5 Interesting Links for 03-22-2019

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Language (Society)

Kalahari Bushmen have a fiercely egalitarian society that is reinforced by their language patterns.

Technique (Writing)

Writing active characters is important, but character reactions should not be ignored. How a character responds to something outside of their control reveals the person they are in ways not always available with action. This article offers examples both of the problem when characters don’t react believably and ways to solve it.

Ageism (Discrimination)

An exploration of the societal and psychological aspects driving the persistence of ageism across cultures and in modern day.

Inspiration (Reading)

An interesting list of books for women’s history month that were all inspired by real women, whether Dutch artists in the 17th Century or World War II spies. I haven’t read any of the titles listed, but the editorial comments provided make me want to.

Metalwork (Art)

South Dakota-based artist John Lopez takes recycled materials and brings them to life once again. (Via Phoebe Darqueling, https://phoebedarqueling.com/)

Box Set 1 The Steamship Chronicles

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Down & Dirty by Rhenna Morgan

Down & Dirty by Rhenna MorganIf you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Men of Haven series for the underlying themes of family and doing what’s right. You might also have noticed I’ve expressed concern about the edge of risque behavior they mention but which occurs off screen. Well, that’s thrown out the window with Axel and Lizzy’s story.

I state this up front because I’m not the only one leery. I didn’t quit the book because Morgan is a talented writer, and she brings the emotional connections to life during those scenes. While Lizzy is introduced to this behavior in the book, Axel makes sure he has consent and takes care to confirm she’s still willing at all points. It also doesn’t go into any of the violent aspects beyond a bit of rope. It’s not my thing, but thanks to the writing, I was able to accept it was theirs even though the dominance play was very much front and center in detailed description.

Nor was this the only way Down & Dirty differs from the rest of the series. Instead of discovering Lizzy is in imminent danger and helping her solve the problem, the trouble rose from her past. When the psychological abuse became physical back then, her good friend Rex pulled her out, but the effects still linger.

What starts as a revenge plot turns a little more current as her ex-manager and lover tries the same tricks. Axel is not one to stand back and let this happen, but the brothers do their homework. They find a way to make the man pay not just for his crimes against a younger Lizzy but also those he continues to perpetuate.

While it is different in those two aspects, otherwise, the book holds to the same principles as the rest of the series. They have a family of choice that supports and backs them. This is true even before Lizzy is willing to admit she’s bonded with Axel because of her history with the ex-manager. The brothers even adopt her friend Rex because he’s as much or more her family than anyone with blood ties.

The mothers take Lizzy under their protection, attempting to make up for everything she’d been denied in her family life. Lizzy growing comfortable with female friends is lovely as is her acceptance of how she trusts Axel’s character no matter what appears to be going on. That trust is confirmed in the best way possible at the climax, solving the one niggling aspect of the series for me in a beautiful way. I’ll say only that accepting the friendship of the other women in the Haven group is one of many changes she makes. You must read the book to find out the others.

It’s a testament to the strength and complexity of the characters and the story that I enjoyed this novel despite it going a little beyond my comfort zone. Rhenna Morgan could have lost me here, but she has not. It’s a beautiful story that asks a lot of both Axel and Lizzy while giving the Haven family another chance to demonstrate how family should come together and do the right thing. They protect their own members, but also help any others affected by the same wrongdoing. The series holds true to its themes and offers clear examples of making the right choices even when they are tough ones.

P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No.161: Glass Blowing and Shaping

This video is a little longer than I usually put on here, but I think it’s worth the extra time. Rather than a quick glimpse at the process of glassblowing and shaping, you get to see a talented artist demonstrate the process from chalked outline to several beautiful glass creations. Notice how many times she uses glass blowing to augment the various steps rather than blowing once and the rest done with shaping tools.

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5 Interesting Links for 03-15-2019

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Novella (Fiction)

The Persistence of Blood by Juliette Wade is a deep dive into a culture driven by biology into immovable, harmful traditions and the story of one who can no longer stand silent.

Politics (Art)

The four craft artists chosen to participate in the 2018 Renwick Invitational all express political activism and community engagement through their works in startling ways.

Technology (Archaeology)

The use of LIDAR technology is uncovering the extent of a pre-colonial city in southern Africa and revealing a history between the 1400s and 1875 that has been overlooked.

Hula Hoop (Iconic Toys)

A dip into the history of the Hula Hoop fad in the United States and its lingering presence still today. How many of you have tried one out?

Metadata (Publishing)

The article offers a technique for streamlining the publication process by gathering the metadata required by each platform before uploading the title.

Trainee Twitter Sharable

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The Cinderella Countess by Sophia James

The Cinderella Countess by Sophia JamesThis is a lovely story with interesting characters and a well-seeded mystery. As the title leads you to expect, this is a rags-to-riches Regency romance, but it’s both more and less than that implies.

The story begins with Annabelle slaving over steaming pots…of medicine. She lives in Whitechapel, the poorer end of London, where she and her aunt provide herbal medicine to her neighbors and anyone in need. They are certainly not wealthy, but they are well-appreciated within their community and happy with their lot in life.

In comes Lytton Staines, the Earl of Thornton, drawn to her humble infirmary through rumors of her abilities and a desperate love for his younger sister who wastes away. Between his distaste for his surroundings and the pink silk waistcoat, he appears little more than a fop.

The author mentions Georgette Heyer as one of her inspirations, and that meeting scene holds true to the feel as a mix of disaster, good intentions, and instant attraction make a mess of it. Still, Annabelle holds her ground, showing her to be just as contrary, forceful, and highly unusual as Thorn finds her.

We have access to both their perspectives and so learn things are more complicated than they would appear on the surface. Thorn is not the dandy he appears but seeking solace in the arms of a mistress who enjoys dressing him far more colorfully than he prefers. Annabelle, for all her skill, is nervous of the gentry, a reaction encouraged by her aunt and the strange nightmares plaguing her.

As you can see, from the start we have layers upon layers, some unknown even to the characters seeped in them. The seeding comes into play because I was able to figure out the answers based on subtle clues, subtle enough I needed the confirmation of the big reveal and yet present enough to make me anticipate the answers. There are several mysteries, in fact, starting with the sister’s illness and ending with the last obstacle between Thorn and Annabelle stripping away in time for a satisfying happily ever after ending.

The ending is where the author differs from Heyer. We are present at the marriage bed for an enthusiastic but not detailed culmination of the passion they’d been struggling with from their first meeting.

I enjoyed the blend of strong friendships and the themes around responsibility. This story does not constrain itself to the glitter of society. Instead, it presents a fuller picture of both the lives of the wealthy, from parties to mistresses and gambling, and the darker underside of London through ruffians and schemes. One of the strengths is in how the darkness is not confined to the poor areas and neither is the good. Whitechapel stands by their resident healer, making sure she has the necessities even though they come from meager stores.

Two quick notes: The author uses British punctuation (and I presume British spelling, but it did not stand out to me as I read both). I mention this because US readers unfamiliar with the use of British quotes might find the single quotes around dialogue startling. The second is an interesting development at the end that might be a stretch for some, but gives me hope. You’ll have to see what you think when you reach that point.

Clearly, I enjoyed the read, the characters, and the deeper-than-surface description of London. These aspects provided a rich story for our enjoyment with hints of more to come and intriguing teases about the two books that came before.

P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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