Watching what I’m reading . . .

We’ve had a particularly vicious tropical storm through the North Island of New Zealand over the past couple of days and it seems it’s not finished with us yet. Personally, we have escaped unscathed. My cousin and her husband are marooned in their home, they can’t get down their drive due to flooding, and if they did they’d be unable to go anywhere as their road is closed in both directions. The Mangaokewa burst its banks yesterday afternoon and houses along the riverside were evacuated. But if we think we got it bad, Auckland had it much worse with three confirmed dead and one still missing. It’s the heaviest rainfall recorded in 24 hours since records began. Although clean up has begun, it is going to be a long slow process with rain being forecast for all the coming week.

Currently I am reading One Day With You by Shari Low

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell #coverlove

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

And listening to The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake

Tess Morgan has finally made her dream of restoring beautiful Kilfenora House and Gardens into a reality.

But during rehearsals for the play that forms the opening weekend’s flagship event, her dream turns into a nightmare when a devastating accident looks set to ruin her carefully laid plans.

There are rumours that Kilfenora House is cursed, but this feels personal, and becomes increasingly terrifying when more than one body is discovered. Could someone be closing in on Tess herself?

Clarissa Westmacott, ex star of stage and screen, certainly believes so, particularly when she learns that purple-flowered aconite has been picked from the Poison Garden. And Clarissa will stop at nothing to protect the friend she has come to see as a daughter…

Four tragic accidents. Or four brutal murders? Unravel The Mystery of Four . .

This week I am planning to read The Doctor’s Wife for which I have both an audio and digital ARC.

My husband is a doctor. He’s smart and charming and everybody trusts him. Except me.

On the surface, it looks like I have it all – the perfect marriage, the perfect husband, the perfect life. But it’s far from the truth.

Doctor Drew Devlin is not the respectable figure he makes out to be. The reason we moved to this beautiful, old property with a gorgeous view of the sea was because we needed to put our past behind us. It should’ve been a fresh start for us both.

Except I’ve discovered my husband has been lying to me again. He’s using the power he has in his job to mess with people’s lives, and to get exactly what he wants – no matter who it hurts.

But he’s underestimated me. I’ve had plenty of time, in this big, isolated house, to think about all of his mistakes.

And my husband has no idea what’s about to happen next…

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

In the two weeks since I last posted, I have received seven ARCs for review. They are:

Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

The Last Passenger by Will Dean

Beginning of Forever by Catherine Bybee

The Edinburgh Mystery by Martin Edwards

The Little Board Game Cafè by Jennifer Page

The Last Dance by Mark Billingham

Do you have any of these titles on your reading radar?

Thank you to all my bookish friends who offered moral support during my husband’s recent surgery. It was greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, they have found more cancer and further surgery is on the horizon, so I will be disappearing again at some point in the reasonably near future.

Have a wonderful week of reading. ❤📚

The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley, narrated by Camilla Rockley

EXCERPT: It was the morphine turning his brain to jelly. Tomorrow he’d have none, and then he’d remember what it was he must do before he died.
‘Okay. You just relax and try to get some sleep,’ she soothed him, her hand stroking his forehead. ‘The doctor will be here soon.’
He knew he mustn’t go to sleep. He closed his eyes, desperately searching, searching . . . snatches of memories, faces . . .
Then he saw her, as clear as the day he’d first met her. So beautiful, so gentle . . .
‘Remember? The letter, my darling,’ she whispered to him. ‘You promised to return it . . .’

ABOUT ‘THE LOVE LETTER’: 1995, London. When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of 95 he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, so devastating that it could rock the English establishment to its core.

Joanna Haslam is an ambitious young journalist assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral. The great and the good of the celebrity world are there.

But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind, the contents of which others have been desperate to conceal for over 70 years.

As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that there are other forces attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does.

MY THOUGHTS: The Love Letter took a bit more for me to become fully immersed in than is normal for this author. At first I thought the storyline very similar to The Angel Tree, which I had just finished. But then the story took a turn that I wasn’t expecting, and everything changed.

The Love Letter is a sweeping novel that encompasses secrets, murder, treachery, love, lies, and questions of identity and loyalty spread over two timelines – the period immediately before and after George VI coming to the throne, and 1995 when actor Sir James Harrison dies without fulfilling a promise he had made many years earlier.

A blend of thriller, drama and romance involving MI5, the royal family, an acting dynasty and a young investigative reporter eager to make a name for herself, Lucinda Riley seems to have added a new dimension to her writing with the Love Letter, not entirely successfully in my honest opinion.

The narrative doesn’t flow as smoothly as it should and I had some problems with the ending where I was required to suspend my belief and just go with the flow. It then finishes on a bit of a cliffhanger which, in this case, I enjoyed.

Despite my reservations regarding the choppy nature of the narrative at times, I did enjoy this read, although not to the same extent as other titles I have read by Riley. The Butterfly Room remains a clear favourite.

Camilla Rockley is a superb narrator. I don’t think this particular cover does the book justice.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheLoveLetter #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @lucindarileybooks @wfhowes

T: @lucindariley @WFHowes

#historicalfiction #mystery #romance #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four. Lucinda died in June 2021.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of the audiobook The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

BRILLIANT BOOK ALERT! This book, which I finished today – a one day read – has earned every star in the Galaxy from me.

I am too emotional at the moment to write a review about this book, but please watch for it in the coming days. I cried, and laughed, and cried some more. I now want to read everything this author has written.

Currently I am reading The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

I am continuing with my read of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths with #4, A Room Full of Bones.

and doing a read/listen of Devil’s Way (Kate Marshall #4) by Robert Bryndza, which I am loving in both formats.

This week I have six books to read for review in addition to The Sisters We Were. They are:

A Winter Grave by Peter May

It is the year 2051. Warnings of climate catastrophe have been ignored, and vast areas of the planet are under water, or uninhabitably hot. A quarter of the world’s population has been displaced by hunger and flooding, and immigration wars are breaking out around the globe as refugees pour into neighboring countries.

By contrast, melting ice sheets have brought the Gulf Stream to a halt and northern latitudes, including Scotland, are being hit by snow and ice storms. It is against this backdrop that Addie, a young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station, discovers the body of a man entombed in ice.

The dead man is investigative reporter, George Younger, missing for three months after vanishing during what he claimed was a hill-walking holiday. But Younger was no hill walker, and his discovery on a mountain-top near the Highland village of Kinlochleven, is inexplicable.

Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to be flown north to investigate Younger’s death, but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda. He has just been given a devastating medical prognosis by his doctor and knows the time has come to face his estranged daughter who has made her home in the remote Highland village.

Arriving during an ice storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at the inappropriately named International Hotel, where Younger’s body has been kept refrigerated in a cake cabinet. But evidence uncovered during his autopsy places the lives of both Brodie and Roy in extreme jeopardy.

As another storm closes off communications and the possibility of escape, Brodie must face up not only to the ghosts of his past, but to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that George Younger’s investigations had threatened to expose.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed – if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong, and the truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined.

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston

Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.

When Rosa Quinn left her childhood home in Westenbury, she never expected to return over a decade later as the village vicar. But after a health scare and catching her boyfriend cheating, Rosa jumps at the chance to start over and live closer to her triplet sisters Eva and Hannah.

But Rosa’s isn’t the only old face in the village, and when her role in the parish throws her into the path of her ex, she begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake. Meanwhile, Eva and Hannah face their own troubles, as secrets about their family threaten to emerge.

Can Rosa make a life for herself in Westenbury? Or will the sisters discover you can’t run away from the past?

That Night at the Beach by Kate Hewitt

As mothers we never dare to delve into our worst-nightmare scenarios. What if… we might murmur to each other, and then shake our heads, telling ourselves it’ll never happen to us if we’re just good enough mothers. Yet here we are. And the steady beep of the heart monitor is the only evidence the child in front of us is alive…

It’s Labor Day weekend, so of course we went to the beach. Like we do every year. For a barbecue picnic with my best friend Rose. It’s the perfect tradition—drinks, games, burgers, music, laughter. Together with our husbands, my two teenage sons and her two daughters, we all arrived as the sun was still shimmering over the water, the whole evening ahead of us.

But nothing goes to plan. Old secrets emerge, tempers flare. And so we parents decide to leave the beach, telling the teenagers to enjoy themselves, reassuring them someone will be back to collect them in an hour or two.

But when I return a little while later, I know something is really wrong. Our teens are slurring their words, stumbling to the car. It’s clear they have been drinking and I’m shocked. I never expected our kids to behave this way. I’m bracing myself to have firm words with them in the morning, but the next day my concerns fade to nothing, when seventeen-year-old Bella claims my son Finn assaulted her.

Finn insists he would never do that. And I so want to believe him. Because I brought my son up right. Because a mother would know, wouldn’t she?

What I don’t know is that the answer to what happened that night on the beach may be a matter of life and death for one of our beloved children… 

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

One Day With You by Shari Lowe

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

One Day with You – two fateful goodbyes, two unexpected hellos, and 24 hours that change everything. 

I have received two new ARCs from Netgalley for review this week.

the audiobook The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake and narrated by Aiofe McMahon

A Mischief of Rats by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

I have 17 requests pending. I have had lot of requests declined this week. 🤷‍♀️

My husband is undergoing major surgery this week, so I am not going promise to post regularly, nor to interact with other bloggers to my normal level. Please keep Pete in your prayers. ❤

The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley

EXCERPT: Dressed in a pair of wellingtons that were far too big for her and an old Barbour, Greta strode out across the virgin snow, breathing in the wonderful clean, crisp air. She paused, wondering which way to go, hoping some inner instinct would guide her, and decided to take a stroll through the woods. As she walked, she looked upwards at the deep blue sky above and a sudden joy filled her veins at the sheer beauty of the scene. It was such an unusual and rare feeling that she almost skipped as she zigzagged her way through the trees.

Arriving in a clearing, she saw a majestic fir tree standing in the centre of it, the rich green of its bushy, snow-laden branches a contrast to the tall, bare beech trees that made up the rest of the wood. Walking towards it, she noticed there was a gravestone beneath it, the inscription covered by snow. Surmising that it was almost certainly the grave of a family pet – perhaps one she had known – Greta reached down and scraped away the hard, icy flakes with her gloved hand.

Slowly the inscription began to appear.

JONATHAN (JOHNNY) MARCHMONT
Beloved son of Owen &Greta
Brother of Francesca
BORN 2nd JUNE 1946
DIED 6th JUNE 1949
May God guide his little angel up to heaven

ABOUT ‘THE ANGEL TREE’: Thirty years have passed since Greta left Marchmont Hall, a grand and beautiful house nestled in the hills of rural Monmouthshire. But when she returns to the Hall for Christmas, at the invitation of her old friend David Marchmont, she has no recollection of her past association with it – the result of a tragic accident that has blanked out more than two decades of her life. Then, during a walk through the wintry landscape, she stumbles across a grave in the woods, and the weathered inscription on the headstone tells her that a little boy is buried here . . .

The poignant discovery strikes a chord in Greta’s mind and soon ignites a quest to rediscover her lost memories. With David’s help, she begins to piece together the fragments of not only her own story, but that of her daughter, Cheska, who was the tragic victim of circumstances beyond her control. And, most definitely, not the angel she appeared to be . . .

MY THOUGHTS: The Angel Tree is a multigenerational family saga, intricately plotted and compelling. Lucinda Riley excels at this type of story, interweaving the historical and cultural mores of the times in which the story is set with a richly emotional family drama.

The Angel Tree encompasses both love and tragedy. At the heart of the story is Marchmont, the family home lived in by several generations, and which ties all the characters and story threads together.

The story is told over several different timelines, definitely nonlinear, but it works well. The main narrators are David Marchmont, his mother Laura-Jane known as LJ, Greta who married David’s uncle Owen Marchmont, and Greta’s daughter Francesca, known as Cheska. Not only does The Angel Tree span several different timelines, but also different continents.

Not all the characters are likeable, and rifts appear between family members leading to estrangements and resentments. There is a story of unrequited love running through the novel, of missed chances, misunderstandings and bad timing. Also one of envy and greed and mental illness.

I found The Angel Tree to be a satisfying read and I have gone on to immediately read another of this author’s books.

The audiobook of The Angel Tree is ably narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheAngelTree #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @lucindarileybooks @panmacmillan

T: @lucindariley @panmacmillan

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four. Lucinda died in June 2021.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of the audiobook of The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley 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, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Well here we are, 8 days into 2023. 2022 shot by in some respects, and dragged in others. It’s my friend Jayne’s birthday today, but it seems like only weeks ago we were all laughing around the table in a local restaurant celebrating her 60th. Yet it seemed to take years, but in reality was a matter of months, when I was pulled out of retirement and back into my old job to sort out the chaos my replacement had created. Time is such a funny thing.

It’s going to be interesting to see just how long Charlie has been away from his regular life when, and if, he escapes from Empis in one of my current reads, Fairy Tale by Stephen King. He sure hasn’t lost his touch!

I am also reading Picking Up The Pieces by Amanda Prowse

and listening to Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, a New Zealand crime novel, incorporating present day racial tensions with its roots going back to the colonisation of New Zealand.

This week I am planning on reading Sunrise With the Silver Surfers by Maddie Please

Newly single at sixty, Elin Anderson decides it’s finally time for an adventure of her own. With her marriage to tedious Tom now officially over, Elin plans to visit the family she hasn’t seen in years. First stop: Australia!

But going home is harder than Elin thought. Everywhere she turns Elin sees brightness and colour, which only makes her own life seem even more drab and beige. How has she let herself fade away?

Determined to have some fun, Elin reluctantly agrees to join The Silver Surfers – a group of seniors who travel the coast, only caring about their next big adventure. Because life’s too short to watch the ocean when you could be making waves…

There’s only one catch – her road trip companion, Kit Pascoe. Kit is a man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word fun and makes it clear to Elin that this adventure will be subject to his own strict rules.

But with every new day, Elin slowly begins to rediscover who she really is. And she’s certain that rules are meant to be broken…aren’t they?

Devil’s Way (Kate Marshall #4) by Robert Bryndza

When Private Investigator Kate Marshall is rushed to hospital after being pulled into a riptide current in the sea, the near-death experience leaves her shaken. During her recovery, she befriends Jean, an elderly lady on the same ward. Jean tells the harrowing story of how her three-year-old grandson, Charlie, went missing eleven years ago during a camping trip on Dartmoor.

By the time Kate is well enough to go home, she’s agreed to take on the case, but when Kate and her trusty sidekick Tristan start to look at the events of that fateful night, they discover that Jean has a dark past that could have put Charlie in jeopardy.

Was Charlie abducted? Or did he fall into Devil’s Way? A rushing river that vanishes into a gorge close to where they were camping.

When Kate and Tristan discover that a social worker who flagged concerns about Jean and her daughter was found brutally murdered shortly after Charlie vanished, it makes them question everything they thought they knew about the family…

And We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

Who knows you better than your best friend? Who knows your secrets, your fears, your desires, your strange imperfect self? Edi and Ash have been best friends for over forty years. Since childhood they have seen each other through life’s milestones: stealing vodka from their parents, the Madonna phase, REM concerts, unexpected wakes, marriages, infertility, children. As Ash notes, ‘Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.’

So when Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ash’s world reshapes around the rhythms of Edi’s care, from chipped ice and watermelon cubes to music therapy; from snack smuggling to impromptu excursions into the frozen winter night. Because life is about squeezing the joy out of every moment, about building a powerhouse of memories, about learning when to hold on, and when to let go.

I received three new ARCs from Netgalley in the past week – The Wrong Good Deed by Caroline B. Cooney

A Gentle Murderer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis

And The Mistress Next Door by Lesley Sanderson which I am very excited about.

Luke is coming to stay Tuesday night for the rest of the week, so it will be a busy week for me as I am also working. I will cram as much work as I can into Monday and Tuesday so that hopefully I will only need to go in for a few hours Friday morning.

Have a great week of reading. I’m off to plan my menus for the week and make a shopping list. ❤📚

The Vanishing of Margaret Small by Neil Alexander

EXCERPT: 5 November 1947
I was seven years old when they vanished me. The Rat Catcher done it. He stole me from Grandma. In the beginning, you see, I lived with Grandma, for Mother had died soon after I was born.

On days when I was naughty, Grandma told me I was cursed. She said my red hair was the work of the Devil; that I was a changeling, swapped by the fairies, all for what my mother had done. What my mother had done, she wouldn’t say. I learned very quickly not to ask. If I did, God help me, she’d get angry, give my legs a good hiding with the belt.

There was this man, you see. His name was Mr. Grey, but everyone on our street called him the Rat Catcher. Oh, he was a sneak! Tall and crooked, with a long silver ponytail that snaked all the way down his back. He worked for the Board of Control – them lot who put you away for good. His job was to nick children from their houses, take them up St Mary’s in Canterbury. Not just any children, mind – only the ones like me, what was different.

ABOUT ‘THE VANISHING OF MARGARET SMALL’: Meet Margaret Small: 75, plain spoken and a Cilla Black super fan. Shortly after the death of her idol, Margaret begins receiving sums of money in the post, signed simply ‘C’.

She is convinced it must be Cilla, but how can it be? To solve the mystery of her benefactor Margaret must go back in her memories almost 70 years, to the time when she was ‘vanished’ to a long-stay institution for children with learning disabilities.

MY THOUGHTS: What an amazing read (listen) this was! I love being blindsided by the unexpected, and Neil Alexander manages to do this with his debut novel! Definitely a writer to watch.

Margaret Small is intellectually challenged, but she more than makes up for this with spades of common sense, far more than many so called intelligent people. She is kind and willing but easily taken advantage of. What she does she does well and she takes pride in her work.

Margaret tells her story over two timelines. She is now in her 70s and living in a flat and supervised by her support worker, Wayne. Wayne is a lovely, caring person, fully invested in enabling Margaret to live her best possible life. We need more Waynes in this world.

Margaret’s current story is interspersed with the story of her life in St. Mary’s, a residential home for the intellectually challenged and mentally disturbed.

Margaret is a delightful character, obsessed with Cilla Black, and frequently thinks that Cilla is ‘talking’ to her. Margaret often answers her. Margaret can neither read nor write and so, when she starts getting letters, she has David, a kind young lad who works in Sainsbury’s, read them to her. They are simply signed ‘C’.

The Vanishing of Margaret Small is a story that tore at my heart, had me shedding tears in places, but also had me laughing out loud in others.

Annie Aldington narrated superbly.

A wonderful book that everyone should read. And please don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end. It is enlightening.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheVanishingofMargaretSmall #NetGalley

I: @neilalexanderwriter @bonnierbooks_uk @emblabooks

T: @neilalexander_ @bonnierbooks_uk @emblabooks

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #friendship #historicalfiction

THE AUTHOR: Much of the inspiration for Neil Alexander’s debut novel, ‘The Vanishing of Margaret Small’, came directly from the voices of people with a learning disability, and the incredibly moving first person accounts of living in long stay institutions, which he heard while working for the UK charity Mencap. Neil, who has a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kent at Canterbury, began his career working in health journalism. Originally from Northern Ireland, he now lives in the seaside town of Whitstable in Kent. He currently teaches English part-time and is working on his second novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bonnier Audio UK for an audio ARC of The Vanishing of Margaret Small, written by Neil Alexander and narrated by Annie Aldington, 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Here in New Zealand we are 17 hours into the first day of 2023. Happy New Year everyone! May 2023 be a year of good health, amazing books, and much love and laughter.

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Currently I am reading A Song of Comfortable Chairs by Alexander McCall Smith, my first outing with the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I have to admit that I am not enjoying it as much as the Isabel Dalhousie series which I adore.

I am currently listening to The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley, and oh my goodness, it’s good! I shall probably finish this tomorrow.

I have already read and posted my review for the only title I needed to read for review in the coming week – No One Saw It Coming by Susan Lewis

So I am making a start on the multitude of books due for publication the following week needing reviews. I am starting Reef Road by Deborah Goodrich Royce tonight.

When a severed hand washes ashore in the wealthy enclave of Palm Beach, Florida, the lives of two women—a lonely writer obsessed with the unsolved murder of her mother’s best friend and a panicked wife whose husband has disappeared with their children—collide as the world shutters in the pandemic lockdown of 2020.

I have received one new ARC for review in the past week – You Should Have Known by Rebecca Keller

I am not big on setting goals for the year, but I really want to read the entire Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths in 2023. I have read several of the later books in the series in random order, but enjoy them so much I want to read them from the beginning and in the correct order. I have read the first two books in the break between Christmas and New Year.

I am putting the series aside briefly to read Fairytale by Stephen King for the Goodreads.com Reading for Pleasure Group Read.

I have recently taken part in the Goodreads.com All About Books extended December readathon which finished at midnight New Year’s Eve.

So I plan to have one ‘reading for pleasure’ book underway whenever possible.

Other than the occasional Goodreads.com readathon or group read, I am not going to commit to any challenges this year.

What are your reading plans for the year?

Happy reading!

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

EXCERPT: The Greer mansion was one of the original houses in Arlen Heights. It was an ugly Frankenstein of a house even when it was built – a pseudo-Victorian style of slanted roofs and spires, though the walls were of butter-yellow brick. And when Julian Greer bought it in 1950 with his newly inherited pharmaceutical fortune, he made it worse. He remodeled the lower floor to be more modern, with straight lines and dark brown wood. He also put in a bank of windows along the back wall to open up the house’s dark gloomy interior. The windows looked out to the house’s back lawn and it’s drop off to the ocean beyond.

The effect was supposed to be sweeping, breathtaking, but like most of Julian’s life, it didn’t work out as planned. The windows fogged and the view was bleak. The lawn was flat and dead, and the ocean beyond the cliff was choppy and cold. Julian had done the renovations in hopes of pleasing his new wife, Mariana. But instead the relentless view from the windows unsettled her, and she kept the curtains closed. She decorated the rest of the house dutifully but listlessly, which was a harbinger of their marriage. Something about the Greer mansion stifled laughter and killed happiness. It might sound dramatic but anyone who had lived there knew it was true.

By 1975, both Julian and Mariana were dead, Julian with his blood all over the kitchen floor, Mariana in the twisted wreck of a car crash. The house watched all of it happen, indifferent.

ABOUT ‘THE BOOK OF COLD CASES’: In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect – a rich, eccentric 23-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017, Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases – a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

MY THOUGHTS: I love books where the house is a character in its own right. The Greer mansion certainly is that. It is a cold house, caught in a time warp, where Beth Greer, once charged with the Lady Killer murders, lives – alone.

St. James has ramped up the supernatural element in The Book of Cold Cases, maybe a little too much, but that is purely a personal opinion. The writing is certainly as compelling as usual and the characters incredibly well depicted. I could ‘see’ and ‘hear’ Beth; while not the main character, it is Beth who fascinated me and her story is revealed slowly throughout the book.

The Book of Cold Cases is a compelling page-turner, one that provides multiple murder-mysteries; an infamous recluse; a detective who may have been just a little in love with the main suspect; and a true-crime blogger with her own secrets.

The audiobook is superbly narrated by Brittany Pressley, Kirsten Potter and Robert Petkoff.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheBookofColdCases

I: @simonestjames @penguinaudio

T: @simone_stjames @PRHAudio

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery #paranormal

THE AUTHOR: Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat. She is addicted to sushi, rainy days, coffee, and My Favorite Murder.

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy holidays my bookish friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day filled with love and laughter. Our Christmas Day was quiet, but fun. Then Boxing Day we had an open house and friends dropped by throughout the day. It was a fun day and good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a while.

Currently I am reading The Girls by Bella Osborne which was published earlier this year. I am only a few pages in, so no comment as yet.

Four old friends. Thrown back together after fifty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a flat and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

No One Saw it Coming by Susan Lewis, due to be published early January 2023. I h also only just started this.

Secrets lie at the heart of every family…

When the unthinkable happens…

Hanna’s world is crumbling.

An unimaginable crime has been committed, and everyone’s looking for someone to blame. Her loved ones are under suspicion.

Now Hanna must work out who is threatening her family – before it’s too late.

No one could have seen this coming…

And I am listening to The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley, purely for pleasure. I have listened to quite a bit of this today as I have been pottering around the house and garden. It’s shaping up nicely.

It has been twenty-four years since a young Helena spent a magical holiday in Cyprus, where she fell in love for the first time. When the now crumbling house, ‘Pandora’, is left to her by her godfather, she returns to spend the summer there with her family.

Yet Helena knows that the idyllic beauty of Pandora masks a web of secrets she has kept from William, her husband, and Alex, her son. At the difficult age of thirteen, Alex is torn between protecting his beloved mother, and growing up. And equally, he is desperate to learn the truth about his real father . . .

When Helena meets her childhood sweetheart by chance, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens to make her past and present collide. Both Helena and Alex know that life will never be the same, once Pandora’s secrets have been revealed.

I again don’t have any reads for review scheduled for the week ahead so will just be picking reads at random from my backlist and perhaps making a start on my January reads for review.

I have received three new ARCs for review since my last Watching what I’m reading post ten days ago. They are:

The Doctor’s Wife by Daniel Hurst. I have just finished my second book by this author, Til Death Do Us Part, and it was great. I’m really looking forward to this.

The Island of Longing by Anne Griffin, a new author to me.

And The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell, another author new to me.

So, that’s my week all nicely wrapped up. Enjoy your holiday break and make marvellous memories with your loved ones. ❤📚🎄

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Welcome to an overcast and humid summer afternoon in New Zealand. We were forecast heavy rain today, but instead it has been dry enough for me to get the lawns mowed.

I have my 5 year old grandson, Luke with me. He arrived Thursday evening and I am taking him home Wednesday afternoon. We have put up the tree, decorated the house, played numerous games of snap and go fish. We have started a tradition of ‘elevenses’ and invited ‘Mrs Helen’ my neighbour and walking partner to the first where we brought out the best china and had Christmas cake. I am also teaching Luke to play tennis (sans net), which he loves, and he is excited to, at last, be able to return a volley shot. Tuesday he is coming to aquarobics with me. Quite a few of the women brought their children and grandchildren to the classes during the week and we abandoned the aquarobics in favour of water polo and water bull rush. It was a far harder workout than our normal exercises!

It feels slightly unreal to think that this time next week it will be Christmas Day! I am mostly prepared. I’m just leaving making the chocolate crackles until later in the week. We’re going to Dustin’s Christmas Day, and then having open house here Boxing day.

It was my younger brother’s birthday yesterday, and we have two more family birthdays in December on 27th and 29th, so it’s a busy month for us.

Currently I am reading, purely for pleasure, The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway #1) by Elly Griffiths. I was drawn in from the start and will finish it this afternoon. I have read several books from this series in a rather haphazard manner but am now reading the series from the start, in order.

I am also reading Shadow Sands (Kate Marshall #2) by Robert Bryndza, a title from my backlist. I will also probably finish this today. I am planning on reading #3, Darkness Falls between Christmas and New Year, so that I am all caught up prior to the publication of #4, Devil’s Way, in January. I wholeheartedly recommend this series.

I am also reading WIN (Windsor Horne Lockwood III #1) by Harlan Coben. This is another title from my backlist.

And listening to The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley. When I first started listening to this, I thought it very similar to The Angel Tree, but now that the story has developed, it is very different but equally as enchanting. BTW, I don’t particularly like the cover.

I have nothing scheduled to read for review in the coming week, so plan to knock a few more titles off my backlist.

I received four new ARCs for review from Netgalley this week. They are: The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish, which I am very excited about. This is due for publication 08 March 2023.

One Day With You by Shari Low

Apartment 303 by Kelli Hawkins

And, That Night at the Beach by Kate Hewitt

Anything there that you’d care to read?

I still have 15 requests pending. 😊

I won’t post Christmas Day, or possibly Boxing Day either. But I wish you all the best however you choose to celebrate the festive season.

Happy reading ❤📚🎄