18 March 2018

Review: The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

A book about a woman whose job it is to restore graves and bring forgotten and overgrown cemeteries back to life? Yes please! Oh, and she can also see ghosts? Hell yes! I give you The Restorer by Amanda Stevens.

Amelia Gray has her own blog and is called the Graveyard Queen for her knowledge of graves and cemeteries and her expert work restoring them. 

This is the first in the Graveyard Queen series, and I had high expectations that unfortunately came crashing down for two reasons.

Firstly, the romance. There was wayyyy too much romance in this novel for my liking, and in particular the forbidden attraction Amelia has for Devlin.

Secondly, Amelia quickly becomes caught up in a murder investigation in a cozy mystery kind of way, that was supposed to keep the story moving but wasn't required in my opinion.

The Restorer is a gothic read that was smothered with a romance and murder investigation when I would have been happy to read an entire book about Amelia just doing her job. Her father's rules for living, cemetery restoration and living amongst ghosts were fascinating but quickly shoved aside in favour of the above. With such a promising premise, what I ended up with was a relatively dull paranormal romance.

I won't be continuing the series.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!

15 March 2018

Review: Pentridge - Voices from the Other Side by Rupert Mann

* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

Pentridge Prison was a hulking and menacing structure of bluestone walls and guard towers and operated as a prison in Melbourne for 150 years. In 1997 it was closed and since then parts of the prison have been demolished and the developers have moved in to revitalise the area.

In an effort to preserve the history of Pentridge as much as possible before it was made unrecognisable by developers, Rupert Mann undertook a 5 year project to capture the testimonies of former staff and inmates. Pentridge - Voices from the Other Side is the result and contains personal stories from a variety of people alongside many photographs of the now deserted and run down prison.

I enjoyed reading the 14 interviews with former prisoners and staff, however some of them were understandably heavy going and required a good interval of time before I was ready to move on to the next one.

Given Rupert Mann is a photographer, I was expecting the photographs to be of better quality and composition. However when I learned he didn't have permission to photograph Pentridge, it became clear he was probably trespassing, short of time and therefore unable to take the equipment he might have liked.

Included in the back of the book was a breakdown of each of the divisions at Pentridge - including purpose, capacity and floor plan - which would have been better served at the front of the book.

Ultimately I'm thankful to Rupert Mann for preserving the history of Pentridge in these interviews and wish Pentridge had been preserved as a museum. Pentridge - Voices from the Other Side by Rupert Mann is an important book and recommended for readers of history and true crime and fans of abandoned places photography. Yes, it's a thing.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

12 March 2018

March Birthday Giveaway Winners Announced

Thanks to everyone who entered my March Birthday Giveaway and left lovely comments with their entry to wish me a happy birthday. Entries closed at midnight last night, and I had fun reviewing the answers and drawing the winners this afternoon. I decided to select two winners this time so without further ado, congratulations go to..... drum roll....
Kerri & Mish Farrugia
Kerri, has won a brand new copy of Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer thanks to Hachette Australia. Mish opted for the 'surprise me' option, so I'll be checking in with her about that.

Both winners will receive an email today with the details and will have 7 days to provide their mailing address. I think my birthday giveaway is one of the most fun giveaways to organise, so I've decided to run it again next year. What do you think? Anything you'd like me to do differently next time? Let me know in the comments and keep on reading.

Carpe Librum!
Birthday giveaway

09 March 2018

Review: Beauty In Thorns by Kate Forsyth

Beauty In Thorns is the latest offering by one of my favourite Australian authors Kate Forsyth, renowned for her fairytale re-tellings. I went into this believing Beauty In Thorns was going to be loosely based on the sleeping beauty fairytale. Wrong!

What I discovered instead was a fascinating look at the lives of a group of successful artists known as the Pre-Raphaelites, which included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ned Burne-Jones and William Morris. Yes, William Morris of the medieval inspired wallpaper designs and tapestries. I've long admired his designs so it was a pleasant surprise to find him in this novel.

Joining the young artists in the mid 1850s, the novel covers the next 50 years of their lives, including their dreams and aspirations, work with various muses, struggles and successes, love and heartbreak and in many cases their physical or mental decline and subsequent death.

The women in the novel (some beginning as an artist's muse) were equally important to the story and I enjoyed watching their lives unfold within the group as well. Naturally I was most interested in the life, love and work of William Morris and through this book learned that he was an incredibly industrious man. He left an enormous legacy and body of work in all manner of fields, including writing - poetry, essays and translations - textile designs, fabric dyeing, embroidery, stained glass window designs and tonnes more. I think I'm primed to read a book on William Morris next; any suggestions?

My ultimate wish after reading Beauty In Thorns was that the cover incorporated some kind of reference to the art and poetry that was so very much part of the novel. By the end of the book I understood the reference to sleeping beauty - being one of the major series of paintings by one of the main characters - but to me the novel was about all of the artists and their families. I would much prefer to see one of their paintings on the front than a stylised woman that could be any one of the muses or wives in the novel. I guess I'm saying I have an issue with how this was marketed but the writing and the story was a pleasure to read; even if I did have to put the book down to look up various paintings along the way.

I highly recommend Beauty of Thorns by Kate Forsyth to fans of historical fiction and anyone with an interest in art and beauty.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

05 March 2018

Review: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I just disembarked from a hell of a turbulent thriller. The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton was a gripping read and a scary insight into what happens when a relationship goes wrong. Juliette is obsessed with her pilot ex-boyfriend Nate and becomes an airline steward in order to win him back.

Juliette has serious baggage and if you're a male reader then consider this a horror novel. The lengths Juliette goes to in an effort to win Nate back were entertaining at first, then bothersome, 
then troublesome before spiralling into downright crazy! You definitely don't want to come across a character like Juliette in real life. Ever!

I admired Juliette's energy and determination but couldn't help wanting her to shift focus and 'move on'. It's only when the heart of her fixation was revealed that I really began to understand her.

The duties and lifestyle of airline crew featured prominently throughout the novel and I enjoyed this fresh and unique setting way more than I expected.

I was utterly gripped by The Perfect Girlfriend and for heightened pleasure, I recommend you read this on a plane with your boarding pass as a bookmark. Arm the doors and cross check people, and get ready for an exhilarating take off and surprise destination.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

02 March 2018

March Birthday Giveaway

It's my birthday in March and I want to celebrate, so let’s have a giveaway! Last year's birthday giveaway was my most popular giveaway for the year, so let's do it again.

Just choose one of the books pictured (right) and enter using the form below. The winner will win their choice of book. Depending on the number of entries, I 'may' decide to choose a second winner.

Entries close midnight Sunday 11th March 2018 so please enter and help me spread the birthday bookish cheer :-)

Carpe Librum!

27 February 2018

Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Beginning in 1969 New York, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a family drama with an enticing premise: four siblings are told by a gypsy psychic the day they will die. The concept immediately conjures a host of questions. Do the siblings believe the prophecy? Do they ignore or accept the prediction? What are the predictions? Do they vary from child to child? Do any of the siblings confess their 'date'? Does knowing the date change the way they'll live their life? These are all questions I was keen to find answers for and with one of the best covers I've seen this year, I was eager to start reading The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.

Following on from the prologue where the predictions take place the book is split into four parts, one for the life of each sibling. What develops is a good literary novel about a Jewish family in America covering the siblings' generation as well as that of their parents and subsequent children, but it didn't go where I wanted it to. My questions were eventually answered, but the information was slowly drip fed into the book in a measured writing style.

I think I'm partly to blame for not enjoying this novel as much as I should have. When I heard the premise I was instantly reminded of the premise of The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma and wanted to relive the startling impact the premise in that book had amongst the siblings. (That the eldest brother would die at the hands of one of his brothers). It was one of my favourite books in 2015 and I wanted to experience that reading magic again here.

In the end, The Immortalists deals with many interesting themes, including fate and destiny and our ability - or inability - to escape it or change it.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!