“Apologizing to Dogs” by Joe Coomer – Book Review

“With a splendid cast of characters and the cleverest canine in comedy, Apologizing to Dogs is a hilarious, heartwarming and wonderfully human tale and proves that no matter how old you get, there’s always something worth holding on to, fighting for and loving with all your might.”

Himself

The above graphic is found in the preliminary pages of the novel. It is a depiction of a street in Fort Worth, Texas that has for decades been a sort of antiques mall. Now, it is an antique itself, with fewer customers by the day, mostly elderly shopkeepers, and increasing decrepitude.  Trade is less than brisk. The people on the street are an ensemble of quirky, bizarre, and sometimes lonely people. Also on the street lives a stray dog named ‘Himself’.  A keen observer of the street’s inhabitants, he is wise beyond his two years. He resides beneath the porch of #8.

“He’d been alive for two years now but it seemed like always. He had lived under the porch for most of this time. For the first year of his life the hole in the lattice got smaller every day, but lately it’s stayed the same size.”


The neighbors of Worth Row include a wide variety of eccentrics:

#1 Nadine – Fifty-something, and not as young as she thinks herself to be, Nadine runs a vintage clothing shop. She wears her vintage clothes in such a way that drives her neighbor Carl to distraction.

Nadine’s late mother was once the ‘matriarch’ of Worth Row and is much missed by many of the street’s residents. She was especially loved by Mose and Effie, in very different ways of course.


A ‘shot-gun’ style home (so named for its narrow frontage and deep footprint)

 

#2 Carl – Upon discovering that his shot-gun style home was constructed of cypress wood, he is slowly dismantling it from the inside out.  He is using the valuable cypress wood to build a 32 foot, oceangoing sailboat for his neighbor Nadine as a way of showing her he cares.

None of his neighbors are aware that his house is now just a shell surrounding the large boat.


#3 Mose – owns ‘Time & Music Antiques’. He is in his late seventies and is good at fixing things. He fancies himself an inventor, though he has never actually invented anything. Mose was in love with Nadine’s late mother.


#4 Howard Dog-In-His-Path – is an American Indian who once robbed graves and keeps track of every pet buried in his neighbor’s yards. His yard is strewn with old bathtubs in which he often can be found napping.
At 83 years old, Howard is the keeper of the street’s secrets.


#5 Verda – sells antique figurines, salt & pepper shakers, and other trinkets. She is the proud dog mamma of two Pekingese dogs hilariously named Dideebiteya and Yeseedid.

Dideebiteya and Yeseedid

#6 Effie – is a widow in her early seventies, Effie keeps a running journal of all the goings on in Worth Row. The typical ‘nosy’ neighbor, Effie is paranoid and suspicious that everyone wants to steal her ‘things’ and is talking about her.

#7 Tradio and Arthur – A devoted gay couple who sell used items. Tradio is so named because he has a radio call-in show where folk can buy, sell, or trade used items.

#8 Mrs. Martin (deceased) – a former tearoom which has been purchased by the bank – the building is unoccupied. (except for Himself who lives under the front porch).

“So people sold the books they’d finished cheaply and paid dearly for those they hadn’t.”
#9 Mazelle and her husband – run a used book shop. She does the book end of things and he does the heavy lifting. A retired truck driver, Mazelle’s husband has a collection of things that caused him to have flat tires. A board full of mounted rusty nails and other sharp objects.

#10 Aura and Marshall – run a silver matching service. Aura is fat, Marshall is very tall and thin. The archetypal Mutt and Jeff couple. Not long married, they are trying for a baby who will be a cross of their vastly different body styles. Aura is SO fat, that the couple don’t realize that she is already nine months pregnant.

#11 Mr. and Mrs. Haygood – sell vintage toys. Mrs. Haygood is passionate about her garden which she works on jointly with her neighbor, Mazelle’s husband. Meanwhile, Mr. Haygood is having a decades long affair with Mazelle…

#12 Arlen and Louise – rarely open their Art Deco antique store. They would rather spend their days at the local mall outside the photo shop watching the pictures of other people’s lives roll off the developing machines.


On an October day in 1986, a violent thunderstorm/tornado will set into motion life-altering events for the residents of the shabby Worth Row exposing over three decades of secrets and imploding the life they once knew.

I have owned a hardcover copy of “Apologizing to Dogs” for some time now. I’m thankful I finally put aside my review commitments long enough to read it.  This is not the first novel by Coomer that I have read. “A pocketful of names” remains vividly in my memory, even though I read it about twelve years ago.

As with my first book by Coomer, it was truly a rewarding reading experience.  The myriad names and characters were a bit confusing at the outset, but due to rich characterization, they soon became vividly individual and recognizable. Coomer has a talent for sharp observation of human foibles and idiosyncrasies. The story is related with equal parts empathy and humor.

All the action in the novel takes place in a single day. With so many varied characters and so many divulged secrets, it is a very busy day indeed. I did find the beginning of the novel a bit slow and confusing, however it soon picked up and became clear. I beg potential readers to give it more than one chapter before throwing in the towel. It is worth the effort. Though, to be fair, this book is as quirky as the characters within its pages.

Joe Coomer himself runs antique malls, so I’m sure that the many people he meets in his daily life serve as inspiration for this novel – which manages to be both very sad, and very humorous at the same time. I enjoyed this read very much (but not as much as Coomer’s wonderful novel “A Pocketful of Names”). I recommend this book to all dog lovers, those readers who like quirky characters, and those who enjoy a few giggles while reading.

I read this novel as part of my A-Z of those I own challenge.

P.S. – The sweet dogs at the head of this post are my grand-dogs, Kooper and Oakley. They wanted to be on my blog, so I couldn’t say no. LOL

Joe Coomer, 1958-  lives outside of Fort Worth, Texas, and in Stonington, Maine. Coomer attended the University of Kentucky between 1977 and 1979 and subsequently attended the University of Texas at Arlington a single semester. He completed his undergraduate degree at Southern Methodist University in 1981.

Coomer wrote his first books while working at his family’s lumber yard and working several part-time jobs. His first novel, The Decatur Road, won the Jones Fiction Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters in 1984. The book originated as three short stories created for his senior thesis project.

He married Heather Hutton, whom he had met in Taos, New Mexico, in 1986. They were wed in the Coomer family compound on the site of a home they were building. The couple established two antique malls in the Dallas-Fort Worth area shortly after they wed. They divorced in 2000.

He married Isabelle Tokumaru, an artist and art conservator, in Maine in 2003.

Coomer spends his winters in Springtown, Texas, where he runs three large antique malls. He lives in a fairly new Victorian house that he spent a year and a half building in the late eighties, a project he wrote about in Dream House [1991]. His current wife, Isabelle Tokumaru, runs her paintings conservation practice in the third story, while he writes novels in the kitchen, where the food is close. Summers, they live in Stonington, Maine, an active fishing village on the coast. When the weather’s nice, he takes his old motor sailer, “Yonder”, on day sails and cruises down east. He chronicled her purchase, restoration, and his stupidities at sea in Sailing in a Spoonful of Water.

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Posted in A-Z of those I own, Book Reviews, Literary fiction, reading challenges | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year longlist

Literary awards are not always a guide to what YOU would like, or would have chosen in any given category. However, when it comes to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Award, it seems that they choose the books that I would have chosen.

I have read FIVE titles in this year’s longlist and hope to read many more of them.

Here are the links to my reviews for the 5 titles on the longlist that I have read:

Salt Lane” by William Shaw

Snap” by Belinda Bauer

The Chalk Man” by C.J. Tudor

This is How it Ends” by Eva Dolan

Our House” by Louise Candlish

The titles from the longlist that are still patiently waiting on my TBR and that I am particularly looking forward to reading are:

Hell Bay” by Kate Rhodes

Broken Ground” by Val McDermid

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton

Take Me In” by Sabine Durrant


How many of these fantastic titles have YOU read?

Posted in Anticipated titles, Book Reviews | Tagged , | 13 Comments

“Distress Signals” by Catherine Ryan Howard – Book Review

Adam Dunne and Sarah O’Connell have been living together for almost a decade now. He is a screenwriter waiting for his ‘big break‘. She works in PR and supports them both. Adam has just received some good news and finally reaps some success from his writing. When Sarah tells Adam she is flying to Barcelona for a conference, he doesn’t think twice. After an initial message when she first arrives, he doesn’t hear from her again. He becomes more and more concerned. Then he receives her passport in the mail.

She doesn’t arrive home on the scheduled day. Her parents are equally concerned about her well-being. They go to the Garda in Cork, but they are unhelpful saying that Sarah is an adult, and adults purposefully go missing everyday…

Sarah’s best friend tells Adam that Sarah has been seeing someone else. Distraught, but still frantic as to Sarah’s welfare, Adam does everything in his power to find her. He discovers that she was last seen on a cruise ship called the Celebrate.  Then Adam is contacted by another man whose wife also disappeared while aboard the Celebrate. Peter Brazier received his wife’s passport in the mail with a note identical to the one Adam received – Peter’s wife Estelle has been missing for a year now.

Adam and Peter join forces to discover what happened to the women they loved. They take a cruise upon the Celebrate


“Corinne’s face wore several more years than she had lived.”

Corinne Dupont is in her early sixties. She is working as a room steward aboard the Celebrate, a cruise ship owned by Blue Wave. She has no physical stamina, but is determined to find a man whose photo she memorizes.


Romain is a little boy of eight when we first meet him. He lives with his mother, father, and two younger brothers. For some reason his Mummy doesn’t seem to love him the same way she loves his two brothers. Romain cannot understand why… One day his Mummy tells him to try to make his baby brother stop crying. He jiggles baby Mikki the way he has seen his mother do – only Romain jiggles too hard causing Mikki to have ‘shaken baby syndrome’. His mother, unloving before, now becomes more cold and distant. She withdraws from Romain and for years he craves her affection.

“Even when he was trying to be good, bad things still happened.”

Romain is bullied at school. When he is twelve years old, his frustrations get the better of him. When his tormentor tries to also bully his younger brother Jean, his ‘darkness’ takes over and he murders the bully.  He is sentenced and sent away to a juvenile detention centre where he lives for five years. When he is released, his family do not want him back. Then, the day he is released, another tragic trauma befalls Romain.

A STRONG debut novel by a talented author!  Written with three parallel narratives, the author causes the reader to wonder how on earth they could be connected in any way. Then, she cleverly ties them together in a way that you didn’t see coming.  What more could you ask of a debut thriller? Recommended for sure!

I received a digital ARC of this novel from Blackstone Publishing via NetGalley. My unbiased review is my way of thanking the publisher and the author.


Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.

Follow Catherine Ryan Howard on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

“The Invited” by Jennifer McMahon – Book Review

A chilling ghost story with a twist. “The Invited” takes place in rural Vermont and tells the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late…

The novel opens in the year 1924. Hattie Breckenridge is a seer. She predicts things before they happen. When she predicts that the school will burn, she keeps her daughter home on that day. The school burns, children die, and the townspeople blame Hattie. They come en mass to her home and lynch her.


Present Day – Helen and Nate Wetherell have quit their secure teaching jobs in Connecticut to move to rural Vermont. They have pooled the money they got from selling their condo with an inheritance from Helen’s father. They plan to build their dream house – by themselves. For some this would be a fool-hardy project, but they both have building skills. What they don’t have in manual skill, they have in enthusiasm.  They buy acreage and, while living in an old decrepit trailer on the property, they proceed to build a saltbox style house.

Helen, a former history teacher, is also an historian whose field of expertise is early America. She wants to incorporate some old materials into her new home to give it some authentic history. When she learns that the land upon which they are building their house is reputed to be haunted, Helen is thrilled.

Nate, a former science teacher, scoffs at anything considered ‘paranormal’. He is an avid nature lover and keeps a notebook of his wildlife sightings. When he sees an albino deer on their new property near the bog, he becomes quite obsessed with getting a photograph of the animal…


Next we meet Olive Kissner, a fourteen year-old girl who lives down the road from Helen and Nate’s acreage. Olive does NOT want them here! She is on a mission to find some buried treasure that once belonged to Hattie Breckenridge and with the couple moving in, it spoils her plans. She tries to sabotage the build and freak out Helen and Nate by stealing from them… Eventually though, Olive becomes friends with the couple and even helps them in their work. Olive too is not without building skills. Since her mother ran off last year, she and her daddy have been remodeling their house in the hopes of making it nicer upon her mother’s much hoped for return.

Olive’s mother wore an unusual necklace. On a silver chain, it is comprised of shapes surrounding an eye. When Olive finds this necklace in the bog on Helen’s land, she fears that something bad might have happened to her mother…

“What if objects didn’t just hold memories, but held traces of the people who touched them, threads that connected them still?”

As the building progresses, Helen sources a beam made from the tree that Hattie Breckenridge was hung from. This item, along with several more, seem to invite ghosts into their new home…

Helen and Nate, once so close, seem to be becoming distant. They have simmering resentments and are keeping secrets from each other.

“That was the cruelest part about history, whether your own or a stranger’s from a hundred years ago – there wasn’t a damn thing you could do to change it.”

The title was perfect for the book. Instead of being afraid of the ghostly hauntings, the protagonist of this story actually ‘Invited‘ them. She wanted to see the ghost and help her in her mission to save her descendants.

The setting was idyllic, at least for me. Rural Vermont brings up lovely visions of beautiful countryside and stunning views.

Characterization was adequate, with my favourite character being the young Olive. A motherless teen who seemed very real and very vulnerable.

This is not at all a horror story. Nothing to be afraid of here. The ghostly visions were a bit on the creepy side, but not scary.

This is an original take on the traditional ghost story. After all, haunted houses are usually old buildings, not ones just being built. However, although the premise is original, the rest of the narrative is fairly predictable. It held my interest, but didn’t WOW me. An easy read.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Doubleday via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own. This unbiased review is my thanks to Doubleday and to the author.
The Invited” is published by Doubleday and will be available for purchase on April 30, 2019. Jennifer McMahon was born in 1968 and grew up in her grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where she was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. She wrote my first short story in third grade. She graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and she decided to take some time to think about whether she wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, she wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with her partner, Drea, while they built their own house. Over the years, Jennifer has been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness — She quit her last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, she gave birth to her daughter, Zella. These days, home is an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, ghost stories | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Cover Love: part 73 – Eggs

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 73rd installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that have eggs on their covers. Easter is just days away, so I thought it was an ideal opportunity to showcase this topic.

These seem to encompass a wide variety of genres.  Enjoy!

I’ve read two of these and three more are on my TBR.
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.

And don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 72 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 23 Comments

“The Lonely Hearts Crime Club” by Tanya Bullock – Book Review

Somewhere in the Midlands, there is an inner-city apartment building called Shenstone Towers. The residents of this social housing building comprise a cross-section of humanity.  So, lets get right down to it and meet a few of them.

Aggie – an elderly lady who lives alone with her little dog. Aggie is slightly mentally disabled. She loves bright colours, and playing bingo. She spends her days watching television. One evening, she is attacked in her apartment and left for dead…


Ella – At just twenty-one years of age, Ella is a new resident of Shenstone Towers. She is heavily pregnant and has been recently living on the streets. She is a smoker and an alcoholic.  Now, she is valiantly trying to turn her life around so that she can be a good mother. Ella is very beautiful with an infectious smile.

With no support system, she is trying to get to know her new neighbours. Ella lives next-door to Aggie.


Nathan – Young and handsome, Nathan is a wedding videographer. He is also very lonely since the death of his Mum who he was very close to. He is single because he doesn’t want to inflict his ‘baggage’ on another person. In addition to hallucinations, he has night terrors. Both of these things have Nathan’s guilty secret as their cause…  When Nathan meets Ella, he is drawn to her beauty and recognizes her as a kindred solitary soul.


Birdie – Having just passed her 52nd birthday, Birdie is a lonely, tragic woman. She is estranged from her married daughter and is now jobless. She fancies herself an actress, but acting jobs for a woman of her age are few on the ground – even though she has kept her trim figure. She suffers terribly from arthritis in her knees and drinks copious amounts of wine in order to feel better… both emotionally and physically.


William – A young man in his twenties. He is autistic and this is the first time he has ever lived on his own. His mother is worried he will not be able to manage, but William is determined to strike out on his own. He has just moved in to Shenstone Towers. William loves to watch people and sometimes makes up stories about them. Unfortunately, he isn’t always able to discern fantasy from reality. The others wonder if William’s astute observational skills are to be fully trusted.


Ted – Because many of the residents are living on the fringes of society, some with psychological or coping problems, there is a social worker who visits Shenstone Towers on a regular basis. His name is Ted. Through his work he visits Aggie, Birdie, and Ella. Ted though, is not everything he claims to be…


These residents band together to play detective. They want to discover who attacked Aggie so viciously. Their discovery will surprise them all.

Though I seldom agree to blog tours, I just couldn’t resist taking part in this one. A few years ago I read the novella “Homecoming” by Tanya Bullock which has remained in my memory every since. So, when Blackbird Digital Books asked if I wanted to join the tour, my answer was a resounding YES!

I loved the way that the misfits and loners of  “The Lonely Hearts Crime Club” came together. Their burgeoning friendships were heartwarming, all the more so because they lived in a place where tragedy and heartbreak abound.

The book portrays vulnerable people who have had their trust in others betrayed time and again. It vividly depicts how complicated and interesting people can be, and how a sense of belonging can be extremely cathartic. It also shows how ordinary people’s lives can be derailed – and how difficult it can sometimes be to get back on track.

All in all, “The Lonely Hearts Crime Club” is a novel I can heartily recommend.

Tomorrow, April 16, 2019 is publication day for “The Lonely Hearts Crime Club” so be sure to pick up a copy!  Check out what other people had to say about this novel:

Thanks so much to Blackbird Digital Books who provided me with a complimentary digital copy of the book in order that I could take part in this tour.Tanya+Bullock

Tanya Bullock is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, college lecturer, and the mother of two young children.  She lives in the West Midlands, England.

The Lonely Hearts Crime Club is Tanya’s third novel.

Twitter@TanyaBullock15

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Reviews | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

WordPress weirdness…

Hi folks. I hope everyone had a great weekend.

Just in case you were wondering…  WordPress has been acting strange lately.

Blogs that I have followed for YEARS are now starting to show that I’m not following them at all! For instance, today when I visited a blog that I visit EVERYDAY, I saw this:

When, I usually see this:

I’ve had to RE-FOLLOW countless blogs over the weekend.

Has this been happening to YOU? Or, is it just me?

Posted in Book bloggers, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged | 40 Comments

The A-Z of Me @Fictionophile

A = ALBERT (the love of my life and my husband for the past 41 years)

B = BOOKS (DUH!); Blogging; Bev (an old friend); Bread (I could live on bread and wine alone); Beaches; Boats; Barbecued ribs; Brussel sprouts

C = Cottage (where we spend our summers); Clay (my late step-father); Charlotte (my mother-in-law); Cynthia (an old friend); Chocolate (see photo above); Cats; Christmas; Crochet; Custard

D = DANIEL (my beloved only son); Donna (my sweet cousin); Dorothy (my dear friend)

E = England (my heart is there even though I live in Canada); Eyesight (didn’t know how much my eyesight meant to me until it became under threat recently); Ebooks; Edelweiss (where I get a lot of the books I read and review)

F = FAMILY; Friends; Frank (my late father-in-law); Fictionophile (my blog which is a labour of love)

G = Gloria (my dearest friend); Grandson (expected in June 2019); Gaye (friend); Gardens; Gazebos; Green beans

H = HUGS, Honesty; Humour; Houses; History; Hummingbirds

I = Iris (my dear, late Mother); Irma (my sweet sister-in-law); Ian (a dear friend)

J = Jeffrey (my only nephew); Justice; Jigsaw puzzles; Jewelry

K = Kathryn (my only niece); Kathleen (friend and mentor); Kooper (my grand-dog); Kindle (I don’t go anywhere without mine)

L = LAURA (my beloved only daughter); Library (where I worked for decades before retirement)

M = Murray (my brother-in-law); Marlene (friend & mentor); Music; Mysteries

N = Nicole (my sweet daughter-in-law); Nova Scotia (the beautiful province where I live); NetGalley (where I get a lot of the books I read and review)

O = Oakley (my grand-dog); the Ocean

P = Pianos (No, I don’t play but I’ve always wanted to learn); Purring (nothing more soothing than a purring cat); Photographs

Q = Quilts (to snuggle up in when reading); Quotes (especially if they are about books and reading)

R = Richard (my late father); Reading; Retirement (it is the BEST!)

S = Scrabble (real life or online – anyway I can get it); the Seaside; Scallops (YUM!); Scones; Squash

T = Togetherness; Tranquility; Tales; Thrillers; Turquoise; Tea

U = Understanding (of  the world, myself, and other people)

V = Views (an ocean view is the best)

W = Wine (red preferred, but white sometimes); Words (I’ve been a logophile for my entire life); Worrying (I’m a worrywart)

X = Xenophiles

Y = Yarn (all the better to crochet with)

Z = Zoos (I love animals of all kinds)

So now, you know more about me.  Do you and I have anything in common?

Posted in Fictionophile report, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged | 37 Comments

#FF Friday Finds – a few gems I found on the Internet this week

A poem called “I like old things“.

 

A few graphics from Pinterest that I particularly enjoyed

 


A free site that checks your site for broken links. It took a while to run, but seeing as my blog has been in existence for twelve years, that is understandable. It is SO frustrating to click on a link that interests you, only to get the dreaded “File not found” error message.

It found 162 broken links on Fictionophile!  I’ll work on looking them up and updating them when I have some free time.


The ITW has announced the finalists for the 2019 Thriller Awards!


Instagram, which now has 700 million users globally, appears to be the social network having the greatest negative effect, according to a new report by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an independent charity focused on health education.

The findings weren’t all bad. Nearly 70% of respondents reported that they received emotional support on social media when times were tough, and many said their accounts offered a forum for positive self-expression. They were also able to create and maintain relationships online.


Posted in Internet Gems, ramblings & miscellanea | 18 Comments

“The Greenway” by Jane A. Adams – Book Review

Cassie Maltham, her husband Fergus, and another couple are vacationing in rural Norfolk. The holiday is an experiment of sorts. Fergus thinks that coming back here will be therapeutic for Cassie, who experienced a childhood trauma in the area.  Twenty years previously, Cassie and her cousin Suzie were taking a shortcut home through the ‘Greenway’ when Suzie vanished.

The Greenway is an ancient ceremonial pathway of some sort that is viewed with superstition in the minds of the locals. Many believe it is a sort of portal to the spirit world.

Now, just days into their holiday, another young girl goes missing. Sara Jane Cassidy was also last seen by her friends on ‘The Greenway’.  Curiously, Sara Jane resembles Suzie Ashmore in appearance…

The policemen, D.I. Mike Croft and his sergeant Bill Enfield are tasked with the case of finding Sara Jane.  D.I. Mike Croft, a young man, is divorced after the death of his only son in a hit-and-run accident, and lives alone. Enfield is married, a career copper with little ambition to move up the ranks, and due to retire soon.

Because the case has so many similarities to the Suzie Ashmore case twenty years before, they enlist the aid of retired D.I. Tynan who worked that case. Tynan jumps at the chance to help out. The Suzie Ashmore case was never solved and he felt it was his own personal failure. Also, he is lonely and at loose ends since his retirement and the death of his beloved wife two years previously.

The two cases have three striking parallels. Both young girls vanished in broad daylight. Both girls disappeared while walking through the Greenway, AND, both girls vanished when Cassie Maltham was in the area… A coincidence?

Cassie, who never fully recovered from her cousin’s disappearance, suffers nightmares to this day. Under the care of a psychiatrist, some would consider her mentally unstable.

Police frustrations mount…

“The Greenway” was a satisfying blend of police procedural mystery and thriller. Written in a forthright, linear way it was very easy to follow.

The characters were likable. I especially enjoyed the growing friendship between Croft and Tynan. The current D.I. and the retired D.I. are both single, lonely men who are driven by police work.

The rural Norfolk setting was atmospheric and well described. The bizarre nature of the case kept my interest throughout.

Although the resolution of the case explained the who and the how, it did not entirely explain the ‘why‘ of the matter as much as I might have liked.

I really enjoyed reading “The Greenway” and plan to read the second Mike Croft novel.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “The Greenway” from Joffe Books via NetGalley for review purposes and reading enjoyment.Jane Adams 1960-
is a British writer of psychological thrillers. Her first book, The Greenway, was nominated for a John Creasey Award in 1995.  Jane Adams is the author of 30 published crime novels, published by Pan Macmillan, Allison & Busby and Severn House. Adams has a degree in sociology, was once lead vocalist in a folk rock band and is married with two children. She lives in Leicester.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = STRANGER

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 thousands of books with the word ‘stranger’ 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. Four of these titles I’ve read, most of the rest are on my 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?

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 | 19 Comments

If someone made a movie….? Guest post by Frankie Y. Bailey

If Someone Made a Movie
by Frankie Y. Bailey

I think most writers hear this question sooner or later – from the moderator of your panel, or a reader who stops to chat as she’s buying your book, or maybe it’s a question you ask yourself. I think you’ve guessed from my title what that question is: “Who would you want to play [name of protagonist] in a movie?”
Let me admit up front, I have spent more time than I should have on the Internet trying to come up with a good answer to that question. After all, Lizzie Stuart is my character. I should know who I would like to play her in a movie – or on a television series. So, I’ve looked at photos of the talented African American women who might portray Lizzie, my female sleuth. I keep looking and thinking, and I still don’t have an answer.
Not that I’m anticipating needing to know. First, Hollywood is not sending me or my agent emails begging to option my series, and second, even if a director were interested, I would probably have no say-so at all regarding casting. And, then, there’s the third issue. Lizzie is a first-person narrator. She doesn’t spend a lot of time looking at herself. She only comments about herself in the context of haircuts or pet hairs on a skirt. I know that other characters find her attractive. But I – perhaps intentionally — have never tried to imagine her face feature-by-feature.
You’ll notice that there is an illustrated character that we assume to be Lizzie on the cover of both Death’s Favorite Child and A Dead Man’s Honor. These are new covers, created for the books as they were being reissued. I really love the look of these covers and the connection they establish among books in the series. But I also really liked the covers on the first editions published by Overmountain Press on which she did not appear. And I thought it was really cool when “In Her Fashion,” my first short story in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July 2014) included both an illustration of Lizzie and of another character in the story. (listen to that story). I’m fine with all of this because I’m interested in how other people imagine Lizzie. I may never find a photograph or see someone on the street or movie screen and think, “That’s her! That’s Lizzie!” It’s more important that I, as the author, know who she is and how she thinks and feels.
I have a much better idea how John Quinn (the Philadelphia homicide detective that Lizzie meets in Death’s Favorite Child) looks. Lizzie describes him to the reader. I would be able to pick him out in a crowd. And, no, I don’t know who should play him in the movie. But I do know the feel of the chemistry between Quinn and Lizzie that would be crucial to make their relationship work on the screen. I have spent some time looking at white male actors because Lizzie and Quinn are an interracial couple. But they aren’t a “cute couple” (in the cozy sense). In fact, if I ever “saw” them in a café, they’d probably be having a rather intense conversation about suspects.

Frankie Y. Bailey is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany (SUNY). Her areas of research are crime history, and crime and mass media/popular culture and material culture. She is the author of a number of non-fiction books, including local histories and books about crime fiction. Her mystery novels feature Southern-born crime historian, Lizzie Stuart, in five books, beginning with Death’s Favorite Child and A Dead Man’s Honor. The books are being reissued by Speaking Volumes. Frankie’s two near-future police procedurals feature Albany police detective, Hannah McCabe in The Red Queen Dies and What the Fly Saw (Minotaur Books). Frankie has also has written several short stories, including “In Her Fashion” (EQMM, July 2014), “The Singapore Sling Affair” (EQMM, Nov/Dec 2017), and “The Birth of the Bronze Buckaroo” (The Adventures of the Bronze Buckaroo, 2018). She is currently working on a nonfiction book about dress and appearance in American crime and justice, a historical thriller set in 1939, and the plots of the next Stuart and McCabe books. Frankie is a past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Website URL: www.frankieybailey.com
Twitter: @FrankieYBailey

Frankie Bailey’s mystery series features protagonist Lizzie Stuart, an African-American, 38 year-old crime historian.

Death’s Favorite Child
(Lizzie Stuart mystery #1)


A Dead Man’s Honor
(Lizzie Stuart mystery #2)

Posted in Authors, Guest post, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

“The binding” by Bridget Collins – Book Review

The time is sometime in the far Anglo-Saxon past. An imaginary time when the annual winter holiday was called “The Turning” and  a time when books were forbidden. So deplorable that the average ‘good’ citizen would not have them in their homes. It was also a time when families who felt shame of their loved ones would either put them away in lunatic asylums, or, send them to binders to be ‘bound’.

Part I – A farmer’s son, named Emmett Farmer goes to the country fair and uses his few shillings to purchase a beautiful object that he has never seen before. At first he thinks it is a pretty box, then he realizes that the box is filled with paper that is covered in words.  “the book fell open as he passed it to me and I couldn’t give it back. As soon as I saw the writing on the pages I understood: this was lots of pages all squashed together — like letters, lots of letters, only in a better box — and a story that went on and on.” He takes his treasure home.  His parents are appalled. He is punished and has his book taken away from him and buried.

Next we discover a slightly older, teenage Emmett. He has been suffering terribly from a mysterious illness. No longer really strong enough to labour on the family’s farm, he is shipped off to the remote marshlands to become an apprentice binder. He is not given a choice in the matter.  The decision to send him there confounds Emmett. Why would his parents want him to apprentice in the making of ‘books‘ when they are so condemned and despised by them?

how I imagined Seredith (art by Vlado Ondo)

The old bookbinder’s name is Seredith. She cares for him when he is ill. She teaches him her trade. She tells him that he is a “binder born”.  Seredith does not make books to sell. She takes pride in the craft and the dignity of making beautiful books, and she then keeps them safely locked up in her storeroom.

Emmett tries to understand, but is perplexed. He comes to accept his fate and he comes to love the old Seredith. Yet he does feel intense loneliness and is occasionally homesick for his family.

“It’s a sacred calling, Emmett. To have another person’s memory entrusted to you… To take the deepest, darkest part away from them and keep it safe, forever. To honor it, to make it beautiful, even though no one will ever see it. To guard it with your own life…”

Eventually he finds that books are really people’s memories. People come to the binder to have their memories erased. When they leave the binder’s house after being ‘bound’, they are left empty, with no memory of their former lives.  That is why his parents hadn’t wanted him to read a book. It was someone’s story.

The only way for the person to regain their erased memories would be if their book was burned…

Then, a less scrupulous binder named De Havilland visits Seredith…


Part II – Emmett is living back at the farm in the years previous to his living with Seredith.  He toils long hours in the fields, caring for the livestock, chopping wood, etc. One day while Emmett and his sister Alta are out for a walk, they meet a young man who saves Alta’s life when she falls through some thin ice. This young man, Lucian Darnay, will come to have a profound influence on both Alta and Emmett’s future lives.

Eventually, Emmett does something that is so shameful to his family that he sent (against his will)  to the binder to be ‘bound‘.


Part III – Lucian Darnay‘s story. The son of a wealthy and depraved man, he is betrothed to a woman and due to be married in just a few weeks.  Yet… something about his life feels missing. Then he learns that he has been ‘bound’ and he is then eager to get his ‘book’ back before his marriage.

“They’re full of promises, the binders, but if someone says something before you’ve had time to heal, you can end up knowing you’ve been bound. They say that’s the worst, when you don’t know what you’ve forgotten.”

The reason I chose to read this novel is obvious. It is about books. But not at all in the way I thought. What a difficult book to review. I’m not even sure how to classify the genre. Is is historical fiction, historical fantasy, supernatural, horror, a love story?  With elements of many different genres it is an amalgam of all of them.

With this amalgam of genres, I hope I can do this book justice. A fairly long read of 448 pages, it kept me enthralled throughout.  The book was written in three separate sections. The first, depicting Emmett Farmer when he lived with the old binder Seredith on the marsh, had an almost surreal quality. As if the reading was watching a film in slow motion through a distorted lens.  The second section of the book depicted Emmett’s recovered memories after his ‘book’ was burned in the fire. This section read like very well rendered historical fiction. The third section of the novel featuring Lucian Darnay had elements of suspense and tied the entire plot together. As all good novels should.

I think I’ll remember this novel for quite some time – but probably not for the reasons I would normally. It was a lengthy book that held my interest. It was exceedingly well written, and it was a genre that I don’t normally enjoy.  With themes of innocence and altruism, perversion and depravity, it will hold appeal for countless readers. The historical aspect of the novel highlighted the chasm between the social classes and the eternal problem of powerful people preying upon those who are vulnerable.

All in all, I really enjoyed this reading experience and would recommend this book. Readers who enjoy historical fiction, and historical fantasy fiction will be most enthralled by Bridget Collins debut adult novel.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “The Binding” from William Morrow/HarperCollins via Edelweiss.  This novel will be available to purchase on April 9, 2019 in Canada, and on April 16th in the U.S. and is available for preorder now.

 

Bridget Collins was born in England in 1981. She trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art after reading English at King’s College, Cambridge. She is the author of seven acclaimed books for young adults and has had two plays produced, one at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Binding is her first adult novel.

Posted in Book Reviews, books about books, Edelweiss, Historical fiction | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Cover Love: part 72 – Woman in a window

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 72nd installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that have women in windows on their covers. Although A.J. Finn’s thriller is titled “The woman in the window” I have not featured it here because – although it did inspire this post, it does not picture a woman in a window on its cover.

These seem to encompass a wide variety of genres.  Enjoy!

I haven’t read any of these but six of them are on my TBR.
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.

And don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 71 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 14 Comments

Dadaism in Literature: an infographic (guest post)

Dadaism, a cultural and artistic movement that spanned mediums and countries alike, began as a rejection of nationalism as World War I raged on throughout Europe. Many European artists were forced to leave the country or face persecution, leading to a community of artists throughout Switzerland that used their art to express their anger at the senseless violence of the war.

The movement of Dadaism can be traced back to Hugo Ball, who coined the term in the early 20th century. A poet, Ball was one of the first to perform his work in public and was often credited with wild displays of costumes and emotion. The goal of most Dada artists and performers was to use whimsy, obscenity and humor to evoke emotion and action from the audience and challenge the societal norms put in place by society.

Writers of the modern century draw upon Dadaism to make their work stand out and shock the reader. Invaluable took a look at the literary principles of Dadaism in the infographic below, and included writing prompts so that budding artists can learn to write in the same style.

Posted in Guest post, infographics | Tagged | 5 Comments