Watch Me!

I’m grey and furry
and cuddly, too.
Watch me CHEW!

This board book with a difference features simple rhyming text introducing favourite Australian animals – koala, kangaroo, kookaburra, crocodile, emu, wombat and more . The illustrations are 3D motionprint, with readers able to tilt the book up and down to see the koala chew, the kookaburra fly and so on.

The rhyming text flows well and also encourages young listeners to guess the motions, and page backgrounds are brightly coloured – purples, greens, oranges and blue. The text is large and coloured to complement the backgrounds, with key words (mostly verbs and adverbs) set in white and with embellishments to accentuate the movements of the animals.

This sturdy offering will delight littlies from birth and up to about six, with the novelty of the ‘moving’ pictures being especially attractive to those at the older end of the range.

Watch Me!: Aussie Animals in Action!

Watch Me!: Aussie Animals in Action
Scholastic Australia, 2008

This book is available from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Ulterior Motive, by Lucienne Joy

Sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m not a bit brain damaged. I mean, what on earth else is there to make of your brand new husband giving you a book on sadomasochism, albeit one disguised as a fairy story, other than the obvious. What other possible conclusion is there to come to?

Coco thinks life on the French Riviera is pretty good. She has a career as a radio interviewer, friends, good food and plenty of entertainment. All she’s missing is romance. When she’s introduced to Jack Villeneuve she’s not too sure that he’s the one, but soon he sweeps her of her feet and before she knows it, they are married. All seems perfect until, after their honeymoon, Jack presents Coco with an s&m book and asks her to read it. This is the start of a disturbing series of events which sees Coco question not just their compatibility, but Jack’s motives.

Ulterior Motives is a shocking and often disturbing story, exploring the lies and differences which can destroy not just a marriage but also a person’s confidence. Coco is an open narrator, telling her story in a forthright manner , and sharing not just her story but also her recognition of her own flaws.

The story is influenced by the author’s own experience with a similar relationship, lending it an element of realism.

An uncomfortable, yet intriguing read.

Ulterior Motives

Ulterior Motives, by Lucienne Joy
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Ocean Pearl, by J. C. Burke

The pact we’d made that January night at camp, that moment when the four of us had placed our hands on top of one another’s and shouted ‘To the Starfish sisters’, had been broken – by me and only by me. If anything, Georgie had protected me by not telling the others. But because of that I knew she felt like she had broken the pact too.

Six months ago, at a surf camp, the Starfish sisters made a `pact. Now they are back together, but only for a weekend before three of the four head off to another camp, to select the national team. Ace, the prettiest, most talented of the four, has missed selection. But that is not her only problem, and nor are the other three friends without problems of their own. Micki’s dad is a drug addict, Kia self-harms, and Georgie is drowning in lies. Amidst all this, is it possible for them to once again be the Starfish Sisters, and to make the team?

Ocean Pearl is a sequel to Starfish Sisters, but has enough back story to stand alone for a reader who has not read the first. The four girls take turns telling the story from their first person perspectives, allowing the reader to engage with each character. Keen surfers will enjoy the surfing scenes, and the plot deals with some serious issues in an accessible way. The issue of self-harm, particularly, is dealt with sensitively.

A great read for teen girls.

Ocean Pearl

Ocean Pearl, by J. C. Burke
Random House, 2008

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

Cassie, by Barry Jonsberg

I’m Holly Holley and I’m short, I’m ugly and I’m overweight. I have only one friend in the world and she cares more about books than boyfriends. And now I’m lying in a strange room while strangers lie in mine. And they’re the reason I’ve blown my chances with Demi.
It’s not fair.

Holly Holley has an embarrassing name and terrible life. She’s overweight, unattractive, and not in with the right crowd. The boy she fancies doesn’t even know she exists. And, as if all that isn’t enough, now her household is being turned upside down by the arrival of her aunt and a cousin she doesn’t know. Cassie, the cousin, has severe cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair, unable to communicate with anyone other than her mother. Holly has to give up her room for Cassie and her mother, and move into the tiny, smelly spare room. Everything about her life is unfair – until the coolest girl at school, Demi, decides to take Holly under her wing. She is going to help Holly transform herself. But will that transformation come at a cost?

Cassie is a story about friendship, loyalty and self image, and also explores issues including disability and honesty. Whilst this seems a big list of topics, the story is also a fun read, and not overly-complex. The use of differing perspectives – including those of Holly and Cassie, and their mothers, Fern and Ivy – allows plenty of insights into the motivations and dilemmas of all characters, and it is especially intriguing to be offered the perspective of Cassie, who, unable to speak, could so easily be simply a token character in the book but who is, as the use of her name for the title suggests, integral to the story. Whilst Holly faces problems many teen readers will relate to – peer pressure, friendship and boy problems and so on – Cassie’s challenges are huge, but rather than this making her unable to relate to Holly’s problems, they enable her to empathise and connect with her cousin.

Part of the girlfriend fiction, Cassie will appeal to teen readers.

Cassie, by Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2008

Bookmark Days, by Scot Gardner

My name is Avril. This story is about me and my cousin Katie, who is from another planet. My planet is run by sheep, hers is run by fashion. You’ll also meet our families, a few horses and dogs, and one seriously hot guy.

Avril Stanton lives a quiet, isolated life. She lives so far from her nearest town that she doesn’t even go to school. In between doing correspondence lessons, she helps on the family farm, with her parents, grandparents and little brother. In contrast, her cousin Katie lives in the city and always has at least one boy on the go. But in spite of their differences, the two are best friends, and Avril can’t wait for Katie’s annual visit.

But this year things are different. Katie is driving Avril crazy with her nonstop talk about boys and boyfriends. Avril has never been in love – but has just met her neighbour, Nathaniel, who would be perfect if he wasn’t a Carrington, from the one family Avril is supposed to hate. Avril finds herself jealous of Katie’s confidence and ease with boys, and wonders if their friendship is in trouble.

Bookmark Days is a story about friendship and first relationships, as well as family structure and loyalty. As Avril and Katie deal with their own problems, they are also affected by the strain between Avril’s family and the neighbouring Carringtons, a feud which spans three generations, and have to realise that insecurity and relationship problems are not just the domain of the young.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, Bookmark Days Deals with issues which many teens will face, with the rural setting and city/country contrast providing a novel setting.

Bookmark Days, by Scot Gardner
Allen & Unwin, 2009

Somebody's Crying, by Maureen McCarthy

When Alice looks up and sees Tom staring at her, everything closes down around them and becomes very still. No one is breathing. No one else is in the room. Tom feels as if he can see right into the heart of Alice Wishart. It lies open before him, like a wide, long pane of glittering glass. So delicate and beautiful and…ready to break.

Three years ago Lillian Wishart was murdered. Tom’s best friend was charged, but not found guilty, of the murder, and Tom wanted nothing more to do with him. Now, though, Tom is going back to his home town, and Jonty wants to talk to him about a theory about who might have killed Lillian. Life gets even more complicated when Tom gets reacquainted with Alice, Lillian’s daughter and Jonty’s cousin. As Tom, Jonty and Alice revisit the past and try to find a way to move forward, the secrets each is hiding have the power to tear their fragile friendship further apart.

Somebody’s Crying is a powerful young adult novel, drawing the reader into the mystery of the murder and into the lives of the three main characters, each with problems which predate the murder as well as the more obvious ones arising from it. Using the alternate perspectives of the three main characters allows the reader to get to know each one and to see inside both their current life and their recall of past events.

Much more than a murder mystery, Somebody’s Crying is a captivating read for older teens.

Somebody’s Crying, by Maureen McCarthy
Allen & Unwin, 2008

Big and Me, by David Miller

Big and I do a lot of digging and lifting, trenching and filling. We’re a team, a good team, the best.
But some days Big goes a bit wobbly and I get a lot worried.

Big and Small are two machines working together on building projects. But when Big starts to malfunction, Small is affected. First, Big drives into the water, thinking he is a boat. Then he picks Small up and won’t put him down – because he thinks that the other machines want to hurt Small. Small turns to the boss and Mechanic, who find that Big’s computer is getting mixed up. They help Big to get better, and offer support to Small.

Big and Me uses the metaphor of a machine with computer problems to explore the topic of mental illness in adults. Small is cast as the child seeking to understand a parent’s mental illness, with the support of other adults and friends. This use of metaphor allows a fairly weighty and difficult topic to be dealt with in a way which even very young children will be able to connect with.

Author/Illustrator David Miller uses his renowned paper sculpture illustrations to bring the tale to life. The machines are created in 3D sculpture, then photographed. The backgrounds are muted, the blues and ochres providing colour, but still reflecting the serious nature of the story.

Big and Me is a gentle, realistic story which offers both hope and a path to understanding mental illness and its impact both on adults and children.

Big and Me

Big and Me, by David Miller
Ford Street, 2008

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

Can You Keep a Secret, by Mark Carthew & Jobi Murphy

For anyone who loves nursery rhymes – and for anyone who has yet to discover their wonders- this delightful offering is just perfect. This cushioned hardcover book offers hundreds of rhymes, brightly illustrated and with touches such as the ribbon bookmark making it a great gift and a collector’s item.

From the seemingly universally known rhymes such as Hey diddle diddle, and Mary had a Little Lamb to lesser known ones including Five Bananas, Chubby Little Snow Man and many, many more, there are rhymes to suit every mood or occasion. Compiler Mark Carthew has divided his selections into six categories: Nursery rhymes, Playtime Rhymes, Action rhymes, Counting Rhymes, Finger Rhymes and Lullabies and Gentle Rhymes, and has included a Foreword with a little insight into his selection process.

All rhymes are colourfully illustrated by Jobi Murphy using ink outlines and bright fills. Some pages uses bold or bright backgrounds, whilst others are on white. There is plenty of variety to delight young readers.

This is a volume to be dipped into and to be treasured by young and old. Simply beautiful.

Can You Keep a Secret?

Can You Keep a Secret, by Mark Carthew and Jobi Murphy
Random House Australia, 2008

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.

The Edge of Desire, by Stephanie Laurens

Watching him stroll, ineffably graceful, across the room toward her – allowing herself to – had been a mistake. All that harnessed power condensed into one male – a male no one with functioning eyes would rate as anything less than dangerous – was a phenomenon guaranteed to distract any living, breathing woman. Her most of all. Yet today she needed to reach past the glamour and deal with the man.

Twelve years ago Christian Allardyce, Marquess of Dearne, went away to war, leaving behind the woman he loved, who promised to wait. Now he is back in London, but his love – Lady Letitia Randall – is married to another man, and they no longer speak. Until the day Letitia comes to him for help. Her husband has been murdered and her brother stands accused of the crime. Letitia needs Christian’s help to prove Justin’s innocence and to find the true murderer.

Whilst Christian fights the desire for revenge against the woman who scorned him, Letitia fights her own battle. She believes Christian abandoned her, and has turned to him now only in desperation. But as they work together to solve the crime and prove Justin’s innocence, their relationship is rekindled. Can they manage to overcome their past?

The Edge of Desire is a regency romance with a strong element of mystery. Whilst the relationship between the two protagonists is central, the mystery is also important, with many twists and turns, and there is also a strong cast of supporting characters for readers to engage with. An absorbing read.

Author Stephanie Laurens, who hails from Melbourne, has written numerous Regency Numerous and the last twenty two have been bestsellers in the USA.

The Edge of Desire

The Edge of Desire, by Stephanie Laurens
Avon Books, 2008

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