16 September 2018

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

RRP $29.99AUD
Published July 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier is an engaging crime thriller and I enjoyed it. The story starts with Geo going to jail for her part in the murder of her best friend Angela 14 years ago by Geo's boyfriend at the time Calvin.

I really enjoyed the tension of Geo starting her sentence in jail and trying to figure out how to survive. In fact it was a little reminiscent of the TV show Orange is the New Black. However the story soon jumps forward in time and we catch up with Geo as she's leaving prison with the knowledge Calvin has escaped and more victims are showing up.

This writing style keeps the pace shifting along and the suspense and mystery surrounding what happened the night of Angela's death builds momentum. There are plenty of secrets and Hillier writes the teenage dynamic very well.

There's a significant mystery element to the story and I didn't 'work it out' so was pleasantly surprised by the final denouement. (And when I say pleasant, I mean in terms of my reading experience. It certainly wasn't 'pleasant' for the characters, in fact it was anything but).

Recommended for mystery, crime and thriller fans.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

14 September 2018

Review: The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street

I read The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street in ebook format borrowed from the library and it contains Fifty (or so) Songs That Made Australia.

Presented chronologically from oldest (at Number 1) to most recent, it contains entertaining details and history on each song. As I was reading, I was constantly googling songs to remind me of the tune or the music video and desperately wanted a playlist associated with the book for easier reference.

Each section was well-researched and the footnotes were funny, but I wish they'd been included in the text as the frequent page flicking in ebook format was distracting^.

The list contains songs that 'made' Australia and were important within the music scene or within Australian culture at the time so it's definitely not a list of the 'most popular' or 'most well-known' songs.

I’ll admit not knowing many of the songs listed, while rushing off to listen to old favourites with renewed zeal and appreciation for their back-stories. Every reader is bound to have an opinion on the songs and their fair share of omissions, but overall this was a nostalgic and informative look at Australian music from 1958 - 2016.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

^ See what I mean?

12 September 2018

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

RRP $32.99 AUD
Published 12 September 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

The Clockmaker's Daughter is the hotly anticipated historical fiction novel from Kate Morton published today. Told from multiple character view points and unfolding across several time periods, this was quite an ambitious and unexpectedly complex novel.

Despite the magical and evocative writing style that I love, the novel contained more than 20 main characters and I often found it tough to keep all of the characters - and their relationships to each other - straight in my mind. Added to that, the narrative jumped forwards and backwards in time from the point of view of multiple characters and I often felt the story was disjointed as a result.

I enjoyed the writing and setting more than the overarching storyline and would have preferred a tightening up of the novel to make it easier for the average reader to follow. Chapter headings telling us who was narrating would have been a terrific start, although there was a certain mystique to the voice of Birdie. 

At 582 pages, The Clockmaker's Daughter is a hefty read and I definitely recommend reading it monogamously with as few breaks as possible. I always read multiple books simultaneously, and just one or two days between reading sessions in this case meant that I easily lost track of which narrator I was with and where I was in the timeframe.

Having said all of that, the mystery in
The Clockmaker's Daughter was marvellous and I'll never tire of Kate Morton's writing style. Her novels always contain secrets, the mysteries of time and the effect lives lived have on a place. My favourite character was in fact Birchwood Manor on the river Thames. It was described so well and formed the perfect anchor in the story to unite the characters.

If this were any other author, I'd be giving this novel 3 stars or below, but I have to admit the sheer joy of holding a chunky new novel by one of my favourite Australian authors in Kate Morton significantly added to my reading enjoyment and made up for the moments I felt lost in her web of stories.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Click here to read the opening chapters.

10 September 2018

Winner of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale announced

Thanks to all those who entered last week’s giveaway to win a copy of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale thanks to Simon & Schuster. All entrants correctly identified The Art of War as the book Taylor consults in order to plan her revenge. The winner was drawn today and congratulations go to:
Steven Maxwell
Congratulations Steven, you'll receive an email shortly with the details and I hope you enjoy your prize thanks to Simon & Schuster.

Carpe Librum!

05 September 2018

Review: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

I discovered this little gem of a book on one of the shelves in the free little library I started in my apartment building. The library has been successfully running for 12 months now and the reason the discovery was so exciting is because it was the first book to be donated that I personally wanted to read. Woohoo!

Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner is a collection of essays and diary extracts about a whole host of unrelated topics, written - and published elsewhere - over the last two decades or so.

This was my first introduction to Garner's writing and I now understand the reverence in which she's held. Helen certainly knows how to wield a pen and her everyday observations were enjoyable to read.

Her writing on the topics of ageing and being an 'invisible woman' were most interesting, as were her thoughts on several true crimes that occurred in Melbourne. I can understand Helen's fascination with what makes ordinary people 'snap' and commit terrible crimes and her dogged determination to find out is to be admired. She spent more than 7 years covering the trial and re-trial of Robert Farquharson, the man accused of deliberately drowning his three young sons by driving his car into a dam to produce This House of Grief.

I'm sure I'll read Helen Garner again, but I'm not convinced Everywhere I Look was the best place to start. If you have a recommendation for first-time readers, please let me know in the comments below.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

02 September 2018

Review: Always With You by Debbie Malone

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

Always With You is Australian psychic medium Debbie Malone's third book and contains stories from her life and work as a medium. She includes readings for clients and her own experiences with loved ones who have crossed over.

Always With You was a short, quick and enjoyable read but isn't really the best place to start if you're looking to find out more about mediums and life after death. Debbie's first two books were far more informative and really are the better place to start. You can read my reviews of Never Alone, and Clues From Beyond at the links.

I'd recommend reading Always With You - Messages from Beyond if you've read everything else by Debbie Malone and still want more stories and and insights. The connections she makes are truly inspiring and I look forward to more from her in the future.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. You can also see my interview last year with Debbie Malone here.

31 August 2018

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale

RRP $29.99
Simon & Schuster
Today's Friday Freebie is debut thriller novel The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale thanks to Simon & Schuster. Please enter below for your chance to win. Entries close 7 September 2018. Good luck!

The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones in this chilling tale of love gone horribly wrong …

Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge. Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle, he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again. 

So Taylor consulted The Art of War and made a plan. Then she took the next step – one that would change her life forever.

Then things get really out of control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.


29 August 2018

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

* Copy courtesy of Affirm Press *

The Nowhere Child is a terrific debut by Australian author Christian White. Sammy Went was abducted from her home in Kentucky 28 years ago. Kim is living in Melbourne and is approached by a man investigating the disappearance who has reason to believe Kim is that girl. This isn't a spoiler, it's in the blurb.

Kim doubts her late mother was a kidnapper, but soon embarks on a personal journey in an attempt to find out and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Unfolding in dual timeframes, The Nowhere Child is a novel about family, love and identity and takes Kim right into the heart of a religious cult in order to get her answers.

The byline for this mystery novel is 'Who took Sammy Went?' and I worried that the surname of this main character (Went) was going to be an irritant in the novel, but this concern was quickly allayed.

Kim's journey for the truth made for compelling reading and The Nowhere Child by Christian White is recommended for crime and thriller readers.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

25 August 2018

Winners announced for Scrublands and The Hunter giveaways

This week was a fantastic week for giveaways here at Carpe Librum, with a flurry of entries for Scrublands by Chris Hammer and The Hunter by David Cohen. It's always a pleasure to support books by Australian authors and without further ado, here are the giveaway results.

To be successful in the Scrublands giveaway, entrants needed to name the fictional town in which the novel is set. Despite one wrong entry, entrants correctly answered Riversend and the winner was:
Congratulations Jools, you'll receive an email shortly with the details and I hope you enjoy this book for Father's Day. Thanks to Allen and Unwin for the prize valued at $32.99AUD.


Thankfully all entrants in the giveaway for The Hunter correctly named the Ibis as the bird featuring on the front cover of this short story collection by David Cohen. Congratulations to the winner:
Congratulations Donna, you'll receive an email from me shortly with the details of your win and hope you enjoy this collection of short stories. Thanks to Transit Lounge for the prize valued at $27.99AUD.


Thanks again to all those who entered these two giveaways and continue to support Carpe Librum. I have another giveaway going live on Friday 31 August, so stay tuned for your chance to win a copy of the thriller The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale.

Review: The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook - 75 Recipes for Incredibly Delectable Doughs You Can Eat Right Off the Spoon

* Copy courtesy of Quarto Publishing Group & Netgalley *

I'm not too good in the kitchen, but I've always loved to lick the bowl or an electric beater on the rare occasions I do bake. In truth though, I'd never considered the risks of eating raw egg until reading this book.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops is a book for all skill levels (including beginners like me) and the author takes you through the risks of eating raw egg and flour. She tells you how to pre-heat your flour and every one of the 75 recipes in this book are egg-free.

The very first night I started reading this, I jumped up off the couch and rattled around the kitchen to mix up a batch of Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and it was delicious! It didn't look terribly appetising sitting in the bowl but trust me, it was a taste sensation.

Next on my list to try is the White Chocolate Cookie Dough and Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, assuming of course that 'boxed yellow cake mix' is simply vanilla cake mix. That's the trouble sometimes being an Australian cook reading an American recipe book, some of the ingredient names vary but thankfully both measurements were always provided.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops is a delight to read and will definitely get your taste buds going. And the best part? You can eat the dough right out of the bowl!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

22 August 2018

WIN a copy of Scrublands by Chris Hammer for Father's Day

RRP $32.99 AUD
Allen & Unwin
Scrublands by Chris Hammer is the No. 1 bestselling book in Australia at the moment, and I reviewed it last week giving it 5 stars. Now's your chance to win a copy for yourself or your Dad for Father's Day thanks to Allen & Unwin.

In an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself. 

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don't fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can't ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest's deadly rampage.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal. 

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town's secrets stay buried.


20 August 2018

Review: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

RRP $32.99
Available now
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Adam Hills is such a familiar face on Australian TV that I don't think I'd ever considered just how successful his career has been.

In Best Foot Forward, Adam Hills takes the reader through his career as a radio presenter, stand-up comedian, TV host and more in a natural and amusing writing style. Turns out his success extends far further than our own shores, performing for and even meeting Her Majesty the Queen.

What shone through the brightest to me though, was Adam's desire to 'make it' and his sheer determination and hard work to do so in an industry that can be tough and unforgiving at times.

Adam's work on The Last Leg, the UK show covering the 2012 London Paralympics was informative and inspiring. Adam openly shares what it was like growing up with a prosthetic foot and how he never let it hold him back.

I enjoyed the inclusion of other comedians as he worked alongside them and sometimes in awe of them, including: Billy Connolly and Whoopi Goldberg and my personal favourites, Daniel Kitson, Ross Noble and David O'Doherty. He recounts many unusual and funny situations, memorable shows and at least one laugh out loud moment involving scaring the shell from a turtle's back. I'm off to read it again (page 89).

Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills is a memoir about his accomplished career and the many anecdotes and funny stories made for great reading.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

17 August 2018

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of The Hunter and Other Stories of Men by David Cohen

RRP $27.99 AUD
Published August 2018
* Copy courtesy of Transit Lounge *

This short story collection by Australian author David Cohen is "humorous and delicious, and just slightly off beat, in the vein of Will Self and David Sedaris." Enter to win a copy in the giveaway below.

A property developer fears that a burgeoning ibis population will prevent the construction of a high rise apartment complex; a bus stop outside a dementia care facility in Düsseldorf suffers its own identity crisis; a young man’s new job requires him to pose as a woodcutter and wave at a trainload of tourists; an aging, reclusive archivist becomes locked in a strange battle of wills with a courier; a backpacker in Israel has a bizarre religious experience.

In these award winning stories, David Cohen explores the oddities of human behaviour with wit, affection and startling brilliance.

David Cohen lives in Brisbane, Queensland and is the author of the novels Fear of Tennis and Disappearing off the Face of the Earth. The Hunter was shortlisted in the 2015 Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript.


15 August 2018

Review: Scrublands by Chris Hammer

RRP $32.99
Published August 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Scrublands by Chris Hammer is the real buzz book of the moment and I'm happy to report it's worth all of the hype. Scrublands is a whydunnit crime mystery about secrets, sex, murder and deception set in a fictional country town in the Riverina during a severe drought. Readers who wonder if this is going to be a rip off of The Dry by Jane Harper needn't worry, this is nothing like it.

Martin is a journalist sent to Riversend to write a piece on the one year anniversary of the church shooting. But as soon as he starts talking to a few of the locals, their stories give him cause to doubt the well accepted facts of the case: Priest shoots five locals before being shot dead by the local copper.

Australian author Chris Hammer draws on his personal knowledge of being a journalist to produce our protagonist Martin Scarsden and he's a compelling character. I enjoyed his attempts to get to the bottom of the shooting whilst taking delight in just how quickly he's caught up in the small town goings on. I'd have preferred fewer references to his hands, but that's just a minor quibble.

Scrublands has some cracking country characters (Harley Snouch, 
Codger Harris) and without a doubt, the best bushfire scene I've ever read in a novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to Australian media outlets and the politics that goes on between journalists, reporters and photographers as they compete for an edge on the developing story.

Here's my favourite quote from the book that reminds me of the song Flame Trees by Cold Chisel:
"And there is something about old friends, old loves, those who you were young with: when you see them after many years, they don't appear as they are now, but as they were. You can see past the pudginess and wrinkles, past cloudy eyes and sagging jawlines. You can see them as they were when they were young and vital." Page 261

I thoroughly enjoyed unravelling this whydunnit/whodunnit and can unreservedly recommend Scrublands by Chris Hammer to readers everywhere. It will appeal to crime and mystery lovers and it wouldn't surprise me if it was nominated for some awards by the end of the year.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

12 August 2018

Review: The Name of Death by Klester Cavalcanti

RRP $29.99 AUD
Published 24 April 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Klester Cavalcanti is a top investigative journalist in Brazil and The Name of Death is the result of more than seven years spent interviewing the Brazilian hitman guilty of killing 492 people.

Told in a narrative non-fiction style, Julio Santana is 17 years old when his story opens with his first 'kill' in 1971.

What unfolds from there is a true crime account of Santana's life which is informative, eye-opening and sad. What I found immensely frustrating though was a jump in the timeframe of 20 years or so, which means we missed an important part of his life which included meeting and marrying his wife and having children.

Julio Santana's story then finishes in 2006 with no update to tell the reader what he's been up to these past 12 years.

These major gaps in Julio Santana's life made his story feel disjointed, and having been so invested in his teenage years, I wanted to know how he was living his life now.

The Name of Death by Klester Cavalcanti is recommended for fans of the true crime genre.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

07 August 2018

Review: The Yellow House by Emily O'Grady

RRP $29.99 AUD
Published 24 April 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I can totally understand why The Yellow House by Australian author Emily O'Grady won The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award this year. Just, wow!

The Yellow House is narrated by ten year old Cub and we soon get to know her twin brother Wally, older brother Cassie and her Mum and Dad through her eyes. Cub's late Grandfather Les is known to have committed terrible crimes in the past and their family is still carrying the scars generations later.

Superbly written, the setting, characters and dialogue are uniquely Australian in a refreshing and down to earth style I haven't seen before. Here's an example from page 12:

"Her hair was almost the colour of Cheezels, ..."

And an earlier example from page 11:

"She held on to Mum's elbow, which I knew would embarrass Mum because her elbows were dry as scones."

The novel is incredibly evocative of growing up in rural Australia, complete with swimming in the dam, buying lollies from the local shop and riding bikes to school.

The Yellow House is an exploration of family dynamics, loyalty and secrets through the eyes of the youngest child. It's also a novel about community grudges and whether evil can be inherited or not.

Although the novel has a resolution of sorts, I was left with at least 20 questions at the end and wanting to know more. The novel is narrated by Cub so I guess we're left with what she has managed to figure out, leaving many aspects of the relationships between the characters and several events unanswered. I'm still thinking about it days after finishing it. Highly recommended!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

01 August 2018

Review: A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer

* Copy courtesy of Ventura Press *

Science fiction meets historical fiction in A Superior Spectre by debut Australian author Angela Meyer.

In the near future Jeff is dying from an un-named medical condition and seeks solace to suffer and die alone in his shame. But he's not completely alone, as he takes a companion android and a piece of technology that allows him to see through the eyes of a person in history. Jeff is an unlikeable protagonist, and I didn't warm to him or his plight at all but I think that's the point.

Jeff forms a connection with Leonora, a young woman living in the Scottish Highlands who is slowly becoming a woman and is sent to live with her Aunt in Edinburgh. We experience Leonora's life through Jeff's experiences and I found her chapters the most compelling.

I have to disagree with the promotion for this novel as blending “the historical richness of Outlander with the powerful dystopian feminism of Margaret Atwood”.

I don't see anything of Outlander in this novel. There is no romance between the characters, and if anything, Leonora believes she is cursed or possessed when she becomes aware of Jeff's presence. The only tenuous link between the two is time travel, but our protagonist doesn't actually time travel, he just witnesses chunks of time in Leonora's life. Outlander travels back in time to Scotland in the 1740s, and Leonora is living in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1860s, so this comparison is misleading.

I also didn't find this novel to be dystopian or feminist so have no idea why it's being compared to the writing of Margaret Atwood. My guess is that this novel is hard to categorise or pigeonhole and that's a good thing. It should be able to stand on its own and comparing it to popular works in this way actually does the reader a disservice.

Being a fan of historical fiction, I wasn't surprised to find myself wrapped up in Leonora's story and wishing she had a book of her own. I was fascinated by the group of like-minded people Leonora stumbles across and definitely wanted more of this. I could easily have done without Jeff and his selfish behaviour, although the android assistant/companion aspect was interesting. 

A Superior Spectre is recommended for readers interested in a science fiction meets historical fiction mash-up.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

31 July 2018

Blogging for the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival

I'm beyond excited to announce that I'm one of the bloggers for the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival this year. It was such a thrill to be asked to write about my top 5 reads for the MWF18, along with five other Melbourne based bloggers. My article was published today, and you can read it here, or enjoy reading it below.*

Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba
Majok Tulba fled his Sudanese village and came to Australia in 2001 at the age of 16, unable to read or write but a natural storyteller. In 2012 Majok published Beneath the Darkening Sky; a fictionalised story of what might have happened if he’d been forced to become a child soldier. It was an incredibly moving read and this month his second novel When Elephants Fight has been published. 

Before picking this up or seeing Majok at the festival, I recommend reading Beneath the Darkening Sky first. You will definitely be inspired.

Floating Gold: The Search for Ambergris, The Most Elusive Natural Substance in the World by Christopher Kemp
Marine biologist Micheline Jenner is an expert on whales and has a book out called The Secret Life of Whales. Before seeing Micheline at the Festival, I recommend you read Floating Gold by Christopher Kemp. 

I’ve always been fascinated by whales and ambergris in particular; the waxy substance found only in the intestines of sperm whales. Ambergris is incredibly valuable and is used as a fixative in the perfume industry. Reading Floating Gold will enhance your knowledge of whales, after which you’ll be primed to enjoy a session with Micheline Jenner.

The Long and Winding Way to the Top: Fifty (or so) Songs That Made Australia by Andrew P Street
I love music, and I’m currently reading The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street in readiness for the Festival. The author has selected 50 or so songs that made Australia and has carefully researched each one, presenting them in chronological order. 

I’ll admit not knowing every song listed, while rushing off to listen to old favourites with renewed zeal and appreciation for their back stories. We all have an opinion on music, so be sure to read this prior to his event so you can decide if he got it right or not.

Signs From Spirit: Inspiring True Stories from the Afterlife by Mitchell Coombes I love reading books by psychic mediums including: Lisa Williams, Allison DuBois, Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh and John Edward. I’ve also read books by Australian mediums – including Debbie Malone – and this year I learned about renowned Australian psychic medium Mitchell Coombes. 

Mitchell comes from a long family line of psychics, gave his first reading aged just three. I want to read his latest book Signs From Spirit and will be trying to get along to Mitchell’s event to experience his amazing work with spirit in person.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 – A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to Her Books by Annie Spence
If you’re reading this, you’re obviously a dedicated bookworm, booklover and bibliophile. My favourite bookish book this year is Dear Fahrenheit 451. Annie Spence is an experienced librarian and this is a collection of letters to books as well as cleverly curated booklists for all occasions. 

I instantly fell in love with Annie’s witty and natural writing style and you don’t need to have read the books mentioned in order to enjoy it. Although Annie isn’t appearing in this year’s program, I chose this book because it’s guaranteed to invigorate and energise your love of books and writing across all genres, the perfect preparation for a writers festival.

* This blog article was originally published on the Melbourne Writers Festival blog on 31 July 2018 and the festival is on from 24 August - 2 September 2018.

27 July 2018

Review: Lies by TM Logan

RRP $29.99
Published June 2017
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Published a year ago now, Lies by TM Logan was a brilliant psychological thriller and I ripped through it. Joe is happily married and his son spots his wife's car entering a hotel car park on their way home. Joe follows on impulse to surprise her, but soon discovers his life is based on a web of lies.

Joe Lynch is a terrific protagonist and I was cheering him on as he made smart choices and really felt for him when he let his heart rule his head. The pace is quick and the situation unfolding was tense which compelled me to keep reading and reading.

The novel was a 5 star read for me up until the very end and I guess it's fair to say I wasn't entirely happy with the denouement or the 'big reveal'. I didn't see it coming which was refreshing and couldn't see it ending any other way, but still wasn't 100% satisfied with the way it all turned out.

Lies by TM Logan was a gripping read and I recommend it to crime and thriller fans everywhere. Author TM Logan has already released his next novel 29 Seconds and it's available now.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

23 July 2018

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I can't tell you how much I loved this book. I wasn't sure it was for me, but I'm soooo glad I picked up Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineI know I'm late to the party; this debut by Gail Honeyman was published last year and has won several awards, including the 2018 Costa Debut Novel Award.

Eleanor is a troubled and solitary woman in her late 20s with a complex past and few social skills. Working in an office job, she has a set routine and her interactions with others were often cuttingly funny (she has no filter).

Eleanor struck a chord with me on the very first page and I can't think of a single character like her in all my reading history. I was cheering her on from the sidelines and revelled in her small victories along with way. Her unintentional wit and view of the world made her endearing and at other times my heart ached for her loneliness and dark past.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a brilliant novel and I highly recommend it. The film rights have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon so fingers crossed Eleanor comes to the big screen soon.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. If you have any suggestions on the perfect actress to play Eleanor Oliphant in the movie adaptation, let me know in the comments below.

18 July 2018

Review: Australia's Most Unbelievable True Stories by Jim Haynes

RRP $22.99 AUD
Published 27 June 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Australian entertainer, broadcaster, historian and recipient of the Order of Australia Medal in 2016, Jim Haynes has a new offering in Australia's Most Unbelievable True Stories.

The book is broken down into four distinct parts:
- Stranger Than Fiction
- Royal Visitors Beware!
- Lest We Forget
- Those Magnificent Women and Men

My favourite story in the entire book was the non-fatal shooting of Prince Alfred in Sydney in 1867 and the colourful detail from the Sydney Mail newspaper at the time. It had me in absolute stitches. I'd never heard of the incident and I'm sure to re-visit this in the future, it's just so outlandish and funny.

However I didn't find the sections in the Lest We Forget part of the book to be 'unbelievable' true stories and found the military history heavy going. I was under the impression this was a humourous and light read, but the history is thorough and obviously well researched.

Having recently read and thoroughly enjoyed 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted (another Allen & Unwin title), the stories here felt a little too long and some of them were just interesting, not unbelievable.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

12 July 2018

Review: The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell is the perfect historical fiction novel and I just loved it! Replete with crumbling mansion/estate that has seen better years, the novel is a story about family, secrets and regrets unfolding in a dual narrative.

Lillian marries Charles Oberon at the age of 26 and becomes mistress of Cloudesley, a manor house in the Chilterns. Now quite elderly, Lillian's story unfolds in a series of flashbacks.

Maggie comes back to Cloudesley to care for her Grandmother Lillian and is forced to face the repercussions and shame of her own actions a year or so ago.

I flew through The Peacock Summer and felt as though it was written just for me. Don't you love it when that happens? The pacing was perfect without any dull periods and the writing was so atmospheric I could almost hear the peacocks in the garden with Lillian and trace my finger through the dusty rooms along with Maggie.

The Peacock Summer is definitely for fans of Kate Morton and those who enjoy historical fiction. Highly recommended. I'm just sad it's over.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

06 July 2018

Review: 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson & James Harkin

RRP $17.99AUD
Published 24 April 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

All 1,342 facts in this book come from the BBC show QI and it was a very enlightening, informative and entertaining read. I read their earlier book 1,339 QI Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop in 2015 and it was just as engaging.

I loved being able to check the references for the facts online by visiting the QI website and entering the relevant page number. Despite sometimes slowing down my reading progress, I just had to know more about some of the facts listed in the book. Here are some of my favourites:

Making all the chain mail for The Lord of the Rings wore the costume designers' fingerprints away. Page 18

Each archer at the Battle of Agincourt had three arrows in the air at any given moment. Page 48

From 1850 to 1880, over 3,000 English women died after their skirts caught fire. Page 54

Tartle is an old Scottish word for the moment of panic when you're about to introduce someone and realise you've forgotten their name. Page 126

Roald Dahl, Noel Coward, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Harry Houdini and Christopher Lee all worked as spies. Page 163

121 bell-ringers were killed by lightning in Germany between 1750 and 1783, due to a belief that church bells drove away storms. Page 250

1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted is the perfect book to take with you in your handbag/manbag/backpack or briefcase and is super easy to read when you want something engaging to occupy a few minutes.

Highly recommended for trivia buffs, know-it-alls and curious readers of all ages.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

03 July 2018

Review: The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse is an epic tale of a family in mid 1500s France set against the backdrop of the civil unrest between the Catholics and Huguenots.

This is quite a hefty tome coming in at over 580 pages and while I don't mind a chunky read every now and again, I did find this one a little too long. I wanted the main character to spend more time at her father's bookshop and felt a little robbed when that was just a kicking off point to her story.

Containing a mystery and a love story amongst the turbulent political setting, the writing was evocative but sometimes a little repetitive (e.g. the word pernicious appears twice on page 123). The period seemed to be excellently researched though and those with an interest in the French Wars of Religion will thoroughly enjoy this historical fiction novel.

Overall I found it a good but slow moving story with the convergence of the characters at the end a little unrealistic. The Burning Chambers is the first in a series with the second novel The City of Tears due for publication in 2020. I'm pretty sure fans of Ken Follett will enjoy this series.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

28 June 2018

Review: The Story of Shit by Midas Dekkers

* Copy courtesy of Text Publishing *

I have a casual interest in the human body (two months ago I reviewed The Wonder Down Under) and when I learned there was a book about the personal, cultural, scientific, historical and environmental aspects of shit, I was hooked.

The Story of Shit is by biologist and writer Midas Dekkers and was translated from Dutch to English by Nancy Forest-Flier. Dekkers was able to impart a lot of interesting information on the topic, however it came along with wayyyyy too much emphasis on the joy of defecation and the underrated nature of human excrement.

Just some of the irrelevant and distasteful opinions shared included: defecating being not too dissimilar to childbirth, defecation should be revered in the same way a person appreciates a fine meal, the disappointment in not being able to detect the messages in dog faeces and so on.

The inclusion of two thoroughly inappropriate comments in relation to female genitalia definitely cost this book a star or two. Here's the first one, you be the judge.

"Everyone guards their throat like a virgin guards her vagina. Whether it's dubious food or a dubious guy, it's all about preserving the body's integrity. Forcing something unpleasant on someone bears a suspiciously strong resemblance to rape. The most important difference is that there's a set of teeth behind the lips of the mouth which victims of sexual assault might have found helpful - behind their other set of lips, of course." Page 9 

What the actual hell was that?

While there were some informative sections of the book (the section on disgust was memorable, and the historical section describing enema parties in the French court during the time of Louis XIV was excellent) the final chapter was so offensive it made me regret the time I spent reading this book. I don't say this lightly either, see below.

"How a tongue can end up in an anus is anybody's guess." Page 247

"The penis seems to have been created for penetration of the rectum. It's shaped like a turd and has approximately the same dimensions." And this: "A man is lucky. He has a penis and an anus, which means he can mount and be mounted." Page 248

"Anyone who appreciates the fun of sex automatically discovers the pleasures that shit and pee have to offer." Page 249

Ummm, no they don't. I'll grant you that some do, but if Dekkers is that turned on by faeces, perhaps he should have written a different book. I thought The Story of Shit was desperately in need of its own enema via a few rounds of serious editing. It's not often I take issue with a translation either, but I did notice several occasions where the translation let the author down.

Ultimately, The Story of Shit by Midas Dekkers was a crap read; pun intended. The interesting and informative content of the book was quickly overshadowed by inappropriate content and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Those curious can read the entire first chapter in a generous sample here.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!

26 June 2018

Review: Cicada by Shaun Tan

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Children's Books *

This children's picture book by Shaun Tan is about Cicada, who is employed in an office as a data entry clerk and is under-appreciated and bullied in the workplace.

I instantly felt for Cicada and was astonished at how quickly I became caught up and invested in his work/life circumstances. The illustrations and minimalist accompanying text are simple yet surprisingly moving. This is an exploration of bullying within the corporate environment and I think many readers - regardless of age - will readily identify with the themes of loneliness, belonging and transformation.

The only reason this wasn't a five star read for me was the ending. I just didn't get it! I've read it over and over and just don't understand why they laugh at the end.

Shaun Tan is an acclaimed Australian creator of picture books for children and Cicada is his latest release. This delightfully presented hardback contains moving artwork and splendidly evocative end papers and Cicada is a character I won't forget any time soon.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

21 June 2018

Review: Geek Ink - The World's Smartest Tattoos for Rebels, Nerds, Scientists and Intellectuals from the creators of Inkstinct

Published 1 March 2018, RRP $32.99AUD
Imprint: Race Point Publishing
* Copy courtesy of Murdoch Books *

I love tattoos and while I only have one, I've been considering the acquisition of another for quite a while. I'd love to celebrate my love of literature in the form of a tattoo, but can never settle on a quote or image I love enough to have inked on my body. So it was with high hopes that I picked up a copy of Geek Ink by the creators of Inkstinct.

As the title suggests, it's full of The World's Smartest Tattoos for Rebels, Nerds, Scientists and Intellectuals, so I thought it'd be right up my alley and full of tattoos to fall in love with.

The artist bios in the front were fantastic, although the repeating design on the lead page was a little frustrating given the visual nature of the book and the quality of the artwork and photographs inside.

In my opinion, there wasn't anywhere near enough variety in the style and genre of gallery tattoos. Having said that, if you were looking for a Star Wars or Harry Potter inspired tattoo, you'd be overwhelmed with choices, with a total of 23 Star Wars tattoos and 14 Harry Potter tattoos featured throughout the book.

The primary reason for disappointment though was the complete lack of a section for quotes or script tattoos. There was a Literature chapter that contained only 6 tattoos and there was only one quote tattoo in the entire book. And you guessed it, it was a quote from Star Wars

Geeks, nerds and intellectuals love their quotes, so to include a tonne of botanical and geometric tattoos to the complete exclusion of the written word was a real let down for me. In fact, the Animals chapter included an entire section for Proboscidea (elephant) tattoos that took up the same amount of space in the book as the entire Literature section.

Geek Ink clearly has a wealth of talent all over the world to choose from, but I'd have preferred more variety in the artwork presented in this collection.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

18 June 2018

Review: Ache by Eliza Henry-Jones

* Copy courtesy of HarperCollins Australia *

Ache by Eliza Henry-Jones is an Australian novel that accurately depicts the dialogue and country lifestyle in a small town in a way that often reminded me of a Tim Winton novel. Set one year after a bushfire devastated the small mountain community, Ache is about family, community, grief and recovery. The regeneration and recovery of the environment and wildlife is just as important as that of individual community members. Readers will also enjoy the way in which main character Annie's vocation as a vet is incorporated in the story.

I loved the setting of the novel, the juxtaposition of country and city and the individual growth and development of the main characters, however, being a primarily character-driven novel it did leave me wanting a little more from the plot.

Eliza Henry-Jones is a talented and accomplished writer living in the Yarra Valley in Victoria and with a new YA novel out this year called P is For Pearl, has certainly made her mark.

I recommend Ache for any reader wanting to discover an uplifting and uniquely Australian novel and explore life in a rural community recovering from a trauma.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

12 June 2018

Interview with Ged Gillmore, author of the Bill Murdoch Mystery series

Australian author Ged Gillmore
Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Australian author Ged Gillmore to Carpe Librum. Ged is the author of the Bill Murdoch Mystery crime series. 

Welcome Ged, and congratulations on publishing the third novel in your Bill Murdoch Mystery crime series. For readers who haven’t read your books yet, how would you describe the series?
I’d say it’s a very Australian cross between hard-boiled noir and classic crime novel. I love Murdoch’s bitter pommie cynicism, but a lot of readers seem drawn towards the Aussie optimism of his unlikely sidekick Davie Simms.

What can you tell us about your writing process? Where do you do most of your writing? Do you plan your novels in advance or does the narrative unfold as you go?

I work at my desk at home, which takes real self-discipline when there can be so many distractions. I’m a huge planner. That’s my favourite part of the process actually – working out who would do what to whom, how and why. But within that the writing has to be organic. It really is amazing the way a character or a story line can suddenly surprise you and yet make complete sense. Just like life really.

As a crime writer, what’s the strangest research you’ve undertaken?
The honest answer would be a complete spoiler for Base Nature I’m afraid, but anything to do with guns gets you in touch with some, er, ‘interesting’ people very quickly. It’s actually quite shocking how easy it is, when you’re in the States, to get your hands on some pretty powerful weaponry. Not nice. I prefer the autopsy sites that tell me in detail what would and wouldn’t happen if someone was, for example, run over. I used to work for the police in Britain and nothing can compare with that of course. I saw some stuff there that I wouldn’t believe if I heard described.

I love the photo of you (above) standing in front of a well-stocked and somewhat chaotic bookshelf. What kind of books will we find in there?
Yes, I love an eclectic mix of books. On my shelves you’d typically find a range of intelligent and well-written page turners. Books you want to finish because of more than just the plot. Lots of John le Carre, Peter Temple, Alan Furst, Sarah Waters, Eric Ambler, Graham GreenAnd a guilty pleasure or two: Raffles and Sherlock Holmes. 

What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just started The Woman In The Window. Very impressed by AJ Finn’s early hooks and slow burning questions. The trouble with being a crime writer, though, is that you notice the little details which later on have to be important or they would have been edited out. Unless, of course, he’s fooled me…

What is your secret reading pleasure? 
I could happily read nothing but Alan FurstJohn le Carre and Raymond Chandler again and again and again…

What was the last truly great book that you read? 
The Power by Naomi Alderman. Clever, thrilling, a great concept, raised lots of important questions, and very shocking.

What book do you wish you’d written?
Whatever book I’m currently working on. Then it would be done! But I’m a big admirer of Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favourite books. If we’re talking crime, then anything by Raymond Chandler. Or for smart thrillers, The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre is passionate and persuasive.

What's next? Do you have anything in the pipeline at the moment?
I’m currently working on a stand alone spy thriller.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Just a huge thank you for having me and please let your readers know I’m always happy to chat on Instagram. And, if there are any budding writers out there, Just Do It. A writer is a person who writes - there is no other definition.

Thanks for joining us Ged and good luck with your stand alone thriller. Find out more about Ged Gillmore at his website www.gedgillmore.com 

06 June 2018

Review: Dear Fahrenheit 451 - A Librarian's Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to Her Books by Annie Spence

RRP $24.99 AUD
Published 12 March 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I have a new author crush and it's Annie Spence, the librarian and author behind Dear Fahrenheit 451 - A Librarian's Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to Her Books.

Presented in a sublime Demy sized hard cover (216mm x 135mm) with a sublime soft touch / super matt lamination dust jacket, this hardback is a sheer pleasure to hold in your hands. You might even want to stroke it as you admire the stunning gold on black design, but you certainly won't want to stuff it into your handbag or backpack. Anyway, back to the book.

Annie Spence is an experienced librarian and here she writes a variety of letters to different books. Some are her favourite books of all time, others she can't stand and some she discovers while weeding the stacks. The letters are witty and engaging and I found myself laughing along with her, agreeing with some of her comments and rushing to look up books that were new to me. I relished her clever sign offs at the end of each letter and her creative nod to the Dewey Decimal System.

The chapters at the end were just as inspiring and included 'Good Books with Bad Covers', 'Books That Lead to More Books' and 'Books for the Lazy, the Lively, the Long-Winded, and the Lethargic' to mention just a few. I also adored the list of excuses to avoid social outings so you can stay home and read.

Thoroughly original and full of bookish humour, Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the perfect read for any book-lover and I'm recommending it to bibliophiles everywhere. Seek it out at your local bookshop and I challenge you not to fall in love with it and buy a copy for yourself or a loved one.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!