“Redferne Lane” by Sarah Scholefield

Living on an idyllic lane in Somerset, Grace Redferne’s life is anything but idyllic. A young widow, Grace lost her husband Ezra when he was only thirty years old.  His fatal bicycle accident was two years ago now, and Grace is NOT coping with her loss.

She is deeply despondent and is increasingly reliant on a cocktail of booze and prescription medication to get her through her days.  She is only barely hanging on to her job after showing up late and hungover more often than not.

Then, Torin, Ezra’s older brother comes to stay at Redferne House which is just up the lane. Grace and Torin have history. It was he who she fell in love with first – though her husband Ezra remained unaware of this.  While still in university Grace met and fell in love with Torin. He felt he was too old for her, and left the country for work. Meanwhile, she met Ezra. Ezra subconsciously reminds her of Torin, but she comes to love him for himself. They marry and only then does she realize that she has indeed married Torin’s younger brother.

Meanwhile, on Redferne Lane, it is not only Grace who is struggling.  At the big house, Redferne House, live Noah and Josie Redferne.  They have two young boys and are expecting another baby. Noah, Ezra’s other brother, is an architect and is not as faithful as he should be to his growing family. Also living at Redferne House is Eliza, Noah’s teenage daughter by a former partner.

Down the lane lives the elderly Ada. She once worked at Redferne House as the housekeeper.  Now she lives alone and is becoming increasingly fragile.  Strangely, Ada is Grace’s only real friend. Grace does Ada’s shopping and visits her regularly.

The next cottage is inhabited by Sam and her teenage son, Jerome. Sam is the present day ‘cleaner’ for Redferne House.

Grace’s downward spiral of behavior is tempered by her involvement with the others who live in the lane.  She feels desperately despondent at the loss of her young husband Ezra. She also feels guilty that she first had feelings for her husband’s brother, Torin.  She has come to despise herself and her role in the family dynamic.  She dislikes her present job. She drinks and smokes to excess. Sometimes her drinking is combined with her anti-anxiety medication, to ill effect. She sometimes suffers from blackouts and memory loss. Both her personal appearance and the state of her house reflect her apathy.

The book is written in a clever way. Grace and her present life moving forward – and a second narrative featuring Grace when she was married to Ezra moving back in time.

There are many things I loved about this novel. The setting for one. The family for another. The Redfernes and the other inhabitants of Redferne Lane were very real characters that you come to care for whilst reading this book. I liked how every age group was included, from the very young to the very old. The love story was believable and well rendered. The depiction of the effects of grief on a person was well written.

There were also a few negatives. Grace’s over indulgence on pharmaceuticals and alcohol was a bit repetitive at times. I lost track of how many times she was hungover or had vomited in front of other people due to her excesses.

Also, I found many small errors in this novel that somewhat marred my reading experience.  Words were omitted from sentences making me stop and read them again to gain clarity.  For example: “Where are going when you leave Redferne Lane?“; “Are you going move here?” I know this is not the author’s fault, but it impacted my reading experience nonetheless.  Other readers might not notice these things, but I have always been a stickler for detail and the overall ‘flow’ of a book.

I’m not a great fan of romance fiction, however I think “Redferne Lane” is not exactly romance. I would classify it as literary women’s fiction with an integral love story.  I very much enjoyed this debut novel and will gladly read any future books by this talented novelist. Recommended.

I was provided with a complimentary digital copy of this novel directly from Thistle Publishing. This in no way influenced my rating or review of this book.

Sarah Scholefield initially trained as molecular biologist gaining a BSc (Hons) in Biology from The University of the West of England. After realising she wasn’t cut out for life in a laboratory she worked in numerous schools across the West Country. She has always enjoyed making up stories in her head and finally began to write them down. In 2014 she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Redferne Lane is her first novel. She lives in Somerset with her husband and children.

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

“Our kind of cruelty” by Araminta Hall

“We make a funny pair,” she said to me once, “you with no parents, me with no siblings. There’s so little of us to go around. We have to keep a tight hold of each other to stop the other from floating away”.

This is a story of a volatile, toxic relationship. Michael Hayes and ‘V’ (Verity) have lived together since university. I hesitate to say that they were in love, because love to them means something different to what love means to most people.  Mike is highly controlling, and absolutely obsessed with the beautiful V. Their sex is fantastic, and to keep it that way they play a devious game.  The game consists of them going to a bar, entering separately, then V sits alone at the bar and waits for some unsuspecting male to ‘hit on her’.  She flirts openly and when the man makes a real move, she touches the silver eagle pendant she wears. This is the signal for Mike to step in and say something threatening like “What do you think you are doing with MY girlfriend?”.  As the man scuttles away, they find themselves both so charged with lust that they must have sex right away – sometimes in the corner of the bar – up against the wall…

Verity is Mike’s anchor. He calls himself her Eagle.

They call this game they play Crave

“Cruelty was a necessary part of our game.”

They are both highly intelligent people and are quite successful in their work. He in banking, she in developing artificial intelligence.  When he is offered a job in America, the salary is such that they feel he cannot turn it down. He will stay over there a few years, then return to London and buy a house for them both. She has just been made director of the company she works for, so together they are more than financially solvent.

Long distance relationships are not always successful, and Mike and V struggle to maintain theirs. He has an ‘incident’ in New York which he highly regrets. When he returns home for Christmas he confesses to his indiscretion, and V breaks off with him.  Mike is distraught – for he cannot imagine a future without her in it.

Several months later he gets a wedding invitation. It seems that Verity is marrying a man called Agnes Metcalf – and he has been invited to witness their union.  Mike is such a fantasist that he actually tells himself that this is all part of the game they play, it is just another Crave. The ultimate Crave.

Mike has no sense of boundaries and no empathy for others.  Verity had taught him some social skills, and has encouraged his physical fitness. She has ‘created’ the man he now is. Since returning to London, he has bought a lovely house in Clapham for Verity.  Although she says she wants nothing more to do with him, he thinks she doesn’t mean it. He tells his co-workers that he and Verity live together. He sometimes sets the table for two, pouring two glasses of wine, talking to her over the table. She is not there.

Mike sees an implied meaning in most communications from V. He interprets her words and actions the way he wants to see them. He is delusional and obsessive. He also has gaps in his memory which he finds puzzling and troublesome. He has always been lonely except for the time he was with V. He drinks more than he should AND he has anger issues.

“Sometimes two people need each other so much it is worth sacrificing others to make sure they end up together.”

Mike sends V some very disturbing emails. These escalate the fractured dynamic between them…

This novel left me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, the protagonist is without a doubt mentally ill, psychotic and ‘over the top’ obsessed. On the other hand, though you don’t ever feel the need to condone what he does, you do have to feel empathy for his horrendous childhood. He was both physically and emotionally abused, severely neglected, and subsequently separated from his alcoholic mother at the tender age of ten. This upbringing has left him so damaged that it has warped his thinking throughout his life.

Our kind of cruelty” emphasizes the fact that the justice system does not always deliver justice, and that there is still a dire problem with sexism inherent in the legal process. This thriller is very well written. So well written that it left me feeling very uncomfortable.   If that was the author’s aim, then she succeeded.  It was a thriller that emphasizes the psychological, and one that gives the reader an intense, though disturbing, reading experience.  A chilling look at obsessive love.

I received a digital copy of this novel from Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley. This in no way influenced my rating or review of this book.

The author, Araminta Hall discusses obsessive love.

 

Araminta Hall has worked as a journalist since 1994 at some of Emap’s biggest titles, including Bliss Magazine and New Woman. Since 2000 she has freelanced for a variety of magazines and national newspapers. She lives in Brighton with her husband and three children.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Hello May (Fictionophile updates and April’s bookhaul)

If you’ll remember, I vowed to NOT have a very big bookhaul this time.  I’ve been attempting to control my over-large TBR by planning out my reading month and, most importantly, NOT adding to my every growing list of review commitments.

Well……..  my reading plan was very successful.  I read eleven books in April.

BUT !!!! my book haul was almost as large as it was before!

My weakness is appalling!

I completely forgot to factor in that I had already requested some titles from NetGalley that I hadn’t heard back from yet – which have since been approved.

Our house” by Louise CandlishDeep fear” by Rachel LynchDead and gone” by D.L. Michaels


AND some lovely publishers sent me NetGalley widgets for titles I just couldn’t pass up:

Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing UK
sent me a widget for “The retreat” by Mark EdwardsSimon & Schuster sent me a widget for “The Lido” by Libby PageSt. Martin’s Press sent me a widget for “She as the quiet one” by Michele Campbell


and, I’m taking part in a book tour in August with Rachel’s Random Resourcesso, I had to get the book “The Cheesemaker’s House” by Jane Cable for the tour

and the ever generous Thistle Publishing sent me “The woodcutter” by Shaun Bainesand… I had a huge fail severe weak spell when I visited Edelweiss to find that the following book was a Download Now title for me.  As I had read her debut novel and loved it, I couldn’t help but take them up on the offer of “A double life” by Flynn Berry

Can you believe it????  NINE more review commitments!

After I had vowed to have no more than two….  

Hope I do better next month……….

so I’ll have to fit in at least one short story.  I choose

The text” by Claire Douglas (40 pages)

My Goodreads Challenge is coming along nicely:

My NetGalley feedback ratio still needs some improvement:

My Edelweiss feedback ratio needs recusitation even more improvement:

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

“A fractured winter” by Alison Baillie #blog tour #BookReview

Last year I read a memorable debut novel that I really enjoyed. Alison Baillie’s novel “Sewing the shadows together” was an excellent mystery with an atmospheric Edinburgh setting. You can read my review here. Needless to say, I was very excited to receive an ARC of her new novel. I’m also honoured and thrilled to lead off the blog tour for “A fractured winter“.

Olivia and her family live near the scenic Lake Zug, Switzerland. Her husband, Christian, works in the local high school. The same school where Olivia’s eldest son, Julian attends. Christian is Julian’s step-father, and the relationship between the two is rocky to say the least. Olivia and Christian have two younger children together, Marc and Lara.

“She’d thought she was safe, that she’d managed to escape from her past.”

Things are going along fairly well for the little family until one day Olivia finds a threatening note which begins to fracture her perfect facade.  Olivia has a secret. She doesn’t want anyone finding out the true reason she moved to Switzerland from Scotland eleven years before.

Then, Sandra, one of Lara’s friends goes missing after school one day in November. Sandra is just eight years old.

The ‘fractures’ in the fractured winter are beginning to appear…

Now we backtrack to a young schoolgirl in Yorkshire. The year is 1984 and Marie is a friendless and emotionally fragile little girl. Her parents are much older than the parents of other children her age.  Her religious mother dotes upon her, but her father’s moods are volatile and Marie walks on eggshells in the attempt to evade his wrath. The family are poor and Marie wonders why no friends or relatives ever visit.  As she grows into an intelligent teenager, Marie feels suffocated in her home. She wants to go to university to study to be a teacher. When she is sixteen her parents show her a birth certificate.

This explains why she has never felt like she belonged.  Her ‘parents’ explain how she was born to a teenage mother who didn’t want her. They were older and childless, and agreed to take care of her only if they changed her name and moved away.

Fast forward to the year 1998. Lucy Sheridan is attending university at St. Andrew’s.  She is doing very well academically, but has little to no social life. Her roommate persuades her to go on a date with a rich, handsome, and popular young man. Naive and gullible, Lucy finds herself pregnant after just one date…


Olivia’s world is changing. Her beloved Saint Bernard dog dies, her eldest son Julian seems more distant every day. Her husband, Christian, has become impatient, short-tempered, and condescending towards her. Her son, Julian, is displaying volatile moodiness and anger. Unhappy and fearful for her own young children after Sandra’s disappearance, Olivia turns to her beloved books as a means of escape.

Nearby Olivia’s house is the creepy old Grand Wildenbach Hotel. In disrepair, it has now been purchased by an older woman and is being extensively renovated.  Drawn to it, Olivia visits the hotel and is invited in by the owner, Aurelia. This woman, a complete stranger, seems to understand Olivia and provides her with a ‘motherly’ support.

“In the warm comforting presence of Aurelia, everything seemed possible.”

Older rock star, Stevie Dawber has a home in the area. Olivia strikes up a friendship with him, sensing his loneliness.  Always curious about her birth father, Olivia wonders if Stevie could be him.  Christian doesn’t like the fact that Olivia is spending time with ‘unsavory types’ like Stevie and Aurelia.

Always wondering what happened to little Sandra, Olivia begins to suspect everyone around her. She is tense, and deeply unhappy. Will life ever be the same?

The author’s affection for her adopted homeland is evident in the story. I enjoyed reading about the Swiss customs and could almost feel the winter chill and hear the crunch of the snow underfoot. On reflection, I think this is the first novel I’ve read that was set in Switzerland (with the exception of “Heidi” which I read as a child).

At times, I found myself becoming a bit impatient with Olivia who seemed too gullible and lacking in confidence. She seemed too unaware of the intense ‘creepiness’ factor of the old hotel and its inhabitants. Also, I didn’t warm to her husband Christian at all. I wished she would throw something at him on several occasions.  Times when he was controlling and condescending. In fact, all the men in her life seemed lacking in warmth. Olivia was a woman desperately in need of a support system. I liked how Olivia turned to books throughout her life. They were always there when she needed them.

This story shows how feelings of guilt, lack of self-esteem, and no sense of self-worth, can impact a life. “A fractured winter” evoked a strong sense of disquiet in the reader.

With many suspicious characters, several red-herrings, and a high ‘creepiness’ factor, this novel will be loved by many. Recommended to readers who enjoy a thriller with damaged characters, a stunning setting, secrets, creepy hotels, and a satisfying resolution.  Overall, an enjoyable read!

Available now for purchase at Amazon.com

I received a complimentary digital ARC of this novel from the author, Alison Baillie, and her publisher, Williams & Whiting.  This in no way influenced my rating of the book, nor hindered me from expressing my honest opinions.

Though Alison Baillie was born in Yorkshire and brought up in Ilkley in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, she has always felt Scottish. Her parents were both Scottish and she studied English at the University of St Andrews and afterwards taught English at several High Schools in the Edinburgh area. She has also taught English as a Foreign Language in Switzerland, where she now lives. She loves reading crime fiction, travelling, walking in the mountains, and being with her family and friends. 

Posted in Book Reviews, Suspense | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

May TBR: a plan

(you know what they say about plans…)

 

 

 

This is my second month of really planning out my reading. Last month was successful. I actually read all ten titles in my April TBR plan, plus another title that I managed to squeeze in for a total of 11 books and  3,889 pages read! I’m ridiculously proud of myself. LOL

 


So, in May, I plan to read “Redferne Lane” from Thistle Publishing


and “Persons Unknown” the second in the DS Manon series by Susie Steiner which I got from NetGalley


and two titles that have been on my NetGalley list for far too long…

Black Widow” by Christopher Brookmyre

and “Broken Grace” by E.C. Diskin


a title from Edelweiss that had a time limit attached, “The bookshop of yesterdays” by Amy Meyerson

and another Edelweiss title from an author I’ve come to admire, Peter Swanson “All the beautiful lies


Bluethroat morning” by Jacqui Lofthouse for the Official Blackbird Digital Books Blog Tour on Sunday, May 20th


and “The stolen girls” a book that I’ve been wanting to read for ages (ever since I read “The missing ones), the second book in the Lottie Parker series by Patricia Gibney


a title I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about and that sounds like a fun read: Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce


and last but not least, I’ll be reading a title that has been on my personal TBR
for literally years – It is the choice of my ‘in-person’ bookclub for the month of May:

The ice princess by Camilla Läckburg

Ten titles.  I’ll not try to delude myself into thinking I’ll read more.

Are any of these titles on YOUR May TBR?

Also, I was wondering, do you belong to an ‘in-person’ bookclub?  My bookclub,’Whodunit‘, has been meeting on the last Tuesday of every month for almost 20 years!  Our 20th anniversary will be February 2019.

Posted in Choosing what to read next, Fictionophile report | Tagged , | 28 Comments

“The woman before me” by Ruth Dugdall

Rose Wilks has been in prison for four long years. Incarcerated for something she didn’t do.  Another tragic part of a life filled with tragedy and betrayal. Rose is serving a sentence for manslaughter. She is charged with setting a fire that took a baby’s life.

Rose’s life has been a lonely one. At an early age her mother commit suicide and she went to live with her Auntie Ruth.  Ruth was a spinster with no children of her own. Her parenting skills were sketchy to say the least. She did love Rose, but her failing health prematurely ended their time together.

Shelving her dreams of getting a university education, Rose went to live and work in a local hotel. It is there that she meets and falls in love with Jason, the bartender.  Jason, though somewhat attentive to Rose, is still very much in love with his ex-wife, Emma.  Where Rose is plain, Emma is beautiful.  Fearful of losing Jason, Rose thinks she can make Jason love her. In her effort to do this, she falls pregnant.

“I thought we were going to be a normal family, just like I’d always wanted.”

Rose and Jason have an argument and Rose delivers prematurely. Their tiny son, Joel, is barely clinging to life. Jason and Rose are distraught, upset and apprehensive.

Emma Hatcher, Jason’s ex-wife is also pregnant. She delivers a son, Luke, and is in the hospital at the same time as Rose.  Luke is healthy and thriving – Joel is weak and sickly.  Rose rails against the injustice of it, but cannot help but love baby Luke.

“There should be a word for it. If I’d lost a husband, I would be a widow. But what is a woman who loses a baby? There is no word.”

Rose befriends Emma, who has no idea of Rose’s relationship with Jason, her former husband. Rose frequently babysits for Emma. She bonds with baby Luke. She even goes so far as to breastfeed him, and to sneak into Emma’s house while she is asleep, just to fondly gaze upon Luke in his cot.  It is after a night when she has done this, that there is a fire in Emma’s house and baby Luke is killed. He was just four months old.

Cate Austin is a probation officer. A single mother in her late twenties, Cate has just started working at the Suffolk prison – Rose Wilks is her first case. It is up to Cate to determine if she feels that Rose is a good candidate for early parole.

Cate is struggling, and like all single, working mothers, she is riddled with guilt. Her darling little girl is being looked after by a childminder.  The little girl’s father is now living with another woman. Everything seems like so much effort, like a juggler with too many balls in the air.

Can Cate be objective with Rose’s case? Will her own parental guilt influence her parole report?

Rose Wilks did not start the fire that killed Luke. But just what IS she guilty of?

Like me, you might think you’ve got this whodunnit all figured out about halfway through. However… you’d be wrong. This novel holds some plot twists that will shock you.

The characterization in this novel was very well rendered, causing the reader to empathise with all of the central characters. The author employed complicated emotional subterfuge to make the impact of her plot twists more deeply felt.

This novel about three women, is about mothering, about loss, and about parental guilt. Written in a way that is articulate and compelling, this is the second novel by this author that I have read.  Lucky me. Ruth Dugdall has written several other books including three other titles in the Cate Austin series, so I have lots of great reading ahead.  Highly recommended.


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher, Legend Press, via NetGalley. This in no way influenced my rating or my enjoyment of this novel.

Ruth Dugdall was born in Felixstowe, Suffolk, and studied a BA (Hons) degree in English and Theatre Studies at Warwick University, and then an MA is Social Work at UEA. She worked as a Probation Officer for almost a decade, working in prisons with numerous high-risk criminals. Ruth’s debut novel The Woman Before Me (Legend Press, 2010) was informed by her experiences. Ruth’s professional background gives her writing authenticity and credibility. Ruth’s second novel The Sacrificial Man was published in 2011.

Ruth is the winner of the CWA Debut Dagger and the Luke Bitmead Bursary and has been longlisted for the New Angle Book Prize and People’s Book Prize.

She currently lives with her husband and two children in Luxembourg.

Ruth’s website www.ruthdugdall.com ; Follow Ruth on Twitter at @ruthdugdall

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Bookish art of Karen Hollingsworth @kshstudio

As many of you know, I am extraordinarily fond of art that depicts bookish themes.
The only thing better than reading books, is looking at books, and appreciating art
that features books and reading.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the art of Karen Hollingsworth. I particularly love the way she uses light – and how her work gives you the illusion of a breeze caressing your face.

Here are a few of my favourite works of hers:

Channeling Hemingway

Flying South

Accidental scholar

Beach scholar

Bookish

Gentle reader

Summer reading list

Bedtime story

From the Shain Gallery website:

Karen Hollingsworth is known for her unique light, airy windowscapes. In the past the artist painted interior spaces, now she includes an open window that acts as a portal into the space beyond. Her large oil paintings often depict subject matter that is fairly minimal, chairs and ordinary interior settings, however what attracts many viewers is the mysticism evoked by the movement of the air and the ocean breeze through the curtains.

For Hollingsworth, a painting is about the feeling it evokes. Although there are no figures present in her windowscapes, it is difficult to deny the implications of vacant chairs in such an empty space. Hollingsworth is interested in creating the “impression of looking through that room and seeing the view outside the room.”

“I love to create paintings that evoke a sense of the familiar,” says Hollingsworth. “To blend the common objects of everyday life, placed within the interior of a room, with a glimpse of the ocean or mountains through an open window. My ‘windowscapes’ are intended to provide the viewer with a sense of solitude and well being. A comfortable world bathed in sunlight and warm breezes. For me, a painting is successful if I wish I were there.”


You can reach out to Karen Hollingworth on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Posted in Art with book themes | Tagged | 10 Comments

“Then she was gone” by Lisa Jewell

This is the third title I’ve read by Lisa Jewell and I’ve decided that her novels are all consistently good.  It is nice to discover an author who you know you will read automatically – a ‘go to‘ author.

First we meet Laurel Mack.  Laurel’s youngest daughter vanished ten years ago.  Her daughter, Ellie, was the light of her life. When Ellie disappeared physically, Laurel disappeared emotionally. She was no longer ‘there‘ for her two remaining children, or for her husband, Paul. Her marriage ended three years after Ellie’s disappearance. Paul met another women who was there for him in a way that Laurel no longer could. Now Laurel has sold the family home and moved into a flat by herself.  She has a tenuous and somewhat cold relationship with her daughter Hanna, and her son Jake.

Laurel is finally trying to create some sort of a life for herself.  When she meets a man one day in a cafe, she thinks that – just maybe – she can salvage her life and have some happiness.  His name is Floyd Dunn, and he is a single Dad to his nine-year-old daughter, Poppy.  When their relationship progresses, Laurel meets Poppy and gets a feeling that something is not quite ‘right’. For one thing, Floyd seems besotted with her. Unnaturally so. He home-schools her and she has little knowledge of what it is to be a normal ‘child’. Also, Poppy looks eerily like Ellie, her daughter who walked out of her house ten years ago never to return.

“Poppy is clearly a strange child, who is both charmingly naive and unsettlingly self-possessed. She is cleverer than she has any need to be, but also not as clever as she thinks.”

Ellie Mack. Just weeks before her sixteenth birthday, Laurel’s daughter, was on her way to study at the library. her GCSE’s were coming up soon and she wanted a quiet place to revise.  On her way to the library she meets up with her old math tutor, Noelle Donnelly. Ellie had never really warmed to Noelle. She found her habits strange and she ‘smelled’. Ellie even went so far as to label Noelle a ‘bunny boiler’ in her diary.  Noelle tells Ellie she has a practice paper that will help her when she writes her math GCSEs, she suggests that as she just lives around the corner, Ellie should quickly drop by and pick it up. This tiny decision sealed Ellie’s fate forevermore…

Noelle Donnelly is a lonely woman. Extremely clever, she nonetheless finds it very difficult to make friends and she is estranged from her family. At the age of forty-one she is still a virgin.  She loathes herself, and this, along with other events in her life, cause her to become mentally unstable. So… when she meets a man and falls in love with him, that love is unhealthy and obsessive.  In her efforts to keep him in her life, Noelle concocts an audacious, devious, and psychotic plan.

“A man who can’t love, but desperately needs to be loved, is a dangerous thing indeed.”

Laurel Mack begins to have suspicions that Floyd Dunn is not who he says he is. Something is awry. She just can’t discern exactly what that is…

“Then she was gone” is told via several points of view. The narration is cleanly defined with no chance of the reader becoming confused.  The timelines vary and skip back and forth, but at no time is the reader misled as to when the actions take place.

This novel expounds on the notion that one tiny decision, one route chosen, can, in the long run, change a life’s path irrevocably.  Loss of a child, the most horrible thing that can happen to a parent, affects not only the parents, but the siblings as well.  Sometimes in irreversible ways.

Coincidences are not always innocent.

“Then she was gone” moves at a steady pace, increasing the reader’s disquiet with every page. Although I had figured out what happened about a third of the way in the book, this did not in any way deter from my enjoyment of the remainder of the novel. I am a reader of crime fiction that finds it equally as important to learn the how and the why as it is to learn what happened.

The characters are sympathetic, none more so that the teenaged Ellie Mack.

A brilliant novel that I absolutely must rate highly and recommend frequently.

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Atria Books via NetGalley.

 Lisa Jewell was born in London in 1968.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further ten novels, as is currently at work on her twelfth.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Cover Love: part 54 – Clotheslines

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 54th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature clotheslines on their covers. One of the joys of spring is being able to hang out laundry again.

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 | 23 Comments

“From the cradle” by Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

A gritty and disturbing, character-driven, police procedural!

From the cradle” is my first novel by this duo of authors and I was very impressed. I am always amazed at how two people can write one story and make it seem so ‘seamless’.  It shouldn’t have been surprising though, as the Goodreads rating is very high with over four thousand people having a say. Also, it is a British police procedural, which is a favourite sub-genre of mine.

This is the first novel in a series which features Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon who works in the South West London/Richmond-Upon-Thames area. The book starts strong (the prologue actually made me gasp while simultaneously giving me shivers) and doesn’t let up in quality the whole way through.

Patrick Lennon is not your usual police DI. Now in his mid-thirties, in his earlier days he was a ‘goth’ musician. He still bears the tattoos and piercings that went with that persona.  Also, he suffers from tinnitus from his years listening to overly loud music. Now, he is living with his parents due to the fact that he needs childcare for his two year-old daughter, Bonnie. He is working long and irregular hours for there has been a spate of child abductions in the area. Three toddlers have been snatched and their parents are desperate to be re-united with them.  It is assumed that the three children have been taken by the same person(s), as the abductions have occurred in such a tight time span.

The latest abduction was that of  Frankie Philips. Her parents, Helen and Sean Philips, had left Frankie in the care of her teenage stepsister, Alice, while they walked to a nearby restaurant for a meal out. When they returned, Alice was asleep on the living-room couch and little Frankie was missing from her cot.

Patrick Lennon and his partner DS Carmella Masiello are tasked with the case of finding all three children. The case is frustrating and disturbing. Although all three children were taken from affluent neighbourhoods, there has been no ransom demands. The media have coined the kidnapper “The Child Catcher“.

The case escalates when one of the little girls is found…

Leaving no stone unturned, Patrick and his team investigate with little success. Another DI on the team, jealous of Patrick who is a favourite of their boss, thwarts every effort they make in the attempt to make Patrick look bad so he can take over as lead investigating officer.

Feeling stressed about this difficult case and worrying about his elderly mother who is getting tired from chasing his rambunctious two-year old daughter all day, Patrick is nearing the end of his rope.

I would term this a high-octane police procedural.  It combines rich characterization with a fast pace. The plot holds surprises and several unexpected twists and turns.  The desperation and panic of the parents is described in such a way that the reader feels their desolation.

Patrick’s unique and troubled character was one that I would like to read more of. I enjoyed his rapport/working relationship with his lesbian partner, Carmella. The Philips’ family’s anxiety and anguish were palpable. Their family dynamic was well described: the mixed race wife, the racist mother-in-law, the teenage stepdaughter…  The teenage characters were well wrought with the contrast between the affluent homes and the impoverished housing estates jarring – and, at times, shocking. The ending of the novel was adrenaline-filled and contained a moral dilemma.

This novel is the first in the DI Patrick Lennon series. You can be sure that I will read the rest of the novels in this series. “From the cradle” started strong and kept the pace throughout.  Though a crime novel, it was also a novel about parents and parenting. About good people who find themselves in dire and desperate situations. About how one mistake can impact a whole life. Highly recommended!


I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley. I provided this review voluntarily to share my thoughts about the book.

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards are the authors of From the Cradle, The Blissfully Dead, Killing Cupid, Catch Your Death, Forward Slash and more. They have written nine solo novels, including Mark’s The Magpies and Louise’s The Venus Trap.
They have topped the UK Kindle chart three times, together and solo, sold over one million books.

Mark lives in Wolverhampton with his wife and young family, while Louise lives in Surrey with her daughter.  They love talking to readers on Twitter, @mredwards and @louisevoss1, and run a very lively Facebook page:  facebook.com/vossandedwards, where they chat, run competitions and offer prizes.

You can contact them at markandlouise@me.com.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Favorite books, Mystery fiction, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Friday finds (gems I found around the Internet)

Like most book bloggers I spend WAY too much time on the computer.  Sometimes though, it is time well spent. Sometimes you find little treasures.  

I thought I’d share three of these gems with you!

A fantastically creepy ‘Flash Fiction’ story called “Light in the Blackhouse” by Matthew Richardson

 

A poem called “Pieces of you” by Lee Dunn

 

 Another poem called “Bubbles” from a globe trekking blogger


If you enjoyed any of these gems, be sure to let the author (and me) know.

I appreciate your comments.

Happy Friday everyone!

and… for no particular reason, I’m sharing a photo of one of my myriad bookshelves

Posted in Internet Gems, ramblings & miscellanea, Writing | Tagged | 12 Comments

Throwback Thursday – April 19, 2018

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.
This week I’ve chosen “The truth and other lies” by Sascha Arango for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published June 2015 by Atria Books and was, for me, a 5 star read.


Not a full blown psychopath, Henry Hayden is nevertheless pretty darn close to being one.  As a young boy he killed his tyrannical father without even meaning to.  Since then he has moved on to bullying and other acts displaying his lack of empathy.  Now an adult, Henry has reinvented himself yet again.  An accomplished liar, Henry knows that to lie well you must incorporate a certain amount of truth.  He fabricates a past to suit whatever situation he finds himself in.  In so doing, he is cognizant of the fact that the worst mistakes are the ones we don’t notice.  Henry does sometimes feel moved by others, he sometimes does the altruistic thing.  But not often.  He is a sycophantic man who is a borderline sociopath.

When Henry meets Martha, he realizes he has fallen into a profitable situation indeed.  Not particularly attracted to her, he nonetheless has kind feelings for her.  When he discovers that she is a talented (though unpublished) novelist, he takes it upon himself to submit her book(s) to a publisher.  Because Martha does not want to deal with that end of things, she agrees to letting him take the credit for the writing of them.  Their lives turn successful and their lifestyle improves as a result.  Still, Martha cares little for the physical trappings of success and writes obsessively during the night.  She is driven and not a little bit ‘sensitive’.  She can see the auras of others, she can taste colors. She is a synesthete.

When Henry’s aura gives him away, she becomes suspicious of him having an affair.  She is absolutely correct.  He is having it away with the editor from the publishing house.  Now things have reached a turning point as the ‘other woman’ is now pregnant.  Henry is appalled by this turn of events.  Other than the physical attraction, he cares not at all for this other woman – and he cares even less about having a child.  She must be gotten rid of!

Henry’s endeavors to get rid of her backfire, and Martha is killed in her stead.  How will he get himself out of this predicament?  He has a book deadline looming and his (Martha’s) latest novel is unfinished.  He must deal with the consequences of his actions without impinging on his reputation or lifestyle.  Will his ingenuity and cunning see him through?

The truth and other lies” is a literary thriller that is strong on characterization and filled with delightful imagery.  Sascha Arango, a German television writer, has written a page-turner of a novel that entertains with dark humor and deviousness.  The novel is the winner of the Prix Européen du Polar du Point, France, 2015.  I’m sure this is only the beginning of it’s literary success.

Translated from the German by Imogen Taylor, “The truth and other lies” is available from Atria Books.  I received the digital ARC from Penguin Canada/Viking via NetGalley in consideration of an honest review.

Sascha Arango is one of Germany’s most prominent screenplay writers and a two-time winner of the Grimme Prize, a prestigious award for German television, for his work on the long-running detective series Tatort.  He was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1959. The Truth and Other Lies is his first novel.  He lives in Germany.
.

Posted in award winners, Book Reviews, debut novels, NetGalley, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

“The Wildling sisters” by Eve Chase

“Applecote Manor doesn’t dominate the surrounding lush countryside but settles into it, like an elegant elderly lady dozing in long grass.”Two years ago I read Eve Chase’s debut novel, “Black Rabbit Hall” and enjoyed it SO much that I vowed then to read everything she writes.  Now I am delighted to review her second novel, “The Wildling sisters“.

Blurb:  Four sisters. One summer. A lifetime of secrets.
When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.
Fifty years later, Jessie is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jessie finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

I’ve found another novel that will star in my Best Reads of 2018 post at the end of the year!

Written with dual timelines, this book will be relished by readers who are fans of Kate Morton, Rosamund Pilcher, Diane Chamberlain, and Harriet Evans.

Summer 1959:  We meet the Wilde sisters. Flora, Pam, Margot and Dot – aged seventeen, sixteen, fifteen and twelve. Their father died in an accident and they are now in the care of their beautiful, though flighty, mother. The fatherless family is struggling financially, so their mother decides to spend the summer in Marrakesh where she has been offered a job by a friend. The Wilde girls are shipped off to the Cotswolds where they will spend the summer with their Aunt Sybil and Uncle Perry. They arrive at Applecote Manor to find Aunt Sybil and Uncle Perry much changed. It has been five years since their only daughter Audrey had vanished. Aunt Sybil has deluded herself into thinking Audrey will come home any time now…. She keeps her room at the top of the house just the way Audrey left it. She buys her clothes and shoes which will fit her now… Audrey was just twelve years old when she went out in the garden to play and never came back.

The sisters are very close. “I don’t know who we sisters will be without one another to differentiate us. Take one of us away and we’d all lose our balance, like removing a leg from a kitchen table.”

Now the Wilde girls are living at Applecote, Aunt Sybil favours Margot (the narrator of their story) for it is she that most resembles the missing Audrey.

“Applecote itself feels caught between the past and the present, life and death, a house gummed shut, waiting for news that never comes.”

The summer of 1959 was known for being the hottest summer in recent history. Day after day of hot, humid weather. The girls turned brown and strong from spending so much time outside.  They met some local boys. They explored the vast grounds, the orchards, the river, and the historic old standing stones at the end of the garden.

“A memory is a living thing; it breathes beside you”

It was a summer of transition, of growing up. It was also a summer when a tragic event marred their memories for the rest of their lives.

“Houses are never just houses; I’m quite sure of this now. We grow up. We stay the same. We move away, but we live forever where we were most alive.”

Over 50 years later: We meet the Tucker family. Jessie Tucker is mother to tiny three-year-old Romy and stepmother to teenage Bella. Jessie and Will are madly in love, but Bella resents her new stepmother Jessie, and her little half-sister, Romy.

Londoners, the Tuckers have just moved to Applecote Manor. Will is a widower. Jessie wants a new start with her little family in a house that isn’t permeated with memories of Will’s first wife, Mandy. Also, both Jessie and Will want to remove Bella from her London friends and lifestyle because they feel it is not good for her.

“She had no idea that trying to love Bella, let alone parent her as she grew into an angry teen, would be like trying to hug an animal that wanted to sink its teeth into her neck.”

Will owns a logistics company jointly with a college friend, Jackson. He plans to take a step back from the company and spend more time in the country with his family. But as life rarely goes to plan, Jackson tells them that he wants to sell his half of the company and move to Australia.  This puts a real ‘spanner in the works‘ for the Tuckers. This means that Will will be away MORE often instead of less. He will be in London all week, returning to his family in the remote Cotswold valley only at weekends.

The girls are alone in the big old house. Bella’s behavior remains cold and her moods maudlin. Jessie begins to fear leaving Bella alone with Romy…  Will’s being away so much begins to affect their marriage. Jessie feels alone even when he is home at weekends. Just when Jessie feels despairing of their life at Applecote, events take another disturbing turn…

What can I say?  I LOVED this book. The Wilde sisters and the Tucker family made an indelible impression on me. But the house, Applecote Manor, was the star of the novel. This is a story that explores the strength of family bonds. A favourite read that I will be recommending to many.

Note: This book was published in the United Kingdom under the title: “The vanishing of Audrey Wilde”.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons, at my request, via NetGalley. This review is my way of saying thanks for a great read.

 

Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and is a pseudonym of a journalist who has worked extensively across the British press. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Suspense, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

“The Detective’s Daughter” by Lesley Thomson

I’ll start out this review by saying that the writing reminded me a lot of that of Ruth Rendell.  You can’t get much better praise from me, as she was one of my favorite authors EVER!

The Detective’s Daughter” has the feel of a police procedural mixed with a psychological thriller, though neither is in fact true.  What it IS is an excellent start to a mystery series that I plan to follow avidly. Since the sixth novel in the series has just been published, I have some serious catching up to do.


July 1981. Just two days before the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana a young woman was murdered on the banks of the Thames near Hammersmith Bridge. Her name was Kate Rokesmith and she was the mother of a four-year-old boy. He was with her when the murder took place – playing with his vintage toy train near the water’s edge.

Her husband Hugh was suspected of the crime, but nothing was ever proven. He lived with the suspicion for the rest of his life. Their little son, Jonathan Rokesmith was severely traumatised and later was sent off to boarding school where, through a bureaucratic mix-up, he was called Justin. His mother’s murder was never solved.

The detective in charge of the murder inquiry was named Terry Darnell. It was the one case that lingered in D.I. Darnell’s mind throughout his entire career with the police. He was obsessed with solving the murder even after he retired, up until the January day in 2011 when he died.

Hammersmith Police Station

Terry was divorced. A not uncommon condition for a police detective inspector. For he was a good police detective, and the good ones put the job first – before everything else. At the time of his divorce his daughter, Stella, was just seven years old.  Stella and her father had gotten along well in the brief times they spent together. Terry loved his little daughter who shared many of his personal traits.  After the divorce, they saw less of each other and those times were often sabotaged by the ‘job’. Stella grew to resent Terry and his perceived abandonment of her.

At the time of her father’s death in 2011 Stella Darnell is forty-four years old.  Her relationship with her Dad had been under strain for years. When she is told of his death, she remains detached, aloof, stoic.  Stella Darnell runs a cleaning company called “Clean Slate”. A single businesswoman, she has a sharp intellect and methodical methods which makes her company successful and in high demand.  As Terry’s next of kin, it falls to her to clean out his house after his death. In the attic she finds all of the file boxes pertaining to Katherine Rokesmith’s murder.  As she prepares to shred them, something piques her interest and she begins to read…


“It was extraordinary how trusting people were. It gave people like him freedom.”

Jack Harmon is an eccentric character. By night he drives trains in London’s renowned underground. By day he walks the streets of London – and I mean ALL of them. Also, he enters other people’s houses unbeknownst to them.  Often when they were at home. He calls these unsuspecting people his ‘Hosts’.

Jack begins to work for Stella Darnell as one of her cleaners. He is unlike her usual hires. He is unkempt and works to his own schedule.

“Jack was the best cleaner Stella had ever hired
and she reminded herself not to tell him this.”

Despite their mutual distrust, Stella and Jack become friends.  Their loneliness and disguised vulnerability bond them. His eccentricities both annoy her and interest her. He seems to have an obsession with some statuary near St. Peter’s Church in Hammersmith. The statue is called “The leaning woman“. He has an aversion to a certain shade of green. So much so that he becomes sick when he sees it.

Stella enlists Jack’s aid in clearing out her father’s house. It comes about that together they begin to investigate the Rokesmith case which so obsessed Stella’s father.

“She was overtaken by a determination to bring Kate’s killer to justice as once, years ago, Terry had promised to do.”


I have to say that I enjoyed every minute of this (rather long) mystery.  Stella, though not a particularly warm person, evoked empathy in the reader. The mystery itself snagged my interest at the beginning and I just had to follow it to its conclusion.  Jack Harmon was an odd character whose personality was both sympathetic and more than a tad creepy.

This is definitely a character-driven mystery. These are the best kind in my book. It is a novel of love and the damage it can do.  A novel of revenge, remorse, and regret.

Highly recommended!

I received a complimentary digital ARC of this novel from the publisher, Head of Zeus, via NetGalley. This review is my thanks to them.

Check out the various covers for “The Detective’s Daughter” which was originally published in 2013 and is being republished this year.

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and the series has sold over 750,000 copies. Lesley divides her time between Sussex and Gloucestershire. She lives with her partner and her dog.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Favorite books, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

My Blog’s name in Books

Last week I participated in a fun meme called the  “I Spy Book Challenge”.  It was SO enjoyable to compose that I thought I’d start one myself.

Rules: 

1.  Spell out your blog’s name. (this is where you wish your blog’s name was shorter LOL)

2. Find a book from your TBR that begins with each letter. (Note you cannot ADD to your TBR to complete this challenge – the books must already be on your Goodread’s TBR)

3. Have fun!  

Anyone who wants to join in is welcome to grab my graphic
as long as they link back to me.


The only letter I found challenging was the ‘I’.  You’ll note I had to find 3 of them.

The cover graphics are linked to Goodreads if you want to check out the books.

Well there you have it!  I’ve shared a wee bit more of my Goodread’s TBR.

Posted in ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 66 Comments