04 July 2015

Blog tour and review of A Time To Run by J.M. Peace

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *
A Time To Run is a tense crime thriller set in the Queensland bush featuring a cop-turned-victim and a Wolf Creek-style killer.
I'm really pleased to be part of this blog tour to promote A Time To Run by Australian author J.M. Peace.

A Time To Run is a police procedural written by a serving Australian police officer and is a fast-paced novel with action on every page.

The events in the book take place over a single weekend and this was such a tight and quick read, I found myself finishing it in record time.

What I enjoyed most of all though was the quick-thinking and problem-solving skills displayed by the victim Sammi. A police officer herself, Sammi is horrified to find herself drugged and kidnapped, but doesn't panic. Instead, she switches on her 'cop senses' and does everything she can think of to stay alive.

Sometimes when I'm reading a crime novel, I think to myself: "oh no, why don't you do this," or "that's stupid, that'll never work." This doesn't happen in A Time To Run, here I was continually thinking: "ohhhh, what a great idea" and "oh, I didn't think of that."

There is a real sense of the Australian outback in the novel and two smart and tough characters to get behind, Sammi and Detective Janine Postlewaite. A Time To Run is a debut novel for J.M. Peace, and fans of the crime and thriller genre will love this Australian offering.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

Blog Tour
Check out the next stop on the #atimetorun blog tour, over at Reading, Writing and Riesling on Monday 6th July and check back here at Carpe Librum on 13th July for an interview with the author J.M. Peace

Until then, you can read a FREE extract from the author's website, or check out the blog tour schedule here.

01 July 2015

Review: The Enchanted | Rene Denfeld

The Enchanted is a haunting and beautiful novel by Rene Denfeld, set in a maximum security prison in America. The narrator is a reclusive inmate on death row who manages to escape the harsh confines of his cell within the pages of his books.

The prison is corrupt and the living conditions are awfully harsh, which makes it even more surprising that our narrator is able to find so much beauty in what we take for granted every day.

As well as his observations on prison life, we also learn a little about some of the other inmates and staff, including: an inmate named York, the warden, a fallen priest and a death row investigator he calls 'the lady'.

We are shown prisoners who long for the release of death and those who fear death and will do anything to escape the finality of the prison oven. I found it bleakly fascinating to read about the lengths men will go to to satiate their desire for pleasure and power and the impact a lack of physical touch has on a human being.

The Enchanted is not a novel with a message about the death penalty or prison conditions, rather it's an enchanted look at love, an absence of love, abuse, violence, guilt, evil and magic.

Here's a quote from Page 3:
"Inside, the lies you tell become the person you become. On the outside, sun and reality shrink people back to their actual size. In here, people grown into their shadows." 
Author Rene Dunfeld has worked as a death penalty case investigator herself, and this experience shows in her intimate portrayal of inmates and the prison system. The inmate narrator in this literary novel is mute, which adds a further dimension to the story.

I'm confident The Enchanted will make my Favourite Reads of 2015 list, and highly recommend it to a variety of readers. It's almost impossible to believe this is Rene Dunfeld's first novel, (because it seems almost perfect) but I hope to read more from her in the future.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

29 June 2015

Why I Like YA Fiction, Guest Post by Whitney McCarthy, QLD Secondary Teacher and Lover of the Written Word

As a secondary school teacher of English in Queensland, Australia, I'm engaged in a never-ending search for literature that manages to offer masterful examples of the narrative genre, while challenging students to act upon their social conscience.

In the beginning, this search had me reading an average of 10 Young Adult (YA) titles a month. I did this initially so that I could offer sound recommendations to my students and help them avoid the pitfalls of the many copy-cat texts which followed the vampire-werewolf-district-faction phenomena. Somewhere along the way I found I was enjoying these texts just as much as my students, and I'd like to share with you the reason I like YA fiction.

I believe the reticence of some teenagers today stems not from apathy or ignorance, but rather from the fact that the number and scope of the issues requiring their attention are overwhelming. It's for this reason that YA fiction, and dystopian fiction in particular (more about that later), has exploded in popularity over the last ten years. YA fiction provides adolescents and young adults with direction; if a young protagonist can overthrow a government, then they too can face the problems of their world.

In my opinion, the continual rise of YA fiction can also be attributed to the fact that protagonists give readers a voice. This is true of all protagonists, but as Graham F. Scott at Canadian Business says, YA fiction capitalises on the seemingly endless resource that is teenage angst. While this trivialises the causes of that angst, he has a point; adolescence hits us all with a wonderful cocktail of physical, emotional and social confusion, one which often requires help to understand and negotiate. Enter the army of adolescent protagonists whose brave life-choices, embarrassing love-lives and fierce battles for freedom provide the reader with one recurring message: It will get easier. Even better than the message itself, readers are clearly educated that nothing gets easier without effort, resilience and a clear sense of purpose.

I appreciate the ways in which protagonists work to overcome the challenges of a world usually thrust upon them by an older, wealthier or more well-armed society. My students appreciate that the perspective of an adolescent is valued, even privileged, rather than ignored. As a result, teaching and learning is improved because I can prepare teenagers for a world needing their attention, rather than assuming ignorance (not that I would!).

Parents should certainly engage with the books their children read; a frank discussion about a YA character and his/her actions might allay many of the fears we parents have about our children’s choices. It's worth noting that few YA titles present alcohol, drugs or teen pregnancy as the main issues facing adolescents. Driving and digital communication are still presented as pitfalls, but the issues which occupy the average YA protagonist’s mind are identity, freedom (intellectual and physical), tolerance and purpose. I find that reassuring.

As a genre, YA fiction should not be dismissed out of hand. A younger character voice is just as authentic, and their challenges just as real. Sure, there are some dreadful YA novels out there, but that’s true of any genre. My tip: befriend a teenage reader - they’ll steer you right, and will appreciate that you cared enough to ask.

I'll be back to Carpe Librum soon to share some of my favourite YA novels, but until then, you can have a sneak peak at some of my recommendations here.
Guest blogger, Whitney McCarthy

Whitney is the Head of English at Downlands College in Toowoomba, QLD and divides her time between school and her children, who spend more time dancing than at home.

She is currently working towards a Masters of Education (Literacy and Language learning) at University of Queensland.

24 June 2015

Review: The Pearl | John Steinbeck

The Pearl is the first book I've read by John Steinbeck, better known for Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.

I thought I'd start with something easy, and a parable of just under 100 pages seemed like a good place to start. I should also admit to being influenced by this stunning clothbound classic; I'm in love with these lately.

Kino is a hardworking pearl diver living a simple life, until he finds the pearl of a lifetime. Happy and content with his life before the pearl, he suddenly desires more than he has and is surrounded by greed and envy.

Kino's experience from the moment he discovers the pearl to the bitter end, is an example of how greed and evil can cloud your decisions, and the consequences when we fall victim to these desires.

I read that Steinbeck was inspired to write The Pearl based on a Mexican folktale, and it doesn't surprise me.

Readers who enjoyed The Alchemist will love the simple life lessons contained in The Pearl. I also think this parable is suitable for younger readers, from middle school right through to high school age.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

22 June 2015

Vanessa Skye vampire giveaway winners announced

Thanks to all those who entered the Vanessa Skye giveaway last week, entries closed at midnight on Friday 19th June. The giveaway included 1 signed copy and 3 ebook copies of Koven by Vanessa Skye.

Vanessa reviewed your entries (and bonus entries) and chose the winners based on your one word descriptions.

1st prize
Congratulations Alfred, you've won a signed copy of Koven for your description of a vampire as tortured.

Winners of an ebook copy of Koven are:
Elusive by Mary
Intriguing by Kate
Bloodthirsty by Sharon

Congratulations to the winners. You'll each receive an email from Vanessa Skye this week regarding the details of your win. Thanks again to all those who entered, and Carpe Librum!

20 June 2015

Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle | Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell

The Sleeper and the Spindle is written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell, and first came to my attention when it was mentioned by Jen Campbell, author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

Jen is both author and bookseller, and I'm a subscriber of her book related videos on YouTube. In her October haul of books she mentioned she'd fallen in love with The Sleeper and the Spindle (click here for the original video) and I just had to check it out - literally, from the library.

Essentially this beautifully illustrated book is the re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty and Snow White fairytales, where Snow White has to save Sleeping Beauty, but not all is as it seems.

The illustrations are dark and elaborately drawn in black ink, with the occasional highlight in gold, giving this edition an almost illuminated feeling. You'll need to know at the outset that this is a very dark tale, there is an abundance of skulls in the illustrations, and in my opinion, The Sleeper and the Spindle is for the mature reader, not for young kids.

Now for the rating, but this time it's a little difficult. I adored the illustrations (4 stars) but for me the re-imagined fairytale fell short of my expectations (2 stars) so I guess my rating is in the middle somewhere.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

17 June 2015

Carpe Librum celebrates 10 year anniversary

Great news, this month I'm celebrating my 10 year blogiversary. When I started in June 2005, this blog was called My Four Bucks, and in August 2012 I changed the name to Carpe Librum (seize the book) and my URL to www.carpelibrum.net 

I started from humble beginnings with only a few hits per month, and clearly remember the excitement of my first book offer from an author. Since then, I've accepted a few but had to decline over 450+ individual requests emailed to me by authors and publicists. Now that my blog has grown, I receive monthly offers and opportunities via publisher catalogues, including; Simon & Schuster, Pan Macmillan & Picador, Allen & Unwin and Murdoch Books to name a few.

In the last 10 years I've published 576 posts, (most of them book reviews), given away 21 books and have almost reached the milestone of a million page views (I'm currently in the vicinity of 770,000). 

I've met some great authors along the way, participated in blog tours, read-alongs, blog hops and countless reading challenges and enjoyed every minute of it.

Thanks to all those who have supported me over the years, I enjoy my role as an Australian book blogger and look forward to many more entertaining reads, interviews and giveaways in the future.