Search Results for: light between

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:

What did you think of the book?

February 16

Fabled flight – the Wishbird


When discussing reading with students over the past weeks, we have often referred to the ability of books to take you different places, on a journey and to put you in someone else’s shoes. After a busy week, that is exactly what I needed – and today’s mode of transport was The Wishbird by Gabrielle Wang.

The Wishbird and tales like it always take me back to the books I used to love as a young reader – of fables, legends and fantasy. Whether it be Greek myths and legends, or Arabian tales, I was wrapt in the possibilities of the heroes and anti-heroes portrayed within. Wang has again taken me to these places, though with her Chinese heritage, she has changed the location.

The tale is told from two viewpoints – that of Boy, a street urchin who survives with his light-fingered talents and answerable to Panther, the Fagin in this tale; and then we hear from Oriole, a waif raised in the wild, but destined to play an important future role in resurrecting a torn kingdom far away.

Though initially alternating between Boy and Oriole, the story entwines their lives, their destinies. Mysteries abound in the novel – what can be real or imagined, interplay. What things are possible, or mystical, or fantastical combine – as the players in the tale seek to find meaning in their own personal histories, and to overcome tragedies of their past within their current circumstances.

The fact that this all occurs within a magical tale, where anything might be possible, is the charm of the Wishbird. Wang narrates mystical events, which are confused by conflict and deception, to weave a tale of courage and strength and trust. The pictures within the story add to its charm, affirming how you ‘think’ you see her descriptions – which is nothing different from the days when I read an illustrated version of the Arabian Nights, way back when…

Imagine a world without music.

Imagine if all the singers and musicians disappeared, never to be seen again. Music is outlawed. Even birds are killed because they sing. And because birds live in forests then the forests all around are burnt to stumps. 

Music is an integral part of human existence. Every culture in the world makes music. Without it, the soul dies.

This is at the heart of The Wishbird.

Comment from:


To find out more about Gabrielle, the other books she has written and her way of writing, visit . There is much to inspire the writer within you, and excite the reader looking for more of Gabrielle Wang.

What are some of your favourite fables, fantasy worlds or myths?

How much do you think the character names add to the Wishbird tale? Oriole? Boy? Panther? Mellow?

Gabrielle is also a talented illustrator and has lots to say to encourage the artist within everyone –

Imagine if students were allowed to doodle all the way through school.
Skills with line work and visualization would increase and both sides of the brain would be exercised.
It might turn out to be a very interesting experiment. For more see:

So get out your writing pens and doodling pencils NOW – you never know what may happen.


November 12

Reading: between book reviews

guideSpending time reading catalogues and reading guides is a great way to take a breather between book reviews. It helps gather ideas about all the new books about. Unfortunately, it also increases the length of the list of books you really should read…

The ‘2013-2014 Kids’ Reading Guide’ put out by the Australian Booksellers Association is a recent example of this. From the intriguing picture books, (which deal with fun infant concepts like learning the alphabet, and revisions of ‘This little piggy’), to the latest Anh Do book and classics retold – there is lots to capture the imagination of readers young and old.

Another fabulous addition to this particular catalogue is the inclusion of reviews by young readers – long enough to give you an idea of the story, but short enough not to give away the whole plot. It’s a great way to acknowledge young readers and get an insight into what they enjoy about the featured books – what attracted them and what they they think others might like about the book – and isn’t that what reviewing is all about?

There are several books within the guide that I plan to read, among others that I have read and recommended – e.g. to read: Gabrielle Wang’s ‘the Wishbird’‘Zac and Mia’ by A.J.Betts and ‘the Vanishing Moment’; and recommended: ‘the Sky so Heavy’ by Claire Zorn, and ‘the Kensington Reptilarium’ by Nikki Gemmell. There are also books by Andy Griffiths, Anh Do, Morris Gleitzman and John Flanagan which continue to be popular – many either as continuing series, or in familiar formats to older titles.

An additional bonus to this catalogue is the inclusion of illustrations from Shaun Tan’s latest book, ‘Rules of Summer’ which mix well with the multitude of book covers that readers have to choose from. So browse carefully, before you decide which delight to take home from your local Australian Bookseller.

N.B. For some great insights to the creative mind of Shaun Tan, visit ‘the Rules of Summer’ website

September 3

After Twilight – Shiver!

shiverReviewFor some time, following the success of the ‘Twilight’ series, a massive number of Twilight-themed books appeared. Even now, bookshops and chain stores are laden with vampire love stories of various qualities. Now is the time to herald a new wave of  books – this time based on werewolves. (For those who are ‘Team Jacob’ perhaps?)

One well-written example of this is ‘the Wolves of Mercy Falls’ series by Maggie Stiefvater. Beginning with ‘Shiver’, the tales focus on the relationships which develop between humans, and those in their community who morph into wolves when the weather cools down – as winters do harshly in the fictional town of Mercy Falls (likened to forested areas just south of the Canadian border).

Grace has had a fascination of the wolves which live in the woods near her home for as long as she can remember. This is in spite of being snatched off a tyre swing and being dragged into the woods as a young child. For her, there was some unexplained attraction to these wild animals, and to one wolf in particular.

We meet Sam, listening to his thoughts about the sensations he feels, tastes and smells, and become aware of his acute instincts towards Grace. These are heightened when he is able to take refuge in her home – a place rarely frequented by her busy, preoccupied parents. This allows them to time to learn about each other and the forces impacting their lives.

A major complication for their relationship is the fact that Sam has, for many years, changed into a wolf as wintry weather approaches. This is the normal cycle – he can only be human for a short time each year – and this time is shortening each year.

Maggie Stiefvater has created some interesting voices in her tale (the first of 3) and gives differing perspectives – from the points of view of the wolves, the wolf pack and the human communities of Mercy Falls, as they exist side by side. You can almost smell the musky scent of the wolves, feel the crispness of the woods, fear the chill as winter approaches, and sense the anxiety of Grace and Sam as their time together appears to be running out.

On her blog, Maggie writes –

As an artist and musician, I can’t work in a vacuum when I write—music and art is always in the back of my head in one way or another. Here on this page you’ll find the stop-motion animated book trailers I made for Shiver and Linger, playlists of some of the music I listened to while writing the book, and the music I wrote for the series. Plus, some links to some real wolf howls because that’s just cool.”

To read this, after reading her book, helps you to see how she has worked to evoke your senses, and to appreciate how her ideas have grown from perceptive ‘all-senses’ observations. The link above also gives you access to some quirky little book trailers she has created, with music she composed especially for the process.

‘Linger’ is the next book, with the final book ‘Forever’ due out next year. (N.B. The film rights have been bought and a screenplay has been written, but whether the series makes it to the screen is yet to be determined.)

Till then / before then, read the books!!!

July 7

Monster Blood Tattoo: Book Two: Lamplighter

‘Lamplighter’ is the sequel to the first book in the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy. ‘Foundling’, the first book, introduced the reader to the highly original world of the Half-Continent, where there reigns a continual battle for supremacy between monsters and humans. Monsters are seen as an evil scourge and to be killed as quickly as possible. Those who are experts in killing have the monster’s blood they killed tattooed into their skin.

Our hero is called Rossamund, an unfortunate name, which he has to carry along with a lonely and difficult life as an apprentice lamplighter. Lamplighters have an important job, going out each day to light the roads so they are safe to travel. In this second book the Half-Continent is becoming even more dangerous, with monster attacks on the rise. Far flung and remote villages are in severe danger of being overrun.

‘Lamplighter’ begins two months into Rossamund’s apprenticeship with the lamplighters of Winstermill. He develops a friendship with a “Wit”, a girl who has mind talents to hurt monsters, but her powers are barely controlled. Threnody has come from an upper class background and is haughty and arrogant. However, she wants to go against her parent’s wishes and become a lamplighter. Threnody and Rossamund become reluctant allies against the monsters. While at Winstermill, Rossamund becomes aware that there is something sinister going on. He investigates this but is not believed and for punishment Rossamund and Threnody are banished to a distant “Cothouse”. This is a savage and frightening place on the very fringes of civilisation. Monsters are visible from time to time from the top of the Cothouse’s tower.

Disaster strikes one day when Threnody and Rossamund are out on routine duties. They return to the Cothouse to find that there is a full-scale monster attack going on and all of their lighter friends are horribly massacred.

During all of this second part of the series, Rossamund is becoming aware that he is rather different to those around him. Unlike others, he finds he can’t hate the monsters, in fact he feels sympathy for their difficult lives. His enemies see this in him also and he is called in to stand trial for allegedly collaborating with monsters. Was he really partly responsible for the massacre at the Cothouse? As Rossamund tries to defend himself some shocking revelations are made.

D.M. Cornish has created a unique world in the Half-Continent. It is stunning in scope and rich in imagination. It has its own language, somewhat Dickensian, and its own science and technology. The illustrations are vivid brilliant black and white drawings and bear witness to the skills of the author who completed a Bachelor of Design, majoring in Illustration. The book also has extensive glossaries, maps and charts at the end of the book, called an “Explicarium”.

This sequel is one of the rare ones that is even better than the first book. The characterisations have greater depth, and moral issues – especially the ones about what it is to be truly human – are examined in a complex way. This book is highly recommended to those that love a good fantasy book, but it is far more than simply a well plotted narrative. Although it is directed to the young adult, adult readers will find many pleasures in it’. – Jane Crew

November 14

Before you see the movie…

Now out in cinemas, the Light Between Oceans, is a powerful story – with lots of questions about how the decisions we make can drastically impact the lives of others.

Previously reviewed here, the story remains thought-provoking, heart-breaking and well-worthy of being made into a movie – but READ IT FIRST – it’s an incredibly moving debut novel, from an Australian author!

I wonder how well the movie will reflect the book?

N.B. not really YA, but good for older readers.

May 27

Author! Author! (Doctor? Doctor?) Slave of the Lamp – Paula Fogarty

slaveAuthors come from many diverse walks of life – and not all of them write their first book straight out of school as many would like to think:

  • # Toni Jordan (Nine Days) has worked as a sales assistant, molecular biologist, quality control chemist and marketing manager.
  • # Sarah Butler (Ten Things I’ve learnt About Love)  runs a consultancy which develops literature and arts projects.
  • # M.L. Stedman (the Light Between Oceans) was working in London as a lawyer in 1997 before hiring a writing coach…

So it is not surprising to discover that another debut author, Paula Fogarty, has ‘real’ job as a doctor – that she has worked in travel medicine for many years, and has a Post Graduate Masters degree in Tropical Medicine and Public Health.

It is also not surprising that Paula’s tale involves a magical genie and heroes of mythology, when you read that “her youth was spent devouring huge volumes of ancient Greek, Arabic and Nordic mythology.” In ‘Slave of the Lamp’, she uses her own interpretation of old tales, combined with adventure, for a young boy who simply wants to earn some money during his holiday break.

In this tale, genies (or ‘apprentice’ djinns, as Rufus might be called) are not all powerful and fearful. Neither do the old-school heroes like Aladdin measure up to our expectations. Instead, for example, Aladdin is a fat, deceitful and lazy son, who uses the djinns, Rufus and Gloria, to carry treasure from a magical cave for his, and only his, greedy pleasures. As a djinn, Rufus does not have the magical powers he first associated with the job he agrees to do, but he simply has to use his own cunning and ability to get by.

As with any tale involving a magical lamp, the fates and fortunes of the djinns within are determined by changing ownership of the lamp. So Rufus and Gloria’s journeys vary through different times and countries. Treasure hunting is a very risky business, which is why they are employed along the way in the endeavours for riches and power by others in charge of the lamp. However, there is the chance that the powers of human ingenuity, even in the shape of a naive 13 year old boy, may triumph.

Fogarty’s travels and exposure to exotic cultures, along with her passion for ancient mythology have surfaced well in this book. You can smell the different locations Rufus faces, you can feel the new situations he has to adapt to, and you cheer his knowledge of the many  diverse lands he comes across. His powers of observation and the decisions he makes are also admirable. Teen readers will love him.

‘Slave of the Lamp’ is a fun book, to be followed by many more in a series – one which will reveal many more of the wonderful places Paula Fogarty has visited. Whether they are real or imaginary locations remains to be seen – whatever the case, there are bound to be many more adventures in store for Rufus as he substitutes as ‘Slave of the Lamp’.

March 25

Indie Awards 2013 announced…

And the winner is:

The Light Between Oceans*, by M.L.Stedman -a debut novel which is…

…primarily set in the 1920s, far off Western Australia’s south-west coast, as well as in a small mainland port, The Light Between Oceans is an evocative tale with an irresistible ethical and emotional conundrum at its heart.
The book riffs heavily on the theme of duality, starting with the tiny, fictitious island where the story unfolds. Janus Rock, named after ancient Rome’s two-faced god of beginnings and endings, is at the confluence of two oceans. SMH review April 15, 2012

Read more:

And you will find the book trailer below intriguing – especially given the renowned ‘book’ people who comment on this debut novel.

What is it about this novel which has intrigued the judges (independent booksellers – probably as varied as you and I) to give it this honour – ahead of well-known authors like Margot Lanagan*, Maureen McCarthy* ,and Drusilla Modjeska; as well as other tales like Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell (my favourite), and challenging thought-provoking texts like Tohby Riddle’s Unforgotten*?


Other award winners include:

Sea Hearts* by Margot Lanagan (Children’s & YA winner)
QF32 by Richard de Crespigny (Non-fiction)

For more details about the awards see:

* We have copies of these in the library waiting for you – would you like to review them? Or are others on the list (mentioned in a previous post) more to your liking? 

February 4

Indie awards 2013

Each year, the Independent Bookseller Awards pick the best of the best of Australian fiction and non fiction writing. These list include great reads for students and their families, some of which the library has already purchased.

Two shortlists for this year include the following books (those with * are currently available from our library):

The Light Between Oceans* by M.L. Stedman (Random House)
Eleven Seasons by Paul D. Carter (Allen & Unwin)
The Cartographer by Peter Twohig (HarperCollins)
Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell (Hachette Little Brown)

The Convent*
 by Maureen McCarthy (Allen & Uwnin)
The 26-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (Macmillan)
Sea Hearts* by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
Unforgotten* by Tohby Riddle (Allen & Unwin)



Past winners include:

    • Jasper Jones*, Craig Silvey
    • The Happiest Refugee*, Anh Do
    • and last year’s winner, All That I Am* by Anna Funder

Since the category winners are announced on March 25, there is still time to read some of this selection and decide for yourself which book deserves the honours.

Which ones do you think will take out the main awards this year? Have a look at the Australian Independent Bookseller website for other great recommendations – bestsellers, reading guides and reading news.

November 26

Launching ‘the Godwits’

godwitsWhile this blog is mainly dedicated to reviewing Young Adult fiction, after attending the book launch of ‘the Godwits’ recently, I knew I had to write about it.

This is a tale that connects two worlds – and shows how they impact on one another, in spite of great distances and differing perspectives.

In one place, Gao Wei, the young son of Gao Da and Gao Shu, celebrates his birthday on the shores of the Yellow Sea in China; his new binoculars in hand. Many thousands of kilometres away, Gowie, a migratory bird also celebrates a birthday, as he awaits a momentous occasion.

Wei is passionate about birds, in much the same way as author Bruce Pickworth describes his own long-term passion for writing. Wei’s passion moves him to oppose a development which his father, Da, is meant to support in his work, and the battle begins. (Bruce’s has finally produced a picture book!)

In the other ‘world’, Gowie personifies the life of a Bar-tailed Godwit – an amazing bird which annually migrates between Australia/New Zealand and Alaska, via mainland China. We learn about the instincts these birds need to call upon, and the behaviour of the flock and who controls it. We are reminded that the power of the individual is not determined by size, but by attitude and relationships, when it comes to achieving leadership.


As the tale develops, page by page, events in Wei’s life sit alongside those of Gowie; as each becomes stronger, and better acknowledged by others.

Dr Meredith Burgmann, who launched ‘the Godwits’, reminisced her own battles against developments threatening the environment. She also identified with many other aspects the book touches on like freedom of speech, feminist issues and family relationships. And then she wondered if it was time again for her to protest – in front of a grader about to start a demolition like Wei does in the story!

Author, Bruce Pickworth has combined a life-long passion for writing with a family interest in bird-watching, adventuring and natural discoveries. The result is a delightful tale which both entertains and informs, as Wei and Gowie overcome struggles put before them. Illustrator, Lorraine Robertson, provides gloriously detailed scenes to contrast the two worlds (as well as informing the astonishing fact pages). Authentic support from Birdlife Australia and their own personal histories bring Bruce and Lorraine together in achieving a wonderful project.

Once the story itself is finished, it is complemented by pages of amazing facts about Godwits, and actions that have been taken to ensure their migration path remain accessible  as the industrial world encroaches on these sites.

Here is another book to join those like Jeannie Baker’s ‘Circle’ to both entertain and inform our younger readers – and stun and amaze older readers, by presenting great visuals, and an appealing story for important environmental issues we must all consider. (It may be interesting to use them as comparative texts?)

* Copies of the book and teachers notes are available from Bullawai Books. The trade and school distributor is INT BOOKS –