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Showing posts with the label outback Australia

Wipptee — an Australian rural romance

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A cozy mystery with a feisty enemies-to-lovers romance on the side.   A young woman wants a quiet life in a small country town, but her past crimes as an animal rights activist return to haunt her.  BUY EBOOK  Maddison returns to Australia after five years away, desperate for a happily-ever-after future with her husband. But Daniel is missing and wanted by the police. Maddie follows a lead to Rakali Springs, the town where everything first went wrong for her and Daniel. She receives a hostile reception, but the Brackton family, Grace and her four sons, are willing to give her a place to stay.   It doesn’t take long for Maddie to discover that everyone has an agenda. Grace, the family matriarch, is determined to end destructive land clearing on neighbouring Wipptee farm at any cost. Matthew guards his secrets well, Liam is sleazy and unpredictable, and Travis wants only regular work for his earthmoving business. Worst of all, Constable Theo Brackton never misses a chance to accuse, crit

Reading journal: Embers and Echoes by Daniel De Lorne

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Genre: Rural gay romance Published: 2018 Date read: September 2018 Ben Fields, a policeman, and Toby Grimshaw, a firefighter, have a history. In a small town like Echo Springs, on the edge of the outback, they can’t avoid each other, especially when the town is threatened by escalating arson attacks. We want Ben and Toby to solve the mystery, survive the danger, and get back together, and since this is a romance, they do. An enjoyable light read.

Reading journal: The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2017 Date read: June 2018 A story of a future Australia where the inland is in permanent drought and the inhabitants have been forcefully relocated or herded into camps. But there are hold-outs, people who hide from the Creeps and eke out a precarious living. The story begins with a football match against a passing First People caravan, and the return of Bill’s friend Tobe from his wanderings. Bill and Tobe are close, and share a tragic past. Bill’s loyalty is tested when Tobe insists on an exploratory trip into the badlands, but he follows Tobe faithfully, even when they must abandon their bolthole, only to be betrayed in the end. (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler). This is an interesting book. I enjoyed it as a writer, seeing how Walter has varied the pace to create atmosphere. The structure of the book is interesting too, a classic story structure with a strong inciting incident which I didn’t identify until the very end, even tho

Reading journal: A Place to Stay by Jennie Jones

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Genre: Romance Published: 2016 Date read: March 2018 Rachel has moved to an outback town under an assumed name to escape from her violent criminal husband, and from the police who want to talk to her. Local cop, Luke, falls for Rachel, but complications arise when she rejects his interest out of fear, and he becomes aware of her history and is required to protect her and find out what she knows. Some local criminals and the arrival of the evil husband and his cronies are sketched in, but the focus is on the protagonists coming to trust each other. I enjoyed the descriptions of the red dust town. In fact, I enjoy all rural/outback romances simply because of the scenery. Sometimes I would like the plots to be a little more convincing.

Reading journal: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Read: February 2018 A gripping story about a murder in a large Australian country town. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is investigating the death of an old school friend, a woman for whom she had an unhealthy obsession. As the investigation progresses, the consequences of decisions and actions made in the past come back to haunt Gemma. Traumatic events from her teenage years are slowly revealed to be integral to solving the case. I stayed up very late to finish this, as it was too difficult to put it down. The book is written in the present tense, which I usually find difficult, but in this case it seemed completely appropriate and easy to read. One word of warning. If you’re reading an ebook version, my copy didn’t open at the beginning (a prologue labelled “now”), instead leaping ahead to Chapter 1. Reading the prologue would have helped! Fast paced, lots of twists and turns and emotions, recommended.

Reading journal: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2014 Read: March 2018 This book is subtitled “Black seeds: agriculture or accident?” Pascoe’s short and readable book summarises the output of a range of primary and secondary sources that examined the economy of Indigenous people in Australia before European settlement destroyed that economy forever. Most convincing are the quotes and illustrations from the diaries and reports of early inland explorers, describing flourishing grain production and harvesting, robust houses, fishtraps on rivers, smoking fish and other meats for preservation, yam planting and harvesting, maintenance and protection of wells and the use of fire to maintain the environment in a useful grassy state. All these methods of making a living from Australia’s intermittent rivers and thin infertile soils were gone within a few years of the arrival of European stock animals and crops, and the environmental degradation continues. Pascoe argues that it is the Europeans who w

Reading journal: Wild Waterfalls of South Eastern Australia by Peter Quinton

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2018 Read: March 2018 A beautiful collection of the author’s own photographs of Australian waterfalls, some acquired at the cost of personal injury, and all showing Quinton’s mastery of photography. The photographs are supported with maps, well-documented historical details, and information about Indigenous names and cultural aspects of the falls. This book was helped along its path by record rains in Australia in 2016, which brought many creeks and waterfalls back to life after many dry years. The author has also used these images to provide inspiration and imagery for a collaboration with the American artist CR Bravo, the illustrated novel Twilight of the Gods . The ebook version is best viewed on a large colour screen, and doesn’t work on a basic Kindle. It’s worth it, though. Lovely work.

Reading journal: Two Man Station by Lisa Henry

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Genre: Romance (m/m) Published: 2018 Series: Emergency Services Read: February 2018 The latest offering from prolific Australian author Lisa Henry is set in the remote outback town of Richmond in Queensland. Gio Valeri, dragging baggage from his previous Gold Coast posting behind him, joins Jason Quinn in policing the small town. He has to deal with snakes, neglected children, family violence, and the strange fallout from bingo night, as well as a growing attraction to Jason. A great book. I particularly liked the snake silhouettes that divide the chapters, and the realistic portrayal of the difficulties of single parenting and limited resources in policing in a remote area. Recommended. If you want to see what Richmond looks like in real life, there are plenty of photos on Google Maps and you can see the police station on street view. Town of Richmond, Queensland, Australia. Copyright Google Maps

Reading journal: The Castlemaine Murders by Kerry Greenwood

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Genre: Crime Published: 2003 Series: Phryne Fisher Read: December 2017 In 1920s Australia, the gold rush days of the 1850s seem far in the past, but two mysteries from the Castlemaine goldfields come back to threaten amateur sleuth Phryne Fisher and her lover Lin Chung. Phryne’s mystery relates to a lost heir and a great inheritance. Lin Chung’s comes from a family feud, goldfield riots, and lost gold, and is far more interesting. There were riots at Castlemaine in 1854; many Chinese lives were saved through the bravery of Senior Constable Thomas Cooke, see memorial here. At Lambing Flat (now Young) in New South Wales, there were disgraceful riots and Chinese deaths in 1861, although many people were given refuge by a local landowner, James Roberts. There is an interesting recent essay about this by Gabrielle Chan, Race and the Golden Age [paywall, Meanjin magazine].   Threads of racism, and of courage in confronting it, continue in Australia today. 

Muttama Creek, looks innocent but...

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Muttama Creek runs through the middle of Cootamundra, over several flood-prone low-level crossings and under a few bridges. It runs down through a wide valley, its own floodplain, to Coolac and then into the Murrumbidgee River. Muttama Creek, Cootamundra, NSW It doesn't look like much, but this tiny watercourse has serious form. It used to feed a large dam, the Stock Dam, on the location of what is now Jubilee Park. It flooded Parker Street, the main street, to over a metre on more than one occasion. (Photo below, Coota Deluge 4.12.19,  from State Library of NSW, see original here ) Parker St, Cootamundra, 1919 (Photo State Library of NSW) Amazingly, Muttama Creek washed away the railway to Gundagai and Tumut so many times that in the end the track was abandoned completely in 1984. About 25km downstream is the village of Muttama, and the creek there is much more robust, running even in December (the first month of summer). Muttama Creek, Muttama, NSW The

Novella inspiration — stile and wombat hole

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I'm slaving over a novella in the Bargains and Trades series, working title "Hustling Honey" (eventually published as Farm Stay , and relaunched in 2021 as Lies So Deep , Book 2 in the Tender Spies series.) One of my protagonists goes for a walk, but poor Andrew is not a happy man in the country. He narrowly escapes horrendous injuries from nesting ducks, assorted insects and a mob of kangaroos, then climbs over a stile and trudges up a hill, only to fall into a wombat hole. Stile for crossing fence This stile is at the Taemas Bridge over the Murrumbidgee River. That long grass is bound to be snake infested. I wasn't even a little bit tempted to climb over there, I guess I have a lot in common with Andrew. Wombat hole I had never seen a wombat hole before this one, extraordinary thing to find. I didn't see the wombat of course, they are nocturnal.

Taemas Bridge on the Murrumbidgee

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The Taemas Bridge crosses the Murrumbidgee River near Cavan in New South Wales. This bridge has been here since 1930 or so, replacing a number of other bridges, fords and punts that had been destroyed by flooding (more info on Wikipedia ). The road in is narrow, steep and winding, and from here gets even worse as you drive very, very carefully towards Wee Jasper. You can see the road to Yass in the photo here, it's the cutting in the side of the hill in the background. The river is quite high at present (October 2014). This is the view upstream. The Taemas Bridge is a location in my novel, Runaway Spy  (ebook available from Amazon) .  My heroine, Joanne,  makes plans to meet someone there. Here's an extract: Joanne made good time. The dirt road was well maintained and dry, and she reached the sealed road faster than she expected. She walked on the shoulder, facing oncoming traffic for safety, and arrived at the bridge well before the appointed time. She

Australian outback icons, windmills and Holden cars

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Wind power isn't new, it's been used for generations to pump water for stock from creeks or dams or underground artesian wells. Windmill, Shear Outback, Hay Another pretty windmill, this one from Jugiong a long way upstream from Hay. Windmill, Jugiong On display at the Shear Outback museum in Hay, an old Holden car as used in the iconic shearing movie, Sunday Too Far Away , a harrowing story about the debilitating effects of the shearing life and alcohol abuse on families. Great movie though. Holden car that has seen better days, Shear Outback, Hay

Sheep shearing museum, Hay, New South Wales

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I visited Shear Outback, a museum about sheep shearing in Australia. There's a lot of historical and technical stuff, different kinds of shearing combs and techniques, and plenty of cultural and social context as well. I liked the display showing the amount and kind of food typically eaten (up to 6000 kilocalories per day, 25,000 kilojoules), as well as a sports science type analysis of the effects of shearing work on the body. No wonder people's backs packed it in after a couple of decades. Shearing shed Across from the museum is the Murray Downs shearing shed where shearing displays are done every day. Sheep pen floor Shearing area Sheep move from the pens to the shearing area and then back out through the chutes after they are shorn. The wool is cleaned up a bit, classed, and baled, then shipped off to buyers. Chutes Apparently people are now experimenting with chemical injections that cause the fleece to basically shuck itself off the sheep. Sca

Carrathool

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Carrathool is a small village near the Murrumbidgee River, with a heritage listed bridge that was built with a lifting section to allow river traffic to pass below. That was in the days when paddle steamers plied the river. The bridge is under repair right now, an expensive and time-consuming enterprise. Locals would prefer a new bridge that would allow heavy trucks to cross, rather than wasting more money on maintaining the old one (read interview ). Carrathool Bridge July 2014 The Murrumbidgee River is one of Australia's largest rivers. Mostly it looks like this, a narrow muddy stream. We don't really do rivers. Murrumbidgee River at Carrathool, New South Wales, Australia Carrathool is also famous for its hotel, unfortunately not open when we passed through town. Family Hotel, Carrathool

Travelling the Hay Plains

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Like many Canberrans, I moved here from somewhere else. I left Adelaide, with its baking hot summers and excessive number of relatives, far behind me, returning only for Christmas or family events. Adelaide is around 1200 kilometres from Canberra (800 or so miles). To get there, you need to travel across the Hay Plains, a huge flat area that used to be an inland sea in ages past. When we were young and stupid, this took 12 hours of driving westwards into the sun, usually in the extreme heat of midsummer (that's when we have Christmas). It's a long, dull trip. Canberra people argue about the best route (via Ouyen or via Swan Hill), whether it's better to break the journey at Hay or Balranald, or swap war stories about times when they drove the route in a single day. Mid-Western Highway near Hay My recollection of the area around Hay was of a desert, hot, flat and desolate. Hay itself, a small town servicing the area, was dusty and derelict in my memory. Last week we

Yass Junction

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Yass, around an hour's travel north of Canberra, is an interesting rural town dating from the early years of European settlement in the 1830s. It is on the main route between Sydney and Melbourne, both the Hume Highway and the railway. When the railway was built it bypassed the town because of construction problems and extra costs, although later a branch line into the town was built, hence the name, Yass Junction. Water was pumped up to the station for use in steam trains, and the pump house is still there. Yass Junction Railway Station Pumphouse In this photo (taken in spring, 2013) you can see the creek, but I couldn't find the location of the dam that must be there. The Hume Highway is in the middle distance. Yass Junction Railway Station buildings The station buildings, still in use, are beautiful as well. The NSW Environment and Heritage site has more information about Yass Junction  for train fans. Yass, and the Yass Junction railway station, are used as loca

Book review: The Water Dreamers by Michael Cathcart

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For all Australians, a great non-fiction book about our attitude to water, starting with polluting the Tank Stream at Sydney Cove to destruction and moving on to our overuse of the Murray Darling Basin. A very readable book about the rivers, lakes and inland seas that we don't have, the effort that went into looking for them, and the wet-country mindsets and attitudes of the white explorers. It was interesting to read about Griffith Taylor, geographer, who was essentially run out of the country for insisting that the inland was dry and nothing could be done about it — this was regarded as unpatriotic back in the nineteen twenties, and probably still is. He offended Western Australians by creating a map with a large piece of their state marked as 'Useless'. Echoes of John Wesley Powell, who is also reputed to have said, on seeing the Grand Canyon in Arizona, 'Impressive, but useless', and who, similarly, warned against irrigation in the American arid West.

Book review: The House on Burra Burra Lane by Jennie Jones

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Country romance set in the Snowy Mountains, fantastically beautiful part of the world. Good tag line…"a dilapidated house, a city girl looking for a tree change, and a rugged vet with a past". Samantha (Sam) is a fashion designer escaping from problems in Sydney, and Ethan is the local vet. Both of them have dark secrets in their past, and the plot exposes these gradually, with a reasonable degree of tension, although some plot elements are not particularly plausible. The author is on much more solid ground in her descriptions of the town, the annual fete, the house, and the environment, especially the spring melt and the local cars (utes, or utility vehicles, aka pickup trucks only a lot more battered.) I enjoyed the story although some parts were a little bit slow. Canberra airport gets a mention when they are delayed in long queues trying to obtain land transport—very true to life from my own experience...

Book review: Grey Jack Road by J T McGowan

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This well-written story could be described as an anti-romance, describing how two people become friends and, eventually, more than friends, after their partners cheat on them.  The greatest strength of the book is the sense of place it conveys. The setting is near Bredbo and Cooma, on the Monaro Tablelands. The descriptions of the old farm house, the wildlife, and the miseries of winter are absolutely accurate and very nicely done. The beautiful cover image is a preview of this lovely writing. This book deals with the grief of betrayal, and the protagonists, Sam and Tim, do a lot of drinking and swearing and make some poor decisions in the process. Recommended for Australians who want to read about their own country's landscapes, or overseas readers wanting a taste of Australian life in the bush. The romance side was OK, maybe a little slow or underdone compared with mainstream romances, but still enjoyable.