July 19

Off the edge? ‘One Would Think the Deep’ – Claire Zorn

Yet another year of nominations for Claire Zorn – this time for a story (One Would Think the Deep) set in 1997 in a small coastal town, where surfing is a major activity.

Sam once lived in Sydney with his mum, but following her untimely death, he moves north to live with his mother’s estranged sister and her family. Though once family ties were strong, it is hard for Sam to adjust to this different lifestyle and struggles to deal with the changes as he mourns his mum.

In his new ‘home’, Sam’s cousin Minty is idolised as the next surfing champ, and as Sam reconnects with his cousin, he too is introduced to the world of surfing and all its challenges. The highs and lows of Sam’s life are echoed in his attempts to conquer the waves. His friendships also have their highs and lows, with events from the past impacting on his behaviour as he tries to find his way.

Situations in which Sam finds himself make you feel for him as he deals with his losses, but his choices make you want to shake him to his senses. Will he make the most of what he still has? Can he overcome the difficulties he has been dealt? Who will be able to break through to him of he won’t really reveal some of his troublesome thoughts?

This is another authentic story from Zorn, though I think I liked ‘the Protected’ more. Is that simply because of the way Sam made me feel? Is it good that Sam made me react to his choices?

After you have read ‘One Would Think the Deep’, for some interesting reviews from others, visit Inside a Dog. And here is part of a review from the State Library of NSW:

One Would Think the Deep has a potent emotional heart, great characters and beautiful writing. Built around gorgeous evocations of surfing and the sea, it is driven by wonderfully evoked characters and an empathetic exploration of masculinity. Source: http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/one-would-think-deep-claire-zorn

Now consider if OWTTD gets your vote for the Young Adult CBCA award this year. Comments?

February 18

It’s Black and White – audio with print book, too.

Night-Circus-UK-coverThe ‘Night Circus’ begins with an unusual delivery – a 5 year old girl delivered to her estranged father. It sets the tone for a tale filled with magic, mystery and strange happenings – nothing in this story is fully explained, at first.

Celia’s father is no ordinary father but a master magician. He claims however, that his trade is not in creating illusions, but in performing real magic. As her father’s daughter, Celia becomes involved in a high-stakes competition set up between Prospero and his long term rival – a magician know only by the mysterious name Mr A.H. The challenge is to prove whether magic is innate, or whether anyone intelligent person can develop the performance with skilful teaching by a master.

‘Let the games begin!’

Throughout the story, a major character is Le Cirque des Reves. This is no ordinary circus, since it arrives unannounced, without any fanfare and is setup from nightfall to dawn. Inside its black and white structures, spectators are treated to intriguing performances, theatrical stunts and out-of-this-world experiences unmatched by any other – all of which are intricately described and embellished beyond your imagination. In spite of the circus having no known schedule, a dedicated band of followers (reveurs) manages to anticipate and herald their arrival.

There are other significant characters who also anticipate the arrival of the circus and its entourage, as Morgenstern cleverly mixes the story together. In doing so, she has developed many intriguing characters and histories, in her debut novel – as well as some intriguing inventions for the circus itself.

However, this was one story which was a little difficult to follow in the audio version, as the chapters skipped from one time period to another, although the voices hinted at change. So it was great to jump into the print version from time to time, where it was much easier to track these time changes.

The book trailer below gives a hint about the style of the book – old worldy, black and white, circus focus with a bit of mystery, magic and love woven through:

 

 

Morgenstern also mixes an array of colourful characters and scenarios in her magical tale. Celia is not the only talented illusionist, as she is in competition of course with the dark and intriguing Marco, Mr A.H’s protégé. The history of her father (Prospero), the conception and development of the circus, and its impact on people are facts which are teased out at an agonizing pace. In a world of mystery and illusion, there is little that is really as it first seems. Many in this world are performers, and all is not always as we first see it.

It was easy to get caught up in the circus world, to suspend belief and engage in the battle for magical supremacy, even though you felt there was no chance of a happy ending – especially if you have empathies for both Celia and Marco, and the circus family. In this story, it is hard to decide who is the victim or villain, hero or heroine – or is it? A recommended read for you to puzzle over.

In this article from the HuffingtonPost, reviewers speak of the differences in reading and listening to the Night Circus – what do you think are the main differences?

Which way would you prefer to experience a book?

Or in which order would you try? Book? Audio? Movie?

January 22

Loyalties – Two Wolves

Where do your loyalties lie? Would you do anything for your friends? your family? What if things didn’t seem to be quite right?

Ben is placed in a difficult situation. He and his sister are suddenly bundled into the car with their parents as they ‘head off for a holiday’. But it’s NOT school holidays, and they are NOT heading off to some exciting resort. And the way that dad is acting is downright crazy!

For instance, why do they have to swap from their old car into an even dodgier vehicle from Uncle Chris? And why on earth are they headed to his grandfather’s dark and dank old cabin, if they are supposed to be going on a holiday? Even his dad hadn’t been there for ages!

As he contemplates the answers to these questions, Ben collects strands of information together to try to make sense of things. After all, he’s always dreamt  of becoming a detective. Thus, he jots down in his notebook all sorts of things; like the surprise visit of police officers at their family home, the family’s rapid departure after this (still in their school clothes!), and all the other insane events which follow.

When his parents are evasive about the reasons for everything that is happening, Ben does his best to uncover the truth. In doing so, he continues to battle with his father and even begins to question his mother’s sanity. Should his parents really be dragging Ben and Olive into the dangerous situation seemingly on the run from the law?

Ben’s choices waiver as he thinks of those who will be impacted – including his pesky sister, Violet, and his parents. As he reflects on events as his circumstances rapidly change, he ponders how much he has inherited from his dad and where his loyalties should lie. Then he worries, is he simply a ‘chip off the old block’, destined to follow his father’s dodgy footsteps?

There are several twists and turns in Tristan Bancks latest book, which is due for release in March this year. Like his other ‘Mac Slater Coolhunter’ books, Bancks delivers a likeable main character, with choices to make, and consequences to consider from his actions.

Bancks is also very adept in using all sorts of media in his storytelling – which makes sense given his background in acting and film making. His skills include sharing some of these creative ideas via a multimedia story brainstorming app, Story Scrapbook, and lots of encouraging advice you can investigate at: http://www.tristanbancks.com/

May 12

Mothers’ Love? – the Light between Oceans

What would you do if a baby washed up in a boat, accompanied only by her dead father? Would you wonder what had happened to her mother? And if you lived on a remote island housing a vital lighthouse, how would you go about reporting the lost (and found) baby?

Add another complication – you are a young couple who have faced the loss of several babies before they had time to even be; the last being stillborn just a few weeks previously. Is the baby perhaps a gift from God? Why was she alone in the boat with a dead father? Perhaps her mother had also perished?

Tom and Isabel live a solitary life as lighthouse keepers. Together they decide on a path which is always destined for sorrow and trouble. By the time they have their regular visits to and from the mainland, Lucy has well and truly become part of their life. Isabel’s parents, who live in on the mainland welcome their only grand-daughter with open arms, convinced of course that she really is their flesh and blood. And Lucy delights all who see her. How can they change the course of action they have slipped into by caring for baby Lucy?

This is an amazing debut novel for M.L. Stedman – told with gentleness and mystery. It succeeds in getting you to change your point of view, depending on whose story you are reading at the tim, without making you feel you have deserted one of the other characters. There are many different perspectives from which they can all be judged, as Stedman reveals the inner workings of each person in the tragic turn of events.

And as a reader you can sympathise with each one: Tom the solitary returned soldier; his wife, Isabel grieving several miscarriages; Isabel’s parents who have lost their sons to war; and of course, Hannah, who has lost both a husband and a child.

Though set in a fictional coastal community, the Light Between Oceans represents what life might have been like for those performing essential duties along our coastlines in times gone by.

As the author states: “The plot of THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS isn’t based on personal experience, other than to the extent that it’s set in Western Australia, where I’m from, so the landscape and weather hopefully have an authentic feel” ( comments from a GoodReads forum about her book). The setting describes the isolation of this part of Australia (and the lighthouse even more so), heightened even further by its post war time period. The tale reflects things which might occur in relationships when life doesn’t always give people what they want.

The impacts of war, isolation and loss are some of the key issues Stedman weaves into this tale of several tales, and the reader is left guessing, never quite sure of the final outcome. While the pace of the story has been criticised by some, it really just echoes the way things would have been before communications were so instant, and gives the reader time to consider how different things might have been in the past.

Movie options have been discussed, and the book has recently won the Indie Awards for a Debut novel. For more about M.L.Stedman see: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/interview-ml-stedman-20120322-1vkty.html

What did you think of the book?