24 September 2018

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

It's taken a while, but I've finally read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is a moving young adult novel and I was instantly caught up in it thanks to Conor's voice.

Thirteen year old Conor is trying to cope with bullying at school, while at home his Mum is fighting cancer and his Dad is no longer on the scene.

Drawing on an element of magical realism, the novel reads like a fairytale at times as Conor interacts with the monster of the title and begins to face his problems.

A Monster Calls contains themes of terminal illness, love, loss and grief as well as the coming-of-age themes of bullying and fitting in at school.

This short book has been a huge success and I look forward to seeing the film adaptation starring Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson when I get the chance.

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

* I won this copy in an Australian Writers' Centre competition last year.
16 September 2018

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier is an engaging crime thriller and I enjoyed it. The story starts with Geo going to jail for her part in the murder of her best friend Angela 14 years ago by Geo's boyfriend at the time Calvin.

I really enjoyed the tension of Geo starting her sentence in jail and trying to figure out how to survive. In fact it was a little reminiscent of the TV show Orange is the New Black. However the story soon jumps forward in time and we catch up with Geo as she's leaving prison with the knowledge Calvin has escaped and more victims are showing up.

This writing style keeps the pace shifting along and the suspense and mystery surrounding what happened the night of Angela's death builds momentum. There are plenty of secrets and Hillier writes the teenage dynamic very well.

There's a significant mystery element to the story and I didn't 'work it out' so was pleasantly surprised by the final denouement. (And when I say pleasant, I mean in terms of my reading experience. It certainly wasn't 'pleasant' for the characters, in fact it was anything but).

Recommended for mystery, crime and thriller fans.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
14 September 2018

Review: The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street

I read The Long and Winding Way to the Top by Andrew P Street in ebook format borrowed from the library and it contains Fifty (or so) Songs That Made Australia.

Presented chronologically from oldest (at Number 1) to most recent, it contains entertaining details and history on each song. As I was reading, I was constantly googling songs to remind me of the tune or the music video and desperately wanted a playlist associated with the book for easier reference.

Each section was well-researched and the footnotes were funny, but I wish they'd been included in the text as the frequent page flicking in ebook format was distracting^.

The list contains songs that 'made' Australia and were important within the music scene or within Australian culture at the time so it's definitely not a list of the 'most popular' or 'most well-known' songs.

I’ll admit not knowing many of the songs listed, while rushing off to listen to old favourites with renewed zeal and appreciation for their back-stories. Every reader is bound to have an opinion on the songs and their fair share of omissions, but overall this was a nostalgic and informative look at Australian music from 1958 - 2016.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

^ See what I mean?
12 September 2018

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

RRP $32.99 AUD
Published 12 September 2018
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

The Clockmaker's Daughter is the hotly anticipated historical fiction novel from Kate Morton published today. Told from multiple character view points and unfolding across several time periods, this was quite an ambitious and unexpectedly complex novel.

Despite the magical and evocative writing style that I love, the novel contained more than 20 main characters and I often found it tough to keep all of the characters - and their relationships to each other - straight in my mind. Added to that, the narrative jumped forwards and backwards in time from the point of view of multiple characters and I often felt the story was disjointed as a result.

I enjoyed the writing and setting more than the overarching storyline and would have preferred a tightening up of the novel to make it easier for the average reader to follow. Chapter headings telling us who was narrating would have been a terrific start, although there was a certain mystique to the voice of Birdie. 

At 582 pages, The Clockmaker's Daughter is a hefty read and I definitely recommend reading it monogamously with as few breaks as possible. I always read multiple books simultaneously, and just one or two days between reading sessions in this case meant that I easily lost track of which narrator I was with and where I was in the timeframe.

Having said all of that, the mystery in
The Clockmaker's Daughter was marvellous and I'll never tire of Kate Morton's writing style. Her novels always contain secrets, the mysteries of time and the effect lives lived have on a place. My favourite character was in fact Birchwood Manor on the river Thames. It was described so well and formed the perfect anchor in the story to unite the characters.

If this were any other author, I'd be giving this novel 3 stars or below, but I have to admit the sheer joy of holding a chunky new novel by one of my favourite Australian authors in Kate Morton significantly added to my reading enjoyment and made up for the moments I felt lost in her web of stories.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
10 September 2018

Winner of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale announced

Thanks to all those who entered last week’s giveaway to win a copy of The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale thanks to Simon & Schuster. All entrants correctly identified The Art of War as the book Taylor consults in order to plan her revenge. The winner was drawn today and congratulations go to:
Steven Maxwell
Congratulations Steven, you'll receive an email shortly with the details and I hope you enjoy your prize thanks to Simon & Schuster.

Carpe Librum!

05 September 2018

Review: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

I discovered this little gem of a book on one of the shelves in the free little library I started in my apartment building. The library has been successfully running for 12 months now and the reason the discovery was so exciting is because it was the first book to be donated that I personally wanted to read. Woohoo!

Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner is a collection of essays and diary extracts about a whole host of unrelated topics, written - and published elsewhere - over the last two decades or so.

This was my first introduction to Garner's writing and I now understand the reverence in which she's held. Helen certainly knows how to wield a pen and her everyday observations were enjoyable to read.

Her writing on the topics of ageing and being an 'invisible woman' were most interesting, as were her thoughts on several true crimes that occurred in Melbourne. I can understand Helen's fascination with what makes ordinary people 'snap' and commit terrible crimes and her dogged determination to find out is to be admired. She spent more than 7 years covering the trial and re-trial of Robert Farquharson, the man accused of deliberately drowning his three young sons by driving his car into a dam to produce This House of Grief.

I'm sure I'll read Helen Garner again, but I'm not convinced Everywhere I Look was the best place to start. If you have a recommendation for first-time readers, please let me know in the comments below.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
02 September 2018

Review: Always With You by Debbie Malone

* Copy courtesy of Rockpool Publishing *

Always With You is Australian psychic medium Debbie Malone's third book and contains stories from her life and work as a medium. She includes readings for clients and her own experiences with loved ones who have crossed over.

Always With You was a short, quick and enjoyable read but isn't really the best place to start if you're looking to find out more about mediums and life after death. Debbie's first two books were far more informative and really are the better place to start. You can read my reviews of Never Alone, and Clues From Beyond at the links.

I'd recommend reading Always With You - Messages from Beyond if you've read everything else by Debbie Malone and still want more stories and and insights. The connections she makes are truly inspiring and I look forward to more from her in the future.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. You can also see my interview last year with Debbie Malone here.