Saturday, December 31, 2011


The real estate industry is the target of this novel by Brendan Gullifer. Gullifer uses his short stint working in real estate to expose many of the processes used to persuade a homeowner to to choose a particular agent to sell their house. The setting for this satirical expose is a real estate agency selling properties in Melbourne's eastern suburbs. The story is revealed through the eyes of Will, a newcomer to the industry, who is teamed with a former car dealer, Harry Osborne, to learn the ropes. The behind the scenes machinations to close a deal as well as the degeneration of character and lives of key figures in the agency are revealed as the plot revolving around corruption and revenge unfolds.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Di Morrissey - twenty years of writing

In November 2011 Jennifer Byrne interviewed Di Morrissey in the program, Jennifer Byrne Presents. Di Morrissey has become one of Australia's most popular authors recently publishing her nineteenth book. Most of her books are set in Australia with the location being as important as the characters and the plot for the enjoyment of the story.

The first Di Morrissey novel that I read was Tears of the Moon originally published in 1995. On a visit to Broome this book was constantly mentioned by tour guides for its ability to capture the essence of the times of the pearling industry in Broome so when we returned home I had to read it and was immediately transported back to the 1890s in that remote part of Australia. The story is told via Lily Barton's quest in the 1990s to understand the history of her family - an added layer of interest. It was also an enjoyable book to read. I also enjoyed Kimberley Sun which is the sequel to Tears of the Moon.

Since then I have travelled around Australia and overseas through the settings in Di Morrissey books.  The Reef is set on a Great Barrier Reef island and portrays the conflicts between the need to protect the marine  environment and the economy generated by the tourist industy, both important to existence of this beautiful part of Queensland. Further south, New South Wales near Byron Bay is the setting for The Valley, another exploration for understanding family history secrets. Moving overseas The Islands is mainly set in Hawaii in the 1970s when an Australian tries to adapt to life in a foreign environment after marrying an American naval officer.

I look forward to reading her latest book when the reservation list for the book at the library subsides.

Unearthing London: the ancient world of the metropolis

Excavations that take place from time to time in London help to reveal the history of the area on which London now stands. Simon Webb is particularly interested in the use of the land prior to the arrival of the Romans and the building of the city of Londinium. He also examines how certain sites have continuously been used as religious sites throughout the ages.

For thousands of years the area around London consisted of many rivers flowing through marshland into the Thames with the land primarily used for religious purposes. The first section of the book largely looks at how pre-Roman people used the land in and around London, particularly how they honoured their dead. Chapters include an examination of the rivers and hills as part of the ritual landscape, religious views of pre-Roman peoples, plus an examination of gods and goddesses and the practice of severing heads from bodies. With the arrival of the Romans many of the pre-existing gods in Britain merged with the Roman gods and were often worshipped at the same shrines. Webb also investigates the similarity between the Saxon gods and those of pre-Roman Britain.

The final chapter provides a series of walks through London where reminders of earlier life in the city still remain. For those who watch Time Team this book provides additional information relating to some of the excavations undertaken in the program. Unfortunately there is too much repetition in the book  which for me affected its readability.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The happiest refugee: a memoir

A list of popular non-fiction books borrowed from the library during 2011 would have to include The happiest refugee by Ahn Do. When he was two Ahn's family left Vietnam on a small overcrowded boat, survived two encounters with pirate boats before arriving in Malayasia and then travelled to Australia. This account of why a Vietnamese family needed to leave their country and their struggles to make a new life in their adopted country is a story of determination and survival. The importance of family, including extended family, is evident throughout the book particularly Ahn's relationship with his mother who brings up three children as a single parent and his reconciliation with his father who left the family when suffering depression relating to events in Vietnam. The book also includes many amusing accounts of how Ahn, the eldest in the family, attempted to earn money to help the family's finances as well as the story of how Ahn became an actor and a comedian. Reading this book there are events that make you cry coupled with many sections that make you laugh out lound. Overall there is a feeling of optimism, hope plus a determination to have a go.  I am glad that I finally had the opportunity to read this book.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The forgotten affairs of youth

Number eight in the Isabel Dalhousie novel series by Alexander McCall Smith. When Isabel is contacted by an Australian philosopher who is trying to locate information about her parents who lived in Edinburgh Isabel decides to help. This action, of course, brings about much soul searching as to whether the truth should be told at all cost or whether sometimes the truth may cause only unhappiness to one of the parties involved. As editor of the Review of Applied Ethics Isabel also has to decide how to deal with Professor Lettuce whose actions continue to be anything but ethical. I enjoyed reading this novel with its observations on how people may think and act on small and large actions in their lives. As with all Alexander McCall Smith books the story is told with gentle humour as we come to know and understand the regular characters in the series.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A conspiracy of friends

This is the third Corduroy Mansions novel by Alexander McCall Smith providing more stories about the inhabitants of Pimlico, especially those associated with the apartments of Corduroy Mansions. The series of stories throughout the book involve an investigation of friendship and how the characters respond to challenges in relationships. When William French visits friends in the country his dog, Freddie de la Hay, disappears and his loyalty to old friends is tested when his friend's wife confides her love for William. Barbara Ragg redefines her relationship with Hugo and continues her dispute with  Rupert Porter and his wife as they continue their quest to acquire Barbara's apartment. Caroline has a new flatmate. Oedipus Snark MP member of the Liberal Democrats receives a promotion while Terence Moongrove acquires a new car, both events providing additional worries for Berthea Snark.

These amusing, sometimes quirky, stories as well as entertaining the reader often portray attitudes and perceptions prevalent in society today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bertie plays the blues

The seventh book in the 44 Scotland Street series. Alexander McCall Smith continues to recount the events in the lives of his now familiar characters - Bertie and his family, Domenica, Angus Lordie and Antonia, Mathew and Elspeth as well as Pat who works in the gallery and Big Lou, the owner of the local cafe.

In this volume six and a half year old Bertie decides to apply for adoption to escape the strict regime laid out for him by his mother, his father also rebels and joins the masons, Domenica and Angus finally decide on a wedding date, Mathew and Elspeth come to grips with being the parents of triplets while Pat and Big Lou explore options to form new relationships.

Edinburgh is the setting for this collection of character studies touched with humour and portraying a selection of inner city life and attitudes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mini Shopaholic

This is the sixth title in Sophie Kinsella's shopaholic series. Becky Brandon is a 29 year old mother with a two year old daughter, Minnie. Becky loves shopping but when the Global Financial Crises hits London even Becky realises that she needs to restrict her purchases - not an easy task. Becky, Minnie and Luke are living with Becky's parents until they take possession of their new home - which should be soon. Being a parent can also be a challenge especially as Minnie is proving to be a  determined young lady whose favourite word is Mine so Becky and Luke decide to enlist someprofessional  guidance in bringing up their daughter. Becky also decides to organise a surprise birthday party with all the bells and whistles for her husband - on a budget of course. Needless to say many complications arise on all these fronts resulting in an amusing tale of mayhem until all is resolved.