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About lydias

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

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Villains I’d Root for Instead of the Protagonists

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 topiary that’s been trimmed to look like a person. It has a big, round head and broad shoulders. Sometimes antagonists are more interesting than protagonists. I suspect it’s because, at least for some writers, villains have more freedom to say and do whatever they wish than characters who are supposed to set a good example for everyone.

Here are some villains that I liked better than the protagonists I was supposed to be rooting for in these stories and why I enjoyed them so much.

Spike from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

He was a creative, emotionally intelligent, and hilarious bad guy. I also enjoyed seeing his character development over the seasons as he slowly learned how to be a slightly better vampire than he’d been before thanks to the time he spent with humans he liked among other reasons.

 

Gollum/Smeagol from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels

As critical as it was for his gold ring to eventually end up in other hands for plot reasons, I felt terrible for Gollum when he was separated from his Precious. He’d lost everything else important to him in life, and the magical effects of the ring had warped his mind and body beyond repair over the many years he spent with it. The poor guy.

 

Wile E. Coyote from the 1950s children’s cartoon Looney Tunes 

I never wanted the roadrunner to be eaten, but I did wish that Wile E. could catch him just once!

 

The Blair Witch from the film The Blair Witch Project 

Think about it. The Blair Witch went off deep into the woods to live alone and would have been perfectly content to not have any contact with the outside world at all until the protagonists of this film decided to invade her territory and steal her possessions. This happened after the main characters had been warned by local townspeople to stay out of the woods, so it’s not like they were unaware they were wandering into danger.

While I certainly didn’t want anyone to get hurt, everyone would have been better off if this camping trip never happened. There was never any need for the Blair Witch’s privacy to be invaded, and I would have been annoyed, too, if I were in her shoes!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Petty Reasons You’ve DNF’d a Book Or Reduced Its Rating


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

The phrase Game Over is written in bright neon lights.

I will not be sharing the names of any authors or titles in this post as I don’t want to make anyone feel bad.

1. They didn’t know the difference between hay and straw. 

Straw is used for animal bedding while hay is used for animal feed. If an author tries to feed nothing but straw to their cows, the poor creatures will not receive the nutrients they need to survive and I will not continue reading that tale!

 

2. They introduced way too many characters in the first chapter. 

I get overwhelmed by these things. By all means have dozens of characters if needed, but give me some time to take note of who they are before bringing more folks into the fold.

 

3. There is a terribly judgemental protagonist.

Realistically flawed main characters are so much more interesting to read about than perfect ones, but I quickly lose interest in protagonists in most cases if their main flaw is harshly judging other people. This is true even if I happen to agree that X is generally a good thing to do or that Y is generally not a good thing to do.

I’d rather have more love and acceptance in the world and in fiction.

 

4. The plot includes a love triangle.

I’m completely burnt out on this trope.

 

5. Character names are difficult to pronounce due to inconsistent spelling or pronunciation rules

If their names have been spelled or pronounced in ways that do not make sense or vary a lot from one name to the next, that is not the book for me unless the author is doing it on purpose and clearly explains why there are no consistent rules about such things in that universe. This is something that happens most often in the fantasy genre in my experience. I wish it didn’t happen so often.

 

6. Driving or walking distances are wildly unrealistic

If your character plans to drive from one side of Toronto to the other in a couple of hours, especially during rush hour or a blizzard when traffic is painfully slow and driving time can be much, much longer than that, I will shake my head and decline to read any further. There is no world in which this happens unless you’re writing a Star Trek novel and there’s a transporter involved.

Toronto is huge and full of congestion and construction projects for most of the year. The rest of time, it is almost always snowing, sleeting, or raining heavily. Characters who wish to speedily reach their destination through my city should either travel at two in the morning in January when there is zero precipitation or avoid this part of the world altogether.

 

7.  Anyone other than an antagonist is rude to someone to the service industry.

There are plenty of other ways to show a character is having a bad day and not being themselves when necessary. Rudeness, especially to folks who are often treated unkindly in real life and who make far too little money for all of their hard work, is not something I want to read about.

 

8. The pet dies.

Fictional pets should be immortal if you ask me!

 

9. Too many sex scenes.

It’s totally fine to include them if they’re an integral part of the storyline.

I’d prefer to replace the rest of them with scenes that are funny, dramatic, or propel the plot forward. Alternatively, the book could also be just a little shorter and that would be perfectly okay.

 

10. Text talk.

Unless there’s an excellent reason for a character to write or speak this way, I’d prefer them to communicate in full sentences or something close to that. They can use as much slang as the author wishes (although that can make a book feel dated pretty fast if you’re not careful), I just want them to speak or write in a way that doesn’t substitute numbers for letters or shorten words for no logical reason.

 

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Enough Time to Think: A Review of Sands of Time

Book cover for Sands of Time: A collection of thought-provoking stories by Beatrice C. Snipp. Image on cover shows a patchwork assortment of squares in all seven colours of the rainbow. The colours are arranged randomly, and a few squares have exclamation points or question marks written on them. Title: Sands of Time – A Collection of Thought-Provoking Stories

Author: Beatrice C. Snipp

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 21, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

To anyone who might read this book. These few short stories are not written to entertain or pass away a short train journey. They are written to make your little grey cells work (Hercule Poirot). Hopefully they might make you think a little longer after reading. On time, space and human companionship to name but a few.

Review:

Content Warning: An accident resulting in blindness, secondary infertility, death, and murder. I will not discuss any of these topics in my review.

If you love stories that have morals attached to them, keep reading.

The blind protagonist in “The Smell of Death” discovered that they could smell death and predict in advance when someone was going to die. Just when I thought I had the entire storyline figured out, Ms. Snipp added a plot twist that made everything even better. While I can’t go into detail about it without sharing spoilers, I can say that it involved the main character discovering a new facet of their power and trying to decide what to do with it. What a wild ride this was, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

While I appreciated the brevity of them all, some of these tales were confusing to me due to how little time the author had to explain what was happening in them and what lessons she hoped the readers would take away from them. “Death So Near But So Far,” which followed four friends who reunited after the funeral of a fifth friend, was one such example of this. I would have loved to have more information about what was going on in their lives and how they had all lived to such ripe old ages.

As soon as I read the title of “Xenolith,” I knew I was in for a treat. That term refers to fragments of other types of rock that find themselves embedded in igneous rocks to which they should not be part of. I must be careful about how much information I share about the plot twists as this was a short piece, but seeing how the storyline quickly shifted to a talkative man named Eric who kept sharing nature facts with people who were terribly bored by that monologue made me curious to see what would happen next. The connection between the opening paragraph and the rest of it was as interesting as it was unexpected.

Sands of Time – A Collection of Thought-Provoking Stories was interesting.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Songs That Confused Me When I Was a Kid

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.

If anyone is interested in reading a great essay about how common sayings, phrases,  and even certain logos can be misunderstood, go check out Knowledge Is Power. France Is Bacon.

I normally avoid discussing sensitive topics like religion online, but I must bring it up today due to the sort of childhood I had.

A closeup photo of a mic in a mic stand on a stage. The lights from the upper portion of the stage make it impossible to see anything in the distance. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was a preacher’s kid and was homeschooled for the first several years of elementary school.  The combination of these two things meant that I knew very little about secular pop culture until I was about eleven or twelve and my parents began gradually relaxing their rules about music, tv shows, and films.

(They were less strict about books for some reason, but even there I mostly read the classics, Bible stories, the Inspirational genre, and fairy tales until I was old enough to go to the library with less adult supervision and, ahem, bend the rules just a little bit by borrowing children’s ghost stories and Choose Your Own Adventure books. 😉 )

Therefore, I suspect that my first two answers might not be familiar to some of you. I mixed it up as much as possible and included secular music, too, to increase the odds of someone knowing at least one of my answers!

Apple Red Happiness

Apple Red Happiness is a kids’ worship song about the Fruits of the Spirit, which are a list of virtues from the New Testament. They include love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

What confused me about this song were all of the food references that had nothing at all to do with the topic at hand. What on Earth did food have to do with being kind or peaceful? I couldn’t figure it out, so I was always left feeling puzzled and a little hungry during this song.

 

I’m in the Lord’s Army 

I’m in the Lord’s Army is a kids’ worship song about committing to being in service of God that uses a lot of militaristic imagery to get its point across.

There were motions we were supposed to act out at specific portions of the song. For example, we’d pretend to pull the string back on a bow and shoot an arrow every time we heard the world artillery or pretend to hold a bridle and gallop like a horse every time we heard cavalry.

Given the large number of pacifist German Mennonite relatives I had, this song also utterly confused me. When I learned what metaphors were, I concluded that this was a metaphor….well, at least until I learned about the Crusades and other holy wars when I grew older. Then it was back to permanent confusion.

As protective as my parents were, though, some secular music did seep through.

 

Kissed By a Rose

I believe I heard Seal’s Kissed By a Rose on a radio that was playing in a store somewhere when I was a kid.

It sounded a little medieval to me and was nothing like I’d heard before. I loved it!. For several years I assumed that this song was hundreds of years old and had only recently been rediscovered and recorded for a new generation.

 

Stop! In the Name of Love 

One of my elementary school classmates would randomly sing Stop! In the Name of Love by The Supremes when we were at recess. (Or maybe some other artist did a cover of that song that I wasn’t aware of?)

I had never heard of this group before and had zero cultural context to understand what I was supposed to stop doing, what love had to do with it, or what other rules love might compel someone to follow in order to avoid breaking anyone’s heart. None of it made sense, and for many years I assumed that kid simply enjoyed making up silly things to sing that weren’t supposed to make any sense.

It also didn’t help that he only sang those five words over and over again and only occasionally included the next five (“before you break my heart”).  Maybe he didn’t know the rest of the lyrics and was secretly just as confused as I was?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Unread Books on My Shelves I Want to Read Soon


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Four shelves of library books that are stacked neatly but with their spines facing away from the viewer. The shelves are labelled from 3B at the top left all the way down to 7C to the bottom right, although I do not know what those numbers and letters signify. This is going to be one of those weeks when I give more than ten answers. It will help to make up for the weeks when I fall far short of that goal.

As I’ve mentioned here before, most of the books I read come from my local library for practical, environmental, and frugal reasons.

Depending on how many ebooks my library has ordered, this could mean that I might immediately be able to download a book from them, be one of the first people on the waitlist for the next available copy, or, in some cases, have a few weeks or months to go until one is available for me.

I don’t mind waiting for books. It increases my anticipation for my next great read and helps the librarians show just how popular certain titles are. They are often able to order more copies if the waitlists stretch out so long that the people at the bottom of them can expect to wait for several months to years at the current pace.

Usually, the most popular titles either already have plenty of copies of them circulating or will soon see a huge increase in how many of them are available to borrow that will reduce my wait time from several years to a few months or several months to a couple of weeks.

Here are the books on my hold shelf that have long waitlists.

Book cover for Antarctica by Claire Keegan. Image on cover shows a photograph a white woman with long, wavy hair wearing a light summer dress with spaghetti straps on it. She’s crouching down and touching the water below her gently. There is a blue filter on this photo that makes everything look cold and possibly even icy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Antarctica by Claire Keegan

Waiting Since: February 20

Why I’m Interested: She’s on my must-read list. I love her descriptive writing style and realistic storylines.

 

Book cover for The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe. Image on cover shows a red sleeveless dress and two white sheets hanging to dry on an outdoor clothesline. There is a wicker clothes basket partially hidden by the dress and sheets, but with the wind blowing everything around we get a glimpse of it. The grass below is growing tall, and there is a thick forest behind this scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe

Waiting Since: March 5

Why I’m Interested: Canadian fiction often isn’t as well-advertised as all of the books published down south in the U.S., so I make a concerted effort to seek out non-American authors and stories as much as possible. This seems like a nice slice-of-life read.

 

Book cover for Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout by Cal Newport. Image on cover shows a painting of a pine forest with a river running through it. The land has been tinted pink by the setting sun filtering through the puffy white clouds in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout by Cal Newport

Waiting Since: March 20

Why I’m Interested: This is something I struggle with and hope to improve within myself.

 

Book cover for The Lost Sounds by Chris Watson. Image on cover shows a drawing of a brown bird that has a white chest. Its head is lifted up as if it has begun or soon will begin to sing. You can see a full moon in the background against the night sky. Why aren’t you sleeping, little bird?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Lost Sounds by Chris Watson

Waiting Since: March 26

Why I’m Interested: Birds are such fascinating creatures. I’m waiting for the audiobook version of this book so I can hear all sorts of beautiful bird songs from the U.K. that (I’m assuming?) we probably don’t get to enjoy very often here in Canada.

 

Book cover for To Slip the Bonds of Earth by Amanda Flower. Image on cover shows a painting of a white woman wearing a 1900s-style white blouse and floor length green skirt. She is pushing a bicycle on a dusty country road as her brown satchel hangs from the handle bars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. To Slip the Bonds of Earth by Amanda Flower

Waiting Since: April 3

Why I’m Interested: Did you know that Orville and Wilbur Wright had a sister named Katherine? I did not, but now I’m curious to read this cozy mystery about her. Is it at all historically accurate? Will there be airplanes in it? I have no idea, but trying new things is worth it in my opinion.

 

Book cover for Lewis Carroll’s Guide for Insomniacs by Lewis Carroll. Image on cover shows a drawing of a rabbit wearing striped pyjamas and standing up with a puzzled expression on his face as he holds a pocket watch as far away from his legs as he possibly can. He appears to be the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Lewis Carroll’s Guide for Insomniacs by Lewis Carroll

Waiting Since: April 9

Why I’m Interested: I sometimes have trouble falling back asleep at night and I love Caroll’s work.

 

Book cover for The Wisdom of Nurses: Stories of Grit From the Front Lines by Amie Archibald-Varley, Sara Fung. Image on cover is a photo of a blue stethoscope lying on a white surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. The Wisdom of Nurses: Stories of Grit From the Front Lines by Amie Archibald-Varley, Sara Fung

Waiting Since: April 9

Why I’m Interested: Some of my relatives work in the healthcare field. I have a great deal of respect for anyone in that profession and love dipping into memoirs and similar sorts of books about their experiences.

 

Book cover for The Laundryman’s Boy: A Novel by Edward Y.C. Lee. Image on cover shows a drawing of a black shirt hanging on a clotheslines in front of a red sky filled with yellow stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.The Laundryman’s Boy: A Novel by Edward Y.C. Lee

Waiting Since: April 17

Why I’m Interested: Mr. Lee is another Canadian author I’ve added to my TBR. The writing in the short preview I read was gorgeous, and I’m quite curious to learn more about the protagonist, a young Chinese immigrant who dreams of leaving his exploitative job and continuing his education.

 

Book cover for The Minotaur at Calle Lanza by Zito Madu. Image on the cover is a drawing of a Minotaur on the left hand of the figure and a human head on the right. The human’s face is shown in silhoutte, but the Minotaur’s face looked like a maze instead of having any discernible features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. The Minotaur at Calle Lanza by Zito Madu

Waiting Since: April 17

Why I’m Interested: This travel memoir set in Italy in 2020 sounds like such a poignant read.

 

Book cover for A Sweet Sting of Salt by Rose Sutherland. Image on cover shows a closeup of a person’s chest. The person has long, straight brown hair that is covering much of their chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. A Sweet Sting of Salt by Rose Sutherland

Waiting Since: April 17

Why I’m Interested: This is a title I mentioned in the Spring 2024 TBR List post back in March. The Selkie Wife is a wonderful folk tale, so I’m thrilled that I’m a little closer to (finally!) being able to read this retelling of it now.

 

Book cover for Native Nations: A Millennium in North America by Kathleen DuVal. Image on cover is a drwaing of two Native people. One is holding a fan made from bird feathers and the other one has a bird feather in their hair and is pointing at the sun above them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Native Nations: A Millennium in North America by Kathleen DuVal

Waiting Since: April 17

Why I’m Interested: When I was in school, I learned very little about Native American history before the arrival of people from Europe and other continents. I’m hoping this book will help to change that and fill in some gaps in my historical knowledge.

 

Book cover for Health for All: A Doctor's Prescription for a Healthier Canada by Jane Philpott. Image on cover shows a drawing of hundreds of people who have been arranged into an image that looks like two hands that are about to shake each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. Health for All: A Doctor’s Prescription for a Healthier Canada by Jane Philpott

Waiting Since: April 17

Why I’m Interested: Canada has Universal Health Care, but our system isn’t funded as much as it should be given our growing and aging population. I am so curious to read this doctor’s perspective on the best ways to ensure that everyone gets the healthcare they need and that healthcare workers are treated fairly and given the tools to succeed as well.

 

Book cover for Microskills: Small Actions, Big Imact by Adaira Landry, Resa E. Lewiss. There is no image on the cover. Microskills is in a large white font and the rest of the title is in a smaller yellow font. There is a blue background, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. MicroSkills: Small Actions, Big Impact by Adaira Landry, Resa E. Lewiss

Waiting Since: April 19

Why I’m Interested: I have seen some evidence of this working in my life with topics like setting fitness goals, but I want to learn more about it.

 

Wish me luck as I wait my turn for these titles! I’d love to hear your thoughts on them if you’ve already read them, too.

If you have a local library that you use, how long are the waitlists there for new and popular books?

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A Review of The Fall Of Denver – A Tribute Story to the Original War Of The Worlds

Book cover for The Fall Of Denver - A Tribute Story to the Original War Of The Worlds By H.G. Wells’ by Richard Paolinelli. Image on cover shows a drawing of one of the many-legged alien ships from War of the Worlds crouching over a farmhouse. It is trying to suck up the people living there into its bulbous head. The farmhouse is in a western setting. There are a few tumbleweeds and hardy desert plants growing, but no grass, trees, or animals to be seen. The scene is dusty, dark yellow, and looks ominous, even the otherwise soft and gentle mountains in the far distance. Title: The Fall of Denver – A Tribute Story to the Original War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Author: Richard Paolinelli

Publisher: Tuscany Bay Books

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Historical

Length: 44 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

The Fall of Denver takes place simultaneously with the events unfolding in England during Wells’, War of the Worlds. Doubtless, even as England was being invaded, so were all the other countries around the globe.In this story we will find out how the invasion of the United States plays out in general, and how it affects the men, and their families, stationed at a U.S. Army Fort near Denver, Colorado. For Major Daniel Wayne, an arrow in his knee has ended his career in the U.S. Army. Shortly after he arrives at Fort Logan outside of Denver, Colorado to hand in his retirement papers, word is received of an extra-worldly invasion of England. Before he and the Fort’s commander can begin to process this information, the first Martian cylinder lands to the east of Denver. Wayne is entrusted with the safety of the civilians at the Fort and in the surrounding area, taking them to the safety of the nearby Front Range even as the battle to defend Denver rages behind them. Wayne must keep the trust of his fellow officers to keep their familes safe, and confronts the ghosts of his own past, even as he longs to join the battle.

Review:

Content Warning: Death, disability, and a partial recovery from a painful knee injury. I will be discussing the last two in this post.

Women, children, and people with disabilities must stick together if they’re going to survive this war with aliens.

Some of the most interesting scenes in my opinion were the ones that explored Major Daniel Wayne’s career-threatening knee injury and how he dealt with the relentless pain and mobility issues that resulted from it. Living with any disability isn’t easy, especially at this point in history when there was less social support for people with disabilities and few if any accommodations for someone who found walking to be a struggle, much less anything more vigorous than that.  Regardless of whether you have personal experience with this topic or not, there’s something interesting to mull on here for everyone.

I would have preferred to see more attention paid to the romantic subplot of this tale. Because it happened quickly and under such intense circumstances,  I needed additional details about why the characters involved in it decided to pursue such things with each other while everything around them was falling apart. In no way was I opposed to these two individuals ending up together. They seemed like a great match, in fact. There was simply a lot of space here to expand the scenes that showed their blossoming romance.

With that being said, this was still a wonderful addition to this universe that I was thrilled to read. Learning about the alien attack from a different point of view showed me just how slowly information spread back then and how much folks had to rely on their own common sense and various life skills in order to survive when the military was being overrun and the federal goverment so far away that it could provide no realistic support for ordinary citizens at this time.

If you’re not already familiar with War of the Worlds, I’d recommend reading it before diving into this expansion of that universe.

The Fall of Denver – A Tribute Story to the Original War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells made me smile.

 

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Introvert vs. Extrovert – Which One Are You?

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.

A drawing of four different batteries standing next to each other. The one on the left is nearly fully drained, and has a red bar on it showing it desperately needs to be charged. The next two have two orange and three yellow bars on them respectively, showing that they are draining but still have some juice left. The battery at the left has four green bars on it and is fully charged. I am an introvert because my emotional battery is charged up by being alone.

When I was a kid, introversion wasn’t understood as well as it is today. (Or at least not in the rural areas I grew up in where extroversion was a strong social norm and you were considered a little odd if you didn’t fit into that box. Cities might have been different in that regard as one could pick from a much wider range of social circles in such places!)

There are still misconceptions about it, of course, but now I find that most people are totally understanding when I say that I’ve had a wonderful time at massive social event X but will be taking some time for myself the next day or two to recharge my energy levels.

With that being said, I can behave a little like an extrovert under the right circumstances. There are certain people in my life I adore spending time with and who drain my introvert battery much more slowly than other folks do.

These people tend to be quiet, gentle, and kind souls who are also fellow introverts. (I love noisy, boisterous people, too, but it’s easier for me to spend long periods of time with folks who enjoy some friendly silence for part of our hangouts).

Some of us are naturally pretty far on one side of the spectrum or the other, but from what I’ve observed the majority of people seem to have aspects of both extroversion and introversion in their personalities depending on how much socialization they have or have not been getting recently and what else is going on in their lives.

For example, are they currently dealing with an injury or illness that drains their energy? Have they recently had a big change in their life like moving? Are they celebrating something exciting like a promotion, new addition to their family (whether pet or human), or graduating from college?

All of these things and more can nudge you firmly in one direction or the other at least temporarily in my experience.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Like to go on Vacation With


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A pair of sunglasses sitting on a sand dune. The sun is setting in the background.As I’ve mentioned here before, visiting Prince Edward Island is my dream vacation.

My ideal vacation companions are people – or, in this case, characters – who are friendly, flexible, independent, enjoy the simple things in life, and are introverted or introvert-friendly. I’d like to have some time each day for group hangouts, of course, but I’d also want everyone to feel free to take a few hours to do something alone or with just one or two other people whenever needed.

Other than books, of course, I love nature,  food, history, and visiting old cemeteries, so most of the activities I’d suggest would revolve around these topics. Depending on the weather, we might visit the beach, look for interesting epigraphs at the local cemetery, go for a nature walk or hike,  take a tour of a historical site, or ask the locals about their favourite local spots to hang out that tourists might not be aware of and then see if those suggestions were as fantastic as I hope they would be.

If the weather outside were frightful, I’d suggest visiting nearby museums, bookstores, coffee houses, ice cream shops, restaurants, and/or libraries to whomever wished to join me.

Here are some characters I think would enjoy this minimalistic and laid-back vacation style.

1. Frodo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy

2. Eleanor Oliphant from Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Celie from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple 

4. Katniss from Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games 

5. Don from Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project 

6. Alice from Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love

7. Murderbot from Martha Wells’ All Systems Red 

8. Richard from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere 

9. Matilda (as an adult) from Roald Dahl’s Matilda 

10. Binti from Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti

 

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A Review of Confirm Humanity and Other Stories

Title: Confirm Humanity and Other Stories Book cover for Confirm Humanity and Other Stories by Ren Ellis. Image on over shows a drawing of a person with long, straight hair sitting on a banister and looking out at the cloudy, stormy red and yellow sky before them. You can see the bones in the person’s left arm and leg glowing through their black frame. Perhaps the bones are actually cybernetic? Or perhaps we’re looking at a sophisticated x-ray of this characters? It is unclear.

Author: Ren Ellis

Publisher: Port of Planets Publishing

Publication Date: March 27, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 44 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

“Ren Ellis’s Confirm Humanity and Other Stories is a collection…filled with questions, intrigue, tears, and hope. Ranging from familiar to fantastical, the settings and the characters are diverse. Readers will definitely enjoy the eclectic and fantastical stories in Ren Ellis’s Confirm Humanity and Other Stories , and the collection’s element of humanity will hit home, reminding us of the pivotal moments that define us.” – Readers’ Favorite ★★★★★ Confirm Humanity and Other Stories is a collection of twelve short stories by Ren Ellis. Primarily comprised of speculative fiction stories, this collection ranges from slice-of-life to the supernatural and beyond. Genres
This collection uses imaginary tales as a lens through which to see the very real threats and struggles of our time. Extreme flooding and Venice-like canals reshape the famous city of Paris in “Deluge.” The fairytale stepmother casts new light on old tales in “The Stepmother’s Story.” Monsters meet the Marie Kondo method in “Monsters Welcome.” Other stories explore the paranormal world of “Red Rain”; the cosmic courses of “The Time Garden”, “The Welkin Tree” and “Winter’s Last Breath”; the dystopian worlds of “Life” and “Recycled”; and cycles of hardship and hope that will resonate with adults of all ages.

Review:

Content Warning: Miscarriage, climate change, and unjust imprisonment. I will not be discussing these topics in my review.

This was like a sample platter of speculative fiction that included a little bit of everything to go around.

The tired stepmother of Rapunzel, Cindy, and Snow had a lot to say in “The Stepmother’s Story,” a modern-day twist on a few classic fairy tales. I appreciated the hard work she’d put into look after her stepchildren and thought it was only fair that her perspective of their relationships be given a chance to shine. This was a short piece that took advantage of every single word in it to paint a vivid picture of modern family life. It made me chuckle and was a good thing to read as I settled into this collection. I only wish the father had been given a chance to speak up, too.

There were times when I felt like these tales didn’t have enough in common with each other to be included in the same collection. They were all over the place as far as themes, writing styles, and messages go. While I certainly wouldn’t expect all or even most of them to repeat one another, it was a little disconcerting for me as a reader to leap from something lighthearted to much more serious and sometimes difficult themes just a few pages later.  This is something I’m saying as someone who has read, written, and reviewed speculative fiction for many years. Either approach is a valid one, but I would have preferred to have a better idea of what to expect next each time I flipped the page.

Many paranormal stories are – or at least try to be – frightening, so I enjoyed the humorous slant of the unnamed protagonist of “Dancing on Graves” finding amusement in watching her dead neighbours dance on their own graves after dark. This was another very short piece, but the power in it came from the single moment in time it captured and how the main character reacted to such a surprising and lighthearted event. The imagery in it was lovely, too, and I would happily read an entire book about these characters if one ever were to be written.

Confirm Humanity and Other Stories was a fun assortment of various types of speculative fiction.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Moment I Wish I Could Relive

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

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A photo of a soft pretzel. If I could relive one memory, it would be hanging out with my best friend Jill Scheiman.

Jill and I were inseparable in junior high and the beginning of high school. Both of us came from upper working class to lower middle class families, so we were used to having plenty of fun on a budget.

She loved music, sappy movies, and developing crushes on someone new every few months. I used to marvel at how easy it was for her to suddenly start liking someone because of how rare it was for me to do the same thing.  Her bedroom was filled with teen fashion magazines and home gym equipment whereas mine was filled with books and whatever secular music CDs I could afford to buy. I was quieter, more serious, and much less interested in romance as a genre or as a hobby than she was, but we both enjoyed finding the humorous moments in life whenever we could and talking about various nerdy things.

I wish we could spend another afternoon driving around aimlessly, going on the rambling walks we would sometimes take while we talked about everything, or enjoying some soft pretzels or slushies at the mall. We were both genuinely good kids who liked hanging out together. Giggling was about the most disruptive thing we could think to do.

(Well, other than the time that we toilet papered the car of one of our youth group leaders. With that being said, we also cleaned it all up afterwards, and the adults were amused, not annoyed, by our antics as this was many years before the famous toilet paper shortages of 2020 and they knew we didn’t mean any harm.)

They were never grand plans, but they were our plans. Even simple things in life are better if you have someone to do them with!

We mostly lost touch after she graduated from high school as she was a few years older than I was, but the last I heard about her was that she was married, had a couple of kids, and was studying to become a nurse. (She did not go straight on to college after her high school graduation, so this was later on in life).  I wish her and her family well.

But what I wouldn’t give to be a carefree kid with her again on a Sunday afternoon! Every few years I look her up online to see if I can find anything about what she’s up to these days. I haven’t had luck with that in a long time,  but I do keep trying. Maybe when we are old women we’ll have a chance to be silly again together. I included her last name in this post on purpose just in case she ever googles herself and stumbles across this message.

As an interesting aside, I recently read that today’s teenagers are much less likely to hang out at the mall than previous generations did. Some malls don’t allow unaccompanied minors to walk through them at all anymore, and other malls have gone out of business due to the Internet and cultural shifts. Almost anything can be ordered online these days, so plenty of shoppers of all ages have switched to that if they need a new book, t-shirt, or pair of shoes.

I wonder what Jill and I would have done if we were teenagers in 2024? Probably a lot of texting, social media stuff, and swapping memes, I’d guess.

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