Horses for King Arthur,by LS Lawrence

The woods were tangled, lush with summer. Poor going, but if she rode across open land, Alexa would have to comply with her father’s dreary order not to gallop. Somebody would see her. There’d be a lecture. Maybe even an order not to ride at all.
Here, beyond the fields, there was no one to carry tales. What Papa said about low branches and treacherous going was the greatest nonsense. Alexa had used the bridle path only the previous week. It was perfectly safe.

Alexa is the teenage daughter of a landowning family in 475 England. Although her life is comfortable, it is built on a fragile stability. She soon discovers just how fragile. It now seems very unlikely that she will be ever be able to follow her heart. She wants to breed fine horses, but her mother has other plans. But Alexa is her mother’s daughter, determined and headstrong. She meets Artorius, a boy of her age who has a vision for fighting from horseback, not the ponies that are native to England. Like Alexa’s mother, Artorius’ father gives his child’s ideas very little attention. Alexa needs all her skills, and support from others, to extricate herself from her mother’s plans without putting herself in undue danger.

L. S. Lawrence says he was inspired by the legend of King Arthur and some surprising archaeological finds to create this story. England, and Europe, of the time (475) were lawless and unstable places, where battles were constant and safety and peace were fleeting. Women were not much more than possessions and/or servants to their husband/masters. Into this era, he introduces a feisty girl who loves horses and is definitely not interested in being someone’s chattel. Though intelligent, she has been sheltered and must learn quickly if she is to survive. From her secure early existence, she is thrust into an uncertain and bloodthirsty world where life has little value when measured against power and wealth. Trust is not given easily. This is a grand adventure in an uncertain time, full of mystery and intrigue. Recommended for secondary readers, particularly girls who want to be free to create their own destiny.

Horses for King Arthur L. S. Lawrence
Omnibus Books 2011
ISBN: 9781862919198

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Erasmus James & the Grat Siege, by DC Green

My eyes tore open.
The dawn-smeared skyline tilted 90 degrees.
‘That’s not supposed to happen!’
I gawked at the 40 bodies around me, jolting from their sleep. Most were kids, their ages ranging from zit-piled 16-year-olds to wrinkly unborn babies in jars.
air whizzed past, thick with salt, watering our eyes.
Nicole, a bratty nine-year-old, shrieked, ‘We’re all gonna DIE!’
‘Don’t panic!’ I screamed (only mildly panicked).
My balding dad snored beside me, drool trailing from his chin onto the jar baby cradled in his lap. Beside him dozed Sanders, a chook so ancient she left her purse on Noah’s Ark.
Stupid hard-to-wake adults! I jabbed their ribs.
‘Good gravy!’ Dad blinked. ‘We’re plunging from the sky!’

Erasmus James is back in the final adventure of DC Green’s trilogy. Erasmus James & the Grat Siege opens with disaster and goes downhill from there. An initially hopeful landing, on what appears to be a new island in the world Uponia, turns nasty when it becomes clear that the Grats (Giant armoured rats) they are fleeing have followed them. The Grats, led by arch-villain Dice, are determined to destroy every non-Grat in existence on every ZAPP world imaginable. Erasmus, sometimes known as Raz, has a lot to deal with for a twelve-nearly-thirteen-year-old boy. He must convince the locals he’s on the side of good, bring together enemies more accustomed to eating one another and find a way to beat the mind-twisting Dice and her endless army.

In this world where computer games take children on adventures to foreign worlds with alien creatures, nothing can compare to the world inside the mind of main character and former king of the kids, Erasmus. It’s impossible to predict just what will happen next. It’s crazy fun wrapped up in mindgames. While Erasmus James & the Grat Siege can be read as a stand alone novel, readers will enjoy reading how Erasmus and his crew got into this much of a mess. The other titles in this series are: Erasmus James & the Galactic Zapp Machine and Erasmus James: King of Kid’s Paradise. Extraordinarily punny, Erasmus James & the Grat Siege will spin you around until you lose all sense of who you are and what you’re doing there. In a good way. You’ll get dizzy in this whirlwind universe of giant chooks, ninja stallions, a reclusive inventor king, a mind-invading Queen, and of course an ultra-confident, quick-thinking, mega-inventive almost-teenage boy.

Erasmus James & the Grat Siege DC Green
Barrel Books 2011
ISBN: 9780980348859

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Buzz Off! by Randa Abdel-Fattah

It’s stinking hot. I’ve thrown the blanket off my bed. I’m lying spread out, trying to fall asleep. But the cool change hasn’t come and my skin is prickly with sweat.
I close my eyes and I can see myself jumping into our swimming pool. Thinking about water cools me down. I start to forget about the heat. My body relaxes. I’m about to fall into deep sleep.
Suddenly …

Noor can’t sleep because it’s too hot. And if that wasn’t annoying enough, along come the flies. Buzzing all about, but impossible to catch. Then Noor realises he can hear them talking. Suddenly the game changes. Noor, already fly-fighter extraordinaire, is insulted when he discovers just what the flies think of him. Now it’s personal! He hatches a plan to get rid of all the flies. But sometimes the solution isn’t quite the solution it seems to be. Illustrations are colourful and cartoon-y and appear on every opening. Most pages also include a header and/or footer showing some of the fly’s favourite foods. Challenging words, or even just words to be emphasised are in different, larger fonts.

The ‘Aussie Mates’ series has produced some very funny new Aussie yarns. And certainly, nothing feels more Aussie than flies. No barbecue or picnic is complete without flies. This time, though, the notion of Australian-ness has been expanded to portray some of newer Australians. Mum wears a headscarf but she also wears a hat with corks strung from it. Noor wants to rid the world of flies, but it’s soon clear that every creature has a purpose in the world, even if it seems like flies are just there to stop him sleeping and to dive into his family’s food. In the way of these yarns, the magical elements (like being able to understand fly-talk) are woven in with little explanation. None is needed. It’s clear that these are tall tales, designed to be collected and enjoyed. The ‘Aussie Mates’ series is for newly independent readers, but there’s plenty of fun to be had for older readers.

Mates: Buzz Off

Mates: Buzz Off Randa Abdel-Fattah, Dan McGuiness
Omnibus Books 2011
ISBN: 9781862918481

Alpha Monsters, by Chris Kennett

Young Freddy Jackson looked up at the rain
But he thought he might like to go out just the same.
‘I’m going outside,’ Freddy called out with glee.
‘OK,’ said his mum. ‘But be back before tea!’

Freddy discovers by accident an island of Alpha monsters. A monster – or rather – the monster named A, is sad because he’s lost his best teddy. Freddy offers to help him find his teddy and A explains that each of the animals has a letter. So they retrace his day, via alphabetic encounters like ‘In the town square H was digging huge holes, And I slipped in ink, dropping five icy poles.’ Illustrations are computer-generated and the monsters come in a friendly array of sizes, some with tails, different type and number of legs, single or multiple eyes. Pages are full-colour and monsters display a range of emotions.

There’s more than one way to skin a fish, so the saying goes, and there’s more than one way to present an alphabet. Chris Kennett has wrapped his alphabet in an island full of monsters. There are extra letter-words in some rhymes and opportunities for readers to count as well (how many eyes, how many feet, how many monsters?) There are happy monsters, grumpy ones and more. There are extras in each page to encourage rereading, as well as identifying the monster that matches the letter. Good pre-reading fun. Freddy solves the mystery of the lost teddy, retrieves his own teddy and still makes it home for tea! Recommended for pre-school children.

Alpha Monsters

Alpha Monsters, Chris Kennett
Scholastic Australia 2011
ISBN: 9781741697612

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Follow the Money, by Peter Corris

When beautiful young women kiss you on the cheek you know you’re over the hill, but I didn’t really feel like that. As Wesley said, I still had the moves.

Whether he has the moves or not, Cliff Hardy keeps finding himself in trouble. Since he had his private investigator’s license stripped, his life has taken multiple twists and turns. Most recently, he’s lost all his money to an unscrupulous financial advisor, and now he’s at risk of losing everything. So when he has the chance to find said advisor and perhaps avoid total ruin, he takes it – even though officially he’s not allowed to investigate anything.

Cliff Hardy has graced the pages of Australian crime novels for thirty years, and it is wonderful to see him back in Follow the Money. Like a favourite coat, each new tale fits comfortably so that fans know what to expect – but at the same time the character grows and develops a little each time. Follow the Money is no exception. Cliff is in new danger and must face new challenges personally too, meaning that the story avoids becoming too predictable.

Another satisfying instalment.

Follow the Money

Follow the Money, by Peter Corris
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742373799

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Phoenix, by Alison Ashley

I tried to respond but my mouth wouldn’t form words and the letter said it all anyway. I felt like meringue floating in an ocean, like I was dissolving, hot like molten sugar, cold like the sea. Fighting the inevitable was futile. I tried to extract the note from my pocket but my strength had gone. I closed my eyes and let my body drift on the bobbing tide.
Something from my past was calling me, some family secret or tragedy that I had to resolve. I didn’t know what it was – all I knew was that I had to go back; the letter had made that very clear. And in all honesty, I didn’t feel like I belonged here anyway.

Katie is half a world away from her old life. She’s grown up in Australia but now her whole family has moved to England to be with her grandad, who needs care. But here in England Katie will have to face her past in a way few would believe. Haunted by the events of a former life, Katie knows she must go back to put something to rights – even if she doesn’t know what that something is, or how she can fix it. Her twin sister, Ally, doesn’t believe in Kate’s talk of past lives, but to fulfil her destiny, Kate will need Ally’s support.

Phoenix is the first in a new paranormal series from debut author Alison Ashley, The Fifth Shadow. Sixteen year old Katie is a likeable first person narrator, and the blend of time shifts, personal and family development and a little history make a highly attractive blend for teen readers, with the paranormal elements not overdone or overwhelming. Whilst the story is self-contained, it is absorbing enough that readers will eagerly look forward to the next instalment.


Phoenix, by Alison Ashley
Warrambucca Books, 2011
ISBN 9780646555065

Available online.

The Lightkeeper's Wife, by Karen Viggers

Over Jacinta’s shoulder, Mary could see the sea rolling in. A Pacific gull flapped slowly up the beach, hanging on the breeze. This was the moment she’d been dreading. ‘I’ve organised to stay here,’ she said. ‘It’s all arranged. I’ve rented this place for a month, and I’ve paid for a Parks ranger to stop in and check on me each day to make sure I’m all right.’
Jacinta looked at her without moving.

As she nears the end of her life, Mary wants nothing more than to spend her final days on Bruny Island, where she spent the bulk of her married life and raised her three children. But those children, now adults with lives of their own, want to keep her close, especially her daughter Jan, who has been checking out nursing homes.

Taking matters into her own hands, Mary organises to rent a cottage on the island, and tricks her granddaughter into driver her there. For Mary this return to Bruny is important. Not just the whim of revisiting a favourite place, instead it is a time of restoration, of making amends for a long-held secret. Whilst she is there she is visited by Jacinta and her children, each with their own soul searching to do. It is her youngest son, Tom, who finds it easiest to understand his mother’s actions. Ten years ago he over-wintered at Antarctica, and even now he finds it difficult to fit into regular society. Both Mary and Tom must face their pasts, albeit in different ways.

The Lightkeeper’s Wife is a rich tale exploring love of different kinds and on different levels – from first love, to the bonds between mother and child, between man and dog, between siblings and more. The twin narratives – one exploring Mary’s life both past and present, and the second doing the same for her son Tom – unfold gradually, coming together and drifting apart delightfully, so that the reader feels the passage of time and wants to stay a part of both characters’ worlds.

A wonderfully rich read.

The Lightkeeper's Wife

The Lightkeeper’s Wife, by Karen Viggers
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel, by Michael Gerard Bauer

That’s right, Ishmael and the Fab Five are back in another thrilling adventure as he makes his way through Year 11 and 12. There are shocks, laughs and even romances. Without giving too much away- it can be said that the story involves feminism, debating, a very… interesting band and a thrilling game of volleyball.

There’s no easy way to put this, so I’ll just say it straight out. It’s time I faced up to the truth.

My name is Ishmael Leseur. I am seventeen years old. I have Ishmael Leseur’s syndrome. There is no cure.

That’s right, Ishmael and the Fab Five are back in another thrilling adventure as he makes his way through Year 11 and 12. There are shocks, laughs and even romances. Without giving too much away- it can be said that the story involves feminism, debating, a very… interesting band and a thrilling game of volleyball.

For those who have read the first two Ishmael stories, this is a really satisfying conclusion to the series. And to those who haven’t – you don’t know what you’re missing. You could read this one by itself, but do yourself a favour and go back and read the first two.

Teenagers, join Ishmael’s adventures in this 10/10 novel by Michael Gerard Bauer.

Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel

Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel, by Michael Gerard Bauer
Omnibus Books, 2011
ISBN 9781862919174

You can buy this book in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.