The Grinding House, by Kaaron Warren

Over the past twelve years, Kaaron Warren has made a name for herself as a writer of quality speculative fiction stories. Her tales are a diverse blend of science fiction, horror and fantasy, but the common thread running through them all is their impact and the quality of the writing.

Now, nineteen of Warren’s best stories are brought together in this anthology. Fans of her stories will be delighted to have the best of them – including some previously unpublished – together in one volume. For those new to her work, or even the speculative fiction genre, this anthology is sure to make you a fan.

From the first story, The Fresh Young Widow, with images of bodies being interred in clay cases , to the last, Working for the Love of the God of Money, with a frightening image of a malicious god, Warren’s stories are richly woven and confronting. No story is predictable and all leave the reader thinking.

Warren’s stories have been published in Australia and overseas, and A-Positive (included in this anthology) won an Aurealis Award in 1998. The writing skills demonstrated in this anthology leave the reader with little doubt about the reasons for Warren’s success.

The Grinding House, by Kaaron Warren
CSFG Publishing, 2005

That Magnificent 9th, by Mark Johnston

Best known as the ‘Rats of Tobruk’ for their involvement in that well known seige, the Australian 9th Division was one of five volunteer AIF divisions raised in Word World II. From its formation in 1940 until it was disbanded in 1946, the division fought in Tobruk, El Alamein, New Guinea and Borneo, being widely praised and gaining more fame than any other Australian division.

In That Magnificent 9th author and military historian Mark Johnston traces the history of the division. Whilst there are plenty of facts, figures and maps, the focus is on providing a visual record, with hundreds of photographs providing unique insight into the life and feats of the members of the division. Whilst there are official and press photographs, some of the most telling and personal come from the private collections of veterans.

Of course, the photographs themselves are well supported with Johnston’s well-researched commentary, providing a detailed history of all aspects of the Division’s entire existence. There are detailed tables of the Divsion’s casualties and of bravery awards bestowed on members of the Division.

Not light reading, this is instead informative but accessible, sharing an important part of Australia’s history to those who may not know it, and providing greater insight for those who do.

That Magnificent 9th, by Mark Johnston
Allen & Unwin, 2002, this edition 2005

Quenarden – The Dark Secret

Ever since he entered the mysterious land of Quenarden, Troy has been convinced that it is his job to overthrow the evil scanator, Pythos. But as Scanator’s reign of terror continues and Troy and his friends are forced into hiding in cave systems below the ground, it seems that the time for Troy to fulfil the prophecy is not getting any closer.

When Pythos captures Amber Embley it sets into motion a chain of events which no one could have foreseen, even with the prophecies about Pythos’ overthrow to guide them. Troy is determined that Pythos be defeated sooner rather than later.

The Dark Secret is the last title in the Quenarden trilogy, and fans of the first two books will not be disappointed with this offering. As with the other books, there are plenty of twists and surprises, with ongoing character development.

This is a satisfying conclusion to an outstanding trilogy.

Quenarden: The Dark Secret, by Paula Vince

Horse Mad Summer, by Kathy Helidoniotis

A thousand dollars. Wow! I’d never had a thousand dollars in my life. I’d never been near a thousand dollars. I’d never even seen a thousand dollars. And for someone who’d done as much fundraising as I had to save up for a horse of my own, that was saying something.

When Ashleigh hears about the prizes for winning the Waratah Grove Junior Cross-Country Riding Championships, she’s pretty excited. Almost as excited as she is about the approaching summer holidays. She is going to be spending it with her best friend Becky, and her other best friend Jenna, who is coming down from the city to stay for four whole weeks. What could be better than a horse-mad summer with her friends?

Soon, though, Ashleigh’s summer plans hit a rough patch. Jenna and Becky don’t seem to like each other – and Jenna doesn’t even like horse riding. Becky is picked to compete at the Championships and, although Ashleigh is pleased for her, she can’t help feeling disappointed. Will anything go right?

Horse Mad Summer is a horsy story that will appeal to all young horse-lovers but will also be enjoyed by those who aren’t ‘in’ to horses. Much more than a story about horses and riding, it is also full of action, adventure and the challenges of friendship.

This is author Kathy Helidoniotis’s second story featuring Ashleigh and her friends, however although those who read the first will be delighted to read the sequel, those who haven’t will not be lost. It stands alone as an entertaining read.

An excellent offering.

Horse Mad Summer, by Kathy Helidoniotis
Banana Books, 2005

Quenarden – The Castle of Light, by Paula Vince

Nathan, Beth and Troy are still stranded in the land of Quenarden, where it is believed they will fulfil a prophecy and overthrow the scanator Pythos, a horrendous beast who controls the land.

In this, the second volume of the Quenarden trilogy, they are joined by Pedor Macaulay, the boy who was largely responsible for Nathan being taken prisoner by Pythos, but who has now repented. When Pedor uncovers a plot by Pythos to take all of the rebels prisoners, he must act to save them. But will they trust him enough after his previous deception?

The Castle of Light continues the story begun in the first of this trilogy, The Prophecies. The shift of perspective in this volume, where much of the action is seen from Pedor’s perspective, gives the reader fresh insight into this intriguing character. The developing drama as the youngsters move towards their goal of overcoming Pythos, will draw the reader in in and have them eagerly awaiting the next and final instalment.

Great reading for ages 12 and over.

Quenarden: the Castle of Light, by Paula Vince
Apple Leaf Books, 2002

Emily's Rapunzel Hair, by Cecily Matthews

Poor Emily has fallen under the spell of Rapunzel–she wants her short hair to become long and flowing just like her friend Lucy Brown, who has piggy tails and tells Emily that girls have long hair and boys have short. Emily’s hair just doesn’t grow as quickly as Lucy’s, and she becomes impatient with waiting. To help ease the impatience, Emily makes pretend Rapunzel hair with red tights, and plays a series of make-believe games with Grandma, has a trip to town on the bus with Mum, visits the ducks at a local park, visits a green frog at her grandparent’s house, nearly loses her pet chick, and finally gets what she craves at her aunt and uncle’s wedding.

The book contains 7 stories, each able to be read on their own, but linked together by Emily’s exuberant personality, her desire for long hair, her toys and pet animals. Very young children will enjoy looking at the pictures, and will relate to Emily’s adventures and her bubs, chook, ducks and frog, but will probably only be able to sit through one story at a time. Older children and early readers will enjoy working through the book at their own pace, and will enjoy following Emily’s adventures and the light plot.

Cecily Matthews’ text is pitched at the right level for children under 8, and Freya Blackwood’s watercolour and pencil illustrations are soft, with lots of detail for parents and children to look at together. There is ample opportunity to talk about the child relevant stories; and to discuss similar adventures, tea parties, trips, and animals which your children have experienced, in order to make the story personal. Keen children who like to participate in their storybooks may also consider putting tights on their heads, having tea parties with their stuffed animals, playing with their ducks (hopefully not in piles of dirt under the bed!), singing along with the bus songs, and talking to frogs in the letterbox. This is a lovely story which encourages patience, and celebrates the gentle joys of childhood games from an author who has extensive experience in parenthood.

Emily’s Rapunzel Hair, By Cecily Matthews, Illustrated by Freya Blackwood ABC Books
Hardcover, ISBN: 0642589038, A$27.95, 48 pages, April 2005