[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome!

Sep. 9th, 2013 08:05 pm
calissa: (Default)
Hi there!

This post is for those people I've just met and/or those who want to get to know me. I enjoy making friends and getting to know people, so I encourage you to introduce yourself if you haven't already.

Family )

Interests and organisations )

I do have some health troubles, mostly to do with my upper body, arms and hands. Sometimes managing the pain can be a challenge and can limit the amount of time I can write and spend on the computer.

I also like to get to know people. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask. :D

Last updated on 15 August 2016.
calissa: (Calissa)


Welcome Read-a-thoners and regular readers! We’re deep into Dewey’s 24-hour read-a-thon, with Hour 17 just about to get underway. It tends to get a bit quiet around this time of day… because it’s not day for participants in most other time zones. It’s the time where we’re all reaching for some additional caffeine or sugar. By now, I’ve probably consumed enough tea to fill the Tasman Sea and will need more if I hope to power through until the end.

The Task

It’s probably obvious that books and tea are obsessions of mine. So, tell me: What are you reading at the moment and what beverage do you have on hand? If you have a favourite tea, I’d love to hear it! Just leave a comment below. Extra kudos to anyone keen to link me to a photo.

The Prize

A book from BookDepository.com worth US$15 or less. This is giveaway is open to international participants.

Australian readers may opt instead for a bundle of gently used SFF books, if they wish.

The winner will be announced and contacted once the event wraps up!

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A stalk with drying grass seeds sits in the foreground with a golden hill and blue mountains in the background. (Summer)
My yearly reminder informs me it's time for me to put together my Christmas card list. If you'd like to be included, please let me know! Comments will be screened to protect contact details (or you can contact me via email or DM).
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon badge

Mt TBR hit 300 books last week. That’s far and away the highest it has ever been and it’s freaking me out a little. Fortunately, my very favourite reading challenge is on this weekend.

Dewey’s read-a-thon runs twice a year–in April and October. It runs for 24 hours, but participation for the full length is optional. Which is a good thing, because this round will be kicking off at 11 PM on Saturday 22 October for the east coast of Australia. As usual, I plan to be asleep by then, but will be up early to cram as much reading as possible into my waking hours.

It will be interesting to see just how much reading I’ll accomplish. In addition to reading, I also plan to do some cheering and will be hosting a mini-challenge for the first time (eeek!). Plus I have a friend coming over for a read-in. I’ve always done read-a-thons solo, so I’ll be interested to see how this changes the experience.

Of course, a read-a-thon requires books! I find myself reluctant to commit to a particular list this time, but here’s a few things I’m thinking about tackling:

Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon, readathon, Dewey's, Nevernight, Jay Kristoff, Waer, Meg Caddy, Black, Fleur Ferris, books and tea, tea and books

Surprising no one, there’s a ton of Australian YA speculative fiction involved.

If you need to tame your own Mt TBR or are looking to connect with a great community of book bloggers, it’s not too late to join! You can sign up, follow on Twitter, join the Goodreads group or any combination of the three. If you’ve already signed up, I’d love to hear about what you’ll be reading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Den of Wolves, Juliet Marillier, Blackthorn and Grim, fantasy, historical fantasy, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea


 October 2016 by PanMacmillan Australia
Format reviewed: Trade paperback, 418 pages
Series: Blackthorn and Grim #3
Genres: Historical fantasy
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies…

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone…

Den of Wolves was one of my most anticipated books of 2016. It didn’t let me down, though it also didn’t go quite where I expected.

The book is slightly less discrete than its predecessors. While there is a self-contained mystery, the resolution of Blackthorn’s story (and, to a lesser extent, Grim’s) forms an important plot thread. Key parts of Den of Wolves are set in the same locations as Dreamer’s Pool and involve some of the same characters.  I would therefore not recommend that new readers start here.

The stylistic choices of the previous books carry over. Chapters alternate between key characters; Blackthorn and Grim’s chapters are told in first person, while chapters focusing on other characters use a close third-person perspective. Each voice is distinct and deftly handled, with some lovely turns of phrase.

Violence against women has always been a key theme of the series. Den of Wolves augments this by focusing on male privilege. Men occupy positions of power and frequently make decisions concerning the female characters without any kind of consultation. In some cases women are carted around like furniture and forced to leave homes they’ve known all their lives. Marillier makes very evident the frustration, powerlessness and fear this engenders in the female characters. I particularly appreciated that it’s not just the “evil” male characters that act this way. On the contrary, some of them have good intentions but seem to have no grasp of the effect their authoritarian approach has on the women around them. They assume they know best and expect everyone around them to obey.

I had a few thoughts on the ending that is impossible to discuss without spoilers. To put it as vaguely as possible: although the ending was foreshadowed and I appreciate what it was doing, I was a tiny bit disappointed. It negated a portrayal that, to my mind, was even rarer and more valuable.

Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed the book and the series remains a favourite.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Macro of a jonquil (Spring)

Last weekend, Sahaquiel and I made it out to Floriade, the local flower festival. It was much later in the season than we usually go. Perhaps for this reason--or maybe all the wet weather we've had--the displays were even more spectacular this year and turned on quite a show.

Photos ahoy! Um, there are kind of a lot... )

I think next year we will go later again and see what it's like.
calissa: (Calissa)

Conflux 12, Red Fire Monkey, Shauna O'Meara, Canberra, speculative fiction, convention

Conflux 12 took place from Friday 30 September until Monday 3 October. As is always the case, there was a lot of good programming to see, so I had to split my report into two parts. You can read the first part here.

Panels, GoH interviews, books and book launches )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A blue and purple d20 sits on some lined paper. (Gaming)

Into the Bayou, Wyrd Games, Through the Breach, gremlins

This month, Wyrd Games are launching Into the Bayou, an expansion of their RPG Through The Breach. I had the great delight of working on Into the Bayou with Rik Lagarto and the team at Wyrd. As a keen RPG player, it has meant a lot to me to have the chance to contribute on a professional level. And the Bayou setting was a blast to work on. I hope the players have as much fun with it as I did.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Stealing Snow, Danielle Paige, fantasy, YA, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, Bloomsbury Publishing

Published: September 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Stealing Snow #1
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn’t what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid–her true home–with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she’s sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything…including Snow’s return to the world she once knew.

This breathtaking first volume begins the story of how Snow becomes a villain, a queen, and ultimately a hero.

Stealing Snow is a mash-up of several different fairytales, primarily The Snow Queen and Snow White, with a little Alice in Wonderland thrown in for fun. This means there’s a lot going on in the story and I didn’t think it ultimately pulled it off.

The blurb isn’t quite an accurate description of the plot. When the love of Snow’s life is spirited away from the mental hospital in which they live, she manages to bust out with the aid of mysterious forces and another patient, then travel to the magical world to which he’s been taken. While I very much enjoyed the way she’s the one rescuing him, Bale functioned as a bit of a Macguffin and didn’t have much in the way of a personality. This made it particularly annoying when Snow used him as a justification for allying with people who are only out to take advantage of her and her magic. She’s frequently prone to declaring something is the only way. I understand that she lived a sheltered life and is in a strange world, but I would have liked to see her use her imagination a little more often. Also, for someone who was so suspicious of others while she lived in the mental hospital, she’s remarkably credulous once she breaks free.

Unsurprisingly, the use of mental illness conforms to problematic fantasy tropes. Characters are nebulously “crazy” or “insane”, with mental illness being used solely to set up the plot. This is not a book that takes a sensitive and nuanced approach to mental illness.

If you don’t like love triangles (or other geometric shapes), this book isn’t for you. There are three boys in love with Snow and she kisses all of them. I understand getting swept up in the moment, but at the same time, it didn’t really fit with Snow’s driving urge to save Bale and the way she treats him as her One True Love. Three love interests also seemed a bit excessive. The vague indication that there could be a reason behind it wasn’t enough for me to buy in.

There were some potentially interesting relationships between Snow and some of the other female characters, particularly the Robber girls. Unfortunately, they never got the space to really develop.

The ending was a hot mess with twist piled upon twist. The one twist that was foreshadowed was obvious quite early on. The rest came completely out of the blue.

All in all, Stealing Snow wasn’t my cup of tea.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Photo of Swarovski crystal & gold figurine of inkpot and quill sitting on a page that says 'create every day' (Writing)

Conflux 12, Red Fire Monkey, Shauna O'Meara, Canberra, speculative fiction, convention

Last weekend I attended Conflux, Canberra’s speculative fiction convention for writers and fans. The theme this year was Red Fire Monkey, in line with the Chinese astrological year. Special guests were David Farland, writing instructor and author of the Runelords series, and Alan Baxter, author of the Alex Caine series. Sean Williams served as the Master of Ceremonies. As is always the case, there was a lot of good programming to see, so I had to split my report into two parts. The second part will be posted next Friday.


Travel mug and Day One con loot.

The convention began on Friday, 30 September. In the past, Conflux has dedicated the Friday to writing workshops. However, this year the programming took a different approach, running workshops and panels concurrently. This meant that panels began from 10 AM on the Friday. I got in nice and early to get registered. The con bags held a few lovely surprises, with books provided by Harper Collins. Mine held a copy of The Vagrant by Peter Newman. I was also one of the first 100 people through registration, which meant I also picked up a copy of After the Rain edited by Tehani Wessely and published by FableCroft Publishing.

Being Canberra, it was appropriate that the very first panel I attended was on politics in SFF. James Hayman, Tracy Joyce and Gillian Polack discussed how they incorporated politics into their novels. Each was writing in quite a different genre–dystopian sci-fi, epic fantasy and literary fantasy respectively–but they all agreed on the importance of perspective. After all, no one believes they are evil and everyone has reasons for acting the way they do. Also, the point was raised that the writer’s politics are always present in a novel, just not always consciously.

Guest of Honour David Farland gave several talks throughout the convention. His first was on writing best-sellers. He discussed some of the things best-sellers have in common and the importance of immersion. The best stories are the ones that take you to another time and place, therefore it is often harder for stories with a contemporary setting to become best-sellers. He also discussed the way Harry Potter was able to appeal to a wide audience by including characters of varying ages and telling their stories alongside Harry’s. And finally, he discussed the importance of using the right emotional draws for your audience, breaking this down by gender and age category.

For me, the highlight of Friday’s panels was the panel on spec-fic romance, convened by Nicole Murphy. It was great to see a knowledgeable and respectful discussion, particularly since romance cops a lot of flack from other genres. Nicole also had some good advice on learning how to write about physical intimacy. This was one of the few panels I live-tweeted and you can see a bit of her advice in the thread.

Chinese Black Lion, Lion dance, Conflux 12, Red Fire Monkey

A Chinese Black Lion inspects the audience.

Friday wrapped up with the Opening Ceremony. Our MC Sean Williams took us through the first moves of a new martial arts he’d developed with his Tai Chi class. Called Sci Chi, it included such moves as the Rimmer Salute, the Jedi Mind Trick and the Vulcan Salute & Nerve Pinch. A pair of Chinese lions then blessed the convention with luck and prosperity. Guest of Honour and Kung Fu instructor Alan Baxter provided some insightful commentary, thanks to his experience in teaching the dance.

The formal programming might have finished up, but my day wasn’t over. The last thing I did was run a game of Dungeon World for some friends who were in town for the convention. I used a pre-written module called The Slave Pits of Drahzu by Jason Morningstar. It was part dungeon crawl, part prison break. While it taught me I still have a lot to learn as a Game Master, everyone seemed to have fun (even if I did kill Alis twice. Sorry, Alis!)

I was back early the next day to attend David Farland’s Guest of Honour interview with Tim Napper. The pair met when Tim was a finalist for the Writers of the Future contest, for which David Farland is a judge. David had won the competition himself some years ago and discussed the impact it had on his career, introducing him to authors such as Orson Scott Card. He also spoke about his experiences writing the Star Wars novel The Courtship of Princess Leia (as David Wolverton), after which he went on to write twelve Star Wars books for younger readers with Scholastic. He was also responsible for talking Scholastic into making Harry Potter their next big thing.

There were some great panels throughout the convention. Fanning the Sacred Flame discussed religion in SFF. Panel members came from atheist, Anglican, Buddhist and Jewish backgrounds. Despite being an atheist, K.J. Taylor said she finds it weird when religion or superstition is never mentioned in fantastical societies because it is something that exists in every real culture. She also spoke about her experiences with writing religious characters and stressed the importance of not being patronising or making the characters look like idiots by following their beliefs. Rivqa Rafael discussed ignorance as a writer’s worst enemy. Often writers don’t know what they are evoking when they borrow elements from religions they’re not a part of, with the results being beyond offensive and into hurtful. She gave the example of the Jewish golem. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia was mentioned many times, with the consensus being that the story worked best when its parable elements were subtle. Rivqa also cited Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy as an example of religion done well, pointing out that conflicts between religions rarely happen on a level playing field, historically speaking. There are often major cultural and colonial elements at play.

Next week I will touch on a few more of the panels I attended. So stay tuned!


Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Mt TBR, September book haul, Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock, Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the end of the Lane, Juliet Marillier, Den of Wolves, books and tea, A Toaster on Mars, Darrell Pitt, Waer, Meg Caddy, Iris and the Tiger, Leanne Hall, Kimberley Starr, The Book of Whispers, We Ate the Road Like Vultures, Lynette Lounsbury, The Curiosity Machine, Richard Newsome, Jessica Miller, Elizabeth and Zenobia, Julius and the Soulcatcher, Time Hehir, The Road to Winter, Mark Smith

September is right in the middle of Birthday Season, that time of year when just about everyone I know has a birthday. There has been much cake and not nearly enough reading. Mt TBR is wildly out of control, mostly thanks to an influx of books for the Aurealis Awards. On one glorious morning, I had a box of eight (!) books arrive from Text Publishing (you can see them in the photo above).

My #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks stats continue to slip. My goal for the challenge was to make sure 60% of the books I read this year come from Mt TBR. I finished August at 50%. September takes me down to 48%.

Books with an asterisk on the list below were part of my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks effort.

Mt TBR Status ) Books read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )


What have you read this month?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Bound, Alex Caine, Alan Baxter, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy

Published: July 2014 by HarperCollins Publishers
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Alex Caine #1
Genres: Contemporary fantasy
Source: Amazon
Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books
Available: Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Alex Caine is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents’ moves before they know their intentions themselves.

An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight and reveals, ‘I know your secret.’ Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else… A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards chaos and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist.

Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him – the shards of the Darak. But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.

Bound is equal parts contemporary fantasy and action-packed thriller. In this dark and gritty version of our world, magic exists under the noses of ordinary people. Even fighter Alex Caine doesn’t realise at first that his ability to read the aura (or ‘shades’) of his opponents and predict their movements is a magical one. Instead, he thinks it’s a result of his hard training and discipline as a martial artist. I liked this angle, fitting in as it does with some of the more esoteric philosophies of martial arts.

When approached by an English magician, Alex soon discovers that he can not only read people but that his ability also extends to deciphering magical texts. Indeed, he’s more talented at it than most, which is the very reason he’s sought out. The idea of a martial artist being sought out for his ability to read is a wonderful disruption of stereotypes that delighted me.

However, the book succumbs to other stereotypes that I found disappointing. The female characters in particular lacked agency and were almost without exception sex objects. Silhouette and Sparks get the most page time and both functioned (willingly) as a way for the male characters to release tension through sex. The book gets some points for including gay and POC characters but this is undermined by almost all of them being killed off. To be fair, the story is full of violence and racks up quite the body count.

The fight sequences are a definite strength of the book. The author has extensive martial arts experience and it shows. Fights are short and brutal, not left to drag out unrealistically. The choreography is well thought-out and the characters’ mental states play an important part. I particularly enjoyed Alex’s fight with the Subcontractor because even when desperate and caught off-guard, Alex fought with intelligence and came up with a useful strategy.

I found the middle of the story rather repetitive. Alex feels Uthentia starts to get the better of him, has trouble keeping violent impulses in check, blows off some steam by having sex with Silhouette and then is back to worrying about staying in control. It works to illustrate the constant background struggle, but it got somewhat boring and I was never really convinced he was in any danger of losing.

So while not my cup of tea, Bound is likely to appeal to anyone who loves plot-driven thrillers and gritty fantasy.


Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links, loose-leaf tea, tea, Jaffa tea, Adore Tea

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. The tea pictured is Jaffa Tea from Adore Tea. It isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, despite what you might expect. Indeed, some might find the orange flavour a bit astringent but it takes milk nicely.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Flameout, Keri Arthur, urban fantasy, phoenix, books and tea, Earl Grey Editing

Published: July 2016 by Piatkus
Format reviewed: Paperback, 360 pages
Series: Souls of Fire #3
Genres: Urban fantasy
Source: Hachette Australia
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This review contains spoilers for previous volumes/books.

Emberly and her red hot partner, Jackson, have hit an impasse in their battle against the crazed humans infected by a plague-like virus derived from vampire blood. Their quest to unearth the leader of the group leads them into an ambush—and leaves Emberly at odds with her former lover, Sam, who’s pressuring her to join his Paranormal Investigations Team.

To make matters worse, three local witches have been kidnapped—and if their spells fall into the wrong hands, Emberly’s powers could end up smothered. With time ticking until the virus consumes the world, Emberly and Jackson must race to save the witches, find a cure, and smoke out their nemesis—or go down in a blaze of glory…

After my disappointment with the previous book, I’d hoped Flameout would live up to some of the promise of the series. Unfortunately, it proved to be an action-packed book in which almost nothing happens.

As with Wicked EmbersFlameout is very plot-driven. The vampire battle that ended the last book brought news of new factions within the vampire ranks, and most of them are unhappy with Emberly. Rogue elements of Melbourne’s resident werewolf pack also have it in for her after some altercations, and the head of the pack is unwilling to step in. And then there’s the head of the Red Cloaks who has taken a very personal interest in her. Between trying to dodge people who have it out for her, Emberly and Jackson are still in search of the missing research notes stolen from her previous employer. Their efforts have displeased the Paranormal Investigations Team, who have decided that the best thing to do about it is to force her to join them by whatever means necessary.

In case all these elements weren’t enough, Melbourne’s magic community also gets introduced when a powerful local witch contacts Emberly about seeking out some missing coven members. Once again, I found world-building to be a strength of the series and the addition of this community brings something new and interesting to the story. I was particularly interested in the way the human witch’s relationship with Mother Earth differed from Emberly’s. I also enjoyed seeing a new form of magic at work.

The story foreshadows larger plots at work. While I found this interesting, it undermined any sense of resolution. The ending was suitably flashy and cinematic, but didn’t ultimately change the status quo.

The relationships also remained stagnant. I continue to appreciate the distinct differences between Emberly’s polyamorous relationships and the marked lack of resentment between Emberly’s life mate Rory and her new flame Jackson. I certainly don’t want to see Emberly be forced into the tired trope of picking One True Love. However, it would be nice to see the relationships grow in some way.

Although I was entertained by Flameout, I was ultimately disappointed and will be thinking hard about whether I wish to continue reading the series.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Conflux 12, Conflux, red fire monkey, Earl Grey Editing, rooibos tea

Conflux, Canberra’s annual convention for speculative fiction writers and fans, begins next week! This year it is taking place from Friday 30 September until Monday 3 October and the theme is Red Fire Monkey, after the Chinese astrological year. Special guests are David Farland, a best-selling fantasy author and writing instructor all the way from the US, and Australian dark fantasy/horror author Alan Baxter. Sean Williams will be the MC. As usual, I will be attending and am very much looking forward to making some new friends as well as catching up with some old ones.

Where to find me

I will be sitting on two panels. Exact details are subject to change.

Books I’ve loved

When: Saturday, 1 October, 4:30 PM

Where: Reid Room
Novotel Canberra
65 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra

The panel name speaks for itself, really.

Exploring Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch

When: Sunday, 2 October, 3:30 PM

Where: Clarke Room

A discussion about how spec-fic is pushing the boundaries of gender diversity. I’m really looking forward to this panel.

If you have an interest in speculative fiction and can make it along, please stop by and say hi! I love getting to know new people. However, if Canberra is a little too far away for you or attending conventions is not your sort of thing, there’s no need for you to miss out entirely. I shall be posting a convention report once the excitement is over (and I’ve had the chance for a few restorative cups of tea).

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Summerlong, Peter S. Beagle, tea and books

Published: August 2016 by Tachyon Publications
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Literary fiction, fantasy, magical realism
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Retired history professor Abe Aronson is a cranky, solitary man living out his autumn years on Gardner Island, a ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle. One rainy February night, while dining at a favorite local haunt, Abe and his girlfriend Joanna meet an engaging enigmatic waitress, new in town and without a place of her own. Fascinated and moved by the girl’s plight, Joanna invites her to stay in Abe’s garage. It seems everyone falls for the charming and invigorating the waitress, but she is much more than she appears, and an ancient covenant made a millennium ago threatens to disrupt the spring and alter the lives of Abe, Joanna, and all those around them forever…

I’ve never read The Last Unicorn, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Peter S. Beagle. That probably worked to my advantage because the little I know leads me to suspect that Summerlong is a very different book. While it made good use of myth and magical realism, it was ultimately grounded in modern life and focused on middle-class relationships.

The first half of the book sets up these relationships. Abe and Joanna are older protagonists, in their 60s and late 50s respectively. They are in a long-term relationship but value their independence–each has their own home and they characterise their relationship as “being single together”. Abe continues to work on historical articles in his retirement and Joanna is a flight attendant who visits Abe whenever she’s home. It is a comfortable, well-worn relationship. Also involved is Joanna’s daughter Lily, with whom she has an uneasy relationship. Lily tends to keep her mother at arm’s length and Joanna, in turn, despairs of her daughter’s terrible taste in women (although never that her taste runs to women, which was nice to see).

Their lives are disrupted by the arrival of Lioness, a beautiful young woman with a mysterious past. It is clear early on that there’s something a bit fey about Lioness. Wondrous things have a habit of happening around her, even when she’s not actually present: the weather becomes unseasonably gentle, orcas swim into the bay and Abe gets a chance to make something of an old hobby.

Just past the halfway mark, the plot took a turn that made me sigh and wonder if we really had to go down that path. While it had been flagged as a possibility and therefore didn’t come as much of a surprise, I was disappointed when it came to pass.  There was nothing new in its use and while it certainly brought disruption, I’m not convinced it really brought conflict. Instead, I felt disconnected from the characters and their motivations, finding it difficult to understand why they would choose to act in the way that they did. It turned a potentially amazing book into something that struggled to hold my interest.

Which was a shame, because there was a lot I enjoyed about the book. The meeting of mythic and mundane is something I love and was handled well in the first part of the book. I also really enjoyed the setting. The natural world is very present on Gardner Island and definitely has a life of its own, helped along by some lovely use of language.

All in all, Summerlong was beautiful but disappointing. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but leaves me cautiously willing to try more of Beagle’s work in the future.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, violets, teacup

Now that spring is well and truly underway, the Earl Grey Editing blog is coming out of hibernation. Posts resume as usual this week, with a review of Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong tomorrow. On Friday I’ll be checking in with my schedule for Conflux… which starts in a week! I’m really looking forward to it.

My spring break was lovely. I got to spend some time with my family, took some photos of the flowers rioting in the area and (of course) managed to read a ton of books. I even ended up pushing back my return for an extra day so I could take a trip to the beach.

It hasn’t been all play, though. I’ve been busy behind the scenes. Earl Grey Editing now has a page for my review policy and one listing reviews by title. A page for reviews by author is still underway.

How about you? What’s your part of the world look like right now? Have you read any good books recently?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

The Wizardry of Jewish Women, Gillian Polack, Satalyte Publishing, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea

Published: September 2016 by Satalyte Publishing
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Fiction, fantasy, magic realism
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The author is a friend. I have done my best to give an unbiased review.

Who wants superpowers?
Not Rhonda. Rhonda wants to live an ordinary life.
“My life is a soap opera with magic,” thinks Judith, as she reviews her year. Before it all begins, she just wants to lose her past and keep her children safe.
Belinda, her sister, wants recipes.
Their lives are simple.

All three women get a lot more than they bargained for in 2002 and 2003.
A possessed lemon tree.
Prophecy. Magic. Romance.
Violence. Politics.

Secret Jewish women’s stuff ought to be carried out in more exotic places than suburban Australia. Except that sometimes, suburban Australia is chancy and troubling. Even without those mystery boxes from the great-grandmother no-one talks about. Even without the Angel of Death and Zoë’s pink tutu.

The Wizardry of Jewish Women is a complex book of literary fantasy that focuses on the lives of three women. Judith and Belinda are sisters who have just inherited two trunks of their great-grandmother’s papers. Rhonda is a historian and prophet whose historical articles trigger a need to blurt modern-day prophecies on the same topics in online chat rooms.

The book has many of the typical themes and characteristics of the author’s previous novels. It is a very feminist book, with Judith explicitly identifying as feminist and being involved in political activism. The domestic sphere is valued, as the story focuses on the daily lives of these women and their relationships. Judith and Belinda trade many phone calls as they try to sort out the mystery of their great-grandmother’s papers, and it seems fitting that the magic spells they find are mixed up with old family recipes. Judith must also contend with raising two kids on her own. Rhonda’s domestic life looks different, as her home also functions as her workspace. Being cut off from her family, she is very much alone and finds company instead with a few valued friends both locally and online.

Family is certainly an important theme of the book, but for me the heart was about ethics. When Judith discovers that her great-grandmother’s magic actually works, she is tempted to use it against her abusive ex-husband. However, Jewish magic should not be used to harm, as Belinda’s research informs her, and Judith is faced with setting a good example for her magically talented, young teenage daughter. Belinda herself must decide whether to withdraw to safety when her synagogue is firebombed or whether to stay and support the community. And Rhonda must deal with privacy violations from her own ex-husband and from online enthusiasts keen to root out the mysterious online prophet. She also fends off sexual harassment from her case manager at the temp agency.

As is typical of the author, there are some unusual things going on with the style. There’s something interesting going on with the numerology of the chapters. Each chapter is comprised of numbered sections. The amount steadily diminishes, making each chapter progressively shorter. Judith’s story also slips back and forward between third- and first-person, often with little or no warning. These choices made it a challenging read, particularly in the beginning when the chapters are long and I didn’t yet have a grip on who was who and what the relationships were. This is not a book that spells out parallels or connections clearly. Rather, the reader has to work for them.

All in all, I found The Wizardry of Jewish Women was a challenging book, but rewarding. It’s definitely my favourite from this author so far.


Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Mt TBR, books and tea, A Map of Bones, Francesca Haig, The Night Circus, Eric Morgenstern, The OTher Side of Summer, Emily Gale, Special, Georgia Blain, Tellow, Megan Jacobson, Black, Fleur Ferris, Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey, The Expanse, Drums and Power Lines, Rowena Evans, A Shattered Empire, Michell Hogan, Mouse Guard, David Petersen

I did a decent amount of reading this month, but just couldn’t keep up with the onslaught of books that came in this month. Most of these acquisitions came as Aurealis entries, but there were a few review books and I also couldn’t resist a few other bits and pieces. Mt TBR is definitely at a record new height.

Much to my surprise, my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks stats have only slipped slightly. My goal for the challenge was to make sure 60% of the books I read this year come from Mt TBR. I finished July at 51% and the end of August has me at 50%.

Books with an asterisk on the list below were part of my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks effort.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2016: 244
Mt TBR @ 31 July 2016: 256
Mt TBR @ 31 August 2016: 270

Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

What have you read this month?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Macro of a jonquil (Spring)

I'm back to writing blog posts this week, but made the most of my holiday last week by heading out to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve with my family. I think my sister knew I was looking for a chance to test out the camera on my new phone.

Wattle in the wild )

Sculpture )

Fungus & moss )

Landscapes )

All in all, I had a lovely day and really enjoyed spending time with my family.
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Bout of Books, A Town Called Dust, Justin Woolley, Mouse Guard, David Petersen, books and tea, Mouse Guard papercraft, papercraft, paper craft

Round 17 of Bout of Books wrapped up on Sunday, so it’s time for me to check in with my progress!

In my sign-up post, I mentioned my goal was to get through a minimum of three books. For a while there, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I started out with Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong. While short, the book has the golden-honey pace of the season for which it’s named and never really grabbed me. Wednesday was wrapping up by the time I finished.

I moved on to A Town Called Dust by Jason Woolley. It was another book that didn’t really grab me. If I hadn’t received a reminder from the library that it was due back soon, I probably would have dawdled with it until the end of the week.

But I did manage a third book. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 arrived at my house just this week (with two of its friends). It’s a comic by David Petersen about anthropomorphic mice. In a world where humans don’t exist, mice have intelligence, culture and medieval technology. They live in hidden cities that are isolated from each other. It is up to the Mouse Guard to ensure the ways between these cities are safe. Don’t be fooled by the cute mice and the bright colours–the story is pretty dark. There’s a role-playing game based on the comics. My gaming group is starting a campaign this weekend, so in preparation I blasted through the entire volume in a little over an hour on Saturday afternoon.

With my challenge goal met, I slacked off on Sunday–partly to meet some social commitments.

What about you? Did you join in Bout of Books last week? If so, how did you do? If not, what did you read over the week?

For those interested in the next Bout of Books, it will take place on 2-8 January 2017. For further details, keep an eye out here or head over to the Bout of Books blog.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.


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