Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost by Sally Murphy

‘You stay safe,’ my friend Lucy instructs me. and have a wonderful Christmas. I’ll miss you!’
‘I’ll miss you too!’ I say. Have the best Christmas ever.’
Lucy climbs into her dad’s waiting car, clutching the Christmas present I’ve given her.
‘And no pressie-poking!’ I call.
‘Same to you,’ she says, grinning as I hold up the gift that she has given me. ‘Bye Sage!’

It’s Christmas time and Sage and her TV chef family are flying to Western Australia to film a world record attempt at making the largest ever pavlova. The film crew are already there, now it’s time for Mum, Dad and Sage to meet Myra, who will be making the pavlova record-attempt at an old brickwork factory. There are rumours of a ghost at the brickworks, and when things start to go wrong, Sage begins to wonder if the rumours might be true. There’s nothing Sage likes more than a mystery. Since everyone else is busy, she’ll just have to investigate by herself.

Sage has an exciting life accompanying her parents and their crew around Australia. This year has been particularly exciting with several dramatic episodes. Her parents are busy setting up the event and Sage has time to notice things that others may not. Her sleuthing always ends well, though there are often some tense moments. She doesn’t always get things right but she keeps trying. Sage’s adventures are always exciting as she visits different regions of Australia. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925594058

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson 4: Singapore Sensation by Sally Murphy

‘Come on Sage! We’ll miss the plane.’
As if! My parents are used to travelling. So am I, because I always go with them. They knew exactly what they need to do to get to the airport, check in and be on board in time.
Çoming!’I call, quickly finishing the text message to my best friend.
Off to the airport now. See you next week.
I press send, put my phone in my pocket, and grab my backpack and suitcase.

Sage and her parents are off to Singapore, now their work on the new cookbook is just about done. They have just one tiny segment to film, but the rest of their week is pure holiday. They are thrilled to see an article in the inflight magazine about the new book. Everything is going well. Things start going wrong as soon as they land. And it must have something to do with the pink-haired lady who seems to turn up everywhere they go.

Ten-year-old Sage has a life many would envy: she travels around Australia and beyond with her television chef parents. Somehow, wherever they are, there are mysteries. Luckily Sage is observant and quick-thinking and is good at solving them. Sage stays in touch with her friend, Lucy, by text and that means that her friend sometimes becomes part of the mystery-solving. Sage’s parents try to make her life as normal as possible, including giving her a phone to keep in touch with her best friend. This is a fun, realistic adventure mystery series sure to make many newly independent readers wish they were Sage!

Sage Cookson 4: Singapore Sensation, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059960

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sapphire Falls, by Fleur McDonald

Fiona Forrest sat next to her dead husband’s coffin, staring at it dully. Music played softly in the background and she could smell the roses that filled two urns on stands nearby.
The church felt exactly like she did. Cold and empty.

Fiona and her husband Charlie were really happy: working side by side on their farm, and looking forward to a long future. But when Charlie is involved in a terrible shooting accident that eaves his mate Eddie dead, he struggles to cope. When he commits suicide, Fiona is devastated, but she is determined to keep the farm going. If only the rumours that she is selling the farm would stop.

Detective Dave Burrows has been on enforced leave. When he returns he finds that the case of Eddie’s death was not properly dealt with. When he starts to investigate he realises something doesn’t add up. The deeper he digs, the more he realises that something sinister is going on – and perhaps it is linked both to Charlie’s suicide and to the series of problems that seem to be plaguing Fiona’s farm.

Sapphire Falls continues bestselling author Fleur McDonald’s trend of blending rural Australian settings with strong female characters facing adversity and elements of mystery, for a unique form of crime fiction. Readers are kept guessing  along with the characters, and the mystery works well alongside the development of characters and interwoven subplots.

Good stuff.

Sapphire Falls, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760112646

Skyfire, by Michael Adams

The girl knew she was going to die. Her heart thumped. Mouth dry, throat tight, she could barely breathe. She looked at the madman with the gun, who’d trapped her, on top of a train hurtling through the night. There was no way she could get out of this alive.

When a mysterious sponsor calls for entries from young people worldwide to have the chance to see their ambitions realised, entries come from everywhere. But there can only be seven winners – and Yasmin, Isabel, Andy, Dylan, J.J., Zander and Mila are all delighted to be the winners of the DARE awards. Each is from a different continent, and each has a very different dream, but together they will find out just what it means to be a DARE winner.

But none of them is prepare for what happens when they start receiving strange texts. None of them know what the symbols they receive mean, but it soon becomes apparent that they are being targeted to try to unravel a mystery which, if they can’t solve it, will have catastrophic consequences – not just for them, but for the whole world.

Skyfire is the first in the new series for young readers.Filled with action and mystery, there is lots to love, though the need to set up the cast and premise slows it down a little.

Set in a near-future world, adventure fans will eagerly await the next installment.

Skyfire, by Michael Adams
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743628010

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth by Sally Murphy

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

Sage Cookson travels a lot. Her parents are television cooks and she goes where they go. She loves the adventure and the travel but sometimes misses her friend Lucy. In this second Sage Cookson adventure, Sage travels with her parents to Harmon Island, an island off the coast of Tasmania. There, they will film an episode about the bakery and their amazing pies. But Bettina, one of the bakery’s owners loses a ring and thinks Sage has something to do with it. Sage has to work quickly to solve the mystery before others also begin to believe she is responsible.

‘Ring of Truth’ is the second instalment in this new series from New Frontier for independent readers. Sage is a normal, sometimes messy, child who would rather be solving mysteries than doing her homework. She enjoys her travels with her family and their tv crew, but also misses time with her friends, especially Lucy. In each book, there is a mystery to be solved, and Sage is the girl for the job. She is observant, quick-thinking, caring. And there is food. Good food. Great fun: interesting settings and some sleuthing. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth, Sally Murphy New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059748

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape by Sally Murphy

‘Bye Sage! Don’t forget me, will you?’

‘As if!’ My friend Lucy is so totally not the kind of friend you could forget. Even if you wanted to, which I don’t.

We’ve been friends since we met in the book corner on the first day of kindy.

‘Bye Sage! Don’t forget me, will you?’

‘As if!’ My friend Lucy is so totally not the kind of friend you could forget. Even if you wanted to, which I don’t.

We’ve been friends since we met in the book corner on the first day of kindy.

Sage travels around Australia with her parents who front a TV series about cooking. She loves the travel, even if she misses her best friend, Lucy. But her parents have relented and she now has a mobile phone so they can keep in touch – when they are in range. This adventure sees the family and crew in south west Western Australia where they meet a chocolatier, Marco and his assistant, Nancy. The chocolate the duo make is delicious and Sage enjoys learning about cocoa and where it’s grown. But there’s something not quite right here.

‘Sweet Escape’ is the first title in a new series for young readers from New Frontier Publishing. Sage misses her friend when they travel, but she loves her adventures with her parents and the crew of the TV show. The series showcases different parts of Australia as well as different foods, while Sage unravels mysteries. Sage Cookson (with a bit of help from her family) offers bite-sized adventures recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925059618

Review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Dry, by Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane HarperEven those who didn’t darken the door of the church from one Christmas to the next could tell there would be more mourners than seats. A bottleneck of black and grey was already forming at the entrance as Aaron Falk drove up, trailing a cloud of dust and cracked leaves.
Neighbours, determined but trying not to appear so, jostled each other for the advantage as the scrum trickled through the doors. Across the road the media circled.

Aaron Falk is reluctant to head to Kiewarra, the town of his childhood. but his childhood friend, Luke Hadler, is dead, and he appears to have killed his wife and son, too, in a horrible murder suicide. Luke’s father has asked Aaron to come, and he feels it’s the least he can do. Aaron is a policeman, but murder isn’t his field – he’s a Federal Police investigator, specializing in corporate crime. Sso when he’s asked to help look into Luke’s death, he’s reluctant.

Aaron’s own past in the town is murky. As a teenager he was implicated in the death of a girl and, although he knows he was innocent, it seems the townspeople are less prepared to let the matter rest. His presence in the town and determination to get to the bottom of Luke’s death puts his own safety at risk.

The Dry is an absorbing crime novel, with the dual mysteries – the apparent murder-suicide now, and the older death of a teenage girl – providing plenty for both the reader and the characters to work through. the character of Luke is well-drawn, with his past and present selves pleasingly developed. The town, too, is populated with an interesting cast, and the mysteries it hosts will keep readers guessing.

The Dry, by Jane Harper
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743548059

Riddle Gully Secrets by Jen Banyard

She darted along the shadowy trail, adrenalin sparking through her limbs. Her eyes scanned for the snatches of white shirt flickering through the trees of the forest ahead; her nostrils twitched for shifting scents; her ears strained for every snap, every cry, every rustle, every …

‘Let’s go back now!’

The voice was like a frypan clanging on the head of Pollo di Nozi, Youth Reporter for the Coast newspaper. She leapt around to face its owner. She turned around to face its owner.

‘You can’t be serious, Will!’ Pollo hissed. ‘We’re chasing the first case we’ve had in weeks and you want to go back?’

‘The first case you’ve had in weeks,’ said Will.

She darted along the shadowy trail, adrenalin sparking through her limbs. Her eyes scanned for the snatches of white shirt flickering through the trees of the forest ahead; her nostrils twitched for shifting scents; her ears strained for every snap, every cry, every rustle, every …

‘Let’s go back now!’

The voice was like a frypan clanging on the head of Pollo di Nozi, Youth Reporter for the Coast newspaper. She leapt around to face its owner. She turned around to face its owner.

‘You can’t be serious, Will!’ Pollo hissed. ‘We’re chasing the first case we’ve had in weeks and you want to go back?’

‘The first case you’ve had in weeks,’ said Will.

Things have been mighty quiet in Riddle Gully. While this might be good news for the town, it’s not good news for intrepid reporter, Pollo and her slightly less enthusiastic, and often hungry sidekick, Will. But this trail, which leads them deep into the bush is sure to lead to super-scoops and further advance Pollo’s blooming career. And it does lead them to a mystery – with more leads than even Pollo could have imagined. Why don’t the campers want to be found? Who else is interested in the secrets of the hills? Pollo is desperate to find all the answers. All she has to do is convince Will to help her, untangle all the stories and fame will surely be hers.

Riddle Gully Secrets is the third mystery in this series set in a small town, Riddle Gully. While everyone else goes about their business, intrepid reporter (junior) Pollo sees intrigue and mystery everywhere. Her offsider, Will, is supportive but sometimes overwhelmed by Pollo’s enthusiasms. And there are many. ‘Riddle Gully Secrets’ explores secrets, greed, history, family and belonging, wrapped up in a mystery full of fun and wide-ranging adventure. Recommended for mid-primary readers and lovers of mystery.

Riddle Gully Secrets, Jen Banyard
Fremantle Press 2016 ISBN: 9781925163957

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Middle School: Going Bush, by James Patterson & Martin Chatterton

All in all, life in Hills Village with the regular people wasn’t too bad.
But here’s the kicker: if life among the regular people wasn’t so bad, why did it feel like there wa
s a great big something hovering just out of reach? Why did I keep checking my email for messages from “out t

here”? Why did I have itchy feet?

Why wasn’t I happy?

Rafe Khatchadorian’s life is going okay, so he should be happy. – but he finds himself wishing for something interesting to happen. So when a letter turns up unexpectedly, inviting him to an art camp in Australia, he jumps at the chance. Soon he’s Down Under learning all kinds of things, including how awesome it is to be on so

lid ground, why you should never trust a bearded bushman, and that you should never EVER play fetch with a crocodile.

Part of the best selling Middle School series, Going Bush is the second title in the series set in Australia. and coauthored by James Patterson and Australian author Martin Chatterton. In this adventure Rafe experiences the outback as part of a young artist camp where he and his friends come up against an angry croc, the ravages of outback camping, and a mystery surrounding a blue diamond.
Young readers will enjoy the blend of humour and adventure.

Middle School: Going Bush, by James Patterson and Martin Chatterton
Random House, 2016
ISBN 9780143781219

The Reluctant Jillaroo, by Kaz Delaney

9781925266061.jpgThe side of my head stung and I winced silently. But even if I’d cried out it would have been drowned out in the sea of cheers that flooded the little bus. We’d arrived, and it seemed everybody but me was delirious with excitement.
I would have sighed, but that would have meant talking a big gulp of the stale air: the way my stomach was churning, there was no way I could risk that. I needed every bit of inner calm I could muster. I was about to give the performance of my life.
And this from the kid who’d never, ever been picked for any school play.
Ever.

Harper and Heidi might be identical twins but their interests are very different: Heidi loves sun, skating and surfing, while Harper is into horses and all things agricultural. But, when Heidi causes the accident that leaves Harper unable to attend jillaroo camp, the sisters decide the best course of action is for Heidi to go in her place. It’s up to Heidi to pretend to be Harper, and impress the teachers enough that Harper can win a place at her dream school.

While Harper recovers at home Heidi readies herself for ten days or horse riding, fencing, and handling cattle. And ten days of pretending not to be herself. She doesn’t count on meeting the handsome Chaz, or on one of the campers being Trent Weston – who knows the real Harper. Keeping her secret is not going to be easy.

The Reluctant Jillaroo uses the idea of a twin-swap as the premise for a satisfying blend of romance, mystery and adventure, set in rural Australia. Heidi’s attempts to fit into farm life lend lots of humour, and the growing relationship with the affable Chaz adds interest, as does a mystery about a series of mishaps and missing items.

With horses, romance and mystery, The Reluctant Jillaroo is likely to appeal to teen readers.

The Reluctant Jillaroo, by Kaz Delaney
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781925266061