Books As Gifts For Christmas

Okay, so I may have been too busy to do much reading with the lead up to Christmas. That certainly doesn’t mean that I have been too preoccupied to visit bookshops. Afterall, books make great gifts and I do make an effort with my selections.

And yes, you heard right: bookstores. I love them and am dreadfully old school in that I go out of my way to support local business. I must confess to some internet purchases for my Errol Flynn collection but the whole online thing (generally) holds no appeal.

Anyway, here’s a preview of some of my purchases:

For the Son-in-Law In the Defence Forces:


For the Son-in- Law’s Wife or Daughter Numero Uno:

A27CD6C9-ADD1-4378-BC3C-136E49778369 Continue reading “Books As Gifts For Christmas”


2017 Reading List -Done and Dusted.


I surrender. * waving white flag.

With the constant summer humidity, work demands, and Christmas Festivities I am unable to participate in any more reading this year. My head is too full and the old bod is tired.

For the next few weeks, until we get past the day when the jolly man in the red suit arrives, I will only be reading News Updates on the tablet, or watching DVDs under the cool of the ceiling fans, chilled G and T in hand.

And of course, the blogs of wonderful people out  there in blog world. Thank you to all for sharing some truly interesting stuff, the stuff that makes you laugh, cry, think, informs and takes you back to places you had forgotten.

Oh, I might read a cookbook or two. Every summer it is nice to present a new dish to the Christmas table. This summers on trend salad seems to be anything with watermelon in it. Watermelon, mint and Kalamata Olives? Not sure if that will satisfy any of the blokes at the table…..

The only Reading Challenge I participate in is the Australian Author Challenge : books by Aussie Authors. Book numbers hold no appeal.  I find I don’t enjoy reading when it comes to key performance indicators – blame too many years working in Customer Service……

As Frank Zappa once said, “too many books, too little time”. If a book doesn’t grab me within twenty pages they get the flick. It’s my lack of concentration and focus. They didn’t make it to the list.

There is no TBR List. Life is too bloody short. I read what I want to read, and a psychoanalyst would be hard pressed to determine why some reads tickle my fancy at the times that they do.

The pile of books at the end of my bed continues to grow, though to celebrate the end of the year my bedside table is finally clear, allowing more room for cards, letters, and that teapot full of divine sustenance.


In summary, my reading year has again been full of surprises. Coming across a book by total accident that included my Dad’s war history absolutely threw me, anything by Hannah Kent is five star, and I quite enjoyed a couple of “girlie” novels too. Putting that down to old age, hey?

I’m sure a chilled something is calling. So until then, may Santa bring you a heap on new books, and more importantly, the time to enjoy them……..

Star of Aqualina – B C Mercer.
Beach Music – Pat Conroy.
Rogue Lawyer – John Grisham
Perfume – Patrick Suskind.
A Taste of Romance – Anthology -Lauren James
The Good People – Hannah Kent.
Four Godly Kingdoms -Matthew Reilly.
The Crossroad – Mark Donaldson.
Touchstone – Laurie R King
Midsummer Garden – Kirsty Manning.
Jack – Margaret Szalay.
Touchstone – Laurie King
Short and Tall Tales – Lillian Jackson Braun.
Arthur’s War – Arthur Bancroft.
Other People’s War- Justin Sheedy.
X – Sue Grafton.
Down The Dirt Roads – Rachael Treasure.
The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller – Carol Baxter
Truly Madly Guilty- Liane Moriarty.
All that is lost between us – Sara Foster.
The Blasphemer – John Ling.
MaNamaras Woman – Lisa Gardner.
The Big Score – Peter Corris
Falling – Emma Kavanagh.
The Prophecy of Bees – R S Pateman.
The Big Score – Peter Corris
The Chocolate Tin – Fiona Macintosh.
Under the Spanish Stars – Alli Sinclair.
My Wicked, Wicked Ways – Errol Flynn.
My Fathers War – Sophie Masson.
Girl in The Water – Paula Hawkins.
Dead or Alive – Michael Rowbottham.
The Farmers Wife – Rachael Treasure.
Food, Sex, Money – Liz Byrski.
Q is for Quarry – Sue Grafton.
Miracle Cure – Harlan Coben.
Lancaster Men – Peter Rees.
The Railway Man’s Wife – Ashley Hay.
Memories of a Go Go Dancer.
Goodoo Goodoo – Robert G Barrett.
The Good Daughter – Karen Slaughter.
You Sent Me A Letter – Lucy Dawson
Trial By Fire – Terri Blackstone.
Quentin, Not All Super Heros Wear Capes- Quentin Kenihan.
50 Bales of Hay – Rachael Treasure.
Rain music – Di Morrissey.
Ghost Children – Sue Townsend.
The Secret She Keeps – Michael Robotham.
The Distant Hours – Kate Moreton.
Memoirs of a Go Go Dancer – Justin Sheedy.
The Killer On The Wall – Emma Kavanagh.
The Rattled Bones – S M Parker.
The Museum of Modern Love – Heather Rose.
Wattle Creek – Fiona McCallum.
The Beach Cafe – -Lucy Diamond.
The House At Evelyn’s Pond – Wendy Orr.
Camino Island- John Grisham.
The Dry- Jane Harper.
Perfect – Cecilia Ahearn.
V Is For Vengeance -Sue Grafton.
The Patterson Girls- Rachael johns.
Memoirs – Lindsay O’Brien.
The Happiest Refugee – Ahn Do
Sandakan – Paul ham.
Paper Towns – John Green.
Thirsty, memoir of. Fame Whore – Joel Creasy
Reversal – Michael Connelly.
A Memoir – Peter Fitzsimons.
Mercy – Jodie Piccoult.
Saving Grace. – Fiona McCallum.
Time will Tell – Fiona McCallum.

The New Baby Shower : No More Nappies On Dolls, Woot Woo!

When my generation were busy having their babies there was no such thing as a Baby Shower. I don’t remember having the disposable income in those years as they were the days of 17 and 18 per cent interest rates, which made mortgage repayments a priority.

There wasn’t a need for many gadgets to help raise a newborn back then. A plastic bath, a cot and a stroller and car seat. These days babies seem to require just so many more bit and pieces, many thermatically sealed and sanitised. My rather stoic mother-in-law used to say that “ women have been having babies since the dinosaurs and they( babies) have survived”.

There was also an element of “bad luck” associated with Baby Showers and celebrating a new born before its actual arrival. However, the “wetting the head” celebrations were extensive once Junior made an appearance all safe and sound.

Baby showers seemed to have evolved since then, as social gatherings for womenfolk with sandwiches and scones and dirty nappy party games, to dinners for mixed company, and to the current trend of the Reveal Party. This is when a group of friends gather socially to learn the sex of the expected child. Yes, I am shaking my head in wonder too, though I am putting this down to becoming crantakerous as I slide into old age……….

Several acquaintances are expecting in the New Year. For all my curmudgeonly ways, a new life still excites me, although babies, per se are a bore.  It is the prospect of new beginnings, of the hope that an innocent offers. Sounds like a Hallmark Greeting Card, doesn’t it?


I have been invited to a social function with a request to bring a book with a note inscribed on the inside from myself, for the imminent eminent.

This is such a delightful notion that I am loving revisiting the Children’s Section in bookstores.

Australian Author, Mem Fox, has been busy creating awareness that reading to our Little People helps their growth, education, and love of learning. These are Mem’s Top Ten Reading Commandments.

0. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud. From birth!
0. Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times!
0. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
0. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners
0. Read the stories that your child loves, over and over, and over again, and always read in the same ‘tune’ for each book: i.e. with the same intonations and volume and speed, on each page, each time.
0. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games
0. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.
0. Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.
0. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.
0. Please read aloud every day because you just adore being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.

Chook Lit – Fiona McCallum Style – & A Virus.

After my wonderful trip to beautiful Tasmania I was felled by the dreaded virus. Went down like a bag of spuds, and as weak as a kitten, I was unable to do much of anything. Could not even focus on an Errol Flynn DVD – how tragic is this!

So, I downloaded a couple of books from the Library, despite several piles of reading material at the end of the bed. The brain craved Fluff. Pure Fluff. My head could not manage anything else.

Enter Australian Author, Fiona McCallum, who grew up in Cleve on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. She is a graduate of Deakin University with a Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing). After brief stints in administration, marketing, and recruitment, Fiona started Content Solutions, a consultancy providing professional writing and editing services to the corporate sector. McCallum, totally new to me, writes Chick Lit, a genre of fiction that is of specific interest to women. You know: heartache, resilience, strength, love and all that Jazz.

McCallum’s writing strength reflects on her upbringing in rural Australia, as Chook Lit, or romantic fiction based in regional and rural areas, is one of the fastest growing genres and is popular with both city and country readers alike.

Indeed, real chooks do appear in these novels as part of the scenery, as do other features of outback life—utes, B & S balls, kelpies, cattle, rodeos, home preserving, big rigs, and Blunnies. Certainly a sense of humour is present; you can find innuendo about the size of a bloke’s tractor, for instance.


Saving Grace is Book 1 in McCallum’s Button Jar Trilogy, and Grace is a young pup purchased as a house dog for the farmers wife, as opposed to a working dog. Emily Oliphiant is the farmers wife, who leaves her husband, supposedly the wealthiest landowner in the district, and suffers a lot of small town gossip and harassment, particularly from her own mother who has concerns about her own standing within the local community. Emily gains some independence and by the end of the book is making jam for sale at the Melbourne markets.


Book 2 is Time Will Tell and focuses on Emily regaining her own life and chasing her own dreams including a renovation of an property. Of course, a new love interest wearing R M Williams is introduced, there is lots more jam making from produce on the property, and the exhusband dies in a car crash.

Folks, this is the point when I knew my fever had broken and I had regained my senses. Still playing the victim, still a hormonal mess. Give it up, Emily, you insipid creature….

So, I went to download Book 3 to see what is next in store for young Emily. Will she finally tell her mother to butt out? Will she finally find enough money to pay for a legal consult with a lawyer? Will this woman ever stop bitching?

Meant To Be will be available from my local Library in January 2018. Of course I can hardly wait to see if Emily drowns in her own Apricot Jam.

Book Review: A Simpler Time by Peter Fitzsimons

Peter Fitzsimons’ original claim to fame was as a Wallaby player that got sent off the field during a game against the All Blacks. He went on to sports journalism where he was known by some of the older generation, such as my father, as a “boofhead” and a “mug lair”. Personally, I had no opinion. Afterall, who cares about Rugby Union?

Still very much an Australian celebrity and much sort after as a Speaker on the After Dinner circuit, he is also married to a high profile television personality.


Puts you off a bit, doesn’t it?

However, Fitzsimons is also the author of numerous books, including sporting biographies and books about Australian icons such as Charles Kingsford-Smith. ( Any Aussie millenials will be saying “who”).

Fitzsimons was also Australia’s bestselling non fiction writer early in the decade with his military history books, Kokoda and Tobruk. Both these books brilliantly retold history in such a manner that even non traditional readers of war books, particularly women, rushed to learn more of both these frightening episodes affecting Australians during World War 2. Kokoda will forever remain a personal favourite detailing the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea, just north of our coastline, and the Australians’ efforts at turning the tide of that war. Not a book review, merely a friendly reminder that this is a tale of the Kokoda Track, not Trail as some on the other side of the world would have us believe. Repeat after me : Track. Track. Track.

The story of The Rats of Tobruk is also a great read, although somewhat dry. Not surprising given the geography I guess. ( That’s a joke. I’m not good at jokes)

My holiday reading this trip was A Simpler Time, A Memoir of Love, Laughter, Loss and Billycarts by Fitzsimons, published in 2010.

The blurb on the back cover says it all:

Peter Fitzsimons’s account of growing up on the rural outskirts of Sydney in the 1960’s is first and foremost a tribute to family. But it is also a tribute to times and generations past, when praise was understated but love unstinting; work was hard and values clear; when people stood by each other in adversity.

Above all, in the Fitzsimons home, days were for doing. In this rollicking and often hilarious memoir, Peter describes a childhood of mischief, camaraderie, eccentric characters, drama- and constant love and generosity. The childhood of a simpler time.”

This book brought back so many of my own memories, of fathers who had survived a war rebuilding their lives by creating families on Blocks in the bush ( and yes, millennials, sixty years ago Lugarno in Sydney was bushland and not much more), of outdoor dunnies before sewerage was connected in the 70’s, and of long nights before television. More importantly, I too have fond memories of times spent with eccentric Aunts and Uncles ( thinking brothers Bill and Ray) and growing up in the shadows of cousins.


This is a delightful tale told with heart. As with all families there is bad with the good, as well as an aphorism to get you through, such as “ if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger”. Did you get these as a kid too?

Well worth the read for nostalgia purposes as well as an epic Life Lesson : Just because a bloke insists on wearing a red bandanna, it doesn’t make him a boofhead!

Question : Does cold weather equate to more books?

I’ve just spent five days in Tasmania, the island State, off Australia’s south coast. It is known for its vast, rugged wilderness areas, largely protected within reserves, and abundant wildlife, including Devils, Wombats and Paddymelons. The variety of its fresh produce, including seafood and wines, provides much joy for tourists, as well as multi-generational farming families.

Hobart, the port capital, sits on the River Derwent. At its fashionable Salamanca Place old Georgian sandstone warehouses host galleries and cafes. The city’s backdrop is 1,270m-high Mount Wellington, with its sweeping views, which for several months a year is under the cover of snow. Which of course makes it total contrast to my home State, sub tropical Queensland. What did I really enjoy about Hobart this trip, other than the good company and the infamous Scallop Pies? ( That’s the shellfish, not the potato variety)


Hobart really is a town that caters to Bookworms. I guess it’s all that sitting around firesides throughout those long winter nights ( perhaps with a glass of red or two). There are lots of quirky bookstores and market stalls which I will share another time, as well as a tale of how a girl misspent a months grocery money at several interesting venues.

On some of the glorious old buildings ( again different to Queensland which has a habit of allowing developers to knock down gracious old buildings to make way for multi storey unit development), some properties are enhanced by murals which would tickle the fancy of book lovers.


Little Street Libraries are popular within both the City and the suburbs. Don’t you just love this one that accompanies a bus stop? What a great concept!

I think I’ve previously shared that I need to continuously recycle my books at home so I don’t get lost under the weight of them.

Here’s the lounge room of a Tasmanian lass who certainly enjoys her books in front of the warmth of a fire during winter. I’m not at all convinced the situation changes much in summer either.

Feeling so much more relaxed after a visit to the Apple Island. I certainly no longer have any concerns about book storage at my own home.




Remembrance Day, 2017

At the 11th Hour, on the 11th Day, of the 11th Month, Australians across the nation stop for a minutes silence to remember Armistice Day, which marks the end of World War 1. (1914-1918)


My most recently read war book was Sandakan by Paul Ham. A historian specialising in military history, conflict and politics, Ham in the opening 22 pages successfully explains how the Fall of Singapore came about in 1942, where four years of high school history failed dismally.


Wading through the 600 plus pages has been an uncomfortable journey. The story of the 2700 Australian and British Soldiers taken as Prisoners by the Japanese was for decades kept quiet by the Government for fear of traumatising the families of victims and enraging the people.

This is a horrific account of why only six Australians survived the death marches and brutality of Sandakan, Borneo.

The Flanders Poppy has long been a part of the Remembrance Day ritual, with the red flowers being amongst the first to regrow across the devastated battlefields of Belgium and Northern France. Soldier folklore has it that the red of the Poppy came from the blood of their fallen comrades……..


Lest We Forget.




Two Totally Different Memoirs By Vastly Different Men

It’s been a strange week for many reasons, and I must admit to having “hit the wall”.

In an effort to take stock and dust myself off I deliberately read two memoirs by Australian comedians over the last few days. Two comedians, though vastly different. Mammoth mistake.

The Happiest Refugee by Ahn Do is a lovely read which won several awards following its release in 2011.

It tells the story of the Do family fleeing South Vietnam during the civil war in the 70’s in a rickety boat, and includes tales of pirates and other life threatening adventures until their arrival in Australia. The comedian shares his background of living the immigrants dream, commencing in migrant hostels, to sharing rental accomodation in the western suburbs of Sydney with numerous other ethnic families, and working long hours to improve their lot in life.

Ahn shares his struggles being the kid with a Vietnamese accent at the Catholic School, of making friends and finding love.


The Happiest Refugee is a book which has it all – sadness, joy, laughter and tears- and is an inspirational tale of a family’s triumph over adversity. Though I’ve never seen Ahn Do perform Iive, you can “hear” his voice ever so clearly throughout this book which takes us from his early open mic days, to regular comedy performances, to his latest interest in painting interviewees.

Ahn Do : what a nice fella! Read this is one sitting, and fully expect to reread again soon.

Followed by the recent release of Thirsty, Confessions of a Fame Whore, by Joel Creasey…….

Not sure how anyone can write anything of significance at the ripe old age of 27 years. A minor celebrity on a reality television show (apparently), cohost of the Australian team presenting the Eurovision Song Contest ( who cares?), and “Prince of Comedy” in his own lunchtime.

Creasey is openly gay and particularly brazen about it. Although that doesn’t offend me in itself, I don’t think some pretty boy sharing  with whom he bonked is exciting stuff, nor do I care that he appears to have an excessive interest in getting pissed.

Again, I’ve not seen this comedian perform live, nor do I ever intend too. His greatest claim to fame appears to be that his Dad was once the Solo Man in the television ads in the 80’s.


Pretty Boy is self absorbed, self obsessed, and self indulgent. It will be interesting to see if his demeanour changes when he is 47, losing his hair, gaining a paunch, and basically, not so pretty.

A total waste of trees. This book made me cranky and I just wanted to slap the narcissistic little prig in the chops.

I guess that my moral outrage did improve my mood however.

Literary Luncheons and Dinners at the local pub.

November is shaping up as one of those months that contain all my favourite elements: books, good food, and a glass of wine. To add to my pleasure, the series of events feeding my joy require both minimal travel and funds. What’s not to love?

The iconic Grand View Hotel in Cleveland is hosting a number of Literary Dinners and Luncheons suitable for a wide audience with varied interests. For the lovers of home renovations Cherie Barber, affectionately known as the Reno Queen, will be spruiking her book, Renovating For Profit, at a dinner on November 3rd, commencing at 7pm.


Much-loved celebrity from numerous TV home improvement shows, Scott Cam, is promoting Scotty’s Top Aussie Sheds, which I predict will be the most popular stocking filler for Christmas 2017. Cam will be at the Grandview Hotel on November 10th, commencing at 7pm.

Again for the fellows, or those with a military bent, Chris Masters’ latest release is sure to be a source of great interest, No Front Line – Australia’s Special Forces at War in Afghanistan. Meet Chris on November 13th commencing at 12pm. Ahhh, a lunch with a view across the bay to Stradbroke Island. How good is this.

For a change of pace, international women’s romantic fiction writer, Rachael Johns, will be chatting about her latest publication, The Greatest Gift, on November 6th over lunch.

Adventurists and thrill seekers, Michael Smith, Australian Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year, discusses his book Voyage of the Southern Sun about a solo journey around the world. This is another lunchtime event on November 4th, commencing at noon.

Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Brisbane celebrity and entertainer, will be discussing her memoirs, A Bold Life, at lunch on November 17th.

These Literary Lunches commence at noon and go through to 2 pm and include a two-course meal and a glass of wine on arrival. Dinners commence at 7pm, ending at 9pm, and also include a 2-course meal and welcoming drink.

The Grand View Hotel, Cleveland, is well versed in catering for these functions, having supported Literary presentations for  many years.

Might be worth pulling a sickie and losing an afternoon at one these functions, don’t you think?

My Little Street Library : Project Update 4

My Little Street Library Project continues to gain momentum.

The other week I was concerned that the placement of this free community library – which is actually just a cupboard of books available to the locals for their enjoyment – was in jeopardy because of its location near nesting bird life. Magpies and Plovers make wonderful parents and guard their nests with vigour swooping at unsuspecting passers by. As usual over Spring there have been media reports of several kiddies on bikes and skateboards, as well as adults, being attacked by the local feathered friends. ( That Magpies are inclined later to kill their young if they don’t leave home to find their own territory is another story, as is the fact that too many hungry bubbas in the nest mean that the weakest are often kicked out from great heights and are left to die. Survival of the fittest and all that).

The local Councillor dropped by unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. It had been a typical humid and slimy Spring day in Brisbane and I had just finished mowing the lawn and repotting plants. Covered in dirt and hair dripping in perspiration let’s just say I was not looking my best. And I could smell myself to boot!


Question : why is this always the time for uninvited guests to pop in? Why? Why? Why? When you look like absolute crap…….,

The upshot is that the Little Street Library now looks like being placed back further into the reserve and away from the overhanging trees and any overprotective wildlife. It will be closer to the playground and bathroom facilities.



In addition, the parkland is gaining a picnic table and a gas barbecue, as well as sports equipment for the kiddies. Miniature soccer goals I think she indicated. This is a huge win for the local community.

The local branch of the Men’s Shed Movement are being consulted this week about design. Obviously, vandalism is a concern, though I have suggested that we don’t need the front of the structure to be glass, although I know this is a popular design. In an attempt to hinder vandals the structure could be more sturdy, such as solid wood, with books painted on the front to indicate its purpose. Any thoughts on this proposal would be appreciated. If you Google Images there is a hotbed of inspiration with some being created out of old kitchen cupboards, and even preloved filing cabinets.

The Councillor is looking at a public unveiling event for the end of January, which is also the end of our summer school holidays. I’ll say more about this in coming weeks.

It is so exciting to see an idea come to plan.