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Be Safe I Love You

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

This is the story of former Sergeant Lauren Clay, a woman soldier returned from Iraq, and her beloved younger brother Danny, who is obsessed with Arctic exploration and David Bowie.  Until she went into the military Lauren was the protector and provider for both Danny and her dysfunctional father after her mother left them.  Lauren is home in time to spend Christmas with Danny and her father, who is delighted to have her back but reluctant to acknowledge that something feels a little strange.   As she reconnects with her small-town life in upstate New York, it soon becomes apparent that things are not as they should be.  And soon an army psychologist is making ever-more frantic attempts to reach her.  

All the characters that interact with Lauren are interesting and believable in their own right.  The statistics on the lives of returned servicemen and women in America are chilling; I hope Australian veterans have better support. This is a quiet thoroughly intriguing book to read and hard to put down - you know something is wrong and you keep wondering what she is going to do, or has done.  Highly recommended. 

Indie Book Awards

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Every December, the 170+ independent Australian booksellers that make up Leading Edge Books take stock of the year in books and nominate their favourite Australian titles for the Indie Book Awards shortlist. The shortlist falls into four categories - fiction, non-fiction, debut fiction and childrenʼs/YA books.

Judges select a winner of each category and the Indie Book Awards overall winner is voted on by the Leading Edge group as a whole.

Last night, Wednesday 25 March 2015, Don Watson was awarded the 2015 Indie Book of the Year Non-Fiction and the overall prize for The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia.

Other category winners were: Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (best fiction); Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke (debut fiction); and Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rossell (best children's and young adult category).


Man Booker Finalists

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Ten writers are on the judges’ list of finalists under serious consideration for the sixth Man Booker International Prize, the £60,000 award which recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction.  It is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. 

The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel; there are no submissions from publishers. In addition, there is a separate award for translation and, if applicable, the winner may choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000.

The authors come from ten countries with six new nationalities included on the list for the first time. None of the writers has appeared on a previous Man Booker International Prize list of finalists and the proportion of writers translated into English is greater than ever before at 80%.

The ten authors are:

César Aira (Argentina)
Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)
Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe)
Mia Couto (Mozambique)
Amitav Ghosh (India)
Fanny Howe (United States of America)
Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya)
László Krasznahorkai (Hungary)
Alain Mabanckou (Republic of Congo)
Marlene van Niekerk (South Africa)

Professor Marina Warner, Chair of the judging panel said:  "The judges have had an exhilarating experience reading for this prize; we have ranged across the world and entered the vision of writers who offer an extraordinary variety of experiences. Fiction can enlarge the world for us all and stretch our understanding and our sympathy. The novel today is in fine form:  as a field of inquiry, a tribunal of history, a map of the heart, a probe of the psyche, a stimulus to thought, a well of pleasure and a laboratory of language. Truly, we feel closer to the tree of knowledge."

The 2015 Man Booker International Prize winner will be announced at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 19 May.

Lambert & Hook

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Although the author of many stand-alone novels, last year prolific UK author J M Gregson added book 26 to his Lambert & Hook series. Think gentle English country crime shows on tv and you won't be too far wrong in picking up the setting and tone of these books. I've had the 'pleasure' of reading a couple of these, and they vary widely with reviewers as well as with myself.  I chose Bolinda audio downloads narrated by the somewhat grating Richard Aspel, but we have them in all formats so the print route might be a better idea. 

Dead on Course
Book 3 in the series
Amid the luxurious surroundings of the Wye Castle Hotel and Country Club, a man is found dead on the course. Superintendent Lambert and Sergeant Hook establish fairly quickly how he died, but discovering who killed him provesa more difficult challenge. The golf course and hotel are set in spectacular scenery beside one of England's most beautiful rivers, with Hereford's ancient Cathedral visible in the distance. In May this incomparable valley is at its best, but it is a bizarre context for the investigation of a brutal murder. Gradually, over the days of their stay, Lambert unearths the secrets of the group who surrounded the dead man. There is an urgency about his investigation, for even while the suspects play golf and enjoy good food and wine, there is more violence outside the ivy-clad walls of the old hotel. 

This is a typical police procedural and definitely not the crime thriller as publicised.  It’s all rather humdrum; a pleasant enough time waster but tedious in patches with the writer’s determination to show off his skills with the dictionary (e.g. Pusillanimous - lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.  Anodyne - anything that relieves distress or pain.  Pulchritude - physical beauty; comeliness). 

The Fox in the Forest
Book 5 in the series
A motiveless murder - every policeman's nightmare - is committed in a stretch of forest between two peaceful villages. Superintendent Lambert and his CID team can find few connections between the people who were around at the time of this death and a victim who seems to have no enemies. Before long, it seems that they have a serial killer on their hands, selecting victims at random. The rural community closes upon itself, preserving its secrets from outsiders...

With between 4, 4/12 and 5 stars on Good Reads.com, this appears to be one of the better ones in the series.

If you've read any of the other in this series, we'd love to receive your review for publication.  Drop us a note in the comments section below.


Casey Cardinia Heritage Festival May 17, 2015

Links to our Past - history -

The Casey Cardinia Heritage Festival Sunday, May 17 2015.
The Casey Cardinia region has a rich heritage with many treasures waiting to be discovered. Delve into the history of the area through the displays and artefacts provided by local heritage and historical groups and find answers to your local family history or town questions. 
Who will be there?   Beaconsfield History Group, Berwick Mechanics' Institute, Berwick Pakenham Historical society, Casey Cardinia Branch of the National Trust, Casey Cardinia Library Corporation, Cranbourne Shire Historical Society, Dandenong High School History Group, Edrington History Research Group, Narre Warren Mechanics' Institute, The Narre Warren & District Family History Group will also be there to help to locate information on local World War 1 service personnel.
Free, Activities for all  the family. This Festival is part of the National Trust Heritage Festival, for more activities visit their website www.nationaltrustfestival.org.au

1914-1918 Victorian Newspapers: commemorating the World War 1 centenary.

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

The State Library of Victoria  has helped digitise and make available online via Trove,  216 Victorian community newspapers from the Great War period.  These papers can be searched through a portal on the State Library website - www.slv.vic.gov.au/digitised-wwi-victorian-newspapers or through Trove.

These newspapers provide a rich source of information about how our communities lived during the Great War - from reports about how  communities raised funds for the War effort, names of soldiers who enlisted, reports about welcome home functions to reports about the erection of Honour Boards and other memorials.

Here's a list of the papers which covered the Casey Cardinia region:

Berwick Shire News
Bunyip Free Press
Dandenong Advertiser
Koo-Wee-Rup Sun
Lang Lang Guardian
Pakenham Gazette
Reporter (Box Hill - covered news from the Shire of Fern Tree Gully which Emerald was part of)
South Bourke and Mornington  Journal
West Gippsland Gazette

The Age and The Argus, the two state wide dailies, plus the Weekly Times  also include local news.

Here are some early reports on the War from the local papers.

This is from the South Bourke and Mornington Journal from August 6, 1914.

Editorial from the West Gippsland Gazette August 11, 1914

Finally, just to show that for some businesses, a war is a just another marketing opportunity, here's a great advertisement form the Bunyip Free Press!

Bunyip Free Press August 6. 1914.

When the Wind Blows

Reading Rewards - reviews -

When the Wind Blows by James Patterson

From the catalogue:  Frannie O'Neill, a young and talented veterinarian whose husband was recently murdered, comes across an amazing discovery in the woods near her animal hospital. Soon after, Kit Harrison, a troubled and unconventional FBI agent, arrives on Frannie's doorstep. And then there is eleven-year-old Max - Frannie's amazing discovery - and one of the most unforgettable creations in thriller fiction. 

The legion of James Patterson fans would never let any of his titles disappear from our Library shelves, which is why I discovered this one!  It's one of his early ones, and an absolute treat if you enjoy something that's entertaining and not too much of a brain drain!  This book has reviewers completey polarised - from 5 stars: "What an amazing book. Flawless in every aspect, and throughouly enticing" or 1 star:  "a dull plot, flat characters and general silliness". When the Wind Blows was written as an adult sequel to Patterson's Maximum Ride series for young adults, as as RR readers know, there are some damn fine YA titles out there to be thoroughly enjoyed. Like this one!


The Strange Library

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

This book has prompted much discussion and reviews from two Library staff members.  Why not borrow it and send in your comments?

“All I did was go the library to borrow some books”
How could anyone working in a library resist a title like this? A quick thumb-through reveals some intriguing illustrations - but don’t let them fool you - this is not a children’s book! Our protagonist is a child who visits the local library after school with a seemingly innocent request for information. From the moment he walks through the door, the tale takes on the elements of a dream - bizarre characters living within labyrinthine corridors beneath the library, whose behaviour cannot be explained. I don’t want to give any more of the story away.

One wonders if the author had an unpleasant experience at the library as a child. It’s such a little book, but the story packs a wallop and tends to linger. It’s not a horror story by any means, but I would not recommend reading before bedtime. But go on - I challenge you to visit “The Strange Library”.

Another comment :
This weird little novella by Japanese author Haruki Murakami left me wondering what was going on. A child goes to the library to return some books on his way home from school, three days later he gets home. Was what happened in between a dream? Sheepmen, disappearing girls, Ottoman taxes? Is it an allegorical tale in the Japanese tradition or maybe a joke?

The Boy in the Woods

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Boy in the Woods by Carter Wilson

This intriguing tale is narrated by a man, Tommy Devereaux, who was witness to a horrific murder when he was fourteen years old. Back in 1981, he, along with two other mates of the same age, witnessed the murder of a young boy in the Oregon woods. All three boys were manipulated into becoming unwilling accomplices to the subsequent cover-up, swearing never to talk about what had happened on that fateful day. 

Thirty years later, Tommy has become a successful bestselling author and is using his writing as a kind of therapy and disguising the murder he witnessed as fiction. At a book signing event he is approached by a woman who asks for his autograph, leaving behind a note that read: 'You didn’t even change my name'. 

Tommy's worst nightmare has just come true. A figure from his past has returned, threatening to divulge his darkest secret unless he agrees to do everything she asks of him. Thus begins a deadly cat-and-mouse game... 

I loved this book for the thrills, manipulation and intrigue that is woven throughout the story. It was a page-turner that was both terrifying and tantalising. 

~ Narelle

Flying on Broken Wings

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Flying on Broken Wings by Carrie Bailee

Carrie Bailee fled Canada and came to Australia when she was twenty. Once here she was assisted by a number of Australian women, and was ultimately encouraged to apply for refugee status in order to stay in this country. So began her battle to be granted asylum in Australia. 

Carrie stood before the Refugee Review Tribunal and revealed the dark underbelly of child sexual abuse and organised crime rings in our privileged, first-world neighbourhoods. This is the story of one young woman’s heroic journey to survive, escape and soar above her shocking childhood experiences, and her powerful struggle for freedom and a beautiful life in Australia.

Carrie Bailee would have to be one of the bravest young women in Australia. After a years of shocking sexual, physical and psychological abuse from her own father and others, she has managed to write a compelling account of her life with candour and honesty. 

The chapters alternate between Australia and Canada which is just as well because the extreme nature of some of her recollections warrants a breather with more uplifting events. Because of her tendency for major blackouts explicit description is minimised, however some parts are confronting. Carrie Bailee should be so proud of not shying away from getting her story out there. She is a natural writer and encapsulates her personality nicely, revealing a good humoured and self deprecating nature despite all that has happened in her past. 


Romance Readers Awards

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The winners of the 2014 Australian Romance Readers Awards (ARRA) have been announced. The nominations were open to all romance novels published in 2014. 

The awards are handed out annually in nine categories, and each year in the run-up to the awards, ARRA members are invited to choose and vote on three, special 'reader-selected' awards. This year those awards were handed out for Sexiest Hero, Favourite Cover, and Favourite New Australian Romance Author. 

Drum roll please …

Paranormal Romance — Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh
Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance — Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Short Category Romance — The Honeymoon Trap by Kelly Hunter
Historical Romance — The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie
Contemporary Romance — Play by Kylie Scott
Erotic Romance — Down and Dirty by Rhian Cahill, Lexxie Couper, Jess Dee and Sami Lee
Romantic Suspense — Safe Harbour by Helene Young
Continuing Romance Series — Stage Dive by Kylie Scott
Favourite Australian Romance Author for 2014 — Kylie Scott

Favourite Cover — Play by Kylie Scott
Sexiest Hero — Adam in Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns
Favourite New Romance Author 2014 — Alli Sinclair


Midnight is a Lonely Place

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine

From the cover:  After a broken love affair, biographer Kate Kennedy retires to a remote cottage on the wild Essex coast to work on her new book - until her landlord's daughter uncovers a Roman site nearby and long-buried passions are unleashed!  In her lonely cottage, Kate is terrorised by mysterious forces. What do these ghosts want? That the truth about the violent events of long ago be exposed or remain concealed? Kate must struggle for her life against earthbound spirits and ancient curses as hate, jealousy, revenge, and passion do battle across the centuries.

If you like a good dose of haunting with an accompanying history lesson, Barbara Erskine is always an excellent choice.  I’ve read quite a few of hers – House of Echoes, the wonderful Whispers in the Sand and its follow-on, The Sands of Time, and Daughters of Fire.  They are absorbing reads, very evocative and occasionally quite scary, but most suffer, as did this one, from being just too long and drawn out.  At 77 chapters, Midnight is a Lonely Place would’ve been tighter and a bit more enjoyable with 10 or so chapters less.  However, Erskine’s talent at winding love/hate/jealousy and history into a modern day tale of an English seaside cottage roiling with passions long gone is an entertaining read, one I found hard to put down.  It was well narrated by the talented Rula Lenska – my only beef being her pronunciation of the word ‘grimaced’ which she read as gri-maced [rhymes with raced].  

Vale Sir Terry Pratchett

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Popular fantasy sci-fi author, Sir Terry Pratchett, passed away yesterday (March 12, 2015) has died aged 66, eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015) was an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works. He is best known for his Discworld series of about 40 volumes. Pratchett's first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, he wrote two books a year on average. His 2011 Discworld novel Snuff was at the time of its release the third-fastest-selling hardback adult-audience novel since records began in the UK, selling 55,000 copies in the first three days.

Pratchett was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s, and has sold more than 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages. He is currently the second most-read writer in the UK, and seventh most-read non-US author in the US.

"The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds," said Transworld publisher Larry Finlay. He enriched the planet like few before him and through Discworld satirised the world with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention," said Mr Finlay. "Terry faced his Alzheimer's disease (an 'embuggerance', as he called it) publicly and bravely," said Mr Finlay.

"There was nobody like him,” added author Neil Gaiman.  "Over the last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come." 

The library has so many Terry Pratchett novels in various formats that it is too extensive to individually link here.  Please click on the author's name at the top of this post to browse our catalogue entries.


Stella Prize Shortlist

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The 2015 Stella Prize shortlist has just been released, with three of the titles being debut novels by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Emily Bitto and Ellen van Neerven:

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
The Strays by Emily Bitto
The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally
The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna
The Golden Age by Joan London
Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

The 2015 Stella Prize will be awarded in Melbourne on the evening of Tuesday 21 April. Stay tuned ...

Indie Awards Shortlist

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Indie Awards are chosen by panels of booksellers from entries nominated and voted for by independent bookshops across Australia. The shortlist is divided into categories:  

When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia)
Amnesia by Peter Carey (Penguin Books Australia)
Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Books Australia)
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (Text Publishing)

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis (Hachette Australia)
Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clark (Hachette Australia)
The Strays by Emily Bitto (Affirm Press)
After Darkness by Christine Piper (Allen & Unwin)

This House of Grief by Helen Garner (Text Publishing)
The Bush by Don Watson (Penguin Books Australia)
Where Song Began by Tim Low (Penguin Books Australia)
Cadence by Emma Ayres (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

and a Children's and YA shortlist.

Winners, and the overall Book of the Year winner, will be announced on 25 March 2015. Stay tuned ...


The Children Act

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Children Act by Ian McEwen

Fiona Maye is a High Court judge presiding over cases in the family court. She is independent and intelligent, not to mention musical. She has the respect of her peers and plenty of experience. She knows how to weigh up the sensitive cultural and religious differences in court cases. What her colleagues don’t know however is that her marriage is crumbling and one night her husband asks her to consider an open marriage. After an argument he moves out of the house and she is adrift. She throws herself into work and finds herself involved in a complex case about a 17 year old boy, Adam, who needs a blood transfusion as he has leukaemia. The boy’s parents however refuse to allow him to have one as it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fiona has to make a choice.

This story was enjoyable and kept me interested right to the end. The domestic problems allowed a breather from the court scenes.  It would have been nice if we heard more of Adam’s history but  despite this I very much recommend the book.



Book Swamp -

Paperboy is a wonderful book that I have just discovered. It has won a 'Newbery Honor' award  which is an American book award.
The hero of 'Paperboy' is an eleven year old boy. He can bowl a baseball faster than anyone else, but when it comes to speaking he can barely say a word without stuttering.
When he accepts a paper run he knows it will be difficult but he is determined......
He meets many new people along the way who open his eyes to the world around him.
'Paperboy' is set in America several decades ago, when African Americans were segregated from the white population.
This directly impacts our hero as he has a close and caring relationship with his African American housekeeper.
Very enjoyable reading.

Far from the Tree

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon's startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter. 

The central theme of this extraordinary book is the family and  how much parents, and society as a whole, should accept children for what they are and how much they should encourage them to be their best selves, even though the notion of a best self is imposed by others. Is 'normality' the only desired outcome for our children and us? Solomon has done a huge amount of research for each of the identities discussed, interviewed many families over the space of 10 years and weaves together the science, culture, ethics and a great depth of understanding, empathy and acceptance of all the differing views of each group without ever making light of the difficulties parents and children face.

I was only planning to read the chapters on deafness and autism but have read it all. Though some of the stories are sad, even harrowing, many more are hopeful even joyful, all are thought provoking and many of the parents say that raising their different children added a new depth of meaning to their lives.  

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance-all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

Take with you the wonderful picture of the young woman who spent her holidays reading some of her favourite books to her severely disabled brother "just in case" he could understand. 


The Meryl Streep Movie Club

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

From the cover:  There are some summers you never want to end. The women of the Weller family, matriarch Lolly, cousins Kat, June and Isabel, have not had the easiest of relationships over the years. The cousins have gone their separate ways, but now, just as each faces a crossroads in her life, they are summoned home by Lolly for some earth-shattering news. As the women spend their first summer together in years, home truths and buried secrets begin to emerge. To ease the tension, Lolly proposes a series of movie nights dedicated to her favourite actress, Meryl Streep, and as the four women sit and discuss the parallels between films and real life, they gradually help one another confront the past and make difficult decisions about the future.

I don't read a lot of chick lit but sometimes it's good to dip a toe in the water after too many crime and mystery novels.  I enjoyed this book - set in Maine USA, it's a gentle read, it's not too girly girly as some can be, and you know right up front that with someone dying of pancreatic cancer that there's going to be tears somewhere.  

Each chapter is written from one of the four main characters, and the use of discussing who did what and why in the Meryl Streep movies they all watch is a clever segue to sharing what is really happening in their own lives. The setting provides interest - The Three Captains - a bed and breakfast that Lolly, the family matriarch owns; a book shop, a houseboat - all are evocative and easily pictured. Well narrated by Laurel Lefkow, I can recommend this audio version,( available in MP3 and e-Audio), plus we also have this in hard copy and large print.

Emerald ANZAC walk and Beaconsfield Avenue of Honour plaques

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

You are invited to attend these two events that honour the Great War soldiers from the Emerald Community and the Beaconsfield Community. All welcome.

March 11, 2015 at 11.30am

Emerald ANZAC Walk and ANZAC Place

The Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, will  officially open the Emerald ANZAC Walk and ANZAC Place.

The Walk honours the sacrifice of the 32 soldiers, from Emerald, who enlisted in the Great War and did not return.

The organisers have put together a visual extravaganza of returning Emerald station to the 1915 era. Puffing Billy’s oldest train and passenger carriages along with a timber transporting carriage, a big band supplied by HMAS Cerberus, soldiers dressed in WW1 uniforms re-enacting returning from the War, children dressed in period costumes, and a smattering of Veteran cars help create this event. Add to this the Governor General arriving on the train with soldiers and school children and you will be witnessing a  spectacular event. All welcome.

More information: Visit the Emerald RSL website www.emeraldrsl.com.au

Friday, March 13 2015 at 10.00am

Beaconsfield Avenue of Honour Plaques

Mr Daniel Mulino MP will officially open the Plaques at  Beaconsfield Park, corner of Old Princes Highway and Emerald Road and afterwards for morning tea at the Beaconsfield Tennis Club, Perc Allison Reserve, Beaconsfield - Emerald Rd.
(Please park in Perc Allison Reserve/Tennis club car park)

The plaques honour the memory of the 65 servicemen from Beaconsfield and district who served in the Great War. These soldiers originally had  a plaque under a tree in the Beaconsfield -Berwick Avenue of Honour, but the original plaques have since been removed.

The ceremony will also include the launch of the booklet/digital Beaconsfield Avenue of Honour Servicemen remembered by Cardinia Shire Mayor Cr Leticia Wilmot.


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