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    Grey vanilla pod

    Posted in blogjune
    June 28th, 2015

    I finished reading Grey, Christian’s perspective on the first of the 50 Shades trilogy. I had thought it was his summary of the whole three books, but it was just a blow-by-blow account of only the first book. Now I have to read two more books from the perspective of his brain and selected body parts (Mum says “you don’t HAVE to read them”, but damn, I am going to finish this thing).

    Grey bookface

    Grey bookface

    For all of his mixed feelings towards “vanilla”, really Christian Grey is actually vanilla extreme – the physicality of this perfumed seed. His body is the vanilla pod, a flesh farm, incubating something sweet which is periodically harvested. He identifies these growths as “anxiety mushrooms”, like a special chest fungi, reaching up from the darkness of his internal organs:

    “My anxiety mushrooms; this deal could all go to shit.” p. 90

    …and he also recognises when a harvest has been completed, perhaps the scrumping is during one of his nightmares?:

    “I undo my bow tie. Perhaps it’s me that’s empty.” p. 292

    …that’s right, that emptiness without your sweet, heady anxiety mushrooms. Back to the growth cycle, the crop regenerates as “anxiety blooms”:

    “Anxiety blooms in my chest.” p. 379

    You can see the cycle demonstrated in the progressive pagination of these quotes. People need to know.

    These human farms have been exposed in other stories, such as Georgina Kincaid in Succubus heat:

    “A flower of agony and euphoria burst open in my chest.” p. 356

    The next two books will reveal that Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. actually deals in the pricey ingredients grown in human bone gaols – vanilla, saffron, truffles. Christian doesn’t know the real reason that Mrs Lincoln helped him escape his life of vanilla cultivation. Her beauty salons need these exotic ingredients, but the greedy food industry is hogging the bulk of them. She subjected people to extreme genetic manipulation to grow and nurture these most expensive products inside them, to support her business venture’s wildly luxurious facials. He thought she’d cured his vanilla-growing, without realising that she was only taking him from a cycle that she herself had initiated. Mrs Lincoln breaks into the penthouse on a weekly basis to reap her precious Christian-ambergris while he slumbers.

    Will Christian realise that he is invested in Mrs Lincoln’s business, not just financially, but with his body, nay, his very soul? Will Ana save him from himself?


    Worms and the Underground movement

    Posted in Lifestyle
    March 31st, 2015

    It’s been an exciting month with lots of reading about composting, because our new garden beds have the most dreadful soil. Only one worm has made an appearance, which was just because of big rains (when there’s excessive water in the soil, worms escape to the surface, only to reach a terrible sunny purgatory). The lack is worrying because worms are like underground gas-chamber canaries, so the ground must be very tired. When I read worm books, I think of the data coursing through my brain like an information worm, reminiscent of those dreadful library posters showing the internet as a hypercolour tunnel.

    A very wormy compost

    Letter ‘S’ worm – apocalypse sign?

    Despite the worm drought, it’s been exciting to find some other bugs in the soil (sorry no pictures). M thought they were witchetty grubs (they are white with a red/brown head). However, my Mum thinks they are a root-eating grub – and back in the day, they were fed to pet dogs (I don’t want to think about that).

    Worms, music by Olive Clark

    Olive Clark’s Dance of the worms

    Composting is the only solution I can think of to fix the soil to make it a suitable venue for a wormy party – Peter Cundall calls them “…the underground movement.” (Murphy, 2005, p. xv). It could become The Place for dirty wormy raves, maybe I should play them the Worms song (Clark, 1953) to facilitate mad dancing.

    I just finished helping a neighbour empty their above-ground compost – which was unfortunately full of rubbish (non-bio plastic wrappers, dog toys, buckets… it covered a large area). It made me feel better about the state of my own dirt-patch. Sir Albert Howard (founder of the organic farming movement) says that “Every compost heap has its own history.” (2009). But I wish it wasn’t a rubbish dump history. Haven’t people read that book in the Babysitter’s Club series where they realise a biscuit packet can’t decompose?

    If a compost heap is a snapshot of history, it’s like an inverted family tree of earthworms. Van de Water wrote in a farm-nostalgia style about the origin of fishing bait, unearthing that first part of the catch: “The angler who purchases his lures from a languid sporting-goods clerk forgoes part of the adventure, misses the opening chapters of the romance, never hears the first movement of the symphony. The redolent manure heap behind the barn; the rusty potato fork plunged into the rich and quivering earth; the revelation of pink and brown, divinely ordained bait among the scattered clods; the ecstasy over the bluely glistening night crawler…” (1949, p. 66).

    I’m not yet invested enough to puree vegie scraps to “pamper my worms”, but I do like the idea of a food-like end product: “Your compost should look and feel like rich chocolate cake – dark brown, moist and crumbly.” (2009, p. 11). Peter Cundall did always say that good soil was “so good you could eat it”. At the other end of food, I was excited to read about the Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute (Pune, India) creating a low-cost, waterless, worm-driven toilet. I don’t know much about the topic, but there is a composting toilet at Canberra’s Sustainable House – surely if there can be one at one residence in the ACT, there could be more, especially in new developments?


    Worms in Thompson's Compost book

    Worms in Thompson’s Compost book

    In terms of aesthetics, my compost piles haven’t ever really scored highly – when I wanted to use a tyre (but they do have a lot of chemicals), Mr. Sonja decried our garden as looking “too industrial”. So I did the cheapie thing and bought lid-bins (meant for rubbish) and cut holes in the base (if you end up doing this, you can put some holes in the sides, or put a pipe down the middle, if you’re not inclined to turn/stir it). To make a “normal” heap (i.e. one that isn’t in a container) a bit prettier, you can grow zucchini, pumpkin, cucumbers or melons on top – plant seeds about 3cm deep at the edge of the compost and water regularly (Cullen et al, 1992, p. 68). Green mulching would be fun as well, but I would feel sad to cut the plants down. Thompson et al (2008) suggest building a compost bin from stacked hay bales, the top of the which can be used for planting vegetables or flowers.

    I aspire to growing comfrey (or borage) and making comfrey tea just for my compost, like we are just two girlfriends having a brew together (except one of us is rotting). But I enjoy this idea more than actually doing it, a bit like flossing – more about intention than practice. I could even become the sort of person that asks other Canberrans going to the coast, ‘could you bring me back some seaweed, for my garden?’. I’ve read different things about whether you need to rinse seaweed but Taylor et al (2010) say that the sea salt shouldn’t be concentrated or present because the nutrient elements are absorbed as separate entities. But you still might want to chop it into bits. For the impatient composter, Taylor et al has a recipe for “Fast-cooking 14-day compost”, which is tempting because the extreme heat means you can bake potatoes in the ground!

    Worms in the night book cover

    I love this cover!

    I’m also reading an awesome retro YA book (with a delightful cover), Worms in the night – I don’t know what kind of worms they are yet, but a character warns “Look out for the worms. They’ll get you,’” (Harewood, 1991, p. 23). I look forward to finishing it because the mystery of the worms is just so ominous. I would still like our garden to have more, though.


    Reading list:

    (2009).  Composting : a down-to earth, water-wise guide.  Camberwell, Vic :  Penguin

    Clark, Olive.  (1953).  Worms.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.mus-vn2054441

    Cullen, Mark. & Johnson, Lorraine. & Aldous, David E. (1992).  Backyard and balcony composting : the complete guidebook.  Melbourne :  Bookman

    Harewood, Jocelyn.  (1991).  Worms in the night.  Sydney :  Pan Australia Horizons

    Horsfall, Mary.  (2011).  The mulch book.  Chatswood, N.S.W :  New Holland

    Murphy, David.  (2005).  Organic growing with worms : a handbook for a better environment.  Camberwell, Vic :  Penguin

    Taylor, David. & Allsop, Rob.  (2010).  The compost book.  Chatswood, N.S.W :  New Holland Publishers (Australia)

    Thompson, Ken. & Cosgrove, Laurie. & Gilbert, Alan.  (2008).  Compost.  Camberwell, Vic :  Dorling

    van de Water, Frederic Franklyn.  (1949).  In defence of worms and other angling heresies.  New York :  Duell, Sloan and Pearce

    Book checkers

    Posted in blogjune
    June 2nd, 2014


    I often have overdue books. I like to think it’s because as a librarian, I spend a lot of time as a flesh equivalent of a due-date reminder for others about their own loans. At birth, we’re allocated a finite amount of brain power dedicated to returning books. Library professionals altruistically gift this allocation to their borrowers and in turn are constantly in the “recalcitrant borrower” shackles. Inspired by Hoi’s “Check in”.


    When I worked in a police library, it was a running joke to call librarians “book enforcement officers”. I am actually fairly relaxed, but borrowers with a guilty conscience see any library staff member, and gain an expression of melancholic despair (and sense of impending doom) as though they’ve suddenly noticed Jack Frost tapping on the windowpane. They back away slowly and whisper, “I was just about to return those…” I know of a library that has a lending policy date of several years, this alleviates their storage issues.


    Mr. Cat and library books

    Mr. Cat the voracious reader


    Here are some books we borrowed for a relative recovering for surgery – it’s luxurious being able to select lots of library books for someone as there isn’t the awkward burden of buying them the wrong book. However there is the need to return them! Shamefully overdue.



    Lorraine on looking great: my guide for real women by Lorraine Kelly

    I didn’t realise that Lorraine Kelly was famous, but I was lured in by the book cover which would be great to hold up to other passengers on the bus. Lots of exercise routines and a good suggestion of rolling a tennis ball under each foot (whilst sitting!) to soothe sore feet.


    The preserving book, editor-in-chief Lynda Brown with Carolyn Humphries and Heather Whinney

    I’d need to renew this to get the most out of it, I’ve only ever made jam in the bread maker and I was surprised at recipes like pickled walnuts – sounds dreadful!


    You are what you wear: what your clothes reveal about you by Jennifer J. Baumgartner

    The psychology of dress! Fun for understanding your own and others’ fashion choices. The thinking woman’s Colour me beautiful/confident. Lots of self-tests about overbuying and appearance anxiety, with chapters focused on lifestyle and not just clothing.


    Work your wardrobe... by Gok Wan, pp. [176-7].

    Handbag hoard


    Work your wardrobe: Gok’s gorgeous guide to style that lasts by Gok Wan

    An instance where you read the book in the author’s voice! There’s no way I could ever buy a white shirt despite it having “…such fabulous fashion potential!” p. [17]. I just don’t have it in me. A puzzling 2-page spread of a lady disrobed but for some handbags – a statement about leather? (pp. [176-7])


    Living normally: where life comes before style by Trevor Naylor; photographs by Niki Medlik

    “A show-home lifestyle is impossible for most of us. …Acres of paint, hours of TV and millions of pounds of advertising serve to idealize how our interiors should be.” – Naylor, pp. 6-7.


    A refreshing book that shows the importance of homes being welcoming and as working symbols of what is important, interior design programs do the same soul-crucifying work to houses as beauty magazines do to self-confidence.



    We did borrow books apart from ones focusing on appearance (which is a rather insensitive topic when someone’s been in hospital), but they have already been returned, so I guess these were the winners. Or as someone told me once “It took me longer to return this book because it was so boring, I needed more time to try and get through it.” At least both our patient and I enjoyed them, so that’s double value (like brewing tea several times – bargain! When you sacrifice your “return books” brain cells you need to save money somewhere to pay the overdue fines).



    Ten bashful mermaids

    Posted in blogjune
    June 1st, 2014


    Happy first day of blogjune! You can see all the participants on Flexnib’s list, she has also put together this blogjune file for your RSS reader.



    I’m trying to keep better track my reading this year by following another librarian’s example …but I realise that I’ve already changed the list parameters. I wasn’t counting non-fiction books which would greatly expand my count, but it’d also mean I was including books I hadn’t read cover-to-cover. Brings to mind a Cathy cartoon where she started a new year’s resolution of keeping a diary, but used the wrong colour pen so it was ruined. I will continue and aim for a December 2014 list of my inhaled fiction books & movies.


    Of the well-read books list from K, I have only read 6% which is a poor result:


    63. Life of pi by Yann Martel

    64. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

    65. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    91. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    99. 1984 by George Orwell

    100. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James



    I could work through the list, but so far I’ve focused on fun books like Tom Holt’s Doughnut, which is like a sweetly salted cookie packed with beautiful descriptive chocolate chips. My favourite quotes:


    “She’d sort of ground to a halt, and was looking hopefully at him, like a dog that can see the biscuit in its owner’s hand.” p. 21


    “That drip-drip noise you can hear is my heart bleeding.” p. 176


    Giraffe toys and toes in the tub

    Pink mermaids



    “He lay back and stared at his little pink toes,

    which rose up out of the froth like ten bashful mermaids.” p. 328


    You can even take a quiz on Holt’s site to find out the perfect love-match book for you. Spoiler: it seems to only choose between 2 of his titles! Doughnut is the first I’ve read by I’m happy to try out some bibliographic polyandry.