Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stormlord's Exile

I don't usually talk about books I've read here - I do occasional reviews at The Specusphere for that - but I'm making an exception for Stormlord's Exile by Glenda Larke. This is not meant as proper review - I will do that elsewhere - just a brief idea of what I felt about the book because I rate it as part of one of the best fantasy trilogies I've read recently.

This is the final book in The Watergivers trilogy and I've been hanging out for it ever since I finished the previous book Stormlord Rising. I was gripped by the world building, the originality of the concept - a society in which water is the basis of currency and can be a weapon - and the believable characters in the previous books and this book introduced us to other lands, equally vivid and realistic, as it told a fascinating story of culture clashes and relationships bringing the trilogy to an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.

I picked the book up from the bookshop around midday on Friday and started reading it. I was so absorbed in the story that I carried it around with me, grabbing a paragraph here and there, even while I was preparing and eating dinner. I finally put it down to go to sleep around 2:00 AM and finished it about mid morning on Saturday and its characters and settings are still buzzing in my head.

It's a rare book that grabs me like this but the same thing happened with the previous books in the trilogy. If you like fantasy - not the fairy and dragon kind but the sort that is grounded in reality so you feel you could walk with these characters in their world - I recommend this trilogy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oh Norway.

I've been trying to think of how to write this post but this is the best I can manage. This crime is so monstrous I find it hard to believe it could have happened. In some ways it resonates even more with me because last September I visited Port Arthur in Tasmania. This is a chilling place to visit for several reasons. The first is its history as a penal settlement of terrible barbarity. The second is because this is where Martin Bryant killed 35 people and injured 21 others in a shooting spree in 1996. I can still remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as that horror unfolded. This is so much worse.

My heart reaches out to all the people of Norway. I wish I could do something to ease your pain.

Women in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Serendipity - or do I mean synchronicity? Actually, I'm not sure. In any event I'm talking about similar things happening at the same time.

During my recent marathon reading session when I was confined to bed after surgery I read Tansy Rayner Roberts'The Shattered City, Book Two of her Creature Court trilogy. I had thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Power and Majesty, not only because it's a good read but also because her female characters are so strong. Even better the heroine and her friends are women who, when they are not involved in saving the world, make their livings as a dressmaker, a wreath maker and a ribbon maker. There are other women too, the young Duchess who is having to assert herself against the expectations of her mother and her Court and the women of the Creature Court, who have their own agendas, but always act in defence of the city. This is not to say the male characters are not well drawn. They are but it is a delight to have women who make a living in what are traditional female occupations while at the same time they perform heroic tasks. They are both great books and I'm looking forward to the final one in the trilogy.

Then I was looking at Tansy's blog for the latest on the Galactic Suburbia podcasts (always an interesting listen) and took a wander back over a few posts I had not yet read. That's where I found this link where N. K. Jemisin (another writer I discovered during my marathon. I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and I'm looking forward to the next instalment in the trilogy) talks about womanhood in fantasy. I love it when a good idea spreads, don't you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Small Gloat

Between us the Egoboo WA writers (Satima Flavell, Joanna Fay, Sarah Parker, Carol Ryles and me) have been quietly and steadily achieving this year. There have been competition wins in poetry and short fiction and a bundle of short stories and poems published. This is as well as working on our novels, blogging, interviewing and reviewing. I sometimes wonder how we manage to fit in anything else.

So congratulations to my fellow Egobooers. May our hard work continue to pay off.

PS: if you want to find out more about Egoboo WA go here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just a Thought

We were at lunch with friends on Sunday - a restaurant in a tavern in the Perth Hills. It's over a hundred years old so lots of lovely atmosphere. Yes, I know that barely counts in some countries but in Western Australia that means quite a lot given the fact that the first European settlers came here in 1829 and enthusiastic razing of 'old fashioned' buildings was all the go until recently. The food was average and the service pleasant if tardy but that's not what I meant to write about.

We were sitting there making our selections from the menu and someone enquired as to what calamari was. Fried squid she was told.

'Oh, I can't eat that,' she said.

I assumed she must have an allergy and asked her about it.

'No, it's because a researcher was doing some experiments using octopus.' (I'm sure you see the immediate problem since we were not talking about fried octopus but I let it pass). 'When it came to the octopus having an electrode attached to its head to measure brain activity the octopus reached around and removed it. The researcher immediately gave up experiments on octopus so I can't eat that.'

She then ordered fish and chips. How is this any different? In either case she is eating a once living creature. Strange and fuzzy thinking there, it seems to me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading, Reading, Reading

Oh and some house painting, a wedding and finally a chance to put away some of the 'stuff' that has been cluttering every conceivable corner of the house for what seems like years. I can't get everything tidied unfortunately because there's still more painting to be done and then the new flooring to go in and another bout of surgery but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. If you would like to have a glimpse of what I have been reading over the past few months go here where I have posted a list of the books I enjoyed most during my enforced rest on the Egoboo WA blog.

Monday, July 11, 2011

This Shocked Me

but I suppose it shouldn't with the way economic rationalism is being applied to the most inappropriate cases.

This is what shocked me. A disabled woman in the UK has been denied access to overnight care in her home by her local council so she can be assisted to the toilet. She has a bladder problem that makes frequent toilet visits unavoidable but is not incontinent but the council instead supplied her with incontinence pads because it was cheaper. She appealed to the Supreme Court - and they dismissed the appeal.

What are they thinking? More to the point were they thinking at all? What they are saying is that it's fine for a person to be left lying in urine or even faeces overnight because it's cheaper. They would have had a case if the woman in question had been incontinent - incontinence pads serve a necessary function for the incontinent. That's why they are called incontinence pads - but she is not.

I wonder how these wise decision makers would feel if instead of being able to to take breaks during the day to deal with a call of nature they were instead given incontinence pads and told that toilet breaks were an unnecessary cost. Instead they should stay at their work place from the beginning of business until closing time. Pity we can't put them in that position for a month or so.

Addendum: Part of the reason I shouldn't be surprised is discovering an elderly lady, who needed high level care because she kept falling but who was continent, was being forced to wear incontinence pads for the convenience of the staff who then didn't have to come and take her to the toilet. I can't imagine anything much more humiliating than being forced to wet yourself like this.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Is It Cold?

It is by Perth standards. Once the night temperature drops below 4 degrees C we're shocked. Below 1 degree C we're apt to think we're about to freeze solid. Now I have lived where winter temperatures are much lower than this and I don't remember feeling the cold as much as I do in Perth's relatively temperate climate. So why does it seem so bitterly cold here when the temperatures dip towards zero?

It's a combination of various factors, I suspect. Our summers are hot - by many standards very hot with mid summer temperatures averaging 30-33 degrees C and not uncommonly reaching between 35 and 38 degrees C - so 4 or 5 degrees C feels really cold in comparison. Then there's the fact that, until it actually gets cold here, we tend to ignore the possibility that each winter it can - and will - happen. So double glazing is a rarity as is central heating. Some folk do use reverse cycle air conditioning but it isn't the most common form of heating. Then we get a cold spell and suddenly realise we are unprepared.

As well there's the fact that there are only a relatively few days in the year when this happens so investing in cooling seems generally more economical. You can put on an extra sweater, can't you. Unfortunately just now an extra sweater and a rug aren't cutting it. Yesterday I ended up wearing three sweaters, track pants, thick socks and finger less gloves (so I could type) and it was still not enough. So I did what most Perthites, at least those stuck at home all day, do - guiltily put on the gas furnace at full for a few hours during the day. Why guiltily? Because we don't do that the way people in cold places do. This is Perth, after all. It's fine to heat the house at night but during the day it just doesn't get cold enough to justify it even for those of us who work at home - except, of course, it does.

Don't get me wrong. There are places in Australia where it does get really, genuinely cold, much colder than in Perth at its worst - Tasmania and the Southern Alps spring to mind. Both have have snowy winters and, as we found out while visiting Tasmania last year, snowy spring and summer weather as well. Even the southern inland parts of Western and South Australia have chilly winters. But those are cold places and that's not how we like to think of Perth.

But how we like to think of it and how it is are two different things. Perth does get cold in mid winter, however much we might like to think it doesn't, so I'm caving in. The heater is going on again today so I can dispense with at least one sweater. Then I'll look nearer my true size and shape and be able to move, even bend if necessary. Who knows, acknowledging the temperature might just make me more able to work instead of wondering if my fingers and toes, currently almost numb, will start functioning again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Lord Christopher Monckton, a climate change sceptic, recently visited Perth where he gave a speech at Notre Dame University outlining his beliefs. He had caused a furore earlier by referring to Professor Ross Garnaut as a Nazi. Professor Garnaut is an economist who was commissioned by the Federal Government to provide a 2011 review on his earlier 2008 report on the impact of climate change. Needless to say, whether you agree with Professor Garnaut or not, the tag of Nazi and describing him as 'having a fascist point of view' did not go down well and I have no quibble with those who expressed their opinion on this. It is highly offensive.

What I do have a problem with is some of the responses, in particular the petition which was signed by some fifty academics urging cancellation of the lecture at Notre Dame. We live in a democracy and whether or not you agree with Lord Monkton - and, for the record, I don't - he has the right to his opinion and to express it. He doesn't have the right to use offensive symbols or language to denigrate those who do not agree with him and for that he certainly should be held to account but, as long as he doesn't do that and he is not advocating criminal acts, he has a right to speak.