20 October 2017

Friday Freebie: WIN 3 illustrated books from User Design

* Copies courtesy of User Design *

Today's Friday Freebie giveaway is a collection of 3 illustrated books from User Design valued at $44.00AUD.

The Journey of Larks
The Journey of Larks is played with language, words, illustration and typographic shenanigans. (RRP $13.50 AUD)

A picture-led book (no text) story about one day in the life of somebody. (RRP $13.50 AUD)

Explains the functions and correct uses of 21 of the most used punctuation marks. It is humorous, fully illustrated using real life scenarios and is for a wide age range (young to ageing) and intelligence (emerging to experts). (RRP $17.00 AUD)

If you enjoy graphic illustrations, cartoons, punctuatio
n and writing, this collection is for you.

Enter Giveaway

Carpe Librum!

17 October 2017

Review: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

The Last Tudor is the story of the three Grey sisters, Jane, Katherine and Mary, cousins to Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor. Beginning in 1550, the story unfolds from each sister's point of view in three separate sections, giving us uninterrupted access to their lives.

Jane Grey is the eldest and a steadfast Protestant and was made Queen of England for just nine days. Katherine is the polar opposite of her sister and plans to enjoy the trappings of her station as cousin to the Queen of England.

Mary Grey is the youngest of the three sisters and was said to be a little person, or a dwarf. She is largely overlooked and serves her cousin Elizabeth I faithfully, but like her sister Katherine, she falls in love and seeks only to be happy. Queen Elizabeth I is portrayed as a vain and jealous Queen, reluctant to let any of her ladies marry, and in the case of the Grey sisters, to prevent the birth of a Tudor heir.

Drawing on real letters and historical fact, The Last Tudor has been impeccably researched and as a fan of Philippa Gregory's writing, I have come to expect nothing less. I was most interested in the life of Mary Grey but the threat of treason and death accompanied the lives of all three sisters.

I highly recommend The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory to readers everywhere. It's just a shame this is her final novel based on the Tudor family.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

15 October 2017

Review: Bullet It! by Nicole Lara

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

I've been using a bullet journal for 3 years now and while I have the basics down pat, I'm always keen for ideas on how to beautify my journalling. Bullet It! is written and illustrated by Nicole Lara, an artist and enthusiastic bullet journaller.

Nicole has created a Notebook for planning your days, chronicling your life and creating beauty, but doesn't do much to teach newcomers the art of the bullet journal. Why is a dot grid so useful? What kind of lists can you make? What are the symbols for tasks? How do you mark off a completed task or migrate it to the next day? How do you set up an index? What else can you do?

Instead, Bullet It! provides decorated pages for you to write in with prompts along the way, for example: What makes you happy? Why? and How could you overcome your weaknesses? While the responses might make a nice diary entry, it doesn't fit with my idea of a bullet journal, which centres around organising.

What I loved:
The banners, flags, arrows and header ideas were fantastic and I'll definitely be making an attempt to incorporate some of these into my current bullet journal. The perforated pages were a great idea, and while I'm reluctant to pull pages out of a book, I know many readers will.

What I didn't enjoy:
There was a heavy focus on doodling and 3 pages of how to doodle ice-creams felt like overkill. Similarly, 3 step-by-step doodle instructions for how to draw a retro camera and 2 for hot air balloons seemed to detract from the bullet journal concept.

What was missing:
I would have liked more info on bullet journal basics, how the author uses her bullet journal and how to incorporate other materials like stickers and washi tape.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

09 October 2017

Winners of Soon by Lois Murphy Announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win 1 of 3 print copies of literary thriller Soon by Australian author Lois Murphy. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 6 October and the lucky winners are:
Robin Dawson, Delores and Pam Swain
Congratulations guys! You'll each 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 the publicist for Transit Lounge and I hope you enjoy this debut thriller.

Carpe Librum!

05 October 2017

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley & Penguin Random House UK *

I loved The Martian by Andy Weir so much it made my Top 5 list for 2014. Since then, I've been looking forward to his next novel, and watching Matt Damon in the film adaptation of The Martian managed to sustain me in the meantime.

Fast forward to late 2017, and the wait is over! Artemis is coming out next month, but unfortunately it's nothing like The Martian. Artemis is about a young woman living in a settlement on the moon. The Martian is about a man stranded on Mars. Sound similar?

They're both set in space, they both have a lot of science, but where Mark Watney is hilarious, Jazz is not. The science in The Martian is critical to the character's survival. In Artemis, the science centres around a heist.

I didn't warm to the character of Jazz at all. Her one liners and jokes weren't funny and I just didn't care enough about her welfare or what she was doing. Where I was laughing on every other page and marvelling at the science while reading The Martian, I was longing for Artemis to end.

I'm understandably disappointed, as this was a long awaited release I was really really looking forward to, but if you loved reading The Martian, do yourself a favour, and give Artemis a miss. The magic just isn't there.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!

29 September 2017

Friday Freebie: WIN 1 of 3 copies of SOON by Lois Murphy

RRP $29.95AUD
* Copy courtesy of Transit Lounge *

Today's giveaway is your chance to win 1 of 3 print copies of literary thriller Soon by Australian author Lois Murphy.

An almost deserted town in the middle of nowhere, Nebulah’s days of mining and farming prosperity – if they ever truly existed – are long gone. These days even the name on the road sign into town has been removed. Yet for Pete, an ex-policeman, Milly, Li and a small band of others, it’s the only place they have ever felt at home.

One winter solstice the birds disappear. A strange, residual and mysterious mist arrives. It is a real and potent force, yet also emblematic of the complacency and unease that afflicts so many of our small towns, and the country that Murphy knows so well.

Partly inspired by the true story of Wittenoom, the ill-fated West Australian asbestos town,
Soon is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t or simply can’t abandon all they have ever had. With finely wrought characters and brilliant storytelling, it is a taut and original novel, where the people we come to know and those who are drawn to the town’s intrigue must ultimately fight for survival.

Author Bio
Lois Murphy has travelled widely, most recently spending six years exploring Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, working mainly in small or remote towns, before settling in Darwin for a number of years. She has won a handful of prizes for her writing and the majority of Soon, her first novel, was written while living in a caravan park in Carnarvon. Lois currently lives in Melbourne, Victoria.


26 September 2017

Review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I loved reading The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin and was fascinated by the four tendencies she has outlined in her book. In no particular order they are: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner and Rebel. You can take the quiz for free and determine your own tendency; but I'm an Obliger. And it makes so much sense to me. Here's why.

According to Gretchen:
- Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
- Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
- Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense; essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
- Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

I'm an Obliger, which is why I've thrown so much energy into my volunteer work; I have a committee and members who depend on me. But when it comes to my own personal goals, these are frequently set aside in order to do something for somebody else first.

Luckily Gretchen covers the strengths and weaknesses of all four tendencies, how to get along with others and understand why we make the choices we do. Reading this book has confirmed that I need to attach external accountability to my own personal goals and inner expectations in order to succeed. This might require a little creativity, but I'm willing to give it a go.

I had great fun reading The Four Tendencies and recognising myself and others in her descriptions and real life scenarios. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to know themselves better or improve relationships with their loved ones, kids and colleagues. An amusing and informative read.

What's your tendency?

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

19 September 2017

Review: City of Crows by Chris Womersley

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

City of Crows by Chris Womersley is historical fiction (my favourite genre) and contains some of my favourite tropes in a novel: witchcraft and the plague.

Set in late 1600s France, City of Crows is essentially a story of survival. Charlotte, recently widowed and trying to save her son from the plague and Monsieur Adam du Coeuret, a prisoner assigned to the galleys for his crimes are both seeking freedom from their harsh lives.

I'm not sure whether I should have picked this up straight after reading Ken Follett's A Column of Fire, as it could have dampened my enjoyment of Womersley's tale somewhat. Follett is an historical fiction writing wizard and in the shadow of that great tome, City of Crows failed to reach the heights I was hoping for.

A satisfactory and entertaining story, the City of Crows of the title is Paris and I absolutely love the cover art, don't you? Knowing the characters are based on real people and historical facts certainly added to my enjoyment and appreciation of the research involved. In a different world, I would have liked to have stayed with Charlotte and followed her journey through life for the next 50 years - without the involvement of Adam.

This is my first novel by the Australian author Chris Womersley, and reading it has made me determined to seek out his award-winning novel Bereft in the future.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

14 September 2017

Review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

A Column of Fire is the third in the Kingsbridge series, the first two of which have been instant 5 star reads for me. Just like The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, A Column of Fire can be read as a stand alone, although fans of the series will notice the occasional nod to the past and the characters who built the cathedral or the bridge etc.

It's 250 years since World Without End and A Column of Fire begins in our favourite town of Kingsbridge although spends little time there throughout the 750 pages. Instead the scope is extended as far as France and Spain to take in a global and politically charged plot that reads more like a Philippa Gregory novel.

Set between the years 1558 - 1606 and the reign of Elizabeth I, the novel captures the political turmoil of the time and the religious debate between Protestants and Catholics. The cover art features a ship and the scenes involving the Spanish Armada were some of the best I've ever read on the topic in historical fiction.

However, where I mourned the ending of World Without End and wanted it to continue forever, I was at peace with the ending of A Column of Fire.

Follett cleverly reminds the reader of the relationship between characters (and who's who) and I imagine if you put the book down for a few weeks, you could easily fall back into the story despite the complexities. Naturally I would never put down a Ken Follett novel and in fact I maintained a strictly monogamous reading schedule until I'd finished this great chunkster of a book.

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

11 September 2017

Review: Beyoncégraphica - A Graphic Biography of Beyoncé by Chris Roberts

* Copy courtesy of Murdoch Books *

For an unauthorised and unofficial biography, Chris Roberts has managed to assemble an informative and satisfactory biography of Beyonce here. 
Bound in a very attractive hardback edition, Beyonce's epic rise to fame unfolds in a combination of stunning photographs, intricate infographics and chronological chapters.

Her time with Destiny's Child is covered well, and I was keen to learn more about her hard work ethic and the success of her early days.

Beyonce's romance and subsequent private marriage to Jay-Z is included as is the release and success of all of her albums. Beyonce's world tours are covered and her extensive philanthropic work is also mentioned.

Many of the infographics were unexpectedly detailed and a few were a little difficult to work out at first. My favourite infographic of the book showed how much it costs to maintain Beyonce's body per year and the amount of money she spends on her hair was out of this world. (Particularly given I had just received a haircut that cost me $27).

The photographs are impressive and definitely capture Beyonce's beauty and allure as an icon for feminism and girl power around the world.

In summary, I recommend Beyoncégraphica - A Graphic Biography of Beyoncé by Chris Roberts to fans of Beyonce and her back catalogue of music; those interested in the music industry; readers with an interest in feminism and music, and those curious about the rise and influence of celebrity in our society.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

30 August 2017

Author Lee Cockburn on how her career as a Police Sergeant has informed her writing

Author Lee Cockburn has worked for Police Scotland for sixteen years and today she is joining me as part of the Clink Street Publishing Blogival to tell us how her experiences as a Police Sergeant have informed her writing.
Lee Cockburn, author

Author spotlight
The rules with being in the police are that the content of my novels must be fiction, the procedures are real, those that are common knowledge for the public, they can look them up if they want; those that are permitted to be read of course. The characters are all fictional too though, their stunning beauty and near perfection are simply not real, but a very pleasant thought for the reader and the crimes and scenarios are purely fiction too.

Saying that, I have seen many horrible things in the course of my duty, numerous deaths, as police attend all deaths in the city, whether they are the result of a crime or not. Some peaceful, some premature, some not noticed, all of which are unpleasant in their own way. Some deaths are horrible to see and cannot be unseen, their untimely end clearly not chosen. I feel the pain for their families, their sadness, those that loved them, the pain they go through when the fateful message is passed. Premature death of any kind is always a tragedy, young lives taken too soon, their families devastated at the loss, and as a police officer, every single death affects me in some way or other, whether it was expected or not and I have to deal with that, be able to put it in a place where it wont affect me again.

My characters are beyond evil, severely deranged, sadistic serial killers or wired wrong in their desires, sickening to all but their own kind, people that you cannot relate to, because their make up is so damaged, their personalities are not normal and you would have to question yourself if you could relate to them?

I have seen violence and brutality, tragedy, suffering, fear and terror, dominance and control, all of which appear in my novels, although the level of evil and violence portrayed in my books is more often seen in that of real life serial killers from the USA. I don’t know why I have taken things up a level in my writing, probably to make the books more frightening, thought provoking and fear inducing, they are meant to be borderline horror thrillers. Saying all that, Devil’s Demise and Porcelain Flesh of Innocents have true heroes and heroines, good people willing to fight and wont be beaten by evil or control, and other characters that are truly decent genuine folk that stand up for right and wrong. My books portrait good versus evil, and in my opinion, good should always win over evil, even though it sometimes takes a while, karma is real.

Regarding the characters, I can see a little of myself in Taylor, not quite as striking or efficient, but in my early years, a little flirtatious, I made a few mistakes and suffered the consequences, and I have definitely learned through experience.

I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever write a book, far less three, but now that I’ve started I just want to write exciting, gritty, frightening books that have a little passion thrown in to give the reader a little respite from the horror, books that make you want to read on, feel a little frightened or warm inside, either way, hopefully you wont be able to put it down. 

Blurb for Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents
Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks is back and in charge of tracking down a sadistic vigilante, with a penchant for torturing paedophiles, in this unsettling crime thriller by a real-life police sergeant.

High-powered businessmen are turning up tortured around the city of Edinburgh with one specific thing in common — a sinister double life involving pedophilia. Leaving his ‘victims’ in a disturbing state, the individual responsible calls the police and lays bare the evidence of their targets’ twisted misdemeanours to discover, along with a special memento of their own troubled past — a chilling calling card. Once again heading the investigation team is Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks, along with her partner Detective Constable Marcus Black, who are tasked not only with tracking the perpetrator down but also dealing with the unusual scenario of having to arrest the victims for their own barbarous crimes. But with the wounded piling up the predator’s thirst for revenge intensifies and soon Nicks discovers that she is no longer chasing down a sinister attacker but a deadly serial killer.

Vivid, dark and deeply unsettling
Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents is the perfect next read for serious crime and police thriller fans.

Author Bio
Lee Cockburn has worked for Police Scotland for 16 years including as a police sergeant in Edinburgh for 7 years and also as a public order officer. Before joining the force, she played for Scotland Women’s rugby team for 15 years, and also swam competitively for 12 years; successfully representing Edinburgh in the youth Olympics in Denmark in 1984. 

Lee lives in Edinburgh with her civil partner Emily and their 2 young sons. Her first book Devil’s Demise was published by Clink Street Publishing November 2014. Follow Lee Cockburn on Twitter.

29 August 2017

Review: 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson is a fantasy novel for middle grade readers about a 12 year old boy called Henry who discovers hidden cupboards in the walls of his attic bedroom.

With the help of one of his cousins, Henry soon discovers the cupboards of varying shape and design are portals to other places.

This intriguing premise led me to borrow this from the library, however unfortunately the novel didn't live up to my expectations. The protagonist sharing the same name as the town (Henry) and a cousin by the name of Henrietta created unnecessary confusion for no discernible gain.

The first in a series of at least three books, 100 Cupboards was a good read but not a stand out.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

24 August 2017

Interview with Debbie Malone, author of Never Alone and Clues from Beyond

Today I'm excited to be interviewing Australian author and psychic medium Debbie Malone. In 2013, Debbie was Australian Psychic of the Year, and she continues to use her gift as a psychic, clairvoyant and medium to assist Police and bring peace to loved ones. This year I read and reviewed her books Never Alone and Clues From Beyond - True Crime Stories from Australia's #1 Psychic Detective.

Thanks for your time Debbie and for joining me on Carpe Librum. For those who haven’t read your books Never Alone and Clues From Beyond, what can you tell us about your six near death experiences (NDEs)?
I had my first near death experience at the age of 3 when I had bronchial pneumonia. 
My next NDE was at 13 when I had my appendix out. I had a complication with the anaesthetic and my heart stopped. I remember floating up to the ceiling of my hospital room watching as the doctor and nurses came in with oxygen and a heart monitor to try and bring me back. Initially, I thought that I had been dreaming. It wasn't until the following morning the doctor came in to tell me what had happened to me.
Debbie Malone, author

I had another 4 NDEs in my late 20s - early 30s due to numerous illnesses and operations. I have a reaction to anaesthetics. So when I have operations I now need to warn the doctors.
The most memorable NDE was when I was in 1997. I had to undergo a major operation and I had a vision that I was going to die. I had a will made out the night before just in case and I warned the doctors of my fears. At the time they thought I was just overly anxious. It wasn't until after the operation that things began to wrong. I was placed on a morphine drip for pain and I had an allergic reaction which caused my heart to stop.

The journey I went on from this experience is something I will never forget, to this day just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I found myself travelling through time and space at great speed, it was like I was an astronaut without a craft or a spacesuit. I felt myself being lifted up and becoming a part of the universe. I could see all of the stars and planets up close as though I was in outer space. I was drawn into a black hole and then I began to move even faster than before. I came out of the hole and was once again amongst the stars. I felt like I was on some kind of rollercoaster, I was thrown up and down and felt a lot of shaking. Once again I was taken into the black hole that turned into a large tunnel with a pinhole of light at the end. I was drawn closer and closer to the end of the tunnel when I found myself in a beautiful meadow.

In the meadow there was a small privet hedge that was about 1/2 metre high. There was gate in the middle of the hedge that was open and two beings were standing there. Before me was a line of other people who were being greeted by the beings as they waited to go through the gate. On the other side of the hedge were groups of people who all looked very happy to be there. At the time I remember feeling a familiarity of the people I saw on the other side of the hedge, the love that I felt from these people is something that is difficult to describe.

When it was my turn to go through the gate the beings told me that I couldn't come through as it wasn't my time. They told me to turn around and as I did I looked down and saw my husband and three children pointing up at the sky. At the time my daughter was 1, my two sons were 3 and 7. One of my boys asked "where is Mummy?" and my husband said that "Mummy isn't coming back as she is in heaven now". At this point I felt myself falling very rapidly back to the earth. I suddenly woke feeling the nurse frantically shaking me and trying to revive me. Thankfully, I did return and I can still be a part of my beautiful family's lives. Since that day I have always been drawn to the night sky as it feels like home. The movie Contact is the best way for me to describe what I saw when I died.

The title of your memoir is Never Alone, how do you tune out spirits or are you truly never alone?

As I am constantly connected to the spirit world, I choose to tune out by listening to music as this is a way to block out the constant voices. I am very blessed to also be connected to angelic presences that I find to be comforting in my everyday life.

Do you pick up messages for those around you in every day life? (Shopping, meeting up with friends and family?)
Yes, I do pick up messages constantly in everyday life. It can be quite off putting when I am in a store and the deceased loved one of the shop assistant tries to get a message through. If I feel that the person is open to receiving the message I will pass it on to them. However, sometimes I just want to go shopping and not be tuning in and constantly at "work". If people know what I do they are constantly asking me "what or who are you seeing around me?" It can be quite challenging as people don't understand that I need to have a life and not be constantly tuning in.

Do the messages you receive ever place you in a moral dilemma, or do you feel obligated to pass on all information to loved ones?
I take my job very seriously. I have a lot of responsibility placed on me by both the living and the dead. I am honest and open about the information I receive. I always pass messages on in a positive light. Part of my work is about helping loved ones find closure and to allow them to heal from their loss.

Can you tell the difference between spirits who have transitioned and those who have gone into the light? If they haven’t transitioned are they in peace?
I can tell the difference between spirits who have gone to the light and those who have not. Sometimes a spirit may not go to the light because they feel they have unfinished business, they may feel that they died too early or they may have died in a tragic manner and are not really aware that they are dead. A spirit who is earth bound has a much heavier and sadder energy than a spirit who is in the light. Part of my job is to assist those who have not transitioned so they can also find peace and continue with their spiritual journey.

I read you can help spirits transition and go into the light, do you feel obligated to try and do this wherever you can? Or have I just been watching too many episodes of Ghost Whisperer?
Yes, I do assist spirits to transition into the light. I feel part of my job as a medium is to be of assistance to others whether they be alive or deceased.

You mention in Never Alone that you believe ‘some outcomes are predestined’. What can you tell us about that?
From my own NDEs I have come to realise that there are times in our lives that are "entry" and "exit" points. These points in our lives are when we could meet the love of our life or we could lose the love of our life. It can be a time when we could die in an accident or leave the earth early or we may have a near miss where we are allowed to stay. These cycles in our life were chosen by our soul before we came to the earth. Each of these cycles are a part of our spiritual journey. What is most important to remember is that nothing is set in stone. We do all have free will and it is up to us as to what experience or event we choose to go through in life.

What happens to the spirits of the perpetrators of crime? (Page 284 of Never Alone)
The spirit of the perpetrator of a crime, can choose if they wish to go to the light and face their karmic journey. While other perpetrators sometimes choose to stay amongst the negative realms of the spirit world, due to fear or retribution of what they have done.

You mention in Clues From Beyond that residual energy can be left behind in homes when they’re sold. What were the health problems in the house you mentioned on Page 185?

The current owners of Dorothy Davis' old home have suffered from many health issues. I don't want to go into details.

I have a question from a Carpe Librum reader: you’ve worked on several famous Australian cold cases, have you ever received messages from spirit on the whereabouts of missing boy William Tyrell?
I have been asked about William Tyrell many, many times. William's disappearance is an extremely sad case. I have not been asked by police to assist. It is important to remember there are 1000s of missing and murdered people in Australia and throughout the world. I am only one person and I donate my time to working on cases as well as working full-time as a medium and an author. There is not enough time in the day for me to assist on every case. I only put my time and energy into cases where the information will be utilised by the relevant officers.

What’s the significance of the medallion you wear around your neck?
The pendant I think you are talking about is the one with feather and the word believe. This is a piece of jewellery I designed myself. It is my mantra. To believe is to acknowledge that life lives on and that anything is possible. The feather represents the signs from above that many of us receive from our loved ones and guardian angels.

What are you working on next?
I have a new set of Guardian Angel Reading Cards and a new book (yet to be named) both coming out in May next year.

Thanks Debbie, I'll be sure to check out your book next year. Visit Debbie's website for more info.

22 August 2017

Review: Sex, Lies, and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold

Is handwriting analysis a science or not? Is it legit or is it bullshit? Many believe it's a pseudo science despite it being used to solve many crimes, but I wanted to decide for myself. After reading Sex, Lies, and Handwriting - A Top Expert Reveals the Secrets Hidden in Your Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold, I'm convinced that it's definitely legit.

The direction your writing slants, whether your letters have lead in strokes or even how hard you dot your 'i's' are all clues to your personality, character and even your upbringing. It's fascinating really.

The case study of the ransom letter in the JonBenet Ramsey case was riveting (and proves it was written by JonBenet's mother Patsy) as was the analysis of many famous signatures. I'm not sure I believe the analysis right down to the weapon strokes, and I don't think I'll be able to remember all the strokes to look for, but I enjoyed seeing how handwriting analysis can prove a signature is forged or how writing can be proven to have come from the same person.

I also enjoyed the case studies and exercises provided in the book, and it certainly made me look at my own writing in a whole new light.

Recommended reading for skeptics, forensic enthusiasts and readers of true crime.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

20 August 2017

Extract: Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination by Giuseppe Cafiero

I'm participating in the Clink Street Publishing Blogival 2017 this month, and am pleased to share an extract by Giuseppe Cafiero from his book Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination.

What would happen if a character, even if only roughly sketched in the mind of a writer, decided to take on a life independent of his creator in order to take revenge against all the other characters that this author had created in his other books?

This is what happens to the legendary writer Gustave Flaubert, when his character Harel-Bey comes to life with a grudge to bear. Even the imaginary characters of books that Monsieur Flaubert has never actually written, but had long pondered and discussed with his most intimate friends, begin to stir with their own motivations.

Quite unexpectedly, Harel-Bey begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as leading protagonist. As a vengeful killer, Harel-Bey is determined to murder all of the protagonists of the books and stories Flaubert has written.

In the company of a certain Monsieur Bouvard, himself the star of another book which Flaubert had started but never finished, Harel-Bey seeks his revenge. There’s will be a mission rich in disturbing discoveries, revealing the reasons and the irrationalities of fictionalised reality and unreal fiction.

The Bedouin Harel-Bey, a possible character of a certain book that Monsieur Gustave Flaubert never wrote, but which he long pondered and long spoke about with his most intimate friends, unexpectedly and autonomously, begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as absolute protagonist. A journey to try to cancel, as vengeful killer, all the protagonists of books and stories written by Monsieur Flaubert.

The crimes were thus conceived as works of cunning and safeguarding, also a natural occasion to make Harel Bey an actor in the region of notoriety, or a shrewd choice for being the unsuspected executioner of liberty, fraternity, equality amongst the characters already active in the novels of Monsieur Gustave Flaubert. In committing crimes the sense of smell perceived, in fact, the imprints of death on this or that person. Touch perceived the signs of bodies which Harel Bay would has to torment. Hearing recognized the haughtiness of phonemes and declamations so that it was inevitable to ponder, in primis, the irreverent impudence of a writer who, with detrimental intentions and fraudulent ardour, Harey Bay murdered amidst appearances and intrigues.

Monsieur Gustave Flaubert was a man of letters who was very partial in the choice of his characters even for unforeseen loves, so that never did a single one of his characters had any certainty that his presence wasn’t solely an opportunity, a casual, scatter-brained invention simply to fill up a sheet of paper, give voice to some bit of writing, realize an idea. As Gustave Flaubert was a born manipulator, Harel Bey wanted only to alternate the protagonists of certain stories with other characters so that these others could be the principal actors or at least participants with a few lines to speak. 

Author Bio
Giuseppe Cafiero is a prolific writer and author of ten published works focusing on cultural giants from Vincent Van Gogh to Edgar Allan Poe. Cafiero lives in Italy in the Tuscan countryside. Visit his website or Facebook page.

18 August 2017

Carpe Librum has a facelift and a new logo

My site is undergoing a much needed facelift and it might take a little time to get things 'just right' so I thank you in advance for your patience.

I'm also pretty excited to be launching my new logo, woohoo!!!
I hope you like the fresh new look with further tweaks and changes to come. What do you think of the new logo? Love it, hate it or not sure? Leave your comments below and of course, Carpe Librum!

15 August 2017

Review: After I've Gone by Linda Green

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

After I've Gone is the first Linda Green novel I've read and with an enticing premise, it easily surpassed all my expectations.

Jess Mount finds out she has 18 months left to live, if her Facebook newsfeed is to be believed. Her newsfeed seems to have jumped ahead 18 months and she can see posts from family and friends mourning her death. How can this be?

Jess is an intelligent and sensible protagonist and reacts precisely how I would in this situation. Don't worry, there's no 'cringe-worthy' moments here.

The story takes off on the first page and never lets up. Jess has a backstory that is alluded to and slowly revealed, as does Lee, her new love interest. These plot lines - together with the point of view of her Mother-In-Law Angela - kept the novel motoring along and I was riveted.

The story has a very contemporary feel and thanks to a few real world references and social media posts, very current. Jess tries to change her future, but you'll have to read the novel to find out if she can change it for good or if she's forced to accept her fate. 

I have no hesitation recommending After I've Gone by Linda Green to those who enjoy crime fiction and domestic noir. I loved it!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum

10 August 2017

Blogival Guest Post: Joe Treasure on writing The Book of Air

I'm participating in the Clink Street Publishing Blogival 2017 this month, and am proud to introduce the following guest post by Joe Treasure. Joe says that after writing The Book of Air, he understood why he’d been writing and explains why.

Writing and the accidental discovery of meaning 
You might think that before embarking on a novel a writer would have a story to tell. For me it’s never been that definite. For my first two novels I’d written the opening chapter before I began to think about what might develop from there. I’m sure other writers have this experience. A glimpse of a scene can be enough to get you started, a chance encounter, a moment of conflict, a distinct setting coloured by a mood or an atmosphere. Once you’ve got that on paper you can begin to see what direction it’s pointing in. 

With The Book of Air, what I began with was less concrete even than that. There was the familiar impulse to write, strengthened by the confidence that two published books had given me. I had a vague sense that I should attempt something more ambitious. I’d been impressed by The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s brilliant futuristic satire on the oppression of women under a Biblically inspired tyranny. This powerful modern myth stirred me to think beyond the ordinary.

Meanwhile I’d long been interested in books that take off from classics. I love the idea of interacting creatively with an established story, to subvert or reimagine it. In her justifiably celebrated Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys drew Rochester’s mad wife from the shadows and allowed her to tell her own story, a Creole heiress married off and forcibly relocated, finding herself locked up in an isolated house, increasingly neglected by her husband. Since that was published in 1966, giving voice to marginalised characters in 19th novels has become a familiar device and I didn’t feel I had anything fresh to say in this form. Besides, I wanted more freedom than a historical novel would allow me. I was drawn to a futuristic setting.

And so I began imagining a community that has constructed itself around the close study of a novel. In a way, any novel would do – the randomness is the point. The community, having elevated this book to a unique status, is unaware that it’s just a made-up story, one of countless books, whose purpose is to give pleasure. I considered various novels. But I returned to Jane Eyre because it’s so well-known and its central drama is so strong and elemental. To emphasise the randomness I would give the community two other books, each completely different in kind – a children’s picture book and a technical manual from which they can derive no coherent meaning.

But still all I had was an abstraction – not a story, not even a single character – until I heard Agnes’s voice, as she responds for the first time in her life to the impulse to write about herself. Hidden away in the corner of an attic, she has found a mysterious object, recognisably a book, but not a book because there are no words in it, none until she writes them. From the first moment, she is aware of the strangeness of what she is doing and the danger of it. She is fifteen, on the verge of adulthood. Her story will be about secrecy and self-discovery, oppression and rebellion, friendship and love. It will explore her experience of growing up and challenge the limits of the community she has been born into.

As I worked on it, other questions came up. How had this community come into being? Why this house, these cottages, this farmland? Why these books and no others? And why this isolation? I thought of Jason, a man of our own time, waking from a fever, surprised to find himself still alive having survived a virus that has killed so many others. He has left London in chaos and retreated to his country house, the very house where Agnes will begin her journal in the distant future. He has two stories to tell, what led up to this moment – the collapse of society as he has always known it – and what will follow from it – the struggle to survive and find a new way of living among a handful of strangers.

I had no idea until I began writing that these were the stories I wanted to tell. And I found, when I was done, that certain preoccupations had emerged. How do communities form and what makes a community oppressive or benign? How are collective memories kept alive? What is the connection between the experience of loss and the urge to create, both of which seem essential to being human?

Blurb - The Book of Air
Retreating from an airborne virus with a uniquely unsettling symptom, property developer Jason escapes London for his country estate, where he is forced to negotiate a new way of living with an assortment of fellow survivors.

Far in the future, an isolated community of descendants continue to farm this same estate. Among their most treasured possessions are a few books, including a copy of Jane Eyre, from which they have constructed their hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. When 15-year-old Agnes begins to record the events of her life, she has no idea what consequences will follow. Locked away for her transgressions, she escapes to the urban ruins and a kind of freedom, but must decide where her future lies.
Joe Treasure

These two stories interweave, illuminating each other in unexpected ways and offering long vistas of loss, regeneration and wonder. 

The Book of Air is a story of survival, the shaping of memory and the enduring impulse to find meaning in a turbulent world.

About Joe Treasure
Joe Treasure currently lives in South West London with his wife Leni Wildflower. As an English teacher in Wales, he ran an innovative drama programme, before following Leni across the pond to Los Angeles, an experience that inspired his critically acclaimed debut novel The Male Gaze (published by Picador). His second novel Besotted (also published by Picador) also met with rave reviews. 
Visit Joe's website or follow him on Twitter.

08 August 2017

Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Tin Man by Sarah Winman is about the relationship between Ellis and Michael, and what happens when Ellis meets 'the one' in Annie. The first part of the book unfolds from the perspective of Ellis, and it's a slow, quiet and personal reflection on the past while revealing his present loneliness and grief.

The second half of the book is narrated by Michael under the guise of writing a journal, which didn't work in my opinion.

The narrative in both sections jumped around in time and despite a handful of helpful chapter headings, I never fell into the flow of the novel. I understand that when we reflect on the past, our memories drift around from decade to decade, but in this case I wanted the author to lead me down a more chronological path.

While on the topic of writing style, Sarah Winman doesn't use quotation marks in Tin Man. I always find this style of writing irritating, and while I have seen it work in other novels (Cloudstreet for instance), sadly it was just confusing here.

The atmosphere of Tin Man reminded me of one of my favourite books of all time, Stoner by John Williams, but where Stoner succeeds in its perfection, Tin Man falls short. The ending left many things undone, including what happens to Ellis. 

Tin Man is receiving a lot of hype at the moment, and I understand why readers are being moved by the story - some even to tears - but it was just too disjointed for me. 

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

03 August 2017

Review: Wrap It In A Bit Of Cheese Like You're Tricking The Dog by David Thorne

I've been enjoying David Thorne's wacky sense of humour for years now, so I was really excited to receive an autographed copy of Wrap It In a Bit of Cheese Like You're Tricking the Dog for Christmas last year.

Containing more essays than emails, the laughs continued, just not at the same rate of knots (i.e. on every page). The work conversations are hilarious and there was another logo design that had me chuckling and remembering the logo shenanigans in his previous books.

Readers looking for a little more depth in the writing will enjoy this offering, however in terms of laughs, it didn't make me want to read out every exchange, as I wanted to do when reading The Internet Is A Playground (5 stars) and I'll Go Home Then; It's Warm and Has Chairs (5 stars).

This collection of essays and emails is highly recommended for readers familiar with David Thorne's work, but if you're wanting to dip your toe into his wildly entertaining world, you should begin with The Internet Is A Playground. I remain a dedicated fan though and will continue to read whatever he puts out. Unless it's a book full of his cat panels, lol!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

28 July 2017

Review: Camino Island by John Grisham

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

It's been a long time since I've read a novel by John Grisham, but Camino Island was the perfect book to bring me back to his work. Starting with a flawless and well-planned heist and the theft of five of F. Scott Fitzgerald's original manuscripts from Princeton University, the FBI is hot on the trail of the thieves.

With a plot centred around stolen manuscripts, a suspect who owns a bookshop and surrounds himself by a quirky group of local writers, I certainly felt myself in good hands and familiar territory.

Camino Island is an enjoyable and entertaining read, and perfect for readers who are sick of wading through crime novels with ever-increasing body counts and violence.

Told from the perspective of an undercover wannabe author, there's no sign of the flawed FBI agent or an edge of your seat race-against-time thriller to raise the blood pressure. Camino Island is located safely on the reading scale somewhere between cozy crime and crime thriller and was an enjoyable read. Recommended for book-lovers.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

26 July 2017

Review: The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

* Copy courtesy of GoodReads Giveaway and Text Publishing *

Elizabeth Kostova is the author of one of my favourite books of all time, The Historian. Despite releasing The Swan Thieves in 2010 (which I didn't read), it was with some trepidation and high expectation that I picked up her 2017 release, The Shadow Land after winning a copy in a GoodReads giveaway.

I love the cover design and the 450+ pages promised to be a juicy read, but sadly it didn't live up to my expectations. The plot device is interesting: set in Bulgaria, the female protagonist accidentally picks up a bag containing an urn of ashes and then attempts to track down the owner.

The book definitely picked up in the entertainment stakes when the owner of the urn's contents was revealed and his life and time in a detainment camp was brought to light in the first person. That section of the book was incredibly moving and inspirational, but I didn't care much for the protagonist, her new friend and her obsession with the urn's owner, so all in all it wasn't the ripping yarn I was hoping for. 

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

24 July 2017

Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

I know I'm late to the party but I just finished reading The Dry by Jane Harper and can honestly say it is worth the hype. 

Despite having a copy for 11 months (thanks to my GoodReads Melbourne catch-up in August last year) and watching it win the Indie Book of the Year, Indie Book of the Year Debut Fiction for 2017 and ABIA Book of the Year, I've only just read The Dry now. It happens to the best of us doesn't it? Great books lingering in our TBR pile for too long.

Well, it's no secret this is a debut Australian crime fiction novel and other readers agree it's fantastic. Having grown up in a small country town myself, I found the rural setting, the characters and the dialogue instantly Australian and recognisable without being cliche or over the top. The writing is flawless and it's hard to believe this is a debut novel.

Rumours are that The Dry will make it onto the big screen thanks to Reese Witherspoon, but until then, you can read the first chapter of The Dry by Jane Harper here

I can highly recommended The Dry and Jane Harper is definitely an Aussie author to watch. I'll be lending it to my Dad next while waiting with baited breath for the next in the series, Force of Nature.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

20 July 2017

Guest Post: Patti Miller - author of Writing True Stories - on whether memoirs are more popular than novels

RRP $34.99 AUD
Published by Allen & Unwin
In today's guest post, Patti Miller, award-winning memoirist, nonfiction writer and author of Writing True Stories is going to explore whether memoirs have become more popular than the novel.

Is memoir more popular than the novel? It’s a question that implies a rather jealous inter-genre competition between the novel and memoir to be the ‘favourite’, the most admired. It’s a notion I’ve always rejected. Even though I have spent the last almost 30 years writing and teaching memoir and non-fiction, to me, the novel and memoir, along with poetry, essays and drama, are equally beloved.

Historically, there has been a shift in attitudes towards various genres. In the 18th century, poetry and essays had a higher standing than the novel, which was looked down upon as a rather frivolous form. But I suspect the question is not really about standing or value, but about the cold hard facts of sales figures. Which genre sells most?

There’s been an explosion in memoir publications since the 1970s, particularly in memoirs by ‘ordinary’ people, i.e. people not already famous for something else. But ‘ordinary’ is a misnomer, because most of memoirists who sell hundreds of thousands of books, have had extraordinary lives. According to Hachette Australia publisher, Sophie Hamley, certain memoirs such as Anh Do’s The Happiest Refugee and Deng Adut’s Songs of a War Boy have spectacular sales, much higher than literary fiction sales.

But if popular memoir is compared to popular fiction, then the figures even out. Literary memoir sells about the same as literary fiction - I should add that the terms ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ are not usually applied to memoir, but the distinction clearly exists. There are literary memoir such as Caroline Baum’s Only, where the language and sensibility are central, and there’s Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life – published in 1981 and still one of the highest selling books in Australia, 800,000 at last count - where story and character are central.

But I suspect both kinds of memoir appeal to readers for the same reasons. Fundamentally, despite our various evils, human beings want to relate and feel with others – we are empathetic – and memoir gives us direct access to the feelings of others in a way that is perhaps more mediated in novels.

Also, we want to know how others have survived hardship so that we may learn how to do it ourselves – the triumph of the human spirit over adversity is probably the strongest single theme in any best-selling memoir.

And finally, we are sticky-beaks – we are curious about what it is like to be someone else, especially when they have lived a life very different from ours – a movie star or call girl or child soldier.

What is it like to have lived your life? To me, that’s the most interesting question. It is why, I, at least, like to read memoir.

Thanks so much for your insights Patti. Writing True Stories is Patti's guide to writing autobiography, memoir, personal essay, biography, travel and creative nonfiction. Click here for more info.

Carpe Librum!

18 July 2017

Review: Never Alone by Debbie Malone

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

Having read and enjoyed Clues From Beyond by Debbie Malone last month, I picked up Never Alone this month hoping to learn more about Debbie and her psychic gift and certainly wasn't disappointed.

In case you don't know, Debbie Malone is a psychic, clairvoyant and medium and was the 2013 Australian Psychic of the Year. She started to see spirits after experiencing six near-death experiences (NDEs) and Never Alone takes the reader through her life from the time she experienced her NDEs and started seeing dead people, to when she began using her gift to help victims of crime.

Debbie's experiences working with Australian law enforcement are equally frustrating and rewarding and reading Never Alone is a great introduction to understanding Debbie's psychic talents.

Debbie says:
"Being a medium can be a very rewarding vocation but at times it can be hard to cope with the responsibility of having knowledge but not being able to do anything about it. I have come to realise that I am only the messenger and it is not my place to save every person that I get a vision about. I think some outcomes are predestined - however, that doesn't take away my frustration and pain when I feel that I haven't done enough to help someone in need". Page 193.

Debbie's gift seems like both a gift and a curse, and I admire her strength for continuing to put herself out there; never charging for working with Australian police departments. The cases she works on seem to haunt her (see what I did there?) but jokes aside, I'm not so sure I'd be able to handle myself with the same strength and equanimity she does.

I have a personal reading with Debbie Malone in September and I'm really looking forward to that, but in the meantime, stay tuned for my upcoming interview with Debbie very soon. If you have any questions you'd like to ask, feel free to leave them in the comments below or email me if you want to submit them privately.

I highly recommend reading Never Alone, and while Clues From Beyond can be read as a stand-alone, I'd begin with this one.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!