31 August 2018

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale

The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale
RRP $29.99
Simon & Schuster
Today's Friday Freebie is debut thriller novel The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale thanks to Simon & Schuster. Please enter below for your chance to win. Entries close 7 September 2018. Good luck!

The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones in this chilling tale of love gone horribly wrong …

Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge. Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle, he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again. 

So Taylor consulted The Art of War and made a plan. Then she took the next step – one that would change her life forever.

Then things get really out of control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.

This giveaway has now closed.
29 August 2018

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

* Copy courtesy of Affirm Press *

The Nowhere Child is a terrific debut by Australian author Christian White. Sammy Went was abducted from her home in Kentucky 28 years ago. Kim is living in Melbourne and is approached by a man investigating the disappearance who has reason to believe Kim is that girl. This isn't a spoiler, it's in the blurb.

Kim doubts her late mother was a kidnapper, but soon embarks on a personal journey in an attempt to find out and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Unfolding in dual timeframes, The Nowhere Child is a novel about family, love and identity and takes Kim right into the heart of a religious cult in order to get her answers.

The byline for this mystery novel is 'Who took Sammy Went?' and I worried that the surname of this main character (Went) was going to be an irritant in the novel, but this concern was quickly allayed.

Kim's journey for the truth made for compelling reading and The Nowhere Child by Christian White is recommended for crime and thriller readers.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
25 August 2018

Winners announced for Scrublands and The Hunter giveaways

This week was a fantastic week for giveaways here at Carpe Librum, with a flurry of entries for Scrublands by Chris Hammer and The Hunter by David Cohen. It's always a pleasure to support books by Australian authors and without further ado, here are the giveaway results.

To be successful in the Scrublands giveaway, entrants needed to name the fictional town in which the novel is set. Despite one wrong entry, entrants correctly answered Riversend and the winner was:
Congratulations Jools, you'll receive an email shortly with the details and I hope you enjoy this book for Father's Day. Thanks to Allen and Unwin for the prize valued at $32.99AUD.


Thankfully all entrants in the giveaway for The Hunter correctly named the Ibis as the bird featuring on the front cover of this short story collection by David Cohen. Congratulations to the winner:
Congratulations Donna, you'll receive an email from me shortly with the details of your win and hope you enjoy this collection of short stories. Thanks to Transit Lounge for the prize valued at $27.99AUD.


Thanks again to all those who entered these two giveaways and continue to support Carpe Librum. I have another giveaway going live on Friday 31 August, so stay tuned for your chance to win a copy of the thriller The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale.

Review: The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook - 75 Recipes for Incredibly Delectable Doughs You Can Eat Right Off the Spoon

* Copy courtesy of Quarto Publishing Group & Netgalley *

I'm not too good in the kitchen, but I've always loved to lick the bowl or an electric beater on the rare occasions I do bake. In truth though, I'd never considered the risks of eating raw egg until reading this book.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops is a book for all skill levels (including beginners like me) and the author takes you through the risks of eating raw egg and flour. She tells you how to pre-heat your flour and every one of the 75 recipes in this book are egg-free.

The very first night I started reading this, I jumped up off the couch and rattled around the kitchen to mix up a batch of Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and it was delicious! It didn't look terribly appetising sitting in the bowl but trust me, it was a taste sensation.

Next on my list to try is the White Chocolate Cookie Dough and Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, assuming of course that 'boxed yellow cake mix' is simply vanilla cake mix. That's the trouble sometimes being an Australian cook reading an American recipe book, some of the ingredient names vary but thankfully both measurements were always provided.

The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops is a delight to read and will definitely get your taste buds going. And the best part? You can eat the dough right out of the bowl!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
22 August 2018

WIN a copy of Scrublands by Chris Hammer for Father's Day

Scrublands by Chris Hammer
RRP $32.99 AUD
Allen & Unwin
Scrublands by Chris Hammer is the No. 1 bestselling book in Australia at the moment, and I reviewed it last week giving it 5 stars. Now's your chance to win a copy for yourself or your Dad for Father's Day thanks to Allen & Unwin.

In an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself. 

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don't fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can't ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest's deadly rampage.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal. 

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town's secrets stay buried.

This giveaway has now closed.
20 August 2018

Review: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

RRP $32.99
Available now
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Adam Hills is such a familiar face on Australian TV that I don't think I'd ever considered just how successful his career has been.

In Best Foot Forward, Adam Hills takes the reader through his career as a radio presenter, stand-up comedian, TV host and more in a natural and amusing writing style. Turns out his success extends far further than our own shores, performing for and even meeting Her Majesty the Queen.

What shone through the brightest to me though, was Adam's desire to 'make it' and his sheer determination and hard work to do so in an industry that can be tough and unforgiving at times.

Adam's work on The Last Leg, the UK show covering the 2012 London Paralympics was informative and inspiring. Adam openly shares what it was like growing up with a prosthetic foot and how he never let it hold him back.

I enjoyed the inclusion of other comedians as he worked alongside them and sometimes in awe of them, including: Billy Connolly and Whoopi Goldberg and my personal favourites, Daniel Kitson, Ross Noble and David O'Doherty. He recounts many unusual and funny situations, memorable shows and at least one laugh out loud moment involving scaring the shell from a turtle's back. I'm off to read it again (page 89).

Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills is a memoir about his accomplished career and the many anecdotes and funny stories made for great reading.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
17 August 2018

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of The Hunter and Other Stories of Men by David Cohen

The Hunter and Other Stories of Men by David Cohen
RRP $27.99 AUD
Published August 2018
* Copy courtesy of Transit Lounge *

This short story collection by Australian author David Cohen is "humorous and delicious, and just slightly off beat, in the vein of Will Self and David Sedaris." Enter to win a copy in the giveaway below.

A property developer fears that a burgeoning ibis population will prevent the construction of a high rise apartment complex; a bus stop outside a dementia care facility in Düsseldorf suffers its own identity crisis; a young man’s new job requires him to pose as a woodcutter and wave at a trainload of tourists; an aging, reclusive archivist becomes locked in a strange battle of wills with a courier; a backpacker in Israel has a bizarre religious experience.

In these award winning stories, David Cohen explores the oddities of human behaviour with wit, affection and startling brilliance.

David Cohen lives in Brisbane, Queensland and is the author of the novels Fear of Tennis and Disappearing off the Face of the Earth. The Hunter was shortlisted in the 2015 Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript.

This giveaway has now closed.
15 August 2018

Review: Scrublands by Chris Hammer

RRP $32.99
Published August 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Scrublands by Chris Hammer is the real buzz book of the moment and I'm happy to report it's worth all of the hype. Scrublands is a whydunnit crime mystery about secrets, sex, murder and deception set in a fictional country town in the Riverina during a severe drought. Readers who wonder if this is going to be a rip off of The Dry by Jane Harper needn't worry, this is nothing like it.

Martin is a journalist sent to Riversend to write a piece on the one year anniversary of the church shooting. But as soon as he starts talking to a few of the locals, their stories give him cause to doubt the well accepted facts of the case: Priest shoots five locals before being shot dead by the local copper.

Australian author Chris Hammer draws on his personal knowledge of being a journalist to produce our protagonist Martin Scarsden and he's a compelling character. I enjoyed his attempts to get to the bottom of the shooting whilst taking delight in just how quickly he's caught up in the small town goings on. I'd have preferred fewer references to his hands, but that's just a minor quibble.

Scrublands has some cracking country characters (Harley Snouch, 
Codger Harris) and without a doubt, the best bushfire scene I've ever read in a novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to Australian media outlets and the politics that goes on between journalists, reporters and photographers as they compete for an edge on the developing story.

Here's my favourite quote from the book that reminds me of the song Flame Trees by Cold Chisel:
"And there is something about old friends, old loves, those who you were young with: when you see them after many years, they don't appear as they are now, but as they were. You can see past the pudginess and wrinkles, past cloudy eyes and sagging jawlines. You can see them as they were when they were young and vital." Page 261

I thoroughly enjoyed unravelling this whydunnit/whodunnit and can unreservedly recommend Scrublands by Chris Hammer to readers everywhere. It will appeal to crime and mystery lovers and it wouldn't surprise me if it was nominated for some awards by the end of the year.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
12 August 2018

Review: The Name of Death by Klester Cavalcanti

RRP $29.99 AUD
Published 24 April 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Klester Cavalcanti is a top investigative journalist in Brazil and The Name of Death is the result of more than seven years spent interviewing the Brazilian hitman guilty of killing 492 people.

Told in a narrative non-fiction style, Julio Santana is 17 years old when his story opens with his first 'kill' in 1971.

What unfolds from there is a true crime account of Santana's life which is informative, eye-opening and sad. What I found immensely frustrating though was a jump in the timeframe of 20 years or so, which means we missed an important part of his life which included meeting and marrying his wife and having children.

Julio Santana's story then finishes in 2006 with no update to tell the reader what he's been up to these past 12 years.

These major gaps in Julio Santana's life made his story feel disjointed, and having been so invested in his teenage years, I wanted to know how he was living his life now.

The Name of Death by Klester Cavalcanti is recommended for fans of the true crime genre.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
07 August 2018

Review: The Yellow House by Emily O'Grady

RRP $29.99 AUD
Published 24 April 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I can totally understand why The Yellow House by Australian author Emily O'Grady won The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award this year. Just, wow!

The Yellow House is narrated by ten year old Cub and we soon get to know her twin brother Wally, older brother Cassie and her Mum and Dad through her eyes. Cub's late Grandfather Les is known to have committed terrible crimes in the past and their family is still carrying the scars generations later.

Superbly written, the setting, characters and dialogue are uniquely Australian in a refreshing and down to earth style I haven't seen before. Here's an example from page 12:

"Her hair was almost the colour of Cheezels, ..."

And an earlier example from page 11:

"She held on to Mum's elbow, which I knew would embarrass Mum because her elbows were dry as scones."

The novel is incredibly evocative of growing up in rural Australia, complete with swimming in the dam, buying lollies from the local shop and riding bikes to school.

The Yellow House is an exploration of family dynamics, loyalty and secrets through the eyes of the youngest child. It's also a novel about community grudges and whether evil can be inherited or not.

Although the novel has a resolution of sorts, I was left with at least 20 questions at the end and wanting to know more. The novel is narrated by Cub so I guess we're left with what she has managed to figure out, leaving many aspects of the relationships between the characters and several events unanswered. I'm still thinking about it days after finishing it. Highly recommended!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
01 August 2018

Review: A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer

* Copy courtesy of Ventura Press *

Science fiction meets historical fiction in A Superior Spectre by debut Australian author Angela Meyer.

In the near future Jeff is dying from an un-named medical condition and seeks solace to suffer and die alone in his shame. But he's not completely alone, as he takes a companion android and a piece of technology that allows him to see through the eyes of a person in history. Jeff is an unlikeable protagonist, and I didn't warm to him or his plight at all but I think that's the point.

Jeff forms a connection with Leonora, a young woman living in the Scottish Highlands who is slowly becoming a woman and is sent to live with her Aunt in Edinburgh. We experience Leonora's life through Jeff's experiences and I found her chapters the most compelling.

I have to disagree with the promotion for this novel as blending “the historical richness of Outlander with the powerful dystopian feminism of Margaret Atwood”.

I don't see anything of Outlander in this novel. There is no romance between the characters, and if anything, Leonora believes she is cursed or possessed when she becomes aware of Jeff's presence. The only tenuous link between the two is time travel, but our protagonist doesn't actually time travel, he just witnesses chunks of time in Leonora's life. Outlander travels back in time to Scotland in the 1740s, and Leonora is living in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1860s, so this comparison is misleading.

I also didn't find this novel to be dystopian or feminist so have no idea why it's being compared to the writing of Margaret Atwood. My guess is that this novel is hard to categorise or pigeonhole and that's a good thing. It should be able to stand on its own and comparing it to popular works in this way actually does the reader a disservice.

Being a fan of historical fiction, I wasn't surprised to find myself wrapped up in Leonora's story and wishing she had a book of her own. I was fascinated by the group of like-minded people Leonora stumbles across and definitely wanted more of this. I could easily have done without Jeff and his selfish behaviour, although the android assistant/companion aspect was interesting. 

A Superior Spectre is recommended for readers interested in a science fiction meets historical fiction mash-up.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!