Lisette’s Paris Notebook, by Catherine Bateson

What do you wear to Paris? Ami and I discussed it for hours but I still couldn’t think of anything suitable. Ami said a trench coat with nothing underneath but your best underwear. That was only if some boy was meeting you at the airport, I said.

Lisette has just finished school and is taking a gap year. She travels to Paris to experience great works of art and brush up on her conversational French before she heads to university. Lise isn’t impressed when her clairvoyant landlady, Madame Cristophe and her mother, home in Australia, enrol her in language lessons with international students. She just wants to explore and experience Paris. But when she grudgingly attends her first class, she realises it’s not all bad – there’s a hot guy there, and she also makes some new friends. Maybe she might find more than she bargained for in Paris.

Lisette’s Paris Notebook is a quirky mix of romance and coming of age, featuring a slightly self-obsessed yet likeable main character. Lisette’s adventure is Paris is overshadowed by coming to terms with the death of the father she never got to meet, and her lack of previous romantic success. Teen readers will enjoy the Paris setting.

Lisette’s Paris Notebook, by Catherine Bateson
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760293635

Castle of Dreams, by Elise McCune

‘Robert. His name was Captain Robert Shine.’
She handed me the photograph. I noticed the sharpenss of the soldier’s dark eyes, the strong jawline and the firm tilt of his head, and most of all the startling intimacy between subject and photographer.
‘Oh, Nan…he;s a handsome guy. Who took the photo?’I saw a wary reaction flare in Nan’s watery eyes.
‘A girl I once knew. She liked to take photos.’ Nan closed her lips firmly.

When Stella returns home to spend Christmas with her parents and her much loved grandmother, she senses that the tension between her mother, Linda and her grandmother, Rose, hasn’t lessened since last time she was here. She has never understood how her Nan, so loving to her, is so harsh towards her own daughter. When she accidentally finds an old photograph in her Nan’s bedroom, she starts to investigate.

Over sixty years earlier, Rose and her sister Vivienne share an idyllic childhood living in a Spanish-style castle in northern Queensland. Nothing, it seems, can come between them. But when Rose leaves home and meets a handsome American soldier, this relationship will test the bond between sisters.

Castle of Dreams is an engaging story of three generations, and the secrets that can shape family relationships long after they are kept. As Stella unravels her Nan’s past, she also learns more about her mother and a mysterious aunt she never knew she had.

Set in World War 2 and in contemporary times, this is an absorbing story of love and betrayal.

Castle of Dreams, by Elise McCune
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760291846

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

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

Heather and Heath, by Sally Odgers

‘Here it is, lassie!’ he cried jubilantly. ‘The blaze – a bit o’ bark sliced awa’ wi’ a dirk!’
‘What’s to do wi’ that?’ asked Ness, cold and tired.
‘Lassie – ‘ Hector loomed out of the night and caught her out of the wagon in a giant’s hug. He gave her a smacking kiss and swung her in a circle until the stars wheeled and the world contracted about her. ‘Lassie, it means we’re home!’

When Ness McCleod arrives in Sydney Town in 1837, she is alone and penniless. An orphan, she had departed Scotland with a travelling companion to seek employment and adventure., but the death of her companion en route to Sydney has left her alone and unsure of what she should do. On the docks, she meets Hector Campbell, some years her senior, and a fellow Scot. Believing she has no other option, she hastily weds Campbell and accompanies him to Launceston and on to their new property – Glen Heather. It is there that Ness falls in love – with this beautiful property, if not with her husband.

Heather and Heath follows the trials and triumphs of three generations of women and their love for the property. Each must fight to stay there and to keep it running, and all find both joy and heartbreak. The question is, how far will each woman go to hold on to what is theirs?

Each of the three viewpoint characters – Ness (1837-39), her daughter in law Isobel (1860-1885) and Isobel’s granddaughter Alice (1913-1920) – is strong in her own way, yet distinct from the others. Readers will enjoy getting to know each woman and the Tasmanian landscape on which Glen Heather is built.

Heather and Heath, by Sally Odgers
Satalyte Publishing, 2015
ISBN 9780992558093

Wildlight, by Robyn Mundy

Wildlight - Robyn MundyBelow, a limp windsock gave way to a clearing in the bush that looked too small for a landing pad. The blue nose of a vehicle peeked through the trees. The helicopter hovered, swayed its hips. They inched lower, the pilot peering through the side window. He manoeuvred the throttle as lightly as a computer mouse. They were even with the treetops, now they were below them. Steph read a painted sign: MAATSUYKER ISLAND. A soft thud, a bounce, the kiss of solid earth, an exhalation as the rotors lowered pitch. They were down, they were safe.

Steph is not thrilled to be coming to Maatsuyker Island. She’s sixteen and supposed to be in her last year of school. Instead her parents have brought her to this remote outpost off the coast of Tasmania to act as caretakers of the island and its lighthouse. They hope that their time there, largely cut off from the outside world, will help the family to heal from the tragic loss of Steph’s twin brother.

Angry and resentful at being on the island, Steph drifts, her studies losing importance and her plan to become a doctor seeming unlikely. Meeting Tom Forrest, a deckhand on a cray fishing boat which visits the island, provides a welcome distraction. 19 year old Tom has problems of his own. He doesn’t want to be deckhand all his life, but his manipulative brother isn’t keen to let him leave. In the meantime, he’s fishing illegally, making Tom party to his behaviour. As the teens grow close, they dream of a life back on the mainland. When Tom goes missing, Steph is devastated.

Wildlight is a haunting, beautiful coming of age tale about first love, set amongst the wilderness in a way that makes the setting almost a character. With most of the book set in 1999, the use of a prologue and concluding chapters set in 2015 shows the impact the teen year events have on the adult lives of the characters.

Mundy’s poetic style and well-developed characters take the reader on an emotion-filled journey.

Beautiful.

Wildlight, by Robyn Mundy
Picador, 2016
ISBN 9781743537909

Newt's Emerald, by Garth Nix

9781760112653.jpg‘One – two – three – heave!’ cried the admiral, and the table was slid back in place. He gazed down on its polished surface happily, observed there wasn’t a single irreperable scratch, and then his smile faded like a powder disolving in a glass. A red flush spread up his neck and across his face, and he swayed on his feet as he treid to speak.
‘The Emerald! Where is the – ‘
This was all he got out before he pitched headfirst onto the table, his great bulk making it resound like an enormous drum.

It is Lady Truthful Newington’s eighteenth birthday and, at a small family gathering, her father is keen to show off the Newington Emerald which will one day be hers. The night goes well until a sudden storm hits the house and, in the chaos that follows, the emerald disappears. As her father lies ill, Truthful decides she must travel to London and attempt to recover the heirloom.

Soon, Truthful is balancing twin roles – that of herself, and that of her alter-ego, a young Frenchman. Disgused as a man she can take risks and gain entry to places she never could as a young man. But there are many dangers, not the least of which is discovery.Then there is the risk of falling in love. Truthful must stay safe and focussed if she is to find the Emerald and save her father’s life.

Newt’s Emerald is a treat. In the style of a Regency Romance, the fantasy blends mystery, romance and intrigue, with the addition of magic and sorcery for an absorbing, satisfying whole.

Fans of Nix’s work will find this a little different – but still with the quality we’ve come to expect. Lovers of regency romances such as those of Georgette Heyer will also enjoy Newt’s Emerald.

A ripping read.

Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760112653

Palace of Tears, by Julian Leatherdale

Palace of TearsAngie loved Mr Fox’s magnificent, absurd hotel. In fact, it was her one true great love. But…today Angie was so cross, so fed up with everybody and everything, she would probably cheer if a wave of fire swept over the cliff and engulfed the Palace and all its guests.

When Adam Fox throws a lavish party for his son, Robbie,at his grand hotel, the Palace, everyone is invited. Everyone except the girl next door, Angie, who has been Robbie’s childhood friend but who, it seems, is not deemed suitable for such an event. Her mother Freya is an artist and her father a groundsman at the hotel. This slight has sent Freya into a rage, and Angie is determined that somebody must pay, but nothing prepares her for what happens – when her game with Robbie ends in a terrible tragedy.

In 2013, as the Palace is restored to its former glory and her mother Monika gradually drifts away in the fog of Alzheimers, Adam Fox’s granddaughter Lisa decides it is time to uncover her family’s history. She wants to know why the hotel is known by locals as the ‘palace of tears’ and why her mother is so emotionally distant. As she digs into the past, though, she finds more mysteries.

Palace of Tears is an absorbing novel filled with stroies of love, betrayal and secrets. Though the Fox family is fictional, the hotel is inspired by the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains, and many real historical figures and events are used in the story, most notably the homefront events of the two world wars and the treatment of German-Australians during World War 1. The stories of Lisa, Monika and Angie are alternated throughout the book, meaning that the reader uncovers the truth along with Lisa as well as coming to understand the motivations and personalties of the characters.

This debut novel is a captivating mix of family saga, romance and historical fiction.

Palace of Tears, by Julian Leatherdale
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760111601

Available from good bookstores and online.

Pieces of Sky, by Trinity Doyle

Pieces of SkyGripping the straps of my backpack, I stare up into the sky, willing the world to stop. I wipe my nose on my sleeve and walk until I’m out of sight of the centre. My legs won’t stop shaking. I sit in the gutter, then stand back up and pace in a circle, raking my hands through my hair…
My hands shake and I tuck them into my armpits. I swallow tears. It’s still happening.
I need to swim. I need something to be the same. No home, no Cam, no pool.
No me.

Lucy’s life used to be almost perfect. Living in a small coastal town with her much loved brother, Cam, and her parents, she had good friends and a passion for swimming which had taken to her state championship level. Now, though, all that has changed. Cam has died, and Cam can’t go back in the water. In spite of not swimming, she feels like she’s drowning almost as surely as Cam did. Her friends are still swimming, and now she’s on the outside, starting back for a new school year with no idea how she’s going to get through.

At school there’s a new boy, Evan, and her ex-best friend, Steffi, and Lucy finds herself drawn into their circle as she tries to figure out what went wrong with Cam, and what is going wrong with herself and her parents, too.

Pieces of Sky is a tale of love and loss, but it also a story of friendship and survival, offering hope without saccharine. There is an element of mystery, as Lucy tries to figure out who is sending messages to Cam’s phone, as well as romance and drama.

There is a lot to like about this debut novel.

Pieces of Sky, by Trinity Doyle
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760112486

Emerald Springs, by Fleur McDonald

She hoped that the vehicle would pass her and race off into the darkness. Just some idiot anxious to get home. She saw a flash of orange and realised it was an indicator. The vehicle – it was a ute. she thought, a big one, highset, a dark colour, with tinted windows – was pulling out to overtake. She started to breathe a little easier, her shoulders relaxing…
…until the other ute veered straight in front of her, cutting her off and hitting the brakes.

When she asked to take on the role of treasurer for the local rodeo, Amelia Bennett is flattered. She is a qualified accountant, and knows she can do the job well, but she is surprised people trust her, having been regarded as flighty in her teenage years. Throwing herself into the role, she is determined to di it well. But on rodeo night, as she transfers the takings to the bank, she finds herself in more trouble than she could have imagined.

Meanwhile,Detective Dave Burrows has been sent to Torrica to investigate a string of crimes in the area – thefts of fuel and equipment have escalated into bigger robberies. He doesn’t mind being there. It’s a chance to look up his old flame, Amelia’s Aunt Kim. But once he’s there, he’s thrown into investigating Amelia’s hold-up and more.

Emerald Springs is an absorbing rural story – part romance and part mystery, with plenty of both, and lots of action to keep the pages turning. Set in rural South Australia and featuring a strong female lead in Amelia, the story also touches on many issues facing rural communities – debt, drought, family stresses and more.

A cracking read.
Emerald Springs, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743315323

Available from good bookstores and online.