Review: Time After Time by Karly Lane


Title: Time After Time

Author: Karly Lane

Published: 2nd May 2023, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

In Karly Lane’s latest rural romance novel, Alice Croydon is forced to choose between the love of her life and her life-long ambition in Time After Time.

When Alice is offered the opportunity to apprentice at a world renowned fashion label in London, her highschool sweetheart Finn issues her an ultimatum. Alice is torn, she loves Finn and her life in her small country hometown of Gunnindi, but, with the encouragement of her beloved Gran, chooses to go, planning to stay just a year, hoping that Finn will forgive her when she returns.

I can’t reveal what happens after Alice makes her choice without spoiling the story completely, but when Alice finally returns to Gunnindi she is not the same person she was when she left. I liked Alice and I enjoyed her journey, but to be honest the ‘second-chance romance’ reunion didn’t quite work for me personally.

Alice’s grandmother was probably my favourite character in Time After Time, I particularly admired the decision she made to be true to herself. I also liked Alice’s colleagues in London, and laughed at her interactions with the formidable seamstress, Marcella.

Though only about half the book is set in the fictional town of Gunnindi, Lane vividly evokes Australian rural communities, and gives due recognition to its challenges, especially for farmers. I really liked that Lane raises the issue of preserving and revitalising rural industry and it’s many benefits for regional areas.

Written with the warmth, humour and heart for which Lane’s rural romances are known, Time After Time is an engaging read


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Review: Family Baggage by Ilsa Evans


Title: Family Baggage

Author: Ilsa Evans

Published: 8th March 2023, HQ Fiction

Status: Read March 2023 courtesy Harlequin/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

Family Baggage by Ilsa Evans is a heartfelt story that explores family relationships, unfolding over a period of a week in early 2020.

Upon their mother’s sudden death, the task of disseminating and disposing of Enid’s belongings is left to her daughters, Kathryn, Georgette and Annie, whom she privately thought of as The Sorter, The Settler and The Sook. Gathering at their childhood home Kat, the eldest of the three, is prepared with an agenda and colour coded stickers, plus a sensible plan for the immediate care of their brother Harry, who is unable to live independently. The youngest, Annie, immediately resents her sister taking charge and seems overly concerned about getting her share, while George just wants to get through the week without breaking down completely.

There’s plenty of emotion in Family Baggage, fuelled largely by raw grief. Fond reminiscences give way to reignited resentments, Annie in particular seems determined to find fault with her sisters, annoying Kat, and bewildering George. Evans deftly captures the complicated relationship between the women, who may be in their fifties, but tend to interact with each other as if they are still children, a regression anyone with a sibling will likely relate to.

George’s discovery of her mother’s journal introduces an element of mystery to the novel. The entries eventually expose facets of Enid’s life that shocks her daughters, who react in different ways, triggering more conflict. Learning her mother’s secrets leads George in particular to reflect on her own life, and the choices she has made as a woman, a wife, and a mother. This prompted me to ponder the narrow view I have of my own mother, and that my children, now young adults, probably have of me.

Well timed humour is used to good effect, cutting through the tension that often permeates the novel. I also delighted in the oblique references to Evans’ Majic series (which was a favourite of mine).

A moving and thought-provoking novel, Family Baggage is an engaging read.


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Review: The Iron Vow by Julie Kagawa


Title: The Iron Vow {The Iron Fey: Evenfall #3}

Author: Julie Kagawa

Published: 3rd May 2023, HQ YA

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy Harlequin Australia


My Thoughts:

I first read The Iron King in 2010 and I think it was one of the very first books I received from Harlequin Australia for review. While it’s not strictly necessary to be familiar with the Iron Fey series which includes the four books of The Iron Fey (The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight) and The Iron Fey: Call of Forgotten trilogy (The Lost Prince, The Iron Traitor and The Iron Warrior), plus various novellas, you should have read the first two books of the Evenfall spin-off trilogy, The Iron Raven and the The Iron Sword, to enjoy The Iron Vow, which also serves as a finale for the for the whole of the Iron Fey series. I’ve read each instalment as it has been released, but if you haven’t, or you have forgotten what has transpired, given the books have been published over a 13 year period, Julie Kagawa helpfully provides a brief recap of the entire Iron Fey series in the first few pages of The Iron Vow.

“Let me tell you a story.
The story of a girl who went into the land of faeries, met a prince, and fell in love.”

As I had surmised given the previous books in the Evenfall trilogy, Meghan is the narrator for The Iron Vow, and the contrast between the teenager who first stumbled into the NeverNever and the Iron Queen of today is satisfying.

The Iron Vow begins where The Iron Sword left off, with our band of heroes, who attempted to stop the vengeful Nightmare King from breaking through from Evenfall, realising they had no choice but to enter his terrifying realm to ensure the immortal King never wakes up. So now Meghan, accompanied by her husband Ash, son Kierran, Puck, Nyx and Grimalkin, are in a deadly world with no natural glamour (hence no ready access to magic) on a dangerous mission to save not only all of Faerie, but also the Human world.

I don’t want to give too much away but the story progresses as you would expect, with the group battling their way through a hostile land populated by monstrous nightmares, offering plenty of fast paced action. They unearth secrets, find unlikely allies, and are forced to confront their own nightmares to reach their goal. To prevail  demands a grand sacrifice, and unprecedented cooperation. It’s as tense, exciting, emotional, and entertaining as you would want from this series finale.

The characters remain true to who they have become over the series. Meghan is noble, Ash is protective, Kierran yearns for redemption, Puck cracks jokes, Nyx is deadly, and Grimalkin always disappears at the first sign of trouble. I’m a little sorry to say goodbye to them after all this time, though the epilogue provides some comfort.

I’ve very much enjoyed The Iron Fey series, and I’m sure it will continue to capture the imagination of readers of young adult fantasy.


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Review: Drowning by T.J. Newman


Title: Drowning

Author: T.J. Newman

Published: 1st June 2023, Simon & Schuster UK

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy Simon & Schuster AU


My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Review: The Rush by Michelle Prak


Title: The Rush

Author: Michelle Prak

Published: 3rd May 2023, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy Simon & Schuster


My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Author: Mark Lawrence

Published: 11th May 2023, HarperVoyager GB

Status: Read May 2023 courtesy HarperCollinsAU/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Review: Prize Women by Caroline Lea


Title: Prize Women

Author: Caroline Lea

Published: 16th February 2023, Michael Joseph

Status: Read February 2023 courtesy Penguin Books UK


My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Book Lust


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

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

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

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

(Covers are linked to Goodreads)


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Meet Lydia Crow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



A killer targeting pregnant women.

A detective expecting her first baby…

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

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

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



Spotlights and sawdust, secrets and lies …

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

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

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

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

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


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