Tag Archives: Books

Book Recommendations Based on Emojis

I borrowed the idea for this post from Ally Writes Things. Definitely do go check out her post to see which books she recommended. She came up with some very interesting ideas!

The premise was simple:

After tweeting about it, I waited for the responses to roll in and got to work.Whenever possible, I combined emojis in my responses to make things more challenging.

Berthold Gambrel requested a jack-o’-lantern, an alien, and a robot: 🎃👽🤖

 

Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns by R.L. Stine might be right up his alley for aliens and jack-o-lanterns. It’s a middle grade Halloween novel about sentient, shape-shifting jack-o’-lanterns who attack earth on the one night a year it wouldn’t be odd to see such creatures walking around.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is the quintessential robot story. It was about a cop who investigated a murder that may have been committed by a robot.  The 2004 film based on this book starring Will Smith was excellent.

 

A.N. Horton requested a skeptical emoji who was wearing a monocle: 🧐

Skeptical Music: Essays on Modern Poetry by David Bromwich seemed like a good match for this one. I was the sort of student who was really good at interpreting and discussing poetry. This is the sort of skill that can be taught and learned. Poetry is subjective by nature. You can have multiple right answers or end a discussion without finding at of them at all (for now).

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is my second recommendation for this emoji because something about it reminds me of Holden Caulfield. He was completely aware of his intelligence and honestly a little smug about it. I often wonder how differently this character would have been written if we could have met him twenty or thirty years later!

Emer requested an ocean wave: 🌊

The Deep by Rivers Solomon was my automatic response to this one because it was set in the Atlantic Ocean so far away from land that the mermaid-like characters in it barely even knew such a thing existed.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is another fantastic pick if you have any interest at all in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This book was written from the perspective of Mr. Rochester’s first wife many years before the events of Jane Eyre.

Tammy requested aliens, human brains, and strands of DNA: 👽🧠🧬

 

The Alien franchise of novels based on the  films are a nice combination of all of these emojis for reasons I’ll leave up to new readers and viewers to discover for themselves.

Species was a film and later a series of novels about a group of scientists who decided to create an alien-human hybrid after making first contact with what appeared to be a friendly alien species. It also used all three of these emojis in its storytelling.

An ereader tucked inside of a hardback novel. The novel is sitting on a wooden surface, possibly a table or floor.

I had such a good time putting this post together. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Which books would you recommend for these emojis?

If you’re not on Twitter or missed my tweets about this, leave one ore more emojis below if you’d like to participate. I’m happy to write another post on this topic in the future.

Happy reading, everyone!

Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories About Easter

A white rabbit sitting on grass next to coloured easter eggs.Two years ago, I wrote Are There Any Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories About Easter?

This is a follow-up to that post that has been slowly compiled over time.

Just like in 2018, I was interested in non-religious Easter stories that fit somewhere into the speculative fiction spectrum.

There were no other criteria. I was totally open to short stories, novellas, or novels. Something written in 1800 would have been just as welcomed as something that was published last week.

So it came as a surprise to me to see what a short list I came up with. The vast majority of the titles on this list are children’s picture books. This was after I trimmed out all of the storybooks about Cartoon Character X’s first Easter. I’m sure they’re adorable stories, but I didn’t want them to crowd out everything else I found.

Children’s Picture Books

These were the picture books that appealed most to me. My parents read The Runaway Bunny to us when my siblings and I were growing up, and it was lovely.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz

The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen

The Easter Rabbit’s Parade by Lois Lenski

The Easter Bunny That Ate My Sister by Dean Marney

Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

After coming up with these titles, I had some success with speculative fiction that was written for an adult audience. In order to add this section, I needed to loosen up my “no religion” criteria a tad. Both of their blurbs do make references to non-secular celebrations of this holiday, but they don’t appear to be written in a proselytizing manner from what I can tell.

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

The Circle of Six: Emily’s Quest by Dan Sanders

What Would You Add?

What books can you add to this list? I’d love to write a follow-up post if or when the speculative fiction community realizes how much fodder there is in Easter for all sorts of different tales.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll even write one myself!

Safe Haven: A Review of Everfair

Book cover for Everfair by Nisi Shawl. Image on cover is of a pair of hands holding a globe that's illuminated by gold light and surrounded by flying birds. Title: Everfair

Author: Nisi Shawl

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: 2016

Genres: Fantasy, Alternate History, Steampunk

Length: 384 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 3 stars

Blurb:

From noted short story writer Nisi Shawl comes a brilliant alternate-history novel set in the Belgian Congo.

What if the African natives developed steam power ahead of their colonial oppressors? What might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier?

Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Shawl’s speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.

Review:

Content warning: Racism and sexism. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Strap in for a wild ride.This book has a bit of everything!

Ms. Shawl did a very good job of explaining the political and historical landscape of the setting. I didn’t know a lot about how Belgium colonization of the Congo went so horribly wrong in our world, so I was grateful for all of the details the author provided about why Belgium made that decision and how they expected to make it work before she imaged how things could have turned out much differently for the Congo if they’d already had steam technology when this conflict boiled over.

The cast of characters was massive. Rather than telling this tale from the perspective of one or even a few different people, there were dozens of narrators and other protagonists to sort out as I read. Given the fact that each chapter was written in a form that was pretty similar to a short story and that previous characters often weren’t revisited until many years after their previous entry, I had lots of trouble keeping up with everyone and the plot at the same time. This felt like something that really should have been separated out into several novels or many more novellas. There was so much going on in the plot that nobody got all of the attention they deserved.

There was a list of characters, their relationships to each other, and approximately when and where they lived included before the story began. I was glad to have this information and would highly recommend taking a look at it before beginning the first chapter. As I mentioned earlier in this review, the cast of characters is humongous. Having a basic idea of everyone’s identity and when they lived is crucial in order to understanding the plot, and this list did help with that even though I still believe the plot would have been better served if it were divided into a series and no more than three or four narrators were included in each instalment.

Anyone who loves alternate history speculative fiction should check this book out.

What I Read in 2019

Black book with floral design at the topIn January of 2013, I began blogging once a year about everything I’d read that previous year.  This tradition began when my dad asked me how many books I’ve read in my entire lifetime.

I couldn’t begin to give him an answer to that question, but it did make me decide to start keeping track from that moment forward. The previous posts in this series are as follows: 20182017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

There are links included to the books that I also wrote reviews for here.

I had some trouble finishing books this year. There were so many more titles that I started but then gave up on. I think I was pickier about what I read over the last twelve months, and the lure of social media also made reading a little less appealing than it normally is for me.

If any of you have advice on how to get out of this sort of slump, I’d sure like to hear it!

Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs

“Living like Livvy: A Mother’s Story about the Girl Who Refused to be Defined by Rett Syndrome” by Andre Govier
“Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free” by Linda Kay Klein
“Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” by Camille Laurens
“Diary of Family G” by Ami McKay
“Shut Away: When Down Syndrome was a Life Sentence” by Catherine McKercher
“Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited” by Elyse Schein

 

Mystery

“The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters

Poetry

“Charlotte: A Novel” by David Foenkinos

“The World According to Fred Rogers: Important Things to Remember” by Fred Rogers

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood

Let’s Play White” by Chesya Burke

“The Lost Ones” by Anita Frank (review pending)

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

The Farm: A Novel” by Joanne Ramos

The Spellbound Spindle” by Joy V. Spicer

Sociology and Psychology

“Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths (and How We Can Stop)” by Bill Eddy

“Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them” by Tina Gilbertson

“Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and how It Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love“ by Amir Levine

“Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – And Break Free” by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis

An Imperfect Crime: A Review of The Ghosts Inside

Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside book cover. There is a fuzzy photo of an amphibious, bidedal creature on this cover. Title: Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside

Author: James Pack

Publisher: VaudVil

Publication Date: 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from James

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

These Dollar Tales feature one or two short stories from the forthcoming collection of fiction by James Pack titled Morbid Museum. This Dollar Tale is called The Ghosts Inside and features the original and extended versions of the story. Go inside the mind of a man who believes he is saving children by ending their lives. Will he kill again or will someone stop him from taking young lives?

Review:

Content warning: child abuse and the murders of children. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

This e-book contains two versions of the same tale. I found the first draft too short for my preferences, so I’ll be reviewing the extended version.

Not every serial killer is an evil genius.

One of the things I liked the most about this story was the fact that the antagonist behaved like an ordinary person. (Well, other than the murders he committed, of course). He wasn’t the strongest, smartest, fastest, or most cunning person around. If not for his awful hobby, he would have struck me as a perfectly average man. That was refreshing.

I found it tricky to keep up with the multiple narrators. It would have worked really nicely in a novella or novel, but the roughly twenty-five pages that the extended version had to work with simply wasn’t enough space for everyone to show the audience who they were and what they were about. Focusing so intently on the killer in the first version was a smarter decision. As much as I enjoyed many of the other changes the author made to the storyline once it was expanded, I do wish this part of it had carried through.

There were so many hints about the killer’s personality that I was able to gently tease out of the things he said and did. It was interesting to figure out what made him tick. While he wasn’t someone I’d ever want to meet on a dark street or anywhere else, I did like the way the author tried to explain why someone would commit such unforgivable crimes. This only became more true as I realized what the killer’s biggest weakness was and why it appeared to be something that he himself wasn’t necessarily aware of. I’ll leave it up to other readers to put these pieces together for themselves, but they did make for a satisfying experience.

Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside was much darker than what I typically read. I think it would be best suited for people who enjoy crime fiction or dark science fiction.

Choosing to Survive: A Review of Powdered Souls

Title: Powdered Souls, A Short Story: They Decided to Survive (Snow Sub Series Book 1) Author: Dixon Reuel Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance Length: 22 pages Source: I received a free copy from Dixon Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: People together in close quarters – fraternization naturally follows. A military VR trainer,… Read More

Life After The Handmaid’s Tale: A Review of The Testaments

Title: The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) Author: Margaret Atwood Publisher: Nan A. Talese Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Speculative Fiction, Dystopia Length: 432 pages Source: I bought it. Rating: 4.5 Stars Blurb: More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on… Read More

Autumn Worlds I’d Like to Visit

I’ve written about the winter, spring, and summer worlds I’d like to visit, so today I’ll wrap up this series by talking about the autumn worlds I’d spend some time exploring if I could. Some of these settings weren’t necessarily the safest places to visit, but I’m going to use my authority as the author of this… Read More