Cover Love: part 52 – Clocks

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 52nd installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature clocks/timepieces on their covers. Since we ‘sprang ahead‘ to daylight saving time this month, the topic seemed timely.

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 | 15 Comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Well the big day has finally arrived. That day when many of us, Irish or not, wear green clothes, drink green beer, and generally pretend we hail from the Emerald Isle.

To celebrate things Irish and things bookish, I thought I’d remind you about the 2018 Reading Ireland Challenge.  I’ve read 3 books toward the challenge so far and plan to read 3 or 4 more.  I urge you to check out the many entries in the challenge so far. These include Irish books, Irish music, Irish movies, etc.

Also, I’d like to direct you to Paddy Cummins’ blog. Visiting this blog is the next best thing to visiting Ireland. Here you will find Irish lore, Irish history, Irish poetry, info about his books, and even a recipe for a traditional Irish hot toddy.

The Irish Flag


I just found out my Leprechaun name is Lucky McKissyFace. Wondering what yours is?

And finally the wisdom of Maxine…

Posted in Fictionophile report, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged | 13 Comments

“The liar’s girl” by Catherine Ryan Howard

For my third “Reading Ireland Month” selection I have chosen “The liar’s girl“.  Set in the city of Dublin, it seemed a good choice, and an excellent opportunity for me to read my first novel by Catherine Ryan Howard.

“They call him the Canal Killer”

The story began back in 2007 when the protagonist, Alison Smith was in her freshman year at St. John’s College, Dublin.  She was away from her home in Cork for the first time, her best friend Liz was at college with her, and she had met a boy and fallen in love.  Her life was rosy… until…  a spate of murders.  Young women were found in the dark waters of the Grand Canal in Dublin. They were all young female St. John’s College students, the last being the murder of her best-friend from childhood, Liz.

And, horrible as that was, what was even more horrible was that her boyfriend Will Hurley was arrested for the crimes.  They told her he even confessed!  Unable to face up to life in Ireland, Alison moved away to Breda, The Netherlands.  She didn’t return to Ireland even to see her parents. She met them elsewhere for family holidays.  She stays after she finishes college at den Haag and gets a job.  Now twenty-nine years old, she has friends, a life in Amsterdam. She is as happy as she ‘can‘ be.

Until – she opens her door one morning to find two Irish Gardaí on her doorstep.  They say that there has been two new murders in Dublin that are similar to the five from ten years ago.  Will Hurley has said that he has information about these murders but that he will only tell this information to her.  The Gardaí want her to go back to Ireland and speak to Will who has been incarcerated at a Psychiatric Hospital. Reluctantly, she goes.

Alison is shocked to learn that Malone, the youngest of the two Gardai doesn’t think that the latest murders are ‘copycat’ killings. He believes that Will Hurley is innocent and that the same person is killing now – as was then. Alison blames herself as she didn’t corroborate Will’s alibi.  Filled with remorse she does her best to help the Gardaí’s current investigation.

I won’t tell you any more of the story so as not to ruin it for you. Suffice it to say that Alison does help Gardaí Malone – until her own life is in jeopardy. Articulately told via two time frames (Alison then & Alison now), this novel relayed its story vividly.  The story comes to a solid conclusion and the reader is satisfied… yet there is more. All can not be so easily explained away.  A final revelation puts a neat twist in the tale.

This is the author’s second novel and I am now keen to read her debut.  Her pacing was spot on, her characters fully realized, and her settings eloquently described. The story was interesting to me because I could imagine it really happening – it didn’t seem far-fetched as some serial killer thrillers seem to be.

Highly recommended!

Since this is the 3rd time in a row I awarded 5 stars to a review I was a little tempted to give this one less than 5 stars so as to not come across as ‘gushy’.  Then I realized that would be unfair to the author, myself, and all of Fictionophile’s followers who depend on my to be honest to my own opinions.  So 5 stars it is! I seem to be on a role of great reads!

I received a digital ARC of this novel from Blackstone Publishing via Edelweiss.

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.

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

Throwback Thursday March 15, 2018 (an old favorite recommended)

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.
This week I’ve chosen “Snared” by Ed James for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published in April of 2015 and was, for me, a 5 star read.

There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties… The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.
— Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

james snaredA series of crimes are being perpetrated against people who have mistreated animals.  Animal lovers might applaud this as ‘justice’, but the police of the city of Dundee are concerned that the crimes are escalating in seriousness.  It all began with a farmer who got caught in a snare.  Then a woman was thrown into a dumpster.  But now… a brother and sister were abducted, a family who owned a battery hen farm were held captive with the father tortured, AND finally another man who raced greyhounds was murdered.  Evidence links the crimes, though finding the perpetrators is proving difficult, if not impossible.

deplorable condition of battery hens


Detective Sergeant Victoria Dodds is tasked with finding them.  Vicky is, by her own admission a ‘cold bitch’.  She has learned that to cope with the many arduous demands of her work and home life, that is the only way to survive.  Beneath her frosty exterior is a warm heart, with as many misgivings, doubt and guilt as any young working single mother could have.  Luckily she has a strong support network to counteract her intense work stress.  Her parents live nearby and they care for her four year old daughter on a regular basis.  She has female friends.

On the other hand, Vicky is very reluctant to enter into a relationship.  Once bitten – as they say.   When her good friend arranges a blind date, she acquiesces and meets Robert, a widower – who on the face of it seems a good guy.  The trouble is, Vicky has always been attracted to bad guys.  And there is one of those just transferred in at her work… Euan MacDonald.

Dundee with law in distance

Dundee with the Dundee Law war memorial (of the cover) in the distance

With a well-balanced blend of police procedure and Vicky’s private life, this latest entry in the ‘tartan noir‘ genre is a huge success.  The characters are well-rounded and interesting, even those in the periphery, such as the IT expert Zoe and Vicky’s ambitious and cocky Detective Constable Considine.  Set in the city of Dundee, it sheds light on  Scotland’s fourth largest city.  The author’s previous work in IT comes through with his use of the dark web and mention of HTTP tunnels etc. featuring in the narrative.  The novel is a long one, but was for me a quick read – aided I think by the author’s use of short chapters.

At the end of the day it is the premise of abusing the abusers which makes this novel stand out from its contemporaries and makes “Snared” a memorable debut to what I hope will be a long and successful series.

Special thanks to publishers Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy to read and review.



Ed James lives in the East Lothian countryside, 25 miles east of Edinburgh, with his girlfriend, six rescue cats, two retired greyhounds, a flock of ex-battery chickens and rescue ducks. While working in IT for a living, Ed wrote mainly on public transport but now writes crime fiction novels full time.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, Tartan noir, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Fictionophile and Instagram… a learning curve

Well I finally joined the rest of the universe and signed up for Instagram.  I’m a very visual person and that factor, along with the persuasion of my children and other book bloggers made me finally gather up enough nerve to take the plunge.

BUT….  it is not going as easily as I would wish.  If Twitter is kindergarten, then Instagram is university.

By biggest problem is that I don’t have data on my smartphone so that is out.  I use my Samsung tablet for Instagram and that is fine, except for some reason the app keeps failing and in the week I’ve had an Instagram account I’ve had to re-install the app 3 times!

I wish I could use Instagram with my laptop computer!

I researched how to do this but it meant downloading yet another software package and it all sounds so convoluted and problematic!

I see a few people have commented on my Instagram pictures and I would love to comment back – How do I comment back?

I’ve sometimes wanted to ‘repost’ another person’s Instagram photo – once was to enter a contest giveaway.  How do I ‘regram’?

And links…  When I put a photo on Instagram can I include a link to my book review?

Are links frowned upon in Instagram?

Can you suggest improvements for my profile?

Any and all suggestions, tips, or hints would be gratefully accepted.  I’m calling upon YOUR expertise – and I thank-you in advance.

Posted in ramblings & miscellanea, Social networks | Tagged , | 44 Comments

“The secrets of Roscarbury Hall” by Ann O’Loughlin

Family secrets born of tragic loss…

Atmospheric doesn’t begin to describe this novel.  Imagine. A neglected and dilapidated manor house in County Wicklow, Ireland. The owners are two elderly sisters. They haven’t spoken to each other in decades. Though they share the house, they communicate only by terse notes left on the hall table. They do not use each other’s provisions.  They have one thing in common: they both love Roscarbury Hall and wouldn’t live anywhere else.

how I imagined Roscarbury Hall might look

They say that happiness skips a generation…

The sisters’ beloved parents, John and Bernie O’Callaghan, died in a tragic accident when the girls were teenagers. Theirs was a marriage of much love and affection. Their father gifted their mother with a Weiss brooch every year on her birthday.

Ella O’Callaghan (our protagonist) is the elder sister. She ‘turned to the solace of the kitchen the night her mother and father died‘. She married Michael Hannigan and had a daughter who died in 1959, while still an infant. A few months later Michael too was dead…

Ella is the one who takes the majority of responsibility for Roscarbury Hall. It is she who tries to keep the Hall afloat, however times are increasingly hard and the bank is threatening foreclosure. She decides to put her expert baking skills to use and open the ballroom of the Hall as a tearoom/café to generate some much needed funds.  Her sister, Roberta is adamantly against this plan.

Roberta O’Callaghan, the younger sister, never married. She has arthritis and hobbles around the old mansion taking constant sips from her flask of sherry which is always with her.  Riddled with guilt, she copes by being antagonistic to all she meets.

Debbie Kading, a young American woman, has come to Ireland to search for her birthmother. She comes across the scenic Roscarbury Hall and gets chatting with Ella and her plans for a café.  Debbie, though only in Ireland for a short while, agrees to work in the café to help Ella out. Meanwhile, Debbie contacts the local convent to search for her adoption papers. She is met with secrecy, and her efforts are thwarted by the Mother Superior. Terminally ill, and increasingly desperate, Debbie resorts to an appeal on the radio: “I want my mother, if she’s out there, to get in touch. I was born on April 15, 1959, and adopted by the Kadings of New York. Sister Consuelo of the Divine Sisters handled the adoption.” Her actions set in motion the uncovering of a decades old scandal.

“It is an unfair world.”

This is a novel of family secrets, tragic losses, bitterness, blame, betrayal, corrupt adoption practices, a womanizing man and the pain he left behind him.   I don’t mind admitting I shed a few tears while reading the O’Callaghan sisters’ story.  Their story was poignant and caused the reader to have empathy for all of the key characters. Loved it!

If I had one gripe with this book is that there are no recipes included for Ella’s scrumptious sounding cakes.  “The secrets of Roscarbury Hall” is my second selection for “Reading Ireland Month 2018“. The author’s journalistic experience shows in the quality of this, her debut novel!

I received a digital copy of this novel from Skyhorse Publishing via Edelweiss.  The book was published in the United Kingdom by Black and White Publishing with a different title and cover.

Ann O’Loughlin, has been a journalist for over 30 years and works for the Irish Examiner. Her debut novel, “The Ballroom Café” was a resounding success and she has since written “The Judge’s Wife” and most recently, “The Ludlow Ladies’ Society“.  She lives in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Follow Ann O’Loughlin on Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Edelweiss, Literary fiction, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

“Silent victim” by Caroline Mitchell (#blogtour @Caroline_writes)

I’m delighted to be participating in the official blog tour for Caroline Mitchell’s latest novel.  A psychological thriller that will keep you riveted from first page until last.  This is the first novel I’ve read by this author and you can be sure that I will be seeking out her other work.

Blurb: Emma’s darkest secrets are buried in the past. But the truth can’t stay hidden for long.

Emma is a loving wife, a devoted mother…and an involuntary killer. For years she’s been hiding the dead body of the teacher who seduced her as a teen.
It’s a secret that might have stayed buried if only her life had been less perfect. A promotion for Emma’s husband, Alex, means they can finally move to a bigger home with their young son. But with a buyer lined up for their old house, Emma can’t leave without destroying every last trace of her final revenge…
Returning to the shallow grave in the garden, she finds it empty. The body is gone.
Panicked, Emma confesses to her husband. But this is only the beginning. Soon, Alex will discover things about her he’ll wish he’d learned sooner. And others he’ll long to forget.

Silent victim” is told via the voices of three different people and includes flashbacks to 2002 when Emma was sixteen.

Emma (our 30 year-old protagonist) is a very damaged individual.  To the casual observer she seems fine. Happily married, the mother of a darling young son, and the owner of a thriving business. But those who know her well are aware of the ‘real’ Emma.  A woman with a very serious eating disorder, low self-esteem, myriad insecurities, and a huge secret.

Alex, Emma’s husband, adores his wife and baby son. What he doesn’t adore is where they live.  A city boy, Alex is not fond of the isolated position of the house that Emma inherited after her father’s death.  Located on East Mersea, an island off the coast of Essex, it’s accessibility is determined by the tides. When he is offered a new position in the Leeds office, he quickly accepts. Leeds is his hometown, his mother lives there, and he thinks it will be a healthy move for his wife and son.  Little does he know that this decision will have profound effects on Emma, himself, and everything he holds dear.  For Emma has a secret, and that secret is irrevocably tied to the Mersea house where she grew up…

Strood Causeway at high tide

“It didn’t matter where I moved – I knew that this strange, haunting place would be a part of me forever.”

Flash back now to 2002. Emma is turning sixteen. She and her ailing and withdrawn father live alone in an isolated cottage in East Mersea.  Her elder sister has moved out, and her Mother abandoned the family when Emma was just thirteen.  Psychologically damaged by her mother’s treatment of her, Emma feels guilty that she was the cause of her mother’s leaving.

“I felt abandoned by everyone, adrift and unloved.” 

Luke Priestwood is a school teacher at Emma’s school. A manipulative sociopath, he grooms Emma to do his bidding. Vulnerable and naive, Emma falls into his trap…

Luke: “It was only a matter of time before Emma became attracted to me. Coaxing young women into my bed came as no trouble at all.”

Emma: “In some masochistic way I had welcomed his contact. It was rough and unloving but the best someone like me could hope for.”

Flash forward again to 2017. Emma’s eating disorder is escalating and her mental health is precarious. She begins to doubt her own actions and memory of events. Alex feels shock and betrayal by Emma’s lies and revelations.  Will their marriage survive this?

This is a fast-paced thriller with well-developed characters in an atmospheric setting.  Everything I require to make a suspense novel compelling.  I was tickled to see the name of one of my favorite book bloggers included in the book. She was lucky to have the author name one of the minor characters after her. How cool is that?

If you love character-driven thrillers, tense situations, plot twists, and an ending that culminates in justice, then this is definitely the novel for you. Highly recommended!

Silent Victim” was released by the publisher on March 1, 2018. It is available now for purchase at all the large booksellers.

I wish to thank Thomas Mercer via Charlotte Cooper for my digital copy of “Silent Victim“.  Check out the other stops on the blog tour!An international #1 and USA Today bestselling thriller author, Caroline Mitchell originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time, with over half a million copies of her books sold.

As well as her crime series, Caroline also writes stand-alone psychological thrillers. Her works have been translated into four different languages.

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Page turners, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

My personal canon (the books that shaped my life)

This post is inspired by a fellow bookblogger, Stephanie at “Adventures of a Bibliophile”.  I really liked her post and thought it would be fun (though time-consuming) to reflect back on those books that shaped me into the reader I am today.

Bear with me, as I’m starting with early childhood and I’m now in my early sixties.

Eletelephony (as a child I loved reading rhyming prose – still do if I’m honest)

Tom’s midnight garden (my favorite book as a child – this novel is responsible for my book addiction)

The secret garden (started my affection for manor houses, Yorkshire, and of course, gardens)

Nancy Drew (yup, all of them – I read them like a starving person gobbles down food)

The prophet by Kahil Gibran  (I was given this book by a customer when I worked at a grocery store after school as a teenager – loved it, this was my ‘deep’ phase LOL)

Dorothy Eden, Victoria Holt, Susan Howatch, and Mary Stewart (introduced my affection for gothic, historical, romantic suspense – I went through a phase in my twenties when I couldn’t get enough)


The mirror by Marlys Millhiser (I plan to re-read this title this year – just to see how much my taste has/hasn’t changed over the decades)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (which remains my favorite classic fiction novel – I’ve read it at least five times and I’ve seen every film version – my favorite being the BBC version starring Ruth Wilson)

James Herriot (my love of animal stories, and Yorkshire, remains unabated)

The auctioneer by Joan Samson (I’ll never forget this one – my first introduction to thrillers/ with a horror element)The Hebrides books of Lillian Beckwith (I read some of these aloud to my mother when she was ill with cancer)








Prologue to love by Taylor Caldwell (another one I’d love to re-read…)

Tree of hands by Ruth Rendell (I’ve loved almost all of Ruth Rendell’s many novels (especially the Wexford series, but this stand-alone is probably my very favorite)

P.D. James and her Inspector Dalgliesh novels 

The shell seekers by Rosamund Pilcher (my Anglophile tendencies show here)

Elizabeth George, Peter Robinson, Elly Griffiths, Susan Hill, Deborah Crombie, et al…(my love of British police procedural mysteries remains unabated)

Kate Morton (when I read her “The forgotten garden” I just knew she would remain one of my favorite authors)

Gabrielle Zevin (will never forget her “The storied life of A.J. Fikry)

Sharon Bolton, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Penny (just can’t get enough of these outstanding mystery/thriller authors)

Peter May (his Hebridean setting coupled with outstanding character studies won me over)

Fredrik Backman (honestly this man could make a grocery list interesting to read! – I’ve adored all of his novels so far and will make sure to read everything else he writes)


So folks, there you have it! You might have noticed that my personal canon is heavy on mystery/thrillers and literary fiction.

I guess my tastes haven’t changed that much after all…

Posted in Favorite books, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , , , | 50 Comments

Throwback Thursday March 8, 2018 (an old favorite recommended)

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.
This week I’ve chosen “The last bridge” by Teri Coyne for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published in July of 2009 and was, for me, a 5 star read.

This is one ‘powerful’ debut! Written with such empathy and understanding that one can easily imagine the author experienced this first hand, though I hope for her sake she didn’t.

Blurb: For ten years, Alexandra “Cat” Rucker has been on the run from her past. With an endless supply of bourbon and a series of meaningless jobs, Cat is struggling to forget her Ohio hometown and the rural farmhouse she once called home. But a sudden call from an old neighbor forces Cat to return to the home and family she never intended to see again. It seems that Cat’s mother is dead.

What Cat finds at the old farmhouse is disturbing and confusing: a suicide note, written on lilac stationery and neatly sealed in a ziplock bag, that reads: Cat, He isn’t who you think he is. Mom xxxooo

One note, ten words–one for every year she has been gone–completely turns Cat’s world upside down. Seeking to unravel the mystery of her mother’s death, Cat must confront her past to discover who “he” might be: her tyrannical, abusive father, now in a coma after suffering a stroke? Her brother, Jared, named after her mother’s true love (who is also her father’s best friend)? The town coroner, Andrew Reilly, who seems to have known Cat’s mother long before she landed on a slab in his morgue? Or Addison Watkins, Cat’s first and only love?

The closer Cat gets to the truth, the harder it is for her to repress the memory and the impact of the events that sent her away so many years ago. 

Taut, gripping, and edgy, The Last Bridge is an intense novel of family secrets, darkest impulses, and deep-seated love. Teri Coyne has created a stunning tapestry of pain and passion where past and present are seamlessly interwoven to tell a story that sears and warms in equal measure.

The title of the novel is explained in the book on page 100. “Let’s just say this is the last bridge. I’ve burned all of the others. I have nowhere else to go.”

The protagonist of the novel is Alexandra ‘Cat’ Rucker. Living in New York working as a waitress in an ‘adult’ bar she is a young women with a tragic past, no self-esteem, and a critical alcohol problem. When Cat receives a telephone call from an old neighbor telling her of her mother’s suicide, she returns home to rural Ohio for the first time in ten years.

Her mother has left a cryptic suicide note which states “Cat, he isn’t who you think he is.” In an attempt to decipher what her mother meant, Cat must confront her past.
Reunited with her sister and brother who return home for the funeral, she experiences chaotic emotions. When she left home she intended never to return. Now, the past is returning – bringing with it such a degree of pain, that she feels she can’t go on. Cat is also reunited with her first love, and his presence in her life once again brings her no solace.

Cat is a protagonist I won’t soon forget. For a young woman of twenty-eight she has suffered more than any one woman should have. Although severely emotionally damaged, she is still very likable. As you read, you want to know more, and thus you follow her through her turmoil.

“The last bridge” does not fall within any genre. It is general fiction at its finest. Worthy of a recommendation from Oprah, this title by first time novelist Teri Coyne is outstanding!


Teri Coyne is an alumna of New York University. In addition to writing fiction, Coyne wrote and performed stand-up comedy for many years. The Last Bridge is her first novel. She divides her time between New York City and the North Fork of Long Island.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Literary fiction, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , | 6 Comments

20 Questions with Audrey Wick

 Today I welcome novelist Audrey Wick to Fictionophile.  Her novel, “Finding True North“, will be published on April 12, 2018 by Tule Publishing.

Here she generously shares some personal insights with her readers.

  1. Can you tell us a little about the story in “Finding True North”?

AW: FINDING TRUE NORTH is my debut contemporary novel. The heroine, Paige, lives in Seguin, one of the oldest towns in Texas. She is a mother trying to navigate life post-divorce when she reconnects with Everett, an acquaintance from high school. She gets a second chance at love, but she’ll have to make some tough choices to find her “true north.”

  1. How much time did you spend researching your book? And, did the research take longer than the actually writing?

AW: The research process was ongoing, everything from facts about Seguin, Texas, to medical information. The research didn’t take longer than writing the 70,000-word manuscript, but readers sense when research has been done and when it hasn’t. I wanted my contemporary story to be authentic, and taking time to research helped me do that.

  1. Do you have any particular habits when you write?

AW: I used to write in longhand on unlined paper turned sideways. Something about that just put me in a creative frame. Now, I tend to type when I have the time, but I’ve also written on expired coupons, coffee shop receipts, and Post-Its. Writers are always writing!

  1. What distracts you the most when you’re trying to write?

AW: I have learned to write even with distractions; otherwise, I wouldn’t get much done. But I do plan my writing even when I’m not writing. For instance, I’ll think about a scene as I drive, I’ll connect plot points when I cook, or I’ll work through a character’s conflict as I exercise.

  1. Have you ever been so wrapped up in your characters that you dream about them at night?

AW: Many nights have been spent dreaming about my stories for sure!

  1. Have you ever ‘people-watched’ to gain inspiration for any of your characters?

AW: Yes, this is an effective way to learn how to write natural actions. With Paige, there are a few scenes with her eating, so even to make the dialogue and movement believable, it was helpful to people-watch.

  1. How did you pick your character’s names?

AW: For my debut, I couldn’t resist a heroine with a bookish name. I thought Paige was perfect!

  1. Do you dream that someday “Finding True North” will be made into a movie? Who do you see playing the lead roles?

AW: My publisher, Tule, had two books made into movies with Hallmark last year, THE ARTS OF US by Teri Wilson and A BRAMBLE HOUSE CHRISTMAS by C.J. Carmichael. The actors in those films were all fabulous, and I’d love to see them in a FINDING TRUE NORTH film.

  1. Do you think it is imperative for novelists to be familiar with the settings of their novels, or do you believe that you can write a novel that is set in a place you have never been?

AW: Familiarity, though travel or research, is important. I’m familiar with the settings I write, particularly Seguin. I think of my Texas-set writing as a love letter to the state in which I live because I adore my state as much as my characters do and hope readers enjoy the place as well.

  1. I am a huge fan of cover art and have a blog series called “Cover Love”. How much input did YOU have in choosing the cover for your novel?

AW: Tule Publishing gives authors lots of input. I completed an Art Fact Sheet for the cover, which shared my vision. Still, there were lots of considerations, and the first round of designs didn’t fit the genre. So we went through a second round and decided not to show characters’ faces to give the reader more imaginative power. I love the result!

  1. What is your biggest personal challenge in your career as a novelist?

AW: I have a day job, which I love. I teach English classes full-time at Blinn College, a two-year college in Texas. My biggest challenge is continuing to be a writing teacher who writes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get the best of both worlds.

  1. What types of authors and genres do you read?

AW: I’m an equal opportunity reader and like lots of different genres. When I travel, I like to read novels about the country I am visiting, like IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN by Vaddey Ratner when I visited Cambodia. But I also like novels set in countries I haven’t visited, like the Sweden-set A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman.

F: Audrey, “A man called Ove” is one of my favorite novels. We have that in common.

  1. What novelist writing today do you admire? Why?

AW: So many! Lately I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction, and authors like Hannah Kent, Erika Robuck, and Kristin Hannah are ones I particularly admire because of their dedication to the research side of what they do.

  1. What current novelist do you feel is underrated, or deserves to be more well-known? Why?

AW: I read the debut of women’s fiction author Sarah Faber ALL IS BEAUTY NOW, a striking book with a 1960s Rio de Janeiro setting, a twisting plot, family secrets and beautiful storytelling. This has been an overlooked book.

F: How neat that you chose a book written by a Canadian author as the answer to this question.

  1. If you could sit and enjoy a chat and a glass of wine with another novelist – who would it be?

AW: I tell my students I would love to have dinner with Kate Chopin, a woman ahead of her time. I teach her in my literature classes, as her short stories still have so much to offer readers today.

  1. What three novels are you most anticipating reading in 2018?


Elin Hilderbrand’s THE PERFECT COUPLE

Kristin Hannah’s THE GREAT ALONE

  1. Can you share with us some of your personal leisure activities?

AW: I love to travel, especially internationally. I enjoy walking/running/hiking, cooking meals at home, and sipping coffee.

  1. Are you working on another novel?

AW: Absolutely! A second Texas Sisters book releases in July from Tule Publishing that includes a road trip romance. Then, I have another novel set in Texas on submission.

  1. What interview question have you not been asked yet that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

AW: What’s my favorite snack while writing? Haribo gummy bears!

  1. How do you wish to be contacted by ‘fans’? Facebook? Twitter? Your own blog?

AW: I love to connect with readers on Twitter and Instagram @WickWrites and on my website of

Audrey Wick

F:  Thanks SO much Audrey for graciously answering my ‘nosy’ questions. I wish you every success with “Finding True North”.

Audrey Wick is a full-time English professor at Blinn College in Texas. Her writing has appeared in college textbooks published by Cengage Learning and W. W. Norton as well as in The Houston ChronicleThe Chicago TribuneThe Orlando Sentinel, and various literary journals. Audrey believes the secret to happiness includes lifelong learning and good stories. But travel and coffee help. She has journeyed to over twenty countries—and sipped coffee at every one.



Posted in author interviews, Authors | Tagged , | 14 Comments

“The railway station man” by Jennifer Johnston (#readingireland18)

I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Johnston’s writing since I read her novel “Shadows on our skin” back in 2014.  Since then I’ve tried to read one of her books every year.

I’ve chosen “The railway station man” as my first read of the 2018 Reading Ireland challenge.  Originally published in 1984, it was republished in 2014 by Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.

This is a slow-paced, brilliantly written novel about a 50 year-old woman who has seen a lot of tragedy in her life.  Helen Cuffe is solitary by choice. She lives on the West Coast of Ireland on a hillside overlooking the sea. She divides her time between her cottage, and the ‘studio/shed’ out back where she does her painting.

“I’m not lonely you know, just alone. I like to live on the edge of things.”

Accompanied only by ‘the cat’, she often spends her days in her dressing gown, smoking copiously. She does not name him – she calls him ‘cat’ and they have a love-hate relationship – though they seem to understand each other. Cat likes to sleep in Helen’s bed like a human being with his head on the pillow. Also, he likes to walk on the kitchen table and eat the butter out of the dish.

“Your cat? She nodded. “Well… really I’m his human being. You know what cats are like.”

On the same hillside as Helen’s cottage is a derelict railway station. Uninhabited, the building and the accompanying signal box and storage barn remain grim reminders of four men who died there.

Helen was once married. Her husband, Daniel Cuffe, a mathematics teacher, was shot in 1975 during ‘The troubles’.  They had two children. Jack who thrived, and a little girl who died in infancy.

“It is a curious reflection on more than twenty years of marriage that all I remember with clarity was the ending of it.”

Peculiarly, Helen felt no sense of true loss when her husband was killed. Instead she felt a feeling of relief, of liberation. She acknowledges that she ‘should‘ feel guilty for feeling this way – instead she decided that there was no point in guilt.  Instead, she moves from Derry to her hillside cottage on the West coast. She paints – she talks to herself.

“It’s strange how one person’s words sound so loud in an empty room. They resound, unlike a conversation which seems to become absorbed by the surrounding objects.”

Helen is not close to her son Jack. He is quite fond of his paternal grandmother and lives in Dublin with her whilst he attends Trinity College. A very clever young man, he visits his mother only sporadically, and seems disapproving of her lifestyle.

“I think there are so many things inside each of us that we don’t want to say, and that other people don’t want to hear.”

Helen’s story is told, by her, with memory flashbacks of the year that an Englishman bought the derelict railway station intending to bring the station back to life.  Seriously injured during the ‘war’, Roger Hawthorne has only one arm, and one eye. He hires a local lad to help him ‘do up’ the station.

As the two solitary individuals Helen and Roger come to know one another, they fall in love.

“I don’t want to love anybody. I don’t want the burden of other people’s pain. My own is enough.”

Meanwhile, Jack has a very unsavory acquaintance in Dublin. He enlists Jack as a messenger for the ‘Movement’..

“I mourn the needless dead.”

This is a very melancholy novel.  It is a testament to the superior writing skills of Jennifer Johnston that the reader, though forewarned that the story would end in tragedy, remains glued to the pages so that they can find out how it happened…

Helen is a character that I identified with. She was very ‘real’ to me and I don’t think I will forget her anytime soon.

Highly recommended, quality literary fiction written by a master of her craft.

I purchased a Kindle copy of this novel for my own reading entertainment.


Born in Dublin, Ireland, Jennifer Johnston is an award-winning novelist. She was educated at Trinity College, Dublin.  She has won a number of awards including the Costa Novel Award and the Whitbread Book Award, and a Lifetime Achievement from the Irish Book Awards. She has also been nominated for the Booker Prize.

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, Love stories | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Cover Love: part 51 – Tiny houses

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 51st installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature tiny houses on their covers.

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 | 34 Comments

“Dark game” by Rachel Lynch

There is nothing quite so satisfying to me as reading a British police procedural crime thriller.  When it has an engaging protagonist, a Lake District setting, and a compelling and well rendered plot, then it is for me, reading bliss.

DI Kelly Porter grew up in the Lake District, though for the past decade she has policed in London, honing her trade – until a personal betrayal by a co-worker convinced her that it was time to ‘up-sticks’ and move back to her roots. We meet her as she is settling into her position as Detective Inspector for the Cumbria Constabulary. She is trying to make the most of this opportunity, make a good impression on her new team, and make a place for herself.  Her personal situation is tenuous, as for the time-being she is back living with her widowed mother until she finds a place of her own. At thirty-six years of age, this is less than an ideal situation. Also, being the daughter of John Porter, a ‘legend on the force’ muddies her way further.

Patterdale valley

“Detective work was liable to put one off people generally; it was the nature of the job.”

I’m not going into detail of Kelly’s first cases on the Cumbrian force. Suffice it to say that her keen eye and thorough work ethic connects a five-year-old cold case with a current murder of a prominent businessman in a seedy hotel. To say more would ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.  The characterization is skillfully done, making the police, the criminals, and the victims all very real.  The story shows how even a place as idyllic and beautiful as the Lake District can have a sordid, and brutal underbelly that is thankfully seldom witnessed by the average resident or tourist. Part of the action takes place in hotels and guest houses in the quaint village of Ambleside.

Ambleside street

I warn you that this novel is not without its seamy and graphically violent scenes. If you are put off by that type of thing, then steer clear.  This is a crime novel with brutal crimes perpetrated upon innocent victims. The criminals put the ‘vile‘ in the word villains. Their scorn for the English justice system and way of life is evident as well.

The story of illegal immigrants and sex-trafficking is not a new one, but Rachel Lynch executes her story so well that this novel stands apart from novels using a similar premise. Also included are descriptions of the appalling and heinous deeds committed by some members of an organized crime syndicate.

A quality series debut like this one ensures that I will be avidly waiting for the next installment in the DI Kelly Porter series.  A must-read for those who enjoy well-written, grittily realistic crime novels. Highly recommended!

I received a digital ARC of this novel, FREE at my request, from the publisher Canelo via NetGalley. In return I have written this candid review.

I was happy to read that Canelo signed the first three books in the DI Kelly Porter series and Rachel is currently writing the fourth.

Rachel Lynch grew up in Cumbria and the lakes and fells are never far away from her. London pulled her away to teach History and marry an Army Officer, whom she followed around the globe for thirteen years.
A change of career after children led to personal training and sports therapy, but writing was always the overwhelming force driving the future. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work.

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

Hello March (Fictionophile updates and Februrary’s #bookhaul)

Well once again it is that month of the year where we are all just a little bit Irish. That being said, I will once again be participating in Cathy‘s “Reading Ireland” challenge. Since I love reading titles set in Ireland, this is no hardship for me.

The SEVEN books I’ve set aside to read for 2018 Reading Ireland are:

1. “The dead house” by Billy O’Callaghan (from NetGalley)
2. “The railway station man” by Jennifer Johnston (a book I purchased)
3. “The secrets of Roscarbury Hall” by Ann O’Loughlin (from Edelweiss)
4. “Death at Whitewater Church” by Andrea Carter (from Edelweiss)
5. “The yellow house” by Patricia Falvey (a book I purchased some time ago)
6. “This must be the place” by Maggie O’Farrell (from Edelweiss)
7. “The liar’s girl” by Catherine Ryan Howard (from Edelweiss)

Because only one of my Reading Ireland titles came from NetGalley, my feedback ratio will take a hit this month.

I received FIVE titles from Edelweiss in February!

Blurb: It seems like just another night shift for Lucy, an overworked ER physician in Providence, Rhode Island, until six-year-old Ben is brought in as the sole survivor from a horrifying crime scene. He’s traumatized and wordless; everything he knows has been taken from him in an afternoon. It’s not clear what he saw, or what he remembers.
Lucy, who’s grappling with a personal upheaval of her own, feels a profound, unexpected connection to the little boy. She wants to help him…but will recovering his memory heal him, or damage him further?
Across town, Clare will soon be turning one hundred years old. She has long believed that the lifetime of secrets she’s been keeping don’t matter to anyone anymore, but a surprising encounter makes her realize that the time has come to tell her story.
As Ben, Lucy, and Clare struggle to confront the events that shattered their lives, something stronger than fate is working to bring them together.
An expertly stitched story that spans nearly a century—from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War era and into the present—The Possible World is a captivating novel about the complicated ways our pasts shape our identities, the power of maternal love, the loneliness born out of loss, and how timeless bonds can help us triumph over grief.

Blurb: It’s been twenty years since Cormac Reilly discovered the body of Hilaria Blake in her crumbling Georgian home. But he’s never forgotten the two children she left behind…
When Aisling Conroy’s boyfriend Jack is found in the freezing black waters of the river Corrib, the police tell her it was suicide. A surgical resident, she throws herself into study and work, trying to forget – until Jack’s sister Maude shows up. Maude suspects foul play, and she is determined to prove it.
DI Cormac Reilly is the detective assigned with the re-investigation of an ‘accidental’ overdose twenty years ago – of Jack and Maude’s drug- and alcohol-addled mother. Cormac is under increasing pressure to charge Maude for murder when his colleague Danny uncovers a piece of evidence that will change everything…
This unsettling crime debut draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can’t – or won’t. Perfect for fans of Tana French and Jane Casey.

Blurb: The morning after real estate agent Gemma Brogan has dinner with a prospective client, she’s furious at herself for drinking so much. But there will be more to regret than a nasty hangover.
She starts receiving mementos from that night: A photo of a hallway kiss. A video of her complaining about her husband. And worse…much worse. The problem is she doesn’t remember any of it.
As the blackmailing and menace ramp up, Gemma fears for her already shaky marriage. The paranoia, the feeling that her life is spiraling out of control, will take her back to another night–years ago–that changed everything. And Gemma will realize just how far the shadows from her past can reach…

Blurb: This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.

Ellis and Michael are twelve-year-old boys when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.

But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?

With beautiful prose and characters that are so real that they jump off the page, Tin Man is a love letter to human kindness and friendship, and to loss and living.

Blurb: On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.

When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…

and I received FOUR titles from NetGalley in February

Blurb: They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.
Rose Wilks life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Emma Hatcher has all that Rose lacks. Beauty. A loving husband. A healthy son. Until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.
Now, having spent nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke s death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement.
Where is the line between love and obsession, can justice be served and, if so… by what means?

Blurb: Six-year-old Lola Jade Harper is taken from her bedroom. Her mother is distraught. She is convinced her estranged husband, Gavin Harper, has abducted their daughter.

Detective Rachel Prince is leading the investigation but is soon out of her depth as she searches for the most high-profile missing child in the country. To uncover the truth about Lola’s disappearance, Rachel must untangle the Harper family’s complicated web of secrets and lies.
As the case progresses, the body of a local woman is found. The death at first seems unrelated, until a trail of social media posts lead Rachel to a chilling discovery.
And then another little girl is taken…
With growing pressure from the public and the appearance of someone from her past she’d rather forget, will Rachel be able to solve the connection between the two missing children and the murder – before it’s too late?

Thomas and Mercer invited me to participate in a blog tour for this one. Though I’d sworn off book tours for the foreseeable, I couldn’t resist how this blurb sounded…  Watch for my review on March 11th.

Blurb: Emma is a loving wife, a devoted mother…and an involuntary killer. For years she’s been hiding the dead body of the teacher who seduced her as a teen.

It’s a secret that might have stayed buried if only her life had been less perfect. A promotion for Emma’s husband, Alex, means they can finally move to a bigger home with their young son. But with a buyer lined up for their old house, Emma can’t leave without destroying every last trace of her final revenge…
Returning to the shallow grave in the garden, she finds it empty. The body is gone.
Panicked, Emma confesses to her husband. But this is only the beginning. Soon, Alex will discover things about her he’ll wish he’d learned sooner. And others he’ll long to forget.

Blurb: Snap decisions can be fatal . . .
On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long.
But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.
Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.
Meanwhile Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.
But the truth can be a dangerous thing . . .

And… last but by no means least, I received a book directly from the author, Jane Davis.

Blurb: For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.
Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.
If only it were that simple.
Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of metafiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art.

So, that’s it folks!  TEN more review commitments made in February.

Blank Canvas: a flash fiction story

For those of you who enjoy Flash Fiction,

here is a little story that is sure to entertain.


My Goodreads Challenge is coming along nicely:

My NetGalley feedback ratio standing needs some improvement:

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

“The last resort: a short story” by Rajib Mukherjee

“When you have the one thing that could revive a bereaved man in distress, compassion becomes second nature. But what if your empathy puts the love of your life at stake?”

The blurb and intriguing cover are what first attracted me to this short story.

Our protagonist is riding home from work on pubic transport somewhere in New Jersey. He is scanning the videos he took of his girlfriend Ana, the love of his life. A stranger seems inordinately interested in his videos. He explains that Ana is the spitting image of his sister, who was killed in a car accident the previous year. He wonders if our protagonist would share his photos as he doesn’t have anything to remember his sister by. Feeling sorry for the man, he complies.  When he visits the man in his home, he comes to realize that the niece the man spoke of is just an hallucination – the girl died in the accident with her mother…

“What had started out as a gesture of goodwill was turning into a fool’s errand for my stupidity.”

So far, this story has all the makings of a thriller, but alas, this is not the case.  Told in two parts, with the second part occurring several years later when our protagonist is now happily married to his love Ana, and the father of a little girl.

They meet up again with the man who is going to be put into an institution for his psychosis.  Altruistically they believe that they can ‘cure’ him if they banish his guilt over the accident. They plan a deception that will hopefully alleviate his guilt and make him come to terms with his loss.

This story just didn’t do anything for me. The writing didn’t have a good flow. The potential was there, it just didn’t evolve.  There was a plot twist, but by that point, I was no longer invested in the outcome. It just seemed pointless… The protagonists seemed to be naive and more involved in the man’s life than the situation seemed to warrant.  Perhaps another reader would get more out of this read than I did, but for me it was a resounding disappointment.

This story was a ‘Read Now’ offering by BooksGoSocial via NetGalley.  As always, my honest review reflects my own personal reaction to what I have read.

Rajib Mukherjee is a solution architect in the IT world. He lives in a small town in Georgia with his wife and five-year-old son. He was born in Kolkata (Eastern India), grew up in Hyderabad (Southern India), and married a Manipuri girl (North-Eastern India). As a result, he can speak four languages. Find him online at and sign up for his newsletter. Also, follow him at his Amazon author page.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Short stories | 4 Comments