31 July 2012

Read-Along: The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier

The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier book cover
Exciting news to share! In approximately 2 weeks I'll be participating in another Allen & Unwin sponsored read-along, hosted by Bree over at her 1 Girl 2 Many Books blog.

The great news is that you can participate too!  The read-along is open to Australian residents only, and commences on approximately 15 August.  Allen & Unwin will send you a free copy of The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier which everyone will read together at the same pace.

Weekly discussions are hosted at the 1 Girl 2 Many Books blog, and all participants must post their thoughts and comments on the blog.  Having just participated in a read-along hosted by Bree, I can assure you this is a fabulous reading experience.

Click here to find out more and join the read-along.
27 July 2012

Guest Blogger for Aussie Author Challenge 2012

Screenshot of blog post
I'm very excited to be the Aussie Author Challenge 2012 Guest Blogger for July over at Booklover Book Reviews today.  It was wonderful to be the one interviewed for a change and a nice surprise to be chosen.

As most of you already know, I'm participating in the Aussie Author Challenge and striving to achieve Dinky Di status by reading and reviewing 12 books by at least 6 different Aussie authors.

It's a fabulous way to introduce more Aussie books into your reading schedule and enjoy the talent we have here at home.

I've enjoyed reading the interviews by other book bloggers and it was a lot of fun to be part of it myself.  Click here to read the interview for yourself and happy reading!

22 July 2012

Review: Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer

Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer book cover
Rocks in the Belly is narrated by an eight year old boy, an only child desperate for his parents' affections.  His mother brings in foster boys which incites a fierce and sometimes dark jealousy.  Possessive of his mother's attention, her son does whatever he can to monopolise her affections and when Robert joins their family, all this is set to escalate.

Originally from the UK, but now an Australian citizen living in Melbourne, it's hard to believe this is Jon Bauer's first novel.  I read a sample chapter in Good Reading Magazine a long time ago and I recall it had me hooked right away.

The reader never learns the name of the troubled young boy in Rocks in the Belly, however his observations are unique and dark, strangely youthful and sometimes quite funny.  Offsetting the humour are unexpected sociopathic thoughts and shocking behaviour that reminded me of movies like The Good Son.  

Interspersed between the chapters we meet the young boy as an adult, returning to the family home to look after his mother in the very last stages of a terminal illness, her mind almost lost to a brain tumour.  The two of them together dance around the shadows of the past slowly revealing to the reader the shocking events of years ago.

This is an excellent read and I thoroughly enjoyed the sections narrated by the young boy, they were piercing and unpredictable and definitely kept the pace flying along.  I'd definitely recommend Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer; the young character is likely to stick with you for a while afterwards.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

N.B. I'm also pleased that this novel qualifies for the Aussie Author Challenge 2012.
14 July 2012

Review: Zapped - Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock by Ann Louise Gittleman

Zapped - Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock by Ann Louise Gittleman book cover
Zapped - Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution by Ann Louise Gittleman is an informative read about the prevalence and damage that electromagnetic fields (EMF) and electronic pollution and how to mitigate these in the home and at work.  

As the title suggests, this encompasses radiation from mobile phones, microwaves and high voltage power poles, all generally accepted by the majority of people to 'not be good for us.'  

However Zapped goes even further to suggest that today's lifestyle is full of electronic devices such as wi-fi, laptops, ipads, cordless phones, ipods, televisions and time-saving kitchen appliances.  Put simply, we are bombarded by EMF every day.  Every room in our house has multiple devices plugged into powerpoints and some cases powerboards.  At the time of writing this post, I have twelve other wi-fi networks criss-crossing mine at home making thirteen in total. Wow!

Some of us are sensitive to EMF and Gittleman believes that many health related problems that have been attributed to stress or other conditions can be attributed to EMF, even going so far as to suggest conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches, migraines and more.  Her evidence and information is quite compelling and certainly makes for interesting reading.

Zapped contains many resources including websites, and suggestions for further reading and I was pleased to see reference to Earthing - The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? by Clinton Ober which is one way to reduce EMF exposure.  I've read this book, purchased and use the products daily.

Zapped is a great reference book with measurements, advice and guidance for those wanting to learn more about the environment around them.  Did you know you can buy house paint to reduce your own exposure to mobile phone towers? Zapped - Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
08 July 2012

Review: Gone For Good by Harlan Coben

Gone For Good by Harlan Coben book cover
Gone For Good by Harlan Coben is the story of Will Klein.  He lost his older brother Ken at a young age, when Ken fled the family home after being accused of murdering Will's ex girlfriend Julie and was never heard from again.  Eleven years on and Will's mother is losing a battle with a terminal illness and gives Will the news that his brother is still alive.

His mother's death and her shocking revelation sets a number of events into motion.  Will's girlfriend disappears and he begins to find out more about his brother Ken and the past he never new about.

The best character in Gone For Good is undoubtedly Will's friend, Squares.  Squares got his nickname after having his swastika - that was tattooed on his forehead in his misspent youth - tattooed into squares rather than removed, to remind him of his troubled past.  Squares and Will both work at Covenant House, reaching out to homeless youths and trying to offer them a better future.

Will believes his brother Ken is innocent, however he is torn between a love for his brother and doing the right thing.  There is danger and tension throughout this thriller and a twist that caught me a little by surprise.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
06 July 2012

Review: The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason book cover
The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason is a modern classic and has sold millions of copies.  It's a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon based around financial wisdom and how to achieve wealth and reach financial independence.

The lessons apply as much in today's society as they did in ancient Babylon, and each story or parable has a cast of characters, a plot and is enjoyable to read.

Originally these stories were published as pamphlets and issued to customers of banks and insurance companies before being brought together and published as a book in 1926 entitled The Richest Man in Babylon, which is quite interesting.

Since then, the book has gone on to sell millions, and the simple financial concepts, such as: "a part of all you earn is yours to keep" and the "Seven Cures for a Lean Purse" have become familiar and accessible to many.

If you haven't read it already, I recommend you do; and at a mere 144 pages, it's a very quick read.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!

Gothic Tales

Black rose on paper with script writing
I love a good gothic novel, so I've put together a list of gothic tales I've read and have mentioned them below. I've included links to my reviews where possible and continue to update this list each year. I would love to hear about any gothic tales you've enjoyed.

Gothic Novels*

Andahazi, Federico (The Merciful Women)
Carter, Angela (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories)
Fox, Hester (The Widow of Pale Harbour)
Griffiths, Elly (The Stranger Diaries)
Halls, Stacey (Mrs England)
Harris, Jane (The Observations)
Hill, Susan (The Small Hand)
Hyland, Angus & Roberts, Caroline (The Book of the Raven - Corvids in Art & Legend)
Jackson, Shirley (We Have Always Lived in the Castle)
James, Henry (The Turn of the Screw)
Jennings, Kathleen (Flyaway)
Kidd, Jess (Things In Jars)
Purcell, Laura (The Shape of Darkness)
Purcell, Laura (The Whispering Muse)
Rayne, Sarah (What Lies Beneath)
Rice, Anne (Angel Time - The Songs of the Seraphim)
Rice, Anne (Interview With The Vampire)
Rice, Anne (Memnoch the Devil)
Rice, Anne (The Vampire Lestat)
Rice, Anne (Violin)
Rose, M.J. (Seduction: A Novel of Suspense)
Setterfield, Diane (The Thirteenth Tale)
Setterfield, Diane (Once Upon a River)
Stevens, Amanda (The Restorer)
Stoker, Bram (Dracula)
Ware, Ruth (The Turn of the Key)
Waters, Sarah (The Little Stranger)
Webber, Andrew Lloyd (Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera Companion)
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz (The Shadow of the Wind)
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz (The Angel’s Game)

* Last updated October 2023

What makes a novel Gothic?

1. Setting in a castle. The action takes place in and around an old castle, sometimes seemingly abandoned, sometimes occupied. The castle often contains secret passages, trap doors, secret rooms, dark or hidden staircases, and possibly ruined sections. The castle may be near or connected to caves, which lend their own haunting flavor with their branchings, claustrophobia, and mystery. (Translated into modern filmmaking, the setting might be in an old house or mansion--or even a new house--where unusual camera angles, sustained close ups during movement, and darkness or shadows create the same sense of claustrophobia and entrapment.)

2. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The work is pervaded by a threatening feeling, a fear enhanced by the unknown. Often the plot itself is built around a mystery, such as unknown parentage, a disappearance, or some other inexplicable event. Elements 3, 4, and 5 below contribute to this atmosphere. (Again, in modern filmmaking, the inexplicable events are often murders.)

3. An ancient prophecy is connected with the castle or its inhabitants (either former or present). The prophecy is usually obscure, partial, or confusing. "What could it mean?" In more watered down modern examples, this may amount to merely a legend: "It's said that the ghost of old man Krebs still wanders these halls."

4. Omens, portents, visions. A character may have a disturbing dream vision, or some phenomenon may be seen as a portent of coming events. For example, if the statue of the lord of the manor falls over, it may portend his death. In modern fiction, a character might see something (a shadowy figure stabbing another shadowy figure) and think that it was a dream. This might be thought of as an "imitation vision."

5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events. Dramatic, amazing events occur, such as ghosts or giants walking, or inanimate objects (such as a suit of armor or painting) coming to life. In some works, the events are ultimately given a natural explanation, while in others the events are truly supernatural.

6. High, even overwrought emotion. The narration may be highly sentimental, and the characters are often overcome by anger, sorrow, surprise, and especially, terror. Characters suffer from raw nerves and a feeling of impending doom. Crying and emotional speeches are frequent. Breathlessness and panic are common. In the filmed gothic, screaming is common.

7. Women in distress. As an appeal to the pathos and sympathy of the reader, the female characters often face events that leave them fainting, terrified, screaming, and/or sobbing. A lonely, pensive, and oppressed heroine is often the central figure of the novel, so her sufferings are even more pronounced and the focus of attention. The women suffer all the more because they are often abandoned, left alone (either on purpose or by accident), and have no protector at times.

8. Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male. One or more male characters has the power, as king, lord of the manor, father, or guardian, to demand that one or more of the female characters do something intolerable. The woman may be commanded to marry someone she does not love (it may even be the powerful male himself), or commit a crime.

9. The metonymy of gloom and horror. Metonymy is a subtype of metaphor, in which something (like rain) is used to stand for something else (like sorrow). For example, the film industry likes to use metonymy as a quick shorthand, so we often notice that it is raining in funeral scenes. Note that the following metonymies for "doom and gloom" all suggest some element of mystery, danger, or the supernatural.

This list of gothic elements has come directly from the Virtual Salt website.