24 April 2014

Review: Working Stiff - Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

Working Stiff - Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell book cover
* Copy courtesy of NetGalley*

Judy Melinek, M.D spent two years working and training as a Forensic Pathologist at the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Working Stiff is her memoir of this period in her career.

Melinek takes us through many real cases, including: accidents, murders, suicides, death from natural causes and more.  She worked the sorting tables throughout the September 11 recovery and gives a touching yet harrowing account of the process of finding human remains, cataloguing them and returning them to family; anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones.

Working Stiff reads like an intimate conversation with Melinek.  Every time I had a question, she answered it, and it felt like she was telling me about her work as we passed the time on a long car trip.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Judy's husband T.J. Mitchell has an English degree from Harvard and is a stay-at-home Dad.  Why he's listed as a co-author on Working Stiff is beyond me.  Presumably Mitchell read and edited many drafts of Working Stiff for his wife while it was being written, but don't many partners and spouses do this?  He even had his own acknowledgements, argh!!

This was a minor sticking point though, and I thoroughly recommend Working Stiff - Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner to those who enjoy forensics and are genuinely interested in the work of Medical Examiners.

Best memoir of the year for me!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

Please note: since writing the above review, author Judy Melinek has contacted me to let me know that she gave her husband a journal and he wrote the book, making it a 50/50 effort.  I'm grateful for this clarification.
22 April 2014

Please vote for me in the Best Australian Blogs 2014 People's Choice Award

For the first time ever, my site, Carpe Librum is a Nominee in the Best Australian Blogs 2014 Competition.

The competition is run every year by the Australian Writers' Centre and blogs of every genre are nominated (e.g. books and reading, cooking, travel, sport etc.)

I've never asked you to vote for me before but it would mean the world if you voted for Carpe Librum in this competition.  Voting is open now and closes on Monday 5 May at 5pm.  There are 962 blogs in the running, but they're listed alphabetically so it's super easy to find Carpe Librum.

Please vote online for Carpe Librum, and any other favourite bookish sites you follow and show your support for Australian blogs.

Thanking you in advance and happy voting!
16 April 2014

Review: Jane Austen: Her Complete Novels in One Sitting by Jennifer Kasius

Jane Austen: Her Complete Novels in One Sitting by Jennifer Kasius book coverI received this adorable little volume (smaller than a post-it note) as a gift from my nephew.  He lives in the UK, making this little gift even more special.

Surprisingly for a book-lover, I haven't read any Jane Austen yet, and I was keen to find out more in Jane Austen - Her Complete Novels in One Sitting by Jennifer Kasius.

I started taking this book to appointments (physio, OPSM etc.) and it certainly drew attention from others, but it took me well over one sitting to get through it.  
Broken down with lists of characters and summary of plot, this little gem covered six Austen novels.  The novels were all about romance, marrying within your station and the plot summaries expounded incredibly dull novels.

As a result of reading Jane Austen - Her Complete Novels in One Sitting, I'm no longer keen to read Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, both of which have been on my TBR list for over 3 years.  This being the case, I think this miniature book has failed to pique my interest as a reader, but I will always love it for sentimental reasons, and think of my gorgeous nephew whenever I see it.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
14 April 2014

Review: Through The Cracks by Honey Brown

Advanced copy of Through The Cracks
by Honey Brown
* Copy courtesy of The Reading Room and Penguin Australia *

After reading and reviewing a handful of 3 star rated books, I can't tell you the feeling of relief and expectation picking up an advanced copy of Honey Brown's new thriller Through The Cracks.

Without a doubt the hero of the book is Adam Vander, growing up with an extremely abusive father in suburban Sydney.  Made to feel unwanted and different, his home life shifts when Adam becomes old enough and strong enough to fight back.  His life is flipped on its head though when he meets Billy.

Through The Cracks is a psychological thriller written by one of Australia's best writers in the genre, Honey Brown.  Through The Cracks peers into the dark corners of child abuse, and shines a light on the scum and their motivations for cruelty against children.

Although the subject matter is dark, much is left to the reader to imagine; there is no depravity for depravity's sake.  I read 
Through The Cracks during the week Daniel Morcombe's killer was sentenced and this certainly influenced my reading of the novel.  It made me understand that although this is a novel, unfortunately there are depraved pedophiles in our community and we need to do everything we can to protect our children.

So, how does it end? Well, I'll leave that for you to discover, but I can tell you the revelation about Adam's identity was so well written I'd recommend this novel based on that 'twist' alone.

Highly recommended for fans of crime and psychological suspense and readers who love reading Australian authors.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

N.B  Through The Cracks will be published at the end of this month.
02 April 2014

Review: The Silversmith's Wife by Sophia Tobin

* Copy courtesy of The Reading Room *

Set in 1792, The Silversmith's Wife takes place in London's Berkeley Square and is Sophia Tobin's first novel.

Pierre Renard is an ambitious silversmith found by the night watchman with his throat slashed and his belongings stolen, much to the shock of his wife Mary.

I was immediately drawn to The Silversmith's Wife with its gorgeous cover and the hope of finding out more about the night watchmen of London during this era.  When I read At Day's Close - A History of Nighttime by A. Roger Ekirch I was enthralled by the 'night watch' whose job it was to patrol the streets, apprehend criminals or thieves, watch for signs of fire and call out the time.

The night watchman in The Silversmith's Wife was a dark and intriguing character, but I was just begging him to call out the time or an 'All's Well' but sadly he never did.

However, what I did find was a story centred around Mary and a few central characters in what I would call a character based (rather than action based) whodunnit.  It was interesting (and frustrating) to read how Mrs Renard was treated - both as a wife and a widow - and the several characters who had motive to kill the pompous Pierre Renard.

The Silversmith's Wife captured the life and times of London in the 1790s very well although I would have loved more detail on the art of making and producing the pieces of silver described in the novel.

Readers are not left hanging in this whodunnit with a timely confession at the end that I didn't see coming.  An enjoyable read.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!