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Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" RSS Feed (ACT, Australia)

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Wolves Disease
Wolves Disease
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘Very few people can actually recognise the smell of pooled blood.’, August 2, 2015
This review is from: Wolves Disease (Kindle Edition)
London, 2027. A society in which media consumption is monitored by the state in an attempt to prevent people sharing their unhappiness and becoming a threat to the state. A society in which drugs are available to commuters to blank out the tedium of their journeys. A city in which a number of very brutal murders are stretching Detective Jayek Smythe to the limit. Why are these murders being committed? And by whom?

As Detective Smythe is caught up in investigating these murders, he’s in trouble with the state for not achieving the required levels of media consumption. This creates additional stress, but Smythe thinks (hopes) he has a solution.

Then another murder is committed, and even though the evidence appears overwhelming, Smythe has difficulty accepting it. Enter Professor Hugo Wolves: a neuroscientist who thinks he may have some answers. Can Smythe solve the case? What is Professor Wolves’ motivation? Is Terets Wilkinson a cold-blooded killer? And what about Rose Dows?

‘The intimidating building looms with a predator’s intent, on the north bank of the River Thames, as it stares across the waters with granite limbs pulled backwards in anticipation.’

This novel moves at a rapid pace, and even though I have difficulty accepting that intimidating buildings can have a predator’s intent, I mostly enjoyed this story. In this dystopian society, controlling people – at any cost – is critical. The government and certain big corporations are in control, individuals are largely expendable. Big Brother is here!

Note: I was offered, and accepted, an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2015 5:08 AM PDT


To Set the Record Straight: the Story of Francesco Borgia, Pioneer Pasta Maker in South Australia
To Set the Record Straight: the Story of Francesco Borgia, Pioneer Pasta Maker in South Australia
by Christina Borgia Griguol
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars ‘All roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes, so the main street of the little southern Italian town of San Procopio .., July 26, 2015
... is optimistically named Via Roma, and it is here that my father’s story has its beginning.’

This book tells the story of the author’s father, Francesco Borgia, who migrated to Australia in 1925 from San Procopio, a small rural town in Reggio Calabria in southern Italy in search of a better life. He was only 18 years old.

In 1937, Francesco returned to visit his family. They wanted him to stay in Italy, but by then Francesco believed that his future was in Australia. He had a dream: to establish his own business making pasta in Australia. He borrowed £50 ($100), ordered pasta making machinery in Massena, which he arranged to have shipped to Australia.

On 24 May 1938, Francesco’s factory – Borgia Brothers – began production in an old dairy at 74 Ward Street, North Adelaide, South Australia. In July 1939, he went into partnership with Luigi Crotti and the Sovrana Macaroni Company was born.

Disaster struck with the advent of World War II. Italians were considered a threat to national security and were classed as enemy aliens. On 11 June 1940, Francesco was arrested, placed in an internment camp. He spent the next three and a half years in camps at Tatura, Hay and Loveday. His plans to marry were put on hold and his business was closed.

Released from internment (7 January 1944) and married on 4 March 1944, Francesco Borgia worked hard to restart his business. Despite all of the setbacks and at times almost overwhelming obstacles, Francesco Borgia restarted his business.

The story of Francesco Borgia (6 August 1907 – 20 August 1964) is a story to which many immigrants to Australia will be able to relate. Non-English speaking migrants have the added challenge of learning a new language in addition to settling in a new country and experiencing a different culture. It’s also inspirational, and shows just what can be achieved by those courageous enough to keep trying.

I enjoyed reading Francesco Borgia’s story and learning something about the history of pasta making in Australia. Ms Borgia Griguol’s book is a fine tribute to her father, his drive and heritage.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot: A 17th century historical mystery (A Martin Marbeck Mystery)
Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot: A 17th century historical mystery (A Martin Marbeck Mystery)
by John Pilkington
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘The sun was shrinking. It was the twelfth day of October, and the outbreak of plague that had blighted London ..., July 23, 2015
... over this uneasy summer was receding into memory.’

Martin Marbeck is an ‘intelligencer’, a government spy for Lord Cecil who has seen service under Queen Elizabeth I and continues to serve her successor, King James I. Religious differences between Catholic and Protestants continue to divide the nation. Marbeck is ordered to keep watch on Thomas Percy, a well-known Papist who is cousin to the Earl of Northumberland. Marbeck hears rumours of a threat against the King, but has no specific information. His spymaster seems unconcerned, but Marbeck doesn’t think that the threat can be so readily dismissed. In the meantime, Marbeck himself is more than a little distracted by the elegant Charlotte de Baume.

But Marbeck is persistent, and comments by a captured priest combined with observations shared by a former colleague give him some clue as to the form the threat might take. Does he have time to stop it? Marbeck himself is in danger as he tries to uncover the truth. Who is behind the plot, and how do they hope to achieve their objectives?

‘Parliament prorogued … The opening to take place on the fifth of November, a Tuesday…’

I really enjoyed this novel. It’s the first of the Marbeck series (it’s the fourth book published) I’ve read and I’ll be looking to read the first three. Although I know the history of this period (and the Gunpowder Plot) fairly well, I liked the way Mr Pilkington has incorporated Marbeck into the story without material change to the events. But will Marbeck survive, or are his days as an intelligencer over?

‘Who has the most to gain from letting the drama play itself out until the last moment?

My thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2015 3:06 AM PDT


Adjudicator: A Novel
Adjudicator: A Novel
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘My fellow citizens, this is a morning of great pride for the Noltos Commonwealth.’, July 23, 2015
On a distant planet, colonised by two different waves of settlement from earth, two forms of government had failed. First tyranny and then dysfunctional democracy. But the people of Noltos, whether biotic or synth have a solution. An Adjudicator is selected, rules for a fixed period and then has an identity selected for him when he returns to society. The Adjudicator is impartial, his fairness beyond reproach. In the future, he could benefit or be penalised as a consequence of any decision he makes as the Adjudicator.

‘This is the price of tranquillity, and you’ve had four years to accept it.’

Cole Bishop is selected as the fifth Adjudicator. He believes in the system, even knowing that he will eventually resume life in a stranger’s skin. All fine in theory. But when Cole is told that his son has suffered an accident which leaves him near death, theory is jettisoned. Cole should not have been told about his son’s accident, but once he knows he is going to do everything in his power to save his son’s life. Who will help him?
As Cole battles to help his son, different aspects of how life on Noltos is managed are revealed. The Adjudicator system may have some advantages, but only for some.

It took me a while to absorb the information I needed to make sense of the world of Noltos, and I’m not convinced that I fully understand it. But that doesn’t matter: the selection and role of the Adjudicator, and Cole’s fight to try to save his son held my attention. And there are elements of the ending which pleased me mightily.

‘It’s done. And I’m glad I got to see it.’

What does the future hold for this post-democratic world?

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2015 3:07 AM PDT


Message Stick
Message Stick
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘Invisibility was an art. Of the different veils a man could use, tricking the eye was easy.’, July 21, 2015
This review is from: Message Stick (Kindle Edition)
When Ian McCabe goes missing in outback Australia, his friend Gabriel (Gabe) Branch leaves coastal Queensland to search for him. Ian is a ‘roo shooter, a peripatetic lifestyle which makes it difficult to pin down when he went missing. This will be a difficult journey for Gabe. Identifiably Aboriginal, removed from his parents as a child, the world of his ancestors is alien to him.

‘The only thing that seems to hold any promise is an artifact Ian mailed the week he disappeared.’

In Alice Springs, Gabe discovers that the artifact is a message stick. He’s told that it is something to do with death, but he needs to find someone from the right tribe to read it. Gabe’s journey through the outback draws the attention of Dana Pukatja, a Pitjantjatjara medicine man who does not want Gabe to find the truth.

This is an interesting and at times convoluted tale. Gabe needs to become more aware of his own Aboriginal past and culture. He needs this awareness in order to understand both the world in which he finds himself, and what happened to Ian. The journey is difficult, both physically and emotionally. The supernatural also has a large role. Gabe encounters people who help him, and those who discriminate against him. Where does Gabe belong? And what about Dana Pukatja: can Gabe find the truth despite his best efforts?

‘White men, with their metal and machines and their mania for conquest, never understood Aborigines or their land.’

The vastness of the Australian outback is vividly depicted in this novel: a remote place which can be very unforgiving of those who enter it. The outback is both backdrop to the story and a character within it. In addition to the search for Ian, and Gabe’s search for himself, Ms Cunningham also raises a number of the social issues that continue to bedevil Australia as a consequence of the treatment of the Indigenous Peoples.

Did I enjoy this novel? Not entirely. But that is mostly my discomfort with the story presented rather than the way it is written. This is a novel which invites you to consider the background as well as the events.

Note: I was offered, and accepted, an electronic copy of this novel for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2015 3:12 PM PDT


Eumundi And Friends: Hot Air Ballooning: The Adventures Begin
Eumundi And Friends: Hot Air Ballooning: The Adventures Begin
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ‘Tell me, Julia - what brings a luxurious mouse like you up here today?’, July 20, 2015
When Rosemary Anner invited me to look at ‘Eumundi and Friends: Hot Air Ballooning’ I couldn’t resist. Eumundi Mouse is a very adventurous young Australian mouse, and her stories are told by father and daughter team Stuart and Kristen Anner and beautifully illustrated by Cristina Birtea.

This is a picture book, intended for children aged between 7 and 9. I think that some younger children would enjoy the story as well, but I’d be careful not to encourage aspiring young hot air balloonists. I mean, if a mouse can take off in a hot air balloon, just imagine what a child could do?
Eumundi and her new friends Hammy and Julia set off – somewhat inadvertently – in a hot air balloon. It’s an adventure with, after plenty of excitement, a happy ending.

I read this on my Kindle Paperwhite which means that, unfortunately, I didn’t get to fully appreciate the coloured illustrations. The illustrations look wonderful on the Kindle application on my PC, but I’d be inclined to buy the paper version for a gift.

So far three Eumundi and Friends stories have been published, and more are on the way!

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2015 3:14 PM PDT


He Drinks Poison
He Drinks Poison
Price: $5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘Ancient warriors knew that forgetting the conflict the night before a battle was best.’, July 20, 2015
This review is from: He Drinks Poison (Kindle Edition)
Priya Conlin-Kumar, a South-Asian American FBI agent, has just been reassigned to Wheeling, West Virginia. Her assignment will be to investigate potential money laundering: important, but probably not very exciting. But, just as Priya is about to take up her posting, two bodies are found, and the FBI is asked to investigate whether Wheeling has a serial killer. Priya is despatched to investigate.

‘It was never a matter of if they would kill again. The only question was when.’

A number of bodies are recovered. There are sufficient differences between some of the cases for Priya to question whether two murderers are operating. Not all of the local police are happy with Priya’s involvement, which creates some tension between the various people involved and has the potential to slow down the investigation.

Priya is a very interesting character, her tragic backstory is important, as is her Hindu heritage. The title ‘He Drinks Poison’ is from The Ramayana which itself is part of the backdrop for the novel. Priya is a worshipper of Kali, and the visons she experiences from The Ramayana become more important when it becomes clear that one of the serial killers is fixated on her.

There is plenty of action in this novel, and some very explicit, graphic descriptions of violence. Who are the serial killers, and what why do they kill? Will Priya work though the clues the killer is sending her before others are killed? Can she find happiness?

I found it difficult to put this novel down. Early on we find who the serial killers are, and the motivation for one is comparatively straightforward. But the second, more organised serial killer challenges Priya on a number of different levels.

If you like deep, dark stories with a number of twists and turns, and you can stomach explicit and graphic descriptions of violence, you may well enjoy this novel. The fight between good and evil – depicted in part using Hindu mythology – adds an extra, interesting dimension to this story.

Note: I was offered, and accepted, an electronic copy of this novel for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2015 11:55 PM PDT


The Garden of Unfortunate Souls
The Garden of Unfortunate Souls
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘It happened on a rainy night in April, in the spring of 1987.’, July 16, 2015
Buffalo, New York. During the 1980s, recession has transformed the fruit belt – what was once the city’s proudest African American neighbourhood – into a ghetto. In this neighbourhood, Loretta Ford masquerades as the owner of a house whose previous occupant is dead. Loretta, a single mother and religious fanatic, lives a reclusive life with her son Shadrack. On a rainy night in April, the mayor’s son, Audwin Brooks, crashes into Loretta’s home in the middle of the night. This accidental meeting sets off a series of events that will reverberate through two families and change lives. Why, and how?

Reading the novel will provide some of the answers. Uncomfortable answers in the main. What events and circumstances have changed their lives? What are the issues they are trying to make sense of? On the face of it, Loretta Ford and her son Shadrack are very different from the Brooks family, but superficial looks can be deceptive.

I’ve never lived in Buffalo, New York and I’m not African American. But the major themes of this novel – abuse, control, dispossession, neglect and violence – exist in most (if not all) societies. These themes are colour-blind. Parents shape their children, for better or worse, through their own experiences and sense of what is best. Some parents have better experiences than others. Loretta Ford’s experiences are awful and so, as a consequence, are Shadrack’s. And the Brooks family? Neglect takes a different form there.

This is a dark novel, and there is no happy ending. But, while I hoped for different outcomes, this was never going to happen for these characters. Is it a lack of self-awareness that restricts opportunity, or an absence of hope for change? Or is it, simply, an impossibility to effect positive change in such blighted circumstances? How can this cycle be changed?

This is Eddie Mark’s debut novel: a thoughtful, considered book which raises many difficult issues. There are no simple theories of causation here, no magic answers. But not everyone is a victim, and there are some villains (at least to me). I can never understand (or forgive) those in positions of power (such as teachers and doctors) who see signs of abuse and neglect and choose to do nothing.

‘Forgive me for it, my son. I didn’t know.’

Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


Paint Me Black: Memories of Croker Island & Other Journeys
Paint Me Black: Memories of Croker Island & Other Journeys
by Claire Henty-Gebert
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.45
27 used & new from $16.11

4.0 out of 5 stars ‘My name is Claire Henty-Gebert.’, July 15, 2015
‘I am one of the many thousands of children of Aboriginal descent who were separated from their Aboriginal mothers as a result of the government laws and policies in the Northern Territory during the 1900s.’

Claire Henty-Gebert was probably born in the mid-1920s near Frew River Station, about 400 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs. Her parents were Henry Henty, a white settler, and Ruby Ngwarie, an Alyawarra woman. Claire was separated from her mother when she was three or four years old when she was taken to the Bungalow in Alice Springs. Claire was never to see her mother again. The Bungalow was a government institution, established to house Aboriginal children who had been removed from their parents.

In 1941, Claire and the other children were moved to a Methodist mission on Croker Island off the Australian north coast. They arrived just days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. The children were taught how to identify Japanese planes: a particularly useful skill given that Croker Island was on a major wartime air route.

The Japanese bombed Darwin on the 19th of February 1942. Less than four months after they arrived, the children (and the missionaries) were moved from Croker Island. They walked through Arnhem Land to Nourlangie, and spent some time at the military base at Pine Creek where American soldiers were based. Then, they moved south where they spent the war years in and near Sydney.

After World War II, Claire returned to Croker Island and married.

‘In 1953 the Wards Ordinance was legislated. This meant that the government could no longer remove any child of Aboriginal descent from his/her parents without a court order, and all full-blood Aboriginal people were registered.’

Claire was inspired to trace her Aboriginal family, and she did. But as she says:

‘That first meeting with my family was not one where we hugged and kissed each other with the joy of not having seen each other for what seemed like a lifetime. It was more an occasion of meeting a stranger for the first time.’

While Ms Henty-Gebert has happy memories of her time at the Croker Island Mission, she has no memory of being taken from her family. In the book she writes that she believes that she will find the answer to her loss of memory one day, and hopes that her family research will help her piece together these missing years.

A life can be recounted in many different ways. Ms Henty-Gebert writes more of the positive aspects of her life than about the loss and sadness. In some ways, this makes her account harder to read.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in personal accounts of life from members of the Stolen Generations. Ms Henty-Gebert’s memories of Croker Island and other journeys, with its accompanying photographs, is her account of a life shaped by flawed government policies.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


In Search of Piétons: A Photo Documentary
In Search of Piétons: A Photo Documentary
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ‘Ultimately, this book was possible because a man went out for a walk.’, July 14, 2015
So, what can possibly be interesting about pedestrian crossing signs in France? While I thought about whether to accept a copy of this book for review purposes, I found myself remembering my experience of pedestrian crossings as an 11 year old back in the third quarter of the last century. Curiosity prompted me to say yes, and thus started an interesting journey.

Bill Bolton has included photographs of 25 different piétons (illuminated pedestrian crossing signs) he discovered while travelling through France. His photographs show both the red and green figures of the sign. The book also includes a detailed explanation of where each piéton is located, as well as the photographic exposure parameters. So, the reader can see each photograph, can appreciate the effort taken to take each photograph and (courtesy of google maps) follow a link to see the intersection where the piéton is located. I’ll confess that I didn’t follow the links on my Kindle, it was much easier to do that on my computer. Even then, seeing the piétons in situ was less important to me than appreciating Bill Bolton’s photography and I’ve not followed every link.

Seeing 25 different piéton images made me smile. Each piéton seems to have a different personality: there’s André (image 2), who seems to be sauntering, while Guillame (image 6) looks to be on business. Antoine (image 11) could be in a hurry, while Victor (image 12) - the man in the hat - seems very purposeful. Gérard (image 20) is something of a minimalist. What do these different piétons tell us about these different locations? Now I’m wondering how many different illuminated pedestrian crossing signs there are in the world? Hmm.

Back when I was 11 years old, one of my responsibilities was supervising younger children crossing a busy road to return to school after lunch. We had guidelines for operating the pedestrian crossing (so as not to stop the traffic too frequently) but the most important aspect was ensuring that the younger children knew not to step off the pavement when the sign was red. My memory is that those signs had words, not figures. How pedestrian.

These images are delightful. The accompanying text is informative. The book is more than the sum of its parts: it has me wondering about beauty and function.

Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2015 7:15 PM PDT


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