Book Of The Week

We’ve all heard “over-paid, oversexed and over here” said of the American servicemen in Australia during WW2.

I had not heard their retort, a popular toast which went : “To Australia – the land where the flowers have no fragrance, the birds no melody and the women no virtue.”

The Battle of Brisbane by Peter A Thompson and Robert Macklin is a well researched account of two days in November in 1942 during which an American military policeman shot dead an Australian soldier and wounded six others and a civilian. There were also many hand-to-hand fights where many on both sides were seriously injured.

To be honest it is not pretty reading.

This is a Brisbane I do not know, and times I’m not familiar with though I have friends who remember their school days with a bomb shelter in the playground. It is also interesting that all the landmarks mentioned are still spoken of by older folk and I am aware of where they would have been situated.

MacArthur’s stay in Brisbane is also covered – and is also not pretty. Many years ago I remember having a swish meal overlooking the Story Bridge and being told the room was old Doug’s HQs. Do you think I can remember where it is?

Similar View

Fascinating read but tragic. Just like the riots involving negro soldiers in Townsville, the bombing of Darwin, and the mini submarines in Sydney Harbour, so much of this information was hushed up at the time and when finally revealed lacked details. The identity of both the dead Australian and the American involved only came to light with the publication of this book in 2000.

Just wish that they’de hush up Ms Markle and Harry Windsor.

This Week In Books

The Friday Night Zoom Book Club discussed the debut novel Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos. As the author is an Australian of Greek heritage who has woven his experiences into this novel, at my youngest daughter’s suggestion we went for hellenic themed snacks.

Enjoyed the snacks more than the book.

My Spinach and Fetta Pie

At Primary School Fridays were Social Science days when we would learn about famous people. They were generally male. I clearly remember the famous females: Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale and Daisy Bates. So I pounced upon Desert Queen by Susanna De Vries which I found at the Little Community Library in the local parkland.

Talk about shattered. Other than her work with female aborigines in the early 1900’s old Daisy was essentially a nut job. Married three times, including to Harry Harbord Morant (AKA Breaker Morant) old Daisy never bothered to divorce any of her husbands. As well as being a bigamist she was a pathological liar with grandiose ideas. I’m thinking bipolar. Nah, just a nut job.

Don’t you just hate biographies that crush all your long held beliefs?

Hitler’s Brothel by Steve Matthews

Hitler’s Brothel is not just a fictional story about two young Polish girls separated by the tragic circumstances of World War 2. It is a tale interwoven with real historical events including some little known facts that had me constantly reaching for Google for clarification.

Yes, Auschwitz did have a brothel which was used as a reward for hardworking prisoners as an incentive to work even harder, and yes, the renowned fashion house Hugo Boss did make uniforms for the SS.

The story begins strongly in New Jersey USA in 2000, though it’s not until author Steve Matthews takes us back to Poland in 1940 that this reader became invested in sisters Ania and Danuta and the ghastly activities in which they became involved in order to survive on a daily basis.

This is no easy read thanks to the descriptive narrative. It is at times both bleak and brutal highlighting the ugliness of war and reinforcing that the Holocaust, that stain on humanity, must never be forgotten.

Although I have been a keen collector of Prisoner of War Diaries for many years I struggled with the details within this book. Was this because it is so much based on the female perspective?

Matthews states in his Notes, “ War is never over for those who experience it first hand. This story is for all the Anias who suffered in the concentration camps of WW2 – may your God bless you, and may you have finally found peace – whether you sleep beneath the ground or above it.” AMEN to that.

A copy of this book should be in every High School Library in Australia.

And another History Lesson:

Between 1971 and ‘76 I attended a High School in Sydney. Nothing special, nothing flash. One of the girls in the same form was dating a young apprentice plumber who drove a grey Vauxhall Velox. Another girl friend was dating his mate who drove a green Vauxhall Velox. Ugly old cars. That girl friend duck shovelled that fellow and started dating another of his mates, later marrying him and bearing two kiddies down the track.

Long story short: I started dating Mr Green Vauxhall and on weekends we would often have Vauxhall convoys, green and grey, and double date. Life in the Big Smoke, hey…..Another of my girlfriends was dating a bloke from our form who drove an ugly old Worsley. Is it any wonder I never had an interest in motor vehicles ?

Vauxhalls and why I hate them

The driver of the grey Vauxhall went on to marry a younger lass from the same high school and who also had a brother in my form. She had an older half sister who was my economics teacher in Year 12. ( It’s ok, I crushed economics). The teacher’s mother, who I met as an early teen and way before GDP and Fiscal Pie Charts, was the sister of my Dad’s best friend during World War 2 who was killed flying over the skies of Germany.

I knew little of Spud except for a couple of small black and white photos I found hidden in an old tobacco tin after my fathers death, though it explained my families connection to Spike, whom I later learned was Spud’s younger brother.

The author’s wife is the lass who used to be in the grey Vauxhall all those years ago. Like getting close to 50 years ago – gulp.

Mr Green Vauxhall? That’s another story.

I’ll go now and prepare a quick quiz for tomorrow to make sure you’ve all been listening ………

Another Project and Library Lovers Day

In January 2020 Inverell Library, in rural New South Wales, launched a project to provide all newborns in the shire with a handmade library bag of specially selected books to support early literacy. The project is a joint initiative between the library and the Friends of the Inverell Library.

Reading to babies is a great way to nurture skills including talking, understanding, imagination, listening, concentration and creativity.

The team at the library put the call out to the community to find crafty locals who would like to sew a book bag for newborns. Those who lack sewing skills happily donated suitable fabric for the bags and instructions including required dimensions were made available.

Harry Kilom at 4 months, located in rural and remote Nhulunbuy NT, has been reading a lot of books with his parents. Thankfully Father Christmas was extremely generous as I was getting concerned about his Army Dad continually reading books about military strikes to the child.

What is interesting about bub’s haul is that I can tell from whom the books were gifted as they each reflect a particular person’s interests and history. The kid is lucky to have so many *different people in his life.

Another great project from a smallish country Library.

*Yes, you may read as odd or eccentric.

Do You Remember Little Golden Books?

Last week was a great week : everything about it reeked of a pre Covid week. Remember those?

Visited the local Art Gallery. Always an inspirational outing though often not good for the blood pressure as I have a tendency to get distressed about my own lack of artistic ability. I blame this on those teachers in the 1960’s who would rap your knuckles with a ruler if you coloured outside the lines.

Went to the cinema to see newly released Australian movie Penguin Bloom. Based on the book Penguin Bloom, The Odd Little Bird Who Saved A Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Greive and based on a true story. A pleasant little movie for all the family with delightful New South Wales coastal scenery and not animated ( and the only super hero is a magpie. Excellent!)

A community theatre production with an Aussie theme including dinner sitting outside under the huge gums at the local museum was a great night out with lots of laughs.

This is where I found this display, an entrant in the local Book Week competition, made from Little Golden Books. Do you remember Little Golden Books?

Anyway, this week has been lousy. WA is in Lockdown and is being throttled by bushfires and the situation is looking precarious in Victoria. This looks like an appropriately titled Little Golden Book right now.

An appropriate title for this week.

Edgar’s Mission and Story Dogs

Edgar’s Mission is a not-for-profit animal shelter in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. It provides care for homeless, abused, injured or abandoned animals, especially livestock or “farmed animals”. The sanctuary, sprawls over 153 acres and is given over entirely to the wellbeing of 432 rescue animals: ex-breeding pigs, injured lambs, one-eared survivors of dog attacks, cows born with blindness or other birth defects, chickens, roosters, turkeys, rabbits, spring-loaded baby goats and stray cats lounging in the sun.

One of the programs instigated to assist is encouraging volunteers to read to the animals. Apparently they like children’s books, particularly anything written by Enid Blyton, although the goats have a tendency to chew on the pages.

The animals find the voice of someone reading quite soothing and it reduces their anxiety levels. Sounds a better option than Diazepam, doesn’t it?

I’m just not sure which book/s I would read to the farm animals. Maybe The Wonky Donkey and some Beatrix Potter?

My local Library has recently instigated a program where 6, 7 and 8 year olds can visit after school and they can practise their reading skills and gain confidence by reading to a Story Dog.

For more information go here:

This Weeks Homework:

What book would you read to the animals at Edgar’s Mission?

Blind Date with a Book : Another Project

Valentine’s Day is an annual festival to celebrate  love held on February 14th.

I’m going all out with the feels this Valentines Day setting up Blind Dates for the occasion. Blind Dates with new and near new books that is, which I’ll be placing at the Little Community Library in the local parkland.

Blind Date with a Book gives readers a fun way to try something they never would have chosen to read otherwise as well as being a reminder that you’re never alone with a book.

Many thanks to my youngest, Catbalou, for her recent donation of books for the cause and my Gemini pal, Kayzee for the epicurean mags.

Okay. I’m done. That’s my quota of romance for the next 12 months. 


This Week In Books

With the current health situation I have been avoiding the local Council Library. Too many restrictions make this an uncomfortable destination for those of us who tend to enjoy three or four hours simply browsing.

This means that the well supported Little Community Library in my local parkland has provided the majority of my reading material these past months. The greatest benefit of this is my introduction to authors and genres that I might not under normal circumstances even contemplate. Neighbours have obviously been decluttering since Christmas as whole series of books have been donated. Keep up the great work People!

I thought I’de share my new favourite writers who I am now relentlessly pursuing.

Robert Crais –  an American author of detective fiction. Crais began his career writing scripts for television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice and L.A. Law. Sixteen of his novels feature private investigator Elvis Cole and his laconic ex-cop partner, Joe Pike. 

Robert North Patterson – an American fiction writer, attorney and political commentator. Love, love, love these books. More please….

Jon Cleary – was an Australian writer and novelist. He wrote numerous books, including The Sundowners (1951) which I read in a bushland primary school in the back blocks of Sydney when I was 10 after loving the movie starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. I was only allowed to borrow the novel from the School Library if I had a note of approval signed by both parents. I’m currently working my way through Cleary’s Sydney Police Inspector Scobie Malone series. 

I particularly enjoyed this one as that little bushland suburb, Lugarno, scored a mention.

Yes, a lot of crime, murder and mystery. What does that say about Pandemics ?

Pandemic Dreaming Is A Thing

According to psychologists since COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world people have reported unusually active dream lives. Collectively we are remembering more dreams than usual, and those dreams are especially vivid and bizarre.

I’ve always been one to dream in technicolour. Wonderful, wild dreams that I swear I must remember because the movie or book version would be a blockbuster. Some dreams are so exciting that I’ll float along with Part 1 of a storyline and finish Part 2 the next night. A bit like Intermission in Gone With The Wind but without the ice cream.

Which is where my dreams have changed over these past twelve months. Still vivid and exciting though now always book or movie related. It’s like waking up each morning to a trivia quiz : now where did that one come from?

For example, last weekend (spent in Lockdown) I had a busy evening racing around the perimeter of my house block on a motor bike, hurtling over the occasional barbed wire fence. Yep, I was a female version of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. I’ve also cooked venison over a fire pit in Sherwood Forest, and with all this mask wearing business I even featured in a movie remake about bank robberies : Bonnie and Clyde and Brizzy May. I’ve crawled through air conditioning vents after John McClane. And one night I even pushed Rose off that piece of wood in the middle of the Irish Sea. Not even game to mention Rambo……

So this Pandemic Dreaming is a thing. Or am I just losing the plot?

Last nights dream was disturbing. I’de just finished reading a Willie Nelson autobiography. Enjoyed it more than expected : in one ear and out the other. Just what you need when it’s stinking hot with threats coming from all sides. * middle finger to China.

Woke up in a worried state having gained an apprenticeship in hairdressing. Me? Hair salon? Not likely! Anyway, accidentally cut Willie’s braids off. Can I tell you how exhausting it was trying to glue them back on?

Note :

Lost Honeysuckle Rose in the property settlement. Absolutely delighted.

This Week In Books (& A Movie)

The Bird In The Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor

Narrated from two points of view The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is a moving tale that shifts effortlessly from a missionary teacher’s perspective to that of a student in her care. The school in question is located in China and covers the period of the Japanese invasion during WW2 which means that all at the school are incarcerated at Weixian Concentration Camp for the duration.

I found this a fascinating coming of age story and with references to fellow POW and Olympian, Eric Liddell, and the teacher’s constant use of the Baden-Powell Girl Guide Program to maintain order amongst the girls, this historical fiction based on a true story encouraged me to pursue further research.

Heavenly’s Child by Brenda Reid

This is the story of two young women growing up in Crete in the 1960’s and ‘70s, best friends in the midst of challenging times, both politically and socially. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of the different families with their lifestyles in rural Crete of which I was totally ignorant.

This coming of age novel was also my introduction to the political upheavals of Greece during that period. This was fascinating and I need to read more on the topic. TIP : Totally ignore the woosy romance altogether.

And A Movie based on Jane Harper’s The Dry

Released in Australian cinemas on New Years Day THE DRY has taken audiences by storm making it one of the Top 5 Australian movies ever.

It hasn’t rained in Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the farming community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are discovered shot to death on their property. Everyone assumes Luke Hadler committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son.

But is this what really happened?

Great movie and the cinematography captures the landscape beautifully in all its brutal, harsh glory.

Will overseas viewers enjoy? After events earlier this week I’m inclined not to give a rats.