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Let Her Go

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Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

From the cover:  How far would you go to have a family?  What would you hide for someone you love?  Confused and desperate, Zoe McAllister boards a ferry to Rottnest Island in the middle of winter holding a tiny baby close to her chest, terrified that her husband will find her or that her sister will call the police.

Years later, a teenage girl, Louise, is found on the island, unconscious and alone. Flown out for urgent medical treatment, when she recovers she returns home and overhears her parents discussing her past and the choices that they've made. Their secrets, slowly revealed, will shatter more than one family and, for Louise, nothing will ever be the same again. Let Her Go is a gripping, emotionally charged story of family, secrets and the complications of love. Part thriller, part mystery, it will stay with you long after you close the pages wondering ... What would you have done?

My view: This book had me hooked from the very beginning. Dawn's previous book "Fractured" was one of my top picks for last year, and this new one is up there as well.  The subject of surrogacy is a painful and controversial one but Dawn Barker handles this issue so well, as she is also a Psychologist. You see things from all perspectives, the surrogate mother, the adopted mother (who are step sisters), the two husbands and of course the child.  As things progress in this book you can't help but feel for all parties involved and you can sympathise with each one of them.

Another wonderful thing is that the Author comes from Western Australia and locations from this area are highlighted in the book which gives an insight into this part of Australia. I am a huge fan of this Australian author and I think authors like Jodi Picoult should start to get worried ... Dawn Barker has well and truly arrived!

Burial Rites

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
From the cover: A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Toti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard. Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
This story about the last woman to be executed in Iceland has intrigued me since I saw an Australian Story episode (ABC TV) that charted South Australian author Hannah Kent’s rapid rise in the literary world. (When her draft novel won the Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award, she received a mentorship with Pulitzer Prize-winning Australian novelist Geraldine Brooks. Since publication, Burial Rites has won multiple awards.) 
However, it took a long while before I picked up a copy of Burial Rites because the subject matter seemed so dismal and depressing. It took a recommendation from a friend and the novel being assigned as my book club’s latest title before I finally bit the bullet so to speak.
Burial Rites is superbly written, quickly drawing the reader into the story of Agnes Magnusdottir who was convicted of murdering her former master and another man on an isolated farm. Hannah Kent spent time in Iceland researching her work of historical fiction and read widely about life in the country during that era. As a result, she paints a vivid picture of farm life in 19thcentury Iceland – the basic and freezing living conditions, the exhausting manual labour that women undertook, as well as superstitions, religious beliefs and the morals of the time.
As the story progresses, I found myself – along with the family on the farm – getting attached to Agnes and feeling empathy for her predicament. I kept hoping someone would find a way to save her at the last hour but then remembered that unfortunately the book tells the story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland – not imprisoned or set free. 
A dark and captivating novel set in a desolate environment.
Sandra E

The Wife Drought

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The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb

'I need a wife' is a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it's not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It's a potent economic asset on the work front. And it's an advantage enjoyed - even in our modern society - by vastly more men than women. Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain. But why is the work-and-family debate always about women? Why don't men get the same flexibility that women do? In our fixation on the barriers that face women on the way into the workplace, do we forget about the barriers that - for men - still block the exits? 

Writer, political commentator and presenter of ABCs “Kitchen Cabinet” Annabel Crabb explores the great barbeque stopper of work/life balance, but does so in a way that is smart, funny and biting in its satire. While woman with children and a job will empathise with Annabel’s stories of juggling the demands of small children with the demands of tight work deadlines, all women, irrespective of whether they have children or not, will concur with her contention that the same demands are rarely, if ever, placed on men. Her ideas for ways of resolving the “wife drought” may not be all that realistic, but they are certainly thought provoking. If you want a book that makes you laugh but also makes you think, this one is it.

The French House

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The French House by Nick Alexander

From the cover:   CC is trapped by a job she no longer loves in an unfriendly city.  So when her new boyfriend decides it’s time to sell up and move to the South of France, she decided in seconds to change her life. After all, who wouldn’t pick an azure sea, aperitifs and sunshine over a dreary commute and a rainy climate? She hadn’t expected a tumbledown farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  Or a motley assortment of surly builders, eccentric farmers and a resentful, terrifying neighbour – who happens to be her boyfriend’s aunt.  Suddenly CC’s dream of a place in the sun is looking more like a nightmare.  Does she have the courage to stick it out and make a home of her French house?

Overall this was a fun read though there were a couple of patches we could have done without.  The banter between Victor and CC is a highlight throughout and, as you can imagine, trying to renovate an old farmhouse brings much laughter and the occasional tears of frustration.  There’s a fair bit of French parlez so dust off your high-school conversation classes and just go with the flow.  It’s a light and breezy read, though be aware of some full-on swearing and drug use.  I borrowed the Playaway version, well narrated by Suzy Aitchison who handles CC’s Irish accent and the dual languages beautifully.

Macavity Awards

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The Macavity Award is a literary award for mystery writers. Nominated and voted upon annually by the members of Mystery Readers International, the award is named for the "mystery cat" of T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The award is given in four categories - best novel, best first novel, best nonfiction, and best short story.
Drum roll please ...

Best Mystery Novel: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Best First Mystery Novel: A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames 

Best Mystery-Related Non-Fiction: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower

Best Mystery Short Story: The Care and Feeding of Houseplants by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)


The Rosie Effect

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The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

From the cover: ‘We’ve got something to celebrate,’ Rosie said. I am not fond of surprises, especially if they disrupt plans already in place. I assumed that she had achieved some important milestone with her thesis. Or perhaps she had been offered a place in the psychiatry-training programme. This would be extremely good news, and I estimated the probability of sex at greater than 80%. ‘We're pregnant,’ she said. In true Tillman style, Don instantly becomes an expert on all things obstetric. But in between immersing himself in a new research study on parenting and implementing the Standardised Meal System (pregnancy version), Don’s old weaknesses resurface. And while he strives to get the technicalities right, he gets the emotions all wrong, and risks losing Rosie when she needs him most.

The Rosie Effect is the highly anticipated sequel to The Rosie Project, which was an international phenomenon with more than a million copies sold in 40+ countries. Described as the most hilarious romantic comedy of 2013, it won the coveted Book of the Year award at the 2014 Australian Book Industry Awards. The Rosie Project's central character Don even had his own Twitter feed (@ProfDonTillman). I would not be surprised if author Graeme Simsion suffered a massive attack of “second novel syndrome” during the writing of this book as the pressure to produce a sequel as captivating as The Rosie Project would have been extraordinary.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman have married and are living in New York City. Don has been teaching while Rosie simultaneously studies at Columbia Medical School and finishes her thesis. Just as Don is about to announce that Gene, his philandering friend from Australia, is coming to stay, Rosie drops her pregnancy bombshell.

While The Rosie Effect does not have the surprising magic of the The Rosie Project, it is still an entertaining read with many screwball adventures. We now know Don and almost want to scream out to warn him when he is about to become embroiled in yet another misunderstanding. It begins with the Orange Juice Incident, escalates over lunch with the Blue-Fin Tuna Incident and gets fairly ridiculous when he recruits his plumber mate’s pregnant wife to impersonate Rosie at an important appointment. Don’s interest in and enthusiasm for becoming a parent is heart-warming and hilarious but Rosie’s attitude and interactions become irritating.

Definitely worth a read for Don Tillman fans.

Sandra E

Railways and their contribution to the developement of the Casey Cardinia region

Links to our Past - history -

I have written about railways before in this blog, as I have an interest in railways, because of the influence they had on the growth of towns and settlement patterns. When I was at High School at Koo-Wee-Rup in the 1970s the school bus used to run out to Bayles and followed the path of the old railway line and if I could go back in time I would love to have seen the trains chuffing along this line to Bayles, Catani and beyond.  I wrote this article for the book Pages from the past: snapshot histories of people, places and public life in Casey and Cardinia.

The photographs are from the Public Transport Corporation: Photographic Collection of Railway Negatives available on the Public Records Office of Victoria website www.prov.vic.gov.au. Click here to search this collection.

Railways have been pivotal in the development of the Casey Cardinia Region. The Railways have always been used for personal travel - to go to work, to go into Dandenong or Melbourne for reasons such as shopping or to access medical services - but they have also influenced the location and growth of towns, transported produce to markets and tourists to holiday destinations. We have had four railway lines traversing the region and three are still operating. The earliest line is the Gippsland line to Sale which was opened from Oakleigh to Bunyip in October 1877 and fully opened in 1879. The Great Southern line commenced construction in 1887 and was fully operational from Dandenong to Korumburra by June 1891. It was later extended to Port Albert. It now only goes as far as Cranbourne. The famous Puffing Billy line, officially called the Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook line, opened in December 1900. Finally the Strzelecki line from Koo-Wee-Rup to Strzelecki opened on June 29, 1922 and closed in stages until it was completely closed in February 1959.

Pakenham Up End Level crossing and Signal Bridge VPRS 12800/P5, item S 1376
The Railways effected settlement patterns in the region. Early towns, such as Cranbourne, Berwick or Pakenham, were established on roads or coach routes. Other towns, such as Gembrook or Emerald, developed around the nucleus of people who stayed in the area after the mining activities ceased. Some towns, such as Iona and Yallock, were part of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Village Settlement Scheme. When the Railways came they sometimes passed through the existing towns but often by-passed the town so new settlements developed around the Railway Station or Siding. For example, Pakenham East developed around the Railway Station, initially in opposition to the ‘old’ town of Pakenham which had developed around the La Trobe Inn (also known as Bourke’s Hotel) on the Gippsland Road, near the Toomuc Creek. Lang Lang grew around the Railway Station and superceded the original town of Tobin Yallock, on the South Gippsland Highway, to such an extent that by 1894 most of the businesses and public buildings had transferred to the new Lang Lang near the Railway Station. Finally, the Village Settlement of Yallock declined after the establishment of the Railway Station about a kilometre away. The Station was called Bayles and gave its name to the new settlement.

Cranbourne, South Gippsland Highway level CrossingVPRS 12800/P1, item H 5224

Cranbourne, South Gippsland Highway level crossing, R class steam locomotive departing left side including derm and trailerVPRS 12800/P1, item H 5222A
The Railways also opened up the area to industry. The Sale Line opened up the timber industry from Berwick to Bunyip. Officer’s Wood Siding opened in 1881 to enable firewood to be sent to Melbourne from William Officer’s property. The Cannibal Creek Siding was created in 1885 to accommodate Cannibal Creek Saw Mill Company. The townships which developed around these Sidings became Officer and Garfield. From the 1890s orchards were planted in the hills from Narre Warren North to Garfield and this produce was railed to Melbourne to be exported interstate and overseas.  Milk, livestock, and potatoes grown on the newly drained Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp were sent to market on trains from Catani, Bayles and Koo-Wee-Rup on the Strzelecki line and Garfield, Tynong and Nar Nar Goon on the Gippsland Line.  Timber products and potatoes were loaded at the Gembrook Station on the Puffing Billy line. Carl Nobelius, the founder of the Gembrook Nurseries at Emerald sent his trees sixteen miles to the Narre Warren Station by dray but when the Puffing Billy line was established he had his own Siding erected. At is peak, before the start of World War One; Nobelius had over three millions trees in various stages of cultivation for sale.

Berwick Station, Platform and Goods ShedVPRS 12903/P1, item Box 027/08
We tend to think of this area as only producing agricultural and horticultural products but the rail had a key role in the expansion of the Wilson Quarry at Berwick as the Quarry supplied the ballast for the Sale line. The trains transported bricks to Melbourne in the 1880s from the five brick works at Officer and Jefferson’s brick works at Garfield. Later on, sand from Sidings near Bayles was also transported by rail in the 1920s and 1930s and in Cranbourne, two spur lines were built to the sand mines around the town.

The third influence of the Railways had on this region was on the Tourist Industry.  An 1899 Guide Book to Upper Beaconsfield tells its readers of 'the reviving and restoring virtues of the Ranges' and talks about the scenic Gullies and Drives.  There is also railway timetable information for trains to the Beaconsfield Railway Station and a note that trains are met daily by coach to transport holiday makers to the Hills.

Tooradin was known as a “Sportsman’s Paradise” in the 1880s due to the fishing, quail shooting on Quail Island, deer shooting and other typical pursuits of the time. Sadly, for Tooradin, the Tooradin Station was built some kilometres out of the town which was on the South Gippsland Highway. But visitors were once again met by a coach at the Station to take them to their “Sportsman’s Paradise” at Tooradin.

Finally, the most obvious connection that Railways had to the Tourist Industry is the Puffing Billy train. The train was popular with the locals from the start and also opened up the area to holiday makers and week-enders. Due to declining revenue the line was recommended for closure in 1936 however a public outcry kept the line open for goods. A landslide near Menzies Creek, in August 1953, blocked the line and it was announced that it would close permanently in mid 1954, but once again the public rallied. The Puffing Billy Preservation Society (P.B.P.S) was formed in 1955 and operated Puffing Billy trains between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave until this part of the line was electrified. Work began to re-open the line beyond Belgrave by by-passing the land slide and laying new track and the Puffing Billy tourist line was officially opened to Menzies Creek in July 1962. Three years later in July 1965 Puffing Billy returned to Emerald, ten years later in 1975 to Lakeside and finally in October 1998 it returned to Gembrook. Puffing Billy has carried 8 million passengers since it re-opened in 1962 and is now a tourist destination in its own right.

Train narrow gauge, to excursion, Paradise , GembrookVPRS 12800/P1, item H 3075
The Casey Cardinia region would have developed without the Railways but settlement patterns would have been different, the region may not have been a leading producer of apples or dairy product or potatoes due to the problems in the early days of transporting these goods to market and even tourists would have found it more difficult to visit our natural features such as the hills and the coast without the Railway.

Alex Through the Looking Glass

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Alex Through the Looking-glass: how life reflects numbers and numbers reflect life by Alex Bellos

Bestselling author Alex Bellos takes you on a journey of mathematical discovery with his signature wit, engaging stories and limitless enthusiasm. 

As he narrates a series of eye-opening encounters with lively personalities all over the world, Alex demonstrates how numbers have come to be our friends, are fascinating and extremely accessible, and how they have changed our world. 

He sifts through over 30,000 survey submissions to reveal the world's favourite number. In Germany, he meets the engineer who designed the first roller-coaster loop, while in India he joins the world's highly numerate community at the International Congress of Mathematicians. He explores the wonders behind the Game of Life program, and explains mathematical logic, growth and negative numbers. Stateside, he hangs out with a private detective in Oregon and meets the mathematician who looks for universes from his garage in Illinois. 

Alex will get you hooked on maths as he delves deep into humankind's turbulent relationship with numbers, and proves just how much fun we can have with them.

This is an enjoyable trip through the world of numbers, describing how maths underpins our lives in so many ways.  He is enthusiastic making this book very easy to read and full of interest. There is a great deal of information about how we use numbers and what they mean to us, including the world's favourite number [7 of course] but there are also explanations of why we like one number more than another.  The book discusses fractals, trig baggers, genetics and triangles along with a myriad of other topics.  

The Man Who Disappeared

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The Man Who Disappeared by Clare Morrall

What would you do if, out of the blue, your reliable husband disappears? Then you are told he has been involved in money-laundering. Surely the man you know intimately couldn't be a criminal... could he? When Felix Kendall vanishes, his wife Kate is left in turmoil. As she and their children adjust to a hand-to-mouth existence, she looks back on her marriage and Felix's orphaned upbringing in search of clues, confronting the possibility that she has badly misread him. And as Kate gradually discovers strengths she never knew she had, many miles away Felix is coming to terms with just what he has done and lost. This compelling story of deception and self-deception, compromise and second chances questions how far we can know even those closest to us as it probes beneath society's veneer - in times of adversity, friends fall away and the most unexpected people step forward. 

Clare Morrall’s first novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, was published in 2003 and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She has since published: Natural Flights of the Human Mind, The Language of Others, The Roundabout Man and After the Bombing. [Click here to go to the catalogue.]

Morrall’s hallmark has been strength of characterisation and this book is no different, though I doubt it’s an award winner.  I did like it though; set in Exeter in the UK, it’s totally believable that these people and this situation could happen.  From Felix’s aged great aunts to 9-year old Rory and the adults and children in between, the characters are drawn well, their personalities natural and the settings believable.  Maybe this is why this book is not a stand out – it’s too normal, too urban, which probably means the author has done a fine job in absorbing us into her world and caring about the people we found there.  I borrowed the Playaway version, which was expertly narrated by the oh-so English Julia Franklin but we have this also in hard copy, large print and CD formats.  If you enjoy books about relationships and the human condition, this would be a good one to lose yourself in. 

In the Company of Cowards

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In the Company of Cowards by Michael Mori

The sorry saga of David Hicks is today perhaps just a distant memory of one of the repercussions of Presidents George Bush and John Howard’s “War on terror”, but this absorbing book by Michael Mori brings it all back. 

Michael Mori was the US Marine defence counsel assigned to provide representation to detainees held at the Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. David Hicks was his first client. This account tells of Mori’s long struggle for justice for Hicks against the monolithic US Department of Defence, and indeed, an Australian Government which refused to support the rights of an Australian citizen who was incarcerated in sub-human conditions, without charge, for 5 years. 

It is a story of Mori’s courage, persistence and eventual disillusionment with the institution he had signed up to fight for. It seems incredible that an Australian citizen was defended so steadfastly not by his own government but by someone in the employ of the government responsible for his imprisonment.

This is an amazing book which infuriates, amazes and enthralls from start to finish. 


Safe House

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Safe House by Chris Ewan  

From the cover:  When Rob Hale wakes up in a hospital after a motorcycle crash, his first thought is for the gorgeous blonde, Lena, who was on the back of his bike. The doctors and police, however, insist that he was alone at the scene. The shock of the accident must have made him imagine Lena, especially since his description of her resembles his late sister, Laura. Convinced that Lena is as real as he is, Rob teams up with Rebecca Lewis, a London-based PI who has a mysterious connection to Laura - and learns that even a close-knit community like the Isle of Man can hide dangerous secrets that will not stay safe forever.

Now here’s something different… The setting – the Isle of Man; the main protagonist – a plumber who is also a motor bike rider in the famous TT [touring] races; his home base – a seniors retirement home that his parents run; an underpinning story of Eco Warriors vs a Dutch oil baron; a sadistic American with a baseball bat;  a female Private Investigator who used to work for the British Government; and Rocky the dog.  The author MUST be a dog person because Rocky is a constant in the book, and does all the typical dog things!

This story took me back to a difficult time in my life in the eighties. I was having some serious surgery done when my ex-flatmate, Australian champion motorcycle racer Kenny Blake, crashed and died in the 1981 Isle of Man TT. That may have made this book more “moody” than perhaps it otherwise is and possibly coloured my opinion.  I felt quite flat at times, picturing the track, the roads, even the island itself.  

Moving right along, although quite complex the story is well paced, even if the Manx style of speaking is quite the opposite.  I borrowed this on Playaway [we have hard print, e-Audio and CD formats] and enjoyed how deftly narrator Simon Vance handled all the different accents, both male and female - it really adds to the atmosphere when it’s done well. Quite a different book, and quite enjoyable.


Reading Rewards - reviews -

Eyrie by Tim Winton

Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely, a man who's lost his bearings in middle age and is now holed up in a flat at the top of a grim highrise, looking down on the world he's fallen out of love with. He's cut himself off, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman he used to know when they were kids and her introverted young boy. The encounter shakes him up in a way that he doesn't understand. Despite himself, Keely lets them in. 

What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times - funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting, populated by unforgettable characters. It asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.
- - -

There is something about the way Winton writes that I find mesmerising. He always creates a sense of place so strongly that it isn’t hard to see the characters, feel their emotions and ride the precarious journey with them. Every page holds something to experience and his latest novel Eyrie is no exception.

This time we see protagonist Tom Keely, a disillusioned lobbyist and spokesman for an environment agency.  He has put himself on the line only to be rejected and dismissed.  His career is gone, his personal life a shambles.  He is an idealist who has lost everything …”just another flannel-tongued Jeremiah with neither mission nor prophecy, no tribe to claim him but family.”

Although Winton takes us to dark places in the human experience, there is always wit and astonishing insights. This is a great book for individuals, book clubs and general discussion.


The House of Grief

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This House of Grief by Helen Garner

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Father's Day, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner's obsession. She followed it on its protracted course until the final verdict. In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. She presents the theatre of the courtroom with its actors and audience, all gathered for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth, players in the extraordinary and unpredictable drama of the quest for justice.

I do not normally read crime books, or courtroom dramas, but I could not resist the latest book from Helen Garner, and it did not disappoint. Garner’s writing is exquisite – soulful, probing and, above all, incredibly sad. The horrific story of Robert Farquharson, who drove himself and his three sons into a dam on Father’s Day 2005 and left them to drown in the murky water captivated most of Victoria, mostly because no one could understand such a heinous act. Yet Garner’s tale of the long five year trial, while never excusing his actions, provokes questions about blame, justice and relationships. She makes the story one not only about Robert Farquharson but about the tragedy of broken families. It is a tragic and utterly compelling book.


Quicksand -

Author: Stephenie Meyer

This book is amazing . I love this book because it makes me feel in control and helps me feel nice about myself .


An Unsentimental Bloke

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An Unsentimental Bloke: The Life and Work of C.J. Dennis by Philip Butterss

The Sentimental Bloke and Doreen are famous characters in Australian popular culture, but their creator deserves to be better known. C.J. Dennis transformed the larrikin from a street thug into a respectable image of Australian identity, and helped shape the Anzac legend. An Unsentimental Bloke traces Dennis's early years in rural South Australia, his work on a 
bohemian newspaper in Adelaide and move to Melbourne as a freelancer for the Bulletin, his period of political involvement, followed by enormous successes (he was more popular than Banjo Paterson or Henry Lawson ever were), spectacular fall, and re-emergence as an elder statesman of Australian letters.

The popular view of C. J. Dennis is to liken him to the Sentimental Bloke of his famous books but Butterss gives a much fuller and therefore more realistic view of Dennis's life and work. He describes his early life and his attempts to find his place in life, his struggles with alcohol and depression, marriage, politics and financial dealings.  Dennis had enormous 
success and spectacular failures and this is an interesting and well researched book. A bit of added interest for Emerald Library patrons is the author's description of the time Dennis spent at Sunnyside in Kallista and the friends who joined him. 

The Story of Before

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The Story of Before by Susan Stairs

From the cover:  On New Year's Eve, eleven-year-old Ruth and her brother and sister sit at a bedroom window, watching the garden of their new Dublin home being covered in a thick blanket of snow. Ruth declares that a bad thing will happen in the coming year - she's sure of it. But she cannot see the outline of that thing - she cannot know that it will change their lives utterly, that the
shape of their future will be carved into two parts: the before and the after. Or that it will break her heart and break her family. This is Ruth's story. It is the story of before.

This debut novel was a great find! Beautifully written, it evoked many memories of childhood, particularly fighting with siblings (!). Set in the 1970s, the family has moved into a new housing estate, one the children freely roam during a long, hot summer.  Told through eleven-year-old Ruth's eyes, the arrival of baby brother Kevin is the turning point for her, along with trying to fit into the already closely formed friendship groups on the new estate.  

You can't help but pick up on the underpinning tension which increases as the family's lives begin to unravel at Hillcourt Rise.  Knowing there is worse to come keeps the pages turning, though this is far from being an action-packed novel. It is a slow progression that offers much to the reader - laughter, suspense, and heartbreaking sorrow.  An intelligent read and not one to rush through, The Story of Before is a moving and memorable first offering from this author. 

Patriotic Concerts

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

Not long after the  Great War commenced, communities had already began to hold concerts and events to raise money for the 'war effort'.  Here are reports about three  early concerts - one held at Berwick on August 26, 1914; Tonimbuk on October 3, 1914 and the other held at Koo-Wee-Rup on October 30, 1914. These reports are of interest for a number of  reasons - firstly they show how quickly small towns were to support the 'war effort.' Secondly, the reports provide an interesting snapshot of the social life of small towns at the time - who was involved and what songs and music were presented. Finally, they are interesting from a family history point of view - perhaps one of your ancestors or relatives were involved in the concerts. 

South Bourke and Mornington Journal September 3. 1914http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66186065
Bunyip Free Press October 8, 1914http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129629643

South Bourke and Mornington Journal  November 5, 1914http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66186454

Goblin in the Snow

Book Swamp -

Goblin in the Snow by Victor Kelleher

Gibblewort loves old Ireland.but when his friends send him off to Australia pretending it's Austria. He becomes a snow board champ and has loads of adventurers.
How good was it? Fantastic

Age: 9

Dexter, the series

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Dexter Morgan appears to be the perfect gentleman.  He leads a normal, quiet life working as a forensic officer for the Miami Police.  He has a nice, shy girlfriend and is liked by her young children.  But Dexter has a secret hobby. He’s an accomplished serial killer.  So far he’s killed dozens of people and has never been caught, because he knows exactly how to dispose of the evidence.  And there are those who would rather he wasn’t caught at all, because Dexter is a serial killer with a difference.  He only kills the city’s bad guys.  Then Dexter’s well-organised life is thrown into chaos.  Another serial killer is invading his territory - and he wants Dexter to come out and play.

Dexter Morgan is best known as the main character from the TV series “Dexter”, but he started his fictional life in Jeff Lindsay’s debut novel “Darkly Dreaming Dexter”.
I became aware of the novels at the time of the TV series first going to air in 2006.  As I found the idea of a serial killer that kills bad guys intriguing, I added them to my reading list. At that stage my list was way too long, so I didn’t take it any further than that.  Last year I finished watching the TV series, and like many viewers wasn’t thrilled with how it ended.  I finally got around to picking up the novel last month (and might admit to missing my regular dose of Dexter) and thoroughly enjoyed the read.  

Most of the book reads like Season 1 of the show, but it has a very different ending. I look forward to picking up the following books in the series.  The Dexter books are available in paperback, large print and audio book CD.  We also have all nine seasons of the TV series 
on DVD.

Charles Kingsford Smith ...

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Charles Kingsford Smith and Those Magnificent Men  
By Peter FitzSimons

From the cover:  Known to millions of Australians simply as 'Smithy', Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was one of Australia's true 20th century legends. In an era in which aviators were superstars, Smithy was among the greatest and, throughout his amazing career, his fame in Australia was matched only by that of Don Bradman. Among other achievements, Smithy was the first person to fly across the Pacific, he broke the record for the fastest flight from England to Australia, and at one point he held more long-distance flying records than anyone else on the planet. If that wasn't enough, Smithy was also a war hero, receiving the Military Cross for gallantry in action after being shot - and losing three toes - during one of many flying missions during World War I. Smithy was not the lone adventurer of the skies. Early aviation drew to it a company of daredevils who all challenged gravity and fear. This comprehensive biography, written with typical flair by bestselling author Peter FitzSimons, covers the triumphs and tragedies of not only Kingsford Smith's daring and controversial life but also those of his companion aviators.

Peter FitzSimons writes with his usual savoir-faire bringing history alive again with this fascinating story of pioneering aviation.  It’s a rollicking read – a great way to absorb some amazing facts from times gone by; and as usual, the epilogue makes absorbing listening as we get to find out where life’s journey took these aviators once their names were out of the headlines.  We have this title in all formats and DVD.  Highly recommended. 


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