“Everything she Forgot” by Lisa Ballantyne

“Margaret Holloway, deputy head teacher, mother, wife, did not know what had happened to her when she was a little girl, and she was terrified to find out”.

Everything she forgot” was also published under the title “Redemption Road“.

Blurb: They’re calling it the worst pile-up in London history. Driving home, Margaret Holloway has her mind elsewhere—on a troubled student, her daughter’s acting class, the next day’s meeting—when she’s rear-ended and trapped in the wreckage. Just as she begins to panic, a disfigured stranger pulls her from the car just seconds before it’s engulfed in flames. Then he simply disappears.
Though she escapes with minor injuries, Margaret feels that something’s wrong. She’s having trouble concentrating. Her emotions are running wild. More than that, flashbacks to the crash are also dredging up lost associations from her childhood, fragments of events that were wiped from her memory. Whatever happened, she didn’t merely forget—she chose to forget. And somehow, Margaret knows deep down that it’s got something to do with the man who saved her life.
As Margaret uncovers a mystery with chilling implications for her family and her very identity, Everything She Forgot winds through a riveting dual narrative and asks the question: How far would you go to hide the truth—from yourself…?



2013 – Margaret Holloway works in a ‘Learning Support Unit’ of a school and is very devoted to her work and her students. She leaves the school late one afternoon to return to her husband Ben, and her two children when she is involved in a terrible multi-vehicle accident. She is trapped in her car, but a courageous stranger breaks the window out and saves her from certain death. Her savior disappears into the melee and she has no chance to thank him or make sure he gets the medical aid he needs.

After the crash, Margaret is unsettled. She cannot concentrate. She fears she is suffering from PTSD.

“The McLaughlin were still synonymous with fear in Glasgow.”

1978George McLaughlin is charming, tall, dark, handsome and illiterate. He has a good heart. That does not serve him well because he is the youngest son of Glasgow’s most intimidating and ruthless criminal, Brendan McLaughlin. An enforcer, a heavy for the top loan shark in the city, he works terrorizing and murdering, at home Brendon rules his wife and his children with an iron fist. Quite literally.

“Brendan expected to be obeyed with religious observance.
Black was white if he said so.”

George meets and falls in love with a local girl, Kathleen.  When she falls pregnant, her family are scandalized and completely forbid her to have any more association with that ‘criminal family’. Though Kathleen does love George, she knows it is for the best.

Thurso, Scotland

1985 – Kathleen is now married to an older, kind, and loving man named John Henderson. He has moved Kathleen and her daughter Moll up to Thurso, in Northern Scotland.  They are a happy family. Until… Moll is abducted on her way to school…

After all these years (Moll is now seven years old), George McLaughlin, now aged twenty-seven, wants to see Kathleen and his little daughter. He has never stopped loving them both.  When he gets to Thurso, he discovers that Kathleen has a nice big house, a nice car, and she looks happy.  Despondent, he begins to leave the little town when he sees some girls bullying another girl. The girl being bullied is Moll. Of course, he comes to her rescue. Then impetuously, he makes a life-altering decision. He takes Moll.

Though frightened at first, Moll and George have a unique bond. He loves her dearly and would never harm her.  They set out on a road trip – an ‘adventure’. 

The sad part is that Moll’s loving parents, the police, and the general public, think that Moll has been abducted by a psychopathic stranger that has been known to take and murder little girls her age.  There is a nation-wide alert for any information pertaining to Moll’s abduction.

A local, small-time journalist, Angus Campbell, has made it his life’s mission to discover who took Moll. Don’t be fooled, he is not doing this out of altruism. He thinks that solving this case will bring him the recognition her thinks he deserves. Though he claims to be religious, he is a sexist, odious little man who abuses and belittles his wife and children regularly.  His part in this story would be more impactful that he would imagine, though not as he would have hoped.

Alternating between the time of Moll and George’s road trip, and the present time the narrative gradually culminates with Margaret’s memory returning.

This novel is an ode to ‘nature vs. nuture’. Just how much are we incapable of changing due to the genes we carry?  The author explores the subject with caring, with insight, and with empathy.

The story features two sane, loving, and balanced families. It also features two abusive patriarchal families – which makes the difference between them even more stark.

The characters were all well-developed and this reader connected with them on a visceral level. George McLaughlin was an astounding character whom I won’t soon forget.  The supposed villain of the piece, he projected such a loving and kind nature that belied his reputation and stature.

The reader knows Margaret’s memories before she does, and turns the pages with trepidation until the present and past collide with stunning effect.

I loved this book, and would highly recommend it to others.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my request from William Morrow/Harper Collins via Edelweiss for purposes of this review.

Read the author’s inspiration behind this novel.

Lisa Ballantyne was born in Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland and studied English Literature at University of St Andrews.

She lived and worked in China for many years and started writing seriously while she was there. Before being published, Lisa was short-listed for the Dundee International Book Prize.

Her debut novel, The Guilty One was translated into over 25 languages, long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe Award. The Guilty One was also the Autumn 2012 Richard and Judy Book-club Winner. “Everything She Forgot“a.k.a. “Redemption Road” is her second novel. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Throwback Thursday – “My name is Lucy Barton”

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites. This week I’m showcasing a novel that I read over three years ago. “My name is Lucy Barton” was a title that I got from NetGalley. It was, for me, a FIVE STAR read.

I SO enjoyed my first time reading Elizabeth Strout!  Written in a very different style from what I usually read, it was almost a stream of consciousness.  I felt the author was speaking 9781400067695directly to me.  Like a personal friend sharing her intimate, innermost thoughts.

We meet Lucy Barton when she is hospitalized for an undisclosed illness, an infection of some sort.  A happily married mother of two young girls, Lucy feels as though being in hospital has made her isolated and apart – a feeling she is very familiar with.  She longs to return home to resume her life.  During her hospital stay of almost nine weeks she lies in her bed looking out the window at the Chrysler Building against the night sky.chrysler building


Lucy is a writer.  When reading books she feels less ‘alone’ so she wants to write so that other people will feel less alone also.  She says that in the third grade she read a book that made her want to write a book.

Her enforced idleness provides her with ample time to reflect on her life and her marriage, and she tries to understand herself and those who have touched her life.

When her estranged mother makes the long journey from rural Illinois to New York City to visit her, she reconnects with her and relives many childhood memories – none of them pleasant.  Lucy grew up poor and neglected.  Shown no affection, emotionally traumatized and without many of the physical comforts, even basic necessities, that so many of us enjoy.  She reflects on how she and her siblings ‘did without’ and how they were ostracized by their schoolmates.  She doesn’t have any knowledge of popular culture, partly due to the fact that she didn’t have a television growing up.  She remembers being cold and being left to fend for herself. As more and more unsettling revelations come patientto light, the reader wonders how Lucy can stand to have her mother in the same room.  Yet she seems delighted and grateful for her presence.

Her mother has never expressed her feelings toward Lucy and that has not changed. She seems incapable of showing affection – though the reader wonders if it is there, hidden beneath her brusque exterior. Lucy has always felt unlovable.  She cannot remember her mother ever giving her a kiss.

Every mother of a daughter knows that they long for that time when they can get past all the parental angst and guilt.  When they can ‘connect’ in a true way.  Lucy wants this for herself, and, she wants it for her daughters.

Lucy Barton voices the thoughts that many of us share.  How we all have an inherent need for respect and belonging.  How hurtful it is to feel judged, humiliated, desperate or to suffer indignities at the hands of others.  How everyone longs to be understood.

While writing about the brief reunion of a mother and daughter, Elizabeth Strout also writes about the human condition.  Sharing her thoughts with honesty and candor.

A novel of mothers and daughters which aptly illustrates the imperfections of love.

Highly recommended!


Elizabeth StroutElizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire. An award-winning novelist, Strout won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel “Olive Kitteridge“.

Posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, Throwback Thursday, Women's fiction | Tagged , | 10 Comments

“Her Dark Retreat” by J.A. Baker

For me, this novel was the perfect storm. Setting, characters, and plot converged into a stellar read!

BLURB: The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high up on the North Yorkshire cliffs, overlooking The North Sea, holds many dark secrets.
Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems. Both damaged by issues from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives. But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched. As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.
To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both she and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.
What caused the scars on Peggy’s face? Is Alec really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?

The brief prologue of the novel portrays the fear, desperation, pain, and anguish of a woman who awakens to find that she has been buried alive!

Chamber Cottage – built in the 19th century, it is perched on the top of a cliff in North Yorkshire overlooking the North Sea. Once an old coastguard’s cottage, it keeps its secrets and its dark history to itself.

Then, with the first chapters we are introduced to the various characters:

Peggy – 35, married, childless, and a crime novelist. Facially scarred, she displays many agoraphobic traits.  She works from home, in the atmospheric Chamber Cottage. Peggy has little social contact and is estranged from her mother and sister. Her many miscarriages have made her despondent and loathe to have any intimacy with her husband.

Alec – Peggy’s husband. Charming and handsome, he works as an assistant headmaster at a local school.  Alec had a horrific childhood. He was abused by his father and subsequently was put into foster care.  It becomes clear that both Alec and his wife had traumatic childhoods which have influenced them in a negative way. Now, their marriage is floundering.

Audrey – Peggy’s mother. A retired widow who drinks too much to assuage the guilt and despondency she feels at being estranged from her two daughters. She fills her empty days with alcohol, anger, guilt, and suspicion.

Maude – Peggy and Alec’s next door neighbour. Elderly and in the throes of advanced dementia, Maud’s moments of mental clarity are becoming few and far between…

Brenda – Maud’s adult daughter who lives with her and cares for her. By day she works as a nurse.  Tired both emotionally and physically, she returns home to wonder if even a portion of what Maud says is actually true.

Rachel – A bank cashier whose sister, Sheryl, has disappeared. As the days pass, she is becoming more and more concerned for her sister’s plight.

Then, about halfway through the book, we learn the identity of the woman who is buried alive.   But WHO put her there? WHY? And… which of the characters we have now come to know is responsible?This novel has been on my TBR from the first moment I saw the great cover and read the review by Diane at Sweet Little Book Blog. I knew immediately that this book was exactly ‘my cup of tea‘, and I was right.  I LOVED IT!

Though old and damp, Chamber Cottage could quite possibly be my utopia of settings. I could hear the violent waves and the constant wind’s roar.

Told from various points of view, the reader is made privy to the thoughts of many different characters, all portrayed sympathetically. All engender the reader’s empathy on some level.

A sense of foreboding underlays the narrative in a subtle way. As insidious as the disgusting smell that emanates from the cellar of the cottage…

The ending was well executed with a suspenseful climax and realistic outcome. I did suspect the villain slightly ahead of time, but that in no way marred my enjoyment of the novel.

A novel of guilt, self-loathing, and toxic relationships, “Her dark retreat” is the perfect title.  Peggy with her dark retreat from the world via her agoraphobia and crime writing. Audrey with her dark retreat from her guilt via her drinking. Maude, with her dark retreat from sanity into the clutches of dementia. Brenda, with her dark retreat from work to a home that takes more of an emotionally toll than she is able or willing to give…

I plan to read ALL of J.A. Baker’s novels and will keep an eagle eye out for any new releases.

I purchased “Her Dark Retreat” in Kindle format. In my opinion, it was exceptional crime fiction. Highly recommended!

Published by Bloodhound Books ASIN B0764CX3Z8. 

Born in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, Judith A. Baker developed a deep appreciation of literature and reading from a young age after being introduced to it by her parents. Weekly visits to the library were the norm and after being handed a collection of Edgar Allen Poe stories by her father, her love for the darker side of fiction slowly grew. She is an avid reader of all books but is drawn in particular, to psychological thrillers.
After many rejections (too many to mention!) her debut novel, Undercurrent, was published by Bloodhound Books in March 2017 and made it into the top 100 Amazon chart in both the UK and Canada. J.A. Baker is the author of five stand-alone thrillers, the latest of which The Uninvited was published in late 2018. She is currently working on her sixth novel, The Cleansing, due to be published April 2019.
J. A. Baker has four grown up children and lives in a village on the outskirts of Darlington with her husband Richard, and Theo, their barking mad dog.

J.A. Baker’s website: http://www.jabakerauthor.co.uk/

Follow J.A. Baker on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thewriterjude

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Cover Love: part 69 – Suitcases

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 69th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature suitcases  on their covers. These seem to encompass a wide variety of genres.  Enjoy!

I’ve only read one of these – but five of these titles 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.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 16 Comments

“A Cold War” by Alan Russell

Blurb: Nina Granville believes her business trip to Alaska will give her a short respite from the merry-go-round that came with her engagement to Congressman Terrence Donnelly. But instead of allowing her the peace she craves, Nina’s getaway from the public eye means that no one witnesses her abduction into a very cold hell.
Taken by a mountain man who calls himself Baer and then transported to a remote cabin surrounded by nothing but frozen wilderness. Nina descends into a nightmare of terror, privation, and bitter cold. Nina’s privileged life did not prepare her for imprisonment at the hands of this survivalist trapper. If she is to live—and to escape—Nina realizes she must do it on her own.


The novel begins with a honeymoon couple on an Alaskan cruise. The wife leaves the ship to go shopping in the seaside town of Seward. She is never seen again… A local town cop, Hamilton, is tasked with the investigation into Elese Martin’s disappearance. Known for being slow and plodding in his work, he is nonetheless very thorough and very deliberate. He at first suspects that Elese’s husband but cannot find any evidence. The two men, Hamilton and Martin, keep in touch over the years. Neither is able to let the disappearance of Elese Martin go.
Three years later. Nina Granville is flying to Alaska for her work with a prestigious charitable foundation. While taking a walk around the little Alaskan town, she notices an old hobo sitting on the sidewalk reciting a poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee“.  She trips and falls, then is abducted. Nina is the wealthy fiancee of a high-profile politician and her abduction makes the news.  Hamilton is once again the policeman in charge of the investigation.

The narrative which follows shows Nina’s plight in all of its distressing, heart-breaking, circumstances, alternating with Hamilton and his investigations.

Nina’s captor is a mountain man. A man who is obsessed with the Cold War and believes that human society is on the verge of self-destruction. He is cunning, observant, and is an expert at living in hostile environments with few if any creature comforts. He hunts, traps, and fishes for survival.

Wow, I was immersed in Nina’s plight. I think I’m still cold… The book is filled with depictions of how to survive in the wilderness under extremely dire conditions.

This novel is a suspense-filled story about a strong woman with remarkable tenacity and endurance. The setting, the vast, forbidding, hostile, and coldly beautiful landscape of Alaskan wilderness is one you won’t soon forget. It was especially vivid for me as my husband and I visited Alaska just last September.

I urge you to listen to the poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” as it is referenced many times in the novel.

I had no expectations of this book going in. I had never read this author, and I hadn’t read any reviews (recently anyway). “A Cold War” took me in surprise in a good way. A fast-paced, suspenseful read that I would definitely recommend.  I was a bit less enthusiastic about the last chapter…  I wondered why the author bothered to write it as it seemed unrelated to the rest of the book – until I realized it held a plot twist that shed new light on the preceding chapters. Yes, Nina was quite a woman!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel Thomas & Mercer (Amazon Publishing) via NetGalley.

 Alan Russell lives in California. After graduating from UC San Diego, Russell worked for twenty years in the hospitality industry. He wrote and sold newspaper and magazine articles all the while he worked on his novels, using his experience in the hospitality industry as a backdrop to some of his fiction. “A Cold War” is his twelfth published novel.

Alan Russell is married to Laura Russell (a social worker) and the couple have three children.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Page turners, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

The highs and lows of my Goodreads #TBR

I visit the Goodreads site every day – sometimes more than once a day. It is there that I keep track of my TBR.  How many review commitments I have, deadlines, etc. As many of you know, you can add personal notes and check ratings etc. 

As an experiment, I thought I’d sort my TBR (1,541 titles as of today) to see which of these books rated the highest and lowest.

I was surprised by the result.

(Note: to see which book actually rated the highest you have to pick the books with the highest Goodreads ratings and then also factor in the amount of people who rated the title to get an accurate picture.) FOR EXAMPLE some of the titles on my list had higher average ratings, but had fewer people rating them.

After doing this for both the highest rated and lowest rated titles, I thought I’d share them with you.

My TBR title with the highest rating

My TBR title with the lowest rating


Why haven’t we heard more hype about “Tall Chimneys”?

I’m keeping “Her” on my TBR because it was recommended to me by a long-time personal friend.

Have YOU read either of these titles?

I wonder – what are YOUR highest rated and lowest rated titles?
(don’t forget to first sort your list by rating and then factor in which has the largest number of people rating it.)

Posted in Anticipated titles, Goodreads, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Friday Finds (gems I found around the Internet) #FF

If you are a bookish nerd like I am, you might have dreamed of sleeping in a library at some point in your lives.  Guess what? You can! If you are planning a trip to Wales, you can sleep in the 130-year-old Gladstone’s Library which doubles as a B&B and a retreat for writers, readers, and curious thinkers.

Gladstone’s Library

Gladstone’s Library gallery

Gladstone’s Library guest bedroom

Eric Grundhauser has compiled a list of children’s stories that still give adults the ‘creeps’!

Reading A Real Book Is Not Passe: Here Are 4 Reasons Why

Kaisha aka The Writing Garnet, one of my favourite bloggers, has started a new feature that you might be interested in.

If you wish to take part please send an email to kaishajayneh@gmail.com with the subject ‘Feature’, along with:

Your bio, including how you started reading and any links you wish to include.
Your top two favourite reads from the past.
Your top two favourite reads from the present.
Your top two books you’re eager to read in the future.
And lastly, two books you’ll read more than once with no questions asked.

I plan to take part… why don’t you?

Posted in Internet Gems, ramblings & miscellanea | 16 Comments

“Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hillier

“This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years…”

I’ve been meaning to read this novel for a while and thought it fitting (given the title) to post my review on Valentine’s Day. Although I have read several reviews of this novel, it still surprised me on many levels. Not at all what I expected.

We meet the protagonist, Geo (Georgina) Shaw, as she is arrested for a murder that took place fourteen years previously. The arresting officer, is one of Geo’s best-friends from high-school – a boy who loved her, but who she never thought of as more than a friend.

In the intervening years, Geo has made a success of her life, going to university, attaining a high-ranking corporate job, and becoming engaged to a wealthy man. Now, her life, which she worked so hard for, is in dire jeopardy.

Geo is sentenced to five years in prison. Although in many ways, Geo feels relief to have finally be found out, prison is still an experience that scars her, hardens her, and incontrovertibly changes her. Her fiance drops her like a hot brick. She has ample time to think about her past, and plan for her future. She also made a couple of good friends.

How did she get in this mess you might wonder? Well, Geo’s first love was a man called Calvin James, also known as “The Sweetbay Strangler”. When Geo was only sixteen, Calvin raped and murdered her best friend Angela. And Geo helped him to dispose of her body. Then she went on living her life for fourteen years, not divulging a word about her crime.

Calvin James was caught and sent to prison, but he later escaped…

Later, after she has served her time, Geo is released and goes home to live with her father. With no job, or job prospects, and now aged thirty-five, Geo doesn’t have much to look forward to.

Now though, more murders are taking place near Geo’s home. Women are being murdered in the same way Angela was all those years ago. Only now, the women are accompanied by children… children with a heart written on their chests in lipstick. Inside the heart are the words “See Me”. 

Is it Calvin James? 

I had very mixed emotions about the protagonist, Geo Shaw. Sometimes I felt sympathy for her plight, sometimes I wondered how she could sleep at night. How COULD SHE have done what she did? How COULD SHE have not reported the crime – for fourteen years!

As the book moves along, the reader is made privy to Geo’s past and what really happened back then. Yet still, I was torn about whether I could like her.  Did my sympathy outweigh my repugnance for her former actions? I chided myself for being judgmental.

This novel was well-written and very fast-paced. Often intense and unsettling, though riveting at the same time. The ending had what I can only deem a shocking and unsavory twist. Was justice meted out in the end? You be the judge.

One things for sure. I’ll never be able to eat a cinnamon heart again without thinking about this novel.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley. This review is my way of saying thank-you.

Jennifer Hillier in born in Toronto, but she spent eight years in the Seattle area, which is where all her novels are set. She is married with a young son. Her favorite author is Stephen King. She loves writing when it’s raining, sleeping when it’s sunny, and reading after everyone else has gone to bed.
Jennifer Hillier is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Crime Writers of Canada. She is also a regular columnist at The Thrill Begins, where she talks a lot about her writing journey.

You can find Jennifer Hillier on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Posted in Book Reviews, Canadian fiction, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

20 Questions with William Shaw #authorinterview @william1shaw

William Shaw, one of my favourite authors, has graciously consented to an interview!

He shares some of his thoughts on the writing process, his characters and setting, AND his new DS Cupidi novel due out in May 2019, “Deadland“.

F: You’ve been making a living by the written word for some time now, first as a music journalist and now as a novelist.  What first put you on the writing path?

WS: I remember sitting at my parent’s moss green Olivetti typewriter at the age of about eight, trying to write a play. Doesn’t EVERYONE do that?
I think as long as I was reading I was wondering how people did it, because it’s so mysterious, that ability to conjure a world from a page. When I was in my twenties I would literally type out sections of books I liked to try and see if I could understand how it felt to type them.  

F. Ha! A book nerd after my own heart!

F:  Music is also a huge part of your life. You play music with Brighton Ceilidh Collective. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

WS: Ha! I am the worst musician in Brighton Ceilidh Collective, but it’s a lot of fun; I play bad mandolin and even worse fiddle, but I get to play with some wonderful musicians. Ceilidh is kind of folk-dance stuff. I think it’s a great modern urban form. You dance with lots of people you don’t know in a really nice, safe way. And you can be hopeless at it and still have fun.

We started five years ago this spring, playing ceilidhs in Brighton and now play them all over the place and gig most weeks somewhere, and end up doing a lot of weddings in the summer. On the one hand it’s great fun being part of celebratory events. Last summer we did children’s writer Julia Donaldson’s birthday. On the other hand it’s really good to do something with the other part of your brain that you don’t use when writing.

F: What made you decide to set your most recent novels in Dungeness, Kent? Do you have a personal attachment to the place, or is it just a spot you visited?

WS: I’d been there a few times, once for the funeral of a friend, whose ashes were scattered in one of the gardens there.
I’d been looking for a place which could be a character in the book and it’s about fifty miles from where I live – but like nowhere else in the South East of England. I love the idea of small wooden shacks. I own one myself and go and write there sometimes, but it’s not in Dungeness, it’s in Devon.

F: D.S. Alexandra Cupidi is such a compelling character. Brilliant at her job, yet impulsive, and driven. What made you decide on a female protagonist, and is it difficult to write from a female prospective?

WS: Is it difficult?  God yes! I was very anxious about writing from a female perspective but having written four books from a male perspective – with a fifth planned – I really wanted to try something else. I had a lot of help from fellow writers, especially Elly Griffiths, Lesley Thomson and Susan Wilkins who gave me a lot of encouragement and suggested I work on the scenes in which women speak to women when men aren’t there.

F. You’ve mentioned two of my favourite novelists here.
I love that you’ve collaborated with them.

F: Cupidi’s bright and solitary daughter, Zoe, seems to have demons of her own. Cupidi is concerned for her emotional state, yet she seems to find it impossible to connect with her on a meaningful level. Do you think most parents have this rift in their relationships with teenage children?

WS: I think it’s a very common experience and we’re often very bad parents to teenagers because we are still trying to get the same kind of unconditional love out of them that we had when they were younger. And they are learning something important; that we’re fallible and a bit rubbish sometimes, just like they are. And some teenagers just seem so tormented by hormonal changes it’s tough on parents and children. I wanted Cupidi to not be very good at this stuff. She was never the perfect mother, and she can’t handle the illogicality of her teenage daughter. I love Zoë. She’s so awkward and clever at the same time.

F: I so enjoyed the character of  William South and have it on good authority that he might feature in the next DS Cupidi novel coming out in May.  Can you divulge anything without spoiling the enjoyment of “Deadland”?

WS: I’ve had so much grief from readers about what happened to him at the end of The Birdwatcher! But it had to happen. So he comes back in Deadland after two years in a tough, tough place and he’s changed. He’s much darker for a while. But one of the themes in Deadland is William South coming home, and how he finally starts to find himself again.

F. I can hardly wait to meet up with him again in “Deadland”.

F: Do you have plans for many more DS Cupidi novels?

WS: Yes. I’m a third of the way through one right now. It’s more like The Birdwatcher in that there is a lot of natural history in it. I’ve been spending time with badger experts if that’s any clue… I would love to be able to write as many as I can.

F. Hoorah!

F: Writers are also avid readers. What type of book do you like to read for pleasure?

WS: All sorts. I’ve just been reading Weatherland by Alexandra Harris, which is a great book to pick up and put down again between reading the piles of crime fiction. It’s about British weather as represented by writers over the centuries. Sounds much heavier than it is. Before that, the last non-crime I read was Dark Water, a novel about mental illness set in the 19th century by Elizabeth Lowry which was great. I do read a lot of crime though. I just finished Douglas Lindsay’s Song of The Dead which I really enjoyed. I recently caught up with Jo Spain’s The Confession, which really sparkled but sometimes reading crime has its disadvantages, especially when you are half way through a manuscript. I read Elly Griffiths’ brilliantly beguiling Stranger Diaries just recently and got caught up thinking how did she do that? When really I should just be cracking on with what I’m doing.

F. I’ve recently read “The Stranger Diaries” and really enjoyed it.
On your recommendation, I’m moving “Song of the Dead” and “The Confession” further up my TBR queue.

F: If you could sit and enjoy a chat and a drink with another novelist – who would it be?

WS: I’d like to have a chat with Ann Cleeves who I’ve only said hello to in brief passing in corridors. I think she’s created a great world. In terms of dead writers, I’d love to have met Nicolas Freeling, who very much set the bar for me on what crime fiction should be. He’s the British writer who wrote the Van Der Valk series – the books were MUCH better than the TV series.

F. Ohhh. I am a huge fan of Ann Cleeves. I hope you get a chance to have that chat someday soon.

F: What current novelist do you feel is underrated or deserves to be more well known?

WS: I think Lesley Thomson and Susan Wilkins both deserve to be huge. Or huger.

F. I’ve read the first of Lesley Thomson’s series and am very much looking forward to the rest of the series. I’ve never read Susan Wilkins – thanks for the recommendation.

F: What has been YOUR favourite crime fiction title read recently? (I ask so that we can all add that title to our TBRs.)

WS: I’d give Douglas Lindsay’s Song of The Dead a go. It might annoy a lot of crime readers because it’s quite morose and it kind of breaks the rules, but it’s stayed with me in the days after reading it, which is a good sign, no? Ask me next week and I’ll probably say The Stone Circle which I’m about to dive into.

F: Do you have family and/or friends proof-read your novel, or did you depend on your publisher’s editorial staff?

WS: My friend Paul proof read my first and I realised that that’s a really awful thing to ask a friend to do, so I know leave that to the editorial staff.

F: Do you read all the reviews of your work? How important are reviews to a novelist?

WS: I do try to, however harsh they are. Reviews are what keep books alive in this social media age. I’m grateful to every one.

Apart from the ones that complain about Amazon shipping obviously.

F: What part of being a novelist do you dislike the most? Re-writes? Book promotion? Pushy bloggers? LOL

WS: When it comes up to contract renegotiation time I get anxious. I don’t like that time because you have to be hard nosed and professional; things I hate being.

F: Your Breen & Tozer series has enjoyed success. Now you are embarking on the DS Cupidi series. Do you find the prospect of maintaining a series daunting?

WS: Yes I do… I think creating a landscape that you’ve going have to write into for several years creates all kind of practical problems. Have you left space for characters to develop? Are they still going to be interesting by book four? Am I going to run out of interesting places where things can happen?

F: I am a huge fan of cover art and have been working on a blog series called “Cover Love”.  How much input do you have in choosing the covers for your books?   (I ask this question because I FAR prefer the British covers over the North American covers for “Birdwatcher” and “Salt Lane”)

UK covers published by Quercus Books

North American covers published by Mulholland Books

WS: Book covers have to do so much work these days! So I do have plenty of input but I’ve realised the most important input comes from the sales teams who feed back and let you know whether they they can or can’t get behind a book cover when they walk into a shop or a meeting with it. The market is so different in the US and the UK and demands differ so hugely. But I do love the UK ones. The Salt Lane paperback cover – just out in the UK – sells the book brilliantly, I think, because a book covers should really suggest that there’s a big story going on in there and that one does so well.

F: I have long been a fan of the British police procedural – yet I live in Canada.  (My excuse is that my Mum was a war-bride from Lincolnshire).  Do you find you have as many fans in North America as in Britain?

WS: I do seem to have a fair number of American fans, yes. I think they mostly love the Breen and Tozer series, because that’s about a bit of the UK they recognise or have strong emotions about – London in the sixties.

F: How long does it normally take you to write a book from start to finish?

WS: I give myself five months. And then discover it takes seven.

F: I’ve recently retired from a library career and have known for some time that mysteries/crime thrillers are some of the most read genres of fiction.  Why do you think crime fiction is so popular? Why did YOU choose this genre?

WS: Crime fiction chose me, really. I had written a couple of more conventional literary fiction books that never saw the light of day. When I embarked on a third I realised it was crime fiction that I was writing and I felt a huge weight lifting because I knew what I was supposed to be doing. And it’s taken me a while to realise how great a place that is for me. Crime fiction is at a really exciting moment in its development now. I think it’s really the genre that’s making all the moves. It’s not just that it’s gripping; the fact that it has to exist in a place between the real world and our fears about the real world gives it a power that I don’t think other literary forms have at the moment.

If that makes any sense.

F: Do you want your novels to simply entertain readers, or are they meant to didactic in nature? (I’m thinking of the current subject matter showcased in “Salt Lane”)

WS: You have to entertain, don’t you? That is the most important thing. But I love the fact that we can also use controversies from the world around us as the subject matter for our entertainment. I think it would be pompous for any crime writer to claim the ability to be didactic, but a crime novel is a great place to start asking questions.

Connect with William Shaw on Twitter . HE also has a contact page on his website: http://williamshaw.com/contact/ OR feel free to follow him on his Facebook page.

Thanks SO much William!  It has been wonderful having you visit my blog.  I urge all mystery lovers to read your novels. 

I’m VERY much looking forward to reading your next title in the DS Alexandra Cupidi series. And for those who haven’t seen it yet, here is the beautiful cover for “Deadland“.

Posted in author interviews, Authors | Tagged | 19 Comments

“The Hiding Place” by C.J. Tudor

In the former colliery town of Arnhill in Nottinghamshire, a teacher brutally murders her son and then kills herself.

“It is the sort of village that glowers at you when you arrive and spits on the ground in disgust as you leave.”

We meet another teacher, our protagonist, Joe Thorne, who takes over her job at the school and also moves into the cottage where the murder-suicide took place.  It is a home-coming of sorts for Joe. He grew up in Arnhill, though his was the very opposite of a happy childhood.

When he was fifteen, his little sister Annie (accompanied by her doll, Abbie-Eyes) followed Joe everywhere. Then she disappeared for twenty-four hours. When she came back, she was never the same again. The sweet little girl that he doted on was forever gone. A short time later, he was involved in a car accident that shattered his leg and mortally wounded his father and little sister.

Now, twenty-five years later, he doesn’t have much to show for his life. He likes teaching, but he has proven that he likes drink and gambling more. As a result, he is heavily in debt to some very bad people.

Flashbacks to the year 1992 when Joe was fifteen show he was in a gang back then. A gang with a sadistic and manipulative leader named Stephen Hurst. The teenage boys had one terrifically traumatic experience that marked all of their lives in one way or another…

Now, Stephen Hurst is a councilman and on the school’s Board of Governors. This is particularly problematic for Joe, as Hurst’s son is now the school bully and seems to be following in his father’s footsteps.

The word ‘atmospheric‘ is bandied about in book reviews a lot. Yet this novel was the epitome of atmospheric. The town of Arnhill was almost a character unto itself. In fact the author did such a fine job of evoking the underlying menace, foreboding, bleakness, and despair, that I read faster just to get out of there. Creepy doesn’t begin to cover it.

The book began with a graphic crime scene, which at first made it feel like it might be a police procedural, but that was not at all the case.

Unlike the author’s debut novel “The Chalk Man” which I loved, this one had a supernatural element that I remain unsure about…

Themes of futility, guilt, desperation, grief, and bullying pepper the storyline. If you’re look for an uplifting read, this book is not for you.

The characterization was skillful, yet I didn’t bond with the protagonist the way I wanted to. Also, I wish the book ended without the epilogue. This opinion is one I’m sure that others will disagree with.

The ending had two twists that I did NOT see coming and that is always appreciated by me.

In summation, I DO recommend this thriller to those who don’t mind a supernatural element in their reading. I believe it will be relished by many, especially those who are fond of the works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the like. It made me feel uncomfortable… but any book that can make you ‘feel’ like that has got to be the sign of a talented author.

My gratitude to Crown Publishing via NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this novel for free – at my request, and I provided this unbiased review voluntarily.

The Hiding Place” was published in the United Kingdom under the title “The Taking of Annie Thorne“.C. J. TUDOR lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and young daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. The Hiding Place is her second novel.

You can read an interview with C.J. Tudor HERE.
Follow C.J. Tudor on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Cover Love: part 68 – Lights in windows

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 68th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature lighted windows  on their covers. These seem to be mostly of the ‘thriller’ genre.  Enjoy! 

I’ve only read two of these – but several 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.

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 , | 9 Comments

“Get Well Soon” by Marie-Sabine Roger

A few years ago I read a little novel called “Soft in the head“. It left such a positive impression that I just HAD to read another work by this talented author.  Once again, she has left me wanting more. She has created another character that is memorable and a story that will be appreciated by many. In particular, I think anyone who likes books like “The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen” or “A man called Ove” will love this one.

At five o’clock in the morning, a sixty-seven year old man is fished out of the Seine. Propelled over the bridge by an automobile, he is in critical condition. He awakes in hospital from a coma. He has a broken pelvis, many, many broken bones, and some internal injuries. He cannot remember why he was on the bridge at that hour…

Jean-Pierre Fabre is a childless widower and a self-confessed hoodlum. He always fancied himself a bit of a ‘bad boy’, but nothing could be further from the truth. Other than very sporadic visits by his younger and only brother, he has few visitors.

“Then the day begins, with ten times as many hours as a day spent on the outside”.

He is in pain, he has had to give up all semblance of privacy and personal modesty. Flat on his back, connected to a myriad of wires, he reflects back on his life. His reflections are interrupted by a policeman who questions him about the event that led him to this condition. When no clarity is found, the policeman Maxime continues to visit him and they become unlikely friends over time.

“Sometimes, I shed a little tear. It’s memory-related incontinence, a sort of emotional bed-wetting.”

Another visitor is Camille, a young ‘rent boy‘ who saved his life by fishing him out of the river and calling police.

“I don’t know the first thing about kids – given my history – but I’m guessing it’s much the same as kittens and puppies: if you’re dumb enough to scratch their heads it won’t be long before they start pissing on the table legs and hogging the sofa. I’ll have none of that here, I need my peace and quiet.”

As his condition begins to improve, he tries to fill his time with writing his memoirs. Then, he is also visited by a plump, gum-chewing, fourteen year old girl named Maëva who begs to use his laptop so that she can go on Facebook. (I imagined Gemma from Coronation Street)

Written with equal parts pathos and humour, this book was a little gem. It is a treatise on growing older, relationships, loneliness, and even hope. In short, I loved it.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Pushkin Press via Edelweiss.

A few of my favourite quotes from the novel:

“There are some people with whom silence becomes as itchy as eczema.”

“It is not belief that bothers me, it is what believers do with it.”

“Being alone means not having to worry about anyone.”

“Health is something we think about only if we’ve never had it, or if it’s failing. Life is something we cling to only if it’s threatened.”


Published for the first time in 1989 in children’s literature, marie-sabine-rogerMarie-Sabine Roger has not stopped writing since, in very different registers, albums and novels youth novels for older adolescents and adults, and new novels for adults, and more recently, collaborating on screenplays with Jean Becker. In recent years, it is aimed primarily at adult readers, while continuing to write books for very young readers.

Get well soon” was translated by the award-winning translator, Frank Wynne.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Literary fiction, Memorable lines, novels in translation | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Friday finds (gems I found around the Internet) #FF

Words are so powerful. Sometimes it doesn’t take very many words to make a huge impact. Never was that so evident as in this short, short story by James McEwan:

“Let the stars decide”

Or, in this (very) short poem called

Peaceful Silence

If you’ve lost faith in humanity, it will be restored instantly by reading these tweets:

Pinpricks of light amid the darkness

Here is just one example:

Were you a big fan of Jamie Dornan in “The Fall“?  I was. I’m excited to learn that he will be starring in an Irish period drama “Death and Nightingales“. The revenge drama also stars another of my favourite actors, Matthew Rhys. I only hope it will be available in Canada at some point… Watch the YouTube trailer.

Twelve Facts about the sense of TASTE

As a retired public library employee, I got a huge kick out of this site:

Love the Liberry

Finally, some Jokes/Tweets that will tickle your book lover’s funny bone. Here is an example:

A photographer traveled the world to find the most beautiful libraries. Click the link to see over 40 libraries that he chose. Here is one example:

That’s it folks. A little Friday diversion. We book bloggers can’t talk about books all the time can we??? Oops… I guess a few of these were about books…

Posted in Internet Gems, ramblings & miscellanea | 12 Comments

Throwback Thursday Feb. 7, 2019 (an old favorite recommended)

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites. This week I’m showcasing a debut novel that I read over four years ago. “In a Vertigo of Silence” was a title that I got from NetGalley that surprised me in a very good way. It was, for me, a FIVE STAR read.

Just like a person’s memories are ‘snatches of time’ not in chronological order, so too is “In a vertigo of silence”.  Written as the collective memory of a family, the novel moves back and forth in time to reveal snatches of the lives of three different generations of a Polish immigrant family.

The writing style could be confusing and distracting, but it is not.  This is due to the fully rounded characterizations and the skillful writing.  With loss and female tenacity as recurring themes throughout, the characters become so well known to the reader that they will remain in the memory as friends.

The family is a matriarchy with Marishka at its head.  A strong and eminently likeable woman, she came to the United States via Ellis Island with her husband, Antoni.  They settled in Pennsylvania where he found work in a coal mine.  Tragically, like so many other miners in the early 1920s, he perished in the mine.  This when Marishka was only days away from giving birth to her third daughter…  Marishka’s tenacity is evident in how she went on to become a talented seamstress, laundress and sometimes house cleaner to make ends meet.

Over time, we meet Marishka’s three daughters.  Paulina, the eldest, is an artist and very close to her mother.  Anna, the beautiful middle child, is a mentally fragile women who drinks to excess.  Eva, the youngest, makes a ‘sound’ marriage and has one son.

We then come to meet Emily, Anna’s daughter.  Emily is bullied at school partly because she comes from a fatherless family. She faced betrayal by her best friend, Wanda.  In her adolescent years she developed an eating disorder.  Her grandmother fears for Emily living with her disturbed mother, so she moves in with them to take over Emily’s care and welfare.  Emily and her grandmother are soul mates.  Things go well until Marishka becomes ill, and Anna is institutionalized. At that time both Marishka and Emily go to live with  the dutiful Eva.

The strange thing is, although the bond between grandmother and granddaughter is very close, Emily grows up believing that she only has one aunt…  This family secret and the reason it came about affects the entire family.

We follow Emily’s life as she goes off to college and becomes an adult.   Then,  after a family tragedy, the family secret is revealed…

I mused about the title.  Perhaps the silence is the ‘not knowing’ of the family secret.  Perhaps the vertigo is the dizzying maelstrom of emotion one feels when something shocking or life-changing is revealed…

I wondered at the many mentions of the moon.  I had to look them up as I had never heard of some of them.  The beaver moon, the hunter moon, the sap moon, the hunger moon, the buck moon, the planting moon.   Then of course the ‘O’ in vertigo of the title on the cover is the moon…  Does the author use this device to put forth the adage that the family members, although separated, are all under one moon, so therefore united?  Or, did she have something profound and entirely different in mind?

Miriam Polli has written an empathetic and captivating family saga that many will enjoy.  Highly recommended literary fiction!

This book is available for purchase at these major booksellers.

Miriam PolliBorn in Brooklyn, of Italian immigrant parents, Miriam Polli spent the majority of her life in New York. She recently moved to Key West, Florida where the writing community is very active.
Through the years Miriam has published short stories and poetry in various literary magazines. She won a Pen Syndicated Fiction Award, and her story Sophia’s Cat was published in a number of newspapers across the country. She was recently awarded the 11th annual Robert Frost Poetry Contest for her poem First Born. “In a Vertigo of Silence” which won the Best Indie Books of 2015, is her first novel.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Literary fiction, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Top Ten Anticipated Titles of 2019 #newbooks #bookbuzz

In no particular order – because I expect them to all be stellar reads.

“Deadland” the 2nd novel in William Shaw’s DS Alexandra Cupidi series

“After the End” the latest book by the brilliant Clare Mackintosh

“The Scholar”, the sequel to Dervla McTiernan’s “The Ruin”

“Human Face”, 1st in a new series by the talented Aline Templeton

“The Hunting Party” by new-to-me author Lucy Foley. I’ve read some great reviews of this one!

“The Secretary” by Renée Knight. I loved her previous novel “Disclosure”

“The Red Address Book” by Sofia Lundberg. I’ve read great things about this one!

“The Missing Years” by Lexie Elliott. I loved her previous title “The French Girl”.

“Bitter Edge” by Rachel Lynch. I always look forward to a new DI Kelly Porter novel.

“The Hiding Place” aka “The taking of Annie Thorne” by the brilliant C.J. Tudor

Are any of these gems on YOUR TBR?

Posted in Anticipated titles | Tagged | 31 Comments