Wednesday’s Word = WATER (Cover Love redux)

This is a new spin on my Cover Love posts. Although I still plan to continue my Cover Love series, I just thought it would be sort of fun to concentrate on title words for a change – instead of pictures. Most readers will acknowledge that some words reappear time and time again in titles. Often these words are associated with a particular genre. Case in point: “The girl on the train” and “Gone girl” spawned countless thriller titles with the word ‘girl’ in the title.

This week I’ve chosen the word “WATER“. I know there are thousands of books with the word ‘water’ in the title, but I’m featuring 20 titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love. Some of these titles I’ve read, the rest are on my TBR.

(I’ve limited myself to 20 titles as I tend to get carried away. LOL )

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.

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Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 2 Comments

“She was the quiet one” by Michele Campbell

Rose and Bel Enright are fraternal twin sisters. They are the offspring of a privileged New England college student and a Mexican scholarship student.  Now they are fifteen years old and orphaned.  Sent to live with their wealthy grandmother in Connecticut, they have been enrolled in Odell, a prestigious boarding school, the one where their parents met.

Rose is the ‘good girl’. Smart, studious and active in school activities. Bel is the prettier of the two girls but she has poorer judgment and struggles academically. She immediately falls in with the ‘wrong’ crowd. A bevy of ‘mean girls’ with little moral compass.  The girls couldn’t be more different. After moving to Odell, the twins are separated by a rift – seemingly insurmountable.

Then Bel’s new friends begin a contest – a test to see who can first seduce the handsome new teacher/dorm head, Heath Donovan.

Heath and Sarah Donovan are academics who have been hired by Odell to clean up the unsavory reputation of Moreland Hall, one of the dorms.  They are the dorm’s resident supervisors.  They have two young children.

The task is daunting because the students at Moreland are spoiled, rich, over-privileged teens who spend a lot of their time socializing and tormenting the other students.  Sarah and Heath also serve in an advisory capacity to some of the students.

Events at Odell escalate. A hazing ritual turns ultra nasty. Students are expelled. Other students are ostracized. Lawyers get involved. The social dynamic within the school gets turned on its head.

Then, one of the twins is brutally stabbed and killed.

Sarah and Heath Donovan’s marriage is in jeopardy. Who can Sarah believe? She is faced with a difficult moral choice.

When I was a teenager, I thought it would be wonderful to attend a boarding school. The nerd in me feels resentful that luscious, historical boarding schools always have to be sullied with social conflict. I would have approached the whole boarding school experience in much the same way as Rose did in this novel. The reader in me realizes that without the conflict there would be no story.

This thriller will be loved by many, though it didn’t resonate with me as much as I had hoped.  It is a novel with themes of jealousy, infidelity, betrayal, cliques, intimidation, love triangles, lost trust, and blinding ambition. It was plotted in a clever way – in that you weren’t sure who the murder victim was until near the end of the book.

From a literary standpoint, this novel has great pacing, an atmospheric setting and is very well written. From a content standpoint, just not my cup of tea. If you like ‘mean girl‘ stories then you would probably love this one. I don’t think this was a bad book, but it wasn’t a personal favourite. 

3.5 stars rounded up to 4 for NetGalley, Goodreads, and Amazon.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for review purposes.

From the author’s website:

Michele Campbell is a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School and a former federal prosecutor in New York City who specialized in international narcotics and gang cases.  A while back, she said goodbye to her big-city legal career and moved with her husband and two children to an idyllic New England college town a lot like Belle River in IT’S ALWAYS THE HUSBAND.  Since then, she has spent her time teaching criminal and constitutional law and writing novels.  She has had many close female friends, a few frenemies, and only one husband, who – to the best of her knowledge – has never tried to kill her.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Public libraries today – You gotta love them!

I retired from my position as a public library cataloguer two and a half years ago.  That doesn’t preclude me from loving libraries as much, if not more, than I ever did.

Why, you ask?

Besides books (and honestly… what’s better than books?), you can get SO MUCH MORE with just a library card.  In addition to the physical magazines, audiobooks and DVDs that the library world has been providing its patrons with for some years now, the modern public library provides access to a plethora of online content.

For example, here is an example of what my local library offers its patrons:

You can use Overdrive to download ebooks and audiobooks. Some of the Overdrive titles I’m interested in this week at my library:

You can use RBDigital to download many magazines to your device. You can keep them indefinitely! Some of my most recent magazine downloads are:

You can use Hoopla to stream movies, music, and more!

I was overjoyed to learn that Hoopla had the most recent season of one of my favorite TV shows! You can also stream movies, both old and new! And don’t forget you can stream your favorite music to your device of choice as well!

In addition to the online services I mentioned, there are also services especially geared for children with games, streaming audio and more. There are specialized services for people with disabilities. You can get online access to databases, encyclopedias, comics, service manuals, online product reviews, car repair manuals, online tutorials in various subjects, newspapers,  language instruction, and much, much more!

Have you visited your library lately?  If not, visit from home with your computer and your library card.

Addendum:  I urge you to read some of the comments to this post.  Though the ones I’ve received so far are positive in nature, I received this negative comment on Twitter and thought you might like to read it.  Feel free to agree with this Tweet or disagree, as is your choice.

AND here are my replies to Richard Allen’s comment:

Posted in libraries, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 39 Comments

“The last wave” by Gillian Best

A novel that shows how ordinary people can be extraordinary.

This novel is about the Roberts family who live in Dover, England. In particular, it is about Martha Roberts – wife, mother, and long distance swimmer.

We first meet Martha when she is ten years old.  An accidental fall into the sea started her life-long love affair with the ocean.

“I kept thinking about the moments just before Jim rescued me when I recognized the water as something magical.”

Martha married John Roberts in 1958.  Keep in mind that this was a time when gender roles were clear – and very defined. There was men’s work, and women’s work.  It was also a time when intolerance was the norm…

To say that Martha loved the sea would be an understatement. The sea was where she felt most at home – bringing her solace, and she swam everyday.  When John proposed, he thought his love would be enough to take her out of the water.  He was right, but only for a while.  After almost ten years of being a dutiful wife and mother of two, Martha’s dreams of swimming the English Channel overrode everything else.  She wanted to be more than a wife, more than a mother.

“She was a different person in the water. On land she could be clumsy
but in the water she had grace and strength.”

Thus, Martha began training for a Channel crossing.  She went to the beach everyday. Folding her clothes beneath a myrtle bush, she religiously swam in all weathers.  The myrtle bush was her talisman. She took a cutting of the bush and began to grow one in the garden of her house.

We come to meet Martha and John’s neighbour, Henry.  A lonely man who lives alone, he makes himself invaluable to the Roberts family.

We meet Martha’s grown son Iain, and her grown daughter, Harriet.

Over the years, Martha makes the twenty-one hour swim across 20.7 mile English Channel on nine separate occasions. Her tenacity, strength, dedication and commitment saw her through the pain, the bone-chilling cold, the punishing currents, the jellyfish stings, the tongue swollen from the salt… as she swam in the busiest stretch of water in the world.

“Maybe the point of life was to get to the moment where all you needed was to gaze at another person’s face, one you knew better than your own, reading the lines and wrinkles that marked out the years you had spent together.”

We follow Martha and John into their seventies. The life of these ordinary people takes a tragic turn…

“Good news arrives at reasonable hours but bad news barges in, possessing neither the restraint nor the decency to wait.”

The last wave” is a well-crafted debut novel about a remarkable woman and her family.  I found the pace a bit slow at times, but the narrative kept my interest throughout.  Like life itself, it contains moments of joy AND moments of tragedy. The story about a loving though dysfunctional family was told in a bold, realistic way. A book of love, loss, responsibility, hurt, forgiveness, aging, and illness. It shows how passions can often skip a generation.

rounded up for Amazon and Goodreads

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from House of Anansi via NetGalley.

Gillian Best is a writer, swimmer, and seaside enthusiast.

Her debut novel, The Last Wave, is published in Canada and the USA by House of Anansi Press.

Gillian was chosen by CBC Books as one of 17 Writers to Watch in 2017.

Originally from Waterloo, Canada, Gillian has been living in the UK for the best part of twelve years. Arriving in Falmouth to study for her Masters in Professional Writing, she later went on to receive her PhD in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Glasgow. She currently lives, works, and swims in Bristol, UK.

You can follow Gillian Best on Twitter and Instagram

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Family sagas, Literary fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = ROAD (Cover love redux)

This is a new spin on my Cover Love posts. Although I still plan to continue my Cover Love series, I just thought it would be sort of fun to concentrate on title words for a change – instead of pictures.  Most readers will acknowledge that some words reappear time and time again in titles.  Often these words are associated with a particular genre.  Case in point: “The girl on the train” and “Gone girl” spawned countless thriller titles with the word ‘girl’ in the title.

This week I’ve chosen the word “ROAD“.  I know there are countless books with the word road in the title, but I’m featuring 20 titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love. Some of these titles I’ve read, the rest are on my TBR.

(I’ve limited myself to 20 titles as I tend to get carried away. LOL )

Reading a book is a bit like taking a road you’ve never been on before.
You never know where you’ll end up!

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 or HATED it?

Please let me know in the comments.

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 20 Comments

“Sometimes I lie” by Alice Feeney (@alicewriterland @HQstories)

I’ve been anxious to read “Sometimes I lie” ever since I won a copy via a Twitter giveaway.  A thriller riddled with twists and an unreliable narrator ensured that I wasn’t disappointed.  Whew!

“People are not mirrors, they don’t see you how you see yourself.”

Sometimes I lie” is told via three timelines.  Now (when Amber is in a coma); Then (the week before Christmas, leading up to her accident); and Before (when Amber was just eleven years old)

“Despite my internal cries, on the outside I am voiceless and perfectly still.”

Now – We first meet Amber Reynolds when she is in a coma. It is Boxing Day and it would appear she has been in a horrible car accident.  She is aware of the people around her and can hear what they say – she just cannot acknowledge them, make a sound, or move her body. She is thirty-five years old and is married to a man named Paul.  She remembers this…  but there are huge gaps in her memories leading up to her accident.

Apparently Paul’s beloved car was the vehicle crashed in her accident.

“He bought it with the advance for his first novel and he loves it almost as much as I hate it.”

A man enters Amber’s hospital room. He talks to her likes he knows her. He deletes the messages on her cell phone… He tells her that it is HER fault that she is in this condition.

Then – She works as a presenter for a radio talk show called “Coffee Morning”.  Quite recently she was given a warning that she might be made redundant.  She plots to get her nemesis on the show off the payroll. She begins a covert campaign to oust her from the show by creating negative social media buzz and sending her nasty anonymous notes in red envelopes.

Amber’s husband Paul is a writer who is struggling to write his second book. Lately their marriage has been strained.

“His success broke him and his failure broke us.”

Amber’s younger sister Claire is married and is the mother of two-year-old twins.

Amber really doesn’t like the person she has become.

“I’m not as ugly on the outside as I feel on the inside, but I still don’t like what I see.”

Amber doesn’t care for her mother-in-law and the feeling is mutual.

“I always get the impression that she sees straight through me and doesn’t like the view.”

In fact, Amber doesn’t really like people at all…  and she is overwhelmingly unhappy.

“I think my parents used to love me, but I disappointed them so often
that the love got rubbed out.”

Before –  We meet Amber through a series of diary entries when she is eleven years old. Never wanted by her mother, Amber is often neglected and she comes to hate her Mum. She feels unloved by her parents and is friendless until she meets a girl named Taylor.  After a play date arranged by Amber’s mother, they become friends and remain quite close.  The two girls share a birthday, love books, and have many of the same interests.  They are like ‘two peas in a pod‘.  Amber is terribly jealous of Taylor who has a nice house and loving parents.

Amber’s beloved Nana has recently passed away taking with her the only unconditional love Amber has ever known.

“Claire takes everyone I love away from me.”

Amber seems to resent her sister, Claire. She loves her but feels that Claire got all the love that the parents had to give.

“People say there’s nothing like a mother’s love, take that away and you’ll find there is nothing like a daughter’s hate.”

What a twisty, mesmerizing novel!  Packed with red-herrings and genius twists, it will be favoured by thriller lovers everywhere.  I was excited to learn that this book will be made into a TV series!

A book of jealousy, toxic relationships, and what the lack of nurturing and unconditional love can do to the psyche. A novel that examines the fine, thin, line between love and hate.  A thriller that will mess with your head!

I won a signed and dedicated copy of this novel via a Twitter giveaway!


6 favourite quotes from “Sometimes I lie”:

“If you were to strip us all down to our purest intentions, the lowest common denominator would always be wanting to be listened to, needing to be heard above the noise of modern life.”

“Life is more terrifying than death in my experience, there’s little point fearing something so inevitable.”

“Grief is only ever yours and so is guilt. It’s not something you can share.”

“Celebrity ceases to impress when you subtract humility.”

“History is a mirror and we’re all just older versions of ourselves; children disguised as adults.”

“People who do nothing are just as dangerous as those who do.”


Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 15 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

Alice is has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.

Sometimes I Lie is her debut thriller and is being published around the world.

You can connect with Alice @alicewriterland on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Cover Love: part 59 – Swimming

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 59th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature swimming and swimmers on their covers. I chose this topic because swimming is one of my favourite summer activities.

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

“The Cheesemaker’s House” by Jane Cable (#blogtour @rararesources @JaneCable)

Today I’m delighted to kickoff the Rachel’s Random Resources blog tour for Jane Cable’s debut novel, “The Cheesemaker’s House“.  The Yorkshire setting and the hint of a historical mystery are what first attracted me to the novel. Plus, I’m always attracted to novels that feature protagonists who are making ‘fresh starts’.

When Alice Hart’s husband runs off with his secretary, she runs off with his dog to lick her wounds in a North Yorkshire village. Battling with loneliness but trying to make the best of her new start, she soon meets her neighbours, including the drop-dead gorgeous builder Richard Wainwright and the kindly yet reticent cafe´ owner, Owen Maltby.

As Alice employs Richard to start renovating the barn next to her house, all is not what it seems. Why does she start seeing Owen when he clearly isn’t there? Where – or when – does the strange crying come from? And if Owen is the village charmer, what exactly does that mean?

The Cheesemaker’s House is a gripping read, inspired by a framed will found in the dining room of the author’s dream Yorkshire house. The previous owners explained that the house had been built at the request of the village cheesemaker in 1726 – and that the cheesemaker was a woman. And so the historical aspect of the story was born.

Jane Cable’s novel won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Show People’s Novelist competition, reaching the last four out of over a thousand entries. The Cheesemaker’s House can be enjoyed by anyone who has become bored of today’s predictable boy-meets-girl romance novels.

After twelve years of marriage, Alice Hart is newly divorced and has just moved to Yorkshire.  She wants to renovate the barn that came along with her cottage and soon meets the attractive Richard who is a builder. She hires him to do up the barn so that she might have a holiday let as an income source. Richard is practical, handsome, and nice, but not Alice’s type.

side view of Cheesemaker’s House barn

Her cottage was once the Cheesemaker’s House and dates back to the early eighteenth century.   At first she revels in her newly single state. After her recent divorce she really doesn’t want to become involved with anyone, yet when she meets a local café owner, Owen Maltby, she falls for him – hard.  She learns that Owen is a trained pharmacist who abandoned his career when his grandmother passed away.  His gran was the village herbalist/healer and Owen seems to have taken up the reins after her death.

Cheesemaker’s House garden room door

Owen and Alice begin a tentative relationship, yet Owen seems secretive and has mercurial moods. Alice begins to hear crying at night, yet she cannot determine the source.  She sees Owen several times when it could not possible BE Owen.  This Owen is wearing a different colour shirt than the one she knows Owen has on. He is in a different place that where she knows Owen to be…

Is she seeing ‘visions’? Having hallucinations? Or, is she losing her mind?

“Echoes from another time or place?”

Alice begins to help out in the café owned by Owen and his business partner/baker Adam.  She befriends a friendly older neighbour named Margaret.

charm wand

Owen gives Alice an antique charm wand.

A tiny infant’s skeleton is found beneath the floor of the barn.

Then… after an upsetting event, Owen runs off and Alice and Adam are left wondering if Owen took his own life…

I’ll admit that when I first read the blurb which said that Owen Maltby was a ‘charmer‘, I thought he was a ladies’ man.  Once I began reading the novel, I quickly realized my error. Owen was a very different kind of charmer. He uses herbs and white witchcraft to charm people into believing what he wants them to believe.  Or does he??? Owen himself denies being a charmer. He calls himself a healer and he takes his healings very seriously.

The Yorkshire village setting of Great Fencote was well described and charming.

I found “The Cheesemaker’s House” to be a very easy read. The narrative flowed smoothly and the plot held my interest throughout.  It did not read like a romance novel, yet it did have romance, mystery, and more than a dash of the paranormal.  I found Owen Maltby to be a very intriguing character.  Owen was a profoundly kind man, yet he had many demons. At times he seemed weak, but the strain he was under would weaken any man. The whole while I was wondering if Owen had a twin, or if the second Owen was in fact a hallucination of Alice.

Alice’s character, though we don’t learn a whole lot about her, was sympathetic and I liked how she wanted to integrate herself in the village to forge a new start for herself along with her spaniel, William.

The whole mystery surrounding the tiny baby skeleton found in the barn captured my interest and I was very invested in finding out who the baby was and how the baby was connected to the Cheesemaker’s House.

All in all, I very much enjoyed reading “The Cheesemaker’s House“.   A debut novel that flowed smoothly and held my interest throughout.  A novel of haunted people and haunted places. I look forward to further novels by this author.  I’m not always a fan of paranormal novels, yet this was written in such a way that the paranormal aspects were subtle and seemed integral to the plot. Recommended!

Publisher: Troubador Publishing
ISBN: 9781783061242

Purchase Links:

Amazon universal link: viewBook.at/CheesemakersHouse
Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-cheesemakers-house/jane-cable/9781783061242
Barnes & Noblehttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cheesemakers-house-jane-cable/1117073553?ean=2940149894765
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-cheesemaker-s-house
iBook: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-cheesemakers-house/id930925191

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Rachel’s Random Resources.

Check out the other stops on this blog tour:Although brought up in Cardiff, Jane Cable left Wales to study at the age of eighteen and has lived in England ever since. Her father was Anglo-Welsh poet Mercer Simpson so growing up in a house full of books Jane always read – and wrote. In 2011 she started to take her hobby seriously when The Cheesemaker’s House, which became her debut novel, reached the final of The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition. She writes romance with a twist of mystery which has been published independently and through the UK ebook giant, Endeavour Press. Jane is an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a director of Chindi Authors.
In 2017 Jane moved to Cornwall and this year will become a full time author. She’s passionate about her new home, cricket, travelling and her husband of 22 years – although not necessarily in that order.

Watch out for Jane Cable’s next novel: “The Faerie Tree“.

Jane Cable‘s website: http://www.janecable.com
Follow Jane Cable on Twitter: @JaneCable
Jane Cable on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/romanticsuspensenovels/

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Rachel's Random Resources, romantic suspense | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Hello August (Fictionophile updates and July’s bookhaul)

Hello lovely folks! Summer days are speeding by and August is almost here already!

Though I’ve been reluctant to add to my already lengthy TBR, it is only expected that I had to add a few titles.  I am a book hoarder bookworm after all.

During the month of July I added NINE titles to my TBR.



I downloaded 3 titles from Edelweiss in July:

 

 

The betrayals” by Fiona Neill published by Pegasus Books


 

 

The stranger diaries” by Elly Griffiths published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


 

 

Before she knew him” by Peter Swanson published by William Morrow


I downloaded 4 titles from NetGalley in July:

 

 

In her shadow” by Mark Edwards

(I was pre-approved for this title by Amazon UK Digital)

 


 

The body in the Dales” by J.R. Ellis

(I was pre-approved for this title by Amazon UK Digital)


 

The Winter’s child” by Cassandra Parkin

(I was pre-approved for this title by Legend Press)


 

 

The Phantom Tree” by Nicola Cornick

(Graydon House sent me a NetGalley widget for this title)


and directly from the publisher I received one more title…

 

Through his eyes” by Emma Dibdin

(sent to me by Head of Zeus)


So…. that’s it!  EIGHT more review commitments!


I also purchased one FREE title from Amazon.ca

 

Victor Ludorum” by Jennifer Chapman


I’m delighted to report that there are now 2.821 people following this blog!


My Goodreads Challenge is coming along nicely:

My NetGalley feedback ratio is still falling short of the coveted 80%

My Edelweiss feedback ratio is slowly improving…

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

“Mr. Flood’s last resort” by Jess Kidd

“A spellbinding tale of a lonely caregiver
and a cranky hoarder with a house full of secrets.”

Elderly Cathal Flood lives in a gothic Victorian mansion in West London called Bridlemere. It is a large dwelling with four stories with a belvedere at the top offering its occupants a wide-ranging view of all of London. Cathal is a hoarder. He has been since his wife passed away some twenty-five years ago.  Because of the dire state of his home, he has had difficulty keeping carers… until Maud Drennan.

Maud Drennan does not shock easily and she has a sunny disposition.  She takes Cathal’s verbal abuse in her stride and the elderly Irish man, and the lonely Irish woman become friends of a sort.  She becomes used to his countless cats and his odd collections of taxidermy and ancient curiosities.  Valiantly, she makes inroads in his clutter, shifting the detritus to black bin bags.

“Memories are fickle creatures, you ought to know that, skittish and in no ways trustworthy.”

When Maud was a child, her elder sister went missing. She blamed herself. Traumatized, she took refuge in books – particularly in “The illustrated book of the saints“.  Now, in adulthood, she carries the saints with her.  Almost like a raft of imaginary friends, they cajole, advise, and chastise her on a regular basis.

“A house, a labyrinth of rubbish, a crazy old man, and a messsage in a bottle: all the ingredients of a twisted crime story”.

Now, as Cathal and Maud become more tolerant of each other, Maud attempts to ferret out information about the Flood family secret.  With the help of her agoraphobic, transgender landlady, she tries to piece together the clues of Mary’s death and the fact that the Floods once had a daughter.  What mystery lies behind the photograph with the faces burnt out? They wonder why old Cathal does not have anything to do with his only son.

“Everyone fears being read. Being found out. Everyone has their secrets.”

The blurb of this novel SO appealed to me.  A gothic Victorian mansion in West London owned by a cantankerous and eccentric hoarder named Cathal Flood; his lonely carer Drennan; family secrets; a plethora of cats…. What could be better?

I absolutely loved the parts of the book that featured the relationship between Maud and Cathal Flood. I found him to be a pitiful old man, yet he retained his sense of humour and his spark.  I also enjoyed the relationship between Maud and her friend Renata.

But then, I found that the chapters rich in characterization, descriptive and beautiful language and humour were marred by brief passages that made no sense to me and did not seem to ‘belong‘ to the rest of the book. There were passages relating the conversations of many different long deceased saints; some almost poltergeist like activity; and some random dream sequences.  What did they have to do with the book?  In my humble opinion they were superfluous to requirements and detracted greatly from the narrative.

I’m completely flummoxed as to how to rate this title.  Parts were so stellar that they could rate nothing less than a 5+ stars.  Character-rich, beautiful writing and description, and loaded with laugh-out-loud humour. Other parts left me bewildered and asking why I was reading the book at all – meriting about 2 stars.  I settled on 3 stars because in my opinion the great parts of the book were marred by the strange parts.  I recommend this novel with reservations. The reader should appreciate magical realism/fantasy interspersed in what is otherwise an outstanding literary novel.

This novel was published with THREE vastly different covers – and two titles. Check out this link to read what the author, Jess Kidd, has to say about writing this book.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publisher, Atria Books, via NetGalley.  My unbiased review is my way of saying thank-you.

Jess Kidd completed her first degree in Literature with The Open University, and has since taught creative writing and gained a PhD in Creative Writing Studies. She has also worked as a support worker specialising in acquired brain injury. In 2016, Jess won the Costa Short Story Award for Dirty Little Fishes and her debut novel Himself was selected for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club and shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards. In 2017, Himself was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and longlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. Jess was brought up in London as part of a large family from Mayo, and plans to settle somewhere along the west coast of Ireland in the next few years. Until then, she lives in London with her daughter.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = Secret (Cover Love redux)

This is a new spin on my Cover Love posts. Although I still plan to continue my Cover Love series, I just thought it would be sort of fun to concentrate on title words for a change – instead of pictures.  Most readers will acknowledge that some words reappear time and time again in titles.  Often these words are associated with a particular genre.  Case in point: “The girl on the train” and “Gone girl” spawned countless thriller titles with the word ‘girl’ in the title.

This week I’ve chosen the word “SECRET“.  I know there are countless books with the word secret in the title, but I’m featuring 20 titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love. Some of these titles I’ve read, the rest are on my TBR.

(I’ve limited myself to 20 titles as I tend to get carried away. LOL )

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

Secrets, as a subject in fiction have always held appeal for me personally. Ever since reading “The secret garden” as a child.

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

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

Please let me know in the comments.

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 17 Comments

Are you a ‘RE-reader’?

Yes, there ARE books I would like to re-read. Will I though? Probably not. There are just SO many wonderful titles out there; I have SO many review commitments; there are SO many series I want to start; there are SO many series I want to finish; I’m not getting any younger, etc.

I promised myself over a year ago that I would re-read a favorite title from my twenties (just to see if, and how much, my reading tastes have changed over the years), and I still haven’t gotten around to re-reading it. Some other book keeps pushing it further down the queue.


Are you a re-reader?  Why? Why not?


The Top TEN novels I would RE-READ – if I was to RE-READ

  1.  “A man called Ove” by Fredrik Backman  (an all-time favourite)
  2.  “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë (my favourite classic novel)
  3.  “The shell seekers” by Rosamund Pilcher (an old, feel-good, favourite)
  4. The tree of hands” by Ruth Rendell (a favourite by one of my favourite authors)
  5.  “Caedmon’s song” by Peter Robinson (a stand-alone favourite)
  6.  “A Prologue to love” by Taylor Caldwell (read over 30 years ago)
  7.  “The mirror” by Marlys J. Millhiser  (read over 30 years ago)
  8.  “Garnethill” by Denise Mina (the title that got me obsessed with thrillers)
  9.  “The auctioneer” by Joan Samson (read over 30 years ago – chilling read)
  10. The forgotten garden” by Kate Morton (read 8 years ago)

Posted in Favorite books, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 71 Comments

“Underwater breathing” by Cassandra Parkin

High on a Yorkshire cliff lives a dysfunctional family.  Mother Maggie, father Richard, sixteen year-old son Jacob, and his half-sister, seven year-old Ella.  The house, like the family itself, is getting perilously close to destruction due to shore erosion.  Jacob, who cares deeply for his little sister, tries his best to distract her from the increasingly volatile arguments and domestic strife between his mother and father.  He takes her up to the turret bathroom in the old house where they play games of timing each other as to who can hold their breathe underwater the longest.  Jacob wants Ella to be so concentrated on this game that she will not be stressed out by their parents’ fighting.

Although Jacob goes to school, Ella does not. She is home-schooled by her mother. This state of affairs leaves the little girl often lonely, bored, and friendless as her mother quite often sleeps during the day.  Ella is constantly anxious. She fears the sea – in particular she is afraid that her house will tumble to the sea. One day that Ella is particularly lonely, with her toy pony ‘Rainbow Dash’ in hand, she visits the dour and solitary next door neighbour, Mrs. Armitage.  This lonely and childless woman acts as a sort of surrogate parent for Ella. Much to Mrs. Armitage’s denial and distress she comes to care deeply for the little waif. Ella visits become more and more frequent over time.  Mrs. Armitage buys special cookies for Ella – and paper and pencils for her many drawings…

“Of course, she hadn’t been hoping Ella would visit. She didn’t like visitors. But when you found yourself accidentally inviting them anyway, it was best to be prepared.”

Mrs. Armitage is a strong, independent woman. She is a widow, and a scuba diver. She lost her husband to the sea when his boat went down off the coast.  Now, she finds comfort underwater – the quiet, the solitude…

After one particularly distressful evening of fighting, Ella vanishes, along with her mother…  Jacob can never forget his little sister and carries deep regret with him into adulthood.

Then, we fast forward to Jacob a decade later. He now works as a school teacher and he cares for his father. Though not yet sixty years old, Richard suffers from early onset dementia due in part to his excessive drinking.  Jacob shares the care of his often confused, paranoid, and sometimes violent father with the woman next door, Mrs. Armitage.  He loves his father, but finds himself increasingly resentful, despairing, and full of rage at the state of their lives. His father’s unpredictable and abusive behavior is written so realistically that you will weep.

When Ella returns to the house a decade after she left, Jacob is overjoyed. He adores her. Their father seems to have no memory of Ella and refers to her as Jacob’s girlfriend.  Ella’s return marks a turning point in all of their lives.

“Human beings were strong.
They could survive far more pain than they wanted to believe.”

When a fierce storm hits the headland, the impact is felt irrevocably by Jacob, Ella, and Mrs. Armitage.  For the storm is not only a physical storm – it is an emotional storm as well.

What a moving and powerful novel!  The deeply dysfunctional family and the damaged yet sympathetic neigbour were unforgettable characters. Mrs. Armitage was by far my favourite character and I felt bereft when I finished the book.  The writing was beautiful. The atmospheric setting – a crumbling cliff overlooking the North Sea immersed the reader in a foreboding and almost sensual way.

I loved this book. You might not be comfortable with some of the subject matter, but you cannot help but be moved by it.  Highly recommended!

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

 

Cassandra Parkin grew up in Hull, and now lives in East Yorkshire. Her short story collection, New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011), won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories and her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.  She is the author of “The summer we all ran away“,”The beach hut“, “Lily’s house“, and “The Winter’s child“.

Follow Cassandra on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Literary fiction | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Cover Love: part 58 – Eiffel Tower

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 58th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature the Eiffel Tower on their covers. I chose this topic partly as a way to celebrate France winning the World Cup Soccer match.  I chose just a small sampling of the myriad books with the Parisian icon on the cover. These cover a wide range of genres – from historical fiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction, thrillers, and more.

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

“The sewing machine” by Natalie Fergie

“The sewing machine has provided work in manufacture, eased work in the home and facilitated work when there was none to be had.”

A well researched historical novel that alternates between several timelines.

1911 Clydebank, Scotland where we meet an eighteen year old Jean who works as a sewing machine tester at the Singer Factory. At that time, the Singer Factory was all powerful and employed thousands of workers.  It even had its own railway station and its own trains. Jean lives with her domineering father who also works for Singer.  There follows a brief and accurate portrayal of the strike that took place that year. A strike which Jean’s father disapproves and which Jean’s beau, Donald Cameron, helps organize.  The betrothed Jean and Donald eventually are forced to leave Clydebank and they move to Edinburgh.

“A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

1954 Edinburgh, Scotland where we meet 33 year-old Connie Baxter. She lives with her mother Kathleen, a tailor. The two women get along very well. Kathleen works on an old Singer machine. For every sewing task she completes, she writes the details in a notebook.  After a family tragedy, Connie, a typist, finds a new job as a seamstress for a hospital. This position will be instrumental in her meeting a young woman named Ruth Watkins, and her future husband, Alf Morrison.

1980 Edinburgh, Scotland where we meet Ruth Watkins.  Single and pregnant, she is trying to finish her nursing practicum before the Old Royal Infirmary realizes her condition.  She approaches a woman named Connie who works at the hospital to see if see can let out her uniforms so that they will not be so tight and camouflage her pregnancy.

2016 Edinburgh, Scotland where we meet 35 year-old Fred.  Newly single and unemployed, Fred inherits a flat (and a cat named Crabbie) from his grandfather Alfred.  A flat that has been in the family since 1890. Fred writes a private blog which he uses as a sort of diary/confidante. Fred is a very private man. He begins the herculean task of clearing out the flat, only to find himself keeping most of what he discovers. There are Marmite jars everywhere – used for keeping pens, plant cuttings, and various other things. The most important find though, is an ancient Singer sewing machine.  Within the machine he finds numerous old notebooks that tell the tale of his family history, one stitch at a time…

Surprising himself, Fred begins to use the old machine.  He finds that sewing helps him to decompress, freeing his mind of his stresses and his loneliness.  When the machine needs servicing, he meets an artistic young woman whose life is intrinsically tied to his.

Natalie Fergie brings the past eloquently to life. All of her characters are well fleshed out so that the reader is invested in their plight.  The narrative reminds us of a time when frugality was the norm – quite the opposite of our current disposable society. She skillfully stitches all of her characters and timelines into one cohesive whole – while at the same time describing how both tangible and intangible things are passed down through generations.

A novel of what family means, of love, loss, of hardship, and of letters lost and received. A great read that I highly recommend to lovers of literary, historical fiction, and of course…. family secrets. An emotional and evocative debut.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Unbound Digital via NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.

There is a film of the National Library of Scotland website, entitled Birth of a Sewing Machine, that you might find of interest.

Natalie Fergie lives near Edinburgh, Scotland.
Her debut novel, The Sewing Machine, was published in April 2017 and is set in Clydebank and in Edinburgh. You can walk to many of the real life Edinburgh locations in the book, browse the shelves in the library the characters visited, and stand in the grounds of the Royal Infirmary looking up at the windows, as they did.

Natalie writes mostly from home, in a room overlooking the Forth Valley, with the Ochil Hills in the distance. When she isn’t writing, she is plotting her next book while she makes soup, or walks the family labrador.

Her website is at www.nataliefergie.com and you’ll find her chatting about anything and everything on twitter at www.twitter.com/NatalieSFergie and on Instagram at www.instagram/NatalieSFergie

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , | 13 Comments