“Ghost 19” by Simone St. James – Book Review @BerkleyPub #Ghost19 #BookReview

I’ve read a few novels by Simone St. James so when I saw this novella on Amazon, I just had to buy it. Of the novels by this author that I have read, “The Broken Girls” is probably my favorite.

Set in Upstate New York, the title would suggest it is a ghost story, and it is… yet really it is more a story of a women who is mentally ill. The protagonist was a twenty-nine year old actress who suffered a breakdown. At her doctor’s insistence she has moved away from New York City to recover. Yet after she moves in to 19 Howard Avenue, she goes downhill. She begins to exhibit signs of full-blown agoraphobia and is unable to leave the house. She hears noises in the house and is afraid of the upstairs and of the basement. She spends her time gazing out the window and watching the neighbors. Then, she thinks she witnesses a murder and calls the police. From then on, things take a turn for the worst.

The time period is integral to the story. It is 1959 and back then doctors often dismissed serious women’s concerns as them being ‘excitable’, or ‘hysterical’ and prescribing them sedatives – which only exacerbated their problems.

Ginette Cox was a woman afraid for her life in the story. A woman who was afraid to enter her kitchen, so she went without food… yet she continued to paint her nails? She continued to flirt with the policeman? These factors just didn’t ring true for me.

Simone St. James is an author who is famous for her ghost stories and she usually does it well, yet this time I think perhaps the short format of the story didn’t serve her well.

I purchased this novella for my own reading enjoyment.

Published January 3, 2023 by Berkley/Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9780593547700
80 pages

Simone St. James‘ debut novel, THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, won two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. AN INQUIRY INTO LOVE AND DEATH was nominated for another Arthur Ellis Award, and SILENCE FOR THE DEAD was shortlisted for a Goodreads Choice Award.

Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat. You can find her on FacebookTwitterInstagramGoodreads, and Pinterest (though not all at once).

Posted in Book Reviews, Canadian fiction, ghost stories, Novellas | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

“The Skeleton Key” by Erin Kelly – Book Review

Nell Churcher is the protagonist of the story. She lives in London, on a narrowboat without a permanent mooring. She shares her humble abode with fifteen year old Billie, who is the daughter of Nell’s former boyfriend. Despite her affluent family, Nell has chosen to distance herself from them and makes her living by selling her stained glass pieces at the market.  Her family are famous for a book that was published fifty years ago. “The Golden Bones” was an internationally renown treasure quest book which spurred countless followers aka ‘bonehunters’. The quest, based upon an old English folk song, tasked the treasure hunters with finding the bones to the skeleton of Elinor which were scattered by Nell’s father, the illustrator of the book. “The Golden Bones” is now coming up to its 50th anniversary and the family have planned a video launch of the anniversary edition of the book. This launch proves to go disastrously wrong, putting the well-being of Nell in jeopardy. For Nell (Eleanor) was named after the Elinor of the book, and some obsessive ‘fans’ (aka nutters) are finding it difficult to separate fiction from reality.

Frank and Cora Churcher live in one side of a Victoria semi-detached house in the Vale of Health, London. Frank’s best friend Lal lives with his wife Bridget on the other side. Their relationship is a complicated, twisted, and co-dependant disaster waiting to happen. To further connect the two families, the Lally’s daughter Rose married the Churcher’s son, Dom. And so it goes… The two families are intrinsically enmeshed in such a way that proves toxic for all involved.

Though she has distanced herself from this convoluted family, Nell does still care for them, especially her brother Dom.

Family is the core of this novel, albeit a complicated, dysfunctional, and almost incestuous one. “It is this ping-ponging between irritation and sympathy and what I suppose is probably, despite everything, love, that makes spending time with my family so exhausting.” I love that quote, because who, if they’re honest, hasn’t felt that way at one point?

This was a character-rich novel and many of them were unlikable. I really liked Nell Churcher and was enthralled when reading of her life with teenager Billie. The Churcher/Lally extended family, not so much…

I enjoyed the writing style, and the vividly rendered descriptions. I did struggle with the first third or so of the book, and wondered if I would become more engaged in the narrative – but never fear… I did!

Treasure hunts, artistic temperaments, duplicity, crowd mentality, deception, betrayal, and familial dysfunction are all themes running throughout the novel. And if I wanted to be a bit facetious, I’d say there were some family ‘skeletons’ as well.

The ‘bonehunters’ were at times brilliant and at other times scarily moronic. Aristotle said that “No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.” The influence of the power of social media on the obsessive mind was frighteningand all too credible.

There were myriad plot twists and surprising reveals. It is the type of thriller that you either love or tolerate. Read it and see what you decide.

Note: The collective noun for bones is a ‘humility’ – I learned something new from reading this book.

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 Mobius Books courtesy of Amanda Harkness, Senior Publicist Mobius Books – Part of Hachette Book Group.

Publication date: January 24, 2023
Publisher: Mobius Books

ISBN: 9781473680883   ASIN: ‎ ‎ B0BMQHVN15 – 512 pages

Erin Kelly is the Sunday Times bestselling author of He Said/She Said, The Poison Tree and several other standalone psychological thrillers. She also wrote the novelization of the award-winning TV show Broadchurch. Her work has been critically acclaimed and translated into thirty one languages. Erin also works as a freelance journalist and creative writing tutor. She lives in London, England with her family.

Connect with Erin Kelly via her website, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mobius Books, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Teaser Tuesday – January 24, 2023 #NewBook #WhatJulyKnew @EmilyKoch @HarvillSecker #TeaserTuesday #TuesdayBookBlog @PenguinUKBooks

My Tuesday post where I’ll ‘tease‘ you with the cover, blurb, and first paragraph of one of the titles from my own TBR.

This book is a title I received from Harvill Secker / Penguin UK via
NetGalley and I’ll be reading it soon.

Today, Tuesday January 24, 2023 I want to introduce one of the ARCs on my TBR.

This novel will be published on February 9, 2023

Publisher: Harvill Secker (Penguin UK)ISBN: 9781787301030 –  ASIN:  ‎ B09HZXD7CK –  330 pages

1)  It has been a while since I’ve read an adult novel with a child protagonist.

2)  The mystery of what really happened to July’s mother.

3) This is a ‘new to me’ author.

“July Hooper was always hot because she was born in a heatwave. This rare ribbon of information was handed over by her grandma, who promptly realised she had pulled it loose from the forbidden fabric of conversation that was July’s mother, and pinned her lips shut.

Nobody ever talked about Maggie Hooper’s life, or the awful way it had ended.”

Is this a title that you would consider adding to your TBR pile?

Why, or why not?

Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Anticipated titles, Mystery fiction, NetGalley, Teaser Tuesday | Tagged , | 2 Comments

“Killer Story” by Matt Witten – Book Review

Does the truth really set you free?

After reading this author’s “The Necklace” in August of last year, I was keen to read more of his work. Once again I was rewarded with an enjoyable, fast-paced, and satisfying read.

Set in Boston, Massachusetts in autumn, the story maintained a good sense of place. Petra lives with her boyfriend Jonah, on the top floor of a purple triple-decker in the North End of the city.

Petra works for the Boston Clarion, a newspaper that is just hanging on due to financial pressures. One of the people she works with is her nemesis, Natalie. The author has written Natalie’s character as one the reader loves to hate. He succeeded in my case. His portrayal of cut-throat office politics and rivalry was compelling.

The overriding theme in my opinion was ethics. In particular journalistic ethics. Just how far would our protagonist, Petra Kovach, go in search of the truth? When is too far? Do several wrongs make a right if the truth is finally revealed?

Petra was so driven – and SO desperate. Partly due to the precarious career she had chosen for herself, she had been fired several times. With newspapers downsizing, and many of them folding altogether, good journalism jobs were scarce. Now with imminent unemployment on the cards, she had one last ditch effort to salvage her career AND find justice by finding the true murderer of a young woman she had been fond of. Did she go too far? You be the judge.

With ‘fake news’ in the media spotlight, this was a very timely novel in many ways. It makes the reader question what they see and hear on mainstream media. And internet media, with its myriad podcasts and YouTube videos might be even more suspect. What should you believe?

If you find you are in the midst of a reading slump, this novel is the one to cure it. I found “Killer Story” hard to put down. It was a skilfully written, thought-provoking, and riveting thriller. 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 Oceanview Publishing via Edelweiss.

Publication date: January 17, 2023
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

ISBN: 9781608095247   ASIN: ‎ ‎ B09X5ZDFBK – 320 pages

Matt Witten, a graduate of Amherst and Brandeis Universities, is a TV writer, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. His television writing includes such shows as House, Pretty Little Liars, and Law & Order. His TV scripts have been nominated for an Emmy and two Edgars, and he has written four mystery novels, winning a Malice Domestic award for best debut novel. He has also written stage plays and for national magazines.

Killer Story is his most recent novel. His previous novel, The Necklace, has been optioned for film by Appian Way and Cartel Pictures, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached as producer.

Connect with Matt Witten via Twitter or Instagram.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Page turners | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

“The Blue Window” by Suzanne Berne – Book Review

“Life is messy. People love how they can.”“It occurred to him that most of the disasters people prepare for had already happened.”

I’ll admit that after reading the first chapter of this novel I was contemplating pulling out my hair. That chapter consisted mostly of a troubled, withdrawn, and deeply traumatized young man who views the world around him in an esoteric way. He is trying to punish himself for an incident of which we, as the reader knows nothing. He refers to himself and his parents as letters. He is A, his mother is X, his father is Y, etc. I found the beginning of this book so bizarre that I almost packed it in. What a mistake that would have been!

Once the mother, son, and aging dog began their road trip to rural Vermont, my interest was piqued and from then on I was fully engaged in the novel.

The grandmother, Marika was a memorable character. Her story was told via brief flashbacks to her childhood in Amsterdam during the German occupation in WWII.

The writing was skilled and eloquent. The setting was well-conceived and very realistic. The narrative spoke to familial dysfunction, buried traumas, shame, and family secrets. Though the blurb states that this book was infused with suspense, I did not find it so. It was a thoughtful, observant, and multi-layered work of literary fiction. 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 Marysue Rucci Books/Simon and Schuster via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9781476794266 – ASIN:‎ B0B3Y91WDT – 272 pages
This title was published January 10, 2023 by Simon & Schuster

Suzanne Berne is the author of The Dogs of Littlefield; The Ghost at the Table; A Perfect Arrangement; A Crime in the Neighborhood, winner of Great Britain’s Orange Prize; and Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew, part biography and part memoir. She has also written short fiction and essays that appear in Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and more. Berne currently teaches creative writing at Boston College and The Ranier Writing Workshop. She lives just outside of Boston with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Suzanne Berne via her website.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Literary fiction | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

WWW Wednesday – January 18, 2023 #readingforpleasure #bookbloggers #WWWWednesday #bookworms

Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

I’ve linked the book descriptions to the Goodreads site for the book.

Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. So, let’s get to it!

The three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What have you finished reading?
What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

The Blue Window” by Suzanne Berne

(I downloaded this title courtesy of Marysue Rucci Books/Simon and Schuster via Edelweiss)What have I just finished reading?

Locust Lane” by Stephen Amidon (my review)

(this is a title I received courtesy Celadon Books via NetGalley)

What will I read next?”

Killer Story” by Matt Witten

(this is a title I downloaded courtesy of Oceanview Publishing via Edelweiss)and after that I plan to read

The Skeleton Key” by Erin Kelly

(this is a title I downloaded courtesy of  Amanda Harkness at Mobius Books)to be followed by reading

The Chamber and The Cross” by Lisa K. Shapiro and Deborah K. Reed

this is a title I downloaded from Amazon as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription)

So that’s it!   How is YOUR reading week shaping up?


Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report, Reading, WWW Wednesdays | Tagged | 4 Comments

“Locust Lane” by Stephen Amidon – Book Review

“4 high school students – 9 adults – 1 unsolved murder”

Locust Lane” was an engrossing, contemporary murder mystery. With echoes of the family dynamics of “13 Reasons Why“, this modern thriller gave an observant and fascinating portrayal of the suburban American family dynamic. It expounds on the measures parents will go to in the protection of their children, and of their own reputations. It portrays teenagers trying to cope with social pressures and the all-consuming, and often tragic effect of social media in their lives.

Written with understanding and eloquence, this novel turned out to be quite the page turner. Penned with an authentic voice that did not sugar-coat any of the modern day realities.

Several themes were touched upon in ‘Locust Lane‘. Parental grief, the iron-grip of alcoholism, social inequities, racial prejudice, the partisan views of public opinion, misogyny, adultery, and disloyalty.

There were a lot of characters, but each was wrought in such a way that left no room for confusion. Various points of view were voiced. Plot twists near the end of this slow burning neighborhood crime thriller led up to an ambiguous ending – leaving it up to the reader’s interpretation. Not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but it worked here in my opinion.

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 Celadon Books via NetGalley.

  ISBN: 9781250844231 – ASIN:  B09Y47D78H – 320 pagesThis title was published today, January 17, 2023 by Celadon Books

STEPHEN AMIDON was born in Chicago and grew up on the East Coast of America. He lived in London for twelve years before returning to the United States in 1999. He now lives in Massachusetts and Torino, Italy.

His books have been published in sixteen countries and include two works of non fiction, a collection of short stories, and seven novels, including Human Capital and Security.

Amidon’s novels have appeared on many books of the year lists, and Human Capital was selected by Jonathan Yardley, chief critic of The Washington Post as one of the five best novels of 2004.

Connect with Stephen Amidon via his website and/or Instagram.

Posted in Book Reviews, Celadon Books, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

January 16, 2023 – Blue Monday? Books are the cure for that.

Yup! Today, January 16th, 2023 is Blue Monday.

A term (in the northern hemisphere) that describes a Monday in January, typically the third Monday of the month, that is characterized as the most depressing day of the year.

To battle the blues, I decided to embrace them. I scanned my Goodreads TBR to see how many of them have blue covers. I found TEN titles that I’m really anticipating.

If anything looks interesting to you, just click on the cover and it will take you to the Goodreads description.

How could I be BLUE with all of these great titles yet to read?

Posted in Dustjackets | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Wintery Reads – Do you read seasonally?

Are YOU a seasonal reader?
What is seasonal reading?

Seasonal reading is the practice of choosing your reading material to match the moods and seasons of the calendar.

As I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, I’ve compiled a list of the titles on my TBR that have wintery covers and/or storylines. (though to be honest we don’t have any snow on the ground yet here…) I’ve linked the cover graphics to the Goodreads description of the books.

Those Who Remain” by Chris Culver is the first book in his Homer Watson police procedural series set in Midwestern U..S.A.

The Life We Bury” is the debut novel by Allen Eskens. It is the first title in his Joe Talbert series set in Minnesota, U.S.A.

Wilderness” by Campbell Hart is the first novel in his Arbogast trilogy set in Scotland.

Murder On The Mind” by L.L. Bartlett is the first novel in the Jeff Resnick series set in Buffalo, N.Y.

No Longer Safe” by A.J. Waines is a standalone thriller set in Scotland.

The Winter Folly” by Lulu Taylor is a standalone dual timeline saga set in England.

Dead Of Winter” by Lee Weeks is the first title in the Willis/Carter police procedural series set in England.

The Night Visitors” by Carol Goodman is a standalone thriller set in New York State.

Divided House” is the first novel in J.M. Dalgliesh’s ‘Dark Yorkshire’ crime series.

The Snowdonia Killings” is the first title in Simon McCleave’s D.I. Ruth Hunter series set in North Wales.

Cover Your Tracks” by Daco S. Auffenorde is a standalone suspense thriller set in the Rocky Mountains.

The Corpse Road” is a standalone crime thriller by Gwen Moffat set in the Northern Pennines, England.

The Overnight Guest” by Heather Gudenkauf is a standalone thriller set in Iowa, U.S.A.

A Woman Made Of Snow” by Elisabeth Gifford is a standalone literary mystery set in Scotland.

The Dark” by Emma Haughton is a standalone crime thriller set in Antarctica.

My Brother” by Karin Smirnoff  is the first novel in her Jana Kippo crime series set in Sweden.

Little Comfort” by Edwin Hill is the first title in his Hester Thursby mystery series set in Massachusetts, U.S.A.

The Widow’s Watcher” by Eliza Maxwell is a standalone crime thriller set in Minnesota, U.S.A.

The Winter Cottage” b Rachael Lucas is a romantic novel set in the Scottish Highlands. The first title in the Applemore Bay series.

The Amber Keeper” by Freda Lightfoot is a historical novel set in revolutionary Russia.

So there you have it. Twenty winter seasonal reads. Have you seen anything that strikes your fancy? Please let me know in the comments if you have added any of these twenty titles to YOUR TBR.

Posted in Anticipated titles, Reading | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

“So Pretty” by Ronnie Turner – Book Review

A young man arrives in a small town, hoping to leave his past behind him, but
everything changes when he takes a job in a peculiar old shop, and meets a lonely
single mother…

Whoever described this novel as a ‘modern-gothic thriller‘ got it spot on. The creepy curiousity shoppe Berry & Vincent, with its gruesome inventory, was macabre. It’s owner, Mr. Vincent was memorable to say the least. Mr. Vincent, though small, elderly, and stooped, exuded a vibe of evil malevolence. The town itself seemed corrupted by the very fact that Berry & Vincent’s was located within it. After Teddy works for a while at Berry & Vincent, the reader questions whether he has come to be infected by the malignance that permeates the store and its owner. Has Mr. Vincent met his nemesis?

“Rumours are like rot here, they spread.”

The narrative alternated in chapters between Teddy and Ada. Both of these characters were very lonely people – so much so that they both exhibited an air of desperation. Both were attempting to outrun their pasts. Both lived their lives as outsiders, never really feeling accepted. Teddy and Ada had parents who should never have had children. Teddy is fearful that strangers will equate him with the sins of his father. Ada is fearful that her childhood experiences of growing up in a house in which her mother didn’t show her any caring or affection will somehow carry over to her young four-year-old son, Albie.

“Some people shouldn’t be parents. They are broken, then they break their children.”

The story was told with eloquent and atmospheric prose and descriptions. “There was a pain in my middle, as if my stomach has teeth and it is eating every other part of me.” AND “She has so many sharp edges. She sharpened them herself when she was a girl. To cut her father’s fingers.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the cover which fit the novel to perfection. Finally, a cover designed by someone who has actually read the book!

This is Ronnie Turner’s second novel, and now I’m eager to go back and read her debut “Lies Between Us“. I found “So Pretty” to be dark, chilling, haunting, disturbing, and very well written. A book of damaged people, toxic atmosphere, and addled minds. It makes the reader wonder about genetics. Are we predestined to follow in our father’s footsteps? And evil… ? Monsters ARE real. Recommended for readers who don’t mind being a tad terrified while they read, and those who don’t mind an ending which will chill you to the bone.

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 in order that I could participate in this blog tour.ISBN: 9781914585593 –  ASIN: ‎ B0BF5Y2XLZ –  331 pages

To be published January 19, 2023 by Orenda Books

Connect with Ronnie Turner via her BLOG, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Reviews, gothic fiction, Horror, Orenda Books, Random Things Tours (Anne Cater) | Tagged , , | 1 Comment