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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Non-book Post: What I've been doing instead of reading, Part 2

Last weekend, we took off for 2 nights for a place we've been trying to visit for years: Kingbilli Estate.  "Estate" might be a stretch, but to each their own.  It's, in essence, a working farm.  A Llama farm, to be exact.  But in its previous incarnations it was a goat/donkey/horse/pony farm and a wildlife rescue hospital, so there's a little bit of everything (except goats) rambling around the llamas, including a flock of Indian peafowl.


Years ago, the owners built two stone cottages on the property; one for international volunteers, and one to let out to tourists.  Their daughter has since taken over the property, and while the llamas, ponies and horses still have their space, she's restored most of what was once grazing land back to natural scrub and forest.  



Our Cottage


The property still acts as a half-way house for injured wildlife, and there are no limitations as to where guests are allowed to roam, so we - I - went in with the hope/expectation of seeing a lot of Aussie wildlife I'd normally have a hard time seeing: wombats, bandicoots, sugar gliders, etc.


I soooo should have known better.  They heard I was coming and took themselves off.  There were wombat holes EVERYWHERE but not a single wombat did we see.  Nothing but llamas, donkeys and ponies, oh my.  And birds, thank goodness.  So many birds, it was a constant riot of birdsong around the cottage, which sat right on a little stream (which, until the drought, had a platypus in it, dammit).


All in all it was gorgeous and as they only have the one cottage to let, we had it all to ourselves.  Three days of total peace-out bliss - and no phone reception or internet service.  


I'll only share the interesting, colourful birds with y'all as I know not everybody is a bird lover.  But everybody loves baby llamas, right?


Baby llamas!!



White-faced Heron



Pacific Heron



Superb Fairy-wren (I just report the names, but you can tell, he thinks he's superb.)


Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - rocking the mohawk



Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - falling off his perch


Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo


Leaden Flycatcher


Silvereye, blending in



Golden Whistler- this one kept throwing himself against our bedroom door's glass; eventually we figured out he wasn't attacking his reflection, but picking spiders and bugs off the eaves and the door frame.  



If you stayed with me up to this point you're either very kind or really like birds. Either way, thank you. That's it though - until tomorrow, when we're off on another expedition. It's a rather unusual one, but I promise to keep the bird pics to a bare miniumum. After that, I suspect MT is going to enforce a 'rest period' and my attention will be solidly back on the books. :)

Small Magics

Small Magics -  Ilona Andrews

When I saw here on BookLikes that Sweep with Me was out, I went to Ilona Andrew's website to find out more, and noticed the release of a new anthology, published by Subterranean Press.  Yes please!


This is a compilation of the short stories Ilona Andrews has written, all previously published elsewhere, and for the first time in print, all the Curren POV's Gordon Andrews has written and posted on their website.  Interspersed are 3? full color illustrations.


It's a nice book - not the most impressive I've seen put out by Subterranean, but a good solid book.  I'd read some of the stories before, but enough of them were new to me to make me appreciate having bought it.


My only gripe with the book is with the Curran POVs.  As a character, these stories don't always flatter Curran, but that's trivial.  What is really disappointing, though, is the poor copy-editing of the Curran stories.  On the website, they're clear to state that the stories were written for fun, not edited, yada yada.  And that's totally understandable.  But I'd have though when it comes to publishing a limited release, numbered, signed, illustrated edition, the publisher, if not the authors themselves, would have wanted to take the time and make the effort to correct, at the very least, the most glaring omissions and errors (lots of the, a, an articles missing, or misplaced).


Ah well, a good collection that might have been great, but still welcome on my shelves.

Non-book Post: What I've been doing instead of reading, Part 1

As mentioned in my previous post, we've been getting out into nature the last few weeks (with another hike scheduled for tomorrow).  The first was a morning hike at a local park we'd never been too - an old reservoir-turned-parkland.


I was expecting primarily birds, because the park is still in a pretty urban area, and I got birds, but I also happily got a bit of everything else too.  I've recently become a member of inaturalist.org as a way of keeping track of, and identifying, what I find when I'm out and about; it's also a way to contribute to science.  So I got pictures of all sorts of flora and fauna.  I'll limit my sharing to a few birds, some mammals and one reptile (lizard).


The bird:

White-faced Heron



 The mammals:

Eastern Grey Kangaroo



Eastern Grey Kangaroo, exiting stage right



Swamp Wallaby (no swamp required)



Swamp Wallaby also exiting stage right



And the reptile:


Blotched Bluetongue - it's blotchy, and it has a blue tongue

Sweep with Me (Innkeeper Chronicles Novella)

Sweep with Me -  Ilona Andrews

Fun; brief but it packs a punch at the end.  This one is for those who've already read the other Innkeeper Chronicle books, though there's enough 'tell' sprinkled throughout that a first-timer wouldn't be totally confused.  They would be totally spoiled for the others though, as there are spoilers to previous plots in the text.


A lot of the secondary cast are 'away' for this story, so Orro gets a bit more attention, and it appears Dina is making new friends.  Not sure if we'll see them again, as this novella has a pretty tidy HEA ending, but they'll be welcome additions to any future Innkeeper books.

The Book(ish) related summary of what I've been doing

Hey, it's me again; I've temporarily (I hope) turned into one of those BL'ers that pops in and then promptly disappears.  Hopefully, in the coming weeks, that will cease and I'll be back to my regular living-here routine.


The school year started back up on January 28th here, which means all the IT related stuff that should have been done in the previous year's last term is suddenly being plonked on my desk and never mind the 700+ iPads piled up around me, and oh, by the way, when can we have the iPads?  This week?  No?


The 28th was also my birthday.  A Significant Birthday.  As many of you know, this Significant Birthday is going to be ushered in (or out, as the timing of the trip is yet TBD) with a trip to Africa, so I can stalk, from a safe distance, animals that see me as lunch.  But in the meantime, several smaller celebrations were ... celebrated?  A day at the theatre with my SIL and niece to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (excellent, though I could have done without the interpretive dance).  A day hiking in a nearby National Park, and a quick weekend away last weekend in the wilds of country Victoria.  Posts abut those two are following as it was all going to be too much and too photo heavy for one post.


So, where's the book related part of this post, you may be asking.  The first book-related part is my present from MT:



(I've edited out some of the more nitty-gritty details; as we all know, discussing politics or money in mixed company is just not polite).


A couple of verbal caveats were added:  This is in addition to my normal book buying budget, and it's meant to be used on books deemed as collectible (by me), or a splurge.


My husband is a bucket of awesome.  


The other part of the bookish update is the ongoing library project, which until today wasn't so much on-going, as it was completely stagnant.  Our neighbor (he with the necessary equipment to rip 12 foot/3m boards) was out of town two weekends ago, and we were gone last weekend.  As I type this though, MT has headed over there to get started on the next lot of shelves, which might be the last ones, as we're running out of salvaged wood.  Once we see where they get us, we'll figure out what to do from there.


Here it is as of right now:


I can't get the whole wall into the frame - the room is too small, but we now have one wall and a quarter of another one done.  Hopefully this weekend will see the rest of wall 2 done. 


I think I'm slowly climbing out of my reading slump; I've been on an Urban Fantasy tear this last month, and not all of it has been re-reads.  Progress!

When it rains it ... hails + Bookshelf-fairy update

So far, I'm giving the side-eye to 2020.


The good news is, I've been reading; re-reads, so the TBR isn't dwindling, but progress!


As y'all know, we've had record breaking drought and jaw dropping bushfires down under, but Mother Nature has relented, in her own twisted way, and for the last week or so, we've had rain.  So much rain.  This time last year, our YTD rain was 5mm / .2 inches of rain.  This YTD: 92mm / 3.6in.  For a Florida girl, it doesn't amount to more than an afternoon thunderstorm, but for Melbourne it's a godsend.  Except that the majority of that rain all came in one day - last Sunday - and not before the hail. OMG the hail:


One of the hail stones MT grabbed out of the garden, compared with a quarter.


All of its friends, stoning my garden.


MT and I might be a little odd, but we were at the back door, videoing the icy golf balls falling from the sky, running outside (this was MT - I have my limits) to put boards over the fish ponds and generally oohing and 'holy crap'ing.  When it was over though, MT discovered that our skylight in the bathroom was no more.  Smashed to smithereens by a hail stone or stones unknown.  Less fun, but really, in the grand scheme of things, no more than a drippy, albeit expensive, nuisance.


So, we caledl the insurance company Monday, and they sent someone out to temporarily patch the roof/skylight until the assessor comes out tomorrow.  And, here's the punch line:  he patches the skylight with the orangest tarp you've ever seen resulting in a whole new look for our sea blue bathroom:


Rave? Bordello? Old-school photo developing room?


The glow on a sunny day is so intense it *pulses* out the door into the hall.  It's hilarious.


In Bookshelf news, the hail storm ended up putting paid on our planned progress to cover the next corner of the library, though we did make some headway.  This bookcase, which is really two bookcases stacked:

came out, revealing something we should have remembered - that the bookcases were installed before the room was painted.




Luckily, we still had the paint, and we always have painting supplies, so this was not as big a show-stopper as it could have been, or the hail storm proved to be.  And we did get some temporary shelves up above the fireplace:



Our neighbor is back home tomorrow, and MT has everything setup to get the new rails installed, so maybe we'll be back on track this weekend, though I'm not holding my breath: we have family in town, and my SIL, my niece and I are going to see Cursed Child on Saturday, an all day affair, and Monday MT and I are going hiking for my birthday, which is on Tuesday which is also the first day of the school year and therefore my first day back to work.  Fate can be such a fiend sometimes.

*glingleglingle* The bookshelf fairy finally arrived!

So I'm still in the midst of slumpaggedon, but in between constantly hitting refresh over the weekend, checking to see if BookLikes was back up, my attention was consumed by our latest home project, which I've alluded to in my previous 2020 post.


The start of this DIY saga goes back to last May, when MT took possession of what was to become the company's new premises.  It was formally a sushi bar, and the owners left the space abruptly, leaving everything in situ.  The landlord refused to do anything to fit out the space, so MT negotiated with him to do it himself.  This meant we (I) had first pick of salvage, before the contractors came in, and part of the sushi bar was the bar itself.  A huge, solid, hardwood thing of beauty.  The contractors dismantled it for us, and we've been storing it.  Because I had plans ::rubbing hands together::.



It took some time to sort out exactly the way I wanted to do it, and the recent influx of furniture from MT's parents caused a complete re-think, but over the holidays we finally fixed on a plan of action and started ordering the necessary bits. 



Last weekend, MT and our incredibly kind neighbor with the cool woodworking tools started ripping the planks and cutting them down to size.  As you see above, we started on the wall behind the door - that way, if we screwed up it would be easier to hide it.




As you can see, we have high ceilings (14ft), and we're going all the way up.  I've done shallow shelves up top, as I'm planning to put paperbacks up there, and I didn't want the room to feel too top heavy.  We're also going to go all the way around the room, with plans to do the opposite corner this weekend.  We've already started, in fact:


Those planks above the fireplace are temporary so I can get more books off the floor; they'll be replaced with long shelves that span the width of the fireplace.  We just have to wait until the neighbor returns from holiday so we can cut the planks for the next section.


Stay tuned for updates.

Confessions of a Bookseller

Confessions of a Bookseller  - Shaun Bythell

The follow up to his Diary of a Bookseller, a book I enjoyed even more than I expected, so when I heard this was out, I immediately went out and bought it.


Every bit as good as the first, though where the first was primarily wacky and funny, this one had a sharper, more contemplative edge and, as far as my memory goes, this one feels a bit more personal.  The book he read/talked about made more of an impact with me in this book too, though I can't say why.


A great read if you like books about books, or memoirs of misanthropic booksellers.

Quick note about the BL 2020 Reading date bug...

Not good news, I'm afraid, and everyone should definitely check out Themis-Athena's post for the most reliable work-around.


BUT, I've been playing around, trying to figure out why it's not recording the 2020 dates, and discovered that if you change your book status from your shelf, using the "shelves" column, to the "currently reading" shelf, it WILL add a 2020 start date (which you can see if you've configured your shelves to display the "start reading" column.



HOWEVER, any attempt to add a finish date - either through the "Finished Reading" button on the dash, or through the shelf page - breaks everything (ie, the start date disappears, along with no data in the End Reading column).


So, the date recording function works properly when the book is moved to Currently Reading, but anything done through the Shelf Advanced pop-up does not.  I think someone forgot to define "2020" somewhere when they added the 2020 year to the pop up list (you'll notice it only goes to 2020, and I'm pretty sure last month it only went to 2019).   This is actually easy to do, as some of you might remember we (ahem - *I*) did something very similar when the Festive Tasks form was first setup.


None of this is helpful to any of us at the moment, as I doubt any of us are keen to leave read books in our currently reading shelf for the sake of a date, but I'm posting this in case someone - ideally the person who did the 2020 alteration in the first place - will get the message and be able to more easily fix it.

2020: So far so ... so-so.

On a personal front, 2019 started as it meant to go on:  crap.  This is reflected in my year in books, which I'm not even going to review, because I'm 100% sure it's crap.  I didn't come close to my goal, my participation in all the games this year was sub-par, and my participation on BookLikes in general was almost non-existent.


2020 is at least starting on a more positive note.  We're busy beavers here at the funny/animal farm, but we're both in good health and we've had some great news on the business transition front that will make life much more cheerful - or at least, less stressful.  My in-laws have run out of furniture and pictures to give us (I think / hope / pray), and I'm a lot in love with my new camera and itching to book my safari.


However, I'm still feeling down in the slumps, reading-wise.  This might be because we're up to our eyeballs in a home improvement project that has MT and I taking bets as to which of us is going to be the first to lose a kneecap in the middle of the night. I don't want to count on it, so I'm setting my 2020 goal at 150 books, maybe 125.  2019 has me spooked.


Australia is also in the midst of trying to destroy itself; the stats are staggering, and I won't hit you with them here, but every state and territory in the country is on fire in a really, really big way, and where the fire isn't, the smoke is.  I honestly believe it will be a miracle if, by the time it's all over, there's anything but sand and concrete left.  


December 18th was the hottest day ever recorded over the entire country:  the average temperature for the nation (which is roughly the size of the USA) was 107.4 / 41.9C.  That includes Tasmania, whose nearest neighbor is Antartica.  3 days ago (Saturday) an outer suburb of Sydney hit 120 / 48.9C - the hottest place on the planet that day.  Melbourne reached 111 / 44C.  I  mention all this because we haven't had a day over 60 / 16C since Sunday.  My AC is having an identity crisis, and Australian weather is weird.


Meanwhile, we're all fine, but the chickens are complaining about not being able to get the smell of the smoke out of their feathers, and the cats have retired to bed for the foreseeable future; the fish don't understand what the fuss is all about but are requesting someone do something about all the bees stealing their water.  I can't imagine a scenario where we'd be in serious danger, but I catch myself wondering if the car is big enough for 2 cats, 4 chickens, and 2 humans, and how many of each species would come out intact at the end; please God may I never have to find out.

This is how obsessions are born ...

Choosing my new camera was a bit of a debacle that started with a month of research that made me want to scream, and culminated with my visiting 6 different stores over 2 days, trying to find the one I ultimately wanted in stock somewhere.  (hint to retailers everywhere:  on-line stock checks only work if they're accurate.)   I finally found my camera in one store, the bag in another and I bought my memory cards in the last one (because I work for the parent company and get an employee discount).


While I was buying the bag, the salesman and I started chatting about the camera I bought and that beyond the safari, I'd be primarily using it for pics of birds and other wildlife.  He suggested I try the shutter priority setting and set the shutter speed at the high range for taking pics of birds, to avoid blurring as they inevitably flew away.  Now, I know next to nothing about cameras beyond point, focus, shoot, so I've always shied away from the 'fancy' settings, but I'm determined to get the most out of this one, so the last couple of days I've been using it.  



OMG, look at that!  Guess how many birds I've been stalking like a maniac since I pulled this one off yesterday?  I used to swear a blue streak every time a bird flew away, now I'm actively hoping they won't sit still...


Sometimes, technology really is awesome.

Look Alive Twenty-five (Stephanie Plum, #25)

Look Alive Twenty-Five - Janet Evanovich

I knew my slump was abysmal when it took me two weeks to finish this book.  I'm still slumping big time, but at least I managed to finish it before the end of the year.  I'm marking this as an accomplishment, as my attention span is worse than Lula's at the moment.


Speaking of Lula, she was my only irritant in this book; her sandwich making 'genius' stretched the boundaries of believability more than her wardrobe usually does, and speaking of her wardrobe, kudos to Evanovich for making me laugh out loud - hard - with the scene in the deli where Lula's fashion choices prove incompatible with waitressing.  I haven't laughed that hard since Grandma Mazur shot the turkey.


Otherwise, it was a standard Plum novel, albeit with more Ranger time, which I appreciated.  Wulf from the between the numbers novels played a weird cameo part, and the book ended in something of a cliffhanger/lead-in to book 26, which is something new for Evanovich's novels.  I tend to dislike these in general, though not enough to get het up about it.


Sad to say this will realistically be my last read for the year 2019, ::sniffle::.

Someone got a new xmas/birthday present (it wasn't the bird)

As part of my trip to Africa next year, I got a new camera, and I got it early so I can figure out how to work it.  So far, not bad. 

Coral Reef Fishes

Coral Reef Fishes: Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean Including the Red Sea - Revised Edition - Robert Myers, Ewald Lieske

I bought this after our trip to Vanuatu (oh, to go back...) so I could attempt to identify the fish I caught in my photos.  It's a nice sized 'pocket' guide (you'd want a big pocket), perfect to travel with, and the color illustrations for each fish are gorgeous.


BUT, I have two complaints:


It's hard to find the fish you're trying to identify if you've never attempted a fish identification before.  Which, honestly, isn't the books fault - it's neatly organised into the different species, but if I've never seen a damselfish I have no idea that the fish I'm trying to identify IS a damselfish.  This is made more frustrating by the fact that damselfish don't all have common traits, so two fish that could not look more different if they had arms and legs, could totally both be damselfish.  I'm not sure this is a solvable problem, except with time and experience.


The color plates, while gorgeous, are not the same as photographs if you're a beginner trying to identify fish for the first time.  I'd read that photos were better when I bought the book, but this title had the most comprehensive list of species and I figured it can't really be THAT hard.  But it can, and it is.


I've still found the guide useful and I'm glad to have it as a reference in my on-going Name that Fish! project, but I have also ordered a different guide with photographs to use as a companion reference.

365 Reasons to Love Your Cat

365 Reasons to Love Your Cat - Michael Powell, Suzanne Khushi

Like I needed a reason - or 365 of them.  I got this as a stocking stuffer this year, and it's sweet, the illustrations are quirky and wonderful, and it was nice to read a few of the more unusual ones and think "oh, thank god, my cat isn't as demented as I thought he was!"


I covered the most squares - I win!



Look!  I can touch the tip of my nose with my tongue!


Merry Christmas BookLikes!


To all my BookLiikes friends (where applicable) - Merry Christmas!  I hope you've all had a joyous and wonderful holiday season.