Wednesday, 3 August 2016

IncompleteIncomplete by Ann Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great romp through a few days in the life of a teenager nearing the end of her high school days. Not that it's anything you'd expect, apart from the Mean Girls clique. Lauren is a bit of a nerd, quite an outcast, and the focus of mean behaviour from her nemesis. At first I wasn't 100% sure about whether or not I'd enjoy this, as I'm way past the teen angst stage. Then the surprises started. A demonic pyramid scheme, the sale of part of her soul, a clever monkey (literally). Full of twists and surprises, Incomplete is engaging and fun, while not shying away from serious topics such as domestic abuse. The writing is also a pleasure - correct grammar and spelling makes a huge difference and Ann Anderson is spot-on with her metaphors and descriptive passages. As for the characters, I went through several stages of hating some, laughing at others, pitying a few, and ending up surprised and pleased by the satisfying ending. A sequel would be great, but all in all, Incomplete is a perfect stand-alone novel.

Disclaimer: I received a free advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Opal Cowan Trilogy 3 Books Collection Set (Glass, #1-3)Opal Cowan Trilogy 3 Books Collection Set by Maria V. Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first I was inclined to dismiss the Glass series as just another YA fantasy collection. But it's more than that. Simple and yet evocative, beautifully written, with engaging characters, difficult situations, and a great sense of humour, this is a series to which I'm sure I will return in years to come.

Initially I thought Opal would be one of those flighty, breathless, overly romantic heroines. But she turned out to be strong - physically as well as mentally - and conflicted, more than just a shallow figurehead. She gets herself into trouble, but somehow finds her way out, either the good way, with the help of her friends, or else in a way that costs her more than the reader expects. There were times I couldn't believe the unfairness of what was happening to her. But it all led up to a gripping tale that I couldn't put down.

Don't get me wrong - I wasn't completely convinced by all her decisions and there were times - especially at the end - when I completely disagreed with what she was doing. Still, that was the point, I think - that she didn't always do the expected. That she didn't conform. And that she had to learn to rebel.

All in all, a worthwhile read.

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Spread the word - Part 2

Following on yesterday's post, a bit of background:

It was a bit weird having the photos taken and trying to get the info across to Elizabeth Sejeke, who wrote the piece. There was so much left out. So here's what I said to her before the publication:

"I waited 12 years to get my first tattoo, because I was never satisfied with the imagery I found and couldn't see it on myself for the rest of my life. I'm glad I waited, because now there are so many different styles that are more suitable for what I have in mind for my art.

I got my first tattoo for my 39th birthday, when I was on holiday in Umhlanga. I went to Electric Eye Tattoo in Gateway Mall with a picture of the Grim Squeaker from Terry Pratchett's Discworld. I love the Squeaker, this little Death of Rats, and I found the perfect picture - I'm so besotted with it that I made sure the original artist's signature (Hanie Mohd) was added to the tattoo. Abigail, who did my tattoo, was friendly, accommodating and informative, and really put me at ease during the session.

Most of the rest of my tattoos were done by Ryan "Busta" Boltoon of The Golden Tiki. He started with my sci-fi back piece, which is about a third finished. It will eventually be a collage of my favourite spaceships and space travel devices. These are from some of my favourite series and movies, and all of them represent the family that you make yourself. The saying is not actually "blood is thicker than water" - it's "The blood of the sword is thicker than the water of the womb", and means that your brothers and sisters in war can sometimes form stronger bonds than those with whom you share genes. I love my family, but there are things only your best friends can understand. 

My spaceships are also about the joy of exploration - since I will never be an astronaut, I have these on my skin to remind myself that there is joy and wonder to be found in exploring space and nature, even vicariously.

The Grim Squeaker on my left ankle is joined by The Librarian - also from Discworld - on my right. I love books, I love magic and fantasy, and Terry Pratchett's wizardly orangutan just nails the frustration of being interrupted while reading. 

Busta also tattooed my Krakenlet on my left shoulder and happy spider on my right. These represent my husband and myself - he's the spider, I'm the octopus. We think of these as our spirit animals, and I had them done in a style that's cute and colourful and makes me smile when I look in the mirror. 

Finally, I have another spaceship on my left wrist, tattooed by Jinx of Fallen Heroes, who has since left for Portugal. I designed the original tattoo, using my favourite quote from my favourite series, Firefly - "You can't take the sky from me". Says it all, really. 

So why do I, a 43-year-old woman working for a big corporate, have tattoos? Why do I plan on getting more? Well, I've never been particularly good-looking and I've always had self-esteem issues. But ever since the needles first bit into my skin, I've realised that I'm pretty darn fantastic. I love the way the colours and designs make me feel. I'm more confident with them on my skin, and I'm always looking for chances to show them off. Thankfully it's not an issue at my place of work, but of course they can be covered up quite easily. I have no intention of getting "job-stoppers", because I'm not in the kind of industry that would allow for those. I do admire people who have beautiful tattoos on their hands or neck, but they're not for me. 

I have very specific ideas about the kind of tattoos I want, and as I'm not much into flowers, skulls, birds or butterflies, I'll stick to the things that bring me pleasure. I want swathes of colour and cheer across my skin, so I'm glad that I only got into it much later than my young self wanted. I'm glad I never found that elusive "perfect" wolf picture, because I'd never have had my spaceships if I'd gone with that. It would have been a loss. 

As for what my family says, my mother was shocked at first, but she has grown to like them. I think she'd be more against them if they were skulls or demonic, but she sees how much joy I take in them, and she has never criticised them to me. Not that it matters; the only person whose opinion is important to me in this regard is my husband, and even he would never dream of telling me what to do with my own body. He's quite chuffed to be married to "that tattooed chick", in any event. All he asks is that I don't tattoo my face, neck or hands, or have anything gross or freaky, and I'm perfectly satisfied with that. 

I hope to encourage young people - specifically, young women - that tattoos are not scary or a sign of a bad upbringing. They're an art. And as they're on you for life, respect yourself and the art, and think before you get that first one. Don't just go for the first bit of flash you see just because you feel pressured. Take the time to think about what's important to you, and I don't mean your significant other's name, or the lyrics of that song you like. Research, consult, look around, and be prepared to pay for an artist who is not only good with the tattoo machine (it's not a "tattoo gun"), but will also advise you on what will work and what won't. Listen to them. They've been doing this for years and want you to be happy with your art. It's good for business. And please, don't go for someone cheap. I promise, it's not worth it. "
My friends Lauren and Cashe got their pics taken, too. Pretty cool, no?

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Spread the word

My tattoos made it into a national newspaper - today's City Press. Just a tiny piece, but aimed at breaking down the #tattoo taboo. #inkundermyskin #southafricaink
Posted by Sue-Ann Cooper on Sunday, 6 September 2015

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Sci-fi/fantasy Pi Day rainbow celebration with tanks!

Want to know about our amazing, stupendous, super-awesome wedding? So do I!

Was there a theme to your wedding? What was the general gist?
We love sci-fi, so it was a no-brainer for us to make that the theme of our wedding. And because we love Pi, too, the date of official Pi Day (3.14.15) was serendipitous!

We asked our guests to dress in sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk/comic gear, and prepare themselves for something not quite run-of-the-mill. It worked out just as we envisaged - about half our guests came in costume, including Kratos, God of War, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Alice and the Mad Hatter.

Stargate, Firefly and Robotech played a huge role in all our designs and planning and informed the type of venues we chose. We’re also weapon lovers, so right from the start we knew we wanted to have the ceremony and photographs at the SA Museum of Military History, surrounded by tanks and big guns.

We used rainbow colours to signify our belief in marriage equality, and my sister and parents, who flew up from Cape Town, made rainbow ribbon wands and table runners.

Michael's favourite sci-fi is Babylon 5, so we had Sin Bin make him an Army of Light uniform. I wanted a corset to show off my tattoos, and had always wanted one from Arwen Garmentry. She made me an orange halter-neck with a Serenity spaceship hand-painted in gold, while Sin Bin also made my (brown) skirts (out of curtain material), along with my utility belt - I wanted to be a Browncoat somehow!
We also designed our own rings - mine is Stargate and his is Robotech - so we started the sci-fi way before the wedding!Unfortunately we couldn’t get married in front of the mighty G6, but we still had tanks and guns surrounding us. We’d decided that we wanted someone we knew and loved to be our officiant, so to overcome the legalities we had a civil ceremony in the morning (which worked out perfectly as we were officially married at 9:26:53 like Pi Day bosses!). My ex-husband was our henchman and his wife had herself ordained as a Jedi Knight to perform our “real” ceremony. She brought a light-saber in lieu of a wand to perform an Unbreakable Vow!We made sure to do our our photos before the ceremony, which allowed us to greet guests as they arrived, calming our nerves and giving the sensation of a wave of joy as we entered, instead of the nerves a sea of faces would have created.

We had our henchparty walk in to the theme music from Angel, and then we walked in together to the Stargate SG-1 theme and walked out to Robotech.

As we are atheists and were adamant that we wanted no religion, we wrote our entire ceremony and vows, incorporating Klingon vows, the tale of how we met, and as many sci-fi and fantasy references as we could manage! Because Michael was afraid he'd break down if he read his own vows, we had Lauren read them out so that we responded individually or together. A big part of the vows was about how we were making our own family, like the characters on our favourite sci-fi fandoms. 

We got a laugh from the crowd when Michael started off by promising to stick around so he could see how my tattoos looked as I aged, and I promised to help him in his plans of world domination. 

Initially we were going to do a volcano unity ceremony, but in the end we settled for kitchen science and mixed clear vinegar water with purple red cabbage water, which mixed to form a bright red.

Instead of a first kiss, we fist-bumped, which is much more our style!

If you had a reception, what was it like?
We held our reception at a sports bar, because the Military Museum wouldn’t allow us to play music after hours (since they’re right next to the zoo). Our wedding planner, my sister and my best friend went all out setting up and making sure everything was perfect - to be honest we had only the vaguest idea of how everything would look so it was a pleasant surprise to walk in to a beautiful set-up that evening.  

My mom and aunt sewed the table runners - my sister bought the fabric in Cape Town based on my requirements of rainbow colours and “something spacey”; I didn’t even see it before it arrived. We originally planned on having 3D-printed spaceships at each table - as the tables were named after our favourite fandoms - but the printer broke down exactly four weeks to the day and we had to scramble for something else. In the end, Michael suggested that we set up photo frames, so the last week was spent printing A4 images and having frames cut from wood, adding glass, and spray-painting them black. We decided to let people take those home and added a photo booth so they could also take home pics of themselves and have a second strip to put into the guest book.As it was Pi Day, it made sense to have pies as part of the meal. Since I'm allergic to wheat, we had wheat-free pies made from coconut flour with our favourite fruit and chocolate fillings, and Pi cutouts. We had a spitbraai (BBQ) for the main meal, and the caterer even provided for our vegan guests and made sure everything was Halaal so our Muslim friends could enjoy it too. 

Oh, and you know how food is often the most talked-about aspect of a wedding, and people complain about how they had to wait too long? Because we did our photos early, no one had to wait, we ate at a reasonable hour, and we provided takeaway boxes for everyone to help us finish off the food, since we abhor waste.

We walked in to the metal version of the Pacific Rim theme, and had nerdy music playing during dinner, while we provided sci-fi movies for the TV screens at the venue.

My sister read Scientific Romance by Tim Pratt as her speech, and I did the only other speech, as we wanted to keep these to a minimum. Our first dance was to the theme song from Firefly, and then everyone came together on the dance floor, where our mothers danced their hearts out!

We had a photo booth with lots of sci-fi and fantasy props, and our guests got to stick the photo strips in our guest book (which Lauren had made by hand) and take home a set for fridge magnets.

What was the most important lesson you learned?
Things happen when least expected, and it's easier to just accept it and move along. At the same time, when you make plans, try to envisage all possibilities and eventualities. We made lists of the type of photos we liked, and passed these on to our photographers. But in the excitement of doing our photos, we completely forgot to have our henchparty with us, so we don’t have any decent pics of them in our professional shots. It also took months to get our venue(s) - we'd wanted to do everything at the Military Museum, but they wouldn't let us play music at the reception, so we had to find an alternative.

Our wedding planner was worth her weight in gold on the day of the wedding. There is no way we would have been able to set up while having a civil ceremony and getting ready before rushing through for photos.

The main thing I found was to trust the people who'd offered to help - they were outstanding. We couldn't have achieved what we did without them.

It was also important to have Michael help me in the planning. I mistakenly said in my speech that it was his idea to do the sci-fi, but it was actually mine, and his support and encouragement made it possible and helped us craft a wedding that was true to us and what we love.

Photographer: Perfect Photographic
Corset: Arwen Garmentry
Skirts, utility belt and Army of Light uniform: Sin Bin
Rings: Chris Winspear Jewellery
Wedding planner: Stacy of A Bowtique Touch
Pies: Thirteen13 Events
Caterer: Spitbraai Masters
Venue (ceremony): South African Museum of Military History
Venue (reception): Pirates Sports Club
Photo Booth: Funky Photo Booth
Music: Cream Cheese Professional Discos

Check out the pics and ceremony wording at our wedsite,!