Book review: The Long Call


For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves –international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows– embarks on a gripping new series.
In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers.


“. . . he could hear the surf on the beach and the cry of a herring gull, the sound naturalists named the long call, the cry which always sounded to him like an inarticulate howl of pain.”

With these words Ann Cleeves sets the scene for her first book in the Two Rivers series. When I read these words I thought myself clever. I thought it was a clue to who the killer was. Silly me. I had duped myself. But these words do foreshadow what is to come. The characters in The Long Call have gone through indescribable pain. — The guilt over having caused the death of an innocent. Rejection and loss of family because of sexual orientation. The list goes on. — Yet in this world most hold their secrets dear. They are not always kept to hide shame or escape retribution. For some secrets represent freedom, independence, being grounded in your own truth. “He was so sympathetic that she was almost tempted to confide in him. To confess. But she’d grown up thinking that secrets were sometimes all she had, so she just shook her head.” “We all need secrets, just to keep sane, to feel that the world doesn’t own us.”

In the end I did not find myself drawn to the character of Matthew Venn as much as I thought I would. As a married gay police detective who grew up in a fundamental evangelicals sect Venn is a totally original character. I should have been intrigued. But I do not fault the book for this. I found Cleeves to be a skillful and insightful writer. Maybe I have an albatross tattooed on my neck. For the life of me I am struggling to focus. Reading is typically my outlet but in these times my anxiety is ramped up in high gear. A book that would normally take me 6 or 7 hours to read is now taking days. All in all, I would like to revisit Cleeves’s work after this crisis has passed.

Special thanks to Minotaur Books for access to this work.

About the Author

From her webpage: “Ann Cleeve’s books have been translated into twenty languages. She’s a bestseller in Scandinavia and Germany. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States. Raven Black was shortlisted for the Martin Beck award for best translated crime novel in Sweden in 2007. It has been adapted for radio in Germany – and in the UK where it was a Radio Times pick of the day when it was first broadcast Radio adaptations of Raven Black and White Nights have both been repeated. Ten series of Vera, the ITV adaptation starring Brenda Blethyn, have been shown in the UK and worldwide, and series eleven was due to begin filming in April 2020, although this has been delayed because of the coronavirus; there have also been five series of Shetland, based on the characters and settings of her Shetland novels, and another two have been confirmed.”

Corona Chronicles: Day 22

Being under quarantine can make it difficult to connect with people outside your home especially if you are enjoying loving up on your family. But I found that it is still important for me to reach out to the other readers. Although overwhelming at first, some aspects of virtual life have proven to be easier to navigate than I thought. Let’s not talk about BlackBoard and Connect right now. I still have a steep learning curve there but never fear –help is on the way. (If only McGraw Hill had capes for their tech support.) But I digress. Back to the books. This week I have found my sanity in the virtual book world. Purchase links for all books mentioned can be found below.

Here are some of the awesome events I have “attended”:

My VLF Virtual Literary Festival

MyVLF is a free online literary event space. It is more than just your everyday book club. Here readers get to explore small presses, attend genre specific festivals and chat live with authors. This past week I had the chance to watch a live interview with Maggie O’Farrell author of Hamnet. Listed on the 2020 Women’s Prize Longlist, this is the story of Shakespeare’s marriage, his wife Agnes and the loss of their son. It has been speculated that this tragedy is the inspiration for Hamlet, one of the Bard’s most famous plays. After seeing this interview with Maggie O’Farrell I am even more motivated to read this book. Release date in the US is July 21, 2020. But those of you who are anxious like me can purchase your copy now through Book Depository.

Bethlehem Area Public Library

Online Reading

BAPL patrons were giving the opportunity to meet acclaimed author Stephanie Powell Watts from the comfort of their couch. Ms. Watts was open and friendly with the audience. She talked about what inspires her stories and characters and described her writing process. In light of most of us living under self imposed quarantine Ms. Watts read stories about what it means to be home from her short story collection No One is Coming to Save Us. Moderated by librarian Kate Racculia, the question and answer session that followed the reading was upbeat and engaging.

In addition to book readings Bethlehem Area Public Library is offering online ESL and language study groups, exercise classes and writing workshops. Check with your local library to see what virtual activities are on their event calendar.

Reading With Family

It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan

From the Blurb: After a sudden change of plans, a remarkable woman and her loyal group of friends try to figure out what she’s going to do with the rest of her life—from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale.

My sisters and I are reading It’s Not All Downhill From Here together and discussing it over the phone. It’s a shame it took something like the Covid 19 to get us to do a Buddy Read but so glad that we can connect in this way.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

From the blurb: A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success.

During the quarantine I have been having my teenage son choose a book to read each week. Each Friday at dinner we discuss the book and go over what he liked about it and what insights he has gained. What he especially liked about Piecing Me Together was that it taught him an aspect of history (Lewis and Clark expedition) from a perspective he never considered before. He learned that sometimes you have to be open give things a chance lest you miss out on an amazing opportunity.

Where to Purchase

Review: The Lost Book of Adana Moreau


In 1929 in New Orleans, a Dominican immigrant named Adana Moreau writes a science fiction novel. The novel earns rave reviews, and Adana begins a sequel. Then she falls gravely ill. Just before she dies, she destroys the only copy of the manuscript.

Decades later in Chicago, Saul Drower is cleaning out his dead grandfather’s home when he discovers a mysterious manuscript written by none other than Adana Moreau. With the help of his friend Javier, Saul tracks down an address for Adana’s son in New Orleans, but as Hurricane Katrina strikes they must head to the storm-ravaged city for answers.

What results is a brilliantly layered masterpiece–an ode to home, storytelling and the possibility of parallel worlds.


When I first picked up this book I thought it was going to be about an adventure where a young man searches for his grandmother’s missing book. Surely when it opened up with The Last Black Pirate of the New World and love across parallel universes I thought I knew which direction this book was going. I was captivated by the story line and mesmerized by Zapata’s writing. But I was oh so wrong.

This is not just a book about a book. It is not a mere journey for a long lost treasure. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau looks at our response to disaster. Hurricane Katrina. The Russian Revolution. The US Occupation of the Dominican Republic. The Great Depression.
Moreover, the book examines displacement from different angles. Displacement of people from a natural disaster. Displacement by imperialism. Displacement from religious persecution. How do nations respond to catastrophe and how does this affect the everyday man.

What Zapata has effectively done here in The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by drawing these men together on this quest is unite exiles across time and space. The exiled are people of different hues, religions, cultures experiencing the same types of loss, displacement and yearning. Although history has taught us that the victors get to tell the story Zapata reminds us that literature holds “the memories of the memories of the memories.” Here in lies the voice of the people.

Special thanks to NetGalley, Hanover Square Press and Michael Zapata for access to this wonderful work.

About the Author

Michael Zapata is the author of The Lost Book of Adana Moreau. He is a founding editor of the award-winning MAKE Literary Magazine. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction; the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program award; and a Pushcart Nomination. As an educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing drop out students. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has lived in New Orleans, Italy, and Ecuador. He currently lives in Chicago with his family.

Corona Chronicles: Day 21

With all of the uncertainty and confusion that this virus has stirred up I feel as if I need to reset my internal clock and revamp my life. This pandemic is teaching me a lot of things not only about the world and the people in it but about my home, my family and myself.

Lesson #1: As a parent with school age children it is not my job to be their teacher. I am their mother. My role is to be their comfort and their guide. My hovering was only causing all of us more anxiety for all of us and as a result we were getting less accomplished.


Lesson #2: I work best with a clearly defined structure in place and so do my children. I have since implemented a family planner. This outlines when my daughter will be doing each of her learning modules and coordinates Zoom and WebEx meetings so we are not all talking over each other.


Lesson #3: Everyone needs help. Most people are willing to extend a helping hand if only I am humble enough to ask for their support.

Lesson #4: Downtime is important too. All work and no play makes Jack a crazy boy. So far I think our Pandora Remix Outbreak Dance Off was the best mental health break we’ve had.

Lesson #5: My mother used to always follow me around saying K.I.S.S. for Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s only 40 years later and I am finally getting it Mom. Not everything is going to be perfect especially since we are scrambling to get these classes up and running in such a short amount of time. Where usually I would spend 3 hours revamping each and every lesson plan for a new semester we just don’t have that kind of time.

Lesson #6: Collaboration is KEY. My children’s teachers and I are a team. We all have the same end goal in mind and want the best for our students.

Lesson #7: My colleagues are freaking AWESOME! During this time we’ve been networking and pooling our resources. Everyone is working so hard to give our students everything they need to get through this crisis.

Lesson #8: My husband is still a big kid at heart. His comedic efforts have helped to lighten my mood even if they are a distraction from getting work done.

Lesson #9: Self Care is essential. Both Geralyn and I felt better after completing our 3 hr+ long hair care routines. Even though no one else was going to see us we could still see the beauty in ourselves and admire each other.

Photo Credit : Pierre Jean-Louis, Artist

Lesson #10: Sometimes clothes do make the woman. Although it’s easier to loaf around in sweats and comfy slippers I feel more confident and more competent when I am fully dressed to “go to work”. So I’m not burning my bras yet.

Photo Credit: Creative Soul Photography, Atlanta GA


Blog Tour: Foul is Fair


Hannah Capin’s Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

“Vicious and beautifully brutal, Foul is Fair gives a sword to every girl who has ever been a victim and makes them a warrior. This book is pulls no punches and will make anyone think twice before uttering the phrase ‘just a girl’. An unapologetic feminist battle-cry that leaves you breathless and thirsting for vengeance.”Sonia Hartl, author of Have a Little Faith in Me


Foul is Fair is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s MacBeth.  The title derives from a quote in the play where the three witches chant “Foul is fair and fair is foul.” to indicate what is bad for others works quite well for them.  For the most part Capin capitalizes on the saying’s other meaning  that appearances may be deceiving – where golden boys are tarnished and revenge may just be the equivalent of justice. 

While reading this book I couldn’t help thinking of this English class I took in college called The Revenge Theory.   We read books like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Hamlet.  We watched The War of the Roses and both versions of Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close.  What stuck with me most was the idea that the avenger must be careful to not let their emotions rule them lest they themselves be destroyed.  Swimming in my head as I read this book were Confucious’ warning – “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, first dig two graves.” and the adage “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”   I kept waiting for the axe to fall; part of me expecting Jade to suffer for her vengefulness, the other part of me hoping that the boys got their just desserts. 

I recognize that revenge and justice are typically polar opposites.  Revenge is driven by anger.  Justice is meted out with considerable thought.  Revenge is often a cycle where violence begets more violence.  Justice brings closure.  But Foul is Fair had me asking or perhaps wanting for them to be the same thing.  I was hoping that Jade could keep her stuff together long enough to think rationally and execute her plan.   When Elle was raped her attackers did not even own their guilt.  To them she was not a person but only a means to their gratification.  In their eyes they were not responsible for her pain.   They were assured and confident because they were used to wielding the power and dominating the landscape.  Their wealth had always granted them a shield of invincibility.  They thought they were untouchable. 

Throughout the novel Capin plays on the “foul is fair” motif asking the reader to dig deeper to derive from the symbolism in the text.  In numerology the number 7 stands for perfection and realization.  In Foul is Fair there are seven perpetrators, seven intended victims of Jade’s wrath.  People whose life path number is seven are said to not take things at face value.  Instead they search for understanding to get at the truth.

Metaphors with animals are used to describe the characters and reveal their true natures.  The boys are likened to wolves as they rove and hunt in packs and to denote their cruelty.  The second string girls are called birds.  They flock and flitter and fly off at the flick of a wrist.  This is to emphasize their social stature within the school.  Birds are also used as a bad omen as they perch in Oleander trees. 

Although many of the characters names have direct counterparts in Shakespeare’s MacBeth a few of the names serve as banners for their personalities.  Lilia for the flower Lily as she comes off as pretty, fragile and delicate.  Connor is the conman that nobody really trusts.  Piper is a common bird.  The female sandpiper is polyandrous – she mates with several males during breeding season.  I’m not sure whether this is a hint to Piper’s commonality, an allusion to the fact that she will never be Queen or a nod to her unfaithfulness to Lilia, that she cannot be trusted.  Another interesting factoid about female spotted sandpipers is that it is the female that lays claim to and defends nesting grounds.  Within her couple Piper certainly had the stronger backbone and had no problem marking her territory.  Jade, the color, represents envy.  Her green eyes serve as mirror to reflect the jealousy in the hearts of the boys as they each covet Duncan’s position.  Jade, the gem, symbolizes balance or in this case the scales of justice.

I really enjoyed reading Foul is Fair.  The symbolism gave me a lot to think about.  Even though this is a retelling you do not have to read MacBeth to appreciate this book.  The book may be purchased from Wednesday Books or your local bookstore. 

Meet the Author

Hannah Capin is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia.

Author Website:

Author’s Twitter/Instagram: @tldaaollf

The God Game by Danny Tobey

The God Game was so much more than I thought it would be when I read the synopsis. This was a very fast paced Sci-Fi fantasy. The structure of the book reminded of James Patterson. Short 3-6 page chapters ending with a cliff hanger ratcheting up the tension and compelling you to keep reading. This does not mean the The God Game is strictly plot focused. The story speaks to who we are as a society, our morality and our over reliance on computers. We naively give access to our homes and private lives through our phones, computers and companion apps. Socially we are led to put our entire lives on display – our moral code dictated by hive mentality, governed by “likes” issued from a crowd of people we will never meet in real life.

Danny Tobey is a medical doctor, patent lawyer, software entrepreneur and noted expert on Artificial Intelligence. The God Game is his first novel.

Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending me this ARC.

The Girls With No Names by Serena Burdick

The Girls with No Names takes the reader back to a time where women were still fighting to be heard. The Women’s Suffrage movement was just starting to make headway. But women were still beholden to the patriarchal standards of society. If a woman did not conform, rebelled or acted “inappropriately” she could be sent away to a sanitorium. One of these houses for wayward women was the House of Mercy on 86th St and 5th Ave. in Manhattan. Its public aim was to rescue women from vice but in actuality it was a Magdalene laundry. The women were not redeemed from their sin, but imprisoned and exploited for free labor.

House of Mercy, Inwood NY circa 1910

Effie and Luella are inseparable. Effie, born with a heart defect, has spent her life under her mother’s watchful eye and her older sister’s shadow. Luella is strong, spirited and outspoken. One day the two sisters are drawn to a field by beautiful flute music. The bonds that they form with the Romani camped here threaten their idle existence. Ignorance and bigotry cause Luella to run away. Believing that her sister was sent to the House of Mercy for her defiance, Luella hatches a plan to have her returned home. It’s a rather simple plan – get admitted to House of Mercy herself and her parents will have to come and rescue them both. The only problem is Luella isn’t at House of Mercy and no one knows that Effie is there.

Of the three perspectives that this story was told: Effie, her mother Jeanne and House of Mercy girl Mable, I enjoyed Effie’s the most. Her innocence was beguiling and I was really drawn to her character. The other women’s narrative meshed nicely with hers and fit in the missing puzzle pieces to her story.

The Girls with No Names is Serena Burdick’s second novel. Her debut, Girl in the Afternoon, won the 2017 International Book Award for Historical Fiction

My only problem with the book was the repeated use of the word gypsy. I found myself cringing every time the word appeared on the page. Because I felt compelled to hear Effie’s story and I recognized that Burdick was not disparaging the Romani people but exposing their detractors, I mentally went about scratching out the word g***y and replacing it with Romani. Although Burdick explains her use of the word in the Afterword, I am not sure if I were a member of the Romani if this explanation would slide with me. I can tell you that when I have seen racial slurs for African-Americans in literature I get highly offended.

Special thanks to NetGalley, Justine Sha at Harlequin/Park Row Publishers and Serena Burdick for advanced access to this book.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

“Beauty is one of the ways in which you might understand justice. Beauty allows you to see fairness. Beauty brings your attention close to a subject that is not you.” Zadie Smith on Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just

This critically acclaimed novel deals with racism, classism, the patriarchy and elitism in academia. Loosely based on Howards EndOn Beauty pays homage to one of her favorite authors, E. M. Forster. Although there are parallels between the two novels, Smith’s aim was more so to emulate Forster’s style of writing. In an interview with Thalia Book Club, Smith said that what she admired most about Forster was how he did not pick sides in an argument. In On Beauty the opposite sides of the coin are represented by the Kipps and Belsey families.

Monty Kipps and Howard Belsey arch nemeses. Revered in their field, their rivalry is protracted and well known. The Kipps are an affluent West Indian family living in Britain. They are deeply religious. Their political viewpoints are ultra-conservative and right wing. The Belseys are an interracial couple who are left leaning and decidedly atheist. Howard comes from a fairly modest background. He knows what it means to go without. A “pull yourself up from the bootstraps” type of guy, he is the first in his family to get a college degree.

Smith is very descriptive in painting well developed pictures of this dichotomy. And yes, she manages to remain impartial, exposing both sides as morally flawed.

Although Smith incorporates the aesthetic as a measure of beauty with cultural references to music, art and the physical form, her emphasis is on character. The world that she paints is not black and white but a kaleidoscope of colors.

Maitresse Erzulie by Hector Hyppolite circa 1945-48

One painting mentioned in the novel that spoke to me was that of the Maitresse Erzulie. The Haitian spirit of beauty, Erzulie may take the form of a woman or a man. Their character is a two-edged sword. On one hand they are representative of love, goodwill and fortune. On the other they bring about jealousy, vengeance and discord. The warning here is clear: we cannot be so binary in our thinking. The world is not a collection of opposites but is populated by people who are both good and evil. Our focus therefore should not be on harboring grudges based off of our differences, but be on cultivating that goodness that is within each of us.

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

“Everyone lies. To themselves, to each other. It’s a way to belong, to be included. To look important.”

Yes everyone lies, even Goode girls. The Goode School is an elite boarding school for the daughters of the nation’s scions. Its students are challenged to a rigorous curriculum and promised early entry into the country’s most prestigious universities.

Originally a home for wayward girls, The Goode School was where the displaced would be reinvented, entering back into society as independent and influencial women. What is expected of a Goode girl? Academic excellence, decorum and above all absolute honesty. Despite these aims The Goode School’s history has been marred with tragedy.

Told from both past and present perspectives, Good Girls Lie is full of intrigue. A remote town, secret societies, ghost stories, illicit love affairs, dysfunctional families come together to serve up the recipe for this page-turning mystery.

J.T. Ellison is the best selling author of more than 20 novels. Her books have been translated into 16 different languages. When she is not writing she enjoys cuddling with her husband and two cats.

Special thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin Mira and J.T. Ellison for access to this book.

Saudade by Suneeta Peres da Costa

“Love is a fire that burns unseen, a wound that aches yet isn’t felt . . . a longing for nothing but to long, a lonlieness in the midst of people, a never feeling pleased when pleased, a passion that gains when lost in thought” _ Camoes

Saudade is a feeling of melancholy brought on by the sense of absence and a longing to return to what was lost and can never be regained.

This sense of yearning ripples throughout this novella as a young Goan emigre struggles to find her self and her place during the Angolan Civil War. A daughter of Portuguese sympathizers she comes to realize that their existence, albeit of a privileged class, is that of outsiders. Yet they no more belong in Goa than they do in Angola. She does not recall her ancestral home and her parents cannot fathom how to return to a “life they have forgotten”. Peres da Costa eloquently captures this feeling of displacement across characters and experiences. Saudade is applied not only to the immigrant experience but to intimacy and coming of age.

Suneeta Peres da Costa (born 1976) is an award-winning Australian author and playwright, best known for her tragicomic novel, Homework, about a dysfunctional Goan migrant family set in suburban Sydney. Peres da Costa was twenty-three years-old when the novel was published internationally.” Saudade is her third novel.