. And in both cases, another suspect came forward, years after the killing, to confess to the crime. A suspect who may or may not have been telling the truth. Did the man who confessed to killing Melvin’s parents actually commit the crime? It seems as though someone wants Melvin freed.

So FBI Special Agent Amos Decker and his FBI Task force launch an investigation into what really happened. Then a member of Decker’s team disappears, and it becomes clear that something much larger, and more sinister, than just one convicted criminal’s life hangs in the balance and Amos learns that there is more to the story than just the murder of Melvin Mars parents, why were they actually murdered and by whom? Amos discovers somebody with a lot of secrets and skeletons in their cupboards who is keen to stop the truth being discovered at any cost.

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Hayao Miyazaki

MiyazakiJapanese film director, animator, manga artist, illustrator, producer and screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki was born January 5, 1941  in Bunkyo Tokyo. Through a career that has spanned six decades, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of anime feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio. The success of Miyazaki’s films has invited comparisons with American animator Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park, and American director Steven Spielberg.

He Began his animation career in 1963, when he joined Toei Animation. From there, Miyazaki worked as an in-between artist for Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon where he pitched his own ideas that eventually became the movie’s ending. He continued to work in various roles in the animation industry over the decade until he was able to direct his first feature film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro which was released in 1979.

After the success of his next film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, he co-founded Studio Ghibli where he continued to produce many feature films.. While Miyazaki’s films enjoyed both commercial and critical success in Japan, he remained largely unknown to the West until Miramax Films released Princess Mononoke. Princess Mononoke was the highest-grossing film in Japan—until it was eclipsed by another 1997 film, Titanic—and the first animated film to win Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards. Miyazaki returned to animation with Spirited Away. The film topped Titanic’s sales at the Japanese box office, also won Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards and was the first anime film to win an American Academy Award.

Miyazaki’s films often contain recurrent themes like humanity’s relationship with nature and technology,(Such as Princess Mononoke) and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women. While two of his films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, involve traditional villains, his other films like Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke present morally ambiguous antagonists with redeeming qualities. He co-wrote films The Secret World of Arrietty, released in July 2010 in Japan and February 2012 in the United States; and From Up on Poppy Hill. Miyazaki’s newest film The Wind Rises was released in 2013 and concerns a Aeroplane designer during World War II. In addition to his acclaimed film work, Miyazaki has created manga that has reached world wide audiences. Among Miyazaki’s best films are Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Laputa:Castle in the Sky, Howl’s moving Castle, Arrietty, Up on Poppy Hill and the Wind Rises. I always enjoy watching them, they leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling and I feel like watching them again as soon as they’ve finished. It is also amazing to think that they have all been drawn by hand, the detail in some of the backgrounds is incredible.

National Bird Day

House_SparrowNational Bird Day is an annual holiday which takes place on 5 January. The purpose of National Bird day is to check the health of the global bird population as this is a reflection of and early warning system for our wider ecological health. Current research indicates that up to 12% of all species of birds may be at risk of becoming extinct in the next century and National Bird Day aims to raise awareness of the plights faced by common and rare birds, from disease and environmental factors to illegal trade and welfare in captivity..

People can get involved in National Bird Day through birdwatching, studying birds, and other bird related activities. Many bird enthusiasts celebrate by adopting birds and educating future bird owners about the special issues involved with taking care of birds, including their “screaming, biting, constant cleanups, the need for daily interaction and a varied diet”. There are also bird drinking games including ‘bird date’ and other bird-related activities. Bird adoption is also a particularly important National Bird Day activity

Since 1979, bird lovers in the United Kingdom have also taken part in the annual Big Garden Birdwatch which is coordinated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. This involves spending an hour counting the birds in your garden And gives scientists an insight into how well various species of birds are doing.