Tag Archives: #Mourning

Andersen, H.C.; Collected stories (1822-1870)

Once upon a time there lived a man in Denmark called Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). He was born into poverty and its overwhelming harshness. Yet talent and luck brought him out of it.

Many have heard a version of “The little mermaid”. Andersen’s version is one that brought me to tears when I was young. It felt unfair to me, that she gave up so much and gained so little. Now that I am re-reading all of his stories, I’m not certain that was Andersen’s intent. “The little mermaid” is definitely about how unfair life is, how infatuation makes us do things with long-term consequences, but also about hope. Andersen was, according to those who write about his life, a deeply religious man. The idea that he hoped for something wonderful after death shines through his stories. His fears of the horrors that await evil people also comes through some of his stories. To avoid Hell, Andersen made his people go through terrible penances. “The red shoes” and “The girl who trod on the loaf” are two examples his penance type stories. These three stories, and many others, clearly show the position women held in Danish society.

Andersen writes about people who are idiots. “What the old man does is always right” is about a man who is dumber than bread. Yet he still gets out ahead. Irony and humour is strong in that story. Humour was one of Andersen’s tools. “The emperor’s new clothes” is a funny story that nails group effects and foolish traditions right on the head.

Fables were part of his repertoire. Andersen replaced people with animals, plants and inanimate objects. With them he gave us stories such as “The ugly duckling”, “The neighbouring families” and “The darning needle”. Magical creatures such as trolls,  dryads and elves turned up in his tales.

More than anything else, Andersen’s stories are about structural discrimination and abuse. He stood up for people who needed representation. As now, these differences were reproduced and supported by people who could be heard. People like Andersen are always needed. Most societies and cultures discriminate and abuse those unlike themselves. I say most, but I have never heard of any culture where fairness and equal opportunities were practised by either the majority or minority populations. Like society, most of Andersen’s stories have dark undertones and can reveal uncomfortable truths about ourselves if we are willing to look beneath the surface fittings of the stories.

Andersen’s 168 stories have been illustrated by artists such as Lorenz Frölich, Carl Larsson, Vilhelm Pedersen, Stefan Viggo Pedersen and Isidor Törnblom. Many of them have been translated into other languages. H.C. Andersen’s stories are available at Gilead, at H.C. Andersen Centret and in various other languages at Project Gutenberg.

 

Zoelle, Anne; The Awakening of Ren Crown (Ren Crown I) (2012)

Hiyo to all who read my blog posts,

Ren Crown: The Awakening blog tour

From March 28 – April 1, 2016

I was asked to join it as a reviewer.

First, formalities:

  1. Rafflecopter giveaway: This includes Amazon Gift Card, Special Edition poster and coloring book and pens!
  2. Anne Zoelle may be found on her websiteFacebook and Twitter. An excerpt can be read on her website.
  3. All 3 books in the series are on Amazon. The Awakening sells for $0.99 during the tour.

Now to the fun stuff. Let’s review The Awakening.

The Awakening should appeal to people who are into interesting magic systems and worlds. Ren Crown’s world is the one we inhabit (Layer one). A suppression spell has been cast on our layer keeping people from remembering anything to do with real magic.  At some point the Magic community had decided to split the mundane world from anything to do with magic. Unauthorized magic is immediately discovered and investigated.

The Awakening begins with a death. Florence (Ren) Cross and her brother Christian are breaking into the garage of the girl Christian is asking for a school dance. Just weeks are left of the school-year. Christian had been acting peculiarly a few weeks. This evening he keeps on rubbing his wrists. Even Ren had been feeling an itch under her skin and feels an urge to create her own paint.

Outside, the weather is acting strangely. As soon as the two leave the garage lightning begins a thunder-less dance. Christian is having cramps and sparks fall off his fingertips.

“A weird wave of electricity surged through my fingers where they touched him. I snatched my hand back, staring at the digits. The charged feeling dissipated within me, but increased in the air around us, swirling and darkening. I tentatively touched his arm again, and the energy shot into me once more. It was like focused euphoria.”

In the magic community Christian and Ren are what the call “ferals”. Ferals are children with innate magic who grow up outside of the influence of the magic world. While they are supposed to be protected by magic laws, having unregistered magic-users available is a dream come true for scruple-less magic users. Christian’s awakening works on them as bees to pollen. These magic-users  have the tools to drain all magic from a person, killing them. And so Christian dies and we meet grief.

At this point, Ren is still not aware of her own magic. Her awakening happens a little later, in her classroom under the eyes of their new art-teacher, Mr. Verisetti. What was supposed to be a dangerous yet happy event, is instead one of anger, tears and fear.

Zoelle writes about Ren’s grief in a manner that I think could help those who, themselves, are grieving or affected by the choices of others who are grieving. A consequence of a loved one dying may, sometimes, be that we, intentionally or unintentionally, make stupid and/or dangerous choices. Ren does and is not exempt from their consequences. Nor are her surroundings. Zoelle does not preach or judge. She just shows.

Not everything in the story is about Ren and her sorrow. There are strifes in the magic community that she and we find out about as we go. The magic school has students from all over the wizard community. Without preconceptions about this new world she is entering, not knowing who belongs to which family, the class system (highly stratified community) or what is possible, Ren finds herself stepping across divides that were thought unbreachable.

Without Christian about, Ren discovers that people want to be her friend. She is highly suspicious of some motives, but accepts any person with the same level of nerd/geek as herself.

Until she accomplishes her goal, Ren’s greatest fear is that others discover she is feral. Once her goal is over and done with, Ren wants to get the hell out of an incredibly dangerous place. Who knows. Maybe she will.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:

Helgadóttir, Margrét: The Stars Seem So Far Away (2015)

Cover artist: Sarah Ann Langton
Cover artist: Sarah Ann Langton

I am glad Ms. Helgadóttir asked me to review her book, The Stars Seem So Far Away. Its completion left me feeling weepy and I have been trying to figure out why that is.

How much loss can we endure before we decide that death is for us? I have never truly been alone. Somewhere, within my ability to contact them, have been people I have cared about. I am 50 and both my parents and all of my siblings are still fairly intact. My husband and my children are close, both geographically and emotionally, to me. In each of Ms. Helgadóttir’s stories we meet people who have, or think they have, lost all who they cared about.

When we meet Aida, she is in her early teens and on her way to becoming all alone once again. Her father and mother had died and her brother had disappeared during the plague. Another caretaker turned up, but he is also dying. We meet her grief and her decision to try to survive.

Could I keep from losing a sense of decency in my interactions with other humans in a world where those I encountered were likely to kill me? Nora did and her choice makes all the difference in a world where survival is, at best, a chancy thing. I loved her handling of the piracy situation that arose.

How do you reintroduce yourself to humanity if you have been alone for years? Bjørg has had to manage on her own with her isbos as her only company for some time. Her living conditions have been far superior to those of the other characters. Yet her mission, as set by her father and the Commander, has been traumatizing for her. Somehow she has muddled through it all. Finally, she is unable to do her “duty” yet another time, and that brings the soldiers of Svalbard into her life. Going from a solitary life to one filled with people (even if there are only four others) changes everything for her.

Loss of parents, siblings, children and friends are all losses that our characters experience. Loss of home and safety in a world where the only surviving animal seems to be human is another factor that adds to their burdens. Most plants are gone and the environment makes life difficult, or impossible, in most of today’s temperate zones. Ms. Helgadóttir’s future is entirely believable.

Tying her short stories together in the manner that she has was well done. Her prose is lovely and her portrayal of the Nordic is well done.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Stars Seem So Far Away available at Amazon here (UK) and here (US)


A copy was given to me by the author


Svalbard Global Seed Vault

2013: Melting Sea Ice Keeps Hungry Polar Bears on Land

Terry Pratchett: Long live the King. The King is dead.

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Yesterday, Terry Pratchett died, only 68 years old. All of 68 years old. I’m guttered.

Once Pratchett told us about his Alzheimer, my intellect told me we would only have a few years more of him. Now that the moment has arrived, those years seem too short for a person who became a dear friend.

I never met Mr. (Sir) Pratchett. Or maybe I did. His books, his documentary and his speeches have all made my days brighter. All revealed a side I, the public, could partake of.

When Snuff and She Wears Midnight came out, and I had completed the books, I remember just sitting there needing to digest the stories. They felt like a first goodbye from Terry. Then came the public appearances when people had to read his speeches out loud for him. Writing them weren’t the problem, as long as someone else could type his dictation. As long as another person could read out loud what he had dictated. Alzheimer had taken the ability to recognize physical objects.

I miss him. Already! Hopefully, the love of the world will bring some small comfort to his near and dear ones.

Artist: Aville
Artist: Aville

“Sometimes I get nice letters from people who know they’re due to meet him (Death) soon, and hope I’ve got him right.
Those are the kind of letters that cause me to stare at the wall for some time.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Art of Discworld

 

dePierres, Marianne: Chaos Space (The Sentients of Orion II) (2008)

The Sentients of Orion - Marianne dePierres
Cover art by Wayne Haag

The end of Dark Space has left Mira pregnant, raped by Trin so he could ensure his progeny with a pure-blood noble from Araldis. Rast states it so well

“Women get raped,” said Rast harshly, her pale skin flushed with emotion. “Sometimes in war, sometimes just for the hell of it. That’s what happens.” She gripped Mira’s wrist and pulled her close. Then she hugged her tightly for a long moment.

“We’ll get your world back for you, Baronessa. But tell me something: are you sure you really want it?”

Not only did Trin rape Mira and send her off-planet to get help. While staying behind he makes certain to besmirch Mira’s reputation by claiming that she has run off. For Trin does not want Mira to become more popular than he. After all, that might endanger his own shot at becoming Principe after the war.

War, ambition, greed, death.

Trin is more concerned with saving his men than with saving the population of Araldis. Cass Mulravey sees that he has no clue that if he wishes to rebuild his world, he will need women to bear children. The two of them are at odds through all of Chaos Space. Only Djeserit’s attempts to broker a peace between them keeps them from open dispute. Until Trin has managed to finagle the loyalty of the women who have followed Cass, he has to at least give the appearance of working for the greater good. Perhaps all of this pretending will turn to true behavior eventually???

We find out who Djeserit’s mother is. Oh, dear! Poor girl. None of us choose our own parents, but some of us are left with worse parents than others. Bethany Farr is no ideal mother. She seems to have repented of sending Djeserit off and now wants to save Djeserit and thereby Aldaris. But will Bethany carry through or perhaps only work towards the redemption of her daughter until her next “love” comes along??

Insignia, the biozoon carrying Mira, turns out to have an agenda of its own. The vessel has repeatedly tried to get Mira to understand that it does not care about humanesques in general, only the ones with which it can communicate. When its contract with the Fedor clan runs out in the middle of an escape, Mira fully comes to understand how true and real that is.

Mira is one severely traumatized person who is thrown from one chaotic episode to the next. Needing to make decisions pronto goes against her socialization, and tearing herself loose from that socialization is incredibly painful for her. In Dark Space Mira learned to handle a gun, something that was forbidden to the upper-class women. In Chaos Space she has to learn to see through the fallacies of her traditions. Having worked my way out of fundamentalism, makes it easy for me to relate to what Mira must have gone through. Being brought up in a society where women are taught from a young age that they are less and also taught how to internalize this tradition and accept it as right and proper makes the reach through the fog of indoctrination severely painful and self-actualizing. Mira is forced to grow once she makes the choice to make her way through her fog and grow she does.

Asking for help is more complicated than Mira had thought. Naively, Mira had expected that explaining her planet’s situation to OLOSS would bring OLOSS to the rescue. But OLOSS is concerned with what is in it for them and want to get hold of Insignia so they can study it. Having read something about the history of our own world this concern with profit in the face of aid is nothing new. In fact, I wonder if the need to profit from another person’s tragedy is embedded in the human psyche?

DePierres’ writing is as riveting in Chaos Space as it was in Dark Space. Again I found myself struggling to stop reading.


Reviews:


Chaos Space on Amazon US


My review of Dark Space

Nesser: Håkan: Männikska utan hund (Barbarotti series) (2006)

Illustration by Getty Images; Cover by Jan Biberg
Illustration by Getty Images; Cover by Jan Biberg

Menneske uten hund is very much a character driven story without much focus on Hollywood action. It hurt to read about the dysfunctional families with their roots in the couple Rosemarie Wunderlich Hermansson and Karl-Erik Hermansson who lived in the imaginary town of Kymlinge.

Karl-Erik was a bully. The way he mowed down any resistance Rosemarie might have to his desires was telling. His treatment of Robert when Robert had his accident was also cruel. However, what hurt most was the manner in which he made it so clear that Ebba was superior to her siblings, Kristina and Robert. Rosemarie seemed unable to do anything about the situation and at the time we meet the family it seems as if she even struggles to find it in her to love her children and grandchildren.

Claiming that a mystery ever has a happy ending seems folly to me. Nesser is no exception to this. Murder is the crime in Menneske uten hund and murder does seem to have greater consequences than most other crimes. Perhaps that has to do with murder being so final.

When Robert and Henrik go missing, the whole family struggles. Ebba the favored child has lost her own favored child. Falling apart was never part of her plans, yet that is what she does leaving Lars and Kristoffer trying to figure out how to deal with their own loss while holding themselves together for Ebba.

Kristina and Jacob’s relationship changes drastically and not for the better. At least not for Kristina. Kristina herself states that sometimes we follow through with our choices even though we know these could have disastrous consequences.

Although the general tone of the novel was one of grief, Barbarotti lightened the mood with his “deals”.

I loved this story and I loved the cover. Barbarotti and his colleagues seem real and I am glad my neighbor introduced me to him and the Hermansson clan.


Nesser has another character called Van Veeteren and these stories are also in English. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren lives in a non-existent country and can be followed through five stories.


Reviews:


Translations of Männikska utan hund:

Pratchett, Terry: Choosing to die (2009)

Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett

For me Terry Pratchett is the man. Discworld was my first meeting with him. Since then I have gotten to know him better through his cooperative work with other authors. This way he has spread my knowledge of other authors and interest in other types of science fiction and fantasy.

On his website I eventually discovered that Pratchett has developed Alzheimer’s disease. My parents now have friends who have had Alzheimer for quite a while and I have gotten to see some of the effect of that disease. They have also shared with me how these individuals show the symptoms of Alzheimer and how the person they knew disappears slowly but surely.

As late as 2014 May 13 Terry Pratchett writes the article Those of us with dementia need a little help from our friends in The Guardian. He has been able to place a rather famous face in the Alzheimer camp supporting the cause with both words and money for research.

Due to the nature of the disease Terry Pratchett has quite naturally had many thoughts about how it is going to affect him. When will the moment come when his ability to make choices for himself disappear?

BBC’s documentary Choosing to Die with Terry Pratchett is bound to make an impression on the viewer. I was touched by it and remained thoughtful a long time after viewing it.

Alzheimer’s is very definitely not the only disease that has a terrible progression. In Choosing to Die we get to meet two people who are choosing to die before their body gives in on its own to MS and ALS. My own thoughts on the matter are that I would very much like to choose to die rather than have to endure an awful ending.

The film seems to have disappeared from the net.


  • 2011 winner for Best Single Documentary at the British Academy Scottish Awards
  • 2011 winner for Best Single Documentary at the Royal Television Society awards
  • 2011 winner for General Education Broadcast Award
  • 2014 July 2: The embuggerance is catching up with me