30 August 2012

My Four Bucks is re-branded Carpe Librum

I'm thrilled to announce that after seven years in operation, the My Four Bucks blog is undergoing a huge name change and today is being rebranded as follows:

My Four Bucks is being relaunched as:

Carpe Librum

(Seize The Book)

I look forward to bringing you even more book reviews across a wide variety of genres, interesting interviews with engaging authors and snippets of bookish news. There will also be competitions and giveaways when possible, so I'll hope you'll join me and share your favourite books.

In order to celebrate the renaming of the site to Carpe Librum, the first three people to comment on this post will receive a bookmark in the mail (Australia and Overseas).  Leave a comment about the new blog name to win.

Happy Reading !

27 August 2012

Change is Coming to My Four Bucks

Just a quick note to let everyone know that change is coming to My Four Bucks very soon!  I'm working on a few changes including a big name change, so stay tuned :-)

19 August 2012

Review: Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult book cover
Bestselling author Jodi Picoult has published an astounding twenty novels, and has achieved global success as a writer. Probably best known for her novel My Sister's Keeper published in 2004 and later made into a movie in 2009, reading Second Glance was my first introduction to Jodi Picoult's work.

The blurb describes Second Glance as: "One of Jodi Picoult's eeriest and most engrossing works, this is a story about the things that come back to haunt us - literally and metaphorically." Reading this, I figured it sounded like the perfect place to start.

A house and large plot of land is being sold in Vermont, but little does the buyer know, the house has a history. Strange things begin to happen as the developer begins to demolish the house, and Ross - a paranormal investigator, in town to visit his sister - offers to look into the situation.

What he doesn't expect is to fall in love and re-open a 70 year old murder case. Picoult takes us back in time to when owners of the house were leaders in eugenics and a terrible tragedy took place.

This is a story of love, family and identity, and Picoult deftly weaves the story and the characters together in a meaningful and touching way. I enjoyed learning how the characters were linked together and how destiny or fate played a role in each of their lives. It was quite beautiful although at times heartbreaking.

"I think Second Glance is my biggest accomplishment to date." - Jodi Picoult (Source: author website, August 2012)
This was a fabulous introduction to popular author Jodi Picoult and I'll be sure to read more of her work in the future.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
13 August 2012

Interview with B. Michael Radburn, author of The Crossing

B. Michael Radburn
Australian author B. Michael Radburn drops by to talk about writing, reading, his favourite bookshop, and his newest book Blackwater Moon. Radburn is the author of the chilling tale, The Crossing, published by Pantera Press.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
All writers were readers first. Once I found an author whose work really spoke to me, I saw it as more than an art form. It was a way to explore your emotions in the safety of a fictitious world. For me the itch began when I read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I was twelve.

Having published more than 80 short stories, articles and reviews during your writing career, how did writing The Crossing differ?
Surprisingly, the disciplines required to write short stories for commercial markets helped me write The Crossing. Having limited word counts for many of the major magazines means you have to carefully consider pace and story relevance. In a crime thriller, these principles are very important. Therefore it was wonderful to have the broader platform of a novel to develop my characters further. The Crossing is carried by its quirky ensemble of characters, which is one of the book’s strengths.

When do you do your best work? Do you have any particular writing routines or quirky habits you've developed over the years?
I’m not the kind of author who needs a special place to write. I travel a lot with my work, so with laptop in hand, I can write at home, on a plane, or in a hotel room. The closest thing to a routine is that I prefer to do my creative writing in the mornings when my mind is fresh and clear. Evenings are better for research and plot development. If I suffer from writer's block I jump on my Harley and everything seems to fall into place again on the highway.

The main character in The Crossing is a Ranger in Glorys Crossing, Tasmania, a (fictional) town which is slowly being drowned by a local dam project. This makes for an original and eerie setting for a novel, what inspired you to choose this location and setting?
The Tasmanian landscape was important to me because the island has a deep sense of history. From a “mainlander’s” point of view, its isolation and unpredictable climate lends itself as the perfect setting for The Crossing which required a strong notion of place about it.

I was down there in the 1980’s when the eco-battle to save the Franklin River was on. I remember walking the streets of a nearby village, imagining it drowning beneath the dam waters, its history – and secrets – gone forever. It was an image that stayed with me all this time and formed the genesis of The Crossing.

My favourite character in The Crossing was The Librarian – the hoarder and master of information in the form of newspapers, books, reports and microfiche; mountains of paper stacked all around him. How did this character manifest on the page? I'd love to know more about him!
My process of creating characters for The Crossing required a complex mix of individuals, yet each needed that underlying drive of seeking redemption. Before the creative process of any piece, I write a detailed character profile. This entails physical description, general background and even a psychological profile in the case of more complex characters like the Librarian.

But of all the characters, he and Taylor virtually wrote themselves. This became evident whenever the two engaged in the story. It was almost like I was merely sitting in the corner taking notes.

Was it important to you that your novel was distinctly Australian?

I gave this a lot of thought while developing the storyline, and felt there was scope to not just to write a fast paced thriller for the Australian market, but also to write an Australian story to appeal to a wider international market as well.

This weekend is National Bookshop Day, do you have a favourite bookshop, and what makes it special?
I like Abbeys in the City in Sydney. I discovered Abbeys way back in the 1970’s when I was in my late teens. It was worth the travel because you were guaranteed finding the book you were after and many you weren’t. It’s still there today, and brings back many fond memories.

What are some of your favourite books and authors?

Anything by the late Ray Bradbury. He’s an author that uniquely tackles adult fears through the eyes of a child. I’ve been a keen fan of Stephen King’s work too. His early novels like Salem’s Lot, The Shining and The Stand are wonderful. But the one book I can go back to time and time again is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d have to say that book is my all time favourite.

As for more modern writers, I’ve become a big fan of Tess Gerritsen’s work. Books like The Surgeon and The Apprentice. I was fortunate enough to meet Tess at a writer’s event last year. She’s amazing.

Do you have any literary influences?
Most writers begin their careers by emulating their favourite authors. Stephen King’s work was the most influential when I began, and from there I developed my own style. A little while later I met Stephen at a writers’ convention we were both speaking at in Canada. We got together at an after-party and I’ll never forget the insights on writing he offered. Guidelines I continue to use in my writing courses and general approach to the craft. Wow, how incredible to meet one of your favourite authors and biggest literary influences. You obviously made the most of the opportunity when many of us would have been star struck (like me).

Tell us a little about your new novel due out soon, Blackwater Moon.

Blackwater Moon is a brooding crime thriller set in the fictitious riverlands town of Blackwater. Set over several decades, it’s not only about “the crime”, but about the influence that one moment in time has over both the perpetrator and victim, all leading to a climax that you won’t see coming. I’m really happy with it.

Anything else in the pipeline?

I’m currently working on a sequel to The Crossing. Taylor Bridges and Sam Grady join forces again to solve a series of murders uncovered after a forest fire reveals the remote kill grounds of a serial killer. I’m really enjoying working with those two characters again.

A sequel sounds exciting, I hope the Librarian makes an appearance! Thanks for joining us here at Carpe Librum and I'm looking forward to reading Blackwater Moon!
08 August 2012

Review: Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba

* From Channel Ten, The Circle for review *

Obinna's life of tending goats in a small village in Sudan comes crashing around his ears one night when rebels enter the village looking for blood and new recruits to fight in the ongoing civil war. The rebels determine potential recruits by measuring the height of young boys against that of an AK-47. Those taller than the AK-47 are rounded up and taken from the village and those shorter are spared.

What makes Beneath The Darkening Sky amazing is that Australian Sudanese refugee Majok Tulba is writing from experience; rebels came for him on two occasions. The first time he was too short and the second time he was so sick the rebels decided he was going to die in a few days anyway. Well Tulba survived and made it to a refugee camp and in 2001 came to Australia and Beneath The Darkening Sky is a fictionalised story of what might have happened had he been taken.

Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba book cover
Given the subject matter, you would be forgiven for assuming this would be a difficult and dark read with possible political over/undertones however be prepared for a pleasant surprise. This is an incredibly moving read without any political agenda.

Both Obinna and his older brother Akot are kidnapped by the rebels and begin their training as soldiers. Obinna resists the doctrine with all his might, singing Sunday school songs under his breath instead of the party songs and befriending an older soldier by the name of Priest who acts as a mentor and friend.

Obinna longs to return to his village and his observations and innocence are so clear to the reader it's both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Time moves on and Priest guides Obinna, teaching him how to survive at the rebel camp.

Beneath The Darkening Sky is incredibly moving and a breathtaking read. The writing is superb and there are some wonderful moments that have stayed with me after reading. I haven't wanted to put it back on the bookshelf after reading, which is a sign of a great book.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
01 August 2012

Review: The Crossing by B. Michael Radburn

The Crossing by B. Michael Radburn book cover
* From Publisher for review *

Set in Glorys Crossing, Tasmania, The Crossing is the debut novel from Aussie author B. Michael Radburn.  

Taylor Bridges is a Ranger working in the local National Park at Glorys Crossing, having left his wife and moved from the mainland after the tragedy of his daughter's disappearance.  The town is slowly being flooded by a massive dam project and residents are slowly leaving the town as the floodwaters reach their doorsteps.

When local girl Drew goes missing, Taylor is reminded of his daughter Claire's disappearance and tries to find her, fighting his fatigue and beginning to question his chronic sleepwalking problem.

This is a chilly tale and I really felt the cold while following Taylor on his rounds through deserted areas of Glorys Crossing or preparing a simple meal by the fire in the stark Ranger's cabin.  

My favourite character in the town by far was the Librarian.  Living in an impressive looking house, he wasn't a traditional librarian but a hoarder and master of information in the form of newspapers, books, reports and microfiche and was the unofficial 'go-to' person for information.

Radburn pays tribute to the Tassie devil via one of the characters in The Crossing in an unexpected way.  I enjoyed this aspect (although I won't spoil the surprise) and it significantly added to the Australian tone of the novel; I'll certainly be glad to include The Crossing as part of my Aussie Author Reading Challenge.

I've just learned B. Michael Radburn has a new book out soon called Blackwater Moon and I'll definitely be checking that one out, so stay tuned!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!