16 April 2014

Review: Jane Austen: Her Complete Novels in One Sitting | Jennifer Kasius

I received this adorable little volume (smaller than a post-it note) as a gift from my nephew.  He lives in the UK, making this little gift even more special.

Surprisingly for a book-lover, I haven't read any Jane Austen yet, and I was keen to find out more in Jane Austen - Her Complete Novels in One Sitting by Jennifer Kasius.

I started taking this book to appointments (physio, OPSM etc.) and it certainly drew attention from others, but it took me well over one sitting to get through it.  

Broken down with lists of characters and summary of plot, this little gem covered six Austen novels.  The novels were all about romance, marrying within your station and the plot summaries expounded incredibly dull novels.

As a result of reading Jane Austen - Her Complete Novels in One Sitting, I'm no longer keen to read Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, both of which have been on my TBR list for over 3 years.  This being the case, I think this miniature book has failed to pique my interest as a reader, but I will always love it for sentimental reasons, and think of my gorgeous nephew whenever I see it.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

14 April 2014

Review: Through The Cracks | Honey Brown

Advanced copy of Through The Cracks
by Honey Brown
* Copy courtesy of The Reading Room and Penguin Australia *

After reading and reviewing a handful of 3 star rated books, I can't tell you the feeling of relief and expectation picking up an advanced copy of Honey Brown's new thriller Through The Cracks.

Without a doubt the hero of the book is Adam Vander, growing up with an extremely abusive father in suburban Sydney.  Made to feel unwanted and different, his home life shifts when Adam becomes old enough and strong enough to fight back.  His life is flipped on its head though when he meets Billy.

Through The Cracks is a psychological thriller written by one of Australia's best writers in the genre, Honey Brown.  Through The Cracks peers into the dark corners of child abuse, and shines a light on the scum and their motivations for cruelty against children.

Although the subject matter is dark, much is left to the reader to imagine; there is no depravity for depravity's sake.  I read 
Through The Cracks during the week Daniel Morcombe's killer was sentenced and this certainly influenced my reading of the novel.  It made me understand that although this is a novel, unfortunately there are depraved pedophiles in our community and we need to do everything we can to protect our children.

So, how does it end? Well, I'll leave that for you to discover, but I can tell you the revelation about Adam's identity was so well written I'd recommend this novel based on that 'twist' alone.

Highly recommended for fans of crime and psychological suspense and readers who love reading Australian authors.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

N.B  Through The Cracks will be published at the end of this month.

02 April 2014

Review: The Silversmith's Wife | Sophia Tobin

* Copy courtesy of The Reading Room *

Set in 1792, The Silversmith's Wife takes place in London's Berkeley Square and is Sophia Tobin's first novel.

Pierre Renard is an ambitious silversmith found by the night watchman with his throat slashed and his belongings stolen, much to the shock of his wife Mary.

I was immediately drawn to The Silversmith's Wife with its gorgeous cover and the hope of finding out more about the night watchmen of London during this era.  When I read At Day's Close - A History of Nighttime by A. Roger Ekirch I was enthralled by the 'night watch' whose job it was to patrol the streets, apprehend criminals or thieves, watch for signs of fire and call out the time.

The night watchman in The Silversmith's Wife was a dark and intriguing character, but I was just begging him to call out the time or an 'All's Well' but sadly he never did.

However, what I did find was a story centred around Mary and a few central characters in what I would call a character based (rather than action based) whodunnit.  It was interesting (and frustrating) to read how Mrs Renard was treated - both as a wife and a widow - and the several characters who had motive to kill the pompous Pierre Renard.

The Silversmith's Wife captured the life and times of London in the 1790s very well although I would have loved more detail on the art of making and producing the pieces of silver described in the novel.

Readers are not left hanging in this whodunnit with a timely confession at the end that I didn't see coming.  An enjoyable read.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!

28 March 2014

Review: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste | Valerie Martin

Historical Fact
The Mary Celeste was a merchant ship and on 5 December 1872 it was discovered abandoned in calm waters in the Indian Ocean and sailing towards the Strait of Gibraltar.

There was no sign of the crew despite plenty of food and water on board and no signs of foul play; although one of the lifeboats was missing.  The crew's personal belongings and valuables were undisturbed and their disappearance is one of the greatest maritime mysteries in the world.

Background
When I first learned about the publication of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin, I was over the moon ecstatic!  The mystery of the Mary Celeste has fascinated me for years and I couldn't wait to find out how the author would tackle the mystery.  Would she provide an answer to the mystery? Would she suggest pirates, mutiny, drunkenness or some other calamity? I couldn't wait to find out and my expectations were sky high.

My review
This isn't a novel about the Mary Celeste so much as a novel about characters related to the crew members of the ship.  Those expecting a novel documenting the ship at sea with the climax of the crew's disappearance and perhaps subsequent enquiry are in for a major disappointment.  

We hear from Sarah, the Captain's wife aboard the Mary Celeste at the time of the ship's demise.  We also hear from Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned a make believe account of the Mary Celeste a few years after the mystery, heightening the popularity of the maritime mystery and increasing his own notoriety.

The novel includes a great deal about spiritualism of the era, spearheaded by renowned medium and clairvoyant Violet Petra who is being investigated by reporter Phoebe.  Violet's lifestyle and lonely existence was fascinating however I was frustrated by the weak link to the Mary Celeste.

I also read The Ghost of the Mary Celeste during the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 which further heightened my senses for the mysterious and unexplained.  


The ill-fated Mary Celeste
Despite this historical novel being very well researched it failed to meet even my modest expectations.  I've since concluded that I was yearning for a different book; one that hones in on the mystery, the ship's curse and takes the reader through their version of what happened.

As such, it pains me to admit, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste was an average read for me.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

26 March 2014

Review: Big Brother | Lionel Shriver

Pandora is a successful businesswoman, married to Fletcher and step mother to his two children.  In the last few years Fletcher has become a health nut, heavily into cycling. Meanwhile Pandora loves to cook and once ran her own catering business so Fletcher's aversion to food is getting on her nerves.

Pandora's brother Edison is a jazz musician and when she learns he's been experiencing a run of bad luck she agrees to let him stay with her family for a while.  When Pandora arrives at the airport to pick him up she's shocked to find her once handsome brother is now morbidly obese and can barely walk.

Fletcher (health fanatic) and Edison (foodaholic) inevitably clash and what ensues is a fascinating look at family dynamics, social etiquette and relationship loyalties.

Check out this blurb excerpt from GoodReads:

Rich with Shriver’s distinctive wit and ferocious energy, Big Brother is about fat: an issue both social and excruciatingly personal. It asks just how much sacrifice we'll make to save single members of our families, and whether it's ever possible to save loved ones from themselves.  Source: GoodReads

I was gripped by the characters and the plot although there was an overload of jazz content at times, forgivable because it's all Edison talks about.  Lionel Shriver had me in the palm of her hand until an unexpected turn towards the last quarter of the novel.

Without spoiling it, the change in direction left this reader feeling betrayed and a little cross.  Would I recommend Big Brother to other readers after this?  Maybe not, but am I glad I read it? Definitely.  This swing in my enjoyment levels makes it hard for me to give Big Brother a star rating, but I've settled on 'good read'.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

23 March 2014

HFVBT Book Blast & Giveaway: One Thousand Porches by Julie Dewey

HF Virtual Book Tours is thrilled to introduce you to author Julie Dewey's historical novel One Thousand Porches!

A heart warming story about family, love, and perseverance, One Thousand Porches chronicles the lives of tuberculosis sufferers and their family members at a sanatarium in Sarnac Lake, NY. A beautiful story that is meant to inspire and uplift readers through the cast of characters that are genuinely kind human beings, readers have called One Thousand Porches "illuminating" and "historically significant". Down the Kindle Ebook for FREE on March 20th!

One Thousand PorchesIn celebration of the release of One Thousand Porches we are giving away 2 paperback copies and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

One Thousand Porches
by Julie Dewey

Publication Date: November 1, 2013
CreateSpace
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

Set in the majestic yet untamed Adirondack Mountains of New York more than a century ago, an extraordinary story unfolds about a little known town called Saranac Lake.

The town is home to a man with a disease known as consumption, white plague, or as some called it, the red death. It is here that Doctor Edward Livingston Trudeau finds a hopeful cure for tuberculosis in the form of open air. Trudeau’s patients vary in age, gender, class, and race, but they have one thing in common. They must all choose to embrace life, even in the face of death, if they wish to heal at the Sanitarium.

Christine, a woman at the helm of her family, has already lost two children to the dreaded plague. But when her daughter, Collette, contracts the disease, she is determined to keep her alive. Venturing into unknown territory, Christine risks her own health and that of her unborn child, as well as her marriage, to help her daughter seek a cure that to many is absurd. Christine embarks upon a life-changing journey as she moves from caregiver to patient. In the face of adversity she must find the courage to sustain herself. When Lena, a factory worker and mother of three, begins coughing up blood she is faced with a decision no mother wants to make. She either stays with her family and risks her own death, or leaves her loved ones behind while she goes off in hope of a cure at the Sans. Big Joe, once a strong man for a traveling circus, seeks a quiet place to live out his final days in hiding. When he is sent to the Sanitarium, he is terrified to learn he will be housed with fellow circus performers for he is a hunted man. Gaunt and thin, he can only hope no one from his past recognizes him in his current state. Little Amy, a six year old child, must care for her entire family of seven, all whom are afflicted with different forms of plague. When she is diagnosed with a very rare form herself, she is sent to the Sanitarium and put under the care of Dr. Trudeau. Alone and afraid, Amy faces her fears and allows herself to dream of a future.

With a cast of characters so vivid, One Thousand Porches is a heart warming and engaging story that will instill hope and faith in even the most pessimistic reader.


Read an excerpt

Chapter 1 Pittsford, NY 1885

The sputum most likely crossed the hearth of our large country estate in Pittsford, New York on the scalloped hem of my favorite green velvet dress. The flattering ensemble with the well fitted bodice and bustle below my waist in the back. I was told this by my husband, James Lyndon, who made me watch while he set the garment to burn in our grate, the embers coursed thru the fabric destroying the residue left from a lungers hacking.

Consumption was a poor man’s disease, it was inconceivable that it gained entry into our pristine home miles outside the village by any other means. James had no one else to hold responsible for his son’s suffering so the burden of blame was mine in his eyes. I had ventured into town for groceries and fabric, as well as lunch with the ladies several times over the course of the month. I dare not remind my husband, but he ventured far more places than I did.

My husband could not bear witness as his sons flesh was consumed, his lungs gurgling and dissolving as he gasped and choked for air. All Henry’s strength and will were sapped from his body as he withered away in isolation. His soul leaving us for heaven mere weeks before his 18th birthday celebration this October. I was given no choice but to accept the guilt that Henry would never attend college, or marry and have children. James placed the blame squarely upon my shoulders and defiantly closed me out from our bedroom and from his affections, punishing me for the death of our first born son.

Typically solid and stoic to a fault, James became maniacal for a short time immediately following Henry’s death. Frenzied, he set off on a tirade where he emptied gown after gown from my closet along with dress coats, shoes, scarves and gloves, immersing them all in the raging blaze to be destroyed. James wasted no time, and stormed through the house ripping sheets and pillowcases off beds, kitchen aprons from hooks and even the old fraying rags under our sink that we stored for cleaning, were all set to burn.

“James, I beg of you, you cannot burn our entire wardrobes, we will have nothing left!” I screamed in a panic, trying to get through to him, but knew I could not be heard for his empty eyes did not meet mine but instead flickered across the house, leaping from object to object in search of anything else he missed, telling me in short, he was momentarily insane.

Amidst my pain and suffering I took great measures to prevent the bacteria from infecting the rest of us, beginning with scouring the house daily to an immaculate state until my fingers cracked and bled. In the evenings my gentle daughters slathered my hands, one finger at a time, with petroleum jelly and wrapped them in strips of cotton in order to heal. All of my remaining dressing gowns, the ones set aside to be tailored that James missed as he ransacked the place, as well as Collette’s and Emma Darlings were hemmed to mid-calf so as not to risk contact with the ground. Lucas and Daniel, our two remaining boys wore trousers that did not drag but I feared the disease and their fathers instability so intensely now that I made them take off their shoes on the porch and wipe the soles with rags dipped in boiling water the moment they got home from school. Then the rags were burned in our outdoor fire pit.

We were told the disease could lay dormant for months or years even, causing even more panic, and so the fires raged and our old shifts were ripped to make rags to use for boiling and cleaning purposes.

The disease known as consumption, white plague, the red death, or tuberculosis was especially harmful to anyone with an already compromised immune system, such as our Collette with her weakling lungs. It was spreading like wildfire across the nation and was being touted as the most fatal disease known to man, far surpassing typhoid and scarlet fever in its death toll. Taking nearly one in every seven Americans or four hundred souls daily. It took no prejudice in who it afflicted either. The elderly as well as children, men and women, black and white, poor and wealthy were disposed of but most often it was young adult males in the prime of their life, like our Henry, falling prey.

Doctors were perplexed by the spread of the disease, some believed it was developed based on the patient’s constitution, either physiologically or psychologically and therefore didn’t believe it could be spread. Along the same lines other scientists and researchers believed it to be hereditary and therefore took no precautions against it. Still others thought it was airborne spread from spitting, coughing, laughing, sneezing, and even talking. It was thought it could also be transferred from bodily fluids such as pus and bowel discharge. Doctors encouraged everything from wearing beards for the men to prevent the germ from entering their orifices, to eating nothing but diets rich in meat and dairy.

“I tell you Christine, this disease is contagious. We must be vigilant over our hand washing, and we shall each bathe nightly in separate water.” James spoke to me through his fog of grief.


Praise for One Thousand Porches

"I greatly enjoyed the time I spent reading this book. Historically significant as well as heartwarming, One Thousand Porches is an engaging tale of family, friendship, hope and perseverance in the shadow of uncertainty." - Erin, Flashlight Commentary Blog

"This novel was fascinating. Of course I know of TB but to hear the history behind what Dr. Trudeau did for so many is remarkable. I think anyone interested in history and especially the history of TB and the development of the first sanitariums should enjoy this novel. I’ve read one other of Julie’s books and I find her writing to be very frank and real. I look forward to seeing what subject Julie tackles next!" - Dar, Peeking Between the Pages Blog

"One Thousand Porches is such a treasure. I learned so much about tuberculosis through the intertwined lives of Christine, Joe, Collete, Will, Amy, Daniel, and, of course, Edward Trudeau. Such inspiring lives these characters show us. As we advance in the 21st century, we can learn so much from those who lived, learned and loved over a hundred years ago. Thank you, Julie, for another illuminating look back in history." - Cindy Gorham-Crevelling

"Julie Dewey loves history...that is clear!!! And, as in her first book about the orphan trains of old, she has again chosen to write about a time in our past that few remember. She writes about tuberculosis, and shows us that TB did not discriminate! She introduces us to a cast of characters from all walks of life, from the very wealthy, the poor and indigent, to everything in between. This is a warm story about people making the best of their circumstances after they are torn away from their homes and families!! Because I live in New York state, I was particularly intrigued. I feel a visit to Saranac Lake and surrounding areas need to be on my "bucket list"! I also love that Julie Dewey wove her own personal history into the story, with the introduction of LENA!!! As per her dedication, Lena was her great Grandmother!!!" - Dr Michael A. Radz


Buy the Book

Amazon (eBook)
Amazon (Paperback)
Amazon UK (ebook)
Amazon UK (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository


Julie DeweyAbout the Author

Julie Dewey is a novelist who resides with her family in Central New York. Her daughter is a singer/songwriter, and her son is a boxer. Her husband is an all-around hard working, fantastic guy with gorgeous blue eyes that had her falling for him the moment they met.

In addition to researching and writing she is an avid reader. She is also passionate about jewelry design and gemstones. She loves anything creative, whether it be knitting, stamping, scrapping, decoupaging, working with metal, or decorating.

Visit her at www.juliedewey.com to get your reading guide for this book and to read an excerpt from Forgetting Tabitha, the Story of an Orphan Train Rider.  You can find Julie at her Website, on Facebook or on Goodreads.  Or you can join her Fan Club here.


Giveaway

To enter to WIN one of the following prizes, please complete the Rafflecopter form below.

2 – Paperback copies of One Thousand Porches
1 – $25 Amazon Gift Card

Giveaway will run from March 17-28. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on March 29 and notified via email.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Blast Schedule

Monday, March 17
Historical Tapestry
Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, March 18
Layered Pages
Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, March 19
West Metro Mommy
Turning the Pages

Thursday, March 20
Reading the Ages
Passages to the Past

Friday, March 21
Pages of Comfort
To Read or Not to Read

Saturday, March 22
Book Nerd
Reviews by Molly

Sunday, March 23
Carpe Librum
Books in the Burbs

Monday, March 24
A Bookish Affair
Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, March 25
Peeking Between the Pages
Historical Fiction Obsession

Wednesday, March 26
CelticLady's Reviews
So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, March 27
Closed the Cover
HF Book Muse-News

Friday, March 28
Broken Teepee
A Bookish Libraria

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17 March 2014

Review: Secrecy | Rupert Thomson

Blurb
A sculptor of the macabre. A sorcerer of wax. A criminal. A runaway.

Set in Florence blighted by corruption and austerity, Secrecy is a tour de force of whispered pleasures and startling revelations.  It is a scintillating, breathtaking read from a novelist at the height of his powers.

My thoughts
With a blurb like that, I was hanging out to read Secrecy by Rupert Thomson and picked up a copy for just $8.00 in a book sale.

Such a magnificent premise: an artist working in wax in Florence in the 1690s, obsessed with the plague and making wax figurines depicting the suffering of the human race.  His dark matter attracts the attention of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who asks him to create a commission that is daring, never been done before and could cost the protagonist his life.

Somehow, the novel just didn't 'get there' for me.  If anything, I felt as though Thomson was holding back dark aspects of character in case it made the protagonist unlikeable.  I was also holding out for a scene featuring the Grand Duke with his commission that never took place.

Such a disappointing read when I was looking forward to it so much.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!