“A Perfect Sentence” by Patrick Starnes – Book Review

Desperately dissatisfied with his comfortable, middle-class life, and meandering through his days, Keir Buchan feels like he is just going through the motions of living. A writer of detective novels, he has just been made redundant from the University where he worked. His wife and teenage children seem disconnected to him. He has lost all of his joy in living…

“…because hope is for what – a not too unpleasant death?”

We follow Keir through a profound mid-life crisis. The fallout of his personal crisis affects many others along the way. Some to an intense and explosive degree.

If you are wondering why I included bubbles in my lead graphic, it is because much of the novel seems to hold Keir and Cassie in a bubble of happiness. We all know that bubbles drift for a few minutes – and then break. I was constantly waiting for their bubble to burst. And burst it did in an extraordinary and staggering way, showing just how fragile happiness is and how we humans are always precariously striving for it.

The writing was polished and skillful, not just for the first novel it is, but for any novel. It included vividly rendered descriptions of the many locales in which the book was set.

Although the characterization was well wrought, I found myself ambivalent toward Keir.  I felt no sympathy or empathy for his character’s situation. Just past his fiftieth birthday, he seemed to be shiftless, selfish, egocentric, and adrift…  In this instance, my feelings for Keir’s character was integral to my enjoyment of the book – especially since the book was written in the first person, from Keir’s point of view.

That being said, the author does seem to have an innate understanding of the suicidal mind and the depression that precedes it.

The title “The Perfect Sentence” couldn’t possibly more suited to this novel. It is in fact a ‘perfect‘ title for the book. Keep in mind that Keir is a writer and writers are always grasping for that ‘perfect sentence’ – also, a sentence can mean a punishment…

At the risk of sounding sexist, I think male readers might enjoy this book more than female readers.  I do not for a minute regret reading Keir’s story, but it wasn’t entirely to my taste. Many other readers and literary critics disagree with me as the book was nominated for the Whitbread First Novel Prize. If you’re looking for a novel that is well written and features a solely male point of view, then this could be a favourite book for you!

My gratitude to David from Thistle Publishing who provided me with a digital copy of this novel for review purposes.

Born in Montreal, Patrick Starnes studied Philosophy and English Literature in Canada and wrote his masters thesis on the novels of Samuel Beckett at Cambridge. He has traveled widely and at one time or another has lived in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Greece, Spain, and England. He has worked variously as an aid administrator, journalist, freelance researcher, and college lecturer.

He is currently living in Italy with his wife Christine and dogs Mac and Mia.

“A Perfect Sentence” is his first novel and it was nominated for the Whitbread First Novel prize.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Men's fiction, Thistle Publishing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“The Scholar” by Dervla McTiernan – Book Review

A complex, character-driven police procedural mystery set in Galway, Ireland.

After almost a year, D.S. Cormac Reilly is still being ‘frozen out‘ of the good cases and relegated to the cold case files. His co-worker, D.S. Carrie O’Halloran, is meanwhile very over-worked with more cases than she can handle. When she reaches a crisis point in her home/work life balance, she goes to their immediate supervisor and requests that some of her cases be given to Cormac. When her request is begrudgingly approved, it looks as though things are looking up for Cormac…. until his beloved partner Dr. Emma Sweeney, finds the body of a young girl outside the college research lab where she works.

D.S. Cormac Reilly – a career policeman, Cormac enjoyed much success in his career while living in Dublin. Now, after following his partner, Dr. Emma Sweeney, to Galway, his work-life hasn’t yet recovered… When he finally gets a chance to get his hands on a few cases, he realizes that he still doesn’t know his team well enough to really trust them.

D.S. Carrie O’Halloran – a diligent and conflicted policewoman. She works very hard at her job, often to the neglect of her children and husband. She is always torn between her home and work life.

D.C. Peter Fisher – greatly admires Cormac Reilly and is loyal to him despite pressures within the squad. A hard-working and diligent policeman, he uses his considerable skills to aid Cormac in his endeavors.

D.C. Moira Hanley – lazy, and resentful of the success of others, Moira deeply resents being seconded to working with Cormac and tries to sabotage his efforts at every turn – even going so far as to enlist Internal Affairs in her vendetta.

“First impressions were wrong as often as they were right and good people did bad things all the time, they were just a bit more inventive at finding justification for it than the average gouger.”

After relishing “The Ruin” last year, “The Scholar” was high on my list of most anticipated titles on my TBR. It didn’t disappoint!  I’ve come to the conclusion that I really enjoy this author’s writing and the well-rounded characters she has created for this series.

Cormac Reilly is a policeman that is highly ethical, yet often conflicted between his home life and his work. He is steadfastly loyal, yet in this book it shows that even the most loyal can succumb to doubts…

The plot was intricate and well thought out. The setting and the research laboratory were at once picturesque and creepy and very vividly described. The cutthroat world of the highly competitive world of pharmaceutical research is the basis upon which the story was written. It examines what lengths people will go to to make a name for themselves and reap the more than generous financial rewards. The book also takes a look at how wealth often does the wealthy no favours – as they often have life challenges/dilemmas that are commensurate with their affluence.  I particularly felt so sorry for the character of Carline Darcy.  Many of the characters were conflicted by trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance at the same time as doing a highly demanding job.

The ending satisfied my need for justice done. I cannot wait to meet D.S. Cormac Reilly in his third outing.

Highly recommended!

I received a digital copy of this novel from Penguin Books via Edelweiss for purposes of this review.

Internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed writer, Dervla McTiernan is the author of The Ruin, her crime debut set in Ireland. The Ruin is the first in the detective Cormac Reilly series and has been published in the United States, the UK and Ireland, and in New Zealand and Australia, where it was a top ten bestseller. It has been named one of Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Crime Mystery and Thrillers of 2018 and an Amazon Best Book of July 2018 and has been optioned for TV by Hopscotch.

A lawyer, and now a leading crime writer, Dervla was born in Ireland and now lives in Perth, Australia with her husband, two young children, and a golden retriever.

Follow Dervla McTiernan on Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Cover Love: part 79 – Tied up (with string or ribbons)

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 79th installment of ‘Cover Love‘-in light of the fact that my province is due to endure Hurricane Dorian tomorrow, I thought I’d do a post about things tied up/down with string or ribbons.  We’ve battened down the hatches. Now we’re just hoping for no property damage and/or prolonged power cuts….

These titles encompass a wide variety of genres.  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.

And don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 78 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 27 Comments

“Dying Truth” 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.

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. In this novel, we see examples of the great respect Kim and Bryant have for each other. Their camaraderie is a delight to read.
D.S. Kevin Dawson, young, vain, fit, and impulsive is now the father of a two-year-old daughter. Each book in the series shows his growing potential to be a great police officer. This time we learn of his unhappy childhood and why he is so into maintaining his physical fitness. In “Dying Truth” we see Kevin Dawson bonding with a young Heathcrest student who he identifies with.
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. Stacy is falling in love this time out.
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. This time he goes against Kim’s wishes, but covertly helps her without letting her know his intentions.

We learn more of Kim’s real feelings toward her team as in this novel she is carrying out their ‘performance appraisals’.


In DI Kim Stone’s eighth outing we find her team working on a case centered around a prestigious, elite, boarding school called Heathcrest. After a thirteen year old girl is found dead at the school, Kim’s investigations reveal that this was a murder – masked as a suicide. Then the team uncovers several other deaths and tragic ‘accidents’. All of them, conceivably related to the school’s exclusive and toxic social clubs called the ‘playing cards’. Kevin Dawson uncovers their dangerous/deadly hazing rituals and initiation tasks and wonders how they relate to more current deaths surrounding students and staff of Heathcrest.

“Perfection isn’t real. It is only the top layer beneath which the ugliness lies.”

This eighth novel in the series has proved to be a worthy successor to the first seven – in fact, I think it is my most favourite yet! The series just seems to go from strength to strength. This is a novel of secrets, lies, and the privileged – showing once again that wealth and social status holds its own perils.

Dying Truth” shows how important to the human psyche is the sense of belonging. It portrays some grisly deaths and as usual, the subject matter is gritty and might not be to everyone’s taste. The ending of this particular book was heartbreaking – but I won’t say why as it would ruin the reading experience for those following this series.

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 eighth 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 ninth book, “Fatal Promise” in September. Oh, and in case you didn’t already guess… “Dying Truth” is very highly recommended by me.

I purchased “Dying Truth“ 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 | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Hello September (Fictionophile personal updates)

Hello lovely folks! Summer days will soon be over, it is September already!  The photo below shows my husband and I enjoying the beautiful sunset at our summer cottage.

If any of you were wondering about my online silence recently, I had an operation and just got out of hospital. For that reason my ‘Hello September’ post is a few days late.

Here is a brief breakdown of my naive expectations and the reality of the hospital stay:

When you go through trying times, it is easy to find out who your true friends are. I was blessed with many hospital visitors, and many encouraging texts and emails.

I am SO grateful!



I’m delighted to report that there are now 3.588 people following this blog!

That is up 721 followers since Sept. 1, 2018.  I am so grateful that my little blog continues to attract new readers.  Heartfelt thanks to all who take the time to read my posts, leave a comment or two, and share my posts on other social media. I love you all.


My Goodreads Challenge is doing okay

I’m still hanging on to my 80% NetGalley badge (only just)

My Edelweiss feedback ratio is dismal…


Many of you have inquired about the progress of my little grandson. I’m pleased to report, despite a setback this month, that he is thriving.

Look at how much he has grown over the past two months!

That’s all for now. I hope to catch up with all my social media accounts as time permits.

Now… I must READ!

Posted in Fictionophile report, personal | Tagged , | 40 Comments

Fictionophile’s August 2019 #bookhaul

 

I’ve been trying to curtail my greed when it comes to requesting digital ARCs. I have SO many review commitments that I fear I’m not doing them justice by posting my reviews way after the publication date.

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

Here is my current NetGalley feedback ratio:

Three from NetGalley:

 

The Fortune Teller’s Promise” by Kelly Heard

Published this coming October by Bookouture, the blurb is what attracted me to this title from a ‘new-to-me’ author.


 

The Truth Behind the Lie” by Sara Lövestam

Published August 2019 by Minotaur Books, the blurb had me hooked… though I’ve never read anything by this author before.


 

Woman in the Water” by Katerina Diamond

This one is due to be published in November 2019.  Published by Avon, it was the blurb that attracted me.


And two from Edelweiss:

 

The Boatman: and other stories” by Billy O’Callaghan

Published by Harper, I requested this short story collection when I saw it was written by Billy O’Callaghan. I read one of his novels, “The Dead House” last year and really enjoyed his writing.


The Woman in the Park” by Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist

This thriller is published by Beaufort Books and it was the blurb that interested me enough to request it. I’ve never read anything by these authors before.


So, that’s IT for AUGUST 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 TEN new purchases from Amazon.ca

My total expenditure was only $ 14.11 Cdn.  Not bad for TEN titles.  I can never resist a bargain. LOL

.99¢


$ 1.99


FREE


.99¢


.99¢


.99¢


$ 1.99


$ 3.19


$ 1.99


.99¢


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

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

Note: I scheduled this post in advance as I underwent major surgery on Aug. 27th and will be in hospital for a week. I may be very tardy when it comes to responding to comments. Please forgive me.

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report | Tagged | 33 Comments

“The Beach at Doonshean” by Penny Feeny – Book Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It spoke to the dysfunctional nature of families. Even the most stable families can be a tad dysfunctional on the inside.

The characters were all fully developed and people who I enjoyed meeting via the printed page.

“Were all families the same, Bel wondered: existing in a delicate state of checks and balances, compromise and negotiation?”

The settings were deftly described and easily imagined by the reader. The beautiful Irish landscape near the sea and the suburban Liverpool locale separated the narrative into two linked stories featuring different members of the same family in 2010. There is also a backstory set in 1981.

With themes of loss, forgiveness, self doubt, familial obligation, the complications inherent in step-families, parenthood, and fate, I am very confident that this novel will be enjoyed by many. Highly recommended to those who enjoy quality women’s fiction and/or a great family saga.


I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Head of Zeus/Aria via NetGalley in order that I might participate in the Aria Blog Tour for this title.

ISBN: 9781788547321      ASIN: B07TLCVD6H

Pre-order Links:



 

 

Penny Feeny has lived and worked in Cambridge, London and Rome. Since settling in Liverpool many years ago she has been an arts administrator, editor, radio presenter, advice worker, and has brought up five children. Her short fiction has been widely published and broadcast and won several awards. Her first novel, That Summer in Ischia, was one of the summer of 2011’s best selling titles.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Reviews, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

“The Nanny” by Gilly Macmillan – Book Review

In her late thirties, Jocelyn Holt is a recent widow. She and her ten-year-old daughter, Ruby, still grieving, move from California to the Wiltshire manor house where Jocelyn grew up.  Financially strapped, Jocelyn must depend upon the generosity of her widowed mother whom she has always found to be unloving and cold.

“To have a child whom you love but who does not love you back is a particularly intense and unrelenting source of pain.”

She is surprised that her mother, Virginia, is quite besotted with her granddaughter Ruby. They seem to form an instant bond.  This is something that both surprises and unsettles Jocelyn. She does not want her mother being any kind of influence on her daughter. She fears that Ruby’s spirit will be quelled by her mother’s arrogance, snobbishness and life of aristocratic privilege. Jocelyn was brought up by a Nanny and never really had any real attachment to her mother. When Jocelyn was seven years old, her nanny, Hannah, disappeared and afterward Jocelyn was sent to boarding school.

Not long after they move in, Jocelyn takes Ruby for a boat ride in the lake on the estate’s grounds. When they pull up at a little island in the lake, they make the gruesome discovery of a human skull…

The police descend on Lake Hall’s estate. The discovery of the skull is the talk of the village.

Shortly thereafter, a woman comes to the door of the manor house. She claims to be Hannah Burgess, the long lost Nanny. Jocelyn is overjoyed to make her beloved nanny’s re-acquaintance. Virginia, on the other hand is appalled…

Ruby dislikes her immensely. She posts online about her #evilnanny

This is my third novel by Gilly Macmillan and she never disappoints.

Ironically, the characters that most resonated with me were the ones I felt I was supposed to dislike – conversely, the characters which I felt I was supposed to like the most (i.e. Jocelyn), I felt myself disliking on occasion and I was often impatient with her.

I liked how each character gave their viewpoints in alternating chapters.

The setting, a grand English manor house and estate grounds were very appealing.

how I imagined Lake Hall to look

The plot had more than a few twists which will please those who love that sort of thing. I thought I had the story completely figured out about a third of the way through… needless to say that was probably the author’s devious plan. I was very wrong.

A novel of mistakes made, regrets, family secrets, misplaced trust, intimidation, emotional manipulation, and inter-generational relationships.

The ending I found immensely satisfying, though I suspect there will be a few readers who might not agree with me. I guess it depends on how you feel about what constitutes justice.

In summation, this diabolical psychological thriller is a prime example of the fine writing of Gilly MacMillan. If you haven’t yet tried one of her novels, this is an excellent one to start with. Just saying….

ISBN: 9780062875556 Length: 400 pages

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from William Morrow/Harper Collins via Edelweiss.

Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She KnewThe Perfect GirlOdd Child OutI Know You Know, and The Nanny. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

Author Links: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Throwback Thursday: “House. Tree. Person” by Catriona McPherson – 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. “House. Tree. Person” was, for me, a memorable FIVE STAR read.


It is an understatement to say Alison McGovern’s family has had some setbacks. Once, they had a lovely house, she owned a thriving beauty salon called ‘Face Value’, and her husband, Marco, took over his successful family restaurant.  But… Marco had other ideas. He wanted more – his ideas were grand, but he ended up taking their house AND her business along with his, when he overextended himself financially by borrowing against their assets. Now Alison, Marco, and their teenage son, Angelo live in a tiny rented cottage living on the cheapest of groceries and finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Their circumstances seem to be ‘on the up’ when, within just a few days of each other, they both procure employment. Ali gets work as a beautician/art therapist at an independent psychiatric hospital situated in the Galloway countryside.  Her beautician experience was embellished on her resume, and she feels a sham, but the excellent salary offered causes her to push her guilt to the recesses of her mind. Despite her lack of psychiatric knowledge about her new position, she seems to form an immediate bond with one of the residents of ‘Howell Hall’. Sylvie has been diagnosed as having hysterical catatonia – but she reacts to Ali’s kind advances.

“Touch is a problem for British people and maybe Scots most of all. We’re not huggers. But gentle touch can do wonders for someone feeling the ache of loss or loneliness.”

She begins to enjoy the work, despite herself, but senses that there are many secrets being hidden at Howell Hall.  Nothing is quite what they would have you assume…

“What was the rottenness at the heart of Howell Hall?”

The title of the novel references a psychiatric test called “House. Tree. Person.” in which the patient is asked to draw these three things in order for the doctors to assess their personality.

The reader is made aware that Alison has a dark secret in her past. We know that she had been emotionally unwell, and that she herself had been hospitalized for six months – years ago. Her husband Marco is constantly referring to her past illness with jibes like “when you weren’t so great”, or  “don’t go down that road again”. The reader is also made aware that Alison is estranged from her parents, who live in France. Alison’s son Angelo, though moody and uncommunicative, demonstrates that he wants to protect her.

“that strange couple of days when they found the remains and we got jobs and for some reason the good news turned us sour instead of sweet.”

Dundrennan Abbey

With only the first day of work at Howell Hall under her belt, Ali returns home to their cottage to find that there has been a body found in the grounds of the Abbey across the lane. Her son, Angelo makes a strange remark when the body is discovered. “I’d just about given up, as it goes.”  This grisly discovery sets her life, and the lives of those she loves on an escalating and devastating spiral that will leave none of them unscathed.

This book was an excellent read – but extremely difficult to review as it would be only to easy to divulge too much of the plot and ruin it for future readers.  Suffice it to say that I loved it just as much as a previous novel by this author that I read several years ago, “The day she died“. The characters are so real that you feel you’ve met them before. The dialogue flows seamlessly, and to say the setting was atmospheric would be an understatement. The plot was complicated, yet had a brilliant resolution. Everything I like best when reading a thriller. Very highly recommended by me!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Midnight Ink via NetGalley, and was delighted to be able to write this review.

Note: This novel was published in the UK by Constable under a different title: “The weight of angels“.  Both titles fit the novel’s content superbly, though if I’m honest I do admit I prefer the UK cover over the North American one.

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the author of the Dandy Gilver historical mystery series, which was nominated for a Macavity Award in 2012.   She moved to California in 2010 but she returns to Scotland every year for a wee visit to quell her homesickness.

She is now a full time writer.  When not writing, she is reading, gardening, cooking, baking, cycling , and running.


Posted in Book Reviews, Psychological thrillers, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = MRS.

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 ‘Mrs.’ 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 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 | 15 Comments

“The Sea Glass Sisters” by Lisa Wingate – Book Review

The prequel novella which introduces the Carolina Heirlooms series.

Elizabeth Gallagher is a 911 operator. Blaming herself for an on-the-job mistake, she has lost confidence in her ability and feels guilty about the outcome of the case. Elizabeth’s guilt is just one of the things that is unsettling her. Her relationship with her husband has become somewhat distant and both of her children are leaving the nest imminently.

Though she has never really gotten along with her mother, a retired school principal, she agrees to accompany her to visit with her mother’s sister Sandy. The women intend to convince Sandy to return to Michigan as a hurricane is threatening to fall on the Outer Banks.

“There will always be those memories that tie us together, those invisible strings.”

After the three women become stranded on the island during the storm, they come to understand each other better and strong bonds are formed.

The setting is what enticed me to read “The Sea Glass Sisters“. I visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2018 and it was, for me, a magical place. Essentially a sand bar, it is home to some 58,000 residents and has spectacular seaside views.

Hatteras Island

The 86 page novella’s story was well executed and the characters well-fleshed out. The island lifestyle is portrayed showing the resilience and stamina of the islanders who absolutely love the place they have come to call home. The story illustrates just how vulnerable this beautiful place is when mother nature decides to test them.

With themes of coping with change, parenthood, and family, I recommend this story to those who love women’s fiction set in picturesque locales.

I purchased this Kindle novella in the hopes that it would help me make up my mind about the Carolina Heirlooms series.  It has, and I intend to read the rest of the series when time permits.


Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, inspirational speaker, and New York Times Bestselling Author of thirty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, The Carol Award, and the Christy Award. Her blockbuster hit, Before We Were Yours remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for over one year, was Publishers Weekly’s #3 longest running bestseller of 2017, and was voted by readers as the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award winner for historical fiction.

Lisa writes her stories at home in Texas where she is part of the Wingate clan of tall tale tellers. Lisa believes that stories can change the world.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Christian fiction, Novellas, Women's fiction | Tagged , | 11 Comments

“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 | 7 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 , , , | 10 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 | 22 Comments