Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson

Someone yelling wakes me up. I have no idea what time it is. I jump out of bed and head for the kitchen. I almost collide with Mum, who’s also coming out of her room.
‘Go back to bed,’ she whispers.
I don’t Dad is standing in the middle of the kitchen. The fluorescent light is on and he’s in his undies. They bag a little around his arse. He’s pointing at the clock.
‘I’ve got to go to work!’ he’s yelling. ‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’
‘Honey,’ Mum says, ‘you don’t need to go to work yet.’
‘Don’t lie to me!’ he roars. ‘I’m supposed to be there!’
‘Honey,’ Mum repeats soothingly. ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning. You go back to bed and it’ll be time to go in another few hours.’
‘Why are you doing this to me?’ he yells. ‘What am I doing here? What is this? Who do you think you are?’

Amelia is in Year 12, trying to impress her art teacher, navigating an increasingly unpredictable home life, and trying to work out what’s going on with her friends, particularly her closest friend, Gemma. Her dad is changing, forgetful, angrier more often. Her mum has her own adjustments to make. To Amelia, it’s as though everything she has ever known is changing. And she’s not quite sure what to do. But the days pass, whether or not she wants them to. In the growing chaos and confusion, Amelia begins to work out who she is.

Everyone says Year 12 is big, but no one could have predicted Amelia’s year. It’s not just the work, or growing up. It’s like someone threw her into a tornado and all she can see is a blur. Relationships are at the heart of ‘Before You Forget’, those with family and with old friends and new. ‘Before You Forget’ becomes the song of change, of evolving, of reality. Amelia’s art practice, her struggle to communicate via canvas is a metaphor for her struggle to navigate and understand her changing world. Recommended for mid- to upper-secondary readers.

Before You Forget, Julia Lawrinson
Penguin 2017
ISVN: 9780143574071

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

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack, by Mark Greenwood

Just then, Jack discovered a sodden parcel wedged between the plane’s ribs.
He tore off the string binding and red wax seals. Inside was a bloated leather wallet, bursting with small packages wrapped in tissue. He emptied the contents of one into his calloused hands. What he saw stole his breath away …

As a plane prepares to ferry Dutch refugees out of Java to escape war-torn Java, the captain is passed a valuable package to carry to safety. But the plane is attacked, and crash-lands, the passage temporarily forgotten in the quest for survival. When Jack Palmer, a sailor and beachcomber, comes across the abandoned wreck of the plane he can’t help but be curious about what he might find on board. What he does find is beyond anything he could imagine.

Diamond Jack, the first title in the new History Mysteries series by Mark Greenwood, is a junior novel exploring the events surrounding the crash of a Dakota aircraft and subsequent disappearance of a parcel of diamond on board. Using the known facts and people involved, interwoven with a fictionalised version of what might have happen, the story provides an intriguing glimpse into the past. Young readers will be drawn into the mystery as they also view and learn about a chapter of Australian war history.

With historical photographs, maps and notes including a timeline, this is history children can connect with.

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack, by Mark Greenwood
Penguin Random House, 2017
ISBN 9780143309260

The Shark Caller, by Dianne Wolfer

I stared into the shark’s unblinking eye. The voices grew louder. It felt like they were calling me. I tried to understand, but the mako’s black eyes were frightening. I looked away.
The voices stopped. 

Isabel (Izzy) and her mother are returning home to the place she was born – an island in Papua New Guinea. Izzy loves her home, but this time, her journey is sad. They are taking the ashes of her much-loved twin brother home to be scattered.

On the island, Izzy and her mother start to heal, but Izzy also sees that the island is changing. The environment is changing, threatened by logging and modern technologies, and the sharks no longer answer the cries of the village shark callers. The clan needs someone to take an offering deep beneath the sea in a traditional offering to the shark god. The person must be a twin from the shark-calling lineage. Lizzie is the last twin. I will take great courage to even attempt the challenge.

The Shark Caller is a gripping, moving story of bereavement and courage, combining contemporary realism with fantasy elements. The issues of grief and of family obligations are combined with broader issues of environmental change and the impact of modernisation on traditional communities and ecocultures.

Suitable from readers in upper primary and beyond.

The Shark Caller, by Dianne Wolfer
Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN 9780143780557

The Last Fifty Miles, by Adam Wakeling

They were fifty miles to victory and defeat, fifty miles to collapse and renewal, and fifty miles to a new place for Australia among the nations of the world. They were among the most significant fifty miles in our history.

After four years of conflict in Turkey, Palestine and Europe, both sides of the Great War conflict are weary and seeking to end the conflict. For the men of the five Australian divisions stationed in France, the end seems a long way away, though, and while they are battle weary they are able to come together under Major-General John Monash and play a decisive role in claiming the last fifty miles – the miles which will see an end to the war.

The Last Fifty Miles is an accessible, detailed account of Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and particularly its role in the final months of the conflict on the Western Front.

Readers are offered insight into the reasons for the war, the main personalities involved on both sides, and the impact of the war on Australians at home as well as those serving.

Suitable for amateur history buffs or anyone wanting to better understand the Great War.

The Last Fifty Miles, by Adam Wakeling
Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN 9780670079148

The Toy Maker, by Liam Pieper

‘Let me tell you a story about my grandfather…My grandfather came to this country with nothing, but now, because of his hard work and sacrifice, I have everything. Grandpa was proud of his work, of every little toy that he made. That’s why he was so successful. There’s nothing more important than hard work and sacrifice…’

Adam Kulakov loves his life. He has plenty of money, thanks to inheriting his grandfather’s toy company, a beautiful wife and a son he adores. He has no shortage of mistresses, either. No matter that some of his ideas don’t turn out so well, or that he has trouble finding good staff who will stick around. His grandfather, Arkady, is also happy. After escaping Auschwitz at the end of World War Two, he was able to build a new, successful life for himself in Australia. Now he is retired, but Adam’s wife, Tess, on whom more and more responsibility for running the company falls, includes him in decision making. They have a close relationship.

But when Adam makes one mistake too many, the future of the toy company and of his marriage becomes increasingly rocky. And for Arkady, the horrors of the past are coming back to haunt him, too.

The Toymaker combines twin narratives of 1944 Poland and contemporary Australia so that the reader not only sees Arkady’s story unfold alongside the modern narrative, but also becomes aware of the contracts and similarities between the experiences and personalities of grandfather and grandson. It is a story of privilege, corruption and survival which is both absorbing and uncomfortable.

Compelling reading.

The Toymaker, by Liam Pieper
Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN 9780670079384

Meet My Book: The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh

We love visitors here at Aussiereviews, but it’s been a while since we’ve had an author drop by to chat about their latest book – so it’s especially wonderful to welcome Oliver Phommavanh today, here to tell us about his new children’s novel, The Other Christy. Welcome Oliver.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.
My book’s called The Other Christy, published by Penguin Random House and it came out on 13th June.

OtherCHristy2. Why did you write the book?
It’s a story about two girls who share the same name in a class and they don’t like each other. But then they discover they have something more in common than just their name. I love writing about weird or awkward characters and I have this fascination as a teacher and author of seeing unlikely friendships form. I also had this voice of a shy girl with loud ideas in my head for awhile, just waiting to be unleashed.
3. How long from idea to publication?
Almost two years.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
I wasn’t sure about how deep to delve into Christy’s family and her Cambodian background. Christy’s grandpa lived through war with the Khmer Rogue and he carries a lot of emotional scars. It was tricky at first but I found the right balance with sharing some insightful moments with some light-hearted humour.
5. Coolest thing about your book?
Christy’s passion is baking so she creates a lot of sweet treats. I tried to bake with my wife, and made brownies, cupcakes and cookies. Research never tasted so good.
6. Something you learnt through writing the book?
I went to Cambodia last year to visit the war memorial and genocide museum in Phnom Penh. I was absorbed with all of the personal recounts and stories, and was determined to shed a little light on that in my book.
7. What did you do celebrate the release?
My wife and I baked a whole lot of desserts for my book launch. Everybody walked away with a book and some delicious treats

8. And how will you promote the book?
I’ve just finished a whirlwind promotion tour with my publicist across three states and doing a blog tour now. I’ll continue to talk about The Other Christy at various festivals for the rest of the year.

9. What are you working on next?
I’m working on the sequel to Con-nerd, called Super Con-nerd. Hopefully it’ll come out in March 2017.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
You can check out my website, oliverwriter.com and like my facebook page at www.facebook.com/oliverfans. Plus you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @oliverwinfree

Thanks for visiting Oliver. If you want to find out more about The Other Christy, you can visit the other stops on Oliver’s blog tour. And you can see my review of The Other Christy here.

 

 

 

 

Frankie, by Shivaun Plozza

Book Cover:  FrankieIt was a young voice on the phone. Male. ‘Are you Francesca Vega?’
‘I’m Frankie. Who the hell are you?’
‘Is Juliet Vega your mum?’
‘Why are you asking?’
‘Cos I’m Xavier Green. She’s my mum too.’
Bam, crash, ka-pow. Hell of a game changer.

Frankie Vega is in trouble. She’s broken a boy’s nose and is at risk of being expelled. But that’s only the latest of her troubles, which began when her mother abandoned her when she was four. Since then Frankie has been scared and angry with just about everybody. So when a kid turns up claiming to be her brother, Frankie is wary of being hurt. Then, when Xavier goes missing, she isn’t sure whether he’s let her down or whether he is actually lost. It seems no one else but Frankie cares where he has gone.

Frankie is a moving and absorbing contemporary novel. Frankie is a sassy yet inwardly fragile character whose first person voice is believable and oddly endearing, even when she’s behaving badly towards the few people in her life who seem to care for her. Her story is heartbreaking but also has funny and heartwarming moments.

Dealing with issues including what constitutes family, homelessness and self-belief, Frankie is a brilliant young adult novel.

Frankie, by Shivaun Plozza
Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143573166

Summer Harvest, by Georgina Penney

Book Cover:  Summer HarvestShe wasn’t sure what had contributed to her idiocy the most. It was a toss-up between her completely rational and reasonable fear of creepy-crawlies and the winded feeling she’d experienced on catching sight of the rural god who came to her rescue. His face had looked like something someone had carved out of granite with a blunt knife. He’d been all broad planes, deep grooved lines, high cheekbones and a slightly off-centre, once-broken nose. She’d caught him studying her with a set of thickly lashed, deep brown eyes that were disconcertingly pretty in contrast with the rest of him. She had experienced genuine heart palpitations

When Beth Poole, on holiday from England, first meets handsome Clayton Hardy, there is an instant, mutual attraction. Clayton has come to her rescue on the side of a rural road, and it turns out he runs the property adjoining the one she will be staying on for the next two months. Beth is divorced and Clayton is single, so there is nothing stopping them getting together: except her self-consciousness, his fear of getting hurt, and the secret she’s keeping from him.

Summer Harvest is a moving romance story featuring two strong, yet emotionally fragile people, as well as an interesting supporting cast. Clayton’s family is large and there are several other romances and family dramas happening, while Beth’s family, back in England, consists of her slightly crazy, soapie-obsessed gran, Violet, and her second husband Lionel, who also feature strongly.

For all the romance, drama and humour, there is also a serious side to the story, as it explores issues of cancer, its treatment and aftermath. Beth is a breast cancer survivor, and Clayton’s mum died from leukaemia when he was younger, the effects of both events on the two families are far-reaching.

From the author of Fly-In, Fly-Out and with overlapping characters, Summer Harvest will appeal to lovers of romance and family dramas.

Summer Harvest, by Georgina Penney
Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143797081

New Boy, by Nick Earls

The car is still all snot and tears and noise when we get to the drop-off zone outside One Mile Creek State School.

As Mom’s door opens, Hansie’s screaming makes everyone look at us – students, parents, teachers, all arriving at this same precise inconvenient moment. This is not the perfect beginning to my first day.

I am supposed to look cooler than this.

Before he and his family moved to Australia, Herschelle used the internet to research what life would be like, and to learn Australian slang. But now that he’s here, Herschelle is discovering that it is very different than he expected: the food is strange, the other kids don’t understand his accent, and the other kids haven’t heard of most of the so-called Aussie slang he has learnt. At his last school, he was one of the cool kids, but here he’s quickly learning what it’s like to be different.

New Boy is a funny, moving story about the immigrant experience, about belonging and about bullying and racism. Primary aged readers will laugh at Herschelle’s problems with language and his surprise at how things are done in Australia, but they’ll also feel for him as he struggles to understand and to adapt.

Herschelle is a likeable narrator, and New Boy is a valuable tool for classroom reading as well as for private enjoyment.

New Boy, by Nick Earls
Puffin Books, 2015
ISBN 9780143308393

Available from good bookstores and online.

Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee

I was young then. I remember the landing on the beach and the days of my time on the peninsula and returning home from the war, the past and the present coming together over the years. I remember the beauty of the ugly place.

Michael is a teenager off on an adventure, having joined up to keep his beloved brother Dan company. Their friends Knobby, Mack and Hughie are there too, and together they land at Gallipoli where they quickly realise that this campaign is like nothing they could have imagined.

From Australian screenwriter Christopher Lee, Seasons of War is a slim volume recounting one fictional soldier’s Gallipoli campaign. At the same time, it covers the major events of the whole campaign including insights into the workings of the British command (particularly General Hamilton), the tactics and statistics of all the major battles and the actions of the Turkish enemy. Michael’s story, though, is central, and as a first person narrator he is blunt about the horror of his experience, and of what goes on around him.

In amongst the great number of books released to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, Seasons of War could easily be missed because it is a small book with an understated, though moving, cover  and it is not a comfortable read. But that’s the point. We need stories of war which paint the horror and the waste explicitly so that we understand as nearly as possible what happened.

 

Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee
Viking, an imprint of Penguin, 2015
ISBN 9780670078837

Available from good bookstores and online.