31 January 2013

Winner Announced - Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop

And the winner is . . .

Bec Brown!!!

Congratulations Bec! You are the winner of the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop 2013!  Thanks to the 33 entrants (comments plus those who followed Carpe Librum), to ShelleyRae at Book'd Out for hosting, and I hope we can do this again next year.

Bec, please email me with your postal address* so I can send you out your brand new copy of The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Australian author Nichole Bernier.

*(Please make contact by midnight Thursday 7 February 2013 or another winner will be drawn).

Happy Reading and Carpe Librum!
25 January 2013

Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop

I'm excited to be participating in the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop this year, being hosted by Book'd Out and Confessions from Romaholics.

There are currently 54 Aussie bloggers, authors, booksellers and publishers participating in the Blog Hop and they are all offering Australian themed giveaways.

Carpe Librum is offering readers and followers the chance to win a brand new copy of The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Australian author Nichole Bernier.

To Enter: Leave a comment below and tell me if you would read the journals of a friend if they were left to you in their will.  Entries close: Midnight, Monday 28th January

Eligibility: open to those with an Australian postal address only.

Winners will be chosen by random.org and announced no later than: Thursday 31st January.

Additional Entries: those who sign up to follow Carpe Librum by Google Friend Connect or via email after this post will receive an additional entry in the competition.

Once you've entered, click here to find other exciting Aussie giveaways on offer.

Happy Australia Day and Carpe Librum!


Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Autographed copy
I've been waiting to read The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton for such a long time.  I wrote about it in May 2012 when her cover design was being released, and even had the chance to meet Kate Morton in person on 14 November 2012 where she signed my proof copy of The Secret Keeper given to me courtesy of Allen & Unwin (pictured left).

Until then, I've been savouring this delicious tome, trying to prolong the moment when I immersed myself in its pages.  Alas in January 2013 I could wait no longer.

The Review
I tumbled into the tale of The Secret Keeper easily, as I met the young Laurel just starting out her life, and the mature Laurel decades later, preparing to lose her mother to a terminal illness and suddenly wanting to know more about her life and the violent act she witnessed as a young girl. 

This is my favourite excerpt from the novel; Laurel is at the Bodleian Library and is asking Ben to look at one of the alumni collections:
"It's up a spiral staircase, you know, accessed through a door hidden in the panelling in the Hall. Like something out of Hogwarts." 
Laurel had read Harry Potter, of course, and was no less immune to the charms of old buildings than anyone else; but opening hours were limited . . . [ it ] left her rather panicked at the thought of spending another minute discussing either architecture or fiction with Ben.  She smiled with a dazed lack of comprehension (Hogwarts?), he met it with one of sympathetic realisation (muggle), and they both moved on.
All in all, Kate Morton remains one of my favourite Australian authors, and The Secret Keeper has it all: a great love story during WWII London, mystery, murder and in summary an enchanting historical fiction novel.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
20 January 2013

Review: The Survival of the Soul by Lisa Williams

Author Lisa Williams
After reading Life Among the Dead by Lisa Williams almost 3 years ago now, and enjoying it, I was keen to read her follow up book The Survival of the Soul.

Lisa Williams is a medium/clairvoyant, and I've been to see her at an event in Melbourne and was touched by the events that took place there. 

Williams writes about what happens after we die, and whether it's true or not, I guess we'll only find out when it's our turn.  Strangely, the information contained in The Survival of The Soul is similar to the views held by renowned psychic and spiritual medium Sylvia Browne in her books The Other Side and Back and Life on the Other Side.

Both women claim their information is provided to them by their spirit guides, so if you are a believer, then it should be no surprise that their information is the same.

Atheists, and those with their own religious beliefs are advised to give this book a miss, but I really enjoyed it.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
13 January 2013

Review: Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan book cover
I'm convinced that Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan was written just for me. I was absolutely enthralled by page 10, smiling as I was reading and confident that this was going to be a five star review by the end, and I was right.

So what's got me all excited? Well, Mr Penumbra owns a 24 hour bookstore that never closes, with regular new books for sale at the front of the store. Also for sale - and the real purpose for the store - are second hand, fabric and leather bound books at the back of the store on high shelves accessed by several ladders and are only for sale to customers with a special member number.

Clay starts working at Penumbra's as a clerk during the late shift and all he needs to do is serve the customers and record all of the details about the members purchasing books from the high shelves into a large register. He is told not to look inside any of these books, and the members are all eccentric in their own way.

During the course of the novel, Clay unveils a secret bookish quest involving the bound and unbound, meets a super smart girl who works for Google and learns that the member books don't exist according to the world wide web.

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a book for book-lovers, those who enjoy unravelling mysteries and modern day quests involving intellects rather than knights with swords. Our hero has a computer as his weapon and a girlfriend working at Google as his 2IC. Some quirky and interesting characters add depth and enjoyment and I just didn't want this novel to end.

I heartily recommend Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore to all readers and stand by it as one of my favourite reads for 2012.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum! Or as they say in the book: Festina Lente
09 January 2013

Review: The Plague by Albert Camus

The Plague by Albert Camus book cover
I've wanted to read The Plague by Albert Camus for a long time. It's a classic and I've been fascinated by the plague and what it did to people and their communities for as long as I can remember. Heroes and acts of mercy in plague time by doctors, nuns and volunteers who treated and took care of the sick and dying. Loved ones faced with despair, risking their own inevitable death to nurse their loved ones on their death bed.

On the flip side, the greed and fear driving the masses and hysteria that often led to unimaginable acts and decisions. The potions and tinctures that didn't work but sold for small fortunes and theories that abounded regarding the cause of the plague are all fascinating to me.

On to the book now. The Plague by Albert Camus was published in 1947 and the setting is the town of Oran, it's people slowly infected by plague. The happenings are recounted by a narrator who occasionally refers to other citizens in the town for their own personal accounts. At the end of the book, the narrator reveals their identity as one of the main characters we had been following.

A strong theme throughout the book is that of being separated and isolated from the ones we love. This is evident in the separation of the sick from the healthy in camps and the town of Oran that is closed to all from entering and leaving.

I'm sorry to say I found The Plague dull and dreary. Each time I picked it up and started reading, I began to feel sleepy which means a poor star rating for me, despite the classic status and cult popularity of this book. I understand that many academics claim this book is an allegory and although I could see and understand the impact on human behaviour, the tale was told in such a rambling way it was impossible for me to be intellectually stimulated or excited in any way to delve deeper or explore this further.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
08 January 2013

Review: In The Tall Grass by Stephen King & Joe Hill

In The Tall Grass by Stephen King & Joe Hill book cover
In The Tall Grass is a novella written by Stephen King and his son - an author in his own right - Joe Hill.

A brother and sister driving in their car through Kansas with their windows down, pull over after hearing a child's plea for help coming from a grassy field by the side of the road.

They enter the field in search of the child and find the grass is taller than they are. The grass is disorientating, and they quickly become separated from each other and lost. Learning there are others in the grass with them and something bigger is at play here, fear and panic set in.

There are supernatural and horror themes within this e-book and in my opinion the author collaboration between father and son has worked effortlessly here. I do hope to see more titles by the two of them together in the future; I think it's a winning combination!

At the end of the novella were two sneak previews of the individual author's new works which was a major bonus. Doctor Sleep is Stephen King's sequel to the successful novel The Shining and Joe Hill's NOS4R2 which is due to be published 30 April 2013.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
06 January 2013

2013 Reading Challenges

It's a new year and I'm signing up for the following Reading Challenges in 2013:
  • Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013
  • Aussie Author Challenge 2013
  • Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013
Here they are in more detail.


The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013 is hosted by Historical Tapestry blog again this year, and they have the following participation levels:

- 20th century reader - 2 books
- Victorian reader - 5 books
- Renaissance Reader - 10 books
- Medieval - 15 books
- Ancient History -25+ books

I've decided to sign up for Renaissance Reader and read 10 historical fiction books at this stage.  This is the amount I read last year, and I'm not sure I could have read another 5.


The Aussie Author Challenge 2013 is being hosted by Booklover Book Reviews and they have two participation levels to choose from: 

- Read and review 3 books by at least 2 different Australian Authors.
- Any genre, fiction or non-fiction.

Fair Dinkum
- Read and review 12 books by Australian Authors
- Ensure at least 4 of the authors are male, at least 4 of the authors are female and at least 4 of the authors are new to you.  
- Ensure at least 2 of the books are non-fiction and at least 4 fiction genres are represented amongst your 12 titles.

The Tourist level is too easy, and the Fair Dinkum level appears quite difficult but I'm going to give it a go.


Last but not least, I'm also participating in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013, being hosted by My Reader's Block blog.  The aim of the challenge is to only read books from your to-be-read pile purchased prior to 1 Jan 2013.  Here are the levels:

Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile

I'm going to sign up for Pike's Peak, as I physically don't have that many books on my bookshelf.

If you'd like to join me in any of these 3 challenges, please do!  You can click on the relevant blog name links which will take you to the appropriate challenge page. You don't need a blog to participate, and I promise you'll find it very rewarding. 

Feel free to suggest any books you think I should read for the challenges, and you can track my progress during the year on my Challenges page here.

Happy Reading!
03 January 2013

Author Interview with Patrick Lindsay, author of Back From The Dead

Patrick Lindsay
Patrick Lindsay is a prolific Australian author, having published 18 books on the back of an extremely successful career as a journalist, TV reporter and presenter.  In December I reviewed his book Back From The Dead - Peter Hughes' Story of Survival and Hope After Bali, giving it 5 stars.

Patrick joined me recently to answer some interview questions.

Patrick, what inspired you to write about the Bali bombings of 2002 and survivor Peter Hughes in particular?
I was working on a book called The Spirit of The Digger when, like all Australians, I was stunned by the reports of the Bali bombing. I watched transfixed as the chilling images unfolded on the TV. As I watched, I was struck by the spirit of the survivors and their rescuers. I realised I was watching the same spirit I was researching. Gen Peter Cosgrove had told me that you didn't have to wear the slouch hat to have the spirit of the Digger. It occurred to me that we all have that spirit within us and that it came out in times of crisis - terrorism, bush-fires, floods, etc. I decided I should explore it further by writing about the story behind the main face of the Bali attack, Peter Hughes. Of course, I didn't know whether he would survive: it was touch and go then and he actually died a number of times and was brought back to life. I contacted him when I heard he was recuperating. He agreed to let me tell his story. We're good mates now.

What was the hardest part of writing or researching Back From The Dead? How did the book change you?
It was a very emotional journey. Peter was still in the early stages of his recovery when I started interviewing him. He endured great pain and he suffered many doubts but his spirit always shone through. His son Leigh was an extraordinary support and became his rock. It was difficult to reconcile the callous violence and fanaticism of the bombers with the gentle humanity of the Balinese and the idyllic beauty of their country. I was intrigued by the intersecting time lines of the lives of the perpetrators and the victims and I decided to use that as a device to unfold the central storyline. The hardest part was pushing on with the work when I knew how painful it often was for Peter. I learned much as a person from observing Peter, his fellow survivors and their remarkable healing angels, especially Dr's Fiona Wood and John Greenwood.

Publishing 18 books is an incredible achievement in any author's career.  Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I think persistence is a writer's greatest asset. I was a journalist and a TV reporter and presenter for more than 25 years before I started writing books full time. I have always been telling stories of some kind or another. Books require a special determination - to secure an overview of the scope of the work involved and to doggedly fight through the research and writing to completion. But if you know what you want to say then you'll find a way to do it. Treat your writing with respect, find a haven where you can work without distraction and then just start. Also read voraciously and write as often as you can.

What can you tell us about your research and writing process?  Does your background in journalism assist you in your research?
Yes, I think being a journalist, especially starting as a newspaper journalist before computers and the Internet, taught me the value of relentless research and gave me a healthy scepticism. Unlike a lot of journos today, we had to sniff out our own stories, not wait for press releases. I learned not to accept things at face value and to cross check facts and statements. I love the benefits brought by the digital age but the downside can be the lure of Google and the unquestioning acceptance of facts, just because they are on the screen. Whenever possible I dig back to primary sources, rather than relying on someone else's interpretation of them.

Patrick Lindsay's newest release
How long do you spend on each book and how do you decide what you will write about next?
On average I would spend about three months intensively researching and around the same time writing a book. This can vary widely. I spent almost two years on my last book, True Blue, 150 Years of NSW Police Force. It was a far bigger project than I first imagined. It's often difficult to accurately assess the size of projects as the research can take you down unexpected paths. That book was commissioned by the NSW Police; the first I've done that way. All the other books have come from an idea I've developed or from a suggestion from the publisher. 

A large portion of your books are related to the Australian Defence Force and military history; can you tell us more about your interest in these areas?
It started with my interest in Kokoda, or more accurately my love for the men who fought there. I wrote, produced and directed a documentary for the Australian Army on the Kokoda Campaign back in 1991 and many of the Diggers I interviewed for it became treasured friends. My first book was The Spirit of Kokoda and the other books, like The Spirit of The Digger, Cosgrove, Fromelles, The Coastwatchers, etc seemed like natural progressions. It's not that I have a love of war or military history so much: rather I have a fascination with what war does to people and how they respond to it. It prompts the most remarkable responses from ordinary men and women. But I also write on very different subjects and I'm passionate about my It's Never Too Late series of inspirational books.

After such a successful career in journalism and television, are you ever pulled in too many directions or turn down interesting projects in favour of writing?
Yes, I've spent a dozen years now writing books and in that time I've declined quite a number of interesting opportunities in TV and other areas of the media. I created  the format for the reality TV series, In Their Footsteps, which Nine broadcast last year. It was a ratings success and I'm working on some similar programs. I'm aiming to expand my work in that field next year. 

Do you have a favourite bookshop you'd like to tell us about?
My favourite is Helen Baxter's lovely little bookshop in McMahon's Point in Sydney [Blues Point Bookshop].  Helen is a prodigious reader and a great source of literary advice.

What's next?  Do you have anything in the pipeline for 2013?
I'm working on another inspirational book and a number of television projects. 2013 is shaping as a very busy year.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Like most authors (and publishers) I'm trying to come to terms with the often bewildering changes to the publishing world. I'm trying to understand the e-book options.  I'm very optimistic about the future. I think it may open opportunities for authors to take greater control of their own work and destinies.
Thank you Tracey for your blog and for all your work to spread the word on the pleasures of reading and writing.  I'm delighted you enjoyed Back From The Dead.

Excellent.  Patrick thanks for taking time out during the very busy festive season to chat with Carpe Librum.  Congratulations on your success to date, and I'm sure we're going to see much more from you.
02 January 2013

Review: UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen King book cover
UR is a novella by Stephen King and was released strictly as an e-book in 2009.  It has never been published as a paperback, although it was released as an audiobook a year after publication.

As you might be able to tell by the front cover, UR is about e-readers, or a pink Kindle in particular. With the stinging words of his ex-girlfriend in his ears: "why can't you just read off the computer like the rest of us?" Wesley decides to leave the comfort zone of paper and books and enter the world of e-readers.

He orders a Kindle through Amazon and is surprised when he receives a pink one through the mail, when Kindles are usually white. However when he discovers additional works by notable authors that can't possibly exist - other than in an alternate universe - he is shocked.  He also finds that he can access newspapers from the future and the past at a cost.  Wesley peeks into the past but also learns there will be an accident in a few days and sets out to try and stop it.

UR is an interesting concept, and I loved the idea of discovering additional works from countless well-known authors, written in multiple universes where they had lived longer or been more prolific.  It also makes me smile in appreciation of King's mastery to write a novella about an e-reader and never have it published in paperback.  What a legend!

However the second half of the novella was a little reminiscent of the TV show Early Edition. All in all, an entertaining and easy read.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
01 January 2013

2012 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

In 2012 I participated in, and completed two reading challenges.

The first was the Historical Fiction Challenge Reading Challenge 2012 hosted over at Historical Tapestry blog.  I signed up to read 10 books to achieve Struggling the Addiction level and was able to achieve this by 29 November.

-The second reading challenge was the Aussie Author Challenge 2012 hosted by Booklover Book Reviews blog.  For this challenge I signed up to read 12 books by at least 6 different Australian authors to achieve Dinky Di status. 

In addition to these two challenges, I also set myself a GoodReads goal to read 60 books during 2012.  Despite a big finish at the end of the year,  I unfortunately fell short by just one book, achieving only 59 books for 2012.  Some quick stats though, according to GoodReads, I read a total of 17,533 pages during 2012.

In 2013, I am going to set the goal of 60 books again, and hopefully achieve it this time.  What reading goals and challenges are you setting for yourself this year?

Carpe Librum!