30 January 2016

Winner of the 2016 Australia Day Book Giveaway Announced

I had a great response to my Australia Day Book Giveaway this year, so thanks to everyone who entered and Shelleyrae from Book'd Out for organising this great bookish event. 

I loved reading through your entries with a total of 57 different books mentioned and 77 entries received. Bruce made me laugh with this cheeky entry: I will be reading the Boomerang Books website in anticipation of winning $50 to spend! Thanks for the giveaway :D

Nevertheless, there can be only one winner, so congratulations go to:

Danielle Burns

Congratulations Danielle, you've won a $50 book voucher from Boomerang Books and you'll receive an email shortly advising of your win.

Thanks to Boomerang Books for sponsoring this giveaway and to you for your support. I hope 2016 is full of great books, new discoveries and captivating stories.

Carpe Librum!
28 January 2016

Review: Milk Eggs Vodka - Grocery Lists Lost and Found by Bill Keaggy

Milk Eggs Vodka - Grocery Lists Lost and Found by Bill Keaggy is just that, a book containing all kinds of shopping lists that have been found in shopping trolleys, shopping centres and car parks all over the USA.

This collection isn't for everyone, but it does give the reader a unique glimpse into the minds of shoppers. Some of the spelling mistakes made me laugh out loud (burd fude anyone?) but I also enjoyed the categories Keaggy sorted his lists into.

Some of the chapters included:
- Paar-ty!
- Sad Grocery Lists
- Badd Spellrs
- Organized Lists
- Healthy (and Hygienic) Lists

The strange combination of items together on the same list were interesting, although the novelty does wear off by the end.

This is a good book to read while watching TV; or in my case, during the ads while watching the Australian Open.

A book to flick through at the library but not one to buy.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
24 January 2016

Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop 2016

It's Australia Day soon and I'm participating in the 2015 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop for the fourth year in a row.

The event is being hosted online by Book'd Out, and there are currently 35 Aussie bloggers, authors, booksellers and publishers offering great Australian themed giveaways and FREE stuff!

Boomerang Books is generously sponsoring my blog hop this year to give you the chance to WIN:

A $50 gift voucher from Boomerang Books.

To Enter: leave a comment in the form below and tell me what you're reading this Australia Day. 

Eligibility: open to those with an Australian postal address only and entries close at midnight, Wednesday 27th January 2016.

Winner: will be chosen by random.org and announced within 5 days and notified of their win via email. The winner will also be announced here on Carpe Librum in a follow up post.

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

Happy Australia Day and Carpe Librum!

This giveaway has now closed.
20 January 2016

Review: 438 Days - An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Experienced fisherman Salvador Alvarenga was lost off the coast of Mexico on 17 November 2012, and while many of his colleagues and friends were in disbelief about his disappearance, none could have imagined he would survive 438 days at sea and drift all the way to the Marshall Islands.

438 Days - An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea is a story of extreme survival, at times awe-inspiring and full of hope but also full of desperation, depression and grief.

If you want to know what Salvador eats to survive and how his body copes with severe dehydration and starvation, you'll find it here. You'll also discover how he copes with the isolation, loneliness, the endless hours and emotional strain of his ordeal.

This novel also highlights just how much rubbish is floating in the ocean and how Salvador used everything he could find to aid his survival, creating his own little eco system around his boat.

438 Days covers the mental, physical and emotional toll on Alvarenga's body, including his terrifying rescue and seeing another human being for the first time in more than a year.

Moving and inspiring, author Jonathan Franklin has really delivered on this one.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
18 January 2016

Guest Post: What We Remember by Australian author Sally Hepworth

Australian author
Sally Hepworth
Very pleased to have Melbourne author Sally Hepworth on the blog today, as part of her blog tour for the release of The Things We Keep. She's here today to talk about memories.

What We Remember
What if everything that had happened in your life was suddenly wiped out? Literally, through a case of amnesia, or figuratively, if you found out something you valued was a lie?

I’ve thought about this a lot. While watching the news, I’ll see the wife of a politician who couldn’t keep it in his pants, or an ex-cult member escaping a life she was born into and think … how do you go on now? 

Who are we without our fundamental beliefs, beliefs created over a lifetime? 

A few years ago, my friend’s father had what their family now calls an ‘episode.’ His assistant found him wandering around the office, disoriented and agitated. When his family arrived and tried speaking to him, he asked them: “What day is it?”
“Tuesday, dad,” they told him.
“Tuesday,” he repeated, frowning deeply. “Did I play golf this morning?”
A coy smile. “How’d I play?”

It was funny, the first time. But over the next twelve hours they had the same conversation a hundred times. Verbatim. Same deep frown, same coy smile. 

My friend’s father’s ‘episode’ was Global Transient Amnesia. Thankfully, the transient part meant that by the next day, he was back to normal.

The interesting part for me was that for twenty-four hours, his short-term memory was less than a minute long. Yet, every time he asked the same series of questions. The exact same series. It spoke to me about memory and its role in who we are. It led me to wonder if maybe, memory isn’t as important as we think.

The Things We Keep
by Sally Hepworth
published January 2016
In my novel, The Things We Keep, three women find they can’t trust their memories. For Anna, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at age 38, it is learning that all of her memories are being sucked out faster than she can create them. For Eve, once happily married, it’s coming to terms with the fact that her husband wasn’t the person she thought he was. For Clementine, Eve’s daughter, it is trying to grieve for her ‘hero’ father while dealing with the realization that he wasn’t a hero at all. 

Each woman is faced with a reality she didn’t expect. And with nothing but unreliable memories to lean on, Anna, Eve and Clementine are going to find out who they are and what they stand for.

What about you? If you lost your memory, do you think you would you be the same? And what conversation would you be having over and over?

Sally Hepworth

15 January 2016

Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh is a successful blogger with more than half a million followers and her reflective self-deprecating humour is endearing and very funny.

I read her book Hyperbole and a Half over a couple of sittings and really admire her honesty in addressing topics like depression and responsibility in relatable stories and observations. I also respect her ability to take a long - and sometimes difficult - look at herself and her character/nature in ways few of us ever do.

Her drawings are comical and hilarious but don't be fooled by their apparent simplicity. I read on the FAQ page of her blog that she often re-draws a scene or a character's face up to 10 times before she's 100% happy with it.

I chuckled, I laughed and enjoyed the stories and observations in Hyperbole and Half and will be following her work from now on.

If you haven't come across Allie's work before, you can read some of her work for FREE on her blog. My favourites are her stories about the simple dog and the helper dog.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
11 January 2016

Review: Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley *

I'm a sucker for a book about twins, and my expectations for an enjoyable read were blown completely out of the water by Ann Morgan in Beside Myself.

Twin sisters Helen (bossy) and Ellie (submissive) play a game one afternoon to swap identities, but Ellie won't change back. What happens next is an ever growing divide between sisters and fascinating process of character development and decline.

Beside Myself is a suspenseful read and an interesting look at identity and mental illness. I couldn't help but wonder what I would have done in Helen's situation.

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan is my favourite book of 2016 so far, although I'm not sure if it can stay at the top for the entire year, let's see.

Download a FREE excerpt from the Better Reading website and see for yourself.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
10 January 2016

Sign-up for 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Passages to the Past is one of my favourite reading challenges of the year and I'm pleased to be participating again in 2016.

Last year I read 19 books for the challenge, so I've nominated to complete the Medieval level and aim to read and review 15 books; 25 is just too many for me.

Challenge levels:
20th century Reader  - 2 books
Victorian Reader        - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval                   - 15 books
Ancient History          - 25 books
Prehistoric                 - 50+ books

All book lovers are invited to join in and you don't need a blog to participate. Just leave your comments about each book in the monthly wrap-up over at Passages to the Past.

Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, etc.) and there's plenty to discover so feel free to join in.

Carpe Librum!
07 January 2016

Sign-up for Aussie Author Challenge 2016

Today I'm signing up for the Aussie Author Challenge 2016 run by Booklover Book Reviews, after discovering one of my favourite books of 2015 (The Messenger by Markus Zusak) on the challenge last year.

If you want to join me and read more books by Aussie authors you can take part in the challenge via Facebook, GoodReads or Google+ (you don't need a website or a book blog to participate).

I'm committing to the Kangaroo level again.

- Read and review 12 titles written by Australian authors;
- At least 4 female and 4 male authors;
- At least 4 new authors (to me);
- At least 3 genres.

I'm looking forward to supporting and discovering new Aussie authors again this year, who's with me?


Carpe Librum!
06 January 2016

Sign-up for 2016 Australian Women Writers Challenge

I'm signing up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge again this year, which encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, living in or outside Australia, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year.

The challenge runs from 1 January – 31 December 2016 and I've committed to the Franklin level again this year. I'll be aiming to read 10 books by female Australian authors and review at least 6 of them.

You don't have to be a blogger to participate so click here to join in or find out more about the challenge. 

You can also follow @auswomenwriters on Twitter and use the tag #AWW2016 to follow along.

Carpe Librum!
05 January 2016

Review: Anti-Stress Dot-to-Dot - Beautiful, Calming Pictures to Complete Yourself by Emily Wallis

*Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia

With the ever present adult colouring in craze still in full swing with no sign of abating, I thought I'd try my hand at an adult dot-to-dot book, and Emily Wallis' Anti-Stress Dot-to-Dot was just the ticket.

I was genuinely surprised to discover just how calming this exercise is, and believe it or not, the first dot-to-dot took me three sittings to complete! 

Creating this majestic tree (pictured below) line by line was a relaxing and peaceful way to pass the time at the end of a busy day. It also forced me into 100% mindfulness, because all I could think of was the next numbered dot I needed to draw my way towards.

The designs are printed single-sided on high quality paper, meaning your pen won't bleed through the paper and every page contains its own artwork. It looks like pages can be removed if you wish, however I love this book too much to rip out any pages. A little old fashioned I know.

Do yourself (or a loved one) a favour, and get yourself a copy of Anti-Stress Dot-to-Dot by Emily Wallis; it's so much fun and perfect for adults of all ages.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
My first dot-to-dot in decades
from Anti-Stress Dot-to-Dot by Emily Wallis
04 January 2016

Completed Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2015

My favourite genre is historical fiction, so it wasn't hard to complete the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2015 hosted by Passages to the Past and read a minimum of 15 historical fiction novels.

Here's what I read (in order):

1.  The William Shakespeare Detective Agency: The School of Night | Colin Falconer
2.  The Girl in the Photograph | Kate Riordan
3.  The Fairytale Keeper | Andrea Cefalo
4.  Wild Wood | Posie Graeme-Evans
5.  The Witch of Napoli | Michael Schmicker
6.  Ajax Penumbra 1969 | Robin Sloan
7.  The Room Beyond | Stephanie Elmas
8.  The Embroiderer | Kathryn Gauci
9.  The Book of Speculation | Erika Swyler
10. The Anchoress | Robyn Cadwallader
11. Signora da Vinci | Robin Maxwell
12. The Beast's Garden | Kate Forsyth
13. The Taming of the Queen | Philippa Gregory
14. The Chosen Queen | Joanna Courtney
15. Sweet Wattle Creek | Kaye Dobbie
16. The Lake House | Kate Morton
17. The Olmec Obituary | L.J.M Owen
18. The Bookman's Tale | Charlie Lovett
19. The Countess' Captive | Andrea Cefalo

I'll definitely be participating in this challenge again in 2016, so stay tuned for my sign up post if you want to join me.

Carpe Librum!
03 January 2016

Review: A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens

Christmas time is the perfect time to read A Christmas Carol and Penguin's clothbound edition of A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings is a joy to behold on the shelf and in the hand.

My admiration for the writing of Charles Dickens began after reading Oliver Twist, I was interested to see if this classic would live up to my expectations. I'm pleased to report that it did.

It's hard to believe that an author's work from more than 160 years ago can still warm the heart and tantalise the mind, yet here it is. Dickens has the most incredible ability to describe his characters in the most entertaining fashion that I wanted to read sections aloud just to share the brilliance of his writing.

The following quote was my favourite though and appeared on page 87:
"If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge's nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him too. Introduce him to me, and I shall cultivate his acquaintance." 

I'm not quite sure what it is about the quote, but perhaps I'm drawn by the idea of cultivating one's acquaintance and how magical it seems. How 'of the times'.

I thoroughly recommend A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings to readers of all ages to be enjoyed in November/December, although it can - in truth - be enjoyed at any time of year.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

For more about Dickens, read my 5 star review of Oliver Twist, or my 3 star review of Great Expectations.
02 January 2016

Completed 2015 Mount TBR Reading Challenge

Almost a year ago I signed up to the 2015 Mount TBR Reading Challenge (hosted by My Reader's Block) and committed to read 12 books owned prior to 1 January 2014. 
I successfully completed the challenge and here's what I read (in order):

1.  Wild Wood | Posie Graeme-Evans

2.  Ajax Penumbra 1969 | Robin Sloan

3.  The Shining | Stephen King

4.  The Room Beyond | Stephanie Elmas

5.  Naomi's Room | Jonathan Aycliffe

6.  The Museum of Literary Souls | John Connolly

7.  The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde

8.  Looking for Alibrandi | Melina Marchetta

9.  The Pearl | John Steinbeck

10. Stoner | John Williams

11. Signora da Vinci | Robin Maxwell

12. Frankenstein: Prodigal Son | Dean Koontz

It's always rewarding to read a book you've been looking forward to for ages, and of these, I've wanted to read Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell for 4 years! 

Carpe Librum!
01 January 2016

2015 Reading Stats and Wrap Up

Happy New Year fellow booklovers!! In 2015 I read a total of 66 books and thought it'd be interesting to compile some reading stats, so here goes.

Male vs Female Authors
Until I crunched the numbers, I had no idea whether or not I'd read more male or female authors.

Turns out that 56% of the books I read this year were by female authors and 44% by male authors.

Given that I choose to read a book based on whether I think I'll like it or not, (not the author's name or sex), I'm happy with this split.

Longest book
The longest book I read in 2015 was The Lake House by Kate Morton, at 592 pages long. I enjoyed it and gave it 4 stars in my review. I'm looking forward to reading more chunksters in 2016.

Print vs e-book

I'm reading increasingly more e-books these days - particularly when reviewing books from NetGalley - however it was pleasing to see that  print books still dominate my reading choices.

My Friday Freebie series was very successful in 2015, but you might be surprised to hear I gave away 23 books valued at over $420 throughout the year. Phew! 

(If you were one of the lucky winners, let me know if you enjoyed your prize in the comments below).


Sometimes it feels like I'm always reading review books, so I thought I'd see just how many I buy myself and borrow from the library etc.

It turns out that 41% of what I read was specifically for review (e.g. provided by publishers or authors in exchange for a review) and a respectable 32% were purchased myself or bought for me as a gift. 

Furthermore, I borrowed 22% of the books I read this year from the library; not bad either.

I've decided to decrease the number of reading challenges this year (down to a manageable 3 instead of 5) and will crunch these stats again at the end of another reading year to see what's changed.

Until then, stay tuned for some great giveaways in 2016 and interesting reviews. I'm also hoping to break through the 1 million hits milestone, so cross your fingers for me.

Carpe Librum!