Review: Cross My Heart by Pamela Cook


Title: Cross My Heart

Author: Pamela Cook

Published: September 26th 2019, Wildwords Publishing

Status: Read October 2019 courtesy the author


My Thoughts:

Cross My Heart is a moving story of friendship, grief, and redemption set largely in a small country town, west of The Blue Mountains in the middle of NSW, from Australian author, Pamela Cook.

When Tessa De Santis learns of the death of her childhood best friend, she is reminded of the long ago vow she made to care for Skye’s daughter, Grace, should anything ever happen to her. Tessa, whose lifestyle with her husband is not conducive to motherhood, is reluctant to take custody of the ten year old, but feels compelled to honour her promise. Grace is traumatised by the loss of her mother, and overwhelmed by her new circumstances refuses to speak, so on the advice of a child psychologist, Tessa takes Grace back home in hopes that the familiar will be of comfort.

Cook’s characterisation in Cross My Heart is thoughtful and authentic. Tess is a woman who has unexpectedly found herself caring for a troubled child, and flounders somewhat under the weight of the sudden responsibly. Grace is grieving the loss of her mother, and wary of Tess who is a virtual stranger. The development of their relationship is realistic and moving as they both struggle with their new circumstances.

As Grace confronts her turbulent emotions in an equine therapy program, Tessa’s own emotional equilibrium is tested by a series of flashbacks. Nearly twenty years previously Tess and Skye were victims of a predator, and between Skye’s death, a suspected suicide, and living among her things, memories Tess thought she had buried are resurfacing. Cook’s treatment of this issue is sensitive and honest, and the author uses it to add an unexpected element of suspense to the story.

A heartfelt, thoughtful, and ultimately uplifting story, Cross My Heart is beautifully written, and I’m pleased to recommend it to readers of contemporary women’s fiction.


Available directly from the author at

Or from your preferred retailer @ Amazon AU I Amazon US I Kobo I iBooks


Also by Pamela Cook reviewed at Book’d Out


Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman


Title: The World That We Knew

Author: Alice Hoffman

Published: October 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read October 2019 courtesy Simon & Schuster


My Thoughts:

“It was protection, it was love, it was a secret, it was the beginning, it was the end.”

The World That We Knew is a lyrical, evocative and poignant tale set during World War II from Alice Hoffman.

“I beg you for one thing. Love her as if she were your own.”

As the Nazi’s purge Germany of its Jewish population, a mother desperately seeks a way to save her twelve year old daughter, Lea. Turning to her faith for a miracle she finds help from a Rabbi’s daughter, Ettiene, who, in exchange for train tickets to make her own escape with her sister, creates a Golem, a creature made from magic and clay, compelled to deliver Lea safe from the war.

“Hers was a wish that could never be granted. It was too late, it was over; there was no home to go back to.”

While Lea grieves for all she has left behind, Ava, learning to walk within the world, ensures they safely reach Paris. There they find refuge with the Levi family, distant cousins, and Lea a friendship with Julien Levi that eases her heartache, but once again the darkness closes in, and Ava and Lea must flee.

“It was a dark dream,… it was nothing like the world we knew.”

A story of family, love, grief, faith, sacrifice, survival, duty, good and evil, The World That We Knew is a spellbinding fairytale, grounded in the horrific reality of the Holocaust. It contrasts the very worst of humanity with its best during one of history’s darkest periods, and celebrates the astonishing ability of love to thrive even in the bleakest of circumstances.

“People said love was the antidote to hate, that it could mend what was most broken, and give hope in the most hopeless of times.”

Lea and Ava’s path is fraught with danger, yet illuminated with love, as it also is for those with whom they connect on their journey. Ettie seeks out the resistance after her sister is gunned down during their escape from Berlin; Marianne returns home to her father’s farm in the Ardèche Mountains, and discovers all that she left to find; Julien Levi narrowly escapes being shipped off to Auschwitz during ‘Operation Spring Breeze’, doing all he can to keep his one promise to Lea – to stay alive.

“If you survive, I survive inside of you.”

Powerful and poetic, The World That We Knew is a stunning novel and a compelling read.

“Once upon a time something happened that you never could have imagined, a spell was broken, a girl was saved, a rose grew out of a tooth buried deep in the ground, love was everywhere, and people who had been taken away continued to walk with you, in dreams and in the waking world.”


Available from Simon & Schuster

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound I Book Depository

Review: Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan


Title: Sarong Party Girls

Author: Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Published: September 3rd 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

Sarong Party Girls is the first fiction novel by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a New York City-based food and fashion writer who was born and raised in Singapore.

The term ‘Sarong Party Girl’ is a largely derogatory reference in Singapore to women who exclusively pursue Caucasian men as romantic partners, spurning ah bengs (Chinese/Singaporean men), whom they generally hold in low regard. Tan’s protagonist is 26 year old Jazelin (aka Lin Boon Huag) who is on the hunt for the ultimate Singaporean status symbol, an ang moh husband, but competition is fierce, and Jazzy isn’t getting any younger. She, along with her closest friends Imo and Fann, spend almost every night in Singapore’s exclusive clubs and bars hoping to meet the man of their dreams. Provocatively dressed, they dance, flirt, drink, and sometimes sleep, with any western man who looks sideways at them. But as Jazzy steps up her campaign to win the affection of a suitable ang mah, she is slowly forced to reconsider the lifestyle she has chosen.

Not being familiar with the Singaporean culture I appreciated reading a book set in the country. I have heard a few stories from people who have spent time in Singapore that seems to confirm at least some elements of Tan’s portrayal of the city’s nightlife, including the behaviour of Sarong Party Girls, and the exploitation of women in both personal and professional arena’s. I was surprised to learn of the apparent social acceptance of girlfriends, mistresses, and even second families, for married Chinese/Singaporean men.

I really don’t see any similarities between Jane Austen’s Emma, and Sarong Party Girls as suggested by the publisher, other than the general desire of the women for an advantageous match in marriage. If there is an Austen character whom Jazzy resembles at all, it’s probably Lydia in Pride and Prejudice who is so focused on the idea of gaining status and wealth via marriage, she ignores the reality of the choices she makes in pursuit of her goal.

The element I probably most enjoyed about Sarong Party Girls was the Singlish patios used, which I found easy to decipher with context. The rhythm seemed natural and helped to illustrate both character and setting.

A glimpse into a culture quite different from my experience, I liked Sarong Party Girls well enough, it’s well written, and entertaining.


Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Forest City Killer by Vanessa Brown

Title: The Forest City Killer: A Serial Murderer, a Cold-Case Sleuth, and a Search for Justice

Author: Vanessa Brown

Published: October 4th 2019, ECW Press

Status: Read October 2019, courtesy ECW Press/Netgalley


My Thoughts:


London, Ontario earned its nickname ‘The Forest City’ during its establishment in 1826, when it was little more than a village among the trees. Today, London is a mid size city with a population of about 400,000 that spreads out along the River Thames. London is a community much like any other, but from 1959 to 1984, the town was said to have had more active serial killers than any other locale in the world. It was reported by criminologist, Michael Arntfield in his book Murder City, that there were at least six serial killers active in London during this era, including Russell Maurice Johnson known as ‘The Bedroom Strangler’, Gerald Thomas Archer known as ‘The London Chambermaid Slayer, and Christian Magee known as ‘The Mad Slasher’.

The Forest City Killer explores the murders of several young women and children, linked by location and manner of death, whose killer/s were never officially identified. Amateur historian, writer, and antiquarian bookseller Vanessa Brown presents Information about several of the cases that remain unsolved from the late 1960’s drawn not only from public record but also her own interviews with relevant persons, and from the personal files of a (now deceased) detective who played an active role in the investigation of these crimes.

Brown begins with the murder of fifteen year old Jackie English, who disappeared on her way home from work one evening in 1969. Her nude body was found under a bridge a few days later, she had been beaten, raped and strangled. Her unidentified killer, is who Brown calls ‘The Forest City Killer’, and it is this case that she finds the most compelling.

Brown’s personal theory links the murder of Jackie English with the murders of at least two other teenage girls, Jacqueline Dunleavy, and Soraya O’Connell, as well as a woman in her mid-thirties, Helga Beer, and three young boys, eleven-year-old Bruce Stapylton, nine-year old Frankie Jensen, and sixteen year old Scott Leishman. I’m not sure I agree that all the murders, and at least one other disappearance, are the work of a single killer, but Brown does suggest points of comparison that could be of significance.

Unfortunately the investigation of the cases were cases were uneven, largely a byproduct of the times. The police chief was uninterested in the disappearance of young women in particular, quick to suggest they were off partying, or were simply runaway’s, so official searches were delayed. The London police force also generally lacked experience, and an understanding, of sexually motivated crimes, evident by some shocking statements of victim shaming. While blood, fluids, and other evidence were collected from many of the scenes, forensic investigative techniques at the time were primitive, and it is unclear if any of it still exists.

Brown’s material on these unsolved cases is interesting and readable, though at times the narrative feels a little cluttered with extraneous personal detail. I do think the book would benefit from summary’s of each case’s details, and perhaps a comparison table, or something similar.

Brown states that her main purpose in writing The Forest City Killer is “…to renew interest in these unsolved cases and to urge the Ontario Provincial Police to re-investigate these crimes vigorously, using all DNA and other evidence in their possession.” I hope that her aim is achieved and the family’s may finally get the answers they have long hoped for.


Available from ECW Press

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I via Indiebound I Book Depository

Review: Silver by Chris Hammer


Title: Silver {Martin Scarsden #2}

Author: Chris Hammer

Published: October 1st 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 1st 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

Silver is the sequel to Chris Hammer’s superb debut Scrublands, featuring journalist Martin Scarsden.

“Port Silver, it’s ghosts sheltering from the iridescent sun, but awaiting him nevertheless. Port Silver. For pity’s sake, why had Mandy chosen this town, of all towns, his hometown, to restart their lives?”

With the shocking events in Riversend behind them, Martin and his girlfriend, Mandalay Blonde, have chosen to make a fresh start together in Port Silver, where Mandy has inherited a house and property. Delayed in joining her, Martin finally arrives in the small coastal town only to discover a dead man in the hallway of their rented townhouse, and Mandalay covered in blood. Martin is stunned when he recognises the victim, once a close childhood friend, and with Mandy a prime suspect in the murder, must use all of his investigative skill to unmask the real killer.

Silver offers a compelling and complex mystery. In order to prove Mandalay innocent of involvement in Jasper Speight’s death, Martin begins searching for a motive for his murder. It seems most likely that Jasper was targeted due to an ongoing battle over a multi-million dollar land development deal, but Martin is frustrated by his failure to put all the pieces together. Stymied by the possible significance of a postcard Jasper was clutching when he died, the decade old disappearance of a factory owner, and a backpacking Visa scam, it’s not until a second shocking crime, which leaves seven dead, that the secrets of Port Silver begin to unravel. Hammer skilfully manages the various threads, eventually drawing them together to reveal a stunning conspiracy of greed, corruption, and revenge.

Taking place over a period of week, the deaths draws familiar Scrublands characters to Port Silver, including Detective Inspector Morris Montifore, and later Martin’s former newspaper colleagues, Bethanie and Buzz, and television journalist Doug Thunkleton.

The events of Riversend still play on Martin’s mind, but in focus are the ghosts of his childhood spent in Port Silver. Haunted by the tragic death of his mother and sisters, and the descent of his father into an alcoholic depression, he’d left the town at eighteen for university and never planned to return. Hammer continues to develop Martin’s character as Martin confronts the traumatic memories, and while examining his past, he is forced to reconsider his future.

Masterfully evoking a sense of place, while providing the reader with a compelling drama, an intriguing mystery, and interesting characters, Silver is another brilliant crime novel from Chris Hammer. Despite its size I read it in one sitting, unwilling to put it down.


Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Chris Hammer reviews at Book’d Out

Review: 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan


Title: 488 Rules For Life

Author: Kitty Flanagan

Published: October 1st 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

Kitty Flanagan is a popular Australian comedienne, performer and writer who regularly appears on stage and screen. 488 Rules for Life is her tongue in cheek guide to modern etiquette, a list of rules that guarantees the world would be a better place, if only everyone would follow them.

Rule #19 – Flush. Pause. Check

Rule #26 – Cushions are not spiritual advisers

Rule #164 – Don’t serve food on planks, tiles, slabs of granite or any other building materials

Rule #222 – Gender-reveal parties are not a thing

Rule #447 – Lower your expectations, that way you will never be disappointed

And if there are any rules you don’t agree with, refer to Rule #1 – If you don’t agree with the rule, forget about it and move on.

Truthfully there are only 447 rules, so Kitty thoughtfully leaves room for you to list your own like…

#448 – Applaud performers if you’ve watched them perform, even when they are mediocre at best

#449 – Return your damn shopping trolley to the corral

#450 – Stand to one side while waiting for the lift/elevator to open, not directly in front of the doors

An amusing, easy read, sure to elicit at least the occasional nod of agreement, and likely more than one outburst of laughter, I enjoyed Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life.


Available from Allen & Unwin

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Kitty Flanagan reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French


Title: The Lying Room

Author: Nicci French

Published: October 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

The Lying Room is the first stand alone mystery thriller from Nicci French (the husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) since the conclusion of the Frieda Klein series.

When Neve Connolly discovers her married lover murdered in his pied-à-terre she takes a deep breath and then works methodically to remove any trace of herself from the crime scene, before returning home to her husband and three children.

“He was dead. he had been murdered. But it wasn’t about her or them. That was irrelevant to whatever it was that had happened here.”

The Lying Room is a taut character driven mystery with its focus on Neve’s desperate attempts to protect her family, and herself, from the consequences of her lover’s murder.

“There was no getting away from it. She would have to get on with her life and behave the way an innocent person would behave. The fact that she was innocent–innocent at least of the murder–was no help at all.”

The author’s characterisation is generally strong and believable. A busy wife, mother, employee and friend, Neve is an ordinary woman caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and I could empathise with her impulse to protect her family, despite her obviously shaky relationship with her husband, and daughter. Her stress and fear Is palpable as Neve frantically strives to project a sense of normalcy, even while chaos descends on her home, in the form of a parade of unwanted houseguests, and surprise visits from DI Hitching.

“Even the truth felt like a lie now.”

There are plenty of red herrings in The Lying Room to keep any armchair detective guessing. Aware that DI Hitching strongly suspects she is somehow involved, Neve eventually becomes determined to identify the killer herself, and finds herself clumsily investigating her family, and friends. I didn’t guess the identity of the killer, or their motivation, until quite late in the story, though subtle clues are present earlier.

“Almost every part of the police investigation was wrong or misleading, the crucial evidence had been removed or destroyed. Their narrative of events was entirely false. But after all of that, the conclusions were correct.”

A well written, clever, and gripping novel, The Lying Room is an entertaining mystery.


Available from Simon & Schuster

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound I Book Depository


Also by Nicci French reviewed at Book’d Out 



Review: Takes One To Know One by Susan Isaacs


Title: Takes One To Know One

Author: Susan Isaacs

Published: October 1st 2019, Grove Atlantic

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy Grove Atlantic/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

I was excited by the premise of Susan Isaacs Takes One To Know One and I’d really been looking forward to it reaching the top of my pile.

“Just a few years ago, Corie Geller was busting terrorists as an agent for the FBI. But at thirty-five, she traded in her badge for the stability of marriage and motherhood. Now Corie is married to the brilliant and remarkably handsome Judge Josh Geller and is the adoptive mother of his lovely 14-year-old daughter. Between cooking meals and playing chauffeur, Corie scouts Arabic fiction for a few literary agencies and, on Wednesdays, has lunch with her fellow Shorehaven freelancers at a so-so French restaurant. Life is, as they say, fine.

But at her weekly lunches, Corie senses that something’s off. Pete Delaney, a milquetoast package designer, always shows up early, sits in the same spot (often with a different phone in hand), and keeps one eye on the Jeep he parks in the lot across the street. Corie intuitively feels that Pete is hiding something–and as someone who is accustomed to keeping her FBI past from her new neighbors, she should know. But does Pete really have a shady alternate life, or is Corie just imagining things, desperate to add some spark to her humdrum suburban existence? She decides that the only way to find out is to dust off her FBI toolkit and take a deep dive into Pete Delaney’s affairs.”

So when I was considering giving up on it, just a little more than a quarter of the way through, I opted instead to put it aside for twenty four hours, and then try again. Honestly I picked it back up reluctantly and I have to admit the next quarter or so was still a slog, then at about the halfway point, the pace picked up and I suddenly couldn’t put it down.

I’m not exactly sure why I found the first half of Takes One To Know One so laborious. Told through Corie Geller’s first person perspective, the narrative felt, at times, closer to a stream of consciousness, bogged down in the details of Corie’s life. To be fair I think the poor formatting of the e-arc may have contributed to that impression, as there is no spacing between paragraphs, or even chapters, resulting in an uncomfortable run-on effect. That I didn’t really warm to Corie’s angst regarding the changes her marriage had wrought, probably didn’t help either.

For me the story finally got interesting when Corie began seriously investigating Pete Delaney and the narrative became more interactive (if that makes sense). As Corie considers and discards potential criminal scenarios that Pete Delaney could be involved in, she calls on ex colleagues for information, uses her best friend, Wynne, as a sounding board, and involves her dad, a retired police detective, in her investigation. It all eventually leads to a tense confrontation that I found unexpectedly thrilling.

I’m not sure that I can say the last half of the book was enough to redeem Takes One To Know One for me, but it’s entirely possible that you may not find the first half as problematic as I did, it may be worth a try if the premise appeals.


Available from Grove Atlantic

Or from your preferred retailer Indiebound I Book Depository I

Review: The Model Wife by Tricia Stringer


Title: The Model Wife

Author: Tricia Stringer

Published: 24th September 2019, HQ Fiction

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy HQ Fiction


My Thoughts:

The Model Wife is a wise, warm, and wonderful story of a woman in search of herself from Australian author, Tricia Stringer.

“The model wife spends her time taking care of her family and putting them before her own needs.” – The Model Wife by Mrs Gladys Norman, London, 1928

When Natalie King is confronted with a potentially life threatening health crisis, the busy 58 year old wife, mother and teacher, is left reeling. Reflecting on her past, and contemplating the direction of her future, she finds she desperately needs a break and, ignoring the century old wisdom of ‘The Model Wife’, flees north to Broome, leaving her family to fend for themselves.

“Everyone had a piece of Natalie and somehow she’d lost herself in the process. She’d never done anything outside anyone else’s expectations of her.”

Stringer’s portrayal of Natalie’s ‘paradigm shift’ is thoughtful and realistic, and likely one every wife and mother can relate to. After years of tirelessly working to ensure the needs of her family and community are met, Natalie realises that she has largely ignored her own. Away from the constant demands on her time and energy she has the space to consider what she wants moving forward.

“Don’t let anyone should you.”

Natalie’s timing couldn’t be worse though, it’s tailing season on the farm keeping her husband, Milt and middle daughter, Bree, busy; both her youngest and eldest daughter’s, Laura and Kate who seem to have something on their mind, are visiting; and her sister-in-law is demanding an increased share of the farm’s income. Stringer thoughtfully explores the individual issues at hand, as well as the change Natalie’s absence makes to the family dynamics. I appreciated the authenticity with which the author both portrayed and developed the multi-generational characters. I also liked the way in which issues specific to a farming lifestyle, like property succession, are explored.

“Natalie had simply had to lose herself to find her way home.”

A well written, engaging story of the everyday challenges of life and love, I enjoyed The Model Wife, and am happy to recommend it.


Read a Sample

Available to purchase from HarperCollins

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository


Also by Tricia Stringer reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review & Giveaway: Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati


Title: Where The Light Enters (The Waverly Place Series #2)

Author: Sara Donati

Published: September 17th 2019, Bantam

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Au

From the international bestselling author of The Gilded Hour comes Sara Donati’s enthralling epic about two trailblazing female doctors in nineteenth-century New York

Obstetrician Dr. Sophie Savard returns home to the achingly familiar rhythms of Manhattan in the early spring of 1884 to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. With the help of Dr. Anna Savard, her dearest friend, cousin, and fellow physician she plans to continue her work aiding the disadvantaged women society would rather forget.

As Sophie sets out to construct a new life for herself, Anna’s husband, Detective-Sergeant Jack Mezzanotte calls on them both to consult on two new cases: the wife of a prominent banker has disappeared into thin air, and the corpse of a young woman is found with baffling wounds that suggest a killer is on the loose. In New York it seems that the advancement of women has brought out the worst in some men. Unable to ignore the plight of New York’s less fortunate, these intrepid cousins draw on all resources to protect their patients.


My Thoughts:

Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati is an engrossing, complex story of historical fiction, a superb sequel to The Gilded Hour.

Though Where The Light Enters could be read as a stand-alone, I personally wouldn’t recommend it. The tale begins a few months after the end of The Gilded Hour with an exchange of letters, newspaper articles, and other correspondence between Sophie in Switzerland and her extended family, just before Cap’s death. It is Spring when she returns home to New York City, and once again the reader is drawn into the personal and professional lives of Drs. Anna and Sophie Savard, and a growing ensemble cast.

Donati combines heartfelt family drama and an intriguing mystery within a richly detailed historical setting.

I was delighted to return to Waverly Place, and reacquaint myself with the residents of ‘Roses’ and ‘Weeds’. The Drs. Savard remain strong, independent, compassionate women supported by a caring extended family of relatives and friends. Anna and her husband Jack are challenged by the loss of their charges, though kept busy be their respective positions. Sophie, while still in mourning, is making plans to establish a scholarship program, having moved into Stuyvesant Square, (later christened ‘Doves’ and ‘Lark’ by Lia). A handful of new characters are introduced as Sophie takes on staff, while others introduced previously take on a larger role.

I was very relieved that there was finally a resolution to the fascinating mystery involving the sensational murders of nine women that began in The Gilded Hour. Nicholas Lambert identifies another shocking murder he believes is related in Where The Light Enters which allows Jack and Oscar to reopen the case and follow up on new leads. I had correctly surmised the identities of the guilty parties (mostly), but when revealed, the motivation was more distressing than I expected.

With authentic and compelling detail Donati illustrates the physical and social dichotomy of New York City in the 1800’s. She highlights the hypocrisy of religious and moral fervour, the inequalities supported by law, the racism that results in warring immigrants, and the vibrancy of a busy city constantly reinventing itself., where apartment buildings with marble floors and crystal sconces, overlook crowded, vermin infested tenements.

Beautifully written, with absorbing storylines and richly drawn characters, this series is proving to be worth the investment. There are minor threads left unresolved in Where The Light Enters that no doubt will be explored in the next instalment of the Waverly Place series, which I’m very much looking forward to.


Available from PenguinRandomHouse



Courtesy of PenguinRandomHouse Australia,

I have 1 print edition of

Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Please leave a comment on this post and


Congratulations Katy E!

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close October 5th, 2019

The giveaway will be random drawing on October 6th and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours



(Click to visit the tour participants)

See my thoughts on The Gilded Hour (The Waverly Place Series #1) by Sara Donati 

Previous Older Entries