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Reading Rewards - reviews -

Time for a blast from the past.  Dragonflight by Anne Caffrey is an old favourite of mine, which I re-read on occasion. It was first published in 1968, but I didn't find it until I raided my uncle's personal library in the late 80's.  Loved it then and still love it now.

To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright. But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .

This was the first in a long line of Dragon series, written initially by Anne McCaffrey and then later with her son Todd and was continued by Todd after her death.  Although I have not read all of the books on Dragons that the McCaffrey's wrote and enjoyed them all, I still come back to the first.

It has dragons - real, big ones and small, who establish symbiont type connections with humans, to protect their planet of Pern.  In this first novel, the last Queen dragon has left one last egg.  The threat of Thread has thought to be long gone, so a planet that used to have thousands of dragons is left with dozens.  But has the threat really gone for good?

The story follows Lessa, who has had first a privileged and then very traumatised life and who is driven by revenge until she is transfixed by the whirling eyes of the baby Queen dragon.  Her rebellious ways are not useless though, as she challenges all traditions, perceptions and more. Working with the head male dragon rider F'lar, she helps change their world for the better, before she goes on an amazing journey to save her planet.

It is fantasy, but it is well written, with a very well done "Save the world" storyline, a girl come good and finding love and purpose - in both her dragon and her partner.

You don't need to read the whole series to enjoy this one and it is a great light read to escape with - very appropriate at this time of year.

~ Michelle

Welcome to Planet 51

Book Swamp -

Welcome to Planet 51
Author: Gail Herman
Type of story: Fantasy
There was a planet named Planet 51. There people were green, They did what humans do like going to school, watching movies, and shopping in stores. Lem was the first regular teenager. He worked in the planetarium. He loved space .
How good was it? Fantastic
Age: 8

Princess of the Sands

Book Swamp -

Trickstars: Princess of the Sands
Author: Karen Wood
Type of story: Adventure
The author explained about hope , courage and compassion in a beautiful kind way, and it also shows good friendship. The story goes around three sisters, a friend and horses. One of the sisters was nearly drowning then a friend had a courage and hope to save her but she hasn't helped her completely. Then the sisters grandpa saved both girls and their horses.
How good was it? Fantastic
Your age: 7

The Big Book of Old Tom

Book Swamp -

The Big Book of Old Tom
Author: Leigh Hobbs
Type of story: Fantasy
This book is really amazing. The main characters in this book were Old Tom and Angela.There are about four stories in one book. Bye and enjoy!
How good was it? Fantastic
Gowri Age: 8

Between the Vines

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Between the Vines by Tricia Stringer

She's given up everything for love: it could be the biggest mistake of her life... Taylor Rourke wants to change her impulsive ways when it comes to romance and not fall for any man on a whim, but then on a hen party trip to a Coonawarra vineyard, she meets Edward Starr. Gorgeous and charismatic, Edward is enough to make any girl give up her flat and job in Adelaide and move to the country. So it's something of a shock that when she gets there, Edward is nowhere to be seen. Not wanting to admit she may have made a mistake and return home in disgrace, Taylor accepts the job that Edward's younger brother Pete offers her and throws herself into her work, keen to learn as much as she can about the wine trade. Taylor is thrilled when Ed returns, but she quickly discovers he may not be the man she thought he was. Her growing friendship with Pete causes tension between the brothers who have fallen out over a woman in the past. That's not the only source of conflict: Pete has a dream to save the family vines, Edward's dreams lie elsewhere. As the lies and deceit grow, matters come to a head in the vibrant and demanding vintage season. Will Taylor's dream of a new life and love between the vines come true? Or is there only heartbreak ahead? Set in the beautiful Coonawarra vineyards, a wonderful feel-good rural romance from best-selling Australian author, Tricia Stringer.

Why we love it: 

Between the Vines is a deliciously romantic novel, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and with a compelling storyline that culminates in a nail-biting, but satisfying, conclusion among the vineyards of South Australia.

from the Team at Better Reading

The Dismissal

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Dismissal : in the Queen’s name by Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston

There is no more dramatic event in our political history than the dismissal. This book is the definitive story, filled with fresh documents, revelations and new interviews that change our understanding of this event. It is also a brilliant forensic analysis of the ruthless, proud and stubborn main players - Malcolm Fraser, Gough Whitlam and Sir John Kerr.

As keys to our understanding, Kelly and Bramston examine four central aspects of the dismissal: the real attitude of Buckingham Palace towards Kerr; whether Kerr tipped Fraser off about his plan; Kerr's deception of Whitlam; and Kerr's dealings with former High Court judges Sir Garfield Barwick and Sir Anthony Mason. In the gripping story that follows, the ambitions and flaws of Whitlam, Fraser and Kerr are laid bare as never before.

Drawing on a range of new sources, some of which have never before been made public - including hundreds of pages from Kerr's archives - this remarkable account is dispassionate in its analysis, vivid in its narrative and brutal in its conclusions. It exposes the true motivations, the extent of the deceit and the scale of the collusion.
'It was a premeditated and an elaborate deception.' Paul Keating

This is the best book I have read about the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government by the governor General Sir John Kerr, and believe me, as an Australian history tragic, I have read many. 

Possibly one of the reasons for this is the first-class credentials of the authors: Paul Kelly is one of the top political journalists in Canberra who has been providing commentary and analysis of Australian politics for decades, and Troy Bramston is following in his footsteps. But I think the real reason for it is the quality of the work – Kelly and Bramston have meticulously researched the facts and the personalities involved and produced a magnum opus. 

Their central argument is that the dismissal was the product of the interaction between three ruthless, proud and stubborn players – Fraser the ambitious prime minister-in-waiting, Kerr the insecure constitutionalist determined to break the Senate/House of Representatives deadlock by any means, and Whitlam, the arrogant PM oblivious to the precarious nature of his position. Throw in the roles of Chief Justice of the High Court Sir Garfiled Barwick and the (unknown until 2012) High Court Judge Sir Anthony Mason and the whole story unfolds more thrillingly than the TV dramas House of Cards and The West Wing combined.

I wish I had finished this book in enough time to nominate it as my Best Read for 2015!


Kraken Rising

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Kraken Rising by Greig Beck

Series: Alex Hunter - Book 6

The Arcadian returns to the dark ice in a reprisal of one of his first and most deadly missions. But this time the stakes couldn’t be higher.

In 2008, a top secret US submarine went missing on its test voyage off the coast of Antarctica. After years silent, its emergency beacon is suddenly activated, but strangely, the beacon is emanating from a point miles below the ice sheets of the frozen continent.

The race is on. The Chinese government, alerted at the same time as the Americans, is after the submarine’s secrets. And the Americans need to retrieve their technology, quickly and quietly, from a place now marked as an international forbidden zone.

With the reluctant assistance of petro-biologist Aimee Weir, Alex Hunter and his team of HAWCs return to the location of their first mission together.

But only a few members of the team know the truth. A treacherous horror lies in wait for them, deep beneath the Antarctic ice.

Hooray!  Although now internationally published, our very own Aussie Bondi boy Beck is back to his hair-raising best with what is mooted to be the final in the Alex Hunter-Arcadian series.  We welcome back some familiar faces and pick up where a much desired romance left off.  Despite lagging a little when Kate and Alex are stumbling through a monstrous subterranean world; and despite the geo-politics that is always present in these sci-fi/paranormal/techno-biotic/paleantological thrillers (!), it's a full-on ride as Alex takes on demons within and without.  

I love how most of Beck's stories are based on historical legends, and this one, the Kraken, is one of the most famous [picture an old wooden ship in the clutches of HUGE tentacles coming out of the sea!] with many an etching, scrimshaw, drawing or painting terrifying those that go to sea, and those on land who love them.  This was a great read, narrated with what is now a very familiar 'Beck' voice - Sean Mangan.  I'm hoping my feeling is correct that the door has not totally closed on what has been a hugely entertaining series.
Check out the Bolinda audio download here.

Road to Little Dribbling

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Road to Little Dribbling is the latest book by Billy Bryson, author of many books, but in particularly well known for his travel commentaries.  Road to Little Dribbling is a follow up to Notes from a Small Island and visits new areas in Britain as well as revisiting places he had been in Notes.

From the book: Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island , was taken to the nationâe(tm)s heart and became the bestselling travel book ever, and was also voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain.Now, to mark the twentieth anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey round Britain to see what has changed.

Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, by way of places that many people never get to at all, Bryson sets out to rediscover the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly unique country that he thought he knew but doesn't altogether recognize any more. Yet, despite Britain's occasional failings and more or less eternal bewilderments, Bill Bryson is still pleased to call the rainy island home. And not just because of the cream teas, a noble history, and an extra day off at Christmas.

Once again, with his matchless homing instinct for the funniest and quirkiest, his unerring eye for the idiotic, the endearing, the ridiculous and the scandalous, Bryson gives us an acute and perceptive insight into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

I re-read Notes from a Small Island recently to remind myself of the original 'journey' and so came to this one fresh.  However, I didn't need to, this book stands alone well.  I found it interesting on so many levels.

It is not just a travel discovery book, but is filled with observations on what has changed and what hasn't, what should change and what shouldn't, with a fair smattering of social commentary on other countries around the world as well.

Although it is a fairly lengthy read and at times slow, generally it was an amazing exploration of an astonishingly full country (considering its size).  I particularly enjoyed some of the social commentary, which gave me a few 'laugh out loud' moments that were particularly memorable.

If you enjoy reading about the 'old country', like to explore places through the eyes of others and enjoy a bit of humour and/or social commentary, then Road to Little Dribbling is well worth a read.

~ Michelle

Welcome home for Tom Williams of Cranbourne

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

I  received an email from Marilyn Williams who has kindly provided these photographs of the welcome home  for Tom Williams. Tom was born in 1897 and registered with the surname Bregazzi. His uncle,Tom Bregazzi, had  a farm in Cranbourne. The  photographs were taken in Duff Street Cranbourne, possibly at the farm.  There is a Bregazzi Reserve situated on the area where the farm was once located. It was divided into an estate in  late 1970s, after Tom Bregazzi died, aged  97.
Tom, whose Service Number was 657, enlisted on August 12 1915 at the age of 18. He was three years into an apprenticeship as a wood worker (cabinet maker). His next of kin was his mother, Mrs Madeline Deer, whose address was Cranbourne Post Office. His mother and step father, Henry Deer, signed the consent form. His employer, Mr Griffiths, also signed a form releasing Tom from his employ so he could serve in the 'Imperial Force'. Tom Returned to Australia July 22, 1919. Tom Williams is standing to the right of the photograph
Some of the young ones standing are Tom & Florence Bregazzi's children :-Tom, Glad, Win, Ron...Keith and Chas yet to be born. 

Tom is seated in the car, just above the lady sitting on the running board of the car.
Marilyn also tells us that  after the War, Tom Williams emigrated to New Zealand, and was the father of Yvette Williams who was the first Olympic Gold Medalist for New Zealand in 1952, when she won the long jump at the Helsinki Games. Yvette had won the gold medal in the same event at the 1950 Empire Games, held in Auckland.  She was named Otago's Sportswoman of the Century in 2000. 
In addition, Tom Williams' son (and therefore Yvette's brother) Roy competed in many sports in New Zealand  and was a Commonwealth decathlon champion. In 2014 Roy wrote a book titled Sports Crazy, describing his career in Sport and later as a Sports Journalist. Included in the book, is a photo of Madeline Bregazzi, the mother of Tom Williams (therefore grandmother of Yvette & Roy) and sister to Tom Bregazzi. 

A day in the Fen Country: Mr Lyall’s Breeding Stations by R. M'D.

Links to our Past - history -

The Leader newspaper of March 14, 1868 had a lengthy account of William Lyall's agricultural pursuits in the Fen Country. The Fens in England was a large area marshland which was reclaimed by drainage from around the 1650s to the 1800s. As Lyall's land bordered the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp it was logical name for the area. This article is of interest for  a number of reasons - it gives  a great description of the land between Cranbourne and Tooradin and Lang Lang before the Swamp was drained - it's a landscape that is much different from today when you drive doen the South Gippsland Highway. Secondly there is the total acceptance of aims of the Acclimatisation movement - where fauna from the United Kingdom was introduced into Australia  (the rabbit being the 'best' example of this). Thirdly, I like the rivalry between Cranbourne and Berwick displayed by 'mine host' at Cranbourne.

I have edited the article , you can read the full article on Trove here http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197424726

It is once in seven years that I visit the fen country. That period I hold to be about the proper interval of time between one visit and another to a district that one is not intimately connected with by either birth or business. It is sufficiently long to note any progressive changes that have taken place in the scenes around one; and it is sufficiently short to enable the memory to recall the exact state of former things. My late visit has been superinduced in this way. Having occasion to penetrate into the County of Mornington the length of Cranbourne, not so much to refresh myself as the little nag that carried me thither,  I pulled up about midday at a respectable place of entertainment 'for man and beast.'
After the usual salutations, ‘and something more’ with mine host, this town, said I, inquiringly, is the capital of Mornington. 'It ought to be' said my sonsie [healthy, robust] friend but at present it is stripped of its dues.' 'How so?' said I. ' Not,' replied he ‘because it lacks any of the natural advantages that are essential to constitute a fine inland toon. We have around us the  finest agricultural land, plenty of wood, and water, honest men and bonny lasses; but that outlandish place, Berwick, has taken the agricultural show from us, for this season.' 'Is Berwick not equally suitable as a showground?' said I. 'Bless, you’ said my friend, 'will William Lyall, with his hares and pheasants and partridges; with his ponies and racers and Punches [type of draught horse] and with his enormous English sheep, and white-faced cattle, go there? Not he; it is too far away, and what can be the good of the show?'

I stood the whole of this lively recital with admirable composure, until mention was made of the ' white-faced cattle,' when former recollections of 'Old Star' and her offspring rushed in upon me, and the disposal of the morrow was very summarily' decided. A few more minutes and I was jogging on my way….. in the direction of- Tooradin, the nearest homestead or 'head station’ as we used to call such establishments, of the father of acclimatisation in Victoria - William Lyall.

This is the Acclimatisation Society's medal - which shows some of the animals introduced to Victoria - deer, ostrich, pheasant, swan, rabbit and  hare.State Library of Victoria Image IAN20/06/68/8   

My way, for a considerable distance after leaving 'the toon o' Cranbourne,' lay through a track of country extremely dreary and suggestive of immediate action on the part of the Acclimatisation Society, in stocking its heathy hummocks with grouse and blackcock from the 'Land o' Cakes’ Then I wended on through a stunted forest of the unenviable sort of  timber commonly called ‘bastard box,' from which I at last emerged into a prairie of considerable extent, and, as far as I could judge perfectly level. This plain, through some agency that I do not here undertake to explain, is evidently year by year becoming larger.  The trees are decaying all around its margins, and stand there in thousands, branchless and bleached with the action of the weather. And here, as everywhere, else, where this decay of the forest sets in, the pasturage is very perceptibly improved. The surface soil,  in the first place, is being materially enriched with the deposit shed from dying timber; while the subsoil is not only spared the former exhaustion through the medium of the root, but is actually benefited by the presence of that root now in a state of decomposition. 

The improvement which  took place in this Plain of  Sherwood [Parish of Sherwood], since my former visit, may therefore be partly ascribed to this mysterious decay of the forest, partly to the present treatment of the pasturage (sheep grazing), and in a great measure to the free and fertilising action of the sun upon the surface. This plain, in fee simple, I am informed, is the property of an old and well known colonist, who is now for some years absent from the colon - Mr John Bakewell. It does not require the precision of prophecy to foretell that it will become, at some future day, a princely estate. It already, in natural richness and levelness, invites the presence of the steam plough; but while in a sort of reverie…. I arrived at my destination for the day, Tooradin.

This is William Lyall (1821 to 1888) on the left and John Mickle (1814 to 1885), taken in 1853. Photo from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson
Mickle, Lyall and John Bakewell (1807 to 1888) were business partners who in 1851  acquired the Yallock Run (based on the Yallock Creek, south of Koo-Wee-Rup). In 1852 they acquired the Tooradin run and in 1854 they acquired the Great Swamp run and at one stage they occupied nearly all the land from Cranbourne to Lang Lang.  Lyall's sister Margaret was married to John Mickle. 

I had the good luck of finding the 'Laird' at home; but the day was too far gone to admit of seeing anything in the way of stock, beyond what some fashionable writers of  the day call 'the sires of the season'  The writer then goes on to describe the horses, including the redoubtable Dockin, famous in every show yard as the first prize Shetlander. He was supposed to be good when first purchased, in his native little island….twelve or thirteen years ago; but he is now known to be good, not wholly for winning so many fields, but for getting an innumerable race of crack animals.

The next day Lyall and the writer reviewed the sheep - These are exclusively of pure Romney Marsh blood, and spring from six or seven ewes and a ram of that breed imported  by Mr Lyall nine or ten years ago. He was induced, I believe, in a greater degree to try this breed on the Fen country from the adaptability its name indicated, than from any personal knowledge he has had of this variety of sheep; however that, maybe, the experiment has resulted to his satisfaction.  The little 'mob' now amounts to about seventy head and all of them, from the patriarch of the flock to the youngest lamb, are in fine blooming health.

They then go to view the white faced cattle and …there beamed the lovely countenances of 'Old Star' and her numerous offspring. There, the old cow stood, on the eve of bringing the thirteenth calf (her fourteenth, should she bring twins) within ten years. At the R.A.S show at Salisbury in 1857, where she stood first as the ‘best heifer in milk in calf’ she was probably as perfect a specimen of the Hereford breed as was ever seen.

The writer then has a number of paragraphs about Lyall’s cattle when they then went to see Lyall’s house, Harewood, which was under construction. Here tradesmen were busy in finishing a mansion, intended for the laird's residence. This is built of brick, on a sand hill, on the very shore of Western Port. We soon toddled up stairs to get a survey of the outlines of the district.  The dimensions of the windows were just sufficiently liberal herein to gratify my curiosity. These I found, when my surprise subsided a little to be somewhere about eighteen inches in breadth, and about four feet in height. 'What on earth' said I, 'induced you to have the windows so small?' 'This, my good fellow, in our climate, is the right sort,' replied the laird.' You never saw a more absurd or unprofitable thing' continued he ‘than first to make large windows to let in the whole blaze of day light and heat upon you, and then to send off the dray for a load of 'soft goods' to keep that light and heat out again’.

Harewood. Photographer: John T. Collins, taken April 1975. The photo clearly shows the windows that are about eighteen inches in breadth, and about four feet in height. that raised the curiosity of  the writer.  State Library of Victoria  Image H97.250/1833 
My eye, by this time, was ranging to the far north, where the Dandenong mountains towered up to the clouds. Nearer to me, in that direction, not a feature was sufficiently prominent to attract my attention.  The whole expanse was one dead solitude….On turning to the south, there, away in the distance, gloomy and sombre, lay French Island and the whole bosom of the calm bay between us, thickly dotted with sea fowl and waterfowl of several varieties, whose names were as unknown to me as was their gabble, which, at moments of apparent excitement, became a perfect 'Babel.' In fact, the whole scene became too grand for a person of my temperament. I began to get a little melancholy.

Off we were again to Yallock, Mr Lyall's furthest away station. It is here the sheep are washed and shorn, for here is a running stream of fine soft water [Yallock Creek], and clean pasture to preserve the fleece, in the interval between washing and shearing, in a state of purity. The woolshed is here, too, but at the present juncture, it is converted into a stable for the colts which are undergoing a slight modicum of training, ere being brought to the hammer during the present month. ….. And, to be candid, I saw something else here that please me more than any sight of thorough-bred colts would. 'The man who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is a benefactor to his country.' But at Yallock, four blades are growing now to the one that grew there during my former visit. The various kinds of clovers sown around the swamp and on the sheepfolds are spreading fast and taking possession of every spot of broken surface. The close and cutting treading of the flocks too is polishing and consolidating the surface, and thus effecting a constant improvement. In fact so rapid, now-a-days, is the march of improvement in the Fen country that henceforth I see clearly, if I am , to keep myself properly posted up, I must reduce the period between my visits to one-half its former duration, that is, from seven to three and a-half years.

The Bones of you

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Bones of YouBy Debbie Howells.

From the back cover: When eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson disappears, the idyllic village where she lived will never be the same again. Local gardener Kate is struck with guilt. She’d come to know Rosie well, and thought she understood her – perhaps better even than Rosie’s own mother. Rosie was beautiful, kind and gentle. She came from a loving family and she had her whole life ahead of her. Who could possibly want to harm her? And why? Kate is convinced the police are missing something. She’s certain that someone in the village knows more than they’re letting on. As the investigation deepens, so does Kate’s obsession with solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie. 

This is a great debut novel and psychological thriller by UK author, Debbie Howells. The story develops through the narrative of three characters, Kate, Rosie and Delphine. Kate is the local gardener and mother of Rosie’s friend, Rosie is the young victim who died a horrific death in the woods, and Delphine is Rosie’s surviving younger sister.

Kate and Delphine provide details of the present, and Rosie provides flashbacks, which develop through the book to unfold many secrets and dangers and ultimately her murderer. I loved the way that Howells developed her characters through the novel and revealed little pieces of the puzzle a little at a time, teasing the reader, chapter by chapter.

If you can get past the fact that Rosie is speaking from her grave, then you will love this intriguing, gripping and haunting tale. It is a story of secrets, deception, desperation and love. I will definitely be looking out for her next book due for release in 2016.

~ Narelle

Love Your Leftovers

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Love Your Leftovers by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

We all occasionally suffer a guilty conscience about those languishing ingredients that stay untouched in the fridge or cupboard for days: the bendy carrots, the wilting salad, the foil-wrapped roast chicken, the rock-like bread and that little nugget of Cheddar...

In this new pocket bible, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall offers nifty and creative ideas to transform leftovers into irresistible meals. Hugh starts by giving practical advice for cooking on a weekly basis with leftovers in mind - helping to save money and avoid waste - and provides tips on how best to store your ingredients to make them last for as long as possible. Hugh then gives handy recipe templates that can be applied to all kinds of leftover ingredients, and provides simple and flexible recipes. He also gives ingenious ideas for Christmas leftovers, shows how to assemble a delicious meal in under ten minutes, and how to make simple store-cupboard suppers. With more than 100 recipes, gorgeous photographs and illustrations, this is the ultimate companion for everyone's kitchen - and you'll never be bored of leftovers again.

Why we love it: 

Love Your Leftovers is for anyone who loves food but abhors waste. And it’s perfect for this festive time of year – with this to hand we don’t need to feel guilty when the fridge is groaning with leftovers. All we need is a little inspiration.

River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is already well known for his sustainable philosophy around food. Now he breaks it down step-by-step in what will undoubtedly become a classic of household management.

Though many of us may already have some thrifty tricks to waste less, especially if we took tips from parents or grandparents who grew up through war or hardship, there’s no doubt that we’ve lost our way when it comes to managing food waste. Most of us will have heard the shocking statistics – it’s estimated that the average Australian household wastes more than $1000 worth or 345 kilograms of food a year!

Love Your Leftovers is about exciting recipes to help you make use of all your food, but it’s about general kitchen and household management too – shopping, storing, cooking – that will save precious time and money.

Fearnley-Whittingstall encourages us not to think of each meal as a self contained unit, but as more of a chain – ‘ a daisy chain of deliciousness’ he calls it – with one great meal leading to a series of equally tasty other meals.

Now the Christmas leftovers can be even more exciting than Christmas dinner itself...

From the Team at Better Reading

Reckoning: a memoir

Reading Rewards - reviews -

From the cover: "Heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory, Reckoning is the book where Magda Szubanski, one of Australia’s most beloved performers, tells her story.

In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father’s espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

Honest, poignant, utterly captivating, Reckoning announces the arrival of a fearless writer and natural storyteller. It will touch the lives of its readers"

My View: I've always been a fan of Magda since her Big Girls Blouse days. In this book Magda describes in detail about her family, her father being a self-confessed assassin in Poland as a child. The stories of her father's family is quite disturbing in parts and reflects what life must have been like in the war years. Magda's father eventually marries her Scottish mother and together with Magda and her brother and sister, they move to Melbourne.

Magda always felt like a fish out of water as she was the youngest by 8 years to her closest sibling. The descriptions of living in Croydon, her schooling and eventually university days, lead into becoming a comedienne. I can now see how she got her material on mid-week ladies tennis in Big Girls Blouse as Magda was a tennis player herself until her early teen years.

She describes how she made her foray into comedy and the creation of some of her characters were based on her life experiences alone. From Big Girls Blouse to Kath & Kim, Babe, Dogwoman and when she was asked to go back to her roots, to discover more about her family in Who do you think you are, will make you laugh and cry.

This is a great memoir of a funny lady we have all come to love. Great reading! We have this title in book and audiobook format which is narrated by Magda herself.

~ Janine

Mr Ablethorpe's orchard at Gembrook

Links to our Past - history -

The Leader newspaper of March 14 1903 had an interesting report on the Beaconsfield, Gembrook and Pakenham Horticultural and Fruit Growers' Association. The report said that it was one of the 'most progressive of  its kind in Victoria' and was one of the largest in the State. The article continues on describing some of the orchards in the area and finishes up with an interesting description of Mr Ablethorpe's farm at South Gembrook, which grew a veritable cornucopia of  fruits and berries.  You can read the full article here on Trove.

Charles and Emma Ablethorpe are listed in the 1903 Electoral Roll at Gembrook South. Charles died in 1904 at the age of 67 and is buried at Pakenham Cemetery. Emma is listed in the 1909 Electoral Roll and Emma is still at Gembrook South in the 1913 Rolls, but I don't know what happened to her after that. We have met Emma before in this blog as she was one of 30,000 Victorian women who signed a petition agitating for female suffrage in 1891. You can read more about this here.

Here is the account of Mr Ablethorpe's orchard

Twelve years ago Mr. C. Ablethorpe established a 9-acre orchard at South Gembrook, and, in conjunction with his son-in-law, Mr. Warren, this small plantation has been worked without the aid of outside labor. There are some remarkable examples of the district's adaptability to fruit culture, as the trees and plants comprise apples, pears, peaches, oranges, lemons, plums, quinces, grapes, wineberries, tree tomatoes, chestnuts, white and red currants, gooseberries, Cape gooseberries,
raspberries, strawberries, figs, cherries, loquats and other fruits. Some apricot trees were chopped out, and black currants fail to set. Peaches and gooseberries form the leading fruits in this compact but prolific orchard, and the results are attained solely by means of hand cultivation. A vine hoe (a five pronged implement) is used. The orchard  being on a steep slope the soil is pulled over once a year by means of the long prongs, the only other implement used being an ordinary hoe. The growth of tree tomatoes here is remarkable, and as Mr. Ablethorpe often receives up to 14/ per case, and never less than 4/, it is surprising that more attention is not given by gardeners to this ornamental and profitable plant. There are 4000 gooseberry bushes, producing an annual average of 10 tons of fruit, the yield sometimes reaching as high as 15 tons. The fruit trees are planted at 24 feet distances with gooseberry bushes 8 feet apart in two rows between the trees. 
Mention might be made of the work carried on by several other growers in Gembrook and Beaconsfield, but at present Mr. Ablethorpe's orchard may be noted as a remarkable example of what can be done on a few acres in the Gembrook and Beaconsfield districts. Nine acres have practically supported two families for the past twelve years, and the limit of production is certainly not yet in sight.

Gathering gooseberries at Gembrook (c. 1882 to 1902)Photographer: Charles Rudd  State Library of Victoria Image H39358/73

Timmy Failure: Sanitized for your Protection

Book Swamp -

'Timmy Failure: Sanitized for your Protection' is the fourth in the series by Stephan Pastis and follows on from the triumph of his earlier Timmy Failure books.

Our detective hero and his polar bear are on the trail of yet another mystery - the theft of over one hundred dollars fundraising money that was raised to help a boy, Yergi Plinkin, whom none of them have met.

As usual, mayhem is the order of the day as Timmy is involved in a road trip (not of his choice).
Timmy is forced into dancing cheek to cheek with Molly Moskins, the girl who he describes as 'a hoodlum without a hood.'  'She would steal the fur from a bear. The scales from a fish. And a fish from a scale' he adds.

In an unforeseen turn of events, he and Molly end up in a bridal suite in a hotel, which he mistakenly understands to be a bridle suite, and promptly demands a horse.

It all adds up to a lot of confusion and fun as Timmy lurches from one encounter to the next.
Brilliant illustrations add to the story and the bright lime green cover stands out in a crowd!

Go Timmy!


Island Home

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Island Home by Tim Winton

'Island Home' - This apparently simple fact is the starting point for Tim Winton's beautiful, evocative and sometimes provocative memoir of how this unique landscape has shaped him and his writing.

For over thirty years, Winton has written novels in which the natural world is as much a living presence as any character. What is true of his work is also true of his life: from boyhood, his relationship with the world around him -- rockpools, seacaves, scrub and swamp -- was as vital as any other connection. Camping in hidden inlets of the south-east, walking in the high rocky desert fringe, diving at Ningaloo Reef, bobbing in the sea between sets, Winton has felt the place seep into him, with its rhythms, its dangers, its strange sustenance, and learned to see landscape as a living process. 

Island Home is the story of how that relationship with the Australian landscape came to be, and how it has determined his ideas, his writing and his life. It is also a passionate exhortation for all of us to feel the ground beneath our feet. Much more powerfully than a political idea, or an economy, Australia is a physical entity. Where we are defines who we are, in ways we too often forget to our detriment, and the country's.

Over the years I've published quite a few reviews on Tim Winton's novels.  The very first one I ever read was Blueback, a junior fiction book Winton wrote many years ago.  It was so lyrical, so beautifully singing the love of landscape AND seascape, that it was this one book that kept me keen to visit the many tomes he's written since.  

What are now considered Australian classics - Cloudstreet and Dirt Music, alas, never grabbed me at all.  I found the characters uniformly humuorless and depressing; the only saving grace to my mind was once again the vivid connection and inherent understanding of landscape and how he puts that on the page.  

Some books, like the above, I couldn't finish because they were so abjectly bleak: one, Eyrie, I didn't even want to pick up because it sounded so miserable, but this, his biography, laying out why Winton is who he is, is wonderful!  This book will be a treat, for his words paint the very picture of Winton-essence, a truly wonderful Australian and narrated expertly by David Tredinnick (sounding very William McInnes!).  A great read.  We have it on shelf in all formats.


Quicksand -

'Exposure' is one of Mal Peet's soccer novels, featuring the sports journalist Paul Faustino.

Don't worry if, like me, you are totally clueless about soccer. Keep reading this amazing book!

Otello is a South American soccer player who has been transferred from a northern team to play for the well known southern team, Rialto for a price - fifty million dollars. The stakes are high. He meets and falls in love with Desmeralda, a singer with a mega star notoriety. The pair marry but their marriage attracts enemies. There are those who wish to use this multi-racial superstar couple for their own ends and who wish to ultimately destroy them.

Paul Faustino is a cynical but likeable character who has been following Otello's journey and he becomes embroiled in a scandal that takes him far out of his depth.

'Exposure' is original and engaging. I couldn't put this book down. Once I had finished I then began to read  Mal Peet's other young adult novels which are also outstanding.

I was saddened when I recently discovered that Mal Peet died earlier this year (2015) so it is fitting to acknowledge the wonderful contribution he has made to teen fiction.

~ Ann


Book Swamp -

Title: Atlas
Author: RuFuS

This C.D has 11 songs on it. The light/dark deluxe edition of Atlas has 2 discs on it. The second disk has the same songs but some of the songs are remixes.
The lead vocal in in RUFUS is: Tyrone Lindqvist. I would give the song called 'Take Me' a: 10/10.
The library doesn't have Atlas, but you can buy the C.D at JB- HIFI.
How good was it? Fantastic

Sam Age: 11
Hi Sam we do have the CD at the Library - click on "Atlas" and follow the link.

Land of the Living

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Land of the Living by Nicci French   

From the cover:  Abbie Devereaux wakes in the dark.  She is hooded, bound at her hands and feet.  She doesn’t know where she is or how she got there.  A man she never sees feeds her and talks to her.  He promises to keep her alive, for now, but says he will kill her, just like all the others. 

But Abbie has spirit, strength and bloody-mindedness on her side.  And she dreams of returning to normal everyday life – the land of the living. 

I have a feeling that this audio book may be far superior to the hard copy - the tension and emotion in narrator Anne Flosnik's voice give you the out ‘n out creeps!
The story is well written by this popular duo. There could’ve been some predictable turns or explanations as the tale unfolds but they didn’t travel that path, leaving some parts just like life – occasionally things happen that can never be explained.  It was quite gripping, with a very satisfactory ending! 




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