23 September 2016

Review: The Troubles Keeper by Susan May

* Copy courtesy of the author *

Rory Fine has the ability to lift the worries and concerns of a person just by touching them. A handshake or the briefest touch can leave people feeling lighter, happier and as if their troubles have just disappeared. In fact, Rory takes those troubles and stores them away in his mental attic until he can dispose of them later. What a guy!

What do you think a man with this type of gift would do for a living? Counsellor, doctor or emergency worker springs to mind. Nope, Rory drives a bus and uses his gift to alleviate the worries and concerns of his regular passengers; and they love him for it.

One day Rory picks up a negative energy, something dark and powerful, and that's where The Troubles Keeper by Australian author Susan May really kicks off.

Reminiscent of Dean Koontz, I was far more interested in Rory than the thrilling circumstances he finds himself drawn into, and would have been happy to learn more about him and his youth given the chance. The character reminded me a little of the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz, where I'm always more fascinated by his gift than what he 'gets up to' in each book. I wanted to stop and sift through the troubles Rory takes from people and was somewhat reluctant to be pulled into a thrilling ride to pursue the owner of the dark energy.

The Troubles Keeper has a touch of everything to keep the reader entertained throughout, including elements of crime, science fiction, the paranormal and the age-old motivators of love and revenge. Recommended for fans of Dean Koontz and Stephen King.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

16 September 2016

Friday Freebie and Blog Tour for The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom

RRP $26.99 AUD
*Copy courtesy of The Author People

Today's Friday Freebie is part of the The Cleanskin blog tour, so be sure to check out the next stop on the tour on 18 September over at Reading, Writing and Riesling.

I needed someone I could trust. Someone others would trust. Someone with no criminal record. With no previous involvement. A cleanskin. Someone to come over, do the job, and go home …

Some days, even Halley can’t find the person she once was. She’s changed her name and no one – least of all her husband and son – knows of her past. No one except Aidan, who turns up one day in her small Australian town and shatters the fa├žade she’s built so carefully.

Aidan is on a mission. But why is he still taking orders from his brother in an English jail – at the cost of his own happiness?

When Aidan forces Halley to face what she’s done, what they discover not only changes their understanding of what happened back then, it changes everything now.

Laura Bloom deftly goes to the dark heart of The Troubles to explore the lingering damage wrought by sectarian conflict on communities, families and individuals. Based on real events, The Cleanskin is a story of intense human relationships with a cast of flawed and entirely believable characters.

Author Bio
It’s the people traditionally left out of the frame who interest Laura the most, as well as what happens after what would be the climax in many stories. A couple reuniting after the war, in In The Mood; a woman who has changed her name and started a new life, only to find her old life catching up with her, in The Cleanskin; what happens when you break up with the perfect person, in Choosing Zoe.

Laura grew up in Sydney and has travelled widely, including living for spells in Germany, India, the UK, and – as a baby – in New Guinea, which is where she began her love affair with the subtropics, and where she later received possibly the world’s smallest traditional tattoo.

Laura’s novels have been shortlisted for the NSW Literary Awards, the ABC Fiction Prize and the Young Australian Readers’ Awards and published in France, the US and the UK. She now lives in a small subtropical town near Byron Bay with her chosen family, including her godson and her son – who has autism. 


15 September 2016

Review: The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes - Nature by Rebecca Jones

RRP $14.99 AUD
Published May 2016
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes - Nature by Rebecca Jones has got to be one of the most beautiful books I've received for review this year.

Containing 24 cards and envelopes to colour, this book is so cute I didn't want to tear out a single card from the perforated pages. Eventually I did of course, and took great care to colour one in and give it to a loved one (who enjoyed the personal touch).

Illustrated by Rebecca Jones and printed on high quality paper, each card and envelope has the illustration quality of Secret Garden that adults and youngsters will enjoy colouring. 

This little treasure is perfect for stationery lovers as well as readers and budding artists of any age who love to colour in and add that personal touch for a loved one. For those on a budget, I'd like to point out that each card (with envelope and sticker seal) costs only $0.63 cents each. What a bargain!

And if you still need convincing, check out this little video that takes you inside the book. C'mon, you know you want one.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

12 September 2016

Winner of The Fence by Meredith Jaffe announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win a copy of The Fence by Meredith Jaffe. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 9th September and the winner was drawn today. Congratulations goes to:
Amanda B
Congratulations Amanda, you'll receive an email shortly and will have 7 days to provide me with your postal address. Pan Macmillan Australia will mail your book out to you and I'd like to thank them for this prize.

Carpe Librum!

08 September 2016

Review: Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster Australia *

It's 1501 and Margaret Tudor (sister to the future Henry VIII) is our narrator in Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory.

The sisters in the title are Margaret Tudor, her younger sister Mary and her future sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon. All three sisters will become Queens in their own right - of England, Scotland and France - but it's how they get there that kept me enthralled. 

In fact, after the first page I knew this was going to be a 5 star read and was already mourning the fact it was going to end too soon for my liking.

Three Sisters, Three Queens is primarily a story of sibling rivalry, envy, greed and the pursuit of true love. The importance of delivering a male heir and subsequent miscarriages is the cause of much angst and grief for the sisters, but also competition between them. 

Secret weddings, betrayals and invasions take place and Henry VIII's overarching influence over each of the women is evident. When the women are in his favour, his attention and support is like the sun, and when he turns his back on Margaret, it almost costs her life.

I'm confident Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory will make it into my list of Top 5 Books for 2016. It's the perfect entry point for YA readers looking to dip their toe into historical fiction who may not know where to start. As well as offering a completely new perspective on the rule of Henry VIII and for me a welcome introduction to Margaret Tudor and her life in Scotland.

Incredibly accessible, the history of the early 1500s unfolds in this novel like a TV drama series, leaving me wanting to binge-watch episode after episode, or in this case, chapter after chapter. Brilliant!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

02 September 2016

Friday Freebie to WIN a copy of The Fence by Meredith Jaffe

RRP $32.99
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

The Fence is a quick-witted dramedy of domestic discord between two new neighbours. Click here to check out the free reading group notes and enter below for your chance to win a print copy.

Gwen has lived on Green Valley Avenue all her adult life. Here she brought her babies home, nurtured her garden and shared life's ups and downs with her best friend and neighbour, Babs. So when Babs dies and the house next door is sold, Gwen wonders how the new family will settle into the quiet life of this cosy community.

Frankie has high hopes for the house on Green Valley Avenue. More than just a new home, it’s a clean slate for the mother who has moved her brood from Sydney's inner city to the leafy north shore street in a bid to save her marriage.

To maintain her privacy and corral her wandering children, Frankie proposes a fence between their properties, destroying Gwen’s lovingly cultivated front garden.
To Gwen, this as an act of war.

Soon the neighbours are in an escalating battle about more than just council approvals, where boundaries aren’t the only things at stake.

Author Bio
Meredith Jaffé is a writer and occasional book critic and regularly chairs panels, presents workshops and interviews fellow authors for various literary events and writers' festivals.

As a keen believer in the power of literacy, Meredith volunteers at The Footpath Library where she manages their annual EPIC! writing competition for school children. She is currently working on her next novel in between riding her horses and enjoying farm life with her family on the beautiful NSW south coast.


29 August 2016

Review: Dark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly

Little does she know it, but author Sally O'Reilly wrote this book just for me.

Set in London during the late 1500s and the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dark Aemilia has it all: Shakespeare, plague, sorcery, witchcraft, witty dialogue, great writing and hot sex scenes. I mean come on! Sally O'Reilly, I love you!

And the cover, oh the cover, simply stunning.

Based on a real person, Aemilia is an inspirational woman born before her time, thought to be Shakespeare's dark muse, struggling with the role of women in society and how little power they had over their destiny. She was England's first female poet, and in O'Reilly's hands she's intelligent, proud, headstrong and passionate.

Here's a great quote from Page 129:
"...all my other little aches and torments have gone. Those besetting symptoms that all of us in London must put up with: soot-wheeze, ale-runs, head-gripe, back-ache, lassitude and dread-belly - not to mention sundry scabs, carbuncles and lesions of the skin - all such ailments have vanished."

And this from Page 270:
'Leave this house', I say. 'Get out, you scripture-spouting, fish-cold arse-wart. Or I'll call down a curse which'll curdle the guts in your belly'. " 

Brilliant writing, richly evocative and an intelligent story, I loved and adored this novel and didn't want it to end. 

Dark Aemilia is for lovers of historical fiction, witty dialogue, Shakespeare and the darker side of London in the 16th Century. Yes please! I can't wait to see what talented author Sally O'Reilly writes for me next. A tale worthy of the Bard I'm sure.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

And another quote from Page 270, because I just have to:
"I'll broil your brain in its shallow skull! Mangle your preachifying words into Bedlam babble, and corrupt your skin into a thousand worm-infested sores! I'll make you pray for Hades as a respite from your pain! And I'll twist your mind to such distraction that you'll tear off all your limbs to find relief and sanity! Do you hear me, you pox-groined, foul-nosed turd-stain?"