Review & Giveaway: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.


Title: Sweet Wattle Creek

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin AU October 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from September 30 to October 01, 2015   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells the story of Belle Bartholomew and Sophie Matheson, two women haunted by the secrets of their pasts.

When her father commits suicide after losing his wealth during the post war depression, Belle Bartholomew is stunned to learn of the secrets he had been keeping. Eager to know more, she travels to Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance, a rundown hotel bequeathed to her by Martha Ambrose, and though Belle’s questions put the locals offside, she is determined to solve the mystery of her birth.

Nearly sixty years later, reporter Sophie Matheson is enchanted by a vintage wedding dress donated to the Sweet Wattle Creek centenary celebrations. Intrigued by its mysterious provenance, Sophie begins to piece together the story of Belle and Charlie, and their connection to the old burnt out hotel on the town’s fringe, unaware that her own past is catching up to her.

Both Belle and Sophie are appealing and sympathetic characters. Though their situations are very different they share a similar spirit, facing adversity with courage and determination.

Dobbie’s portrayal of small town Australia during the 1930’s is very well done. The community of Sweet Wattle Creek is still struggling with grief for their loved ones lost and injured in the Great War, and are worried about the impact of the post war depression, particularly as ‘travellers’ pass through their town. Dobbie skilfully communicates this tense atmosphere, and Belle’s status as an outsider.

The mid 1980’s is a fairly bland era by comparison but Dobbie is careful to ensure the period is reflected in the storyline. The local paper where Sophie works still uses a mechanical press to publish, archives are stored in the basement, and the single computer that saves data to floppy discs is still a novelty.

Most importantly, I thought the story was very well structured, both the historical and contemporary timelines complement each other well, and advance the plot as a whole. The pacing is good and the suspense builds nicely. There are some neat turns to the plot and I thought the conclusion was satisfying.

Sweet Wattle Creek is a well crafted and engaging tale combining mystery, drama and romance, and I’m happy to recommend it.

To learn more , CLICK HERE for a guest post from the author published earlier today

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Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie I have

1 Kindle edition of

Sweet Wattle Creek

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Leave a comment on this post and then


*Sorry, entry is for Australian residents only, and must have a valid account*

Entries close October 11th, 2015

#SweetWattleCreek #KayeDobbie @HarlequinAUS #JAMPR



Blog Tour: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie


I’m delighted to welcome Kaye Dobbie to Book’d Out today, celebrating the release of Sweet Wattle Creek. Kaye Dobbie is an Australian author living on the central Victorian goldfields. She has been writing professionally ever since she won the Grafton Big River short story contest at the age of 18. Her career has undergone many changes, including writing Australian historical fiction under the name Lilly Sommers and penning romance novels as Sara Bennett. Kaye has written about, and been published in, many countries, but her passion for Australia shows in her current Harlequin Mira novels.

In Sweet Wattle Creek, the chance discovery of an antique wedding dress weaves together the fascinating stories of three women from different eras: Sophie, in hiding from a troubled past; Belle, who must lose everything to learn what really matters; and Martha, forced to give up those she loves in order to avoid exposure.

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

It’s 1931 and Belle Bartholomew has arrived in rural Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance – a run-down grand hotel formerly owned by Martha Ambrose. Determined to solve the mystery of her birth and the reason why she was bequeathed the hotel Belle runs into difficulties with the townsfolk and their desire to keep their secrets safe.

Sixty years later Sophie Matheson is on a quest to find Belle and her family after discovering the wedding dress. The Sweet Wattle Creek Centenary brings more challenges when her past catches up and she must fight for all that matters to her. Who were Belle and Martha and what links their lives together?”


To read my review of Sweet Wattle Creek and for a chance to win a copy, please CLICK HERE.  But first, please read on to learn more about the novel…

Animal Characters in Sweet Wattle Creek

by Kaye Dobbie

I happen to be an animal lover. Over the years I’ve had more pets than I can remember. Well, that’s not true, because I can remember them, they all hold a special place in my heart, every one of them. So it makes sense that I have animals in my books. Usually the animal plays some role, it isn’t just there to up the word count. And sometimes I like to write about a pet I have loved and lost.

In Sweet Wattle Creek I have three main Creature Characters.

cockatoo-583921_640In 1904 Martha and her daughter Belle are waiting on the platform at Spencer Street Station, Melbourne, for Martha’s brother Rory. Four year old Belle sees a pigeon that reminds her of Nellie, her pet sulphur crested cockatoo, and the bird is introduced to readers. Later on, in 1931, Belle returns to claim her inheritance in Sweet Wattle Creek, and this time we meet the real Nellie. She becomes part of the story, sitting on Belle’s shoulder, even participating in one of the crucial scenes in the book. And near the end, if you read very carefully, she’s there, a part of Belle’s family.

In 1986 Sophie Matheson comes to Sweet Wattle Creek to hide from a frightening past. Her son Dillon has always wanted a dog but their circumstances meant it was impossible. Now they are settled in the small country town, and suddenly fate throws Smithy in their path and into their home.

Smithy is a black and white border collie, and he belongs to an elderly woman who has had a fall and been taken to hospital. Dillon and Smithy immediately bond, and his arrival gives the reader an insight into the sort of boy Dillon is and how his life has been affected by the trauma of his, and Sophie’s, past. Smithy also gives a bit of comic relief from what is a serious subject.

border collieThe third Creature Character in Sweet Wattle Creek is BC, which stands for Black Cat. BC arrived on the doorstep of Sophie’s work place, the Sweet Wattle Creek Herald, with a litter of kittens. Sophie managed to find adoptees for the others, but BC was left and now he is her cat. BC is the boss of the house, very used to getting his own way, until Smithy the border collie arrives. Suddenly BC undergoes a character change, shedding his aloofness for the sake of more pats.

BC is a pseudonym for a real cat called Aussie, who later on became Old Black Cat. She arrived one Christmas, dumped in our street, and found her way to our house. She was my cat for twenty-two years, and for the last part of her life kept me company in my study while I wrote. I got so used to seeing her on the chair behind me, or stretched out in front of the heater under the desk, that when she grew so ill we had to let her go, I felt as if my writing partner had died. At times, during those last weeks, I was worried she wouldn’t make it to the end of the book, so afterwards my sadness was tinged with gratitude that she did.

I believe animals are important in real life, so why not in fictional life too? Are you an animal lover? Do you have a special Creature Character in your life?

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

Sweet Wattle Creek is available to purchase via

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Review: The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer


Title: The Saddler Boys

Author: Fiona Palmer

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Au September 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from September 22 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Saddler Boys is another delightfully engaging rural romance from Australian author Fiona Palmer.

Natalie Wright is excited about taking up her first teaching position in the remote farming community of Lake Biddy, and is determined to make the most of a years freedom from her parent’s expectations. Welcomed by the locals despite her city ways Nat quickly falls in love with Lake Biddy and her adorable young charges, particularly shy and sweet Billy Saddler.

The development of the relationship between Natalie and single dad Drew Saddler is charming. It begins as a friendship sparked by Billy’s admiration for Nat, and her interest in understanding what farming entails but the attraction between the two is quickly evident, even as they both try to deny it. The relationship is of course complicated by Natalie’s engagement to Gary, whose character contrasts sharply with Drew’s.

Additional drama develops as the government announces its intention to shut down Lake Biddy primary school, Billy’s mother, who abandoned him as a newborn reappears demanding contact with her son, and Gary grows increasingly impatient with Natalie’s desire for independence. These subplots all add a frisson of tension to the story, and depth by touching on topical issues such as regional school closures, drug abuse, and domestic violence.

While I really liked the wonderful characterisations of Natalie, Drew and Billy, I also loved the authentic feeling of community Palmer evokes in The Saddler Boys as the residents rally against the school closure and attend the raucous P&C fundraisers. She captures the generosity of country neighbours as Doris drops off Tupperware containers full of food, and friends trade babysitting duties during harvest and seeding.

Written with warmth, humour and spirit, The Saddler Boys is an lovely read about belonging, family, and love.

Available to purchase from

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Also by Fiona Palmer at Book’d Out


Review: The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns


Title: The Patterson Girls

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: Harlequin MIRA September 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from September 16 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Patterson Girls is Rachael Johns first foray into general contemporary fiction, though she doesn’t stray far from her literary roots in rural romance.

The titular Patterson girls, obstetrician Madeleine, wife and teacher Lucy, professional violinist Abigail, and Charlotte, the self described under achiever, have come home to spend Christmas with their recently widowed father. Keenly feeling their mothers absence, none of them are surprised when he announces his plan to sell the family motel and willingly agree to help clear out their mothers things. As the sisters rummage through their mother’s keepsakes, reminiscing over old photos, fashion and jewelry, their curiosity is piqued when they discover a reference to a Patterson curse. Wheedling the details from the reluctant Aunt Mags, the particulars of the curse stuns all four sisters, and becomes a catalyst that turns the Patterson’s sisters lives upside down.

Told from the shifting third person perspectives of Madeleine, Lucy, Abigail and Charlotte, The Patterson Girls is a story of sisters, secrets, loss and love.

Vivid characterisation brings the personalities of the sisters to life. Each has distinct strengths and flaws, and are beset by their own personal challenges, from unrequited love to infertility. While I identified most closely with Charlotte, I also found Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail to be interesting and well rounded characters and I really enjoyed Johns skillful portrayal of their sisterly dynamic.

The plot blends domestic drama, romance and a hint of mystery. While it’s clear from the outset that all of the sisters are struggling in one way or another, the revelation about the Patterson curse piles on the pressure, and provokes much of the drama that follows, particularly for Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail. Charlie is finally finding her feet when a twist in the tale threatens to shatter the happiness she has forged for herself. Meanwhile, romance proves to be troublesome for all of them. While Charlie’s feelings grow for an old friend and Abigail meets the man of her dreams, Lucy’s marriage is floundering, and Madeleine’s love life grows increasingly complicated.

A well crafted, entertaining, contemporary novel with strong characters and an engaging story, The Patterson Girls should appeal to fans of Monica McIerney and Marian Keys.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Starcrossed by Carla Caruso




Title: Starcrossed

Author: Carla Caruso

Published: HarperCollins August 2015

Status: Read from September 14 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Starcrossed, by Carlo Caruso, is a contemporary romance novel mixed with suspense and magical realism.

Newly divorced and struggling with writer’s block, romance author Simona Gemella agrees to accompany her best friend, Nessie, to an astrological health and wellness retreat on Kangaroo Island. Simona is hoping to relax and find inspiration for her next book, but she is unsettled by the presence of handsome marine biologist Denham Cobalt, and a series of odd, and increasingly sinister, events that begin to plague the guests at the Sea Star Manor.

Written in the third person, most of the story is related through Simona, however the narrative is also shared by fellow guests at the Manor; Nessie, Raquel and Jordana, and a fifth perspective identified only as ‘Him’.

Caruso gradually introduces the idea something is not quite right at the Manor, building the suspense slowly, advancing towards the showdown on the night of the ‘Blood Moon’. But while the author neatly links the fantastical elements to the retreat’s focus on astrology, I thought each of the women had a little too much going on externally, which is a distraction to the main thrust of the plot.

Nessie is hiding a secret while flirting with the Yoga instructor, heavily pregnant Raquel is worried about her partner’s fidelity, and Jordana, accompanied by her husband, with his own drama, is struggling with infertility. Simona, on top of being newly divorced, suffering from writers block, and stressing over the release of her debut novel, also has to contend with the anticipation of meeting her writing ‘idol’, Astrid’s revelations, and of course, her attraction to Denham.

Overall I thought Starcrossed was a quick and engaging read, but needed a little more focus.

Click HERE to learn more about Carla Caruso and Starcrossed

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AWW Feature: Carla Caruso, Starcrossed and Shadow Signs

Carla Caruso, author pic, HarperCollins


I’m delighted to welcome Carla Caruso to Book’d Out today to talk about her novel Starcrossed.

Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop. These days, she plays mum to her twin boys and writes fun frothy reads.

Starcrossed is her tenth book.


“Is love really written in the stars?

Fledgling romance author Simona Gemella is hoping the rugged wilderness of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will help reignite her creative spark after her husband walked out on her (calling her a workaholic and filing for divorce).
She’s joined her best friend, Nessie, on a health and wellness retreat at a mysterious old manor on the island, run by an astrology guru.
Though Simona’s sworn off men, she can’t help being distracted by a darkly dangerous man with a scorpion tattoo – Denham Cobalt – who’s also staying at the manor. Then strange things start to happen, including uncanny accidents and even a possible murder.
It all culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse. Will Simona survive – with her heart intact?”

My review of Starcrossed will appear today, in the meantime please read on to learn more about this novel fun contemporary romance…

Shadow Signs

by Carla Caruso

I’ve always wanted to write a novel with an astrology theme. My mum (though Catholic) loves her New Agey stuff and has passed on the fascination to me – I always read my daily and monthly horoscopes via and consider myself the quintessential Capricorn.

Hence, my novel, Starcrossed, was born. It surrounds four women who go on a cosmic retreat on rugged Kangaroo Island in South Australia…and strange things start to happen. The main character, Simona Gemella, is a newbie romance author – don’t know where I got that idea from ;) – and on the island, she meets a darkly handsome guy, Denham, who has a scorpion tattoo on his neck. Hello, Scorpio! The story blends romance and suspense.

In researching the novel, I came across the idea of ‘shadow signs’, which became an integral part of the story. Your ‘shadow’ being the dark side of your Sun sign, or the negative traits that could overtake your astrologically-determined positive qualities…if you let them.

Queensland astrologer A.K. Leigh (who also happens to be an author with a debut novel out, See Her Run) says: “The sun sign represents your core self, who you really are deep down. So knowing this from the get-go will tell you who a person really is.”
So how do we stop our murkier traits from overshadowing our good points? Leigh reckons: “Balancing your positive and negative traits is the greatest challenge of life, isn’t it? However, being aware of the placement of planets, houses, aspects etc. in your birth chart can give some insight into this. For instance, the north node (a mathematically-derived location on your chart, not a physical object) shows the lessons you are supposed to learn, Pluto’s placement represents areas that need to be transformed, and the asteroid, Chiron, indicates where you need to be healed.”

Below is a list of ‘negative’ personality traits for each sun sign, according to Leigh. See if you recognise any of your own mannerisms in there – or your lover’s ;)
Aries: Selfish, quick-tempered, impatient, impulsive, takes foolish risks.
Taurus: Stubborn, possessive, resentful, inflexible, self-indulgent.
Gemini: Superficial, inconsistent, cunning, anxious, low tolerance for boredom.
Cancer: Moody, overly sensitive, emotional, clingy, prone to deep depressions.
Leo: Pompous, bossy, patronising, interfering, intolerant.
Virgo: Perfectionist, fussy, critical, self-denigrating, worrier.
Libra: Indecisive, gullible, too flirtatious, beliefs easily swayed by others, lazy.
Scorpio: Jealous, compulsive, obsessive, secretive, obstinate.
Sagittarius: Preachy, overly optimistic, careless, irresponsible, tactless.
Capricorn: Too pessimistic, miserly, manipulative, rigid, workaholic tendencies.
Aquarius: Unpredictable, unemotional, detached, eccentric, rebellious.
Pisces: Escapist, too idealistic, vague, weak-willed, deceitful.

Despite this list, though, Leigh says: “It’s important to remember that every person is more than their sun sign. In the ancient days, people exchanged information on their rising (and/or moon signs) rather than their sun signs. This was because the rising sign tells you characteristics that are observable in a person straightaway. The rising sign shows who somebody is on the surface.”
She continues: “The other benefit of knowing someone’s rising sign is: once you have it, you can work out what their 8th and 12th house signs are. The 8th house will give you a glimpse at their attitude towards life, other people, sex and death. The 12th house is where you are going to find their secrets, inner darkness and ‘skeletons in the closet’. Both of these houses explain a person’s shadow side better than the sun or rising sign.”
As an aside, Leigh adds: “The rising sign (surface personality) is the reason when you meet a shy person and they tell you they are Leo, you think ‘but aren’t Leo’s extroverted?’ Watch that person once you get to know them, then you will see their Leo sun (core personality) firing!”


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Review: The Replacement Wife by Rowena Wiseman


Title: The Replacement Wife

Author: Rowena Wiseman

Published: HarperCollins AU September 2015

Status: Read from September 09 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

The Replacement Wife by Rowena Wiseman has an unusual premise. When Luisa rekindles an old romance after a family BBQ she becomes determined to escape her lacklustre marriage of twelve years. Desperate not to be branded as a homewrecker, Luisa concocts a plan to find her husband a replacement wife, allowing her to exit the marriage blamelessly. While fantasising about the new life she will build with Jarvis, Luisa pushes a procession of single women at her husband but when it seems she has finally found him the one, she’s no longer sure she wants to be replaced after all.

Though I didn’t like Luisa at all, I thought Wiseman’s characterisation was very interesting. Luisa has a delusional self narrative, she believes herself unselfish for wanting to secure her husband’s happiness before she leaves him, compassionate for selecting women who will a good mother to her son, moral because she refuses a physical relationship with Jarvis while still married. Luisa’s skewed perspective is obvious to the reader, who can see exactly how flawed her thinking is, and the looming pitfall’s of Luisa’s grand plan.

‘Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it’ is the overriding theme of The Replacement Wife, however I struggled with the inconsistent tone of the novel. The first three quarters of the book or so reads mostly like a screwy romcom as Luisa attempts to fix up her husband with a handful of single women while swooning over the ridiculously effusive texts and emails from Jarvis, but then the tone shifts abruptly and The Replacement Wife becomes a serious morality tale, and though Luisa’s fate is deserved, the overall imbalance is awkward.

I didn’t dislike The Replacement Wife, I thought the unique premise was quite clever, and the writing of a good standard, but unfortunately the execution didn’t quite work for me.

Available to purchase from

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Review: The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay


Title: The Secret Years

Author: Barbara Hannay

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin  August 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 23 to 25, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Secret Years is Barbara Hannay’s 49th book, in which she blends a contemporary and historical narrative to present an engaging novel about family, heroism, heartbreak and love.

Army logistics officer Lucy Hunter is relieved to be home in Townsville after her six month deployment in Afghanistan but she isn’t prepared for the changes in store for her. Her mother has exchanged her childhood home for a sterile condo apartment she is sharing with a new man, her grandfather’s health is failing, and her fiance, Sam, has cold feet. With several weeks of leave ahead of her, Lucy is at a loose end until she discovers a box of wartime memorabilia that contains clues to her family’s history that neither her mother or grandfather are willing to talk about. Hoping to understand the secrets of the past, Lucy travels to Cornwall, a place where she just might find her future.

Moving between the past and present, the narrative shifts between Lucy’s journey to unravel her family’s secrets, and the story of the relationship between Lucy’s cattleman grandfather, Harry, and his aristocratic bride, Georgina. Emotions run high in both timelines through scenes of wartime drama, desperate passion and captivating romance.

I liked Lucy and I sympathised with her desire to understand the past. The mystery stems from the discord between Lucy’s mother, Ro and Lucy’s grandfather, Harry, which Lucy learns is related to her mother’s brief time in England. I also enjoyed Lucy’s romance with the dashing Nick.

But it was the story of Harry and George’s courtship and marriage that I found particularly entrancing. Their love is touching, and their wartime experiences are exciting, if also sobering.

The story takes us from Australia’s coastline and outback, to London during the Blitz, from the wild bluffs of Cornwall to the jungles of Papua New Guinea as the Japanese invade. Both the contemporary and wartime settings are vividly described, as are the characters experiences of them.

The Secret Years is well written with appealing characters and a moving story. Another winning romance.

Available to purchase from

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Also by Barbara Hannay



Review: Six Degrees by Honey Brown


Title: Six Degrees: The Power of Attraction Connects Us All

Author: Honey Brown

Published: Jane Curry Publishing/Ventura Press August 2015

Status: Read from August 06 to 06, 2015 {Courtesy Simon& Schuster}

My Thoughts:

Six Degrees is a stunning departure from the psychological thrillers that have made Honey Brown a bestselling author. Subtitled ‘The Power of Attraction Connects Us All’, this book is a a collection of six loosely linked passionate and sensual short stories.

It begins with ‘Threesome’ and ends with ‘First Time’, each of the six stories exploring the tension and ecstasy of attraction, of connection, of desire. There is no judgement, no pretence. Brown’s tales are a celebration of shared lust and intimacy.

The characters are ordinary people, among them a cafe owner, a pharmacist, a bartender and a tyre salesman. They speak and behave in ways which are authentic and familiar. Though each story is related in the third person, the women are more often than not (the major exception being ‘Two Men’) in control, seeking pleasure, closeness and fulfillment.

Unusually, the subtle connection that links the characters in Six Degrees is the tragic death of a man – a stranger, a father, a best friend, a neighbour. Studies show that a craving for intimacy in the wake of loss is not uncommon, and sex is a natural way in which to instinctually deny death its power.

The expressive writing is explicit yet tasteful. The collection is erotic but not pornographic. The scenes of sexual intimacy are hot, sensual, and provocative but there is real depth to the characters and their circumstances.

Six Degrees is alluring, exciting and seductive.


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Review: How To Be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus


Title: How To Be a Grown-Up

Author: Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Published: Atria July 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 30 to August 01, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Rory McGovern is a part time freelance stylist, who lives in New York with her actor husband and two young children, but with her husband’s star fading and residuals dwindling, Rory is forced to find full time work. Just as she lands a position with a start up webzine run by Millennials, her husband announces he needs some space, and Rory is suddenly the only grown-up at work and home.

Rory often made me shake my head, both in empathy and disbelief. I could relate to the chaos of parenting, less so to the doormat aspects of her personality. Sadly most of the other characters were little more than stereotypes, from Rory’s man child husband, and loopy mother in law, to bitchy colleague, and the hunky man about town love interest. I did like Claire though, and Josh of course, as I was meant to.

Rory’s experiences in the workplace are highly exaggerated, or at least I hope so. I certainly wouldn’t stand for Taylor’s snotty attitude, life is too short and I’m far too old (just a year older that Rory) to put up with that sort of crap. The highstrung, self absorbed Millennial staff are ripe targets for mocking however and McLaughlin and Kraus delight in poking fun at them, as well as the inane ‘jargon’ favoured by youth that actually have nothing to say.

How To Be a Grown-Up was entertaining, but only mildly so. A quick read that demands little on a lazy summer’s afternoon.

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