Monday, May 18, 2015

Seeking out art and making my own

Week 20 (11-17 May)

At some point I got ahead of myself, this week is actually week 20...

With a whimsical photo of my fridge and onions at the supermarket, you can see that my week got off to slightly dull start. I did make a bookmark, at least. Thankfully things picked up toward the weekend, on Friday Cibo's offered free coffee for it's first day in Gawler so I took some puzzles and did a little people watching. On Saturday I visited the Art Gallery, which I'm slowly working my way through trying to see everything. I can only properly look at so much art in one day, and at the moment I've almost finished Gallery 3 - the first two galleries only took a visit each, but the third is much, much bigger. A third trip ought to be enough to see it properly. I also took time to check out the unofficial art around Adelaide. This week's feature photo is one of the coolest I've found in a while, if you want to see it for yourself it's behind the ANZ in Rundle Mall.

I'm really proud of the photo I took on Sunday too. It's the last of the small images, and was taken to the theme 'Home' in the photo a day I intermittently take part in. I've enjoyed it so far, but not really drawn any attention. There are some very talented people there. This photo, however, has been something of a success. I didn't really want to take a picture of my house - it's a nice place to live but not terribly photogenic. Instead, I just played with the idea and came up with an image captioned 'Home is where the books are'.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Past, Present and Future (books 36-40 2015)

36 - The Illustrated Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett and Stephen Player

The Queen of the Fairies steals Tiffany Aching's sticky and irritating younger brother. As nobody else is likely to rescue him, Tiffany, a practical, sensible and responsible girl, sets out to do the job herself, with help from the drinkin' fightin' and stealin' Nac Mac Feegle.

I know the text version of this well and enjoy it very much, so when I saw an illustrated version in the library I thought I would be lovely to revisit The Chalk. The story was as wonderful as ever, the illustrations beautifully done. I especially loved the feegles trying to steal letters from the text.

Two days after I finished reading it, I found my very own forgotten copy, sitting sadly in my bookshelf...

37 - Get Over Yourself (Princeless Vol. 2) - Jeremy Whitley and Emily Martin

Adrienne, Bedelia and Sparky continue on their quest to rescue Adrienne's sisters - though she doesn't find quite what she expects the first time she encounters one. This book was not quite as strong as the first, with some unrevealed plot points being a touch obvious - though it will be fun to see certain characters work those things out. Regardless of faults, it's a fast-paced adventure with protagonists who are doing their best to work things out as they go and keep trouble at bay. There's plenty being set up for the rest of the series, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

38 - Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories

Kaleidoscope is a celebration of diversity of all kinds, and a wonderful collection of YA short stories. It won Best Anthology at the 2014 Aurealis Awards and several of the stories within were nominated or won awards in their own right. I've written a little on some of my personal favourites.

The first story Cookie Cutter Superhero by Tansy Rayner Roberts was a great start that looked at gender, disability and superheroes, focusing on the expectations that a society has surrounding its superheroes.

As I've read Twinmaker and Crashland by Sean Williams, I was keen to read The Legend Trap a story centred on a group of teens exploring an urban legend surrounding teleportation, a technology that is a very everyday part of their lives. They get a great deal more than they bargained for...

End of Service by Gabriela Lee is a wonderfully disturbing story in which a girl whose mother, who worked overseas and was consequently rarely present, has died. I am lost on how to describe it much further without giving the game away.

Happy Go Lucky by Garth Nix is a story set in a dystopian future. The main character lives in a society where quantified luck defines your rights, privileges and opportunities. The story has a point to make regarding the current politics surrounding asylum seekers and the "stop the boats" policy in Australia.

39 - Gnarr! How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World - Jon Gnarr

An autobiography of Jon Gnarr, who founded the Best Party to satirize the political system in Iceland, then won office.

Honestly, this was a bit disappointing. There were a few interesting bits but they were the exception, given what I'd heard of this public figure I was hoping for rather more than I got. Whether reflective of the original or a result of translation, the writing quality was not as good in quality as I expected.

40 - Peacemaker (Peacemaker #1) - Marianne de Pierres

Virgin Jackson is the senior ranger in Birrimun Park, the last natural landscape in Australia. Certainly, the cactuses aren't strictly accurate but tourists expect cacti in a desert, and they are necessary to keep the park open and maintained. It is in the Western Quarter of a vast megacity that sprawls along Australia's eastern coast. The night before a visiting ranger is expected to arrive, there is a murder in the park. Virgin and the visiting ranger, Nate Sixkiller, are dragged into a situation that rapidly spirals out of control.

It's difficult to define the genre, it's not unusual to find a genre-crossing book but this one has a bit of everything. It's a Western/Mystery/SciFi/Horror/Fantasy/Romance/Action/... that promises to be the starting point of a highly innovative series.

I found the romance handling a bit cringe-worthy, but I'm willing to say that's just a matter of personal taste. When I look beyond that, there's a lot to enjoy. Parallels are drawn with the political and social environment of Australia today, speculating what might come of these.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fairies, knights, adventures and cannibalism (books 31-35 for 2015)

Oooh, wow. Time I stopped reading for a few seconds and made a bit of an effort to at least partly catch up.

31 - The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black

In Fairfold the fairies and elves are largely unseen, but close to hand. The locals know how to behave to remain safe, and their tourist industry is thriving. A few tourists die horribly each year but it's expected. Fairies and elves are captivating, but deadly. In an unbreakable glass coffin in the woods a boy with horns has slept for generations...

I enjoy dark fantasy, and this was an enjoyable way to spend an evening. The way that fairies and elves fit into this world and how they and Fairfold interacted clearly had a lot of research behind it. I found the relationships between the key characters interesting, if a bit overdone for my preferences. So all in all, worth the time to read if not likely to feature on this year's best-of list.

32 - The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson

On his 100th birthday Allan Karlsson is sitting in a nursing home room, while preparations for a party go on. The Mayor will be there, as will the local media. Allan decides he doesn't like the way things are going - so he leaves, via the window, to anywhere but here. Along the way he meets a curious cast of travelling companions and we hear the story of his extraordinary life.

This will be hard to beat for the best book I've read this year. The story drew me in, so much so that I nearly missed a train stop. Truly hilarious too, my fellow commuters (and before that, fellow campers) gave me some worried looks as I repeatedly failed to contain laughter. When I saw this circulating madly in the library a year or so ago I assumed it was just another so-so flavour of the minute, I'm pleased to report that I was wrong.

I'd recommend this to just about anyone. If you haven't read it, do. It's not a difficult read and the reward is spectacular!

33 - Save yourself! (Princeless, vol. 1) - Jeremy Whitely et. al.

Princess Adrienne has no interest in waiting to be rescued from her tower, and the dragon guarding her isn't keen on her intended fate either. So the two of them set out to rescue Adrienne's sisters...

A quick read, I picked this up after seeing it on a recommended reading list... somewhere ... a while ago. A funny, clever story. More aimed at children, but  I've never let that stop me enjoying a good story.

34-35 - International Flavour and Just Desserts (Chew v. 2-3) - John Layman

Two more books in this inventive, humourous and rather gruesome series. I've read several more volumes since, and well... it gets better later on. These were still pretty decent. These books start laying down more groundwork for a much longer story arc. My memories of the others I've read since have got a bit jumbled with these, so I'll write more when I review those.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Craftiness (2015 photos)

Week 20 (4-10 May)

A couple of this week's photos are of cards I made in the past week. I like simple designs and precise techniques. I don't really have a lot to say this week, though it was a good week. I was especially pleased with my performance at netball this week. My fitness is improving rapidly (as one team member suggested, Netball is basically an hour of interval training) and I'm doing well in GK. I went a long because I love the opportunity to get out have a run on a team with friends, but I'm finding more than that. I haven't taken any photos, though, as I've been too busy on court.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Looking up (photo post)

Week 19 (27 April - 3 May)

Things started to look up a bit this week. Sure, some of the troubles I've had for the last few months are still hanging about (the job search continues) but things have happened that have relieved my stress somewhat.

One upside of this is I feel more able and inspired to take good care of myself. I'm cooking more and enjoying the delicious rewards of that. The photo I featured is a self-saucing lemon pudding that I made with lemons from Mum and Dad's lemon tree.

Other upsides of the stress reduction are a bit of an improvement in my creative output - the book title story in the last photo is one example. I've also started a clean up and out of the house - going through and re-ordering drawers and well, everything. I'm doing it a little at a time and aiming for the house to be a little better when I go to bed than when I woke up. I've only really had one fail day, and the next day I was right back on track. Seeing things improve bit by bit is enough to keep the motivation going.

So there's nothing earth-shattering in this week's post, but nevertheless, things are looking up. I still have some challenges, but I'm dealing better with them now that one of my big stresses is somewhat relieved.