MakeShift Galaxy, by Tash Turgoose

Slipping love between the floorboards,
Catching stars as if they’re snow…

This book brings poetry to each page, including to the pages with no words. Perhaps by the twentieth read-through I may be able to summon words of my own sufficient to convey its lingering power. But I’m still looking at the story and illustrations together as presented. Then at the illustrations alone. Then the story alone.

In a world where their love is illegal, a young couple find a way to stay together — but one small moment could tear it all apart.

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The haunting monochrome illustrations of this beautifully presented hardcover book could each stand framed on a wall. The style Makeshift Galaxy most brings to my mind is that of Shaun Tan. Like him, Turgoose uses both images with words, sometimes dispensing with words. What has happened? What does it all mean?  That is left for each reader to mull over in their own way.

It has the look of a coffee table book,and be warned: when you return with the steaming cuppa you may find your guest with book open, oblivious of you and staring far away. Into another galaxy, perhaps.

‘The silence screamed with stories left untold.’

Makeshift Galaxy an illustrated story about love, sacrifice and survival, is published by Odyssey Books.  It is stocked at major online retailers, including  Book Depository, and Amazon. Its free to see on Kindle Unlimited but this is a book you will want for real, on your bookshelf.

The creator tells more about herself at TashTurgoose.com.

You are in the blog of Mark, guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.

Felicity’s Gift Guide 2022

It’s time. This list is all stuff that I either made (wrote/photographed) myself, or was made by someone I know. For Young Kids As you can perhaps guess based on the title, this book is designed for refugee and immigrant kids who are new to Australia. It will be published in English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, […]

Felicity’s Gift Guide 2022

My cat fever is getting spooky

I have cat fever. It’s like hay fever but much more furry. Can it have anything to do with How to Survive Your Magical Family? Everywhere I look, there’s a cat. It’s quite spooky now that my cat book is here. Seems the neighbourhood cats know something. Maybe they sense me spending too much time […]

My cat fever is getting spooky

Your Review is Very Welcome in a Writer’s Neighbourhood

Did you know, Fellow Baffled Ones and Gentlebears, that you can leave reviews of books? You don’t have to be a formal reviewer, oh no. You can just plonk down what you think about a book. You can say a lot about it or say only a little. It would be so wonderful if you do some reviews. For every writer-bear.

You can do reviews for Mawson and his books, if you like. Just ask, and we’ll send you a PDF version to look at. OR, look for the books. Two of them are FREE to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Each review is wanted,
Each review is good,
Your review is welcome
In a writer’s neighbourhood.

Mawson posting a copy of one of his little books to a lovely reader

Why your help matters:  In these days of (shudder) Algorithms all forms of recognition for a book matter. They are all noted. They all add up. All the Likes, the Shares, the Mentions, the Clicks on buttons that say ‘Helpful’- they all get taken into account by these (shudder) Algorithms. But the most helpful thing of all is a REVIEW.

YOUR review matters so much that I would send every reviewer a block of chocolate* if I could, smudged by tears of gratitude. Your review not only tells other purchasers of Grand Books about (cough) Mawson’s, but they also jump up the rankings of the book and the visibility of it and all that sort of thing.

It’s easy, really it is:  Some reviews kindly given for It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In have been only a line. Two lines. A few more lines. Click here to see examples, real reviews on Amazon dot Com.

Scotland bravely reviews books, just by plonking on the keyboard. Its easy.
Scotty plonks on the key board to do a few brief reviews of books.

It’s fun to have a bash: If you are stuck for something to say, simply bash away on the star ratings. They all get counted by those (shudder) algorithms. Here, our Sir Scotland The Brave shows how to stab most valiantly at the star ratings.

Where to do your reviews: With Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes and Noble or Dymocks or Booktopia or LibraryThing or Walmart or more. Mawson Bear’s books can be ordered at all these retailers. This bear is everywhere in this bright world.

Click ‘Like’: While you are at these websites, you can also run your eye down the page to the reviews left by other fine people, and click on the  ‘Helpful’ or ‘Like’ buttons beneath them. (This all helps with those pesky algorithms.

The awesome power of ‘playing’ on your device:  So, every Share, Like and Mention on your social media helps; yes, the (shudder) algorithms note it all.  Keep them coming and Mawson’s books( and the books of all writers who are not bears to) can keep bravely going out into the wide bright world.

Writer-Bears love reviews: Mawson’s own books are She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In and Dreamy Days and Random Naps.

*I was thinking 78% dark choc with chunks of macadamia and hints of chilli.

You have wandered into the blog by Mark, guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.

Life is Stronger than War: Simon Bear in the City.

Life is stronger than war.’ Simon Bear in the City reflects (with coffee) in Lviv after seeing christening and weddings. Click link to read in full.

If you don’t know Simon, he and his People had to flee Kherson, the city, to Lviv.

Berry Giveaways! Tell me a story, Babushka

Find the clickable KittyBerry hidden in the cover to join the giveaway! [Worldwide] #kidlit #giveaway #hardcover #books #Ukraine #Holodomor #ownvoices #CarolaSchmidt

Berry Giveaways! Tell me a story, Babushka HARDCOVER [WORLDWIDE]

From the author of A Brave Bear Fights Cancer.

Book Review: Dragonfly Song Series by Wendy Orr

Hi folks! I don’t often review books on my blog, but for this series I’ll make an exception. I just finished re-reading Wendy Orr’s wonderful series, set in Bronze Age Crete. It’s a children’s series, but there is a lot of richness for adults to appreciate too. We follow three generations of girls growing up […]

Book Review: Dragonfly Song Series by Wendy Orr

Stars in the Night, by Clare Rhoden

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?”

The Stars In The Night 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 The 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 heartache and loss described in 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 the term: 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 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 might have felt like in late 1914 in the households across nations as they readied for conflict, not knowing what lay ahead. On the day that I thoughtfully laid down The Stars in the Night, Anzac Day services were cancelled for the first time due to the menace of Covid-19.

Where to find The Stars in the Night:


From publisher Odyssey Books , from Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops)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 I have reviewed here on this blog 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.

Nursing Fox by Jim Ditchfield: Nurses on the Western Front

You may have seen ‘1917’, a visual immersion in the hell of the Great War. The novel ‘Nursing Fox’ also takes you into that rain of death, and in particular, the struggle to save the wounded on the front line.

Jim Ditchfield’s novel is a homage to the women who served as nurses on the Western Front. He says, ‘Although they performed a crucial role, the nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service are rarely mentioned in accounts of that conflict’. I feel well read about that war but until now I did not know about the conditions these nurses had to endure. The Casualty Clearing Stations (CCS) had to be close to the trenches to give the wounded the best chance of survival. That meant the doctors, nurses and patients got regularly shelled and bombed.

We follow the fortunes of Lucy Paignton-Fox who has been raised on a cattle station in the Northern Territory. She has studied for what was in 1914 for women an extraordinary chance to train as a doctor. But when Australia follows Britain into the war in Europe, Lucy volunteers to be an army nurse.

NursingFox 001

The nurses work until exhausted and then keep on working. The wounded stream in from ‘stunts’ (battles) the names of which are now engraved on war memorials: The Somme, Fromelles, Pozieres, Ypres, Messines, the Menin Road, Passchendaele. Each name represents astonishing numbers of mangled humans.

‘There were only 41 men still fighting fit, four walking wounded, one who needed a stretcher. Just 41. The company had been 250 strong when the stunt started’. P.120 John Mitchell reviews his shattered company.

We are also introduced to John Mitchell of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) and to Adam Haywood (Royal Flying Corps), Through their eyes we see the fighting on the ground and in the air. We are taken through the frentic disorganisation of things as basic as getting fed, getting the hospital tents set up, and moving about on the shattered ‘roads’ (planks laid over mud). As readers we get to know as little of the ruthless decisions being made by the base-wallahs (staff officers) as do the troops and nurses. But we see the results in the plethora of grim details. As well as the human toll, the author reminds us of the transport horses and mules killed by artillery or worked to exhaustion. There is no blaze of glory anywhere, just the endurance of the unbearable by men and women at a time when the best anyone could hope for was a ‘ticket to blighty’ (a wound so bad they’ll be sent to England.)

For a gripping account of the service of the nurses in France, and for a carefully researched and engrossing picture of how awful was ‘The War To End All Wars’, I highly recommend Nursing Fox.

Where to find Nursing Fox: 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.

Another excellent novel involving the field hospitals and nurses on the Western Front is The Bishops Girl by Rebecca Burns. You can see my review here.

Personal Note: One battle name in particular gave me an irrational start: The Menin Road. As a child in New Zealand I lived on a quiet suburban street called Menin Road. The streets all around bore names which I later learnt to be battles of that terrible war. It’s curious to think that as I played games on the neat lawns I had no idea across the other side of the world so many thousands had died by the original Menin Road that their number will never be known.

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

Anzac Fury and The Girl Under The Olive Tree: Two stories of The Battle of Crete

Two books to consider around Anzac Day are this history of the battle in 1941 and a novel of what happened from then until 1945 to the Cretan population, resistance fighters of Crete, and soldiers from Greece, Italy, Germany, Britain, Australia and New Zealand (ANZACS).

An innocuous title, thought I, as I selected The Girl Under the Olive Tree, by Leah Flemming for a holiday read. Well, it starts quietly enough with young Penelope George in Scotland mainly concerned to avoid being married off by her status conscious mother. But in her search to find her own identity in life, she takes up nursing training, then accepts a chance to join her sister in Athens.

Crete   3030.jpg

An idyllic time follows for Penelope but as Italian and then German forces invade Greece, she is caught up in a malestrom of war. As she turns 21 she makes hard choices, the courage and cost of which not one male in the story seems to appreciate.

Through this fictional story of her endurance and trials, and those of her friend, Yolanda, and of her love for the infuriating Bruce Jardin, we are taken through the horrors endured by this island.

The Girl Under the Olive Tree, by Leah Flemming, published by Simon and Schuster 2013, was inspired in part by Johanna Stavridi, a nurse honoured by the Hellenic Red Cross for her courage and work.

Anzac Fury: The Bloody Battle of Crete 1941, by Peter Thompson, published by William Heinemann 2010, concerns, as you’d expect from the title, the fighting itself during the invasion, particularly by the ANZACS*. So that we can make sense of it all, Thompson takes in the wider scenario beginning with the fighting in North Africa and Greece.

He describes ordinary fighting men and the astonishing things they did through use of surviving diaries and letters, and he goes into the personalities and motivations of the commanders and politicians, whose decisions cost so many so much.

*Note for non-Australasian readers:
The term ANZAC was coined in 1915 to denote the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps that fought in the disaster known as Gallipoli, a campaign conceived by Mr Winston Churchill. Turkish, French and British troops died there too in huge numbers, yet the event has a special place in the histories of Australia and New Zealand. Both were small countries that had only been self governing for 13 or 14 years. They suffered losses  that shook their national psyches. The day the troops landed, 25 April, is a day of Remembrance.

When, 26 years later, the troops of these nations were shipped to the hopeless cause of defending Greece, again due to the decisions of Mr Churchill, they were acutely conscious that ill-fated Gallipoli was not far away.

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