17 October 2017

Review: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

The Last Tudor is the story of the three Grey sisters, Jane, Katherine and Mary, cousins to Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor. Beginning in 1550, the story unfolds from each sister's point of view in three separate sections, giving us uninterrupted access to their lives.

Jane Grey is the eldest and a steadfast Protestant and was made Queen of England for just nine days. Katherine is the polar opposite of her sister and plans to enjoy the trappings of her station as cousin to the Queen of England.

Mary Grey is the youngest of the three sisters and was said to be a little person, or a dwarf. She is largely overlooked and serves her cousin Elizabeth I faithfully, but like her sister Katherine, she falls in love and seeks only to be happy. Queen Elizabeth I is portrayed as a vain and jealous Queen, reluctant to let any of her ladies marry, and in the case of the Grey sisters, to prevent the birth of a Tudor heir.

Drawing on real letters and historical fact, The Last Tudor has been impeccably researched and as a fan of Philippa Gregory's writing, I have come to expect nothing less. I was most interested in the life of Mary Grey but the threat of treason and death accompanied the lives of all three sisters.

I highly recommend The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory to readers everywhere. It's just a shame this is her final novel based on the Tudor family.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

15 October 2017

Review: Bullet It! by Nicole Lara

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

I've been using a bullet journal for 3 years now and while I have the basics down pat, I'm always keen for ideas on how to beautify my journalling. Bullet It! is written and illustrated by Nicole Lara, an artist and enthusiastic bullet journaller.

Nicole has created a Notebook for planning your days, chronicling your life and creating beauty, but doesn't do much to teach newcomers the art of the bullet journal. Why is a dot grid so useful? What kind of lists can you make? What are the symbols for tasks? How do you mark off a completed task or migrate it to the next day? How do you set up an index? What else can you do?

Instead, Bullet It! provides decorated pages for you to write in with prompts along the way, for example: What makes you happy? Why? and How could you overcome your weaknesses? While the responses might make a nice diary entry, it doesn't fit with my idea of a bullet journal, which centres around organising.

What I loved:
The banners, flags, arrows and header ideas were fantastic and I'll definitely be making an attempt to incorporate some of these into my current bullet journal. The perforated pages were a great idea, and while I'm reluctant to pull pages out of a book, I know many readers will.

What I didn't enjoy:
There was a heavy focus on doodling and 3 pages of how to doodle ice-creams felt like overkill. Similarly, 3 step-by-step doodle instructions for how to draw a retro camera and 2 for hot air balloons seemed to detract from the bullet journal concept.

What was missing:
I would have liked more info on bullet journal basics, how the author uses her bullet journal and how to incorporate other materials like stickers and washi tape.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

09 October 2017

Winners of Soon by Lois Murphy Announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win 1 of 3 print copies of literary thriller Soon by Australian author Lois Murphy. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 6 October and the lucky winners are:
Robin Dawson, Delores and Pam Swain
Congratulations guys! You'll each receive an email from me today and will have 7 days to provide your mailing address. Your prize will be mailed directly to you from the publicist for Transit Lounge and I hope you enjoy this debut thriller.

Carpe Librum!

05 October 2017

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley & Penguin Random House UK *

I loved The Martian by Andy Weir so much it made my Top 5 list for 2014. Since then, I've been looking forward to his next novel, and watching Matt Damon in the film adaptation of The Martian managed to sustain me in the meantime.

Fast forward to late 2017, and the wait is over! Artemis is coming out next month, but unfortunately it's nothing like The Martian. Artemis is about a young woman living in a settlement on the moon. The Martian is about a man stranded on Mars. Sound similar?

They're both set in space, they both have a lot of science, but where Mark Watney is hilarious, Jazz is not. The science in The Martian is critical to the character's survival. In Artemis, the science centres around a heist.

I didn't warm to the character of Jazz at all. Her one liners and jokes weren't funny and I just didn't care enough about her welfare or what she was doing. Where I was laughing on every other page and marvelling at the science while reading The Martian, I was longing for Artemis to end.

I'm understandably disappointed, as this was a long awaited release I was really really looking forward to, but if you loved reading The Martian, do yourself a favour, and give Artemis a miss. The magic just isn't there.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!

29 September 2017

Friday Freebie: WIN 1 of 3 copies of SOON by Lois Murphy

RRP $29.95AUD
* Copy courtesy of Transit Lounge *

Today's giveaway is your chance to win 1 of 3 print copies of literary thriller Soon by Australian author Lois Murphy.

Blurb
An almost deserted town in the middle of nowhere, Nebulah’s days of mining and farming prosperity – if they ever truly existed – are long gone. These days even the name on the road sign into town has been removed. Yet for Pete, an ex-policeman, Milly, Li and a small band of others, it’s the only place they have ever felt at home.

One winter solstice the birds disappear. A strange, residual and mysterious mist arrives. It is a real and potent force, yet also emblematic of the complacency and unease that afflicts so many of our small towns, and the country that Murphy knows so well.

Partly inspired by the true story of Wittenoom, the ill-fated West Australian asbestos town,
Soon is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t or simply can’t abandon all they have ever had. With finely wrought characters and brilliant storytelling, it is a taut and original novel, where the people we come to know and those who are drawn to the town’s intrigue must ultimately fight for survival.

Author Bio
Lois Murphy has travelled widely, most recently spending six years exploring Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, working mainly in small or remote towns, before settling in Darwin for a number of years. She has won a handful of prizes for her writing and the majority of Soon, her first novel, was written while living in a caravan park in Carnarvon. Lois currently lives in Melbourne, Victoria.

Giveaway

26 September 2017

Review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I loved reading The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin and was fascinated by the four tendencies she has outlined in her book. In no particular order they are: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner and Rebel. You can take the quiz for free and determine your own tendency; but I'm an Obliger. And it makes so much sense to me. Here's why.

According to Gretchen:
- Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
- Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
- Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense; essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
- Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

I'm an Obliger, which is why I've thrown so much energy into my volunteer work; I have a committee and members who depend on me. But when it comes to my own personal goals, these are frequently set aside in order to do something for somebody else first.

Luckily Gretchen covers the strengths and weaknesses of all four tendencies, how to get along with others and understand why we make the choices we do. Reading this book has confirmed that I need to attach external accountability to my own personal goals and inner expectations in order to succeed. This might require a little creativity, but I'm willing to give it a go.

I had great fun reading The Four Tendencies and recognising myself and others in her descriptions and real life scenarios. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to know themselves better or improve relationships with their loved ones, kids and colleagues. An amusing and informative read.


What's your tendency?

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

19 September 2017

Review: City of Crows by Chris Womersley

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

City of Crows by Chris Womersley is historical fiction (my favourite genre) and contains some of my favourite tropes in a novel: witchcraft and the plague.

Set in late 1600s France, City of Crows is essentially a story of survival. Charlotte, recently widowed and trying to save her son from the plague and Monsieur Adam du Coeuret, a prisoner assigned to the galleys for his crimes are both seeking freedom from their harsh lives.

I'm not sure whether I should have picked this up straight after reading Ken Follett's A Column of Fire, as it could have dampened my enjoyment of Womersley's tale somewhat. Follett is an historical fiction writing wizard and in the shadow of that great tome, City of Crows failed to reach the heights I was hoping for.

A satisfactory and entertaining story, the City of Crows of the title is Paris and I absolutely love the cover art, don't you? Knowing the characters are based on real people and historical facts certainly added to my enjoyment and appreciation of the research involved. In a different world, I would have liked to have stayed with Charlotte and followed her journey through life for the next 50 years - without the involvement of Adam.

This is my first novel by the Australian author Chris Womersley, and reading it has made me determined to seek out his award-winning novel Bereft in the future.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!