My Favorite Female Villains

Those readers who’ve followed this blog for some time know that I occasionally write a piece about strong female characters, the kind that star in action movies or solve crimes or just go toe-to-toe with their male counterparts.  Today, I decided to take a look at the other side of things, those strong female anti-heroes.  These ladies definitely stand their ground; they just do so for their own gain, or on the side of evil.  In no particular order:

The Borg Queen, Star Trek: First Contact.  This ruler of a cyborg race threatening the galaxy with “assimilation” routinely gives orders that overrun planets and turns sentient beings into mindless drones, but she still understands emotions well enough to sway both Captain Picard and Data with her feminine wiles, pitting them against each other in a deadly conflict that could mean the end of the Enterprise and its crew.

http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Bellatrix_Lestrange

Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, et al.  One of Lord Voldemort’s most sadistic followers, Bellatrix is an evil unto herself.  She tortured Neville Longbottom’s parents into insanity, a fact she can’t help rub in his face, and tried to kill Harry before sending her own cousin into the Veil of Death.  She has no scruples, and even a stay in the worst prison of the wizard world can’t dim her thirst for mayhem.

There have numerous retellings of Snow White, but no Queen is more evil than the version portrayed by Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman.  Queen Ravenna, in true fairy-tale fashion, drains the youth from young women in her kingdom to maintain her own youth and beauty.  She murders the king on their wedding night, and imprisons his daughter in a tower.  She then lures the huntsman into doing her bidding with promises to raise the dead, and aspires to eat Snow White’s heart to become immortal.

Harley Quinn, Suicide Squad. This completely certifiable femme fatale is the Bonnie to The Joker’s Clyde.  A former psychiatrist, she gives up sanity and morality for the sake of the man she calls “puddin.”  She is the ultimate crime moll whose weapon of choice is a baseball bat, and has no qualms about using it on anyone who gets in her way.  She is violent, dangerous, and perfectly capable of smiling at someone while she kills them where they stand.  Don’t get in her way.

Dolores Umbridge wallpaper possibly with a pullover titled Umbridge
http://www.fanpop.com

Delores Umbridge, a politician who makes her debut in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  This witch, who dresses in all pink and decorates her office with plates covered with cute kittens, has an evil smile and a giggle that would not be out of place from a villain in a horror movie.  She pretends to be a friendly, mild-mannered government servant until someone disagrees with her, or her beloved minister, then anything goes, from illegal artifacts to outright torture and attempted murder.

http://marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com/wiki/Hela

Hela, Thor: Ragnarock.  The god of thunder’s long-lost sister wants revenge for her imprisonment, and to take her father’s throne.  When Thor and the citizens of Asgard disagree, she starts killing off the population, and resurrects the dead warriors of Asgard.  She puts her little brother in his place by destroying Thor’s hammer and putting out his eye.   Why? Because she carries a grudge against their deceased father and she has to show little brother that she is more powerful and deserves the crown more than he.

What all these women have in common is that they have chosen to a life filled with violence, with evil, with violence.  They may be lacking in morals and even humanity, but they prove that they are just as capable and strong as their male counterparts.

Who is your favorite female villain?

 

 

 

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Does Reading Make You A Better Writer?

Mike Jackson from Stories in Your Pocket wrote this post encouraging everyone to turn off the TV and pick up a good book tonight.

Stories In Your Pocket

Does reading make you a better writer?

Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ says:

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mindset, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.”

Natalie Goldberg who wrote ‘Writing Down the Bones’ says:

“If you read good books, when…

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Amy Caudill’s Reviews > The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures

The World of Lore by Aaron Mahnke
The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures 
by

Aaron Mahnke (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

May 08, 2018  ·  edit

In his Amazon Prime series, Aaron Mahnke offers an overview of the lore from numerous cultures created by our ancestors in an attempt to explain the unknown workings of the world around them.  For example; how did a deadly disease contribute to a belief in the existence of vampires?  What geological features as said to be the home of fairies?

Now the writer, producer, and narrator of the series Lore has released an anthology titled The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures, which includes some of the most interesting encounters from the popular show as well as a wealth of additional stories and background information about the evolution of the myths, folklore, and campfire tales of “things that go bump in the night.”

The author uses historical accounts and descriptions of known “sites” of supernatural and unexplained phenomena to describe how a lack of scientific knowledge and fear of the unknown culminated in a belief in numerous supernatural creatures and phenomena.  Then he shares examples of the tales of happenings in a “story-telling” manner consistent with the scripts of the television series.

I found the scholarly portion of the book to be very informative but a little dry, despite attempts by Mahnke to inject humor and current events into his explanations of the supernatural.  By comparison, his accounts of the “events” read like very engaging short stories of horror and the paranormal.

After reading a large portion of the book, I decided I needed to watch some of the episodes of the show for comparison purposes.  I found that the podcast featured some of the same stories in the book, heavily dramatized and enacted, but seemed to focus more on one particular example instead of the multiples given in the manuscript.  While both were interesting, the dramatization of the show drew me in much more quickly than the volume, if only because the length of the episode was longer than each encounter narrated in the book.

Still, I found the book interesting enough to give it four stars and would recommend it to anyone who wants not only to get a chill out of a story of the paranormal, but also an understanding of why the story could make the reader feel fear in the first place.

A Recipe for Reunion Success

The promise of warm weather and a break from school is the opportune time for many families to reconnect.  When your family is as scattered as mine, getting together can be a huge and potentially overwhelming undertaking.  To help you prepare your next get-together, I’ve shared some of my best tips for serving up a successful family reunion.

Family Reunion
The entire clan is gathered together for this shot! Photo by artgoeshere on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Start by Prepping Your Space.

One of the beautiful things about planning a reunion in the spring or summer is the fact you can use the weather to your advantage.  If you have a small space and a large number of relatives, you can always move the bulk of the festivities outdoors.  Picnic tables and benches or camp chairs are wonderful for sharing food, conversation, and keeping an eye on the little ones.

If you live in an apartment and don’t have outdoor space you can reserve or utilize, check out your local parks.  Some take reservations while others have a first-come-first-serve policy, so do your research as soon as possible after the date for the event is set if you choose this option.

Add Plenty of Good Food.

Sharing a meal is usually an integral part of family time, so plan ahead.  Try to over-estimate on the amount of food that you think you’ll need, because the last thing you want to do is send someone away hungry!  Be aware of relatives with special dietary needs, such as for medical conditions and allergies, and make sure there are plenty of options for picky eaters.

Consider having willing family members help in the preparation, or in bringing their own signature dishes from home; everyone wants to feel needed and to be a vital part of the gathering.  Also, don’t forget to have plenty of disposable containers on hand to pack up leftovers.

Blend in Activities.

Be prepared for when the conversation lulls or the kids get bored by planning a number of activities appropriate to the group as a whole and the ages of the family members.  There are any number of games the entire group can enjoy, from three-legged races to water balloon tosses to Pictionary or charades.  These require very little equipment, and can be adapted to suit the size and ages of your group members.  If you have one available, a fire pit can be a wonderful addition to your party, offering a venue for toasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories as the evening winds down.

Prevent or At Least Chill Conflicts.

The last thing you should have to worry about at your family reunion is a major argument between attendees.  There will always be disagreements between family members, but a group party is more than likely not the ideal time to resolve these problems.  If conflict is unavoidable, try to encourage those involved to move to another room or space and calmly, quietly discuss their issues.  Offer impartial intermediation if needed.  Hopefully they can work out their differences or at least agree to a truce.  After all, they may only have the opportunity to see each other and the rest of their relatives once or a few times a year.

 Enhance with an Archivist. 

If your family gatherings are as rare as mine, they feel all the more precious each time you gather.  Children grow up and move away, and older relatives sadly pass, so it’s impossible to predict who will make it to the next reunion.  Consider creating a Facebook event page or similar where photos and memories can be shared and posted.  Put everyone in front of the camera.  Elect one relative to film each attendee as they share personal remembrances, funny stories, or nuggets of wisdom to pass on to other members.

I hope you get to spend time with your extended collection of loved ones soon, and that these tips help you host your ideal event.  Remember: family is special and irreplaceable, whether you have a large clan by blood, or a few you call family by choice.  Either way, they provide us with a sense of belonging and community that fills our hearts and enriches our lives.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

A Plea for Help from Dani at Touch my Spine Book Reviews

I first read this post thanks to a repost from another blogger, and simply had to share it on my own site. It may be hard for many of us to imagine that there are people in dire need in our own backyards, but we are truly surrounded by those less fortunate souls. I’m sure Dani will be grateful for all the prayers and donations we can offer her and her loved ones in this time of need.

Coming Clean About My Absence…My Family Has Been Struggling And Is In Need.. Hardest Post To Post

Touch My Spine Book Reviews

I know many have wondered where in the hell I have been… Well yes I have battled grief and yes I have had issues going online but I haven’t shared it all.
I have went through way more than grief, I have been fighting for my ability to take care of my children and to get the medical treatment for my family. Long story short, we have lost most of our income and medical benefits.

We went weeks without electricity, had to cut back like barely nothing on food for kids to have it and we have went without medical supplies and medications.

I have been battling seizures without my medicine and haven’t been able to caretaker my son’s father who has a brain injury and can’t remember 20 mins ago or long term. My child’s mother has been battling renal failure with no way to go to the doctor…

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Why I Read (and Write) Fantasy Stories

To certain individuals my penchant for reading stories about wizards, hobbits, and ghostly apparitions may seem to be an odd hobby for a woman in her mid-forties.  What would perhaps surprise those same individuals more is that I also have penned a number of fantasy stories where the characters include werewolves, banshees, and virtual reality monsters.  My literary tastes aside, I have found that fantasy stories as a genre offer a number of benefits for those with even the most casual interest in reading for pleasure.

reading couch pillow
This little one has discovered the joys of a good book.  Photo on Foter.com

Fantasy Stories Offer the Reader an Escape

Sometimes the easiest way to escape from the stresses of daily life is to take a mental vacation.  For me that may take the form of visiting an entirely new world, one populated by creatures from childhood dreams.  I find it’s rather difficult to worry about everyday things while reading tales of an epic quest to rescue a princess and slay a dragon.

Immersion in a completely alien landscape for a time can allow us to relax and recharge our minds, alleviating tension and allowing us to return to “real” life with a fresh perspective.  Numerous studies have been done which suggest reading for enjoyment, of any type, can even help alleviate or alleviate symptoms of ailments such as high blood pressure and depression. To find out more about the benefits reading can offer see the article here.

Fantasy Stories May Boost the Mind and Creativity

As the saying goes, if you can imagine it, you can do it.  Sometimes changing focus for a time, such as through reading a good book, can help to find a solution to a problem that seems insurmountable.  Indulging in leisure reading can help improve cognitive functions, increase vocabulary, and improve analytical skills.  I encourage all readers out there to allow your favorite book, or a new find, to inspire you to think, write, and problem-solve in ways you may not have considered before.

Fantasy Stories Can Help Forge Connections with Others

I’ve discovered one way to maintain connections with my adult children as well as my circle of friends is through a shared interest in literature.  Books make good discussion topics, sometimes even more so when we don’t all agree on a particular work or author!  Tip for family bonding: Don’t just read stories separately, if your children are young, take turns reading aloud with them.  If they are older, give everyone a chance to read a particular book and then talk to each other about it.

Fantasy Stories Can Contain Hidden Wisdom

While my favorite works of fiction may involve characters that are not always human, the writers who produce these works still frequently manage to insert nuggets of wisdom that can be applied universally.  Searching for these “truths” in the deeper meanings of a fantasy story can provide hours of entertainment, and thought-provoking discussions.

For instance, consider this philosophical truth from The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”  This quote from a novel published in 1954 contains just as much potential for controversy today as it did when the story was first written, despite the fact that it was part of a conversation between a wizard and a hobbit.  Have you ever considered Tolkien, best known for The Hobbit as well as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as a philosopher?

No matter your favorite genre, here’s hoping you take the time to read a good book today!

Amy

The 5 Biggest Questions Fans Still Have For ‘Avengers: Infinity War

My family and I have long been fans of science fiction and action/adventure movies, including the wildly popular and successful Marvel series that includes The Avengers, Spiderman, Black Panther, and Guardians of the Galaxy.  The next addition to this series, Avengers: Infinity Wars,  is coming in ten short days, so I decided to share this post by Vincent Bivetto on Coed.com  that highlights the questions every rapid follower of this series is asking themselves right now.

 

Avengers: Infinity War is right around the corner, and fan anticipation is through the roof! After six years of build-up,…

via The 5 Biggest Questions Fans Still Have For ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ — College Life, Breaking News, Sports, Girls & Entertainment | COED

Witches are People Too: A Review of The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Rules of Magic 
by Alice Hoffman (Goodreads Author)

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Apr 10, 2018  · edit

Fans of the heartwarming movie Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman will quickly be swept up in the story of the lives and times of their elder relatives, Franny, Jet, and Vincent. This book was a choice for my local book club, and though I was familiar with the movie I had not before read any of the author’s books.

I was quickly drawn into the story of the three siblings, each so different, but united by unusual abilities and a family curse that threatens any of their family to find true love.  The pages of this somewhat lengthy 366 page novel follows their journeys from sheltered children of yuppie parents in 1960s New York, living in denial of the family secrets, to discovering their “family gifts” and coming into their own during a background of civil unrest, sexual exploration, and shadows of war on the horizon.

Hoffman effortlessly weaves her story into the history of the moment, showcasing her characters in realistic situations inspired by the setting.  She demonstrates a depth of understanding of the time period, as well as of the native flora and fauna that play their own role in the plot.

What struck me most was perhaps the fact that though the book was sprinkled through with herbal remedies and “folk wisdom” from the pages of the family Grimoire, as well as allusions to the family history associated with the Salem Witch Trials, is that The Rules is less about mystics and witchcraft, and more about these ordinary, extraordinary individuals as they attempt to live their lives.

Hoffman, though detailing incidents of magic powers and lore about witches and witchcraft, focuses her attention more in sharing the hopes, dreams, and doubts of her characters.  This allows the reader to see beyond the enchantment of the paranormal, to the people affected. While there is enough “magic” left to please diehard fans of the supernatural, the core story is an epic recounting of the trials, loves and losses associated with these very human characters.

I would recommend this book not only to fans of paranormal stories, but also of romance and drama.

A Gift for Life-Literary Heroes

I was a bookworm from an early age.  I spent my childhood wandering the prairies with Laura Ingalls.  I hunted for clues with Nancy Drew, and I swam the channel to visit the wild ponies of Chincoteague. I spent my allowance at the local bookstore or at neighbors’ yard sales where I scavenged for Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.  These adventures to places near and far with “friends” on the written page taught me a great deal about life, and fueled my aspirations to someday write stories of my own.

What young girl hasn’t read Nancy Drew? Image from Amazon.com

My children had their own set of literary heroes, chief among them Harry Potter.  We listened to cassette recordings of the series, and refereed who would read our copy of each new release first.  There were Halloween costumes, and roleplay, and bedroom decorations; but most of all there were hours spent reading.  My kids both grasped the written word eagerly, as an old friend.  From my son’s first R.L. Stine “chapter books” to my daughter’s Princess Diaries collection, books became a big part of their lives, and their academic success.

 

The most famous young wizard in the world, after Merlin?  Image from Amazon.com

I am a firm believer that one of the best gifts we can give our children is a deep, abiding love of reading.  Not only does reading for enjoyment help develop their vocabulary and comprehension, it stimulates their imaginations.  An entire new world, or many worlds, opens to children when they discover a love of literature.

Tomorrow’s scientists, doctors, teachers, police officers, and of course, writers, can be born out of the inspiration they find in books.  Give them the fuel for their dreams, and watch what they achieve.  They can explore an existing passion, or find a new one, by simply picking up a book.

I challenge all parents, grandparents, and anyone who has a special child in their life to spend some time reading with their little ones.  Take them to visit your local library, either in person or by downloading the latest release.  Visit that disappearing institution, the neighborhood bookstore, if you are lucky to have one nearby.  Introduce the children in your life to your own childhood heroes, or pick up a book about one of theirs.  You may just find a new passion yourself.  Most importantly of all, spend some quality time with your loved ones as you lose yourselves to a new world only visible through an author’s vision.

Here’s hoping you have time to enjoy a good book this evening.  (If you’re like me and live in the Midwest, it’s a much better option than venturing out amidst tornado and flood watches!)

Amy