27 February 2014

Drowning in spam, Carpe Librum fights back!

While I've been celebrating the increased popularity of Carpe Librum (reaching 100,000 total hits in December 2013), with success comes increased spam in the form of bogus comments.  

Last month my site received more than 20,000 hits (wow, right?) but I also received an enormous amount of spam.  Today alone when I logged on, there were more than 200 spam comments for me to check and delete.

While it was manageable I was happy to manually check and delete these comments, rather than introduce a verification process.  I don't like using a verification process myself when I leave comments on another site, so naturally I didn't want to ask Carpe Librum members or visitors to jump through that hoop, but I'm left with no choice now.

Apologies to all, but from now on you'll need to go through a short verification process in order to leave a comment here.  I can only hope that I don't lose valid comments by introducing this measure.

24 February 2014

Review: The Whispering by Sarah Rayne

The Whispering by Sarah Rayne book cover
*From Publisher for Review *

The Whispering is the fourth in Sarah Rayne's ghost series featuring Nell West and Michael Flint.

This time Michael Flint is researching the music and poetry of the Great War; in particular how music influenced their individual outlook and work.  I studied WWI poetry at university, so it was wonderful for me to see the names of Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon frequently mentioned.  I wish Wilfred Owen could have played a role in the story but that might have been asking for too much.

Michael is also researching the origins of the Palestrina Choir: a girl's choir based in a convent that sang behind a rood screen to hide their 'deformities'.  Girls who were crippled, malformed or simple were left at the convent by their parents, joined the choir and created angelic music but could never be seen.

Here's a quote from The Whispering about the origins of the long-dead choir.  The Palestrina Choir was "..formed in an ancient monastery in Belgium in 1900 to commemorate the start of the new century, and was named for the sixteenth-century composer of sacred music."

I was fascinated by the choir, and Michael visits Fosse House to meet reclusive Luisa Gilmore as part of his research but ends up discovering more than he bargained for.  

Meanwhile, Nell is researching the origin of the Holzminden sketch, a drawing that Michael finds in Fosse House, and which could be a sketch made at a WWI prisoner of war camp.

The Whispering is nicely layered and I enjoyed having Michael as the protagonist this time around instead of Nell.  There was an important reveal at the end that I had incorrectly predicted, and for me that's a sign of a great read when the plot carries you in an unexpected direction.

The Whispering can be enjoyed as a stand-alone and is recommended for readers who like a good ghost story, or the idea that the past can bleed into the future and vice versa.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
16 February 2014

Hades Giveaway Winner Announced

Thanks to all those who submitted entries in the Hades by Candice Fox Giveaway.  The competition closed at midnight on Valentine's Day and I received some great entries and Twitter re-tweets.

All entries were numbered and entered into random.org and the winner drawn was:
Fay Reeve

Her entry was a 'galloping horse.'  Congratulations Fay!  

Please email me your postal address by midnight Friday 21 February* and I'll send your copy of Hades by Candice Fox to you right away.

* (If I don't receive your postal address by 21 February a new winner will have to be drawn).

Thanks again and be sure to be on the lookout for the next giveaway coming to Carpe Librum soon.  I'll give you a hint, it's also by an Australian Women Writer (AWW).

Happy reading and Carpe Librum!
15 February 2014

Review: 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler

100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler book cover
I don't recall how I came across this title, but I thought it might be a great self-help book; perfect for the beginning of the year.  When I reserved it from the library, I was allocated an older edition of 100 Ways To Motivate Yourself - Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler in large print.

The large print was perfect actually and the fact that it's broken into 100 ways/chapters makes it the perfect book to dip into at any time; you can literally flick to any page and start reading.  Many/most of the 'ways' I'd come across before in one form or another, but I ended up flagging six sections in the book for follow up later on.

There was one motivational strategy in particular that really grabbed my attention and I immediately put the book down to commence developing a personal goal I'd been avoiding.

For that one idea it was definitely worth reading 100 Ways To Motivate Yourself - Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler, although for any readers seeking out this book, I recommend you get the latest edition.  I'm confident it'll be even better.

You can read Chapter/Number 40 Find Your Soul Purpose for free online, just click here.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S.  My favourite quote from the book appeared on page 192, in an excerpt from Anne Lamott's non fiction book Bird by Bird.  This phrase came about when Anne's brother had been procrastinating about working on a school project about birds. He was panicking the night before it was due, feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead, and his father said:
"Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird."
Brilliant advice, I love it! 
12 February 2014

Review: Hindsight by Melanie Casey

Hindsight by Melanie Casey book cover
* From Pantera Press for review *

Cass Lehman is a young South Australian woman in her twenties living at home with her mother and Grandmother, and completely isolated from outside life.  The reason?  Cass comes from a line of gifted women: her Grandmother is a hands-on healer, her mother can see glimpses of the future and Cass experiences the death of a person when she occupies the spot where they died. In other words, she has retrocognition.

This paranormal gift is a curse for Cass and as a result she spends most of her time living and working from home.  Cass and her family have charted all of the 'death spots' to avoid in her small home town, but she is growing increasingly frustrated with the limitations of her lifestyle.

When a woman in the town is murdered, Cass decides to offer local Police her help and is introduced to Ed Dyson.  I'll say no more about what happens next except to say that it's the beginning of a thriller ride.

I just knew I'd love the novel as soon as I read the blurb and thankfully Hindsight lived up to my every expectation.  I was instantly swallowed up by the story and immediately drawn in to Cass's world.  Published by Pantera Press, this is an outstanding debut from Australian author Melanie Casey and it's exciting to see her burst onto our bookshelves in style.

Hindsight is the first in a series featuring Cass and Ed, with the sequel called Craven due out in June this year.  I know it's only a few months away, but it's still not quick enough for this reader.  Highly recommended!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

P.S.  If you enjoy Hindsight, you might also enjoy The Shadow series by Kay Hooper. It's an old series and the first is called Stealing Shadows I gave it 4 stars in 2008.
08 February 2014

Australian Women Writers (AWW) Challenge 2014

I've been watching the Australian Women Writers Challenge for several years now but never actively taken part myself.  Mostly because my reading choices have nothing to do with the gender or name of the author.  I don't need a challenge to read more Australian women writers; I choose the books I want to read based on their appeal, their story.

But by observing the work of the many book bloggers that take part in this challenge every year, I've realised that by mere participation, more reviews are being shared online and therefore Australian novels are reaching a greater audience.

Here are some quick stats from the 2013 AWW Challenge:

  • Over 1,800 reviews were written;
  • Over 700 authors had their work reviewed; 
  • A total of 1079 books were reviewed.

With so many reviews written and Australian female authors in the spotlight across the internet, hopefully it's generating attention which might lead to book sales or library visits.  I know that my own network of friends and family have read books based on my reviews that they otherwise wouldn't have come across.

It is widely known that many readers predominantly read male authors, while my own split is 41% female and 59% male.  I've also read that more male authors are published than female authors, causing some women to write under a nom de plume.  While I don't necessarily believe the gender split should be exactly 50/50 (life just isn't like that), I do believe the best novels should be published (regardless of gender) and readers should choose the books they want to read from the titles available.

By the same token, I'm a proud and active supporter of Australian writers and have been participating in the Aussie Author Reading Challenge for a number of years now.  It is with all of these thoughts and motivations in mind that I've decided to join the 2014 AWW Reading Challenge.  Why?  To share my reviews, show my support for Australian women writers and to contribute to the increasing influence of AWW and be part of the change taking place.

I've already read 4 books by Australian Women Writers this year (reaching the Stella level) so I've signed up for the following challenge level:

Franklin: read 10 books – if reviewing, review at least 6

If you'd like to join in and participate or find out more about the reading challenge, click here.  You don't need a blog to participate either!

Carpe Librum!
07 February 2014

Review, Google Hangout and Giveaway: Hades by Candice Fox

Hades by Candice Fox book cover
*Copy from The Reading Room for review*

Hades is the debut crime thriller from new Australian author Candice Fox.

Hades owns and lives in a rubbish tip in outer Sydney and is the guy underworld criminals go to when they've made a mistake.  He makes problems and sometimes bodies disappear but his life changes forever when he receives delivery of two bundles for disposal one night.

Despite his vocation and fearsome reputation, Hades is a loveable character, making large animals from scrap metal and watching over those he cares deeply about.

Also joining the cast of characters is Frank, a Detective in the Homicide squad, paired up with Eden who is still grieving the loss of her previous partner in a shooting.  Eden's brother Eric is the office pain-in-the-ass and is a slimy, annoying and dark character most readers will love to hate.  Both Eden and Eric have their secrets and in between chasing a serial killer removing human organs from his victims, Frank is determined to get to the bottom of their dark past.

Hades is a page-turner from the very beginning and the writing feels very sharp and polished.  I later learned from the author (see below) that the manuscript underwent 15 or so edits prior to publishing, and the work really shows.  

I took an odd pleasure in reading about the first crime scene that takes place at Watson's Bay in Sydney, a stones throw from HMAS Watson where I spent many months undergoing navigation training in the Royal Australian Navy.  Turns out Candice Fox also spent a brief time undergoing the same Officer training (many years after me) before leaving the military to eventually become a writer.

Hades can be read as a stand-alone crime thriller although Candice is working on the second in the series to be called Eden and I can't wait to read it.

My rating = ****

Google Hangout with Candice Fox
This week I had the pleasure of participating in a Google Hangout with Candice Fox, hosted and organised by The Reading Room.  Along with three other book bloggers we each took turns asking Candice questions about her book Hades, her writing processes and inspiration.  It was a fantastic discussion and you can watch the clip below or on YouTube here.

I have a (lightly read) copy of Hades by Candice Fox to giveaway, thanks to the folks at The Reading Room.

To enter: Hades is a character who works in a tip in Sydney, and who loves to make animals out of scrap metal.  Which animal would you like Hades to make for you?

Entries close: midnight Valentine's Day, Friday 14th February 2014.

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

Winner: will be chosen by random.org and announced no later than: Sunday 16th February.  The winner has until midnight Friday 21st February to make contact and provide a postal address.

Additional entries: those who Tweet about this giveaway (or RT), sign up to follow Carpe Librum by Google Friend Connect or via email after this post will receive an additional entry in the competition.  (Make sure you mention this in your comment/entry).

Thanks and Carpe Librum!
06 February 2014

Review: The Silence by Sarah Rayne

* From the author for review *

The Silence by Sarah Rayne is the third in her ghost book series featuring antiques dealer Nell West and her academic boyfriend Michael Flint*.  

The story takes place at Stilter House (aptly named) located in the Derbyshire Peaks in England and Nell is asked to catalogue some items in her late husband's childhood home.

On the back of The Sin Eater, this series has definitely ramped up in The Silence, and I thoroughly enjoyed uncovering the layers and layers of mysteries within and of course encountering a few ghosts along the way.

The Silence is so much richer than The Sin Eater, with a higher 'creep level' and a particular metal object I won't be forgetting in a hurry (no spoilers though).  The word 'outbuilding' takes on a sinister tone and Nell West's beliefs about life after death are tested again.  (Thankfully Nell is more accepting this time and less sceptical which was a welcome change).

I was really taken by the young mute boy Esmond, his reason for being mute and the misunderstanding about his mother's death that had serious implications resonating for years. 

The Silence has it all despite it's compact length of 272 pages.  It's a chilly read, so pack a scarf and dive into this exciting ghost/mystery novel.  (I can't wait to start reading the latest in the series The Whispering, next).

My rating = ****

*The Ghost Series of novels by Sarah Rayne include:

Book #1 The Property of a Lady  (5 stars)
Book #2 The Sin Eater  (3 stars)
Book #3 The Silence
Book #4 The Whispering (out now!)