Friday, July 19, 2019

Photo Friday: South Island Road trip, Part I

Still working my way through the photos from our time in New Zealand! Back in late February, we did a trip from Christchurch down the east coast of South Island all the way to Invercargill, then up to Te Anau, the launching point for our Milford Track tramp. I've picked a few highlights from the trip south, into an area that gets a lot less attention than many parts of the island. We weren't sure what we'd find, but we found more than enough to fill our 4 days

Oamaru: Steampunk HQ
This trip included not only our 21-y.o. son, but a friend of his as well (I'll call him Friend B). It was in part with the boys in mind that we planned a visit to Steampunk Headquarters. We didn't regret it.
At the entrance. Kind of a Mad Max feel.
 Out back there were a lot of interesting machines welded together from stray parts and a lot of imagination.
Definitely a Mad Max feel.
 One of the fun things was the Metagalactic pipe organ, which played sounds picked up from around the universe when the keys were pressed.
Friend B playing the organ. In a way, I was sorry the pipes weren't hooked up!

Moeraki Boulders
These spherical rocks are concretions of Paleolithic mudstone. I'll let you look it up yourself if you want more specifics about how that worked, but the result is fascinating spheres that have eroded out along the beach by Moeraki, like giant dragon eggs.
As you can see, they are near to hatching. 
This one hatched, but the baby dragon was long gone.

Dunedin--the Otago Peninsula
Dunedin town was mostly a place to spend the night, though it's an attractive setting and if we'd had more time, a bit of an explore of NZ's most Scottish city would have been fun! The real attraction for us was the Otago Peninsula, renowned for wildlife and spectacular beaches.

Allen's Beach was justly renowned for being a glorious expanse of beach. We had to walk wide around the occasional seal or sea lion.
Eldest Son looking small in the vast expanse of sky and sand.
In other places, the kelp clings like a hula skirt to the rocks.
Sandfly Beach was another noted for the sand, surf, and seals.
A nice breeze kept the namesake insects from being nasty.
We drove up Sandymount, between Allen's Beach and Sandfly Beach, for great views of the area.

A two or three mile hike around the Sandymount took us to various scenic features, like this arch dubbed "Lovers' Leap."

We eventually continued our journey south, stopping not far along to admire the Nugget Point lighthouse.

It's fully automated now, but I'd assume someone still needs to polish the lenses.

The Catlins (Cathedral Caves, McLean Falls, Petrified Forest, Slope Point)
The Catlins is the farthest-south region of South Island, encompassing both the Catlins Forest Park and some amazing coastline with a few hidden gems. We stayed two nights in Fortrose so we could spend an entire day exploring. Since at least two stops were dependent on the tides, we had to time things carefully.

Cathedral Caves are aptly named, as the sea-caves have vast vaulted ceilings. Openings are accessible only for a couple hour each side of low tide, so visitation is concentrated.
Openings of two of the caves, which connect farther back in.
 The cliffs are limestone, which lends itself well to cave formation.
Eldest Son and Friend B rounding the point to look for more caves (they found them).
Some of the cracks didn't look promising, but led far back under the cliffs.
Eldest Son disappears into the depths.
Go toward the light!
As this post has become terribly long, I am going to break it here and continue next week!

Patterns in a beach stream
 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Writer's Wednesday: #amwriting

Yep, you read that correctly! I have actually resumed work on my MS, and while the first thing I did was get distracted and went down a rabbit hole (or maybe a wormhole) of fixing some issues with an earlier book, I HAVE started! I have also started my story for the IWSG anthology. Unfortunately, I've started that 4 times (maybe 5. About 2 for the story I dropped because it's fantasy and adventure but not necessarily historical, and 3 starts on the story I want to write, a pure historical adventure). So I can't say the writing is going well, but the very fact that it's happening at all is huge.

Oh, and I've been working over the blurb for the new book, because my cover artist gave me a nudge...

Yeah, there's some hope that I might be a writer.

On the happy dance list:
--started to work on the MS
--started on my IWSG story
--enjoying tons of garden produce--canned 7 quarts of tomatoes on Friday, and made a peach pie for Sunday dinner with the family
--working out daily and starting to feel the difference (in something besides pain)
--installed a new light and ceiling fan in my work space, making it much more livable

On the er, um list:
--still haven't finished unpacking the boxes of books
--still haven't got the garage sorted and the tools/workshop set up
--no one has vacuumed or mowed the lawn anytime recently (not my job!)
--haven't touched my NZ photos in weeks, and they won't edit themselves... (this is changing, thanks to scheduling a photo post for Friday!)
--the watering system is acting up and I'm a bit out of my depth with it

Okay, you get the picture! It's a mixed bag. I'm trying hard to hang onto the successes and not beat myself up about the failures.

An inspirational quote to keep me writing!
And, finally--if I'm writing, I need readers! So take advantage of the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale and get my books for bargain-basement prices.

Monday, July 15, 2019

YA Audiobook Review: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes


Title: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Author: Chris Crutcher. Read by Johnny Heller
Publication Info: Recorded Books LLC, 2007.  Original: Greenwillow Books, 1993. 224 pages.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune have been friends for years. When they were children, his weight and her scars made them both outcasts. Now Sarah Byrnes—the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known—sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she’s hiding before its dark current pulls them both under. Will appeal to fans of Marieke Nijkamp, Andrew Smith, and John Corey Whaley.

My Review:  

I'd heard about this book for a while, though I can't now recall why or where. I was vaguely under the impression that it was a middle grade book (for the 8-12 crowd), but in spite of having gotten it from the Kids' section of the library's Overdrive collection, it is definitely YA. The book deals with some pretty heavy issues (including child abuse, suicide, abortion, and sex), and does so frankly.

Now that's out of the way, on to the review. 

I was totally gripped by this book. I had no idea what to expect, and in fact I didn't really even read the blurb. I was just looking for something to listen to while I do chores, and thought "oh, I've heard of that. It's supposed to be good." So I wasn't prepared for the emotional power of the story, which was expertly balanced with humor and a lot of insight into the teenaged mind. The story is narrated by Eric Calhoune, and I liked that he doesn't totally justify all the sometimes hurtful things he's done over the years. Instead, Sarah's crisis triggers him to make a step forward closer to adulthood, and to consider himself and his actions a little more carefully.

Some tense moments round out the story, some just plain adventure-story tense and some tense with importance and emotional power. I might offer a critique that the danger-tense part felt a little contrived, though it's consistent with characters' actions throughout. On the other hand, it is also told in Eric's note-perfect self-deprecating style, so that even while I held my breath about the outcome I was also close to laughter at the process. A larger criticism might be that the author's political position and opinions come through perhaps a bit too loudly at times. That didn't bother me, because I largely agreed with them, and because Eric isn't rabid, but rather is trying to understand things. In fact, the strongest stance, in my opinion, is against those who think they know all the answers.

My Recommendation:

This book has both won awards and been banned about as much as any YA book. I get why both have happened. I come down on the "awards" side, because the book offers teens an avenue to start thinking critically about important issues. That it also offers a strong argument for backing away from dogmatic beliefs will make some parents and teens uncomfortable. My recommendation is that they read it anyway, and keep an open mind. I don't recommend it for kids under at least age 12. 

FTC Disclosure: I checked Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."