Wolfson History Prize 2021 Shortlist – #WolfsonHistoryPrize @WolfsonHistory

Wednesday 21 April. London. The shortlist for the Wolfson History Prize 2021, the UK’s most prestigious history writing prize, has been announced today, celebrating the best historical non-fiction titles from the past year.

This year’s shortlist balances vast historical explorations with individual narratives, highlighting the importance of carefully analyzing our past and the relevancy of historical writing to life today, with shortlisted books exploring topics such as working mothers, Black history, and the preservation of knowledge and truth.

The books shortlisted for the annual £60k Wolfson History Prize 2021 are:

  • Survivors: Children’s Lives after the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford
  • Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh
  • Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin
  • Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood by Helen McCarthy
  • Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden
  • Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution by Geoffrey Plank

To learn more about the Wolfson History Prize please visit


or connect on Twitter via @WolfsonHistory / #WolfsonHistoryPrize.

Posted in award winners | Tagged | 2 Comments

“What Could Be Saved” by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz – Book Review

“Some secrets were better when shared; others were weakened.”

2019 – Laura Preston is an unmarried, fiftyish, artist who has never recovered from the family tragedy which occurred when she was just seven years old. While her family was living in Bangkok, her brother Philip (then aged eight) went missing. The poor little guy was forgotten about, and no one picked him up from his judo lesson.

Now, just days after being proposed to by her partner Edward, she receives a message from a woman claiming that she knows where Philip is!  Laura’s sister thinks that caution should be used as scams abound. However, Laura follows her gut, dismisses her sister’s concerns and flies to Thailand to meet the man who could be her long-lost brother.
1972 – Skip back in time and you learn about some of the events that led up to Phillip’s disappearance. You learn about how the family conducted their day to day lives. You learned a little about the Thai servants, especially Number Three housemaid, Noi.

When the little boy disappears, the Preston family are shattered.

But, you must be honest, you are turning the pages to find out… Just WHAT HAPPENED TO PHILLIP those many years ago…

After reading this author’s previous novel, The Possible World, back in June of 2018, I’ve been waiting with baited breath to read her work again. I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a more complex novel, with multiple narrative voices, yet it was so adeptly composed, so skillfully written, that the complexity fell to the wayside and I was enthralled with this damaged family and so, so eager to learn their secrets. I particularly enjoyed the way that the author drip-fed the Preston family’s secrets… one… by… one.

I’ll be honest, when I first read that part of the book was set in Bangkok, Thailand, (not one of my usual favorite settings), I was a bit put off, but I shouldn’t have doubted for a minute that it would mar my reading enjoyment.

It was difficult to pick a favorite character. None of them were particularly likeable, yet they were written in such a way that you could empathize with all of them. The mother, Genevieve, seemed so privileged, so beautiful, so ‘entitled’, yet so unhappy. I despised the way she willy-nilly dismissed her servants and how she cavalierly and coldly treated them on the whole, yet she redeemed herself eventually. Her husband too, was hard to like yet you could feel for him. He felt trapped in the life he had chosen for himself, had OCD, and was deeply unhappy. He was an excellent father, yet he was also self-centered and seemed insular and distant.

The eldest sister, Bea, was such a bully that you couldn’t warm to her as a child. As an adult she redeemed herself tenfold.

Philip’s story was absolutely heartrending, yet somehow he seemed the most content of the lot of them. Separated from his family for forty-seven years…

This hefty novel encompasses themes of guilt, loss, sibling rivalry, unhappy marriages, adultery, missing children, and the trials of living abroad. The pace is slow at first but picks up as the story progresses.

The reader can learn much from the pages of this novel. It is didactic, yet not in a preachy way. Lessons like living in the moment; how one small, seemingly inconsequential event or action, when added to other seemingly inconsequential events or actions, can have profound and unfathomable effects on countless people for years to come. How even the smallest choices have consequences.

Highly recommended to fans of family sagas and literary fiction – the kind of story that you can disappear into – and have a huge book hangover when its last pages are turned.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Atria Books via NetGalley – at my request,  for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review.  ISBN: 9781982150617 – ASIN:  B08BZVFY7M  464 pages

Liese O’Halloran Schwarz grew up in Washington, DC after an early childhood overseas. She attended Harvard University and then medical school at University of Virginia. While in medical school, she won the Henfield/Transatlantic Review Prize and also published her first novel, Near Canaan.

She specialized in emergency medicine and like most doctors, she can thoroughly ruin dinner parties with tales of medical believe-it-or-not. But she won’t do that, because she knows how hard you worked to make a nice meal.

She specialized in emergency medicine, eventually returned to writing, and published her second novel, The Possible World , in June 2018. Her third novel, What Could Be Saved, published in January 2021.

She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is at work on the next book.

Follow Liese O’Halloran Schwarz on Twitter @LieseDoc and/or Instagram @lieseschwarzwriter

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Miserly Monday (#Kindledeals Ebook bargains) April 19, 2021

SEVEN bargain Kindle purchases over the past two weeks (but TEN books purchased as one was a 4-book bundle)

These books might vary in price from Amazon.ca to Amazon.com to Amazon.co.uk but they are all still BARGAINS!  Probably about what you would pay for a cup of coffee.

NOTE: The price tags reflect the North American prices. 

Click on the price tag to go to the Amazon.com link for the book.

Note: I do NOT receive any remuneration from Amazon.  These are just Kindle deals that I have found and want to share with my fellow book lovers. 

I purchased TEN Ebook titles over the past two weeks for a total expenditure of $14.94 (that works out to about $1.50 per title – a real bargain!)

So, here are my Miserly Monday deals…

Have YOU found a great Kindle bargain lately? If so, please share in the comments.



Posted in Kindle deals, Miserly Monday | Tagged | 6 Comments

“Winter Witness” by Tina deBellegarde – Book Review

“For a community so social and connected
it seemed that there remained a great many secrets.”

An elderly nun walks the convent’s cocker spaniel beside a rural lake. She is struck down with a rock. Another dog walker discovers her body. Who would want to kill a kindly old nun in her nineties? And in Batvia, a Hudson River village where crime is virtually nonexistent?

It is Sheriff Mike Riley‘s job to solve the old nun’s murder. Transplanted to this quiet community from New York City and the NYPD, Mike faces his first major crime since he moved – and the first murder in the village in over seventy years. Married (unhappily), and in his mid-forties, the investigation proves challenging because all of the potential suspects have become his friends…

Writer Bianca St. Denis is a relative newcomer to Batvia. She moved here three years ago with her husband Richard when they purchased an old farmhouse. Now, tragically, Bianca is a widow at age forty-two. She is finding the adjustment to her new status a challenge both emotionally and practically. Before Richard’s death they did everything together and didn’t really assimilate into the town. Now, with only her cat Shelby for company, Bianca tries to get out more. It is mid December, her son is in Japan attending university, and she is facing her first Christmas alone.She volunteers to sit with Agatha Miller, an elderly neighbor who has cancer and has recently broken her hip. She becomes friends with the rather curmudgeonly old woman. Then, Agatha too is dead. In mid winter, Agatha’s bedside window was left wide open and the old lady died of hypothermia. Or did she? Bianca has her doubts…Two elderly ladies dead within two days of each other. Why?

This debut mystery left me a warm feeling and strongly reminded me of Louise Penny’s Three Pines series.

The protagonists were engaging, and the plot kept me enthralled.

There were a lot of characters to meet, but they were easily distinguishable because of the descriptions and backstory given to each by the author. I had many favorites among these. Eugene, the proprietor of Stella’s cafe (named for his late wife), Lester, the elderly lawyer who had a pet skunk, Olivia Last, Bianca’s friend, and cancer survivor, to name but a few.

The setting was idyllic and made you want to visit Batvia-on-Hudson for yourself. I can just imagine going into Stella’s and having a coffee and danish.

I’d be hard pressed to find anything I didn’t like about this novel, but if I did, I’d have to say that I found the cover didn’t do the book justice as it didn’t appeal to me personally.

This is a series that I intend to pursue and already look forward to the author’s second novel featuring these two personable protagonists.

This story was a charming amalgam of serious crime novel and a cozy. A character-rich, well-executed mystery, and a promising beginning for a new series. Recommended!

4.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley, Goodreads, and AmazonI received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Level Best Books via NetGalley – at my request,  for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review.  ISBN: 9781947915763 – ASIN:  B08CY91G6T  – 338 pages

from author’s website:

Tina deBellegarde has been secretly writing her whole life. When she turned fifty, she decided that she no longer needed to keep it under wraps and started to write and share. As a result, her debut novel Winter Witness, the first in the Batavia-on-Hudson series, was released September 2020 by Level Best Books. The subsequent volumes of the Batavia-on-Hudson series will be released April 2022 and April 2023.

Tina lives and writes in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis, and their cat Shelby. When she isn’t writing she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitakes from their mushroom logs, or tend their vegetable garden. She makes lampworked glass beads and contributes to her husband’s jewelry designs. For Tina, baking and cooking are meditations that allow her to plan her writing. She travels to Kyoto, Japan regularly to visit with her son, Alessandro, who has lived there for many years running his media production company.

When she isn’t writing or tending to her hobbies, Tina works at the Catskill Public Library. She is a former middle school teacher, paralegal, and exporter.

Follow Tina deBellegarde on Twitter @tdbwrites

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, debut novels, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

#BookRecommendations with titles that start with the letter ‘D’ #booklovers #bookbloggers #GreatReads

This year I plan to go through the entire alphabet, one letter per month. For April 2021, the fourth month, I’m listing all of my favourite novels that begin with the letter ‘D‘. I am choosing these titles from the books I’ve read since I began blogging seriously – five years ago (when I retired). There are 21 books recommended here.

If the title begins with an initial article such as The, A, An etc., I will be using the second word.  For instance, “A Man called Ove” will be included in my M post. “The Silent Patient” will be listed in my S post.

Hopefully you’ll find something that interests you from these posts. As always, I’ve linked the book cover to Goodreads, and the title link will take you to my review of the book.

The Day She Died” by Catriona McPherson

Dear Child” by Romy Hausmann

Dead Wrong” by Helen H. Durrant

Daisy in Chains” by Sharon Bolton

Dead Woman Walking” by Sharon Bolton

Dark Water” by Sara Bailey

The Deal of a Lifetime” by Fredrik Backman

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor” by Eve Chase

The Downstairs Neighbor” by Helen Cooper

Death of a Mermaid” by Lesley Thomson

The Devotion of Suspect X” by Keigo Higashino

Deadland” by William Shaw

Dear Mrs. Bird” by A.J. Pearce

A Dark Matter” by Doug Johnstone

Disclaimer” by Renée Knight

Death Deserved” by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

The Descent” by Matt Brolly

A Dark So Deadly” by Stuart MacBride

And lastly, the first three titles in the fabulous D.I. Kelly Porter series by Rachel Lynch…
Dark Game” by Rachel Lynch

Deep Fear” by Rachel LynchDead End” by Rachel Lynch

If you have already read any of these titles, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

When someone asks me to recommend a book…

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books | Tagged | 13 Comments

“Don’t Look For Me” by Wendy Walker – Book Review

Five years ago, Molly Clarke killed her youngest daughter. She was coming home and her nine-year-old daughter dashed into the street just as she turned the corner. Desolate with grief and guilt, she hates herself for what she has done. Sadly, it seems that her husband, son, and eldest daughter hate her too…

Molly adores all of her children and loves her husband. Now, she is putting one step in front of another to just get through these days, months, years of grieving and self-incrimination.

While driving home alone from one of her son’s ‘away’ games, Molly runs out of gas. It is nighttime and a category 4 hurricane is imminent. The gas station is boarded up, as are many of the businesses which are closed. Drenched and walking on the road, a truck stops for her. In it are a man and a young girl named Alice. She gets in… A tragic mistake…

Held hostage, Molly fears for her life – yet somehow it lessens her burden of grief. She feels that this is the price she must pay for killing her child.  She fears that her family won’t look for her. They will be glad to have her out of their sight.

Nicole Clarke, Molly’s teenage daughter also harbors guilt over the death of her baby sister. She knows she has said some unforgivable things to her mother. The most unforgivable of all on the morning of the day she disappeared.  Now, Nicole returns to the small, creepy town to look once again for her mother. It has been two weeks since she was last seen. Nicole vows to not go home without her mother.

Wendy Walker has taken the usual abduction trope and turned it on its head. Instead of the parents searching feverishly for their teenage daughter, it is the daughter searching for her mother.

Despite the dire and oftentimes heart-breaking situation that Molly finds herself in, for some reason I couldn’t completely like her. It had nothing to do with the death of her young daughter which was definitely NOT her fault. Yet… I can’t quite pinpoint why she didn’t appeal to me. Nicole, I liked more, yet she too was so damaged, so broken, that it was hard to put yourself in her shoes. This story was told from the point of view of both these women.

The child, Alice, grew up in isolation. She was the epitome of someone you should feel sorry for, yet, she too made me uneasy. Her upbringing has made her psychopathic.

The setting was expertly described and was creepy as all get out. The insular, economically depressed town. The house where Molly was held hostage…

The denouement was suspenseful and satisfying. It would make an excellent thriller movie.

With themes of parental grief, parental love, obsession, anguish, fear and survival, I recommended “Don’t Look For Me” to all psychological thriller fans.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley – at my request,  for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review.

ISBN: 9781250198709 – ASIN:  B08472L3TM  – 352 pages

Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma In the Night, The Night Before and Don’t Look For Me. Her novels have been translated into 23 foreign languages and topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad. They have been selected by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, The Today Show and The Book of the Month Club, and have been optioned for both television and film.

Wendy holds degrees from Brown University and Georgetown Law School, and has worked in finance and several areas of the law. As a former family law attorney with training in child advocacy, Wendy draws from her knowledge of trauma and psychology to write compelling and complex characters and stories. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

Follow Wendy Walker on Twitter @Wendy_Walker

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = CLIFF #WednesdaysWord #booklovers

Most readers will acknowledge that some words reappear time and time again in titles. Often these words are associated with a particular genre. Case in point: “The girl on the train” and “Gone girl” spawned countless thriller titles with the word ‘girl’ in the title.

My pick for Wednesday’s Word this week is ‘CLIFF’. For some reason, book covers with a cliff on them greatly appeal to me. I’d love to live in a house on a cliff overlooking the sea. In this post I’ve selected just twenty-two novels with the word ‘cliff‘ in the title as a way of sharing my book love.

These titles cover a broad range of  genres – with literary fiction, mystery, women’s fiction, children’s fiction, short stories, and thrillers to name but a few.

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

Which cover MOST APPEALS to YOU?
Have you read one of these titles and absolutely LOVED it?

If you’ve added even ONE of these titles to YOUR TBR,
Please let me know in the comments.

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | Leave a comment

“Soldier Boy” by Cassandra Parkin – Book Review

Frank and Jane, the parents of Liam, love each other very much. But Frank is breaking the law and, in Jane’s mind, he is putting their son in danger. So Jane takes Liam and moves away telling Frank to stay out of their lives. Frank does, but he misses his wife and son every day.

Liam and Emma, the parents of Alannah, love each other very much. Their family has been put under the intense strain of many army families. For months at a time, Emma is a single parent with all that that entails. While Liam is deployed overseas, she is in sole charge of their daughter. To ensure the safety of her husband while he is away she makes myriad ‘bargains’ with God. Superstitious rituals like not washing his last coffee mug. Keeping his dirty T-shirt under her pillow, etc. And, to her delight, he comes back home physically whole. What she didn’t foresee was that it would be a different man who returned. Liam is scarred mentally and suffers from PTSD. Always a neat freak, he now has what can only be termed as OCD. He has uncontrollable rages and has terrible nightmares. Emma cannot cope with this new reality and is weary of trying to hold her family together. When their daughter Alannah is scheduled to be away in a different city for two weeks to take part in a ballet, Emma checks into a hotel to rest, recharge, and unwind. This sets into motion a series of events that will forever change the family dynamic.

When she returns home, she finds that Alannah didn’t go on the dance trip. Liam took her and absconded…

Distraught, and fearful for her family Emma goes to the police.

Meanwhile, Alannah, though devoted as she is to her ballet, willingly chose to go with her father. At eleven years old, she harbours a secret that will rock her world and shatter her family’s fragile stability.

This is the third novel I’ve read by this author. I loved them all. This time around she is flexing her writing muscles by trying something quite unique and innovative. Chapters end mid-sentence and the next chapter picks up with the last word or two of that last sentence and continues on. Sometimes the new chapter is set in a different time period from the last one, sometimes the new chapter features a different narrator. Sounds a tad bizarre… but it works!

The story itself features ordinary families, all putting one foot in front of the other to get through what life throws at them. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Told with a brutal honesty, the story covers some serious subjects such as PTSD, war trauma, gender identity, caregiver’s burnout, parental love, and much more.

There are two timelines in play. The timeline when Frank, Jane and ten year old Liam spend time at a cottage near the sea. And… the present day timeline which features a grown and very damaged adult Liam who returns to this same cottage with his eleven year old daughter in tow.

The title is absolutely perfect. Liam Wright was a ‘soldier boy’. Though he was a tough, physically strong man, he was also as vulnerable as a little boy inside.

The multiple points of view means you empathize with every character and want a happy resolution to the many trials they face. But life rarely provides a happy resolution…

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy realistic literary fiction.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Legend Press via NetGalley – at my request,  for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review.

ISBN: 9781789551181 – ASIN: B08BW77XS1  – 294 pages

Cassandra Parkin has a Masters degree in English Literature from York University, and has been writing fiction all her life – mostly as Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family. She grew up in Hull, is married with two children, and lives in a small but perfectly-formed village in East Yorkshire. Her first book “New World Fairy Tales” won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her recent novels were published by Legend Press.

Follow Cassandra on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Cover Love: part 99 – Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces

They say you can never have a second chance to make a good first impression. A book’s cover does just that – gives a first impression. A good cover can make a reader pick up a book. A bad cover can leave the book at the very bottom of a dusty pile.

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher ‘hooks‘ the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

During the lockdown, many of us (myself included) whiled away the hours doing jigsaw puzzles. Thus, my choice for this, my 99th installment of Cover Love.

Are you a jigsaw puzzle fan? Have you read any of these titles?

Don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 98 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 8 Comments

“When I Was Ten” by Fiona Cummins – Book Review

“The currency of secrets is more valuable than anything else, even money.”

THEN: Dr. Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were probably the most despicable characters I’ve ever read about. Concerned only with themselves and how they appeared to the general public while treating their two daughters with a ruthless depravity.

The two Carter daughters endured much at their hands until one day they could take no more…

NOW: Sara, the youngest Carter girl (who had confessed to the barbaric murder of her parents) is now 31 years old, and is married with a daughter of her own. She is living under the assumed name of Catherine Allen, and even her husband and her daughter do not know of her past.

Brinley, the Carter girls’ best friend has tried to bury the memories of that long ago day. Single, she now works as a journalist. When the eldest sister is interviewed, Brinley is thrust into a career make-or-break situation. Should she keep the secrets she has held close for two decades?

Shannon – the eldest Carter girl has just taken part in a live television documentary interview. Her actions will upend the lives of all three women.

Wow!  Just wow! I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first time ever reading work by Fiona Cummins. The great thing about that is I now have four other novels of hers to read!

This novel grabbed me right away and I finished it feeling as though I’d been trapped in a whirlwind and dropped.

The subject matter was oftentimes very dark. Those who cannot bear to read of children who are abused should stay well clear.

The repercussions of the withholding of love, humiliation, and physical and mental cruelty on a child’s psyche will follow them until their dying day. The book explored how this factor impacted the two abused sisters and their best friend.

The descriptions were expertly wrought. The characterization compelling. This book examines some serious issues such as parricide. It highlights how abusers are expert at keeping their crimes hidden.

The pace felt breakneck, but was not really. With flashbacks to that fateful day when she was ten, interspersed with scenes from one of the sisters’ lives and the life of their friend kept me mesmerized throughout.

Dark and twisty. Highly, highly recommended to all those who enjoy a well-written crime thriller which feels authentic and will keep you riveted to your reading chair.

When I Was Ten” will be published by Pan Macmillan on April 15, 2021

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley – at my request,  for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review.

ISBN: 9781509876969 – ISBN: 9781509876945  – 367 pages

From the afterword: “This book was inspired by the dark deeds of child killer Mary Bell“.

Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror show business journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course.

She is the author of five best-selling thrillers: “Rattle“; “The Collector“; “The Neighbour“; “The Family Next Door“; and most recently “When I Was Ten“.

When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dog. She lives in Essex with her family.

Follow Fiona Cummins on Twitter @FionaAnnCummins

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

“The Timekeeper’s Son” by Sara Baker – Book Review

Josh Lovejoy is a teenager who is also an aspiring filmmaker. A ‘good’ boy, an only son, he lives in a small town in Georgia. One sweltering summer night, he uncharacteristically shares some marijuana after a filming session. High, he drives home and hits a lone jogger who seemingly came out of nowhere. His life, and the lives of those around him, are irrevocably changed.

Josh always attempted to please his father, yet he always failed. This time, his father explodes in fury at him and leaves the marital home. Josh, of course, blames himself for the separation of his parents.

Helen Lovejoy, Josh’s mother, is a nurse. She has always adored her son and found that recent years have compelled her to side with him against his father who doesn’t seem to understand what Josh needs. Now, her son is a pariah, her husband has left the home, and she is spiraling into depression. On leave from her nursing job, it is only her artistic hobby that keeps her going.

Hal Lovejoy, a clock repairman, is in turmoil. He had such hopes and aspirations for his son Josh, yet in his eyes, Josh always falls short. When Josh disappointed him yet again, he could take no more and moved out of the house into the rooms above his shop. It is Hal’s personal failures, and the fact that he sees himself in his son, that troubles him the most.

Meanwhile, another person acutely affected by the accident is Meg Masters, an elementary school teacher and the wife of David Masters, the jogger who Josh struck down. Her world has upended. David lies in a coma, and Meg comes home to a house empty and echoing. Childless, she feels sorry for the boy Josh who made one tragic mistake. In an effort to make contact with the dysfunctional family, she takes an old clock into Hal’s shop for cleaning and repair.

Meanwhile, David Masters, comatose, sometimes feels Meg’s presence by his bedside. At other times, perversely, he communicates with the singer Peggy Lee…His life, once so vital both physically and mentally, has been diminished. Now he lies alone with his thoughts… unable to communicate.

One split second can change the trajectory of a life. Subsequently, the lives of all those people surrounding that life are deeply affected as well.

In empathetic prose, Sara Baker has laid bare the hopes, dreams, guilty secrets, and imaginings of those most affected by a tragic accident.

Anyone who prefers a fast-paced narrative will be very disappointed in this novel. The pace was ponderously slow – as if the timekeeper himself slowed it down… It spoke to many human emotions such as disappointment, failure, bitterness, broken dreams and personal inadequacies.

The scenes where the late singer Peggy Lee comes to David Masters’ bedside, though I’m sure they had artistic merit, did nothing to further the story in my personal opinion.

This was a superbly wrought work of literary fiction, but it was just too melancholic for my taste. A moving and thoughtful story which was realistic, yet the characters were so very broken and lacking hope that it left me feeling despondent.

“The Timekeeper’s Son” will probably be the perfect novel for some readers, it just didn’t fill me with reading joy.I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Deeds Publishing via NetGalley – at my request,  for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review.

ISBN: 9781944193560 – ASIN:  B07R8LYL2Z – 418 pages

Sara Bakers fiction has been widely published in literary journals, including the Crab Orchard Review, Cleaver, Confrontation, H.O.W. Journal, China Grove, theintima.com, The Examined Life Journal, The New Quarterly, The Lullwater Review. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Fish Short Story Contest. Her poetry has been published in Stone, River, Sky: an Anthology of Georgia Poetry, The 2011 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, The Apalachee Review, The Healing Muse, Ars Medica, and elsewhere.

After teaching English literature and writing at the college level for fifteen years, Sara’s own experience with illness and loss spurred her to design and facilitate a writing-to-heal workshop for cancer patients and caregivers at the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support in Athens, Georgia. Over the eleven years she ran those workshops, she presented and published extensively in the field of expressive writing. Her passion to share the healing that can emerge from writing comes directly from her own experiences.

Sara lives in Athens, Georgia, with her husband, physicist and author Todd Baker. They have three grown children, one almost grown, and are grateful to live in such a wonderful community. When not writing or teaching, Sara is an avid gardener, dancer and dog lover.

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, NetGalley, What's In A Name Reading Challenge | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = RAIN #WednesdaysWord #booklovers

Most readers will acknowledge that some words reappear time and time again in titles. Often these words are associated with a particular genre. Case in point: “The girl on the train” and “Gone girl” spawned countless thriller titles with the word ‘girl’ in the title.

My pick for Wednesday’s Word this week has an April theme. “April showers bring May flowers”. In this post I’ve selected just twenty-one novels with the word ‘rain‘ in the title as a way of sharing my book love.

These titles cover a broad range of  genres – with literary fiction, mystery, historical fiction, thriller to name but a few.

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!Are you tempted by any of these covers?

Which cover MOST APPEALS to YOU?
Have you read one of these titles and absolutely LOVED it?

If you’ve added even ONE of these titles to YOUR TBR,
Please let me know in the comments.

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 15 Comments

“Girls of Brackenhill” by Kate Moretti – Book Review

“Brackenhill stole the sanity of women and the bodies of children.”

Hannah Maloney, her fiancé Huck, and their dog Rink, live and work in Virginia. Huck comes from a large and gregarious family, Hannah seems to have no family ties. Until… she gets a phone call from Upstate New York informing her that her aunt Fae has been in a car accident.

For five summers in her adolescent years, Hannah and her sister Julia stayed at her Aunt and Uncle’s castle in the Catskill Mountains named ‘Brackenhill’. It was a magical place for Hannah. Free from her creepy and abusive step-father, she delighted in the castle, the forest that surrounded it, and the care-free summers of exploration with her sister.

Then, when Hannah was fifteen and her sister Julia, was seventeen, her sister disappeared from Brackenhill, never to be heard from again. Traumatized, Hannah hasn’t been back for seventeen years. Now with Huck and Rink in tow, she returns.

When Rink digs up some bones on the Brackenhill grounds, a police investigation is launched, and Hannah is immersed in Brackenhill’s history – and its secrets – one again. Could the bones belong to her sister Julia?

The policeman heading the investigation just happens to be Hannah’s first love, Wyatt. Despite the fact that she is engaged to be married, the attraction she once felt for him resurfaces at once.

Desperate to remember that long ago summer, and seeking closure, she stays on at Brackenhill even after Huck returns to work in Virginia.

Part suspense thriller, part ghost story, this is not what I expected. After having read two other novels by this author, both more pure thrillers, this one took me by surprise.

Make no mistake, the setting is the star of the show here. Brackenhill, a remote castle embedded in the Catskill mountains. Erected on a thousand acre plot, the square-built stone structure boasted four turrets on each corner with a courtyard in the middle. A place for imagination to run amok. With thirty-three rooms, turrets, circular staircases, labyrinthine basement rooms, locked doors, and secret passageways, I loved every stone of it. (BTW, there is a real castle in the Catskills named Dundas Castle, which I’m sure inspired the author). I’ll likely forget the story in years to come, but I will never forget the setting.

The protagonist, at first likeable, seemed to turn flakier as the story progressed. With memory lapses and sleep-walking episodes, Hannah seemed to be suffering from PTSD. The plot was as labyrinthine as the castle’s basement and though the first two-thirds of the book was compelling, for me, the ending let it down.

A domino-like, though slightly weak denouement followed themes of parental grief, teenage envy, mental-illness, guilt, and of course family secrets. A slow-paced, gothic-toned thriller that will be enjoyed by many.

3.5 stars rounded up for Amazon and down for Goodreads
(where the stars have different meanings)

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley – at my request,  for my own reading enjoyment and the writing of this review.

ISBN: 9781542000086 – ASIN:  B082NN6JFN – 330 pages


Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of  Thought I Knew You, While You Were Gone, and Binds That Tie, The Blackbird Season, and The Vanishing Year . She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.
She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.
Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.

Follow Kate Moretti on Twitter @KateMoretti1

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Dogs of Winter” by Ann Lambert – Book Review

Roméo Leduc – is a Detective Chief Inspector working for the Sûreté du Québec, who works out of an office in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec.  Roméo is a workaholic and has little to no personal life. He loves to read, and is a vegetarian who has recently given up smoking. Fifty-one years old, divorced, and the father of two adult children, Roméo is lonely.

Marie Russell – is a sixty-one year old author of nature books and a university professor. Since separating from her husband of over twenty years, Marie has no one to share her life. She is feeling guilt because she has had to put her mother in a nursing home. She has two grown children and a two-year old grandson who she adores.

Marie and Roméo are a strong couple, but are hesitant about making their relationship permanent due to their vastly different tastes and also their extended families.

Secondary characters:

Danielle Champagne – a successful businesswoman and motivational speaker.

Nia Fellows – a young homeless woman from a dysfunctional family who has recently aged out of the foster system.

Issac Blum – they call him the ‘Good Samaritan’ because he distributes hot tea and sandwiches to the homeless on a regular basis.

Set in a frigid and snow laden Montreal January, this novel evokes the place and season very well. The diversity of the city, both in ethnicity and socioeconomic status is well described.

The novel incorporates many social observations and cultural references within its pages. It incorporates themes of homelessness, crimes against Inuit women, global warming, the ‘me too‘ movement, racial profiling by police, and the inherent racial prejudice again indigenous peoples.

The two protagonists are personable and intelligent. It is fascinating to follow their personal relationship as well as their working life.

Though most people plan ahead for tomorrow, finding that their hopes and aspirations keep them going, it is not so with the homeless. They live entirely in the present, getting through each day is enough of a challenge without worrying about what tomorrow might bring.

After reading the first two novels, I can highly recommend this novel and this series to readers who enjoy socially relevant crime fiction. In my opinion, this author and this series are deserving of a much wider readership.

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Second Story Press via NetGalley.         ISBN: 9781772601404 –  ASIN: B08J495XTB  –  328 pages

Two disturbing facts that I learned from reading this novel:

1.) 40% of all homeless persons in the city of Montreal are Inuit.

2.) Over 75% of Indigenous girls under eighteen have been sexually assaulted.

Ann Lambert has been writing and directing for the stage for thirty-five years. Several of her plays, including The Wall, Parallel Lines, Very Heaven, The Mary Project and Two Short Women have been performed in theatres in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. In the spring of 2019, she launched a new theater company called Ouest End in Montreal. Ann is also the vice-president of The Theresa Foundation. She has been a teacher of English literature at Dawson College for almost twenty-eight years in Montreal, Quebec, where she makes her home.


Posted in Book Reviews, Canadian fiction, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

“The Salt Fields” by Stacy D. Flood – Book Review

“There’s salt all over Carolina, salt from tears and blood and the dead.
It’s in every riverbed and blade of grass.”
“The whole South ain’t nothing but a scar with some salt on it.”

1947 – Minister Peters has had nothing short of a tragic life. Thinking that the only way he can move on is to leave South Carolina, he gives away his house and most of his possessions and boards a train north.

“The days moved; I ate my meals alone, and no one spoke to me, the people of the town thinking me either cursed or tragic – both”.

On the train, on a sweltering summer day, he meets an ex-serviceman named Carvall, who fought overseas in WWII. He also meets a married couple, Divinion and Lanah, a mismatched pair. Divinion who is black of skin and eager to obtain employment in the northern steel mills, and Lanah who is of mixed race, and according to the thoughts of Minister is classy. Dressed in lace and pearls, she exudes a sort of superior demeanor.

These four who share a train carriage and a life-altering journey, become almost a family of sorts. They are traveling northwards where they hope to receive some respect and opportunities that they cannot get in the South.

“I wanted to ease into sleep and dream another life until I arrived at a location where I could actually build one.”

As the train travels northwards, it makes several long stops. It is at one of these stops that Minister’s tragic life will take an even more ill-fated turn…

“People rarely understand what others leave behind.”

“There are moments in life when God has nothing to say to us, when there is a deafening silence surrounding our souls, when our lungs squeeze and eardrums still, when there is no air left to move through.”

With prose at times so beautiful it is almost lyrical, Stacy D. Flood’s novella was a privilege to read. The story relates the dark and often disturbing history of the black race in the southern United States. A time when segregation was still enforced and lynchings commonplace.

The description in the book was vibrant; causing the reader to almost feel the intense heat and the sway of the train carriage as it lumbered north.

The protagonist, Minister Peters, was a solitary, melancholic, introspective man. Despite the fact that the story is told via his thoughts and dreams, he seemed to remain unknowable – at a remove from the world. I find it hard to explain… I wanted him to ‘feel’ more, I wanted to feel for him more. He seemed so detached from his own life, almost as though he were observing the tragic events of his own life from a distance.

I find my thoughts are jumbled. I loved the prose, the essential story, the description, yet… Minister Peters remains illusive. All in all, I believe this to be an important work of literary fiction.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4 for Goodreads and Amazon

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Lanternfish Press via Edelweiss.

ASIN : B08SQTZ7FP –  82 pages  –  ISBN : 9781941360491


Originally from Buffalo, and currently living in Seattle, Stacy D. Flood’s work has been published nationally, and performed on stages nationwide as well as in the Puget Sound Area. He has been a DISQUIET scholar in Lisbon, an artist-in-residence at The Millay Colony of the Arts, and the recipient of a Getty Fellowship to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Follow Stacy D. Flood on Twitter @StacyDFlood, or visit his website.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Literary fiction, Novellas | Tagged , , | 2 Comments