Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Fortunate Life by A. B. Facey. Audio book narrated by Roger Cardwell



There were parts in this story that did disturb me; like pleasure in killing dingoes and kangaroos. Having said that, I have always believed we should view history in accordance with the attitudes of the day so I got through that but mention it as a word of warning. I hope if this book is an option for school reading additional guidance is given by teachers emphasising changing attitudes.

It is a detailed account of one man’s life in Australia in the 1900s. It was not an easy life having to start a hard farm life as a young boy, often being taken advantage of or abused. As a young man he volunteered for army service in 1915 and served at Gallipoli.


He worked hard all his life and adored his wife and children. They relationship is truly inspiring in this day of so many fragmented families. Through all his hardships in life, including a failed farm during the Depression he maintained a positive attitude accepting whatever work he could find to support himself and, later, his family.

I must comment on the narrator. Roger Cardwell does an amazing job not just a clear reading but with intonations that reflect humour, disappointment, pain, joy and every other emotion Facey writes about.

My rating 4*

Publisher's Summary

Born in 1894, Facey lived the rough frontier life of a sheep farmer, survived the gore of Gallipoli, raised a family through the Depression and spent 60 years with his beloved wife, Evelyn. Despite enduring hardships, we can barely imagine today, Facey always saw his life as a "fortunate" one. A true classic of Australian literature, his simply written autobiography is an inspiration. It is the story of a life lived to the full - the extraordinary journey of an ordinary man.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Shadows, Shells, and Spain by John Meyer



If you love travel and history with plenty of drama told with a twist of humour then this book is for you.

John Meyer takes the reader on a long, but never boring, walk with characters that you will love, be irritated by and laugh at.

Jamie Draper has travelled to Mallorca to try to find his estranged wife, Pam. He receives a letter from her telling him if he wants to understand her and her reasons for leaving he needs to walk the Camino. As he walks the trail he follows her clues to find further letters.

The Camino de Santiago in Spain is a walking trail followed by pilgrims for over a thousand years. It is a spiritual journey for those seeking inner strength and wisdom.



I loved both of the main characters, Jamie and Brie, who he meets on the trail and has her own issues and reasons for walking the Camino. Early in the book I thought Pam’s reasons for leaving Jamie were selfish ones. My attitude to her as the story progresses becomes softer and I become more in sympathy with her.

Meyer’s descriptive writing gives the reader clear images of the Camino scenery as well as the historic buildings and monuments. You will also feel the pain, the joy and the camaraderie of the Peregrinos (those who walk the Camino) along the route.

The journey by Jamie, Brie and the other Peregrinos is interspersed with history, legends and travel snippets - a kind of early history meets modern tourism. If you are not into history don’t worry, it is told with humour and, at times, healthy scepticism.

Brie has to get Jamie’s story in slices, along with finding accommodation, food and sightseeing, and so does the reader. The last 100 pages or so, as Jamie starts to find out what happened with Pam really push the reader on to finish. The story alternates between Jamie’s revelations, descriptions of the trail and the history snippets. It was a book I just had to get to the end. My apologies to family and friends I was rude to telling them to go away so I could finish the book.

Shadows, Shells, and Spain is the second of Meyer’s fictional travel memoirs I have read. The other one was Bulls, Bands and London that I gave 4*. I think this is better and that is why it gets 5* from me.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Class of '59 (American Journey #4) by John A. Heldt



I am still not convinced that, as a genre, time travel books are for me but John Heldt’s books certainly are and I was not disappointed with class of ‘59.

I was looking forward to reading Class of ’59 because it is a time I remember and loved the music, fashion, television shows and movie stars. I wasn’t disappointed. John A Heldt brings to life a time where the pace of life was slower, young people were ladies and gentlemen, and young love precious.

The four main characters, sisters Mary Beth and Piper, and brothers Mark and Ben, travel between 1959 and 2017. They meet when Mark discovers the time tunnel and appears in the backyard of the house where Mary Beth is holidaying. Young love grows between Mary Beth and Mark and, Piper and Ben but how will they resolve the difference in their times? The full precis is below.


Mary Beth is already a fan of the 50s but it is her sister who wants to experience high school in that era. The two sisters and the two brothers are very different characters. They balance and complement each other both as siblings and lovers.

The story is more light-hearted than the others in the series with sweet romance but with trouble and danger caused by a book from the future. The time travellers also don’t begin their journey with the help of Professor Bell

The girls even got to meet and chat with Marilyn Munroe and Mary Beth debates with another student when John F Kennedy would run for President.

Like all of Heldt’s books, the time period is both well researched and brought to life. In fact, I am starting to get a bit suspicious that John Heldt has a secret life as a time traveller.

If you have read the other American Journey books you will be interested in the brief appearance of Professor Geoffrey Bell’s parents and the conversation he has with Mary Beth at a lecture about time travel.

The ending is both clever and different to Heldt’s other stories but to even hint at it would be a spoiler.

I found the story a bit slow at times and the ending happened all too soon but it is still of a quality I have come to expect from Heldt.

I received this copy from John A. Heldt in exchange for an honest review.

Though it is the fourth in the American Journey series, like all the books in the series, you don't have to read the others. Except for Professor and Mrs Bell, these characters aren't in the other books. no introduction to what one should and should not do when traveling into the past or into the future by Professor Bell.

My rating 4*

Precis 

When Mary Beth McIntire settles into a vacation house on June 2, 2017, she anticipates a quiet morning with coffee. Then she hears a noise, peers out a window, and spots a man in 1950s attire standing in the backyard. She panics when the trespasser sees her and enters the house though a door to the basement. She questions her sanity when she cannot find him.

In the same house on March 21, 1959, Mark Ryan finds a letter. Written by the mansion’s original owner in 1900, the letter describes a basement chamber, mysterious crystals, and a formula for time travel. Driven by curiosity, Mark tests the formula twice. On his second trip to 2017, he encounters a beautiful stranger. He meets the woman in the window.

Within hours, Mary Beth and Mark share their secret with her sister and his brother and begin a journey that takes them from the present day to the age of sock hops, drive-ins, and jukeboxes. In CLASS OF ’59, the fourth book in the American Journey series, four young adults find love, danger, and adventure as they navigate the corridors of time and experience Southern California in its storied prime.