International Cat Day

The 8th of August each year is International Cat Day.

Cats appear as side characters in plenty of books, from the companion of bookish heroine Amy in Toni Blake’s Willow Springs, to the kittens (and, later, grown cats) in Anne Gracie’s Chance Sisters series, to the stray that moves himself into Lucas Maxfield’s apartment in Easy and Breakable, to those in Beatrix Hathaway’s menagerie in Lisa Kleypas’ Love in the Afternoon.

So, celebrate the day with a book with cats in it!

By the way, the cats at the top are gorgeous stray Jemima, who moved herself into my late-grandmother’s shed in 2014, and two of her three kittens: grey scaredy cat Charlie, who was terrified of everything, and his smaller sister Pheobe, who looked after him (she’s hugging him!). It was lucky we found a home for the two kittens to go to together.

Summer Reads

As well as being “put up the Christmas tree” day, tomorrow is also the start of summer here. A few reads for the season:

Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers #1) by Lisa Kleypas

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters #4) by Anne Gracie

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters book 4) by Anne Gracie

A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr

a-summer-in-sonoma-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Whisper Falls (Destiny Series #3) by Toni Blake

Whisper Falls by Toni Blake

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Romance Passes the Bechdel Test

a-summer-in-sonoma-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Good read on Heroes and Heartbreakers the other day: Romance Passes the Bechdel Test.

For those who don’t know, the Bechdel Test was basically created to determine whether a form of entertainment respects women. it judges films, television shows, books etc. on whether female characters are more than their relationships with men:

The rules now known as the Bechdel test first appeared in 1985 in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For

…two women discuss seeing a film and one woman explains that she only goes to a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,

2. who talk to each other,

3. about something besides a man.

Romance – sometimes justifiably (*especially* books in the Young Adult and New Adult genres) – cops some criticism for not passing this simple test, meaning the female characters only exist to fight over guys.

However, this article argues something slightly different.

If I think of my favourite romances? Yes, the fact they are called ROMANCE means men play a big part in them, but plenty of authors also make the female friendships and relationships very important.

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Think, for example, Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers series (or any of her books, actually – historical or contemporary). The female connections come long before the romantic relationships with men do.

Sugar Creek by Toni Blake

Toni Blake’s books are first and foremost about female friendships.

never-too-late-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Think of Robyn Carr’s small town stories. She actually calls come of her books “girlfriend books” because the women’s connections come first.

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie

How about Anne Gracie’s wonderful stories with sisters and friends? The Autumn Bride doesn’t even introduce the hero until 1/4 of the book is over, but we have plenty of time to meet the series’ four heroines and watch them go to hell and back together.

Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter works very hard on female AND male friendships. It is one of the reasons she is one of my absolute favourites.

I recently unfollowed some men online because they were sharing “jokes” about women. Memes about how there’s no point trying to understand women – because women do, and ‘that’s why they hate each other’.

Ha, ha, ha, ha…. or not.

I see (and hear from some people, too often of “a certain generation”) about how women are all bitches, and women hate each other, and women this, and women that. As though men are better specimens because they were born with different equipment dangling between their legs.

It’s not true. Just because women might sometimes be more emotional about some situations – well, that’s because so often women care more, and look after their families better. Every family emergency and death I’ve been part of recently? It was the women diving in and doing the hard work, caring for sick family members, supporting each other, organising funerals, making the phone calls and writing the cards.

I like any article that celebrates that instead of scorning it, and hope to see more of this on romance and women’s fiction sites.

The week: 25th – 31st July

Winter Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 30th July 2016 Sky Clouds Nature 1IMG_0518

Saturday sunset in Canberra.

Winter Lake Burley griffin Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Seagulls Telstra Tower Black Mountain Sun Nature 30th July 2016

On Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra yesterday afternoon.

Friday Winter Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 29th July 2016 Sky Clouds Nature

Friday’s sunset in Canberra – taken on my blurry old camera.

Queanbeyan to Canberra Australia Winter Sky Clouds Driving Sonya Heaney 29th July 2016 Nature

The sky two hours before the sunset above!

Flags fly at half-mast at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics after two were killed and 111 injured in a bombing for an anti-abortion and anti-gay agenda.

This week marked the twentieth anniversary of the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics – when a man went and blew up Olympic Park because he didn’t want women to have abortions. Seriously. Ugh.

Cat missing for eight years found 280 miles away in Paris Cat missing for eight years found 280 miles away in Paris Moon Uint

My favourite story of the week. This cat went missing in London eight years ago, and turned up as a stray in PARIS.

Now Google is on Putin's payroll. They have redone Google Maps to change Ukrainian place names into the Russian names. Crimea.

Now Google is on Putin’s payroll. They have redone Google Maps to change Ukrainian place names into Soviet Russian names. This is just… sickening. Is there anyone Moscow isn’t capable of buying? If it was anywhere other than Ukraine, the world would care.

Ukrainian GYmnast Lilia Podkopayeva 1995 World Champion 1996 Olympic Champion

Back when gymnastics was gorgeous! Actual artistic gymnastics. That’s the 1996 Olympic champion.

I am not at all excited about the upcoming Olympics. So many drug cheats. So many other issues with the venue. The Australian part of the athletes’ village just caught on fire, and then they were robbed while they were being “saved”!

The maintenance staff were smoking (the village is allegedly a non-smoking location). The Brazilian officials turned off the fire alarms, so…

And the sport I have been following (and was for a while, very closely involved with) my whole life – gymnastics – I am not that interested in anymore. The sport is supposed to be artistic gymnastics, but now it’s just not. This former ballet dancer thinks gymnastics is an ugly, messy sport these days (thank you, new scoring system that pushes big, poorly executed tricks over technique or finesse!).

Anyway, I thought I’d get my Olympics-related rant out now, before the competition begins! 🙂

The anniversary of Pride and Prejudice

PrideundprejudicePoster for the 1940 film Pride and Prejudice.

So – how did they go?

Taking Fire (One-Eyed Jacks #4) by Cindy Gerard

My review of Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

My review of Good For You by Tammara Webber

good-for-you-by-tammara-webber

My review of Taming the Highland Rogue (The MacLerie Clan #4.6) by Terri Brisbin

Taming the Highland Rogue (The MacLerie Clan #4.6) by Terri Brisbin

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

Amy Bright might be the best matchmaker in Destiny, Ohio, but she’s desperately shy when it comes to her own love life—and helpless when it comes to Logan Whitaker, the best friend whom she’s head-over-heels in love with. So Amy decides to become Logan’s secret admirer, sending him sensual love letters steamy enough to unseal their own envelopes. One letter leads to another, one thing leads to another, and then comes an unplanned kiss…

Overcoming a tragedy from his life as a firefighter, Logan needs a friend. Thank goodness for Amy. But when a woman from Logan’s past resurfaces right as some anonymous letters send Logan’s pulse hammering, suddenly he doesn’t know what he needs—a reliable friend, or a passionate lover? One smoking-hot kiss could change everything…but will it ruin a one-of-a-kind friendship, or show Logan and Amy that they’ve already found everything they need, right here in Destiny?

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

This was a reread for me, and I enjoyed it all over again after a few years since my last read.

I’ve always enjoyed this (perfect as a standalone) book. I know extremely “empowered”, extremely confident women are supposed to be all the rage, but Amy seems like a much more rounded, realistic character to me, and I like her.

As the heroine of this story she is the typical nice girl, the one who does everything for everyone and they just take it for granted – and overlook her. However, she’s not a total doormat. She had close, good friends, and when she decides she isn’t happy with the way her life is going she does something about it. She is shy, but brave. Sad with some aspects of her life, but not bitter about it.

I love this book because I remember it over most of the others I’ve read. And I remember it because it makes me *feel* something.

Neither hero nor heroine in this one is perfect. Logan is mean to Amy a few times, and I sort of wish he’d apologised a little more for it, but usually he is such a great guy. They know each other too well, which is both perfect and terrible for beginning a relationship.

I like that the author threw up real obstacles for them to tackle, big conflicts. I liked that deep down they were both good people, but they didn’t know how to get to where they wanted – or even what they wanted.

There is an “other woman” in this book, and she is not demonised (she is a future heroine in the series). I don’t tend to gravitate to overly pushy, overly confident people like Anna, but she is not a bad person. Toni Blake writes wonderful female characters. They’re all different, they are all three-dimensional, and they are friends. Even when Anna is competition, she isn’t competition in that sexist, cheesy way too many romances use.

Beauty and health and fitness and acting like a twenty-first century woman aren’t things to be mocked, ridiculed and shamed in Toni Blake’s books – cannot say the same for a lot of contemporary romance authors!

There are some issues here and there. Minor things. For example, the influence of Jane Austen’s Emma on the plot leads to the hero directly quoting it near the end – I found it a little odd.

However, this series is a great combination of the small town with thirty-somethings who actually act their ages. For that, I enjoy all the books.

For this particular book, I love it for the heartache and joy and everything in between that seems realistic to me.

The Week: 18th – 24th July

Kingston Foreshore Lake Burley Griffin Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 17th July 2016 21

On the lake in Canberra late Sunday afternoon.

Canberra Lake Burley Griffin 23rd July 2016 Australia Winter Nature Sun Sonya Heaney.

And driving over Lake Burley Griffin yesterday afternoon.

I have been reading for fun in the past week or so, and loving it. There are times when the review books I get are amazingly good, and other times I find myself thinking reading is homework! So I’ve bought some books and am rereading some favourites, including books by Toni Blake and Lisa Kleypas. I also picked up books by new-to-me authors Janice Preston and Angel Smits.

The aeroplane that landed with no fuel, no engines and no power.

On the 23rd of July, 1983 Air Canada flight 143 landed on a racing track in Gimli, Manitoba after experiencing both a fuel shortage and the failure of both engines.

‘London’s most expensive apartment’ on sale for a cool £150 million in Admiralty Arch

'London's most expensive apartment' on sale for for a cool £150 million in Admiralty Arch

Another week of terrible news in the world. I’m sure everyone’s talking about Munich (HOW many attacks will they get in the space of a few days?) – my aunt was just there.

My The World Is Terrifying rant of the week:  How about Trump all but announcing he won’t fulfil America’s NATO obligations, and will essentially let Putin invade NATO countries?! (He already supports the invasion of Ukraine, but this is the first time most people paid attention to that fact.)

Something that won’t make the news is the car bomb assassination of a Belarusian journalist who lived in Ukraine and wrote against Putin, and other violent Russian/pro-Russian attacks on Ukrainian journalists in Kyiv.

Trump supports Putin

This needed to be reinforced:

Photo souvenir gladiators who work at Rome’s top tourist attractions have been banned by the city’s new mayor

Photo souvenir gladiators who work at Rome's top tourist attractions have been banned by the city's new mayor.

The Unofficial Top of Summer

So glad people are FINALLY acknowledging that those “peasant tops” everyone has been wearing for a few years are actually Ukrainian designs! Some brands (cough-Valentino-cough) were actually using traditional Ukrainian and Belarusian patterns, and not acknowledging it!

Ukrainian tops in fashion.

The RITA Awards

Romance Writers of America (RWA) announced the winners of the 2016 RITA® and Golden Heart® Awards on July 16 in San Diego, California.

Book Cover Trends: The Man Holding Stuff

Rock Solid by Samantha Hunter

My review of Sawyer’s Rose (The McCades Of Cheyenne #1) by Kim Turner

Sawyer's Rose (The McCades Of Cheyenne #1) by Kim Turner

 My review of Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Week: 13th – 19th July

Canberra MH17 Service 26th July 2014

It has been one year since Russian terrorists shot down MH17. So much has happened since then, and since we organised and hosted the service for all the ambassadors and politicians. I can’t believe it has already been a year, and at the same time I can hardly believe it has already been a year.

Amber+Lounge+Fashion+Monaco+JPp_EMOvc1Ol

RIP to Formula One driver Jules Bianchi, who died at the beginning of the weekend. I was watching the race from Barcelona in October last year when he had his horrific crash, which eventually led to his death. I have never seen such a frightening crash.

I typed 36 000 words of a manuscript this week – Monday to Friday. 36 000 words! I think that was a little too much for five days.

As far as reading went this has been a pretty lacklustre week. I started a number of very “blah” books, and even searching all over NetGalley I was having trouble finding anything to get excited about. Maybe the August – October time period isn’t the best for new books… I still seem to be reading a lot of Western historicals, which is nothing like my usual fare. Maybe I need the change.

These aren’t ads, they’re screenshots!

Irritatinggooreadsads1Irritatinggooreadsads

I’m finding Goodreads unusable at the moment. While I know you can use software to block annoying ads, I don’t see why I should have to for this ONE site. These ads above are animated, meaning the creepy-looking women move nonstop in them, and they are on EVERY page. It makes Goodreads look like some dodgy torrent site, and it’s too distracting to post there.

High quality ads, too. Because we *totally* use the word “Mom” here in Canberra. Yeah, sure.

Those “Strong Heroines”

US Navy SEAL Training.

Cover Love

Sugar Creek by Toni Blake

My review of Shadow of a Doubt (The Tangled Ivy Trilogy #2) by Tiffany Snow

Shadow of a Doubt (The Tangled Ivy Trilogy #2) by Tiffany Snow

My review of Outlaw Hearts (Outlaw Hearts #1) by Rosanne Bittner

Outlaw Hearts (Outlaw Hearts #1) by Rosanne Bittner

My review of Beauty and the Rake (The Rookery Rogues Book 3) by Erica Monroe

Beauty and the Rake (The Rookery Rogues Book 3) by Erica Monroe

My review of A New Hope (Thunder Point #8) by Robyn Carr

A New Hope (Thunder Point #8) by Robyn Carr

The Week: 13th – 19th April

autumn-colours-garden-oksana-heaney-tuggeranong-canberra-australia-13th-april-2015

Autumn in Canberra this week

Weird week! I could say a lot more, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin!

Canadian troops to Ukraine 2015

US troops to Ukraine 2015

Seems the world is finally waking up…

Ako Kondo The Australian Ballet

Congratulations to The Australian Ballet’s Ako Kondo – one of my favourites in the company – for her promotion to principal dancer. I’ve been hoping she’d get the position for a year now, but expected an older dancer to win it first!

The Shadows, drama and the BDB.

The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13) by J.R. Ward

Dreams in Books

Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sunset 24th October 2014 Sonya Heaney

Outlander 1×10

Outlander 1x10 Duke Simon Callow Sonya Heaney.

Back to the wife-beating in Outlander

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse Wife Beating 2 Sonya Heaney - Copy

Cover Love

Whisper Falls by Toni Blake

My review of Raising the Stakes by Karen Rock

Raising the Stakes by Karen Rock

My review of Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

My review of Lori (The Circle of Friends #1) by L. Diane Wolfe

Lori (The Circle of Friends #1) by L. Diane Wolfe