“The Blue Window” by Suzanne Berne – Book Review

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

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 That chapter consisted mostly of a troubled, withdrawn, and deeply traumatized young man who views the world around him in an esoteric way.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

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

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

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

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Marysue Rucci Books/Simon and Schuster via Edelweiss.

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

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

Connect with Suzanne Berne via her website.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Literary fiction | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

What am I currently reading?

The Blue Window” by Suzanne Berne

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

Locust Lane” by Stephen Amidon (my review)

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

What will I read next?”

Killer Story” by Matt Witten

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

The Skeleton Key” by Erin Kelly

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

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

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

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


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

“Locust Lane” by Stephen Amidon – Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Celadon Books via NetGalley.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Book Reviews, Celadon Books, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Dustjackets | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Wintery Reads – Do you read seasonally?

Are YOU a seasonal reader?
What is seasonal reading?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So Pretty” by Ronnie Turner – Book Review

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

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

“Rumours are like rot here, they spread.”

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

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

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

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

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

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Orenda Books via Anne Cater in order that I could participate in this blog tour.ISBN: 9781914585593 –  ASIN: ‎ B0BF5Y2XLZ –  331 pages

To be published January 19, 2023 by Orenda Books

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

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Reviews, gothic fiction, Horror, Orenda Books, Random Things Tours (Anne Cater) | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“In Too Deep” by Simon McCleave – Book Review

Setting – Isle of Anglesey, in Wales – 260 square miles of stunning scenery with mountains, lakes, and beaches. It is an island steeped in Arthurian legend, and folklore, with a dark history of Roman and Viking invasion.

Laura Hart – was formerly a Detective Chief Inspector for the Greater Manchester Police, and their top hostage negotiator. When her husband was murdered on the job, she resigned from the police, packed up her two children, and moved back to her home, Anglesey, Wales. Her grief for Sam remains raw and she carries on conversations with her dead husband. Now, three years after Sam’s death, she finally feels ready to re-join the police. This novel takes place during her first week back at work.

DCI Gareth Williams –  52 years old, works for the CID in Beaumaris. He’s a local man who has always lived in the beautiful island of his birth. His marriage recently failed due to his wife’s infidelity. He is now divorced and wants to pursue a relationship with Laura Hart.

It is Laura’s first day back at work and the C.I.D. team are called out to human remains which were discovered on the grounds of Castell Aberlleiniog, an ancient fortress located on top of a steep hill.There is a second storyline which takes place in the late 1990s in Belfast, Ireland. This story revolves around John Kelly, who, though he is Irish by birth, has spent the last twenty years in the British Army and was a decorated member of the SAS. Now, the army wants him to go back to Belfast and infiltrate the Real IRA undercover going by the name of John Doyle. He is a munitions expert and builds a bomb which is integral to the Omagh Bombing.

We learn that after his cover was blown, he is sent to Anglesey under witness protection. His name is now John Finn.

Shortly after the first remains are found, Laura and Gareth have another murder on their hands…

After reading “The Dark Tide” last May, I was eager to revisit this series with book two, “In Too Deep“. I’m certain this is a police procedural series that I will follow avidly.

The rich characterization added depth to the crime story with insights into what made the various characters tick. I liked how the author delved into the police officer’s personal lives as it gave the story more of a human interest angle.

There were a few excellent plot twists that I did not anticipate. Also, I learned a few things about the IRA’s activities after the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

The continuing attraction between Laura and Gareth added a romantic interest to the novel and adds some tension now that they are co-workers of equal rank in the North Wales Police Force.

The pacing was steady and leant an urgency to the narrative. I’m certain that fans of the police procedural subgenre will relish these characters and this series. Recommended!

I’ve added the next title “Blood On The Shore” to my TBR.

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 Avon Books UK via NetGalley.

  ISBN: 9780008524869 – ASIN: B09YY4RG9G – 384 pagesThis title was published by Avon Books UK on January 5, 2023

Simon McCleave is a million selling British crime novelist. His first book, ‘The Snowdonia Killings’, was released in January 2020 and reached No 1 in the Amazon UK Chart and selling over 200,000 copies. He has gone on to pen seven subsequent novels in the DI Ruth Hunter Crime Thriller Series.

Simon McCleave was originally born in South London. When leaving University, he worked in television and film development. He was a Script Editor at the BBC, a producer at Channel 4 before working as a Story Analyst in Los Angeles. Simon then became a script writer for television and film. He wrote on series such as Silent Witness, Murder In Suburbia, Teachers, Attachments, The Bill, Eastenders and many more.

Simon lives in North Wales with his wife and two children.

Connect with Simon McCleave via his website, FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Teaser Tuesday – January 10, 2023 #NewBook #TheWritingRetreat @juliabartz @simonschuster #TeaserTuesday #TuesdayBookBlog @AtriaBooks @EmilyBestler

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

This book is a title I received from Emily Bestler Books / Atria Books via
Edelweiss and I’ll be reading it soon.

Today, Tuesday January 10, 2023 I want to introduce one of the ARCs on my TBR.

This novel will be published on February 21, 2023

Publisher: Emily Bestler Books

ISBN: 9781982199456 –  ASIN:  B0B3Y84THW –  320 pages

1)  I love trying out new authors by reading their debut novels.

2)  The whole writing retreat angle with a writing contest.

3) The supposedly haunted mansion.

4) The mention of ‘mind games’.

“Fuck her.

These were the words that got me down the subway steps. I was going to Ursula’s book party, and if Wren was there too, well, she could just go fuck herself.”

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

Why, or why not?

Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Anticipated titles, debut novels, Edelweiss, Psychological thrillers, Teaser Tuesday | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Fictionophile’s 2023 Book Anticipation

As we start a new year, readers often look forward to the many wonderful titles on their TBRs that they really want to read. I’ve found that many of the novels on my most anticipated list are ones that I do not have review commitments for – and many are ones that have been highly recommended to me by other avid readers and bookbloggers.

This is tricky for me as I must at least attempt to honour my myriad review commitments in a timely fashion which leaves these other anticipated titles being shoved to the bottom of the queue…First off, I’m sharing SEVEN titles that I DO HAVE REVIEW COMMITMENTS for that I am highly anticipating:

Now… I’m sharing SEVEN titles that I do NOT have review commitments for that I really, really, really want to read:

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report | Tagged , | 14 Comments

“The Blackhouse” by Carole Johnstone – Book Review

“A remote village. A deadly secret. An outsider who knows the truth.”“The sheep will spend its life in fear of the wolf, and then be eaten by the shepherd.”Told in two voices – with a dual timeline, this novel captured me and transported me to the Outer Hebrides. The mournful tolling of the tide bell, the scent of the salt water, the sound of the crashing waves, the feel of the constant winds, all were made visceral to the reader. The sense of place was all pervasive lending the narrative a somber feel. The community was isolated and insular and they banded together despite their divergent personalities.

Maggie McKay’s story was my favourite of the two. I empathized with her solitary life, her mother’s recent death, and her longing to ‘belong‘ somewhere… her fear.  Robert Reid’s story, set 25 years earlier, was darker, more complex, and I found it verged on the melancholy.

The plot was original and beautifully written. It contained several plot twists which added interest and food for thought to the story. I did find the pacing ponderously slow at times.

This literary thriller covered some weighty topics such as mental illness as the result of childhood trauma, what it feels like to be an ‘outsider’, the fragility of happiness, guilt, secrecy, deception, self-loathing, reincarnation, and atonement.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Carole Johnstone and would not hesitate to read more of her work.

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 Scribner Books via Edelweiss.      

ISBN: 9781982199678 – ASIN: ‎ B0B3Y8HT1J –  336 pages

Carole Johnstone is an award-winning writer from Scotland, whose short stories have been published all over the world. Her debut novel, Mirrorland, is a psychological suspense with a gothic twist, set in Edinburgh. Her second novel, The Blackhouse, is a very unusual murder-mystery set on a fictional island off the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.

Having grown up in Lanarkshire, she now lives in Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland, although her heart belongs to the wild islands of the Outer Hebrides.

Connect with Carole Johnstone via her Website, Twitter and/or Instagram.

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