Today, I’m happy to bring you a review of the newest book by Emilie Richards, The Swallow’s Nest. For the most part, I really enjoyed this book, but I’ll explain why it only received four stars down below.
When Lilia Swallow’s husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes.
Toby is Graham’s darkest secret, his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for, precious gift becomes a life-changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief change her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby’s father.
A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.
I really enjoyed the first half of this book. The story moved along at a decent pace, the characters were great, it was a delightful read. However, I only gave this book four stars because I felt the second half of the book was just way too long. I felt like it could have been about a third of the length it was and we still would have gotten all the pertinent information.
Our characters are all very strong-willed women. One of them doesn’t seem as strong-willed, but she finds her way and finds her backbone along the way. I enjoyed the interactions between the women and between the men in their lives for the most part. I’m not big on conflict, so of course those pieces weren’t so fun, but strong-willed women make some of the best characters in the world because they know what they want and they go for it with no punches pulled and no holds barred.
The setting descriptions were enough that I was able to imagine the places where the story took place and weren’t too overdone. I’m not always easy to please in this area, so it was nice to see these done well.
As I said above, the pace in the first half of the book was great. We moved along steadily and yet we weren’t moving along so fast that we missed important details. However, I really felt like the second half of the book dragged on and on. I felt that the second half could’ve been cut down to even a third of its original size and we still would have had enough details about the custody struggle.
The overall writing style is good. The prose flows well from section to section, chapter to chapter. I still recommend this book for those who like to read women’s fiction. Perhaps your view on the second half of the book will vary from mine!
Today I’m happy to be presenting a review of The Convenient Cadaver, the first book in the Grandma Bertha Solving Murders series by Matt Ferraz. This was a delightful read and I’m glad that Matt contacted me and asked me if I would read and review it!
When Grandma Bertha moved to her son’s place, she brought along three dogs, several cases of beer and many, many horror film DVDs. While her daughter-in-law insists on the idea of sending Grandma Bertha to a retirement home, a dead girl appears near the house, shot three times in the back. Many years ago, Grandma Bertha let a murderer escape for not trusting in her own detective abilities. Now, armed with her wit and wisdom, she decides to solve that crime before the police. Could this crazy dog lady be a threat to a cold-blooded killer? And for how long can the family stand that situation?
This was an absolutely delightful read! While it lacked that little extra pizzazz I like to bump it up to a 5-star read, it’s a very strong 4.5-star read!
I’m already completely in love with Grandma Bertha as a character. She’s smart, witty, a huge smart ass, and funny. The more we learn about her and her past, the more I love her. The rest of the characters in the book were well-developed. I do not like Lydia. I tried and tried to put myself in her shoes, but I just couldn’t do it. However, I also think that to a point, we’re not supposed to like her and Mr. Ferraz makes her difficult and demanding and easy not to like so I’d say that’s a success!
The plot line moves along at a decent pace. I never felt that it was too slow. While I successfully guessed part of the ending, there was part that was also a surprise to me. I don’t want to give it away tho’ so I’m not going to say anymore about that.
The setting descriptions were great. A great balance of just enough that I could imagine things easily and not too much.
I think what I loved most about this book was not just the mystery, which was interesting, but the fact that Grandma Bertha just is who she is. She doesn’t hide her true form. She’s just herself even tho’ that makes Lydia and Todd frustrated with her. She’s not afraid to be her own person. Since that’s something I struggle with from time to time, it really resonated with me in this story.
I highly recommend this new cozy mystery and series. I’m excitedly awaiting the second book in the series!
Interview with Matt Ferraz
1) Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
I teach English to Brazilian kids in my hometown, and have plans to become a university lecturer. I actually took a masters in the UK, but have to validate it on Brazil to be able to pursue my academic career. But I like what I’m doing now, it’s more interesting than sitting in an office filling paperwork.
2) Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Setting an aim is important to me, and I always do that, no matter what I’m writing. The Convenient Cadaver was written on a rush, because I was on the UK taking my masters and couldn’t afford flying home during the holidays. So I just wrote like crazy, always following a schedule. It works well for me.
Music doesn’t bother me that much, but I hate people chatting around me when I’m writing. I think it’s less because of the distraction, and more for knowing that they don’t respect my work enough to be quiet when I’m working, or at least go talk somewhere else.
3) Do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
A bit of both. When I start a book, I still don’t know the characters well enough to know how they are going to turn out. Some authors write profiles of their characters before they even start writing the book – I could never do that! It’d be like writing a symphony on the sheets without actually listening to its sound. What I do is I write about fifteen thousand words and only then start to outline. By then I know what I want to do with each character.
4) How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Fun fact: I got traditionally published in the UK and in Italy, but never in my home country Brazil. The closer I got was a publishing house that took two years to read my manuscript and then asked for 14.000 reais (around 4.300 dollars) out of my pocket to publish it!
My novel Killing Dr. Watson was released in 2016 by MX Publishing, an amazing British company that only deals with Sherlock Holmes-related books. Since my novel was built around Holmes fandom, they took me and did a great job with my book. While in the UK, I took a workshop about Amazon self-pubilshing and decided to try that with The Convenient Cadaver.
Thoughts of quitting? Not really. Writing is too deep inside me, and I couldn’t live without it. Sometimes I wish I was an engineer or an attorney so I could make more money than I do today, but I’d still be writing.
5) In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
I revise the first draft about three times before giving it to my best beta reader: my fiancée Alana. Then I need to have it edited and proofread – which is crucial, for I’m writing in a second tongue. I have a wonderful editor, Makenzi Crouch, who does that for me.
6) A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
How to answer this without spoiling the ending? Let’s say I don’t like villains who do bad stuff just because they’re evil. My villains are people who have qualities, but that are put in a situation where they have to do evil things.
7) Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Grandma Bertha is actually a composition of my two grandmothers and my friend Silvia. From my Grandma Edite, I took the whole situation of having an older relative living in one’s house, and how that can be difficult but also nice and funny. The tender relationship between Grandma Bertha and her grandson is taken from me and my Grandma Eva. And from Silvia, who sadly passed away before she could read the book, I took the part of an old lady who loves beer, dogs and horror movies.
8) If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
My dissertation was about the life of a Russian painter named Elizabeth Shoumatoff, who escaped Russia during the February Revolution and became a painter for hire in the United States. She did the final portrait of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – he had a stroke posing for her and died shortly after! I have a ton of material on Elizabeth, and hope to write a book on her one day.
9) What are some great books you’ve read recently?
I’ve been reading a lot of Agatha Christie this year, specially the Miss Marple novels. The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side and The Moving Finger are my favorites. I also read Colm Toibin’s amazing novel Brooklyn, which became a great movie with the talented Saoirse Ronan.
10) What books have influenced your life the most?
Stephen King’s books have always been very important to me. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I’d be a writer today. Books like IT and Four Seasons made me realize that being a writer was not only a possibility, but a beautiful thing to aspire. Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile was also a landmark for me – the first novel for grown-ups I ever read. And we had a series of books in Brazil named Coleção Vagalume (Firefly Collection) which I devoured when I was a kid. They had everything, from adventure to sci-fi, mystery and even political thriller for young teens!
11) If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d like to spend some time with Lydia, Grandma Bertha’s daughter in law, sit down with her and listen to what she had to say. My readers usually think Lydia is a pain, but I think she’s going through a lot of pressure and could use a friend.
12) Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
I read them very quickly, and usually just once. It’s enough for me to see something that needs to be improved on the next one, and also what I have done right so far.
13) Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
Not really hobbies, but I do have a ton of obsessions. They come and go. I do have a collection of porcelain penguins, if that counts.
14) Do you like to travel? What has been your favorite location so far?
I’ve never been much of a traveler, but I did some trips while I was living in the UK. The coolest place I’ve ever been, by far, was Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town, where I went to watch Hamlet on the stage. That was a blast! I had plans to visit the locations where the Miss Marple films with Margaret Rutherford were shot, but that didn’t work out. But now that I’m back in Brazil, there’s no shortage of beautiful places to go!