29 November 2013

Review: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell book cover
I've been looking forward to reading Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops by Jen Campbell for so long, and most book-lovers will no doubt have already seen this in stores or heard about it.

It's a collection of the funny, weird and bizarre comments and queries that bookish customers make in bookshops.  The author Jen Campbell is a bookseller herself, so there were great contributions from her and some from other bookshops around the world.

Some of the entries were brief and some more involved, but all made me shake my head, some made me laugh out loud and others just made me wonder about the public.  Cartoons and graphics broke up the entries and the pages just flew by.

Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops by Jen Campbell is a short and delightful read, perfect for Christmas (sharing tidbits, leaving on the coffee table or as a stocking filler) and I recommend it to all readers, young and all.  Actually Jen Campbell is shipping autographed copies all over the world at the moment, so it might be a great gift idea for your favourite book-lover.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
Excerpt from Weird Things Customers
Say In Bookshops
 by Jen Campbell

Cartoon featured in Weird Things Customers
Say In Bookshops
 by Jen Campbell
27 November 2013

Review: Life's A Journey - The Adventure Continues by Ken Duncan

Life's A Journey - The Adventure Continues by Ken Duncan book cover
* From publicist for review *

Ken Duncan is a household name, and his photography hangs in households and workplaces all over the country.

What a thrill then to be invited to review his latest book Life's A Journey - The Adventure Continues.

Full of stunning landscapes from all over the world, portraits of people and wildlife, Life's A Journey - The Adventure Continues is the perfect coffee table book or gift for Christmas.

More than that though are the personal words and reflections from Ken Duncan himself. A proud Christian, Ken shares with the reader his personal experiences and some of the life lessons he's learned in his many years travelling the globe and meeting some extraordinary people. 

Ken's reflections include thoughts and comments on indigenous Australia, the environment, global warming, charity, nature and the gift of giving without expecting anything in return. You'll also find some poignant moments, commentary on photographic equipment and of course his signature striking and evocative photographs within these beautifully printed pages.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
23 November 2013

Author Interview with Mark Dapin, author of King Of The Cross and Fridge Magnets Are Bastards

Mark Dapin is a successful journalist and writer in Australia, having published several novels, including: Strange Country, Spirit House, King Of The Cross, Fridge Magnets Are Bastards, The Penguin Book of Australian War Writing and From The Trenches.

He has also had his work published in Woman's Day, Penthouse, Ita and plenty of other publications.  It is a pleasure to introduce him here to Carpe Librum readers.
Author, Mark Dapin

Hi Mark, thanks for joining us.  Being both a journalist and a writer, which do you prefer; reporting or writing fiction?
At the moment, I prefer writing fiction, but it changes every week or so. This week, I’ve got no fiction to write, which is probably why I feel Iike doing it. But, really, I love writing anything.

You've met and interviewed some amazing and interesting people, what are some of your favourite interviews?
The nicest, most honest person I’ve met was probably Dicko. One of the most unpleasant was Gordon Ramsay. Nick Cave was very gracious and generous with his time, and afterwards he sent me an email saying he had quit his hotel-room wanking habit – which was good to know. I recently had lunch with Tim Minchin, who seemed very, y’ know… kind. I like kind people.

Your book Fridge Magnets Are Bastards is hilarious, and I wanted to read it aloud to others at every opportunity.  Have you ever done or considered stand up comedy?
I’ve thought about it and, when I speak at writers’ festivals, I guess I incorporate elements of stand-up performance, but it isn’t what I want to do. I’m more interested in putting words together on paper than delivering them on stage. That said, I bloody love performing too – which has come as a real surprise to me, because I always thought of myself as quiet and shy.

Your crime novel King of The Cross was hard-hitting and funny, but what was your inspiration for the (fictional) Sydney crime boss Jacob Mendoza?
His life followed the path of Abe Saffron, but his character was based on a mixture of Gordon Ramsay, a certain living Sydney gangster, and my ex-girlfriend.

Mendoza seemed so real, I hardly believed he wasn't a real person; how did you achieve this?  Did you miss him when you'd finished writing?
Yes, I did miss him. I started talking like him. He appears briefly in my follow-up novel, Spirit House, too. And the one I’ve just finished writing.

How did From The Trenches change you?
It left me (very) slightly better off financially.
Aside from that, it was a privilege to curate the work of men who’d been though so much.

Can you tell us about the research you undertake? What is some of the more unusual resource material you've consulted or research you've undertaken?
Dunno, really. I don’t do much research for journalism at all. When I’m writing fiction, I tend to just stare at things for hours, trying to think of the best words to use to describe them.

When do you do your best work?  Where do you do most of your writing?
I write pretty much all day, pretty much every day. I think I write best in the morning, after my first Diet Coke.

Do you listen to music when you write?
No, never, nothing. I love music, but not when I’m trying to think.

What are you reading at the moment?
Books about the Vietnam War, for my new fiction project.

Do you have any literary influences?
I try to write like Pete Dexter and E L Doctorow crossed with Mordecai Richler, I guess.

The Quiet American by
Graham Greene, one
of Mark's fav books
What are some of your favourite books/authors?
Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy
Johnny I Hardly Knew You by Edna O’Brien
Lolita by Nabokov
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
Money by Martin Amis
The Quiet American and nearly everything else by Graham Greene
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
The Book of Daniel by E L Doctorow
Brotherly Love by Peter Dexter

Do you have a favourite bookshop in Australia?
Not really. But I love to browse.

What's next?  Do you have anything in the pipeline at the moment?
I’m working on a novel, a PhD thesis, and military history book.

What would you like to tell your readers?
Please buy my upcoming novel and military history book.

Anything else you'd like to add?
And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone’s hearts must be torn to shreds.
That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself —
Surely you see that.    – Bertolt Brecht

Thanks so much Mark, and best of luck with your upcoming release!  (I'm off to check out some of your favourite books).
20 November 2013

Review: The Melbourne Book - A History Of Now by Maree Coote

The Melbourne Book - A History Of Now by Maree Coote book cover* From publicist for review*

Currently in it's fourth edition, Maree Coote's The Melbourne Book - A History Of Now is an absolute delight to read. A stunning hardcover book with colour photos throughout, this non-fiction gem covers all aspects of this magnificent city: Melbourne.

Being a resident for the past 13 years, I found the majority of the information presented quite fascinating, and would like to share a few of the things that interested me along the way:
  • Two government surveyors (Robert Hoddle and Robert Russell) designed the iconic grid layout of the CBD in 1837;
  • I didn't know this, but Exhibition Street was originally called Stephen Street; renamed Exhibition Street in 1888 in honour of the great Centennial Exhibition of Melbourne;
  • The two busiest tram routes in Melbourne are: Number 6 and Number 96;
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said of the Botanic Gardens in 1920: "...absolutely the most beautiful place I have ever seen."
  • Vegemite is made wholly in Melbourne, despite no longer being Australian-owned;
  • Coles Book Arcade of Bourke Street in 1874 was the 'Grandest Bookshop in the World.' (I would give anything to have seen/browsed through this store).
I understand that in books like these, there needs to be a limit to content (I mean where do you stop) but I was surprised to find Queen Victoria Market wasn't included; such an amazing piece of land with a macabre past I thought this a glaring omission.

Having said that, The Melbourne Book will appeal to a wide variety of readers both young and old, residents, former residents, those considering moving or visiting Melbourne, and of course those with a keen interest in the history of the world's most liveable city.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
16 November 2013

Review: The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge & Justin Taylor

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge & Justin Taylor book cover
The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide is a visual book containing photographs of literary tattoos from all around the world.

There were plenty of quotes, literary scenes and bookish motifs, and while I liked many of them, none enough to consider getting one for myself.

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide is a great read (or flick through book) for bookworms and those who enjoy the body art of tattoos.

Obviously not for everyone.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
11 November 2013

Review: Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

I don't know where to begin this review. I finished reading Cloudstreet a few weeks ago and have been trying to find the words to communicate just how much I loved this Australian novel by Tim Winton.

Oddly enough, if it weren't for the TV series, I wouldn't have read Cloudstreet at all. A few years ago there was a radio segment where an announcer read sections of Cloudstreet to listeners to the sounds of seagulls etc. It was amusing but put me off ever picking up this novel for myself.

I was then moved to tears by watching the TV series Cloudstreet which motivated me to read the novel and I'm extremely glad I did.

The writing was uniquely Australian and the characters deftly drawn. My favourite character was Fish, and I was astonished at Winton's ability to create such a complex and loveable character; it was sheer brilliance!!  

Cloudstreet is now one of my favourite books and is competing for the place of favourite Australian novel. For anyone who is contemplating reading this novel, I beg you to do so. The writing is accessible and the pages just fly along so don't be intimidated by the size. Tim Winton's Cloudstreet will stay with me forever and I'm excited to read more books from this incredible writer in the future.


My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
05 November 2013

Review: Don't Blink by James Patterson & Howard Roughan

Nick Daniels is a journalist sitting down to an important interview with a reclusive sportsman when a hit man enters the Lombardo's Steak House and murders an infamous mob lawyer right in front of him.  And so the action begins in Don't Blink from James Patterson and Howard Roughan.

Don't Blink is what you'd expect in a stand alone novel from Patterson: a fast paced crime story with a few plot layers and the bad guy revealed in the end.

What I didn't expect was a change in narration from first person and back again with the odd reference to the reader.  This was a little strange.

All in all, an entertaining and quick read, and another good one for Patterson fans who are looking for a stand alone read.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!