The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

EXCERPT: It had been a weird day at the Woodyard. Jonathan had come to find her in her studio with a tale of one of the day centre clients having gone missing. Although he was the boss, he called in sometimes, not to talk about work, but to drink coffee and look at her art.

‘Christine Shapland. Gentle soul. Down’s. Very quiet. A bit shy. She just seemed to disappear.’

‘Sorry. I haven’t seen her since last week.’ Gaby thought Jonathan had come to the studio to escape the panic in the rest of the building, to have a few moments of calm. He wouldn’t really expect her to have seen the woman recently. Gaby had nothing to do with the day centre, except for running an art class there once a week.

‘There seems to have been some kind of breakdown in communication. Her uncle thought her mother had picked her up and Susan, her mother, thought the uncle was doing it. Nobody’s seen her since yesterday.’ Jonathan had been standing by the window, the light catching one side of his face, turning the blond hair to silver thread. ‘It’s a bloody nightmare. Her uncle is Dennis Salter. He’s on the Board of Trustees and should have known better. He should have gone in for her, or at least looked out properly. It’ll be the Woodyard that gets the blame, though. The press will have a field day.’

He turned towards Gaby then and she thought she’d never seen him so tense, so fraught.

‘Why don’t you talk to Christopher Preece? He must be good at handling the media.’

‘Yeah, maybe.’ But Jonathan hadn’t seemed too sure. ‘I just want her found safe and well. This, on top of the murder of one of our volunteers, seems like a nightmare. I always thought of the Woodyard as a kind of a sanctuary. Not a place where terrible things happen to the people who belong here.’

ABOUT ‘THE LONG CALL’: In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too.

Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose.

A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew’s new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

MY THOUGHTS: I picked this book up for two reasons: I love Ann Cleeves writing; and as I have recently received a digital ARC for the second in this series, The Heron’s Cry, I wanted to read The Long Call first.

Matthew Venn is going to be a worthy addition to Ann Cleeves existing stable of detectives, Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez. Gay, a bit of a loner/misfit who lacks confidence in himself and feels awkward in company, a bit anal, he has an analytical mind, and is only too aware that his past experiences with some of the people involved in this investigation may colour his perceptions. Jonathan, Venn’s husband, is manager at the Woodyard, so should Venn even be investigating this case?

Jen Rafferty, who has demons of her own is dedicated and smart, and Ross, DCI Joe Oldham’s protege, and a bit of a fashionista with an inflated opinion of himself, make up Venn’s team.

The story, definitely not as dark as many of Cleeves works, moves at a steady pace, and is told from the points of view of Matthew, Jen, and the elderly Maurice Braddick who, along with Luce his daughter, are probably my two favourite characters.

The Long Call is very much a character driven murder mystery. The murder investigation is complicated by the abductions of two of the Woodyard’s other clients, one after the other. Are these abductions connected to the murder, or is something else going on in this tight knit community? It was a definite challenge to figure out whodunit and how, and I failed, miserably.

Thank you Ann Cleeves for a new series and another wonderful whodunit. I am looking forward to reading The Heron’s Cry.

# TheLongCall

I: #anncleeves @panmacmillan

T: @AnnCleeves @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs – child care officer, women’s refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard – before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.

While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person’s not heavily into birds – and Ann isn’t – there’s not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. A couple of these books are seriously dreadful.

In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed a copy of The Long Call written by Ann Cleeves and published by Macmillan, from Waitomo District Library. 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

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

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

EXCERPT: Edward Fosca was a murderer.

This was a fact. This wasn’t something Mariana knew just on an intellectual level, as an idea. Her body knew it. She felt it in her bones, along her blood, and deep within every cell.

Edward Fosca was guilty.

And yet – she couldn’t prove it, and might never prove it. This man, this monster, who had killed at least two people, might, in all likelihood, walk free.

He was so smug, so sure of himself. ‘He thinks he’s got away with it’, she thought. He thought he had won.

But he hadn’t. Not yet.

Mariana was determined to outsmart him. She had to.

She would sit up all night and remember everything that had happened. She would sit here in this small, dark room in Cambridge, and think, and work it out. She stared at the red bar of the electric heater on the wall, burning, glowing in the dark, willing herself into a kind of trance.

In her mind, she would go back to the very beginning and remember it all. Every single detail.

And she would catch him.

ABOUT ‘THE MAIDENS’: Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

MY THOUGHTS: Where to start? At the beginning seems to be the best place:

‘Tell me tales of thy first love –
April hopes, the fools of chance;
Till the graves begin to move,
And the dead begin to dance.’
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Vision of Sin

Love. It has a lot to answer for, or rather the deeds done in the name of love do.

Love is blind – and I am sure deaf and dumb at times too.

As they say, “nothing brings people together like a tragedy.” But in The Maidens, one tragedy piles on top of another.

Mariana has lost the love of her life, Sebastian, who drowned while they were on holiday in Naxos, a Greek Island where Mariana had grown up.

Zoe, Mariana’s niece, was orphaned following the death of her parents in an accident. Mariana and Sebastian raised Zoe, and now Zoe has also lost Sebastian.

Tara is Zoe’s friend and colleague at Cambridge. Now Tara is dead, brutally murdered. And Zoe reaches out to Mariana seeking solace.

Mariana, a psychotherapist, is still struggling to come to terms with her husband’s death, and is being stalked by one of her clients. Cambridge, where Zoe is studying, is also the place where Mariana and Sebastian first met.

Bittersweet memories and murder. Or murders. Tara will not be the last of the elite group of ‘Maidens’ to be murdered. And as in Romeo and Juliet, the emotions of love and hate are the lifeblood of The Maidens. Everything that happens seems to be caused by one, the other, or both, of these two forces.

This really is a classic murder-mystery. There is a little misdirection, and a few good fat red herrings. Agatha Christie with a good dollop of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Greek mythology thrown in. Which I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I mostly found it quite interesting.

There is a diverse cast of characters. I found Henry quite scary, Edward an enigma (a rather creepy one), and I really didn’t know what to make of Fred. Even the peripheral characters are interesting and have their own individual quirks. Between the characters, and Michaelides beautifully atmospheric settings, runs a thread of evil, of menace. The postcards are a great touch.

The plot moves on steadily, casting suspicion on multiple characters before reaching a crescendo where all is revealed. Now it seems that a lot of people were disappointed with the ending, but personally, I liked it. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, but it worked for me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheMaidens #NetGalley

I: @alex.michaelides #orionpublishing

T: @AlexMichaelides @orionbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #psychologicalthriller #serialkillerthriller #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He now lives in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orion Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 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

The Serial Killer’s Wife by Alice Hunter

EXCERPT: Tom – This isn’t the first time I’ve been in a police station, but it is the first time I have been interviewed in relation to a murder.

I clench my fists under the rectangular table. My wedding ring digs into the flesh of the neighbouring fingers. I will my hands to relax again, pulling my arms from beneath the table and resting them loosely in front of me. I’ll come across as less stressed if I do that. I close my eyes lightly, blocking out the dull yellow, windowless walls. The room is claustrophobic, airless, and that’s without other bodies in here. Why couldn’t they ask their questions in the comfort of my own home, for God’s sake?

‘Because it’s bad,’ the voice in my head answers.

‘Oh, God. What’s coming?’

My eyes spring open at the sound of the door.

I guess I’m about to find out.

MY THOUGHTS: The Serial Killer’s Wife is not bad, but it is rather ordinary. It is slow, particularly so in the first half. There are a few twists in the second half, but other than one OMG! moment, there was nothing that I didn’t see coming. And that was a problem for me. I kept waiting for some great unexpected revelation, some surprise, but it didn’t happen.

There is a distinct lack of suspense, always a problem for me, and I didn’t relate to the characters at all. There was no depth to any of them, and the dialogue was equally as shallow. The book’s publicity blurb isn’t entirely accurate either.

I liked the fact that there were three different people narrating this audiobook. However, their voices weren’t particularly expressive. At times they sounded like they were reading a telephone directory.

The whole book felt rather flat. The premise is wonderful and clever, but the author just didn’t pull it off. The Serial Killer’s Wife might have earned a whole three stars if it weren’t for that final chapter because, despite my comments, there was never a moment where I considered not finishing it. The final chapter was totally extraneous, and totally pointless. Sometimes less is more.

⭐⭐.5

#TheSerialKillersWife #NetGalley

I: @alicehunter_author #harpercollinsaudio #harpercollinsaudiobooks

T: @Alice_Hunter_1 @HarperCollinsUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #domesticdrama #psychologicalthriller #serialkillerthriller

THE AUTHOR: After completing a psychology degree, Alice Hunter became an interventions facilitator in a prison. There, she was part of a team offering rehabilitation programmes to men serving sentences for a wide range of offences, often working with prisoners who’d committed serious violent crimes. Previously, Alice had been a nurse, working in the NHS. She now puts her experiences to good use in fiction.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Serial Killer’s Wife written by Alice Hunter and narrated by Sarah Paul, James Mcnaughton, and Kristin Atherton. All opinions expressed in this review are 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 . . .

We have had a beautiful week of weather: cool but not actually cold nights, and gloriously sunny days with temperatures not quite reaching those of summer, but very close. But it seems that is coming to an end. We had thick fog this morning and now it is mizzling. The forecast for the week to come is rain, all week. I am glad my new dryer arrived and was installed on Friday.

We were planning on going out for lunch today at a new bar about 3/4 hour away. It has Heineken on tap and I have heard only good things about the food. But I was much longer at work this morning than I thought I was going to be, and then I got home to find friend had called in, so lunch out has been postponed for a couple of weeks. I made us all toasted sandwiches instead, and we caught up on each other’s news before he had to head off again. If he hadn’t been travelling in the opposite direction, we would have suggested he join us.

I have had a wonderful week’s reading based mainly in England, with a little time in Wales. Have you been anywhere interesting?

Currently I am reading The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. Intriguing!

I am also reading Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben. I only started this yesterday, and am almost finished.

And I am about to begin listening to If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan and narrated by Kristen James

This week I am planning to read Dead Sorry by Helen H. Durrant

Twenty-five years ago a schoolgirl was attacked by three bullies in her home where she lived with her grandmother.

Now, the mother of one of those bullies is found murdered on the Hobfield housing estate. Written on the wall in the victim’s blood is the word, “sorry.”

There is a link to the discovery of bones at an old house up in the hills — the home of the teenage girl who was attacked.

Detective Tom Calladine and his partner DS Ruth Bayliss have more than this puzzling case on their hands. Arch-villain Lazarov is threatening Calladine’s granddaughter and a valuable hoard of Celtic gold is coming to a local museum.

The pressure is on, and this time Calladine is cracking . . .

Discover an absolutely unputdownable crime thriller from a best-selling author.

If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, Mel Sherratt, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham you will enjoy this exciting new crime fiction writer.

DEAD SORRY is book eleven of a new series of detective thrillers featuring DS Ruth Bayliss and DI Tom Calladine.

What readers are saying about the series
“I read it in one sitting.” Aileen

“This books has lots of twists and turns throughout and with a cracking ending to this brilliant book.” Nessa

“Really enjoyed this book.” Nerys

“Kept me guessing till the end.” Anna Maria

“I finished it in twenty-four hours and enjoyed every page.” Joan

THE DETECTIVES
Tom Calladine is a detective inspector who is devoted to his job. His personal life, however, is not so successful. Having been married and divorced before the age of twenty-one has set a pattern that he finds difficult to escape.

Ruth Bayliss is in her mid-thirties, plain-speaking but loyal. She is balancing her professional life with looking after a small child.

THE SETTINGThe fictional village of Leesdon is on the outskirts of an industrial northern English city. There is little work and a lot of crime. The bane of Calladine’s life is the Hobfield housing estate, breeding ground to all that is wrong with the area that he calls home.

The Vacation by John Marrs

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

I went to my local library last week to return a book. Honest. I had no intention of picking up anything new to read. You will understand why when you see the number of ARCs I received this week. And sitting there, right beside the return slot, is a shelf of recent releases – and if that’s not fighting dirty, I don’t know what is! – and New Zealand author Paul Cleave’s latest, The Quiet People. But it wasn’t just sitting there, quietly. Oh no. It was fluttering it’s pages alluringly at me, whispering seductively, ‘How about I come home with you. I can show you a really good time’ . . . Then it literally (no pun intended) threw itself at me and manoeuvred me to checkouts. I know when I’m beaten and gave in quietly. So this week I will also be reading

Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful crime-writers. They have been on the promotional circuit, joking that no-one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.So when their 7 year old son Zach goes missing, naturally the police and the public wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time – are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime? 

I had a day during the week when I was feeling quite overwhelmed by an accumulation of different things. So that night when I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t concentrate on my reading, I took refuge in Netgalley with result that I received twenty-seven (yes, Susan. 27.) ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤦‍♀️ I don’t know whether to be appalled or excited.

As well as the audiobook If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan, Dead Sorry by Helen H. Durrant, and The Vacation by John Marrs, I received:

What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor

My Mother’s Children by Annette Sills

In Another Light by A.J. Banner

The Darkest Flower by Kristin Wright (thank you Michael David https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com/)

The Beauty of Fragile Things by Emma Hartley

Summer Island Book Club by Ciara Knight

Death and Croissants by Ian Moore

I Don’t Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards

The Murder Box by Olivia Kiernan

One Left Behind by Carla Kovach

The Shut Away Sisters by Suzanne Goldring

The Grandmother Plot by Caroline B. Cooney

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Slough House by Mick Herron

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water (audiobook) by Shawn Nocher, narrated by Elizabeth Evans

The Third Grave by Lisa Jackson

And two more audiobooks, Know No Evil by Graeme Hampton, narrated by Julie Maisey

And, The Man I Married by Elena Wilkes, narrated by Colleen Prendergast

I have never had that many ARCs in one week before. I bet that does a bit of damage to my review ratio! What is the most ARCs you have received in any one week?

Now I have two reviews to write so I had better get writing and get them done before dinner. Nice fresh snapper tonight with an avocado salsa and salad.

Happy reading my friends. ❤📚

Fragile by Sarah Hilary

EXCERPT: ‘Rosie,’ I thought. ‘Little, little Rosie.’

It was so cold the night she disappeared, the night I stayed, looking for her. A shiver of stars crept across the lake but it was too dark to separate sky from mountains, or mountains from slag heaps. Waiting for the first breath of dawn to stir in the darkness like an animal waking. The lake breathed at my feet as if it too were sleeping and might wake. All night I stayed, my eyes open on the water. When the first clouds covered the stars, the lake turned grey. So grey I could have reached out and twitched it away, caught it in my fingers and pulled and pulled until it was all gone, except what lay under the surface, also curled, as if asleep. I’d lost everything. Not only at the lake two summers ago, but here and now, in Starling Villas. Everything I’d worked so hard to make, this small happiness, the frail living I’d scratched for myself under his roof. All lost.

ABOUT ‘FRAGILE’: Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.

Only her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .

MY THOUGHTS: She can run, but she can’t hide. Especially not from herself. Guilt, shame and regret are her shadow.

Nell thinks that by running away to London, she and Joe can leave their old selves behind, shed the tragedy of Rosie’s disappearance. Instead, when Joe bails out on her, Nell (Death Knell as Meagan Flack calls her) is caught up in a web of lies, deceit, and manipulation. She is unable to shed her past, which continues to haunt her, and it seems that the future she has planned for herself in a place she thought she could call home may not turn out to be too much different from her past.

Fragile is a grim story. Disturbing. A story of children abandoned for various reasons, flung together in a foster home where their carer, Meagan Flack, wasn’t in the habit of making happy memories for her charges. A home where those who ought to have been cared for, were doing the caring. It is a story of greed, and abuse at many levels. It is a story of the children who fall through the cracks, who live in fear. Continuing to fear Meagan, even after they have fled her, knowing that she will never forgive them, never forget.

It is made all the more dark and disturbing by the beautiful writing. ‘Fear was everywhere in Starling Villas now. Not hiding any longer, but sitting in the sun like a cat, stretching as the sky stretched, greedy for its heat.’

The story is told over two timelines, now at Starling Villas, London, and then at the foster home in Bala, Wales. The story of Rosie’s disappearance is cleverly eked out, so that we don’t learn what actually happened to her until the very end. We are fed snippets of information, teased and tormented by the mystery.

I can’t say that I enjoyed Fragile. I don’t think that it was written to be enjoyed, but it certainly hit its mark with me. It is heartbreaking. It is sad. It tore at my sensibilities. It is beautifully written, and gut wrenching.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#Fragile #NetGalley

I: @sarah_hilary999 @panmacmillan

T: @Sarah_Hilary @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #mystery #psychologicalthriller

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Hilary is a UK crime novelist and former bookseller.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Fragile by Sarah Hilary 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

Waiting to Begin by Amanda Prowse

EXCERPT: I’m running out of time . . . I will never have the job of my dreams and take to the air like lucky Daniel . . . Gone is the prospect of great sex with someone who is yet to discover me and who will in turn help me discover myself . . . I’m running out of time to make amends . . . And with each year my kids slip further from my reach . . . falling into the arms of their life partners who they put before me and I know that’s how it should be, but I find it hard to be happy about it . . . because it leaves Mario and me on our own.

ABOUT ‘WAITING TO BEGIN’: 1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame—and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.

2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss—the hope, the trust, the joy—Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.

Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?

MY THOUGHTS: Whenever I finish a book by Amanda Prowse, I am emotionally bruised, battered and totally wrung out. Waiting to Begin was no exception.

This is a story of actions and consequences, something few teenagers think about. Bessie is one of those teenagers who let her hormones rule her brain. As a result her life becomes a trainwreck.

Fast forward to 2021 and Bess is suffering empty nest syndrome. On top of that she feels that her marriage to Mario has become stale. Things she used to think were cute, now drive her insane. They aren’t close anymore, the loving communication and meaningful discussions, along with affectionate gestures have disappeared. She is at that stage of her life when she wonders, ‘is this all there is?’ She wants to be loved, adored; she wants to feel special, to feel that glimmer of attraction, a frisson of excitement. She wants to feel alive instead of tired and worn out by the repetitiveness of her life.

I didn’t always like Bess, but I have to admit that I could see parts of myself in her at various stages of her life, which gave me food for thought, a reality check.

Prowse takes things that most of us feel at one time or another, combines them with relatable and realistic characters, and weaves a story that both compels and captivates. Tissues mandatory.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#WaitingtoBegin #NetGalley

I: @mrsamandaprowse #lakeunionpublishing

T: @MrsAmandaProwse #LakeUnionPublishing

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Waiting to Begin by Amanda Prowse 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

Wednesday in Wellington, New Zealand

Finally, here are some of the photos from our few days in Wellington last month. We travelled both ways by train which is an extremely relaxing way to travel. We didn’t get many photos on the way down as it rained quite heavily most of the way, but we were extremely lucky with the weather while we were there. It was raining again when we left Wellington, but cleared about an hour into our journey home.

This was the view from our hotel room balcony. We could see from Oriental Bay, to our right, the marina was immediately in front of us, and the port off to our left. So there was always something to watch as we sat on the balcony and and rested our weary feet in the late afternoon.

These are some of the lovely old homes that line Oriental Parade in Oriental Bay.

Situated on the hill above Oriental Bay, Saint Gerard’s Monastery and Church, built in 1932 and 1908 respectively, are considered a historic landmark. After 113 years, St Gerard’s Church held its final mass at the end of May. It closed over “safety concerns” but the fate of the buildings remains unclear.

The Wellington Cable Car is a funicular railway in Wellington, New Zealand, between Lambton Quay, the main shopping street, and Kelburn, a suburb in the hills overlooking the central city, rising 120 m (394 ft) over a length of 612 m (2,008 ft).

There are a number of viaducts spanning the rivers between Te Kuiti and Wellington. This photo was taken from one in the Manawatu.

New Zealand farmland.

Home to three active volcanic mountains, and iconic and majestic landscapes, Tongariro National Park has attracted adventurers of all ages since 1887. This is Mount Ruapehu.

The main reason for doing this train trip was to travel the Raurimu Spiral, which my grandfather worked on when he first came to Te Kuiti as a young man.

The only way of really appreciating the engineering excellence and sinuous beauty of the Raurimu spiral is to see it from the air. The spiral was devised by Department of Public Works engineer Robert Holmes in 1898. His design was a clever solution to a major problem – the land between between Raurimu and National Park dropped significantly and was too steep for a train to travel along directly. Holmes’s spiral increased the distance between these two locations to by employing sweeping curves and tunnels, which allowed the railway track to follow a manageable incline. It was constructed between 1905 and 1908. The Historic Places Trust registered the spiral as a category one historic place in 2005. (Te Ara, Govt. New Zealand)

My next mission is to view it from the air.

Thank you for sharing my journey.

A Family Affair by Julie Houston

EXCERPT: Aunty Pam smiled. ‘You know, Frankie, when I look back at my twenty-year-old self, I am totally filled with admiration for her. If he and Marco didn’t agree with this, I told Angelo I was going back to my parents immediately; Consettia wouldn’t see anything of her grandchild – I knew your grandmother wouldn’t allow Angelo to get away with that – and I would spill the beans…’

ABOUT ‘A FAMILY AFFAIR’: Frankie Piccione is done running away from her responsibilities, well for now anyway. Having escaped Westenbury after suffering a shattered heart, it’s time to take up her place on the family board. Piccione’s Pickles and Preserves needs Frankie. Frankie knows she can make the business work. But with her brother Luca and the new, rather attractive, Cameron Mancini watching her every move, she’s going to have to come up with something special to get them off her back and recognising she belongs on the board just as much as they do.

With the help of her Aunt Pam and best friend, Daisy, Frankie is thriving with her new sense of purpose. Until someone from her past walks right back into it…

MY THOUGHTS: I absolutely love Julie Houston’s writing, but I have to admit that I initially had a few issues with A Family Affair. It seems that every book now has to be written over more than one timeline and from multiple points of view. And in A Family Affair, Julie has taken this path. When I started reading, I wasn’t convinced that this was going to work. Even halfway through, I wasn’t convinced this was working. But in the end, the author tied it together beautifully and I exited this book with a sigh of contentment.

I love Julie Houston’s characters. They are so real, so down to earth. But for me, this story wasn’t about Frankie and her disastrous love life – it’s Aunty Pam who stole my heart.

And while I may have initially thought that I knew where this story was heading, I was wrong on every count. Julie Houston bested me. And I am happy about that. I should have known better . . .

This author writes with humor and empathy. A delightful read.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#AFamilyAffair #NetGalley

I: @juliehoustonauthor @ariafiction

T: @JulieHouston2 @Aria_Fiction

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance

THE AUTHOR: Julie Houston is Yorkshire born and bred. She lives in Huddersfield where her novels are set and her only claims to fame are that she taught at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old school, her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author Joanne Harris and her friend is about to marry Tracy Emin’s cousin! Oh, and she was rescued by Frank Bough when, many years ago, she was ‘working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’ at the Kensington Hilton in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Aria & Aries via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Village Affair by Julie Houston 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

Legacy by Nora Roberts

EXCERPT: The first time Adrian Rizzo met her father, he tried to kill her.

ABOUT ‘LEGACY’: Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.

Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.

A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.

But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins…

MY THOUGHTS: What an attention grabbing opening line! – right?

It certainly grabbed my attention and made me sit up and take notice. I was excited to read this. But, by a third of the way through I was wondering if Nora Roberts was ever going to get to the point. I felt like I had been reading forever, and the story was really going nowhere v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. I honestly debated abandoning this. I was bored. But at the exhortations of various other readers, I kept going. By the 50% point, I was getting into the rhythm, but still wasn’t completely enamoured. By 75%, I was enjoying it, and continued to do so right to the end. But I will stick with my original comment, why did the author take so long to get to the point? Yes, I like to know the background of the characters, and I like to have some build-up to the story, but this was taking it to the extreme. This novel really is too damned long!

I have a few more minor niggles like the stereotyped characters, and the plot predictability, but there was an indefinable something in the second half of Legacy, missing from the first, that kept me reading to the end. I mostly liked the characters. I could understand why Adrian was so disciplined and liked to have control. I liked the way Raylan loosened her up. I liked her friends and family, though I reserve judgement on her mother Lina. I particularly liked her grandfather. And I loved her house. Hell, I covet her house! Relationships are the core of Legacy. It is very light on suspense and thrills.

January Lavoy, narrator, does an amazing job with the characters voices. She is very talented and a pleasure to listen to.

Overall, only a satisfactory read for me. If it’d had all the extraneous stuff cut from it to make it a tighter read, it would have rated higher.

⭐⭐⭐.4

#Legacy #NetGalley

I: @norarobertsauthor @hachetteaudio

T: #NoraRoberts @HachetteAudio

#contemporaryfiction #audiobook #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Nora Roberts also writes the ‘In Death’ series under the name J.D. Robb.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Legacy by Nora Roberts 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 my webpage