31 December 2022

Review: Collecting Cooper by Paul Cleave

Collecting Cooper by Paul Cleave book cover

Paul Cleave is a bestselling kiwi author from New Zealand and Collecting Cooper is my first time reading any of his books. In 2012, Paul Cleave hit my radar and at the time, the blurb for Collecting Cooper was the most enticing of his books so I added it to my TBR. I then purchased a copy in July 2018 and I don't know why I waited 4 more years to read it, but if you're a book lover you can probably relate.

Published in 2011, I was told by a fellow reader that Collecting Cooper can be read as a standalone, but on reflection, I think it would have been better to begin at the start of the Theodore Tate series, which at the time of writing, is now at 4 books.

Collecting Cooper is a crime novel set in Christchurch New Zealand with the lot: a mental institution, Psychology Professor, disgraced cop and overlapping plot lines that eventually come together in a clever piece of writing. Cleave has a direct and cutting writing style and here's a taste from early on in the novel.

In this scene, a character is reflecting on the fact that he doesn't have a driver's licence and if he attempted to sit the test he'd totally freak out.
"He knows he'd only manage a few hundred meters before throwing up all over himself. No, he doesn't need a license as long as nobody ever pulls him over, and there's no reason anybody should. He's a careful driver, and the body in the trunk isn't making any noise." Page 27
Collecting Cooper is a dark read, and there were quite a few references to the first book which I really should have read before reaching for this one. This no doubt detracted from my overall enjoyment level, but was entirely my own doing.

Collecting Cooper by Paul Cleave will appeal to readers of Stuart MacBride and Jack Heath and those who enjoy crime novels set across the ditch in New Zealand.

My Rating:

30 December 2022

Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2022 Completed

This is my 11th year participating in the Aussie Author Reading Challenge hosted by Jo from Booklover Book Reviews and I'm proud to say I successfully completed the 2022 challenge. 

I was completing the Kangaroo level of the challenge and needed to read and review 12 books by Australian authors, of which at least 4 were female, 4 were male, 4 were new-to-me authors and a minimum of 3 genres were covered.

Here's what I read for the challenge:
2022 Aussie Author Reading Challenge logo
1. The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
2. Vanished by James Delargy
3. Adrift in Melbourne by Robyn Annear
4. The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater
5. Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson
6. The Attack by Catherine Jinks
7. The Tens by Vanessa Jones
8. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
9. What Makes Us Tick by Hugh Mackay
10. CSI Told You Lies by Meshel Laurie
11. Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie
12. Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

Here are the additional books I read for the challenge:
13. Characters - Cultural Stories Revealed Through Typography by Stephen Banham
14. Missing, Presumed Dead by Mark Tedeschi QC
15. The Crimson Thread by Kate Forsyth
16. Once Upon A Camino by Matthew S. Wilson
17. Westography by Warren Kirk
18. The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt
19. Hydra by Adriane Howell
20. Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
21. A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird
22. Runt by Craig Silvey
23. The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland
24. Old Vintage Melbourne 1960 - 1990 by Chris Macheras
25. Limberlost by Robbie Arnott
26. The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher
27. Headcase by Jack Heath

I read 27 books by Australian authors in 2022, and next year I'm planning to participate in the challenge again. I'll be kicking it off by reading Copywrong to Copywriter by Tait Ischia and The Death of John Lacey by Ben Hobson first. Who else is joining in?

17 December 2022

Review: Dark Skies by Lonely Planet

I've always loved stargazing, and Dark Skies - A Practical Guide to Astrotourism by Valerie Stimac and Lonely Planet was given to me by my husband for Christmas in 2020. Given some of the celestial events have dates attached (lunar and solar eclipses for example), I thought I'd better read this before another Christmas passes me by and it's still on the shelf.

Dark Skies is very much a Lonely Planet guide to astrotourism; a new term for me.
Dark Skies - A Practical Guide to Astrotourism by Valerie Stimac and Lonely Planet book cover

It's broken down into the following chapters:
Dark Places
Astronomy in Action
Meteor Showers
Space Tourism

I was most interested in the Dark Places, Meteor Showers and Eclipses chapters, but they're all very interesting and comprehensive given what's on offer.

Another new-to-me word is archaeoastronomy and I enjoyed learning about it in the chapter on Dark Places:
"Archaeoastronomy, the so-called 'science of stars and stones,' is the interdisciplinary study of how ancient cultures used the night sky as part of culture and society - including in construction. Sites like Stonehenge in England and Chichen Itza in Mexico are among the locations of interest to archaeoastronomers, since they seem to be aligned with celestial events such as equinoxes and solstices. Archaeoastronomers use material remains to examine how ancient cultures related to phenomena in the sky." Page 95
What a fascinating area of science!

It was also interesting to read that the next total solar eclipse visible from Australia and New Zealand takes place on 22 July 2028, with Sydney being in the path of totality. The entire eclipse will take 2.5 hours and totality in Sydney will last a maximum of 3 minutes and 58 seconds. To enjoy the maximum 5 minutes and 10 seconds, enthusiasts will need to travel to rural Australia.

Light pollution - and seeking locations free of it - was a continual theme in Dark Skies, and that's to be expected. I also noticed an optimism that an increase in astrotourism will inevitably result in a greater appreciation and respect for the environment and a subsequent shift in thinking towards how we treat the planet. There's much we can do to reduce night time light pollution (for which our native habitats will be grateful), and I enjoyed that the book closed with:
"If astrotourism helps more people protect our amazing home planet, the future will be bright.... and the night skies will be dark and full of stars." Page 283
It definitely reminded me of the alternate phrase from Game of Thrones, "The night is dark and full of terrors."

Dark Skies very much feels like a Lonely Planet guide, and while I've only read two (Kenya and Hawaii) this was a familiar format. As in those two books, you need to break up the reading of a Lonely Planet guide within your regular reading schedule. Some of the content is dry and after a while, the consistent format can become repetitive and dull. Thankfully some amazing photographs remind the reader of the power and wonder of the night sky and the universe beyond.

Dark Skies is a valuable resource that will quickly date; as with all Lonely Planet books.

My Rating:

15 December 2022

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Completed

I read 25 non fiction books in 2022 and it was the third year in a row participating in the Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge is hosted by fellow Aussie book blogger Shelleyrae at Book'd Out and I successfully completed the Nonfiction Nibbler level of the challenge this year by reading and reviewing at least 6 books.

Here's what I read, and you can follow the link to check out my reviews:
1. Social History (The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer)
2. Popular Science (Revelations in Air: by Jude Stewart)
3. Language 
Book'd Out 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Completed logo
4. Medical Memoir (All the Living and the Dead: A Personal Investigation Into the Death Trade by Hayley Campbell)
5. Climate/Weather
6. Celebrity (The Killer Across the Table by John E. Douglas)
7. Reference (Bibliophile by Jane Mount)
8. Geography (Adrift in Melbourne by Robyn Annear)
9. Companion to a podcast
10. Wild Animals
11. Economics
12. Published in 2022 (Missing, Presumed Dead by Mark Tedeschi QC)

While I did manage to read 25 non fiction books this year, only 7 of them qualified for the challenge as the others didn't meet the criteria for any of the remaining prompts. Some years I actively participate in Non Fiction November however I gave it a miss this year. Participating in a year long challenge holds more appeal to me and I consume non fiction all the time, not needing a specific month to motivate me.

Now to start planning for next year! Sign ups are already open for 2023 over on Book'd Out, although I prefer to sign up to all of my reading challenges in January. Will you be joining in? What was your favourite non fiction book for 2022?

Carpe Librum!

13 December 2022

Review: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker book cover

Am I putting you to sleep with the number of books and audiobooks I review on the topic of sleep? I sincerely hope not, but I might need to acknowledge that this has become a comfort topic, something that I'm always interested in, am already largely familiar with, but keep wanting to consume or re-visit from time to time. 

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker is my latest audiobook endeavour to understand more about sleep. Providing a new-to-me angle, Walker focusses on what happens within the body when we sleep, and then what happens in the body if sleep is inadequate. The short-term and long-term physical repercussions of that were made terribly clear and none of the news was good.

The reverse was also highlighted, meaning a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep over time can cause detrimental damage to vital systems and processes in the body leading to a multitude of health problems. Some of these can then add to the pressure of not getting enough sleep or inability to sleep, creating an unhealthy spiral that is difficult to escape.

I believe this quote from the author in Chapter 7 encompasses the main thrust of this book:
"No facet of the human body is spared the crippling noxious harm of sleep loss." Chapter 7
Familiar topics including: school start times, concentration levels and workplace culture that values early starters and late finishers were all explored. However, as I was listening to the audiobook, the author's frequent reference to a PDF that I didn't have access to was frustrating and significantly detracted from the content.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker was an interesting book on the road to sleep but I don't think I've reached saturation point on the topic, so stay tuned for more in the new year. Three titles at the top of the pile are Sleep in Early Modern England by Sasha Handley, When Brains Dream by Antonio Zadra and Hello Sleep: The Science and Art of Overcoming Insomnia Without Medications by Jade Wu. 

Have you read any of these or have any recommendations?

Sweet Dreams!

My Rating:

07 December 2022

Review: Headcase by Jack Heath

Headcase by Jack Heath book cover

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

My favourite fictional cannibal Timothy Blake is back in the fourth instalment of the Blake series that began with Hangman, and continued on with Hunter (and my inclusion in the praise section) and Hideout. The latest is aptly titled Headcase and if you were concerned the talented Aussie author from Canberra might have lost his penchant for kick arse female characters, clever plots, skilful subterfuge, electrifying tension or tantalising riddles during the pandemic, you needn't have worried.

Headcase is a crime thriller with a refreshing difference. If you're a fan of the series, then this will deliver on all your bloody hopes and nightmarish expectations, but my advice is not to read the blurb. There's mention of an astronaut which initially made me roll my eyes as I'm not a fan of cartoonish hijinks when a character suddenly finds themselves in a thematically dissonant or cringeworthy situation. Fortunately the astronaut angle is free from cringe, and Blake has teamed up with a CIA handler by the name of Zara who is a force to be reckoned with, but certainly no replacement for Agent Thistle. Blake finds himself in therapy (hence the Headcase reference), yet he remains a charismatic anti-hero with no clear boundaries in terms of character motivation or development.

Fans will find a satisfying update since the events of Hideout (published in December 2020), and it was hard not to notice that since then, Heath seems to have continued honing his craft with the release of standalone crime novel Kill Your Brother in January this year, and is clearly in no danger of delivering a dud or running out of ways to make us gasp out loud.

In a recent review, I lamented that I might be reaching saturation point with regard to the number of emerging and existing Aussie crime authors, but Jack Heath is a clear exception to this - and any - rule. I also appreciated seeing praise from fellow Australian author Benjamin Stevenson as his book Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is a brilliant whodunnit which breaks the fourth wall and sits on the pile of potentials for my Top 5 Books of 2022 list.

Headcase by Jack Heath is an entertaining and finely crafted bloody mess recommended for fans of the series and crime thrillers more generally. As the year draws to a close and I begin to look back and assess my favourite reads of the year, it's hard not to consider Headcase for one of the prestigious five spots.

Highly recommended and you can read the first 22 pages of Headcase for FREE in this extract.

My Rating: