27 June 2016

Review: Fashion Victims - The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David

* Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing *

Fashion Victims - The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David takes a detailed look at fashion items responsible for death, disease and accidents throughout history.

The book is meticulously researched and cleverly broken down into separate chapters, each one denoted by colour coded page edges which make for an attractive hardback edition.

Some of the chapters include:
- Poisonous Pigments (Chapter 3)
- Entangled and Strangled (Chapter 5)
- Inflammatory Fabrics (Chapter 6)

Great chapter headings aren't they? I enjoyed learning about dangerous dyes, the deadly mercury used to make hats, hobble skirts, the arsenic contained in green garments in the 1800s, ballerinas who burned to death but refused to change their stage dress and so much more.

The research covers both the garment makers (the dyers, dressmakers etc.) and the wearers, exposing the diseases, accidents and deaths attributed to both sides all in the name of fashion.

The following excerpt from the blurb sets the scene for what you'll find in Fashion Victims:

From insidious murder weapons to blaze-igniting crinolines, clothing has been the cause of death, disease and madness throughout history, by accident and design. Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally 'drop-dead gorgeous' gowns.
Wow, right?

Fashion Victims - The Dangers of Dress Past and Present is an excellent reference for students and academics as well as readers interested in fashion and/or history.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
24 June 2016

Friday Freebie: WIN a signed paperback copy of No Free Man by Graham Potts

RRP $29.99
* Copy courtesy of Pantera Press *

Stepan Volkov forfeited his future when he was paid to forget his past.

Forced to adapt, he ultimately became the world's most wanted killer... feared, vicious and brutal.

A tool of the Organizatsiya, a Russian crime syndicate that forged him into 'The Wolf', he's pursued by American spies and Australian agents, torn between his need to survive and his desire to be free.

When a shock encounter in Australia uncovers forgotten secrets and threatens uneasy allegiances, Volkov suddenly sees a choice... one he thought would never be his to make.

With a billion-dollar international oil deal threatening to shift the global balance of power, will Volkov return to Moscow to wage war for the Organizatsiya, or will he find the courage to escape with a vengeful thief whose life he destroyed? 

Author Bio
War defines the first decade of Graham Potts’s adult life.

Potts has been known to have inspiration strike at inappropriate moments – such as when out on the wing of an aeroplane! That may sound as dangerous as one of his plots, but as an active member of the Royal Australian Air Force, it is merely an occupational hazard.

Despite challenging and ongoing RAAF assignments his inner strategist has finally acknowledged the truth: writing is his passion.

Graham has a thirst for literature and appetite for intrigue. His action-packed style throws you into international conflicts closer to home than you think. He tells stories that captivate, thrill and touch on the truth. And if you buy him a scotch, he might tell you a tall one or two.

Being from a Defence family that was always on the move, Graham has lived in nearly every state of Australia. His early love of reading and writing was sparked in primary school, where he discovered stories were something he could easily take with him.

Graham Potts is now taking his story to the world.

This giveaway has now closed.
20 June 2016

Review: Matilda by Roald Dahl

It's been years since I've picked up anything by children's author Roald Dahl, but as soon as I read the first page of Matilda it was like falling through time to my childhood.

Matilda is a gifted - but sometimes mischievous - girl with TV obsessed parents who think she's rather naughty. Miss Honey is the ideal school teacher who nurtures her intellect and encourages her learning.

There's a nasty Headmistress, a likeable librarian and a few pranks which make Matilda a short yet enjoyable read.

The illustrations by Quentin Blake add to the entertainment of the story and I think Matilda will delight readers of all ages.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Matilda is now a musical thanks to the talents of Tim Minchin, has anyone seen it?
16 June 2016

Review: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

* Copy courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers Australia *

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner is a slow burn police procedural about the search for missing person Edith Hind.

DS Manon Bradshaw (great name) listens to her police radio at night to help her get to sleep and that's what convinced me I had to read this book. I had a police radio for a while and was addicted to listening to it at night, celebrating when news of a bad guy arrested was broadcast.

Anyway, Bradshaw is investigating the sudden disappearance of Edith, with many leads to track down.

I enjoyed exploring the different ways Edith's parents respond to her disappearance and the police work that goes into tracking down the various leads is a solid reminder of just how much work is involved in an operation of this magnitude.

Try as I might, I didn't really like protagonist Manon Bradshaw. I thought she was desperate, clingy, needy and cried too much. Having said that, I know many readers will find her more relatable than other police detectives in this genre and there are plenty of women just like her out there. I guess I just wanted her to have more respect for herself.

The ending was unpredictable, and I was glad to be mistaken when I thought I had the culprit sussed.

Click here to read a FREE sample.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

09 June 2016

Review: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories by Stephen King. I enjoyed his previous collections Just After Sunset and Full Dark, No Stars so when I saw his latest collection in the library on my cruise last month, it was a no-brainer.

Each story has an introduction from King telling the reader what inspired the story or how it came about. Themes include: guilt, mental health, the afterlife, morality, humanity, pain management, old age, marriage and death, with many stories provoking deeper thought and rumination. I was moved and entertained throughout, with the exception of about three stories.

My favourite of the collection was Drunken Fireworks, a story of a Fourth of July Arms Race between two families on a lake. One family is wealthy and one isn't, but what transpires as they compete between themselves for the best fireworks each Fourth of July is hilarious.

Other highlights included, The Dune, Bad Little Kid and ObitsThe collection also contains UR, a short story only released in e-book format several years ago. I reviewed it here in the beginning of 2013, so decided not to re-read it this time.

Containing twenty short stories in total, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a great introduction to the work of Stephen King, and an enjoyable read for established fans.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. The library copy onboard the Carnival Legend had this cover below, while the library copy back home in Melbourne had the cover above. Which do you like the best?

06 June 2016

Review: The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton

Published 27 April 2016 by Bonnier
RRP $19.99 AUD
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin

The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton is a dual narrative novel set in an elite all-girl boarding school with the main character Josephine Grey reflecting on the events from her perspective as an archaeologist, 18 years later.

Josephine and her best friend Freya have an irreparable falling out in 1994 and the novel leads the reader through the unravelling of the friendship towards the ultimate 'reveal'.

The dialogue between the teenage girls and the '90s setting are convincingly written. Both characters are extremely relatable, although it's hard not to judge Josephine and the choices she makes, but I think that's the point.

There's definitely a 'mean girls' element to The Exclusives and readers of YA, NA and those who enjoy dissecting friendships and their demise will enjoy it.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
01 June 2016

Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley *

The Widow by Fiona Barton is the story of Jean Taylor, the loving and dutiful wife of a man accused of kidnapping a little girl. Jean is a passive and obedient life partner who looks to Glen for everything and while I found her personality distasteful (in my eyes) she did make for an interesting character on the page.

Barton does an excellent job of penetrating the veneer of the accused's wife, as the media camp outside her house and repeatedly bang on the door asking for a comment. The journalism angle sets The Widow apart from anything I've read in this genre in the last 5 years and I enjoyed this unique perspective.

As the Detectives try to unravel Bella's disappearance, it all begs the question, how much does Jean know?

I felt safe in Barton's hands and her confident storytelling voice swept me along swiftly to the end. It wasn't a big climax, but it reached a resolution all the same. The joy in The Widow was finding out whether or not Glen took baby Bella and what Jean knows.

Here's my favourite quote from Jean from Page 176:
"It ought to get easier, but it doesn't as each lie feels sourer and tighter, like an unripe apple. Unyielding and mouth-drying."
The Widow is a highly readable slow burn crime novel with a satisfying conclusion.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!