5 Interesting Links for 08-14-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Cardboard (Art)

How Monami Ohno, a cardboard artist, found her medium is fun, and her artwork is amazing. Check out her Facebook link at the end for some in-process tips.

Gardening (Exercise)

This article by a man with Parkinson’s Disease targets those with chronic illness, but I think it can apply more broadly. He found ways to incorporate gardening tasks into his exercise routine, both overcoming barriers to daily exercise on the bad days and offering a warmup on good ones. His mental process is as important as the physical. Whether you suffer from chronic illness or just a sedentary lifestyle, physical activity at whatever level possible is crucial for overall health.

Firefighting (History)

David Kenyon of Company 21, an African American firehouse in Chicago, discovered the now iconic fireman’s pole. Learn how it came about and where the pole is today.

Companions (Pets)

This list of what animals pair well or poorly with a cat held a few surprises for me. Some were obvious, but I found the notes interesting.

Technique (Writing)

An author describes her stumbling blocks when working on a historical novel so you might avoid some of her struggles.

Secrets (The Steamship Chronicles, Book 1)
Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Health, History, Interesting Links, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Penelope by Anya Wylde

Penelope by Anya Wylde
The Fairweather Sisters, Book 1

This story is firmly planted in two common Regency tropes, that of love developing between the dour guardian and his charge and a country mouse let loose on London society. Rather than overturning these tropes, the book embellishes them with well-meaning carryings-on and humor. It’s hard to do comedy well, but this tale manages without either breaking the timeframe or depending on malice. I chuckled and laughed aloud many times, as did the characters themselves.

Miss Penelope Fairweather is a genuinely loveable person who tries her best to help everyone she encounters regardless of social standing. She has a fierce protective streak and little sense of her own limitations. With the addition of a hateful step-mother, Penelope could have become a tragic figure. While she has moments of sorrow, though, her innate sense of self allows her to turn even deadly situations on their heads and make lifelong friends.

Her attraction to the Duke of Blackthorne, Charles Cornelius Radclyff, is immediate, though her admiration of his handsome features is quickly dampened by his scowl. He’s very aware of his position and responsibilities, which were thrust upon him at a young age when his father died, and does not appreciate the arrival of a tsunami to disrupt his carefully constructed life. He also feels Penelope’s draw, but sees it as dangerous and does everything he can to oust her. The combined efforts of his sister, his mother, and an unlikely ally are necessary to keep him from sending their guest home forthwith. The grim duke has much to learn before he opens his heart to the loveable heroine and her goat.

Speaking of the goat, Lady Bathsheba does not see herself as an animal and acts the confidant for Penelope more often than not. The supporting cast grows quite large by the end of the book, some of them with interesting stories of their own and others coming from unexpected places. Each has a different agenda, and few remain unchanged by Penelope’s good nature. There’s the duke’s sister, Lady Anne, as an instigator; the modiste convinced to transform Penelope; the grandfather Sir Henry with his ancient mind fixed on long-ago conventions; and so many others to add color to an already bright scene.

We know from the start this will be a somewhat melodramatic novel as Anne wants nothing more than chaos to enliven her life. She certainly gets what she’s hoping for in Penelope. The book lives up to its promise of a madcap tale. There is a bit of scheming that goes awry, but for the most part, Penelope either doesn’t think things through or is incapable of avoiding trouble, accidental or not.

As a historical romance, the ending is set. But how it comes about is appropriate to their adventurous courtship and to Penelope herself. Nor do the dress and conventions alone make the book feel Regency. The way they speak in excessive analogy is also splendid. Add to that how some characters slip, revealing hints of more to come, and the dialogue is skillfully written.

This book starts with a rather traditional premise, but it is the details and the laughter that bring this story to life. Penelope is a well-meaning sprite of chaos bringing disaster wherever she goes. I needed this read. You should see my extensive notes, full of things I cannot mention because of spoilers but which were too lovely not to tag. The story might not be momentous, but it’s a welcome break that both maintains the time, and provides a rollicking adventure and tale of true love.

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things That Make Me Smile No. 223: Strumming on the Inside

My sister sent me down a YouTube rabbit hole recently when she shared a video of someone playing the guitar as seen from behind the strings. I believe I’ve posted one of these before as a smile, but if so, that was years ago.

This video caught my eye and ear. It’s a lovely melody, and includes both fingerpicking and strumming to demonstrate the various vibrations. Besides, the scenery is nice. Enjoy.

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Smiles | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

5 Interesting Links for 08-07-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Egypt (Anthropology)

For the longest while, assumption has ruled anthropological theory where artifacts are too fragile to examine physically. Non-contact scanning techniques offer information to replace educated guesses as shown at the Haifa Museum. The meaning of two miniature Egyptian mummies is being re-evaluated after undergoing CT scans as part of putting together a scan-enhanced collection.

Society (Health)

COVID-19 in the United States is less a common health crisis than a political statement thanks to how it was managed in the early days. This is never more apparent than in the mixed reactions to wearing masks. Nevada’s governor made mask wearing mandatory after this article came out, but the positions it explores are still evident regardless, both in Nevada and other states.

Amazon (Marketing)

Educating content producers on how to sell well has proved so lucrative that many regurgitate lessons from other self-pronounced gurus regardless of value. David Gaughran counters tales of the mythic A9 algorithm often said to govern Amazon visibility. He condemns those who mislead, providing research to back up his knowledge as intentional or unwitting scammers do not.

Closets (Organization)

A simple, but effective, decluttering approach offers hope for those who struggle with an overfilled closet like I do.

Inspiration (Technology)

While far from an exhaustive list, here are twelve modern technologies inspired by science fiction well before their time, either written or in film.

When the Shoe Won't Fit by Margaret McGaffey Fisk
Posted in Anthropology, Culture, Health, Interesting Links, Life, Marketing, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

This is a science fiction novel built around the multiverse theory. It jumps into an interesting explanation of how the system works from the start. That interest soon turns dark as the health and longevity differences found with economic disparity offers a rare opportunity to become part of the utopian city. Despite the hard science foundation, though, this is a novel about people, choices, and consequences.

The narrative voice is an odd, cynical monotone for much of the book as Cara, the main character, lives on the edge of two societies. She’s valuable for her disposability, or rather, the opposite. The multiverse rejects more than one copy per world, so when her double dies, ‘our’ Cara can then visit those worlds using a special machine. She lives in the city and has access to a citizen’s resources when she’s not transversing as she works toward earning a citizenship. But she doesn’t belong there, and while she reveals fascinating details, she’s set apart from them.

A literal wall divides this society with few exceptions, but besides some holdovers from early Ruralite religious beliefs, gender and sexuality are a spectrum. Racial disparity, on the other hand, is stronger when the city blocks all rays that would trigger melanin, making the distinctions hard to ignore. Sexism still echoes in Ruralite expectations and in the warlord’s treatment of his wives and mistress as well.

The city itself is a fascinating mix of utopian ideals and social failures. It offers health care, protection for those unable to work, fresh fruit for anyone to enjoy… But the real benefits are reserved for citizens, and the resources come from those exiled to Ashtown beyond the wall. The city isolates its citizens, rejecting touch and care as necessary while those outside the wall embrace it. A utopia for the few with strict social and emotional barriers blunting them from the reality of their faults. They are blind to what makes their city work.

We only glimpse the religion practiced by Ruralites outside the wall, but those hints are complex and fascinating. The funerary ritual is beautiful while the differences in lifelines across the Earths affect the different characters’ calling as much as anything.

The writing uses simple sentences full of nuance that reveal the complexity of a world struggling to survive after industrialists polluted and stripped everything of value. Nor is the lesson learned. The areas with damage sit outside the wall while the people with control of resources live within, paying those trapped outside to continue the stripping either of their Earth or another.

This is far from a simple narrative. As soon as you grow comfortable in what you think you know, another twist is thrown into the mix, making everything that much more complex. While such a pattern could have broken the narrative, this works because each twist builds on what’s been happening instead of tearing it down. The same is true for the foreshadowing. Seemingly unrelated mentions have a direct connection you learn later…and sometimes several connections.

Coming from the life Cara does, it’s little surprise she expects everything to be wrenched from her. Still, her character is more than a product of her upbringing as shown by her bond with Jean, her mentor at work and her teasing dance with Dell, her handler, when Dell seems to repel her advances. Nor is this a new aspect to her personality from her childhood bonds.

She doesn’t lie back and glory in the changes her low survival rate bought her. Cara is a person who acts, and traveling between the worlds makes her hyper-aware of her situation and that of others. She struggles with the questions of whether the quality of people buy their fate or the fate of people makes the quality possible. This book becomes not just a social, but also a philosophical discourse on the back of her questions.

The way each version of the major players (Dell, Nik Nik, Esther, and more) changes from world to world is fascinating. We learn some of the triggers provoking the differences or only uncover the consequences. Cara also changes as she observes or interacts with others. She’s affected by the new reality even when separate from it. The novel is a love story, a story of self-discovery, or maybe both.

This is not a clean, tidy novel, but it is compelling and fascinating. The story has violence, mind warping, and destructive behavior. It’s a powerful read without using complex language or tricky metaphors, so the story is approachable. That’s part of its strength where the narrative tone becomes another hint of things to come. There are twists at every turn, each one building on what you know but turning you in another direction, nor are the characters exactly as they appear. The Space Between Worlds will make you think, feel, and wonder. Well worth the read.

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

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment