9.1.17

Murder under the Christmas Tree

Christmas is well and truly over, but the Christmas themed stories are evergreen, as is this new anthology of ten classic crime stories.

"Murder under the Christmas tree" is a compilation of short stories from the classic crime writers including Conan Doyle, Ranking, Sayers, McDermid, Allingham and more.

From the blurb: Murder most festive...A locked room mystery solved with a flourish on Boxing Day. Blackmail on Christmas Eve.A missing jewel discovered in a very festive hiding place.A body slumped in a chair on Christmas morning, still listening to carols.The midnight theft of a gift intended for a saint. Crime doesn't take a holiday, so these - and many more - are the puzzles that make up Murder under the Christmas Tree, a collection of festive mysteries featuring fictional sleuths from Lord Peter Wimsey to Sherlock Holmes, Cadfael to Father Brown. This is the very best of Christmas murder and mayhem - so settle into your armchair, put another log on the fire and take a bite of your mince pie. Just make sure it's not poisoned...

Interestingly, the stories were all mysteries but not all murders, but this does not detract from their quality one bit.  The stories were short, bite-sized pieces that are excellent stories from a wide range of perspectives within the mystery genre and most enjoyable.

If you like the classics, both older and modern and love a taste of mystery, then I highly recommend "Murder under the Christmas Tree".

~ Michelle

20.12.16

RR's Best Reads of the Year

It’s December, holiday time, and time for Reading Rewards blog to go into hiatus to hopefully emerge with a sparkling, shiny-bright makeover in 2017.  Our dynamic team has enjoyed bringing you reviews on what we’ve been listening to or reading, some inspiring and memorable, some not quite delivering (but it’s always interesting to hear about those too!); plus news on our library homefront and in the wider writing world.

So, as we pack our library bags and head off for a well-earned break, we are chuffed to once again present our followers’ most favourite post – The RR Team’s Best Reads of the Year.   Without further ado ...

Ali:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The storyline of this Pulitzer prize winning novel is very strong and easy to be swept up in. The chapters are structured so that the reader alternates between the two main stories and the chapters are short. The setting of Europe throughout the War added drama and intensity. The writing is beautiful; the imagery is finely observed and thrown into the mix is a diamond mystery. I loved the thread about radio transmitters, sound and communication. All the Light We Cannot See was a hugely enjoyable read and it was great to find a book which was hard to put down. A must read!

Janine:  Journey’s End by Jennifer Scoullar

Great Australian rural fiction!   It's a story of friendship, renewal, racism, war, wild life rescue, rainforest, love and environmental issues. Jennifer Scoullar writes with such knowledge about environmental matters. I was glued to this book and really didn't want it to end.

Leanne:  A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

A Boy Made of Blocks tells the story of a father's struggle to reconnect with his wife and understand his autistic son, Sam. He somewhat reluctantly begins to play the online game “Minecraft” with Sam, and through this begins to understand himself and make the connections with his family that had been missing.  It is a beautiful, well-written debut novel that captures the struggles of family life, and leaves you feeling that it will all work out in the end.

Michelle:  Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Harlan is a master mystery writer, but he surpassed even my highest expectations with this one!  Gripping, scary, twisting and turning and ultimately tragic, it was a ‘can’t put it down’ read.  In a year where I read some great stories, this was the standout best!



Narelle:  Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald

I love a good psychological thriller and this book did not disappoint. It was a debut novel for Siobhan MacDonald and the plot was fresh and different. It is a story of two families in crisis who decide that a family holiday will be the answer to their problems. Both families decide on a home-exchange holiday, which does not resolve the family problems they were hoping for, but rather manifests more! Secrets are gradually revealed as MacDonald takes us chapter by chapter through the lives of the four main characters; Kate and Mannix O’Brien and Hazel and Oscar Harvey. It is great the way MacDonald provides us with individual perspectives on each character, building up a story that provides both intrigue and shock for the reader. The end of the story left me speechless and begging for more!

Pru:  Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

Instantly recognisable, Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece depicts a gathering of friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine near Paris. What a lovely idea – exploring a beautiful painting and how it came to be painted and in so doing, we glimpse Renoir's struggles to capture the light of the moment so important to the lmpressionist movement. 

The back stories to the varied models are fascinating and Vreeland convincingly weaves them together with conversations over their delectable long Sunday lunches while the languid Seine and its boating activities enliven the backdrop.  A must read for lovers of fine food, art and culture.


This is the hilarious follow up to David Hunt’s “Girt”, and covers the period of early Australian European settlement. Brainless explorers who took off totally unprepared for their expeditions; inane Governors who hadn’t a clue how to run a new colony; bushrangers committing acts of robbery and mayhem who somehow became folk heroes; and dispossessed indigenous peoples fast being “assimilated” into white society all feature in Hunt’s acerbic yet uproarious tale of the first hundred years in the “new” colonies. Although mainly one for Australian history buffs, those interested in a modern day twist on the “History wars” will love it too.

Deb:  The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace

If you’re looking for something a bit left-field, distinctly quirky, with a touch of the Gaiman-esque about it, do we have the book for you!  The Finding of Martha Lost was such a delight, quite a surprising read really.  The story is set in Liverpool’s Lime Street Station with two main threads holding your attention:  Martha - a baby abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris, and a missing suitcase purporting to belong to The Beatles.  (This part is based on a true story to do with the ashes of Liverpool legend Mal Evans, the Beatles' roadie and mate who was shot dead in America. His ashes went missing during the journey home to Liverpool. )

Beautifully written with both the setting and the era (1976) depicted perfectly, the main characters are wonderfully drawn.  It’s not literature and it’s not meant to be.  It’s just a whimsical, entertaining novel that makes you so glad Martha Lost found her way into your world.

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All our best wishes for the festive season and as always ... Happy Holiday Reading from the RR Team!  Catch up with the new look RR next year!

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~ Deb


19.12.16

Mistletoe murder

Getting into the Christmas spirit and wanting to try a little of an author that I had not read before, led me to The Mistletoe Murder and other stories, by P.D. James.

From the blurb: As the acknowledged 'Queen of Crime', P. D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special short story for Christmas. Four of the best of these have been drawn from the archives and published here. P. D. James's prose illuminates each of these perfectly formed stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. While she delights in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at family gatherings, her Christmas stories also provide tantalizing puzzles to keep the reader guessing.

I love a good mystery, but had not yet made my way to P.D. James work.  The Mistletoe Murder and other stories gave me a 'sampler' - the four short stories were interesting, miniature puzzles within themselves and gave me a taste for the writing and characters of P.D. James.

The stories were short and it was easy to get lost in each one. The situations she came up with were intriguing and the twists she caught you with were delightful.  After this short exposure, I can understand why P.D. James has such a following.

If you are a P.D. James fan, you will love seeing how she engages with the short form.  As short mystery stories, they are hard to surpass in quality.  Or if you like a good challenge, these short stories will have you thinking about who the real culprit is.

Most enjoyable.

~ Michelle

15.12.16

A Mother's Story

A Mother’s Story by Rosie Batty

At the start of 2014, Rosie Batty was an ordinary single mum doing everything in her power to give her son, Luke, the very best life she could. But her world changed forever when her troubled ex-partner, Greg Anderson, killed Luke in an horrendous attack at the local cricket ground in February that year. Rosie had suffered years of family violence, and had intervention orders in place in an effort to protect herself and her son. She believes the killing was Greg's final act of power and control over her. But Rosie would not be silenced. 

Since the events of last February, she has become an outspoken crusader against family violence, winning hearts and minds all over Australia with her compassion and her courage. In January 2015, she was named Australian of the Year. 

Rosie Batty has had to endure much in her life and the murder of her son, Luke, was the straw that broke the camels back. She somehow was able to harness the sadness and frustration and through a period when most people would be quietly grieving, she got to work speaking out about domestic violence. This incredible inner strength resulted in her being named Australian of the Year for 2015. This is an honest book about her tragic and triumphant life circumstances.

~ Ali

14.12.16

Vic. Premier's Awards shortlist

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour literary achievement by Australian writers. The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

The winners of the five award categories – fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and writing for young adults – each receive $25,000 and go on to contest the Victorian Prize for Literature. 

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards include two further awards: the Unpublished Manuscript Award and the biennial Award for Indigenous Writing. The 2016 Unpublished Manuscript Award was won by Melanie Cheng for Australia Day, while Tony Birch's Ghost River won the 2016 Award for Indigenous Writing. For the first time this year, these two additional awards will both join consideration with the other five category winners for the Victorian Prize for Literature.

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 31 January 2017.

Making the shortlist are:

Fiction:

Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain
The Healing Party by Micheline Lee
Wood Green by Sean Rabin
Waiting by Philip Salom 
The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong
The Love of a Bad Man by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Non-fiction:

Songs of a War Boy by Deng Adut with Ben Mckelvey
The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke
The Killing Season Uncut by Sarah Ferguson with Patricia Drum
Offshore: Behind the wire on Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson
Position Doubtful by Kim Mahood
The Fighter by Arnold Zable 

Participate in the awards by voting for your favourite work on the shortlist at http://www.wheelercentre.com/projects/victorian-premier-s-literary-awards-2017
The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be named alongside the general category winners, and will receive $2,000.

Deb

13.12.16

Mad Enchantment

Mad EnchantmentClaude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King 


Who, more than 100 years after their painting, isn’t aware of Monet’s Water Lilies, their distinctive mauve and green colours, the Japanese bridge, the weeping willows? But fewer know the compelling story behind the passion that drove Monet, in his seventies, to create them.

Monet had already made money, achieved considerable fame and had made his mark on the international art scene as one of the founders of the Impressionist movement. But even so Monet was driven to achieve more, beginning work on what would become some of the most recognisable paintings of the twentieth century, the Water Lilies.

In the midst of the First World War that held such horrors for France, afflicted by personal grief after losing his second wife and his eldest son, and anguished by failing vision – he who was famed for colour perception – Monet became consumed by what Ross King calls his ‘Mad Enchantment'.

Why we love it: Ross King’s latest biography, Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies, is an intriguing insight into the world of the French Impressionist artist Claude Monet and his best-loved works.

~ From The Team at Better Reading


12.12.16

About a Boy

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

How cool was Will Freeman? 
Too cool! At thirty-six, he's as hip as a teenager. He's single, child-free, goes to the right clubs and knows which trainers to wear. He's also found a great way to score with women: attend single parents' groups full of available (and grateful) mothers, all hoping to meet a Nice Guy.
Which is how Will meets Marcus, the oldest twelve-year-old on the planet. Marcus is a bit strange: he listens to Joni Mitchell and Mozart, looks after his mum and has never owned a pair of trainers. But Marcus latches on to Will - and won't let go. Can Will teach Marcus how to grow up cool? And can Marcus help Will just to grow up? 

Nick Hornby’s stories are always good value. Filled with humour, the characters here are real and relatable. Hornby has an acute observational knack, drawing complete characters, even the more minor ones.  Twelve-year-old Marcus is a bit odd yet endearing. Will is a try-hard looking for his next shag. Will believes that single mums are the go and attends a SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together) meeting which inadvertently leads him to meet Marcus. The two of them together initially bumble their way through major communication blockages to ultimately form an affectionate and honest friendship. 

I listened to the e-audio version which had many laugh-out-loud moments and was wonderfully narrated by Stephen Mangan. Highly recommended. 

~ Ali

9.12.16

Where the Trees Were

Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson

"All in?" Kieran pulled me up, and the others followed. We gathered around the bigger tree. No one asked Matty - he just reached up and put his right hand on the trunk with ours. Kieran cleared his throat. "We swear, on these trees, to always be friends. To protect each other - and this place."

Finding those carved trees forged a bond between Jay and her four childhood friends and opened their eyes to a wider world. But their attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster, and that one day on the river changes their lives forever. 

Seventeen years later, Jay finally has her chance to make amends. But at what cost? Not every wrong can be put right, but sometimes looking the other way is no longer an option.

Another great read from Inga Simpson – her passion for nature and her wonderful ability to transport the reader to any location she chooses to write about is to be commended. Plus she artfully captures the innocence of childhood perfectly! 

The story is told in dual time zones (childhood 1980’s and current 2000’s) and explores such issues as the conservation/preservation of art and cultural objects/return of significant cultural artefacts to original owners, Indigenous rights, land rights, drugs in sport, the difficulties facing Australian farmers and country towns, Australian foreign affairs and terrorism, illegal fishing …  There is so much in this book!  

The writing is beautiful, and her descriptions of places, people and habitat is a joy to read. This is an exceptional book that can be read on many levels; a coming of age story of the children, the coming of age of Australia. It kept me turning the pages until I finished.  

~ Janine

8.12.16

Lyrebird

Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern

Tom Toolin, who together with his twin Joe were the focus of an acclaimed documentary by production team Mouth to Mouth, has passed away.  Bo, a ruthless director hell-bent to have another success (much to the disgust of her sound director boyfriend Solomon and camera women Rachel) is determined to film the funeral and life of Joe Toolin after his twin's death. What they did not expect to find were clues to a secret that leads them to discover a young woman living alone on the Toolin twin's property.

Strikingly beautiful, Laura has an extraordinary talent for mimicry, like the famous Australian Lyrebird. Bo, determined that this will be her next big project, immediately goes into action and manipulates Laura into doing a documentary. However, Solomon feels more than just a professional interest in Lyrebird, as something deep inside him changes at her smile and he falls deeply under her spell...

Why we love it: The author who had us in tears in P.S. I Love You captivates once again with the magical story of a woman named Lyrebird.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

7.12.16

Rough Diamond

Rough Diamond by Kathryn Ledson

Funny, romantic, and action-packed, Rough Diamond introduces Australia's own Stephanie Plum - the unforgettable Erica Jewell. The shock ending to Erica Jewell's marriage left a huge hole in her bank balance and a bigger one in her heart. And now her life goals make a very short list: no surprises, no debt and, definitely, no men.

I love reading a good book set in Melbourne; you recognise the suburbs and even some of the streets. Rough Diamond is a fun, fantastic, romantic story. It is hard to believe this was a debut novel and now there are two other books in this series! 

The story is interesting and well paced, balanced between Jack and Erica Jewell's interactions and a background terrorist plot. I laughed out loud more than once as I was reading, from the start when Erica finds a man with a gunshot injury on her front porch to when she ends up being the "accidental sleuth". This story engaged me from the first page and kept me absorbed to the last. Erica's terrace house in Richmond, her boss' Toorak mansion, Jack's upmarket Brighton pad, The Tan jogging track, Moorabbin Airport (about spitting distance from where I lived as a child!), the Sydney Opera House and Blue Mountains, all locations familiar to me so I could picture everything that happens as if I was there.  If you are looking for a light hearted cozy mystery then this is the book for you! 

You can hear all about Kathryn Ledson's writing journey in person when she and three other fabulous Aussie authors - Jennifer Scoullar, Margaret Osborn and Kate Belle - visit Cranbourne Library, 7.00-8.30pm on 16 February 2017 - Drinks, nibbles and door prizes included.  No cost but bookings are essential at www.tinyurl.com/cclcevents.
  
~ Janine


6.12.16

Luncheon of the Boating Party

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

From the cover: Instantly recognisable, Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece depicts a gathering of friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine near Paris. They share a moment of la vie moderne, a time when social constraints were loosening and Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian war. Renoir took on this most challenging project at a time of personal crises in art and love. Written from the views of Renoir and seven of the models, Vreeland paints their lives and loves with a gorgeous palette of vibrant captivating characters in a brilliant portrait of her own.

This is a lovely idea – exploring a beautiful painting and how it came to be painted and in doing so we glimpse Renoir's struggles to capture the light of the moment so important to the lmpressionist movement. 

The back stories to the varied models are fascinating and Vreeland convincingly weaves them together with conversations over their delectable long Sunday lunches while the languid Seine and its boating activities enliven the backdrop.  A must read for lovers of fine food, art and culture.

~ Pru 

5.12.16

Peas & Queues

Peas & Queues: the minefield of modern manners by Sandi Toksvig


How do you get rid of unwanted guests? What do you do if there's a racket in the quiet carriage? Who are you supposed to kiss - and is it one kiss or two? How to behave, like how to punctuate, is an aspect of life that many are no longer taught - and getting it wrong is the stuff of comedy at best and humiliation at worst.

Thankfully, Sandi Toksvig has come to the rescue with her entertaining guide to modern manners, with tips on what to do whether you're talking to a bore, or forgot their name in the first place.

If you're a fan of the tv show QI hosted by Stephen Fry, you will be familiar with the inimitable Sandi Toksvig, the pint size performer with the razor-sharp intelligence and quick wit.  She is one of the rare people who can spontaneously drop quotes from Erasmus to Barak Obama while parlezing double entendres with one arm tied behind her back.  A gifted author of both adult and children's book, prolific traveller with a portmaneau of tales tall and true, radio and tv performer, Peas & Queues is not really what you expect from her.

Liberally sprinkled with Toksvig-isms and peppered with a disappointingly small number of witticisms, this book is actually hard work. It's not the most rivetting of subjects so I was expecting it to be more humorous, more laugh out loud, but it is actually a real "how to" or rather "don't do this" - yes, from how to set a table (I had never heard of 'fork only has four letters, the same as roll, so a dinner roll is set to the left on the fork side, whereas knife has five letters and so does glass, so a glass is set to the right above the knife position'.)  Wow.  

All in all, perhaps a book to dip into when you need some advice on the lost art of manners, but definitely not one for the long-haul read.  I borrowed the audio version which is narrated by the author - it's just soooo Sandi.  And I like her.  Many don't.  We have this title in print, large print, audio CD and Playaway formats.

~ Deb

2.12.16

Four legendary kingdoms

The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly is the latest in the Jack West series.  In reading the usual roller coaster ride that is a Matthew Reilly title however, I discovered that you don't have to have read the others in the series, to understand and enjoy this new adventure.

From the blurb: Jack West Jr and his family are living happily on their remote farm......when Jack is brutally kidnapped and he awakes in an underground cell to find a masked attacker with a knife charging at him. Jack, it seems, has been chosen - along with a dozen other elite soldiers - to compete in a series of deadly challenges designed to fulfill an ancient ritual. With the fate of the Earth at stake, he will have to traverse diabolical mazes, fight cruel assassins and face unimaginable horrors that will test him like he has never been tested before. In the process, he will discover the mysterious and powerful group of individuals behind it all: the four legendary kingdoms. He might also discover that he is not the only hero in this place...

Matthew Reilly began his writing journey as a self-published author and every one of his books takes you on a roller coaster ride of adventure, puzzles, heroes and villains and overcoming evil.  I have read all of his books and have even seen him speak so am always happy to get my hands on a new title by him.

What I discovered with Four Legendary Kingdoms was that I didn't always like the way the story went, or how it was written, but I still could never just put the book down!

Having said that, the story was great, the challenges amazing, the whole scenario both fascinating and disturbing and the whole secret twist....... well enough said.  I don't like roller coasters much in real life, but I love Matthew Reilly's books because he really takes you for an awesome ride - compelling through every dip and peak.

If you love adventure, challenges, puzzles, heroes overcoming villains (in often very imaginary ways), then you'll love Jack West Jr in Four Legendary Kingdoms.  And if you enjoy this, you can go back and read the other Jack West stories and try out Matthew Reilly's other titles, including other compelling heroes.

~ Michelle


30.11.16

EVENTS, HOURS & CHRISTMAS

Hello from the RR Team!  It’s  that time of year and our libraries are busting at the seams with the magic of Christmas, great holiday reads and entertainment, some wonderful events to pop in your diary and a look at a couple of brilliant author events heading our way in early 2017.  All these are listed in the column at the left, below our operating hours, just scroll down to catch up on what’s what.  Our Christmas brochure detailing ALL events can be found at www.cclc.vic.gov.au

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR GIVING 

Forgiving Trees have been established at all our libraries in the lead up to Christmas.  We are encouraging people to contribute items of food or unwrapped gifts for those in need of support. If donors have library fines or lost fees due to Casey Cardinia Libraries, we will waive their fees in acknowledgement of their generosity.

CEO, Chris Buckingham said: “This is the season for giving and we want people across our community to know that if they pay it forward and help out others, we will return the favour.”

The Forgiving Tree is a golden opportunity for library members with overdue items or fines to wipe the slate clean and feel good about it. 

“By waiving fines and encouraging people to visit our libraries we can bring people together and help celebrate the best things about community life in Casey Cardinia”, said Chris.

The Forgiving Tree campaign will run from December 1– 24 and all donated goods will go to local charities. Donated non-perishable food needs to have its packaging intact with best before dates in 2017. Christmas gifts must be new and unwrapped.

STAY TUNED …
The Reading Rewards Team will soon be presenting the most popular post of the year – Our FAVE READS for 2016!!!

~ Deb.

29.11.16

A Chance of Stormy Weather

A Chance of Stormy Weather by Tricia Stringer

Paula, an independent Sydney girl, has had a rocky past with men.  Then, at a friend's wedding, Paula meets Dan. He is ruggedly handsome with a smile that leaves her weak, but there's just one problem - he's a farmer. Within an month they're engaged, and much to the distress of her parents, have a hasty wedding. Paula moves to South Australia to live on Dan's farm and is looking forward to a fresh start in the country but as 'new blood', she has no idea what she's in for.

It soon becomes very clear to Paula that the life of a farmer's wife will be harder than she thought. Dan's aunt Rowena is a blunt, ruthless woman who leaves Paula feeling unnecessary (especially on the farm), there's a beautiful woman named Katherine who keeps appearing at every turn, Dan is constantly out working late hours, and, to make matters worse, her new home is infested with mice. Paula's days soon run together and the isolation begins to set in - was this what she signed up for?

Why we love it: Tricia Stringer takes us to outback Australia in a page-turning rural romance with characters we invest in wholeheartedly.

~ by The Team at Better Reading

28.11.16

Only Ever You

Only Ever You by Rebecca Drake

Three-year-old Sophia Lassiter disappears at the playground only to return after 40 frantic minutes but her mother Jill's relief is short lived. Jill is convinced the tiny dots on her daughter's arm are puncture marks. When doctors find no trace of drugs in her system, Jill accepts she won't ever know what happened during her daughter's absence and is simply grateful to have her home safely. Except Sophia isn't safe. 

Three months later, she disappears again. This time from her bed at home, in the night. Working with the police and the community, Jill and her husband David are desperate to bring their little girl home. They remain hopeful until information turns up suggesting their daughter was murdered, causing the police to turn their suspicions on the parents. Facing ugly family secrets and heart-rending evidence, Jill is still convinced her daughter is alive. But when the dragnet begins to close around them, Jill realizes the worst: if the police believe she has killed her daughter, that means they aren't out there looking for the real perpetrator. They aren't hunting for Sophie or the person who still has her.

Jill and David Lassiter face every parent’s worst nightmare, their child disappearing from their home while sleeping one night. It is a calculated and meticulously planned abduction which brings suspicion on the nearest and dearest to the child, the parents. The story is told through the mother, Jill Lassiter; the abductor; and another unknown female, who teases the reader with journal entries that provide some insight into a fragile state of mind. 

This book was a true page-turner. If you want a quick read that you can’t put down, then this is for you! Lisa Unger, best-selling novelist, described this book as “a twisty, compelling, and harrowing thriller that will hook you and leave you breathless”. I definitely agree with her. Just when you think you are on top of the plot and have worked out the characters, there is a twist that changes everything!


Author, Rebecca Drake moves from suspense to thriller fiction with this must-read. It would have to be one of my favourite reads for 2016.

~Narelle

25.11.16

The Ghost Hunters

The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring

Welcome to Borley Rectory, the most haunted house in England. It is 1926 and Sarah Grey is personal assistant to Harry Price, London's most infamous ghost hunter. Harry has devoted his life to exposing the truth behind England's many 'false hauntings'. So when Harry and Sarah are invited to Borley Rectory - a house so haunted that objects frequently fly through the air unbidden, and locals avoid the grounds for fear of facing the spectral nun that walks there - they're sure that this case will be just like any other. But when night falls and no artifice can be found, the ghost hunters are forced to confront the possibility that the ghost may be real.

This debut novel is based on the life of the controversial British ghost hunter Harry Price, a psychic investigator from the inter-war years, who made Borley Rectory in Essex briefly famous as "the most haunted house in England". Spring says the book took three years to research and write.  It feels like it takes that long to read, it's so slow and drawn out.

Narrated perfunctorily by Julie Teal and Leighton Pugh, there are some interesting parts in it, but they're few and far between.  For those seeking a good creepy, don't-read-it-at-night-when-you're-alone, goose-bump producing tale, this is not it.  We'd love to hear which book you thought delivers high up on the spook-o'meter!  

~ Deb

24.11.16

In Love with Betty the Crow

In Love with Betty the Crow by Robyn Williams

The Science Show with Robyn Williams on Radio National is one of the longest running programs on Australian radio. Scientific issues, debates, events, personalities, exposing scientific fraud, discoveries and broadcasting pranks have been its hallmarks, and the show has given Australians fascinating insights into all manner of things. 

In this lively account of forty years of The Science Show, Robyn reveals in his inimitable style why science is important - touching on topics like the flakes and the heroes, propaganda, cosmic revolutions, our relationship with animals, women in science, and of course, the environment. 

Informative, entertaining and memorable, this is a book that is a must read for anyone who is interested in ideas and the truth. 

Robyn Williams, the long time presenter of The Science Show, knows how to speak and write Science!  In this comprehensive review of the 40 years of the show he explains all of the important stories from the past and the scientists involved. He rejoices, celebrates and has a deep respect for, in particular, female scientists.  

I listened to the audio book, read by the author complete with audio of some of the scientists speaking. I would highly recommend the audio for anyone who might be put off by the quantity and breadth of the print copy as I found it made the subject matter quite accessible. 

~ Ali

23.11.16

All Is Not Forgotten

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny's wounds have healed. An experimental treatment has removed the memory of an horrific and degrading attack. She is moving on with her life. That was the plan. Except it's not working out. Something has gone. The light in her eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can't stop touching. And she's getting worse. Not to mention that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial. 

It may be that the only way to uncover what's wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack. And that could destroy as much as it heals...


Why we love it: 
All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker is a deeply chilling and utterly absorbing psychological thriller, an absolute must-read for fans of the genre.

~ from The Team at Better Reading.

22.11.16

The Three Miss Allens

The Three Miss Allens by Victoria Purman

How much of who we are is destiny and how much chance? In 1934, the three Miss Allens - Ruby, Adeline and Clara - arrive in the seaside town of Remarkable Bay for their annual summer holiday. It's the last time they'll spend summers as a family. Adeline is engaged, Ruby is weighing up an offer, and Clara is just eighteen and about to start her life. But by summer's end, the lives they have known will change irrevocably and a mysterious secret will tear the family apart. 

Eighty-two years later, Ruby's great-granddaughter Roma Harris moves to the now sleepy Remarkable Bay, retreating from tragedy. Roma's distant cousin Addy arrives too, fleeing a life with too much drama. It's only when the women discover an old guest book that they start asking questions about the mysterious third Miss Allen. Who was she? Why has she disappeared from the family's history? If they solve this mystery from their past, could it change the women's futures?

Another great women's fiction book by a talented Australian author. This story had me turning the pages constantly. It is set in a fictitious seaside town in South Australia called Remarkable Bay and is in two different time periods. Back in the day 'Bayview' was a guest house where well-to-do families holidayed. The Allen family was one of them. The three sisters are all very different, but it will be the last time they are all together. 

Fast-forward to 2016:  Roma, who is the great-granddaughter of one of the Allen sisters, moves to Remarkable Bay and purchases 'Bayview' not knowing the history behind it. She needs something to work on to help recover from the recent tragic death of her husband. Her distant cousin Addy comes for a visit and decides to stay to help renovate the house, as she herself is running from an abusive relationship. After they discover the hidden guest book, Roma is on a mission to find out what happened to their great grandmother's other sister whom they didn't know existed.

The story bounces back and forth between the two time periods and also introduces secondary characters both plots who were very believable and feel like someone you would know yourself. I liked the way that the author left a couple of things to your imagination, and did drop some subtle clues throughout the book. This added to the enjoyment of it.

~ Janine


21.11.16

Hidden Killers

Hidden Killers by Lynda La Plante


Jane Tennison, a young, inexperienced WPC, learns the hard way never to take anyone, or anything, at face value, whether in her dealings with her police colleagues or when confronted by seemingly innocent suspects. 

Hidden Killers sees Jane acting as a 'decoy' prostitute, with the hope of capturing a suspect wanted for numerous sexual assaults. The attacker is drawn in and put under arrest. Commended for bravery in the case, Jane is given CID status and moves from Hackney to Bow Street Station as Detective. Her first call-out is to a non-suspicious death. The victim is a young mother, drowned tragically in her bath, leaving a bereft and doting husband and a young child. 

The two storylines interweave as Jane begins to doubt the evidence against her assailant in East London, and becomes certain that the young woman in the bath did not drown in tragic circumstances. Two entirely different cases but one common thread - the lingering doubt in Jane's mind around the evidence, and around her colleagues...


Why we love it:
She’s back again in book two in a series, the unforgettable female detective Jane Tennison, immortalised by actress Helen Mirren in the hit television show Prime Suspect.


Last year Tennison creator Lynda La Plante took us back to the 1970s, pre-Prime Suspect Days, with Tennison as a rookie cop in the novel Tennison. La Plante’s latest Hidden Killers takes us to 70s London again and wow, what a great job she does of transporting us back in time. And we can see how Jane Tennison became the woman we got to know in Prime Suspect – intelligent, observant, tenacious, and courageous.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

18.11.16

Resurrection Bay

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

Caleb Zelic is a profoundly deaf private investigator working in Melbourne. His partner is the ageing, recovering alcoholic Frankie, tough and caustic but with a somewhat maternal attitude to Caleb when she lets her guard down (not often). When Caleb discovers the gruesome murder of his childhood friend Gary, he embarks on a wild chase from the back streets of Melbourne to his and Gary’s hometown on the coast, Resurrection Bay.

Caleb is determined to find out who killed good guy and cop Gary, but the perpetrators think Caleb knows too much so it’s a case of whether he can get to them before they get to him. 

Viskic builds up the action and takes us on a thrilling ride through Melbourne, leading us to a nail-biting and tense conclusion. Her skilful characterisation of Caleb and other key players increases the stakes. Caleb is an original and truly likeable crime hero who tries to hide his deafness from the world and this frustrates the hell out of those closest to him, particularly Kat, with whom he is still in love.

It is not surprising that Resurrection Bay pulled in so many of Australia’s key crime awards this year, including winner of the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for Best First fiction and winner of the 2016 Davitt Award for Best Debut Novel, Best Adult Novel and the Readers’ Choice Award. It also won iBooks Australia’s Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2015.

~ Deb

17.11.16

Clara & Mr Tiffany

Clara & Mr Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

In 1893, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut at the Chicago World Fair with his luminous and innovative stained glass windows. Behind the scenes in his NY studio, is the freethinking head of his women’s division, Clara Driscoll, who designs nearly all of the iconic lead glass Tiffany lamps. While Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the challenges of a professional woman, she also yearns for love and companionship, exploring several friendships amongst her artistic community. Eventually she must decide between her work, with a strict no married women policy and her heart.

Vreeland delves behind the artistic world to deliver a fascinating insight into the lives behind the artworks – highly recommended for lovers of historical storytelling at its best!  My only regret was while the descriptions of the inspirations, design and fabrication detail are great, including some illustrations of the finished works that were created throughout the story would have been a bonus!

~ Pru


16.11.16

Under the Harrow

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

From the back cover:  When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder. 

Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is distressed and in danger. As her fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognisable as the sister her investigation uncovers.

A riveting psychological thriller, ‘Under the Harrow’ explores the fierce love between two sisters and the terrifying power of the past. This was an easy-to-read tale of intrigue. Nora finds her sister, Rachel, brutally murdered in her home. Years earlier, Rachel had been assaulted, and the assailant, never caught. Nora and Rachel had spent years since, trying to find Rachel’s attacker, unhappy with the lack of police support. Nora wonders whether the attacker had now returned. Once again, she lacks confidence in police enforcement which leads to a dangerous situation of her doing her own investigation into her sister’s murder. As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed and characters unravel. The reader will be wondering just who to believe until the very end.  

~Narelle

15.11.16

Macavity Award

Mystery Readers International is the largest mystery fan/reader organisation in the world and open to all readers, fans, critics, editors, publishers, and writers. Started by Janet A. Rudolph in Berkeley, California, it now has members in all 50 of the United States and 18 foreign countries. Members vote each year to nominate and select the winners of the Macavity Award from titles published the previous year. The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. 


Best Mystery
The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

Best First Mystery
Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton

Best Critical/Biographical
The Golden Age of Murder: the mystery of the writers who invented the modern detective story by Martin Edwards

~ Deb

14.11.16

The Birdman's Wife

The Birdman's Wife by Melissa Ashley

Artist Elizabeth Gould spent her life capturing the sublime beauty of birds the world had never seen before. But her legacy was eclipsed by the fame of her husband, John Gould. This book at last gives voice to a passionate and adventurous spirit who was so much more than the woman behind the man. 

Elizabeth was a woman ahead of her time, juggling the demands of her artistic life with her roles as wife, lover, helpmate, and mother to an ever-growing brood of children. In a golden age of discovery, her artistry breathed wondrous life into countless exotic new species, including Charles Darwin's Galapagos finches. In this book, a naive young girl who falls in love with an ambitious genius comes into her own as a woman, an artist and a bold adventurer who defies convention by embarking on a trailblazing expedition to the colonies to discover Australia's curious birdlife. This is an indelible portrait of an extraordinary woman overlooked by history until now.

This fictional story was inspired by letters from Elizabeth found tucked inside her famous husband's research.  It takes the form of an intimate memoir of a woman whose talent and adventurous spirit led her from the glittering salons of London to the wilds of Van Diemans land and New South Wales.

It’s the story of a significant but little-known historical figure, a woman previously overshadowed by her better-known husband, John Gould, who was often known as Australia’s first ornithologist or the ‘Bird Man’.  The novel shows how this talented woman became much more than an appendage to her husband. She was an accomplished artist in her own right and her ambitious husband needed her at his side. With naturalists and explorers discovering new species of animal life in the new world, John Gould needed to venture from London and after meeting Charles Darwin, decided to launch his own expedition...

Why we love it: The Birdman’s Wife is as gorgeously rendered as some of the stunning lithographs by artist Elizabeth Gould.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

11.11.16

American Heiress

American Heiress: the wild saga of the kidnapping, crimes and trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin


On February 4, 1974, 19 year old Patty Hearst, a student living in Berkely, California and granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a group calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. 

The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre “Tania.” Patty, one of the first and most famous examples of the “Stockholm syndrome” thereafter participated in the SLA’s robberies, bombings and lawlessness and was on the run from the authorities for 19 months, before being tried and found guilty of bank robbery. She later had her sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and was pardoned by President Bill Clinton. 

These are the bare facts of the story, but do not convey it’s bizarre nature and ambiguity. The SLA was in fact a ragtag bunch of self-styled revolutionaries, totally disorganised and inept. The only thing they did have was a huge arsenal of guns, which they had no compunction in using. Was Patty won over to their cause, or did she only join in their illegal activities after being kept in a closet for weeks and threatened with death? This is the mystery which is still unanswered at the end of this engrossing tale.

~ Teresa

10.11.16

Six Under Eight

Six Under Eight by Madeleine West


The mother of all parenting diaries!

You've read parenting stories before but most parents are only managing a small brood; with six children, all under eight years old, actor Madeleine West (Neighbours, Satisfaction, Underbelly) can justifiably lay claim to having seen it all. 

In this hilarious and moving book, Madeleine takes us through a year of her life as a mother and shows us that it is possible to have a large family and keep your sanity, wisdom and sense of humour intact.

Madeleine West is a well known Australian actress whose partner is restauranteur and chef extrordinaire, Shannon Bennett. This memoir chronicles a year in her hectic life, with four kids, then finding she is pregnant with twins! 

It is a very honest, warts and all depiction of life as a mum trying to juggle lunch boxes, school runs, nappies and vomiting babies. She does have a part-time nanny (who wouldn't if you could afford it!) but generally does a lot on her own. 

As well as descriptions of their daily routines, which are chaotic to say the least, she is also trying to get back into acting in a part-time way if the opportunity comes up, one day having to get her eldest daughter (9) to hold the i-Phone and film Mum reading lines while kids run in and out of the picture and the twins start screaming in the background! Needless to say, she didn't get that role!

I found this to be quite a laugh out loud book at times, one that all Mums out there will be able to relate to. I take my hat off to her, as The Chef (her nickname for Shannon Bennett) seems to be generally absent around 200 out of 365 days per year, and when he is home is busy in his study checking emails. She does offer some parenting advice which is interspersed throughout the book based on her experience.  A most enjoyable read!

~ Janine

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