Death at the Auction by E.C. Bateman

EXCERPT: The staircase ended at a door. Nudging it open, Felicia poked her head around, eyes widening. Moonlight spilled through the tall sash windows, casting the room in a silvery, chequered pattern. Pale cream paneling lined the walls, finely moulded with a frieze of fruiting vines. High above their heads, an enormous crystal chandelier sprouted from the centre of an intricate plaster ceiling rose. The floor space was dominated in the centre by a colossal four poster bed, heavy tapestry curtains hanging loose.

They certainly weren’t in the servants’ quarters now.

‘A hidden door,’ Dexter surveyed the doorway they’d just passed through, the front of which was decorated to match the wall that surrounded it. He let it go and it closed soundlessly, melting seamlessly back into the plaster. Unless you knew where to look, the joins were almost impossible to see. ‘Very neat.’

‘Dexter, look.’ Advancing into the room, Felicia pointed at the fire, the coals of which still glowed faintly in the grate. ‘Someone’s been here recently.’

‘Well, they’re not here now.’ Dexter strolled over to the high wing-backed armchair, which faced the fire. ‘So we might as well . . .’

Surprised at the way he broke off, Felicia turned to see him staring down at the chair, eyes wide in shock. Her heart jolted.

‘Dexter?’ she rasped, suddenly finding that her throat was tight with fear. ‘What . . . what is it?’

ABOUT ‘DEATH AT THE AUCTION’: Murder stalks the cobbles in England’s finest Georgian town…

When an accident forces Felicia Grant back to her family’s auction house in Stamford, she vows it’ll only be a flying visit. But as the gavel falls on the final lot, a hidden secret is revealed—the body of her father’s business rival, murdered during the packed sale!

Soon, Felicia is swept into a mystery that has everyone in the community as a potential suspect―including her.

As the body count rises and with the people she loves under threat, Felicia takes matters into her own hands. But even the most picturesque place has its secrets…

MY THOUGHTS: I love British murder mysteries, and if this is the start of a new series, it’s going to be a good one.

Felicia and Dexter are recently divorced and she has returned home to Stamford with their twelve year old son Algernon to help out after her father breaks his leg. Imagine her surprise when a body falls out of the final lot – a Jacobean cupboard. Felicia and Dexter, who turns up just as the body makes its impromptu appearance, instantly become the main suspects.

Algernon is the pick of the characters. He’s a very observant twelve year old and has an enquiring nature. He’s also just getting to that age where he’s not going to take any nonsense from his parents.

The other main character is the detective, Pettifer, who has a face which looks like it’s been repeatedly hit by a shovel and who is somewhat enchanted by Felicia, giving her far more leeway in the investigation than should be allowed.

This is an intelligent rather than a ‘cute’ cosy mystery with good character development, an excellent setting and a solid murder mystery to be solved. There are several subplots and numerous red herrings culminating in a surprising revelation. The characters private lives are almost as interesting as the murder mystery making this an all round good read that I hope will be developed into a series.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#DeathattheAuction #NetGalley

I: @harpercollinsuk @onemorechapterhc

T: @HarperCollinsUK @OneMoreChapter

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery #familydrama #murdermystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: E.C. Bateman is a novelist and antique jewellery specialist. Having made the questionable decision to marry an auctioneer, she moved to Stamford and dreamt up the idea for this series whilst living in a converted Georgian flat overlooking St. Mary’s Church in the heart of town. They’ve since decamped to the surrounding countryside with their baby daughter, but can still be spotted around the cobbled streets on a regular basis, usually being dragged along by their effervescent cocker spaniel, Audrey.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley, for providing a digital ARC of Death at the Auction by E.C. Bateman 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

The Will by Rebecca Reid

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

And yet, they all want it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was enormously entertained throughout this fun read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheWill #NetGalley

I: @rebeccacnreid @randomhouseuk @transworld @penguinuk

T: @RebeccaCNReid @RandomHouseUK @Transworld @PenguinUK

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

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld, Penguin via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Will by Rebecca Reid for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

A Body at Lavender Cottage by Dee MacDonald

EXCERPT: She wondered why Barney was barking so manically at the back of the garage. Laying down her basket, Kate went to investigate, expecting to find a dead squirrel, rabbit or even a fox.

Instead, the first things she saw were two upturned, dirty trainer-clad feet, just visible around the edge of the garage. Her blood ran cold. Why would anyone be lying there unless they’d been very drunk and forgotten how to get home from the pub down the lane?

ABOUT ‘A BODY AT LAVENDER COTTAGE’: Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…

When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.

Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?

When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.

But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve loved this series with its brilliant cast of characters, and plots with plenty of red herrings. This case hits a little closer to home for Kate, as her beloved Woody has past history with the victim and is the main suspect. Perhaps that’s why Kate does the absolutely stupid thing she does – putting her own life in danger – that completely took the shine off what otherwise was a great story.

Not only is there a murderer on the loose – Kate is having to deal with her sister’s relationship difficulties, and the possibility that both her sister and a workmate are being targeted by conmen.

I love Kate’s character. She’s sensible, sharp and witty, and I love that she’s a woman in her sixties; which made what she did seem all the more out of character. Angie, Kate’s sister, is another great character. Angie and Kate are polar opposites, but are very loyal to one another.

This is probably my least favourite book in the series so far, but I still enjoyed this entertaining, quick, easy read although I didn’t become as invested in it as I have in the previous books.

While it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in the series as each one is an complete mystery, it does help to understand the relationships and dynamics between the core characters.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#ABodyatLavenderCottage #NetGalley

I: #deemacdonald @bookouture

T: @DMacDonaldAuth @Bookouture

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #romance #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Dee MacDonald wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Body at Lavender Cottage 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 . . .

We’ve had no power so no internet all day. Power was restored just a little after 4pm. Thank goodness for the BBQ – I boiled water on it for coffee and made toast on it (not quite as successful) for breakfast and made cheese toasties (much nicer than in the sandwich press) for lunch. This morning was beautiful and sunny and warm, but it was raining again just after lunch and is still raining. I am feeling soggy. Everything is waterlogged and plants are looking miserable. I picked a big bunch of roses this morning before the wind and rain wrecked them. They look lovely on the table. There’s few more days of this weather forecast before we get a high pressure system and some sun. It feels like it’s been raining forever!

Currently I am reading and loving Table for Eight by Tricia Stringer – a purely for pleasure read.

The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer by Isla Evens, a Netgalley 2021 backtitle I was motivated to read as it’s one of the Goodreads.com Aussie Reader’s Group reads for November. So far it’s a fun read about some serious issues.

Two women abduct and hide out with their four-year-old granddaughter Avery, who they suspect is being harmed. They both love Avery … shame they can’t stand each other. A wise and witty novel for readers of Sophie Green and Brooke Davis.

What would you do to protect a child?

Beth’s daughter Cleo and Shirley’s son Daniel used to be married. Now Cleo is in gaol for supposedly contravening a family violence order, and Daniel has full-time care of their four-year-old daughter, Avery.

When Shirley suspects that Daniel is harming Avery, she enlists Beth to abduct their own granddaughter, even though the two women can’t stand each other. They are joined on the run across country Victoria by Winnie, Shirley’s own 89-year-old tech-savvy mother, and Harthacnut, Beth’s miniature schnauzer.

The abduction gives rise to crises both personal and social, as Shirley’s large and interfering family – including her toxic son – struggle to come to terms with her actions, amid a whirl of police investigation and media excitement. This heartfelt, wise, witty and wholly original novel explores of the lengths we may go to for those we love, and the unintended damage folded into daily life. 

I am listening to The Book of Cold Cases written by Simone St. James and narrated by Brittany Pressley , Kirsten Potter , and Robert Petkoff .

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?

This week I have four books to read for review, which should be able to achieve. They are: Isabel Puddles Abroad by M.V. Byrne

Isabel has crafted a life she loves in her Lake Michigan hometown, but she’s eager to use her golden years to make up for missed opportunities. That’s why she’s traveling to England for the first time to visit her pen pal, Teddy Mansfield, an acclaimed mystery writer who lives just outside the village of Mousehole, Cornwall. First impressions are charming–Isabel is staying in the guest cottage on the grounds of Teddy’s beautiful country manor, and Mousehole is home to an assortment of characters as colorful as any in Teddy’s books.

Teddy’s housekeeper, Tuppence, is a dab hand at baking–her scones are regularly runner-up in the village bake-off, and this year she’s determined to scoop top prize. But it appears that other, possibly more dangerous rivalries have been brewing in Mousehole. And when a resident is found pushing up daisies in a flowerbed, Isabel is drawn into an investigation that will require all of her newly honed skills to solve–and to survive . . .

The Hemsworth Effect by James Weir

It started with the Hemsworths. Now, Byron Bay local, Aimee Maguire, is about to lose everything because she can’t afford to pay the rent. Her engagement is also on an official time-out since her fiancé doesn’t know what he wants. The last thing she needs is a surprise visit from her micro-influencer niece looking to ‘build her brand’.

Her arrival sets off a chain of events that ends with Aimee tangled up with a group of influencers-turned-reality TV stars, exposing her to the absolute worst of humanity. But somewhere amid this mother of all messes there just might be a silver lining Aimee has been searching for. All she needs to do is embrace the one thing she’s been fighting so hard against – change.

Cashed-up celebs, desperate wannabes, cranky Karens and cringe-worthy hashtags – it’s all here in this hilarious novel about the celebrification of Byron Bay and the power of letting go. 

The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley

Evelyn Pringle isn’t the sort to make rash decisions. Or any decisions, really – she’s always left that sort of thing up to her husband. But he’s been found dead, wearing his best suit, with a diamond ring in his pocket that doesn’t fit her. When Evelyn finds a letter addressed to a woman on the Isle of Wight, she decides to deliver it. By hand.

So begins a very unusual holiday, and an adventure no one could have predicted – least of all Evelyn herself. With the help of some unexpected new friends, and a little effort on her part, Evelyn discovers that it is never too late to have a second chance at life and forge friendships that are well-worth living for.

The Devil Stone (DCI Christine Caplan #1) by Caro Ramsay

In the small Highland village of Cronchie, a wealthy family are found brutally murdered in a satanic ritual and their heirloom, ‘the devil stone’, is the only thing stolen. The key suspects are known satanists – case closed? But when the investigating officer disappears after leaving the crime scene, DCI Christine Caplan is pulled in to investigate from Glasgow in a case that could restore her reputation.

Caplan knows she is being punished for a minor misdemeanour when she is seconded to the Highlands, but ever the professional, she’s confident she can quickly solve the murders, and return home to her fractious family. But experience soon tells her that this is no open and shut case.

She suspects the murder scene was staged, and with the heir to the family estate missing, there is something more at play than a mythical devil stone. As she closes in on the truth, it is suddenly her life, not her reputation that is in danger! Will Caplan’s first Highland murder case be her last?

Seven new ARCs from Netgalley made their way into my inbox during the past week 😬😊 They are:

No One Saw It Coming by Susan Lewis

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

The audiobook of The Vanishing of Margaret Small written by Nick Alexander and narrated by Annie Aldingham

Death Comes to Marlow (Marlow Murder Club #2) by Robert Thorogood

The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

Sunrise With the Silver Surfers by Maddie Please

The Devine Doughnut Shop by Carolyn Brown

I’m off to cook dinner – chicken burgers with rosemary parmesan roast potato cubes. Have a wonderful week – reading and generally. ❤📚

Hidden Scars (DI Kim Stone #17) by Angela Marsons

EXCERPT: The hammer rises in the air.

It falls with unflinching certainty.

The sound of bone cracking fills the silence. Then a moan, a gurgle as blood begins to pour from the hole in her head. In this light it appears black. The glistening richness of the liquid is caught in the lamplight as it escapes like lava from a volcano and runs down the line of her hair.

I am horrified by what I see and yet liberated too. There is no more indecision. No more doubt. We are beyond the point of return. It cannot be undone.

ABOUT ‘HIDDEN SCARS’: While Jamie’s cold, lifeless body lay in the morgue, Detective Kim Stone stared at the empty board in the incident room and felt her anger boil. Why were there no photos, details, or lines of enquiry?

When a nineteen-year-old boy, Jamie Mills, is found hanging from a tree in a local park, his death is ruled a suicide. Detective Kim Stone’s instincts tell her something isn’t right – but it’s not her investigation and her temporary replacement is too busy waiting for the next big case to be asking the right questions.

Why would a seemingly healthy boy choose to end his life?
Why does his mother show no sign of emotional distress at the loss of her son?

Still mending her broken mind and body from her last harrowing case, Kim is supposed to be easing back into work gently. But then she finds a crucial, overlooked detail: Jamie had a recent injury that would have made it impossible for him to climb the tree. He must have been murdered.

Quickly taking back charge of her team and the case, Kim visits Jamie’s parents and is shocked to hear that they had sent him to a clinic to ‘cure’ him of his sexuality. According to his mother, Jamie was introverted and prone to mood swings. Yet his friend speaks of a vibrant, outgoing boy.

The clues to smashing open this disturbing case lie behind the old Victorian walls of the clinic, run by the Gardner family. They claim that patients come of their own accord and are free to leave at any time. But why are those that attended the clinic so afraid to speak of what happens there? And where did the faded restraint marks identified on Jamie’s wrists come from?

Then the body of a young woman is found dead by suffocation and Kim makes two chilling discoveries. The victim spent time at the clinic too, and her death was also staged to look like a suicide.

Scarred from an ordeal that nearly took her life, is Kim strong enough to stop a terrifying killer from silencing the clinic’s previous patients one by one?

MY THOUGHTS: If you haven’t read any previous books in this series, do not start with this. To fully appreciate Hidden Scars the reader needs to know Kim’s backstory and her relationship with her colleagues. Hidden Scars definitely will not work as a stand-alone.

Where to begin? Kim is haunted but resilient, especially when the future of her team is threatened by the incompetence of the DI supposedly holding it all together in her absence.

Kim’s character continues to grow in Hidden Scars and the title of the book reflects Kim’s circumstances as accurately as several of the other characters who feature. She reveals a certain vulnerability that we have not seen before and which takes a bit of getting used to.

Bryant is somewhat responsible for this, deciding that Kim has gotten away with far too much for far too long and gives her a lesson on the meaning and obligations of friendship. And Yay! – we finally learn his first name!

Penn is having to learn a few lessons too, relating to loosening the reins on his younger Downs Syndrome brother who is a bit more switched on than Penn realises.

And where would the team be without Stacey? Dogged and determined she often bears the brunt of the desk work due to her ability to pick up on clues in background information that the others tend to miss.

The mysteries are intriguing, and the main thread is interspersed with the viewpoint of an unknown person which doesn’t quite make sense until almost the very end. The reason for this gobsmacked me! A great storyline and a great twist.

The main storyline includes a great deal of information on conversion therapy, to the point where several times I felt like I was being educated. And I was. I knew what conversion therapy was before I started reading Hidden Scars, but I really had no idea of the extremes to which it could be taken.

But the murders – some staged to look like suicide – are the main focus of the storyline. Marsons is an extremely clever writer, and I had to backtrack a couple of times to check on clues I had missed, but still I had absolutely no idea until the final reveal as to who was behind them. I loved the way the historical murder was also tied in.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#HiddenScars #NetGalley

I: @angelamarsonsauthor @bookouture

T: @WriteAngie @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #fivestarread #crime #detectivefiction #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got.
Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries.
She used the Amazon KDP program to publish two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Hidden Scars by Angela Marsons for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

First Lines Friday

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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

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

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

Like what you’ve just read?

Want to keep reading?

Pick up a copy of Exiles by Jane Harper.

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

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

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

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

The Sandcastle Hurricane by Carolyn Brown

EXCERPT: Rising out of the rocky and sandy beach right across the EastBay of southeastern Texas and the Bolivar Peninsula, the Sandcastle Inn had a stone seawall in front of it that had been built with the same gray stones as the house. With twelve-foot ceilings in every room, the inn stood like a tall and proud sentinel keeping watch over the small beach town of Sandcastle. A wide porch wrapped all the way around the first floor and provided a catwalk for the rooms on the second story. Three of the bedrooms faced the Gulf of Mexico – or ‘the ocean’ as Aunt Charlotte called it – and two had a view of the old barn at the back of the property. The house had been home to generations of Landrys, was on the register of historical homes, and had survived more than one hurricane.

ABOUT ‘THE SANDCASTLE HURRICANE’: Cousins Tabby and Ellie Mae are due for a change. Running their aunt’s beachfront bed-and-breakfast in Sandcastle, Texas, is just the thing to shake things up…though their lives spin out of control in more ways than one when a hurricane barrels into the coastline. It’s a miracle it didn’t carry them off to Kansas. Not so lucky are the assisted-living center and a small eclectic group of local folks who take shelter with the cousins.

Two estranged sisters, rowdy as a circus, need a referee for a battle that goes back decades. And a pair of veterans, best friends for years, hash out bittersweet old times. There’s also handyman Alex LaSalle and his business partner, Ricky, experts at repairing the hurricane’s damage—and at making Tabby’s and Ellie Mae’s hearts beat a little faster.

As unpredictable, crowded, and stormy as it gets, the Sandcastle B and B is still the perfect harbor for healing past wounds, finding romance, and making up for lost time. Add in Tabby’s homemade pecan pie, and the Texas shore feels like a little slice of paradise.

MY THOUGHTS: Another heart-warming fun read from Carolyn Brown.

Families – the reason for our existence – the bain of our lives. The Sandcastle Hurricane is a good reminder that parents need to let their children pick their own paths in life; that children are not there to fulfil their parents unrealised dreams, desires and potential.

As always Brown tugs at the heart-strings and I became fully invested in the characters and their outcomes. Two young women who have known much, if different, heart-ache – cousins Tabby and Ellie-Mae – also have precarious relationships with those who should be their nearest and dearest and rely on each other for support and friendship with Aunt Charlotte as back-up. Their plans for the B&B are hi-jacked by a group of residents from a nearby assisted-living facility evacuated to the B&B when their facility is under threat from Hurricane Delilah. The four are made up of Chloe and Maude who are constantly at war, and Homer and Frank who had served in Vietnam together, and then been business partners. What a foursome! The asides between Maude and Chloe had me laughing out loud, while Frank and Homer are the voices of reason – most of the time. Alex and Ricky are the cherries on top – blown in by the hurricane. Who says an ill wind never blows any good?

The Sandcastle Hurricane is a delightful, heart-warming read about taking the chances offered and not closing off either your heart or mind to change. It deals with grief, various forms of loss, the healing properties of pets, and families – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!

⭐⭐⭐.8

TheSandcastleHurricane #NetGalley

I: @carolynbrownbooks #montlake

T: @thecarolynbrown #Montlake

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Hi! I’m twenty five years old and movie star gorgeous. The camera added thirty plus years and a few wrinkles. Can’t trust those cameras or mirrors either. Along with bathroom scales they are notorious liars! Honestly, I am the mother of three fantastic grown children who’ve made me laugh and given me more story ideas than I could ever write. My husband, Charles, is my strongest supporter and my best friend. He’s even willing to eat fast food and help with the laundry while I finish one more chapter! Life is good and I am blessed!

Reading has been a passion since I was five years old and figured out those were words on book pages. As soon as my chubby little fingers found they could put words on a Big Chief tablet with a fat pencil, I was on my way. Writing joined reading in my list of passions. I will read anything from the back of the Cheerio’s box to Faulkner and love every bit of it. In addition to reading I enjoy cooking, my family and the ocean. I love the Florida beaches. Listening to the ocean waves puts my writing brain into high gear.

I love writing romance because it’s about emotions and relationships. Human nature hasn’t changed a bit since Eve coveted the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Settings change. Plots change. Names change. Times change. But love is love and men and women have been falling in and out of it forever. Romance is about emotions: love, hate, anger, laughter… all of it. If I can make you laugh until your sides ache or grab a tissue then I’ve touched your emotions and accomplished what every writer sets out to do.

I got serious about writing when my third child was born and had her days and nights mixed up. I had to stay up all night anyway and it was very quiet so I invested in a spiral back notebook and sharpened a few pencils. The story that emerged has never sold but it’s brought in enough rejection slips to put the Redwood Forest on the endangered list.

Folks ask me where I get my ideas. Three kids, fifteen grandchildren, two great grandchildren. Note: I was a very young grandmother! Life is a zoo around here when they all come home. In one Sunday afternoon there’s enough ideas to keep me writing for years and years. Seriously, ideas pop up at the craziest times. When one sinks its roots into my mind, I have no choice but to write the story. And while I’m writing the characters peek over my shoulder and make sure I’m telling it right and not exaggerating too much. Pesky little devils, they are!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Montlake via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Sandcastle Hurricane by Carolyn Brown for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Couple in the Cabin by Daniel Hurst

EXCERPT: The cabin looked like a warzone. Something truly terrible had happened in there. And it was up to the police to figure it all out.

Sure, the cabin at the bottom of the garden might have been a good idea at one time.

But in the end, it became nothing more than a crime scene.

And worse than that, it became the place where Grace and Dominic really learnt the truth about one another.

ABOUT ‘THE COUPLE IN THE CABIN’: When happily married Grace comes home early one night and catches her husband, Dominic, with another woman in the cabin at the bottom of their garden, she is shocked, angry, and most of all, hell-bent on revenge. That’s why she acts quickly, locking the pair in the cabin while she decides what she wants to do to them.

While Dominic and his mistress desperately try to get free, Grace makes a plan on the outside, but it’s a plan that is formed based on her previous experiences. That’s because this might not be the first time Grace has done something like this…

Who is the real villain? The cheating husband? Or the vengeful wife?

MY THOUGHTS: They say revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Grace has absolutely no intention of letting her desire for revenge go cold. People she loves shouldn’t hurt her, should they? And if they do? Then they deserve everything they get.

Crazy fun is the best description I can come up with for The Couple in the Cabin by Daniel Hurst. This is one of those books where it is best to go in cold, and just enjoy the ride.

Told from multiple perspectives – mainly Grace’s and Dominic’s – and over multiple timelines, we learn what has happened in Grace’s past that made her into the person she is today. While I was outwardly appalled at her actions, some little inner part of me was cheering her on.

The Couple in the Cabin is a quick, fast-paced read that appalled and enthralled me. But there was one set of circumstances that really did not sit well with me – (view spoiler) – and kept this from being a five star read.

I listened to the audiobook of The Couple in the Cabin, superbly narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheCoupleintheCabin #NetGalley

I: @danielhurstbooks @bookouture

T: @dhurstbooks @Bookouture

THE AUTHOR: Writer/wanderer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture Audio via NetGalley for providing an audio ARC of The Couple in the Cabin, written by Daniel Hurst and narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates, for review. All opinions expressed in the review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review is also posted on Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and Goodreads.com

No Strangers Here (County Kerry Mystery #1) written by Carlene O’Connor, narrated by Emily O’Mahony

EXCERPT: The dead man wore a designer suit to the beach. He was found along Slea Head Drive, at the base of a small cliff, on Clogher Strand. There he was, early on a Sunday morning in June, reposed against a craggy boulder in his fancy navy suit, starched white shirt and vibrant green tie. Next to his body, two words had been formed using sixty-nine gleaming black stones: LAST DANCE. The stones popped against the pale sand. It wasn’t a whisper, it was a shout. His legs were straight out in front of him, his hands rested palms up on his thighs, and his sky-blue eyes were open, forever staring out to sea. The only visible sign of distress was the white foam pooling at the corners of his gaped mouth. The lines fanning out across his face, and wisps of silver hair clinging to a mostly bald head betrayed his advanced age. A card with a black background peeked out of the dead man’s suit pocket. Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien maneuvered around the cordon they’d placed around the body to get a closer look.

ABOUT ‘NO STRANGERS HERE’: On a rocky beach in the southwest of Ireland, the body of Jimmy O’Reilly, sixty-nine years old and dressed in a suit and his dancing shoes, is propped on a boulder, staring sightlessly out to sea. A cryptic message is spelled out next to the body with sixty-nine polished black stones and a discarded vial of deadly veterinarian medication lies nearby. Jimmy was a wealthy racehorse owner, known far and wide as The Dancing Man. In a town like Dingle, everyone knows a little something about everyone else. But dig a bit deeper, and there’s always much more to find. And when Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien is dispatched out of Killarney to lead the murder inquiry, he’s determined to unearth every last buried secret.

Dimpna Wilde hasn’t been home in years. As picturesque as Dingle may be for tourists in search of their roots and the perfect jumper, to her it means family drama and personal complications. In fairness, Dublin hasn’t worked out quite as she hoped either. Faced with a triple bombshell—her mother rumored to be in a relationship with Jimmy, her father’s dementia is escalating, and her brother is avoiding her calls—Dimpna moves back to clear her family of suspicion.

Despite plenty of other suspects, the guards are crawling over the Wildes. But the horse business can be a brutal one, and as Dimpna becomes more involved with her old acquaintances and haunts, the depth of lingering grudges becomes clear. Theft, extortion, jealousy and greed. As Dimpna takes over the family practice, she’s in a race with the detective inspector to uncover the dark, twisting truth, no matter how close to home it strikes . . .

MY THOUGHTS: No Strangers Here is a mystery thick with both atmosphere and compelling characters. O’Connor sets the scene in the very first chapter, leaving the reader in doubt where they are: a colorful and historic town right on the coast of southwest Ireland relying on tourism and fishing for its livelihood. The scenery is gorgeous and moody, the characters complex and all hiding something.

O’Brien has been brought in as an outsider to solve the murder of a wealthy and well-known local man. As an outsider it is expected that he have no history with anyone involved, no personal agenda. But is that going to be enough to combat the far-reaching powers of the wealthy O’Reilly family who have already made up their minds who is responsible for this murder and are calling for a speedy arrest. Dimpna, a petite veterinarian whose own life has imploded, now finds herself battling not only the O’Reilly’s but the police in an effort to clear her parents from suspicion. Dimpna has battled the O’Reilly’s before – there’s no love lost there. What she discovers is a tangled web of secrets and lies, some going back as far as her childhood.

I have read some of Carlene O’Connors Village Mystery books previously, but here her writing has reached a whole new level. Somewhat darker than a traditional cosy-mystery, and with plot-twists I never saw coming, O’Connor kept me intrigued throughout. County Kerry Mysteries is a new series that I am excited about.

I listened to the audiobook of No Strangers Here, superbly narrated by Emily O’Mahony

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#NoStrangersHere #NetGalley

I: @writergirlchi @recordedbooks

T: #CarleneOConnor @RBMediaCo

#cosymystery #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #family drama #irishfiction #murdermystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: Born into a long line of Irish storytellers, Carlene O’Connor’s great-grandmother emigrated from Ireland filled with tales in 1897 and the stories have been flowing ever since. Of all the places she’s wandered across the pond, she fell most in love with a walled town in County Limerick and was inspired to create the town of Kilbane, County Cork, the setting of her Irish Village Mystery series.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media for providing an audio ARC of No Strangers Here, written by Carlene O’Connor and narrated by Emily Mahony, 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 . . .

Good Sunday afternoon and – it’s still raining! Apparently we’re getting all the heavy rain out of Australia that caused the recent heavy flooding in New South Wales. We had a couple of fine days during the week and I managed to get a bit more done outside, but I have had to postpone the delivery of the river stone I had ordered for the garden as the truck won’t be able to get to where I need it dumped until after everything has dried out a bit.

Luke has gone home to collect his new pup from the breeders – a black labrador he has named Timmy after the dog in the Famous Five series which he just loves. I picked him up from school on Friday, in the midst of a downpour and I had to park quite some distance from school – and we had a very lazy day together yesterday, reading, doing puzzles and watching TV. We did pop outside to the garden during a fine spell and picked strawberries and lettuce leaves. There’s nothing nicer than strawberries fresh out of the garden!

Currently I am reading The Doctor’s Wife by New Zealand author Fiona Sussman, thanks to a recommendation from Sybil, one of our library book group members. I haven’t read this author before but have been unable to put this down.

Nothing in Stan Andino’s unremarkable life could prepare him for the day he discovers his wife in the living room, naked except for a black apron, bleaching out a stain in the carpet that only she can see. A CT scan one week later explains the seemingly inexplicable; Carmen Andino has a brain tumour. As Stan and their teenage sons grapple with the diagnosis and frightening personality changes in their wife and mother, Austin Lamb, close friend and local doctor, does everything possible to assist the family in crisis. Months later, just when it feels as though life couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Andinos, the body of Austin Lamb’s wife Tibbie is discovered at the bottom of the Browns Bay cliffs.

Hidden Crimes (DCI Sophie Allen #11) by Michael Hambling

Nine Elms (Kate Marshall #1) by Robert Bryndza, a backtitle from 2019. I have the rest of the series to read also.

Kate Marshall was a promising young police detective when she caught the notorious Nine Elms serial killer. But her greatest victory suddenly turned into a nightmare. Traumatized, betrayed, and publicly vilified for the shocking circumstances surrounding the cannibal murder case, Kate could only watch as her career ended in scandal.

Fifteen years after those catastrophic events, Kate is still haunted by the unquiet ghosts of her troubled past. Now a lecturer at a small coastal English university, she finally has a chance to face them. A copycat killer has taken up the Nine Elms mantle, continuing the ghastly work of his idol.

Enlisting her brilliant research assistant, Tristan Harper, Kate draws on her prodigious and long-neglected skills as an investigator to catch a new monster. Success promises redemption, but there’s much more on the line: Kate was the original killer’s intended fifth victim…and his successor means to finish the job.

And I am listening to Blue Lightning (Shetland Isles #4) by Ann Cleeves

Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancee, Fran, to his parents. When a woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, Jimmy must investigate the old-fashioned way.”

This week I have only two other reads scheduled: The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter

There’s something in my neighbour’s attic.

Something steeped in shadows. A secret to everyone. Seen by no one…

He stands sometimes at the window. Hidden in the corner of my eye.

I know he’s there. I know he’s watching.

Now my son is dead. My neighbour is not.

And I’m going to find out why.

And On Spine of Death (By the Book Mysteries #2) by Tamara Berry

In the aftermath of solving their first murder, bestselling author Tess Harrow and her teenage daughter Gertrude have decided to stay in Winthrop permanently. Now that they’ve made some updates to their cabin in the woods, they’re turning to the family hardware store that Tess inherited and converting it into the town’s first independent bookstore. But when renovations unearth bones from a cold case and send them toppling—literally—onto Tess’s head, the work comes to a grinding halt. With the whole town convinced that her grandfather was a serial killer, Tess has to call in a fellow horror author for reinforcements. Together, they’ll come up with a perfect story to make all the clues fit…and solve a mystery more than thirty years in the making.

I also managed to pick up a Tricia Stringer novel from the library when I was at book group that I haven’t read – Table for Eight – so I want to read that this week too. I’m looking forward to my virtual cruise around the Pacific Islands!

A cruise – no matter how magical – can’t change your life. Can it…? Clever, charming dressmaker Ketty Clift is embarking on her final cruise from Sydney before she must make serious changes in her life. Supported by the ship’s all-powerful maitre d’ Carlos, she has a mission: transform the lives of those who join her at her dining table every evening. Not only can Ketty turn Cinderellas into princesses with her legendary style–eye, but she has a gift for bringing people together. But this trip is different. As the glamour and indulgence of the cruise takes hold, and the ship sails further away from Sydney towards the Pacific Islands, it becomes clear that her fellow travelers – a troubled family, a grieving widower and an angry divorcee determined to wreak revenge on her ex – are going to be harder work than usual. As Ketty tries to deal with her own problems, including the unexpected arrival on board of her long-lost love, Leo – the man who broke her heart – as well as troubling news from home, she begins to realize this might be the one cruise that defeats her…

I received two new ARCs for review via Netgalley this week, and one publishers invite. The invite was for A Pen Dipped in Poison by J.M. Hall

The two ARCs are Reef Road by Deborah Goodrich Royce

and Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, also a New Zealand author I haven’t previously read.

It’s our 18th wedding anniversary today. I have couple of nice steaks to grill for dinner and a nice bottle of French wine (red of course), but I need for the rain to ease off so I can get out to the garden for the salad ingredients. Plan B? Rosemary parmesan fries.

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend. Happy reading. ❤📚🥂