29 April 2020

Review: Mammoth by Chris Flynn

Mammoth by Chris Flynn book cover
* Copy courtesy of University of Queensland Press *

Mammoth by Australian author Chris Flynn is like nothing I've ever read before, or likely to read again for that matter. Our narrator is a 13,000 year old extinct mammoth by the name of Mammut. It does sound crazy, but it also strangely works. The reader learns that as the bones or fossils of an animal (extinct or not) are unearthed, their consciousness returns to them and they can communicate.

Yep, you heard me right, this book has a cast of talking fossils. They talk amongst themselves by telepathy as they listen to Mammut's story of his life on earth and subsequent revival after his bones were discovered, dug up and sold.

I enjoyed the easy dialogue between the different creatures and their accents based on when and where they were unearthed and the humans they could listen in on. And boy did they have some things to say about we hominids.

What I didn't enjoy was the lack of punctuation for any of this dialogue. I was chatting with another booklover about this very thing last week, and it's an incredibly hard feat to pull off dialogue without punctuation. Unfortunately it slowed me down here and I frequently had to backtrack to find out who was speaking.

I enjoyed the majority of Mammut's story, however some parts of his story were too detailed and failed to hold my interest while others had me entranced. I wanted to learn more about the other fossils in the conversation, however I recognise the book wouldn't have been called Mammoth if that were the case.

Originality is hard to come by these days, and I take my hat off to Australian author Chris Flynn, because he's certainly achieved it here.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:
★ ★

27 April 2020

Winner of Prey by L.A. Larkin Announced

Thanks to all of those in lockdown who took part and entered my giveaway last week to win a copy of Prey by L.A. Larkin. It was great to be part of the online blog tour. The giveaway closed at midnight last night and the winner was drawn today.

Congratulations: Karen


You've won a print copy of Prey by L.A. Larkin valued at $23.95AUD. You'll receive an email from me shortly with the details and the author will be sending out your prize directly.

Enjoy and stay tuned for more giveaways in 2020.

Carpe Librum!
Blog tour PR tile for  Prey by L.A. Larkin

24 April 2020

Review: Platform Seven by Louise Doughty

Platform Seven by Louise Doughty book cover
RRP $29.99AUD
Published September 2019
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Platform Seven by Louise Doughty has a premise that hooked my interest early on. In a train station on platform seven, a man has decided to commit suicide. He is watched by Lisa Evans and she knows what he plans to do because she did the same thing just 18 months earlier.

Lisa is our protagonist and she is a ghost in the afterlife, haunting Peterborough Railway Station with little memory of what happened or why she's there. Lisa enjoys watching the train station employees and the commuters come and go until the man's suicide triggers a series of events and the clearing of cobwebs in Lisa's memory.

The majority of the novel is Lisa recalling the lead up to her death and how she ended up in her current state. I don't tend to enjoy the amnesia trope on a good day and I found this part of the novel unconvincing.

Despite the creepy premise and terrifically spooky cover, Platform Seven reads more like a domestic noir novel and could easily have been marketed very differently.

The narration style put me in mind of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, as did the internal musings about life after death in general. I enjoyed Lisa's observations and feelings about some of the staff members however I was disappointed when the reader was denied one particular 'visit' I had been anticipating.

Platform Seven by Louise Doughty is a good domestic noir novel.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:
★ ★

20 April 2020

Review: Sleeping with David Baddiel by Geoff Jein

Sleeping with David Baddiel by Geoff Jein book cover
I've always been interested in every aspect of sleep, so I was easily tempted by this free audiobook on Audible, Sleeping with David Baddiel by Geoff Jein.

Comedian David Baddiel is an insomniac with many sleep related problems and a lifetime of experience trying to fix them. In Sleeping with David Baddiel, he discusses them with sleep expert Dr. Guy Leschziner over the course of 6 chapters/episodes in an attempt to learn more about sleep and how to get more of it.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't learn anything new here. I was already very familiar with the topics discussed and they never seemed to delve into any detail.

However, what frustrated me the most was the seemingly complete lack of commitment shown by David Baddiel to attempt much of what was suggested to him by Dr. Guy.

Baddiel freely admits he has always identified as an insomniac and I suspect he isn't motivated enough by his poor sleep patterns to ditch this identifier and make any significant changes to his habits.

While Sleeping with David Baddiel by Geoff Jein didn't have much to offer, I can happily point readers in the direction of three other books which were much better.
Sleeping with David Baddiel by Geoff Jein is recommended listening for those who know very little about sleep hygiene and sleep disorders and those seeking a surface level examination of the main subjects.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:
★ ★ ★ ★

17 April 2020

Giveaway of Prey by L.A. Larkin

Prey by L.A. Larkin book cover
Published by Clan Destine Press
RRP $23.95 AUD
Welcome to the online blog tour for Prey by Australian author L.A. Larkin. Published by Clan Destine Press on 22 April, you can enter my giveaway below for your chance to win a copy of Prey valued at $23.95 AUD. We all need something good to read at the moment, right?


Blurb

Olivia Wolfe is a journalist who travels the world exposing heinous crimes. She has more enemies that most.

When her anonymous source is murdered, Wolfe must unravel the terrible secret that connects a series of gruesome murders. But powerful people want her stopped.

Betrayed and isolated, Wolfe is hunted by a faceless killer. Can she stay alive long enough to expose the shocking truth?

Four murders. Four countries. One terrible secret.
Prey by L.A. Larkin PR tile

Giveaway

This giveaway has now closed.


14 April 2020

Review: Gulliver's Wife by Lauren Chater

Gulliver's Wife by Lauren Chater cover
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Set in London in the early 1700s, Gulliver's Wife by Lauren Chater is the fictionalised story of Mary Burton Gulliver. Mary's husband Lemuel is the main character in Gulliver's Travels, a novel written by Jonathan Swift and published in 1726.

Instead of reading about Lemuel Gulliver's sea journeys and adventures, we read about Mary's experiences on the home front. When Mary receives word her husband's ship has sunk and he is presumed dead, she is forced to eke out a meagre living as a midwife in order to support her two children. The novel covers the time in the novel that Lemuel is shipwrecked in Lilliput and when he finally makes it home three years later, his return throws Mary's life upside down.

Lemuel is a straight up unlikeable character and I found myself constantly hoping Mary would take a stand against the actions of her husband. As a consequence, I was often frustrated and disappointed when she wasn't able to assert the rights I enjoy as a 21st century woman of privilege. The relationship between Mary and her teenage daughter Bess was just as crucial to the story.

I haven't read Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift but it certainly didn't impede my enjoyment of Gulliver's Wife in any way.

Australian author Lauren Chater does a terrific job bringing Wapping to life on the page and I learned a lot about midwifery practices in the 1700s which was an unexpected bonus. I enjoyed Mary's struggle and attempt to protect her children against the dangers of poverty, while continuing to seek purpose and validation in her work as a midwife.

Gulliver's Wife by Australian author Lauren Chater is a terrific historical fiction novel and I can highly recommend it.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:


P.S. For more, check out my review of Well Read Cookies - Beautiful Biscuits Inspired by Great Literature by Lauren Chater.
07 April 2020

Review: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales audiobook cover
Leigh Sales is a well-known journalist here in Australia and she's received many awards for her contributions to journalism and her work on the ABC. Having spent years reporting on all manner of breaking news stories, Sales began to wonder how people coped with the life altering experiences and traumatic events and losses she was reporting on. She recognised her role as a journalist was to report often tragic and heartbreaking news, whilst acknowledging that the people she was interviewing were often in the midst of their own private nightmare and sometimes even the worst day of their lives.

Sales draws on events ripped straight from Australian headlines that more often than not, began as an ordinary day, informing her title of choice.

Sales interviews Walter Mikac about the Port Arthur Massacre, Stuart Diver about his rescue in Thredbo and subsequent losses and fellow author Hannah Richell about the drowning death of her husband Matt. She speaks to victims and survivors from all walks of life who have faced all manner of traumatic situations from accidents to natural disasters and acts of terrorism. She asks the tough questions about fear, fate, loss, trauma, death, grief, resilience, recovery, healing and hope in an effort to understand how we can better support those going through these events and perhaps even how to prepare ourselves for that one in a million moment.

Leigh Sales has no problem admitting her own shortcomings as a journalist and her fears about delving into the deep and meaningful with those in our community who have had the misfortune of suffering a great loss in some of the most unexpected and newsworthy of ways.

In listening to the audiobook from the library, my only complaint was that I wanted more depth in her research on the topic and I could hear her swallow throughout the entire recording which was very distracting.

Her insights are interesting and informative and while I was already very familiar with the stories of her interviewees, I did find the author's exploration of them moving. The interview with former Prime Minister John Howard was inspiring and I found myself wondering how he would lead us in our current COVID-19 crisis.

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales is full of empathy and is a successful attempt by the author to delve deeper into human nature and our resilience to the unthinkable. In 2019, Leigh Sales received the Walkley Book Award for Any Ordinary Day but for me it was a three star read. Recommended.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:
★ ★

02 April 2020

Review: The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi is an historical fiction meets dystopian fantasy whodunnit crime mash-up that straddles multiple genres.

Readers of historical fiction - or history - will immediately recognise the English setting during the 1500s, along with the slightly veiled references to Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VIII and other historical figures despite their altered names. This combination of historical fiction and fantasy made it hard for me to know what was based on historical fact and what was pure fiction so I decided early on to 'let this go' and just enjoy the story.

What I did know for certain was that sin eaters were real. In fact, the author tells us at the beginning of the book that sin eaters existed in parts of Britain until roughly a century ago.

Our protagonist May Owens is a starving 14 year old orphan in gaol for stealing a loaf of bread. Fearing the worst, May is caught by surprise as she is sentenced to become a sin eater.

The duty of a sin eater is to attend the dying and hear a recitation of their sins. A food is then assigned to each sin and upon the person's death, the sin eater will attend a service to effectively 'eat their sins' thereby allowing the soul of the deceased to ascend to heaven. If a person dies without confessing their sins, then default sins are chosen on their behalf.

The process of absolving the dead and dying and taking on their sins means May is shunned by the very community that depends on her for absolution. The sin eater may only speak while carrying out her duties and must wear a collar with an 'S' so everyone may recognise her, reminding me of The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The opportunity to explore the life of a sin eater in fiction was irresistible and I was rewarded with an unexpected murder mystery. I enjoyed the list of sins and their corresponding foods at the beginning and admired May's determination to put the knowledge gathered at the bedsides of the dead and dying towards uncovering the truth.

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi is definitely a genre mash-up but it was also a thoroughly entertaining read. Recommended.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:

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