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Guilty Pleasures

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Guilty Pleasures: Anita Blake book 1 by Laurell K. Hamilton

From the back cover:  “I don’t date vampires. I kill them. My name is Anita Blake. Vampires call me the Executioner. What I call them isn’t repeatable. Ever since the Supreme Court granted the undead equal rights, most people think vampires are just ordinary folks with fangs. I know better. I’ve seen their victims. I carry the scars...But now a serial killer is murdering vampires and the most powerful bloodsucker in town wants me to find the killer.”

Back in the day when Buffy was learning which end of the stake was pointy, and before Bella Swan was born, Anita Blake was out there hunting vampires. Twenty plus books later, Laurell K. Hamilton’s best-selling series “Anita Blake – Vampire Hunter” is still going strong. 

A series of over twenty books can seem like a big commitment, but it’s worthwhile just to see the character development. Anita Blake from Guilty Pleasures (book 1) wouldn’t recognise the person she has become in the latest book (Dead Ice).  “Dead Ice” Anita would most likely get staked by “Guilty Pleasures” Anita, confusing her for one of the monsters.

Like most vampire-type books, the series is filled with all the usual things that go bump in the night.  It starts of fairly tame, but soon would make E.L James blush.  Not for the faint hearted, but a good read nonetheless.


Cold Cold Heart

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Cold Cold Heart By Tami Hoag

From the cover: Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims. Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep. Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress disorder, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together. But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects.

Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small-town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school. Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past. Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies. Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past, and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed….

This was fantastic suspense fiction. The main character, Dana Nolan suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and lives with a traumatic brain injury after surviving a horrific abduction. Everyone says how lucky she is to be alive after surviving her ordeal, but Dana does not feel lucky as a victim of crime. When she returns to her family and hometown, there is rekindled interest in the missing persons’ case of her best friend Casey. Now a cold case, Dana’s investigative nature as a former TV reporter, gives her something to live for as she tries to solve what happened to her best friend. Was Casey a victim of a similar crime to herself, or was there something else that had transpired? Dana’s motto throughout the story is “where there is life, there is hope”. The hope is now for Dana to find peace in the truth of her friend’s disappearance. 

I loved the frantic pace of this read with the tease of suspense and danger along the way. Tami Hoag herself suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and lives with the after effects of it on a daily basis which is where some of the inspiration for this story originated.

I listened to the audio book format of this story expertly narrated by Julie Whelan (Playaway, CD and MP3 formats), but it is also available in book and large print.


Davitt Awards Shortlist

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Sisters in Crime Australia has announced its shortlist for the 15th Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women.

The Davitts apply to books published the previous calendar year. Named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud in 1865, the awards have played a pioneering role in getting women’s crime writing better recognised.

Twenty-three titles out of the record 96 crime books nominated are shortlisted for six different awards: Best Adult Novel; Best Young Adult; Best Children’s Novel; Best Non-fiction Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 650 members of Sisters in Crime Australia). Four titles have been shortlisted twice as they’re debut books.

Vying for Best Adult categories are:

Fiction Novel

Honey Brown, Through the Cracks 
Ilsa Evans, Forbidden Fruit: A Nell Forrest Mystery (ebook)
Sulari Gentill, A Murder Unmentioned
Annie Hauxwell, A Morbid Habit
Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies
Malla Nunn, Present Darkness

Non Fiction

Megan Norris, Love You to Death: A story of sex, betrayal and murder gone wrong
Caroline Overington, Last Woman Hanged
Virginia Peters, Have You Seen Simone? The story of an unsolved murder
Julie Szego, The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama


Lollie Barr, The Adventures of Stunt Boy and His Amazing Wonder Dog Blindfold
Christine Bongers, Intruder
Candice Fox, Hades
Anna George, What Came Before
Rebecca Jessen, Gap
Virginia Peters, Have You Seen Simone? The story of an unsolved murder
Pamela Rushby, The Ratcatcher’s Daughter
Sandi Wallace, Tell Me Why 
Julie Szego, The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama

The awards, to be announced on Saturday 29 August, are handsome carved polished wooden trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is offered.


The Marriage of Opposites

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

This forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas is about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism.

Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel's mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel's salvation is their maid Adelle's belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle's daughter. But Rachel's life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father's business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Fréderick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.

Why we love it:  Alice Hoffman’s strong female characters lead the way in a magical novel about love, destiny and breaking the rules. Rachel does as she pleases, befriending her African cook’s daughter, talking to ghosts and watching the turtles lay their eggs on the beach in the middle of the night.  The Marriage of Opposites is a mesmerising story that immerses you in another time and place, so that you won’t want this novel to end.

from the Team at Better Reading

The Last Straw

Book Swamp -

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid:the Last Straw
Author: Jeff Kinney
Type of story: Funny
I recommend the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series for all ages. There is nothing more hilarious. Greg is almost on summer holidays when his dad enlists him in soccer and boy scouts. Greg doesn't want to participate though and sneaks off. But when his dad threatens to send him to military academy, he has to participate. This book is just one in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book/reading series.
How good was it? Fantastic

Age: 10

Cabin Fever

Book Swamp -

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid:Cabin Fever
Author: Jeff Kinney
Type of story: Funny

I recommend this book for all ages.
Greg and his family are stuck indoors because of a huge blizzard and Greg's family is driving him crazy. Not even the toughest critic can keep a still face. Greg and his family are always getting into funny situations.This book is just one book in the funny cartoon/reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
How good was it? Fantastic

Age: 10


Quicksand -

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.

George's Marvellous Medicine

Book Swamp -

Title:George's Marvellous Medicine
Author: Roald Dahl
Type of story: Funny

George is eight years old and does not like his grandma because she is very unkind. George wants to teach his grandma a lesson so he makes a medicine and thinks that his grandma will hate it but to his surprise she loves it and wants more!!!
How good was it? Fantastic

KavirAge: 8

The Gruffalo

Book Swamp -

Title: The Gruffalo
Author: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

This story is about a mouse,fox,owl,snake and gruffalo. The mouse tricks all the animals in the deep dark wood. The mouse thinks that the gruffalo does not exist but at the end the mouse gets a real shock!!
How good was it? Fantastic

Age: 8

The Little Paris Bookshop

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, translated by Simon Pare

On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather, a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence in search of the past and his beloved.  

This book is very reminiscent of Chocolat by Joanne Harris in that, aside from the "European feeling” of writing style, it evokes that strong feeling of time and place, the languor of a day’s passing, and the soulful heartache of love.  To my mind it was overly long and that perhaps is what created that slothful, dozy feeling; although meandering down a river on a barge, remarking on the gentle passing of the landscape and petting the two languid on-board cats adds more than a soupçon of tranquility.  This slightly sad, a little wistful but ultimately heart-warming book is very much character-driven, so if you’re looking for action or thrills, best to choose something else. 

Between the main half dozen characters, there is a lot of internalising, a lot of ‘what if’ and plenty of debate on the state of love, of being in love, gaining and losing love.  And of course, being a bookshop, many titles are mentioned to soothe the ills of the customers, so that’s a bit of a fun which proffers some much-needed humour to balance the story.  

There is a delightful addendum, an A-Z list of literary pharmacopeia “To be taken in easily digestible doses (between five and fifty pages) unless otherwise indicated and if possible, with warm feet and/or with a cat on your lap.”  It kicks off with Adams, Douglas, e.g.  ‘Effective in large doses for treating pathological optimism or a sense of humour failure. Ideal for sauna-goers with exhibitionist tendencies.  Side Effects? … a potentially chronic tendency to wear a dressing gown all day.” Or “Melville Herman. Moby-Dick. For Vegetarians.  Side Effects?  A fear of water.”  I think you get the idea. And, if one bonus is not enough, there is another!  Recipes, a la Provence!  From how to make a vegetable terrine, to lamb cutlets and pistou, Lavender ice-cream, and more. 


Lyndhurst and Skye (Lyndhurst South) Great War Soldiers

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

This is a list of soldiers with a connection to the towns of Lyndhurst and Skye.  I have linked these towns together as Skye changed its name to Lyndhurst South in 1903 (although some sources list the date as 1894) after a murder brought unwelcome attention to the area. It changed back to Skye in 1964. Parts of Lyndhurst have been re-named Lynbrook, but it traditionally covered the area roughly south of Abbotts Road, west of Dandenong Frankston Road, east of the South Gippsland Highway and north of Thompsons Road. Skye or Lyndhurst South roughly covered the area south of Thompsons Road, west of  McCormicks Road, north of Ballarto Road and  east of Dandenong Hastings Road, so it included both Hall Road and Wedge Road.  All this area used to be in the Shire of Cranbourne. If you know of any other soldiers that I have missed, then please let me know.

You can read more about Skye in the book 100 years in Skye: 1850-1950 by Dot Morrison, published by the Mornington Peninsula Family History Society http://www.mpfhs.org/

What follows is a list of soldiers, their connection to Lyndhurst or Syke, their fate (i.e. when they Returned to Australia after active service or when they were Killed in Action) and their Service Number (SN) so you can look up their full service record on the National Archives website (www.naa.gov.au)

Anderson, John William (SN 10579)   John was born in Lyndhurst and enlisted on December 29, 1915 aged 23. He was a share farmer. He Returned to Australia on May 12, 1919.

Baker, Alexander George (SN 1782)  Alexander enlisted on June 5, 1915 aged 22. He was a farmer from Lyndhurst South. Alexander was awarded the Military Medal in 1917. He Returned to Australia on April 8, 1919.

Cairns, Godfrey Brown (SN 16080) Godfrey was born in Rosebud and he was living at Lyndhurst when he enlisted on January 27, 1916. His occupation was driver and he was 28. He Returned to Australia on July 4, 1919.

Cozens, John Edwin  (SN 2602)  John was born at Lyndhurst and was living at Mornington Junction (the original name for Baxter) when he enlisted on August 2, 1915, at the age of 23 and eleven months. John Returned to Australia on April 13, 1919.

Fisher, Culbert Cecil (16926)  The unusually named Culbert enlisted on March 9, 1916 aged 18. He was a State School teacher, born in Lyndhurst and living there at the time of his enlistment. He Returned to Australia on September 25, 1919.

Culbert's wedding to Myrtle Poole was written up in Table Talk on May 28, 1925. By this time his parent's had moved to  Woodend, but it seems they were sentimental enough to call their property after their original location. The account of the wedding is very comprehensive - you can read it all here 

Hope, George  (SN 1394)   George was born in Lyndhurst and enlisted at the age of  26 on August 2, 1915. His next of kin was his brother, John. George embarked to return  to Australia on March 16, 1918. however never made it home as on April 20 he went over the side of the boat and his body was never found. The inquiry said that he was in great pain from rheumatism and trench fever which caused headaches and rashes amongst other things and he had also suffered a gun shot wound to his right thigh, however the verdict was that he had fallen overboard accidentally. There is correspondence in his file saying that his real name was Robert George Chrozier. In his will he leaves everything to his cousin John Chrozier (the name is also spelt as Crozier in the file)

Howse, Frederick Thomas   (SN 15911)    Frederick enlisted on October 9, 1916 when he was a nearly 22 year old postal assistant. Thomas was born at Lyndhurst  and living in Dandenong when he enlisted. He Returned to Australia on January 2, 1919.

Kerr, Alfred William Charles  (SN 2080)  Alfred was born at Lyndhurst and enlisted at the age of 21 on November 10, 1916. His next of kin was his father, Gilbert, who lived in Hastings and he was a driver. Alfred Returned to Australia on March 31, 1919. Alfred is the brother of Frederick (see below)

Kerr, Charles Thomas  (SN 2040)   Charles was born in Lyndhurst and was a 22 year old newsagents assistant living in Albany Park in Western Australia when he enlisted on November 1, 1915.  Charles Returned to Australia on January 14, 1919. His next of kin was his father, Moses, of Upper Hawthorn.

Kerr, Frederick John Lee   (SN 3420) Frederick enlisted on June 6, 1917 when he was 18 years old. He was born in Lyndhurst and was living at Hastings at the time of enlistment. Frederick was Killed in Action in France on August 25, 1918   Frederick was the brother of Alfred (see above) and their parents were Gilbert and Clara Kerr.

Kirkham, Malcolm (SN 913)  Malcolm was 29, and a farmer from Lyndhurst, when he enlisted on June 8, 1915. His next of kin was his mother, Margaret. Lieutenant Kirkham was Killed in Action in France on September 2, 1918.

McFarlane, David James  (SN 77806)  David enlisted on June 14, 1918 didn't see active service and was discharged in December 1918. He was 21 year old butcher at the time of his enlistment and was born in Lyndhurst.

Norquay, Walter James (SN 1914)  Walter, born in Lyndhurst,  was a 27 year old Senior Postal Assistant when he enlisted on May 29, 1916. His next of kin was his wife, Dagmar. He was Killed in Action, in Belgium,  on October 13, 1917.

Payne, Charles Lyndhurst (SN 4801) Charles Lyndhurst Payne was born in Lyndhurst, and presumably named after his place of birth. He was 21 when he enlisted on April 1, 1916 and his guardian was listed as Mrs Margaret Greaves of Picnic Park, Lyndhurst.   He Died of Wounds received whilst fighting in France on April 26, 1918. Margaret Greaves (1942-1921) was married to William Greaves and was the daughter of Stephen and Alice Payne, so I presume that Charles was her nephew. (Family information from 100 years in Skye: 1850-1950 by Dot Morrison)

Payne, James (SN 1561) James was born in Lyndhurst and was 28 when he enlisted on October 6, 1916. His next of kin was his mother, Mrs Christina Cozens, of Yannathan, which is here he was also living at the time of his enlistment. He suffered a number of gun shot wounds and  Returned to Australia on February 15, 1918. When he applied for his medals in April 1918 he was living in Five Mile (Koo-Wee-Rup North)

Reilly, Eric (SN 479) Eric was a 26 year old farmer from Lyndhurst when he enlisted on October 13, 1914. He was single when he enlisted but there is a note in his file dated May 7 1915 saying that he had married; his wife's name was Selina. Eric Returned to Australia on April 23, 1919.

Dandenong Advertiser  October 17, 1918

Reynolds, Henry Simpson (SN 80602) Henry, whose enlistment was announced in the Dandenong Advertiser (see above) was 34 and his next of kin was his wife, Olena, of Lyndhurst South, when he enlisted on October 5, 1918. He did not see active service and was discharged in December 1918.

Smith, Frederick William  (SN 7085)  Frederick was born in Lyndhurt and was living in Dandnong when he enlisted on September 17, 1916. He was 24. He Returned to Australia on February 19, 1919.

South Bourke and Mornington Journal  April 17, 1919http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66195941
Strong, Albert Victor (SN 29789)  Albert enlisted on March 23, 1916. His address was Ercildoune, Cranbourne and he was 24 years old. He Returned to Australia on February 2, 1919.

Taylor, William George (SN 1740) William was 24 when he enlisted at the age of 24 on February 17, 1916. He was the son of Richard Thomas Taylor.   William Returned to Australia in January 8, 1919.   Albert and George were welcomed home at a function in April 1919 - see the account from the South Bourke and Mornington Journal, above.

Cranbourne Shire Naturalization ceremony, 1960.

Links to our Past - history -

The Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society had a pile of old Koo-Wee-Rup Suns dumped on their doorstep a while ago. Like all old newspapers they are interesting and slightly addictive reading. I came across this article from the paper of December 14, 1960 which talks about a Shire of Cranbourne Naturalization Ceremony held at the Memorial Hall in Koo-Wee-Rup. 
It is of interest for a number of reasons - firstly it lists the full name and address of each person - obviously no privacy concerns in the 1960s; secondly it gives us an idea of the main nationalities of the local migrants - Dutch and Italian -  and lastly I love the bit about Mrs Glasscock inviting the ladies to join their local Country Women's Association branch. I am sure they would have been made welcome, but I wonder how many took up the offer.

Koo-Wee-Rup Sun December 14, 1960
37 naturalized at Kooweerup ceremony last Thursday
Australia's march to nationhood was speeded on its way on Thursday evening when 37 people accepted full Australian citizenship at a Naturalization ceremony at the Kooweerup Memorial Hall. Shire President, Mr Russell Smith, administered the oath before a large crowd. Present also were Shire Councillors L.J Cochrane, M.L.A; P.B Fechner;  McL Greaves and H. Evans; Shire Secretary Mr Tom Grant and the Rev Father J. Opie.

Cr Smith congratulated the candidates on the wonderful steps they had taken in becoming Australian citizens and wished them every success in the land of their choice.

Mrs M. Glasscock on behalf of the Kooweerup C.W.A., presented each lady candidate with a spray of flowers and invited then to join their respective C.W.A branches.

Rev Father Opie warmly welcomed the candidates into full  Australian citizenship. He said that the parents had made great sacrifices for their young families who were already full Australians in every sense of the word.

After the ceremony the people present enjoyed a supper provided by the Pre-School Association.

Those naturalized were: Mrs  Elizabeth Catharina Boekel, Bounndary Road, Kooweerup; Petrus Boekel, Boundary Road, Kooweerup; Vito Castello, Salmon Street, Kooweerup; Antonio de Pasquale, Station Street, Kooweerup; Alfridus Johanus Hoogenboom, Olive Road, Devon Meadows; Eugen Kohler, 79 William Street, Cranbourne; Mrs Hedwig Katharina Kohler, 79 William Street, Cranbourne; Mrs Ursula M. Meiberg, 84 Walter Street, Cranbourne; Gaetano Pepe, Station Street, Kooweerup; Mrs Marianna Pepe, Station Street, Kooweerup; Luigi Raffa, 28 Gardiner Street, Kooweerup; Adrianus van den Bogaart, McDonald Drain Road, Kooweerup; Mrs Petronella Gerarda van den Broek, 'Spring Meadows', Clyde North; Mrs Johanna van der Valk, South Gippsland Highway, Tooradin; Johannes van der Valk, South Gippsland Highway, Tooardin; Loduvicus van der Valk, South Gippsland Highway Tooardin; Catharine van der Valk, South Gippsland Highway, Tooradin, Mrs Catharina Susanna van Os, Victoria Road, Pearcdeale; Wilhelm van Os, Victoria Road, Pearcedale; Douwe Winsemius, Pakenham Road, Kooweerup; Miss Janke Winsemius, Pakenham Road, Kooweerup; Mrs Trijntje Winsemius, Pakenham Road, Kooweerup; Mrs Francisca van den Bogaart, Kooweerup.

Dinner is Served

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Dinner is Served: an English butler's guide to the art of the table by Arthur Inch and Arlene Hirst

Elegant entertaining is always in style, and who better to explain the finer points of the art of the table than Arthur Inch, a veteran English butler who served as technical advisor for the film Gosford Park? With a historian's appreciation for the traditions of fine English homes, he discusses the elements of the table, including flatware and silver, china and glassware, serving vessels, and table decorations, as well as table and serving etiquette. 

Dinner is served is a useful little book which answers some of life's most vexing questions. At a formal dinner party, what is the correct way to eat asparagus? If one is served snails how does one get them out of the shell? How does one tackle a pomegranate or a cob of corn without wearing said food on your face or on your lap?

Included are lots of diagrams on how to correctly set a table, the various pieces of flatware (cutlery to the rest of us), and serving dishes and glasses. 

But most importantly is the issue of cake - how is it served and how should it be eaten. Layer cake is always served on its side, as it's almost impossible to cut neatly if left standing up. And cake should always be served with the point facing towards the guest.  

PS - Corn is never served on the cob at dinner parties!

Elon Musk

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Elon Musk: how the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping up by Ashlee Vance

An authorized portrait of one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs evaluates his role in the successes of such innovations as Tesla and Space X while evaluating America's technological competitiveness.

Elon Musk is acknowledged as one of Silicon Valley’s most dynamic entrepreneurs, trailblazing the industries of the future – electric cars, space travel for non-astronauts, and solar power. Like most business geniuses (think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates), he is also brilliant, impatient, rude and works like a demon. His story is fascinating as not only a “succeeding against all odds” story, but for the way it opens up the reader’s mind to the possibilities of creating a better future for the planet, and showing that it actually may be feasible to do it. 

Also like most business geniuses, he has weathered his share of near death financial crises, times when he was literally days away from economic ruin and failure. This is a truly exciting story which is engrossing and ultimately hopeful. 


Simon vs the homosapien agenda

Quicksand -

Simon Spier is just another typical teenage boy with a few of problems. Problem one, he’s gay and while being gay is not a problem to Simon, nor to those around him the ‘big deal’ of being gay and ‘coming out’ is a problem; Simon just can’t deal with the fuss everyone will make. So Simon is effectively in the closet. Problem number two, he’s in love. Once again it’s not so much the being in love that is the problem but rather than he is in love with a boy he has never met and only knows as Blue. Problem three, friends. Boy girl relationships are making his social life harder and Simon just doesn’t know how to deal. Problem four, Simon is being blackmailed help the class clown get a date with his friend or have his sexuality and secret love life revealed to the whole world. Life is a balancing act and Simon is about to learn that sometimes you’ll drop the ball.

A funny and heart-warming coming of age story. I absolutely loved this book, it was wonderful. While it had many elements of a coming of age/ love story I was really hooked into this book by the mystery of Blue; a mystery that was deepened by the fact that like Simon I had no clue who he was either. Simon is a beautiful character (well done to Albertalli for writing a realistic gay male protagonist-we need more male protagonists in YA) who just jumps out of the page and into your heart. He is smart, endearing, and honest. I really found him to be so relatable and at points was shaking my head in agreement with his assessments. The mystery of Blue was also a intriguing plot line that kept me turning the pages as well as the fact that in the end Simon falls in love with the personality of Blue rather than the physical person Blue. My only critique would be that I would have loved to have seen more exploration of the character Leah; she as a character really stood out to me and I felt there was a lot to explore in terms of her relationship with Simon. However this critique is nit-picking.

A feel good read, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda will leave you smiling. It’s a wonderful mix of teen angst, romance, mystery and blackmail that is difficult to put down. Great characters mixed with a seamless plot this book is one NOT to miss, it will definitely be a Best Read of 2015.

Courtney :)

The magic faraway tree

Book Swamp -

The magic faraway tree- Enid Blyton

Type of story: Adventure

Tell us about it: It was a great book all about three kids who go to a magical woods. I recommend this book. I give it a ✨✨✨✨✨ ( 5 star rating)

How good was it: Fantastic

Bethany Elphinstone (Age 8)

The World Without Us

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau

A North Coast hinterland community is in crisis after a commune mysteriously burns down. Bees are dying; the air and water is polluted, and the soil is degraded from overuse and mining. The Müller family is in turmoil too – mother Evangeline is acting strangely after losing her beloved youngest child, Pip. Her beekeeper husband Stefan is losing his colonies to unknown malaises, and adolescent daughters Tess and Meg grieve for their sister, but also for their mother who disappears each day to who knows where.

At the heart of the novel is a mystery that’s not solved until the final pages. What happens in the bee community is a subtle reflection of the Müller family and the whole community – one thing goes awry and everything is affected. The World Without Us touches on infidelity, love, loss and grief but also healing, hope and what it means to be human in the contemporary world.

Why we love it!
After reading The World Without Us you could turn the book over and start again. It’s one of those novels that stays with you long after reading. There's a cast of characters we come to know and love by the novel’s close, drawn with honesty but also subtle humour. Poignant and sad, yet poetic and uplifting, it’s truly a novel of its time.

from the Team at Better Reading

A Time to Run

Reading Rewards - reviews -

A Time to Run by J.M. Peace 

The hunt is on.  A GRUESOME GAME - A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.  A FRANTIC SEARCH - Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.  A SHOCKING TWIST - The killer's newest prey isn't like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.  A RUN FOR YOUR LIFE - A stunning, tautly written thriller from police officer turned writer, J.M. Peace.

I was lucky enough to win this book from the author in her online book launch! I am always very supportive of a new voice in Australian fiction and was not disappointed. The author is a serving Queensland policewoman and I'm sure she weaved some police experience into this book, and it showed.

Sammi has an argument with her boyfriend and decides to have a night out with a girlfriend.  Little does she know the consequences of that night out. Bored with what was going on in the nightclub, she foolishly accepts a lift to her friend's house with the barman whom she has just met, and that's the last we see of her.

What the barman doesn't know is that Sammi is a policewoman who should have known better and has to endure the consequences of her foolish decision. What transpires is a game of cat and mouse with the barman treating Sammi as a pawn in his very twisted game. Meanwhile the police are trying to find her with very little to go on. Will she survive or has she perished already and they are too late? 

I'll let you find out when you read this great novel. It's set in time-lapse chapters and it was VERY hard to stop reading and go to bed. If I'd had the opportunity I could have easily read this in one sitting.  I eagerly look forward to her next book in 2016.


The Wrong Man

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Wrong Man by Kate White

From the cover: Bold and adventurous in her work as owner of a boutique interior design firm in Manhattan, Kit Finn couldn’t be tamer in her personal life. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. When she literally bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel, she decides to make good on her promise and act on her attraction.  But back in New York, when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready to pick up where they left off, she doesn’t recognize the man standing on the other side of the door. Was this a cruel joke or part of something truly sinister? Kit soon realizes that she’s been thrown into a treacherous plot, which is both deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined.  

I chose this book after reading a great review on it. The statement above is not an exaggeration - this is a true page-turner with many twists, many teasers for the reader as to who the villain may be, but the true villain is not revealed until very late in the book. The main character, Kit Finn, is an unassuming protagonist who finds true grit, strength and bravery as the plot unfolds. I love a story with a brave, strong female and this is one of them. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author. I loved the story-line, it was adrenaline-charged and filled with harrowing twists at every turn. 


Fern Tree Gully and Gembrook line or the Puffing Billy Railway line

Links to our Past - history -

Puffing Billy is one of Victoria's most popular tourist attractions and is also one of the most popular tourist railways in the world, it has around 350,000 visitors each year. You can read all about Puffing Billy activities and access the time table on their website http://puffingbilly.com.au/  - the website also tells you how you can become  a volunteer with Puffing Billy - they have over 1,000 volunteers who undertake  a range of roles. 
The Fern Tree Gully and Gembrook line opened on December 19, 1900, closed in 1954 and re-opened as a tourist railway 1955 to 1958 and then  re-opened again  in July 1962 and had been going strong ever since. You can read more of the history here. Puffing Billy starts at Belgrave, the next stop is Menzies Creek and the other four stops - Emerald, Lakeside, Cockatoo and Gembrook  are in the Cardinia Shire, so here is look at some historic photos of the Puffing Billy or Free Tree Gully and Gembrook line as it was first called, from the State Library of Victoria photograph collection.

View of encampment near railway line, possibly Gembrook. This photo has Gembrook inscribed in pencil on the back and was possibly taken during the construction of the line, late 1890s.Max Thomson Collection, State Library of Victoria Image H2013.70/9

Gembrook, c 1900State Library of Victoria Image H35215/27

A new railway line, a new opportunity for pranksters! This photo is called 'Accident - Gembrook railway - a joke' Photographer: Mark James Daniel. Dated August 26, 1900.State Library of Victoria Image H92.200/359

Railway Station, Gembrook, c, 1900State Library of Victoria Image H35215/26

Gembrook Train, c. 1900State Library of Victoria Image H35215/25

Railway line, Gembrook, c. 1907State Library of Victoria Image H41019

Steam train dropping off passengers, Clematis Station, c. 1910s. This station was called Paradise Valley when it opened in 1902, the name was shortened to Paradise in 1908. The area was known as Paradise until 1921 when a public meeting voted to change the name to Clematis, after the wild clematis creeper that grew prolifically in the area. State Library of Victoria Image H2009.29/85

Gembrook Train, Victoria, c. 1912. This is a great photo - the women in their lovely hats, the interesting hand tinting of the photo, the lack of cars which is a reminder of the days when most people walked to all local activities.State Library of Victoria Image H84.414/11

Railway Station, Gembrook. Date range listed is 1920s to mid 1950s.Rose Series postcard, State Library of Victoria Image H32492/2159

The narrow gauge train, Cockatoo.Date range listed is 1920s to mid 1950s.Rose Series postcard, State Library of Victoria Image H32492/2165

Puffing Billy, 1950s. Photograph is dated at SLV as 1950-1954, but this may be taken between 1955 and 1958 when it first ran as a tourist line.  Photographer: Percy SpidenState Library of Victoria Image H2008.121/51

Lakeside Station. Lakeside opened 1944, but this looks like it was taken late 1950s or early 1960s. I wonder who these people are?State Library of Victoria Image H2010.137/17

Greetings from, Emerald Lake, c. 1976State Library of Victoria Image H41350


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