The Will by Rebecca Reid

EXCERPT: Roxborough House is an enormous house. Too big, really. Every person who has lived there in the last two hundred years has claimed that they will be the last, that no one could possibly want to be saddled with this place. Fifteen bedrooms. Servants’ quarters. A library, two kitchens, a small sitting room, a large sitting room, a drawing room, a dining room – the list goes on. Running Roxborough is no joke. It’s a full-time job. A burden. A millstone. Inheriting it means tying one’s entire life to the place.

And yet, they all want it.

ABOUT ‘THE WILL’: The Mordaunts aren’t like most families . . .

For one, their family home is Roxborough Hall – a magnificent, centuries-old mansion in the Norfolk countryside. For another, the house isn’t passed down from parent to child – but rather to the family member deemed most worthy.

Cecily Mordaunt is dead. On the evening of her funeral, her family will gather for dinner and each will be given a letter, revealing who is the next custodian of Roxborough Hall.

The house is a burden, a millstone, a full-time job . . . but they all want it. And some are willing do anything to get it.

One family. Eight letters. Who will get what they deserve?

MY THOUGHTS: I found The Will to be compelling reading. I became totally immersed in the relationships and machinations of the Mordaunt family and read this book in less than twenty four hours.

This is my first book by author Rebecca Reid, but it certainly won’t be the last. Next on my to do list after writing this review is to track down copies of her other books.

There characters in this book are brilliantly depicted from the sweet and gentle Violet who, as it turns out, has hidden depths, to the overachieving Briony who envisages her husband’s family home as an exclusive girl’s school with herself at the helm.

The story of this family told over several timelines, non-linear, but beautifully executed. Not once did I feel confused. The timelines range from the recently deceased matriarch Cecily’s childhood through to the present time encompassing her funeral and the entailment of the family homestead.

Grant is the favoured younger son, an aging playboy with a taste for much younger women. Grant’s adopted son Jonty is a vet and the only family member who lives locally. David is Cecily’s elder son, weighed down by his successful second wife’s expectations, a desire to do right by his two daughters from his first marriage, and perplexed by a son he doesn’t understand, the result of his second marriage. Willa, a lawyer who has an eating disorder her family prefers to ignore, and Lizzie, a free spirit, are David’s two daughters and Cecily’s adored granddaughters. Cecily’s own daughter, Elspeth, has been estranged from her mother for many years. And finally there is Violet, Cecily’s constant companion and friend since Cecily turned twenty-one. One of these people will inherit Roxborough Hall. But who? And why?

The narrative of this tale is full of amazing revelations – secrets, so many secrets! There are secret liaisons, relationships, desires and dreams.

I was enormously entertained throughout this fun read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheWill #NetGalley

I: @rebeccacnreid @randomhouseuk @transworld @penguinuk

T: @RebeccaCNReid @RandomHouseUK @Transworld @PenguinUK

#contemporaryfiction #familysaga #fivestarread #friendship #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Reid is a journalist based in London. She is a columnist for the Telegraph women’s section and for Metro. She writes regularly for Marie Claire, The Guardian, Telegraph online, the Saturday Telegraph, The Independent, Grazia, Stylist, and the iPaper, and she appears regularly on Good Morning Britain, where she argues with everyone from Piers Morgan to Jameela Jamil about gender politics, social class, and sex and relationships.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld, Penguin via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Will by Rebecca Reid 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 Goodreads.com

First Lines Friday

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Happy Friday and welcome to First Lines Friday hosted by Reading is my SuperPower.

Think back. The signs were there. What were they?

They all asked themselves the same question afterwards. ‘How did it come to this? Could we have stopped it?

Like what you’ve just read?

Want to keep reading?

Pick up a copy of Exiles by Jane Harper.

At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.

A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.

Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.

Auld Acquaintance by Sofia Slater

EXCERPT: It wasn’t Nick sitting with a magazine on the shabby tartan sofa in the next room. My heart, which had been fluttering with expectation, began pounding with dread. I took a step back, hoping to get away, though I knew I couldn’t. Nestled innocently between the sofa cushions, gently illuminated by the firelight, was someone I didn’t want to see at all. Someone I’d been avoiding for a year. Someone I’d hoped never to see again.

ABOUT ‘AULD ACQUAINTANCE’: Millie Partridge desperately needs a party. So, when her (handsome and charming) ex-colleague Nick invites her to a Hebridean Island for New Year’s Eve, she books her ticket North.

But things go wrong the moment the ferry drops her off. The stately home is more down at heel than Downton Abbey. Nick hasn’t arrived yet. And the other revellers? Politely, they aren’t exactly who she would have pictured Nick would be friends with.

Worse still, an old acquaintance from Millie’s past has been invited, too. Penny Maybury. Millie and Nick’s old colleague. Somebody Millie would rather have forgotten about. Somebody, in fact, that Millie has been trying very hard to forget.

Waking up on New Year’s Eve, Penny is missing. A tragic accident? Or something more sinister? With a storm washing in from the Atlantic, nobody will be able reach the group before they find out.

One thing is for sure – they’re going to see in the new year with a bang.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this tense, atmospheric page turner of a ‘locked room mystery’; or, in this case, an isolated Hebridean island. Using the same format as the reknowned Christie novel ‘And Then There Were None’, which I must admit is not one of my favourites, Slater had me eagerly flipping the pages in this short – a little less than 300 pages – but riveting story. And yes, I have rated Auld Acquaintance higher than the Christie. I enjoyed it more.

The setting is a remote and isolated island; ‘a resentful rock’ easily cut off from the world in bad weather, just as they are having this New Year. It is a character in its own right.

Millie has been invited to the Island party by an ex-boyfriend she is hopeful of resuming her relationship with. But when she arrives on the Island, Nick is not there. Cut off by a storm, two other guests dead en-route, Millie becomes uneasy. Winston, one of the other guests, a lawyer scares her and she doesn’t trust him. She is shocked to find Penny, a quiet, mousey ex-work colleague is also among the guests, along with a glamorous but prickly influencer Bella, and her handsome but somewhat profligate partner, Ravi. Then there’s James, who doesn’t really seem to fit in anywhere, and their hostess Mrs Flyte, a rather peculiar woman not inclined to answer the questions of her guests – particularly the questions about the source of this booking. They were all invited – but by whom? And why?

I honestly didn’t know who to suspect. The author ramps up the tension in a creepy old house in an isolated location with a mixed bag of guests who initially seem to have no connection, nothing in common. Throughout the story, I had no idea who was behind the killings, or why, no matter how much I wracked my brain.

Cleverly written and a fun read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#AuldAcquiantance #NetGalley

I: @_swiftpress

T: @_SwiftPress

#contemporaryfiction #murdermystery #scottishnoir

THE AUTHOR: Sofia Slater was raised in the American West, and lived in France, Scotland and Oxford before settling in London. As well as writing fiction, she translates from French and Spanish. Auld Acquaintance is her debut novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Swift Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Auld Acquaintance by Sofia Slater 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 Goodreads.com

Day’s End (Paul Hirschausen #4) by Garry Disher

EXCERPT: Out in that country, if you owned a sheep station the size of a European principality you stood tall. If you were a rent paying public servant, like Hirsch, you stood on the summit of Desolation Hill.

Not much of a hill – but it was desolate. It overlooked patches of saltbush and mallee scrub and a broad, red-ochre gibber plain that stretched to the horizon; wilted wild-flowers here and there, deceived by a rare spring shower.

It also overlooked an image of Wildu, the spirit eagle, carved into the plain: spanning three kilometres from wingtip to wingtip and poised to strike. And Desolation Hill was one of the last places Willi Van Sant had visited before he disappeared.

ABOUT ‘DAY’S END’: Hirsch’s rural beat is wide. Daybreak to day’s end, dirt roads and dust. Every problem that besets small towns and isolated properties, from unlicensed driving to arson. In the time of the virus, Hirsch is seeing stresses heightened and social divisions cracking wide open. His own tolerance under strain; people getting close to the edge.

Today he’s driving an international visitor around: Janne Van Sant, whose backpacker son went missing while the borders were closed. They’re checking out his last photo site, his last employer. A feeling that the stories don’t quite add up.

Then a call comes in: a roadside fire. Nothing much—a suitcase soaked in diesel and set alight. But two noteworthy facts emerge. Janne knows more than Hirsch about forensic evidence. And the body in the suitcase is not her son’s.

MY THOUGHTS: Day’s End is the fourth book in Garry Disher’s Paul Hirschhausen series, and may very well be the best so far – although having said that, two others have also been five star reads. Although Day’s End is part of a series it works well as a stand alone. The author provides enough background information without overwhelming the storyline to enable this.

Day’s End is set during Covid, but again Disher doesn’t let it overwhelm the storyline either, just works it in matter of factly, making good used of the differences in people’s beliefs and the tensions that prevailed.

I love Hirsch’s caring nature. He makes monthly sweeps of the outlying areas, calling in to remote dwellings to check on the occupants, alleviate their loneliness, and to observe. Most places he is welcome, some he isn’t.

Tiverton, like most small remote towns, has fallen victim to the scourge of drugs. Unemployment is high, there’s nothing for the youth to do other than to amuse themselves with petty, and not so petty, crime and get off their faces on whatever is to hand. In direct contrast to this is the lives lead by the privileged and wealthy in the area – new SUVs, a helicopter or two, boarding schools, and horses.

As is normal, there are several threads to this story: A missing man and his girlfriend; Hirsch’s ongoing relationship with high school math teacher Wendy; bullying; racial tensions – I love the character of Aunty Steph! – including white supremacy; drugs; thefts; graffiti; and assaults. But there’s also something big going down – Hirsch is ordered to pull his head in by the Federal Police who have suddenly appeared in his little corner of the world. Yet not one thread overwhelms another – they all meld seamlessly to create a masterful portrait of Hirsh’s life.

I was immediately immersed in Hirsch’s world from the first paragraph and was delighted to remain there until closing the cover on that final, and dramatic, ending.

Disher is an author who paints pictures with his words and brings his characters to life.

Favorite Line: ‘Their high achiever was Jacob. Arrested for stealing a car, he’d arrived at his magistrate’s hearing in a car he’d stolen to get himself there.’

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#DaysEnd #NetGalley

I: @text_publishing

T: @GarryDisher @text_publishing

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: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Day’s End by Garry Disher 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

Foster by Claire Keegan

EXCERPT: With my mother it is all work: us, the butter making, the dinners, the washing-up and getting up and getting ready for Mass and school, weaning calves and hiring men to plough and harrow the fields, stretching the money and setting the alarm. But this is a different type of house. Here there is room, and time to think. There may even be money to spare.

ABOUT ‘FOSTER’: A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And then a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.

MY THOUGHTS: Claire Keegan writes with a poetic beauty that reminds me of calm waves lapping at the shore. Although the reality of where this young girl has come from, and will be returned to, is harsh and stark, Keegan’s writing is anything but.

There is a stunning emotional depth in this novella. Keegan conveys much in very few pages. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here on how to treat a child, and the blossoming of this girl away from a life of overcrowded poverty, just one of many children, in a place where she is recognised and cherished as a person in her own right, is a wonderous experience.

I have been awed by everything I have so far read by this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Foster #NetGalley

I: #clairekeeganfiction @groveatlantic

T: @CKeeganFiction @GroveAtlantic

#fivestarread #historicalfiction #irishfiction #novella #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Claire Keegan was born in County Wicklow, the youngest of a large family. She travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana when she was seventeen, and studied English and Political Science at Loyola University. She returned to Ireland in 1992 and lived for a year in Cardiff, Wales, where she undertook an MA in creative writing and taught undergraduates at the University of Wales.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Foster by Claire Keegan 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 Goodreads.com

Silent Victim (DCI Matilda Darke #10) by Michael Wood

EXCERPT: He needed to kill again. Tomorrow night, he would go out, find someone, anyone, and inhale their screams, feel the warmth of their blood on his cold skin, listen as their heart beat one last time and savour the presence of death.

ABOUT ‘SILENT VICTIM’: A CENSURED DETECTIVE WITH NO LEADS

DCI Matilda Darke and her team have been restricted under special measures after a series of calamitous scandals nearly brought down the South Yorkshire police force.

A BRUTAL ATTACK WITH NO WITNESSES

Now Matilda is on the trail of another murderer, an expert in avoiding detection with no obvious motive but one obvious method.

A DEPRAVED KILLER WHO LEAVES NO TRACES

When his latest victim survives the attack despite her vocal cords being severed, Matilda is more convinced than ever of the guilt of her key suspect. If only she had a way to prove it…

MY THOUGHTS: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ bright and shining, slightly blood-stained stars for Michael Wood’s latest offering in the DI Matilda Darke series. It was a one sitting read for me that I simply could not put down, and ignored all my other reads in favour of. There is one particular scene in this book which is not going to leave me for a very long time!

Silent Victim is a relentlessly heart pounding, compelling read that ends with a real cliffhanger! I’ll be chewing my nails until #11 is released in March 2023.

Wood’s clever writing had me suspecting several people of these heinous crimes, one correctly, but he wasn’t my top pick. Michael Wood 10, Sandy 0.

Matilda grows a lot as a person in Silent Victim when the value of friendship is brought home to her as a result of her own actions. She is also incredibly nurturing towards Tilly, the only victim of the sadistic rapist to survive, sharing her own struggles during her recovery from the brutal attack she herself survived.

Even though Sian is no longer a member of the team, she and her family still feature in the storyline. Everyone is missing her snack drawer! And Sian is facing struggles of her own.

I love the way Michael Wood weaves a little humour in to relieve the darkness of his storyline. The Christmas turkey episode had me hooting with laughter.

Twisty, fast-paced, compelling, sinister and clever. I loved Silent Victim just as much as, if not more than, the previous nine books and I am counting down the days until the release of book #11.

Although this is a series, Michael Wood gives enough background information to enable Silent Victim to be read as a stand-alone. However, in order to fully understand the relationships between the characters, I recommend that you start from book #1. You won’t regret it.

Silent Victim is due for publication 28 October 2022

#SilentVictimMichaelWood #NetGalley

I: @michaelwoodbooks @onemorechapter

T: @MichaelHWood @OneMoreChapter

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery #policeprocedural #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Silent Victim by Michael Wood 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 Goodreads.com

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce

EXCERPT: It was too early for birdsong. Harold lay beside her, his hands neat on his chest, looking so peaceful she wondered where he travelled in his sleep. Certainly not the places she went: if she closed her eyes, she saw roadworks. Dear God, she thought. This is no good. She got up in the pitch-black, took off her nightdress and put on her best blue blouse with a pair of comfortable slacks and a cardigan. ‘Harold?’ she called. ‘Are you awake?’ But he didn’t stir. She picked up her shoes and shut the bedroom door without a sound. If she didn’t go now, she never would.

ABOUT ‘MAUREEN FRY AND THE ANGEL OF THE NORTH’: Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn’t end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make.

Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen’s turn to make her own journey.

But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she’ll find at the end of the road. All she knows is that she must get there.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this beautifully written novella. Rachel Joyce is back to writing what she does best.

I enjoyed this every bit as much as The Love Songs of Queenie Hennessy, and rather more than The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. BTW, you will need to read the preceding two books or this will make very little sense to you.

Maureen isn’t the easiest person to like. There is no way she could be described as a ‘people person’. She is rigid in both her beliefs and actions. What other people think matters very much. And yet, like her I did. I was mortified for her over her little ‘accident’. I cringed along with her at Kate’s living conditions. I wanted to grab her and make her sit down and properly take in Queenie’s garden. But of course, I couldn’t.

When Maureen sets out on her journey, she doesn’t realise that she’s going to find her true self, but ultimately that is what she does.

A wonderful read that had me in tears at times but left me smiling.

My favourite quote: ‘It wasn’t that he was losing his mind, rather that he was deliberately taking things out of it that he no longer needed.’

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#MaureenFrysOnHerWay #NetGalley

I: @rachelcjoyce @randomhouse @transworldbooks @doubledayukbooks

T: @randomhouse @transworldbooks @doubledaybooks

#contemporaryfiction #friendship #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman’s Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday for providing a digital ARC of Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce 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

The Bullet That Missed (Thursday Murder Club #3) by Richard Osman

EXCERPT: Bethany Waites understands that there is no going back now. Time to be brave, and to see how this all plays out.

She weighs the bullet in her hand.

Life is about understanding opportunities. Understanding how rarely they come along, and then rising to meet them when they do.

‘Come and meet me. I just want to talk.’ That’s what the email had said. She has been playing it over in her mind ever since. Should she?

One last thing to do before she decides: send Mike a message.

Mike knows the story she is working on. He doesn’t know the details – a reporter has to keep her secrets – but he knows it’s a risky one. He’s there if she needs him, but there are some things you have to do alone.

Whatever happens tonight, she would be sad to leave Mike Waghorn behind. He is a good friend. A kind and funny man. That’s why the viewers love him.

But Bethany dreams of more, and maybe this is her chance. A dangerous chance, but a chance all the same.

She writes her message and presses send. He won’t reply tonight; it’s late. That’s probably for the best. She can hear his voice now: ‘Who texts at ten p.m.? Millennials and sex pests, that’s who.’

Here we go then. Time for Bethany to spin the wheel of fortune. Will she live or will she die?

She pours herself a drink, and takes one final look at the bullet. Really, she has no choice at all.

To opportunities.

ABOUT ‘THE BULLET THAT MISSED’: It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.

To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed…

While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

MY THOUGHTS: I’m putting my name down for the next vacancy at Coopers Chase!

The Bullet That Missed is a fun, clever piece of escapism featuring an ex-spy, an ex-boxer, a perfectly ordinary but extremely clever woman called Joyce who likes to write in her diaries, an EX-FBI agent, a money-launderer, and a television news reader amongst others. Yes, the whole gang is back along with a few new faces.

The Thursday Murder Club meets every Thursday at 11am in the jigsaw room – except for one notable Thursday when they met at 8am, much to Ibrahim’s consternation – to solve murders. They manage to do this rather well, although they usually manage to produce a few more bodies along the way. And it doesn’t hurt that they have a couple of tame police officers in their outer circle.

I love these characters: Elizabeth whose husband Stephen is slowly succumbing to dementia; Joyce and her dog Alan; Bogdan who provides muscle when needed and unobtrusively babysits Stephen when Elizabeth is otherwise occupied.

I haven’t had so much fun since I read the last book in this series! It’s a book that I read with a smile on my face, although I admit to holding my breath a couple of times when the situation got more than a little sticky, and to having a tear in my eye when Stephen confided his fears to Bogdan, and again when . . . well, when you get there, you’ll know.

The Thursday Murder Club #4 is due for publication this time next year. I can’t wait!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheBulletThatMissed

I: @misterosman @penguinrandomhouse

T: @richardosman @PenguinUKBooks

THE AUTHOR: Richard Thomas Osman is an English comedian, producer, television presenter, writer, and the creator and co-presenter of the BBC One television quiz show Pointless.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman. 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 Goodreads.com

The Ghost of Gracie Flynn by Joanna Morrison

Happy Publication Day to Joanna Morrison and Fremantle Press for The Ghost of Gracie Flynn!

EXCERPT: 2019 Monday, 18th February
The first person to know your father was dead was a woman. A young woman. Early twenties. Emerald eyes and a dark mass of hair.

Image her eyes now closed – eyelashes dark against her pale skin. She’s lying on her back, her hair spread out around her head.

When she wakes, there’s a gurgling sound and a briny smell coming in on the breeze. She opens her eyes and a throb of pain spreads from the back of her head to the front.

Slowly a shape comes into focus, white in a sea of darkness.

The moon.

A mast reaches into the night sky, sails furled up tight.

The woman sits up and the throbbing intensifies – a blinding flare behind her eyes. Through the ache, she sees lights over on the shore, rising and falling with the rocking of the boat. Their reflections slip in and out of the water’s skin.

Not that far away.

She pulls herself onto her knees, and that’s when she sees it: a shoe. A black shoe, on someone’s foot, pointing up at the sky. Fear moves through her like a slow, augmented arpeggio. Barely breathing, she studies the shape of him. He’s long. His clothes are dark. On his left hand, which is pale and still, a wedding band catches the light from the shore intermittently. Like a lighthouse. A warning pulse.

She recognizes him then. It’s Sam. Sam Favier.

Yes, your father.

ABOUT ‘THE GHOST OF GRACIE FLYNN’: Two deaths, eighteen years apart. A tension-filled mystery by debut author Joanna Morrison.

Gracie Flynn may be dead, but she’s not gone. Three university friends are divided by a tragic death. Eighteen years later, chance reunites them. Robyn is still haunted by memories of her best friend Gracie, and Cohen’s heart has never healed. Only Sam seems to have moved on and found success and happiness. But death rocks their lives again when Sam’s body is found in mysterious circumstances. And the ghost of Gracie Flynn has a story to tell about the night that changed their lives forever.

MY THOUGHTS: I read The Ghost of Gracie Flynn in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down.

This is not your normal supernatural/paranormal novel. There’s nothing spooky or creepy. There’s no hauntings, no moving things around, no wanting revenge for an untimely death.

The story is narrated by Gracie, speaking to Sam’s baby daughter Isla.

Sam is one of the original four: Sam and Robyn; Gracie and Cohen. Gracie was taken from them, eighteen years before this novel begins; the circumstances surrounding her death never resolved.

But, over the years, Gracie has kept a benevolent watch over them, never quite able to let go of her friends, just as none of them have ever been able to come to terms with her death.

And now there is the perfect storm of events when chance finally reunites the three survivors. Will the circumstances surrounding Gracie’s death finally be revealed?

I loved this book. I loved the characters, even the ones that I didn’t particularly like. They are real: you, me, our friends. I loved the plotting: clever, clever plotting. Just as real as the characters. Fallible people falling into situations where, due to their emotional imbalance, they make the wrong choices. I was completely absorbed in the storyline. I just sat and read until I was finished. Dinner was exceedingly late . . .

I don’t know that I have ever given five stars to an author’s debut novel before. It’s usually four and a half – where merited – to give them room for improvement. But there is absolutely no way that The Ghost of Gracie Flynn could be improved upon. It is word perfect. Every line, every nuance is orchestrated into a symphony; an absolute delight.

The Ghost of Gracie Flynn is definitely in my top ten reads of 2022.

My favourite line: ‘No other species swings from idiocy to genius like we do. We’re uniquely mental.’

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheGhostofGracieFlynn #FremantlePress

I: @jomorrisonauthor @fremantlepress

T: @JodijoMo @FremantlePress

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #friendship #mystery #paranormal

THE AUTHOR: Joanna Morrison has a background in journalism and a PhD in creative writing. Her short fiction has appeared in Australian literary journals and anthologies. Joanna lives in Perth with her husband, two sons and a miniature schnauzer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Fremantle Press for providing a copy of The Ghost of Gracie Flynn by Joanna Morrison 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 Goodreads.com

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

EXCERPT: Walking through the tunnel, I can just see the edges of the court. The crowd is already loud.

The lights are on, barely brighter than the evening air. When I get to the opening, I pull my shoulders down. I roll my neck. I wipe my shoes.

I inhale sharply. I let the air leave my body like a deflating balloon. I am loose. I am ready.

ABOUT ‘CARRIE SOTO IS BACK’: Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season.

MY THOUGHTS: TJR has aced this!

By the time I had finished reading, I swear I had played every shot along with Carrie Soto. Do I play tennis? Not unless you count hitting the ball against the garage wall. Do I watch tennis? Only with one eye when it’s on the news.

So what’s the fascination? It’s the writing. TJR writes with rhythm and style. With her heart and soul. Her characters are bigger than life. They dominate. Enchant. Enthrall.

I didn’t like Carrie Soto at the beginning of this book; by the end I was her biggest fan.

But this book is not just about tennis. It’s also about Carrie’s relationships – with her father; with the other players; with herself. We are privy to her fears and insecurities; her triumphs, and her loneliness.

I cried a lot during the latter part of Carrie Soto is Back. Not great, noisy, ugly crying; just tears sliding silently down my cheeks, usually over a particularly poignant piece of writing.

Carrie Soto is Back is a read that engendered almost every emotion. When I closed the covers for the final time I felt like I had won a Grand Slam. I was buzzing. Bouncing. Energised. Elated.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#CarrieSotoIsBack #NetGalley

I: @tjenkinsreid @randomhouse

T: @tjenkinsreid @randomhouse

#historicalfiction #romance

THE AUTHOR: Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of Malibu Rising, Daisy Jones & The Six, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, and three other novels. She lives in Los Angeles.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid 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