Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog Fool Me Twice by Spencer Lane Adams (@ReedsyDiscovery)

Hi, all:

I signed up for a newsletter, Reedsy Discovery, which shares blogposts, books, reviews, and other interesting content, and a few weeks ago I was contacted about joining their team or reviewers. Not that I don’t have enough books to review (I know all of us who regularly review books are in the same boat), but I decided to give it a try, and here is my first review there. And I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I hope you do as well.

Fool Me Twice by Spencer Lane Adams

Fool Me Twice by Spencer Lane Adams. Best-laid plans and larger-than-life character that will make you smile.

Today was Paddy Evers big day. After fifteen years in prison, and meticulous planning, Paddy is gambling his entire future on the perfect heist.
Just one final score.
Thirty minutes from now, Paddy is either going to be a millionaire, or he’s going to be dead. But the one place he’s not going is back to prison.
He’s planned for anything and everything that can go wrong.
But the one thing he hasn’t planned for is Mac.

About the author:

Novels ~ Works ~ Fiction

Spencer Adams writes thrillers with genuine characters that you can’t help connect with through hard truths that bring readers along the adventure with large doses of humor and emotion. There is never a dull moment with page-turning suspense, plot twits and turns, that’ll often leave you laughing or crying.

His work is featured in issue #10 of The Savage Kick Magazine with the short story, The Word of a Woman, and his current novel is a humorous crime thriller titled Fool Me Twice

Teaching ~ Music ~ Guitar

As a life-long musician, fitness trainer and certified instructor, Spencer teaches music theory and guitar, as well as health and wellness.

Blogging ~ Writing ~ Craft

Spencer Adams helps other writers to improve their craft through blogs about developmental writing, character development, revising – rewriting – editing, and how to make your stories and your manuscript ready for publishing.

His posts can be found at

Sobriety ~ Experience ~ Success

After his arrest and conviction of bank robbery spurred by drug addiction, and then prevailing in his own life, Spencer shares his experience in order to help others learn from his mistakes and live a life of success through sobriety.

My review:

I received a free ARC from Reedsy Discovery and you can find my original review on their site here. Authors and readers might want to check their website, as they offer recommendations, services, blog posts, and other interesting and useful content.

Paddy Evers is an ex-convict bank robber who has learned from his mistakes. He thinks this time he has the perfect plan, and he won’t be let down, because he’s going solo. Well, “almost” solo. The plan sounds rather good and simple, but he didn’t count on Mac, who is everything and anything you might need. The expression “bigger than life” seems made for him. We all know about best-laid plans, and Paddy will discover he has a few lessons left to learn.

This novel, narrated in the first-person by Paddy, offers a good balance between plot and characters, although when Mac is on the page, it is difficult to pay attention to anything or anybody else. Paddy is a likeable character, despite (and because of) his circumstances, and Spunky, a young boy they meet during the action, also endears himself to readers, as does his grandmother, and Lisa, Paddy’s long-suffering girlfriend, but nothing can compare to Mac, who tells tall tales, takes enormous risks, gets himself into trouble and out of it with ease, drags others into impossible situations, and nobody can stay mad at him for long.

The characters live many adventures, trying to get back the money robbed, enticingly near and slippery far, and the writing style is conversational, full of humour, with a good dose of foreshadowing, and fairly dynamic. Paddy sometimes shares his views on life and politics —his time in prison gave him plenty of time to reflect upon life and its ills— and some readers might feel those asides slow down the action somewhat. A tighter editing of the book could make it faster and shorter, increasing the importance of the action scenes, but it would rob it of some of its psychological complexity, its humour, and its charm. Because this is a novel of good but flawed people, who don’t always do the right thing, but their hearts are in the right place. There are plenty of twists, turns, and false endings to satisfy genre lovers, many of whom are likely to guess how the story will end, but will enjoy it nonetheless.

As it pertains to the genre and the situation, there is some use of bad language and some prejudicial attitudes expressed by some of the characters, unlikely to offend most readers.

A fun read, recommended to fans of Welcome to Collingwood, Rufufu, those who enjoy comedies about criminals with a heart of gold, con men, and stories of camaraderie and friendship between men, especially those with a grain of truth. Just check the author’s biography. A feel-good novel, which will make readers think, laugh, and leave them with a smile.

Thanks to Reedsy Discovery and to the author, for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, visit the site, and keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Birdcage by Eve Chase (@EvePollyChase) (@MichaelJBooks)

Hi, all:

I bring you the review by an author whose novel The Glass House truly impressed me. And I think she is onto another winner.

The Birdcage by Eve Chase

The Birdcage by Eve Chase. Beautiful writing, Gothic touches, and complex families in an astounding setting


‘Beautifully written. I loved every word’ LISA JEWELL
‘Gorgeously written, atmospheric and twisty . . . I devoured it!’ CLAIRE DOUGLAS
‘Daphne du Maurier for the modern day’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
‘Immersive, tense and ultimately redemptive’ SARAH VAUGHAN
‘Engrossing, gripping and layered’ GILLIAN MCALLISTER

When half-sisters Lauren, Flora, and Kat are unexpectedly summoned to the Cornish house where they spent their childhood summers, it’s the first time they’ve dared return.

Because the wild cliffs and windswept beaches hide a twenty-year-old secret.

The truth about what they did.

Someone who remembers them lurks in the shadows, watching their every move.

And there are other secrets, even darker than their own, waiting to be unearthed . . .

About the author:

I’m an author who writes rich suspenseful novels about families – dysfunctional, passionate – and the sort of explosive secrets that can rip them apart. I write stories that I’d love to read. Mysteries. Page-turners. Worlds you can lose yourself in. Reading time is so precious: I try to make my books worthy of that sweet spot.

My office is a garden studio/shed. There are roses outside. I live in Oxford with my three children, husband, and a ridiculously hairy golden retriever, Harry.

Do say hello. Wave! Tweet me! I love hearing from readers. I’m on Twitter and Instagram @EvePollyChase and on Facebook,

‘Eve Chase is an extraordinary writer. No one creates families as complex, loveable and utterly believable as Chase and she is the master of the dual time frame narrative.’ Lisa Jewell, no.1 bestselling author of The Family Upstairs and Then She Was Gone

Black Rabbit Hall

Winner of best foreign fiction novel, Saint Maur en Poche festival, Paris

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde – published in the US as The Wildling Sisters

Longlisted for HWA Gold Crown Prize

Out soon!

The Glass House – published in the US as The Daughters of Foxcote Manor

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel through NetGalley and thank them and the publisher, Penguin Michael Joseph UK, for offering me the opportunity to read it. This has in no way influenced the content of my review.

I read Chase’s The Glass House and was impressed by the story and the beauty of the writing, and I had to check her new book.

This novel is not a standard mystery/thriller book. Some reviewers place it in the contemporary fiction genre, and it fits there quite nicely. It is also a dual-time story, as the narrative alternates between the present (January 2019), and the past (1999), with the final chapters taking place later in 2019. It also has plenty of Gothic touches, not only because of the peculiarities of the house where the action takes place (Rock Point, in Cornwall, with its old kitchen, the artist’s studio, the conservatory, and the birdcage of the title), but also because of the rest of the landscape of the area, with the wild sea, the rocks, the caves, the moors, and an almost ghostly old cottage. Those landscapes and the setting are also protagonists in their own right. And Bertha, the African Grey Parrot, functions as a kind of Greek chorus, as it always manages to report the most significant phrases and statements she overhears, with a great sense of timing. The three Finch half-sisters (their father, Charlie, is a famed painter who loved many women, some at the same time) meet again in their childhood summer retreat, in 2019, twenty years after an incident there changed their lives forever. You will not be surprised if I tell you that there are secrets, lies, surprises, and emotions, and all the members of the family end up discovering many things, about themselves and the rest of the family, with the story coming full circle, in some ways.

What can I tell you about the story without revealing any spoilers? To start with, I can tell you that the story is exquisitely written. The story is told from the points of view of the three sisters, Flora, Kat, and Lauren, although Lauren seems to be at the centre of the action and is the one who cannot fully remember what happened in 1999, during the momentous summer of the solar eclipse. She has recently lost her mother, as well, and this visit is particularly hard for her. As we get to know the three sisters and the rest of the characters, we realise that the other two sisters aren’t having the perfect life they appear to have from the outside, and the contrast is helped by the way the story is told, as it alternates between episodes from the past and the present. While the chapters set in the past are narrated in the first person, those in the present are narrated in the third person and in the present tense, making them easy to distinguish and giving readers a better insight into the minds, thoughts, and personalities of the characters. The author builds a clear picture (as full of art as the painting Girls and a Birdcage, which also features prominently in the plot) of the young girls, and the women they have become, making some of their actions, even the most horrific, if not justifiable, at least easy to understand. Are they likeable? Well, it depends on each person’s taste. I liked Lauren and Gemma, the daughter of their housekeeper and Lauren’s best friend, and I was also quite fond of the grandfather. Bertha is definitely a star. The rest of the characters I warmed to as the story moved on, and even Angie, whom the girls called “the Monster” not without some justification, might not be as dark as she appeared years back. There are gorgeous descriptions of the landscape, the weather, and the objects and sensations the place recreates, and the psychological make-up of the characters comes through on the page, as readers can see the actions of others through their eyes, and share in the jealousy, exhilaration, suspicion, menace, fear, threat, self-doubt, love and hate they experience.

There are some elements typical of thrillers and mysteries as well (anonymous threatening notes, strangers carrying warnings, phone calls and letters left answered, drawings kept hidden, old mementos that reappear at the most inconvenient of times, children that go missing, a car chase…), but, in general, the story is a pretty slow burn, and the mystery element is not the main draw of the story. Most readers are likely to have their suspicions about what might be behind the lost memory, and anybody good at reading between the lines will see the final twist coming. That does not mean the ending does not work. It is, perhaps, a bit too nicely tied, and too good to be true considering all that has gone on, but most readers will enjoy it.

This book reminded me of a Danish movie called The Celebration (Festen), although this is much more restrained, and the secrets are not quite as damaging or shocking, the family reunion and the reluctant confessions are part and parcel of the action. The setting and some of the scenes brought to mind the way Emily Brönte turned the moors into a dramatic character in Wuthering Heights. If you enjoy stories of dysfunctional families with complex structures and plenty of secrets, set in isolated and atmospheric areas (Cornwall in particular), dual-time novels, female protagonists, have an interest in painting and art and appreciate a beautiful narrative that takes its time to build up its characters and to reveal the events, you shouldn’t miss this one. If you prefer fast-paced stories, do not appreciate birds, hate insta-love, and do not like tightly-knit endings, this might not be for you. I recommend it, nonetheless. Eve Chase is an author to follow.

A sample of writing, in case you are curious:

Granny’s heart was like a sea anemone. It closed if you reached for it. And although it played dead a lot, it was alive.

But that’s the problem with digging; there’s always another layer and the soil is colder, rockier, and harder to work the deeper you go. And you can never be sure exactly what you might find.

Flora has the perfect life! And perfect lives have the habit of falling apart if you examine them too closely.

Dad would much rather run naked down the street than unburden himself on a psychotherapist’s couch. ‘If you’re not cutting off your ear and posting it to a friend, you’re hunky dory.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, don’t forget to keep smiling, and remember I love to read your comments, and if you think you know anybody you think might enjoy this novel, don’t forget to share it with them. ♥

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog Secrets in the Babby House by Gloria McBreen (@GloriaMcB) #RBRT

Hi all:

I have been lucky to catch up on some amazing reads from Rosie’s Book Review Team recently, and this is another one of them. And what a beautiful cover as well.

Secrets in the Babby House by Gloria McBreen

Secrets in the Babby House by Gloria McBreen

Flossie Lynch is heartbroken when her only love, Frank Connolly, marries another. So when John O’Malley—the well-off catch of the parish—proposes to her, she resigns herself to a marriage of convenience, hoping to learn to love him.
For John, Flossie is mostly a respectable wife and caring mother to their son—and the perfect façade for his dark secret. But bloody Frank Connolly and his blackmailing wife are making things difficult for him.
Another victim of his jealous wife’s abusive behaviour, Frank stays in his loveless marriage for the sake of his two wee girls. He turns his childhood fort into a babby house to give them a refuge from their cruel mother. But for Frank, there is no refuge.
When Flossie rekindles her friendship with Frank, she tries desperately to save him from a life of misery and promises to always look out for his daughters. As the two star-crossed lovers near a second chance, tragedy strikes, forcing Flossie to make good on her promise—while attempting to protect her husband and son.
But as long as there’s a Connolly with a score to settle, there is no escape from the past and no promises for the future.

Set in a gossipy small town in Ireland at a time when marriage is for keeps and sexuality is repressed, Secrets in the Babby House is a family saga over three decades that starts in 1956. It is a story of love, deception, and stolen diaries filled with sins and secrets.

About the author:

Gloria McBreen is originally from Bailieborough in Co Cavan. She currently resides in Ballina, Co Mayo. She enjoys writing fiction set in historical times. Her inspiration for Secrets in the Babby House came from the love of her childhood memories and her enjoyment of listening to tales of times gone by.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is Gloria McBreen’s writing debut; it is a historical novel set over three decades in small-town Ireland (from the 1950s onward), and it has a fairly timeless feel, which will remind readers of classical family sagas they have read or watched in the past.

As would be expected in this genre, there are plenty of secrets, gossip, prejudice, impossible romances, rumours, and interference, and also some tragedies, violence, betrayals, suspicions, good intentions, bad blood, revenge, trauma, blackmail, and even murder. Although on the surface everything seems to be calm and ordered, there is a dark undercurrent running deep, and even though most characters are neither all good nor terribly evil, there are a couple whose behaviour can be quite chilling, especially considering the age of one of them. (I can’t give more details because I want to avoid spoilers, but if you read the novel, you’ll know who I am referring to).

One of the strengths of this novel is the way it captures the atmosphere of the time and place, a society stepped on traditional roles and values, where one’s reputation takes precedence over one’s true wishes and happiness, and where people’s behaviours are conditioned by social status and by the expectations of family, friends, and neighbours. Being true to oneself is almost impossible, and those who try, have to pay a big price for it. The author manages to recreate the era and the feel of the period without resorting to lengthy descriptions of places, clothes, and people. The story is written in the third person, mostly from the point of view of Flossie Lynch (who becomes a teacher and one of the most important characters in the novel), but we also get to share in the thoughts and feelings of some of the other characters, and that makes it easy to visualise the action and to gain a better understanding of who these people are, and how they are seen by others. Many of them have hidden depths they don’t share with anybody (or, in Flossie’s case, only with her diaries), and witnessing their stories from their perspectives helps us understand them better, and feel more involved in the events. We might never have spent any time in a place like Bailieborough but we gain a good understanding of what it might have been like for those who lived there and in similar places at that time.

The writing style is easy to follow, with the events told in chronological order, and the odd Irish word and expression peppered here and there, giving the dialogue and the story a feel of authenticity. Although I wasn’t familiar with all the words, expressions, and local references, that didn’t prevent me from following and fully understanding the story, although perhaps a glossary of terms might enhance the enjoyment for readers who appreciate a local and vernacular touch.

The description of the book gives a good summary of the events and also some of the characters we meet. We get to follow some of them for many years, and although we might not agree with what they do, it is not difficult to understand some of their behaviours, given the circumstances. Flossie is well-intentioned and tries to do the right thing for herself and others, although she never gets over her love for Frank. Frank is an extremely likeable character, and he shines in particular in his interaction with his daughters, who don’t get much love from their mother, Alice. Alice is not easy to empathise with, although there are hints of a difficult childhood that might explain some of the things she does. John, on the other hand, finds himself trapped by a combination of convention and interest and ends up living a lie, but he never gives up trying to make his family happy (whilst keeping up appearances as well). Some of the older generations play a less important part in the story, but their influences and their ideas maintain their hold over the proceedings, at least for a time. Of course, it is not difficult to imagine that they have experienced and lived through similar events to those narrated in the novel themselves, and they are also constrained by their circumstances. The younger protagonists, Bennie, and especially the girls, Rose and Nancy (and later, their cousin Maureen also) live under the weight of past secrets and lies they know nothing about, although there are clear signs by the end of the novel that the younger generations are taking things in their own hands and taking control over their own destinies. I admit my fascination with Nancy’s character, and I think she is one of the most complex creations of the novel and one that will remain in my mind for a long time.

I enjoyed the pace of the novel, in particular, the opportunity to follow the characters for a long period of time and to see how their stories and personalities developed, without having to rush from one action scene to the next. There are plenty of experiences the characters live through; it is impossible not to care for them and their futures, and this makes this book gripping and attention-grabbing, even if the events and the incidents that take place are not in the grand scale of some of the blockbusters we are used to. We might have heard similar stories told by relatives and friends, and that gives the book a human scale that I found particularly welcoming in a world where everything has to be bigger, noisier, and more thrilling all the time. A story about people very much like us that doesn’t require much in the way of suspension of disbelief, well told, with credible and interesting characters, and with an ending that is satisfying whilst leaving some things open to the imagination of the readers. It is a welcomed break from the louder, brighter, and busier fiction which tends to dominate much of the commercial fiction published these days.

Recommended to those who enjoy recent historical fiction, and family sagas with a small-town (Irish) setting, and love the opportunity to experience the workings of the society of the time, and a cast of complex characters and stories full of secrets and complications. I hope the author will keep writing and publishing books, and I will be eagerly waiting for her next story.

Thanks to the author, Rosie for her tireless work keeping the group going, members of the team for the support, and thanks to all of you for coming back every week to check my reviews, share them, and comment. Never stop smiling! You are the best!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog Lyrics for the Loved Ones by Anne Goodwin (@Annecdotist)

Hi all:

I bring you another book by an author I discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I was lucky enough to get an early copy and a request to provide an editorial review as well. It was my pleasure, as I’ve become very fond of the protagonist of this book and her story. (The book will be published on the 15th of May, but you can reserve it in advance).

Lyrics for the Loved Ones by Anne Goodwin

Lyrics for the Loved Ones by Anne Goodwin. You’re never too old to become whole again.

How do we live with our secrets? How do we right past wrongs?

After half a century confined in a psychiatric hospital, Matty has moved to a care home on the Cumbrian coast. Next year, she’ll be a hundred, and she intends to celebrate in style. Irene, a care assistant, aims to surprise her with a visit from the child she gave up for adoption eight decades before.

When lockdown shuts the care-home doors, their plans go awry. Yet, while Irene battles grief and loneliness, Matty thrives. Until the Black Lives Matter protests burst her bubble. Convinced she’s to blame for past atrocities, the guilt is more than she can bear.

Will Matty survive to see her hundredth birthday? Will she meet her long-lost child?

Rooted in injustice, balanced with humour, the stand-alone sequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is an ultimately uplifting story about hidden histories and fragile minds.

About the author:


Anne Goodwin’s drive to understand what makes people tick led to a career in clinical psychology. That same curiosity now powers her fiction.

Anne writes about the darkness that haunts her and is wary of artificial light. She makes stuff up to tell the truth about adversity, creating characters to care about and stories to make you think. She explores identity, mental health and social justice with compassion, humour and hope.

A prize-winning short-story writer, she has published three novels and a short story collection with small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.

Away from her desk, Anne guides book-loving walkers through the Derbyshire landscape that inspired Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of award-winning short stories.


My review:

I was provided with an ARC copy of this novel, and having read the two novels (well, a novel and a novella) about the same character, Matilda Windsor, I was happy to write a review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

Having read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, and Stolen Summers, and having enjoyed reading Anne Goodwin’s first novel (Sugar and Snails) as well, reading this one was a no-brainer. I had to.

This novel, written in the third-person alternates between locations (West Cumbria, Bristol) and points of view. We catch up with Matty, who has been moved to a care home, and meet some of her peers and the staff. She is about to become 100 years old and she wants to celebrate in style. Unfortunately, the pandemic gets in the way, but technology and a blue-haired girl come to the rescue. We also get to know Irene, one of the care assistants and the care home, a true Cumbrian character, and a woman with a darker story than it seems at first sight. Gloria, a very active elderly widow; her son, Tim, who works in mental health, and his partner and soon-to-be husband, Brendan, a teacher, are other characters in the novel. At first, it is not clear if and how they might all be related, and although readers who have followed the story will soon start making connections and picking up on clues, there are some red herrings and plenty of surprises along the way.

I want to avoid spoilers, but I loved catching up with Matty, whose mental state cycles between her alternate reality of wealth and fame and moments of lucidity and getting in touch with reality around her. There are some heart-wrenching moments, some truly scary ones, but she comes through in style and gets a more than-deserved happy ending. She is not the only one, thankfully. In a novel where we see people coping with the pandemic and lockdowns, prejudice, old-age and age-related changes, illness, social changes, and also coming to terms with the past, all of the stories close on a happy note, and that is a lovely touch in these times. And although there are sad moments aplenty, there is also plenty of humour and the wonderful turn of phrase and observations of those characters make the reading experience a delight.

I recommend this novel to all those who have read the previous two stories about Matilda Windsor and anybody looking for a novel populated by original and diverse characters, many older than the norm, who share their everyday stories that are anything but every day. I recommend reading the other two novels first, as otherwise, you would miss details of the overall story. Readers who love novels set in Britain and authentic use of regional expressions will have a field day as well, and the author has added a glossary of Cumbrian terms, especially useful when reading Irene’s fabulous inner monologues.

In brief: A microcosm of recent British society and international current affairs as portrayed by an assortment of unique individuals and a collection of families that are anything but traditional. Matty, one of the most memorable and heart-wrenching protagonists I’ve met, comes into her own for her centenary, surviving secrets, pandemics, newfound fame, technology, losses, and surprises of all kinds. The novel runs the whole gamut of emotions, from sadness to joy, from indignation to sympathy, from incredulity to understanding, but be prepared to shed a tear or two (of happiness) when you close the book. The perfect send-off for a most wonderful character.

Thanks to Rosie and all the members of her team for their support, thanks to the author for the opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share, comment, like, and keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog Give My Regards to Nowhere: A Director’s Tale by Richard Engling (@RichardEngling)

Hi all:

Another discovery thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team. A hilarious story that I recommend to those who love the world of theatre as much as I do.

Give My Regards to Nowhere by Richard Engling

Give My Regards to Nowhere: A Director’s Tale by Richard Engling

Chicago director Dwayne Finnegan has a long shot at the big time and only two obstacles: himself and everyone he knows.

Dwayne’s got an idea of how to direct Shakespeare’s least-favorite play that could set him on the road to Broadway. We’re talking Bob Fosse choreography, Jimi Hendrix guitars, and the hottest cast in the city of Chicago. But when the show’s producer cuts out with the cash, Dwayne decides to produce the show himself, putting his marriage and his meager finances at risk. What could go wrong?

About the author:

Richard Engling is a Chicago actor, playwright, and novelist, whose books include the novels, GIVE MY REGARDS TO NOWHERE: A DIRECTOR’S TALE, VISIONS OF ANNA and BODY MORTGAGE, and the collection of plays, ANTIGONE AND MACBETH: ADAPTATIONS FOR A WAR-TORN TIME. His plays also include GHOST WATCH and ANNA IN THE AFTERLIFE and have been produced in Chicago and elsewhere.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I had no previous knowledge of the author of this novel, although from his biography it is evident that he has plenty of experience in the world of theatre, especially Chicago theatre, in different roles, and as I have an interest in theatre and drama, as a spectator, student, and reader of plays, and in Shakespeare plays in particular, I couldn’t pass the occasion to check this out.

I was lucky to see an amateur production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus at Sussex University many years back. I don’t remember it in detail, but despite this being one of the least well-liked and more controversial of the bard’s plays, I found it very moving and loved it, as much as one can love a play with murder, revenge, betrayal, rape, and cannibalism among its themes. So, the fact that the plot of the novel involved the staging of a modernised version of Titus Andronicus, with rock music, choreography, dance, and an alternative casting challenging preconceptions and racism running through the play (two African-American actors play two of the most important roles), added to the interest for me. And although I don’t know much about the Chicago theatre scene, the author is well-versed on the subject, as many of the reviewers have noted, so that was the cherry on the cake for me.

The main protagonist, the director of the play, Dwayne Finnegan, discovers that the main actor -and one of the motors behind the idea- has dropped it, but, with some encouragement from his wife, Angela, he decides to carry on. He is a theatre lover, well-intentioned but ambitious, and not beyond telling a lie (or three) to get his way. Although Dwayne is the main character, and his long-suffering wife, Angela, a teacher not directly involved in this world, also plays an important role (and is a fabulous character), this is an ensemble novel, very much like a repertoire theatre company, full of memorable characters: Dwayne’s friends and reluctant investors, Chaz and Aleister (one who helps and one who mostly hinders the proceeds while getting himself into trouble at the same time), Tom, choreographer, friend, inspiration and supporter, the cast of players: Coco, not always likeable but a force of nature and a woman who knows what she wants; an older star going through a crisis but a great actor nonetheless; an upcoming new actor full of existential doubts who needs to move beyond his preconceptions; a young actress whose plight mimics what happens in the play (and some of the themes and motifs of the play are revisited upon the cast members in one way or another); a musician who doesn’t always remember his role in the play; some other colourful individuals, like the owner of the theatre, for whom dates and times are a moveable feast… Most of all, I loved Joan, the stage manager, and Ingrid, who started as the set designer and ended up becoming so much more. Both are amazing.

There is plenty of comedy and even slapstick (electroshocks and all. Don’t ask, you’ll have to read the novel), and some might get a bit repetitive after a while, especially Dwayne’s invocations of a variety of Saints and religious motifs to express his amazement, surprise, annoyance, horror… but, let’s say that by the end we get to understand that he is, perhaps, as peculiar and original are Joan and Ingrid are, in his own special way.

The novel is written in the third person, in chronological order, from Dwayne’s point-of-view, and it takes the reader through the whole process of creation, rehearsals, performances, and the aftermath. The writing is dynamic, easy to follow, and contains just enough detail for theatre lovers to enjoy it without the action getting bogged down or slowed with unnecessary trivia.

I don’t want to reveal too much, but I’ll only say that I enjoyed the ending, and I think most readers will be happy with it as well. I was also pleased to read that there might be more adventures for Dwayne (and I hope the whole company) in the future, and I’d love to read them.

If I had to make a suggestion to the author it would be to, perhaps, add a cast of characters, which might be helpful as well if there are future novels involving the company, both to refresh the memory of those who had read the first one and to familiarise new readers with the Psychedelic Dream Theater.

Especially recommended to those who like the theatre and are curious about how things work backstage, those who enjoy novels with a large and varied cast of characters, and anybody who appreciates slapstick, Shakespeare, and stories with a heart.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their support, thanks to the author for this fun story, and thanks to all of you for reading, sharing, commenting, and, don’t forget to always keep smiling.

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog Laugh Cry Rewind: A Memoir by Judy Haveson (@judyhaveson) A moving and amusing memoir full of heart #RBRT

Hi, all:

I bring you another great find from Rosie’s Book Review Team, a memoir this time. Thanks to Rosie and all the members of her team for their support and hard work.

Laugh Cry Rewind A Memoir by Judy Haveson

Laugh Cry Rewind A Memoir by Judy Haveson

Growing up in 1970s and 80s suburban Houston, Judy Haveson is funny, sarcastic, and fiercely loyal, especially to her family, friends, and big sister, Celia. When she suffers a series of unimaginable traumatic events, her seemingly idyllic childhood comes to a halt, changing her life forever.

In Laugh Cry Rewind, Judy takes readers on her journey of self-discovery, sharing funny, touching, and heartbreaking stories from her childhood all the way to the birth of her son. Her experiences serve as a reminder that while life is not always fair, ultimately, the choice to surrender or keep on living is ours. Her message to others who have experienced loss or tragedy is this: stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let life go on, and good things will be waiting for you on the other side of the pain.

About the author:

I’m Judy Haveson, a proud Texan living in New York.

My fascination with compelling storytelling plays well with my lifelong communications career of promoting products, services, companies, and individuals spanning various areas and industries, including non-profits, travel & hospitality, entertainment, fashion & retail, authors, and even rock stars and rap artists. You’ll have to read the book for details on that last piece of information.

I love to share stories about life’s observations and experiences that never seem to amaze me. These stories focus on living in New York City, raising my son, and self-publishing my first book and life.

I will never lose my southern charm or accent and use both when the situation absolutely calls for it. I once had a boss tell me that there are two types of people in the world: those who know and those who want to know — be the one who knows. That boss fired me, but his words have always stuck in my head. I’ve been addicted to current events and People magazine ever since, and not necessarily in that order.

I like to think I’m witty, but many call it sarcastic. You decide! I thought I would be a journalist until my first journalism professor told me to pick a new major. He said I’d be an editor’s nightmare because I wrote as I talked and never stopped talking. According to my parents, this fact makes sense because I was an early talker. Those close to me have no problem believing this bit of trivia.

The most important things to me in life are (in no particular order): family, loyal friendships, staying fit to always appear younger than I am, a good cut and color, cavity-free dentist appointments, spectator sports (mainly football), travel, my son’s infectious smile and laugh, and good food and wine (or a dirty, vodka martini) along with the company of great friends to enjoy it all.

Life is a crazy journey, but as my wise mama once told me — a long time ago — while there are many things we can’t change, our hair color isn’t one of them. And I always listen to my mama.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I am not a big reader of memoirs. My preference is for reading fiction, mostly novels, perhaps because I’m always intrigued by how the authors came up with their ideas and how they chose to tell the story. The story itself is not an issue with memoirs (although the process of choosing what to include and what not must be really complicated), but the way the story is told is very important, especially because we’re unlikely to keep reading a narrative about somebody we don’t feel any connection with or any affinity and sympathy/empathy for. That might not be so crucial if the protagonist is somebody famous, as we might be interested in knowing about them even if we don’t particularly like them (or, precisely because we don’t like them, and we want to see if we are justified in our feelings for them), but if we don’t know the person, the author needs to be able to make us feel and connect with their story/history, at least in my opinion.

And Judy Haveson definitely does that. I checked a short sample of the book before deciding if I wanted to review it or not, and it was a quick decision. She and I might hail from different parts of the world (Texas, in her case), be born in fairly different families (hers is a Jewish family, and she had an older sister), have taken career paths with few similarities (she started as an intern at a radio station, then worked for a music publisher, gala dress company, a PR company looking after a variety of clients…), and her personal life is not close to mine either, but I could easily imagine chatting to her, listening to her tell her story (in the first person, of course), and, as the title goes, laugh, cry and rewind with her. Because, yes, there are moments in the story that made me cry (Judy goes through severe trauma when she is very young, then she experiences an unexpected loss that leaves a void in her life that is never filled, and there are even more losses later in life), and many that made me chuckle as well. In her description, she talks about being witty, or perhaps sarcastic, and I think there’s a bit of both because sometimes she is unable to rein in her “wit” no matter how inconvenient the moment or how likely her words are to get her into trouble. Some of her comments make one gasp, but they are always funny, and those who know her appreciate her for it. (And it seems that she takes after her father in that aspect, although her mother shows her wit quite a few times as well).

I loved Judy’s voice. She never takes herself too seriously, never blames others (if anything, she tends to blame herself for things that go wrong even when she has no control over them), can be irritating one moment and delightful the next, and she knows how to tell a good story, for sure. On top of that, she is surrounded by wonderful people as well. I love her family, and I love the closeness between the three of them, and also with the rest of the family (her grandfather, her uncle, her cousins…). She has good friends with whom she shares great moments, and she is happy to let us into her thoughts and shows no interest in making herself appear in a good light. She doesn’t claim to have any great insights about how to live one’s life to pass on either, although she has learned to make the best of anything life throws at her and live life to the most. There are people she does not like, but she wastes no time in attacking them or trying to get back at them. She appreciates those she loves and who love her, and she keeps going in spite of the rest.

The book also includes some pictures that help readers imagine the scenes and situations described more easily, and there is also a section of acknowledgements that I recommend reading as well.

Readers who have suffered trauma due to sexual abuse/rape and/or have lost somebody close recently, and women who have had difficult pregnancies might need to be cautious when reading this memoir. The story is positive and ultimately uplifting, but I have already said it made me cry, and I suspect I am not alone in that.

I recommend this book to habitual readers of memoirs, especially those growing up in the 70s and 80s in the USA, although anybody who enjoys a non-fictional story with a lot of heart and a protagonist with a wicked sense of humour and a particular set of priorities (washing her hear beats going to watch a beautiful sunset, and a manicure beats almost anything…) should give it a try. You’re likely to be as amused, charmed, and moved as I was.

I leave you a reflection by the author, which will give you a sense of the philosophy behind this memoir.

What matters is living your best life every day despite whatever obstacle gets in your way. What matters is understanding life doesn’t always go as planned, but you don’t stop living. What matters is what you do with your life, however long it lasts. Because in terms of universal time, we’re here only for a moment.

Thanks to Rosie, her group, and the author; thanks to you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, and always keep smiling and keep living!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Dish Dog: A Novel by Peter Davidson (@PeterDavidsonAU)

Hi all:

I share today the review for a novel whose topic intrigued me, and there were many things I enjoyed, but some aspects that didn’t quite work for me.

The Dish Dog: A Novel by Peter Davidson

The Dish Dog: A Novel by Peter Davidson

Someone is operating the largest stock market insider trading scheme in the history of the United States, that is making millions of dollars in illegal profits. Whoever it is, has access to secret information about numerous major corporations before the information is made available to the general public. Perhaps it is a nationally-known radio or TV host of a financial program, a financial journalist, or maybe even a Pulitzer Prize winner.

The perpetrator of the insider trading scheme has hidden their identity and covered their tracks through layers of elusive actions that all seem to lead nowhere. But, the perpetrator may not have planned on a brilliant FBI forensic accountant, Dr. Kimberly King, doggedly leading the investigation to uncover their identity and to put them out of business.

The Dish Dog is set mostly in New York City, with scenes in the heartland and in a tropical paradise. The story has a unique ending that many readers will applaud.

Amazon Link:

Goodreads Link:

About the author:

Peter Davidson is the author or co-author of thirty books published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Perigee/Putnam Publishers, Haworth Press, Sweet Memories Publishing, and Northwestern Publishing. His works include fiction, nonfiction, college textbooks, and children’s picture books.

For more than two decades, Davidson was one of America’s most active writer’s seminar presenters, having presented 637 one-day seminars in a 15-state area from Minnesota to Tennessee and Colorado to Illinois. Davidson’s hobby is writing songs and one of his songs was used in a television series in The Netherlands.

Davidson has owned several small businesses, including a professional recording studio, has been a real estate salesman, and has taught business courses in a community college. Davidson trained more than 700 real estate agents, something for which he will undoubtedly have to answer for on Judgement Day.

Whatever else Davidson has been involved in throughout his life, he kept on writing.

My review:

I obtained an ARC copy of the book from the author, which I freely chose to review.

This novel would fit into the police (or FBI, in this case) procedural genre, although it deals with a type of crime that is not what most of us are used to reading (or watching). There are no serial killers or psychologists creating criminal profiles here, but a figure that is less well-known, but as interesting: a forensic accountant.

Even though I know little about accounting and almost nothing about the stock exchange and the workings of big investment companies, I was fascinated by the scheme the Financial Fraud team ends up investigating, and I can reassure readers that it is not necessary to have any previous understanding of these topics to be able to follow the story and to enjoy it. Apart from the plot and the attention to detail, I also enjoyed the gentle touches of humour, and the good-natured relationships between the members of the team. There is no angst, confrontations, or short-tempers, and everybody seems happy to do their part, without complaining or challenging their roles. And their relationship with other agencies is equally calm and professional, lacking in the drama some TV series and movies seem to feed on.

On the other hand, I think this is a book that will work better for readers who aren’t big readers of the police procedural genre, as there is such a focus on every step of the investigation (from carting the information, getting a search warrant, to visiting the bank to get the information needed) and this is conveyed in so much detail, sometimes more than once, and also relayed to others, that it might feel quite repetitive, especially to those who are already familiar with it. This means that people who are reading the novel and have little time to dedicate to it will not struggle to follow the story, as there are plenty of occasions to recap, but I think tighter editing might have quickened the pace and made it more dynamic.

The story is narrated in the third person, mostly in the past tense, and from different characters’ points of view, although this is clearly marked, and there is no head-hopping effect. There were some examples of the use of the present tense that did not always feel totally consistent, but I don’t think this will bother most readers.

There were some details that didn’t totally work for me. One of them was that I never got a clear sense of when the story is supposed to be taking place. It feels contemporary, or perhaps something that might have taken place in the recent past, as there is a reference to the father of the main protagonist, Dr Kimberley King (K.K. for her friends) taking over the family business in 2005, and that seems to have been some time ago when the story develops. Some of the characters do banking and selling and buying of shares online, but the main character, K.K. seems to conduct all of her research on paper, including designing forms, although she is a young doctor and accountant. Wouldn’t an online spreadsheet, on Excel, for example, work better and be much faster? Other agencies also seem to rely on paperwork rather than using electronic formats to compile information. When the surveillance people explain their methods to K.K., the new arrival, they joke about Bond’s gadgets and gizmos, but considering the use of smart phones and the technology available to anybody nowadays, unless the novel is set quite far back in the past, it all seems a bit over-elaborate. There doesn’t seem to be an FBI computer expert working for the team, which would have made some steps of the investigation much faster or even redundant, and nobody mentions the possibility of using surveillance cameras to track the mysterious person behind the scheme. All the people involved use bank checks, with no mention of cryptocurrencies, which are fairly more difficult to trace. There are mentions of using social media to track people’s lives and contacts, so, if the story is meant to be set in the recent past, perhaps referring to specific dates would make it more consistent and require less suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.

Some novels are focused mostly on the characters, others on the plot, and some manage to combine both. This novel centres around a fascinating topic and a gripping plot, while the characters are a little underdeveloped. There are some nuggets of information and readers are allowed some brief glimpses at the lives of some of the characters outside of work, but very few. Not much background information or personal details are revealed, even in the case of the protagonist, although the little we know makes her quite relatable and likeable, and the fact that she is new to the team and to investigating (other than her interest in Nancy Drew) means that the reader can identify with her and benefit from the explanations other characters offer her of their methods. If this was to be a series in the future, and I think the type of crimes and the setting is interesting enough for it, it would be worth spending a bit more time developing the characters beyond their function and their roles in the team.

The ending is not typical of the genre, but it fits the story perfectly, giving it a satisfying touch. Many readers might have their suspicions, but the way the story is told and the red herrings and twists and turns of the plot make it quite likely to surprise more than one.

In sum, this is a crime story set in the world of finances, with some unusual protagonists on both sides of the law. I would recommend it to readers who are interested in the topic and are not habitual followers of the police procedural genre, as they can accompany the new recruit to the team while she is guided through the different steps of the case.

Thanks to the author, for the book, to all of you for reading, and remember to share with those who might be interested, like, comment, and keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog A Diamond in the Dust. The Stuarts: Love Art and War Novel 1 by Michael Dean

Hi all:

Before I forget, I will be away for a couple of weeks or so, and I am not sure how much time or access to the Internet I’ll have, so, don’t worry if you don’t see me around. I will be otherwise engaged. ♥ Oh, and I will close comments on this post when I leave, so don’t worry if you don’t see a comment box. We’ll catch up when I’m back!

I shared a review about one of the books by Michael Dean in the past, and he is an author who manages to beautifully combine historical fiction with a love for art and artist that makes his novels a joy to read.

A Diamond in the Dust. The Stuarts: Love, Art and War Novel 1 by Michael Dean

A Diamond in the Dust. The Stuarts: Love, Art and War. Novel 1 by Michael Dean

A novel showing King Charles I growing up and finding love, and putting the vilified king in a different light.

A DIAMOND IN THE DUST is a fictionalised account of the life of Charles I from his birth to the age of twenty-eight. It shows England’s most maligned monarch, Charles I, as he really was. Dominated by his debauched father, James I, he grew up a diffident, stuttering, dreamy figure, wracked by a crippling disease–rickets. But he was lifted and defined by his passion for all the arts, especially theatre and painting. Brutal real-life caught up with him, however, spinning him at the centre of a whirlwind of love, art, war and even murder, as he struggled unsuccessfully to keep control of his life and his kingdom.

This first novel in the trilogy THE STUARTS: LOVE, ART, WAR, shows Charles I growing up and finding love. It puts the vilified king in a different light. Under the wing of his precocious sister Elizabeth he blossoms and his interest in culture and the arts grows into a passion or some would say an obsession.

About the author:

Michael Dean has a history degree from Worcester College, Oxford, an MSc in Applied Linguistics from Edinburgh University and a translator’s qualification (AIL) in German. His non-fiction includes a book about Chomsky and many educational publications.

He has published several novels.

The Darkness into Light omnibus (Sharpe Books, 2017): The Rise and Fall of the Nazis comprises five titles:

Before the Darkness – about the German Jewish Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, assassinated in 1922
The Crooked Cross – about Hitler and art
The Enemy Within – about Dutch resistance during the Nazi occupation.
Hour Zero – about Germany in 1946
Magic City – a novel of Jewish identity set in Germany in the early 1970s.

He also published some stand-alone novels:

Thorn, (Bluemoose Books, 2011) about Spinoza and Rembrandt
I, Hogarth (Duckworth-Overlook, 2012), which sets out to unify Hogarth’s life with his art.
The White Crucifixion, a novel about Marc Chagall, was published by Holland Park Press in February 2018.

His novel True Freedom, about how America came to fight Britain for its independence, was published in June 2019.

Michael latest novel Diamond in the Dust, a standalone novel and the first book in a trilogy about Charles I and Charles II; The Stuarts: Love, Art, War, will be published, funds permitting, in the autumn of 2022.

My review:

Having read another one of this author’s books (The White Crucifixion) and knowing the depth of research and the attention to detail he invests his historical fiction with, I was looking forward to this text, especially as it is not a period of British History I’m particularly familiar with. And, the novel does not disappoint.

We see Charles I as a shy and sickly boy, eager to find friends and please others, and fully aware of his disabilities (he suffers from rickets, his body is deformed, and even walking is far from straightforward for him). He adores his older brother, Henry, destined to become the king, and his sister, Elizabeth, who was his companion, but he loses them both: his sister to marriage (and her later political difficulties play a part in the story), and his brother to illness, and that means he will become the king. James, his father, is depicted as a truly despicable man, and he has no redeeming qualities. It is not surprising that he is generally disliked and most people around him can’t wait for his demise. And according to the novel, perhaps some decided not to wait, but I won’t go into detail.

Thankfully, Charles finds other protectors and allies (like Buckingham), and we follow him in some of his adventures, from going to the theatre in London to trying to secure a politically advantageous marriage with the Spanish Infanta. One of the most important things for Charles is his love of art, and the author excels at describing performances of masques (with Inigo Jones at the helm, designing the stage, the special effects, and ensuring the magic), painting sessions, and visits to museums and palaces. I particularly enjoyed the ins and outs of painters’ studios, particularly the depiction of Van Dyck’s method, and the grand plans Charles had to build and decorate his new palace and buy as much art as was available. As for romance, his marriage to Henrietta, his French wife, is a meeting of minds, and they are happy partners and pretty similar in their tastes and what they consider important.

Charles believes his will and all his desires should be fulfilled, and he does not worry himself with any practical details; he just expects others to provide. Although he might be childish and selfish, he is not portrayed as malicious or evil, but rather as someone oblivious to the real world around him and imbued with a sense of self-importance pertaining to his role, which he never questioned. He is also easily manipulated by those he loves, even when this sometimes can have terrible consequences for those involved, as is the case with Buckingham and his naval expedition to La Rochelle.

The story is narrated in the third person, from an omniscient point of view, and that allows readers to share in the different protagonists’ emotions and thoughts, but also have an outside perspective of how things really are. The language is beautifully descriptive, especially when it refers to clothing, works of art, architecture, and inventions, and this helps immerse the reader in the historical period and feel like a privileged witness of the action. The rhythm of the narrative is paused and contemplative at times, but it never stops moving forward, and it never drags. In fact, it is quite a short book for the number of events it contains.

As I have said, I don’t know much about the Stuarts or this period of Britain’s history, but the author’s research shines through, and his skill is evident in the way he manages to flesh out these characters and turn them into credible human beings (with their flaws and virtues) without sacrificing the known facts.

I recommend this novel to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in the Stuarts, and with a particular affinity for art and artists. There is action as well, with plenty of political intrigues, enmities, betrayals, and even crimes, and a beautiful turn of phrase and use of language, so, what is there not to like? Note that this is book 1 in an announced trilogy, and it does not cover the whole of Charles I’s reign.

I thank Holland Park Press and the author for providing me with a paperback review copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

Thank you all for reading, and remember to share with art and historical fiction lovers alike, and keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog Regardless of the consequences by L.D. Lauritzen. Western, mystery, spy novel and more

Hi all:

I bring you a book I found in NetGalley thanks to BookGoSocial, and I had also read some intriguing reviews, so I had to check it out. It’s a peculiar mix of genres, but it works quite well.

Regardless of the Consequences by L.D. Lauritzen

Regardless of the Consequences by L.D. Lauritzen

Sheriff Lance Tallbear’s half-blood Apache heritage leaves him struggling to find his place in a world where neither white nor Indian wants or readily accepts him. He faces the world his shaman father turned away from and acknowledges the one his shaman grandfather prays he’ll return to.

Tallbear’s new case uncovers a mysterious plane wreck discovered in the Superstition Mountains that turns out to stir both his life decisions and ultimate direction. Along with his troubled FBI partner, Brad Hanley, they face a myriad of obstacles in their journey to the truth.

The skeletons at the site hold the clues to not only who the killers were but also why the people died. Tallbear quickly finds the crash site hides a deadly secret that reaches out of the distant past to threaten the lives of all who seek it. He will need to use all his skills and experience to discover the answers and stay alive.

Author L.D. Lauritzen

About the author:

A retired agriculture teacher. L.D. Lauritzen has worked across the southwest. Working ranches in the Dakotas and Colorado. Construction all over the Southwest, docks, dealing cards, and even a stint as a beekeeper. Through his travels he’s met and worked with people in many walks of life. Through golf, coin-shooting, ghost-towning, and other activities, he brings life to his stories, characters, and plots.

“Along with my wife, I travel, take a lot of pictures, and been known to spin a tale or two. Somewhere along the way I decided to try writing. Not sure of what words I want to put to paper, I write a variety of short stories, westerns, mysteries, and science fantasy. I’m fascinated with life, and how we manage to still survive given our society’s penchant for destructive behavior.”

My review:

This novel, set in Arizona, combines elements from a number of genres: the western (the setting and some of the characters, especially sheriff Tallbear, his grandfather, Gray Eagle, a shaman who hopes his grandson will follow in his footsteps, although his deceased son didn’t, and Tom Hawk, a young Apache man who makes a gruesome and dangerous discovery); a thriller/mystery/cold-crime novel (the wreck of an old plane is found in the dessert, and there is a strong indication of foul play); a spy/historical novel (there are secrets affecting several families and going back to WWII, and an agent from the CIA, an Army General, and a Russian mercenary make an appearance), and even a little bit of romance thrown in.

There is plenty of action, more than a bit of violence, standard and not-so-standard investigating and police procedural methods, lies, betrayal, guilt, redemption, identity crises, prejudice, alienation, cultural tension, loyalty, sense of duty, revenge, challenging of conventions, and many more.

I really liked the sense of place, the descriptions of the locations, and some Apache traditions, which are very vivid and cinematic. There were a number of characters to root for (not only Tallbear, his grandfather, and Hawk, but also the flawed FBI agent, Henley, and Irene Katz, a resourceful, clever, and daring woman whose family was involved in the mystery) but there were so many strands to the story and so many players that it was difficult to get to know anybody in detail. Some of the most interesting aspects of these characters’ lives and thoughts were only touched upon, and, overall, the plot dominates the story, although, as it seems this is the first of a series, there will be room to develop more complex and rounded characters, as some of them have plenty of potential. And, there were plenty of baddies, some out-and-out villains, and others more nuanced and whose motivations are more ambivalent and even understandable, a good range that gives the story more depth and helps keep readers on their toes.

The story is narrated in the third person and in chronological order, but readers who don’t like too many changes in point of view might take issue with the many characters whose thoughts and experiences we get to share. This is, first and foremost, Tallbear’s story, but we often witness events in which he does not participate. That makes the story flow at a good pace and sometimes helps us be a step ahead of him (or at least believe we are), but there are some minor inconsistencies, the story at times becomes dispersed, and it can cause confusion if it is read over a protracted period of time and not enough attention is paid to the sequence of events. More attention to the narrative voice and the editing, in the future, might make things tighter and smooth the reading experience.

There is much to catch up and there are elements of the ending that felt a bit rushed, but I enjoyed it overall, and answers are provided to most of the questions, although, as can be the case in literary series, there are some unresolved issues that are likely to turn up again in the future.

This is a story I recommend for those who like mix-genre stories, love a modern Western setting, and are not looking for a cosy read or a deep psychological study of the characters. At the end of the book (around the 92% mark), there is a sample of the next novel in the series, that although it doesn’t appear to have been published yet, shows plenty of promise.

Thanks to NetGalley and to BooksGoSocial for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share with others who might enjoy the book, and keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Close by Jane Casey (Maeve Kerrigan, N. 10) (@JaneCaseyAuthor) (@HarperCollinsUK) Recommended to followers of the series and everyone else as well

Hi, all:

I’ve realised that recently I seem to have been reading random books in series, sometimes series I had visited before, and it has worked surprisingly well…

The Close by Jane Casey (Maeve Kerrigan, N. 10)

The gripping new detective crime thriller featuring Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent from the Top Ten Sunday Times bestselling author

‘I loved, loved LOVED The Close. If you haven’t read Jane Casey, start immediately – excellent police procedurals with DELICIOUS sexual tension’
Marian Keyes, the Sunday Times No.1 Bestseller

‘With each book in this series, Jane takes us deeper into the lives and minds of her characters. THE CLOSE thrums with the tension of a classic crime thriller but more than that it ties us tighter to the fates of Maeve, Derwent and the wider cast in new and unexpected ways. If this wasn’t already one of my favourite crime series, THE CLOSE would have catapulted it up there. Brilliant’
Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else’s Skin

‘Jane Casey is writing the most dangerously addictive series in crime fiction and The Close absolutely sizzles with her trademark tension
Erin Kelly, the Sunday Times Bestseller

At first glance, Jellicoe Close seems to be a perfect suburban street – well-kept houses with pristine lawns, neighbours chatting over garden fences, children playing together.

But there are dark secrets behind the neat front doors, hidden dangers that include a ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing.

It’s up to DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent to uncover the truth. Posing as a couple, they move into the Close, blurring the lines between professional and personal as never before.

And while Maeve and Josh try to gather the evidence they need, they have no idea of the danger they face – because someone in Jellicoe Close has murder on their mind.

Author Jane Casey

About the author:

Jane Casey is an Irish-born author of crime novels. She was born in Dublin in 1977 and grew up in Castleknock, 8 km (5 mi) west of the centre of Dublin. She studied English at Jesus College, Oxford.

Her first book, The Missing, was published by Ebury Press in February 2010. It was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award. She then began a series of novels featuring Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan: The BurningThe ReckoningThe Last GirlThe Stranger You Know and The Kill (which was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award 2014). She has also begun a series of novels for young adults, featuring her character Jess Tennant: How to FallBet Your Life and Hide and Seek.

My review:

I read and reviewed book 7 in Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan’s series some time ago, enjoyed both, the police-procedural/mystery plot and the characters, and now, after reading book 10, my emotions are pretty similar, although there have been many changes.

First of all, yes, this can be read as a stand-alone, although, of course, much of the background and many of the nuances, especially in the relationship between the two main protagonists, DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent, can only be deduced or guessed at. I don’t think that affects the enjoyment of the part of the plot centred on the investigation, although some new readers seem not to have been too partial to the “romantic” part of the plot. On the other hand, readers who have been eagerly following the series seemed to be very pleased with the turn of events and the fact that the “will they/won’t they” relationship between Kerrigan and Derwent was explored in more detail here. Personally, I didn’t mind it, because it gave me a chance to find out more things about them, especially about Kerrigan, who narrates most of the story in the first person.

We meet Kerrigan when she seems very close to a meltdown. She’s survived a violent relationship although not unscarred, and she keeps denying what is evident to those who know her best. She, who is a brilliant investigator, intuitive, and full of empathy, can hardly function at work and finds it difficult to focus and think clearly. Because of that, and despite her reluctance, she finds herself chosen to participate in a special assignment, where she and Derwent have to pretend to be a couple and infiltrate a small suburban community (the close of the title) to investigate a suspicious death nobody had picked on.

The seemingly idyllic close hides a few things (not solely related to the case that brought them there) and with another case back home also requiring Maeve’s attention, there are plenty of clues, twists, turns, red herrings, and suspects to keep readers guessing. We also have Pippin, a dog with a talent for escapism, a menagerie of characters the protagonists (and the readers) have to get to grips with, emotions and feelings (welcome and unwelcome) between them… And an anonymous and dark character, the other narrator (this time in the third person), whose thoughts and company increase the tension exponentially and make for a very uncomfortable reading experience.

The writing flows well, and although impatient readers might have preferred less time being dedicated to the everyday life at the close, I found that the changes in rhythm and the odd touches of humour worked well as they gave us more time to digest the information and at times created an illusion of domesticity and safety, making us forget the dangers and the menace hiding in plain sight.

I enjoyed the ending and even guessed some of what was going on (although it took me a while, and the author was very good at making us second-guess ourselves), and although some things are left hanging on, I am sure most readers will be happy to carry on reading the next instalments in this series. This is not a cosy read, and although they are not examined in detail or in an explicit manner, some of the subjects discussed in the book (domestic violence, exploitation of vulnerable adults, paedophilia, violence, murder…) can be upsetting, so readers need to be cautious.

In sum, this is a well-written, entertaining, and twisty book, with several solid mysteries, and a good combination of a gripping plot and interesting characters you’ll want to get to know better. I have another one of Casey’s books on my list, and I’m already looking forward to reading it.

I thank NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for providing me with an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

Thanks to all of you for reading, remember to share it with anybody who might enjoy it, keep smiling and having fun.