Monthly Archives: May 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Gail Honeyman has just published a gem of a debut novel:   Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine.  This unique story and its characters will linger with you long after you turn the last page.  Before I tell you that Eleanor’s life to date has been one of profound loneliness, I ask you to imagine a few other fictional characters:  Ove, Doc Martin, Bernadette, Sherlock.  There is an endearing charm amid their quirks, as you will find as you get to know Eleanor.  Plus, much of her running interior monologue is spot on hilarious.

Eleanor works as a bookkeeper in a Glasgow office, dresses practically (black Velcro work shoes, hasn’t cut her hair since she was 13, no make up…), and has no real friends or family.  Her face is scarred from a fire.  A bit of an outcast, Eleanor flies under the radar, aims to be unnoticed, but sadly, is the butt of many an office joke or snide comment.  She misses most social cues, says most of what pops into her head, and yet keeps a talented wit about her– a true challenge given her solitary circumstances and memories of her difficult childhood (her mom is a real peach).  When she and a coworker, Raymond, help a man hit by a car, they develop a friendship that is honest, touching, charming and redemptive.

From the Guardian:  Given the number of books about dementia, memory loss and other mental health issues, it is surprising that it has taken profound loneliness this long to take centre stage. It is, after all, by many accounts one of the great scourges of our age, when everyone is meant to be having the most amazing time eating avocados with their friends on Instagram.


Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is soon to be a movie produced by Reece Witherspoon…but read the book first!



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Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao

Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao

Ruby Proulx and her widowed father travel with medicine shows in the early 1900s.  Mr. Proulx touts “healing” remedies and often loses his profits through bad investments or even worse life choices; Ruby reads tarot cards.  Unfortunately, the two are always on the run, changing their identities and locations to outrun the last bad deal.  When Mr. Proulx invests everything they have in “The Invigorizor” and kills the young man they try this contraption on, father and daughter separate and escape.  Ruby heads to her aunt’s hotel in the newly developing Old Orchard Beach and Pier. Aunt Honoria’s hotel caters to “Spiritualists” and Ruby’s skills as a card reader can be immediately put to profitable use.  She even tries to replace the medium who just left.  When a guest at the hotel turns up dead on the beach, the townspeople become suspicious of who Ruby really might be.  Can Ruby outrun her past? Can she help her aunt and establish a life where she can stay for awhile?

I’ve definitely been enjoying this historical fiction mystery genre lately, and was drawn to a story set in Old Orchard Beach.  There is just something about Old Orchard Beach…a few years ago, we had a very full outdoorsy summer, hiking, camping and spending many an afternoon and evening on Maine’s Beaches, from Old Orchard to Acadia.  At the end of the summer, we were remembering our favorites, and one high point was a super hot day we spent on a crowded beach near the Pier, with a powerful ocean and undertow limiting us to wading amongst throngs of hot vacationers, sandy fingers reaching for Pier Fries on one hand and fending off sea gulls with the other, and a steady stream of interesting people to watch.  It was by no means my idea of an iconic Maine beach day, but there was something very satisfying and entertaining about it!

In Whispers Beyond the Veil, the setting is ultimately just a back drop; we could easily be at the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore, but I liked being someplace in Maine.  While Esteveo lives in New Hampshire, she summers on the coast of Maine, and it is easy to believe she knows the Pier and the beach well.  The first half of the book is a get to know the main characters and the setting; I think future books in this series will pick up more quickly.

The other element that caught my attention was the Spiritualist aspect of the story. It felt a little Fantasy Islandish as I was reading so I began to do a little research to learn more about Spiritualists at the turn of the 20th century.   I also leaned a bit about Spiritualists…TODAY!  There are camps and churches and communities all over Maine, and Old Orchard still has its share of mediums.

Below, a couple of pictures of the Pier and Old Orchard Beach circa the time this novel takes place:

photo from

photo from

All in all, Whispers Beyond the Veil was a fun read.  Ruby seems like a character I will want to continue to know, so I look forward to the September 2017 publication of Whispers of Warning, the next offering in the Change of Fortune Mystery Series.


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A Front Page Affair: A Kitty Weeks Mystery by Radha Vatsal

book cover of  A Front Page Affair

Hello historical fiction/gentle mystery with a strong female heroine fans!  I’ve just discovered the first book in what I’m told will be a new mystery series, originally published in the winter of 2016.  A Front Page Affair is set in the early 1900s just after the sinking of the Lusitania and as the United States sits on the brink of World War I.

Kitty Weeks lives with her widowed father in New York City.  Though she easily belongs with other 20 something society girls, she shies away from that life to take a job writing for the Ladies Page of the Sentinel.  Kitty aims to become a journalist and cover news that matters more, but the only jobs open to women in 1915 were on the Ladies Page. On assignment at a fete, she comes upon a murder, and can’t help but try to solve it.  Mix in some suspicion about her father’s business dealings prompted by visits from the Secret Service, and the emerging Woman’s Suffrage Movement, and you have a novel.

Yes, she sounds a little like my childhood fave:  Nancy Drew.  I recently saw an article on the Book Riot blog claiming Nancy can’t be modernized successfully; she only works in her era. The charm of A Front Page Affair is how well Kitty works in her era, and how easy it is to believe her setting and plot.  The ending may be a tiny bit predictable, or at least not much of a surprise, but the getting there is divine.  I look forward to the next time Kitty Weeks graces the pages of the book in my hands!

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The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

                             THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is a best-selling novelist from London, with thirteen books to her name.  I recently discovered her with the help of a colleague.  She has a new novel out, but while waiting for it, and itching for another thriller, I gave The Girls in the Garden a try.  The “garden” is in the center of a housing complex in London.  Families live in flats that surround a three acre park, rose garden and play ground.  Children grow up together, generation after generation, spending time as a “pack” in the park.  They are in and out of each other’s homes and parents don’t seem to worry about where they are until dark. We meet a few families:  Clare and her two girls, Grace and Pip, who recently moved in after Clare’s husband suffered a mental breakdown and burned down their house; Adele and Leo and their three home schooled children, plus Leo’s father Gordon;  Dylan, Tyler, Rhea, Mike… a good cast of characters.

The novel itself is a whodunit.  The “what done” is that Grace, age thirteen, has been attacked and left in the park.  Found by her twelve-year-old sister Pip, she is rushed to the hospital and remains in a coma.  The first half of the book is “before” and we get to know our suspects and guess at the who and why of this crime.  The second half is “after” and leads up to the reveal.  Turns out there are plenty of suspicious characters in this idyllic commune, all of whom seem capable of this atrocity, so, which one will it be…

Have you watched Broadchurch, the BBC police procedural?  There are two eight episode seasons out and a third on the way.  The Girls in the Garden has the same feel to it, and a similar group of people with potential for crime.  I enjoyed it and recommend it to readers who like a good page turner!

                            I FOUND YOU by Lisa Jewell

Now for Lisa Jewell’s newest release:  I Found You.  Here is a PAGE TURNER!

Alice:  a veritable woman at the well with three children from three different fathers, three dogs, a messy house and an art studio.  She discovers a man on the beach sitting in the rain with no memory of who he is or how he ended up on her stretch of beach. Handsome and intriguing you say?  Alice does and decides to give him a name (Frank), a place to say (her guest shed in the back yard) and some dry clothes (from her exes).  She feeds him and tries to help him regain his memory.

Lily: a 21-year-old newly wed from Kiev whose older husband Carl has disappeared.  The police don’t believe Lily when she says he is a missing person.  Lily searches for him with the help of one of Carl’s drinking buddies, Russ.

Kirsty and Gray:  Two teenage siblings on vacation with their parents 20 years earlier meet a charming or smarmy–depending on where you are in the book– guy named Mark.  Mark is staying with his aunt for the summer on her estate and quickly takes a shine to Kirsty.  His shine becomes a bit of an obsession.

You know from the beginning that these characters are all interconnected, but how? Things pick up steam as the book progresses.  I was sorry to have 20 pages left late at night and not be able to stay awake to finish…but it was a highly satisfying early morning finale.  My take:  even better than The Girls in  the Garden.

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Brighton Belle (A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery) by Sara Sheridan

Brighton Belle

Sara Sheridan is a UK author and journalist, reporting for the BBC and blogging for the Guardian and the London Review of Books.  Her Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries have a loyal following “across the pond” and should garner a growing fan base here in the US if Brighton Belle tells me anything.

Described by the Sunday Herald as “one part Nancy Drew, two parts Jessica Fletcher, Mirabelle has a dogged tenacity to rival Poirot.”  They had me at Nancy Drew!  Set in the 1950s in the beautiful beach town of Brighton, Mirabelle is moving on with her post-war life.  No longer in Intelligence, her married lover dead, she works at a debt collections agency for Big Ben McGuigan.  While Big Ben is supposedly home with a bad cold, Mirabelle takes a little initiative and follows up on a new loan for Romana Laszlo, a Hungarian refugee, only to find herself stepping into a more complicated case, with murder, intrigue, danger…all the makings of a juicy mystery.

A visit to Sara Sheridan’s homepage, and I discover the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries began as a short story Sheridan was writing for her father’s birthday.  The six books written so far are part of an 11 book series, taking place between 1951-1961.  Good news:  they are to be made into a television series.  (Mirabelle reminds me a little of Miss Fischer, but has her own different personality and style.)  Sheridan researched this post World War II era and the roles women played to provide us with authentic details and characterizations.  She also writes historical fiction and contemporary fiction, and her offerings in those genres look equally delicious.  Brighton Belle was not hard to find with our wonderful Inter Library Loan system, but Sheridan’s other books are a little trickier to get my hands on.   I never give up when a potential good read is at stake!

Brighton Belle was a pleasure read, satisfying this reader from start to finish.  For those readers who also enjoy Susan Elia MacNeal, Jacqueline Winspear, Rhys Bowen, give Sara Sheridan’s Mirabelle Bevan a try.


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