Author Archives: lydias

About lydias

I'm a sci-fi writer who loves lifting weights and hates eating Brussels sprouts.

A Review of Darkest Dean: Animal Short Stories

Book cover for Darkest Dean - Animal Short Stories by Dean Jarvis. Image on cover is a black and white sketch of a lion who is wearing an ornate crown that has a tiny cross at the top of it. The background of the cover is a very light yellow. Title: Darkest Dean – Animal Short Stories

Author: Dean Jarvis

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 16, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 96 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A collection of beautiful handcrafted stories with animals set as their themes.

Contains a mixture of Fantasy, fable, and personal stories. Humor, twists, and strange storytelling within.

Review:

Content Warning: animal abuse.

Once Upon a Time is a lovely place to begin.

Some of my favorite stories were the ones that written as fables. I’m specifically thinking of red-breasted robins here and how Mr. Jarvis imagined they might have ended up with such bright chests. Other readers should have the opportunity to be delighted by that turn of events just like I was, so I won’t share any further details about how it might have worked. All I ask is that you keep an eye out for this reference and enjoy it as much as I did once you find it.

While I normally love seeing a wide variety of genres being mixed together, I found some of the combinations to be a little jarring in this particular case. The tone of one tale might be somber and realistic while the next one could be lighthearted and obviously set in a fantasy universe. It was hard for me as a reader to leap around like that so often, especially since certain portions were written from a first-person perspective about characters who had concerning personality flaws that neither they nor the people around them ever acknowledged. It would have been easier for me to adjust if the writing style had remained more consistent throughout this collection.

With that being said, it was interesting to see how the characters thought about the world. Most of the human ones lived in rural communities or in otherwise rather quiet and isolated circumstances. It takes a specific sort of personality to thrive in such places, and the author did a good job of exploring what sort of person is often drawn to either spending a lot of time on their own or only seeing the same small number of folks over and over again.

I’d recommend Darkest Dean – Animal Short Stories to anyone who wants a little of everything in their next read.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: How I Amuse Myself in Waiting Rooms

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

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

Four empty red chairs sitting in a row in a waiting room. They are next to a glass wall that shows an empty hallway behind this waiting room. There are fluorescent lights shining in the hallway and a row of windows overlooking outdoors to the left.

Honestly, I tend to play games like Sudoku or Royal Match on my phone when I’m sitting in a waiting room. Cell phones are fantastic for moments like this.

If there’s something about the appointment that makes me feel anxious, games keep me calm before the receptionist calls my name.

Reading a book on my phone can also be distracting if I know it’s going to be a while until they’re ready for me.

Not every waiting room allows cell phones or is a good place to use one, though.

Years ago I had an appointment and was warned in advance that cell phones were not permitted in that building. (It was a passport renewal thing, so security was quite strict about enforcing that rule).

When electronic distractions aren’t allowed or aren’t a good idea for other reasons, I like to people watch. People are fascinating.

I like to pay attention to what others wore that day and how they styled their hair. You might see people dressed very casually and loosely at a doctor’s office, especially if they’re soon going to need to take a certain article of clothing off so the nurse can check their stitches, vaccinate them, or do some other minor medical work.

Body language and tone of voice matter, too. You might hear someone switch between languages as they translate for a loved one or speak a little quieter or louder than necessary because maybe they’re not used to being in a doctor’s office, bank, lawyer’s office, or any other number of places.

Sometimes I silently think of a compliment I’d give to every single person in the room. It could be about their cool shoes, or how they immediately stood up and offered their seat to a stranger who had mobility problems, or anything else I can observe without asking them any questions. (I don’t share these thoughts as I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable!)

I also try to keep track of who arrived there before I did and about how many minutes it has been between each person being called up for their turn. This can give me an estimate of how long my wait time might be if the room is small enough for this sort of mental game.

If there are too many people to keep track of – or if I’m more or less alone in the waiting room – I try to memorize as many details about it as possible using all of my senses. For example, what colour are the chairs? What does the room smell like, if anything? Can I hear any machines being used in the rooms whose doors are closed? Are there any mints at the receptionists’ desk, and would they allow me to take one on my way out?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Titles with Things Found in Nature


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Closeup photo of a snail whose shell has a swirl of black, brown, and white on it. The snail is sitting on a large green leaf. This was a cute idea for a theme, Jessica @ a GREAT read

One of the things I like to do when I go out into nature is to keep an eye out for insects, arachnids, and other similar creatures.

Do I touch them? No, never! While the majority of bugs in southern Canada are not dangerous, we do have a few species that could harm a person if you were bitten or stung by them. Luckily, they are shy and so will happily leave humans alone if we leave them alone. (Well, other than the mosquitos).

I have no desire to remove any of these animals from their homes or disturb them from their search for food, water, or shelter. It’s simply cool to crouch down and see what’s crawling around in the soil or sand beneath my feet.

My answers for today’s prompt will include a variety of small animals you might find out in nature.

1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

2. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium, #3) by Stieg Larsson

3.Little Bee by Chris Cleave

4. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema

5. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

6. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy

7. Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allburg

8. Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

9. The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante

10. Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

 

Do you like any of these creatures?

 

 

 

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My Festivus Geekiatum Plans

Closeup shot of five chocolate chip cookies that have been stacked on top of each other against a peach-coloured background. Last October, Long and Short Reviews released a Wednesday Weekly Blogging topic about which new holidays participants would like to invent.

As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, My friend Michael Mock responded to that question by inventing Festivus Geekiatum:

Festivus Geekiatum is a day to indulge your favorite interests. Work on that knitting project, watch that anime, re-read that favorite book, perform in — or attend — that one play. Reconnect with your hobbies, re-engage your interests, work on your projects.

Which I thought was a fabulous idea, especially since it happens at the end of February when cabin fever can begin to set in and make your previous winter plans seem not so fun anymore.

(Yes, I know the first portion of this post is very similar to the beginning of an older post from a few weeks ago. I’m trying to keep everyone up to speed on what Festivus Geekiatum is and who invented it).

My tentative plans for the first annual Festivus Geekiatum include:

  • Baking something delicious – chocolate chip cookies, perhaps?
  • Rewatching a favorite episode from Star Trek or some other speculative fiction show. The Trouble With Tribbles is close to the top of my list if I can find a copy of it on one of the streaming networks my household subscribes to.
  • Finding a nerdy-themed workout online and doing it. Ideally, it would be a dance workout, but we’ll see what I can find.
  • Rereading a few Mary Oliver or Langston Hughes poems because they’re at the top of my list of favorite poets.

If any of my readers decide to join in on the fun, I’d love to hear what you decided to do this year!

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A Review of Tucker vs. The Apocalypse

Book cover for Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse by Jay Allen Storey. Image on cover shows a photorealistic painting of a golden retriever standing alone on a wet street in the evening sun with city skyscrapers behind him. Title: Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse

Author: Jay Allan Storey

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 1, 2023

Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 125 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Lost and alone amid the ashes of a dead civilization

Household pet Tucker is thrust into an apocalyptic world when not only his own ‘master’, but all of humanity, are stricken with a deadly plague. The disease is fatal in almost one hundred percent of cases, but affects only humans, leaving empty cities and towns that are quickly being repopulated with domestic animals and wildlife.

Tucker eventually connects with a group of other former pets. Deprived of their human caretakers, and guided by the mysterious Web of Life, Tucker and his ‘pack’ must learn to fend for themselves, confronting cold and blinding snow, blistering heat, the threat of starvation, ferocious predators, and the violent remnants of humanity as they search for a new home.

Review:

Content Warning: pandemic, robbery, human and animal deaths from both natural and violent causes, murder, animal attacks, plane crash, car crash, (animal) pregnancy and (animal) birth. I will not talk about any of these topics in my review.

Beloved pets generally aren’t taught many survival skills, and that’s a big problem in an apocalypse.

Tucker was an intelligent and sweet dog who I enjoyed getting to know. Mr. Storey did an excellent job of showing the world through canine eyes. Some things that utterly ordinary to humans can be mystifying to dogs and vice versa, so it was amusing to compare those two perspectives as Tucker either puzzled over the weird stuff humans do or assumed the audience was already aware of certain canine behaviours were honestly so obvious to him he barely felt the urge to explain them to the audience at all.

I was surprised by how many of the adult dogs in this story had not been spayed or neutered before the first scene began. It’s rare for that to happen in my social circles, so I was caught off-guard by later scenes that referenced what can happen when humans are no longer around to keep an eye on what their dogs are doing. It would have been nice to have even a brief explanation of how so many fertile pets were running around during an apocalypse.

The world building was excellent, especially considering the fact that it was filtered through the perspective of a dog who, as I stated earlier, had a wildly different opinion on what was most important to share than a human narrator would have mentioned. There was always enough information to know what was going on here, and I enjoyed the challenge of putting together the pieces of scenes that were intentionally written a little mysteriously as Tucker trotted off to sniff interesting scents or find reliable sources of food and water.

Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse was a wild ride.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Pets I Wish I Could Have

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

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

A fluffy little white Bichon Frise puppy sitting on a blue and white striped chair. The dog is looking at the audience with an expectant expression on its face. Perhaps it wants a treat?

As cool as reptiles, arachnids, and fish are, I think I’d prefer to have mammals as pets.

Unfortunately, I’m terribly allergic to the vast majority of mammals that are commonly kept as pets.

If pet allergies didn’t exist and I no longer had migraines that restrict what I can do some days, I’d love to have a few furry companions.

Dogs

Dogs can make such wonderful companions in life from what I’ve observed.

They (usually) don’t mind being petted, and some of them will even actively seek out that sort of attention from at least some of the humans in their lives.

Having a dog or two would also encourage me to be more physically active, especially in the winter when going outside honestly doesn’t sound that appealing most days.

From what I’ve read, dogs can be a solitary pet, but many of them enjoy having at least one canine companion around as well. I appreciate that flexibility as some species like Guinea pigs really need to be kept in groups, or at very least in pairs, in order to be happy.

Some dogs are quite intelligent. I’d enjoy teaching them new words or tricks. It would be interesting to see just how much they could learn over the years.

Rabbits

My second answer to this question is rabbits. A photo of three rabbits sitting under the archway of a door and looking serenely out at the world in front of them. Two of the rabbits are light brown, and the third is a wonderful patchwork of light brown, grey, and white fur. There is a grey stone wall behind them and a wooden door frame just a few shades darker than their light brown fur to frame the scene.

I’ve mentioned my love of this species here many times before.

Unlike dogs, they never need to be taken outside for walks.  They can get all of the exercise and mental stimulation they need inside your home if you provide them enough playtime and enrichment activities. This would be a nice bonus when the weather outside is frightful.

They tend to be quiet, albeit sometimes mischievous, creatures. I like how independent they can be, especially since they generally do best with at least one other rabbit around for companionship. There’s nothing like watching two or more rabbits play together or try to eat the same piece of hay. I’d have hours of entertainment from quietly observing them.

Rabbits are less likely to want to be petted than a dog would be, but it can still happen if you build a trusting relationship with them. I’m a peaceful and patient person, so we’d be a good match there as well.

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Superpowers I Wish I Had


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Two fluffy little white dogs, who are possibly Yorkshire terriers, are standing in an all-white room next to each other. The dog on the left is wearing a yellow cape and the dog on the right is wearing a red cape. They look like fuzzy little superheroes!Since Cathy @WhatCathyReadNext submitted this topic, I’ll bet her answers to this question will be fantastic.

Here are my answers.

1. Remembering the names of secondary characters.

Main character names are easy for me to remember, but this isn’t always the case for characters who only show up occasionally. I will probably remember that they have a horse or that they love tea, though, even if I don’t recall their name!

 

2. Instantly knowing if a book will be five-star read for me.

Sometimes I know within the first page, but in other cases it takes me until the final sentence to realize just how perfect a story was for my tastes.

What’s interesting about this is that there have been some authors who have written one (or maybe a few) five-star reads for me but whose other books don’t affect me the same way.

 

3. Instantly knowing if a book will be a five-star read for someone else. 

I can generally make an educated guess for people in my inner circle, but reading tastes are such personal things that I really try not to recommend something unless I know the person well and am pretty sure it will be a hit.

 

4. Encouraging certain authors to finally publish those sequels!

No, I will not be naming any names here as I don’t want anyone to feel pressured or put on the spot. It would simply be wonderful to know what some of my favourite characters have been up to.

 

5. Reading descriptions of food and not getting hungry.

Don’t get me wrong – I love passages that describe what characters are eating if it’s relevant to the plot and/or the meals in their world sound amazing.

I would simply like to read those scenes without my stomach suddenly thinking it needs a snack when it was perfectly content and not at all hungry five minutes ago. Why do bodies do this?

 

6. Being able to write “If You Like This, Read That” posts easily

Some of you Top Ten Tuesday bloggers are amazing at thinking of similar books that might both appeal to the same reader. You make it look effortless, and I wish I had your talent in this area. Please make a TED Talk for the rest of us or something. Ha.

 

7. Having more patience with slow plots 

When I was a teenager, I would savour books that took a long time to get to their point.  It was an easy and free way to enjoy long summer days when not much else was happening.

Now that I am an adult, I generally DNF anything that moves slowly unless the writing is exquisite. I’m sure I’m missing out on some fabulous stories, but I simply don’t have the time or patience these days to wait 10o+ pages for interesting stuff to start happening.

 

8. Commenting more often on other blogs

I tend to let them build up in my RSS feed until I have a nice big block of time to get through everything at once.

This means that the bloggers I follow will occasionally be surprised by a flurry of comments from me, some of which are on posts that are weeks old…or sometimes even older than that.

I hope that is amusing to them, and I am trying not to do this quite so often.

 

9. Having advance knowledge of which new-to-me authors will be future favourites.

I put genuine effort into trying authors from a wide variety of backgrounds, genres, and writing styles.

This leads to a lot of really interesting outcomes:

  • I DNF their work and probably never read them again
  • I realize that book X might be perfect for person Y in my life even if it’s not to my personal tastes
  • I finish their book and keep an eye out for their future work without making them a must-read author
  • They’re instantly added to my short list of must-read authors.

Among many other options. As much as I usually enjoy this process, sometimes I wish there were a faster way to narrow down all of the authors out there into the small percentage of them that are perfect for a specific reader.

 

10. Becoming the newest bestselling author.

If only!

 

 

 

 

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A Review of The Girls in Red

Book cover for The Girls in Red by BB Wrenne. There is no image on the cover. It’s simply bright red with the title written in a wavy yellow font and the author’s name in a smaller black font. Title: The Girls in Red

Author: BB Wrenne

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 3, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Historical

Length: 21 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Two girls enter the woods on a journey to visit their fiances – a short story, also available as part of the collection Fabulas Part 2

Review:

Content Warning: Arranged marriages, an animal attack, and a small amount of blood.

Danger lurks everywhere in the forest.

While astute readers may have already guessed which famous fairy tale this was based on, I’m going to do my best not to give too many clues about it for anyone who prefers to be pleasantly surprised. I honestly haven’t seen this chosen for many retellings over the years, so I was excited to see how the author would reimagine what was a rather straightforward and short tale in its original form. Despite the many changes over the centuries, errands are still part of everyday life today. This includes trips to see places or visit people you might really rather not be visiting, and that mild but persistent sense of dread is as relevant now as it was many generations ago.

The ending was what lead me to choosing a three star review. After a fast-paced and atmospheric beginning and middle to this story, it suddenly ended without resolving the main conflict. There was so much more the author could have done with this, especially given the source material and how common it is for women who didn’t conform to the cultural expectations of women in the past or of this genre as a whole to still find places to thrive in the centuries and the forests in which they happen to live. If the final scene had been developed more thoroughly, I would have happily gone for a full five-star rating as I was thrilled with what I was reading up until that point.

I adored the romantic subplot. Yes, it moved forward rapidly, but the author was careful to explain why Ru and Thalia, who had known each other a very long time, were only now beginning to realize the depth of their feelings for each other. Given the era in which they lived, it made perfect sense for them to take as long as they did to talk about their feelings, much less entertain even the slightest notions of pursuing them. Slow-burn romances make perfect sense in circumstances such as these.

The Girls in Red was a thoughtful twist on a famous fairy tale.

 

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What’s New in My Life Lately

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

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

The phrase “open to new opportunities” is written in chalk on a black chalkboard. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone celebrating it today!

Here is what is new in my life lately:

Festivus Geekiatum

Last October, Long and Short Reviews released a Wednesday Weekly Blogging topic about which new holidays participants would like to invent.

My friend Michael Mock responded to that question by inventing Festivus Geekiatum:

Festivus Geekiatum is a day to indulge your favorite interests. Work on that knitting project, watch that anime, re-read that favorite book, perform in — or attend — that one play. Reconnect with your hobbies, re-engage your interests, work on your projects.

I will be participating in this on February 26 and am talking about this in advance in case anyone else would like to join in on the fun.

Career Change

I’m gearing up for a career change and job hunting in the near future.

If any of my readers happen to excel at job hunting, interviews, or making career changes and have experience doing so within the last few years, advice is appreciated.

For everyone else, I’d love some good vibes and encouragement if you have any to spare.

It will be interesting to see how this goes.

Getting Back Into Exercising

I started feeling sick around New Year’s Day. My cough eventually lead to me developing costochrondritis, a benign but uncomfortable inflammation and injury to the chest wall. My covid tests were all negative, and I did have covid and flu boosters last autumn. Whatever bug I picked up in late December was not a fun way to begin this year by any means.

Exercise other than the occasional slow walk was really difficult because every sort of movement hurts when you have this condition: breathing too deeply, coughing, laughing, carrying anything heavier than a pound or two, sneezing, bending over, rolling over in bed, etc.

The good news is that this is something that generally heals on its own with rest, patience, and ibuprofen as needed. I am just now trying to slowly increase the speed and length of my walks when possible.

Not exercising at all for well over a month was a huge change for me as I was previously someone who enjoyed 30 minutes of formal exercise most days of the week (weightlifting, kickboxing, dancing, etc.) and then usually another 30-ish minutes of brisk walking that was usually broken up into a few minutes here and there as I walked to errands, appointments, and other necessities of life.

So I am really looking forward to being able to get back into my old workout routines. I miss them so much.

That’s about it for me at the moment. I look forward to hearing about what’s new with everyone else.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Chocolate


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Chocolate cupcakes covered in chocolate frosting and little white or pink candy hearts. While trying to decide what to blog about for this year’s Valentine’s Day freebie post, I took a look back at the topics I selected for it in previous years: Bookish Romantic Quotes, Conversation Hearts on Book Covers, Helpful Nonfiction Books About Relationships, and Books I Liked About Asexual Characters.

Yeah, so I am not exactly the most romantic person in the world.

What I do like about Valentine’s Day, though, are the chocolates and the sales of leftover Valentine’s Day chocolates that will be happening in about two days.

There is nothing like getting a little package of sweets for 50% off the day after the holiday! They somehow taste just a little better that way if you ask me.

Here are some books about chocolate that would make me hungry.

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1) by Roald Dahl

2. The Healthy Chocoholic: Over 60 healthy chocolate recipes free of gluten & dairy by Dawn J. Parker

3. Decadent Cake Ball Recipes: Pretty Little Treats for Many Occasions by April Blomgren

4. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury

5. Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl

6. Chocolate: A Global History by Sarah Moss

7. S’more Cookbook: Tasty Creative S’more Recipes by Stephanie Sharp

8. Best-Ever Book Of Chocolate by Christine McFadden

9. Chocolate-Covered Katie: Over 80 Delicious Recipes That Are Secretly Good for You by Katie Higgins

10. Chocolate Cookbooks for You 50 Valentine Chocolate Recipes Valentine Cookbook by Victoria Braze

11. Vegan Desserts: Make your own vegan desserts at home by Stephanie Sharp

12. Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover’s Soul: Indulging Our Sweetest Moments by Mark Victor Hansen

13. Hot Chocolate: Rich and Indulgent Winter Drinks by Hannah Miles

14.The Diabetic Chocolate Cookbook by Mary Jane Finsand

 

Yes, I had more than ten answers this week. This will help to balance out the weeks when I only have four or five answers. That’s how it works, right? Jana combs through all of our posts and averages out how many replies we come up with for her secret database or something? Ha!

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