Black Light, by K.A. Bedford

“I have been having the most frightful dreams, Ruth. Something was happening to you – something terrible. I saw someone trying to kill you, someone with the most enormous hands – “

Twelve years ago Ruth Black’s husband was killed in mysterious war-time circumstances. Since then she has built herself a new life, resettling in rural Western Australia and forging a career as a novelist. But the arrival of  her Aunt Julia heralds the start of a series of unsettling events. Julia has travelled from England to warn her niece that she has forseen her murder. Ruth is not sure whether to believe her Aunt’s eerie premonition, but is startled by her knowledge of Ruth’s home, without ever having visited it.  As events unfold, Ruth must take her Aunt’s warnings seriously – but how is she to stop her enemies, and who is she to trust?

Black Light is a spine-tingling supernatural crime thriller, set in 1920s Western Australia. The town of Pelican River is fictional (though loosely modelled on Mandurah, south of Perth), and populated with an intriguing cast, including the eccentric Ruth herself; her widower neighbour Gordon, who copes with his grief by inventing things and surrounding himself with dogs; and a parish priest who believes Ruth is evil.

An intriguing blend of mystery, thriller and the supernatural, Black Light is absorbing, though at times a little confusing. For example, Ruth – and it seems everyone else – is acceptant of the fact that elves populate the neighbourhood, and that Gordon can cast protection spells, but struggles with other paranormal or supernatural possibilities. Still, it is perhaps this unpredictability which make the book intriguing.

Recommended for lovers of the paranormal.


Black Light

Black Light, by K. A. Bedford
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925161410

Available from good bookstores and online.

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier

Kelpie didn’t look at the card between her fingers. She could feel it there, but she was staring at the red splashes on the walls, on the mirror of the wardrobe, across the two paintings, at the blood sliding down them in rivulets. her nostrils flared at the smell from the dead man and she wished she could close them.
She did not see or smell apples.

Kelpie has been living on the streets of Surry Hills almost as long as she can remember. Her friends are mostly ghosts – she alone seems to be able to see and hear them – so she’s no stranger to death, but she is still shocked when she stumbles across the scene where Jimmy Palmer has just been slain. Unwittingly, she is now part of a turf war between mob bosses Glory Nelson and Mr Davidson. She also has a new, unexpected friend and protector – Dymphna Campbell – who was Jimmy’s girlfriend and Glory’s best girl. But Dymphna doesn’t know who to trust: she had Jimmy had been plotting to replace both of the mob bosses, and whoever killed Jimmy must have known that. Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, but he’s a bit hysterical over the turn of events. Kelpie’s only living friend, Snowy, also seems to want to help, but Jimmy says it was Snowy who killed him. Could sticking together be the thing that keeps both girls alive?

Set in 1930s Sydney, Razorhurst is historical fiction with a paranormal element, via the ghost characters. Set amidst the backdrop of a period where poverty was high, and gangs focused on prostitution and gambling preferred the razor as a means of enforcement and retribution, the story is fiction, but does draw on the lives of madams Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, and 1930s prostitutes Dulcie Markham and Nellie Cameron as starting points for the intriguing characters of Glory and Dymphna.

Kelpie and Dymphna, who alternate as viewpoint characters, seem initially to be two very different people thrown together by circumstance, but it emerges that they have more in common than either thinks. this makes their relationship both complex and, for the reader, intriguing. The events that they endure, both within the short time frame of the book and in their pasts – which we see through flash backs – are violent and traumatic, yet both girls are strong, albeit in different ways.

Razorhurst is absorbing, frightening, and, at times, amusing. It is also utterly readable.



Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743319437

Available from good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting

I’m always happy to have visitors, and, today’s visitor is my lovely friend and clever writer Sue whiting, here to take part in the Meet My Book feature. Over to you, Sue.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Portraits of Celina, Walker Books Australia, April 2013


2. Why did you write the book?

To be perfectly honest – I don’t know! I started out writing a very different book for a much younger audience about a genie, but it wasn’t working. My daughter suggested I ditch the genie, but keep the setting, characters and backstory. I took her advice (there’s a first time for everything) and started exploring the characters and ended up writing a YA suspense novel about a vengeful ghost and a family dealing with grief!

3. How long from idea to publication?

As with many of my books, it was several years from idea to publication. I am not fast. I first started working on the novel in 2008, though the half-finished manuscript lingered in my bottom drawer for a year or more (probably more like two).

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Finding the time. I work full time, and for a while I was using that as an excuse for not writing, until I gave myself a stern talking to and made myself find the time. Consequently, I wrote most of the book on the train during my morning commute to the office.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

The creepy, ghostly bits – they were so much fun to write! As one reviewer put it I “went head to head with a ghost”. Also, hidden in the scenes with Bayley and Oliver, I share an intimate moment from my own life – the moment I fell in love with my husband (when I was just sixteen also). And that is pretty cool.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Many things!
One: You can write a YA novel, work full time and keep your sanity (just).
Two: Writing romance scenes is REALLY hard.
Three: Writing darker themes and scary scenes is awesome.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

On the day the book was released, I went to Kinokuniya Bookshop in Sydney with my daughter (to whom the book is dedicated) and her friend, took a cheesy photo of the girls holding the book in front of the display on the New Releases and then we went to High Tea in the Queen Victoria Building and toasted Celina with chilled glasses of champagne.

8. And how will you promote the book?

I have done a number of promotional activities with The Children’s Bookshop at Beecroft – a teacher/librarian event and some school visits. I also have a few festivals coming up: Sydney Writers’ Festival, Voices on the Coast, Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival, Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, as well as a couple of days of events with Westbooks in Perth. I also use my blog and Facebook page to publicise reviews and events and look out for opportunities to do interviews etc.

9. What are you working on next?

I am working on a new YA novel. It has the working title of The Awful Truth and is all about lies (and love and crime).

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
Facebook: here.
Publisher: Walker Books.
Buy online: here.

Thanks for sharing Sue. You can see my review of Portraits of Celina here.

Winter's Light, by MJ Hearle

Her thoughts struggled to accept what had happened. Somehow the power of the stone had transported her into the body of a stranger. She was seeing through another’s eyes. The scene in front of her lurched again, making Winter feel like a passenger trapped in a speeding car, and she was suddenly standing over a pool of dark water. The light of the candles shimmered along the surface, softly illuminating the pale reflection she saw there. If she had a mouth it would have fallen open in silent shock.
The reflection in the water belonged to Blake.

Blake is gone. He died in order to protect Winter, and now she is alone, haunted by dreams of everything that happened. But the lodestone around her neck, her token of Blake, is acting strangely, and she is being taunted with visions of Blake, alive, but imprisoned. Is it possible? She saw him die – yet these visions are frighteningly real. If Blake is alive, Winter will stop at nothing to find and save him

Winter’s Light is the excellent sequel to Winter’s Shadow, though stands enough alone for new readers to engage with. Set in a unique paranormal world inhabited by beings unique to this series – the Skivers, the Demori and the Bane making a refreshing, though frightening, change to the werewolves and vampires so popular in recent paranormal offerings. At the same time though, the quest, the strong female protagonist, the modern world meets alternate reality, are all familiar elements teen paranormal fans will enjoy.

In places dark and frightening, this is an absorbing read suitable for teen readers.

Winter's Light

Winter’s Light, by M.J. Hearle
Pan Macmillan, 2012
ISBN 9781742611037

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Vulpi by Kate Gordon

‘How should I begin?’ I asked.

Tessa found me sitting alone by the smouldering coals of our dying campfire. I held a pen in my right hand. On my knee was the journal she’d given me after the fight at Cascade Falls school. After she came back to us.

She thought it might help me to have somewhere to put my thoughts but it had been weeks now and the pages were a desert. I just didn’t know where to start.

‘How should I begin?’ I asked.

Tessa found me sitting alone by the smouldering coals of our dying campfire. I held a pen in my right hand. On my knee was the journal she’d given me after the fight at Cascade Falls school. After she came back to us.

She thought it might help me to have somewhere to put my thoughts but it had been weeks now and the pages were a desert. I just didn’t know where to start.

Tessa sat down, fixing me with those eyes that seemed much too old for her young face. Were too old. She tilted her head to one side. ‘Are you still having trouble Cat?’

I nodded.

‘I suppose … Just begin with your name. Or even with one word. That is how everything starts, isn’t it? With one tiny, tentative step into the forest.’

Vulpi continues the paranormal tale begun in ‘Thyla’ and is again set in contemporary Tasmania. Cat is a shapeshifter, a Thyla. She thought she knew who she was, but the more she discovers about herself and her new world, the more she realises there is to know. Now she is living in the wild, with all the safety and danger that entails. Time is a luxury she, and others like her, can ill afford. Evil is ever-present, and Diemen attacks are escalating, both in frequency and viciousness. Tessa with her friends and allies have powers beyond their human selves, but so do their enemies. Everyone will need to work together and be on their guard if they – and others – are to survive. There is so much to do, so much to learn. Her mentor, Tessa, suggests she capture her thoughts on the page, to try to make sense of it all, but there may be no time even for that.

Vulpiis a page-turner, a swirling mass of intrigue, trust and betrayal. Cat, new to life as a Thyla, is insightful, impatient, brave and overwhelmed. And that’s just in one chapter. For most teenagers, the transition from child to adult is full of swings back and forth. Add shapeshifting and ‘rites of passage’ become something altogether more challenging. There are plenty of themes wrapped up in this adventure, doing what fiction does best: showing how others live and how they adapt, succeed and fail in their journey through life. ‘Vulpi’ explores good and evil and the overlap between them. But most of all, Vulpi is a ripping yarn. Look out for the next instalment. Recommended for mid-secondary readers.


Vulpi, Kate Gordon Random House 2012 ISBN: 9781742752365

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author