14 November 2018

Review: Stalked - The Human Target by Rachel Cassidy

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

As the subtitle of Stalked - The Human Target by Rachel Cassidy indicates, this book contains Stories of people pursued by stalkers and the devastating effects on their lives. For the most part, this was an informative and educational read and contained information on what constitutes stalking and harassment, case studies and information from subject matter experts.

I wasn't expecting bullying and harassment to feature as much as stalking but the inclusion made sense when explained. From the mention of David Letterman and Madonna in the synopsis, I was expecting to read about more famous cases than those included in Stalked.

In an attempt to provide balance, the author included the perspective of a stalker convicted for his crimes. However the interview didn't go anywhere near far enough in my opinion. Given this was the only first person perspective of stalking from the perpetrator's point of view, I wanted to know more. Did he regret his actions, did he ever feel the urge to stalk again, and how did the time drain of obsessive stalking impact his life. How did he keep it secret.

Given that I was left wanting more information on the topic of stalking, the appearance of 9 pages of author acknowledgements at the end of a 178 page book seemed over the top. One of the stalking victims (Mark Wilson, former judge of Dancing with the Stars) was given 4 pages to list his own acknowledgements and the combined 13 pages was excessive.

On the flip side, the resources list at the end was comprehensive and no doubt will be helpful to some readers. I'd recommend Stalked by Australian author Rachel Cassidy for anyone dealing with bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment or stalking.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

12 November 2018

Review: Melmoth by Sarah Perry

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

An historical fiction novel set in Prague with a supernatural element, Melmoth by Sarah Perry held so much promise for me. Unfortunately this highly anticipated read left me feeling a little underwhelmed by the end.

Our main character Helen is riddled with guilt and living an ordinary life when she is given a manuscript and told about Melmoth. Melmoth the witness is a tall woman dressed in black with bleeding feet condemned to walk the earth forever. She’s the loneliest being in the world and tries to lure the guilty to wander the earth beside her.

Despite the awesome premise, some of the gothic tropes in this novel soon became repetitive and therefore lost their power to move me. For instance, there were so many jackdaws (crows) throughout the novel that their appearance quickly lost their 'creep factor'.

The best parts by far were the 'stories within the main story' in the form of the manuscript, letters and documents. They contained information across time from other people who had encountered Melmoth and these encounters and backstories made for interesting reading.

I particularly enjoyed uncovering the reason behind Helen's guilt and belief she must suffer for the sins of her past and I could easily have dwelled in her tale much longer. However her overarching story failed to hold my interest.

Exploring themes of redemption, guilt and perhaps even loneliness, Melmoth will appeal to historical fiction lovers who enjoy dark and mysterious stories.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

10 November 2018

Review: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

* Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House Australia *

Reading Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield was like sitting at the foot of a legendary storyteller on a wild and stormy night. I was in expert hands, hung on every word and instantly fell into the story being told.

Set in the 1800s on the river Thames, the story starts at an ancient inn at Radcot called The Swan. At the time, if you wanted music, gambling or brawling you could visit a number of other inns, but the specialty on offer at The Swan was storytelling.

The stories told were passed down through generations, from the battle of Radcot Bridge in 1387 to more recent times and anywhere in between. Some of the stories had alternate endings or different beginnings, but the locals who frequented the inn loved to tell them and loved to listen to them being told.

It's in this setting that a man stumbles in one night dripping with river water and a young girl in his arms. She is dead and he is close to it, but hours later she comes back to life. Those present struggle to comprehend what has happened and who she might be.

The girl's identity is the mystery gently driving this atmospheric novel forward, and the elements of myth and folklore kept me glued to the page. And just like the river itself, the story meanders along at times, sometimes appearing deep and dark and others sparkling with insight or forging destructive new paths.

Diane Setterfield is a favourite author of mine, having adored The Thirteenth Tale in 2006 and her writing style has only improved since then; if that's even possible. I loved being addressed by the author occasionally as 'dear reader' and although it's not a new construct, it works perfectly here. It reminds the reader the novel is just another 'story being told' and builds on the layers of stories already being told at The Swan.

Once Upon a River is dark and gothic and reads like a fairytale re-telling at times. It's definitely a serious contender for my Top 5 Books of 2018. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is available in December 2018.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. I learned after reading this that The Swan Inn and Radcot Bridge are real locations and are just as I imagined. In fact, Radcot Bridge was built around 1200 and claims to be the oldest crossing of the river Thames. This, together with the fact that I read this while in London further added to my enjoyment.

08 November 2018

Interview with Sandy Macken, author of Paramedic - One Woman's 20 Years on the Front Line

Author, Sandy Macken
Sandy Macken is the author of Paramedic - One Woman's 20 Years on the Front Line and she joins me today to chat about her memoir, her career as a paramedic and her reading habits.

Thanks for joining us Sandy. What was the most challenging part of writing your memoir Paramedic? I wanted to give the reader the opportunity of walking with me step by step through some of the toughest jobs I have faced. I had to completely immerse myself in the thoughts and feelings of every single moment in order to achieve this. 

One particular chapter was so stressful in the writing and editing that my hands would become sweaty and my nervous system become quite activated. (Can you guess which one? lol) So I had to pick and choose the right times to do the writing, because I knew that it would be a bit of a ride for me. Along with the challenge would come the gratitude, for the peace and good health I was enjoying, so it was both "bitter sweet" and that is the point of the book; to inspire that balance of heart and mind of both our challenges and the blessings that often hide among them.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to become a paramedic? Know that the job will grow your soul and that can be hard work but well worth it. Strive to keep an open heart.

What training do you need to undertake in order to become a paramedic? What are the different levels/titles/ranks you progress through?
Nowadays most people come in after a three year degree in paramedicine. The levels progress from trainee to qualified paramedic. There is then a competitive application process for those wishing to further specialise. There are various specialisations including "Intensive Care" which the stories in the book reflect. Other areas of specialisation include Extended Care and aeromedical as well as Special Operations which is similar to a rescue role.

What do you wish the public knew when it comes to receiving treatment from a paramedic or calling an ambulance? 

A calm environment and honest answers is helpful. There is really good medical advice given through the triple zero number.

What are the most common mistakes good samaritans make when giving first aid before an ambulance arrives on the scene? 

I probably don't see most of them. Simple helpful measures and timely calling for an ambulance is best.

Have you ever delivered a baby?
Been there a few times! A job that always raises the heart rate. I helped a woman give birth on a bench seat outside hospital at 5.00am on a cold winter morning. That was the day I learned that it is possible to give birth sitting upright on a chair. And that birthing women are completely awesome.

Do you ever need to go to court as part of your job?
Yes, I have taken the stand a few times. It isn't a regular occurrence, but I have been called as a professional witness, mostly for violent crimes.

Do patients you’ve assisted ever ask to meet and thank you down the track? How do you feel about meeting patients you saved?
Yes. It is AMAZING to meet the patients. I have had a couple of experiences that were quite beautiful. What really struck me is how different a person looks when they are close to clinically dead. That experience is something that I take with me forever too, so to meet that person, whom I had the privilege of helping in such a dramatic way for me has been incredibly moving and sometimes part of a healing journey too. It is often a great success, to preserve life for someone. The gift for me is that incredible sense, that life is so precious.

What’s your favourite way to unwind after a difficult shift?
Swim in the ocean. It has a cleansing effect second to none. It lifts my spirit.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Books that educate and inspire me.

What are you reading at the moment?
Our baby is five months old, so reading time since her birth has been a shared delight. We are reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett.

What was the last truly great book you read?
I have to say The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. A classic tale that teaches me something new every time I read it. Another one I read to my daughter.

Thanks for joining us Sandy and for all the good work you do in the community. Paramedic is published by Rockpool Publishing.

05 November 2018

Review & Extract: Well Read Cookies by Lauren Chater

Well Read Cookies by Lauren Chater
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia
RRP AU$24.99
Photography © Lauren Chater
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Lauren Chater is an Australian author who loves to read and bake and has been blogging about her love of baking and decorating cookies at The Well Read Cookie for the last three years. In her latest book, Lauren brings her love of books and cookies together in Well Read Cookies - Beautiful Biscuits Inspired by Great Literature.

This scrumptious hardback is full of Lauren's favourite reads paired with cookies iced and decorated to reflect the theme or focus of the book. There are a variety of books represented, with children's books, classics and contemporary novels included and the decorated cookies are mouth-wateringly delicious.

Lauren includes the reasons she loves each of the 60 books chosen and also talks a little about each of the cookie designs. I thoroughly enjoyed the unique pairing of literature with creative and whimsical cookie designs and it made me hungry for biscuits and books all at the same time.

I'm lucky enough to be able to share with you three of my favourite cookie/book combinations, so please enjoy them below.

Well Read Cookies by Lauren Chater
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia 
RRP AU$24.99
Photography © Lauren Chater

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Why are children so obsessed with books about food? From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Possum Magic, food and literature continues to be an utterly magical combination. What is it that makes us go gaga for Suessian green eggs and ham and dreamy Sendak-style aeroplane doughnuts? Psychologists suggest food is associated with memory, so perhaps when parents read to children from picture books which feature fantastical feasts and pleasant picnics, a love of food is absorbed along with the language.

Nowhere is this combination of edibles and idioms more apparent than in Eric Carle’s classic tale of gluttony and greed, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Brimful of fruit, condiments and sweets, it’s the ultimate guide to a week’s worth of overeating, but it’s also a lesson in growth and transformation.

The compulsion of the caterpillar to consume everything in sight is an instantly recognisable childish trait. The mere whiff of a pickle takes me straight back to my school days, and whenever the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘cake’ are mentioned together, I find myself reaching for the fridge – because, as everyone knows, the perfect accompaniment to a Matilda-style Bruce Bogtrotter chocolate cake (thank you Roald Dahl) is a slice of Swiss cheese.

When I was making these hungry caterpillar cookies, my children offered very helpfully to cut the holes out of the ‘fruits’ instead of what they usually do, which is squirt the icing straight into their mouths. I recommend using the bottom of an icing tip to get a good-sized hole and piping an outline around the hole first before you flood so that the icing doesn’t drip down inside. You’ll need a 1.5 mm tip for the caterpillar’s details.

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
Well Read Cookies by Lauren Chater
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia 
RRP AU$24.99
Photography © Lauren Chater
Many people see passenger liners as places of transit, a bridge between the old world and the new. This unique experience takes a tragic twist in Armando Lucas Correa’s novel, which chronicles the ill-fated journey of the transatlantic liner St Louis through the eyes of a young Jewish girl, Hannah Rosenthal. 

Fleeing the persecution of the Nazi regime in 1939, Hannah and her parents join others on board the ship, expecting to disembark in Cuba, but their excitement quickly sours as the ship is turned away from that port, and every other, and the liner soon becomes a floating crypt. Correa pays tribute to those poor souls in this sobering story about war, hope and the human condition.

Of all the passenger liner tragedies in popular culture, the best known is of course the White Star’s Titanic but the success of Correa’s book has recently thrown light on the forgotten passenger ship St Louis. A German ocean liner, she set out in May 1939 and soon became embroiled in a political and humanitarian crisis when Jewish passengers fleeing the Holocaust were denied entry at every port.

With an eye to the recent horrors in Syria, Correa’s book seems more relevant than ever and, cute cookies aside, it’s one that everyone should read to prevent such a tragedy ever occurring again. These liner cookies were made using a custom cutter but any steamship cutter will do.
Outline and flood the bottom section first in black icing.
Outline and flood the top half in bright white icing once the bottom has dried.
Use grey icing in a piping bag fitted with a 1.5 mm tip to add the decorative stripes and the windows.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Well Read Cookies by Lauren Chater
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia RRP AU$24.99
Photography © Lauren Chater
Not many people have much sympathy for Jay Gatsby, the brooding anti-hero of Fitzgerald’s moody commentary on America’s loss of innocence. He’s the kind of guy we love to read about but would find intolerable if he rolled up outside in his Merc. He’s the ultimate creepy ex-boyfriend, hanging around to remind you what you missed out on. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole Gatsby aesthetic: the flappers, the prohibition booze, the vacuous parties on Long Island paid for by Daddy’s trust-fund. There’s a delicious opulence and decadence in the book (especially the party scenes) that makes me want to cut my hair into a bob and Charleston ’til dawn. But then Fitzgerald throws in the contrast of the slum areas outside Rhode Island and exposes how one-sided the whole business is; desperate depression on the one hand, filthy opulence on the other. Both Nick Carraway (useless enabler) and Jay Gatsby (hopeless dreamer) really rub me up the wrong way.

Daisy, on the other hand, is a girl after my own heart. Unlike Gatsby, who tries to mould himself into some kind of unreachable ideal, Daisy goes straight for the Cartier and doesn’t feel a bit bad about it. She never apologises for who she is or what she wants. Is it her fault Gatsby puts her on an impossibly high pedestal? Not at all! It might be unfashionable, but make like a mint julep and be a Daisy; throw your troubles to the wind and let some man do the worrying for you.

I think Daisy would appreciate these flapper girl cookies with their oh-so-chic wink and stylish cloche hats. Don’t forget to add a dash of edible gold to embellish your decorations!

Recipe for Vanilla Sugar Cookies (Makes around 16)
250g unsalted butter, softened                            1 egg
1/2 tsp salt                                                           1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence                                           6 cups flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/2 tsp baking powder

Place softened butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and mix until smooth and light in colour (about four minutes).
STEP 2 Add in vanilla essence and beat in egg, until combined.
STEP 3 Slowly beat in the baking powder and flour, one cup at a time. After two minutes or so of beating the dough should start pulling away from the edge of the bowl and form a lump. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a lightly floured surface.
STEP 4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least four hours.
STEP 5 Preheat oven to 180°C (355°F). Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out desired shapes. Place them on flat baking trays and put in freezer or the fridge for at least 20 minutes before baking to preserve shape.
STEP 6 Bake each tray for 18 minutes, turning halfway to ensure consistency.
STEP 7 Allow to cool completely before decorating.

You'll definitely need a cup of tea and a biscuit when devouring Well Read Cookies by Lauren Chater. If you want more, feel free to turn the oven on, whip up a batch of sugar cookies and check out my interview with Lauren about her debut novel The Lace Weaver.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

01 November 2018

Review: The Girl On The Page by John Purcell

* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins *

This book has everything: a setting in the publishing industry, ageing and eccentric authors, bestselling authors, publishing personalities, editing and proofreading, manuscripts aplenty, sex, ambition, literary debate and tragedy.

The Girl On The Page by John Purcell has been the most surprising read for me so far this year and I absolutely loved it!

Australian author John Purcell is currently the Director of Books at Booktopia and before that he ran a secondhand bookshop in Sydney for 10 years, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has such a firm grip on what it's like to work in the book industry. I've heard that John's portrayal of the industry is too sexy to bear any resemblance to the Australian publishing industry. I'll never know for sure, but this definitely kept me enthralled from start to finish.

The references to real authors and actors in the story enhanced my enjoyment and gave the novel a real contemporary feel. The title is also quite playful and possibly a stab at all the books with 'girl' in the title.

Punchy, sexy, witty, entertaining and containing intelligent debate on literature versus bestselling fiction, I'm recommending The Girl On The Page by John Purcell far and wide.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

28 October 2018

Review: Paramedic - One Woman's 20 Years on the Front Line by Sandy Macken

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

I was thoroughly gripped reading Sandy Macken's memoir Paramedic and read it in a single day. This is a first for me and a testament to Sandy's engaging story. Paramedic is a look at Sandy's 20 years service as a paramedic - or ambo - in Australia and covers the medical aspects, the humanity of patients and their loved ones and the toll it can take on first responders.

Despite reading this in a day, I was left wanting much much more. I wanted to hear more call-outs and more patient stories. I wanted to learn more about the training paramedics undertake and the different levels they progress through. I wanted to know whether they ever need to go to court and tips for members of the public when they call an ambulance. I've called several ambulances for those in need and I would love to know what's important to communicate to the dispatcher and the common mistakes to avoid.

Sandy's experience volunteering in disaster zones was inspiring and a reminder that we can all do better.

Running parallel to Sandy's demanding career looking after patients on what can often be the worst day of their lives, was the story of her spiritual journey. This gives the reader great insight into how Sandy has managed - and sometimes failed to manage - the stresses of her job and provides inspiration to those needing optimism and hope in their lives.

I'm currently in the process of organising an interview with the author so if you've got any questions you'd like to ask Sandy, please leave them in the comments below and I'll pass them on. Stay tuned for more.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

15 October 2018

Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Bridge of Clay by bestselling author Markus Zusak finally hit the shelves this month and was easily the most highly anticipated book on my radar this year.

Fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy, I was shocked to find the first 100 pages or so were a slog. I just couldn't wrap my head around who was narrating. The story is told by an omniscient narrator who is actually one of the characters. How’s that even possible? My reading began to settle only once I'd figured this out and made my peace with the impossibility of it.

Clay - of the title - is one of five Dunbar boys, and the strength of the novel is definitely the rough and tumble relationship between these brothers. As a reader without a brother, I found their interactions touching, and the warmth of their family life in the three bedroom house on Archer street definitely shined through.

The novel also includes backstories of the Dunbar parents as well as several other characters, which jumped forward and back in time seemingly without order. These organic leaps in storytelling were confusing in the beginning, with the multitude of characters, snippets of stories, numerous timelines and the obvious point to a larger story arc. In fact, if I wasn't in the hands of Markus Zusak I may have given up at this point and put the novel aside. I'm glad I didn't, but this complex writing style may be an obstacle to new readers of his work.

There are unifying themes of love and family and overall this is a very moving story. The writing and dialogue are quintessentially Australian and the landscape was perfectly conveyed.

Ultimately, I still favour The Messenger as my favourite book by Markus Zusak, but that's okay. It was exciting to read Bridge of Clay, but after taking 10-13 years to bring this manuscript to fruition, I think the author has earned a well deserved break.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

09 October 2018

Review: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory is number #15 in The Plantagenet and Tudor novels series, but just like the others in the series, it too can be read as a stand alone.

Set in the mid to late 1500s, this story of Mary Queen of Scots is told from three perspectives: Queen Mary, her keeper George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick.

Bess's sections were incredibly repetitive; the one exception being the opening paragraph of the book told to us by Bess which was incredibly gripping.

"Every woman should marry for her own advantage since her husband will represent her, as visible as her front door, for the rest of his life. If she chooses a wastrel she will be avoided by all her neighbours as a poor woman; catch a duke and she will be Your Grace, and everyone will be her friend. She can be pious, she can be learned, she can be witty and wise and beautiful; but if she is married to a fool she will be 'that poor Mrs Fool' until the day he dies." Page 1

How's that for an opening? I've read 10 novels in this series and overall, The Other Queen just wasn't as engaging or memorable as the others. I recommend it for completionists of the series, otherwise I know for a fact there are better Philippa Gregory novels awaiting discovery.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

01 October 2018

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Normal People by Sally Rooney is a book about the relationship between Connell and Marianne. Told in a writing style devoid of punctuation for dialogue, I found it difficult to read at times.

Normal People is a literary coming of age novel about two high schoolers and the complex relationship between them and the dynamic that keeps them connected. Set in Ireland, it could really be taking place anywhere.

I shook my head at claims readers will be brought to tears reading Normal People as I didn't find it moving at all. Despite reviewing well by some of my favourite book bloggers, I found the relationship between Connell and Marianne vaguely interesting, but not earth shattering. As the title suggests, they were normal people, or two people striving to be normal. What is normal anyway?

Ultimately, this novel wasn't for me, but I'm glad I read it as I now have an opinion on its inclusion on the Man Booker Prize Longlist.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

24 September 2018

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

It's taken a while, but I've finally read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is a moving young adult novel and I was instantly caught up in it thanks to Conor's voice.

Thirteen year old Conor is trying to cope with bullying at school, while at home his Mum is fighting cancer and his Dad is no longer on the scene.

Drawing on an element of magical realism, the novel reads like a fairytale at times as Conor interacts with the monster of the title and begins to face his problems.

A Monster Calls contains themes of terminal illness, love, loss and grief as well as the coming-of-age themes of bullying and fitting in at school.

This short book has been a huge success and I look forward to seeing the film adaptation starring Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson when I get the chance.

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

* I won this copy in an Australian Writers' Centre competition last year.

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.