Reading journal: The Runaway Christmas Elf by Fiona Marsden

Genre: Romance
Published: 2015
Date read: November 2018

Light, fluffy, not very believable premise but definitely a happy ending. Subtitled ‘A Jewellery Store Romance’, earrings come into it. Set in Brisbane, Australia, and explores, lightly, romance across religious boundaries. Nicely written.

Dark handsome man embracing blond woman, Christmas tree in the background

Reading journal: The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Mystery
Published: 2018
Series: Corinna Chapman
Date read: November 2018

Corinna and her lovely Daniel must solve the mystery of the kidnapped dog, the sad returned soldier, and the girl who has lost the ability to speak. A bit lower on the suspense scale than other books in the series, but there is a satisfying explosion. Nice to see Corinna and Melbourne on the page again.

Red background, Corinna's building with the bakery window with bread at the bottom, and the dog spotlit by a street lamp

Reading journal: Weird plants by Chris Thorogood

Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2018
Date read: November 2018

Awesome book published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The author has a dreadful job. He is forced to travel all over the place photographing and painting plants. Also insects and animals. What a horrendous life! You can see him doing it on Twitter

Brown scaly claw-like structures around red insides of the parasitic desert plant Hydnora

I’ve been enjoying Chris’s tweets for ages and couldn’t resist buying the book, and I was not disappointed. Absolutely beautiful images, interesting botanical information, and high quality book production, a glorious treat for myself.
Highly recommended.

A rambling tale of shame

Half a lifetime ago, I engaged in some political stirring against a local government decision affecting my child’s primary school. This was pre-internet, so I did it by a letterbox drop, about 1000 pamphlets across 3 suburbs.

Being a newbie and completely clueless, I had no idea what would happen. I vaguely hoped that people’s ideas would be swayed by my wonderful pamphlet. What actually happened was that a reporter from the newspaper became interested. Yes, it was that long ago, when there were actually newspapers.

I hadn’t put my name on the pamphlet, probably breaking a few laws, but the journalist wasn’t fazed. She called the school, and they directed her to me.

And what was my response to this unparalleled opportunity to put my case to a wider audience?
You guessed it. I panicked and said it wasn’t me and I knew nothing about it.

Angry, sweaty and determined woman pounding a bag with a boxing glove

Unbelievably stupid and embarrassing, but that was nothing to what followed.

Common sense and commitment forced me to make the right decision. I couldn’t ignore the opportunity to promote the cause that I thought was important.

I had to ring her up and explain that, yes, I was the mysterious pamphleteer. She was very kind and didn’t call me an idiot, which would have been entirely fair. We did an interview by phone, but I was still very anxious about being the centre of attention, so I said I didn’t want the interview attributed.

So then I had to read my words in the newspaper, pretty much verbatim, all prefaced by “The woman said …” and “According to the woman …”

I’ve had other embarrassing moments. For example, I went to a friend’s wedding and was introduced to her intimidating mother, who came from a small town, let’s call it York. It was sheer terror that resulted in me calling her “Mrs York” instead of her actual name, which I knew perfectly well.

Lesson learned: I don't think fast on my feet.

I try to allow for it, but I suspect it’s a lifelong affliction. Maybe some of these shameful events will make it into future books, but I haven't yet created a character I dislike enough to subject to this level of social anxiety.

Reading journal: Growing Pains: the future of democracy (and work) by Gwynne Dyer

Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2018
Date read: August 2018

A short read exploring the rise of populism, Donald Trump and Brexit, and whether democracy as a form of government can survive.

Red graph line rising to right, with displaced worker figure falling, blue and white graph paper background

Dyer’s premise is that the problem is not one of ideology but of inequality. If a person’s ability to survive and benefit from economic growth is tied to employment, then there’s a problem, because paid employment is falling and wages are stagnant. Populists take advantage of this situation to blame immigrants and create dangerous social division.

Dyer makes a good case for the use of a universal basic income as the solution to ever-increasing automation in manufacturing, transport and information-based work. That’s a hard sell in a neo-liberal world.