Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (movie)

I should preface this review by stating that, as a general rule, I very much dislike zombie movies, zombies being the main type of horror-genre monster that actually frighten me. Those that fall more into the humor genre than the horror (such as Shaun of the Dead), have been more tolerable, but I do not usually seek them out.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was an exception to that rule, and I was glad of about 30 seconds into the movie.

(I should probably also preface the following by saying that I have read the original Pride and Prejudice and loved it, but have not seen any film versions of it. I have also not read the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Cut for spoilers.)

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Review: Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

(“A nonfiction book” from the Reading Challenge)

I am switching my non-fiction book because I read this one more recently and feel that I can write a decent review. (I did read My Beloved Brontosaurus by Brian Switek, which was my original choice, and I definitely liked it a lot and would recommend it! But I didn’t get to writing a review as soon as I should have, so I’ll do this one instead.)

This book was a Christmas present from a family member, who rightly guessed that I would enjoy it. It was very good!

The author is a paleontologist and professor of anatomy, and he has a clear, engaging writing style that was very easy to read. The book is (as you might guess from the title) talking about evolution as it relates to the biology and anatomy of the human body.

I really loved the way he talks about science! He talks about his lab (which is half fossils and half genetics/DNA, apparently), and he talked about looking for fossils in ways that I hadn’t thought about before. He points out that while yes, there is a certain amount of luck involved in actually finding the fossils you’re looking for, you have to start by doing the right prep work identifying where your chances will be greatest.

He uses the example of wanting to find an intermediate stage between finned fish and amphibians with true limbs, a transition which happened between 385 and 365 million years ago. So, he had to identify rocks in that age range, of the right type to preserve fossils at all (meaning, sedimentary rocks), and that were somewhere exposed/accessible to people. In this case, Ellesmere Island in Canada, north of the Arctic Circle, turned out to be the best place, and so that is where he and his team have gone summer after summer. And, after many seasons, they did in fact find the kind of fossil they were looking for; Tiktaalik was a fish that had fins…but they were fins with bones in them, and bones in the same basic number/arrangement that we see in all limbed animals today.

He does a really good job of working the reader through a somewhat abstract idea (that we can trace our bodies/body parts/body construction back in time through evolution, as evidenced by both fossils and genetics), by providing several concrete examples that show this, and going through the process each time. Looking at our bodies this way helps to make sense of some things about us that seem confusing when you think about them by themselves. Hiccups, for example. Why do we get hiccups? Well, probably because our bodies are descended from amphibious creatures that needed to be able to switch back and forth between breathing with lungs in air and breathing with gills in water. The muscle/nerve combination that causes hiccups originally worked as a pausing mechanism that allowed for that switch…only we don’t need it anymore, so for us it’s just a leftover thing our bodies do that can be a nuisance.

All of his examples are really interesting like that. Going back to limbs, he points out that every vertebrate creature that has limbs has limb bones in the exact same combination: one upper bone, two lower bones, blobby bones in the “wrist,” and then rod-like bones that radiate from those (fingers/toes, for us). The exact shapes, lengths and configurations of these bones are very different in an alligator, a bat, and a human, but the same basic combination is there in all three animals. In another example, he talks about nerves in the human head, some of which are very complex and kind of confusing, because they do lots of different-seeming things. But when you look at them from a developmental view, they make perfect sense, because one nerve is connected to all the various parts of the head that form from one “gill arch” on the human embryo, and another nerve is connected to all the parts that form from another “gill arch,” and so on. (Those “gill arches” are so called because, in fish like sharks, they do actually form into gills. In humans, they are present when we are an embryo, but then develop into various parts of our face, jaw, neck, and throat.)

So it was a very interesting book! It falls into the category of “I sort of knew the basics of this (evolution and how it works),” but this book lays it out so much more specifically and with such fantastic examples that it just becomes much, much clearer in my head. Books like that are the best ones, for me. I definitely recommend this one to anyone interested in paleontology, science, evolution, or the history of life on earth. A fantastic read!

Draft 4 done!

Drafts three and four of The Wizard of Suomen are finished!

Draft three was a line-edit on paper, because it’s easier for me to catch some mistakes that way. I got that done and the edits transferred back to my electronic copy at 12:31AM on February 7, 2016, with the story at 157,594 words, 329 pages in Word.

I finished the fourth draft two nights ago, at 11:00PM on July 26, 2016. As of now, the story stands at 157,228 words, 328 pages in Word.

And, as of Wednesday, I have sent it to my editor! I will be working with Gina Hilse of Facets Fiction Editing. I won’t be doing any further work on it until I get her feedback. Undoubtedly there is still a lot of room for improvement, but I’m looking forward to putting the best possible version of this story out there as a finished product!

In the meantime, I’m going to do some planning on bigger projects, and hopefully get some other short things written (though given my current pace, I make no specific promises. >.>)

~Ethelinda

The Long-Overdue Update

Last August, my grandfather passed away. He had been ill with cancer for some months, but had not told anyone about it, and so by the time it became bad enough that he had to go to the hospital, he had very little time left. He was not in too much pain, and did not suffer for long, which I am very grateful for. He was my last remaining grandparent, and the one that I had been closest to; I was fortunate enough to live with him for six months following my undergrad graduation, doing an internship in the town where he lived. His loss has been very difficult for me, and even now I still struggle with it at times. For a few months immediately afterwards, I did not really feel much like writing or even editing, which is partly why it took me so long to get back to work on TWoS.

On a more positive front, I had more hours at work during the second half of last year, and as of the beginning of 2016, am full-time and even got a small raise. Since I really love my job, this is very exciting! It also allowed me to finally get my own place again (I had been staying with family since the beginning of 2014), but the moving/unpacking process then took up much of November and December, and some time in January. In addition to my full 40-hour week, this hasn’t always left me with a lot of time to write.

So, I have not been nearly as active with my writing over the past several months as I would have liked. I have at least been working on the latest edit of TWoS for the past couple months, which will be the last one before I send it to my editor. Once I have a final draft that I am satisfied with, I’ll be looking more into the self-publishing process (which I’ve put off because I didn’t want to let that research distract me from actually getting the story written!). Depending on how that process goes, and my time/money situation, I would like to have TWoS officially published sometime before the end of 2016.

I do have one more short story in my im/mortal series written, and another in the works. Some other snippets may be forthcoming as well, and I am going to start some planning and drafting of my next larger project once I’m a bit more settled on the TWoS draft.

Thank you again to anyone who has given me support or enjoyed my writing thus far, and know that more is coming. Hopefully soon!

~Ethelinda

Review: The Martian

(“A book a friend recommended” from the Reading Challenge)

I put this on my Reading Challenge list on the recommendation of a friend, and then ended up reading it for a book club that I’m part of with a few other friends – we definitely did not regret it. I’m probably a little late to the party on this particular book, but in case you haven’t heard about it or given it a try yet, The Martian is excellent. (Spoilers below.)

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