Matt’s hands trembled so violently the tea slopped over the rim. The scald hardly registerd but he let the man take the cup from him and hold it to his mouth.
‘How am I going to tell her?’ he kept saying, over and over. All he could think of was his future – and that of his family – lying in the charred ashes on the road. It took a little while before he realised the guttural moans he could hear came from himself.
Anna and Matt had a lot going for them – childhood sweethearts, they’d worked hard to buy their own farm, and weren’t afraid to keep working to make it profitable. But events beyond their control start to take their toll: he seasons are unkind, then Matt’s truck catches fire and then, when the saving rain finally comes, their precious fertiliser is stolen, making it impossible to continue.
With the farm gone, Anna is determined to rebuild their life, even though it is nothing like they had dreamed of. They can start again, she is sure, even if just for the sake of their daughter. But Matt isn’t convinced. He is caught up in searching for answers. He is going to solve the mystery of the stolen fertiliser and put the wrong to right. As each works to follow their hearts, Matt and Anna’s relationship starts to crumble. Perhaps it will be too hard to put it back together again.
Purple Roads is a rural fiction tale which is an interesting blend of romance, mystery and contemporary fiction. There’s a lot going on, with Anna being revealed as a strong, resilient type who can overcome adversity and work for change, and Matt’s struggle with depression and financial adversity being explored. Both characters are well developed as are other minor ones.
An entertaining read which will appeal to those for a taste for realistic rural fiction.
Purple Roads, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
Available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
The coat stood in a paddock at the end of a row of strawberries. It was buttoned up tight and stuffed full of straw and it was angry.
‘What a waste of me!’ it yelled to the sun and the sky and the crows and the paddock.
‘What an unbelievable waste!’
A coat abandoned to life as a scarecrow on a strawberry farm sees an opportunity for change when a down and out man passes by. The coat beckons the stranger over and soon the man, recognising the beauty and potential of the coat, is swooping and soaring on an adventure. Together they travel to Big Smoke where, in a cafe, the man discovers the amazing talents of the coat, and of himself, as they play and perform for an adoring audience.
The Coat is a treasure of a picture book, with the delightful quirkiness of a talking, talented coat and an exciting adventure and transformation for both man and coat. There are messages and subtexts aplenty – the value of friendship, finding hidden talents, belief of self and in others, and more, making this a text which could be used in the classroom across the year levels, but it also just a book to be treasured.
The text is presented as a script font, initially against sepia-hued backgrounds. there is no colour in the illustrations as both coat and man are dejected and see little purpose in their lives. Colour starts to seep in as man and coat soar towards Big Smoke with the performance scenes featuring rich washes of colour. The book as a whole has a big rich feel with the burgundy hues of the cover making it a volume you want to hug.
This is an adorable book.
The Coat, by Julie Hunt and Rob Brooks
Allen & Unwin, 2012
Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.
A fabulous new space-opera offering from one of Australia’s finest spec-fic creators. Set in a far-distant universe almost unrecognisable from the present, where technology and human consciousness have both evolved to a level where social structure, communication and every day life bear little resemblance to the present day
I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.
This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.
My name is Khemri.
Being a Prince should offer a life of privilege and ease, or so Prince Khemri thinks on the day of his investiture. But when you are only one priest out of millions, all hoping to one day be Emperor, then life can get pretty complicated. Khemri is no sooner a Prince than he is forced to use all of his skills and those of his Master Assassin Haddad, just to stay alive. In his subsequent training Kemri makes more enemies than friends, and has more than enough adventures for one life time – which is partly why he dies three times, each time being reborn.
While being an immortal Prince has its attractions, Khemri also learns what it means to be human – and has some tough choices to make.
A Confusion of Princes is a fabulous new space-opera offering from one of Australia’s finest spec-fic creators. Set in a far-distant universe almost unrecognisable from the present, where technology and human consciousness have both evolved to a level where social structure, communication and every day life bear little resemblance to the present day, the story features one young prince’s adventures as he struggles to adapt to a life very different from that he envisaged for himself. Along the way, it explores themes of humanity, valour and ambition, with unexpected elements of romance and family.
The world Nix creates is complex and, at times, a little confusing, but whilst he doesn’t pause to explain, readers gradually build an understanding of how things work. Khemri is an intriguing first person narrator who seems at times arrogant and at others likeable, and sometimes foreshadows, allowing the reader to guess at what might be yet to come. There is action aplenty, with Khemri managing to land himself – or just to be landed, against his will – in crisis after crisis.
Suitable for young adult readers, particularly those with a thirst for action.
A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2012
This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Jasmine Lewis – Jazzy Lou to her friends – is working her backside off trying to make her way up in the world of PR. No matter what time of the day – or night – her boss Diane summons her, Jazzy is there, doing Diane’s bidding
Perhaps if my life as a publicist had begun in Milan, I’d be lounging in my La Perla finest, all frastaglio embroidery and mixing it with Italy’s beautiful people. Hell , I’d probably have found myself at one of Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga parties in the name of product placement where I’d thank God that, in my twenties, I was far too old to be his type.
Instead it all began with a red Vixenary g-string in the back-streets of Sydney’s Darlinghurst.
Jasmine Lewis – Jazzy Lou to her friends – is working her backside off trying to make her way up in the world of PR. No matter what time of the day – or night – her boss Diane summons her, Jazzy is there, doing Diane’s bidding. She’s done coffee runs, she’s handled laundry, she’s even got out of bed at 3am to rescue a client from the paparazzi. But no matter what she does, it seems Diane is never happy – so when Jazzy Lou is summonsed to Diane’s office she knows it isn’t for a pat on the back. But some clouds really do have silver linings, and soon Jasmine is founding her own PR company – Queen Bee – and doing things her way. It should be all positive from here. Right?
Strictly Confidential introduces the chaotic, but fun, character of Jazzy Lou and provides an insider’s look at the world of PR. Author Roxy Jacenko is herself a PR powerhouse, having started her own PR firm when she was just 24. the novel is populated by a colourful cast of characters, including (of course) Jazzy, as well as her best friend Luke, a gossip columnist, cricket players, actresses, pop starlets and more. Whilst at times it is a little difficult to remember who is who in this cast, that serves to accentuate the craziness of the world Jazzy Loud occupies.
An absorbing, fast paced novel.
Strictly Confidential: A Jazzy Lou Novel, by Roxy Jacenko
Allen & Unwin, 2012
This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Whilst this is a historical text and, as such, necessarily documents dates, places and details of campaigns, it is also a very human account, with Rees making extensive use of letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews to tell the stories using the words of men (and, occasionally, women) who were there.
The two World Wars were just a generation apart. It was not uncommon to find sons following fathers to fight, like them, in the desert. To some observers the Australians were madmen; others thought they treated war as a bit of a lark. But there there is no doubt that the Australians as soldiers won respect.
Of the many stories told of Australians’ involvement in the two World Wars, there seem to be fewer about their battles in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East than about Europe, the Pacific and, of course, Gallipoli. Whilst some famous actions are well documented -such as the siege of Tobruk – others are relatively unknown. In Desert Boys author Peter Rees redresses this imbalance by focussing on the stories of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in the desert campaigns of the two wars, providing a detailed and moving account of their actions.
Whilst this is a historical text and, as such, necessarily documents dates, places and details of campaigns, it is also a very human account, with Rees making extensive use of letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews to tell the stories using the words of men (and, occasionally, women) who were there. It is this that really takes the reader into the midst of the action and of its very rel human toll, with final letters home, recounts of key events, amazing stories of survival and equally moving tales of those who did not survive.
At over 700 pages in length, including notes and acknowledgements, this weighty offering is a must for lovers of military history and inspiring for any reader.
An Excerpt From a Letter
The weather is getting very hot here now and between the flies in the daytime and mosquitoes and several other insect pests at night a fellow gets a fairly lively tmie of it. I thinka ll the plagues of pharoah’s time are still here. We killed a couple of snakes just outside out tent a couple of nights ago and talk about dogs, there are thousands of the mongrels here of every size and colour. It is quite a common thing to wake up in the night with a great big mongrel dog sniffing in a fellow’s ear, but there are not so many lately as they make good targets to practise on. Frank Willis, 1916
Desert Boys: Australians at War from Beersheba to Tobruk and El Alamein, by Peter Rees
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Since 1788 the assumption that the Australian continent was an untamed wilderness has been prevalent. We are told that it was the settlers who tamed the land – clearing the land and developing agriculture. But historian Bill Gammage disputes this assumption.
Somewhere on mainland Australia people used every farm process. Climate, land, labour, plants and knowledge were there. Example was there, in the north and after 1788. Templates and tending made farmers without fences…
Since 1788 the assumption that the Australian continent was an untamed wilderness has been prevalent. We are told that it was the settlers who tamed the land – clearing the land and developing agriculture. But historian Bill Gammage disputes this assumption. Up until – and beyond – 1788 Aboriginal people managed the land in complex systems which preserved food stocks, encouraged vegetation to grow in patterns which suited not just the people who lived there, but also the animals and plants which shared the land. These systems and strategies were used throughout Australia, adapted to location and managed by custodians who each knew their land intimately.
Gammage’s work is thorough and groundbreaking. He has spent more than ten years examining the land, early records, and visual evidence to put together his argument that Australia was a single, large estate operated by many managers with common purpose. He makes particular use in the book of early paintings, which he contrasts with modern photographs to show how the land has changed without regular burning and shaping, as well as quoting extensively from diaries, journals and other early colonial records to show that the land was carefully managed prior to colonisation.
This is not a light bedtime read. It is a mix of history and science, more suited to the academic than the layman – as Gammage says in his appendix, arguments from fellow academics have ‘forced this book into more detail than a general reader might prefer’ – but it is as important as it is enlightening, and fascinating, too
With extensive back of book notes and bibliography,The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia is a truly valuable book.
The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia, by Bill Gammage
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from
Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Sexpectations is careful not to preach or talk down to the readers. It varies the pace of delivery, the approach and uses repetition to ensure core principles like respect, choice, safety and health remain front and central. Teenagers may get much of their sex information from other teenagers…
Welcome to Sexpectations Girl. This book has been written for you, a girl who has expectations, or may not know what to expect, about sex.
Despite how much our society has changed over the years, ‘sex’ still causes a lot of debate because of the many meanings and ideas people attaché to that simple three-lettered word, making it hard to wade through all there is to know about sex.
Sex! What a cool topic … but why call a book Sexpectations?
Well, sometimes we can be expected to know everything there is to know about sex, but rarely get a chance to talk about it in an open, healthy way, or to ask questions like ‘What do I do?’, What’s normal? And that’s just a few of those tricky questions we all have …
Sexpectations is two books for the price of one, one aimed at girls, the other at boys. But that doesn’t mean they are intended to be read separately. Each can be read first, but where a topic has been tackled in one, the other might just reference that topic then direct readers to ‘flip’ for more information. The approaches are different but both authors present a broad range of factual information in a variety of ways. There are frequently asked questions and debunking of myths. There are resources listed so readers can research further. The text is presented in different colours on coloured paper and illustrations are mixed with photos. Some information is presented in point form or lists, while other information is presented in a more conversational style.
Sexpectations is not a puberty book although hormonal changes are certainly discussed. It’s for readers who want to be informed before they make decisions about sex. All sorts of decisions, even if it’s a decision NOT to make a decision. Having the ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ sections back to back with cross-references in certain topics encourages each to learn more about the other and perhaps the way each approaches sex. Sexpectations is careful not to preach or talk down to the readers. It varies the pace of delivery, the approach and uses repetition to ensure core principles like respect, choice, safety and health remain front and central. Teenagers may get much of their sex information from other teenagers, but if they get it from teenagers who have access to this book, they are going to get good information.
Sexpectations, Leissa Pitts & Craig Murray
Allen & Unwin 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.
Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
At the beginning I found the concept of Triple Rippleby Brigid Lowry odd. However it doesn’t take long to be intrigued by the cleverness of the three interwoven stories. There is the storyteller who gives the story of Glory taken to an unspecified palace in an unspecified Kingdom, there is also the writer including snippets of the writer’s life and problems, as well as the story of the 15 year old reader, Nova, who is reading the fairytale. The writer gives insights into creating the book and the characters of glory, Princess Mirabella and others. The 15 year old reader picks up the fairy tale. Nova is experiencing her own problems at school.
Rather than being a distraction the idea of three stories it is an engaging concept. The further you get into the fairy tale the more you are keen to see what is happening in the writer’s life and thought processes, as well in the life of the reader. Sometimes there is a parallel between the life of the 15 year old reader whose father is coming home and Princess Mirabella of the fairytale waiting for the king. Use of humour and the constant changes make this a very easy book to read. Most female readers of around 12-14 will love this book.
What is interesting is the way the writer sometimes works out a scene then decides what is wrong with it and goes back and changes something. So we, the readers, end up with a second and sometimes a third version of the same scene. Schools will particularly find this interesting for creative writing projects, as it gives insight into a writer’s mind and shows how one change can influence the direction of the book. For example the fairy tale the writer ideally thinks of bears little resemblance to the finished story.
Triple Ripple, by Brigid Lowry
Allen & Unwin, 2011
Paperback RRP $17.99
This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.
I was thinking about what you said all the way home. Of course I trust you!!!! I can’t believe you need to ask. It’s just that after all this time, I’d almost given up hope that I would find anybody special. I’m so scared that talking about it, even thinking about it, will jinx it and it (he!!) will slip away before anything has a chance to happen. So please forgive me for not wanting to talk about it out loud. (Because you never know who might be listening!) But I know I CAN trust you not to tell anyone. So yes, it’s true, (here goes, deep breath):
I think I might be in love!!
But you already guessed that.
India has skills which help her to predict the future, and Poppy is trying to change her past, but they have nothing in common. Until they land themselves in trouble and have to clean out the school attic together as punishment. Among the dusty boxes and old school play props, they find a bundle of old letters and can’t help but read them. Who is the mysterious Swoosie, and what connection does she have to the girls? As they find out, the pair find themselves working together to try to heal old wounds.
Dear Swoosie is a story about the challenges and the joys of teenage friendship, as well as about love and about family relationships. Written by the talented pairing of Kate Constable and Penni Russon, and using a combination of alternating first person narrators and letter format, this is another wonderful addition to the Girlfriend Fiction series.
Dear Swoosie (Girlfriend Fiction), by Kate Constable & Penni Russon
Allen & Unwin, 2010
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Thirty percent of Australians have Irish ancestry and a quarter of convicts sent to Australia were Irish. It was this fact, combined with a concern at the lack of Australian historical fiction that lead Kirsty Murray to write the Children of the Wind series.
In this first book, Bridie O’Connor finds herself alone in the workhouse after her family die of hunger during the potato famine. At the age of eleven she is given the chance to go to Australia where she is given work as a scullery maid for a wealthy Melbourne family.
But being a scullery maid is not part of Bridie’s dream for a better life. Together with the younger son of the house, Gilbert, she sets out for the goldfields, looking for fortune and happiness.
Bridie’s Fire is a gripping read for 10 to 14 year olds, creating a deep sense of time and place which will draw the young reader in.
Bridie’s Fire, by Kirsty Murray
Allen & Unwin, 2003