Australian Author Challenge : The Chooks by Sandy Clark.

True Story

Prior to attending the local charity book sale last Saturday we stopped for breakfast at a nearby Cafe. Normally I’m quite content with Smashed Avo to start the day but as it had been a challenging week I required a caffeine and cholestol fix (bacon and eggs), and not necessarily in that order.

It was whilst breakfasting that I spotted an interesting little retail outlet just down from where were seated, and being curious by nature (Read: A Stickybeak), there was a need to investigate.

Sandy Clark is an artist and designer and along with husband, Mike, run a new and upcycled furniture and decor outlet in my neighbourhood, called DaisyLane. Sandy is also an author having recently published and illustrated a children’s book with the title, “ The Chooks”.

“ The Chooks” is cheerful and colourful and just perfect for younger children. The illustrations are simple, and easily identifiable, as each member of the Chook family wears a recognisable outfit.

We follow the Chook Family on a day out.

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Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But children’s books are so very hard to write having to succinctly tell a story which maintains interest within twenty pages or less.

The thing I really enjoyed about the Chook family is that it is set in my local area and mentions an iconic destination within the district. This, I think is fun for local kiddies, and makes the book a great gift for interstate grandchildren.

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This book represents the author in her element, as she has designed a collection of kid’s tees bearing individual members of the Chook family to match, as well as framed prints for bedrooms, as well as stationary. How cool is this!

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The book is in both hardcover and softcover  versions and is available direct ( refer http://www.daisylayne.com.au) or by ebook on Amazon. Another book in the series is coming soon.

I know a young lad in Tasmania who is getting a book with matching tee shirt from Santa……..

Let’s hear it for another Indie Author – YAY!

 

 

 

 

Australian Author Challenge: Finding Me by Elizabeth Mulvey.

True Story:

I have spoken to author, Elizabeth Mulvey, on the telephone over a period of several years, and have watched her transformation in her zest for knowledge. I had no idea that she would develop into an amazingly strong and wise woman with the belief that she could make a difference, and with the focus, attitude, and capability to do exactly that.

Elizabeth Mulvey has a BA in Education and started her working life as a Teacher, is currently an Aromatherapist Practitioner and Reiki Master with interests in Nutrition and Herbal Therapy, as well as a Peak Performance Coach. She is also a published Author having recently released her first book in a Self Help series, Finding Me: Peacemaker. Elizabeth has also created her own line of Essential Oil blends which are available from her website, http://www.elizabethmulvey.com.

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In Finding Me, the Author hopes to fulfil the role of peacemaker, someone who she states, “has the brand of courage and love for mankind to want the best for each and every one of us.” By writing this book Mulvey hopes to prompt people into thinking in such a way that they can find their authentic self, living a meaningful life with gratitude.

First of all, Self Development books are not one of my personal strengths. However, Finding Me is not a big book, containing only six (6) Chapters, and it is written in an easy to understand language without the usual jargon – and no references to either Jung or Freud, thank goodness. You can hear Elizabeth’s “voice” when reading.

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Interestingly, despite my general cynicism the book had my complete attention by the second page with,

The current popularity of life coaches shows a growing acceptance that many of us need help in achieving our life purpose, our dreams, and that we are at a loss at how to achieve this independently. Yet all the life coaches in the world pale in comparison to the internal compass each of us were born with to guide our speci c path; our ‘way’. The key lies within us.”

This is a practical guide to understanding your own values, and how or what shaped those values. It’s with this understanding that changes can be implemented, having gained fresh perspective.

Well worth the read, and high five to another Indie author. I look forward to the next instalment, Liz.

 

* Finding Me is available in paperback and e-pub format from http://www.elizabethmulvey.com.

 

Australian Author Challenge : The Rook by Daniel O’Malley.

True Story:

When visiting my daughter in Canberra recently she handed me a book to read for the plane trip home. She had been out for afternoon drinks with friends during my stay, one of whom was burgeoning Australian author, Dan O’Malley.

My daughter did warn me that young Mr O’Malley was a Star Wars nerd which, quite frankly, put the fear of God into me. You see, one of my proudest achievements is never having watched a Star Wars movie. It’s right up there with never having owned any Tupperware.

One of the reviews I read for The Rook stated ,”Part Bourne Identity, part X-Men and with a hefty dose of Monty Python.” I do not have the words to describe my anxiety levels.

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Daniel O’Malley graduated with a Masters degree in medieval history from Ohio State University. He then returned to his childhood home, Australia. His first novel, The Rook, was released in 2012 and was a winner of the 2012 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

The Rook” is basically the story of two Myfanwy Thomases. The first one we never officially meet: she exists by way of a suitcase full of letters that she writes to the second Myfanwy throughout the course of the novel. She was working as a bureaucrat in a highly secret organisation, known as The Checquy Group, before her “demise” and has stumbled upon some information indicating there are traitors within this organisation which specialises in paranormal intelligence.

The second Myfawny wakes up with two black eyes and her memory scrubbed, finding letters in her pockets, which lead to her stepping into the job role as Rook at Chequay.

Some of her work colleagues are unsettling at the best. One is a vampire, another is one person with four separate bodies, and yet another looks into your dreams. Myfawney steps up in her position to resolve issues with slime, mould, and skinless bodies, and to oust the traitors within. It’s that kind of book.

To be honest I struggled with the first few chapters. Totally out of my comfort zone. It didn’t take long to get into the rhythm, however, which was aided by some humour along the way. The banter between our heroine and Shantay lightened the storyline as did the relationship with Ingrid, and conversations with the naked Belgian. Hell, I even got a kick out of the insults traded with Fish Tank boy !

It’s a fast paced book which tells a good story. It may be a tad different, particularly to me, though it is definately entertaining. I hope the daughter lends me the sequel : Stiletto.

Who said you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks, hey…..

 

 

Australian Author Challenge : The Crying Place by Lia Hills.

Lia Hills is a poet, novelist and translator. Her debut novel, The Beginner’s Guide to Living, was released to critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian Premiers’ Literary Awards and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. It has been translated into several languages. Other works include her award-winning poetry collection the possibility of flight and her translation of Marie Darrieussecq’s acclaimed novel, Tom is Dead. She lives with her family in the hills outside Melbourne.

Let’s be totally upfront. I selected this book purely on the basis of the front cover. Gorgeous colours, aren’t they?

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Saul is a thirty something young man working in Sydney after several years of adventuring in different parts of the world with his childhood friend, Jed. Saul receives a telephone call advising that Jed has committed suicide.

Instead of returning to their birthplace, Tasmania, for the funeral, Saul jumps in his car and drives to Melbourne. It is a long, boring drive, and the quotes from the writings of Australian novelist, Patrick White, tend to make me apprehensive of where this is all heading.

Melbourne has a shared history for Jed and Saul, and in the room in the boarding house where Jed had been staying, Saul finds a photo of a young Aboriginal woman tucked inside a poetry book. None the wiser on why Jed has resorted to such a final solution, Saul continues his road trip through to Adelaide, then shooting north through to Coober Pedy in search of the woman in the photograph.

This is one long drive interspersed with petrol stops, pit stops in country towns for a cold beer, and toilet breaks behind trees.

I was warned by all those literary quotes, wasn’t I?

Then it hit me: Australia is a huge country with long stretches of nothingness, and it is true that road trips in rural areas do become a series of petrol/food/ personal stops where along the way the traveller focuses on the constant change of scenery. By the time Saul arrives in the underground, opal mining town of Coober Pedy, we are thrilled when he meets up with a lass of German extraction. The human interaction picks up the pace of the storyline and all that descriptive prose, which is beautifully done but wordy, eases off.

Together they travel further north to Australia’s Centre, Alice Springs, stopping with an indigineous acquaintance along the way, where he is able to track down the whereabouts of Jed’s friend in the photo.

Saul gets permission from the traditional land owners to enter the Western Desert where he finally meets up with the woman, Nara. After some days living within the community, and living as they do, he finally learns a secret about Jed.

The long, solo drive to Adelaide was hard work, though the rhythm of the book changed for me once we had some human interaction. Life within an aboriginal community was fascinating and I enjoyed an insight into their spirituality. However, I’m a bit amazed after having read so many reviews that many readers said they benefited reading about the living conditions of aboriginals in rural settlements. Doesn’t anybody read a newspaper anymore?

The Crying Hills is more a painting of a series of beautiful yet harsh landscapes than a novel.

The content, with all its grief, does not make it a fun book to read.

And as for the big secret? Enough to kill yourself over? This did not sit well with me either, though I guess suicide is never a comfortable topic.

Australian Author Challenge – Aussie, Aussie, Aussie by Ben Probjie.

Ben Pobjie is an Australian comedian, poet, and writer. He studied history at the University of Western Sydney. He pursued a career in comedy writing and is known for his TV columns in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, and political satire for New Matilda, Crikey, and the ABC, among others. His books include Superchef, The Book of Bloke, and Error Australis. He has written for the TV shows Reality Check and The Unbelievable Truth.

Someone told Ben Pobjie he was both clever and funny – and he ran with it. He certainly has the gift of the gab…….. in the same vein as a used Car Salesman, as far as I am concerned.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie : Questionable Histories Of Great Australians is a selection of celebrated Australians and their achievements. Remember your Social Studies classes at Primary School when you would learn about a different person’s achievements each week? People like Helen Keller, Nancy Wake and Madame Curie, for example?

Well, this book is a bit like that, though containing only Australians.

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The blurb from the booksellers states this book is “Australian history made palatable.” Palatable. When did history have to become palatable?

Maybe since “Child psychologists in Britain have issued new guidelines advising doctors to change the age for maturity from 18 to 25 years old. According to the experts, their decision was based on recent findings relating to emotional maturity, hormonal development and neurological activity.”( according to the Medical Daily)

Now step back and read those two sentences again.

I did enjoy the inclusion of some different names to the Usual Suspects, such as Aboriginal activist, Vincent Lingiari, and Movie Producer, Charles Trait. ( Who, right?)
The continual chatter became boring and I felt I was reading the ramblings of a 16 year old kid. Funny? No. Self indulgent? Yes. You can most certainly see the experience the author has gained from writing television commentary.

At the end of each Australian identity Probjie lists a task – Fun For You At Home.

Under Albert Jacka VC. MC, and first decorated Aboriginal, the task is:

Learn what it was like as a soldier in World War 1. Dig a trench in your back yard, half-fill it with water, and ask your friends over to shoot at you. If they come too close, stab them. Now you’re living like a real war hero”.

Look, I’m no history buff, and I enjoy irreverence as much as the next person. This is, however, neither clever nor funny. If I really wanted to be controversial I would suggest that the young Sydneysiders who thought they were hipsters would eat this up.

My Tip: spend the money on Avocado on Toast instead.

Palatable history. Now that’s funny.

Australian Author Challenge: Our Vietnam Nurses by Annabelle Brayley.

I don’t do illness, or ill people, well. A character flaw and I blame the military patriarch who would yell at his daughters at the first sign of any slight weakness, “Toughen up. Stop being girls”. My father did not get sick until the month he died and I follow in his footsteps. The young things flag at work – I just march through it, soldiering on.

I softened once my own daughters came along and did not have the stomach for children’s illness’. If the six year old vomited, the seven year old had to clean up after her. Poor parenting I know, but I would be kneeling over the toilet bowl in sympathy. I remember having to take the teenager to the Dentist to get the last of her baby teeth pulled. She entered the surgery bravely whilst I fainted on the footpath outside.

Both my daughters have always had a fascination with medical procedures, and are addicted to those ghastly shows on the television that feature an assortment of lumps, bumps and stumps. There was one dinner party where the kids were far too quiet for my liking so I sneaked in to see what mischief they were up too. What did I find? Half a dozen cherubs fascinated by the DVD of my recent Colonoscopy!

So I was surprised when an acquaintance handed me a book and said “ I know that you will just love this!”

Our Vietnam Nurses by Annabelle Brayley, tells fifteen stories about civilian and military nurses, as well as a couple of medics, who all played their part in saving lives and comforting the wounded during this period of history.

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There were several common threads throughout this book:
• None of them had any previous knowledge of Vietnam and it was very much a “think on your feet “ process when they landed in the middle of a war zone.
• All those interviewed saw their efforts as both crucial and rewarding
• All feel as if there lives changed direction from the experience of serving in such a manner

Yes, the book did dish up blood and guts as to be expected, though many of the cases detailed had positive outcomes, with the larrikin spirit of young Australian Soldiers shining through. The constant themes were the camaraderie, strong working relationships and commitment to achieve the very best with the little that they had to help the injured.

This book is primarily personal recollections which added to my interest. It made the history more real.

One hundred and six nursing officers from the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Sisters ( RAAFNS) we’re deployed to No.4 Hospital at Butterworth Airforce Base in Malaysia to care for military personnel based there and to fly medivacs into Saigon or Vung Tua evacuating wounded Australian soldiers back to Butterworth, and then home. Between 1965 and 1971 thirty two of them were attached to the United States Air Force for 60 day rotations flying missions into Vietnam on a daily basis to evacuate wounded American soldiers.

There were also more than 200 civilian nurses who were members of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation who assisted civilian surgical medical teams across a similar time line, and operating within Vietnam.

And you know what horrified me the most? Not the shattered bodies, infestations of worms, or grenades under hospital beds. Did you know that it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that all RAAF nurses who flew from Butterworth to Vietnam to medivac injured Aussie soldiers, or who were seconded to the USAF, were acknowledged for their contribution?

Another pox on the Australian Government, who currently cannot find $200,000 to send a handful of weary Bomber Command veterans to the opening of the International Bomber Command Centre in England this year. They say they are “ too old”. I would argue that they were “too young” when they did their bit.

Great read. Highly recommended even if amputations aren’t your thing.

You’ll just have to wait till I share my dental experiences……..

 

PS Vietnam Nurse song by Australian, Russell Morris, who has long since lost his hair, but not his voice. (Courtesy of You Tube)

Australian Author Challenge: The Sister’s Song By Louise Allen.

Louise Allan is a debut author from Western Australia. This manuscript was awarded a Varuna residential fellowship in 2014 and shortlisted for the City of Fremantle-TAG Hungerford Award. Louise grew up in Tasmania but has since moved to Perth.She is a former doctor and has a passion for music.

This book begins strongly with the death of Ida and Nora’s father in a fictional, rural township in Tasmania in the 1920’s. Their mother has a nervous breakdown and is institutionalised, and the young sisters move in with their elderly grandmother in town.

The girls have been close all their young lives though the grandmother is particularly encouraging of Nora’s musical talents and encourages her to follow her dream of a career as a vocalist. This helps to widen the gap between the sisters, as does their mother’s eccentric behaviour, and Ida ends up working as a nanny, and their lives become quite separate.

The sisters are reunited when Nora loses her scholarship, and she finds herself resentful and isolated, living in a shack in the wilds of Tasmania with her timber cutter husband and children.

Ida lives a simple life with a good man, though is unable to have a family of her own. She doesn’t understand how Nora can be so miserably unhappy when she appears to have it all.

Stretching across sixty plus years, this novel covers the dreams and very real lives of sisters, close in age, but very different in character. Music is the thread that retains the family bond across the generations.

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The opening chapters of this novel resonated with me as I identified with the loss of a parent at a young age, and having a younger sister who was definately Nora to my Ida.

It was also obvious that the author had a good feel for life in early Tasmania and she portrayed this extremely well. Her descriptions were great without being over wordy – loved this!

The second half of the novel drifted a little for me, and I guess the themes of sisterly ties and motherhood – the pros and cons – became a little too “girlie” for me. Purely a personal issue.

A good read which would make a good movie: you would just have to insert a couple of car chases and some sort of alien, and Bobs your Uncle.

 

 

 

 

Australian Author Challenge: Celtic Blood by James John Loftus

True Story:

The week before Christmas in Brisbane was stinking hot. Work, which usually eases off at this time of year, was flat chat. I had to make a dash to get to the railway station in order to make the trip home. I boarded the train a wet, slimey mess and the makeup had long since slipped off.

Pulling out my IPad I continued on with a book I had recently downloaded. I’m a pretty focused reader so when I heard a man’s voice from the other side of the carriage asking if he could recommend a good book I was a bit dozy. I heard the question a second time. The gentleman, early 50s and well dressed, walked over and sat beside me.

Two important things to remember here:
* I don’t think I’ve ever been the kind of girl to encourage a strange fella to introduce himself on a train, or anywhere else, for that matter – even those days when I was younger, taller and thinner.
*  I was most definitely looking like the Wreck of the Hesperus.

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The book this gentleman recommended? His own of course!

James John Loftus has been interested in medieval history since seeing a book with a cover detailing the battle of Agincourt. The book engaged his imagination, and drew him to the period. Unable to read until in grade five some remedial tuition enabled him to commence on the journey from avid book reader to writer. He has one novel to date and a co-credit as a feature film writer, Underdog’s Tale.

The People you meet, hey…….

Review for The Australian Author Challenge :

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Celtic Blood is set in 13th Century Scotland and begins with a shipwreck. The sole survivor is young Scandinavian, Seward, who is taken in by the community. A few years later the Earl of Ross is murdered by other claimants for Scotland’s throne, and Seward acts as protector to the 13 year old son, Morgund MacAedh.

The book follows Morgund’s journey from boyhood to manhood with a focus on revenging his father’s death, and includes numerous misadventures, including imprisonment, torture, sheltering in forests, bloody battles, and the occult.

Celtic Blood is a fast moving story exploring Scotland’s turbulent past. Think William Wallace in Braveheart and you’ll have some concept of the novel’s setting and pace.

Initially I found the syntax a little disconcerting, especially as the Middle Ages are not my thing, though by fifty pages in I had the swing of it and realised that it only added to the storyline.

Celtic Blood by James John Loftus is available in paperback and in Kindle. It is an enjoyable read and would make a good movie. I did find the ending abrupt and for this reason I wondered if the author was looking to make this Book 1 of a series. It also explains the existence of the McKay Clan.

Strike 1 for Indie Authors!

A Distant Journey by Di Morrissey.

Back to work and it’s been a total shock to the system. Must have completely unwound over the break as I felt I required some retraining. Plus the heat is relentless: bitumen roads are melting and Flying Foxes (bats) are falling out of trees broiled. I have fresh water out for the wildlife and the word is out that there is a new cafe in town – the variety of patrons is wonderful.

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So starting the year with some light reading, and Book 1 for the Australian Author Challenge – A Distant Journey by Di Morrissey.

Di Morrissey (born 18 March 1943)is one of the most successful novelists of Australia with 25 best-selling novels and five children’s books published.In May 2017 Di was inducted into the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) Hall of Fame and given the Lloyd O’Neil Award for service to the Australian book industry.

The novel opens in Palm Springs in the 1960’s with Babs, a young woman with a child whom has relocated because of domestic violence issues. The initial 100 pages are dedicated to Babs and her new life, which is really quite odd because she isn’t the protagonist. There are also lots of references to Old Hollywood with lots of name dropping such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr. I’m not sure of its relevance at all….

Pressing on, Babs’ niece, Cindy, runs away from home and seeks shelter with her Aunt. Cindy goes off to College with no real idea what she wants to do with her life except get married to her boyfriend. He, on the other hand, has career aspirations and the couple split. Within weeks heartbroken Cindy has met an an older man, an  Australian sheep farmer, and on a whim, as she “wants some adventure”, marries him in Vegas.

They return to Murray’s farm which has been in the family several generations and which is still ruled by the autocratic elder Parnell.

Cindy battles various challenges with the relocation to a rural and remote property as can be expected : loneliness, Mother Nature, a miscarriage, and a father-in-law who dislikes her immensely.

Murray’s mother left the property when he was a young boy so his ties to his father are very strong and he seems incapable of questioning his authority or supporting his own wife. Murray, you are pretty insipid, mate…..

The novel then seems to skip years very quickly. There are children, and then we have children thinking about children and their own lives and careers. These years quickly touch upon droughts, economic growth and the price of wool, Picnic races, friendships, and some news of Babs at last – dying of cancer back in the good old US of A.

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Parnell Senior continues to be a blot on the landscape, and as an octagarian, is every bit as rude as ever. He seems to have poorly invested the family fortune, requiring the sale of assets including the old boys plane.

There is a plane crash during its relocation to the new owner. On the very same day a forty year old skeleton is found on the property, and there is also a suicide. So much happening within two pages, when the reader has had to wade through pages and pages of nothingness to get to the crux of the matter.

Murray at last “mans up”, but poor old Babs is dead.

I think I earned a Purple Heart by finishing this book.

 

 

 

Australian Author Challenge – 2018

For the third year running I have decided to participate in the Australian Author Challenge. This exercise is not about pushing myself to increase the number of books I read, but rather, to focus on writing by Australian Authors.

This Challenge has made me select books from genres I would generally not have considered reading – such as dystopian and YA – as well realise that I had a tendency to read books written by males. These days, thanks to this Challenge, Hannah Kent and Helen Garner are two Australian Authors from whom I am anxiously awaiting their next effort.

Sure, I have always been aware of the books on the Best Seller lists, and for many years these were the books I either purchased, borrowed or was gifted. Mostly, these have been overseas Authors. At this stage of the game I’m neither led by trends, what’s in fashion, nor what’s selling well, and that refers to life in general, not just the books with whom I choose to share a bedroom or a handbag.

These days there is a whole other market out there with the growth of self publishing and independent authors and bookstores.  From these avenues I have been fortunate to read some wonderful stories from varied genres including historical military fiction, travelogues, personal memoirs, and Second World War diaries. They may not have garnered the same publicity, nor made a Best Seller List, and they are never going to be transformed into a Hollywood Blockbuster, but they have been worthwhile and entertaining reads nonetheless. For the 2018 Australian Author Challenge I hope to explore more books from both these areas.

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The Aussie Author Challenge 2018, is now in it’s 9th year and is hosted by Booklover Book Reviews at:

http://bookloverbookreviews.com/reading-challenges/aussie-author-challenge-2018
“Whether you are a patriotic Australian, an aspiring or armchair tourist or simply an international reader wanting to discover some talented new authors and interact with like-minded readers, the Aussie Author Challenge could be for you!”

I have signed up for Kangaroo Level, which means my Challenge is to :

Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 3 genre.

There are also Challenge levels requiring less reading. It would be great if some of the blogging community could also pick up an Aussie book or two. I’de love to hear your thoughts.

Off to the Library tomorrow. Is it odd to be excited?