Angel Creek, by Sally Rippin

There in the shadowy depths was a pale, pale child with glass-like eyes that stared up at her, and long white hair that billowed like clouds … ‘You won’t believe this,’ she said, laughter bursting up through her chest. ‘I think … I think we’ve found an angel!’

Jelly is not happy about the new house she has moved to with her parents. The only good things are the old apricot tree in the back yard, and the creek which runs along behind the house. But on Christmas Eve, Jelly and her friends find something trapped in the creek. At first they think it’s some sort of bird – but then they discover, to their amazement, that it is an angel.

As Jelly and Gino look after the wounded angel they start to see that taking something away from where it belongs can only lead to problems – even when you may start out with good intentions. As the angel clings to life, things start to go wrong, seriously wrong in Jelly’s own life, and she and Gino must make some tough decisions to try to sort things out and face the things they can’t change.

Angel Creek is a beautiful tale of growing up, of facing change and of friendship. It is also, of course, about the mystic presence of an angel.

Ages 10 and over.

Angel Creek

Angel Creek, by Sally Rippin
Text, 2011
ISBN This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

August, by Bernard Beckett

Late at night a car runs off the road and Tristan and Grace are left clinging to life as they hang upside down waiting for a rescue that might not come. Their lives are strangely intertwined and as the night passes and each shares their story…

They were floating, tumbling together in a machine not made for tumbling, weightless and free. He considered the physics: gravity recast as acceleration. An odd thought to have, but what thought isn’t odd when death breathes hot and sticky? The world slowed. He could not look at her.

Late at night a car runs off the road and Tristan and Grace are left clinging to life as they hang upside down waiting for a rescue that might not come. Tristan has spent his life in pursuit of truth – trying to prove that he, and all people, have free will. Grace’s life has been chiefly devoted to staying alive – she has no time for philosophy. Yet their lives are strangely intertwined and as the night passes and each shares their story, the reader starts to see this connection and ponder how it has led them to this crash.

August is a compelling story about life and freedom, set in a post-apocalyptic society. Whist at times the philosophical concepts being explored – based on the theology of Saint Augustine – are difficult to grasp, the story itself and its many layers are so intriguing that it is worthwhile persisting with the difficult bits.

From the unusual cover (the text is upside down, a visual device to counter the image of the two characters trapped in the car, which appears upright, but should itself be upside down) to the final twist, this is a story which is deeply intriguing and, ultimately, satisfying.


August, by Bernard Beckett
Text, 2011
ISBN 9781921758041

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Emerald Casket, by Richard Newsome

Alisha was chatting to a storekeeper and stuffing something she’d bought into her bag. She lifted her head and turned towards Gerald. A broad smile burst across her face and she waved.
Gerald grinned back. He could understand Sam’s infatuation.
Then a figure clothed entirely in black emerged from the sea of people. In a second, Alisha was grabbed by the upper arm. There was a brief struggle. Then she disappeared.

Gerald is only just getting used to being a billionaire, having inherited his aunt Geraldine’s fortunes, when he and his friends Ruby and Sam are invited to holiday in India with Alisha Gupta. But they haven’t been there long when it seems adventure is determined to follow them. Gerald and his friends are followed and repeatedly attacked by the members of a cult who want to kidnap Alisha. Gerald is horrified when he realises there is a connection between this cult and his own family. But nothing is more horrific than when his old foe Sir Mason Green reappears. Will he survive to enjoy his newfound wealth?

The Emerald Casket is the second title in the Billionaire trilogy and sees Gerald and his friends in a desperate race to find the Emerald Casket – the second of three such caskets before Sir Mason Green. There are lots of twists and turns in an entertaining blend of adventure and humour. Readers who have not read the first instalment will find enough information to pick up the story, though would enjoy it best sequentially.

The Emerald Casket (Billionaire Trilogy)

The Emerald Casket , by Richard Newsome
Text Publishing, 2010
ISBN 9781921656453

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

Five Parts Dead, by Tim Pegler

Knowing Mel, she and Pip will stumble across a Swedish boys’ school doing massage classes and an extended chocolate-tasting tour of the island. Which leaves me. Alone at the end of the Erath with a smashed-up foot, in virtual solitary confinement. Seriously, it’s a custodial sentence, not a summer break. But after recent events, maybe that’s exactly what Mum and Dad had in mind.

Dan’s summer is one long nightmare. Nursing a broken leg, a constant reminder of the accident which killed three of his mates, he has been dragged off on a family holiday. At the remote settlement his parents have chosen, Dan feels even more out of sorts. His sister and her best friend seem to have plenty to do, and his parents are off exploring, but Dan’s injury, and his grief, haunt him.

When he starts to feel the presence of a mysterious girl in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage where they are staying, Dan wonders if he is hallucinating because of the painkillers he takes. But as he reads the lighthouse logbook he realises that this girl has something to tell him.

Five Parts Dead is an engrossing read which is part mystery, part ghost story and part contemporary issue-based. Dan must deal with the consequences of the accident he has before the novel starts, and with the effect it has had on his whole family, as well as his growing feelings for Pip, his sister’s friend. At the same time the story of Lily, the daughter of one of the original lighthouse keepers, is gradually revealed., through Dan’s reading of the journal, and further investigations.

Five Parts Dead will appeal to both male and female teen readers.

Five Parts Dead

Five Parts Dead, by Tim Pegler
Text, 2010
ISBN 9781921656286

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Limping Man, by Maurice Gee

He was a small man, dressed in blood-red robes with yellow flames crawling upwards from the hem, and a cloth crown rising in folds and bulging at the back, where ribbons drooped over his shoulders like a waterfall. She had never seen a man dressed so foolishly. How could he hide? How could he get away when someone chased him? Then she remembered that he did not need to.

The Limping Man controls everyone who comes near him. But Hana and her mother are free of his power, until the day his soldiers raid the burrow, and Mam swallows poison rather than be burnt as a witch in People’s Square. Hana flees the city and in the forests and jungles beyond she makes friends with others who live beyond the Limping man’s reach.

When she meets Ben, son of Lo, they set out on a quest to discover the secret of the Limping man’s power and thus destroy him before his evil consumes the world.

The Limping Man is the gripping finale to the Salt trilogy, and, like its predecessors, moves skilfully through the physical and mental journeys of the characters. Each character has strengths and flaws which make them both likeable and real, and favourite characters from earlier offerings make appearances. The plot builds smoothly, with enough obstacles to keep the reader guessing.

Those who have not read the first two books could red this as a stand alone offering, but will get most value from reading the three sequentially.

The Limping Man (Salt Trilogy)

The Limping Man , by Maurice Gee
Text, 2010

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

Blood Moon, by Garry Disher

It is schoolies week and in Waterloo, on the Mornington Peninsula, police are already stretched dealing with drunk, rowdy or simply exuberant teens. But then the bashing of a well-connected school chaplain puts pressure on Detective Inspector Hal Challis and his crew, and the subsequent murder of a local planning officer creates chaos.

While police investigate the two major crimes they must also deal with a sexual assault on a female schoolie, the mysterious drugging and humiliation of a toolie, and his gun rampage seeking retribution. meanwhile, the police officers have personal issues to deal with Hal is in a relationship with Sergeant Ellen Destry, another Sergeant, Scobie Sutton, has marriage problems, and tension is brewing between three uniformed officers.

Blood Moon is a wonderful crime fiction offering, with lots going on. The various crimes at times overlap, and the lives of different members of Hal’s team are explored along the way. The characters’ lives are as important as the solving of the crimes, with the reader able to connect with victims and investigators alike.

An absorbing read.

Blood Moon

Blood Moon, by Garry Disher
Text Publishing, 2010

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

The Good Daughter, by Amra Pajalic

Mum took a deep breath and when she spoke again her voice was calmer. ‘They judge everything by how well you make coffee. They’ll say “If she can’t make coffee how is she going to cook for her husband?”’
‘I’m not looking for a husband.’

She’s grown up as Sammie, away from her mother’s Bosnian family and friends, and free to be what she sees as ‘normal’ teenager. But now she’s Sahiba, back in the fold of the Bosnian community and struggling to work out whether she can be Muslim AND normal.

Sahiba is a funny, honest first person narrator, struggling with the changes brought about by her mother taking over care of her ageing grandfather and returning to live amongst the immigrant community. She also has to contend with changes in her friendships, trying to fit in at a new school, bullying, boys and figuring out just who her allies are in her crazy new world. To top it all off, her mother is bi-polar and there are signs that she is not taking her medication.

The Good Daughter is alternately hilarious and insightful, touching not just on issues of identity and mental illness, but also on bullying, homosexuality, teen relationships and more, with a voice and plot which teens will engage with.

The Good Daughter

The Good Daughter by Amra Pajalic
Text Publishing, 2009

Salt, by Maurice Gee

An iron door. That’s the way into Deep Salt. It’s wide enough for one man, and they never open it except to let new workers in. Nothing ever comes out. There must be a rail inside, going into the hill. They open an iron shutter and put food and water on a trolley and push it in. Then they close the shutter. And that’s all.

Tarl is all that Hari has in the world, so when Tarl is captured and enslaved, Hari vows to rescue him. But it seems an impossible task – Tarl is being sent to Deep Salt, and no one ever returns from Deep Salt. Still, Hari is special. He can communicate with animals, a skill no one else from the Burrows has. At the other end of the city, Pearl has been raised in luxury, but when she flees an arranged marriage helped by her very special maid, Tealeaf, she must fight for survival. When they meet Hari, Tealeaf knows that the three must travel and work together – although neither Pearl or Hari is keen on the idea.

Salt is a compelling fantasy read , set in a world where constant warring and quest for wealth and power have created destruction and great divides between races. Pearl, Harl and Tealeaf all come from different places, yet work together as equals to try to make a difference for themselves and those around them. It is a bleak setting, but the story offers hope.

Suitable for teens and adult readers, this is a brilliant novel.

Salt (Salt Trilogy)

Salt, by Maurice Gee
First published by Puffin, NZ. This edition text Publishing, 2009

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

A Beginner's Guide to Living, by Lia Hills

She looks good for a corpse. Except she never wore green eye shadow, was never this still. Her ribcage has been cracked open-you can’t see anything, it’s all been cleaned up, but I can imagine them beneath her dress, the tracks of stitches that will never heal. Some doctor thrust his hand inside her chest, reached in and touched her heart. It must affect your view of love. It didn’t work, of course – her heart refused to obey his hands. Bit gung ho, my dad reckoned, breaking her open when there was no longer a chance. But, it’s worth it, isn’t it?

When Will’s mother dies suddenly, Will’s life is in turmoil. He’s seventeen and in his final year of high school. His final exams are looming, but he can’t focus on study when he’s busy trying to make meaning out of life. Nor does the fact that he fell in love at his mum’s wake help the situation. Taryn is supportive of his problems, but the complications of sex and love add to the confusion.

The Beginner’s Guide to Living is a finely tuned exploration of grief, family breakdown, first love, and a quest for meaning. Told in Will’s first person voice, and punctuated with texts and messages between Will and Taryn, as well as photographs, and quotes from philosophers and poets, the reader travels with Will as he grieves for his mother and tries to find a reason for living. We also witness the differing grieving styles of his father, who is drifting, and his older brother, who is in denial.

Author Lia Hills is a poet, and this is much in evidence in her beautiful prose. Like a verse novel, there is focus only on important scenes, with transitions marked by breaks or changes to the messaging format. In other places chapter endings and transitions are marked with Will’s questions, which he writes in his notebook.

This is an outstanding novel for teens and deserves to be read.

The Beginner's Guide to Living

The Beginner’s Guide to Living, by Lia Hills
Text Publishing, 2009

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

Murderer's Thumb, by Beth Montgomery

Adam’s hand and neck were suddenly clammy. He stumbled closer, fighting back an urge to flee. But there was no mistaking what he saw. It was bone. He ran over to the black object, which lay on the soft bed of fallen silage. It was a boot. A black boot with a metal buckle. His eyes swung back to the silage in the grab/ the idling tractor had shaken free more of the dead grass. Adam could make out the curving bones of a ribcage.

Adam is not impressed when he and his mother have to move to rural Falcon ridge. They are on the run, hiding from Adam’s violent father. This is supposed to be a safe place for them, but a few days after his arrival, Adam discovers a body buried in a silage pit on the farm where they live.

Unsettled by the find, Adam is nonetheless intrigued. He likes mysteries, and here is one right under his nose. Helped by the diary he finds hidden in his house, Adam sets out to figure out who killed the girl, the teenage daughter of the farm owner, who disappeared six years previously.

Murderer’s Thumb is an intriguing murder mystery for teen readers, but it also something more, exploring the issues of secrets in small communities, and of being an outsider in such a place, among others. There are several twists and a diverse and interesting cast of characters.

Murderer's Thumb

Murderer’s Thumb, by Beth Montgomery
Text Publishing, 2008

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