Cancer Daily Life, by Carola Schmidt, Illustrated by Rafael Antonio

Cancer Daily Life is a bittersweet collection of illustrations that readers highly involved in the C world can relate to, including friends and family of people with cancer.’ From back cover.

Our Scotland The Brave bravely gets chemotherapy while reading Cancer Daily Life by Carola Schmidt. It makes him feel not alone.

Reading Cancer Daily Life

This short, colourful picture book finds the odd things, the weird things, and even the ironic things can bring a guarded smile, during cancer treatment. It’s a little something you could give a friend who is going through cancer, especially when you are lost for words to say to them yourself. (This certainly describes me.) There are ironic reflections on the long days of feeling sick and lonely and terrible. There are little glimpses of the fears to be tackled and the fantasies conjured up during the hard hours of treatment. Recommended as a little splash of colour in the daily life of the “C” world.

Where to find Cancer Daily Life:  Amazon, and Book Depository.

Carola Schmidt, the author, is a Pediatric Oncology Pharmacist and author of several scientific books on paediatric oncology. She wrote Chubby’s Tale: The True Story of a Teddy Bear Who Beat Cancer, illustrated by Frederico Schmidt. Mawson and his friends reviewed it here. Carola also wrote Bald is Beautiful: A Letter for a Fabulous Girl, a book about ‘about love, beauty, happiness, and friendship when going through various changes in our lives ‘. Find it at Amazon and Abebooks.

Rafael Antonio is an illustrator for games, books and comics. To find him, plonk a paw down here for Twitter .

Mark, your host at Baffled Bear Books, is guardian of writer-Bear Mawson. Of Mawson’s book It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In ” was said, “Reading this book is like receiving a great big hug of reassurance and a huge hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows.” Review by Lady Bracknell. Of Mawson’s She Ran Away From Love was said, “‘A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness.’ Sharrie Williams, Author of The Maybelline Story.

The Adventurous Princess and other Feminist Fairy Tales, by Erin-Claire Barrow

‘What if Beauty stood up to the Beast, the Princess never tried to sleep on the pea .. and the Swan Maiden took revenge on the hunter who kidnapped her?‘ (From the Back Cover.)

Professor Caddy got her paws on this beautifully illustrated retelling of fairy tales. On the cover, a young woman, head held high and wearing sturdy boots, looks ready to protect herself (spear) and to find her own way about (map). A glance at the back cover suggests she is less concerned about the dragon than the dragon might be about her. Not a tiara or movement-restricting dress in sight. ‘I must bring this along to our Tedettes Jane Austen Bookclub’, said Caddy. ‘All these princesses look so different and bold’.

Our Samantha loved the first tale, ‘The Princess and The Pea’. This is the kind of princess Sam wants to be! She dashed off to put on her ‘exploring bag’, inspired to go adventuring herself right away.

Meanwhile, wise old Hilda-Bear is reading and re-reading ‘Cinderella.’ ‘Marvellous’, mutters Hilda, ‘ just marvellous. Of course, why should we bears of ‘a certain age’ miss out when it comes to fairy tales. Marvellous, just marvellous’.

Tedette Lizbeth is very conscious of her lovely fur. She went straight to the tale of ‘Snow White’ which features the magic talking mirror. Well, it was not quite how she remembered it. “Mirror, mirror on the wall’, asks the Queen, ‘who is the fairest of them all?’ Lizbeth was delighted at how this story turns out. She will never look at mirrors the same way again.

The nine tales retold here include familiar favourites such as ‘Beauty and The Beast’, ‘The Frog Prince’ and ‘The ‘Swan Maiden’, but now you see them with new eyes. After reading these, I think we will all want to see more! Oh, and there are ‘morals’ in these tales for princes too, for instance, that wearing glasses and loving books is perfectly fine, and that waiting about on a lily pad in some murky pond hoping a princess will come to you is perhaps not the best way to go forth in life.

‘The charm, whimsy and magic of traditional fairytales remain, but the diverse characters challenge stereotypes about who they should be or how the y should act, stand up for themselves, and shape their own futures. ‘(From Back Cover).

The Adventurous Princess is written and also illustrated by Erin-Claire Barrow. The full-page colour drawings are respectful of the original tales but visually turn us to appreciate them differently. Erin hopes such stories ‘inspire young people, and young women in particular, to see themselves as the strong, clever and adventurous heroes of their own stories.’ (Foreword.) You can see more of Erin’s work at her website, for instance her collection called ‘Dangerous creatures from Celtic folklore.’

The Adventurous Princess and other feminist fairly tales is published by Publisher Obscura, an imprint of Odyssey Books . You can also find it on Book Depository, on Amazon (currently FREE on Kindle unlimited, although with illustrations of this quality you will want to hold the real thing in your hands), and on Barnes and Noble.

Mark, your host here at Baffled Bear Books, is also guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is the writer-bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In and She Ran Away From Love. 

She Ran Away From Love: Review by Tinted Edges

Tinted Edges

Teddy bear picture book about finding yourself

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author, whose other book I reviewed previously.


“She Ran Away From Love” by Mawson is a picture book about a teddy bear called Frilly who isn’t sure she is being her authentic self. She consults her friend Mawson for advice, but ultimately decides that she needs to go on a journey to find the answers herself.

This is a sweet book that gently explores the idea of personal development and wanting more from yourself and from your life. Frilly is an interesting character who tries to reconcile being true to herself with personal growth, and I particularly liked the part where she is very assertive about the type of quest she is going on and declines Mawson’s offer of swords, shields and horses because they are neither quiet nor pink. I also like…

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After The Bloodwood Staff, by Laura E Goodin: An adventure book that riffs on adventure books

‘If you’re thinking that I’m just a middle-aged woman who should stay at home with her cats and her book club for a couple of decades until its time to go into a hospice and die, then you can think again.’ (Sybil in Chapter One.)

Hello blog reader. So, its been another dreary week of blah work and same-old, same-old, has it? Yeah, I know. You deserve something for yourself. So you head to a book shop (of course) seeking an old time adventure, a ripping yarn, a tale of deering do and plucky heroes, a tale that involves absolutely no commuter trains and no grey-walled offices. Oh look, here’s one with a cover of a faded mustard colour and the title, After Bloodwood Staff by Laura E. Goodwin, printed in enticing Art Nouveau font. Perfect.

‘Why would you want me along? Fat, unemployed, out of shape.. how would I stand up to pirates or savages or wild beasts or even leeches? …. The thought of trudging through a jungle picking leeches off his private’s and drinking blood from a cut on the neck of his pack horse .. ‘ ( Chapter One In Which Hoyle Meets An Adventurer.)

Hoyle, Sybil and Ada trek in search of the Bloodwood Staff

You start to read. Hoyle, enters a bookshop (good man; already you like him) after his pretty dreadful week. He selects an obscure vintage 19th Century adventure novel called After The Bloodwood Staff which has a cover of faded mustard colour and a title printed in enticing Art Nouveau font .. (Umm, what?) .. But a strange women snatches it from his hands. Sybil has convinced herself that it contains a Vital Clue to a mysterious artefact. Next thing Hoyle knows, he is travelling to a far flung land (Australia) to trudge through gum-tree-jungles alive with creepy birds (kookaburras) in search of the artefact described in the vintage novel, the Bloodwood Staff. It’s a bizarre journey for a soft middle-aged city dweller to set out on with someone he barely knows. But then again, why not?

‘What is this, Lord of the Rings? he thought irritably. Be careful what you wish for. You wanted an adventure? You wanted to do something meaningful? Well, here you go.‘ (Hoyle in Chapter 21).

In this twist on the classic vintage yarn, with chapter headings like ‘In Which Things Go Badly Wrong’ and ‘In Which The Anarchists Descend Into Anarchy’, the redoubtable Sybil leads Hoyle and Ada, a foul mouthed ‘urchin’ from Sydney, into one predicament after another. We get kidnappings, hideouts, bad-guys, murders, daring rescues, mad evil villains, mysterious ancient powers, and even romance! It’s all here, the adventure that is going to take you away from that working day dreariness, at least for an afternoon. You might even close the book wondering, as I did, whether to just leave your present existence behind and charge off on a crazy adventure yourself. I mean, apart from the leeches, why not?

After The Bloodwood Staff is published by Odyssey Books and you can also find it here on Book Depository, here on Amazon, and here on Barnes & Noble.

Also from Laura E Goodwin: Mud and Glass with conspiracies and mayhem on a university campus. I loved this madcap book. Just a couple of of the lessons I took from it are – do not underestimate librarians, and never order a cup of macadamia-chilli ice-cream, even if you do want to ‘feel more alive’. See more about it in my review.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is the writer-bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In and She Ran Away From Love. 

Some of the best philosophers are bears: Introducing Mawson Bear

Here is some of the text of an interview by Rachel Nightingale, author of the Tales of Tarya, of Mark, Mawson Bear’s Guardian.

Mawson is the proud author of It’s a bright world to feel lost in, published by Publisher Obscura. This is a beautiful philosophical book in the vein of The blue day book by Bradley Trevor Grieve. It is the perfect sort of book to buy as a stocking stuffer or Kris Kringle for someone who likes to muse about life, and who hasn’t lost their sense of whimsy. Mawson ‘s second book is She Ran Away From Love.’

Which writer or writers opened your eyes to the magic of storytelling and why?

‘When young I devoured books by many authors but when it comes to the magic they brought me, I will list those by C.S Lewis (Narnia), Issac Asimov (Sci Fi), and Rosemary Sutcliffe (historical fiction).’

Like most readers, what I sought was to be transported from this world.  With these writers I could be in Norman England winning back a castle during a school break, in the woods of Narnia on a rainy Sunday, or fleeing rogue robots during a long car ride.

What is your greatest magical power as a writer?

‘Shyly he says, ‘I listen to the bears’.

Poets, actors, composers, painters, ‘artistic people’, all speak reluctantly about the heart of creativity. They proffer vague expressions like ‘feeling inspired’, ‘being guided’, ‘trusting the muse’, ‘entering into the role’. What does this mean? I think it’s about listening for ‘something’. Now, this ‘something’ cannot not be analysed or modelled on a flow chart. It’s very shy, and it needs to trust you to respect it. I think the greatest magical power of a writer is to gently –don’t startle it –gently reach out for this ‘something’, gain it’s trust; and then to let characters and story flow on from there.

I listen to my bears. I never know when I’ll hear in a voice as quiet as can be imagined the best ponders framed in the best words; and these are ideas and words that I myself did not have in mind, really I didn’t. When I don’t listen but just grind on, my writing is not right: the voice feels wrong, the images don’t flow, and it is not satisfying’.

For the rest of the interview please visit Rachel Nightingale’s website.

While you are there be sure to read more about the books by this novelist, playright, performer and thespian. Rachel ponders much about the power of story and fantasy in our lives. At her website you can learn more about the Commedia dell’Arte, an inspiration for The Tales of Tarya.

My review of The Harlequins Riddle, the first of those tales, is right here. Columbine’s Tale, Book two of the series, and Book Three, Pierrots’ Song are also out now, published by  Odyssey Books.

The Tales of Tarya is now available at Amazon as a complete Kindle Set!

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a bibliophile, dark coffee tragic, and the guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear,  one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Cassandra, by Kathryn Gossow

She dreams of plane crashes, earthquakes, tsunamis, bloody coups. She dreams of the stallion sweeping down the hill … . P. 197

Early in the book author Kathryn Gossow had instilled into me a sense of ‘foreboding’. Like Cassie trying to clarify her visions, I struggled to discern what the feeling of impending trouble was about? Would it concern Paulo, or Athena, or a secret in the family, or Cassie herself? The possibilities thicken and darken and thunder down on Cassie’s life like the ominous horse in her nightmares.

Cassandra: A princess of Troy and priestess of Apollo. She was cursed to utter true prophecies but to never be believed. (Wiki)

What if you could foresee people’s futures, for instance, that one kid on the school bus will die of bowel cancer, another will briefly shine on the stage but never become famous? A wonderful ability, yes? What if you fill with dread but you cannot make out why. Your visions swirl without a clear meaning. The Thing happens. If you had warned people, and if they had believed you, surely you could have diverted the accident or illness or mistake from happening. Is this a ‘super-power’ or a curse?

The Snake: Some versions of the legend have Cassandra falling asleep in a temple, where the snakes licked her ears so that she could hear the future. (Wiki.)

Cassie seems like an ordinary girl who gets bitten by a snake on a farm in Queensland. Her little brother predicts a drought, she grows to be a grumpy teenager troubled by visions, she scowls at her mother in the ordinary teenage way, she worries about her great-aunt and her Poppy .. Wait a minute. Bitten by a snake? Visions? Her brother foretells a drought?

The Brother: Some versions of the legend give Cassandra a brother, Helenus. Like her, he was always correct in his predictions. Unlike her, he was believed. (Wiki.)

She tries to make one true friend, Athena, who introduces her to the Tarot. (‘Her thoughts swirl with colour and the patterns and the meanings of the cards’. P. 77). She clumsily attempts to fit in with the cool kids, she experiments with alcohol and dope, her visions worsen, she is keen on a boy named Paulo .. Wait, wait. Athena? ‘Paulo’ .. or ‘Apollo’? Didn’t Apollo’s priestesses take hallucinogens to enhance their visions?

Apollo: Many versions of the myth relate that Cassandra incurred the god Apollo’s wrath by refusing him sex, after promising herself to him in exchange for the power of prophecy. (Wiki.)

This can be read is a ‘coming of age’ novel in that it concerns teenage insecurities and self-doubts, the cruel cut and thrust of cliques and friendships, and the tensions within families. But I think you will also soon be reading it, as I did, mindful of the big questions about fate and destiny, and mulling over the extent to which every one of one’s own decisions cuts away previous possibilities and opens up lines of new ones.

Kathryn Gossow is also the author of The Dark Poet. An older Cassie, the central character of Cassandra features in the stories in The Dark Poet. As you can see from my review in this blog, the connection is intriguing. The Dark Poet is also published by Odyssey Books.

(The images of the book in this post are courtesy of Odyssey Books and the author.)

Mark, your reviewer here at Baffled Bear Books, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

‘Chekov’s Three Sisters Would Have Got To Moscow’. Notes on Georgette Heyer

The Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club are now engrossed in the novels of the Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer. They have learned more about their heroine from Jane Aiken Hodges biography. It’s called The Private World of Georgette Heyer (Quotes from the Chivers 1984 edition).

Hodge’s Foreword: “She was .. an immensely skilled and meticulous craftswoman. She did her best to conceal her high standards and stern moral code behind the mask of romantic comedy.”

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Engrossed in the regency novels of Georgette Heyer

Plots and technique

(From Hodges, Chapter 2). Heyer once said, “My plots are abysmal and I think of them with blood and tears”. Her family confirm she did indeed work at her plots with blood and tears .. plunged in black gloom when things went badly, prowling restlessly about the house until she had her plan worked out, when she would sit down and write … at high speed, often late into the night. Heyer said of her own work in one letter to her publisher:

“ … The Unknown Ajax and Venetia are the best of my later works. My style is really a mixture of Johnson and Austen – what I rely on is a certain gift for the farcial … I know its useless to talk about technique in these degenerate days – but no less a technician than Noel Coward reads me because he thinks my technique is so good. I’m proud of that.”

(From Chapter 8) She kept a single fan letter, received in 1963 from former political prisoner in Romania. The writer spoke of how she had read Friday’s Child before her arrest, and for 12 long years had told and retold the story, committed to memory, of “what Kitten did next” to her fellow inmates.

“Truly, your characters managed to awaken smiles, even when hearts were heavy, stomachs empty and the future dark indeed”.

Praise that would astonish any writer.

Much in Hodge’s biography is of technical interest to writers: Heyer’s dealing with her several publishers and agents, and her views about the blurbs and jackets. There is a lesson too in reading about Heyer’s decades-long tax problems. Even though she always earned a lot she had cash flow problems. These mangled finances were caused by herself and her husband simply not taking a business-like approach to her income.

The Tedettes leave you with their favourite observation from Hodge’s biography:

“She had no patience for .. Russian gloom. If she had been one of Chekhov’s three sisters they would have got to Moscow.”

The Tedettes first looked at Hodge’s biography here, and then read about Heyer’s hero’s here.

This book and more about Miss Heyer the writer can be found at, Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Often A Bounder: The Tedette’s Jane Austen Book Club reads about Georgette Heyer’s Heroes

Thrilled by Jane Austen’s novels, the Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club looked about for more books on the Regency. Their house (like every house, surely) turned out to be a treasure trove of novels by Georgette Heyer.  They also got their paws on Jane Aiken Hodges biography,  The Private World of Georgette Heyer  (Chivers 1984 edition). Read about their discovery here.

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The Tedettes get their paws on a trove of Georgette Heyer Novels


Georgette Heyer created her heroes very deliberately.  In correspondence with her publishers she gleefully refers to them in a private shorthand by Type, explaining for instance that a particular character is the “The Heyer Mark I” and another is “The Heyer Mark II” and so on.  She’d skilfully build up such a Type, and the readers’ conceptions of such a man,  and then two or three novels later, turn around the readers’ assumption by changing the decisions and actions of the Hero.

Mr Rochester: the prototype.

Jane Aiken Hodge found unpublished articles by Heyer, one of which will fascinate her readers (see Ch. 5 of the bio) as it concerns Mr Rochester, from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. This is Heyer’s own view of Mr Rochester:

“It is a accepted fact that women form the bulk of the novel reading public and what woman with romantic leanings wants to read novels which have as their heroes the sort of men she meets every day of her mundane life. (Mr Rochester) is rude, overbearing, and often a bounder, but these blemishes, however repulsive they may be in real life, can be made in the hands of a skilled novelist extremely attractive to many women.”

How ‘Fluffy’ was the Romance, really?

Hodge makes the case that underneath the entertaining friction and tension of her heroes and heroines lies an abiding principle: the protagonists are maturing through the pages into a rich and full relationship .

 Heyer’s idea of romance never ends with “happily married”.  Many of her characters get married off early in the book.  It is the story of their growing mutual respect and understanding afterwards that interests the writer,  and this must be the feature that kept – and still keeps – millions of readers coming back for more.

Antonia Byatt, in an article in Nova, stated,

” (Heyer) is playing romantic games with the novel of manners. In her world of romanticised anti romanticism … men and women really talk to each other … and plan to spend the rest of their lives together developing the relationships”.

In the Tedettes next post they will look at Georgette Heyer’s writing style.

This book and more about Georgette Heyer are at, Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer. Next they consider points about Heyer’s methods and style.

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You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

The Tedette’s Jane Austen Book Club reads: The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Jane Aiken Hodge

Considered queen of the Regency romance, Georgette Heyer is one of the most beloved historical novelists of our time. As Hodge states in the Foreword of her biography: “She gave her name to a recognisable genre of fiction”.

Thrilled by Jane Austen’s books, the Tedettes looked about for more Regency novels. They’ve now got their paws on Chivers 1984 edition of The Private World of Georgette Heyer

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(From Hodges’ Foreword) “From none of the 51 titles in print when she died would you guess (Heyer) spent the early years of her married life (to Ronald Rougier) in rough camps first in Tanganyika then in Macedonia. But she recognised this for experience she could not use. No heroine of hers would ever sit in a grass hut writing a novel”.

“A best seller all her life without the aid of publicity, Heyer never gave an interview and only answered fan letters herself it they had made an interesting historical point.”

The biographer had access to private papers, correspondence and family archives. Hodge details the research Heyer applied to her period and the skill and craft that went into her characters.  Yet for most of her career, she was dismissed as a light romantic.

Hodge’s overriding theme is well expressed, I think, in this observation: ” If anyone could make the romantic novel respectable it should have been G. Heyer, unacknowledged moralist and stylist extraordinary. It did not happen in her lifetime and she minded, silently .. (yet) .. She gave an immense amount of pleasure to all kinds of people, and must have known she did.”

This book and more about Ms Heyer are at, Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer. Our next post is about the Heyer Heroes.    and you might also like to read about Heyer’s style, researches and writing.

The Tedettes have also read up on Jane Austen of course. You might like to read about Lady Susan and Two Hundred Years of Reading Pleasure.  You can see more of the Tedettes over at Mawson Bear’s own blob, umm, blog.
AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Stars in the Night, by Clare Rhoden: A story of broken lives and enduring love

1970 in suburban Melbourne: ‘That was how it happened, thought Harry, feeling the memories rise; they were never far away .. Trusting you to remember, trusting you to do something about it. As if you could fix things, mend the dead, put the world back the way it was.’

And so we go back into Harry’s memories, into the seared experiences that gave him nightmares for decades, back to the day in 1917 when Harry cannot find his foster brother Eddie. Harry searches. He crawls out of the Passchendaele mud in no-man’s land searching for him. He looks into dugouts and stumbles down communication trenches and he asks at Casualty Clearing Stations. Fifty years later his granddaughter comes upon an old notebook in the attic and asks him,”Who is Eddie?”

This is a story of love. Nora waits for Harry but he harbours fears whether she can accept him after what he has been through. Eddie hopes for a life with Claudelle. It is a story too of love between men, brothers-in-arms, Harry and Eddie, Wallis, Hartigan, Alex. From Gallipoli to Flanders the war thunders over all of them like the endless numbing artillery barrages. But it does not end for them when the guns fall silent.

We only recently have begun to speak openly of PTSD and try to understand that it messes people up for a long time. Harry survives wounds and sickness and comes home, but in dreams he returns to no-mans’ land, still trying to rescue mates. The women have their losses too, made harder to bear by Harry’s inability to speak of things he simply does not want to bring to mind. Harry’s mother Ellen, for instance, cannot connect with him any more.

The mines and the shelling is like the end of the world. The worst we have seen, and we have seen some bad ones. Harry and me are fine but it makes you cry. There are so many dead you cant help but walk on them’. Eddies notebook.

Clare Rhoden takes us into this vast arena of events, from the debate in Australia about the rightness of the war, into terrible battles, and on through into the waves of pyschological effects upon those who survived and their families. These 220 pages hold material for a 1000 page book. But the author has brought large and complicated things down to the personal level by revealing them in the way that we all ordinarily talk to each other: through a household argument, the queries of a nosy neighbour, the grumbles of soldiers about the food and the cold, the guarded talk about Gallipoli by a sergeant to a fresh officer as they weigh each other up, and through diaries and letters home. This makes Stars in the Night deeply personal and emotional. I got so caught up in it that I paused reading several times so as to absorb it. I cannot praise this novel highly enough both for its story and it’s technical execution.

Although it is about the experiences of Australian soldiers, this novel could really be about the horror of any war, not just the one that millions prayed would be ‘The War To End All Wars.’ The character Harry Fletcher, like many veterans, could not bring himself to attend Anzac Day ceremonies but stayed quietly at home. Yet for anyone interested in the scars left by the Great War and thus the origin of the ‘Anzac legend’, the facts of it, and sometimes the mythology of it, this is a must-read.

Lest We Forget.

Note about ‘Anzac’ to readers unfamiliar with it: The first units of Australians shipped out in 1915 were merged with the first New Zealanders into the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Their losses in Gallipoli and later in France shocked both young countries. Australia, population four million in 1914, sent 417,000 volunteers to the conflict. 62,000 died. Both Australia and New Zealand forces suffered casualty rates of over 55% – killed, wounded, gassed, captured, marked as ‘missing’. The term ‘ANZAC’ endures.

Personal note 2020: As I began this book, Australia was dealing with the Black Summer and the whole world was attuned to news about some sort of virus. There was tension in the air, and for the first time I think I had an inkling of what it had been like in 1914 in the households across nations as they readied for conflict, not knowing what lay ahead. On the day I thoughtfully laid down Stars in the Night, Anzac Day services were cancelled for the first time due to the menace of Covid-19.

Where to find Stars in the Night: From publisher Odyssey Books , from BookDepository (with free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon in softcover and Kindle, Barnes and Noble in soft cover Nook, Chapters Indigo, Booktopia, and Waterstones. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you.

Clare Rhoden has also written a dsytopian series called The Chronicles of the Pale. See more about the series at her website here. My review of the first book, The Pale, is here.

Another novel reviewed here about WWI is ‘Nursing Fox’ by Jim Ditchfield which focuses on the nurses. You can read about it here.

Acknowledgement: The graphics shown here are by courtesy of Clare Rhoden and Odyssey Books.

Mark, your reviewer here, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Australia in 1942 as Described to Wartime USA

Nearly four score years ago thousands of Australian soldiers were captured in the fall of Singapore. Most of the remaining soldiers were fighting in North Africa. The total occupation of New Guinea had been halted, but only just, by the Battle of The Kokoda Track. The towns of the northern coast were being bombed* and invasion of Australian shores looked imminent. Britain was fully stretched fighting Germany and Italy. The Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, turned to President Roosevelt of the USA for help.

General Douglas (‘I will return’) MacArthur retreated from the Phillipines and set up headquarters in Brisbane. Thousands of American army and navy personal were despatched to the ‘sunburnt country’, a land most of them knew little about.

The booklet shown below was No. 23 in a series rushed off the presses to inform Americans about their new allies, in this case Australia. The foreword says the booklet ’emphasises the importance of Australia’s position not only for the Southwest Pacific, but also in the grand strategy of the United Nations.’

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There are all kinds of things in here that both Australians and Americans will find of interest, I think, even though much has changed. The author reminds his American readers that the Australian colonies came into existence because of the American Declaration of Independence. The loss of the colonies, where the British often dumped their convicts, motivated the British to attempt a new colony in an unexplored country on the far side of the globe. Of the 1400 members of the First Fleet, half were convicts**. Eventually 160,000 convicts were shipped to the new colony. Many were only petty criminals or ‘political agitators’ who the Brits wanted to get rid of, especially ‘Fenians’ from Ireland. Nowadays some 40% of Australians can trace their heritage back to Ireland including your correspondent, an O’Dwyer by name.

Another connection with the USA that Americans in 1942, and now, may not have known about was the gold rushes. Many hopeful men headed from Australia to California in 1849 including, apparently, my own great-great grandfather. When gold was found in Victoria in the 1850’s, disappointed miners, including thousands of Americans, flooded to the Great Southern Land. The largest rebellion against arbitrary authority in Australia was by angry gold miners (‘diggers’) at the ‘Euraka Stockade’. Among them were some Americans.

A big connection, by the way (strangely omitted by Timperley), is that in 1918 Americans fought with Australians at Chuignes, Mont St Quentin, Perrone and Hargicourt under the overall command of Australian general Monash.***

The booklet’s author, Timperley, blandly sets down the racist and patronising views of 1942, and at these you want to weep. Concerning the Australian Aborigines we read (gulp), ‘Although their intellectual capacities are distinctly limited, they are said to make quite good mechanics and handy men.‘Authorities have set aside native reserve where these remnants of a dying race may end their days in peace.’ Yes, it’s all true. The ‘natives’ were supposed to quietly go away and die. These were also the ghastly days of the White Australia immigration policy, the excuse of which was to keep out feared hordes of ‘coloured labourers’.

On the other hand, pre-1942 Australia got a lot right. As the author notes, the Labor Party stimulated political reforms such as votes for women in 1902, free and compulsory education, pensions for invalids and veterans, and ‘a great body of social legislation which has made Australia one of the most liberal of world democracies’. Prime Ministers had by then included a former miner, an itinerant labourer, a storekeeper, a school teacher, and the great war time leader John Curtin who left school at age 13. Timperley contrasts this with the unlikelihood of such things happening in the USA.

Timperly could not know then of course that the alliance being forged as he wrote would continue after the war in the Pacific, and it remains bi-partisan Australian national policy to this day.

My thanks go to Lisa C. who stumbled on this treasure in a ‘pre-loved bookshop’ and generously sent it on to me.

*The movie ‘Australia’ depicts the first day of the months-long bombing of Darwin.

**Many an Australian now trawls the genealogical websites hoping to discover that their forebears were convicts, especially one from the First Fleet.

***Monash had 208,000 men under his command, including 50,000 Americans.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

For Such A Time As This: My journey through cancer. How love and my cats sustained, fortified me, and helped take the pain away, by Pauline Dewberry

“I sat in stupefied silence .. How could I possibly have leukaemia? How did I get it? Why did I get it? Was I going to die? If so, when?”

At the age of 56 Pauline Dewberry felt content with her life. She had sons and grandchildren, the company of six cats, projects and plans. Then she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

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“Hold it there”, you may think. “You’re suggesting I read a depressing, medical-term laden memoir of a cancer survivor?” Not at all. I’m recommending a story of faith, prayers, cats, purring, medical marvels, unexpected friendships, and even a love story.

“I asked what would happen if there weren’t any (stem cell) matches. I was told that they would just make me as comforable as they could and basically wait for me to die.” By the greatest good fortune, Pauline’s brother turned out to be a match. But there was a long road to travel after that.

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The author wrote this often raw account of her seemingly interminable – and near to actually being terminal – battle with cancer to share how ‘despite the odds being stacked up against you, it IS possible to look your enemy in the eye and win’.

Pauline describes her illness and treatment with such clear language that it is easy to comprehend. As well as being informative about AML, this candid account will be a valuable eye-opener, I think, for the supporting friends and family of anyone who is locked in a prolonged battle with ill health, not only with cancer.

The author does not shirk from telling of the moments of indignity and additional trials involved, especially while in hospital. For instance, a mid-night ‘simple’ procedure to remove a cannula by a doctor ‘who looked to be about twelve years old’ became an hours-long complication leaving her with bruises and stitches. I felt like I’d been to war. Who knew that hospitals could be such dangerous places’. And at home there were the the maddening itches to endure, dry mouth, sleeping too much, then being unable to sleep, no appetite, then sugar cravings, nagging worries about changed appearance … On it goes, all the things that a healthy person (like me) would simply not realise an cancer patient is going through.

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Health is not only about the body, of course, but about the strength of the spirit. The author’s fears and doubts will resonate, I think, with many people dealing with a long illness. Despite knowing that hundreds were praying for her, there were many days of despair. Even simply telling people how sick she was turned into a struggle. Some reacted as if her illness was causing difficulty for them.

But she also found humour in unexpected things. The rumblings of her room-mate, Mr Fridge, for instance had me laughing. Although distressed by the loss of her hair, she talks with good humour about the new headwear. Deciding that the scarves made her look “like a Russian peasant wringing her hands at a failed beetroot crop” she opts for her faithful beanie.

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As well as her faith, and the great good fortune of the stem cell match with her brother, Pauline valued her ‘Purr-atherapy’. She describes how her cats would curl against her at home and purr her through many dark hours. As time passed, each of her purr-ers died, sadly. But two new cats, Casey and Gibbs, introduced themselves into her life, and with their company the author is now in remission after surviving aggressive chemotherapy, the stem cell transplant, CMV, MRSA and Graft Vs host Disease (GVHD).

This is a true story of great odds surmounted and of quiet daily courage. And remarkably, Pauline found ‘autumnal love,’ even at such a time as this.

The Daily Mews is Pauline Dewberry’s popular website for cat lovers. With cat humour and jokes, caption contests, guest articles about cat care and cat antics, it is your ‘purrfect way to start the day.’ (Mawson’s guardian has been a reader of the for years.)

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The author: Pauline Dewbery trained to be an editor and had many articles published in teen girl’s magazines. Pauline is a pet bereavement counsellor. Her Daily Mews website provides, among other things, a space to respectfully reflect on feelings of grief for our passed pets, for instance, in the tributes called “Napping on A Sunbeam”. Another popular feature of The Daily Mews was “Ollie’s Diary”. When Ollie died Pauline decided, after some thought, to continue with the diary but with Ollie now reporting from beyond the Rainbow Bridge. She is currently preparing these diaries for publication. You can contact Pauline at pauline or p.dewberry

Where to find it For Such A Time As This, by Pauline Dewberry, cover by Aida Marina: Amazon UK and Amazon USA (under $3 on Kindle) and Amazon Australia (free right now with Kindle unlimited). Check your own Amazon Stores in Kindle.

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You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic, bibliophile and Guardian of Mawson Bear, a Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.