The Bride of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer – Book Review

As some of you are no doubt aware, I love reading as well as writing and have a Goodreads account that I’m starting to use more. Here’s a review I wrote this morning of a little pulp novel I picked up recently from my favourite bookshop, Cracked and Spineless New and Used Books. Thanks Richard 😀

The Bride of Fu ManchuThe Bride of Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I remember reading a lot of my father’s Sax Rohmer books when I was a child, so this was both a trip down memory lane and some light reading over the last week or so, nothing to do with uni study.

One of the things that I’ve always liked about Rohmer was his ability to write action and suspense and this one in particular has lots of the evil Dr, which makes for good reading. The premise of Fu Manchu developing a new insect-borne plague to unleash on the world is really quite good and inspired many other writers (including Ian Fleming) and is still a viable plot device in the 21st century.

Of course, the few women are pigeonholed into the usual stereotypes – bumbling domestic bit-player (Madam Dubonnet) femme fatale (Fah lo Suee) and the helpless heroine who constantly needs saving (Fleurette) and the men really don’t fare that much better! Alan Sterling, the narrator for this outing is about as bland as a hero can be, but how he reacts to some of his trials is quite good.

But this is a book of its time and irrespective of the incredibly dated gender politics it’s still a good pulp read.

Do you enjoy reading? What are your favourite genres/books/authors? Leave a comment – I love to hear from you! 

A Lazy/Busy Day – Day 12 NaBloPoMo 2015

Well, I’ve managed to do not very much today apart from write, and (so far) I’m pretty okay with it.

There’s a big easterly rain front over Tasmania and there’ll be little gardening action until Saturday afternoon. Usually, I’m the kind of person who has a checklist of things that I want to achieve every day, even if they’re ongoing tasks like music rehearsal, feeding “Wee Beastie” my sourdough plant, or tending to the animals. Writing tends to be shunted aside for when there’s time, especially at the moment, which is the busiest season in the garden.

Instead today, I’ve been writing poetry pieces for a university assignment and scoping out my 500 word exegesis. The concept of an exegesis is interesting, it’s a lot like writing liner notes for a recording or an introduction to a book but digs a little deeper into what informed the creation of the piece. In fact, many writers have used introductions as a type of exegesis, and they make fascinating reading for students of writing like me.

I recently read Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, his latest collection of short fiction and I was really inspired by the introduction. Apart from the generalities, he offers a few notes about each story and it was really very instructive.


Meanwhile, I imagine the water tanks are full again *happy dancing* so I’m going to find my raincoat and head down the yard soon to collect eggs, pick salad for tonight’s dinner, do the evening feed and check for any new mushrooms. I buy bags of supposedly spent compost and usually get quite a lot out of them this time of year – and today’s humid, wet weather is perfect. Hopefully, there’ll be mushrooms on toast tomorrow 😀

Mushrooms from the garden - note the pencil for size!

Mushrooms from the garden

What’s your favourite way to spend a rainy day? Leave a comment – I love to hear from you!

Fingers Crossed – NBN!

My Drowning Plaster Bird

My Drowning Plaster Bird

It’s raining – again or still – my brain is suffering from rising damp I think. The chickens are lurking under their shade table or in their coop to dry and keep dry and tempers are short in my little bunny kingdom.

Meanwhile, I still have no solid internet connection but I’ve still managed to keep NaBloPoMo going – haven’t missed a day so far! And I’ve just uploaded my final assignment to a Preparation for University Study course through Open University Australia. I’ve been really surprised and heartened by my results – but the real fun starts later this month when I begin my first proper online unit through Griffith University in Queensland.

I had a phone call yesterday, and the NBN are booked to come to my house tomorrow to wire in our new fibre connection. I cannot to begin to tell you all how happy that makes me! Above all, this will enable me to teach via Skype to anyone who has a solid internet connection. As well, I’ll be able to do my online uni studies without having to resort to leaching net connections from family and friends or docking to my mobile phone connection. (I hate to think what my bill is going to be this month!)

In the greenhouse, I’ve been incredibly pleased with how everything’s still growing despite the ridiculous weather we’re having here in Tasmania. I planted Basil seed some time ago and pricked out seedlings into egg cartons to grow them on quickly and give me a chance to pot them up without any further disturbance of their roots.

Basil from Egg Cartons

Basil from Egg Cartons

It’s a neat method and I find it gives seedlings a better start. As you can see from the picture below, the Lettuce Leaf Basil has certainly taken off well!

How the Basil Grows!

How the Basil Grows!

But sadly, the front balcony, which serves as my winter salad garden, is suffering badly from the wet weather. I think the only plants that are thriving are the watercress – funny that! Hopefully, we’ll get some more seasonal warm (and dry!) weather soon, so I’ll be able to collect the seed for next year’s crops.

The Balcony Garden

The Balcony Garden

There will be little or no gardening today. Reading, songwriting (another song about the rain?), more recording preparation and plenty of cups of tea for me I think! Have a great day folks wherever you are 😉

Things That Matter #2 – Writing

Some of my precious books

Some of the precious books that inspire me

In this occasional series of posts, I want to share the things that make me tick. Given that I was mad enough to sign up for NaBloPoMo, it seems a perfect time to execute the plan. The first one was about reading, so it kind of follows that the next would be about writing. Reading and writing both enrich and create me.

Writing is a powerful pursuit, and one that has given me great rewards. Writing has fed me (both emotionally and literally), caused me sleepless nights, introduced me to some wonderful people, caused arguments I’d rather not have had, and lit my way on the strange, meandering path that is my life.

Through writing, I’ve found myself.

Now this is not a cute, throwaway line. There have been times in my life where I have lost my way and lost hope. In my ongoing internal battle, writing has been one of the key factors in pulling me out of my personal, black hell. Some of my writing at these points in my journey I would never want to share with anyone in my lifetime, and yet, some of it has become some of my best work as a songwriter. And (most of the time) it feels so good to sing those pieces, like I’m exorcising demons with every single note. It’s the nature of the beast that I know it will return, and gnaw away at me body and soul. Therapists and doctors have all told me that the problem is extremes – extreme lows and equally extreme highs. And in both extreme states, I go into emotional shutdown – I don’t function and I don’t communicate.

The trick I’ve found is to write about it intimately, expose the black heart of my depression, and equally, the achingly beautiful (and potentially manic) highs. There is something downright gut wrenching about reading stuff like that about yourself post episode. Sometimes it feels like someone else has written it, like another person is in control and it can be very scary. But writing and reading it back is a levelling hand on my consciousness, a brief pause for reflection that helps me to be in control and even out the bumpy ride.

I try and write every day, even if it’s just a few lines. Being old school, I carry a notebook and pens with me and have a stack of them at home for different projects but I’ve got a great notepad style app on my mobile phone that I find I’m using more and more when I’m out. Recently, I got a new laptop and I’ve already set up a folder of “Blog Stuff” to put ideas, drafts and images as well as all my other projects. With NaBloPoMo happening at the moment, it’s another reason to just do it!

Inspiration is a funny thing, it comes from all around us. Despite the ever-present possibility of writers’ block – every writers’ personal hell – I personally believe that inspiration is in and all around us all. We must develop the eyes to see and the will to translate it. Ultimately, everything we write is in some part about us and our personal view, irrespective of who or what might have triggered it.

Finally, I learnt something several years ago that I completely failed til then to see or acknowledge – I would not write if I did not read. So this post is dedicated to all the writers of novels, short stories, articles, blogs, and television and film screenplays who have reached me in some way.

And above all, to my parents who were both readers and writers, who endlessly encouraged the reading and writing in me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Nov 4 2013 Spring Daisy

Things That Matter – #1 – Reading

Over however many weeks it takes, I plan to share with you the things that matter to me in my creative life.

This week, is one of the absolute joys of my existence.

My father used to say to me, if you have books, you are never alone and never bored. How true! The biggest issue for me is to make time to pursue my passion. My tastes are eclectic and I read very widely. Besides fiction, I also love books on food and cooking, practical skills, science, travel, biography and history.

My Reading Pile

As I type, next to me are Scott Lynch‘s “Lies of Locke Lamora”, Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean‘s deluxe edition of “Black Orchid”, Paul Koudounaris‘ “Heavenly Bodies” and Alan Moore‘s classic graphic novel “V for Vendetta”. Also on my current reading list is Alison Weir‘s biography “Eleanor of Aquitane”, Robert Fagles‘ beautiful translation of Homer’s “The Odyssey” and top of the list on my e-reader (yes, I have an e-reader – but more on that later) are Mira Grant‘s “Blackout” and David Mitchell‘s “Cloud Atlas”.

I love books. To me, there is something almost sensual about the feel and the smell of a book, the weight of it in my hands. In the case of “Heavenly Bodies” it’s not just the feel and smell but the stunning photographs that bring me back to explore the text and the reasons why these cadavers are so adored and adorned. But above all things, if it’s a fiction book I haven’t read before, it’s the anticipation of a new journey and new characters to come into my life. If it’s a familiar title, it’s like saying hello to old friends and revisiting familiar places. And the anticipation of new things to discover and learn in non-fiction is still as important to me as when I was a child.

In Tasmania we also have a fabulous library network called LINC that has stayed so relevant in an increasingly digital age and is just a great place to find out things, browse books, magazines, cd’s and dvd’s. And there are many, many bookshops in Hobart, my favourite being Cracked and Spineless New and Used Books, aka The Imperial Bookshop.

Now, as much as I love real books, made from ink and dead trees, I also own an e-reader and use it surprisingly often. My experience with them came from my GP, who was horrified that I was carrying so many library books in my day pack. He suggested that I should, as a person with a spinal disorder, seriously think about getting an e-reader. I was reluctant but my beloved friend (aka “theywhomustnotbenamed” or TWMNBN) bought me one. TWMNBN’s a reader too and understood the need to maintain my habit! That device saw me through the first three and a half George R R Martin “A Song of Ice and Fire” books and more Terry Pratchett Discworld titles than I care to mention! It finally died one summer’s day at a critical moment in “A Feast for Crows”. Fortunately, I had a hardcopy of the book to come home to and find out what happened next.

It’s surprising the amount of criticism I’ve had from people about my e-reading. Most of the books I have on it are electronic versions of titles I already own and it’s wonderful to be able to pull a library of some 500 books out of my bag – no matter where I am. My current e-reader is a touch screen device, with WI-FI capabilities but it doesn’t replace printed books for me. I don’t see it as being “unfaithful” to traditional publishers but just using a particularly convenient tool. I still borrow, buy and read books.

Reading removes my stress, helps me sleep and gives me dreams, feeds my thirst for knowledge, causes me to daydream and imagine the weirdest things and makes me want to know more. And, the inspiration it provides to my songwriting is incalcuably wonderful! For me, the reading inspires writing.

Several of my favourite songs have been directly inspired by Neil Gaiman‘s work. A few weeks ago, he gave a lecture to The Reading Agency in London about why our future depends on reading, libraries and daydreaming. It’s worth the effort to read the full transcript. Also, I’ve recently read (and highly recommend) Gaiman’s latest adult novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane“. It’s really, REALLY good.

Now, back to my reading!