31 December 2016

Review: Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster Australia *

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger is about a young woman (Finley) with a paranormal gift who finds herself involved in the search for a missing girl. Finley's grandmother is a well-known psychic who often helps a local detective but Finley isn't ready to listen to her gift.

The disappearance of the young girl soon spirals into the investigation of several disappearances in The Hollows in upstate New York. Eerie scenes in the woods and a dark and fearful first person point of view from the missing girl create a palpable feeling of suspense.

I'm a real Johnny-come-lately when it comes to author Lisa Unger. Some of her 14 novels have come across my radar in the past - and I've been aware of her popularity amongst fellow readers for a long time - but Ink and Bone is the first novel of hers I've read. I really enjoy the 'crime meets paranormal' genre, and I'm excited to check out her back catalogue.

Part crime novel, part paranormal thriller, I thoroughly enjoyed Ink and Bone and can recommend it widely to fans of the crime genre who don't mind a tattooed female protagonist coming to grips with her abilities and trying to do good in the world.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!


P.S. Finally I've found an author who can write a female main character with a 'gift' just as well as Melanie Casey's Cass Lehman series. The reverse is also true, if you're an established fan of Lisa Unger and you can't wait for her next book, check out Aussie author Melanie Casey.

27 December 2016

Review: The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

I can't tell you how much I love reading Philippa Gregory's books. In fact, she's getting very close to dethroning Anne Rice as my favourite author of all time. Wow.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is the story of Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick (named the Kingmaker) who successfully survived a forced marriage and subsequent widowhood, then navigated the deadly politics of the time; which included changing allegiances and the execution of her father.


Anne Neville became Queen of England in 1483, but even knowing the historical outcome in advance didn't stop me from being gripped by her journey to the throne as told by the author.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is the fourth book in the Cousins' War series, however it can easily be read out of sequence and as a stand alone novel.

In a period where parents named their children after their fathers or the king, many of the characters share the same name. But don't panic, Gregory always manages to keep the characters separate in the reader's minds. This is a difficult feat and not one easily achieved by other historical fiction authors I've read; and I've read quite a few!

If you have even the slightest interest in the history of the period (mid to late 1400s England) then you are in the safest of hands with Philippa Gregory. She has a natural gift for making any period in history relatable and easy to follow despite the complexities of the times. Whenever I pick up one of her novels I'm thoroughly transported, entertained and educated without even realising it.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is outstanding, I loved loved loved it!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

(The only reason this won't feature in my top 5 books of 2016 list is because I've already included a Philippa Gregory novel in the list).

22 December 2016

2016 Australian Women Writers Challenge Completed

Really happy to complete the first of my three reading challenges this year, the 2016 Australian Women Writers Challenge. I signed up for the Franklin level (highest level) at the beginning of the year and had to read 10 books by Australian women and review at least 6 of them to be successful.

Here's what I read for the challenge:

1.  Missing | Melanie Casey
2.  All These Perfect Strangers | Aoife Clifford
3.  The Golden Day | Ursula Dubosarsky
4.  Precious Things | Kelly Doust
5.  The Twisted Knot | J.M. Peace
6.  Out of the Ice | Ann Turner
7.  The Good People | Hannah Kent
8.  The Troubles Keeper | Susan May
9.  Beyond the Orchard | Anna Romer
10. Southern Ruby | Belinda Alexandra
11. The Better Son | Katherine Johnson

I might be able to squeeze one more in before the year is over, but my favourite book for the challenge - strangely enough - was the first one I read, Missing by Melanie Casey.


I'll be signing up again soon to participate in 2017, so have a think about whether you want to join me or not. It's lots of fun and there's so many great Australian books written by female authors out there to discover. I wonder what will be next year's favourite.

Carpe Librum!

20 December 2016

Review: The Better Son by Katherine Johnson

* Copy courtesy of Ventura *

The Better Son is set in 1950s northern Tasmania and is written by Australian author Katherine Johnson.

Essentially it's a story about two young boys who live on a dairy farm in Mole Creek and discover a hidden cave on their farm. Tommy and Kip retreat to the cave whenever they can escape their farm chores and explore the huge caverns, myriad tunnels, passages and underground rivers within. One day Tommy goes missing and Kip lies to his parents about what happened.

Tommy's disappearance and Kip's subsequent lie change his life from that moment and continue to haunt him for the next fifty years. The Better Son sees Kip facing the past in order to become a better person and a better father to his family.

The Better Son has won a number of prizes, and I can certainly see why. Johnson's writing is dark and atmospheric and the descriptions of a small dairy farming community and the secret underground world the boys discover really come alive on the page. I could hear the echoes of the boys' laughter, experience their awe and wonder at the huge caverns and immense stalactites, and yes, I even felt claustrophobic in a few places as well.

Johnson was inspired to write this novel after learning about two boys who discovered a cave in 1906. The boys kept the cave a secret for years, and it's now a popular tourist site in Tasmania's popular. This information adds yet another layer to the story.

The Better Son is a dark mystery that explores the power of secrets, guilt and regret on a family and the Tasmanian setting is unforgettable. Oh, and that cover!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

15 December 2016

Review: Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I only learned about ex-cop Roger Rogerson when the murder of Jamie Gao hit the news in 2014. I remember being astounded to see the CCTV footage of Rogerson and another ex-copper (Glen McNamara) disposing of Jamie Gao's body and wondering how this could have happened. How could two Australian Policemen become killers, and how could they be so stupid as to be caught on CCTV?

I picked up Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab in an attempt to understand these questions and my curiosity has now been satisfied.


Duncan McNab is a former police detective and private investigator and he utilises these skills to give the reader a summary of Rogerson's colourful career, including his time in the police force, his criminal activity and jail time leading up to the murder of Jamie Gao.

Plenty of cops - and criminals - are mentioned throughout, and several criminal and court cases are included and outlined. As a reader only interested in the murder of Jamie Gao, the background was moderately interesting, but difficult to keep up with. Without knowing the various 'players' or anything about the NSW Police Force or alleged corruption within, I did feel bogged down at times.

My interest picked up again at the arrest for the murder of Jamie Gao and the content that followed. I was also interested in the relationship between Rogerson and McNamara and how these two teamed up. 


However I felt the book was building towards the guilty verdict and because McNab himself rushed to the court to hear the verdict, his delivery of the verdict in the book is likewise delivered in a rush. This created a complete anti-climax and what should have been a 'hurrah' moment, instead fell flat.

Perhaps Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab is better suited to readers who either served in the police force, worked in the legal system or conducted criminal activity in the last 30-40 years. Readers with a personal or connected interest in Roger Rogerson may get more out of reading this account than I was able to.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

13 December 2016

Three winners of Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win one of three ebook copies of Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 9 December, and congratulations to the following winners:
Les
John Dede*
Margot Korbell
hargrek

Congratulations, you'll each receive an email from me shortly with the details. Thanks again to the author, Rachel Amphlett for these prizes.

* After learning of his win, John Dede contacted me to say that he'd already purchased a copy of Scared to Death and wanted to give his prize to the next person, and that lucky person - via random draw - is Les. Congratulations Les!


Carpe Librum!

09 December 2016

Review: Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates

Aokigahara is a real forest located in Japan (often called the demon forest) where a large number of people go to commit suicide each year. Jeremy Bates has chosen this location as his setting for the aptly named Suicide Forest, part psychological thriller part horror novel.

I've always been fascinated by this place, and some of you might remember Aokigahara was mentioned in my review of Atlas of Improbable Places - A Journey to the World's Most Unusual Corners by Travis Elborough and Alan Horsfield last month.


Well, reading about the place in the Atlas is what prompted me to bump this book up the list in my TBR pile and I'm so glad I did.


From the blurb alone, you might be expecting a B grade thriller without substance, but you'd be dead wrong. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and the sense of foreboding was as palpable as if it were written by the pen of Stephen King.

The forest and the geography of the landscape is the most haunting element of Suicide Forest, and what happens to the young tourists who visit to check it out gives the reader definite cause for concern. There are also many light moments to offset the grim and frightening surrounds and the dialogue between the tourists often had me chuckling aloud.

Suicide Forest is the first novel in the World's Scariest Places series by Bates and is a ripping read. I encourage those who may not read from this genre to ignore the cover and plunge right in.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

07 December 2016

Interview with Australian author Belinda Alexandra

Australian author
Belinda Alexandra
Last month I reviewed Southern Ruby by accomplished Australian author Belinda Alexandra. Today she joins me on the blog to talk about New Orleans and all things books! Welcome Belinda.

Why did you choose New Orleans for the setting of Southern Ruby? You really made it come alive on the page, what do you like about this location? 
Thank you! I think New Orleans is one of the most inspiring places to write about. The history and culture – with its French, Spanish, Caribbean, African and Native American influences – is so rich. It is unlike the other more conservative Southern cities. I also am very attracted to the inhabitants’ sense of joie de vivre and fascinated by how superstitious they are – everything from mixing voodoo in with their staunch Catholicism to their unwavering belief in ghosts (New Orleans is meant to be America’s most haunted city). 

I read that you 'research your books almost like an actress preparing to play a part.' What research did you undertake to write Southern Ruby
As well as all the research reading, I listened to the music of the city (in the case of Southern Ruby this was a lot of early jazz), read the books that people were reading in the period I was writing about, the newspapers of the time, tested out the foods and talked to the people who had lived through Hurricane Katrina. I made a research trip to New Orleans with my husband, Mauro, and we stayed in an original Queen Anne period home in the Garden District, which is the style of home the Lalande family have in Southern Ruby.

You've had at least 7 books published so far (congratulations)! What kinds of stories are you drawn to? 
Thank you! I love what might be termed ‘coming of age’ novels. I love stories about people who make a journey in life and how that journey and the people they meet on it change them. I think my Russian heritage also draws me to epic stories where life is revealed in all its glory – both the laughter and the tears. My stories can be an emotional roller coaster ride, but I like to leave my readers feeling truly satisfied.

What was the last truly great book that you read? 
It wasn’t a novel but a very simple book titled The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie used to be a palliative care nurse, and in the book she conveys the top five regrets the terminally ill patients who she cared for wanted to convey to those of us who are healthy and still living. My heart was in my throat so often that  I could only read a small section at a time. Those reaching the end of their lives are often our greatest teachers in how to truly live.

What classic book have you started but never manage to finish? 
Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
Me too, I don't think I even got to the half way mark (blushing).

Do you have any literary influences or favourite authors? (Have you read any Anne Rice novels?) 
Charles Dickens was a huge influence on me. He is the king of the coming of age story and he created his characters with such love, even the wicked ones. When I was in New Orleans, I did make a point of going to visit Anne Rice’s old home in the Garden District where she wrote the Mayfair Witches. I didn’t read her novels while writing Southern Ruby because I wanted to interpret New Orleans my own way, but now the book is done I think I’m going to start with The Feast of All Saints.
I really hope you like her work, Anne Rice is one of my favourite authors and she writes about New Orleans so well. 

What are you reading at the moment? 
I’ve just finished The Dry by Jane Harper – a fantastic Australian crime story!
That one's in my TBR pile and I hear it's a great read, so I'm looking forward to it.

What's next? What are you working on at the moment?
I’m busy with my new novel, which is a murder mystery set in New York!

Thanks so much for joining us Belinda, and good luck for your next novel, although something tells me you won't need it. Visit Belinda's website for more information on her books.

Carpe Librum!

05 December 2016

Review: Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin

RRP $16.99 AUD
Published October 2016
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin is laugh out loud funny and is a book for book-lovers, teachers, librarians, grammarians and pedants everywhere; provided you're not offended by the 'f' word that is.

This is a stunning A6 size clothbound guide to the correct use of apostrophes that makes for very entertaining reading.

Griffin uses contemporary and up to the minute references to current affairs to demonstrate both correct and incorrect usage of the apostrophe and it makes for very easy reading.

Griffin's sense of humour shines through on every page, however he also manages to present a handy educational tool that's easily referenced and a pleasure to dip into again.

This little gem no doubt falls into the gift book genre, but could easily sit under the self-help or writing genre.

I loved Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin and recommend it widely. Only for adult audiences though.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

02 December 2016

Friday Freebie to WIN one of 3 e-book copies of Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett in this blog tour

RRP GBP3.99
(Approx $6.75AUD)
* Copy courtesy of the author *
Great to be part of this blog tour to launch Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett. Enter below to win one of three ebook copies.

Blurb
A serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession. When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun...

Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…


Bio

Before moving to Australia in 2005, Rachel Amphlett lived in the UK and helped run a pub, played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant. Not necessarily in that order.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys skiing, horse-riding, going to the cinema (thrillers being a favourite!), playing guitar, reading (of course), and writing (another no-brainer).

Giveaway




30 November 2016

Review: Made in the Office - Tasty & Hasty Meals with Just a Kettle, Toaster & Microwave by Rachel Maylor

* Copy courtesy of Murdoch Books *

Do you keep balsamic vinegar in your desk drawer? Do you grate garlic or lemon zest at work? If you have a sieve and a whisk and don't mind dicing onions and cooking chicken in the microwave, then this book is for you. If you have buckwheat, agave nectar, almond milk, chia seeds or cacao powder in your pantry (or know where to find them) then you're definitely the target audience for Made in the Office by Rachel Maylor.

If, however, you're like me and you don't fancy eating cooked beetroot or fresh garlic at work and don't have time to whisk up a delicious dressing in your lunch break then you're not alone.

When I picked up Made in the Office I was eager to discover lunch hacking recipes and inspiring new ways to prepare food using a kettle, toaster and microwave. There were glimpses of the kind of content I was hoping to find and the instructions for poaching an egg in a mug in the microwave were excellent. The cake in a mug recipes were fun and the water infusion suggestions were interesting, but overall I wasn't impressed with Made in the Office, despite it's delightful presentation.

If you're a foodie at home with pomegranate seeds, take a lemon or lime to work every day and enjoy eating out of a jar, then you'll find this book - and the recipes within - irresistible.

On the other hand, if it's inspiration and 'lunch hacks' you seek, then you'll need to join me and look elsewhere.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

29 November 2016

Winner of Pounce by Seth Casteel announced

Thanks to the catlovers and booklovers who entered my paw-some (awesome) giveaway last week to win a copy of Pounce by Seth Casteel. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 25 November and I enjoyed reading through your favourite cat names. Congratulations to:
Julia Persico

Julia's favourite cat name was: Cheshire Cat. Philosophical yet lovable, and sometimes simply not all there. I think we all have a little Cheshire in us! Congratulations Julia, you'll receive an email shortly and will have 7 days to provide me with your postal address. Thanks again to Hachette Australia for this prize.

Here are some of the other cat names worth a mention:
- Garfield
- Mogget
- Felix, yes I can hear the music now
- Amber, my beautiful cat who died this year
- Lucy, still alive and just like the song!
- Thomasima
- Greyem
- Panda, my recently belated pet cat
- Pcat, the P was silent, short for PsychoCat
- Mrs. Norris
- Sooty
- Simba

Carpe Librum!

21 November 2016

Review: Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra

* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins Australia *

Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra is an excellent read, but I have to say it has the most misleading book cover I've seen in a long time. You could be forgiven for assuming Southern Ruby is a romance novel, however what you'll find instead is a steamy mystery set in New Orleans just prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Amanda is the protagonist and the family matriarch Ruby takes her back to the 1950s to fill in details of her family history.

Southern Ruby is brimming with themes of forbidden love, identity and family, loss, class, racial conflict, jazz and burlesque dancing and I really enjoyed it. Southern Ruby also touches on an event in recent history I'm fascinated by, and that's Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans could easily be considered the third character in the novel and a place I've always been fascinated by. One of my favourite authors - Anne Rice - has expertly captured the essence of New Orleans in her writing, however Belinda Alexandra is the first author to come close to equalling her talent on the page in my opinion.

I enjoyed discovering a new (to me) Australian author in Belinda Alexandra and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

18 November 2016

Friday Freebie to WIN a copy of Pounce by Seth Casteel

RRP $29.99 AUD
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

This giveaway is for all you cat lovers out there! Click here for a sneak peek, and be sure to enter the giveaway below.

Blurb

Photographer Seth Casteel's underwater photographs of dogs and babies have captivated an international audience. Now, Seth has found the perfect way to capture our other best friends: cats!

A beautiful, funny gift book with more than 70 previously unpublished photographs, Pounce reveals adorable cats and kittens as they pounce and jump through the air, arms outstretched - all in Casteel's signature up-close, mid-action style.

Author Bio
Seth Casteel is an award-winning photographer and the author of the national bestseller Underwater Dogs, Underwater Puppies, and Underwater Babies. His photographs of babies and animals have been featured in international media. He lives in California.

Giveaway

16 November 2016

Winner of The Tao Deception by John M. Green announced

Thanks to those who entered my international giveaway last week to win a copy of The Tao Deception by John M. Green. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 11 November and I know you've been eagerly awaiting the outcome. Without further ado, congratulations to our winner:
Anne Hutton
Congratulations Anne, you'll receive an email shortly and will have 7 days to provide me with your postal address. Thanks again to Pantera Press for this prize.

If you missed out, you can still check out the free extract here.

Carpe Librum!

14 November 2016

Personal mention in The Troubles Keeper by Susan May

You all know I love to read and review books here on Carpe Librum. What you might not know is that I have my own business and proofreading and editing is a big part of it.

So when Aussie author Susan May asked me to read and review her latest novel The Troubles Keeper and promised to include an excerpt of my review in the beginning of her book, how could I resist? 

Susan was once a book reviewer too so she just 'gets us' and promising to mention each reviewer in her book was a brilliant and irresistible incentive. I've never seen it done before, but judging by how successful it's been for Susan, I can imagine other authors employing the same approach in the future.

The image below is an excerpt from her Acknowledgements section in The Troubles Keeper and you can see my good self mentioned there.


Susan also asked reviewers to point out any typos they found along the way and has generously thanked each proofreader by name at the end of The Troubles Keeper.


As a bibliophile and lover of books, it's such a thrill to be mentioned and thanked in a book. Thanks so much to Susan May for being so generous with her reviewers and understanding what makes us bloggers tick.

Carpe Librum!

04 November 2016

Friday Freebie and Review of The Tao Deception by John M. Green

RRP $29.99 AUD
* Copy courtesy of Pantera Press *

Blurb
World leaders are being systematically assassinated by toxic gas delivered by drone, and more are threatened with the same fate.

An obscure group of Chinese terrorists claims responsibility. But are the Ten Brothers - a secret circle of China’s political, military and business elite - using these terrorists as a cover to justify the assassination of China’s President and the overthrow of Beijing as part of a plot to forge a ‘new China’? Could their attempt at a rebirth of their nation spell annihilation for the rest of the world?

Once again, ex-CIA operative, Dr Tori Swyft finds herself embroiled in the middle of this explosive conspiracy. Can she survive long enough to thwart the Ten Brothers in spite of their repeated efforts to remove her from the picture?


My Review
The Tao Deception is the second novel to feature Australian ex-spy Tori Swyft although it can easily be read as a stand alone. Packed full of action and danger and the occasional one-liners, this eco-political thriller powers along at a great speed of knots. 

Drones? Check. Spies? Check. Hackers? Check. Oh, and another bonus, my favourite character from Born to Run - Davey - is back for a few pages. He's the deaf son of President Isabel Diaz, the main character of Born to Run who also makes an appearance here.
My autographed copy of
The Tao Deception

If you like the writing style and running gun battles of Matthew Reilly or the spy thrillers of Robert Ludlum, then you'll love The Tao Deception. The book is being promoted as The Da Vinci Code meets James Bond and I don't disagree. Tori Swyft is the female James Bond. It's not my usual genre, but The Tao Deception certainly kept me entertained.

I'm in the process of interviewing the Sydney based author John M. Green for Boomerang Books at the moment, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, please enter below to win a copy of The Tao Deception for yourself or a loved one.

Click here to read a FREE extract.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Giveaway

31 October 2016

Review and Blog Tour: Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Today I'm participating in the blog tour for Beyond the Orchard by Australian author Anna Romer, author of Thornwood House.

Blurb
Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancĂ© in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.

Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.

Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something – an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.

Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.

And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.

My Review
Beyond the Orchard is an historical novel with dual time frames, a crumbling estate called Bitterwood (great name right?) and family secrets of love, grief and guilt to discover.

Distinctly Australian, I loved the early references to places in Melbourne I instantly recognised, including: Dandenong Road, Elsternwick, Prahran, Geelong and the Great Ocean Road. It certainly gave me a buzz to see Lucy visit these familiar places.

However what hampered my enjoyment further was the sheer number of character points of view combined with the multiple different time frames. Looking back, I counted at least four time periods (1917/1918, 1929/1930, 1977 and 1993) at least five different character perspectives and the manuscript of a fairytale entwined with the story. This was just too much for me.

With all of this going on, the fairytale didn't work for me, the romance didn't interest me and I found it hard to accept the ending. (Peace? I don't think so! Not a spoiler, but hopefully those on the blog tour who have read it will know what I'm referring to here.) 

The strongest part of the novel by far was the story of Orah, and I would have preferred to read her story over that of Lucy unravelling her family history at Bitterwood any day. Orah was a fascinating character who really came alive on the page. Her rescue had me gasping in suspense and I found her story moving and definitely memorable.

I haven't read Thornwood House, so I can't compare it to this, but Beyond the Orchard will appeal to readers of Australian fiction and fans of Kate Morton.


My rating = ***


Carpe Librum!

Check out the next stop on the blog tour here on 2 November.

25 October 2016

Review: Atlas of Improbable Places - A Journey to the World's Most Unusual Corners by Travis Elborough & Alan Horsfield

* Copy courtesy of Murdoch Books *

The Atlas of Improbable Places - A Journey to the World's Most Unusual Corners by Travis Elborough is a stunning hardcover book with maps from Alan Horsfield.

This collection of deserted islands, subterranean secrets and bizarre and strange locations around the world is broken down into categories, including: Deserted Destinations, Architectural Oddities, Floating Worlds, Otherworldly Spaces (my favourite) among others.

The lack of colour photographs often had me seeking more information online, however some of the highlights of the book for me included the following places:
  • Slab City in California, USA (squatter metropolis)
  • Battleship Island, Japan (deserted mining settlement)
  • Oradour-sur-Glane, France (village abandoned since WWII)
  • Wittenoom, Western Australia (asbestos town)
  • The Kingdom of Redonda, Caribbean (uninhabited island)
  • Poveglia Island, Italy (former plague quarantine island)
  • Aokigahara, Japan (the demon forest)
With such a stunning cover and dust jacket (complete with gold foiling), not to mention the beautiful cartography end papers, I'm at a complete loss as to why the photos are black and white. Colour photographs would have enhanced this Atlas ten-fold and their absence is the only reason I'm giving a rating of 4 stars instead of 5 stars.

Atlas of Improbable Places is recommended for readers curious about the world around them and the strange impact humans have on their environment. Also recommended for those who enjoy travel, geography and history. Great coffee table book too.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

21 October 2016

Review: Embroidered Home by Kelly Fletcher

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Embroidered Home by Kelly Fletcher contains a collection of contemporary embroidery designs to decorate the home.

Broken down into categories like bold, country, vintage, festive (and more) this is an easy and enjoyable read.

The stitch directory in the beginning of the book is helpful and contains diagrams useful for beginners and the more experienced stitcher.

Each project comes with easy enough to follow instructions and the highlight of the book, stunning photographs.

However, the gardening tool roll and the picnic blanket strap resulted in this reviewer deducting a full star from my original rating. The impracticality of a gardener rolling up their tools in a linen embroidered tool roll or picnic goers rolling their blanket and strapping it into a holder with a handle so that they could carry it was too much for me to believe.

At a price point of $45AUD, I think Embroidered Home by Kelly Fletcher will make a beautiful gift for a loved one, but the everyday crafter or reader may prefer to borrow a copy from their local library.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

16 October 2016

Review: Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen

Having enjoyed Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh so much earlier this year, I was keen to read Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen.

Sarah Andersen comes across as a somewhat shy and reclusive cartoonist and illustrator with a great sense of humour (often self-deprecating) and I enjoyed her collection of work here.

Adulthood is a Myth can be read in a single sitting, however I preferred to enjoy a few pages at a time and space it out rather than reading it all at once.

Here's just a taste of her style and sense of her humour.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!



13 October 2016

Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

The Wonder is an historical fiction novel set in 1850s Ireland written by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room.

Nurse Elizabeth Wright is sent to a small village in Ireland to monitor the condition of Anna, a young girl who claims to live on the love of God alone; not needing food or water in order to survive. Is it a hoax or is Anna a Saint in the making? 

So begins a two week continual 'watch' of the eleven year-old girl, shared with Sister Michael. Nurse Wright begins her task expecting to uncover a fraud, but things aren't as they seem. Anna is deeply devout and as such the novel contains a lot of religious content and context, all offset against Nurse Wright's struggle to comprehend Anna's spiritual devotion.

A fictional story inspired by the true case history of fasting girls in the 1800s, I was glad to learn more about this phenomenon. I did want to know more about the nun Sister Michael and even a chapter or two from her perspective would have added to my enjoyment of the novel.

On the other hand, I could easily have done without the character of the journalist in The Wonder - although I could somewhat appreciate his purpose - that relationship was superfluous to the story in my opinion. (In fact, the journalist is responsible for the deduction of a full star in my star rating below).

Claims this novel is a psychological thriller are misplaced in my opinion. The Wonder is certainly a compelling mystery, but the nature of the 'watch' and the religious content means the pace works steadily towards the denouement.

I recommend The Wonder to historical fiction readers and if you enjoy the work of Hannah Kent, I think you'll like this one too. It certainly has one of my favourite book covers of the year.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

09 October 2016

Review: Ink and Bone - The Great Library by Rachel Caine

The Great Library of Alexandria was the greatest and most significant library in the world, however 2000 years ago the library and thousands of priceless scrolls were destroyed by fire.

In her novel Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine has imagined a world where the Alexandria Library wasn't destroyed and remains a prominent force in society.

For some reason, I mistakenly thought this book was an historical fiction novel, and it took me a while to adjust my expectations to what I consider to be a YA fantasy novel.

With students going through a somewhat gruelling selection process to become a librarian, it had a very YA / Harry Potter vibe.

Ink and Bone has automatons and alchemy and book lovers will no doubt enjoy the references to 'the library' but will need to keep an open mind with regard to the world-building.

Ink and Bone is the first in a series of more than 3 books, however the world-building just wasn't what I was expecting and I never really felt 'at home' so I won't be continuing any further with the series.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine is recommended for fans who enjoyed the dark side of Harry Potter and YA fantasy.

My rating = **1/2

Carpe Librum!

02 October 2016

Review: The World as 100 People - A Visual Guide to 7 Billion Humans by Aileen Lord

The World as 100 People - A Visual Guide to 7 Billion Humans by Aileen Lord is an interesting concept. Viewing the world of 7 billion people represented by just 100 has enabled Lord to analyse all kinds of statistics.

Full of easy to read infographics covering such topics as economics, health and education, the information is boiled down to the basics and percentages.

I love stats and was keen to read this, but disappointed to find no background on the data she used or how she formulated her results.

The simplistic nature of The World as 100 People makes it a quick and easy flick thru but for me it failed to make any kind of impact. Perhaps I need an 'adult' or expanded version?

Appropriate for all ages.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

28 September 2016

Review: The Good People by Hannah Kent

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was a sensation a few years ago and readers who loved it will also enjoy her latest novel The Good People. Despite being set in different countries, both novels are set in the early 1800s and contain Hannah Kent's ability to conjure and describe the landscape, lifestyle and superstitions of the time.

Set in Ireland in 1825, in a small rural community full of Gaelic superstitions and folklore, the novel is essentially about the lives of Nance (an elderly healing woman) and the recently widowed Nora.

Incredibly evocative, the lives of these two women intersect and slowly build towards a climax that demonstrates just how little control women had over their lives at the time.

Inspired by a true event in history (just as Burial Rites was), Hannah Kent's signature writing style creates a dark and fearful atmosphere that had me worrying for Nance.

Here's a quote from Page 257:
"Sean knocked the feathers out of Peter. Punched him everywhere except the roof of his mouth and the soles of his feet, as I heard it. Brought him down into the mud and stomped the face of him so that, once the men had dragged Sean off - swinging all the while - the bellows boy was out in the yard, picking teeth like flowers."


Another memorable quote from Nance on Page 261:
"Sean Lynch has been against me for long years. If I had it in for him, he'd have been pissing bees and coughing crickets long before now."

I just love the visual of picking teeth like flowers and coughing crickets. In January 2014 I wondered if Burial Rites was a one-off (based on her intense personal connection) and if Hannah Kent could throw herself with equal abandon into another novel. A few years on and she's answered my question without doubt. The Good People is just as descriptive and emotive as her award winning debut, I just didn't find the actual story as engaging or all-encompassing.

Recommended for readers of historical fiction.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Reading The Good People better prepared me to understand several episodes in the TV series Outlander, which dealt with faeries and changelings. Without this historical novel under my belt, I wouldn't have understood half of what was going on.