Orchard Road & Gardens


orchard-road-620x400Orchard Road Singapore – nothing but shops & more shops.

There is a different kind of Singapore, the Botanical Gardens.

DSC09539rA beautiful peaceful park area, which concentrates on orchids.

DSC09541rMy knowledge of gardening and plants is very limited, so I’ll just post the pictures . . .

DSC09537r Getting to the Botanical Gardens from the city is very easy, because the gardens are on the metro system. You don’t have to take a taxi.

DSC09545rI couldn’t stop clicking the camera the colours of the plants are fabulous.


The first botanical garden in Singapore was created by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1822. After his death the authorities lost interest in gardens.

The present garden was started in 1859 and many features such as the swan lake, main entrance and the ring road are still in use today.
Lawrence Niven was hired as Superintendent and he oversaw the layout and landscaping. A small hill was reduced to a flat area in the early 1860’s so that regimental bands could play for the public. In 1930 the band stand was created and can still be seen today.

unesco nom pic 1 bandstandBandstand Hill

Over the years the garden grew (excuse the pun) in size and is now 82 hectares in size.

In 1928 the gardens started orchid breeding, which is still carried on today.

2015 saw the current Singapore Botanical Gardens being inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the first and only tropical garden on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.




DSC09559rMany of the plants in the celebrity area have links to world famous people  –

Queen Elizabeth, Andrea Bocelli, Margaret Thatcher, Jackie Chan, etc over one hundred different orchids linked to the same number of famous people.

DSC09562rPeace and quiet where ever you go . . .


DSC09563rThe occasional problem if you are an insect.


If you decide to visit the gardens may I suggest that you make it early morning before the heat of the day – we walked all over the gardens and as the morning progressed it became more humid (monsoon season), but it was well worth the effort.

In the evening I took some photographs of Singapore river –

2716362184_a7a57228c6_zThis is how I remember Singapore River in the mid 60’s.

DSC09522rAs it is today

DSC09535r The river at night today.

Singapore has changes so much in the last forty odd years.

In an earlier blog I posted this picture of Clifford Pier in the 1960’s.


Clifford pier

Clifford Pier  today . . .

I think Joseph Conrad would have recognised the early 1960 version, but not today’s.

3345Joseph Conrad




Llandudno, Cymru (Wales)


A few years ago Maureen & I and three other couples had a seven week holiday of self catering, self drive around the UK. We hired a mini-bus and stayed in farms and apartments – all self catering. We were a mix of three ex Poms, three Australians, a New Zealander and a Russo – German. One of the places that I wanted them to see was Llandudno.

Llandudno has a Great Orme & a Little Orme.

P5152254rLittle Orme – picture taken from the Great Orme.

Both headlands are of limestone and the names are said to be linked to old Norse, rather than Welsh, and in English mean sea serpent. The word ‘orm’ is thought to be translated in to English as ‘worm’  – serpent??

The headlands are now mainly nature reserves. On top of the Great Orme is the Summit Complex,


which is a pub, restaurant, amusements centre etc. It used to be the Telegraph Inn from where messages would be relayed from Holyhead to Liverpool of the arrival of sailing ships. It was rebuilt to become a hotel in 1939, and then taken over by the RAF during the war and became a radar station.


The old lamp for the lighthouse.


In 1952 Randolph Turpin (the boxer who beat Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951 for the World Middleweight title) bought it, and when he was in financial difficulties with the taxman, the Llandudno council stepped in and took over the building.


The above five pictures were taken by KI one of our Australian companions.

Funny how things come back to you, but I can remember the huge interest in boxing at that time when Randolph Turpin won – I was seven, and the Festival of Britain was in full swing.

Festival_of_BritainEveryone seemed to know Turpin’s name even the people who didn’t have any interest in boxing.

In the Summit Complex they remember Turpin by naming a bar after him – Randy’s Bar – see above photograph. Sadly, Randolph Turpin shot himself in 1966.


To get to the summit without walking, you have to use The Great Orme Tramway.


2008-06-10 260r

Single track for most of the way, with ‘passing sections’.

2008-06-10 249r

Near the top.



Coming down gave us some great views of Llandudno with all the B&Bs and hotels along the sea front.


A wide ‘prom’ could accommodate many walkers without getting in each others way.


The town is also famous for its pier. It is 2,295 feet of cast iron lacework. The original pier was built in 1858, but was damaged in a storm in 1859. It was repaired and used for sixteen years before being upgraded to the present pier. I can remember as a child passenger ships sailing from Liverpool to Llandudno packed with holidaymakers. The ships would berth at the end of the pier, as there is deep water.

FerryLlandudno pier is at the bottom of the picture.


It was pleasant to walk to the end for the fresh air.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntrance to the pier.


The inclusion of slot machines as amusements (see pic below) did devalue the experience. A sign of age on our part I suppose.


We did find something that we were sure we wouldn’t have found in Australia . .

Golly 01

A touch of yesterday for many of us – during the 40’s I had two stuffed dolls on my bed, a sailor doll and a gollywog doll and never for one minute thought either of them as un-pc. For the record I also had a lion doll, in to which I would stuff my pajamas each morning. No animals were injured in the operation, because he didn’t come from a zoo.

Trivia linked to Llandudno – for my Australian readers.

Billy Hughes, Australia’s 7th PM,

Hughes15-16his parents were Welsh, although he was born in London. He was seven when his mother died and he was sent to live with his Aunt in Llandudno until he was 14, after which he moved back to London. He emigrated to Austraia in 1884 at the age of twenty two.
Marconi (of morse code fame) lived in Anglesey between 1900 & 1918 and it was from Anglesey that the first wireless morse message flashed around the world to Australia. The first message, in morse, was to the PM of Australia, William (Billy) Morris Hughes. There are suggestions that Billy Hughes and


Lloyd George (British PM during WW1, who was also Welsh – above picture) sent messages to each other, in morse, but also in Welsh, so as to keep them secret during the 1st WW.

200px-Alice_LiddellAlice Liddell.

She and her family holidayed in Llandudno in 1861.

Her father liked the place so much that he bought a house for his family’s use during the holidays. It was called Penmorfa,


and the family often had guests staying. A close friend of the family, Charles Dodgson, is said to have stayed with them, and he often used to tell Alice stories. He told one where he used the daughter of the house as the heroine of one of his stories. Later the story was written down and published.
Charles Dodgson didn’t wish his name to be used as the author, so he used another – Lewis Carroll. Alice, of Alice in Wonderland was based on Alice Liddell, while she was in Llandudno.

Alice_in_Wonderland,_cover_1865                      AliceWonderland2.1

The original cover and a later cover.

alice-in-wonderland-ladybird-book-disney-first-edition-gloss-hardback-1987-3211-pThe cover that we all know from the Disney studios.

In November of 2008 a developer demolished Penmorfa House to make way for apartments – locals tried to save the old building, but . . . .

To quote Alice . . .

 It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.

Should I write or research?


The first commercial wet dock in the world was opened in Liverpool in 1715. It was known originally by the engineer’s name Thomas Steer’s Dock, but later, as other docks were built it became known as the Old Dock. This Old Dock was infilled in 1826.

When Liverpool One was being created they found the Old Dock during excavations in 2001. The Old Dock has been preserved as much as possible and is now part of Liverpool Maritime Museum and you can take tours of this Old Dock and see where the original stream flowed in to the Pool.

As Rome was built by the local people who lived on seven hills, Liverpool, nearly 2000 years later, planned its layout in 1207, based on seven streets.

High Street, (1207), which used to have a weekly market and annual fairs and was originally called Jugglers Street

Chapel Street, (1257), named after the Chapel of St Mary, which no longer exists, having been demolished in 1814.

Water Street (1207), used to be called Bonk (Bank) St, the street to the river bank of the River Mersey.

Castle Street (1235), the street that lead to the castle.

Dale Street (1207), used to be called Dell St., through which the stream ran to the pool (Liver Pool).

Tithebarn Street, used to be called Moor St, which I think was connected to the Salthouse Moor district, or perhaps the Moor family. It ran from Castle Street to the river. Later in 1523 Sir William Molyneux bought the tithe rights from the monks of Shrewsbury Abbey and erected a tithe barn to collect produce as a tithe. The street then became known as Tithebarn St

Old Hall Street (1207), (used to be called Milne or Mill St) and changed to Old Hall Street after the Moore family moved from this hall to another on the outskirts of the city. The Moore’s ‘old hall’ remained, so the street’s name changed over time to Old Hall Street.

Making sure that the background of Liverpool was correct for my novel Ice King, which is set between 1804 to 1807 was very time consuming , but for me, very interesting. I had to make sure that I didn’t refer to any location in Liverpool that didn’t exist in 1804.

So the research was to find out what did exist in 1804.

imgp2403r I was safe in using St Nicholas Church – the sailors’ church, because it was used as a guide by sailors to bring their ship in to port in 1804. It had been a place of worship since 1257, so I felt safe if I had to refer to the church building. The above photograph taken a few years ago.


The above photograph of St Nicholas’ church taken a few years after William King’s, my main character, adventures.

So what else can I use from 1804? After a great deal of searching I found just what I wanted, an old map of Liverpool which was produce by John Britton (1771 – 1857) and as far as I can make out he produced the map in 1807!


From the above map I was able to expand the area that was of my particular interest – the area around George’s Dock. As sailors did in the early days they used the tower of St Nichols’ church to navigate in to the ‘Bason’ and then in to George’s Dock.


George’s dock was opened in 1771, and named after King George III.

In 1874 the Bason was filled in, and in 1899 the dock itself was filled in to create what we know today as the Pier Head.
Later (1914) Cunard Shipping Line commissioned a new headquarters,which was opened in 1917. The Cunard Building, which is to the right of the Liver Building, can be seen in the picture below. A section of the George’s dock wall can still be seen in the basement of the  Cunard Building.


What was the river like in 1804 (sand banks, wrecks etc), so I need a chart.

chart  Chart of the Mersey Bar area dated 1801; produced by William Morris, (the link will take you to the National Library of Wales) a fascinating man who also charted the seas around the island of Angelsey.

When researching for an appropriate gentleman’s club, one where a prosperous ship owner and trader would frequent in 1804, I came across the Athenaeum Club. I wanted to develop the background and life style of the main character’s father.

This club was opened in 1797 and the location of the club as in Ice King is correct for 1804, but not for today, because the club moved from Church St to  Church Alley in 1928. The club is still active in Liverpool.
There is an Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, London, which was founded in 1824.

One of the founder members of the Liverpool Atheneum Club was William Roscoe who was a very strong anti- slavery advocate. Other founder members were some of the most prosperous slave traders in Liverpool. I found it odd that the needs of the members for a club, such as the Athenaeum, over came their like or dislike of the African slave trade. Perhaps William Roscoe thought that he might be able to influence the slave traders, to reject the trade, in a social situation.
Roscoe was a strong Christian and fought in Parliament, as the member for Liverpool, for the rights of Catholics and other denominations to hold high office. In 1807 he voted with William Wilberforce to stop the slave trade, which successfully passed in to law, but caused William Roscoe trouble back home in Liverpool. He lost his seat at the next election.


William Roscoe

In the novel I referred to a character who had won £20,000 in a lottery in 1776 – this is true.
His name was Thomas Leyland and he was the Mayor of Liverpool three times. When he died in 1827 he was one of the richest men in the Britain. His wealth was due to him investing a large amount of his winnings in to the slave trade. In 1807 when Britain made it illegal to trade in slaves he switched to banking.


Thomas Leyland

The bank stayed in the Leyland family until 1901, at which time it merged with the North & South Wales Bank.
Later, in 1908, they were taken over by the the London City and Midland Bank. Eventually this bank became just ‘Midland Bank’, before being taken over itself by the HSBC Bank. I wonder if they realise that part of their foundation is based on slavery?

The hours of research helped produced less than a chapter, but hopefully a reader would enjoy the story that much more because of the research, but I am still not sure if Maureen is correct when she said that I  prefer the research to the writing. . . .


Fact or fiction for historical stories.


Writing historical fiction is time consuming to say the least. Each scene that surrounds a character must be true for the reader, and the easiest way to make this scene true, is research and more research. You cannot afford to be wrong, unless of course you do it deliberately, because you are writing an ‘alternate history’ novel.

A few years ago I wrote an historical novel, which took me at least two years to research. I’d write a scene and then study it to make sure that a character could do what I wanted. For example, I had the main character board a coach in London to travel to Liverpool in 1804. The first thing that comes to mind, was from where in London would he leave – research.


How big was the coach, how many horses, how many passengers, did they all sit inside or did some sit on top and if so was it cheaper to travel ‘up top’ than inside? Research, research and more research.

My wife considers that I more interested in the research side of writing than I am in producing the finished novel. There may be some truth in her comment . . .
Small details can pop up that you consider and then either use or discard. Too many details will slow the story and you are trying to entertain, not educate, but you do inadvertently educate, so accuracy matters.
One small detail that I didn’t use was that the cost for sitting inside was 5d (five pence) per mile and if you sat up top it was 2 1/2d (twopence h’penny). If I play trivia pursuit on NYE I wonder if I’ll get this question?
How fast did the coach travel, – the average speed being about eight to ten miles an hour until the roads were improved by Mr. McAdam allowing the speed average to increase to fourteen miles an hour.

How long was it before the horses were changed?
The route was cut in to ‘stages ‘ hence the coach was a ‘stagecoach’- and they would change the horses every ten to fifteen miles.
Some stage stops would allow the passengers to have a meal, but if a coach carried mail many stage stops would be to just change horses, and the post office would only allow five minutes for this procedure, but a crack team could do it in three minutes. To warn the inn and to save time the guard at the rear of the coach would sound his horn in a way to warn the coaching inn that they were approaching, and to have the horses ready for the change.The tone of the sound informed the inn keeper that the coach only wanted fresh horses or that it was a meal stop.

Was there anything special about the coach; – a Royal Mail coach would have the origin city’s name and the destination city’s name blazoned on the side along with the Royal coat of arms. Royal Mail coaches used numbers whereas commercial coaches gave their service names ‘The Flyer’, ‘The Union’, ‘The Courier, and ’Umpire’ was a Liverpool bound coach and so on.
One would think that a novelist could make up the answers to many of the questions, but if he was wrong then this would taint the overall story and if a reader thought that the author had ‘cheated’ then the reader might not finish the book or the they might post a negative review, which would be worse.
In my novel I had the London to Liverpool coach stop at an inn at Stony Stratford, which was well known as a stopping place for stagecoaches on their way north to Liverpool, Manchester etc, Stony Straford being a day’s ride from London.


The picture illustrates the inside of a coaching inn (not Cock Inn).
The inn I used was the Cock Inn, which is just up the road from the Bull Inn, which was also a coaching inn. It is known the both inns would exaggerate their services and after a time a story teller would be told that his story was a load of Cock and Bull.
Jon Cok was the original landlord in 1480, which is how the inn got its name not from the bird. Although the pub sign shows the bird.


Stony Stratford has been around since 1194, and the word ‘Stratford’ in Anglo-Saxon means a ford on a Roman road – the ford being across the River Ouse. The ‘stony’ bit is referring to the stones on the bed of the river.
A friend of mine from my Conway days, who lives near Stony Stratford and had read my book, sent me photographs of the same street today.


The Cock Inn is now a hotel.


As is the Bull Inn, which is to the right of the Cock Inn.

The Bull Inn can be seen on the right of the picture with its Bull Inn sign and further along the road, near the flower baskets close to the lady in red, is the Cock Inn.


Cock Inn late 1800’s – I doubt that this coach & four was on its way to Liverpool.

All this research for a small part of one chapter – if nothing else I learned a lot.

If you wish to know the connection between the slave picture and my book, read the blurb on the book’s cover. If it is unclear or too small, try this link




I’ve managed to trace my family back to John Woodland, who was born around 1610, near Newport Pagnell.
His grandson, Richard, married Mary Exon, a girl from Ware in Herts , which is 50 miles (80 km) from Newport Pagnell. The distance today is less than an hours drive, so to marry someone so far away in the 1600’s must have been a huge challenge. Later members of the family grew up and married for generations in and around Ware, Hertford and later St Albans, which is ‘only’ 17 miles from Ware.

As time passes I noticed that certain male Christian names are repeated time and time again – Robert, William, Thomas, and Frederick.

My father was Robert William, my grandfather was Frederick, my great grandfather was Robert, my great uncle was Robert William – perhaps the family lacked imagination until my mother was allowed to name me, and my father was allowed to pick the spelling of my Christian name.

Earlier this year Maureen & I visited Perth, Western Australia, and during our short stay we visited, with friends who lived in Perth, the maritime museum in Fremantle.

maritime-memoriesPicture from the Maritime Museum web site.

We arrived late in the afternoon and the guide said that the museum would be closing in thirty minutes and perhaps we should just visit the submarine display on the ground floor.

We were happy to just brows around and I wandered over to the display for HMA (His Majesty’s Australian) submarine AE1, which had been built in Barrow in Furness and launched in May 1913.

She was the first of two E class submarines built for the Australian navy.
726 tonnes submerged and 599 tonnes on the surface. She could do 10 kts submerged and 15 kts on the surface. Her range at 10 kts was 3,225 nm.

AE1 along with AE2 sailed to Australia and reached Sydney in May 1914. AE1 had a mixed crew of Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy.

On the 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany, because German had invaded Belgium, so as to attack France. As part of the British Empire, Australia followed suite declaring war on Germany and offering support to the British, which was accepted on the 6th August.

At the outbreak of war AE1 joined naval units to capture a German Pacific colony, German New Guinea, just a few miles north of Australia.

painitingDennis Adams painting (1983) illustrates AE1 at sea.

AE1 took part in the German New Guinea operation and was in attendance when the Germans surrendered at Rabaul on the 13th September 1914.

Next day AE1 rendezvoused with HMAS Parramatta (destroyer) and patrolled St George’s channel. HMAS Parramatta advised AE1 that she was to patrol north east and that Parramatta would patrol to the south.  The weather was hazy and later in the day AE1 asked about visibility (she being very low in the water her horizon was limited) and Parramatta reported that is was about five miles. About 3.20 pm Parramatta lost sight of AE1 and being concerned, steamed to her last known position.

There wasn’t any sign of the submarine so Parramatta considered that AE1 had returned to port without informing Parramatta.

By 8.00 pm authorities were concerned that AE1 was over due and order several ships to search for her. She has never been found, nor any sign of her, not even the smallest sign of an oil slick.

AE1 had three officers and thirty two sailors.

The above is a brief outline of AE1 the ship and I found it all very interesting. I then moved over to the display of letters, photographs and paperwork relating to AE1 – and that was when I found something – a crew list, and listed amongst the crew was Frederick William Woodland AB, ex Royal Navy.


A photograph of Fred W. Woodland


There were also a letter of condolences from Winston Churchill, (he was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time), letter of condolence from the Australian High Commission in London.


A scroll of remembrance




I have tried to find a link between Bognor (now Bognor Regis) and Ware or St Albans, but have failed.

On our return from Western Australia I did manage to find the address of where Helen Woodland lived in 1914, but for some reason I can’t find it now!


an interesting link

Wrapped in the ocean boundless
Where the tides are scarcely stirred
In deeps that are still and boundless,
They perished unseen, unheard …

From ‘Missing’ by Will Lawson, 1914

The submarine AE1 still hasn’t been found.

Helen Woodland moved to Canada in 1921, and she kept all of the documents relating to her husband’s death. These paper passed to her daughter, Annie, and Annie’s son visited Australia in 2001.and was moved by the display in the Maritime Museum about AE1.

On his return to Canada he persuaded his mother to donate all of the papers relating to the Frederick William Woodland to the Australian Maritime Museum, and it was these paper that I read when in Fremantle.

They never said ‘If only . . .’

A baker’s dozen of real life, but different, e- books that I’ve read in the last couple of years.

Once again, from a cost point of view, the e-book has the advantage of the printed book. As I said in my last blog I’ll risk a dollar or so on unknown authors to read novels, but I also like biographical books about people who have stepped out of their comfort zone.

I do enjoy reading books written by people who have changed their lives for one reason or another. Perhaps the change was caused by redundancy, or a casual remark that grows in to action, or the thought that you would like to do something in memory of a loved one – I find them all very entertaining and readable. The percentages have been taken from Amazon reviews of each book.

82% – 4 & 5 * reviews – a total of 148 reviews

A light hearted look as to how a family coped with the loss of employment by the bread winner. Having been made redundant myself at 55, I had great sympathy for the family and wanted to know how they coped. I think they had more fun, and really lived `life’ the day they left their secure environment and took up narrow boating. The flow of the story pulls you along with the family, whether it is turning a seventy-foot boat in a sixty-eight foot wide canal or the male leaping ashore to moor the boat, only to realise what he thought was solid ground turned out to be less solid than anticipated. It has drama, comedy, pathos within a travel book that doesn’t travel all that far from its origin. The book is different, and for me it was a pleasure to read.


   64 % 4 & 5 * reviews – a total of 503 reviews

It’s a long time since I laughed out loud when reading a book, but I did with More Ketchup than Salsa. The author captures the feeling of ‘is this all we have’ in a down trodden job in a grimy north of England city. You can feel the dampness and the rain in the author’s writing. For me this was an enjoyable book to read. I was surprised at the low 4 & 5 * percentage.

journey83% 4 & 5 * reviews

Have you ever thought that a casual comment would change your life?
It did for Craig Briggs, and Journey to a Dream is his story. I read this book while travelling in Spain, so  my location added to the overall enjoyment. The story is entertaining and the author’s style of writing makes it an easy read.


sequinsA light, but an interesting read. I enjoy books where people step outside their normal comfort zone and make a ‘go’ of the change.

89 % 4 & 5 * reviews




I wonder what the future will hold for these Anglo-Saxons living in Spain, now that the UK is leaving the EEC. I think they will take it all in their stride, and perhaps produce another book.

walk I like `off centre’ books that tell of personal desires to create, or complete tasks, that others might find a little `odd’. I came across `Vic’s Big Walk’ on Amazon while looking for something to read during an anticipated long flight. Not knowing anything about the author or his goals the thought of someone recording his effort to walk from the Pyrenees to Blackpool at seventy years of age, sparked my desire for an off centre read. I was not disappointed, as the author’s prose is very readable. He drew me in to his, and his wife’s, life as he walked nearly 2000 kilometers towards his childhood home town in the UK. His observations of the people he meets and the places he visits, along with his daily stop for coffee, creates a feeling that the reader is looking over the author’s shoulder and is part of the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed Vic’s Big Walk and at the end of the book I was pleased to note that all profits from the sales would go to pancreatic cancer research – a cancer that caused the early death of my own father.
If you like a well written travel book, which isn’t a travel book, but a personal record of a man’s effort to do something unusual, and still benefit others, read Vic’s Long Walk and enjoy his story, while making you feel good.  93% 4 & 5 * reviews

lifeA very interesting story. I am of a similar age to the author, so his book brought back a lot of memories of my youth. The influence, of the company created by the author, on the music world, comes alive without it being a brag about the author’s accomplishments. I read this while on holiday and found it strange that it stuck in my mind long after I’d finished the book. If you are interested in the history of how they created popular music in the 60’s & 70’s this is the book for you.  85% 4 & 5 * reviews



What an interesting travel book –
It is the type of travel book that you can pick up and put down – each destination has a short 500 word story of the author’s experiences in a particular destination. I was able to dip in and out as I pleased and periodically through the book, the author has included photographs of the previous places mentioned. Besides the author’s admiration of certain places, he also points out the pit falls – particularly when eating street food in Asia. 89% 4 & 5* reviews


An entertaining short book of about 89 pages, read it in a single sitting. It reminded me of the sort of chapters one reads in Readers Digest – condensed information of the writer’s trips. Enjoyable, but only up to a point 63 % 4 * 5 * reviews

yearOverall I enjoyed the book, it was an easy read, and each chapter could be read as a stand-alone piece, if the reader had a particular interest in a specific destination.
This not a negative comment, but I had the feeling that each chapter could have been sent to magazines as a single article. I think it is a book that would interest those who have not travelled a great deal, rather than a person who has travelled. 80% 4 & 5 * reviews – 198 reviews

peace I haven’t met the author, nor heard of her as a filmmaker, but she e-mailed me and asked if I would like to read her book. I checked the outline of the book and found that she worked as a young woman in Afghanistan filming news items, and this sounded interesting, so I agreed.
The first part of the book was exciting as she detailed her time in Afghanistan as a young film reporter for TV stations. The reasons for various TV station & print media showing or rejecting her work confirmed my own thoughts on the moral standing of certain elements of the media in today’s world.
On the author’s return from overseas we are told of her relationship with her then boyfriend, and various girlfriends, as well as her mother. After the excitement of Afghanistan & her visit to Russia during the cold war, for me, the soul searching for a spiritual anchor and her relationships with friends and relatives was of less interest than her work. Overall I found the book to be an easy read at 180 pages, and the details of her  time in Afghanistan was fast paced and read like a  novel. 98% 4 & 5 * reviews



A clear account of how people can be conned. I was surprised that so many Christians were duped when one would expect them to question how such a high daily return could be obtained, and from where the high return originated. 88% 4 & 5 * reviews



An educational read without being force fed information. Obviously one eyed from a US perspective, but that was to be expected considering the book’s title. I enjoyed the book, even though it was ‘shallow’ in parts. It is not a deep historical book of politics and tactical military moves, just many anecdotal tales by those who took apart in WW2.  88% 4 & 5 * reviews a total of 487 reviews




A very funny book with strong Australian overtones, but with sad moments as the author tries to find his son.

95 % 4 & 5 * reviews




Show me – don’t tell me

The title of this blog is a dictate that is drummed in to authors – show the reader, don’t lecture the reader.


A few years ago we were told that the e-book was overtaking the printed book in popularity – today I am not all that sure. I have an old adage that if I think something is not true or not quite right, I know that many others will think along similar lines.

Political spin on any subject brings out the scepticism in me (some call it grumpy old man syndrome), and when reporters throw out huge numbers, for whatever reason, I cannot help but do a quick mental arithmetic (I am old enough not to require a calculator), to see if the statement is credible or just journalistic spin to grab attention.

I have a feeling that the e-book ‘revolution’ may have faltered and printed books are still as popular as ever. I believe that the reading public still like the ‘feel’ of a book and the ability to skip backwards and forwards easily through the pages.

As a reader who haunts second hand book shops, school fetes, library sell offs etc for that particular ‘must have’ book, I am certain I am not Robinson Crusoe. While hunting for the elusive paperback it never occurs to me to check to see if I can buy it as an e-book.
With book prices in Australia being in the $18 / $19 to $30 area for a paperback, I am a strong supporter of Book Depository for the same book at half the Australian price. The wait of eight to ten days is not a problem. I only buy authors that I have read, I never buy unknown paperback authors, because of price.

This is where the e-book comes in to its own. The e-book world allows me to find new authors to read at a reasonable cost. The cost factor, if I don’t like the book is small, but if I do like the e-book, the author’s name goes on my buy list for a printed book as well as their latest e-book. If the author only publishes e-books, so much the better for my pocket.

Over the last few years I’ve read a number (about seventy) of independent self-published e-books and thought it was about time that I passed on information about some of the novels that I have enjoyed. The list is in alphabetical by author, not in any preferential order. The percentages have been taken from Amazon, so the percentages could well be higher when taking all sales in to account.

Mario Almonte – American author.
Of the reviews 80% were 4 * &  5*
Theresa Manning

manningThe location of the story is set in present day New York & Boston. After the first few pages I realised that this author is no novice when it comes to writing. I had not heard of him or read any of his work before I read `Theresa Manning’. His writing is smoooooth, if that word can be used in this context.
The story is a relationship, rather than an action tale, which flows effortlessly from scene to scene. The author brings the characters to life, and at times drops in some great quotes `The wheels of a generation, the mouths of the moment’ referring to a wayside diner. When I read the quote it fitted perfectly in to that particular scene. The relationship aspect of the story has not created a standard romantic novel, it is different, because the author creates tension between each of the characters as he pushes the story to its final conclusion. It is a sharp concise novel that will entertain and linger in the mind after you have read the final page.

John Campbell – American author
Of the reviews 93% were 4 * & 5 *
Walk to Paradise Gardens

cam1John Campbell’s historical novel `Walk to Paradise Gardens’ is a saga that begins during the early days of WW1, and the reader follows a family through all of their troubles.
The story captivated me from the first few pages as I read his descriptions of the medical areas behind the lines in WW1. The author brought the whole horror of this war to life. Later, his descriptions of London in the 1920’s & 30’s has your mouth watering as he describes the simple act of taking tea and cakes in an `acceptable’ (for the wife of a political minister) café. Campbell has the ability to capture the period, regardless of the decade. The historic detail enhances the story without overwhelming the reader with facts. A love story to be read and enjoyed at leisure.

A Lark Ascending –
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*


Rating this book as a five star read was no effort at all. The author has really captured the Lime House area of London during the early 1920’s. I could feel the damp, smell the river, and feel the fear of being out and about after dark during those dark days. John Campbell’s ability to research the times, and the places about which he writes, is always spot on. This is the second of Mr Campbell’s books that I’ve read and enjoyed, both are set around the same period; one in peacetime, and the other during the first world war. A must read for those who love accurate historic fiction.

V.R Christensen – American author
Of the reviews 72% were 4 * & 5*, which equated to 470 out of 653 reviews.
Of Moths & Butterflies


Being a mere male `Of Moths and Butterflies’ is not my normal type of book, but from the first page I was captivated by the characters and their situations.
The story is set in 1881 / 82 and takes place in Kent & London. The author has recreated the time and the place, and the life style of the various levels of society. The main character is a young woman who is being manoeuvred in to marriage because of a shameful act that was not her fault. I found myself wishing this young woman would take a swing at certain family members, but of course this was 1881, not 1981.
The author’s writing is rich in creating scenes, without being overbearing in detail. I read this book on a Kindle while travelling and I would regale my wife with bits and pieces of the story. Now the acid is on me to buy another Kindle so that she can read it, without me being `Kindleless’.

Robert Davidson – British author
Of the reviews 100% were 4* & 5*
The Tuzla Run –


Davidson’s descriptive details of the various geographic areas, and the war damage in the Tuzla region (Boznia), comes across as personal experience rather than research. Once I started the story I found it hard not to keep reading the next page and the next and so on, even at the risk of lost sleep.
The author has produced an exciting story in the mould of the traditional `journey’ style of storytelling, coupled with credible heroic and cowardly characters. It seems to me that The Tuzla Run is tailor made for an action movie.

Susan Denning – American author
Of the reviews 75% were 4 * & 5*, which equated to 662 out of 883 reviews.
I am also aware that this author has sold nearly 200,000 e-book & paperback copies, plus it was released via an audiobook company, as an audio book.

Far Away Home


Far Away Home is a joy to read. Within the time it took to read the first page I was in to the story. Meeting the main character, Aislynn, in New York, is to step back in time. Denning has captured the time and places of the mid 1800’s in America. Her detailed research is not overpowering, but it does help you to feel the cold of winter, the joy of spring, the smell of the trees, which were cut down to create Aislynn’s home. In her desire for accuracy, I believe Denning drove a covered wagon through similar terrain as did her main character when she crossed the wide open spaces between New York and Utah. Denning experienced the trials of such transport and her personal experience adds credibility to the story.
The relationship between the characters moves the story steadily forward. They became real to this reader, so much so, that I was quite sad to reach the end of the book. Perhaps Ms Denning will favour us with a sequel, as I’m sure many of her readers would like to know what happens to Aislynn. If you are interested in the old American west, and you like strong characters, who stand up for themselves and their friends, then this is the book for you.

Laurel Lamperd – a saga over two books, Australian author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*
This author has written a total of eight books.

Wind from Danyari

In addition to the central characters, the Hennessey family, who are rich in emotion and diverse, I found the author’s detailed description of the landscape and the hard climate of Western Australia, as stimulating as the human characters.
The scene is set with the arrival of the first Europeans to the area. This is followed by the introduction of Joe Hennessey, in the late 1800s, who, as a teenager, sets out to attempt to make his fortune in the gold fields of northern Australia.
The story flows as the author paints her characters to the harsh canvas of Australia between 1880 to the outbreak of WW1. The story has romance, tragedy and adventure, which are mixed with the way of life of two cultures. The ancient aboriginal way and the newcomers creates tension and sadness. I found the book to be a page turner. I believe that this book is the first in a series that chronicles the Hennessey family.

Of the reviews 100% were 4* & 5 *wa1

The Hennessy boys go to war, Danny to England to be trained as a bomber pilot, and Will joins the Australian Army and is sent to New Guinea. The story begins in the time of innocence in Australia of 1939. The author showed me the lives of people in outback Australia of that time, and how their innocence changed as the war progressed.
Lamperd has the knack of describing the conditions of north west Australia to such an extent that she had my mouth dry from windblown sand, only to be washed clean in the next chapter by watered down beer in a London pub on a damp wet night, after a bombing raid over Germany. Her description of the Kakoda trail, the mud, the tropical heat and rain, with the expectation of fighting the Japanese brings to life the bestiality of man when at war.
It is not a story of war, but a story of a family caught up in a war. How relationships are made and broken, some deliberate others beyond control of the character. I read the book on a Kindle and after I’d finished, the characters and the locations stuck in my mind for days, even though I was travelling and seeing new places. A well told story.

While trying to find out if Ms Lamperd had written her third book in the Hennessy series, I read that she had died in June 2013. I also read that the third book in the series would be published posthumously, but I don’t know the title, or if it was published.

Ian Stewart – Australian author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*

The Peking Payoff



The story has the feel of James Clavell’s `Noble House’ without being a copy or fan fiction in any way. The detail description of Hong Kong in the 1970’s comes across as `real’ due to the author having lived and worked in the Colony (it was a colony in the 1970’s). The story has action, believable characters for the reader to either sympathise or hate, crafty `baddies’ and an exotic location. I enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened next when I reached the end of the book. The ending didn’t leave me hanging and wondering what had happened, because it was the logical place to finish the story, without upsetting the reader, but it didn’t stop me wanting more!

The Unintentional Jihad
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*


The Unintentional Jihadi is a damn good yarn. Fast paced and exciting. The author writes about what he knows . . .his knowledge of Malaysia and Singapore adds authenticity to the story. Using details in the book you could drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, and drive around KL without your GPS.
In parts the story reminded me of the `39 Steps’ by John Buchan – the reluctant hero being chased by the baddies, who might be good or bad . . . , but you have to read the book to find out the truth!

Of the reviews 72% were 4 * & 5 *

nanyangAt around 650 pp Nanyang is a solid book. The detail of the history surrounding a particular event in which a character becomes involved is engrossing. My hobby is Asian history so the back ground of the various events was right up my street.
The author has a great love of research, and Asian history, and this shows as the story unfolds. I must say I particularly liked the author’s description of various battle & fight scenes. He never tried to alter history, but he did bring to life the skirmishes and battles of the period, and used them with great effect to move the story forward. I found myself reading faster and faster to reach the climax of a particular battle, even though I was aware of the historical outcome. The book was a pleasure to read.

K. P. Vorenberg – American author
Of the reviews 100% were 4 * & 5*
Tierra Red


I haven’t read many books set in New Mexico, but I was looking for something different to help pass the time on a long-haul flight from Sydney to Europe, so I chose `Tierra Red’. I wasn’t disappointed, the story flowed and I felt I’d learned something new about the region, which is where the story was set. The characters were believable, and fleshed out just enough to help create mental pictures – I was shown, without being told the various foibles of each character. The story is not a `gunslinger’ cowboy story, but a study of people and how they react under certain circumstances. It is obvious that the author has detailed knowledge of the New Mexico area, and her knowledge adds authenticity to the story. I enjoyed the novel, and the author’s style made the book a very welcome read on such a long flight.

Marianne Wheelaghan – British author – Scottish – Of the reviews 92% were 4 * & 5*

The Blue Suitcase

suitcaseI finished The Blue Suitcase and found it to be a fascinating book. The story is `now’ rather than the reader being told about the political situation of Germany in the 1930’s. In many ways it is a happy / sad story of a young girl growing up in Germany, during that disturbing decade. The author held my attention throughout the book – not once did I skip forward, because I wanted to know every detail of the main character’s life. The story is wrapped around the changing political situation with its highs and lows, the broken political promises and broken family relationships. A bitter sweet story that reminded me of a symphony that builds from the pleasant tones of everyday life to the crashing finish of a destroyed Germany. A novel it may be, but I have a feeling that there is more to this story, for this author, than just a novel.


Geoff Woodland – Australian, author – but also British – half Welsh / half English, I’m still very fond of the UK, but not the weather :-o)

Ice King
Modesty forbids me to comment on this novel, but if you wish to know what others think, try this link.