Author Archives: lydias

Vengeance: A Review of Ceremony of Ashes

Ceremony of Ashes - A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance by Jayson Robert Ducharme book cover. Image on the cover is of a silhoutte of someone holding a large staffTitle: Ceremony of Ashes – A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance

Author: Jayson Robert Ducharme

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 1, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 135 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 stars

Blurb:

Something wicked descends upon Leinster Village
Adrian Holloway’s life is turned upside down after receiving a disquieting phone call. His sister and niece have gone missing, and his mother is in shambles.
Something malicious is lurking in his old hometown. Children are going missing and their mothers are turning up dead. People are afraid to go out. Rumors spread from house to house. Blood. Ritual murder. Sacrifice and mutilation.
Sins of the past become unearthed. A woman, whose powers are beyond imagination, is soon to extract her vengeance on the entire town. She can make the dead talk, breathe fire, and turn a man into an animal.
Only Adrian and a young female constable know the truth. Only they can stop her.
CEREMONY OF ASHES is a 135 page novella about witchcraft, vengeance, and how our destinies are sometimes forged before we are even born.
Fans of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Nikolai Gogol are in for a treat with this fast-faced, violent and uncompromising novella of terror.

Review:

Content warning: blood, ritual murder, sacrifice, and mutilation. I will briefly discuss these things in my next paragraph but will not go into detail about them.

Many of the items in that list happened before or after new scenes occurred. While this was firmly rooted in the horror genre for sure and did include some gory scenes, I was glad that so much of the rest of it was left up to the reader’s imagination.Filling in those moments for yourself can be so much scarier than having them all spelled out.

There’s more to Halloween than costumes and trick-or-treating in Leinster Village village this year.

Reading this novella was like eating a chocolate bar in the very best sense of that metaphor. I digested it quickly and enjoyed it for what it was without searching for a deeper meaning to it or anything like that. This was something that didn’t require analyzation or interpretation. It was simply a nice, scary distraction from everything going on the real world. Sometimes that’s exactly what a reader needs!

There were times when I had trouble keeping the dozens of characters straight. Some of them played pretty minor roles in the plot, so when they popped up again it often took me a while to remember who they were and how they might have been connected to the characters who were featured more prominently.

Small town life was captured nicely here. The characters I was able to keep good track of were connected to each other in multiple ways in many cases. I liked the way the many ways their lives overlapped was slowly revealed. It reminded me a lot of my own experiences living in small towns and how closely everyone’s lives end up intersecting regardless of whether they’re relatives of some sort or genetically unrelated to each other.

I would have liked to see more time spent on character development. While this was a heavily plot-driven tale and I certainly wouldn’t have expected it to be as introspective as something character-driven, it still would have been nice to get to know the main characters on a deeper level. They tended to be boxed into specific roles. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in moderation, it happened so much in this particular story that I didn’t get to know the characters as individuals like I wanted to.

The witchcraft aspect was handled well. One thing I look for in speculative fiction books that include this topic is a sense that the author has put some thought into why they chose a witch as their antagonist. Rest assured there were excellent reasons for this decision that will be revealed later on in the storyline.

I’d recommend Ceremony of Ashes – A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance to anyone who loves the dark side of the horror genre.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Favourite Science Fiction Tropes

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

This is one of those prompts that I could ramble on about for ages. I did my best to keep this post fairly short and sweet, but do ask me about science fiction tropes if we ever meet in person and you’d like to see me suddenly shift from being quiet to talkative!

Galaxy filled with starsInterstellar Travel

Example: Star Trek

Why I Enjoy It: Sometimes I wish I’d been born at a point in time when we could actually go visit the planets and moons that astronomers are currently discovering. Based on how far away they are from us, we’d probably need to invent interstellar travel to make it possible for us to discover what – or maybe even who – else we’d discover on those possibly habitable words.

 

high-angle photo of a robotRobots

Example: Isaac Asimov’s Robot stories

Why I Enjoy It: I’m fascinated by technology in general, especially when it can be used to do complex tasks that used to require a human to do them correctly.

If we ever create robots that have human-like intelligence, I’d be so interested in finding out how they changed society and how humans treated them. In the meantime, there are many stories out there about this topic.

 

three strands of DNAClones 

Example: Jurassic Park (film and book)

Why I Enjoy It: I’ve loved this idea ever since I saw the baby dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. It’s also thought-provoking to imagine a world where someone who needs a new heart can have one grown from their own cells and never have to deal with any of the longterm health issues that transplant recipients currently need to look out for.

 

microscopic photo of nanotechnology

Nanotechnology

Example: Michael Crichton’s Prey (film and book)

Why I Enjoy It: I dream of the day when my friends and relatives who live with chronic health conditions that currently have no cure might find relief from something like this.

This field is still in its infancy. There’s no telling what it might be capable of doing for future generations!

 

cryogenic podsCryosleep

Example: Futurama (TV show)

Why I Enjoy It: Being able to skip over hundreds or thousands of years of human history while keeping the same protagonist makes many science fiction plots feel much more plausible.

There’s also something amazing about getting a peek at what the future of humanity could possibly be like!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Purple in the Title

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Purple is my favourite colour, so all of the books on today’s list will feature the word purple or a synonym of it.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker book cover. Image on cover is of a drawing of two african american women. Their lips are drawn but not their eyes , noses or eyebrows

1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Harold, #1) by Crockett Johnson book cover. image on cover is drawing of toddler drawing with a purple crayon on a black wall.

2. Harold and the Purple Crayon (Harold, #1) by Crockett Johnson

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie book cover. Image on cover is abstract red and brown painting.

3. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Prince- Purple Reign by Mick Wall book cover. Image on cover is of Prince playing a guitar and singing.

4. Prince: Purple Reign by Mick Wall

The Lavender Screen- The Gay and Lesbian Films--Their Stars, Makers, Characters, and Critics by Boze Hadleigh book cover. Image on cover is of two queer women cuddling up and looking at the viewer

5. The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films–Their Stars, Makers, Characters, and Critics
by Boze Hadleigh

The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton- A True Story of Conjoined Twins by Dean Jensen book cover. Image on cover is of Daisy and Violet playing instruments on a stage.

6. The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins  by Dean Jensen

The Green and Purple Skin of the World by Paulo da Costa book cover. image on cover is of a clear glass container filled with a murky liquid.

7. The Green and Purple Skin of the World  by Paulo da Costa

When the Plums Are Ripe by Patrice Nganang book cover. image on cover is a black-and-white photo of people walking on a dusty road

8. When the Plums Are Ripe by Patrice Nganang

The Sugarless Plum- A Ballerina's Triumph Over Diabetes by Zippora Karz book cover. Image on cover is of a ballerina dancing.

9. The Sugarless Plum: A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes by Zippora Karz

Purple Dandelion- A Muslim Woman's Struggle Against Violence and Oppression by Farida Sultana book cover. Image on cover is of a photo of the author's face.

10. Purple Dandelion: A Muslim Woman’s Struggle Against Violence and Oppression  by Farida Sultana

3 Mindfulness Exercises for a Bad Mood

An old dandelion that has lost all but one of its seed heads. The final seed head is holding onto the dandelion tenaciously. As I mentioned here, the idea for today’s post came from numerous hits my site has gotten over the last year or so about mindfulness exercises for bad moods.

I purposefully narrowed down this list to a a few exercises that are quick and easy to do because that’s exactly what I need when I’m down in the dumps. Complicated instructions and lengthy lists are best saved for more cheerful days, I think.

If you know of other quick and easy exercises like these, do jump into the comment section below and share. There are many other visualization techniques out there, and they range from simple ones like I’m about to share to much more complex routines.

 

A Gratitude Challenge

Time commitment: 1 minute

Best for: Reframing your thoughts

Step 1 – Close your eyes

Step 2 – Make a list of three things you’re genuinely grateful for. Literally anything counts, and there are no wrong answers. Sometimes I count the friendly pigeons who live in front of my building as one of my answers. They’re also so curious to see what the humans are up to when we wander by.

Step 3 – Open your eyes

 

white and red balloons floating away in the skyThe Balloon Game 

Time commitment: 1-5 minutes

Best for: Letting go and interrupting rumination

Step 1: Close your eyes and make a list of the things that are currently bothering you. They could be anything: unresolved conflicts, regrets, old conversations that keep replaying in your mind, and anything else that can’t be fixed right now or ever.

Step 2: Visualize as many balloons as you need for your list. I like to spend at least a minute picturing their colours and shapes in detail before imagining my problems listed on them.

Step 3: Imagine releasing each balloon into the sky on a windy day. (I once lost a balloon this way as a kid. They escape so quickly you can never chase them down again!) If or when that thought pops up again, remind yourself that it’s been blown away now. There’s no way to chase it down again.

 

Big Deep Breaths 

Time commitment: As long or as short as you want it to be.

Best for: Living in the moment and calming racing thoughts. 

Step 1: Search for breathe calming gifs like this one. You’ll want to keep your eyes open for this exercise.

A mindfulness gif of a box being expanded and contracted.

Step 2: Synchronize your breathing so that you inhale when the image expands and exhale when it contracts. Some of these gifs are specifically designed to slow down the breathing cycle a little for users. That in and of itself can distract you from thoughts that stubbornly stick around.

Step 3: Repeat as many times as necessary.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in July

marigolds growing by lush, green plantsEach month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the sixth instalment of this series.

Click on February, MarchAprilMay, and June to read the earlier posts. It was a blissful 27 Celsius (81 Fahrenheit) and sunny on this morning visit.

July was an incredibly hot month, so I jumped on the chance to show up earlier in the day and snap some photos before the temperatures soared to 35 C (95 F) or more again.

Let me be honest with all of you. The photos for this month, August, and maybe even September are going to be pretty similar to June’s photos. Everything is green, lush, and growing furiously.

The true difference between June and the rest of the summer has to do with the temperature. June still has mild, pleasant days, but that becomes a rare treat between now until October most years.

A World War I memorial surrounded by green, lush trees in a park.

Welcome to the park in July. If you were actually walking here with me, I would have recommended you bring a water bottle and put on some sunscreen. The sun is quite powerful at this time of the year, and I wouldn’t want any of you to get burned or dehydrated.

A close-up photo of the World War I memories. It's green

Anyone who comes here later in the day might see the air shimmering in the heat. For now, it’s warm but still pretty comfortable in the shade. Some of the weeds are starting to take over the steps on this monument. I suspect this is due to city workers not having as many resources for park maintenance as usual.

A dusty running trail at a park. The trail is lined with large, healthy trees.

The running trail is firm and dustier than usual due to our dry summer so far.  It’s heavily used in the morning and evening, probably because running in 40 C (104 F) heat at midday is at best miserable and at worst a recipe for heat stroke.

I love seeing all of the walkers and joggers out and about early in the morning or after the sun begins to set and the weather is less hot. (Even if you choose to jog at 3 am, you probably won’t find overnight temperatures lower than 28 C (82 F) or so for the next couple of months).  Everyone seems to be incredibly polite and kind even when the trail is overflowing with users which makes me proud of my city.

Large, green branches of a tree against a bright blue sky

You all knew this shot was coming! I love the bright blue skies of this time of year. We won’t see much of that in the autumn and winter when I return.

A skyward shot of many overlapping tree branches filled with leaves. They're so lush you can only see a tiny sliver of the blue sky.

But now it’s less common to see blue sky between the branches of nearby trees. They’ve grown so much that they block out a refreshing amount of heat and light.

A sun-dappled park. The grass is heavily shaded by the leaves of the enormous trees growing there.

Here’s another example of what that looks like. Most people who visit the park now flock to these shady areas. Sitting in direct sunlight for longer periods of time is simply too hot, especially with the high humidity we tend to have now.

A tree that had half of its branches shorn off last winter. It is green and thriving now.

Our tree friend that lost half its branches last winter is thriving from what I can tell.

A tree that lost about a third of its branches in a storm last winter. It is green and thriving now.

And so is our bigger tree friend that lost about a third of its branches. I’m still amazed at how well they heal.

A sapling growing in a park.

The saplings that were planted last month seem to be doing really well, too. A heavily shaded stone path in a park

I am seeing a decrease in visitors to the park like I expected last month. Given the steamy weather and the increasing number of places in Ontario that are reopening as our numbers of Covid-19 cases continue to decrease, this is completely understandable.

And that’s all until August!

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Photos

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl My pick for this week’s freebie theme is a simple one. Let’s look at some interesting bookish stock photos! Tell me which one is your favourite in the comment section below. I’m including brief descriptions of them for anyone who needs captions or who can’t see the photos.  … Read More

I’ll Show You My Drafts Folder If You’ll Show Me Yours

Why, yes, I did write the same sort of post last summer! It was such a smashing success that I’ve decided to do it again. Last year’s peek at upcoming posts has since been edited to include links to everything that I ended up writing. Some of the stuff listed below are ideas from last… Read More

A Review of Terror Beneath Cactus Flats

Title: Terror Beneath Cactus Flats (A Weird Western) Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 25, 2013 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Western Length: 43 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Jed, the fresh faced deputy Marshall of Cactus Flats, finds himself put to the test as… Read More