30 December 2007

Review: Secrets of the Monarch by Allison DuBois

Secrets of the Monarch by Allison DuBois book coverThis is the latest book by the author who inspired the TV show Medium. I've read her previous books, and this was equally as enjoyable. Even though DuBois is not a 'great' writer, the subject she writes about is fascinating enough to keep her on my 'must read author' list. It's a shame that her writing is all over the place, I really think she needs a better editor.

There are some great stories throughout the book of people Allison has met and provided readings for, and I really enjoyed reading about their special moments.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
29 December 2007

Review: Spy In Chancery by Paul Doherty, P.C. Doherty

Spy In Chancery by Paul Doherty, P.C. Doherty book coverAn easy read over Christmas was Spy in Chancery by Paul Doherty. This is another book in the Hugh Corbett series of medieval mysteries, and I really enjoyed it.

I was thrilled to notice that Paul Doherty has a new book out this month, and it's going to take a LOT of self discipline not to skip the next 8 or so books in the series to get to the new one...

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
27 December 2007

Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Well, I'm pleased to say that I finally finished Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I have always wanted to read this book given its status as an American classic, and that the author was considered to be the first 'serious' female American author.

The novel was published in 1852 and addresses the issue of slavery in such a confronting and raw way that it would have been very difficult to ignore in its time. I must admit that I struggled to get through this one, as the dialogue of the characters is extremely authentic to the times and therefore difficult to follow. The subject matter is also quite heavy and religion is mentioned on almost every page.

All in all, I can now see why this book is called a 'classic' and I'm really glad I persisted and finished it.

Would I recommend it? That's difficult to say... if you like to challenge yourself every now and again by reading a classic (like I do) then sure, this is worth it.

Rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
22 December 2007

Christmas Message

I've been neglecting my blog these last few months :-( as I've been really busy. I completed my Diploma of Business with Swinburne in November and took out both course awards, dux and best project. Needless to say I worked damn hard all year, and I was thrilled to the wisdoms.
The lead up to Christmas has been really hectic, and I'm sorry to say that this year I've been the most disorganised ever! Usually I have my tree up in November and cards mailed first week of December. Well this year, my tree went up in December. My laptop died a few weeks ago, which contained most of the addresses and email addresses I needed for my Christmas correspondence, argh! I've had to make do however I didn't send all my cards and I feel terrible! (If you could send me an email so I can add you back into my address book that would be great).
The best part is that I'm now on holidays for a few days, and looking forward to Christmas with my family. Now that I have finished studying and have time to read again, I'm almost finished my latest book, so stay tuned for a review.
I'll be back at work on NYE and I'm excited about 2008 and finally making plans for the wedding. Merry Christmas to my faithful readers, and a safe and Happy New Year!!!
That's my four bucks!
31 October 2007

Review: Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz

Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz book coverThis book has also been on my list to read for a long time, and it was well worth the wait. I enjoyed this so much more than Door to December, and was kept on the edge of my seat the entire way. I always enjoy the 'supernatural themes' and this novel had action, suspense, paranormal activity and meaning of life themes. What more could you want?

I would thoroughly recommend this book to any fan of Koontz or those that enjoy action spiced with the paranormal.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
22 October 2007

Review: The Door to December by Dean Koontz

The Door to December by Dean Koontz book coverThe Door to December is an earlier book by Koontz, and has been on my list to read for a very long time. The book follows the story of a young girl kidnapped and subjected to psychological torture and brainwashing. The link to the occult was promising in the beginning, but ultimately came to an average conclusion. The romance between the lead cop and the victim's mother was laughable, and I was always one step ahead of the plot.

If anything, it makes you realise just how far Koontz has come over the years, and how his writing has matured. This book was most likely very gripping and quite scary in its time. I'm glad I read it, but if you're a fan of Koontz, I wouldn't recommend stepping back in time to read this one.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
07 October 2007

Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote book coverI had wanted to read this book for a long time, given it's status as an American classic, and that the author also wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's. In Cold Blood is a true crime story, based on the murder of a farming family in Kansas in 1959. The author introduces the reader to the Clutter family and they seem like the perfect family. This is not a 'whodunnit' though, as we are introduced to the killers early on, and follow the case right through to the conviction.

This book is more haunting than modern day crime fiction, and there were several nights that I didn't want to read the book before going to sleep, because of the dark subject matter. You really get into the head of the killers, and it's a little disturbing. The book is not overly graphic, it's more the fact that the killers seem to have little value for human life.

I guess I would say that this is not an 'enjoyable' read, but I'm satisfied that I read it, and understand the controversy it created in its time. I can now understand why critics claim this is one of the best true crime stories of all time.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
15 September 2007

Review: Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert

Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert book coverSeason of the Witch was recommended to me by someone who thought I might enjoy it. Sadly, I did not. It had a good hook though: 'compelling, original, a mesmerising blend of alchemy and sexuality. Prepare to be seduced by it', and this on the front cover: 'two sisters, a mysterious house, enter a world of beauty and darkness'.

I was really looking forward to reading it, but the story could have been achieved in half the pages, and the pet tarantula gave me nightmares. I enjoyed the references to science and alchemy but they were to few and far between.

Season of the Witch was an okay read, but I wouldn't recommend it.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
25 August 2007

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak book coverI've been reading all afternoon, and just finished The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. The author lives in Sydney, and I was sucked into this book on the first page. The book has two narrators, one is Death, and the other a young girl by the name of Liesel. Set in 1939 in Nazi Germany, Death becomes interested in Liesel's story as a young German girl during the war, who steals books. I read quite a few books set in this period when I was at ADFA, but this is a completely unique perspective on this era in history, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Although it's quite a hefty book, it's easy to read and the pages fly by (almost as quick as a Patterson). Zusak's unique style includes snippets and notes throughout the book, and he often jumps ahead to let you know what will happen, and then goes back to explain the events leading up to it. Surprisingly this style doesn't detract from the pace, and I really enjoyed this book.

Zusak has written two other books, so I might need to check them out.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

Phantom of the Opera - Melbourne Theatre

I went to see the Phantom of the Opera a few weeks ago, and it was just as moving and magical as I remember. I went to see it twice in High School and absolutely loved it. Seeing it again all these years later and knowing every word and every note now made it even more memorable.

I can see now why it had such an impact on me all those years ago, and I enjoyed it from a different perspective this time. The score is haunting, the special effects are mesmerising, and the gothic and medieval sets and costumes are captivating. It wouldn't take much twisting of the arm to go again.

You've simply got to see it.

My rating = *****

That's my four bucks!
22 August 2007

Review: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling book coverI finished reading the long awaited Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows and thoroughly enjoyed it! I won't spoil the ending in case you haven't read it yet, but I can tell you it was well worth the wait, and provided a lot of 'closure' to previous plots and sub-plots.

I thought the epilogue was a little weak, but I won't say any more.

Highly recommended for any Harry Potter fans, but not as a stand alone book.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
25 July 2007

Review: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole book coverThe reason I chose this book initially is that it was written in the 1960s and tragically the author committed suicide in 1969 at age 32 without it ever being published. His mother found the manuscript and pounded the pavement to get a publisher to read and publish it. The novel went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, and has now become a classic.

Given that I generally don't read books written in the 60s (unless it's a classic), and avoid any book claiming to be 'funny' for fear of cringeworthy slap-stick humour that is ha-ha funny, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find myself totally engrossed in this book!

The wit and vocabulary of Ignatius Reilly had me laughing at almost every page, wishing I had his talent for speech and conversation. Ignatius is almost an anti-hero; he is fat, lazy and full of excuses, however somehow I was cheering for him and his eccentric ways.

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates this kind of humour. (I tried to find a good quote from the book to include here, but I couldn't choose, and you really need the context to appreciate the humour).

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
07 July 2007

Review: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill book coverI've been telling anyone who will listen, that this author is the son of Stephen King. I discovered this obscure fact while reading book reviews on Amazon, and in fact this is what inspired me to buy Heart-Shaped Box. However I was astonished to find out that there is absolutely no mention of this fact in the book or on the cover. I find this amazing given how the yanks will trade on a name wherever possible and even if Joe doesn't want to use his father's fame to sell his books, I'm surprised his publisher didn't go ahead and do it anyway.

So, what was the book like? Well, I really enjoyed this story about a rock star who buys a ghost from the internet. It's a gothic thriller/horror, that is as exciting as King at his best. In fact, their writing style is quite similar, and the novel had a supernatural thread that I love in any King/Koontz, but Joe Hill is a stand-alone and talented author who is fresh and has a lot to offer.

I'm keen to find out what else he has written, and would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys King/Koontz. If you are easily spooked though, this is not the book to read before bed time.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
01 July 2007

Review: Crown in Darkness by Paul Doherty, P.C. Doherty

Crown in Darkness by Paul Doherty, P.C. Doherty book coverI felt like it was time to join Hugh Corbett as he solves another medieval mystery, and so it was that I picked up Paul Doherty's book Crown In Darkness. You might remember that he has about twelve in the series, and I'm slowly making my way through them.

This time Hugh Corbett went to Scotland following the 'accidental' death of Alexander III of Scotland to investigate the circumstances on behalf of the Chancellor. I really enjoyed the medieval nature of the plot and especially the journey to the dark forest in Scotland to visit the Picts, often referred to as pixies, goblins or elves.

"Once they were a proud people and ruled the greater part of Scotland but the Celts, the Angles, the Saxons and the Normans drove them from their lands into the dark vastness of the forests."

I thoroughly recommend this author to anyone who enjoys medieval mystery and intrigue.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
21 June 2007

Review: Step On A Crack by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Step On A Crack by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge book coverReading a James Patterson novel is always a pleasure as the pages fly by, the font is easy going, and the chapters are so short, you just keep on reading and before you know it, you've finished. Step on a Crack was no different.

Writing in collaboration with Michael Ledwidge, Patterson introduces the reader to the new character Detective Bennett in this new series. The lead character is reminiscent of Alex Cross in so many ways, but equally enjoyable. I enjoyed the plot, and it was quick paced and had a happy ending. It was pure Patterson, and I enjoyed the 'quick read', especially after reading Cryptonomicon (see previous blog entry).

Having just read a highly intellectual tome, it is hard to give this any more than three stars, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Patterson.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
12 June 2007

Review: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

I've been reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson for several months now, and what a mammoth task it's been! I've had to take a break and read other books in between, but I'm thrilled to say I've finally finished!!! Well, what was it about? That's difficult to say, but here goes: multiple plots, set in present time and World War II, it's both science fiction and historical fiction. Theme is cryptology, a difficult subject at best, and the themes of war, business and politics were in there, to name a few.

Neal Stephenson is a literary genius, and I can't imagine how he kept track of all the plots, sub-plots, characters, and the level of information is amazing. It's not often that I laugh out loud in a book, but I did so every time I picked up the book, and some of the jokes have stayed with me. I was also shocked by the boldness and scene depictions, which will also stay with me.

The fact that the book is >900pgs long, and printed in small typeface, made it tough going, and the feeling of satisfaction when I finish reading a book was denied me whilst I was reading this doorstop of a novel. I think I would have read it quicker were it broken down into 3 novels, but that's just a personal opinion.

Would I recommend it? Well, that's difficult. I enjoyed it yes, but would only recommend it if you are happy to spend the time required, and can handle the technical references which are extremely detailed and at an extremely high level. Stephenson's vocabulary is to be admired, and I loved the many different references and language of different characters, I really don't know how he does it.

I am in awe, but don't think I'll tackle any of his other books this year.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
25 April 2007

Quite Interesting

I found a really great website that I'd like to share with you.


Check it out!

That's my four bucks!
19 April 2007

Review: Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Perfume by Patrick Suskind book coverI needed a break from a book I'm reading, and managed to knock off Patrick Suskind's novel Perfume in just a few sittings. I was hooked on the first page, and was looking forward to a riveting read, especially since I have a heightened sense of smell and this promised to be the focus of the book.

Set in the late 1700s, the main character has a superhuman sense of smell. The novel follows his life from his horrific birth at a fish stall, where his mother squats to give birth, cuts the umbilical cord with her carving knife and throws him on the scrap heap.

His life to this point is fascinating, however the plot tends to get more and more unrealistic until it becomes just plain preposterous towards the end. I understand that this novel has been made into a film, and I'm very interested to see it, although I probably wouldn't recommend the book.

Rating = **

Carpe Librum!
04 April 2007

Quote of the Day

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

That's my four bucks!
22 March 2007

Review: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott audiobook cover

I just finished reading Fierce Conversations and it was really quite good. Fierce conversations is a style of conducting business, an attitude, a way of life'. Author Susan Scott is a Communications Expert and has spent 16 years helping clients improve their conversations, and the book contains many case studies from CEOs who have engaged her services. Many of these were quite entertaining, and great eye openers.

Much of the book is guff, but there are pearls of wisdom scattered amongst the pages, and many of these gave me pause, as I wished I had the courage and or skill to deliver that type of message. The book also takes you through how to deal with conflict, one conversation at a time, and includes a plan and helpful tips and questions to assist you at 'starting the conversation you are most avoiding'.

I enjoyed some of the tips relating to co-workers and managers, and laughed at some of the questions: for example, a manager asking their co-worker: 'what are you hoping I won't bring up?' Can you imagine the response?

By the end of the book I realised I had absolutely no excuse to avoid the 'fierce conversation', and made an appointment with the person I had been most avoiding. This fierce conversation was extremely productive and has lifted a burden I had been carrying for over a year.

Even though it could be culled (at least 50 pages) I thoroughly recommend the book if you could benefit from tips on communication (who wouldn't)?

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
25 February 2007

Review: My Story by Schapelle Corby with Kathryn Bonella

My Story by Schapelle Corby with Kathryn Bonella book coverThis is quite a controversial book, which sparked conversation (even amongst strangers) wherever I went with it. It would seem that Schapelle Corby is the modern day Lindy Chamberlain, and her guilt/innocence will be discussed long into the future.

I was warned that this book was quite graphic, and very depressing, but I thought that if Schapelle can live it, I can read it. I'm glad I did. It was refreshing to hear her point of view, and not the media version which has hindered her situation beyond belief.

Believing that Schapelle is innocent, makes this a very difficult book to read, but I encourage you to put aside any pre-conceptions, and hear her story. Remember: being beautiful and belonging to a family with questionable connections, does not make you guilty. Being in the middle of a media frenzy does not make you guilty.

Read it, and then decide.

Even if you believe she's guilty, surely you agree that no Australian deserves to spend 20 years in that filthy hell hole.

Bring her home.

Carpe Librum!
10 February 2007

Review: Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz book coverOne of the great things about being on holidays, is that there is plenty of time for reading! While staying at a beautiful B&B in Healesville, I finished the latest novel in the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.

Brother Odd was an exciting read, and I enjoyed the monastic setting, and learning about the Brothers and the life that led them to God.

I would give anything to see the 'computer representation of the thought patterns of God that underlie all matter'. In the book, Brother John states that: "This little exhibition so profoundly affects people, it resonates with us on some level so deep, that witnessing more than a minute of it can result in extreme emotional distress."

I'm not sure if there will be another book in this series, but I sure hope so.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum
07 February 2007

Review: Cross by James Patterson

Cross by James Patterson book coverCross is the latest novel in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson. I always love the fact that his books are a quick read - perfect for the holidays. I won't spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read it yet, but I was thrilled when Cross resigned from the FBI to spend more time with his family!! It always annoyed me that up until this point, he had permanently left 'Nana Mama' (his Grandma) to take complete care of his kids.... gggrrrrr, and spent his spare time with his love of the moment.

I enjoyed reading this novel, and reaching closure on a long standing storyline of the murder of Alex Cross' wife.

Highly recommended for all James Patterson fans.

Rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
30 January 2007

Review: Lisey's Story by Stephen King

Lisey's Story by Stephen King book coverWhen I unwrapped Stephen King's Lisey's Story at Christmas, I couldn't wait to get started on the 560 page novel. Believe it or not, after 100 pages I was ready to put it back on the shelf. The beginning was dull and boring and the writing style was completely different to any other King book I've read. In addition to that, the main character's use of the word 'smucking' instead of 'fucking' was driving me crazy!

The only reason I persevered was because it was Stephen King, and in the end I wasn't disappointed. A crime plot eventually emerged which was mildly interesting, however when the 'supernatual theme' surfaced I was hooked, and stayed up until 3.00am in the morning ploughing through the pages.

The beginning and ending are slow, but the body of the novel is an absolutely thrilling read!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
27 January 2007

Comet McNaught

Over a couple of nights this week, I had the pleasure of watching the brightest comet in 40 years. I must say, watching the comet (known as McNaught) certainly reminds you how small we are in the universe. It was an absolute privilege.

That's my four bucks!
09 January 2007

Review: The 5th Horseman by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

The 5th Horseman by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro book coverReading a book by James Patterson is always a pleasure because it is so quick and easy to read. The 5th Horseman is another crime fiction novel in the Women's Murder Club series, and although I prefer the Alex Cross series, this book was ok. The last few James Patterson books have been co-authored, and this one was co-authored by Maxine Paetro.

The best Patterson co-author book I've read so far would have to be The Jester, co-written with Andrew Goss. The Jester was set in medieval times, (instant plus) but Goss seemed to add so much to Patterson's easy writing style to make for a spectacular plot.

It was disappointing that Paetro didn't seem to add anything to this plot, except perhaps for the 'girlie' influence which drove me nuts. I don't know any girl that refers to her friend as 'butterfly' or who goes for a run after 30 hours without sleep and then has a pizza.

I'm committed to reading every Patterson, but if you aren't already a fan, this book won't convert you.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
05 January 2007

Review: Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris

Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris book coverHannibal Rising was high on my Christmas wish list simply because it's the story of Hannibal's life as a child, and the circumstances that shape his development. We know him as the popular Hannibal Lecter of The Silence Of The Lambs fame, however his experiences as a child during the Second World War growing up in Lecter Castle, are very different from medical school later in life.

Perhaps not as thrilling as I was hoping, there are several pieces of writing that have stayed with me long after finishing the book, which is a rarity for me. I will leave the 'scary bits' for you to discover on your own... however one funny line I will share: 

"Are you looking for sympathy? You'll find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis."

Thomas Harris certainly has a way with words, and a macabre flair for plot.

I enjoyed this book.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
04 January 2007

New Format for New Year

I've changed the look of my blog for the New Year, so hope you like it!!!

Another book review coming very soon.

Happy New Year!!

That's my four bucks!