Throwback Thursday – “The Stolen Child” by Lisa Carey – Book Review

The Throwback Thursday meme was created by Renee over at It’s Book Talk. She made this meme to share some of her old favorites. Although all bookbloggers have an endless TBR pile, we seldom take the time to reflect back and post about some of the great reads from a few years ago. I decided to join in because sharing book recommendations is one of my most favorite things to do!

I originally reviewed “The Stolen Child” in March of 2017.

“Steeped in Irish history and lore, The Stolen Child is a mesmerizing descent into old world beliefs, and a captivating exploration of desire, myth, motherhood, and love in all its forms.”
We’ve been told that the Irish are a superstitious lot.  This is even more true of rural Ireland of sixty years ago, when this novel is set.  A fictional island of fishers and farmers, with no running water or electricity, St. Brigid’s Island is almost as antiquated as the Celtic saint whose name it bears. A three-mile long island that houses just eight families, myriad sheep, and no trees. The islanders have suffered many loses and the graveyard is on a point of land near where the boats dock.

“The first thing you see when you row a boat to this island is all the children who have already gone.”

“living here is like being slowly drowned, held down on a rock and left for the tide to come in”

The island has a well, a holy well, said to have magical powers attributed to Brigid. The islanders hold an odd juxtaposition of beliefs.  They are Roman Catholics, but they also believe in the ‘fairies’ or little people.  They all have a St. Brigid’s cross adorning their cottage walls. When they are in need of succor they pray to the Catholic saints, then, to cover their bases, they pray to the fairies…

There are two female protagonists in “The stolen child“, a story that tells of women who are stretched to their limit both physically and emotionally – and then called upon to endure even more.

Emer uses her hands to do damage.  Leaching away other people’s happiness is the only thing she has ever been able to do.

Emer, a caustic, dour and joyless woman of twenty-three years.  Twin sister to the joyful and sunny Rose, mother to Niall whom she adores.  She has never had a friend and has always felt ‘alone’. Emer lost one of her eyes years ago to an infection brought about by myriad bee stings.  Though the islanders believe in the holy healing powers of the sacred well, the waters failed to save Emer’s eye.  Emer and her twin sister have known unimaginable hardship in their short lives. When they were just twelve years old, their mother had a stroke and they’ve been doing all the work ever since. Girls on this island were born to work and help their mothers.  Boys were born to please their mothers.  Emer lives in fear that Niall, her son and the light of her life, will be ‘stolen‘.  She fears that the fairies will seek retribution.

Emer had such low expectations and then watched,
time and again, as they were realized

Rose is the ‘good’ sister married to the hard-working Austin, the good brother.  Emer is the ‘bad’ sister married to the lesser brother, Patch, a drunkard.  Emer has never known happiness and she spreads her bitterness to whomever she meets – until she meets Brigid.

“They would never be pure,
but they were expected to attack the tarnish daily.”

peat fire with kettle

Brigid uses her hands to heal. 

Brigid, nearing her fortieth birthday, has come to the island from the American state of Maine.  The daughter of a lighthouse keeper, Brigid is no stranger to hard work and hardship herself. Her mother’s family were from this island, and now she has returned…  A widow who has suffered many miscarriages, she longs for a child of her own.  She hopes that the island’s holy well will bring about a miracle and bring her a child and the peace she has craved all her life.

Brigid befriends a stray and half starved dog whom she names Rua. She is her constant companion. “She loved that stupid creature as if it were her own child and not a dog at all”.

But Brigid has come to an island with a dying way of life, one that is soon to end, for the islanders are to be relocated to the mainland.

“the sea looks like a calm blue walkway pretending as though it never tries to trap them in rage.”

Two men in a curragh circa 1960

This is a story rich with Irish folklore about strong and resilient Irish women.  A novel which poses the question: If you want and crave something strong enough… can YOU MAKE it happen? Historical fiction liberally doused throughout with magical realism – with themes of motherhood, superstition, betrayal, suspicion, endurance, loneliness, and grief.

“When something is stolen from you, it is sometimes easier to act like you never wanted it in the first place.”

As a background tale, the novel also tells of the history of the Celtic saint Brigid, and her colony of medieval pagan nuns that once inhabited the island.  The nuns lived a harsh and brutal existence, residing in pairs in beehive-shaped stone huts called clochans. Like the protagonists of the novel, they too were women fending for themselves in dire circumstances. 

“There is a striking similarity between anticipation and dread”.

Written with beautiful language and turns of phrase, the story causes the reader to become enraptured by the women, the island, and even St. Brigid herself. The author took five years to write “The stolen child” which was inspired by Kieran Concannon’s documentary film, “Death of an island“. Highly recommended!

Lisa Carey‘s award-winning novels have been translated into a dozen languages and optioned for film.

Born in Massachusetts, Lisa Carey lived in Ireland for five years and now resides in Portland, Maine, with her husband and their son – and returns to Ireland whenever she can.

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Historical fiction, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = NEVER

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 ‘never’ in the title, but I’m featuring a selection of 30 titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love.

I think most of these titles are classified in the thriller genre, but there are a few women’s fiction and historical fiction as well.

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?

So many fabulous ones here. Which cover MOST APPEALS to YOU?
Have you read one of these titles and absolutely LOVED it?

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


Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 16 Comments

“A Coin for the Hangman” by Ralph Spurrier – Book Review

Ralph Spurrier – (yes,the author uses his own name as the bookseller in the novel), is an antiquarian bookseller who buys an entire collection of books from an estate sale. Within this collection he discovers not only the property of the deceased, Reginald Manley, who worked as a hang man, but also the diaries and books of the last man he executed, Henry Eastman.

Reginald Manley – an accountant before WWII, he attains the rank of officer during the time he spent overseas.  He was instrumental in the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp. When he returns to England, to his wife with whom he does not love, he works once again as an accountant as well as being a Chief Executioner when the need arises.

Henry Eastman – the son of a couple who run a confectionery shop in Bradford-on-Avon, he is a large boy who grows into an even larger man. His father died before the war began and he is raised by his mother, whom he adores. Because of his large size, he is ostracized by his peers and he becomes quite socially withdrawn with only his mother and his beloved books for company. Henry never really knew love in his short life.

Henry’s mother, Mavis Eastman, was also an interesting character. I enjoyed reading of how she coped during the dire years of war rationing, being a single Mum, and running her confectionery shop.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when picked up “A Coin for the Hangman“. It wouldn’t have mattered what my expectations were, it would still have surprised me. This debut novel was actually a story – within a story – within a story.

The first narrative showcases Ralph Spurrier (coincidentally the same name as the author), an antiquarian book seller who put me in mind of the Cliff Janeway series by John Dunning. Then, when the protagonist from that story-line buys an estate lot of books, he discovers that he now owns the book collection and tools of one of the last public hangmen in Britain, Reginald Manley. Within that collection are the books and diaries of the last man Reg Manley executed, Henry Eastman.

Henry’s story was my favourite of all and it is through Ralph’s interview of one of Henry’s childhood acquaintances, coupled with a mysterious old photograph, that acts as a catalyst for the entire book. Reg’s experiences during the war were also very memorable – especially his reminiscences of the British liberation of the Belsen concentration camp in April of 1945. Also during the war years, Reg was acquainted with a fellow soldier, George Tanner, who comes to play a part in Henry Eastman’s life story.

Yes, this was a murder mystery but it was so much more. It was historical fiction that bordered on the literary.  That is not to say that it didn’t have a few flaws – it was a debut novel after all. I found the culprit, when revealed, seemed to not have a very powerful motive for his crime. Also, the linkage of the three story-lines seemed rather contrived, yet while reading the inner stories, I sort of forgot about the initial one, so perhaps it was effective after all…

All, in all, this was a noteworthy novel which will remain in my memory for quite some time. Recommended to those readers who enjoy historical mysteries, and unique plots.

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 Hookline Books.
ISBN: 9780993287466 ASIN: B01CKX2YCG     268 pages

This read counts toward my #FFRC2020 reading challenge
(title contains a reference to money)



Ralph Spurrier has had a long history in the book trade – from Foyles to MacMillan to Victor Gollancz – before launching Post Mortem Books, which specialises in the sale of crime fiction. He studied creative writing at the University of Sussex. “A Coin for the Hangman” is his first novel.

Posted in #FFRC2020, Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Hookline Books, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

“The River Home” by Hannah Richell – Book Review

“What is it about homecoming that can strip a person of all that they have become?”

Eve – the eldest of the three Sorrell sisters, is married and the mother to two young girls. She is a planner, a perfectionist, dependable, and ‘the responsible one’. Though Eve feels stressed and has secrets of her own…

Lucy – the middle sister is a lovely young woman who owns her own yoga and wellness studio. Always the optimist of the family, Lucy is the gregarious sister who excelled at sports. Now, she has found the love of her life and is soon to be married.

Margot – the youngest sister, left home under a dark cloud when she was sixteen. This is her first time back at Windfalls – to attend her sister Lucy’s wedding. Eight years ago Margot suffered an extreme trauma which she hasn’t told anyone about. How she reacted to that trauma at the time has alienated her family – especially her mother. She now works as a library assistant in Edinburgh where she shares a flat.

Kit – the mother of the Sorrell sisters, is a bestselling novelist. Her career has distanced her from her daughters and has eroded her relationship with the girls’ father. Now she is fifty-three years old and lives in Windfalls by herself with only an aged cat for company. She is lonely and full or regret.

Ted – the father, once an esteemed playwright, fell into the shadow of Kit’s success. For years, suffering from writer’s block, he ran the household and was responsible for the majority of the parental duties. Feeling ignored and invisible, he left the family home and is now married to Sibella, a potter.

Windfalls – is the wonderful old stone farmhouse where the Sorrell sisters grew up. Situated on the banks of the river Avon amidst an apple orchard, the house fairly reeks of atmosphere. Near the bottom of the orchard there is an old iron gate that opens onto the towpath of the river.What happened all those years ago to make Margot leave home? Why can’t her mother forgive her? We are drip-fed the details of what happened via periodic flashback chapters.

“There is a braveness in living. There is strength in carrying on.”

This author’s “The Peacock Summer” was one of my favourite reads last year, so I was eagerly anticipating “The River Home“.  I’ve come to know that Hannah Richell writes heart-warming, sometimes heart-breaking family sagas that are rich in character and this book more than lived up to its predecessor.

Set in beautiful Somerset, the action of the novel takes place during September and the weeks surrounding the autumn equinox. The sense of place, and how people can have tenaciously strong attachments to their family home permeates the story.

The Sorrel family were easy to understand and even easier to imagine. Although the family was a little unusual and more than a little damaged, they had their own share of loves, regrets, betrayals, pain, recriminations, tensions, secrets, and worries. No family can endure and remain unscathed.

The book reminds us that life is short so we must love and live while we can. It also reminds us that we all want to be ‘seen‘ – acknowledged – made to feel important in some small way.

Highly recommended to those readers who enjoy character-rich family drama woven into a engrossing plot!

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: 9780063001602    ASIN: B07ZZ6T55D   368 pages

Hannah Richell was born in Kent and spent her childhood years in Buckinghamshire and Canada. After graduating from the University of Nottingham she worked in the book publishing and film industries.

She began to write in 2007 while pregnant with her first child. The result was Secrets of the Tides, which was picked for the 2012 Richard & Judy Book Club, the Waterstones Book Club and was shortlisted for the Australian Independent Bookseller Best Debut Fiction Award, ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year (2013) and ABIA Newcomer of the Year (2013). The novel was translated into fifteen languages.

Her second novel was The Shadow Year, her third was The Peacock Summer, and The River Home is her fourth novel.

Hannah Richell is a dual citizen of the UK and Australia, though she currently lives in the South West of England with her family.

Follow Hannah Richell on Twitter OR visit her blog.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Family sagas, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

It’s a sickness… #bookblogger #booklover #bookworm

Logged on to NetGalley to submit a review and I had 4 new approvals waiting for me and then I requested 2 new titles and I just….

So far this month I’ve already amassed eleven more review commitments. That troubles me as I usually only read 9-10 books per month. I’m treading water again…

In addition, I’ve been invited to join three blog tours… GULP!

I can feel that “It’s almost the end of the year” panic begin to build.  I have at least four reading challenges that I haven’t yet finished and there are some stellar sounding books that I want to get read in their publication year. Yikes!

Today is September 18th and I’ve only read seven books so far this month.

Have YOU ever found yourself getting more than you can read in any given month?

Posted in Book bloggers, Fictionophile report, NetGalley, ramblings & miscellanea | 38 Comments

Throwback Thursday – “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Iain Reid – Book Review

The Throwback Thursday meme was created by Renee over at It’s Book Talk. She made this meme to share some of her old favorites. Although all bookbloggers have an endless TBR pile, we seldom take the time to reflect back and post about some of the great reads from a few years ago. I decided to join in because sharing book recommendations is one of my most favorite things to do!

I originally reviewed “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” in June of 2016.

One thing’s for sure.  I’ll never hear “Hey Good Lookin’” again with having chills go down my spine…Im thinking of ending things

Iain Reid’s novel is not for everyone.  I think that you will either hate it, or, as I did, love it! Some reviewers termed it a ‘mind f**k’.  I have to agree.  It is the type of book, that to appreciate all the nuances, you have to read twice.  Even though my TBR is long, I did go back and reread many pages in order to get my head around it.  This review will be different because I can’t say much without giving too much away…

I am a retired library cataloger.  If I was still working and this book came across my desk I would have likely given it the genres ‘psychological thriller’ AND ‘horror’.  It had a feel of Stephen King crossed with Minette Walters.

The story begins with Jake and his ‘girlfriend’ traveling to his parents’ farm in order that he might introduce her to them.  The car conversation is overshadowed by the ‘girlfriend’s’ thoughts.  In fact most of the book is told from her point of view.   The girlfriend is “thinking of ending things’ with Jake, although they seem quite well suited.  She has not told him her intentions.  Another thing that she has not told him is that she has an anonymous ‘Caller’ that sends her texts messages.   Sometimes several times a night – AND they always come from her own phone number.  The messages are always the same: “There’s only one question to resolve…”

Jake is super-intelligent.  He is a scientist, a reader, an intellectual, and a philosopher who has a great sense of humor.  He met his ‘girlfriend’ at a pub’s trivia night.  They haven’t been going out for long, just over a month.  In this short time they have become close and have developed an intense attachment.snowstorm driving

The weather worsens as the day draws to a close.  Their arrival at the farm is written in such a way that it makes you uncomfortable.  Not overtly menacing, but menacing all the same…  The parents are quirky and not altogether what one would expect.

Refusing to stay the night, Jake and his ‘girlfriend’ leave the farm in the worsening storm. Weirdly, they stop at a Dairy Queen to get lemonade.  Then when they want to get rid of the cups he travels a distance out of their way to go to an empty high school he knows of to dump the lemonade cups in the trash.  He leaves the girlfriend in the car and takes the keys.  When he doesn’t return, she follows him into the school.  That’s when things get frightening and intense.School-janitor

This is an intelligent novel that expounds on loneliness and solitude (though this is done in such a way that it is almost incidental).  It is a philosophical treatise on how fine a line there is between genius and madness.  How you never really know another person.

what are you waiting for

I can understand that the cerebral quality of the narrative would not appeal to some readers.  Some just won’t ‘get it’.  I think I did ‘get it‘, but then again, another reader might think the same and will have interpreted it a different way.  As Edmund Wilson said: “No two persons ever read the same book”.   I just know I liked it.  I liked that it made me think, it made me uneasy and ultimately it made me applaud what I believe to be an outstanding debut.

F 5 star

Many thanks to Gallery/Scout Press via NetGalley for my digital copy of this novel in exchange for my unbiased review.

There is an online Reading Group Guide provided by the publisher. I think this would be an excellent choice for a bookclub.  The love it / hate it factor would be sure to stimulate some lively discussion.

Thanks to Nicki (Secret Library Book Blog) for reminding me how much I loved this book!  Check out her review of the audiobook of this novel.

Iain Reid (photo copyright Lucas Tingle)

Iain Reid
(photo copyright Lucas Tingle)

Iain Reid is the author of two critically acclaimed, award-winning books of nonfiction, One Bird’s Choice, and The Truth About Luck, which was one of The Globe and Mail’s best books of 2013. In 2015, he received the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. Reid’s work has appeared in a variety of publications throughout North America. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is his first novel and it has been made into a Netflix film.

Follow Iain Reid on Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Horror, Psychological thrillers, Suspense, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

“Invisible Girl” by Lisa Jewell – Book Review

“No one looked at me. No one saw me. When you wear a hood, you’re invisible.”

The Invisible Girl aka Saffyre Maddox – lives with her Uncle Aaron as her other family members are either dead or uninterested. Traumatized when she was only ten years old, Saffyre has dark thoughts and self harms.  She once saw a psychologist named Roan Fours for an extensive period of time but now at the age of seventeen she is trying to cope on her own. She was bereft when he discontinued her therapy and now she secretly follows him as he goes about his life. She likes being outside more than inside and sometimes spends her nights sleeping rough.

“It’s horrible when you know something that someone else doesn’t know; it makes you feel somehow responsible for their predicament.”

Cate Fours – fifty years old, is a part-time physiotherapist, Cate is married to Roan and is the mother of teenage Georgia and Josh . Her marriage has been on rocky ground for some time now because of her mistrust of her husband who has admitted to at least one affair…  Because of an extensive renovation to their home, they are currently living in rental accommodation in Hampstead.  She is very suspicious of the odd man who lives across the street…The Hampstead area has had several sexual assaults recently and Cate is afraid for her teenage daughter who often walks alone after dark.

Owen Pick – a thirty-three year old teacher of computer science, he worked at a school until recently. He was let go due to allegations of sexual misconduct. He maintains his innocence. Owen is a virgin, he is unloved, socially inept, and is very lonely. His mother is dead and his father has a new family. He lives in a room in his aunt’s Hampstead flat. A flat where he is not really welcome. Owen finds women to be a mystery… and everyone finds Owen to be a mystery. Everyone seems to find him odd, creepy and suspect.

When I open a book by Lisa Jewell I know that I’m in for a rewarding reading experience. “Invisible Girl” was an engrossing psychological thriller.

The first chapters moved a little slow for me, but by the halfway mark I literally couldn’t put the book down.

Told from three perspectives, the story came alive. My favourite character had to be Owen Pick. He was just so pitiable. Everyone judged him because he was ‘different‘ – so much so that he even came to doubt himself.   Saffyre Maddox was a memorable character as well. She had undergone so much loss in her young life.  I struggled to bond with Cate Fours who seemed to me to be rather shallow and judgemental.

A study in human nature, “Invisible Girl” showed how we are all so quick to jump to inaccurate conclusions when fear and suspicion are added to the mix. The novel was entertaining and didactic in equal measure.  It made me remember a quote that I took to heart: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  Just because people’s lives might look fine, you never know what they might be dealing with privately.

Highly recommended to all those who enjoy an expertly crafted psychological thriller. Lisa Jewell never disappoints.

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 Atria Books/Simon & Schuster via NetGalley.  ISBN: 9781982137335    ASIN: B08428V3CH   368 pages

Links to my reviews of some earlier titles by Lisa Jewell:

Watching You

Then She Was Gone

I Found You

The Girls in the Garden

“The Family Upstairs”


 Lisa Jewell was born in London in 1968.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

Lisa Jewell is now the #1 New York Times bestselling author of eighteen novels.

She lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK, on Instagram @LisaJewellUK, and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

“Rules for Moving” by Nancy Star – Book Review

When she was growing up, Lane Mexler’s family moved… OFTEN!  They always seemed to be starting over and her mother frequently spouted her ‘Rules for Moving‘:

1.) Take only what you love
2.) Moving forward means never looking back
3.) If you hold the door open for dragonflies, dragons will come in too.
4.) Tread lightly, so you don’t leave tracks
5.) If you didn’t unpack it in the old house, don’t bring it to the new one

Lane and her sister lived with their mother and father and their uncle Albie, who needed a lot of care…  Albie suffered from mental health issues but the girls didn’t understand that at the time.

Now Lane is an adult herself. She is the newly widowed parent of six-year old Henry. Although she doles out advice for a living, showing just how wise she can be… her own life has always seemed to be on the precipice of disaster. This time though, she has Henry, and she comes to realize that for him she must face her past, her own dysfunctional upbringing, and her own flaws and insecurities. Lane is not coping too well at being a single parent, and she doesn’t have much of a support system to help her along. Although she has the best of intentions and is compassionate, others often think she is rude because she keeps to herself.

“Other people’s families always looked so happy, Lane thought, from a distance.”

Henry loves his Mum and Dad. When his Dad dies, he internalizes his grief by refusing to speak. He does talk to his Mum though – only when no one else is around. Henry is a very empathic little boy who is, in many ways, wise beyond his years.  Oh… and Henry loves to draw!

Nathan is Lane’s landlord in both New Jersey and Martha’s Vineyard. He was a welcome addition to the story as he was fond of Lane and Henry despite their quirkiness.

“You want to know who a person really is, watch how they treat someone who’s different.”

This is my first time reading this author’s work and what a pleasant experience it was! The characters leaped off the page and entered my heart. Henry was adorable and I enjoyed the way that the author portrayed him – and his thoughts.

The writing reminded my ever so slightly of the work of Fredrik Backman who is one of my favourite authors.

We follow Lane and Henry from an apartment in New York, to a old house in New Jersey, to a seaside house on Martha’s Vineyard.

This is a beautifully written novel about parenting, responsibility, regrets, priorities, kindness, and how it feels to be an ‘outsider’. The narrative expounds on the intrinsic value of listening and being patient with others.

Recommended highly to all those parents who feel insecure in their ability to parent, parents who suffer from parental guilt, anyone who is a parent or grandparent, adult children of parents… have I left anyone out?

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
Lake Union Publishing
via NetGalley.

Publication date: May 19, 2020

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

ISBN: 9781542006378    ASIN:  B07WD49ZG6    412 pages

Nancy Star is the bestselling author of six novels which have been translated into many languages, optioned for television, and chosen as Literary Guild and Mystery Guild Signature Series selections. In addition to her novels, Star’s essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Family Circle, among other publications. Before turning to writing fiction full-time, Star worked for over a decade as an executive in the movie business. She now lives with her husband in New Jersey. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter  and Instagram.

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Throwback Thursday – “Entry Island” by Peter May Book Review

The Throwback Thursday meme was created by Renee over at It’s Book Talk. She made this meme to share some of her old favorites. Although all bookbloggers have an endless TBR pile, we seldom take the time to reflect back and post about some of the great reads from a few years ago. I decided to join in because sharing book recommendations is one of my most favorite things to do!

I originally reviewed “Entry Island” in June of 2017.

Part present day crime novel, and part historical novel Entry Island is set alternately in the present day on the Magdalen islands, and hundreds of years ago in the Hebrides. Peter May has written a memorable novel that will resonate for many years to come. He writes with visceral empathy of island people and their often insular way of living.

The Magdalen Islands are a part of the province of Quebec, though they are closer to the provinces of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. They are actually quite near me (as the bird flies). I am writing this post from my cottage (heart symbol on map)

There has been a brutal murder on Entry Island.  Sime MacKenzie (pronounced Sheem) has been appended to the investigative team and travels to the island.  One of the team members, the forensic expert, is his ex-wife Marie-Ange, so there is more than a little personal tension present.  The break-up of his marriage has taken a harsh toll on Sime and he now suffers from debilitating insomnia as a result.

“He felt almost ghost-like, insubstantial,
lost somewhere in a life gone wrong.”

James Cowell, one of the islands most wealthy residents has been stabbed to death in his home.  His wife is the main suspect. When Sime first meets Kirsty Cowell he immediately feels a connection with her even though he has never met her before… then, through the course of the interview, she tells Sime that she has a pendant that is identical to the signet ring he is wearing. A ring that was passed on to him from his father.

“The blood is strong” 

Strangely, after meeting Kirsty, Sime begins to have vivid dreams of his ancestral heritage in the Hebrides, Scotland. Although he only sleeps one or two hours per night, his dreams are portrayals of the diaries which his grandmother read to him as a child.  They portrayed a devastating time in which the Highland clearances robbed the crofters of their livelihood and everything they possessed.  The brutality and unceasing hardship of life during this time was poignantly described by the author. Interestingly, the protagonist of these dreams/stories was also named Sime (Gaelic for Simon) and was his great-great-great grandfather.

Entry Island is home to just over one hundred persons and is just two kilometres wide and three kilometres long.  With such a small population, where everyone knows everyone else, it is not deemed necessary to lock doors. Evidence is scarce, but what there is of it points toward Kirsty Cowell as the murderer. Sime finds himself wanting to believe her protestations of innocence.

Then a local man goes missing.  Norman Morrison is 35 years old, yet has the mental age of about 12 years.  He lives with his mother on Entry Island and went to school with Kirsty Cowell.  Ever since then he has been a bit obsessed with Kirsty.  Could the missing man have some connection with Cowell’s murder?

“The air was filled with the sound of the ocean,
the slow steady breath of eternity.”

Sime’s continuing dreams about his ancestors color how he views Kirsty and he finds that he has lost all objectivity. He fears that his feelings about her will jeopardize his career. Then while guarding the suspect overnight on Entry Island, Sime goes out for a walk and is attacked. His attacker is much as Kirsty described her husband’s murderer…

Cowell’s main competitor on the island also has a twofold motive for the murder. With Cowell gone he would benefit financially AND his wife was having an affair with Cowell.

Beautiful prose, a strong sense of place, and human empathy colour this novel. It is a perfect blend of modern crime thriller, historical fiction, and gothic love story. It is a story of fate, how our ancestors influence our present, and the continuity of family.  A novel of avarice, unimaginable hardship, promises kept, and finally, destiny.

 “Entry Island” is an outstanding novel that I highly recommend.

Listen and watch a video clip in which Peter May talks about Entry Island.

Read Peter May’s blog post about Entry Island – behind the scenes.

I also enjoyed Peter May’s “The Blackhouse”.  Click HERE to read my review.

from Quercus:

Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BBC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane 15 years that followed, became one of Scotland’s most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time TV drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels.

He has won several literature awards in France and received the USA’s Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy.

He now lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally.

Follow author Peter May on Twitter or visit his website.

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Mystery fiction, Page turners, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

WWW Wednesday – September 9, 2020 #readingforpleasure #bookbloggers #WWWWednesday

As I’m continuing to have internet issues here at the cottage, I thought I’d participate in WWW Wednesday again.

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

Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!


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


What am I currently reading?Rules for Movingby (new to me) author Nancy Star. This is a title published by Lake Union Publishing that I downloaded from NetGalley. (enjoying it so far…)

What have I finished reading?Grave’s Endby one of my favourite authors – William Shaw. This was the latest installment in the DS Alexandra Cupidi police procedural series set in Kent, England. It is published by riverrun an imprint of Quercus Books.

What will I read next? The River Home” by Hannah Richell is published by Harper and I downloaded it from Edelweiss.  I’ve read this author’s work before and expect a lovely read.

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

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report, Reading, WWW Wednesdays | Tagged | 6 Comments

“Grave’s End” by William Shaw – Book Review

Alex Cupidi lives in the atmospheric locale of Dungeness in Kent. She works for the Kent Serious Crime Directorate.

A single mother of a seventeen year old daughter, Zoë, Alex faces challenges in both her work and her home life. At work, she is constantly battling to do justice to her many cases while the police are serious short-staffed. She still feels as though she is an ‘outsider’, having transferred to Kent after a personal, very awkward relationship in London.

Whilst her daughter continues to be obsessed with wildlife preservation, and is emotionally distant, Alex continues to find some reprieve from her work stresses via her friendship with co-worker Jill Ferriter, and her neighbour William South, a former policeman whom she had arrested in a previous book.

This time out Alex is tasked with finding the identity of a body that was found in the freezer of a vacant home. Clearly the victim was murdered yet Alex has few leads as to might have murdered him.

During her investigations, Alex Cupidi encounters property developers, corrupt politicians, boarding school bullies, eco-warriors, and yes… badgers.

The case will become extremely personal for Alex when her daughter becomes involved and Alex’s own life is put in jeopardy.

The characters in William Shaw’s novels are always interesting and so fully developed that the reader comes to really care about them. They are flawed and only too human. I particularly enjoy crime fiction that delves into the personal lives of the crime fighters giving the reader a rounded view.

Another way that Shaw excels is in his plotting. Though his stories are usually quite intricate, he keeps them interesting and distinctive. This time he gives over a portion of his story to a badger sett, quite a memorable and truly unique experiment that worked surprisingly well.

The sense of place makes the reader immersed in the narrative as it is so well described. You can almost smell the marsh air… and the earthy musk of the badger’s sett.

Though advertised as the third in the Alexandra Cupidi crime series, for me this is number four. After reading “The Birdwatcher“, “Salt Lane“and “Deadland“,  this is fast becoming one of my favourite police procedural series. Highly recommended!

As I was unable to procure an ARC of this novel via NetGalley or Edelweiss, and unable to purchase a Kindle copy of “Grave’s End” in Kindle format (I live in Canada) – I have to sincerely thank the author for providing me with a digital copy in order that I might pursue this excellent series. It is published by Riverrun, an imprint of Quercus.

ISBN (hc): 9781529401806    ISBN (pbk.): 9781529401769    Length: 480 pages

from the author’s Goodreads bio:

William Shaw photo ©Ellen Shaw

William Shaw is the author of the Breen & Tozer series set in London in 1968-9 and has a new book in the series called “Sympathy for the Devil” which is soon to be published.
In 2016, he published a standalone called “The Birdwatcher” .
The non-fiction books he wrote include Westsiders , an account of several young would-be rappers struggling to establish themselves against a backdrop of poverty and violence in South Central Los Angeles, Superhero For Hire , a compilation and of the Small Ads columns he wrote for the Observer Magazine, and Spying In Guru Land , in which he joined several British religious cults to write about them.
William Shaw lives in Brighton, Sussex and plays music with Brighton Ceilidh Collective.

Follow William Shaw on Twitter.


Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

“The Second Home” by Christina Clancy – Book Review

Ann Gordon – the eldest of the three Gordon children, is seventeen the year that everything changed for her family. This is the year that the family introduces their newest member to the family’s second home, an old saltbox style summer home on Outer Cape Cod near Wellfleet.

The family, who live in the Midwest, have been coming East for generations, and it has become a much treasured part of their life. This year however, Ann begins a babysitting job for a wealthy family. This job will have repercussions that last many years into the future…

Poppy Gordon – the youngest of the Gordon children, is only fifteen that disastrous summer. Feeling left out, with her sister off babysitting, and her adopted brother Michael busy, she befriends a girl on the beach who introduces her to the joy of surfing. Poppy becomes obsessed with the sport and makes it her life’s main interest, traveling around the world looking out for the best surf. Her new friends introduce her to drugs, drink, and unpredictability – a lifestyle she embraces.

Michael – the newest member of the Gordon family is insecure of his place in the family’s dynamic.  He has had a very dysfunctional upbringing and has recently nursed his own mother until her death. Now he cannot believe his luck that this wonderful family would want him to be a part of their clan. Also, he feels very attracted to Ann Gordon – and it is not a completely ‘brotherly‘ attraction.

Now, fifteen years have passed since that fateful summer. The siblings have become estranged and the parents have both died in a traffic accident.

Ann and her teenage son Noah, have returned to Cape Cod to sell the old house. She has been in touch with Poppy who goes along with her plan. Michael learns of the imminent sale and protests. He has always loved the old house and wants to buy out his adopted sisters. Ann has not been able to find the Gordon parents’ will so legally the whole issue is murky to say the least.

Hireath is the word that sprang to mind when reading this novel. The feeling of longing and nostalgia for the places of your past. All three protagonists feel it to some extent.

This debut novel was skillfully written and though I didn’t always agree with the characters they all became important to me and I felt invested in the outcome of their lives. Told via three narrators, giving the perspectives of all three Gordon siblings, the story gave a well-rounded view of how each of them felt.

The setting was for me quite idyllic. I have a personal strong affinity for settings near the ocean, so found the Cape Cod setting sublime.

The title was extremely apt as the old Wellfleet, Cape Cod house was the Gordon’s ‘second home’ AND it was Michael’s second chance at a family so was his second home as well. Of the three siblings, my personal favorite was Michael.

The story delved into many themes. Family secrets, miscommunication, betrayal, familial love, place attachment, emotional manipulation, loneliness, and heartbreak.  The ending of the book was a very satisfying conclusion to the family drama.

I loved my time spent on Cape Cod with the Gordon clan and I expect I’ll remember it for quite some time. It was a tale of complex family dynamics and strong and unique characters. I found “The Second Home” to be a very enjoyable read and can confidently recommend it to others.

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 St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley.

Publication date: June 2, 2020

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 9781250239341    ASIN:  B07XBBXJWS    352 pages

If you are reading “The Second Home” for a bookclub, there is a Discussion Guide that is provided in .pdf formatChristina Clancy lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband John. She has two grown kids, Olivia and Tim. When not writing she is a certified spin instructor, and she serves on the board of Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

In 2011, she received her PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She previously taught creative writing at Beloit College.

The Second Home” is her debut novel and her second novel, “Shoulder Season” is due to be published in 2021.

Follow Christina Clancy on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Family sagas, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

“My Kind of People” by Lisa Duffy – Book Review

Leo – a talented architect, has lived on Ichabod Island his entire life. He has become used to being one of very few black people on the island and the fact that he is gay further influences his distinction from his fellow islanders. When he married Xavier a year ago, they had agreed that theirs would be a childless marriage. Now, with the death of his best friends, Leo finds himself the guardian of their adopted daughter Sky, just ten years old.

Xavier – thrown by the recent turn of events is bitter about Leo’s new role. He never wanted children and cannot see how their life and their marriage will succeed now. Also, Xavier is a city boy who dislikes Ichabod Island and all it entails.

Maggie – in her fifties, and the wife of the island’s police chief, Maggie realizes that her marriage of twenty-seven years is disintegrating. Her love for young Sky keeps her going on days when her loneliness threatens to consume her.

Agnes – Maggie’s lifelong best friend is fighting cancer. Despite that, she comes across as a less than likeable character who is manipulative and meddling. These traits conjure a rift in Maggie and Agnes’ friendship.

Joe – a builder, is a widower neighbour, and one of my favourite characters. He was the type of man I’d like to have as a neighbour – caring, ethical, and kind.

Sky – ten years old, grieving and fearless. She finds it a huge adjustment when Leo moves into her family home to care for her. His husband doesn’t seem to like her, and when he comes to the island on the weekends, Sky runs away and sleeps in her tree-house. Sky has many friends on the island – her best friend Frankie, her neighbours Maggie and Joe being her favourites.

Mystery Woman – terminally ill, she has returned to the island to die. When Sky and her friend Frankie leave partially finished watercolor pictures on an easel near a cliff, the mystery woman finishes them – much to the consternation of the girls.

Ichabod Island as described by the author: “Some say it sits in the shadow of the Vineyard like a disobedient child, wild and untamed, fog rolling over the land like a tantrum in wait.”

After reading Lisa Duffy’s debut novel,, “The Salt House” back in August of 2018, I knew that I’d like to read more of her writing. Though I missed her second novel, I can assure you that this, her third, was a very satisfying and enjoyable read.

For some reason I’m always attracted to books with an island setting. This one, a tiny island off the Atlantic coast of Massachusetts, made an ideal backdrop for the story.

Strong in characterization, the writing made me want to really know the characters in real life – so immersive was the story. The characters were “My Kind of People“.

I guessed very early on the secret of Sky’s birth parentage, but that in no way diminished my reading pleasure.

A book of friendship, parenting, community, and family, this novel will appeal to many. Highly recommended!This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Atria Books via NetGalley.

Publication date: May 12, 2020

Publisher: Atria Books

ISBN: 9781982137151    ASIN:  B07Z44KP4K    332 pages

Lisa Duffy received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her writing can be found in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. She is the founding editor of ROAR, a literary journal supporting women in the arts. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children and currently leads a fiction workshop through 24PearlStreet, the online component of The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Lisa is the author of three stand-alone novels: The Salt House, This is Home, and My Kind of People.Visit Lisa Duffy’s website and/or Follow her on Twitter.

Posted in 20 Books of Summer, Book Reviews, Literary fiction, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Throwback Thursday – “The Possible World” by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz


The Throwback Thursday meme was created by Renee over at It’s Book Talk. She made this meme to share some of her old favorites. Although all bookbloggers have an endless TBR pile, we seldom take the time to reflect back and post about some of the great reads from a few years ago. I decided to join in because sharing book recommendations is one of my most favorite things to do!

I originally reviewed “The Possible World” in June of 2018.

“An astonishing, deeply moving novel about the converging lives of a young boy who witnesses a brutal crime, the doctor who tends to him, and a woman guarding her long-buried past.”Heart-breaking, heart-warming, and compelling literary fiction. This book is a must read!


The characters in this novel were unforgettable and I miss them already.

First we meet Ben. He is a trepidatious boy who is small for his age. While attending a birthday party for one of his friends, Ben’s world will come crashing down as he experiences a horrific trauma.

“We’re all of us obsessed with our own story.
Especially those of us near the end of it.”

Next we meet Clare. A resident of a nursing home, Clare is nearing her one hundredth birthday. Astoundingly, her mind is sharp as a tack. Sadly, she is quite alone in the world and never has any visitors.  We come to know Clare better as she relates her ‘story’ to Gloria, another nursing home resident, which she tapes.  Her long life is fascinating.  She was the Catholic daughter of a bookshop owner in Providence. When the Great Depression hit her family suffered many financial setbacks along with the rest of the country. She worked in a weaving mill where she eventually met her husband. Yes, although her adult years were mostly solitary, she was once married, and the mother to a baby son.  This all ended during the hurricane which struck Providence, Rhode Island in 1938.

After experiencing devastating loss, she begins her life again as Clare.  Self-sufficient and hard-working, she lives in the stone caretaker’s cottage situated on a hill bordering on a cemetery.  Next door is a sort of ‘reform school’ for boys which is run by monks. She works endlessly tending the graves, working her garden, and preserving for the coming winter.

Clare makes the acquaintance of one of the boys from the school. She arranges with the monks that he come to her every afternoon to help with her arduous work.  He is a scrawny and unloved boy of eleven. His name is Leo. The woman and the boy will come to love each other.


“You have to love medicine – it won’t love you back.”

Then we meet Dr. Lucy Cole. An ER physician working in the last year of her residency, she is devoted to her career. She has seen it all, and still strives to do her very best for her patients.  Her marriage has recently ended. Her husband Joe, unable to cope with her demanding hours cannot find the will to continue their relationship.  Although Lucy loves him dearly, she has not yet mastered the illusive work/life balance.

Lucy meets Ben in the ER when he is brought in after the horrific crime he has witnessed. Though he is covered in blood, she discerns that he is not physically injured – yet he seems to have no memory of his former life, or of his mother who worked at the hospital.  He says his name is Leo – and his memories of Leo’s life do not correspond with those of Ben. Child  psycholigists believe that five-year old Ben has disassociative disorder because he claims to be an eleven-year old boy named Leo.

“If nobody knows your name after you die, is it like you never were born at all?”

“It’s our secrets that make each of us different from everyone else.
Our secrets, and what we choose to love.”

“We have things for a while, and then they’re gone,
and we’re lucky to have had them at all.”

As the characters’ stories converge, your heart will be broken – and then made whole.

The medical scenes in the novel are written realistically and with compassion as befitting an expert in the field.

The eloquence of the writing throughout the novel ensures that I will follow this author’s work avidly.

This novel is at once compelling historical fiction, a testament to love, a treatise on belief and doubt, a story of loneliness and loss, and a foray into reincarnation. Powerful, amazing, literary fiction. Highly recommended.  All the STARS!

I received a digital copy of this amazing novel from Scribner via Edelweiss. All I can say to them is Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you…Liese O’Halloran Schwarz grew up in Washington, DC after an early childhood overseas. She attended Harvard University and then medical school at University of Virginia. While in medical school, she won the Henfield/Transatlantic Review Prize and also published her first novel, Near Canaan.

She specialized in emergency medicine and like most doctors, she can thoroughly ruin dinner parties with tales of medical believe-it-or-not. But she won’t do that, because she knows how hard you worked to make a nice meal.

The Possible World, coming from Scribner (US) and Hutchinson (Random House UK/Cornerstone) in June 2018, is her second novel.

She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is at work on the next book.



Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , | 7 Comments

“The Memories We Bury” by H.A. Leuschel – Book Review

Lizzie Thomson – in her mid-twenties, Lizzie is a music teacher who is also a talented pianist. She was raised by a cold and domineering mother and a father who resided uncomfortably under his wife’s thumb. The only source of love and support in her life came from her grandfather who passed away when Lizzie was just eleven years old. Now Lizzie finds herself a new mother herself. She is tired, vulnerable, and insecure. Her husband Markus gives her little support, so she welcomes the attentions of Morag, her neighbour. Markus Thomson – handsome, charming, and self-involved, Markus comes across as unlikable. Pompous, sexist, critical, and self-centered, he distances himself from his wife and child by deeming parenting ‘mother’s work‘.

Morag – a retired nurse, and a widow with two adult children. Both her children show no signs or desire to make her a grandmother, so when her young neighbour, Lizzie, falls pregnant, she insinuates herself into the woman’s life and fancies herself as a ‘surrogate grandmother’ to Lizzie’s baby, Jamie. Morag, though at first comes across as sympathetic and helpful, soon reveals herself to be a very controlling and manipulative woman. She could be the reason for the old idiom: “Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.

“Trust is a fragile bird perched on a branch that is so dry it will break at the first unexpected breeze.”
I read the novella “My Sweet Friend” by this author in late 2017 and since then I’ve been eager to get a chance to read more of her writing. In addition, the effective and attractive cover design was eye-catching and made me want to read “The Memories We Bury“.

With skillful prose and a deep understanding of human nature, Leuschel has written a novel that explores the fine line between caring, insecurity, manipulation, and being supportive.

Though on the surface, this should have been a straight-forward read, I found that there was an underlying feel of unease and disquiet that remained with me throughout the entirety of the book.

The novel serves to remind us that “The Memories We Bury” are often those memories which shed us in a less than flattering light. That feelings of inadequacy make us vulnerable to those who are more wily and manipulative.

Strong and empathetic characterization was the novel’s strong point. Told from the point of view of the two main female characters, the reader questions whose side they should be on… who’s telling the real truth?

Just how much do our childhood experiences influence the way our lives turn out?

Highly recommended to those readers who enjoy a psychological novel, strong in characterization, which delivers a message via a tense and ofttimes disturbing read. Though the pace of the book was rather slow, it was conversely also a page turner – cumulating in a final page that is memorable and shocking in equal measure.

Read this book!

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 in order that I might participate in this Damppebbles Blog Tour run by Emma Welton.

Publication date: April 17, 2020

Publisher: EKT Selection Ltd

ISBN: 9798655903425    ASIN: B084SN5KV7    314 pages

Check out some of the other stops on the tour to read of other reader’s perspectives on this novel:

Helene A. Leuschel

Helene Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh.
She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

Follow H.A. Leuschel on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Damppebbles Blog Tours, Literary fiction, Psychological thrillers, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | 10 Comments