Monday, 11 December 2017

Jemma Short Stories


Jemma Short Stories by Stefan Nicholson (San Publishers) PB RRP $19 ISBN 978-0-9804604-4-5

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Stefan Nicholsons Jemma - Short Stories contains four short stories in sequence from the first short story Jemmas Blues. Subsequent stories are Jemma and the Red Seal, Jemmas White Horse and Jemma and the Golden Eagle.

The four stories each reveal more about the central characters in the Palette family, with the lead protagonist, daughter Jemma, sister Deidre and Mum and Dad. Dad is a writer and his creative writing and influence Jemmas life and goals for the future.

In 'Jemmas Blues' - and my favourite of the four stories, Jemma and her sister are arguing about the boy next door who Jemma has a crush on. Dad uses the opportunity to tell a story about two unlikely people who happen to find love.

Each of the four stories, while being based in a lighthearted family setting, offers a life lesson for the reader woven into the background. As you read through the four stories the familys character quirks become more apparent.

Jemma: Short Stories would suit young readers in early teen years as the writing style is at times intricate, and I feel the themes and lessons would suit that age group.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Excerpt from Freefalling


by Maura Pierlot

(YA fiction, unpublished)

Carter walks down the aisle, nodding to everyone, in a friendly, gotcha kind of way, his peacock-blue eyes casting a spell upon contact. There’s too much to take in as my eyes dart from one fine feature to the next. His straight, well-proportioned nose, full lips and strong jaw coexist harmoniously on his enviable face; his broad shoulders complement his tall and lanky frame; and his tousled, sun-streaked locks give new respect to blonds worldwide. Eden is salivating; she keeps wiping the sides of her mouth like she can’t stop the drool from escaping. Talia smiles, having just spotted the same thing. She holds out a tissue for Eden, like a bib, but Eden’s too busy slobbering to notice.



It’s Carter’s walk that reels me in: he moves without ego, effort or entitlement, seemingly oblivious to Mother Nature’s many blessings. Nervous energy takes over. My hands have a life of their own, like I’m having a fit, so I quickly sit on them. My heart is racing, my chest feels tight, and there’s a weird tingling in my arm. I think I’m having a stroke – I remember these signs from a medical show Mum made me watch over the summer – but I quickly work out that my bum is cutting off circulation to my hands. Target locked: Carter’s eyes meet mine and his mouth is taken over by a wide grin, revealing killer dimples. Could this guy be any cuter?

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Jemma, Short Stories


Jemma, Short Stories by Stefan Nicholson (SAN publishers), PB RRP $19 ISBN 9780980460445

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

In his publicity blurb the author writes that this book is primarily aimed at YA readers and anyone above the age of twelve. Young readers are interested in stories about people their own age or a few years older. Even though this book is titled Jemma, who is the youngest daughter in the Palette family, the main character in all the stories is Dad, a middle-aged writer of fiction.

Early in the second story we learn that Mum is in hospital with some undiagnosed problem. The story then focuses on Jemma meeting an old sea captain who sets her a riddle. The riddle’s answer will explain how humans should spend their lives. The story is thus high-jacked by adults, with the riddle being solved by Mum. (Her illness had been caused by the family dog’s new herbicidal shampoo).  

The third story is a variation on Six Characters in Search of an Author, with the imaginary Palette family talking to the author.

The fourth story, which has the most potential for 8-12 year olds, concerns the theft of a golden eagle. Jemma plays more of a role here, but at the climax of the story, instead of being actively involved in saving the eagle, she and her friends retreat to eat pizza and wait patiently for news.

This book would probably work best for an adult audience.  


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

It’s your world


It’s your world a verse novel by Kristy-Lee Swift (guillotinepress), PB  ISBN 9780995399136


Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

It’s Your World is divided into short poems which each progress the action, rather like the work of Steven Herrick. Kristy-Lee Swift experiments and plays games with language, using rhymed and unrhymed sequences and lots of puns.

I am not a poet so can’t comment on the quality of the verse, but I certainly enjoyed reading about Evie, an unhappy fifteen-year-old. Her mother has died soon after she was born. It’s rumoured that she committed suicide. Evie has a difficult relationship with her controlling father and religious grandmother, both of whom think she’s ‘bad’. Evie doesn’t believe she is evil, just up to no good. Her only hope seems to be to find free-spirited Aunt Ruth who moved to Sydney and has been out of touch for years.

When her father has a brain haemorrhage, Evie goes to live with her grandmother. This is worse than prison. She escapes with her brother, her crush Nigel and her two best friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They get drunk, and she spends the night in the cemetery with a boy who isn’t Nigel.  

Evie’s father comes home. Because he has mild brain damage and is not aware of what is going on, Evie feels she now has a degree of freedom. She invites friends over, including Nigel. When her father stumbles on the scene he is furious and physically attacks her.

Evie flees to Sydney and finds there an aunt who understands and can explain the true circumstances surrounding the death of her mother. Aunt Ruth offers this comfort: ‘’There’s no such thing as a happy ending. But there can always be/a happy/keep on going.”

The poems about Evie’s lost mother are deeply moving. Others are cute, clever and often funny. Though I would have liked one or two more sequences on Evie and her father when he was recovering, this is an intriguing read. Evie is a complex, always understandable character. Her confusion, desires and pain will strike a chord with many adolescent readers.   




Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Little Witch: Hauntings and Hexes (Book 2)


Little Witch: Hauntings and Hexes (Book 2) by Aleesah Darlison (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925520576

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Courtney Little is a teenage girl embarking on a new stage in her life. She has recently moved to the little seaside town of Mixton Bay with her family and is about to start at a new school. Naturally she is a little nervous and has some self-doubt, as many teenagers do, however she has a little more to worry about than most. Courtney is trying to keep the fact that she is a ‘witchling’ under wraps. With the position fairly new to her, she is still finding her way and letting very few people into her secret world.

Courtney’s grandmother, Delia, was a white witch who left her special skills and spells to Courtney when she passed away. Courtney now explores incantations, spells and potions using Delia’s ‘Little Book of Spells and Secrets’, but unfortunately she doesn’t always get it right. She spends most of her spare time practising her spells and relishes in the thought of what might be. Courtney is warned that ‘magic isn’t a game and it’s not fun. It’s extremely serious stuff’. Initially she disregards this advice but after making a big mistake she quickly realises she has a lot to learn. White magic and black magic soon collide with potentially dire consequences for the people of Mixton Bay.

Hauntings and Hexes is the second book in the Little Witch series of middle grade fiction. It would suit readers 8-12 years old who enjoy stories of magic and fantasy. If they haven’t already, readers are encouraged to check out Secrets & Spells (Book 1) and stay tuned for more books in the series.





Monday, 27 November 2017

Phantom Spies

Phantom Spies by Dawn Meredith, illustrated by Jae Tanaka (Shining Press) PB RRP $9.50   ISBN – 13: 978-1530305506  ISBN – 101530305500

Reviewed by Wendy Haynes

Meet Oliver and his family the Snatchers. The Snatchers aren’t your ordinary family their cat burglars. By night they infiltrate mansions and steal anything of value. Oliver’s job is to use his computer skills to cut the alarms. He is always nervous and worried that one day they will get caught and end up in gaol. His sister Vera is light on her feet and does acrobatics to get passed the infra-red security beams, while their mum plans the mission, and dad is expert at cracking safes.

This chapter book would appeal to 7-9 year olds, and, with varying sentence length, is action-packed, told in the third person, and deals with making decisions, and knowing right from wrong. Oliver’s best friend is the family Robot Roger: he is the only one he can really confide in about his concerns for his family, and he can’t tell his friends at school. He pleads with his family to stop but no one will listen.

After being caught on their last job they are offered work for a secret government agency PHANTOM, as spies. But, at the government headquarters, Roger is taken from Oliver, and reclaimed as a counter terrorism cyborg. The government has plans for the Snatcher family and prepares them for their first mission. Meanwhile the sinister Professor Withers has secretly altered Roger with his new program. When Roger returns to the family, he is not the same: he is no longer friendly toward Oliver or the rest of the family and is unpredictable.

This book is a page turner and will leave the reading wanting more.


Saturday, 25 November 2017

Fergus the Farting Dragon

Fergus the Farting Dragon by Monique Mulligan, illustrated by Veronica Rooke (Serenity Kids) PB RRP $12.99    ISBN 978-0-9954104-3-5

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

In life there are adversities and challenges around every corner: the real challenge is how we deal with them. Fergus the Farting Dragon introduces the reader to a sweet little dragon named Fergus, with rather a smelly little problem. 

Young Fergus the dragon was dropped on the head as a wee little dragon, and it soon becomes clear not all is well with Fergus. Unlike the other dragons, Fergus can’t breathe fire – he only snorts. Fergus’s uncle tries to teach him to create fire, but rather than coming out of his mouth, he notices smoke coming from his bum!

Fergus is mocked and teased by the older dragons, much to the dismay of Fergus who continues to try and breathe fire. However, Fergus does have one skill the older dragons don’t have - he can produce the most horrendous smells from his bum, with a fart even worse than a “sweaty old sock”. 

One day a cheeky young knight in a fire-proof suit manages to steal one of the dragons golden eggs much to the dismay and embarrassment of all the dragons. Protected from fire, the dragons have no hope of getting their treasure back, or do they? Fergus, knowing his skills are different comes up with a plan to retrieve the egg. But will it work? 

Fergus the Farting Dragon is a funny story which utilises lots of fart words which I think will appeal to children as they giggle their way through the story. But it also has the key messages of embracing one’s differences and figuring out a way to make them work for you in the end, much like Fergus did. 

The picture book is beautifully illustrated with colourful imagery that grabs the readers attention - both young and old alike. I also enjoyed have key words and phrases highlighted in colourful text as well, it added to the story in a number of sections to emphasise key parts.