Tag Archives: Winter

Big Dreams to Achieve: A Review of Oli the Old Owl

Oli the Old Owl by Lee Keene book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a young boy standing in a forest behind two houses. He’s looking at an owl that’s sitting in a tree whose leaves are gone. It’s winter and snow covers the ground. Title: Oli the Old Owl

Author: Lee Keene

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 29, 2021

Genres: Children’s, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A story of loneliness and fantasy.

Imagination transmogrifying into Reality!

A secret memory that only the little boy will know!

A quaint memory that will stay with the little Sanford.

The Winter of 1998.

December.

Manchester, Tennessee.

7-year old Sanford ambles about….

An active imagination that takes him far and wide!

Questions for which physically, he will probably never get answers to……probably.

Could Sanford encounter a woeful creature with thoughts and abilities to share?

His imagination leads him amongst the bucolic grounds of Coffee County…..

Stories of the Old Owl, who woefully wasted his life, while wishing and thinking.

This Old Owl named Oli.

Oli hides high amongst the trees.

His fears have bedeviled him, and crushed his vim and vigor.

Oli wanted something that very few will achieve, but refused to change.

His insecurity enwreathed him mentally, and would not leave him!

How long can Oli hide?

If Sanford and Oli were to meet, what thoughts might transmogrify?

Review:

Winter is the perfect time to reflect on the past.

I admired the author’s willingness to experiment with children’s fiction. Just about every other book I’ve ever seen that was written for this age groups was a picture book, but this one contained no pictures at all other than the one illustrating the cover. It was also fascinating to meet a character who had not achieved the goal he set so many years before. Stories written for this age groups usually show characters succeeding at whatever they put their minds to do even if they have to fail a few times in the process. These were only two of the ways in which the author purposefully broke the rules, and I found his choices intriguing and refreshing. There is definitely something to be said for modelling emotionally healthy ways to fail to such a young audience.

There wasn’t a great deal of plot development or conflict in this tale. Sanford and Oli spent a great deal of time talking about their feelings and comparing Sanford’s plans for his life with Oli’s disappointment at how things had turned out in his own life. As much as I appreciated seeing male characters talk about their feelings so openly and freely, I did find myself feeling restless with how slowly everything was turning out. It would have been helpful if these two characters had faced an obstacle either together or separately that reinforced their earlier conversations. When combined with the lack of pictures, the slow pace would make me reluctant to read this to young children who haven’t recently dealt with a failure of some kind.

The fantasy elements of the plot were subtle and gentle. They made it all feel like a fable at times, although it didn’t actually seem to be based on any pre-existing fables or legends so far as I could tell. This pattern repeated itself with the handful of Christmas references that were thrown into the storyline but never expounded upon. While this wasn’t a Christmas story per se, it also reminded me of the many different types of tales that are told during and about that season. There is definitely something to be said for leaving so much room up for interpretation as this was something I could see myself recommending to people who don’t celebrate Christmas or generally read the fantasy genre. The little hints of those elements were enough to appeal to those of us who enjoy reading about such topics  but not so much as to dissuade other audiences from giving it a try in my opinion.

Oli the Old Owl was a thought-provoking read.

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?

Quiet Lessons: A Review of Foresight

Book cover for Foresight by Matilda Scotney. Image on cover is a planet with rings around it and three golden moons in orbit around it. Title: Foresight

Author: Matilda Scotney

Publisher: Off the Planet Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Length: 61 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

 

Starlight, star bright,
The very first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish, I wish tonight.

A metaphysical tale…

Review:

Not only are there two sides to every story, sometimes there are far more sides than that!

The subtlety of the first scene made me smile. There are precious few tales out there that are set in December but are purposefully not about Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or any other holiday that occurs during that month. I was impressed by the way the author captured the beauty that can be found at the end of the year, from the crisp, clear skies to the sharp nip of the wind as autumn slowly turns into winter. These descriptions might not seem to be related to the themes of later scenes at first glance, but give them time to grow. They have a message to share with any reader who is patient enough to keep going and to avoid making assumptions about what might happen next.

I would have liked to see more character development in this short story. It included such a large number of characters that it was difficult to get to know anyone well, much less to spend enough time with them to take note of the ways in which they were changing as a result of their experiences with the alien vessels. There was so much more space here to explore all of their personalities and backstories. If that had happened, I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating.

With that being said, I was delighted by the wide variety of perspectives the author included. I can’t say much about the alien vessels the characters were discussing without giving away spoilers, but it was fascinating to see how differently everyone reacted to them. Some characters viewed them as a threat while others had much more creative reactions to the idea that humans might not be alone in the universe after all. Absorbing everyone’s reactions to them was just as interesting as listening to the the reasons they gave for believing these visitors were anything from a security threat to a muse for creative expression.

Foresight is a must-read for anyone who appreciates thoughtful science fiction.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: The Best Parts of Each Season

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.

Can you guess which season I like the most based on these lists?

a chocolate ice cream in a cone held up against a blue and white sky

Summer 

Many different fruits and vegetables are in season.
Lots of sunshine.
The sun is still in the sky at dinner time.
Festivals and parades happen during the summer.
Ice cream is an acceptable dinner on a hot, humid day.
Nearly every day is a good day for swimming

 

A path through the woods in autumn. Red maple trees line both sides of the path and have littered it with their fallen leaves.

Autumn

Halloween!
Leaves changing colour are beautiful.
Candy corn is on sale
Some fruits and vegetables still in season.
Mild temperatures.
New seasons of TV shows begin.
peeled tangerine next to two whole tangerines

Winter 

No seasonal allergies for months on end
Clementines, oranges, and other citrus fruits are in season.
Most TV shows are still airing new episodes.

 

Close-up photo of cherry tree blossoms

Spring

The days get longer, sunnier, and warmer.
Mild temperatures.
Spring thunderstorms are awe-inspiring.
Flowers bloom and bring colour to the landscape.
Migratory birds and other species return to Ontario.
The first green shoots and buds appear in early April here.
All plants once again have leaves and/or flowers by May.
The first spring vegetables like asparagus are available again.
Strawberries, one of my favourite fruits, are in season at the end of spring.
The cherry trees blossom. They smell and look incredible.
One can go outside with a light jacket or even no jacket at all.
Parks that closed over the winter will reopen again.

 

A Photo Essay of Toronto in January

A weak January sun shining through bare tree leaves in a park. There is snow on the ground and an empty bench in the foreground. Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the twelfth instalment of this series.

Due to reader demand, it will not be the final one! Keep an eye out for another update on our two damaged tree friends a few months from now once we know how they fared throughout the winter.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, August, September, October, November, and December to read the earlier posts.

It was 3 Celsius (37 Fahrenheit) but felt like 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) on this month’s visit. Once again, this temperature was warmer than we’d usually expect for this time of the year thanks to climate change. Typical January temperatures here generally remain below freezing all month long even before windchill is factored in. The somewhat sunny sky on this visit was also a bit out of the ordinary.

If you do decide to visit Toronto in January, pack warm clothing that you can easily wear as multiple layers and bring a pair of slip-resistant boots along with the usual hat, gloves, scarf, and a warm winter coat. Frostbite is a real risk here on much chillier days than this one, and it can happen quickly on the coldest days.

The weather was decent at the park this time. We really got lucky this year.

Shot of a World War I statute in an urban park. The skies are partly cloudy and the ground is mostly dry.

There is beauty to be found at the park now when everything is dead or dormant if you have a poetic mind. For example, such blue skies are a rare, precious gift in January!

A muddy, half-frozen running trail in a park in January.

The running and walking trail is once again unusable. This was one of the driest sections, and even it was muddy and filled with patches of slowly-melting ice.

A dirt running trail covered in ice.

This is a more accurate representation of the state of the trail in general. It’s icy, slippery, and muddy in the few places where the ice has begun to melt. Even people who don’t have any mobility issues must take care when walking on it. Running on it is nearly impossible now. The few joggers I noticed had switched to running on the sidewalks instead.

A landscape photograph of an urban park in January. Snow covers part, but not all, of the grass.

Some days are much snowier and slipperier than this one was! It’s common to see layers of snow and ice on all surfaces now. We were lucky to have mostly dry sidewalks on this particular day.

The snow is gorgeous when it sparkles in the winter sunlight in those moments, but anyone could easily slip and fall on the ice that is often hidden beneath all of that enticing snow.

There are other dangers in January park visits as well. We saw dozens of other visitors this time due to the nice weather, but this area can be isolated on colder, wetter days. Speaking as a woman here, I wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting the park alone then. This is a very safe area of the city in general, but it’s far enough away from busier streets that finding help could be a little tricky if I slipped on the ice and got injured or if a stranger tried to harm me.

Do keep these things in mind and be cautious if you’re ever in southern Ontario in the dead of winter and decide to visit any of our lovely parks. The chances of anyone getting hurt are low, but it’s always best to be prepared.

A black squirrel running on a patch of dead grass in January.

In happier news, the squirrels were running around doing cheerful rodent things on this warm winter day.

A mostly melted snowman in a park.

And I wonder if this hunk of melting snow was once a snow person?

Snow lying on the grass in an urban park.

There certainly would have been enough snow for that before it started melting.

A skyward shot of bare tree branches against an overcast but somewhat blue sky

This scene is virtually identical to the one from last month.

A sapling that is still holding onto its brown, crunchy leaves in January

This one also seems to be the same as it was last month. It’s interesting to see leaves, brown and dead as they may be, in the middle of winter.

A petite woman bundled up for winter and standing next to a large tree
Yours truly all bundled up for winter. Tree for scale.

 

Another big change from our last visit had to do with how many layers I needed to be comfortable outside. I wore everything recommended at the beginning of this post other than the boots. I run a little cold in general, but boots would have been a bit much for the dry sidewalks I knew I’d be sticking to for the most part. People whose bodies run hot and who love winter might have been able to do without the scarf and gloves on this particular day if they don’t linger too long.

Face masks aren’t mandatory outdoors in Toronto, but they do help keep you a little warmer when that icy cold wind blows. I also find it easier to keep my mask on than to fiddle with it before going indoors again. The Covid-19 numbers have skyrocketed here this winter, so that’s yet another reason to be cautious and leave the mask on until I’m safe at home again.

A tree that lost half of its branches in a 2020 winter storm. It is now dormant for the winter of 2021.

Here is our tree friend who lost half of its branches in a storm from last winter.

A tree that lost a third of its branches in a winter storm last year.

Here is our tree friend who lost a third of its branches in a storm from last winter. This part of the park has many massive trees in it and therefore seems to hold onto snow a little better than other sections.

It’s still too soon to say how either of them are faring this winter. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

A stone walkway in a park. there is one evergreen and multiple deciduous trees lining it.

Finally, here is what the walkway looks like on a warm January day when most of the ice has had a chance to melt. The evergreen trees that provides such nice shade in the summer can keep this area slippery for quite a while after big winter storms, but it was pretty walkable when I visited this time.

Thank you all for taking these virtual walks with me over the last eleven months! You’ve now seen the park during every month of the year.

We will visit it one final time this spring when I check in on how those two damaged trees survived this winter after being so terribly damaged last winter.

Be well, friends.

Mindfulness During a Snowstorm

January is the quietest time of year in Ontario. Life slows down here quickly once this month begins.Not only have the majority of the big winter holidays have passed by, the weather itself isn’t terribly conducive to driving anywhere even before this pandemic began. The overnight temperature can dip to -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) or… Read More

A Photo Essay of Toronto in December

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the eleventh instalment of this series. Click on February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November to read the earlier posts. Other than the amount of snow on the… Read More

Why You Should Commit to Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution Today

I find it interesting how we are all encouraged to over-indulge during multiple holidays from October to December only to be bombarded with weight loss and fitness ads come January 1. To me, it makes so much more sense to continue on with the same healthy habits I follow the other nine months of the… Read More

Why I’m Starting My Light Therapy Sessions Earlier This Year

I am not a doctor, and this post is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider to see if light therapy lamps are right for you. Last winter I talked about how much light therapy helps me with my winter blues. When I stopped using it during our… Read More

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen.… Read More