29 August 2016

Review: Dark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly

Little does she know it, but author Sally O'Reilly wrote this book just for me.

Set in London during the late 1500s and the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dark Aemilia has it all: Shakespeare, plague, sorcery, witchcraft, witty dialogue, great writing and hot sex scenes. I mean come on! Sally O'Reilly, I love you!

And the cover, oh the cover, simply stunning.

Based on a real person, Aemilia is an inspirational woman born before her time, thought to be Shakespeare's dark muse, struggling with the role of women in society and how little power they had over their destiny. She was England's first female poet, and in O'Reilly's hands she's intelligent, proud, headstrong and passionate.

Here's a great quote from Page 129:
"...all my other little aches and torments have gone. Those besetting symptoms that all of us in London must put up with: soot-wheeze, ale-runs, head-gripe, back-ache, lassitude and dread-belly - not to mention sundry scabs, carbuncles and lesions of the skin - all such ailments have vanished."

And this from Page 270:
'Leave this house', I say. 'Get out, you scripture-spouting, fish-cold arse-wart. Or I'll call down a curse which'll curdle the guts in your belly'. " 

Brilliant writing, richly evocative and an intelligent story, I loved and adored this novel and didn't want it to end. 

Dark Aemilia is for lovers of historical fiction, witty dialogue, Shakespeare and the darker side of London in the 16th Century. Yes please! I can't wait to see what talented author Sally O'Reilly writes for me next. A tale worthy of the Bard I'm sure.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

And another quote from Page 270, because I just have to:
"I'll broil your brain in its shallow skull! Mangle your preachifying words into Bedlam babble, and corrupt your skin into a thousand worm-infested sores! I'll make you pray for Hades as a respite from your pain! And I'll twist your mind to such distraction that you'll tear off all your limbs to find relief and sanity! Do you hear me, you pox-groined, foul-nosed turd-stain?"
22 August 2016

Review: How to Watch the Olympics - An instant initiation into every Olympic sport at Rio 2016 by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton

RRP $24.99 AUD
Published July 2016 by
Allen & Unwin and Profile Books
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I love everything about the Olympics and always watch as much as I physically can, with gymnastics, diving, weightlifting and synchronised swimming being some of my favourite events.

Reading How to Watch the Olympics - An instant initiation into every Olympic sport at Rio 2016 by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton was the perfect preparation and I learned a lot about different sports that I didn't know beforehand.

Set out alphabetically by sport, this handy reference guide was informative without being overwhelming and entertaining with a light sense of humour throughout.

Some tidbits were memorable, like this one from the sport of badminton on page 76: 

"The shuttlecock may be mere cork and feathers but struck correctly it can split a watermelon in two."

While enjoying the Olympic footage, I often found myself recalling knowledge from the book: "oh, they don't have to row inside their lanes, they can row across the buoys as long as they don't interfere with anyone else" and "in synchronised swimming they can't touch the bottom of the pool, and the spectacle they put on before they dive into the water is called deckwork which isn't included in the scoring."

How to Watch the Olympics was a great companion for armchair Olympic viewers like me and I'll be sure to have it beside me in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
18 August 2016

Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

This review is going to be very unpopular. Lily and the Octopus seems to be the 'it' book at the moment, and many readers, bloggers and reviewers I know have fallen in love with this book. I just didn't. I might cop some flack for this but I have to be honest, I hated Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley.

The best parts were every segment of dialogue from Lily the dog. Great voice and amusing dialogue.

The reason I hated this book was because I couldn't stand Ted, the main character. I thought he was a self-absorbed, narcissistic, self-indulgent, vacuous man and I just couldn't warm to him or his plight.

And that was even before I got to the magical realism that didn't quite work and a 30 page dream sequence that had me hoping the finish would arrive soon.

I know I'm going to be in the minority of readers here, but sometimes that happens. This book wasn't for me, but I know it has made readers laugh and cry and provided enjoyment for plenty of others.

I was going to give this book 2 stars until I checked my own rating scheme. Two stars for me means not a good read, didn't really enjoy this one, whereas one star means terrible read, don't bother. I really wouldn't bother with this one and it was a terrible read for me, so one star it is.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
10 August 2016

Winner of The Falls by B. Michael Radburn announced

Thanks to those who entered last week's giveaway to win a copy of The Falls by B. Michael Radburn. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 5 August and the winner was drawn today. Congratulations to:
Elias Zanbaka
Congratulations Elias, you'll receive an email shortly and will have 7 days to provide me with your postal address. Pantera Press will mail your book out to you and I'd like to thank them for this prize.

Carpe Librum!

08 August 2016

Blog Tour for Maggie's Kitchen by Caroline Beecham

Today I'm participating in the Maggie's Kitchen blog tour thanks to Allen & Unwin. I'm sharing a recipe straight from Maggie’s Kitchen by Australian author Caroline Beecham so I hope you enjoy it. Looks delicious doesn't it?

Woolton Pie Recipe
The combination of oatmeal and vegetables is what makes this dish one of the most significant from the Second World War; both foods were home-grown and both full of nutrition. Oatmeal was added to many dishes because it increased the food’s nutritional value and made it go further. The basic Woolton pie would only have contained potatoes, swedes, carrots, leeks, cauliflower or whatever was in season, but here sweet potato and broccoli are used for extra flavour, although you can use any combination of your most-loved vegetables.

Woolton Pie from Maggie’s Kitchen by
Caroline Beecham
450g/16oz each diced potatoes, swedes, carrots and cauliflower (or
sweet potato and broccoli)
4 spring onions, sliced
1 tsp vegetable extract (or Bovril or Oxo)
1 tbsp oatmeal
Chopped parsley
225g/8oz sliced potatoes or pastry for topping
½ cup grated cheese
Gravy (to serve)

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. 
Place vegetables, vegetable extract and oatmeal in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Allow to cool and then place in a pie dish, sprinkle with parsley then cover with potatoes or pastry crust and cheese. Bake until topping is browned and serve with steaming hot gravy. Serves 4–6.

About the Book
Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $29.99, available now
When the Ministry of Food urgently calls for the opening of British Restaurants to feed tired and hungry Londoners during the Second World War, Maggie Johnson is close to realising a long-held dream.

But after struggling through government red-tape and triumphantly opening its doors, Maggie's Kitchen soon encounters a most unexpected problem. Her restaurant has become so popular with London's exhausted workers, that Maggie simply can't get enough supplies to keep up with demand for food, without breaking some of the rules.

With the support of locals, and the help of twelve-year-old Robbie, a street urchin, and Janek, a Polish refugee dreaming of returning to his native land, the resourceful Maggie evades the first threats of closure from the Ministry. As she fights to keep her beloved Kitchen open, Maggie also tries desperately to reunite Robbie with his missing father, as well as manage her own family's expectations. Ultimately, she can no longer ignore the unacknowledged hopes of her own heart, and the discovery that some secrets have the power to change everything.

More Info
Find out more information about Maggie’s Kitchen follow Caroline Beecham on Twitter @CarolineBeecham
02 August 2016

Review: Out of the Ice by Ann Turner

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Out of the Ice by Australian author Ann Turner is set on a remote Antarctic Island and is a great book to read in winter huddled under the covers.

Laura Alvarado is an environmental scientist sent to make a detailed report on an abandoned whaling station where not all is as it seems.

The wildlife in this region of antarctica (whales, penguins and seals), the isolation and the freezing cold elements form a great backdrop to the novel and are well-written. The scenes that take place in the creepy and abandoned town of Fredelighavn were the highlight of the book for me, and successfully conveyed the horrors of the whaling industry and echoes of the past.

The male dominated environment of the nearby British station was captured well although I never really warmed to Laura and some of her decisions were frustrating.

Out of the Ice is being promoted as a tense and eerie thriller but I have to disagree with this categorisation. I found it to be an eerie slow burn until the last quarter of the book, when it takes a sudden turn and becomes a fast-paced crime novel. The ending was too neat and tidy for my liking and the romance unbelievable. 

One thing I will take away after reading Out of the Ice is a desire to visit Nantucket.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!