5 Interesting Links for 04-02-2021

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Interactive (Art)

Japanese artist Sakura Hanafusa created an interactive art project for her 2016 graduation from art university to thrill cat lovers everywhere. (Via @womensart1)
https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/japanese-art-student%E2%80%99s-graduation-project-a-lineup-of-cats-adorably-asking-you-for-high-fives

Microbiology (Electricity)

Research into the Geobacter genus of bacteria has revealed a fascinating method of respiration involving the transfer of electrons through very efficient nanowire produced by the bacteria. This study offers hope for developments in environmentally friendly batteries powered by self-replicating and repairing bacteria.
https://www.livescience.com/electron-breathing-geobacter-microbes.html

Electric Cars (History)

With all the attention on electric vehicles as the path forward, it may surprise some to discover the electric car developed right around the same time as gas engines. Praised for their quiet and smooth motion from startup to driving, electric cars were the vehicle of preference for ladies. Gas cars of the time required a hand crank to start and let out clouds of noxious gas. (Via @steampunktendencies)
https://americanhistory.si.edu/automobile-energy-choice/electric-car-manufacturers

Fiber Arts (Interesting People)

Fiber artist Agnes Hansella, working with a team, created three massive macrame installations in Bali that are beautiful and impressive even in photographs.
https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2021/02/agnes-hansella-macrame/

World Building (Writing)

Sword fighting is more an art than a random bit of violence, but the specific language and physicality can escape those without direct experience. Christopher Buehlman describes how he learned to use a sword through theater and recreationist events. With family and friends active in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA for short) and live action roleplay (LARPs), I understand the value recreation societies offer writers. This holds true whether we issue a challenge ourselves or exercise our observation and interviewing skills.
https://www.tor.com/2021/03/24/the-pen-and-the-sword-learning-medieval-weaponry

These Vampires Don't Sparkle
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The Last Carolina Sister by Michelle Major

The Last Carolina Sister by Michelle Major

The Last Carolina Sister has a lot of favorite elements from the start. The animal rescue, a small town, and community are all things I enjoy. The book doesn’t stop there, however. It takes on two damaged characters and gives them another chance at life.

Family is a burden as well as a support for both main characters, their tangled histories having a direct impact on today. Meredith blames herself for how her mother abandoned their family when she was just a kid after she caught her mother in an affair. Things didn’t get better when the local famous artist, and her mother’s lover, names Meredith his daughter in his will along with his legitimate daughter and one other. We learn about this part in discussions and flashbacks because this is the third book in the series, but the consequences are clear. Still, the results are not all negative since Meredith gains two beloved half-sisters. Even that is tainted, though, because her real father and two brothers see her new connections as a betrayal.

If that isn’t enough conflict, Ryan’s father let his sense of inadequacy when compared to Ryan’s mother coming from serious money influence his children. Ryan and his sister grew up ashamed of their mother’s family. His father required them to succeed with no help and kept them distant from that side of the family. Nor has the way people react when they learn Ryan’s connections since he reached adulthood improved the situation. He can never know if someone likes him for himself or for the connections he refuses to use, and so keeps his family a secret.

You’d think with the above the story would have few positive family aspects, but there are many. Meredith’s half-sisters work to break through her lack of self-respect as does Ryan. They dismiss the past and point out all the ways Meredith makes a difference in the lives of folks around Magnolia. Whether it’s making a perfect connection between one of her rescues and a local, supporting those with a dream, or confronting animals abusers, the town of Magnolia knows they can count on her to be ready when needed. They see what she refuses to. Meredith is so focused on proving something only she doubts that she’s blind to the impact she has in so many lives. Nor does the family that raised her stay out of the picture. There’s growth on all sides.

We don’t see as much of Ryan’s family, but his connection with his sister, as complicated as that is, proves he is not as isolated as he believes. He needs to push aside some of those negative childhood lessons before he’s ready to accept holding himself separate is not what he wants. He’s a successful emergency room doctor, known in the medical community for his dedication, but few know the attraction is in little opportunity to get to know his patients.

Connection, whether with furry friends or humans, is a big theme in this book. Meredith buries her negative self-perception when she helps animals and allows herself to dream big enough to attract serious grant money. Ryan finds the peace he’s searching for at her shelter after being wounded and losing a friend when a gunman opened fire in his emergency room. He takes a while to realize Meredith is the cause as much as the meditative act of cleaning litter boxes.

A high school date rape in Meredith’s past makes her as reluctant to connect with men as Ryan is with anyone. Their relationship turns physical (open-door but low detail) long before they admit to needing more. They help each other heal, unable to believe they have the right to something permanent until it’s almost too late. The development of their relationship, and the healing their growth requires, happens right on the page. I loved how we see each step along with how their attempts to protect themselves keep getting in the way.

I came to love many people in Magnolia. Even those who appear only for a moment have personalities, while the story is grounded in our world through in-context cultural references. I enjoyed the interactions with various animals as well. The animals, largely goats and dogs, are critical to the plot as is Meredith’s Furever Friends Rescue.

There’s a lot going on. I’ve given you a glimpse of the book largely through backstory and the early chapters. The end comes a little abruptly, leaving me wanting to know more about the town and its people, but Ryan and Meredith overcome their obstacles in the best way possible. They earn their happily ever after, and we get to see it happen.

I’m thinking about finding the earlier two books as well as intrigued by the teaser chapters at the end of this book for the next Magnolia story. That, more than anything else, is a sign of how I’ve bought into the world of Magnolia and its people. I didn’t want to leave. It’s well worth the time spent.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in hopes of an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 248: Mexican Street Art Traditions

While this video belongs in my interesting links as much as smiles, I found the murals displayed beautiful, especially the indigenous art-inspired ones. The history of street art in Mexico, and its influence on U.S. artists, is fascinating. I believe we’re never too old to learn new things, and that’s what keeps us engaged with the world. This qualifies as a smile because it plays into the ever-learning focus.

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5 Interesting Links for 03-26-2021

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

Bias (Anthropology)

Anthropology is peppered with assumptions made when the anthropologist imposes their own cultural rule set on the evidence. In the last twenty years or so, gender differences have come under greater scrutiny with existing gravesite excavations revisited to gender type the occupants. This article looks at a specific dig but also points to efforts necessary in the future. (Via The Dig Site FB group)
https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/2018773849/many-early-big-game-hunters-of-the-americas-were-female-study

Glasswork (Art)

This exhibit site’s organization is a little hard to puzzle through, but the multi-page article about Marta Klonowska’s philosophy and approach to bringing animals out of the background is fascinating. Just skip below the bio which repeats on all the pages. To see examples of her artwork, scroll past the “next page” links for the article. (Via @womensart1)
https://www.porta-polonica.de/en/atlas-of-remembrance-places/marta-klonowska-my-glass-animals-open-new-reality

Psychology (Cats)

Four important ways having companion cats (two instead of one) in the house can benefit you and your furry friends.
https://www.worldsbestcatlitter.com/2016/03/4-benefits-of-adopting-two-cats/

Hairstyles (Fashion History)

Whether you’re an author, artist, recreationist, or just interested in what women looked like in the 19th Century, this graphic separates contemporary representations into tight year groupings. Both how much, and how little, the hairstyles and headwear changed surprised me.
http://bloshka.info/2017/06/12/19-headdresses-and-hairstyles/

Marketing (Indie Publishing)

Authors might not consider the possibility of selling their books directly to businesses when focused on finding a readership. This article addresses how to sell to a business in non-returnable volume, whether you are a non-fiction or fiction author. It gives creative examples to start you thinking about the possibilities. At the end, there is information about the Association of Publishers for Special Sales and their virtual conference if you want to know more.
https://blog.bookbaby.com/2020/09/sell-non-returnable-books/

Secrets (The Steamship Chronicles, Book 1)
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Chaos Wolf by Sheryl R. Hayes

Chaos Wolf by Sheryl R. Hayes

Jordan Abbey is very much the lead of this story, despite sharing the point of view with several people and technically falling under the command of more. She is neither arrogant nor aggressive, and yet, Jordan maintains a surprising amount of agency. She’s bitten by a werewolf, saved by a vampire, and inducted into a world she didn’t know existed, but is rarely cowed. Jordan is a forthright (what some call “smart mouthed”) woman with well-developed protectiveness over her chosen people, whether roommates or vampires. This clashes with two cultures built on centuries-old traditions, creating both tense and funny moments.

Jordan is also young and questing. She doesn’t lose that part of her, even as everything she’s known changes. This newly made werewolf doesn’t become all powerful either, though there are hints of more on that to come in later books if I’m reading it right.

The novel takes advantage of Jordan’s innocence to introduce us to the details of this paranormal world, but not in a heavy-handed way. I enjoyed her discoveries such as when she learns the werewolf lore through stories considered myth or fact depending on the speaker. Her ignorance might offer opportunities to share the cultures, but her questions break up sections with humor before they can become too dense.

Nor is she innocent in all things. Jordan may not be able to take her wolf form from the start, but she has had self-defense training (using keys through her knuckles). She even figures out how to lose a tail on her own before accepting Montgomery’s offer of protection. He has knowledge and abilities she does not, but don’t think her helpless or sheltered.

Montgomery and Thorn, the vampires helping Jordan, are cast as leads but act more like sidekicks much of the time. Thorn’s story remains a mystery, and backstory drives Mac more than anything else. Well, that and his subconscious. He refuses to see the parallels everyone else can. His instincts might be driving him towards something he believed lost forever, but he’s not ready to accept that. The threads involving these two largely resolve by the end, but there’s room for exploration if more books in this world follow.

I enjoyed the portrayal of the chaos wolf Rhys as well. What starts as a horror movie tradition turns out to be much more complex. Rhys is clearly the villain from how he attacks Jordan and others. However, as we learn about the werewolves, his circumstances became more nuanced. The way the chaos wolf fits in their structure, and how he thinks versus how they expect him to when he takes over the narrative, is lovely. It doesn’t make his actions any more acceptable but offers a further example of the world-building surrounding this story.

The writing has rough spots that snagged my attention, but the story kept pulling me back in. Beautiful details, like how the vampire servitors (not a new concept) interact within the vampire and human realms, made up for any stumbles. The mix of cultures (with both traditional and new-to-me lore), multi-layered characters, and a developing relationship between Jordan, Montgomery, and Thorn made me happy to stick around. I was sad to see them go. This world feels cohesive and strong enough to support many more stories, both within this group and greater than it.

Chaos Wolf has elements of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and some horror, though light on the last. These three genres come together into a compelling story with characters you learn to care about. At the same time, the novel doesn’t quite match any of the specific genres’ expectations. There is a detailed intimate scene with all three main characters that is supported by the romance build-up and important to the story. The villain is a window into werewolf psychology rather than there solely to create tension between the main characters. The cultural and political elements are more what I’d expect from an urban fantasy and introduce world-building elements I haven’t seen before.

I guess what I’m saying is walk into this story with an open mind (and I’m not talking about the LGBTQ characters). The story has a lot of meat in it to entertain and fascinate if you only let go of expectations and enjoy the ride.

P.S. I encountered this author at BayCon, the science fiction convention I have been to as a member and panelist many times.

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