Family Day in July

In the middle of July my aunt, uncle, and younger cousin came up to stay with my grandma. They hadn’t seen her since February and neither had Lee and I. We all decided to go on Saturday to my mum’s, to sit in their garden. There were eight of us altogether. If that was breaking the lockdown rules/easing rules then I’m sorry – the rules were absolutely baffling and unclear.

We had homemade bread and sandwich fillings for lunch, and then I had made an apple crumble. Lee doesn’t like crumble so I wouldn’t do it at home, and I really fancied one. I had to use Granny Smith apples because there were no cooking apples in two shops, but that was fine. I made it on Friday night and took it with us. My mum needed to cook it because she was making chilli in the oven for tea and didn’t have space to do the pudding too, so we ended up eating it for pudding after lunch. I don’t think I got a photo but it was sweet and squidgy and delicious! I’m really glad I made it.

It started to rain so we sat in the garage, still trying to keep everyone apart, but it was really cold so we did eventually move inside, but sat in our households instead of moving around. All eight of us haven’t really been anywhere, so it felt safe enough. I really have no idea, though.

As I said my mum had made chilli – veggie mince for Lee and I – and jacket potatoes. It was perfect – nicely spicy, really hearty and delicious. We usually make our veggie chilli with carrots and beans in which makes it brighter orange and sweeter, so it was nice to have my mum’s recipe for a change.

My aunt and everyone left just before 9pm because my grandma wanted to watch something on TV, so my mum and stepdad fired up their fire pit and Lee and I sat outside with them in front of that for a bit. It was lovely – I love a real fire outside, like when we’re camping, and it wasn’t raining and was nice and warm in front of the fire. We didn’t leave until about 10.30pm!

I was wearing a new dress from JD Williams which I bought on Crazy Clearance a few weeks ago. It’s sleeveless and has a hanky hem that hangs really nicely. I love the pattern on it, I think it’s quite striking. Plus I like the deep V neck! I put leggings on underneath as I hadn’t realised quite how long the dress is! I would wear it without anything underneath. It’s a perfect holiday dress, here’s hoping for that to happen at some point!

It was photo an hour too which explains some of these photos!

Just post shower

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On our way to my mum’s – this weird sculpture lives on a roundabout near our house

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Socially distanced garden party, before it started properly raining

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Me and my lovely cousin Peter

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There was a bee on one of my mum’s sunflowers!

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Lee and I

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Panorama of the garage. My grandma was asleep in the conservatory

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My mum’s cat Ruben ate every crumb on the table, because he never gets fed, obviously

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I made a pitcher of Pimms – not quite the weather for it though

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Delicious chilli. I swear this is vegetarian! It looks really meaty, every time I looked at it I was surprised

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My mum had bought this huge chocolate and caramel cake for dessert

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Fire pit getting going 

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This lovely new dress! I love it, I love the pattern and the colours and how long it is. I’ll definitely be wearing this again soon!

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The fire pit when my stepdad got it going really quite a lot!

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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