Tag Archives: Pandemic

Side Effects: A Review of The Visitor

The Visitor by Mark Lawrence book cover. Image on cover shows a woman bent backwards with a mostly-sheer veil converting her face and torso. Title: The Visitor

Author: Mark Lawrence

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 18, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 48 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

A stand alone short story that originally appeared in Book 26 of the Wild Cards universe.

The only thing you need to know is that Wild Cards is set in our world, and an alien virus has been infecting people in rare outbreaks. It kills 90% of victims, makes ugly monsters of 9% (Jokers) and gives 1% random superpowers (Aces).

A very personal short story that I’m proud of and want to find a wider audience for.

This story is quite personal to me as my youngest daughter is severely disabled and I’ve attempted to give her representation in the Wild Cards world in a way that doesn’t simply overwrite disability with super-ability, but combines the two. A follow-up story, The Visitor: Kill or Cure, can be found for free on the Tor.com website.

By giving away this story for free I am hoping to interest new readers in the Wild Cards universe.

Review:

Content Warning: Pandemic (but not Covid-19), ableism, physical abuse, emotional abuse, attempted murder.

A strong imagination is a gift.

I was impressed with how seamlessly this book blended its science fiction and fantasy elements together. While the science fiction themes did appear first, it didn’t take long at all for that to change. The inexplainable things that happened to Angela, the protagonist, hovered between these genres, although they dipped into the fantasy explanations for how everything worked a little more later on in the storyline. Viruses can do all sorts of strange things to a person, so it made sense to me to leave plenty of room for magical or mythical plot twists as well as share with the audience what scientists had discovered about this plague. Who says you have to pick one answer over the other, after all?

It would have been nice to have more character development. Angela showed some promising signs of personal growth, but I found many of the supporting characters to be pretty two-dimensional. While I wouldn’t expect them to be as well-developed as they might have been in a full-length work, there was definitely room for improvement here. This was especially true for the care workers who mistreated Angela and the other residents of their nursing home.

Speaking of the main character, I found it very interesting to figure out what she knew about the world she lived in given how difficult it was for her to travel or move her own body. She was incessantly curious about the lives of her fellow residents as well as the lives of the workers who looked after them, and she did everything she could to gather any scraps of information that she might overhear from someone else’s conversation or a news story playing on the television. Some of the scenes explored the various types of abuse that are inflicted upon people who are disabled far too often. As tough as it was to read those scenes, they provided even more clues about Angela’s fascinated with the outside world and why she was so keen to learn more about it.

This is part of a series, but it works perfectly well as a standalone story.

The Visitor was a thought-provoking read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Your Favourite Theme


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Drawing of a hand holding on a piece of string that’s connected to the letter P in the word Hope. How can anyone only pick one trope or theme? I think I could write dozens of blog posts on this topic and still not run out of things to say.

Over the past two years, hopeful stories have been the ones that caught my attention most often for reasons I’m sure all of you can already guess.

Hope seemed like a good theme for a post, so here are eight hopeful books that I’d recommend from a variety of genres.

1. Becoming  by Michelle Obama

2. The Martian by Andy Weir

3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3)  by C.S. Lewis (The rest of this series is pretty hopeful, too!)

4. A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)  by Becky Chambers

5. Oh, the Places You’ll Go!  by Dr. Seuss

6. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again  by J.R.R. Tolkien

7. The Princess Bride  by William Goldman

8. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco

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!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wintry Gifs and Photos

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A snow-covered bench in a snow-covered park. I’m going to be achingly honest with all of you here. The winter holiday season is hard for me for a few different reasons.

One, I have seasonal depression that usually kicks in by early November when Ontario’s days grow short and our sunlight is weak and brief at best.

Two, I live thousands of miles away from the safe and loving relatives that I’d otherwise get to see during the various winter holidays we celebrate.  That homesickness is tough, especially since I haven’t been able to see those family members in a few years now thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three, I used to work in an industry that was extremely busy in November and December and have some bad memories of those stressful months that felt like they’d never end.

When you combine all of these factors together, I basically begin counting down the days until January 1 arrives as soon as the leaves begin to change colour. In the meantime, I am happy for all of you who enjoy this time of year and hope it’s wonderful for you.

What I really want to do for the next few weeks is curl up and think happy bookish thoughts as winter approaches. Maybe some bookish wintry gifs and photos will suffice? I will be including brief alt-text descriptions of everything in this post for readers who are sight-impaired or who can’t see the photos and gifs for some other reason.

 

Person reading a book while sitting next to a crackling fireplace.

Reading by a fireplace sounds nice.

 

Olaf making a snow angel.

So does making a snow angel. That always feels like it should be the beginning of a story to me. Maybe it’s because you leave behind such pretty imprints in the snow when you’re done.

 

Snoopy characters caroling.

I went carolling a few times with friends as a teenager. I might be too shy to do it now, although I’d happy listen to others do it or help pick out the songs! Once again, this sounds like the opening scene of a book. I’m sure the closing scene would involve the main character performing a solo or something similar.

 

A weeping willow tree covered in icicles and snow.

There is a certain beauty to seeing trees covered in ice and snow. It’s almost like seeing a poem come to life.

 

Stock photo of a gigantic stone statue covered in snow and ice. It’s sitting in a valley next to a small cabin that has smoke coming out of its chimney and one light glowing from a window.

And some of the winter stock images of fantasy scenes are delightful.

 

Person wearing a heavy winter coat and scarf carrying a mug of hot chocolate.

It’s also nice to be entering the tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages time of year. There’s nothing like sipping a cup of something warm and soothing while you read.

 

Snoopy blowing a streamer and saying Happy New Year.

I’ll end this post with a question. Is it too soon to start thinking about what to read in 2022? The new year will be here sooner than we might think!

What do you all think of the winter holiday season?

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Picture Books

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Candies made to look like a pumpkin and a ghost. Happy Halloween to those of you who celebrate it! If you live in a country where it is a big deal, I hope you find some amazing Halloween candy for sale on November 1.

I will be on the lookout for a bag or two of it myself in the near future. Do you think I’ll be successful?

As I’ve mentioned here before, Halloween is my favourite holiday of the year! Normally, I’d be sharing something like free horror stories, or spooky urban legends from Toronto, or free ghost stories.

This darn pandemic has sharply reduced my interest in anything that’s more than about 1% scary, however, so this year I’m going to stick to the light and fluffy side of this holiday by sharing some cute Halloween-themed picture books instead.

Hopefully, my response to this prompt next year will be closer to my usual patterns.

Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi Book cover. Image on cover shows an Asian child wearing a mask.

1. Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi

 

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara Book cover. image on cover is a drawing of several ghosts flying out and around a house. There is a young girl and a cat standing in front of the house smiling slightly.

2. Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

 

You Are My Pumpkin by Joyce Wan Book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a smiling pumpkin.

3. You Are My Pumpkin by Joyce Wan

 

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman Book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a child drawing on a wall.

4. The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

 

 

Halloween by Salina Yoon Book cover. Image on cover shows a pumpkin with the word Halloween carved as its mouth.

5. Halloween by Salina Yoon

 

Be Brave, Baby Rabbit by Lucy Bate book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of two rabbits wearing costumes and going trick or treating.

6. Be Brave, Baby Rabbit by Lucy Bate

 

Mouse and Mole: A Perfect Halloween by Wong Herbert Yee Book cover. Image on cover shows forest mice dressed as ghosts and other spooky creatures going trick or treating in the woods.

7. Mouse and Mole: A Perfect Halloween by Wong Herbert Yee

 

Candy Corn! by Bea Sloboder Book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a bag filled with candy corn.

8. Candy Corn! by Bea Sloboder

 

Celie and the Harvest Fiddler by Valerie Flournoy Book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a girl dancing in a field near a fence. A drawing of a man playing the fiddle is superimposed on top of her.

9. Celie and the Harvest Fiddler by Valerie Flournoy

 

Halloween ABC by Jannie Ho book cover. Image on cover shows various Halloween monsters sharing a bag of candy.

10. Halloween ABC by Jannie Ho

 

 

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

Let’s Talk About Vivid Quarantine Dreams

  As COVID-19 continues to dominate news coverage and social media feeds, it’s no surprise that the pandemic has also started affecting people’s sleep routines. Many people are reporting vivid, sometimes stressful dreams… From Why You’re Having So Many Weird Dreams During Quarantine, According to Sleep Experts When I first read that article last month, I… Read More

Surviving the Apocalypse: A Review of Patient Zero

Title: Patient Zero: Post-Apocalyptic Short Stories (Project Renova #0.5) Author: Terry Tyler Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2017 Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic Length: 120 pages Source: I received a free copy from Terry Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: The year is 2024. A mysterious virus rages around the UK. Within days, ‘bat fever’ is out of control.… Read More