20 Questions for author M. Jonathan Lee #AuthorInterview @mjonathanlee @hideawayfall #337LEE

M. Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted British author. His debut novel, The Radio was nationally shortlisted in The Novel Prize 2012. He has released four further novels, The Page, A Tiny Feeling of Fear, Broken Branches, and the critically acclaimed Drift Stumble Fall. His sixth and latest novel, “337 will be published November 30, 2020 by Hideaway Fall.

M. Jonathan Lee was born in Yorkshire, England where he still lives today with his wife, children and dog, Alfie.


The author kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions and I’m delighted to share his answers with you today.

  1. Congratulations on your latest novel “337” which will soon be published by Hideaway Fall! What do you think has been the most instrumental factor in your success as a novelist so far?

Probably honesty. I try to be as honest as I can with all my writing which in some ways reflects the time period in my own life. I try to get inside the characters, to actually feel them.

  1. What was the inspiration behind writing “337”?

My grandmother was in a nursing home and I sat alongside her in the last few days. I was acutely aware of the fact that there was so much knowledge lost forever at that moment. I then began to weave a story around this. What if she had a secret that could only be solved whilst she was alive, that kind of thing.

  1. How long did the writing process take?

In total from sitting down to do the first word to finishing was six weeks. After my editor got her hands on it, it took me about another three weeks to edit.

  1. Do you create an outline or time-line before you begin the actual writing process?

No, I have the main characters in my head and a one sentence, “It’s a story about a woman dying who knows what happened to the main characters missing mother” synopsis. I have run and re-run the story and scenes in my mind hundreds of times and so when writing the whole thing just flows.

  1. Did you have family and/or friends proof-read your novel, or did you depend on your publisher’s editorial staff?

My editor, Charlie Wilson (shout out to @LandmarkEdit – she’d love to see this comment). She’s amazing. I’ve had her since book one and I’m not letting her go.

  1. Are you a people watcher? Are your characters based upon the people you meet?

Very much so. My characters are generally a fusion of three or four people. Some are completely made up.

  1. How important do you feel setting plays in novels? Do you think a writer can write convincingly of a setting that they’ve never visited?

I try to write about places I’ve visited and actually smelled the air. I even went to Prague for a scene when writing A Tiny Feeling of Fear (which remains my favourite book). Its obviously easier to write when you know.

  1. How important is the reading of FICTION in general? (especially in our present climate of social and environmental upheaval)

Absolutely vital. Storytelling in whatever form is essential to humans. We have a tendency to be comparative and hearing how others live their lives is vital for existence, in every way.

  1. What did you do for a living before you became an established novelist?

I managed a tax and trust department at a Financial Advisors’ in Leeds. I left to concentrate more on writing in 2015.

  1. I’ve learned you lost a brother to suicide. How much has this traumatic event influenced your writing?

Very much. It inspired me to write The Radio which in some ways I believe saved my own life. I cannot describe the cathartic benefits to me. Sorry, that’s brought tears to my eyes.

  1. How are the covers chosen for your books? Are they your personal choice, the publishers…?

The whole book is a concept to me, so the covers are vital to the reading experience. I get very involved as far as directing illustrators and artists with my vision of how the cover should look. I am of course ably assisted by the very arty Sarah who I’ve worked together with for around 19 years.

  1. Have you ever been so wrapped up in your characters that you dream about them at night?

I’ve definitely dreamed about scenes. So yes, I suppose I have.

  1. I feel all writers must also be avid readers. What type of books do you read for pleasure?

My reading is hopeless at the moment! I don’t think I’ve bothered to finish any book since lockdown. I don’t know why, I am just picking up books that by a certain point bore me. I usually read psychological fiction (a bit like what I write) or true crime type stuff. I love Nick Hornby. And Mark Haddon.

  1. If you could sit and enjoy a chat and beer with another contemporary novelist – who would it be?

Nick Hornby without question. He loves music as much as I do!

  1. What thriller novelist writing today do you most admire?  Why?

Er, earlier in the year I read “The Collini Case” for the first time. Wow.

  1. What current novelist do you feel is underrated or deserves to be more well known? (I like to ask this question because it gives me and my readers fodder for our TBRs!)

 I’d be happy for that one to be me 😉

  1. Where do you physically write? At the kitchen table, in an office, etc.?

I have a room that used to be the garage where I write. Its full of guitars, records, the house printer and my desk and keyboard.

  1. What part of your career as a novelist do you dislike the most?

I think the initial disappointment that comes after The Radio was released and I found that I was alone and the sales relied entirely on me. Its kind of an explosion of excitement when the book came out followed by nothing. I thought the publisher would promote everywhere but instead that was left to me.

  1. What interview question have you not been asked yet that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

What a brilliant question. I guess after 8 years I would have expected: What does the M in your name stand for? I have never been asked this question. Not ever.

Actually, the ‘M’ doesn’t mean anything. When Jonathan first got published there was already a Jonathan Lee on the author scene, and our Jonathan didn’t have a middle initial to use so he made one up: ‘M’ for Meaningless!

  1. How do you wish to be contacted by ‘fans’?  Do you prefer Facebook? Twitter? Your own blog?

 I’m happy for people to get in touch via facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JonathanLeeAuthor/inbox)

or twitter (https://twitter.com/MJonathanLee)

or email me direct: joff@jonathanleeauthor.com

 Thank-you very much for visiting Fictionophile today Mr. Lee.  I very much enjoyed reading the answers to your questions. 

Posted in author interviews, Authors | Tagged | 2 Comments

“Bitter Orange” by Claire Fuller – Book Review

“Pain as well as joy makes us who we are.”

Frances Jellico 1969 – nearing her fortieth birthday, she is socially inept and has never experienced love, or even a man’s attentions.  She left her place at Oxford to take care of her mother. Bathing her, waiting on her hand and foot for over two decades. Her mother was not kind to Frances and though she loved her, she now views her mother’s recent death as freedom – yet what should she do???  She takes a position in Hampshire, assessing the state of the exterior garden and structures so that she might report back to the American man who recently purchased the old 764 acre estate called ‘Lyntons’.

how I imagined Lyntons might look

When she arrives she discovers that there is a couple living in the house, also employed by the same man, who are to assess the interior state of the house. Requisitioned by the army during the war, there is a lot of damage – statuary broken or defaced, furniture and art plundered, fireplaces ripped out, mold, mildew… This couple, Peter and Cara, are fascinating to Frances. She becomes immersed in their hedonistic lifestyle and is delighted to have friends at last. They introduce her to indolence, drinking to excess, smoking, and volatile and sometimes intimate conversation. She discovers a peep hole in her bathroom floor that gives her a view of Peter and Cara’s most intimate moments.

Frances Jellico 1990 – now frail, weak, and terminally ill. She cannot dress or feed herself and is at the mercy of her carers. She is institutionalized. Fading in and out of lucidity, Frances casts her memory back to the summer of 1969 at Lyntons…  A summer when a grave crime was committed.

My first thoughts after finishing “Bitter Orange” were: how sad, what a wasted life. My second thoughts were ‘how depressing’.

The fictional house of Lyntons, with its many secrets, was one which I might never forget. The author portrayed Lyntons in minute detail and it was the very epitome of ‘atmospheric’. In particular was the orangery on the grounds, a building that kept its own secrets.

This was a very slow read, as indolent as were the characters, yet I was compelled to keep reading to find out what was the crime that was committed? Why and when did it occur?

The author threw in a somewhat shocking revelation at about the three-quarters mark. This gave me pause and enticed me to continue on…

Bitter Orange” explores themes of guilt, atonement, relationships, and duplicity.

This novel will not be to everyone’s taste. It was the very opposite of ‘up-lifting’. It was peopled with eccentric characters who seemed to be floundering through their lives. I’m not really sure what to make of the book to be honest. It was not a favourite read, yet I do think I’ll be thinking about it for some time to come. The writing was exquisite, yet the story was ultimately not to my taste.

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
Tin House Books via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9781947793156    ASIN: B07FTS44RG    320 pages

Claire Fuller is an award-winning novelist and short fiction writer. She studied sculpture at Winchester School of Art, then began writing fiction at the age of 40, after many years working as a co-director of a marketing agency. She has a Masters (distinction) in Creative and Critical Writing from The University of Winchester. She lives in Winchester, England with her husband, and a cat called Alan. She has two grown-up children.

Her three published novels: Our Endless Numbered Days (winner of the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction), Swimming Lessons (shortlisted for the Encore prize for second novels, and Livre de Poche prize in France), and the critically acclaimed Bitter Orange (longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award), have all been published by Fig Tree / Penguin (UK), Tin House (US), and House of Anansi (Canada). They have been translated into more than 15 languages.

Her fourth novel, Unsettled Ground, will be published in 2021.

Follow Claire Fuller on Twitter @ClaireFuller2

Posted in #FFRC2020, Book Reviews, Edelweiss | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = WRONG

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.

As the world will agree, everything about the year 2020 is just so WRONG! I know there are hundreds of books with the word ‘wrong’ in the title, but I’m featuring a selection of 24 titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love AND to bookishly vent my feeling about the pandemic.

I think most of these titles are classified in the thriller and mystery genre, though, as with anything, there are a few exceptions.

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

You might just find your next favorite book!

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

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

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

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 11 Comments

“The Woods” by Vanessa Savage – Book Review

Tess Cooper, in her mid-twenties, is a teacher. She does not enjoy her work or the teenagers who are in her class. She lashes out at one teenager which effectively ends her teaching career. It is no coincidence that her loss of control coincides with a phone call from her father asking her to come home… her stepmother is dying.

Tess never really had a vocation to be a teacher, that was her sister’s wish. All Tess ever wanted was to be a gardener and she is happiest when digging in the earth.

Tess is conflicted. She doesn’t want to return home because of the dark memories of losing her elder sister Arabella when she was just sixteen. But return home she must to support her poor father who has endured much too much loss already.

Her return sets in motion a traumatic time for her, her family, and her friends.

She has repressed memories of the disastrous summer of 2008 and now they are creeping back. She suffers from debilitating insomnia and has nightmares in the short spells that she does manage to sleep.

Then, weird events begin to torment her further. The most disturbing of which is the discovery of her late sister’s camera, and her Converse sneakers which were never found after her death…

Almost exactly a year ago, I read Vanessa Savage’s debut novel “Woman in the Dark“. Ever since then I’ve been eager to read more of her work.

This psychological thriller, set in an atmospheric locale on the borders of a forest in the Vale of Glamorgan, in Wales, proved to be another enjoyable read.

The novel explores themes of loss, jealousy, lies, secrets, sibling relationships, betrayal, and yes… murder. The author seems to have an innate knowledge and understanding of the insecurities of teenagers. Their mercurial mood swings, their crushes, and their angst.

I recommended this novel to anyone who enjoys thrillers with unstable characters who have grave and burdensome secrets.

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
Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9781538730126    ASIN:  B07XY1ZCDD     384 pages

Vanessa Savage is a graphic designer and illustrator. She lives in South Wales with her husband and two daughters.

Her debut novel, The Woman in the Dark, was published in January 2019. The Woods is her second novel.

Follow Vanessa Savage on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

WWW Wednesday – November 18, 2020 #readingforpleasure #bookbloggers #WWWWednesday #bookworms

I quite like a nosy look at what others are reading. To that end, (and because I’m feeling too lazy today to put together a ‘Wednesday Word’ post), I’m once again participating in WWW Wednesday.

 

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

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. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. 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 Woodsby author Vanessa Savage. This is a title published by Grand Central Publishing that I downloaded from NetGalley. I loved this author’s previous novel,The Woman in the Dark“. You can find my review of that novel here.What have I just finished reading? The Au Pairby author Emma Rous. Published by Berkley, I downloaded this title from Edelweiss.

I was impressed by this author’s writing and now have a copy of her next novel, “The Perfect Guests” for review in January.

What will I read next? Bitter Orange” by Claire Fuller which is published by Tin House Books.  I downloaded this title from Edelweiss.


AND..The Lost Children” by Theresa Talbot. Published by Aria, I downloaded this title from NetGalley. It is the first novel in a new crime series featuring investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil.


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

Check out a few other WWW Wednesday posts:

Jacob’s WWW post

Cathy’s WWW post

 Deanna’s WWW post

 Sam’s WWW post

Hannah’s WWW post

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report, Reading, WWW Wednesdays | Tagged | 16 Comments

“The Au Pair” by Emma Rous – Book Review

Seraphine Mayes – 2017 – Twenty-five years old and still reeling from the accidental death of her beloved father, Seraphine lives at Summerbourne. Her twin brother Danny travels a lot, and her older brother Edwin lives in town in the family’s other dwelling, Winterbourne. While going through her father’s belongings she finds a photograph taken the day she was born. It includes her mother, her father, four year old Edwin, and a newborn baby.  But her mother had twins! Where is the other baby?

She cannot ask her mother Ruth because she commit suicide just hours after the photo was taken. Ruth Mayes was only twenty-nine years old at the time of her death.

how I imagined Summerbourne might look

Seraphine cannot get the photo out of her mind so she begins to investigate… What she discovers will change her life forevermore. It will cause her to question her place at Summerbourne and her very identity. Her questions will put her and her family in danger…

Laura Silveira – 1991-1992 – an eighteen year old woman who is hired by the Mayes family to look after their young son, Edwin. Laura has recently been in hospital for an undisclosed reason. She lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend who she doesn’t like. She is delighted to procure a ‘live-in’ position with the Mayes in their beautiful Norfolk home called Summerbourne. She adores her small charge, Edwin.

Vera Blackwood – Ruth Mayes’ mother and the matriarch of the family. Vera owns Summerbourne and Winterbourne.

The residents of the nearby village are very superstitious about Summerbourne and the family who live there. They say that the twins born to the family are in some way cursed and that only one twin can survive.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It had a wonderful setting which was described so vividly that I imagined myself there. The two main female protagonists were fully-rounded characters. The ‘mystery’ was compelling – despite the fact that I had my suspicions as to what might have happened. My suspicions were correct in one aspect but the author threw in an extra twist that I didn’t anticipate. I love it when that happens.

Anyone who likes character-driven mysteries set in atmospheric locales will adore this novel. I’ve just discovered a new favorite author.

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
Berkley Publishing via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9780440000457    ASIN:  B07C6HF9MG     384 pages

Emma Rous lived in several different countries as a child – England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji – and she grew up with a passion for stories and animals. She studied zoology and veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge, and worked as a veterinary surgeon for eighteen years.

The older she got, the more she appreciated talking to her clients and listening to their life stories, and these fascinating conversations helped to fuel her long held ambition to write fiction. Eventually, in her early forties, she took a break from her vet job and wrote The Au Pair, which became a USA Today bestseller and was published in eleven countries in ten languages. Her second novel, The Perfect Guests, is due out in January 2021.

Emma Rous lives near Cambridge in England with her husband, their three sons, and their rescue dog and cat. She tries to write the sort of stories that she likes to read, and hopes that you enjoy them too!

Posted in #FFRC2020, Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

HBO #thriller you won’t want to miss! #TheUndoing

I’ve never recommended a television show or series on this blog before but I must make an exception. “The Undoing” was recommended to me by a friend and I’m SO happy she let me know about it.

Now showing on HBO, the show stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant (two personal favourites) and is definitely worth your time.

and the young actor, Noah Jupe, who plays the couple’s son Henry, is a wonderful actor as well.

Check out the official HBO trailer here:

The Undoing” was based on a book by Jean Hanff Korelitz called “You Should Have Known“. I have not read this book, but now I must check out her backlist of titles.

If you like to read psychological thrillers, then I’m certain you’ll love this show as much as I do. Happy viewing!

Posted in Psychological thrillers, Television shows | Tagged | 12 Comments

Throwback Thursday – “Lie with me” by Sabine Durrant – Book Review

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 “Lie With Me” in January of 2018.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave; When first we practice to deceive…”

Paul Morris is not a likeable man. In his early forties, a shallow, vain, unmarried, commitment-phobe, he tells so many lies, even HE cannot discern the truth sometimes. Why does he lie you ask? He is SO very egocentric, that he lies to make himself appear more successful, more urbane, more empathetic… just more. It is vitally important to him that people think well of him, though he uses people to his own advantage more often than not. He is obsessed with status and class, and he likes nothing more than being the center of attention.

“How much do we collude in our own destruction?”

We meet Paul in London where, for the past six years, he has been flat-sitting for an acquaintance. Of course, he lets people believe the Bloomsbury flat and its contents are his…  He has had setbacks recently. His finances are at an all-time low, he drinks too much, his latest novel has been rejected, his much younger girlfriend has dumped him, AND the man who owns the flat is returning – therefore Paul must suffer the indignity of moving back in with his mother.

“So credible was my claim to decency, I half believed in it myself.”

Paul runs into Andrew, an old school acquaintance, who invites him to dinner. Always on the look-out for a free meal, he accepts the invitation. This act will alter his future. It is here he meets the widow Alice. Unlike his usual female conquests, she is a more mature woman with teenage children. He is uncharacteristically sexually attracted to her PLUS he sees her as a possible way of escaping his mother’s house. Alice is very comfortably off and has a nice house. He leads Alice to believe that he owns the Bloomsbury flat, that he is much more successful than he is. Unaware of Paul’s deception, Alice continues seeing him, until he finally wangles a way into accompanying her family on summer’s vacation in Greece. It turns out that this is not Paul’s first visit to the Pyros area of Greece.

“People with privilege always think they control the truth.”

The trip this year will be bittersweet. The house that Alice and her family have rented for many years is to be torn down to make way for a hotel resort. Paul doesn’t travel with the family, but makes his own way there in a more thrifty fashion. Upon arrival, he discovers the house is occupied by Alice and her children, and also Andrew and his wife and children.  The constant noise of the nearby construction equipment in the daytime is followed by the unrelenting barking of the guard dog at night.  The bugs and the heat are relentless…

The four adults and five teenagers spend their days languishing by the pool. Smoking, drinking, then in the evening, going into town for a meal. Then, a young girl is raped in the nearby town. A young girl that Paul had met on the bus when he arrived in the country. He is questioned by police. Because Alice is listening to his answers, he maintains his lies in order to mesh the facts with what he has already told her.

“If Alice hadn’t been present, I’d have told the truth.
But in that split second, I cared more for her opinion than his.”

Of course the police are not stupid, and when they cannot verify anything Paul has told them, they look upon him with suspicion.

Paul, meanwhile, is coming to really care for Alice.

“If only I hadn’t lied.”


Because of Paul’s immaturity at the beginning of the novel, and his subsequent evolving, I would almost class this as a ‘coming of age’ novel – even though he is in his forties.  Call him a late-bloomer.

Events near the end of novel escalate in a frenzied manner. The reader is taken aback by the plot twists and I for one was impressed by the ingenious plot. This is a novel of manipulation, betrayal, and retribution.

The title of this novel “Lie with me” is a double entendre. Lie as in have sex with, and of course, lie as in deceiving others.


Note: This novel should be read with a cool beverage at hand. The descriptions of the hot, sultry Greek days are excellent – so much so that you can ‘feel‘ the heat and ‘see‘ the hot Greek sun reflecting off the white buildings. Impressive for a reader who read the book in the middle of a Nova Scotia winter.

Lie with me” is the third title I’ve read by Sabine Durrant, and she has never disappointed me.  Her description and characterization are of the highest quality and the plots are well rendered – this one was genius! I always thought I had to ‘like‘ a protagonist to really enjoy a novel. Sabine Durrant has taught me that I don’t have to like them, they just have to be well characterized and written with empathy.

I highly recommend “Lie with me” to any reader who really enjoys a character-based, slow-burn, psychological thriller.I requested this book on NetGalley, but sadly I was declined. Therefore, due to my high regard for this author, I bought a Kindle copy.  Money well spent!

Read my review of another favorite thriller by Sabine Durrant: “Under your skin“.

I missed reading one of her novels “Remember me this way“, but it is patiently waiting on my Kindle for future enjoyment.SABINE DURRANT writes for the Sunday Telegraph and is a contributor to The Guardian. She is the author of the novels Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors, as well as two books for teenagers. Her thrillers Under your skin, Remember me this way, and Lie with me have a devoted fan-base. She lives in London.

Posted in Book Reviews, Psychological thrillers, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“The Hanged Man” by Andrée Rushton – Book Review

Tessa – a librarian from London, is single and in her mid-thirties. She buys into a time-share of a beautiful old farmhouse in south-west France. She shares the house with six other people and they all get along well – until a tragic accident takes the life of one of the co-owners.Castignac was built in 1860 and is situated overlooking a market town. The farmer who sold it to the group of Brits had installed a pool to aid in the sale. The farmer’s family had owned the property for generations. Also on the grounds of the farmhouse was an old ruin of the previous house which is accessed by an arched gate.Tessa shares her holiday home with three couples: Stephen and Angela, Graham and Lily, Ian and Jenny.  Tessa’s boyfriend Mark sometimes visits her when she is in France.  Tessa becomes interested in the history of their new home, especially when she discovers a wild orchid on the property. The orchid is called ‘the hanged man’ and it is fitting that it should be found there as the grandfather of the man who sold them the house hung himself there years ago.

‘the hanged man’ wild orchid

Jean-Louis – the farmer who owns Castignac. His brothers have gone off to war and he is struggling to get all the work done with only his wife and small baby.

Hébrard – from a farming family in eastern France, is conscripted into the French army during WWI. He is billeted at Castignac on his way to the Western Front. Fearful of what awaits him, he deserts the army and hides out at Castignac for the course of the war. The farmer is glad of his help. After WWI is over, Hébrard remains at Castignac and marries a local girl. Then, during WWII, Castignac is commandeered by Nazi soldiers and a machine gun is trained on the nearby town from one of its windows. Hébrard joins the French Resistance.

Brigitte – the daughter of Jean-Louis, has lived at Castignac her entire life. When Nazi soldiers commandeer her house (and her bedroom) she is distraught. This changes when she finds herself in a romantic relationship with one of the German soldiers…

With myriad characters and told from multiple points of view, this dual time-line novel features a present day accidental death as well as a historical narrative that takes place over the course of the two world wars.

The historical parts of this story were interesting and served as a grim reminder of some dark days in France’s tragic past. The setting of South-Western France was idyllic and the author’s love of the area has shown through her writing.

The characters for the most part I found to be one-dimensional. Hébrard was the only one who the reader comes to know in any depth. I found it interesting to learn that the author has written textbooks in the past – this because I found the narrative style quite dry and textbook-like.

I did learn more about the German Occupation of France in WWII, so the read was worthy on that front. Also, I finished reading this book on Remembrance/Armistice Day, so a WWII novel was perfect timing.

All in all, I would recommend this novel to those who are more into history than characterization and don’t mind a slow-paced, rather dry 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
The Book Guild via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9781913551421    ASIN:  B089WJRCKW

Andrée Rushton has degrees in both history and social work. She was previously a social worker before becoming a civil servant until retirement. In the past she has written various textbooks and articles about social work. She has now turned her writing talents to fiction and this is her second historical novel after publishing The War Baby in 2016. Andrée is also the secretary of the Friends of Putney Library and volunteers with a local primary school, helping children to read. She lives in Putney in South-West London. Andrée says, “I belonged to a group of British people who owned a house in the Ariège near the French Pyrenees for twenty years and I love the countryside there with its mountain views, valleys and abundance of wild flowers. In 2009, my account of our experience was published by Bristol Books and written up in French Property News and the Sunday Times property pages. I also have a family connection with France and a working knowledge of French.”

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical fiction, NetGalley, war stories | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Has the Pandemic influenced the genres you read? #TuesdayBookBlog #bookbloggers #genres

The pandemic has affected us all in myriad ways. In addition to the illness itself it has changed how we all live our lives, work, interact with others, and conduct our day-to-day activities. But has it changed your reading habits?

Do you read more now?

Or, has the anxiety of the pandemic caused you to read less?

Do you like to read different types of books than you did before?

As many who follow this blog know, I have been a staunch crime/thriller/mystery lover for decades. And yes, I still like that type of novel. But… I find myself gravitating toward more up-lifting, and family oriented fiction as of late. I’m more drawn to women’s fiction and ‘uplit’ now. I’ve always liked to read the occasional family saga, but now those are the types of books that call to me from my TBR.

I’d love to know – is it just me? Or, have you changed your preferred genre in recent months?

Posted in Fiction, Genre list, Reading | Tagged , , , | 62 Comments

“Little Cruelties” by Liz Nugent – Book Review

William Drumm – the eldest brother is disdainful of his siblings. He has always been his mother’s favorite (in as much as she has a favourite…) William always felt entitled and he was a womanizer and film producer. He marries Susan and has one daughter, Daisy.

Brian Drumm – the middle child. He is the peacemaker in the family, yet he too has his own selfish agendas. He becomes a teacher, then a talent agent. He is known for frugality and will do anything to save money. He has long been in love with William’s wife Susan.

Luke Drumm – the baby of the family. He was his father’s favourite, but his father died when Luke was very young. Luke went through a period of religious zealotry which turned out to be the catalyst for many years of mental illness. Bereft of familial love, and very lonely, Luke turns to substance abuse when he finds himself a pop star in his early twenties.

Melissa Craig (Drumm) – a singer and actress, she was self-involved and sought attention by flirting with other men. Often unfaithful, she was not at all maternal and left the raising of her boys to their father. Sadly he passed away when the boys were in their teens. Her interactions with her sons were filled with emotional abuse.

The entire Drumm family were involved in show business in one aspect or another. They were privy to all the excesses and indulgences the business and wealth could provide – yet they were all miserable.

“We all knew the experience had scarred him deeply, but it was one of our family’s little cruelties to revisit it, often.”

The reader meets the brothers Drumm at a funeral. We then go on to read the entire novel to discover which one of the brothers has died, and how his death came about…

I’ll confess that this is a novel that took me quite some time to become engaged in. The characters were for the most part unlikable, though the youngest brother, Luke Drumm was a piteous figure who you couldn’t help feel sorry for.

The brothers Drumm were characters who had been directly influenced by their narcissistic mother who seldom showed them any maternal love in any demonstrable way. As children they were not well off, though they found monetary success in later life, their personal lives were shallow and even tragic at times. Their Irish Catholic upbringing was not a huge factor in any of their lives with the exception of Luke, who took his faith and belief to extremes.

Seldom have I heard or read about siblings who were so nasty, unloving, and competitive with each other. Some would expect them to unite with each other against their upbringing and their manipulative mother – yet the very opposite occurred.

The story is told from each of the brothers viewpoints via a nonlinear timeline.

This novel explores themes of parenting, sibling rivalry, mental illness, substance abuse, fame, betrayal, jealousy, and familial dysfunction. The family didn’t show any warmth throughout the entirety of the book. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to meet any of the three brothers in real life for fear their toxicity would rub off on you. Make no mistake, this was a dark, disturbing, and bleak novel.

It is my practice to never give up on a book so I soldiered on… The last chapter was bleak and chilling. That chapter, and the skilled writing, raised my rating from 2.5 to 3 stars.

The writing must have been masterful for me to feel so strongly about these characters (albeit in a negative way). I have heard much praise for this author from other reviewers. Therefore I do plan to read more of her work. Perhaps this wasn’t the title to start with…

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
Gallery/Scout Press via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9781501189685    ASIN:  B084G9L22G     352 pages


Liz Nugent is an Irish novelist who was born in Dublin in 1967. Liz first began to write for broadcast in 2003. In 2006, her first short story for adults, Alice, was shortlisted for the Francis McManus Short Story Prize. Liz is the author of four psychological thrillers which have received much literary acclaim. Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait, Skin Deep, and Our Little Cruelties. Aside from writing, Liz has led workshops in writing drama for broadcast in Ireland and New Zealand, she has produced and managed literary salons, interviewed many other writers and curated the literary strand of Skibbereen Arts Festival in July 2016.

Follow Liz Nugent on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss | Tagged , | 13 Comments

“Playing Nice” by J.P. Delaney – Book Review

Pete and Maddie – are the middle-class parents of two year old Theo. When Theo was born, he was premature and suffered from complications. Now though, he is a healthy, boisterous, active, charming little boy.

 

 


Miles and Lucy – are the wealthy parents of two year old David. They too delivered David prematurely. They too had a son with severe complications. Their son was deprived of oxygen at birth and is now learning disabled and suffers from various physical problems.


Miles Lambert knocks on Pete’s door one day to announce the bombshell that he believes the two boys were switched at birth through hospital error. It would seem that somehow their hospital identification bracelets were somehow switched.

This begins a spiral of stress, litigation, and trauma that has no foreseeable end…

It took me a good while to get into this book. I couldn’t bond with any of the characters and I couldn’t understand their approach to this dreadful moral quandary they found themselves mired in. Then, at about the 30% mark, I found I was hooked. Why? It was about then that I realized that there was something seriously fiendish about one of the parents. The playing field was no longer friendly. The parent in question believed themselves to be omnipotent and was ruthlessly diabolical in their attempts to get their own way.

From then on, I couldn’t put the book down. I just had to see if justice would be done. More importantly, in a situation such as these families find themselves in you have to ask… Just what would be justice in this case?

This is nature vs. nurture to the nth degree.

Told from the point of view of Pete and then alternately Maddie, the pace of the story moved quickly. I found I didn’t care for Maddie’s character at all, despite the desperate circumstances she found herself in. Pete was my favourite character and I rooted for his happiness throughout.

How the author brings this novel to a conclusion is chilling… yet somehow bizarrely fitting and darkly satisfying. 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 Trapeze/Orion Publishing via Secret Readers/Quantified Reading.

Publication date: August 6, 2020

Publisher: Quercus

ISBN: 9781529400847       432 pages

 

J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of writer Anthony Capella.  He was educated at St. Peter’s College, Oxford. Born in Uganda, he now resides in Oxfordshire, England with his wife and three children.

Posted in Book Reviews, Secret Readers (Orion) | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Cover Love: part 94 – Hair

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. What is so appealing about ‘hair’ on a book cover? Why is it chosen so frequently? You be the judge.

Things to note!

Three of these covers use the same photo!

I found 57 covers featuring hair!
14 blondes
17 redheads
13 dark brunettes
12 light brunettes
1 pink

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 93 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

 

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 7 Comments

Taking stock of the blog and making plans for 2021

Come January 2021 I will have been seriously blogging for five years – the same amount of time that I’ve been retired.  Fictionophile has come a long way in that time and I’m grateful to everyone who has ever commented, liked, or shared any of my posts.

I know that lately (since the pandemic), I’ve been seriously getting carried away with the amount of review commitments I’ve been taking on. Crazy really because I have over 200 commitments already.  In 2021 I must restrain myself DO BETTER.  For the past week or so I’ve hit a reading slump that threatens to derail all my good intentions.  I’ve begun to question how I handle things on the blog, and, more importantly, if my commitment to reading and reviewing is strong enough to satisfy my followers as well as my own personal satisfaction of delivering blog posts that are welcome and/or interesting to my readers.

Many of the posts I’ve been producing are very time intensive. Also, some parts of the way I format my reviews take longer than one might think. This makes me wonder if those aspects of the posts are valued by readers, or if they are just a waste of my time.

To find out what YOU think about Fictionophile, I’ve created a few little polls that I would love for you all to take part in. The more who take a few minutes to answer these few questions, the more I’ll get an accurate portrayal of what you would like.

Please fell free to click all options that you agree with.

Regarding frequency of Fictionophile’s posts in general:

Regarding book haul posts:

Regarding what type of posts you prefer:

Regarding book review posts:

THANKS SO MUCH for taking some of your valuable reading time to answer my polls. Your support and feedback is invaluable to me.

And, since it’s been awhile since I’ve shared a photo of my little grandson, I thought I’d include this little gem:

 

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged | 53 Comments

“The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant” by Kayte Nunn – Book Review

1951-52 – Esther Durrant has just lost her infant son. Blaming herself, and suffering from post-natal depression, she is despondent and lethargic. Her husband, at a loss as to what to do, sends her to one of the Isles of Scilly to be cared for by a psychiatrist, Doctor Richard Creswell. The good doctor normally treats the victims of shell-shock and other war-related traumas, yet he has made an exception to treat Esther as a favour to her husband, an old friend of his. The doctor works from an old stone house, the only house on the island. He has a housekeeper, a nurse, three male patients and Esther. Abandoned to this remote locale, she desperately misses her two-year old son Teddy.  Esther is to spend almost five months on the island. This short time would impact her entire life is a myriad of ways.

2018 – Rachel Parker, age 35, works as a marine research scientist. Reluctant to make any long term commitments of any sort, Rachel has traveled the world with her work. Her latest posting on the Isles of Scilly, is one she is eager for. Located two and a half hours by boat off the southern coast of  Cornwall, she is to study the ‘Venus verrucosa‘ clam. She becomes acquainted with several of the island residents and starts to feel comfortable. Then, a lack of judgement has her out in her boat in a sudden storm. Hurt and in dire need of rescue, she is found by a reclusive island resident named Leah. Having to wait several days until the next supply boat is due to arrive, she is stranded. Leah roots out an old suitcase from the house which contains clothes that Rachel might be able to wear while she waits to get off this tiny island. In the suitcase, beside the vintage clothes, she also finds a book and some unsent letters.

2018 – Eve Ambrose, age 23, is spending the summer looking after her grandmother who is recovering from a broken hip. Nearing her ninetieth birthday, she is frail and cannot be left alone. Also, Eve has agreed to write her grandmother’s biography. Her Gram was once a world renowned mountaineer.

What a joyful experience it was reading this well-rendered story. Both of the female protagonists were such interesting characters and I was wondering all the while just how the two tales would converge.

The remote locale and island setting made the book a very atmospheric read. That coupled with the well-developed plot and empathetic characters assured that it will be one of my favourite novels read this year.

If I had to find one fault with it is that the ending seemed to come on suddenly, yet, having said that, the ending did tie up all loose ends and left the reader with a satisfactory feeling.

Long held secrets, forbidden love, and a modern woman’s tale, this novel, with its dual timeline, will appeal greatly to fans of such authors as Kate Morton, Rosamund Pilcher, Harriet Evans, and the like.

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
William Morrow/Harper Collins via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9780062970589    ASIN:  B07SRTCC3L     400 pages

(Note: Because this novel’s title contains both the first and last names of a person it qualifies to fulfill one of the entries for the #FFRC2020 Reading Challenge)

Kayte Nunn grew up in England and the US, and then lived in Sydney, Australia for more than 20 years, working as a book, magazine and web editor and writer. She has more than two decades of publishing experience and is the former editor of Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine.

She had always written – terrible poetry, short stories and angst-ridden diaries – and has an enduring love of books and stories. She devoured the books from the library of the boarding school she attended.

She loves nothing more than a generous slice of warm cake, a cup of tea, a comfortable place to sit and a good book to read!

Follow Kayte Nunn on Twitter.

Posted in #FFRC2020, Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Historical fiction | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments