Friday, 22 September 2017

Toronto's New Curiosity Shop: Curiosa

In August I saw an article posted on facebook about a new 'Harry Potter inspired store' opening in Toronto: Curiosa. It's in Parkdale, an area of the city I don't normally go to, but I was heading to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), which just happened to be in walking distance.

Curiosa isn't a Harry Potter store, a fact that seems to be disappointing some visitors according to a post by management on their facebook page (at the time I'm writing this, the post I'm referring to is pinned to the top of their facebook page).

I almost didn't go to the store. While I am a Harry Potter fan, I don't need any more stuff for the franchise. But I started looking more closely at the photos online about the store and noticed a nocturnal postcard in the same set as the working astrolabe postcard I got in Spain a decade ago. Since I was going to be nearby anyway, I decided to go for a look. (And my apologies for the poor photo quality/blurriness. I had my small, not very good camera with me.)

Turns out my biggest regret of going to the store was in not giving myself enough time there to properly enjoy the experience. I only had about 30 minutes to look around. I walked in and the place was amazing. I'd heard about the guilded ceiling and the amazing displays (cauldrons being 'magically' stirred), but I hadn't anticipated the number of pure curiosities there would be.
More importantly, while I hoped they might have metal antique replicas, I hadn't seen any photos that included them, so I was ecstatic when I spotted this display case:
Now, I have wanted a real replica astrolabe for years. You can buy them online, but they're quite expensive with expensive shipping costs. This store carries not one but three astrolabes (two sizes with latin text, one with arabic text). There are some compasses, an armillary sphere, norturnal, and more. The store also carries quill pens, sealing wax, notebooks, games, and all sorts of weird and wonderful things.

I left the store with this gem and the knowledge that I've got to go back at some point for a longer visit:
 I originally set the astrolabe aside for a Christmas present, but decided that it was dumb to have it boxed for the next few months when I can just repackage it when the time comes. In the meantime, here's my alchemy table, now with working brass astrolabe.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Shout-Out: Iraq + 100 Edited by Hassan Blasim


A groundbreaking anthology of science fiction from Iraq that will challenge your perception of what it means to be "The Other".
"History is a hostage, but it will bite through the gag you tie around its mouth, bite through and still be heard."-Operation Daniel
In a calm and serene world, one has the luxury of imagining what the future might look like.
Now try to imagine that future when your way of life has been devastated by forces beyond your control.
Iraq + 100 poses a question to Iraqi writers (those who still live in that nation, and those who have joined the worldwide diaspora): What might your home country look like in the year 2103, a century after a disastrous foreign invasion?
Using science fiction, allegory, and magical realism to challenge the perception of what it means to be "The Other", this groundbreaking anthology edited by Hassan Blasim contains stories that are heartbreakingly surreal, and yet utterly recognizable to the human experience. Though born out of exhaustion, fear, and despair, these stories are also fueled by themes of love, family, and endurance, and woven through with a delicate thread of hope for the future.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Video: The Survivor

Got an email about this short film by Saga Flight Entertainment. It's a post-apocalyptic story of a boy who's sent by his abusive step-father to get supplies and medicine for his sick mother.

The production values are quite good though the acting's not the best.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Book Review: Antiphon by Ken Scholes

Pros: fascinating characters, lots of intrigue, several secrets are revealed

Cons: very slow moving

Antiphon begins six months after Canticle ends. When an attack rocks the confidence of Rudolfo to keep his lands safe, he and Jin Li Tam make a difficult decision. Winteria’s still stunned by the revelations of the last book and wonders if there’s any hope of returning her people to their former faith in their home-seeking. Neb discovers blood magicked runners in the wastes who don’t die after three days and tries to find out who they are. Meanwhile, the Antiphon requires and answer, and the metal men search for it in many places.

This is a fascinating series, with a lot of intrigue. Each book uncovers more layers underpinning the desolation of Windwir. There are plots upon plots and secrets within secrets. And just when you think you’ve gotten to the bottom of one mystery you discover there’s an entirely new side to it that reframes what you know.

The characters are all great. Winters grows a lot in this book, coming more into her own as she questions how to best help her people. It’s sad - but understandable - what happens with Rudolfo. It was great seeing Vlad Li Tam with an intrigue not worked through his children. 

It was nice getting some answers to questions, even if there may still be hidden nuances and twists to those story threads. I’d love to learn more of the history that’s been hinted at with Whym and the wizards. I happened upon a short story Scholes wrote about the love affair between Francisco and a mysterious woman (A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon), which factors into this novel nicely (you can read it on Tor.com’s website).

The book is very slow moving with characters mostly getting from point A to point B, both in terms of location as well as with understanding of the underlying purposes of what’s been happening these past two years since Windwir fell.


I am very interested in seeing where things go from here. The book left several characters in fascinating places.

Friday, 15 September 2017

The Joy of Rereading Books

When I was a teen and really got into reading fantasy, I loved to reread books. Every time a new book came out in a series I’d reread all the previous titles first. There are some books I read so often I can still remember everything that happens in vivid detail. I used to know characters like they were real world friends.

When I started reviewing books the amount of time I had for rereading got smaller. By this time I was working in the fiction section of the World’s Biggest Bookstore and had a better idea of just how many books there are that I’ve never read - with more and more coming out every year. Suddenly instead of rereading books I was just skimming them. Often I’d only skim the parts of books that I enjoyed the most - parts that made me laugh or cry. More recently I don’t even have time to do that.

For the past few years I’ve been posting 1 review a week on my blog, which means I have to read faster than life sometimes allows. In other words, I don’t have time to reread anything, and often don’t have time to skim before reading a sequel (if the book was very complex I’ll make time for a skim just so I’m not lost in the sequel). I’ve got a file on my computer with summaries I’ve started making for series books so I can just read my summary and jump into the sequel.

I’ve busted by butt reading this year so that I’d have a buffer of prepared reviews for this month. I’ve blocked off the entire month of September to reread Peter Brett’s Demon Cycle books. I’ve only read each book once, and that when they came out, so it’s been 9 years since I read The Warded Man. Book 5 comes out in October, and I’m currently on book 2, hoping to finish the fourth by The Core’s release date.

It’s weird rereading these after so much time. There are aspects of character that I don’t remember or that I’d modified in my mind. When I first read the books I liked Jardir, whereas now I can see what a dangerously extreme person he is. Part of this is likely due to my own growth as a person these last years, better able to recognize the evils of the world. But it’s a bit saddening, having to recognize that my friends have changed, that they’re not quite who I thought they were. It’s also neat, because while I remember the larger events, I don’t remember them with 100% accuracy, and some things I don’t remember at all. 

I love immersing myself in the world. It’s been so long since I’ve read several books in the same world at the same time. It’s great seeing characters grow as people across books. I really miss this, reconnecting with old ‘friends’. It’s like a homecoming. I may need to do this more often. :)


Do you like rereading books? 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Shout-Out: Odd & True by Cat Winters

Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Video: Halo Top - Eat the Ice Cream

I don't normally post ads here, but Halo Top's Ice Cream commercial is terrifyingly good.