Introducing…. “Who’s there?” by Kerena Swan #CoverReveal and #AuthorInterview

A while back I read and reviewed Kerena Swan’s “Scared to Breathe” and really enjoyed it.

So, I was excited to learn that she has a new book out – a novel which she believes is her best work to date.

So now… without further ado….


“Who’s There?”

Arnold Eastwood is thrilled when social services allocate him a flat all of his own. Independence hasn’t come easily to a young man with Downs Syndrome but now he has the chance to live free from his mum’s nagging, find a girlfriend, watch endless movies and make new friends.

Meanwhile a London drug gang is setting up a supply line in Arnold’s town. They’re looking for someone to deliver drugs for them and somewhere to set up a base of operations.

Soon Arnold and his flat are in the drug gang’s sights. Drawn into the dark underworld of crack cocaine and modern slavery, Arnold soon discovers that friends can in fact be deadly enemies.

The question is: can he break free?

Kerena has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about her new book AND has shared some of her favourite reads over the past few years.

Q – What inspired you to write this particular book?

Kerena – I‘ve had the privilege of working with children and adults with disabilities for the past thirty-seven years and have found it rewarding and meaningful. Whilst most of this time was with Social Services, I’ve spent the last fifteen years as owner and manager of an ‘outstanding’ rated care agency for children. As part of my ongoing professional development I attended a course funded by the local council and police and presented by ‘Safer London’. This alerted me to the exploitation of vulnerable adults by city drug gangs setting up in smaller towns. I decided to raise awareness of this social issue and the dangers for young people by bringing information to readers in an interesting and accessible format.

Q – Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route this time around?

Kerena – I submitted Who’s There? to a few publishers and agents but it seems the story is just a bit too different to fit into their categories and standard lists. I wrote the book two years ago and believe it showcases my best writing. It was a challenge to get inside the head of a man with Down’s syndrome but using my lifetime career experience I worked hard to create a realistic character deserving of respect. I love to explore the many facets of people’s personalities and give the reader the opportunity to understand motives for behaviour, good and bad.

I’ve used the royalty money I received from my two earlier novels, Dying to See You and Scared to Breathe, to give Arnold, Chip and Saskia a chance to have their voices heard. If a handful of readers look at people with disabilities or drug users and runners with a little more empathy and understanding then I will have achieved my goal.

Q – Who did you get to edit your book since you have no publisher or affiliated editor this time?

Kerena – When I first begin writing fiction I signed up to the Writing magazine’s Novel Writing course in the hope of ticking off ‘writing a book and getting it published’ on my bucket list. Having just survived major cancer surgery I was even more determined than usual. My tutor was Lesley Eames. She guided me through the frustration and exhilaration of learning the craft and once I finished my novel I commissioned her to edit it for me. Lesley has now edited four books of mine. She’s tough but fair and brings out the best in me.

Q – What made you decide to write a protagonist that has Down’s syndrome? 

Kerena – I’ve met many people with Down’s syndrome in my career and love their feisty characters, stubbornness, sense of humour and love of life. I decided that a man with Down’s would have the right qualities to stand up to a drug gang. Arnold may seem vulnerable to people who don’t know him but he has an inner strength.

Q – Do you have any personal acquaintance with a Down’s syndrome adult?

Kerena – Many years ago I managed a residential home for 25 adults with learning disabilities. Arnold is a fusion of the people I cared for. The dedication at the front of Who’s There? is for Bobby Lord, a man with Down’s who was a joy to spend time with. He donned his chef’s hat and apron when we cooked barbeques, his painter’s overalls when we decorated rooms and involved himself in activities with enthusiasm and generosity. Sadly, Bobby panicked when on a bus and, realising he didn’t have enough money when he saw the conductor coming, jumped off the bus and into an oncoming car. His life support was switched off and his organs donated to live on. Bobby is still vivid in my memory and I feel affection for my character Arnold as a result.

Oh Wow… I was unprepared for that heart-breaking reply.

Q – Who designed the fabulous cover for “Who’s There“?

Kerena – I’ve been working closely with Tim Flanagan from Novel Design Studios. I described the cover I wanted and within an hour or two it arrived in my inbox exactly as I had envisioned. Tim has also designed the covers for my giveaway short stories – Finders Keepers and Scammed – that are available for free download on my website He designed my website, set up a mailing list and has helped me create a marketing strategy. He’s an absolute find!

Q – Can you recommend some favourite books that you’ve read over the past few years?

Kerena – Some of the books I have loved are:

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Night Rainbow by Claire King

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

After the Fall by Charity Norman

Hold My Hand by Serena Mackesy (Alex Marwood)

The Not So Perfect Mother by Kerry Fisher

The Regret by Dan Malakin

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

And many, many more…

Q – Who is your favourite novelist working today?

Kerena – This is a tie between Robert McCammon for his Matthew Corbett series and Michael Robotham for his Joe O’Loughlin series. These are the authors that inspire me. I’d love to write as well as them.

Q – Who do you think is the most underrated novelist writing today?

Kerena – I’m surprised more people haven’t heard of Michael Robotham. His characters leap off the page and sit on the sofa with you. Sean Barratt narrates his audiobooks and brings them to life. My dream is to have Sean read Who’s There? too.

Who’s There?” will be available for purchase in Canada on December 13, 2019

You can pre-order here

Or, buy from

Or, purchase from


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. She has recently completed her second novel ‘Scared to Breathe’ which is being 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.
If you would like to hear more about new releases, read Kerena’s blogs and download a free short-story – the prequel to Dying to See You – then visit and join her mailing list.

Follow Kerena Swan on Twitter.

Posted in Anticipated titles, author interviews, cover reveals | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“The Family Upstairs” by Lisa Jewell – Book Review @AtriaBooks

A wealthy young family own a mansion in a desirable Chelsea neighbourhood. As their affluence wains, they eventually invite another family in – supposedly as a temporary measure. The patriarch of this family has other plans however. This family upstairs will eventually become toxic to all involved.

“I was nearly eleven when they came, and my sister was nine. They lived with us for more than five years and they turned everything very, very dark.”

Both families have two children, a boy and a girl each. The younger girls, Lucy and Clemency, become fast friends. The elder boys, Phinn and Henry, however do not. Although, it has to be said that one of the boys is absolutely obsessed with the other. More than a natural teenage obsession – as we come to find out.


“And when I was sixteen, and my sister was fourteen, the baby came.”

Adopted as a baby, Libby has just turned twenty-five when she gets a letter from a solicitor. It seems that she – a girl who sells custom kitchens – has inherited a multi-million pound mansion in Chelsea which has been vacant for over twenty-four years.

She learns that this is where her birth-parents lived – and, this is where she was found. While three adults lie dead on the kitchen floor downstairs, she was a happy, healthy baby who was found in her crib upstairs with only a rabbit’s foot as company.

She does some investigation and finds an old newspaper article titled: “The Mysterious Case of Serenity Lamb and the Rabbit’s Foot“.  It would seem that she, Libby Jones, is actually Serenity Lamb.

Libby contacts an investigative journalist who helps her unravel more of the mystery of her early life.

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

The first chapters of the book were a tad confusing as there were a lot of different characters introduced – some of them going by more than one name. Once I got the characters straight in my head it was pure enjoyment from then on.

The events that took place in that Chelsea mansion were disturbing and unforgettable. All the more memorable because it was so plausible. You hear about such happenings in the news.

Told via dual timelines, and from three perspectives, the story came alive. Libby, Lucy, and Henry each add a viewpoint that fully rounds out the narrative. Lucy’s story was particularly poignant.

The characters were well drawn and some of them were quite chilling. There was a pervading sense of menace emanating from the David Thomsen character.  The descriptions of the house, and what went on there, were vivid so as to make the reader transported to the scene.

And the ending, well it was very satisfying, though as with many thrillers, I found myself with goosebumps after the final line…

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: 9781501190100     352 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


 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.

She has since written a further ten novels, as is currently at work on her twelfth.

She now 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.

Follow Lisa Jewell on Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

“The Slaughter Man” by Cassandra Parkin – Book Review

Seventeen-year-old Willow Tomms has just lost her identical twin sister. Her world is irrevocably changed. Not only were they womb mates, they had shared everything in their lives – including their face.

“They belong together, and their sudden cleaving into separateness has made a wrong place in her soul that will never, ever heal.”

Now, the trauma of losing her sister has rendered Willow mute. Her voice is lost along with her sister Laurel. She suffers from debilitating social anxiety. She is loathe to look into mirrors because the face that stares back at her is that of her sister. Sometimes she is unsure who she is. Which is the live sister and which is the dead? Willow thinks she wants to die – to join her sister.

Willow has troublesome and frightening nightmares in which she see’s Laurel, sometimes at Laurel’s funeral. Except in her dreams the people all have bird heads…

Her parents are finding it horrendously difficult as well. Every time they gaze at Willow they are reminded of the daughter they so recently lost…

They hatch a plan to send Willow off to live for a short while at Willow’s Uncle Joe’s house. Hopefully there Willow can heal and Joe will have some company.

Though supportive, loving, and kind, Joe has deep seated troubles of his own – though he is secretive about this to Willow so as not to upset her further…

how I pictured Joe’s house to look

Willow meets the woman farmer next door who has a teenage foster son named Luca. Luca, who is around Willow’s age, is in trouble with the law. They strike up a strange friendship.

Also… Willow wanders at night barefoot through the nearby forest. It is here that she encounters the scary man who lives alone there.

They call him “The Slaughter Man“.


“They tried to tell us we were different people, but we both knew better. We’re the same. We have one heart between us. And that’s why we’re both broken.”

My first acquaintance with the writing of Cassandra Parkin came about when I read her novel “Underwater Breathing“. The second work of hers I read was “The Winter’s Child“. I was so impressed by both of those that I’ve come to realize that I will endeavor to read everything she has written – as time permits.

The cover of “The Slaughter Man” might lead a prospective reader to think that they were about to read a horror novel or a thriller. They would be incorrect. Although Cassandra Parkin’s books have elements of other genres, they are all well-rendered literary fiction. “The Slaughter Man” is no exception.

This is a novel about the many facets of grief. Sounds like a downer you say?  No, that was not the case here. Though I’m a crier, this novel did not make me weep. On reflection, I believe it was because the entire story had a subtle underlying feel of hopefulness.

The surreal nature of Willow’s dreams added much to the overall narrative. Also, the setting was rich in detail and easily imagined.

Memorable due to its fully fleshed-out characters, “The Slaughter Man” tells us what all good literary fiction tells us. It speaks to the human condition and how we are all an amalgam of emotions – despair vying with hope on a daily basis. This novel reaffirms the advice that we all must attempt to find as much joy as we can.

Highly recommended!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Legend Press via NetGalley.  This unbiased review is my way of saying thanks.

Cassandra Parkin has a Masters degree in English Literature from York University, and has been writing fiction all her life – mostly as Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family. She grew up in Hull, is married with two children, and lives in a small but perfectly-formed village in East Yorkshire. Her first book “New World Fairy Tales” won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. “The Summer We All Ran Away” was Cassandra’s debut novel published by Legend Press and nominated for the Amazon Rising Stars 2014. Her next three novels were also published by Legend Press, including “The Winter’s Child” and her fifth novel “Underwater Breathing” was published in May 2018.  Follow Cassandra on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = NUMBER

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 ‘NUMBER’ in the title, but I’m featuring a small selection of titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love.

You’ll note that many of the numbers in these titles are addresses. As readers, aren’t we all just a tiny bit voyeuristic? Don’t we want to know what goes on in other people’s lives? Is it just me?

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from Goodreads.
You might just find your next favorite book!

(I’m starting this list off with one of my favourite thrillers read this year!)

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 | 8 Comments

“Retriever of Souls” by Lorraine Mace – Book Review

Published by Accent Press    ISBN: 9781786156792    294 pages

The killer in this novel gets sexual satisfaction from mortally harming prostitutes. A real ‘sicko’, his extremely unhealthy relationship with his mother has marred his life forevermore. He believes that in order to save the souls of certain women (prostitutes), he must kill them so as to return their souls to God. Then wracked with guilt he flagellates himself with a scourge until he passes out.

As he kills more and more women, it is the task of DCI Paolo Sterling and his team to find him and lock him away from society.

Paolo Sterling went to a Catholic school called St. Swithins’.  Many of his former schoolmates feature among his potential suspects in this gruesome case.

D.C.I. Paola Sterling – Catholic, estranged from his wife Lydia who he still loves, still mourning the death of his daughter Sarah, trying to find some rapport with his fourteen year old daughter Katy, and gingerly navigating his relationship with Barbara, the police coroner, Paolo finds succor and and escape from his personal life by giving his all to his work.

Detective Sergeant Dave Johnson – New to the team, Dave fancies himself a bit of a ladies man, though the ladies would disagree. Paolo dislikes Dave’s attitude toward women and his work.

With themes that touch on Freud’s psycho-sexual theories, self-flagellation, necrophilia, spousal abuse, child abuse, and gruesome crimes against women, this novel is not for the faint of heart.

The dark subject matter was only a small percentage of the narrative though. Most of the story dealt with the policeman, Paolo Sterling, and his tumultuous and unhappy personal life. I found myself liking him and look forward to future books in the series.

Despite it’s often dire and disturbing subject matter, it was a page-turner and very well presented. Set in the fictional British city of Bradchester, it displays the seamier side of urban life without naming names and shaming cities.

Unlike many police procedurals, it was a refreshing change to read about a DCI and his sergeant completely at odds with one another instead of the usual sympathetic duo – though I suspect their rocky relationship improves in subsequent novels. DCI Sterling was a protagonist with a LOT of personal baggage including a cold and distant relationship with his estranged wife, a volatile relationship with his teenage daughter, and a one-night stand with the area’s forensic coroner who wants more from him than he is able to give.

Rife with ‘red herrings’ the plot leaves the reader guessing as to the identity of the serial killer. More than once, I thought I had the killer sussed out, but, as I’m sure the author intended, I was dead wrong.

I’m now eager to follow DCI Paolo Sterling in further books and cannot wait to see what they hold in store. So, with warnings about gritty, disturbing, subject matter, I am highly recommending “The Retriever of Souls”.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “The Retriever of Souls” from Emma who runs Damppebbles Blog Tours in order that I might participate in this tour.

At present there are FOUR D.I. Sterling novels

Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine Mace lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.

When not working on the D.I. Sterling series of crime novels, Lorraine is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions.

Visit Lorraine Mace on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Posted in 1st in series, Blog Tour, Book Reviews, Damppebbles Blog Tours, Page turners | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

“She Lies in Wait” by Gytha Lodge – Book Review @randomhouse

“Seven kids had bedded down thirty years ago
but only six of them had got up in the morning”.

When a rebellious young girl hides from her parents at a camping site in the Brinken Wood of the New Forest, she inadvertently discovers the skeletonized remains of a teenager missing for thirty years…

Brinken Wood, New Forest

Beautiful, fourteen year old Aurora Jackson went missing after a camping trip. She was the youngest there, and the sister of one of the principal members of the group. A group who have remained in touch and quite friendly for over thirty years.

That night in 1983 the friends were drinking, taking drugs, and pairing off. Not Aurora’s scene at all. What happened all those years ago?

Was her final resting place, where she was surrounded by a cache of foil-wrapped packages of the drug Dexedrine,  known only to the six friends in attendance?

Or, did someone else know of the clever hiding place?


DCI Jonah Sheens was just a new recruit, a lowly constable when Aurora first went missing. Yet he has never really stopped looking for Aurora…

Now he and his team must sort through the inconsistencies in the statements made by the people involved – both thirty years ago and NOW.

“This wasn’t how cold cases went. That investigating old crimes never felt present and urgent like this.”

An engrossing police procedural series debut. I enjoyed becoming acquainted with the four member team led by DCI Jonah Sheens.


Enigmatic DCI Jonah Sheens, with his mysterious past as a member of a family of ‘Travellers‘ whose father was emotionally abusive. It is obvious to the reader that Jonah has more than one family secret and has layers of personality that is yet to be unveiled.

Detective Sergeant Domnall O’Malley,  the eldest of the team, an Irishman who works on his instincts and is brilliant at making connections. O’Malley is an ex-military man who is very intelligent, yet he is undisciplined and a drinker.

Detective Constable Ben Lightman, whose outward efficiency, logical thinking, and cool detachment hides a warm heart. Outwardly reserved, he is a college graduate who joined the police immediately following his graduation. Ben has no family attachments and is a workaholic.

Detective Constable Juliette Hanson, the newest member of the team, recently transferred from Birmingham. With a rocky personal life in which her ex-boyfriend is taunting her with verbal abuse and texts, she is trying valiantly to make a good impression on her new boss and co-workers.

The setting, around and about the New Forest in England, added to my enjoyment.

The story was told over a two week period which brought immediacy to the events. In addition to the police investigations, the novel was interspersed with chapters told by the fourteen year old Aurora detailing what happened the night she died. These chapters were among my favourites and added poignancy to the story.

The author did a sound job of making the reader distrust the various characters, even the police at one point.

The characters were intriguing, though I found I didn’t warm to them as much as I have with other series. I did enjoy their interactions enough that I will definitely read the second book in the series which is called “Watching from the Dark“.

Recommended to all who enjoy a cleverly written police procedural. “She Lies in Wait” marks the beginning of a new crime thriller series that I anticipate following.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “She Lies in Wait” from the publisher, Penguin Random House, via NetGalley.

Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.

She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. When not writing, she heads up a copywriting team at a global translation firm, where she generally tries to keep all the video-game writing to herself.

She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.

She has signed with Penguin Random House worldwide for the first three books in her crime series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens.

Follow Gytha Lodge on Twitter.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, debut novels, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

It’s all in the stars… Ratings on different sites

Yes, I’m bringing it up again. Although I may be beating a dead horse here I think that we as book bloggers need to be more cognizant of the star ratings we use.

Personally, I have my own take on star ratings which is my own personal view that I have shared here.

But, we bookbloggers hand out star ratings on various sites as is required as part of being a bookblogger. Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another.

I’ve recently encountered a circumstance where I rated a book with 3 stars.  On Goodreads, 3 stars means “I liked it”. On NetGalley 3 stars means you would ‘maybe recommend’.  HOWEVER… on Amazon 3 stars is viewed as a negative review!

As responsible book bloggers we need to adjust our ratings to accurately reflect how we felt about the book.  Sometimes I give the SAME book different ratings on different sites. For instance I can give 3 stars on Goodreads (I liked it), 4 stars on NetGalley (Yes, I recommend) and 4 stars on Amazon (you liked it but had at least one issue with it)

Amazon is a bit scary to me. They use algorithms. A newer review will be given more ‘weight’ than an older review. A review of a verified purchase is given more ‘weight’ than one which is not. There has also been talk of 5 star ratings being bought, which is corrupt and puts a whole new spin on the matter.

I just don’t understand why stars can’t mean the same thing across the sites. This is especially ironic as Goodreads is owned by Amazon!

Here is one explanation of Amazon star ratings.

From this website, I garnered the following explanations of Amazon’s reviews:

5 stars is an A, A-, or even a B+. This means you enjoyed the book. It fulfilled the measure of its creation. The 5-star novel was enjoyable, didn’t have any major plot holes, and the writing was good enough that you’d recommend it as a nice read. Five stars doesn’t mean the book has to be the best you’ve ever read, or even better than the last one you reviewed. It just has to be a good novel.

4 stars is a B, B-, or even a C+ novel. The 4-star rating is for novels that you liked but had at least one issue with. A plot hole that disturbed your reading enough that you didn’t enjoy the overall story. Maybe a few too many typos. Too much repetition. But you still found the story compelling enough to read in a short time and you enjoyed it. The novel doesn’t have to be the best one you’ve read in the genre, it just has to hold your attention.

3 stars is a C or a C-. So only average or NEUTRAL. You neither liked it or disliked it. This really is the kiss of death rating. The “okay” novel. If you give a novel this rating, there should be SERIOUS issues because, remember, many advertisers won’t accept novels with this overall rating. So the 3-star novel should be one you didn’t feel compelled to finish, or one whose overall plot didn’t quite make sense (and you feel wouldn’t make sense to others). This is a novel that you wouldn’t recommend unless it was the only thing someone had to read and they were stuck in an airport for two hours.

2 stars is a D or a D-. This is a novel that has at least three major negative issues and you feel these issues will prevent others from enjoying it at all.

1 star means F. The author completely and utterly failed. You hated it totally and absolutely. That means there was no plot, it was riddled with grammar errors, and everything about it was boring, boring, boring. The author should throw the book away. Never give an author a one-star review unless you feel they really should give up writing and get a job at the local grocery instead.


So, what I take from this is that if you love the book and give it a 5 star rating, it is easy peasey. Give it 5 stars everywhere.  BUT… if you are giving it anything less than 5 stars, you need to be cognizant of what your rating MEANS on the site where you are putting it. We don’t want to be unfair to authors or potential readers by giving a book a rating which can be in any way misleading, however unintentional.

I’ve learned through interaction with other bloggers that some tend to stick to the easy way out. If they give a book 3 stars, then they give 3 stars across all sites. Once they realize that this is actually detrimental to the book and its author on Amazon would they continue to do this?

I’m sure you all have an opinion on this matter and I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Posted in ramblings & miscellanea, Reviewing | Tagged | 48 Comments

“Blood Orange” by Harriet Tyce – Book Review @GrandCentralPub

“Actions have consequences”

Alison Wood is burning the candle at both ends in both her personal and professional life. She works long hours as a busy barrister in London and has just landed her first ever murder case. Unfortunately, the advising solicitor on the case is the man with whom she has been having a sordid affair with over the past months.

She drinks to excess whenever the slightest opportunity arises. The pressures of work, a rocky marriage, and being the principal bread-winner for the family is taking its toll.

The drinking and the long hours in the city are putting her marriage in jeopardy – and her husband Carl doesn’t even know about her affair. Alison doesn’t play a large part in her daughter’s life, and the whole family dynamic is suffering as a result.

Then, amidst all this turmoil, Alison begins to receive threatening text messages. Someone doesn’t like what she has been doing…

Alison begins to compare her life to that of the woman she is defending in a murder case. Perhaps they have more in common than Alison would like…

Old Bailey courtroom

I have to say that for most of the book, Alison is NOT a very likable protagonist. Yet despite this, I found I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I guess it is the old ‘train wreck‘ psychology. You just know that something bad has happened and you are compelled to view it for yourself despite the sure fact it will be disturbing.

Alison was a hard person to empathize with. She was a clever, attractive barrister with a career on the up. She was married to a psychotherapist, and is the mother of a darling six-year old daughter. Yet still she jeopardized it all for an affair. And not an affair for love. An affair that was demeaning, degrading, and sordid. Why, we wonder?

Gradually we realize that Alison’s marriage has been in jeopardy for over two years. Around about the time that her husband Carl was made redundant.

statue of ‘Justice’ which adorns the roof of the Old Bailey

Well folks, at about the 3/4 mark I started to empathize with Alison more. It was at about that point that this novel – which had already gripped me – turned into a true page-turner. I literally couldn’t bear to put the book down.

Domestic noir/Psychological thriller/Legal thriller, this novel will be appreciated by all those readers who like any of these genres.

It is impossible to discern while reading that this is a debut novel. The writing is polished and compelling. I’m sure that the author will be one whom readers of this novel will follow throughout her career. I know for certain that I will be.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “Blood Orange” from Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9781538762738    352 pages

Harriet Tyce was born in 1972 and grew up in Edinburgh. She studied English at Oxford University and Law at City University before working as a criminal barrister for nearly a decade.

She left the Bar after having children and recently completed an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia.

She lives in London. Blood Orange is her debut novel.

Follow Harriet Tyce on Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Legal thrillers, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = SAFE

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 ‘SAFE’ in the title, but I’m featuring a small selection of titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love.

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.
Have you read one of these titles and absolutely LOVED it?

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

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 15 Comments

“Lacey’s House” by Joanne Graham – Book Review @Legend_Press

A beautifully written, well crafted, debut “Lacey’s house” is a novel told in two voices.  Alternate chapters introduce us to Rachel — a young, single, and solitary artist who has just miscarried — and Lacey, an elderly women with a horrific past who is shunned socially.   The chapters delve into their characters allowing the reader to know them gradually, much like peeling the many layers of an onion, one by one…

When Rachel suffers a miscarriage, she feels that she is ready for a complete change in her life.  Thus, she moves from the bustling city of Birmingham, to rural Devon.  She rents a cottage at the furthest end of a small village, and just over the hedge from Lacey Carmichael.   Before Rachel rented the cottage it belonged to Albert, an elderly widower who was Lacey’s one and only friend.  When Albert passed away, Lacey was under suspicion for his death, partly due to the fact that she found his body, and partly due to the fact that she was viewed as eccentric and was a social outcast.  Even after the police proved via forensic evidence that Lacey had nothing to do with his death, the village people still harbored doubts of her innocence.

Over time, Rachel and Lacey become true friends.  Their friendship is based on mutual respect, understanding of loss, and a shared joy in the simple magic that can be found in life.  Loneliness is not a stranger to either of the women and when their friendship blooms it is a much needed panacea to their solitary lives.  Over time they share their life stories with each other.  Something neither has every done before…  They begin to trust at a time when the concept of trust seemed impossible.  Their stories are both tragic ones, with Lacey’s story being both tragic and appalling.

The novel is not a mystery novel, yet the reader realizes early on that there is a mystery contained within it.  Not a murder mystery, but one of curiosity as to what really happened in Lacey’s early life.  That might sound dull to some, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The pages almost turned themselves.  The pace of the narrative was faultless.   “Lacey’s house” was one of those novels that made me as a reader grateful for having had the opportunity to read it.  I loved both characters equally and felt bereft when the last page was turned. Highly recommended.

Joanne Graham based the novel on the life of her grandmother.  You can read an interview with her here.

Thanks to Legend Press via NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this special debut novel.

Print ISBN: 9781789550467
Ebook ISBN: 9781789550450

Joanne Graham lives in rural Mid Devon, England, with her two children and too many cats. Being the youngest of five children, her love of the written word began when she would escape the busyness of her childhood home by diving into a good book. She has been writing since the tender age of eleven when her mother bought her a typewriter for her birthday.

Her first book, Lacey’s House was originally published in 2013 and is now re-released by Legend Press, September 2019.

Follow Joanne Graham on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Legend Press, Literary fiction, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

“The Mausoleum” by David Mark – Book Review @severnhouse

“When lightning strikes an ancient crypt,
it exposes a devastating wartime secret”

Cordelia Hemlock is living in an English village near Hadrian’s Wall named Gilsland. A village which once housed a WWII POW camp. She lives alone in a grand house. She married for convenience, she, because she was pregnant with another man’s baby, and her husband, because he was of high social standing and a homosexual. He felt the marriage would camouflage his sexual preference from his bigwig friends and colleagues and thus retain his respectability. He lives in London.

Hadrian’s wall

Now Cordelia’s baby son has died and she is grieving. Alone. The villagers consider her to be a snooty ‘outsider’.

One day, as she is reading her book in the graveyard, she meets a local woman. When a sudden storm causes a deluge of rain, the women run for the woman’s house and shelter. A bolt of lightning hits a large tree and crashes down – right into the mausoleum of an ancient local family. Only a body falls out of the mausoleum… a fresh corpse.

“Sometimes it’s what you see which gets your eyes closed permanently…”

The two women, both in their early thirties, cannot believe their eyes. When they tell their story, they open a can of worms that begins with another death. That of a local man who was a longtime friend of Felicity’s.

How’s this for an opening line? “I was lying in a grave the first time I met Felicity.”

This is not the first book I’ve read by this author and I’m reminded now why I picked this novel. His writing style is one which I enjoy.  He makes the characters come to life and weaves a story that makes you invested in the outcome. Also, he sets the scene in colourful prose which entertains and makes you SEE the landscapes of his imagination.

“The sky looked like a coalman’s bathwater.”

The unlikely friendship between the headstrong, educated Cordelia Hemlock and the meek, uneducated Felicity Goose was created masterfully and added greatly to my enjoyment of the novel.

Told in part via witness transcripts, the story set in 2010 relates events that occurred back in 1967. It was a clever way to deliver a dual timeline and it worked well here.

The story related how the French Resistance were overcome by evil in the form of the Milice. It spoke of war crimes, heroes, survivors, loss, betrayals, duplicity, and the part the intelligence service played in the aftermath of WWII.

“There’s no time limit on accountability.”

Not for the faint of heart, this story described unthinkable wartime atrocities. At the same time it was a village murder mystery. One which I recommend.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “The Mausoleum” from Severn House Publishers via NetGalley.

ISBN: 9780727888723         305 pages

David Mark spent seven years as crime reporter for the Yorkshire Post and now writes full-time. A former Richard & Judy pick and Sunday Times bestseller, he is the author of nine police procedurals in the DS Aector McAvoy series and one historical novel. He lives in Northumberland with his family.

Follow David Mark on Twitter
Visit his website.

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical fiction, NetGalley, Spy stories, Suspense | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Fictionophile’s 3 most anticipated titles (as of Nov. 2, 2019)

I wish I was stronger – but I have an addiction.

Anyone who follows this blog and has read yesterday’s post knows that I have a LOT of review commitments. The comments on yesterday’s post have made me reconcile myself to the fact that I must CURTAIL my requests on NetGalley and Edelweiss.

This is very hard for me. I am pre-approved by eight publishers (who have marvelous books), and I often get publisher widgets sent to my inbox. I don’t accept them all, but many are fabulous.

So… wish me luck on my intended request hiatus. I’m going to need it.

I was approved yesterday for two Edelweiss titles that I requested over a month ago and had forgotten about… that doesn’t help. LOL

Anyway, I’m stating here and now that I will not request titles from NetGalley for the rest of 2019 UNLESS one of the following three titles is offered.  These three titles are the ones I am most anticipating. Hey, there has to be an exception(s) to every rule. LOL


Remain Silent” by Susie Steiner

Expected publication: May 28th 2020

This is the third title in the Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw series and I absolutely LOVED the first two.

My review of “Missing, Presumed” the first title in the series.

My review of “Persons Unknown” the second title in the series.

Grave’s End” by William Shaw

Expected publication: May 14th 2020

The third title in the Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi series. (fourth if you count “The Birdwatcher”). This series just keeps getting better with each book.

My reviews for:

The Birdwatcher” (which introduced Cupidi, but she only played a small part)

Salt Lane”  and  “Deadland

The Split” by Sharon Bolton (her new stand-alone thriller)

Expected publication: April 28th 2020

What can I say???? Sharon Bolton is one of my auto-read authors. I don’t have to read the blurb, I just know it will be stellar. (no pressure Sharon)

Some of my reviews of her previous books:

The Craftsman” ; “Dead Woman Walking” ;
Daisy in Chains” ; “Little Black Lies“.

Are any of these three titles on YOUR radar? Let me know in the comments. ♥

Posted in Anticipated titles | Tagged , , | 30 Comments

Hello November 2019 – Fictionophile updates

As the weather turns chillier and the lead up to the holiday season is upon us, I thought I’d try something new. For ages now I’ve been trying to get a handle on my NetGalley TBR. First it was attaining the 80% badge. Now that I’ve got that, it seems I’m at a standstill. I don’t want to lose it again, so that means either NOT requesting any new NetGalley books

(which is clearly unacceptable LOL)

OR, reading a whole lot of NetGalley books at once so that I can start requesting again.

To that end, I’ve decided to have a …

NetGalley November!

With the exception of one title that I’m reading for a blog tour, all the rest of the books I’ll be reading in November are from NetGalley.  Some new titles and some backlist titles.  All together, I have 77 titles from NetGalley that I’ve not yet read.

At present, part of my NetGalley shelf look like this:

It is shameful how my greed has placed me in this dire predicament!

Have you read any of the above titles and absolutely LOVED it?  If so, let me know and I’ll make sure that I read it in November if possible.

Feel free to join me in my NetGalley November if your TBR is getting out of control like mine.

Now, for some cuteness… Here are a few photos of my darling grandson, who, as you can clearly see is doing very well. He has stolen our hearts.

Hope you all have a wonderful November with lots of autumn walks, hot drinks, and of course… some fantastic books.

Here is a photo taken on the Musquodoboit River in Nova Scotia, Canada.



Posted in Fictionophile report, NetGalley | Tagged , | 45 Comments

Cover Love: part 39 – Cemeteries

Since it is Halloween, I thought I’d reblog one of my previous Cover Love posts that I’ve recently updated.


The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In my thirty-ninth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature cemeteries on their covers.

Cemeteries lend themselves well to cover art. They are perfect to give an ominous feel to mysteries, thrillers, and horror titles.

And it IS October after all…

Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

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

You might just find your next favorite book!

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

If you have a few minutes visit any of the previous…

View original post 11 more words

Posted in Book Reviews | 12 Comments

“Crook’s Hollow” by Robert Parker – Book Review

Twenty-five year old Thor Loxley has been estranged from his family for two years after a major rift with his father. Now, inexplicably, someone has attempted to kill him – and very nearly succeeded. His assailant left him with the cryptic message “You should have got on with it.”

Thor is having a relationship with a neighbouring farmer’s daughter. Which would be fine and convenient if it weren’t for the fact that the two families have been enemies for centuries. The feud between the Loxleys and the Crooks began as far back as memory allowed.  His girlfriend, Roisin, seems to return his affection and he wonders whether they will ever be able to have an open relationship in this insular village.

“In a place like Crook’s Hollow, gossip was like currency, passed furtively in shadows and across bright dining tables with the same glee.”

When yet another attempt is made on Thor’s life, he tries to find out who would harbour such animosity against him. He simply has no idea…

Also, for the first time in recent memory, Crook’s Hollow is besieged by a terrific flood. The rising waters spell disaster for many of the farmers and villagers – and for Thor, it just might be the end of him.Also, there are some sleazy property developers hanging around the village. What part, if any, are they playing in Thor’s newfound troubles?

If you like a fast-pasted read, then look no further. The break-neck pace began with the first page and didn’t let up until the last.

Thor Loxley was a likeable fellow, and his dire predicament caused the reader to be interested in how he was going to extricate himself from it. And WHO and WHY someone wanted him dead.

The suspense carried on throughout the book, but the plot was just a bit too ‘over the top‘ for my personal taste. Thor was just too resilient, the action just too far-fetched. It reminded by a bit of some early Dick Francis novels, where the protagonist takes a licking and keeps on ticking…  That being said, it was a compelling read that kept me glued to my Kindle for the duration.

With elements of modern day Romeo and Juliet crossed with the violence of the Hatfield and McCoy family feuds, this is a novel of revenge, greed, and betrayal that will appeal to many – especially those who have a fondness for ‘Die Hard’ style movies.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “Crook’s Hollow” from Black Rose Writing via Edelweiss in the expectation of my review.

ISBN 9781612964591   Pages: 208

Robert Parker is a married father of three, who lives in a village near Manchester, England. The author of the Ben Bracken books A Wanted Man and Morte Point, and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow, he enjoys a rural life on an old pig farm (now minus pigs), writing horrible things between school runs.

He writes full time, as well as organising and attending various author events across the UK – while boxing regularly for charity. Passionate about inspiring a love of the written word in young people, he spends a lot of time in schools across the North West, encouraging literacy, story-telling, creative-writing and how good old fashioned hard work tends to help good things happen.

Follow Robert Parker on Twitter.

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