07 December 2016

Interview with Australian author Belinda Alexandra

Australian author
Belinda Alexandra
Last month I reviewed Southern Ruby by accomplished Australian author Belinda Alexandra. Today she joins me on the blog to talk about New Orleans and all things books! Welcome Belinda.

Why did you choose New Orleans for the setting of Southern Ruby? You really made it come alive on the page, what do you like about this location? 
Thank you! I think New Orleans is one of the most inspiring places to write about. The history and culture – with its French, Spanish, Caribbean, African and Native American influences – is so rich. It is unlike the other more conservative Southern cities. I also am very attracted to the inhabitants’ sense of joie de vivre and fascinated by how superstitious they are – everything from mixing voodoo in with their staunch Catholicism to their unwavering belief in ghosts (New Orleans is meant to be America’s most haunted city). 

I read that you 'research your books almost like an actress preparing to play a part.' What research did you undertake to write Southern Ruby
As well as all the research reading, I listened to the music of the city (in the case of Southern Ruby this was a lot of early jazz), read the books that people were reading in the period I was writing about, the newspapers of the time, tested out the foods and talked to the people who had lived through Hurricane Katrina. I made a research trip to New Orleans with my husband, Mauro, and we stayed in an original Queen Anne period home in the Garden District, which is the style of home the Lalande family have in Southern Ruby.

You've had at least 7 books published so far (congratulations)! What kinds of stories are you drawn to? 
Thank you! I love what might be termed ‘coming of age’ novels. I love stories about people who make a journey in life and how that journey and the people they meet on it change them. I think my Russian heritage also draws me to epic stories where life is revealed in all its glory – both the laughter and the tears. My stories can be an emotional roller coaster ride, but I like to leave my readers feeling truly satisfied.

What was the last truly great book that you read? 
It wasn’t a novel but a very simple book titled The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie used to be a palliative care nurse, and in the book she conveys the top five regrets the terminally ill patients who she cared for wanted to convey to those of us who are healthy and still living. My heart was in my throat so often that  I could only read a small section at a time. Those reaching the end of their lives are often our greatest teachers in how to truly live.

What classic book have you started but never manage to finish? 
Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
Me too, I don't think I even got to the half way mark (blushing).

Do you have any literary influences or favourite authors? (Have you read any Anne Rice novels?) 
Charles Dickens was a huge influence on me. He is the king of the coming of age story and he created his characters with such love, even the wicked ones. When I was in New Orleans, I did make a point of going to visit Anne Rice’s old home in the Garden District where she wrote the Mayfair Witches. I didn’t read her novels while writing Southern Ruby because I wanted to interpret New Orleans my own way, but now the book is done I think I’m going to start with The Feast of All Saints.
I really hope you like her work, Anne Rice is one of my favourite authors and she writes about New Orleans so well. 

What are you reading at the moment? 
I’ve just finished The Dry by Jane Harper – a fantastic Australian crime story!
That one's in my TBR pile and I hear it's a great read, so I'm looking forward to it.

What's next? What are you working on at the moment?
I’m busy with my new novel, which is a murder mystery set in New York!

Thanks so much for joining us Belinda, and good luck for your next novel, although something tells me you won't need it. Visit Belinda's website for more information on her books.

Carpe Librum!

05 December 2016

Review: Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin

RRP $16.99 AUD
Published October 2016
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin is laugh out loud funny and is a book for book-lovers, teachers, librarians, grammarians and pedants everywhere; provided you're not offended by the 'f' word that is.

This is a stunning A6 size clothbound guide to the correct use of apostrophes that makes for very entertaining reading.

Griffin uses contemporary and up to the minute references to current affairs to demonstrate both correct and incorrect usage of the apostrophe and it makes for very easy reading.

Griffin's sense of humour shines through on every page, however he also manages to present a handy educational tool that's easily referenced and a pleasure to dip into again.

This little gem no doubt falls into the gift book genre, but could easily sit under the self-help or writing genre.

I loved Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin and recommend it widely. Only for adult audiences though.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

02 December 2016

Friday Freebie to WIN one of 3 e-book copies of Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett in this blog tour

(Approx $6.75AUD)
* Copy courtesy of the author *
Great to be part of this blog tour to launch Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett. Enter below to win one of three ebook copies.

A serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession. When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun...

Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…


Before moving to Australia in 2005, Rachel Amphlett lived in the UK and helped run a pub, played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant. Not necessarily in that order.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys skiing, horse-riding, going to the cinema (thrillers being a favourite!), playing guitar, reading (of course), and writing (another no-brainer).


30 November 2016

Review: Made in the Office - Tasty & Hasty Meals with Just a Kettle, Toaster & Microwave by Rachel Maylor

* Copy courtesy of Murdoch Books *

Do you keep balsamic vinegar in your desk drawer? Do you grate garlic or lemon zest at work? If you have a sieve and a whisk and don't mind dicing onions and cooking chicken in the microwave, then this book is for you. If you have buckwheat, agave nectar, almond milk, chia seeds or cacao powder in your pantry (or know where to find them) then you're definitely the target audience for Made in the Office by Rachel Maylor.

If, however, you're like me and you don't fancy eating cooked beetroot or fresh garlic at work and don't have time to whisk up a delicious dressing in your lunch break then you're not alone.

When I picked up Made in the Office I was eager to discover lunch hacking recipes and inspiring new ways to prepare food using a kettle, toaster and microwave. There were glimpses of the kind of content I was hoping to find and the instructions for poaching an egg in a mug in the microwave were excellent. The cake in a mug recipes were fun and the water infusion suggestions were interesting, but overall I wasn't impressed with Made in the Office, despite it's delightful presentation.

If you're a foodie at home with pomegranate seeds, take a lemon or lime to work every day and enjoy eating out of a jar, then you'll find this book - and the recipes within - irresistible.

On the other hand, if it's inspiration and 'lunch hacks' you seek, then you'll need to join me and look elsewhere.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

29 November 2016

Winner of Pounce by Seth Casteel announced

Thanks to the catlovers and booklovers who entered my paw-some (awesome) giveaway last week to win a copy of Pounce by Seth Casteel. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 25 November and I enjoyed reading through your favourite cat names. Congratulations to:
Julia Persico

Julia's favourite cat name was: Cheshire Cat. Philosophical yet lovable, and sometimes simply not all there. I think we all have a little Cheshire in us! Congratulations Julia, you'll receive an email shortly and will have 7 days to provide me with your postal address. Thanks again to Hachette Australia for this prize.

Here are some of the other cat names worth a mention:
- Garfield
- Mogget
- Felix, yes I can hear the music now
- Amber, my beautiful cat who died this year
- Lucy, still alive and just like the song!
- Thomasima
- Greyem
- Panda, my recently belated pet cat
- Pcat, the P was silent, short for PsychoCat
- Mrs. Norris
- Sooty
- Simba

Carpe Librum!

21 November 2016

Review: Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra

* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins Australia *

Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra is an excellent read, but I have to say it has the most misleading book cover I've seen in a long time. You could be forgiven for assuming Southern Ruby is a romance novel, however what you'll find instead is a steamy mystery set in New Orleans just prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Amanda is the protagonist and the family matriarch Ruby takes her back to the 1950s to fill in details of her family history.

Southern Ruby is brimming with themes of forbidden love, identity and family, loss, class, racial conflict, jazz and burlesque dancing and I really enjoyed it. Southern Ruby also touches on an event in recent history I'm fascinated by, and that's Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans could easily be considered the third character in the novel and a place I've always been fascinated by. One of my favourite authors - Anne Rice - has expertly captured the essence of New Orleans in her writing, however Belinda Alexandra is the first author to come close to equalling her talent on the page in my opinion.

I enjoyed discovering a new (to me) Australian author in Belinda Alexandra and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

18 November 2016

Friday Freebie to WIN a copy of Pounce by Seth Casteel

RRP $29.99 AUD
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

This giveaway is for all you cat lovers out there! Click here for a sneak peek, and be sure to enter the giveaway below.


Photographer Seth Casteel's underwater photographs of dogs and babies have captivated an international audience. Now, Seth has found the perfect way to capture our other best friends: cats!

A beautiful, funny gift book with more than 70 previously unpublished photographs, Pounce reveals adorable cats and kittens as they pounce and jump through the air, arms outstretched - all in Casteel's signature up-close, mid-action style.

Author Bio
Seth Casteel is an award-winning photographer and the author of the national bestseller Underwater Dogs, Underwater Puppies, and Underwater Babies. His photographs of babies and animals have been featured in international media. He lives in California.