5 Interesting Links for 04-09-2021

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Surrealism (Art)

Russian digital artist Andrew Ferez brings to life surreal and fantastical worlds on his Wacom tablet. The link from My Modern Met offers more information about him and his techniques, but https://russianambience.com/bleak-surrealistic-paintings-by-russian-artist-andrew-ferez/ provides broader examples. Click the “Show More Pictures” button at the bottom twice to see all those included. (Via @steampunktendencies)

Protection (Batteries)

There are several techniques that can help extend the life of your device batteries. This article talks about a few of them. Always check the specifications for your specific device, though, as it may be designed differently.

Technique (Editing)

It’s possible to adopt the methods suggested by Marie Kondo, a popular decluttering expert, when assessing your writing. Her approach is all about keeping only what brings you joy, and the same applies to writing, with the focus not on you but on your readers. The article lays out specific editing targets similar to how she tackles an overflowing closet.

Fabric (History)

This is a fascinating article about a delicate ancient fabric that shook the world round with its translucency. The process to make Dhaka muslin is still in use, but British colonialism in Bangladesh wiped the muslin out of existence. This fabric came not just from a technique but also a specific plant and a coordination of efforts between villages and generations that is hard to imagine in modern times.

Fantasy (Short Fiction)

Walk into a world not so much different from our own, but where fantastic elements cross over to mundane concerns. This is a powerful story about expectation, obligation, and responsibility. Enjoy.

Trainee, Seeds Among the Stars, Book 2, Twitter Sharable
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The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Rising Tide has a large cast, and since most appeared first in The Stark Divide, I wished I’d read Book One more recently in the beginning. The feeling didn’t last, though, because there’s enough context to ground me, even with years lapsing between the books in their world time. Teens had grown up to start their adult lives, for example, while others grew old. I’m not mentioning names only because there are too many key ones.

While I soon reconnected with main characters in the first book, I thought the seeding of side characters who had bigger roles to play in Book Two is well done. A known character thinks about a side character from before, and when that character shows up in real-time, I have the background to place them.

And speaking of seeding, I figured out several big plot things based on the seeding but needed confirmation to be sure. I like that since it means the foundation is there and events don’t happen out of context. I also wasn’t always right about what would happen as some apparent seeds ended up going in different directions than I’d expected.

Detailed descriptions of mundane, if out of our ordinary, tasks build up the mood and sense of place in the book. This pastoral feel emphasizes the contradictions of life within a generation ship run by sophisticated AIs. Those born inside will have no real understanding of their world beyond the curved walls of Forever.

The book has overarching events, personal ones, and interim arcs to keep the story moving. The beginning already starts at a fast pace on these levels as one character is dumped, another is attacked, and so forth. Many of the situations are sticky or tense, but the thread that runs through the entire book was the first to scare me.

The relationship threads are a powerful aspect. Connections develop where none is suspected or believed possible while strong relationships endure despite challenges. This is as good a place as any to mention the breadth of both characters and relationships. The characters come from many backgrounds, genetic, geographic, and economic, while the relationships span the LGBTQ spectrum, asexual, and straight, with both good and bad examples of many. We also see familial ties born of blood or circumstance.

Nor are the characters idealized. Whether it’s mistakes made in the past or during the book, even the heroes are far from perfect, making connecting with them easier. The antagonist has clear motivations. His reasons swing close enough to the line of understandable to be uncomfortable, but his methods do not.

One of the important arcs is that of societal acceptance and treatment of difference. A small portion of the population can interact with the world mind directly. We know this from the first book, but it becomes more important after the first section of The Rising Tide. We see how those aware of this difference react in a variety of ways. The struggle to balance between recognizing the risks behind these abilities and yet not condemning those with them regardless of behavior is clear. I appreciated the discussions where characters think through their responses and what’s behind their reactions.

The first section reads as a complete story. There’s more to tell in the world and in the ramifications, but it has a solid conclusion. That’s not true of the second and third parts. Once I started the second, I had a hard time putting the book down to do necessary things. The book does a good job of blending big challenges with smaller crises to keep the momentum going while setting up the next big thing.

The way this society functions isn’t laid out like a map. Instead, we have a few people chatting here or something happening there to illustrate the myriad of elements necessary to make Forever viable. It made me aware on a deeper level of the spread of consequences when things broke down. I had bought into the story so deeply that I noticed many small world details, questioning them only to have the answer appear a few paragraphs later.

The same is true for the people. It’s the moments between the action as much as when they’re under stress where we learn about the characters through their interactions, even those reflecting poorly on the leads.

The story sucked me in. I didn’t want to stop reading. While there are pastoral moments throughout, the story builds momentum until it’s a rushing crisis by the end. The scope is simultaneously the size of their world, with monumental challenges and sacrifices, and personal ones. We see relationships come into being and grow that are as diverse as the cast, and reconnect to relationships and people we met in Book One. This doesn’t read as a middle book. It’s a complete story on its own while sharing the characters and world of The Stark Divide. That said, while a satisfying ending is a good thing, I’m glad a third book and possibly more exist. I want to check in on these folks again to see how things are going.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 249: Singing the Blues

A friend shared this blues video on Facebook, and it brings back the smoky bar resonating with music that’s classic noir.

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5 Interesting Links for 04-02-2021

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

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)

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.

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)

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.

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.

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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