Forgotten, by Nicole Trope

Finally they are in the queue to get back out onto the main road.
Coffee, here I come.
‘Mum…’
‘Not now, Aaron, I’m trying to concentrate.’
The traffic has built up in only a few minutes and cars scream past the service station. Malia feels her headache settle in.
This day is never going to end.
‘But Mum…’
‘What Aaron, what?’
‘Where is baby Zach, Mum? Where is he?’

It’s early morning, and already Malia knows it’s not going to be a good day. Her husband Ian has confessed to losing money on the pokies last night – money that could have paid the bills that are piling up. She’s got three kids to get ready for school and daycare. And there is no milk for breakfast. She has to get all three children into the car to make the short drive to the service station so that they can have breakfast. But something terrible happens while she’s buying the milk and suddenly her day is as bad as a day could be. Baby Zach is gone, and she is surrounded by police.

Ali Greenberg is a Detective newly returned to work from maternity leave. She’s been itching to be given a case to solve, but her boss is not sure this is the case for her. She knows better than anyone else around what it is Malia is going through. It might be a better idea to stay at the office – but she feels compelled to help Malia get her baby back.

Jackie is down on her luck. She has said sorry a thousand times, but still she has been punished for a terrible mistake. A strange turn of events gives her what she sees as a chance to put her life back together.

In one hot, troubling day, Forgotten follows the troubling, heartstopping race to find an abducted baby and reunite mother and child. The stories of four women who don’t know each other become inextricably intertwined, and readers will have their hearts in their mouths as the day unfolds.

Well crafted, this is a dramatic tale.

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760296773

Remarkably Rexy, by Craig Smith

9781760113940.jpgHe’s been the most dazzling cat on Serengeti Street for years and years. He’s majestic, proud, maybe brave as well.

Rex is a very handsome cat, and everybody loves him. Every morning he grooms himself, and warms up ready for the kids on their way to school to stop and admire him. All is well with the world – until Pretty Pamela, the perfect siamese from down the street, prances into view just as the kids arrive, and steals the attention. As Rex pretends he doesn’t care, pandemominum breaks loose, when Towser the dog escapes, a magpie family gets cranky, and Rex ends up in a muddy puddle. Will the kids love him anyway?

Remarkably Rexy is a humorous tale of cats and their self-obsession. Rexy is likeable, though very vain, and his misadventures will delight young readers, as will the other animal characters – Pamela, Towser the dog, and the Magpie family.

Illustrator Craig Smith is well known for his warm, rich and often humorous illustrations, but in Remarkably Rexy he makes his debut as author, too.

Remarkably Rexy will be loved, just as he deserves.

Remarkably Rexy, by Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760113940

Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School, by Rebecca Starford

It’s late, just before lights-out, and we’re all tucked up in bed. My book is facedown in my lap, untouched. It’s too cold to read; it is the dead of winter, my breath hangs like mist in front of my face. A few beds down, Ronnie is sniping across the aisle at Kendall – ‘Hey KFC. Albino pubes. Have you wet yourself tonight?’ – and Portia, in the bed beside her, laughs.

A boarding school in the bush, where students can learn resilience and confidence, and gain physical fitness and endurance, sounds like a wonderful thing. But when the level of supervision is low, and bullying behaviour is largely unchecked, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Rebecca Starford spent a year in such a boarding school when she was fourteen. At times one of the bullies, at others a victim, the decisions she made and the things she endured and witnessed, shaped the woman she became. In Bad Behaviour she presents an honest memoir of that time and of her years beyond boarding school as she struggled to reconcile both her time at boarding school, and the self she had become, including coming to terms with her sexuality.

Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School is, from the opening pages, confronting, but it is also a story of triumph, with happier moments and a level of honesty and openness which is utterly readable. Although billed as a memoir for adults, it would also be suitable for older teens.

Gripping, moving and extraordinary honest.

 

Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School

Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School, by Rebecca Starford
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743319574

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier

Kelpie didn’t look at the card between her fingers. She could feel it there, but she was staring at the red splashes on the walls, on the mirror of the wardrobe, across the two paintings, at the blood sliding down them in rivulets. her nostrils flared at the smell from the dead man and she wished she could close them.
She did not see or smell apples.

Kelpie has been living on the streets of Surry Hills almost as long as she can remember. Her friends are mostly ghosts – she alone seems to be able to see and hear them – so she’s no stranger to death, but she is still shocked when she stumbles across the scene where Jimmy Palmer has just been slain. Unwittingly, she is now part of a turf war between mob bosses Glory Nelson and Mr Davidson. She also has a new, unexpected friend and protector – Dymphna Campbell – who was Jimmy’s girlfriend and Glory’s best girl. But Dymphna doesn’t know who to trust: she had Jimmy had been plotting to replace both of the mob bosses, and whoever killed Jimmy must have known that. Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, but he’s a bit hysterical over the turn of events. Kelpie’s only living friend, Snowy, also seems to want to help, but Jimmy says it was Snowy who killed him. Could sticking together be the thing that keeps both girls alive?

Set in 1930s Sydney, Razorhurst is historical fiction with a paranormal element, via the ghost characters. Set amidst the backdrop of a period where poverty was high, and gangs focused on prostitution and gambling preferred the razor as a means of enforcement and retribution, the story is fiction, but does draw on the lives of madams Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, and 1930s prostitutes Dulcie Markham and Nellie Cameron as starting points for the intriguing characters of Glory and Dymphna.

Kelpie and Dymphna, who alternate as viewpoint characters, seem initially to be two very different people thrown together by circumstance, but it emerges that they have more in common than either thinks. this makes their relationship both complex and, for the reader, intriguing. The events that they endure, both within the short time frame of the book and in their pasts – which we see through flash backs – are violent and traumatic, yet both girls are strong, albeit in different ways.

Razorhurst is absorbing, frightening, and, at times, amusing. It is also utterly readable.

 

Razorhurst

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743319437

Available from good bookstores or online.

Rescue on Nim's Island, by Wendy Orr

Walking on Shell Beach with their people was slow and strange. The jangle of voices filled Nim’s ears so she couldn’t hear the cry of birds or the shushing of the sea. Her toes didn’t notice the warm sand beneath them. But most of all her mind was too busy noticing what other people were doing to think her own thoughts.

Nim has always liked living alone on her island with her dad Jack, their writer friend Alex Rover and her animal friends Fred and Selkie. Visitors are not wanted, because they might want to damage the island. But Jack has invited some special visors – scientists who will work with him to try to find a a source of safe energy which might help the whole world. The scientists are bringing their children, and Nim’s friend Edmund, and Nim thinks it might be nice to have some company for a change. But when they arrive, Nim isn’t so sure. The twins Tiffany and Tristan think think the island is boring, and one of the pairs of scientists is not the couple they invited. Could they be up to no good?

Rescue on Nim’s Island is the third book featuring Nim and her unusual friends. The island is a magical, idyllic place, and in previous adventures Nim has had to fight to save it from tourists and developers. Now, it seems its treasures are attractive to would-be scientists. Nim has to use all her ingenuity – and the help of her friends, animal and human, to save the island and outwit the crooks.

As with instalments of most good series, Rescue on Nim’s Island can be read on its own, with enough back story given to keep a new reader abreast of what’s gone before, but reading the books in sequence will add to the experience.

 

Rescue on Nim’s Island, by Wendy Orr
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743316788

Available from good bookstores and online.

Clariel, by Garth Nix

His fingers arched and suddenly shards of sharp metal spat straight at her, shards made not of true metal but of Charter marks, conjured so swiftly that he must have already had most of the spell put together and hidden on his person, awaiting only a single mark to activate it.
Clariel reacted instantly, ducking under her shards, but even so she felt the heat of their passage above her head.
‘What are you doing?’ squeaked Clariel…
‘Use the Charter,’ bellowed Kagrin, his eyes intent on her own. ‘Defend yourself!’

Clariel doesn’t want to be in the city of Belisaere. All her life she has lived close to the forest, and that is where she feels called to be. But her parents have other plans for her – and so, it seems, do many others. Clariel’s mother has been invited to join the High Guild of Goldsmiths, the main reason for moving to Belisaere. Clariel is a granddaughter to the Abhorsen – though they’ve never met because of an estrangement – and is also related to the King. Her parents want her to marry the Guildmaster’s son; the Guildmaster, too, wants this – because he can then overthrow the King and install her as Queen. Her few allies also find her bloodlines useful, meaning even they can not be completely trusted. All Clariel wants is to escape the city and return to the forest – but that is going to be nearly impossible.

Clariel marks a much awaited return to the Old Kingdom for lovers of the series. Set 600 years before Sabriel, this prequel is set in a world which will be familiar to fans, and which will intrigue new readers. Clariel is a strong female lead, with an interesting mix of skills and problems, most notably her ability to connect to free magic and the fact that she is a berserk, prone to deep rages which give her great strength, but are difficult to harness.

With extras including maps of the Old Kingdom and of Belisaere, a sample of Sabriel and an essay on Free Magic, from the Library of Clayr, fans will be satisfied after their long wait – and many new fans will be hooked.

 

Clariel, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781741758627

Available from good bookstores or online. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Simple Things, by Bill Condon

The door opens and Dad and Mum sneak out.
Somewhere in the darkness a clock ticks off the seconds. I silently count each one – five…fifteen…twenty five.
Maybe Aunty Lola will go to sleep. Then I can sneak out, too. Thirty five…forty fi-
‘So you’re Stephen.’
Busted.

Stephen is shy, but never so shy as when he meets his great aunt Lola for the first time. She’s really really old and she’s very grumpy too. Stephen is scared, but Mum and Dad say they have to stay with Aunt Lola because she’s lonely and they’re the only family she has. It’s only three weeks, after all.  Stephen gets to meet the neighbours, learn how to fish, play cricket and climbs – simple things. He also starts to learn about his family, and especially about Aunt Lola. And when there’s an emergency Stephen realises maybe Lola isn’t so scary – maybe she’s his friend.

The Simple Things is a beautiful tale of family, friendship and generations. Stephen is a quirky, loving boy and Lola is an intriguing character who readers will be keen to get to know. Their developing relationship is a pleasure to witness.

Condon has a gently humorous touch as an author, and the focus on a child who is gentle-natured but brave in his own way, makes for a heart warming read.

 

The Simple Things

The Simple Things, by Bill Condon
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743317242

Available from good bookstores and online.

Tigers on the Beach, by Doug MacLeod

‘Ah, but I know the funniest joke in the world. Anyone who hears you tell it will fall in love with you. But maybe you should avoid jokes so early in a relationship. You might tell the wrong one.’
‘But telling jokes is all I can do. Tell me the best one in the world.’
‘It’s very powerful. I will tell you when you are old enough not to misuse it the seductive power of the joke.’

Adam and his Grandpa have lots of things in common – not least their sense of humour. Adam loves to tell jokes, and he loves the ones Grandpa shares with him. But when Grandpa dies suddenly Adam is left wondering about the untold joke Grandpa promised to tell him one day. As he struggles with the loss of his grandfather, he is also confronted by other problems, including his parents’ troubled marriage, his pesky little brother, and accidental displays of public nudity. Te biggest problem of all is his new girlfriend Samantha, and trying to figure out how relationships work.

Tigers on the Beach is both funny and poignant, cracking along through the highs and lows of teenage Adam’s world, populated by larger than life characters often in ridiculous situations. In one scene, Adam discovers he is infested with his brother’s beetle collection and his attempts to remove them result in him mooning a cafe full of diners. Other scenes are tough, including Adam and his family’s attempts to come to terms with losing Grandpa. Macleod’s deft touch means that the whole is an uplifting, smile-inducing read.

Tigers on the Beach

Tigers on the Beach, by Doug MacLeod
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9780143568520

Available from good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Almost Dead, by Kaz Delaney

A guest! We have a guest! It’s always wonderful when an author drops by to chat, and today I’m happy to welcome Kaz Delaney, here to talk about Almost Dead, her latest book-baby. Welcome Kaz!

 

Hi Sally! Thank you for having me here – I’ve been really looking forward to it!

  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Oooh I love an easy question first…

Title: Almost Dead

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Released: January 2nd, 2014.

So, as you can see, it’s still a newborn! And typically I’m still clucking and oohing and ahhing over it. And stroking it and telling it how beautiful it is…

 2. Why did you write the book?

It was my publisher’s suggestion. She thought Macey’s story would be a great one to tell, because in her words, “Everybody Loves Macey.” (Macey, if your readers don’t know, was the witty, fast-talking side-kick from ‘Dead, Actually’.) I was keen to get onto the next project, but it took a little bit of soul-searching on my part to take that particular step.

3. How long from idea to publication?

Over two and a half years. Maybe more. A long time.  But it couldn’t be helped, and I’ll be forever grateful for sympathetic publishers who could see clearly when I couldn’t.  You see, my beautiful Mum became ill and subsequently passed away during the creation of this book. Initially, I was upset when my agent told me the pub date had been pushed back. Because of what was happening with Mum, I was distressed and hurting and to my befuddled brain it seems like a vote of no confidence.  I’ve always been diligent about deadlines and I was convinced I could still make this one.  But they were right and I was wrong. The structural edits were due back a week after my mum passed away. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to get them done and in fact I couldn’t look at them for three months afterwards.   So, it was much longer than was probably ideal. Allen & Unwin, though, were brilliant and supported me though in not just being so understanding, but by re-releasing Dead, Actually to coincide with the new release: Almost Dead.  Happy dancing!

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Aside from the obvious above, the hardest part was my fear of losing the essence of Macey.  That was my initial concern. You see, Macey is a big personality, she takes no prisoners and says what many of us would (sometimes) like to say but aren’t quite able to.  But, are those the traits of a character the reader can relate to and cheer for? I wasn’t sure. Yet, I knew there was a whole lot more to Macey than met the eye. To make her more sympathetic, I knew we were going to have to dig deep, to rattle her self-assured cage and take away the few visible support systems she allowed herself. And I had to do all that without losing the quintessential essence that was Macey. That uniqueness that made her awesome (in the true sense of the word ). So the tricky bit was to have her evolve and yet remain true to who she really is. Phew. Lots of deletions and rewrites! (But I was delighted with the result, and so far the reviews are agreeing so it’s making it a teeny bit easier to sleep at night. Double phew...)  

5. Coolest thing about your book?

Wow – great question. Hmmnnn… Maybe the gorgeous, warm, semi-tropical setting would be one very cool factor? But probably it’s Macey. She’s very cool and very sharp – in the witty, quick-thinking-on-her-feet sense. She makes me laugh and wish I could be her. I know she’s the lead character, and so she should take the limelight, but this is definitely her book in every sense. Also, the interaction between her and Flick, the unhappy surprise who falls into her life, is such fun.  And not one, but two, cute guys?  Oh but wait! The mystery! The stalker!  Not sure if this is something I’d term ‘cool’, but it is very engaging and sometimes downright scary. I loved creating the mystery – it’s one of my genre first-loves. So, is it the humour or the mystery? Maybe it’s both…

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Another great question. I think we learn, or have something reinforced with every book we write. With Almost Dead is was: To not get carried away with plot; to maintain control of the story.  I got so caught up in the drama that I took the story to a place that was completely out of left field. It was shocking (in the sense that no one would ever have seen it coming) and it was big. But it was wrong for this story. It was a complete story on its own, really. It was a novice mistake I shouldn’t have made and cost me a lot of unnecessary wasted time.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

The release was just eight days after Christmas, and kind of crept up on us. We had family staying and I was knee deep in looking after them and frantic plans for the launch which happened on the 11th, so it was almost a non event! Amazingly we had a big family get together that night (2nd),  but with my attention elsewhere, we forgot to even toast the release until there just the hub and I still up and awake late into the night. The launch however was amazing and I was humbled and grateful to all those who came out to help us celebrate and give this baby a great welcome. There are some photos of that day on my blog The Ditzy Diva if anyone would like to take a peek.  http://kazdelaney.wordpress.com/  Scroll down to the January 17th entry.

8. And how will you promote the book?

As much and as often as I can until people scream at me to stop or maybe until the death threats start arriving. J Seriously, promoting is such a big, and important, part of being an author these days, and with the dearth of bookshops it’s getting harder and harder for people to find our books, let along buy.  I’m in the midst of an amazing blog tour now with fabulous hosts – thank you very much Ms Sally! J – and fingers crossed that’s helping to spread the word. I have several appearances scheduled for throughout the year and we’re the early stages of planning mini launches in Brisbane and on the South Coast and Sydney.  It’s going to be a big, busy year where I hope to connect with as many readers as I possibly can.

9. What are you working on next?

I’ve just completed a mid grade novel that I hope will turn into a series. Not even my agent has seen it yet – through she’s about to –  so I’m at that very nervous stage.  Is it good? Does it work? Is the pacing right for that age bracket? From there I will go back to the next YA in what I loosely term my Dead Series. After that, I hope to have another two YA’s written by the end of 2014 and perhaps I’ll get to that series for boys that keeps screaming at me. Well, that’s the plan, right? Reality will probably deliver something entirely different, just to remind me I’m not in charge J, but until then, that’s what I’m working towards.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

I’d love people to meander along to my website: kazdelaney.com

It will list all the places you’re likely to find me this year – so far!

My blog – http://kazdelaney.wordpress.com/   –  has been a bit sadly neglected, but I’m trying to rectify that so there’ll usually be the latest happenings and always photos.  I’ve made a concerted effort this year. So come along and visit and keep me honest! J The latest is the exciting news about my book being immortalised in clay which is totally one of the most exciting things to happen in a long time – besides having a new book out, of course. 

And the book itself?  Almost Dead is available at Booktopia.com.au and Bookworld –or through your local bricks and mortar bookshop. If they don’t have it yet, order it! Actually puleese order it! J

Thank you so much Sally! You’ve been a gracious hostess and it’s been loads of fun chatting to you about Almost Dead. xxx

 

And thank you for coming, Kaz. Enjoy that new baby 🙂

The Nim Stories, by Wendy Orr

In a palm tree, on an island, in the middle of the wide blue sea, was a girl.

And what a girl she is. Nim is adventurous, funny, loving, brave – the list goes on. Being bought up on an island with only her father, Jack and animal friends for company doesn’t stop her. In fact, perhaps it is the very thing that makes her so resourceful and such fun to read about.

The Nim Stories brings together two books featuring Nim and her friends Fred (a marine iguana), Selkie (a sea lion) and Chica (a turtle) as well as human friends including Alex Rover, a reclusive author of adventure stories. The first book, Nim’s Island was first published in 1999 and follows Nim’s adventures after she is left alone on the island when her father is trapped at sea. The second Nim at Sea was published in 2007 and once again sees Nim and her father separated, this time when Nim leaves the island to rescue Selkie when she is kidnapped by a smuggler. Both books have now been made into feature films, with this new edition of the books released to coincide with the second film.

Full of fun, adventure and love, The Nim Stories are a suitable for readers of all ages.

The Nim Stories

The Nim Stories, by Wendy Orr, illustrated by Kerry Millard
ISBN 9781743316498

Available from good bookstores or online.