Posts

Showing posts from June, 2018

Reading journal: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

Image
Genre: Fantasy Published: 2018 Date read: April 2018 A retelling of an old story, although I don’t recall ever reading Beauty and the Beast, only seeing cartoons of it. The author has created a lyrical work, choosing a language style that fits the story very well. A young man has been cursed by magic and lives alone in a forest. After a long time, he begins to return to human awareness although still in the form of a beast, and returns to his abandoned home. The beast tricks a traveller into sacrificing his daughter, sending her to the beast’s domain to live. In the best traditions of fairy tales, the story becomes a love story and the beast is redeemed. The story is beautifully told and very true to its origins, although I was never sure quite what terrible flaw the young man had shown that merited such a severe punishment. Still, fairy stories are often cruel and arbitrary. The cover is extraordinary. Another talented Canberra author.

Winter downunder in Australia

Image
If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about winter. Cold miserable duck Winter officially goes from 1 June to 30 August. In the north it is warm and dry, which explains why people like going to Queensland for holidays at this time of year. In the south it is cool to cold, and miserable. Most rain in the south falls in winter., except when there is drought, of course. Australian cities are on the coast and rarely go below zero, but you will get light frosts. Snow is pretty much limited to mountain areas. We don't need snow plows in our cities. From a northern hemisphere person's perspective, Australia doesn't really have any winter. It's my least favourite time of year, because the days are shorter and it feels dark and gloomy. July seems to drag on forever. And winter has no public holidays at all, just when we could really use them. It does have school holidays, which is a total

Reading journal: Suicide Run by Nathan Lowell

Image
Genre: Science fiction Published: 2018 Series: Smugglers Tales Date read: April 2018 Natalya and Zoya, travelling in the Deep Dark in their old scout ship, take on a job as test pilots for a new courier vessel being developed at the Pulaski Yards. The ship as designed is a death trap, and they face many dangers in unravelling plots and exposing the criminal enterprises that lie behind its existence. The book is competent enough, and there are moments of sheer terror when an airlock comes open in space, but I do have trouble getting inside the heads of the two main characters. They don’t seem to have enough passion, somehow. A larger design is hinted at, but I don’t think I’ve learned any more about it than I did in the first book in the series. The author needs to up the stakes a little to reach the standard of his earlier Traders Tales series.

Reading journal: Baby Elephant’s Trunk by Sesyle Joslin and Leonard Weisgard

Image
Genre: Children Published: 1961 Date read: April 2018 A book from my childhood. My mother was keen on teaching children languages, and I remember her reading it to me aloud. I did go on to learn French, although I wasn’t very good at it. This book introduces basic French vocabulary through a story. Baby elephant and his family are about to visit France, and his mother is teaching him some essential words. A charming little picture book with a fine touch of humour.

Reading journal: Hooked by Les Edgerton

Image
Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2007 Date read: March 2018 I read this book as part of a self-education program to improve my writing. The subtitle ‘Write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go’ tells us that this book is about writing good beginnings. Good first sentences, first scenes, and first chapters. That’s been a weakness of mine, that and good endings, especially for my current work in progress. It was illuminating to read this: As an author, you should have a firm understanding of your story-worthy problem before you begin writing. Oops. OK, so that’s the problem then. :-) Edgerton explains how past books and films had the luxury of spending immense amounts of time on descriptions and back story. This is no longer acceptable. Modern readers want to be plunged straight into the story with minimum fluff and refuse to read ‘the boring bits’. Interestingly, some older books that have become classics, such as The Thirtynine Steps , follow this mo

Reading journal: Sponge City: Water resource management by ICI Consultants and Sophie Barbaux

Image
Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2015 Date read: March 2018 I’m a real sucker for luscious illustrated books on landscape design, and I feasted on this one for days. The book explores new ways to manage urban water. Instead of trying to get rid of water as quickly as possible through underwater drains, this book shows how many cities and towns in France have instead brought the water back into the landscape with ponds, swales, ditches and overflow ponds. Flood waters are allowed to spread naturally and sink into the sponge as part of the water management system, rather than be seen as a problem. Descriptive text is provided in French and English. I didn’t understand the importance of this idea until I saw a television program about climate change in Europe. Over the next fifty years, cities are planning for record floods as ice and snow cover and glaciers disappear. Too much water is an imminent threat. From an Australian perspective, we are worrying more about extended heat

Reading journal: Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Image
Genre: Science Fiction (alternate history/crime) Published: 2001 Series: Arabesk Trilogy Date read: March 2018 An extraordinary story, wonderfully written. Ashraf al-Mansur, known to his friends as ZeeZee, travels to the free city of El Iskandryia, part of the Ottoman Empire in this alternate future where power lies in the hands of Berlin, Istanbul and Moscow. He’s lived most of his life in institutions, boarding schools, hospitals and prisons, with a brief career working for Chinese triads in Seattle. So it’s a surprise to be broken out of prison and given a passport and ticket for Africa, where an aunt he didn’t know he had has brokered a marriage for him. The story weaves together crimes, culture clashes, and a cast of fascinating characters. The other books in the trilogy are Effendi , a brilliant and terrifying story about child soldiers and artificial intelligence, and Felaheen , in which Raf explores his biological heritage. Grimwood (who also writes under