26 February 2021

Guest Review: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley book cover

Today it's my great pleasure to introduce a new guest reviewer to Carpe Librum readers. Silje Kinkead lives in France and loves to read, and I'm sure you'll enjoy her review of The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Over to you Silje.

About Silje

I’m 12 years old. I was born in Brisbane but I live in France, I love reading, history (but not the stuff I learn at school), and sport (especially skiing).

Silje's Review

The world is on the brink of war and nine year old Ada is abused by her mother for being physically deformed. But when the bombs start falling over London, it will change Ada’s life for the better.

Ada’s little brother, Jamie, is allowed to run around outside, explore the world, and have fun with other kids his age. Ada knows nothing of the world except the poverty of London’s East End before World War 2 except the stories her brother tells. She is locked inside her mother’s tiny London flat and forbidden to contact the outside world. But come the day of the evacuation, Ada has to make what will turn out to be a life changing decision - should she defy her mother and evacuate the city with Jamie.

In The War that Saved My Life Ada has to deal with overcoming her belief that she is “a monster” and “a disgrace”, and deal with the fact that their mother never really did love or care for her and Jamie. Ada has to learn to love herself and come to realise that she is much more than her clubfoot. But the dangers of wartime are ever closer. The germans could invade, a bomb could kill them, or for Ada especially, the intimidating reality of their mother taking them back.

This is one of my favourite books. A moving story about a girl during World War 2 learning to trust, care for, be cared for, and love people other than just her brother. Don’t be put off by thinking that this book is simply about stuff like that though. There is plenty of action and every page is engaging and interesting - and even my mum read and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I highly recommend this book. You can really feel as if you’re part of the story yourself. It is very realistic and will appeal to anyone who is fond of a more serious children or young adult’s fiction book.


Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute - she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan - and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

Silje's Rating:

25 February 2021

Review: Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble - Magical Poems chosen by Paul Cookson

* Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury *

Beautifully presented in an orange clothbound hardback edition, Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble is a collection of magical poems by Paul Cookson and is a delight to hold in the hand. Containing a selection of over 70 poems by different authors, there's enough variety in these poems for children to suit all reading tastes. Here's an example from page 33.

Witch's Wishlist by B.J. Lee *

beetle toe
Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble - Magical Poems chosen by Paul Cookson, and illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon book cover
Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble - Magical
chosen by Paul Cookson
Published by Bloomsbury
first snow
pig's feet
toad flax
dragon teeth
fairy wing
winter heath
wood ears
cypress oil
Job's tears
burdock root
mustard seed
eye of newt
jimson weed
black mallow
stirring crook
goat sallow
spell book

Lovely black and white illustrations complement the poems in the book, but the real shining light of illustrator Eilidh Muldoon's work is her magically evocative cover design. Don't you just love it? Perfect for Halloween and winter reading.

My favourite poem from the collection by far is Somewhere in the Library from page 112.

Somewhere in the Library by Stewart Henderson *

Somewhere in the library
there are fierce and friendly beasts.
Dragons, cowardly lions
enjoying midnight feasts.
Somewhere in the library
there are whirlpools and lagoons,
coves and crags and picnics
with pop and macaroons.

Somewhere in the library
there are smugglers' hidden caves,
and voyages and shipwrecks,
where adventures come in waves.
Somewhere in the library
there looms a Gruffalo,
and Twits and Gangsta Grannies
and a wardrobe full of snow...

... Where the White Witch turns the pages,
her icy fingers vexed,
as Voldermort is reading
what happens to him next.
Somewhere in the library
down a whizzing country road -
an amphibian with driving gloves...
the hapless Mr Toad.

There's a Stig, and Railway Children
all present and correct,
whilst underneath the floorboards
the Borrowers collect.
But somewhere in the library
there is someone very wise.
Her title is librarian
which is really a disguise...

... For she's a gatherer of magic
and a confidante of elves,
whose legends she has catalogued
and filed on ship-shape shelves
And she knows a thousand sagas
and ten thousand thousand tales,
she's heard the yarns of hobbits,
and the ocean dreams of whales

So, let me share her mystery,
one secret so sublime -
her special prayer that starts each day... goes...
"Once upon a time..."

This is a quick read, and other favourites from the collection include: The Magic Kitchen Carpet by Paul Cookson, Hatastrophe by Dannielle Viera and Something Down the Plughole by Neal Zetter.

Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble - Magical Poems chosen by Paul Cookson and illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon is recommended for children, teachers and parents looking for a magical and spooky read.

* These two poems have been reproduced here with the express permission of the publisher.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

22 February 2021

Review: The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell book cover
* Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury *

In my years spent enjoying books, tv shows and movies set in the Victorian era (1837-1901) I can't believe I've never come across the art of shadow portraits and silhouette artists before. Popular from the mid 1700s, profiles of a person were painted or cut by hand from black cardboard in order to retain their likeness and often worn in lockets or mounted as gifts. They were a cheaper alternative to painted miniature portraits but began to fall out of fashion with the introduction of photography.

The fact that Laura Purcell was the author to introduce me to a silhouette artist was more than I could hope for. Her novel The Corset was one of my favourite books in 2018, so naturally I had high hopes for The Shape of Darkness.

Agnes Darken is a silhouette artist living in Victorian Bath struggling to make ends meet. Left to provide for her mother and orphaned nephew, she works hard to make enough money from her trade of cutting shades to support her family. When a sitter of hers dies, soon followed by another, Agnes worries she has somehow unwittingly caused their deaths.

Pearl is an eleven year old albino girl and spirit medium, and along with her half-sister Miss West, they hold seances to commune with spirits. Their sickly father is dying from Phossy jaw (phosphorus necrosis of the jaw) as a result of working in a match factory and the girls are left to run the household as best they can.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of the murders, Agnes consults Pearl but together they are frightened by what they discover.

The Shape of Darkness is a gothic tale full of references that let me know immediately I was in Victorian England. Seances, ear trumpets, reticules and plenty of mourning etiquette was on display within the pages, making this a real pleasure to read. Here's an example from early on in the novel.
"Agnes finds the Boyles' residence almost at once. There is the telltale straw laid out before it to deaden the sound of wheels and the windows are shuttered fast. She adjusts her grip on the package. Perhaps this was not a wise notion, after all.
Black material swaddles the brass knocker. It makes a muted, pathetic sound as she lets it fall. Some moments later, the door opens like a tender wound. Behind it is a squat woman dressed in mourning, but the expression upon her face is one of harassment, not grief." Page 32-33
And another from later on in the novel:
"The glass hearse displays a coffin suffocating in lilies. It travels feet first so that its occupant cannot look back and beckon others to follow.
Yet they do follow: mourners trail wearily behind on foot and the family creep along in their own elaborate carriage. They have not pulled the curtains for privacy. Each stricken and contorted countenance is on view.
Agnes knows she should lower her eyes in consideration of the family's pain, but she does not; no one does. Everyone peers into the carriage, eager to see the mark death has left on those it passed so closely by." Page 248
Laura Purcell has a gift for setting the scene in her novels and she does it so well. Author of The Silent Companions, The Corset and Bone China, I continue to enjoy the manner in which she conjures the hustle and bustle of her chosen setting. Here's another example if you haven't yet had the pleasure of her books.
"Everyone hurries: to the dyers, to the locksmith, to the grocers, to the chophouses that issue a malodour of hot beef fat. She cannot keep pace. And none of the men emerging from their work at the brewery possess enough gallantry to grant a lady a wide berth on the pavement." Page 96
This gothic delight of a novel is presented with a gorgeous cover design showing a character's silhouette on a visually stunning background of Victorian era scissors spotted with blood. A silhouette adorns the back of the book too and I believe this to be Pearl, with either Agnes or her sister on the front cover. If you've read the book, who do you think graces the cover?

Miss Darken must have one of the best character names of the year and she experiences her fair share of problems in the novel. Grieving the loss of her sister in a mysterious accident and recently recovering from ill health, her physician and brother-in-law Simon attempts to thwart her efforts to solve the case. Is she as emotionally frail as he suggests or is there more to it?

All is revealed in a surprising conclusion although I'm still chasing the absolute perfect ending that was The Corset and this fell a whisker short. Highly recommended for fans of Victorian era historical fiction and all things gothic.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

18 February 2021

Guest Review: Lana's War by Anita Abriel

Lana's War by Anita Abriel book cover
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *


A regular feature here on Carpe Librum this year, Neil Béchervaise has recently read Lana's War by Australian born author Anita Abriel and shares his thoughts on the book below.


From the bestselling author of The Light After the War comes the unforgettable story of a young woman waging her own war against the Nazis as a spy for the Resistance on the French Riviera.

Paris, 1943: Lana Antanova is rushing to tell her husband she is pregnant when she witnesses him being executed by a Gestapo officer for hiding a Jewish girl in a piano. Overcome with grief, Lana loses the baby.

A few months later, a heartbroken Lana is approached to join the Resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialise with Nazi officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of a wealthy Swiss playboy, the darkly handsome and charismatic Guy Pascal, and her base his villa in Cap Ferrat. Together they make a ruthlessly effective team. Consumed by her mission, Lana doesn’t count on becoming attached to a young Jewish girl or falling helplessly in love with Guy.

As the Nazis close in, Lana’s desire to protect the ones she loves threatens to put them all at risk.


The return to popularity of wartime experience novels, as evidenced in Tania Blanchard’s facto-fictional Letters from Berlin, Anita Shreve’s Resistance, and Alex Miller’s Max probably signal a generational shift in perceptions of ‘the war’.

Perhaps starting with the fictional ‘biography’ of the fictional author, Helen Demidenko’s (1994) The Hand that Signed the Paper may actually have presaged this new range of wartime experiences with its focus on the roles of women, the conflict between their emotional responses and their physical reactions, their active involvement in resistance and the dangers they faced as they trod their duplicitous paths to saving lives while offering apparent support for the occupying Nazis.

Like Letters from Berlin and Emma Donahue’s Akin, Lana’s War takes the war away from its traditional focus on concentration camp survival and the impact of war in major centres to the decay of the carefree lifestyles of the rich and famous on the French Riviera.

Lana has seen her musician husband killed for attempting to defend a Jewish child from deportation, she has miscarried the baby she was about to tell him about and she is desolate in a Paris where the full brutality of the Nazi occupiers is becoming apparent. Convinced of the potential for saving children’s lives as a member of the resistance, Lana leaves her mother and moves to the Riviera where she will use her Russian nobility and her beauty to access Nazi secrets while living in luxury with the handsome Guy Pascal, a Swiss businessman and resistance leader.

The rest, as they say, is history – more or less. Effectively adopting the Jewish orphan child, Odette, falling in love with Guy and resisting the amorous advances of senior gestapo officers and an ambiguous Briton - who may or may not be a Nazi agent – Lana escapes with Odette to Switzerland because Guy has, inexplicably, disappeared. In Geneva, Lana resumes her Chemistry studies (she has always wanted to become a perfumer) and Odette’s schooling.

Lana’s War is a tough read emotionally. One can’t help but worry for Lana, the orphaned children and the Jews being savagely removed to their deaths as Europe crumbles under the onslaught and then the retreat of Nazism across the early 1940s. 

On the other hand, Abriel’s latest novel is seductively well written and even enjoyable in its compassion. Without detracting from its value and appeal to the adult reader, I suspect Lana’s War would make a useful addition to many senior school English booklists.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

Neil's Rating:

16 February 2021

Review: Life with the Afterlife - 13 Truths I Learned About Ghosts by Amy Bruni with Julie Tremaine

Life with the Afterlife - 13 Truths I Learned About Ghosts by Amy Bruni with Julie Tremaine book cover
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Have you ever looked at the title of a book and decided for yourself what it's going to be about? This happened to me when I saw Life With the Afterlife - 13 Truths I Learned About Ghosts by Amy Bruni, host of Kindred Spirits. I began a happy little assumption that being the host of a ghost hunter show like Kindred Spirits, Amy would be a medium or psychic of some sort, and here in her book she'd be sharing the 13 truths she learned from ghosts. Sound reasonable enough? Well, that's the book I wanted to read so I requested it from the publisher.

I've never watched an episode of Kindred Spirits, although from what Amy shares with the reader in her book, it's different from other ghost hunter books in that the hosts try to help those they come into contact with. Home owners are often disappointed to find their house isn't haunted and a lot of research takes place to determine the history of a house and who might be disturbing the peace.

You certainly don't need to be a Kindred Spirits fan or have watched the show in order to understand the contents of this book, however I do think the book is better suited to viewers of the program.

Amy Bruni saw her first ghost when she was a kid, but her skills as a paranormal investigator are what she draws on to do her work. She's not a medium or psychic and instead invites people like Chip Coffey on to her show when she needs a little additional insight.

Amy Bruni isn't like Debbie Malone, Belinda Davidson, Lisa Williams, and more whose books I've read and reviewed here on Carpe Librum over the years. If I'd read the blurb of this book properly and paid more attention to the actual title - not the title I wanted to see - this would have been clear to me from the get go.

Now that we've established my faults as a reader going into this, there were a few problems I encountered with the writing. Amy Bruni has written Life With the Afterlife with the help of Julie Tremaine, presumably because writing a book isn't her forte. However even with this expert assistance, the content of the book is disorganised, a little all over the place and repetitive in parts. Here's an example.
"The building, erected in 1892, had been a bank until it was converted into a restaurant in the late 1970s. Mike the owner of the Twisted Vine, had given us some items associated with the bank. Later on that day, when we used a banknote as a trigger object, Sam told us that he recognized the paperwork. From there, we were able to find a Samuel Lesseey, a longtime employee of what used to be Birmingham National Bank, who took his life in the building in November 1913. Lesseey had been tied to a theft there: A customer had modified a twenty-five-dollar check to pay out $2,500. The shame of the mistake and the ensuing scandal are believed to have led him to commit suicide. He walked to a local cemetary, laid down in a coffin box in a mausoleum, and shot himself in the head. The story spread as far as the West Coast, showing up in the Los Angeles Herald, albeit with his name spelled as "Lessep" and "Lessey" in the story." Page 226
This is the sort of investigation I enjoy reading about, but did Lessey take his life in the bank or at a cemetary? The story is either poorly written allowing for two interpretations or contains conflicting accounts of what happened to Lesseey.

The structure of the book around the 13 truths also made for a disjointed reading experience and allowed for repetition of places visited and cases worked.

The best part of the book came in the final few pages as Bruni shared her thoughts on the ways in which the current COVID pandemic might impact the world. She points out that major global events have resulted in a surge of spiritualism in the past, and I've been interested in that topic before, reviewing Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry in 2017. The author goes on to mention that people have been spending more time in their homes and are perhaps becoming aware of activity they were too busy to take notice of before. She also comments that some of the activity might be spiking as a result of the increased levels of fear and anxiety many of us are experiencing, not to mention the grief at losing loved ones.

Bruni is absolutely right that people have suffered and died alone of the Coronavirus. Loved ones haven't been able to say goodbye and we haven't been able to come together and grieve the way we used to. All of this has to have some kind of impact on us; whether this is an increase in death awareness, or a surge in spiritualism, I don't know. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

15 February 2021

Winner of The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez announced

Thanks to everyone who entered last week's giveaway to win a copy of The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez. The giveaway closed at midnight last night, and the winner was drawn today. Congratulations go to:

Bev Goldfarb!

The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez book cover

Congratulations Bev! You've won a print copy of The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez valued at $32.99AUD. You'll receive an email from me shortly with the details of your win and Penguin Random House Australia will send your prize out to you directly.

Enjoy and stay tuned for more giveaway opportunities coming soon.

Carpe Librum!

11 February 2021

Guest Review: The Dead Line by Holly Watt

The Dead Line by Holly Watt book cover

* Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury *


Imagine coming home and finding a note sewn to the dress you just bought, with the words: 'they take the girls'. That's the basic premise of The Dead Line by Holly Watt and guest reviewer Neil Béchervaise shares his thoughts on the book below.


If you are desperate enough to raise a family then the cost may seem irrelevant. IVF may seem to be the only way. Surrogacy may be the only solution on offer to maintain the genetic line. No matter the cost.

Holly Watt’s latest thriller challenges the innocence behind the ‘at-all-costs’ premise behind ‘having a baby’. Her team of investigative reporters are alerted to slips of fabric among designer clothes imported from Bangladesh. A quick whip-around of the publishing team at The Post in London suggests that the messages may be flagging a baby market centred on Rohinga refugee girls. The stage is set to expose a multinational conspiracy involving British politicians, diplomats and a top London medical specialist in supplying babies for a desperate elite of would-be parents with the money to indulge their desires.

As investigative journalist Casey Benedict sets up her team and opens her investigation, it quickly becomes clear that this must be a story of brutal kidnapping, slavery and murder at its initiation point and highly dubious moral standards obscured amongst conflicted intentions at its delivery point.

In The Dead Line, Holly Watt provides an emotionally compelling story of desperation amongst Rohinga refugees and Bangladeshi women in slavery to an international garment trade that so blithely provides us with the cheapest of clothing. Simultaneously, she offers a revelation into the questionable market for surrogate motherhood, the oh-so-slight bending of immigration rules to accommodate the wishes of the desperate rich couples who would be parents and the almost innocent – or is it ‘well-intentioned’ – group of basically unconnected specialists who collaborate with internationally connected criminals to profit from these crimes.

Watts’ novel is, all at once, highly readable, immediately familiar and morally challenging once it gets past the initial investigative team selection and journalistic context phase. In its closing stages, the pursuit through Bangladeshi slave factories challenges credibility – could this English woman really escape a criminal gang across the mudflats of Bangladeshi shipyards?

The final resolution, equally, left me with a feeling that the author was actually unwilling to apportion blame for the abuse of Rohinga refugees, the slavery and murder of Bangladeshi garment workers and the corruption of both respected diplomats and highly esteemed medical specialists on the self-seeking willingness of a rich couple to subjugate their morality to their need for a baby. With these few reservations, I believe that Holly Watts has produced a really interesting thriller with enough grist to feed the modern mill of those who are willing to explore the ambiguity of modern medical practice at its extremes.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

Neil's Rating:

08 February 2021

Review: The Reach by B. Michael Radburn

The Reach by B. Michael Radburn book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pantera Press *

Taylor Bridges is back! We first met Park Ranger Taylor Bridges in Tasmania in The Crossing, then caught up with him in Gippsland Victoria in The Falls, and this time he's on secondment to the Hawkesbury River in NSW.

Bridges has earned a reputation as a remote crime scene specialist and this time he's heading into a remote logging community called Devlins Reach. With a population of only 320 people, Devlins Reach is accessible by ferry across the Hawkesbury River. Taylor has been asked to employ his unique set of skills to assist Detective Sergeant (DS) Ryan Everett in the investigation into the remains of three men discovered at an excavation site.

Radburn's skill at capturing the Australian bush is in full swing again and the isolated environment almost becomes a character of its own as the river swells and a huge weather event is on the way.

Small town characters feature throughout the book as DS Everett and Taylor Bridges attempt to identify the men and establish who may have wanted to harm them. The history of the island is full of secrets and unexplained disappearances and the locals are reluctant to talk; preferring to keep their secrets to themselves. Bridges shares his beliefs on energy and history which adds to the tension:
" I believe when something bad happens - and I mean something truly wicked - it can leave a stain, some kind of residue on the place; a memory that can't be wiped clean. Nothing to do with spectres, things that go bump in the night; it's more grounded than that, as if the energy sparked during that wicked deed remains burning somehow." Page 106
The Reach has a dark and otherworldly undercurrent, with an old logger's tale about a Hoodoo that takes on many forms and is responsible for men disappearing from the logger's camp. Taylor's daughter is channelling warnings from her deceased sister Claire that may or may not be relevant to the case. Many locals believe in a dark power and it's up to the reader to decide if any of it is real or not. I really enjoyed this duality and it certainly added to my reading experience.

With limited resources at hand and zero back up available, Bridges and Everett make a great team. We hear from them in alternating chapters that makes for an entertaining and convincing crime-solving endeavour. The Reach can be comfortably read as a stand alone with a few references to Taylor's background enough to inform the reader, however I do recommend you start at the beginning in order to enjoy the character arc and understand how Taylor has found himself with this unique set of skills.

This series continues to be cinematic, and I can easily imagine Bridges holding his own with many of the other single name crime and mystery solving specialists on our TV screens, like: Bones, Bosch, Cardinal, Castle, Chance, Dexter, Goliath, Harrow, House, Lucifer, Luther, Sherlock, Strike, River and Wallander. Okay, sorry, I think I got a little carried away there. Obviously single name TV shows are a 'thing' I enjoy and I totally think Bridges should be added to their company.

I really enjoy the continuity in the titles of this series, Glorys Crossing becomes The Crossing, The Falls is the location of the second book and Devlins Reach becomes The Reach. In listening to an interview with the author on the Good Reading podcast, I've learned the next book in the series is called The Wells which will be taking Taylor Bridges up north to the Northern Territory. 

What a terrific Australian crime series this is turning out to be; with each book set in a different state of Australia, readers are able to journey around the country with Taylor, solving crimes in national parks and rural and remote locations as they go. I'll definitely be looking forward to Taylor's next interstate secondment.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

06 February 2021

Review: The Swap by Robyn Harding

The Swap by Robyn Harding book cover
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

If you're thinking this is going to be a book about two couples who throw their keys into a bowl and swap partners, you'd be wrong. The Swap by Robyn Harding isn't a book about a swingers party gone wrong. It's a story about a master manipulator and the damage she inflicts on those unfortunate enough to be drawn into her inner circle.

Freya is a charismatic, creative, attractive and charming social media influencer who inspires absolute devotion from her retired athlete husband. Offering pottery classes in her isolated community, Freya meets teenager and pottery student Low Morrison and middle aged gift shop owner Jamie.

Toxic relationships abound in this novel, both between the female characters as well as husband and wife. Jamie and Low try various ways to compete for Freya's friendship and affection, each wanting to be the 'best friend' and confidant and escalating their attempts in order to ensure their success.

I was reading this at the same time as My Best Friend's Murder by Polly Phillips (also by Simon & Schuster) and wanted to shake Jamie and Low by the shoulders and cry 'Get a grip, she's not worth it!' If by some miracle either of these two characters did listen to my advice and move on to healthier and more fulfilling relationships, there wouldn't be a story, so I totally get it.

Nevertheless, the tension escalates in The Swap until it reaches an unexpected conclusion, which was a satisfying end to the secrets, manipulation and outright obsession on display here. A good read.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

05 February 2021

WIN a copy of The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez

The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez book cover
* Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House Australia *

Deborah Rodriguez is the author of international bestsellers like The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, and to celebrate the release of her latest novel The Moroccan Daughter I'm running a giveaway. Check out the blurb and enter below for your chance to win a copy for yourself or a loved one. Good luck!


Morocco: a captivating country of honor and tradition. And, for these four women, a land of secrets and revelations.

From the twisted alleyways of the ancient medina of Fès to a marriage festival high in the Atlas Mountains, Deborah Rodriguez’s entrancing new bestseller is a modern story of forbidden love set in the sensual landscape of North Africa. 

Amina Bennis has come back to her childhood home in Morocco to attend her sister’s wedding. The time has come for her to confront her strict, traditionalist father with the secret she has kept for more than a year – her American husband, Max.

Amina’s best friend, Charlie, and Charlie’s feisty grandmother, Bea, have come along for moral support, staying with Amina and her family in their palatial riad in Fès and enjoying all that the city has to offer. But Charlie is also hiding someone from her past – a mystery man from Casablanca.

And then there’s Samira, the Bennises’ devoted housekeeper for many decades. Hers is the biggest secret of all – one that strikes at the very heart of the family.

As things begin to unravel behind the ancient walls of the medina, the four women are soon caught in a web of lies, clandestine deals and shocking confessions . . .


This giveaway has now closed.

02 February 2021

Review: #EntryLevelBoss: a 9-step guide for finding a job you like (and actually getting hired to do it) by Alexa Shoen

#EntryLevelBoss: a 9-step guide for finding a job you like (and actually getting hired to do it) by Alexa Shoen book cover
* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

Some of you might not know this, but one of my side hustles is providing job hunting and job application assistance in the form of resumes, cover letters and interview coaching through my Extra Edge business. I like to stay up to date when it comes to job hunting and career changes and reading #EntryLevelBoss: a 9-step guide for finding a job you like (and actually getting hired to do it) by Alexa Shoen was like a shot of adrenalin to the system.

Alexa Shoen runs an online education company for job seekers and likens her approach to a fitness program for job hunting. Full of info geared towards graduates and school leavers but applicable to employees and the unemployed no matter what stage in their career they find themselves.

Shoen echoes much of what I've been sharing with my clients for years in terms of marketing yourself to the specific job and company. Here's her take on the job ad and job description.
"At its core, a job description is a CV, but in reverse. It is a marketing tool designed to pique interest from the right people. All any company is ever trying to say with a job description is: "We need someone who kind of knows about this kind of stuff, who could help us do something kind of like this. We think that's what we need, anyway. Is it you?" Page 30
Some candidates see one or two items in a job ad or position description that they've never done before or don't have much experience in and decide they don't qualify for the job. Wrong! Give it a go anyway, what have you got to lose?

Occasionally a piece of advice came as a shock, like the advice not to include your physical address on your CV. I'm not sure I agree with her on that one, but largely, I absolutely agree with her 9 steps and I've recommended many of them to my clients over the years.

#EntryLevelBoss is an up to the minute take on job hunting and Shoen's energy and enthusiasm almost leaps off the page. Her mission is straight forward: to help good people land great jobs, as quickly as possible. Sounds great doesn't it? She's confident and sassy and openly shares some of her own examples from cover letters and email interactions to provide real world examples; both good and bad.

Alexa Shoen is a careers expert worth listening to, so if your job hunting has stagnated or you need a confidence boost or a fresh approach, #EntryLevelBoss is well worth the read. Shoen is also active on social media and provides plenty of resources on her website to reinvigorate and focus your job hunting process, so get out there and go for it!

Highly recommended.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

01 February 2021

Winners of A Plum Job by Cenarth Fox announced

A Plum Job by Cenarth Fox book cover
Thanks to all those who entered my giveaway last week to win 1 of 2 copies of A Plum Job by Cenarth Fox. No one was fooled by the Sherlock Holmes misdirect, and correctly identified Edith Piaf as Louise Wellesley's new best friend. The giveaway closed at midnight last night, and congratulations go to:

Brenda Telford and Daniella

Congratulations to you both! You've each won a print copy of A Plum Job by Cenarth Fox valued at $20.00AUD. You'll each receive an email from me shortly informing you of your win, and will have 7 days to provide a postal address.

You'll both receive your prize directly from the author and I hope you'll enjoy this historical fiction novel set during WWII.

For those who missed out, I'll be giving away a copy of The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez on 5 February, so stay tuned.

Carpe Librum!