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INVITATION - Special Author event!

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Bill Robertson is a local Melbourne writer and this is his second novel. For a great night out, come and meet Bill at the Endeavour Hills Library on Monday 7th November, 7.00-8.30pm. Books will be available for sale and signing during the evening. This event is free to attend but bookings are essential online at www.tinyurl.com/cclcevents or phone Endeavour Hills Library on (03) 8782 3400.

Fox by Bill Robertson

From the cover:  Colin Fox is an enigma. Part Scottish, part Aboriginal, as a child he is caught up in the Stolen Generation. What follows is a period of abuse and sorrow but Fox’s innate sense of decency and justice sees him not only survive but become a respected SAS warrior.  However fate deals Fox another bitter blow with the murder of his adopted family. Bikie gangs, gun running, dog fighting, and a mind that is pure evil cross his path in his quest for justice. Ultimately, Fox decides on the only law he can trust – his own.

Bill Robertson, a retired Assistant Commissioner of the Victoria Police, draws on his depth of police experience and indigenous research to provide readers with an intriguing tale. He masterfully tells the story of Colin Fox, a courageous and resilient young man who lives between two cultures. After residing in a few missions in Western Australia then going walkabout, Fox became part of a boxing troupe by the age of seventeen - he was a great fighter. As fate would have it, he reacquaints with one of the few authority figures who ever showed sincere kindness to him as a child - Caroline Connors, a policewoman with the West Australian police. Caroline and her family became instrumental in Fox joining the army. He was a gallant and clever fighter who later becomes a lethal SAS warrior. During this tale, there are other dark forces at play and what unfolds is both numbing, intriguing and horrific. It is a tale of bravery, resilience, revenge and persecution to the highest order.

~ Narelle

Map of Stars

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Mat of Stars by Catherine Law

Kent, 1939.  Eliza is to be married to Nicholas, her companion since she was a child. But when the pair are involved in a car crash, Eliza is rescued by a stranger, Lewis Harper, whose stunning eyes she will never forget. 

As the war begins, Eliza's world begins to fall apart: her beloved brother Martyn is killed in action, and her once-beloved husband grows increasingly distant. And then, when her efforts to help the Dunkirk evacuees take her to the south coast, she spots a familiar pair of eyes. Torn between passion and duty, Eliza must choose whether to follow her conscience or her heart. 

But wartime has plenty of its own dangers, and with spies infiltrating even the country houses of Kent, Eliza must find the courage to serve her country in even the most heart-breaking circumstances. 

I enjoyed the author's note at the end where she detailed that this was based on a true story of a homing pigeon, trapped and mummified in a British chimney, which fell onto the hearth bearing a WWII message container on its leg - the message still intact but alas, some 20 years too late.

Although the book centres mainly on the war years' characters and the courage of those at home, holding the fort so to speak and doing amazing work with the underground and resistance, it covers three generations of women - Mathilde, Eliza's French mother, Eliza herself, and her daughter, Stella, who brings the Beatles and flower power to their 400-year old Elizabethan country manor.  

Just as in life there are some heart-melting moments in this book, both sad and wonderful, and I think this is why I enjoyed it so much.  Love and duty, codes and spies - this tear-jerking wartime saga is superior to most I've read in this genre. 

~ Deb

Bunyip Byways Tourism map

Links to our Past - history -

I came across this Bunyip  Byways tourism map the other day. The Bunyip Byways was a joint tourism promotion from the City of Casey and the Cardinia Shire.

Click on the images to enlarge them.
Bunyip Byways was obviously established after December 15 1994 which is when the two Councils officially came into being, but I was unsure of the exact date. However, through the wonders of a Google search,   I came across a reference to it in the Village Bell, Issue 117 from August 1997. The Village Bell is a community newsletter, run by volunteers from the Upper Beaconsfield Association. This newsletter has been produced continuously since July 1978, a remarkable achievement. Not only that, but you can access them all on-line through the Upper Beaconsfield Association website  https://upperbeaconsfield.org.au/
The article by Jo Carter from the August 1997 Village Bell had this to say about the Bunyip Byways project:  You will have noticed the signs Bunyip Byways which have appeared throughout the Shire, signposting the Bunyip Byways Trail. In an endeavour to attract tourists to the area, the Casey Cardinia Tourism Association has drawn up a trail which promotes the many interesting features and places of natural beauty within our communities. The name 'Bunyip' (Buneep) is derived from a local WOONGI (aboriginal) legend of a mystical water-based creature TOO ROO DUN who lived in the great Koo-Wee-Rup swamp. The cost of the Trail has been met by grants from the Federal Department of Tourism, and Casey and Cardinia Councils. The Trail forms a circular route through Berwick, Harkaway, Cardinia Resevoir, Emerald, Cockatoo, Gembrook, Tynong, Bunyip, Garfield, Cora Lynn, Bayles, KooWee-Rup, Tooradin and Cranbourne. There is a Bunyip Byways tourism map available which will assist travellers to find both well known and lesser known places of interest to explore. The Beaconhills Golf Club and the local restaurant Japonica Jelly are noted on the map. And of course we have many walks in Upper Beaconsfield which are not mentioned in the Bunyip Byways Trails. "This area does have significant attractions and natural features," says Ian Hall of the Tourism Centre. "We want visitors to view the wildlife on the edge of the City, walk in the nature reserves and bushland, as well as try the wine, buy the antiques, visit the nurseries, eat the natural produce and relax in the many restaurants and pubs." The article finishes off with some contact details, which I wont list here, as the holders of  the phone numbers may well have changed in the past 20 years.
This edition also had an interesting article about Tasmanian Tigers in Upper Beaconsfield, hence the masthead of the newsletter.   

There is still a Bunyip Byways sign near the Cardinia Reservoir, on Wellington Road, but that's the only one I know, I should take  a photo of it one day to record it for posterity. And congratulations to the Village Bell team at the Upper Beaconsfield Association who have taken the time to not only produce a newsletter for nearly 40 years but to make the interesting local information available to everyone by digitising the editions and putting them on their website.

Order to Kill

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Order to Kill by Vince Flynn with Kyle Mills

This entry in the late Vince Flynn’s bestselling series, the first by Mills (who completed 2015’s The Survivor), pits CIA officer Mitch Rapp against Grisha Azarov, Russian president Maxim Krupin’s personal assassin, and for once Mitch isn’t the odds-on favorite. 

Krupin has an ingenious plan involving the theft of Pakistani nuclear warheads and the deployment of dirty bombs in Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. The goal is to destroy the Saudis’ capability and enhance Russia’s ability to fulfill the world’s need for oil. As always, foiling this scheme falls on Mitch’s legendary shoulders, and watching him go about his lethal business is just as compelling as when Flynn was doing the writing. Mitch has to deal with a tragic love interest, Leah; rescue his best friend, Scott Coleman; capture a stolen nuke; escape from ISIS-controlled Iraq; and defeat the most deadly foe he’s ever battled. No problem. Satisfied fans will hope that Mills will fulfill their continuing Mitch Rapp needs far into the future.

Why we love it: CIA operative Mitch Rapp is back and about to go deep, deeper than ever before. But when the mission is to go under cover as an American terror recruit, will he make it back in one piece? Or – literally – lose his head? Kyle Mills seamlessly picks up where the late Vince Flynn left off, taking readers on a thrilling, spook ride that skids through Russian conspiracies deep into ISIS territory, without pausing for breath.

~ The Team at Better Reading

Atomic Thunder

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Atomic thunder: the Maralinga story by Elizabeth Tynan

In September 1956 the first atomic test was conducted at Maralinga in South Australia by the British, six years after the Australian Prime Minister of the time, Robert Menzies, agreed to be the Britain’s guinea pig to see what effects atomic explosions would have on the land and the people who inhabited it. At the time virtually nothing was known of the damage nuclear bombs could cause, but Menzies was nevertheless willing to give the “Mother Country” carte blanche to see what would happen. 

The resulting desolation of the landscape, displacement of Indigenous peoples and crippling diseases contracted by servicemen who worked at Maralinga are positively scandalous. It took many years for the cover-up to be exposed and some measure of restitution to be instigated, yet there are still old men suffering from their involvement in the tests and the land is to this day poisoned and uninhabitable.

This is a shocking story but one every Australian should know about.

~ Teresa

Man Booker Prize

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Man Booker Prize 2016

Paul Beatty has become the first American writer to win the £50,000 Man Booker prize for a caustic satire on US racial politics that judges said put him up there with Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift.

The 54-year-old Los Angeles-born writer won for The Sellout, a laugh-out-loud novel whose main character wants to assert his African American identity by, outrageously and transgressively, bringing back slavery and segregation.

Beatty has admitted readers might find it a difficult book to digest but the historian Amanda Foreman, who chaired this year’s judging panel, said that was no bad thing.

“Fiction should not be comfortable,” Foreman said. “The truth is rarely pretty and this is a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon … that is why the novel works.

“While you’re being nailed, you’re being tickled. It is highwire act which he pulls off with tremendous verve and energy and confidence. He never once lets up or pulls his punches. This is somebody writing at the top of their game.”

~ Deb


Reading Rewards - reviews -

Zodiac by Sam Wilson

In a society divided along Zodiac lines, status is cast at birth – and binding for life. Who you are can be determined by a matter of days, hours, even minutes.

When a series of uniquely brutal murders targets victims from totally different signs, is it misguided revolution or the work of a serial killer? Even for the most experienced detectives, every once in a while a murder can shake them to the core. Like when the Chief of Police is killed in his own home.

They may disagree over whether the answers are written in the stars, but they are united by their belief that a grand plan is being executed ...

I approached this book in two minds ... it had the potential to be total trash or something else.  I think I'm heading more for the "something else" side of the scale.

I found it startlingly laugh out loud at times - the sheer nonsense of it all, like this:  "... she said in her Libran accent". How the hell you can gain an accent via astrology is mind boggling! The outrage that if you're an Aries you should only live in a certain part of town! That Aquarians are creative whack jobs who will never be considered for 'serious professions'! That a mother will undergo a C-section to avoid a child being born a certain star sign! "Oh god, darling, we don't want him being a Virgo!". It's all so laughable.  But ... 

Within this world, murders take place. The rich are Capricorn. The entire police force is Taurus. The 'enemy' is the sign most despised  - Aries, who by birthdate, education, and ghetto living, are doomed to a life of struggle, despair and prejudice. There is an uprising from the repressed, atrocities are committed ... Are you getting a terrible sensation of deja vu?  It's all familiar; brutality, segregation, brainwashing, murder, corruption, power and control.  

And it's all been done before, in life and in fiction, but never under a starry cloak like this. Zodiac is a clever crime thriller but in a really cringe-worthy way. 

~ Deb.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

A professor invites a colleague from the art department to his home to view a painting he has kept secret for decades - Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The professor swears it's a Vermeer, but why exactly has he kept it hidden so long? The reasons unfold in a gripping sequence of stories that trace ownership of the work back to Amsterdam during World War II and still further to the moment of the painting's inception. Each story is a luminous evocation of Dutch life, featuring people who have been touched by the painting’s seductive beauty and mystery, and whose defining moments take place in its presence.

This is a quiet novel about a Vermeer painting; each chapter goes back in time with each owner and their story until the moment he painted it. I found some chapters more engaging than others but a fabulous idea! Recommended for art lovers!

~ Pru

Irwin Brothers of Harkaway

Casey-Cardinia 1914-1918: the Great War -

This is another post about Brothers who enlisted - these are the Irwin Brothers of Harkaway. They were all born in Carlton to David Gray Irwin and Hannah Purser, who married in 1894. David and Hannah were farming at Harkaway but in 1918 moved to the suburbs (St Kilda, Caulfield areas) and he became a tramway employee, according to the Electoral Rolls. David died in 1928 aged 65 and Hannah died in 1934.

Dandenong Advertiser April 25, 1918http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88814737
Irwin, James Purser (SN 5035) James enlisted on January 20 1916 at the age of 20. He was a warehouseman. James served in France but  Returned to Australia on  August 27, 1917 and was medically discharged in January 1918 - he suffered from Psoriasis. In 1918 he married Daphne Idina (known as Ida) Mickle and they are  listed in the Electoral Rolls as living at Brighton for twenty years and then various other Melbourne suburbs, he was a Clerk.  James died in 1986. James' dairy recording his experiences in the War is held at the State Library of New South Wales and can be accessed here. He donated the diary to the Library in 1920. The Trustees of the Mitchell Library (as the State Library of N.S.W is known) started the Soldiers' Diaries Collection in 1918 - we are fortunate that they had the foresight to start this collection when many soldiers were still in possession of their diaries..

Irwin, Horace Mark  (SN 967) Horace enlisted on February 9, 1915 at the age of 18 years 8 months. He was an Orchardist.   David Returned to Australia on July 8, 1919. After the War, Horace married Mina Slater in 1922 and they lived in St Kilda and other suburbs.   Horace was a tramways employee, like his father, and died in 1972.

Irwin, Walter Gray (SN 968)  Walter enlisted on March 3 1915 at the age of 18 years and 7 months. He was  a farmer. Walter served at Gallipoli and Returned to Australia  February 8, 1916 and was discharged on medical grounds in the July of the same year. He suffered from 'Neurasthenia' which is now described as an obsolete term to cover lassitude, inability to concentrate, mental and or physical fatigue. Walter married Lena Petersen in 1918 and died in 1968. Walter and Lena lived in Bendigo and Tatura then in the mid 1930s moved back to Melbourne to Oakleigh. Walter was a 'traveller' or

Berwick Shire News July 12 1916http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92092893
A 'complimentary social' was held at Harkaway on July 8, 1916, with over 200 people present, to honour new recruits and also to welcome home Private Walter Irwin.
I can't quite work out the ages of Horace and Walter - according to the ages on their enlistment papers they were born two months apart which is clearly unlikely and the  Index to the Births, Deaths and Marriages says that Walter was born 1897 and Mark in 1896, so there was possibly  a mistake on the enlistment papers - if anyone knows the answer to this, I would love to find out.

With Love from the Inside

Reading Rewards - reviews -

With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die. On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter's voice and the final moment she'd heard anyone call her Mom. 

Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing - reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth. Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan's big house and even bigger bank account. Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down. No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart - not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her "synthetic" friends who live in her upscale neighbourhood. 

Grace's looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood. When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William's death seventeen years ago - proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever. Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers - before their time runs out.

With Love From the Inside by Angela Pisel captured my attention from the synopsis, but the story is so much more. Grace and Sophie (her daughter) tell their stories in alternate chapters. Grace maintains her innocence while sitting on death row and Sophie is trying to put her past behind her. Sophie has not seen her mother for years, and is now married to a successful surgeon from a prominent family - all of whom know nothing about Sophie's family. Sophie receives news from her attorney that her mother is going to be executed. She returns to her childhood home to try to find out the truth and see her mother one more time. 

This was a very emotional and thought-provoking story which kept me turning the pages. What Sophie discovers will tear at your heartstrings; it's hard to believe this was a debut novel. With Love from the Inside will appeal to readers of women's fiction and those who enjoy mother/daughter relationship stories.  Highly recommended, five stars from me.

~ Janine

"Settlers and Sawmills" and Bellbrakes, bullocks and bushmen" - the local timber industry

Links to our Past - history -

In this post we will look at two great local histories, both written by Mike McCarthy and published by the Light Railway Research Society of Australia  Settlers and Sawmills: a history of West Gippsland Tramways and the industries they served and Bellbrakes, bullocks and bushmen: a sawmilling and tramway history of Gembrook, 1885 - 1985.

I can't believe that I haven't spoken about these two books before because they are both fantastic local histories - meticulously  researched, great information, great photos, great maps and and they cover one of the very early primary industries in this region - the timber industry. Settlers and Sawmills looks at mills and tramlines at Beaconsfield, Officer, Pakenham, Nar Nar Goon, Tynong, Garfield and Bunyip and then continues down the road to Longwarry, Drouin, Warragul to Trafalgar. Bellbrakes, Bullocks and Bushmen covers Gembrook, Gembrook South and Beenak.

As I said before, apart from farming the timber industry was one of  first industries in this area and it was spurred on by the establishment of the Gippsland Railway line that was opened from Oakleigh to Bunyip in October 1877 and fully opened from Melbourne to Sale by 1879. This provided easy transport access to the Melbourne market which needed timber for houses, fences, fuel etc  Early mills that opened in the Gembrook area originally used this line until the Puffing Billy line or Gembrook line was officially opened on December 18, 1900.

Both Officer and Garfield began as railway sidings for the transport of locally harvested timber and then a settlement grew up around the sidings and the towns developed.

I do have a personal interest in this area of our history because my great grandfather, Horatio Weatherhead, and some of my great uncles, Fred, George, Arthur, Frank and Alf Weatherhead are mentioned in this book. Horatio was granted a 2000 acre (just over 800 hectares) sawmilling area at North Tynong in 1908 and the family moved their timber operations from the Wombat forest at Lyonville in 1909. His sons also operated their own mills and Arthur's sons Roy, Max and Cyril also operated a mill, which was worked solely by Roy until 1979.

The books extensively cover the tramways and the mills but also looks at some family history, railway history and the history of some of the local towns.
You can still buy these books from the  Light Railway Research Society of Australia  or you can borrow them from the library - click on the titles for availability  Settlers and Sawmills: a history of West Gippsland Tramways and the industries they served and Bellbrakes, bullocks and bushmen: a sawmilling and tramway history of Gembrook, 1885 - 1985. 

Jane Austen Writers' Club

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Jane Austen Writers' Club by Rebecca Smith

Jane Austen is one of the most beloved writers in the English literary canon. Her novels changed the landscape of fiction forever, and her writing remains as fresh, entertaining and witty as the day her books were first published. 

Bursting with useful exercises, beautiful illustrations and enlightening quotations from the classic author's novels and letters - and written by none other than Austen's five-times-great-niece - this book will teach you her methods, tips and tricks, from techniques of plotting and characterisation through to dialogue and suspense. 

Whether you're a creative writing enthusiast looking to publish your first novel, a teacher searching for further inspiration for students, or fan seeking insight into Austen's daily rituals, this is an essential companion, guaranteed to satisfy, inform and delight.

We don’t need to tell you how many spin-offs of Austen’s works there are –  some of them are wonderful works in their own right, others less so. But Rebecca Smith’s The Jane Austen Writers' Club: Inspiration and Advice from the World’s Best-Loved Novelist is another worthy addition. This time it’s not a work of fiction, but as evident from the title, it’s a creative writing guide.

Using her comprehensive knowledge of Austen’s works and surviving letters, Smith has created a series of interesting chapters examining many of the different aspects of a writer’s toolbox – plot, character, place, dialogue, point of view. Smith has constructed a delightfully user-friendly and enjoyable guide on the art of novel writing.

Why we love it: Another book inspired by the one of the world’s best-loved authors, Jane Austen? Don’t roll your eyes – for this is a must-read for any budding writer, who will find invaluable gems of advice, as well as compelling reading.

~from The Team at Better Reading

Passing Clouds

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Passing Clouds –a Winemaker’s journey by Graeme Leith.

Graeme’s memoir takes us from his rough and tumble boyhood and messing about with old cars and bikes to earning a living as an electrician and his involvement with the theatrical world of the Pram factory in Carlton, then his travels to England and Italy, where he had his first taste of wine! In the mid-1970s he and his partner established Passing Clouds vineyard in Victoria’s Spa Country, producing award-winning wines. In 1984, his family is struck by tragedy with the murder of his beautiful and talented daughter, Ondine.

The final sections of the book provide a fascinating insight for lovers of drinking wine into the intricacies of the winemaking process through their diaries of a typical year and finishing with an informative glossary of terms.

Humorous and heartbreaking, it tells of a life fully-lived, sheer hard work and optimism. His introduction explains how his intentions for writing the book grew from his 40 year involvement in wine-making to align them with his life experiences; he concludes: “…my own enthusiasm remains undiminished – the old stock horse still snuffling the battle with delight! He looks forward to each new vintage with a sense of anticipation of another new wine to taste, savour, drink and enjoy with friends –the best thing one can do with a bottle of wine!”

I really enjoyed reading this – a knock-about Aussie bloke applying himself as a tradesman and turning himself into a successful winemaker;  a life of fun, mateship and seasons of intense work but very able to convey the highs and lows -we chuckled at times, but felt for him too.  If you enjoy a glass of wine or two, reading this book will help you appreciate the winemakers and just what it takes to turn those grapes into wine!

~ Pru

The Wrong Girl

Reading Rewards - reviews -

The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster.

"Lily is a producer on a successful cooking segment for a daily morning show. The new chef has just arrived on set and he is drop dead gorgeous. And despite everything - the sabbatical that Lily and her flatmate Simone are taking from men, the fact that Jack is a work colleague - Lily falls head over heels for him. And while Lily battles her feelings, her flatmate Simone breaks their pact and starts dating some guy from her wholefoods shop. That guy turns out to be Jack. Up close, Lily bravely watches on as romance blossoms between Simone and Jack. Or does it? They don't seem to have much in common, apart from their striking good looks. And Lily and Jack just seem to get each other. Is that the same thing as falling in love? And could she ever dream of betraying a friendship?"
I was keen to read this book before the television series starts, because the book is always better than the movie! Zoe Foster Blake has written four commercial fiction novels as well as being a journalist and author of beauty books plus a book on dating, which she co-wrote with her husband comedian Hamish Blake.
Although this book would be classed as chick-lit, the characters within were quite likable and funny. Poor Lily seems to be always playing second fiddle to everyone - her gorgeous flatmate, her boss, her co-workers and her friends. I quite liked her and it was refreshing to read a book about morning television which we all watch while we are getting ready for work and having breakfast. She is under-appreciated and overworked but things pick up once the gorgeous celebrity chef Jack appears on the scene - and its her job to manage his cooking segment on the morning show. Of course there is a love triangle with her best friend Simone, and the book is pretty predictable but if you want a light-hearted read, then its worth picking up.
I will be watching to see how the television adaptation of this book goes. There will have to be a lot of new characters and storylines introduced to make it up to several episodes but it should be interesting, Jessica Marais is perfect for the role of Lily. 
We have this available in print and audiobook formats.
~ Janine

Flight to Coorah Creek

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover.

"What happens when you can fly, but you just can’t hide? Only Jessica Pearson knows the truth when the press portrays her as the woman who betrayed her lover to escape prosecution. But will her new job flying an outback air ambulance help her sleep at night or atone for a lost life?

Doctor Adam Gilmore touches the lives of his patients, but his own scars mean he can never let a woman touch his heart.

Runaway Ellen Parkes wants to build a safe future for her two children. Without a man—not even one as gentle as Jack North.

In Coorah Creek, a town on the edge of nowhere, you're judged by what you do, not what people say about you. But when the harshest judge is the one you see in the mirror, there's nowhere left to hide."

Author Janet Gover, while based in the UK, grew up in the Australian Outback and this is where she has based this rural story. Her heroine, Jess, is a pilot and she takes a job in the mining town of Coorah Creek to fly an emergency response plane for the local hospital. There’s a secret in her past that’s eating at her and is the reason she’s fled a glamorous city lifestyle, and boyfriend, to such a remote location.

Adam, the local doctor also has a tragic past and the story of how these two wounded souls get together is beautifully crafted. There’s a diverse cast of secondary characters who easily trap you into caring about their lives. The romance between the abused wife, Ellen and aircraft mechanic, Jack is just heartwarming. The location is also a character in itself, providing the isolated setting and the tyranny of distance when there’s an emergency.

I listened to this on audiobook which was narrated by Federay Holmes, but its also available to read in Large Print.

~ Janine


Reading Rewards - reviews -

Home is the latest (and 11th title) in the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben. Myron Bolitar is a former sports star, sports management representative and all round investigator.   But in Home, his friends come into the picture much more, in a very interesting way.....

From the book: "A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: what can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend?"

Harlan Coben is master of the mystery twists and he even outdoes himself on this one.  Although Win is usually a supporting character, he takes a more leading role in this story, even to the point of having a few chapters coming from him in first person narrative.

The mystery is amazing, the story twisting and turning, but as always, Coben takes it where you don't necessarily expect, but Wow he does it well and as always, still in a way that is totally believable.

I loved the way the story turned, although shocked, I appreciated the ending and the revelations of the relatioships that come out in Win' perspective are just mind-blowing.

If you love a good mystery, then I can't recommend Harlan Coben or Home enough - you don't necessarily need to have read any of the other Myron Bolitar stories to appreciate the story. If you love Harlan Coben, you are going to love this ride!

~ Michelle

Only Daughter

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared. She'd been enjoying her teenage summer break: working at a fast-food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen — blood in the bed, periods of blackouts, and a feeling of being watched. 

Eleven years later she is replaced. A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec. Soon the imposter is living Bec's life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends' names. Playing with her twin brothers. But Bec's welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the impostor dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter — and soon realises that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger. In this chilling psychological thriller, one woman's dark past becomes another's deadly future.

Why we love it: A startlingly good thriller set not in Stockholm, the home counties of England or east coast USA, but in… Canberra, Australia! Yep, that’s right. Only Daughter is the stunning crime fiction from the new kid on the block, Australian debut author Anna Snoekstra.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Out of bounds

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Out of bounds is the latest from Val McDermid, author of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series (basis for the Wire in the blood TV series), the Kate Brannigan series, the Lindsay Gordon series and more.

Out of bounds brings us back to Polis Scotland Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie.

From the book: "There were a lot of things that ran in families, but murder wasn't one of them ...' When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it's as twisted as the DNA helix itself. Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistible..."

I am a fan particularly of McDermid's Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series, but she writes a good story regardless of who the leading character(s) is and this book is no different.

Karen is not a sexy character, but she is hard working, dedicated, committed, determined and I found myself barracking for her all the way.   She is smart, working within a system that is portrayed as unhelpful to her work, but she has allies - characters who are also well written and relatable.

Two cases make up the focus of this story and McDermid intertwines them nicely, so that I never felt lost or confused as to where we were at.  She leads us through a range of potential suspects and although I had an inkling early on as to who the real culprit might be, I was never totally sure until the very end, as she threw in a couple of 'curve-balls' that made me think again.

I love a good mystery and a good detective story and got that in spades here.  Being a cold case made it all the more challenging, but McDermid is a wonderful storyteller and rose to the challenge admirably.  It is not the first title with Karen Pirie, but you don't need to have read any of McDermid's other titles to appreciate it. I highly recommend it.

~ Michelle

Dark Tides

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Dark Tides by Chris Ewan

When Claire Cooper was eight, her mother disappeared during Hop-tu-naa, the Manx Halloween. When Claire was 18, she and her friends took part in a Hop-tu-naa dare that went terribly wrong. Now that she is in her early 20s and a police officer, what happened that Hop-tu-naa night has come back to haunt them all, and Claire must confront her deepest fears in order to stop a killer from striking again.

The title of this book is spot on as there are many aspects that sweep us along through the story, so if you're looking for something a bit different in the thriller/murder genre, this could fit the bill.  

Firstly it's set on the Isle of Man and features quite a lot of the local sites/scenery, and of course, the famous TT motorbike race gets a mention or two. Secondly it features teenagers doing dares and exploring their sexuality; to them coping with a moral dilemma after a dare takes a very wrong turn; to them growing older, questioning things and searching for excuses? blame? answers?  

There are some interesting characters in this story - the classic creepy rich man and his sickly son kept locked away in an mansion; "poor Claire" who is always at odds with her agegroup after her mother disappears; her friend who makes-up, dresses, and acts way beyond her years, dragging Claire into her escpades; and the heartbroken father who cannot cope with life since his wife vanished.

There are a couple of story threads winding in an out which all tie together neatly at the end, but don't be fooled, there's a classic, one of those "whoa, I-didn't-see-that-coming" scenarios just to cap things off nicely.  I borrowed the audio book which was narrated perfectly by Alex Tregear, her multi-accents both male and female delivered with aplomb!

~ Deb  

Indoor green: living with plants

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Indoor Green: Living with Plants  by Bree Claffey

For centuries, plants have transformed interiors. Today the plant-filled home is an inspiration to every avid shelter-blog reader or expert Pinterest-board maker. Author Bree Claffey journeys into the interior worlds of fellow plant lovers to explore the enduring attraction of houseplants. From the ever-reliable peace lily and beguiling fiddle leaf fig to the elusive Chinese money plant, Indoor Green makes it obvious that even the humblest greenery can transform a home. 

Houseplants encompass the art of decorative arrangement and add romance to any room. Within the pages of Indoor Green gorgeous photographs of interiors from across the globe, divided into chapters such as "Plant Music," "How to Grow Fresh Air," "Plant Portraits," and more, make the magic easy to replicate in one's own home. Interviews of indoor green enthusiasts appear alongside the images, as well as tips on caring for plants and an index of plant varieties. More than good-looking props, plants are living, growing, joyful things rooted in community and creativity, and are easy to introduce into any home and lifestyle. 

This is a beautiful book. The result of a plant loving former farming girl from Sale. Bree Claffey is now the owner of a hipster nursery come homewares space in Brunswick.

I love the aesthetic of this book. It harks back to the 1970s when indoor plants were a cheap student way to decorate your space. A time that taught me about plants and developed a love for them. The book explores the homes, shops restaurants of botanists, scientists, collectors and lovers of all things green.

A book to enjoy, by a window with the Winter sun streaming in.

~ Sandra


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