Beautiful Death, by Fiona McIntosh

Jack wasn’t enjoying the banter. He was watching the victim’s dark hair heavily unfolding, reminding him of Lily. A sharp tug of fear passed through him. He hated listening to this with Lily’s whereabouts unknown. He needed to make that call and set things straight with the team in charge of her missing person case…now he was staring at a mark on the corpse, just near her shoulder. He felt his breath catch.

On his last case, DCI Jack Hawksworth found himself just a little too closely involved when he realised he was romantically involved with a serial killer. Now, though, he’s back at work and newly assigned to a big case. Someone is killing seemingly random victims, taking their kidneys and faces as trophies. Jack and his team must stop the killer – but, soon, Jack finds he is again more closely involved than he’d like- when one of the victims turns out to be his new girlfriend. Jack should remove himself from the investigation, but now that it’s personal he is even more determined to solve the case.

Beautiful Death is a gripping crime novel combining crime with medical and scientific possibility, in the underworld of black market trading in body parts. Set in and around London, the story still manages to include references to Australia, where the author resides, reminding the reader of that link. In the end, though, the setting – whilst well evoked – is merely a backdrop to an intriguing mystery, a chilling series of events and the absorbing lives of a diverse cast of characters.

This is the second book featuring Detective jack Hawksworth, and readers will look forward to more.

Beautiful Death

Beautiful Death, by Fiona McIntosh
Harper Collins, 2009
ISBN: 9780732284473

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

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey

…if it were anyone else, I would choose to step back and turn away right now. I would never bow my head and push through that wattle, and its golden orbs would never shake loose and settle in my hair like confetti. I would never grab at its rough trunk to save me from tripping. I would never part its locks of foliage. And I would never lift my head to see this neat clearing of land. I would never look past Jasper Jones to reveal his secret.
But I don’t turn back. I stay. I follow Jasper Jones.
And I see it.
And everything changes.

When he is woken in the middle of a hot summer’s night, Charlie Bucktin is excited to find that Jasper Jones needs his help. Charlie is bookish and unpopular – and Jasper Jones is the town’s rebellious outcast. What could Jasper need him for? But when Charlie follows Jasper across town and out into a clearing in the bush, he doesn’t know that his life is about to changed forever. What Jasper shows him will shake him from his childhood and, in the weeks that follow everything that Charlie thinks he has known starts to change. As he struggles with the terrible secret that he carries, the disintegration of his tight knit family, the racism directed at his friend Jeffrey and first love, Charlie seeks to find truth and peace.

Jasper Jones is a brilliant novel which manages to blend terrible, tragic events with touches of romance, plenty of humour and characters who are easy to like. Set in a (fictional) small mining town in country WA, against a backdrop of true events of the 1960s including the Vietnam War, the hanging of the ‘Nedlands Monster’, the disappearance of the Beaumont children and Doug Walters test cricket debut, the author manages to create a believable setting for his tale, and to draw the reader in to the lives of Charlie and his friends.

This is a story which draws the reader in and, when it is over, leaves them wanting more. These are hard characters to have to leave behind.

Jasper Jones: A Novel

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Bruce & Me, by Oren Siedler

My father is a criminal; my mother is a lapsed Jew turned Buddhist hippie. Throughout my childhood I lived two lives, shuttling between them on two continents.

This is the true story of Oren Siedler. Born in the United States, when she was eight she came to live in Australia with her mother and stepfather, leaving her father behind. However, Bruce, her father, insisted on being part of Oren’s life, and so she spent much of her childhood dividing her time between living with her mother on a Buddhist retreat in Australia and living on the road with her father in America. Bruce, her father, was a criminal, making his living through scamming banks, and Oren was regularly drawn into these scams, an unwitting participant.

Bruce & Me chronicles this unconventional childhood as well as Siedler’s quest in her adult years to understand her father and her unconventional relationship with both of her parents. The story is an intriguing mix of humour, pathos and intrigue, especially when one is reminded that this is a true story.

Bruce and Me

Bruce & Me, by Oren Siedler
Random House, 2009

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

Winter of Grace, by Kate Constable

It wasn’t possible that Jay could like me better than Stella – Stella’s the pretty one. I’m short and frizzy-haired and just generally blah. Maybe he was concussed and he’d mixed up our names. That would be it.

Bridie and Stella have been best friends for ever, and nothing is going to change that. So, as war looms, they are united in their opposition, and attend a peace rally. But when they rescue a boy who is attacked at the rally it starts a chain of events which sees their friendship threatened.

Jay, the boy they rescue, seems to be attracted to Bridie – but is Stella who always gets the boys. There is more. Jay is a committed Christian, and as Bridie gets to know him and his religion, the strain it places on her friendship with Stella is immense. Bridie isn’t even sure she can be friends with Stella any more.

Winter of Grace explores issues of friendship, religion, and family relationships, as Bridie struggles in her search for meaning to life and a need to belong. Both her friend Stella and her mother have issues with organised religion, and Bridie is pressured by the opposing views of those two and of her new friends. Author Constable is to be commended for exploring an issue not often covered in teen fiction and for avoiding being prescriptive or simplistic in the resolution.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, and with a romantic element, Winter of Grace will appeal to teen girls.

Winter of Grace (Girlfriend Fiction)

Winter of Grace, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Baby Gets Dressed, by Katrina Germein & Sascha Hutchinson

It’s time to get dressed.
But what will Baby wear?

This cute little board book is a simple rhyming story of baby getting dressed for the day, and a seek and find book rolled into one. On each spread the text indicates the next item which baby will wear, while the left hand illustration shows happy baby dressed in previous items and playing. The right hand page shows five of the new item, in different patterns and colours, with the young reader invited to find the correct item for baby to wear.

The rhyming text scans well, making it easy to read and to predict text, whilst the illustrations, using bright collage materials, will engage young viewers.

Baby gest Dressed is suitable for birth to preschool aged children.

Baby Gets Dressed [Board book]

Baby gest Dressed, by Katrina Germein & Sascha Hutchinson
Working Title, 2009

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

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Sue Whiting

There are no finer candymakers in the land than Marcus and Mary. They boil and toil making all sorts of delectable delights. But when the greedy king tastes one of their sugarplums and orders fifty jars be made by sun-up, Marcus is sure they will be in trouble. There is no way they can fill the order in time. They work late into the night, but cannot fill the order. To their surprise, in the morning there are fifty jars waiting on the bench for them to deliver to the king.

When this pattern is repeated, Marcus and Mary discover they are being helped by a sugar plum fairy – and when trouble really strikes it is the sugar plum fairy who again helps them out. Mary decides it is time that she and Marcus do something to repay the fairy – and this is exactly what they do.

This absolutely gorgeous picture book is a treat as sweet as the lollies which adorn its pages. The story is delightfully reminiscent of the tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker and the illustrations are filled with colour and quirky characters. As if the story and illustrations weren’t enough, the book is accompanied by a CD featuring the story read by Antonia Kidman and a recording of Tchaikovsky’s music which is the source of inspiration for the story.

Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy is part of New frontier Publishing’s innovative Music Box series which aims to introduce children to pieces of classical music in an innovative way. Little girls will love it, and music teachers will also find the book a useful classroom tool.

Sheer delight.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Sue Whiting and Sarah Davis (ill)
New Frontier Publishing, 2009

Out of the Blue, by Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey

Sean Williams woke with a start. He sat up quickly and looked around his dark bedroom. There was nothing. The house was quiet. His clock read 1.35am. It was too early for the garbage men or a milk truck or any sort of delivery van, so what had woken him up?

Sean slid out of his bed and padded over to his window, pushing the curtain aside so he could see out. Suddenly, he saw what had made him wake up like that. The sky was lit with flashes as if a whole heap of meteors were cascading to Earth. The bright light must have come through a crack in the curtains and hit him in the face. As Sean watched, half a dozen more flashes shot through the dark and disappeared. The sky returned to normal.

Teasdale is not the sort of place where unusual things happen very often, so there is some excitement when bright lights are sighted in the night sky. The resident eccentric, who claims a previous alien abduction experience is quite excited. But for Sean, his sister and her friends, it is the beginning of a mystery. Each of the characters investigates in a slightly different way, but each piece contributes to solving the puzzle. At the same time there are other puzzles. What’s up with Gabby? Why is she so grumpy? What is the strange object Sean found, and why are the UFOSITE people acting so suspiciously. And then there’s the abandoned shooting range. These holidays are going to be like no other.

Sean is younger brother to Hannah but is also friends with her friends, Gabby, Angus and ED. They have the kind of freedom to explore that is remembered by many adults but often not available to children of today. This freedom allows them to explore and investigate while still retaining the security of their individual families. Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey keep the families in the background, but ensure that it is clear that the children operate from a safe base. All treat the local eccentric, Byron Watts, with respect, despite some doubts regarding his claims. Sean is the nominal main character, but there are plenty of insights from the other characters. Teasdale, the setting is a small inland town in the bush and it’s easy to imagine it anywhere along the east or south coast. Recommended for mid- upper primary readers, particularly lovers of mystery.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue, Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey
Angus & Robertson 2009
ISBN: 9780207200601

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


review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Dougy, Gracey and Angela, by James Moloney

Dougy doesn’t say much, and people think that means he’s slow. Sometimes it’s if they don’t even know he’s there. But Dougy sees and feels plenty, and when his town is torn apart by a bubbling up of racial tension, it is Dougy who digs deep to save the lives of his older sister, Gracey, and brother, Raymond.

Dougy is the viewpoint character in the first book of this marvellous trilogy which starts with the dramatic unfolding of events in Dougy before shifting to explore sister Gracey’s story as she tries to balance life far away from her home town with being part of an Aboriginal family in the country, and finally to the friendship between Gracey and her schoolmate Angela. This final book explores Gracey’s need to reconnect with her Aboriginal heritage and Angela’s struggle to understand both Gracey’s need and the broader issue of the ‘stolen generation’.

As the series progresses the issues become in some ways more complex, and the characters develop. With Dougy being the sole narrator of the first book, Dougy and Gracey sharing the narration of the second (with a white policeman also being a minor narrator), and Angela narrating the third, readers get not just to get to know each character but also witnesses their growth. Exploring issues including systemic and endemic racism, aboriginal health and mortality, deaths in custody, the stolen generations and more, these important books make thought-provoking reading.


Dougy, by James Moloney, UQP, this edition 2009


Gracey, by James Moloney, UQP, this edition 2009


Angela, by James Moloney, UQP, this edition 2009

These books can be purchased online from Fishpond by clicking ont he covers above. Buying through these links supports Aussiereviews.

Dinosaur Knights, by Michael Gerard Bauer

Tens of millions of years before the earliest humans would tread the same earth, a giant theropod lowered its snout to the forest floor and sniffed.
It was almost time.
A second, more urgent, need now joined the bitter hunger already clawing away in its stomach. The big dinosaur arched its neck skyward and stared with unblinking eyes through the edges of the forest to the flood plain below. Soon a small parcel of air laced with promise of warm flesh and brittle bone streamed through its nostrils.

Dinosaur Knights brings together the past, the even further past and the near future. An ambitious team of scientists, backed by private interests, hope to transport a live dinosaur to the future by stretching time. A sceptical investigative journalist has been flown in from Australia to record the anticipated culmination of years of research. The viewpoint changes constantly as the reader experiences life in the different time zones. In the future, the journalist seeks to understand the motivation for wanting a live dinosaur. In the middle ages, twin boys of complementary natures (one a would-be warrior, the other a would-be healer) struggle to save their father from a corrupt official. And in the prehistoric past, a carnivore dinosaur hunts. Tension escalates as a thread is pulled through all three times.

Knights, dinosaurs and modern science are an unusual combination given their existences didn’t ever overlap. Or did they? Bauer postulates a scientific ‘what if?’ and creates a film scene-like story where the impossible happens. The short chapters and scene-shifting from time period to time period keeps the pace a-cracking. Symbols at the start of each chapter make it clear which period is hosting the action. Then it changes when the dinosaur is stranded in the middle ages and the chapter headings cue the viewpoint character/s. Quotes from Einstein accompany each of the three parts. Along the way, morals and ethics are examined – in an age appropriate way – and provide ample opportunity for discussion. In the future, the scientist and the journalist both investigate in their own way. In the middle ages, two boys suffer for the politicking of others in the castle and in the time of the dinosaurs, the therapod seeks to survive. A thrilling story which lasts beyond the final words. Recommended for upper primary readers.

Dinosaur Knights

Dinosaur Knights, Michael Gerard Bauer
Omnibus Books 2009
ISBN: 9781862917958

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

The Little One, by Kaitie Afrika Litchfield

My name is Kaitie. I live in Adelaide, Australia.
When I was four years old, my mum and I lived in Uganda in Africa. She is a scientist, and she was working at a sanctuary for orphaned chimpanzees. Her job was to find out how chimps solve puzzles.

Kaitie Afrika Litchfield was, for the time of this story, a surrogate mother to an orphaned baby Red-tailed Monkey called The Little One. The Little One was brought to her Uganda home after a farmer had killed her mother. Although Red-tailed Monkeys are not endangered, their habitat is being destroyed for farmland. The monkeys are adaptable and will eat some of the farm crop, but farmers are less keen to share. The Little One of the title may be a monkey, but it could equally refer to Kaitie and her time in Africa. The gorgeous photos which accompany the text are from Kaitie’s family album.

A photo of The Little One graces the cover of this story of the same name. He is a very cute little monkey, looking directly into the camera. But his interaction with humans has altered his life. Farming land has overtaken his natural home and his mother was killed by a farmer. His life changed again when he was brought to the home Kaitie shared with her scientist mother. Kaitie became temporary mother to the orphan and when he was grown, found a home where he will be safe. The Little One also touches on Kaitie’s life in Uganda. Kaitie details her life as though it as normal as the childhood of most Australian children. Photos fill in some of the space between her words and give the reader a (pardon the pun) snapshot of an extraordinary experience. Recommended for junior primary readers, although younger readers will also enjoy this story.

The Little One, Kaitie Afrika Litchfield
Black Dog Books 2009
ISBN: 9781742030906


review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author