“My Mother the Liar” by Ann Troup @HQDigitalUK #NetGalley @TroupAnn

Blurb: Two dead bodies. A lifetime of secrets.

When Rachel Porter’s estranged mother dies, she returns to her family home filled with dread about having to face her past, and the people who populated it.

Little does she know that there are dead bodies waiting to be discovered, and a lifetime of secrets are about to untangle.

Secrets kept by her mother, the liar.

They weren’t kidding when they said a “lifetime of secrets“.  The family in this novel puts the ‘Dys‘ is the word dysfunctional.

“a family of felons and sycophants”

There are more damaged characters in this novel than any other I’ve ever read. A mother and three sisters who had no love for each other, or, it would seem, anyone else. The family retainer, housekeeper Delia Porter, was also an enigmatic woman. The reader wonders why she worked there for so many years…

Rachel Porter, an epileptic, was a pitiable character. She has been estranged from her family for almost twenty years. Her return to the house where she grew up brings about more trauma in what has already been an over-traumatic life. Her estranged husband, Charlie Jones, was my favourite character in the novel.

“The Limes”, the house which the family calls home, is a vast, damp, cold, and gloomy house. The perfect setting for a family that was cold, loveless, and downright psychopathic.

The police officers in the novel were interesting characters. We meet Detective Sergeant Mike Ratcliffe and Detective Constable Angie Watson.  Angie was a character that I didn’t warm to at all. Though she was very smart and had been ‘fast-tracked’ into her position as Detective, I found her personality quite cold. Ratcliffe was more personable, but only just..

The book could have done with some editing. I lost count of the dozens of times words were combined (eg. “His conviction for the murder Rachel knew hehadn’t committedhad made Valerie’s day.”) or separated (eg. “taking h  er time in constructing an answer” – “There are no r  elatives, and no friends. – “She took anot her deep breath”) Also punctuation was often incorrect or the spacing of the punctuation was off. This greatly ruined the flow of the read for me and did the author’s story an injustice.

“Men like to put the sinners out of their misery; women like misery to put out the sin.”

This novel, despite its lesser qualities was indeed a ‘page-turner’. The writing was compelling and the pace fast. It contained several plot twists that I quite enjoyed despite the fact that I could see them coming. The myriad deceptions, poisonous lies, bitterness, malicious betrayals, revenge, abject cruelty and abuse, were just the tip of the iceberg.  In fact, there was enough dysfunction within the plot that it could have been spread throughout several novels.

The bottom line – I did enjoy the novel enough to want to read more by this author. Recommended, but with some reservations.

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

Ann Troup lives by the sea in Devon with her husband and said dog. Two children have been known to remember the house which they call home, but mainly when they are in need of a decent roast dinner, it’s Christmas or when only Mum will do. In a former incarnation she was psychiatric nurse, an experience that frequently informs her writing and which supplies a never-ending source of inspiration.

You can contact Ann on Facebook or Twitter.

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

What device do YOU use for reading BLOGS?

I spent over an hour creating a new blog background for Fictionophile.

My husband strolled by my desk and asked what I was doing.  I explained.

He completely burst my bubble when he stated: “Why waste your time doing that? 
Most people won’t even see your background because they read blogs on their phones or tablets.”

GASP!!!!  Is this true????


Here is my new wallpaper in case you can’t see it…

I tried to incorporate some of my favourite book titles, the flags of my province and country, and of course, my name and the name of my blog.

I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say on the subject.

Do YOU have a background image on YOUR blog?  Why? or Why not?

Posted in Book bloggers, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , , | 75 Comments

Cover Love: part 61 – Feathers

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 61st installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature feathers &/or quills on their covers. These books cover a wide variety of genres. Surely one of them will speak to you…

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 | 12 Comments

“Still Water” by Amy Stuart @SimonSchusterCA @AmyfStuart #BookReview

Two years ago I read and enjoyed a novel called “Still Mine” (see my review) so I was pleased to be able to read the sequel, “Still Water“.  If anything, I enjoyed it even more than the first novel – it’s always great when that happens!  Don’t worry though if you haven’t read the first novel, as this could read very well as a stand-alone.  The author recaps the history of the characters just enough that you wouldn’t feel you had missed out on something.  That being said, I’m glad I read “Still Mine” so as to better understand Clare’s history and her life.


Now Clare works for the man called Malcolm Boon.  She is to work undercover to find a missing woman and her child.  The woman came from an abusive situation, so Clare is the perfect person to infiltrate the house where the woman last lived. It is a refuge for women escaping untenable domestic situations.  Clare is perfect for the job because she too is on the run from an abusive husband.  Not only can she relate to the women she meets, she is recovering from a gunshot wound she suffered at the end of the first book. Also, she is trying valiantly to stop taking the pain meds that she has become quite attached to.

“her hands shaking with pain or withdrawal or panic, she can never tell which anymore.”

Thirty-year-old Clare moves into “High River”, the house of Helen Haines which is located in a rural area that is accessed by a one-lane wooden bridge. Helen has harboured many women over the years. Helen’s past too is a traumatic one.  Her mother was murdered by her father right in front of her eyes when she was a teenager. Now she holds on to the house and the acreage it sits on – despite property developers who covet it.

“If not for its tragedies both recent and old, Clare thinks, High River would be a beautiful place.”

As Clare becomes enmeshed in the life at Helen’s, she comes to know Helen’s family. Her teenage daughter Ginny, her brothers Markus and Jordan. She also comes to know another runaway wife like herself, Raylene. Since Sally, the missing woman, was a friend of Raylene’s, Clare tries to befriend her to learn more about her.

“There are three sides to every story. Yours, mine, and the truth.”

The police detectives looking into the case are an interesting pair.  You never really know who is the good cop, and who is the bad cop…

“People will go to extreme lengths to absolve their loved ones of wrongdoing.”

Like the first book, Still Water is an engrossing, character-driven psychological thriller. In my review of the first book, I wrote “Clare’s character is mysterious throughout.  The reader keeps turning pages to discover little clues to her very damaged past.”  Now, with “Still Water“, we learn more about Clare, though she remains mysterious. We learn more about her past, yet there are enough gaps in her memory that there is surely fodder for more books in this excellent series.

With the first novel, I loved how the title fit the novel perfectly with the double meanings of the words ‘still mine‘.  Now, with Still Water, the same can be said.  Still Water is very much predominated by the river running through the property. Also, you can relate it to the old saying “Still waters run deep” when describing a person. Very clever!

Amy Stuart writes skillfully about women with horrendous stories of domestic and emotional abuse that could make you gasp. It was nice to read that her protagonist, Clare, is coming to consider this new job of hers more of a ‘calling’. She becomes absorbed by the work of searching for the missing and those on the run.

I liked that the entire novel took place in the span of one week.

This is a novel that describes how trust is very difficult for people who have been abused by the very people who are supposed to love them most. A novel of secrets kept, and secrets discovered. A novel of guilty people, whether or not they should feel guilty. A book of survival. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada via NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in the expectation of my honest review.

Amy Stuart won the 2011 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers, and was a finalist for the 2012 Vanderbilt/Exile Award. She is a recent masters’ graduate from the University of British Columbia. Amy was born in Toronto where she still lives with her husband and their three sons. She is an educator with many years of high school teaching under her belt. Aside from writing, she loves hockey. Ice hockey.

Visit AmyStuart.ca.

Follow Amy Stuart on Twitter

Follow Amy Stuart on Instagram

Posted in Book Reviews, Canadian fiction, NetGalley, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , | 3 Comments

It’s all academic! (fiction with academic settings)

It is that time of year again. Schools and colleges are starting a new year. For this post, I thought I’d share with you some of the titles I’ve enjoyed over the years that have academic settings AND some of the titles on my TBR that fit this category as well.

Books on my TBR set in schools or colleges:

Different Class” by Joanne Harris

After thirty years at St Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. Each class has its clowns, its rebels, its underdogs, its ‘Brodie’ boys who, whilst of course he doesn’t have favourites, hold a special place in an old teacher’s heart. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t fit the mould. A troublemaker. A boy with hidden shadows inside.
With insolvency and academic failure looming, a new broom has arrived at the venerable school, bringing Powerpoint, sharp suits and even sixth form girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist this march to the future, a shadow from his past is stirring. A boy who even twenty years on haunts his teacher’s dreams. A boy capable of bad things.


The Exclusives” by Rebecca Thornton

In 1996, Josephine Grey and Freya Seymour are best friends and on the brink of great success. Both are students at the elite private school Greenwood Hall and Josephine, the daughter of the advisor to the Prime Minister, is heading for everything she has ever worked for: Head Girl, Oxford, the demons of her mother finally abated once and for all.
But in 2014, Josephine is hiding in Jordan — and has been for eighteen years since those catastrophic events in her last year at school. And then one day she is found. Freya, whom she has not seen since those fateful four months, insists on meeting to revisit their difficult past once and for all and finally lay to rest the events that have haunted their adult lives ever since. But Josephine can’t bear to — it only took one night for their whole lives, friendship, and even selves to unravel beyond comprehension. They have done truly terrible things to one another in the name of survival. She most of all.
All she has ever wanted was to forget, but Freya is no longer willing to let her and now at last, Josephine is to meet her reckoning . . .
The Exclusives is a gripping and emotional thriller that explores the power the past can have on our present and confronts how far we are willing to go when everything we prize is threatened.


Death in the Quadrangle” by Eilís Dillon

Since his retirement from King’s University, life has been rather quiet for Professor Daly…
In fact, a peaceful retirement, even when that retirement has been punctuated by helping the police to solve the odd crime, may be slightly over-rated: at least in Daly’s opinion.
So when he is invited back to King’s University to deliver a series of prestigious lectures, his heart leaps.
But on arrival he discovers that he has not been called back to the university on account of his literary knowledge…
On the contrary, he has been called upon purely because the retired professor has experience of solving crime.
And somebody has been sending the president of King’s threatening letters. Somebody within the university, it seems, wants him deaSet at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.d.


A Separate Peace” by John Knowles

Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.


The Headmaster’s Wife” by Thomas Christopher Greene

Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges.
Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster’s Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.


 “Trick of the Darkby Val McDermid

Barred from practice, disgraced psychiatrist Charlie Flint receives a mysterious summons to Oxford from an old professor who wants her to look into the death of her daughter’s husband. But as Charlie delves deeper into the case and steps back into the arcane world of Oxford colleges, she realizes that there is much more to this crime than meets the eye.


The Crazy School” by Cornelia Read

Recently settled in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, Madeline Dare now teaches at the Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers. But behind its ornate gates, she discovers a disorienting world where students and teachers alike must submit to the founder’s bizarre therapeutic regimen. A chilling event confirms Maddie’s worst suspicions, leading her to an even darker secret that lies at the academy’s very heart. Now cut off from the outside world, Maddie must join forces with a small band of the school’s most violently rebellious students–kids who, despite their troubled grip on reality, may well prove to be her only chance of survival.


And here are a few novels with academic settings that I have already read.  Just click on the title to read my review.

 

 

The Secret Place” by Tana French

 


 

 

She was the Quiet One” by Michele Campbell


 

 

The Madwoman Upstairs” by Catherine Lowell


 

 

Well-Schooled in Murder” by Elizabeth George

 

 

 

 

I’m pretty sure I’ve read many, many more academic mysteries – just can’t recall them right now.  Have you read any novels with academic settings that you would recommend?

Posted in Genre list | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

Hello September (Fictionophile updates and August’s bookhaul)

Hello lovely folks! Summer days will soon be over, it is September already!  The photo below shows my husband and I enjoying the beautiful sunset at our summer cottage.

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

During the month of August I added thirteen titles to my TBR.



I downloaded 3 titles from Edelweiss in August:

 

The Orphan of Salt Winds” by Elizabeth Brooks

(published by Tin House Books)

 

 

 

 

 

Bitter Orange” by Claire Fuller

(published by Tin House Books)

 


 

 

The Au Pair” by Emma Rous

(published by Berkley)

 

 


I downloaded 4 titles from NetGalley in August:

 

Finally !!!  I’ve been after this one for ages.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton

(published by Simon & Schuster Canada)

 

 


 

Truth and Lies” by Caroline Mitchell

(pre-approved by Amazon UK)

 

 


 

Murder at Hawthorn Cottage” by Betty Rowlands

(published by Bookouture)

 

 


 

 

The Wartime Sisters” by Lynda Cohen Loigman

(published by St. Martin’s Press)


and directly from the author I received two more titles…

 

The Girl in his Eyes” by Jennie Ensor

(received from Jennie Ensor)


 

When the Storm Ends” by Rebecca L. Marsh

(received from Rebecca L. Marsh)


and directly from the publisher, I received one more title…

Death in Paris” by Emilia Bernhard

(received from Thistle Publishing)


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


I also purchased the following 4 titles from Amazon.ca

 

 

Dark Lies” by Nick Hollin

(I paid $3.99 for this title published by Bookouture)


 

 

Finding Eva” by J.A. Baker

(I paid $ .99 for this title published by Bloodhound Books)


 

 

The Last Thing I Saw” by Alex Sinclair

(I paid $1.99 for this title published by Bookouture)

 


 

 

The Spinster Wife” by Christina McKenna

(published by Lake Union Publishing)


I’m delighted to report that there are now 2.867 people following this blog!


My Goodreads Challenge is doing okay

My NetGalley feedback ratio is still short of the coveted 80% (it seems I get just as many new titles from NetGalley as I review in a month – I’m just treading water…)

My Edelweiss feedback ratio is dismal…

Posted in Fictionophile report | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

“The Salt House” by Lisa Duffy @TouchstoneBooks @lisaduffywriter

“…Gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.”

“the isolation of sorrow”

In a small Maine coastal town lives the Kelly family. Father Jack is a lobsterman. Mother Hope is a freelance writer for a parenting magazine. They have three two daughters. Jess is sixteen – Kat is eight.

Almost exactly one year ago, their third daughter, baby Maddie, passed away. The entire family is still reeling from their devastating loss.  Each experiences their bereavement in their own individual ways.  Each member of the Kelly family strive toward healing, but healing is slow to come…

The family were happy. They loved each other deeply and were in the process of renovating an old oceanfront dwelling called the ‘Salt House’.  They planned to move into this house when the renovations were completed. Now, still suffering, they are merely passing time. Living day by day with their sadness and unable to find solace from their loss.

The work of a lobsterman is arduous and exhausting. Jack works himself sick trying to pay the bills and the two mortgage payments.  Hope, riddled with guilt and self-recrimination, is unable to write for “Parent Talk” magazine as she feels that she is unqualified to advise other parents – hypocritical almost. 

Hope doesn’t want to make love anymore… She has lost all interest in the “Salt House”. She feels unable to face doing anything with Maddie’s ashes.  They reside in her closet wrapped in a baby blanket.

Jack and another lobsterman are feuding over ‘territory’. This feud impacts all members of the family in individual ways. He goes out everyday, in all weathers, in his boat the “Hope Ann”. When he finds that someone has opened his traps, he in enraged.

Teenaged Jess is fearful that her family is falling apart. She meets a handsome boy and falls in love for the first time. She tries to keep this a secret because her father doesn’t approve of her dating.

Kat misses her little sister AND the loving family she once knew.

The publisher’s blurb said that this was a “gorgeously written debut” and they didn’t exaggerate!  The novel is told via each family member’s perspective so we get an intimate look at what Jack, Hope, Jess and Kat are thinking and feeling. This gives the reader insight into how their grief is manifested and how each feels the loss in very different ways. It also shows how each family member strives to survive without Maddie and be there for each other.

The setting was well described. You can almost smell the salt tang of the air and hear the gulls wheeling above the lobster boat.

The characters were written with empathy and understanding. I liked them all – in particular the teenage Jess and the long-suffering Jack.

The story of the Kelly family was a heart-breaking one, yet quite realistic in many ways.  I would definitely read another book by this debut author and look forward to doing so. Recommended to all readers of well written literary fiction.

I received a complimentary copy of  this novel from Touchstone via NetGalley.

Read an interview with Lisa Duffy here.

Lisa Duffy received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her writing can be found in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. She is the founding editor of ROAR, a literary journal supporting women in the arts. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children and currently leads a fiction workshop through 24PearlStreet, the online component of The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Her second stand-alone novel, This is Home, is forthcoming from Touchstone Books in June 2019.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Family sagas, Literary fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = SALT (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 “SALT“. I know there are many books with the word ‘salt’ in the title, but I’m featuring 20 titles that appeal to me personally, as a way of sharing my book love. Some of these titles I’ve read, the rest are on my TBR.

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

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

Are you tempted by any of these covers?

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

Please let me know in the comments.

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 21 Comments

“The Girl I Used to Know” by Faith Hogan

Told in two time-lines over forty years apart.

Over forty years ago:

This lovely story begins with two sisters from rural Ireland. On the cusp of adulthood, they travel together to Dublin where one sister will attend Trinity College’s prestigious College of Music, and the other sister will attend secretarial school.  Tess Cuffe, the more passionate and vibrant of the two, is a singer. Nancy is more demure and wants the traditional life of husband and children, preferably back in Ballycove, the small Irish village she grew up in. Full of hopeful ambition and joie de vivre, the sisters embark on a new life in the city.

Just a short time after they move into their Dublin basement flat, Tess falls in love with Douglas Buckley.  This will profoundly change her life forever.

“It was a love that cost too much in the end.”

Present day:

Amanda and Richard King live at 4 Swift Square, Dublin. This is a prestigious address as befits the ambitious banker that Richard is. They have two teenage children.  They bought the Georgian house years ago and have since totally remodeled it to the show-home condition it is today. There has only ever been one drawback… when they bought the house it had a sitting tenant in the basement flat.  A tenant who will not be moved through bribery or any other means. Her name is Tess Cuffe and she is now sixty-six years of age.

Bitter, regretful, and lonelier than she ever could have imagined, Tess Cuffe hasn’t one friend to call her own.  Still working, she temps at various offices around the city of Dublin.  When a neighbour’s cat gets under her feet, she had a fall which broke her wrist. This event will begin what is a drastic turnabout to Tess’s lot in life.  For starters, she becomes friends with the doctor who treats her injury, as well as the King’s teenage daughter Robyn, AND, at first reluctantly, she takes in the troublesome cat which she names Matt.

“Amanda had signed up for happy ever after
and suddenly it was being snatched from her.”

Forty-six year old Amanda King is lonely also. Her husband is distant and constantly critical. He works longer and longer hours. Her children are uncommunicative. Her female ‘friends’ are not really friends, rather they are catty, duplicitous socialites. She turns to high carb foods for comfort and gains weight. When her ‘perfect’ life turns sour, Amanda takes stock of her miserable situation and finds herself wondering just where is “the girl she used to know“…

A prime example of ‘women’s fiction’, “The girl I used to know” was a joy to read. Just the tonic a reader craves after a reading slump, or, as a genre palate cleanser. The strong characterization makes you form a bond with the strong and resilient women at its core.

The novel explores the themes of loneliness, betrayal, second chances, and, most importantly, female friendship.  The overriding message of the book is summed up in the following quote:

“It’s never too late to be happy.”

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Aria (a digital imprint of Head of Zeus) via NetGalley. I chose to review it because I thoroughly enjoyed another of her novels.

Faith Hogan gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
Faith Hogan was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.  Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin.

Faith Hogan was born in Ireland and still lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children, and an overweight cat.

Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Cover Love: part 60 – Tables

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 60th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature tables on their covers. I chose this topic because of the summer season – when I entertain the most.

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

“A double life” by Flynn Berry

“Loosely inspired by one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the 20th century – the Lord Lucan caseA Double Life is at once a riveting page-turner and a moving reflection on women and violence, trauma and memory, and class and privilege.”

I read Flynn Berry’s debut novel, “Under the harrow” two years ago and was anxious to read more of he work ever since.


Inspired by actual events, “A Double Life” was an interesting read.  Our protagonist, Lydia Spenser, is the daughter of an infamous British Lord accused of murder.

When she was just eight years old, her live-in nanny, Emma, was murdered in the kitchen of their home in Belgravia, London.  The same night, her mother was gravely injured in a vicious attack.  All this took place while Lydia and her baby brother Robbie were in the house.  Her father and mother (Colin and Faye Spenser) were separated at the time, and her mother testified that it was her father that was in the house that night who perpetrated the crime.  He vanished, and was never caught.

He had many wealthy connections and family friends. It was suspected that he had help getting away that night.  It was because of his wealth and renown that this case of domestic violence sparked so much interest by the media and the general public.

Following this event, she, her mother, and baby brother changed their names and moved to Scotland.  Lydia Spenser is now Claire Alden.

The lingering trauma has followed Lydia/Claire throughout her life.  She now works as a medical doctor, yet she remains fearful of her father – even after twenty-six years have passed. Though he was only a baby at the time of the attack, Robbie too has been affected. He is now addicted to pain-killers after suffering a knee injury.  Claire worries about him constantly.  After medical school in Edinburgh, she moved to London in the hopes that she might learn the whereabouts of her father.

The aftermath of the crime which happened almost three decades previously continues…

“I don’t go abroad often. My father has ruined foreign travel for me. I spend the entire time wondering if he lives there.”

When, quite by chance, Claire encounters the daughter of one of her father’s old friends, she befriends her in the hope that she will learn more about her father’s whereabouts. She visits her new friend’s Palladian mansion, which Claire stayed at frequently as a child. She hopes to discover some clue about her father from his friend’s home – the last place he was seen before his disappearance.

Filled with anger and resentment about her family misfortune, Claire puts her moral compass aside in her search for the truth. She wonders if she ever really ‘knew’ her father. She wonders at the motive behind the murder.

“I need to know who he is. A good man who did a bad thing. A bad man who’s done more bad things.”

Although this novel was very interesting, I really struggled with it at first. The name changes, coupled with the shifting timelines confused me.

By the time I became used to the flow of the narrative, my enjoyment increased and by the time I reached the last third of the novel I couldn’t put it down.  I enjoyed the writing, and the story was compelling. Although it had some elements of a thriller, I wouldn’t really classify it as one…  Overall, an absorbing read with a plot whammy near the end that surprised me. Recommended.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Viking (via Edelweiss) for review purposes.


 

 

 

Flynn Berry is an American novelist.  She is a graduate of the Michener Center and has been awarded a Yaddo residency. She graduated from Brown University.

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Are you REALLY using an eReader?

Just because your device enables you to read eBooks does NOT mean it is an eReader!Some reactions to my previous post – along with discussion with friends and family – have convinced me that there are a whole lot of people out there who don’t know what an eReader is!

This is understandable because the companies that make devices that enable you to read ebooks on them market them as eReaders.  Every year they publish lists of the best eReaders available – and these lists combine BOTH tablets and eReaders.

A Kindle Fire is NOT an eReader.  An iPAD is NOT an ereader.  Your mobile phone is NOT an eReader. These devices are essentially created to do things other than let you read books. They let you browse the internet, read your email, view your photographs, play games, create spreadsheets, etc. They are tablets that emit blue light and are not conducive to sleep – or your general health. “The use of portable blue light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety.”

Many devices we own, from the latest iPad to the Samsung Galaxy Note to Amazon’s Kindle Fire, has light-emitting diodes that give off blue wavelength light. And it’s that blue light that wreaks havoc on our body’s melatonin production.

Dedicated eReaders – devices that ONLY allow you to read eBooks (no internet capability, etc.) are the more healthy choice for the avid reader.

The Kindle Paperwhite (my device of choice); The Nook GlowLight; The Kobo Aura; The Kobo Clara are all readers that use eInk. These readers do not display in color – as of yet only black and white.

E-ink readers are not backlit but they are illuminated. These devices were only introduced in 2012. Rather than lighting the screen from behind, illuminated e-ink e-readers are “front-lit” and use small LEDs around the screen, pointing inward rather than outward, to cast a glow over it.  This makes easy reading possible in bright sunlight or a dark room without adjusting your brightness settings. (but you can if you want)

“Another advantage electronic ink has over traditional computer displays is its readability. It looks more like printed text, so it’s a lot easier on the eyes.”

As of yet, there is NO scientific evidence that states E-Ink readers are in any way detrimental to your health and well-being.  They are no more dangerous than reading a book which is printed on paper.


If you want to read further on this subject check out the following links:

https://gigaom.com/2014/12/23/do-e-readers-really-harm-sleep-depends-what-you-call-an-e-reader/

https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/e-ink2.htm

https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-e-ink-2740879

Posted in ebooks and ereaders | Tagged , | 38 Comments

Why you should reduce your screen time and READ fiction !!!

We knew that right? No matter what age you are, it seems that both young, old, and everyone in between are getting more and more addicted to their screens.  Computers, televisions, tablets, and phones, if used excessively, can damage your eyes and your overall health AND they are detrimental to the quality of your much needed sleep.

Reading on the other hand is a healthy activity!  Reading physical books, or ebooks via an eReader (Kindle, Kobo, etc.) with e-ink technology is good for your physical well being.

Abigail Fagan has listed six scientific reasons you should be picking up more books:

  1. Reading reduces stress. Reading a book or newspaper for just six minutes lowered people’s stress levels by 68 %—a stronger effect than going for a walk (42 %), drinking a cup of tea or coffee (54 %), or listening to music (61 %).
  2. Reading can lengthen your life span. A team at Yale University followed more than 3600 adults over the age of 50 for 12 years. They discovered that people who reported reading books for 30 minutes a day lived nearly two years longer than those who don’t.  Hey maybe I’ll have time to finish my TBR.
  3. Reading improves your language skills and general world knowledge. Avid readers, as measured by the Author Recognition Test, had around a 50% larger vocabulary and 50% more fact-based knowledge.
  4. Reading enhances empathy. Across five experiments, those who read literary fiction performed better on tasks like predicting how characters would act and identifying the emotion encoded in facial expressions. These speak to the ability to understand others’ mental states, which scientists call Theory of Mind.
  5. Reading boosts creativity and flexibility. “When we read fiction, we practice keeping our minds open because we can afford uncertainty.” Maja Djikic conducted a study in which she determined that fiction readers are more flexible and creative than essay readers—and the effect was strongest for people who read on a regular basis.
  6. Reading can help you transform as a person. Fiction readers see themselves differently after reading about others’ fictional experience. Nonfiction readers don’t undergo this shift in self-reflection.

Posted in Reading | Tagged , | 35 Comments

Throwback Thursday (an old favorite recommended)

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites.
This week I’ve chosen “Dark Water” by Sara Bailey for my Throwback Thursday post. It was first published in October 2016 by Nightingale Editions and was, for me, a 5 star read.

“Dark water” by Sara Bailey

Off the northernmost coast of Scotland lie the Orkney Islands.  It is here that Helena Chambers returns to visit her aging father who is awaiting heart surgery.  She hasn’t returned for over a decade, using the excuse that her PR job, and her hectic life in London preclude visits home.

The truth of the matter is that painful memories have kept her away.  Youthful romances, a stepmother with whom she has never really warmed, and… the drowning death of her best friend, Anastasia.

Helena is very successful in London, but she has few, if any, friends there. When she returns to Orkney once more, Helena is astounded by how easily she falls into the island life.  How most of her former acquaintances accept her presence there as if she never left. Her former contemporaries still call her “Hell Cat”, her old nickname which alludes to her ‘misspent youth’.  She laments on how her father has aged, and how her former friends now have all moved on with their lives without her.  The insular, small community, once stifling, now seems welcoming.  But… a school reunion, her father’s impending surgery, and former lovers , all serve to make Helena uneasy.

Being home again, Helena reflects back on her teenage years…

Scapa Bay, Orkney Islands

Scapa Bay, Orkney Islands

She and Anastasia thought they would live forever, “through sick and sin”, as their childish promise stated.  Life…  and death had other plans.

They got up to all sorts.  The uncertainty and insecurity of adolescence is a scary time and the two girls braved it together, until that is, boys served to come between them.  One boy in particular.  Magnus was Anastasia’s boyfriend and her time was spent with him more and more – excluding Helena.
evie-bay-orkney

Kate has always been fond of Helena, but has found her role as stepmother difficult. Particularly as Helena SO resembles her mother…  Also, she is uncomfortable with Helena’s relationship with Anastasia.  She never liked the girl and thought that the manipulative Anastasia was a disturbing influence on her stepdaughter.

Unresolved issues from the past coupled with Helena’s feelings regarding her own mother’s death have permanently strained the relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter.

Anastasia drowned – but her death remains steeped in mystery.night-swim

Anastasia drowned whilst swimming at night with Helena around the dangerous waters of the Churchill barriers in Scapa Flow.  This was a foolhardy endeavor in daylight, but the lack of visibility at night made their actions even more reckless.

Churchill barriers, Scapa Flow, Orkney

Churchill barriers, Scapa Flow, Orkney (click on the image to learn more about the Churchill barriers)

Helena’s grief for Anastasia has colored her life ever since.  Now, after many years have passed, she wonders if she will be able to recover the vital part of herself that died with Anastasia.

This novel is told mostly through the eyes of Helena, both before she left Orkney, and in the present day.  We also get a glimpse into the feelings of Kate, her stepmother, who was a character that I quite enjoyed – perhaps more than Helena. Probably because I can identify with her more.  (She is a putterer and a bit anal about things).

This is a novel of memory, guilt, loss, betrayal, and regret.  A novel that explores the close, sometimes overlapping, emotions of love and hate.  Set in spectacular scenery, it is slow-paced like the island life it depicts. Some will consider it a crime novel, while others perhaps will not.  The reader must decide.

I really enjoyed reading this debut novel and look forward to future works by Sara Bailey.  I was privileged to interview Sara and you can find my interview here.

Sara Bailey is a writer, researcher and lecturer who has been working with authors, sara-baileyscreenwriters and writers as a consultant* and facilitator for many years. She has had two film scripts commissioned by Cutting Edge Productions.

Recently awarded her PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at Bangor University Sara is a member of the Author’s Association, the National Association of Writer’s in Education and actively involved in national and international conferences on writing.

Sara has recently returned to Orkney after 37 years away.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Wednesday’s Word = WATER (Cover Love redux)

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

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

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

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from Goodreads.
You might just find your next favorite book!
Are you tempted by any of these covers?

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

Please let me know in the comments.

Posted in Dustjackets, Wednesday Word | Tagged | 11 Comments