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Our Fave Reads of 2015

Reading Rewards - reviews -

It's time for everyone's favourite post of the year - the most enjoyed books read by our RR blog staff. And without further ado ... drum roll please ...

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I loved My Brilliant Friend for its themes of female friendship and beautiful lyricism. This wonderful book is classic yet contemporary and totally compelling!  This is the first in the four part Neapolitan novels written by  Elena Ferrante - one of  Italy's most acclaimed authors. Book four was released this year.

This was also Pru's favourite for the year.  She said: "My fave read of the year would have to be Elena Ferrante’s brilliant Neapolitan series – thanks to Mem Fox for highly recommending My Brilliant Friend to me! Turned out to be Volume 1 in a series of four titles which, like her, I couldn’t put down! These powerful novels explore the long friendship and life stories of two girls as they grow into women in the tough neighbourhood of Naples; throughout the series their relationship is volatile- close and supportive at times, distant and strained at others. The people and relationships around them merge in and out of their lives along with the politics of the times and the various places they experience.  Vol 2 - The Story of a New Name is followed by Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay with the fourth installment The Story of the Lost Child.  Now in their 40s, this remarkable story of friendship surrounded by the raw reality of the gritty characters in the neighbourhood of struggling Naples, takes a tragic turn. I loved this evocative series, the sense of place and extended relationships makes compelling reading. The series would be great for a luscious read over a lovely long summer break!" 

I couldn't split my top two picks for the year - both Australian authors. Who could go past the lovely Rachael John’s book The Patterson Girls, a story of four sisters returning home from all over the country/world to help sort out their late mother’s things.   Each sister has her own issues to deal with and this is a journey of discovery for them all.  This will appeal to lovers of Womens Fiction or “life lit” as Rachael describes it.  A great holiday read!
The other was a debut young adult (YA) novel called Risk by Australian author Fleur Ferris which tackles the subject of cyber safety.  Although this is classed as YA, it will appeal to readers of all ages and shows how easily a person can be lured into the deep web of the internet and the consequences thereof.  Gripping!!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Although I used to read a lot of fantasy fiction, in the last decade or so I have been reading mainly mystery.  I knew Jim Butcher from the Dresden files so when I saw this new series, I had to give it a try. And it was well worth the long read!  With its combination of well-written characters, amazing action sequences, flying ships, magical creatures and fighting against the odds, this was a book that I just couldn't put down. 

The Wrong Man by Kate White. 
I love a story with a brave, strong female and this is one of them. I loved the story-line, it was easy to read, and was truly intriguing! Although not as well known as some authors, White provided a true page-turner with many twists, teasers and a villain that will totally surprise and shock.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
This book is not usually my genre, but after the tv series I decided to read The Secret River. I have always been fascinated to know what it would be like to for Australia's' first people when they first encountered Europeans and this book is an excellent perspective from both sides. I was also captivated by the description of life in Colonial Sydney and the discovery of the Hawkesbury river - some Australian History that I knew nothing about.  Kate Grenville writes about the Australian bush with colour and warmth, you can almost smell it. The Secret River is interesting, uplifting but ultimately tragic... A beautiful read.

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman
The publisher's blurb sounded like this was going to be an upsetting read but it didn’t say how funny and clever it would be.  Nor did it indicate how well the author presents a genuine understanding of a marriage where husband and wife truly share a deep love; nor what an eye opener it is into Early Onset Alzheimer’s.  This book is heart-achingly wonderful.  Yes you will cry, and yes, you will laugh, and at the end of it, you will quite possibly want to make a memory book of your own for your family.   

Happy Holiday Reading everyone!

The promise

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Promise is the latest by Robert Crais and brings together a range of characters from various novels, into one storyline.  As a fan of all his novels and of all his characters, I was interested to see how this was all going to work out.

"Loyalty, commitment, the fight against injustice--these are the things that have always driven Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. If they make a promise, they keep it. Even if it could get them killed. When Elvis Cole is hired to locate a woman who may have disappeared with a stranger she met online, it seems like an ordinary case--until Elvis learns the missing woman worked for a defense contractor and was being blackmailed to supply explosives components for a person or persons unknown. Meanwhile, in another part of the city, LAPD officer Scott James and his patrol dog, Maggie, enter an abandoned building to locate an armed and dangerous thief, only to discover far more than they expected: The fugitive is dead, the building is filled with explosives, and Scott and Maggie are assaulted by a hidden man who escapes in the chaos, all as a bloodied Joe Pike watches from the shadows. Soon, Scott and Maggie find themselves targeted by that man, and, as their case intertwines with Elvis and Joe's, joining forces to follow the trail of the missing woman as well. From inner-city drug traffickers to a shadowy group of Afghan war veterans with ties to a terrorist cell, the people they encounter on that trail add up to ever-increasing odds, and soon the four of them are fighting to find the woman not only before she is killed . . . but before the same fate happens to one of them." 

I loved the way the whole story came together and how Crais managed to twist it so the 'bad girl', is maybe not so bad after all.  The different perspectives are easily recognised with the headings indicating whose view you are reading from in that chapter.  It was even interesting to read Maggie's perspective - getting into the mind of a police dog is a novelty and quite an eye-opener.  And having chapters from the perspective of the real 'bad guy' you might think would give the storyline away - and you would be mistaken.

Although it took a bit to adjust to the different character views, it was useful in that it gave me perspectives on the story which would have been harder to get if the story stuck strictly to one character.

My only criticism would be that book was promoted as An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel, but Joe was more of a background character in this one.  Crais has written novels on him alone, so I would have liked to see more of Joe - he didn't even have a chapter of his perspective here, but there were a few from a colleague of his who helps the case.

And even if not everything works out exactly as you would hope at the end, it does have a very satisfactory ending for one character in particular.

~ Michelle

A message from the Sea

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

I came across this article in the Lang Lang Guardian of April 19 1916 about the chance discovery of a bottle containing a note, which was tossed overboard by  a couple of soldiers. It has a local connection, in that the bottle was discovered by  Mr Ward of Koo-Wee- Rup but it doesn't concern a local soldier. It does, however,  make you wonder whether any of our local  boys tossed a bottle overboard when they were leaving Melbourne to fight overseas and if so, whether anyone found it.

One of the writers was John Walter Feehan (Service Number 1592) who enlisted in July 28 1915. His occupation was Station Manager.  He was part of the Australian Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport and Returned to Australia on August 8 1918. I don't know  who his friend, J M'Pherson was, even having done  a search on the 15th Battalion, 1st to 23rd  reinforcements - there are seven McPhersons, none of whom have a first name beginning with J. The other mystery is, who is Mrs Browb of 170 Albert Street, Newton Sydney?

The Chemistry of Death

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett

Three years ago, David Hunter moved to rural Norfolk to escape his life in London, his gritty work in forensics, and a tragedy that nearly destroyed him. Working as a simple country doctor, seeing his lost wife and daughter only in his dreams, David struggles to remain uninvolved when the corpse of a woman is found in the woods, a macabre sign from her killer decorating her body. 

The village of Manham is tight-knit, far from the beaten path. As a newcomer, Dr. Hunter is immediately a suspect. Once an expert in analyzing human remains, he reluctantly joins the police investigation - and when another woman disappears, it soon becomes personal. Because this time she is someone David knows, someone who has managed to penetrate the icy barrier around his heart. 

With a killer's bizarre and twisted methods screaming out to him, with a brooding countryside beset with suspicion, David can feel the darkness gathering around him. For as the clock ticks down on a young woman's life, David must follow a macabre trail of clues - all the way to its final, horrifying conclusion.

This was a recommended read and always keeping an eye peeled for a decent thriller, I promptly reserved it.  Overall it lives up to the recommendation.  There’s some clever writing here, more so in the construction of the novel as when you think you’ve worked out ‘whodunit’, you begin to question yourself later on.  

The author also is adept at suspense, adroitly avoiding the occasional detail which sends the mind trotting down the proverbial wrong track. I also enjoyed the nitty-gritty forensic details.  A bit Tess Gerritsen in parts, but I like the scientific side of pathology, it’s good brain food (pardon the pun).   Yes, it is a good read, but frustratingly I found the ending just a bit too pat!


Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2015

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And the winner is!

The winner's of the 2015 Australian Prime Minister's Literary Awards were announced Monday evening, 14th December.  Congratulations to all the worthy winners.

The winners for 2015 are:

FICTIONThe Golden Age by Joan London POETRYPoems 1957-2013 by Geoffrey Lehmann (UWA Publishing)PRIZE FOR AUSTRALIAN HISTORY – JOINT WINNERSCharles Bean by Ross Coulthart The Spy Catchers –The Official History of ASIO Vol 1 by David Horner NON-FICTION – JOINT WINNERSJohn Olsen: An Artist’s Life by Darleen Bungey (ABC Books, Harper Collins Publishers)Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall by Michael Wilding (Australian Scholarly Publishing)YOUNG ADULT FICTIONThe Protected by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)CHILDREN’S FICTIONOne Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen and illustrated by Michael Camilleri (Allen & Unwin)Find out more about the 2015 award winners.~ Michelle

Invisible Cities

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

"Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”  

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear.

This is a beautifully written imaginative fable – every time he returns from his travels, Marco Polo is invited by Kublai Khan to describe the cities he’s visited.  


Goodreads Choice Awards

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The only major US book awards decided by readers, the Goodreads Choice Awards have 20 categories.  The most popular reads of the year in the adult section are:

Fiction:  Go Set A Watchman by Harper LeeMystery & Thriller:  The Girl On The Train by Paula HawkinsHistorical Fiction:  The Nightingale by Kristin HannahFantasy:  Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman Romance: Confess by Colleen HooverScience Fiction:  Golden Son by Pierce BrownHorror:  Saint Odd by Dean KoontzHumour:  Why Not Me? by Mindy KalingNon-fiction:  Modern Romance by Aziz AnsariMemoir & Autobiography: A Work in Progress by Connor FrantaHistory & Biography: Dead Wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania by Erik LarsonScience & Technology:  Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, Seaworld and the truth beyond Blackfish by John HargroveFood & Cookbooks: The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree DrummondPoetry: The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista MateerDebut Goodreads Author: Victoria Aveyard for Red Queen.

Gut: the inside story ...

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organs by Giulia Enders
Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and - let's be honest - somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important, and even miraculous parts of our anatomy. And scientists are only just discovering quite how much it has to offer; new research shows that gut bacteria can play a role in everything from obesity and allergies to Alzheimer's. Beginning with the personal experience of illness that inspired her research, and going on to explain everything from the basics of nutrient absorption to the latest science linking bowel bacteria with depression, Enders has written an entertaining, informative health handbook. Gut definitely shows that we can all benefit from getting to know the wondrous world of our inner workings. In this charming book, young scientist Giulia Enders takes us on a fascinating tour of our insides. Her message is simple - if we treat our gut well, it will treat us well in return. But how do we do that? And why do we need to? Find out in this surprising, and surprisingly funny, exploration of the least understood of our organs.
This is a book which explores our bodily functions at length, in particular the goings-on in our gut. Now this may sound a bit uninteresting, however I can assure you that Giulia Enders has managed to make the subject kind of riveting! In fact the book has sold millions of copies worldwide. She clearly is an expert in her field, but not only that, she knows how to communicate in a warm and humorous fashion. Coupled with her sister’s cute diagrams this makes for a very informative read.  With the “gut-brain connection” now becoming the latest health issue this little book will enlighten you about what’s normal, what’s not normal, and tips about what you can do about it. 
Note: Upcoming event - 
GUT HEALTH with Health Coach Elise RobertsThursday 9 February, 6.00-7.00pm @ Emerald Library. Pick up a flyer from your local CCLC library for all the details. 

Beaconsfield Avenue of Honour: Servicemen remembered

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

The Beaconsfield Progress Association have published a book, Beaconsfield Avenue of Honour: Servicemen remembered commemorating the 65 men who were honoured with trees in the Beaconsfield/Berwick Avenue of Honour which runs along High Street/Princes Highway, from the top of the hill down to the Cardinia Creek. 

Funds for the Avenue were donated by Miss Ada Arymtage of Holm Park in Beaconsfield. Ada was one of the Armytage family who owned Como House. The trees were planted in 1929 and there were also metal plaques that were made at the time, but never displayed. They went missing for a while and they were located by the late Tony Rushton at the  City of Casey depot, which is where the Avenue is, however Beaconsfield, where most of the soldiers came from is part of the Cardinia Shire. New plaques listing the soldiers names were made and installed in Beaconsfield Park March 13, 2015 - there are three plaques listing the 65 names. How proud Tony Rushton would have been to see this finished project as he did a lot of work on researching and commemorating the Beaconsfield soldiers and was responsible for initiating this project, but he was sadly killed in a car accident at Easter time in 2007.

One of the new plaques installed in Beaconsfield Park in 2015Photograph courtesy of  Casey Cardinia Remembers website.
The book lists the names, service number and a short biography of each soldier. The research on the soldiers was undertaken by Penny Harris Jennings. It's a a great publication honouring the men who served in the Great War from the Beaconsfield area. Click here to access Library copies of the book.

These are some of the original plaques, taken by Tony Rushton at the City of Casey Depot.

Tallowood Bound

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Tallowood Bound by Karly Lane

When Erin Macalister leaves the city she's relieved to be escaping the remnants of her broken marriage.
Arriving in the small rural community she grew up in, Erin finds nothing much has changed - including Jamie McBride, who is still as ridiculously good looking as he was when they were seventeen and madly in love.
Leafing through old photo albums evokes vivid memories for her grandmother of a soldier she once loved. Erin's curiosity about this mysterious soldier deepens when she finds an engagement ring he once gave her grandmother.

This is the first book I have read by popular Australian author Karly Lane. I loved the fact that her Gran’s (Evelyn) former life drew upon WWII and the American soldiers in Townsville, which is based on fact. She uses resources available to her to discover a whole branch of her family that she didn't know existed in America. I’m sure there are many stories like this one that actually happened in the war years.

Although this is classed as Rural Romance, it will appeal to all readers of Women's contemporary fiction and was a very easy read, perfect for summer.


So You've Been Publicly Shamed

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So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has been immersing himself in the world of modern-day public shaming--meeting famous shamers and shamees, and bystanders who have been impacted. This is the perfect time for a modern-day Scarlet Letter - a radically empathetic book about public shaming, and about shaming as a form of social control. It has become such a big part of our lives it has begun to feel weird and empty when there isn't anyone to be furious about. Whole careers are being ruined by one mistake. A transgression is revealed. Our collective outrage at it has the force of a hurricane. Then we all quickly forget about it and move on to the next one, and it doesn't cross our minds to wonder if the shamed person is okay or in ruins. What's it doing to them? What's it doing to us?

Have you ever hit the "Like" button on Facebook under an article calling for "justice" over somebody's misdemeanor? In So You've Been Publicly Shamed the very funny gonzo journalist Jon Ronson examines what happens to people who have been the targets of public internet shaming. Is the vitriol justified? Who's joining in and what are the consequences? In one case a respected journalist made a silly error of of tweeting a not very funny joke just before boarding a flight. By the time her plane lands Twitter has been on hyperdrive, her career is in ruins and yet she is unaware of it!  This is a unique, fearless and insightful expose about why we are mercilessly finding each other's faults under the disguise of the net. 


Killing Me Softly

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Killing Me Softly by Nicci French

Is there anything we wouldn't sacrifice for true love? Alice Loudon is a young woman who seems to have it all; friends, a loving boyfriend, a successful career. Then one day she meets a stranger and - impulsively - gives up her safe life for a passionate affair. It leads her into deception and a secret realm of experience that both entices and alarms her. Gradually Alice learns about Adam's tormented past, entering into a world of risk and adventure. Her initial curiosity soon turns into an obsession that threatens everything: her marriage, her sanity and finally, her life.

This prolific writing team (married couple Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) have produced almost 20 novels, virtually one a year, in the psychological thriller genre.  Some have been quite gripping, like Beautiful Lies or to a lesser extent, Die For You; some have been puerile; I reckon this one falls in the bottom third.  Rescuing it somewhat is that the lead characters are (a) a mountaineer, and (b) a research scientist designing a new IUD contraceptive – not a combination you’re likely to read anywhere else!  Some of the mountain-climbing scenarios are fascinating.  On the other hand, it’s also not often, thankfully, that you read about obsessive love where asphyxiation, belting your beloved with the buckle-end of a belt or violent rape is a way of adoring your wife.  This is a sordid murder story that features a supposedly intelligent woman doing some incredibly stupid things, so much so that you feel like slapping some sense into her yourself!  You do get a sense of fear, but it’s hardly gripping; and the ending is unsatisfactory, but just somehow, inexplicably, you will get there without having tossed the book out the window. 

This Bolinda audio download was well narrated by Lisa Coleman and we also have it in print, e-book, MP3 and CD formats.


Robinson's Grocery store at Pakenham

Links to our Past - history -

If you grew up in Pakenham or shopped at Pakenham in the 1950s to 1980s then chances are that you would have shopped at Robinsons Grocery shop or Robinson's 4 Square or Robinson's SSW -  so here is a look at the history of Robinsons in Pakenham.

Stanley Clarke Robinson was born in 1891 to Edward Walton and Emma (nee Basham) Robinson. In the 1914 Electoral Rolls they are listed at Leongatha - Edward is a ‘boot dealer’, Emma, home duties and Stanley is listed as a grocer. In 1914, Stanley married Mary Ellen Knox. As far as I can work out they had five children – Errol Gordon in  1916; Nancy Mary in 1918 (died age 5 in 1924); Joan died in 1922 (not sure when she was born); Jack Stanley in 1924 (died 1945) and Alan Edward  in 1927.
In 1924, they were still at Leongatha (according to the Electoral Rolls) - he was grocer and Mary Ellen’s occupation was Home duties. In the 1925 Electoral Rolls they are both listed at Main Street, Pakenham East (as it was known at the time)

We can fairly accurately pinpoint when they arrived in Pakenham in 1925 by a series of advertisements in the Pakenham Gazette.  

In the March 27, 1925 issue we have the McAfee Bros advertisement as usual.

The next week, April 3, 1925 we have this intriguing ad – ‘Watch this space’

One week later (April 10 1925)  we see that S.C Robinson has taken over McAfee Brothers and he is advertising ‘The House for Good Value’  - grocery, drapery, boots and shoes, produce and ironmongery. 

A small article from the Pakenham Gazette of April 3 1925 confirms the purchase, even though the information about Mr Robinson being ‘late of Sunbury’ does not tally with the Electoral Rolls, however is confirmed by his obituary in the Pakenham Gazette in 1957.

The Shire of  Berwick Rate Books (see above) show that Stanley Robinson leased a shop, grain store and house from David McAfee (or family members) from 1925 until 1949. In 1949 the properties were purchased in the names of Stanley, Mary Ellen and Errol Robinson.

S.C Robinson operated as a general store keeper until around 1953 when he started advertising his new gift shop (see the two advertisements, above)  At the same time (1953) E.G Robinson and A.E Robinson began advertising as General Merchants, so I presume that his sons took over the business and Stanley ‘retired’ to his gift shop. Around November 1958, E.G and A.E Robinson became a 4 Square Grocery Shop. They later became a SSW and then sold to Safeways.

Advertisement from the Pakenham Gazette 1953

Advertisement from the Pakenham Gazette November 1958

Stanley died on September 19, 1957. His obituary (reproduced left, from the Pakenham Gazette of September 20, 1957) confirms that he was an active member of the Presbyterian Church, as well as the Masonic Lodge. There is a  Memorial stained glass window at the Uniting Church in Pakenham, commemorating Mr Robinson, dated 1960, obviously placed there when the new Presbyterian Church was opened on October 1 1960. His son,  Errol, was the Session Clerk and Chairman of the Building Committee at the time of the construction of the new church. There is a report in the Pakenham Gazette of October 7 of the opening.  The dedication ceremony was on the Saturday and the furnishings were dedicated at the service the next day. The list in the Gazette includes the window in memory of Mr S.C Robinson and a pew in memory of Nancy Robinson. There is also a pew in memory of  Flight Sergeant Jack Robinson. 
Jack was the second of Stanley's sons to enlist to serve in World War two - Errol enlisted in the Air Force in August 1941 and was discharged in September 1945; Jack enlisted in February 1942 in the Army and then in 1943 he transferred to the Air Force. He died on January 19, 1945. He was a member of Beaufighter crew engaged in non-operational flight which crashed in a heavy snow storm in Lincoln in England. Alan enlisted in May 1945 and was discharged in January 1947.

Sadly, the day of the small owner operated grocery store is nearly over and this market segment has been taken over by the two big players, Coles and Woolworths, so there would be very few people who could these days list their occupation as 'grocer' like Stanley Robinson could.

This is Robinson's SSW store in Main Street, Pakenham - (circa late 1970s- early 1980s)  It was later taken over by Safeways and is now the IGA. Safeways (now Woolworths)  moved to its new building behind Main Street around 1984.

Australia's Top 100

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Everyone loves a list, and there's never a better time of year to present one that offers some great holiday reads!  Around 5000 people responded to Better Reading’s quest to find out Australia’s favourite 100 novels and in order, here's the top dozen.  You can check out the full list by clicking HERE.

1.  The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
2.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4.  Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
5.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
6.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
7.  The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay
8.  The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
9.  Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
11. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
12. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 


The Summer Read

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Summer is the perfect time to pick up a book and read. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home or away on holidays, you can take a break anywhere with a great Victorian book. 

The Summer Read program for adults is presented by the State Library of Victoria and Victorian public libraries, running from 1 December 2015 to 15 February 2016. Choose from a list of ten great books written by Victorian authors or telling Victorian stories. There’s crime, popular and literary fiction, auto biography, biography and memoir – something for everyone!

Visit your local CCLC library after 1 December to browse the books and borrow your favourites.  Recommend 
another great read and you'll be in the running to win prizes to the total value of $4,000!   For details check our website or visit www.slv.vic.gov.au/summer-read


Flesh wounds

Reading Rewards - reviews -

I can't remember where I found out about "Flesh wounds", the autobiography of Richard Glover, but I was intrigued to discover more about the story which is described as being "for anyone whose family was not what they ordered".

For those who think the name sounds familiar, Richard Glover is an author (and I am planning to read more of his books), writes a column for the Sydney Morning Herald and presents the comedy program "Thank God it's Friday" on ABC Local Radio.  In a case of serendipity, his book was also covered on The Book Club on ABC TV this Tuesday night just gone.

So what is it all about?

A mother who invented her past, a father who was often absent, a son who wondered if this could really be his family. Richard Glover's favourite dinner party game is called 'Who's Got the Weirdest Parents?'. It's a game he always thinks he'll win. There was his mother, a deluded snob, who made up large swathes of her past and who ran away with Richard's English teacher, a Tolkien devotee, nudist and stuffed-toy collector. There was his father, a distant alcoholic, who ran through a gamut of wives, yachts and failed dreams. And there was Richard himself, a confused teenager, vulnerable to strange men, trying to find a family he could belong to. As he eventually accepted, the only way to make sense of the present was to go back to the past - but beware of what you might find there. Truth can leave wounds - even if they are only flesh wounds. Part poignant family memoir, part rollicking venture into a 1970s Australia, this is a book for anyone who's wondered if their family is the oddest one on the planet. The answer: 'No'. There is always something stranger out there.

Most of us will have stories to tell about our families - the unusual, the funny and the plain weird. Richard's story helped me to see that there are many definitions of normal when it comes to family and that as a child (or even as an adult) if you can't have the family you wanted for yourself, you can make the family you want for your children.

It is funny, fascinating, amazing, revealing and a very open insight into the strange family circumstances of an Australian media personality.  It was very easy to read and left me both amused and intrigued about why people are the way they are.  It also brought home the importance of knowing where you come from, for so many reasons - many of which Glover covers well.

If you enjoy a good read, a well written biography or just want to play the game of "Who's got the weirdest parents?", then you have to read "Flesh wounds".

~ Michelle

The Japanese Lover

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The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis and the world goes to war, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There she meets Ichimei Fukuda, the son of the family's Japanese gardener, and between them a tender love blossoms. 

Following Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart when Ichimei and his family - like thousands of Japanese Americans - are declared enemies by the US government and relocated to internment camps. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love they are forever forced to hide from the world. 

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the older woman and her grandson, Seth, at Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, and learn about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

Why we love it: Best known for her epic family saga, The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende is back with a poignant, uplifting and beautiful story of enduring love and family secrets.

from The Team at Better Reading

Hyacinth Girls

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Hyacinth Girls: a novel by Lauren Frankel 

From the cover:  When thirteen-year-old Callie is accused of bullying at school, Rebecca is sure that the gentle girl she’s raised must be innocent. Rebecca has been caring for Callie ever since her mother died years earlier, and she admires Callie’s kindness and her easy intimacy among her giddy, adoring friends.
After Callie is exonerated, she begins to receive threatening notes from the girl who accused her, and as these notes become desperate, Rebecca feels compelled to intervene. As she struggles to protect the girl who is like a daughter to her, Rebecca remembers her own intense friendships as a teenager, when her failure to understand Callie’s mother led to tragedy. She’ll do anything to make this story end differently. But the secrets she and Callie are keeping leave them both vulnerable, and now Callie is in terrible danger.

This raw and beautiful story about the intimacy of adolescent emotions and the complex identity of a teenage girl looks unflinchingly at how cruelty exists in all of us, and how our worst impulses can estrange us from ourselves – or even save us.

This is a debut novel for Lauren Frankel. It is a story that explores schoolyard and cyber bullying. This book is so relevant in today’s times where cyber bullying is prevalent. Also a time when the bully can become the bullied within the touch of a few buttons! It is sad and yet thought-provoking. A teenager on the brink; and a carer trying to find out the truth before it is too late. Frankel really develops her characters well and the reader is taken on a journey of desperation and desolation.

~ Narelle

The Pentagon's Brain

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Pentagon’s Brain: an uncensored history of DARPA, America’s top secret military research agency by Annie Jacobsen

The Pentagon’s brain begins in 1954 with defence scientists who worked on the hydrogen bomb and ends in 2015 with defence scientists who work on robots, cyborgs, and bio hybrids. 

Since its inception in 1958, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has grown to become the Defence Department's most secret, most powerful, and most controversial military science research and development agency. Created by President Eisenhower to prevent another Sputnik, and to focus primarily on defensive programs against nuclear weapons, the agency - and its imagination and scope - has expanded enormously with each passing year. From Agent Orange in Vietnam to insect-sized drones in use today, from the earliest networked computers and the Internet to smart rockets and war zones under 24-hour video surveillance, DARPA is responsible for innovations that have changed the course of war, national security, and strategic planning at the highest levels. But it has also been responsible for Agent Orange and the birth of government mass surveillance programs like PRISM, exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013.

Annie Jacobsen exposes both sides of the DARPA coin: the fantastic technological advances from which we all benefit, and the darker side drawn up in a race for military supremacy. This is a fascinating, yet scary story, and it is far from completed. Where to next for DARPA?


Bunyip Hotels

Links to our Past - history -

In 1847 a  road was surveyed from Dandenong to Gippsland  along the edge of the ranges and when this proved to be impassable in places, a new road, which became the coach route, was surveyed in 1859 by A. Campbell.  This went through Cannibal Creek (around where Bassed road is in North Garfield) and through the old township of Buneep and onto Crossover. The Melbourne to Sale telegraph line followed this route in 1865, which eventually gave the road the name of Old Telegraph Road and where it crossed the Bunyip River was where the aforementioned town of Buneep was established (where modern day Ellis Road would cross the Bunyip River). This town was surveyed in the 1850s - it had a High Street and a Barkly Street (you can see the Survey Plan, below)  In 1857 David Connor selected  a site for an Inn and it was built in the early 1860s, this was called the Buneep Inn (later the Old Bunyeep Inn).  In 1869 John Rhoden became the proprietor, I believe he was a son-in-law of  David O'Connor.

This is the township of Buneep, surveyed in the 1850s.. Click on the picture for an enlargement

The Argus October 23, 1865
This advertisement from The Argus, October 1865 advises that you could catch a mail coach at 5.00pm  Monday to Saturday and have a 36 hour trip all the way to Sale, stopping at Bunyip or the old township of Bunyeep. That would have been a fairly rugged 36 hours!

Bunnyip Hotel, North Gippsland, c. 1880-1885 [David Connor's New Bunyip Inn]Photographer: Fred Kruger. State Library of Victoria Image H41138/11

Around 1867  David Connor’s New Bunyip Inn, was established. It is pictured above. This was built on the Bunyip River on the Gippsland Road, as the Princes Highway was then called. It was on the south side of the Highway,  just east of A'Beckett Road and the west side of the Bunyip River.  The coach route then changed direction at Cannibal Creek and turned south east to this Inn, and became known as Old Sale Road. A small settlement developed around the Inn, including the establishment of a bakery by William Snell in 1878 and a dance hall erected by Mr Hyne, opposite the Inn. Atr some time another son-in-law of David Connor, took over this Hotel, David Devanny or Devenay  or Deveney depending on sources. He was still there in 1897, but the hotel was closed by the Licensing Reduction Board in 1917.

The red circle,  shows the location of the New Bunyip Inn and the small settlement that surrounded it. 

Dandenong Advertiser, June 14 1917
The closure of the New Bunyip Hotel was announced in June 1917.

Bunyip Hotel, c. 1890 - but is this actually in Bunyip?Museum Victoria  http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/768080
This photograph is the Bunyip Hotel, George Stevens, Licensed Victualler. It's location is labelled as Bunyip, but I am not sure if that is the case. It's obviously not the New Bunyip Inn, as the building in the top photo has a sign which says, New Bunyip Hotel, and this is clearly a different building. It is not a forerunner of the Railway Hotel and Gippsland Hotel in the township of Bunyip, as the landscape is wrong and I feel it is unlikely to be the original Bunyip Inn as, I can't see that there would have been enough traffic to sustain such a large building. I believe that this building is not in Bunyip and I am suggesting that it could be the Bunyip Hotel in Cavendish - it's been around since at least the 1860s and modern day photos, show that the 1930s existing building is on a corner like this on  flat ground. More than happy to be proved wrong.

The township of Bunyip moved again after the establishment of the Gippsland Railway Line. The line was completed from Oakleigh to Bunyip in October 1877. This saw the establishment of two other Bunyip Hotels  as firstly the line from Morwell to Bunyip wasn't completed until March 1878, so travellers had to stop over at Bunyip and continue by coach, secondly the hotels serviced the locals and the workers on the railway line. The Hotels were the Butcher's Arms and the Bunyip Hotel, according to Call of the Bunyip.  John O'Brien had the licence for the Bunyip Hotel and in January 1877 he took up the licence for the Railway Family Hotel, once again, according to Call of the Bunyip.

The Argus  May 17, 1881.
John O'Brien's tenure at the Family Hotel didn't last very long as it was sold up by the Sherrifs Office in May 1881, as the advertisement in The Argus, above, attests. I am a bit hazy on the early details of these hotels -  by 1884 there are various advertisements for Lawrence Finch's Gippsland Hotel at Bunyip - this Hotel is still in existence (it's known as the Top Pub); in 1897 Sarah Alice Finch was listed as the licensee  and William Kraft took over, sometime between October 1898 and September 1899, according to the Shire of Berwick Rate Books.   It is pictured below. I don't know when the original building was replaced by the existing two storey brick building.

Gippsland Hotel and Main Street, Bunyip, 1908
Photograph from The Call of the Bunyip by Denise Nest

The other hotel in  Bunyip today is the Railway Hotel - Thomas Stacey is listed as a publican in the Shire of Berwick Rate books in 1890 and he had it for many years, but I am unsure of the connection, if any, between the Railway Hotel and early hotels - was John O'Brien's Railway Family Hotel the same hotel as the Railway Hotel or was it the Butcher's Arms? The original building is pictured below. It was destroyed by fire in 1924 and the new building, which is the existing building, opened in October of the same year.

Stacey's Railway Hotel on Main Street Bunyip, c.1915 http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/795792 

Stacey's Railway Hotel, Bunyip c. 1925 http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/795149 
This photograph was taken a year after this building was opened in October 1924, replacing the original building which was destroyed by fire.

An overview of the three Bunyip townships, they moved south each time. Click on image to enlarge.


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