Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 82 – cap·i·tal

Let’s take a little trip to the four capital cities I’ve visited in Europe!

Dublin, Ireland: History mixed with modernity

I visited Dublin in 2015 and found the city very friendly, full of history and culture, and surprisingly metropolitan.  I happened to be there during the Pride festival, so there was a very fun atmosphere in Ireland’s capital.  As a liberal Catholic myself, I felt very much at home.  I think this shot of the Famine Memorial on the banks of the River Liffey shows how the city honors the past while also looking towards the future.

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Rome, Italy: Centuries of history

I visited Rome in 2012, and while I saw most of the city while on a bus, I was still able to appreciate the rich history of the city.  In some ways, Rome is the capital of not just Italy but also Western history.  I loved seeing centuries of different buildings cohabiting right next to each other.  The Colosseum in particular is an amazing view into the past.

Lisboa, Portugal: A Hidden Gem

My friends and I took a weekend trip to Lisboa in 2007: my first time in a country where I didn’t speak the language.  We managed with a mix of English and Spanish, and the people we met happily taught us a few useful phrases in Portuguese.  I was surprised how beautiful the city was; I have wanted to return here with my husband ever since to really explore the city in depth.  This is the Tower of Belém on the banks of the Tagus River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Madrid, Spain: A Trove of Art

We took a class trip to Madrid during my semester in Spain, mostly to see the art.  And what art it was.  In addition the the architecture of the capital, the city hosts the Prado and Reina Sofía museums, where you can view such masterpieces as Las Meninas and Guernica.  It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience; I even had someone take my picture with Velazquez’s Las Meninas (which I went on to write an essay about for art history).

Lastly, a slightly different take on the word “capital.”

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I was fascinated by the detail on the capitals of the columns in Venice, Italy.

This week we have Viveka of myguiltypleasures as our guest host for this excellent topic. You can find more capitals at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

 

Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

Well, I don’t really know how to review this one.  This is How You Lose the Time War is a unique experience, and I think most people will either love it or hate it.  I was kind of in the middle: I was able to appreciate a lot of things about it, though it didn’t completely work for me.

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The premise is fairly simple: two time-traveling operatives on opposite sides of a war fall in love through letters.  Red works for the Agency and Blue for the Garden, and while the letters start as some slightly bored taunting between rivals on missions, they soon turn into something more and eventually they must decide what is more important: each other, or the time war.

The novella itself is a bit more complicated, however.   About half of it is epistolary, consisting of the letters from Red and Blue; the rest is the set up for the letters, describing the tasks these agents are performing on behalf of their respective groups.  A lot of details are left vague.

The style of the writing is what makes it unique.  The best way I can describe it is that it reads like it’s a short story, just at novella length.  This makes sense because the authors are noted for their short fiction, but for me it made it hard to get into (the beginning especially felt a bit choppy and repetitive).  It was awhile into the story before I could really differentiate between Blue and Red; while that may make sense thematically, it is a bit confusing for the reader. There are also many cultural references, everything from that Eiffel65 song to Shelley’s “Ozymandias.”  Many readers will enjoy the wry humor of these, but I wonder if the story becomes confusing if you don’t get the references.

Overall, the story is very philosophical, exploring what it means to be human, in spite of the fact that one main character is a kind of android and the other was grown in a pod.  

The Garden and the Agency each seem to represent one side of several dichotomies of human nature: natural vs. artificial and artistic vs. analytical. Even in terms of time, the Garden seemed to be more of the past, and the Agency more of the future, although that is just my impression.

I do love the trope of characters falling in love through letters; some of the things Red and Blue write are really touching.  Even though I am not a time-traveling spy, I was struck by how universal is the vulnerability that comes with falling in love. Falling in love is always a risk, though the stakes may be lower for us than for Red and Blue.

While I found the story thought-provoking, I did struggle a bit to get into it.  So if you like fast plots and action, I would suggest you skip this one. If you enjoy a clever turn of phrase, atmospheric settings, and a lot of thinking in your sci-fi, this one might be for you.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #81: Find Something Red

When you think of Ireland, you might immediately think of the color green, but actually it is a country of many colors.

St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin

Dublin especially is very colorful in its architecture, plus there are flowers everywhere.  I have never seen more window baskets!  Someone had even added fresh flowers to the haunting statues at the Famine Memorial.

Famine Memorial, Dublin

Red pops up everywhere, especially on doors.

Stauntons on the Green, our hotel in Dublin

I was also surprised by the food!  It’s not just pub food (though that was good, too).  We had a lot of fresh meat and fish, fresh vegetables, even curry and tapas in Dublin.  And everything had such beautiful presentation! I don’t normally take pictures of my food, but I did it all the time in Ireland!

Mmmm dessert!

You can find more red things at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

 

City Between series by W.R. Gingell

Hi. My name is Pet.

It’s not my real name, but it’s the only one you’re getting. Things like names are important these days.

And it’s not so much that I’m Pet.

I’m a pet.

A human pet: I belong to the two Behindkind fae and the pouty vampire who just moved into my house. It’s not weird, I promise—well, it’s weird, yeah. But it’s not weird weird, you know?

Between Jobs

The City Between series, consisting of five books with more to come, is W.R. Gingell’s most recent series and I think it is her best so far.  It’s a great place to start if you are new to her work. I’ve read the first two and am looking forward to continuing.

Unlike her more traditional fantasy or fairy tale-inspired stories, this series is classic urban fantasy.  There are vampires, werewolves, fae…and one human pet. Pet (we don’t know her real name) has been trying to get by, squatting in her old house after her parents are murdered there, when another murder takes place next door, and a strange set of investigators move in with her.  The “Psychos” as she calls them consist of two Fae and one snarky vampire, and they end up adopting her as their pet.  

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There are some great fantasy elements, like umbrellas that are really swords, and some spine-tingling action and adventure parts with just enough intensity and mystery, but my favorite thing is just how full of character the stories are.  From Pet’s regionalisms (like the author, she lives in Hobart, Tasmania) to Jinyeong’s sarcastic Korean, there are so many little details that draw you in and get you invested in the world and the characters. These are some of the most entertaining and page-turning stories I have read recently.  They are also relatively short, easy reads.

You can check out the first book in the series, Between Jobs, on Amazon for $0.99 until the end of January.  Flamin’ heck, that is a steal and you will get hooked.

(And just for the record, Athelas is my favorite Psycho, but I ship Pet and Zero.)

Lens-Artists Challenge #80 – Leading Lines

San Gimignano is a quintessential Tuscan town, with medieval architecture and beautiful hilly, countryside views.

Fourteen tower houses have been well preserved, giving the city its unique skyline.  (There were originally 72.)  The city wall dates from the 12th/13th centuries.  San Gimignano flourished until the Black Death swept through Italy in the mid-1300s.

My husband took this cool picture from the city wall; I love the way the corner of the wall points to the buildings below.

And, as a bonus, one of my favorite “leading lines” pictures I’ve ever taken, from the Maumturk Mountains in Ireland.

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You can find more leading lines at the original Lens-Artist challenge.