30 August 2020

Guess How Much I Love You winner announced

Thanks to those who entered my children's book giveaway last week to win a limited edition of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram.

Entries closed at midnight on Friday and Little Nutbrown Hare helped me select the winner. Congratulations to:

Sharah McConville

Congratulations Sharah! You've won the giveaway valued at $16.99AUD thanks to Walker Books Australia. You'll receive an email from me shortly informing you of your win, and will have 7 days to provide a postal address.

You'll receive your prize direct from the publisher and I hope you have a young reader in mind to enjoy this with.

Carpe Librum!
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram book cover
27 August 2020

Review: The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan book cover
* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins Australia *

DS Cormac Reilly is back after his last outing in The Scholar. Still in Ireland, it's now 2015 and he and Peter Fisher are part of a skeleton crew left to man the station when a kidnapping report comes in. Fisher makes a subsequent number of unenviable decisions and the repercussions see him sent from Galway to a station run by his overbearing father. (This isn't a spoiler, it's in the blurb).

The Good Turn introduces the reader to Fisher's back story and I enjoyed learning a little more about his upbringing and family background in Roundstone. Fisher makes the most of his situation by turning his investigative skills to a local double murder while simultaneously trying not to clash with his father.

Back in Galway, Reilly is left battling internal politics and suspected corruption while trying to pursue the child abduction case and salvage his relationship with Emma.

Fisher is the real star of The Good Turn and the shift in focus was a welcome surprise. I enjoyed the multiple story threads and appreciated the way in which they came together in the end.

There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and guessing and I really enjoyed this latest addition to the Cormac Reilly series. I do hope there'll be another from this talented Aussie author.

Highly recommended and you can read a FREE sample here.

Carpe Librum!
My Rating:

25 August 2020

Review: Look Evelyn, Duck Dynasty Wiper Blades. We Should Get Them by David Thorne

Look Evelyn, Duck Dynasty Wiper Blades. We Should Get Them by David Thorne book cover
I've been enjoying David Thorne's sense of humour and reading his books for years now. See my reviews of his previous books below:

The Internet Is A Playground - 5 stars
I'll Go Home Then, It's Warm and Has Chairs - 5 stars
Wrap It In a Bit of Cheese Like You're Tricking the Dog - 3 stars

And I have two more on my shelves waiting to be read:
- That's Not How You Wash a Squirrel
- Walk It Off, Princess

I love his quirky sense of humour, his office antics and run-ins with family members, neighbours and anyone else unlucky enough to come across his path.

Look Evelyn, Duck Dynasty Wiper Blades. We Should Get Them is another collection of stories and anecdotes, many of which relate to his childhood. It was published back in 2014 (I know, I'm a little behind, but they're expensive to purchase from the USA so I save them for birthdays and Xmas) and GoodReads has plenty of existing reviews from readers shocked at how dramatic Thorne's childhood upbringing was.

Now, I don't for a minute believe any of his stories are actually true. I think he's like most comedians, comedy is his job and these email chains, graphic design stories and office antics have been created for the reader's - and presumably the author's - enjoyment.

However, what I didn't appreciate was the sheer number of references to overweight women in this collection. After finishing this book, I went back to check I wasn't over-reacting and made the following notations:

Fat, page 17
Normal weight, page 20
Heifer, page 26
Heifer and reference to Weight Watchers, page 37
An entire story around a large girl and her weight, fat references pages 48-50
Large woman, page 76
Chubby girl, page 101
Huge heifer, page 104
Chubby girl, page 118 and 119
Large woman, page 136
Fat wives, page 165
Fat multiple times, page 174
Fat wife, page 179

Without the ability to ask the author, I'm not sure if Thorne is using creative licence in an attempt to further his unlikable persona in the pursuit of entertaining the reader. If so, then it falls flat. If not, then it's just irritating and bordering on offensive.

With Thorne's humorous and clever story-telling abilities, I assumed he was above petty fat shaming like this and it just didn't sit well with me. Some of the content was very funny and quite enjoyable but these reappearing references dampened my enjoyment.

This was a disappointing read and I hope his next collection is a return to his earlier form.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:
★ ★ ★

23 August 2020

Review: Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthe Mallett

Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthe Mallett book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Dr Xanthe Mallett is back after Cold Case Investigations with a look at solved criminal cases where there is reasonable doubt attached. Dr Mallett looks at miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions where police bias, false confessions, dodgy eyewitness statements and ineffectual science has lead to the wrong person being convicted for a crime.

Given Dr Mallett's position as an Australian Forensic Anthropologist and Criminologist, I assumed we'd start by looking at Lindy Chamberlain's case given the 40 year anniversary of baby Azaria's death. While Dr Mallett does touch on the Chamberlain case in her Introduction, I couldn't help but be disappointed Sue Neill-Fraser's case doesn't rate a mention in her book.* 

Having said that, Dr Mallett clarifies early on that there is an unfortunate abundance of wrongful convictions she could have included:
"For every case I have included there are 100 others I could have chosen, which would have highlighted the same failings and errors that led to an innocent person going to prison." Page 17
In Reasonable Doubt, Dr Mallett provides a detailed look at 6 cases of wrongful convictions and manages to make reference to a range of other cases and examples throughout the course of the book; many outside of Australia.

As in Cold Case Investigations, Dr Mallett includes Expert Inserts to expound on certain elements of the law, investigative process or science to better inform the reader. Of these, I found the section on forensic linguistics to be the most interesting. However, it should be noted that regular consumers of true crime - books, podcasts or documentaries - will already be quite familiar with the content found in these segments.

Reasonable Doubt was an interesting read however the author lost me at the end when she drew a connection between being isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic and trapped at home for our own safety having very little contact with the outside world to being in prison. Umm, no. They're not even vaguely in the same category.

The one thing I do agree on though is a mutual respect and admiration for the work done by those volunteering for innocence initiatives like The Bridge of Hope Foundation based in Melbourne. They do incredible work and the dedication required to work on a case for years without a breakthrough is mind blowing.

My major 'takeaway' from this book was Dr Mallett's overview of the Lawyer X case. I'd seen it all over the news but due to a general lack of interest, had never taken the time to find out exactly what the fuss was all about. Now that I have a general understanding of Nicola Gobbo's transgressions, I'm now equally disgusted with the parties involved.

Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthe Mallett is recommended for true crime newbies and those interested in the wrongfully convicted, and precisely how miscarriages of justice can take place within our criminal justice system.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:

* For more on Sue Neill-Fraser's story, you can check out my review of Death on the Derwent by Robin Bowles.
21 August 2020

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of children's book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney book cover
It's Friday freebie time and today we're celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram. This delightful bedtime story is for children aged 3 years and above, and I have a limited edition print copy to give away thanks to Walker Books Australia. Click here to enter, or enter below.


"I love you right up to the moon – AND BACK!"
Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing just how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure!

Since its publication in 1994, children and parents worldwide have cherished the heartwarming tale of Little Nutbrown and Big Nutbrown Hare so much that it has become one of the most enduring bedtime classics of our time.


This Carpe Librum giveaway has now closed and the winner was announced here

17 August 2020

Review: Written In Blood by Chris Carter

Written In Blood by Chris Carter book cover
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Written In Blood by Chris Carter is the next in the Robert Hunter series, and just like the others, it can be enjoyed as a stand alone.

In this outing, Angela Wood is a skilled pickpocket and gets more than she bargains for when she steals a bag containing the diary and journal of a killer. He wants it back at all costs and it's up to Robert Hunter and Garcia to catch him before he hurts anyone else.

Despite the length coming in at just under 500 pages, Carter's trademark fast pace and intelligent plotting make this a quick read.

It came as a complete shock however when I read the moving dedication at the beginning of the book. I didn't know about the death of his partner Kara last year and was moved by the fact he chose to share his dedication to Kara and include all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. I later learned that Carter barely managed to overcome his crippling grief and depression to finish this book and my heart goes out to him.

I'm happy to say that as a reader and reviewer, I saw no signs that this book was affected by the author's grief and loss. To his credit, Written In Blood is just as gripping as the previous two in the series (Hunting Evil and The Gallery of the Dead) and was actually a five star read for me.

Highly recommended for fans of crime fiction.

Carpe Librum!
My Rating:

13 August 2020

Review: Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan *

Written by Australian Kathleen Jennings, Flyaway is a novella full of stories within stories, delivered in a shroud of myth, legend, folklore and superstition that kept me guessing.

Our protagonist Bettina has a mysterious past and she's determined to find out what happened to her brothers - and herself - several years ago.

Set in outback Australia, the beautiful writing, evocative descriptions and imagery brought the once familiar landscape to life in a new and eerie light. The rural area was both peaceful and menacing, the town a haven for a close knit community as well as a place seething under the surface with fear and mistrust.

A combination of urban fantasy and magical realism, Flyaway is full of mysterious disappearances, creatures that lurk in the shadows and a slight otherness that you can never quite put your finger on.

The structure, lyrical prose and fairytale elements reminded me a great deal of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. And just like that book, I enjoyed the writing, the world building and stories within stories, but I was never confident of maintaining a full and clear picture of what was actually happening at any given time.

Presented with an exquisite cover design and french flaps, Flyaway is a gothic Australian fairytale that might just penetrate the pages into your subconscious.

After letting this book settle in my mind, I realised I feel the same way about this as I do The Starless Sea. I loved it but there were definitely elements of reader confusion and matters unresolved. For instance, I wanted to learn more about Bettina's mother and her own transformation during the intervening years.

Nevertheless, Flyaway is a smashing literary debut by Kathleen Jennings and I'm sure awards will follow.

Carpe Librum!
My Rating:

11 August 2020

Winner of The Sister's Gift by Barbara Hannay announced

The Sister's Gift by Barbara Hannay book cover
This might be the most popular giveaway on Carpe Librum ever! It would seem more readers than ever were keen to enter this bookish giveaway for the chance to win a copy of The Sister's Gift by Barbara Hannay and escape the pandemic for a while. I'm in Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, so I hear you.

The answer to the giveaway question was Freya & Pearl, however some of you fell for my misdirection and chose Ginny & Hermoine. While they're both excellent characters from the Harry Potter series, I had to discount those 13 entries.

The giveaway closed at midnight on Sunday and the winner was drawn today. Drum roll!


You've won a print copy of The Sister's Gift by Barbara Hannay valued at $32.99AUD. You'll receive an email from me shortly with the details and Penguin Random House Australia will send out your prize directly.

Enjoy and stay tuned for more giveaways coming soon.

Carpe Librum!

09 August 2020

Review: Find Your Light by Belinda Davidson

Find Your Light by Belinda Davidson book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan *

Australian Belinda Davidson is a psychic, an empath, and a medium and has been working as a professional intuitive and spiritual coach and mentor for more than 20 years. In Find Your Light, Belinda takes us through the discovery of her psychic gift and the traumatic years through which she tried to find her way.

She eventually began working with people and delving into their past lives as a way to heal the problems they were experiencing in this one (health, relationships, money etc) but soon her work began to focus on chakra healing.

When I first learned about Belinda Davidson's work as a professional medical intuitive working with doctors and medical practitioners, my first thought was that I desperately wanted to make an appointment with her. I've been struggling with a chronic pain condition for years now and wanted to know if she could help me. It was a bitter blow to learn Belinda no longer does individual readings and sessions and instead her career has evolved to encompass teaching others to do the same type of work.

In the second half of her book, Belinda guides the reader through the basics of chakra healing and wellbeing and describes how she has used her ability as a medical intuitive to help people heal their bodies with chakra healing.

Until now, I've only had a very basic awareness of chakras, but for some reason I've never been interested enough to find out more about them. Find Your Light is the perfect book for newbies (like me) and I read Belinda's patient stories with a keen interest. However, given her ability as a ghost whisperer to communicate with people who are stuck or trapped on the earth plane (Page 276) I found myself wanting to learn more about this. And in particular, why Belinda decided not to work in this area. This felt like a missing piece of the story and the only reason this book didn't earn a full 5 stars from me.

Since finishing the book a week and a half ago, I've been doing a chakra cleansing meditation every night. I now know the seven chakras and their associated colours and plan to continue the meditation process. I haven't noticed any changes in my body yet, but if I stop now, I'll never know for sure.

Find Your Light is a memoir, spiritual journey and self-help book combined and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Skeptics can skip this one, but those with an interest in exploring the energy centres of the body and one woman's psychic ability to heal others will find this an absorbing read.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:

P.S. For more book reviews about psychics and mediums*, see below: 
- Walking in Light by Kelvin Cruickshank
- We Are Their Heaven by Allison DuBois
- Secrets of the Monarch by Allison DuBois
- Never Alone by Debbie Malone
- Always With You by Debbie Malone
- Clues From Beyond by Debbie Malone
- Sensing Murder by Nicola McLoy
- Life Among the Dead by Lisa Williams
- The Survival of the Soul by Lisa Williams
- When Ghosts Speak by Mary Ann Winkowski
* I've also read books by authors Sylvia Browne, John Edward and James Van Praagh, however that was before I started writing reviews.

06 August 2020

Review: You Don't Know Me by Sara Foster

You Don't Know Me by Sara Foster book cover
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

You Don't Know Me by Sara Foster is a great Australian mystery thriller. Alice and Noah each have a troubled past but when they meet in Thailand, they seem to have an instant connection and a whirlwind romance ensues. Alice is escaping her dark past back home in Australia by teaching English in Bangkok. Noah is on a short holiday enjoying a brief respite from the family restaurant and the upcoming inquest into the disappearance of his older brother's girlfriend Lizzie years earlier.

With two mysteries to be solved, I was keen to learn Noah's and Alice's backstories in equal measure. Thankfully only a little time is spent on the budding romance between the two characters before events in their lives drag them back to the harsh reality and the pressures they've been avoiding.

As the inquest begins, the reader is left to speculate on what happened to Lizzie. Long held secrets are slowly revealed by all characters and the tension steadily builds towards a dramatic ending with an unexpected conclusion.

I enjoyed the dual settings in Thailand and the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney in addition to the relatability of the characters. Lizzie's fate came as a complete surprise and I certainly didn't see it coming. Highly recommended.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:

P.S. Feel free to check out my review of All That Is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster.

04 August 2020

Giveaway for The Sister's Gift by Barbara Hannay

The Sister's Gift by Barbara Hannay book cover
Published 4 August 2020 
Penguin Random House
Australia RRP $32.99AUD
To celebrate today's publication of The Sister's Gift by Barbara Hannay, I'm running a giveaway thanks to Penguin Random House Australia. Enter below for your chance to WIN a print copy of this family drama valued at $32.99AUD. Entries close midnight Sunday 9 August, good luck!


Two sisters, one baby and the best of intentions...

As a vibrant young woman with a lifetime of possibilities ahead of her, Freya grants her sister, Pearl, the ultimate gift of motherhood. But this comes at a hefty price – an unexpected rift in her family and the loss of the man she loves.

Decades later, Freya is divorced, childless and homeless, at rock bottom after losing everything she's worked for. When her estranged niece, Billie, offers sanctuary, managing the family restaurant on beautiful Magnetic Island, Freya can hardly refuse.

Billie has never understood the tension between her mother and her aunt and now, with a newly broken heart, she is nursing a family secret of her own. All three women come together under the tropical Queensland skies, but can they let go of past regrets, or will old tensions tear them further apart?

By an award-winning, bestselling author, this is a moving and inspiring novel set in a stunning location about choices and consequences and the redemptive power of love.


This giveaway has now closed and the winner has been announced.

Carpe Librum!