Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

‘I’m a messenger!’ bawled the nomad. She was even younger than the young guard, perhaps having seen only sixteen or seventeen of the harsh winters of her homeland. Her lustrous skin was acorn brown, her hair black, worn in a plaited queue that was wound several times around her head like a crown, and her dark eyes appealing. ‘I claim the message right!’

With the Abhorsen, Sabriel, and her husband the King on holidays, the Abhorsen-in-waiting Lirael is responsible for protecting the Old Kingdom from the Dead and any Free Magic creatures. The last six months have been quiet, but two messages are coming her way. One, carried by a stranger from beyond the walls, is in danger of not being delivered because its carrier, a girl named Ferin, is being pursued by sorcerers determined to stop her. The other message, carried by a messenger hawk, is more successful in getting through. It’s from Nicholas Sayre, who Sabriel feared she might never see again. When she responds to the message she finds him unconscious, near to death. To help him heal, and to learn more about the taint of Free Magic he carries, she must take him to her childhood home with the Clayr. With Nicholas safe she must turn her attention to the other message – one which predicts great danger for the Old Kingdom.

Fans of the Old Kingdom series will be delighted with this latest installment, featuring favourite characters including Lirael, Sabriel, Nicholas and Sam, alongside new ones. Nix seemingly weaves his stories with the magic that is found in his world. The Old Kingdom is a richly woven setting, and the people and beings that populate it are intriguing. This is deeply satisfying fantasy at its very best.

With a bonus Old Kingdom story, Goldenhand is divine.

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781741758634

 

Also in the Series:

Sabriel
Lirael
Abhorsen

Clariel (Prequel)

Freedom Swimmer, by Wai Chim

Ma is gone. I fought back tears, gripping the handle of the wheelbarrow tighter so her body wouldn’t tip out too soon. I was taking her to the river to join the other villagers who had passed. I didn’t dare look around – what if one of those bodies had surfaced, caught on a rock instead of being swept away by the current after the last rains? I could almost picture the head of some weeks-dead villager bobbing up beside me, all sunken cheeks and lifeless eyes behind paper-thin lids.

Having watched his parents die in a famine during the ‘Great Leap Forward’, Ming is left orphaned. Sharing a house with other village orphans, he must work hard to grow crops for his village and for the Communist government, with little time for himself. When the Party brings a group of city boys to work in the village, Ming forms an unlikely friend with Li, a charming, likeable city boy. Ming, taught to swim by his father, now teaches Li to swim and as they exchange their stories and their dreams they also start to wonder if there is a chance for freedom.

Freedom Swimmer is a tale of friendship set in 1960s China. Told from the dual perspectives of the two protagonists, the story explores both the effects of living under the fledgling regime, and the efforts of the freedom swimmers, people who attempted to swim from mainland China to Hong Kong, where they would find freedom.

Based on the experiences of author Wai Chim’s father, who made the freedom swim in 1973, Freedom Swimmer is a moving story.

Freedom Swimmer, by Wai Chim
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760113414

The Smuggler's Curse, by Norman Jorgensen

The Smuggler's Curse - Norman Jorgensen‘You, boy, commands the Captain, seeing me listening. ‘You can handle an oar tonight. We’ll get you toughened up even if we have to kill you doing so, eh men?’
The men laugh, happy at the thought of me getting killed, I suspect. I nod slowly, embarrassed and unsure. Is this how the new ship’s boy is to meet his fate? Ambushed on a deserted Malayan beach by a regiment of government troops or skinned alive and sold for a satchel?

Red is quite happy with his life in Broome, where his mother runs a hotel. Red spends his days reading, or avoiding errands. So he isn’t impressed when his ma sells him to be ship’s boy to an infamous smuggler. Suddenly, instead of avoiding chores, he’s avoiding pirates, headhunters and drowning, as travels the world with the infamous Black Bowen.

The Smuggler’s Curse is a rollicking tale of shipboard life. Set in the 19th century in Western Australia and Southern Asia, there is action aplenty, and Jorgensen doesn’t hold back. While there’s humour, there are also scenes of fear and violence as befits the setting, and which young adventure lovers will relish.

Adult readers will recognise the nod to novels such as Treasure Island.

A gripping read.

The Smuggler’s Curse, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925164190

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The Book That Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge

We were all hooked (and a bit unsettled) from the outset, so there was no turning back. My brother and I looked forward to each progressively disturbing chapter: conniving pigs, brainwashed sheep, a horse carted off to something called the “knackers”, and poor Mum had to field all of our questions. (Shaun Tan)

From acclaimed authors from around Australia and overseas, The Book That Made Me offers a glimpse into the formative years of the creators, and of the book (or books) that shaped who they are – as authors, as readers, as people. From early readers and picture books to graphic novels, science fiction, to medical encyclopedia, each author’s preference is different and their tales behind why and how these particular books stayed with them are sometimes funny and other times very moving, but always intriguing.

Editor Judith Ridge is a passionate children’s literature advocate and has brought together a wonderful array of authors, including Shaun Tan, Julia Lawrinson, Sue Lawson, Markus Zusak, Ted Dawe and many more – thirty-two authors in total.

 

This is a book for book lovers of all ages and, with all royalties going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, purchase supports a really important cause.

The Book That Made Me
Walker Books Australia, 2016
ISBN 9781922244888

Beyond Carousel, by Brendan Ritchie

The house isn’t powered like Carousel. Pretty much nowhere is. But it has a line of solar panels on the roof and two summers worth of power stored in the batteries. Enough for showers, air conditioning, pool filters – anything we want. Except for lights. Never any lights.
At night we shuffle the long hallways with tiny reading lights tucked into our belts and pockets, our voices hushed and careful against the manic drone of insects outside.

Nox, Taylor and Lizzy have escaped the confines of Carousel, where they were trapped for months.Now they are holed up in an empty house in the hills, resting while they figure out what to do next. most of the population of Perth has vanished in the same event which saw them trapped inside the Carousel shopping centre. Now that they are out they are trying to piece together what has happened and what they should do next.

But while they have found a temporary haven, they are far from safe. There are other people roaming the mostly abandoned city, and packs of wild dogs stalk them. There are also problems with food and water supply and, of course, the fear that they are stuck this way forever. Then they discoevr that time is running out to get everything sorted out.

Beyond Carousel is an action-packed sequel to Carousel, and would is bets read after the first, though could possibly be read on its own.The premise and the way it plays out create lots of intrigue and plenty of action.

Good stuff.

Beyond Carousel, by Brendan Ritchie
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925164039

Words in Deep Blue, by Cath Crowley

‘I feel like the universe cheated Cal, and cheated us along with him,’ I say.
Before Cal died, Mum would have explained calmly and logically that the universe is all existing matter and space, ten billion light years in diameter, consisting of galaxies and the solar system, stars and the planets. All of which simply do not have the capacity to cheat a person of anything.
Tonight she lights another cigarette. ‘It did,’ she says, and blows smoke at the stars.

Before Rachel moved away to a seaside town, she and Henry were best friends. But something more than distance came between them. Now Rachel is back in the city, but their relationship is still strained. Rachel is also mourning the terrible loss of her much-loved brother Cal, a loss she doesn’t want to tell anyone about. Henry too is mourning: the break up of a romance, his parents’ separation, and the loss of the family bookstore, which is soon to be sold.

Howling books is unlike other bookstores. As well as selling books, it also hosts a letter library, where readers can read the books, mark pages and leave letters to friends,strangers, even enemies if they wish. As they work side by side in the bookstore, Rachel and Henry look for answers in the books they read, and in each other.

Words in Deep Blue is a beautiful book. Blending a heart wrenching story of loss, with romance, friendship and the magic of the letter library creates a deeply satisfying whole. The bookshop setting is a delight for book lovers.

Words in Deep Blue, by Cath Crowley
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781742612386

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick

People like you and me, Jonah,
we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Jonah and Manx have been happy living on the wrong side of Coraki Lake – the side which does’t have beach access. They fish and swim in the lake, and spend their Friday nights watching Ella and Rachel and wishing they had the courage to talk to them. But life is changing. Their run down town is being sold off by a greedy real estate agent. Manx’s dad’s servo struggles to keep its doors open, and Jonah’s parents argue non-stop. The things that happen at their Friday night gatherings by the lake will bring change, and not all of it will be good.

Another Night in Mullet Town is a gritty, realistic verse novel told from the perspective of Jonah, a boy with just the one close friend (though he hopes Ella will become his friend, or something more). He and Manx have always been mates, but he worries that Manx is drifting away, consumed with hatred for the wealthy new-comers. He’s also struggling with the effects of his parents’ fighting. For all that’s going wrong, he manages to find things to be happy about, and he is a likable, often humorous narrator.

Herrick’s poetry is, as always, accessible to young readers with each poem only a page or two, enticing readers to read just one more. The use of the verse novel form means that there is emotional depth, character development and a wonderful sense of place, delivered with a satisfying compactness which means it will reach readers of all abilities.

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2016
ISBN 9780702253959

When Michael Met Mina, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Then I see her.
Her eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like hers before. What colour are they? Hazel and green and flecks of autumn and bits of emerald and I’m standing holding my sign and there she is, standing steps away, near the cop, holding hers (It’s Not Illegal to Seek Asylum), and all I can think about is how the hell I’m going to take my eyes off her.

Michael’s parents are the founders of Aussie Values, an organisation dedicated to stopping the boats and preserving the Australian way of life. They worry about Muslims and terrorists taking over the country. Mina is a Muslim and a refugee, too. She and her family represent what Michael’s family is fighting against. When they meet, Mina is sure Michael is racist and unpleasant, but Michael finds himself intrigued, and wanting to get to know her better. In order to do this, he’s going to have to adjust his thinking and find out if what his parents seem to know is actually true.

When Michael Met Mina is a story about values, justice and friendship. Although there is a gentle romance element, the story line deals with the struggles and joys of Mina’s family, and the broader issues of refugees and Muslim Australians, as well as the dynamics of Michael’s family, especially the issue of a teenager holding different political and moral views than his family. Issues of disability, difference, families and more are explored, but the story isn’t crowded out by these issues – rather being enriched by them

Tol through the alternating first person perspectives of the two main characters, When Michael Met Mina is an important, absorbing, read.

When Michael Met Mina, by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743534977

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer

It all started with The Pain. He officially came into my life exactly nine weeks and one day before my Year Ten Graduation Dance.
It was a Friday.
The thirteenth of the month.
Notice anything there?

Maggie Butt is not happy. She started the year determined that everything would go well – but with the end in sight, things seem to be going fro ad to worse. Not only has she failed to make any friends, but she doesn’t have a date for the graduation dance and her marks in English (her favourite subject) are plummeting. But that’s the worst of it. Her mother seems to be letting her new boyfriend – The Pain – into both her own life, and Maggie’s, whether Maggie likes it or not.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me is a funny novel about many of the difficulties of being a teenager – romance, friendship, self-image and family. Maggie has a lot going on with her parents’ divorce having led to her changing schools and not fitting in at the new one. Her mother’s blossoming relationship with a new boyfriend also causes disruption – not the least of which is his ability to scare off the only boy who’s ever shown an interest.

There are lots of laughs to be had but there are also more serious moments.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer
Omnibus Books, 2016
ISBN 9781742991504

Game Theory, by Barry Jonsberg

Clouds part and moonlight steals through my curtains, a silver intruder.
I sit upright in bed and the gunis clasped in my right hand. I have been in the same position all night; the pillow is rucked against my back and there is a pan in my neck. My hand aches from gripping the gun’s handle too hard. I have not slept, though I tried at first.

Jamie is a maths whiz. His older sister Summerlee is rebellious and his younger sister Phoebe is loved by everyone. When Summerlee wins the lottery on her eighteenth birthday her rebelliousness goes up a notch – she no longer needs her family, so she’s out of there. Soon she and her boyfriend Spider are living it up with parties, drugs and alcohol, while the rest of the family carry on as best they can, until Phoebe is kidnapped, by someone who wants 2 million dollars to give her back.

Right from the start it is Jamie the kidnapper communicates with, and as Jamie was with Phoebe when she was taken, he decides it is up to him to get her back, using game theory. He needs to outsmart the kidnapper, predict his or her moves – and not be predictable himself.

Game Theory is an exciting young adult psychological thriller for teen readers. There are plenty of clues and leads encouraging readers to try to figure out who the kidnapper is, and a prologue which foreshadows the third (and last) section of the book, as Jamie attempts to get Phoebe back. Jamie is a likeable main character – aware of his own strengths and weaknesses, humorous and also brave when needed, even though he shows his fear and worries for his sister.

Jonsberg has written in a variety of genres for the young adult readership. Game Theory is a new direction and will not disappoint.

Game Theory, Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760290153