21 March 2019

Bumper Birthday Stack Giveaway 2019

Carpe Librum 2019 Bumper Birthday Stack Giveaway
It’s my birthday in March and other than deciding I’m going to start reading Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor, I’m also excited to bring you another bumper birthday stack giveaway. Hip hip hooray!! Historically this has been my most popular giveaway in any given year so let's do it again.

You might be wondering where the books in this 'fat stack' come from. I'm fortunate enough to receive a number of unsolicited books from publishers each month and there's just no way I can get to them all. In some cases, they're also not for me. So to celebrate my birthday I'm sharing this curated stack of books with you.

To win the book of your choice from the pile, just select your favourite using the embedded form below or click here to go straight to the form. Simple as that! 

Depending on the number of entries, I may decide to choose a second winner. (Let's face it, I probably will).

Entries close midnight AEST Sunday 31 March 2019 so good luck and I hope you'll help me spread the birthday bookish cheer 😊

19 March 2019

Apple Island Wife winner announced

Thanks to those who entered last week’s giveaway to win a copy of travel memoir Apple Island Wife - Slow Living in Tasmania by Fiona Stocker. During the giveaway the book hit #1 in Travel books Australia and the giveaway was included in Ganeing Ground Tasmania Daily News which was exciting.

The winner was drawn today and congratulations go to:

This is the ninth giveaway May has entered so I was pleased when her name finally came up. Congratulations May! I’ll be sending you an email shortly with the details.

Stay tuned for more chances to win with my bumper birthday stack giveaway coming in March and a children's picture book giveaway coming soon! Hopefully there'll be something for everyone. If you want to see giveaway dates as soon as they're locked in, you can check my Giveaways page.

Apple Island Wife by Fiona Stocker book cover

18 March 2019

Review: The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens book cover
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

I'm embarrassed to say I received this book for review back in 2015 and it's languished on my unsolicited TBR pile since then. In an effort to get through some of the backlog, I picked up The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens this month with the intention of reading just 10 pages before deciding if it was for me or not. I certainly wasn't expecting to be hooked by page 2, that's for sure!

Wolf is an experienced hiker and heads to the mountain overlooking Palm Springs to take his own life. However after a series of random events, he finds himself lost with three women on the mountain. Forced to survive gruelling conditions, Wolf is finally coming clean years later about what really happened during their five days on the mountain.

This was a gripping survival story and we know from the blurb that only three of the four hikers will survive. The tension comes from not knowing which of the hikers will succumb to the bitter conditions in the isolated wilderness.

I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and of course learning Wolf's backstory. The ending was unexpected, yet strangely satisfying too.

My only regret is not getting to this sooner.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

13 March 2019

Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

The Binding by Bridget Collins cover
The Binding by Bridget Collins is one of my most anticipated reads for 2019 and it didn't disappoint. Collins has created a world where books are forbidden and the profession of bookbinder is akin to that of a witch. A binder has the power to take a traumatic memory - or series of memories - and erase it from your mind by binding it into a book. Many people suffering grief and trauma seek their services, despite being shrouded in superstition and plagued by prejudice.

Emmett comes from a farming family and he’s bedridden with a mysterious illness when a letter arrives summoning him to become apprentice to a bookbinder. His parents mysteriously say they have no choice, and Emmett swiftly finds himself plucked from his life into an unknown and uncertain future.

Emmett's master is Seredith, an old woman living alone on the marshes. Slowly but surely Seredith teaches Emmett the tradesman skills required to bind books. Working with vellum, paper, leather scraps, gold foiling, glue and more, this was by far my favourite part of the story. I was pleasantly surprised to learn Collins is an amateur bookbinder herself and her experience clearly shines through. As Emmett learned these same skills, I yearned - along with him - to discover more about the process of binding a person's memories.

I was happy for the entire book to be about Emmett, his apprenticeship and relationship with Seredith however we were soon jerked out of that story and thrust in a new direction. Ahhhh! In fact, I'm still mourning the early trajectory of the novel, and can only hope Collins pens another novel in this world, and completes the reader's desire to know absolutely everything about the bookbinding process.

The Binding is a combination of fantasy and historical fiction or historical fiction meets urban fantasy. It doesn't clearly straddle either genre and I loved that it contained hints of folklore and myth whilst remaining rooted in reality.

And that cover, wow! I have to comment on the overall presentation, because it's an absolute masterpiece. The Binding is a stunning book to hold in your hands. Deckled edged pages are bound in a glorious spine with gold foiling designed to look like an embossed leather tome. The cover design is 
deliciously intricate and the French flap adds even further to the appeal. It's sublime and to truly enjoy reading The Binding, you simply must read a physical copy.

I loved The Binding - in spite of the altered direction - and can't wait to see what Bridget Collins writes next.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

08 March 2019

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of Apple Island Wife – Slow Living in Tasmania by Fiona Stocker

Today's Friday Freebie is travel memoir Apple Island Wife - Slow Living in Tasmania by Fiona Stocker. Please enter below for your chance to win. Open internationally and entries close Sunday 17 March. Good luck!

What happens when you leave city life and move to five acres on a hunch, with a husband who’s an aspiring alpaca-whisperer, and a feral cockerel for company? Can you eat the cockerel for dinner? Or has it got rigor mortis?

In search of a good life and a slower pace, Fiona Stocker upped-sticks and moved to Tasmania, a land of promise, wilderness, and family homes of uncertain build quality. It was the lifestyle change that many dream of and most are too sensible to attempt.

Wife, mother and now reluctant alpaca owner, Fiona jumped in at the deep end. Gradually Tasmania got under her skin as she learned to stack wood, round up the kids with a retired lady sheepdog, and stand on a scorpion without getting stung.

This charming tale captures the tussles and euphoria of living on the land in a place of untrammelled beauty, raising your family where you want to and seeing your husband in a whole new light. Not just a memoir but an everywoman’s story, and a paean to a new, slower age.

Author bio
Fiona Stocker was born in Australia and raised in the north-west of England. After graduating in the arts, she worked in London and Brisbane in the fields of theatre, advertising, education and recruitment. A circuitous route and a sense of adventure took her to Tasmania in 2006, where she and her husband established Langdale Farm, a tiny free range pig farm with accommodation. Who knew? Fiona writes freelance and edits other people’s books. Apple Island Wife is her first travel memoir. She lives in the Tamar Valley of northern Tasmania with her husband, two children, a retired sheepdog and around forty-five pigs. Read more at www.fionastocker.com


06 March 2019

Winner of the writing gloves from Literary Book Gifts announced

Thanks to everyone who entered last week’s 'handy' giveaway to win a pair of cashmere writing gloves from Literary Book Gifts valued at $52USD. This was a popular giveaway and the top colour choices were: electric blue, wine red, black and heather navy blue.

The winner was drawn today and congratulations go to:
Congratulations Krystal! You chose dark green as your preferred colour and will receive an email shortly with the details. Thanks to Literary Book Gifts for the prize.

For those who didn't win, I'm running another giveaway on Friday so please stay tuned for more chances to win with Carpe Librum! Check out my giveaways page for a sneak peek.

Literary Book Gifts writing gloves
Literary Book Gifts
Cashmere writing gloves

04 March 2019

Review and personal mention in Hunter by Jack Heath

Hunter by Jack Heath cover
RRP $29.99AUD
Published 4 March 2019
Allen & Unwin
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I have exciting news to share, I've been mentioned in the praise section of Hunter by Jack Heath, published by Allen & Unwin and available in bookstores today! But let me back up a minute.

Hunter is the second in the series to feature Timothy Blake and which began with Hangman. I was a huge fan of Hangman and some of you might remember I published a recipe style review last year which Allen & Unwin really enjoyed. 

Since then, I've been eagerly awaiting the next novel in the series but had no idea an excerpt of my Hangman review was going to be published in the praise section at the beginning of Hunter. I was stoked to receive an advance copy and when I saw Carpe Librum mentioned, my reaction was immediate and visceral. Wooohoooo!!! It's been a dream come true and I'm elated that I can now share it with you.

Naturally I've been on cloud nine since then, however I was also understandably nervous that Hunter would live up to expectations. I'm relieved to say it did!

The riddles at the beginning of each chapter are back and continued to do my head in, although I think I had a better solve rate this time. Blake is officially no longer a consultant for the FBI and when Hunter opens, we find him involved in body disposal for a local crime lord. He still sees FBI agent Reese Thistle, but when he stumbles across a body that has nothing to do with his new 'role' he finds himself in quite the predicament.

Quote from Carpe Librum blog
Praise section of Hunter by Jack Heath
Note the quote from Carpe Librum blog

I enjoyed Blake's character development in Hunter. He continues to develop feelings for Thistle and vows to be a better man so that she never has to discover his dark secret.

Blake remains the likeable bad guy protagonist, and Aussie author Jack Heath does an astonishing job of continuing to make the reader root for the cannibal detective. Hunter is a solid follow up to the first in the series, with no perceivable drop off in writing, tension, action or body count.

Highly recommended!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Read a FREE sample of Hunter and see the Carpe Librum mention on page 4.

01 March 2019

Review: Claude & Camille - A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

Claude & Camille - A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell book cover
After reading Claude & Camille - A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell, I've decided Monet was a detestable fellow and a sponge on all who knew him. There, I've said it!

Reading a fictionalised account of the life of a favourite artist is a risk and unfortunately it didn't pay off for me this time. I will continue to admire Monet's artwork but this insight into the man revealed an unlikeable artist who repeatedly made decisions that infuriated me.

Of course I knew he and his first wife Camille lived in poverty, but I didn't realise how proud he was, how he was constantly in denial about his mounting debts and often ran away to escape them. During periods of greatest financial need, he was often too upset or worried to paint; his only source of income.

The frequent mention of impressionist artists was to be expected and Renoir, Bazille, Sisley, Degas, Cezanne and Pissarro all feature in Monet's life.

While I didn't like Claude Monet and therefore wasn't terribly interested in his life, this is not a reflection of the author's writing. Stephanie Cowell has done a great job bringing Monet's story to life and her detailed research shines through.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

26 February 2019

Review: Green Is The New Black - Inside Australia's Hardest Women's Jails by James Phelps

Green Is The New Black by James Phelps book cover
Australian author James Phelps takes a look at some of the most violent and notorious female prisoners behind bars in Green Is The New Black: Inside Australia's Hardest Women's Jails.

Phelps doesn't hold back describing the lives of the inmates so this isn't for readers with a weak stomach. Occasionally the writing appeared salacious and the shock factor swiftly wore off for me. I soon became disgusted by the practices of the inmates as well as the stories and encounters re-told in this book.

Particular stories felt sensationalised and despite some of the well-known prisoners and infamous true crimes mentioned, I lost interest early on.

Just as he did in Australia's Most Murderous Prison - Behind the Walls of Goulburn Jail, Phelps occasionally inserted a narrative nonfiction style of writing, which seemed to fictionalise an inmate's experience as if it was taking place right now. There was no consistency to these changes in writing style, which left these sections oddly juxtaposed with the standard non fiction delivery.

Only recommended for hard core true crime fans with an interest in Australian prison life for female inmates. I'm sure there are better books out there for those wanting to read about the individual inmates mentioned.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!

22 February 2019

WIN a pair of cashmere writing gloves from Literary Book Gifts valued at $52USD

I've teamed up with Literary Book Gifts to bring you the first Carpe Librum giveaway for 2019. While it's summer in Australia, the northern hemisphere has experienced a record breaking winter and are doing everything they can to keep warm.

Enter below to win a pair of cashmere writing gloves from Literary Book Gifts valued at $52USD (plus free international shipping) in your choice of 13 colours.
Available in 13 colours
Literary Book Gifts

These soft fingerless cashmere knit gloves are perfect for writing, reading, crafting and more. You can wear them while typing on your keyboard or using touch screens. Keep your hands warm in winter and maintain full dexterity.

The gloves are made of a breathable cashmere knit of about 35% cashmere wool, with cotton, polyester and microfibre blended in for durability. These gloves measure approximately 17.5 cm in length and are available in 13 different colours.

Good luck and feel free to browse their website and check out their gift ideas for book lovers, readers, writers and librarians. 

21 February 2019

Review: Perfect Ten by Jacqueline Ward

Perfect Ten by Jacqueline Ward book cover
RRP $29.99AUD
Published in October 2018
Allen & Unwin
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Our main character Caroline, is reeling after a messy break up with her husband. His controlling behaviour led to Caroline losing her herself and her kids and she's now alone with a drinking problem. One day a delivery to the door sparks an opportunity to get to the bottom of her ex husband's secretive behaviour and expose Jack for the type of man he really is.

Perfect Ten is a tense domestic noir novel exploring themes of revenge and retribution against a backdrop of danger and uncertainty. I haven't been this tense watching a female character obsess about a man since reading The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton.

Caroline uses the power of social media to bring down Jack and while I would have executed a different plan, I think that's the point. Caroline is a wrecking ball in her own life, and the reader is left to find out whether she can come out of it on top or not.

Perfect Ten by Jacqueline Ward is recommended for psychological thriller fans and readers who enjoy domestic noir. However I advise readers to ignore the tagline: 
rage before beauty. It had nothing to do with the plot in my opinion.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

15 February 2019

Review: Threads of Life - A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter

Threads of Life by Clare Hunter
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I've been enjoying cross stitch for many years now and while it will always remain secondary to my passion for books and reading, it's an activity I thoroughly enjoy. I find it relaxing and rewarding to watch a piece take shape, stitch by stitch and thread by thread.

After seeing some ecclesiastical needlework and medieval tapestries at the Victoria and Albert Museum last year, I was keen to learn more about the history of needlework. Threads of Life - A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter was a great place to start.

Packed with historical fact - sometimes a little too much - Threads of Life certainly does attempt to take on the history of the world.

I enjoyed learning more about the Bayeux Tapestry, the stitching completed by Mary, Queen of Scots and WWI soldiers suffering from PTSD. I was stunned to read about the Northern Ireland Game of Thrones® Tapestry, and put the book down to watch the 30 minute coverage of the entire tapestry on YouTube. It was impressive and I hope to see it one day.

In fact, I often had to stop reading to go and look up certain artworks and artists like Mary Delany, Mary Linwood and more. I dearly wished the publisher had considered including photographs of any sort to complement the content within. Needlework is such a visual art and without any photographs or sketches (colour or black and white) I felt the book was lacking.

Threads of Life is recommended for readers interested in any of the ways needlework has been used to communicate a message, create desirable artwork, delineate between the rich and the poor, raise women out of poverty, provide captives with hope and the damaged a way to heal.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!

14 February 2019

Literary Map for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is here and to get you in the mood Global English Editing has compiled this epic literary map showcasing the most romantic books from around the world.

Although I don't read a lot of it, romance continues to be one of the world's bestselling genres and whilst you may already know some of the books listed, hopefully there'll be a few new ones to discover.

Do you have a favourite book on the map? Are any of the books mentioned languishing on your TBR pile? If you want more info on the books, Global English Editing provide a brief synopsis of each story here.

Happy Valentine's Day!
100 Iconic Love Stories From Around the World

08 February 2019

Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

The Familiars by Stacey Halls book cover
RRP $29.99 AUD
Published 4 February 2019
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

The Familiars by Stacey Halls is an historical fiction tale featuring Fleetwood Shuttleworth in the time of the Pendle witch trials of 1612. Based on real characters from history in Lancashire England, Fleetwood is 17 years old, married and and pregnant again after failing to carry her three previous pregnancies to term.

Fleetwood is mistress at Gawthorpe Hall and meets Alice Gray, a wise woman and midwife. Alice agrees to help Fleetwood deliver her baby safely but soon finds herself swept up in accusations of witchcraft.

Despite being fiction, I love that the characters, locations and events in The Familiars were based on historical fact. It was a fascinating insight into the period and the characters and I was instantly caught up in their stories. Fleetwood and Alice depend on each other for survival and their plight highlights the limitations placed on women at the time and the ridiculous accusations - and fear - of witchcraft.

If that wasn't enough, The Familiars is a physically stunning book. I adore the cover design with bronze foiling, forest foliage and the spot UV noose that encircles our main character. The title page and map immediately dropped me into the time period and the images of the fox and sprigs of lavender throughout the novel kept the level of enchantment full to overflowing.

It's not often that an unsolicited book from a publisher results in a five star reading experience, but The Familiars by Stacey Halls is an exception to the rule. I absolutely loved it!

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

04 February 2019

Review: An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma book cover
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Many of you will remember that The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma was one of my favourite books in 2015 and I couldn't stop talking about it. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and I was disappointed when it didn't win. Since then, Chigozie Obioma has been busy writing An Orchestra of Minorities and you can imagine how excited I was to read this; just holding it filled me with giddy anticipation.

Our main character Chinonso is a young poultry farmer living in Nigeria and his story is narrated by his chi or guardian spirit. The novel is bursting with Igbo cosmology and Chinonso's chi has come to plead the case of his host before 
Chukwu, Creator of All at the magnificent court of Bechukwu, in Eluigwe. In telling his host's story to the court, we learn about Chinonso and the foreshadowing that his life is is about to undertake a tragic turn.

Chinonso is a poor farmer and after thwarting Ndali's suicide attempt, they fall in love. Ndali is educated and from the upper classes and her family vehemently oppose the match. This is a powerful story of love, heartache, misfortune and tragedy and covers a multitude of topics, including the westernisation of Nigeria, the disparity between classes, the notions of revenge and forgiveness and the complexities of love.

The entire book is narrated by Chinonso’s chi, who is testifying to the ‘elders/spirits’ on behalf of his host because of a crime he may have committed. The chi goes into great detail to paint the picture leading up to the event, however by the end of the book we’re left completely hanging. We learn about the event that was foreshadowed early in the book, however we never learn the outcome for Ndali or Chinonso.

What I found even more baffling is that we never hear a response from the court of elder spirits to the testimony provided by Chinonso's chi. There is no judgement - or response - provided at all. Given the chi’s testimony (the book) goes into so much detail about Chinonso’s life, to have the entire situation completely unresolved at the end of 500+ pages was quite a shock.

In fact, I was so rattled that I asked the publisher if I was missing something, or if there was going to be a sequel. I received the following info which I think is worth sharing here: It is purposefully ambiguous and intended to play upon the reader’s mind. Fiction, much like life, has no easy, neat and tidy, resolution.

I understand messy and ambiguous endings, but this story was cut short before we found out where it was going to end up. I was looking forward to the wisdom of the elder spirits and Chukwu, but sadly this never came.

Ultimately, An Orchestra of Minorities was just too open-ended for me and the lack of a conclusion greatly affected what had been a 4 or 5 star read until that point.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

31 January 2019

Review: The Au Pair by Emma Rous

The Au Pair by Emma Rous book cover
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

The Au Pair by Emma Rous is the perfect blend of atmospheric tension, mystery, twins, dark family secrets and folklore surrounding a large family estate on the Norfolk coast known as Summerbourne.

Unfolding in two narratives, present day Seraphine is a twin exploring the mysterious suicide of her mother the day she and her brother were born at Summerbourne. Seraphine believes the au pair - who disappeared after the suicide - may have information and seeks to track her down.

The second narrator is the au pair Laura and we read about the lead up to Seraphine's birth in the early 1990s from her perspective. This reads like an historical fiction novel, but given the alternate time line is set in the 1990s I guess it really isn't. 

There is an underlying feeling of menace as Seraphine is warned against digging into the past and questioning a photo she found of her mother holding just one baby the day of her birth.

This was the perfect read for me and my only criticism is the cover art. I'd go so far as to say I wouldn't have picked this up in a bookshop based on the cover alone. It just doesn't do the novel justice in my opinion.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous is described as perfect for fans of Kate Morton and I heartily agree. The author gently pulls the reader along on the mystery and I was heavily invested in the story.

Highly recommended!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

21 January 2019

Review: In Miniature - How Small Things Illuminate the World by Simon Garfield

In Miniature by Simon Garfield book cover
RRP $29.99 AUD
Published October 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Miniatures always inspire awe and wonder and Simon Garfield has turned his sharp focus on the world of miniatures in his latest offering In Miniature - How Small Things Illuminate the World.

I've always admired the workmanship of modellers and creators of miniatures, whether they be doll houses, matchstick ships, micro sculptures or tiny models. In the 1990s I wore a treasured pendant that contained a grain of rice with my name on it. The skill, determination and creativity of miniature artists never ceases to amaze me.

Seeing Queen Mary's Dolls' House in 2012 was definitely a highlight, and reading here about the process of inviting the country's best artisans to contribute to the house was illuminating.

Simon Garfield covers some of my favourite topics in the world of miniatures here, including Rod Stewart's famous model train collection, the popularity of the YouTube micro cooking channel Miniature Space as well as the work of artists Slinkachu and Tatsuya Tanaka. I also love the lead pencil sculptures and art in the eye of a needle.

The clever cover design of this book is to be commended. The hardcover image is complemented by the creative and eye-pleasing partial dust jacket that transforms the image to make it look like an open box of matches. Brilliant! Having said that, I wish the photographs inside had been in colour, or at least of a better quality. The ink on the black and white photographs came off onto my fingers while reading and given I read in a bed with white linen, this was bad news.

In Miniature offers more than an overview on the world of miniatures. Garfield examines the world of miniatures in an essay writing style. This meant that I dipped in and out of it, sampling a chapter or more at a time. In Miniature is recommended reading for anyone interested in the world of miniatures. Whether you're an aspiring artist or hobbyist creator, a collector, an enthusiast or just in awe of the work, I think you'll enjoy this.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Check out my review of Just My Type by Simon Garfield.

For more on dolls houses, check out my review of Dolls' Houses from the V&A Museum of Childhood by Halina Pasierbska, also courtesy of Allen & Unwin.

15 January 2019

Review: Dead Heat by Peter Cotton

Dead Heat by Peter Cotton cover
* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

When I learned Dead Heat by Australian author Peter Cotton was set in and around Jervis Bay and an AFP Detective would be liaising with a senior intelligence officer from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), I was hooked. Most readers here won't know this, but I served in the RAN and attended many courses at the 'nearby naval base' HMAS Creswell mentioned in the blurb. Naturally I thought this book would be an awesome cross-over between my love of books and Australian crime writing and my own personal history.

Unfortunately it contained far too many inaccuracies and inconsistencies and was a disappointing read for me. Here are some examples.

A Commander on Page 52 is described as having 'four gold stripes on each shoulder' and wearing 'five lines of ribbons on the right side of his chest.' 

It's clear to me the author hasn't done enough research. Firstly, a quick online search would have shown the author - and the proofreader or editor - that a Commander has three stripes and a Captain has four. Secondly, medals and ribbons are worn on the left side of the chest, not the right. Furthermore, Australians don't have rows or lines of ribbons, that'd be the Americans.

If that wasn't enough, our main character calls him Captain on the very next page. Argh! There were also several inaccuracies surrounding the landscape and terrain of the area.

Unfortunately, these errors continue all the way through the novel. A sailor mentioned on page 140 is called Sergeant on page 151. What the hell? Now we're confusing the Army and the Navy? Here's another tip: a Lieutenant going about his daily duties would not be 'dripping in gold braid' on page 227.

I'm of the firm opinion that this author would benefit from reading a couple of novels by fellow Aussie writer Matthew Reilly who is able to write the kind of fast-moving action scenes and military interactions Cotton seems to be striving for here.

The setting at Jervis Bay is what originally drew me to this book. The plethora of elements in the plot, including: aboriginal land rights, unrest in Indonesia, bikie gangs in the desert, nuclear weapons, Navy, AFP and spooks were just excessive and didn't gel together. 

It's always a pleasure to read a new-to-me Australian author, but sadly Dead Heat fell short for me. Dead Heat is the second in the Detective Darren Glass series and it can easily be read as a stand alone.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!

11 January 2019

Review: 2,024 QI Facts To Stop You In Your Tracks by John Lloyd

2,024 QI Facts To Stop You In Your Tracks by John Lloyd book cover
RRP $24.99 AUD
Published October 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

2,024 QI Facts To Stop You In Your Tracks by John Lloyd, James Harkin and Anne Miller is the seventh and final book based on the British TV show QI. This is the largest in the series and the completion of the author's seven year plan to create an archive of 10,000 interesting facts.

Here are some of my favourites from this one:

"There are more than 180 tonnes of rubbish on the Moon." Page 78

"A pluviophile is someone who loves rainy days." Page 71

"Hotmail is so named because it contains the letters HTML: it was originally HoTMaiL." Page 136

"People suffering from plague may not enter a library in the UK." Page 139

"The Queen is a fee-paying member of the Jigsaw Puzzle Library." Page 140

"Dinosaurs were living on Earth before Saturn got its rings." Page 225

"The mysterious green code that begins all the Matrix movies is in fact recipes for sushi." Page 238

"When astronaut Sally ride first went into space in 1983, NASA engineers asked if 100 tampons would be enough to last her a week." Page 254

"A zoilist is someone who gets pleasure from finding fault." Page 365

"Crytoscopophilia is the urge to look through the windows of someone's house as you pass by. " Page 365

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed checking the facts on the QI website by entering the page number and exploring some of the facts further. It's very easy to dip in and out of and made for a pleasant and easy read over the festive season. 

This final book in the series is perfect for trivia buffs, inquisitive kids, curious adults and everyone in between.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Check out my reviews of the other books I've read in the series:
1,339 QI - Quite Interesting - Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop
1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted

09 January 2019

2019 Reading Challenge Sign Ups

I had a terrific year of reading last year and nailed all of my reading challenges in 2018 so I'm excited to sign-up for the same three reading challenges in 2019:
  • Aussie Author Challenge 2019 
  • 2019 Australian Women Writer's Challenge 
  • 2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 

The Aussie Author Challenge 2019 is hosted by Booklover BookReviews and I'm signing up for the Kangaroo level again. This means I'll need to read and review 12 titles written by Australian authors.

To successfully complete the challenge, at least 4 titles must be written by female authors, 4 titles by male authors and at least 4 of the 12 titles must be new to me authors. I'll also need to read across a minimum of 3 genres.

You don't need a blog to join in, you can follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

I'm signing up to the Franklin level of the 2019 Australian Women Writer's Challenge this year and will need to read 10 books and review at least 6 of them in order to complete the challenge.

The challenge is run by writers and volunteers and encourages readers to discover more books by Australian women. 

Participants can can join in on Facebook and GoodReads.

I'm signing up for the Renaissance Reader level of the 2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge again this year, hosted by Passages to the Past.

I will need to read 10 historical fiction novels to complete the challenge.

You can follow my challenge progress here and I look forward to discovering some new favourite authors during the year.
Let me know if you're participating in any of these challenges in the comments below.

07 January 2019

Top 5 Books of 2018

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence book cover
2018 was an excellent reading year for me and I read a new personal best of 72 books, 20 of which I gave 5 stars. This made the selection of my Top 5 Books of 2018 quite difficult, but with so many great books to choose from it was a good problem to have.

Here are my Top 5 Books of 2018 in the order I read them:

1. Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

Annie Spence is an experienced librarian and writes a variety of witty and engaging letters to different books in Dear Fahrenheit 451. Some books she can't stand, others were all-time favourites as well as quirky and obscure books she discovered while weeding the stacks.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in May (courtesy of Allen & Unwin) and 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.

Thoroughly original and full of bookish humour, I’ve been recommending Dear Fahrenheit 451 widely, making it an easy choice for my Top 5 list.

2. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell 

The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell book cover

The Girl on the Page by John Purcell book coverThe Peacock Summer by Australian author Hannah Richell is the perfect historical fiction novel replete with a crumbling mansion/estate that has seen better years. The novel is a story about family, secrets and regrets unfolding in a dual narrative and I just loved it!

The pacing was perfect without any dull periods and the writing was so atmospheric I could almost hear the peacocks in the garden and trace my finger through the dusty rooms. I flew through this in July (courtesy of Hachette) and felt as though it was written just for me. Don't you love it when that happens?

3. The Girl on the Page by John Purcell
This was the most surprising read of 2018 for me and the first of its kind on my Top 5 Books list. The Girl on the Page 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 plot contains intelligent debate on literature versus bestselling fiction and the writing is punchy, sexy, witty and entertaining. I read this in October (courtesy of Harper Collins) while on a cruise and I'm hanging out to see what Australian author John Purcell writes next.

4. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Reading Once Upon a River was like sitting at the foot of a legendary storyteller on a wild and stormy night. Set in the 1800s on the river Thames, the story starts at an ancient inn at Radcot called The Swan. The identity of a girl found drowned in the Thames is the mystery gently driving this atmospheric novel forward, and the elements of myth and folklore kept me glued to the page. 

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.

I read this in October (thanks to Penguin Random House Australia) while in London which further enhanced my enjoyment. Once Upon a River is dark and gothic and reads like a fairytale re-telling at times. It was one of my favourite reads of 2018 and I was giddy with excitement when Diane Setterfield thanked me for my review.

5. The Corset by Laura Purcell 

The Corset by Laura Purcell book cover
Sometimes you just know when a book you've read is going to be your favourite book of the year. So it was with The Corset by Laura Purcell.

This Victorian gothic thriller unfolds in alternating chapters by two female narrators, a wealthy and charitable woman with an interest in phrenology, and a prisoner named Ruth awaiting trial for murder. Before her arrest, Ruth was a seamstress and claims her needlework has the power to kill.

The Corset is an absolute masterpiece with so many elements I enjoy in a book: secrets, friendship, Victorian England, needlework, gruesome hardship, betrayal, revenge, redemption, hope, poison and mystery. These elements in the Victorian setting and gothic atmosphere enhanced my enjoyment tenfold and I really didn't want this to finish.

It did draw to a close though and the subtle twist at the end made me gasp and is one of the most satisfying endings I can remember reading. The Corset is an intelligent, riveting and engaging story and I enjoyed every stitch on every page. Infinite thanks to Bloomsbury for my favourite book of the year.

I'm really happy with the variety in my Top 5 Books of 2018, and also glad to have two Australian authors in my Top 5 list. If I could add one more to my favourites list, it would have to be Hangman by Jack Heath. This was a ripping read and I'm looking forward to the next in the series in 2019.

Have you read any of the books in my top 5 list? What was your favourite read in 2018?

Carpe Librum!