“The secret life of Mrs. London” by Rebecca Rosenberg (spotlight #blogtour)

2018 BEST NEW NOVEL nominee!

I’m so happy to be included in the blog tour for the historical novel “The secret life of Mrs. London“.

which reveals the love triangle between Houdini, Charmian and Jack London.
Only one woman could beguile two legends!
Join Rebecca in a visual romp back to San Francisco, 1915, when famed author Jack London and his wife, Charmian London, attend the Great Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Escape in San Francisco. What happened next was almost lost to history!


San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.
California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON is her first novel, following her non-fiction, LAVENDER FIELDS OF AMERICA.
Rebecca Rosenberg’s next historical novel is GOLD DIGGER the story of BABY DOE TABOR.

Visit Rebecca Rosenberg’s WEBSITE
Visit Rebecca Rosenberg on Facebook


Buy the Book:
Amazon US 
Amazon CA

Amazon UK
Amazon AU

Watch this space! My review of “The secret life of Mrs. London” will be posted soon.

Posted in debut novels, Historical fiction | Tagged , | 3 Comments

“Exquisite” by Sarah Stovell

Different recollections of the same events does not a liar make. Or does it? In this novel, when two people recall events from differing perspectives, what follows is ‘exquisite‘ betrayal…

Exquisite” features two female protagonists.

Bo Luxton is a successful published novelist in her early forties. Married, with two young daughters, she lives in a nice house in the Lake District. Between novels, she teaches an occasional writing course for novice writers. It is at one such ‘Advanced Fiction’ workshop in Northumberland, that she meets the young and talented Alice Dark.

Alice is twenty-five years old. Her life is nothing less than seedy. She lives in London with a painter who loves his drink and partying much more than he loves his work. Unemployed, sometimes promiscuous, and filled with disillusionment and self-loathing, she decides that this writing workshop is just the thing to lift her life up to a better place. Using the last of her money, she takes the train to Northumberland. She is immediately in awe of the talented Bo Luxton. Bo is everything, and has everything that Alice wants in life. But… what begins as a mentor/student relationship, turns to a girl crush, turns to a full blown obsessive love for this woman who is fifteen years her senior – and married!

Bo is blown away by the talented novice writer, Alice Dark. She reminds Bo of herself at the same age. Also, she is the same age as the daughter Bo gave up as a young teenager… She admires Alice’s verve, her beauty and her wit. Alice brings excitement and passion to Bo’s life.

“It was overwhelming and exquisite and right.”

When Bo’s husband is away, Bo invites Alice to stay with her at her house. Their relationship intensifies. When their brief time together is over, there follows daily emails which bind them.

Both Bo and Alice are severely damaged individuals. They both have scars resulting from horrendous childhoods. They both have ‘mother’ issues. Both are deeply dysfunctional.

The relationship between the two women cools when correspondence from Bo ceases. Alice sacrifices everything she has to move to Grasmere to be nearer Bo – only to be given the cold shoulder. How could it be possible that she could have gotten it so wrong??? Then, events escalate to the point where Alice receives a police caution. She is not to go anywhere near Bo or her house and family…

“I felt something inside me crack open and break. It wasn’t my heart, I knew that. It was everything I was. It was all of me, derelict.”

Then, the reader hears from an inmate at a women’s prison in Yorkshire. Who is this inmate? We assume that she is either Bo Luxton OR Alice Dark. But which one?

When there are two versions of the same story can they both be correct? Who and what can you believe?

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the cover before reading the novel.  Now that I’ve read it I can appreciate just how clever it is.  The country house nestled in hills (the curve of a woman’s waist…)

This is an astounding, well-written, debut psychological thriller. The characters are well developed and the plot is chilling. With themes of obsessive love, calculating betrayal, cruel mind games, manipulative personalities, and disturbed psyches, this novel will be appreciated by most thriller lovers. Highly recommended.

My gratitude to Orenda Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this novel for review purposes.



Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Posted in Book Reviews, Orenda Books, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = Other (Cover Love redux)

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

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

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

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

The use of “other” as a title word can allude to jealousy, or an unknown quantity, or thing which is a popular plot theme for thrillers. But not all of these titles are thrillers… 

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

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

Please let me know in the comments.

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 17 Comments

“The Lido” by Libby Page

First we meet Kate Matthews.  In her early twenties she has moved from her home in the suburbs of Bristol to take her chances in the big city of London.  She has settled in the London community of Brixton where she shares a house with four other people who she barely knows.  She has been here for two years now and is very lonely and depressed.  Also, lately she has been experiencing panic attacks.  She works as a journalist for a small community newspaper, The Brixton Chronicle. When she is not at work, she is usually in her bed.

“Stories were Kate’s friends when she found people challenging. She searched them out, hiding among them in the library and tucking herself into their pages.”

Next we meet Rosemary Peterson.  In her late eighties, she also lives alone.  She has been a widow for the past two years. Her late husband, George, was the love of her life and her reason for living. Across the street from Rosemary’s flat is the Brixton Lido.  The Lido has always been a huge part of Rosemary’s life.  She swims there every day and has since she was a young child.  She and George shared many loving memories there.  She has gone there during the war, during the London riots, and countless other occasions.

“Rosemary is eighty-six but in the water she is ageless.”

We learn of Rosemary and George’s story.  They met the day that WWII ended. Their story will make you laugh, and make you weep.

Now, Rosemary’s beloved Lido, which has been in existence since 1937 is under threat of closure.  It seems a large property company want to buy the real estate it sits upon to build a gym and tennis courts for their tenants.

Back to Kate.  Used to trivial jobs of reporting on lost pets etc., she finally is given a story with some substance.  She is to research the story of the Lido, before it becomes a Brixton memory. She goes there to find out more about the potential closure of the outdoor pool. She is directed to interview Rosemary, who knows more about the Lido than anyone else.

Rosemary agrees to the interview – but ONLY if Kate swims in the pool.  Kate does, and following her interview with Rosemary, the two become loyal friends.  Daily swimming in the lido helps Kate with her anxiety.  She becomes invested in the plight of the pool and begins to help Rosemary ‘save’ her lido.

“Hope is the most painful thing.”

Along the way, the reader becomes immersed in the community of Brixton.  The myriad cultures represented in its population.  Even the wildlife get a few mentions. We meet Rosemary’s many friends. The gay couple who run the local bookshop.  The man who sells her produce, a teenage boy who swims at the lido, a new mother who brings her baby to the pool. ..

This book reminded me a lot of the works of Fredrik Backman.  Libby Page has captured his method of using spare sentences that evoke emotion and deep understanding.  Like Backman, her characters become friends with the reader – to the point where you miss them when the last page is turned.  It also reminded me a bit of last year’s “Lillian Boxfish takes a walk“, only in my opinion it was much better.  Instead of paying homage to New York, as in Lillian’s story, it pays homage to Brixton, London.

This is a novel of loneliness, friendship, aging, love, and loss. The writing flows as effortlessly as water in a pool. The descriptions are vivid – so vivid that you can almost smell the chlorine and taste the character’s salty tears.

The Lido”  is a remarkable debut novel that I highly recommend.  A joy to read!

I received a digital copy of “The Lido” from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley and I provided this unbiased review voluntarily.

Libby Page is the debut author of The Lido, published in the UK by Orion and by Simon and Schuster in North America. Rights to The Lido have been sold in over 20 other territories around the world.

Before writing The Lido Libby worked as a campaigner for fairer internships, a journalist at the Guardian and a Brand Executive at a retailer and then a charity.

You can find her on Twitter at @libbypagewrites. She also shares her swimming adventures with her sister Alex at @theswimmingsisters.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Literary fiction, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Top of my ‘WANT’ list is…. unavailable

This morning I read a 5 STAR review of Sabine Durrant’s latest novel “Take me in” by one of my favourite bookblogger friends Cleo.  I want to read this title so much!

Blurb:   He saved your son’s life.
Does that mean you have to give him yours?
It starts with a holiday.
A three-year-old boy on a beach,
and the hero who saves his life.
But nothing is ever that simple.
Tessa and Marcus know they owe Dave Jepsom more than they can ever repay.
Yet even as he is walking from the sea with their son in his arms,
there is something about him that makes them uneasy.
He is not like other people that they know.
Being with him makes them confront truths about themselves they would rather not see.
The shock of that moment will change everything.
And it’s not how things start that matter.
But how they end . . .

Reason #1   –  I’ve been a loyal fan of Sabine Durrant ever since I read her thriller “Under your skin” with my book club / I correct myself, it was even before that when I read her funny yet endearing little novel called “The great indoors“.

Reason #2 – I deeply respect Cleo’s opinions as in so many instances her tastes reflect my own tastes in reading.

Once again, I covet a title that is offered by a United Kingdom based publisher, Hodder & Stoughton/Mulholland Books.

My problem?  This new title of Sabine Durrant’s called “Take me in” is not available to me on the North American NetGalley or Edelweiss (though it is available to ‘wish for’ on the UK NetGalley site) AND I cannot even place an order for it on Amazon as it is not available in Canada.

Once again I’ve been foiled by International Publishing rights issues…

Is there a particular title that YOU want to read, yet is unavailable to you?  Feel free to add your rant to mine in the comments.

Posted in ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , , | 30 Comments

International publishing rights – I’m puzzled…

Many of you might have read my ‘Amazon Chat Rant‘ a few weeks ago.  It all stemmed from the fact that as I live in Canada, I cannot purchase a Kindle eBook on Amazon.com

This is not the first time this has created a problem for me.

I am puzzled because if I were to order a physical book, or any other physical item from Amazon.com I could have it shipped to my Canadian address.  Kindle eBooks however are forbidden.

That got me thinking about NetGalley and Edelweiss titles that I’ve been declined for.  It seems that most of my favourite titles and authors are offered by United Kingdom based publishers.  As a result I get declined citing the ‘out of region‘ reason.  I would completely understand that if it were true across the board – if people in Canada and the United States could not get books from the UK because of international publishing rights.

HOWEVER… I have been pre-approved for three different publishers based in the United Kingdom  AND I have received many books directly from UK based publishers over the past few years.  So clearly, the ‘out of region‘ publishing rule does not always apply.

Can anyone tell me the logic behind international publishing laws?  Failing that, can anyone direct me to a source that explains why there are exceptions to the rules?

Are the publishing rights laws different for Ebooks and physical books?

Posted in ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 33 Comments

“All the beautiful lies” by Peter Swanson

“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Just days before his university graduation, Harry Ackerson receives a telephone call telling him his father is dead.  It appears that the healthy Bill Ackerson went for a walk along the cliffs overlooking the ocean on the Maine coast, took a fatal fall off the cliff, and perished. His mother died of cancer when Harry was just fifteen years old, so now Harry is quite alone in the world with the exception of his beautiful stepmother, Alice.  Alice was quite a bit younger than his Dad, only a decade or so older than Harry.

Bill Ackerson was a bookseller and the owner of two antiquarian bookstores, one in Manhattan, and one in the small Maine town where he lived. He spent his days traveling the country scouting books at flea markets and estate sales. He was inordinately fond of vintage mystery novels.

“Bill Ackerson would never know that he wound up
as a corpse in his own mystery story.”

The day of Bill’s funeral, which should have been Harry’s graduation day, was a traumatic and deeply sad one for Harry.  Shortly after the funeral, while Harry was staying with Alice, the police come to the door with the news that they believe Bill’s fall was not accidental.  He had been hit over the head before his fall.

In the weeks following, Harry learns that he did not know his father as well as he had previously thought.  It doesn’t help that Harry finds himself quite physically attracted to his stepmother.

This is the third thriller I’ve read by Peter Swanson and I’ve quite enjoyed them all.  I liked the clear deliniation between the dual timelines with some chapters headed THEN and others NOW.  Also, I really enjoyed the myriad literary references.

Alice’s story was captivating to read. She was a deeply damaged and deluded individual  who seemed to leave death and destruction behind her like a natural disaster.  Coldly beautiful, she seemed to have little substance behind her attractive facade. Though I did not ‘like‘ Alice, reading her story was akin to watching a train wreck.

Harry’s character which should have been sympathetic –  left me feeling quite apathetic. I’m not sure of the reason for this… It seemed that all of the characters in the book were quite narcissistic. The novel contained a few plot twists, but to be brutally honest they were not really unexpected twists.

This is a well-paced, though lackluster, psychological thriller that examines unhealthy May-December relationships. It also scrutinizes what the lack of a nurturing and loving parent/child relationship can do the the adult psyche.  Unnatural obsessions and socially unacceptable love affairs predominate the narrative.

In short, I enjoyed the novel, but perhaps not as much as previous works by this author.  Would I read another book by this author? Absolutely!  Would I recommend this one? Yes, with some reservations.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from William Morrow via Edelweiss.
I provided this unbiased review voluntarily.
written-with-american-flagsPeter Swanson is the author of five novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart,  The Kind Worth KillingHer Every Fear, All the Beautiful Lies, and coming in 2019, Before she knew him.

His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = Gone (Cover Love redux)

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

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

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

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

Of course “Gone Girl” was not the first novel to use this title word. Gone alludes to a missing person or thing which is a popular plot theme for thrillers. But not all of these titles are thrillers… 

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

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

Please let me know in the comments.

and… to my American followers


Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 14 Comments

Halfway through 2018 – Bookish Reflections

We have now officially passed the halfway point of 2018.

Looking back at my reading year so far, I thought I’d share my top ten reads of the 57 books I’ve read since January 1, 2018.

I’ve linked the book titles to my review.  As usual, my favourites were a mixture of mystery, thriller, and literary fiction titles. All of these were well deserved 5 star reads!

#1   “Us against you” by Fredrik Backman

#2  “The possible world” by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

#3   “Persons unknown” by Susie Steiner

#4   “The broken girls” by Simone St. James

#5   “The detective’s daughter” by Lesley Thomson

#6   “Then she was gone” by Lisa Jewell

#7   “The Wildling sisters” by Eve Chase

#8   “Tin man” by Sarah Winman

#9  “Dark game” by Rachel Lynch

#10  “From the cradle” by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Are any of these titles favourites of yours?

Have you got some favourite titles to share?

My Goodreads Reading Challenge progress to date:

Oh, and for those of you who were interested in my Word Search puzzle, here is the completed puzzle with all of the answers circled.



Posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Fictionophile report | Tagged | 8 Comments

July TBR: a (loose) plan

Well folks this is the 4th month of my plan to get a handle on my TBR.  In addition to trying to get the oldest titles off my list, I’ve been valiantly trying to abstain from requesting anything on NetGalley or Edelweiss.  I’m finding it very difficult as wonderful new titles continue to be featured on the blogs of my blogging friends. Not to mention some wonderful publishers who generously supply me with NetGalley widgets.

Here are the eight titles I plan to read in July

I MUST read the two titles I didn’t get to from June’s list
(I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew…)PLUS the following titles:

Sometimes I lie” by Alice Feeney (which I won from the author via a Twitter Giveaway)

Mr Flood’s last resort” by Jess Kidd (an Atria Books title that I received via NetGalley)

and three summer/water related reads:

The lido” by Libby Page (received from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley)

Underwater breathing” by Cassandra Parkin (which I received directly from Legend Press)

The last wave” by Gillian Best (which I received from House of Anansi Press via NetGalley)

and for a blog tour spot on August 1st… “The Cheesemaker’s House” by Jane Cable which I received via Rachel’s Random Resources Blog Tours



That’s it for July. Living at the cottage has its challenges for my reading progress.  Lots of company, family time, and working in the garden cut my reading time drastically.  I’m not complaining, but would really like to make some more progress on my TBR…

Here is a photo of my little family taken at the end of the beach in front of our cottage last summer.

and the view from our cottage living room window

Happy summer reading everyone!

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged | 30 Comments

Hello JULY! Happy Canada Day! (+Fictionophile’s June bookhaul)

Hello lovely folks! JULY already and the marking of Canada’s official 151st birthday. As many of you know, I spend my summers at our family cottage situated on Cape John, on the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia.  It is indeed ‘My Happy Place’.

In my valiant attempt to gain control over my reading/review commitments, I have been much better behaved this past month with my bookhaul.  Because of family commitments and gardening chores I read only 7 novels in June. Sadly, I fell 2 books short of my June reading plan, but will add those titles to my July list.

Grand Central Publishing sent me a NetGalley widget for “What my sister knew” by Nina Laurin.  Though I’ve been tempted by many of these widgets from generous publishers this month, this is the only one that I downloaded.


I downloaded TWO titles from Edelweiss this month:


I was delighted to get an approval for “Three Things about Elsie” from Scribner.  I requested this title almost three months ago, so was surprised and pleased to finally be approved for a digital copy.



An unwanted guest” by Shari Lapena was a ‘download now’ title from Pamela Dorman Books.  I was weak and couldn’t resist.

and directly from the publisher &/or author I received three more titles…

After reading a glowing review of  Martyn Waites’ “The Old Religion” I was very eager to get my greedy little hands on a copy.  Since it is not available in Canada on either NetGalley or Edelweiss, I thought I’d send an email plea to the publisher, Bonnier Zaffre in the UK.  A sympathetic staff person answered my plea with a digital ARC.  I can’t wait for this one!

Some of you might have been amused by my ‘chat’ rant post.  “The secret life of Mrs. London” is the book I was fighting for in that post.  The author, Rebecca Rosenberg kindly sent me an Amazon credit for a Kindle copy of her novel.

Claire Fullerton generously sent me a copy of her novel “Mourning dove“.

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


I’m delighted to report that there are now 2.779 people following this blog!


My Goodreads Challenge is coming along nicely:

My NetGalley feedback ratio still needs some improvement:

My Edelweiss feedback ratio needs even more improvement, but is slowly getting better…

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

“The Possible World” by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

“An astonishing, deeply moving novel about the converging lives of a young boy who witnesses a brutal crime, the doctor who tends to him, and a woman guarding her long-buried past.”Heart-breaking, heart-warming, and compelling literary fiction. This book is a must read!


The characters in this novel were unforgettable and I miss them already.

First we meet Ben. He is a trepidatious boy who is small for his age. While attending a birthday party for one of his friends, Ben’s world will come crashing down as he experiences a horrific trauma.

“We’re all of us obsessed with our own story.
Especially those of us near the end of it.”

Next we meet Clare. A resident of a nursing home, Clare is nearing her one hundredth birthday. Astoundingly, her mind is sharp as a tack. Sadly, she is quite alone in the world and never has any visitors.  We come to know Clare better as she relates her ‘story’ to Gloria, another nursing home resident, which she tapes.  Her long life is fascinating.  She was the Catholic daughter of a bookshop owner in Providence. When the Great Depression hit her family suffered many financial setbacks along with the rest of the country. She worked in a weaving mill where she eventually met her husband. Yes, although her adult years were mostly solitary, she was once married, and the mother to a baby son.  This all ended during the hurricane which struck Providence, Rhode Island in 1938.

After experiencing devastating loss, she begins her life again as Clare.  Self-sufficient and hard-working, she lives in the stone caretaker’s cottage situated on a hill bordering on a cemetery.  Next door is a sort of ‘reform school’ for boys which is run by monks. She works endlessly tending the graves, working her garden, and preserving for the coming winter.

Clare makes the acquaintance of one of the boys from the school. She arranges with the monks that he come to her every afternoon to help with her arduous work.  He is a scrawny and unloved boy of eleven. His name is Leo. The woman and the boy will come to love each other.


“You have to love medicine – it won’t love you back.”

Then we meet Dr. Lucy Cole. An ER physician working in the last year of her residency, she is devoted to her career. She has seen it all, and still strives to do her very best for her patients.  Her marriage has recently ended. Her husband Joe, unable to cope with her demanding hours cannot find the will to continue their relationship.  Although Lucy loves him dearly, she has not yet mastered the illusive work/life balance.

Lucy meets Ben in the ER when he is brought in after the horrific crime he has witnessed. Though he is covered in blood, she discerns that he is not physically injured – yet he seems to have no memory of his former life, or of his mother who worked at the hospital.  He says his name is Leo – and his memories of Leo’s life do not correspond with those of Ben. Child  psycholigists believe that five-year old Ben has disassociative disorder because he claims to be an eleven-year old boy named Leo.

“If nobody knows your name after you die, is it like you never were born at all?”

“It’s our secrets that make each of us different from everyone else.
Our secrets, and what we choose to love.”

“We have things for a while, and then they’re gone,
and we’re lucky to have had them at all.”

As the characters’ stories converge, your heart will be broken – and then made whole.

The medical scenes in the novel are written realistically and with compassion as befitting an expert in the field.

The eloquence of the writing throughout the novel ensures that I will follow this author’s work avidly.

This novel is at once compelling historical fiction, a testament to love, a treatise on belief and doubt, a story of loneliness and loss, and a foray into reincarnation. Powerful, amazing, literary fiction. Highly recommended.  All the STARS!

I received a digital copy of this amazing novel from Scribner via Edelweiss. All I can say to them is Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you…Liese O’Halloran Schwarz grew up in Washington, DC after an early childhood overseas. She attended Harvard University and then medical school at University of Virginia. While in medical school, she won the Henfield/Transatlantic Review Prize and also published her first novel, Near Canaan.

She specialized in emergency medicine and like most doctors, she can thoroughly ruin dinner parties with tales of medical believe-it-or-not. But she won’t do that, because she knows how hard you worked to make a nice meal.

The Possible World, coming from Scribner (US) and Hutchinson (Random House UK/Cornerstone) in June 2018, is her second novel.

She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is at work on the next book.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Favorite books, Historical fiction, Love stories | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

“Grave Island” by Andrew Smyth: the research behind the thriller

Grave Island by Andrew Smyth is out today, 28th June

(Bloodhound Books)

In this guest post, the author, Andrew Smyth, shares his research process with us.
But first… the blurb:

When Philip Hennessey is thrown out of army intelligence after evidence is fabricated against him, his ex-wife’s school friend asks him to investigate the sudden death of her father, who she thinks has been murdered. 

Philip soon discovers a far larger problem: a lethal trade in the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit drugs. 

Using his contacts within the intelligence agencies, he follows the trail across the world, chasing counterfeit vaccines that could kill thousands.

Pitted against an international conspiracy, can Philip prevent the fake medicines from getting through, and who can he really trust?

Writing is a much more labor intensive job than many readers might suspect.  Authors of all genres put a lot of research into the novels that they produce.  Andrew Smyth, the author of “Grave Island“,  has generously written a guest post to explain his research process. Take it away Andrew…

Researching plots takes the writer up many blind alleys so when I started looking into the pharmaceutical industry, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. The healthcare industry world-wide is huge and the researcher doesn’t have to look far to find murky goings-on. On my website, I describe how a cover-up by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) cost them $2.4 billion when one of their plants was discovered making contaminated pharmaceuticals, while in 2009 Pfizer paid out a record fine of $2.3 billion.

But there was a snag. Although these cases involved cover-ups, no one would seriously believe that a publicly-quoted pharmaceutical company would deliberately set out to adulterate their products. (Despite looking for a big company as the “baddie”, I don’t really believe in conspiracy theories.) But I was reluctant to abandon the idea and I thought about it some more. A pharmaceutical company doesn’t set out deliberately to make fake drugs, but a criminal organisation might.

So I started to look into the world of counterfeit drugs but soon discovered that the pharmaceutical companies, although committed to stamping out fakes, don’t like to give publicity to the fact that some drugs might not be what they seem. The general feeling appeared to be that it would undermine confidence in the market place if they gave too much emphasis to the problem.

The other problem in researching the subject is that once the medicine has been administered, it’s gone and there’s no way of telling whether it was full strength or just a variant on talcum powder. That means that all the research on the subject is limited.

The main source of information is from international agencies and what I found out from the World Health Organisation (WHO) absolutely staggered me. The WHO estimate the world market for fakes and substandard drugs is worth $30 billion annually, representing 15% of the market in developed countries. In the rest of the world, where detection is more difficult, the problem is even worse. The WHO suggests that one in ten drugs sold in Africa are “falsified or substandard” and result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands annually. Up to 72,000 deaths from childhood pneumonia can be attributed to substandard or fake drugs, while ineffective antimalarials kill over 100,000. This is an astonishing statistic, suggesting that fake drugs might account for almost as many deaths as the diseases they were supposed to be curing. But how to get it to the attention of the world? I thought if I based my thriller around counterfeit pharmaceuticals then it might get some attention.

The problem has gotten worse since drug manufacturing has moved from Europe and the United States to plants mainly in India and China. Supervision has become more difficult and the absence of oversight is one the main reasons why India’s pharmaceutical industry is so profitable. They export over $15 billion annually yet the WHO estimates that one in five are fakes. In fact, the profit margins can be so huge that Italian police estimate that criminal gangs make more money out of fake drugs than they do out of “traditional” drugs such as heroin. But the fakers aren’t stupid and they package their products so there’s no clue that they’re different. One investigator reported on a business which in one warehouse was turning out fake pills using 1950s technology, while next door they had a large, state-of-the-art machine, printing the packaging. Unless you open up the package and analyse the contents, how can you possibly know what’s actually inside?

And as things stand, you can’t. If you buy a Rolex watch for £100 you know it’s a fake, but when a fake medicine’s packaging is identical to the real thing, it’s impossible to tell. But that only tells part of the story because if the counterfeits contain only reduced amount of the essential active ingredients, they not only fail to help, but can make the situation worse by increasing drug resistance.

Charities such as the Gates Foundation estimates that 1.5 million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases and that part of the problem is the high cost of vaccines. This leads people to seek out cheaper alternatives which are often fakes with little or no active ingredients. Part of the Foundation’s efforts are in reducing the cost and making genuine vaccines more widely available. Micro-chipping is one method of testing authenticity and there is increasing use of hand-help analysis machines such as the Truscan, which features in my book.

But the fact remains that my research shows this to be a huge problem that needs addressing and I hope my book starts discussions of the issues involved.

Grave Island” is available now!

After graduating from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, Andrew spent a couple of years attempting to break into the film industry. He then founded two highly successful design and construction companies, working both in the UK and the South of France, before turning his focus to his main interests: sailing and writing.

Andrew is the author of Caesar’s Passage, which was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel award, and an Introduction to the Canal du Midi, which was the inspiration for Rick Steins’ TV series. He has also written extensively for yachting magazines, as well as writing and editing his own magazine, Cruising World. A keen yachtsman, he has sailed extensively through the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, often using his first-hand experience as locations in his books. His second novel, a thriller called Grave Island, is published by Bloodhound Books June 2018.

Andrew is married with two adult children and one and a half grandchildren.

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Cover Love: part 57 – Window blinds

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 57th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature window blinds on their covers. And the feel they gave you is very different depending on whether you are looking in, or looking out…

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!

Two of these covers have been added to my “Seeing Double” post.
Can you find which ones?

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 | 19 Comments

“The death of Mrs. Westaway” by Ruth Ware

With echoes of the favourite books of my past, “The death of Mrs. Westaway” was very appealing.  A young woman in a dire financial situation coupled with a mysterious family, an old manor house in Cornwall and an unexpected inheritance.  It certainly ticked all the boxes for me. 

First we meet Hal (Harriet) Westaway.  In her early twenties, she lost her mother to a hit and run driver just a few years ago.  She never knew her father.  With all hopes of further education quashed along with her mother’s sudden death, Hal takes up the reins of her mother’s career as a Tarot card cold reader in a booth on the iconic pier in Brighton.

She is barely able to support herself with the meager income she gets working on the pier. As a result she made the unwise decision to borrow from an unscrupulous money lender and now, though she has paid the loan in full and then some, they are hounding her for an additional 3000 pounds in ‘interest’. They have threatened her physically and entered her flat when she was not at home.

“She was always tired from working, and always hungry, and most of all…
most of all she was lonely”.

Hal is surprised to receive an unexpected letter from a solicitor in Cornwall.  It seems she is the recipient of a legacy from a Mrs. Westaway.  Knowing that this MUST be a mistake, Hal nonetheless considers accepting the legacy. Her increasingly desperate financial situation has overshadowed the dubious moral considerations. She feels that because of her cold psychic reading skills she might be able to con herself into a much needed financial windfall.

“How could it be right that some people had so much, while others had so little?”

Using the last few pounds in her possession, Hal travels to Cornwall and attends the funeral of the unknown Mrs. Westaway. Following the funeral she goes on to the gloomy and gothic Trepassan House and meets the Westaway family and their dour and disapproving elderly housekeeper Mrs. Warren.  During the drive up to the house she spies several magpies and learns that the house was named for the birds. She is given an attic room with iron bars on the windows and bolts on the outside of the door. Such are the things from which nightmares are born…

“She had made the choice she needed in order to survive, and now the only way out was to push forward – deeper into the deception.”

Expecting a legacy of a few thousand pounds, Hal soon learns that her inheritance exceeds her wildest dreams.  But at what cost?

“silent malevolence”

Trepassan House is definitely a place of secrets. The question is – Do the secrets impact Hal, or are they someone else’s concern? What has she stumbled into?  She soon learns that her very life might be at risk.

This is the second Ruth Ware title I have read. Her debut novel “In a dark, dark wood” was a very enjoyable read so I had high expectations of this, her fourth novel. I was not disappointed (even though the author included a telling clue within the first chapters).

I liked Hal’s character and was invested in her plight. Family secrets are always a draw for me, and this novel was rife with them. Secrets, lies, deception and betrayal in an atmospheric setting make for an enjoyable thriller.


I received a physical copy of this novel from Simon & Schuster Canada and almost simultaneously received approval for a digital ARC from NetGalley.  My unbiased review is my thanks to them.

photo © Gemma Day


Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children. “The death of Mrs. Westaway” is her fourth thriller.  You can follow her on Twitter @ruthwarewriter

Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments