15 October 2018

Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Bridge of Clay by bestselling author Markus Zusak finally hit the shelves this month and was easily the most highly anticipated book on my radar this year.

Fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy, I was shocked to find the first 100 pages or so were a slog. I just couldn't wrap my head around who was narrating. The story is told by an omniscient narrator who is actually one of the characters. How’s that even possible? My reading began to settle only once I'd figured this out and made my peace with the impossibility of it.

Clay - of the title - is one of five Dunbar boys, and the strength of the novel is definitely the rough and tumble relationship between these brothers. As a reader without a brother, I found their interactions touching, and the warmth of their family life in the three bedroom house on Archer street definitely shined through.

The novel also includes backstories of the Dunbar parents as well as several other characters, which jumped forward and back in time seemingly without order. These organic leaps in storytelling were confusing in the beginning, with the multitude of characters, snippets of stories, numerous timelines and the obvious point to a larger story arc. In fact, if I wasn't in the hands of Markus Zusak I may have given up at this point and put the novel aside. I'm glad I didn't, but this complex writing style may be an obstacle to new readers of his work.

There are unifying themes of love and family and overall this is a very moving story. The writing and dialogue are quintessentially Australian and the landscape was perfectly conveyed.

Ultimately, I still favour The Messenger as my favourite book by Markus Zusak, but that's okay. It was exciting to read Bridge of Clay, but after taking 10-13 years to bring this manuscript to fruition, I think the author has earned a well deserved break.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

09 October 2018

Review: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory is number #15 in The Plantagenet and Tudor novels series, but just like the others in the series, it too can be read as a stand alone.

Set in the mid to late 1500s, this story of Mary Queen of Scots is told from three perspectives: Queen Mary, her keeper George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick.

Bess's sections were incredibly repetitive; the one exception being the opening paragraph of the book told to us by Bess which was incredibly gripping.

"Every woman should marry for her own advantage since her husband will represent her, as visible as her front door, for the rest of his life. If she chooses a wastrel she will be avoided by all her neighbours as a poor woman; catch a duke and she will be Your Grace, and everyone will be her friend. She can be pious, she can be learned, she can be witty and wise and beautiful; but if she is married to a fool she will be 'that poor Mrs Fool' until the day he dies." Page 1

How's that for an opening? I've read 10 novels in this series and overall, The Other Queen just wasn't as engaging or memorable as the others. I recommend it for completionists of the series, otherwise I know for a fact there are better Philippa Gregory novels awaiting discovery.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

01 October 2018

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Normal People by Sally Rooney is a book about the relationship between Connell and Marianne. Told in a writing style devoid of punctuation for dialogue, I found it difficult to read at times.

Normal People is a literary coming of age novel about two high schoolers and the complex relationship between them and the dynamic that keeps them connected. Set in Ireland, it could really be taking place anywhere.

I shook my head at claims readers will be brought to tears reading Normal People as I didn't find it moving at all. Despite reviewing well by some of my favourite book bloggers, I found the relationship between Connell and Marianne vaguely interesting, but not earth shattering. As the title suggests, they were normal people, or two people striving to be normal. What is normal anyway?

Ultimately, this novel wasn't for me, but I'm glad I read it as I now have an opinion on its inclusion on the Man Booker Prize Longlist.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

24 September 2018

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

It's taken a while, but I've finally read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is a moving young adult novel and I was instantly caught up in it thanks to Conor's voice.

Thirteen year old Conor is trying to cope with bullying at school, while at home his Mum is fighting cancer and his Dad is no longer on the scene.

Drawing on an element of magical realism, the novel reads like a fairytale at times as Conor interacts with the monster of the title and begins to face his problems.

A Monster Calls contains themes of terminal illness, love, loss and grief as well as the coming-of-age themes of bullying and fitting in at school.

This short book has been a huge success and I look forward to seeing the film adaptation starring Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson when I get the chance.

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

* I won this copy in an Australian Writers' Centre competition last year.

16 September 2018

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

RRP $29.99AUD
Published July 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier is an engaging crime thriller and I enjoyed it. The story starts with Geo going to jail for her part in the murder of her best friend Angela 14 years ago by Geo's boyfriend at the time Calvin.

I really enjoyed the tension of Geo starting her sentence in jail and trying to figure out how to survive. In fact it was a little reminiscent of the TV show Orange is the New Black. However the story soon jumps forward in time and we catch up with Geo as she's leaving prison with the knowledge Calvin has escaped and more victims are showing up.

This writing style keeps the pace shifting along and the suspense and mystery surrounding what happened the night of Angela's death builds momentum. There are plenty of secrets and Hillier writes the teenage dynamic very well.

There's a significant mystery element to the story and I didn't 'work it out' so was pleasantly surprised by the final denouement. (And when I say pleasant, I mean in terms of my reading experience. It certainly wasn't 'pleasant' for the characters, in fact it was anything but).

Recommended for mystery, crime and thriller fans.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

14 September 2018

Review: The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street

I read The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street in ebook format borrowed from the library and it contains Fifty (or so) Songs That Made Australia.

Presented chronologically from oldest (at Number 1) to most recent, it contains entertaining details and history on each song. As I was reading, I was constantly googling songs to remind me of the tune or the music video and desperately wanted a playlist associated with the book for easier reference.

Each section was well-researched and the footnotes were funny, but I wish they'd been included in the text as the frequent page flicking in ebook format was distracting^.

The list contains songs that 'made' Australia and were important within the music scene or within Australian culture at the time so it's definitely not a list of the 'most popular' or 'most well-known' songs.

I’ll admit not knowing many of the songs listed, while rushing off to listen to old favourites with renewed zeal and appreciation for their back-stories. Every reader is bound to have an opinion on the songs and their fair share of omissions, but overall this was a nostalgic and informative look at Australian music from 1958 - 2016.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

^ See what I mean?

12 September 2018

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

RRP $32.99 AUD
Published 12 September 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

The Clockmaker's Daughter is the hotly anticipated historical fiction novel from Kate Morton published today. Told from multiple character view points and unfolding across several time periods, this was quite an ambitious and unexpectedly complex novel.

Despite the magical and evocative writing style that I love, the novel contained more than 20 main characters and I often found it tough to keep all of the characters - and their relationships to each other - straight in my mind. Added to that, the narrative jumped forwards and backwards in time from the point of view of multiple characters and I often felt the story was disjointed as a result.

I enjoyed the writing and setting more than the overarching storyline and would have preferred a tightening up of the novel to make it easier for the average reader to follow. Chapter headings telling us who was narrating would have been a terrific start, although there was a certain mystique to the voice of Birdie. 

At 582 pages, The Clockmaker's Daughter is a hefty read and I definitely recommend reading it monogamously with as few breaks as possible. I always read multiple books simultaneously, and just one or two days between reading sessions in this case meant that I easily lost track of which narrator I was with and where I was in the timeframe.

Having said all of that, the mystery in
The Clockmaker's Daughter was marvellous and I'll never tire of Kate Morton's writing style. Her novels always contain secrets, the mysteries of time and the effect lives lived have on a place. My favourite character was in fact Birchwood Manor on the river Thames. It was described so well and formed the perfect anchor in the story to unite the characters.

If this were any other author, I'd be giving this novel 3 stars or below, but I have to admit the sheer joy of holding a chunky new novel by one of my favourite Australian authors in Kate Morton significantly added to my reading enjoyment and made up for the moments I felt lost in her web of stories.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Click here to read the opening chapters.

10 September 2018

Winner of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale announced

Thanks to all those who entered last week’s giveaway to win a copy of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale thanks to Simon & Schuster. All entrants correctly identified The Art of War as the book Taylor consults in order to plan her revenge. The winner was drawn today and congratulations go to:
Steven Maxwell
Congratulations Steven, you'll receive an email shortly with the details and I hope you enjoy your prize thanks to Simon & Schuster.

Carpe Librum!

05 September 2018

Review: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

I discovered this little gem of a book on one of the shelves in the free little library I started in my apartment building. The library has been successfully running for 12 months now and the reason the discovery was so exciting is because it was the first book to be donated that I personally wanted to read. Woohoo!

Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner is a collection of essays and diary extracts about a whole host of unrelated topics, written - and published elsewhere - over the last two decades or so.

This was my first introduction to Garner's writing and I now understand the reverence in which she's held. Helen certainly knows how to wield a pen and her everyday observations were enjoyable to read.

Her writing on the topics of ageing and being an 'invisible woman' were most interesting, as were her thoughts on several true crimes that occurred in Melbourne. I can understand Helen's fascination with what makes ordinary people 'snap' and commit terrible crimes and her dogged determination to find out is to be admired. She spent more than 7 years covering the trial and re-trial of Robert Farquharson, the man accused of deliberately drowning his three young sons by driving his car into a dam to produce This House of Grief.

I'm sure I'll read Helen Garner again, but I'm not convinced Everywhere I Look was the best place to start. If you have a recommendation for first-time readers, please let me know in the comments below.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

02 September 2018

Review: Always With You by Debbie Malone

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

Always With You is Australian psychic medium Debbie Malone's third book and contains stories from her life and work as a medium. She includes readings for clients and her own experiences with loved ones who have crossed over.

Always With You was a short, quick and enjoyable read but isn't really the best place to start if you're looking to find out more about mediums and life after death. Debbie's first two books were far more informative and really are the better place to start. You can read my reviews of Never Alone, and Clues From Beyond at the links.

I'd recommend reading Always With You - Messages from Beyond if you've read everything else by Debbie Malone and still want more stories and and insights. The connections she makes are truly inspiring and I look forward to more from her in the future.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. You can also see my interview last year with Debbie Malone here.

31 August 2018

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale

RRP $29.99
Simon & Schuster
Today's Friday Freebie is debut thriller novel The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale thanks to Simon & Schuster. Please enter below for your chance to win. Entries close 7 September 2018. Good luck!

The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones in this chilling tale of love gone horribly wrong …

Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge. Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle, he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again. 

So Taylor consulted The Art of War and made a plan. Then she took the next step – one that would change her life forever.

Then things get really out of control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.


29 August 2018

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

* Copy courtesy of Affirm Press *

The Nowhere Child is a terrific debut by Australian author Christian White. Sammy Went was abducted from her home in Kentucky 28 years ago. Kim is living in Melbourne and is approached by a man investigating the disappearance who has reason to believe Kim is that girl. This isn't a spoiler, it's in the blurb.

Kim doubts her late mother was a kidnapper, but soon embarks on a personal journey in an attempt to find out and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Unfolding in dual timeframes, The Nowhere Child is a novel about family, love and identity and takes Kim right into the heart of a religious cult in order to get her answers.

The byline for this mystery novel is 'Who took Sammy Went?' and I worried that the surname of this main character (Went) was going to be an irritant in the novel, but this concern was quickly allayed.

Kim's journey for the truth made for compelling reading and The Nowhere Child by Christian White is recommended for crime and thriller readers.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

25 August 2018

Winners announced for Scrublands and The Hunter giveaways

This week was a fantastic week for giveaways here at Carpe Librum, with a flurry of entries for Scrublands by Chris Hammer and The Hunter by David Cohen. It's always a pleasure to support books by Australian authors and without further ado, here are the giveaway results.

To be successful in the Scrublands giveaway, entrants needed to name the fictional town in which the novel is set. Despite one wrong entry, entrants correctly answered Riversend and the winner was:
Congratulations Jools, you'll receive an email shortly with the details and I hope you enjoy this book for Father's Day. Thanks to Allen and Unwin for the prize valued at $32.99AUD.


Thankfully all entrants in the giveaway for The Hunter correctly named the Ibis as the bird featuring on the front cover of this short story collection by David Cohen. Congratulations to the winner:
Congratulations Donna, you'll receive an email from me shortly with the details of your win and hope you enjoy this collection of short stories. Thanks to Transit Lounge for the prize valued at $27.99AUD.


Thanks again to all those who entered these two giveaways and continue to support Carpe Librum. I have another giveaway going live on Friday 31 August, so stay tuned for your chance to win a copy of the thriller The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale.

Review: The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook - 75 Recipes for Incredibly Delectable Doughs You Can Eat Right Off the Spoon

* Copy courtesy of Quarto Publishing Group & Netgalley *

I'm not too good in the kitchen, but I've always loved to lick the bowl or an electric beater on the rare occasions I do bake. In truth though, I'd never considered the risks of eating raw egg until reading this book.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops is a book for all skill levels (including beginners like me) and the author takes you through the risks of eating raw egg and flour. She tells you how to pre-heat your flour and every one of the 75 recipes in this book are egg-free.

The very first night I started reading this, I jumped up off the couch and rattled around the kitchen to mix up a batch of Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and it was delicious! It didn't look terribly appetising sitting in the bowl but trust me, it was a taste sensation.

Next on my list to try is the White Chocolate Cookie Dough and Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, assuming of course that 'boxed yellow cake mix' is simply vanilla cake mix. That's the trouble sometimes being an Australian cook reading an American recipe book, some of the ingredient names vary but thankfully both measurements were always provided.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops is a delight to read and will definitely get your taste buds going. And the best part? You can eat the dough right out of the bowl!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

22 August 2018

WIN a copy of Scrublands by Chris Hammer for Father's Day

RRP $32.99 AUD
Allen & Unwin
Scrublands by Chris Hammer is the No. 1 bestselling book in Australia at the moment, and I reviewed it last week giving it 5 stars. Now's your chance to win a copy for yourself or your Dad for Father's Day thanks to Allen & Unwin.

In an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself. 

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don't fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can't ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest's deadly rampage.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal. 

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town's secrets stay buried.


20 August 2018

Review: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

RRP $32.99
Available now
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Adam Hills is such a familiar face on Australian TV that I don't think I'd ever considered just how successful his career has been.

In Best Foot Forward, Adam Hills takes the reader through his career as a radio presenter, stand-up comedian, TV host and more in a natural and amusing writing style. Turns out his success extends far further than our own shores, performing for and even meeting Her Majesty the Queen.

What shone through the brightest to me though, was Adam's desire to 'make it' and his sheer determination and hard work to do so in an industry that can be tough and unforgiving at times.

Adam's work on The Last Leg, the UK show covering the 2012 London Paralympics was informative and inspiring. Adam openly shares what it was like growing up with a prosthetic foot and how he never let it hold him back.

I enjoyed the inclusion of other comedians as he worked alongside them and sometimes in awe of them, including: Billy Connolly and Whoopi Goldberg and my personal favourites, Daniel Kitson, Ross Noble and David O'Doherty. He recounts many unusual and funny situations, memorable shows and at least one laugh out loud moment involving scaring the shell from a turtle's back. I'm off to read it again (page 89).

Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills is a memoir about his accomplished career and the many anecdotes and funny stories made for great reading.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

17 August 2018

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of The Hunter and Other Stories of Men by David Cohen

RRP $27.99 AUD
Published August 2018
* Copy courtesy of Transit Lounge *

This short story collection by Australian author David Cohen is "humorous and delicious, and just slightly off beat, in the vein of Will Self and David Sedaris." Enter to win a copy in the giveaway below.

A property developer fears that a burgeoning ibis population will prevent the construction of a high rise apartment complex; a bus stop outside a dementia care facility in Düsseldorf suffers its own identity crisis; a young man’s new job requires him to pose as a woodcutter and wave at a trainload of tourists; an aging, reclusive archivist becomes locked in a strange battle of wills with a courier; a backpacker in Israel has a bizarre religious experience.

In these award winning stories, David Cohen explores the oddities of human behaviour with wit, affection and startling brilliance.

David Cohen lives in Brisbane, Queensland and is the author of the novels Fear of Tennis and Disappearing off the Face of the Earth. The Hunter was shortlisted in the 2015 Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript.


15 August 2018

Review: Scrublands by Chris Hammer

RRP $32.99
Published August 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Scrublands by Chris Hammer is the real buzz book of the moment and I'm happy to report it's worth all of the hype. Scrublands is a whydunnit crime mystery about secrets, sex, murder and deception set in a fictional country town in the Riverina during a severe drought. Readers who wonder if this is going to be a rip off of The Dry by Jane Harper needn't worry, this is nothing like it.

Martin is a journalist sent to Riversend to write a piece on the one year anniversary of the church shooting. But as soon as he starts talking to a few of the locals, their stories give him cause to doubt the well accepted facts of the case: Priest shoots five locals before being shot dead by the local copper.

Australian author Chris Hammer draws on his personal knowledge of being a journalist to produce our protagonist Martin Scarsden and he's a compelling character. I enjoyed his attempts to get to the bottom of the shooting whilst taking delight in just how quickly he's caught up in the small town goings on. I'd have preferred fewer references to his hands, but that's just a minor quibble.

Scrublands has some cracking country characters (Harley Snouch, 
Codger Harris) and without a doubt, the best bushfire scene I've ever read in a novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to Australian media outlets and the politics that goes on between journalists, reporters and photographers as they compete for an edge on the developing story.

Here's my favourite quote from the book that reminds me of the song Flame Trees by Cold Chisel:
"And there is something about old friends, old loves, those who you were young with: when you see them after many years, they don't appear as they are now, but as they were. You can see past the pudginess and wrinkles, past cloudy eyes and sagging jawlines. You can see them as they were when they were young and vital." Page 261

I thoroughly enjoyed unravelling this whydunnit/whodunnit and can unreservedly recommend Scrublands by Chris Hammer to readers everywhere. It will appeal to crime and mystery lovers and it wouldn't surprise me if it was nominated for some awards by the end of the year.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

12 August 2018

Review: The Name of Death by Klester Cavalcanti

RRP $29.99 AUD
Published 24 April 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Klester Cavalcanti is a top investigative journalist in Brazil and The Name of Death is the result of more than seven years spent interviewing the Brazilian hitman guilty of killing 492 people.

Told in a narrative non-fiction style, Julio Santana is 17 years old when his story opens with his first 'kill' in 1971.

What unfolds from there is a true crime account of Santana's life which is informative, eye-opening and sad. What I found immensely frustrating though was a jump in the timeframe of 20 years or so, which means we missed an important part of his life which included meeting and marrying his wife and having children.

Julio Santana's story then finishes in 2006 with no update to tell the reader what he's been up to these past 12 years.

These major gaps in Julio Santana's life made his story feel disjointed, and having been so invested in his teenage years, I wanted to know how he was living his life now.

The Name of Death by Klester Cavalcanti is recommended for fans of the true crime genre.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

07 August 2018

Review: The Yellow House by Emily O'Grady

RRP $29.99 AUD
Published 24 April 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I can totally understand why The Yellow House by Australian author Emily O'Grady won The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award this year. Just, wow!

The Yellow House is narrated by ten year old Cub and we soon get to know her twin brother Wally, older brother Cassie and her Mum and Dad through her eyes. Cub's late Grandfather Les is known to have committed terrible crimes in the past and their family is still carrying the scars generations later.

Superbly written, the setting, characters and dialogue are uniquely Australian in a refreshing and down to earth style I haven't seen before. Here's an example from page 12:

"Her hair was almost the colour of Cheezels, ..."

And an earlier example from page 11:

"She held on to Mum's elbow, which I knew would embarrass Mum because her elbows were dry as scones."

The novel is incredibly evocative of growing up in rural Australia, complete with swimming in the dam, buying lollies from the local shop and riding bikes to school.

The Yellow House is an exploration of family dynamics, loyalty and secrets through the eyes of the youngest child. It's also a novel about community grudges and whether evil can be inherited or not.

Although the novel has a resolution of sorts, I was left with at least 20 questions at the end and wanting to know more. The novel is narrated by Cub so I guess we're left with what she has managed to figure out, leaving many aspects of the relationships between the characters and several events unanswered. I'm still thinking about it days after finishing it. Highly recommended!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

01 August 2018

Review: A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer

* Copy courtesy of Ventura Press *

Science fiction meets historical fiction in A Superior Spectre by debut Australian author Angela Meyer.

In the near future Jeff is dying from an un-named medical condition and seeks solace to suffer and die alone in his shame. But he's not completely alone, as he takes a companion android and a piece of technology that allows him to see through the eyes of a person in history. Jeff is an unlikeable protagonist, and I didn't warm to him or his plight at all but I think that's the point.

Jeff forms a connection with Leonora, a young woman living in the Scottish Highlands who is slowly becoming a woman and is sent to live with her Aunt in Edinburgh. We experience Leonora's life through Jeff's experiences and I found her chapters the most compelling.

I have to disagree with the promotion for this novel as blending “the historical richness of Outlander with the powerful dystopian feminism of Margaret Atwood”.

I don't see anything of Outlander in this novel. There is no romance between the characters, and if anything, Leonora believes she is cursed or possessed when she becomes aware of Jeff's presence. The only tenuous link between the two is time travel, but our protagonist doesn't actually time travel, he just witnesses chunks of time in Leonora's life. Outlander travels back in time to Scotland in the 1740s, and Leonora is living in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1860s, so this comparison is misleading.

I also didn't find this novel to be dystopian or feminist so have no idea why it's being compared to the writing of Margaret Atwood. My guess is that this novel is hard to categorise or pigeonhole and that's a good thing. It should be able to stand on its own and comparing it to popular works in this way actually does the reader a disservice.

Being a fan of historical fiction, I wasn't surprised to find myself wrapped up in Leonora's story and wishing she had a book of her own. I was fascinated by the group of like-minded people Leonora stumbles across and definitely wanted more of this. I could easily have done without Jeff and his selfish behaviour, although the android assistant/companion aspect was interesting. 

A Superior Spectre is recommended for readers interested in a science fiction meets historical fiction mash-up.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

31 July 2018

Blogging for the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival

I'm beyond excited to announce that I'm one of the bloggers for the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival this year. It was such a thrill to be asked to write about my top 5 reads for the MWF18, along with five other Melbourne based bloggers. My article was published today, and you can read it here, or enjoy reading it below.*

Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba
Majok Tulba fled his Sudanese village and came to Australia in 2001 at the age of 16, unable to read or write but a natural storyteller. In 2012 Majok published Beneath the Darkening Sky; a fictionalised story of what might have happened if he’d been forced to become a child soldier. It was an incredibly moving read and this month his second novel When Elephants Fight has been published. 

Before picking this up or seeing Majok at the festival, I recommend reading Beneath the Darkening Sky first. You will definitely be inspired.

Floating Gold: The Search for Ambergris, The Most Elusive Natural Substance in the World by Christopher Kemp
Marine biologist Micheline Jenner is an expert on whales and has a book out called The Secret Life of Whales. Before seeing Micheline at the Festival, I recommend you read Floating Gold by Christopher Kemp. 

I’ve always been fascinated by whales and ambergris in particular; the waxy substance found only in the intestines of sperm whales. Ambergris is incredibly valuable and is used as a fixative in the perfume industry. Reading Floating Gold will enhance your knowledge of whales, after which you’ll be primed to enjoy a session with Micheline Jenner.

The Long and Winding Way to the Top: Fifty (or so) Songs That Made Australia by Andrew P Street
I love music, and I’m currently reading The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street in readiness for the Festival. The author has selected 50 or so songs that made Australia and has carefully researched each one, presenting them in chronological order. 

I’ll admit not knowing every song listed, while rushing off to listen to old favourites with renewed zeal and appreciation for their back stories. We all have an opinion on music, so be sure to read this prior to his event so you can decide if he got it right or not.

Signs From Spirit: Inspiring True Stories from the Afterlife by Mitchell Coombes I love reading books by psychic mediums including: Lisa Williams, Allison DuBois, Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh and John Edward. I’ve also read books by Australian mediums – including Debbie Malone – and this year I learned about renowned Australian psychic medium Mitchell Coombes. 

Mitchell comes from a long family line of psychics, gave his first reading aged just three. I want to read his latest book Signs From Spirit and will be trying to get along to Mitchell’s event to experience his amazing work with spirit in person.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 – A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to Her Books by Annie Spence
If you’re reading this, you’re obviously a dedicated bookworm, booklover and bibliophile. My favourite bookish book this year is Dear Fahrenheit 451. Annie Spence is an experienced librarian and this is a collection of letters to books as well as cleverly curated booklists for all occasions. 

I instantly fell in love with Annie’s witty and natural writing style and you don’t need to have read the books mentioned in order to enjoy it. Although Annie isn’t appearing in this year’s program, I chose this book because it’s guaranteed to invigorate and energise your love of books and writing across all genres, the perfect preparation for a writers festival.

* This blog article was originally published on the Melbourne Writers Festival blog on 31 July 2018 and the festival is on from 24 August - 2 September 2018.