The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse

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EXCERPT: The woman shook her head. ‘No, your name isn’t Victoria.’

‘Okaaay,’ Victoria raised her eyebrows, thinking she would get this conversation over as quickly as possible and make her way back into the house. Even the maudlin, quiet gathering of the pensioner bees was better than this. ‘What is it then?’ she challenged, intrigued. ‘What’s my name?’

‘Victory.’ She smiled. ‘Your name is Victory.’

The woman searched her face and Victoria saw a brief reflection of something so familiar it made her heart jump.

‘Victory?’ She bit her lip. ‘Is that right?’

‘Yes. A strong name, a name that I thought would see you through anything.’

Victoria took a step backwards.

Her heart beat loudly in her ears and her stomach flipped with nausea. Whatever this was, whatever joke, prank or deception, she was not enjoying it and wanted to be anywhere else. It was as if her feet had grown roots in the mud and, as much as she wanted to run, she felt stuck.

‘I don’t know why you would say that to me. Who are you? Who did you come with? Because I will see if they are ready to leave.’ Still she was torn between wanting to throw the woman out and being polite: it was a funeral, after all. She was aware she had raised her voice slightly.

‘Who am I?’ The woman’s tone suggested the question almost pained her.

‘Yes, who are you?’

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: Another ‘I couldn’t put it down’ read from Amanda Prowse.

I read The Day She Came Back overnight, a box of tissues handy for the second half. I cried tears of sadness, sympathy, and joy. Prowse does human emotion so eloquently, so realistically, that the reader is transported into the book alongside the beautifully crafted characters. She understands grief, and anger, and how, when someone is hurting, they lash out at the ones who love them. Which is exactly what Victoria does. Her world is turned upside down, and she is angry with everyone whose life is unaffected. She is eighteen years old, alone, vulnerable, and ripe for the picking. With the whole foundation of her life ripped out from beneath her, Victoria reacts, and reacts badly. Some version of her story is played out multiple times every day all around the world. I wanted to reach out and hug her, she became that real to me. I also, at various times, wanted to ground her, slap her, and give her a reality check or two. Very realistic characters. All of them.

The Day She Came Back is a beautifully poignant story of a young woman finding her place in the world. There is nothing predictable about Prowse’s writing. When I was expecting the storyline to go in one direction, she took it in another. The plot is as superbly crafted as the characters.

Five very tear-stained but smiling stars.

😪😍❤😪😍

#TheDaySheCameBack #NetGalley

‘I used to sit there in a warm spot like a sun-puddling cat and read.’

‘I love to see people in love. I think it is one of the most hopeful sights known to man. I think that as long as people love one another, then there is hope.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean by Mira Robertson

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I can’t go. Mummy needs me.’

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

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

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

But when would that be?

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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Lucy Harper has a talent for invention…

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

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

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

Cross her heart.
And hope to die.

And The Stepdaughter by Debbie Howells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall Smith

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The Child Across the Street by Kerry Wilkinson

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Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie

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The Life She Left Behind by Nicole Trope

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The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

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Dead Wicked by Helen H. Durrant

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And, finally, House of Correction by Nicci French

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

Happy reading my friends
❤😍📚☕🍪

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I am not a fan of winter and we have had a whole week of bleak, foggy and cold winter weather. If I had any choice in the matter, I would be in hibernation mode with my books and an endless supply of green tea and chocolate. Unfortunately it’s been a long week of long days and I can’t say for sure when my next day off will be. I have only just managed to finish my scheduled reads for the week, and when I say ‘only just ,’ I mean only just this minute!

 I am currently listening to An Elderly Lady Is Up To No Good by Helene Turston,which was recommended to me by one of my Goodreads.com friends, Debra. Thanks Debra, I am really enjoying this. Maud is definitely not your regular little old lady!

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Content:
– An elderly lady has accommodation problems
– An elderly lady on her travels
– An elderly lady seeks peace at Christmas time
– The antique dealer’s death
– An elderly lady is faced with a difficult dilemma

Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and…no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.

Ever since her darling father’s untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family’s spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties, Maud contents herself with traveling the world and surfing the net from the comfort of her father’s ancient armchair. It’s a solitary existence, but she likes it that way.

Over the course of her adventures—or misadventures—this little bold lady will handle a crisis with a local celebrity who has her eyes on Maud’s apartment, foil the engagement of her long-ago lover, and dispose of some pesky neighbors. But when the local authorities are called to investigate a murder in her apartment complex, will Maud be able to avoid suspicion, or will Detective Inspector Irene Huss see through her charade?

This week I am planning on reading It Started With A Secret by Jill Mansell. I always enjoy her books and have several on my library shelves.

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The trouble with secrets is that you can’t guess what the consequences will be . . .

Lainey has lost everything. Luckily one little fib (OK, quite a big fib) helps nail her dream job. Soon she’s living in a stunning house by the sea, fending off obsessed fans for a retired – if far-from-retiring – actor and organising his charming but chaotic family. It’s definitely worth the challenge of keeping her secret.

At least Lainey isn’t looking for love. It’s time for a break from all that. And yet . . . Seth, the actor’s grandson, really is rather attractive. There’s growing chemistry and a definite connection between them. But how would he react if he knew she hadn’t been honest with him?

Lainey’s not the only one with a secret, though. Seth has one of his own. And everything’s about to start unravelling . . .

Last One to Lie by J.M. Winchester

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Moving to a new city was supposed to be a fresh start for her family. Now it’s a nightmare.

Her little girl was supposed to be at day care when Kelsey arrived to pick her up. But they have no record of her daughter ever being there. And to make matters worse, her husband is missing too—he won’t pick up his phone, and the school he supposedly works at says he never accepted their job offer.

Detective Paul Ryan knows something’s up with Kelsey’s story. Kelsey’s husband might be involved in their daughter’s disappearance, but the deeper the detective digs, the more inconsistencies he finds.

As Detective Ryan tries to uncover the truth, what he finds are more deeply buried secrets that someone clearly never wanted found.

Hopefully I will at least get to start Gone in Seconds by Ed James as well.

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Landon and Jennifer Bartlett have everything – money, influence and a picture-perfect family. But it means nothing when their lives are torn apart the day someone breaks into their plush mansion and takes their newborn child right from his cot.

FBI Agent Max Carter investigates child abduction cases. He has a reputation for working all hours to find every missing child on his watch¾after all, he was once one himself. When he visits the Bartletts’ sprawling home in an exclusive estate in the suburbs of Seattle, he’s immediately suspicious of Landon Bartlett and his brother Sam.

As Carter delves deeper into the lives of the brothers, he finds a web of dubious business deals and lies that could cost the Bartletts their entire family fortune. And it’s clear they will do anything to keep their secrets¾but would they withhold vital information that could lead him to baby Ky’s kidnapper?

As Carter begins a cat-and-mouse game with the kidnapper, he receives some startling news from home, which stops him in his tracks. And when a young woman is spotted boarding a bus out of town with a baby fitting Ky’s description, he must decide whether to risk everything to find the missing child or save his own family.

Five new ARCs from NetGalley this week…I’m not doing too well at sticking to my target of two per week am I? Personally I blame Susan and Carla….🤣😂

The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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The Three Mrs Wrights by Linda Kier

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Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

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The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson
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And Hadley and Grace by Suzanne Redfearn

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Have a happy weekend all. It is time I made a pot of tea and curled up in front of the fire with my new book. Happy reading!

Cheers
Sandy

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An author to watch.

🐨🐨🐨🐨

#TheVanApfelGirlsAreGone #NetGalley

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to One World Publications, Point Blank via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan

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EXCERPT: Summer 2017

Boop Peck had looked everywhere for her favourite lipstick. It wasn’t in the bathroom, or in her purse, bedroom, or her pocket. She shuddered at the injustice: Boop remembered her first telephone number – 359J – but not the whereabouts of the lipstick she’d worn the day before. Or was it the day before that? She peeked around and patted herself again. Nothing. A lost lipstick wasn’t the end of the world. Unless it was Sly Pink, her discontinued colour of choice, which it was.

Enough with the lipstick.

The girls would arrive soon. No, the ladies would arrive soon. Boop chuckled. Ladies sounded so stuffy, boring, and inaccurate. Even at eighty-four Boop and her friends would always be girls – and they’d never be boring.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.

Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.

MY THOUGHTS: What a delightful read! I really didn’t want to close the rather beautiful cover on The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan. I finished reading with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

This is a story of family and friendship, hope and disappointment, owning your mistakes, taking control over your own future and making it the best future it could possibly be.

The summer Betty was four, her parents had dropped her off with her grandparents in South Haven for the weekend – and had never come back for her. Her Jewish grandparents have raised her with love, a strong work ethic, and big dreams for her future. But the summer of 1951, the year Betty is crowned Miss South Haven, just when it seems that all her dreams are within reach, something happens to change her life.

The Last Bathing Beauty travels back and forward in time between 1951, when she was still Betty Stern, a smart and sassy girl on the cusp of a great future, and 2017 when she is Boop Peck, widow, mother of one son, grandmother of two girls, and great-grandmother of 2 point something great-grandchildren.

Betty is quite wonderful. I fell in love with her character. I aspire to be her should I make the great age of eighty-four. Actually, I aspire to be her long before then. She is going to be my role model.

Amy Sue Nathan has created a vivid and captivating picture of life in a Jewish family at a holiday camp in 1951. The summer romances, the morals and mores of the time, so very different from now, when mixing outside your social/religious/racial circle was frowned upon, and young women were expected to marry to please their families and improve their social status.

This is a lovely story, told with both humour and empathy. I will be reading this author’s other books. Highly recommended.

❤😪❤😪.5

‘You’re never too old to find love and throw a good party.’

‘Sometimes it takes a long time to get things right.’

THE AUTHOR: Amy Sue Nathan is Writer of novels, lover of cats, morning coffee, dark chocolate, and bold lipstick. Former vegetarian, occasional crafter, adequate cook, loyal friend, proud mom to two awesome adults.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan 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/3288654035

The Liberation of Brigid Dunne by Patricia Scanlan

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EXCERPT: Prologue
PROLOGUE Christmas Eve
1953

She pulls her shabby black woollen coat tighter around her and wraps her scarf snugly against her cheeks. It is bitterly cold, her breath forming an opaque mist in the frosty moonlight. The stony path that leads from her grandmother’s cottage down to the farmhouse is slippery with ice, and she skitters and slides, grabbing a furze bush with her woollen-mitted hands to save herself from a fall. She pauses to catch her breath.

Venus, a radiant golden jewel, shines as brightly as the yellow slice of new moon against a black velvet sky speckled with glittering stars. Candlelit windows down in the valley and on the hillsides spill pools of light in the darkness. She’d lit the fat, red candle in her grandmother’s parlour window before she left, for the traditional welcome to the Christ child on Christmas Eve.

Normally she would feel delight and anticipation on this blessed night, though she is no longer a child and doesn’t believe in Father Christmas, unlike her two excited youngest siblings at home, who have already hung their stockings at the end of their beds.

Tonight she is bereft, her heart shattered into a thousand sharp-edged pieces. She looks down to her left beyond the stony fields that quilt the mountain, where weather-bowed, bare-branched trees and hedgerows define the boundaries to the Larkins’ farmland. Her heart feels as though a knife has stabbed and twisted it when she thinks of black-haired, brown-eyed Johnny Larkin, who had told her that he loved her more than he’d ever loved anyone. Who had pressed her up against the cold, hard wall of his father’s barn and kissed and caressed her in her most private places and done things to her that, even though she’d demurred and then protested, had shocked her, yet given her a fierce delight that Johnny loved and wanted her and not that skinny little rake, Peggy Fitzgerald, whose father owned the big farm next to the Larkins’.

Two days after Johnny told her he loved her, his engagement to Peggy had been announced. Tomorrow at Christmas Mass, Peggy will simper and giggle on Johnny’s arm, flashing the diamond ring Pa Larkin has lent his son the money to buy.

She can’t bear it. An anguished sob breaks the deep silence of the night. Her sorrow overwhelms her. A sudden, unexpected pain in her belly doubles her up, causing her to groan in agony. She feels dampness on her thighs, and pulling up her clothes sees the trickle of blood down her legs. Another spasm convulses her and, frightened, she takes deep breaths until it eases.

In the distance, she hears the sound of the carol singers who go from house to house, singing the glorious story of the birth of a child who would bring peace to all mankind.

As she loses her own child, in the shelter of the prickly furze bush, she hears the singing of “O Holy Night” floating across the fields from her parents’ house.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Marie-Claire has just made the shocking discovery that her boyfriend (and business partner) is cheating on her. Reeling, she leaves her apartment in Toronto to travel home to Ireland, hoping the comfort of her family and a few familiar faces will ground her. She arrives just in time to celebrate her beloved great-aunt Reverend Mother Brigid’s retirement and eightieth birthday. It will be a long-awaited and touching reunion for three generations of her family, bringing her mother Keelin and grandmother Imelda—who have never quite gotten along—together as well.

But then all hell breaks loose.

Bitter, jealous Imelda makes a startling revelation at the party that forces them all to confront their pasts and face the truths that have shaped their lives. With four fierce, opinionated women in one family, will they ever be able to find common ground and move forward?

MY THOUGHTS: Families: you can’t live with them; you can’t live without them.

The Liberation of Brigid Dunne by Patricia Scanlan is a little like an onion. It is multi-layered and probably going to make you cry.

It is a novel of family relationships, of how easy it is to tear a family apart and how hard it is to put it back together. It is a novel of secrets and jealousies, of heartbreak and hope, of forgiveness and redemption set over a wide time span and against the changing background of the Catholic Church. It tells of the struggle for women’s rights in Catholic Ireland, the fight for safe methods of birth control.

There is a strong background of Irish politics and Catholicism to this novel, but the primary focus is on the relationships between the four women of the family: sisters Brigid and Imelda, Imelda’s daughter Keelin, and her daughter Marie-Claire.

The characters are well portrayed and very realistic. We probably all have an Imelda, or some version of her, in our families. This is more a character driven than plot driven novel.

It is a novel of dreams and ambitions, both thwarted and achieved. It is a reminder of how easy it is to blame others for our own shortcomings, our failures, rather than taking ownership of our own decisions; of how much love and support we deflect by hanging on to petty resentments and jealousies. It is also a reminder that what we see and the reality of the situation are often poles apart.

If you are worried that this might be a moralistic or ‘preachy’ read, don’t be, because it’s not. It’s not soppy, or sloppy. It’s a well constructed story of four women in one family, each of them strong in their own way, but also struggling with life, and their relationships with one another.

I enjoyed The Liberation of Brigid Dunne, but I didn’t love it. A good solid read deserving of 😊😊😊.5 stars

‘A workaholic (is) a flower with only one petal unfurled.’

THE AUTHOR: Patricia Scanlan was born in Dublin, where she still lives. Her #1 bestsellers include Apartment 3B; Finishing Touches; Foreign Affairs; Promises, Promises; Mirror, Mirror; City Girl; City Woman; City Lives; and Francesca’s Party. She has sold millions of books worldwide and is translated into many languages. Patricia is the series editor and a contributing author to the award winning Open Door literacy series, which she developed for adult literacy

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Atria Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Liberation of Brigid Dunne by Patricia Scanlan 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 and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3212304514

The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright by Beth Miller

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EXCERPT: The photo was a little crumpled around the edges, but – please excuse my lack of modesty – there was no denying the quality. It was a tight headshot in black and white of three pretty young women: Rose on the left, smiling and looking sideways at Bear next to her; me on Bear’s right, looking simultaneously pleased and harassed. Setting up the camera timer and making sure everyone stayed in the right place was a bit stressful. With film, you couldn’t keep trying again and again until you got it right. You had to get everything in place, then hold your breath and hope.

The photo was from the one visit to Australia that Rose and I took together, during our gap year, when we were still in our teens. When everything in life was there to be looked forward to, and it was too early for us to have made any mistakes. Before I met Richard, or David; before I got pregnant and crashed out of my degree. I looked again at our unlined, hopeful faces. So beautiful, so young.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: You’ve met Mrs Bright. She’s that nice woman who lives three doors down and always smiles at you in the mornings. She’s planning her thirtieth wedding anniversary with her husband. She wants to travel, read endless books and take beautiful pictures. She’s been waiting for this forever.

For the past twenty-nine years, Kay Bright’s days have had a familiar rhythm: she works in her husband’s stationery shop, cooks for her family, tries to remember to practice yoga, and every other month she writes to her best friend, Ursula, and Ursula replies. Kay could set her calendar by their letters: her heart lifts when the blue airmail envelope, addressed in Ursula’s slanting handwriting, falls gently onto the mat.

Ursula is the only one who knows Kay’s deepest secret, something that happened decades ago that could tear Kay’s life apart today. Ursula has always been the person Kay relies on. Knowing she will hear from Ursula is like being sure the sun will rise tomorrow.

And now Ursula has stopped writing. Three missing letters doesn’t sound like a lot, but Kay gets out her shoebox of notes from her best friend, in case there’s something she overlooked. Ursula seems fine, but the further back she goes, the more Kay begins to question every choice she has made in her life. Which might be why, at ten o’clock one morning, Kay walks out of her yellow front door with a just a rucksack, leaving her wedding ring on the table…

MY THOUGHTS: This was an enjoyable read. I laughed, and I shed a few tears. And I remembered a similar exit from my first marriage to my ‘practice husband’ as I now affectionately call him. So yes, this read brought back memories, some good, some bad, but the thing that struck me most was how well Beth Miller has captured the emotions, how she has transferred them onto paper without, at any point, making them seem trite or hackneyed. She has written with flair and humour, unafraid to dissect a marriage, to examine the relationships between a mother and daughter, between lifelong friends.

She had me wondering, at times, if Kay really knew what she was doing, what she ultimately wanted, if she had really thought this through.

Ultimately this is a story about love, about friendship, about loss, and about not losing sight of the things that matter to you. It is beautifully written; sad, funny and inspiring.

This is the second book I have read by this author, and I am developing a real liking for her work.

😢❤😂.5

#TheMissingLettersOfMrsBright #NetGalley

Some of my favourite lines from The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright:

‘You go through life, you make choices they lead to other choices, and before you know it, you’re in a place you wouldn’t have started from.’

‘I enjoy speaking English very much, but sometimes it is too English. Italian is the language of romance.’

THE AUTHOR: have been told that I write like a tall blonde, so that’s how I’d like you to picture me.

I’ve published three novels, with one more about to be born, in January 2020. I’ve also published two non-fiction books. I work as a book coach and creative writing tutor.

Before writing books, I did a lot of different jobs. I worked in schools, shops, offices, hospitals, students’ unions, basements, from home, in my car, and up a tree. OK, not up a tree. I’ve been a sexual health trainer, a journalist, a psychology lecturer, a PhD student, a lousy alcohol counsellor, and an inept audio-typist. I sold pens, bread, and condoms. Not in the same shop. I taught parents how to tell if their teenagers are taking drugs (clue: they act like teenagers), and taught teenagers how to put on condoms (clue: there won’t really be a cucumber). I taught rabbis how to tell if their teenagers are druggedly putting condoms on cucumbers.

Throughout this, I always wrote, and always drank a lot of tea. I’m now pretty much unbeatable at drinking tea.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright by Beth Miller 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 and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3085457231?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

When the Time Comes by Adele O’Neill

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EXCERPT: ‘I think…’ The ball at the back of my throat nearly chokes me as I try to speak – whether it’s because Jenny is gone, or because Abbie and Josh are now motherless, or because I am going to be blamed for her death, I don’t know. I inhale and lengthen my back with a subtle stretch and rub my eyes. They’re red and raw from a combination of no sleep and lots of crying. She leans forward in response. I pause and inhale again, nerves making the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t. There is no other option but to say what I am about to say. At my momentary hesitation, she widens her eyes in expectation across the table. ‘I think Jenny was murdered and I think someone is framing me for her death.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Liam Buckley was a married man with two teenage children when he moved out of the family home to start a new life with his lover. His wife Jennifer never forgave him, but now she needs him to come back: she’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the kids can’t cope alone.

One day after Liam moves home, Jennifer is found dead. Liam thinks it’s suicide. But the police, led by DS Louise Kennedy, are convinced it’s murder.

Liam hires a retired detective to help prove his innocence, but it’s no easy task. The children are distraught, and Jennifer’s best friend, Sarah, is waging a campaign against Liam, determined to expose him for a liar and a cheat.

As secrets surface from the complex web of Buckley family life, DS Kennedy must decide. Did Jennifer Buckley end her own life, or did Liam take it from her? The answer, when it comes, will shock them all…

MY THOUGHTS: I have had to think about When the Time Comes for a couple of days before writing my review. There are complex issues in this book – the right to decide how and when a person with a terminal illness is able to die, infidelity, blending families, teenage hormones….and the list goes on.

I enjoyed the read in varying degrees as the book progressed. It is not always an easy read. But it is, I think, a very realistic portrayal of a complicated situation.

It made me wonder how I would feel if I were in Alex’s shoes; my lover, my partner returning to his family to care for his children, with no plans in place for the future.

I wondered, if I was Jenny, would I be able to ask my ex to move back in to take care of the children? Although not little at almost eighteen and fifteen years old, they are still vulnerable.

I wondered, if I were Liam, would I be able to put my new life on hold while I move back into the old one?

Everyone in this story is somehow displaced, with futures up in the air, lives hanging in the balance. The uncertainty of everything is major influence in the storyline. Did Liam kill Jenny? There certainly seem to be strong motives for having done so. But would he take the risk of leaving his children without a parent? And if it wasn’t Liam that killed her, then who did?

All the time I was reading, I had questions which were, thankfully, answered by the end.

A thought provoking read and one that had me in tears more than once.

I didn’t realise until now that this is book 3 of the Kelly and Kennedy series. These characters actually paid quite a minor role in this book. But I am intrigued enough to want to read the others in this series.

🤔🤨😥😍

#WhenTheTimeComes #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Having lived and worked in the UK and Dublin since college, Adele now lives in her home town in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two teenage daughters. She writes overlooking the Irish Sea and is an active member of the Wexford Literary Festival committee.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Aria Books, via Netgalley, for providing a digital ARC of When the Time Comes by Adele O’Neill 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 and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3069024616

The Light in the Hallway by Amanda Prowse

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EXCERPT: ‘Mum! Dad! I did it! I did it!’ the boy called from the hallway. ‘I got three…’

And then a bang as something hit the floor.

And then silence.

Nick had heard the words loud and clear, so naturally, so comfortably called that it took a second or two for the universe to catch up. He looked towards the door, expecting his son to walk in. After a couple of seconds, he stood and went to investigate the silence. He put his head around the door and knew that he would never forget the sight that greeted him.

Oliver was sitting on the welcome mat, coiled into a ball like a small child with his chin on his chest and his knees raised. His arms were clamped around his shins and his whole body shook.

Nick sank down to join him on the floor and that was where they sat on the bristly Welcome mat that felt anything but. Oliver raised his head and the sight of his distress caused Nick’s own tears to pool.

‘She’s not here, Dad! She’s not here, is she?’

‘No, son. She’s not here,’ he managed through his own distress, hating to extinguish the faint look of hope in his son’s eyes.

‘Oh nooooooo! No!’ Oliver’s wail was loud, deep and drawn from deep within, he banged the floor with his hand. ‘I wanted to say goodbye to her! I wanted to … to tell her things and I wanted to say goodbye!’ He sobbed noisily. ‘I didn’t want her to leave me, Dad! I want her here. I want her here with us! And now she’s gone and I didn’t have the chance to tell her…’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When Nick’s wife Kerry falls ill and dies, he realises for the first time how fragile his happiness has always been, and how much he’s been taking his good life and wonderful family for granted. Now, he suddenly finds himself navigating parenthood alone, unsure how to deal with his own grief, let alone that of his teenage son, Olly.

In the depths of his heartbreak, Nick must find a way to navigate life that pleases his son, his in-laws, his family and his friends—while honouring what Kerry meant to them all. But when it comes to his own emotions, Nick doesn’t know where to begin. Kerry was his childhood sweetheart—but was she really the only one who could ever make him happy?

And in the aftermath of tragedy, can Nick and his son find themselves again?

MY THOUGHTS: I liked this book, sad though it was. I really liked it, but didn’t love it as I have previous books by this same author, but I will get to the whys of that in a moment.

I liked that Kerry and Nick’s marriage wasn’t perfect. I liked that both were very normal people who had struggled, fallen, and got back up again to get on with things. I like the way the author deals with the emotions of the characters; she always manages to wring a few tears out of me, and The Light in the Hallway was no exception.

The situations that Prowse describes are so very real – they happen all over the world, every day. They happen to people like me, and you, and to our friends. Prowse reminds us, and this is a direct quote from her book, that ‘life is a gift and we have to live it as best we can……we owe it to everyone who no longer has a life.’ I loved that sentiment. We all know it, but we sometimes lose sight of it. We judge others for not living up to our expectations of how they should live their lives, how they should feel and act, when we are not in their shoes and have no right to judge them.

And I did love the reference to the title in the book. That was lovely.

So, on to what I didn’t like – the ending. It was too ‘tidy’, too saccharine for my taste, with everything neatly tied up with a bow like a brightly wrapped gift under a Christmas tree. It was all very nice, but just didn’t feel very realistic. I can say no more without giving away vital information, so that is the end of that.

😍😢😍😢

#TheLightInTheHallway #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK for providing a digital ARC of The Light In The hallway by Amanda Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own 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 and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2950746347?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1