31 March 2017

Giveaway & Blog Tour for A Presence of Absence by Sarah Surgey and Emma Vestrheim

RRP $20.00 AUD
* Copy courtesy of the authors *

Welcome to the blog tour and giveaway for A Presence of Absence by literary reviewer and freelance writer Sarah Surgey and Nordic film critic and owner of Cinema Scandinavia, Emma Vestrheim.
Their novel A Presence of Absence is BritCrime meets Nordic Noir and you can win a print copy by entering below. Good luck! And don't you just love that cover!

About the book
The Odense Series is a new Nordic Noir/Brit Crime series that blends humanist stories and family drama with gritty crime in the central Danish city Odense.

British detective Simon Weller escapes the fallout from the recent suicide of his Danish wife, Vibeke and heads out to her home city of Odense. But once there he is paired up with a local detective, Jonas, who is also about to hit rock bottom in his home life and they must overcome their differences and personal problems to try and catch one of the worst serial killers Odense has seen in many years.

The case takes them back into past decades as history starts catching up with some of the local inhabitants.

When Simon realises that his wife’s suicide may not be all it seems and her name appears in the case, his integrity within the case is compromised, how far will he go to find out the truth of Vibeke’s past and hide it from his already troubled police partner?

Back home in London Simon’s family are struggling with their own web of lies and deceit and the family is falling apart.

With one family hiding a dark secret, the whole case is just about to reach breaking point.

This giveaway has now closed.
27 March 2017

Winner of the Birthday Giveaway is announced

Thanks to all the well wishers who entered my birthday giveaway last week. It seems many of you are also celebrating birthdays this month. There were more than 100 entries in total but the most popular book in the giveaway by far was Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I had so much fun watching the books you chose and of course reading your lovely comments. Three entrants chose the option 'surprise me' in the giveaway which I definitely wasn't expecting. Wow!

Entries closed at midnight last night and I wasted no time drawing the winner today. A big birthday congratulations to:
Congratulations Christy, you've won a brand new copy of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee thanks to HarperCollins Publishers Australia. You'll receive an email from me today and will have 7 days to provide your mailing address. Thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate my birthday; this was so much fun I'll be sure to run it again next year.

Carpe Librum!
Winning book!
Birthday giveaway
25 March 2017

Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

"Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one."

We've all heard the rhyme about Lizzie Borden. In 1892 she was tried and acquitted in Massachusetts for murdering her father and stepmother with an axe.

See What I Have Done is the fictionalised tale of Lizzie Borden by Sarah Schmidt and is hitting the shelves in a very big way this month.

Emma and Lizzie are sisters with a smothering, symbiotic relationship that crowds every page. The family is somewhat dysfunctional and the claustrophobic relationship between the sisters compounds this.

Lizzie was frustrating but that's the point. Their relationship together is somewhere between sisterly love and outright obsession.

The book is brimming with envy and loathing between the sisters and even though this is what creates the toxic family environment, reading it left me feeling icky and unclean. With every page I touched I felt as though I was slowly acquiring a layer of grease that wouldn't wash off afterwards.

I commend Schmidt for making me experience such discomfort, but in the end the novel just didn't work for me.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
20 March 2017

March 2017 Birthday Giveaway

Carpe Librum March 2017 Birthday Giveaway Stack
It's my birthday this week (hooray) and I'm feeling generous so let's have a giveaway!

Just choose one of the 13 books pictured (right) and enter using the form below. Easy.

Entries close midnight Sunday 26th March 2017 so please enter and help me spread the birthday bookish cheer :-)

This giveaway has now closed.
16 March 2017

Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a contemporary YA novel by Stephanie Oakes based on the Grimm fairytale The Handless Maiden and was published a few years ago. Minnow Bly is living in a religious commune in the woods with her family under the faithful guidance of their Prophet. Yep, you guessed it, it's a cult novel; or should that be a novel set in (or about) a cult? 

The Kevinian inhabitants of 'the Community' have forsaken their old lives but Minnow doesn't believe the ways of the Prophet and is desperate to escape him at any cost.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly 
is told in first person narrative while Minnow is incarcerated in juvenile detention and covers themes of love, faith, coming-of-age, crime, repentance and hope.

I'll admit, the cover art is what first drew me to this book although the meaning of the
 title continues to elude me. I don't recall m/any significant or sacred lies in the story, but it's possible I missed them. I wouldn't call her story lies, rather a slow unfolding of what happened at the commune that led to Minnow being incarcerated.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is an enjoyable contemporary YA read, and it was good to tackle something a little different for a change. I hope you do the same from time to time.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
09 March 2017

Review: Into the Darkness - The Mysterious Death of Phoebe Handsjuk by Robin Bowles

* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

Into the Darkness by Robin Bowles is a true crime book looking at The Mysterious Death of Phoebe Handsjuk.

In December 2010 Phoebe bled to death in the garbage room of the Balencea apartment building on St Kilda Road in Melbourne, after falling 12 floors down the rubbish chute. The autopsy and police investigation concluded Phoebe committed suicide however her family refused to believe the findings.

Melbourne based author Robin Bowles attended the Inquest into Phoebe's death and brings the case to light in this book Into the Darkness.

Having lived in an apartment building for 10+ years, the case details surrounding the building security at Balencea, access fobs, CCTV, rubbish disposal, visitor access, concierge and Owners Corporation were fascinating to me. I currently live on the 18th floor of an apartment building and have a similar rubbish chute to the one at Balencea. I just can't believe anyone would willingly climb into a rubbish chute. In fact, just the thought of climbing into its claustrophobic, dirty darkness is hard to fathom. The only conclusion I can reach is that someone else put her into the chute to dispose of her.

There is much speculation about Phoebe's boyfriend Ant Hampel and his behaviour after Phoebe's death was nothing short of bizarre.

The only reason I cannot give Into the Darkness five stars in this review (other than the insensitivity of rating true crime in the first place) is that the author Robin Bowles inserts wayyyyyy too much of herself into the text.

The first hint of this appears before the Prologue when she lists her dog Miss Deva in the index as her Sleuthing Companion. The list includes all the people named in the book (Handsjuk and Hampel family members, friends, Police, Detectives, health professionals etc) so that the reader can use it as a reference. (And I did, many times). But listing her dog makes an absolute mockery of the list.

On page 88 she tells us her husband thinks she's a bleeding heart. (Who cares?) On page 109 Bowles leaves the Inquest early because "there wasn't much more of interest to me." On page 150, Bowles looks forward to a break because her hand hurts from writing and then has dumplings for lunch. On page 175 Bowles is grateful when the day concluded because she has writer's cramp.

Bowles also described each of the witnesses in an interesting style, here's one from Page 211: "He looked a bit like one of those actors who play the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander, with a greying beard a bit like kiwi fruit skin." (What the hell?)

Bowles even attempts to investigate the case herself by testing the security at Balencea and questioning the owner of the phone repair shop. Bowles isn't a detective and this was highly irregular, bordering on inappropriate.

I wish an editor had removed every instance when Bowles referred to her boredom, discomfort, writer's cramp or tiredness. I have no doubt that attending the Inquest every day was emotionally and physically draining for her, and as a reader we automatically respect her dedication. However, when her comments are read alongside the details of Phoebe's death and her family's obvious grief, it comes across as terribly insensitive.

Bowles had me gripped with her account of Phoebe's case and investigation into her death and I wish she'd stuck to bringing Phoebe's case to light and highlighting the injustice/s of the legal system. Every time she referred to herself I was rudely jerked from the case and began to resent it.

Ultimately, I'm grateful to have read Into the Darkness - The Mysterious Death of Phoebe Handsjuk and to have learned more about Phoebe's life and her tragic death. 
I don't think we can ever be certain as to who was responsible for Phoebe's untimely death, however I'll never believe she willingly climbed into that rubbish chute. Not without leaving a single fingerprint. Never.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
03 March 2017

Scorn: The Wittiest and Wickedest Insults in Human History by Matthew Parris

RRP $24.99
Published November 2016
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I don't recall using a highlighter to mark passages in a book since I was at University, but Scorn - The Wittiest and Wickedest Insults in Human History by Matthew Parris is that kind of book.

Here are some of my favourite quotes included in the collection:

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian. Denis Wholey, Page 9

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowldege of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Terry Eagleton, Page 27

For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. Winston Churchill, Page 107

His argument is as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death. Abraham Lincoln on Stephen A. Douglas, Page 189

He's so dumb he couldn't tip shit out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel. Lyndon Johnson on Gerald Ford, Page 196

That's like saying the veterinarian and the taxidermist are in the same business because either way you get your dog back. Joseph Lieberman on the suggestion that he shared many of the views of George W. Bush, Page 198

Thank you for the manuscript; I shall lose no time in reading it. Benjamin Disraeli's standard reply to authors who sent him unsolicited copies of their books, Page 227

My favourite poem is the one that starts 'Thirty days hath September' because it actually tells you something. Groucho Marx, Page 259

I loved these quotes, and there are plenty more in the book I couldn't include for obvious reasons, however I took issue with the author's admission that others did the heavy lifting for him. By his own admission, two helpers gathered a 'mountain from which I have assembled this personal molehill of an anthology'. I don't know about you, by why aren't their names on the cover?

He also contrived quotes involving himself; a self indulgence that should have been squashed somewhere along the route to being published.

Consequently, the author's readiness to let others do the majority of the work for him reduced my enjoyment of this collection. In addition to that, his arrogance to include several quotes about himself further diminished my enjoyment. If you can overlook both of these flaws, Scorn
 by Matthew Parris is an enjoyable read and a book you'll want to share with others.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!