Wombat Warriors by Samantha Wheeler

‘Look out!’ cried Mum as Dad braked to miss a large white duck waddling across the driveway.
I pressed my face to the window. I knew staying with Aunt Evie would be different, but I hadn’t expected an old sandstone cottage almost ready to collapse. Nor was I prepared for the raggle-taggle gypsy striding towards us. I swallowed hard. Tall and thin, with her dark curly hair tied up in a red scarf, Aunt Evie didn’t look anything like Dad. Plus, she wore socks with her sandals. Dad never wore sandals.

Nine-year-old Minnie, known as ‘Mouse’, is accustomed to being looked after by her loving but very protective parents. So when they tell her they are going to Ireland and she’s going to stay with the aunt she hardly knows, who lives in country South Australia, she’s understandably apprehensive. As if that’s not enough, she also discovers that the house is home to a wombat called Miss Pearl and a duck called Pumpkin. AND she has to attend school while she stays with Aunt Evie. Altogether, it’s not shaping up to be much fun. But Miss Pearl immediately befriends her, and despite a rocky start, school’s not all bad. But there’s a problem. While Mouse very quickly comes to love Miss Pearl, not everyone in the district is as fond of wombats.

Mouse is not used to independence, making her own decisions, and she’s a bit gobsmacked that she has to stay with her quirky aunt in the country. She’s not that excited about Aunt Evie’s neighbour either, and her neighbour’s not that thrilled about city girls. But she does find a friend in her neighbour’s son Harry. Quiet Mouse discovers her voice here in the country where not everyone loves all the wildlife. Her stay with Aunt Evie tips her world upside down in ways she could never have predicted. Themes of friendship, compromise, family and wildlife. Recommended for independent readers.

Wombat Warriors, Samantha Wheeler
UQP 2017 ISBN: 9780702259586

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

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.

Cinnamon Rain, by Emma Cameron

A cave on Pebble Beach,
a bike ride from home,
where the sting of salt air
tears away the built-up wondering
of what to do –
on the last day of holidays,
about Casey,
with my life.

Luke is drifting through the final years of high school, unsure of where he’s heading< he works at the local supermarket to save up money, but doesn’t really know what he wants to do after school. The only thing he is sure of is his feelings for Casey. His mate Bongo is drifting too, but in a different way. He’s often drifting in a dope-filled haze as he struggles to see a way forward. He has a violent stepdad and an addicted mother, as well as a little brother who’s been taken away by welfare, meaning Bongo hardly gets to see him. He likes Casey too, but isn’t sure he has anything to offer her. Casey meanwhile, is stuck, unsure what she wants but pretty sure of what she doesn’t want: to be in this town, being told everything she can and can’t do by her controlling father. She wants to move on and be free, and neither boy can have a place in those plans.

Cinnamon Rain is a verse novel which packs a punch. The story is told from the first person viewpoint of each of the three characters in turn – so that we first hear from Luke, then Casey and finally Bongo. While in places the story overlaps so that we get two versions of the same event, the result is cumulative rather than repetitive, and the time lines of each narrative stretch differently so that we come in and leave at different times, meaning that in each section we get more of the total story, with the three stories, and characters, coming together in the final pages. This differs from the more common use of alternating viewpoints in multi-viewpoint novels, and works well.

Dealing with a range of issues which confront both the viewpoint characters and their other schoolmates, including drug and alcohol use, family breakdown, reckless driving, death and bereavement, teen pregnancy and more, the story could have become issue-heavy, but Cameron handles it skilfully, using the verse from to deftly weave together the different elements.

Beautiful.

 

Cinnamon Rain

Cinnamon Rain, by Emma Cameron
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921720451

Available from good bookstores and online .

Crimson Dawn, by Fleur McDonald

Sean cleared his throat and stood up. ‘Laura, we know how much you love farming and Nambina. It’s that sort of love I have never understood or had, and it’s why today we are passing the reins of it over to you, darling girl….I believe you are destined for greatness within the ag industry…we can’t wait to watch and see what happens and where it ends up.’

When Laura Murphy is handed the reins of the family property, she hopes that she can justify the trust placed in her. She sets to work building her breeding program and establishing a school to teach young women farming and property management skills. She is independent, strong and determined to succeed.

Not everything is perfect though. Laura is haunted by a personal tragedy which cost her a friendship and broke up her relationship with Josh, from the neighbouring property. Her latest batch of students have started off strongly, but seem to splintering as a group as the year goes by. And a solicitor has notified her that someone else has a claim over Nambina. It’s going to take all her strength to keep it all together.

Crimson Dawn is a rural novel of courage, family and survival. With elements of mystery and romance, and a slit narrative which gradually reveals the details of the family split which lead to the property claim, there is a lot happening in the story, but McDonald weaves the varying threads together strongly.

An absorbing, satisfying story of outback life.

 

Crimson Dawn, by Fleur McDOnald
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743315316

Available from good bookstores or online.

Brumby's Run, by Jennifer Scoullar

The most important meeting of her life, and she was running late. Faith had offered to come along, but Sam had sensed her reluctance. In the end she’d gone off in a cab by herself, under a gloomy sky. It was probably for the best. This was something she needed to do, alone. The car swished through the rainy streets. Sam stared out the window, stomach knotted tight in anticipation. She was about to meet a sister she’d known about for less than twenty-four hours.

Samantha Carmichael is enjoying a carefree summer before she starts a university degree. But, over lunch, her mother delivers two stunning pieces of news – firstly that Samantha is adopted, and secondly, that she has an identical twin sister, Charlie. It seems the truth has come out now because Charlie is critically ill, and only Sam can save her.

Sam and Charlie have grown up in different worlds, but their connection is instant, and soon Sam finds herself offering to look after her sister’s home at Brumby’s Run, a propety high in the Victorian Alps, while Charlie recovers in the city. Sam knows horses, but she has never lived in the country, and now her days are filled with looking after cattle, breaking brumbies, and getting the run-down property back on track. Fortunately she has a helping hand from the handsome Drew Chandler, the son of the neighbouring property owner and Charlie’s former boyfriend.

As the time for Charlie’s return draws closer, Sam finds herself faced with an unwelcome possibility – has she stolen her sister’s life, and will Charlie want it back?

Brumby’s Run is a moving tale of family secrets and relationships, rural life, and the brumby – the wild mountain dwelling horses of the Australian alps. Whilst this is a romance, the issues dealt with are important too, and dealt with well. the exploration of the many issues surrounding brumbys is especially well handed, leaving the reader well informed.

Issues aside, the key here is that this is an accessible read, with romance at its heart.

Brumby’s Run, by Jennifer Scoullar
Penguin 2012
ISBN

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

Wattle Creek, by Fiona McCallum

Jacqueline Havelock has never lived in the country, but she needs a fresh start, so when she’s offered a job as a rural psychologist, she takes it. Her first patient is Damien McAllister, a man on the brink.

The saltbush plains stretched for miles all around and without another car in sight, Jacqueline had begin to feel isolated and melancholy. She’d read that the rate of suicide was highest in young men living in rural and remote areas. No wonder, she’d thought wistfully; the environment was so grey, brown and stunted. Refusing to accept any internal suggestion that she was having second thoughts, she’d put on a CD and sang loudly while her eyes focused on the endless white lines dividing the dark bitumen road.

Jacqueline Havelock has never lived in the country, but she needs a fresh start, so when she’s offered a job as a rural psychologist, she takes it. Her first patient is Damien McAllister, a man on the brink. Since his father died and his mother remarried, Damien has been running the family farm. It’s hard, lonely work, and he isn’t even sure why he bothers. He’s certainly not used to sharing his problems, so ending up in the psychologist’s office is painfully embarrassing. Even more embarrassing is the fact that he finds her so attractive – and she’s telling him up front that their relationship must be strictly professional.

As the pair get to know each other, though, both of their lives change. JAcqueline learns about coutnry lfie – its highs and its lows – and Damien learns tof ind hope. If they can both break free fromt he ghosts of their pasts it’s just possible that the pair might find happiness.

Wattle Creek is a rural romance novel , which is also a story about following dreams, unlikely friendships and life in rural Australia. The characters and events will be familiar with those who live in, or have lived in, farming communities. The book also deals with the issue of depression and is dedicated to those who have suffered depression.

A warm tale.

Wattle Creek

Wattle Creek, by Fiona McCallum
Mira Books, 2012
ISBN 978192179539

This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.