29 April 2013

Review: The Trusted by John M. Green

The Trusted by John M. Green book cover
* From publisher for review *

I was lucky enough to attend the Pantera Press book launch of The Trusted in Sydney earlier in the month, and I'm happy to say that this eco-terrorist thriller definitely lives up to the pre-launch hype.

Written by successful Australian author John M. Green (Nowhere ManBorn To Run) The Trusted is a stand-alone novel introducing new character Dr. Tori Swyft.  Tori is Australian, a surfer, and child prodigy earning a PhD at a young age, and is now ex-CIA.  She ends up being recruited by an Organisation called SIS whose concept will blow your mind.

The 'trusted' of the title are members of a group who have climbed the corporate ladders within their own unique fields of industry and specialty, and earned great positions of trust. In an attempt to save the environment and the planet from overpopulation, these radicals will abuse their positions of trust in the most unexpected of ways, causing untold damage to the financial markets, security services, and much more.

Signed flyleaf of The Trusted by John M. Green
Personalised autographed
copy of The Trusted
Reading the plans of some of the members actually gave me chills; what if someone could actually pull this off, it would cause a global crisis!  Green has conjured some terrifying scenarios here, that are real and worrying enough to keep you turning the pages into the night to find out if and how it can all be stopped.

I found the plot very convincing and not once did I need to suspend belief, which is what sometimes happens when reading a Matthew Reilly of similar scale.

Green also employed a clever writing tactic of redacting (blacking out) a few details in the book which made me smile at first (how clever) but then made me frown as I spent way too much time trying to make out the words and beat the author at his own game.  This technique definitely added to my enjoyment and is something - as a reader - I don't remember having come across before.  

My rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!
21 April 2013

Review: What Lies Beneath by Sarah Rayne

What Lies Beneath by Sarah Rayne book cover
I've been reading thriller novels from author Sarah Rayne for years now and really enjoy her writing style.*

I'm pleased to say that she's getting even better over time, and I thoroughly enjoyed What Lies Beneath, published in 2011.

Essentially the novel is about a town which is going to be cleared to build a highway, but before it is, the government decides to use it for testing.  Unfortunately the tests leave the area poisoned and it's locked up and out of bounds for decades.
Characters in the past are linked to characters in the present and both have something to hide and something to discover.

I especially enjoyed the section where one of the characters in the past was being treated for Syphilis using the methods and treatments available in 1912.  I found it completely and utterly fascinating, as one of the treatments included an infusion box where the patient has their body seated and fully enclosed in a box with just their head exposed.  A mercury solution is heated underneath the box which turns to vapour the patient inhales during the process which takes several hours.

Apparently the treatment was incredibly painful and exhausting as the fumes were being absorbed into the skin as well as the lungs, and Rayne's description of the process had me gripping the book and shaking my head in disbelief that this was occurring a mere 100 years ago.

I almost wanted to get up and go and research this illness, era and treatments and find out more.  It just seemed so surreal; who would come up with such a therapy and how could they possibly believe it would work? I was thinking about it long finishing the book, and for this What Lies Beneath earns an additional star.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

* For more books by popular UK author Sarah Rayne, check out my reviews of the following:

The Death Chamber - 4 stars
Tower of Silence - 4 stars
Spider Light - 4 stars
A Dark Dividing - 3.5 stars
House of the Lost - 4 stars
19 April 2013

Carpe Librum wins the Liebster Blog Award

Exciting news this week is that I've received the Liebster Award for bloggers!!  I was nominated by author Kerry Letheby of A Novel Journey.

Here's how the award works:
  • The nominated blogger must post 11 facts about themselves;
  • They must then answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated them;
  • Then nominate 11 bloggers and give them 11 questions to answer;
  • Link to your chosen 11 bloggers in your blog post; 
  • Let them know you have nominated them;
  • Don't nominate the blogger who nominated you;

Here are 11 facts about me:
  1. My favourite hobby is reading;
  2. collect bookmarks and love stationery, paper, notebooks and pens;
  3. I am a night owl by nature;
  4. I met my husband at karaoke;
  5. I have a tattoo on my left ankle;
  6. My favourite colour is red;
  7. I was awarded the Australian Defence Medal for service in the Royal Australian Navy;
  8. My favourite website is GoodReads;
  9. My most popular blog post has had 3,231 hits;
  10. I have proofread and edited two books currently in print: one novel and one memoir;
  11. I can smell donuts from a block away.

Here are the answers to the 11 questions asked by Kerry Letheby, author of Mine To Avenge:
  1. Who knows you best in life?  In terms of my personality and character, it would have to be my husband.
  2. If you could spend your life doing anything you like, what would it be?  Reading and studying.
  3. What is your earliest memory?  Playing in the backyard.
  4. What lifts you up when you are feeling down?  A massage, loud music, ordering take away, or someone who makes me laugh.
  5. What are you most thankful for in life?  The health of my family.
  6. If you were given $1000, what would you spend it on?  Boring, but I'd probably put it in the bank.
  7. Are you a hot weather person or a cold weather person?  I think I'm a cold weather person. Even though I'm always cold (especially my feet), you can always get warmer, and it can be quite cosy snuggling up with a blanket in winter.  I hate being covered in sweat and rushing inside for the relief of an airconditioner.
  8. Name one thing on your bucket list.  To be invited to an awards night within the publishing industry.
  9. What is your favourite movie? The Matrix
  10. What is your favourite 'get away from it all place'? My bed!
  11. What piece of advice do you hand out most often? Hang in there.

Congratulations, here are the 11 blogs I've tagged to receive the Liebster Blog Award:
Some blog humour

Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
All The Books I Can Read
Book'd Out
Booklover Book Reviews
Deliciously Fictitious
I Heart Dog
Mary D's Nordic Crime Reviews
The Reading Room
Selwyn's Sanity
Stone Soup
Women Friendly Services

Here are my questions for the winners:
  1. Can you tell us a little about your blog?
  2. What's your most popular blog post to date?
  3. How do you increase your followers?
  4. Where does the inspiration for your blog posts come from?
  5. A little about you now.  Can you name your favourite book?
  6. What song has the most number of plays in your iTunes? (Or, what's your fav song?)
  7. What's your all time favourite TV Show?
  8. What was your favourite game to play as a child?
  9. Do you have a second hobby, other than the one your blog focusses on?
  10. Stationery lover or iPhone / online all the way?
  11. Funniest comment left on your site?

Congratulations to the winners, I will enjoy reading your posts (please post the URL in the comments if you can), and I hope you enjoy visiting each other's sites.  Happy blogging!

Carpe Librum!
16 April 2013

Review: 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz book cover
I'd been looking forward to reading 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz for a while.  It was published in 2011, and when I didn't receive it for Christmas that year (my family knowing I'm a big Koontz fan), I was a little disappointed.

Well, now that I've read it (from the library), I'm so glad no-one I know spent a single dollar on this book.  It was rubbish.

In essence, 77 Shadow Street is about a building called the Pendleton, built on top of Shadow hill in the late 1800s.  Every 38 years, something weird happens on this site - even the Indians knew to steer clear of this place - and it has been the site of murders, suicides, madness and disappearances.

Koontz introduces the reader to the current tenants of the Pendleton, and through each of them we experience this round of weirdness as the 38 years is about to kick in and the past, present and the future cross over.

Dominating this world is the One:
"I am the One, the all and the only. I live in the Pendleton as surely as I live everywhere. I am the Pendleton’s history and its destiny. The building is my place of conception, my monument, my killing ground. . . ."
77 Shadow Street has elements of horror as Pogromites pursue and kill the tenants and the One controls everything.  I thought this was a weak plot, the horror scenes were gross and frightening but without being engaged with the narrative I found them pointless and wasted.

I remain a fan of Dean Koontz and most likely always will, but go on the record as saying 77 Shadow Street is a dud read; don't bother.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
14 April 2013

Book Launch for The Trusted by John M. Green

Now that I've started reading it, it's a good time to share with you my recent trip to Sydney to attend the Pantera Press book launch of The Trusted by John M. Green.
Book display of The Trusted by John M. Green
I was thrilled to be invited to the launch of John M. Green's third novel, following on from the success of Nowhere Man and Born To Run.

The Trusted is an eco-thriller, where a group of radical environmentalists strive to  cause a global depression in order to drastically reduce the world's population.

Held at Bar Cupola on Thursday 4 April 2013, close to 200 people gathered for the launch of The Trusted, and drinks and  delicious canap├ęs were enjoyed amongst the buzz.

Over 180 people attended on the night
While circulating, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and chat with Pantera Press author B. Michael Radburn.  After reviewing two of his books (The Crossing and Blackwater Moon) and interviewing him here on Carpe Librum it was such a thrill to meet him in person. After begging him to write a book featuring the Librarian character from Blackwater Moon, he let me know his latest book will be coming out in a few months and I'll definitely be looking forward to that.

L-R: Tracey Allen, Wanda Wiltshire
and Wanda's friend, also a writer
I also met the warm and vivacious CEO of Pantera Press Alison Green, who acted as MC during the evening.  I was shocked and thrilled when during her opening speech she gave me a special thank you for coming so far to attend.  WOW!!!

Alison introduced me to new Aussie author Wanda Wiltshire who readily told me about her writing and her upcoming fantasy novel coming out in less than two months.  She is counting down the days until she becomes a published author and I sense she will enjoy much success.  Wanda and her friend (pictured right) had just been to a Kate Forsyth event and we eagerly compared notes on how much we all love her work and her as an author; it's funny how quickly bookish people can bond :-)
Author John M. Green signed many copies on the night

Then it was time to meet the guest of honour John M. Green who kissed my hand and thanked me for flying to Sydney for his event.  He gave me a copy of his book and signed it "We love you."  I was so happy!  Here's a pic of him below, there was a massive queue for those eager to have a personalised copy.

All in all, I had a brilliant time, and it was definitely worth the trip.  Back home, I found out the event was written up in the Weekend Australian social pages; fancy that!

I'm now 100 pages into The Trusted, and enjoying it so far!  Review to follow.

You can read a free extract here.

Carpe Librum!
12 April 2013

Review: The 5 Love Languages - The Secret To Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman

The 5 Love Languages - The Secret To Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman book cover
According to author and Dr. Gary Chapman, each person has their own love language, or preferred method of being loved by others, and it falls into one of five categories, or languages.  

The 5 Love Languages are:

1. Receiving Gifts
2. Words of Affirmation
3. Acts of Service
4. Physical Touch
5. Quality Time

Once you know your own love language and that of your partner or spouse, it can be easier to ensure you communicate in the love language that best suits them.  If they desire words of affirmation (e.g. I love you, I appreciate everything you do), then giving flowers won't mean as much as a card filled with meaningful expression of your feelings.

This all seems so straight forward and logical that it's quite funny.  There is a survey at the back of the book (one for men and one for women) or you can complete one for free online at 5lovelanguages.com  

All in all, The 5 Love Languages - The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman was an enlightening read, and I'm glad it was recommended to me by a friend.  What's your love language?

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
11 April 2013

Review: Prophecy by S.J. Parris (Book 2: Giordano Bruno series)

Prophecy by S.J. Parris book cover
Prophecy is the second in the Giordano Bruno series by S.J. Parris and follows on from Heresy while also being a stand alone read.

Bruno is still acting as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham with a view to protect Queen Elizabeth I from plots to dethrone her.  In Prophecy, the threat comes from within the Queen's own court with several murders taking place and small astrological markings being carved into their chest.

Bruno is in London staying with a group of Catholics and is undercover trying to unearth potential plots to put Mary Stuart on the throne.  His challenge: to investigate these deaths without betraying his true alliance.

I loved the portrayal of Dr. John Dee, philosopher and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I - and his infamously well stocked library for the period; what self respecting book-lover wouldn't?

This was an interesting time in history; one where the line between the two religions and the Queen's own interest in astrology was very fine.

Basically this is an historical fiction whodunnit for the Renaissance period, and is a light and entertaining read.  I didn't enjoy it as much as Heresy (4 stars), and will probably leave the series here.  For those wanting to continue, there are two further novels to discover:

- Sacrilege  Book 3 in Giordano Bruno series
- Treachery Book 4 due for release 18 June 2013

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. I forgot my favourite quote from this novel, it made me hoot with laughter:

"You had a face on you for a moment there like a man trying to shit a turnip."
- Page 272
09 April 2013

Review: The Drawing Of The Three (Dark Tower Book Two) by Stephen King

The Drawing Of The Three (Dark Tower Book Two) by Stephen King book cover
Book Two of The Dark Tower series
The Drawing Of The Three is Book Two of the Dark Tower series by bestselling author Stephen King, and picks up where The Gunslinger left off.

Essentially the 'three' of the title are three people that the Gunslinger acquires or draws to him throughout the novel.  The door on the front cover is the means by which the Gunslinger travels but I won't say any more than that.

Compared to The Gunslinger, I found Book Two of the series to be more enjoyable and straightforward.  The reader is still aware of the overarching narrative - a journey to the Dark Tower - however it's clear that this novel is about survival and acquiring three people to join the Gunslinger on that journey.

I think it's fair to say I've never read anything before with such a colossal scope, however I'm keen to keep reading and see where this master writer takes me.

Now that the Gunslinger has his 'three', I'm looking forward to the next part of the journey: The Waste Lands.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
07 April 2013

Alex Cross Series & Review: Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson & Richard Dilallo

Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson & Richard Dilallo book cover
I've read many of the novels in James Patterson's Alex Cross crime series:
-  Along Came A Spider
-  Kiss The Girls
-  Jack and Jill
-  Cat and Mouse
-  Pop Goes The Weasel
-  Roses Are Red
-  Violets Are Blue
-  Four Blind Mice
-  The Big Bad Wolf
-  London Bridges
-  Mary Mary
-  Cross 
Double Cross
-  Cross Fire

However; Alex Cross's Trial is a departure from the above suite of novels. Essentially it's a family tale involving a lawyer by the name of Ben Corbett, and a man called Abraham Cross, who happens to be Nana Mama's Uncle. (For those familiar with the Alex Cross series, Nana Mama is Alex's Grandmother). Alex decides to write the story after reading Corbett's journals.

Taking place in the early part of the Twentieth Century, President Roosevelt sends Corbett from DC to Eudora Mississippi, his hometown, to find out more about the supposed lynchings that have been reported. Racism is rife, lynchings are commonplace and Corbett must gather information and stay alive despite being quickly labelled a 'nigger lover'.

Overall, an exciting departure from the regular series, and a great historical fiction read from the time of the Ku Klux Klan in the South.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Interview with Loren DeShon, Author of Redemption On The River

I recently had the chance to interview Loren DeShon, author of Redemption On The River, reviewed here.

Loren, you've had quite a varied career: a certified public accountant, a US Navy fighter pilot and now a commercial airline pilot.  When did you start writing? Was it something you always dreamed about doing?
Yes, I've done some different things.  I know there are other airline pilots who are authors, but I doubt there are many certified public accountant fighter pilot authors.

I've always enjoyed writing but until now I've never been very serious about it.  I took creative writing as occasion offered in school and I've written a few magazine articles and dabbled with short stories, but until now my most popular works have been my family Christmas letters, which people tell me they like.

I've always had a nebulous ambition to write a novel and made several abortive attempts.  I finally realized that I needed to actually get off my butt and do it—or wait until the next lifetime.  So, I guess one way to characterize the project would be to call it a bucket list item, but once I sunk my teeth into telling the story it became much more than that.

How does an airline pilot become interested in steam boats?
I have intrinsic interest in the magnificent machines that provide transportation—airplanes, trains, ships, for example—and steamboats are a relatively short-lived technology from a very colorful period in history.  Mark Twain does a marvelous job of presenting them in many of his works—he was a licensed river pilot before he became an author—and he is a big influence on me.

What inspired you to choose the Mississippi River as the location and 1848 as the setting for your first novel?
The time and place are a nexus for powerful currents in American history.  The creep of expansion West is just starting to become the flood out onto the Great Plains and the west coast.  Steamboats are entering their heyday in providing the first reliable mass transportation on the continent and in so doing uniting the markets of East, North, South, and the world.  This brings the various regions of the U.S. into much more contact with each other than before, and not everyone likes what they find.

1848 is one year from the great California Gold Rush of 1849, and two years from the Missouri Compromise of 1850, which set the simmering debate over slavery on its way to full boil.  

What kind of research did you need to undertake to write Redemption On The River?
I used original or authoritative sources whenever I could.  Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, which is autobiographical and wonderfully evocative, and George Devol's Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi (Devol is a significant character in the book) are but two examples.

I used the internet, of course, which was a huge help in identifying the best sources.  The friendly folks at steamboats.org for example, pointed me to Way's Packet Directory, which is a definitive work that lists every steamboat known to have ever operated in America.

Thanks to Way's (and other sources), most of the steamboats in which the characters in Redemption on the River travel are as historically accurate as I could make them, right down to the names of the captains and pilots.  I did indulge myself, though, for I named one after my wife.

One fun research thing I did was to use Google Earth to "travel" to various places and make sure that I had cities correctly oriented, streams flowing the right way, and get a general feel for the terrain, etc.

All in all, I did absolutely the best job I could to make the history and places in the novel as accurate as I could.  Any errors are mine.

What are some of your writing habits or routines? Do you have any quirks you can share with us?
I'm not sure that it's a quirk, but I did a lot of thinking and writing in the airplane.  I hope nobody freaks out, but we spend a lot of time at altitude on autopilot, and I would jot ideas down in my notebook or write out scenes in longhand.  Really? That's amazing and definitely unique!

As far as at-the-keyboard routines go, I typically have classical music running in the background.  I play classical because I find anything with lyrics to be distracting while writing.  I've done that classical music thing long enough now that it's become a sort of Pavlovian response.  When I hear it now I feel like I should be at the keyboard.

Do you have any literary influences?  What are some of your favourite books/authors?
I've already mentioned Mark Twain, and also Larry McMurtry, whose talent for creating unforgettable characters is amazing, and whose book, Lonesome Dove, is on my personal All-Time-Best-List.

I'll throw in Richard Bach, the author of Illusions and Jonathon Livingston Seagull, among others.  He gets big ideas across in a very plain style, which I like.
Author and pilot, Loren DeShon

As a GoodReads Author, do you have any opinions on the recent purchase of GoodReads by Amazon?
I hope GoodReads can remain member-driven and independent.  It's goal is (was?) to provide a venue for avid readers to recommend and discuss books, and that is not necessarily coincident with Amazon's goal, which is to sell gobs of stuff.

GoodReads is one of the best places there is for an debut and/or obscure author to get discovered and generate that most valuable marketing commodity - word of mouth buzz - and I hope that doesn't change.

What's next? Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I took a big break from writing when the novel came out.  I've been concentrating on marketing, mainly by soliciting book reviewers.  I had no idea how much time that would consume.

In the short term I'm now writing some short stories and polishing old ones.  I plan to release them for free and include the first chapter of Redemption on the River in the hopes of generating exposure for the novel.

My next novel?  I have an outline for historical fiction set during the Vietnam War, but readers have been asking for a sequel to Redemption on the River.  That's something I hadn't considered, but I've sketched out some ideas that I think are pretty good.  I hope to make a decision and commit soon.

What would you like to tell your readers?
Thank you very much for reading Redemption on the River, and I hope that you enjoyed Silas's journey.  It was a journey for me to write it.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you—a whole, whole lot—for reviewing my book and offering this interview opportunity.  It is the dedicated readers, bloggers, and reviewers who give authors like me the chance to reach a larger audience.
You're more than welcome Loren! And good luck for your next novel.