31 October 2017

Review of Paperless Post

Many of you know I have a thing for stationery, and love to send family and friends a card for birthdays, Christmas and special occasions. I think sending something in the mail in the form of snail mail or happy mail is a cheerful and fun thing to do to brighten someone's day. So when Paperless Post asked me to trial their online stationery platform, I was excited to accept.

Nothing beats a physical card, but sending e-cards with Paperless Post is a much cheaper and quicker way of communicating with friends and family, and there's no chance your card will be lost in the mail.

I loved choosing from the wide range of cards and spent quite a bit of time selecting the colour of envelope, the design of the envelope liner (so much fun!), the stamp, postage mark and viewing background. The designs are attractive and modern and there seem to be an endless number of combinations. Users are guaranteed to come up with something unique to their event or recipient. And did I mention it was fun?

If you've ever used Moonpig, this is like Moonpig on steroids! There are options to create events, address lists and track your recipient activity. Recipients can send you a message back if they want to, and it's all collated in your dashboard. You can even track RSVPs, and I imagine this would be an easy and fun way to organise the office Christmas party.

There doesn't seem to be a way to set your country of origin, so the tracking dates and times didn't correlate with my activities in the dashboard.

I didn't see an option to schedule the sending of a card on Paperless Post, but I assume there must be a function somewhere to allow you to choose the date and time your card is sent. However, being in Australia and the times not matching up, this could a little be problematic for some users.

You can email yourself a preview of the card, but it says “your recipient’s name will go here” so you can’t see exactly what it’ll look like to your recipient.

The verdict
While Paperless Post - and platforms like it - may very well be the way of the future, I think I'm going to continue sending physical cards and notes for now; barring the occasional event where this method of delivery has it's advantages.

Carpe Librum!
30 October 2017

Winner of 3 illustrated books from User Design announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win a collection of 3 illustrated books from User Design valued at $44.00AUD. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 27 October and the lucky winner was drawn today. Congratulations:
Mary Preston
Congratulations Mary! 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 by User Design and I hope you enjoy the books.

Carpe Librum!

26 October 2017

Review: Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Despite Sophie Hannah's success as an internationally bestselling crime writer with a bunch of books under her belt, Did You See Melody? is the first of her books I've read, and I loved it!

Cara has left her family and booked herself into a 5 star resort to spend time on her own and contemplate a big life decision. On check-in though, she finds a man and girl already in her room. Cara later believes the girl she saw might be missing girl Melody, whose parents are serving life sentences in jail for her murder.

Did You See Melody? is a stand alone novel and sped along at a great pace. For a crime novel, it had a very contemporary and light feel and definitely doesn't fall into the dark and dangerous crime genre with flawed detectives and disturbed serial killers.

Taking place primarily in a spa resort, reading it definitely made me want to book my next holiday. My favourite character was Tarin Fry, a side character and fellow guest at the resort with super sharp wit and entertaining observations.

Did You See Melody? was a rollicking read and I really enjoyed the fresh plot. I'm so excited to discover a great new-to-me author with such an accomplished back catalogue of books to discover. Highly recommended.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
23 October 2017

Review: Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet

Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet book cover* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing - Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language is a collection of essays by Daniel Tammet. Daniel is an autistic savant with synaesthesia and his love of language and words intrigued me enough to pick up this book and find out more.

What I learned quickly was that Daniel Tammet is a little out of my league. His collection of essays takes an almost academic look at language and meaning, and I wasn't prepared for just how many languages he would reference; narrowly thinking this book would be primarily about the English language. I later learned Tammet is a polyglot and has mastered 10 languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Lithuanian, Esperanto, Spanish, Romanian, Icelandic, and Welsh, the majority of which are referred to in this book.

Most interesting essays
An Englishman at L'Academie Francaise was about the group of people assigned the task of refining the French dictionary. This felt like a glimpse into another century, so to discover this is still happening today was a thrill.

My favourite essay was Talking Hands, which was essentially about ASL. I didn't know that the persons's stance - leaning forward, leaning back or to the left/right - also added meaning to sign language and I just loved this essay.

I enjoyed A Grammar of the Telephone, which was all about how the emerging technology of the time inspired a new way for people to begin a conversation and talk to each other without the cues of body language.

Least enjoyable essays
Translating Faithfully was about translating the Old Testament and Conversational Human looked at whether chatbots will ever sound truly like 'us'.

Most impressive essay
OuLiPo is the essay title, but also a "loose gathering of (mainly) French-speaking writers and mathematicians who seek to create works using constrained writing techniques." (Wikipedia) While writing about these writers, Tammet does so without ever using the letter 'e'. It was amusing and easily the most impressive piece of writing in the collection.

I recommend this book to those with an interest in linguistics. Those with a love of the English language might find themselves a little out of their depth in some of the essays but there's no reason why you can't pick and choose which essays to read. It will be well worth the effort.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
20 October 2017

Friday Freebie: WIN 3 illustrated books from User Design

* Copies courtesy of User Design *

Today's Friday Freebie giveaway is a collection of 3 illustrated books from User Design valued at $44.00AUD.

The Journey of Larks
The Journey of Larks is played with language, words, illustration and typographic shenanigans. (RRP $13.50 AUD)

A picture-led book (no text) story about one day in the life of somebody. (RRP $13.50 AUD)

Explains the functions and correct uses of 21 of the most used punctuation marks. It is humorous, fully illustrated using real life scenarios and is for a wide age range (young to ageing) and intelligence (emerging to experts). (RRP $17.00 AUD)

If you enjoy graphic illustrations, cartoons, punctuatio
n and writing, this collection is for you.

This giveaway has now closed.

Carpe Librum!
17 October 2017

Review: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

The Last Tudor is the story of the three Grey sisters, Jane, Katherine and Mary, cousins to Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor. Beginning in 1550, the story unfolds from each sister's point of view in three separate sections, giving us uninterrupted access to their lives.

Jane Grey is the eldest and a steadfast Protestant and was made Queen of England for just nine days. Katherine is the polar opposite of her sister and plans to enjoy the trappings of her station as cousin to the Queen of England.

Mary Grey is the youngest of the three sisters and was said to be a little person, or a dwarf. She is largely overlooked and serves her cousin Elizabeth I faithfully, but like her sister Katherine, she falls in love and seeks only to be happy. Queen Elizabeth I is portrayed as a vain and jealous Queen, reluctant to let any of her ladies marry, and in the case of the Grey sisters, to prevent the birth of a Tudor heir.

Drawing on real letters and historical fact, The Last Tudor has been impeccably researched and as a fan of Philippa Gregory's writing, I have come to expect nothing less. I was most interested in the life of Mary Grey but the threat of treason and death accompanied the lives of all three sisters.

I highly recommend The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory to readers everywhere. It's just a shame this is her final novel based on the Tudor family.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
15 October 2017

Review: Bullet It! by Nicole Lara

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

I've been using a bullet journal for 3 years now and while I have the basics down pat, I'm always keen for ideas on how to beautify my journalling. Bullet It! is written and illustrated by Nicole Lara, an artist and enthusiastic bullet journaller.

Nicole has created a Notebook for planning your days, chronicling your life and creating beauty, but doesn't do much to teach newcomers the art of the bullet journal. Why is a dot grid so useful? What kind of lists can you make? What are the symbols for tasks? How do you mark off a completed task or migrate it to the next day? How do you set up an index? What else can you do?

Instead, Bullet It! provides decorated pages for you to write in with prompts along the way, for example: What makes you happy? Why? and How could you overcome your weaknesses? While the responses might make a nice diary entry, it doesn't fit with my idea of a bullet journal, which centres around organising.

What I loved:
The banners, flags, arrows and header ideas were fantastic and I'll definitely be making an attempt to incorporate some of these into my current bullet journal. The perforated pages were a great idea, and while I'm reluctant to pull pages out of a book, I know many readers will.

What I didn't enjoy:
There was a heavy focus on doodling and 3 pages of how to doodle ice-creams felt like overkill. Similarly, 3 step-by-step doodle instructions for how to draw a retro camera and 2 for hot air balloons seemed to detract from the bullet journal concept.

What was missing:
I would have liked more info on bullet journal basics, how the author uses her bullet journal and how to incorporate other materials like stickers and washi tape.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
09 October 2017

Winners of Soon by Lois Murphy Announced

Thanks to those who entered my giveaway last week to win 1 of 3 print copies of literary thriller Soon by Australian author Lois Murphy. Entries closed at midnight on Friday 6 October and the lucky winners are:
Robin Dawson, Delores and Pam Swain
Congratulations guys! You'll each 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 the publicist for Transit Lounge and I hope you enjoy this debut thriller.

Carpe Librum!
05 October 2017

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley & Penguin Random House UK *

I loved The Martian by Andy Weir so much it made my Top 5 list for 2014. Since then, I've been looking forward to his next novel, and watching Matt Damon in the film adaptation of The Martian managed to sustain me in the meantime.

Fast forward to late 2017, and the wait is over! Artemis is coming out next month, but unfortunately it's nothing like The Martian. Artemis is about a young woman living in a settlement on the moon. The Martian is about a man stranded on Mars. Sound similar?

They're both set in space, they both have a lot of science, but where Mark Watney is hilarious, Jazz is not. The science in The Martian is critical to the character's survival. In Artemis, the science centres around a heist.

I didn't warm to the character of Jazz at all. Her one liners and jokes weren't funny and I just didn't care enough about her welfare or what she was doing. Where I was laughing on every other page and marvelling at the science while reading The Martian, I was longing for Artemis to end.

I'm understandably disappointed, as this was a long awaited release I was really really looking forward to, but if you loved reading The Martian, do yourself a favour, and give Artemis a miss. The magic just isn't there.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!