29 December 2009

Review: Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson box set
When a book really takes off and becomes a huge bestseller, I tend to steer away from it, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's a desire not to read what everyone else is reading, not to conform and become 'one of the crowd' and follow the trend. Anyone can stick to reading novels from the top 10 bestseller list, but it doesn't take any effort and in my opinion is a lazy way to choose a book. I believe that books need to be 'discovered' and I love to find a book that isn't well known and tell everyone about it afterwards.

However, it must be said that the Millennium trilogy by author Stieg Larsson has drawn so much attention this year, and is being highly acclaimed amongst critics, that I had to bow to the pressure and dive in. And boy I'm glad I did.

In the first book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we meet two of the main characters: Michael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist is a Swedish journalist, working for Millennium magazine (hence the name of the trilogy) and is hired to investigate the mystery surrounding the unsolved disappearance of an heiress, Harriet Vanger.

Lisbeth Salander is a genius hacker with a photographic memory, extremely poor social skills and a mysterious past who becomes involved in the investigation with Blomkvist. I was instantly drawn to the character of Salander, and for me, this is what made the book so intriguing and cutting edge.

Salander and Blomkvist continue on in the second book of the Millennium series, The Girl Who Played With Fire. This too was a riveting read, and I raced through it. This time Salander is in trouble and Blomkvist tries to help. I don't want to give any of the plot away, but it needs to be said that the crimes are nasty, and there is quite a lot of graphic description littered throughout the pages in both books that may be too much for some readers.

In my opinion, the detailed plot, complex characters and ability by Larsson to keep the readers on the edge the entire time is the secret to his success. Sadly Stieg Larsson died in 2004, and I must admit that knowing this in advance also added to the intrigue and my decision to pick up his first book.

I'm yet to read the third in the series The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest however I'm really looking forward to it.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - my rating = ****1/2

The Girl Who Played With Fire - my rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!
12 December 2009

Review: The Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert

The Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert book coverI saw this book in a $5 bargain box at Borders and decided to buy it based on the fact that I already wanted to read Others also by James Herbert.

This is my first introduction to James Herbert, and I thought this was a very decent 'ghost book'. I was sucked in the moment I discovered it was about a psychic investigator who is sent to a quaint village called Sleath by request of the Vicar's daughter. David Ash discovers hauntings and bizarre incidents in the town and tries to get to the bottom of it all as the town and its inhabitants are endangered any further.

This was one of my 'work books' which I read on my lunch break and it was quite interesting/amusing to read about a cold haunted town for 30 mins a day whilst in the middle of summer. I'm sure I would have found it more scary had I read at home alone at night, however it was a very easy and enjoyable read.

There was an extremely graphic sex scene that caught me by complete and utter surprise, and Herbert's talent for graphic descriptions is evident throughout the novel. His explanation for the cause of the trouble in Sleath is interesting but wasn't completely surprising.

I enjoyed this and look forward to reading Others in the future.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
22 November 2009

Review: Corpse Candle - Paul Doherty

This time Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the King's Seal is sent by King Edward I to the abbey of St Martin's-in-the-Marsh to investigate the death of Abbot Stephen.

The death toll begins to escalate as the assassin murders other monks in the monastery and Hugh Corbett, Ranulf and Chanson investigate the killings whilst fending off threats to their own lives.

Doherty is able to create a creepy, cold and haunting atmosphere throughout the medieval mystery, with rumours of Sir Geoffrey Mandeville's ghost galloping through the fens and corpse candles glowing out in the marshes, which forewarn men of their own deaths.

Hugh Corbett arrives at the truth at the end, and all is revealed in the manner typical in this series. I enjoyed the character 'Brother Dunstan' the Treasurer for obvious reasons, and this was a good mystery. I'm slowly making my way to the end of the series, with this being the 13th in the series with 3 to go.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Review: Hiding in the Shadows by Kay Hooper

Hiding in the Shadows by Kay Hooper book coverHiding in the Shadows by Kay Hooper is the second in the Shadows Trilogy and I must say I enjoyed the first one better, Stealing Shadowsrated 4 stars on this blog in July 2008.

This novel doesn't feature the main character from the first book, and in fact could be read as a stand alone. In this book Faith Parker has a car accident and has finally awoken from her coma without any memory of the crash, or her life before the accident.

Meanwhile, journalist Dinah Leighton has gone missing. Dinah regularly visited Faith in the hospital and made sure all her hospital bills and expenses were paid for, but Faith has no recollection of their friendship.

Not as chilling as the first in the series, this was nevertheless a good read.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Review: The Journey by Brandon Bays

The Journey by Brandon Bays book coverThe Journey is a non-fiction book about self-healing and awareness. The author healed herself of a basketball sized tumour in her stomach, and then went on to help thousands of people 'heal' themselves of physical and emotional damage, taking each of them on their own 'journey'.

I found each of the personal stories extremely inspiring and moving, and it reaffirmed my belief that unresolved emotions can manifest themselves in a physical illness or ailment in the body. It also reaffirmed my belief that in some cases we can heal ourselves without heavy drugs or surgery.

Brandon Bays now runs healing workshops and many practitioners all around the world are trained in her techniques. I'm not sure I've been inspired so much as to seek one out but if it came across my path, I might consider going along.

I recommend this book to anyone who is suffering from a physical illness or ailment in the body, looking to open their mind about the healing options available and the power of the mind and body.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
12 November 2009

Review: Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn book coverThis book is best described as science fiction meets historical fiction and I absolutely loved it!

The book is set in two time periods, modern day and the late 1340's Germany. In the current day, Tom is a mathematical historian and has discovered an anomaly regarding settlement patterns in a particular area of Germany. According to his work, a town called Eifelheim was abandoned in the 14th Century and never re-settled which is extremely uncharacteristic. In fact, centuries later, the roads turned back on themselves and went out of their way to avoid the area.

Meanwhile, we are inserted into the daily lives of the inhabitants of Oberhochwald (as it was known back then) through the eyes of Pastor Dietrich. We learn quickly that this is the lead up to the abandonment of the town. Without ruining the story, there is a discovery of 'beings' living in the forest and the ever encroaching threat of the black plague.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from so many angles. I enjoyed unravelling the mystery with Tom and his partner Sharon, and following along as the drama unfolded at Oberhochwald.

I enjoyed pondering the different responses by the towns people to the events occurring and how different the behaviours, beliefs and values were in that time period in Europe. It was also fascinating comparing the technology of the beings to those of the time period, and also to what we know today.

The book had a satisfactory and solid conclusion, and I was still thinking about it days after finishing it, which is the mark of any great novel.

Highly recommended!

My rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!
10 November 2009

Review: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters book coverThe Little Stranger was written by UK based author Sarah Waters and is hailed as a ghost story set against the backdrop of the fall of the British class system following WWII. The story begins when Dr Faraday is called out to Hundreds Hall to tend to an ill servant who has just started working at Hundreds Hall. The Doctor begins to develop a relationship with the family, and strange things begin to happen from there.

The book takes a while to 'lift off' however I enjoyed the pace and the narrative kept me engrossed from the beginning. The portrayal of Hundreds Hall was enchanting, and I longed to walk through it's gardens and decaying rooms myself. In fact, I think I enjoyed this aspect of the novel the most. I wanted to explore the empty locked rooms, whisper down the speaking tube and ring the servants bells.

I couldn't help but find the lead female character a little annoying, as well as Dr Faraday, however this didn't distract me from enjoying the book as a whole.

I don't believe this novel works strongly as a 'ghost story', however the mystery certainly kept me quickly turning the pages in suspense. I was working up towards a climax and hoping for a Koontz or King moment towards the end, but was unfortunately let down. The end of the book is a little controversial and for those that enjoy an ambiguous ending, you'll love this book. It's fair to say I rarely enjoy an ambiguous ending to a novel or movie, and when I finished reading the book I instantly started scanning the internet for different opinions on the ending.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy the 'softer' side of a ghost story or a novel with a paranormal sub-plot, and those who enjoy a thought provoking and ambiguous conclusion.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
23 October 2009

Review: The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell

The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell book coverThis is another in the Kay Scarpetta series and again I enjoyed the forensic style 'whodunnit' by Patricia Cornwell. I thought the title a little too much given how small a role the farm actually played in the plot. In fact I would have liked to pursue this further in the novel, however the reader was given just a glimpse into the scientific nature of the body farm.

This book can be read as a stand-alone, however there are references made to previous cases Scarpetta and Marino have worked in the past.

After reading the first 5 books in this series in the last 8 months, I'm growing a little weary of the predictability of the main characters and the similarity in the plot outline in each novel. I think I'll give the series a rest for now, besides there are plenty of other books out there waiting to be read.

My rating = **1/2

Carpe Librum!
09 October 2009

Review: Satan's Fire by Paul Doherty

Satan's Fire by Paul Doherty book cover
I've been trying for more than 6 months to buy a copy of this book, but I couldn't order it as it's out of print! I made the difficult decision to keep on reading the series, and skip this one until I could track down a copy - argh, but I hate when things aren't 'in order' so I've been desperate to get this book!! I finally found a second hand copy for sale on eBay, and snatched it up straight away and have just finished reading it.

I enjoyed it, but the relief at having read it and now restoring 'order' to the series was also, sadly, more important to me than it should have been (sigh).

Okay, all that aside, what's it about? It's another of the medieval mysteries featuring the King's Keeper of the Secret Seal, Sir Hugh Corbett. This time murders are being committed during a visit to York by members of the Order of the Temple. Corbett is asked by King Edward to investigate these murders at the hand of a mysterious fire that seems to erupt from hell.

Another enjoyable read, and the end of a book saga that has bothered me for some time.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
04 October 2009

Review: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

This is a non-fiction 'self help' book that has sold millions of copies around the world. It has also been featured on the Oprah show, no doubt increasing its popularity.

It was written by the author of The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle, and is essentially a book about 'awakening to your life's purpose'. The book shows you how to 'awaken' by recognising your ego. 

Many of the key themes were insightful, with quotes from many religions and wise men of different ages. 

I enjoyed these references and there are a few key ideas I took away with me, after reading this book.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
26 September 2009

Review: Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden

Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden book coverWritten by Australian author John Marsden, Tomorrow, When The War Began was published in 1993 and was the first in what was to become the Tomorrow series. The series became very popular, however at the time I was trying to plow through books like Moby Dick at University and I guess it passed me by. I'd always promised myself I'd go back and read it and I finally have.

The book is based on events in a small country town and involves a group of teenagers and their response to an invasion from a foreign land. I admired the ingenuity of the characters and the manner in which they react to the situation and the danger. They're forced to grow up very quickly and I admired their quick thinking and bravery.

This was an enjoyable read, and quite an imaginable scenario. I also chuckled along at the small town references throughout the book, and I can imagine this novel would have been very popular amongst readers growing up in rural areas in Australia.

I don't think I'll read the rest of the series, although I do want to find out how it ends, however it's the age old 'too many books, too little time' scenario, and sometimes you have to make a decision not to continue so you can move onto other books.

At least I now know what the fuss was all about, and after reading it, I now admire the creativity and imagination of John Marsden even more. What a terrific Australian author!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Review: A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice

A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice book coverThis book came to my attention because it was written by the son of one of my favourite authors, Anne Rice. Based in New Orleans, A Density of Souls is about four young friends whose relationships change dramatically when they enter High School. I found the depth of the relationships absolutely fascinating and the insights by each of the characters to be beyond their years, but altogether convincing.

I enjoyed re-reading certain sections throughout the book in order to savour the language and the writing. There were also particular sections I needed to pause and reflect on, as they were deeply moving and poignant.

I couldn't help but compare Christopher's writing to that of Anne Rice, and I was surprised to draw the conclusion that this book is better than some of her novels. I wonder if they share a happy rivalry.

This book isn't for everyone. Some of the themes are quite heavy going and include violence and sexual themes. The review on the book cover claims this book is a "shocking, sexy tale. An intricate novel about four childhood pals whose friendships deteriorate into a nightmare of violence and chaos" and I can't help but agree.

I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel by Christopher Rice, although I don't think I would have the courage to recommend it to anyone.

My rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!
19 September 2009

Review: The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas book coverAfter watching The Lord of the Rings series in a massive movie marathon, I was inspired to introduce some fantasy books to my repertoire. The Adamantine Palace is a story of dragons and humans living together in a different world consisting of many Queens and Kings of the different realms.

After a somewhat slow start, the book took an exciting turn when one of the dragons starts communicating with the humans. The story really picks up here, and I thoroughly enjoyed the drama, conflict and the secondary plot featuring court plotting, lust and deception. I also enjoyed the description of the diamond palace, and found myself imagining how this could be depicted on the big screen.

I couldn't help but side with the plight of the dragons, led by the pure white dragon 'Snow' and would be interested in reading a sequel.

Great read!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
12 September 2009

Review: The Treason of the Ghosts by Paul Doherty

The Treason of the Ghosts by Paul Doherty book coverThis is the eleventh book in Doherty's series featuring the medieval sleuth Hugh Corbett.

Whilst I enjoyed this mystery set in the small town of Melford, it lacked the political intrigue of the court that I've enjoyed in previous novels.

It also included too much reflection on the details of the murders by Hugh Corbett that has the potential to become tedious in parts. As I draw nearer to the end of this series though, I can't imagine not reading through to the end. There are 5 more in the series to go, so look out for the next instalment! I do hope it's better than this one.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
02 September 2009

Review: The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice

The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice book coverI was looking at all my Anne Rice books and I noticed one of them didn't look like it had been read. My best guess as to why I hadn't read The Feast of All Saints when I bought it is most likely because of the very small and heavy font.

Anyway, years after purchasing it, I have finished reading this book which was quite different to her vampire series. The novel has a familiar setting in New Orleans, however there are no vampires or supernatural themes in the story. Set in the French Quarter in the 1840s the novel is about the gens de couleur libre the free people of colour, neither black nor white, and living in a city with slave markets and black servants.

This was a real eye opener into the times and challenges faced by the gens de couleur, and the struggles they faced. The main character is Marcel, although the reader is treated to an in depth analysis of several 'sub characters' and much family drama is covered in the book.

I was surprised by some of the themes and it really made me think. How could women of colour look down upon women who married other men of colour for love? Instead it was expected that young women of colour would strive to be the mistress (second wife) of a white plantation owner who would only visit the city every few months. Essentially this meant knowingly being the wife/mother of a second and secret family. Unbelievable.

There is a lot of family drama, questions of lineage, family traditions, society expectations and when it's okay to break the rules.

To be honest I struggled during the first 100 pages (there are 636 pgs in total), however the story really picked up after that and I was hooked. It was such a treat to read an earlier work of Anne Rice (one of my favourite authors), as I'm hanging out for her new book.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
31 August 2009

Review: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut book coverI finished this book a few weeks ago, but I've been procrastinating big time about writing my review. I fell in love with the book A Confederacy of Dunces after Marieke Hardy recommended it on the FTBC, and when I heard her say that Slaughterhouse-Five was also an all-time favourite of hers it hit my TBR (to be read) pile immediately.

It's been on the pile for months though because it's a science fiction book, which isn't my preferred genre but I finally picked it up a few weeks ago and started reading.

I was deeply disappointed and didn't enjoy it, as it goes. The narrator jumps around in time at random intervals without a hint of a solid plot line. I would have liked to explore some of the threads within the story however they were wrenched away without further development and so it lacked depth for me. The novel was relatively short, so I believe there was scope for further development but perhaps I just 'didn't get it'. The only gem I took from the author were the notions of memory experienced through the main character.

I found it jumped around too much, was quite bizarre in parts and quite shocking in others. I found the use of the phrase 'so it goes' a few times on every page was utterly and completely infuriating. Argh!

I didn't enjoy this book at all and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Sorry Marieke.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum, so it goes!
12 August 2009

Review: Odd Hours by Dean Koontz

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz book coverThis is the fourth in the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz and it was a very pleasant read. I'd have to say that this book was more of a thriller than a 'para-normal thriller' which sets it apart a little from the others in the series.

I found myself wanting more of the 'supernatural themes' that Koontz writes so well, but having said that, this novel certainly had suspense and was a quick and enjoyable read.

Odd Hours could be read as a stand alone, however will be enjoyed more by those who are familiar with the Odd Thomas series in my opinion. The ending opens the possibility of a fifth book in the series which I'd be very much looking forward to.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
25 July 2009

Review: Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell book coverThe Kay Scarpetta series seems to get better and better with each book, and this was no exception. I enjoyed this murder mystery and the further character development that was evident throughout the novel.

I especially enjoyed learning that Kay Scarpetta had given up smoking, as I cringed every time she lit up a cigarette in the morgue. I found it interesting to read about the new and emerging forensic techniques used by the characters that we are so familiar with today.

As well as being part of a well know series, this is also a stand alone book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes to read crime fiction.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
21 July 2009

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald book coverAfter reading this much acclaimed American classic, I was baffled. "What is so great about The Great Gatsby?" I've given this question much thought and I still don't have the answer.

I honestly believe this short book lacks the bones and elements of a classic and even on the last page I was waiting for the 'light bulb' moment. In fact, this novel reminded me of Breakfast at Tiffany's for it's simplicity and classification as an American classic that I failed to understand.

I know my opinion isn't popular in the literary world, but if you read this book and believe it worthy to be called a classic, I'd love to hear your opinions, so leave me a comment.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
12 July 2009

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon book cover
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was published in 2005 and was very popular in Australia; however, it wasn't until a friend told me recently it was her favourite book of all time, that I finally got around to reading it. My only regret is not reading it sooner.

Set in Barcelona in the 1950s, I was engrossed from the beginning, and desperate to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books with the main character and roam the bookshelves until the end of time. I was immediately enthralled by the plot, the writing style and the unfolding drama of the story.

The Shadow of the Wind has all of the elements I love in a book: mystery, intrigue, history, fear, love, hate, family secrets, drama, big old mansions, humour, murder, books, broken dreams and broken hearts. While I was reading it, I woke up every morning looking forward to picking it up again, and I was very sorry when it was finished.

The characters and their stories totally swept me away, and I can confidently say this is the best book I've read in a while. I'd recommend it to anyone!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
10 July 2009

Review: All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell

All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell book coverThis is the third in the Kay Scarpetta series, and is another great forensic/police procedural. It had the same elements as her earlier two books, although the political element was a lot more convincing and worked well into the plot line.

I was happy to find there was less time spent on the romance with the FBI character Mark, and I enjoyed seeing Marino pick up his act and give himself a makeover.

I would have liked more of an insight into the killer; however, it was a good ending and I look forward to the next in the series.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
27 June 2009

Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell book coverWell, I just finished reading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and wow, what a book! Knowing the concept around 'Big Brother' did little to prepare me for the political depth of this novel. The book was published in 1949, and it's easy to understand why it's such an enduring classic.

Set in 1984, the main character, Winston, is living a very dreary and frustrating existence as a Party member in Oceania, with Big Brother an overwhelming presence.

Part II of the book takes an unexpected turn and takes the reader through an interesting process right through to a conclusion that couldn't be any further from a happy ending.

I finished the book feeling very heavy and shocked at the possibility of such an alternative reality. This is a must read for anyone interested in politics or psychology but beware, it can be quite depressing and stifling.

George Orwell died 7 months after publishing this book, and I can't help but think he had a very gloomy outlook on the future post WWII. I wonder what he would think of our present state of affairs compared to his portrayal in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
15 June 2009

Review: The Demon Archer by Paul Doherty

The Demon Archer by Paul Doherty book coverThis is another book in the Hugh Corbett medieval sleuth series, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was sufficiently 'creeped out' by the description and happenings in the forest, happy at the introduction of a new supporting character and surprised to learn who the culprit was at the end. (Although I did think that demon archer was a harsh description of the villain).

I thought Corbett 'got to the point' quicker in this book with more investigating and less reflection, and I enjoyed the quicker pace.

If you enjoy a good crime story set in medieval times, this is a terrific series.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
13 June 2009

Review: Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell

Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell book coverWell, it was completely unintentional, but it would seem I've read two Cornwell books back to back again, lol!

I really enjoyed the Gallows Thief, although it was similar in style to the Paul Doherty series I read which is also a medieval 'whodunnit'. There were laugh out loud moments within the dialogue, and I would have liked to see the quizzing glass owned by one of the characters.

The race against the clock at the end of the book had me on the edge of my seat (or mattress, as I was reading this in bed), however it was dragged out and slightly annoying given that the ending was a foregone conclusion for the reader with their wits about them.

I found the details about the Newgate prison to be completely fascinating and were based on facts and research carried out by the author.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
07 June 2009

Review: Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell

Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell book coverThis is the second in the Kay Scarpetta series, and I enjoyed it more than her first. The plot moved along swiftly and I really enjoyed the character development surrounding Al Hunt and Frankie.

In fact, I wished more time was spent delving into the character of Al Hunt, despite his minor role in the plot. His supernatural talent for seeing colours really intrigued me.

Nevertheless, another enjoyable read by Cornwell, I look forward to the next.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
29 May 2009

Review: One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz

One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz book coverThis book had been on my wish list for a while, but given that I have precious little bookshelf space these days, I ended up purchasing the e-book. Did I enjoy it? Yes, but I do think it was a little different.

The majority of the book follows separate plot lines and each time I settled into one of the plot lines I was reluctant to leave that character and jump to the next. I knew that that they must all come together in the end somehow, and probably spent too much time second guessing how Koontz was going to bring them all together.

I didn't quite 'get' the character of the 'motherless boy' in the beginning, but by the end of the story, his character was quite powerful. I loved the portrayal of the evil bioethicist Preston Maddoc, and the descriptions of his character were terrifying and thrilling! I was both repulsed and intrigued by his evil nature, and enjoyed (if that's the right word) when the book was told from his perspective in the first person. Very chilling!

I wanted to spend longer in the house of the hoarder, and wanted to find out what else was in the 100s of coffee cans. (One was full of toenail clippings and another was full of the bones of dead birds). I'm always interested in the obsessive compulsive, and this character had it all!

Leilani Klonk tugged on my heart strings and I wanted her mother to fall off the face of the earth for her cruelty.

Ultimately, this was a very enjoyable read, and had many of the Koontz trade marks! The messages of hope, love, and a higher presence was contained within the pages and dominated the story.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
15 May 2009

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote book coverThis is certainly a well known classic, and I was really looking forward to reading it, but what a let down!!! This is a very short book and really only provides a glimpse into the lives of the two main characters over a twelve month period. Perhaps if I could have spent more time with these characters to enable the development of a deeper connection or understanding I may have enjoyed it a little more.

Made famous by Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly in the film (which I haven't seen by the way) the book certainly isn't worthy of classic status in my opinion. The characterisations were too shallow, and the observations and plot didn't really seem to have a point or to take me anywhere of interest. The story could have continued beyond its end point to Africa but for some reason Capote chose to end it abruptly.

I don't have much else to add here, the literary world sure make a lot of fuss about nothing here!

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
05 May 2009

Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Sunshine by Robin McKinley book coverA friend gave me this book for my birthday, and it is pitched as a 'mesmerizing SF horror romance'. In the beginning, I found it difficult to get into and equally tough to adjust to her unique writing style. However as soon as the character was 'kidnapped' and chained in a house with a vampire, I was hooked.

I desperately wanted to know so much more about the 'bad spots', the 'wars' and the 'wards' and 'part-bloods' but never received a satisfying amount of background on these topics. I would have preferred the book to cover more of this background and less about Charlie's Coffeehouse (the continual references to cinnamon rolls made me hungry every time I picked up the book). It was almost as though a level of knowledge was assumed here, although I don't think this book is part of a series.

I frequently stumbled over McKinley's writing style and constantly wanted to 'edit' her work which was a slight distraction. At the same time though, it must be said that I was immersed in her world and vividly imagined the characters and scenes she created and could easily imagine this as a movie or tv series.

Her portrayal of vampires differed to other books and was a relatively fresh take on what is a popular subject matter at the moment. I don't believe this book goes anywhere near 'blowing Anne Rice and Clive Barker out of the water' however it was a good read.

I definitely wanted to go out and stand in the sunshine when I was reading it.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
24 April 2009

Review: Called Out Of Darkness - A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice

Called Out Of Darkness - A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice book coverThis is a book written by one of my all time favourite authors, Anne Rice. In this non-fiction publication, Anne recounts her life and her relationship with God. Beginning in her youth, Anne Rice takes us through her religious upbringing as a devout Catholic in New Orleans.

I was amazed at the extent of her devotion and worship and was able to catch a glimpse of what growing up in the Catholic faith was like in America at that time. I was also able to gain a clearer understanding of her admiration and love of nature, New Orleans and the Churches and significant buildings of her childhood. I often saw this reflected in her many novels and it is an aspect of her writing I thoroughly enjoy.

However after leaving home to go to College, Anne met non-Catholics for the very first time and gradually her faith began to crumble. This eventually resulted in her leaving the Church and God for a period of 38 years.

The second half of the book talks about her struggle with faith and how it helped her to shape her novels and the struggles faced by many of her main characters. I was totally engrossed in this part of the book and enjoyed her personal reflections with regard to plot and character, and found myself wanting to read all her novels again with this new insight.

Anne Rice returned to her faith and since then has decided to devote her life and her talents to God and write for him. This explains the end of her other series of books and how she came to commence writing a fictional account of Jesus' life, in Christ The Lord - Out of Egypt and Christ The Lord - Road to Cana.

I admire her struggle and years of research and reflection, and it really left me thinking about the themes of life purpose and 'soul searching'.

However the fan in me couldn't help but be disappointed when it became clear there would be no other books published that weren't related to her current faith related works.

In conclusion, this is really a book for those interested in the spiritual journey of the author, or those facing their own spiritual journey who wish to look through the eyes of another.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
14 April 2009

Review: The Arctic Event by Robert Ludlum

The Arctic Event by Robert Ludlum book coverThis book is part of a series created by Robert Ludlum but written by James Cobb. Confusing isn't it? James Patterson does a similar thing by co-authoring many of his books now, but forgive me for being old fashioned, but if it's Robert Ludlum's series, shouldn't it have been written by him alone? I don't believe writers should continue to write a book series after an author's death.

Okay, now that's off my chest, let me tell you I enjoyed this book. Recommended by a family member, I struggled with the introduction as this is the first real 'spy' book I can remember reading, (Ludlum having of course written the 'Jason Bourne' series). Once the characters were established, I was off and running/reading.

I was easily swept away by the plot but had to groan at the old enemy of the US, Russia, playing the bad guys. It did fit well with the plot though and the setting in the arctic had me pulling my doona right up to my chin and feeling the cold. The Arctic Event was exciting enough and I could easily see it being made into a film.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
09 April 2009

Review: The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson

The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson book coverThis is the story of Anna, a Countess in Russia whose family has lost everything after the Revolution. Moving to London in 1919, Anna takes work as a servant at Mersham to support her family but the other servants and the Earl himself suspect there is more to Anna than a mere housemaid.

Anna is enchanting and captivates every character she comes into contact with. I found the inclusion of Eugenics quite an interesting topic and a perfect backdrop to paint the character of Muriel, the antithesis of Anna.

I enjoyed this easy to read novel, and it came complete with the fairytale ending one would expect from Young Adult fiction. This book is perfect for young teenage girls.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
26 March 2009

Review: Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell book coverThis is the first book in the well known Kay Scarpetta series of novels by Patricia Cornwell. Dr Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Officer involved in a murder investigation to find a serial killer in Virginia. The book was set in the times when computers were just being introduced to the workplace and you could smoke in the morgue (very amusing).

I enjoyed the character development and the plot kept moving along at a good pace. I look forward to reading further along in the series, as I'm sure the books will continue getting better as Cornwell's career progresses.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

N.B. I thought it was amusing that I read two books in a row by authors sharing the same surname, LOL! Not intentional, but amusing just the same.
18 March 2009

Review: Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell

Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell book cover
I've always been fascinated and intrigued by Stonehenge and in this book Cornwell takes us back in time. We are introduced to the landscape, the settlements, the people and their beliefs in such a realistic fashion I almost forgot that this was fiction!

Of course, Cornwell has conducted extensive research and this is a spectacular work of fiction for any reader who has ever wondered about the meaning of Stonehenge or its construction. The people worship many Gods, including the God of the Sun and the Moon, and sacrifice is part of their everyday life. The reader also learns a little about the customs of the people and the cultures of those in faraway settlements.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how and why Stonehenge was constructed (according to Cornwell) and marvelled at the human effort required. I also have a better understanding of what the stones represent having finished this work.

I thoroughly recommended this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction or who has ever wondered about Stonehenge.

My rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!
09 March 2009

Review: Your Heart Belongs To Me by Dean Koontz

Your Heart Belongs To Me by Dean Koontz book coverDean Koontz is one of my favourite authors, however Your Heart Belongs To Me was a little different to his usual style. The first half of the book seemed to just cruise along without too much drama however it was overflowing with too many descriptives. This style of writing from Koontz made me wonder if he was experimenting with a new style, and I'm sad to say I prefer his regular (and brilliant) writing style. The descriptives, metaphors and similes in this novel were weak and didn't add much to the building of the story line or the characters. It also seemed to be a little out of character for the author.

It wasn't until I passed half way through the novel that I experienced my first round of goose bumps and the novel suddenly became a rollicking good read for me. The improved pace continued to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion, however I believe this novel could have benefitted from a further edit. Your Heart Belongs To Me had me on the edge of my seat for many chapters and I was swept up in the mystery, however I think it had much more potential for greatness that unfortunately wasn't fully realised.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this book.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
27 February 2009

Review: World Without End by Ken Follett

World Without End is the magnificent sequel to the very popular Pillars of the Earth, an historical epic I thoroughly enjoyed reading about 15 years ago. This is a stand alone book but I imagine the length of > 1100 pages will deter a lot of would be readers. All I can say is don't be frightened by the size! When I was turning the last page I still didn't want it to end!!

Set in England in the 1300's this historical epic follows the lives of several main characters from childhood to late adulthood in the town of Kingsbridge and surrounds. This book covers all social classes from mere serfs, to merchants, monks, nuns, nobleman, squires, knights, Kings and Queens. Their lives intertwine and the novel takes the reader on a mammoth journey of love, war, hate, faith, jealousy, revenge, lust, passion, injustice, struggle and starvation, accusations of witchcraft, bribery, deception, greed, fear, enterprise and healing. I was also fascinated when the country was struck by the plague and the differing impacts it had on the main characters and residents of Kingsbridge.

The Kingsbridge Cathedral is the main backdrop for the book and the stunning architecture and descriptions detailing how it and other structures in Kingsbridge were built allow the reader to feel the history and I could really imagine myself there.

I was completely hooked on the first page, and could have stayed in Kingsbridge for another 100 years. I recommend this book to everyone as a 'must read' for 2009 and am in awe of the author Ken Follett. This is an absolute masterpiece.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
29 January 2009

Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer book coverIt serves me right for jumping on the Twilight bandwagon, but with the astronomical book sales, new release movie and vampire theme, I couldn't resist. I knew going into this that it was 'teen fiction' but I hoped it would work well for adults the same way the Harry Potter series of books do but I was sadly disappointed.

A great majority of the 500+ pages in Twilight is taken up with the teenage thoughts and actions of two people who like each other and want to be together. Not that I couldn't relate at all. I can remember being like that when I was a teenager, but I grew out of it soon enough and was bored to tears with this book. It was so dull and the main character got on my nerves!!

It also annoyed me that the basic vampire rules weren't followed in this book, and the main character left a lot of unanswered questions about his vampire history and that of his family. This was the only portion of the plot I was interested in and I was left unsatisfied.

I can understand why this book is so popular with the teens of today and I can certainly recognise the well publicised issues of sexual tension and celibacy here.

If you're over 20 and have read any Anne Rice books, you won't enjoy this one.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
24 January 2009

Review: Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This American classic by Mark Twain has been on my list of books to read for many years, primarily to find out why it is so popular and highly regarded. I had high expectations going in but unfortunately they weren't met.

I can certainly appreciate the literary accomplishment in reproducing the dialogue of the times for both Finn's character and that of the main negro character Jim. This was done exceptionally well and there were certainly some laugh out loud moments.

I thought it was interesting that although this book is set in the time of slavery, Huckleberry Finn wants to 'steal his nigger' friend Jim and set him free, but feels guilty at the same time and believes he will go to Hell if he carries it out.

I also found Finn's ability to hastily weave such convoluted lies quite amusing, however my interest started to wane when Tom Sawyer joined the adventures towards the end of the book.

I'm glad I finally got around to reading this American classic, but I couldn't say I enjoyed it all that much.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
12 January 2009

Review: The Resurrectionist by James Bradley

The Resurrectionist by James Bradley book coverI was really excited to read this book for two reasons: it's written by an Australian and is about the trade in stolen bodies used by anatomists in the 1800s.

I was really impressed that an Australian author could conjure the essence of London in the 1800s and was captivated by his writing early in the book. I'm fascinated by the topic of resurrectionists (grave robbers who steal recently buried bodies and sell them to anatomists who dissect them for science) and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this book.

I was disappointed in the direction in which the author decided to take the main character, and was confused when he appeared in Australia with a different name many years later. This part of the plot seemed disjointed and I felt unsatisfied by the conclusion. I understand the author was exploring the themes of death, murder and rebirth, but I just didn't like where he chose to take the plot.

James Bradley is certainly an accomplished author and if he publishes another book I'll definitely want to check it out!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!