Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 in books - first five

High time I got to reviewing/processing thoughts on books again... starting with brief reviews but I may well work my way back up. This year I am to read 100 books, I'm also hoping to improve the variety in them. Titles are Goodreads linked for your convenience.

These books were all enjoyable, I think Crash was the best of them but which I'd recommend would depend greatly on who was seeking the recommendation.

1 - Camelot (Fables #20) - Bill Willingham

There's really not much I can say without spoilering earlier books in the series. This graphic novel series has been great but a few of the volumes immediately preceding it were a bit lacklustre. This was a distinct improvement and I'm looking forward to continuing with the rest of the story which should be finishing up this year.

2- Crash (Twinmaker #2) - Sean Williams

The first Australian author in this year's list. I hope to read more Australian work as I noticed there was very little in my reading last year. In this book the situation starts out badly and rapidly degrades - the sudden removal of something people use daily and take for granted leaves them reeling and drives riskier decision making.
I enjoyed this more than the first book in the series, it felt less... preachy? Not quite the word but it'll have to do for now. With several conflicting points of view, all well presented, towards the end of the book my mind went to war with itself - I think that's a good thing. Making me challenge my own opinions with a new perspective rather than the same-old arguments I hear can help me identify flawed thinking.

3 - The Empire Striketh Back (William Shakespeare's Star Wars #2) - Ian Doescher

These books are made of fun and laughter. I'd love to attend/participate in a reading of this as I did with the first. There were many highlights, Yoda speaking in haiku was one, another is this passage:

Exogorth: Alas, another meal hath fled and gone,
And in the process I am sorely hurt.
These travelers who have escap'd my reach
Us'd me past the endurance of a block!
My stomach they did injure mightily
With jabs and pricks, as though a needle were
A'bouncing in my belly. O cruel Fate!
To be a space slug is a lonely lot,
With no one on this rock to share my life,
No true companion here to mark my days.
And now my meals do from my body fly -
Was e'er a beast by supper so abus'd?
Was e'er a creature's case so pitiful?
Was e'er an exogorth as sad as I?
Was e'er a tragedy as deep as mine?
I shall with weeping crawl back to my cave,
Which shall, sans food, belike become my grave.

Highly recommended to anyone who loves both literature and Star Wars.

4- Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

I don't normally enjoy books with such a heavy romantic theme, I generally find them insufferable and irritating. This one certainly has a bit of pixie-girl and absurdly-tall-man syndrome but all the same, the book was enjoyable. If you are into paranormal fantasy of the YA variety, I'd definitely recommend this one.

5- A Fork in the Road - Lonely Planet

First travel reading of the year, first short stories of the year... both things I enjoy. I enjoyed the majority of stories in this book, a few were a bit on the self-indulgent side but many of them were insightful or created wonderful images (or flavours) in my mind. It won't be going down as one of the greats of this year's reading but it was well worth the time.

2015 photo challenge week 3

12 - Catching up on some classic Sci Fi I've missed. Interesting to see what here aged well.. and what didn't. The ideas of technology were particularly interesting. Some things still look futuristic, others instead mildly hilarious.

13 - Finished off my fifth book of the year (the one in the centre). My next post which I hope to have finished today should be a brief review of these five books. All things going well and time permitting I'll keep doing that all year.

14 - I visited the Art Gallery of South Australia today. I spent most of my time in Gallery 1, I enjoyed reading about and looking at the artworks there. Even within the works bound by theme there was a great deal of variety. I hope that I can, over time, go through the rest of the galleries with a similar degree of attention. This work (this is only a fraction of it) by H J Johnstone was one of my favourites. The reflections are particularly exquisite.

15 - I was having a bit of a down day, but the colourful and delicious sight of my groceries did a lot to cheer me up. They've been, and will continue to be, delicious.

16 - Bug on a flower... had some trouble with the focus given the wind but it's still nice :) Honestly don't have a lot to say otherwise.

17 - Now that it's been given, instead of a sneak-peek I can show you this card. I made it for my sister's birthday and am hoping that it'll be the first of a bit of a revival in my paper crafting. I love this craft but it's been a long time since I've done much. This particular card has now given me several ideas for improvement and I've got a lot of ideas for things to go inside (the lens is cut through to the interior). I'd also like to make a functioning cardboard aperture for one, though I might combine that with a bookmaking project I've got in mind... I need to practice a few skills first though.

Might tutorial-ise this card when I make some refinements too.

Evening out with friends too, so a really good day :)

18 - Amy's birthday... we went to the Locavore in Stirling - the food is, as much as possible, sourced from within 100 miles. We had the tasting platter which was pretty fantastic. There were several other courses involved too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015 photo challenge week 2

5- I continued sketchnoting 'Are Libraries Obsolete?' by Mark Y Herring. I'm noting it as I go, stopping as I find a point to take down. I'll combine this record with a brief after-impression for comparison but it'll take a while as it's slow going. Interesting exercise though, and I'm getting better at sketchnoting. This is, in two ways, part of my learning efforts. Both the book itself and the sketchnoting are learning experiences.

6- I got a parcel in the mail - a t-shirt I ordered a long time ago that was awaiting printing. Parcels in the mail are an excellent day-brightener.

7- The Christmas tree came down today... this room is looking rather dull without it. I've got to see what I can do about that within limits of renting, not spending a ton of money and the high probability of moving soon. There's a picture hook just out of view, I might find something bigger than the current A4 resident.

8 - It was wonderful to have rain today. In a break between showers I went outside to see what I could see. My rose bush, recovering well, had caught some raindrops. I love the multiple layers of reflection within this one. Re-edited from the original post to Instagram.

9- I was desperate to get outside after hot and wet days kept me from doing so. Although there were weather warnings out for strong showers I took the chance and sat by the river in Dead Man's Pass with a book. I stayed for half an hour or so then moved on as the winds were picking up. It was refreshing and I don't regret a moment of it.

10 - I spent some time with Mum and Dad, first searching for things in storage, then socialising. Mum's roses are beautiful as ever. Excuse the fuzz, phone doesn't perform well in low light.

11 - Nerf War day, and two photos ... because. I had so much fun. It was exhausting and exhilarating and wonderful. I did well enough - scored a few good hits though I was probably hit at least as often. I'm hoping to mod both of my blasters (1x maverick, 1x strongarm) as a challenge for next time... and possibly find my second maverick which is hiding well.

Please pardon this week's delay, first Nerf War exhaustion, then browser behaviour issues conspired, but here it is.

When I finish reading the fifth book of this year (nearly done) I might do a brief recap/review of those.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Year of Learning and Creativity - 2015 photo challenge week 1

Instead of making a resolution this year, I'm setting a theme to guide me. A twitter friend mentioned they have been doing this for a few years and after some thought I decided I liked it. A late night walk or two later I decided that 2015 will be a year of Learning and Creativity. I chose this theme as learning and creativity are things I value and want to improve on. My learning of the last year or two has been haphazard and disjointed, I want to change that. I have let my creative endeavours slip too - exhaustion and other concerns got in the way. Once again, this needs changing. I'll do this several ways, but here's the first.

As of the first of January I'm setting off on a 365 photo challenge. On a previous blog I did one of these that eventually rocketed on past 500 consecutive days. Ultimately I quit because I was exhausted and it had become a chore. As a result and haven't been doing all that much with my photos or even taking them very often since.This time I have a plan that I hope will be less of a chore and help me rediscover why I love taking photos. So rather than blogging daily as last time, I'll put the photos to Instagram most days with a weekly post here, if I do take any that I want to display in full resolution/not square-ness I might post here a little more. Some days might be more serious photography but there's nothing wrong with happy snaps either. 

This month I'm going sort of... free-spirited with the photo challenge. I think I might try out various organised ones with daily themes in some of the other months. They look like an interesting inspiration.

1 - 2014 ended well - I had good company and went to the cricket, had delicious dessert and watched fireworks before cycling home shortly after midnight. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was out on the bike at that hour. Continuing on, 2015 got off to a good start, playing cricket in the nets with friends, excellent Indian dinner, watching the new Hobbit movie and last but not least, a swim at Glenelg late at night. I've never seen the water so clear and calm. It was cool, but I adjusted quickly. I could gladly have stayed a long time.

2 - January 2 was especially hot - I farewelled Amy and Barnaby's kitten and got on my way back home. Once inside I stayed there - air conditioning and movies (Dark Star, Flying High, How to Train Your Dragon 2). The day peaked at 44.7 C at the nearest weather station so I only ventured out for dinner - I wasn't cooking in that.

3 - Terrible bushfires in the Adelaide Hills, some not all that far away, so I spent the day keeping an eye on reports and warnings. I stitched a bit while I did so - this is a project that I've been working on for a long time and needs finishing. Towards evening I could smell the fires but thankfully they've stayed a good distance away. Also, a bonus photo because the sky was beautiful.

4 - When I headed back up here two days ago I brought some Christmas leftover perishable goods that won't last until holidaying folk return. The quantities are still kind of large so I'll definitely get my recommended fruit and veg intake for a few days... though I'm not yet sure how I'll use all the parsley and corriander. Some of it went into this salad. Lacking the ingredients for my favourite cous cous recipe I made it up as I went along. Not bad, though I think I'd make the dressing from my favourite to put on it next time. I've still got crazy volumes of these herbs left and other things besides. Slightly overwhelmed but really not complaining, this really is a delicious conundrum.