On Christmas morning a biblically epic storm traps Sarah Barnard and her horse on the (nominally Tasmanian) Devil’s Mountain. Sarah finds shelter and supplies at an abandoned workmen’s camp and settles in for what she hopes is just an uncomfortable night. And then out of the rain and mist emerges a lone, unequipped bushwalker. Sarah now has to contend not just with an increasingly destructive storm, but also with the unsettling presence of a handsome stranger, Heath, whose story rapidly unravels. Is he alone? Why is he really on the mountain? And how does he know it so well when he claims not to? As if this isn’t enough, hidden essentials go missing, supplies begin to dwindle and, as Sarah and Heath reach an uneasy intimacy, dangerous undercurrents in their lives are revealed. Honey Brown, author of the Miles Franklin-longlisted The Good Daughter (Viking) does an excellent job of this taut and atmospheric thriller, successfully adding a darkly sexy tone. The characters are well drawn and charismatic, and the twists are great—even the reader gets trapped and confused by lies. And hooray for the twist at the end, I’m still puzzling it over.
Catherine Schulz is an indie bookseller at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in March 2013. View more pre-publication reviews here.
Independently and together, Janeen Brian and Ann James have produced many successful and award-winning picture books for young children. Both know how to appeal to children’s sense of fun, and how much they love to take an active part in the reading. Toddlers in particular love to join in the playful antics depicted in books such as this one, and never tire of hearing the same story over and over, which helps to develop their reading skills. So this book will be a great success at an early childhood level. It is about getting dirty and enjoying it—a pursuit all toddlers can relate to. It has action, repetition and rhyming text, and will be fun for young children to join in with. It has simple, uncluttered illustrations that focus on the main character, the mud and very little else besides a small bird, which adds extra interest. James uses ‘magic pencil, mud and watercolour’ for the illustrations, and she probably got very dirty in the process. This fun book could be successful as a prelude to bath time, urging reluctant bathers to dive right in. It is recommended for early childhood.
Margaret Hamilton is a former children’s book publisher. She now provides freelance publishing services and runs Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage in Blackheath, NSW. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 1 2013 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.