Book Review: HOLIDAYS by William McInnes

holidaysAustralian actor and prolific author William McInnes, typifies so much of what is good about Australia, the straight-forward, community-minded Australia of his parents. His latest book, Holidays, tells of his childhood at the moment of discovering what the word “holiday” actually represented – a time when suddenly a ride on the train to somewhere different was on offer, or when the neighbours suddenly disappeared for a period of time, leaving his family to look after their pet budgie.

As he remembers his mother explaining to him, “Holidays is when you get to do lovely things you wouldn’t do otherwise.” It was to McInnes, the real point of Australians going to work in the first place.

Asked about the importance of holidays, McInnes replies with the innocent charm of a child astonished at the obvious. “What is the point of life? On holiday you are enjoying life the most, holidays are a heightened state of happiness – the most real your life gets!”

This memoir is a humour-filled reminiscence of his family holidays, with a real sense of nostalgia for the simple pleasures of his childhood. It is his celebration of being fortunate enough to be brought up by parents from a generation epitomising a less materialistic society without any sense of entitlement and with a genuine generosity of spirit. “They inevitably, because of the times in which they lived, had narrower horizons, but their values were anchored and deep”.

In Holidays, McInnes observes that children’s holidays nowadays are very different, global and epic in scale in comparison to that enjoyed by their parents. He wistfully contrasts his own school outing, “an epic trek to Nambour to stand and stare wistfully at the fibreglass udders of the Big Cow”, with that of his son, “to Nepal to help build a schoolroom in the mountains there and to trek through the country” and his daughter, “off on two educational holidays to Italy and to England.” Despite the disparity, McInnes considers “all equal on the generational ledger.”

A veteran actor in TV series such as Blue Heelers, SeaChange, The Shark Net, East West 101 and The Time of Our Lives, as well as appearing in Kath & Kim under the pseudonym of “Rock Hampton” (his old university), McInnes is modest about his achievements. Despite twice winning the award for “Most Outstanding Actor” at the Logies, McInnes is endearingly incapable of pretension. “I don’t think that I’m the greatest of actors but acting is something very temporal – you can’t take something so transient seriously.” It is this balanced view of life that resoundingly echoes in his writing, liberally laced with his infectious sense of humour.

The memories that form the basis of his books reflect an Australia past, as seen through the eyes of people he knows, his family and friends. They are also an invaluable source of social and cultural history, with a backdrop of political and sporting landmarks. “I love hearing other people’s stories,” he says. “I love remembering, looking back at all the times and sharing them.”

An admirer of strong women and supporter of women’s causes, McInnes is a much deeper thinker than his jovial exterior might suggest. He is also someone who has suffered the heartbreak and pain of losing his wife, gifted filmmaker and author Sarah Watt, to breast and bone cancer.

“It’s terribly hard some days,” he said, “but you just have to get on with it. It’s a rotten misfortune, she died way too early. It’s an awful thing but she wanted you to look at life in a positive way. She was a lot of fun and a very welcoming person.”

His proudest achievement is the book they jointly wrote before her death, Worse Things Happen at Sea.

He movingly talks about the courage and grace of people suffering and voices his belief in community-minded responsibility. “We should not take society for granted. We should just be big enough and old enough to realise that some amongst us need a hand. Australia has always been a good society, the sort that looked out for others and didn’t tell them how to live their lives or how to conduct themselves.”

McInnes is an enjoyable author to read. His latest book will appeal to all who understand his preoccupation with holidays. “Australians love holidays and fun,” he says, “We live life for a reward and the greatest reward is a holiday. You either live to work or you work to live. I have always embraced the latter. I so look forward to holidays!” He is philosophical about the rest of life.”

“You live life, get a few scratches along the way and grow as a human being. Life doesn’t always go your way. Never take yourself seriously. There is a great Phillip Larkin poem, “Aubade”, that tells us that life is short. It is shatteringly terrific to be reminded of how temporal life can be. I’m not the greatest at what I do, but I enjoy what I do and enjoy people enjoying what I do. I loved writing “Holidays.” It’s great to re-live my life through memories and realise how lucky I have been.”

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Book Review: NIGHTINGALE by Fiona McIntosh

nightingaleEver more relevant with the centenary of the Gallipoli Landings coming up next year, Fiona McIntosh’s latest novel sweeps the reader back to World War I and to Turkey, where, in May 1915, British nurse Claire Nightingale is caught up in the turmoil and bloodshed as she tends to the wounded on a hospital ship anchored off Anzac Cove.

Deeply atmospheric, McIntosh’s eye for authenticity and detail is evident as the dangerous conditions in which the nurses carry out their life-saving duties is brought to life by the stench, the bombardment and bloody chaos, compounding the incessant heartbreak of helplessly having men they cannot save die, despite their best efforts, time after time. Dehydrated and starving, soldiers bunkered down in muddy trenches suffer dysentery and endure the mental anguish of witnessing less fortunate comrades maimed and blown apart by the shells raining down upon them.

When she insists on being at the frontline of the action where she can more effectively triage the injured, Claire Nightingale’s outrage at the lack of organisation is interrupted by the sudden appearance of handsome Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren, desperately pleading for medical aid for the dying friend he has carried across the battlefield. The horrors of war contrast as the backdrop for a tender and evocative love story, the unexpected meeting of soul mates at a time when personal feelings are a luxury. The serendipity of falling in love and finding something wonderful in the unlikeliest of circumstances, gives meaning to lost soul Claire Nightingale’s hitherto empty life. The detachment and loneliness that brought her to care for strangers under foreign skies is breached by this chance meeting on a war-ravaged beach. The certainty of their love for each other gives her a reason to carry on living.

The three lives that intertwine in the book have bird imagery that is poignant and powerful. There is the serene calmness and beauty of Claire Nightingale, the resourcefulness and determination of Jamie Wren and the poetic and sacrificially brave ideals of dreamer Turkish soldier Açar Shahin, whose name is translated to mean “Hawk.” Jamie’s chance meeting with Açar, two strangers on opposite sides of the war, during an armistice to retrieve their respective dead, finds a common love of music that transcends language and they confide in each other their deepest secrets. The empathy between them will lead Claire to travel to Istanbul after the war, to return Açar’s prayer book, which saves Jamie’s life, to Açar’s father.

This trip to Istanbul is also a revelation of an exotic, ancient culture, rich in the scent of attar of roses and fragrant, mouth-wateringly melting Turkish Delight, introduces Claire to a very different possibility. Açar’s father, Professor Shahin, has his part to play in reuniting Claire and Jamie, where honour overcomes his own hopes for the future. Claire, whose heart tells her Jamie is still alive whilst the official records say otherwise, is determined to keep their arranged meeting on the 1st day of April after the war, at Langham’s Hotel in London. Having afternoon tea there had been her happiest childhood memory and Jamie had chosen the date with trademark Aussie humour as being the middle day between their respective birthdays.

Much loved for historical fiction romances such as The Lavender Keeper, McIntosh’s masterly handling of the First World War through the lives portrayed, is epic, gentle yet emotionally turbulent.

A testament to the unshakeable faith of love and a celebration of the wealth of different cultures, tragedy and suffering meld with love and hope for the future in an epic story of war and peace. A tribute to the lives lost in the war, but also to love itself – sensitive, poetically powerful and as gentle as the breath from a fluttering of wings.

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Book Review: An Inconvenient Genocide by Geoffrey Robertson

An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians?Eminent Human Rights Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, now living in London with his wife, Australian-born author Kathy Lette, was recently back in his home town Sydney to promote his latest book, An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Remembers the Armenians?

Educated at Epping Boys’ High School at Eastwood, Robertson went on to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. During his career, he represented many high-profile clients including author Salman Rushdie (during the controversial Satanic Verses case and Fatwa), former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Julian Assange. He has been an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church and ex-Pope Benedict XVI, accusing the former pontiff of protecting paedophile priests. He has also served as the first President of the UN Crimes Court in Sierra Leone and is well-qualified to voice his opinion about the Armenian Genocide in his latest book.

The fact that the mass murder of around a million Armenians occurred is not in dispute, the controversy is about whether it should be called a genocide or not. Robertson delivers compelling arguments and evidence in his book that show that the crime meets all the criteria to be described as such.

The Armenian Genocide is remembered on April 24th, the day before the Gallipoli Landings, commemorated on Anzac Day on the 25th. Both centenaries are coming up in 2015. Robertson considers this impending milestone an ideal opportunity for the Turkish Government (whose official view is that their predecessors, The Ottoman Empire, which carried out the killings, had to do so as a necessity of war and was therefore not guilty of Genocide) to bring closure for the Armenian population by admitting the Genocide. To him, all parties “remain complicit in those crimes by denying them and not accepting responsibility.”

He is unequivocal about why denial is wrong but also extremely dangerous. In his opinion, the extent of modern day atrocities makes it even more imperative.

There is a sense of history repeating itself continuously with mass slaughter of ethnic or religious groups and Robertson thinks it is important to break this unhealthy cycle by encouraging acknowledgement, admission and atonement. “The importance of acknowledging guilt of a crime against humanity, even as long as a century later, is that denialism emboldens others to think that they can get away with mass murder of civilians whenever it is expedient in wartime. International Law sets a bottom line, whether Sunni or Shia, Hindu or Christian, whether Chechen or Tamil or Bengali or an indigenous people striving for independence, the deliberate destruction of any part of that race or religion by those in control of a state cannot be countenanced.”

In his book, he sets a hypothetical question, that if the guilty had been brought to trial after the Armenian Genocide during the First World War, would Hitler had then said in 1939, “Who now remembers the Armenians?” and in answer to that, Geoffrey Robertson does. He says, “Truth is important and it is important to tell it if people are still suffering from a lie. Armenians are still suffering from the world’s failure to do something about the Genocide that occurred in 1915.”

Robertson muses that he occasionally dreams of “ending up in a little fishing village in NSW, casting a line into the surf”. However, for now, the world, Human Rights and the Armenians in particular, need him too much for that to be anything other than a faraway possibility.

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Book Review: The Lion Rampant by Blanche d'Alpuget

Blanche d'Apluget. Source: Photo Supplied

Blanche d’Apluget. Source: Photo Supplied

Novelist and Biographer Blanche d’Alpuget’s latest novel, “The Lion Rampant” (the second book in her Lion quartet), brings alive the intriguing world of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is a fascinating immersion in the lives of these historical figures who presided over one of the most turbulent and interesting periods of English history.

“I have been interested in the 12th Century since my twenties, I see it as the renaissance of civilisation,” said d’Alpuget.

With novels such as “Monkeys in the Dark” and “Turtle Beach” which have been described as “witnesses to history”, d’Alpuget has also written the biographies of notable Australians such as Sir Richard Kirby and former Australian Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke (her husband).

“The Lion Rampant” enthralls with the relationship between the charismatic Henry, (“one of England’s greatest kings”, as d’Alpuget describes him) and his wife Eleanor, who had previously been Queen of France before her divorce and remarriage to become Queen of England. Pragmatic and symbiotic, Henry and Eleanor’s relationship in the novel runs parallel to the early life and career of Thomas Becket before he became Archbishop of Canterbury and later, martyr.

Set against a climate of intrigue and political expediency, the stories of Henry, Eleanor and Thomas Becket make addictive and compulsive reading. Their portrayal reflects d’Alpuget’s gift for creating characters so real that readers are enabled to experience and understand the human motivations behind the veil and mystique of history.

Blanche D'Alpuget photo 2The narrative is expertly spun and with deep understanding of humanity. The process of breathing life into historical figures is carried out by d’Alpuget with intuition and empathy. As she explains, “Fiction is much more difficult for me – trying to show, not tell, the workings of the human heart and consciousness is the challenge.”

“The Lion Rampant” reflects a time when people were unembarassedly overtly sexual – d’Alpuget is matter-of-fact, “There was no television to preoccupy their time”. It was an age when life was starkly often a case of survival, whether in battle or otherwise. D’Alpuget’s portrayal of human nature, with its strengths and weaknesses, is masterly and complements the excitement of the historical events unfolding and her key characters’ impact upon them. Remarking on her adherence to historical veracity in her “Lion” series, she states,“The sexuality in these novels is as much a part of the fabric of 12th C life as was feudalism and warfare.”

Eleanor D’Aquitaine, very unusually for the 12th Century, was a woman well ahead of her time, extraordinary strong-willed and determined. One of the wealthiest and most powerful women in her era and a shrewd negotiator, Eleanor kept her substantial assets intact when she divorced the King of France. She and Henry left history indelibly changed. Of their issue, two of their daughters became Queens of Castile and Sicily and of their sons, the most famous was Richard the Lionheart.

A perfectionist who takes her craft very seriously, d’Alpuget felt she had to earn the right to be called a “writer”. She says, “I did not dare call myself a writer until I had two books published.” Also the Patron of charity “Inala” (supporting individuals with disabilities) for the past 14 years, d’Alpuget has many interests and demands upon her busy life. Writing, following a long family tradition set by her father and great-aunt, is very much an essential part of it.

Readers will derive an excellent read and real insight into one of the most interesting parts of history from d’Alpuget’s latest gem.

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Book Review: Breast Cancer – A journey from fear to empowerment by Cath Filby

Book Cover of Breast Cancer by Cath FilbyOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the sea of pink everywhere attests to the impact that this devastating disease has had upon society, affecting not only the sufferers but their carers and families too. Breast Cancer is a book written by Cath Filby solely with the purpose of empowering women to make informed choices about their treatment, from diagnosis to post-operative options, using her own experiences throughout.

This is a profoundly moving and inspiring book, dealing with one of every woman’s greatest fears – the diagnosis of Breast Cancer. As a survivor whose cancer is thankfully now in remission, Cath Filby tells her story of what it was like for her from the moment she suspected something was wrong, through to breast reconstruction after a bi-mastectomy.

Filby is convinced that her cancer began to take hold of her body from the time her eldest son was killed in an accident. Her opinion that a sudden tragedy causing extreme mental stress can trigger malign physical changes in the body is supported by Professor Hamer, who linked traumatic events in the lives of his cancer patients with the causation of disease – “all had gone through some exceptionally stressful episode prior to developing cancer.”

What began as an exercise of record keeping became a repository for a database of information concerning everything from possible treatments to their side-effects. It included the different complementary therapies available that not only offered relief but improved her ability to cope with the devastating effects of the cancer and chemotherapy. As Filby explains,

“In documenting my illness, it gave me a clear vision of the ‘how and why”. I then realised that this knowledge would help other women too.”

She writes with a mission to provide women with the questions they should ask their physicians. Filby tells of how, “as a lay person with little medical knowledge, this learning journey enabled me to do something positive, rather than to focus on the negative, resulting in my becoming a repository of useful information that could help others.”

She stresses the importance of people taking responsibility for their health and says, “Prevention rather than cure is my aim, educating people to understand what they can do to help themselves.” Statistics prove her to be right to be concerned for women in Australia. “Although in certain parts of the world such as the UK and the USA, Breast Cancer is decreasing, unfortunately in Australia it is on the increase. Internationally 1 in 8 women develop Breast Cancer and 1 in 5 of those are below the age of 50.”

After much research, the procedure Filby chose for her breast reconstruction was one that used the transfer of the patient’s own tissue from the stomach or buttocks to reconstruct the breast. This is called the DIEP procedure. “It was a much more natural process….I didn’t want to put any artificial products inside me.” In her book, Filby had written about how the loss of her breasts had affected her life – not only of the pain and disfigurement she felt, or the sexual and emotional aspect of losing her breasts, but also of the physical emptiness, the lack of balance and how “Losing your breasts also deprives you of the warmth that they provide at the front of your chest and rib-cage.”

Filby’s book also documents the benefits she derived from a diet of raw foods and supplements such as Flaxseed Oil in her efforts to strengthen her immune system. For her, taking control of her own lifestyle meant that she was giving herself the best chances of survival and recovery. Her experiences motivated her to write with the aim of empowering other women to have the same choice and advantages that had worked for her.

A great believer in the power of hope and positive thinking, Cath Filby was always going to fight hard for survival. As she says, “It’s a good life – one doesn’t realise how good it is until you are faced with your own mortality.”

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Book Review: The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith

theforevergirl.jpgThe Forever Girl is a stand-alone novel set in The Caymans, Scotland, Melbourne and Singapore. Its locations are exotic and include McCall Smith’s beloved Edinburgh, its theme of love everlasting, simple but universal.

The heroine of the story, Clover, is a young girl who falls in love with her best friend, James, at the age of six. She remains in love with him and it is this unrequited love that shapes her life as she grows older. It is James who haunts her every thought from childhood and James who has ruined every other man for her.

Clover and James’s mutual childhood friend,Ted, had also been in love with James and understands Clover’s dilemma of what it is like to desperately love someone who can only offer friendship in return. However, Ted eventually does find happiness with someone else and moves on with his life. On the other hand, Clover knows in her heart, that she will always be incomplete without James, despite trying hard to pretend otherwise.

Clover’s mother, Amanda, has a functioning marriage and is not in love with her husband. Amanda’s chance encounter with George, James’s father, gives her a chance for passion in her life. She finds George’s dedication as a doctor admirable and is unable to resist his company, despite the scandal it would cause in the small social circle of the expatriate community in the Caymans. Amanda denies herself the reality of an affair and never will know what happiness may have been, had she and George acted upon their mutual attraction. The genuine friendship they enjoyed with each other is eventually sacrificed for the sake of their respective families. Settling for subdued acceptance of the status quo, Amanda chooses the safe path of familiarity, her marriage, instead.

Unlike her mother, Clover cannot imagine life without the man she loves. She plans her life around places in the world where she might catch a glimpse of James. They both lead very different lives that do not involve coming across each other. They become involved with other people, but Clover still harbours an irresistible desire and determination to see James, to the extent of being in danger of behaving like a stalker. Clover’s overwhelming love for James means that her life will always be incomplete without him.

The theme of friendship permeates, as is McCall Smith’s intention, throughout the novel. It is a thread that links Clover to James, her parents to each other and her mother to James’s father. Childhood friendships span continents and, ironically, it is someone with no concept of real friendship who unintentionally helps Clover finally find the answer for which she has been looking all her life.

McCall Smith paints a picture of enduring love and the importance of having the courage to embrace it despite the possibility of disappointment and rejection. Like all his novels, it reads with insight and elegance. His profound interest in the interaction between people results in dilemmas that go to the very essence of what it means to be human. Like all his other books, The Forever Girl is a very good read women everywhere will identify with and enjoy.

You Can Pick Up a Copy of “The Forever Girl” at:

Bookworld.com.au – $16.99* (eBook instant download)

Kobo Australia – $16.99* (eBook instant download)icon

Booktopia.com.au – $23.90* (Hardcover)

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"The Weight Escape" – the best weight loss book you'll read in 2014

cover38396-mediumWritten by three Australian health experts, The Weight Escape: Stop fad dieting, start losing weight and reshape your life using cutting-edge psychology, is arguably the best weight loss book you’ll read this year.

There are about 50,000 diet books available online¹ but most of these focus only on what you’re eating. The Weight Escape is different.

The first thing you need to know is that this is not a diet book. It is a book about overcoming the psychological barriers that are getting in the way of your attempts to lose weight.

Most of us know what we have to do to lose weight – eat less and exercise more. It sounds pretty simple. That is, until you go on a diet or start exercising. It is then you realise that while you may have the desire, you lack the motivation to stick with it. Why is that? You may ask. The answer lies inside your head.

Using ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’ (ACT), Medical Doctor and author of ‘The Happiness Trap’ Dr Russ Harris, Clinical Psychologist Ann Bailey, and Professor of Psychology at the University of Western Sydney Joseph Ciarrochi, will help you to discover why you became overweight or obese and how you can use this information and the other psychological tools they give you, to achieve lasting weight loss.

In ‘Part 1: Breaking Free’, you’ll learn how to identify the psychological barriers that are getting in the way of a successful weight loss attempt:

  • Identifying Your Goals and Values
  • Recovering Your Strength
  • Finding Your Tipping Point
  • Escaping the Cage
  • Harnessing the Power of Flexiblity
  • Listening to Your Body

In ‘Part 2: Building a New Life’ the authors show you how to get motivated, how to stay motivated, and how to enjoy your life so you won’t be tempted to turn to food for comfort:

  • Developing the Mindfulness Habit
  • Making Hard Choices Easier
  • Finding Lasting Motivation
  • Satisfying Your True Hunger
  • Enhance Your Life
  • Finding Your Faith and Courage

The last part of the book is a ‘Seven-Week Weight Escape Boot Camp’ which will reinforce what you’ve already learned from your reading of Parts 1 & 2. And if you think you won’t need the practice, think again because some of these concepts will be new to you.

While this book does focus on weight loss, what you’ll learn from a reading of The Weight Escape could easily be applied to other areas of your life. So don’t be surprised if you are motivated to improve other areas of your life as well.

But perhaps the most important lesson you’ll learn here, is how to put diet and exercise where it really belongs. For many of us, dieting and exercise have become such a major focus in our lives, that we have stopped really living our lives – we put our lives ‘on hold’ until after we reach our goal weight. In this regard, the message of this book is clear. It’s time to just get rid of it and start living the life you were meant to have.

‘The Weight Escape: Stop fad dieting, start losing weight and reshape your life using cutting-edge psychology’ Joseph Ciarrochi, Ann Baily & Russ Harris, is published by Viking/Penguin Australia and is available now in paperback (RRP AU$29.99) and ebook (RRP $16.99) formats.

You Can Buy This Book Online at:

Booktopia.com.au – AU$23.95 (paperback)

Amazon Kindle – US$14.95 (ebook)

References:
1. ‘Michael Mosley is on the fast track to fitness’, The Australian, 18 January 2014: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/michael-mosley-is-on-the-fat-track-to-fitness/story-e6frg8h6-1226804169250 accessed on 22 January 2014.

Book Review: “Monkey Business” by Kathryn Ledson

monkeybusinessOne year from her debut novel Rough Diamond, Kathryn Ledson has followed up with an equally exciting sequel, Monkey Business.

Erica Jewell is back doing what she does best – saving the day and saving charismatic Jack Jones – in another hilarious, delightful adventure that holds the reader’s attention until the very last page. Ledson has the delightful ability to entertain. She creates characters who are endearingly Australian in a Crocodile Dundee way, who easily become much-loved friends whose fate the reader will care about.

“Monkey Business” charmingly invites the willing suspension of disbelief accompanied by congenial company and the author’s irrepressible sense of fun. It has all Ledson’s hallmark traits of danger, intrigue and romance, with witty dialogue sparkling throughout.

Distraught when Jack and his loyal aide-de-camp Joe go missing on a mission and that no-one in authority cares, Erica impetuously sets out for the dangerous island of Saint Sebastian to rescue them herself. With the help of a flighty prostitute and select pieces of retro Tupperware, Erica causes extreme upheaval as her efforts on Jack’s behalf turn the island upside down.

What is so endearing about Ledson is that she does not take herself at all seriously and this is reflected in the light-hearted twists central to her plotting. Embroiled within the action is the extremely important matter of Tupperware thefts and the desirability for these life-enhancing essentials on remote Saint Sebastian. Jack, owing his life on this occasion to Erica’s mother’s lettuce crisper, is a scenario that only Ledson could have conceived.

Instinctively knowing what readers want, Ledson provides action, romance and friendship in perfect quantities, set in a real world where the importance of a good haircut or the right pair of (high-heeled!) shoes cannot be underestimated. Women everywhere cannot fail to be captivated by the delicious Jack Jones, from his first appearance in Rough Diamond and now Monkey business.

Reading Ledson is such welcome fun and escapism. Following in the footsteps of Rough Diamond, this sequel entertains much in the same way as spending time catching up with a very likeable friend.

Lana Penrose ends her Trilogy with another Bad Romance

lanapenroseAustralian author Lana Penrose (pictured) has ended her three-part memoir, which began with the best-seller ‘To Hellas and Back’, on a rather sour note with ‘Addicted to Love’. But as the author herself said, “life isn’t a Hollywood movie in which everyone always lives happily ever after”.

The self-published memoir ‘Addicted to Love’ sees Lana returning to Greece (the setting for her first book) where she falls in love with a real life Greek Adonis.

Like all bad romances, the relationship between Lana and Adonis begins well and for a little while at least, it appears our Aussie heroine may have found the love she has been waiting for. But then tragedy strikes on the beautiful Greek island of Kythera, and despite Lana’s best efforts to save the relationship, the love shared between them isn’t enough to exorcise her lover’s personal demons. To save herself, Lana must make an agonising decision – to walk away from the man she loves.

Today, Lana says she’s completely content and happy. “I have found true love in ways unimaginable,” Lana Penrose told Australian Women Online. “Today I realise that true love is about self-love which can then be shared around. While that may sound corny, I know it to be true.”

After following her journey over the past five years, I was expecting this realisation to be the way Lana Penrose would have chosen to end the trilogy. But this was not the case.

‘Addicted to Love’ has none of the humour and the ‘all you can do is look back and laugh’ quality of the first two books (which I loved) To Hellas and Back: My Modern Day Greek Tragedy and Kickstart My Heart: A Carnival of Dating Disasters (originally published by Penguin/Viking). Addicted to Love stands alone and very far apart from the first two books and as a fan of the author’s work, I can’t pretend that I’m not disappointed. But this is Lana’s story, not mine, and as such, I have to get over myself and respect the author’s choices.

Lana told me, “With something of this magnitude there was little room for jokes. So, yes, the trilogy ended on a ‘sour’ note as you put it. But life isn’t a Hollywood movie in which everyone always lives happily ever after.”

“I was penning ‘Addicted to Love’ in real time as events were unfolding. Like many of my readers, I guess I was hoping for that glorious happy ending as well.”

“I then sat on it for many years and debated during many dark nights of the soul whether I should release it. [But] with so many ‘Kickstart My Heart’ readers asking what happened next with me and Adonis, I finally decided to bite the bullet, but with a bigger picture in mind.”

“It is my hope that this book will land in the hands of those who need to read it and see that they’re not alone in enduring what they endure and that sometimes you’re forced to walk away, despite the incredible torment that goes with it.”

“Others have thoroughly enjoyed it and benefited from it, particularly those who have dealt with others’ addiction issues. Unfortunately this is a very real problem in this world and I’m not the only one to have faced it, albeit in a small way.”

The trilogy may have ended but fortunately this is not the last we’ll hear from Lana Penrose.

“To Hellas and Back has been optioned for film adaptation, so I’m involved in that process,” said Lana. “I’m also doing a bit of ghostwriting and editing if anyone wants me to work on their memoirs!?” :)

Lana tells us there will absolutely be another book from her.

“My next book is about overcoming depression, an affliction suffered by one in five. I spent a couple of years on a quest to see if I could overcome that tricky little illness which has already been reported in the Sun Herald, and which in turn piqued the interest of ’60 Minutes’.”

“These days I’m a woman on a mission, Deborah! I’m burning to pass on my findings.”

For more information about Lana Penrose visit her website at lanapenrose.com.au

All of Lana’s books can be purchased exclusively online at Amazon.com (for print and Kindle editions) or at smashwords.com (for all other digital reading devices, including direct download to your computer).

Book Review: Cat & Fiddle by Lesley Jørgensen

Rating: ★★★★½

Cat and Fiddle is a witty tale of appearance and deception. Mrs Begum and her husband Dr Choudhury have moved to a small English village so he can advise on the restoration of nearby Bourne Abbey. Mrs Begum is fixated on marrying off her three children and engages the help of the manipulative matchmaker, Mrs Guri.

But it won’t be easy. Even the youngest, Shunduri, who is the most compliant and least “damaged” of the three – in her mother’s eyes anyway – is hiding a romantic entanglement from her mother. Rohimun, the elder daughter, is caught in a destructive relationship and son Tariq has apparently embraced a fundamentalist religious lifestyle. The Bourne family are equally snared in the delicate spider-web of centuries of upper-class tradition.

The story interweaves the staunch customs of English squires with the equally strong expectations of the immigrant Anglo-Bangladeshi community. A sharp eye is turned on the social frameworks of cultural expression and Jane Austen fans will recognise strong thematic links with a number of her works deconstructed into a cross-cultural narrative.

The joy of Cat & Fiddle is not so much in the ending, although that will certainly satisfy the discerning reader, but more in the delicate unfolding of the intricacies of the story. It comes highly recommended.

Lesley Jørgensen trained as a registered nurse while also completing simultaneous arts and law degrees, and has worked as a medical-negligence lawyer in Australia and England. While in England, she married into a Muslim Anglo–Bangladeshi family. She now lives in Adelaide with her two children. Cat & Fiddle is her first novel and it was the winner of the 2011 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for an unpublished manuscript by an Australian writer aged 35 and over.