A Touch of Whimsy

I realised today that my blog has not had very much whimsy lately.

The whole reason I started this blog was to have a place for my soul to rest, unfortunately with so much heartache happening in mine and my family’s lives, there hasn’t been much of that.

But I have come to know that even when your life is full of trouble, there are still things that can be appreciated for their beauty, their loveliness and just because they are there.

Pink Hose – Photo Credit: http://mrswisesturt.com

Books, Windows, Sunlight…what’s not to love Photo Credit: http://mechantdesign.blogspot.fr/2014/09/studio-loft.html

 

These are just a few of the things I love…to see more, check out my Pinterest Board

Follow Michelle Birrell’s board Things I Love on Pinterest.

 

 

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Judging a Book by its Cover

This is a friend of mine and I am so excited to help her promote her upcoming book!

Emma Lea

Walk of Shame

I have a confession to make…I judge books by their covers.  I know I shouldn’t, we are warned against doing it our entire lives, but I just can’t help it.  I admit to having bought a book just because of the cover (The Harry Dresden Files are case in point (the old covers, not the new ones)) I like my books to be pretty, I like nicely designed covers and above all, I like the covers of books in a series to match!

I also judge books by their names.  I have been known to buy a book simply because the title was intriguing (The Name of the Wind is a perfect example).

I have also bought books because of the author’s name (insert Joe Abercrombie here).

There is so much that a book has to say with just the front cover…BEFORE the buyer turns the book over to read the…

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The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Slow-Regard

This started out as a review of a novella by Patrick Rothfuss named “The Slow Regard of Silent Things”, but became something else.

Before I begin my review, I need to out myself on a few things…

 slowregardFirstly, I am a Patrick Rothfuss fangirl (that is if a married 41 year old woman with two adult sons can even be considered a fangirl). I first read “The Name of the Wind” a few years ago and was unashamedly captivated by it.  I had only just started tentatively reading fantasy (previously I had been a strictly crime/political thriller reader…i.e. James Patterson, Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwall, Dale Brown, Sue Grafton) and I had been intrigued by the books title…”The Name of the Wind”. They say to never judge a book by its cover, but to me the cover (especially in the fantasy genre) tells its own story and if it doesn’t interest me, then I’m likely to pass on the book.  I have read other books simply because the cover caught my eye (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is one such series, before they changed the covers which is a pet hate of mine, they were made to look like old files…kind of cool…and then there is Joe Abercrombe whom I read just because I liked his name), so with a title like “The Name of the Wind” I was definitely interested.  The story that was contained within that cover was even better than the name had hinted at.  Mr Rothfuss’s use of words, imagery and world building wrapped around me like a cocoon and by the end of the book I was converted completely to the fantasy genre. I have since re-read both “The Name of the Wind” and book two “The Wise Man’s Fear” (something I had never done until reading these books) a couple of times and have tried to get them into the hands of as many people as I can.  So, yes, I am a fan.

The second thing I need to be upfront about is that I am grieving.  My beautiful daughter-in-law died two and a half weeks ago (here is her story) and the world just hasn’t seemed the same since that day.  Many things in my life seem meaningless (vanity of vanities, all is vanity) and I even considered whether or not to write this post (but I have and I hope by the end of it you will understand why) and so it is under the very heavy grey cloud of mourning that I read this novella and now write this review.

And thirdly, this is not the book three that you are looking for.  Mr Rothfuss made it very clear in the lead up to and in the forward of the book that this was not Book Three of “The Kingkiller Chronicles”…this is a novella that expounds the story of one of the characters in it. It is an addendum to the original story, not a continuation of it.

So, with all that out of the way, let me get on with my review.

Illustration by Nate Taylor

Auri – Illustration by Nate Taylor

Quite simply, I loved it…but I know that not everyone will.  Mr Rothfuss admonishes us in the forward that this book is not for everyone, and I agree, not everyone will understand it.  This story breaks a lot of rules and there are some people that will find that hard to deal with, but again, we are warned of this in the beginning.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t think anyone could fully tell this story without breaking the rules. Auri is not a character that can be explained by conventional means, she is an enigma and so too is her story.  And, quite frankly, I don’t think everybody should read this book.  I think that something like this should only be read by those that will appreciate it; people who get Auri, who are maybe even a little bit like Auri.  It almost seems indecent to expose Auri to the unwashed masses, those that only wish to impose their will on the world and are not at all interested in being changed by something or someone else.  If nothing else, then this is a story for those of us who have known great loss and have been forever changed by it.

This short story spoke to the part of me that was broken, the part of me that now looks at the world and wonders why.  Although we don’t find out the why of Auri, we do get to know the who.  In very cold and clinical terms, Auri would be considered obsessive compulsive, but in my bruised and battered frame of mind, I see beyond that.  I’m sure that if a psychiatrist got a hold of Auri, they would have a field day and in doing so would destroy her. To me, Auri, through her brokenness, has found a deeper meaning.  She looks only for harmony, she desires only for the things around her to be in harmony with each other. I envy her.

You may think it strange to envy a character who is quite obviously damaged, but it is her very damaged-ness that makes her enviable.  She is no longer consumed by the trappings of materialism, she no longer feels the need to impose her will and desire on the world around her and she takes delight in the simple things.  We have become a world of cynicism and disdain and we have lost the most sacred of emotions…wonder.  Where is the childlike wonder of imagination?  The powers that be have reduced our lives down to scientific theories and financial facts totally disregarding that part of us that calls to the deep mysteries of life.  Children have lost their childhood and adults have forgotten how to dream.  Our world has been broken by the very things that we created to fix it and yet we keep trying to fix it with the same things.  We need more wonder in our world and Auri shows us a glimpse of wonder and my heart yearns for more.

So, perhaps this isn’t a book review at all, but more a study on finding meaning in life when you are broken.  Auri’s world is not perfect, she is still broken, but her brokenness is beautiful. As I grieve the loss of a beautiful person in my life, I look at Auri and I see that there can still be life after loss, not just existence and there can be beauty in brokenness even though it looks different.

I Like Big Books…

31 Days of Blogging – Day 6

Today marked the first day of my holidays.  It has been a long, hard year so Gavin & I were both hanging out for some time off.  It is only five days, but it is FIVE DAYS IN A ROW!

I got up early and cleaned the house.  I had been lying in bed thinking about it and I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and cleaned while everyone else slept.  At 7:30am I went back to bed…with a book.

books

I love books.  I adore books.  I love the smell of books, the feel of them, the sound of them, everything about them.  I love the physical, tactile, tangible book – regardless of it’s content.  But I also love reading, I love to immerse myself in the world created between the pages.  I am a prolific reader.  I have already read two books this year.  I have to admit though, that I don’t just read anything.  A book needs to captivate me, entertain me, enthrall me.  I don’t see the point of reading a book that is a chore.  Reading for me is escapism.  I read to get away from life, to live a life I would not normally have the opportunity to live.

In the past I have not been known to re-read books, but lately I have been.  It started because I was in between books and didn’t know what I wanted to read next.  Then I read two books to refresh my memory in preparation for the third in the series.  Then I watched a movie that had been made from a book and it made me want to re-read the book again (mainly because I wanted to see how different the book was) and that book was the first in a series, so of course, I had to read the rest.

Today I finished reading the third in the series.  The story wrapped up nicely, but there is a fourth book.  I remember when I read it last time that I felt that the fourth book was superfluous.  The story finishes nicely at the end of the third book.  All the loose ends were tied up nicely, the plot and all the subplots were resolved and I am left with a sense of closure.  I know I didn’t really enjoy the fourth book last time, but my OCD won’t let me not read it!  So, tonight I start the fourth book…

reading

Reading is so very important to me.  I went through a time when I didn’t read and I think my character suffered for it.  I feel sorry for people who don’t read, they are missing out.  Everybody should take some time to read.

NANOWRIMO has Begun!

 

Image

So November has rolled around again and that means it is time to overcome all those objections and start writing that novel you have always talked about!

“National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.”

It’s probably no secret that I have always wanted to write.  I love words and what you can do with them.  I love reading and what it can do for you.  I would love to one day write a novel that makes a difference in someone else’s life the way so many books have made a difference in mine.  NaNoWriMo gives me the kick in the pants I need to at least start.

Last year was my first year with NaNoWriMo and I did finish the 50,000 words but just missed the deadline by 2 mins.  I’m not going to lie, it was tough.  Some days were easier than others, the words just flowed and my story progressed.  Other days I struggled to get any decent ideas out of my head.  A lot of the time I was stuck for words or procrastinated by doing “research” on the internet, but eventually I got there.  Did I finish a novel?  No, it wasn’t even part one of the epic story I had planned.  Was it worth it? Most definitely.  What did I learn?  I may not be able to make a living out of it, but I love trying to.

This year I have decided to write something a little simpler.  Last year’s attempt was an epic tale of magic and mystery set in an all new world.  This year I’ve aimed a little lower with a chick-lit mystery/thriller.  Hopefully I will be able to complete my novel or there-abouts) by November 30.

Speaking of which, I should be writing my novel instead of writing about writing my novel…

My Count thus Far

Sunny Saturday Adventure

ssatitle

Today dawned bright and beautiful.  I got up early, while the rest of the house slept and indulged in the stillness of the morning.  I didn’t have to work today and because it is a Saturday and it is a rare occurrence to have a Saturday off, today was a magical day.

In my last post I tried to explain, with my limited capacity, the struggle to achieve work/life balance for a business owner.  In this post I want to share with you that I have made a concerted effort to take some time off and to do something fun with it.

This day didn’t just happen.  I have found that if I want to do something on my day off, I need to plan it.  Spontaneity is often defeated by lackadaisicalness.  We planned to go to the markets, if we hadn’t then we would have probably ended up doing nothing. So we had a plan.  We had to make a delivery first and pick up some yummy relish from the mother in-law and then we were off.

Our destination was the famous Eumundi Markets. We estimated that it had been at least five years since we had been.  Considering we were Sunshine Coast locals, this was pretty poor.  We decided that since we were going through Nambour, we would take the scenic route through Yandina.  Highways are so boring.

It is interesting to travel roads that you haven’t been down for a while and see the changes.  I have lived on the Sunshine Coast for nearly twenty-four years and during that time have lived in different suburbs.  Places that I used to frequent regularly, now I rarely visit so it is nice to revisit those places and see the changes.  Did you know that Yandina has a brand new shopping centre?  I didn’t until today.

When we arrived at the markets, parking became our goal.  I remember having to get to the markets at some ungodly hour in order to get a park.  Parking is a lot more civilised now, they have car parks and everything.  You have to pay for the privilege, but I find that the convenience is worth it and the money goes into the local community.

The market has grown exponentially.  There seemed to be thousands of them (I don’t actually know how many there are, but there are lots!)  Eumundi Markets used to be known for their strict regulations for Market holders – make it, bake it, sew it, grow it – but things have changed.  There is still a section of the markets that stick to these rules, but there are other markets that have grown up around the original and they are not so strict.  Some of these are great, but unfortunately there are some that just stock cheap imports which, I feel, have no place in a real market.

Overall, the atmosphere is great although very crowded.  There is so much to see and taste and experience and not just at the markets.  There are some really interesting shops along the main street, notably Berkelouw Books. This place was phenomenal.  New alongside second hand alongside antique…a book-lovers heaven.

bookstore

 

coffeepot

 

 

Another great shop was a Retro and Vintage shop called Retro Spective.  They have some amazing pieces and furniture and really reasonably priced.  I didn’t get a photo in the shop, but we did buy a little treasure.

frenchpatisserie

 

 

We had a delicious, freshly baked chocolate croissant from a gorgeous little french patisserie stall.  I think the chef was actually French!

 

 

van

 

And saw this cute little van that I would love to turn into a coffee van or maybe a muffin van 🙂

 

sugarcreamer

 

We bought some adorable mini Monte Carlo and Melting Moment biscuits that were about the size of a ten cent piece but ate them before getting a photo and also found this set of sugar and creamer that most of our grandparents probably owned.

 

PumSpinFeta

 

Our market plans fulfilled we then took a drive to Noosa, well, Tewantin.  We were heading for Noosa River, but Gavin got lost and we ended up in Tewantin which wasn’t any big drama.  We were enjoying our sunny Saturday adventure and decided to just go with it.  Neither of us had ever actually been to Tewantin before, so we wandered down the main street to find some lunch.  We ended up at Tewantin Deli were I had a Pumpkin, Spinach & Feta Salad with Grilled Chicken and Avocado.  Gavin had a burger, but only ate half.

fishmarket

 

 

And on the drive home we saw this cute little shop that I wish I could transport to Mooloolaba and turn into a Vintage Cake Shop

 

That was our Sunny Saturday Adventure!

Outside of a dog…

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read – Groucho Marx

I am always a little disappointed when I read the final sentence of a book.  I always want to know what happens next! I want the story beyond the happily ever-after, which is probably why I read so many series.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am a little obsessed with books.  I am happy, even a little proud, to admit that I am a prolific reader.  I currently have over five hundred physical books in my library and nearly seventy iBooks.  I will say that I haven’t read all of them, but the ones I haven’t read could be counted with my fingers and toes.

I am a discerning reader…there are some things I just refuse to read and other things that I have no interest in.  I have a very defined sense of why I read and I am protective of it.  My reading time is my escape time, it is my safe place, my recharge time and my de-stress space and I don’t allow just anything into it.  I refuse to read 50 Shades of anything, I am adverse to soppy Mills & Boon type books (although I do admit to reading them in the past) and I am not a fan of autobiographies and non-fiction material.  I also don’t read horror, but that’s more because I am a scaredy cat rather than because of my literary snobbery.  I will also confess to an avoidance of vampiric sagas although not of the entire Young Adult fiction genre, and I do try to read the classics, but sometimes the writing styles and language make it more of a chore than an enjoyment.  I read for fun, not to be “well-read”.

So you may be wondering why, after having read so many books, that I haven’t tried my hand a reviewing them.  I have Grade 7 English to blame for that.  I was required to write and then give an oral book review and the experience left me quite scarred.  In the interest of being thorough, I over did it and bored everyone to tears – and gave away the plot.  Consequently, I have been reluctant to repeat the performance…until now.

The catalyst of my change of heart was a bad review I read of a book I enjoyed.  The review was quite scathing and it made me realise that not everyone has as well a developed understanding of why they read as I have.  I know that not every book I read is going to be a masterpiece and I am ok with that.  There are times when I want to read something I can really get my teeth into and then other times when I just want to read fluff.  With that understanding it lets me (and the author) off the hook and I can enjoy a book for what it is – my escape.

So you are probably dying to know what book I am talking about.  Firstly, let me set the scene…I had just finished reading the entire ‘Wheel of Time‘ series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson).  It took me a good four months to complete the series…this is a long time for me as I have been known to read a couple of books per week.  To be fair, there are fifteen books, nearly 12,000 pages and over four million words in the series.  Needless to say, by the end of it I had a severe book hang-over.

Not being one to be without a book for long, I immediately read a book that was given to me for my birthday.  This wasn’t a book or an author I would normally read, but I gave it a go and actually enjoyed it.  It was Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts if you wanted to know.

Anyway, after finishing that, I was still suffering from the after-effects of WoT and couldn’t face another epic so early, so I went looking for something else to read and came across ‘The Heist‘ by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.  I know and like Evanovich’s style and have read almost all of her books (the Stephanie Plum books being a favourite) and knew that this book would be perfect for me and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  After reading it, I went online to Goodreads to read what other people had thought about it.  Mostly the reviews were good with a few not so good ones, but one bad review stuck out to me.  The reviewer complained about one dimensional characters and bad plot development.  They also drew comparisons to TV shows and likened it to a bad screenplay.  It made me wonder if we had read the same book.

Here’s the thing…I knew what I was in for when I picked up the book.  I have read Evanovich before and I know the way she writes.  Going in to this book, I knew what to expect.  This is not a deep, thoughtful, realistic book.  This book is light, casual and definitely unrealistic.  This is the first book in a series, it is only 300 pages long, you are not going to get full character development with this. But because I knew this going in AND I knew why I was reading this book, I was able to dismiss all of that and just enjoy the story…and I did enjoy the story.

Kate O’Hare is an FBI Agent who has spent the last five years on the trail of con-artist Nicholas Fox. Ex-Navy Seal (there is a disclaimer about this at the beginning of the book explaining that, yes, the authors know there are no female navy seals, and no, they don’t care), Kate is well disciplined and fiercely dedicated to seeing justice prevail.

When she finally catches him, her very precise world is tipped on it’s ear and she is forced to question her own belief system when her superiors do a deal that leads to her working alongside the one man she has dedicated the last five years to putting behind bars.

This was a fun book to read. It is not a masterpiece, the background characters are a little interchangeable and the plot is a bit unrealistic, but it is funny and an enjoyable read.

Kate is likeable and I could identify with her ‘all work and no play’ lifestyle (being a busy career woman myself).  I liked her easy relationships with her sister and her protective but not overbearing father.  Nicholas is a charming rogue with a sharp mind and I couldn’t help but like him and wonder if there was a way he could be brought onto the straight and narrow and leave his life of crime behind. The plot kept me entertained and the supporting cast helped bring it altogether.  There is plenty of scope to further develop these characters in the forthcoming books.  Like the reviewer said, it did remind me of a screenplay, but my thoughts were more along the lines of, “Ooh, this would make a great TV series”.  All in all, I look forward to the next installment and to seeing where this strange partnership goes.

If you are looking for a book that is light-hearted, comedic and intriguing with slight romantic overtones and a promise of more to come, then you, like me, will enjoy The Heist.  If you are looking for something with a bit more tooth, then give it a miss, or better yet, save it for when you need something lighter.

The Heist (O'Hare and Fox #1)