“Rides the Stranger” by David Bell – Book Review #bibliomysteries

Open Road Media have published a series of Bibliomysteries (Short tales about deadly books, by top mystery authors).  I have read four of them so far.  The first one I read and enjoyed was by Elizabeth George called “The mysterious disappearance of the reluctant book fairy” ; the second was the wonderful “Every seven years” by Denise Mina; and the third was “The Travelling Companion” by Ian Rankin. Now, I have just read “Rides a Stranger” by David Bell.Book divider line

Don Kurtwood, a university literature professor goes home to attend his father’s funeral. Father and son were never close. A love of books was their only common interest and even that was sketchy as Don loved the classics – real literature – and his Dad favoured pulp fiction, especially paperback westerns.

At the funeral reception Don is approached by a rotund little man who wants Don to visit his store later that same evening. He gives Don his card:

After a trying day, Don does go to the man’s bookstore – only to find him dead. He reports the death to the police and finds out that Lou Caledonia wasn’t interested in purchasing Don father’s old book collection. Instead, he was interested in buying the book Don’s father wrote!

This is a revelation Don didn’t expect. Even his mother had no idea that her late husband had penned a novel under the pseudonym Herbert Henry…

Don goes in search of the elusive book. He believes that if he reads it he might understand his father better.

At only 53 pages, this short story was a very enjoyable read. The short length didn’t deter the author from excellent characterization.

The point that the story exemplifies is that we, as adults, often do not ‘know‘ our own parents on a personal level.  It is often only after our parents have passed away that we realize that our parents were vibrant and young at one time. People with dreams and hobbies, loves and insecurities.

This short story will be enjoyed by bibliophiles and short story lovers alike.  But then that comes as no surprise… the author is David Bell.

This short story was in my own collection of ebooks. I plan to read more Bibliomysteries when time permits.

Check out the other great titles in the Bibliomysteries series from Open Road Media.David Bell is the author of seven novels from Berkley/Penguin, including BRING HER HOME, SINCE SHE WENT AWAY, SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW, THE FORGOTTEN GIRL, NEVER COME BACK, THE HIDING PLACE, and CEMETERY GIRL. His work has been translated into numerous foreign languages, and in 2013, he won the prestigious Prix Polar International de Cognac for best crime novel by an international author. He is an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University where he directs the MFA program in creative writing. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, he spends his free time rooting for the Reds and Bengals, watching movies, and walking in the cemetery near his house. He lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with his wife, writer Molly McCaffrey.

Posted in Book Reviews, books about books, Novellas | Tagged | 3 Comments

“The Red Address Book” by Sofia Lundberg – Book Review

Originally written in Swedish and translated to English by Alice Menzies

The elderly Doris is nearing the end of her life in her native Stockholm, Sweden. Her only close relative is her great-niece, Jenny who is a busy young mother in San Francisco, California. Increasingly frail, Doris has a carer who visits daily to help her with dressing and meals. Doris is very lonely and the highlight of her life is when she uses her laptop computer to Skype with Jenny once a week.

Doris has an old leather address book which she has had since she was a child. Now, at her advanced age, most of the people in it are deceased. She has so many memories. Memories that she does not want to disappear when she is dead. So… she writes them down for Jenny.

“I’ll give you my memories. They’re the most beautiful thing I have.”

Doris’s life has been very eventful. At the age of thirteen her father died tragically and she was sent to work as a maid for a wealthy woman. Before she left her childhood home her mother said:

“I wish you enough. Enough sun to light up your days, enough rain that you appreciate the sun. Enough joy to strengthen your soul, enough pain that you can appreciate life’s small moments of happiness. Enough friends that you can manage a farewell now and then.”

She has lived in Stockholm, Paris, Cornwall, and New York. She has lived through many events that have shaped her world, and many traumas that might have felled a lesser person. Doris had one great love – but that was very short lived.

“Being separated from a person you hold dear always feels like a wound to the soul.”

Doris was a grand old lady. A person I would love to have met in person. What more praise can you give a fictional character? I felt privileged to share her reflections on a life lived to the fullest.

Jenny’s character was also well rendered. She was extremely fond of her great-aunt Doris (whom she calls Dossi) and is torn between wanted to be in Stockholm and tending to her husband and three children in San Francisco.

Doris’s love, Allan Smith, and her best friend, the artist Gosta, added to the interest of her life story. The flow between time periods depicted was flawless and easy to discern.

A grand debut literary novel, “The Red Address Book” explores the themes of adversity, hardship, friendship, and love. It reminds us that everyone should have the right to living and dying with dignity. And also, it makes us realize the great treasure of memories held by elderly people should be passed down to future generations in order that they might benefit from the lessons learned through a life rife with experience.

A beautiful and heartbreaking story. Nostalgic, sentimental, yet all too believable, this debut novel is highly recommended to all lovers of thoughtful, well-written literary fiction and/or lovers of old ladies.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “The Red Address Book” from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley.

This book was recommended to me by fellow blogger Cleo Pullen.
Read Cleo’s review of “The Red Address Book”.

 

Sofia Lundberg (b. 1974), a journalist and former magazine editor, made her debut with the word-of-mouth sensation The Red Address Book. Lauded by critics for her ability to sweep readers off their feet and take them on journeys through time and space, love and loss, Lundberg is the shining new star of heartwarming – and heart-wrenching – Scandinavian fiction.

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Literary fiction, NetGalley, Scandinavian | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Throwback Thursday: “Evergreen Falls” by Kimberley Freeman – Book Review

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites. This week I’m showcasing a novel that I read about five years ago. “Evergreen Falls” was, for me, a memorable FOUR STAR read.


“The level of behavior you overlook is the level of behavior you condone.”

Evergreen Falls cover

With alternating dual narratives set eighty-eight years apart “Evergreen Falls” is set in a majestic and historic old hotel in Australia’s Blue Mountains.

In 1926, the Evergreen Spa Hotel was where Australia’s rich come to stay.  Flora and Sam Honeychurch-Black, wealthy brother and sister, have come to the Evergreen Spa Hotel in order that Sam can ‘recover’ from his condition.  Sadly, his condition is opium addiction and Flora holds out little hope for a ‘cure’.   Along with the siblings are Flora’s fiancé, Tony, and some of his friends.  Flora once dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her family’s aspirations for her, a young woman of impeccable breeding,  was for a advantageous marriage.  Handsome and wealthy, Tony seems to fit the bill.

Violet Armstrong, a naive teenager, has come to work at the hotel to earn money to send back to her mother in Sydney who suffers from severe arthritis.  Luckily for Violet, the manageress of the hotel favours her and keeps her on over the winter months.  When Violet – a lowly waitress – meets the wealthy hotel guest Sam, it is love at first sight for them both.  They begin a secret love affair which has tragic consequences.

Blue Mountains in winter

Things take a sinister turn when a severe snowstorm cuts the hotel off from the neighbouring village.  Tension, frustration and isolation erode the social norms. Most of the hotel guests have left leaving only a handful – with just a skeleton staff to care for their needs.  The kenopsia was palpable.  Then conditions worsen. Their supplies are cut off, staff fall sick with the flu, there is no electricity, and most importantly, Sam’s supply of opium dries up…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In 2014, after the death of her beloved brother Adam, Lauren Beck comes to Evergreen Falls to work in the hotel’s café.  She is away from her home in Tasmania for the first time.  Although thirty years of age, Lauren is naive to the ways of the world because she had been sheltered by her family whilst caring for her terminally ill older brother.

The hotel is being renovated and refurbished.  Tomas, one of the team of architects from Denmark, comes in to Lauren’s café daily for coffee.  For the first time in her life, she knows how it feels to be attracted to a man.  After a short acquaintance, Tomas gives Lauren a key to the west wing of the hotel where she discovers some old love letters.  Tomas returns to Denmark and she embarks on a quest to discover more about the writer of the letters.

As with most well researched historical novels, I am reminded about the time period.  How segregated males and females were – years before any semblance of equality for women, when a double-standard was the norm.  How unaccepting society was of homosexuality.  The class stratification in the 1920s.

More than a romantic love story, “Evergreen Falls” speaks to the love between siblings, between parent and child, between friends.  A historical saga with a smattering of suspense, the story will be enjoyed by many.

Thanks to Touchstone/Simon & Schuster via NetGalley for  providing me with the digital ARC of the novel in exchange for this review.

CP1_2345Kimberley Freeman was born in London and her family moved back to Australia when she was three years old. She grew up in Queensland where she currently lives.

Kimberley has written for as long as she can remember and she is proud to write in many genres. She is an award-winning writer in children’s, historical and speculative fiction under her birth name Kim Wilkins. She adopted the pen name Kimberley Freeman for her commercial women’s fiction novels to honour her maternal grandmother and to try and capture the spirit of the page-turning novels she has always loved to read.  She lives in Brisbane with her kids and pets and lovely partner.

Listen to the author describe how her grandmother inspired her to write “Evergreen Falls”.

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

Wednesday’s Word = HOTEL

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 ‘HOTEL’ in the title, but I’m featuring a small selection of titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love.  I’ve only read one of the following titles but several of them are on my TBR.

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?
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 | 20 Comments

“The Lying Kind” by Alison James – Book Review

Months after the missing persons case goes cold for the Surrey police, the National Crime Agency steps in to see if they can find little Lola Jade Harper.  D.C.I. Rachel Prince and her second in command, Detective Sergeant Mark Brickall are tasked with moving the case forward.

Both estranged parents are tentatively under suspicion, but with no evidence, they must surmise as best they can. When another little girl goes missing, their suspicions seem groundless. Then, a young single mother is murdered… bizarrely, her murder has a connection to the case of the missing Lola Jade.


This quote by Khalil Gibran is particularly apt for the story:

“You may give them your love, but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies, but not their souls. For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow.”

I love police procedural crime fiction and it is always a pleasure to discover a new series in the genre. This book was a nice change in that DCI Rachel Prince works for the National Crime Agency (the British point of contact for Interpol). However, for me… Rachel Prince wasn’t the most likable of characters. She had a commendable work ethic, but otherwise she is not a person I would want to befriend. She is thirty-nine years old and seems to loathe personal commitment of any kind, and deems material possessions superfluous – perhaps we’ll learn the reasons behind this in future books.

In fact, there were few likable characters in this book. Even the mother of the missing child was cold, unreadable, and unsympathetic. She viewed her daughter Lola Jade as a possession – someone she ‘owned’. The only character I warmed to was Rachel Prince’s Detective Sergeant, Mark Brickall. I enjoyed the irreverent rapport he had with Rachel Prince and the way she missed him as a sounding board when he wasn’t on duty.

Though Prince works out of the NCA’s London offices, a lot of the scenes took place in Surrey, where the missing girl lived. The Surrey Police liaison, DS Leila Rajavi, was an interesting character who I quite enjoyed.

The plot was a page-turner and cleverly written. The story was rife with deception, secrets, and lies. With several devious plot twists and well-fleshed out characters, I have no doubt that this series debut novel will be enjoyed by many.

The ending of this suspenseful crime thriller was satisfactory and ironic in equal measure.

By the end of the book, I even found myself warming to DCI Rachel Prince. I will no doubt be reading the second book in the series to see what she’ll encounter next.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Bookouture via NetGalley.

NOTE: This book was published under two different titles.

P.S. – If you’re wondering why I included a graphic of a purple suitcase, then you’ll have to read the novel to find out why. LOL

Alison James was born in the Cotswolds but spent most of her formative years abroad. She studied languages at Oxford, then became a journalist and author, returning to university after having two children to take a law degree. After a three-year stint as a criminal paralegal, she worked as a commercial copywriter and then a TV storyliner, before coming full circle to write fiction again.

Follow Alison James on Twitter.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Bookouture, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = SUMMER

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 ‘summer’ in the title, but I’m featuring a small selection of titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love.  I’ve read four of the following titles and several more are on my TBR.

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?
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 | 14 Comments

“Careful What You Wish For” by Hallie Ephron – Book Review

Once an elementary school teacher, thirty-something Emily Harlow is now a professional ‘declutterer’. She and her friend Becca have started a business which they call Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers.

It is ironic that Emily makes a living purging people of their possessions because Emily’s lawyer husband Frank is a ‘collector’ and a pack-rat whose hobby is verging on hoarding. Although she loves Frank, she is getting more and more impatient with his constantly bringing home other people’s junk. Also, the fact that they have been trying for a baby and have not been successful has put added strain on their relationship.

When Clutter Kickers gets two new clients, their business and their lives take a turn for the worse. Their first new client, an elderly woman named Mrs. Murphy, wants them to clear out a storage unit which her late husband had rented out. When Emily enters the unit she finds that it is full of old books, maps and other memorabilia. All of which was once quite valuable – but due to the failure of the storage unit’s climate control system is now moldy and quite possibly damaged beyond repair.

Their second new client is a woman named Quinn Newell. Quinn wants Emily to clear out her garage. While scouting out the location, Quinn tells Emily she would love to get out from under her husband’s domineering ways. Over several glasses of Prosecco, the women ‘over-share’ and vent about their unsatisfactory marriages. The next day, Quinn’s husband is reported missing.

To further Emily’s involvement, Quinn’s husband’s body is found in the storage unit rented out by Mrs. Murphy’s husband…. How could Emily’s two new clients have become enmeshed in such a way? And, more importantly, how will this affect Emily and her business?

The New England setting and the personable character of Emily added to this book’s allure. The elaborate con-game which had Emily in its cross-hairs was well executed and devious.

I quite enjoyed this book. It read almost like a ‘cozy’ mystery but was laced with elements of a domestic thriller. A light, entertaining novel, “Careful what you wish for” will be enjoyed by many readers. I think the cover lends itself to a more serious thriller, but if the cover had of been more like a cozy I probably wouldn’t have read it – and that would have been a shame.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from William Morrow via Edelweiss. This fact in no way influenced my honest review.


Hallie Ephron is an American novelist, book reviewer, journalist, and writing teacher. She is the author of mystery and domestic suspense novels. Her novels Never Tell a Lie, There Was an Old Woman, Come and Find Me, and Night Night, Sleep Tight were finalists for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Hallie is also the award-winning crime fiction book reviewer for the Boston Globe and teaches fiction writing at writing conferences. For twelve years Ephron reviewed crime fiction for the Boston Globe.

Hallie Ephron was born in Los Angeles, California, to parents Henry and Phoebe Ephron, both East Coast-born-and-raised screenwriters. She graduated from Barnard College in 1969. She lives with her husband and two daughters near Boston, Massachusetts.

Follow Hallie Ephron on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Mystery fiction, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

“Broken Bones” by Angela Marsons – Book Review #MarsonsOfTheMonth


For some time now I have noticed that the D.I. Kim Stone series has been highly praised by my fellow book bloggers. Therefore, I decided that despite my lengthy TBR, I would read the series in its entirety, one title every month. What a wise decision I made!

D.I. Kim Stone – An acerbic, brusque, and driven young woman who works as a Detective Inspector for the West Midlands Police, the second largest police force in the country. She is socially inept, and has been known to break the rules, as well as to disregard instructions and protocols in her search for justice. An insomniac, she is fueled by nervous energy and lots of coffee, and is beautiful, but she works hard to hide it. She is 34 years old, brilliant, hot-headed, and damaged. As a child, she suffered horribly, and was shunted from foster home to foster home. Only once did she experience a nurturing, loving relationship – and that was very short lived…. Now, when not working, her favourite thing to do is work at restoring vintage motorbikes. Bikes are her passion, and she uses a Kawasaki Ninja as her regular form of transport.

Other than her second in command, Bryant, she is friendless. Her one real weakness is her fondness for her adopted dog, Barney.

“No matter what the day held, Barney’s welcome was enough to put a smile on her face.”

Her team respect her and are very loyal. And no wonder – Kim never asks her team members to do anything that she would not do herself. In this outing, Kevin and Stacy frequently ask themselves “What would the boss do?” while trying to make crucial decisions.

Police team

D.S. Bryant, twelve years her senior, is Kim’s partner and dearest friend. Devoted to his wife and daughters, Bryant is the glue that holds Kim’s team together.
D.S. Kevin Dawson, young, vain, fit, and impulsive. Each book in the series shows his growing potential to be a great police officer. This time he is partnered with DC Stacy Wood.
Constable Stacy Wood, a diligent and hard-working local girl who excels at online research and data-mining which is often invaluable to the team’s success.
D.C.I. Woodward (Woody) is Kim’s long-suffering superior. Like the rest of her team, he is loyal and stands up for her when the higher-ups would have her removed from the case.


In DI Kim Stone’s seventh outing we find her team working on a case of murdered prostitutes. The murders take place in the Hollytree housing estate. A place of criminal gangs, despair, and hopelessness run by the ruthless and heartless pimp, gang boss, and overall criminal, Kai Lord.

“Hollytree was the place you were sent if Hell was having a spring clean.”

Meanwhile, a male infant is left at the freezing cold police station parking lot. Kim discovers the child and tasks her team members Kevin Dawson and Stacy Wood to find out his identity and that of his mother.

After suffering a brutal attack in the last book, DC Stacy Wood is pleased that Kim trusts her enough to work out in the field. Little does she know that Kim and D.S. Kevin Dawson are worried about her and keeping a close eye on her.

This seventh novel in the series has proved to be a worthy successor to the first six.  The series just seems to go from strength to strength.

Broken Bones” with themes of illegal immigrants, prostitution, money lending, extortion, and grooming and procurement of young woman for sex workers and/or sex slaves, the subject matter is gritty and might not be to everyone’s taste.

The only negative I can find with this series is that Kim is too dependable. She has fierce tenacity and determination to always see justice served. Not a bad thing, but at times almost unbelievable. That being said, I would want Kim and her team in my corner if I was a crime victim.

As I finished this seventh novel in the series, I felt certain that this entire series is one I will certainly recommend to all lovers of gritty crime fiction. Lucky for me I purchased the entire series in order that I might read one installment every month for my “Marsons of the Month” blog series. I look forward to reading the eighth book, “Dying Truth” in August. Oh, and in case you didn’t already guess… “Broken Bones” is highly recommended by me.

I purchased “Broken Bones“ in Kindle format.

Angela Marsons discovered her love of writing at Primary School. She wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner, she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries. She self-published two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.
After many, many submissions she signed an eight book deal with Bookouture as their first crime author. Her D.I. Kim Stone novels have sold 3 million copies.

Angela Marsons is from Brierley Hill in the West Midlands and is a former security guard at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. She continues to live in the Black Country with her partner and their bouncy Labrador and potty-mouthed parrot.

Follow Angela Marsons on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Bookouture, Mystery fiction, Page turners | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Hello August – #Fictionophile updates

Midsummer already! Time flies when you’re sweating having fun! Yes folks, even Nova Scotia, Canada is having a heat wave.  Not as bad as some places in Europe, but hot nevertheless. (low to mid 30s Celsius)

view from the front step of our cottage – Cape John, Nova Scotia

We’ve been having a nice summer so far. I particularly enjoy reading on the deck with a nice glass of wine. Also, when my son and his wife bring my little grandson down for a visit – that is always a great day.
I appreciate all the kind concern for his welfare. Although he had a very rocky start, he is now thriving and healthy. Last Sunday marked his 2 month birthday.

A family wedding marks the first week of August – Gran is babysitting the little one while his parents have a role in the wedding party.


On the blogging front, I have only added five more review commitments in July. Each month I try to restrain myself, sometimes successfully – sometimes not. LOL

Late this month I am due to have major surgery.  Hopefully the week in hospital and the 4 -6 week recovery period will see me reading a lot – though I might not be blogging very much (or at all) the last week of August.

Wishing you all a delightful month!

Posted in Fictionophile report, personal | Tagged | 50 Comments

Fictionophile’s July 2019 #bookhaul

I admit that I’m a real ‘greedy guts’ when it comes to books. I collect them in both paper and ebook format. I love to have a stash of unread titles that provide me with untold pleasure in the form of anticipation.

That being said, I have been attempting to curtail my acquisitions. Why? Well… I have 195 outstanding review commitments.

See my Goodreads shelves:

So… for the entire month of July 2019 I have added only FIVE more review commitments.

Four from NetGalley:

I received “The Beach at Doonshean” by Penny Feeny from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in order that I can participate in their blog tour on August 26th.


I received “Gretchen” by Shannon Kirk from Thomas and Mercer who have granted me pre-approval for all of their titles on NetGalley.


I received “Silent Night” by Geraldine Hogan from Bookouture after being invited to read this title by the author.


I received “Black Rock Bay” by Brianna Labuskes from Thomas and Mercer who have granted me pre-approval for all of their titles on NetGalley.


And from Edelweiss, I received approval for one title:

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae” by Stephanie Butland published by St. Martin’s Griffin.

Curiously, I was declined for this title some time ago, and suddenly, it was available for download.  I cannot imagine why…


So, that’s IT for JULY as far as review commitments go. Well done me! (when you are as greedy as I am, five new titles in a month shows great restraint LOL)

I did however complete SIX new purchases from Amazon.ca :

At only $ 1.99, I could not resist buying the first three books in the Scottish police procedural Inspector Torquil series by Keith Moray.

The three titles in this set include:

The Gathering Murders

Deathly Wind

Murder Solstice


I missed out on “Secrets of Willow House”  by Susanne O’Leary when it was offered on NetGalley so I was delighted to buy it in Kindle format for only $3.99.


The Lady” by Judy Higgins was on offer for only $1.29


The Ghost Tree” by Barbara Erskine was on offer for only $ 1.99


Watch Her Die” by Deborah Lucy was on offer for just .99¢


Bridles Lane” by Johanna Craven was FREE so this purchase was a no-brainer. LOL


How was YOUR month of July?  Any wonderful acquisitions added to your TBR?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report | Tagged | 18 Comments

“The Beekeeper’s Promise” by Fiona Valpy – Book Review

“From the bestselling author of Sea of Memories comes the story of two remarkable women, generations apart, who must use adversity to their advantage and find the resilience deep within.”

A novel with two female protagonists, this book also has two timelines.

Abi Howes (present day): An Englishwoman who has survived an abusive marriage and a serious automobile accident in which her husband was mortally wounded. Now Abi travels from London to France to partake in a yoga retreat with her friend, Pru. She feels that the peace and serenity of the French countryside will help her to recover both mentally and physically from the accident. When she strays from the retreat while walking, she meets a local woman, Sara Cortini, who gives her shelter from a summer storm – and eventually a summer’s employment at the Château Bellevue – which is used during the summer months as a wedding venue.

Over the course of the summer, Sara tells Abi the story of the woman who worked at the Château during WWII. Her name was Eliane Martin.

Eliane Martin – 1938-1944: A young woman, Eliane Martin tends the beehives and kitchen gardens of the Château Bellevue. Content and happy with her lot in life, everything changes for Eliane, the Château, and the country when the German army occupies France. They requisition Château Bellevue for purposes of billeting their soldiers. Eliane, and the rest of the meager Château staff are expected to wait on the soldiers. In addition, travel and commerce was greatly hampered by the German occupation. Not to mention, many of the French countrymen were being deported to the labour camps if they were Jewish.

The Château Bellevue was situated on the border between the occupied zone and the free zone of France. Located on a hilltop, it was the ideal spot to transmit and monitor radio messages to aid the French Resistance fighters – but with German soldiers billeted there, sending such messages was life threatening…

“They were living with the enemy; it was time to do what she could to resist.”

As the war wages on, year after year, Eliane, her family and friends find it more and more of a struggle to survive. Eliane, at the behest of her employer, the elderly Comte de Bellevue, plays her own part in the resistance movement.

 

Told in dual timelines, this book was a joy to read. The historical segments of the novel were my favourite and educated me on the role of the French Resistance during the German occupation of France in World War II. Well written and well researched, the novel was a fine combination of historical fiction and women’s fiction. Although there was a love story element, this was in no way the focus of the book.

The setting of the French countryside was described eloquently, both during times of peace and times of war. The characters were ones that captured your heart.

The story illuminates the resilience of the human spirit during times of great adversity. It shows how, when people band together, they possess a fearsome strength.

This is the first time I’ve read Fiona Valpy’s work, but I expect that her name is one I’ll look for in the future. Highly recommended to all who are fans of the genre with the caveat that you just might suffer a book hangover after reading…

I received a complimentary digital copy of “The Beekeeper’s Promise” from Lake Union Publishing/AmazonUK via NetGalley for purposes of this review.

Also, “The Beekeeper’s Promise” is a title which I can put toward my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Fiona Valpy spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007. Her love for the country, its people and their history has found its way into the books she’s written. She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of the Second World War, and her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.

Fiona now lives in Scotland, but still enjoys regular visits to France in search of the sun.

Follow Fiona Valpy on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical fiction, NetGalley, war stories, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Cover Love: part 78 – Big Hats

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.

In my 78th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to pay tribute to summer by showing you books that have big hats on their covers.

With apologies to my male followers, I think you’ll find that most of these novels can be classified as women’s fiction.  You’ll also find several historical fiction titles.   Enjoy!

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

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

Please let me know in the comments.

Me with my baby grandson – age 7 weeks

And don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 77 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 21 Comments

“Missing in Wales” by Jenny O’Brien – Book Review

DC Gaby Darin has just moved to Pembrokeshire, Wales after a difficult work-related experience in Swansea. She is teamed up with DCI Rhys Walker, a man who seems to have hidden secrets but is a copper that she respects.

Bucket

Izzy Grant has tried to move on with her life. She now runs a cottage industry which supplies knitted goods. She lives alone with her rescue cat, Bucket. Five years ago, her partner and one week old daughter vanished without a trace. At the same time, her friend, Grace Madden disappeared. Now, while doing some Christmas shopping, Izzy spots Grace in a busy Cardiff street.

Naturally, Izzy tells the policeman who was on the case five years ago… DCI Rhys Walker. He and the new to the area DC Gaby Darin re-investigate the cold case.

Gaby is increasingly aware that her partner, DCI Rhys Walker has personal feelings for Izzy.  She tries to keep this knowledge on the back burner whilst working the case.

Meanwhile, Izzy does more than a little amateur sleuthing herself.

Izzy receives a postcard from Charlie, her daughter’s father:

With renewed hope that her daughter might still be alive, Izzy makes every effort to determine what happened five years ago. Her efforts put her in grave danger.

I was pleased to make the acquaintance of a new female police protagonist. DC Gaby Darin was an interesting character. Bright, brash, overweight, lonely, and very good at her job.

The Pembrokeshire setting was well-described and the plot contained more than one ‘red-herring’ which will please most mystery readers. One of these had me thinking that I had the story all figured out – I was dead wrong. Another red-herring led the story down a path that I felt wasn’t resolved as much as it should have been. Finally, I put my own brain in gear and guessed the outcome of the story. I was nearly at the end of the book, but as they say ‘better late than never’. LOL

I am convinced that “Missing in Wales” will be well-received by all those readers who delight in a well-written police procedural mystery. I look forward to the sequel “Stabbed in Wales” which has DC Gaby Darin starting out again at a new police station  – this time in Llandudno.


I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel in order to participate in the blog tour presented by Rachel’s Random Resources.

The Stepsister, Jenny O’Brien’s first thriller, will be free worldwide from  July 22nd to 26th.

Canadahttps://www.amazon.ca/Stepsister-gripping-psychological-thriller-wicked-ebook/dp/B07H3TH4HT/

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stepsister-gripping-psychological-thriller-wicked-ebook/dp/B07H3TH4HT

US –  https://www.amazon.com/Stepsister-gripping-psychological-thriller-wicked-ebook/dp/B07H3TH4HT

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Jenny O’Brien says she is a wife and mother first – a writer second. She has written romance, thrillers, and children’s books.

Jenny currently resides on the island of Guernsey with her husband, children and cats. She works as a nurse and writes in her spare time.

Readers can find out more about Jenny and her books on her blog

Follow Jenny O’Brien on Twitter and Instagram


Check out the other stops on the “Missing in Wales” blog tour:

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, Rachel's Random Resources | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

“After the End” by Clare Mackintosh – Book Review

I’ve been a staunch fan of Clare Mackintosh’s work ever since reading the fantastic “I let you go” back in 2016. Such a fan that I will automatically read anything she writes. That being said, I would probably not have picked this one up if I had done any research into the title first. Don’t get me wrong, this was a beautifully written and deserving book. It is just that – for me – the subject matter was a little too raw, it hit too close to home. I struggled with reading it as I had to keep putting it down to regain my composure. I have had many personal experiences with sick children in intensive care. First my daughter, then most recently my little grandson. This made the descriptions in this novel have an almost visceral impact on me. The sounds of the bleeping monitors, the antiseptic smells, were all just too recent for me as I spent a good portion of last month experiencing them first hand.

The novel brought the raw emotions of the parents of sick children to the forefront. Also, very cleverly, it explored what might happen after the end. The parents in this novel are devoted to each other and to their young son, Dylan, who is diagnosed with medulloblastoma.  When, after surgery, he is deemed by the hospital to have such a poor quality of life that it would be better to let him go, the mother agrees. The little boy’s father does not. This differing of opinions puts a mortal rift in their relationship and puts them in the public eye when their case goes to court.

“Turns out you can hate what someone’s doing, yet still love them so much it hurts.”

The book explores what happens to the family in the future if the hospital and the mother win the court case. Also, in alternate chapters, it explores what happens to the family if the father wins the court case.

I was riveted to the book for the first half – while Dylan was still alive. After the court case decision – after the end – the novel was not as compelling for me. That being said, it was very cleverly written and was very thought-provoking. “What If” is a question that we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another. In this case, the ‘what if’ had much more serious ramifications that most personal dilemmas. This was an impossible decision to have to make. Hard to make, yet even harder to live with after making it. Second-guessing is not easy when the life of someone you love hangs in the balance.

The characters were fully fleshed out. In addition to the parents, Pip and Max Adams, I particularly liked the character of the doctor, Leila Khalili. The author made her seem like the kind of doctor I’d want for my children. She was hard-working, devoted, and empathetic. She was also fallible – as all physicians are… We learn a little of her work ethics, her home life with her visiting Iranian mother, also her loneliness.

The description and writing were top notch. The subject matter was such that some might have difficulty with it. Sadly Claire Mackintosh herself lost a child. I personally commend her courage to write this novel, turning her own experience into an eye opening read which must have brought her pain and hopefully was cathartic at the same time.

Exploring themes of hope, despair, grief, and regret, this novel will tug your heart-strings and make you think. It will cause you to realize just how fragile life is, and to hopefully cherish those you love whenever you get the opportunity. It shows how you must choose to put painful experiences behind you. How, though you’ll never forget the person you’ve lost, there are other people and experiences ahead for you and you must grab them with both hands. You must choose to live again. A remarkable and poignant novel.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Edelweiss.

Clare Mackintosh is an author, feature writer and columnist. She has written for The Guardian, Sainsbury’s Magazine, The Green Parent, and many other national publications, and is a columnist for Cotswold Life and Writing Magazine.

Clare spent twelve years in the police force, working on CID, in custody and as a public order commander, and has drawn on her experiences for her psychological thrillers. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time. Clare’s debut novel, I Let You Go, was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller for 12 weeks, and was the fastest selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It was selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club and ITV’s Loose Women’s ‘Loose Books’, and has been translated into more than 30 languages. It has sold more than a million copies worldwide. In July 2016 Clare received the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award, and won the Cognac Prix du Polar for International Novel of the Year that autumn. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

Follow Clare Mackintosh on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Literary fiction | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

“The Woman at Number 19” by J.A. Baker – Book Review

About the book:

“Her thoughts are all she has. They are hers and hers alone.”

Esther Nesbitt seems like an old woman, yet she is only 45 years old. A mere shadow of her former self, she has diminished since her husband and children were killed in a car accident. Once a schoolteacher, now she is semi-reclusive, and suffers from blackouts.

Her only friend is a young neighbour named Amy who works as a nurse and comes to visit Esther on her way to work.

Sometimes Esther’s sister Charlotte visits but she is not welcome. Esther hates Charlotte because of Charlotte’s relationship with her late husband.

Esther has a direct view of the living room window of #19, across the street. She sees some suspect behaviour by the woman who lives there. She views the woman as a monster who  is clearly manipulative and mistreats her children. Esther begins to takes notes of dates and times so that she can report the unstable woman to the authorities.  She becomes obsessed with the activity of the woman at number 19…

Through her obsession with her neighbour, Esther gradually recovers memories of her own, but makes her wonder who, if anyone, she can trust.

The Woman at Number 19 – Attractive, married, and the mother to two children. She seems to have everything – yet – she suspects that her husband is having an affair. She resents her children, thinking that her marriage was much stronger before they came along. As a result, she abuses them – both physically and emotionally.

Always craving attention, especially that of her husband, she deliberately makes her young son very ill.

“Once they became parents, any time they had for each other was stripped away until they became virtual strangers. So she guesses it’s only right and fair that the kids pay a hefty price for it.”

After reading “Her Dark Retreat” last winter, I was very eager to read more by the author J.A. Baker.  When invited by Bloodhound Books to take part in the blog tour for her latest novel, I jumped at the opportunity. WOW! What a corker this one turned out to be!

The Woman at Number 19” was in every sense a true ‘page-turner’. Though I did suspect what the outcome might be, that didn’t stop me from feverishly turning the pages in order to either confirm or discount my suspicions.

The epitome of  the ‘psychological thriller’ which explores the darkness of the mentally unstable mind, giving reader’s an insight into the thought processes of the psychotic and clinically depressed. I’m confident that even the most hardened reader will find empathy for these characters.

With themes of child abuse, mental illness, forgiveness, and healing, this novel is highly recommended by me. I am now eager to read all of J.A. Baker’s backlist titles. I urge all domestic thriller lovers to add this book to their TBRs. Now!

Published by Bloodhound Books ASIN B07V5M2VYV

Born in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, Judith A. Baker developed a deep appreciation of literature and reading from a young age after being introduced to it by her parents. Weekly visits to the library were the norm and after being handed a collection of Edgar Allen Poe stories by her father, her love for the darker side of fiction slowly grew. She is an avid reader of all books but is drawn in particular, to psychological thrillers.
After many rejections (too many to mention!) her debut novel, Undercurrent, was published by Bloodhound Books in March 2017 and made it into the top 100 Amazon chart in both the UK and Canada. J.A. Baker is the author of five stand-alone thrillers, the latest of which The Uninvited was published in late 2018. She is currently working on her sixth novel, The Cleansing, due to be published April 2019.
J. A. Baker has four grown up children and lives in a village on the outskirts of Darlington with her husband Richard, and Theo, their barking mad dog.

J.A. Baker’s website: http://www.jabakerauthor.co.uk/

Follow J.A. Baker on Twitter and/or on Facebook.

Posted in Blog Tour, Bloodhound Books, Book Reviews, Favorite books, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments