24 February 2022

Review: The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer audiobook cover

It's been 11 years since I read and enjoyed The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. At the time I found it illuminating, fascinating, shocking and at times even funny, and I'm surprised it's taken me so long to pick up another in the series.

That's the way of readers though isn't it? There's so many back catalogue books to catch up on, that before you know it, a decade has passed before you pick up another one.

Nevertheless, The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer was another five star reading experience and met all my hopes and expectations. It took me two months to get through the 18 hour audiobook, but the narration was terrific and it's easy to listen to non fiction like this in short bursts.

Once again, the author takes the reader's hand and shows them around Elizabethan England, pointing out the different places to stay, what you might earn, what to wear, and what to eat.

I loved the general etiquette rules from Chapter 19. Mortimer draws on several references, but the following rules were from The Boke of Nurture, or Schoole of Good Maners; For Men, Servants, and Children by Hugh Rhodes published in 1577.
On manners and politeness:
Don't tell secrets to strangers
Don't correct the faults in others that you commit yourself
Rebuke men only when alone with them
Don't boast
Don't laugh at your own jokes

At table:
Don't belch in another man's face
Keep your knife bright
Don't spit across the table
Don't blow crumbs or spit on the floor near you
Don't throw bones under the table
I just loved these! It's fascinating to learn that in 450 years, some things have changed while others are timeless. The combination of content and the narrator Mike Grady's delivery of the rules was very entertaining, and I just stepped away from this review to listen to them all again for sheer pleasure. I'll leave you with one more quote:
"It is customary to take your hat off when someone urinates or defecates in your company." Chapter 19
According to the author, 'noisome smells and noxious fumes are common in Elizabethan England' and the section on sanitation in Chapter 34 was engrossing (pun intended) and amusing.

The introduction of tobacco, smoking and pipes was mentioned, and this observation from the time made me laugh:
"Smoking makes your breath stink like the piss of a fox." Chapter 40
Finishing The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England means I'm now halfway through this non fiction series, and still have the following books to look forward to:
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain
These two eras don't interest me as much as Elizabethan England and Medieval England did, but I'm sure they'll be informative and entertaining reads just the same. I've just added them to my TBR, but how long will it be until I get to one of them?

My Rating:

22 February 2022

Spotlight: Look - It's Your Book! by Anna Featherstone

Today I'm celebrating the release of Look - It's Your Book! by Anna Featherstone. This is a special day in the Carpe Librum calendar, not just because it's 22/2/22, but because I contributed content for this book!! That's right, I'm in this book! 

In 2018 I hosted a giveaway for Honey Farm Dreaming by Anna and we really enjoyed the collaboration. In March 2021, Anna asked if she could interview me for her how-to book for Australian non-fiction authors who are planning to self publish. Answering all sorts of questions about what a book blogger does, tips for authors asking for reviews and more, this was a terrific project to be part of.

I've been mentioned in a few Acknowledgement sections of books now as well as had my praise published in the front - and back - of fiction and non-fiction books, but until now, I've never been listed in an index. There's nothing better than a bookish first, and now Allen, Tracey is an index item, how cool is that?

All vanity aside, I hope you can forgive my excitement about this and I'm confident Look - It's Your Book! by Anna Featherstone is going to be a valuable resource for budding and aspiring Australian writers.

About the book

Look - It's Your Book! by Anna Featherstone is the most comprehensive book on self publishing for Australian writers and will put you in control of your writing and publishing journey.

Whether you plan to write a non-fiction business, lifestyle, self-help book or memoir,
Look - It's Your Book! is the ultimate guide to writing and self-publishing non-fiction. Read it and move beyond your fears. Want to be an author? Read it and be empowered to transform your ideas, knowledge and passion into a book you can be proud of!

This comprehensive book will show you how to take your non-fiction book from concept to shelf. From planning to PR, proofreading to publishing,
Look - It's Your Book! by Anna Featherstone book cover

Look – It’s Your Book! cuts through all the hype and explains the ins and outs of publishing. Reading it will help you produce a book (paperback, ebook, audiobook) to be proud of … and to profit from.

Learn how to: discover, plan, research, write, edit, format, publish, promote, and profit from your unique content. This book's step-by-step approach will help you discover the importance - and power - of the 'self' in self-publishing. It will show you how to avoid pitfalls, conquer challenges and set yourself and your book up for success.

A highlight of this book are the interviews with successful Australian self-published authors including Kim McCosker of
4 Ingredients fame who has sold more than 9 million copies of her books, best-selling business author turned self-publisher Andrew Griffiths and publishing insiders including editors, book designers, book coaches, proofreaders, librarians, indexers and more.

Get over your fears, get your book finished and get it into the hands of your ideal readers.

Upcoming Giveaway

I hope you'll join me in celebrating today's launch and stay tuned for an opportunity to win a copy of Look- It's Your Book! by Anna Featherstone here very soon. For more about the book, or to order your own copy, visit www.annafeatherstone.com 

Carpe Librum!

21 February 2022

Winners of The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy Announced

Thanks to all of the readers who entered my giveaway last week to win one of three print copies of The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy with their answer of: Monster? Murderer? Child? Victim?

The giveaway closed at midnight last night with 72 entries, and the winners were drawn today. Congratulations to our three winners:

Marnie, Jools and Denise Beanland!!

Congratulations! You've each won a copy of The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy valued at $32.99AUD thanks to Simon & Schuster. You'll each receive an email from me shortly with the details of your win, so hope you enjoy.

Carpe Librum!
Giveaway promo image by Carpe Librum for The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy
18 February 2022

Giveaway: The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *


I'm excited to share my first giveaway for 2022 today, with 3 print copies (valued at $32.99AUD each) of The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy up for grabs thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia. The giveaway is open to AUS and NZ entries only and entries close midnight on Sunday 20 February 2022. Enter below and good luck!
Carpe Librum Giveaway for The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy


Michelle Cameron’s name is associated with the most abhorrent of crimes. A child who lured a younger child away from her parents and to her death, she is known as the black girl who murdered a little white girl; evil incarnate according to the media. As the book opens, she has done her time, and has been released as a young woman with a new identity to start her life again.
The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy book cover

When another shocking death occurs, Michelle is the first in the frame. Brought into the police station to answer questions around a suspicious death, it is only a matter of time until the press find out who she is now and where she lives and set about destroying her all over again.

Natalie Tyler is the officer brought in to investigate the murder. A black detective constable, she has been ostracised from her family and often feels she is in the wrong job. But when she meets Michelle, she feels a complicated need to protect her, whatever she might have done.

The Gosling Girl is a moving, powerful account of systemic, institutional and internalised racism, and of how the marginalised fight back. It delves into the psychological after-effects of a crime committed in childhood, exploring intersections between race and class as Michelle's story is co-opted and controlled by those around her. Jacqueline writes with a cool restraint and The Gosling Girl is a raw and powerful novel that will stay with the reader long after they have turned the last page.


This giveaway has now closed.

16 February 2022

Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Verity by Colleen Hoover book cover

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Colleen Hoover is the bestselling author of more than 20 books, but would you believe this is my first? Verity by Colleen Hoover is a standalone thriller and Verity of the title is a successful author of a series of books. After a terrible accident leaves her unable to complete the series, her publisher is on the hunt for a writer to collaborate with Verity. Lowen is hired to ghost write the last 3 books and she stays with the family to go through Verity's office and work materials, in preparation to write the remaining books.

Lowen is a struggling writer and this is an opportunity of a lifetime but after discovering a secret autobiography, she starts to sense a feeling of unease in the house. Excerpts from the autobiography are dispersed throughout the novel and they were thrilling and exciting to read.

Here's the intro to the autobiography (or book within the book):
"The thing I abhor most about autobiographies are the counterfeit thoughts draped over every sentence. A writer should never have the audacity to write about themselves unless they're willing to separate every layer of protection between the author's soul and their book. The words should come directly from the center of the gut, tearing through flesh and bone as they break free. Ugly and honest and bloody and a little bit terrifying, but completely exposed. An autobiography encouraging the reader to like the author is not a true autobiography. No one is likable from the inside out. One should only walk away from an autobiography with, at best, an uncomfortable distaste for its author. I will deliver." Page 61
If that doesn't make you want to read on, I don't know what will.

My only reason for holding back on a fifth star was the twist at the end. It was dramatic and impactful, but the letter at the end was overkill. The letter was repetitive while drumming into us the big reveal to make sure every single reader understood the development. It was just too heavy handed and somewhat jarring after such a tightly composed thriller.

Verity is an engaging psychological thriller and I found myself thinking about the characters throughout the day. It's also wonderfully creepy and incredibly sexy with some steamy scenes that keep the pages flying. 

If you enjoyed The Girl On The Page by John Purcell or The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz, then this is for you!

My Rating:

11 February 2022

Review: Bibliophile - An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

Bibliophile - An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount book cover

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany
by Jane Mount is exactly what it sounds like, a collection of miscellaneous book related information illustrated in Jane Mount's distinctive style. I was expecting this to be a coffee table book to flip through and enjoy and was pleasantly surprised to find so much more.

Containing artwork of Beloved Bookstores and some great Recommendations from Bookish People, there were genre related chapters that included a stack of books in the author's iconic style alongside an illustrated explanation of the genre and some noteworthy inclusions. There's also an additional list of titles but don't make the mistake I did when I assumed this was the list of the titles featured in the artwork. It's not! It's a separate and additional list of books to study and explore.

You're bound to be adding books to your TBR when you're reading this and I can't help but wonder how the author put the book together. Is each book spine a separate artwork, enabling the author to arrange her images in order to build her book stacks? Or is each pile of books one singular and complete artwork? If anyone knows or wants to speculate, leave me a message in the comments below. Back to the book!

The aptly titled Bibliophile (a person who has a great love of books), also includes some one off chapters celebrating groups of books with topic lists like the following:
  • Famous Writing Rooms
  • Iconic Covers
  • Beautiful Contemporary Covers
  • Songs about Books
  • Books Made into Great Movies
  • World-Changing Book People
  • Little Free Libraries
  • Picture Books for Grown-Ups
Intrigued to know what's in the lists? You'll have to read the book to find out. I was surprised to have read so many books from the Cult Classics mentioned (what does that say about me?) and enjoyed the variety of bookish miscellany on offer here.

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount is a light and easy read and would make a great gift for book lovers with a variety of reading tastes and interests. I borrowed mine from the library, so my copy is going to be enjoyed by another book lover very soon. Should I slip them a note?
My Rating:

07 February 2022

Review: The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman book cover

On 20 January 2021, I was incredibly moved by Amanda Gorman's address at President Biden's Inauguration. Gorman was the youngest presidential inaugural poet in US history and she definitely made an impression on those present that reverberated around the world. Watching her deliver her poem entitled The Hill We Climb, I was excited by this young mind and my admiration for her continues to grow.

Receiving a stunning hardback copy of The Hill We Climb for Christmas, I made sure to read this exactly a year to the day of the Inauguration event and was still moved by her words. They're just as relevant now as they were then and I doubt her message will ever date. Reading it every other day since then, (it's only 27 pages long), I decided to read her words while watching the video footage from that auspicious day in preparation for this review.

Gorman eloquently delivers a message of promise and hope, and in doing so, she has given every American a vision to aspire to:
"Because being American is more than a pride we inherit -
It's the past we step into, and how we repair it." Page 17
The Hill We Climb is inspiring to read, and watching Gorman's gestures, cadence, rhythm and delivery style elevates the experience to a whole new level.

If you haven't heard, watched or read The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman, I heartily recommend you do. It'll be the best 6 mins or 27 pages you'll ever experience. In the meantime, I'll leave you with my favourite section of the poem:
"In this truth, in this faith, we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
History has its eyes on us." Page 19

My Rating:

03 February 2022

Review: Adrift in Melbourne by Robyn Annear

Adrift in Melbourne by Robyn Annear book cover
* Copy courtesy of Text Publishing *

I'm a proud resident of Melbourne and live close to the CBD where I've witnessed extraordinary changes to the city over the years. I've seen the tallest building in Melbourne erected from a dusty carpark, and then seen the title of Melbourne's tallest building Eureka eclipsed. I've witnessed the opening of Federation Square, the beginning of the metro tunnel, the establishment of new galleries and more. The city of Melbourne is continually evolving and I'm certain we're going to continue seeing further change and development in the future.

Having enjoyed Old Vintage Melbourne by Chris Macheras so much last year, the chance to explore the city further with Robyn Annear was too tempting an opportunity to pass up.

In Adrift in Melbourne - Seven Walks with Robyn Annear, the author guides us through the city of Melbourne and the reader can recreate the tours on the ground or experience them via Google Maps or from the comfort of home. I chose the armchair traveller option but had to keep my device handy as I was constantly looking up images of buildings still present and those lost to the bulldozers of time and progress.

Annear's sense of humour and personal touch accompanies us on every tour and while largely focussed on the history of buildings and locations, here's a funny story from the intersection of Franklin and William streets:
"During a lull in traffic one weekday morning in 1952, a large grey shag landed in the middle of this intersection and disgorged two live fish. A city-bound cyclist, without even dismounting, scooped up both fish and kept riding." Page 255
Can you imagine your astonishment on seeing this today? I imagine it would have been exactly the same for those pedestrians 70 years ago. What a hoot!

Reading Adrift in Melbourne, I was continually learning and marvelling, did you know:
"By the 1930s, Flinders Street Station was the busiest in the world, swallowing and disgorging more than twice as many passengers weekly as Grand Central station in New York." Page 40
I've just started researching Docklands and re-acquainting myself with the well established suburb it is today, and laughed when I read this:
"Take a tram west... and you'll arrive at the intersection of Collins and Bourke streets. Talk about a mind-fuck. Welcome to Docklands." Page 74
Indeed! The meeting of two parallel streets is a complete mind-fuck and Annear couldn't have said it better.

Phrases and sayings snuck into the book occasionally and they were always entertaining. How's this one:
'Latrobe had a smile that might ripen a banana'. Meaning, presumably, that it was radiant like the tropical sun. Page 159-160
What a classic description! I had no idea that 448 Queen Street was once home to Holt's Melbourne Matrimonial Agency, or that thousands of residents would mill around the GPO when a 'flag raised over the clock tower signalled the arrival of a mail ship from England.' Anyone wanting to collect or post a letter had to queue at the GPO for hours, with observations of staff being knee deep in mail. I can't imagine it, can you?

In 1850:
"Something like two hundred thousand letters and three hundred thousand newspapers passed through the Melbourne post office, and within three years, those numbers would increase ten-fold." Page 192
The process for the cleaning of straw bonnets was absolutely remarkable, and I was exhausted just reading about the detailed process that took days to complete on page 146. I just dearly wished the book included some photographs of the sites mentioned. I constantly had to set the book aside and dive into Google in order to bring up images of the buildings and sites mentioned.

The author's love of history is evident and even her casual reference to the veranda blitz of 1954 opened my eyes to periods in our history where heritage features weren't valued and instead residents preferred the new to the old. 

I think Annear sums it up best at the end of her guided tours, when she writes:
"Surely the best argument for keeping old buildings in a modern city is one of scale, human scale. That, and the sense they convey of someone having been here before us. I'm not talking about memory: memory can outlive brick and stone. But the solid presence of old places, made and kept at human scale, gives a city and its inhabitants their bearings across time. Lose that and your city's a machine." Page 260-261
Adrift in Melbourne by Robyn Annear is highly recommended for history lovers, non fiction readers and those with even a passing interest in Australian history and the evolution of Melbourne, Victoria.

My Rating: