30 March 2016

Review: The Secret Heiress by Luke Devenish

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Australian author? Check
Gothic setting? Check
Twins? Check
Manor house? Check
Servants? Check
Inheritance? Check

The six elements mentioned above make for a very enjoyable read and those who love seeing these topics penned in any Kate Morton novel, will enjoy this offering by fellow Australian author Luke Devenish.

The Secret Heiress is a deeply layered mystery set in central Victoria in two time frames with two main characters, Ida in 1880s and Biddy in the 1900s.

The mystery kept me guessing and the complex layers of lies and deceit were difficult to unravel, making for a satisfying read in a 'whodunnit/whydunnit' kind of way. I highly enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs environment, and I think this is the first gothic historical fiction novel I've read set entirely in Victoria.

My only complaint would be the lack of chapter breaks. There were very clear breaks between time periods, however these sections were quite long with no chapters to break up the pages. (There were a few sentence breaks but I always like to stop reading at the end of a chapter and I wasn't able to do that here).

Luke Devenish is an accomplished writer and this was an impressive and refreshing read in a genre generally dominated by female authors. Recommended for historical fiction fans far and wide; particularly those who haven't read a gothic Australian novel before.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
29 March 2016

HFVBT Book Blast for The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau

Published March 2016
The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford #3) by Nancy Bilyeau
Henry VIII's Palace of Whitehall is the last place on earth Joanna Stafford wants to be. But a summons from the king cannot be refused. After her priory was destroyed, Joanna, a young Dominican novice, vowed to live a quiet life, weaving tapestries and shunning dangerous conspiracies. That all changes when the king takes an interest in her tapestry talent.

With a ruthless monarch tiring of his fourth wife and amoral noblemen driven by hidden agendas, Joanna becomes entangled in court politics.

Her close friend, Catherine Howard, is rumoured to be the king's mistress, and Joanna is determined to protect her from becoming the king's next wife--and victim. All the while, Joanna tries to understand her feelings for the two men in her life: the constable who tried to save her and the friar she can't forget. 

In a world of royal banquets, jousts, sea voyages and Tower Hill executions, Joanna must finally choose her future: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. The Tapestry is the final book in a trilogy that began in 2012 with The Crown, an Oprah magazine pick. Don't miss the adventures of one of the most unforgettable heroines in historical fiction.

Author Bio

02_Nancy Bilyeau
Author, Nancy Bilyeau
Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. 

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. The Crown, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, The Chalice, followed in 2013, and The Tapestry in 2015. 

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

03_The Tapestry_Book Blast Banner_FINAL
28 March 2016

Winner of Crime Scenes edited by Zane Lovitt announced

It seems quite a lot of my subscribers enjoy reading crime fiction and many of you keenly entered last week's international crime giveaway. Up for grabs was a copy of Crime Scenes, a collection of short stories by Australian writers edited by Zane Lovitt. 

Entries closed at midnight Friday 25th March, and congratulations go to the winner........

Richard Harrison

Congratulations Richard, you'll receive an email shortly and will have 7 days to provide me with your postal address. Thanks to Spineless Wonders for this giveaway, and I hope you all had something exciting to read this Easter.

Carpe Librum!

27 March 2016

Review: The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky is an easy to read YA novella set in a Sydney girls's school in 1960s. 

Eleven girls and their teacher Miss Renshaw take an unplanned excursion outside the school grounds one sunny day, and their teacher strangely disappears.

With an eerie feeling like that in Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, The Golden Day is eerie in a subtle way, although Australian author Dubosarsky doesn't attain the giddy heights of Joan Lindsay in her execution.

This novella is well-written with a mystery to excite YA readers and is suitable for middle grade readers too.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. I won this copy of The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky in the Australia Day blog hop in 2015, thanks to Allen & Unwin.
22 March 2016

Winner of Ian Ross Twilight of the Empire series announced

Thanks to those who entered last week's massive giveaway of 3 paperback books from author Ian Ross. The giveaway was open internationally and many readers entered to win the Twilight of the Empire series pictured below.

Entries closed at midnight Friday 18th March, and congratulations goes to:


Congratulations Waughzone67, you'll receive an email shortly advising you of your win and will have 7 days to provide me with your postal address. Your prize pack valued at $90AUD will be sent to you directly by Harper Collins Publishers Australia, who I'd like to thank for their generosity.

For those who missed out, click here to win some crime fiction in this week's giveaway.

Carpe Librum!

18 March 2016

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of Crime Scenes, a collection of short stories by Australian writers edited by Zane Lovitt

RRP: $27.99
* Copy courtesy of Spineless Wonders *

Is there really such a thing as an innocent person?
Teachers, cops, mothers, wives, everyone has their breaking point; that moment where it could go either way. From the prostitute with no way out, to the bitter author, and a cop who just wants his leave, the characters in this collection will baffle and bewilder you at every turn.

About this short story collection
This collection features stories from emerging Australian crime writers alongside award-winning authors Angela Savage, Peter Corris, Leigh Redhead, Andrew Nette, David Whish- Wilson, P.M. Newton, Carmel Bird and Tony Birch.

Author Bio
Zane Lovitt’s story ‘Leaving the Fountainhead’ won the SD Harvey Short Story Award at the 2010 Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime fiction, while his debut novel, The Midnight Promise, won the 2013 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction.

That same year he was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist. His second novel Black Teeth will be available in July 2016.

This giveaway has now closed.
17 March 2016

Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Originally published in 1972, Watership Down is a classic and popular children's book and reading it for the first time, I can understand why it has endured.

Set in the South of England, we enter a world where rabbits can talk and each warren of rabbits has their own culture. Other animals can also talk, with accents differentiating each species (mice, birds, cats).

Watership Down is an adventure story featuring Hazel and his friends and the natural world they inhabit. The rabbits face real dangers from men and the animals that hunt them and they're ultimately seeking a safe environment to live in peace and procreate.

I instantly warmed to Hazel, Fiver and his friends and in fact the rabbit names warmed the cockles of my heart in a way that I just can't describe. Rabbit names included: Buckthorn, Haystack, Strawberry and the infamous Bigwig, all with their own personalities.

Featuring snippets of rabbit mythology and occasionally including tales told by storyteller rabbits (rabbits love to listen to stories), Watership Down can be enjoyed by adult, YA and Middle Grade (MG) readers alike. Those seeking deeper meaning will enjoy the themes of leadership, sacrifice, freedom and peace that underly the various stages of the adventure story, making it a classic that I'm sure will endure for generations.

I loved Watership Down and will be recommending it widely.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. I read the Kindle ebook and don't you just love the cover?
11 March 2016

Friday Freebie WIN 3 paperback books by Ian Ross from his Twilight of the Empire series valued at $90 AUD

* Copies courtesy of Harper Collins Publishers Australia *

Today's Friday Freebie is a massive giveaway of 3 paperback books from author Ian Ross valued at $90AUD and it's open internationally. Enter below to win his Twilight of the Empire series.

RRP $29.99AUD
War at the Edge of the World
Centurion Aurelius Castus - once a soldier in the elite legions of the Danube - believes his glory days are over, as he finds himself in the cold, grey wastes of northern Britain, battling to protect an empire in decline. 

When the king of the Picts dies in mysterious circumstances, Castus is selected to guard the Roman envoy sent to negotiate with the barbarians beyond Hadrian's Wall. Here he will face the supreme challenge of command, in a mission riven with bloodshed and treachery that tests his honour to the limit.

As he struggles to avert disaster and keep his promise to a woman he has sworn to protect, Castus discovers that nothing about this doomed enterprise was ever what it seemed.

RRP $29.99AUD
Swords Around The Throne
Rome is in peril. The old order is changing - and Aurelius Castus has been summoned back from Britain to find himself caught up in a treasonous conspiracy threatening to bring down the Emperor Constantine.

Rewarded for saving the emperor's life in battle, Castus is promoted to the Corps of Protectores, the elite imperial bodyguard. The swords around the throne.

But he soon discovers the court to be as dangerous as the battlefield; behind the gilded facade of empire, there are spiralling plots, betrayals and seductions. A nest of traitors. And one relentless enemy.

Battle For Rome
RRP $29.99AUD
The Roman Empire is on the brink of civil war. Only Maxentius, tyrant of Rome, stands between the emperor Constantine and supreme power in the west.

Aurelius Castus, promoted from the ranks for valour and loyalty, is now a tribune in Constantine's army. But great honour brings new challenges: Castus is tormented by suspicions that his aristocratic wife, the mother of his child, has been unfaithful. And as Constantine becomes increasingly devoted to Christianity, Castus is forced to ask himself whether he is backing the wrong man. 

All know that the coming war will decide the fate of empire. But Castus's own battle will carry him much further - into the shadowy realms of treachery at the heart of Rome itself.

Author Bio
Ian Ross has been researching and writing about the later Roman world and its army for over a decade. He spent a year in Italy, teaching English, but now lives in Bath. Visit his website: www.ianjamesross.com or find him on twitter: @IanRossAuthor

This giveaway has now closed.
10 March 2016

Blog Tour & Review: All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Today I'm participating in a blog tour for All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford hosted by Simon & Schuster. Here's the teaser for the book:

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’ 

All These Perfect Strangers is the debut novel from Australian author Aoife Clifford and with a teaser like that and descriptions of an unforgettable morally complex page-turner and a chilling, self-assured debut novel, I was primed to fall in love with this one. Unfortunately I didn't fall in love, but it was a solid read for me. 

This YA crime novel meets coming-of-age story takes place from the perspective of Penelope (Pen) Sheppard. Set in three timeframes, we have Pen's life at University, Pen consulting her Psychiatrist Frank and her earlier years as a teenager living at home with her Mum. A crime and surrounding mystery during her teenage years is slowly revealed throughout the novel but wasn't as revelationary as I thought it'd be.

The highlights of the novel were the realistic descriptions of university life and the familiar descriptions of life in a small town. There were also some standout characters (although Pen wasn't one of them) which included her Mother's boyfriend, Tracey her best friend and fellow Uni student Toby.

Also being called domestic noir, All These Perfect Strangers had a similar ending to Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes although I believe it was done better here.

I think All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford will appeal to YA readers who enjoy reading crime with a dash of mystery.

Before I close, I must mention the cover. The ARC (advanced reader's copy) sent to me came with an alternative cover and matching postcard/bookmark which I instantly fell in love with. I wish they'd used that for the release and much prefer it to the final published cover (above). Funny when that happens.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

04 March 2016

Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley and Simon & Schuster *

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes is the second in the series to feature stalker and charming murderer Joe, who we met in You. He's a serial killer and anti-hero but you can't help but root for him, especially when he's in love.

In Hidden Bodies, Joe moves to LA to chase the girl who broke his heart, took advantage of him and 'did a runner' to exact his revenge. Joe quickly starts hating on the people, the culture and sub-culture of LA and the Hollywood scene in a very amusing way that makes the pages turn quickly.

Joe's need for revenge and his loathing of try-hard actors and their false little worlds soon begins to fade though as he hones in on a new project.

You was one of my top 5 books for 2015, and the only reason I didn't give the sequel Hidden Bodies a full 5 stars was because of the ending. It was just too much of a cliff hanger for me, and I desperately want to know, will he or won't he? That said, Joe is an unforgettable narrator and I'm hoping to find out what happens to him next in a third instalment.

It's no secret that Stephen King is a fan of Kepnes' work and has called her writing hypnotic and scary, so if my recommendation isn't enough, then take the word of the King.

My rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!