Who is this Writer-Bear named Mawson? He is a pondering author for our befuddled times

Do you sometimes feel a bit muddled about, well, Things ?

Sometimes rather ruffled when Things just go and, well, Happen ?

Sometimes feel confused one moment and completely baffled the next?

It’s not easy being Grownup. All this business of having to be sophisticated and industrious all day long! It just wears you down. But when you arrive in Mawson’s cosy world, the frazzled reader can flop down among the cushions and relax. Make your world a world of calm, for a little while anyway.

Listen to the quiet

Dreamy Days and Random Naps is Mawson’s latest little book stuffed with happy moments. If you are a daydream believer in a world still bright despite everything, then this book is for you.

Here you can find the answers to just about nothing at all. You can forget you ever had questions anyway. Mawson and his friends are befuddled about most things most of the time – just like so many of us. And that’s all right.

In She Ran Away From Love, by Mawson, his little friend Frilly feels hopelessly baffled by Big Questions. But does she give up? No! She sets out on a quest. See where it takes her.

‘Writing about love, dreams, happiness, and finding your own identity is all found within this short happy book.‘ Review on Amazon UK.

And in his first book, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In , Mawson attempts to put into words that mysterious feeling of Feeling Lost.

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It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In” is a book about optimism, searching for new adventures and making the most of life and love’. Review on GoodReads by Debbie Young, author of the Sophie Sayer Mysteries.

Our publisher is OdysseyBooks where you can find fun and beautiful books with pictures for grownups.

Where to find Mawson’s Books: At Amazon everywhere, including at Amazon India, and at Amazon Australia (where Mawson Lives), Amazon UK and Amazon France, among others.

If you would rather not use Amazon, Mawson’s book are all over the place. Try BookDepository, or Barnes and Noble, or Dymocks, or at Booktopia, and soon to be at more.

You are at Mark’s blog, Baffled Bear Books. Mark is guardian and hapless typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119

A Single Light, by Patricia Leslie: monsters prowl the Australian highlands

‘When Rick Hendry is contacted by a federal agent to help investigate a growing number of mysterious vanishings across Australia, he finds himself immersed in a world where normal is a very narrow view of reality. The two men are joined by a doctor, an archeologist, a journalist, and an Afflur Hunter.’ 

They soon discover that in the bush, south of Sydney, among the beach goers, walkers and picnickers, a menace grows. The mysterious Bledray monsters are preparing for a Gathering; a feast of epic proportions. Only the Afflur Hunter and Guardians can stop them, but their strength is failing and humans are needed to help prevent a second holocaust’. 

A Single Light is an urban fantasy tale of ghoulish monsters and non-human protectors battling to save humanity amid the spectacular and rugged landscapes of the Royal National Park south of Sydney.‘ From Back Cover.

Reporter Gabriella worries about the state of her colleague Rick Hendry who is clearly not sleeping well. It turns out he doesn’t want to sleep because in sleep he dreams – and the dreams terrify him.

‘There was something out there, taking people ..’ p.36. Officer Anthony Biglia.

Biglia comes across an expose written by Hendry and believes that the reporter can help him. They swap their theories. Jamie Morell finds abnormalities in the victims’ blood. None of them can work out how and why eight people are dead.

‘All are equal in the face of eternal hunger.’

For the Bledray, Maliak, Moriah, Jedidiah and Laeh, the humans exist only to be protected or to be hunted. On the plains below the high country lie millions of souls, a feast to gorge on.

‘ She ran then, urgency gripping her as the screaming of dying souls mixed with the stars and faded into oblivion.’ p. 136

I found that the hunger of the creatures is somehow believable- it’s the idea of insatiable appetite taken to extremes. The sense of menace grows as the hunters of souls and the hunters of Bledray converge upon one another until there is a climatic encounter as bush fire rages. (The fire scenes seemed particularly struck me in the light of the huge fires in NSW last summer covering some of the same ranges.) The author’s attention to detail and sense of place in the descriptions of these highlands in serves to ground the story. You can read more about Patricia Leslie and her work at her website  patricialeslie.net.

Patricia LeslieA Single Light_a novel by Patricia Leslie_The beach almost deserted

Where to find A Single Light: From the publisher Odyssey Books. Also at Amazon Australia, at Amazon USA, at BookDepository, at Barnes and Noble, at Chapters Indigo, Waterstones, Booktopia and more. Or ask your friendly local bookshop to obtain it for you.

Patricia Leslie also wrote The Ouroborus Key, an absorbing blend of Sumerian mythology, esoteric Templar secrets, and a detective story. This makes for a fascinating combination as you can see from my review here.

The graphics shown here are courtesy of the author and of publisher Odyssey 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.

The Esme Trilogy: Esme’s Gift, by Elizabeth Foster

A parade of craft cruised the lagoon: gilt-edged ferries and gondolas in jewel-like colours – dazzling blues, crimsons, emerald greens. Sea dragons looped above the rooftops, twisting their sinuous forms … . Esme’s Gift Ch. 3.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says: Oh dear, our world is not in its finest shape right now, is it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be elsewhere. Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish (see my review here and my re-visit here) and I can plunge once more into another world and see again the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia.

Esme returns to Aeolia after her failed attempt to convince her father to join her. The evil Nathan Mare is at large and intent on finding the secret knowledge entrusted to her. But high-school waits for no teenager, and in the classrooms and library of Pierpont school she can find friends and allies. And what a library it is.

(Ancient gondalas) repurposed into shelves, lined the library’s walls … No longer fit to carry passengers, they now carried books to the shores of the readers’ minds. Esme’s Gift Ch. 12.’

Esme must gather the strange ingredients of the only elixir that can save her mother. To obtain these elements takes all her courage and all the combined gifts and powers of her friends. But some people are not who they seem to be, and the tension never lets up.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind. But if you happen to be older (after all, some of us have yet to find a potion to wind back the years – and if the high risk alchemical experiments in Esperance are anything to go by, we should stay well away from any such potions or concoctions, or who knows what could happen!) .. if you are an older reader who loves beguiling fantasy worlds and tales of ghosts and of quests into caverns guarded by monsters and ghouls, and if you also don’t object to dragons .. The books of the Esme trilogy will be a treat for you.

Reading of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh – and dragons.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Gift is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself in this trilogy by looking at Amazon Australia, at Amazon USA, at Book Depository , at Barnes and Noble, and more. You can see more about Esme’s search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am 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.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

Return to Aeolia: Refresh your soul in the realm of Esme’s Wish

Tears pricked Esme’s eyes. Her mother had vanished, without trace, when she was eight. No one know what had really happened to her- or so they said. Esme’s Wish. Ch. 1.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says:
Another dreary Monday. I popped my head out from the pillows and saw that my Grownup ‘real’ world was not in it’s finest state. Longing to immerse myself in another realm, I picked up Esme’s Wish (which I reviewed here), to read once again on the commuter ride to work.

Esperance appearing to be drifting on the lagoon’s surface, as if its hold on existence was so tenuous that it could slip back into the depths at any moment. High above the city, sinuous shapes pinwheeled across the sky … Dragons. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Not that Aeolia is trouble free either, far from it. Evil characters disrupt the harmony and the city of Esperance is crumbling from earthquakes. The mystery of her lost mother just gets deeper no matter how far Esme investigates nor how many dangers she faces.

A loud cry derailed Esme’s train of thought. Her head whipped up. A rush of feathers filled her vision. The sea eagle was streaking down toward her, it’s sharp talons poised, ready to strike. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Aeolia, even so, was a welcome haven for me from Year of The Covid for a week of train rides and lunch breaks. All too soon, I turned the last page. The wind-played harps and song spells faded, and the horrible upsets of Grownup Reality shoved themselves again into my mind.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind, and as Esme and her friends are aged about 15, it is rightly finding a wide readership there. Why then, do I recommend these books to those of us older than fifteen (in my case far older). Why, that is, apart from your certain appreciation of this well crafted fantasy world with its own myths, history and songs, the believable characters, the well paced plot, the fine literary language and, oh, the dragons? Didn’t Tolkein say that he longed for a world in which there were dragons? Don’t we all.

We read, in the end, to not be entirely stuck in the ordinariness or the troubles of our own lives, and I have found Young Adult books and even some children’s books (think of the Narnia Chronicles) to do this as well for me, and often better, than Adult books can do. Oh, I still appreciate the novels written with the mature, sophisticated, world weary and somewhat cynical reader in mind (ie me); but another world entirely, like Aeolia, suits me very much these days. Perhaps many of you feel the same.

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The island of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh- and dragons.

Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish, and I can soon plunge down once more into other far places where I would rather be, the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia. Why not get your copies now and join me there.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Wish is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself too in the world of Aeolia by looking at Amazon here, at Book Depository and at Barnes and Noble. You can see more about Esme’ search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am 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.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

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. There is 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’.

Tedette Samantha loved the first tale, ‘The Princess and The Pea’. This is the exactly 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 read and re-read ‘Cinderella.’ ‘Marvellous’, muttered 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 tales in this light! 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 both illustrated by Erin-Claire Barrow. Her 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. Take a look, for instance, at her collection called ‘Dangerous creatures from Celtic folklore.’

The Adventurous Princess and Other Feminist Fairy Tales is published by Publisher Obscura, an imprint of Odyssey Books . You can also find it on Book Depository. On Amazon it is currently FREE on Kindle unlimited, although with illustrations of this quality you will want to hold the real thing in your hands. See also 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. 

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: Shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in Aurealis Awards

Shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in the Australian Aurealis Awards.

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

Foreboding. Everything in the early chapters of Cassandra author Kathryn Gossow instills a sense of ‘foreboding’. Possibilities thicken of dark changes to come. Would they concern Paulo, or Athena, or a secret in this family? Or would they thunder down on Cassie herself 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? But what if you fill with dread and cannot make out why. Then Something happens. If you had warned people, and if they had believed you, could you have diverted that accident or mistake from happening? In the old legend, of course, Cassie’s namesake Cassandra felt cursed.

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? Wasn’t there a legend …?

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.)

Cassandra 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.

Stars in the Night, by Clare Rhoden: A story of 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?”

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 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 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 are 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’ for everyone, 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.
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.

When No One Is Watching, by Linathi Makanda: Aching poems of love and hurt

The poetry of Linathi Makanda is both universal and about searing personal experiences. I think each reader will find something here that particularly resonates for themselves. Often poems can each be read as stand alone experiences whether or not they are linked with others. This compilation cries out to be read as one poem and journey.

‘Love Rising’

The four parts begin with ‘Love Rising’ and here the poet’s thoughts may at first seem to concern the common enough subject of poems, looking for love and yearning to be wanted for oneself. The poet is young and confident. She trusts in her love and her lover.

‘.. I am liberated.
Let us join hands on arrival, let us celebrate.’

But even in early pages there are suggestion that this is not going to be about starry-eyed love somehow resolving itself. The poet is already thinking beyond her situation to that of other women.

‘My mother never talks about love
Only about the men she’s lost.’

I was also intrigued that next to a joyous poem about her lover she places memories of her grandfather, good memories, which will be a contrast to her later bitter thoughts on men.

‘Love Lost’

Now the story evolves into one well known to too many, one of hurt, betrayal and self doubt while struggling to put on a brave front. The poet offers lines about thoughts people hide tightly within and do not share even with those they trust ( … ‘My mother doesn’t know’..). The poems are not complex, the language is the easy rhythm of spoken English, yet time and again Makanda can express the universal feelings of self doubt and insecurity in a few plain words.  This question, for instance, asked by all wounded souls, will inform the rest of the book.

Why can’t you see me?

‘Internal Uprising’

In the bitter lines of ‘Internal Uprising’, we see doubt and hurt rise to anger, anger directed to oneself as much as anyone. As the narrator curls up into depression, her thoughts turn again to where she could surely seek support, her mother. But she cannot ask:

‘How do I tell my mother I attract men who do not stay?
How do I tell her I attract men like my father?’

In the midst of lines about blaming all on men, she can still see that they are not the whole crux of her turmoil.

‘Sometimes these men do not hurt us.
We hurt ourselves.’

And then she is taken down and taken very low.

It smells like it wasn’t my fault but it feels like it was.

At this point, I just stopped reading.  I felt I had seen something too private and raw for some reader or other like me to stumble over even in a published book. I picked it up again because the poet has chosen to express the dark hour known to far too many women, and so it is for knowing.

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Hope Rising

 Because within this book each reader will find lines that resonate with their own memories, experiences and dark hours, I think it is important to know that the last part concerns Hope.  The narrator thrashes her way back above chasms of suicidal thoughts by caring about herself and expressing hope through art and poetry for fellow women. She is writing now:

‘ .. A letter to all the mothers who have daughters that hurt when on-one is watching.’

When No One Is Watching is an emotional journey for the reader and one well worth taking.

Linathi Thabang Makanda is a twenty-two-year-old South African-based writer of poetry and prose. A Communications and Marketing student and self-taught photographer, she strives to portray genuine emotion through her writing and photographic art. She believes in creating a home, through her crafts, for people trying to find their voices. Her website also offers work beyond her poems such as the videos Letters To The Ones We Miss. (Please be mindful of the trigger warnings.)

Where to find When No One is Watching, by Linathi Makanda, in soft cover. As well as from links on Linathi’s website you can PRE-ORDER from publisher Odyssey Books, from BookDepository (free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon  and Barnes and Noble .  Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you. 

The images here are courtesy of the author and the publisher.

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

Who is this Writer-Bear named Mawson? He is a pondering author for our befuddled times

Do you sometimes feel a bit muddled about, well, Things ?

Sometimes rather ruffled when Things just go and, well, Happen ?

Sometimes feel confused one moment and completely baffled the next?

Listen to the quiet

It’s not easy being Grownup. All this business of having to be sophisticated and industrious all day long! It just wears you down. But when you arrive in Mawson’s cosy world, the frazzled reader can flop down among the cushions and relax.

Here you can find the answers to just about nothing at all. You can forget you ever had questions anyway.

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Mawson and his friends are befuddled about most things most of the time – just like so many of us. And that’s all right.

She Ran Away From Love, the latest book by Mawson, is all about his friend Frilly feeling hopelessly baffled by Big Questions.

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‘A brilliant children’s picture book that does well to pick you up from a bad day. Writing about love, dreams, happiness, and finding your own identity is all found within this short happy book.‘ Review on Amazon UK.

And in his first book, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In , Mawson attempts to put into words that mysterious feeling of Feeling Lost.

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It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In” is a book about optimism, searching for new adventures and making the most of life and love’. Review on GoodReads by Debbie Young, author of the Sophie Sayer Mysteries.

Our publisher is OdysseyBooks where you can find fun and beautiful books with pictures for grownups.

You are at Mark’s blog, Baffled Bear Books. Mark is guardian and hapless typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119

Books With Pictures In Them: Of course they are for Grownups

Everyone loves pictures. Seen the ‘motion pictures’ lately? Watched the telly? Got prints up on your walls? Of course! We crave pictures. Why then the bizarre notion that Books With Pictures In Them are only for little people?

Illustrated books are for GROWNUPS too. And when you buy such a book you get to enjoy the skill and craft of the writer and also of the artist. It’s a two for the price of one sort of purchase when you look at it that way.

In this post I present such books that have made their way into my shelves. Call them what you will: Picture books, Pictorial books, Illustrated Books, Graphic Books, Comics, Managa. There are books where the pictures themselves are almost the whole of the story, and books where the pictures supplement the story.

Makeshift Galaxy is an illustrated story about love, sacrifice and survival, and published by Odyssey Books. The lush full page illustrations perhaps supplement this sparely told story, or perhaps are the story. Here is my review. Stocked at Abebooks.com, and Book Depository, and Amazon .

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Octopus and Family by Annabell Lee, also from Odyssey Books, has a lot of fun with octopi, as you can see from my review here, and moreover it is one to hide from your little ones rather than give to them.

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Octopus and Family by Annabelle Lee

Now Only Freaks Turn Things Into Bones by Steff Green and Bree Roldan is indeed intended for little ones and contains a strong message about bullying. Still, why not enjoy these illustrations yourself as well. More about it in my review here.

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The Ashes of Olympus Trilogy by Julian Barr is an example of Books With Some Pictures In Them. The line drawings help create the mood of early times and fear of the gods.

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The Way Home, Ashes of Olympus, by Julian Barr, takes place in the dawn of western history, among the early Greeks and peoples of Italy

The Last Hero is a discworld novel collaboration by Paul Kidby with Terry Pratchett. While most of Sir Terry’s novels became a delight to artists to work with after their first publication, only this one as far as I know, that was created as a collaboration.

The Truth is a Cave in The Black Mountains is another collaboration, this one between Neil Gaiman, who began the story as a verbal presentation – to Grownups- and then, with Eddie Campbell, expanded it. Personally, I would not give this to a little person; it’s as dark as the mountain it refers to.

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More about Eric by Shaun Tan in a future post. And as for It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In , well this is a story of longing, loss and hope, told through images of teddy bears. It was pondered by Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published writer-bears.

Mark is guardian for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. He is the writer-bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In