Liar, by Justine Larbalestier

I haven’t been entirely honest. I mean, I have been about the facts. About Zach and the police. How awful it was at school, at home. My family history. My illness. How I showed Zach foxes. How everyone suspects me, if not of killing Zach, then of something.
I haven’t made myself out to be better than I am. Or worse.
But I haven’t been entirely honest about my insides. How it is in my head and my heart and my veins.
Let me come clean.

Micah Wilkins is a liar. Everyone knows that – her teachers, her parents and especially her classmates. Even Micah knows it – and admits it. But she promises the reader that this time she will tell the truth.

Micah’s secret boyfriend, Zach has been murdered, and Micah wants the reader to know that she didn’t kill him – even though there’s plenty of suspicion being cast on her. Zach’s ‘real’ girlfriend Sarah, his friends, the teachers and the police all seem to think Micah could have done it – and even her parents seem a little unsure. At first it seems that all this suspicion is a little unfounded, and that Micah may be a little paranoid, but as the book progresses, the reader finds plenty of reason not to trust Micah – and to instead wonder just what she is capable of.

Liar is a compelling story. With twists and turns and an intriguing plot structure which sees Micah (and the reader) jump from past to present and back again with a complexity which allows for truth (and lies) to be slowly pieced together, what IS certain is that the reader will be fascinated with Micah and find it difficult to stop reading until the final page and even then, to stop thinking about Micah for a long time after.



Liar, by Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Forbidden Fruit, by Kerry Greenwood

It is Christmas time, a season that Corinna Chapman hates, and a heat wave is stifling the whole city. But still bread and muffins must be baked, and Corinna and her apprentice Jason are doing just that, keeping their clientele – which has grown to include a rosewater loving donkey – happy. In between times, Corinna is kept busy helping her divine private investigator boyfriend Daniel as he searches for two teenage runaways.

Brigid is heavily pregnant and Manny is helping her run from her family, who have been keeping her captive. Daniel and Corinna’s search is hampered by the runaways’ fear, and by the strange men in suits who seem to want the girl, and her baby. Fortunately, they also have at their disposal an eclectic range of helpers – free spirit freegans, over-zealous vegans, internet hackers and even a witch.

Forbidden Fruit is the fifth adventure featuring baker Corinna Chapman and her intriguing friends and associates. Corinna is a dry witted, feisty woman, with an unmatchable view of the world. Readers will be delighted to see regular characters from previous volumes including Meroe the witch, dreamy Daniel and shop girls Goss and Kylie, as well as new characters including Brigid and Manny and Serena the donkey. Food lovers will also love the elaborate detail of the food which is entwined throughout the plot.


Forbidden Fruit

Forbidden Fruit, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

I Spy Dad! by Janeen Brian and Chantal Stewart

I spy with my little eye
dads all starting with d.
But can I find the one who’s mine?
I wonder where he’ll be?

A little girl searches for her dad, spying a ‘mowing dad’, a ‘rowing dad’, a ‘reading dad’ and a ‘weeding dad’, but where is the dad who belongs to her?

This cute rhyming picture book explores the things which different dads might have fun doing, and provides a surprise as the young protagonist searches for, and eventually finds, her dad – in a place the reader will not expect. The text is simple, with enjoyable rhymes providing humour, and the illustrations, in colourful watercolour with ink outlines, are equally playful.

A wonderful gift for a new dad, or just for any child to enjoy.

I Spy Dad

I Spy Dad, by Janeen Brian and Chantal Stewart
New Frontier, 2009

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

Cleo, by Helen Brown

The kitten, Sam’s kitten, didn’t belong in our house. It had arrived like E. T. in a space ship (disguised as Lena’s patchwork bag). The kitten was from another time. We were different people when Sam was with us and our lives were whole. Now that we were broken, frayed remnants of our former selves there was no place for a kitten. Not with us.

When Helen brown’s nine year old son wanted a kitten, Helen wasn’t so sure. She just wasn’t a cat person, and with two sons, a husband and a dog, she didn’t need anything else in her life. But Sam pleaded, and Helen gave in. The kitten would be delivered as soon as it was big enough to leave its mother. But, before the kitten would arrive, Sam was run over and killed. And when Helen’s friend Lena delivered the kitten, Helen was sure it couldn’t stay. Helen’s other son, Rob, had other ideas, smiling for the first time since his brother’s death.

Soon, Cleo was part of the family, a family that had been shattered by its tragedy. Over the years that followed Cleo taught the family to smile and even to laugh again, overseeing the birth of more children, the breakup of one marriage and the eventual event of another – even a move to another country.

Cleo: How an Uppity Cat Helped Heal a Family is a tender, honest and uplifting look at how one family has lived beyond the loss of a child, and the role of a small black cat in that family’s survival. Whilst dealing with some truly sad events, this is ultimately a feel good book.

Cleo: How an Uppity Cat Helped Heal a Family

Cleo: How an Uppity Cat Helped Heal a Family, by Helen Brown
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Navigating Teenage Depression, by Gordon Parker & Kerrie Eyers

Should you approach a teenager who seems to be having difficulties, or should you be ‘leave well enough alone’? Or is the situation ‘well enough’? Can you wait it out – whatever ‘it’ is? What is the logic for helping when depression can be so variable in severity, so changeable in its manifestations – and, at times, can put the young person at risk of suicide or self-injury? What is the best way to go forward?

If you have teenage children, or work with teenagers in any role, chances are you know a teen suffering depression. Fourteen percent, or nearly one million young people in Australia, deal with mental health problems. This book is the Black Dog Institute’s response to this statistic and to calls for help from teens, parents and professionals.

From recognising that there is a problem, to seeking help, getting a correct diagnosis, treatment and, finally, maintaining good mental health, this is a comprehensive guide for parents and professionals. Supported throughout by first person accounts from teens and their carers, this is both an essential guide and a source of understanding. The honesty of the teen contributors is a really valuable aspect of the book, offering a very personal insight.

Navigating Teenage Depression is an outstanding offering which should be read by every parent, and those who work with teens.

Navigating Teenage Depression: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

Navigating Teenage Depression: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, by Gordon Parker and Kerri Eyers
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Lessons for a Werewolf Warrior, by Jackie French

Behind him he could hear a long sluuuushhh as the Zurm oozed down the stairs. A vision of what would happen hovered in front of him…Spot, glued to the floor, her Frisbee in her mouth, her eyes wide and desperate as she slowly starved. Old Mrs Shaggy, strawberry-jammed solid as she spooned out ice cream for her nephews…
the ice cream, thought Boo frantically. The Greedle wants our ice cream!
And suddenly he knew what he could do.

Boojum Bark lives quite happily with his mum, working as delivery boy for her ‘Best Icecream Shop in the Universes’. But that changes one Christmas Eve when the Greedle and his evil henchmen come to steal not only the Best Icecream, but also the Best Icecream maker – Boo’s mum. Even though Boo has saved the rest of his village from the Greedle, all he wants is his mum back.

Because of his heroics, Boo is sent to the School for Heroes where he can learn all the skills of a hero – and, he hopes, one day save his mum. But first he has to get used to walking on two legs (not easy for a werewolf pup), travelling through wormholes, and mixing with heroes from other worlds and universes.

Lessons for a Werewolf Warrior is the first new series in the new School for Heroes series from one of Australia’s best loved children’s authors, Jackie French. With an eclectic cast of characters, lots of action, and lashings of humour, this is sure to appeal to middle and upper primary school readers, who will be keen to see the series continue in the nest instalment.

Lots of fun.

Lessons for a Werewolf Warrior (School for Heroes)

Lessons for a Werewolf Warrior (School for Heroes), by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, 2009

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

Morgassa's Folly, by Paul Collins & Danny Wills

Allira reached out with her hand (later, Steven told her she hadn’t moved at all, nor had she opened her eyes) and shook one of the biggest threads. A thrill of electricity shot through her when she touched it, and it made her think of sherbet fizzing on the tongue. She watched as a ripple of movement flowed along the thread, sending more ripples down adjoining filaments, till they were lost in the forest.
The music stopped. The light went out. Allira opened her eyes.

In the third book in World of Grrym, Allira and her brother Steven had taken in on themselves to return to Grrym, in a last-ditch effort to save Quibbitt and rescue their grandfather. Soon, Alisha is driving her grandfather’s car across Grrym, being pursued by an evil troll, and encountering all sorts of problems, as they try to find the Great Spirit, Quon’deesh. Only Quon’deesh, a mystical entity, is powerful enough to stop the evil Morgassa. But Allira and Steven are running out of time to stop Morgassa’s plans to ruin Quibbitt City.

With beautiful black and white illustrations, and a rich purple hardcover binding, this is both visually a pleasing offering and an action-packed read. Whilst its sequential nature means it is most likely to appeal to those who have read the first two, front of book summaries of the two previous instalments provide an introduction to those new to the series, as well as jogging the memories of those who have read them.

Morgassa's Folly (World of Grrym)

Morgassa’s Folly (World of Grrym), by Paul Collins and Danny Willis
Five Mile Press, 2009

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

Battle Boy Books 1 & 2, by Charlie Carter

Noise and fog and screaming wind were all around Napoleon. The skin on his face stretched as tight as a drum, and he thought his ears would burst.
‘ WHOA…’
He heard his scream echo around him.
‘Please relax, BB005,’ said Skin. ‘We are currently travelling through time and space.’

Napoleon Smythe loves two things – military history (especially battles) and books. But he little expects that those two loves will combine in such dramatic fashion. The librarian at Napoleon’s local library isn’t really a librarian at all – she’s actually an undercover special agent in charge of Operation Battle Book. She needs Napoleon to travel back in time to the scenes of the great battles of history, to solve mysteries and collect DNA.

On his first mission, Battle Boy (Napoleon’s operative name) lands on Sir Francis Drake’s ship, just in time for a big battle. But travelling through time is not without its problems – and it isn’t all smooth sailing.

Open Fire is the first title in the new Battle Boy series from Macmillan. This high interest, yet easy to read novel will appeal especially to boys in middle and upper primary, particularly those with an interest in war, the military or action.

In the second title, Red Devil Down , Napoleon’s adventures continue when his second mission takes him to the scene of the Red Baron’s demise in 1918. Again, there is plenty of action and adventure to keep young readers absorbed.

The blend of time travel with military history works well.

Open Fire (Battle Boy)

Open Fire (Battle Boy)

Red Devil Down (Battle Boy)

Red Devil Down (Battle Boy)

Both by Charlie Carter
Pan Macmillan, 2009.

These books can be purchased online from Fishpond, by clicking on their titles above. Buying through these links supports Aussiereviews.

Mama's Song, by Ben Beaton

At 4.00 a.m. she screamed.
A harsh piercing noise. I thought everything in the room would shatter.
At 4 a.m. she screamed because she wanted to live.
I cried.
At 4 a.m. I cried because I didn’t know if I wanted her to.

George (Georgina) is running away from her family, her friends and her mistakes. But one thing she cannot run from is the fact that she is about to become a mother. In a country hospital, away from everyone she knows, George gives birth to a baby girl. In the days that follow she must grow from being a troubled teen to being a mother to Hannah, her baby.

It isn’t an easy transition, but Hannah makes new friends in the hospital – including other first time mothers. There is Mary who, at 38, has relied on IVF to have her baby, and Nasreen, whose baby has come early – too early. George learns from and shares with these women, but she also learns from herself, as she reflects on the events which led her to this time and place, with a new perspective.

Mama’s Song is an amazing young adult novel – amazing for its intensity, and for its accurate portrayal of the turmoil new mothers (of any age) can face. However, teens do not need to be young mothers themselves to be able to relate to George’s story, being offered a wonderful insight into her life both previous to her pregnancy and now.

This debut novel for Perth author Ben Beaton hints at a stellar career to come.

Mama's Song

Mama’s Song, by Ben Beaton
black dog, 2009

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

Slow Cooker, by Sally Wise

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

If you ask me every home should have at least one crock pot or slow cooker, but some cook books I’ve seen for crock pots have been down right boring. This one is anything but. Just reading through the recipes in this book is enough to make you hungry.

The dishes in this cookbook make the mouth water, with recipes for Lamb and Quince Hotpot and Middle Eastern Lamb Stew to name just a couple. It has recipes for standards like Stroganoff and Lasagne, as well as Lemon Roast Chicken or Spicy Roast Chicken made in a crock pot. And there are the old favourite Hedgehogs which are always popular with adult and child alike.

When it comes to desserts, who could resist Clafoutis made with blueberries and raspberries, Summer Fruits Cobbler and the richly beautiful Black Forest Self Saucing Pudding?

As well as myriad recipes designed to please the palate, Sally Wise gives helpful hints about using the slow cooker or slow cookers. She has several which give you some indication of how much they get used. I know other people who have several.

I liked the way she gave hints of other ingredients that could be substituted for those in the recipe

The other advantage is the recipes are not complicated, which for no fuss cooks like me is ideal. The book doesn’t have colour photos, but to me this is no disadvantage. I’d rather just have great recipes than an elaborately photographic book. If you have a crock pot or slow cooker, this book is a must.

Slow Cookerby Sally Wise
*** ABC Books- HarperCollinsPublishers $24.99
Reviewed By Dale Harcombe