Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s probably a bit indulgent of me, but I have lit the fire as it’s a miserable grey, windy day with occasional smatterings of rain. It’s not particularly cold, but looking at the fire makes me feel better.

Currently I am reading The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

and A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristen Harper

both of which are due for publication this coming week.

I am listening to The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp for which I received both digital and audio ARCs this week.

This week I am planning on reading Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

And Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson

Lie #1 was to my new friends, about why I moved here.
Lie #2 was to my husband, about who I was before I met him.
Lie #3 was to myself, that I would get away with what I’ve done.

When I met Seb, it was like everything fell into place. My daughter Evie finally had a proper dad, and I had found the husband of my dreams – and what Seb didn’t know about my past wouldn’t hurt him.

But lately he’s been acting strangely. He won’t look me in the eye, he keeps coming home late and the other day at the school fair I saw him arguing with an unknown woman – the same woman I’ve seen hanging around outside our house.

And just as I start wondering whether I’m not the only one with a secret, Evie goes missing…

Oh, dear! 15 new ARCs this week! I fell off the wagon big time 😂🤣😂🤣❤📚 and I still have 28 pending requests.

My new ARCs are: Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart

The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson

Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons, DI Kim Stone #15

Why She Left by Leah Mercer

The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

The Widow by K.L. Slater

Old Sins by Aline Templeton

Backstory by William L. Myers, Jnr

A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs

The Secret in the Wall by Ann Parker

And, of course, The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp, which I have already started.

Yes, well . . . What can I say?

In the past week I have travelled to: Tinworthy, Cornwall; Edinburgh, Scotland; Derbyshire, England; New York City; and New Ross, Ireland.

We are still in lockdown, so this last week was the first time in I don’t know how long that I was able to read and review all the books on my list for the week!

It doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon, so I plan on making the most of it. I still pop into work every second day just to check the chiller temperatures and make sure everything is secure. My home office is almost ready to have the carpet laid, we’re just waiting on a new piece of skirting board to be fitted and painted. Then I plan to paint my library nook. The ceiling will need some work as there are quite a few little holes in it, almost like someone has repeatedly pushed a pool cue into it.

A little later this afternoon I will videocall my son and grandson, whom I had been planning on seeing on Tuesday when I was going to Hamilton to have my hair done. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. I will also call my youngest son in Australia and have a chat with him. I called my older brother in Sydney, Australia during the week as it was his birthday. They have recently come out of lockdown, and he is enjoying being able to get out and about again.

Have a wonderful week everyone. Stay safe and read on.❤📚

Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond

EXCERPT: An engine rumbled outside the window and he rushed to look; he would have to make a run for it if it was them back from their holiday. A white van had turned into the street and was pulling into Amanda’s drive – looked like a couple of builders. He couldn’t carry on trashing the place while they were parked there. He studied the two men in the front seat for a moment before noticing the gun on the dashboard. The hairs on the back of Jason’s neck stood on end when he realised they were watching the boy who was still cycling up and down the street on his own. What he had assumed were beanies revealed themselves to be balaclavas as the men pulled them down over their faces.

Should he call the police? That would land him in a whole heap of shit. He couldn’t just let this happen though. He picked up a sweater off the floor and dialled triple nine before wrapping the sweater around the mouthpiece in an attempt to conceal his voice. He knew his phone was untraceable. It was something his brother made him promise: always use pay-as-you-go phones with disposable SIMs; don’t let anyone trace where you are. That’s how they’d got Luke on his GBH charge – by finding his location through his phone.

As Jason spoke to dispatch, refusing to answer the questions that might give him away, the engine on the van started again, one man exiting the passenger side and sliding open the back door. Jason felt powerless as the boy cycled towards the van. He knew what was going to happen next, but it still made him sick to his stomach to watch as the scene played out before his eyes.

‘Please, you have to hurry. They’ve taken him, the little boy across the road. They grabbed him and put him in the back of a white van. Forty-six Golding Road.’

ABOUT ‘TRICK OR TREAT’: A stranger. A child. A liar who will stop at nothing…

When six-year-old Marcus is taken from outside his house on Halloween, there is only one witness: a frightened teen determined to keep himself hidden.

After an anonymous tip off, Detective Imogen Grey is called out to an expensive Exeter street, caught up in the buzz of the holiday. But when the police visit Marcus’s house, his parents claim everything is fine. Imogen is sure there is more to the family than meets the eye. But just how much more, she could never have imagined…

What has happened to little Marcus? And will he ever come home?

MY THOUGHTS: A rather mundane police procedural that focuses more on DS Imogen Grey’s life with her ex-copper boyfriend, Adrian, than it does on the abduction of young Marcus Carlyle.

There were a lot of things in Trick or Treat that just didn’t add up for me, the major one being that the person behind the kidnapping had previously been in jail, and so you would think that the fingerprints would be on record, and had they taken fingerprints for elimination purposes, they would have discovered an anomaly.

The other thing that really irritated me was the author’s constant use of ‘said’. Sara said. Imogen said. Adrian said. Peter said . . . It was really grating on my nerves by the end.

There were several things that weren’t explained to my satisfaction, but going into them would give away spoilers, so I am not prepared to do that.

I seriously considered not finishing this once or twice. I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters, even Sara. This book could have been greatly improved by hearing from Marcus; his view of what was happening to him would have made the story far more interesting. We have absolutely no idea what happened to him while in captivity.

A lacklustre narration didn’t help either. The narrator has a limited range of tone, and certainly wasn’t expressive. She could have been reading the telephone directory.

Trick or Treat was a disappointing experience for me.

⭐⭐.4

#TrickorTreat #NetGalley

I: @katerinadiamondauthor @harpercollinsuk

T: @TheVenomousPen @HarperCollinsUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #mystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Katerina Diamond was born in Weston in the seventies, and her parents owned a fish and chip shop in the Greek community. She moved to Thessaloniki in Greece and attended Greek school where she learnt Greek in just 6 months. After her parents divorce, they relocated to Devon. After school, and working in her uncles fish and chip shop, she went (briefly) to university at Derby, where she met her husband and had two children. Katerina now lives in the East Kent Coast with her husband and children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK Audio for providing an audio ARC of Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond 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. . .

Well, one week down the track and we are still in lockdown. Our 75th Jubilee has been cancelled, and we are waiting to hear tomorrow whether or not we will remain in lockdown. I am not hopeful that we will be coming out any time soon. Still I am enjoying the break and getting caught up on lots of little jobs around the house and garden. On nice days my neighbour and I sit outside on our respective sides of the fence and have coffee and chat.

I bumped into Allison from the library book group in the pharmacy in town yesterday and she said the thing that she misses most is human contact; actually being able to touch someone. She is in her eighties, lives alone and has no family close by. We ended up crossing the street to sit at either end of a park bench in the sun and talking for quite some time. So I hope that, for her sake and the sakes of everyone else in the same position, that we will soon be allowed to move around a little more freely. Though having just glanced at today’s figures, it’s not looking all that likely.

Currently I am reading Oh William by Elizabeth Strout. I love her writing; reading Strout is like sitting down having a ‘remember when’ conversation with a friend.

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas, which is set in an old mental asylum – although they were called lunatic asylums in 1903 which is one of the two time periods in the book. The other is 1993 when it is a boys school.

I am listening to The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine which is certainly an interesting murder-mystery/police procedural.

This week I plan to read A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald

Jilted grooms, sudden deaths, broken hearts and threatening letters. All in a day’s work for super sleuth Kate Palmer!

Nurse Kate Palmer thought the pretty Cornish village of Tinworthy would be the perfect place for a peaceful retirement. She couldn’t have been more wrong! But even she is shocked when she attends a beautiful wedding at St. Pirin’s Church and the handsome groom drops dead in front of her very eyes.

While the rest of the wedding party panics, Kate notices the strange behaviour of the not-so-blushing bride and the posh mother-in-law – and vows to find out the truth behind the poor young man’s sudden demise. Especially when the new detective Charlotte Martin makes it known that she doesn’t want Kate involved – and also shows an interest in Woody Forrest, Kate’s partner in crime-solving.

Undeterred, Kate discovers this isn’t the only wedding to have been sabotaged. A series of peculiar letters contain the clues Kate needs to get to the heart of the matter. But is the mystery letter writer behind the unusual deaths? Or is more than one person responsible for the strange goings on in the seaside village…

As Kate digs deeper, she adds more suspects to her growing list: the world-weary vicar, the unlucky-in-love cleaner and the bride’s former flame. But, as a pair of boots bring Kate closer to the killer, it becomes clear their investigation has placed Woody in danger.

Can Kate solve the murder and save the man she loves at the same time?

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel finds herself entangled in some tricky familial and financial situations that will require all of her kindness, charm, and philosophical expertise to navigate.

Just when Isabel and Jamie finally seem to have some time to connect and unwind, a wealthy Edinburgh resident reaches out to Isabel with an unusual request–he would like her to become the executor of his large Highland estate. Though Isabel initially demurs, he presses on. He has only a short time to live, and, without any direct heirs, is struggling to determine which of his three cousins would be the best caretaker. Should it go to the bohemian artist, the savvy city property developer, or the quiet, unassuming bachelor?

As if this weren’t enough to keep Isabel occupied, she’s also spending more time helping her niece Cat at the deli. Cat, perennially unlucky in love, seems to have finally found her match in the leonine Leo. But Isabel is beginning to suspect that Leo might be interested in more than Cat’s charms, namely her access to the family trust. Isabel will need to rely upon remarkable reserves of intelligence and compassion in order to give all parties exactly what they want and deserve–no more, and no less. 

And I have made up for the excesses of the previous few weeks with only one new ARC this week:

The Life She Wants by Mel Sherratt

I still have 27 requests pending, though there are quite a few that have already been published so I presume that I will never see them. I do wish that the publishers would hit the ‘decline’ button though, and remove them from my pending list.

In the past week I have been to Sydney, Australia; Glasgow, Scotland; Sweden; various locations in England in the mid-1900s; and Exeter, England. Have we crossed paths anywhere?

Safe travels and happy reading. ❤📚

Our House by Louise Candlish

EXCERPT: Friday 13 January, 2017

London 12:30 p.m.

She must be mistaken, but it looks exactly like someone is moving into her house.

The van is parked halfway down Trinity Avenue, its square mouth agape, a large piece of furniture sliding down the ribbed metal tongue. Fi watches, squinting into the buttery sunlight – rare for the time of year, a gift – as the object is borne shoulder-high by two men through the gate and down the path.

My gate. My path.

No, that’s illogical: of course it can’t be her house. It must be the Reese’s, two down from hers; they put their place on the market in the autumn and no one is quite sure if a sale has gone through. The houses on this side of Trinity Avenue are all built the same – red-bricked double-fronted Edwardians in pairs, their owners united in a preference for front doors painted black – and everyone agrees it’s easy to miscount.

Once when Bram came stumbling home from one of his ‘quick drinks’ at The Two Brewers, he went to the wrong door and she heard through the open bedroom window the scrambling and huffing as her inebriated husband failed to fit his key into the lock of number 87, Merle and Adrian’s place. His persistence was staggering, his dogged belief that if he only kept trying the key would work.

‘But they all look the same,’ he’d protested in the morning.

‘The houses, yes, but even a drunk couldn’t miss the magnolia,’ Fi had told him, laughing. (This was back when she was still amused by his inebriety and not filled with sadness – or disdain, depending on her mood.)

Her step falters: the magnolia. It’s a landmark, their tree, a celebrated sight when in blossom and beautiful even when bare, as it is now, the outer twigs etched into the sky with an artist’s flair. And it is definitely in the front garden of the house with the van outside.

ABOUT ‘OUR HOUSE’: On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

MY THOUGHTS: Plenty of twists and turns culminating in an unexpected and ironic ending.

I love Louise Candlish’s talent for writing engrossing neighbourhood dramas! There is a lot more going on in this story than is immediately obvious.

The plot is as outlined above, and I am not going to elaborate on that in any way for fear of revealing spoilers. But let’s just say that Candlish strung me along beautifully.

Bram is an awful husband. He is unfaithful to Fi, and those are not the only secrets he is keeping from her! I can’t say that I really warmed to Fi either – she seemed to me to be a bit of a cold fish, concerned more about appearances and status than the reality of the situation.

But the story itself is delicious. It’s told from the viewpoints of both Fi and Bram as their marriage crumbles and Bram is caught up in a web of deceit and blackmail. So we, the readers, know things about Bram that Fi doesn’t and vice-versa. While ignorance may be bliss in some situations, that certainly isn’t the case here.

I loved the ending.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#OurHouse

I: @louisecandlish @wfhowes

T: @louise_candlish @WFHowes

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama

THE AUTHOR: Sunday Times bestselling author ​Louise Candlish was born in Northumberland and grew up in the Midlands town of Northampton. She studied English at University College London and has lived in the capital ever since.

Louise lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband, teenage daughter and fox-red Labrador, Bertie. Besides books, the things she likes best are: coffee; TV; salted caramel; tennis; lasagne; old heavy metal; ‘The Archers’ (but not the lockdown monologues); white wine; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or, failing that, a Starbar). Her favourite book is Madame Bovary.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to Our House written by Louise Candlish, narrated by Deni Francis and Paul Panting, published by W.F. Howes Ltd via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

EXCERPT: ‘Are you a detective, sir?’

William looked up at the young man who’d asked the question. ‘No, I’m the assistant manager of the Midland Bank in Shoreham, Kent.’

‘In that case,’ continued the young man, not looking convinced, ‘you’ll be able to tell me what the exchange rate was between the dollar and the pound when the currency market opened this morning.’

William tried to remember how much he’d received when he changed a hundred pounds into dollars just before he’d joined the ship the previous evening. But he hesitated for too long.

‘One dollar and fifty-four cents to the pound,’ said the young man before he could reply. ‘So, forgive me for asking, sir, why aren’t you willing to admit you’re a detective?’

William put the book he was reading on the table in front of him and took a closer look at the earnest young American who seemed desperate not to be thought of as a child, although he hadn’t started shaving. The word ‘preppy’ immediately came to mind.

‘Can you keep a secret?’ he whispered.

‘Yes, of course,’ the young man said, sounding offended.

‘Then have a seat,’ said William, pointing to the comfortable chair opposite him. He waited for the young man to settle. ‘I’m on holiday, and I promised my wife that for the next ten days I wouldn’t tell anyone I was a detective, because it’s always followed by a stream of questions that turn it into a busman’s holiday.’

But why choose a banker as your cover?’ asked the young man. ‘Because I have the feeling you wouldn’t know the difference between a spreadsheet and a balance sheet.’

‘My wife and I gave that question some considerable thought before we settled on a banker. I grew up in Shoreham, a small town in England, in the sixties, and the local bank manager was a friend of my father’s. So I thought I’d get away with it for a couple of weeks.’

‘What else was on the short list?’

‘Estate agent, car salesman, and funeral director. All of which we were fairly confident wouldn’t be followed by never ending questions.’

The young man laughed.

‘Which job would you have chosen?’ asked William, trying to regain the initiative.

‘Hitman. That way nobody would have bothered me with any follow up questions.’

‘I would have known that was a cover immediately,’ said William with a dismissive wave of his hand. ‘Because no hitman would have asked me if I was a detective. He would have already known. So, what do you really do when you’re not a hitman?’

ABOUT ‘OVER MY DEAD BODY’: In London, the Metropolitan Police set up a new Unsolved Murders Unit—a cold case squad—to catch the criminals nobody else can.

In Geneva, millionaire art collector Miles Faulkner—convicted of forgery and theft—was pronounced dead two months ago. So why is his unscrupulous lawyer still representing a dead client?

On a luxury liner en route to New York, the battle for power at the heart of a wealthy dynasty is about to turn to murder.

And at the heart of all three investigations are Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick, rising star of the department, and ex-undercover agent Ross Hogan, brought in from the cold.

But can they catch the killers before it’s too late?

Due for publication 12 October 2021

MY THOUGHTS: I first read Jeffrey Archer in 1979,or shortly thereafter, having bought my father Kane and Abel as a gift, which I promptly borrowed back to read. My father is long passed away, but I still have that copy. Thus began my love affair with this extraordinarily talented storyteller.

Now in his eighties, he certainly hasn’t lost his touch, and has created a wonderful character in William Warwick who has risen to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector (youngest in the history of the Met), and also in Ross Hogan, an ex-undercover agent and loose cannon.

The cruise that William and his delightful and clever wife Beth are taking, doesn’t turn out to be the relaxing holiday they were planning on. A suspicious death on board puts paid to that, and William leaves his wife in New York after they dock and flies back to England where he becomes embroiled in a plan to catch the escaped, and previously thought dead, criminal Miles Faulkner.

Over My Dead Body is fast paced and kept me spellbound from beginning to end. It’s not often that I will listen to an audiobook in two days, but I had my earbuds in every chance I had. It’s brilliantly written, with plots and subplots, twists, turns and drama. I frequently had my heart in my mouth, and at one point I called out a very loud and anguished, ‘Nooo!’ If you read Over My Dead Body, and I hope that you do, you will know exactly at which point I did this.

Archer has left me on the edge of my seat, waiting for #5 in this planned series of 8 books.

Narrator George Blagden gave an excellent performance, but then I would expect nothing less from such a distinguished actor.

At the end of the audiobook is an excellent interview with Jeffrey Archer. Please don’t skip this, it’s priceless.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#OverMyDeadBody #NetGalley

I: @jeffrey_archer_author @harpercollinsuk

T: @Jeffrey_Archer @HarperCollinsUK

#fivestarread #detectivefiction #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare (born 15 April 1940) is an English author and former politician.

He was a Member of Parliament and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, and became a life peer in 1992. His political career, having suffered several controversies, ended after a conviction for perverting the course of justice and his subsequent imprisonment. He is married to Mary Archer, a scientist specialising in solar power. Outside politics, he is a novelist, playwright and short story writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Over My Dead Body 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 . . .

I am currently reading a very atmospheric piece of Australian fiction, The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. I keep expecting my furniture to be covered in a fine layer of red dust whenever I surface from this read.

I am listening to Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond, which I have only just started, and which received this week.

This week I am planning on making a start on my Christmas reads, with A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale. I have heard such wonderful things about this author and am looking forward to reading this.

When her beloved grandmother passes away, Mia Broadhurst returns to the snow-covered seaside village of Winsted Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the lighthouse overlooking the golden beach.

This will be Mia’s first Christmas without her, and she can’t bear to part with the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations. As she steps into it, childhood memories rush back to her. She can almost hear them playing tag on the steps… But her life is back in New York, dedicated to a busy PR firm, and she has no choice but to sell.

With the snow falling, turning the grounds into a winter wonderland, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker. As they restore the historical building, she tries not notice how handsome he is. After all, she’s only home for Christmas… And Will’s deep blue eyes, as stormy as the Atlantic Ocean, tells her he has his own heartbreak to contend with.

Warmed by a crackling fire, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings with the help of her mother and sister. But waiting for them is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription. The mysterious message is the key to a family secret that has been hidden for decades––one that changes everything.

When Mia finds out the truth, will it save the precious lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs? Or will it tear her from Winsted Cape––and Will––for ever?

And The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope, an author I always enjoy.

I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever? 

I have 9 new ARCs this week, two of them audiobooks, one of which, Trick or Treat, I have started listening to. I still have 31 requests pending.

My new ARCs are: The Maid by Nita Prose

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay which, when I requested it, I was unaware was #13 in a series!

A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald. I also have the previous book in this series, A Body at the Tea Rooms to catch up on.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Put Out to Pasture by Amanda Flower

and the audiobook Touching Strangers by Stacey Madden

Thank you to all my enabler friends who provided fodder for my book list this week. You know who you are. ❤📚

My posting has been a bit irregular this week for a number of reasons starting with the brutal, senseless and cowardly murder of one of my husband’s workmates last weekend while we were away. Antz was an all round good guy and father of six who will be greatly missed. We are grateful that two suspects have been apprehended.

I have also been helping to care for a friend who started chemotherapy this week and who has had a very violent reaction to it.

And we went back into lockdown at midnight on Thursday night. So Friday was spent going through all the lockdown procedures as we have no idea how long this will be for. It doesn’t affect the whole of New Zealand, just from the middle of the North Island, north. Case numbers are continuing to rise daily with an alarming number not connected to current cases. We had our Club’s 75th Jubilee scheduled for the last weekend this month and, depending on the news tomorrow afternoon, are probably going to have to postpone it again. We were meant to have it last year, but the same thing happened. Maybe we should just wait for the 80th now!

I had planned to go to visit my son and grandson this past week, but they went into lockdown a week ahead of us, so I am having to make do with videocalls. Aren’t we lucky to have this technology available to us. I also had a long videocall with my son in Western Australia earlier today. It was lovely to be able to see and talk to him.

So that was my week. I didn’t get all the reading done that I had planned, but that’s life and I am grateful that I and all my loved ones are safe. I hope your week wasn’t as eventful as mine.

Happy reading all. ❤📚

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Thank you all for your good wishes for our weekend away. It was long drive in unpleasant conditions, and a detour to avoid a road closure due to an accident, but it was worth it to catch up with my brother. We share a passion for wine and I brought a few bottles home from his collection, plus the leftovers from the very delicious white chocolate cheesecake Rachel made for dessert. I am going to have to spend some time on my cross trainer this week as a result.

Currently I am reading 1979 by Val McDermid. I only started this before work this morning, but I am hooked.

I am listening to Our House by Louise Candlish which I am enjoying.

This week I am planning on reading Bad Apples by Will Dean – my second book title featuring apples in as many weeks.

It only takes one…

A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated

A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest

A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…

And The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou, Australian fiction by a new author to me.

A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Six new ARCs this week – where did they come from?🤷‍♀️ And, oh dear, 33 requests still pending.

Two titles from Marci Bolden, both read now – A Life Without Regrets (Thank you Susan of susanlovesbooks.wordpress.com )

And Hidden Hearts

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Echo Man by Sam Holland

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

And The Perfect Neighbour by Susanna Beard

I still have two reviews to write, so I had better crack on.

Stay safe. Covid Delta has escaped Auckland and there are cases just an hour up the road. Where my son and grandson live is now off limits to us . . . They are both fine, and Dustin is fully vaccinated so hopefully they will be fine.

Happy reading!❤📚

Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

EXCERPT: Prologue: Frozen to the bone, I stumble from the boat and look around me at the village. It’s not Creel, but some place exactly like it; houses tumbling like rocks down towards the hungry sea. Fishing boats and cracked concrete. I stand there, swaying slightly with the motion of the boat I’ve left behind. There’s no sound or movement from the houses.

Somehow, despite coming so far, through so much, the idea of going up to one of those doors and knocking, being confronted by a stranger, has me frozen. What is waiting in those houses? Is there even anyone there?

‘Are you all right, poppet?’

I turn so fast I nearly fall over. On the doorstep of a tiny cottage is an old woman in a wool skirt and fluffy slippers. Her eyes are wide and she has a wire cage of milk bottles in one hand, her back still half stooped to put it on the doorstep.

As I turn, her eyes fall to the strap of the rifle and she drops the bottles. They smash, throwing glass all over the concrete step. Fear is etched on her face as I remove the rifle and lay it on the ground.

I rise, and glance down at my ripped and muddy clothing, hanging off my skeletal body. With effort, I part my sticky, salt encrusted lips.

‘I need the police.’

ABOUT ‘STRANDED’: Eight strangers.
One island.
A secret you’d kill to keep.

When eight people arrive on the beautiful but remote Buidseach Island, they are ready for the challenge of a lifetime: to live alone for one year.

Eighteen months later, a woman is found in an isolated fishing village. She’s desperate to explain what happened to her: how the group fractured and friends became enemies; how they did what they must to survive until the boat came to collect them; how things turned deadly when the boat didn’t come…

But first Maddy must come to terms with the devastating secret that left them stranded, and her own role in the events that saw eight arrive and only three leave.

MY THOUGHTS: In all honesty, I believe you would need to be a fan of TV ‘reality’ shows like Survivor to appreciate this book. In hindsight, I am probably the wrong demographic. I was thinking that this would be more of a murder mystery, and it is not.

Maddy is the narrator. She is grief stricken following the death of her parents. She lost her job as a botanist after clashing with her boss, and is temping office work. She is lost and lonely and believes she needs this challenge to find herself. So she isn’t very happy when life on the Island starts to mirror the life she left behind. Tensions between the contestants escalate until . . .

Initially I found the personality clashes between the contestants interesting, and while I knew that bad stuff had to happen, I was expecting a more even division into ‘sides’ than occurred.

While I never quite lost interest, Stranded seemed inordinately long. It felt like we lived through every day of those eighteen months, task by repetitive task. And in the end? It became tedious. And frankly, unbelievable.

⭐⭐.7

#Stranded #NetGalley

I: @sarah_goodwin_author @harpercollinsuk @avonbooksuk

T: @SGoodAuthor @HarperCollinsUK @AvonBooksUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Goodwin is a novelist who grew up in rural Hertfordshire and now lives in Bristol. She was raised on C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie by her parents and spent her summers in castles and on battlefields making up stories about women struggling for survival against war, poverty and dragons.

At Bath Spa University Sarah studied for a BA in Creative Writing and self-published seven novels across various genres, including YA magical realism, contemporary women’s fiction, romance and horror.

While undertaking her Master’s degree, Sarah participated in writing and performing in sketches for Bristol-based What Have You Comedy and now appears regularly on Bristol Youth Radio Rocks as part of a weekly mental health hour for young people.

Sarah graduated in 2014 with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK audio for providing an audio ARC of Stranded by Sarah Goodwin, and narrated by Esme Sears, 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 . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon everyone!

I have just started reading The Parents by Claire Seeber, a new author to me.

I am 2/3 through listening to Stranded by Sarah Goodwin. The jury is still out. I do see the resemblance to Lord of the Flies, which I never particularly liked, but there is still a third of the book to go, and it sounds like there’s still plenty to happen.

This week I am planning on reading My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt, an author I know I can depend on for an emotionally wrenching read.

I look at my daughter. My darling girl. I remember her tiny hand in mine, her first smile. I recall her tears when she’d tumble over, healed instantly with a band-aid and a little kiss. I have to keep her safe. Even if it means someone else gets hurt…

In the pretty, privileged college town of Milford, New Hampshire, everyone is friendly, everything is safe. And on this cold autumn day, as red and yellow leaves begin to fall from the trees, and everyone wraps up for the first time, it would be easy to believe nothing bad could ever happen here.

Until a screech of tires is heard, a thud, a child’s scream. The crash that sees Jenna’s six-year-old daughter Amy Rose being hit by a car driven by seventeen-year-old Maddie.

Maddie’s mother, Ellen—a college professor with a warm, approachable reputation—insists it must have been an accident. Her daughter is always safe on the road—and she’s vulnerable herself.

But as Amy Rose lies unconscious in hospital, the town begins to take sides. With Ellen, who just wants to defend her daughter. Or with Jenna, a single mother with a past, whose child hovers between life and death…

The truth is that both mothers have secrets they’re trying to keep. And, with Amy Rose’s life hanging in the balance, one of them will stop at nothing to protect the person she loves—her daughter.

And Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer, another new author to me.

Eve has been a partner in a Wallaby Bay fishing fleet as long as she can remember. Now they want her to sell – but what would her life be without work? She lives alone, her role on the town committee has been spiked by malicious gossip and she is incapacitated after surgery. For the first time in her life she feels weak, vulnerable – old.

When her troubled god-daughter Julia arrives at Wallaby Bay, she seems to offer Eve a reprieve from her own concerns. But there is no such thing as plain sailing. Eve has another house guest, the abrasive Lucy, who is helping her recuperate and does not look kindly on Julia’s desire for Eve’s attention.

But Lucy, too, has demons to battle and as each woman struggles to overcome their loss of place in the world, they start to realise that there may be more that holds them together, than keeps them apart.

But will these birds of feather truly be able to reinvent what family means? Or will the secrets and hurts of the past shatter their precarious hold on their new lives … and each other? 

During the past week I have been: Stranded on Buidseach Island off the Scottish Coast; in the poverty stricken suburb of Mattapan, Boston; to the tea shop in Charon’s Crossing, wherever that may be; and I am currently in the football obsessed village of Tenderton, Kent. Have we crossed paths this week? Where have you been?

I have eight new ARCs this week: At the End of the Day by Liz Byrski, an English born Australian author I love.

Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

A Life Without Water by Marci Bolden which I was declined for back in 2019 when it was first released. I found it as ‘read now’ when I was browsing the Netgalley shelves.

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou, another Australian author also new to me.

A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale, an author I have been wanting to read for some time.

Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson, an author I enjoy.

And finally, The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

and I still have 29 requests pending. 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️❤📚

The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

EXCERPT: taken from 30 and Out by Doug Allyn

The sign on the door read Sgt. Charles Marx, Major Crimes. I raised my fist to knock, then realised the guy at the desk wasn’t just resting his eyes. He was totally out, slouched in his chair, his grubby Nikes up on his desk, baseball cap tipped down over his eyes, snoring softly. Looked like a Class C wrestling coach after a losing season. Edging in quietly, I eased down into the chair facing his desk. When I glanced up, his eyes were locked on mine like lasers.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I’m Jax LaDart, Sergeant Marx. Your FNG.’

He frowned at that, then nodded. ‘The f*****g new guy,’ he said, massaging his eyelids with his fingertips. ‘Ah, right. You’re the home boy the chief hired, straight out of the army. I was reading your record. It put me to sleep.’ He spun the Dell laptop on his desk to show me the screen. ‘According to the Military Police, you’ve closed a lot of felony cases overseas, but the details are mostly redacted, blacked out.’

‘The army’d classify Three Blind Mice if they could. You don’t remember me, do you?’

ABOUT ‘THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP PRESENTS THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR: 2021: Under the auspices of New York City’s legendary mystery fiction specialty bookstore, The Mysterious Bookshop, and aided by Edgar Award-winning anthologist Otto Penzler, international bestseller Lee Child has selected the twenty most suspenseful, most confounding, and most mysterious short stories from the past year, collected now in one entertaining volume.

Includes stories by:

Alison Gaylin
David Morrell
James Lee Burke
Joyce Carol Oates
Martin Edwards
Sara Paretsky
Stephen King
Sue Grafton (with a new, posthumously-published work!)

And many more!

MY THOUGHTS: There are a couple of absolutely brilliant stories in here – Sue Grafton’s ‘If You Want Something Done Right . . .’ and Stephen King’s ‘The Fifth Step’ are the two that stood out for me. Others that I enjoyed were: ‘The Locked Cabin’ by Martin Edwards, Janice Law’s ‘The Client’, and David Morrell’s ‘Requiem For A Homecoming.’ There was one story I absolutely detested – Parole Hearing by Joyce Carol Oates, and I didn’t much care for David Marcum’s ‘The Home Office Baby’ either, or the first two stories which were ‘tough guy’ fiction and almost completely put me off reading any more of the collection. The rest fell somewhere in the middle and were mostly quite mediocre.

This is by no means anywhere near my favourite collection. Quite a few, I zoned out of as I was listening, and had to return to. They just didn’t hold my interest; absolutely no reflection on the narrators who, on the whole did an excellent job.

I know 2020 was a difficult year for all, but I am sure that there were far better mystery stories out there that could have been included in this collection.

⭐⭐⭐

#TheBestMysteryStoriesoftheYear2021 #NetGalley

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

Edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Highbridge Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Best Mystery Stories of the Year:2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler 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