Book review: Gen F’d?, Alison Pennington

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Writing and Publishing

‘Clearly explained in layman’s terms, and backed with solid research, Gen F’d? exposes several nasty habits of neoliberalism…’ Photo: Supplied.

Alison Pennington’s concise examination of Australia’s dysfunctional economy does not intend to provoke rage as much as it attempts to incite positive change. However, this book functions as a means to both ends in its deconstruction of problems, and selection of potential solutions.

Pennington – who is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at La Trobe University – is an economist, writer and media commentator who has researched inequality. She recognises that the Australian concept of the ‘fair go’ has given way to insecure gig-work, overcrowded share houses and a punitive social welfare system that isn’t fit for purpose. There are few opportunities for genuine advancement for the majority of Australians in the world as it stands today.

From corporations exploiting cheap labour to the false promises of the free market, Pennington reveals the impact of neoliberal treachery on gender equality, fertility rates, housing stability, mental health and Australia’s precarious future.

‘We’re ensnared in a machine stuck allocating resources in the “now” and on the “high inequality” setting. It’s not hard to see how neoliberalism’s capacity to corrode long-term thinking fails youth, who face crippling uncertainty about their future and enough years to live with the consequences. After all, young people exist in the future, when many of you won’t.’ Alison Pennington, Generation F’d ?

Clearly explained in layman’s terms, and backed with solid research, Gen F’d? exposes several nasty habits of neoliberalism, including (but not limited to) the monopolisation of credit provision, the unethical forces media and corporations exert on Australian politics, and the tendency to blame oppressed people for their imposed lack of privilege. Pennington pinpoints the true origin points of poverty, illness, violence and unemployment in the context of systematic oppression. 

She also reveals the terrible truth behind upwards wealth distribution disguised as trickle-down economics, and unpacks the burden this places on Australia’s highly educated but grossly underemployed youth. 

Youth – as far as Gen F’d? is concerned – includes anyone born in or after the 1980s, a take that is either refreshing or depressing, depending on one’s own precarity and future outlook. But Gen F’d? isn’t solely for those particular humans facing a greenwashed future of unprecedented inflation and life-long renting; this is a book for all people. 

Pennington touches on the social realities of modern life, and speaks out against identity-based solidarity by showing how effectively the practice restricts political participation and de-emphasises actual problem solving. For example, she shows how the packaging of social class as an aspect of identity, rather than as a reinforcing tool of systemic oppression, obfuscates issues and impedes legitimate progress.  

‘Identifying every conceivable permutation of disadvantage and discrimination, and one’s valid position in relation to it, has exhausted young people. The practice has paralysed action, as people defer to privilege such that they become tiny and no longer agents. But there’s also so much to harness here. A generation of emotionally intelligent and reflective people has emerged, and they have the building blocks to turn that awareness into action.’ Alison Pennington, Generation F’d?

Building to a hopeful crescendo, Pennington cites inspiring historical examples of Australian economic agency, and provides a number of actionable suggestions – some obvious, others more novel – intended to create movements towards political change. Combining personal experience with foresight and research, Pennington underlines the importance of hope, innovation and unionisation in the context of solutions-based thinking.

Read: Book review: The Other Side , Jennifer Higgie

Gen F’d? – the fifth book in the Crikey Read series from Crikey and Hardie Grant Books – provides a compact but informative analysis of economic mechanisms, social change and individual agency. Although Gen F’d? will resonate with Australians of all ages, it will be a particularly illuminating read for Australian youth, who possess the collective potential to escape the neoliberal capitalist quagmire by revolutionising Australia’s economy. 

Gen F’d? By Alison Pennington Publisher: Hardie Grant Books ISBN: 9781743799215 Format: Paperback Pages: 144 pp Release Date: 8 March 2023 RRP: $24.99

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Nanci Nott is an Australian writer who believes in dismantling traditional pedagogy in parenting and education, for the purpose of raising freethinking, compassionate, world-changers.

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the library door

Beyond the door you'll find a world of book reviews., the verdict is a resounding yes, for an intriguing and bang upto date thriller.

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If you are easily offended, then don’t be. The title of this months second book review Bastard Verdict by James McCrone and self published in April 2023. Refers to an usual aspect of the Scottish legal system, where the jury can deliver one of three verdicts: guilty; not guilty; or not proven. This is something I’d not come across before, but a brief internet search brought up an excellent piece on the History Workshop website by Valerie Wallace and Tommy Boyd ( ) . Not proven is given when the jury feels it cannot find the defendant guilty or innocent based on the evidence proffered. The not proven verdict is seen as an acquittal in the same way as not guilty, This change began in the 17 th century when juries were able to return ‘special’ verdicts on whether factual evidence had been proven or not and refer the verdict to the judge to decide. Now the term is taken to mean that there was a failure to prove guilt rather than facts. The Phrase ‘Bastard verdict’ was first used by Walter Scott in relation to the murder case against Madaleine Smith, who was accused of poisoning her lover. However, despite widespread public opinion of her guilt, the jury felt that the evidence was mainly circumstantial and returned a verdict of not proven.

James McCrone’s book is bang up to date in the post Brexit era. A second referendum into Scottish Independence looms and elections specialist Imogen Trader is asked to look into the 2014 referendum. She uncovers a trail of criminal self-dealing, cover-ups, and murder. None but a very few know the truth. And those few need it to stay hidden at all costs.

This is the third book featuring FBI agent Imogen Trader, but the first I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Initially I found the book to be quite dense with a host of characters being introduced the story as well as detailed facts and figures regarding the politics and logistics of running the first referendum. Personally, I found it a little dry but then realised that the background information was necessary for understanding the complexities of the plot and keeping up with the twists and turns later on. I’m sure the plot and the information would be a conspiracy theorists dream.

Imogen Trader is an interesting and well drawn heroine, and while her past was referenced where is affected her current decisions and actions, this book worked well as a standalone novel. Generally, the characters were all believable and you got a real sense of menace from the ‘bad ‘guys. My favourite character was Alan Wilson, the engaging criminal with gang links. I felt I’d enjoy reading another novel based on his exploits.

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This is American author James McCrone’s fourth book ( ), the others are Faithless Elector ( 2016 ), Dark Network ( 2017), and Emergency Powers ( 2020). His short stories have appeared Rock and a Hard Place; Retreats From Oblivion, and an anthology of short stories Low Down Dirty Vote, Vol.2 & 3. He lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and kids.

This novel reminded me of books I’ve read by Dan Browne and Robbert Goddard. Similarly, these have individuals embroiled in shady dealings with criminal and other organisations, whilst trying to save the day (or the world). In these books too, the heroine is always beautiful and accomplished, which sometimes prompts an eyeroll. Most women, I think, prefer our heroines with few flaws. I enjoyed this book, despite the slow start. Once the story got going it was a real adrenaline rush and I couldn’t wait to see how everything worked out.

So, the verdict of this juror is definitely guilty: of creating an intriguing and topical thriller.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

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If you look out your window now or go outside and move around your neighbourhood in the next couple of days, there is one outstanding feature that you will see, but most probably take for granted… Stumped? Well, there’s around 60,000 varieties of them globally, the largest concentration of these native varieties can be found in Columbia, Indonesia, and Brazil. In Ireland the most common native tree is now the Ash, followed by the Oak, Rowan, Birch, and Willow. While in the UK, the most common types of trees are the Common Ash (European Ash), the Aspen, Silver Birch, Sessile Oak, and the Sweet Chestnut. But as with most natural things on this planet, human habitation is influencing the trees, and so this month’s first book review looks at how trees can turn the tide and be an enormous ally in our attempt the save not only the human race, but the planet too. The book is The Power of Trees – How Ancient Forests Can Save Us If We Let Them, by Peter Wohlleben and published by Greystone Books ( ) on the 20 th April.

Trees don’t need humans, but we need trees, to survive. Despite our best effort to destroy the planet via climate change, trees will return, just as they have after ice ages, catastrophic fires, storms and deforestation. In this follow up to his Sunday Times bestseller, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter dismisses the tokenism of tree planting. Just as he compared forest trees to ‘families’ and suburban trees as ‘Street Urchins’, in this book he uses similarly powerful metaphors to equate tree planting to battery farming, while also ecstatically describing their determination to survive, and seedlings as ‘stalwart tree Children’. He also describes how trees pass on knowledge and how they survive climate change too. While lambasting governments and large corporations, who plant trees, just for logging purposes and exploitation. The Power of Trees is a heartfelt letter to the forest and a passionate argument for protecting nature’s boundless diversity, not only for the trees, but also us.

I found the book interesting, although not a cover to cover read, but more like a small coffee table read. Something you can dip in and out of over a couple of days. The descriptions of how trees have mouths in their leaves which help take in water, while their ability to read the atmosphere and adapt to drought conditions, were some of the many fascinating parts of the book. So was the story of how peas, like Pavlov’s dog, could be taught to turn to the direction of a puff of wind, when it is aimed at them in the dark, had me marvelling at mother nature, and plants in general. As I said at the start, we may take these living, breathing organisms for granted, but as Peter reveals they are far more than just slow moving oversized plants, that provide shade in the summer and can be a plaything to clamber around, in your youth.

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This is German author and forester Peter Wohlleben’s ( ) Tenth book. The others, which are aimed at young and old are, What’s Wild Outside Your Door (2023), Forest Walking – Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America (2022), The Heartbeat of Trees (2021), Do You Know Where the Animals Live? (2021), Peter and the Tree Children (2020), Can You Hear the Trees Talking (2019), The Secret Network of Nature (2017), The Inner Life of Animals (2016), The Hidden Life of Trees (2015). Peter’s books are worldwide bestsellers, he lives in Wershofen, in Germany. Where he manages an ecologically conscious forest and runs an academy for education and advocacy.

After reading this book and looking over its predecessors, I realised what I was reading was the work of Germany’s answer to Sir David Attenborough. Although, being interested in plants, trees, and botany, he’s more like David Bellamy. These books are a fascinating read and if you’ve previously read Bryson’s A Walk in The Woods, then maybe read Wohlleben’s Forest Walking. I’ll definitely be looking to give his books for younger readers to my nephews and nieces.

So, walk down to your local bookshop, even swing by on your vine or bicycle and reserve a copy. Otherwise go online and download a copy, may be even listen to them on audio, while out walking in your neighbourhood. Then prepare to discover the delights of trees and nature with this enlightening and amazing author.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

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What did you achieve during Lockdown? Most of us spent the year or so prevaricating and putting off useful projects, while we ate vast quantities of banana bread and binged on Netflix. Not so Richard Townsend, the author of this months first book review, who took the opportunity to weave together nearly half a century of observations gathered as an Englishman who married into an eccentric family in a left-behind corner of Spain and create his first novel, Spanish Practices published by Chiselbury Publishing ( ) in November 2022.

The book is a kind of what we would describe in an English setting as an ‘aga drama’ We meet a large number of the family, including Rico’s (as Richard is called) in laws and wider circle of cousins, friends, and neighbours. We follow the fortunes and misfortunes of the family winery, plus the romantic and personal histories of the large cast of characters. Initially an outsider, Rico is drawn ever deeper into the family mire, as well as facing with his wife, Marina, his own fraught relationships with neighbours, local planning laws and the busy body ‘Authorities’

The story of Richard’s house purchase and ongoing renovations, with the obstructions, costs and frustrations in abundance, is told with humour. Recently I was watching ‘Cheap European Homes’ where an Irish TV crew take potential buyers around tumble down properties in Spain, Portugal and France, with a view to moving there, that and the contents of this novel would make me wary of attempting to deal with planning applications, builders and potential neighbourly disputes for sure!

I was also by Richard’s comments about the Spanish and walking for pleasure, when he tries to hike with his English visitor, about a walking holiday in Spain I went on many years ago. Our hosts were Geordies who had relocated to Spain and set up a walking and cookery holiday business, which is a story in itself. For example, they’d learned Spanish, but the wrong Spanish for their new home area. Everyone thought they were crazy turning a ruin into an hotel in the mountains. They told us the locals couldn’t get their heads around hiking, ‘but why when you can drive?!’ However with a steady stream of foreign tourists hiking, doing photography courses and learning to cook authentic and locally sourced Spanish food, the place boomed.

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This is English author Richard Townsend’s debut novel. He is a linguist and historian by training, who ended up as a self-employed adviser to private companies, on their financial and other affairs. He lives with his Spanish wife and their family, dividing their time between London and Spain.

This book gives a great insight into the social history of Spain during periods of immense change, like joining the European union, the economic boom and bust, Brexit and even the start of Covid. The characters are wonderfully brought to life on the page. I expect many an Irish person will appreciate the difficulties of dealing with the ‘mammy’ who likes to be the first with the news, to manage that news where it relates to her own family, and feels her family are superior in every way obviously!

Whilst there’s no major excitements or dramatic events, this is an excellent introduction to Spanish culture and cuisine from a sympathetic observer.

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the others thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

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My geography is pretty poor. In my teens I’d have been more likely to find my way around the Shire, Mordor, Discworld or the planets of the Star wars galaxy safely than I would to find my way across Europe or Asia. It has improved a little but isn’t helped by the rezoning of borders and the renaming of countries as they achieve their independence. I think its because I always loved poring over maps I found in books of fiction, far more than an real atlas. I don’t have a great innate sense of direction either. My current pet hate is my Google Maps suggesting I go ‘north -east’ from the starting point. Hell , if I knew which direction North East was in an industrial estate in central Dublin, I wouldn’t be needing navigation guidance…

This month’s second book review blog is The Scapegoat by Michael V Solomon, published by Universe an imprint of Unicorn Publishing ( ) in February. It charts Ovid’s ( that Ovid Publius Naso to you and me) journey out of exile. And the link to my opener, is you’ve guessed it, I’d have really liked a map to peruse. Not only is it all in an area I’m unfamiliar with but most of the places are gone or renamed. Also, and here’s something I never thought I’d say, a list of characters to refer to. There is a large cast and the names are unfamiliar to me. You see, sometimes I cheat and google stuff to see historical figures or the records of historical events and journeys to flesh out what I’m reading, but as this is a work of fiction none were available.

That said, I’m sure to readers more familiar with Roman history and the works of Ovid, the cast and locations of the book would be more easily recognisable. Michael has obviously done meticulous research into the period, background history and notable figures of the time. His passion for the subject shines through. 

And don’t think that this book is a heavy historical tome or be put off by the subject matter if it’s out of your usual area of interest. I found the narrative really easy and enjoyable to read. The plot kept my attention and brought me back to read another chapter eagerly. The main characters are brought to life and are engaging. During the book the character of Ovid develops are he undergoes a physical and metaphorical journey. There is a fair amount of eye opening lewdness, interesting insights into Roman and other rituals and beliefs, plus the politics of the day. The Scapegoat of the title is a recurring theme as many of the cultures felt the sacrifice of a suitable scapegoat representing all their failures would appease the Gods and bring them success, something the cultured Romans did too in a political sense and modern cultures are still guilty of finding a scapegoat on whom to pin their ills. 

This English author Michael V. Solomon’s debut novel. Originally from Romania, his grandfather was an important political figure between the first and second world wars, and was detained by the soviet regime. After university, Solomon began his career as a Civil Engineer in Constanta – Tomis, where Ovid began his exile. After travelling throughout, Europe, America and the Middle East, he moved to London at the start of the Millennium, where he started his first drafts of Scapegoat. During the pandemic, he made final revisions.

I do feel this is more of a man’s read but was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I was particularly interested to hear about the resonations between the authors family backstory and his work connections with Constanta -Tomis, .An interesting and unusual read, the Library Door recommends you journey to your nearest bookstore or online to order a copy .

This book review is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Tours. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

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There I was at the start of the week, doing something everyone of has fallen victim to, if not daily, but weekly. Scrolling!!!! Yep, that dreaded contagion, which has caught even the most unsuspecting soul unawares. It’s social media’s equivalent of daydreaming, I wasn’t watching cute kittens or voiced-over dog videos, proclaiming how their lives are so bad… This time, I was dragged kicking and screaming down a rabbit hole of odd balls who video police stations, and police officers going about their business and claiming, they are keeping them in check and auditing them, because supposedly they pay their wages. Errr, you have to hold down a job first, thus paying tax, and how can you work full time, if you are harassing decent people whose job is hard enough already, without you shoving a mobile phone camera in their face. Anyway, it got me quite wound up, but it also reminded me of one of the short stories featured in this month’s first book review. It was about an elderly gentleman who spends his days watching the comings and goings of his street, until his curtain twitching catches up with him. The book is Watching The Wheels by Stephen Anthony Brotherton and published by The Book Guild ( ) in February.

The book is a two-hundred-page collection of short stories, which examines death, the afterlife, bullying and old age. The first two stories are both set in a nursing home and by the end of the second one, I was rather uncomfortably dwelling on my own mortality and the thoughts of being sent to one, despite being only fifty two. May be that’s midlife getting to me. Another story that resonated with me, was about a ghost hunter who is afraid of ghosts, as myself, my wife and fellow librarian, Georgina, are big into the paranormal and have been on numerous organised night vigils. It struck me that that as with any job, the day you are not filled with any trepidation doing it, is the day you should quit. One other story follows a young man, who still misses his twin, who took his own life years previously. The whole sequence of the story takes place at night, when a mysterious woman enters his bedroom and in what can really be described as a mashup of A Christmas Carol on the star ship Enterprise Holodeck, takes him to meet the brother.

This English author Stephen Anthony Brotherton’s second book , his first was Fractures, Dreams, and Second Chances (2021). He’s been a social worker for almost thirty years and currently works for the NHS. He is a member of the Bridgnorth Writers’ Group and the Shrewsbury Writers’ Lab. He grew up in the West Midlands, but now lives in Shropshire.

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Overall, this is a quick read, you could run through it in a day or dip and dip out over a weekend. The stories are all very different and engaging, they will either put a smirk on your face or ask you a poignant question. What comes across is Brotherton’s great eye for detail, as well as his ability to capture very normal situations and turn them on their heads.

Get online and order a copy or pop into your local book shop, then jump straight in, and as it states clearly on the back cover, ask yourself ‘ what would you do in their situation ?’.

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewer thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

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last year marked the centenary of the death of Michael Collins, who was assassinated on his journey from Bandon to Cork in 1922. Collins was a soldier, revolutionary and politician who was a leading figure in the battle for Irish independence. As an Englishwoman, I am sorry to say I had never heard of him until I moved to Ireland. In English schools we are never taught any Irish, Scottish or Welsh history in a kind of airbrushing of our past. I was equally surprised when I arrived to find that abortion was illegal in Ireland and in fact contraception and the morning after pill were not widely available depending on the moral stance of your GP or your access to women’s health centres.

In 1983 the 8th Amendment guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn foetus became the law so that only

where the life of the mother was in danger was abortion available. This forced those women seeking this option to travel to the UK or attend back street abortion clinics. The 8th Amendment was successfully repealed in 2018 after passionate and sometimes acrimonious campaigns for and against. Ireland now prides itself as a liberal thinking country, being the first to recognise gay marriages , although homosexuality was only made legal in 1993. These differing threads come together in our second book review of the month. Its ‘ Dolly Considine’s Hotel ‘, by Eamon Somers and published in 2019 by Unbound (

It is 1983 and the battle is being fought to stop or allow the Pro –Life constitutional amendment. Dolly Considine runs a late-night drinking establishment catering to the needs of thirsty politicians and theatricals in Dublin’s legendary Catacombs. Paddy Butler arrives here under false pretences, representing himself as someone else and using the name Julian Ryder. He’s an aspiring writer and needs a place to lie low from his bullying older brother, who is soon to return from the UK. He becomes the hotel’s new lounge boy, gathering gossip, sharing the guest’s beds and using the place as fodder for his writings. Fantasy and reality soon begin to blur.

The story moves between 1983 and the 1950’s of Dolly’s youth, weaving the stories of multiple characters into Julian’s fiction, Dolly’s secrets, party politics and the amendment debate. I struggled with the number of threads and the movement backwards and forwards through time. I found Julian/ Paddy to be not a particularly likable character, which is something I struggle with, my own failing , when I’m then required to sustain commitment to a such a long book. Fortunately, I found several of the other characters more engaging, including Dolly herself and Brendan the bully. The Chapters with Brendan’s childhood story were very poignant and I looked forward to finding out more about him. Personally I found the broad scope of this novel a little overwhelming, maybe because I am unfamiliar with any of the history and couldn’t therefore assess the authenticity of the settings and story. It reminded me a little of Ulysees and I’d expect that Joyceans would enjoy this more modern offering with its vivid mix of characters , drama and politics.

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This Irish Author Eamon Somers ( ) debut novel. He began his lifelong interest in learning about storytelling with classes at the People’s College in 1970s Dublin, before going on to study at London’s Goldsmiths and later Birkbeck College, attending summer schools at the Irish Writers’ Centre , and more joining masterclasses with admired American poet Diana Goetsch (via Paragraph Workspace in NY).

Eamon’s short stories have been published in literary magazines including Tees Valley Writer, Automatic Pilot, and Chroma . The Journal of Truth and Consequences nominated his Fear of Landing for a Pushcart Prize, and Nataí Bocht was included in Quare Fellas, a collection of LGBT+ fiction published by Basement Press in Ireland. He is currently working on revisions to his novel A Very Foolish Dream ( Working Title ) which was Highly Commended in the 2019 Novel Fair sponsored by the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin.

With St. Patricks Day only a fortnight away. This is certainly a book that would appeal to readers with an interest in the vast social changes Ireland has undergone in this period of many centenaries marking the period since the fight for independence but I felt I would have enjoyed some of the threads unravelled and perused in their own right. Opinions will of course differ and this is a book that will promote discussion amongst book groups and friends who enjoy a meaty read.


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Adrian (my fellow Librarian, and husband) and I have recently been planning a long dreamed of trip to Australia. I floated the idea of travelling around Australia in a camper van. After further consideration we came to the realisation that as neither of us are at all good with creepy crawlies, in a country where every creature is trying to kill you, we might have a bit of unexpected drama. We quickly re imagined our itinerary to involve some nice hotels.  I suggested that sometime in the future we try a camper van or RV somewhere less dangerous. How hard could it be? I wondered, to be self-sufficient and out in nature in say, Europe or Canada?  Which brings us on to this months First book review, its Adventure Caravanning With Dogs : To Hel In A Hound Cart by Jacqueline Lambert and published by Amazon in December 2022

After reading this book, I think I would find enough trials and tribulations, plus excitement, wonder and reward on my continental doorstep. In this edition of Jackie Lambert’s series on adventure caravanning with dogs she charts their journey through France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the latter parts of the COVID 19 pandemic. Jackie, her husband Mark, plus their four, yes four Cavapoos (Cavalier Poodle cross) travel in Big Blue the RV towing Kismet the caravan. 

I came to this book with interest as I enjoy travel stories.  Those I have previously read include Josie Swales Pope’s epic story of her run around the world, Rob Pope’s ( no relation) recreation of Forrest Gump’s multiple crossing of the USA on foot and a story of a bicycle journey along the Silk Road by Kate Harris. Often their authors approach such a book in different ways. Some recite facts, mileage, calorie intake etc., whilst some reflect on the history and politics of the places they visit,  others philosophise . Mostly there is a start and an expected end, even with a few diversions on the way. 

I suppose the idea of a target was what I missed in this book. However, the whole idea for Jackie and Mark is to stop, savour, and enjoy as much as possible. Unfortunately, Covid 19 thwarted their  initial plans and made this account rather like trying to find your way out of a maze and so I didn’t feel the lure of the anticipated endpoint pulling me through. Not a lot they could do about that in a pandemic! And their frustrations in this regard illustrated what many of us felt like in relation to travel without even having to worry about crossing borders and maintaining supplies whilst constantly relocating. 

This is English author Jacqueline Lambert ( ) sixth book in the Adventure Caravanning With Dogs series. The others are Year 1 – Fur Babies In France (2020), Dog On The Rhine (2019), Dogs ‘N’ Dracula (2019), It Never Rains But It Paws (2022), Pups On The Piste: A Ski Season In Italy (2020). She is a dedicated doggie travel blogger and author. Whose previously rafted, rock-climbed and backpacked around six of the seven continents. A passionate windsurfer and skier, she can fly a plane, has been bitten by a lion, and appeared as a fire eater on Japanese T.V. Now, they’re at large in a self-converted six-wheel army lorry, with Mongolia in their sights. All Jacqueline’s books have received multiple five-star reviews and Dogs ‘n’ Dracula was a finalist in the Romania Insider Awards for Best Promotion of Romania Abroad. Dog on the Rhine has been a bestseller in Amazon’s German Travel and Rhine Travel categories, and on release, Fur Babies in France outsold Bill Bryson, albeit for a very short time!

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Despite that plotless nature, I enjoyed the book for several reasons. I loved Jackie’s humour.  Her jokes, her puns, her satire on government all tickled my funny bone. I also loved the descriptions of the places they visited. Pont du Gard prompted a google search for images and I now have a hope to visit Krakow.  I didn’t know there were so many castles around Europe. I love a good castle! Often fretting about the difficulties of travelling with one dog, I now hope to do a campervan tour of Poland and France in the future with whatever pets I own at the time. Jackie made me feel like it would be both possible and fun as the book also provided practical advice. 

Now I’ve acclimatised to the jokes and occasional complaints in her books, I look forward to acquainting myself with her other books and touring more of Europe from my armchair. So, whether you’re a dog lover or a travel fan, with a sense of humour, I suggest, you let your fingers do the walking and order a copy online, then grab your fur baby’s leash and take it for a couple of long walks, while you wait for the book to arrive.

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

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I’ve always wanted to go to Mallorca, but the thought of sharing a two hour flight with a group of boozed up twenty somethings, heading for Magaluf, is not my idea of starting or ending a memorable and relaxing holiday.  Mallorca is the largest of the three Balearic Islands, and the seventh largest island in the Mediterranean of 191, ahead of it are Euboea, Crete, Corsica, Cyprus, Sardinia, and Sicily. It’s a popular holiday destination, with its main airport in Palma being one the busiest in Spain, over 14 million passengers passed through it in 2021, with figures in excess of 27 million a year before the pandemic. As for famous residents past and present, even counting part timers, there are some big names. The Irish actor Colm Meaney, famous for playing Chief O’Brien on Star Trek Next generation, is a resident. So is Jeffrey Archer, the novelist, along with Rafa Nadal, the tennis player. While Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon’s first wife and Julian’s Mother, lived there until her death in 2015.  Death and crime are what brings us to this beautiful island for our first book review of 2023, the book is Fallen Butterfly by Anna Nicholas and published by Burro Books ( ) in December 2022.

Plans for a controversial new motorway, that will cut a swathe through the unspoilt Mallorca countryside, cause political tensions to run sky high. Then the transport minister is victim of a ritualistic murder, which sends shockwaves reverberating across the island. This causes the island’s police Chief, Tolo Cabot to seek the assistance of his lover and former Barcelona detective, Isabel Flores Montserrat. The two of them along with Isabel’s pet ferret,  ‘Furo’ are thrust into a perilous race for answers. All while Isabel is also looking into the mysterious near fatal accidents befalling tourists in the mountains surrounding her village, is this the work of environmentalist or is something more sinister afoot.

This is a lovely book to start the new year off on. I like my detectives to have a bit of quirkiness about them that makes them stand out from your bog standard, trench coat wearing gumshoe, and in Isabel Flores, Anna Nicholas goes full off the books quirky, but in a great way. No other detective I know has a ferret for a sidekick (I stand to be corrected). Cats, dogs, horses… But a cute little ferret, that chunters at just the right time, is a heart-warming addition, and he’s almost the reason you’d pick up the book. My wife and co-librarian, Georgina would love this book, she recently started watching the FBI International TV series, just because of the dog in it….

Isabel also drives a canary coloured, vintage, Fiat 500. Which she affectionately calls ‘Pequinito’ – “Little One”, Morse has his red jag, Magnum his Red Ferrari. But Nicholas again adds charm and likeability to this character with the very human touch of giving her most treasured possessions, cute names… But on top of that this girl is flawed, she sucks Chup Chup lollipops like they are going out of fashion (a nod to Telly Savalas and Kojak) and has a love of wine and cream sponges. If this was real life, and set in the UK, she’d be 300 pounds and two steps away from a coronary. But, no she’s, smart, athletic, and one of the more likeable central characters I’ve happened upon in a while.

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As for the story, Anna Nicholas doesn’t shy away from the gritty, but marries the hard reality of crime investigation, with the everyday humour of rural village life. There’s a Bergerac feel about it, with a lot of English references and colloquialisms and at times having seen how successful, the likes of Murder in Paradise have been, I could see this taking off as a very good TV adaptation.

This is Mallorca resident and author Anna Nicholas’s ( ) eleventh book, her third in the Isabel Flores Mallorcan Mystery series, the others are Haunted Magpie (2020) and Devil’s Horn (2019). She has written six books on her experiences of starting a new life with her family in Mallorca, and her desire to leave the non-stop London PR Life behind, to run a cattery in the sun. They include Peacocks in Paradise (2021), Goats From a Small Island (2009), Cat On A Hot Tiled Roof (2008) and A Lizard In My Luggage (2007). She also wrote Strictly Off The Record : On The Trail of World Records with Norris McWhirter (2010), recanting her experiences working for the Guinness Book of Records. She is currently along with her friend Alison attempting to climb all the island’s 54 peaks over 1000m, before the end of 2023… (wow, I though setting myself the challenge of Climbing Croagh Patrick and Cycling from the Atlantic to the Med, along the foothills of the Pyrenees, in 2023 was challenging.)

So, if you’re now tiring of the long cold winter months and want inspiration for planning the summer holidays. then I recommend you visit your local book shop or order a copy online, along with the other two, while you’re at it. Then join Isabel, Furo, and Pequinito in their hazardous and heart-warming adventures across the Balearic isles.

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below, then if you get a copy come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

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One word dominating social and political spheres these days is Russia. Mr Putin may have thought he was the hand rocking the cradle in the invasion of Ukraine, but eleven months later, the only thing looking unsteady is his tenacious grip on power. Soon the population will tire of his foot soldiers heavy handed treatment of them. With the development of the digital age and social media, it’s hard to keep the wool pulled over your citizens and eventually, they will revolt. The only question is, when, and when they do, we may see a fourth Russian revolution, although probably not. But more of a swift and quiet removal by a party who fears the wrath of the little people. All the great nations of the world have experienced revolution at some time or another and Russia is not different, according to my research, there have been at least three, maybe four in Russia. The first one is the setting for this month’s first book review, its Small Acts of Kindness – A Tale Of The First Russian Revolution by Jennifer Antill and published by Universe ( ) in November.

St Petersburg, 1825. Imperial Russia still basks in the glory of victory over Napoleon, but in the army and elsewhere resentment is growing against serfdom and autocracy. Vasily, a pleasure loving, privileged young man, returns home from abroad expecting to embark on a glittering career. Having become entangled in an impossible love affair, he joins a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Threatened by exile to Siberia or death, he is forced to flee the Tsar’s vengeance. Vasily hopes to rebuild his life in a distant provincial town. But he cannot forget his lost love, and now finds himself pursued by a rival who aims to destroy him. Can he escape the past, mend his broken relationships and find a better way to change the world?

I’d like to say I really go into this book, but with the time scale one has for reviewing books, I struggled to make any real dent into this weighty presentation. The first thing to put me off was a three-page list of characters, at the beginning. I do like history but taken in small manageable chunks.

Another reason for my apparent lack of concentration around this book, despite its connection to current world events, is that it was competing with a lot of other external distractions. Such as the World Cup, preparations for my mother’s eightieth, and the general furore that surrounds the build up to Christmas. Maybe if I was in Russia, it might be easier to read at this time of the year, seeing as their Christmas takes place in January.

On a positive side, the book comes across as a version of Les Misérables but set in Russia. Which may pique the interest of Andrew Lloyd-Webber fans.

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This is English author Jennifer Antill’s ( ) first book. She studied Russian Language, Literature and Politics, at UCL SSEES, and has travelled widely in the country, often living with Russian families. She gives talks on Russian cultural topics to a wide variety of organisations. In a former life she worked in the City of London as an Investment Analyst and for eleven years served as a local councillor. Jennifer lives in Suffolk, with her husband and two sons.

If you are a lover of history and in particular Russian history, then this is right up your street or a perfect Christmas gift for someone who is. So, don’t delay order a copy online or get down to your local book shop, then wrap it up with a small bottle of vodka and get it in the post.

This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you though, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

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British Politics is going through something of a purple patch, or to put it more succinctly, a blue purple patch. Where it was once set out as the standard by which others should follow, now British politics is shedding credibility, thanks mainly to the Conservative led government. Who are on their third Prime Minister in a year!! Other parts of the British establishment, which have often been seen as standard bearers, are the Fourth Estate. They too are going through a massive upheaval, what with the arrival of digital and social media, and finally the law, more specifically the police. They too have been struggling to retain the trust of the population they protect, with several scandals involving serving police officers, in the past couple of months. But what hasn’t changed and is always welcome, is the arrival of a great murder mystery involving all three of the above. A crime story with both the police and media as the main characters is standard fare. But throw into the mix a whiff of politics and you have the potential for a great read, and that’s where we are with this month’s third book review. It’s, Don’t Talk by Ian Ridley and published by V-Books ( ) on November 8 th .

When investigative reporter Jan mason discovers that a young woman found murdered in Chelsea, is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands. What Jan doesn’t realise is that a mystery man has just told a stunned AA meeting nearby, that he might have killed someone in a drunken blackout. Even more convenient, is that in attendance was Jan’s old flame, Frank Philips. One of Met’s most senior Counter Terrorism officers and a recovering Alcoholic. Bound by a code of confidentiality, when another attendee at the meeting is subsequently murdered, frank is torn between his duty to the job and the oath all AA members swear by, which reminds members, ‘…When You Leave Here, Let It Stay Here’. Then, when an up-and-coming member of the Labour party is murdered, and Frank is attacked by an unknown assailant too. Jan decides to put her life on the line to help Frank and stay one step ahead of the police. Can she catch the killer and land the front page exclusive…

Wow, what a discovery. I’ve read some great crime stories in my time, but every now and then along comes a standout, true to life character like Jan Mason. A middle-aged woman, trying to keep her head and career above the waterline, while solving serious crime in the process. If Jessica Fletcher had been a journalist, she’d have been something like Jan. Another strong female lead that came to mind was Helen Mirren’s portrayal of DCI jane Tennison in the TV series Prime Suspect. Both characters, albeit working on different sides of the beat, are battling ageism and sexism in their respective fields.

They say there is a lack of strong leading roles for middle aged actresses, the same can be said for the literary characters too and this is where Ridley delivers, with a robust and sassy journalist who lives her life at one speed, very fast. I at times had to take break to catch my breath, when reading about this woman who is fuelled by coffee and can write 700 words on her laptop, while barrelling up the Motorway in the passenger seat of a Bentley. I’m writing this review before flying to Scotland tonight, while trying to juggle my day job, pack a bag, and mind the cats (not that they need that much, although the youngest Edison is a little bit needy)and I feel overwhelmed. Not our Jan.

All the characters in this book are solid as rocks and leave such an impression, you can almost smell the caffeine, sweat, tears and everyday angst which they are dealing with. The subjects dealt with in this book are also very real and may leave their mark on some readers. Especially those with or whose family or friends are dealing with alcoholism. One poignant thread in the story, follows how Jan juggles with her ill mother, who is slowly slipping away in a nursing home up in the north of England. This would be quite jarring for my wife and fellow librarian, Georgina. Whose own dad is receiving palliative care in a nursing home in Nottingham, while we are in Ireland. She, like Jan, can’t be there always, and emotionally it’s tough for both. Ridley’s portrayal of this and the AA scene is what helps to make this book and its characters even more believable.

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This is English author and journalist Ian Ridley’s (@ianridley1) fifteenth book and his second in the Jan Mason Series, the first one was The Outer Circle (2018) but republished in 2022 as Outer Circle . His most recent book Breathe of Sadness; On Love, Grief and Cricket , is an account of how he coped with the death of his wife, sports journalist Vikki Orvice. He’s the author of 12 previous sports books, including No.1 bestseller Addicted (1998) with former English footballer Tony Adams. The follow up book Sober was published in 2017. In a career spanning over 40 years, Ian has written for The Guardian , Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday newspapers. He’s also written for TV, including several episodes of the Sky One drama Dream Team .

Being able to have readers hang on your every word, is the sign of a true master storyteller, and a seasoned sports journalist, who must recreate the frenetic pace of a sporting fixture in print, is someone ideally suited to writing crime fiction. This is proven by Ridley’s well-crafted and deftly written story, and I for one will set out to get a copy of Outer Circle , while also awaiting his next instalment in the Jan Mason series.

So, if you are looking for an edge of your seat, murder mystery series, with a strong and gritty leading lady. Then head down to your local bookshop or order a copy online and curl up with one of London’s leading hacks and buckle up for an engrossing read.

This book is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of it, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

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Featured artist.

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Intelligent or Communicative?: On Elena Esposito’s “Artificial Communication”

Paul J. D’Ambrosio reviews Elena Esposito’s “Artificial Communication: How Algorithms Produce Social Intelligence.”...



How “Gender” Went Rogue

Social Media handles: Metadata: Historian of science Sandra Eder shows how the word “gender” burst out of the clinic circa 1970 and went rogue....



An Image of Itself: On David Grundy’s “Present Continuous”

Tom Allen reviews David Grundy’s “Present Continuous.”...

Dubiously Acquired Objects: On Götz Aly’s “The Magnificent Boat”

Erin Thompson reviews Götz Aly's “The Magnificent Boat: The Colonial Theft of a South Seas Cultural Treasure.”...


What I Was Doing When I Was Writing About Descartes

Melissa Lo considers the link between Cartesian mind-body dualism and the “model minority” identity....

Everyday Absences: A Conversation with Walt Hunter

Katie Peterson interviews Walt Hunter about his new book, “Some Flowers.”...


Los Angeles Review of Books

Carmen Herrera

Angulo Amarillo , 2017, acrylic and aluminum, 84 x 120 7/8 x 19 inches; Blue Monday , 1972, 
acrylic on Canvas
, 42 x 70 inches © Carmen Herrera, Courtesy Lisson Gallery



Is Multiculturalism an Oxymoron? On Martin Puchner’s “Culture”


The Binary of American Philosophy: On Jonathan Strassfeld’s “Inventing Philosophy’s Other”

Crossing the Blood Meridian: Cormac McCarthy and American History


Rigged Capitalism and the Rise of Pluto-populism: On Martin Wolf’s “The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism”


Watching “A Life on Our Planet,” or How I Ruined David Attenborough for Myself


Sugar, Slavery, and Capitalism: On Ulbe Bosma’s “The World of Sugar”


You Can’t Make a Living: Digital Media, the End of TV’s Golden Age, and the Death Scene of the American Playwright


The Work of the Audiobook


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Thinking in Ruins: On the Llano del Rio Experiment

In a preview of LARB Quarterly's upcoming issue, Earth, Laura Nelson explores the Llano del Rio failed commune experiment in the California desert....


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Feedback Loop: On Jeff Sharlet’s “The Undertow”

L. Benjamin Rolsky reviews Jeff Sharlet’s “The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War.”...


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Universal Solvent: Experiencing Mario

J. D. Connor reflects on the seemingly endless mutability of the Super Mario Bros. franchise....


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Grieving Redness in the West: Reading Malcolm Harris After Mike Davis

Michael Docherty on what Malcolm Harris’s history of Palo Alto owes to Mike Davis’s histories of Los Angeles....


Reading Lark

Book Review: There Will Be Lies

I have never read this book or a review for it, but I have seen it popping up in a few places, which interests me a lot. I don't think this one is for me but I am glad you liked it.

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Book Reviews and News

Review: No Comment by Jess McDonald

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Title: No Comment: What I Wish I’d Known About Becoming A Detective

Author: Jess McDonald

Published: 25th May 2023, Raven Books

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy Bloomsbury/NetgalleyUK

My Thoughts:

A staffing crisis in the British Metropolitan Police Service led to the introduction of a controversial initiative called the Direct Entry Detective Scheme in 2017. Jess McDonald was one of 4,500 applicants, and underwent a rigorous vetting process to become accepted into the programme.

“The book I intended to write was one that bridged the gap between people’s fascination with true crime and their lack of insight about what it actually is to be a detective. The one I’ve written turns out to be far more significant.”

For thirty-something Jess, the programme had immediate appeal, not only because of her love of true crime podcasts, but because she felt strongly about justice, in part triggered by civil case she had brought against her former employer.

In No Comment Jess describes the multi-step interview process and her excitement at being one of just 30 scheme candidates to begin training in the Spring of 2018, before sharing her experience as a probationary detective in the CSU. It’s a fascinating, surprising, and sometimes harrowing glimpse into the world of modern police investigation, particularly in relation to domestic violence. As a ‘Direct Entry’ Jess faces some unique challenges, including disapproval from colleagues who don’t support the scheme, and while for months she remains motivated and determined to succeed, the excessive workload, the punishing shifts, and the erosion of her ideals wears her down.

Details of Jess’s personal life are interspersed among the narrative, and I understood why these intimate elements were included though I found them a bit uncomfortable at times.

These personal stressors, combined with the intensity of Jess’s training, induced a bout of depression that alienated her supervisor and led to workplace bullying, which directly precipitated her eventual resignation barely 12 months of graduation. She was not the only Direct Entry to leave, to date only four members of her own class remain in the service, the result, she suggests, of a number of factors.

“It was naive but, before joining the police, I had only ever thought about what I would do and achieve, what I had to give. I hadn’t spared a thought for what it might do to me.”

Written with honesty and self reflection, in a personable tone, No Comment offers interesting insight into the experience of working as a detective attached to CSU in London, albeit under unusual circumstances. I think it would be a valuable read for anyone interested in joining the police force, especially those considering the Direct Entry Scheme.

Available from Bloomsbury UK

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Review: Drowning by T.J. Newman

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Title: Drowning

Author: T.J. Newman

Published: 1st June 2023, Simon & Schuster UK

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy Simon & Schuster AU

Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated, fasten your seatbelt, and be ready to brace for T.J. Newman’s exhilarating sophomore novel, Drowning.

Just minutes after takeoff from a Hawaiian airport, Flight 1421 suffers catastrophic failure and plunges towards the Pacific Ocean. Those that survive the ditching frantically exit the bobbing plane, but twelve people are still onboard when it begins sinking beneath the waves.

From the opening line the reader is thrust into the emergency as the pilots battle for control of the failing plane. This initiates an urgent pace that rarely lets up as Drowning unfolds (except for a short flashback) over a roughly five hour timeline. As the souls on board fight to survive, and the Navy strives to rescue them, each time salvation seems near, it slips away, ratcheting the tension exponentially.

The third person narrative shifts between that of the trapped survivors, and the rescue contingent. Among those on the downed plane which includes the Captain, two airflight attendants, an elderly couple, four unrelated passengers, and an unaccompanied minor, is Will, an engineer, and his eleven year old daughter, Shannon, who have a central role in the story. And it is Chris, Shannon’s mother and Will’s estranged wife, who as an industrial diver, becomes a key player in the rescue effort. There’s plenty of emotion as characters confront fear, loss, regret, and their own mortality.

As a former flight attendant, Newman writes with authority in regards to aviation operations, and though I can’t attest to the accuracy of the technical elements of the novel, it presents as authentic. I found the scenes easy to visualise, and much like her debut novel, Falling , I imagine Drowning will also be optioned for the big screen.

With its well executed, high stakes premise, Drowning is a thrilling read that will leave you breathless.

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

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Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz



Today is my eldest daughter’s birthday! My husband and I went to visit her but couldn’t stay long because I have (what I hope is just) a cold and I don’t want to pass it on. It’s all in my sinus right now so my face is aching 😦

My Mothers Day gift – an Air Fryer – arrived on Friday. I successfully cooked chips/fries in it on Saturday, but I’m curious, what do you use it for the most?


What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

The Iron Vow by Julie Kagawa

Don’t Call It Hair Metal by Sean Kelly

No Comment by Jess McDonald

Broken Light by Joanne Harris


New Posts…

Review: Prize Women by Caroline Lea

Review: Don’t Call It Hair Metal by Sean Kelly

Review: The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

Review: The Rush by Michelle Prak

Bookshelf Bounty

What i’m reading this week….

(Click the cover to view at Goodreads)

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A delightful, warm and captivating rural romance from the bestselling author of Paperbark Hill.

Limestone Coast horticulturalist April Lacey is determined to lead her family’s winery into the future. She dreams of opening a bed and breakfast at Lacewing Estate, but soon discovers the crumbling historic building and her father’s reluctance to join the food tourism revolution are just the beginning of her uphill battle.

English winemaker Connor Jamison has travelled to South Australia’s iconic wine region to learn from the experts and carve a name for himself in the industry. However, it quickly becomes clear that no matter how many miles Connor puts between himself and the accident that flipped his world, the past keeps nipping at his heels.

Can April’s fresh ideas save Lacewing Estate from folding or will they be a fool’s folly? And will Connor’s fierce loyalty come back to haunt him?

United by cooking classes, music and an unexpected involvement in the Penwarra Country Show, April and Connor seem like the perfect match, but with old flames, new challenges and careers conspiring to keep them apart, can this pair forge their own path together?

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The bestselling author of Going Under recounts her real-life journey from hard-partying Sydney medical intern to dust-covered rural GP.

“Solo GP needed for medical clinic, mining town in Pilbara region, Western Australia. Car and accommodation provided. On call paid extra. Close proximity to absolutely nothing.”

In 2020, lost and heartbroken, and with an unscratched travel itch thanks to international border closures, Sonia Henry accepted a job as a GP in remotest Western Australia. The plan was to stay for one month. But before she knew it, this dressed-to-the-nines Sydney party girl was becoming an Akubra-wearing bush doctor covered in red dust–and loving every minute of it.

Sonia spent the next two years working in some of the remotest parts of the country. She learned how to shoot in the middle of the desert, visited pearl farms and pubs, came to terms with being regularly outnumbered by crocodiles, and adopted a cattle dog called Buddy, who would come to be her closest companion. She also met an eclectic bunch of patients and friends, and opened her eyes to the truths–both good and bad–of the country she calls home.

Put Your Feet in the Dirt, Girl is a modern outback medical memoir full of heart, energy, rage and wonder. It is a must-read for anyone who has ever had to get lost in order to be found.

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Alice Croydon has the perfect life: she has a loving family and she’s about to marry her high school sweetheart Finn. Alice couldn’t be happier. Except for the occasional niggle whenever she thinks about her career. Fashion design has always been her passion, but living in a small country town doesn’t offer much opportunity to pursue that dream.

Until one day the unexpected happens. The only problem? She has to move to the other side of the world and give up one dream for another.

Living in London should have been exciting, but for Alice, far away from home, her sole focus becomes working within a renown couture fashion house. Alice knows it’s unlikely but she secretly hopes that Finn might still want to try again.

But you can’t turn back time, and fate may have other plans.

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As three women return to the summer place of their youth for a beach wedding, each is grappling with the cards life has dealt them.

Erin, recovering from a near-fatal cycling accident, is the reluctant maid of honour. Still coming to terms with her devastating injuries, will she find what she needs to walk down the aisle with all eyes on her?

Years ago, Jenna fell in love with the groom at his family’s treasured holiday spot. Will watching him marry someone else finally allow her to get over him?

Cassie, living in Barcelona and recently widowed, is desperate to move on from her grief. The invitation to return to Australia for the wedding will give her a chance to step away from her life – and come to terms with more than she bargained for.

Emotions run high as each woman faces a crossroad, yet they will find that the place at the coast offers all of them a chance to learn to heal, love and belong . . .

Thanks for stopping by!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR @thebookdate #SundayPost @Kimbacaffeinate #SundaySalon @debnance This week it’s all Australian women writers #KookaburraCottage #PutYourFeetInTheDirtGirl #TimeAfterTime #TheSummerPlace

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Every third Sunday of the month I share my Bookshelf Bounty – what’s been added to my TBR tile recently for review from publishers, purchases or gifts.

This month I’m linking up with Mailbox Monday

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review 

(My thanks to the respective publishers)

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Review: The Rush by Michelle Prak

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Title: The Rush

Author: Michelle Prak

Published: 3rd May 2023, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy Simon & Schuster

The Rush is an exciting and gripping debut thriller from Michelle Prak set in the outback of South Australia.

Quinn is late returning to the isolated Pindarry Hotel on the Stuart Highway, where she works and lives, when, through the rain, she spies a badly injured man on the roadside, and unable to leave him there, drags him into her car.

Andrea is anxious when her husband leaves her at the Pindarry Hotel to help an elderly farmer whose property is flooding. With the pub sandbagged and their employee, Quinn, due to arrive any minute, Andrea resolves to stay calm for the sake of her sleeping two year old son, until the power goes out, and a stranger comes to the door demanding to be let in.

Hayley, traveling from Adelaide to Darwin on the Stuart Highway with her boyfriend Scott and backpackers Livia and Joost, is only concerned for her carefully planned itinerary when the rain starts on their second day of travel. But then the roads begin to flood, and as tensions among the foursome grow, Hayley finds herself in a desperate rush for sanctuary.

The Rush is a fast-paced read as it largely unfolds from the perspectives of Quinn, Andrea, Hayley and Livia over a period of about two days. Suspense is introduced early, and built on effortlessly. The threats are recognisable and engender empathy for the characters at risk. Red herrings belie a breathtaking climactic reveal, that provides a unique twist on the story’s themes.

Prak somehow renders the vast landscape of outback South Australia claustrophobic   as the characters converge on Pindarry. The violence of the storm, as it strips away modernity, releases a feral energy that enhances the oppressive atmosphere.

A well crafted addition to the oeuvre of rural Australian crime fiction, The Rush is an immersive and riveting read.

Available from Simon & Schuster Au

Review: the book that wouldn’t burn by mark lawrence.

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Title: The Book That Wouldn’t Burn {The Library Trilogy #1}

Author: Mark Lawrence

Published: 11th May 2023, HarperVoyager GB

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy HarperCollinsAU/Netgalley

“We’re all the story we tell about ourselves….That’s all anyone ever is – the story they tell, and the stories told about them.”

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is the beginning of an ambitious new fantasy series by Mark Lawrence.

Within the city of Crath is the Atheneum, an infinite labyrinth that holds one copy of every book that has ever been written. The Library, it is said, is the source of truth, and whomever controls it, rules the kingdom. But the Library has its own power, and cedes none.

Livira lives in the Dust outside the walls of Crath. When her village is attacked by Sabber’s she expects to die, instead she is rescued, and with the intervention of Deputy Head Yute, is admitted as an Atheneum trainee, the first of her kind.

Evar lives in a sealed chamber deep within the Library, it is the only place he has ever known. With him are Clovis, Kerrol, Starval and Mayland, not related by blood but siblings nevertheless, watched over by automatons, The Soldier and The Assistant.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Livira and Evar, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn unfolds at a good pace. It takes some time before the two protagonists intersect as the story weaves through the present, the past, and the future, in unexpected ways.

Livira, whose name means ‘weed’, is a wonderfully entertaining protagonist. Despite her outsider status, Livira earns the loyalty of friends, and refuses to give quarter to those who wish to see her fail. Curious, Intelligent, tenacious, and a little reckless, the secrets of the Library are a puzzle she is determined to solve.

Evar, who unlike his siblings has no memory of his life before the Library, is a somewhat melancholy figure, longing for something he can’t name. While Clovis, Kerrol, Starval, and Mayland all possess an obvious skill, seemingly a gift of the Mechanism that brought them to the chamber, Evar believes he has none but what they have taught him.

Exploring themes such as tradition, knowledge, power, truth, memory, war and xenophobia, our current reality is often reflected in Lawrence’s fantasy. I highlighted several blocks of text that struck me as I read, particularly those about the use, and misuse, of information.

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is, of course, also an ode to the magic of reading, books, literature, and libraries. The Atheneum is in many ways a character itself, an infinite labyrinth of secrets, cared for by android-like guides, including a delightful mechanical raven, with their own mysterious agenda. It makes for an extraordinary setting that will appeal to any booklover.

I was taken aback by several clever twists in the plot, some of which genuinely surprised me. The story’s secrets remain elusive until the exact moment that Lawrence reveals them. There is plenty of action, from brief skirmishes to panicked chases, that accelerates as the end draws near to a cliffhanger ending. Though Livira is the more compelling character, there are moments of triumph, and of heartbreak, in both perspectives that support suspense and interest. Romance plays a low key role in the story, but there is a lot of heart in the relationships between allies.

Having not read anything by Mark Lawrence before I was pleased to find his prose is often lyrical and evocative, given to thought-provoking turns of phrase. There is also wit, warmth, and glimpses of self awareness in the writing. At times there is repetition in the narrative, but it’s only a minor issue.

A complex, intriguing, and utterly enchanting novel, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn delivers an absorbing read, and promises more to come.

Available from HarperCollins Australia 

Review: don’t call it hair metal by sean kelly.

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Title: Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Art in the Excess of ’80s Rock

Author: Sean Kelly

Published: 16th May 2023, ECW Press

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy ECW Press/Netgalley

“But in the end, don’t call it hair metal. It’s only rock’n’roll. And I like it. I think you might too.”

These days I’m not exactly an melophile. As a pre-teen/teen I spent pocket money on cassettes (and later CD’s), I bought Smash Hits magazine, watched Video Hits andCountdown, and listened to the Top 40 on the radio, fingers poised to press ‘Play’ and ‘Record’ to make my own mixtapes. I went to a handful of big act concerts, saw some smaller bands in pubs, and went clubbing all night. I even dated a bass guitarist in a heavy metal garage band who tried to teach me to play Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. But then I got married and had kids and for the next decade or so The Wiggles and High 5 played on repeat. All this explains, I think, why my taste in music tends to be stuck in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. From the pop hits to the power ballads, the one-hit-wonders to, yes, hair metal, I love it all.

In Don’t Call It Hair Metal, Sean Kelly defends the integrity of the hard rock bands whose sartorial style of big hair, spandex and leather outfits, makeup and showmanship, belied their musicianship. As a musician himself, he writes with authority as he explores the influences on their sound, defined by the combination of a traditional heavy metal sound with elements of pop-influenced hooks, guitar riffs, and shreds, it’s evolution as the look and sound captured commercial interest, and its eventual decline in popularity. Commentary from iconic musicians provides insight into, and reflection on, the era of the industry, including both its music and its culture.

Among the many bands Kelly makes reference to are Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Skid Row, Stryper, Warrant, Def Leppard, LA Guns, Slaughter, Kiss, Cinderella, Poison, Europe, Guns N Roses, and Motley Crue. I ended up browsing through YouTube searching out well remembered, and forgotten, hits to watch the performances with new appreciation, and fond nostalgia.

I appreciated the moments that Kelly wrote about his own connection to the music, because for me songs are almost always tied to memories. I have to admit, a lot of the technical information in this book went right over my head, so I think perhaps it’s best suited for readers conversant with musical knowledge to extract full value from it.

While I may not know much about music, I know what I like, and whatever Kelly, or others, wants to call it, I’ll continue to enjoy playing air guitar and belting out the lyrics whenever Livin’ on a Prayer, We’re Not Gonna Take It, or Paradise City play.

Available from ECW Press

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Review: Prize Women by Caroline Lea

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Title: Prize Women

Author: Caroline Lea

Published: 16th February 2023, Michael Joseph

Status: Read February 2023 courtesy Penguin Books UK

Upon his death in 1926, the will of Canadian lawyer, financier, and practical joker, Charles Vance Miller bequeathed the residue of his substantial estate to ‘the woman who could produce the most children within the next ten years’. Caroline Lea draws inspiration from what became known as The Great Stork Derby in her historical novel, Prize Women.

When an earthquake hits Chatsworth, New Brunswick, and it appears her abusive husband has been killed, Lily de Marco uses the opportunity to flee with her young son. Matteo. Arriving in Toronto, broke and homeless, Lily is fortuitously introduced to Mae Thebault, the wife of a wealthy steel factory owner, who agrees to let Lily stay with them in return for helping to take care of the Thebaults’ five children. Despite their differences in background and social status, Lily and Mae quickly become close friends but after the Wall Street Crash and the onset of the Great Depression, the two women unexpectedly find themselves rivals.

Exploring the lack of agency women too often had over their lives, particularly once tied to marriage and motherhood, the impact of the economic collapse, the desperation of poverty, as well as abuse, friendship, prejudice and racism, Prize Women paints a rich portrait of Canada’s social history over the 1920/30’s. The Author’s Note explains where Lea has diverged from historical accuracy for narrative purposes.

Curiosity about The Great Stork Derby is what drew me to this novel, and Lea explores its impact thoughtfully. With large family’s not exactly uncommon at the time, given the lack of contraception, I was surprised to learn the ‘baby race’ had only 11 entrants. Accounts suggest that most of them would have had large families even without the incentive of the competition, but I hadn’t given much thought to motive, or what ‘losing’ the ‘baby race’ might mean to participants.

The characters of Lily and Mae are loosely based on two of the real Derby competitors, and to them the money is of vital importance, though for very different reasons. Lea is sensitive to the women’s desires and hardships and portrays them with nuance. Lily is probably the more sympathetic of two, but Mae’s experience is also affecting. At the mercy of mens decisions in private and in public, both are afforded so little control over their lives it’s infuriating.

I found the pacing lagged a bit later in the story, in part I think because Prize Women is often quite bleak which weighs the narrative down, though the end brings light and hope.   A moving and interesting novel.

Available from Penguin Books UK

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We celebrated Mother’s Day on Saturday at a ‘Music & Markets’ event held down by the riverside with my parents and my eldest and youngest children (the middle two being away at uni). After a week of overcast and chilly weather, the afternoon was warm and sunny, and we had a nice time. Apparently I can expect an air fryer to arrive later in the week, which I’m looking forward to.

Mothers Day itself was a bit of a non-event. I read some, did the grocery shopping, and started watching Bridgerton: Queen Charlotte. My youngest had to work so with just my husband and I home for dinner we opted for leftovers.

I have no particular plans this week. I’m making some progress on catching up with reviews, but it feels like two books forward, one book back LOL

The Rush by Michelle Prak

Between Us by Mhairi McFarland

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

The Fall Between by Darcy Tindale

Review: I’ll Leave You With This by Kylie Ladd

Review: Hold My Girl by Charlene Carr

Review: Between Us by Mhairi McFarlane

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Bernie Moon is feeling invisible. She’s given her life to other people – her husband, her son, her mother, her friends (not that she has any of them left). At 16, she was full of promise and power. Now, facing 50, she’s a fading light.

But when a young woman is killed in her local area, it sparks childhood memories of a talent she used to have, one long since hidden.

She said she’d never use it again.

She knows it could destroy not only her, but everyone around her.

Bernie Moon is no longer invisible, but is everyone else ready for what she’s about to become?

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A love letter to the hard-rocking, but often snubbed, music of the era of excess: the 1980s.

There may be no more joyous iteration in all of music than 1980s hard rock. It was an era where the musical and cultural ideals of rebellion and freedom of the great rock ’n’ roll of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s were taken to dizzying heights of neon excess. Attention to songcraft, showmanship, and musical virtuosity (especially in the realm of the electric guitar) were at an all-time high, and radio and MTV were delivering the goods en masse to the corn-fed children of America and beyond.

Time hasn’t always been kind to artists of that gold and platinum era, but Don’t Call It Hair Metal analyzes the sonic evolution, musical diversity, and artistic intention of ’80s commercial hard rock through interviews with members of such hard rock luminaries as Twisted Sister, Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, Ratt, Skid Row, Quiet Riot, Guns N’ Roses, Dokken, Mr. Big, and others.

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Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.

More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.

Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.

There’s not much time.

There’s even less air.

With devastating emotional power and heart-stopping suspense, Drowning is an unforgettable thriller about a family’s desperate fight to save themselves and the people trapped with them—against impossible odds.

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Jess McDonald was a true crime junkie and Line of Duty sofa sleuth with a strong sense of justice. Under a year later, thanks to a controversial new initiative, she was a detective in the London Metropolitan Police Service.

The Met Police’s Direct Entry Detective scheme was aimed at turning people with no experience of the police into detectives.

When it was launched, to tackle an unprecedented recruitment crisis, over 4,500 people, Jess included, applied.

But why, within just a year of qualifying, had the majority of Jess’ cohort resigned?

No Comment is Jess’ candid, eye-opening and often shocking account, exploring the reality of being a detective in the Met and responsible for ‘keeping London safe for everyone’. In her incisive book she explores the challenges of life on the front line, dealing almost exclusively with serious crimes against women, and what that reveals about the Met Police now.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR @thebookdate #SundayPost @Kimbacaffeinate #SundaySalon @debnance An interesting mix this week#BrokenLight #DontCallItHairMetal #Drowning #NoComment

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It is a sad truth that I have a finite lifespan (and budget) yet a desire to read all the books. The books on my Reading Schedule   largely represent those I’ve been privileged to select from offerings by a range of generous publishers, and therefore are my priority, but they don’t embody my every bookish desire or interest.

I’ve noticed a trend for limiting to-be-read (TBR) and/or want-to-read (WTR) lists (the distinction for me being those already on my physical or digital shelves vs those that aren’t), but I’ve never felt the need to temper my book lust. If I see a book that interests me, I add it to my WTR without a skerrick of guilt, at the moment my WTR shelf at Goodreads has around three and a half thousand books on it.

As I currently feature my TBR in my monthly Bookshelf Bounty post, Book Lust will be a monthly post featuring a handful of published books I’ve recently added to my WTR.

What books are you lusting after? Do you have any of these on your TBR/WTR list? And please feel free to share your links in the comments if you have reviewed them.

(Covers are linked to Goodreads)

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Meredith established the Copeton Crochet Collective (no knitters please) because it would be like having friends, only with her in charge, and because there would be no men. It comes as a nasty shock, then, when Luke, the handsome grandson of no-nonsense Edith, decides to stay and learn to crochet.

Claire has five children, which is why people sometimes look at her with mild concern. She longs for an Insta-perfect life like her online hero, Siobhan, but she’s drowning in domestic failure. She joins the Copeton craft group in the hope of making some non-virtual friends.

Yasmin is Muslim and proud. But sometimes it would be great if people stopped asking her about her hijab and instead asked who she thought was going to win MasterChef. Pregnant with her first child, she should be elated. So why can’t she stop panicking? Perhaps crocheting a set of baby clothes can get her in the right headspace.

With plans for a new mosque and the resettlement of refugees in the retirement village, Copeton becomes a breeding ground for Islamophobia. Together with the other members of the group, this small band of fibre-arts enthusiasts battle racism and bigotry with colour and creativity, but will the fragile threads of community be enough to bind them when more than one member has something to hide?

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‘Since I was a child, I’ve been interested in dead bodies. When I was eight years old, I dug up the remains of my pet budgie Zazbut. He had been buried for about eight weeks in a patch of grass outside our house in Dasmarinas, a fortified village in Manila, in the Philippines.

‘The first exhumation was the beginning of my intrigue with death, which has persisted. As a journalist, I’ve written about graveyards, funerals and death doulas. I always visit the local cemetery wherever I am in the world. But one thing that has largely been hidden from me in this death trip is the dead body.’

Dissection might not be a normal topic to contemplate but when both your paternal grandparents donate their bodies to science it does intermittently cross your mind. This is the story of how Jackie Dent’s grandparents—Ruby and Julie—gave their bodies to science when they died. No one in her family seems to know why, or what really happened with their bodies afterwards. Were they avid science buffs? Was it to save on cremation costs? How do scientists tackle the practicalities and ethics of cutting up the dead for research? And who are body donors generally?

Weaving the personal with the history of anatomy and the dissected, Jackie Dent explores the world of whole-body donation — all the while looking for answers as to what happened to her grandparents.

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Meet Lydia Crow…

Lydia has always known she has no power, especially next to her infamous and more-than-slightly dodgy family. Which is why she carved her own life as a private investigator far away from London.

When a professional snafu forces her home, the head of the family calls in a favour, and Lydia finds herself investigating the disappearance of her cousin, Maddie.

Soon, Lydia is neck-deep in problems: her new flatmate is a homicidal ghost, the intriguing, but forbidden, DCI Fleet is acting in a distinctly unprofessional manner, and tensions between the old magical families are rising.

The Crows used to rule the roost and rumours claim they are still the strongest.

The Silvers have a facility for lying and they run the finest law firm in London.

The Pearl family were costermongers and everybody knows that a Pearlie can sell feathers to a bird.

The Fox family… Well. The less said about the Fox family the better.

For seventy-five years, a truce between the four families has held strong, but could the disappearance of Maddie Crow be the thing to break it?

The Night Raven is the first book in Crow Investigations, an exciting new paranormal mystery series from bestselling author of magical fiction, Sarah Painter.

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A killer targeting pregnant women.

A detective expecting her first baby…

The shocking murder of a heavily pregnant woman throws the New Zealand city of Dunedin into a tailspin, and the devastating crime feels uncomfortably close to home for Detective Sam Shephard as she counts down the days to her own maternity leave.

Confined to a desk job in the department, Sam must find the missing link between this brutal crime and a string of cases involving mothers and children in the past. As the pieces start to come together and the realisation dawns that the killer’s actions are escalating, drastic measures must be taken to prevent more tragedy.

For Sam, the case becomes personal, when it becomes increasingly clear that no one is safe and the clock is ticking…

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Spotlights and sawdust, secrets and lies …

1911: Sydney, Australia. From the moment the tumours appeared on her face, Maggie Bright knew she would never live a normal life. Abandoned by her mother and then given away by her father, she spent her childhood learning to become the ‘Lagoon Creature’: part acrobat, part clown, part circus hand. It’s not a bad life –Rafferty Braun, the ringmaster, provides her with an ongoing education, and now, as a young woman, she has the kind of freedom her condition could have easily taken away from her. As much as she tries not to, however, Maggie can’t help wishing for more.

Charlotte Voigt could not be more different. The talented tightrope walker is a star of the circus, with the entertainment world at her slipper-clad feet. She is also a liar.

When an opportunity arises to try on Charlotte’s identity for her own, Maggie doesn’t hesitate. She wants to know what it feels like to be admired, to be accepted, to be beautiful. And the circus’s sudden decision to cross Australia via wagon provides her with the perfect cover.

Each new town or remote settlement brings the women closer to understanding one another. Resentments begin to fade, but in their place are secrets that could undo the delicate trust they’ve built: Maggie, with her alternative life pretending to be the glamorous tightrope walker; Charlotte lying about her background, her family, and the reason she reappeared with the circus after several years’ absence.

The sawdust road will test their willpower. The truth will determine their futures.

Book Lust is a new monthly post featuring a handful of published books I’ve recently added to my WTR. #read #books #TBR #WTR #lovereading #bibliophile #fiction #Nonfiction #BookstagramAustralia #Bookstagram #BookLust #TheMagpiesSister #Expectant #TheNightRaven #TheGreatDeadBodyTeachers #TuesdayEveningsandtheCopetonCraftResistance

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An Honour to Be Nominated: A Guide to Major Book Awards

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Inaugural Poem by Amanda Gorman Banned After Single Complaint

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8 Picture Books To Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month

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Win a Copy of EVERYTHING/NOTHING/SOMEONE by Alice Carrière!

Book riot's daily deals.

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All The Books

Book Riot: The Podcast

Book Riot: The Podcast

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New Mystery/Thriller Recommendations Based on Your Favorite Movies

Here are eight brand new mystery/thrillers that are going to be great books to add to your TBR if you loved these movies. Star with The Nigerwife by VAdam Sass

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Dream Holidays: Escape to the Island of Aeaea

Welcome to Aeaea, an enchanting island getaway you didn’t even realise you were dreaming of, hosted by the spellbinding Circe.

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Who Can Be Redeemed?

The U.S. favors stories with a redemtion arc, but who can be redeemed? Is just anyone allowed to redeem themselves, or is there more to it?

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10 Extreme Horror Books You Can’t Look Away From

Extreme horror books deal in the taboo. Horror doesn't have to be scary, but these titles are almost guaranteed to disturb.

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How Should We Feel About Barnes & Noble Now?

Barnes and Noble is putting on the costume of a local indie bookstore, but their inner mechanics are still all big-box chain corporation.

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The Top 30 TikTok Book Recommendations: 2023

Fantasy to YA, romance to litfic, this is what TikTok is reading right now. Find the best TikTok book recommendations 2023 has to offer.

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13 Hockey Romances to Read During the NHL Playoffs

While some of these hockey romances are light on the sport, they feature all kinds of hockey players and the people they love. Start with Goal by Alexandria House.

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