Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hot, hot, hot!

Forecast from

Talk of the weather over the past few months has referred to mild temperatures, thunderstorms and plenty of rain.

In fact, it was so mild and so wet I was beginning to think that summer would just pass us by this year, and we'd not have to spend days and weeks (and months!) sitting in the dark with the air con on high.

Turns out that was a pipe dream, as summer made its arrival Christmas Day when the temperature  hovered around 40 degrees Celsius until a cool change started to move through later in the evening.

A week later and we are back in the 40s again, with the temperature expected to range between 35 and 45 degrees over the next week.

I cannot think of the words best to describe it, but at the very least this type of heat is stifling. Walking outside is like stepping into a furnace: The air is so hot and dry it burns the insides of your nose and makes your eyes water. The tar on the road is starting to glisten and become sticky. Inside the air con is on but I'm still sweating enough to be stuck to my office chair. And I'm certain I just got sunburnt walking to the post office, which can't be more than 200m from the office.

There was a stubble fire just outside of Quorn yesterday that the CFS was quickly able to control and douse, but it instilled some scary thoughts and momentary panic. It's the first so close to Quorn in a long time, and if the weather hadn't been so kind it could have been an entirely different scenario. There'll be no fireworks this New Years' Eve, that's for sure!

This is the type of weather I dread every year. Having lived in South Australia my entire life you'd be forgiven for thinking I'd be used to it by now. Perhaps I'm just getting "soft" as I get older, or perhaps this is just weather you never become accustomed to.

With heatwaves and floods, Australia's start to the New Year is not going to be what most had anticipated and planned for.

...What's the weather like in your part of the world at the moment?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reading Challenges for 2011

This year I took part in three Reading Challenges - Women Unbound, Royal Reviews' Historical Fiction, and a Jane Austen challenge - all of which I have enjoyed immensely. Challenges are a great way to get through books already waiting to be read, to discover new authors, and to read topics you wouldnt normally find yourself reading.

Since I am on the last book for my 2010 challenges (and am still confident of finishing it before the end of the year), I thought now would be a good time to pick some reading challenges for 2011.

At this stage I am unsure as to how busy I will be in the new year with work and studies, so I have decided to commit myself to just the two challenges at this point in time. If it turns out I'm not all that busy, I will probably add more later.

The Ireland Reading Challenge 2011 is hosted by Books and Movies. There are three levels: Shamrock (2 books), Luck O' the Irish (4 books), and Kiss the Blarney Stone (6 books).

In order for books to comply with the challenge rules they must either be written by an Irish author, be set in or about Ireland, or have Irish characters. They can be both fiction or non-fiction, adult, YA or for children, and audiobooks are allowed.

I am aiming for Luck O' the Irish, and my chosen reading list will be as follows (in no particular order):

The second reading challenge will be (most appropriately) a Seconds Challenge, hosted by A Few More Pages. The thing that attracted me to this challenge is that it will get me to read some books that have been sitting on my shelf for awhile now, all of which are either a second in a series, and/or will be the second time I've read something by a particular author.

There are four levels to chose from: Just a Spoonful (3 books), A Few More Bites (6 books), A Full Plate (12 books), and All You Can Eat (20 books).

So as to not over-commit, I am aiming to achieve the Just a Spoonful level, and my books for this challenge will be:

Will you be taking part in any reading challenges for 2011?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Etsy Swoon (+ a thank you)

I dislike the crazy panic that is Christmas shopping. Normally I struggle to think of things to get people that are both original and practical that wont cost a fortune. I find myself wandering the shops aimlessly for months, and then in a last-minute blitz buy everything a few days before Christmas Day.

Every year I make the resolution to be more organised for Christmas in future, and I am proud to say that this year I have (mostly) achieved that aim, for the first time! And it's all thanks to Etsy!

I am in love with Etsy. Obsessed and addicted, even. There is so much amazing, beautifully original handcrafted items available at Etsy for a reasonable price that I thought I would share some of my favourite shops.

I also thought it would be a good opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Daisy at AskAlice, from whom I purchased the grey tote pictured above. Due to a PayPal issue that I still cannot figure out, I was unable to record this purchase at Etsy. It took a few days, but Daisy and I were able to come to an arrangement that saw me pay for the tote outside of Etsy. She was always quick to reply to my messages, and to suggest alternatives. Then, knowing I needed the tote as soon as possible, she sent it straight away by registered post. I must mention that the tote is absolutely gorgeous: I love it and I know the person I've bought it for will love it too. I will definitely be returning to Daisy's little Etsy shop again in the near future.

I have found all the Etsy shop owners I've dealt with over the past couple months so incredibly helpful, generous and an absolute pleasure. NoCryBabyDoGs surprised me with extras sent along with my purchase, and JewelryDeli, MermaidsTearsJewelry and rockitbot posted out my items the same day I ordered them.

All the items I've received are of the highest handmade quality I have ever seen: These people are exceptionally talented, and if you haven't yet checked out what's available at Etsy, then I highly recommend that you do! Immediately! There is something there for everyone. So, if you're looking for gifts for people, then I recommend you check Etsy out: If you need something quick, you can search for local sellers.

As an added bonus, I felt like I've avoided the ridiculous hype and panic that I normally find myself in at this time of year. Yes, I still have a two family members who I am struggling with for gift ideas, but everyone else is sorted. I have never been this organised for Christmas in my entire adult life. It feels good!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

The Wise WomanThe Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Royal Reviews' Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010

Who is the Wise Woman?

This novel by Philippa Gregory, set during the time of the English Reformation, revolves around Alys: Abandoned as a child by unknown parents, she is raised by the local wise woman of Bowes-Moor, Morrag, until she is enticed away by the glistening riches of a nearby Abbey and the tenderness of Mother Hildebrande, and becomes Sister Ann.

With the destruction of the Abbey, Alys returns to Morrag and Bowes-Moor. Wanting to remain true to her faith, her idea is to live life as a herb girl until she can find a safe nunnery to escape to. However, a twist of fate sees her taken to care for the feudal Lord Hugh, later becoming his scribe. Alys grows increasingly infatuated with Lord Hugh's son, Hugo, an otherwise selfish and brutal man, and another woman's husband, known for his lustful ways.

Alys eventually gives in to her desires and turns to dark magic to win the young Hugo's affection, and then to increase social status and power. However, magic has no master, and it soons become clear to Alys that she treads a perilous path, at the end of which is always death.

Although The Wise Woman is set during the reign of Henry VIII of England and the Reformation of the Church, it is not a Tudor Court novel. There is no Courtly romance and little political intrigue, but instead a lot of deceit, lies, manipulation, and magic.

One of Gregory's earlier novels, The Wise Woman is significantly different to her more popular Tudor fiction (The Other Boleyn Girl &c.), both in context and style. It is reasonably well-written and the storyline is intriguing, yet I must admit that The Wise Woman is not of the standard that I was expecting from a Philippa Gregory novel, and that left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Weathering the Storm...

Fallen gum tree...

...and the clean up.

Tuesday night we had the most terrifying, yet amazing thunderstorm.
The approaching storm clouds stretch as far as the eye could see and seemed to swallow everything in its path.
There was so much lightning it turned day into night.
The rain came in horizontal.
The wind was so strong it ripped off roofs, balconies, sucked out windows, and uprooted trees.

We suffered a fallen gum tree, some broken branches, a damaged fence, a few loose sheets of iron on the shed and house - Nothing compared to the damage suffered by others, so we count ourselves lucky. Yesterday evening was spent clearing it all and doing makeshift repairs: The fallen gum tree came in handy to prop-up the collapsed fence, but we will need to put in new posts, support beams and a few new sheets of corrugated iron. It will do to keep Bailey-dog in the yard for the time being.

The entire state of South Australia suffered a lashing from the storm front that moved through: AdelaideNow has some great pictures, for the curious folk.

Australia is in the middle of the La Nina Weather Pattern, which normally brings unstable and unseasonal wet weather, although this year more than ever. She's unpredictable, but I must admit I kind of like Her: Better than Her counterpart El Nino! The garden loves Her too, although perhaps not so much the fallen tree...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The White Queen Giveaway: WINNER!

I didn't get to do this yesterday. Obviously. I have had a sick dog-son who needed to go back to the vet yesterday for a follow-up on a ruptured ear-drum and ear infection, which meant having to take the morning off work and then being crazy-busy in the afternoon when I did finally get into the office.

So, yes, I am a day late in announcing the winner of The White Queen giveaway, for which I apologise, but I can now tell you that the brand new paperback edition will be going out to:

(Manchester Lass: Please email me with your postal details and I will arrange to have the book in the post asap!)

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read my blog and enter the giveaway. I will endeavour to have another early in the New Year, so keep an eye out!