30 January 2015

Winners of the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop 2015 Announced

Thanks to all those who entered my Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop this year, and thanks to Shelleyrae from Book'd Out for hosting this great bookish event. I enjoyed hopping around all the blogs and entering many of the giveaways, and had a record number of entries in my own giveaway, with 52 book lovers sharing their reading plans for Australia Day. 

There was a great variety of books from almost all genres, with representations from popular fiction, non fiction and the classics. Alas, there can only be two winners, so without further ado...

1st Prize
Congratulations to Catherine G, you've won a $25 gift voucher from Boomerang Books.

2nd Prize

Congratulations to Nat H, you've won a new print copy of The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster (thanks to Random House Australia).

As well as being announced here, winners will be notified by email today of their win.

Thanks for celebrating Australia Day with me via the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop and I hope we can do it all again next year.


'Til then, Carpe Librum!

28 January 2015

HFVBT Review and Blog Tour: The William Shakespeare Detective Agency - The School of Night by Colin Falconer

02_The William Shakespeare Detective Agency-The School of Night_Cover
* Copy courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours *

Colin Falconer is currently touring the blogosphere for the first book in his William Shakespeare Detective Agency series, The School of Night, from January 10 - February 6 and I'm pleased to be taking part. Before I review it though, here's some info about the book.

Blurb
"My name is William Shakespeare. No, not that Shakespeare; and no jests please, I’ve heard them all. I’m the other one, the ne’er do well cousin, the loafer, known to family and friends as the dunce, the one who could not recite Cicero or Horace, who could never be as good as his clever cuz, the one who has just come to Bishopsgate from Stratford with silly dreams in his head and a longing to make something more of himself than just a glover’s handyman.” 

What he finds in London is Lady Elizabeth Talbot, who is willing to pass a few shillings to this blundering brawler if he will help her find her husband. Poor William does not realize the trail will lead to the truth behind the death of Shakespeare’s great rival, Christopher Marlowe - or to a lifelong love affair with a woman far above his station. Each book tells the story of William’s adventures as England’s first gumshoe, set against turbulent Elizabethan politics; of his romantic pursuit of the impossible Elizabeth Talbot; while charting the career of his up and coming dramatist cousin, the bard of Stratford, but just Will to his family.

My Review
The William Shakespeare Detective Agency - The School of Night by Colin Falconer is a brief and entertaining read, and very quick to get into. Historical fiction is my favourite genre and so it should come as no surprise that I quivered with pleasure reading words like nosegay and cudgel in the same sentence!

Colin Falconer is a great writer and I enjoyed his novel When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra so much that's it's one of my top 50 books of all time. While enjoying The William Shakespeare Detective Agency, I was reminded of his writing prowess when I read the following line from page 11: "I had luck on my side," he said, squeezing out of the vocabularial corner in which he had placed himself.

Essentially, The William Shakespeare Detective Agency - The School of Night by Colin Falconer is a whodunnit set during the reign of Elizabeth I and featuring the great William Shakespeare as a supporting character. After reading the blurb above, you might be wondering if this works well, and I can assure you it does. Heartily recommended!

My rating = ****

Colin Falconer

About the Author
Born in London, Colin first trialled as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages. 

Colin travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz. He currently lives in Barcelona. For more information please visit Colin Falconer’s website. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

The School of Night Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, January 10 
Spotlight at Historical Readings and Views 
Monday, January 12 
Review at Flashlight Commentary 
Tuesday, January 13 
Spotlight at Layered Pages 
Thursday, January 15 
Interview at Teddy Rose Book Reviews 
Friday, January 16 
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews 
Monday, January 19 
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing 
Tuesday, January 20 
Review at Book Nerd 
Thursday, January 22 
Review at Just One More Chapter 
Friday, January 23 
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation 
Saturday, January 24 
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession 
Sunday, January 25 
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog 
Monday, January 26 
Review at Boom Baby Reviews 
Wednesday, January 28 
Review at Carpe Librum
Thursday, January 29 
Interview at Mina's Bookshelf 
Interview at Books and Benches 
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book 
Friday, January 30 
Review at Brooke Blogs 
Friday, February 6 
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

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27 January 2015

Winners of the Vanessa Skye Giveaway Announced (7 books up for grabs)

Last week, I published my biggest giveaway ever, in consultation with Australian crime author Vanessa Skye.

Entrants were asked to tell us about their perfect crime for a chance to win the following:

1. One of two signed, complete sets of the Edge of Darkness series of novels (The Enemy Inside, Broken and Bloodlines) written by Vanessa Skye.

2. One eBook copy of The Enemy Inside, the first in the series.

Vanessa reviewed all of your entries and allocated the prizes, so congratulations to the following three winners:
Marcia B
Jessica (frellathon)
ManyLivesinOne



Marcia B and Jessica have each won a signed complete set of The Edge of Darkness series of novels by Vanessa Skye. ManyLivesinOne has won an eBook copy of The Enemy Inside. Winners, please email me your postal address within the next 7 days to claim your prize.

Congratulations to all three winners, and to everyone else who entered. Thanks to Vanessa Skye for the generous prizes; you can visit her website for more information.

Carpe Librum!

24 January 2015

Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop 2015

It's Australia Day soon and I'm participating in the 2015 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop for the third year in a row.

The event is being hosted online by Book'd Out, and there are currently 41 Aussie bloggers, authors, booksellers and publishers offering great Australian themed giveaways and FREE stuff!

Carpe Librum is offering readers and followers the chance to WIN one of two prizes:
1st Prize
A $25 gift voucher from Boomerang Books.

2nd Prize
A brand new print copy of The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster.

To Enter: leave a comment in the form below and tell me what you're reading this Australia Day. 

Eligibility: open to those with an Australian postal address only and entries close at midnight, Tuesday 27th January 2015.

Winners: will be chosen by random.org and announced within 5 days and notified of their win via email. The winners will also be announced here on Carpe Librum in a follow up post.

Once you've entered, please click here to find other exciting Aussie giveaways on offer.

Happy Australia Day and Carpe Librum!

23 January 2015

The Girl on the Train: A Novel | Paula Hawkins

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley * 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was released last week and is already being called 'the next Gone Girl' by many reviewers. 

Rachel catches the same train into London each day and enjoys looking at the houses that go by and imagining the lives of those inside. One day, she sees something that will set an entire chain of events rolling which steadily build to a thrilling climax.

I can understand why early readers of The Girl on the Train are comparing it to Gone Girl, as it contains first person perspective from - in this case, several - female characters and is a thriller with a cracking pace. I enjoyed the flawed characters and the urban tension was palpable.

I groaned out loud at certain peak points in the novel when characters behaved against my advice (don't you hate that?) and didn't see any of the events coming. I also didn't work out 'whodunnit' either, which makes for an entertaining read.

The Girl on the Train is an impressive debut and I very much look forward to watching this author in the future.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

20 January 2015

Book Blast and Massive Giveaway of the Edge of Darkness Series of Books by Australian author Vanessa Skye (7 books up for grabs)

Book Blast
I'm pleased to introduce you to the Edge of Darkness series of crime novels and the australian author behind them Vanessa Skye. The series features a strong female antihero and you have the chance to win one of two complete autographed series (3 novels in the series). Also up for grabs is an an e-book copy of The Enemy Inside, so check out the details below and enter for your chance to WIN.

The Enemy Inside
While exploring the darkness in others, Detective Alicia Raymond discovers her own. Chicago Detective Alicia Raymond, a.k.a. Berg, medicates her deeply buried depression and a brutal past with an obsessive desire to track down killers. Bringing murderers to justice is the only thing in her life worth living for.

So when she sympathises with a vigilante who is exacting sadistic revenge, Berg faces a perilous choice: surrender to the powerful evil inside, or finally acknowledge the past she would rather ignore.


Like Dexter and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Enemy Inside challenges the concept of justice, asks if the need for vengeance sometimes justifies murder, and explores whether you can ever heal from a broken childhood.


Broken

A Chicago mother is murdered in a robbery gone wrong...
A teenager is raped and beaten, her life hanging by a thread...

For Chicago Detective Alicia Raymond, a.k.a Berg, the need for justice burns deep and fills the emptiness when therapy and relationships fall short. And while Berg wages a life or death battle against a sociopath who is always two steps ahead, an old adversary will stop at nothing to end her career.


As Berg fights to prevent another murder, she will cross the line between hero and villain—and there’s no turning back.


Bloodlines

Following the acclaimed debut of The Enemy Inside and its sequel, Broken, comes the stunning conclusion to The Edge of Darkness series by investigative journalist Vanessa Skye, Bloodlines.
Bloodlines was released
January 15, 2015

Detective Alicia “Berg” Raymond is lying. She’s lying to the Chicago Police Department, to her boyfriend, Captain Jay O’Loughlin, but most of all, she is lying to herself—about her past, her future, and her addiction.


As Berg investigates a series of brutal rapes, she juggles finding justice for the victims, keeping her own sordid past buried, and wrapping her damaged head around living in a state of domestic bliss she’s certain she doesn’t deserve.

But when enemies from the past threaten her present, she is once again vulnerable to the demons that have plagued her. It’s only a matter of time before the lies unravel and destroy the fairy tale she’s finally started believing.


Can she save anyone from the lurking darkness or will her own bloodlines drag her under—this time for good?


Up for Grabs
1. One of two signed, complete sets of the Edge of Darkness series of novels (The Enemy Inside, Broken and Bloodlines) written by Vanessa Skye.
2. One eBook copy of The Enemy Inside, the first in the series.

Giveaway
To enter: please leave a comment below in answer to the following question if you could carry out the perfect crime, what would it be?
Eligibility: the giveaway for print copies (signed complete series) is open to Australian residents only, however the eBook is open internationally. (If you are an international entrant, please indicate in your comment below).
Entries close: midnight Monday 26th January, Australia Day

Winners: will be selected in consultation with the author and announced here on Carpe Librum. Winners will have 7 days to email me their postal address or an alternate winner will need to be selected.  Good luck!

If you can't wait, The Enemy Inside is available for only 99c from Jan 8-29 from Amazon and Kobo for $1.05.

About the Author
Vanessa Skye has always had a love of words and spent her school years writing poetry, speeches and fictional essays. 
Author, Vanessa Skye

After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Print Journalism and studying Psychology at Charles Sturt University, Vanessa worked for 4 years as a journalist at Rural Press.

Thousands of stories later, she found herself studying a Master of Arts in Communication in Sydney and trying her hand at public relations. A few years later and Vanessa found herself studying various psychology subjects while managing a Sydney PR firm. Enthralled with examining the motivations behind people’s actions, Vanessa realised her dream in life was to combine her love of words with her fascination for human behaviour.

So Vanessa quit her PR career to begin the significantly more impoverished life of a professional writer and lives in Sydney’s northern beaches. You can find out more at www.vanessa-skye.com

16 January 2015

Review: Alex Cross, Run | James Patterson

Alex Cross, Run is the 20th novel in the crime series by James Patterson to feature Detective Alex Cross and was a solid addition to the series. I've only missed 4 books in the series so far, and have managed to keep up with what's happening as many of the novels can be read as a stand alone. 

Alex Cross hasn't changed much; he's still a workaholic, spends little time with his family and even less time on the basics (including sleep). Nana Mama (well into her 90s now) is the glue of the family, and it continues to annoy me how reliant Alex is on his family to continue with their lives with so little input from him.

Having said that, the situations Alex finds himself in Alex Cross, Run highlight his weaknesses and make for interesting reading as a consequence. There are two consecutive plot threads, the first concerns the murders Cross is called to investigate and the second (and what really held my attention) relates to a stalker who is keen on destroying his life.

Still to come in the series are Cross My Heart (#21) Hope to Die (#22), which I'm yet to discover.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

11 January 2015

Sign up for Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2015 & Completion of 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2015 Challenge
This year the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2015 is going to be hosted by Passages to the Past for the first time.

To complete the challenge, readers need to choose one of the following reading levels: 

20th century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

I've decided to sign up for the Medieval level again this year and will need to read 15 historical fiction novels to be successful.

2014 Challenge
I should mention that I successfully completed the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge in 2014 and read the following books:

1.  The Gods of Heavenly Punishment | Jennifer Cody Epstein
2.  Isabella: Braveheart of France | Colin Falconer
3.  The Sin Eater | Sarah Rayne
4.  Burial Rites | Hannah Kent
5.  The Silence | Sarah Rayne
6.  The Whispering | Sarah Rayne
7.  Secrecy | Rupert Thomson
8.  The Ghost of the Mary Celeste | Valerie Martin
9.  The Silversmith's Wife | Sophia Tobin
10. Lady of Ashes | Christine Trent
11. Pure | Andrew Miller
12. Child 44 | Tom Rob Smith
13. The Tournament | Matthew Reilly
14. Jane | Robin Maxwell
15. The Lady of the Rivers | Philippa Gregory

Additional books read for the challenge:
16. The Secrets of Casanova | Greg Michaels
17. Baudelaire's Revenge | Bob Van Laerhoven
18. The Unquiet Bones | Mel Starr
19. Libby Morgan: Reunion | Leah A. Zieber
20. The Winter Palace | Eva Stachniak

Last year's challenge was hosted by Historical Tapestry and I'm looking forward to the challenge now being hosted in 2015 by Passages to the Past. It should be another year of great books.

10 January 2015

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn & Movie Adaptation

I think it's fair to say that Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was the 'it book' in 2012, and has now been made into a successful film featuring Ben Affleck.

Background
I didn't read Gone Girl when it was on top of the bestseller lists in 2012 and 2013 and am only coming to it now. I never like to be a 'sheep in the crowd' and if a book becomes too trendy it becomes a bit of a turn off for me and I prefer to see if it lasts the test of time before giving it a chance.

Well, Gone Girl has definitely gone the distance and the film adaptation of the novel is also receiving great reviews, so it was time for me to see what all the fuss was about.

Book Review
The only thing I knew going into Gone Girl was that there was a 'twist' of some sort and an unreliable narrator. This knowledge did not spoil the plot for me at all and I was equally surprised by both.

Nick and Amy were a fascinating couple and the thrilling plot kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn't like the ending (because of my bias for one of the characters) but as far as a book ending goes, it was brilliant; satisfying in that we know everything and there are no questions left unanswered, but frustrating in the predicament of one of the characters and the triumph of another.

I'll say no more, other than I now see why Gone Girl has continued to feature in top 10 lists and is a favourite of many of my bookish friends.


My rating = ****

Movie Review
I watched the movie version of Gone Girl relatively soon after finishing the novel, and I was very pleased to find it kept so closely to the book. With a run time of 2 hours and 25 minutes, there was plenty of time to do the different story arcs justice and the actors cast in the roles of Amy and Nick were very convincing.

I watched it with someone who had not read the book, and they had to revise their theory of 'who did it' several times, having no clue what was going to happen next, which was exactly how I felt reading the book.

Whether you read the book or choose to see the movie instead, Gone Girl is a great thriller and I highly recommend it!

Carpe Librum!

08 January 2015

Review: The Winter Palace - A Novel of Catherine the Great | Eva Stachniak

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is an historical fiction novel set in Russia during the rise of Catherine the Great.

Court life during the period (1730s - 1760s) is seen through the eyes of Varvara, servant and spy to Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Daughter of Peter the Great, the Empress is brilliantly portrayed as a vain and eccentric woman, taking many lovers and always surrounded by her cats when Varvara arrives at the palace as a newly orphaned young girl just trying to survive.

Prior to picking up this novel by Eva Stachniak, my knowledge of this period in Russia was limited, although I was inspired to find out more, learning the Winter Palace (of the title) is real and the novel is based on historical fact.

Although the title states that The Winter Palace is A Novel of Catherine The Great, I personally found it was Varvara's story first, Empress Elizabeth's second and Catherine's third. This didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the novel however, and I found myself looking forward to picking it up during the hot summer weeks over Christmas.

Catherine the Great comes to power in 1762 and goes on to rule for another 30+ years beyond the ending of the novel and I've since learned there is a sequel called Empress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the Great. Published in 2013, it is narrated by Catherine the Great herself and I'm very tempted to add it to my TBR pile straight away.

Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and court intrigue, spies, ambition, loyalty and betrayal.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

Click here to buy a copy of The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, from Boomerang Books.

06 January 2015

Sign up for 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge

Today I'm joining the 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge, hosted by the Introverted Reader.

Here are the challenge levels:
Dilettante: read 1-5 non fiction books
Explorer: read 6-10 non fiction books
Seeker: read 11-15 non fiction books
Master: read 16-20 non fiction books

Last year I read 16 non fiction books and currently have 11 on my TBR list, so have decided to sign up for the Seeker level. To be successful, I'll need to read between 11-15 non fiction books this year to complete the challenge.

You can follow my progress on my 2015 Challenges page where I'll be listing my reads and linking my reviews as the year progresses.

If you'd like to join me and motivate yourself to read more non fiction this year just click here.

Carpe Librum!

03 January 2015

Sign up for 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge

I enjoyed completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge last year so am officially signing up for the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge

I'll be committing to the Franklin level to read 10 books by Australian women and to review at least 6 of them. The challenge is open now and closes on 31 December 2015 so click here if you want to join me or find out more.

You can follow @auswomenwriters on Twitter and use the tag #aww2015 to follow along.

Carpe Librum!

02 January 2015

Review: The Secret Life of Sleep | Kat Duff

I borrowed The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff from the library in order to read more about one of my favourite topics (sleep) and to find out why some people (like my husband) wake up before dawn and can't go back to sleep - even though they're tired.

The Secret Life of Sleep is a fascinating read, and along the way I learned that the term for the sudden leg jerk that happens as you're falling asleep is called myoclonic kick or sleep start. We've all experienced this phenomenon: it feels like you're falling and jerk awake to stop yourself, getting a fright in the process. 

I bet you didn't know though that the split-second dream you have of falling prior to the primitive reflex (leg jerk) is derived by our brain to explain the sensation. You might think the dream has caused the jerk to occur, but it's actually the other way around, absolutely fascinating!! (All explained in detail on Page 6).

Duff also elaborates on one of the most common themes in my dreams (hurried movement) in the following quote from Page 163:
"One of the most commonly described features of dreaming is the sense of hurried movement. It seems we are always jumping, falling, flying, running, or driving in our dreams, and if we finally come to a standstill, we usually wake up. We repeatedly encounter novel, confusing, and disturbing situations, get lost and run late, forever trying to get ourselves properly oriented in time and space." Page 163
Here's another great tidbit from the book:
"Research indicates that many of us do not reach our full abilities for two hours after waking, something [to] try to remember in morning traffic." Page 188
I also enjoyed reading about something I've been able to do for years, and that's manipulate my dreams. If I wake up during a dream, I'm able to go 'back in' and keep going with the theme/topic to enjoy it, or go 'back in' and change it to a better outcome (e.g. if I'm dreaming a loved one is hurt, I can go in and change the dream so that it doesn't happen). Kat Duff calls this ability lucid dreaming and Charles Dickens was a lucid dreamer; who knew?

The Secret Life of Sleep is an easy look at the ins and outs of sleep and dreaming, including the problems we have now in getting enough quality sleep, the use of stimulants and sleeping pills and the pressure to work on fewer hours of rest. This is a great read, my only wish would have been fewer personal anecdotes from the author; some were extremely relevant and interesting and others could have been edited out.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum & Sweet Dreams!