Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Series I Wish Had Just One More Books in Them

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I have two answers to this week’s question. The first is from a classic series and the second is from a modern one.

The Chronicles of Narnia

A silhoutte of Aslan walking with the four Pevensie children, Mrs. And Mrs. Beaver, and the Mr. Tumnus the faun in lockstep behind him. All of these characters are from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When I was a kid, my uncle gave me his old, complete set of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books, and I reread those stories over and over again for many years. Can I assume that a spoiler tag isn’t necessary for a more than 70-year-old series?  Skip the next two paragraphs if you believe that this isn’t enough time yet to talk about how it ends.  😉

One thing I strongly disliked about the plot was the way Susan was treated. All of the other main characters end up in the Narnian version of heaven in the end, even folks who made terrible choices earlier on. But Susan is left behind in our world to deal with the overwhelming grief of simultaneously losing her parents, siblings, and a few dear friends because she was growing up and becoming interested in parties and makeup instead of reminiscing about her childhood adventures.

That ending made me so angry when I was a kid. Of course she moved on to other interests as she grew older. Literally everyone does that, and most of us tend to do it multiple times throughout life. It’s completely normal. If certain other characters could betray everyone in their group and still be forgiven, she should have been forgiven for what I see as a much milder offence that could easily be chalked up to her being a teenager who was trying to figure out what adulthood might look like for her and who would have almost certainly circled back to Narnia once she was a little older.

C.S. Lewis should have written one final book to redeem Susan’s character arc and give her the happy ending she deserved. If one of you invents a time machine, I will volunteer to go back to the 1950s and talk him into it.

Monk & Robot Series

I’ve discussed this solarpunk series by Becky Chambers here in at least one previous Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge post, but let’s dive into it again.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy are still the only two instalments of it. They follow a monk named Sibling Dex who lives in a utopian future called Panga where humanity lives in harmony with nature (and mostly with each other as well). People occupy some of the land, but the rest is left to grow into lush forests, marshes, or whatever other sorts of environments the local climate can support without any interference from humans.

A photo of an incredibly dense and thick forest that looks like it’s never had a human walk through it. The trees are growing so closely together that their leaves block out much of the sun. Some light trickles down into the forest, but the forest floor is almost as black as night. Sibling Dex breaks the rules of their society by venturing out into one of those dark, healthy, thick forests one day to see what they might find there.

I won’t share any spoilers about what might be lurking out there since these novellas are only a few years old, but I will say that I adored the world-building and character development of them.  They’re gentle but deep and so rewarding once you pause to think about all of the new details that slowly emerge about how nice it is to live in Panga.

We desperately need another instalment of Sibling Dex’s adventures in my opinion. There are still so many facets of this world that need to be explored. Honestly, I’m hoping there will be at least two or three more books to come without any time machines or persuasion needed, but even one would suffice!

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Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2023


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Photo of the hands of a white person holding open a book that is, curiously enough, completely blank on the inside! I’m narrowing this list down a little to new-to-me authors I read in 2023 that I have opinions about.

Sometimes I’ll finish a book with a completely neutral opinion about the author and his or her writing style. There’s not much to criticize or compliment them about, at least for my first experience reading them.

It almost feels like looking at a blank page. It’s not a bad thing by any means, just an unfinished one for now in my mind.

In those cases, I think it’s best to say nothing at all until or unless I try them again and have something more substantial to say about their work.

Here are some authors that I did think were worth mentioning this week.

1. Lynn Curlee

What I Read From Them: “The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir

Would I Read Them Again: Probably. This was written for a young adult audience, so I’d be most interested in seeing how the author writes for an adult audience next time.

 

2. Naira de Gracia 

What I Read From Them: The Last Cold Place: A Field Season Studying Penguins in Antarctica

Would I Read Them Again: Yes. She had a conversational writing style that worked well for readers who are not scientists but who are interested in reading about science. (If any of you are scientists, I’d sure like to hear what you thought of this book).

 

3. Hannah Wunsch

What I Read From Them: The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

Would I Read Them Again: Maybe. She seemed to be very knowledgeable on this topic, but sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of detail that was included. (This is something I’d like to revisit someday. I had a cold when I read it so it could have just been a Right Book at the Wrong Time sort of issue).

 

4. Delilah S. Dawson

What I Read From Them: “Bloom

Would I Read Them Again: No. It’s a me problem, though! This was a good example of what the gory side of horror can have to say about the world, but I’m simply too easily scared these days to enjoy such things anymore. If you love this sort of horror, please don’t let my squeamishness keep you from reading this. The writing itself was gorgeous.

 

5. Susan Albers

What I Read From Them: 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food

Would I Read Them Again: Maybe. Self-help is honestly not a genre I visit very often, but this book did have a lot of thoughtful suggestions for self-soothing techniques that don’t involve food.

 

6. Daniel Black

What I Read From Them: “Don’t Cry for Me

Would I Read Them Again: Yes. I need a sequel to this book written from the estranged son’s perspective immediately! Mr. Black, please make your fans ridiculously happy and show us what happens next in this family. (Hehe).

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Out of the Shadows: A Review of Apparition

Book cover for Apparition By Jacob Clawson. Image on cover is a black and white photo of a 1940s-style car sitting in an alleyway. Title: Apparition

Author: Jacob Clawson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 8, 2023

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 18 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Creaks and cracks clattered, shattering the air. Breaking through the darkness; they were trying to say something. Were they a code? Perhaps a message to somewhere or something? If it was a warning, what did it mean?
The city of London danced in laughter, sounds flourished; how alive it was. Though obviously unaware of what lay beyond in the harbor; creeping slowly, a rusty ship waited. Gliding through the murky water it made no waves, no sound. Yellow lights flickered inside with no life.
Three smokestacks rose from a deck of darkness, two broken in half. Shattered glass shimmered inside abandoned dining rooms and hallways in the moonlight. Old collapsed beds slept quietly inside passenger rooms. The ship cried out as it passed under a bridge, lights from the cars and lamps a-top flared as it crawled. The air grew thin and cold around the ship, freezing the top of the water behind it, crunching and popping as it moved.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder, Death

Decay is a necessary stage in the life cycle, but it can also be incredibly dangerous.

Xenofiction is one of my favourite little corners of the speculative fiction universe, so this tale caught my attention quickly. It takes imagination and courage to write non-human characters that do not think or behave anything like a person would under the same circumstances. I’d like to tip my cap to the author for taking risks with is writing and imagining what it might be like to be the city of London, a rotting ship in a pier, and a mysterious creature that stumbled out of the ship to see what it could find in the wider world. All three of these characters were creative and compelling.

The author warned that this was his first short story and that readers might find this story confusing in his preface. I agree that this was a confusing read, and I did find myself wishing that the paranormal themes had been explained better. For example, was the creature a ghost who suddenly found him or herself feeling restless and wanting revenge for being forgotten? Or maybe it was created out of the raw loneliness and decay of the abandoned ship? There were so many possibilities here, and I wish Mr. Clawson had spent more time giving his readers hints about how he’d interpret it.

With that being said, I really liked this tale’s message about the danger of possessing one small sliver of the truth but believing you know it all. None of the characters were aware of everything that was going on, and that put all of them in danger of either being harmed or of harming someone else. Humility isn’t something that’s explored as often in modern fiction as it was at certain points of the past, but it’s just as important now as it ever was. No one is omniscient (unless some gods happen to read this review), and everyone has blind spots that could make their lives difficult under the right circumstances.

Apparition made me curious to read more from this author. I’d like to welcome him to the experience of being an author and hope he’ll keep honing his skills for many years to come!

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Languages I’m Learning or Want to Learn

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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 pink mug that has the phrase “la vida bonita” written on it in a cursive font.

La vida bonita – the beautiful life.

I’ve been studying Spanish this past year and am more than halfway through the Duolingo course for it.

While I’m not fluent in it yet, I can have simple conversations in it and often understand the gist of what someone is saying in it if they’re not speaking too fast.

On average, I spend about thirty minutes a day practicing Spanish, but I’m hoping to do even more this year now that I have some of the basics down and don’t have to look up every single word.

Listening to music and watching tv shows and films from this language seem to be a logical next step for me.

Once I do become fluent in it, I’m hoping to learn French next. It’s one of the two official languages here in Canada, so being trilingual would open up a lot of doors for me both professionally and personally.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2023 but Didn’t Get To


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A photo of a huge bookcase filled with hundreds or maybe even thousands of books. The books are stacked in about eight different shelves that reach higher than most people can reach. You’d need a ladder to get the books on the top couple of shelves. It looks like a peaceful place to browse. I still have a number of books from my 2023 seasonal TBR posts left to read.

This is pretty normal for me.

Most of what i read comes from my local library, so I never quite know when they’ll get any specific title in.

They do a great job of adding new books to their collection, but no library can possibly buy every single book in existence or have enough copies for all of their patrons to read in the first week or two of release.

How are you all doing with your lists from last year?

Here’s what I still have left to read that I hope to get around to sometime.

 

Book cover for Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher. Image on cover shows a dwarfing of a curved and pointed axe whose tip is bathed in blood. One large drop of blood is falling off of the tip. There is a castle in the background.
Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher
Book cover for “You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories” by Octavia Cade. Image on cover shows about a dozen wilting sunflowers that are falling down or have already fallen down onto a wooden desk.

Book cover for Furies by Margaret Atwood. Image on cover shows a medieval-style drawing of a dragon who has pink wings, a green neck, a red chest, purple arms and tail, and a face that includes all of these colours in stripes down it.

Furies by Margaret Atwood

 

Book cover for The Mysteries by Bill Watterson. Image on cover is a black and white drawing of a person wearing a cloak as they stand outside of a cottage in a dark winter forest. The person has a frightened expression on their face.

The Mysteries by Bill Watterson

 

Book cover for The Wrong Girl & Other Warnings by Angela Slatter. Image on cover is a drawing of a short, red haired person standing in a smoky magical forest. There is a massive, about 15-foot-tall tree monster with glowing yellow eyes looking at the person as it slowly turns around.

The Wrong Girl & Other Warnings by Angela Slatter

 

 

Book cover for Like Thunder by Nnedi Okorafor. Image on cover shows a photograph of a beautiful African woman who has short hair and is wearing an intricate necklace. Her head is overlaid with another image that shows lighting striking a lightning rod on a building.

 

Like Thunder by Nnedi Okorafor

 

 

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The Best of Intentions: A Review of Abductors

Book cover for Abductors by Joe Vasicek. Image on cover shows a flying saucer flying in the evening sky above a rocky landscape. Title: Abductors

Author: Joe Vasicek

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 28, 2023

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 16 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Ever wonder what an alien abduction looks like from the aliens’ point of view?

The human was never supposed to see the space ship, let alone be brought on board. But when the crew’s bumbling incompetence gets the human caught up in the engines’ back-blast, and no one knows how to revive him, the ship’s engineer has to take matters into his own… appendages.

Includes a bonus story written with ChatGPT!

Review:

Content Warning: an alien abduction and a rectal probing (for medical reasons).

Too much curiosity can be dangerous.

The dialogue was pretty funny. None of the characters were expecting a human to be around when they turned on their spaceship, much less to become accidentally injured when the engine fired up. Their panic was totally understandable, and their wildly different ideas about how to treat the injuries were as touching as they were amusing. They only had a limited amount of time to make a difference, so every single moment counted as they quickly flipped through their options and picked what they thought would be the most helpful one.

There was so much more the author could have done with this premise. I found myself wishing he had dove more deeply into the alien crew, their relationships with each other, and why they were studying a species that they seemed to be so disgusted by. This could have easily been a novella at least, and it would have been stronger for it given how much information Mr. Vasicek had to lightly touch on or skip over until order to get to his punchline. If he ever decides to expand on this universe, I’d be excited to read more about it.

Some of the best scenes in my opinion were the ones that explored the vast cultural and physiological differences between humans and aliens. Of course it would be almost impossible to take care of a creature who physiology is wildly different from yours and who has no idea what you’re trying to do to him. It reminded me of how hard it can be to convince a pet like a cat, dog, or rabbit to take medication when they’re ill, but multiply that by a thousand and erase every ounce of information you have about how this other creature’s body works, which parts of their anatomy are sensitive, and how they might react to standard medical treatments.

I did not enjoy the bonus story that was included about a man who met a stranger in a dream and was convinced she was a real person from somewhere. It felt dry to me, and I struggled to connect with the characters. I hope that Mr. Vasicek will not continue to play around with ChatGPT or other artificial means of creating stories in the future. He has plenty of his own talent to put to use!

Abductors was a humorous take on the subject of alien abductions.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: New Words I’ve Learned Recently And Their Meanings

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I learned all of these words from the same Mastodon post earlier this month. Isn’t it nice when things like that happen?

Closeup photo of an assortment of Scrabble tiles. They are a random grouping and do not spell any words, but you can see letters like r, j, m, and s included in the pile. Respair

From the 16th century. It means fresh hope and a recovery from despair.

 

Gruntled

happy or contented; satisfied

 

Gormful

Sensible; not foolish, senseless, or gormless.

 

Ruthful

compassionate or sorrowful.

causing or apt to cause sorrow or pity.

 

Feckful

Powerful, effective, efficient, vigorous.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Goals for 2024


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

 

A photo of the word “start” painted in large white letters on an otherwise empty country road. The road is brown and dusty. The grass beside it on both sides is dead. The sky above is blue and partially cloudy. Here are my goals for 2024.

1. Visit coffee shops more often. There’s something so delightfully bookish about them, don’t you think?

2. Submit a Top Ten Tuesday theme to Jana that she ends up using. Yes, I’m reusing this joke from last year, but I would also be thrilled if it happens someday. Ha!

3. Meet more bookish people and maybe become friends with a few of them if it works out?!

4. Spend less time on the Internet. I’ve been using it heavily these past few years as it was often one of the few covid-safe things to do, especially when the weather outdoors was smoky from wildfires or icy because it was the middle of winter and even here in southern Canada it is not a tropical place then by any means. While I’m grateful for all of the entertainment the Internet offers, I’d love to find more ways to socialize in real life that are mindful of Covid precautions, too.

5. Read more books about history. I read very little of it in 2023.

6. Patronize independent bookstores. I didn’t do this last year but would like to try again this year.

7. Try some new caffeine-free teas. I love drinking tea while I read, so any suggestions are would be appreciated if you know of a good one.

8. Read more novellas and short stories. I love how quickly I can finish them.

9. Avoid reading when I wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I have trouble falling back asleep, and I’m wondering it that would be easier if I tried something other than reading in those moments.

10. Spend less time on social media. My hope is that I’ll be able to meet some more folks in real life if I reduce Internet and social media scrolling.  (This one is going to be almost as hard as cutting back on my Internet usage in general, friends! Wish me luck).

 

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A Review of Neuro Noir

Book cover for Neuro Noir by Al Hess. Image on cover shows a drawing of about a dozen different eyes that all have black irises and sclera. the one in the centre is red instead!

Title: Neuro Noir

Author: Al Hess

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 1, 2022

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Romance, LGBTQ+

Length: 42 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Prominent council member. Omniscient custodian of City Entry. Mystery book aficionado. As the oldest A.I. Steward existing within the network of Salt Lake City, Lysander has seen most everything.

When a death in the overcrowded and chaotic subway leaves fellow Steward Beatrice distraught and imploring Lysander to find a way to lessen the odds of it happening again, he’s happy to do what he does best: advise, console, and achieve solutions. But doing so means working with the human council member he absolutely, most assuredly does not have feelings for – no matter how perceptive and charming said council member is. And something about the issue in the subway is giving Lysander the itchy sort of dread he gets when reading his mysteries.

But Lysander’s life isn’t an impartial story plucked from his “to read” pile. As he closes in on the source of Beatrice’s problems, he realizes the situation is far more personal than he’s prepared for. If he isn’t careful, even the wisest and most experienced of Salt Lake’s Stewards will miss the clues, putting himself – and those he cares for – in danger.

This is a 10k word prequel novelette to the queer and cozy wasteland road trip romance, World Running Down.

Review:

Content Warning: mild profanity, threats of violence, and death

Customer service is the most important part of the job…even if you’re not exactly human.

To be perfectly honest, it took me a little while to figure Lysander out because of how different some of his thought processes were from the humans he protected on public transit and at certain entrances and exits every day. This was an excellent thing, though, because of course artificial intelligence wouldn’t react to certain stimuli like we would! Once I figured out why he was more bothered by stuff that many humans would ignore, his thoughts about his role as a Steward became much clearer to me. The process of sorting out his ideas was a rewarding one, and it endeared me to him. On a more personal note, I also enjoyed his reactions to the customer service elements of his position, especially when dealing with people who were not always necessarily kind or rational when dealing with him.

The romance was handled beautifully, and that’s something I’m saying as someone who doesn’t spend much time in that genre. I loved the way this storyline was slowly allowed to build up before it began playing a larger role in the plot. It suited the characters involved in it nicely and gave me plenty of time to understand why they were interested in each other and why they might make a good match.

I was also thrilled with the world building. Obviously, a short story isn’t going to have as much time for this as a full-length novel would, but the author did an excellent job making use of all forty-two pages to show what a city protected, maintained, and even run  to a certain extent by artificial intelligence might look like behind the scenes. It made me curious to see what World Running Down might be like, so the author did a great job of giving this reader a taste of his world here.

Neuro Noir was a wild ride that made me wish it wouldn’t end.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A  Celebrity I’d Like to Meet

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

A black and white photo of Fred Rogers that looks like it was taken in the 1960s or 1970s. He is smiling ,has a full head of hair, and is wearing a white shirt and tie underneath a cabled sweater.

Fred Rogers. Photo credit: Terry Arthur

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.

If Long and Short Reviews is secretly hiding their ability to bring back deceased celebrities, I’d love to meet Fred Rogers.

If Long and Short Reviews does not currently have any magical abilities, I’d pick Dwayne Johnson.

Why? It’s simple.

I prefer spending time with people who are kind and thoughtful.

From what I’ve read, both Fred and Dwayne are – or were – well-known for being genuinely good human beings.

I’ve read so many stories about both of them going out of their way to make other people’s lives better in both small and life-changing ways.

A photo of the American actor Dwayne Johnson. He is wearing a button-down blue shirt, a suit, and is smiling.

Dwayne Johnson. Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi

There are other celebrities out there whose work I’ve admired, but I have no idea what they may be like behind closed doors.

Maybe they’re also fantastic, of course, but all I know about them comes from what they’ve created and not what their personal lives may or may not be like.

Therefore, I’m going to pick people who have developed strong reputations as individuals who are a joy to be around every single time.

Life is short and sometimes difficult, so why not choose the most agreeable company you can?

Also, wouldn’t you love to see Mr. Rogers react to one of Dwayne’s comedic films? I think that would be delightful.

 

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