The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman

EXCERPT: Only later would I mark how he watched my approach with both sadness and trepidation.

‘Oh!’ I exclaimed, dragging up some vestige of coquettishness. ‘A late Christmas present for me?’

‘Yes,’ he said, refusing to meet my eye. ‘Take it as such. I won’t be charging you. Truth be told, I don’t know if I should give it to you at all.’

And then he was gone, disappeared like a puff of dark dust. Upon closer inspection, I saw the package had been wrapped, sealed and tied with the string circled three times around. Unable to open it with my own power, I walked to the desk and asked Mr Sylvan to lend me his letter opener. Silver and sharp, it weighed heavy in my hand as I sliced through the string and along the sealed edges.

‘It’s my Christmas portrait,’ I said as much to myself as to Mr Sylvan. I unwrapped the layers and uncovered the image printed on heavy paper. I felt myself frown at first. Haley had promised a tint, but I saw nothing but ordinary black and white.

Then the image blurred in my trembling hand.

‘Mrs Krause?’ Mr Sylvan’s voice lurked beyond the roaring of the rush of blood in my ears.

I dropped the image to the desktop and braced my hands beside it. A sob caught in my throat, perfectly timed to Mr Sylvan’s un-Sylvan-like gasp.

The Christmas tree it seemed, had failed in its spell to protect me from the ghost of Sallie White. For there she was, in the photograph. Right behind me. Her hand resting on my shoulder.

ABOUT ‘THE LADY IN RESIDENCE’: Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

MY THOUGHTS: An enjoyable read, but not a particularly gripping or memorable one. I guess I was expecting more ‘gothic’ atmosphere.

The Lady in Residence is a combination of romance and a ‘paranormal’ mystery set over two timelines. I enjoyed the characters of Dini and Quin, but I found Hedda to be quite cold and calculating. Although I guess that had I found myself in her circumstances in that time, I might be much the same.

I have to admit to skimming large tracts in the second half of the book when my interest began to wane and it seemed that we were just rehashing old ground. So I may have missed it, but I can’t recall seeing any reference to ‘true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again’. If there are indeed references to this, please don’t hesitate to correct me.

I found the author’s notes at the end of the book most interesting. ‘There’s a Russian nesting doll structure to The Lady in Residence. Sallie haunts Hedda, Hedda haunts Dini,’ which explains the central theme of the novel perfectly. That and obsession.

‘The story of Sallie White is true, and the details of it depicted in The Lady in Residence fall in line with the newspaper accounts of the time.’

Pittman also talks about the beauty of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, calling it ‘historically exquisite, but there is a sense of heaviness to it too.’

So please do read the Author’s note, but not before the book as it contains at least one spoiler that I can think of.

⭐⭐.8

#TheLadyinResidence #NetGalley
#contemporaryfiction #historicalfiction #christianromance #mystery #paranormal

‘She fixated on the idea that a man who had sisters knew how to be kind to a woman.’ – I snorted at this! I have three brothers and they spent most of our days enjoying making mine miserable!

THE AUTHOR: Allison Pittman is the author of For Time and Eternity, Stealing Home, the Crossroads of Grace series, and her nonfiction debut, Saturdays With Stella. A high-school English teacher, she serves as director of the theater arts group at her church. She is also the co-president of a dynamic Christian writers group in the San Antonio, Texas area, where she makes her home with her husband and their three boys.

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing a digital ARC of The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman 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

Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay

50162082._sx318_sy475_

EXCERPT: ‘What does Andante even mean?’

Jeremy blinked. Those were not words he expected to hear at his grand opening.

The older man looked around the store, his face pursed as if Jeremy’s beans had burned or pulled sour and were stinking up the place. ‘What was wrong with the Daily Brew? I liked it just fine. What have they done to the place? It doesn’t feel like home any more.’

Jeremy looked around the coffee shop, frantic to find something good to counteract the clench in his chest. He’d studied, dreamed, and planned for this moment for twenty years. Five minutes ago he’d been fired up, still nervous enough to throw up in the tiny back bathroom, but satisfied with the remodel and confident in his decision to move across the country to Winsome and open it. He thought about all that came with both the shop and the move. He now lived near his daughter. She knew his name and his face. She called him ‘Daddy.’ He had an apartment she could stay in, one with two bedrooms and a view of Winsome’s Centennial Park. No . . . no way could he have afforded any of this in Seattle. This was the life and the home he wanted and there was no room for regret, doubt, or naysayers.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup then move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.

Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.

With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.

MY THOUGHTS: This was a sweet, but not particularly memorable story of a family in a small town, their relationships, trials and tribulations.

Although I liked most of the characters, Alyssa being the notable exception, I failed to become involved in the story. I think it was the lack of depth to the characters that was my major stumbling block. Most of them seemed as if they probably were interesting, if we could get to know them a little better. I do note that this is the second book set in this town, so perhaps the first gave us a more in depth introduction to the characters. But I don’t know as I haven’t read it, and it wasn’t immediately apparent when I requested this that it was the second book in a series.

There is a fractured family, and I am talking multigenerational fractures, a young woman running away from a failure in her life, and a man trying to connect with his daughter and realise a lifelong dream.

Of Literature and Lattes is a quick read, is interesting to a point but, for me, wasn’t an immersive and memorable reading experience.

😊😊😊

#OfLiteratureandLattes #NetGalley

The only stable thing in life is change…and no, you don’t get used to it.

After taking a wrong turn, travelling further down the (same) road doesn’t get you any closer to your destination. You have to go back in order to go on.

THE AUTHOR: Katherine Reay is the national bestselling and award-winning author of several novels and one full length non-fiction work.

Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. She lives outside Chicago, IL.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thomas Nelson – Fiction via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay 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 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3140589355

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Happy mother’s day to all the Mums out there. I hope, despite all the restrictions, that you have made the most of your day or, like me, have postponed it until restrictions are lifted and we can have a real hug.

I am almost finished Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay. This is a good read, but nothing really memorable.

50162082._sx318_sy475_

I am 3/4 of the way through The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup for my Goodreads.com group read. This is the first one that I have participated in this year.

43157154._sy475_

And I am half way through listening to The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian. Interesting…

35506211._sy475_

I have four books that I need to read for publication this week, which may be pushing it a little as I expect to be returning to work this week. I know we need to get the country up and working again, but work interferes with my reading. 😡 So this week I plan to read

Killing Mind by Angela Marsons. I may need to call in sick for this one because I know that once I start I won’t want to put it down.

51458670._sy475_

When Detective Kim Stone is called to the home of Samantha Brown, she finds the young woman lying in bed with her throat cut and a knife in her hand. With no sign of forced entry or struggle, Kim rules her death a tragic suicide.

But a visit to Samantha’s parents rings alarm bells for Kim – there’s something they’re not telling her. And, when she spots a clue in a photograph, Kim realises she’s made a huge mistake. Samantha didn’t take her own life, she was murdered.

Then a young man’s body is found in a local lake with his throat cut and Kim makes a link between the victim and Samantha. They both spent time at Unity Farm, a retreat for people seeking an alternative way of life.

Beneath the retreat’s cosy façade, Kim and her team uncover a sinister community preying on the emotionally vulnerable.

Sending one of her own undercover into Unity Farm is high risk but it’s Kim’s only hope if she is to catch a killer – someone Kim is convinced the victims knew and trusted.

With Bryant distracted by the emergence of a harrowing case close to his heart, and an undercover officer in way over her head, Kim’s neck is on the line like never before. Can she protect those closest to her before another life is taken?

Into the Darkest Day by Kate Hewitt

52500291._sy475_

1944, London:
When Lily meets enigmatic GI Matthew in war-torn London, she doesn’t expect to fall in love. While her sister starts a reckless affair with another GI, Lily tries to hide her growing feelings for Matthew.

But Matthew has a devastating secret. One that could change their lives forever.

Present day, USA:
Abby lives a quiet life on an apple farm in Wisconsin. Tormented by survivor’s guilt after the tragic deaths of her mother and brother, Abby leaves the orchards as little as possible, keeping her life small, peaceful and safe… Until she is contacted by Englishman Simon Elliot, who arrives nursing a heartbreak of his own, and bearing a World War Two medal that he claims belonged to Abby’s grandfather.

Together they begin to piece together the heartbreaking story of their relatives’ war. But as the story brings Abby and Simon closer—tentatively beginning to lean on one another to heal—they uncover a dark secret from the past.

And like Lily and Matthew nearly eighty years before them, it will make Abby and Simon question whether you can ever truly trust someone, even when they have your heart…

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

48133801

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

And finally Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

cover176250-mini

Only three new ARCs this week, but my pending and wish lists are a little out of hand… This week I received

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

48559001._sy475_

I Know Your Secret by Ruth Heald

53254699

The Day Henry Died by Lynda Renham

lyndarenham_thedayhenrydied_450x675

Enjoy the remainder of your day everyone. T.M.O.T.H. is cooking dinner tonight, chicken and salad, and I must say it smells delicious! I should just have time to finish the last few pages of Of Literature and Lattes before he dishes up.

Happy reading. Stay safe, healthy and be kind.

😷❤😍📚

Sandy

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright
The House on Foster Hill 
by Jaime Jo Wright (Goodreads Author)

30817744

Reviewed by


EXCERPT: It was long rumored that the Foster Hill oak tree was not only the largest but also the oldest tree in Oakwood. While its top rose to a marvelous height, it was still dead and its branches never blossomed. The trunk was very wide at the base and split open to reveal a hollow inside. Many a child had hidden there during a rambunctious game of hide-and-seek. They wouldn’t hide there any more. Not after today.

The petite body was curled into the position of a babe, inside the tree’s womb. Blonde hair hung free over her cold, bare shoulders and floated out on the wind. Her torso was covered in a paper-thin dress of grey calico. It was nowhere enough to keep her warm, but it was more than the cold that tinted the young woman’s skin blue. It was death.

THE BLURB: Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives–including her own–are lost?

MY THOUGHTS: 3 stars for The House on Foster Hill from me.

I was excited by the first few chapters of this book. Their tone was insidiously creepy and hinted at great things to come, but for me, they never quite materialised.

I loved the character of Ivy, author of the book of deaths, where she recorded her thoughts and memories of the people of her town who passed away so that they would not be forgotten. She is a strong willed, unconventional young woman who has not recovered from the tragedy that robbed her of her beloved brother Andrew.

I found it harder to relate to Kaine, whose story is interspersed with Ivy’s, but occurring a century later. I could not warm to her and found her decisions and actions hard to understand.

Ultimately, I think that the author of The House on Foster Hill tried to make this book too many things, all being given equal billing, and as a result it all becomes slightly muddied. We have in Ivy’s story, a historical, Christian, romantic-suspense, people trafficking, murder mystery. With Kaine, we have a contemporary, Christian, romantic-suspense, stalker, murder-mystery. And then there is the family connection between the two women, voila! A genealogical mystery to boot!

I applaud Jaime Jo Wright’s intentions in her debut novel. If I have one piece of advice for her, it is this. Make one aspect of the novel the main thread, the star if you like, and the other aspects become side stories feeding into and supporting the main story, acting as the supporting cast, instead of all battling with one another to reign supreme.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page v