Friday, March 28, 2014

AWWC 2014: Vow's Answer by Joanna Fay

Vow's Answer is Book 3 of the Siaris Quartet and continues the story of the magical world of Siaris, its Guardians and the other races they protect. Things have become even worse with the Morraeth continuing their attempts to force Riana to return to them and they have augmented Xereth's powers. His fury at the escape of his half Guardian children has not abated and he is more than willing to help his masters in any way to defeat the Guardians who rescued them. Adding to this there are cultural tensions with some of the other races who resent their protectors and insist on applying human standards to them and their relationships. When Xereth takes a terrible revenge and the Morraeth find a new and vicious weapon much must change but whether the Guardians and their elden allies can survive is open to question.

I loved Daughter of Hope and Reunion, the first two books in the Siaris Quartet, and I wasn't disappointed with Vow's Answer which I found just as engaging. The tension builds as Xereth and the Moraeth escalate their attempts to get what they want. They may not be driven by the same motivations but the end they aim at is the same. The writer has not made the mistake of making them entirely evil though. While our sympathies are with the Guardians and their seemingly endless battle to preserve the world and people they are bound to protect there are flashes of what makes the Morraeth what they are and explains why they behave as they do while Xereth's obsession with the past fuels his rage making both the fallen Guardian and his masters believable.

I recommend Vow's Answer highly and I'm waiting impatiently for the final novel in this engrossing series.

Vow's Answer was published in December 2013 by Urania, the speculative fiction imprint of Musa Publishing, and is available as an e-book from and the publisher.

Joanna Fay's website is here and she is also on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

AWWC 2014: The Courier's New Bicycle by Kim Westwood.

In a post-apocalyptic Melbourne of fuel rationing, power outages and with curfews in place, Salisbury (Sal) Forth works as a bicycle courier delivering illegal hormone supplements for Ethical Hormones, a company which only sells cruelty free products not made from animals. The demand is high with much of the population rendered infertile due to a faulty flu vaccine. In the view of the ultra conservative religious Nation First party now in government this is a punishment for the sins of the past and they have enacted laws to enforce their beliefs but, driven by the desire for children, many defy them. As a gender transgressive person Salisbury is forced to live in the shadowy underworld. She has no time for these laws or beliefs but thrives on the physical activity and risks of her courier job, joining with animal rights activists to rescue ill treated horses in her spare time. Then fake drugs, poorly made, contaminated and bearing the logo of her employer's company start to appear and Sal finds herself trying to uncover how and why this is happening.

There's much to like in The Courier's New Bicycle. Westwood has created a dark, dystopian society with a well realised underworld populated by a mix of those who don't fit in society for many reasons and Salisbury is an engaging protagonist. She has a strong moral compass surviving in a world where she walks a difficult path due to her gender identity. She's a fully rounded character whose relationships are believable and there's not a whiff of stereotyping. I liked her employer, Gail, too. Her business may be illegal in the current circumstances but her ethical stance marks her as more than someone just trying to make a buck.

It's hard to fault The Courier's New Bicycle (although some may find the first person present point of view challenging at times) and it was a worthy winner of the 2011 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and 2012 Ditmar Award for Best Novel as was its shortlisting for the 2011 James Tiptree  Jnr Honor List.

Published originally as a paperback by Harper Collins Australia in 2011 The Courier's New Bicycle is available in an e-book from

Kim Westwood's website is at

Monday, March 24, 2014

Missing Malaysian flight MH70.

All week the planes have been flying overhead. They're big - very big - and noisy. This is because we are on a flight path from RAAF Base Pearce where much of the search for Malaysian Airways Flight MH370, missing since March 8, is now based.

Since the change in direction of the search on March 18 and the discovery of floating debris by a satellite on March 22 everything has stepped up. The search is very difficult for a number of reasons. The area itself is enormous. Located thousands of kilometres out in the southern Indian Ocean it means it takes the planes around four hours to get to the area and another four to return which leaves only about two hours search time. Add in the vagaries of the ocean currents as well as forecast bad weather and it's a huge task.

Sadly it's unlikely that there will be any survivors but if the debris can be retrieved it will at least mean the families will have some closure and possibly answers about what happened. I can only imagine what pain they have been in and my heart goes out to them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ear-Worms Anyone?

Things are a bit fraught around here at the moment - no, it's not catastrophic, just a bit hard to cope with - so, of course, my brain wandered off on a weird tangent. For reasons unknown, it wanted an ear-worm and, after a few half hearted attempts - The Green-Eyed Dragon With Thirteen Tails (No link to a performance as most don't do it justice once you've heard the original version as performed by Stanley Holloway and written by Greatrex Newman but you find the lyrics here.) and When I'm Cleaning Windows (George Formby) both tried to muscle in - the clear winner is The Ball Bearing Bird by Frankie Davidson.

Don't thank me. I'm always glad to help.

Just a note about The Green-Eyed Dragon: although there are a number of versions of the lyrics on the internet most of them have been made more politically correct by removing the lines

"He'll feed
 With greed
 On little boys, puppy dogs and big fat snails.
 Then off to his lair each child he'll drag
 And each of his thirteen tails he'll wag."

Presumably this is because it's seen as too scary for children. It seems a pity because it really isn't aimed at them, is it. After all "MP" "R.I.P." and "income tax" aren't exactly childish concepts and, even as a child who loved fantasy I, for one, was well aware that dragons didn't actually exist outside fiction and revelled in the humour of it dying of excess of indigestible - and to me just as fictional - plum cake (I'd never heard of it in real life at the time but was able to work out that it was some kind of heavy fruit cake for which I had a strong dislike).

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Autumn - At Very Long Last

Officially Autumn starts on March 1. Unfortunately the weather doesn't understand this so, until yesterday when it dipped to a comfortable 25.7 C, we'd been having temperatures ranging from the low to high thirties with three days of over 37 C since the beginning of the month. The Bureau of Meteorology website here has the details.

It all gets a bit tiring when it has gone on for months and months like it has this year. We're used to hot summers here but this has been particularly bad. What's really weird is that apparently there are folk out there who keep contacting the BOM complaining because they think that the figures have been fudged in some way to support the hypothesis of climate change. I'm not sure how they think measuring the day to day temperature does this because climate change isn't measured on daily variations in temperature and besides the BOM is upfront about where their measuring sites are located and how long they've been there.

I'm starting to think it's something similar to "going troppo" or "mango madness" where people start to act strangely in hot weather only we just get the heat and no clouds.

Friday, March 07, 2014

International Women's Day

is today and Google have put together a lovely montage of women from all over the world celebrating the day . If you don't have come across it yet you can see it here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Snake Eats Crocodile

This has been big news - no pun intended. A hungry python in outback Queensland, Australia, took on a freshwater crocodile and won. Tiffany Corlis happened to be nearby with her camera and took an astonishing series of photos documenting the 5 hour battle and its eventual end. The best photos of what happened I could find are here in this slideshow.

I knew constrictor snakes could swallow large prey due to their ability to stretch their jaws apart but I still find this extraordinary. The snake, according to some reports, was about three and a half metres in length and judging from the photos that makes the crocodile at least 2 metres. Impressive by any standard.

Monday, March 03, 2014


I don't usually blog about my health issues because… well, because I don't want to bore you, gentle readers. Suffice it to say I have a less than functional digestive tract due to surgery many years ago. This means my appetite and my weight fluctuate madly and recently I've not enjoyed my food at all and, as a result, although I'm usually an enthusiastic and creative cook - you have to be to get an interesting meal out of what I'm allowed to eat - I've not wanted to cook or eat.

Today was different though. We are blessed in having an exceptional produce store only a few minutes drive away. Everything is beautifully fresh and arranged in mouthwatering displays and since its prices are much the same as the supermarkets charge for inferior produce it's very popular. They also stock all sorts of interesting foodstuffs to cater for the large southern European population, the descendants of the market gardeners who originally settled here, as well as a vast array of other exotic foodstuffs. Sadly the market gardens are pretty much all gone now, with the rich, fertile land buried under houses.

So off we went this morning and I stocked up  - and got inspired. I give you today's lunch - hot potato, avocado and toasted pine nut salad (steamed cubes of potatoes tossed with cubed avocado and pine nuts - I tossed them in a dry pan over medium heat until they started to brown - dressed with a little lime juice and extra virgin olive oil), served with marinated feta from the produce store that melted in the mouth and a salad (mixed salad greens, sliced lebanese cucumber and cherry tomatoes dressed with a lime vinaigrette) followed by a white nectarine for dessert. (I didn't think about a photo until after we'd eaten but it was so delicious I'll be making it again and I'll try to take one then.)