Friday 20 November 2015

Have you ever lost someone you love

“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.” -- Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Guitars and Garters

Being a girl is a strange thing. Especially when you aren't a normal girl.

You watch the normal girls and they do normal girl things. They plan huge weddings and look good in white and veils while on their daddy's arm. They post pictures of their engagement rings and their pregnant bellies and their babies and you stare and wonder why you don't want to do that.

But you're a girl too.

You like pretty things like very large prime numbers.
You like being in love when they give you space and don't want you to need them.
You liked your parents buying you toys like Lego and chess boards.
You like being looked after when you're feeling sick but you're good otherwise.
You like makeup and clothes but you never think of what the boys will think of them.

But you can construct your own furniture and set up your own amp and serenade yourself with your own guitar playing and open your own jars.

And that is not really welcome in this day and age.

Being a girl is a strange thing. Especially when you aren't a normal girl.

Writing Again

The writing stopped when the reading started. The chaotic reading that consumed every alternative hour. The balance was lost. The loss was missed.

And so it paused and was parked and was mute. I was mute.

It is odd that we have a finite amount of time. Some days that hits me and other days it feels like we have forever. It seems only to be a hard limit when the wall appears in my face while I'm moving at light speed.

It is time for more balance. For some damn balance. For a semblance of balance at the very least.

Lets do that then.

Love, only love

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Stop Walking on Eggshells

Book 60 0f 2015 is Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger.

This was a book I read as part of being a hypochondriac who needs to check out every possible diagnosis for any possible symptom.

The book is very much for people dealing with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and not people with BPD. There are no tools for the BP (the name given to one with BPD) but a few for those dealing with a BP.

This highlighted a few things that I had been experiencing and made me take seriously the fallout.

If you do happen to be living with someone you suspect is BPD then this is a good book for getting sympathy and  help.

3 emotional woundings out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, if you are dealing with a BP.
What did I learn? People are cruel.

Wednesday 5 August 2015


I see you everywhere.

Every bike rider who sweeps passed on the street turns my head. The confident ones, no matter their colour, make me double take to see if it is you.

When my apartment is buzzed, I answer and wait to hear that it is you. It never is. There is a gasp of hope and anticipation and then a thump as my heart is bitch slapped by reality.

You are gone.

That is OK.

I'd rather you be happy.

I lie in bed and close my eyes and imagine you sleeping next to me. With my insomnia, I used to watch you sleep. Your eyelids would flutter and you'd sigh at whatever you were dreaming. I'd kiss you and like the kissing ninja you are, you'd kiss me back mid-sleep as if you saw me coming every time. Those were the moments I spent with you that you didn't spend with me, consciously.

For all the drama and the pain that you caused, I will confirm that it was worth it.

Thank you for the ride of my life. Thank you for the first true love of my life.

I'd change nothing. Nothing.

Now, go do amazing things and know I love you.

Stoopid immune system.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

You: A Novel

Book 34 of 2015 is You by Caroline Kepnes.

I read this 432 page book in around 28 hours. Not on a weekend. I started on Sunday night and had to work a full day of work on the Monday. My obsessiveness can only be likened to that of the main character.

It is hard to describe why I couldn't put this book down but I really couldn't. It is a page turner. That could be it's references to all sorts of reading material or the awful references to Dan Brown being good. Who knows? I simply couldn't stop looking at the train wreck.

As someone who has had a stalker break in to my house and take the clothes I'd last slept in, I am a little more alarmed than I ever was. It is hard not to see the world through the eyes of a mostly sane person. This shows you what a stalker is really thinking and oh my gawd, I'm alarmed and not just alert now.

The writing is good. The plot is understandable and crazy as hell. Having fallen deeply in love recently meant that I had felt strong emotions that he echoed. I hope my love isn't that insane. Erotomania is a problem that we dismiss but with the amount of violence against women, we have to take the obsession mixed with entitlement a lot more seriously.

4 delusional assumptions out of 5.

Should I read this? Humans with vaginas should read this.
What did I learn? You have no idea what is in the mind of the person trying to seduce you. Get Mace.

Thursday 16 July 2015

The Tao of Pooh

Book 33 of 2015 is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

There is nothing to not like about this book. I am even now considering if I'm an existentialist, as I once thought or a Taoist. I do know that I am part Pooh, part Tigger and part Eyore. That's not a bad thing.

5 honey pots out of 5.

Should I read this? You should read this if you like learning about new ways of thinking or you like Winnie the Pooh.
What did I learn? You will learn not to sweat the small things.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Secrets She Left Behind

Book 32 of 2015 is Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberliain.

The funniest thing about reading this book is that I didn't realise it was the second in the Before the Storm series. It stands alone and I didn't even suspect I'd missed a thing starting here. That is a well written series book.

If I'd bothered to read the back of this book rather than go purely off the ratings, I'd not have read it at all. It sounds very dramatic and incestuous and girly but I'd have missed a very good story and one that is written well.

If you want a little teen angst and lioness mothers protecting their young then this is the book. The men who cause all the trouble are sidelined characters and it is more about the way the amazing women and their involuntarily strong children handle the outcome of their lust and bad behaviour. That in itself is a good plot.

This is a good read but don't break it up as much as I did. Read it faster and without three other books going at the same time.

4 half-siblings out of 5.

Should I read this?  You should read this is you feel like your family isn't complex enough to burn down a church.
What did I learn? We all mean well, even if we do things that seem selfish and crazy at the time.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

The Fold

Book 31 of 2015 is The Fold by Peter Clines.

This one was an audio book and was narrated by a gentleman called Ray Porter, who has changed my mind about audio books which I am not a huge fan of. He read this so well that I know I would have found it different if I had read it myself. Different and not as good.

Since getting back in to science fiction, I am wondering why I haven't spent more of my life reading it when I obviously love sci-fi TV and movies. This is another one of those books that makes me slap myself for not reading more. This is good on almost every level. There is mystery, science, fantastical creatures and great suspense wrapped in action.

4 space time continua out of 5.

Should I read this? If you like sci-fi then yes.
What did I learn? Sometimes everyone just feels a little out of place in their lives and maybe there is a reason for that.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Looking For Alaska

Book 30 of 2015 is Looking for Alaska by John Green.

He is one of those best selling authors that you always intend to read but are not sure what to expect. This was what I expected. A book written for young adults with the pretense of depth and a whole lot of quotes strung together.

There are audiences for this book, I am sure. They are just not me.

The characters are predictable. The plot is obvious. It is something John Hughes would direct.

This is for young people. Hey you kids, get off my lawn!

3 teenage crushes out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you are between the ages of 13 and 16 years and haven't embraced the good books your English teachers keep pushing on you.
What did I learn? The trauma experienced by white middle class American kids cannot hold my attention for more than about... oh look, a castle!

Saturday 27 June 2015

The Dragons of Dorcastle

Book 29 of 2015 is The Dragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell.

It is the first book in the Pillars of Reality series which I am no considering reading.

It is your typical female engineer not respected in a man's world meets a sensitive boy with no social skills. Yes, I related to that part a little too much.

The writing is simple and effective. The read was not challenging and the story was engaging.

Jack Campbell does not write the in workings of the female mind well and the main female protagonist comes across in a Bella Swan way a few times but she is redeemed by her actions and overall character.

Going back to reading fantasy is always a pleasure but it also reminds me that a lot of fantasy is just Mills & Boon for guys.

3.5 guild wars out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. I will at least read the next book. If you like fantasy and don't mind a but of a love story with dragons then this is for you.
What did I learn? Geeks and geek dysfunction is so mainstream these days that every day books are portraying that life. I think that is an all-around good thing.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Thief's Magic

Book 28 of 2015 is Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan.

Ok, this woman is one of my favourite Aussie writers. I loved The Black Magician trilogy. Far too much fantasy is written by men and often feels like a bad porno mixed with Mills & Boon in another dimension where people don't shower often.

Fantasy written by female authors has more dimensions. I'm not being sexist! It really does.

The thing that disappointed me about this is that she is writing a trilogy and not a story. She is doing a Wheel of Time set up that obviously sucks you in but doesn't actually satisfy anything. What I loved about Black Magician was that the story held strong the whole time. You didn't have to finish the journey. You wanted to.

I won't be reading the rest of the books despite my loyalty. It just wasn't good enough. Cut the complexity and got back to good story writing.

Three colliding destinies out of five.

Should I read this? No. There are MUCH better series to get suck in to. This is not even close to one of them.
What did I learn? Your favourite writer can sell out to get richer and that sucks.

Monday 15 June 2015

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Book 27 of 2015 is Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling.

Another memoir by a celebrity that I have never heard of until picking up this book.

She is endearing and funny but in the same way she says that she doesn't like women infantilizing themselves, she goes right ahead and does it anyway. That kind of sums up the entire book. She comes across as having self awareness and then demonstrates a lack of it.

Yes, she is successful and brilliant but she comes across in writing as a clueless spoiled little rich Indian girl brought up in the US to parents who are doctors.

Her trials are trials or she isn't honest about any pain. There is next to nothing that made this worth the read. Maybe she needs to live a little longer and not write a teeny memoir with no interesting events at age 30 something.

2 spoiled little rich girls out of 5.

Should I read this? No. Try Tina Fey or Amy Poehler's autobiographies first. This women needs to live a little more before trying to write another book. I'm sure she writes comedy well but this doesn't make me want to watch anything she writes. Such a shame because I had high hopes.
What did I learn? You can't make up having had a challenging life when you haven't at all.

Saturday 13 June 2015

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Book 26 of 2015 is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

You can't read this book and not feel immense love for Oscar. He is the 9 year old boy whose story you follow after his father dies in the terrorist attacks for September 11 in New York.

I laughed out loud through this book. I cried while reading this book. I changed a little for having read it.

5 inventions out of 5.

Should I read this? Read this now. Now!
What did I learn? The world is a much more beautiful place through the eyes of a child or an adult in love.

Monday 8 June 2015

The Girl With All The Gifts

Book 25 of 2015 is The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey.

This was recommended to me by pretty much everyone I know who reads.

Although this is a genre I like to watch in movies and on TV, it is not one that I really enjoy reading. It usually depresses me. This isn't the cheeriest book but the pace is perfect and the plot twists enough that I was often surprised.

It is hard to talk about this book without ruining it for those who have not read it so I won't.

4 post apocalyptic children out of 5.

Should I read this? Yep, without a doubt.
What did I learn? When the end of civilisation comes, I'd like to end with it.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Book 24 of 2015 is Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James.

I attempted to read this when it first came out and was a big deal. My attempted failed about 50 pages in when I couldn't stand the overly simplistic immature female character bored me. As I passed page 50 this time, I felt the same but pushed through it because a couple of my friends insisted that I shouldn't write off a book as rubbish if I had never read the whole thing.

So, I read it.

The writing is still rubbish and the story is predictable. I've read better erotic fiction. Think Delta of Venus. This is not a series I will continue.

To counter that though, there were a few things I liked. I liked the way it ended. It is the first time in the entire book that I had any respect for the main character and that is tragic in itself.

The understanding of BDSM is also simplistic. The word simplistic describes this book in all its dimensions and it doesn't have that many dimensions. The implication that an abused child becomes a BDSM enthusiast is a correlation that I openly challenge.

In the end, I will put this in the group of at least people are reading something books. It is entertaining enough but not a book I would recommend or a series I will pursue. Now my criticism is based on having read more than 50 pages. It was an easy read. Simplistic.

1 stinging red welt out of 5.

Should I read this? There are better examples from this genre so, no.
What did I learn? Reading the first 50 pages of a book is enough to write it off.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Not My Father's Son: A Memoir

Book 23 of 2015 is Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming.

I had no idea who this guy was. I picked up the book because I liked his hair and it was rated 4+ stars.

Little did I know that his brokenness would give me freedom and peace that I wouldn't have known before I read this book.

Life shits on you. It does. You can either work through it and be mindful or let it own you. Alan Cummin made me realise that facing all my demons was well worth the effort.  Sure, it will take me a very long time but I will get to a place where my existence is good... or better.

4 floggings out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you like memoirs. This is a very good one.

What did I learn? They can beat you and you will still survive.

Sunday 31 May 2015

On The Road

Book 22 of 2015 is On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

I finished this a week ago but have been distracted with the journey and forgot to update the destination :)

This is a book that has been on my To Read list for quite some time but I am only now getting around to hitching a ride with these hipsters and jerks and travelling moments. The time seemed right with my move to the US and this being an iconic American novel.

It is always worrying that a book of this caliber and notoriety would not live up to my expectations but this did. I still think it could have done with some slash and burn editing but it kept me entertained and entwined through the whole trip.

One thing this book really made me feel is that no matter how often I think I'm not a real grown up, I'm still more together than these guys.

4 hipsters out of 5.

Should I read this? Honestly, only if you can handle a good classic. This is not a simple read but it is beautiful writing and a wonderfully dysfunctional journey. You will have to work for it though..
What did I learn? This has a pivotal moment in my life to read this book. There may not have been a more relevant moment. I learnt that we will cross paths with many people in our lives and it ok to let them come and ok to let them go.

Monday 18 May 2015

Roger Ascham and the King's Lost Girl

Book 21 of 2015 is Roger Ascham and the King's Lost Girl. It isn't really a book but a short story written as a prequel to The Tournament, which is on my list of books to read.

Matthew Reilly's books are what I classify as Airport Reading. You find yourself at an airport with a long flight ahead and pick up a book that seems like it won't be too much of a challenge and has some action in it. Others must feel the same because I only ever find Matthew Reilly books in airport bookstores and online.

This is a short story that establishes Ascham's relationship with the King and his Sherlock-like skills of reasoning. In fact, it just clicked that this is very much like a Sherlock Holmes novel. I won't be able to unknow this now. Damn.

I now want to move The Tournament up my To Read list. It's still at about #30 though. Maybe when I'm next on a flight.

3 dead prostitutes out of 5.

Should I read this? Only in an airport and with an intention of going on to The Tournament.
What did I learn? People are stealing Sherlock Holmes style narratives and readers aren't realising. Maybe that is ok.

Sunday 17 May 2015


Book 20 of 2015 is a book based on my favourite opera Salomé by Oscar Wilde.

To say I love everything Wilde has ever done is an understatement. He was an amazing mind and a broken soul and if that relates to anyone, it really does me.

Wilde's interpretation is different and brilliant.

It is a short read and of course, if our French is any good then it is wonderful. If you choose English then is is still fricken awesome.

3.5 heads out of 5.

Should I read this? If you love Wilde or you love this opera then yes.
What did I learn? Chicks be crazy when the guy looses his head first.

The Sea of Tranquility

Book 19 of 2015 is The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay.

I picked this book up because it is one of those five star rated best sellers that sits in the teen fiction section. I figured it would be an easy read and it had a female protagonist who wasn't saving the world or even herself. My hopes weren't high when I read the reviews calling it the best book ever. That usually results in messes like The Da Vinci Code and 50 Shades of Grey so I entered carefully and identifying all my exits.

This book elicited many distinct and extreme reactions from me - both good and not so good.

It is written in the teenage voices of an 18 year old girl and a 17 year old boy. There is the usual angst with the characters acting like no one has ever gone through what they have gone through and the author does justify this by making their drama pretty damn awful. Even adults would break in those situations so it's not just "my sparkly vampire boyfriend doesn't get on with my werewolf bestie." It is more than that.

The writing is simple and lyrical. The challenge is whether you can get past the teenage angst and ridiculousness and hear the message being portrayed. I think that message is "no matter how we are broken, we can be fixed if we decide we want to be."

That is the maturity in this book but it is so wrapped in all other pretences and it takes away from it.

3.5 angsty teenagers out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you are open to the idea that a story set in the wrong generation can teach you something.
What did I learn? I am a very broken individual but maybe not forever. I always thought it was forever.

Friday 15 May 2015

Kite Runner

Book 18 of 2015 is Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

This is one of those books that I can't see being made in to a Hollywood movie because it doesn't start, travel or end like one but somehow they managed apparently.

I truly enjoyed this book although this is one of my least favourite settings and genres. My view is usually that life is raw and depressing enough out there in these tough countries without reading fiction about it.

The thing with fiction is that it makes is palatable and relatable and that is endearing. This an insight in to two best friends who lived in the same world but with different rules.

Everyone I know has liked this book and I understand why now. It is quite well written and the story keeps you interested the whole way through.

4 kites cut down out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, I think so. It opens up a world that we get little human insight in to.
What did I learn? That fighting over what god says is  never constructive.

Thursday 14 May 2015

The Organized Mind

Book 17 of 2015 is The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin.

This book is brilliant in ways and condescending in others. This could be because I'm a mathematician. But nonetheless, I am now a more organized mind.

I read this because Amazon recommended it and rated it highly. I recommend everyone else reads it because it gives you tools to help reduce the noise in your life and bring order to the societally induced chaos.

I know I love a book when I have to go read about 17 other topics after reading it. Read it.

Should I read this? If you are aiming to calm at least some of the chaos then yes, read this. It will help you even if you don't want to be helped.
What did I learn? Trust the numbers.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Esther Daia Madden

To my most wonderful mother,

I have known you 9 months longer than anyone else on earth. 9 months and a day since refusing to be born until being induced the day after our water broke. Sorry about that. You know how I love to sleep in before a big event.

Not one day in my life has passed in my life when I didn't know without absolute certainty that you loved me. When I was clinically depressed and didn't see the point to anything, you told me explicitly that you were my tether to the world and you'd never let me down. It was true. You are my most consistent and genuine love and that means a lot to me.

Unfortunately, I don't build tangible things. My skills aren't in making a vase to hold flowers for you or publishing a book dedicated to you but I try my best to live a life that would make you proud.

When people say they love their Mums, I just snigger. I love you much much more than anyone ever did another person.

You are brave, adventurous, compassionate, strong, gentle, funny, brilliant, beautiful and most of the things that I kinda wish I had a clue how to be.

If I grow up to be an actual adult, I hope I am a tenth of who you are.

Happy Mother's Day to the absolute best mother in the world.

Love from the loud daughter who never stays in one place too long but always comes home to you, Damana

Saturday 2 May 2015

Silent Spring

Book 16 of 2015 is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

I have wanted to read this book since I was a teenager but it took another 25 years before I got to it. That made me think it wouldn't be as relevant anymore but it was disturbingly so.

The worst thing about this book is that we don't seem to have learnt enough to change in 50+ years.

Carson writes beautifully about science. I want to read more of what she has written.

5 essential insects out of 5.

Should I read this? Everyone who lives on this planet should read this.
What did I learn? More than I wanted to. Ignorance was bliss.

Thursday 30 April 2015

Ender's Game

Book 15 of 2015 is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

This is one of the best sci-fi stories I've ever read, if not on of the best of any genre. I was intrigue the whole time. The action was written so well that I felt I was watching it all play out.

I don't even want to watch the movie because it is as though I've seen it already. That takes great descriptive text.

I love this book and highly recommend it.

5 buggers out of 5.

Should I read this? This is an absolute must read. I may read it again to take in all the bits I missed this time.

What did I learn? Propaganda is powerful because we want to believe it to justify our own views and actions.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Book 14 of 2015 is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

I've seen the movie with Johnny Depp. In fact, that movie is the reason I bought my first DVD player. I'd ordered books from Amazon and they sent me that DVD so I thought "might as well get a DVD player" and I did.

It is hard to call this a book. I'd call it a short story. I always count it as a book when it looks like a book. Maybe I'll call it half a book.

The writing is quite brilliant. I haven't read anything like it in a quite a while. It could be that short stories like short films can have much more flair without it overwhelming the reader or viewer.

The most enjoyable thing about this book is that Ichabod Crane is not the usual hero. He is a normal guy who I'd go as far as to call a dorky guy with a crush.

4 heads out of 5 headless horsemen.

Should I read this? Yes.It's a great classic story.
What did I learn? Legend has a life of its own independent of the truth.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

The Power of Habit

Book 13 of 2015 is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

This is one of those books you read that changes the way you see yourself, others and the world. I'd liken it to Outliers and recommend it in the same way.

This is a must read for people who want to know how to break and make new habits. He gives practical advice and backs that with research and anecdotes.

5 habit loops out of 5.
5 habit loops out of 5.
5 habit loops out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes.
What did I learn? Cue. Routine. Reward.   ... and Belief.

Monday 27 April 2015

Funny Girl

Book twelve of 2015 is Funny GIrl by Nick Hornby.

I always want to love Nick Hornby books because I do like the movies based on them. Unfortunately, I just can't enjoy his writing in the way others do. I own that. It is quite possible that he is the amazing engaging writer everyone talks about but that just isn't how I breathe it.

Funny Girl is interesting enough. It is written mainly in the place of the female protagonist and that really isn't Hornby's thing. He writes men and bromance well. He needs to stick to that.

Two Lucille Balls out of five.

Should I read this? Only if you loved every other book this man ever wrote. Otherwise, waste your time on any other book.
What did I learn? Even amazingly beautiful women are insecure about how attractive they are.

Mirror, Mirror

I sat at dinner with my two closest Seattle friends, Vanessa and Candace. We spoke of many things but one thing resonated with them. I know this because they both mentioned it in days to come. To me, it was a passing comment but to them it seemed more. I realised that I had said something so true and personal that most people won't admit it... out loud, at least.

That however is my signature stupidity/charm.

I am a mirror.

It is a social skill and helps me build rapport faster than any other skill.

People think mirrors are out to mirror behaviour and that it is insincere. That is not the case.

Being a mirror is a great social skill. However, it is not about giving up who you are to satisfy the audience No. It so is not.

Being a mirror is about understanding the level of authenticity and emotional investment that each individual needs. Not about giving up who you are.

Some people need to connect intimately, some superficially. Some need to fall in love and others need to emotionally bounce off you and boost their ego. We walk in and out of the lives of people to give them what they need. That's a good way to see the world.

Recently, I felt a lot of emotion for an amazing man. He didn't want a relationship but needed support. I gave him that and we are no longer friends. That challenged me because I fell in love a little. My sadness is warranted because I helped him and thought we wanted the same thing but I was mistaken. I needed to remember that sometimes we give and don't receive and that is ok. We walk in and out of people's lives but mirrors carry a massive weight.

We know what you need and we give it because we care about you. Most people don't get that.

Sitting with two mirrors at dinner, I realised I am not alone. We find each other to help carry the weight that is thrust on us. I'm grateful to you two, Nessy and Candy. Even when those we carry for don't ever realise it.

Sunday 26 April 2015

A Cool Breeze on the Underground

Book eleven of 2015 is A Cool Breeze on the Underground by Don Winslow.

I think this book would appeal to Americans and their view of the English rather than British people and Australians alike.

The story is simple and exciting but nothing new. Sometimes, that is ok. It is a quick read and written in a digestible way.

3.5 con men out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, it's ok. Maybe if you don't have anything else you really want to read and want something light and easy.
What did I learn? From reading books, I know too much about detoxing someone addicted to heroin.

Thursday 23 April 2015

The Martian

Book ten of 2015 is The Martian by Andy Weir.

I giggled and smiled through this entire book. Mark Watney is the kind of person I'd like to be if I was ever abandoned on Mars or in the equivalent awful situation on this planet.

It is written as a series of log entries and that flows beautifully. I'd go as far as to call it a travel journal.

Usually swearing in books comes across as unnecessary and contrived but this was like listening to the thoughts in someone's head. Completely perfect.

The science doesn't get too deep and I think that is what saves this book. You get the idea of how difficult what he is doing is but you don't feel as though it is condescending or worse, gets the science wrong by oversimplification.

The Martian is one of the most balanced and entertaining books I've read in a while and certainly in 2015.

Five potatoes out of five.

Should I read this? Do it. This is worth the read.
What did I learn? Human waste can be used for many things but I never want to get to the point that I need to use it.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

The Shadow of What Was Lost

Book nine of 2015 is The Shadow of What Was Lost from The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington.

I read this because it was likened to Jordan's writing. It is in his style for sure but less rambling. If you like Robert Jordan but can't commit to a 21 book series then read this instead.

The protagonist starts as the usual annoying ignorant fool who makes bad choices and changes to a young man who shows innate wisdom. It became enjoyable very fast after the initial first five lingering chapters.

I don't think I'll read the trilogy but the first book is good. I'm tempted but it won't be something I run in to.

Three gasps out of five.

Should I read this? Yes, if you like Jordan.
What did I learn? I can love fantasy again. That's pretty cool.

Monday 13 April 2015

The Girl on the Train

Book eight of 2015 is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

This is also the fourth book I have completed this week so it is a bit of an overload but a pleasant one.

As someone who often avoids fiction about women who are struggling with their divorces, I took the chance with this book. A friend gave it to me to read and I refused the book with fear that it would trigger my own failings in this area. It did and it didn't. That would be because I'm mostly OK these days. The past does not break me.

It has been a while since I've read popular fiction executed so well. The journey of Rachel from crazy, drunken pathetic divorcee to... well, to who she finally is in the end is sad, tragic and touching. Not sure if I was ever happy for anyone in this book but because Hawkins writes so well, that was OK.

This is a mystery so I won't go ruining it for anyone.  I will say that I understand more about the main character and the voice of the woman who this whole murder mystery is about, than I care to admit. Where there is pain, we will seek to numb it but facing it is what makes us stronger.

For me, love is not always easy sailing but it isn't endless pain. The only exception to that is parents and children.

Four ex-men-in-your-life out of five.

Should I read this? Yes. It is a light an easy read because it is well written. The story keeps you engaged and it is deserving of its best seller status.
What did I learn? Love makes people look perfect when in fact, they are just people. Life makes people look messy when in fact, they are just people.

Friday 10 April 2015

The Practicing Mind

Book seven of 2015 is The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner.

I picked this book up because it is a short one and has such a good rating on all the different reading sites. Plus self improvement is my life's journey.

There is a lot about mindfulness in this book that I already know but Sterner has extended this by giving me new tools to use in trigger situations.

The best thing I got from this book is the Four S technical - Simple, Short, Small and Slow.

For me the Slow part is one I have always loved and have to refocus on. I often remind people that rushing around makes you do things over and over and isn't as efficient as it seems. It is satisfying the anxiety, the ego. The thing is, I have remember this.

I've recommended this book to three people within 12 hours of finishing reading it. It is a good quick read for those of us set on self improvement.

Five slow breaths out of five.

Should I read this? Yes, if you are already in to mindfulness or want some tips on how to start.
What did I learn? Slow down.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Red Queen

Book six of 2015 is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Yes, yes, another teenage book. I didn't realise it when I chose it. It was on a list of most popular reads at the moment so I tried it based on the blurb.

This one is not original in any way but is a rehash of classic fantasy where a poor disadvantaged person finds they have a special power that catapults them in to power, intrigue and adventure. In this case it is a teenage girl, in style of Hunger Games and Divergent.

It could be because I've read so much fantasy and teenage post apocalyptic fiction that I'm unimpressed. Stick with Hunger Games and Divergent for teen fiction. If you want a very well written and more original series in this style with a strong female protagonist, read the Black Magician series by Australian Trudi Caravan.

One thing I did like about this book is that it is fantasy written by a woman so the female characters have depth and multiple dimensions, as opposed to the usual vacuous side characters that a lot of male fantasy writers create. That helped this book along. The inner dialogue wasn't too hard to believe.

It was very easy to read. I smashed through it in about 5.5 hours.

Three red bloods out of five.

Should I read this? Best for teenagers. This book does not span to the adult reader.
What did I learn? Someone has to create a new popular genre because the teenage post apocalyptic books are starting to get very weak.

Monday 6 April 2015

Love in the Time of Cholera

Book five of 2015 is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

It has been eight years since I moved a book in to my top ten all time reads but this is more deserving than more than half of those in that list.

Considering this was written in Spanish and translated (by the amazingly consistent Penguin Books) in to English, it is brilliant. We have been embarrassed in our own language.

When I first started reading this, I described it to a friend and she said "oh, it's a romance novel" but oh how it isn't. This is a book about love that happened too early and too late in life. It is about duty and the love found in commitment. It is about passionate love and about sensible love and about the ease we find in both.

At this exact point in my life, this is an apt and poignant story that made me see love as an activity for grown ups.

Five reasons to love out of five.

Should I read this? Yes. Just yes.
What did I learn? How to see love as something that is forever. I forgot that.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

She eats the top of the watermelon

There are things that always make me think of my mother but nothing strikes me harder and brings a bigger smile than when I cut up a wedge of watermelon.

My mother is the most generous person I have ever known. I doubt I will meet anyone who gives more. Sometimes it frustrates me that she gives to her last drop and then some but that is I guess what makes her, her.

As a child, there was only ever one thing that my mother ever took for herself that she didn't sacrifice for others. Take in to account a story I was told as a child about my mum coming home from her first day at school and telling her father that a boy there didn't have a pencil. My very wise grandfather told her that next time she should break her pencil in half and give it to the person in need. I heard this story many times but what taught me generosity was my mother's ability to give and give and give and only feel happy as a result.

Now, my mother is known for being the best maker of fruit salad. She cooks many things but her tropical fruit salad is the perfect mix of everything. I've tried to imitate her but it always ends up with too much mango (I know, is that possible?) or skewed to one flavour. She gets it right.

Since I was a babe, I've watched her carefully and quite deliberately cut up each and every fruit that went in to the fruit salad. The right amount of kiwi fruit mixed with mango and a splash of passionfruit and then watermelon and berries and whatever was in season.

Usually, you buy a wedge of watermelon and not a whole melon as it is too much to consume before it goes to waste. The top of the wedge is the centre of the watermelon. It is the softest and sweetest part. The heart. The reward. No part of a watermelon tastes better.

My mother unwraps the thick shop style plastic from the wedge and cuts the thick green and white rind away. She then, with the flick of a wrist, cuts the top of the wedge out and slowly eats it. After she is done consuming the prize of the melon, she cuts up the rest and hands it to the bowl that holds the perfect salad.

She always smiles as she does this. Sometimes, my sister and I would ask for some and of course, she gave us some but it was the one thing she always took a part of for herself.

I can not remember one other thing or time that my mum ever took the best part for herself. She always happily gave the best to others. It was her culture and her upbringing. It is the best part of her.

Tonight as I cut up a slice of watermelon, I put the nicest parts aside for my mother. She is not here but those pieces are hers. In what is our culture, I will throw some of the best pieces off the balcony in honour of her not being here but being in my thoughts.

Maybe that makes no sense but it is how I will silently show I love her and know what it means for her to be here. It means she gets the top of the wedge of watermelon.

It was her one thing. That one thing she gave herself first. It is the part I will always throw a piece of away for her, forever.

I think true love is...

I think this thing we refer to as "true love" is a combination of many loves.

Some get it from one person. Some get it from a few. Others get it from a stadium full of fans.

Whatever it is to you, it fills you up. It makes you feel whole. Books have been written about it. Battles fought. Lives lost, even to the still living.

Since my life feels like being wrapped in an unending everlasting Righteous Brothers style love, I realise I am one of the lucky ones. It wasn't always that way or I wasn't always aware it was.

Take it in. Breathe it. Walk it. Swim in the salty waters of all the loving tears. Don't waste it.

Let the people who love you express that. Let it soak in like warm monsoonal rain. Let it be.

It might not be a partner. Maybe your folks suck. It could be your children always scream at you. I don't know.

Just take the good bits and realise that true love is unconditional, unending and effortless love.

Monday 26 January 2015

Gulliver's Travels

Book four of 2015 is Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

I enjoyed the stories but not the way it was written. It could be that I'm a little bit over that era of writing. Having read this as a child and again as an adult, I do recommend everyone should read it.

This is a fun book with some original ideas and fantastical tales. It is a joy in places.

It seems I am cured of old English classics. For the next few books, I will be reading in a language I'm at ease with and about something that involves more females characters.

Three yahoos out of five.

Should I read this? Absolutely. There are so many words created in this book and references that you must know if you are ever to understand the world :) Plus, it is fun!
What did I learn? I think I would have liked to live on Lupta. Maths rocks.

Sunday 11 January 2015

All About Braids

People constantly ask me questions about braids since I've spent about 30% of the last decade with my hair that way. The questions are usually innocent but sometimes naive and slightly insulting.

Ask anyone with an afro or any king of curly hair (no, not that wavy type that everyone has but real curls) and they will tell you that touching their hair is a complete no-no. If you wouldn't go up to a middle class white male with mainstream hair and ask to touch his hair then don't do it to others. Hell, just live by the rule that unless invited in gold embossed writing, don't touch any part of another person.

It isn't always insulting and it is sweet that every second day, someone exclaims how beautiful my hair is. Being different is fine and has its consequences. One them is answering all the questions there are about braided hair. Here are the most common queries.

Does it hurt? It looks painful.
The way my hairdresser braids my hair involves plaiting in synthetic hair (oh, shock horror) in to my hair from the base. She takes a small amount of my hair and plaits in about ten times that amount of hair in to one braid.

The first time you get braids, your scalp will be sore. If it isn't, the braids are not in tight enough and will not last. How long they last is another question. Each consecutive time you get your braids in, it doesn't hurt. At least not for me. I believe I have an average pain threshold.

When I say hurts, it is like a bruise. The first night you sleep on them, it can be quite uncomfortable but the second night they loosen and it is fine. That was so long ago for me that I might have forgotten how painful it was but I don't seem to remember it being awful.

Simple answer is: Yes, the first time.

Do you wash it?
First of all, don't call my hair "it." That's not very polite. We aren't discussing a new puppy or a crushed velvet jacket.

Yes, I wash my braids just like I wash my non-braided hair. There is a lot more shampoo and conditioner used as the hair mass is more but the ritual of washing is the same.

The braids stay in and are not undone each time I want to wash them. That is a common extension question.

Simple answer is: I wash it the same as I would my normal hair.

How long does it last?
This is a question that is subjective and depends on the braidee (yeah, I made that word up). My braids are put in very tightly and easily last 2-3 months. In that time, they will not be undone. Unplaiting a braid will usually destroy the braid completely so they stay in the whole 2-3 months.

The question should be When do you take them out? The answer to that is that it depends on how fast your hair grows. As your normal hair grows the braid will move away from the scalp. Certain kinds of hair products and pulling on the braid when washing it can result in the braid slipping off the hair. Even the way you sleep on your hair at night can effect the braid and make it loosen. All of this adds up to how long before you need to remove it.

Simple answer is: Anywhere from 1 to 3 months.

Can I touch your braids?
Huh! That was a test. Go back and read the introduction. No, you can not touch my hair.

I hope that helps answer your questions about braids. If you have anymore, let me know but I'll expect a cup of coffee in response.

How 2014 Saw Me Break and Rebuild

2014 was a very good and a very bad year for me. However much I enjoy the journey, I will always be a destination person and look at how things ended. 2014 ended very well for me and sees me entering 2015 at the top of my game in my career, with my friendships and healthwise.

Amongst my friends, I am known for my first world problems. They to me seem like a very big issue but to others they would be great problems to have. This last year of my life has involved me getting some perspective and accepting that my life is too good to complain about. There is no such thing as perfection and being upset with myself for not achieving that is plain silly. This is something that I still have to remind myself of but less often than I did in the past.

I always see life as being made up of three different and very distinct segments: Work, Love and Health. So here they are in retrospective.


No means no

After burning out at Microsoft because of my inability to say NO, I learnt the best lesson of my life and have developed the ability to refuse to do every single thing I am asked to do. That is the best skill I have learnt in the past 12 months.

You don't pay me enough to... oh wait, yes you do

2014 saw me work in 3 different contracts delivering software in the biometrics and security space. I was paid very well, in part because I am hyper aware of my worth and because I've become a shit hot negotiator. A friend and ex-colleague reminded me of one of her favourite quotes of mine when I was being asked to do something really silly at work. I said "You don't pay me enough to do... oh wait, yes you do." People do have a price apparently or at least I do :)

The Rule of Three

If you've ever bitched to me about work then you will have had to listen to Damana's Work Rule of Three. For me to stay in a job, I must have two of these three things: Good People; Good Pay; and Good Work. If I have three out of three then I am sublimely happy, which is what I had at Oakton. If I have two then I can keep working happily for a long period of time. If I have one then I leave.

If I am unhappy at work, I try to fix the problem myself. Then I ask for help from a colleague, then from a manager and then their manager. If I can not find a way to fix what I am disliking then I leave. Life is linear and you only do it once. Don't work in a job you don't like. That is why I left the ATO.


Circles within circles

Apparently all human beings have circles of people who hold differing levels of importance in their lives. I have worked out that my family and three of my good friends are in my inner most circle. Everyone else I know (and Stephen Fry) is in the next circle out. The rest of the universal set is full of people I don't know. It used to be more complex than that but I've simplified it. Only those in my inner circle get to know the details of my life and the rest can read about the less important parts of my life on social networks or my blog. My aim for 2015 will be to head for Dunbar's Number or about 200 people in my life.

You don't get to choose them

They always say that you don't get to choose family but if I had the choice, I would have still picked these guys. Through everything I do, my parents and my sister support me in every way I could wish for. They are the kindest souls and the best people I know. On those days when it feels the universe is kicking my arse, I know they love me. There is never a doubt ever. That can get you through anything. Anything. I chose them.

Don't call me Goddess

At the beginning of 2014, I dealt with the most difficult men I have ever had to deal with. My apartment was broken in to and one of my laptops and some underwear was stolen. The guy who did this was simultaneously sending me anonymous bouquets of roses and hate email with pictures of me with my eyes blacked out. He was tracked down via an online florist and spoken to informally by police. No one finger printed my apartment. There is no CSI Canberra. He only stopped because they warned him off. It seems that the police can not do anything unless you are violently raped or murdered.

Meanwhile, I had to deal with a senior colleague whose obsession with curves ended in me talking to our boss. The following three months saw this colleague make my life a living hell until I found a new role. I am very proud that I stayed strong through it and delivered my project early and well before leaving to a job that has been one of the best I've ever had in my life. Lemons to lemonade. In this time, I learnt not to trust a man who calls you "goddess" and quotes Princess Bride at you, AT WORK.

And people ask me why I'm single.


Knock me down and I'll kick the shit out of you

After spending years getting my mental fitness back, being mugged in August 2014 set me back quite a way. Not so much that depression will return but enough that I still feel angry some days and can't always fix it. Each day is better than the last and knowing is was PTSD to start with and expecting it to happen made it easier to deal with it. The tools I have learnt through years of therapy were my saviour. This self rescuing princess totally saved herself.

The mugger was caught last October and charged with mine and another mugging. Although I don't remember his face at all or whether he was black or white and a shade of lavender, it is good to know he is being made to face what he did. I kicked him so hard in the knee when he was standing on my stomach and pulling at my handbag that he limped away in pain. Even if it was the fight bit of fight-or-flight that did it, I wasn't a victim and have proven to myself that in a stressful moment, I can be strong.

Let's get physical

This is one thing I'm still not happy about. After the mugging, I put on three to four kilograms. It has been hard to get rid of it but I am determined to do so. This is my focus for 2015. In 2013 I lost 11kg. In 2015, I intend to achieve a similar goal.

Be still, my beating heart

My emotional health is in a place that I feel safest at the moment. Having finally felt love for someone for the first time since my divorce, it was an interesting year. The pain of heart break was nowhere near as bad as my divorce was. I have learnt something very interesting about myself though. Once I have loved someone (friend or lover), I will always love them in some way. Him, I miss. He is in my thoughts every day but not voluntarily. He sneaks in to my head when I am doing things. It may always be like this but that is ok. It wasn't meant to be this time but I will still always feel that passion and compassion for him that I felt when we were together. Yes, yes, even though he was a complete jerk to me in the end. The heart wants what it wants. Stoopid heart.

In summary, I worked 3 contracts, fell in love for the first time since my divorce, survived and thrived after being violently mugged, made great friends, loved and honoured my wonderful family, forgave myself my mistakes, made good choices and lived the happiest year of my life so far.

I am well proud of myself and my life in 2014. I did that one well.

My aim to maintain my mindfulness and be kind to myself. With a new job, a new country and a new journey around the sun, I anticipate that the year I turn 39 will be my year. There will be awful times. There will be amazing times. There will be absolutely uneventful times and that's ok because I'm finally getting good and this. Participation, Passion and Peace are my words for this year of my life.

Let's do this shit.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Eat Pray Love

Book three of 2015 is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Some days, I wonder if I'm actually female because apparently this is the book of the decade that women most relate to. Like the protagonist, I have gone through a divorce, discovered who I am and gone on to be happier than I ever was before. Despite this, I for the life of me can not stand this book.

The whole thing feels self-indulgent. The main character Liz romanticises the countries she travels too and doesn't seem to get where the happiness in the lives of people in third world countries with nothing comes from. To me she misses the whole point.

I practice mindfulness and have since late 2009. The self and situational awareness that I would expect this woman to develop is never there or at least the writer doesn't manage to convey it to me.

And what pisses me off the most is that in the end it is a man and love that makes her happy again and not herself. It is intrinsic and I was expecting that to be the big revelation... I guess since it was for me.

Disappointment is not a strong enough word. Otherwise, the story is a story and I read the whole thing in two days so it's not the worst writing in the world.

Two meaningless searches for god out of five.

Should I read this? Maybe. It wasn't for me but I could see others searching for themselves finding this encouraging, if on the most superficial level I can imagine.
What did I learn? I must be missing the gene that makes me all girly and therefore like this.

Saturday 3 January 2015

A Tale of Two Cities

Book two of 2015 is Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

I have been meaning to read this for a long time. This was my first experience with an eBook on Kindle and an audio book on Audible combined through Whispersync for Voice.

This story is much better than I expected. I always find Dickens a little wordy to read with an emphasis on dialogue based storing telling with "he said this" and "she said that" but it was not as awful as expected.

The plot is good if not slow but overall, I am glad I read this.

4 French Revolutions out of 5.

Should I read this? If you have the time. I'm a little obsessed with French Revolution historic fiction so take that in to account.
What did I learn? I was justified in naming my cats London and Paris, for A Tail of Two Kitties.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The Maltese Falcon

Book 1 of 2015 is the audio book dramatisation of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

Sam Spade is a likable guy. He's a misogynist but it was that time and the film noir style requires it. The whole story is enjoyable and I can say that I now want to watch the Bogart movie. That isn't my usual stance after reading and liking a book.

I do love the witty repartee, like...

Gutman: "You always have, I must say, a smooth explanation ready."
Spade; "What do you want me to do? Learn to stutter?”"

It is full of good lines.

4 men-taken-by-a-beautiful-woman out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, for sure.
What did I learn? "Once a chump, always a chump."