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!

02 June 2018

Review: Giftwrapped by Jane Means

I love to wrap gifts and presents at Christmas but I wouldn't say I was terribly good at it. I love paper and stationery, gift tags, washi tape and ribbon, and never fail to drool over the wrapalicious tutorials and giftwrapping how-to videos online.

There's also the joy of wrapping a gift I've carefully chosen and looking forward to the time the recipient opens and - fingers crossed - enjoys what they find inside. It's so exciting and my favourite part of Christmas.

When I saw Giftwrapped: Practical and Inventive Ideas for All Occasions and Celebrations by Jane Means on sale at a discount store, I couldn't resist. It's the sort of book I love to flip through and the photographs are wonderful. The book is full of mood boards and inspirational techniques, as well as some instructions on how to achieve the same results yourself at home.

Jane Means used to be a florist and this skill makes her a mean wrapping machine, and is no doubt the reason behind her success as a professional wrapper for celebrities, Royals and big name department stores. If only I had a tenth of her talent, I'd be set.


My only criticism is the repeated referral to using expensive accessories like silk scarfs, costume jewellery or wallpaper remnants. I don't know about you, but here in Australia it's expensive stuff to buy. I would have liked advice on how to use foil wrapping paper and how to tszuj tissue paper like a boss florist.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!