28 March 2018

Review & Giveaway: The Flying Optometrist by Joanne Anderton

Published 1 April 2018, RRP $24.99
* Copy courtesy of NLA Publishing *

This children's picture book was inspired by a true story and chronicles the adventures of The Flying Optometrist as he travels to remote communities in a little red plane to provide eye-health care to the people who live there. Written by Australian author Joanne Anderton, The Flying Optometrist is delightfully illustrated by Karen Erasmus.

The story is charming and I enjoyed the Aussie setting and lingo. I think this is a great introduction for primary school aged children to understand what it's like to live in the outback and the importance of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. 

There's some great info at the back of the book on the establishment of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a section on the author's father; the inspiration for the book. There really is a flying Optometrist in Australia.

Enter below for your chance to win a copy of 
The Flying Optometrist for yourself or the little reader in your life. (This giveaway has now closed).

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

25 March 2018

Review: Gallery of the Dead by Chris Carter

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Gallery of the Dead by Chris Carter is a crime novel and despite being ninth in the Robert Hunter series, can easily be read as a stand alone. I'm new to this author and I was impressed by the tight writing and crime-solving he's got going on.

Robert Hunter is the star of the show - so to speak - and is an impressive main character. He has a PhD in Criminal Behaviour Analyses and Biopsychology and after turning down the role of FBI Profiler at the National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime, he joined the LAPD.

Working in the LAPD Homicide Special Section, Robert Hunter is assigned to a specialised unit called Ultra Violent Crimes Unit. This means he oozes qualifications and experience all of which make him a kick ass crime fighter with a reputation for catching bad guys guilty of terrible crimes.

Hunter and his partner team up with the FBI to catch an elusive serial killer and the clues and messages left by the killer keep the story moving swiftly. The graphic nature of the crimes are offset by a good sense of humour, with Hunter's partner Garcia delivering many sarcastic one liners that made me chuckle. Here's one of my favourites from Hunter's boss:

"Every time you have one of your hunches, Robert, we need to brace ourselves for a shit storm, and this is already starting to look like a hurricane." Page 71

Gallery of the Dead by Chris Carter is highly recommended for fans of the crime fiction genre.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
21 March 2018

Review: The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

In Sydney in the early 1900s, an astonishing number of babies were found abandoned and discarded in the waterways of Sydney. It's hard to imagine, but many were also left in parks and public areas - some alive - in the hope members of the public would find and look after them. This raised complex questions about women's health and the shame of unwanted pregnancies and babies born out of wedlock.

The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton is the true crime case of one such baby, who washed up in a suitcase on a beach in Mosman, Sydney in 1923. The mother (Sarah) was identified through some fantastic old school detective work, and Bretherton follows the case through the Sydney legal process, subsequent media circus and court of public opinion.
The author sets the scene well, with plenty of background on the accused before her crime of infanticide. At times I did find a liiiittle too much of the author inserting herself - or fictionalising events - that occasionally jerked me out of the investigative tone.

I'd have preferred more info on other similar cases, given there was an abundance of baby deaths in this period. 

"In December 1913 the unofficial count of baby cadavers (in less than two years) came to fifty-nine: on average, one (...) every fortnight for two years straight." Page 123

Bretherton explains that the majority of the babies were unidentified which makes this task extremely difficult and all the more tragic. I would have liked more photos of the two accused women other than those featured on the cover; assuming there are any of course.

I would also be curious to compare the stats with today's crime rates for abandoned babies and infanticide. Now that 100 years have passed (hard to believe the 1920s were a century ago) it'd be interesting to know if society is doing a better job of caring for underprivileged women facing unwanted pregnancies today. I certainly hope so.

In closing, my reading of The Suitcase Baby shed light on a shocking crime in Sydney's history and an underlying tragedy I knew nothing about, and for that I'm grateful.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
18 March 2018

Review: The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

A book about a woman whose job it is to restore graves and bring forgotten and overgrown cemeteries back to life? Yes please! Oh, and she can also see ghosts? Hell yes! I give you The Restorer by Amanda Stevens.

Amelia Gray has her own blog and is called the Graveyard Queen for her knowledge of graves and cemeteries and her expert work restoring them. 

This is the first in the Graveyard Queen series, and I had high expectations that unfortunately came crashing down for two reasons.

Firstly, the romance. There was wayyyy too much romance in this novel for my liking, and in particular the forbidden attraction Amelia has for Devlin.

Secondly, Amelia quickly becomes caught up in a murder investigation in a cozy mystery kind of way, that was supposed to keep the story moving but wasn't required in my opinion.

The Restorer is a gothic read that was smothered with a romance and murder investigation when I would have been happy to read an entire book about Amelia just doing her job. Her father's rules for living, cemetery restoration and living amongst ghosts were fascinating but quickly shoved aside in favour of the above. With such a promising premise, what I ended up with was a relatively dull paranormal romance.

I won't be continuing the series.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
15 March 2018

Review: Pentridge - Voices from the Other Side by Rupert Mann

* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

Pentridge Prison was a hulking and menacing structure of bluestone walls and guard towers and operated as a prison in Melbourne for 150 years. In 1997 it was closed and since then parts of the prison have been demolished and the developers have moved in to revitalise the area.

In an effort to preserve the history of Pentridge as much as possible before it was made unrecognisable by developers, Rupert Mann undertook a 5 year project to capture the testimonies of former staff and inmates. Pentridge - Voices from the Other Side is the result and contains personal stories from a variety of people alongside many photographs of the now deserted and run down prison.

I enjoyed reading the 14 interviews with former prisoners and staff, however some of them were understandably heavy going and required a good interval of time before I was ready to move on to the next one.

Given Rupert Mann is a photographer, I was expecting the photographs to be of better quality and composition. However when I learned he didn't have permission to photograph Pentridge, it became clear he was probably trespassing, short of time and therefore unable to take the equipment he might have liked.

Included in the back of the book was a breakdown of each of the divisions at Pentridge - including purpose, capacity and floor plan - which would have been better served at the front of the book.

Ultimately I'm thankful to Rupert Mann for preserving the history of Pentridge in these interviews and wish Pentridge had been preserved as a museum. Pentridge - Voices from the Other Side by Rupert Mann is an important book and recommended for readers of history and true crime and fans of abandoned places photography. Yes, it's a thing.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
12 March 2018

March Birthday Giveaway Winners Announced

Thanks to everyone who entered my March Birthday Giveaway and left lovely comments with their entry to wish me a happy birthday. Entries closed at midnight last night, and I had fun reviewing the answers and drawing the winners this afternoon. I decided to select two winners this time so without further ado, congratulations go to..... drum roll....
Kerri & Mish Farrugia
Kerri, has won a brand new copy of Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer thanks to Hachette Australia. Mish opted for the 'surprise me' option, so I'll be checking in with her about that.

Both winners will receive an email today with the details and will have 7 days to provide their mailing address. I think my birthday giveaway is one of the most fun giveaways to organise, so I've decided to run it again next year. What do you think? Anything you'd like me to do differently next time? Let me know in the comments and keep on reading.

Carpe Librum!
Birthday giveaway

09 March 2018

Review: Beauty In Thorns by Kate Forsyth

Beauty In Thorns is the latest offering by one of my favourite Australian authors Kate Forsyth, renowned for her fairytale re-tellings. I went into this believing Beauty In Thorns was going to be loosely based on the sleeping beauty fairytale. Wrong!

What I discovered instead was a fascinating look at the lives of a group of successful artists known as the Pre-Raphaelites, which included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ned Burne-Jones and William Morris. Yes, William Morris of the medieval inspired wallpaper designs and tapestries. I've long admired his designs so it was a pleasant surprise to find him in this novel.

Joining the young artists in the mid 1850s, the novel covers the next 50 years of their lives, including their dreams and aspirations, work with various muses, struggles and successes, love and heartbreak and in many cases their physical or mental decline and subsequent death.

The women in the novel (some beginning as an artist's muse) were equally important to the story and I enjoyed watching their lives unfold within the group as well. Naturally I was most interested in the life, love and work of William Morris and through this book learned that he was an incredibly industrious man. He left an enormous legacy and body of work in all manner of fields, including writing - poetry, essays and translations - textile designs, fabric dyeing, embroidery, stained glass window designs and tonnes more. I think I'm primed to read a book on William Morris next; any suggestions?

My ultimate wish after reading Beauty In Thorns was that the cover incorporated some kind of reference to the art and poetry that was so very much part of the novel. By the end of the book I understood the reference to sleeping beauty - being one of the major series of paintings by one of the main characters - but to me the novel was about all of the artists and their families. I would much prefer to see one of their paintings on the front than a stylised woman that could be any one of the muses or wives in the novel. I guess I'm saying I have an issue with how this was marketed but the writing and the story was a pleasure to read; even if I did have to put the book down to look up various paintings along the way.

I highly recommend Beauty of Thorns by Kate Forsyth to fans of historical fiction and anyone with an interest in art and beauty.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
05 March 2018

Review: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

I just disembarked from a hell of a turbulent thriller. The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton was a gripping read and a scary insight into what happens when a relationship goes wrong. Juliette is obsessed with her pilot ex-boyfriend Nate and becomes an airline steward in order to win him back.

Juliette has serious baggage and if you're a male reader then consider this a horror novel. The lengths Juliette goes to in an effort to win Nate back were entertaining at first, then bothersome, 
then troublesome before spiralling into downright crazy! You definitely don't want to come across a character like Juliette in real life. Ever!

I admired Juliette's energy and determination but couldn't help wanting her to shift focus and 'move on'. It's only when the heart of her fixation was revealed that I really began to understand her.

The duties and lifestyle of airline crew featured prominently throughout the novel and I enjoyed this fresh and unique setting way more than I expected.

I was utterly gripped by The Perfect Girlfriend and for heightened pleasure, I recommend you read this on a plane with your boarding pass as a bookmark. Arm the doors and cross check people, and get ready for an exhilarating take off and surprise destination.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
02 March 2018

March 2018 Birthday Giveaway

Carpe Librum March 2018 Birthday Giveaway Stack
It's my birthday in March and I want to celebrate, so let’s have a giveaway! Last year's birthday giveaway was my most popular giveaway for the year, so let's do it again.

Just choose one of the books pictured (right) and enter using the form below. The winner will win their choice of book. Depending on the number of entries, I 'may' decide to choose a second winner.

Entries close midnight Sunday 11th March 2018 so please enter and help me spread the birthday bookish cheer :-)

Carpe Librum!

This giveaway has now closed.