“The Book of CarolSue” by Lynne Hugo – Book Review @LynneHugo #TheBookOfCarolSue @KensingtonBooks #BookReview

CarolSue – recently widowed from her second husband, is still sore with grief. Rudderless, she agrees to leave her suburban Atlanta life and return to the home farm in Indiana where she grew up. A life change that at first does not suit her at all…

Her immersion into her sister’s farm life is told with hilarity. Chickens in the kitchen, goats, cats, dogs, and canning…. never-ending canning…Louisa – a widow herself, has also lost her beloved grandson. She works hard on her farm and adores her various animals, especially her cat Marvelle. Recently, she has been distracted from her losses by the attention of the local sheriff, Gus, with whom she takes afternoon ‘naps’.

Gary – Louisa’s son has lost his teenage son due to an automobile accident. His wife has left him and he blames himself for the loss of both his wife and his son. He misguidedly falls prey to a manipulative and unscrupulous evangelist preacher.  He starts up a ‘church‘ of his own in a white barn. Naive and easily led, he finds himself in an extreme moral dilemma when he discovers that a baby girl has been left in the church. He takes her to his mother and aunt to care for while he searches for the baby’s mother, an illegal immigrant from Honduras.

This tiny girl, Gracia, will come to alter the entire family dynamic and cause some healing as well as no little heartbreak to those whose hearts have already been broken.

Written with humour and compassion this was a truly enjoyable read. The characters were well rendered and the menagerie of animals added levity to the narrative.

The author has taken some very serious subjects and treated them with respect via sarcasm, humour, and pathos. The story tells of the love/hate relationship that can often be found between siblings. She speaks to the various ways different people grieve and the often misguided decisions they make when they are vulnerable.

An easy read that I recommend to readers who enjoy a good story told in an entertaining way.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 Kensington Books via Edelweiss.      ISBN: 9781496725677 –  ASIN: B082WQZF92  –  224 pages

Lynne Hugo is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient who has also received grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her memoir, Where The Trail Grows Faint, won the Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize and her novel, A Matter of Mercy, received the 2015 Independent Publishers Silver Medal for Best North-East Fiction. She has published eight novels, one of which became a Lifetime Original Movie of the Month. Through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program, Lynne has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren.

Born and educated in New England, Lynne and her husband live in Ohio with a yellow Lab feared by squirrels in a three state area. Scout excels at barking and playing tennis ball shortstop.

Follow Lynne Hugo on Twitter and/or Visit her official website.

Posted in 20 Books of Summer, Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Women's fiction | Tagged , | 3 Comments

“The Big Chill” by Doug Johnstone – Book Review @OrendaBooks @doug_johnstone @annecater #TheBigChill #BookReview #TheSkelfs

“It’s easy to be moral if those morals aren’t tested.”

We pick up six months after the events of the first book in the Skelfs series, “Dark Matter”.

The Skelfs have two businesses which they run out of their large Victorian house in Edinburgh. They run a funeral parlour AND a private detective agency.

It is up to the three strong Skelf women to carry the legacy of Jim Skelf, now deceased. Three generations of women, each with their own distinct set of hopes, fears, biases, and opinions – tied together with deep affection.

“We’re all a mystery to others and ourselves.”

Dorothy Skelf – 70 years old and Jim’s widow. She grew up in California, but has lived in Edinburgh for the past fifty years as Jim’s wife and business partner. She is very fit for her age due to her love of yoga and her passion for playing the drums. Despite her continued grief for her late husband, Dorothy is a strong matriarch who keeps her family and the business on track. She does so with the help of D.I. Thomas Olsson, a black, Swedish policeman fifteen years her junior, yet increasingly important to her both personally and professionally.

Jenny – Dorothy’s daughter is a divorcée in her early forties.  She works more on the private detective side of the business than the funeral side. Still reeling from the attack by her ex-husband Craig, she is attempting to move forward with the aid of the new man in her life, Liam.

Hannah – Jenny’s daughter and Dorothy’s granddaughter, is 20 years old. She is in a lesbian relationship with Indy, who works for the family firm and is training to be a funeral director. Hannah is now taking a break from university where she studied quantum physics. She now works part-time in both family businesses. Deeply troubled and traumatized by the events which took place in the first book, she is now seeing a therapist. One of the professors at her university apparently committed suicide and Hannah wants to discover the reason why.

Schrödinger – the Skelf family’s ginger tabby, is a welcome diversion throughout the novel. Aloof, yet affectionate, Schrödinger is disdainful of Einstein, the new canine addition to the family.

Einstein – the newest member of the Skelf family is a one-eyed collie who Dorothy adopts in a unique way.

After reading Doug Johnstone’s “A Dark Matter“, the first book in the Skelf series, I was very much anticipating this follow-up. If anything, I found it even more enjoyable than the first book, due to the fact that now I’m familiar with the characters, and they have become almost like friends.

With a unique family dynamic, and an even more unique family business, this series had me hooked from the beginning. The Skelf women are memorable, moral, and authentic.

In addition to the family’s personal stories, I enjoyed following the cases they were working on throughout the book.

Middle Meadow Walk in spring

Set in Edinburgh, in early spring, the novel explores loss, revenge, betrayal, selfishness, and guilt. If there is a moral to the story it is that we must all grab happiness where we can – for life is short.

Written with an engaging dark humour, this crime novel displayed a richness in characterization along with unique and clever plotting that made the story stand out from its peers.  The book reads as a pleasing cross between crime thriller and literary fiction. I found the three strong female protagonists fascinating, and the I am eager to read more about their lives and exploits in further books. Guess you could say I’m an ardent fan.  The ending left one of the story-lines unresolved which makes me desperate to read book three in the Skelf series. Highly recommended!

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 Orenda Books via Anne Cater so that I could participate in this blog tour.      ISBN: 9781913193348 –  ASIN: B0885ZNW86  –  300 pages

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had nine novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and
regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is drummer, vocalist and occasional guitarist for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.

Follow Doug Johnstone on Twitter.


Posted in 20 Books of Summer, Blog Tour, Book Reviews, Orenda Books, Random Things Tours (Anne Cater) | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Throwback Thursday – “The girl in the garden” by Melanie Wallace #BookReview #ThrowbackThursday

The Throwback Thursday meme was created by Renee over at It’s Book Talk. She made this meme to share some of her old favorites. Although all bookbloggers have an endless TBR pile, we seldom take the time to reflect back and post about some of the great reads from a few years ago. I decided to join in because sharing book recommendations is one of my most favorite things to do!

I originally reviewed “The Girl in the Garden” in February of 2017.

June is a young mother, timid and painfully thin, with a small infant. She is abandoned by her partner at a seaside tourist cabin somewhere in New England.  Penniless, she is taken in by Mabel, the widow who owns the cabins.  This premise, and the beautiful book cover, are what led me to read “The girl in the garden”.

the-girl-in-the-gardenJune is the daughter of ‘trailer-trash’.  She has never known parental love.  Now, age fifteen, she is a mother herself…  When the baby’s father abandons her penniless and alone – she is not surprised at her fate.

“And as she’d lived so much of her life in abandonment, she found desertion a normal state of being.”

Mabel married the love of her life. Now, still reeling from his recent death, she is sympathetic toward June.  She understands loss. Her heart breaks for the plight of June and baby Luke.

“…she knew a great deal about loss and knew that the sorrow it spawns is impervious to consolation, allows no solace”

When Mabel was newly widowed she felt cast adrift – wondering how she could go on… A neighbor, Roland, stepped in and helped her with the night shift at the cabins and any chores that she was unable to do herself.  Now, she doesn’t know how she would manage without him. He is a constant and steadfast ally.

Mabel and Iris are long-time friends.  In fact Mabel is Iris’s ONLY friend.  It is Iris’s choice. After the death of her husband, Iris became a recluse.  Her husband had been physically and emotionally abusive – a monster.  Iris has a daughter Claire.  Claire reminds Iris so much of her dead husband that she cannot abide the sight of her. She has arranged for her lawyer to act on Claire’s behalf.  She has a small cabin built in her garden where Claire is to live on her own – with NO contact from Iris.  In fact, Iris’s only contact with the world is Mabel and her lawyer, Duncan.

When the winter months come, Mabel knows that she cannot let June and baby Luke live in the cold, unheated cabins.  She turns to her friend Iris and, in return for a favor bestowed many years previously, Iris feels obliged to acquiesce to Mabel’s request.  So it is that June and baby Luke move into the cabin in the garden formerly occupied by Iris’s daughter, Claire.

Claire hasn’t lived there for years.  When she graduated from high school she took herself off to see the world through the lens of her camera.  Always more comfortable behind the lens, than any other way.

On the surface a reader might think Iris cold and unfeeling. However people always have their own reasons for behavior which is sometimes shocking and hard to understand.  Iris had a unique marriage that left her shamed and betrayed.  She felt the only way forward was to retreat from the world and her young daughter.

These and other characters in this powerfully written novel are all damaged in some way. In fact, one of my favorite characters in the novel I haven’t yet mentioned.  His name is Oldman.  A WWII veteran and a long confirmed bachelor, he is Duncan’s friend, he was once a friend to Claire, and now he befriends June and baby Luke.

 “it’s never the scars which can be seen that matter”

Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention Sam.  A Vietnam war veteran he accompanies Claire back to where she grew up.  He and Oldman form a deep, indescribable bond.

“before meeting Oldman his life hadn’t had much rhyme or reason to it and that he’d felt for  a long time that he was at its mercy, which hadn’t been very merciful.”

June, Mabel, Iris, Claire, Duncan, Oldman, and Sam. If “The girl in the garden” were a movie, it would be categorized as an ‘ensemble cast’.  The seven divergent protagonists were equally important in their own right, yet indelibly connected.

This novel was written in a very different style from what I am used to.  There was very little dialogue.  As I kept reading I realized that that was intentional.  All of the characters in this book were essentially solitary people.  So… it stands to reason that we get to hear their thoughts, not their conversation.  For one reason or another they are attempting to navigate life alone.  Despite the long sentences and rambling paragraphs, I found this very easy to read.  The words painted such vivid pictures, and the characters were so engaging that I feel I will miss them all now that I’ve finished the book.  They were all victims of circumstance – yet aren’t we all?


Two scenes that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  Without giving too much away, I’ll say only that one involves a heroic dog, and the other describes a photograph of two men and two horses.  Truly a magical use of words!

Set during the 1970s, this is a novel about people helping people, “The girl in the garden” is a testament to the good in the world.  Sometimes, with all that is going on, we need reminding. It is also a novel about loss – loss that damages souls – and the souls attempt to heal… A novel peopled with survivors.snowman

I will close this review with a similar scene to the ending of the novel (at which time I was completely verklempt). Literary fiction at its finest!


Many thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in consideration of my review.written-with-american-flags

melanie-wallace,Melanie Wallace was born and raised in New Hampshire and now lives with her husband in Myloi, an agrarian village below the Ohi mountain range in Greece, and in Athens. Her novel The Housekeeper was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = SILENCE

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.

I know there are hundreds of books with the word ‘SILENCE’ in the title, but I’m featuring a selection of 30 titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love.

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?

So many fabulous ones here. 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 | 10 Comments

“Buried” by Lynda La Plante – Book Review @LaPlanteLynda @ZaffreBooks #Buried #NetGalley

D.S. Jack Warr – 36 years old, recently moved to the London Metropolitan Police from Devon. He moved so that his partner Maggie could pursue her career goals as a physician.  Jack himself has little ambition, though he is loaded with potential.  A recent case has come at the same time as he receives news that his adoptive father is terminally ill. The two events are connected in that the case has tenuous links to Jack’s birthfather.DCI Simon Ridley who is head of a Divisional Serious Crime Team favours Jack Warr for promotion, though Jack does little to further his own chances. The rest of the team include DS Laura Wade who has a huge crush on Jack, and DC Anik Joshi who is also in the running for promotion.

I’ve been familiar with the work of Lynda La Plante for quite some time. She has brought me many happy hours both with her novels and her television crime dramas.  When I saw she had begun a new crime series I jumped at the chance to read it.

The protagonists in “Buried” were quite engaging and I enjoyed reading of their personal back stories. I especially liked how Jack transitioned from being apathetic about his job to his burgeoning enthusiasm. The descriptions were vivid and the pacing ‘spot-on’.

The crime itself I found quite convoluted and difficult to follow due to a plethora of secondary characters. How the author managed to keep the various threads of the story-line straight I cannot imagine. The story encompassed four major crimes spanning four decades.

Despite my waning interest in the crime investigation itself, my interest was held by the engaging characters of the protagonists. I do plan to pursue this series to see if their next case is less complicated and to see how the characters develop.

Recommended to those who enjoy complex, labyrinthine police procedural novels.

I have rated this novel with 3.5 stars which I rounded up for NetGalley and Amazon and rounded down for Goodreads (where the stars mean different things)

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 Bonnier Zaffre USA via  NetGalley.

Publication date: April 7, 2020   Publishers: Bonnier Zaffre USA

ISBN: 9781499862430    ASIN: B07WSF77RD    352 pages

Born and raised in Liverpool, England, La Plante trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), where her fellow students included Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt and Ian McShane.

The award-winning author of numerous crime novels and the screenwriter of such famous television dramas such as “Prime Suspect”, La Plante is internationally famous.

Lynda La Plante was made a CBE (2008) for services to Literature, Drama and Charity. She is a member of The Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame and is the only lay person to be made a fellow of The Forensic Science Society.

She lives in London and New York with her son Lorcan and Cockapoo Max.

Follow Lynda La Plante on Twitter.

Posted in 1st in series, 20 Books of Summer, Book Reviews, NetGalley | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

The Queen of Crime 100th Birthday! Celebrating P.D. James

It is no secret to those who know me well that P.D. James and Ruth Rendell are my two long-time favourite crime writers.

Today, August 3rd, would have been the 100th birthday of Phyllis Dorothy James, the Queen of Crime.

P.D. James born 3 August 1920; died 27 November 2014

The late Phyllis Dorothy James was a prolific novelist who was constantly honing her craft right up to her death at age 94 years.  Her love of words and description shines through her many novels.  She was the recipient of many honors, including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature, and in 1991, she was honoured with the title of Baroness James of Holland Park. In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame.

P.D. James was the author of twenty novels, fourteen of which featured her staid and contemplative detective, Adam Dalgliesh (pronounced “dal-gleash”).

P.D. James’ obituary

P.D. James in quotes

An interview with P.D. James

In honour of the centenary of her birth, Vintage Books has re-issued one of P.D. James’ outstanding short stories. This story was originally published in Great Britain in “The Detection Collection“, edited by Simon Brett and published by Orion in 2005.

When our narrator was just twelve years old, he was unmercifully bullied by a schoolmate. Since then he has vowed to himself that someday he will kill Keith Manston-Green, his tormentor.

Willing to wait decades to dispatch the bully who tormented his youth, our narrator has a plan—and the unwavering patience and brutal fortitude to enact its every chilling step. With merciless, meticulous efficiency, James takes us into the mind of a seemingly ordinary man, beneath whose unassuming guise lurks a true Machiavellian genius—for murder.

P.D James’s mastery of the written word is evident in this classic crime short story. The prose fairly drips with cunning, bitterness, and the overwhelming thirst for revenge. With an ingenious twist on the final page, it was more than even I hoped for. The Queen of Crime’s reign lives on.

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 short story from Vintage Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House) via Edelweiss.

Publication date: July 21, 2020   Publisher: Vintage Books

ISBN: 9780593312179      ASIN: B08B5DNHZH    18 pages

P.D. James 1920-2014

The late Phyllis Dorothy James was a prolific novelist who was constantly honing her craft right up to her death at age 94 years. Her love of words and description shines through her many novels. She was the recipient of many honors, including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature, and in 1991, she was honoured with the title of Baroness James of Holland Park. In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame.

P.D. James was the author of twenty novels, fourteen of which featured her priggish and contemplative detective, Adam Dalgliesh.

Posted in Authors, Edelweiss, Short stories | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Edelweiss Challenge stats and Fictionophile updates

Hello lovely blogging friends.
Believe it or not, we are past the halfway point of 2020.
Some, like me, wish that 2020 could be a ‘do-over’ as both personally and worldwide, it has been a bit of a DUD.

Anyway, enough gloom and doom…

As the moderator of the Edelweiss Reviewer’s Group on Goodreads, I am delighted to report that we now have 334 members!
Here is how the Edelweiss Reviewers Group Reading/Reviewing Challenge stands today:As you can see, we are standing at 32% completed when we should be over 50% given the date.  Oh dear…. are we forgetting to keep track?

The first Summer BINGO winner was Virginia Williams (Rosepoint Publishing Blog) I posted about Virginia’s win on July 2nd.

And now, we have a second BINGO!

Carla, from Carla Loves To Read has completed a BINGO on her card:The books she read to complete her BINGO are:

The word house is in the title: The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
Has been on your TBR for more than a year: The Lost Child by Ann Troup
Has a number in the title: Two Truths and a Lie by Meg Mitchell Moore
The word daughter is in the title: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor, Narrated by Imogen Church

I’m only one book away from a BINGO, but close doesn’t win. LOL

Here is what my BINGO card looks like:

On a personal note, my darling grandson has been very sick these past weeks. He had to have yet another surgery. He is still in hospital, but he continues to improve every day.It has been difficult as a grandparent, because we couldn’t visit him in hospital due to Covid-19 restrictions. I can’t wait for him to be released so that I can give him a cuddle.

I sincerely hope that you are all having a marvelous summer and that the heat is not making you too lethargic to read.

Posted in Fictionophile report, personal, reading challenges | Tagged | 44 Comments

“The Borrowed Boy” by Deborah Klée – Book Review

how I imagined Angie would look

Angie Winkle, in her mid-fifties is a lonely woman with a small life. She still resides in the terraced house where she grew up. She has never married, never traveled, and has no social life to speak of. She spends her time at home or at her work, as a machinist, in a local factory. At the tender age of fourteen, Angie suffered a trauma that has affected her life ever since.

When Angie receives a devastating medical diagnosis, she makes a vow to make the most of the time she has left.

In a curious set of circumstances, Angie finds herself in the custody of a lovable four-year old Polish boy named Danek.

Kindertransport Memorial at London’s Liverpool Street Tube Station

Twenty-four-year-old Nikoleta has just traveled to England from Poland. She is bringing her boyfriend’s son to London to meet up with his father. She is uncertain in navigating London via tube and she doesn’t have a good grasp of the English language. In her bewilderment, she loses her clasp of Danek’s hand and he travels on the tube without her…

Jaywick Sands, an Essex seaside town, has been named as one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England

Jaywick Sands, an Essex seaside town, has been named as one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England

Intending to keep Danek for just one day, circumstances lead her to keep him longer. Angie and Danek find themselves in Jaywick Sands. Angie has fond memories of the place from when she visited there with a friend when she was just fourteen. She finds the place much changed. Instead of the booming tourist mecca it was in the seventies, it has turned into a ‘down at the heel‘ haven for those who have little resources, yet have big hearts.

“She had been ignored most of her life and wasn’t used to strangers being friendly.”

Angie and Danek settle in at Jaywick Sands and Angie’s skills as a seamstress and a mechanic help to ingratiate them with the locals. Angie has finally found friendship and a real sense of belonging.

Meanwhile, Kamil and his cohorts are in search of Danek…

This book served to remind me yet again of the many people in this world who are alone, living solitary and unfulfilling lives. My heart went out to Angie. Imagine believing you don’t have much time left to live and regretting that your life has held no happiness, adventure, or most importantly, LOVE.

I enjoyed reading about Angie’s time spent with Danek. How his arrival in her life led to her having friendships for the first time. The setting of Jaywick Sands was one that I had not heard of before reading the book and I found it somehow heartwarming that it has turned into a refuge for people without much material wealth.

I had my suspicions about Nikoleta’s boyfriend from the start. Kamil was shady yet Nikoleta’s naiveté kept her from realizing it.

The novel had themes of loneliness, betrayal, the often dire situations of immigrants, the nourishing aspect of being part of a community, and how social acceptance can influence the human psyche.

I can confidently recommend this debut novel. It has engaging characters, good pacing, an absorbing story, an almost palpable sense of place, and a heart-warming ending. An absorbing read!

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 Rachel’s Random Resources (Rachel Gilbey) in order that I might participate in this blog tour.

Publication date: June 27, 2020   Publisher: Sherman House

ISBN: 9781838080402       ASIN: B08BWL74YV    366 pages

Check out any of the other stops on “The Borrowed Boy” blog tour.

Deborah Klée has worked as an occupational therapist, a health service manager, a freelance journalist, and management consultant in health and social care.

Her protagonists are often people who exist on the edges of society. Despite the very real, but dark, subject matter her stories are uplifting, combining pathos with humour. They are about self-discovery and the power of friendships and community.

The Borrowed Boy, her debut, was shortlisted for the Deviant Minds Award. Just Bea, her second novel will be published in 2021.

Deborah lives on the Essex coast. When she is not writing she combines her love of baking with trying to burn off the extra calories.

Follow Deborah Klée on Twitter and/or Instagram or visit her blog.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Reviews, debut novels, Literary fiction, Rachel's Random Resources | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

“Blacktop Wasteland” by S.A. Cosby – Book Review

“A mistake is a lesson, unless you make the same mistake twice.”

Beauregard Montage (nicknamed ‘Bug’) is a black man in his late thirties who is feeling the squeeze of financial commitments. His business is behind in its rent and the garage is losing business to a competitor. His boys need —and his daughter needs college tuition money. His mother is about to be turfed out of her nursing home due to lack of payment. He is getting final notice demands on his credit card bills. Desperate, he once again returns to the world of crime. A dangerous world where the payday is lucrative, but the risks are deadly.

Bug is the best driver on the eastern seaboard. He agrees to drive for a heist from a jewelry store. A decision he will come to bitterly regret… and one that will irrevocably change his world.

If I had to give this novel a label, it would be Southern Rural Noir.  Fast-paced, gritty crime fiction featuring very real characters.  I didn’t expect to love it quite as much as I did. After all, I’m a white grandmother from Canada who has little basis to ‘relate’ to Beauregard Montage. Set during a sweltering Virginia summer, the oppressive heat seemed palpable.

Kudos to S.A. Cosby who created a criminal protagonist – a man whose actions were often deadly and cunning –  but is also a likeable, empathetic, moral, good man.  A good man whose family history, fate, and circumstance conspire against him at every turn.

A loving husband and father, Beauregard was brought up in dire poverty with only a criminal father as a role model.  Despite his upbringing, his intelligence, his eidetic memory, and his strong moral code ensured that he was truly a character who the reader is rooting for throughout the narrative despite his criminal proclivity.

In addition to being a ‘heist’ crime novel, “Blacktop Wasteland” examines the situation that people who are living in poverty experience. Particularly black Americans. The rural south, where poverty breeds desperation and racial profiling is a grim reality. Where folks think a double-wide mobile home is the epitome of what life will provide them. A place where poverty and sometimes avarice guide the actions of its inhabitants. The characters that people this novel want more choices that will get them out from the low expectations of others. They want a better life for themselves and those they love.

Potential readers should be warned that this novel contains quite a bit of graphic violence within its very fast-paced story. I was fully immersed in the book throughout. The ending was realistic – as in life, you’ll find no ‘happy ever afters’ here.

Wow! What a great movie this story would make! Highly recommended!

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 Flatiron Books (an imprint of Macmillan U.S.) via publicist Claire McLaughlin who invited me to join this blog tour.

Publication date: July 14, 2020   Publisher: Flatiron Books

ISBN: 9781250252685    ASIN: B07WCYQZ4Y    304 pages

Shawn A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern
Virginia, now residing in Gloucester, Virginia. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. His short story “The Grass Beneath
My Feet” won the Anthony award for best short story in 2019. He is also the author of My Darkest Prayer and Brotherhood of the Blade. His writing is influenced by his experience as a bouncer, construction worker, retail
manager and for six hours a mascot for a major fast food chain inside the world’s hottest costume. When he isn’t crafting tales of murder and mayhem he assists the dedicated staff at J.K. Redmond Funeral home as a mortician’s assistant. He is an avid hiker and is also known as one hell of a chess player.

Follow S.A. Cosby on Twitter

Posted in 20 Books of Summer, Blog Tour, Book Reviews, Literary fiction, Men's fiction, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

“The Island Child” by Molly Aitken – Book Review

“So many lies are built out of a wish to shield the ones we love
from the horror of the truth.”

“Boys were all free while girls were tied to the hearth and kept sleepy inside like gentle calves in spring.”

Growing up on the Aran Island of Inis was a place of loneliness and entrapment for the girl Oona. While her brothers left the cottage every day to accompany their father on his fishing trips, Oona was left at home with her mother, a woman who was stern and uncommunicative.  While boys went to school, girls did not as they were needed in the home. The division of labour was strict, the insular life hard. Oona always wanted more from life. She want to escape the confines of her family and her island home.

“I’d seen that if you spoke your bitterness it spread and grew in others too.”

Inis was a place where the parish priest ruled. He taught at the school and was revered for his holiness and his power.

“…truths left unsaid rot like old clams.”

When Oona turns sixteen she experiences a trauma that will colour the entire rest of her life…

Seriously, the blurb had me hooked. An island setting, family secrets, and Ireland. The perfect combination!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Oona’s story. At times, especially in the parts where Oona was a child on Inis, the book read almost like magical realism. Her innocent childish imaginings coupled with the rich superstitions and beliefs of her countrymen provided an atmospheric look and eerie feel to the novel.

Themes of isolation, loneliness, forgiveness, and loss made for a captivating though melancholy read. A memorable book which was rich in character and setting which told of mothers and children and how the love can be different in each.

An outstanding debut by a young and talented author I will be on the alert for. Recommended!

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 Knopf  via Edelweiss.

Publication date: July 28, 2020   Publisher: Knopf (Penguin Random House)

ISBN: 9780525658375     ASIN: B07ZY3LYSP    352 pages

Molly Aitken was born in Scotland in 1991 and brought up in Ireland. She studied Literature and Classics at Galway University and has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa. She was shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s fairy tale retelling prize 2016, and has a story in the Irish Imbas 2017 Short Story Collection.

Currently, she works as an editor and ghostwriter and lives in Sheffield, England. The Island Child is her debut novel.

Follow Molly Aitken on Twitter.

Posted in 20 Books of Summer, Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Literary fiction | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Fictionophile’s July 2020 #BookHaul

I’ve added THIRTEEN titles to my TBR this month.

I was auto-approved for FIVE titles and my requests were approved for SIX more. I received ONE book directly from Orenda Books, ONE directly from the author, and the thirteenth title I received after being invited to join ‘Secret Readers‘ hosted by Orion Books.

The book I am most excited to read of  this bookhaul is the one I received directly from Orenda Books.  At long last, I have a copy of Agnes Ravatn’s latest novel “The Seven Doors“.  I’ve been anxiously awaiting this one ever since I read and reviewed her previous novel “The Bird Tribunal” back in January of 2017, which was my favourite read of that year.

From Secret Readers I downloaded the following title:

I was approved for ONE title from Edelweiss in July:

I was excited to get this one as it is the sequel to “The Tenant” which I reviewed last April.

AND… I downloaded NINE titles from NetGalley in July:

I was excited to get this one as it is the sequel to “Nine Elms” which I reviewed July 2020.

Posted in Anticipated titles | Tagged , | 24 Comments

Winner Announced! Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2020 #TheakstonAward #TheakstonsCrime @HarrogateFest @orion_crime #crimefiction

Harrogate, Thursday 23 July: Belfast born Adrian McKinty has been awarded the UK’s most prestigious accolade in crime writing, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, for his best-selling thriller, The Chain, that sees parents forced to abduct children to save the lives of their own.

The Chain was chosen by public vote and the prize Judges, triumphing against a tremendously strong shortlist – including books from Oyinkan Braithwaite, Helen Fitzgerald, Jane Harper, Mick Herron and Abir Mukherjee – at a time when the UK is experiencing a boom in crime fiction. Adrian’s hit thriller marks the turning point in his life that has led him to a series of success, as he became an international bestseller and had Universal snap up the film rights in a seven-figure deal.


What Adrian McKinty says about his win:

“I am gobsmacked and delighted to win this award. Two years ago, I had given up on writing altogether and was working in a bar and driving an uber, and so to go from that to this is just amazing. People think that you write a book and it will be an immediate bestseller. For twelve books, my experience was quite the opposite, but then I started this one. It was deliberately high concept, deliberately different to everything else I had written – and I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere… but now look at this. It has been completely life changing.”

This phenomenal success comes after Adrian’s family were evicted from their home, forcing him to put down his pen and find work as an Uber driver and bar tender to make ends meet. Persuaded to give his dream one last go, Adrian began writing what would become his smash hit sensation The Chain, now a bestseller in over 20 countries with move rights snapped up by Universal in a seven figure deal to bring this chilling masterpiece to life on screen.

Described by Don Winslow as ‘nothing short of Jaws for parents’, The Chain was chosen by public vote and the prize Judges, triumphing against a tremendously strong shortlist – including books from Oyinkan Braithwaite, Helen Fitzgerald, Jane Harper, Mick Herron and Abir Mukherjee – at a time when the UK is experiencing a boom in crime fiction, with the genre exploding in popularity during lockdown and sales soaring since bookshops have reopened.

The news was revealed in a virtual awards ceremony on what would have been the opening night of Harrogate’s legendary Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty – who was previously nominated in 2011, 2014 and 2016 for his Sean Duffy series – will now receive £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery.

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “Looking at the titles in contention for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020, it is clear to see why crime fiction remains the UK’s genre of choice. Adrian McKinty is a writer of astonishing talent and tenacity, and we could not be more grateful that he was persuaded to give his literary career one last shot because The Chain is a truly deserving winner. Whilst we might be awarding this year’s trophy in slightly different, digital circumstances, we raise a virtual glass of Theakston Old Peculier to Adrian’s success – with the hope that we can do so in person before too long, and welcome everyone back to Harrogate next year for a crime writing celebration like no other.”

Link to publisher’s website for “The Chain”.

Visit Adrian McKinty’s website and/or follow him on Twitter.

Posted in Authors, award winners | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Cover Love: part 91 – Envelopes

In my 91st installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I thought I’d do a post about envelopes on book covers.  In our modern times, letter writing and ‘snail mail’ is almost obsolete – which is very sad. There is nothing like the thrill of receiving a letter in the post….

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.

These titles encompass a wide variety of genres.  Enjoy!

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

Have you read one of these titles and absolutely LOVED it?

Please let me know in the comments.

And don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 90 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 14 Comments

“Across The Water” by Ingrid Alexandra – Book Review

Liz and Adam Dawson are newlyweds from East London. When Adam’s father passes away in Southern Australia, the couple travel there in order to settle his affairs. Adam’s Dad’s house was on the remote side of a creek and they live there on a temporary basis. Liz clearing out his father’s effects, while Adam commutes regularly to Sydney so that he can handle the legal side of the estate.

Liz really minds the long days left alone in this foreign place. She hates the house and the location and can’t wait to return to London. She has a perfect view of the three grand houses across the water from the loft in her father-in-law’s house. She takes to watching them with binoculars she finds in the loft. She wonders if Adam’s father used them to spy on his neighbours too….

She becomes obsessed with her neighbours activities – even more so when the beautiful woman in the middle house, along with her darling baby girl, goes missing…

A woman alone (for the most part), on the other side of the world from her home. An isolated locale, neighbours who are acting in a suspicious manner, and previous emotional trauma…. The setting played a huge part in giving this novel the ‘creepy’ factor. A tidal creek with few access points from one side to the other, one of which was via a mangrove.The characters in this thriller were well depicted and I could easily imagine them and felt I knew them in some small way.  If I had one grievance with the book is that the narrative jumped from person to person, and time line to time line too often. Or, at least often enough that I found myself wondering when the action was taking place.

This book examined parenthood. Those who wish desperately to have children, childless people and those who have children who they never really wanted. It also examines issues of trust and betrayal.

The story was suspenseful and the plot well executed. The ending was simultaneously satisfying and a tad ambiguous.  A great conclusion for a psychological thriller novel.

This is my first read from Ingrid Alexandra, and I would readily read another of her novels. Recommended!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 One More Chapter (an imprint of HarperCollins UK) via NetGalley.

Publication date: July 9, 2020   Publisher: One More Chapter

ISBN: 9780008355487    eBook: 9780008355494    ASIN: B07RPNHSMP    384 pages

Ingrid Alexandra was born and raised in Sydney and now lives on the New South Wales central coast.

Her work has previously been long-listed for The Ampersand Prize and while living in London, Ingrid had the privilege of being mentored by the Guardian First Novel Award shortlisted and Nestle Prize winning author Daren King.

THE NEW GIRL was her first psychological thriller, debuting in July 2018. Her second, ACROSS THE WATER, was published on 9th July 2020.

Follow Ingrid Alexandra on Twitter and/or visit her website.

Posted in 20 Books of Summer, Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

“Red Means Run” by Brad Smith – Book Review

I originally reviewed this title on January 2nd, 2012. Back then, I didn’t have many followers so the book didn’t get any attention. I thought that since Lume Books have taken over the Endeavor Press catalog, I would try to remedy that.Brad Smith’s latest thriller “Red means run” set in rural upstate New York, exhibits good, sound story-telling and introduces a new and compelling protagonist. The title is from a lyric from “Powderfinger”, an old Neil Young song. The subtitle, ‘a Virgil Cain mystery’ ensured that every time I picked up the novel I found myself humming the classic Joan Baez tune “The night they drove old Dixie down”. Like the Virgil Cain(e) of the song this Virgil was not afraid of hard work and seemed to live by the words “take what you need and leave the rest”. The adjectives I would best use to describe him are admirable and honorable.

The beginning of the novel (which is needed to set up the story) was for me a bit disappointing–mostly I think because the character introduced in the beginning, Mickey Dupree was an unlikable chap. An unscrupulous criminal attorney and avid golfer, he does not engender sympathy or regret when he is killed off at the end of the first chapter.

The second chapter introduces us to Virgil Cain and from there on I was hooked, turning the pages as one might gobble down a great Christmas dinner.

An over-zealous (and not very bright) cop arrests Virgil for murdering Dupree. The strong, silent type, Virgil takes his arrest very stoically while I as the reader was outraged on his behalf. His character comes across as being honest and compassionate and the reader just knows that it is impossible for him to have murdered anyone. When Virgil realizes that the police seem satisfied that they have their man, he knows that he must find out who did murder Dupree so as to exonerate himself. Of course in order to do that he must escape custody…

Virgil’s friend Mary, a septuagenarian veterinarian was a highly moral character that I hope returns in subsequent novels. Mary, like Virgil, has her head screwed on straight and knows the meaning of loyalty and friendship. She, along with the female homicide detective Claire Marchand are the only two allies that Virgil has. Gorgeous and very clever, Claire was the perfect foil for a man as highly principled as Virgil. Filled with suspense, horses, a ‘salt of the earth’, honorable protagonist and just a touch of romance ensures that “Red means run” will appeal to anyone who has ever enjoyed a Dick Francis novel. Be prepared to find yourself reading well into the wee hours… I eagerly await the second book in the series, “Crow’s Landing“.

Publication date: March 25, 2018  (first published Jan. 2012)

Publisher: Lume Books

 ASIN: B07C989981    245 pages

Brad Smith was born and raised in the hamlet of Canfield, in southern Ontario, a couple of hours from Toronto.

He has lived many places over the years – at a variety of jobs. Farmer, signalman, insulator, truck driver, bartender, schoolteacher (certain lies about his post-secondary education were told to acquire that job), maintenance mechanic, roofer, and so on. He became a carpenter and built custom homes in the Dunnville area. He still works as a carpenter when not writing. He now lives in a seventy-year-old farmhouse near the north shore of Lake Erie.

Smith started writing in his late twenties, in part to see if he could.  A couple of years later, holed up in the small town of Revelstoke in the Rocky Mountains, he actually finished a novel which is unpublished to this day, and will remain so. The next effort, however, was Rises A Moral Man, published by John Flood at Penumbra Press. Since then he has published One-Eyed Jacks (2000), All Hat (2003), Busted Flush (2005), Big Man Coming Down The Road (2007), Red Means Run (2012), Crow’s Landing (2012), Shoot The Dog (2014), Rough Justice (2016), Hearts of Stone (2017), The Return of Kid Cooper – 2019 winner of the Spur Award for best traditional western novel and The Goliath Run – available spring 2020.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Lume Books, Mystery fiction, Reblogged | Tagged , , | Leave a comment