What She Saw by Wendy Clarke

What She Saw by Wendy Clarke

EXCERPT: ‘Shall I go on with the story?’

Lisa looks at the clock on the wall. ‘We could extend the session by thirty minutes if you like. I think it’s important we talk about how it all ended, don’t you?’

My heart is beating a tattoo in my chest, but I know that I have to go on. The only problem is… which story to tell?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: She lied to her daughter to save her family.

Everyone knows Leona would do anything for her daughter Beth: she moved to Church Langdon to send Beth to the best school, worked hard to build a successful business to support them and found them the perfect little cottage to call home. Leona and Beth hike together, shop together, share their hopes and fears with one another. People say they’re more like best friends than mother and daughter.

It’s the relationship every mother dreams of.

But their closeness means that Beth struggles to make friends. Her mother has kept her sheltered from the world. She’s more reliant on her mother’s love. More vulnerable.

When Beth finds an envelope hidden under the floorboards of their home, the contents make her heart stop. Everything she thought she knew about her mother is a lie. And she realises there is no one she can turn to for help.

What if you’ve been protected from strangers your whole life, but the one person you can’t trust is the person closest to home?

MY THOUGHTS: I don’t really think that this synopsis at all accurate – there are a lot of inconsistencies with the actual circumstances as written in the book. But, putting that niggle aside, I mostly enjoyed this read. It drags a little in places, is sometimes a tad repetitive, occasionally a bit angst ridden, but overall it was interesting enough to keep me turning the (virtual) pages.

There was one point when the phrase “Move on people, there’s nothing to see here” was running through my mind…but I kept reading. There are no great surprises (well, not for me), but the idea was good, the writing style relaxed and easy to read, and yes, I would read more from this author.

Three very solid stars.

THE AUTHOR: Wendy Clarke has had over three hundred short stories published in national women’s magazines. With a degree in psychology, and intrigued with how the human mind can affect behaviour, it was inevitable she would eventually want to explore her darker side. What She Saw is her debut psychological thriller, published by Bookouture. Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2753052907

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Pray for the Girl by Joseph Souza

Pray for the Girl

EXCERPT: When I left New York City, I left with my suitcase filled with my best clothes (admittedly, not many), some personal stuff, a canvas roll of professional knives, and my ego in splinters. Heather was not exactly a happy camper when I gave my notice, which took effect immediately after saying ‘I quit.’ She was eight months pregnant at the time but looked ten, and most of her line cooks were junkies, or whack jobs. I felt bad about leaving like that. But shit happens in this business. I tried not to stare down at her pumpkin belly as I said the dreaded phrase. I tried not to dwell on the fact that her body would soon burst with life, something mine would never do. She was already short-staffed on the line, and the restaurant was packed to the gills night after night.

Heather was a victim of her own success. If I could have stayed and helped her until she found a replacement, I would have. But in the fragile state I’d descended into, I knew I wouldn’t last another minute in that place. Dropping the ball in that fashion was a terrible thing to do, and considered one of the worst offenses in our profession. But what choice did I have? When the inner demons awaken from their deep slumber, there’s not much one can do but let fate run its course.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Lucy Abbott never pictured herself coming back to Fawn Grove, Maine. Yet after serving time in Afghanistan, then years spent as a sous chef in New York, she’s realized her only hope of moving on from the past involves facing it again. But Fawn Grove, like Lucy herself, has changed.

Lucy’s sister, Wendy, is eager to help her adapt, almost stifling her with concern. At the local diner, Lucy is an exotic curiosity–much like the refugees who’ve arrived in recent years. When a fifteen-year-old Muslim girl is found murdered along the banks of the river, difficult memories of Lucy’s time overseas come flooding back and she feels an automatic connection. At first glance, the tragedy looks like an honor killing. But the more Lucy learns about her old hometown, the less certain that seems.

There is menace and hostility here, clothed in neighborly smiles and a veneer of comfort. And when another teen is found dead in a cornfield, his throat slit, Lucy–who knows something about hiding secrets–must confront a truth more brutal than she could have imagined, in the last place she expected it . . .

MY THOUGHTS: Wow! And I don’t often say this, but Wow! After d-n-fing a previous book by this author, he has taken me by surprise with Pray for the Girl. It is topical on more than one front, fast paced, and contains many surprises.

The author doesn’t give much away. Particularly during the first part of the book, he makes the reader work for every nugget of information, but it is worth it. There are few likeable characters in this book, and few, if any, are what they seem.

There are so many current issues woven into the storyline: the struggle and disintegration of small town life; the refugee crisis; racial intolerance; drug abuse; veteran health, and others that I won’t go into because to do so would give away valuable aspects of the plot. It is, amongst other things, a valuable social commentary.

This is a dark read but, despite the grim picture I may have painted, not a depressing one. It is a read that kept me turning pages long into the night, and continuing to read when I ought to have been packing for our upcoming move.

😊😊😊😊

THE AUTHOR: Joseph Souza’s award-winning short stories have been published in various literary journals throughout the country. Winner of the Andre Dubus Award for short fiction, he also won Honorable Mention for the Al Blanchard Award and the 2013 Maine Literary Award. His mystery, UNPAVED SURFACES, was published by Kindle Press in 2015 and was an Amazon bestseller. NEED TO FIND YOU, his crime thriller set in Portland, was the first novel to go direct-to-publish by Kindle Press. Visit josephsouza.net for more information about his work.

He lives near Portland, Maine with his wife and two children and enjoys running, cooking and playing golf when not writing.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Joseph Souza for providing me with a digital ARC of Pray for the Girl via Kensington Books and Netgalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2761812627

The Woman I Was Before by Kerry Fisher

The Woman I Was Before

EXCERPT: The shouting, the people crowding around my door, the cameras in my face, pushed into Daisy’s pram, grabbing at me as I walked out to the car, calling my name, Oskar’s name, the headlines – always Polish immigrant/Eastern European/immigrant family – even though I was born here and had never been to Poland, our family’s history, her family’s history, comments from ‘friends’ and ‘neighbors’, photographs of me buying a bottle of wine in Tesco (as if that was at all relevant) and, of course, the worst thing of all: her side of the story, vicious and raw as though our friendship had been nothing. When to me it had been everything, a mainstay of my whole life, since we met in primary school. I still missed her. Still felt that Becky-shaped gap in my life, where I took for granted that ability to bounce from one topic to the next without the need to fill in what went before. Still occasionally caught myself smiling at a memory much further back than 2000.

And now I’d had sex with someone who could, with a few keystrokes, a quick Google, and the tiniest amount of luck, find out stuff about me that he’d never want to know.

That I’d never want him to know.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A new home can be a happy ending. Or a fresh start. Or a hiding place…

Kate Jones is running away. She has left her old life behind, changing both her own name and her daughter’s. No-one must ever connect Kate with the mistake that destroyed her life.

Starting afresh on Parkview Road – a brand new street full of newly built houses – Kate looks at the other women on the street with envy. They seem to have it all: Gisela with her busy life, full house and successful children, Sally with her exciting spontaneous marriage, her glamorous holidays, her high-flying career. The pictures that Kate’s new friends post online confirm their seemingly perfect existence, whilst Kate hides from the world at all costs.

Until one day, everything changes. Kate is called to the scene of a devastating accident, which is about to test everything the women thought they knew about each other, and themselves.

MY THOUGHTS: What is it with us humans that feel the need to lie to ourselves and to others in an effort to convince ourselves that we have the perfect life, a life to be aspired to and envied, while all the time we are papering over the cracks and bunging up the holes. We devour other people’s lives on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, never for one moment doubting that what we see is the truth, while frantically posing pictures of our wonderful family lives, fabulous food, perfect homes, and exotic holidays to perpetuate the myth, to keep up.

Kerry Fisher uses this need to portray the perfect life, along with our capacity for guilt and the desire for secrecy (no one must ever know. . .) to great advantage in this engaging novel of secrets and unravelling lives. Duplicity, betrayal, secrets and lies abound. As does perseverance, loyalty and forgiveness.

Fisher’s characters are your neighbors, people you know; complex and reserved, outgoing and friendly, and every mix in between. But can Kate trust any of them?

If this book doesn’t make you reassess your priorities, I don’t know what will! An excellent read.

😍😍😍😍

THE AUTHOR: Kerry Fisher is an internationally bestselling author of six novels, including The Woman I Was Before, The Silent Wife and The Secret Child. She was born in Peterborough, studied French and Italian at the University of Bath and spent several years living in Spain, Italy and Corsica.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Woman I Was Before by Kerry Fisher for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2710274530

For a preview of The Woman I Was Before go to https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/…

Watching What I’m Reading. . .

It’s almost a month since I last did this post, for which I must apologize. A ‘comedy of errors’ conspired to give me an enforced break, and now we are moving house again so my posts may be a bit sporadic over the coming week or two.

Currently I am reading

Pray for the Girl

Lucy Abbott never pictured herself coming back to Fawn Grove, Maine. Yet after serving time in Afghanistan, then years spent as a sous chef in New York, she’s realized her only hope of moving on from the past involves facing it again. But Fawn Grove, like Lucy herself, has changed.

Lucy’s sister, Wendy, is eager to help her adapt, almost stifling her with concern. At the local diner, Lucy is an exotic curiosity–much like the refugees who’ve arrived in recent years. When a fifteen-year-old Muslim girl is found murdered along the banks of the river, difficult memories of Lucy’s time overseas come flooding back and she feels an automatic connection. At first glance, the tragedy looks like an honor killing. But the more Lucy learns about her old hometown, the less certain that seems.

There is menace and hostility here, clothed in neighborly smiles and a veneer of comfort. And when another teen is found dead in a cornfield, his throat slit, Lucy–who knows something about hiding secrets–must confront a truth more brutal than she could have imagined, in the last place she expected it . . .

and listening to

Valley of the Shadow (Cornish Mystery #3)

A cryptic message spurs Eleanor, Megan, and Nick Gresham on a frantic search for a refugee’s missing family, in The Valley of the Shadow, a Cornish Mystery from Carola Dunn.

While out on a walk, Eleanor Trewynn, her niece Megan, and her neighbor Nick spot a young, half-drowned Indian man floating in the water. Delirious and concussed, he utters a cryptic message about his family being trapped in a cave and his mother dying. The young man, unconscious and unable to help, is whisked away to a hospital while a desperate effort is mounted find the missing family in time.

The local police inspector presumes that they are refugees from East Africa, abandoned by the smugglers who brought them into England, so while the Cornwall countryside is being scoured for the family, Eleanor herself descends into a dangerous den of smugglers in a desperate search to find the man responsible while there is still time.

This week I am planning on reading:

What She Saw

She lied to her daughter to save her family.

Everyone knows Leona would do anything for her daughter Beth: she moved to Church Langdon to send Beth to the best school, worked hard to build a successful business to support them and found them the perfect little cottage to call home. Leona and Beth hike together, shop together, share their hopes and fears with one another. People say they’re more like best friends than mother and daughter.

It’s the relationship every mother dreams of.

But their closeness means that Beth struggles to make friends. Her mother has kept her sheltered from the world. She’s more reliant on her mother’s love. More vulnerable.

When Beth finds an envelope hidden under the floorboards of their home, the contents make her heart stop. Everything she thought she knew about her mother is a lie. And she realises there is no one she can turn to for help.

What if you’ve been protected from strangers your whole life, but the one person you can’t trust is the person closest to home? 

Last of the Magpies

The chilling conclusion to the #1 bestseller The Magpies.

Twelve months ago, Jamie Knight walked straight into Lucy Newton’s trap. Both Jamie and his ex-wife Kirsty barely survived. Now, with the police investigation into Lucy’s disappearance going nowhere, Jamie teams up with a true crime podcaster to track down his nemesis.

But can Jamie persuade Kirsty to help? Can Kirsty forgive him for his past mistakes? And who, if anyone, will survive the final showdown? Featuring extracts from Lucy’s secret memoir, Last of the Magpies brings the trilogy to a shocking conclusion.

Books I have been approved for since I last posted are:

Pretty Guilty Women

#taken (Max Wolfe, #6)

Those People

Sleep

No Way Out (DI Adam Fawley, #3)

Till Sudden Death Do Us Part (Ishmael Jones #7)

I don’t have a heavy reading load for May, which is probably a blessing, so maybe I can make inroads into some of my back titles. I am also way behind on writing my reviews because of being without my tablet for three weeks, so I need to catch up on those in between packing, moving and unpacking. It will be lovely to have our own home again rather than renting, and I am going to claim the spare bedroom that opens out onto the deck as my library/ office space.

Have a wonderful week my friends, and happy reading 💕📚

Run Away by Harlan Coben

Run Away

EXCERPT: … there was no beauty in the music. None.

Simon’s eyes stayed locked on the panhandling girl mangling John Lennon’s legacy. Her hair was matted clumps. Her cheekbones were sunken. The girl was rail thin, raggedy, dirty, damaged, homeless, lost.

She was also Simon’s daughter Paige.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, quite by chance, you see her busking in New York’s Central Park.

But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is wasted, frightened and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Where criminal gangs rule, where drugs are the main currency, and murder is commonplace.

Now it’s your life on the line. And nowhere and no one is safe.

MY THOUGHTS: I have a hit and miss relationship with Coben’s writing. When he’s good, he’s very, very good, but I thought Run Away was only a little better than average.

It started out well – a Dad on the lookout for his missing, drug addicted daughter who, it seems, is quite content with her life and has no desire to change. An exercise in futility and self punishment. But then it disintegrated into this unbelievable ‘action-thriller’ with guns and abductions that never quite rang true, and left me feeling disappointed. There was plenty of scope for mystery and suspense. It went unrealised, underdeveloped. I felt that he had sold out and taken the easy option.

Coben has written some great suspenseful novels. This is not one of them. But it will appeal to those who like a lot of action for the sake of action. It would probably make a better movie.

But there are glimpses of the perceptive Coben I love in this book, and I would like to share my two favorite quotes from Run Away with you: ‘Once one lie is let into the room, even for the best of reasons, a whole bunch more will ride in on its back. Then those lies will gang up and slaughter the truth. ‘; and ‘There are few moments of pure bliss in this life. Most of the time you don’t realize that you are having one of those moments until they are over. But that wasn’tthe case right now. Right now, as Simon sat with the woman he loved, he knew. And she knew. This was bliss. And it wouldn’t last.’

THE AUTHOR: With over 60 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last seven consecutive novels, MISSING YOU, SIX YEARS, STAY CLOSE, LIVE WIRE, CAUGHT, LONG LOST and HOLD TIGHT all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world. His books are published in 43 languages around the globe.

Coben is the winner of the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award – the first author to win all three – and he has received an eclectic variety of honors from all over the world. His novel TELL NO ONE has been turned into a hit French film of the same name. His essays and columns have appeared in many top publications.

Harlan was born in Newark, New Jersey. He still lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a pediatrician, and their four children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK Cornerstone via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Run Away by Harlan Coben for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2736315480

The Family Lie by Jake Cross

The Family Lie by Jake Cross


EXCERPT: The room is dark, but she can see that the patio door is halfway open, rain shooting in to soak the carpet, fast and loud, and that’s all she can see.
Because there’s no Nick, no Josie.
But she drags her eyes away from it. She stumbles across the room and peeks behind the floor to ceiling room divider, but she already knew that the dining room would be as black and lifeless as the rest of the house.
No Nick. No Josie.
Now she cannot avoid that patio door. She rushes outside, into the stinging rain, into the black. She calls their names, both of them, but of course there’s no answer. The world is black, and the rain distorts everything like a sheet of frosted glass, but she can clearly see that there’s …
No Nick. No Josie.
Beyond the high back hedge her eyes latch onto a fragment of street, and cars, and houses belonging to neighbours floating in tranquil dreams. She can see these things because the back gate is wide open, which means it’s as good as a sign. Big and bright and neon and undeniable: gone.
A light is on in a house across the garden and the street beyond, and she thinks she sees someone at the bedroom window, and then the pain in her throat makes her realize that she’s been screaming. She turns, meaning to get back, get to her phone, get the police, but she trips on the half-moon concrete step. one bracing hand thuds onto the step with a squelch, not a splash. And when her hand comes away, her skin is greasy, and the moonlight catches it, and she knows she’s looking at a palm coated in blood.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: You whispered goodnight to your daughter. You didn’t know that would be your last goodbye.

You wake up in the middle of the night.

Your five-year-old daughter is gone.

Your husband is nowhere to be seen.

Your family think he took her.

The police believe he’s guilty.

But he wouldn’t do that, would he?

He’s a loving father. A loving husband. Isn’t he?

MY THOUGHTS: I liked the premise of this book. It was the execution I found lacking.

The Family Lie is a dialogue driven book. It lacks atmosphere. At no time did I feel any suspense. In fact, several times I was on the point of abandoning this read, including at the 90% mark. The writing is often unwieldy and clumsy, e.g. (and this is by no means the worst example) ‘They composed themselves and walked downstairs, where Nick planned to use the phone in reception. The concierge smiled as they appeared, and asked no questions. And that was when it happened.
She put her fingers in his eyes, and while he was distracted the disk was snatched from his hand.’

I felt absolutely nothing for any of the characters except Miller (think ‘Vera’). So little is known about the snatched child, Josie, that she doesn’t seem at all real.

😕😕

Not a read that I will be recommending. I understand that reading is an entirely subjective experience and that, while this book wasn’t one I enjoyed, you may well love it. So if the excerpt piques your interest and you like the sound of the plot synopsis, please get a copy and read it.

THE AUTHOR: Also wrote The Choice.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Family Lie by Jake cross for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2753052329

Amazing Things Are Happening Here by Jacob M. Appel

Amazing Things Are Happening Here by Jacob M. Appel

EXCERPT: (from the short story Live Shells)The decades are creased into Donald’s face like the rings of a tree. He’s grown a beard, put on weight, sprouted hair from the cusps of his ears. I approach unseen in the shade of a coconut palm and listen to his speculations on the recent cold snap and the prospects for the upstate orange crop while Grandmama nods and smiles and clicks her knitting needles together as though she’s heard it all before. She was already an old woman when I married Donald and she can no longer tell the difference between strangers and long term acquaintances she’s since forgotten, so she hedges her bets, treating even the water-meter man and the Jehovah’s Witness proselytizers like kissing cousins. Donald is no exception. And me? I’m not sure how to proceed after twenty-one years, so I step into the afternoon sunlight, my jaw clenched to hold my composure, but at the very moment when Donald recognizes me, my eyes rivet to the double knot in the right sleeve of his shirt. I stare at the haunting spot where the limb should be, unable to avert my gaze, fully conscious that I’m behaving the perfect fool.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: “In his new short story collection, AMAZING THINGS ARE HAPPENING HERE, Jacob Appel renders our post 9/11 world through a variety of personalities, each narrating their unique and startling stories. Meet the shy high school student with a crush on a girl dying of leukemia, the mother whale who beaches to save her offspring, the search for the VA hospital’s lunatic who goes missing and never returns, and more. We are in the hands of a patient, master artist who watches the world unfolding around him, sees its protagonists’ inadvertent mistakes, and observes them endeavoring to reclaim their dignity. These stories lift us far above the realm of entertainment, and instead enrich and enliven the psyche’s oceanic heights and depths.”–Marilyn Krysl

MY THOUGHTS: What can I possibly say after Marilyn Krysl’s succinct and spot on observation except that Appel is an author who never disappoints, and that I read this wonderful collection in one sitting.

Appel is a master of human observation, and he conveys these observations into quirky and entertaining short stories that reflect our dreams and ambitions, our failings and frailties.

My favorite story in this collection is The Bigamist’s Accomplice, which I featured in my preview of this book on my webpage sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

THE AUTHOR: Jacob M. Appel’s first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Award in 2012. His short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize. He has published short fiction in more than two hundred literary journals including Agni, Conjunctions, Gettysburg Review, Southwest Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and West Branch. His work has been short listed for the O. Henry Award (2001), Best American Short Stories (2007, 2008), Best American Essays (2011, 2012), and received “special mention” for the Pushcart Prize in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2013.

Jacob holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown University, an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Columbia University, an M.S. in bioethics from the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College, an M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, an M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, an M.F.A. in playwriting from Queens College, an M.P.H. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He currently practices psychiatry in New York City.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Black Lawrence Press via Netgalley for providing me with a digital ARC of Amazing Things Are Happening Here by Jacob M. Appel for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2718398730