This is a follow-up to that post that has been slowly compiled over time.
Just like in 2018, I was interested in non-religious Easter stories that fit somewhere into the speculative fiction spectrum.
There were no other criteria. I was totally open to short stories, novellas, or novels. Something written in 1800 would have been just as welcomed as something that was published last week.
So it came as a surprise to me to see what a short list I came up with. The vast majority of the titles on this list are children’s picture books. This was after I trimmed out all of the storybooks about Cartoon Character X’s first Easter. I’m sure they’re adorable stories, but I didn’t want them to crowd out everything else I found.
Children’s Picture Books
These were the picture books that appealed most to me. My parents read The Runaway Bunny to us when my siblings and I were growing up, and it was lovely.
After coming up with these titles, I had some success with speculative fiction that was written for an adult audience. In order to add this section, I needed to loosen up my “no religion” criteria a tad. Both of their blurbs do make references to non-secular celebrations of this holiday, but they don’t appear to be written in a proselytizing manner from what I can tell.
This week’s topic was a little tricky for me because the list of books that I want to read but haven’t already purchased as e-books or requested from the library is honestly pretty small. When you add my minimalistic lifestyle on top of that, I’ll admit that I can be a difficult person to buy presents for.
What I ended up doing with this prompt was coming up with a list of titles that my library doesn’t carry and that were hard to find in e-book form the last time I looked for them.
It’s quite possible that one or both of these things have changed for any of these titles. Maybe I’ll do more searches for them after Christmas ends? Or maybe it’s best to keep these as ideas for people who want to buy me stuff and are totally stumped by what to get? What do you all think?
Why I Want to Read It: A friend of mine gave it a great review a few months ago. Witches and ghosts are also things I enjoy reading about in general, so combining the two is automatically going to make me perk up.
Why I Want to Read It: It’s still disappointingly rare for characters who have disabilities or chronic illnesses to be main characters in science fiction stories. I’ve been yearning to read this book ever since stumbling across a reference to it on a blog earlier this year.
4. The Deep by Rivers Solomon
Why I Want to Read It: I’ve heard amazing things about this book from other bloggers. The premise of it makes me think of a horrifying scene in the 1970s Roots mini-series that showed Africans being thrown off slave ships to drown in the middle of the ocean. I love the fact that Ms. Solomon decided to create a world where these people not only survived but thrived.
Content Warning: Blood and a dysfunctional family. I will be briefly mentioning these things in my review.
Krampus is a 2015 dark fantasy horror comedy film about a young boy named Max who has a disappointing Christmas with his argumentative, dysfunctional relatives and accidentally summons a festive demon to his home as a result of it.
In Central Europe, Krampus has been known historically as a “half-goat, half-demon” creature who punishes naughty children at Christmas time. Some folklorists think he might have been invented long before Christianity existed!
He is generally described as a creature with cloven hooves, horns, fangs, and a thick pelt of black or brown hair covering his body. Think of him as a contrasting figure to Santa who rewards good children with presents, but stories about him probably existed in Central Europe long before Santa did.
I was vaguely aware of the legends surrounding this mythical figure before watching this film. It was fascinating to learn more about him both by watching it and doing some research about where this legend came from and how it has evolved over the years.
As always, my descriptions of the characters are written in the past tense to avoid giving away spoilers.
Max was the main character. He still believed in Santa when this film began, and he accidentally summoned the Krampus after having a fight with his cousins about the existence of Santa among other sensitive topics in this family.
Tom was Max’s loving and devoted father.
Sarah was Max’s perfectionistic mom. She wanted all of her relatives to have a nice time over the holidays and spent weeks preparing for Christmas to help this come true.
Beth was Max’s exasperated older sister who was dreading spending the holidays with her rowdy and uncouth relatives.
Omi Engel was Tom’s mother and Max’s grandmother. She only spoke German, but she did understand English. Several of her relatives were fluent in German and could translate for her. Much of her time was spent baking sweet treats and brewing hot chocolate for her family.
Aunt Dorothy was Beth and Linda’s passive aggressive, prejudiced, and mean-spirited aunt. No one wanted to invite her to Christmas festivities, but no one could bear to turn her away either.
Linda was Sarah’s sister. She and her husband were overwhelmed by their four unruly children.
Howard was Linda’s husband and Max’s uncle. He loved hunting and making off-colour jokes.
Rosie was the Engel family’s dog. She was a friendly pooch who was always in the market for a nibble of human food.
Krampus was the demon Max accidentally summoned.
Yes, this film is part of the horror genre, but with the exception of one brief scene it was not gory. There’s a lot a storyteller can do to freak out an audience without showing anything graphic. The people who worked on this project did a great job of finding the horror in anticipation instead of bloodshed.
The buildup to Krampus’ arrival was well done. I felt like I had plenty of time to get to know the characters before their lives were turned upside down. It was also nice to see the juxtaposition between the sentimental approach to the holiday season at the beginning of this film and the darker turn it took later on.
Krampus was a wonderfully scary villain. It was rare for the audience to see his face during the course of this story. Somehow, that made him even more frightening than he would have otherwise been. Hearing heavy boots clomping on the roof or seeing the quickest glimpse of his long, sharp fingernails put my imagination into overdrive. Picturing what he might look like was far scarier than actually seeing him, and I’m saying that as someone who thought that the film makers did a great job of bringing this creepy legend to life.
I liked the way the character development was handled. The younger Engels had good reasons for dreading another visit with their relatives. While the extended family wasn’t abusive or anything like that, they did have some pretty unhealthy communication and behavioural issues. Spending time with Aunt Dorothy or the young cousins looked exhausting. Nothing satisfied them, and they seemed to change their minds about what they wanted from one moment to the next. It was pretty interesting to see how the Engels dealt with this and what happened when Max in particular reached his breaking point with them.
As mentioned in the content warning, there was one scene involving blood in the storyline. It happened quickly and was important to the plot development. The rest of the film relied on jump scares, psychological horror, and other non-gory means of frightening the audience.
There was a plot hole that was never resolved. It involved what one of the characters knew about the legend of this demon creature and what they did with that information. This was something so surprising that I was pretty surprised to see the plot brush over it so quickly. It sure would have been nice to explore this more in depth.
With that being said, I still had a good time watching Krampus. It was the first Christmas horror film I’ve ever seen, and I thought it did a nice job of combining imagery from both types of storytelling to come up with something unique.
If you’d like to try a Christmas movie that doesn’t have the slightest whiff of sentimentality to it, I’d recommend starting here.
Last week I had trouble commenting on some of the WWBC participants whose sites are hosted on Blogger. I will try to comment on your posts again this week! Here’s hoping that issue was solved.
So what do you buy for someone who already has everything they need and isn’t interested in collecting more gadgets? I’m writing this post from the perspective of someone who fits this description. While I’m always appreciative of the gifts people give to me, the truth of the matter is that there aren’t too many physical possessions out there that I need but haven’t already acquired somehow.
Here’s a list of things you could buy, make, or otherwise give to folks like me depending on their tastes. I mostly stuck to food-based stock photos to illustrate my point because apparently there isn’t a lot of demand out there for stock photos about slippery emotions like compliments. Ha!
1. Baked Goods
I’m an average baker, but I certainly wouldn’t know how to make anything that looks like it was made by a professional. It’s always a thrill when someone surprises me with some nicely decorated cupcakes or other treats.
2. Tickets to Artsy Stuff
To give an expensive example, the Hamilton musical is coming to Toronto next year. The tickets for it are far too rich for my tastes, but this would be the sort of thing I’d squeal over if I had a fabulously wealthy fairy godparent.
On a much more economical note, I’d also be thrilled with a general admission ticket to a museum, art gallery, comedy set, concert, or other similar event. I love the feeling of seeing or hearing things that I don’t normally experience in my daily life.
3. A Massage
My parents bought me a one-hour full body massage once or twice when I was in college. It was the nicest thing they could have given me. There’s nothing like the relief of having tense, sore muscles gently relaxed after all of those long months of studying.
It could be a massage from someone I’m really close to or a gift certificate for a professional masseuse. Either one is wonderful in my opinion.
4. Stories, Photos, and Memories
Obviously, this one depends on how well you know the person, but I love it when the older generations in my family pass down new information they’ve discovered about our ancestors or pieces of their childhoods that they haven’t shared yet. There are relatives who died before I was born that I feel like I’ve met because of how much of their lives has been recorded in our oral histories.
It’s also cool when friends randomly share an old photo or funny story from our past.
5. A Personalized Book Recommendation
It always makes me happy when someone tailors their recommendations. That’s not an easy thing to do, but it sure is lovely to receive.
6. Vegan Chocolates
I’m always on the lookout for new types of vegan chocolates or pralines, especially if they’re flavoured with mint, fruit, nuts, or other mix-ins.
7. Herbal Tea
Is it possible to have too much herbal tea or even tea in general? I doubt it.
8. Random, Genuine Compliments
Being surprised with something someone honestly appreciates about you almost feels like the emotional version of a massage. They both make me feel incredibly happy and appreciated.
In order to make this more gift-like, the compliments could be compiled in an email or written on little scraps of paper and put into a fancy jar. Yes, I somehow came up with a physical item that I couldn’t eat but would still enjoy owning. I’d probably use it to store chocolate and other treats in after I’d savoured all of the compliments.
9. Shopping Advice and Support
Fashion isn’t one of those things I spend much time thinking about, but I do admire people who know how to put together an eye-catching wardrobe. It would be super cool to spend a day going through my clothes and shopping with someone who genuinely enjoyed putting nice outfits together.
I love astronomy.
This past autumn, I had the chance to do a little stargazing at a local university. The event was put on by faculty and students there, so we got to hear some interesting facts about the stuff we were looking at.
I would be so excited to do this occasionally with someone who was really knowledgable on this topic.
Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.
No content warning is necessary. I’d recommend this movie to viewers of all ages and backgrounds.
Klaus is a 2019 animated children’s film about a young, wealthy man named Jespen whose father sent him to a small, freezing cold town called Smeerensburg in order to establish a working postal office there.
I’ll leave it up to you to learn why his father decided to do this. It was something addressed in the opening scene, but it was so important to the plot that I’d rather not give away any hints about it.
Smeerensburg was a community filled with families who were feuding with each other. Their grudges were so enormous that none of the children were even sent to school lest they end up sitting next to the child of a family their parents hated. This meant that many of the young citizens of this town couldn’t read or write!
Needless to say, this wasn’t an easy assignment for Jespen. Luckily, his budding friendship with a toymaker named Klaus provided one bright spot in his new life.
Jesper was a postman who’d never actually finished postman school. He could be selfish at times, but he was also a creative and intelligent person.
Klaus was the village carpenter who made toys that no one had ever played with. He was a deeply kind and generous man.
Alva was the town fishmonger who had originally trained to be a school teacher. Since it’s hard to teach an empty classroom, she’d been forced to change occupations and was not particularly happy about it. Her biggest wish at the beginning of this film was to move somewhere far away from Smeerensburg once she’d saved up enough money.
Márgu was a Saami girl whose family lived on the outskirts of town. She did not speak English, but she did love visiting Jesper and playing with the other children.
I’m writing this review as someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas or enjoy the sentimentality of the holiday season, so what I’m about to say may come as a surprise: I loved this film!
Jesper was a wonderful protagonist. There was a lot of information about his backstory that I couldn’t include in this post for spoiler reasons, but he was a pretty well-rounded character…especially for something written for kids. I found it entertaining to see how he adjusted to life in dreary Smeerensburg. This wasn’t a cheerful place to live to say the least, and Jesper didn’t have a lot of experience in weathering unpleasant circumstances.
I also appreciated the lack of sentimentality (for the most part) in the story. Life in this community was hard for a lot of people, and the filmmakers showed as much of that as was appropriate for the age group they were marketing this towards. The fact that they managed to pull that off without including anything scary or too mature for kids to watch was impressive.
Honestly, some of the best scenes in this film were the ones that explained how the legend of Santa was formed.
For example, when and why did people first start believing that his sled was powered by flying reindeer? That question and many more were given funny, heartwarming answers that fit the tone of the plot perfectly. The photo near this paragraph gives a hint about another winter tradition that was explained in the plot, although that’s also something best left to each new viewer to discover for themselves.
A true selfless act always sparks another.
Speaking of Santa, I’m guessing you can all guess which character he was in this tale. The storyline began long before he or anyone else knew what his destiny would be. There were so many lovely hints about who he was becoming along the way. I’ve never seen a story that focused on his origins before, so it was a ton of fun to check this one out.
The quote I shared above and in the title of this post came from this character. He had a lot of wise things to say, but this was my favourite line from him. It captured the essence of this film beautifully. Smeerensburg had so many problems that fed into each other that it was hard for the people who lived there to imagine how anything could change.
I really liked the idea of focusing on small things individuals could do to make the lives of others better without expecting anything in return. That’s the sort of philosophy that I think would make the world a better place if it were followed by everyone.
There were plenty of humorous moments as well. While the message itself was a serious one, the characters had no problem cracking jokes to suit every age group. I enjoyed that mixture of serious and silly content.
This was one of those children’s films that I’d recommend just as highly to adults. Watching it was a wonderful experience.
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