No Free Lunch, by Simon Haynes

A brief scream, a moment of weightlessness, a sideways wrench…Hal Spacejock awoke with a start, dragged from his vivid dreams by the Volante’s latest hyperspace jump. As his heart-rate slowed from frantic hammering to over-revved, he wondered whether it was too late for a career change. Anything other than the cargo business would do it. Primary school teaching, perhaps. Or law enforcement.

Hal Spacejock and his sidekick, the robot Clunk, have arrived on the planet Dismolle looking for some cargo jobs to make some quick credits and settle some debts. When Hal’s first customer turns out to be an attractive young woman, Hal decides his luck has changed. But soon, he and Clunk are living life at the same frantic (and chaos-riddled) pace as ever. Hal must decide whether to put his business or his beautiful new acquaintance first.

No Free Lunch is the fourth instalment in the hilarious Hal Spacejock. space-opera serial. With goodies, baddies, loads of life and death moments and, of course, plenty of laughs, fans of the earlier instalments will lap this one up, and those new to the series will be reaching for the earlier ones. And, as a bonus, those who missed the first instalment can now download it for free here.

Good stuff.

Hal Spacejock: No free Lunch, by Simon Haynes
Fremantle Press, 2008

Oddball, by Janeen Brian

“You think you’re so funny,” I yelled, “but I’ll beat you.”
I saw his eyes shrink to the size of peas. Just like what was happening to my insides.
“Next Monday,” I went on. “Best of three.” Who was talking? Who’d taken control of my mouth and was saying those killer words?
“You’re on, Tranter.”
It was me. I was saying them, and everyone was listening. I’d just stepped into a big pile of poo.

Sol can’t believe what he’s hearing. His own voice challenging the school bully, Aggo, to a game of handball – and promising to beat him. Now Sol has a week to figure out just how to go about it. He’s doomed

Oddball is a humorous story, part of Walker Books’ new Lighting Strikes series. Whilst there is plenty of humour and action, there is also exploration of some serious issues, including the loss of a pet, friendship, bullying and family relationships, as well as self-confidence. Sol is a likeable main character and the story moves quickly so that readers of any ability will be engaged.

A fun and engaging read.

Oddball, by Janeen Brian
Walker Books, 2008

Blood Sunset, by Jarad Henry

When the sun lowers itself into the bay and leaves the sky over St Kilda a dark crimson, it’s beautiful and threatening all at the same time. But the tourists don’t see it that way. They only see the pretty colours and the calm water, the restaurants and the palm trees. They don’t see the stabbings and the fights, the brawls and the rapes…

When a street kid is found dead in Saint Kilda, the apparent victim of a drug overdose, no one is very surprised. But detective Rubens McCauley soon realises that there is something more to Dallas Boyd’s death. As he works to uncover the truth in an intricate web of paedophiles, drug dealers and prostitutes, he finds first his career and then his life and relationships on the line.

Blood Sunset is an absorbing crime novel, with the very Australian urban setting and characters a real bonus for Aussie readers. Author Jarrad Henry’s first novel Head Shot was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Awards, and this novel was shortlisted for the Vogel. It is an excellent, absorbing read.

Blood Sunset, by Jarad Henry
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Hurry Up and Meditate, by David Michie

If meditation was available in capsule form, it would be the biggest selling drug of all time. It has been scientifically proven to deliver highly successful stress relief, boost our immune systems and dramatically slow the aging process…Given all the physical and psychological benefits, why aren’t more of us doing it?

Many people are aware that meditation is a useful life tool, but if you have never tried mediating, nor been taught to meditate, the idea of starting can be a little daunting. Hurry Up and Meditate is an excellent beginner’s guide to the nuts and bolts of meditation.

From an exploration of the physical and psychological benefits of meditation, the book moves into guidelines for how to meditate, as well as exploring different types of meditation, and ways to improve your meditation practise. Author David Michie is obviously passionate about his subject, but he avoids being preachy or talking down to readers. Instead, we are invited to share his passion and encouraged to try meditation for ourselves.

Hurry Up and Meditate: Your Starter Kit for Inner Peace and Better Health

Hurry Up and Meditate, by David Michie
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Beneath the Bloodwood Tree, by Julienne van Loon

Now she listens, perhaps unwisely, to a prickling beneath her skin. It’s a sensation she hasn’t felt since she was a child. There’s some kind of presence in the air, something intangible.

Pia Ricci has come to Port Hedland to escape her past and rediscover the town of her youth. Running a busy dental practice should be enough to keep her busy, and free of attachments. But then Pia discovers a bundle of money and men’s clothing buried near a bloodwood tree outside town, and her life starts to change.

Joachim, too, has come to Port Hedland to escape his own past. A nurse, he wants to leave behind his mother’s death, but one of his patients forces him to revisit his mother’s illness. Joachim and Pia feel an immediate attraction, but as they engage they each struggle with the changes around them and with the ghosts of their pasts.

Beneath the Bloodwood Tree is a passionate story of life, death and betrayal. Set in the brooding, dusty north of Western Australia, the novel takes a hold of the reader, dragging him or her through the physical and emotional landscape peopled by the characters.

Author Julienne van Loon’s debut novel Road Story won the 2004 Vogel Award. This, her second novel, continues her development as a writer of absorbing, yet challenging reads.

Beneath the Bloodwood Tree

Beneath the Bloodwood Tree, by Julienne van Loon
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Heath McKenzie

My true love is an adventurer. Whenever he is away from home, he sends me cards and little notes about the places he’s been. When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said, ‘Surprise me.’
What a mistake!

When your true love sends you a peacock up a palm tree on the first day of Christmas, it should set a few alarm bells ringing. The true love in this humorous offering follows up with two toucans, three polar bears, four rhinos reading and more, in a parade of animal gifts for his dearest.

As well as filling the pages with bright and humorous animal illustrations, author/illustrator Heath McKenzie also offers an interactive element in the from of removable letters, postcards, brochures and more, inserted between every second spread. Younger children will enjoy the bright illustrations and text, whilst older children will enjoy these extra elements.

Whilst the Twelve Days of Christmas song has been reworked on many occasions, this is an original take on the concept, with the novelty element a real delight.

An excellent Christmas gift.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: 1 Man, 12 Days, 78 Gifts, by Heath McKenzie
Black Dog Books, 2008

Too Tight, Benito

Benito Bear had grown during the long days of summer…

Benito has enjoyed his warm-weather romps, but now it is time to crawl into his cubby-hole to sleep for the winter. But when he tries, he discovers his hole is too tight – he has grown during the summer. So Benito sets out to find a new hole – without much success. Every other hole is either too small, too high or too smelly. Finally, Benito returns to his hole and discovers that some hard work will make his hole just right.

Too Tight, Benito is a beautiful picture book with simple text, humorous twists and turns and sumptuous illustrations. Benito romps from hole to hole, accompanied by a nameless squirrel who is not mentioned in the text – although alluded to in the final page when we learn that Benito’s hole has room for one more. A pleasure to read aloud, and a visual delight, this offering will become a firm favourite with adults and children alike.

Too Tight, Benito!

Too Tight, Benito, by Janeen Brian & Judith Rossell
Little Hare, 2008

This book can be purchased from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Things Without a Name, by Joanne Fedler

Here at SISTAA we’re only supposed to offer support and advice. Theoretically our clients have to do the fixing and healing themselves. Most of them, though, are looking to be saved. If you take the time to read the sign on my door, it says legal counsellor, not Saviour. ‘Saving’ is not in my bio as a special skill. Neither is ‘psychic’, by the way. It’s not something you advertise. Besides, when people find out, they always ask retarded questions like Should I leave my husband? Will I die young? Do you do lottery numbers?

Faith Battaglia is thirty four and unmarried – but she doesn’t care. In spite of her disappointing cleavage and her dysfunctional family she has a busy and rewarding job, as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. But when her sister gets engaged and books in for a breast enhancement (an engagement present from her fiancé), one of her clients is murdered, and she runs over a cat all in the same week, Faith begins to see herself differently. After crying in the arms of a stranger she starts to confront who she is, and who she wants to be, as well as uncovering some of the secrets of her past.

Things Without a Name is a captivating story of one woman’s search for identity and peace. Faith is a wryly humorous first person narrator, adding some lightness to subject matter which could be emotionally very draining. With rape victims, murder, the death of a baby brother and more as subject matter, there are many melancholy moments, yet in the end this manages to be a feel good book. Faith has to choose to put the past, and her stressful job, behind her, and to allow herself her to be happy.


Things Without a Name, by Joanne Fedler
Allen & Unwin, 2008

The Smallest Turtle, by Lynley Dodd

He blinked at the brightness
and inside his head he heard strange words,
‘To the sea, to the sea.’

The smallest turtle is the last one to hatch from his egg and, when he does, all of his brothers and sisters are gone. Emerging from the sand, the turtle follows the call of the sea as he struggles to overcome the weather, the landscape and predators to make it to the sea.

The Smallest Turtle is a new edition of author/illustrator Lynley Dodd’s earlier works. Although it is not written in the rhyme which Dodd is so well known for, her prose has a lyrical quality, with the use of the refrain ‘To the sea, to the sea’ adding to the poetic feel. The illustrations feature the green and sandy yellows of the seashore, and give the turtle endearing facial expressions, chiefly through a pair of adorable eyes in largely real life styled body.

This is a beautiful picture book story which would have classroom relevance.

The Smallest Turtle, by Lynley Dodd
This edition, ABC Books, 2008

The Fairies Song and Dance Book

We welcome you to Fairyland
Come and join along
With our special fairy friends
And have some fairy fun.

Full of sparkles and fairy characters, The Fairies Song and Dance Book is a an offering sure to impress girls aged between 3 and 7, particularly those who are familiar with the ABC Television series The Fairies

The book comes with a CD recording of fourteen fairy songs, with the lyrics featuring in the book alongside photographic images from the television show. Young fans can learn the words to the songs featured in the series, and those not yet familiar with the television show will find this an enticement to watch.

Lots of fairy fun.

The Fairies: Song and Dance Book (The Fairies S.)

The Fairies Song and Dance Book
ABC Books, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.