Hello October – Fictionophile updates and September’s book haul

October is a bittersweet month for me. It is usually the month we close up our cottage for the winter (that’s the bitter), and we settle into our autumn routines at home, including getting together with family over Thanksgiving. (the sweet)

Autumn is such a beautiful month in Nova Scotia. 

Crisp days with beautiful foliage.

On a personal note, my husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on September 24th!  I’m so fortunate to have spent the last 40 years married to my best friend!


I received three titles from NetGalley in September

I requested “The Music Shop” because I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read from this author so have high anticipations for this one!

AND

which the publisher invited me to read after I did a
blog interview with the author, Kaira Rouda

 I had a big disappointment from NetGalley in September when my request for “The Visitors” was declined.

I really wish they would give you a reason when they decline your request. I’ve had three previous books from Gallery/Scout Press and have reviewed them all…

BUT… strangely, I got the book from Legend Press (different cover that I don’t like as much), but I’m grateful to have auto approval so I was SO happy to see this one offered.

AND, my request for “In a cottage in a wood” was declined.

I requested this title after reading  two fab reviews by Jo at  My Chestnut Reading Tree, and Sharon at Stardust Book Reviews.

but… YIPEE!  I received three titles from Edelweiss in September – and one of them was “In a cottage in a wood“!This just goes to show that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…

I read the first book in this series last year and loved it – so I was only to happy to be invited to take part in the TLC Book Tour for this title on October 5th.  I’ve not been taking part in blog tours recently as I find they interfere too much in my TBR, causing me to shuffle it every time.  For “Odd child out” I made an exception.

Just really liked the sound of this one!

I purchased the following TEN books in Kindle format from Amazon.ca and SEVEN of them were FREE!

FREE
Almost 52,000 pages of FREENESS!

FREE

FREE

FREE

FREE

FREE

FREE

$ .99

$ 1.20

$ 1.99

Ten books with my total expenditure =  $ 4.18 Cdn. Not bad!

You’ve gotta love those FREE Kindle books from Amazon!

So SIX more review commitments in September. I am valiantly trying to get my TBR under control and I’m working toward my 80% NetGalley badge.  There have been many tempting titles listed on NetGalley recently, but until I get that danged 80% I refuse to request them. My ratio is now standing at 76%


We bookbloggers need validation once in a while,
so I am delighted to share with you the following:

Excited to be ranked #1 of the Top Fifty Fiction Blogs on Feedspot


Got a badge from ShoutAbout.org YIPEE!



So, all in all, September was a great month for my blog. Thanks to all my fellow bookbloggers who have been SO very supportive, and who share my posts via Twitter, etc.

This blog is approaching 100,000 hits! I’m so excited! Hey, don’t judge me… LOL

Fictionophile now has 1,975 followers.  Thanks all!

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“Devil’s trumpet” by Mary Rosenblum

This well written cozy mystery is the first in a series of four novels featuring landscape designer Rachel O’Connor. It has been awhile since I’ve read a ‘cozy’ mystery and this one was a delight.

The blurb:

All Rachel O’Connor wants is for her business to be a success. But when her client is found at the bottom of a nearby cliff, she suspects murder and starts looking for the truth – a dangerous pastime that her high school sweetheart, now a detective, doesn’t approve of. ‘The Devil’s Trumpet’ is a gripping murder mystery, with a green-fingered twist.

Rachel O’Connor and her Guatemalan laborer Julio have a job restoring the grounds of an old hotel on the banks of the Columbia River in the scenic Willamette Valley, Oregon. The problem is that the owner, Henry Bassinger, hasn’t paid her in awhile and has been acting increasingly strange. Surely he is too young for Alzheimers? When he suffers from a fatal fall, the duo have to leave the job, but Rachel is determined to find out the circumstances of her client’s death.

Rachel has a big new job on – designing the huge yard of a doctor. She and her assistant Julio are hard at work when she remembers that she has to pick her mother up from the train. The doctor offers to go in her stead so that she can complete her work doing up his yard for his granddaughter’s wedding.  When he returns the two seem awfully chummy… the next thing you know, Rachel’s mother and Rachel’s client, the good doctor are engaged to be married!

Rachel is still reeling from what she thinks is her mother’s rash decision when she meets up with her own first love that she hasn’t seen since high school. Jeff Price is back in town and is a new member of the town’s police force.  He is looking into the death of Henry Bassinger.  Much to Jeff’s disapproval, Rachel continues her own investigations, much to her own peril…

Devil’s trumpet” was a very enjoyable ‘cozy’ mystery.  With vivid description and engaging characters, it was humorous and well-plotted without being ‘cutesy’.  Rachel’s opinionated cat, Peter, added to the allure of this book for me.

The plot explores various family dynamics as well as touching on the subjects of landscape design and jazz music. Not deep by any means, this light mystery was a joy to read. I have already purchased the second in the series “Deadly nightshade”, and plan to read it just as soon as my review commitments allow.

Oh, and about the title. How clever! Readers will find that it has double relevance to the story!I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of this novel from Endeavor Press via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.Mary Rosenblum was born in Levittown, New York, and is a science fiction and mystery author. She grew up in Allison Park, “a dead little coal mining town outside Pittsburgh PA,” and attended Reed College in Oregon, earning a biology degree.
Her first story came out in 1990 and her first novel in 1993.  From 1999 to 2002 she wrote the “Gardening Mysteries” novel series.
She has won awards for her science fiction novels, “The Drylands” and “Sacrifice”.
An accomplished cheesemaker, she teaches the craft at selected workshops.
At the age of 57, Rosenblum earned her pilot’s license. Located in Oregon, she is one of only 10% of female pilots in that state.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

NetGalley vs. Edelweiss (re: feedback ratios)

We know that NetGalley gives out badges. One that I’ve been striving for is the 80% badge. (I’m now standing at 76%)

Just for the fun of it, I decided to figure out what my feedback ratio would be on Edelweiss – just to see if I was using their service in a productive way. Taking note that I had 79 titles approved and feedback sent for 36, I was shocked to discover that my feedback ratio for Edelweiss is only 46% !!!

I will have to seriously attempt to raise that poor ratio in the near future!

I guess giving out badges does work. I seem to try to read NetGalley titles first to increase my feedback ratio. Perhaps if Edelweiss had badges to strive for, I’d be reading more of their titles first. Just a thought…

What do YOU think?

Posted in Book bloggers, Edelweiss, NetGalley | Tagged | 29 Comments

Calling all Edelweiss Reviewers (updated Sept. 28, 2017)

I thought I’d write a short blog post today to raise awareness of this Goodreads group so that hopefully the group will have a more active and vibrant voice.

Almost two years ago, I started a GoodReads group for Edelweiss reviewers so that bloggers/reviewers could discuss various topics pertaining to Edelweiss. You can praise or vent your frustrations – either way you will find others who share your opinions.

The only condition for joining is that you must have reviewed at least one title for Edelweiss.

As of September 28, 2017 we are 92 members strong!

Edelweiss users should be aware that Edelweiss+ is now the only interface available as they have retired their old Edelweiss legacy format.

There is a new Edelweiss DRC Request Interface!

The next time you request a Digital Review Copy in Edelweiss, you’ll see a slightly different interface, including a Request Profile and a means to gauge the strength of that profile. This is intended to help you present yourself as thoroughly and professionally as possible to publishers, as well as to help the publishers more easily wade through their many, many requests. 

As moderator, I am taking this opportunity to invite Edelweiss users to join our group.

Hope to hear from you!

And… did you know that, like Goodreads, you can also have FRIENDS on Edelweiss?  Anyone who wants to find me just go to your profile, then on the left hand side click on ‘Friend Search’ and enter Lynne LeGrow

If you are a book blogger or book reviewer and have never heard of Edelweiss, you can find out some information here:

Edelweiss” is an online interactive digital frontlist catalog platform. In other words, for reviewers, it is a place where you can obtain digital ARCs of upcoming and current titles.

As of today, there are over 2.200 digital review copies available for request on Edelweiss!

Currently Edelweiss is used by booksellers, librarians, wholesalers, bloggers, reviewers, media folk. It’s free for you to use; publishers pay to post their catalogs. Edelweiss as a book discovery tool. Publishers post their frontlist catalogs here (frontlist is just industry slang for “upcoming). This happens pretty far in advance of when the books actually come out.

I found this great Edelweiss tutorial from Stacked

To sign up /join Edelweiss click here!

Having trouble with Edelweiss?  Contact: support@abovethetreeline.com

Posted in Book bloggers, Edelweiss, Social networks | Tagged | 22 Comments

Culling my lengthy TBR list – 4th attempt

Lost in a Story began this idea for blog posts as a way to edit a growing to-be-read list.  You take your Goodreads TBR list, sort by ascending date added, and look at the oldest 5-10 items on your list.  If you haven’t read them by now, are you likely to? Why or why not?

I began using Goodreads in September of 2012.  In my first three attempts at culling my Goodreads TBR I removed 13 books.  Lets hope this time I can increase that number.

I’ve reread the Goodreads blurbs for each of the following and based my decision on whether the blurb still piqued my interest.

My 4th ten oldest titles on my Goodreads TBR

As far as you can go” by Lesley Glaister  (Goodreads rating 3.69)

A couple take a job as housekeeper/caretaker on a remote Australian farm.  REMOVE


Death comes to the village” by Catherine Lloyd (Goodreads rating 3.8)  A wounded soldier and a rector’s daughter discover strange goings-on in a sleepy English village. REMOVE


Solsbury Hill” by Susan M. Wyler (Goodreads rating 3.2)

Blurb sounds intriguing, but I fear this might be a weak re-telling of one of my favorites: “Wuthering Heights”.   REMOVE


To the power of three” by Laura Lippman (Goodreads rating 3.56)

A disturbing tale of three inseparable high school girlfriends in an affluent Baltimore suburb who share dark secrets literally until death.  KEEP


This perfect world” by Suzanne Bugler (Goodreads rating 3.46)

After reading the blurb I decided I wouldn’t like the protagonist, so thought I could give this debut novel a miss.  REMOVE


The memory garden” by Mary Rickert (Goodreads rating 3.5)

An award-winning debut novel about family secrets.  KEEP


The house we grew up in” by Lisa Jewell (Goodreads rating  (3.88)

 

On the basis that I’ve liked the two books by this author that I’ve read…  KEEP


Crooked letter, crooked letter” by Tom Franklin (Goodreads rating 3.82)

This award-winning novel still sounds fantastic to me.  KEEP


Cloud” by Eric McCormack (Goodreads rating 3.57)

First loves, Scottish villages, gothic overtones. KEEP


Every wickedness” by Cathy Vasas-Brown (Goodreads rating 4.08)

I’ve decided I don’t need a serial killer named “The Spiderman” in my life.  REMOVE


Five more titles removed from my TBR! Result!

Hey, I’m getting better at this! As I write this post, I have 1,870 titles on my Goodreads TBR! (for those of you who are keeping track, I added a few since my last ‘culling’ post – hey… what’s a girl to do?)  Those pesky bookbloggers are always writing reviews about books that look SO good – It is all their fault!

I’ll have to keep doing these posts as it seems I’m just treading water.  My total number doesn’t seem to be changing very much as I keep hearing about books that sound SO GOOD… so I have to add them…. don’t I ??

If you strongly agree or disagree with my decisions please let me know in the comments. I’m easily persuaded…. LOL  I need all the help I can get.

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged | 33 Comments

“Dead woman walking” by Sharon Bolton

Dead woman walking” has unique and disturbing early chapters that I’m sure I’ll remember for a long time.  And by the way, that long time will NEVER include me getting in a hot air balloon!

Jessica Lane, a policewoman, takes her sister Isabel, a Carmelite nun for a hot air balloon ride to celebrate her sister’s 40th birthday.  As they marvel at the views and the balloon’s pilot takes them low to appreciate them more fully, Jessica witnesses a crime on the ground beneath them.  The perpetrator of the crime realizes his crime was seen so he takes his rifle and shoots at the balloon’s pilot – killing him. Pilot-less, the hapless passengers endure tense and excruciating moments before the balloon plummets to the ground…

As they collectively panic, they attempt to use their cell phones to send word to the authorities of their impending disaster, but alas, there is little to no signal in the Northumberland National Park.

Northumberland National Park scene

“Against all odds, one woman had walked away from the crash.
Somewhere out there, she was still walking.”

This story is told from various points of view.  We have the lone woman survivor of the balloon disaster, the policeman investigating the balloon crash, and the evil man who Jessica watched attacking a woman on the ground.

“Smart girl. He liked hunting the smart ones.”

This criminal man is Patrick Faa.  He is a psychopath who seems to have little to no regard for human life.  He intentionally shot the pilot of the balloon and wants to kill all the occupants to preserve himself from witnesses to his crime.  He goes to the crash scene and murders any of those who miraculously survived the crash.  He collects all their cell phones – just in case they had any incriminating photos or text messages on them.  We learn of Patrick Faa’s family – Travellers/Romanis who are under the rule of his mother, their matriarch.

Narrrowly escaping the eagle eyes of Patrick Faa, the survivor is dazed, frightened, traumatized, and injured.  She finds herself on St. Cuthbert’s Way. She walks…

“Maybe the crash had killed her too. Maybe she was on borrowed time, a dead woman walking, oblivious to the clock relentlessly ticking away her last remaining minutes.”

The policeman is Ajax Maldonado, a Detective Chief Inspector with the Northumberland Constabulary. We learn a little of his personal life and his relationship with a fellow police officer whose nickname is Mojo. We learn of the police side of the balloon crash investigation and the police search for the missing survivor, Jessica Lane.

Carmelite nun in her cell reading

Also, the time-line goes back and forth from the present day, to the days immediately preceding the crash, and also, back to the early life of the two sisters, Jessica and Isabel. We visit them around the time that Isabel joined the Carmelite nuns, much to Jessica’s disapproval.  It seemed that Isabel was trying to escape life, or something that happened, and she chose to join a silent, hard-working order of nuns.

We learn that in the weeks prior to the balloon crash, policewoman Jessica Lane was working to uncover a people trafficking ring who had links to unethical organ transplants.

Then we read about a ‘yellow house’.  A house where illegal immigrants are housed in unsavory and squalid conditions.  A house they are all fearful of…

Dead woman walking” is Sharon Bolton at her very best.  She has incorporated a relevant modern issue into her plot with some unscrupulous criminals. She has spiced up the narrative with several twists/surprises, and she has blended various time lines and points of view in such a way that the narrative was not at all confusing.

My main gripe is that after reading this novel I could have kicked myself!  I realized that all throughout the book the author had hinted at various aspects of the plot and I didn’t grasp them until AFTER finishing the book!  Shame on me.  Sharon Bolton has written this novel with clever use of plot and characterization that led me, the reader, to assume certain things that were so incorrect.  You believe want SHE wants you to believe.  Outstanding!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sharon Bolton

Sharon Bolton

Sharon (formerly S.J.) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer. She is the author of the bestselling Lacey Flint series, as well as a number of stand-alone thrillers.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

The Cheltenham Literature Festival (I wish I could go…)

In only a few short days, the Cheltenham Literary Festival will be taking place. I know that for myself, living in Canada, and for many of my American followers, going to the Festival is just a happy dream. But luckily, for my British followers it could be a reality!

October 6-15, 2017

Book lovers of all ages will be heading to Cheltenham in October for the UK’s oldest and one of its biggest literature festivals, for ten days of literary celebration, discussion and debate.

They have a fantastic showcase of crime writing lined up – from Ian Rankin celebrating 30 years of the indomitable Rebus to Minette Walters on ending her decade-long silence with The Last Hours, from Barry Forshaw talking gripping true crime with Emma Flint (Little Deaths) and Denise Mina (The Long Drop), to exploring exciting debut crime fiction from Joseph Knox (Sirens) and Ali Land (Good Me Bad Me). 

They’ll also be spotlighting partners in crime as the bestselling Nicci Gerrard and Sean French share the secrets behind their unique and successful co-writing partnership, and another duo will be returning to the stage: notorious crime writer’s Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre bring back their hilarious two man show to entertain into the evening.

Around 1,000 speakers will take part in more than 550 events, from literary heavyweights and emerging talent, to the very best poetry and celebration of classic literature, including Salman Rushdie, Alan Hollinghurst, Sarah Waters, Amit Chaudhuri, Roddy Doyle, Claire Tomalin, Paul Hawkins, Philippa Gregory, Michael Morpurgo, Ian Rankin, Joanne Harris and the 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlisted authors. The packed poetry programme includes Jackie Kay, John Burnside, Michael Symmons Roberts and Lemn Sissay as well as the stars of the next generation with Andrew McMillan, Luke Wright, Hollie McNish, Rob Auton, Inua Ellams and Sabrina Mahfouz.

This year’s Festival theme Who Do We Think We Are? will ask key questions about British identity and celebrate Britain’s rich literary and cultural heritage, and Cheltenham will also welcome five Guest Curators bringing fresh perspectives and voices: Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor; Sarah Moss, novelist, travel writer and academic; Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House; Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley; andNikesh Shukla, author, editor and campaigner.

Click on the brochure to download one for yourself!

 

Tickets are on sale now!

With many of my favorite authors in attendance the festival sounds marvelous!

Posted in ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged | 1 Comment

Cover Love: part 36 – Benches

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 thirty-sixth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature benches on their covers.

If every public bench could absorb the thoughts of all the people who have sat on them…

what a story they could tell!


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!

Stay tuned for Cover Love Part 37:
“Apples”

or… revisit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 29 Comments

Throwback Thursday – an old favorite recommended

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.

This week I’ve chosen “The black house” by Peter May for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published in 2009 and was, for me, a 5* read.


First reviewed on Fictionophile on July 31, 2014

My review:

They say that reading is the cheapest form of travel.  In this case it was a wonderful trip.   “The Blackhouse” by Peter May is the first in a trilogy of novels set on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis. The setting was a major factor in the story and the author’s skillful writing transports the reader to Lewis with it’s rich culture and long history.

However, let us not forget that this is a murder mystery. The protagonist, Fin Macleod was born and brought up on Lewis. He is now a policeman working out of Edinburgh. Fin is very vulnerable as he is in mourning for his broken marriage and for his young son who perished in a hit-and-run.  When a murder occurs on Lewis that resembles one that he is working on – his superiors send him to Lewis to aid in the investigation.  Fin has not been back to the island since he left it eighteen years ago to attend university.  It turns out that the murder victim, Angel Macritchie, was a childhood nemesis of Fin, a bully who played a large part in his growing up. His return to the Isle reacquaints him with Artair, his best friend from childhood and also Marsaili Macdonald, his first love.

The story is told alternating between the present with the murder investigation – and the past which slowly reveals the trauma and tragedy filled childhood days of Fin.  Memories of starting school, the accidental death of his parents, and his boyhood friendships. Memories of the year he was chosen to take part in the annual guga hunt which is a long tradition on Lewis. The hunt for the gugas is perceived on Lewis as a rite of passage that turns boys into men.  In Fin’s case it was marred by tragedy.

The adult, present-day Fin uses his memories and his return to Lewis as a way of facing the demons of his past. The novel does the mystery genre justice, but it is much more than a mystery novel. It is a character-driven study in human nature, an examination of how our pasts can shape our lives.

The characterizations were expertly formed, with each character fully fleshed-out and multi-dimensional. The atmospheric setting was described in such a way as to actually affect the reader’s senses. You can smell the sea and feel the wind…

A scene from the Isle of Lewis

A scene from the Isle of Lewis

The author has spent several years on Lewis and his personal knowledge shows in the writing.

The Blackhouse is the deserving winner of several literary awards and is – according to the author the best book he has ever written. It was rejected by many publishers at first, but is now a world-wide bestseller with translations in many languages.  It is one of the best written novels I have ever had the pleasure to read.  Highly recommended!

F 5 star

from Quercus:

Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BBC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane 15 years that followed, became one of Scotland’s most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time TV drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels.

He has won several literature awards in France and received the USA’s Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy.

He now lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Mystery fiction, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

“A place called Winter” by Patrick Gale

I had no idea what to expect when I began this novel. At first it didn’t seem like it had anything to do with the blurb I read, as the first pages were an account of the horrific way the mentally ill were treated in asylums near the turn of the century. Then, I began to see how the story would evolve and grow…

What an amazing book!  The author has written of his own forebears, embellishing with fiction what he could not know for certain as fact.  Painstakingly researched, he has written a fine tribute to his own family as well as the homesteaders who settled the Canadian West in the early 1900s.

Winter, Saskatchewan is a real place. Harry Cane, the protagonist of this novel, was the author’s great-grandfather.

Harry, an Englishman of means and leisure, is married and the father of a daughter, when he first realizes that he is gay.  This, in a time when homosexuality was not only socially unacceptable, but it was actually illegal!  When his family is threatened by blackmail, he does the noble thing – he emigrates to Canada. The government is offering 160 acres in exchange for three years residency on them. This land, appropriated from the resident Cree Indians, he is expected to farm.

“Think of the memories as pus; once it comes to the surface, you wipe it away. Or, better yet, as mud; brought out into the air, it dries in the sun and then crumbles to dust.”

When he arrives in Canada he is taken under the wing of a irreputable man named Troels Munck. A man whose presence in Harry’s life will produce much trauma and heartache.

Harry, who loves reading, riding horses, and has never worked a day in his life, is suddenly immersed in immeasurable toil and hardship. He works arduously for a year with a prairie family before setting out to claim his own acres in Winter, Saskatchewan. Here he is expected to build himself a shelter to live in and plow land that is not yet cleared of trees and rocks.

Cut off from his family, he is a solitary workhorse making some little headway, until he becomes ill. Kindly neighbors take him into their homestead and nurse him back to health. These neighbors, Paul and Petra, a brother and sister, are people he will come to love over time. He orders a house kit from the Eaton’s catalogue, and proceeds to make a life for himself.

“Luckily he had enough set by that he could focus on doing his own work rather than another man’s.”

On one of Troel Monck’s infrequent visits to the farm, he attacks Petra, leaving her wounded and traumatized.

When WWI begins, Harry and Paul elect to stay on the farm rather than go off to fight. Wheat was a much needed commodity to feed the vast number of soldiers, so there was no shame in staying put. A run in with the dastardly Monck changes Paul’s mind and he enlists. Soon after he is ‘missing in action’.

This novel has some serious themes running throughout. Not only is it a remarkably well written historical novel, it is a love story, a bold and realistic didactic treatise on how society has historically treated both the mentally ill, and homosexuals.

I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this astounding novel. Never did it lag, or become slow. I was rapt with learning of Harry’s plight, and wondering how the beginning of the novel could possibly join up with the flashbacks that comprised the bulk of the story. With an ending that is both satisfying and realistic, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

I received a digital copy of this novel from Grand Central Publishing via Edelweiss.

Patrick Gale talks about writing “A place called Winter”.

Patrick Gale was in 1962 on the Isle of Wight, where his father was prison governor at Camp Hill, as his grandfather had been at nearby Parkhurst.  The family moved to London, where his father ran Wandsworth Prison, then to Winchester. At eight Patrick began boarding as a Winchester College Quirister at the cathedral choir school, Pilgrim’s. At thirteen he went on to Winchester College. He finished his formal education with an English degree from New College, Oxford in 1983.

His first two novels, The Aerodynamics of Pork and Ease were published by Abacus on the same day in June 1986. The following year he moved to Camelford near the north coast of Cornwall and began a love affair with the county that has fed his work ever since.

He now lives in the far west, on a farm near Land’s End with his husband, Aidan Hicks.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Historical fiction, Literary fiction | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

20 Questions with Kaira Rouda (author of “Best Day Ever”)

Kaira Rouda interview graphic

I’m delighted to welcome Kaira Rouda to Fictionophile! Author of the just released “Best Day Ever“, Kaira has obligingly agreed to answer a few questions in order that you can get to know her, and her new novel, just a little bit better.

1. Congratulations on the positive reviews of “Best day ever”. What is the most rewarding thing about hearing from beta readers and book bloggers prior to publication?

Thank you so much! The best thing about hearing from beta readers and bloggers prior to publication is that it helps me calm down a LITTLE about the impending launch. As you know, positive reviews are the best validation – and those one stars, well, little daggers through the heart, each one. I try to focus on the positive and I cannot be more thankful for the support this book is receiving from the book community. It has been a once in a lifetime experience. My publisher surprises me, in a good way, daily.

2. Touted as a twisty, domestic thriller, what inspired “Best day ever”? How long did the writing process take?

Two months for the first draft. Paul popped into my head fully formed and demanded to tell his story. You’ll know from reading BEST DAY EVER, he is persuasive.

3. In your opinion, how important are plot twists to the story-lines of psychological thrillers? Is there one novel that exemplifies your idea of a perfect plot twist?

Plot twists and surprises are essential. But I hope we’re not getting to the stage where we’re expecting so much from our novelists that we lose track of the best part of this genre: the anchor to real life. If readers keep pushing for bigger and bigger and more unusual plot twists, I’m afraid we’ll be asked to go too far. That said, there are so many great stories out right now. I gasped at Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney. Great twists. Of course there are Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. I love both of BA Paris’ books. I’m reading A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena right now (I loved The Couple Next Door). I’m sure she’ll get me.

4. Do you have family and/or friends proof-read your novels, or do you depend on your publisher’s editorial staff?
It takes a village to create a novel. All of the above.

5. Sometimes setting is a crucial factor in a novel – sometimes not. How important is the setting in “Best day ever”?

I’m a setting fan. My novels always are set in places I know well. My two favorite settings are Columbus, Ohio, and Southern California. Paul appeared in my head as a Midwestern guy, so his home is in Columbus. All of my previous novels are set in one of the other, except for one romance series which takes place on Daufuskie Island where we used to vacation. Oh, and in BEST DAY EVER, the lakeside community where Paul and Mia have a cottage is where we took the kids when we lived in Ohio. I’m grounded by familiar places and those settings allow my characters to breathe and grow.

6. Paul Strom, the male protagonist of “Best day ever” has been referred to by some reviewers as a modern-day psychopath. Would you agree with this description, or do you just think he is manipulative sociopath?

It’s hard to say. I’m not a professional. I think Paul’s answer would be that he’s just a confident guy. I think every reader has his or her idea of exactly what type of monster he is.

7. Do you consider Mia Strom to be a pitiable character, a hapless victim, or… a woman with hidden strengths?

Mia is a woman with hidden strengths. All of the female characters in my novels are stronger than they know they are. Mia pushed aside her own needs to try to create a happy family and she lost her self. Too many women fall into that trap.

8. Was the ending of “Best day ever” difficult to write? Did you know how the book would end from the beginning of the writing process, or did the story evolve as you went along?

The book went through several rounds of edits and so of course it evolved. Editors add so much insight to a book like this and mine were fabulous. I liked writing each part of the story, including the ending.

9. If someone reviews your book unfavorably do you feel personally insulted, or do you just take the bad with the good and consider it part of the writing experience?

Bad reviews are a stab in the heart. They just are. And with a character like Paul, a character readers will love to hate, you run the risk that his personality is responsible for star deletion. I’ve seen it already. But I guess that’s a backhanded compliment when readers get so riled up about the character that they hate the book? Who knows. I do believe that people who are triggered by domestic violence probably shouldn’t read domestic suspense novels. But that’s my opinion. I’m trying to learn to read only the good reviews, but if I told you that’s what I do, I’d be lying. I read them all.

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

I read all types of books but my favorites, since Nancy Drew as a child, have been mystery, thrillers and suspense. Crime novels are the best escape.

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

Just one? Ok, here you go. I recently had a chance to sit and chat with author BA Paris one morning at the Harrogate Crime Festival. Just the two of us. No wine, it was morning. It was such a huge fan moment for me. I love Behind Closed Doors and The Break Down. She’s not only a talented author, she’s a wonderful person. It was a magical moment. Oh, someone I haven’t had wine with? Susan Isaacs. She was the inspiration for me to begin writing suburban suspense. (My term for what I write.) Oh, and Liane Moriarty. She’s another brilliant author. I think I’ve gone over my limit.

12. What part of your career as a novelist do you dislike the most?

Rounds of edits. I know they make the story better, I know. Oh, and synopsis writing. I’m a pantser. That has been the hardest part for me.

13. Are you working on another novel? If so, is it a stand-alone novel?

Yes, and yes. Hoping to have another psychological suspense arrive in the world a year from now. Fingers crossed.

14. How much input did you have in choosing the covers for “Best day ever”? Which cover is your favorite?

I didn’t have any input, but aren’t the covers amazing? The Australian cover with the dead black roses is amazing. The UK cover with the perfect blue bow is simply wow. And the checklist is amazing. The US/Canada cover with the textured red envelope is stunning. I guess I’d pick the envelope just because it is so stunningly unique.

Australian cover

United Kingdom cover

North American cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15. Has your novel been equally well received by preliminary readers in both the United States and the United Kingdom?

So far, so good! Of course, the one star reviewers pop up in all countries, bless their hearts. For the most part the reviews have been amazing. Fingers crossed!

16. Do you imagine that someday “Best day ever” will be made into a movie? Who do you see playing the lead roles?

That would be a dream, wouldn’t it? For Paul, it would be great to have an actor we all love cross into a scary role. For Mia, a strong beautiful quiet type. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll leave that in the hands of my agents and hope for the best.

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

In today’s world most all novelists are underrated and deserve to be better known. I mean, seriously. Unless you are Patterson, or JK Rowling, you just aren’t well known. Authors should be rock stars, like, well, rock stars. Although, truth be told, most of us enjoy the anonymity associated with this career. The acclaim comes when readers enjoy our stories, not from the bright white spotlight of fame.

18. I’m a retired public library cataloger 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?

Let me just say that librarians are the best people in the world. My elementary school librarian, Mrs. Gardier, encouraged me to write my first “book”. I had such a fabulous time attending my first ALA in Chicago this summer: So many wonderful people. But I digress. To me crime fiction is the perfect balance of heart and head. Characters are anchored in the real world, and they’re relatable. They aren’t as predictable with their happy ever afters like romance, but there is a deep satisfaction when the bad guy is caught or at least revealed. And, I know I enjoy reading crime fiction because it’s my favorite escape.

19. What interview question have you never been asked that you wish had been asked? What’s the answer?

Good question. I feel like I’ve been lucky to be asked almost everything. Oh, here’s one. What’s the name of your first pet? My cat, Snickledorf.

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

All of the above: You can sign up for my newsletter by visiting my website: www.kairarouda.com

and you can find me on Facebook.com/KairaRoudaBooks and on Twitter and Instagram, @KairaRouda

Thanks so much for a wonderful interview!

Publisher’s blurb for “Best Day Ever

Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys, and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. It will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and into the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them. How perfect is any marriage, really? How much do they trust each other? Is Paul the person he seems to be? And what are his secret plans for the cottage weekend?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, this story crackles with dark energy spinning ever tighter towards its shocking conclusion.

In the page-turning vein of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR and THE DINNER, this is a tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage . . . or a life. 

Don’t miss the fantastic book trailer for “Best Day Ever”!

Best Day Ever” is now available for purchase at the following online booksellers:

Kaira Rouda is a USA TODAY bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, Here, Home, Hope, was the Winner of the Indie Excellence Book Award in Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Winner of the USA Book Awards in the Women’s Fiction category and received Honorable Mention in Mainstream/Literary Fiction for the Writer’s Digest Book Awards. Her novel, The Goodbye Year, which was released in May 2016, was Redbook Magazine’s “20 Best Books You Absolutely Must Read This Spring.” Kaira’s latest novel, Best Day Ever, is one of the major launch titles for Harlequin’s new imprint Graydon House, and will be available on September 19, 2017.

Kaira is also the author of Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs and the creator of Real Living, one of the nation’s most successful real estate brands and the first national women-focused brand in real estate. She has given speeches to both women and men’s entrepreneurial conferences and programs across the country on the power of women as consumers and in the world. Kaira was named Best Entrepreneur from the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and was also recognized in Entrepreneur magazine’s inaugural Top 50 fastest-growing, women-led companies list.

In addition to her many entrepreneurial and literary accomplishments, Kaira is very active in both her native Ohio community and in her community in Southern California, where she now resides. Her philanthropic pursuits began when she founded Central Ohio’s first homeless shelter for families when she was twenty-five years old, and Kaira has since received numerous awards for her civic service.

Kaira’s family includes her husband of 28 years, her four kids, and her two spoiled dogs. She lives in Southern California and is at work on her next novel. After living in Columbus, Ohio, for most of her life, she now enjoys the beach whenever possible.

Posted in author interviews, Authors | Tagged | 11 Comments

Book themed art of Jessie Willcox Smith

Jessie Willcox Smith was born in Philadelphia in 1863. She originally studied to be a kindergarten teacher and worked in this field before accidentally discovering a talent for drawing. She then took formal art courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Jessie Willcox Smith had a long, distinguished career. She illustrated Scribners Classic edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses and she also illustrated editions of Little Women, Mother Goose, Noah’s Ark, Heidi and The Night before Christmas. Though she never married, or had children of her own, they became the center of her life and work.

Her work graced the covers of several popular magazines, and she also illustrated countless books for children and produced drawings for calendars. (One of her calendars is available on Amazon for over $3000.00!) Her prolific work was a part of many of our childhoods, so many of the following works of art might look familiar to you.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Just gazing at some of these art works sparks fond memories of my own childhood reading.

 

 

 

You can purchase art prints and/or posters of this artist’s work at Art.com

If you want to read more about this legendary illustrator you can order this book from Amazon.

Posted in Art with book themes | Tagged | 12 Comments

The opposite of “Cover Love”

For a long time now I have been sharing attractive book covers via my Cover Love series of blog posts.  You know… those books that have covers that attract the reader, make them pick the book up, read the blurb, etc.

For this post I’m sharing with you the very opposite.

In this post I’m sharing with you some of the covers that I would NEVER pick up on the basis of the cover alone.  Mind you, I would never be so superficial as to dismiss the book entirely, but it would take someone else’s recommendation or several superb reviews to entice me. Some of the following covers I find distasteful, some make me cringe, and some are just so-so, and do not appeal to me personally.  If there was a huge stack of books listed as free in a bookstore, these are ones I would NOT take home with me. I know that many of these are likely fine novels, and that some of them might even be spectacular novels, but they are ones that repel me and I would need coaxing to read if I only saw the cover.

As I said, if it was cover alone I would not pick these.  However, I realize that some of these books ARE good – some are already ON my TBR list.  Of course, sometimes it is the author’s name that attracts me to a novel. If I like the author’s work enough, I’d buy the book even if I hated the cover.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I also realize that beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.  For that reason I pose the following three questions:

  1. Do you find any of the above covers attractive enough that you would pick up the book?
  2. Do any of the above cover repel you?
  3. Have you read any of these books and liked it enough to recommend it to me? Why?
Posted in Choosing what to read next, Dustjackets, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 57 Comments

“The long drop” by Denise Mina

The Long Drop is a re-imagining of the Peter Manual trial and of the drunken night two men spent carousing in Glasgow.”

Ever since I read the fantastic “Garnethill” I have been a devout fan of Denise Mina. This time around the ‘Queen of Granite Noir’ has turned her hand to the fictionalization of a true crime. As with everything else she writes, she did it brilliantly.  So brilliantly in fact that she has just won the McIlvanney Prize for this book!

Mina’s Glasgow of sixty years ago matches Chicago for its criminal past. Filled with career criminals, illegal arms, avarice, drunkenness, and desperation, Glasgow was then a dark place, both figuratively with its pervasive violence; and literally due to the myriad coal fires.

“Above the roofs every chimney belches black smoke. Rain drags smut down over the city like a mourning mantilla.”

The story features famous Glaswegian criminal Peter Manuel and his association with a rich local businessman, William Watt.

“Mr Watt likes power and being near powerful people”.

Watt was accused of murdering his wife, his sister-in-law, and his daughter. The case came to be known as “The Burnside Affair”. His celebrity lawyer, Laurence Dowdall gets him released from prison, though the police continue to believe he is guilty. Watt maintains his innocence and places the blame on career criminal Peter Manuel. Strangely, Watt and Manuel spend a drunken night together in Glasgow. Friends? How unlikely… Even stranger, it is Dowdall who introduces the two.

“Dowdall is a storyteller. He knows how slippery truth is.”

As the pages are turned, the reader realizes that no one here is truly innocent, though Manuel’s guilt seems evident from the off. Dowdall thinks him to be a malevolent liar. The reader is made aware that he is much more: a maniacal psychopath, an aspiring novelist, an impotent sadist, and a man with a violent temper.

Interestingly, Manuel fires his legal counsel and opts to represent himself in court.

“Then he talks for six hours, largely without notes. He tells all the stories of each of the murders individually.”

Peter Manuel’s mugshot

The author’s descriptive re-imagining of events prior to, and during, Manuel’s trial for eight murders adds to the reader’s enjoyment. She makes both villain and victim so real that they seem alive, thus making the reader more empathetic toward them. The reader feels particular empathy for Peter Manuel’s mother due to Mina’s deep understanding of her plight. Vivid dialogue and scenes transport the reader to 1950s Glasgow.

“It is 1958 and a husband has the legal right to rape and beat his wife.
That’s a private matter, a matter for the home.”

Yes, without doubt, it is Mina’s writing that brings this historic string of crimes to vivid life.  Obviously well researched, she has taken crime transcripts and newspaper coverage and caused them to come alive with her brilliant prose and dialogue.  I do have a quibble with the description on Goodreads which calls this a ‘psychological thriller’ just because that is the genre Mina usually writes.  This is a historical true crime fictionalized in an entertaining way. I am not normally a ‘true crime‘ fan, but when facts are disguised by skillful prose, I am won over.

“The long drop method snaps the neck between the second and third vertebrae. Done properly, death is instantaneous.”

For photos taken around the time of the actual trial see: http://murderpedia.org/male.M/m/manuel-peter-photos.htm
and
http://www.glasgowlive.co.uk/news/history/story-scotlands-worst-serial-killer-11527326

Congratulations to Denise Mina who won the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2017 for The Long Drop. It is the first time a woman has won the award.

The award was announced Friday, September 8, 2017 at the opening night of Bloody Scotland – Scotland’s international Crime Writing Festival.

I was provided a complimentary digital copy of this novel by Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley.

From denisemina.com

After a peripatetic childhood in Glasgow, Paris, London, Invergordon, Bergen and Perth, Denise Mina left school early. Working in a number of dead end jobs, all of them badly, before studying at night school to get into Glasgow University Law School.
Denise went on to study for a PhD at Strathclyde, misusing her student grant to write her first novel. This was Garnethill, published in 1998, which won the Crime Writers Association John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel.
She has now published 12 novels and also writes short stories, plays and graphic novels.
In 2014 she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame.
Denise presents TV and radio programmes as well as regularly appearing in the media, and has made a film about her own family.
She regularly appears at literary festivals in the UK and abroad, leads masterclasses on writing and was a judge for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction 2014.

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Legal thrillers, NetGalley | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Throwback Thursday – an old favorite recommended

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites and those books that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.

This week I’ve chosen “Unspoken” by Samantha Hayes for my Throwback Thursday post. It was published in January of 2009 and was, for me, a 5* read.  

Wow, what a gem! “Unspoken” was one of those books that made you neglect everything you were supposed to be doing.  I couldn’t put it down until the last page was turned.

The dustjacket blurb reads:

Mary Marshall would do anything for her daughter Julia. A devoted grandmother to Julia’s children, she’s always been the rock her family can rely on. Until now. Mary has a past Julia knows nothing about, and it’s come back to haunt her – Murray French is walking a tightrope. A solicitor struggling with an alcohol problem, he’s about to lose his wife Julia and his children to another man: someone successful, someone they deserve. Someone who’s everything he’s not. Can he ever get his family back? Just when Julia Marshall thinks life is starting to turn around, she stumbles upon the brutalised body of a girl she teaches. And as the terrible present starts to shed light on her mother’s past, Julia realises her family’s nightmare is only just beginning…

Written with understanding and emotional acuity, the novel is one I’ll remember for quite some time.  It has been re-released with this great new cover:

If you haven’t read anything yet by Samantha Hayes, what are you waiting for?

F 5 star

Samantha Hayes grew up in the Midlands. Before becoming a writer, Samantha Hayes worked at jobs ranging from private detective to bartender to fruit picker and factory worker, lived on a kibbutz, and spent a few years in Australia and the USA. Her writing career began when she won a short story competition in 2003. Sam Hayes is the author of nine suspense novels and writes full time. She now lives in Warwickshire with her family.

Follow Samantha Hayes on Twitter

Posted in Favorite books, Psychological thrillers, Suspense, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , | 6 Comments