29 June 2017

Review: The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger is an enjoyable crime/thriller novel - with one of the best covers this year - featuring two protagonists: Zoe and Claudia.

Zoe experienced a traumatic home invasion as a child and Claudia was assaulted in her own home as an adult. Both women recovered from their trauma in different ways and their paths will eventually meet in an unexpected way.

The Red Hunter had me at 'Claudia takes on a crumbling old house with a home restoration project' and it didn't disappoint.

Told from multiple points of view, I did find it a little confusing at first until the characters and their lives cemented themselves in my mind, but the pages started flying when Zoe's backstory was revealed and a mystery surrounding a missing amount of money began to emerge.

Dealing with themes of justice and revenge, The Red Hunter is a quick and entertaining stand alone novel. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it as much as Ink and Bone, which means I'll have to give it 3 stars, but it's a solid 3 stars and I'd recommend it to fans of the crime, mystery and thriller genres.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

22 June 2017

Review: Clues From Beyond - True Crime Stories from Australia's #1 Psychic Detective Debbie Malone

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

Australian author Debbie Malone is a psychic, clairvoyant and medium and was the 2013 Australian Psychic of the Year. She can receive visions from the living and the dead, the past, present and future, and convey messages to loved ones. 

As if this isn't enough, Debbie has also assisted Australian Police with missing persons cases and murder investigations for more than twenty years. Despite having been on several TV shows, I first saw Debbie when she worked on the TV show Sensing Murder so I was understandably keen to read her book. (Love that show*).

In Clues From Beyond - True Crime Stories from Australia's #1 Psychic Detective, Debbie shares her insights on several well-known cases in Australia and it makes for gripping reading.

If you're going to read Clues From Beyond, (or books like it), it's important to know that psychics often aren't able to solve a case on their own. Just as a case isn't solved with DNA alone, or police surveillance alone, a psychic detective is just one of many resources involved in solving a case. On page 8, Debbie herself says: "I am an investigative resource who can be utilised by police to pick up information that may provide new lines of inquiry in an unsolved crime." I think readers need to keep that in mind when reading books like these.

Debbie's insights are remarkable and I enjoyed the format chosen for the book and the cases she writes about. When reading about the case of Kerry Whelan, I was incredibly frustrated, (as I'm sure Debbie is too) that Detectives won't/haven't searched underneath Bruce Burrell's shearing shed for the remains of Dorothy Davis because it was outside the scope of the case she was on. They were looking for the remains of Kerry Whelan during which time Debbie received this information and it wasn't acted upon. Argh! I just want someone to dig up that shearing shed damn it! 

After reading Clues From Beyond I definitely wanted to know more about Debbie and her gift as a spirit medium, so I'll be reading her memoir Never Alone: A Medium’s Journey soon. I'm also looking forward to an interview that could be on the cards, so fingers crossed for that one.

Clues From Beyond is recommended for readers of the true crime genre and those with an interest in psychic detectives and the work they do.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. * You can read my review of Sensing Murder by Nicola McLoy here.

20 June 2017

Review: Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

In her introduction to Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook, Julie tells us this book is inspired by her wish to provide a collection of family recipes and favourites for her sons when they leave home.

In her words, Julie says: "It's a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to be able to nourish yourself and the people you love; it's the recipes that bring back childhood memories for myself and my kids; it's the little bits of kitchen wisdom that have been handed down through generations, or passed on from friends, or discovered by accident or through trial and error. It's the book I want my boys to have for when they have families of their own."

In my opinion, Julie has achieved this and more and I'm eager to try her recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies as soon as I can. Yum! If you haven't already seen the recipe extracts from Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook here on the blog, check them out again below:

I always like to know what the end result from a recipe should look like (and more specifically what I'm aiming for) so I would have preferred more photos of the finished dishes throughout the book. Having said that, at 300 recipes and attractively-bound, it's already a hefty tome so I understand the decision to include more recipes than photos.

Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook is a terrific collection and I recommend it to home cooks everywhere.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

18 June 2017

Top 5 favourite things about Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

My Top 5 favourite things about Prince Lestat by Anne Rice:
  1. My copy is signed by Anne Rice (wow!)
  2. The cover art is divine and contains everything I love in cover design.
  3. An appendix includes a complete glossary of characters and their chronology from the Vampire Chronicles series. This was extremely helpful and a joy to read through.
  4. A second appendix includes a brief summary of every book in the Vampire Chronicles series. I relished re-visiting my favourite books again in this succinct format and it definitely made Prince Lestat accessible to new readers who may not have read all the previous novels in the series.
  5. It ended.
I'm a huge fan of Anne Rice's writing so I was devastated to find I didn't enjoy reading Prince Lestat. I even took a break, hoping I was just in some kind of bizarre reading funk, but I just couldn't find the same reading pleasure I usually find in her pages.

The plot contains chapters from different vampires as they begin to face a crisis threatening their kind and while I should have been thrilled to read about old favourites again, the cause uniting them was a bore. There were too many stylishly dressed vampires, too many marble fireplaces, too much classical music and too much love and affection for my liking.

My signed copy
All of this made the denouement seem sudden and exciting and I'll definitely read the next in the series for completeness. I already have a copy of Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis and I'm hoping that Lestat's investigations of the lost realms of Atlantis will be a return to the Anne Rice I've come to know and love. Sadly, this just wasn't it for me.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

P.S. I recently watched an episode of The Book Show hosted by Mariella Frostrup where guests were asked to name the fictional dinner they'd most like to attend. Without a doubt, mine would be the Christmas celebration in The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice. This was a good reminder that she is still my favourite author of all time.

16 June 2017

Blog Tour & Guest Post: See You In September by Charity Norman

Published by
Allen & Unwin
See You In September by Charity Norman is a 'dazzling, gripping new novel about a young woman lured into the clutches of a doomsday cult'.
Here's a teaser: It was supposed to be a short trip—a break in New Zealand before her best friend's wedding. But when Cassy waved goodbye to her parents, they never dreamed that it would be years before they'd see her again.

In today's guest post, author Charity Norman provides some more information on The Cult Leader's Manual, a fictional pamphlet referred to in See You In September

Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour below. 

The Cult Leader’s Manual
    In See You In September, I included a fictional pamphlet called The Cult Leader’s Manual: Eight steps to Mind Control. I originally had twelve steps, but that broke up the flow of the story so I edited them! The precise strategy varies, but these techniques in some form are used by all kinds of outfits: military interrogators, terrorist groups, destructive cults - even abusive partners.

    There’s a common pattern. A group will identify a new recruit, often someone who’s vulnerable at that moment. Then they’ll love-bomb them, showering a cascade of affection and acceptance. At this stage everyone is smiling, joyous, demonstrating that their way of life has made them happy. It’s basically advertising, and they are salespeople.

    The true belief system may be revealed only gradually. Many groups introduce rigid rules and discipline, even a new vocabulary; they demand that the recruit gives up their money and their autonomy, even abandoning their own families. There may be restrictions on sleep and nutrition. Many such groups have a self-proclaimed, charismatic leader who expects absolute loyalty.

    It was upsetting to read about the vicious abuse that’s gone on in some organisations. I remember a harrowing video about a destructive cult, in which a mother described being forced to belt her own toddler. That was the moment she realised she had to get out – but she was still traumatised, years later.

    It isn’t always about religion. I came across someone who lost their family member to a group that claimed to provide couple therapy. ‘Therapy’ involved group sex, and the surrender of their savings and their freedom to a controlling leader. It was the opposite of therapeutic. It destroyed their marriage and their lives. As the family member said, you never think it could happen to you – until it does.

See You In September by Charity Norman is a powerful story of family, faith and finding yourself. It's an unputdownable new novel 
published by Allen & Unwin and is available now, RRP $29.99. 


12 June 2017

Winner of Rebecca Cantrell's Collector's Edition Box Set announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win a hard copy of A Trace of Smoke (the first in the The Hannah Vogel series,) as well as the ebook version of The Hannah Vogel Box Set: Books 1-3 (Collector's Edition). Entries closed at midnight on Friday 9 June and the winner was drawn today. Congratulations to:
Paul Groves
Congratulations Paul, you'll 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 22 Literary and I hope you enjoy the series.

Carpe Librum!

08 June 2017

Review of Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn - A King's Obsession by Alison Weir

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I've always been interested in the life of Anne Boleyn (and her daughter Elizabeth I) and have read about her from the pens of several authors including: Robin Maxwell, C.C. Humphreys and Philippa Gregory. I've also watched many documentaries, movies and TV shows about Anne Boleyn, including: The Other Boleyn Girl, The Tudors and Wolf Hall to name a few, and I'm currently watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII with Lucy Worsley.

Alison Weir is an established and popular historian and 
Anne Boleyn - A King's Obsession was my first historical fiction novel of hers. We follow Anne's upbringing in French court and the powerful women she served, including Margaret of Austria, Henry VIII’s sister in France Queen Mary and later Queen Claude

This was easily my favourite part of the book and an aspect of Anne's life often overlooked or glossed over in other books and media. Although the rape of her sister in the French court and later at the English court was shocking to me and I'm not quite sure where the history stops and the fiction begins with regard to these events.

I'll admit I was struck by Weir's different take on Anne Boleyn and found the differences difficult to adjust to in the beginning. Weir presents Anne as never truly loving Henry as I've always imagined she did and instead being motivated by power. She describes her as having a sixth fingernail on her little finger (not an extra finger) although on further investigation, I found this description to be the more accurate one. Just a further example of how Anne Boleyn has been mythologised and portrayed over the centuries since her death.

Eventually I was able to surrender myself to Weir's narrative after I left my preconceived ideas at the door and ended up enjoying her novel immensely. Despite already knowing how Anne Boleyn died, and having read about and seen the scene play out in many genres, the author was able to create an incredibly moving 'end' and one that I found unexpectedly moving and even upsetting.

Alison Weir is clearly a huge talent in the genre of historical fiction and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future. Given this is the second novel in the Six Tudor Queens series, I know I'll be spoiled for choice.

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!