If Blood Should Stain the Wattle

y648This doesn’t happen nearly as often as I would like, but I can honestly say that I loved this book! I’ve only ever really thought of Jackie French in terms of children’s and young adult fiction so was pleasantly surprised to see her grown up offering – If Blood Should Stain the Wattle.

Now it is probably the Australian in me, but I especially loved how Jackie uses famous Australian poetry and folklore that brought a ‘familiar’ spark to the story for me.

If Blood Should Stain the Wattle is full of wonderful, well established characters that have appeared in Jackie French’s earlier ‘Matilda’ series. I haven’t read any of these books yet but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this one; instead it made me want to experience them all.

There are fabulous strong female characters who are making their mark in Gibber’s Creek, finding love and setting their sights on conquering the world. Okay, maybe just Australia. Then we have the odd spiritual moment where they converse with ghosts and even manage to peek through time itself. But this is the seventies so the story wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t a hippy commune on the edge of Gibber’s Creek and a ‘cult leader’ who is receiving messages from aliens. Did I mention that this is also the story of the Whitlam government coming to power?

Stop, come back! Don’t be put off by the inclusion of politicians and their shenanigans within the pages. Jackie French has cleverly woven the information into short excerpts from newspaper reports, and by having characters Jed Kelly and Matilda campaigning to support a Labor government. No boring political twaddle in sight; instead we get to experience first hand what it was like when the Whitlam Government came to power in early 1970s Australia and the subsequent historic dismissal of Gough Whitlam by then Governor-General Sir John Kerr.
This book really does have something for everyone and it won’t disappoint.

The Matilda series began as a trilogy, became a quartet. It was meant to be a history of our nation told from one country town, and the viewpoints of those who had no political voice in 1892, when the series begins: women, indigenous people, Chinese, Afghans.
But, by book four, I realised that history didn’t stop just because I was born, and that the series will continue as long as I live.” (Jackie French)

The quartet Jackie French is referring to is now a sextet – and who knows how many more there may be. So if you want to start at the very beginning the titles in order are:

  1. A Waltz for Matilda
  2. The Girl From Snowy River
  3. The Road to Gundagai
  4. To Love a Sunburnt Country
  5. The Ghost by the Billabong
  6. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle

Cover of A waltz for MatildaCover of the girl from Snowy Riverimage_proxy[3]Cover of To love a sunburnt countryCover of The ghost by the billabongCover of If Blood should stain the wattle

If Blood Should Stain the Wattle
by Jackie French
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781460753118

Together We Read Worlds Apart

World’s Apart Together We Read allows readers across Australia and New Zealand to borrow the eBook Worlds Apart simultaneously for free.

For a two-week period beginning today, you can borrow the eBook Worlds Apart by Ber Carroll. There will be no waiting for this popular modern family story.

Worlds Apart is about two women, cousins and best friends, who are worlds apart and one secret that changes everything. As two women desperately try to find their place in this world in Ireland and Australia, a shocking family secret comes to light, and nothing will ever be the same again. Ber Carroll’s novel is a story about modern-day women, their relationships, family dynamics, conflicts and ambitions.

Together We Read is facilitated by the OverDrive platform for eBooks and eAudiobooks.

twr-facebook-cover

South Canterbury All Australian Day Car Show

Cover of Australian muscle car magazineComing of (driving) age in Australia infused in me a love of Australian-built cars. Young Italian-Australians used to cruise around and around Fremantle, Western Australia in their immaculate Valiants as slow as can be so everyone would see.

My first two cars were Holden Torana’s 1974 LH (186 bored out to a 192 engine) and 1971 LC (171 engine) models which in all honestly were total rust buckets but I loved them dearly. I cried the day my LH Torana was compacted in the crusher at the wrecking yard. My LC Torana was so full of bog (car body filler) that it used to sink on sandy roads and there was no metal to attach a tow bar onto. Our first cars are often our lifetime love.

Cover of It happened in a HoldenNext I saved up and bought a 1988 VL Commodore which was only about 5 years old by then. It was a beautiful sky blue with a 3L engine. I thought I was pretty swish. Since moving back to NZ I had cheap Japanese imports but still had a hankering for the bogan vehicles. After a failed attempt at owning a VL station wagon dubbed ‘the Golden Holden’ (too much rust for W.O.F), I’ve finally got myself the ultimate Aussie car: a V8 Commodore. This time a 1995 VR with a column auto and a cool-as bench seat, and in sky blue again too!

Cover of Hey ChargerIf you too love the Australian cars get along to the South Canterbury All Australian Day at Caroline Bay, Timaru on Sunday 6th September 2015, 10am-2pm. Gold coin donation to see some great Holdens, Fords and Mopars (Valiant/Chrysler). Organised by the Timaru Holden Club and the Timaru Falcon Fairlane Club.

Enquiries to Craig Trimmings 021-511-150 or Murray Stevenson 021-223-1772. All proceeds to Westpac Helicopter Appeal.

I will be taking my V8 to the show with the Holden Club Canterbury. I thoroughly recommend joining a car club. They are great fun.

Michael Robotham – The psychology of crime

Michael Robotham is full of stories. He had a crowd enraptured at South Learning Centre last night with his tales of crime, psychology, writing, and the Ozarks.

He is now a best-selling, award-winning writer, but started out as a journalist. Later he was a successful ghost writer, working on 15 autobiographies (including Ginger Spice, Rolf Harris, and Lulu – he turned down Bryan Ferry though!)

Michael started writing his first novel The suspect when he had some time off between ghostwriting memoirs by Lulu and Rolf Harris. There was a bidding war – he had arrived with a bang. When it was published, he sent a copy to his Mum. After a while, she still hadn’t read it and told him “I had three library books to get through”.  She won a Friends of the Library Award for that commitment to libraries. Her review of his first book? “It took me a while to get into and then I did”.

Michael and author Paul Cleave
Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8920

Michael talked about his road to becoming a writer, and his literary parent Ray Bradbury, as told here in Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’.

He also shared stories about his dealings with Oz’s most wanted crim Raymond John Denning, It is a ripper of a tale and was sparked his fascination with the psychology of crime.

Michael told us about time with psychologist Paul Britton (who was the basis for the fictional character Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane). This was the man who went to Fred and Rosemary West’s house and when they found bodies in the garden said “they’re in the garden because the house is full”. Very creepy stuff.

His books all have a factual basis. The spark for his latest book Close your eyes was the murder of Janet Brown in Somerset. Life and Death was inspired by a man who escaped from prison the day before he was due to be released – and was never seen again.

I try so hard to write fiction that reads like fact.

Audience
Michael Robotham talk at South Learning Centre. Wednesday 26 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8919

Michael told us about his trip to the Ozark Mountains, scouting for a location for Life or Death. The locals were less than friendly. A burly Ozarkian Sheriff sparked good lines like someone being “dumber than shit on a biscuit”.

Not only did we get most excellent anecdotes, Michael also shared some writing tips. Find your own way. Do just enough research so the premise works, don’t let your research dominate.

Michael has just gained a new gang of Christchurch fans.

Michael Robotham and Dennis
Michael Robotham and my Dad.  Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8922

Search our catalogue for Michael Robotham.

Cover of Close your eyes Cover of Watching you Cover of Say you're sorry Cover of Life or death Cover of The suspect

Julia Gillard: In Conversation

Last night I attended Julia Gillard in Conversation, a WORD Christchurch event, in a packed Charles Luney auditorium, St Margaret’s College. The conversation between the former Australian Prime Minister and Press editor Joanna Norris was based on Gillard’s book, My Story. The talk was very insightful – not only about the difficulties of being a politician, but also about being a woman in politics.

Cover of My story by Julia GillardFrom the perspective of a male attending this session, I found the feminist conversation very interesting. Today’s different feminist perspectives illustrate how far society has moved forward since the 1960s and how the feminist ideology has also changed.

Over her life, Gillard has developed her own independent values which she openly shares and is very willing to debate. When her family settled in Adelaide, Gillard acknowledged that she was “lucky” her parents chose a house in a good suburb that was in a good school zone. From here she flourished and developed ideals such as compassion.

Gillard places great importance on a supportive family, including her sheltered upbringing, a good education, and having a lot of passion. What struck a chord with me was Gillard’s support for gender, socio-economic and ethnic equality. She encourages people to follow their dreams in their chosen field and hopes more females will continue to enter a career in politics.

Gillard shared that she, Prime Minister John Key and United States President, Barack Obama, all share the same birth year of 1961. Growing up in this time and the resulting decades saw Gillard develop a sense of standing up for what she believed in and also accepting differences (true democratic rights). The time a person enters parliament clearly influences the success of their political career. Gillard stated some of the greatest politicians never hold cabinet positions because they are on the wrong side of the benches.

Cover of The Stalking of Julia GillardGillard is a hard worker, who has continued to achieve. She laughed at the fact she even had her book to the publisher on time. This illustrates her strong work ethic. She stressed the value of preserving a ‘cone of silence’ (while in politics) to plan for the future and to ensure you spend time with family. She acknowledged this was not easy when there is so much to deal with and so many different ways of being immediately contacted – mobile phone, pager, email etc.

A sense of humour is a must. Gillard highlighted the importance of having to make light of news stories particularly those that are corrosive in nature. Gillard shared a story of her father who questioned whether the media would have enquired about his own sexuality, as he was a barber, in the same way that they did that of her partner’s, Tim, who is a hairdresser. Disappointingly, the media continue to misreport her to this day, most recently at Gough Whitlam’s funeral.

Overall this was an enjoyable event with a very good local turnout. I believe history will look back favourably at Gillard and her work to ensure a more equal society for all.

Julia Gillard in person – and in Christchurch

Cover of My StoryI am pretty excited about Thursday night (20 November) – am off to listen to ex-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
She will discuss her life and politics with Joanna Norris, editor of The Press. It is fair to say she had a tumultuous time of it – not only “robust” political battling, but also confronting some shocking misogyny.

You can also get a copy of her book My Story and get Julia Gillard to sign it – a fine gift for the politico in your life.

This WORD Christchurch event is selling like proverbial hot cakes – so book now. She will be smart and frank, as per this quote:

“If you think you’d like to see yourself in the media, you’d like to be a celebrity, you know, try out for Big Brother – politics is not for you. You should only do it if you really know why you’re doing it.

“Will it end in tears? Yes, absolutely. The day after I finished being prime minister, starting to pack up my office, I took a call from Paul Keating who said to me, ‘We all get taken out in a box, love. Sorry, sorry to hear about you. We all get taken out in a box, love.’ And never a truer word spoken.”

More about Julia Gillard:

“Should I stay or should I go?”

Book coverWhen The Clash wrote Should I stay or should I go in the 1980s, they did not intend it to refer to earthquake struck cities; nevertheless it would make a fitting anthem for Christchurch in these post-quake days. There’s so much coming and going, and to quote The Clash:

If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double.

A library is the perfect place to bear witness to these great migrations of people. In a single day in any one library, you could meet up with The Stayers, The Goers and the Inbetweeners.

The many new arrivals to Christchurch come from all over the world. This week alone I have met (and this to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas): three from New Guinea, two Irish builders, one English rose. The latter had arrived a mere three hours earlier and had come straight from the airport to Central Library Peterborough to use the internet and take out books on tramping around Christchurch and Kiwi cooking. I’m grouping them with The Stayers because that’s what I hope they will do.

Some people have thought it all through and decided it is time to go – usually to The Land of Oz. Not the whole country mind, just the bits on the edge like The Sunshine Coast and Western Australia. Oz might as well not have a middle as far as most Goers are concerned; it’s all about the sunshine, the salaries and the surf. Actually, put like that it does sound great, but I do hope they’ve been told about Capital Gains Tax and the possible effect of migration on pensions. If you’ve decided to move on, the library has heaps of resources to help you, like Living and Working in Australia.

What with all this moving around, there is bound to be some fallout. And here it comes: the parents who have been left behind – The Inbetweeners – doomed to a life of both staying and going. They have lost their children and their grandchildren and instead have been gifted iPads, Smart phones and e-readers. This is a huge technological hurdle for many of them. But they are so proud of their clever off-spring who have landed lives in Australia and talk of how it is only a matter of a few hours’ flying time to meet up again. I smile, because I do that already and am now best friends with a pair of flight socks. They ask if we can help them with all their new gadgets. And, yes, we can. Several libraries around the network offer drop-in computer classes tailored specifically to this group. Just phone 03-941-7923 and our wonderful Fingertip staff will help you out. Alternatively, check our Classes and Events calendar.

But moving around isn’t about age really. Eileen Hall was 93 when she sang Should I Stay or Should I Go in the film Young@Heart. Have a listen, it’s great. And if she could get up on a stage and belt that out at 93, who is to say that The Inbetweeners wouldn’t make a great go of it in Woolloomooloo (or wherever)?

Warm and sunny reads

CoverSick of looking out the window at a dreary day? Try some armchair travel to vicariously experience warmer climes.

Read a novel set somewhere warm and sunny:

If you are interested in travel writing, subscribe to our Armchair Travel newsletter (here’s the June one).

Keep cosy this winter with downloading eBooks or audiobooks without even leaving your house!

Australasian enquiries answered here!

“Love thy neighbour” is a much easier ideal to keep when you live in a country like New Zealand. You share no borders and you can beat your biggest neighbour at rugby! There can be no denying though that we are part of a globalised world and need to be aware of our own region.

The Australia / New Zealand Reference Centre  collection is a vital resource for anyone seeking information onExplore the Australia / New Zealand Reference Centre virtually any topic of regional interest. It includes:

  • Australian and New Zealand periodicals in full text;
  • Full-text Australasian reference books;
  • 80,000+ full-text biographies;
  • Full-text leading Australian and New Zealand newspapers and newswires;
  • An image collection of over 510,000 photos, maps and flags.

Access this and many other fantastic electronic resources  from home with your library card number and PIN, or at our community libraries through the Source.

People of conviction: Discover your Australian past

Image from our collectionAccording to one of the library’s newest family history resources, there were three Finnerty men that arrived in New South Wales as convicts between 1788 and 1842.  As a relative of this Irish clan I am not upset about this finding. They probably just did not doff their hat at an appropriate time to a landed gent and I am all for that!

If you are interested in your own past, Find My Past AU offers access to a collection of historical records covering Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

This fantastic resource is  available at all our libraries. Come in and have a play and explore our many family history resources!