Watching what I’m reading . . .

Well here we are, the first Sunday of 2022. I am still very much in holiday mode and not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, although it is only for the one day and then I have the remainder of the week off. I’m not sure that I can drag myself out of bed in time!

Currently I am reading The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller. What characters!

And The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer, a library book. This is my first book by this Australian author and I am loving it.

I am also listening to an audiobook from the library, Murder is Easy (Superintendent Battle #4) by Agatha Christie. I haven’t previously read any of this series, but am enjoying this immensely. I have a firm suspect in mind for the murderer, but am I right?

This week I am planning to read The House Fire by Rosie Walker

Play with fire and you’ll get burned . . .

Who can you trust in this brand new edge-of-your-seat thriller.

A tired old seaside town hiding a series of unsolved arson attacks.

A derelict mansion in the woods with a long-buried secret.

A bundle of old love letters that mask a dark story.

When Jamie’s documentary investigation gets too close to uncovering the truth behind a series of deadly arson attacks that tormented Abbeywick in the 1980s, her family might be the ones who pay the price.

But for her younger sister Cleo, the secrets Jamie uncovers have the potential to get exactly what Cleo wants: to remove her mum’s toxic new husband from their lives, forever.

All it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke . . .

And The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?

I received three new ARCs in the past week: The Bluebonnet Battle by Carolyn Brown

Shadow in the Glass by M.E. Hilliard

And, better late than never, The Bells of Christmas II: Eight stories of Christmas hope

What are you reading this New Year?

Happy reading my friends. It’s too hot to be out in the garden so I am going to stretch out on the daybed out on my deck where there is a little breeze and read some more. Enjoy your New Year reads my friends.

The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

EXCERPT: He ripped open the envelope and unfolded the piece of paper inside. There were only a few words, and while he recognised her handwriting, the words looked shaky, as though her hand were trembling as she wrote them.

Joel, my sweet boy. Don’t stay here. Go back.

Don’t believe him. Go back.

He stared at the sentences. She’d clearly known she was dying when she wrote this. And she’d expected that he’d come home. And he’d always intended to go back to Singapore after he took care of his mother’s affairs. He’d never intended to stay in Lake Summers.

But still, why would his mom be so worried about him staying? Why would this be the final message she had for him? And who shouldn’t he believe? What was that all about?

ABOUT ‘THE CRANBERRY INN’: As twinkling lights go up and snowflakes begin to fall, Laurel Hanover and her eight-year-old son are going home to the Cranberry Inn in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Laurel can’t wait to leave New York behind to help her father run the family business, and make snow angels with her son, even if it’s just for Christmas. But when she walks through the door, she’s shocked to find the inn in disrepair, and a letter saying her father will be gone until Christmas Eve…

No one in town knows where Laurel’s father is, and she doesn’t know whether to be worried or angry – but she won’t let the inn go under, and nothing will get in the way of the perfect Christmas for her son. Seeing the worn-out wooden bannisters, bare of festive lights, she immediately recruits her childhood friend, brooding local carpenter Joel Hutcherson. They might disagree on whether any walls actually need to come down, but each rip in the carpet makes Laurel more concerned for her father, and Joel is a welcome distraction. And when he admits that Laurel was his first crush, she realises she’s falling for him.

But then Laurel uncovers a card with beautiful, ornate writing amongst her father’s things and learns the real reason he disappeared. And it changes everything. Worse still, she thinks Joel knew the truth all along.

Laurel thought this was going to be the perfect Christmas – that maybe she had found her happy. But now there’s nothing to stop her from running back to New York the moment the baubles come down… is there?

MY THOUGHTS: The publicity blurb describes The Cranberry Inn as ‘An unputdownable, feel-good Christmas romance about fresh starts, the importance of family and learning how to follow your heart,’ and it’s 100% true. I read this in one sitting, not wanting to let these (mostly) lovable and relatable characters out of my grasp. But even the irritating characters have their redeeming moments.

This is a wonderful small town romance set over the Christmas period with characters you just can’t help but love, and town traditions that made me want to move there for the Christmas break. I want to go skating on the lake, and drink hot chocolate. I want to shop in the quirky little stores and I want to meet all the lovely townspeople that combined to make The Cranberry Inn a heartwarming and satisfying read.

Although you have a good idea where this story is going to end up, the journey is a wonderful one, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I loved the way the author didn’t rush the romance or make it schmaltzy. I loved the way Laurel’s priority is always her son, Simon, and the way she considers his feelings and how he is going to see things. I love this author’s easy to read writing style and will definitely be looking for more of her titles.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheCranberryInn #NetGalley

I: @barbara_josselsohn_author @bookouture

T: @barbarajoss @Bookouture

#christmasfiction #contemporaryfiction #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Barbara Josselsohn grew up on Long Island and lived for several years in her beloved New York City before moving to the northern suburbs. She began her career as a business journalist and then turned her attention to her first love, fiction. Barbara teaches writing at the Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute and other venues, and is the founder and coordinator of the Scarsdale Library Writers Center, which supports and promotes local writers. She and her husband live in Westchester, N.Y., and have three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn 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 Sunshine Club by Carolyn Brown

EXCERPT: ‘We haven’t devoted much time to the matchmaking since we all retired, so we might be a little rusty,’ Ina Mae reminded her. ‘With all this new technological stuff on the internet, our old-fashioned ways might be water under the bridge. But maybe it’s like riding a bicycle. How many thirty to thirty-five year old bachelors are left in Newton County?’

‘Not many that we’d have in our family,’ Gussie answered, ‘but did you notice that Luke held Sissy’s hand a little longer than necessary this morning? I think I saw a few sparks.’

‘No, no, no!’ Ina Mae shook her head. ‘He’s a preacher. You know how Blanche felt about being a preacher’s daughter. If Sissy and Luke had kids-‘ she shuddered.

‘What’s wrong with that?’ Gussie asked. ‘Things are different even for preacher’s kids in today’s world. Just think of it as our greatest challenge, and besides, times have changed. Preachers aren’t as strict as they used to be when we were kids. I saw Luke playing basketball in the church fellowship hall last weekend when we were cleaning the church. He was in there with a bunch of teenagers, and he wasn’t wearing a shirt.’ She fanned herself with her hand. ‘And honey, he would make any woman swoon.’

Ina Mae shook her head again. ‘I don’t care if seeing him without a shirt would make Sissy’s underbritches crawl down around her ankles. Think of someone else.’

ABOUT ‘THE SUNSHINE CLUB’: Gussie, Ina Mae, and Blanche have been best friends for more than sixty years. From their humble beginnings of founding the Sunshine Club when they were girls to becoming the matchmaking queens of Newton, Texas, these three were inseparable. When Blanche passes away, Gussie and Ina Mae feel the best way to honor their dearly departed is with a shot of whiskey, some good music, and making a match for Blanche’s niece, Sissy.

Never mind that Sissy’s in town for only six weeks. Is there a better reason for her to stay? And is there a better prospect than handsome, charming, blue-eyed local preacher Luke Beauchamp? No and no. The attraction is already there. Now it’s up to Gussie and Ina Mae to make sure the sparks really get to crackling by Christmas.

The Sunshine Club is back in business. Don’t underestimate two feisty women who have their hearts set on a happy ending.

MY THOUGHTS: I just loved the characters in The Sunshine Club. Ina Mae and Gussie have the warmest hearts with just a little wickedness mixed in, and oh boy! Do they ever like to meddle! Of course, they class it as ‘helping’, and right now they are ‘helping’ Blanche’s niece Sissy, come to terms with the loss of her beloved aunt, the last of her family. And if it takes a bit of meddling to get Sissy to stick around a bit longer than she planned (read: permanently) then who are they to blanche (sorry, pun intended) at the job.

The Sunshine Club is an easy to read heartwarming story of friendship and the power of love. The characters are full of fun and sass, and I loved the stories of what the three Sunshine Club members got up to through the years. I loved the way Ina Mae and Gussie support Sissy in her grief, and she does the same for them. I also love how Sissy manages to turn the table on the two women in the matchmaking stakes!

There’s a few tears in this read, but a whole lot more smiles and giggles. Overall, the moral of this story is that people don’t have to be blood relations to be family. Family is in the heart.

P.s. make sure you read the author’s note on where she got the idea for this story. It’s a nice little footnote.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheSunshineClub #NetGalley

I: @carolynbrownbooks #montlake

T: @thecarolynbrown #Montlake

#christmasfiction #christianfiction #contemporaryfiction #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 Sunshine Club 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Two weeks until Christmas. I have wrapped the presents this morning and made out my shopping list for tomorrow so that all I will have to do in the days leading up to Christmas is pick up fresh fruit and cream. We are spending Christmas Day with my cousins who would otherwise also be on their own as it’s the year that their children and grandchildren go to their partners families. We are having Boxing Day with Dustin and Luke. Lucky boy gets two Christmas Days!

With all the excitement of Bathurst last weekend, I forgot to mention where I’d been on my reading travels: Currently I am in London and Glasgow. I have been to Mapleton, a small village on the outskirts of Stoke-on-trent; Arthurville in the western plains of NSW, Australia; Cornwall; Gosford and the NSW central coast; Stillwater, Minnesota; Lily Dale, NY State; Derby in the Kimberly region of western Australia; Newton, Texas; the Sierra Nevada mountains in California; Brighton, Whitby and Roedean in England in the mid-1960s; and Hull in east Yorkshire. Have we crossed paths anywhere?

Currently I am reading The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay, and I must say it’s very good. This is the 13th book of the series, but the first that I have read, and I am having no trouble whatsoever with the characters or backstories.

I am listening to The Girl Upstairs by Georgina Lees. I am 80% through and still don’t know what is going on. It’s certainly keeping me on my toes!

This week I am planning to read/listen to Why She Left by Leah Mercer

Ruth has spent every day of the last fifteen years wondering why her daughter Isobel left. Walking around the school to which she has given her life, every child she sees reminds her of her family’s bright future which vanished in an instant.

So when Ruth opens the door to find Isobel and a teenage grandson she never knew existed, she feels a rush of relief. Despite the years of hurt she never stopped loving Isobel and wants to help rebuild her life. Enrolling her grandson at the school, Ruth wants to make sure they stay for good.

Isobel has spent her life running from a painful secret. A secret which could have destroyed her family. Now, as she flees a bad relationship, she knows that her childhood home is the only place where she can be safe.

But as Isobel looks at her son in his crisp new uniform, she is taken straight back to the reason she ran all those years ago. Soon it becomes clear that she is not the only one tormented by the past. Someone is prepared to destroy everything Ruth and Isobel hold dear. Can Isobel confront her darkest secret before it is too late?

And The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

As

twinkling lights go up and snowflakes begin to fall, Laurel Hanover and her eight-year-old son are going home to the Cranberry Inn in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Laurel can’t wait to leave New York behind to help her father run the family business, and make snow angels with her son, even if it’s just for Christmas. But when she walks through the door, she’s shocked to find the inn in disrepair, and a letter saying her father will be gone until Christmas Eve…

No one in town knows where Laurel’s father is, and she doesn’t know whether to be worried or angry – but she won’t let the inn go under, and nothing will get in the way of the perfect Christmas for her son. Seeing the worn-out wooden bannisters, bare of festive lights, she immediately recruits her childhood friend, brooding local carpenter Joel Hutcherson. They might disagree on whether any walls actually need to come down, but each rip in the carpet makes Laurel more concerned for her father, and Joel is a welcome distraction. And when he admits that Laurel was his first crush, she realises she’s falling for him.

But then Laurel uncovers a card with beautiful, ornate writing amongst her father’s things and learns the real reason he disappeared. And it changes everything. Worse still, she thinks Joel knew the truth all along.

I will also be participating in a cover reveal for Remember the Butterfly by Rebecca Marsh on Wednesday 15th December, so please do watch for that.

This week I have received one audiobook ARC, and three digital ARCs. They are: the audiobook of Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller

The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal

And Bride For a Day by Carolyn Brown

Do you have any of these on your reading radar?

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend. ❤📚🎄☃️🎅

A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch

EXCERPT: The room had been built out of that thick grey stone, the doorway opening out onto a wide spacious room that nonetheless felt quite dark; instead of the large casement windows overlooking the grounds that the downstairs rooms had, the exterior wall here, in the older part of the house, had a row of small windows hung with thick tapestry curtains, which blocked out the weak sunlight. An internal wall had been added to partition off what I assumed was an en-suite bathroom or dressing room. It was painted a rich dark red – blood red, I thought. The floor was more of the grey stone, but covered in a thick rug that felt soft and warm underfoot. The overall effect was surprisingly warm and cosy, a perfect romantic winter retreat – but for the shape of the body on the beautifully carved wooden four poster bed.

ABOUT ‘A CORNISH CHRISTMAS MURDER’: A PINCH OF PARANOIA
It’s three days before Christmas, and detective-turned-chef Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is drafted in to cater a charity event run by a notorious millionaire at a 13th-century abbey on Bodmin Moor.

A DASH OF DECEPTION
Things get more complicated when a snowstorm descends, stranding them all, and the next morning they find one of the guests has been gruesomely murdered in their bed…

A MURDER UNDER THE MISTLETOE
Secrets mull like wine on the stove in every corner – can Jodie solve the crime before the killer strikes again?

MY THOUGHTS: Three nights before Christmas, and all through the house, nothing is stirring – except for a murderer.

Although I had not read any of the three previous books – something I intend to remedy immediately – I soon felt like I knew these characters well. Jodie just can’t keep her nose out of other people’s business, and it seems that it’s a family trait thirteen year old Daisy has inherited. Jodie’s mother Shirley is a menace; she has absolutely no filter and eats all the biscuits. Friend Debbie an ex-nurse, along to help with the catering, finds herself assisting in a murder enquiry. These four form an irascible bunch, and a formidable one. But wait! I’m forgetting Germaine, an adorable Pomeranian who completes the troupe. Yes, there are references to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five made.

The story flows freely with a good cast of supporting characters, none of whom seem to have any sort of motive for killing the obese Santa impersonator. There are plenty of red herrings to keep the reader entertained, and the story is written with well judged humor and wit.

The setting is a magnificent and atmospheric old abbey in the throes of being converted into a luxury hotel. It boasts a ghost, secret rooms and passages, a wonderful library or two, and a whole heap of history.

This is a fun entertaining read, and I can’t wait to read more in this series. And the bonus: a lovely Christmas recipe is provided at the end. I’ve never made my own Christmas mince pies, but I am tempted to give these a try.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.7

#ACornishChristmasMurder #NetGalley

I: @leitchfiona @onemorechapterhc

T: @fkleitch @OneMoreChapter

#christmasfiction #contemporaryfiction #cookbook #cozymystery #detectivefiction #domesticdrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch 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

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

EXCERPT: It would be the easiest thing in the world to lose everything, Furlong knew. Although he did not venture far, he got around – and many an unfortunate he’d seen around town and out on the country roads. The dole queues were getting longer and there were men out there who couldn’t pay their ESB bills, living in houses no warmer than bunkers, sleeping in their coats. Women, on the first Friday of every month, lined up at the post office wall with shopping bags, waiting to collect their children’s allowances. And farther out the country, he’d known cows to be left bawling to be milked because the man who had their care had upped, suddenly, and taken the boat to Fishguard. Once, a man from St Mullins got a lift into town to pay his bill, saying that they’d had to sell the car as they couldn’t get a wink of sleep knowing what was owing, that the bank was coming down on them. And early one morning, Furlong had seen a young schoolboy eating from a chip bag that had been thrown down on the street the night before.

ABOUT ‘SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE’: It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.

MY THOUGHTS: It is no small thing that coal and fuel merchant William (Bill) Furlong does. 1985 was a time of great hardship. Bill, although not wealthy, is doing all right for himself and is able to provide for his family – wife Eileen and his five daughters, through careful money management.

Bill Furlong has come from nothing, less than nothing really. But he and his mother were shown great kindness and that is something Billy is dwelling on this Christmas. When Billy discovers someone being treated cruelly and inhumanely, and discovers that his beloved Catholic church is covering it up, he faces a dilemma. Does he help, as his mother was helped? Or does he take heed of the warning and walk away?

For such a short book (128 pages), Small Things Like These packs a solid punch. While a work of fiction, the truth is that many thousands of girls and women were incarcerated and forced to work, hidden in disgrace behind church walls, never to be spoken of nor seen again. The children were adopted out, sold, or simply disappeared. Records were nonexistent or destroyed.

Small Things Like These is a powerful book about family, love, and trying to do the right thing. It is not a read that I am likely to forget in a hurry.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#SmallThingsLikeThese #NetGalley

I: #clairekeeganfiction @ faberbooks

T: @CKeeganFiction @FaberBooks

#fivestarread #christmasfiction #historicalfiction #irishfiction #novella

THE AUTHOR: Claire Keegan was born in County Wicklow, the youngest of a large family. She travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana when she was seventeen, and studied English and Political Science at Loyola University. She returned to Ireland in 1992 and lived for a year in Cardiff, Wales, where she undertook an MA in creative writing and taught undergraduates at the University of Wales.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Faber and Faber via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan 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 Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine

EXCERPT: There was a set of shoeprints in the otherwise pristine snow, and Robert was sure that they hadn’t been there earlier. They were coming from the road and leading over to the steps on the right side of the house, the ones that descended to the cellar door. And yet there were no prints going in the opposite direction.

It puzzled him because the cellar door was always locked and there was only one set of keys, which hung from a hook in the kitchen. What’s more, Mary rarely ventured down there because she’d convinced herself many years ago that it was haunted.

He tightened his grip on the bag and went to investigate. What he saw made him frown further.

The shoeprints went down the steps and stopped in front of the door, which suggested that whoever had gone in there hadn’t yet come out.

But who could it be?

He was about to go down and check when the sound of raised voices came from inside the house. They were loud enough to cause a blast of alarm to shoot through him.

Instinct told him that whatever was going on in the house had to be more important than what might be happening in the cellar, so he turned sharply on his heels and rushed towards the front door.

Just as he reached it, the shouting was drowned out by a high-pitched scream that sent his pulse racing.

ABOUT ‘THE KILLER IN THE SNOW’: The first fall of snow can be fatal…

A year has passed since DI James Walker cracked his biggest case yet, and he’s hoping for peace and quiet this festive season.

But across the fells, a local farmer returns home on Christmas Eve to find footsteps in the fresh snow that lead down to his unused basement – and no footsteps leading away. Days later, his body is found, alongside those of his wife and daughter.

Without a neighbour for miles, there are no witnesses and little evidence. And the crime scene has strange echoes of another terrible murder committed at the farmhouse, twenty years earlier…

James knows that to catch this killer, he needs to solve a case that has long since gone cold…

MY THOUGHTS: A good plot, but I found the writing style somewhat dry and lacking suspense. While I didn’t struggle to get through my listen/read, neither did I pick it up every chance I got. And that’s always a tell.

It was difficult to feel any connection with the characters. They all felt very formal and stiff, as was the dialogue. Other than DC Jess Abbott and James’ wife Annie, the women in this story are all portrayed as rather weak characters or mentally unbalanced.

I enjoyed the mystery being linked to what had happened on the farm twenty four years earlier, even though it was pretty apparent what had happened. It was the ‘how’ that kept me reading.

Initially there are a handful of suspects for the current killings and I did enjoy the resolution. I just wish that it had been a bit less plodding and a lot more suspenseful. I also think that the inclusion of a gangster ‘out to get James’ was unnecessary and distracted from the main storyline. It just didn’t seem to ‘fit’, and served no useful purpose.

I enjoyed the narration of Sid Sagar, but overall this was only an okay, but totally forgettable read.

⭐⭐.6

#TheKillerintheSnow #NetGalley

I: #alexpineauthor @avonbooksuk @harperaudio

T: #alexpineauthor @BooksAvon @HarperAudio

#audiobook #christmasfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #domesticdrama #detectivefiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Alex Pine was born and raised on a council estate in South London and left school at sixteen. Before long, he embarked on a career in journalism, which took him all over the world – many of the stories he covered were crime-related. Among his favourite hobbies are hiking and water-based activities, so he and his family have spent lots of holidays in the Lake District. He now lives with his wife on a marina close to the New Forest on the South Coast – providing him with the best of both worlds! Alex Pine is the pseudonym of a bestselling author who has also written books under the names Jaime Raven, James Raven and JP Carter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK for providing the digital ARC, and Harper Collins UK audio for providing the audio ARC of The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine 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 . . .

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

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

and A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristen Harper

both of which are due for publication this coming week.

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

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

A TEAM TORN APART

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

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

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

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

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

And Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson

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

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

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

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

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

My new ARCs are: Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart

The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson

Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons, DI Kim Stone #15

Why She Left by Leah Mercer

The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

The Widow by K.L. Slater

Old Sins by Aline Templeton

Backstory by William L. Myers, Jnr

A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs

The Secret in the Wall by Ann Parker

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

Yes, well . . . What can I say?

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

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

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

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

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

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries

EXCERPT: ‘After all,’ said our host, ‘it’s Christmas. Why not let the skeleton out of the bag?’

‘Or the cat out of the closet?’ said the historian, who likes to be precise even about clichés. ‘Are you serious?’

‘Yes,’ said our host. ‘I want to know if it’s safe for anyone to sleep in that little room at the head of the stairs.’

He had just bought the place. This party was in the nature of a house warming; and I had already decided privately that the place needed one. It was a long damp, high-windowed house, hidden behind a high hill in Sussex. The drawing-room, where a group of us had gathered around the fire after dinner, was much too long and much too draughty. It had fine panelling – a rich brown where the firelight was always finding new gleams – and a hundred little reflections trembled down it’s length, as in so many small gloomy mirrors. But it remained draughty.

Of course, we all liked the house. It had the most modern of lighting and heating arrangements, though the plumbing sent ghostly noises and clanks far down into the interior whenever you turned on a tap. But the smell of the past was in it; and you could not get over the idea that somebody was following you about. Now, at the host’s flat mention of a certain possibility, we all looked at our wives.

‘But you never told us,’ said the historian’s wife, rather shocked, ‘you never told us you had a ghost here!’

‘I don’t know that I have,’ replied our host quite seriously. ‘All I have is a bundle of evidence about something queer that once happened. It’s all right; I haven’t put anyone in that little room at the head of the stairs. So we can drop the discussion, if you’d rather.’

‘You know we can’t,’ said the Inspector: who, as a matter of strict fact, is an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He smoked a large cigar, and contemplated ghosts with satisfaction. ‘This is exactly the time and place to hear about it. What is it?’ – Taken from Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson.

ABOUT ‘A SURPRISE FOR CHRISTMAS’: Two dead bodies and a Christmas stocking weaponised. A Postman murdered delivering cards on Christmas morning. A Christmas tree growing over a forgotten homicide. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except for the victims of these shocking and often elaborate murders. When there’s magic in the air, sometimes even the facts don’t quite add up and the impossible can happen — and it’s up to the detective’s trained eye to unwrap the clues and put together an explanation neatly tied up with a bow. Martin Edwards compiles an anthology filled with tales of seasonal suspense where the snow runs red, perfect to be shared between super-sleuths by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the better collections of short stories that I have read in some time. All are set at Christmas, although Santa only features in one story.

The stories range from extremely short and pithy, to very long and rambling.

I was not particularly impressed by the first two stories, but once I got past them, there were several in a row that I absolutely adored. Overall this is an excellent collection. I have read stories by some of the authors before, other authors were new to me, as were all the stories.

Below is my rating for each story:

1. The Black Bag Left on a Doorstep by Catherine Louisa Pirkis ⭐⭐⭐

2. The Hole in the Wall by G.K. Chesterton ⭐⭐.5

3. Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4. Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5. Dead Man’s Hand by E.R. Punshon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

6. The Christmas Eve Ghost by Ernest Dudley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

7. Dick Whittington’s Cat by Victor Canning ⭐⭐⭐⭐

8. A Surprise for Christmas by Cyril Hare ⭐⭐⭐⭐

9. On A Christmas Day in the Morning by Margery Allingham ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

10. Give Me A Ring by Anthony Gilbert ⭐⭐⭐

11. Father Christmas Comes to Orbins by Julian Symons ⭐⭐⭐.5

12. The Turn-Again Bell by Barry Perowne ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My absolute favourite was the Ngaio Marsh story featuring Inspector Roderick Allyen, followed by the Margery Allingham story, On Christmas Day in the Morning.

If you are looking for a Christmas treat to dip into over the festive season, this is it, or it would make a wonderful gift for the mystery lover in your life.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#ASurpriseforChristmasandOtherSeasonalMysteries #NetGalley

I: @medwardsbooks @poisonedpenpress

T: @medwardsbooks @PPPress

#christmasfiction #cosymystery #crime #detectivefiction #historicalfiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

THE AUTHOR: Kenneth Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, whose work has won awards in the UK and the United States. As a crime fiction critic and historian, and also in his career as a solicitor, he has written non-fiction books and many articles.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries compiled by Martin Edwards 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 Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale

EXCERPT: A tiny gasp from across the room pricked Mia’s consciousness, but her eyes felt as though they were cemented shut so she couldn’t view the source. She took in a long steady breath, the faint spice of it calming, the sounds around her becoming clear. The coastal wind howled outside, rattling the latch on the screen door of the lighthouse the way it always had, and her mother’s faint whisper floated over her, too quiet to decipher. She wriggled comfortably, only then feeling a foreign hand under her own. Trying to swallow, she was aware of her dry mouth.

The end of the evening came back to her in snippets – talking with Will on the sofa, him making her giggle with a little joke about the snow angels despite the fact that she could hardly keep her eyes open, and then laying her head back on the sofa just to rest for a second . . . Oh, no. She’d asked Will to the Christmas party. Thank goodness he’d declined. What had she been thinking? All she needed was to have to try to balance entertaining Will with being a fake wife to Milo for everyone’s benefit. And right now she was –

Her eyes flew open and she froze. Will’s relaxed lips breathing quietly against her, as he slept. She was suddenly aware of the gentle rise and fall of his breathing, his hand on his chest, her fingers over his. It was intoxicating while simultaneously mortifying.

Carefully she engaged her core muscles and kept them tight to lift herself up and away from his body without having to push off of him. Their legs were intertwined, so she put a hand on the back of the sofa to steady the first leg as she hoisted it off him, planting one foot on the floor. With one leg to go, she hovered over him and his eyes flicked open, meeting hers. The lips that had been slack with sleep turned upward just slightly as he took her in.

‘Morning,’ he said.

Riley coughed conspicuously from the kitchen, and Mia knew they were probably being watched. Will heard it too and his smile spread wider.

But while Mia grinned back, internally she was scolding herself for letting this happen. She’d just spent the night draped across the real estate agent. Have mercy.

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

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

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: I was so excited to finally be approved for an ARC of a Jenny Hale book, and every atom of that excitement was justified. There is a little bit of everything in A Lighthouse Christmas – family drama, mystery, romance.

It’s pretty clear from the outset just where the author is taking us, but the journey to get there is fun and heartwarming. There are plenty of complications along the way to keep the reader interested, but I am not going to give any of those away.

The setting is beautiful – a windswept lighthouse and winter snow. The characters are so well depicted that I felt I could just walk right into their lives with them. Three heartbroken women mourning the loss of a much loved mother and grandmother, one of the women also facing the demise of her marriage. One handsome real estate agent, also in mourning. His sister, owner of the failing local bakery, and her gorgeous little son, Felix. I just wanted to hug all these characters. But of course, there must always be a fly in the ointment, and that is where our mystery characters come in. They turn the whole situation upside down and disrupt all the carefully laid plans.

The descriptions of the Christmas decorations were magical and inspirational. I would love to have seen the barn in its full glory. And the food . . . I just had to make a batch of snickerdoodles to nibble on while I read. Jenny Hale, if my work trousers don’t fit tomorrow, I’m blaming you!

A Lighthouse Christmas is a delightful and enjoyable read. Jenny Hale is on my ‘read everything by this author that I can find’ list.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#ALighthouseChristmas #NetGalley

I: @jhaleauthor @bookouture

T: @jhaleauthor @Bookouture

#christmasread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Jenny Hale is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic contemporary fiction. Her novels Coming Home for Christmas and Movie Guide Epiphany Award Winner Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses are Hallmark Channel original movies. Her stories are chock-full of feel-good romance and overflowing with warm settings, great friends, and family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale 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