Everything Left Unsaid, by Jessica Davidson

I wait for him, the cold seeping through my clothes, until it finally dawns on me that he’s not coming back. And I wonder why he chose her instead of me? Why he went looking for her when I was right there.

Everything Left Unsaid

Tai has been Juliet’s best friend since kindergarten, and  they are both sure nothing will ever change that. But now, in their final year of highschool, they are realising that their feelings for each other might be something more than friendship. The magic of falling in love is sweet, and they dream of their future together. But those dreams are shattered when Tai goes to the doctor for a recurring headache – and learns that he has an incurable brain tumour. Suddenly their time together seems all too short.

There is no pretending that this is going to be a happy ever after book. The blurb makes it clear that not everything you wish for can come true. But whilst it is a truly sad story, it is told with a mix of wit, honesty and poignancy that makes it a pelasure to read, in spite of the heart wrenching nature of the subject matter and, inevitably, the ending.

Davidson deals with a tough topic senistively and realistically, using the dual perspectives of the young couple. She also doesn’t forget their friends and, importantly, their families, adding to the sense of authenticity. The use of the first person narrative takes the reader on an intimate journey.

Not an easy topic, but a rich, rewardng read.

Everything Left Unsaid, by Jessica Davidson
Pan, 2012
ISBN 9780330424950

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

Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley

Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers.

Even though she’s never met him, Lucy is sure she is in love with Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work is all over the city. On the last night of Year 12 she goes in search of him, but instead finds Ed, the last guy she would ever hook up with, after a disastrous first date. Ed says he knows how to find Shadow, so Lucy spends the night touring Shadow’s art work and learning about Ed and herself in the process. But will they find Shadow?

This is an absorbing and intense ride though 24 hours in the lives of a group of teens on the cusp of adulthood. Each character has demons or insecurities to confront, amidst the challenges of the future which the end of year 12 present to all teens. As the night progresses, readers get to know each character well and, whilst they may see what Lucy cannot, will enjoy seeing the story unfold towards a satisfying conclusion.

Graffiti Moon

Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley
Pan 2010 264pp
ISBN 9780330425780
rrp $16.99

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

The Vulture of Sommerset, by Stephen M Giles

‘NO!’ It came from the front of the house and stopped them all dead. And then…
The cry seemed to grow like a wave, rolling down the vast corridor and crashing into the kitchen. the voice was unmistakable. Time seemed to float. Fearful looks were exchanged.
‘Aunt Rosemary,’ whispered Adele.
They raced from the kitchen, her scream still ringing in their ears.

Adele, Isabella and Milo are happy living at Sommerset House, which they inherited when their evil, but wealthy, uncle died. But when their beloved Aunt Rosemary disappears mysteriously after a disastrous dinner party , their lives are thrown into chaos. Milo battles demons, and bad dreams, Isabella battles her own vanity and a maid who seems to always get wrong, and Adele battles to hold everything together and solve the mystery of her aunt’s disappearance. It will take all their combined courage and skill to overcome the odds and save Aunt Rosemary before it is too late.

The Vulture of Sommerset is a sequel to Silas and the Winterbottoms and will appeal especially to readers who have read the first title. A blend of mystery, gothic adventure and humour will satisfy upper primary readers.

The Vulture of Sommerset

The Vulture of Sommerset, by Stephen M Giles
Pan Macmillan, 2010

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

Dreaming of Amelia, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Funny thing is, even while I’m laughing, and falling in her eyes, a part of me knew she was a ghost.
The first time I saw her I knew my Amelia was a ghost.

Amelia and Riley are bad kids from bad Brookfield High, but they’ve just been given scholarships to the exclusive Ashbury High, and they are the talk of the school. They are elusive, they are brilliant, and they are possibly evil – but everyone at Ashbury wants to know them.

Dreaming of Amelia is a compelling, crazy book. Told from multiple viewpoints and largely in the form of HSC Exam answers (it also uses other forms including blog entries, meeting reports and emails), it could appear fragmented, but instead this very fragmentation is what drives the story – the reader being asked to constantly reassess what is happening (and has happening) and to piece together clues from differing stories and versions of events. More than once the reader is lulled into thinking they have a handle on what is happening, only to be shocked by new revelations.

Dreaming of Amelia is a companion novel to Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy and The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, but is not a sequel and readily stands alone.

A must read for teenage girls, especially competent readers who will enjoy the intricacies of the book.

Dreaming of Amelia

Dreaming of Amelia, by Jaclyn Moriarty
Pan Macmillan, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond.

Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery, by Sophie Lee

There was no doubt at all that Edie Amelia Sparks was in possession of a fine talent for keeping things ordered when all around her was in chaos.
Edie and her parents lived in a house called ‘The Pride of the Green’, which wasn’t proud and wasn’t in a green at all, but in a busy street with other people’s houses on either side. It had a purple front door, a lopsided roof and creaky window shutters that looed as if they might well blow off in the next big wind.
Inside it was strewn with detritus (which is just a fancy word for mess) and looked like a rubbish tip.

It is clear from the outset that Edie Amelia is an unusual girl who lives an unusual life in an unusual family. Her father is an out-of-work inventor and her mother writes popular macrobiotic cookbooks. Both her parents are occupied with the challenges of their own lives and Edie Amelia is frustrated by their ability – or lack thereof – to maintain any sort of order or neatness in the house. She retreats to her own haven in her bedroom where everything is in its right place. Her ninth birthday is approaching and Edie Amelia checks on her outfit and is horrified to discover one of her favourite shoes is missing. She determines to solve the mystery of the missing shoe, with or without the help of Cheesy Chompster and her dog Mr Pants. There are twists and turns before the mystery is solved. Along the way Edie Amelia learns a thing or two about some of the other characters of her world. Jonathon Oxlade’s black and white illustrations in each chapter provide extra humour.

Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery introduces the reader to a determined young girl. Independence and following your own passion are hallmarks of this quirky family. Each is very competent, indeed gifted, but not in perhaps the most conventional ways. Edie is not particularly tolerant of Cheesy initially but during the course of the mystery, discovers that Cheesy has talents of her own and the uneasy alliance shifts to become a real friendship. There are many characters introduced in Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery leading to speculation that it may be the first in a series. The language is very rich, with some definitions supplied immediately, but other words offered without definition. This is a book for confident readers or those keen to extend their vocabulary. Although Edie Amelia is nine years old, she’s an old nine year-old and readers older than her will still find plenty of fun and adventure to follow. Recommended for mid-primary readers and beyond.

Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery, Sophie Lee ill Jonathon Oxlade
Pan, 2009

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell

I believe in Chloe and chocolate.
I believe the best part is always before.
I believe that most girls are shifty and most guys are dumb.
I believe the more you spill, the less you are.
I don’t believe in life after death or diuretics or happy endings.
I don’t believe anything good will come of this.

Riley Rose is not happy. Her dad is dumping her at the Spirit Ranch Holiday camp, while he has a holiday with his new girlfriend. All Riley wants is to escape to spend time with her friend Chloe and party at Ben Sabatini’s house. Instead she finds herself surrounded by do-gooder counsellors, bible quotations and kids who hate her. She’ll never fit in here – and why would she want to?

Soon, though, Riley discovers there is more to Spirit ranch than Christian fellowship. There are secrets among the campers and the counsellors. There is Dylan, the regular camp attendee who has had an accident since the last camp – and is now in a wheelchair – and, at an abandoned house, a million secrets, guarded over by the strange kid, Bird.

Everything Beautiful is a story about the broken and the broken hearted. The main character, Riley, is a troubled teen who has lost her mother. Dylan is struggling to come to terms with his new disability, while Riley’s roommate, Sarita, is battling to find and express herself with her peers and her parents. Howell does not offer a simple solution to the problems faced by the characters, but does offer an insight into their struggles, and hope that they can find a way forward.

With romance and humour, including Riley’s sassy first person narrative, Everything Beautiful is a light read tackling some serious problems in an accessible manner. Good stuff.

Everything Beautiful

Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell
Pan, 2008

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

For Weddings and a Funeral, edited by John Marsden

John Marsden is best known for his books for children and young adults, including the unforgettable Tomorrow series. Here, though, he offers something very different – an anthology of poems for special occassions – most specifically for reading at weddings and funerals. It was put together, Marsden says in his introduction, to offer a selection of special poems to add a personal touch to events – so that everyone who takes part in ceremoniies (can) have something chosen specifically for the occasion.

The weddings section of the book offers well known pieces such as Marlowe’s ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the pussycat’ as well as lesser known offerings such as a translated Apache Song. The funeral section is similarly diverse, with offerings from Emily Dickinson, WB Yeats, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more.

This is a special collection with a lovely selection of peoms for special occasions.

For Weddings and a Funeral, edited by John Marsden
Pan, 2006

Gracie Faltrian Takes Control, by Cath Crowley

‘Give it to me,’ I whisper. I want to take the shot so bad…
The sound of smacked leather echoes and I’m off. I soar past Shukman, the strongest player from the opposition, and keep the goal clearly in sight. It’s so easy; I take a minute to play with the ball. I hook it onto my left ankle and toss it back to my right. Casual. Like I’m throwing with my hands. I tease everyone on the field.

Gracie Faltrain is happy – and why wouldn’t she be? She has a great boyfriend, her parents are back together, and the soccer season has just started. She is not going to repeat the errors of last season – she has learnt her lesson about being selfish.

But just as things seems to be going so well, Gracie has brand new problems waiting to bring her back down. Coach has entered the soccer team in the prestigious Firsts competition. A competition only for boys. And Gracie, as she is painfully aware, is not a boy. And it seems not even her parents want to support her fight to be included in the team. Off the field, Gracie is sick of watching her friend Alyce and her boyfriend Martin struggle to find happiness. She wants to take control and make sure they come out winners. But doing so could risk everyone’s happiness – including her own.

Gracie Faltrain Takes Control is a warm-hearted story about a soccer loving girl struggling to get it right – on and off the field. It is a feel-good book, but that is not to say that it is happy-ever after book. Bad stuff happens and Gracie has lessons to learn about life. Gracie is a likeable character but at times you feel like shaking her as her self-absorption makes her unable to see the truth – perceiving instead what she would like to be real.

A sequel to The Life and Times of Gracie Falrain, this book does stand alone, but is more satisfying read after the first.

A touching read.

Gracie Faltrain Takes Control, by Cath Crowley
Pan, 2006

Dangerous Deception, by Sandy Curtis

He slumped down on the bed as the swirling mists in his brain subsided, dragging air into his lungs in great panting gulps. Gingerly he moved his arms, his legs. Finally he swung his body over the side of the bed and stood, weak and unsteady, fighting to make sense of what had happened.
Slowly he became aware of a great emptiness in his soul. A desolation, a sense of loss so profound his gut clenched with the knowledge of it.
Because now he knew. He understood. But his brain refused to believe.

When Rogan McKay wakens in the middle of the night, his body is racked by intense pain, followed by a sense of loss which can mean only one thing – his identical twin, Liam, must be in trouble. Life-threatening trouble. Rogan feels it may be too late to help Liam, but he has to find out.

Meanwhile, Breanna Montgomery is on the run. Her colleague Professor John Raymond lies paralysed in hospital, but his work prior to his accident is so important that everyone wants to find his research. Breanna doesn’t have the Professor’s notebooks, but those that want them don’t believe her.

When Rogan tracks down Breanna, believing she may know what happened to Liam, the pair become embroiled in a shocking series of events, where their lives are repeatedly in danger as they search for the truth.

Dangerous Deception is a fast-moving thriller about the lengths people will go to, to get hold of research which could impact on human survival. The novel brings together a diverse cast of characters – from a disgraced journalist trying to get her daughter back, to brilliant scientists – and a diverse mix of plot elements, including romance, unexpected twists and turns, and a satisfying ending.

Author Sandy Curtis is obviously devoted to the thriller genre, and she does it justice in everything she writes.

Dangerous Deceptions, by Sandy Curtis
First Published by Macmillan, 2005, this edition Pan, 2006

Odd Socks, by Ilsa Evans

‘Mum – help, help!!!’
A sudden surge of panic catapults me out of bed and I gasp as the icy chill of the mid-July night slaps me vigorously, causing goose-bumps to break out across the length and breadth of my naked body.

When Terry Diamond is woken from a glorious dream by the sounds of her daughter screaming, she doesn’t immediately realise that her life is about to be turned upside down. But when she finds her daughter, Bronte, giving birth on her pristine lounge room carpet, she gets some hint of the changes her life is facing.

Terry has always prided herself on her organisational abilities, but in the week that follows these are put severely to the test. First, she has to deliver the baby. Then, there are trips to the hospital with a seemingly never-ending round of family and friends in attendance. She find herself avoiding her boyfriend, a pink-overall wearing handyman, without really knowing why. When she meets a stranger and falls helplessly in love, she really knows she’s lost it. Can she turn her life around?

Odd Socks is a laugh-aloud funny look at a week in the life of a forty-something woman as she discovers there are some things you just can’t plan. Whilst it is light and entertaining, it is also an insightful look into the workings of family relationships, friendships and romance. Terry and her friends have dramas aplenty as they claw their way through the daily chaos of their lives, but for every hardship there is an equal dose of humour.

A great read.

Odd Socks, by Ilsa Evans
First Published by Macmillan, 2005, this edition Pan, 2006.