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The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott


Reviewed by Ian Lipke

 Was there ever a book title more direct than this one by freelance journalist Andrew P. Street? Is there anybody outside of the cast "of supporting characters and dangerous loons" (back cover) who disagrees with Street's judgment on the Abbott years? The period from the fall of the Labor Government in Canberra in August 2013 until Malcolm Turnbull put an end to the farce in 2015 has produced some of the most cringe-worthy aspects of government that this country has ever seen.  The subsequent freshness that accompanied the promotion of Malcolm Turnbull as the force that gave us back our dignity, our belief that 'we'll be right now, mate!' is still rocketing around the nation. The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten is now Mr Thirty Percent. He is the forgotten man.





Reviewed by Jill 

We know the ending before we read the first lines.  We know that French naval vessels l’Astrolabe and La Boussole set off on a meandering journey via Cape Horn, Alaska, Korea, and Macao.  They refreshed at Botany Bay.  They set course for the north.  There is little more.  Years later, another Frenchman, Dumont d’Urville, captaining another Astrolabe, will officially corroborate the tales that are whispered by the drifters and traders of the Pacific.  Author Naomi Williams has woven fact and human nature together to reveal the realities of life and work on two small ships in foreign and sometimes hostile parts.  As readers, we travel with the crew, living their fears and their squabbles.  Landfalls is about those on board, the bemused peoples along their route and the families waiting for news.


Cinema: The Sea, The Secret

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

It’s hard to know exactly what Billy Ray and Angelina Jolie Pitt, the directors of Secret in Their Eyes and By The Sea respectively, were thinking as they planned to shove their unnecessary sagas into production. Both in their own way indulgent and egotistical, neither has much point other than for us to see how the featured stars are looking these days. On that score, Mrs. Pitt’s is the clear winner. Silk filters, designer couture, and stunning locations (Gozo Island in Malta can look forward to a sold-out tourist season) mask the tissue thin story of a husband and wife who have lost their way; it is impossible to look past their headline-making relationship and it conflicts horribly in the scenes that demand tension and fury. Secret in Their Eyes, little more than a pointless remake of one of the finest Oscar winners of the century and one of the best thrillers in many a year, is driven not by a story (originally intricate, subtle, and embellished with superb performances) but by the chance to see Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts face off while Chiwetel Ejiofor stands dazed in between. Told in two separate time zones (we easily work out which zone it is by the colour of Ejiofor’s hair), it flounders helplessly, hopelessly, and randomly.



The Bookman's Tale



Reviewed by Hazel Menehira

 If stepping into a rare bookshop creates a magical anticipation within you - then you will identify with the protagonist in Charlie Lovett’s acclaimed ‘novel of obsession’ The Bookman’s Tale. The author was a former antiquarian bookseller so it is not surprising that this intriguing mystery revolves around Peter Byerly an American character in the same profession. Lovett is well placed to enrich the sequence of plot events with authentic detail.



Tallowood Bound


Reviewed by Ian Lipke


I’ve not come across Karly Lane’s books before today. They are part of the romance genre, a classification that has never attracted me. But Karly Lane is a very different author from the ‘usual suspects’. For one thing Karly Lane does well is to construct a meaningful plot. It would not be giving away too much to say that the plot of this particular novel circles around and interweaves relationships between and within families across multiple generations, friends, national events such as the attack on Townsville in World War 2 and the accidental loss of an aircraft and many lives into the waters of Cleveland Bay. 


Mecca: The sacred city


Reviewed by Jill 

For Ziauddin Sardar, a dream job in Mecca.  An opportunity to perform his fifth Hajj as had ibn Batuta before him, on foot.  Maybe a chance to experience a mood of spiritual exertion by retracing the last leg of an old caravan route.  Accompanied by a recalcitrant donkey with a taste for 5-star hotels,  Sardar’s sometimes upbeat introduction to Mecca: The Sacred City might suggest a modern pilgrim story.  It is, but not in the sense of miles walked and meals shared.  Mecca, the destination, is the focus, the reason and an experience.  He presents Mecca’s transformation from trade route settlement, pagan beginnings and Muhammad’s revelations, via feuds, battles, dynasties, caliphates and schisms, into the oil age – about 1500 years of travel.  We encounter his fellow-travellers – the ancients, the current-era pilgrims, and westerners who were drawn to the city.  We meet some strong people along the way.  And some of them are women!


The Transformation of the World



Reviewed by Ian Lipke

This is a book of frightening size and weight when a reader first sees it. It is, however, a tome that the scholar who exults in original thought will fall in love with. It is a fascinating expose of an apparent completely new way of viewing world history until one realizes that what Osterhammel is writing about is what we've always thought without the realisation that we're doing so. I was amused by the author's dry comment that "once readers have entered the book, they should not worry: they will easily find an emergency exit" (xxii). 





Reviewed by Leanne Weymans

As an avid reader in my teens once I discovered the genre of Adult Fiction, for the most part, I left the world of Young Adult fiction behind. I have never looked back, that is until now. With an 11 year old, who consumes books by the library bag full, books that are deemed youth or young adult fiction now have my full attention. My daughter and her friends have started reading books like the Hunger Games and the Hobbit, which started me thinking about youth or young adult fiction and that maybe there was something more appropriate for my eleven- year old to read than an arena of unwilling assassins.



Nature's Line: George Goyder - Surveyor, environmentalist, visionary


Reviewed by Jill 

Scattered through South Australia’s rural areas are the remains of abandoned dwellings and the traces of ploughings.  These quiet clues to times past piqued the interest of author Janis Sheldrick.  Almost twenty-five years later, fate threw enough clues her way to get her started on a search for the stories behind the ruins.  They led her to Nature’s Line – a practical differentiation between South Australia’s agricultural and grazing lands.  Nature's Line: George Goyder - Surveyor, environmentalist, visionary  is the result of painstaking research into a man, his life and work.  It goes beyond biography.  The political and social conditions of the day, and life and work as a servant of the Crown are revealed.  We see the several personas of The Line itself.  Would-be farmers disputed its confines.  Governments enshrined it in law, and later dispensed with it.  The Line remains an enduring facet of South Australia’s character.


Henry & Banjo



Reviewed by Ian Lipke

 This beautifully presented text will be seen on my library shelves or in my briefcase on my way to a class in this city. Over 400 pages of information about Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson grace my shelves. Along with the author – who has been remarkably honest – I want to reinforce a point. This book “is a narrative about two men who led very different lives yet their bond for storytelling drew them together in some unexpected ways” (Knight, x). This is a narrative, not an academic treatise. A whole set of rules apply that would be out of place in academia.



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