Monday, 9 July 2012


Recently, I have started to make notes on the books I read. I wish now, that I had thought to do this throughout my reading life. Join me by creating your reading history or share your thoughts on the books or authors mentioned.


  1. Jasper Fforde - The Eyre Affair, 2001

    This book is a romp through classic literature - a mixture of Douglas Adams (Dirk Gently especially) and Monty Python. It's complete nonsense but so clever it must bring smiles, if not laughter. It's not necessary to know the classics to appreciate it but it does increase the pleasure. Sci-fi, comedy, literary? It's impossible to classify. I loved it. There are at least four books in the series and I'll be reading them all. Thanks Jan, for the recommendation.

  2. Rupert Isaacson - The Horse Boy, 2009

    A true story of a father's quest to heal his autistic son. What courage this man has! to take his family to Mongolia and southern Siberia in search of healer shamans on a hunch, or as he terms it, "gut feeling".
    We share the daily frustrations of dealing with autism along with small triumphs and hopes for a brighter future for their son. As we accompany them on their journey, we 'see' the landscape and are given some insight into the culture of the people they meet along the way. The tone is upbeat, yet it is a very moving story.

  3. Chris Cleave - THE OTHER HAND, 2008

    (US Title: LITTLE BEE)

    This is a tale of a chance meeting on a beach and its repercussions. Told in two voices: the 'quirky' voice of a Nigerian refugee, which allows us to see Britain and its bureaucracy through her eyes, and that of Sarah, a British working mother.

    Non linear in structure, we learn the story gradually and the humour and positive tone masks the horror of the events. Original and well worth reading, it held my interest throughout.

    There is a film adaptation under way, starring Nicole Kidman, and you can read the first chapter on this link

    This is Cleave's second novel. His debut, INCENDIARY, is according to reviews, controversial and is now a film, starring Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor. It's on my 'to read' list.

    His third novel, GOLD, set around the background of the 2012 Olympics, was published last month to rave reviews.

  4. WE OF THE NEVER NEVER by Mrs Aeneas Gunn

    This delightfully old-fashioned read, an Australian Classic, was written at the beginning of the early 1900’s and is an autobiographical tale of a newly wed bride who moved from Melbourne, then considered a big city, in comparison to her new abode, the Elsey cattle station on the Roper River in the Northern Territory where her new husband was appointed as manager.

    I must confess though I liked the story, the language was a tiny bit of a struggle for me at times, not that there was any strong language in the book, far from it. This was truly an age where gentlemen were indeed chivalrous toward women. I was totally amazed that in one of the incidents mentioned in the book, one man hadn’t seen a woman for 5 years. Nor had the same man seen a cabbage for the same period of time and the author was bemused by considering what the man missed more - cabbages or women.

    Jeannie Gunn was not welcomed at first into station life, in fact, telegrams were sent to Darwin before the couple set off for Elsey Station, to try to dissuade her, but gradually she won the respect and affection of both the men who worked on the station and travelers passing through. Being the only white woman for miles and miles, she was considered a novelty. It was 45 miles from the front gate to the homestead so this demonstrates the vastness of her domain. However, there was much beauty in the area and the descriptions of the waterholes and gorges were inspiring.

    A few wonderful characters from the book come to mind, Fizzer, the man who brought the mail – had it down to such a fine art, he would say he would be there at a specified time, in exactly so many months time and he was always right. Another great character was the Chinese Cook, Cheon. What he could do with limited supplies, was truly an inspiration and what a tireless worker her proved to be, growing the vegetables for the station. What he created for his elegant “Clisymus” dinner was truly a triumph.

    There were lots of lovely old sayings, such as – The Never Never was the Land of Plenty of Time – another week starts next Sunday. Another I liked was the name given to fish paste – Lot’s Wife, a reference no doubt to her Mrs Lot being turned into a pillar of salt. This brought back memories of my grandfather who worked in the bush during the depression years. He always referred to golden syrup as “cockey’s joy.” I could never work that one out.

    It was staggering to realize some people spent so many years in the bush without contact with other people, like the travelers who had been 15 years in the bush and called into the Esley station on their way to Darwin, taking their children to be christened.

    I couldn’t find any reference in the novel to why the boss was called Maluka? It was sad at the end of the book to realize he succumbed to illness and died about a year after they were married. I wondered whether the author had such warm and happy memories of the bush and its people as she spent only a relatively short time in the outback in a honeymoonlike period and was never worn down with its dearth and isolation.

    1. That is a great review! Thank you Sandy. Please share more of your opinions and recommendations. Have you discovered the meaning of 'Maluka'?

  5. What is the Prime Minister of Canada reading?

    Yann Martel, the author of the Booker winning Life of Pi, sent a book a fortnight to Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister. Martel's letters accompanying each of the 101 books, have been published but they are also available on the web. Not only are they great reviews, they also describe the book in context. Hemingways' 'Old Man and the Sea' is one, but all the letters are worth reading. There are some surprise selections.

    HINT: Do you know that you can highlight a link, right click, select 'open a new tab' , close the tab when you are done (or bookmark it for future reference) and it doesn't interfere with your browsing

  6. ALL THAT I AM by Anna Funder (2011)

    ...should be required reading so that we understand what Hitler's rise to power meant to the German people and also that we understand what CAN happen and know that it DID happen.

    There's a new genre developing, called "creative non-fiction" i.e. fiction based on fact but it is the fiction, the imagined scenarios and dialogues, which gives so much more emotive power to those facts. This book is, I believe, creative non-fiction of the highest standard.

    It is about Germany as it was mobilising for the Second World War. Although the main characters are Jewish, their persecution arises, not because of their race but because of their membership of the Independent Social Democratic party and its opposition to the Third Reich. As Ruth says in the book

    "At that early stage, they still loved the war more than they hated the Jews."

    It's also a story of relationships: between family members, lovers, colleagues and other emigres and sympathisers, and even, countries. Told in two voices: that of Ernst Toller, noted dramatist and Ruth Wesemann, nee Becker, a nobody, but cousin to the political agitator, Dora. These 'voices' serve at least two purposes - one, to give a different perspective: Toller speaks from an historian's point of view, while Ruth is concerned more with emotional responses. The second purpose is to relieve the narrative voice, to lighten the horrors and tragedies of the events described.

    Funder also uses three time frames, giving her characters the benefit of hindsight:

    Germany, England and Europe from 1933, describing events as they happened
    America 1939, Toller writes his autobiography
    Australia 2001 (or the present day), an old lady's reminiscences.

    The voices and the time frames blend seamlessly. Heroism features prominently, as does betrayal.

    Funder deserves all the accolades. This book shows history with a human face.

  7. The Piano Teacher - Janice Y K Lee (2009)

    A brilliant debut novel, set in Hong Kong, before and during the Japanese occupation. There are two time lines, then and 10 years later, It's part mystery, part history, part romance. Lee, herself, was born and raised in Hong Kong and she knows the city and its culture of East meets West. The writing has minor flaws but the story carries the book. Great characterisation and dialogue without the mistake of saying too much. The underlying themes of expediency and survival are thought provoking.
    Recommended by Elizabeth Gilbert, Lionel Shriver, Gary Shteyngart and me :)

  8. Death Comes to Pemberley - P D James (2011 - sequel to Pride and Prejudice)

    Let's say at the outset that James is not Austen; she doesn't have Austen's wit or grace. However, we are transported back to Austen's time. The writing style is in keeping, the storyline is plausible and the characters are easily recognisable. James has played it straight, unlike Colleen McCullough whose "The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett" is a tongue-in-cheek romp and a hoot, James did not aim to ruffle the feathers of Austen's fans.

    It's not necessary to have read "Pride and Prejudice', but it does add considerably to the enjoyment. For those who know the original story and wonder whether the characters did 'live happily ever after', this is the book for you.

    1. I got this one for Christmas last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it which I had doubted I would as I don't usually like sequels by other authors but P D James is such a good writer that she brings it off very well. I did wonder at the time what inspired her to write it after such a long career as a writer of modern detective novels. She explains it here:

  9. Elliot Perlman - THE STREET SWEEPER (2011)

    Perlman, a barrister of Jewish/Polish background, was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1964. Like Charles Dickens and George Eliot, he writes of social concerns and states his inspiration as Graham Greene and Raymond Carver. The writer whom he most admires is Thomas Hardy and the books which have most influenced him are: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, To Kill a Mockingbird and Death of a Salesman.


    1998 Three Dollars - Age Book of the Year Award 1998
    shortlisted Miles Franklin Award 1999
    Qld Premier's Literary Award 1999
    Betty Trask Award 1999
    shortlisted AWGIE Award (film) 2005
    Best Screenplay 2005
    Best Adapted Screenplay 2005

    1999 The Reasons I Won't Be Coming (short stories)
    Age Short Story Award 1994
    Steele Rudd Short Story Award (joint) 2000

    2003 Seven Types of Ambiguity
    Qld Premier's Literary Award 2004
    shortlisted Commonwealth Writer's Prize 2004

    2011 The Street Sweeper
    longlisted Miles Franklin Award 2012

    The Street Sweeper, his latest novel, took 6 years to write and involved 6 visits to Auschwitz. The storyline has two distinct strands: the street sweeper of the title, a former prisoner on probation and the horrors of Auschwitz. These strands intertwine throughout the narrative and describe the holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement in America.

    Because Perlman concerns himself with the emotional states of his characters, their personal stories provoke a response far more intense than history books can do.

    Kirsten Tranter, perhaps herself a writer about social issues (The Legacy) wrote in her review,

    Perlman draws extensively on historical records and includes pages of suggestions for further reading. This is fiction, but fiction that deliberately blurs the boundaries between story and history. At the book’s heart is an urgent imperative akin to Henryk’s: the desire to reveal to anyone – to everyone, to the world – the truth about the Holocaust and the realities of the camps. “Tell everyone what happened here,” is the last statement of one character, Rosa Rabinowitz, …….. This line re-surfaces and echoes throughout the novel.
    The stories associated with these events – including harrowing illustrations of Jews being compelled to participate in the extermination of their own people – demand to be heard. But the project of how to tell them, and how they relate to the present moment, is densely complicated and often pushes the writing in a didactic direction.
    How is it possible to retain humanity in a situation where ethical choices seem to be unavailable? How should we conceive of our responsibilities to others, whether they are lovers, family, friends or strangers – and how should we judge others and ourselves? These are the deeper questions that underlie the story and when Perlman explores them through the play of narrative the novel acquires genuine emotional force.

    Pasted from

    I found the book very moving and, on occasion, had to walk away. The predictability of the strands converging, for me, did not detract from the story, as some reviewers have complained. This book would be an excellent book club selection; Elliot Perlman is a writer to watch. I will be reading all his previous books and waiting for his next work.

    If you have read the book, please comment. I'd love to discuss it with you.

  10. Snowdrops AD Miller
    Short listed for the booker Prize 2011
    Miller’s first novel.
    The title Snow Drops is Russian slang for bodies covered in snow that only reveal themselves in the thaw.
    The novel is set in Moscow’s winter where a 38 year old British lawyer Nick Platt lives making a very good dollar working for foreign banks eager to lend to dodgy Russian business, mainly in oil exploration. Moscow is the centre of the ‘wild east’ business dealings involving shady characters to outright gangsters. Nick’s job is to tie up the contracts between the parties – something he describes as “smearing lipstick on a pig.”
    Nick lives in Moscow because the world there is edgy and unpredictable compared to the loveless, boring suburban London where he once commuted daily with a cheerless crowd to and from work. The novel captures the essence of an ex-pat living in Russia, something the author experienced personally as a foreign correspondent. The author brilliantly describes the chill of a Russian winter and the way in which it affects the lives and thinking of its citizens.
    Travelling home on the metro Nick intervenes in an attempted mugging on a Russian girl. In the aftermath, struck by the beauty of Masha, accompanied by her sister Katya, he later contacts her. Nick thinks he’s in love, and dates Masha, mixing with sordid characters in the nightclub gangster world of corruption and greed. Nick is in a vortex of dangerous business deals, charismatic gangsters, his moral degradation and the ever elusive Masha. When Masha asks him to conduct the legal work on a sale of her aunt’s flat, nothing is as it seems…….
    This is the best book I’ve read so far this year.

    1. Hi Rob,
      This book has been on my shelf for some time and it has now moved up the list. :) Thanks for the great review.

  11. American Pastoral by Philip Roth

    My book review.

    First and last - this is too much like writing essays for English Literature back in - more years ago than I care to remember! - At high school anyway. Didn't have a clue then, and I still don't - although I can be humorous if I choose to..
    So. The Book... First few chapters, I did find entertaining..all the elements I like in a book were there - ah, no get that! Don't mind a bit of figuring out what motivates people myself - but after the initial few chapters, it got a bit much. Inside someones head only works for me for so long.. Things happening, things said and done - much more appealing. I found skimming to be the best way to handle Phillip Roth in this particular missive. Oh look - something done - back to the start of the paragraph - ah! - to where it got interesting - yep. didn't last long..sigh. Thoughts spilled onto the page..more skimming. I didn't skip entire chapters - usually was something in there of note..
    An argument/difference of opinion..he said, she said - nuh.
    #4 sized orifice - wonder if that was his daughter in disguise? I did want to follow the story through, see how it played out,..but not in That depth. At the end, It was obvious that I missed something integral..but I really didn't want to go back to find out what I had obviously missed.
    So, in the words of Margaret and David..a four out of ten

  12. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
    This is a debut novel, published in 2012. It has been described as a classic war book comparable to Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer and Tim O’Brien. The book is an easy 226 pages.
    A story is of two young US servicemen trying to survive the Iraq war. It is an anti-war piece where the author, himself an Iraq veteran, attempts to relate what war really feels like – emotionally and psychologically.
    The book unfolds along two timelines following Private Bartle and Murphy’s journey into the conflict and Bartle’s emotional and psychological battle on arrival back in the USA. The war timeline starts “The war tried to kill us in the spring.” The words convey the emotional drain of war – the insurgents, the fatigue and mental stress of constant danger. They also contain the essence of two young men caught in conflict where they have no power over the events that engulf them. Bartle is twenty-two and Murphy barely eighteen, both recruited from the working ‘poor’ as an escape, Murphy completely out of his depth.
    The returning Bartle steps back into ‘civilization’ unable to comprehend the world at home as it is. It is a story of moms and dads and wives who find themselves divorced from the veteran on return.
    Powers is a poet, an MFA from the University of Texas where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. As the author is firstly a poet, the book is short and huge on imagery. Powers book won First book Award, PEN/Hemingway award and was a National Book Award finalist.
    If you don’t read war books, do read this one.

  13. The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort

    The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of the aforementioned Mr Belfort, and covers his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the FBI.
    A film based on this memoir, and starring Leonardo Di Caprio, was nominated for five (5) awards in the 2014 Academy Awards.

    I did not find this an easy book to read with its continual references to cheap and vulgar sex as well as the non stop drug taking references. It made the reading exhausting, and not because I am a prude. It just became such hard work to get through. I read one review which resonated with me completely. "Reading this book will make you feel like a drug addict. I've never tried Quaaludes, but by the end of this book I wanted to cry and apologize to everyone I knew for my addiction to them."

    On a very personal level my own moral compass rebelled against this book. Bit like reading Chopper Read's autobiography. Will pass thanks and no , I wont be seeing the DVD .............................

    1. Readers, I have just changed into my cranky pants having read that Jordan Belfort ( see above review) is coming to Australia next month to impart his business wisdom and expertise. For a little over a thousand dollars you can join Jordan at a cocktail party before the presentation.

      Err, sorry ? This man still owes millions to investors . * smoke coming out of ears

    2. Seems fairly symptomatic of an increasingly corrupt world we live in. Then again maybe it was always that way but we weren't so aware!

  14. The Magician's Tale

    I’m very particular about the book I start reading, I know within the first paragraph or two if I’m going to like the book, sometimes I’ll go a bit further on to see if it grabs me.

    The Magician’s Tale grabbed me from the start, not because of its daggy title, but by how the author described the main character’s vision impairment, it just makes you want to read further.

    Interestingly the author’s name Dave Hunt, is an alias, but apparently he is genuinely male, and the leading character is female. The story is told by Kay, the leading character.

    Despite Kay’s disability, she leads a full life, indulges in martial arts as well as serious photography, seeking out all types of characters to study in pictures. It is how she met the androgynous Tim, and was allowed into his private world...his current one, not the one of his past. Tim fails to show at a meeting that he arranges with Kay, after calling her, stressed and needing to see her urgently.

    Bits of his body showed up here and there and Kay feels absolutely shattered; did she love Tim? You get the feeling that Kay really wanted to take the friendship with Tim to the next level, in spite of being about 15 years older, and that the attraction was mutual. When Kay starts to follow clues and hunches, she discovers that Tim's love of magic was a major factor in his younger life

    Tim’s gruesome death bares striking resemblance to the murders of young homosexual men some 17 years earlier, and despite Kay’s dad, an ex-cop who was closely involved in the search for the killer of these boys, stating emphatically that it isn’t the same person responsible, Kay is put on edge...what is it about the cases that her dad knows and he isn’t letting on to her about??

    This story pretty much covers everything I enjoy in a book, the suspense, a bit of horror, eroticism, deception, and the good old detective angle chucked in for good measure. A couple of places are a bit rambling, but it makes you read on just to see where it leads.

    1. Thanks Lee. We look forward to your next review.

  15. It's taken me nearly three months to complete The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton, the winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

    This is a big story set in the 1800s in the goldfields of New Zealand. Basically, it's a whodunnit, but certainly with little in common with Sue Grafton or Robert Ludlam.

    The book is over 800 pages long, so is "wordy". Beautifully worded, but 800+ pages can become tiresome. The author uses descriptive language so well I could "see" every scene being played out. It was like a movie director setting scenes and giving directions to his actors to get the best angles for the camera.

    Nearing the end of the book I became distracted. Too much story to focus on, maybe simply Alzheimers, but I think I lost the plot and lost focus a little. Having said this, my lawyer friend said she became confused and found there were loose ends which did not make sense also. Normally, you might find the motivation to go back an reread the parts that were of concern......but not with The Luminaries. I 'd just had enough and didn't care. Interestingly, considering it was a tale about men in tough times, the author refrained from any swearing. There were numerous instances of prostitution, gambling, alcohol binging, opium, whoring, political graft, theft and murder, but even DAMN become D **N which I found D**N infuriating !

    It has been said by one reviewer that the book was organized " according to astrological principles so that characters are not only associated with signs of the zodiac, or the sun and moon ( thus the book title),but interact with each other according to predetermined movement of the heavens, while each of the novels 12 parts decreases in length over the course of the book to mimic the moon waning through its lunar cycle". Too clever for me............................

    Author Paul B Kidd
    This book interested me at the get-go because it is Australian and because, like many of us closet masochists, I’m interested in hearing the gory bits of a good bloody crime! Most of the stories revolve
    The physical book itself fell apart in my hands in the places where the glossy photos of crims, victims and criminal investigators alike, are all featured. I found myself flicking to these photos with every new story, of which there are over 80, just to put faces and places to what I’m reading about. The book makes reference to well-known crimes that have been splashed about the news media over the years, as well as those dating back hundreds of years.....just how the detail is retained for future story-making is intriguing in itself.
    The author often is biased and foists upon readers his own opinions, rather than maintain impartiality and just sticking to facts. Literary license, i suppose? After all, he is the author and can say what he damn well likes. His reference to the so-called ‘Lesbian Vampire’ killer, Tracey Wiggington as ‘unattractive’ is hardly fair. Sure, she’s a lesbian, a now famous one. Sure, she killed a poor, innocent drunk bloke to bleed him and feast upon his blood, apparently, but there’s no call for the name-calling. To see her mug shot, she isn’t unattractive at all, perhaps her ‘character’: yes she is, if you want to get technical. A lot of this particular story is cynical and unbalanced, which is unfair to the reader. Mr Kidd shouldn’t use this kind of publication to vent his personal opinion. I don’t care if he is author, it’s unprofessional.
    The size of the book I read is cumbersome in its size, but the text is large enough not to require my use of my dollar store reading glasses, so that’s a plus. Some of the stories are very brief and even more are quite forgettable. It left me flabbergasted that the Port Arthur Massacre, courtesy of Martin Bryant didn’t rate a mention. Hoddle Street Massacre did, Fathers’ Day Milperra Massacre did, Truro Murders did.....
    I really wanted to read about the Port Arthur Massacre


  17. ‘BLINDSIGHTED’ by Karin Slaughter.
    A pretty good debut novel, although I personally generally can’t stand female authors because they are way too emotional and you often get waylaid from the whole point of the story. This one is okay because it has some pretty good original bits in it- a unique way of being raped and a strange safe-deposit box for a key to a set of handcuffs....

    This small town is rocked by some pretty nasty happenings, and everyone knows each other... the murder victim is a university-slash-college professor; the unfortunate person who found the victim’s ravaged body (Sybil, was her name) also happens to be the town coroner and ex-wife of the chief of the town’s police. Sybil happens also have been blind as a result of a childhood accident and was the twin sister of another of the town’s cop. Is the murderer, who, in the meantime, adds another victim to his tally, a well-known town identity too??

    I’d personally like to have seen the author invest some more time in getting to know Sybil, how she attained such a highly respected status as professor. We learn early on that Sybil was gay, too, not that it has a significant bearing to the story, after all, lesbians get raped too.

    The ending, which results in the demise of the murderer, is nothing spectacular; in fact, it’s quite plausible and acceptable. No big Western-style shoot-outs here, or eleventh-hour-just-in-the-nick-of-time stuff, well, not really.

    I quite enjoyed the story

  18. TITLE: ‘Abduction’
    AUTHOR: John Grisham
    GENRE: fiction, legal thriller
    Storyline: THEODORE BOONE IS BACK IN A NEW ADVENTURE, AND THE STAKES ARE HIGHER THAN EVER. When his best friend April disappears from her bedroom in the middle of the night, no-one, not even Theo Boone, who knows April better than anyone, has answers.
    As fear ripples through his small hometown and the police hit dead ends, it’s up to Theo to use his legal knowledge and investigative skills to chase down the truth and save April.

    I love John Grisham’s yarns, so when I saw this at a charity jumble sale, knowing it was one I hadn’t read, I jumped on it. I had read the story line on the back cover, so it didn’t faze me.

    This book was a very quick read, there are a couple of red herrings thrown in to make you think. Now, because the characters are mostly kids, I’m of the opinion it is geared to teeny boppers, rather than adults, although a search didn’t show audience it targeted. I think the author stayed true to fact and procedure, even when the heroes of the story are a bunch of 13 year old kids, one of whom is nicked by ...... now that would be telling, sorry.

    Grisham seems to like making a reference to ‘Judge’ in some form; in this story, Judge is the pet dog. And he likes to tap into a former lawyer, disbarred for dodgy practice or alcoholism, or both.

  19. This is my first entry for the 2015 Aussie Author Challenge: -

    Theodore Thomson Flynn, Not Just Errol’s Father, is a biography written by husband and wife team, Tony and Vicki Harrison.

    Having enjoyed a slight crush on actor Errol Flynn since seeing him donned in green tights on the big screen, swashbuckling in Robin Hood nearly fifty years ago, I have since made a point of reading many biographies about this Tasmania born lad. These books have included the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    Initially I was quite anxious about this book as Tony is a Tasmanian academic who has written extensively on the history of fisheries research, according to the book’s cover.

    I was pleasantly surprised by both content and writing style and followed Flynn Senior from his modest background, teaching in rural NSW, studying at University, to becoming Professor of Biology at the University of Tasmania (during which time Errol was born) in his mid twenties.

    TT Flynn gained an international reputation as a researcher in marine biology and later became the Chair of Zoology at Queens University in Belfast. He was awarded an MBE for works during WW2 and in his mature years was a huge help to Errol managing property investments in Jamaica.

    In previous biographies, Errol’s father has always come across as the academic - stern, and not much fun, whereas mother is depicted as the livewire in the family. In this book we see Mr Flynn Snr in a different light, learning that he was a “good dancer”, “good looking”, “attracted the ladies” and in fact enjoyed several affairs, including one with a famous Australian musician whilst in his seventies.

    So, very much like father like son I would have thought, except that Flynn Snr kept his private life just that, and remained married to Mrs Flynn,( much renowned for her flings), for better or worse.

    A thoroughly enjoyable read enhanced by descriptions of life in Tasmania and Sydney, NSW, throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s.

    Lesson : Never judge a book by its cover .

    1. Sounds like a book my OH would enjoy.

  20. Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly

    This is my second novel for the 2015 Australian Author Challenge which is proving a great way to sample different genres and writers.

    For the record, I don't read "thrillers" and although I had heard of Mr Reilly I had never previously read any of his books, despite being aware that the bright, young things in the office were massive fans.

    Reilly followers will be aware that this book is a sequel to Seven Ancient Wonders. Not having read that book does not detract as we quickly become acquainted with Jack West Jnr where he is living in rural and remote Western Australia with his adopted daughter, and numerous visitors from a previous life.

    The property is invaded by the Chinese, whom are in Australia participating in military games, and Jack and his team members escape their clutches by helicopter - as we all have one of those parked in the garage for a rainy day !

    But this is Jack West Jnr, whom lurches from one adventure to the next, in order to prevent the end of the world. To do this he must place six sacred stones, or pillars , in six sacred sites before the deadline for worldwide destruction.

    There is a great deal of detail about weaponry and also ancient writings and legends in this book which ,quite frankly, went way over my head. It didn't matter as I got the gist, and I just kept reading to see if Jack made it safely out of his latest crisis. And there were quite a few of those : Jack West Jnr is like Indiana Jones on steroids . I honestly felt that I needed to wipe the sweat from my brow at the end as I was just so exhausted.

    Talking of the ending , it was lousy. Cruel to do that to a reader, and apparently it leads on to the next in the series, The Five Greatest Warriors. Still, an evil thing to do.

    You know that I have just had to order the sequel through the local library, don't you?

  21. Doesn't sound like my cup of tea at all. But sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised.

  22. My third entry for the Australian Author Challenge:- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

    Hannah Kent is a young Australian who visited Iceland as an Exchange student, where she heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, whom was executed by decapitation in the early 1800s. This, Kent's first novel, is a fictitious account of the incidents leading up to Agnes' punishment.

    Firstly, this book is not going to win any awards for Tourism Iceland. Iceland in the 1800s is a harsh and unforgiving landscape where each and every day is a battle for survival.
    Upon being found guilty, alongside two others, for the murder of her employer ( and lover of sorts) Agnes is transferred to a rural community where she is billeted with a farmer with Government standing, his wife and two daughters. For some time this is an ordeal for the family ,who fear for their lives, and who utilise Agnes for household and farming chores.

    The only person with whom Agnes communicates is the young assistant reverend, Toti ,whom has been appointed as her spiritual guardian. We slowly learn from their discussions of the sadness of her childhood, and the emptiness and loneliness of her life. A telling comment from Agnes is " I'm not worth much".

    The family finally warm to Agnes, learning more about her, living in such close proximity. A few days before her execution date, Agnes confides to the farmer's wife, the circumstances surrounding the crime.

    Toti accompanies Agnes to her execution, reassuring her repeatedly , that she will not be alone.

    Do we believe Agnes' version of events ? Is Agnes who she appears to be ?

    The novel has been written in a tone which is harsh like the landscape. There is just so little softness within these pages.

    I really enjoyed Burial Rites, though I'm still not convinced of either her guilt or innocence .

    1. Great review May. I cannot believe I have still not read this Aussie bestseller - it sounds so haunting...

  23. I've read about the novel in papers etc and must put it on my wish list. i think it would suit Colin too.

  24. It is difficult to say that I "enjoyed" this book because of the subject matter and tone, but I thought it was an excellent read. The harsh Iceland winters accompanied by dark imagery and some difficult scenarios all blended so well for me.

    1. Good spin on it, Erin. It certainly wasn't laugh a minute. However, once started I could not put the book down as I was so engrossed with the storyline, and whether or not Agnes was a goodie or a baddie.

      Erin, thank you for joining us. We appreciate your input.

  25. My fourth entry for the Australian Author Challenge:

    Reluctant Hero by John Hickman

    I've just completed a book that was lent to me by a friend. My friend accidently attended a literary presentation by the author at the local library some six months ago, but that's another story for a different time and place.

    Reluctant Hero is John Hickman's account of his father's service as a Lancaster pilot in Bomber Command during World War 2.

    Bill was born in Notting Hill before it was gentrified, and was educated at the School of a Hard Knocks, to parents who did the best that they could with very little. Despite leaving school at 14 years and obtaining an apprenticeship as a jeweller, our young man craves a better life for himself, and enlists in the Royal Air Force.

    Training finds Bill transported to Canada which opens his eyes to a whole new world, including whiskey and women. Despite a healthy disrespect for authority Bill is one of the few selected for pilot training, for what he lacks in formal education he more than makes up for with the ability to cope under pressure and to think on his feet.

    The book spans Bill's service life, to his marriage to Alice, to making plans for the future after his discharge.

    Military accounts are not an unusual read for me, and this book covered everything that you would expect. It is the tale of an ordinary young man , and others like him, who were thrown into extraordinary circumstances ; a tale of mateship, of grief, the love and support of family and friends, and the fragility of life.

    I enjoyed this account of a young man's war as it was written in a conversational tone and in laymans terms. The descriptions were such that I could " see" the layout of the planes internals and gained a greater understanding of the crews tasks in situ. When Bill first encountered flak flying over Germany I was bouncing right along side him in the plane. This does not mean that the writing does not require a little polishing, more that I found it a less clinical read that most military books.

    We are also left with no uncertainty about Bill's thoughts on the RAF heirarachy. Not one for authority and decisions made by desk jockeys, young Bill is cynical to the point of almost being bitter and twisted. Do I blame him ? He successfully survives many dangerous bombing sorties, but is deemed unfit to pilot as a civilian. I'de be bitter and twisted too .

  26. Gone Fishing by Susan Duncan - Fifth Entry for the Aussie Author Challenge

    Author , Susan Duncan, enjoyed a 25 year career in media before writing her first novel, a memoir, Salvation Creek .

    She started writing after the death of her husband and her brother in the same week and felt the need to reassess her life.

    The sequel, The House at Salvation Creek , covers her remarriage and moving into a beautiful old house built for poet Dorothea Mackeller , in offshore Pittwater, Sydney.

    Ms Duncan then wrote her first fiction novel, The Briny Cafe, based upon an offshore community, no doubt inspired by her own surroundings. This review is about the sequel, Gone Fishing, and it made no difference that I had not read the former.

    Sam Scully is the barge man ferrying passengers and commodities between the island and the mainland, and believes he lives in Paradise. We have mullet jumping out of the water, battered tinnies, pristine beaches, the smell of seaweed drying in the sun, and cooling southerly breezes in the afternoon. If you are at all familiar with coastal Sydney this is all very evocative.

    However, Paradise is under threat when the White Shoe Brigade decide to build a flash resort on the island.

    Sam leads the community into action to fight the development and this novel then becomes a series of events with a cast of characters whom all participate to do their bit for the community. And they are characters whom are familiar to us all, who participate in ways with which we are are also familiar. There are old ladies organising petitions in parks, the cooks of The Briny Cafe baking cakes to raise dollars, the local primary school has made a 12 ft tall paper mâché cockatoo as a mascot, a charity ball, and an art auction.

    Of course, Sam also visits the local and state politicians and even pulls an old Jack Mundy out of the hat. Remember Jack ?

    We also meet the hermit living on his delapidated yacht, the old hippy with nothing but his kombi and his saxophone, spinster sisters who haven't left the island for twenty years, and the lad with an intellectual disability who has a tangible affinity with the environment.

    Sam has a love interest with the part owner of The Briny Cafe but this is inconsequential.

    This story is a version of the movie, The Castle; how the little people can beat the big boys.

    This is an easy read and I really enjoyed the familiarity and the Aussie imagery. This one mad me laugh out loud on the train ."Glenn's back porch light was left on because he's a man who prefers to pee on his lemon tree when he gets up in the dead of night and he'd rather not step on a snake in the process".

    Oh, Susan, everybody had an Uncle just like Glenn.


  27. This is my last book for the Australian Author Challenge. Not only have I read some great books that are not of my preferred genres, I have also discovered something interesting about myself . I have learned that I read very few books written by women. In fact, I really battled to name more than half a dozen female authors. Looks like I had better put my hand up for the Women Authors Challenge next year !

    My last entry is a book by the name of How to Be Your Own Therapist - Home Remedies, by Bernadette Mercer.

    Bernadette is a Registered Nurse, Registered Teacher and qualified Natural Therapist. She has also studied Massage, Aromatherapy, Foot Reflexology, Reiki and Nutrition. She resides in SE Queensland and is still involved in the teaching of these therapies so her knowledge is current.

    This is not the type of book that you sit and read from cover to cover, but rather one that you skim through finding what is relevant to you at the time. It is a great reference that should earn its keep in your bookshelves.

    Bernadette's dedication says it all , I believe : " to people everywhere who seek good health and take responsibility for their own state of well-being".

    Firstly, this book is easy to read and there is no medical jargon. This is a huge positive,

    It is divided into two sections :
    - physical health and
    - dealing with health challenges, which is the information which peeked my particular interest.

    So I referred to the chapter Suggestions for Preventing and Combating Colds and Flu which is so very relevant at this time of year. There are fifteen suggestions listed in point form under this heading, including the obvious, such as washing your hands and keeping warm.

    And then there are the tips to boost your immunity like eating plain or Greek yoghurt, adding eucalyptus or tea tree oil to a vapouriser, and drinking a glass of red wine daily.

    This is a practical, hands-on guide for self help for over forty health challenges, from treating allergies to fighting flatulence utilising all the knowledge the author has gained throughout her nursing career and her experience with the complimentary therapies.

    On a personal level I have implemented several strategies to my lifestyle as a preventative measure. Now that's something I did not expect from this Challenge !

  28. Congratulations May! So pleased you've enjoyed the 2015 Aussie Author Challenge - we've loved having you involved and reading the reviews you've shared.

  29. Swarmthief's Dance
    Debroah J Miller, published in 2005.

    I found it at a local said it was book one of a trilogy, and I couldn't see books two or three at the time.
    Nethertheless, Book one was duly read, and stashed away where it was discoverable, should any subsequent books come to light.
    Fast forward a few years..I found a complete trilogy from another author on the sell/damaged tray at the local library. Having finished those..I did note that book three suddenly acquired series status, rather than just book three of a trilogy..and there were loose ends that could be tied into another book...however, I digress.
    This last adventure whetted the appetite for more Debroah J Miller trilogy. Library was of no help, other than say any subsequent books were unavailabe through them..So, we looked for it online. The usual suspects ( bookdepositry, Amazon etc all listed the next in the trilogy..Swarmthief's Treason..but sadly listed it as unavailable..sigh! One site actually had the picture of the cover it looks as though it was published after all that. They wanted too much money for it..more sighs!
    Upon looking further, I noted that our Debroah had had a falling out with her publisher, and decided to have this book published with somebody else. There was a blog site, that said she was thinking of putting it up on The blog site ..for free! .a favourite mentor of hers said that she had passed on from breast cancer, 2013.
    It was definitely in need of another book, it left you up in the air so to speak. Don't mind the old magic and wizards, etc. Dance scored a 6 out of ten with me.

  30. Well, they say that the quickest range between two factors is a directly range, but if you are trying to preserve power or implement the science and moves of the surroundings you are in, you need to have a much nearer look before implementing that technique of directly line'ism. If you are visiting Mars in an area pills you'll want to use severity for space, sling-shot methods, and elliptical exerciser routes through area - and that's definitely not a directly range. If you did journey in a directly range, your range would be curved regardless if you noticed With 46 Across, Mailer whodunit

  31. Joe Cinque's Consolation , A True Story of Death, Grief and The Law by Helen Garner.(2004)

    In 1997 a law student from the Australian National University in Canberra, Anu Singh held a dinner party at home for her Uni friends, and partner, Joe Cinque. That Friday night, Singh slipped a sedative into Joe's coffee and over the weekend proceeded to inject Joe with massive overdoses of heroin. Joe died in his bed on the Sunday afternoon.
    Singh and her best friend, Madhavi Rao were charged with the murder of Joe. Guests at the dinner party were aware of rumours that Singh was planning to kill Joe. Friends supplied Singh and Rao with the heroine as well as giving instructions as to how to inject the drug. Nobody bothered to warn Joe.
    Helen Garner, journalist, begins this story with a transcript of Singh's call to the Ambulance Service on that fateful Sunday afternoon. Garner then sits in on the separate court proceedings of Singh, and then Rao, and provides the details that came to light under questioning of witnesses as part of the process of the law.
    In the ACT, there is the option of being tried by a Judge only, no jury, and Singh selected this process.
    Garner interviews Singh's family, as well as the parents of the victim, Maria and Nino Cinque.
    This is a tragic story in that the Cinque's are not given a voice, and thus the title of the book.
    The details of the court proceedings are tragic as Garner gives her version of the playmakers in the courtroom and their antics.
    It is even more tragic that Singh's conviction was downgraded to Manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, and she served only four years of a ten year term, attaining a law degree whilst in custody.
    Rao was not convicted.
    Personally, I found the real tragedy to be that none of these University educated so-called friends responded to the rumours about Singh's plans. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. This distressed me more than the crime.
    In all, a great read but a truly awful story about human weakness and the short comings of the Australian legal system.

    1. Wow, this sounds like a really powerful read May, unbelievable and tragic.

  32. Wanting to know more I googled and see they have made a film of it:

    1. I'm now on the waiting list for Garner's latest book, The House of Grief. This book is about the father who drove his car into a dam in Melbourne, drowning his three sons, back in 2006.Remember that ghastly crime ?
      Had better read some froth and bubble before then. Currently reading the autobiography of actor, Tony Curtis

  33. I just can't read those sorts of books - I'm a wimp.

  34. Maralinga by Judy Nunn (2009)

    This novel is based upon an unpleasant occurrence in Australian history in the mid 1950's when the British Government was experimenting with nuclear bombs in a regional and remote area of South Australia.
    Maralinga is the British Airbase in the middle of nowhere to which young Lieutenant Daniel Gardiner is posted for twelve months on the promise of quick promotion, leaving his fiancé, Elizabeth Hoffman in the U.K.
    Elizabeth is a ground breaker in that she has fought her way up the ladder as an investigative journalist in a very male dominated industry. The story begins by following Elizabeth's acceptance into her chosen career and her developing love for Dan.
    When Dan's death on site has been classified as a suicide by the Army Elizabeth, not accepting this finding, ventures to Adelaide to ascertain the truth.
    This is where the tale becomes interesting as characters involved include an anthropologist who is concerned for the indigenous population, an MI6 operative as well as a unethical British scientist who has a distasteful view of nuclear experimentation on people. Of course there is a hero. There is always a hero !
    Nunn weaves an interesting story about the politics and the power behind the British using Australia as a nuclear testing site. I must admit to being totally ignorant about Maralinga and having read this novel I am interested to learn more. I want to confirm that the British scientists were all suited up in protective clothing whilst the Australian soldiers and pilots wore their usual uniform whilst testing was in progress. I'de like it confirmed that our Prime Minister at the time, Robert Menzies, approved nuclear testing off the coast of WA a few years earlier without letting any of his cabinet ministers know. Is it true that the Army put up signs in English warning the local aborigines of impending danger? And what a nasty little exercise to lure only young officers with a promise of promotion and money to ensure that they kept their mouths shut.
    Please do a little research on Maralinga. I think you too may be appalled.

  35. Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover (2015)

    Richard Glover is a journalist, radio jock, and writer. Many years ago I would look forward to his amusing weekly column in the paper recalling the dramas of his daily life with wife Jocasta, and sons, Bat Boy and The Space Cadet.

    Flesh Wounds is autobiographical with the focus squarely on Glover's family life in his early, formative years

    An only child he spent the first years of his life with an indigenous nanny in Papua New Guinea before moving back to Australia with his family.

    His details the decline of his family relationships with a father, a successful businessman and alcoholic, and a mother, whom is cold, narcissistic,and delusional, and whom runs off with another man.

    This could very well have been a depressing tale of woe, however Glover writes with such humour and honesty that it makes this book a pleasure to read.

    Three quarters through the book and I'm shaking my head and thinking why is the author sharing all this emotional baggage with the world. You know what ? He provides an explanation and it's "real" enough to believe and continue reading. No spoilers, sorry.

    Totally enjoyable read, though I wonder if there is an underlying element of it being good to hear of crappier parents than your own which make it so. After all Glover does instigate the dinner party game "Who has the weirdest parents?"

  36. Entry 4 for Australian Author Challenge:

    Nor The Years Condemn by Justin Sheedy (2011)

    First off, a confession. I have a soft spot for books with a military bent. My first job when fresh out of high school was with the Repatriation Department, now known as Veterans Affairs, where I interviewed ex-service personnel from multiple theatres of war spanning from WW1 to the conflict in Vietnam. These lovely old gents (and women) were still addressing me as Girlie when I was nudging thirty.

    Nor The Years Condemn, the first in a trilogy by Justin Sheedy, is a fictional account of 20 year old Sydney university student, Daniel Quinn, and the path he takes following Robert Menzies' announcement that Australia is at war (1939).

    We follow Daniel through the recruitment process, to enlistment in the Air Force, through flight training, and then to active service in England where he pilots Spitfires.We share his love of flying, the camaraderie of the young , as well as his fears and hurts during combat.

    Daniel's story is that of many young men who served their country during this time in history and is endearing on several fronts. Firstly, the author walks us through all the processes right through to operations that young men, just like Daniel, would have undertaken all those years ago gently educating readers along the way.

    Although the topic of military history may not be to everyone's taste the author has made this an enjoyable read appealing to a wider audience by making the language and sentiments of that time authentic. It is clear that he has expended considerable energies into research, and that he is also an aviation tragic. Flight and battle sequences are presented in a manner that even folk such as myself, who can't even change a light bulb due to the high level of technicality, do not find intimidating.

    Yet this is not Daniel's story alone. It is the story of mothers, of fathers, of siblings, and of sweethearts all. It is the story of nations at war, and of love and loss.

    A worthwhile read, and a great reminder of a generation that gave so much of themselves.

    I am nearly finished Book 2, Ghosts Of The Empire (2013), which features Mick O'Regan, another young Australian, this time with a working class background, who also pilots Spitfires, and whom we met in Book 1.

    Book 3, No Greater Love, is due for release in July 2016. Hurry up, Justin, and pull those Writer's pants up. I need to know what happens next.

  37. Ah, THANK YOU and just lovely to read your review of Book 1 in my trilogy, May. And such a good point you raise re War Historical Fiction not being to everybody's taste (or so they Think!): I've had just SO many women readers get back to me vowing things like: "I just loved your characters and cried in every chapter." And THAT is the ambition of this trilogy. -- Justin Sheedy

  38. Anchor Point is the debut novel of Alice Robinson. Robinson is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Melbourne Polytechnic. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Victoria University and her work has been published widely. Anchor Point has been long listed for the Stella Prize.

    Ten year old Laura takes on adult responsibilities around the family farm when her disinterested mother disappears into the bush. Laura does something foolish which shapes the rest of her life, and leads to an adolescence running the house, taking care of her younger sister, and working beside her father in the clearing of their acreage to create a farming environment.

    Her life as a teenager is one that many country kids still live to this day : fencing, birthing sheep, euthanising farm animals, and living off rabbits. As the eldest daughter she also cleans, cooks, tends the vege garden and is her father's confidant.

    It is a hard life in a harsh evironment which experiences all the forces of nature: floods, drought, dust winds and bushfires.

    After the younger sister leaves for University on a scholarship Laura heads to Sydney to study agriculture, with her father's blessing. She meets Luc, a Greenie, drops out her studies and they attempt to build a life.

    However, Laura ends up returning to the farm when her father becomes unable to manage because of Alzeihmers Disease. Luc stays in the city pursuing his political dreams.

    Laura continues her struggle to tame the farm, but the work is constant, and the climate doesn't give an inch.

    This novel, though well written, is bleak. There is no happy ending, and if you have a tendency to absorb depression through the skin give this book a wide berth. Unlike others, I did not take this as a novel about climate change, nor about sibling rivalry, nor even friendships. Rather, I sadly read this as an eldest daughter's attempt to fill all roles within her sphere - daughter, wife, sister, farmhand, chief cook and bottle washer - giving always to others and never leaving anything for herself to realise her own dreams. It's about obligation and family expectations and no thank you ! I guess I wasn't meant to be a Farmers wife.

  39. Entry Six for the Australian Author Challenge

    The River House by Janita Cunningham

    The River House is a ramshackle, basic wooden structure on blocks to avoid the tidal river waters, that serves as the holiday home of the Carlyle family. It is surrounded by bush, close to the ocean, is home to abundant wildlife, and takes the reader back to family holidays before the advent of high rise and affordable air travel. Indeed, we can feel the warmth of the sun on our shoulders and the sand between our toes such is the descriptive prose of the author.

    The story is told through Laurie, middle child of the Carlyles, commencing when she is just four years old. We watch the changing family dynamics as Laurie goes from primary to high school and onwards, various relationships, and onwards to finding her own place in the scheme of things.

    Nostalgia plays a big part in this book, as Laurie's age parallels a timeline within a familiar South East Queensland, including dance hall nights, shopping in Brisbane city in gloves, the Vietnam War, student activists, and major land developments along the east coast.

    Much is made of family secrets within this book which I think is a bit of a furphy. Look, there are no dead bodies buried under the house, no dreadful deeds have been done. Life just happens and in most part we make the best of unfortunate situations. This story includes some unfortunate situations that tend to have ramifications. No big deal - happens.

    This is an easy, gentle novel and would be great summer holiday reading as the author manages to write in a languid, relaxed style.

  40. Queensland author, Bernadette Mercer, has taken an interesting pathway on life's journey. She has been a Registered Nurse, Registered Teacher and a qualified Natural Therapist. Her additional studies include Reiki, Nutrition, Massage, Aromatherapy, Foot Reflexology and Mineral Therapy, and to this day she continues to share a wealth of knowledge by supporting students in the study of Complementary Therapies.
    This passion for health and well being resulted in the publication of Bernadette's first book, How To Be Your Own Therapist - Home Remedies, at the age of 68 years. Now in its second print, and familiar to devotees of holistic health and wellness, this book highlights the power that people have to help themselves in medical situations.
    Mercer's other passions include travel and cooking, which she has successfully combined in her latest publication, Lunch in Avignon. Originally released digitally in 2014 this series of short stories covering some of her travels both within Australia and overseas, is now available in book format. This updated version includes both the photos and recipes of some of the glorious meals she shares with us as she travels through Europe. Lemon Semolina Cake, Tarta de Santiago, Granita al Limone, Sicilian Cannoli-even the fish and chips from the Redland Bay Hotel in Brisbane sound just delightful.
    Mercer weaves her tales through destinations many of us will only dream about:the catacombs of San Calisto, travelling by train through Spain and Portugal at a time that flames from uncontrollable bush fires were traversing the tracks, to lunching on mini baguettes and pate in Avignon.
    The author shares in part her personal journey in a poem nestled between her adventures, titled Carpe Diem. It reads:

    The day the Doctor told me I might die
    Because some small genetic fault awoke
    I knew then every day now day I must
    Seize the day, not let it pass like smoke.

    Generally not a fan of the short story I found these just perfect for the public transport commute to work. We can all dream,afterall.

  41. Where Is Daniel? Bruce and Denise Morcombe as told to Lindsay Simpson.

    I don't think there would be any adult in Australia who would be unfamiliar with the tragic story of young Daniel Morcombe, abducted from a bus stop on the Sunshine Coast and later murdered, just days before Christmas in 2003. This was a crime that was constantly in the media until Daniel's killer was brought to justice over ten years later. It is a crime that remains in the public's eye following Daniel's parents creation of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation back in 2005 and which is still in existence to help educate young children and teenagers about personal safety.

    The story commences outlining the Morcombe's unremarkable family and working life on the Sunshine Coast, from family pets, household chores, family rituals etc.

    We are walked through Daniel's disappearance, to it being reported to police, and several days later, to becoming a full blown missing persons investigation.

    We meet the police who were initially involved, many of whom became constants throughout the years, learnt how family relationships were affected under pressure, and how a community pulled together to support the Morcombe's throughout this ordeal.

    This is a very honest story and details Denise's heartbreak, turning to alcohol for support, as well as the strength of both parents to continue their quest in the search for their son including investigations they undertook privately.

    We follow the creation of the Foundation, numerous police investigations, the covert operation to catch the killer, and finally a much loved family member is laid to rest.

    With all the media attention given to Daniel's disappearance was this book worth the read? Most certainly. It is a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit and is a reminder of all that is good. It is well written, and though portraying some distasteful situations, at all times remains respectful.


    Me and Rory McBeath by Richard Beasley

    Jake is twelve years old and his whole world is Rose Avenue, the neighbourhood of his childhood. Jake shares with us his love of kicking a ball around with his mate from across the road, Robbie, and long summer holidays in the suburbs. He shares with us information about his neighbourhood in just the way any twelve year old would : who has big boobs, which neighbour refuses to relinquish the footballs that go over the back fence during play, and those who are elderly or whom are not so child friendly.

    Jake is unsettled when a new boy, Rory McBeath, moves into the street. Dynamics between Robbie and Jake shift, and though Glasgow born Rory has different interests, we watch the development of their friendship even though all their lives are in a state of change as the boys head off to different high schools and influences.

    Is this sounding very much like children's literature? Believe me, it's not. The story telling is languid, and the author's images of long, hot Adelaide summers ring true:
    days of cricket, riding bikes, swimming at the local pool, and flowering Jacarandas and sunburn. Indeed, we can "see" Jake, Robbie and Rory when they go fishing for King George Whiting and Tommy Ruff with Robbie's Dad, a policeman. We can "see" Jake's mum, Harry, a barrister, with a wine in one hand and a ciggie in the other.

    Besides, all is not what it seems in Rose Avenue as we later discover. The neighbourhood is rocked by a crime which changes the dynamics of its inhabitants forever. It is a crime that emanates from truely despicable circumstances from behind closed doors. It is a crime that brings Rory and Jake closer but also separates them.

    This is a coming of age novel which evokes memories of Aussie childhoods. Great read!

  43. In Love and War,Nursing Heroes by Liz Byrski

    Liz Byrski was born in the UK and immigrated to Australia in 1981 where she gained employment as a journalist. She has worked as a television presenter, book reviewer, policy advisor to the Western Australian Government and is the author of numerous fiction novels aimed squarely at women in their latter years.
    I recently stumbled upon an interesting Byrski book at a charity store which covers a period of history in which I have long held an interest, the Royal Air Force during World War 2.
    In Love and War, Nursing Heroes is the author's personal journey back to her childhood in East Grinstead in Sussex at the end of the war. In this part memoir, part investigative quest, we learn of the author's fears as a young girl of being kidnapped by the disfigured men in her hometown and how these childhood nightmares continued into her latter years.
    East Grinstead was the location of the Queen Victoria Hospital which had a major Burns Specialist Ward following the Battle of Britain. Many of the patients were air crew who suffered dreadfully and required specialist attention from the pioneering cosmetic surgeon, Archibald McIndoe. McIndoe established revolutionary new technological and therapeutic procedures to assist these burns victims to reclaim their lives, which included encouraging the local community to ask these men into their lives at home dinners and dances.
    Mcindoe's patients banded together to form the Guinea Pig Club, which as in many organisations for returned servicemen played a huge role in the rehabilitation of these men.
    The title of this book refers to investigations undertaken by the author regarding the nursing staff. Nurses were also encouraged by McIndoe to form friendly relationships and fraternise with their patients, as part of the rehabilitation process. Sixty years after the war Byrski chats with some of these women, some who still remember that this unconventional form of nursing was often difficult and to their own detriment.
    I had no previous knowledge of the Guinea Pig Club and Byrski's book led me to follow up with further research. Did you know there were nearly 100 Australian Guinea Pigs?
    Fascinating stuff.

    1. Sorry I've not been on for AGES but will not list my excuses ....
      May, you seem to be doing a grand job of keeping this site going.
      I've only read one novel by Liz Byrski called "A Gang of Four" and that was a few years ago and don't remember anything about it at all!
      I must look out for something by Bernadette Mercer as I love to read people's account of their travels. And I've always wanted to go to Avignon!

  44. Entry 11 in The Australian Author Challenge.
    DO YOU REMEMBER? by Heletyl

    This recently released book is aimed squarely at those with an interest in Personal Growth. I am quite familiar with this genre as many New Age books cross my work desk on a daily basis.

    The premise of Do You Remember? is that by returning to, and understanding our memories we can then grow into our authentic self. For example, during childhood events can be upsetting, though as we are not mature enough to deal with those feelings we put them aside, thus starting a pattern that may continue throughout the rest of our lives. This book is a reminder that we can look back to the good memories and take things from those, as well as turning bad memories into positive experiences by understanding behavioural patterns derived from unpleasant situations.

    "The book has been designed to help people of all ages identify and re-evaluate their feelings so that they can live a full and aware life. It will also help them to cope with stress, grief and change."

    I appreciate that this may be a confrontational concept if you are not comfortable with examining your self. However, the author has successfully delivered this message in a simplistic and jargon-free manner in an effort to appeal to a wide audience, particularly those who generally don't reach for a Self Help book at the library or local bookstore.

    It is a slim volume of 23 pages, though I believe that this is in no way to its detriment. It clearly delivers a message, and then follows up with exercises which can be practised from the comfort of your own home. These include Mindfulness Meditations, Gratitude and tips on verbalising and Sharing Thoughts.

    There is no information about the author which I personally found disconcerting as most books of this nature include a flowery biography. It is quite clear that Heletyl has researched her topic by citing references to numerous readings, and does have a passion for both mental and spiritual health.

    Books are available from,, and"

  45. Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

    Clay Jannon is a twenty something tech head who was made redundant during the global financial crisis and finds himself short of funds and house sharing. Desperate to get back into the workforce he accepts the night shift position in a decidedly odd bookstore, a bookstore with only a few totally eccentric customers. Using his computer skills he learns the secrets of this bizarre little book store, full of first editions and other rarities.
    This book is really interesting in that the author accurately captures the fun of modern young adults and is very "now", whilst on the other hand, has an appreciation of books and their beginnings.
    It's a fast paced read and one which should raise the odd smile or two. Unless, like me, you wake up in the middle of the night only to find the novel shining. That's right - the book cover glows in the dark. Says a lot really"


  46. Book 12 in Australian Author Challenge 2016

    Error Australis by Ben Pobjie

    Confession. I hail from a family of Latin quoting, history loving, and mathematically inclined athletes. Of course I rebelled. Lousy at all of the above and proud of it.
    So it came as a shock when a friend presented me with this recently published book as a gift which is based on Australian history.

    Pobjie, who studied history at university, writes both comedy and political satire, as well as being a TV columnist. Error Australis is the author's recapping of Australian history, starting from the origin of the land mass, combined with pop culture. The first line in the book sets the tone: "The origins of Australia, much like the popularity of Scotty Cam, are shrouded in mystery".

    Each chapter covers a period of Australian history, from the landing of the First Fleet, to Federation, covering World Wars, Rum Rebellions, the proliferation of Merino sheep, right up to the current state of affairs with Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister.

    The author's comments about the landing on Gallipoli in 1915 are indicative of his irreverent humour. "And we got an award-winning and seminal moment in domestic cinema out of it, which is more than you can say for Turkey, whose technical victory at The Nek did nothing to launch Mel Gibson's career."

    Although the humour does make the dry topic of history easily digestible, I had to put the book down on several occasions as it was just too much. You know, like when you are in the audience of a comedy show and the skits just keep coming at you. Did my head in.

    I particularly enjoyed the Essay Questions at the end of each chapter, just like those in ghastly text books from high school days. After the chapter on Australian bushrangers the question was : " Would modern criminals be more popular if they wore buckets on their heads? Discuss with specific reference to Carl Williams, Christopher Skase and Paul from Neighbours."

    There is truth in Pobjie's history, and I admit to learning more about Bligh and Macarthur in a few pages than seemingly days looking at chalk on a blackboard all those years ago.

    Some of the humour grates, some tends towards the private school boy variety, and some is simply hilarious. I will forever retain this image - " (Tony) Abbott made history as not only the firmest-pectoralled prime minister Australia had ever had, but also as the one most likely at any given time to lick your face."

    Good for a laugh.