Watching What I’m Reading

I can’t believe it is 5 days since I last posted. I have had a bout of bronchopnuemonia and it knocked the stuffing out of me. All I have done is sleep…I tried reading but would fall asleep again and then, when I woke, was unable to remember what I had read.

So I have read very little in the past few days, and requested nothing… though a couple of my pending requests were approved. Hopefully as I continue to improve so will my powers of concentration. I have to admit to struggling with writing this. My brain really doesn’t want to function. I tried and failed yesterday, which is why this is a day late.

Currently I am reading an Australian novel, Tiny White Lies by Fiona Palmer. It is set initially in Perth, Western Australia, then moves to the southwest coast somewhere in the region of Albany. I am enjoying this domestic drama/romance set in a slightly warmer climate than my own.

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I am listening to Sadie by Courtney Summers, but like reading at the moment, I keep having to rewind and listen again. This is no reflection on the quality of the book or the narration, purely the fault of my cotton wool brain!

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This week I am planning on reading The Bad Sister by Kevin O’Brien

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TOO CLOSE
The site of the old campus bungalow where two girls were brutally slain is now a flower patch covered with chrysanthemums. It’s been fifty years since the Immaculate Conception Murders. Three more students and a teacher were killed in a sickening spree that many have forgotten. But there is one person who knows every twisted detail. . . .

TO SEE
Hannah O’Rourke and her volatile half-sister, Eden, have little in common except a parent. Yet they’ve ended up at the same small college outside Chicago, sharing a bungalow with another girl. Hannah isn’t thrilled—nor can she shake the feeling that she’s being watched. And her journalism professor, Ellie Goodwin, keeps delving into Hannah and Eden’s newsworthy past. . . .

THE DANGER
When Hannah and Eden’s arrival coincides with a spate of mysterious deaths, Ellie knows it’s more than a fluke. A copycat is recreating those long-ago murders. Neither the police nor the school will accept the horrific truth. And the more Ellie discovers, the more she’s convinced that she won’t live to be believed. . . .

This week I have received two new ARCs, again more by circumstance than good management.

Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas

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and, Ransomed by M.A. Hunter, for which I was sent a widget.

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Have a wonderful week all. I will post when I can, but right now I am snuggling back down for another nap.

Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie

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EXCERPT: ‘I’m sorry I got you into this!’ Charlie Reynolds shouted over the gusts of wind blasting them with icy sleet. ‘It’s the stupid weather! I don’t know where it came from. I can’t see how to get down.’

Neither could Tess. She held on to a shelf of slippery rock on a narrow ledge high on a cliff face with frozen, aching fingers. Beneath them was absolutely nothing. She tried for a smile, for encouragement, because the cute but stupid twenty-three year old was close to panic, but in her head she was swearing: at him, the mountain, the weather, the whole messed-up situation. He had no right to be here. He’d been warned. No – he’d been told. Repeatedly. The Federation Peak climb belonged only to those with the experience to tackle it and enough respect for the extreme Tasmanian conditions to know when not to. And he’d climbed up anyway.

And now this.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: tragic accident, a terrible crime, an unknown threat …

Scarred by a recent tragedy on Federation Peak, Tess Atherton is reluctant to guide a group of young hikers in the wild Tasmanian winter, but it seems safer than remaining amid the violence that threatens them in Hobart. Little does she know that she has brought the danger with her …

Detective Senior Sergeant Jared Denham is closing in on a serial killer, but someone doesn’t want him getting to the truth and the case is becoming personal. He already owes Tess his life, and wants to return the favour – but when it comes to enemies, Jared may be looking in the wrong direction.

Time is running out, and death is stalking them both …

MY THOUGHTS: Straight up, I’m going to say that I hate both heights and cold. Deadman’s Track has both and I felt the fear as Tess hung suspended over cliff edges, and felt every chilling sting of the icy sleet. I swear that my next read has to be set on a tropical island so that I can thaw out!

I have recently read some absolutely brilliant and gripping Australian fiction, and I was looking forward to more of the same. But I am leaving this book feeling a little disappointed. Despite Sarah Barrie’s great descriptive writing, I found the plot lacking. I was dragging my heels by the halfway point and found myself slogging through the remainder of the read. And despite the ending being quite suspenseful and exciting, it wasn’t enough to earn Deadman’s Track more than an extra half a star.

I really wanted to like Tess, the main character, but for someone who leads trail hikes and volunteers for Search and Rescue, she is easily led into dangerous situations. Twice she counsels against doing hikes because of the time of the year and the unpredictable winter weather conditions, and twice she goes ahead with them. I just didn’t find her particularly credible.

Aaron, the controlling ex-boyfriend who won’t accept that Tess no longer wants to be with him, is really well depicted and more development of this storyline would have kept me more interested. I am not so keen on the criminal elements in this book, but that is purely my personal preference.

Deadman’s Track was only an okay read for me, and I am sorry that I didn’t like it more. Many other people have absolutely loved this book, so if you are looking at reading Deadman’s Track, check out some of the more positive reviews.

I loved that Sarah Barrie dedicated Deadman’s Track ‘to the extraordinary men and women who risk their lives every day to save others.’

🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️

#DeadmansTrack #NetGalley

‘So many big strong heroes, so little time…’

‘I want to twist his balls until they snap off and shove them so far up his butt they work as breast enhancements!’

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Barrie lives with her husband and children in a rural area on the Central Coast of NSW. She divides her time between writing, being a mum and her position as editor of two equestrian magazines. When she finds a spare moment or two, she enjoys spending time with her Arabian horses and the various other animals that call the farm home. Though her writing career has traditionally revolved around producing articles for various publications, her true passion lies in fiction and she enjoys writing contemporary romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading…

It’s easy to tell when I am having a bad week…I request/buy/borrow books to make myself feel better. And I have had a bad week this week; a combination of work, one son in hospital with blood poisoning, and the dismal weather have drained me, resulting in 9 new ARCs this week! Susan and Carla can stop laughing right now, I’m sure they were responsible for some of my requests.

I am about to start Dead Wicked by Helen H. Durrant, a series that I have been enjoying.

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And I am a little over half way through All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White.

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This week I am planning on reading One in Three by Tess Stimson of which Jayme of theblondelikesbooks.wordpress.com says ‘That. Was. Fun’

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Both of them loved him. One of them killed him . . .

Louise has had to watch her husband, Andrew, start a new family in the four years since he left her. The ‘other woman’ is now his wife – but Louise isn’t ready to let Caz enjoy the life that was once hers, or to let go of the man she still loves.

As Louise starts to dig into Caz’s past, the two women’s pretence of civility starts to slip. But in trying to undermine each other, they discover more about the man they both married.

And when Andrew is murdered at a family party, both women are found standing over the body.

And when Andrew is murdered during the anniversary celebrations, both women are found standing over the body.
It’s always the wife. But which one?

I also plan on reading The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse

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When her loving, free-spirited grandmother Primrose passes away, Victoria is bereft, yet resilient—she has survived tragedy before. But even her strength is tested when a mysterious woman attends Prim’s funeral and claims to be the mother Victoria thought was dead.

As the two women get to know each other and Victoria begins to learn more about her past, it becomes clear that her beloved grandmother had been keeping life-changing secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she still struggles to trust anyone to tell her the truth.

To live a full and happy life, Victoria knows she must not only uncover the truth, but find a way to forgive her family. But after so many years, is trusting them even possible?

And now (drumroll please!) my ARCs…..

Out of Her Mind by T.R. Reagan

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One In Three by Tess Stimson, and yes I know that I wasn’t going to request any more books due for publication in July or August, but I love this author…

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The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley

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What’s Not Said by Valerie Taylor

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The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

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A Pretty Deceit (Verity Kent #4) by Anna Lee Huber

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Come When I Call You by Shayna Krishnasamy

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The Ocean House by Mary Beth Hughes

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and finally, The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane

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There’s a lot of variety there, so I hope that you have found something to tempt your bookish taste buds.

Cheers
Sandy
❤😍📚☕🍪

The Life She Left Behind by Nicole Trope

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EXCERPT: Her breath condenses in front of her and she has a sudden memory of herself as a child standing outside on a winter’s morning, blowing out and watching, fascinated, as her breath emerged in a cloud. She is no longer a child but she feels like one, overwhelmed by confusion, by her lack of control.

How has this happened?

How could I not have known?

Is this what I deserve?

The street is eerily silent, the barren housing plots looming large in the darkness, threatening them with their emptiness.

There is a slight hum of cars coming from the highway in the distance, where nothing stops the endless streams of traffic – not the dark, nor the cold, nor the late hour.

She is dressed for the weather, with her coat on and a beanie hat, but she regrets it now that she’s running. Her hands are freezing but she can feel a trickle of sweat make its way down her back. She pushes her body to move faster, pushes against the wind that seems determined to send her backwards. They need to get there quickly.

We’re coming, baby. We’re coming.

‘Come alone,’ he had instructed?

But she’s not alone.

‘Don’t tell anyone,’ he had commanded.

But she had told someone.

‘I just want to talk,’ he had stated.

But what could there be to say?

‘I won’t hurt her,’ he had promised.

She knows that’s a lie.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: You tell him everything. The husband you adore, the father of your child, your best friend. He knows, just by looking at your sage-green eyes, when something is wrong. The two of you can communicate with a glance, or a touch of the hand. Except what if you can’t? What if your happy marriage has plastered over one huge lie? A lie you have even started to believe yourself, in order to survive? What if you have a secret, something you have hidden from your beloved husband and your strawberry-scented baby girl, to keep them safe? What if the guilt has kept you up, night after night, for as long as you can remember? What happens when suddenly, after twenty-eight years, that secret refuses to stay buried? What will you do now everyone you love, everything you cherish, is in harm’s way?

MY THOUGHTS: There is something very personal about the way Nicole Trope writes. It’s not like you’re on the outside looking in, you feel like you are there, that you know these people, the characters in The Life She Left Behind. So you’re not rubbernecking at a life that has been dominated by domestic violence, you’re involved, totally involved in trying to extricate Veronica and her daughter Rachel from the clutches of a man who promised to love and protect, but who interprets that as being able to control and dominate. All. The. Time. The abuse is both physical and mental, and Trope delivers an emotional but well balanced portrait of the ongoing effects as a result of living in such an environment.

The story is written over two timelines – When Rachel is a child, growing up in an environment filled with domestic violence and fear; and twenty-eight years later when she is a mother, and her past comes back to haunt her. It is also told from multiple points of view: That of Rachel (Little Bird) as a child, Rachel as an adult, Ben (her husband), and another unknown person whose identity gradually becomes clear.

Sad and chilling in parts, The Life She Left Behind is full of hope and forgiveness in others. This is an emotional read and a very worthwhile one. Tissues required.

4 stars

#TheLifeSheLeftBehind #NetGalley

‘Once my anger met alcohol there was really only one way things were going to go.’

THE AUTHOR: Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’ She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree in Children’s Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband. She now lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture vis NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Life She Left Behind by Nicole Trope 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

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

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EXCERPT: She was floating, arms outspread, water lapping her body, breathing in a summery fragrance of salt and coconut. There was a pleasantly satisfied breakfast taste in her mouth of bacon and coffee and possibly croissants. She lifted her chin and the morning sun shone so brightly on the water, she had to squint through spangle of light to see her feet in front of her. Her toenails were each painted a different colour. Red. Gold. Purple. Funny. The nail polish hadn’t been applied very well. Blobby and messy. Someone else was floating in the water right next to her. Someone she liked a lot, who made her laugh, with toenails painted the same way. The other person waggled multi-coloured toes at her companionably, and she was filled with sleepy contentment. Somewhere in the distance a man’s voice shouted, ‘Marco?’ and a chorus of children’s voices cried back, ‘Polo!’ The man called out again, ‘Marco, Marco, Marco?’ and the voices answered, ‘Polo, Polo, Polo!’ A child laughed; a long, gurgling giggle, like a stream of soap bubbles. A voice said quietly and insistently in her ear, ‘Alice?’ and she tipped back her head and let the cool water slide silently over her face.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of those books that simply took over my life. My poor long-suffering husband probably thought I had amnesia when I was reading it … because I don’t think I was fully present until after I closed the cover for the final time.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to have ten years missing from my memory. Just gone. People die. Babies are born. Friends/family divorce. And remarry. People move away. Technology changes. When I think about all the changes in my life over the past ten years, if I had to wake up and face all that at once….well, I think I would have a meltdown. And if I had mortally offended people during that time, as Alice has done, well … where would I turn?

Liane Moriarty has, as is her trademark, written an emotional rollercoaster of a story. Absolutely fascinating with very real characters whom you won’t always like but will find very easy to relate to, What Alice Forgot will have you chuckling one moment, sobbing quietly the next.

Five very brightly shining stars!

THE AUTHOR: Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of six internationally best-selling novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and the number 1 New York Times bestsellers, The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies.

Her breakout novel The Husband’s Secret sold over three million copies worldwide, was a number 1 UK bestseller, an Amazon Best Book of 2013 and has been translated into over 40 languages. It spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. CBS Films has acquired the film rights.

With the launch of Big Little Lies, Liane became the first Australian author to have a novel debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. An HBO series based on Big Little Lies is currently in production, starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.

Writing as L.M. Moriarty, Liane has also written a children’s book series, The Petrifying Problem with Princess Petronella, The Shocking Trouble on the Planet of Shobble and The Wicked War on the Planet of Whimsy.

Liane lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, published by Pan Macmillan Australia, from the Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean by Mira Robertson

For some unknown reason, the cover photo just won’t download. 🤬
But the cover isn’t important, as eye catching as it may be. It’s what is between the covers that is the treat…

EXCERPT: Passengers moved along the platform, opening carriage doors and saying their goodbyes. Emily leaned out of the train window. She gave her father an especially pleading look.

‘There are snakes and spiders, and I’m allergic to sheep. Please don’t make me go.’

She knew it was hopeless – the train was due to leave at any moment – but she had to make one last attempt. If nothing else, she wanted her father to feel guilty about bundling her off against her will.

‘Don’t be silly,’ he replied, impervious to her tragic countenance. ‘No-one is allergic to sheep. Fresh air, sunshine and the splendors of nature. You’ve always enjoyed it.’

But that was on her last visit, ages ago. She’d been thirteen then, and knew no better.

‘I can’t go. Mummy needs me.’

She wished she hadn’t said ‘Mummy’ as it sounded immature, and now it was she who felt a twinge of guilt, knowing that it wasn’t about helping her mother at all, but the thought of spending weeks with ancient relatives in the middle of nowhere.

Further up the platform, the stationmaster blew his whistle. Carriage doors slammed shut as her father reached out and patted her arm.

‘Send my love to your Grandmother and the others,’ he said, ignoring her last words. ‘Make yourself useful and don’t be a burden. And don’t forget to collect your suitcase when you arrive at the station. As soon as things are back to normal, I’ll come for you.’

But when would that be?

ABOUT HIS BOOK: In 1944 Emily Dean is dispatched from Melbourne to stay with relatives in rural Victoria. At the family property, Mount Prospect, she finds that Grandmother is determined to keep up standards despite the effects of the war, while Della, the bible-quoting cook, rules the kitchen with religious fervour. If only Emily’s young aunt – the beautiful, fearless Lydia – would bestow her friendship, but that seems destined never to occur. Emily can’t wait to go home.

But things start to improve when she encounters Claudio, the Italian prisoner of war employed as a farm labourer. And become more interesting still when William, Lydia’s brother, unexpectedly returns from the war, wounded and bitter. He’s rude, traumatised, and mostly drunk, yet a passion for literature soon draws them together.

MY THOUGHTS: The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean is a delightfully funny, wry, and touching story of a girl transitioning to a young woman who is packed off from her home to relatives in the country after her mother, who appears to suffer from bi-polar disorder (or manic-depressive disorder as it used to be called), is admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a recuperative stay.

She discovers great literature, and Fanny Hill. She learns about love, sensuality and desire, about hope and despair, and about the consequences of lying. Her uncle, invalided home from the war suffers from PTSD, and her Aunt Lydia who is engaged to a serving soldier, appears to be dispensing her favours elsewhere. This is a summer of discovery for Emily, about life and love, socially acceptable behaviour and impropriety, but most of all about herself.

This is another sterling example of the wonderful fiction currently coming out of Australia.

****

THE AUTHOR: Mira Robertson is an award winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction. Her feature film credits include the multi award winning films Only the Brave and Head On, co-written with director Ana Kokkinos. The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean is her first novel. She lives in Melbourne.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean, written by Mira Robertson, and narrated by Zoe Carides, published by Whole Story Audiobooks. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Unusual for me, I am currently not reading anything, well, anything that I can tell you about! All I can say is that it is a manuscript by an, as yet, unpublished author and I am very excited by it. Her writing is as natural as breathing…. Watch this space!

I am listening to The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean by Mira Robertson. Set in rural Victoria in 1944, it’s a charming coming of age story.

For some reason the cover photo is refusing to download, so moving on…

This week I am planning on reading To Tell You the Truth by Gilly MacMillan

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Lucy Harper has a talent for invention…

She was nine years old when her brother vanished in the woods near home. As the only witness, Lucy’s story of that night became crucial to the police investigation. Thirty years on, her brother’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Now Lucy is a bestselling thriller writer. Her talent for invention has given her fame, fortune, and an army of adoring fans. But her husband, Dan, has started keeping secrets of his own, and a sudden change of scene forces Lucy to confront some dark, unwelcome memories. Then Dan goes missing and Lucy’s past and present begin to collide. Did she kill her husband? Would she remember if she did?

Finally, Lucy Harper is going to tell us the truth.

Cross her heart.
And hope to die.

And The Stepdaughter by Debbie Howells

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“I live in a village of stone walls and tall trees, a place of cold hearts and secrets . . .”

When Elise Buckley moved with her family to Abingworth, it was supposed to be a new start. She hoped the little English village, with its scattering of houses, pub, and village church, wouldn’t offer enough opportunity for her doctor husband, Andrew, to continue having affairs. Apparently, she was wrong. Now Elise’s only goal is to maintain the façade of a happy homelife for their teenage daughter, Niamh.

When the body of Niamh’s best friend, Hollie, is found, the entire village is rocked. Elise, though generally distrustful since Andrew’s infidelity, believed that Hollie was loved by her father and stepmother. Yet there was something unsettling beneath the girl’s smile. As the police investigation stalls amid disjointed evidence, it’s Niamh who unknowingly holds the key . . .

Flitting between the villagers’ lives, silent and unseen, Elise is learning about the relationships and secrets that surround her—including those close to home. And as her daughter edges closer to a killer, Elise realizes that the truth may eclipse even her worst suspicions . . .

It was too much to hope for that I could stick with my target of 2 new ARCs for a second week in a row. I have eight this week. At least it’s not in double figures 🤣😂

So, this week I have received Seven Days in Summer by Marcia Willett

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Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall Smith

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The Child Across the Street by Kerry Wilkinson

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Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie

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The Life She Left Behind by Nicole Trope

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The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

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Dead Wicked by Helen H. Durrant

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And, finally, House of Correction by Nicci French

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Enjoy howevermuch remains of your weekend. I am going to settle back down with my ‘secret’ read.

Happy reading my friends
❤😍📚☕🍪

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

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EXCERPT: The ghost turned up in time for breakfast, summoned by the death rattle of Cornflakes in their box.

She arrived on foot. Bare feet. Barelegged and white knuckled, in a pale cotton nightie that clung to her calves and slipped off one shoulder as jaunty as a hat. Her hair was damp with sleep sweat – whose wasn’t that summer? – and stiff strands of it fenced in her thirteen-year-old face like blinkers strapped to a colt.

By the time we got there she was already halfway across the cul-de-sac. Her unseeing eyes, her stop-me shuffle, they’d taken her as far as that and she might have made it further too, if it wasn’t for the car that sat idling at a ninety-degree angle to her path. A right angle made from her wrongs.

The driver’s elbow pointed accusingly out of the window and he leaned out and shouted to each neighbour as they arrived on the scene: ‘She came from nowhere!’ as if that were her crime. This girl who appeared from thin air.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’

So begins Tikka Molloy’s recount of the summer of 1992 – the summer the Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – disappear.
Eleven and one-sixth years old, Tikka is the precocious narrator of this fabulously endearing coming-of-age story, set in an eerie Australian river valley suburb with an unexplained stench. The Van Apfel girls vanish from the valley during the school’s ‘Showstopper’ concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. While the search for the sisters unites the small community on Sydney’s urban fringe, the mystery of their disappearance remains unsolved forever.

MY THOUGHTS: This was a delightful fix of Australiana. ‘Cossies’ (swimsuits), ‘thongs’ (flip-flops), ‘yabbies’, kookaburras, and finishing sentences with ‘but’. I felt quite at home, although I would never call the suburbs of Sydney home. The dialogue is so realistic I could hear the voices complete with accents as I read.

The characters are enchanting. A trio of teenage girls and their two younger sisters trying to make sense of life and the largely confusing behaviour of some of the adults in their lives. These are normal girls. They form friendships and cliques. They squabble and sulk. The older three often leave the younger two out of their plans and secrets.

Tikka, not her real name and we never find out what that is or how she earns the nickname Tikka, is stuck in no man’s land, older than 8 year old Ruth, but not yet a teenager like Hannah, Cordie and Laura. It is Tikka who narrates the story, so we only get to know what she knows and/or suspects. It is Cordie, the sleepwalker, who shines in this group. Rebellious, ethereal, she has an air about her, a sense of living beyond her years.

We learn of the cruel and inhumane treatment of the Van Apfel girls, particularly Cordie, at the hands of their father, a religious fanatic. And her suspicions about Mr Avery, Cordies new teacher. But mostly it is the lead-up to the fateful night the girls go missing, Tikka’s reaction, and the ongoing effect on her and Laura’s lives many years down the track when certain incidents are viewed differently with the benefit of hindsight and experience.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is well written and enjoyable. It’s a slow burning mystery, and an intriguing one. Don’t expect to get all the answers served up neatly. It isn’t going to happen.

An author to watch.

🐨🐨🐨🐨

#TheVanApfelGirlsAreGone #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Felicity McLean is an Australian author and journalist. This is her first novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to One World Publications, Point Blank via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean 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

When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard

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EXCERPT: Bearing down on seventy, my plans had never included living like I was, alone, in the shadow of my eldest daughter and estranged from the people and places that had come to mean the most to me.

Getting old had always conjured up images of Doug and I taking in the sunrises and sunsets at the farm together, hopefully content, with our children and grandchildren never far away.

How had I made such a muddle of being a wife, a mother, and then a grandmother? I’d had such ambition to be the best.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: ‘Functionally dysfunctional.’ That’s how financial analyst Grace Fairley describes her family in the small South Australian farming community of Miners Ridge – a family fractured by tragedy and kept that way by anger, resentment and petty jealousies. As the eldest sibling, Grace tries to keep the family in touch, but now she’s accepted a promotion to the London office. Time-zones and an enormous workload mean she’s forced to take a step back, although she finds time to stay in contact with Miners Ridge landscape gardener Aaron Halliday.

Sarah Fairley, Grace’s mother, fled Miners Ridge and her embittered husband eight years ago. Now, in the absence of Grace, she finds herself pulled back to the small town where her estranged children and grandchildren live. Drawn into the local community, and trying to rebuild family relationships, she uncovers a long-kept secret that could change her world …

Can Grace, Sarah and their family find a way to heal? Who will have the courage to make the first move?

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this gentle story of a family that has slowly fallen and drifted apart. Meredith Appleyard has written an honest portrait of life on Australian land. Aussie farmers battle the elements like nowhere else I can think of. They are constantly in drought. Or being ravaged by fire. Or flooded. And still the farmers battle on. They have a fierce pride in their land and what they do. A pride and stubbornness that can get in the way of their own lives and those of their families.

When Grace Went Away is told through the voices of Sarah and Grace, her daughter. Sarah was once married to Doug, a farmer on the outskirts of Miners Ridge, South Australia. When their youngest son, Luke, died it tore their marriage and their family apart. Originally a city girl, Sarah fled back to Adelaide and her mother. Now sixty eight and an orphan, estranged from her only sibling, having survived cancer, and no longer content to be reliant on her eldest daughter Grace who has moved to London, she decides to move back to Miners Ridge to try and mend some bridges with her remaining two children. But things don’t go quite to plan.

Meanwhile in London, settling into her dream job Grace is surprised by the presence of an old lover and finds that even after all the years she has been away, and although she has always pretended otherwise, deep down, she still thinks of Miners Ridge as home.

The whole time I was reading When Grace Went Away, it was playing like a movie in my mind. Although I have never been to the Adelaide region, Applyard’s descriptions of the countryside and the people had me feeling homesick. Life in small Australian towns is like nowhere else. The fly-in, fly-out culture, women alone coping with their families for weeks at a time, the relentless dust, the culture of holding on to your land no matter what. All this is realistically portrayed by Appleyard, and woven into a story laden with family dysfunction, grief, loss, love, friendship and resentment.

A moving story, and a satisfying read.

❤❤❤❤.5

THE AUTHOR: Meredith Appleyard lives in the Clare Valley wine-growing region of South Australia, two hours north of Adelaide. As a registered nurse and midwife, she has worked in a wide range of country health practice settings, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She has done agency nursing in London and volunteer work in Vietnam. After her first manuscript was rejected, she joined a writers’ group, attended workshops and successfully completed an Advanced Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing with the Adelaide College of the Arts. And she kept working. When she isn’t writing, Meredith is reading, helping organise the annual Clare Writers’ Festival, or at home with her husband and her border collie, Daisy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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