Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Best Reads 2015

I am joining John Wiswell from The Bathroom Monologues in a blog hop about our favourite reads of 2015.  Not necessarily published in 2015, just books we first read this year which for one reason or another we loved.

Regular visitors here will know that I read a lot.  And, as my side-bar will attest, I read quite a wide variety of things.  Some of the books I have read this year have been gems which will stay in my head and heart.  Others?  Suffice it to say they went to the recycle bin.

I read for entertainment, to educate myself, for distraction, to escape and for comfort.  And there is probably a book for any occasion lurking somewhere in this house.  Which doesn't stop me succumbing to temptation and getting more.

I find it hard to define a 'best book'.  One I will reread?  One I read for fun/escape and thoroughly enjoyed?  One I learnt from?  I suspect all of those definitions work for me.  Some of my best books for the year are 'literature' and some are not.  And I don't give a rat's fundament. 

In no particular order some of my best reads for the year are listed below. If I have already blogged about a book it isn't featured again.  Clicking on the photos will embiggen them, and give you more detail about the titles and authors.

Barbara Kingsolver is an author whose work I read and reread.  Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn't matter, though PoisonWood Bible, which is perhaps her best known work, is not one of my favourites.  Somehow this one, first published in 1991, had escaped me until last year.  Yet again, it is a rich and textured examination of the difficulties (and the joys) of familial relationships.

Beatrix Potter was a big part of my childhood and I am obsessed with gardens.  Unsurprisingly when the skinny one saw this he snatched it up for me.  Marta McDowell explored Beatrix Potter's development as a gardener, and mapped a year in her gardens, showing what she was growing.  Lots of the plants she grew are now considered 'old-fashioned' and grow in my garden.  Beatrix Potter was interested in plants as a child, drew them skilfully (and they often feature in her books) and in adult life could probably be described as an obsessional gardener.  A woman after my own heart. 

Neil Gaiman is another author I regularly turn to.  An incredibly varied author.  Bizarre, complicated, dark, hilarious - and often in the same piece of work.  His voice is just so varied...
Anansi Boys was, mostly, fun though it had its dark moments.  What do you do if you discover that your father (who you are estranged from) was Anansi the trickster spider god.  And, with his death your life is going to change.  Dramatically. 
It is also a story about love.  And perhaps a subtle warning to think twice before killing spiders...

And for something completely different, a snippet from Gaiman's Fragile Things, a collection of short stories I am reading at the moment.
This paragraph opens a story called Bitter Grounds.

'In every way that counted, I was dead.  Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the face and lips and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smiled and kept moving.  If I could have physically passed away, just let it all go, like that, without doing anything, stepped out of life as easily as walking through a door, I would have done.  But I was going to sleep at night and waking in the morning, disappointed to be there and resigned to existence.'

 I can't think of a more powerful expression of the desolation of loss.  Mind you, the story turns in totally unexpected directions after that opening...

Jeffrey Brown's drawings perfectly capture the supple beauty and charm of cats.  And yes, I am a cat lover.  He also captures some of their less endearing foibles with equal skill, as the drawing below clearly illustrates.  My much loved moggies spread the kitty litter considerable distances.  Drat them.

The final book I am featuring as a best read wasn't an 'easy read', but was fascinating.  Lenoard Shlain took us on a tour of Leonardo da Vinci's incredible life of creativity, artistry and inventiveness using a multi-disciplinary approach including history, art, neuroscience and psychology.  Most of us are predominantly left or right brain thinkers.  If Shlain was right, which I believe he was, da Vinci was equally comfortable with either side of his brain, and used both to his, and our, benefit.  
Sadly, and more than a little ironically, Shlain died from brain cancer just as he finished this book.

Come and visit John, and see what have delighted him and the other participants.  And be tempted.  As I will.

Sunday 27 December 2015

Sunday Selections #256

Sunday Selections was originally brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files.
The meme is now continued by River at Drifting through life.  The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent.  Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.  Clicking on any of the photos will make them embiggen.
Like River I usually run with a theme.  This week?  Not really.  A few random shots.

Our 'over decorated fridge'.

And some pictures of the fruit salad which is currently taking up a LOT of room inside it.  Fruit salad is a Christmas tradition for me  There are over twenty types of fruit in it including pineapple, mango, passion fruit, pawpaw, cherries, lychees, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwifruit, green grapes, red grapes, peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, black currants...  Forget the turkey.  Himself has that, but for the next little while I am virtually living on my fruit salad.

And some more from the garden.
I pruned the hibiscus viciously a while ago, and it seems to have forgiven me.

More coloured calla lilies.

And a scented oriental lily.  I love them, but know that they are overpowering to more sensitive noses.  There are scents which give me difficulty, but fortunately they are almost all artificial.

As I type this on Boxing Day we are having some wonderful life giving gentle rain.  Even better, I hear it is raining in Victoria on the areas savaged by bushfires yesterday.  My heart goes out to eveyone (human or animal) who lost their homes.

Tuesday 22 December 2015


Last week I published my entry to the WEP Challenge for December:  Holiday Celebrations that are out of this world.

Today I learned that I won. 
Flabber-smacked and Gob-Ghasted doesn't begin to cover it.
There were so many talented authors who contributed.

A HUGE thank you to Denise Covey and Yolanda Renee for the safe and welcoming place for us to flex our muscles.
An equally HUGE thank you to Alex J. Cavanaugh who judged the challenge.
And thank you to everyone who participated and/or commented.

Please swing by here and congratulate everyone - and read all the entries if you haven't yet done so.  They were all winners, as is anyone lucky enough to read them.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Sunday Selections #255

Sunday Selections was originally brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files.
The meme is now continued by River at Drifting through life.  The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent.  Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.  Clicking on any of the photos will make them embiggen.
Like River I usually run with a theme.  This week?  More things which have made me smile.

Mostly the usual things, but the smiles have been there (and welcome) just the same.

Visiting birds.

I liked the way the setting sun reflected the galah's colours back at it.

In the sky.  A colourful dawn this time.

The garden is suffering in the heat.  We are not as hot as some other parts of Oz, particularly South Australia and Victoria, but we are still hot.  Too hot.  And dry.  Just the same, some things are hanging in.

I do like these dwarf hollyhocks - and hope they spread their seed with gay abandon.

This calla is called mango and the fruit is another thing which makes me smile.

The biggest smile of all came from a treat the skinny one and I gave ourselves.  We went to see Cirque du Soleil's Quidam.  Which was fabulous.  As expected.  I don't think the performers are human.  Their agility, strength and suppleness are completely incredible.  

No photos while they are performing of course, so just two of the stage and the arena before the show started.

For those of you who celebrate it, I hope Christmas is full of love and laughter.  Indeed I hope that everyone's lives are full of those fine things - regardless of what they celebrate.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

WEP Challenge: Holidays which are out of this world

The WEP Challenge, skilfully and generously hosted by Denise Covey and Yolanda Renee, is on again.  This month the challenge focuses on holidays since December is jam-packed full of them.  We are asked to give a science fiction twist to our favourite among them.  Alex J Cavanaugh, blogger extraordinaire and accomplished author will be judging the entries.

There are lots of people playing and a visit to Denise and Yolanda's blog here will take explorers on some tremendous adventures.  If you click on names with a DL next to them you will be taken straight to their entry.

I read a lot of science fiction many years ago, but have neglected it of late.  And I have never, ever tried to write it.  So I am again out of my comfort zone.  My introverted self likes her holidays low key and personal, but I am happy for anyone who can enjoy the bells and whistles.  Any of the bells and whistles. 

I am well aware that my 'science' is not sound.  However, a girl can dream.  A girl (or a boy) should dream.  And I remember when man landing on the moon was considered a flight of fancy.

This is not the piece I planned.  Not the piece I sat down to write.  I do hope that some of the real writers among you will tell me whether that happens to them.  But, for what it is worth, here it is.


This is EC, reporting live on a threat to our precious peace.  

We owe that peace to the dedication and inspiration of three dedicated scientists who saved our world two hundred years ago.  Covey and Renee identified and mapped the Tolerance and Empathy Genes, and Cavanaugh discovered how to magnify their impact. To give us a military advantage and allow us to finally win the war, the opposition was exposed to Cavanaugh's stealth drug.  It worked.  On them, and on us.  Our combatants were infected just as thoroughly as the enemy and also laid down their arms.
Cavanaugh's drug spread.  World wide.  Wars, aggression and prejudice disappeared.  Culture, religion, colour, gender, sexual orientation?  No longer an issue.   The long hoped for  'impossible' dreams of world peace and co-operation became a reality.  Science and the arts blossomed, and poverty became a thing of the past.  

Early this month a man identified only as 'Lone Star' mounted a legal challenge against the augmentation of the T/E genes on the grounds that his right NOT to be tolerant or empathic was being denied  His challenge hinged on the fact that this compulsory augmentation is an act of intolerance.  The Emperors of the World have retired to consider his case, and their decision is imminent.

Crossing to the Court House now to hear their verdict:  Will their tolerance or their empathy triumph?  What will they decide? As soon as the decision is announced it will be broadcast on all channels and all media.
Starting now...

'Lone Star.  We have thought long and hard about your application.  You have posed a conundrum with no easy answers.  Being tolerant of your wish to be intolerant threatens the peace and harmony which Cavanaugh, Covey and Renee worked so hard to give us.  We are not even sure who or what you want to use that intolerance on.  And it doesn't matter.
We will not jeopardise that peace.
Of course we empathise with the dilemma you find yourself in.  The challenge you set us is twofold.   What can we do to retain world harmony and give you the rights you seek?  Our solution comes down to a choice.  
Your choice.
You may have the antidote to the T/E Augmentation.   However, if you accept you may not remain on this world. You will be transported to a nearby star with sufficient supplies for your lifetime, where you can live as you please.  Whatever you choose is final, and you have an hour to make that decision.'

The Emperors have spoken.  Do you agree with their decision?  What will  Lone Star do?  And what would you do?  Zap your answers to us now.

Decision made.  Transfer complete.  Twinkle, twinkle little star...
And the light from that star will shine down and and enhance so many of the festivities that he refused to tolerate.  I wonder whether he realised before he left that his intolerant home star would shine brightly at us
This is EC, signing off from our still tolerant and peaceful world, and wishing you all a happy holiday season  filled with love, laughter and light.  However and where ever you choose to celebrate.

Word Count 500(ish)
Full critique acceptable.