Category Archives: Saturday Seven

Saturday Seven: Books with Green Covers

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I was originally planning to make this post about Irish books that I’ve read and loved, but it turned out that I couldn’t think of enough of them to fill out a Saturday Seven list on this topic. My goal for next year is to change that, so do speak up if you know of any good reads from that country.

In the meantime, let’s talk about books that all happen to have green covers. If I ever become wealthy enough to buy a big house and fill one room of it with nothing but books, I’m going to be terribly tempted to sort those books out by colour. Don’t you think it would be magical to walk into a room that looked like a rainbow?

I also think that arranging stories like this would be an interesting way to stumble across something you might have never otherwise picked up.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, some of my aunts and uncles were still kids when I was born. It was a little like growing up with older siblings except that we never lived in the same house and therefore didn’t have to share toys or bedrooms with each other. I remember my youngest aunt reading this story to me when I was very young. At the time, I loved it. Now I wish I could talk to Mr. Silverstein and find out whether he thought it was a virtuous thing for the tree to sacrifice every single part of itself for the boy or whether he was warning his young fans about the dangers of giving so much of yourself that you have nothing left for your own needs.

The Magicians Nephew by C.S. Lewis

This is my favourite story in the Chronicles of Narnia series in large part because of how C.S. Lewis came up with the idea of writing about a young boy whose mother was dying from a disease that had no cure. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but knowing the context of those scenes made them even more poignant.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

As much as I liked them, the last few Harry Potter books were so dark that I don’t reread them as often as I do the earlier ones.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire struck a nice balance between the sillier themes of the first few books and the very serious themes of the last ones. I also appreciated the way Ms. Rowling fleshed out wizard society. The audience was able to see just how well wizards and witches could live their entire lives cocooned away from muggle society without feeling like they were missing out on anything at all.

Also, the Triwizard Tournament was a thrill. I remember feeling afraid for Harry when he dove into the lake and began searching for the merpeople. Even magical humans can only survive for a few minutes without oxygen, and I wasn’t sure that his solution to breathing underwater was going to work.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

As fun as the movie adaptations are, the original Oz series was a million times more creative and sometimes even downright bizarre than anything that made it onto the big screen. I have no idea where the author came up with half of his stuff, but they sure did make for an attention-grabbing plot.  Don’t read this to young kids, but do go read it.

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor.

I adore O’Connor’s writing style, although I will admit to not understanding a lot of her stories when I first started reading them. It took some rereads and a few more years of maturing before I began to see what she was saying about ethics and morality. She’s yet another author I wish I could take out for a cup of coffee and have a long conversation with.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.

When I was a teenager, my mom took me to see a production of this play that had been put on by a local college. I loved every single bawdy minute of it, and I’ve been a fan of it ever since.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

I had no idea what to expect what one of my college professors assigned a few of these tales to us. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” was my favourite one because of how much it revealed about what it was like to be a woman in England during this time period. For example, women were defined by their relationship to men back then. They could be a maiden, a wife, or a widow. Their options outside of these roles were all but nonexistent. If only Chaucer had been able to finish this series.

What books that have green covers have you read recently? Do you sort out your books this way in general, or am I part of a small minority of readers on this issue?

Saturday Seven: History Books About Ordinary People

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

I had mixed feelings about history class when I was in school. The chapters about war and the military honestly bored me to death. Kudos to those of you who like reading about battles and peace treaties, but I have not spent a single moment thinking about any of that stuff since I graduated from college.

On the other hand, the chapters that even briefly mentioned the lives of ordinary people interested me quite a bit. Today I’ll be talking about some of the many books I’ve read that chronicled the experiences of regular folks.

If you have any suggestions for me of other books to read, I’d love to hear them! I know I’m barely scratching the surface of this topic today.

How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman.

How did Victorians wash their hair, cook, clean, take care of sick relatives, and raise children? This book went into vivid detail about the daily lives of people in this era. The best part of it was that the author tried many of the things she was writing about, so she was able to give a highly personalized account of what it was actually like to live this way. The section that talked about how dangerous it could be  to wash clothing back in the day was one of my favourites. I had no idea how easy it was to lose a finger doing that!

Sick Kids: The History of the Hospital for Sick Children by David Wright

For any of my readers who haven’t heard of it, Sick Kids is a renowned children’s hospital here in Toronto. Why am I mentioning such a well-known institution in today’s post? Well, it began as a tiny charity solely run by volunteers in a small, rented house. The handful of children they cared for in the beginning were poor and had no other way to receive the vital medical care they needed. All of the supplies and treatments the children required were donated, too.

While I read the first few chapters, I was in awe of how much good work can be done by completely average people.

 Fever Season: The Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who Saved a City by Jeanette Keith

Yellow Fever is a horrendous disease. When it struck Memphis, Tennessee, in 1878, some of the pillars of the community fled to safety before they caught this illness. Of the twenty thousand people who remained, seventeen thousand of them became sick. Five thousand people died during this epidemic. Can you imagine digging that many graves or comforting that many grieving loved ones? I sure can’t.

The prostitutes, poor people, and other volunteers who stuck around to take care of the sick and bury the dead were heroes. Some of them died as a result of their decision to take care of those who couldn’t look after themselves.  I only wish more history books talked about stories like this one.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

A hundred years ago, many people had no idea how dangerous radium was. Those who did know it could be deadly worked tirelessly to keep this information hidden from the public. Hundreds of young, working class women who had few other options in life were hired to paint radium dials on watches without any idea of just how dangerous their job was or how much they were permanently damaging their health.

I should warn you that this book contains graphic descriptions of what happens to someone’s body after they’ve received a toxic dose of radiation. Many of these women died gruesome deaths, and others suffered debilitating health problems for the rest of their lives.

Their deaths and permanent disabilities did serve a purpose, however. Some of the strict safety rules that companies that use hazardous materials are required to follow today are a result of the lawsuit these women participated in once they realized that their employers had lied to them about how safe their jobs truly were.

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman

Three of my grandparents grew up during the Great Depression, and the fourth was born during World War II when foods like meat, wheat, butter, and eggs were strictly rationed. One of my grandparents was so malnourished early in life that he actually wasn’t expected to survive.

They have rarely spoken about that time in their lives to me, but I thought of the uncertainties of their early childhoods as I read this book. Many of the food-based social programs like free school lunches that exist today were started in order to prevent the deaths and permanent disabilities that happen when people don’t have enough nutritious food to eat.

 Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth grew up in a comfortable, loving, middle class family. She really had no idea what she was getting into when she decided to work as a midwife in a desperately poor part of London called the East End. The contraceptive pill and other forms of reliable birth control didn’t exist back then, so women were constantly getting pregnant regardless of whether or not they actually wanted or could afford to care for another child.

When you mix this in with the grinding poverty and crime of this era, you can imagine just how heartbreaking some of the stories about her clients were. One of the most memorable ones was about a young, heavily pregnant, developmentally-delayed girl Jennifer cared for who knew virtually nothing about sex or reproduction. Imagine trying to explain pregnancy and childbirth to someone who didn’t understand those concepts but who was going to have to give birth soon!

If you haven’t seen the British television TV based on this series yet, I highly recommend checking it out. The first few seasons that were based on Jennifer’s true-life experiences were excellent.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede.

Does 9/11 count as history yet? I can’t believe it’s been almost seventeen years since the dreadful events of that day. Based on the fact that there’s a memorial museum for the victims of that attack now and some movies have been made about it, I’m going to count it as the final entry on today’s list.

Thirty-eight jetliners that had been flying towards the United States were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland after the terrorist attack. You should know that Gander is a very small town that doesn’t have any of the usual amenities like large hotels to accommodate so many visitors.

Instead, the private citizens of Gander opened up their own homes and schools to all of the stranded travellers so that everyone would have a safe place to stay. They did everything from cook meals for these strangers, to invite them over to have a shower, to empty out their linen closets so that everyone would have a blanket to stay warm and a towel to dry off with. The animals who had been traveling in the cargo section were treated well, too.

When it was all over, the generous people who lived in Gander refused to take any payments for all of the work they’d done because they believed that Americans would have done exactly the same thing for them if their positions had been reversed. There was so much kindness and empathy in this story. I really hope it becomes a movie someday.

Do you like to read books about history? If so, what ones do you enjoy?

Saturday Seven: The Best Science Fiction Tropes

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time have probably already figured out, I read a lot of science fiction.

There are certain sci-fi tropes that immediately grab my attention. Today I’ll be talking about seven of them.

1) Friendly Aliens. 

One of the reasons why I don’t read a lot of sci-fi stories about aliens is that many of them assume that the aliens want to harm humanity. I’d much rather read about extra-terrestrials who are friendly and helpful!

I know that I’d do anything I could to help any aliens who needed assistance. Meeting them and learning about where they came from would be the only reward I could hope for. It only seems logical that at least some of them would feel the same way about us.

2) Alternate History. 

When alternate histories are done right, they’re the highlight of the sci-fi genre. It is so alluring to me imagine how the entire world would have developed differently if a key historical figure had lived a little longer than they did in our timeline, or if someone else had won a major war, or if a specific disease had been much more  deadly at an important point in history.

This is something that is incredibly hard to get right because authors have to build a complex and realistic world that is usually drastically different from the one we live in. I’ve read more alternate history novels that disappointed me than ones that blew my mind.

When the world-building is well-developed and logical, though, this is one of my favourite things to read.

3) Terraforming.

How cool would it be to turn a dead planet like Mars into one that is teeming with life? I hope we’ll all live long enough to see at least the first stage of this kind of mission be carried out.

At the rate we’re going, Earth isn’t going to be able to support seven and a half billion people for much longer.

The best way for humanity to survive is for us to figure out how to fix the damage we’ve already caused to our home planet and then spread out into the galaxy and create other Earth-like places for people to live.

While we’re waiting for NASA to figure out the best way to begin doing this, it’s entertaining to read about the process of changing the atmosphere and climate of a dead planet so that humans can live on it safely.

4) People Zoos.

I stopped going to zoos several years ago because of how sad it makes me feel to see intelligent animals like apes locked up there. Yes, the vast majority of modern zoos put a lot of effort into keeping their animals happy, healthy, and intellectually stimulated, but I still hate seeing such smart creatures confined like that. There has to be a better way to preserve endangered species, although I don’t know what that solution is at this point.

The nice thing about people zoos in this genre is that they explore the ethics of zoos with audiences that might never otherwise think about this issue.

5) The End of an Age. 

Someday we are going to be thought of as people who lived in the good old days. I’m not a big fan of that phrase in general due to how much whitewashing of the past often goes on with people who insist on romanticizing a specific time in history, but I am fascinated by what folks define as the good old days and how they behave once they think such a thing has ended forever.

6) Trapped in the Past. 

As a woman, an Atheist, and a member of the LGBT community, I don’t daydream about visiting the past. It wasn’t a friendly or safe place for people like me for the vast majority of human history to say the least.

The one part of time travel stories that I do find interesting, though, is when characters get stuck in an era they were only expecting to spend a few hours or days exploring. Just because someone is comfortable visiting, say, a medieval village doesn’t mean they’d want to grow old and die there without any hope at all of ever returning back to the present day.

I really like the idea of showing how someone could learn to adjust to such a huge shift in their daily lives.

7) Miracle Food.

This trope happens quite often in the fantasy genre, too. I am fascinated by the idea of a single food that can keep a person going through any circumstances indefinitely.

It is even more interesting when it’s described as a food that was created through scientific advancements. This gives me hope that one day we’ll all be able to eat nutritious, well-rounded meals without anyone needing to cook or wash a small mountain of dishes!

If you read science fiction, what tropes in it do you enjoy the most? If not, what are some of your favourite tropes in general?

Saturday Seven: Non-Human Protagonists

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.


Raise your hand if you love xenofiction! There’s something about experiencing the world through non-human eyes that makes just about any plot more exciting to me.

I ended up coming up with so many books for this list that I’m going to have to revisit this topic on a future Saturday Seven post so I can include everything I had to leave out of this week’s list. I need to read a few books before I share part two, though, so it might be a while before I publish it.


Animal Farm by George Orwell

I was so young when I first read this book that I didn’t pick up on the satirical or allegorical messages in the plot at all. What I knew was that I was fascinated by the idea of animals revolting and running their own farm, and I only enjoyed the storyline more once I learned enough about world history to understand it on a deeper level.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

There are a lot of stories out there written from the perspective of dog narrators, but this is my favourite one because of how differently Enzo saw the world when compared to how a human would describe the same event. He behaved exactly how a dog would behave, and his explanations for why he did certain silly things made total sense from that point of view.

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

It’s been so long since I read this book that the only things I can tell you about it for sure is that the main character is incredibly brave and that I loved the plot twists in it. It was like nothing I’ve ever read before or since.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Fair warning: this one’s a tearjerker. One of my uncles has owned at least one horse for as long as I can recall, and I remember paying closer attention to his horses after reading Black Beauty. (Don’t worry!  All of my uncle’s horses have always been looked after nicely).

The Inheritors by William Golding

This is one of those stories that made me want to jump into the plot about twenty pages into it and change how things were going. I adored the Neanderthal characters and wanted to do everything I could to help them. That’s all I can say about them without giving away spoilers.

Grendel by John Gardner

Beowulf was by far my favourite assigned read in college. Grendel told the same story as the original, but it explored this universe from the perspective of the monster instead of the hero. I loved it every bit as much as I expected to when I first found it at my local library.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Did my mom read this book to us a chapter at a time before bed, or am I mixing it up with other children’s adventure stories she read to us? I hope she’ll remember!

What is your favourite book that features a non-human main character?

Saturday Seven: Funny Quotes from Books

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

If a book contains a funny line, conversation, or passage, the chances of me becoming a huge fan of it are large. Sometimes I will reread a story I’ve already read many times before for the sheer joy of eventually finding my way to that witty scene again.

Today I’ll be sharing some of my all-time favourite humorous quotes from various books that I’ve read over the years. I hope you’ll share your favourite quotes in the comment section, too!

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”

“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.

“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”

“A pit full of fire.”

“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”

“No, sir.”

“What must you do to avoid it?”

I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.

— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”

LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

―Andy Weir, The Martian

Mr. Wonka: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.”
Charlie Bucket: “What happened?”
Mr. Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“We’ll never survive!”
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”

― William Goldman, The Princess Bride

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Saturday Seven: Characters Who Need a Date

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so today I’m thinking about characters who could really have benefited from going on a date. None of the characters I’m about to discuss had romantic storylines. They were far too busy looking after a disabled friend, exploring a… Read More

Saturday Seven: Library Books I’m Reading

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Based on my mother’s deep love of books, I’m guessing I was a baby the first time she took me to the library. At any rate, I have no memory of life before I knew what a library was or why they’re so special. They always… Read More

Saturday Seven: Series That Should Be Turned Into TV Shows

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. A friend of mine is absolutely obsessed with Game of Thrones. I’d guess that at least a third of the conversations we have somehow include a reference to this show. Even though I’ve never actually watched Game of Thrones, I’m beginning to understand a lot of… Read More

Saturday Seven: Cold and Flu Season Reads

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. We’re well into the depths of winter now here in Ontario. Cold and flu season is in full swing. I spent the last several weeks fighting and just recently finally getting over a stubborn cold myself, so communicable winter illnesses like these have been on my… Read More

Saturday Seven: Fictional Food and Drinks I Want to Try

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. How often do food descriptions in books make you hungry? This is something that happens to me regularly, especially if I happen to be reading a description of a delicious snack or meal right before it’s time to make my own dinner. While most of my cravings can be… Read More

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