Choices, by Dianne Wolfer

Elisabeth’s hand trembled as she lifted the jar of warm liquid. She wanted to run away and scream that it was all a mistake, but instead she took a deep breath and poured her urine all over the plastic pregnancy tester. A few drops spilt on the bathroom tiles. She shivered. it was so unfair. They’d only done it a few times and it hadn’t even been that good. Not like it was in books or movies. She looked at her watch and crossed her fingers as her brother rattled the door handle.
‘I’m busy!’ she yelled.
‘All right, keep your hair on.’ He walked away. Then, the blue lines appeared. Elisabeth stared at the tester and knew that now she had to make a choice.

Elisabeth is seventeen, pregnant and needs to make choices about what to do. In Choices, Dianne Wolfer takes Elisabeth in two directions. The narrative progresses with ‘Beth’ choosing one path, and ‘Libby’ another. Neither path is easy and both have consequences for relationships with her family, her boyfriend, her faith and with her friends. There are also consequences for her education and her post-school plans. The narrative alternates between Libby’s story and Beth’s story with headings indicating the passage of time ie Beth: 16 Weeks, followed by ‘Libby: 17 Weeks. The alternating chapters are in different fonts to help distinguish between the narrators.

Choices is a sophisticated read. Elisabeth’s challenge/problem is identified from her point of view in a prologue and thereafter the voice is of one of her ‘alter-egos’. Dealing with a teenage pregnancy is not a new story line, but most novels take one path, not both. Choicesuses an omniscient viewpoint to bring in the thoughts of other main characters, but for the most part both Beth’s and Libby’s stories are a little like diaries. The omniscient point of view allows Diane Wolfer to add layers to the story by giving a depth to other characters that would be difficult to do in diary format or third person intimate point of view. Elisabeth is a strong, resourceful character and this is a very tough right of passage for a teenager…via either of the narratives. Wolfer avoids judgement of Elisabeth’s decision by presenting the dual narratives with equal weighting. Recommended for mid- to upper-secondary readers.


Choices, Diane Wolfer
Fremantle Press 2009

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Whose Footprints? by Jeannette Rowe

Jeanette Rowe’s bright simple books are familiar to many readers and pre-readers. Each explores a very simple concept, using repetition to cue responses from young children. In Whose Footprints? the question is repeated on each opening. Sideways flaps open to reveal the animal responsible. Each page is brightly coloured with text in large black letters. Flap colours contrast. Whose Footprints?is a sturdy paperback, designed to withstand repeated readings.

Whose Footprints? follows many other ‘Whose…’ titles from Jeanette Rowe. There have been noses, ears, tails and bellies to find. Each title asks a question and then invites the reader to guess the answer. The brightly-coloured pages and stylised animals introduce young children to various animal characteristics. There are also opportunities for discussion about colours, similarities, differences and more. Great for reading with a child, or for the child to explore on their own. Recommended for the very young.

Whose Footprints? Jeanette Rowe
ABC Books 2009
ISBN: 9780733322587

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, by K. A. Bedford

In 2027, things in Perth, Western Australia, are much the same as they are now, except housing is more expensive and time machines are a common household item. After discovering the body of a young woman inside a broken and rather unconventional time machine, repairman Spider Webb becomes tangled in a battle to save himself, his ex-wife, and indeed the entire universe, guided by a series of bizarre happenings and various future versions of himself, while discovering more about the future than he has ever been comfortable with.

Set in the near future, this intriguing, inventive, and entirely believable story presents a realistically bleak depiction of the near future with a cast of incredibly human characters. A rich web of mystery and complexity, Time Machines Repaired While-u-wait snares the reader with its enthralling plotline while creating a visualization of a future that is surprisingly ordinary, thanks to the down-to-earth perspective of main character Spider, who is faced with his own set of everyday problems and neuroses. Humourous and imaginative, Bedford’s novel consists of a pleasing balance of character, mystery, and action.

A down-to-earth, thought-provoking science fiction novel for people who like a plot filled with intrigue and characters with a bit of substance.

Time Machines Repaired While-u-wait

Time Machines Repaired While-u-wait, by K. A. Bedford
Fremantle Press, 2009

Cupid's Arrow, by Isabelle Merlin

‘Sure, Mum,’ I said, mock-meekly. ‘I promise you I’ll never be smart again,’ and then we both laughed. The sudden excitement of this unexpected trip to France was bubbling up in us. For a moment we quite forgot the terrible event that had actually set all this in motion.

Fleur Griffin is haunted by terrible nightmares, but when her mother unexpectedly inherits the library of a French author, the nightmares are forgotten in the excitement of a trip to France. Once she’s there, though, the nightmares come back. When she’s awake, Fleur is having a wonderful time – including a chance meeting with a boy – but when the nightmares start to intrude into her waking hours, Fleur doesn’t know what to believe.

Cupid’s Arrow is a blend of mystery and romance with a touch of fantasy. Aimed at teen girls, the foreign setting and mystic elements will appeal. The French town where the action takes place – Avallon – is linked with the legend of King Arthur – and the murder mystery is partially connected to this legend.

An additional element likely to appeal to teens is the extension of the story beyond the book, with a website at

Cupid's Arrow

Cupid’s Arrow, by Isabelle Merlin
Random House, 2009

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

Document Z, by Andrew Croome

Evdokia knew that the crowd was here for her. Hunting her. She was certain these people would kill her before they’d let her through the terminal and onto the plane. This might be it, she realised. Defector’s Wife Dies in Airport Shootout.

In Canberra in 1951, two new arrivals at the Soviet embassy are party loyalists. But Australia has much to offer, and embassy manoeuvrings see the pair regularly on the outer. Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov find their life a constant balancing act. In the meantime, ASIO staff are working to determine which embassy staff might be working for MVD, Moscow intelligence. Within three years of their arrival, Vladimir has defected and Evdokia is to be sent home to Moscow to face punishment.

Document Z is a fictionalised exploration of the Petrov affair, combing history, bringing the characters at its heart to life, whilst offering an insight into some of the possible behind the scenes events and motivations.

By itself it is an absorbing work of literature, but when read with deference to its historical basis, it is intriguing. Winner of the 2008 Australian/Vogel Literary Award this is a wonderful debut novel.

Document Z: A Novel

Document Z: A Novel, by Andew Croome
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Running With the Horses, by Alison Lester

Nina closed her eyes and imagined herself and Zelda in the Great Riding Hall. She saw the cheering audience, the glittering chandeliers and the dazzling spotlights. She heard the swelling music of the orchestra carrying them along. Nina was riding like her mother, as light as a summer butterfly. She could hear the soaring violins, the cellos, the drums…

Before the war, Nina lived with her father above the stables of the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. Now, however, war has come and Nina and her father have to flee with the remaining horses, and Zelda, an aging cab horse. The journey across the mountains is filled with danger, but Nina and Zelda draw strength from each other.

Running with the Horses is a beautiful picture book story based on the true story of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner stallions. Told in gentle prose with each page of text complemented by a black and white illustration and full page coloured illustration on the opposite page, this is both a visual and literary delight, perfect for reading aloud to primary aged children. Young horse lovers will delight in Lester’s art, and all children will be drawn into the excitement of the escape, at the same time learning some of the realities of war.

This is a story of hope which deserves to be shared.

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses, by Alison Lester
Penguin/Viking, 2009

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

The Dark Griffin, by K.J. Taylor

Arren raised his head, too, and screamed his own name at the heavens.
He thought he saw the black griffin pause in its circling. Then it screamed back. There were no discernable words there, just a long, harsh screech, like an eagle’s. Arren paused at this; he’d never heard a griffin’s cry that sounded like that. But as the black griffin began to descend and he began to run away out of the village, toward the fields, a thought flashed across his mind: this griffin had no name.

Despite being a Northener, the former slave race, Arren Cardockson has managed to become a griffiner. With his griffin, Eluna, he oversees trade in the city of Eagleholm, but knows his northern appearance means he will never be fully respected. When Arren and Eluna are sent to capture a rogue griffin, Arren sees a chance to earn some money and some respect, but his meeting with the mysterious black griffin begins a chain of events which sees his fortunes plummet.

For the black griffin, life has been hard and lonely. Living in the wild, he has little memory of his mother and has only met, briefly, one other griffin. His meeting with Arren will also change his life, from one of freedom to one of imprisonment and confusion.

Griffin and griffiner are in conflict, but as their lives spiral out of control it seems they may have something in common.

The Dark Griffin is the first title in a new fantasy series, The Fallen Moon. The land of Cymria is ruled by those humans who can communicate with, and work with, the griffins, with both rogue humans and wild griffins treated poorly. For Arren, who has risen to his position because a griffin chose him, his background means that he does not have access to justice. For the black griffin, his inability to communicate with humans means he does not understand the human world. Each of the pair must fight for survival, and for freedom.

This is a gripping fantasy offering suitable for both adult and older teen readers.

The Dark Griffin (Fallen Moon)

The Dark Griffin (Fallen Moon), by K.J. Taylor
Harper Voyager, 2009