The Week: 13th – 19th August

What a week. I am very busy at the moment.

In the world? We’ve had about 120 bushfires in the region in the past few days. To people who deny climate change: it’s WINTER here. Canberra’s kangaroo plague is getting worse (also due to climate change!). Then there was another terror attack in London, and that horrendous bridge collapse in Genoa…

Then there was the shock death of Soviet gymnastics star Yelena Shushunova. She was the 1988 Olympic Champion and a five-time World Champion. I still have video tapes of her. She died so young that one of the gymnasts she trained with still competes.

Happy Birthday to the National Library!

Enlighten Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 11th March 2017 National Library of Australia Canberra Women's History Reflection Night

Out Now: Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears by John McNamee

Pie Comic by John McNamee Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears

On this day: the Australian Women’s Army Service was formed

Awas_in_wa_1943Northam, West Australia. 1943-04-20. The Minister for the Australian Army, the Honourable F.M. Forde, inspecting personnel of the Australian Women's Army Service at the We

Vietnam Veterans Day

Binh Ba 1 - Copy

One Year Ago

IMG_20170906_153119_287

The Week: 18th – 24th June

Winter Sunshine Blue Sky Sonya Heaney 19th June 2018 Eucalyptus Tree Gum Tree Canberra Australia Australian Capital Territory Nature

Winter sunshine in Canberra.

And at the cemetery near the New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory state border on Friday afternoon.

And Lake Burley Griffin on Saturday afternoon.

R.I.P. Errol Pickford

Errol Pickford as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

Happy Birthday to an Icon

Oksana_Chusovitina_(vault)_04-2011

My review of Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

My review of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Beyond my limit!

How much more ridiculous can it get?

Cockygate apllication to trademark the word BIG cockybot

Happy Birthday to an Icon

Today is Oksana Chusovitina’s birthday. She is now forty-three.

In a world where female athletes rarely get the attention they deserve, I want to mention this seven-time Olympic gymnastics star who also happens to be the mother of an adult son.

Chusovitina was:

* Born in the Soviet Union (Uzbekistan), and is quite possibly the last active Soviet-trained athlete in the world.

* She won her first World Championship titles for the USSR in *1991*, and Olympic gold the next year competing for the CIS.

* Surviving the breakup of the Soviet Union with her career intact (when many others lost funding and coaches), she competed for Uzbekistan at the 1996 Olympics, got married in 1997, and had a son in 1999.

* Immediately after having her child, she competed at the 2000 Olympics. And we’re talking gymnastics here: the hardest sport in the world.

* She won World silver in 2001, and then became World Champion again in 2003 – twelve years after her first win.

* Chusovitina’s son had major medical issues, and the family moved to Germany to access treatment.

* While competing for Germany, Chusovitina won Olympic silver in 2008 – sixteen years after winning her first Olympic medal.

* Since then, she has continued to compete, and compete, even though she is now forty-three and in such a physically demanding sport. She has also worked as a coach.

* She was supposed to retire after the 2012 Olympic vault final (where only the top eight gymnasts qualify – and she made it), but she turned up again at the 2016 Games.

Every gymnnastics generation has their “It Girl” the media goes crazy about when the Olympics come around, but if we’re talking about the greatest ever, my vote goes to Oksana.

The Week: 9th – 15th April

Ukrainian Easter Queanbeyan Catholic Church Australia 8th April 2018

Easter (8th April) at the Ukrainian Catholic church in Queanbeyan

This week seems to have gone fast. I’ve spent most of it being frustrated with the Commonwealth Games coverage (a hint, TV networks: very few people in the world find lawn bowls fascinating!), while trying to get work done around it.

Of course, the week began with Ukrainian Easter celebrations, and this weekend is when the processions around the cemeteries take place (I said before: Ukrainian Easter is HUGE!). We’re still having summer temperatures in Canberra, which is just weird, because other years all these traditions take place in weather that is very definitely autumn-themed.

However, we had a freak windstorm yesterday. Here is the state border:

One thing that has suffered a lot the past fortnight is my reading. I have been focused on other things, and have not had time to finish a single book – even though some of them are books I’ve been looking forward to for ages.

The Commonwealth Games

Lauren+Mitchell+19th+Commonwealth+Games+Day+pIDIDa3K6h5l19th Commonwealth Games - Day 2 Artistic Gymnastics

Reread: Kiss of Crimson (Midnight Breed #2) by Lara Adrian

Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian

Harlequin Artist Honoured on Canadian Stamp

Harlequin is so proud of our legendary cover artist, Will Davies! #CanadaPost is issuing a stamp in his honor in recognition of the over 500 book covers he designed.

It’s Christmastime… Again?

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

Travel in Regency Britain

stagec-coach-travel 19th century.

National Library Week

National Library Week United States

The Commonwealth Games

Lauren+Mitchell+19th+Commonwealth+Games+Day+pIDIDa3K6h5l19th Commonwealth Games - Day 2 Artistic Gymnastics

Australian World Champion gymnast Lauren Mitchell at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The Commonwealth Games – the “Summer Olympics” for the fifty-three countries and member states of the British Commonwealth – are on now at the Gold Coast in Australia.

Because I’ve been a gymnastics person since I was three, of course I’m back in a sporty mindset. I haven’t even recovered from the Winter Olympics yet!

I have reviewed some sport-themed books on this blog, but books about gymnastics tend to be written for the under-eighteens. Perhaps that will change in the future, as there are now Olympic medallists in their thirties (and finalists in their forties!).

It’s okay to not win!

Winter Olympic Gold Silver Bronze Medals Pyeongchang Korea 2018

Partially because of the recent Winter Olympics, and partially because I’m just interested in it, I’ve recently read quite a few books about Olympic athletes. Some have been young adult books, some new adult, and some very adult. They’ve been about figure skating, snowboarding, swimming…

One thing they all have in common: every character who wants one ends up winning an Olympic gold medal.

Now, readers might see this as the only acceptable end to a book about an aspiring Olympian, but I beg to differ. In fact, I find the gold at the end of many of these books eyeroll-inducing.

I know most authors have no experience with an elite discipline, be it sport of dance or whatever. Nobody – not even the most talented person in history – goes into something ever expecting to make it anywhere near the top. Hoping, yes. Expecting, no.

To be an Olympic champion, all the stars – and then some – have to align. An athlete maybe won’t peak at the right time. They might get injured. Something well beyond their control might mean they miss out.

Many of the world’s best athletes – people who have been world champion multiple times – never win Olympic gold. Many don’t win an Olympic medal of any colour. Some never even make it to the Olympics. I would rather read about a hero or heroine who overcomes struggles in the book and finishes happy with Olympic silver or bronze than to read these impossible fairy tales coming true.

This is especially the case in a romance, when reading about a heroine ending up with gold, multi-million dollar endorsements, AND the perfect guy often reads more like a sixth-grader’s fan fiction fantasy than a book set in the real world.

Here are some real-life stories:

1. US gymnast Shawn Johnson arrived at the 2008 Olympics as the reigning world champion in the all-around, floor, and team events, and was the favourite to bring home a bagful of gold medals. The pressure on her was enormous.

However: she won silver in every event she was expected to take gold in. At only sixteen the media wrote story after story about how she’d failed her big test.

She pulled herself back together, and then – in the very last event on the very last day – surprised everyone by becoming an unlikely champion on the balance beam.

2. Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko came into the 1998 Olympics as the world champion from three of the previous four years.

However: Secretly sick, injured, and unable to take painkillers because of drug testing, he ended up in second.

3. US figure skater Michelle Kwan won eight world medals – five gold – and is considered one of the best skaters in history.

However: she managed silver in her first Olympics, bronze in her second, and then got injured at the third and didn’t make it onto the ice.

4. Ukrainian gymnast Oksana Omelianchik, competing for the USSR, is considered one of the best in history, and her floor routine is still famous. She is a three-time world champion.

However: she went through a growth spurt, lost some of her technique, and by the time the Olympics came round she was only a reserve and was left off the team.

^^^^^^^^^

For me, these are better stories.

These are amazing athletes with amazing achievements, but their stories are much more interesting and believable. I don’t want to read a book in any genre where everyone is perfect and gets everything. And it seems that authors are frightened to write a book about sport where everything doesn’t turn out perfectly in the end.

I wish they would take a chance.

The Week: 15th – 21st January

Saturday sunset in Canberra. One of many 39-degree days we’ve just had or have forecast for the next week. The garden is dead!

Blue sky and heat on the anniversary of the 2003 Canberra firestorm.

A sulphur-crested cockatoo watches me water the garden at sunset. Look at the orange summer light…

This has NOT been a productive week, but is has been very hot! We have a serious heatwave around here at the moment – forty-ish degrees every day.

After days of high temperatures, I didn’t really need to see this on Saturday night: Canberra will be the hottest city in Australia on Sunday and Monday.

There are a few authors I was supposed to be in contact with, and I am sorry for not doing that.

I became sick at the end of last week, with something that reappears every so often. From there I became sick in general. For a few days this week I was literally only eating a third of a piece of fruit a day, and struggling to keep that down. As you can imagine, it didn’t exactly leave me with the energy to get out of bed! In the end, all I could do was drink sugary drinks to try and get some energy out of them.

I am sure people have heard of the enormous paedophilia story going on in US gymnastics at the moment. It’s a long read, but this is an important article about it:

The U.S. Gymnastics System Wanted More Medals, And Created A Culture Of Abuse To Get Them

Also, this horrifying development – silencing victims by threatening lawsuits:

USA Gymnastics won’t seek fine if McKayla Maroney discusses abuse

And:

Hear Larry Nassar’s victims in their own (powerful and brave) words

This week marked fifteen years since the horror of Canberra’s 2003 firestorm. It was even hotter that year, and we had a severe drought, and – combined with the dangerous winds – there were never “better” conditions for a catastrophic fire.

The rest of this week:

The West just does NOT get it.

MKR-russian-ad-social Hammer and Sickle Communism

My review of Marrying His Cinderella Countess by Louise Allen

Marrying His Cinderella Countess by Louise Allen UK Australian Mills and Boon Cover

My review of Miracle on Ladies’ Mile (A Gilded Age Holiday Novella) by Joanna Shupe

Miracle on Ladies' Mile (A Gilded Age Holiday Novella) by Joanna Shupe

Cover Love

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Tales from Ivy Hill #1) by Julie Klassen

The Week: 6th – 12th November

Canberra Spring Sunset After the Rain Sonya Heaney 6th November 2017 Sky Clouds Nature Tree

Monday sunset after some desperately-needed rain in Canberra.

Flags across the country have been lowered to honour one of Australia's former governors-general, Sir Ninian Stephen, who died on October 29. Parliament House Canberra 8th November 2017

The flag of Australia’s Parliament House, Canberra at half-mast for the funeral of our former Governor-General Ninian Stephen on Wednesday. I took it from the car (the sun reflecting off the metal is a bit distracting!). Flags at all of Canberra’s national monuments were lowered for the occasion.

Spring Roses Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Sunny Afternoon Blue Sky Pink Flowers Pink Roses 9th October 2017 Garden Natre

The spring roses are out in Canberra.

There are many things I could say this week. However, I will just comment on gymnastics (a sport I won medals in, my brother was on the Olympic squad of, and I later coached). It seems that most US Olympic gymnastics stars for years have been victims of a paedophile/sex abuser. People are saying this is even worse than the stories coming out of Hollywood. It seems so.

Hearing that the champions from the last few Olympics were sexually abused hours before we watched them win medals is… it upset me so much. I hope they get some justice for it.

My review of Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

My review of Mail-Order Christmas Baby (Montana Courtships #1) by Sherri Shackelford

Mail-Order Christmas Baby (Montana Courtships #1) by Sherri Shackelford

‘We’re told to be grateful we even have readers’

Amazon kindle Ebooks

New Release for Mary Balogh

Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh

Melbourne Cup Day

Promises by Cathryn Hein

Remembrance Day

AWM_060483_Australian_21st_Brigade_troops_Ramu_Valley_1943 Soldiers from the Australian 21st Brigade move down from the Finisterre Range into the Ramu Valley 9th November 1943

The Week: 8th – 14th August

Monday Winter Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 8th August 2016 Sky Garden Clouds Nature

Winter Sunset

And another one:

Winter Sunset Canberra Australia. 12th August 2016. Sonya Heaney. Sky Clouds Nature.

King Parrot Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 9th August 2016 Winter Flowers Garden Nature 2

King Parrot Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 9th August 2016 Winter Flowers Garden Nature 3

This week we discovered why all of the flowers out the back keep getting demolished! We’ve had petals everywhere for a few weeks!

And all our other birds have started turning up – it’s nearly spring, and they come to the door for snacks. On Wednesday we had magpie visitors for the first time this season.

It is very sunny here every day, and I’m starting to feel the allergies coming, but I can’t wait! 🙂

Because I’m often up really late at night, and because we are nearly a full day ahead of the Americas, I have been watching some of the Olympics live in the middle of the night. I can’t believe how many drug cheats there still are. While the US is at (verbal) war with Russia in the pool, we are being attacked by China (and hacked, and abused in their media) because one of our swimmers called a drug cheat… a drug cheat. Who says sport isn’t political!

“Medals over Morals” was what an official said about the Russian doping program. I like it. 🙂

Russian military convoy in Kerch yesterday evening http-liveuamap.com-en-2016-7-august-russian-military-convoy-in-kerch-yesterday-evening … via @HromadskeRadio

What has been happening while the world has been watching Rio. X

While everyone is watching the sport, and obsessing over Trump (WHAT a guy), Putin has been moving MASSIVE conveys of tanks and missiles to the Ukrainian border. He invaded Georgia after the Beijing Olympics. He first invaded Ukraine immediately after the Sochi Olympics. And he is about to invade other parts of Ukraine as soon as the Rio Olympics finish.

But – hey – sport!

World Cat Day

Jemima Cat

Rio’s most amazing athlete.

Oksana_Chusovitina_(vault)_04-2011

Unleashing Mr Darcy

Unleashing Mr Darcy by Teri Wilson

My review of Wolf Creek Wife (Wolf Creek #5) by Penny Richards

Wolf Creek Wife (Wolf Creek #5) by Penny Richards

My review of Marriage Made in Hope (The Penniless Lords #4) by Sophia James

Marriage Made in Hope (The Penniless Lords #4) by Sophia James

 My review of The Inscription (The MacAlpins #1) by Pam Binder

The Inscription (The MacAlpins #1) by Pam Binder

Rio’s most amazing athlete.

Oksana_Chusovitina_(vault)_04-2011

This is not related to books! However, at the Olympics the women’s vault final in the gymnastics competition is on very soon, and I wanted to mention one of the competitors.

Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina is the last Soviet gymnast, and now – twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR – she is still going strong.

World Champion for the Soviet Union in 1991, Olympic Champion for the Unified Team in 1992, World Champion for Uzbekistan in 2003, Olympic silver medallist for Germany in 2008.

Oksana is a mother of a grown son (who was terminally ill as a child) who is older than many of the gymnasts she is competing against, a coach, and now at forty-one – in the hardest sport there is – is in another Olympic final.

Rozalia Galiyeva (Uzbekistan), Tatiana Gutsu (Ukraine), Tatiana Lysenko (Ukraine), Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan), Elena Grudneva (Russia), and Svetlana Boginskaya (Belarus).

Chusovitina (4th from left). 1992 Olympic Champion.

Read this.

She has survived the collapse of her training system. Her best event – vault – is now performed on a totally different apparatus, and she learnt how to do that, and still win World and Olympic medals on it. She has learnt entirely different skills from those she was taught in the 1980s.

She trains herself most of the time – unlike gymnasts from other countries who have gazillions poured into their gymnastics programs.

For me, this is the most amazing story of the Olympic Games, and if you’re talking about “greatest” in relation to gymnastics, she has to be one of the closest to it. Every Olympics has a teenage It Girl, but there’s only one Chusovitina.