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

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

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EXCERPT: I didn’t know when I stopped struggling, but at some point I did. I didn’t feel the razor run across my scalp; I only felt the closeness of Nurse Wilma’s hot and soft body that smelled of night-shift sweat. The stench made my stomach jerk and sputter, but there was nothing inside to come up.

Lorna was still chanting about the yellow canary and that the mine was safe. But I knew she was wrong. The mine wasn’t safe and we were all going to die here. Panic filled me while the restrains squeezed my arms and legs. The room was full of other patients, but none of them could help me. Then mother walked into the room and stood near the chair. Even though her eyes didn’t seem to see me, she must have sensed something was happening to me. She rarely came out of the room on her own. My breathing heightened and I started to scream. Nurse Joann, that’s who she was to me now, told me to stop, but when I wouldn’t she cupped her hands over my mouth and the back of my neck with such steadfastness that I couldn’t even try to bite. All I could do was listen to all the other voices and sounds in the room. But no one could hear me.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Pennsylvania, 1940s. The only life Brighton Friedrich has ever known is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of Riverside Home—the rural asylum where she was born. A nurse, Joann, has educated and raised Brighton, whose mother is a patient at the hospital. But Joann has also kept vital information from Brighton—secrets that if ever revealed would illuminate Brighton’s troubling past and the circumstances that confine her to Riverside. Brighton’s best friend is a boy she calls Angel, and as they grow up together and face the bleak future that awaits them, they determine to make a daring escape.

Nothing can prepare Brighton and Angel for life beyond Riverside’s walls. They have no legal identities, very little money, and only a few leads toward a safe place to land. As they struggle to survive in a world they’ve never seen before, they must rely on each other and the kindness of strangers—some of whom may prove more dangerous than the asylum they’ve fled.

MY THOUGHTS: Asylum means an offer of protection. But there was no protection at Riverside Home for the Insane. Quite the opposite.

I nearly stopped reading The Bright Unknown a third of the way through. I found it thoroughly depressing. But after reading Kathleen Gray’s moving review, I persevered, and although I didn’t love this book as she did, I did enjoy it more, and am glad I finished it.

I worked as a psychiatric nurse in the early 1970’s, and although the conditions were greatly improved by then, there were still some similarities in the way that unwanted family members, those who were born with some affliction that may be an embarrassment to the family, were still hidden away in the ‘chronic’ wards. Electric convulsive therapy was still used extensively, though far more humanely. I do recall seeing a straightjacket, but can’t ever remember one being used. Instead there were padded cells and sedatives.

There were still some of the ‘old school’ nurses who were cruel and treated the patients inhumanely, but they were definitely in the minority.

Reading The Bright Unknown has stirred up a slew of memories for me, some good and some not so good. I still can’t really define how I feel about this book, told from Brighton’s point of view over two timelines, the late 1930s/early 1940s and 1990. It is a sad book, in that those who are closest to us are often the cruelest. It shows the idiocy of the old adage ‘you have to be cruel to be kind.’

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book, but it was an experience. It does show that shattered lives can be rebuilt, that human spirit can overcome great adversity, and that love can conquer all.

😢🤔🙂

There are two passages in particular that struck a chord in my heart:

‘Weeds bloomed, but that didn’t make them flowers.’

‘A lot of bad had to happen for us to have all the good in our lives.’

THE AUTHOR: Award-winning author Elizabeth Byler Younts writes historical fiction for Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson. She gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl. She is also the author of the Carol award-winning novel The Solace of Water, critically-acclaimed novel The Bright Unknown, and The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect for two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a small menagerie of well-loved pets.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts 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/2969247286?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Watching what I’m reading…

Firstly I will apologise; if this post seems a bit rushed it’s because I have been called in to work and need to start soon – very soon.

Currently I am reading

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and I have downloaded but not yet started listening to

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This week I plan on reading

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A woman trying to outrun her past is drawn to a quiet coastal town in Maine–and to a string of unsolved murders–in this haunting tale of romantic suspense from New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen.

Ava Collette is punishing herself for an unspeakable tragedy. So she flees Boston and rents an old home named Brodie’s Watch on a remote coastal peninsula of Maine, hoping to work on a cookbook inspired by New England cuisine that she’s been trying to finish for months. She immediately feels at peace in the isolated house–until she starts to hear strange noises.

Rumor has it that a sea captain named Brodie has haunted the house for decades. Then, one night, Ava is awakened to find herself face to face with an apparition who looks–and feels–all too real. Meanwhile, there’s been a series of accidental deaths nearby that don’t add up. And as Ava starts to check into the previous renter’s mysterious disappearance, she starts to realize that there’s a disturbing secret some in town are desperate to keep hidden.

Soon all of Ava’s waking hours are consumed by her investigation, and her nights are ignited by Captain Brodie’s ghostly visits. But even as she questions her own sanity, she knows she must uncover the truth before a killer strikes again.

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Every Wednesday, like clockwork, the terror returns.

It seems like an ordinary Wednesday, until the phone rings. A mysterious caller with a chilling threat. Journalist Alice Henderson hangs up, ready to dismiss it as a hoax against the newspaper. But the next Wednesday, the stalker makes another move—and it becomes clear that this is all about Alice.

Someone wants her to suffer, but for what? Her articles have made her a popular local champion—could it be her past rather than her work that’s put her life in danger? Alice is determined not to give in to fear, but with the police investigation at a dead end, her boyfriend insists on hiring private investigator Matthew Hill.

With every passing Wednesday the warnings escalate, until it’s not only Alice but also her family in the stalker’s sights. As her tormentor closes in, can Alice uncover what she’s being punished for before the terrifying threats become an unthinkable reality?

This week I have been approved for 6 new ARCS from Netgalley, despite my good intentions!

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Plus I bought a couple of hard copies of books…but they will have to wait until next week. I need to open up!

Enjoy your Sunday and happy reading!

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The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

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EXCERPT: Her father was a great rabbi, but she was the one who had a true talent. For the thousandth time she wished she were a boy. She had no interest in marriage or babies, only in the world of scholars, from which she was prohibited. She could taste the bitter dirt as they finished digging, and she nearly choked on it. It occurred to her that once she broke the rules of her family and her faith, there would be no going back. But on this morning, all she knew was that she wanted to live.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In 1941, during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites Alice Hoffman.

In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be.

What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘Once upon a time something happened that you never could have imagined, a spell was broken, a girl was saved, a rose grew out of a tooth buried deep in the ground, love was everywhere, and people who had been taken away continued to walk with you, in dreams and in the waking world.’

This is a book that can’t be buttonholed into one or even two categories. Historical, magical, fantasy, love, family drama doesn’t even begin to describe The World That We Knew.

The author’s introduction is one of the most moving that I have read. Please don’t skip it. It tells how this book was born. And the relationship between fairytales and real life. If you don’t think there is one, then you really do need to read it.

The magical aspects of Hoffman’s writing does nothing to dilute the horrors of the Holocaust; in fact, if anything, it heightens the inhumanity of man against man. She writes beautifully and lyrically about one of the darkest periods in the history of man, holding nothing back, but always there is hope that shines like a beacon.

I was a history student, and WWII was one of my pet subjects, but I have learned more from Hoffman’s writing than I ever did in school. It is far easier to relate to and has far greater significance when it is on a more personal level.

I finished The World That We Knew last night and I have written a dozen reviews in my head during the day, all of which were far more eloquent and reflective than this. I had highlighted dozens of passages in an effort to capture the essence of this book. But after reading and rereading them, I stayed with the first; the one that says ‘all she knew was that she wanted to live.’ There is no greater desire in life than to live and to keep your loved ones safe. ‘If you are loved, you never lose the person who loved you. You carry them with you all your life.’ And the reverse is true, that if you love someone, you can never lose that person. You carry them with you all your life. And that, to me, is the essence of The World That We Knew; the magic of love.

❤❤❤❤

THE AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novel is The World That We Knew. She lives near Boston.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The World That We Knew 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 or the about page on my webpage sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2941683080?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Betty Bites Back: Stories to Scare the Patriarchy edited by Mindy McGinnis, Demitria Lunetta andKate Karyus Quinn

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EXCERPT: It started with a hashtag.

Well, it started about five years earlier – the first time Billy Ruperts noticed that I’d hit puberty. We were sitting in the hallway, working with a few of our friends on our final history project of Grade seven. He looked at me, then at my chest.

‘Savvy, you’re growing.’ He leaned forward and flicked my pint-sized breast.

That was the first time I felt it. That subtle stomach-churning twirl of rage. I shoved him into the lockers. He split his forehead open on a rusted hinge.

I got an in-school suspension, even after I told them what he did.

Billy got stitched up and a break from homework for the rest of the week. (excerpt taken from ‘The Guardians 1792 by Jenna Lehne)

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Behind every successful man is a strong woman… but in these stories, she might be about to plant a knife in his spine. The characters in this anthology are fed up – tired of being held back, held down, held accountable – by the misogyny of the system. They’re ready to resist by biting back in their own individual ways, be it through magic, murder, technology, teeth, pitfalls and even… potlucks. Join sixteen writers as they explore feminism in fantasy, science-fiction, fractured fairy-tales, historical settings, and the all-too-familiar chauvinist contemporary world.

(While most of the content is YA appropriate, please note the editors recommend this anthology for 16+.)

Authors:
Liz Coley
Shannon Green
Elaine Griffin
Lindsey Klingele
Kamerhe Lane
Jenna Lehne
Demitria Lunetta
Emilee Martell
Tracie Martin
Cori McCarthy
Kyrie McCauley
Mindy McGinnis
Kate Karyus Quinn
Melody Simpson
Amanda Sun

MY THOUGHTS: As with most short story collections, there were stories I liked, and stories I didn’t like. ‘The Guardians 1792’ was a particular favorite of mine; as were ‘What She Left Behind’ by E R Griffin and ‘We Have But Lingered Here’ by Liz Coley. There were a couple I couldn’t finish, and the remainder were, for my reading palate, decidedly meh. Some were just too extreme.

An interesting collection.

#BettyBitesBackStoriesToScareThe Patriarchy #NetGalley

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR/EDITOR: Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning novelist who writes across multiple genres, including post-apocalyptic, historical, thriller, contemporary, mystery, and fantasy.

While her settings may change, you can always count on Mindy’s books to deliver grit, truth, and an unflinching look at humanity and the world around us.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Mindy McGinnis, Dimitria Lunetta and Kate Karyus Quinn via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Betty Bites Back 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 and Goodreads.com https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2933646398?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1