Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Unique Talent You Have

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 sketch of a heart in an otherwise blank notebook Not everything in our world is poetic or beautiful by any means, but my unique talent is finding the poetry and beauty in situations that at first glance do not seem to have a silver lining in them at all.

I’ll give you all a few examples of what I mean.

Years ago, I needed to go through some medical tests for a potentially life-threatening health condition that I was ultimately found not to have. While the technician was performing the ultrasound and taking notes of what she was finding, I quietly came up with pleasant thoughts about how the thump of my heart on the monitor sounded like something you’d expect to hear in a submarine as it dove deep into the calm, blue sea.

When my spouse and I went through financial trouble many years ago and had no money to spare for frivolities of any sort, I made taking long walks my chief form of entertainment and imagined that all of the trees were whispering delicious forest secrets to each other as the humans passed by unobtrusively below. It was honestly just was much fun as going to the movies or buying junk food and other things we couldn’t afford!

More recently, there were some protests here in Toronto earlier this year that clogged up some of our most important streets in the hospital district of the city. I imagined the sound of their angry voices on megaphones and the incessant beeping of their vehicles passing down the street while on their way to their destination were a warning from some future version of Toronto where such things were now commonplace.

This isn’t to say that i ignore the very real troubles we all go through or expect other people to think about scary life events the same way I do by any means. I simply find it easier to deal with them if I can make up whimsical stories about them in my head once I’ve done everything I can to change the situation.

Why worry excessively if there’s truly nothing else you can do in the moment? I think it’s better to look for the good in those moments if you can.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Reasons to Take a Reading Break


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A few years ago, I blogged about the general benefits of taking a reading break. Today I wanted to take a different approach to the topic and discuss some of the specific reasons why it can be a good idea to stop reading or to read less often for a while.

Reason #4 will mention grief and Covid-19, so feel free to skip that one if needed.

A beautiful park filled with large, healthy trees that are brimming with green leaves. 1. Enjoying Good Weather 

Southern Ontario is a humid and often stormy place. That humidity translates into chilly winters and stifling summers, so one quickly learns to take advantage of mild temperatures and clear skies when they occur.

To me, reading is an activity that makes more sense when it’s -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) or 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) outside and it’s medically dangerous to be out there for long periods of time. If you’re lucky enough to have a balmy day in the15-20 Celsius (59-68 Fahrenheit) range, you’d better enjoy it while it lasts and go take a hike or enjoy a picnic or something.

2. Pursuing Other Interests 

I love my bookish and often nerdy interests, but that is not all that I am! It’s refreshing to switch between hobbies and interact with different social circles. Sometimes I also discover that there is more overlap between my various interests than I originally thought which is always cool to find.

3. Being More Physically Active

Yes, I know that some people listen to audiobooks while exercising, but that only works for me when I’m doing something like taking a brisk walk. I prefer to give my undivided attention to activities like weightlifting so that I can keep an eye on my form and stay focused on what I’m doing.

4. Resting My Mind 

This was especially true about eighteen months ago when a relative of mine caught Covid-19 and did not fully recover from it. (That is to say, they are still with us but have Long Covid now). Books can be a healthy distraction, but they can also be a little overstimulating when you’re waiting for news of even the smallest signs of improvement and do not necessarily get them.

5. Rediscovering the Excitment of Reading 

Nearly anything can begin to feel repetitive if I do it too often! As much as I love reading, taking breaks from it enables me to rediscover how exciting it is to crack open a book and once again anticipate what it will be like to discover all of its secrets.

 

 

 

 

A Review of Dare vs. The Doll

Dare vs the Doll: A not-actually-scary horror short story Kindle Edition by Si Clarke author. Image on cover is a photo of a scruffy little dog looking up with alarm at someone standing next it in rain boots. Title: Dare vs. The Doll – A not-actually-scary horror short story

Author: Si Clarke

Publisher: White Hart Fiction

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

Genres:  Horror, Parody, Humour, Romance, Contemporary

Length: 31 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Who expects a haunted doll to be such a nuisance?

When Dare’s dog discovers an abandoned doll on their doorstep, Dare assumes it’s nothing more than a lost toy… until it begins to talk.

After the doll offers up a string of bad suggestions and unhelpful advice, Dare is left wondering if the isolation of lockdown has finally proved too much.

Struggling to get rid of the bed-tempered toy, Dare has no idea that this not-quite-scary fiend will accidentally change everything.

With a dash of humour, this queer cosy-horror short story is a fun, quirky tale – perfect for readers who like the idea of being scared more than the reality of it.

Review:

Content Warning: One haunted doll. This was also technically set during a Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 or early 2021, but none of the characters were sick or anything during it.

Some problems are much easier to solve than you might think!

Dare was an amazing main character. I will leave it up to readers who have autism to comment on those aspects of this character, but I really enjoyed their matter-of-fact approach to any number of problems, from the sudden appearance of a rainstorm to the probably evil doll that they couldn’t seem to get rid of no matter what they tried. Honestly, Dare was exactly the sort of person I’d hope to have around in an emergency. If only all characters in Horror stories were this sensible and practical!

I would have liked to see the author spend more time on the parody elements of the plot, especially when it came to making fun of how many characters behave at the beginning of horror stories. Those were the best scenes in this short story in my opinion, and I would have loved to have more of them. The author did an excellent job of acknowledging the expectations of that genre while also showing a much more realistic reaction to learning that one’s dog has accidentally brought home a haunted doll. I simply needed more of these elements in order to give this a higher rating due to how important those themes were to the storyline.

The romantic plot twist was as unexpected as it was delightful. I rarely find stories that mix romance and horror together, especially if they’re about Queer characters. This is even more true when I narrow that list down to authors who have done so successfully for me as a reader. They are such wildly different genres that it’s pretty difficult to find the right balance between the lightheartedness of most romance and the heavier themes of most horror, so it was a great deal of fun to see how it happened here.

Dare vs. The Doll made me chuckle.

Stay Home, Stay Safe: A Review of The Machine Stops

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are also interested in participating this month, let Little Red Reviewer know about your posts if you’d like them to be included in her official roundups. 


Title
: The Machine Stops

Author: E.M. Forster

Publisher: The Oxford and Cambridge Review

Publication Date: November 1909

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 25 pages

Source: I read it for free on the UC Davis site 

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

“The Machine Stops”” is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster’s The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928. After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories.[1] In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.The story, set in a world where humanity lives underground and relies on a giant machine to provide its needs, predicted technologies such as instant messaging and the Internet.”

Review:

Book cover for The Machine Stops Here by E.M. Forster. Image on cover shows a big, red bow on an analogue clock. Who needs in-person contact when you have virtual gatherings?

There were some fascinating parallels between how Vashti had lived her entire life and what the Covid-19 pandemic was like for those of us who were lucky enough to work from home and order many necessities online. Vashti could summon anything with the touch of a button, from food to a warm bath, to an assortment of friends who wanted to hear a lecture on human history. She virtually never had reason to leave her home at all, and neither did the rest of humanity. It was supposed to keep everyone safe and content, and yet not everyone Vashti met was necessarily happy to live this way for reasons I’ll leave up to other readers to explore. What I can say is that staying home to reduce the spread of a pandemic is quite different from spending your entire lifetime in one room no matter how nice that room is. The various human reactions to them are similar, though!

The ending was confusing to me. I needed to google it to make sure that my understanding of what happened in that scene matched what the author was trying to convey. While I did find my answer, I do wish the author had been more forthcoming about what was going on there. He had several thought-provoking ideas he was working with throughout the course of this tale. All he needed to do was develop them a little more fully and I would have given this a much higher rating.

With that being said, I did think the conclusion was much more realistic than what typically happens with dystopian tales published in modern day. I appreciated the fact that the themes and hints embedded in earlier scenes were allowed to play out so naturally. While I did wonder if this twist was coming in advance, that was a good thing. It was nice to have a consistent experience even if it wasn’t something that most contemporary authors would do.

The Machine Stops was ahead of its time. Anyone who likes dystopias should check it out.

My Most Popular Posts of 2021

A drawing of a bar chart whose bars move up and down but mostly up.
Let’s pretend these are my proper analytics.

Every December I make a list of my most popular posts of the year. This is something I first began doing in 2017 with a roundup of my 10 most popular posts.

In 2018, I decided to double that number in response to my blogging friend Tom Williams doing the same thing. I continued that tradition in 2019 and 2020 and am back again today with this year’s entry.

This year’s list won’t be as accurate as it was for previous years because the Google Analytics on my site isn’t collecting information anymore and I’ve missed out on some data while trying to figure out why it stopped working.

What can you do? Nothing in life works perfectly all of the time, and I’m grateful for the information I do have about visitors to this site in 2021. Hopefully, my 2022 analytic information will be complete.

The other unusual thing about this year was that I blogged less often during it. I used to write posts on Mondays about fitness, speculative fiction, meditation, and other topics. This wasn’t something I had a lot of emotional energy for this year due to grief and other aspects of the pandemic, so most of my posts were of more structured topics like book reviews or responses to blog hops like Top Ten Tuesday (TTT) or the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge (WWBC). (Those acronyms are included below when applicable).

We will see if this changes next year.

With all of that being said, here are some of my personal favourite posts in no particular order:

. Search Engine Questions from 2020 

This is often my most amusing post of the year! People search for the oddest and funniest stuff online.

Man struggling to open a jar of pickles. The man is not wearing a shirt.  What I Read in 2020 

A Photo Essay Update on Damaged Toronto Trees 

How I Changed My Mind About Weightlifting 

My Interview at Ginger Nuts of Horror

My Goals for 2021 (WWBC)

What I Include In My Content Warnings and Why

 

 

And here are my 10 most popular posts of 2021 according to the data that Google Analytics was able to collect:

A cellphone. Someone has searched for Google Analytics in it’s browser. 10. My Greatest Weakness (WWBC)

9. Places in Books I’d Love to Live (TTT)

8. Colourful Book Covers (TTT)

7. Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (TTT)

6. Books I Loved That Made Me Want More of Them (TTT)

5. LGBT+ Book Quotes (TTT)

4. Bookish Gifs (TTT)

3. Books With Mountains on Their Covers (TTT)

2. Books I’d Gladly Throw Into the Ocean (TTT)

1. Books About Fresh Starts (TTT

 

I love that fact that Books About Fresh Starts was my most popular post of 2021.  May 2022 be a better year for us all!

 

No Space of Regret: A Review of A Covid Christmas Carol

Title: A Covid Christmas Carol Author: Evan Sykes Publisher: Junco Books (Self-Published) Publication Date: December 19, 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Retelling, Contemporary Length: 88 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb:   The 2020 Holiday Season might have been cancelled by this year’s super-villain, Covid-19, but fear… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Scariest Books I’ve Ever Read

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. I read a lot of horror before the Covid-19 pandemic began, but that changed as the reality of it sunk in.   Maybe someday I’ll be… Read More

Haunted in Quarantine: A Review of Safer at Home

Title: Safer at Home – a Ghost Story Author: Zoe Cannon Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: July 4, 2020 Genres: Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary Length: 41 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb:   Quarantined in a haunted house…​ March 2020. With the world in the grip of a deadly… Read More

A Photo Essay Update on Damaged Toronto Trees

Last year I shared photos from one of the parks in Toronto once a month to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is an update to two trees in that series that were badly damaged in a winter storm in early 2020. Click on February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October,… Read More