11 December 2017

Celebrating 1,000,000 views!

Today is cause for some serious celebration. (Crowd goes wild!)

I've finally surpassed 1,000,000 views here on Carpe Librum!

From humble beginnings way back in 2005, and with a different name (My Four Bucks) I still remember the excitement of achieving just 30 views/hits in a single month. I'd check my stats daily and it was thrilling to see it rise. (Tragic, I know).

Since then, I've kept at it and in November 2011 I was celebrating 13,000 total views and in June 2015 celebrated my 10 Year Blogiversary. I now enjoy an average of 10,000 views per month and am spoiled for choice when it comes to publisher catalogues.

A huge thank you to each and every one of you reading this for making my dreams come true. I hope you've been able to discover some great reads along the way, win a giveaway or perhaps even dodge a dud book now and then thanks to my vetting it for you.

I'll never tire of reading and reviewing here at Carpe Librum, and I'm so grateful to be able to share my love of books with you. If you have any suggestions on how I should celebrate this milestone, let me know in the comments below.

Woohoo!

Carpe Librum!

07 December 2017

Review: The Park Bench by Christophe Chaboute

The Park Bench by Christophe Chaboute is a graphic novel about the day-to-day experiences of a park bench. It's a simple premise, but interestingly, there is no text used in the artwork at all. I've since learned graphic novels like this are called wordless or silent graphic novels.

This is my first time reading a wordless graphic novel but Chaboute makes it surprisingly easy to follow the story arc. There are happy, sad, curious and mundane things that happen on, at and around the park bench and the reader is able to follow along with relative interest.


The Park Bench is an entertaining reading experience and has definitely cemented my view that graphic novels should play a part in everybody's reading at one stage or another. I've always been of the opinion that adults who say they don't read, just haven't found the right book or genre yet.

What graphic novels have you enjoyed?

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

05 December 2017

Review: The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Rosamund Young is first and foremost a farmer and runs Kite's Nest Farm in the Cotswolds. She's been observing animal behaviour since 1980 and began to notice that cows are intelligent animals with personalities as diverse as our own.

In The Secret Life of Cows, Rosamund shares anecdotes about her animals, their behaviours and interactions in a personable and chatty manner.

Every cow on her farm is given a name and Rosamund knows the complete family tree of all the cows on her farm. They play games, babysit, hold grudges and grieve. Her cows are able to communicate and let her know if another cow in the herd is hurt, and are surprisingly adept at problem solving. They also love to be groomed, who knew?


I was interested to learn cows will seek out food according to their needs, (willow if they have an injury or stinging nettles when pregnant) highlighting and reinforcing the need for organic farming practices.

Presented in an attractive little hardcover reminiscent of a clothbound classic, The Secret Life of Cows would make a lovely gift this Christmas for animal lovers, hobby and full-time farmers.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

01 December 2017

Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Many readers worried Australian author Jane Harper couldn't top her award-winning debut novel The Dry, but I'm here to tell you she has! Force of Nature is a ripping read and just as full of thrilling suspense as The Dry. The end of each chapter unapologetically forces you to continue onto the next, with a freshly stoked desire to find out what happens.

Force of Nature can easily be read as a standalone, however it does feature the same main character AFP Officer Aaron Falk. This time Falk is investigating the case of a missing person, lost in the bush during a corporate team building and camping retreat. Each of the five female staff members on the retreat have their own problems and the conflict that grows and festers between them was expertly written.

Jane Harper captures the menacing and unforgiving wilderness of the Australian bush with such precision, that several scenes reminded me of the 1886 oil painting Lost by Australian artist Frederick McCubbin.

I'm recommending Force of Nature to readers everywhere and it's certainly been a highlight on my reading calendar this year.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Read a FREE extract here.

29 November 2017

Winner of Illusion by Stephanie Elmas announced

Thanks to those who entered my blog tour giveaway to win a print copy of Illusion by Stephanie Elmas. Entries closed at midnight on Monday 27 November 2017 and the winner was drawn today. Congratulations to:
Fay
Congratulations Fay, you'll receive an email from me today and will have 7 days to provide your mailing address. Endeavour Press will send your prize out to you directly and I hope you enjoy it.

Carpe Librum!

27 November 2017

Review: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Sleeping Beauties is a collaboration between father and son, and is written seamlessly. Stephen King and his son Owen have teamed up to explore what happens when the women in the world succumb to a sleeping sickness. But there's always one exception to the rule and Eve doesn't fall victim to the illness. Is she the devil or their saviour?

Women fight to stay awake, but when they eventually fall asleep they're quickly covered in a cocoon of gauzy web-like substance. The book eventually explains this, but as in Under The Dome, the novel is more about what happens to the people left behind and how they react. There were many unanswered questions by the end, but I think you just need to 'go with it' - as in Cell and UR - and give yourself over to the premise.

Told in multiple points of view from many many characters in the town of Dooling in West Virginia, the plot unfolds quite rapidly over a relatively short period of time. Much of the story takes place at a women's prison which King writes very well and some readers will enjoy the parallels to other novels in the King canon.

Sleeping Beauties unashamedly and unapologetically raises and explores the issue of gender politics, clearly - in my opinion - siding with the women. Some feminists are likely to find themselves nodding along, while it wouldn't surprise me if this irked a few readers; me included.

The climax of the book for me took place at the prison, and this scene is begging to be played out on the big screen. The multiple points of view and rolling action does make for a massive tome though, and Sleeping Beauties comes in at 700+ pages. At the end of the day, it's a hefty read and I think it would work better as a movie or TV mini series. With the recent success of Stephen King adaptations, this has a good chance of happening.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

16 November 2017

Review: Ghosts of the Tsunami - Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley *

After reading Richard Lloyd Parry's essay entitled Ghosts of the Tsunami in the London Review of Books, I instantly became obsessed with getting and reading his book, Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone. Parry was living in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake and spent six years as a foreign correspondent visiting and reporting from the tsunami disaster zone.

Shocking facts about the Japanese earthquake on 11 March 2011*
- It was the biggest earthquake ever to have struck Japan, and the fourth most powerful in the history of seismology.
- It knocked the earth 10 inches off it's axis.
- It moved Japan four feet closer to America.

Shocking facts about the tsunami that followed*
- The tsunami killed 18,500 people.
- At its peak, the water of the tsunami was 120 feet high.
- The earthquake and tsunami caused more than $210 billion of damage, making it the most costly natural disaster ever.

Review
I didn't know that the Japanese honour their dead ancestors in the form of household altars and memorial tablets. When these were destroyed in the tsunami, the subsequent grief and bereavement was about so much more than the immediate loss of life. The tsunami destroyed memorial books and tablets containing the names of generations of ancestors and even 
ripped open cemetery vaults and scattered the bones of the dead

Without their memorial tablets, and important family items, survivors weren't able to honour their ancestors. Entire families lost in the tsunami left nobody behind to honour them and their ancestors. The disaster left a population in deep grief and a feeling that the souls of thousands of ancestors had been suddenly 'cut adrift'.

Parry interviewed hundreds of survivors and many of their experiences are in this book. He tells how survivors "spoke of the terror of the wave, the pain of bereavement and their fears for the future. They also talked about encounters with the supernatural. They described sightings of ghostly strangers, friends and neighbours, and dead loved ones. They reported hauntings at home, at work, in offices and public places, on the beaches and in the ruined towns."

I was hoping to read more about these encounters and the way in which the nation and individual communities dealt with the sudden loss of 18,500 souls. Stories like this one: "A fire station that received calls to places where all the houses had been destroyed by the tsunami. The crews went out to the ruins anyway, prayed for the spirits of those who had died - and the ghostly calls ceased."

However it soon became clear that Parry's overwhelming focus was going to be the story of the children at Okawa primary school. Tragically, the teachers did not evacuate the children to higher ground, despite having more than enough time to do so before the tsunami struck. Parry documents the parent's grief, the search for their children's remains (often lasting years), the process of pursuing the school and government for answers, right through to class legal action; quite unusual for Japan.

Reading Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone was incredibly informative, factual and shocking but at the same time heart wrenchingly tragic.

Unfortunately for the Japanese, the threat of earthquake and tsunami is constant. Parry tells us that in 2012: "a new study concluded that an earthquake and tsunami originating in the Nankai Trough could take 323,000 lives along the south-central Pacific Coast." He also says that "it is generally assumed Tokyo will be shaken by an earthquake powerful enough to destroy large areas of the city......that will kill many tens of thousands of people."

I hope this doesn't happen during my lifetime, although the Japanese seem as prepared as they can be for the inevitable. Until then, this generation will continue to wade through their grief and loss the best way they know how.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

* These facts have been extracted from the book.