30 June 2017

Friday Freebie: WIN a print copy of Lovesick by Jean Flynn

RRP $29.99AUD
* Copy courtesy of XOUM *

Today's giveaway is a witty contemporary romance novel by debut Australian author Jean Flynn.

Beth is an absolute wreck. She is certain that she has some kind of disease — a fatal one, most likely. She is also very single and quite keen on her (boss) colleague, Dr Brendan Roberts. He seems to fancy her, too — well, until The Morning After.

Beth knows it’s time to sort out her messy life, but she has no idea where to start.

Enter Shane — a slightly dishevelled forklift driver. He may not be suave or wealthy, but he does laugh at Beth’s jokes and remember how she likes her coffee. Plus, the more they hang out, the healthier she feels.

But when Shane suddenly cuts off all communication, Beth starts to think there’s no such thing as The One, and she decides to stop being slapdash and move on. Only life is never that simple, and Beth must take a chance if she hopes to find the cure to her ills.

Lovesick is a big-hearted romance about getting sick, getting better and taking risks.

Author Bio
Jean Flynn was born in Melbourne and currently lives in Ballarat, Victoria. She teaches creative writing at Federation University and Lovesick is her first novel. 

This giveaway has now closed.

Carpe Librum!
29 June 2017

Review: The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger is an enjoyable crime/thriller novel - with one of the best covers this year - featuring two protagonists: Zoe and Claudia.

Zoe experienced a traumatic home invasion as a child and Claudia was assaulted in her own home as an adult. Both women recovered from their trauma in different ways and their paths will eventually meet in an unexpected way.

The Red Hunter had me at 'Claudia takes on a crumbling old house with a home restoration project' and it didn't disappoint.

Told from multiple points of view, I did find it a little confusing at first until the characters and their lives cemented themselves in my mind, but the pages started flying when Zoe's backstory was revealed and a mystery surrounding a missing amount of money began to emerge.

Dealing with themes of justice and revenge, The Red Hunter is a quick and entertaining stand alone novel. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it as much as Ink and Bone, which means I'll have to give it 3 stars, but it's a solid 3 stars and I'd recommend it to fans of the crime, mystery and thriller genres.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
22 June 2017

Review: Clues From Beyond - True Crime Stories from Australia's #1 Psychic Detective Debbie Malone

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *
Australian author Debbie Malone is a psychic, clairvoyant and medium and was the 2013 Australian Psychic of the Year. She can receive visions from the living and the dead, the past, present and future, and convey messages to loved ones. 

As if this isn't enough, Debbie has also assisted Australian Police with missing persons cases and murder investigations for more than twenty years. Despite having been on several TV shows, I first saw Debbie when she worked on the TV show Sensing Murder so I was understandably keen to read her book. (Love that show*).

In Clues From Beyond - True Crime Stories from Australia's #1 Psychic Detective, Debbie shares her insights on several well-known cases in Australia and it makes for gripping reading.

If you're going to read Clues From Beyond, (or books like it), it's important to know that psychics often aren't able to solve a case on their own. Just as a case isn't solved with DNA alone, or police surveillance alone, a psychic detective is just one of many resources involved in solving a case. On page 8, Debbie herself says: "I am an investigative resource who can be utilised by police to pick up information that may provide new lines of inquiry in an unsolved crime." I think readers need to keep that in mind when reading books like these.

Debbie's insights are remarkable and I enjoyed the format chosen for the book and the cases she writes about. When reading about the case of Kerry Whelan, I was incredibly frustrated, (as I'm sure Debbie is too) that Detectives won't/haven't searched underneath Bruce Burrell's shearing shed for the remains of Dorothy Davis because it was outside the scope of the case she was on. They were looking for the remains of Kerry Whelan during which time Debbie received this information and it wasn't acted upon. Argh! I just want someone to dig up that shearing shed damn it! 

After reading Clues From Beyond I definitely wanted to know more about Debbie and her gift as a spirit medium, so I'll be reading her memoir Never Alone: A Medium’s Journey soon. I'm also looking forward to an interview that could be on the cards, so fingers crossed for that one.

Clues From Beyond is recommended for readers of the true crime genre and those with an interest in psychic detectives and the work they do.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. * You can read my review of Sensing Murder by Nicola McLoy here.
20 June 2017

Review: Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

In her introduction to Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook, Julie tells us this book is inspired by her wish to provide a collection of family recipes and favourites for her sons when they leave home.

In her words, Julie says: "It's a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to be able to nourish yourself and the people you love; it's the recipes that bring back childhood memories for myself and my kids; it's the little bits of kitchen wisdom that have been handed down through generations, or passed on from friends, or discovered by accident or through trial and error. It's the book I want my boys to have for when they have families of their own."

In my opinion, Julie has achieved this and more and I'm eager to try her recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies as soon as I can. Yum! If you haven't already seen the recipe extracts from Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook here on the blog, check them out again below:

I always like to know what the end result from a recipe should look like (and more specifically what I'm aiming for) so I would have preferred more photos of the finished dishes throughout the book. Having said that, at 300 recipes and attractively-bound, it's already a hefty tome so I understand the decision to include more recipes than photos.

Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook is a terrific collection and I recommend it to home cooks everywhere.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
18 June 2017

Top 5 favourite things about Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

My Top 5 favourite things about Prince Lestat by Anne Rice:
  1. My copy is signed by Anne Rice (wow!)
  2. The cover art is divine and contains everything I love in cover design.
  3. An appendix includes a complete glossary of characters and their chronology from the Vampire Chronicles series. This was extremely helpful and a joy to read through.
  4. A second appendix includes a brief summary of every book in the Vampire Chronicles series. I relished re-visiting my favourite books again in this succinct format and it definitely made Prince Lestat accessible to new readers who may not have read all the previous novels in the series.
  5. It ended.
I'm a huge fan of Anne Rice's writing so I was devastated to find I didn't enjoy reading Prince Lestat. I even took a break, hoping I was just in some kind of bizarre reading funk, but I just couldn't find the same reading pleasure I usually find in her pages.

The plot contains chapters from different vampires as they begin to face a crisis threatening their kind and while I should have been thrilled to read about old favourites again, the cause uniting them was a bore. There were too many stylishly dressed vampires, too many marble fireplaces, too much classical music and too much love and affection for my liking.

My signed copy
All of this made the denouement seem sudden and exciting and I'll definitely read the next in the series for completeness. I already have a copy of Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis and I'm hoping that Lestat's investigations of the lost realms of Atlantis will be a return to the Anne Rice I've come to know and love. Sadly, this just wasn't it for me.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

P.S. I recently watched an episode of The Book Show hosted by Mariella Frostrup where guests were asked to name the fictional dinner they'd most like to attend. Without a doubt, mine would be the Christmas celebration in The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice. This was a good reminder that she is still my favourite author of all time.
16 June 2017

Blog Tour & Guest Post: See You In September by Charity Norman

Published by
Allen & Unwin
See You In September by Charity Norman is a 'dazzling, gripping new novel about a young woman lured into the clutches of a doomsday cult'.
Here's a teaser: It was supposed to be a short trip—a break in New Zealand before her best friend's wedding. But when Cassy waved goodbye to her parents, they never dreamed that it would be years before they'd see her again.

In today's guest post, author Charity Norman provides some more information on The Cult Leader's Manual, a fictional pamphlet referred to in See You In September

Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour below. 

The Cult Leader’s Manual
    In See You In September, I included a fictional pamphlet called The Cult Leader’s Manual: Eight steps to Mind Control. I originally had twelve steps, but that broke up the flow of the story so I edited them! The precise strategy varies, but these techniques in some form are used by all kinds of outfits: military interrogators, terrorist groups, destructive cults - even abusive partners.

    There’s a common pattern. A group will identify a new recruit, often someone who’s vulnerable at that moment. Then they’ll love-bomb them, showering a cascade of affection and acceptance. At this stage everyone is smiling, joyous, demonstrating that their way of life has made them happy. It’s basically advertising, and they are salespeople.

    The true belief system may be revealed only gradually. Many groups introduce rigid rules and discipline, even a new vocabulary; they demand that the recruit gives up their money and their autonomy, even abandoning their own families. There may be restrictions on sleep and nutrition. Many such groups have a self-proclaimed, charismatic leader who expects absolute loyalty.

    It was upsetting to read about the vicious abuse that’s gone on in some organisations. I remember a harrowing video about a destructive cult, in which a mother described being forced to belt her own toddler. That was the moment she realised she had to get out – but she was still traumatised, years later.

    It isn’t always about religion. I came across someone who lost their family member to a group that claimed to provide couple therapy. ‘Therapy’ involved group sex, and the surrender of their savings and their freedom to a controlling leader. It was the opposite of therapeutic. It destroyed their marriage and their lives. As the family member said, you never think it could happen to you – until it does.

See You In September by Charity Norman is a powerful story of family, faith and finding yourself. It's an unputdownable new novel 
published by Allen & Unwin and is available now, RRP $29.99. 

12 June 2017

Winner of Rebecca Cantrell's Collector's Edition Box Set announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win a hard copy of A Trace of Smoke (the first in the The Hannah Vogel series,) as well as the ebook version of The Hannah Vogel Box Set: Books 1-3 (Collector's Edition). Entries closed at midnight on Friday 9 June and the winner was drawn today. Congratulations to:
Paul Groves
Congratulations Paul, you'll receive an email from me today and will have 7 days to provide your mailing address. Your prize will be mailed directly to you from 22 Literary and I hope you enjoy the series.

Carpe Librum!

08 June 2017

Review of Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn - A King's Obsession by Alison Weir

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I've always been interested in the life of Anne Boleyn (and her daughter Elizabeth I) and have read about her from the pens of several authors including: Robin Maxwell, C.C. Humphreys and Philippa Gregory. I've also watched many documentaries, movies and TV shows about Anne Boleyn, including: The Other Boleyn Girl, The Tudors and Wolf Hall to name a few, and I'm currently watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII with Lucy Worsley.

Alison Weir is an established and popular historian and 
Anne Boleyn - A King's Obsession was my first historical fiction novel of hers. We follow Anne's upbringing in French court and the powerful women she served, including Margaret of Austria, Henry VIII’s sister in France Queen Mary and later Queen Claude

This was easily my favourite part of the book and an aspect of Anne's life often overlooked or glossed over in other books and media. Although the rape of her sister in the French court and later at the English court was shocking to me and I'm not quite sure where the history stops and the fiction begins with regard to these events.

I'll admit I was struck by Weir's different take on Anne Boleyn and found the differences difficult to adjust to in the beginning. Weir presents Anne as never truly loving Henry as I've always imagined she did and instead being motivated by power. She describes her as having a sixth fingernail on her little finger (not an extra finger) although on further investigation, I found this description to be the more accurate one. Just a further example of how Anne Boleyn has been mythologised and portrayed over the centuries since her death.

Eventually I was able to surrender myself to Weir's narrative after I left my preconceived ideas at the door and ended up enjoying her novel immensely. Despite already knowing how Anne Boleyn died, and having read about and seen the scene play out in many genres, the author was able to create an incredibly moving 'end' and one that I found unexpectedly moving and even upsetting.

Alison Weir is clearly a huge talent in the genre of historical fiction and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future. Given this is the second novel in the Six Tudor Queens series, I know I'll be spoiled for choice.

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
05 June 2017

Interview with Craig Wilcox, author of Badge, Boot, Button - The Story of Australian Uniforms

NLA Publishing
Craig Wilcox is an Australian historian and author of Badge, Boot, Button - The Story of Australian Uniforms, a book I reviewed last month. Craig is based in Sydney and joins me for an interview on the blog today.

Thanks for joining us Craig, I really enjoyed reading your latest book. Can you tell us how or when you became interested in uniforms?

While painting model soldiers as a teenager in the 1970s. Thirty years later, the editor of the Australasian volume of the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion asked me to write an entry on all kinds of uniforms. But I was already thinking about how this colourful species of costume signals deep changes in our society, in governments and businesses, in official taste.

Have you ever worn a uniform yourself?
At school, of course. And, in a sense, in my first job while still at school, as an extra with the Australian Opera Company. I was kitted out as a dragoon in black and acid yellow for a 1976 production of Bizet’s Carmen.

Author, Craig Wilcox

What was it like working at the Australian War Memorial?A privilege whenever it wasn’t, like every job, drudgery. In fact it was so good I worked there twice. The wonderful collection of relics, artworks and manuscripts was a gift in itself. There was an important mission, to understand a great collective experience and deep personal trauma and to remind the public of both. Uniforms were, and are, a neglected part of the Memorial’s collection and its imagination. There’s so much the place could do with these treasures.

What uniform would you most like to see in real life?
It’s a toss-up between one of the odder confections once worn by the Bolivian army and any bog-standard example of the millions of pairs of red trousers manufactured for French infantrymen from 1829 to 1914. But I want to hold them and examine them, not just see them.

Is the re-enactment scene active in Australia? If so, what can you tell us about it?I’m lucky that Brad Manera, Australia’s most articulate and interesting reenactor, is a friend of mine. He tells me reenactment isn’t embraced here as enthusiastically as it is in Europe and the United States, but there’s still an extraordinary range of clubs and societies around. The largest have memberships in the hundreds. One, called the 73rd Regiment of Foot, reenacts the experience of the original regiment’s 1st battalion in NSW from 1810 to 1814, but it’s also interested more broadly in the Napoleonic period in the Australian colonies and overseas. Seventy of the club’s members, Brad included, journeyed to Waterloo in Belgium in 2015 to bring the battle alive on its bicentenary. 
That's great to hear and I'm pleasantly surprised to discover we have active re-enactment groups here in Australia. (Anyone reading this who might be interested, seek them out and get involved).

Next, I have a question from a Carpe Librum reader: Does it annoy you when watching films and drama documentaries when the uniforms aren't accurate yet there is a "historical military adviser" in the credits?
Don’t get me started. On the one hand, I really can’t see why you’d go to the trouble of creating costumes and not get them right - it just isn’t that hard. On the other, thinking about the question more broadly, Shakespeare didn’t give a damn getting the past right when he imagined Julius Caesar or Henry V, and if he had we’d be hugely poorer today. Historical license taken for a genuine reason, or in the hands of a master, is a good thing.

Here's another question from a Carpe Librum reader: Why do women still wear tricorn hats in the Royal Australian Navy?
The tricorn was worn by women in Britain’s Royal Navy during the first world war, a visual reference to the felt hats worn by many men in the eighteenth century including by naval officers. It migrated to Australia’s navy as easily as many other British uniform items. Its survival today, against the trend for eliminating feminised items of uniform, is probably due to a belief it’s a traditional headdress, a symbol of the wearer - a powerful obstacle to change throughout the history of uniforms.

What kind of treasures in the form of vintage uniforms do you think the average household has squirrelled away? How should we preserve uniforms?
I’ll take a random sample by looking in my own attic. There’s my grandfather’s whistle and lanyard from his time as a second world war warrant officer. There are reels of cotton thread stolen by my grandmother from a uniform factory she worked in while my grandfather went to war. There are medals too, earned by a neighbour and somehow passed to me. None of this quite rates as vintage, though. Brad Manera assures me “there are still remarkable treasures in people's homes”, and he mentions one Sydney family pulling from their wardrobe “the uniform their great-grandfather had worn home from France in 1919.” The best way to preserve a uniform is to get advice from a conservator in a large museum. Before that advice arrives, store it in the dark and away from damp, dust and insects, and don’t try to clean it until you’ve spoken to the conservator. On the other hand, show your treasure to as many people as you can. When no longer wanted or if damage threatens, call your state museum and arrange to give others the joy and the responsibility of looking after it.

What are you reading at the moment?

The latest numbers of the New York Review of Books and the New Left Review, a 1990s textbook compilation of Chinese writing over the past three thousand years, and a uniform book, of course - Richard Brzezinski’s and Richard Hook’s The Army of Gustavus Adolphus: Infantry, published by Osprey in 1991.

What’s next? What are you working on at the moment?
A book that I’m hoping will expand our sense of frontier fighting in early colonial Australian history into the southwest Pacific. It will follow the sometimes violent push by whalers, sealers, traders, missionaries and officials out from Sydney and Hobart into New Zealand and beyond from there 1790s to the 1840s.

Thanks so much for joining us Craig and sharing your expertise on uniforms. I'm sure my Carpe Librum readers will enjoy seeing their questions answered and good luck for your next book.

02 June 2017

Friday Freebie to WIN Collector's Edition Box Set by Rebecca Cantrell

Today's Friday Freebie is also part of the Rebecca Cantrell blog tour. Enter below to win a hard copy of A Trace of Smoke (the first in the The Hannah Vogel series,) as well as the ebook version of The Hannah Vogel Box Set: Books 1-3 (Collector's Edition). This prize pack is valued at $34.00AUD.


This Collector’s Edition features three novels of the Hannah Vogel Series (A Trace of Smoke, A Night of Long Knives and A Game of Lies) as well as a never-before seen short story The Cigarette Boy, unavailable anywhere else.

In A Trace of Smoke it’s 1931 and crime reporter Hannah Vogel is writing under the male pseudonym Peter Weill. As a widow she’s used to doing what she must to survive. When she decides to investigate her brother’s death she finds herself caught up in scandal leading directly to a powerful leader in the Nazi party, and responsible for a five-year-old orphan whose birth certificate names her dead brother. Further complicating matters are her evolving feelings for Boris Krause, a powerful banker whose world is the antithesis of Hannah’s. Fired from her job and on the run from Hitler’s troops, she must protect herself and the little boy who has come to love her, but can she afford to find love for herself?

A Night of Long Knives finds Hannah hiding in Bolivia with her young ward, Anton. She seizes an offer from a newspaper to cover the journey of a Zeppelin from South America to Switzerland, particularly as it will allow her a rare opportunity to meet with her lover, Boris. When the Zeppelin is diverted to Germany, she knows she’s walked straight into a trap, just as The Night of Long Knives—the purge headed by Himmler after Hitler supplanted the SA with the SS—has begun.

Rebecca Cantrell
A Game of Lies brings Hannah back to Berlin to cover the 1936 Olympics. At least, posing as travel reporter Adelheid Zinsli, lover of SS officer Lars Lang, that’s her cover story. Rather, she’s collecting Nazi secrets from Lang and smuggling them back to Switzerland. When her mentor collapses at her feet, Hannah must scramble to create a cover story, particularly as she is surrounded by former colleagues who could identify her. The cover-up drives a deeper wedge between Hannah and Lars. To ensure her safety, Hannah must decide whom to love—and whom to trust—before her true identity is revealed.

In the brand-new short story The Cigarette Boy, Hannah’s brother, sexy cabaret star Ernst Vogel investigates the murder of the club's cigarette boy, he chases down several suspects, including a high-ranking Nazi who may save his life or take it.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Cantrell has published sixteen novels in over ten different languages. Her novels have won the ITW Thriller, the Macavity, and the Bruce Alexander awards. They have been nominated for the GoodReads Choice award, the Barry, the RT Reviewers Choice, and the APPY award.

Fluent in German, she and her husband and son just moved back to Hawaii from Berlin.

This giveaway has now closed.

Carpe Librum!