Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark

EXCERPT: There were several villages within spitting distance of the practice, which was just outside Stratford-Upon-Avon. Jack was enthusiastic about living close to the surgery, declaring that he could even cycle to work in the warmer weather. Eventually we had plumped for picturesque Avoncote, largely because of the house we had discovered there. We fell in love with Whisper Cottage at first sight. It was one of two semi-detached houses, set apart on a short stretch of road towards the centre of the hamlet. Uneven cobbles winding to a frontage festooned with lilac blooms beneath a thatched roof; endearingly small and perfect newlyweds expecting their first child. Yes, there was a good deal of work to be done, and we were going to have to throw some serious money at the place – something we could ill afford, the mortgage stretching us to the limit – but the location was ideal, and the house had such potential. We moved in at the end of April, the whole summer stretching out before us, leaving several months to prepare for our upcoming arrival.

The chocolate-box village itself, quintessentially English and slightly twee, with its small, close-knit community, seemed like the answer to our prayers. It was like something out of a Miss Marple novel. There was a village green, complete with stocks – thankfully no longer in use. It even boasted a maypole. Next to the green, a large circular duck pond was enclosed by a low wooden barrier. The spire of a beautiful old church pierced the skyline, its immaculately maintained graveyard filled with generations of village’s former occupants. Beyond the church, a canal passed through the village, the towpath providing a scenic walk towards the centre of Stratford.

ABOUT ‘WHISPER COTTAGE’: When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.

Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.

Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?

MY THOUGHTS: First off, I am going to state that I don’t consider Whisper Cottage to be a psychological thriller. In my eyes, it is more of a mystery, and a very good one, a very enjoyable one.

Whisper Cottage is a slow burner. Clark takes her time in setting the scene, but I liked the way she did this, sewing little and seemingly inconsequential seeds of doubt that niggle like a burr caught in your clothing that you just can’t find to remove.

The opening chapter is set in 1964, and gives no clue as to who is involved. This doesn’t become apparent until later in the book.

In real time, we learn about Stina’s background, her mother’s mental instability, and her own fears that she may follow in her mother’s footsteps. Husband Jack is the sensible one, soothing Stina and quietening her fears.

Mrs Barley, their elderly next door neighbour, is lovely and kind to Stina and Jack, making them welcome and plying them with her home cooking. But why do the rest of the villagers have nothing to do with the old lady? What is behind their warnings to Stina to keep her at a distance? And why do bad things happen to those who cross her?

Who is the mystery man? The one that sneaks in and out of Mrs Barley’s summerhouse, the one that no one but Stina has seen, the man Mrs Barley claims she has no knowledge of.

And there’s also the unexplained noises from the attic in the middle of the night. Yes, there are things that go ‘bump’ in the night . . .

I loved the gradual ramping up of tension, the way the author left me hanging as normal life resumed, the oddities seemingly swept under the carpet by Jack’s logic, but lingering like ghostly presences.

If you like a slightly creepy mystery, with a few clever twists, then I am recommending Whisper Cottage. I loved it, and will be looking for more to read from this author. NOTE: At the time of writing this review I was unaware that this is Anne Wyn Clark’s debut novel. An excellent debut, and an author worth watching.

Lauren Moakes was the narrator, and her smooth, honeyed speech was well suited to this story and added to my enjoyment.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#WhisperCottage #NetGalley

I: #annewynclark #harpercollinsukaudio @avonbooksuk

T: @EAClarkAuthor @HarperCollinsUK @AvonBooksUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Anne Wyn Clark lives in the Midlands with her husband and son, plus a rather temperamental cat, a rabbit and a chinchilla. She has three (now grown-up) children and five grandchildren. She is particularly partial to Italian food, decent red wine (or any coloured wine come to that…) and cake – and has been known to over-indulge in each on occasions. She has a penchant for visiting old graveyards and speculating on the demise of those entombed beneath. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK audio, Avon via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Whisper Cottage written by Anne Wyn Clark and narrated by Lauren Moakes 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 Selling Point (Chammont Point #2) by Marci Bolden

Doesn’t that cover just make you want to pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine, and just sit back and soak up the view!

EXCERPT: Darby was more than halfway through her thirties. Shouldn’t she have a better grasp on life by now? Shouldn’t she have a clearer idea of who she wanted to be and how to actually become that person?

Other people her age had careers, families, schedules that held them accountable. Darby had two slightly dysfunctional best friends and a disaster of an online business.

Damn it. Her life was a joke.

ABOUT ‘THE SELLING POINT’: Darby Zamora has always gotten by with work that suits her unique way of life, but success hasn’t exactly come easy. A former bridal seamstress, Darby gave up making custom gowns years ago. Her heart was always too big for her business’s pocketbook, until she comes up with a way to make an old business new again: The Un-Do Wedding Boutique.

Selling dresses online in her bridal consignment shop has merchandise flying off the virtual shelves. People are lining up not only to buy the dress overstock that Darby’s been holding onto, but she has new clients desperate for her to help them re-sell their unused wedding items.

But success comes at a steep price when ghosts from her past resurface and make Darby and her new company confront harsh realities of life and business. With the help of her friends Jade and Taylor, Darby is forced to reassess her business, rediscover herself, and ultimately find her selling point.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved The Restarting Point, the first book in this trilogy, and The Selling Point is every bit as good. I loved that this is centred on Darby, the flamboyant, fun, throwback to the 1950s.

As with the first book, I laughed, I cried, and shook my head at the antics of these three friends. Darby is one of those delightfully enthusiastic people who never stop to think things through. She jumps into her projects feet first, only to find herself neck deep in quicksand. She did it with her rental cottage, and now she’s done the same with her online bridal boutique selling wedding dresses that were never worn. Thank goodness she has the sensible Jade and practical Taylor to keep her on the straight and narrow.

I love the way these three have each other’s backs. As well as Darby’s downfall, Jade and Taylor also face their own problems and, without fail, they are always there to provide support for one another. I love the way they spend time together, strengthening their bonds, and making memories. Whether they’re eating icecream, or drinking margaritas, laughing, or mopping up tears, they are doing it together.

I would have liked to have seen a little more of Parker, who makes an appearance early on in The Selling Point, after having her baby, but then just disappears.🤷‍♀️

Although this is the second book in a series, it could be read as a stand-alone, although then you would miss out on Jade’s story . . . Just saying.

I hope that you are busily writing #3 in the Chammont Point series, Marci. I am eagerly awaiting it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheSellingPoint #NetGalley

I: @marciboldenauthor #pinksandpress

T: @BoldenMarci #PinkSandPress

#contemporaryfiction #romance #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: As a teen, Marci Bolden skipped over young adult books and jumped right into reading women’s fiction and romance novels.

Marci lives in the Midwest with her husband, two teenaged kiddos, and numerous rescue pets. If she had an ounce of will power, Marci would embrace healthy living but until cupcakes and wine are no longer available at the local grocery store, she’ll put that ambition on hold and appease her guilt by reading self-help books and promising to join a gym “soon.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pink Sand Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Selling Point by Marci Bolden 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 Restarting Point (Chammont Point #1) by Marci Bolden

EXCERPT: When Nick had suggested they take a vacation to celebrate Jade’s recovery from colorectal cancer, he said they could go anywhere she wanted. He was probably expecting her to plan a trip to London or New York City, since Jade had always preferred fast-paced destinations over places like this. But she’d chosen to return to Chammont Point and the lake that had been so prominent in the photos of that first vacation many years ago.

He’d been confused over her choice until she explained how much she’d come to cherish the memories they’d made there. Xander and Owen had learned to water ski on Chammont Lake. They’d all sat by a fire and roasted marshmallows while they shared stories and jokes. Jade couldn’t remember a time when they’d felt more like a family than their time exploring the small town and playing in the water. She wanted more of that.

After her recent health scare, the bright lights of Broadway and a city filled with endless dining options no longer had the same appeal to her. She’d fought hard for this second chance. Spending it in crowded theaters and noisy restaurants seemed like a waste of time when she could enjoy the quiet lake with her husband. Of course, now she just had the quiet lake, but maybe that was better.

ABOUT ‘THE RESTARTING POINT’: Marketing executive and mother of two, Jade Kelly can now add cancer survivor to her list of successes. But while her life looks good on paper, four months out of treatment, Jade realizes she hardly knows her college-age children and she and her husband Nick are little more than housemates.

Determined to start over, Jade schedules a family vacation to a lakefront cabin. When her kids bail and Nick stays home to handle a last minute work crisis, Jade heads to Chammont Point alone, determined to dust herself off and figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

While she’s away, the life she thought she had unravels. Secrets, lies, and old wounds drive Jade into new adventures and new relationships. With the help of family and new found friends, Jade learns starting over sometimes means finding a brand new restarting point.

MY THOUGHTS: I had been looking for an uplifting, feel-good read for a couple of weeks with little success. And then I started The Restarting Point by Marci Bolden. I struck gold. This ticked all my boxes. Three wonderful, quirky, female characters, and I mean characters, not exactly in the first flush of youth, who had me laughing, crying, and shaking my head at them.

It is the characters that make this read, not that there is anything wrong with the plot. Darby is a flamboyant 1950s throwback; Taylor is more comfortable with a hammer in her hand than a lipstick; Jade is the reason they came together, and is the glue that binds them.

Each of these women has had her self-confidence shattered; each is trying to find her place in life; and each is supportive and protective of the others, that is when they aren’t squabbling or taking umbrage at something said. This trio seems to spend a lot of time at two on one; either two supporting one, or one refereeing a spat between two. These characters are absolutely delightful, relatable and realistic.

This is a story of pain and loss, of friendship, support, and beginning again.

The Restarting Point is written in an easy, heartfelt style. The story is every bit as wonderful as the beautiful cover. The plot flows easily, and I simply raced through the story, wanting to find out what happens to these three women, but not wanting the story to end.

I immediately picked up and began the sequel to The Restarting Point, and I am loving it just as much. Thank you Marci Bolden for this delightful book. You have just won over a new fan.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheRestartingPoint #NetGalley

I: @marciboldenauthor #pinksandpress

T: @BoldenMarci #PinkSandPress

#contemporaryfiction #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: As a teen, Marci Bolden skipped over young adult books and jumped right into reading women’s fiction and romance novels.

Marci lives in the Midwest with her husband, two teenaged kiddos, and numerous rescue pets. If she had an ounce of will power, Marci would embrace healthy living but until cupcakes and wine are no longer available at the local grocery store, she’ll put that ambition on hold and appease her guilt by reading self-help books and promising to join a gym “soon.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pink Sand Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Restarting Point by Marci Bolden 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

Darkness Falls by David Mark

EXCERPT: McAvoy freezes, his mind filling with pictures as his fading dream surges back to fill his vision. Suddenly the whole world is her, his nostrils clogged with the smell of spoiled meat, his vision nothing but torn silk and sticky blood. He wraps his arms around Fin. Holds his son until the moment passes.

They have been getting worse, these visions. As the court case has inched closer he has found himself thinking more and more of the dead girl he had so hoped to find alive. He found himself thinking of Shane Cadbury – the plump, slow-witted sex pest who had plunged a knife into her again and again and laid her out in his bed like a trophy. He has never truly felt clean since that day. He knows that scents are particularl, that each aroma is made of tiny fragments of a source. Each time he smells Ella Butterworth, he remembers that she drifted inside him. She has done more than climb under his skin. Her body, corrupted, defiled, is within him. She is his responsibility.

ABOUT ‘DARKNESS FALLS’: A city united in grief
A journalist ready to kill to keep his secrets
A copper capable of darker deeds than any of the murderers he puts away
An unworldly detective ready to do whatever it takes to save an innocent man.

Welcome to Hull.

In this masterful prequel to the Sunday Times bestseller Dark Winter, Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy is the outsider who must confront his darkest fears while hunting a killer that nobody else believes in.
In a landscape at once tender and brutal, McAvoy must tread the path between the darkness and the light, before facing an enemy who will brand him for life.

MY THOUGHTS: My trio of ‘go to’ crime writers when I am looking for a dark gritty read complete with black humor, has just expanded to a quartet.

A prequel to the Aector McAvoy series, Darkness Falls is dark, disturbing, thrilling and addictive. David Mark has created a compelling central character in McAvoy, a man haunted by his own demons, just not ones that you would necessarily expect. He is a man who cannot lie to save himself, a good man, a kind man, a man with a conscience, a man for whom justice means getting it right, not just getting a result.

And yet it is not McAvoy, a misfit amongst his peers, who takes centre stage in Darkness Falls. That distinction is shared between Owen Lee, a Press Association correspondent who has reached the end of his tether; and Head of the Major Crimes Unit, media darling Detective Superintendent Doug Roper, a man adept at manipulating not only the media, but anyone else he is able to dig up dirt on.

Mark’s vast experience as a crime reporter shines through in his graphically realistic and chilling descriptions and obvious understanding of the criminal mind.

This is my first encounter with McAvoy, and author David Mark. I am pleased to see that I have many more books in this series to look forward to.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#DarknessFalls #NetGalley

I: @davidmarkwriter @ariafiction

T: @DavidMarkWriter @Aria_Fiction

#fivestarread #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #serialkillerthriller #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: David spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the internationally bestselling Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Aria and Aries, Head of Zeus, for providing a digital ARC of Darkness Falls by David Mark 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

Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh

EXCERPT: ‘Cassie, do you think I’m too old?’

‘For what?’

‘For . . . everything. I’ve come on holiday; I’m enjoying myself, but – am I too old for all the other things? For a bit of love?’

‘Of course not.’ Cassie rolled over again; the bed springs creaked. ‘None of us are too old, ever. There are some strange attitudes in the world about aging, as if we all suddenly become too far gone for the pleasures in life. I’ve seen many people over the years who were old at thirty-five, their lives dominated by poverty, misery and disease. And I know inspirational people older than I am – you’re one of them – who don’t let age hold them back.’

Lil sighed. ‘Sometimes I think I’m still forty until I look in the mirror.’

‘But you’re full of life, Lil – and while you are alive, you can do anything your body will let you: travel, have new experiences, even love.’

ABOUT ‘LIL’S BUS TRIP’: When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life.

Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travellers set out on their great adventure.

From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed.

And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change…

MY THOUGHTS: There have been some excellent books published recently about seniors living their lives to the full, and I was hopeful that this was going to be another. But, unfortunately, I found it a little too cheesy, a little too twee.

The idea and the intent were great, and I enjoyed it more than not, but Lil’s Bus Trip was a read that I never really engaged with. I wanted to feel something for the characters, but it never happened. I wanted an entertaining and uplifting read, but I am sorry this just didn’t do it for me.

This was an average read, and I was quite content to close the cover at the end and move on.

I am well aware that I am very much on my own with my feelings on Lil’s Bus Trip, and that it may well be a book that you enjoy, so please check out a selection of the very many positive reviews.

⭐⭐.6

#LilsBusTrip #NetGalley

I: @judyrleigh @BookandTonic

T: @JudyLeighWriter @BoldwoodBooks

#contemporaryfiction

THE AUTHOR: Judy Leigh has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset. After teaching theatre, writing lyrics for a punk band and setting up Shakespeare Festivals, she completed an MA in Professional Writing.

She is a prolific writer, but when she is not at her computer you will find her on the beach, walking, doing yoga or splashing in the sea. She is also a Reiki healer, a vegan and an animal lover. She has three black cats and she enjoys live music, theatre and football.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh 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 afternoon from an unexpectedly sunny afternoon in New Zealand, where we are still in lockdown. Areas outside of Auckland will drop to Level 3 on Wednesday, which someone has famously dubbed lockdown with takeaways. Auckland remains at Level 4 as all but 15 cases of Covid are there and new cases are still occurring at around 80 a day.

Currently I am reading The Restarting Point by Marci Bolden. What a wonderful read! With warm, unlikely friendships, and wonderful characters, I have both laughed and cried while reading this.

I am also reading Lost Angels (Nikki Hunt #3) by Stacy Green which is every bit as good as her previous books.

And I am listening to Whisper Cottage, written by Ann Wyn Clark, and narrated by Lauren Moakes. I really am on a roll this week as so far this, too, is excellent.

This coming week I am planning on reading All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard. Don’t you just love this cover!

At 70, and widowed, Ella is about to find out that blood is not always thicker than water. A wise and warm-hearted story about aging, family and community for readers of Tricia Stringer and Liz Byrski.

At 70, Ella’s world is upended, leaving her at odds with her three adult children, whose attention is fixed more firmly on her money than her ongoing welfare. After an argument with her son Anthony, she flees his Adelaide home for Cutlers Bay, a seaside town on the Yorke Peninsula. There she befriends Angie, a 40-year-old drifter, and becomes an irritant to local cop Zach. He’s keen to shift Ella off his turf, because Anthony phones daily, demanding his mother be sent home. And besides, Zach just doesn’t trust Angie.

Ella warms to Cutlers Bay, and it warms to her. In a defiant act of self-determination, she buys an entirely unsuitable house on the outskirts of town, and Angie agrees to help make it habitable. Zach is drawn to the house on the clifftop, and finds himself revising his earlier opinions of Ella, and Angie.

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves, #2 in her new series Two Rivers. I loved the first, The Long Call, and can’t wait to get stuck into this.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

And Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks, an author I admire greatly.

1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels himself blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.

1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.

1933: Still struggling to come terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.

This week I received five new digital ARCs, and two audiobooks. It’s a lovely mix of new and favourite authors.

The books are: Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer

The Parents by Claire Seeber

Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

And 1979 by Val McDermid

The two audiobooks I received are: A Dream to Die For by Susan Z. Ritz and narrated by Rachel Perry

And Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer, narrated by George Blagden

Over the past week I have very briefly been in Boston, Massachusetts; spent more time in Hull, East Yorkshire; Salterley, somewhere in England; France, Belgium and Amsterdam; Stillwater, Minnesota; Chammont Point, East Virginia; and Avoncot, Wiltshire. Have our paths crossed this week? Where have you been on your bookish travels?

I still have 25 Netgalley requests pending.

Have a great week of reading, and stay safe my friends.

What’s Not Said, and What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor

EXCERPT: Kassie spent much of the first half of their marriage trying to save it, and most of the second half trying to escape it.

Several years ago, well at least over the last four to be sure, she’d start each year with one goal: get the hell out. And then something unpredictable, either work or family related, derailed her, making her put off what she knew deep in her heart she had to do.

ABOUT ‘WHAT’S NOT SAID’: Kassie O’Callaghan’s meticulous plans to divorce her emotionally abusive husband, Mike, and move in with Chris, a younger man she met five years ago on a solo vacation in Venice, are disrupted when she finds out Mike has chronic kidney disease—something he’s concealed from her for years. Once again, she postpones her path to freedom—at least, until she pokes around his pajama drawer and discovers his illness is the least of his deceits.

But Kassie is no angel, either. As she struggles to justify her own indiscretions, the secret lives she and Mike have led collide head-on, revealing a tangled web of sex, lies, and DNA. Still, mindful of her vows, Kassie commits to helping her husband find an organ donor. In the process, she uncovers a life-changing secret. Problem is, if she reveals it, her own immorality will be exposed, which means she has an impossible decision to make: Whose life will she save—her husband’s or her own?

MY THOUGHTS: I started What’s Not Said by Valerie Taylor with high hopes. Unfortunately, as I read, I became increasingly disenchanted. No doubt there are plenty of people who have marriages like Kassie and Mike. But the more I read of them, the less I liked them, and I really didn’t care what happened to them. They were as bad as one another and probably deserved each other.

Then we meet Kassie’s lover, and the storyline deteriorated even more. Large tracts are given over to the characters sexual exploits. While it is not explicit I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable and I found myself skimming and even skipping pages. By the time I got to 44% I was skipping more than I was reading, so I decided to abandon this read.

I am no prude and I don’t mind sex scenes in my reading matter as long as it is relevant and fitting. With What’s Not Said, I felt that the storyline (if indeed there was one) existed merely as a device to string the sex scenes together.

After my experience with What’s Not Said, I have absolutely no desire to read What’s Not True.

I am well aware that I am very much on my own with my feelings on What’s Not Said, and that it may well be a book that you enjoy, so please check out a selection of the very many positive reviews.

#WhatsNotSaid #NetGalley

I: @valerieetaylor @ shewritespress

T: @TaylorsTracker

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama

THE AUTHOR: Valerie Taylor was born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut. She earned a B.S. Marketing degree and an MBA from Sacred Heart University, as well as a graduate certificate in health care administration from Simmons University (formerly Simmons College). She had a thirty-year career in the financial services industry as a marketer and writer.

After her divorce, she spread her wings and relocated her career to Boston and then to Seattle. When she retired, she resettled in her home state to be near her two grown children and granddaughter. She enjoys practicing tai chi and being an expert sports spectator.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to She Writes Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of What’s Not Said by Valerie Taylor 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 Affair by Hilary Boyd

EXCERPT: The silence in the car was profound, as if she’d suddenly gone deaf.

‘Are you completely out of your mind?’ she whispered, all strength gone from her body.

With a puzzled frown, he leaned over and put both his hands firmly on her crossed forearms, staring intently into her eyes. ‘You look terrified, Connie.’ He drew back a bit. ‘Oh,my God . . . you’re not worried about your husband finding out about us, are you?’ He sighed. ‘You know I’d never betray you. I will never tell a living soul what happened between us, not in a million years.’ He smiled his gentle smile. ‘I just want to be near you.’

ABOUT ‘THE AFFAIR’: Connie McCabe longs for the summer where she spends the days leading tours across the continent.

But it’s on the glamorous shores of Lake Como where she is truly swept away, when Jared, a much younger man, falls for her.

Despite resisting his advances, Connie finds that he’s got under her skin.

And so begins a long, hot, intoxicating summer where Connie succumbs to temptation – breaking her marriage vows.

At the end of the season, Connie returns home to her husband, ready to put this affair behind her.

MY THOUGHTS: Hilary Boyd writes about how easy it is to make a wrong decision when vulnerable. Decisions, actions and consequences are the theme of The Affair.

Connie is an extremely relatable character. Who amongst us has never felt unappreciated, has never wondered if their significant other may have fallen out of love, be bored by them. Who has never felt exasperated by their partner, lost patience with them? Whose marriage has never gone through a rough patch, where you seem to have lost your connection, to be moving in different directions? We’d all like to think that it would never happen to us, but chances are it has, or it will.

Devan, Connie’s husband is a retired G.P. who, now he doesn’t have a purpose in his life, is feeling lost and resentful towards his wife who continues, despite his pleas for her to retire with him, with the job she loves.

Jared is a younger man dancing attendance on his elderly godmother on one of Connie’s tours. One evening, he kisses her . . . and Connie’s life will never be the same.

The Affair is a great cautionary tale, one everyone should read, because what happens after?

Hilary Boyd has written a story that begins as a small meandering stream which gathers power and develops into a raging torrent, one that swept me off my feet.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheAffair #NetGalley

I: @hilaryboyd3837 @michaeljbooks

T: @HilaryBoyd @MichaelJBooks

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mentalhealth #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Boyd was born and spent the first six months of her life in Prestatyn, North Wales, where her father, an army major, was stationed after the war. She was later educated in London, then at the boarding school Roedean. She trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and subsequently as a marriage guidance counsellor with Relate before reading English Literature at London University in her late 30s.

After college, Boyd became a health journalist, writing about depression, step-parenting and pregnancy. She began writing fiction as a hobby whilst raising three children and working at various day jobs including running a cancer charity, Survive Cancer, working for an engineering company, and an online vitamin site.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin, Michael Joseph via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Affair by Hilary Boyd 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

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Now.

Ava Lancet peered through the unrelenting night as she fought down a growing sense of panic. Darkness had fallen twenty minutes ago and she had no idea where she was – or where she was meant to go.

She glanced at the map crumpled on the passenger seat of her rental car, wishing that the agent had provided a GPS instead of the seemingly obsolete, old-fashioned fold-out map that he’d assured her would help her drive from Athens to the tiny village of Iousidous. And perhaps it would have if she could have made sense of the wiggly lines and incomprehensible Greek names. Not that reading Greek even mattered now because darkness had fallen and she could barely make out the road signs on Greece’s National Highway.

She’d been in this country just a few hours and already she was completely lost, both literally and figuratively. Spiritually, emotionally, hopelessly lost. A fortnight ago, escaping a cold wet spring in England had seemed like a wonderful idea, a desperate lifeline since her own life – and marriage – had been put on hold. That’s how Ava liked to think of it anyway, because to consider anything else was too final. Too much of a failure.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE OLIVE GROVE’: When Ava arrives in Greece, it’s with a heart that’s shattered into a thousand pieces. But as she pulls up in a tiny village nestled on a cliff above the glittering Ionian Sea, and steps out in front of a tumbledown house that once belonged to her grandmother Sophia, everything changes.

At first Ava almost wants to laugh at this bizarre inheritance—a home that has been uninhabited since the Second World War—that appears as close to collapse as she herself feels. But with nowhere left to run to, her only choice is to start putting the house together again.

What Ava doesn’t expect is for pieces of her grandmother’s story to emerge, as a local survivor from the war begins to share her secrets. Ava can’t help but be drawn to Sophia’s hidden past… even though the truth could change her own life forever.

Because Sophia’s story is one of devastating choices she had to make during the Nazi invasion of her beloved country. It’s a story of bravery, betrayal and tragedy. But most of all, it is a story about love…

MY THOUGHTS: I am a definite starter for books where the main character is left a house, and uncovers a mystery, so I knew as soon as I saw it that I absolutely must read this book. I have read Kate Hewitt before and enjoyed her, so I knew that I was in for a good read.

Hewitt has described rural Greece beautifully – not that I have ever been there, unfortunately – but just as I have seen it on travel documentaries. In Ava’s ‘now’, there is a dearth of young people in the village, but the villagers of a similar age to Ava, or her mother, are friendly, welcoming and helpful, while the older generations are more reserved and distrustful.

Sophia’s ‘then’ in 1942, has a totally different atmosphere. It is a time of poverty and fear, with many different political factions trying to seize control. There are communists, nazis and fascists all competing against one another, each in their own way equally dangerous. Sophia is content to keep her head down, her opinions to herself, and just get on with her work at the café. But other people have vastly different plans for her.

I didn’t know much about Greece in WWII, so Beyond the Olive Grove was a bit of an education for me. Please make sure you read Kate’s letter at the end of the book. I learned so much more from it, including that Sophia’s story is based on both real events and people.

I liked Beyond the Olive Grove, but regretfully didn’t love it. In all honesty I felt Ava’s story detracted from Sophia’s with her marriage and emotional dramas. A good read, but for me one that I probably won’t be able to recall in a couple of weeks.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#BeyondtheOliveGrove #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Kate likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt 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 had no idea when I posted last Sunday that my next Sunday post would find New Zealand in lockdown, but here we are! I really am not complaining though. We went into lockdown on Wednesday, which I spent most of at work, shutting everything off and down. I went back to work Friday for a few hours to pay the taxes – even under lockdown, the government still expects to be paid – and touching base with our staff to make sure everyone is okay. 3:00 p.m. today we will be advised if lockdown is to be extended beyond Monday. I would lay money that it will as case numbers are still climbing daily, and they’re currently trying to trace over 5,000 contacts of those who are infected.

Still, we’ve been here before and no doubt will be here again. I am enjoying the break, although I will be back at work tomorrow to pay staff and apply for the wage subsidy and whatever else is available. In meantime we have been stripping wallpaper from the lounge walls and plastering, ready to paint. We are lucky that we can go online and order everything we need and have it delivered. Got to love the internet!

Anyway, let’s get to the real reason we’re here – books. Currently I am reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, a new author for me. Connie, the main character, is a tour guide and I have enjoyed touring through Italy, Poland and the north of Scotland with her.

I am about to start Darkness Falls by David Mark

And I am doing a read/listen to The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson. If you think your mother-in-law is the one from hell, check out Caprice!

This week I planning on reading What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor.

With the court date set for her divorce and the future she’d planned with a younger man presumably kaput, Kassie O’Callaghan shifts attention to reviving her stalled marketing career. But that goal gets complicated when she unexpectedly rendezvous with her former lover in Paris. After a chance meeting with a colleague and a stroll along Pont Neuf, Kassie receives two compelling proposals. Can she possibly accept them both?

Kassie’s decision process screeches to a halt when her soon-to-be ex-husband has a heart attack, forcing her to fly home to Boston. There, she confronts his conniving and deceitful fiancée—a woman who wants not just a ring on her finger but everything that belongs to Kassie. In the ensuing battle to protect what’s legally and rightfully hers, Kassie discovers that sometimes it’s what’s not true that can set you free.

But first I need to read What’s Not Said, the first in the series, which I also have on my shelf.

Kassie O’Callaghan’s meticulous plans to divorce her emotionally abusive husband, Mike, and move in with Chris, a younger man she met five years ago on a solo vacation in Venice, are disrupted when she finds out Mike has chronic kidney disease—something he’s concealed from her for years. Once again, she postpones her path to freedom—at least, until she pokes around his pajama drawer and discovers his illness is the least of his deceits.

But Kassie is no angel, either. As she struggles to justify her own indiscretions, the secret lives she and Mike have led collide head-on, revealing a tangled web of sex, lies, and DNA. Still, mindful of her vows, Kassie commits to helping her husband find an organ donor. In the process, she uncovers a life-changing secret. Problem is, if she reveals it, her own immorality will be exposed, which means she has an impossible decision to make: Whose life will she save—her husband’s or her own.

And The Selling Point by Marci Bolden.

Darby Zamora has always gotten by with work that suits her unique way of life, but success hasn’t exactly come easy. A former bridal seamstress, Darby gave up making custom gowns years ago. Her heart was always too big for her business’s pocketbook, until she comes up with a way to make an old business new again: The Un-Do Wedding Boutique.

Selling dresses online in her bridal consignment shop has merchandise flying off the virtual shelves. People are lining up not only to buy the dress overstock that Darby’s been holding onto, but she has new clients desperate for her to help them re-sell their unused wedding items.

But success comes at a steep price when ghosts from her past resurface and make Darby and her new company confront harsh realities of life and business. With the help of her friends Jade and Taylor, Darby is forced to reassess her business, rediscover herself, and ultimately find her selling point. 

Although, again, I need to read the first in the series, The Restarting Point.

Marketing executive and mother of two, Jade Kelly can now add cancer survivor to her list of successes. But while her life looks good on paper, four months out of treatment, Jade realizes she hardly knows her college-age children and she and her husband Nick are little more than housemates.

Determined to start over, Jade schedules a family vacation to a lakefront cabin. When her kids bail and Nick stays home to handle a last minute work crisis, Jade heads to Chammont Point alone, determined to dust herself off and figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

While she’s away, the life she thought she had unravels. Secrets, lies, and old wounds drive Jade into new adventures and new relationships. With the help of family and new found friends, Jade learns starting over sometimes means finding a brand new restarting point.

So fingers crossed that lockdown continues, otherwise I won’t get the lounge finished, or meet my reading target.

I have 6 new ARCs this week plus one audio ARC. They are:

A Matter of Time by Claire Askew

Now I Found You by Mila Oliver

The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine, another 2nd book in a series where I still have the first, The Christmas Killer, to read 😱

The Editor’s Wife by Clare Chambers, a new author for me.

Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy, an author adore

And The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

The audio ARC that I received is Whisper Cottage by Ann Wynn Clark and narrated by Lauren Moakes, who I don’t believe I have listened to previously.

Where have your book travels taken you in the past week? I have been in a small village in the mountains of Greece in both 1942 and just prior to Covid; Dublin, Ireland; Warsaw, Poland in 1944 ; and London, England in both 1944 and 2019; and Venice, Lake Como, and Verona, Italy, the north of Scotland, and Somerset, England pre-Covid. Have we crossed paths?

And now I am going to bid you arivederci and watch the final 20 laps of the Indy racing from St Louis, Mo., where rookie Kiwi, Scot McLaughlin is coming 4th!

Happy reading ❤📚