Fictionophile’s December 2020 #BookHaul #Bookbloggers #TBR

I’ve added FIVE titles to my TBR this month.

My review commitments have reached the ‘out of control‘ stage, so I tried very hard to keep the number of new ones low this month.

I received TWO of these titles from NetGalley and TWO from Edelweiss. Also, I received ONE book directly from the publisher Bloodhound Books.

I was approved for TWO titles from Edelweiss in December:


AND… I downloaded TWO titles from NetGalley in December:



I downloaded this title after being invited to join the blog tour by Rachel Kennedy at Penguin/Random House. My spot on the tour is January 22, 2021.



Do any of these titles sound good to you?

 

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report | Tagged , | 10 Comments

“One Step Behind” by Lauren North – Book Review

Jenna – a forty-one year old married mother of two who works as an emergency room physician.  Jenna feels she is failing completely as a mother due to the long hours of her work and her absolute devotion to her medical career.  Her husband Stuart, is taking up the slack, doing most of the childcare, cooking and household chores and their marriage is under strain.

It is not surprising then, that Jenna is overcome with stress when a stalker makes himself known, leaving her threatening emails, nasty gifts, etc. Her worry about this stalker is affecting every aspect of her life, her children are afraid, she has insomnia, she is constantly exhausted, and her work is suffering. After almost a year of being plagued by her stalker, living in constant fear, the police are still no farther forward in apprehending him.

Then one day, she is working in the ER when her stalker, whom she recognizes, comes in with multiple traumas after being hit by a bus…


Sophie – is thirty years old and lives with her boyfriend Nick (who also happens to be her boss). She is a personal trainer. Her relationship with Nick is unhealthy. He is controlling and bullying.

Sophie has a adopted brother, Matthew, who has always been ‘different’. He came to their family at the age of five after a horrible early childhood.

Between her brother and her boyfriend, Sophie feels trapped in her life, and longs to escape their constant attentions.

Firstly, what a fantastic title! It fits the novel so well on two levels. Jenna’s stalker is always “One Step Behind” her, and also, Jenna is valiantly trying to maintain a work/life balance and she is always “One Step Behind“.

Jenna’s oath as a medical professional to ‘do no harm‘ is put to the ultimate test with a moral dilemma that rocks her world.

This is a domestic thriller, and one that I’ll remember for quite some time. The reason is the vivid imagery of the descriptions, and the plot twist that I really didn’t see coming.  Yes, I had my suspicions about part of the twist, and I was correct… yet, the second part of the twist was a jaw-dropping moment.

The characters were vivid, realistic, and relatable. The story was compelling and caused me to almost feel Jenna’s fear, exhaustion, and insecurities.

I highly recommend this thriller to fans of the genre and am eager to read more of this author’s 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 Transworld Publishers/Random House UK via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9780552176095  – ASIN:  B082H37DFW – 363 pages

Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.

Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.

Readers can follow Lauren on Twitter @Lauren_C_North and Facebook @LaurenNorthAuthor

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Bloodhound Books wishes you Merry Christmas #TuesdayBookBlog #KindleDeals @Bloodhoundbook #freebook

As a Christmas gift to everyone, Bloodhound Books is giving away 14 of their titles for

FREE!

Now you can download these fabulous titles for FREE. Be quick, this deal won’t last long…

I have linked the cover graphics to the Amazon.ca site – but never fear, they are FREE on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com as well.

Hope you find something you’ll like.












Posted in Bloodhound Books, Giveaways, Kindle deals | Tagged | 4 Comments

“Truth and Lies” by Caroline Mitchell – Book Review

“It’s hard to accept the truth, isn’t it? When lies are all you want to hear”.

Dotty

D.I. Amy Winter – adopted at the age of four by the policeman who arrested her parents for their notorious deeds. A respected policeman, her adoptive father has recently passed away and she is grieving him. To support her adoptive mother she and her beloved pug named Dotty have moved back into the opulent family home in Holland Park.

Short in stature, Amy’s strength is at not first apparent.  Amy works in London, out of the Notting Hill Police Station.

D.S. Patrick (Paddy) Bryne – Amy’s second in command and most trusted colleague. Tall and a decade older than Amy, Paddy has a complicated and troubling home life.

Lillian Grimes – Amy Winter’s birthmother, is a psychopathic serial killer who has been in prison for more than two decades. She sends Amy a letter saying that she will divulge the location of the last three bodies, if Amy will visit her in prison. As Amy was not aware of her genetic lineage, the letter is profoundly shocking… and potentially career shattering.


Hermione Parker is a fifteen year old daughter of a television presenter. She was abducted and is being held captive… D.I. Winter is also responsible for this pressing case and she is desperate to bring the girl home.

I’m very late to the party on this novel, but what a great beginning to a series! I enjoyed it so much that I already have the second and third titles in this series loaded on my Kindle.

A while back I swore off reading any books that featured serial killers, yet once again I was tempted, and I’m so glad – as I’ve discovered a new favourite author and yet another series to follow.

While reading, I recognized the writing style as being skillful with short chapters that ramped up the pace. The characters were well developed and I particularly enjoyed the scenes featuring Amy Winter’s second in command Paddy Byrne.

It was a refreshing change to read from the viewpoint of a family member of a notorious criminal. When someone commits a crime(s) they don’t only ruin their own lives, it often has a life-changing effect on all the other members of their family as well.

Caroline Mitchell’s previous experience as a policewoman served her well in that the scenes at the police station were vivid and easily imaginable.

Thriller lovers will appreciate the surprising plot twists incorporated into the story.

I highly recommend this series to those readers who are fans of Angela Marsons, Elena Forbes, and/or Carol O’Connell. A fast paced, character-rich crime thriller.

Here are the three titles so far in the D.I. Amy Winter series:

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 Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing UK via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9781503903142  – ASIN:  B078W7X1KV – 344 pages

Follow Caroline Mitchell on Twitter OR visit her website.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers, What's In A Name Reading Challenge | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

My Life In Books 2020: a bookish game #MyLifeInBooks2020 #bookbloggers #booklovers

My Life in Books: a bookish game

I saw this little game on Cathy’s book blog; Nicki‘s book blog; and Kelly‘s book blog.
Thanks to Annabel who came up with the latest version.

I’m always looking for different ways to share the book love, and this post was fun to put together. It is so interesting to see how others answer the prompts with the books they’ve read. It is a real challenge to find books that you’ve read that somewhat fit the prompt.

The challenge is…using only books you have read this year (2020), answer these prompts. Try not to repeat a book title.

Links from the book title will take you to my reviews.
________________________________________
In high school I was Anxious People (Fredrik Backman)

People might be surprised by Who’s There? (Kerena Swan)

I will never be Invisible Girl (Lisa Jewell)

My life in lockdown was A Song of Isolation (Michael J. Malone)

My fantasy job would be at The Bookshop at Water’s End (Patti Callahan Henry)

At the end of a long day I need The Silence (Susan Allott)

I hate being The Last to Know (Jo Furniss)

I wish I had The Sea Gate (Jane Johnson)

My family reunions are Across the Water (Ingrid Alexandra)

At a party you’d find me with My Kind of People (Lisa Duffy)

I’ve never been to Hope Close (Tina Seskis)

A happy day includes Child’s Play (Angela Marsons)

Motto I live by Playing Nice (J.P. Delaney)

On my bucket list is The River Home (Hannah Richell)

In my next life, I want to have The Cottage in a Cornish Cove (Cass Grafton)

That was fun!  Join in, I’d love to read your answers.

 

Posted in ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged | 15 Comments

Guest Post – Jason Maurer’s thoughts on Tobias Bukkehave’s new novel “For King and Country”

Coming Home Is Never Easy

Jason Maurer’s thoughts on Tobias Bukkehave’s new novel, “For King and Country“.

It’s been a long time since I’ve found myself identifying so acutely with a protagonist as I’ve done with Tom Cortzen in Tobias Bukkehave’s new spy thriller, For King and Country (Kongetro, Politikens Forlag) – not, at least, since Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, whose titular character’s rejection of a nationalistic identity felt to me like somebody had seen right into my head and heart.

Cortzen, a freelance security expert and former soldier, returns to Denmark after years abroad to attend his father’s funeral. He vows to stay only as long as necessary – attend the funeral and get out. It’s clear a few chapters into the book that Cortzen feels he’s been wronged by Denmark – he alludes to a traumatic event in his past as a soldier that made him turn his back on it and everyone he loved within it. Naturally, those plans go awry, and Cortzen quickly becomes embroiled in cross-national intrigue – featuring an attempted coup in a populist-led United States, a dead Iranian programmer and his missing Danish wife, and a secret Danish intelligence agency called Sector 7 – all in the name of defending a country he professes to despise.

No such trauma forced me overseas – for as long as I can remember, I’ve just felt like I needed to see the world. I’ve thankfully had the opportunity to do so, and I’ve now lived abroad – in the UK, Finland, and Sweden (in Malmö, a bridge away from Cortzen’s home city of Copenhagen) – for nearly 15 years. While I love returning to the US, I’ve still found myself with a powerful empathy for Cortzen’s feelings on returning home. The political turmoil of the Trump administration is likely a major reason; its hateful resonance has felt to me like a repudiation of who I am.

It may also be the strange mixture of alienation and comfort I’ve come to associate with coming “home” – a feeling that you’re looking from the outside in – which Bukkehave captures so well in For King and Country. The feeling that no matter where you go in the world, no matter how long you stay away, your feet are still stained in the soil of your homeland. For me – and for Tom Cortzen, I suspect, given the reason for his return – that soil is the relationships we’ve built within those countries. The relationships that make that country feel real, that make anything that happens to it feel like a visceral assault on somebody we love. Even Cortzen’s motivations to join the shadowy Sector 7 reflect this – it’s to discover what happened to an old friend of his, who died under suspicious circumstances in Saudi Arabia.

In Tom Cortzen, Bukkehave has given us a character that realizes what Michael Ondaatje writes in The English Patient – “We are the real countries.” With all the duty and emotion that entails.

Right now, For King and Country is only available in Danish.

We’re working hard to get For King and Country sold to an English publisher. If you’re interested in the book, please let us know by sending an email to forkingandcountrybook@gmail.com, as every little helps!

Tobias Bukkehave was born in Svendborg, Denmark, in 1980. He débuted in 2018 with the children’s novels The Journey to Arkadia and The Threat from Kragoria, both about a young boy called Elmer Baltazar. The Journey to Arkadia was nominated for the Orla Children’s Book Prize. Bukkehave also works as a screenwriter for film and television. He lives in Copenhagen with his partner and two children.

Jason Maurer was born in New Hampshire, raised in Vermont, educated in Scotland, found love in Finland, and found a life in Sweden. He’s currently completing an MA in media and communications at Malmö University and interning at the Danish marketing company Onlinestrategen.dk. He’s written two short stories and is finishing a novel.

Posted in Guest post, Spy stories | Tagged , | 3 Comments

“When the Storm Ends” by Rebecca L. Marsh – Book Review

“…remember that everyone has difficulty in life sometimes, but it’s only when the storm ends that you can see a rainbow”.

Sometimes you read a book and find that you are left feeling sort of… content. Content in knowing that these fictional characters you’ve spent several hours with have come out of their traumatic experiences safe and well. This is just such a book.

The central theme of this novel is family violence and child abuse – so be warned. The characters were easy to empathize with and the situations easily imagined.

The protagonist, Beth Christopher, suffered a lot in her early life and because of this she now works as a child psychologist. She is very good at what she does because of her empathy for her patients. However, she crosses a line with one particular patient in the hope that this traumatized girl will open up to her – a fellow victim.  Through this bold and somewhat unethical approach, Beth seeks a successful outcome before the girls looming trial date.

I found the story compelling, but the writing didn’t flow as smoothly as it could at times. The subject matter was at times dark, yet the situations sometimes turned almost saccharine… leaving me strangely conflicted in my overall assessment of the book.

The North Carolina setting neither added nor detracted from the novel as this story could have taken place anywhere. And sadly… it does. The circle of family violence is only too real.

This novel spoke to the fact that some people really should never have children. On the flip side, it also reinforced the fact that there are some very good people out there who want only what is best for children. It also emphasized the fact that siblings often carry huge responsibility, both physically and emotionally.

Recommended to those readers who like realistic situations, told in a frank way, yet who also appreciate a happy ending.

3.5 stars rounded up for Goodreads and Amazon

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 author.

ISBN: 9781949498011  – ASIN:  B07HMBBQXY – 346 pages

Rebecca L. Marsh is an author of women’s fiction and a member of the Paulding County Writer’s Guild. She grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and now lives in Dallas, Georgia, with her husband and daughter. … Rebecca occasionally makes home-made candy and works on her scrapbooks (she is woefully behind).

Follow Rebecca L. Marsh on Twitter

Posted in #FFRC2020, Book Reviews, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Lume Books – Fantastic Christmas #Giveaway @lume_books #booklovers #bookbloggers #bookworms

Lume Books is celebrating the season in style by giving everyone access to 50 of their titles FOR FREE!SERIOUSLY FOLKS!

HOW OFTEN DO YOU GET AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE THIS?

MERRY CHRISTMAS from LUME BOOKS

Here are the three titles I downloaded for Free.  You can pick as many as you like.

Happy Reading!

Posted in Giveaways, Lume Books | 6 Comments

“A Winterfold Christmas” by Harriet Evans – Book Review

Way back in the summer of 2015 I read this author’s “A Place for Us” and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I realized that this novella featured the same family and characters I was keen to read it.

It was lovely traveling back to Somerset and the old house called Winterfold. Two years have passed since the end of the novel and the matriarch of the Winter family is still grieving her beloved husband David. Martha’s grandchildren are at Winterfold for Christmas, but the dinner is being prepared by Cat’s boyfriend Joe, who is a chef.  This is a Christmas novella which includes recipes and a carol or two. It lacks the ‘heft’ and ‘gravitas’ of the novel that preceded it, though it was enjoyable in its own right. A welcome bit of light reading between more serious works.

I purchased this novella in Kindle format from Amazon.ca

Harriet Evans is the internationally bestselling author of Going Home, A Hopeless Romantic, The Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After, Not Without You, A Place for Us, The Butterfly Summer, The Wildflowers. She lives in London. Visit her website at Harriet-Evans.com.

Follow Harriet Evans on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Christmas, Novellas | Tagged , | 3 Comments

“His & Hers” by Alice Feeney – Book Review

“There are at least two sides to every story: Yours and mine. Ours and theirs. His and hers. Which means someone is always lying.”

HIS – Detective Inspector Jack Harper is head of the ‘Major Crime Team’ in a rural area of Surrey. He moved here from London, back to the village where he grew up, when his marriage ended after the death of his infant daughter.  He suffers from insomnia. Jack is keeping many secrets, one of which is that he drinks to excess.

When put in charge of a murder, he immediately recognizes the victim as a woman he had slept with the night before. Hiding his relationship with the victim, he soldiers on. But then he realizes that SOMEONE is trying to frame him for the murder when he finds the victims muddied shoes in the back of his car.  Is someone trying to frame him? OR, has he forgotten what he did????

Jack’s situation is made more difficult by the fact that his second in command, Detective Sergeant Priya Patel follows his every move and seems to have developed a crush on him.

HERS – Thirty-six year old Anna Andrews is a TV news anchor for the BBC. Her work is EVERYTHING TO HER since her marriage ended after the death of her infant daughter.  When the former news presenter comes back to work and takes back her job, Anna feels adrift. She turns to alcohol to ease her troubles, like she always does… Then, there is a murder in the village in Surrey where she was raised – and she is sent to cover the breaking story.  This will be the second time in two days that she traveled to Blackdown. Anna too, harbors many secrets of her own.

THE KILLER – We don’t know who this narrator is, but get the impression that revenge is at the heart of the killings. This narrator’s part of the narrative is written in italics.


One thing is for sure… I’ll never see another handmade friendship bracelet again without thinking of this book!

Ever since reading Alice Feeney’s debut novel a few years ago, I have been an ardent fan of her writing. “His & Hers” is without a doubt, my favourite of hers so far. It is the twistiest crime thriller I’ve read in recent memory.

A fast-paced read with an atmospheric setting, this one will have you feverishly turning pages. Written from three different points of view, HIS, HERS, and the KILLERS, the reader is continuously suspecting both him and her of being the killer, then you read on and suspect someone else, then a little later… someone else, etc. etc…

While reading this novel, I at no time knew who the killer was. Though… I have to admit that at one point or other I suspected each and every main character in the book. AND.. the author managed to surprise me when the killer was finally revealed. To surprise a jaded old thriller reader like me deserves kudos. Well done Alice Feeney!

I highly recommend this crime thriller to fans who appreciate books which are full of labyrinthine twists, endless red herrings, and, at the end of the day, an ending which both surprises and makes perfect sense.

I’ve read that they are making this novel into a television crime series starring Jessica Costain.  I sure hope that it is available where I live.

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 Flatiron Books via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9781250266071  – ASIN:  B07RYGHRTS – 320 pages

Here are some of my favourite quotes from “His & Hers” and I want to share them with you:

“Patience is the answer to so many of life’s questions”

“Anxiety often screams louder than logic, and when you spend too long imagining the worst you can make it come true.”

“The only people with no regrets are liars.”

“Youth fools us into thinking there are infinite paths to choose from in life; maturity tricks us into thinking there is only one”.

“Popularity can spoil a place just like it can spoil a person.”

“People rarely see themselves the way others do; we all carry broken mirrors.”

“I think when we finally get what we think we want, it loses its value. It’s the secret nobody ever shares, because if they did, we would all stop trying.”

“Things can get a little dark when the blind lead the blind.”

“When we are young, we think we know more than we do. When we are old, we think we know less.”

Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 15 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

Alice is has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband.  She writes in her shed with her dog; a giant black Labrador who is scared of feathers.

Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was a New York Times and international bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Her second novel, I Know Who You Are, was published in 2019. His & Hers is her third novel which is soon to be made into a TV series starring Jessica Chastain.

You can connect with Alice @alicewriterland on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers, What's In A Name Reading Challenge | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

“Who’s There?” by Kerena Swan – Book Review

I’ll briefly introduce a few of the principal characters for you:

Arnold Eastwood – born with Downs Syndrome, he is trusting, vulnerable and in many ways an innocent. His favourite things to do are keeping things neat, watching Clint Eastwood films, and feeling independent. Oh, and hugs…. he loves hugs. He cannot read very well as has trouble telling the time. He loves his mother and sister very much, but wants to get out from their fussing over him. He fancies himself to be related to Clint Eastwood, and watches his films so often that he has them memorized. Arnold loves his new flat and even gets himself a job stocking shelves at the local corner store.  He is saving his money for a motorcycle clock.Lottie Eastwood – Arnold’s elder sister. She cares deeply for her learning disabled brother, but is a tad resentful of the fact that he is given a flat when what she covets most is a place of her own. Lottie has a boyfriend named Carl, who comes across as quite shady and fearful of commitment.

Saskia – a tragic young woman who lives in the flat next-door to Arnold’s. She suffers great guilt over the death of her young daughter and has turned to drugs to numb her pain. Arnold has a huge crush on her and fancies her his ‘girlfriend’.

Poker – a young man himself, he is a despicable drug dealer who grooms young teenagers and other vulnerable people to work for him. He will use any method to gain power over them to have them under his physical and emotional control. Based in London, he is trying to expand his drug empire in part by taking advantage of the weaknesses of others.

Chip – at a mere fourteen years of age, Chip is entirely under Poker’s control. With no one in the world to care for him, Poker at first treated him like family, being nice to him and buying him gifts. Now, he fears him, but can find no way to sever ties with this manipulative and criminal man.

Poker is a cuckoo.  He commandeers other people’s homes to use as a base to make and sell his drugs.  “Cuckooing” is a real thing.

Having read and enjoyed this author’s previous novel “Scared to Breathe“, I was in no doubt as to whether I would relish “Who’s There?“. I was in no way disappointed.

This was difficult to read at times because of the subject matter, yet I felt compelled to read on because the characters were so engaging and sympathetic. The tension was compounded by the fact that the protagonist was so vulnerable and innocent. This novel was unusual in that it portrayed the real ‘human’ viewpoint of some of the seedier aspects of modern society. Ordinary people getting caught up in criminal activity, through either coercion, desperation, manipulation, or all of these.

I was rooting the entire time for Arnold, who was a genuinely decent young man. Also, the characters of Chip and Saskia were ones who I came to care deeply for. The setting was well written and you could easily visualize the area. The plot had several ‘red-herrings’ which I admit I fell for…

The ending was everything I was wishing for. I’m sure that the author, in her social work career, didn’t often find such positive outcomes.

This is a crime thriller with heart. Recommended!

NOTE: This title is available via Kindle Unlimited for those who subscribe to this plan.

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 author.

ISBN: 9781707843602  – ASIN: B081D5JWXG – 382 pages

Kerena Swan trained as a Social Worker and worked for Social Services for over 25 years. For the past 14 years she has owned and managed an ‘outstanding’ rated care agency for children with disabilities. Following serious illnesses she decided to fulfill her long-held ambition of writing a book and getting it published. ‘Dying to See You’, published by Bloodhound Books, was her debut novel.
After many years of writing professionally in the course of her work, Kerena has discovered the exhilaration and deep joy of writing fiction and can be found at all hours in front of her computer. Her second novel ‘Scared to Breathe’ was released on 3rd June 2019 by Bloodhound Books.
Kerena lives with her family in a small village in Bedfordshire, England and her books are set in the surrounding areas.
Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience of the problematic world of social work and social studies, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir and crime genre. Her latest novel, “Who’s There?” is self-published.
Visit https://www.kerenaswan.com.uk and join her mailing list.

Follow Kerena Swan on Twitter.

Posted in #FFRC2020, Book Reviews, Suspense | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

“Dear Amy” by Helen Callaghan – Book Review

Margot Lewis is a school teacher by day and an ‘agony aunt’ in her free time. She answers letters with advice to those who seek it on matters of life and the heart for the local paper. On a personal note, she is in the throes of seeking a divorce from her unfaithful husband of almost three years. What she first thought would be an amicable severing of their marriage is starting to turn nasty.

When Margot receives a letter from a woman who was abducted close to two decades previously, she reports it to the police and becomes friendly with Martin Forrester, a man who studies and analyses historical criminal cases.

“The lines that define the normal and forbidden are tissue-paper thin”

It is late autumn in Cambridge, England and the nights are closing in… Schoolgirl Katie Browne in a fit of pique, packs her backpack one evening and walks out of her home after an argument with her mother and stepfather. Just at the point when Katie realizes her foolishness and decides to return home, she is abducted by a deeply troubled man.

When Margot realizes that it is possible that this woman who is writing her letters might in some way be connected to Katie Browne’s disappearance, her life will take a turn for the worse – and will bring about danger to herself…

“Things once known, can never be unknown.”

At first I thought this was just another ‘abducted girls’ thriller. The more I read, the more I realized that this one was unique in several ways. An outstanding debut novel with a few plot twists that will be appreciated by many a reader.

Written largely from the points of view of Margot Lewis and the kidnapped girl, Katie Browne, the narrative seems to increase in urgency, the more time that elapses. Plot twists, one in particular, will turn the narrative on its head. Granted, I had guessed at the twist, but then I read a lot of thrillers. This one was written with finesse though just a wee tad ‘over the top’ in a few places.

The setting was vividly described, and the reader could almost feel the discomfort and cold of the dark, dank cellar where Katie was being held.  The principal characters were ones that the reader could empathize with.

In short, this is a debut novel that I truly enjoyed and will avidly seek out some of the author’s newer books.

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
HarperCollins via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9780062433923  – 352 pages

Helen Callaghan was born in Los Angeles, California, to British parents, and her early years were spent in both the US and UK. After several early false starts as a nurse, barmaid and actor, she settled into bookselling, working as a fiction specialist and buyer for a variety of bookshops. Eventually, she studied for her A-Levels at night school and achieved a place at Cambridge University as a mature student.

Helen is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Dear Amy, Everything is Lies, and Night Falls, Still Missing.

Follow Helen Callaghan on Twitter: @hecallaghan

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Psychological thrillers, What's In A Name Reading Challenge | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Lost Children” by Theresa Talbot – Book Review

“But happiness is a fragile thing.”

Glasgow, Scotland 2000Oonagh O’Neil is small, slim, in her mid-thirties, and having an affair with a married man. An only child, she is still grieving for her father who died two years previously. She has adopted her father’s old cat despite having asthma. A successful television journalist, Oonagh O’Neil is working on a documentary exposing the abhorrent treatment that was inflicted on the infamous Magdalene girls. In the process of her investigations, she becomes friends with a young priest named Tom.  When the older priest at Tom’s church is murdered, Oonagh becomes involved in the matter, as friends do… Also, Oonagh is friends with the detective inspector tasked with the case. Her involvement will threaten her livelihood and even her very life.

DI Davies of the Strathclyde Police is investigating the suspicious death of a Catholic priest. Meanwhile, he is breaking in a new partner, DS McVeigh, and trying with little success to get used to him and his quirks.

1958Irene Connolly‘s father was a doctor. He was also the father of her baby son… To cover up his culpability, he sent his daughter Irene to the Magdalene Institution, a place where she was horribly tortured and and forever emotionally scarred.

“It’s the scars you can’t see that hurt the most.”

I’m sorry that it took me so long to get to this book. I was riveted from start to finish and I’ve already loaded the second and third book in the series on my Kindle.

The dual timelines were inextricably linked in a fashion that was believable and interesting. I was consumed by the story of the Magdalene girls and although it was difficult to read of their plight, it was a part of history that shouldn’t be forgotten. I learned that the Magdalene Institution was not only in Ireland, but in Glasgow, Scotland as well.

The series protagonist, Oonagh O’Neil, was a character that I immediately bonded with. For some reason she put me in mind of Susie Steiner’s character, Manon Bradshaw. From me, that is high praise indeed.

This well written crime novel touches on some difficult themes of domestic abuse, self-harm, journalistic ethics, and the corruption within the Catholic Church.

Highly recommended to those who enjoy well written crime fiction with a hefty dose of history thrown in for good measure. This was an impressive series debut!

You might be interested in viewing the YouTube video where the author Theresa Talbot talks a little about her research for this novel.

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
Aria via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9781788545327    ASIN: B0798S5LN1    466 pages

Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga.

Follow Theresa Talbot on Twitter: @Theresa_Talbot

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, NetGalley, Page turners, Tartan noir, What's In A Name Reading Challenge | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Fictionophile’s November 2020 #BookHaul #Bookbloggers #TBR

I’ve added ELEVEN titles to my TBR this month.

I received SEVEN of these titles from NetGalley and ONE from Edelweiss. Also, I received TWO books directly from the publishers and ONE directly from the author.

I was approved for ONE title from Edelweiss in November:

 



AND… I downloaded SEVEN titles from NetGalley in November:

I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel to last year’s “The Stranger Diaries“.


This title has been on my TBR for ages. Originally published in 2008, it is being re-released by Simon & Schuster Canada in January 2021.


Laura Elliot is a ‘new to me’ author, but this thriller sounds amazing.


Another ‘new to me’ author. I find I am drawn to literary fiction more and more + I’m a sucker for family secrets.


This sounds like such a fun read. Who couldn’t use a few laughs right now?


The blurb for this title really appeals to me…


The first installment in a new mystery series set in the Catskill Mountains. A ‘new-to-me’ author.


From the fabulous Orenda Books I received the second installment in the Blix/Ramm series. Loved “Death Deserved” and can’t wait to read this.From the amazing Head of Zeus, I received an invitation to read and review this title from a ‘new to me’ author.


I was SO delighted to receive this title which I had been coveting after reading so many wonderful reviews.  This book is NOT available on Amazon.ca, so the author took pity on me and graciously gifted me a digital copy.


How many books have you squirreled away this month?

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report | Tagged , | 17 Comments

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 | 6 Comments