Bitter Orange

Bitter Orange
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

The Boy

The Boy
The Boy by Tami Hoag

Friday, February 22, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones- Feature and Review


A jumble of entries, written in different hands, different languages, and different times. They tell of a rumour. A shadow. A killer.

The only interest that Oxford Professor Charles Meredith has in the diaries is as a record of Hungarian folklore ... until he comes face to face with a myth.

For Hannah Wilde, the diaries are a survival guide that taught her the three rules she lives by: verify everyone, trust no one, and if in any doubt, run.

But Hannah knows that if her daughter is ever going to be safe, she will have to stop running and face the terror that has hunted her family for five generations.

And nothing in the diaries can prepare her for that.



The String DiariesThe String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones by a 2014 Mulholland publication.

The String Diaries is a complex supernatural thriller that spans several time periods starting in the 1800s, with a stop over in the 1970s, and ending in current times.

Hannah, her husband, and young daughter are on the run and in terrible danger. They are hiding out in a farm house, borrowing a little time before Jakab finds them.

Steeped in mythology and folklore, Hannah's family has done battle with Jakab for ages but can't shake him. Hannah is determined to stop him because she is desperate to save her daughter. But, Jakab is a wily nemesis because he is able to change shapes and embody the people close to you.

Whew! This is not the usual shape shifter story by any means. Jakab's abilities are the stuff that legends are made of. It's hard to believe this is even possible, which is why diaries have been passed down through generations and closely studied.

An angry Jakab curses Hannah's family because he feels betrayed by a woman that didn't wait long enough for him and married another man. Equal parts thriller, horror, suspense, and mystery make this a solid and unique novel.

The author did a fine job of taking us through the past all the way to the present for the ultimate good versus evil showdown. The character of Jakab was already a sociopath, and bitter, before he decided to make Hannah's family miserable for all eternity.

The suspense leading up to the climax was supercharged because we know Jakab is coming, we just don't know how he will make his grand entrance or what form he will use, and it will take a miracle for Hannah to survive, much less save her daughter.

Will she be able to break the curse or will Jakab emerge triumphant once again?



Stephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books. He's the author of The String Diaries, Written in the Blood and The Disciple.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller- Feature and Review


From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she's distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.

To Frances' surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.



Bitter OrangeBitter Orange by Claire Fuller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller is a 2018 Tin House Books publication.

This one may be an acquired taste for some, but I felt this one all the way down to my toes.

During 2018, I found myself reaching, more than ever before, for more comforting, light and easy, 'feel good' books to soothe my troubled soul. But I do still have a huge tendency to gravitate towards darker, troubling, moody or heavily laden novels, and especially love it when I pick up on a Gothic tone intertwined in there, as well.

This novel has all these elements, but also asks the reader to work a few things out on their own. So, while this book certainly stimulates the senses, it also gives the brain a little exercise, too.

As Frances lay on her death bed, she is often visited by an old friend, a vicar, who gently, but urgently, coaxes her into relaying back to him what really happened in the year 1969. This is the year Frances was hired to do research at Lyntons, a once grand estate in Hampshire, which now lies in ruins. Frances is staying on the estate with a couple named Peter and Cara, who are also doing research work.

I am obdurate and uncooperative, drifting on a sea of memory between islands of lucidity.

As the three of them settle in together, Frances, who has spent the bulk of her adult life caring for her mother, is suddenly overwhelmed by the prospect of being friends with the Cara and Peter. Cara is usually quite willing to regale Frances with stories of how she and Peter met, and the complicated route they took which eventually landed them at the dilapidated estate. She also shares with Frances the tragic events in her life which have left her feeling fragile and unstable. But her tales are often fantastical, and Peter tries to downplay her outlandish claims, leaving Frances unsure of who or what to believe.

But the world is a nicer place when you think everyone is telling the truth. There are no agendas, no hidden motives; no one lies for dramatic effect.

Right away I was drawn in by the beautiful prose, which sucked me right into the pages and held me there, as I listened to Frances’ tale unfold, tingling with both anticipation and dread. However, the story initially unfolds in frustratingly slow pace, and the book's structuring is occasionally jarring. Other than that, this atmospheric and thought- provoking novel held me completely spellbound.

I loved the metaphors and allegory, the history, the mild supernatural suggestions, and that shocking conclusion caps it all off, beautifully. The author did such an amazing job with creating vivid characterizations and that deliciously thick, but tantalizing atmosphere. Frances' clever narrative and detailed storytelling adeptly and successfully lured me willingly along to a wickedly stunning and unforeseeable outcome.



Claire Fuller is the author of Bitter Orange (2018), Swimming Lessons (2017), which was shortlisted for the Encore Prize for second novels, and Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) which won the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Boy by Tami Hoag- Feature and Review

                                                           ABOUT THE BOOK:

An unfathomable loss or an unthinkable crime? Number one New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag keeps you guessing in her most harrowing thriller yet.

A panic-stricken woman runs in the dead of night, battered and bloodied, desperate to find help. . . . 

When Detective Nick Fourcade enters the home of Genevieve Gauthier outside the sleepy town of Bayou Breaux, Louisiana, the bloody crime scene that awaits him is both the most brutal and the most confusing he's ever seen. Genevieve's seven-year-old son, P.J., has been murdered by an alleged intruder, yet Genevieve is alive and well, a witness inexplicably left behind to tell the tale. There is no evidence of forced entry, not a clue that points to a motive. Meanwhile, Nick's wife, Detective Annie Broussard, sits in the emergency room with the grieving Genevieve. A mother herself, Annie understands the emotional devastation this woman is going through, but as a detective she's troubled by a story that makes little sense. Who would murder a child and leave the only witness behind?

When the very next day P.J.'s sometimes babysitter, thirteen-year-old Nora Florette, is reported missing, the town is up in arms, fearing a maniac is preying on their children. With pressure mounting from a tough, no-nonsense new sheriff, the media, and the parents of Bayou Breaux, Nick and Annie dig deep into the dual mysteries. But sifting through Genevieve Gauthier's tangled web of lovers and sorting through a cast of local lowlifes brings more questions than answers. Is someone from Genevieve's past or present responsible for the death of her son? Is the missing teenager, Nora, a victim, or something worse? Then fingerprints at the scene change everything when they come back to a convicted criminal: Genevieve herself.

The spotlight falls heavily on the grieving mother who is both victim and accused. Could she have killed her own child to free herself of the burden of motherhood, or is the loss of her beloved boy pushing her to the edge of insanity? Could she have something to do with the disappearance of Nora Florette, or is the troubled teenager the key to the murder? How far will Nick and Annie have to go to uncover the dark truth of the boy?




The Boy (Broussard and Fourcade, #2)The Boy by Tami Hoag
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Boy by Tami Hoag is a 2018 Dutton publication.

Wow! This is one of Hoag’s best and I’ve read many of her books over the years!!

When a young single mother is the victim of a late night home invasion which leaves her hospitalized, and her young son dead, Broussard and Fourcade must tiptoe through the murky waters of law enforcement politics and worrisome circumstantial evidence to find the truth.

The hot and steamy Louisiana humidity is almost palpable as the restless tension between the married detectives, Annie Broussard and Nick Fourcade, ebbs and flows. But it is nothing like the tension between Nick and his new boss, who is keeping Nick on a tight leash, threatening to cut him loose at any moment.

However, it is this puzzling case that keeps the reader on the edge of their seats. The murder of a child sets the emotional tone right from the start. The child’s mother, Genevieve Gauthier, seems to have a sordid past, and has made a few questionable parenting decisions, including the selection of an unreliable teenage girl to babysit her son.

Seeking answers from the babysitter, the detectives become concerned when the girl hasn’t been seen in a few days. The investigation is also stymied by a lot of political wrangling and jockeying for position within the law enforcement arena. This combination of events kept me riveted to the pages, watching in horror as events spiraled completely out of control.

I love this detective team. Annie is more even tempered, but she’s also more emotional. However, her powers of observation are amazing. Nick, on the other hand, with his French vernacular and Cajun slang has a bit of a temper and he has a very hard time keeping it under control.

Although the couple is experiencing some tension in their relationship, they are a sexy couple, and I enjoy watching them interact. They also make a good detective team, even though they often clash and have a vastly different approach to their jobs.

There is another storyline in the book which is very heart wrenching, making this not only a great crime thriller, but also a very thought- provoking piece of fiction. The shades of gray, and the high pitch emotions had my heart up in my throat.

I’ve been a fan of this author for many years. Hoag writes very solid, atmospheric stories and really knows how to ramp up the suspense. She outdid herself with this one, I must say. I’d been waiting to read this one for a long time as the publication date kept getting pushed back and my review schedule prevented me from getting to it as quickly as I’d hoped. However, the wait was well worth it.

If you like tense, atmospheric thrillers, with complex characters and personalities, and mysteries that will keep you guessing to the bitter end, this one is for you. Plus, despite being ‘Team Annie’ for most of this story, that audacious, but very principled, Frenchman- Nick Fourcade, really grows on you.


Tami Hoag is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books published in more than thirty languages worldwide, including her latest thrillers—BITTER SEASONCOLD COLD HEART and THE 9TH GIRL. Renowned for combining thrilling plots with character-driven suspense, Hoag first hit the New York Times Bestseller list with NIGHT SINS, and each of her books since has been a bestseller. 

She leads a double life in Palm Beach County, Florida, where she is also known as a top competitive equestrian in the Olympic discipline of dressage. Other interests include the study of psychology, and mixed martial arts fighting. 

Visit her at and on Twitter @TamiHoag

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Potter's Daughter by Jackie Ladbury- Feature and Review


When Daniel Davenport saves Maddie Lockett and her young brother Tom from drowning, an immediate bond is forged between them.

But Daniel is an aspiring doctor and son of a wealthy manufacturer, whilst Maddie is a potter’s daughter from a poverty-stricken area of the Potteries. Even a friendship between the two could be frowned upon, let alone anything more

But Maddie and Daniel want more, and as they grow closer gossip and prejudice look set to spoil their blossoming romance. Do the young couple stand a chance when there are those who would stop at nothing to keep them apart?




The Potter's DaughterThe Potter's Daughter by Jackie Ladbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Potter’s Daughter by Jackie Ladbury is a 2019 Ruby Fiction publication.

Daniel and Maddie meet under the most stressful of circumstances, but despite that, they feel an instant connection. However, they come from completely different backgrounds which will test their resolve to make a life together.

Maddie lives in a community where most people work in the potteries, and the work conditions are dangerous and the air poisonous. Daniel on the other hand, is born into an affluent family and has set his heart on becoming a doctor.

The class distinctions make their friendship inadvisable, but the couple has more than friendship on their minds. This is a situation, which, despite their determination, could be doomed right from the start. With all manner of unexpected developments and twists, the couple could find themselves torn apart forever like two ships passing in the night.

This story reminds me of a few of the old school sagas I used to read back in the eighties. The couple falls hard and fast, but fate seems to intervene at every turn to keep them apart. They must endure heartbreak and much adversity before finding each other again. Is their love strong enough to endure the challenges they will face?

I always liked those historical dramas and although this story is much too short to be considered epic or a true saga, it does have an expanded time frame, with many roadblocks, twists and turns, and ups and downs, making the reader squirm with frustration, wondering if Daniel and Maddie would ever find a way to make a life together.

The author captures the hopelessness and poor living conditions surrounding the potteries and builds a story around that atmosphere, which is a long way from being a fairytale romance. Daniel, his friends, and his family, save for his sister, could try my patience, but Maddie is a character I found myself rooting for.

This is an absorbing story with a heavy emphasis on drama. The romance is one that begins as youthful passion, but, deepens into a love that spans time and conquers the manipulations of others, class differences, and various moral dilemmas that threaten to keep them apart.

Overall, this is not your typical historical romance or fictional story. That may be part of why I enjoyed it. This author shows some early talent and is one I think could develop quite nicely.



Jackie Ladbury writes heart-warming contemporary and historical women’s fiction that is always guaranteed a happy ever after. From spending many years as an air-stewardess and seeing that it really is love that makes the world go around, she determined to put the same sparkle and emotion into her stories. Her life is no longer as exotic (or chaotic) as it was in those heady days of flying as she now lives a quiet life in Hertfordshire with her family and two cats, spending her days making up stories and finding excuses not to go to the gym.
To find out more about Jackie Ladbury, check out these pages:

Monday, February 18, 2019

MONDAY'S MUSICAL MOMENTS: Josephine Baker's Last Dance by Sherry Jones- Feature and Review


From the author of The Jewel of Medina, a moving and insightful novel based on the life of legendary performer and activist Josephine Baker, perfect for fans of The Paris Wife and Hidden Figures.

Discover the fascinating and singular life story of Josephine Baker—actress, singer, dancer, Civil Rights activist, member of the French Resistance during WWII, and a woman dedicated to erasing prejudice and creating a more equitable world—in Josephine Baker’s Last Dance.

In this illuminating biographical novel, Sherry Jones brings to life Josephine's early years in servitude and poverty in America, her rise to fame as a showgirl in her famous banana skirt, her activism against discrimination, and her many loves and losses. From 1920s Paris to 1960s Washington, to her final, triumphant performance, one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century comes to stunning life on the page.

With intimate prose and comprehensive research, Sherry Jones brings this remarkable and compelling public figure into focus for the first time in a joyous celebration of a life lived in technicolor, a powerful woman who continues to inspire today.



Josephine Baker's Last DanceJosephine Baker's Last Dance by Sherry Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Josephine Baker's Last Dance by Sherry Jones is a 2018 Gallery Books publication.

I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, 'cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world ...

What a life!

I didn't know much about Josephine Baker. I remember watching a movie based on her life, many, many years ago, but I’d forgotten most of it, except for the children she had adopted. This book is a work of fiction, as well, but does offer the reader more than adequate insights into Josephine’s life, both professionally and personally.

It is hard not to feel impressed by Josephine’s bravery and fortitude. She survived things that would have broken the spirit of most people and kept right on living her life with gusto. Her childhood was horrific, but her adult life was utterly fascinating. She was bold, risqué, and multi-talented, and very funny.

This novel captures Josephine’s more interesting escapades in France and Germany and examines the culture-shock she experienced when she returned to the States where she struggled to adjust to the racial inequality in her own country. Her stage shows were racy, but nothing compared to her private life where she had numerous sexual partners and relationships of all stripes.

Josephine’s tenure as a spy for the French Resistance is quite intriguing. Her bravery is exceptional, as she faced fear head on, with aplomb, where, here again, I think many of us would have faltered. The brevity of this section, however, is a little disappointing. There are some sections that are rushed through and the book did end in an abrupt fashion, leaving out some key areas of Josephine’s later years. However, it is quite evident the author went all in on her research, and she does her best to capture the wild and undaunted spirit of the incomparable Josephine Baker.

Overall, this is an interesting look at an early trailblazer for black women in many different areas of life and entertainment. She is still an inspiration to so many people and performers even after all these years. I enjoyed looking some YouTube clips of Josephine while reading this book. She really could dance, but I think she really loved to sing more than anything else. Some of the clips are very grainy due to age, but still worth watching, and of course several clips captured her infamous eye crossings.

I recommend this book to everyone- especially fans of historical fiction and performance art.



Sherry Jones is an American journalist and internationally best selling author of the controversial "The Jewel of Medina" and other historical fiction novels about women's power. She is also a speaker on issues including women's rights, free speech, and Islamophobia.

Her forthcoming novel, JOSEPHINE BAKER'S LAST DANCE, features as its protagonist the 20th-century African-American entertainer Josephine Baker, who was born in the slums of St. Louis, made her fame on the Paris stage at 19, worked as a spy during WWII, and became an important civil rights activist in the United States. A comedian, nude dancer, chanteuse, opera diva, and film star, she was the highest-paid black performer in the world.

Friday, February 15, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Moloka'i by Alan Brennert - Feature and Review


This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.



Moloka'i (Moloka'i #1)Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert is a 2004 St. Martin’s Griffin publication. (I read the 2011 Kindle version.)

I know what you're thinking. ‘You haven’t read this book yet?’

Over the years, this book has been recommended to me on more than one occasion, but I just never felt an urgent pull towards it. So, here we are in 2019 and I am just now getting around to reading it.

Although, to be honest, it was the invitation to read the follow up to this book, that gave me the added incentive to work this one into my reading schedule. Now that I have read it, I understand the incredulity of my friends who couldn’t believe hadn't read it before now.

What an incredible story!

I must confess, I knew next to nothing about this period in history. Naturally, since it has a basis in fact, I had to do a little research on it. It is worth noting, that as far I know, there are still a handful of people living in Moloka'i, and will be free to remain there the rest of their lives if they wish, as they may not feel comfortable leaving for various reasons, including the disfiguring aspects of leprosy. Still the whole scenario boggles my mind.

Since so many people have read this book, I don’t suppose anyone needs me to give them a recap of the plot. However, my personal experience with this book was one of shock, sadness, and sympathy for those incarcerated after contracting leprosy.

At the same time, this is also a story of resilience, faith, and hope. Rachel is a character I will not forget anytime soon. Her strength and approach to her unrelenting series of disappointments and losses, is truly inspirational. She took the life she was handed and made the best of it.

Of course, the book also reminds us of how terrified the general public was of leprosy, something we tend to forget in modern times. Those afflicted were obviously stigmatized, feared, and cast out. The method of quarantine was humane, but still felt as though the victim was being punished, forcing an incarceration on them as though they had broken the law. Many years later, a combination of antibiotics effectively controlled the disease, allowing those diagnosed with it to live normal lives again. In more recent times, AIDS prompted the same sort of hysteria and reactions based on fear and bias. It was hard not to make those comparisons, while reading this book, which does help to put Rachel’s plight in context.

Although I did find the writing languid at times, requiring me to refocus a time or two, this story is beautiful, powerful, and has lingered with me for days now. I do regret waiting this long to read this lovely story, so I won’t make the same mistake with the follow up. I’m looking forward to reading Ruth’s story now more than ever.



Alan Brennert is the author of the historical novels Palisades ParkHonolulu (chosen one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post), and Moloka'i, which won the 2006 Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the Book Club Book of the Year (and has sold over 600,000 copies since publication). It was also a 2012 One Book, One San Diego selection. He has won an Emmy Award and a People's Choice Award for his work as a writer-producer on the television series L.A. Law, and his short story "Ma Qui" was honored with a Nebula Award. His new novel, Daughter of Moloka'i, will be published by St. Martin's Press on February 19, 2019. Follow him on Facebook at

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Rebel At Pennington By Rachel Brimble - Feature and Review


One woman's journey to find herself and help secure the vote. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridgeand The Paradise.

1911 Bath. Banished from her ancestral home, passionate suffrage campaigner, Esther Stanbury works as a window dresser in Pennington's Department Store. She has hopes and dreams for women's progression and will do anything to help secure the vote.
Owner of the prestigious Phoenix Hotel, Lawrence Culford has what most would view as a successful life. But Lawrence is harbouring shame, resentment and an anger that threatens his future happiness.
When Esther and Lawrence meet their mutual understanding of life's challenges unites them and they are drawn to the possibility of a life of love that neither thought existed.
With the Coronation of King-Emperor George V looming, the atmosphere in Bath is building to fever pitch, as is the suffragists' determination to secure the vote.
Will Esther's rebellious nature lead her to ruin or can they overcome their pasts and look to build a future together?


A Rebel at Pennington'sA Rebel at Pennington's by Rachel Brimble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Rebel at Pennington’s by Rachel Gamble is a 2019 Aria publication.

A compelling romance highlighting the adversity, and the hard choices women were often forced to endure while fighting for the right to vote. These sacrifices also meant making a choice between love and family and the cause they worked so passionately for.

Esther is forced out of her home and sent to live with her aunt after her father remarries and Esther’s women’s rights activism causes a rift. She dresses store windows for Pennington’s, an upscale shop, where she meets the wealthy and influential widower, Lawrence Culford. Lawrence is smitten by Esther and her spunky opinionated ways.

After a loveless marriage ends tragically, Lawrence is determined to marry for love, but a heavy family burden could prevent him from realizing his goal. At the same time, Esther is worried that marriage would prevent her full dedication to a cause that she feels she must fight for at all costs.
I really enjoyed this story, which lightly touches on many angles that activism can take, as well as creating realistic characters who face very real pressures and family dilemmas which are draining and painful.

There are characters we love to hate and characters we cheer for, which shows how great a job the author did with the characterizations. This makes the romance feel more authentic as well. It’s not just the sensuality and passion, but also true love which conquers all the obstacles in the way.

Overall, this is a terrific, well balanced story with a lovely happily ever after!



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In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

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