Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

EXCERPT: When Anton arrived the following day, he found that Delphine had set up a work table for him at the window overlooking the park.

Having never lived with a woman before, still less with one who fascinated him so much, he found it difficult to settle down to work. Panama seemed more than remote, it seemed unreal. Emerald and her devotions, Maxwell and his brandy bottle, the giant wheel that turned the lock gates lying flat in its braced iron bed . . . Perhaps he had in truth caught yellow fever and hallucinated all these things.

What was real was the smell of coffee from the kitchen next door, the sound of Delphine singing to herself as she tidied, her footsteps on the wooden floor. He went in, stood behind her and put his arms around her waist, then pressed himself against her.

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: Snow Country is a book of dreams, yearning and hope balanced against the horrors of WWI and the approach of WWII, and the struggles, both political and personal, of the period in between. The scope of this novel is huge, almost too huge, and I sometimes felt swamped by it, rather than encompassed by it as I have with other works I have read by this author.

Lena is the common thread, the character who ties the other characters to the story. She is from a poor background, poor in both money and upbringing. She was also a poor student, leaving school with few academic skills, but natural abilities in other areas. All Lena really wants is to be loved, and a good part of this story is devoted to her journey towards finding that love. It is not a smooth, nor a predictable path.

My favourite characters were those of Delphine, a Frenchwoman with whom a young and inexperienced Anton falls in love; and Martha, a therapist at the psychiatric institute. My least favourite character was Rudolf, whose only great passion is politics, and who seems incapable of recognizing human emotions in others, or of responding to them.

This is a very slow moving read with a lot of dialogue. At times I found it hard to get to grips with the characters. Even after finishing it, I am still not sure if Lena’s, Rudolf’s and Anton’s stories were merely a vehicle for the political history of Austria between the wars, or vice versa. Looking back on this reading experience it was like stumbling down a long, unfamiliar path in the dead of night, with no light, and no idea of where you are going.

I did love the section devoted to the building of the Panama Canal. It was such a huge feat, built at the cost of so many lives, and I had never before considered the logistics of the task. Faulks made this very real for me.

There is some beautiful writing in Snow Country, but this is nowhere near the author’s best work, of which my personal favourite is Birdsong.

⭐⭐⭐.1

#SnowCountry #NetGalley

I: #sebastianfaulks @randomhouseuk @hutchheinemann

T: @ SebastianFaulks @RandomHouseUK @HutchHeinemann

#comingofage #historicalfiction #mystery #romance #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independent”, and then went on to become deputy editor of “The Sunday Independent”. Sebastian Faulks was awarded the CBE in 2002. He and his family live in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks 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 Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

EXCERPT: ‘… if they can’t stand to see a young woman exercise her rights, then maybe they need an education in how the modern world works.’

The waiter turned on his heel and left, and my mother began to collect her things. I reached out and put my hand on hers. ‘Where are you going, Mama? Don’t let them bully us into leaving.’

‘It’s not them,’ she said softly. ‘It’s you.’ I saw her eyes fill with tears. ‘Your manners, your lack of etiquette, of decency – living here with a man you’ve only just met – even your lovely hair . . .’ She reached out and tucked a piece of my cropped hair behind my ear. ‘It’s all gone.’

She stood, pushed in her chair and gently placed her handbag on her arm. ‘Olive, you’re forgetting who you are.’

‘You’re wrong, Mama,’ I said, almost in a whisper. ‘For the first time in my life I know exactly who I want to be.’

ABOUT ‘THE SHOW GIRL’: It’s 1927 when Olive McCormick moves from Minneapolis to New York City determined to become a star in the Ziegfeld Follies. Extremely talented as a singer and dancer, it takes every bit of perseverance to finally make it on stage. And once she does, all the glamour and excitement is everything she imagined and more–even worth all the sacrifices she has had to make along the way.

Then she meets Archie Carmichael. Handsome, wealthy–the only man she’s ever met who seems to accept her modern ways–her independent nature and passion for success. But once she accepts his proposal of marriage he starts to change his tune, and Olive must decide if she is willing to reveal a devastating secret and sacrifice the life she loves for the man she loves.

MY THOUGHTS: Spanning 1927 to 1929, and encompassing the beginning of the great depression, The Show Girl is an exciting and balanced blend of history, drama, and romance.

Harrison has captured the excitement of the end of the roaring twenties; a time of changing social mores, a time of desperate need for excess as people tried to block out the devastation and decimation of the first world war. There is a frantic need for enjoyment, and social boundaries are pushed as women begin to assert their independence.

This is the backdrop to a story of a young woman with ambition, a dream that, despite all the obstacles placed in her way, she is determined to attain. Young and naive in New York City, this is both a coming of age story and a social commentary. I hope I am not making this sound dull, because it is anything but. It is brimming with life, love, and drama.

Harrison’s characters are very true to life. Olive comes from a very traditional family; a rigidly strict father, and a mother who stays at home to care for the children. Their plans for Olive were more along the lines of a nice little job in a department store until she marries, than a scantily clad show girl!

Olive is not always a likeable character. Sometimes, like most of us, she doesn’t even like herself. But Olive is determined, and very single-minded; totally focused on reaching her goal even if she is abandoned by her family along the way. And she is the star of this story. The spotlight never leaves her.

I found this a fascinating read. On my bucket list is a trip to Paris to see the Follies Bergére, and it is on this famous troupe that Ziegfield based his own troupe of dancers in New York. So between that, and The Show Girl being written by Nicola Harrison, I just knew I had to read this book. I was not disappointed.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#TheShowGirl #NetGalley

I: @nicolaharrisonauthor @stmartinspress

T: @NicolaHAuthor #StMartinsPress

#historicalfiction #romance

THE AUTHOR: I’m originally from Hampshire, England, and moved to California when I was 14. I studied Literature at UCLA and received an MFA in creative writing at Stony Brook University. Soon after college I moved to NYC and worked in magazine publishing. I was the fashion and style staff writer for Forbes and had a weekly column at Lucky Magazine. I spent many summers in Montauk, which inspired my first novel, but after 17 years in the Big Apple I recently moved back to California and have settled in Manhattan Beach with my husband, two sons and two chihuahuas. When I’m not writing I love to paddle board, do yoga and get outside with my boys.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to St Martin’s via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison 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

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss

EXCERPT: Of her seven grandchildren, I am Oma’s favourite. In private, she tells me so. It’s because I am curious and have a deductive mind. I collect obscure words like ‘misnomer’ for contradiction and ‘knave’ for someone dishonest. My favourite word is ‘enigma’, for without mystery to challenge a curious mind, it will starve. My brother Grady calls me high and mighty for using ten dollar words in a ten cent town. Out loud, I call him rude, but inside my head I know he’s a chuff. Mama says I can be insensitive. She says language is meant to communicate, not separate, so I mostly spend ten dollar words inside my head.

Oma never returns to Germany. She dies in Riverton on twentieth of May, and her granite tombstone is etched with a mountain sketch we’ve only seen on a page in a travel book in our library. At her passing, our hope for thrilling danger passes with her.

We fear nothing will happen here . . . here where a lazy river rolls by, outsiders are rare, and farming rules our days.

We think we are safe here, where nothing happens – until something comes that undoes us all.

ABOUT ‘ALL THE LITTLE HOPES’: Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing’s the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is curious and clever, but she can’t make sense of it all. Then Allie Bert Tucker comes to town, an outcast with a complicated past, and Lucy believes that together they can solve crimes. Just like her hero, Nancy Drew.

That chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery that takes them beyond the ordinary. Their quiet town, seasoned with honeybees and sweet tea, becomes home to a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—and more men go missing. The pair set out to answer the big question: do we ever really know who the enemy is?

MY THOUGHTS: All The Little Hopes is a quietly moving book that I didn’t realise how much I had enjoyed until the last word faded from my earpiece. I just sat there a while, thinking on it, savouring the beautiful writing, the deceptively lazy pace which conveyed so much.

The characters are fascinating – Trula Freed, who has ‘the sight’; Aunt Fanniebelle, Lucy’s wealthy aunt who comes to the girls rescue more than once; Helen, Lucy’s older sister whose husband is off fighting the war in the Pacific; and Bert and Lucy, from whose points of view the story is told, girls on the cusp of womanhood, learning about life, and playing at Nancy Drew as they investigate the apparently unrelated disappearances of three men.

All the Little Hopes is a portrayal of family life in a small tobacco farming town in North Carolina that has lost a lot of it’s men to the war effort, and into whose midst is dropped a German prisoner of war camp. Weiss has written a deeply moving and atmospheric story of family, of love, of loss, of desperation, of prejudice, and redemption told through the eyes of two teenage girls.

Kate Forbes is an excellent narrator who had me fully immersed in this captivating tale. She has a lilting Southern accent, perfectly suited to this story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#AlltheLittleHopes #NetGalley

I: @leahweissauthor @recordedbooks

T: @RBmediaCo

#audiobook #comingofage #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Leah Weiss is a bestselling author born in eastern North Carolina and raised in the foothills of Virginia. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career as an Executive Assistant at Virginia Episcopal School. Leah writes full time, enjoys meeting with book clubs, and speaking about writing and publishing later in life, after retirement.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media Recorded Books via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss 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

Wearing Paper Dresses by Anne Brinsden

EXCERPT: Marjorie started to rise, her chair scraping along the lino. ‘I suppose I better do the vegies.’

‘No,’ said Pa. ‘There will be no tea here tonight.’

Marjorie stood. The two girls watched their grandfather.

‘Your father called on the telephone. The doctor said your mother has to go away – to a bloody city hospital. She needs treatment. We don’t have it here in the Mallee,’ said Pa. And his tapping fingers could have said, That is because us Mallee folk don’t generally need that sort of treatment.

‘What do you mean? What sort of treatment?’ Marjorie glared at Pa.

‘You know what I mean,’ growled Pa. ‘Your mother’s not right for this place. I said the Mallee would kill her in the end. And it’s having a pretty damn good go at it right now.’

‘No, we don’t know.’ And Marjorie was shouting again. ‘We don’t know anything! We’re never told anything!’

‘Yes you do. You bloody do know!’ shouted Pa. ‘You know as well as I do. We all bloody do.’

‘Where is she going, Pa?’ Ruby asked quietly, and her look stopped the pair of them short in their shouting.

‘A damn fool mental hospital in the city. Your mother’s gone stark raving mad.’ His hands slapped down on the table. ‘Now gorn and pack a case. When your father gets back, we have to drive to the city.’

But what about school? What about the chooks? What about the dogs? Who’s going to milk the cow? Who’s going to check the windmill? Who’s going to go round the sheep? What am I going to say to everyone at school? These were all things Marjorie wanted to ask but she didn’t have time because she only had time to pack a suitcase.

ABOUT ‘WEARING PAPER DRESSES’: You can talk about living in the Mallee. And you can talk about a Mallee tree. And you can talk about the Mallee itself: a land and a place full of red sand and short stubby trees. Silent skies. The undulating scorch of summer plains. Quiet, on the surface of things.

But Elise wasn’t from the Mallee, and she knew nothing of its ways.

Discover the world of a small homestead perched on the sunburnt farmland of northern Victoria. Meet Elise, whose urbane 1950s glamour is rudely transplanted to the pragmatic red soil of the Mallee when her husband returns to work the family farm. But you cannot uproot a plant and expect it to thrive. And so it is with Elise. Her meringues don’t impress the shearers, the locals scoff at her Paris fashions, her husband works all day in the back paddock, and the drought kills everything but the geraniums she despises.

As their mother withdraws more and more into herself, her spirited, tearaway daughters, Marjorie and Ruby, wild as weeds, are left to raise themselves as best they can. Until tragedy strikes, and Marjorie flees to the city determined to leave her family behind. And there she stays, leading a very different life, until the boy she loves draws her back to the land she can’t forget…

MY THOUGHTS: Wearing Paper Dresses is a harsh but beautiful book. 1950s rural Victoria is a place where if it can’t be fixed by a length of twine or a piece of wire, they don’t know what to do with it. Such is Elise, a cultured city woman, non-Catholic, who tries to plant a rose garden in a place where it seldom rains and where, in the summer, the temperature is often over 100°F. She doesn’t fit in. She doesn’t understand the Mallee people any more than they understand her. She is isolated, alone, out there in the red dust with a father-in-law who resents the fragile creature his son has brought home, a woman who can’t cook proper tucker, who can’t even manage to make a decent smoko for the shearers. The townsfolk treat her with disdain and ridicule her. Her daughters watch her, and protect her when they can but, after all, they are only children. There is only so much they can do.

This was, in places, a hard book for me to read, and I shed a few tears; for Elise, for Ruby and Marjorie, for my mother, and for myself. I was nine years old when my mother had her first ‘nervous breakdown’ and was carted off to the psychiatric hospital, also far away in a big city, Auckland in this case.

Anne Brinsden has accurately captured the thoughts and emotions of all involved. The bewilderment, the misery, the fear, the uncertainty, are all felt and reflected upon, as is the watchfulness when Elise returns home, the girls always on the lookout for signs that she is slipping again.

I felt for Elise, I felt her desperation. I felt for her family, Bill who loved but didn’t understand her, Jimmy Waghorn who lived in a hut on the farm and probably understood Elise better than anyone, even Pa who had never wanted her there in the first place, and the girls, Ruby who coped by never upsetting her mother and who tried to shield Marjorie as best she could, and Marjorie who was perpetually angry at everyone. But my favourite character was Jesse Mitchell, a boy from an abusive home, friend of Jimmy Waghorn, and who strikes up a secret and improbable friendship with Marjorie.

Interspersed occasionally in the narrative are extracts and adverts from journals, newspapers and other publications of the time: The Land, the Australian Woman’s Weekly, the Weekly Times, as well as frequent references to the outback woman’s bible, the Country Woman’s Association Cookbook. No meringues in there!

Wearing Paper Dresses is an outstanding novel of relationships, prejudice and the harshness of outback life. Written in a unique style, Wearing Paper Dresses is not an easy or quick read, but it is a read that will make you think and stretch your emotional resources.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

THE AUTHOR: As far back as Anne can remember she has loved stories. Mostly, she would read them. But if there were no stories to read, she would make up her own. She lives in the western suburbs of Melbourne now with a couple of nice humans, an unbalanced but mostly nice cat and a family of magpies. But she lived all of her childhood in the Mallee in northern Victoria before heading for the city and a career as a teacher.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library Book Club for their recommendation of Wearing Paper Dresses by Anne Brinsden, published by Pan Macmillan, Australia. 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 . . .

Apologies for disappearing on you so suddenly last week. I was rushed off to ED in the early hours of last Sunday morning with breathing difficulties, which resulted in a five day stay in hospital. I am not yet allowed back to work, and will be going for more tests and follow up during the week ahead.

Currently I am not reading anything. I have finished two books this morning, the delightful Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson

And Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Which as well as being a Netgalley ARC, was a group read for my Goodreads.com Mystery, Crime and Thriller group.

I started listening to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout this morning.

This week I only have one ARC that I need to read for review which is Nothing Good Happens After Midnight: A suspense magazine anthology, with contributions by Jeffrey Deaver, Linwood Barclay and John Lescroart, amongst others.

I will use any other reading time I get to catch up on back titles.

I have received ten new ARCs over the past two weeks:

The Haunting of Beatrix Greene by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

The Perfect Life by Nuala Elwood

Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

Suspicious Minds by David Mark

Without Blood by Martin Michaud

Limelight by Graham Hurley

Our Little Secret by Lesley Sanderson

And finally I’m So Effing Tired by Amy Shah

And on that note, I am off for a nap.

Happy reading ❤📚

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean

EXCERPT: I looked about me at our attic – the library, the horrible bits of Victorian taxidermy we’d picked up from junk shops, the dust-furred oil paintings of bleak landscapes, the interesting and peculiar objects that inevitably gathered on any horizontal surface in the vicinity of either of us. The only significant thing we hadn’t added to the place was a large home-made dolls house, which we had discovered in the attic the first time we ever went up there, and had deemed both creepy enough to keep, and too heavy to move.

‘We’ll have to tidy up a bit.’

‘Yes. Get some extra lights, hide the books, that sort of thing. Make it look respectable.’

Abigail must have read some element of doubt in my face. She leaned forward in her armchair and fixed me with her dark eyes.

‘All we have to do is make out that it’s all fine. We take her up here, she sees how absolutely unhaunted our attic and indeed our entire house is, and that’s that.’ Abi touched her fingertips to her lips. ‘All we have to do is be normal for a while.’

And so it was agreed between us that Janice Tupp would come over to our house after school next Thursday, in order not to see a ghost.

ABOUT ‘THE APPARITION PHASE’: Tim and Abi have always been different from their peers. Precociously bright, they spend their evenings in their parents’ attic discussing the macabre and unexplained, zealously rereading books on folklore, hauntings and the supernatural. In particular, they are obsessed with photographs of ghostly apparitions and the mix of terror and delight they provoke in their otherwise boring and safe childhoods.

But when Tim and Abi decide to fake a photo of a ghost to frighten an unpopular school friend, they set in motion a deadly and terrifying chain of events that neither of them could have predicted, and are forced to confront the possibility that what began as a callous prank might well have taken on a malevolent life of its own.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose’ – Haldane

I couldn’t help but thinking of the Adams family children when I read the physical descriptions of Abi and Tim, intelligent twins with enquiring minds and a passion for the macabre.

Maclean has written an atmospheric and intriguing gothic thriller with all the required elements: a missing person, a select group of people confined together in a creepy old house, and unexplained phenomena. Mass hysteria? Cleverly orchestrated fraud? Or something darker and more sinister? This is what Maclean will have you wondering. His skilful machinations will have you changing your mind with every twist and turn.

Yarlings has a gruesome history and yet has never made it into the books of haunted houses, making it perfect for a scientific experiment to once and for all prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. ‘It seemed that, no matter how bright the day outside, the interior of Yarlings was always dark, always gloomy, always permeated with a troubled air, as if overthinking its presence.’ Ancient timbers crack like knuckles, the rooms are filled with an oppressing and brooding silence, almost an air of expectation, like it is waiting to be brought back to life, a place of ‘weird emotional textures.’ The ideal place in which to conduct a seance, or several.

The people who have been carefully selected for the experiment by Graham and Sally, are college students, all known to one another, and who seem to be a fairly ordinary lot. Tim enters the mix quite by accident, the seventh person, and catalyst for all that follows.

The Apparition Phase is unsettling rather than terrifying; unsettling, unnerving and deliciously creepy.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheApparitionPhase #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Originally from the Wirral, Will Maclean has been fascinated by ghost stories since he was a child, and has been writing them almost as long as he can remember.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean 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 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