My Wicked, Wicked Weekend With Errol

With the impending departure of the LOML overseas – ooops, that would be
to the bosom of his family in Tasmania – a girl has planned an Errol Flynn movie marathon.

Commencing this nod to the senses with Elizabeth and Essex, a movie that traumatised me as a child. Witnessing Errol Flynn getting his head chopped off could easily have pushed me towards a life of crime as I spent many happy months decapitating my Barbie dolls as a consequence. Bette Davis playing Queen Elizabeth 1 set herself up beautifully for her later Award winning performance in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane with the original resting bitch face.

I’ll be following this with The Adventures of Robin Hood. One of Errol’s first movies and clad in Lincoln Green a girl does like a man with a big sword. Sadly this movie too was destroyed by the female protagonist in the form of a young Olivia De Havilland, playing Maid Marion. I’m sure Olivia is a lovely person – she’s still alive, you know, and living in France – but oh so insipid and sweet. I felt she always deserved a good belt in the chops.

 

Having by this time resolved any lingering anger management issues Gentleman Jim Corbett will follow, with our local hero playing a pugilist of Irish extraction who takes on World Heavyweight Champion, John L Sullivan, played by Ward Bond. The feisty uptown girl, Alexis Smith, plays the love interest and gives as good as she gets. Lots of laughs in this one and the collection of bit players contribute to making this viewing a truly joyful experience.

Right. My favourite of all Flynn movies: The Dawn Patrol. This is an old black and white about the futility of war with Errol playing a fly boy during WW1. Such a serious and sad topic delivered with bravado by Errol, real life mate David Niven, and Basil Rathbone. I saw this on the big screen for the 100th birthday celebration for Flynn in his birth town of Hobart, Tasmania, and it was spectacular, particularly as my daughter was shouting the champagnes.

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Why have I brought this up? I recently came upon a first edition, hardback cover of Flynn’s autobiography, My Wicked Wicked Ways. This is the uncensored version which I had not previously read. I was disappointed with the original, though not because of the stuff that was later cut. The sexy bits were tame when compared to today’s reads. It was the sloppy ramblings that disappointed.

The wine is chilled and the chick peas roasted. Here’s to the latter balancing out the former. Salute.

Holey Mackeral : Christian Fiction.

I’ve just finished my first “Christian Fiction” novel, which wasn’t a bad read. The story line was reasonable and the characters were fleshed out. However, as a Christian Fiction virgin I admit to having been shocked when I came across my first quote from the Scriptures embedded in the story line. What the ? Honestly, I did raise my eyebrows on the train trip into work. By the fifth or sixth quote I had the hang of it and the eyebrows remained firmly secure.

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Photo from GOT – Game Of Thrones – which is pretty close to GOD

Christian Fiction. When did this even become a thing?

I know Food Fiction is quite big these days as is Chick Lit. In Australia we also enjoy Chook Lit, which are novels based on women in a rural environment. Lots of blue jeans, heaps of dust, and a kelpie or two. Is this an Australian phenomena I am wondering?

Having been brought up by parents who believed there were three topics never to be discussed in public – religion, politics, and sex – I find myself unable to write a review of this book.

I leave you with this instead:

A boy is selling fish on a corner. To get his customers’ attention, he is yelling, “Dam fish for sale! Get your dam fish here!” A pastor hears this and asks, “Why are you calling them ‘dam fish.'” The boy responds, “Because I caught these fish at the local dam.” The pastor buys a couple fish, takes them home to his wife, and asks her to cook the dam fish. The wife responds surprised, “I didn’t know it was acceptable for a preacher to speak that way.” He explains to her why they are dam fish. Later at the dinner table, he asks his son to pass the dam fish. He responds, “That’s the spirit, Dad! Now pass the f*cking potatoes!” (courtesy Laugh Factory.com)

The Biggest Reading Disappointment This Year.

I don’t enjoy bagging books or those who write them. God knows I have enough trouble writing my name on a cheque, so who am I to play critic?

Having just panned Goodoo Goodoo in a previous review I am also feeling it important to comment on the biggest disappointment as far as books are concerned this year – so far.

No, it’s not the hormones, nor I am I becoming a crotchety old bugger having just loved The Pink Floyd Spectacular currently touring Australia. If you want to put it down to the full moon or planets not being aligned, well that’s okay. Personally, I just thought the writing sucked and the author did a rush job to meet contract requirements.

Paula Hawkins’ book, Into The Water, was not a patch on The Girl On The Train. The latter was not really my kind of book but the author fleshed out the characters and told a good yarn and so deservedly became a bestseller.

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Not so With Into The Water which opens with a woman bound and drowned in the river running through town at the hands of hostile men. Jules Abbott has returned to her home town following the apparent suicide of her estranged sister. She’s nominally in charge of a teenage niece she doesn’t know and the house where the events that drove her and her sister apart took place. Jules can’t believe that her sister, who loved wild swimming in the river that runs through the town, would throw herself off a cliff to death by water. And it soon becomes clear that there are disturbing currents beneath the surface of this small town.

The characters lacked depth, the structure became confusing, and it all became “too hard” and who cares?

I’m not going to mention the Liane Moriarty novels that I find as boring as batshit, and promise to be better humoured next time.

Which books have you found to be a disappointment this year? And be honest :-sometimes I am sure it is all the marketing hype that makes a book unable to live up to expectations, aren’t you?

 

Australian Author Challenge 2017 – Goodoo Goodoo by Robert G Barrett

Back in the 1980’s I read Robert G Barrett’s first novel, “You Wouldn’t Be Dead For Quids”. This novel featured a laconic Australian character by the name of Les Norton, who worked as a bouncer, enjoyed a beer, sport, and women. Les was one for solving mysteries and getting into scrapes.

I’ve just read the 12th Les Norton novel in the series, Goodoo Goodoo, and in all those years he hasn’t matured any. Now working as a security guard and house sharing with a pothead in Bondi, his interests remain the same.

For the first 70 pages of this book we relive a couple of days with Les: a guest performance at a radio station, meeting up with an ex in a bar in Bondi, a holiday in Cairns for the purpose of whitewater rafting, picking up a young thing with a new age bent for some boisterous sex, and a pub brawl.

We finally move onto Cooktown where Les is looking into the disappearance of two scuba divers off the Barrier Reef. There are more beers, Jack Daniels, brawls and scrapes, and the mystery is solved in less pages than the lead up with a conclusion that I suspect is tempered by the damage done to the brain cells by all the booze consumed.

I understand that this is contemporary writing, though even I was a bit shocked by the continual expletives used, especially coming from the female characters.

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Is Les still the laconic Aussie, or just a boring bogon? Initially I was concerned it was just me getting”old” , but upon reflection, I think it’s Norton getting boring. The conversations between Norton and his pickup, the Rainbow Princess, were neither fun nor clever.

I was extremely disappointed with this read. It reminded me of one of those cheap paperbacks you could buy thirty years ago that was relegated to a box of reading material kept in the outhouse, the kind of reading that was then relegated to the boot of the car in case you were caught short and needed to do a “bushie”. Yes, as Les would say, this book was crap.

Australian Author Challenge,2017 : The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay

This book had me at the second paragraph on Page 1:

” It could be any day,any year: call it 1935, 1938, 1945, or somewhere decades away in her future. Perhaps it’s the day after her wedding, the day after her daughter’s birth, the last day of the war, the last day of her life. Whenever it is, Anikka Lachlan is reading, swallowed by the shapes and spaces made by rows of dark letters on pale paper. She wets one finger, not slowly, but absently, and moves it to turn the next page”.

This novel is based in Thirroul, on the NSW South Coast in 1948 and is essentially the tale of three locals who are coming to terms with loss and moving forwards.

Annika loses her husband in a rail accident, and is offered a position in the Railway Library which she accepts in an endeavour to support herself and young daughter. Roy McKinnon has survived the atrocities of WW2 during which he successfully wrote War poetry and is now unable to return to his previous occupation of school teacher as he is so “damaged” that he is also unable to write words in a time of peace. Frank Draper has returned to Thirroul as the local Doctor where prior to the War he courted Roy’s sister. He too is damaged having witnessed the concentration camps of Europe and carries guilt about the lives he was unable to save.

Although this novel tells the story before these three characters engage it is basically an account of how all three move forward over the ensuing twelve months, how they struggle to regain their lives, and how they touch each other’s lives.

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The book moves at a quick pace, and despite the sadness these characters carry, there is much beauty, thanks to the visuals created by the author.

” They catch her unawares this year, these profusion of colour- purple first, when the jacarandas begin to bloom, and then the deep red of Illawarra flame trees.They follow each other into being, bursting out along the coast and up the escarpment. The jacaranda comes with the spring; the flame, a little later, lasts a little longer. They mark Ani’s months; they mark her year”.

Having spent a great deal of time in this part of the world growing up I also found this novel quite nostalgic with its descriptions of the scenery on the rail journey from Thirroul to Sydney, and of the beautiful beaches and rectangular pools at Austinmer.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy this book at all. I anticipated lots of wishywashy soul searching and wringing of hands. However, I loved this book. This is why the Australian Author Challenge is a buzz.

Australian Author Challenge: Lancaster Men by Peter Rees

In June 2012, the Bomber Command Memorial was dedicated in London. Those present witnessed 55,573 poppies tumbling from a Lancaster, one for every Bomber Command man killed during the war, the iconic red flower symbolising the souls of those lost to Bomber Command operations during World War 2.

Australian journalist of long standing, Peter Rees, mingled with the 106 Australian survivors attending this event, and went on to write this book as a collective experience of the Australians who fought, survived and died in the RAF’s bomber war.

This book works as Rees has made so many of these stories personal. We meet the air crew in training camps and learn what made them join up. We meet some of their families and their sweethearts. We meet their mates in the RAF and learned how they took care of each other in times of much stress. We hear how many of these young men never made it home.

It covers mundane occurrences such as writing home to sweethearts, first ops, the drinking culture, and living life as if there were no tomorrow. It also mentions planes crashing into the sea, air crew as Prisoners of War, and so many of their heroic deeds.

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There are many historical references to the war, including the Dambusters, Pathfinders, the bombing of Dresden, and even a mention of Q for Queenie’s cheeky flight under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The name of the book is a bit of a misnomer, as many of these fly boys also flew Halifaxes, Wellington’s, and Stirlings.

You don’t have to be either a military or aviation fan to enjoy this book. It’s a good read with the historical background not being overly dry. Indeed, much of it was very interesting. I learned that many of those that served in Bomber Command were treated with disdain by other exservicemen at wars end as they were considered “Jap Dodgers” who were “hiding over in England”.

Well worth the read.

Book Clubs: Yes or No?

Reading is a wonderful hobby, an activity that can carry you across different times, a variety of worlds, and the full gamut of emotions. Who out there can put their hand up and admit to never having cried nor laughed along with a character in a good story?

But reading is a solitary activity too. Although “alone time” is sometimes mandatory allowing an escape from pressures such as work, study, recalcitrant husbands and even Life, there is a difference between being a Loner and enjoying “alone time”.

Sometime ago I joined my first book club which convened once a month at the Local Library. I enjoyed these gatherings as my introduction to a group reading the same book was not overly intense. Indeed some people whom attended did not even bother to read the designated book, nor any book. Lots of Dickens’ and Austens’. It was purely a social occassion that left me feeling pretty unsociable.

So I joined another group of readers who included a coordinated Reading Journal for note taking in their nominal membership fee. I liked the ambiance that these Journals created, full of prompts, tips and even recipes, and felt that I had found my niche.

Determined to fit in I made a determined effort to read the nominated books of many different genres. It pushed me out of my reading comfort zone, and I was overjoyed to see not one single classic listed as compulsory reading.

Six months in and I was struggling with the 1,369 page Fantasy novel by George R R Martin, A Game Of Thrones, the first in the GOT series. Not my genre, not my cup of tea, just not, not, not. I must admit to being as pleased as punch when I finally completed the task and sat down to write cohesive notes in my coordinated Reading Journal, full of tips, prompts, and recipes, that would adequately indicate my understanding of the themes, metaphors and subplots within this novel.

You cannot imagine just how pissed off I was having discovered I was the only person to actually wade through the wretched book. Page by bloody page. Everyone else had “watched it on Foxtel”.

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With work and commitments I then participated in an online book club forum which went really for a few years. It was so much easier to disagree about authors and themes with the anonymity of a pseudenom. Along the way I made some life long friends who also enjoyed catching up at book sales and coffee, though sadly, life is short. Shorter for some than others.

Feeling the need for some social activity once again as this miserable cold winter tends to send us all into semi hibernation I’ve just come across a new book club that sounds worth a try. It’s a group ” for wine drinkers with a serious reading problem.”

You never know – the liquid refreshments just may encourage another foray into the classics.

Do you have a book club experience to share?

Australian Author Challenge 2017: No Greater Love by Justin Sheedy

Despite four years of high school Geography my knowledge of Malta is minimal. A second generation Maltese lad asked me out on a date to Wentworth Park Greyhounds way back in the 1970’s. That sums up my experience of Malta.

Did you know that the bravery of the Maltese people during World War 2 moved King George V1 to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis ” to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”?

I gained an insight into Malta’s history after reading No Greater Love by Justin Sheedy. This is the final novel in the author’s WW2 Historical Fiction trilogy. In last years Challenge I reviewed Nor The Years Condemn and have since read Ghosts Of The Empire. Although all three are stand alone novels sharing the theme of young Australians travelling to the other side of the world to fight for the Empire, the characters are interconnected.

Colin Stone is a loner, starting out living in orphanages and graduating with street smarts. He joins the RAAF on impulse to escape a crime he committed on the seedy streets of Melbourne. We follow Stone as he progresses through the Empire Air Training School, learns to fly in Canada, and then heads to Malta as a exceptionally talented Spitfire pilot.

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Malta played an important role for the Allies; being a British colony, situated close to Sicily and the Axis shipping lanes, Malta was bombarded by the Italian and German air forces. Malta was used by the British to launch attacks on the Italian navy and had a submarine base. It was also used as a listening post, intercepting German radio messages.

Stone takes part in the Battle of Malta in which 60 German aircraft are gunned down with a loss of only one three Spitfires. We gain insight into the hardships the locals are experiencing via Stone’s friendship with a local lass and an Italian POW who Chefs.

Transferred to North Africa to fly Hurricanes for “the Tin-openers”, or tank busters,( Rommel’s Panzas), we join Stoney as an ace pilot, as a POW shot down by the Germans, plucked out of the water by a Sicilian fishing trawler after his plane was gunned down, and then to England to participate in D Day operations.

This is a fast paced book that covers a lot of ground, touching on Bletchley Park, the specialist hospital for Flyer burns victims at East Grinstead, as well as operations in the North African Desert. Daniel Quinn from Book 1 joins Stoney towards the end of this novel and it is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.

You don’t have to be a fan of military novels to enjoy No Greater Love.This story covers all genres: a bit of history, a touch of travel guide, a smidgen of romance, some Boys Own adventure, a little crime, and a good dose of humour.

Loved it. And yes, now seriously considering a holiday to Malta. You have to admit that means that a book has had an affect on you, right?

 

Australian Author, Bernadette Mercer, seizing the day……

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 wellbeing 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 a medical situation.

Mercer’s other passions include travel and cooking, which she successfully combined in her next 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.

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We learn something of the author’s motivations 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.

Star of Aqualinia, a fantasy-sci fi novel, was released earlier this year, and I believe that Mercer is currently working on the sequel.Please refer for a review : -http://www.bcmercer.com/book/

I would suggest that this Australian author is most certainly seizing the day.

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Australian Author Challenge: Life Or Death by Michael Robotham

The local Library was having a sale of some well worn books recently. Five dollars for a bag of books. Who could blame me?

I have enjoyed Michael Robotham’s writings previously and admit to a wee crush on one of his characters, Clinical Psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin, who is fighting both Parkinson’s Disease and a marriage breakdown.

Life Or Death is not part of the O’Loughlin series of novels. Although originally disappointed, this book grabbed my attention immediately.

Audie Palmer has spent a decade in prison for armed robbery involving the death of four people and millions of dollars which are still missing. The night before his release date Audie escapes via the prison sewerage system.

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His only confidante within the prison walls is long time inmate, Moss Webster, who is removed from the prison by the authorities in the middle of the night, and is given the task of locating Audie or suffer the consequences.

Through Moss we learn of Audie’s history whilst incarcerated, surviving continual beatings and attempts on his life from other prisoners and guards alike, as well as the mans integrity and inner strength. We follow Audie in his pursuit which also gives us a good picture of his character as he interacts with people in different situations. We learn of Audie’s background through flashbacks, and by the middle of the book we are cheering Audie on. Go Audie!

Audie Palmer is not on the run, we discover. Audie Palmer is trying to save a life, and it’s not his!

This book is well worth the read. There are plenty of twists to the tale and the characterisations contribute to the readers need to follow the story to its conclusion. It is fast paced and the author manages to set the scene without being over wordy. Life Or Death reminded me at times of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, with Audie Palmer as the Andy Du Paine character, and with Moss as Red, sharing many similarities.

An easy and enjoyable read. Now, when is the next Joe O’Loughlin please?