Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke

In this, the third book in The Forsaken Lands trilogy, disgraced witan, Saker, and his fellow terrion members, Sorrel and Ardhi, arrive back from the Summer Seas to find that much has changed in the two years of their absence.

In The Fall of the Dagger, armed only with their witcheries and the magical gifts given them by the Chenderawesian Rani (which they have no idea how to use), Saker, Sorrel and Ardhi together with Adronnese privateer Lord Juster must take on the sorcerer and his army as well as searching for a way to destroy the sorcerous infection of two innocent children. They are not the only ones still battling sorcery. There are a few left who have witcheries and others who have joined the fight against the sorcerer but despite all these efforts, as Fox's power continues to grow, the prospects for Va-Cherished and Va-Forsaken alike look equally dire.

The world building is strong and detailed, the characters are well drawn and believable and the tension ramps up steadily. I loved it and didn't want to put it down. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, all the more enjoyable because of the unexpected twists and turns in the plot. Oh and I mustn't forget to mention the maps by Perdita Phillips which help to make the world even more clear.

The Fall of the Dagger was published by Orbit in Australia earlier this year.

Glenda Larke blogs at Tropic Temper and her website is here

Edited because I had included spoilers without warning. Sorry.





  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Poppies

I looked out my back door the other morning and the poppy bed was positively glowing in the early morning light. The sky had been grimly grey for the most part but the sun had broken through a gap in the clouds and illuminated the whole bed for just a few minutes. So I grabbed my phone - no time to get the camera in case the light disappeared - and took some photos.












This is only a tiny fraction of the bed and I didn't think it did the flowers justice so I went closer in.




This needs cropping but it captures something of the light on the blossoms.



I wanted more and found sunlight gilding this flower. Pretty isn't it.

T

And here's one with a bee busily at work. 

The sun disappeared then and everything dulled but for those few minutes the flowers were glorious.

We have rain forecast for later in the day so most of the flowers won't last long - they'll just be a crimson carpet of petals on the paving surrounding the bed - but there will be more to enjoy tomorrow. The poppy season isn't very long and now the weather is starting to warm up they'll soon be gone but what joy they bring while they are here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Busy, Busy, Busy

So that's one review done - under great difficulty I might add because Mr Kitty has recently decided that the laptop keyboard is the place to lie but only when I'm trying to type. Of course, if I can persuade him to move his body, then typing fingers are just me wanting a game, aren't they, and if I put a hand out of sight under the desk to save it from attack I'm playing a weird game of hide and seek. I have tried shutting him out but then the heart rending miaows make work impossible so I'll just have to live with grabbing moments like the current one - he's curled up in a patch of sun on the end of my desk for now.

So what is my plan for the rest of the day? Well, I'm heading off to a Pilates class soon but otherwise I'm going to reread Glenda Larke's The Fall of the Dagger (another 'I can't put it down' book that I got a few months back) with the aim of reviewing it, too.  Lee Battersby's Magrit and Stephen Dedman's North of the Dragonlands are two others I want to get to review sooner rather than later and there's a whole pile of others as well.

Wish me luck.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

I was delighted to receive a review copy of Den of Wolves a few weeks ago. Life immediately got in the way and although I read straight away - it was one of those books I found I couldn't put down - I have only just had the chance to write this review.

Den of Wolves is the third book in the series following the healer Blackthorn and her devoted and unlikely companion, Grim. In the first book in the series, Dreamer's Pool, (the second book is Tower of Thorns) the pair were rescued spectacularly from prison where they and others had been been falsely imprisoned by Mathuin, a vicious chieftain who dispensed torture and cruelty without mercy or justice, by Conmael, a fey nobleman. Embittered and desperate for revenge for the abuse and losses she had suffered at Mathuin's hands, Blackthorn found herself bound by promises demanded by Conmael that she return to her profession as a healer, do only good and seek no vengeance for seven years.

Since then Blackthorn and Grim have lived together as friends who help and support each other to deal with their demons for some time and have become a respected part of the community. Both are flawed and this is a large part of their appeal. This is no tale of a hero's journey in grand terms, just one of two damaged people learning to survive in a world that has not treated them well and along the way coming to value one another.

In Den of Wolves both are drawn into the complicated lives of others - a girl who struggles to speak, a wild man with crippled hands and a wealthy landowner who wants a magical house built to protect him and his family. At the same time Blackthorn and Grim's nemesis, Mathuin, is causing trouble that threatens to engulf the entire kingdom and stirring up memories of the injustices the two have endured at his hands and the danger that still stalks them.

I found this an engrossing tale of relationships - and I'm not only referring to the romantic kind although they do exist. Family, community and friendship are just as important and I loved how people related to one another in a detailed and totally believable world where reality and magic co-exist. Den of Wolves is beautifully written - one of the author's skills is to be able to write in a way that is poetic but without losing realism, something that is hard to do successfully - with well drawn characters motivated by all the usual human frailties.

Den of Wolves answers many questions that I for one have been wondering about and brings this part of the story of Blackthorn and Grim to a convincing and satisfying end. A truly enjoyable read

Den of Wolves is published by Pan Macmillan Australia in Australia and is due for release September 29 and by Roc in the USA where it is due for release on November 1.

Juliet Marillier's website is here


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Marriage Equality. Why Is It Even a Question?

There has been a lot of discussion here about marriage equality and frankly I cannot understand why or how it even needs to be discussed at a political level but obviously there are those who find the whole idea disturbing. I'm not personally affected by this but it seems to me that anyone should be able to form a life partnership with whomever they want and that they should be able to enjoy the same legal rights in such a partnership whether they are a man and a woman, two men or two women. I do understand that this conflicts with the religious beliefs of some and that's fine. As far as I'm concerned you can believe what you want but you have no right to force others to follow the dictates of your belief system.

So what to do? Well, the logical solution it seems to me is that we should make the actual legal part of establishing such a partnership one that is carried out by the authority of a government licensed celebrant and no one else. This could then be easily extended to any couple wanting to commit to a lifetime partnership. By all means let people have their partnerships formalised within their religion if they want and it fits with their beliefs but don't let that have any legal status.

What would that mean practically? Very little. An ever increasing  number of Australians are already opting for a wedding conducted by a civil celebrant. As well the number of people who choose never to marry their life partners is also increasing and we already give these folk all the rights of those who choose to be married. So why not take the next step and introduce civil contracts for all who want them?

I'm yet to hear one sensible reason why our parliamentarians shouldn't legislate to resolve the situation. Instead we have the situation where our federal government thinks we should have a costly plebiscite. This will have no binding authority and will cost $160 million plus the additional funding for those on both sides of the question the government intends to provide. Multiple polls have shown that the vast majority of Australians think there should be marriage equality but we have government MPs openly stating that no matter if a majority of voters in their electorate vote for marriage equality in the plebiscite they intend to vote according to their consciences whether or not this conflicts with the choice of their electors - you know those people they are supposed to represent - so how this expenditure can be justified is beyond me.

So I appeal to our government, please, just legislate for marriage equality, ideally by instituting civil contracts for all marriages (change the terminology if you need to so you placate those who see marriage as having other connotations). There's no constitutional reason why not and changing this won't alter anything for the majority of the Australian community. It'll just make life better for anyone who wants to have a life partnership with someone of the same gender. Is that so bad?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Gardening

It's no secret that I love gardening. It restores the soul in a way nothing else can. The trouble is that as my arthritis gets worse it's getting harder and harder to do what I want to. This year a combination of things has made it difficult to do what I would like. Pisces' illness and my current -and still not definitively diagnosed - hip problem have meant I've had to cut back a lot.

I've temporarily abandoned the lower section of the garden since I can't handle the steps without extreme difficulty but the vegie patch is still in good condition and supplying us with snow peas, silver beet, lettuces and spring onions with a few beetroot still to be harvested as well as chives (onion and garlic) and several different kinds of parsley. I've let the nasturtiums rampage a bit to add a slightly different flavour to salads - the leaves also work well as a cooked green vegetable - and there's borage to bring the bees in too. Pisces is reluctant to try eating borage leaves for some reason (maybe their hairy surface puts him off) but I'm trying to encourage him to become more adventurous so we get even more out of this useful plant.

I've already started to plant the spring/summer crops with runner bean, red onion, basil and rainbow chard seedlings already in beside the self sown tomatoes and sunflowers plus more lettuce and I'm going to spend part of today making up newspaper seedling tubes to give the other vegies a bit of a start because, if I plant seeds directly into the ground, I find I lose most of the seedlings to snails, slugs and slaters. Yes, I could scatter baits but I have visiting dogs and children and I don't like using poisons of any sort.

At the end of last summer I succumbed to the magic of the seed catalogues and so I now have colourful packets of all sorts of goodies. There's one of carrots of many colours (several shades of yellow and purple among others) and another kind that is purple on the outside and orange inside. I've not had much luck with carrots (they grow well enough but often have an aftertaste that spoils them). I'm hoping these will be better. There are three different kinds of sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, a whole lot of different beans - Purple king (this one produces tasty purple pods that turn green when cooked), butter beans, borlotti beans, snake beans and French beans. Then there are Lebanese cucumbers, butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant and a beetroot I've not tried before to name but a few. And, of course, I also grow a few flowers and I have some fruit plantings that need tending.

So you can see I'll be busy. I know it probably seems like a lot of work, and on one level it is, but the joy of being able to go out into the garden and harvest what we are going to eat or pick a bunch of flowers with my little granddaughter makes up for the sore hands and painful back.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Amazing Milena Sidorova Performs

A video of this extraordinary woman came up in my Facebook feed and so I went to find out more about her. It turns out that she is a multi award winning dancer and choreographer from Kiev. She started her ballet training in the Ukraine before attending the Royal Ballet School in London. She has been dancing with the Dutch National Ballet since 2005.

There are a number of videos of her performing on YouTube but the most incredible is the Spider Dance. I have no idea how she does this and before I run out of superlatives perhaps I should simply give you the link.

Milena Sidorova performing the Spider Dance