“Then she was gone” by Lisa Jewell

This is the third title I’ve read by Lisa Jewell and I’ve decided that her novels are all consistently good.  It is nice to discover an author who you know you will read automatically – a ‘go to‘ author.

First we meet Laurel Mack.  Laurel’s youngest daughter vanished ten years ago.  Her daughter, Ellie, was the light of her life. When Ellie disappeared physically, Laurel disappeared emotionally. She was no longer ‘there‘ for her two remaining children, or for her husband, Paul. Her marriage ended three years after Ellie’s disappearance. Paul met another women who was there for him in a way that Laurel no longer could. Now Laurel has sold the family home and moved into a flat by herself.  She has a tenuous and somewhat cold relationship with her daughter Hanna, and her son Jake.

Laurel is finally trying to create some sort of a life for herself.  When she meets a man one day in a cafe, she thinks that – just maybe – she can salvage her life and have some happiness.  His name is Floyd Dunn, and he is a single Dad to his nine-year-old daughter, Poppy.  When their relationship progresses, Laurel meets Poppy and gets a feeling that something is not quite ‘right’. For one thing, Floyd seems besotted with her. Unnaturally so. He home-schools her and she has little knowledge of what it is to be a normal ‘child’. Also, Poppy looks eerily like Ellie, her daughter who walked out of her house ten years ago never to return.

“Poppy is clearly a strange child, who is both charmingly naive and unsettlingly self-possessed. She is cleverer than she has any need to be, but also not as clever as she thinks.”

Ellie Mack. Just weeks before her sixteenth birthday, Laurel’s daughter, was on her way to study at the library. her GCSE’s were coming up soon and she wanted a quiet place to revise.  On her way to the library she meets up with her old math tutor, Noelle Donnelly. Ellie had never really warmed to Noelle. She found her habits strange and she ‘smelled’. Ellie even went so far as to label Noelle a ‘bunny boiler’ in her diary.  Noelle tells Ellie she has a practice paper that will help her when she writes her math GCSEs, she suggests that as she just lives around the corner, Ellie should quickly drop by and pick it up. This tiny decision sealed Ellie’s fate forevermore…

Noelle Donnelly is a lonely woman. Extremely clever, she nonetheless finds it very difficult to make friends and she is estranged from her family. At the age of forty-one she is still a virgin.  She loathes herself, and this, along with other events in her life, cause her to become mentally unstable. So… when she meets a man and falls in love with him, that love is unhealthy and obsessive.  In her efforts to keep him in her life, Noelle concocts an audacious, devious, and psychotic plan.

“A man who can’t love, but desperately needs to be loved, is a dangerous thing indeed.”

Laurel Mack begins to have suspicions that Floyd Dunn is not who he says he is. Something is awry. She just can’t discern exactly what that is…

“Then she was gone” is told via several points of view. The narration is cleanly defined with no chance of the reader becoming confused.  The timelines vary and skip back and forth, but at no time is the reader misled as to when the actions take place.

This novel expounds on the notion that one tiny decision, one route chosen, can, in the long run, change a life’s path irrevocably.  Loss of a child, the most horrible thing that can happen to a parent, affects not only the parents, but the siblings as well.  Sometimes in irreversible ways.

Coincidences are not always innocent.

“Then she was gone” moves at a steady pace, increasing the reader’s disquiet with every page. Although I had figured out what happened about a third of the way in the book, this did not in any way deter from my enjoyment of the remainder of the novel. I am a reader of crime fiction that finds it equally as important to learn the how and the why as it is to learn what happened.

The characters are sympathetic, none more so that the teenaged Ellie Mack.

A brilliant novel that I absolutely must rate highly and recommend frequently.

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.

 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.

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Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Cover Love: part 54 – Clotheslines

They say you can never have a second chance to make a good first impression. A book’s cover does just that – gives a first impression. A good cover can make a reader pick up a book. A bad cover can leave the book at the very bottom of a dusty pile.

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

In my 54th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature clotheslines on their covers. One of the joys of spring is being able to hang out laundry again.

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?

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

Please let me know in the comments.

If you have a few minutes, visit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 19 Comments

“From the cradle” by Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

A gritty and disturbing, character-driven, police procedural!

From the cradle” is my first novel by this duo of authors and I was very impressed. I am always amazed at how two people can write one story and make it seem so ‘seamless’.  It shouldn’t have been surprising though, as the Goodreads rating is very high with over four thousand people having a say. Also, it is a British police procedural, which is a favourite sub-genre of mine.

This is the first novel in a series which features Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon who works in the South West London/Richmond-Upon-Thames area. The book starts strong (the prologue actually made me gasp while simultaneously giving me shivers) and doesn’t let up in quality the whole way through.

Patrick Lennon is not your usual police DI. Now in his mid-thirties, in his earlier days he was a ‘goth’ musician. He still bears the tattoos and piercings that went with that persona.  Also, he suffers from tinnitus from his years listening to overly loud music. Now, he is living with his parents due to the fact that he needs childcare for his two year-old daughter, Bonnie. He is working long and irregular hours for there has been a spate of child abductions in the area. Three toddlers have been snatched and their parents are desperate to be re-united with them.  It is assumed that the three children have been taken by the same person(s), as the abductions have occurred in such a tight time span.

The latest abduction was that of  Frankie Philips. Her parents, Helen and Sean Philips, had left Frankie in the care of her teenage stepsister, Alice, while they walked to a nearby restaurant for a meal out. When they returned, Alice was asleep on the living-room couch and little Frankie was missing from her cot.

Patrick Lennon and his partner DS Carmella Masiello are tasked with the case of finding all three children. The case is frustrating and disturbing. Although all three children were taken from affluent neighbourhoods, there has been no ransom demands. The media have coined the kidnapper “The Child Catcher“.

The case escalates when one of the little girls is found…

Leaving no stone unturned, Patrick and his team investigate with little success. Another DI on the team, jealous of Patrick who is a favourite of their boss, thwarts every effort they make in the attempt to make Patrick look bad so he can take over as lead investigating officer.

Feeling stressed about this difficult case and worrying about his elderly mother who is getting tired from chasing his rambunctious two-year old daughter all day, Patrick is nearing the end of his rope.

I would term this a high-octane police procedural.  It combines rich characterization with a fast pace. The plot holds surprises and several unexpected twists and turns.  The desperation and panic of the parents is described in such a way that the reader feels their desolation.

Patrick’s unique and troubled character was one that I would like to read more of. I enjoyed his rapport/working relationship with his lesbian partner, Carmella. The Philips’ family’s anxiety and anguish were palpable. Their family dynamic was well described: the mixed race wife, the racist mother-in-law, the teenage stepdaughter…  The teenage characters were well wrought with the contrast between the affluent homes and the impoverished housing estates jarring – and, at times, shocking. The ending of the novel was adrenaline-filled and contained a moral dilemma.

This novel is the first in the DI Patrick Lennon series. You can be sure that I will read the rest of the novels in this series. “From the cradle” started strong and kept the pace throughout.  Though a crime novel, it was also a novel about parents and parenting. About good people who find themselves in dire and desperate situations. About how one mistake can impact a whole life. Highly recommended!


I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley. I provided this review voluntarily to share my thoughts about the book.

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards are the authors of From the Cradle, The Blissfully Dead, Killing Cupid, Catch Your Death, Forward Slash and more. They have written nine solo novels, including Mark’s The Magpies and Louise’s The Venus Trap.
They have topped the UK Kindle chart three times, together and solo, sold over one million books.

Mark lives in Wolverhampton with his wife and young family, while Louise lives in Surrey with her daughter.  They love talking to readers on Twitter, @mredwards and @louisevoss1, and run a very lively Facebook page:  facebook.com/vossandedwards, where they chat, run competitions and offer prizes.

You can contact them at markandlouise@me.com.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Favorite books, Mystery fiction, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Friday finds (gems I found around the Internet)

Like most book bloggers I spend WAY too much time on the computer.  Sometimes though, it is time well spent. Sometimes you find little treasures.  

I thought I’d share three of these gems with you!

A fantastically creepy ‘Flash Fiction’ story called “Light in the Blackhouse” by Matthew Richardson

 

A poem called “Pieces of you” by Lee Dunn

 

 Another poem called “Bubbles” from a globe trekking blogger


If you enjoyed any of these gems, be sure to let the author (and me) know.

I appreciate your comments.

Happy Friday everyone!

and… for no particular reason, I’m sharing a photo of one of my myriad bookshelves

Posted in Internet Gems, ramblings & miscellanea, Writing | Tagged | 12 Comments

Throwback Thursday – April 19, 2018

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.
This week I’ve chosen “The truth and other lies” by Sascha Arango for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published June 2015 by Atria Books and was, for me, a 5 star read.


Not a full blown psychopath, Henry Hayden is nevertheless pretty darn close to being one.  As a young boy he killed his tyrannical father without even meaning to.  Since then he has moved on to bullying and other acts displaying his lack of empathy.  Now an adult, Henry has reinvented himself yet again.  An accomplished liar, Henry knows that to lie well you must incorporate a certain amount of truth.  He fabricates a past to suit whatever situation he finds himself in.  In so doing, he is cognizant of the fact that the worst mistakes are the ones we don’t notice.  Henry does sometimes feel moved by others, he sometimes does the altruistic thing.  But not often.  He is a sycophantic man who is a borderline sociopath.

When Henry meets Martha, he realizes he has fallen into a profitable situation indeed.  Not particularly attracted to her, he nonetheless has kind feelings for her.  When he discovers that she is a talented (though unpublished) novelist, he takes it upon himself to submit her book(s) to a publisher.  Because Martha does not want to deal with that end of things, she agrees to letting him take the credit for the writing of them.  Their lives turn successful and their lifestyle improves as a result.  Still, Martha cares little for the physical trappings of success and writes obsessively during the night.  She is driven and not a little bit ‘sensitive’.  She can see the auras of others, she can taste colors. She is a synesthete.

When Henry’s aura gives him away, she becomes suspicious of him having an affair.  She is absolutely correct.  He is having it away with the editor from the publishing house.  Now things have reached a turning point as the ‘other woman’ is now pregnant.  Henry is appalled by this turn of events.  Other than the physical attraction, he cares not at all for this other woman – and he cares even less about having a child.  She must be gotten rid of!

Henry’s endeavors to get rid of her backfire, and Martha is killed in her stead.  How will he get himself out of this predicament?  He has a book deadline looming and his (Martha’s) latest novel is unfinished.  He must deal with the consequences of his actions without impinging on his reputation or lifestyle.  Will his ingenuity and cunning see him through?

The truth and other lies” is a literary thriller that is strong on characterization and filled with delightful imagery.  Sascha Arango, a German television writer, has written a page-turner of a novel that entertains with dark humor and deviousness.  The novel is the winner of the Prix Européen du Polar du Point, France, 2015.  I’m sure this is only the beginning of it’s literary success.

Translated from the German by Imogen Taylor, “The truth and other lies” is available from Atria Books.  I received the digital ARC from Penguin Canada/Viking via NetGalley in consideration of an honest review.

Sascha Arango is one of Germany’s most prominent screenplay writers and a two-time winner of the Grimme Prize, a prestigious award for German television, for his work on the long-running detective series Tatort.  He was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1959. The Truth and Other Lies is his first novel.  He lives in Germany.
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Posted in award winners, Book Reviews, debut novels, NetGalley, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

“The Wildling sisters” by Eve Chase

“Applecote Manor doesn’t dominate the surrounding lush countryside but settles into it, like an elegant elderly lady dozing in long grass.”Two years ago I read Eve Chase’s debut novel, “Black Rabbit Hall” and enjoyed it SO much that I vowed then to read everything she writes.  Now I am delighted to review her second novel, “The Wildling sisters“.

Blurb:  Four sisters. One summer. A lifetime of secrets.
When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.
Fifty years later, Jessie is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jessie finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

I’ve found another novel that will star in my Best Reads of 2018 post at the end of the year!

Written with dual timelines, this book will be relished by readers who are fans of Kate Morton, Rosamund Pilcher, Diane Chamberlain, and Harriet Evans.

Summer 1959:  We meet the Wilde sisters. Flora, Pam, Margot and Dot – aged seventeen, sixteen, fifteen and twelve. Their father died in an accident and they are now in the care of their beautiful, though flighty, mother. The fatherless family is struggling financially, so their mother decides to spend the summer in Marrakesh where she has been offered a job by a friend. The Wilde girls are shipped off to the Cotswolds where they will spend the summer with their Aunt Sybil and Uncle Perry. They arrive at Applecote Manor to find Aunt Sybil and Uncle Perry much changed. It has been five years since their only daughter Audrey had vanished. Aunt Sybil has deluded herself into thinking Audrey will come home any time now…. She keeps her room at the top of the house just the way Audrey left it. She buys her clothes and shoes which will fit her now… Audrey was just twelve years old when she went out in the garden to play and never came back.

The sisters are very close. “I don’t know who we sisters will be without one another to differentiate us. Take one of us away and we’d all lose our balance, like removing a leg from a kitchen table.”

Now the Wilde girls are living at Applecote, Aunt Sybil favours Margot (the narrator of their story) for it is she that most resembles the missing Audrey.

“Applecote itself feels caught between the past and the present, life and death, a house gummed shut, waiting for news that never comes.”

The summer of 1959 was known for being the hottest summer in recent history. Day after day of hot, humid weather. The girls turned brown and strong from spending so much time outside.  They met some local boys. They explored the vast grounds, the orchards, the river, and the historic old standing stones at the end of the garden.

“A memory is a living thing; it breathes beside you”

It was a summer of transition, of growing up. It was also a summer when a tragic event marred their memories for the rest of their lives.

“Houses are never just houses; I’m quite sure of this now. We grow up. We stay the same. We move away, but we live forever where we were most alive.”

Over 50 years later: We meet the Tucker family. Jessie Tucker is mother to tiny three-year-old Romy and stepmother to teenage Bella. Jessie and Will are madly in love, but Bella resents her new stepmother Jessie, and her little half-sister, Romy.

Londoners, the Tuckers have just moved to Applecote Manor. Will is a widower. Jessie wants a new start with her little family in a house that isn’t permeated with memories of Will’s first wife, Mandy. Also, both Jessie and Will want to remove Bella from her London friends and lifestyle because they feel it is not good for her.

“She had no idea that trying to love Bella, let alone parent her as she grew into an angry teen, would be like trying to hug an animal that wanted to sink its teeth into her neck.”

Will owns a logistics company jointly with a college friend, Jackson. He plans to take a step back from the company and spend more time in the country with his family. But as life rarely goes to plan, Jackson tells them that he wants to sell his half of the company and move to Australia.  This puts a real ‘spanner in the works‘ for the Tuckers. This means that Will will be away MORE often instead of less. He will be in London all week, returning to his family in the remote Cotswold valley only at weekends.

The girls are alone in the big old house. Bella’s behavior remains cold and her moods maudlin. Jessie begins to fear leaving Bella alone with Romy…  Will’s being away so much begins to affect their marriage. Jessie feels alone even when he is home at weekends. Just when Jessie feels despairing of their life at Applecote, events take another disturbing turn…

What can I say?  I LOVED this book. The Wilde sisters and the Tucker family made an indelible impression on me. But the house, Applecote Manor, was the star of the novel. This is a story that explores the strength of family bonds. A favourite read that I will be recommending to many.

Note: This book was published in the United Kingdom under the title: “The vanishing of Audrey Wilde”.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons, at my request, via NetGalley. This review is my way of saying thanks for a great read.

 

Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and is a pseudonym of a journalist who has worked extensively across the British press. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Suspense, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

“The Detective’s Daughter” by Lesley Thomson

I’ll start out this review by saying that the writing reminded me a lot of that of Ruth Rendell.  You can’t get much better praise from me, as she was one of my favorite authors EVER!

The Detective’s Daughter” has the feel of a police procedural mixed with a psychological thriller, though neither is in fact true.  What it IS is an excellent start to a mystery series that I plan to follow avidly. Since the sixth novel in the series has just been published, I have some serious catching up to do.


July 1981. Just two days before the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana a young woman was murdered on the banks of the Thames near Hammersmith Bridge. Her name was Kate Rokesmith and she was the mother of a four-year-old boy. He was with her when the murder took place – playing with his vintage toy train near the water’s edge.

Her husband Hugh was suspected of the crime, but nothing was ever proven. He lived with the suspicion for the rest of his life. Their little son, Jonathan Rokesmith was severely traumatised and later was sent off to boarding school where, through a bureaucratic mix-up, he was called Justin. His mother’s murder was never solved.

The detective in charge of the murder inquiry was named Terry Darnell. It was the one case that lingered in D.I. Darnell’s mind throughout his entire career with the police. He was obsessed with solving the murder even after he retired, up until the January day in 2011 when he died.

Hammersmith Police Station

Terry was divorced. A not uncommon condition for a police detective inspector. For he was a good police detective, and the good ones put the job first – before everything else. At the time of his divorce his daughter, Stella, was just seven years old.  Stella and her father had gotten along well in the brief times they spent together. Terry loved his little daughter who shared many of his personal traits.  After the divorce, they saw less of each other and those times were often sabotaged by the ‘job’. Stella grew to resent Terry and his perceived abandonment of her.

At the time of her father’s death in 2011 Stella Darnell is forty-four years old.  Her relationship with her Dad had been under strain for years. When she is told of his death, she remains detached, aloof, stoic.  Stella Darnell runs a cleaning company called “Clean Slate”. A single businesswoman, she has a sharp intellect and methodical methods which makes her company successful and in high demand.  As Terry’s next of kin, it falls to her to clean out his house after his death. In the attic she finds all of the file boxes pertaining to Katherine Rokesmith’s murder.  As she prepares to shred them, something piques her interest and she begins to read…


“It was extraordinary how trusting people were. It gave people like him freedom.”

Jack Harmon is an eccentric character. By night he drives trains in London’s renowned underground. By day he walks the streets of London – and I mean ALL of them. Also, he enters other people’s houses unbeknownst to them.  Often when they were at home. He calls these unsuspecting people his ‘Hosts’.

Jack begins to work for Stella Darnell as one of her cleaners. He is unlike her usual hires. He is unkempt and works to his own schedule.

“Jack was the best cleaner Stella had ever hired
and she reminded herself not to tell him this.”

Despite their mutual distrust, Stella and Jack become friends.  Their loneliness and disguised vulnerability bond them. His eccentricities both annoy her and interest her. He seems to have an obsession with some statuary near St. Peter’s Church in Hammersmith. The statue is called “The leaning woman“. He has an aversion to a certain shade of green. So much so that he becomes sick when he sees it.

Stella enlists Jack’s aid in clearing out her father’s house. It comes about that together they begin to investigate the Rokesmith case which so obsessed Stella’s father.

“She was overtaken by a determination to bring Kate’s killer to justice as once, years ago, Terry had promised to do.”


I have to say that I enjoyed every minute of this (rather long) mystery.  Stella, though not a particularly warm person, evoked empathy in the reader. The mystery itself snagged my interest at the beginning and I just had to follow it to its conclusion.  Jack Harmon was an odd character whose personality was both sympathetic and more than a tad creepy.

This is definitely a character-driven mystery. These are the best kind in my book. It is a novel of love and the damage it can do.  A novel of revenge, remorse, and regret.

Highly recommended!

I received a complimentary digital ARC of this novel from the publisher, Head of Zeus, via NetGalley. This review is my thanks to them.

Check out the various covers for “The Detective’s Daughter” which was originally published in 2013 and is being republished this year.

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and the series has sold over 750,000 copies. Lesley divides her time between Sussex and Gloucestershire. She lives with her partner and her dog.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Favorite books, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

My Blog’s name in Books

Last week I participated in a fun meme called the  “I Spy Book Challenge”.  It was SO enjoyable to compose that I thought I’d start one myself.

Rules: 

1.  Spell out your blog’s name. (this is where you wish your blog’s name was shorter LOL)

2. Find a book from your TBR that begins with each letter. (Note you cannot ADD to your TBR to complete this challenge – the books must already be on your Goodread’s TBR)

3. Have fun!  

Anyone who wants to join in is welcome to grab my graphic
as long as they link back to me.


The only letter I found challenging was the ‘I’.  You’ll note I had to find 3 of them.

The cover graphics are linked to Goodreads if you want to check out the books.

Well there you have it!  I’ve shared a wee bit more of my Goodread’s TBR.

Posted in ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 40 Comments

“Up-Lit” – What is it? and why do we like it?

‘Up Lit’ is the new literary buzz word, described as a trend for books with an emphasis on empathy, books that are uplifting and life-affirming, and which explore themes of family bonds and the human spirit. These types of novels focus on kinder, gentler human connections, but have an element that preserves realism. They do not shy away from dark themes or real-life issues, they just preserve an element of hope.

Up Lit has been around forever. My feeling is that it’s nothing new. It’s a reinvention of something that’s always been available in fiction; it is just that people (ie. the publishing industry) like to label things.

If I was still working in my position of fiction cataloger for a public library, I would probably create a genre heading for Up Lit so patrons could search the catalogue for these sort of titles. Readers want to recognize themselves in the fiction they read. They want to be able to empathize and have an understanding and connection with the characters they read about.

Why is Up Lit popular now?

Is it the readers’ need for escapism from current events that has played a big part in the success of up lit?  With all the sadness and turmoil in the world today we want to recall that there IS still kindness in the world.

Definition of ‘Up Lit’:

A newly recognized genre of literature, Up Lit focuses on human connections and life-affirming stories filled with joy, kindness, humor, heroism, hope, empathy, compassion and love. The goal here is not to bury our heads in the sand and write off our turbulent times. Up Lit is simply modern literature with the power to remind ourselves of – and celebrate! – some of the many joys to be found in our human existence.

A few examples of ‘Up Lit’:

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine” by Gail Honeyman

Three things about Elsie“, and “The trouble with goats and sheep” by Joanna Cannon

A man called Ove“, and “Britt-Marie was here”  by Fredrik Backman

The music shop” by Rachel Joyce

How to stop time” by Matt Haig


Do YOU enjoy reading ‘Up Lit’?  Why?

Can you recommend any recent ‘Up Lit’ titles?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. ♥

Posted in Fiction, Literary fiction, Reading | Tagged , | 29 Comments

“Before the storm” by Leslie Tentler

I am reviewing this title as part of the Mystery/Thriller Week 2018 event.

Before the storm” is the first novel I’ve read by this author, and is also the first in her Rarity Cove series.  My thanks to Leslie Tentler for providing me with a copy of her novel.

I have to state up front that I LOVED the setting for this novel. This time last year my husband and I visited South Carolina and were astounded by its history and its beauty.


Samatha Marsh has been her name for only the past six years. Before that she was Trina Grissom, a woman with a sordid past and dangerous ‘friends‘. Lured and abused as a teenager, Trina was coerced into working at a seedy strip club by a member of the Leary family. The Irish mafia-like family who worked out of Memphis, Tennessee.

“It was an isolated life, but far better than the one she’d left behind.”

Now Samantha is twenty-seven and runs a small café and bakery in the town of Rarity Cove. No one in Rarity Cove knows about her dark, secret past. She has taken great pains to ensure this.  Sam is aided in running her business by ex-con, Luther. Luther adores Sam and is very grateful to her for giving him a job when others would not.

Mark St. Clair is a handsome, thirty-three year old widower with a young daughter. His beloved wife perished in a car accident two years ago. Since the accident his little daughter Emily has been mute.

Mark’s family own a hotel resort on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina. Built around the remains of a plantation, the hotel keeps him very busy as manager.  Though he owns the hotel jointly with his television star actor brother, Carter, and his sister Mercer, it is Mark who shoulders the responsibility of the running of the St. Clair resort and he is an astute businessman.

When Mark meets Samantha during the town’s annual Founder’s Day event, there is an immediate attraction on both sides. Samantha does not want to get involved though, as she fears her past would eventually come to light and she might be placing Mark and his little daughter, Emily in jeopardy.

Love has a way of winning out, and despite her reluctance, Sam and Mark begin a tentative relationship. Then… Sam’s past comes to call.

At about the 80% mark, this novel turned from romance to pulse-pounding suspense. Samantha’s past has caught up with her and a deadly hurricane lashes the coastal town.

An eminently readable novel, “Before the storm” is a compelling romantic suspense novel which will be enjoyed by fans of Julie Garwood, Carla Neggers, Linda Howard and the like. As many of my followers know, I’m not a huge fan of romance.  Although both plot and characters were quite formulaic, this novel DID hold my interest to the end.  I guess I just wanted to read the ‘happily ever after’ for myself.  The reason I’m rating this romantic suspense novel as highly as I am is that I believe (from my many years of working in a public library) that this book will be very well received by readers who enjoy romantic fiction.   It had a trace of a ‘Harlequin’/’Mills & Boon’ feel, but that was laced with enough suspense that it was lifted up from the everyday romance. I was a bit surprised that it was offered to me as a ‘mystery’.  Overall, an easy, entertaining novel.

If you are a fan of romantic suspense, the second novel in this series is “Low Tide” and features Carter, the actor brother.

Leslie Author Photo

 

Leslie Tentler is a multi-award winning novelist. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Novelists, Inc. A native of East Tennessee, she currently resides in Atlanta.

Connect with Leslie: Website | Facebook Twitter 

Posted in Book Reviews, Love stories, romantic suspense | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Throwback Thursday April 12, 2018

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.
This week I’ve chosen “Weathering” by Lucy Wood for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published January 15th 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing and was, for me, a 5 star read.  It is one of those books that seemed to garner little attention despite the fact that it was the winner of a literary award. I loved the book, and the writing, and have recently added another book by this author to my TBR (The sing of the shore)


My Review

A cold, cold, river.  An even colder, deserted, and unloved house.  It is here that Ada brings her six year-old daughter, Pepper.  The very first thing they do when they arrive is they take Pearl’s ashes to the river and scatter them among the current and the swirling leaves. Pearl was Ada’s mother.  Pepper had never met her grandmother because Ada has not been back to this house for thirteen years.  The rural isolation coupled with the dilapidated old house have a profound effect on Ada and Pepper – as it did to Pearl before them.

The house does not welcome them.  It is cold and damp.  There is a leaky roof, a blocked chimney, peeling paint, and no food in the cupboards.Ada maintains that they are only going to stay until everything is ‘sorted’ and her mother’s house cleared out.  Ada is ‘in between’ jobs.  Pepper has decided that she likes it here.

Pepper is aptly named.  She is a prickly, precocious little girl who is prone to moodiness and volatility.  In the house, shed1e47c3a8424970db9b6f80769b36bfd discovers many pictures that had been taken by her unknown grandmother.  Pictures of birds.  Then she finds her grandmother’s camera and tries to pick up where her grandmother left off – capturing the avian life near the river.  Only she doesn’t have any film…

Pearl too had at one time thought her life at the river house was temporary.  But life has a way of making you change your expectations – change your ‘plans’ without really realizing that this is what you have done.

6748396-feral-cat-covered-in-snow-stock-photoThough dead, Pearl can be seen by Ada and Pepper.  Oh, and Captain the old cat.  Pearl is not a ‘ghost’ per se.  She is a presence.  An expected and accepted presence.  She belongs here. She has become one with the river.

Pearl sits on the riverbank with her feet in the cold, cold, brown river water.  Just as Pearl haunts the place where she has spent her last solitary years, so does “Weathering” haunt the reader.  asa-feet

Ada gradually picks up the odd shift at the pub.  The locals like the food she prepares and her shifts increase.  Before she knows it, she is starting to feel like she might belong in this strange, lonely place – despite her best efforts at remaining ‘untangled’.

“Early morning, the sky tinged orange in the distance but grey as a sucked mint in the valley.”

The imagery in this novel is astounding.  I can vividly picture the aged Pearl, alone and forgotten, in her damp house, asleep on a kitchen chair covered by an old coat.

“Weathering” reminds us that solitary people, whether they are solitary through accident or design, can still be lonely.  It depicts how the incessant struggle that life sometimes presents us with is not without its rewards, be they hard to identify at first…

This is a novel which examines how miscommunication and loneliness can play upon the psyche.  How connection to a place can comfort through a sense of belonging.  How the examination of memories can assuage regret and rehabilitate souls.  A book of the elements.

The title “Weathering” is apt on two levels.  Pearl is weathered.  Worn away by time and circumstance. Ada and Pepper weather the changes in their lives and ride out the storm of Ada’s reluctant homecoming.  As a young woman she could hardly wait to leave this stifling, ramshackle, isolated house.  Now, back again, Ada finds herself unwittingly caring for it.

I think this novel spoke to me personally.  I too was an only child – brought up by a single mother.  The family dynamic was eerily similar (minus the ghost, LOL)

The weather, the cold, the damp, the dank chill, all play a huge part in this descriptive debut novel.  The damp is so palpable that I’m not unsure that I’m a bit mildewed.  For readers who dislike verbose description and more than a touch of the supernatural, I advise them to steer well clear.  Happily, I like both.  I found this novel of fatherless families to be a splendid and thoughtful debut equally rich in atmosphere and character.

“Weathering”  was  SHORTLISTED FOR THE BETTY TRASK PRIZE 2016

I received a digital copy of this debut novel from Bloomsbury USA via NetGalleyin consideration of a review.written-with-union-jacks

Picture By Jim Wileman - 02/02/2015 Author Lucy Wood, pictured near Fingle Bridge, Dartmoor, Devon.

Lucy Wood, pictured near Fingle Bridge, Dartmoor, Devon. Picture by Jim Wileman – 02/02/2015

Lucy Wood is the author of a critically acclaimed collection of short stories based on Cornish folklore Diving Belles. She has been long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize, shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize and was a runner-up in the BBC National Short Story Award. She has also been awarded the Holyer an Gof Award and a Somerset Maugham Award. Lucy Wood has a Master’s degree in creative writing from Exeter University. She lives in Devon.

Read an interview with Lucy Wood.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Favorite books, ghost stories, Literary fiction, Throwback Thursday, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Tom Gauld’s bookish art

There is nothing more entertaining for a bookworm than humour about their favourite pastime.
Scottish artist/illustrator Tom Gauld has created many pieces of art with bookish themes.
I’ll share one of my favourites here:

He is featured often in The Guardian, a London newspaper, AND his work has featured on the cover of the prestigious New Yorker.

I had never heard of him until I followed an online link. As I’m not sure he is very well known in Canada, I thought I’d share his art with you.

Check out Tom Gauld’s website!
Follow him on Twitter!
Follow him on Instagram!

 

Tom Gauld was born in 1976 and grew up in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He is a cartoonist and illustrator and his work is regularly published in the The Guardian, The New York Times and New Scientist. He has created a number of comic books. He lives in London with his family.

Posted in Art with book themes | Tagged | 16 Comments

I Spy Book Challenge

I rarely take part in blog memes or tags but when I saw this one it looked like so much fun!
Cleo from Cleopatra Loves Books and Nicki from The Secret Library did a great job with it, so I thought I’d join in. It took me 25 minutes to find them all.

If you want to join in yourself, here are the rules:

Find a book on your bookshelves that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each of twenty categories.

You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes!!  (or longer if you have way too many books on way too many overcrowded shelves!)

I tried to make all of my choices books that I recommend.


#1 Food

Apple tree yard by Louise Doughty

#2 Transportation

The lilac bus by Maeve Binchy

#3 Weapon

Slip of the knife by Denise Mina

#4 Animal

Black dog by Stephen Booth

#5 Number

13 steps down by Ruth Rendell

#6 Something you read

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

#7 Body of water

River of darkness by Rennie Airth

#8 Product of fire

Playing for the ashes by Elizabeth George

#9 Royalty

The ice princess by Camilla Läckberg

#10  Architecture

House of women by Alison Taylor

#11  Item of clothing

The girl in the red coat by Kate Hamer

#12  Family member

Mother love by L.R. Wright

#13  Time of day

Two o’clock, Eastern wartime by John Dunning

#14  Music

The music shop by Rachel Joyce

#15  Paranormal being

Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

#16  Occupation

The coroner by M.R. Hall

#17  Season

In the bleak midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

#18  Colour

Raven black by Anne Cleeves

#19  Celestial body

Dark of the moon by P.J. Parrish

#20  Something that grows

Tigerlily’s orchids by Ruth Rendell

Well that’s it!  Fun for me, and hopefully added something to YOUR TBR! LOL

One of the reasons I did this tag was that I didn’t have to single people out by tagging them.  But, that being said, if you want to do this too – consider yourself tagged!

Posted in Dustjackets, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged | 22 Comments

“The broken girls” by Simone St. James

“Idlewild was an old place, and the fear here was old fear.”

“Idlewild was the boarding school of last resort, where parents stashed their embarrassments, their failures, and their recalcitrant girls.”

Idlewild is an old, abandoned boarding school in rural Vermont. It opened in 1919 and closed its doors forever in 1979. It was never a happy place. Idlewild was a school where broken girls were sent. You know, the ones who didn’t conform to what society thought they should be.

This story is told with dual timelines, sixty-four years apart.

Autumn 1950 – Of the 120 students housed at Idlewild, we come to know four of them very well.  Roommates, they are girls who, though very different, form a bond. With no people in their lives that want them, they turn to each other for love and support. All in the same desperate situation, they understand each other. All four girls were damaged in different ways.

Cecelia (CeCe) Frank – the illegitimate daughter of a rich married man and his housekeeper.  Her mother, shamed by CeCe’s existence, tried to drown her when she was six years old.

Roberta Greene – was rendered mute after she discovered her war veteran uncle with a pistol in his mouth. Roberta was discarded to Idlewild by her unfeeling parents.

Katie Winthrop – smart, bold and fearless, though this was largely a front she put on to protect herself.  She had been attacked by a boy. Her parents blamed Katie for bringing shame to their family and ruining ‘their’ reputation.

Sonia Gallipeau – a French refugee and war orphan. A former inmate of Ravensbrück concentration camp. Small in stature due to being malnourished, Sonia dreamed of working in a library when she grows up. “All Sonia wanted was safety, a place to be. Even if that place was Idlewild, with the misfits and the ghosts.”

The reader’s heart breaks for these unwanted, discarded girls. Their innocence, their love of books, their loneliness, their longing for family – and for love.

“That was what books did – they turned off your thinking for you, put their thoughts in your head so you wouldn’t have your own.


Autumn 2014 – The protagonist of this novel is Fiona Sheridan, a freelance journalist. She is the thirty-seven year old daughter of famous journalist Malcolm Sheridan. There are just the two of them left in their tiny family. Fiona’s sister, Deb, was brutally murdered twenty years ago. After their devastating loss, Fiona’s parents divorced and her mother died of cancer eight years ago. Her father, always so full of life, lost his will, his verve.  Tim Christopher, Deb’s boyfriend at the time of her death and the son of the richest and most prominent local family, was convicted of her murder. He has been in prison these last twenty years.

Deb’s body had been found on Idlewild’s former sports field.  Never able to get over what happened to her beloved older sister, Fiona has maintained an unhealthy interest in the place.  Now, she learns that Idlewild is to be restored. She convinces her editor to let her write a story about the restoration, and the history of the old school. This is a departure for Fiona as up until now she has only written ‘fluff’ pieces.

Fiona wonders why the new owner, an elderly widow from New York named Margaret Eden, would want to sink her money into restoring this derelict building.

This is how I pictured Fiona Sheridan while reading this book. (Mireille Enos as portrayed in the TV series “The Killing”)

Fiona is dating a local policeman, Jamie Creel. He is the son of the former police chief, and the grandson of the police chief before that. Younger than Fiona by eight years, he elicits a spark in Fiona like no other man. His family do not approve of their liaison. Police and journalists are natural enemies, they just don’t mix.

Fiona’s investigative journalism takes her to Idlewild for a tour given by the new owner’s son. Whilst there, she comes to believe that the stories that have circulated for years are true. Idlewild is haunted. There was a persistent legend that Mary Hand’s baby was buried in the school’s garden.

“Mary Hand, Mary Hand, dead and buried under land.
She’ll say she wants to be your friend. Do not let her in again!”

During the restoration work, a body of a young girl is found in the school’s disused well.  Long dead, she had been in the well for many years. Could this be the body of the ‘runaway’ student from sixty years ago?

“Idlewild had been the resting site for two murdered girls, decades apart.”

Part modern crime thriller, part gothic ghost story, “The Broken Girls” is sure to be on my favorites list for 2018.

A story of past wrongs put right. A story about police corruption, about mourning and grief, about the enduring bond of four broken girls…

Highly recommended!

I received a digital copy of this novel, free at my request, from Berkley/Penguin via NetGalley.

Simone St. James‘ debut novel, THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, won two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. AN INQUIRY INTO LOVE AND DEATH was nominated for another Arthur Ellis Award, and SILENCE FOR THE DEAD was shortlisted for a Goodreads Choice Award.

Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest (though not all at once).

Posted in Book Reviews, Canadian fiction, Favorite books, ghost stories, NetGalley, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

The weird side of famous writers

It is common knowledge that athletes and sports fans have some odd rituals, some would say quirks. I’m thinking of fans who always wear the same shirt to watch a game, athletes who carry a personal talisman with them on the sports field, etc. But… did you know that some of the famous authors/writers you know and love had some odd habits too?

Writers are not immune from ritual and superstition it would seem.

The following infographic was created by writer/blogger Jack Milgram.

Posted in Authors, infographics | Tagged , | 23 Comments