22 August 2017

Review: Sex, Lies, and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold

Is handwriting analysis a science or not? Is it legit or is it bullshit? Many believe it's a pseudo science despite it being used to solve many crimes, but I wanted to decide for myself. After reading Sex, Lies, and Handwriting - A Top Expert Reveals the Secrets Hidden in Your Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold, I'm convinced that it's definitely legit.

The direction your writing slants, whether your letters have lead in strokes or even how hard you dot your 'i's' are all clues to your personality, character and even your upbringing. It's fascinating really.

The case study of the ransom letter in the JonBenet Ramsey case was riveting (and proves it was written by JonBenet's mother Patsy) as was the analysis of many famous signatures. I'm not sure I believe the analysis right down to the weapon strokes, and I don't think I'll be able to remember all the strokes to look for, but I enjoyed seeing how handwriting analysis can prove a signature is forged or how writing can be proven to have come from the same person.

I also enjoyed the case studies and exercises provided in the book, and it certainly made me look at my own writing in a whole new light.

Recommended reading for skeptics, forensic enthusiasts and readers of true crime.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

20 August 2017

Extract: Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination by Giuseppe Cafiero

I'm participating in the Clink Street Publishing Blogival 2017 this month, and am pleased to share an extract by Giuseppe Cafiero from his book Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination.

What would happen if a character, even if only roughly sketched in the mind of a writer, decided to take on a life independent of his creator in order to take revenge against all the other characters that this author had created in his other books?

This is what happens to the legendary writer Gustave Flaubert, when his character Harel-Bey comes to life with a grudge to bear. Even the imaginary characters of books that Monsieur Flaubert has never actually written, but had long pondered and discussed with his most intimate friends, begin to stir with their own motivations.

Quite unexpectedly, Harel-Bey begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as leading protagonist. As a vengeful killer, Harel-Bey is determined to murder all of the protagonists of the books and stories Flaubert has written.

In the company of a certain Monsieur Bouvard, himself the star of another book which Flaubert had started but never finished, Harel-Bey seeks his revenge. There’s will be a mission rich in disturbing discoveries, revealing the reasons and the irrationalities of fictionalised reality and unreal fiction.

The Bedouin Harel-Bey, a possible character of a certain book that Monsieur Gustave Flaubert never wrote, but which he long pondered and long spoke about with his most intimate friends, unexpectedly and autonomously, begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as absolute protagonist. A journey to try to cancel, as vengeful killer, all the protagonists of books and stories written by Monsieur Flaubert.

The crimes were thus conceived as works of cunning and safeguarding, also a natural occasion to make Harel Bey an actor in the region of notoriety, or a shrewd choice for being the unsuspected executioner of liberty, fraternity, equality amongst the characters already active in the novels of Monsieur Gustave Flaubert. In committing crimes the sense of smell perceived, in fact, the imprints of death on this or that person. Touch perceived the signs of bodies which Harel Bay would has to torment. Hearing recognized the haughtiness of phonemes and declamations so that it was inevitable to ponder, in primis, the irreverent impudence of a writer who, with detrimental intentions and fraudulent ardour, Harey Bay murdered amidst appearances and intrigues.

Monsieur Gustave Flaubert was a man of letters who was very partial in the choice of his characters even for unforeseen loves, so that never did a single one of his characters had any certainty that his presence wasn’t solely an opportunity, a casual, scatter-brained invention simply to fill up a sheet of paper, give voice to some bit of writing, realize an idea. As Gustave Flaubert was a born manipulator, Harel Bey wanted only to alternate the protagonists of certain stories with other characters so that these others could be the principal actors or at least participants with a few lines to speak. 

Author Bio
Giuseppe Cafiero is a prolific writer and author of ten published works focusing on cultural giants from Vincent Van Gogh to Edgar Allan Poe. Cafiero lives in Italy in the Tuscan countryside. Visit his website or Facebook page.

18 August 2017

Carpe Librum has a facelift and a new logo

My site is undergoing a much needed facelift and it might take a little time to get things 'just right' so I thank you in advance for your patience.

I'm also pretty excited to be launching my new logo, woohoo!!!
I hope you like the fresh new look with further tweaks and changes to come. What do you think of the new logo? Love it, hate it or not sure? Leave your comments below and of course, Carpe Librum!

15 August 2017

Review: After I've Gone by Linda Green

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

After I've Gone is the first Linda Green novel I've read and with an enticing premise, it easily surpassed all my expectations.

Jess Mount finds out she has 18 months left to live, if her Facebook newsfeed is to be believed. Her newsfeed seems to have jumped ahead 18 months and she can see posts from family and friends mourning her death. How can this be?

Jess is an intelligent and sensible protagonist and reacts precisely how I would in this situation. Don't worry, there's no 'cringe-worthy' moments here.

The story takes off on the first page and never lets up. Jess has a backstory that is alluded to and slowly revealed, as does Lee, her new love interest. These plot lines - together with the point of view of her Mother-In-Law Angela - kept the novel motoring along and I was riveted.

The story has a very contemporary feel and thanks to a few real world references and social media posts, very current. Jess tries to change her future, but you'll have to read the novel to find out if she can change it for good or if she's forced to accept her fate. 

I have no hesitation recommending After I've Gone by Linda Green to those who enjoy crime fiction and domestic noir. I loved it!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum

10 August 2017

Blogival Guest Post: Joe Treasure on writing The Book of Air

I'm participating in the Clink Street Publishing Blogival 2017 this month, and am proud to introduce the following guest post by Joe Treasure. Joe says that after writing The Book of Air, he understood why he’d been writing and explains why.

Writing and the accidental discovery of meaning 
You might think that before embarking on a novel a writer would have a story to tell. For me it’s never been that definite. For my first two novels I’d written the opening chapter before I began to think about what might develop from there. I’m sure other writers have this experience. A glimpse of a scene can be enough to get you started, a chance encounter, a moment of conflict, a distinct setting coloured by a mood or an atmosphere. Once you’ve got that on paper you can begin to see what direction it’s pointing in. 

With The Book of Air, what I began with was less concrete even than that. There was the familiar impulse to write, strengthened by the confidence that two published books had given me. I had a vague sense that I should attempt something more ambitious. I’d been impressed by The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s brilliant futuristic satire on the oppression of women under a Biblically inspired tyranny. This powerful modern myth stirred me to think beyond the ordinary.

Meanwhile I’d long been interested in books that take off from classics. I love the idea of interacting creatively with an established story, to subvert or reimagine it. In her justifiably celebrated Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys drew Rochester’s mad wife from the shadows and allowed her to tell her own story, a Creole heiress married off and forcibly relocated, finding herself locked up in an isolated house, increasingly neglected by her husband. Since that was published in 1966, giving voice to marginalised characters in 19th novels has become a familiar device and I didn’t feel I had anything fresh to say in this form. Besides, I wanted more freedom than a historical novel would allow me. I was drawn to a futuristic setting.

And so I began imagining a community that has constructed itself around the close study of a novel. In a way, any novel would do – the randomness is the point. The community, having elevated this book to a unique status, is unaware that it’s just a made-up story, one of countless books, whose purpose is to give pleasure. I considered various novels. But I returned to Jane Eyre because it’s so well-known and its central drama is so strong and elemental. To emphasise the randomness I would give the community two other books, each completely different in kind – a children’s picture book and a technical manual from which they can derive no coherent meaning.

But still all I had was an abstraction – not a story, not even a single character – until I heard Agnes’s voice, as she responds for the first time in her life to the impulse to write about herself. Hidden away in the corner of an attic, she has found a mysterious object, recognisably a book, but not a book because there are no words in it, none until she writes them. From the first moment, she is aware of the strangeness of what she is doing and the danger of it. She is fifteen, on the verge of adulthood. Her story will be about secrecy and self-discovery, oppression and rebellion, friendship and love. It will explore her experience of growing up and challenge the limits of the community she has been born into.

As I worked on it, other questions came up. How had this community come into being? Why this house, these cottages, this farmland? Why these books and no others? And why this isolation? I thought of Jason, a man of our own time, waking from a fever, surprised to find himself still alive having survived a virus that has killed so many others. He has left London in chaos and retreated to his country house, the very house where Agnes will begin her journal in the distant future. He has two stories to tell, what led up to this moment – the collapse of society as he has always known it – and what will follow from it – the struggle to survive and find a new way of living among a handful of strangers.

I had no idea until I began writing that these were the stories I wanted to tell. And I found, when I was done, that certain preoccupations had emerged. How do communities form and what makes a community oppressive or benign? How are collective memories kept alive? What is the connection between the experience of loss and the urge to create, both of which seem essential to being human?

Blurb - The Book of Air
Retreating from an airborne virus with a uniquely unsettling symptom, property developer Jason escapes London for his country estate, where he is forced to negotiate a new way of living with an assortment of fellow survivors.

Far in the future, an isolated community of descendants continue to farm this same estate. Among their most treasured possessions are a few books, including a copy of Jane Eyre, from which they have constructed their hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. When 15-year-old Agnes begins to record the events of her life, she has no idea what consequences will follow. Locked away for her transgressions, she escapes to the urban ruins and a kind of freedom, but must decide where her future lies.
Joe Treasure

These two stories interweave, illuminating each other in unexpected ways and offering long vistas of loss, regeneration and wonder. 

The Book of Air is a story of survival, the shaping of memory and the enduring impulse to find meaning in a turbulent world.

About Joe Treasure
Joe Treasure currently lives in South West London with his wife Leni Wildflower. As an English teacher in Wales, he ran an innovative drama programme, before following Leni across the pond to Los Angeles, an experience that inspired his critically acclaimed debut novel The Male Gaze (published by Picador). His second novel Besotted (also published by Picador) also met with rave reviews. 
Visit Joe's website or follow him on Twitter.

08 August 2017

Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Tin Man by Sarah Winman is about the relationship between Ellis and Michael, and what happens when Ellis meets 'the one' in Annie. The first part of the book unfolds from the perspective of Ellis, and it's a slow, quiet and personal reflection on the past while revealing his present loneliness and grief.

The second half of the book is narrated by Michael under the guise of writing a journal, which didn't work in my opinion.

The narrative in both sections jumped around in time and despite a handful of helpful chapter headings, I never fell into the flow of the novel. I understand that when we reflect on the past, our memories drift around from decade to decade, but in this case I wanted the author to lead me down a more chronological path.

While on the topic of writing style, Sarah Winman doesn't use quotation marks in Tin Man. I always find this style of writing irritating, and while I have seen it work in other novels (Cloudstreet for instance), sadly it was just confusing here.

The atmosphere of Tin Man reminded me of one of my favourite books of all time, Stoner by John Williams, but where Stoner succeeds in its perfection, Tin Man falls short. The ending left many things undone, including what happens to Ellis. 

Tin Man is receiving a lot of hype at the moment, and I understand why readers are being moved by the story - some even to tears - but it was just too disjointed for me. 

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

03 August 2017

Review: Wrap It In A Bit Of Cheese Like You're Tricking The Dog by David Thorne

I've been enjoying David Thorne's wacky sense of humour for years now, so I was really excited to receive an autographed copy of Wrap It In a Bit of Cheese Like You're Tricking the Dog for Christmas last year.

Containing more essays than emails, the laughs continued, just not at the same rate of knots (i.e. on every page). The work conversations are hilarious and there was another logo design that had me chuckling and remembering the logo shenanigans in his previous books.

Readers looking for a little more depth in the writing will enjoy this offering, however in terms of laughs, it didn't make me want to read out every exchange, as I wanted to do when reading The Internet Is A Playground (5 stars) and I'll Go Home Then; It's Warm and Has Chairs (5 stars).

This collection of essays and emails is highly recommended for readers familiar with David Thorne's work, but if you're wanting to dip your toe into his wildly entertaining world, you should begin with The Internet Is A Playground. I remain a dedicated fan though and will continue to read whatever he puts out. Unless it's a book full of his cat panels, lol!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!