31 December 2016

Review: Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster Australia *

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger is about a young woman (Finley) with a paranormal gift who finds herself involved in the search for a missing girl. Finley's grandmother is a well-known psychic who often helps a local detective but Finley isn't ready to listen to her gift.

The disappearance of the young girl soon spirals into the investigation of several disappearances in The Hollows in upstate New York. Eerie scenes in the woods and a dark and fearful first person point of view from the missing girl create a palpable feeling of suspense.

I'm a real Johnny-come-lately when it comes to author Lisa Unger. Some of her 14 novels have come across my radar in the past - and I've been aware of her popularity amongst fellow readers for a long time - but Ink and Bone is the first novel of hers I've read. I really enjoy the 'crime meets paranormal' genre, and I'm excited to check out her back catalogue.

Part crime novel, part paranormal thriller, I thoroughly enjoyed Ink and Bone and can recommend it widely to fans of the crime genre who don't mind a tattooed female protagonist coming to grips with her abilities and trying to do good in the world.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Finally I've found an author who can write a female main character with a 'gift' just as well as Melanie Casey's Cass Lehman series. The reverse is also true, if you're an established fan of Lisa Unger and you can't wait for her next book, check out Aussie author Melanie Casey.
27 December 2016

Review: The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

I can't tell you how much I love reading Philippa Gregory's books. In fact, she's getting very close to dethroning Anne Rice as my favourite author of all time. Wow.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is the story of Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick (named the Kingmaker) who successfully survived a forced marriage and subsequent widowhood, then navigated the deadly politics of the time; which included changing allegiances and the execution of her father.

Anne Neville became Queen of England in 1483, but even knowing the historical outcome in advance didn't stop me from being gripped by her journey to the throne as told by the author.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is the fourth book in the Cousins' War series, however it can easily be read out of sequence and as a stand alone novel.

In a period where parents named their children after their fathers or the king, many of the characters share the same name. But don't panic, Gregory always manages to keep the characters separate in the reader's minds. This is a difficult feat and not one easily achieved by other historical fiction authors I've read; and I've read quite a few!

If you have even the slightest interest in the history of the period (mid to late 1400s England) then you are in the safest of hands with Philippa Gregory. She has a natural gift for making any period in history relatable and easy to follow despite the complexities of the times. Whenever I pick up one of her novels I'm thoroughly transported, entertained and educated without even realising it.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is outstanding, I loved loved loved it!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

(The only reason this won't feature in my top 5 books of 2016 list is because I've already included a Philippa Gregory novel in the list).
22 December 2016

2016 Australian Women Writers Challenge Completed

Really happy to complete the first of my three reading challenges this year, the 2016 Australian Women Writers Challenge. I signed up for the Franklin level (highest level) at the beginning of the year and had to read 10 books by Australian women and review at least 6 of them to be successful.

Here's what I read for the challenge:

1.  Missing | Melanie Casey
2.  All These Perfect Strangers | Aoife Clifford
3.  The Golden Day | Ursula Dubosarsky
4.  Precious Things | Kelly Doust
5.  The Twisted Knot | J.M. Peace
6.  Out of the Ice | Ann Turner
7.  The Good People | Hannah Kent
8.  The Troubles Keeper | Susan May
9.  Beyond the Orchard | Anna Romer
10. Southern Ruby | Belinda Alexandra
11. The Better Son | Katherine Johnson

I might be able to squeeze one more in before the year is over, but my favourite book for the challenge - strangely enough - was the first one I read, Missing by Melanie Casey.

I'll be signing up again soon to participate in 2017, so have a think about whether you want to join me or not. It's lots of fun and there's so many great Australian books written by female authors out there to discover. I wonder what will be next year's favourite.

Carpe Librum!
20 December 2016

Review: The Better Son by Katherine Johnson

* Copy courtesy of Ventura *

The Better Son is set in 1950s northern Tasmania and is written by Australian author Katherine Johnson.

Essentially it's a story about two young boys who live on a dairy farm in Mole Creek and discover a hidden cave on their farm. Tommy and Kip retreat to the cave whenever they can escape their farm chores and explore the huge caverns, myriad tunnels, passages and underground rivers within. One day Tommy goes missing and Kip lies to his parents about what happened.

Tommy's disappearance and Kip's subsequent lie change his life from that moment and continue to haunt him for the next fifty years. The Better Son sees Kip facing the past in order to become a better person and a better father to his family.

The Better Son has won a number of prizes, and I can certainly see why. Johnson's writing is dark and atmospheric and the descriptions of a small dairy farming community and the secret underground world the boys discover really come alive on the page. I could hear the echoes of the boys' laughter, experience their awe and wonder at the huge caverns and immense stalactites, and yes, I even felt claustrophobic in a few places as well.

Johnson was inspired to write this novel after learning about two boys who discovered a cave in 1906. The boys kept the cave a secret for years, and it's now a popular tourist site in Tasmania's popular. This information adds yet another layer to the story.

The Better Son is a dark mystery that explores the power of secrets, guilt and regret on a family and the Tasmanian setting is unforgettable. Oh, and that cover!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
15 December 2016

Review: Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I only learned about ex-cop Roger Rogerson when the murder of Jamie Gao hit the news in 2014. I remember being astounded to see the CCTV footage of Rogerson and another ex-copper (Glen McNamara) disposing of Jamie Gao's body and wondering how this could have happened. How could two Australian Policemen become killers, and how could they be so stupid as to be caught on CCTV?

I picked up Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab in an attempt to understand these questions and my curiosity has now been satisfied.

Duncan McNab is a former police detective and private investigator and he utilises these skills to give the reader a summary of Rogerson's colourful career, including his time in the police force, his criminal activity and jail time leading up to the murder of Jamie Gao.

Plenty of cops - and criminals - are mentioned throughout, and several criminal and court cases are included and outlined. As a reader only interested in the murder of Jamie Gao, the background was moderately interesting, but difficult to keep up with. Without knowing the various 'players' or anything about the NSW Police Force or alleged corruption within, I did feel bogged down at times.

My interest picked up again at the arrest for the murder of Jamie Gao and the content that followed. I was also interested in the relationship between Rogerson and McNamara and how these two teamed up. 

However I felt the book was building towards the guilty verdict and because McNab himself rushed to the court to hear the verdict, his delivery of the verdict in the book is likewise delivered in a rush. This created a complete anti-climax and what should have been a 'hurrah' moment, instead fell flat.

Perhaps Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab is better suited to readers who either served in the police force, worked in the legal system or conducted criminal activity in the last 30-40 years. Readers with a personal or connected interest in Roger Rogerson may get more out of reading this account than I was able to.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
13 December 2016

Three winners of Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win one of three ebook copies of Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 9 December, and congratulations to the following winners:
John Dede*
Margot Korbell

Congratulations, you'll each receive an email from me shortly with the details. Thanks again to the author, Rachel Amphlett for these prizes.

* After learning of his win, John Dede contacted me to say that he'd already purchased a copy of Scared to Death and wanted to give his prize to the next person, and that lucky person - via random draw - is Les. Congratulations Les!

Carpe Librum!

09 December 2016

Review: Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates

Aokigahara is a real forest located in Japan (often called the demon forest) where a large number of people go to commit suicide each year. Jeremy Bates has chosen this location as his setting for the aptly named Suicide Forest, part psychological thriller part horror novel.

I've always been fascinated by this place, and some of you might remember Aokigahara was mentioned in my review of Atlas of Improbable Places - A Journey to the World's Most Unusual Corners by Travis Elborough and Alan Horsfield last month.

Well, reading about the place in the Atlas is what prompted me to bump this book up the list in my TBR pile and I'm so glad I did.

From the blurb alone, you might be expecting a B grade thriller without substance, but you'd be dead wrong. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and the sense of foreboding was as palpable as if it were written by the pen of Stephen King.

The forest and the geography of the landscape is the most haunting element of Suicide Forest, and what happens to the young tourists who visit to check it out gives the reader definite cause for concern. There are also many light moments to offset the grim and frightening surrounds and the dialogue between the tourists often had me chuckling aloud.

Suicide Forest is the first novel in the World's Scariest Places series by Bates and is a ripping read. I encourage those who may not read from this genre to ignore the cover and plunge right in.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
07 December 2016

Interview with Australian author Belinda Alexandra

Australian author
Belinda Alexandra
Last month I reviewed Southern Ruby by accomplished Australian author Belinda Alexandra. Today she joins me on the blog to talk about New Orleans and all things books! Welcome Belinda.

Why did you choose New Orleans for the setting of Southern Ruby? You really made it come alive on the page, what do you like about this location? 
Thank you! I think New Orleans is one of the most inspiring places to write about. The history and culture – with its French, Spanish, Caribbean, African and Native American influences – is so rich. It is unlike the other more conservative Southern cities. I also am very attracted to the inhabitants’ sense of joie de vivre and fascinated by how superstitious they are – everything from mixing voodoo in with their staunch Catholicism to their unwavering belief in ghosts (New Orleans is meant to be America’s most haunted city). 

I read that you 'research your books almost like an actress preparing to play a part.' What research did you undertake to write Southern Ruby
As well as all the research reading, I listened to the music of the city (in the case of Southern Ruby this was a lot of early jazz), read the books that people were reading in the period I was writing about, the newspapers of the time, tested out the foods and talked to the people who had lived through Hurricane Katrina. I made a research trip to New Orleans with my husband, Mauro, and we stayed in an original Queen Anne period home in the Garden District, which is the style of home the Lalande family have in Southern Ruby.

You've had at least 7 books published so far (congratulations)! What kinds of stories are you drawn to? 
Thank you! I love what might be termed ‘coming of age’ novels. I love stories about people who make a journey in life and how that journey and the people they meet on it change them. I think my Russian heritage also draws me to epic stories where life is revealed in all its glory – both the laughter and the tears. My stories can be an emotional roller coaster ride, but I like to leave my readers feeling truly satisfied.

What was the last truly great book that you read? 
It wasn’t a novel but a very simple book titled The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie used to be a palliative care nurse, and in the book she conveys the top five regrets the terminally ill patients who she cared for wanted to convey to those of us who are healthy and still living. My heart was in my throat so often that  I could only read a small section at a time. Those reaching the end of their lives are often our greatest teachers in how to truly live.

What classic book have you started but never manage to finish? 
Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
Me too, I don't think I even got to the half way mark (blushing).

Do you have any literary influences or favourite authors? (Have you read any Anne Rice novels?) 
Charles Dickens was a huge influence on me. He is the king of the coming of age story and he created his characters with such love, even the wicked ones. When I was in New Orleans, I did make a point of going to visit Anne Rice’s old home in the Garden District where she wrote the Mayfair Witches. I didn’t read her novels while writing Southern Ruby because I wanted to interpret New Orleans my own way, but now the book is done I think I’m going to start with The Feast of All Saints.
I really hope you like her work, Anne Rice is one of my favourite authors and she writes about New Orleans so well. 

What are you reading at the moment? 
I’ve just finished The Dry by Jane Harper – a fantastic Australian crime story!
That one's in my TBR pile and I hear it's a great read, so I'm looking forward to it.

What's next? What are you working on at the moment?
I’m busy with my new novel, which is a murder mystery set in New York!

Thanks so much for joining us Belinda, and good luck for your next novel, although something tells me you won't need it. Visit Belinda's website for more information on her books.

Carpe Librum!
05 December 2016

Review: Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin

RRP $16.99 AUD
Published October 2016
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin is laugh out loud funny and is a book for book-lovers, teachers, librarians, grammarians and pedants everywhere; provided you're not offended by the 'f' word that is.

This is a stunning A6 size clothbound guide to the correct use of apostrophes that makes for very entertaining reading.

Griffin uses contemporary and up to the minute references to current affairs to demonstrate both correct and incorrect usage of the apostrophe and it makes for very easy reading.

Griffin's sense of humour shines through on every page, however he also manages to present a handy educational tool that's easily referenced and a pleasure to dip into again.

This little gem no doubt falls into the gift book genre, but could easily sit under the self-help or writing genre.

I loved Fucking Apostrophes by Simon Griffin and recommend it widely. Only for adult audiences though.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
02 December 2016

Friday Freebie to WIN one of 3 e-book copies of Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett in this blog tour

(Approx $6.75AUD)
* Copy courtesy of the author *
Great to be part of this blog tour to launch Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett. Enter below to win one of three ebook copies.

A serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession. When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun...

Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…


Before moving to Australia in 2005, Rachel Amphlett lived in the UK and helped run a pub, played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant. Not necessarily in that order.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys skiing, horse-riding, going to the cinema (thrillers being a favourite!), playing guitar, reading (of course), and writing (another no-brainer).


This giveaway has now closed.