Suspicious Minds by David Mark

EXCERPT: It didn’t matter that this was where his last real lover had died.

It was their place now.

Theirs

She saw a tartan blanket, a thermos of tea; triangular sandwiches packed in opaque Tupperware, all plucked from a wicker hamper. She’d visualized him, leaning against the old beech tree, both arms around her like lengths of tarred rope, telling her the names of the plants and plucking stray twigs and silvery catkins from her hair. She saw herself barefoot; dirty-kneed in a ragamuffin dress, a tartan shawl pinned with a sprig of holly. Fantasy, of course, but one of her best…

‘Sweet chestnut,’ he’d said, slapping a random tree trunk. ‘This one’s ash. The brambles have bound their branches. They’re holding hands, look. And up there; that bracket of mushrooms – they can cure sore throats. Taste OK too. Nice in a stir-fry. They tend to explode if you let the fat get too hot, but I like a meal that offers an element of danger . . . ‘

Come back, Liz. Liz! Oh for God’s sake . . . Betsy!’

The words come from within her: a chorus of voices, each gasping as if running out of air. She registers pain, suddenly. Pain and loss and fear.

ABOUT ‘SUSPICIOUS MINDS’: Liz Zahavi is desperate. Desperate for her controlling partner, Jay, to stay with her, to actually love her. Desperate to be well again, after a recent diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Desperate to be understood.

Private therapy seems like the answer to her prayers, but Liz doesn’t even make it to her first appointment. Lost in a maze of country roads, she crashes her car, only to be rescued by a brooding local farmer . . . who just keeps on rescuing her. Attractive and intense, Jude is a dream, and Liz doesn’t want to wake up.

But four years ago, Jude’s perfect, pretty wife died alone in the woods near their house. And as Jude’s past boils into the present, threatening to destroy their new happiness, Liz begins to wonder what exactly her new man is capable of . . . and how far he’s willing to go.

MY THOUGHTS: David Mark’s writing style is both raw and brutal, and almost poetic. He certainly has a way with words and an innate ability to draw the reader into the scene he has created. His characters are larger than life – they seem to explode from the page and wedge themselves firmly into the reader’s mind.

Liz Zahavi, legally Elizabeth, but Betsy in her heart, has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a disorder of mood and how a person interacts with others. It is characterized by emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking, impulsive behaviour and the tendency to form intense but unstable relationships. Her partner, Jay, is controlling, domineering, almost OCD. Liz, not Betsy, thinks that if she ran past him in flames, his major concern would be that the curtains didn’t catch alight. He threatens her, often, telling her that no one else would put up with her,that she cannot survive without him. He erodes her confidence, stamps out any small spark of independence. But she has a good relationship with his young daughter Anya, who sees her as a free spirit, a welcome antidote to her rigid, work obsessed parents. Her family is a nightmare. Her mother was abusive. Her sister thinks she is lucky to have Jay to look after her.

Lost and alone she meets Jude, who rescues her from an encounter with Campion, local landowner, bully and worse. I thought of Hitler. And then he just keeps on rescuing her, dismissing her concerns about her BPD, saying that he loves the fire in her, that it should never be dampened or extinguished. And Betsy (not Liz, though Liz will come to visit from time to time) senses something timeless in Jude. He is nurturing and gentle, but there is a sense of darkness and violence lurking beneath.

Suspicious Minds is a book that crosses a lot of boundaries. There is a fair bit of darkness and violence in this story. But it is not gratuitous. It fits. It is a story of greed and dominance, of people who use violence and threats as a means to an end, interwoven with a beautiful story of two lost people finding themselves and each other. It is also tempered with a dry wit that had me snorting with laughter at times. I was impressed and will be seeking out other books this author has written.

Oh, and just for the record, the cover doesn’t do this book justice.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#SuspiciousMinds #NetGalley

‘She finds herself furious that she smell of freshly baked scones cannot be trapped in an aerosol and sold as a room deodoriser.’

‘Don’t overthink it. Don’t analyse it to death. Don’t deconstruct it, because it might not fit back together again.’

‘Long before social media, the world was full of wankers.’

THE AUTHOR: David Mark spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post—walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels. He lives in Yorkshire, England.

DISCLOSURE Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Suspicious Minds for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage

The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

EXCERPT: I closed my eyes and tried to pretend I was in Nantucket.

The house we’d rented every year there had a widow’s walk – a square porch on the roof, where the wives of sea captains were supposed to have watched for their husband’s ships. At night, we’d hear creaks and moans. Once I thought I heard footsteps pacing the widow’s walk. You could feel the ghosts in that house, scaring you in the best way.

If there were any ghosts in this one, they weren’t moaning about husbands lost at sea but slamming doors over modern, trivial matters, such as not being allowed to go water skiing.

ABOUT ‘THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING’: Generous-hearted and wickedly insightful, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing maps the progress of Jane Rosenal as she sets out on a personal and spirited expedition through the perilous terrain of sex, love, and relationships as well as the treacherous waters of the workplace. With an unforgettable comic touch, Bank skillfully teases out issues of the heart, puts a new spin on the mating dance, and captures in perfect pitch what it’s like to be a young woman coming of age in America today.

MY THOUGHTS: I was actually looking for something else when I came across this, stuck behind some other books on my shelf. I remember reading this not long after it was first published, somewhere around 2000, twenty years ago now, so I thought that I would give it a reread and see how it has stood the test of time. And I am delighted to say that it has stood up well.

Now I am not a chic lit lover. But I needed something light and easy to read, something where I wasn’t going to have to remember 93 characters and their relationships with one another, where I wasn’t going to have to remember a complicated plotline with numerous twists. The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing ticks all those boxes.

The chapters are all separate stories, so it’s a good book for picking up and putting down again. Although I have to admit to reading it over a twenty four hour period, stretched out on the sofa watching the rain beating against the windows and catching a few zzzzzzzs every now and then.

I liked Jane’s character. There’s a lot more depth to her than your average Chic Lit heroine. She’s kind, funny, smart and sassy, even if she doesn’t always have much confidence in herself. And I like her relationship with her family. And despite the light hearted tone, the author does deal with some serious issues, and does so with empathy.

I had originally planned to read then discard this, but somewhere along the line, I changed my mind. It is now tucked back in its little hideyhole, ready for me to rediscover and hopefully enjoy again in a few more years.

And for what it’s worth, IMHO The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing leaves Bridget Jone’s Diary for dead.

⭐⭐⭐.7

THE AUTHOR: Melissa Bank (born in 1961 in Philadelphia) is an American author. She has published two books, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, a volume of short stories, and The Wonder Spot,” a novel, which have been translated into over thirty languages. Bank was the winner of the 1993 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton.

Bank was born in Philadelphia; her father, a neurologist, died of leukemia in his late 50s. Bank attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges,and has an MFA from Cornell University.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. I obtained it from the Gateway Book Exchange, Gosford, NSW, Australia, probably somewhere around 2001/2. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

My Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: . . . he centred himself over the telescope, and prepared to do a better job setting it in place.

Before he could, an image caught his eye: a white wall with a mantelpiece, and an abstract painting on the wall above it. It was captured in the eyepiece of the telescope, which was now pointing downward at the building across the street. Anthony’s eye had accidentally hovered at just the right distance above the eyepiece. The scene was in perfect focus.

Realizing he was looking through somebody else’s window, and uncomfortable with the idea, he moved to correct the angle of the scope quickly. Or, more accurately, he prepared to move. He gave his various limbs and their muscles a signal to move. But, before they could, something happened.

A figure streaked into the scene, clearly captured by Anthony’s new telescope.

It appeared to be a woman, though it all happened very fast. She was running. Scrambling. Her body was bent forward, as if to accelerate getting out of the way of something. Something behind her. Her head was bent slightly forward, her arms raised, hands hovering behind her head as if to protect it.

Then, just as quickly, a male hand and arm entered the view. It was a bare arm, save for the short sleeve of a white undershirt. It was noticeably hairy. In a disconnected and more or less inadvertent thought, it struck Anthony that he owned a very good telescope, because it could reveal hair on the arm of a man across the street.

The man’s hand grabbed the woman by her hair.

Anthony sucked in air with an audible gasp as he watched the woman’s head jerked backward. It was a breathtakingly violent gesture.

Then the woman disappeared from his view. Backward. Pulled back out of the scene. By her hair.

ABOUT ‘MY NAME IS ANTON’: It’s 1965, and life has taken a turn for eighteen-year-old Anton Addison-Rice. Nearly a year after his brother died in a tragic accident, Anton is still wounded—physically and emotionally. Alone for the holidays, he catches a glimpse of his neighbor Edith across the street one evening and realizes that she’s in danger.

Anton is determined to help Edith leave her abusive marriage. Frightened and fifteen years Anton’s senior, Edith is slow to trust. But when she needs a safe place to stay, she lets down her guard, and over the course of ten days an unlikely friendship grows. As Anton falls hopelessly and selflessly in love, Edith fears both her husband finding her and Anton getting hurt. She must disappear without telling anyone where she’s going—even Anton.

If keeping Edith safe means letting her go, Anton will say goodbye forever. Or so he believes. What would happen, though, if one day their paths should cross again?

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, so now I know what all the fuss is about. I read a book by this author a few months back, and it was okay, nothing special, and couldn’t really understand why everyone was raving about her writing. Now I do.

My Name is Anton is a deeply emotional read. Anton is grieving. In a short space of time he has lost his beloved grandfather, his brother and his right hand. Then into his life comes Edith. Anton couldn’t save his brother, but he can, he hopes, save her.

The story spans fifty-five years, starting in 1965 when Anton is eighteen, and Edith thirty-three. This is a story of great personal strength, of grief, love, loss, sacrifice, moral dilemmas and doing what is right. Not what is right for yourself, but what is right.

There is a wonderful mix of characters in this book. Anton’s grandmother Marion, and his Uncle Gregor, a psychiatrist, are towers of strength and fonts of wisdom. At the other end of the spectrum are Anton’s parents, Abel and Vera, who are horrible, self-obsessed people, more concerned with ‘what would people think!’ than about the welfare of their only surviving child.

Ryan-Hyde touches on a lot of subject matter – suicide, mental illness, alcoholism, domestic abuse, disability, child welfare and adoption – but weaves them all together seamlessly to produce a compelling narrative that I devoured in one sitting.

I will definitely be reading more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#MyNameisAnton #NetGalley

‘Looking directly at a painful truth hurts less than being stalked by it.’

THE AUTHOR: Catherine Ryan Hyde is an American author born in 1955. Hyde has found success both as a novelist and short story writer in the U.S and the U.K, winning numerous honors and awards in the process.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Welcome from a wet and windy New Zealand.

It’s meant to clear up a little later this afternoon, but I am wondering if it will be fine enough for the BBQ we had planned for this evening. At the moment it’s not looking promising. Fingers crossed I guess.

I am about to start reading Suspicious Minds by David Mark.

I am currently listening to Olive Again (Olive Kitteridge #2) by Elizabeth Strout.

This week I am planning on also reading Limelight by Graham Hurley

Actress Enora Andressen is catching up with her ex-neighbour, Evelyn Warlock, who’s recently retired to the comely East Devon seaside town of Budleigh Salterton. The peace, the friendship of strangers and the town’s prestigious literary festival . . . Evelyn loves them all.

Until the September evening when her French neighbour, Christianne Beaucarne, disappears. Enora has met this woman. The two of them have bonded. But what Enora discovers over the anguished months to come will put sleepy Budleigh Salterton on the front page of every newspaper in the land . . .

I will also, hopefully, catch up on another back title from my Netgalley list. I will pick it at random.

Only two ARCs this week from Netgalley:

Single Mother by Samantha Hayes

And Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan

I seem to be going through one of those patches where everything I request goes onto my wishlist. Is anyone else having this problem? Mind you, it could be as a result of my geographical location.

I really can’t believe that we are in December in a couple of days time! Other than Luke’s gifts, I tend to pick up bits and pieces throughout the year, I have absolutely nothing organised. I hope that you are all better organized than I am!

I am looking forward to spending some time with Luke later this week. I am having him for the day Friday. We will have morning tea with his granny and grandma, who I haven’t caught up with since early this year, and then we have his daycare Christmas party in the afternoon.

Have a wonderful week everyone. Stay safe and read on!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

EXCERPT: For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy. Retired now, he still wakes early and remembers how mornings used to be his favourite, as though the world were his secret, tires rumbling softly beneath him and the light emerging through the early fog, the brief sight of the bay off to his right, then the pines, tall and slender, and almost always he rode with the window partly open because he loved the smell of the pines and the heavy salt air, and in the winter he loved the smell of the cold. (Taken from the short story ‘Pharmacy’)

ABOUT “OLIVE KITTERIDGE’: At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

MY THOUGHTS: I love this collection of character studies of Olive herself, her family, friends and acquaintances. If you think about where you live and the people you know, you will recognise many of the traits and personalities of Strout’s characters. It may even help you to understand them a little better. Kitteridge has chronicled the small but important incidents in their lives, incidents that often precipitate a turning point, but remain unrecognised as such.

Olive herself is not always likeable. She can be brusque and harsh in her judgements, yet she can also be kind, generous and understanding. She is a ‘smother mother,’ which she vehemently denies, and one of my favourite scenes occurs after her son’s wedding when she overhears her new daughter-in-law criticising the dress she was so proud of. She exacts her own revenge on her hapless and to be short-lived daughter-in-law.

The stories themselves are short and deceptively quiet. There are no great revelations, very few dramas. This is about people coping with their lot, their day to day lives, their decisions or lack of them. Strout takes a dissecting knife to our familiar world and places slivers of it under the microscope. We won’t always like what we see, but she has produced a startlingly honest portrait of the people of a small town.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Strout is a US-American novelist and author. She is widely known for her works in literary fiction and her descriptive characterization. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Olive Kitteridge in 2009.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Olive Kitteridge, written by Elizabeth Strout, narrated by Kimberly Farr, and published by Random House Audio via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Survivors by Jane Harper

EXCERPT: She was lying on her side, lengthways along the beach with her back to the sea. Her arms were limp and her face was pressed against the sand. The careful highlights in her hair were dull and matted. Her baby-doll eyes were closed.

Kieran had a sudden flash of her, so different from this. Running through the spray after Audrey’s hat, looking out at the sea and laughing in frustration.

ABOUT ‘THE SURVIVORS’: Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away.

MY THOUGHTS: Small town dramas – love them! Evelyn Bay – Tasmania, population 900, give or take. To the north is mainland Australia, invisible, but there. And far to the south, Antarctica. A rugged and wild landscape not dissimilar to the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, from what I understand.

But home is home, and Kieran returns with his family to help his mother pack up the house and move his father, suffering from dementia, into care. And when you’re home, you catch up with old friends. Old friends who know your history, your secrets. And there’s plenty of those in Evelyn Bay.

The story moves at small town pace. Unhurriedly, but rife with gossip, innuendo and suspicion. The past comes back to confuse the investigation into the death of a summer visitor to the town, an artist who funds her stay by waitressing at the local bar/diner. There are no shortage of suspects. Liam, who also works at the diner, and who gave Bronte a lift home from work the night she was killed. Brian, Kieran’s dad, who sometimes wanders at night, and did so that night in the vicinity of Bronte’s home, and who was also last known person to see Gabby Birch who had died in the storm all those years ago. And others. I thought I had the killer pegged. I was wrong. Very wrong. About both girls. The ending is unexpected but I loved it. I loved the moral dilemmas the author created, and the delicate but realistic way she portrayed the survivors guilt.

This is a slow reveal, a bit like peeling away the layers of an onion, but far more pleasant. Harper paints portraits with her words, both of the dramatic scenery and the people. My heart ached for Verity, coping with the loss of a son in the tragedy of the storm, his death brought about by the actions of his younger brother, who has moved to Sydney and rarely returns home, and the rapid deterioration of her husband into the clutches of dementia. And for Olivia, older sister of Gabby, home to care for her mother after a failed suicide attempt and increasingly bizarre behaviour.

This is a satisfying read, more than satisfying. I enjoyed my first book by this author and have ordered her back titles to read. I like her style.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheSurvivorsBook #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Jane Harper is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, Force of Nature, and The Lost Man. Jane previously worked as a print journalist in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her husband, daughter, and son.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Survivors by Jane Harper for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Living Ayurveda: Nourishing Body and Mind Through Seasonal Recipes, Rituals and Yoga by Claire Ragozzino

EXCERPT: The word for health in Ayurveda is svastha. You know those people who radiate joy and literally glow? There is a juicy aliveness about them that is palpable and magnetic. This is svastha embodied – people who are confidently established in themselves. Our health isn’t just the absence of disease; it’s a dynamic state of harmony between our physical body, our mind, our senses, and our soul. Ayurveda teaches us how to care for these four aspects by paying close attention to the ways our surrounding environments affect our state of health, and how to use right thinking, diet and lifestyle to maintain an inner equilibrium. This book seeks to empower you with knowledge and tools for becoming more firmly established in yourself, using food, breath, movement and meditation in harmony with nature’s rhythms.

ABOUT ‘LIVING AYURVEDA: ALIGNING BODY AND MIND THROUGH SEASONAL RECIPES, RITUALS AND YOGA- A hands-on holistic guide to self-care based on the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda–including how to build a daily personal practice for each season with nourishing food, cleansing breath, and yoga practice.

Nourishment comes in many forms–it’s the food you eat, how you breathe and move your body, and the way you establish your daily routine. Living Ayurveda weaves together the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and Yoga in a modern, accessible way to provide a season-by-season guide for living a vibrantly rich year. Part cookbook, part lifestyle manual, each chapter includes simple vegetarian recipes, seasonal rituals, and self-care practices to cultivate your inner wisdom and feed your body, mind, and spirit.

In this book, you’ll find:

– 90 delicious vegetarian recipes to balance the body and strengthen digestion through the seasons
– Illustrated pantry lists, menu guides, and cooking tips that demystify the process of building a balanced meal
– Yoga sequences and breathing techniques to help align with the energy of each season
– Seasonal rituals based on moon cycles to strengthen your intuition and develop a personal routine at home

Learn from ancient wisdom to know yourself intimately, be open to new discoveries, and see where this path takes you to allow a deeper wisdom to blossom in your life.

MY THOUGHTS: I started Ayurveda yoga classes earlier this year, and love it so, when I saw Living Ayurveda available, I had to have it. The yoga had improved my posture, given me better control of my breathing, and improved my sleep, and this book seemed like the next natural step forward.

Now, I am not going to claim to have read every single word. I have grazed, picking out bits here and there, skimming or skipping others, but feeling the positive benefits of what I have so far chosen to incorporate into my life. I am a firm believer in making small changes, and making sure each change is firmly entrenched before moving on to the next one. This method gives me far better results than trying to make several major changes all at once.

I have embraced the idea of living seasonally – it makes sense foodwise, but I had never entertained the concept of having different yoga poses for each season. I had, earlier this year, begun to make small changes to our diet, incorporating some vegetarian meals into our eating plan. I expected some opposition from my ‘meat and three veg’ truck driver husband and, initially, I was sneaking vegetarian meals in telling him that the tofu was chicken or cheese. I don’t need to do that any more. He is enjoying our new style of eating and often chooses vegetarian meals when I ask for his input for the menu for the week. We particularly the mushroom and lentil stuffed sweet potatoes, even though it’s a winter recipe, and summer is only days away here in the southern hemisphere. Other favourites of mine include the coconut chia breakfast bowl and the creamy coconut curry.

The photographs in this book are superb. Whether it be photos of the recipes, yoga poses or the beautiful calming and inspirational photos, they alone are worth buying this book for. And buy a copy I will. I want a permanent copy of this, a guide for making and maintaining positive change in my life.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#LivingAyurveda #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: CLAIRE RAGOZZINO is a certified yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner with a background in holistic nutrition and natural cooking. Her work is dedicated to bringing yoga, Ayurveda and nutrition to a modern lifestyle. She is the author of the popular blog, Vidya Living, and also writes and photographs for online and print publications surrounding topics of food, culture and our relationship to nature. Claire works with clients around the globe and leads immersive workshops and retreats. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Roost Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Living Ayurveda for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

EXCERPT: She rolls over and reaches out into the space where she was placed. Reaches for her instinctively: her baby.

Her hand hits air, and flaps redundantly.

She sits up in bed and looks around her, head jerking wildly in first one direction, then the other. Perhaps someone lifted the baby off the bed and put her in the moses basket. She squints over at the corner of the room, but where the moses basket sat before, there’s just a patch of grimy carpet.

ABOUT ‘HER SISTER’S CHILD’: She rolls over and reaches for her instinctively: her baby. Her hand hits air and flaps redundantly. She stumbles out of bed and switches on the light. But this only confirms it. The baby is gone. Someone has taken her.

Sixteen years ago, Lizzie Armitage woke to find her newborn baby gone. Just days later, Lizzie was dead.

Her sister Paula swore she would do everything she could to find the child. If she hadn’t promised to keep Lizzie’s pregnancy secret, maybe the baby wouldn’t have disappeared. And maybe Lizzie would still be alive. But, in nearly a decade, Paula’s never found any trace. Until now…

When Paula bumps into an old friend from the past, she realises she wasn’t the only one who knew about her sister’s child. Someone knows what happened that day. Someone knows where Lizzie’s baby went.

But can Paula find out the truth before another family is ripped apart?

MY THOUGHTS: I failed to become invested in Her Sister’s Child at all. I wanted to like it. I enjoyed the previous two books that I have read by this author. But this just didn’t work for me beyond being merely an okay read.

It is, in the beginning, a confusing read. The author is telling two stories over two timelines, but these aren’t clearly delineated, so you don’t actually realise that this is what is happening until some way through the book. Once this became apparent I knew. And I really only read on, skimming, to confirm that I was right. I was. It was really all a bit too obvious. Or maybe I just read too many of this type of book.

An average read from an author I expect better of.

⭐⭐.5

#HerSistersChild #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: I was born in the Cotswolds but spent most of my formative years abroad. I studied languages at Oxford, then became a journalist and author, returning to university after my two children to take a law degree. After a three-year stint as a criminal paralegal, I worked as a commercial copywriter and then a TV storyliner, before coming full circle to write fiction again.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Her Sister’s Child by Alison James for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon

EXCERPT: As I put the pictures back in the bag, I picked up the shreds of what I’d dismissed as blank scraps of paper that morning. Most of them were plain white, but I now noticed some had bits of printed letters on them, light gray and faded, made by one of those ancient dot-matrix printers I’d once seen in my school’s aging computer lab. I laid the pieces out on the desk and set to work, fitting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Despite missing a few parts, three words became clear enough to decipher.

TELL NO ONE.

ABOUT ‘HER SECRET SON’: When Josh’s longtime partner, Grace, dies in a tragic accident, he is left with a mess of grief—and full custody of her seven-year-old son, Logan. While not his biological father, Josh has been a dad to Logan in every way that counts, and with Grace gone, Logan needs him more than ever.

Wanting to do right by Logan, Josh begins the process of becoming his legal guardian—something that seems suddenly urgent, though Grace always brushed it off as an unnecessary formality. But now, as Josh struggles to find the paperwork associated with Logan’s birth, he begins to wonder whether there were more troubling reasons for Grace’s reluctance to make their family official.

As he digs deeper into the past of the woman he loved, Josh soon finds that there are many dark secrets to uncover, and that the truth about where Logan came from is much more sinister than he could have imagined…

MY THOUGHTS: ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.’ – Ray Charles

Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon is certainly an emotional page turner! How much bad luck can one man have? Well, like they say, ‘when it rains, it pours.’

Josh has made some bad decisions in his life, but just as he thinks that he’s finally got life sorted, found happiness, it’s ripped right out of his grasp again. Struggling to cope, he is determined to do his best by Logan, who he loves like his own. And he had promised Grace that if anything ever happened to her, he would look after him. He is determined not to let either Grace or Logan down. But this promise gets harder and harder to keep as Grace and Logan’s past is revealed to be layer after layer of lies.

I felt so sorry for Josh, and for Logan. Josh’s love for Logan simply radiates from the page as he battles with his own grief to give Logan a stable home. Ultimately he finds himself torn between doing the right thing by Logan, and doing the right thing.

Her Secret Son is a compelling page turner. I was heavily invested in the characters and the outcome. But then it all became overly dramatic, a bit like an episode of a soap opera (Dallas sprung to mind), with blazing guns and all. Although the ending was great entertaining reading, I thought it could have been handled with a bit more finesse, and I felt let down by it. The quality of the rest of the story deserved better. A good candidate for a TV drama.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#HerSecretSon #NetGalley

‘Moving never sorted out your issues. They sneaked inside your suitcases when you weren’t looking and jumped out when you arrived.’

‘I’d rather be a hermit with a stack of good books and a box of chocolates.’

THE AUTHOR: I was born in the UK and grew up in Switzerland. Unsurprisingly I love chocolate, mountains and cheese, and books, of course.

When I moved to Canada with my husband and three sons in 2010 I went through an (early) mid-life crisis. Maybe it was the failed attempt at a start-up company, but one morning I decided to follow my oldest passion; writing – and never wanted to look back.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon is due for publication 26.11.2020

Her by Garry Disher

EXCERPT: 1909 – out in that country

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by with his wife, who had cost him twelve shillings once upon a time, and a wispy girl, who had cost him ten.

The people of the hut heard them first, the clop two three four of hooves, the creature-in-torment shriek of an axle and a mad symphony of rocking and rattling. They froze. Then, from the scrub line, came a bony horse, a wagon hung with pots and pans, a dog panting along in the lurching shade and three faces, dusty and gaunt.

‘Whoa!’ said the man, spying the hut and hauling on the reins.

The dust settled over the clearing. The pots and pans fell silent on their hooks. The horse hung its head and the dog belly-flopped onto the dirt.

After a while a child appeared, wearing a flour-bag dress and slipping soundlessly from beneath a sulky parked broken-backed in a collar of grass. Other figures joined her, the odds and ends of a used-up family, materialising from the hut, a barn, a post-and-rail fence and the tricky corners of the mallee scrub. Count them: a mother, a father and eleven children, ranging from a baby on a hip to a boy whose voice had broken, all staring at the apparition.

ABOUT ‘HER’: Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

MY THOUGHTS: Dark. Unsettling. Heartbreaking.

We follow the unfortunate existence of ‘You’, a child sold into a life of slavery with the scrap man for the princely sum of nine shillings and sixpence. She becomes one of his possessions, his ‘assets’, along with Wife and Big Girl. She learns to read human character, not least that of Scrap Man, who is a lazy drunken wastrel, and abuser of women and children.

Her is not a pretty book. It is bleak, but beautifully written. It is a portrait of a time that I am glad I never had to live through. It is a time my grandparents lived through and sometimes spoke of, although their upbringing was somewhat easier than Hers. It is a time of making do, scratching a living, dressing in clothes made from flour sacks, and avoiding the authorities who might take a child away and put into care. For no matter how terrible life may be, it was better the known than the unknown. No school – she could not count, add, subtract, spell, read or write. She could pick pockets and act whatever role was required of her, and quietly rob a house while the Scrap Man kept the homeowner otherwise occupied.

If you have ever thought longingly of the past, this is the book to disabuse you of your romanticized notions. Just like now, vulnerable people were victimized, abused, and left powerless. The gap between the haves and the have nots was just as wide then as it is now. We are, with our constant communication, just far more aware of it today than it was possible to be then. Not that this ‘awareness’ has made any inroads into fixing the problem.

There are also certain parallels with today’s Covid crisis. The country’s population, already short of able-bodied men after the first world war, is then decimated by the Spanish Influenza. No more than five people in a shop. A five minute time limit to enjoy a beer in the pub. Social distancing, although that term had not then been coined. And, of course, the mandatory masks, made from whatever was at hand, a pillowcase, an old rag.

If Her teaches us anything, it is that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Her is a powerful book. I loved it. I hated it. It ripped my heart out, but still I came back for more.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Garry Disher was born in 1949 and grew up on his parents’ farm in South Australia.

He gained post graduate degrees from Adelaide and Melbourne Universities. In 1978 he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he wrote his first short story collection. He travelled widely overseas, before returning to Australia, where he taught creative writing, finally becoming a full time writer in 1988.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Her, by Garry Disher, published by Hachette Australia from the Waitomo District Library. I actually went to borrow ‘Hell to Pay’, the first in a trilogy of which I have the second and third books, but it was out on loan. This was the only of his books sitting on the shelf. I am so glad that I picked it up.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com