The Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

October 11, 2022 at 1:34 am (Uncategorized)

Why yes, I’m still sorting out photos and videos from our Queensland holiday last March. And my computer and phone are very upset about it all.

I like making videos in iMovie but none of the title options do subtitles well, so here’s the full text of the video (so anyone Hard of Hearing can read them here), with some pics so it’s not too boring.


We live in Canberra, so it was always going to be a pretty long day to get all the way to the Whitsundays. But our kids had never been on a plane before, so it was pretty exciting, and as soon as we arrived at Proserpine Airport we were pretty enchanted with the features of the airport. Then off we went to the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort. Not to be confused with the Big4… other place, which is different but in the same area.

Beautiful gardens, barbecue areas, lots of really good facilities including a range of camping/room options, water features, go karts, petting zoo…. But of course the main thing is the water park. There are thirteen slides in the waterpark. It closes … I think about 6:00 or 7:00pm each day, which gives you plenty of time to play, and it was Right On for our kids. We had such a good time—all of us. It also features a huge bucket that occasionally drops water all over you if you’re standing underneath.

And there’s the pool, which has two slides, a spa area, and is huge.

This is our cabin, number two, and our rental car. It’s a relatively long way from the pool but very close to reception which turned out to be really handy. Nice outside light; nice balcony. We had a tree frog juuuust here.

You can see a floor plan on the web site: there’s two very lovely bunks with their own little windows. Top shelf: luggage only… so, this is my daughter ‘Luggage’. Actually she’s very safety conscious and would never go up there.

These chairs are not suitable for adults. I did break one, even though I was very careful, so we had to bring in one of the outside chairs but I really don’t blame myself for that.

Here is the kitchenette, which has basically four knives, spoons, forks, etc. No oven; the electric frypan was our friend. Another window. It’s quite a small space but they managed to have seven windows, a fan, and an air conditioner—which was not quite up to the heat of this week, but it was a lot better being inside than outside.

Basic stuff in the cupboard. Unfortunately not shelves, which I would have liked because a lot of the storage space is down so low it wasn’t useful to me. There’s about…. Well, that’s not a gap I can fit into.

The shower has a water-saving showerhead, which is probably for the best. The door opens this way, which makes it pretty difficult for an overweight person to get in. Basically there’s enough room in the bathroom I would say but you know, it’s tricky. Certainly not a place you could access with a wheelchair but I believe they do have wheelchair specific cabins.

Lizzie loved the Autism Room, even though it was pitched a little young for her. Tim became completely obsessed with Mini Golf, and he and Chris went off to play it pretty much every day. But the best thing of all was night-time swimming, especially with the water slides still open until 9pm each night.

I strongly recommend the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort. It was excellent.

Video link:

Permalink Leave a Comment

DIY Cat Enclosure, Part 2

October 10, 2022 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Part 1 is here.

I tried to attach this cat tunnel to our laundry door (where the cat door is) with various combinations of string and temporary hooks. Screws are better, and still somewhat removable.

These cat tunnels cost $59 each and have useful ties at each end, plus reinforced holes and tent pegs.

They’re over 5m long, but a lot of that gets used up when the tunnel needs to turn a corner.

They can also be used to briefly entertain primary-age kids.

Permalink 3 Comments

More on Autism

October 5, 2022 at 10:38 pm (Uncategorized)

Like most people who realise they’re autistic as adults, I am unpacking a whole lot of my life through a new lens. Here’s another great twitter thread on autism, with my comments:

I have brilliant time management, but I hate socks and shoes so much that there was a 6-month period of time when I didn’t own a single pair of shoes, and I rarely wear socks even when it’s literally freezing. I also struggle to wear long sleeves, or sleeves at all. I’ll sometimes wear sleeveless tops in winter, despite the cold, because having clothes on my arms is so stressful to me. And obviously that’s one of the main reasons I struggle to wear a mask, too.

Yes, yes, oh hell yes, yes, a bit, dunno.

Not really, or at least not in a big way to any of these (and in answer to your question, ‘T-rex arms’ means standing around with your elbows bent and hands dangling).

Yes, oh so yes (I’ve been getting stressed driving past the Floriade crowds), oh so yes, oh so yes, uh I dunno, oh so yes.

Yes, nah, yes, maybe, maybe, I don’t struggle I enjoy it… as in, when I met Chris and he said he had ADHD my first thought was, “Good. He’ll fit in with my friends.”

I’m a genius at multitasking (although also exhausted by it), uh yes I was diagnosed years ago, better I don’t answer that one, oh so yes (I really really can’t handle funerals UNLESS I’m super close to the deceased because I worry so much about all those who are ‘worse off’ than me, emotionally speaking, that I become a ball of pain too upset to be of use to anyone), oh so yes (I can feel myself ignoring people in favour of animals but can’t seem to stop), no I reckon I’m good at that.

Uh…. my mum made a deal with me at age 16ish to sit up straight for 6 weeks in exchange for a prize (which I did, then immediately went back to slouching), yes, I love change but handle it really badly, oh so yes, oh so yes, yes.

I like to plan and then break my own plans. But if people don’t go along with my plans I often have panic attacks. No, oh so yes, uh… I’m best self-employed for exactly this reason, oh so yes, uh yes (even before I was sick).

Thank you, @neuro_lou!

Permalink Leave a Comment

DIY Cat Enclosure

September 30, 2022 at 12:35 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Roughly fifteen years ago—before I met Chris—I gained a kitten, and solemnly promised that, since she had a white nose (making her vulnerable to cancer) I would get a cat enclosure as soon as I could.

This is that cat, Princess Ana, when Lizzie was a toddler:

That cat died several years ago (and not of cancer, which makes me feel a little better about my promise). But I never forgot my promise.

These are our current cats, Zipper and Zoom. Zipper tends to look cranky, and Zoom tends to look aggressively innocent. They’re not related. Once you go calico, you can’t go back.

As you can see, they also have white noses.

During Term 3 of this year, I took on a temporary job that pushed my health far beyond what is safe—confirming that I should NOT be doing more than about 6 hours of paid work per week, and also giving us a brief period where we could buy a few things that weren’t immediately necessary for survival.

So we bought/gained:

A very narrow shed for $500.

A greenhouse for $250.

Two ‘outside pet tunnels’ for $60 each.

3m x 5m of really nice flexible netting, free from a friend (but definitely has chook poo on and in it).

Our own old trampoline, with a 1.8m diameter and high netting all around (plus shadecloth we clipped over the top years ago. The kids have very much outgrown it, but we didn’t manage to give it away so it shall be absorbed into this project.

These are the ingredients with which we shall try to put together a cat enclosure. We’ll probably need another cat tunnel, but we’ll see how far we can get.

Our yard is mostly an L shape; only about 3m wide on the longer side. At the end of the narrower side it continues on around the house (so SORT of a C-shape yard really), with a 1.12m-wide patch of bare dirt and weeds. We have strongly encouraged our cats to use it as a toilet, and they do (but of course also use the neighbours’ yards). We want to keep that area as a cat toilet, so that is what the shed is for: to ‘enclose’ the cats’ toilet while also giving us a teensy bit of extra storage (for items that we don’t mind smelling bad).

Rejoice with us, because after about 8 hours of work by two healthy and intelligent men, the “simple” shed now exists in the real world, complete with a cat ‘door’ cut into the metal shed door.

Tim also helped.

I’ve weeded a bit more since taking these photos. We’ll also tape up the sharp side of the cat door. (You’ll notice it can be folded back into place to almost ‘fix’ the door if that’s useful in future.)

For now, we have put normal kitty litter inside and done our best to let the cats know they’re allowed in there (Zoom is less skittish so we physically picked her up and put her inside; if we did that to Zipper she would swear an oath to never enter it again—but since Zoom has been inside, she knows she’s allowed). We are leaving the door open and letting them take their time getting used to it.

Eventually, we’ll close the main shed door and attach one end of a cat tunnel to the cat hole—but only when all the rest of the cat enclosure is done.

This was, hopefully, the most difficult part. It’s also the most rewarding, since it means we can continue to never deal with kitty litter.

Next step: Attaching one of the cat tunnels to our laundry door, which is where we have a proper cat flap—which means the cats will have to go through the tunnel to get in or out of the house (which will also let slightly outside air into the laundry, yay).

We’ll leave it open at the other end while they get used to it.

Permalink 3 Comments

The Great Book Sort, Part 5—rape

September 16, 2022 at 5:15 pm (book reviews)

Way too many hack writers use rape as either backstory, drama, or peril for female characters (and all the more so if it provides handy motivation for the male character—double ugh).

Way too many actually-pretty-good writers use rape too.

And so do some brilliant writers.

It’s an instant red flag for me as a reader. I relate hard to my fictional characters and if they get traumatised there’s a strong risk that I will also be traumatised. I wish all books came with content warnings, like movies and TV, so at least I had a choice about whether I was about to be tricked into imagining being sexually assaulted! Those who claim it’s important for “historical accuracy” (oddly enough, especially in fantasy worlds) are welcome to it. But it’s definitely not for me.

I’ve written at least one character who was raped, and now that I’m older I do regret it.

Any child who is a good reader will read a rape scene far too young.

But sometimes a story with rape in it is worth it, even for me.


Pamela Freeman’s “Deep Waters” trilogy (+ 1) series has plenty of rape, some of it ‘on-screen’ (always more traumatic to read) and I have to brace myself before reading it. But the series is so incredibly good that it’s worth it.

As I sort my kindle books, I’ve re-discovered another amazing Aussie author, Glenda Larke. She has several trilogies, and the Isles of Glory trilogy was the first one I read this time around. There is a LOT of rape, and torture (explicitly described), and even a post-rape baby that is genuinely evil (which I imagine is extremely triggering for some people). But this series still made the ‘Favourites’ pile, in part because it’s female-led and the women basically treat rape and torture in the same way—it really really sucks, and is frightening, but it doesn’t change anything about who you are. If your friends are in danger and you know you’ll get raped if you help them—well, you’re gonna choose to get raped.

I definitely still brace myself before reading anything by Larke—partly for all the violence, and partly because I get so badly drawn in that I’m not 100% in real life until the trilogy is finished.

I’ve also read her “Mirage Makers” trilogy very recently, and it was just as compelling without nearly as much rape (but rape was still very much a thing—in this case, lots and lots of rape of male child slaves before the stories began—fortunately I’m pretty sure it was all ‘off-screen’ and without detail).


Juliet Marillier is famous enough that I don’t need to remember how to spell her name. If I search for anything similar, her actual name will come up. She also has quite a lot of books, and I’ve bought a solid chunk of them.

This is the one that traumatised me as a child, and then again as an adult. It’s definitely not the most awful rape scene ever, but there are several elements that make it extra difficult, the main one being that you’re in the moment with the heroine.

Now, all her books are really good! The ‘tiny pale-skinned heroine with magic and enormous hulking brothers and/or love interest/s’ gets a little tiring after a while. I could definitely handle reading these books again…. but I have other books that are just as good that don’t require me to go through that experience again. Plenty of her other books also have rape or attempted rape, but I think this is the one with the most detail.


“The Book of the Unnamed Midwife” by Meg Elison is a good book, but I never want to go into that world again. There’s been an apocalypse that wiped out most women and children, and made childbirth deadly. The heroine basically finds women who have been claimed by a gang of men (that is, they are prisoners who get raped a bunch by all of them), and gives them contraceptives so at least they don’t get pregnant.

It’s a profound angle on post-apocalyptic literature (memo to self: in the apocalypse, make sure to loot the contraceptives as a lot of people will really need them) and is well-written and well-developed. Not surprisingly, there’s lots of sex and violence. Although the book is definitely not devoid of hope, it’s way too dark for me.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Great Book Sort, Part 4

August 28, 2022 at 12:09 pm (book reviews)

This coming Saturday, the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group has our big annual fundraiser, an Open Garden event at 67 Vagabond Cr McKellar (Canberra), on Saturday September 3rd from 10am-4pm featuring stalls, food, music, contests, plants to buy, and so much more.

So I’m going to try and keep this entry brief.


T. Kingfisher (who writes as Ursula K Vernon when she’s writing for kids) is a gift to this world. She has strong inclinations towards writing horror, but she writes with such incredible warmth that devouring her books is worth my newfound fear of the sound tock… tock…. TOCK (from her book “The Twisted Ones”).

Here’s a quick screenshot from “Summer in Orcas”, which is probably the least scary of all her books.

This author is just amazing, with a wide range of styles. I’m so glad she exists.


Tamsyn Muir, “Gideon the Ninth” etc.

A lot of people, including my partner, really really love this book. It’s well-written, fascinating, and unique. Probably a bit too dark and/or nihilistic for me.


Ursula Vernon, “Black Dogs”

I just really, really didn’t like it. I found it childish. Which seems like an odd insult to a children’s book, but I write children’s books myself that are highly enjoyable for adults to read. So here we are. Even the glorious Kingfisher doesn’t always write what I like. And in fact, “Summer in Orcas” reads like that kind of stunning, ageless fantasy to me. It even has a child protagonist.

But what do I know?

Permalink 3 Comments

The Great Book Sort, Part 3 (Robin McKinley)

August 1, 2022 at 12:04 am (book reviews)

Before I start, let us remember that authors are only human and never ever deserve the abuse that any famous person inevitably receives. This is a (mostly) negative review, and a warning to readers—it is not an invitation to harangue an elderly woman who happens to be particularly gifted with the written word and somewhat less gifted (in my opinion) at sticking to incomplete ideas and letting go of complete ideas.

Yes, I am attempting humour. Hopefully some people will like it.

I hereby declare a blood feud against Robin McKinley. She conceals great evil in her apparent innocence.

Observe the face of true evil! Note how she has clearly cut up two innocent dogs and laid one head and one body on her lap, never to be united.

(Photo from wikipedia.)

Twenty or so years ago, I read “The Blue Sword” and was enchanted. There was something about her lyrical style that grabbed me, and the moment in which the heroine is talking to someone who loves the desert like she does (passionately, irrationally) has stuck with me all this time.

The sequel wasn’t nearly as good. It felt a lot more generic (chosen one, prophecy, magical items, battle) and therefore less interesting. The main character who was interesting in the first book was effectively a different person.

But I read one of her other books, way back then, that I didn’t remember so clearly. I read it again, recently, and remembered as I read that I’d read it before, but couldn’t remember how it ended. Was it beautiful? Tragic? Mediocre?

So much worse, my friends. So. Much. Worse.

That book was “Pegasus”, a story about human-Pegasus relationships across a seemingly insurmountable cultural divide. Of course I loved it! Cultures reaching out to one another is my jam! But as I re-read it, long stretches of the book were incredibly dull. Conversations between characters that stopped the plot moving, and lots of political machinations that weren’t magical or fun at all. I kept going, telling myself to trust this author who sometimes had such a profound effect upon me.

Then I finished the book, which ends very abruptly. Or rather, it doesn’t end at all. Not even a cliffhanger, or a tragedy, or something badly written. It truly ruly doesn’t end. (Apparently it’s NOT “a book” put part one of a three-part “book”.) As I searched for the second part, not sure if I wanted to wade through more of this drab tale but hoping I could at least get a summary…. I found a deep well of rage, betrayal, and tragedy.

There is no sequel (or “Part 2” if you prefer). It’s been over a decade and there’s NO SEQUEL!?!??! To a book with one of the most frustrating non-endings of all time?

It’s not just me. You can read some of the chorus of rage on the Goodreads page for the second book, which has been live for over ten years and giving people false hope all that time.

And I have suffered more than all of them, because I journeyed through the boredom, frustration, and ultimate fury of reading “Pegasus” not once but twice.

*inarticulate screaming*

Whatever you do, DO NOT read this book! It is, quite literally, not finished.


But there’s more, even more damning horrors to lay at the feet of this best-selling villain.

Notice anything, my precious? Sorta similar covers, aren’t they? Both somewhat suggestive of “Beauty and the Beast”, yes?

Oh yes.

Not only are they both based on “Beauty and the Beast”, they are extremely similar. If anyone else had written the second, they would definitely lose millions in a plagiarism lawsuit.

Three daughters, and an elderly father. Poverty. Travel. Small town. Becoming better people through hardship. Dad lost in woods; mysterious castle; takes a rose for the daughter named “Beauty” and then the Beast gets angry and orders him to send his daughter to the castle; the daughter comes; the beast isn’t nearly as horrible as he looks; Beast lets her go due to family crisis and nearly dies as a result, which causes Beauty to declare her love; they marry and live happily ever after.

Many many scenes are almost identical: The Beast refusing to eat with Beauty because he can’t do it gracefully; the castle constantly changing shape and colour and size (I really hated that in both versions—it was mystical and lyrical, but also somewhat pointless and annoying); Beauty seeing visions of her sisters, etc. Even the sudden appearance of butterflies in the otherwise lifeless castle being an early portent of returning life.

For me, there are two main differences between the stories. In the first, the name “Beauty” is a sarcastic nickname for an ugly girl (which I liked, except the castle then made her prettier). In the second, the Beast does not transform back into a human at the end, which is cool in some ways and super weird in others.

It reads VERY much as if it has been written from the exact same notes as the first book. Not just the same inspiration. Very much the same scene by scene outline. In the author’s afterword, she says how disappointed she was to have written “Beauty” before she had spent a significant amount of time growing roses. An increase in horticultural knowledge has not improved the story; not one bit.

It is terribly annoying to read the exact same story by the same author, and to pay for both of them. It feels like reading two drafts of the same book, as if the author is lurking over my shoulder saying, “Should I write the scene this way or that way?” I didn’t sign up to be an editor.

But I am now going to express my rage in the most heinous manner possible—and it is all the more heinous because I am about to say something true, and one never knows what an author, even a nearly-70-year-old bestselling author, might somehow read:

Brace yourselves.

The second “Beauty and the Beast” book she wrote, with an extra ten years of writing experience (and gardening experience) under her belt….

is not as good.

Pow. The burning brand of true hatred falls without mercy.

The character development of the family is much weaker in the second book. It rushes through the change from ‘spoiled rich people’ to ‘good-hearted and loving country folk’, making it feel unrealistic (and calling attention to the fact that being poor and anxious is not usually a catalyst for becoming a better person). It also has a whole complicated magical backstory that serves only to confuse matters, spending several pages telling different versions of a story (which just feels repetitive, and slows down the actual story), and well as making a huge deal out of “three sisters living in Rose Cottage” with no payoff whatsoever (there’s a prophecy saying that when three sisters live in Rose Cottage, walls and towers will fall—but the sisters live there for many years with no issues… and there are no walls and towers in the book whatsoever).

I mean sure, feel free to read both. Compare and contrast, if you like. Make up your own mind. But just know that they are absolutely the same story (acknowledged by the author).

So yeah, “Rose Daughter” and “Pegasus” are going straight into the “Nope” pile, so I never sully my mind with their contents again.

Take that, McKinley.

Permalink 2 Comments

The Great Book Sort (Part 2)

July 27, 2022 at 10:57 pm (book reviews) (, )

Since one of my three followers is in hospital and needs more book recs, here’s…. some more book recs!


“Clean Sweep” (and “Sweet in Peace”, “One Fell Sweep”, “Sweep of the Blade”, “Sweep with Me” and I haven’t read “Sweep of the Heart” yet) by Ilona Andrews (aka the Innkeeper series). Now here’s the interesting part: they’re not all THAT well written. They read like many many many mid-level paranormal romance authors (and, to be fair, a million billion times better than MANY error-riddled published books, especially self-published books). The plot is only more important than the inevitable love triangle (good), and the writing is fine and fundamentally flawless but not astonishing. I’ve read other books by the author and they went to the “Nah” pile—perfectly good books, which I might re-read if I run out of favourites. So why is this series a favourite? The heroine is an Innkeeper, with considerable powers… but she’s fundamentally an inter-species diplomat, and most of the books’ tensions come from two or more very different magical species coming into contact in or near her inn. So it’s all about making different cultures feel safe and comfortable and respected… and I LOVE THAT TO BITS.

Side note: The “Temeraire” series by Naomi Novik is absolutely brilliant but I can only re-read the first of the series (it’s all excellently written) because there are so many cases of cultural clashes where people are just awful at understanding each other. It’s too painful to ‘watch’ a second time.

“The City in the Middle of the Night” by Charlie Jane Anders is scifi that takes place on a planet where only a narrow band between the permanent day and permanent night is mild enough for human habitation. According to wikipedia it’s climate fiction, but I don’t see it that way. It is, amazingly (since I’m doing these reviews in alphabetical order by author, which is effectively random), another cross-cultural story.

“The Bear and the Nightingale”, “The Girl in the Tower”, and “The Winter of the Witch” by Katherine Arden (aka the Winternight Trilogy). If you want to know what I mean by “astonishing” writing—as opposed to Ilana Andrew’s “fundamentally flawless” writing—this is it. This is really, really it. The trilogy takes place in Northern Rus’/Russia. You will feel the deadly cold as you read. You will feel the corrosive hatred and unmet hope in the heart of the beautiful priest. You will feel the wild heart of our heroine, and the weight of an entire society that falls, always, on the shoulders of women. CONTENT WARNING: Women are constantly at risk of rape, and are also subject to arranged marriages against their will, which definitely includes spousal rape (the men are also married without always getting a choice over their partner, but they are clearly in a position of muuuuch more power than any woman). I am not against arranged marriage on the whole. There are several examples of happy arranged marriages in the book (and in real life). But there is at least one arranged marriage in this series that is incredibly awful, and a better man would have made different choices (yes, even in that historical setting—although there is room for interpretation on that score). The sexual violence is never explicitly described, and it is never used to break the spirit of a female character or to justify someone’s evil with a rape backstory. There are much more creative ways to break a person. . .

This series is magical, and it is unbelievably harsh, and it is exhilarating and tragic and more.

You, too, will weep for a nightingale.

Since I’ve already talked about the brilliant Naomi Novik AND I’ve talked about magical stories set in medieval Russia, I can’t stop there.

“Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik. This is so good you guys. So so good. It is just as good as the Winternight Trilogy, and when I describe them they sound similar, thanks to the rich and bone-chilling selling of a magical medieval Russia. They even both have a female heroine who attracts the interest of an immortal man (for better or worse—but usually much much worse). But although rape is still threatened in this book, it is only a very slight possibility that is quickly and relatively easily fended off. In this story, the heroine is Jewish. So there is a whole other complicated and historical layer. And almost everyone in the story becomes a better person, which I love. That reminds me: another thing this book has in common with the Winternight trilogy is a protagonist who is incredibly honorable. Even when someone treats them incredibly badly, they do what is right. Even when they absolutely deserve a break they refuse to leave people to their fate. I love that.

“Uprooted” also by Naomi Novik. Completely different world. You’ve got a medieval-ish valley with a nasty wizard who takes a girl from the village every ten years. It’s always someone a bit extraordinary, so the heroine has grown up knowing that her best friend (who is beautiful, and kind, and clever) will be the girl taken. Except the wizard takes her instead. Content warning: there is an attempted rape (that ends rather badly for the attacker, which amuses me more the more times I read it). Again, it’s brilliantly written, including delving into the complicated feelings of the characters. How would you feel if your mother had long since accepted that you would be taken against your will as a teenager? How would you feel if, after all that, you weren’t chosen after all? And how would you feel if you were the friend of that girl that everyone knew was so, so special (unlike you)? And how would you feel, knowing your best friend would be taken and not being able to do anything to stop it? And how would you feel when you were taken instead?

And that’s only the start. I don’t want to say too much, but this book is amazing.

“A Deadly Education” (and “The Final Graduate” which ends on a major cliffhanger, and “The Golden Enclaves” once it comes out later this year) by Naomi Novik. All of the above brilliance, but absolutely hilarious too. This is a “magical school” story, but the survival rate of this particular educational institution is incredibly low. Our heroine is prophesied to become an evil sorceress. People dislike her instinctively, and she is severely hampered in her magical school by the fact that the school is basically pushing her to destroy the world and everyone in it (because it will automatically feed you the magic you’re best at—which in her case is all the most destructive killer spells). Worse, she just had her life saved by everyone’s favourite hero RIGHT when she had a conveniently impressive monster to kill. It is so funny, and strangely sweet, and exciting, and surprising. Naomi Novik was an impressive author when she wrote “Temeraire”, but she just keeps getting better and I hope she lives forever so I can keep reading her books.

“Sing the Four Quarters” by Tanya Huff. The heroine is a princess who gave up the throne to follow the call of her magical gifts. Then she did the one thing that an abdicated princess must never, never do: she got pregnant. What is worse, the man she slept with is currently in a dungeon accused of treason. He’s mostly a pretty face to her (she has a healthy and open long-term relationship with another woman, which is beautifully realised) but he’s no traitor.

Nah (aka good books that I might re-read someday, but just not really my thing)

“Fifth Quarter”, “No Quarter” and “The Quartered Sea” by Tanya Huff. Interestingly, the first book in the series is “Sing the Four Quarters” and I love it, and it’s right above this entry in my favourites pile. But in Book 2 we get a pair of new characters: siblings, and an incestuous love that continues to play a part in the rest of the series. They’re still really good books, but I strongly dislike both of the sibling characters and don’t want to spend time with them.

“Over the Woodward Wall” by A. Deborah Baker (aka Seanan Macguire, who will show up on the “Favourites” pile soon enough). This is well written (Macguire is a master writer) and pretty good, but aimed at a younger audience. I just found the two child protagonists mildly annoying.

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. The midnight library is a place where you can go between life and death, and play out alternate possibilities. Sort of cool, but I want sentient books and mysteriously well-read monsters in my library setting, not a story about regret and life choices.


“The Dragon Lady” by Angelique S. Anderson. Magical steampunk, including dragons. Too many adjectives.

“Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard. I don’t remember much about the book (apparently a bestseller), but there’s a lot of clumsy exposition in the first two pages.

“The Tangled Lands” by Paolo Bacigalupi (who had a book in the “Nah” section of Part 1) and Tobias S. Buckell. Really well written but too dark for me.

Permalink 2 Comments

The Great Book Sort (Part 1)

July 26, 2022 at 12:18 am (Advanced/Publication, All Steampunk Fiction, book reviews)

I’ve been reading mainly ebooks for many years, and now have over 700. I only recently realised I could and should sort them. The main categories I am now using are “Favourites” (happy to re-read frequently for the rest of my life), “Nah” (books that are good, but I dislike them for one reason or another—but if I get desperate I could still potentially re-read them). I also have categories for research (mainly non-fiction), and for “People I’ve Met” (mainly so I can quickly glance at them when I’m on a panel with someone, to remind myself of their books—but also so that if I hate a book by a friend, I can put it there rather than in the “Nope” section).

Here are some samples from the main three.

Favourites (currently 249)

“Notes From A Small Island” by Bill Bryson. It’s very rare for non-fiction to be so entertaining that it’s worth a regular re-read, but Bryson’s travel books are brilliant (and hazardous, because if I try to read one before I go to sleep I laugh so much I end up feeling more awake than when I started). Other than his travel books, I also love “At Home”, his book about his house and by extension the history of the home in the Western World. Highly recommended for historical authors, even though I don’t own a digital copy. His book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” isn’t nearly as fun (although definitely more fun than a textbook).

“Minimum Wage Magic” by Rachel Aaron. An incredibly relatable heroine fighting seemingly impossible odds to make rent. I like it. Haven’t bought the next book in the series, but I think that has more to do with cashflow than anything else. Or possibly because it wasn’t quite good enough to make me want to keep going and risk the quality falling in the sequel.

“Mr Malcolm’s List” by Suzanne Allain. Delightful and witty Austen-esque romance. I’ve been recommending it for years and now it’s getting made into a movie.

Nah (currently 89)

“Nice Dragons Finish Last” and “One Good Dragon Deserves Another” by…. Rachel Aaron. It’s rare for a writer to fall into two categories, but clearly these books were “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me”. Maybe I won’t buy the second “Minimum Wage Magic” book after all. Sometimes it’s nice to take your reasonably-happy ending and pretend nothing of interest ever happened to the character again.

“Children of Blood and Bone” and “Children of Virtue and Vengeance” by Tomi Adeyemi. Really well written, but just a few shades too dark for my readerly palate.

“The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi

Really well written; very violent. It’s science fiction (my preferred reading genre is ‘YA fantasy that doesn’t go on and on excessively about how hot the romantic interest/s are’) and climate fiction, set in a very dry USA.

Nope (currently 116)

“The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell. This was recommended to me by a friend, and I can definitely see why. It is heart-rending and has a lot of kindness in it, and a very interesting exploration of faith. But some really bad stuff happens—too dark for me to stomach. TW: rape.

Almost all stories with rape in them (including flashbacks, spousal rape, or statutory rape) will go in the “Nope” pile for me. This book definitely earned its rape scene, but even so…. way too many writers think, “What shall I put in this female character’s backstory?” and go straight to sexual violence. I’ve done it myself (once, out of hundreds of stories). As someone with a vivid imagination and strong empathy, it is often traumatising for me to read. I am extremely fond of trigger warnings for this reason, and wish all books with sexual violence had them.

“The Wandering Inn” by Pirateaba. Great cover, terrible writing. I never read past the opening few pages. (If you think publishers are harsh for rejecting books based on a few pages, you should try giving a book to actual readers. We’re not here to find your diamond in the rough. We want diamonds from page one, sentence one.)

“Brilliant Devices”, “Her Own Devices”, “Lady of Devices”, and “Magnificent Devices” by Shelley Adina. This is light-hearted steampunk, and I obviously liked it enough to buy all four books the first time around. But the second time around the author’s admiration for the heroine was too grating, and the way she won over a bunch of streetkids struck me as both unrealistic and patronising. And yes, I know books aren’t meant to be exactly like real life, but the mix of dark problems and comical solutions bugged me so much I don’t want to go back.

Permalink 7 Comments

Welcome to Australia

July 13, 2022 at 8:29 pm (Uncategorized)

This is the finished version of “Welcome to Australia”, a book I started writing way back in 2019ish. It is designed to be read by immigrant and refugee children with their parents. 

Eventually there will be versions in Dari Persian, Mandarin, Indonesian, Arabic, and Spanish.

Update January 2023: The Indonesian translation is finished, checked, and being formatted. The Dari Persian version is finished but hasn’t had its final translator check yet. The Mandarin and Spanish versions are with volunteer translators.

Update 6 February 2023: The English and Indonesian/Malay versions are going to the printer TODAY. The Spanish, Mandarin, and Dari Persian versions are all finished and awaiting formatting. The Arabic is… not started yet. But we’ll get there eventually!

See the Indonesian/Malay version in full here!

Comment here, buy a copy in my store, or email to get your copy.

YES there will be very cheap ebooks of all of the versions, as well as combined English/non-English versions.

I am perfectly happy for these images to be shared, especially in schools and among immigrants and refugees and the organisations that help them. My only rule is that you don’t get paid for our work.

A lot of the illustrators/models donated their images (and there are a LOT of photos of my kids) but I made a point of paying refugees and Aboriginal people (both models and sensitivity readers).

Permalink 3 Comments

« Previous page · Next page »