Reading journals (download your free reading tracker below!)

Do you keep a reading journal? I’ve been on Goodreads for years, and even before that I used to keep a list of the books I’d read each year on my old blog. But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of beautiful reading journals on YouTube, and their artistic nature appeals to the scrapbooker in me.

I’ve always had trouble remembering much of what I’ve read. Plot details blur together, and once I’ve finished a book I can barely remember the main character’s name, much less anything else. Usually all I can recall are a few main events and whether or not I liked the book.

So I’ve decided to keep a reading journal this year. Filling it in will give me a relaxing activity as well as a more detailed record of my thoughts on what I’ve read. I’m hoping this will help with my lousy recall!

As part of my journal I created a reading tracker in the form of a bookshelf full of blank books, and I thought you might like to have one too! Click the download button below to get your own blank .pdf version of the reading tracker.

As I finish each book, I’ll write the title on the spine and colour it in according to how many stars I’ve given the book. You could also colour them in according to what format the book was (ie paperback, ebook, audiobook), colours that match the actual book, or use any colour scheme that takes your fancy. Or of course you could leave them in beautiful black and white—it’s up to you how your personalise your tracker. There is room for 106 books on the tracker, but you can print extra copies if you read more books than that.

I hope you enjoy it! Are you planning to keep a reading journal this year? Or have you kept one before? Let me know in the comments!

Where did 2021 go?

Okay, so we’re all pretending 2021 never happened, right?

You would certainly be forgiven for thinking so if you looked at my website last year. Not a single update! Though I did publish one book—Assassin’s Bane, the final book in the Thief of Souls trilogy—and had a novella published in the anthology High Moon.

Both of those are worth a read if you haven’t yet.

Accidentally becoming a necromancer was NOT on the to-do list. Oops.

Today was meant to be all about destroying the assassins who have plagued the Realms of Faerie for centuries. Instead, the assassins are a no-show and I’m fighting ghosts that I shouldn’t be able to see.

Somehow, I’ve ended up with some of dear old Dad’s necromantic power. He’s the kind of guy who gave necromancy its bad name, and I’d give his tainted magic back in a heartbeat if I could. But he’s disappeared along with the assassins and the sinister dagger known as the Thief of Souls. That’s a triple threat that could smash the Realms into dust.

When all that power is turned on my best friend, my only option is to embrace the deadly new magic I despise. And that’s a choice that could destroy me.

Assassin’s Bane brings Sage’s story to a close. Willow’s story is still to come, but I’ll be leaving the Thirteen Realms behind for a while. I’m taking a break to work on a new series called A Cartomancer’s Guide to Werewolves, and it’s going to be a lot of fun!

I’m very proud of my story in this anthology. I haven’t had so much fun writing a story in years. I even busted out the Tarot cards to give me inspiration while I was writing it, which really sparked my creativity.

Come howl at the moon with these all-new tales of wolves in the city!

This thrilling collection contains eight exclusive novellas by today’s top urban fantasy authors.

“Fox Hunt” by Aimee Easterling—Mai’s life revolves around acting human and teaching fencing to middleschoolers. Then a student goes missing just as werewolves start breathing down her neck. Can she hunt the hunters without revealing her identity as a fox?

 “Wereabouts Unknown” by Jenn Stark—Having strutted her way from cop to carny fortune teller to the newest, most fabulous member of a group of Tarot mystics, Nikki Dawes has the world in the palms of her bedazzle-gloved hands. But now a pack of displaced werewolves is relying on her to find the rest of their kind. Can she reunite those snarly, sexy beasts in time to win the war on magic?

 “Elemental Witch” by B R Kingsolver—After a magical disaster puts Joanna’s future in jeopardy, the Supernatural Council gives her a second chance at Midleton College. New friends, a hot wolf shifter, and a serene campus grow on her fast. Then some fool summons a demon. Can Joanna clean up the mess before the demon kills her friends?

 “Dragon Tears” by Marina Finlayson—New wolf Nat Turner jumps at the chance to escape her controlling pack when she’s offered a job as bodyguard to a powerful dragon. But her dream job becomes a nightmare when she realises she must also protect the magical gems known as dragon tears that contain his power. Because holy hell, does that man have a lot of enemies.

 “Lunaticking” by Dale Ivan Smith—Sorcerer-Agent Elizabeth Marquez tracks illegal wolf-men manifestations. Shifter Chloe must find her kidnapped pack leader. Together, these two wielders of different magics must find the supernatural culprits behind both crimes, and stop a far greater one from happening.

 “Prowl” by N. R. Hairston—Wereskunk Anise is constantly ducking werewolves and vampires intent upon harvesting her high-dollar skunk oil. Will alpha werewolf Brick really help, or is he just another poacher hunting her?

 “Full Moon’s Curse” by Jenn Windrow—Sometimes the cure is worse than the curse. Cursed by a witch on a power kick, Julia Monroe has twenty-four hours to kill the leader of the local coven. If she fails, she’ll be forced to live as a wolf for the rest of her life. If she succeeds, she’ll be excommunicated from her pack and her family.

 “A Myth in Moonlight” by Becca Andre—Leena knows that mythical creatures don’t exist—not in the modern magical world. But when the old werewolf myth proves to have some … bite, she must re-examine her beliefs to break an improbable curse before it runs wild in Cincinnati.

Turnip Brain strikes again

Is this the world’s stupidest dog?

I’m starting to think so. Guess where she is today?

At the vet’s. Being operated on. Again.

Remember the chicken skewer disaster last year? Baby Duck dropped his chicken skewer, she pounced and swallowed it whole. Expensive vet bills ensued.

Just one of those things, you think. You can’t really expect a dog not to try and gobble manna from heaven, can you? Shame Baby Duck wasn’t fast enough to grab the skewer before she did, but what can you do? A once-in-a-lifetime freak accident.

Or not, as it turns out.

No, Baby Duck hasn’t dropped any more skewers. Two Planks just seems to have even fewer brain cells than we’d thought.

On Monday she vomited a couple of times. Nothing unusual there – till the Carnivore noticed weird streamer-like things in it. White, about 5 mm wide, made of some kind of light plastic or fabric. We wracked out brains but couldn’t imagine what she’d eaten, or where she’d found it. Could some packaging have blown over the fence from the building work next door? It seemed unlikely, but what else were we to think? She will occasionally chew on things she finds in the backyard, but she doesn’t eat things out of the house – not since her puppy days.

Except now she does, apparently.

Yesterday morning there was more vomit and she wouldn’t eat breakfast, so we took her to the vet. Still mystified, we showed the streamer thing to the vet. It wasn’t until Drama Duck came home that we identified it. It was ribbon. She’d left a spool of it on her bedroom floor after a friend wrapped a present on the weekend. The next day she’d noticed the spool was broken and empty, but just assumed her friend must have used more ribbon than she’d thought.

I’m still shaking my head over this one. The chicken skewer I could understand. That was food. But ribbon? What on earth possessed the stupid animal? Who sees a spool of ribbon and thinks hmmm, that looks tasty?

So today the vet has the delightful job of hunting through her innards for it. Who knows how much is in there? 10 m? 20? It was originally a 50 m spool, but we don’t know how much was left on it when she decided to chow down on it. Several metres has already been up-chucked all over our backyard, but there’s obviously still enough in there to block up the works.

The vet tells me he’s known dogs to eat padlocks, mobile phones, even remote controls. Ribbon seems almost tame by comparison, but unfortunately, being long and linear, it’s a devil to get out again. Stupid bloody dog.

Has anybody else got any good stupid-things-my-pet-has-done stories? Please tell me I’m not the only one!

The most valuable thing in the world

I have a desk calendar that gives a quote per day. [Note to self: This year, don’t be such a tightwad. Buy yourself a calendar before the January sales so you have a decent selection to choose from.] Are they inspirational sayings? inscrutableness? philosophical platitudes? Not sure what you’d call them. Some of them state the obvious, while others make meaningful comments on the human condition. Today’s Zen saying was not one of the latter.

It asked the question, “what is the most valuable thing in the world?” Time, you might think? Good health? Love? Family?

Ah, no, grasshopper. You are too predictable.

“A student asked his teacher, ‘What is the most valuable thing in the world?’ ‘The head of a dead cat,’ the teacher replied. ‘Why?’ the student asked. ‘Because no one can name its price,’ was the teacher’s reply.”

Isn’t that awesome?? Once I stopped laughing I spent a happy five minutes dreaming up all sorts of other gross and gruesome things whose price could not be named.

It also brought to mind the book 101 Uses for a Dead Cat by Simon Bond.

Remember that? It was all the rage 20 or 30 years ago (ooh, now I’m showing my age). Cartoons of cats being used as toilet brushes, footstools, so many silly things. Can’t remember them now but I was highly amused at the time. I know I bought a few copies for my cat-loving friends.

I’m sure the Carnivore had a copy. Despite not having a vicious bone in his body, he likes to cultivate a reputation as a cat-hater. For many years he had a bumper sticker on his car that read: “Missing your cat? Check under my tyres”.

Come to think of it, a sense of humour – while not the most valuable thing in the world – is a pretty handy thing to have. Especially if you live in this house!

Italian cooking: now with random green stuff

I had a craving for bruschetta – but do you think I could find a recipe? Heaven knows why I didn’t think to consult the Almighty Internet. Google is a girl’s best friend! But after ratting through several cookbooks I came up empty-handed. Maybe bruschetta’s too easy for cookbooks to bother with?

Anyway, I figured I could work it out. Bread, tomato, a little balsamic vinegar, and that yummy green stuff. Convinced the thing I needed was oregano I went to my local greengrocer to buy some.

My local greengrocer doesn’t label his herbs. It would be entirely possible for someone to come home with a bunch of mint only to discover it was actually basil. This may or may not have happened to me …

So I had a good sniff and came up with the one that smelled like bruschetta. Brought it home and made something that tasted just like the real thing (if you ignore the fact that it was slightly soggy in the middle – but my tummy didn’t care). It looked a treat too.

Only then I did find a recipe and discovered that the thing that smells like it belongs in bruschetta is actually basil, not oregano. I have a vague memory now that oregano has smaller leaves. As you’ve probably guessed by now I’d be the first one out the door in any cooking contest. It’s probably a good thing my greengrocer doesn’t label his herbs, or I’d have bought the wrong thing.

Hmmm. What do you think, internet?

Is my random green stuff really basil?

The house is full of flowers

The house is full of flowers because Mum is gone.

She wore the new shirt I gave her for Christmas but she never got to see how pretty she looked in it.

Red roses and rosaries; a white-haired priest with an Irish accent.

A man in a frock coat walked down the road in front of the hearse while the summer sun beat down.

Black dresses and sunburn. Hot little boys with sweaty heads.

Her children following the hearse, just the four of us alone together. My brother drove and swore; my sister couldn’t remember what day it was. We laughed and cried in that contrary way people do, battered by grief.

Contrary like her. Artist and mother; creator of books and babies, the heart of our family. Both stubborn and passionate; unsentimental and loving. Champion worrier to the end.

On Monday night my sister told her everything was in order and she could stop worrying. Tuesday morning she was gone.

Even 87 years was not enough.

The house is full of flowers and I will miss her all the rest of my life.

The love has gone

My love affair with sugar is fading. We used to be so close, but now we hardly see each other …

But before I give you the latest report from the war zone, I have to show you the invitations I made for Demon Duck’s upcoming slumber party.

Aren’t they cute? When you lift the quilt the invitation is revealed hiding underneath. I was very proud of myself for dreaming this up – and then it occurred to me how very little actual sleeping takes place at a so-called slumber party. Lots of giggling and talking, watching DVDs and consuming junk food, but not much sleeping. So maybe a bed wasn’t such a good idea after all!

I did a little sewing the other night. One of my sister’s sons gave her a Kindle for her birthday recently (I shall have to give Baby Duck hints that this is the level of awesome required for presents from one’s grown-up sons!). She was carrying it around in a satin bag. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that she needed a padded bag to protect it. Actually that was probably the second thing, after “Oh my God, you’ve got a Kindle!”

So I had a go at making one. My first attempt ended up too small, and will be reincarnated as a handbag for Demon Duck. For my second attempt I found a pattern

Here it is with a book inside it (since my son hasn’t received the memo yet about buying his mother a Kindle).

As for the War on Sugar, or The Sad Story of a Love Gone Wrong, there’s not a lot to report. I’m past the major headache stage and the cravings are lessening. I weakened and had one square of peppermint chocolate with my cup of tea the last two nights. One lousy square! How the mighty have fallen. I claim extenuating circumstances. I won’t bore you with the details, but life is fairly stressful at the moment.

Apart from that, no sugar apart from what’s in a couple of pieces of fruit a day. Not even in tea, which is another sad story of lost love. I’ve been having Equal, a sugar substitute, in my tea. It gives the tea a slightly different flavour, but it’s still tea and it’s still sweet – and yet … Nope. I’m just not feeling it. Turns out that my great love of tea was actually a great love of the sugar in it. Without sugar tea is just a pleasant hot drink that I can take or leave.

Jay Lake had a link on his blog to a report on the evils of sugar, specifically its fructose half. A new study has found that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to divide and proliferate. The researchers fed cancer cells both fructose and glucose, but the cells used the two types of sugar differently, showing the sugar industry’s claims that all sugars are the same to be wrong. In the US, where they have a huge amount of high fructose corn syrup in their diet, this has big implications. “US consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, researchers reported in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

Now the research team is hoping to develop a drug to stop cancer cells using fructose to grow. I guess that’s what researchers do, but it seems to me to be coming at the problem from the wrong end. Instead of trying to fix the damage fructose causes, wouldn’t it be better to prevent the damage in the first place by removing fructose from the diet?

I realise that’s not an easy thing to do. Trust me, I know! Governments would have to take on the big companies like Coca-Cola and educate people on the dangers. It would require a huge shift in people’s attitude to sugar. But we only have to look at the government regulation of the tobacco industry and the way the public perception of smoking has changed over the years to know it can be done.

Meanwhile, my personal struggle against the Demon Sugar continues. Someone hide those biscuits and pass the damn nuts.