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!