Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons

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EXCERPT: I’m usually nervous in cars. Whether I’m driving or riding, I can’t seem to forget that I’m in a little shell,hurtling along. I want a death that comes from the inside, something I won’t have to watch as it’s happening – a clot turned loose in my brain, a glossy organ seizing up and shuddering in secret. Car wrecks are shattered windshields and jutting bones, the listless highway patrol scooping bits of you and not-you off the asphalt, zipping the whole mess into a bag. But when Bo is driving – even though she’s always looking at herself in the rearview or swerving around road trash in case it’s a bag of kittens – my anxiety, usually a thrum as steady and constant as my heartbeat, is something I can smother, tamp down, and forget about for a while.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.

Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, bitter, and wise. Black Light contains the type of storytelling that resonates somewhere deep, in the well of memory that repudiates nostalgia.

MY THOUGHTS: There are a lot of everyday materials that fluoresce or glow when placed under a black light. A black light gives off highly energetic ultraviolet light. Just as these energetic stories fluoresce and glow as they are being read. And just as a black light shows up things not normally visible to the human eye, these are the things that are focused upon in this collection of short stories.

Don’t expect anything cute or heartwarming. The author focuses on the seamier side of life, the bits that happen, but nobody talks about, the bits that are swept under the carpet and glossed over. It is our fears and disappointments that she focuses on, not our dreams, aspirations and achievements.

Some of the stories border on the bizarre, all are slightly strange, but very, very real. This was an interesting read, one that deserves not to be hurried. These stories bear a closer inspection and I will be giving them a second read.

My two favourites in this collection are Fiddlebacks, and Starlite.

#BlackLight #NetGalley

😉🤔😏🙄

THE AUTHOR: Kimberly King Parsons is the author of the short story collection Black Light, forthcoming from Vintage August 13, 2019, and the novel The Boiling River, forthcoming from Knopf in 2020ish. Her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, Best Small Fictions 2017, New South, Black Warrior Review, No Tokens, Joyland, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her book reviews and interviews have appeared in Bookforum, Fanzine, Time Out New York, The Millions, and elsewhere. She lives with her partner and sons in Portland, OR, where she is completing a novel about Texas, motherhood, and LSD.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Vintage, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons 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 profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2753053548?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

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The Verdict by Olivia Isaac-Henry

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EXCERPT: ‘Julia Winter?’ the woman says.

I stand up. The whole office stops and looks at me.

“You are Julia Winter?’

‘Yes,’ I say.

The female officer steps forward. ‘I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Brandon Wells. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence of you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?’

No one moves. The office stands silent.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A cheating wife. An estranged mother. But is she guilty of murder?
Please raise your right hand.
An affair at work has cost Julia Winter her job and her marriage. There’s no denying she has let her family down.

Please remain standing.
When a body is discovered on the North Downs, it hits local headlines. But for Julia, the news is doubly shocking because the body was buried just opposite the house she lived in over twenty years ago. And it is one of her former housemates.

Please resume your seat.

Up on the stand, Julia’s not the only person to have secrets that are unearthed during the trial. But the evidence against her is overwhelming.

And yet one question remains: is she the murderer, or the victim?

Jurors, you may be excused.

Readers, what is your verdict?

MY THOUGHTS: Interesting premise, and I enjoyed the read with one or two reservations.

Firstly, the timelines, multiple…. too many. It got quite confusing even though each chapter was headed with the date and location. 1994&5, 2001, 2017&18. This is one book that may have been better served by the story being told in a simpler timeline rather than one which jumped about all over the place.

There was a noticeable lack of suspense…and that is a biggie for me.

None of the characters were particularly likeable, but they were mostly interesting. My favourite was definitely Genevieve D’Auncey, who claimed to be a classically trained actress, but who is rumoured to have been a ‘hostess’. She is still mourning the loss of her son, although she refuses to acknowledge his death. She is mysterious about everything, believing that it makes her more interesting, and invents dramas to fill her time and attract attention. She dresses flamboyantly, and affects mannerisms to match. Her sister Ruth, while lacking the mannerisms, hairpiece and flamboyant clothes, is very much a watered down version of Genevieve (real name Jennifer Pike), but has hidden depths.

Brandon is a thoroughly unlikable wastrel, who uses other people for his own gain. Alan is a nasty little, backstabbing wimp. And Gideon is a chameleon, one of those people who fit in anywhere, blending in, making friends.

And Julia? Is she the bad mother who screwed around behind her husband’s back, a hard-nosed career woman more concerned with climbing the corporate ladder than caring for her husband? Or is she someone being swept along by events that she doesn’t have the skills or confidence to control?

My favourite quote: A second marriage is a triumph of stupidity, not hope.

***.75

THE AUTHOR: In addition to writing novels, Olivia Isaac-Henry is a crime drama lover, occasional keyboard player, and backing vocalist in the band The Protaganist. She grew up in Worcestershire but now lives in London, where she loves the theatres, food markets and festivals.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Impulse and Killer Reads via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Verdict by Olivia Isaac-Henry for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2923282912?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse

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EXCERPT: These are the things I know…

I know my name is Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott.

I know I’m not like everyone else.

I know I was born a little bit different, like someone held the instructions upside down, or lost a part when they opened the box.

I also know that words are powerful things and they have weight.

I know certain words have sat in my stomach for as long as I can remember and weigh so much that when i am in a crowd or meet someone new they pull my shoulders down and make my head hang forward so I can only look at the floor.

Tard.

Fuckwit.

Rabbitmouth.

I know I want to see other countries.

I know I want to go to New York.

I know I want a boyfriend.

I know I want my own kitchen.

I know I want to paint my nails instead of having them caked in mud.

I know I want to own clothes that are pretty.

I know that I want to own sparkly red shoes that I will never get to wear but I can look at whenever I want…

What I don’t know is just how different I am and I also don’t know how I can find this out.

And I know that some days I’m happy and other days I’m sad, but that’s the samne for everyone, isn’t it?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott loves living and working on the remote family farm and B&B. But she also wants more. To see the world. To own her own home. To fall madly in love.

But those are fairy tales, and if her life is a fairy tale, then she’s the ugly duckling. Her deformed lip, her crooked limbs and her weak heart have kept her from taking chances. But that’s about to change.

When Grayson Potts comes to stay, he’s unlike anyone Thomasina has ever met. He’s aloof, eccentric and exceptionally kind. He’s also totally unconcerned with the physical flaws that have always defined Thomasina.

The two form a bond that neither has had before. It’s possible that it could become something more, but Thomasina also wonders if it’s too good to be true. By putting her heart on the line, Thomasina may open herself to heartbreak. But she may also open herself to so much more.

MY THOUGHTS: Heartwarming. Heartbreaking. This is a reminder that we should always encourage our children to be the best that they can be, not to enforce our ideas of their limitations upon them, even if we believe we do so out of love.

Thomasina (I refuse to call her Hitch) is a wonderful character. I laughed with her. I cried for her.

Prowse is an extraordinary writer…. she writes with empathy, not sympathy, or pity, but empathy. I think she must be a woman with an exceedingly big heart. A woman who values people just for who they are, not what they are. This shines through into her writing. She never fails to touch my heart.

4.5 very bright stars.

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 Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for a providing a digital ARC of The Things I Know by Amanada Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on my webpage sandysbookaday/wordpess.com This review and others also appear on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2843852328?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery

I am catching up on reviewing some of the books I read earlier this year during my enforced hiatus.

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EXCERPT: Sunshine Baxter was done with love at first sight. D.O.N.E. More times than she could count, she’d looked into a pair of – insert any color here – eyes and immediately given her heart. The relationships had all ended in disaster and she’d hated herself for being so incredibly stupid over and over again, so she decided she was finished with the falling in love concept. Over it. Moving on.

Except…

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…

As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?

Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.

MY THOUGHTS: I have never been a great reader of romance, but Mallery has a way of writing that grabs at my heartstrings and totally involves me in the lives of her characters. She writes with grace, humor, and a certain realism that stops well short of cynical. In other words, her books are a pure delight, and The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is no exception.

There are no great surprises, but reading a book by Susan Mallery is a wonderful journey in itself. Her characters are so very real, experiencing the highs and lows of life that so many of us are so very familiar with. Her characters could be us, or our friends, and by the time I had finished this book, I didn’t want to say goodbye to my new friends.

I adored the character of Bianca, headstrong, and yet so very insecure. And I did wonder why Sunshine and Bianca’s mother would call one daughter Sunshine and the other Margot….but I’m afraid that is one question that will remain unanswered.

A delightful read.

****.5

THE AUTHOR: #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming and humorous novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. She’s best known for putting nuanced characters into emotionally complex, real-life situations with twists that surprise readers to laughter. Because Susan is passionate about animal welfare, pets play a big role in her books. Beloved by millions of readers worldwide, her books have been translated into 28 languages.

Critics have dubbed Mallery “the new queen of romantic fiction.” (Walmart) Booklist says, “Romance novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor, and superb storytelling,” and RT Book Reviews puts her “in a class by herself!” It’s no wonder that her books have spent more than 200 weeks on the USA Today bestsellers list.

Although Susan majored in Accounting, she never worked as an accountant because she was published straight out of college with two books the same month. Sixteen prolific years and seventy-four books later, she hit the New York Times bestsellers list for the first time with Accidentally Yours in 2008. She made many appearances in the Top 10 before (finally) hitting #1 in 2015 with Thrill Me, the twentieth book in her most popular series, the Fool’s Gold romances, and the fourth of five books released that year.

Susan lives in Washington state with her husband, two ragdoll cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Her heart for animals has led Susan to become an active supporter of the Seattle Humane Society.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin – Mira (US & Canada) via NetGalley for providing a digital copy of The Summer of Sunshine & Margot by Susan Mallery for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinion.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on my webpage sandysbookaday/wordpess.com This review and others also appear on Twitter, Amazon, and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2769256712?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke

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EXCERPT: Noah is getting restless, squirming in my arms. Quickly, I place him back in the pram, but as I tuck the blanket around him, my hand touches something cold. Picking it out from the covers, I see it’s a locket.

My first instinct is that it’s mine. That the clasp must have come undone and the necklace fallen into the pram as I picked Noah up. My hand rises to my chest, but immediately my fingers make contact with the telltale shape of the locket beneath my jumper.

I stare at the one in my hand, not understanding. It looks just like mine.

Easing my thumbnails into the crack, I prise the two halves apart. Even though I know it’s not possible, I half expect it to contain photographs of my children, but of course it doesn’t. Both sides are empty.

I turn the locket over, a feeling of unease creeping up my spine. On its smooth surface, someone has scratched a word.

Sister.

The necklace slips through my fingers onto the tarmac. I know this locket. I haven’t seen it in fifteen years. It’s the one Freya was wearing the day she died.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Kelly is taking her twin daughters to their first day of school, ushering them into the classroom, her heartbreaking to think they might not need her anymore when she turns around and sees that her newborn baby is gone.

As a desperate search ensues, baby Noah is quickly found – parked in front of a different classroom. But when Kelly reaches forward to comfort him, she finds something tucked beside his blanket. A locket that belonged to her sister Freya. A locket Kelly hasn’t seen since the day Freya died.

And then Kelly’s perfectly-ordered life begins to unravel…

MY THOUGHTS: I never really got into this book. I didn’t like the main character, Kelly, at all and felt quite sorry for her poor husband, Mitch. Nor did I like Freya.

We Were Sisters was slow and drawn out with a lot of unnecessary introspection on Kelly’s part. The book lacks suspense and as I read on, I became more and more frustrated, both with the characters and the lack of plot development.

The story is set over two timelines, Kelly and Freya’s childhood together, and Kelly’s adulthood. Some chapters are interspersed with letters: we don’t know who has written them, or who they are to, until later in the book.

Overall, I thought the plot was poorly developed, the supposed surprises very hit and miss. This certainly isn’t the heart-pounding suspense thriller that the blurb promised.

This is the second book I have read by this author, and my reaction to both books is almost identical. I think that this author’s writing style just doesn’t suit my tastes, but I know that a lot of people will enjoy this read so, if after reading the EXCERPT this book appeals to you, please pick up a copy and read it.

Lovely cover.

#WeWereSisters #NetGalley

🤔🤔.5

THE AUTHOR: Wendy Clarke has had over three hundred short stories published in national women’s magazines. With a degree in psychology, and intrigued with how the human mind can affect behaviour, it was inevitable she would eventually want to explore her darker side. What She Saw is her debut psychological thriller, published by Bookouture. Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke 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 profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2891289012?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Watching What I’m Reading…

The last of my shelves went up, and the last of my books were unpacked this week. I had a few anxious moments when I thought I had lost a couple of my favourite books, but they were there. It was quite exciting getting them all up on the shelves, revisiting old favourites, rediscovering books I’d forgotten I had. And they only just all fit! My husband grinned and said, ‘Well, that’s it. There’s no room for any more books.’ Silly man. There’s always room for more books!!!🤣😂🤣😂

I managed to fit in an extra read this week-
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I will be publishing my review tomorrow.

I am about to start

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This week I also plan on reading

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With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.

Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, bitter, and wise. Black Light contains the type of storytelling that resonates somewhere deep, in the well of memory that repudiates nostalgia.

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Round and round she goes, blonde pigtails flying, her high-pitched giggle catching on the wind. But as the ride slows to a stop, her seat is suddenly empty. Little Lucy is gone…

When seven-year-old Lucy Ross is snatched from the carousel in Denton city park, Detective Josie Quinn joins the frantic search. She’s the one who finds Lucy’s sparkly butterfly backpack abandoned by the ticket booth, a note with a devastating message stuffed inside: answer your phone, or your sweet little darling will die…

The next day, Lucy’s parents are filled with hope when they pick up a call which they think is from their babysitter – but instead it’s a chilling male voice on the line. Josie races to the babysitter’s small apartment only to find her lifeless body in a tangle of sheets on her bed.

Josie is faced with the most high-stakes case of her career as each new phone call from someone connected to the family ends with the shocking discovery of another body. This twisted killer wants revenge, and he won’t stop until the Ross family are in pieces…

Something is telling Josie that Lucy’s parents aren’t giving her the whole truth, but digging deeper into their lives will force her to confront a life-changing secret of her own. Does Josie have what it takes to crack this case? She has no choice if she’s going to bring Lucy home alive…

I received five new ARCs from Netgalley this week

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Let me know what new books you have on your radar, and what you are excited about reading.

Happy reading, my friends. 💕😍📚

The Doctor by Lisa Stone

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EXCERPT: It was pitch black outside except for the small light coming from the outbuilding at the very end of their neighbour’s garden. Emily could just make out the slither of light through the tall shrubs and trees that flanked their boundary fence. No moon or stars shone in the cloudladen sky and no wind stirred the foliage. She liked their secluded garden, it had been one of the reasons she and Ben had bought the house, but sometimes it felt just a bit creepy. Especially at night.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: How much do you know about the couple next door?

When Emily and Ben move in next door to Dr Burman and his wife Alisha, they are keen to get to know their new neighbours. Outgoing and sociable, Emily tries to befriend the doctor’s wife, but Alisha is strangely subdued, barely leaving the house, and terrified of answering the phone.

When Emily goes missing a few weeks later, Ben is plunged into a panic. His wife has left him a note, but can she really have abandoned him for another man? Or has Emily’s curiosity about the couple next door led her straight into danger?

MY THOUGHTS: If you have a creepy neighbour, I don’t know if I should recommend you read this book, or not read this book…..

We all want to live forever, don’t we? Well, I don’t, but Dr Burman does. In fact he is fanatical in his quest. It rules his life……

I was prepared not to like this book. There were a few things in the first few pages that kind of annoyed me and I actually put the book down and walked away from it for a couple of days. Then I picked it up again….and found it difficult to put down.

The writing, in places, felt a little unweildly, but the plot is excellent, and for once the blurb was right…there was a twist that I just didn’t see coming. I don’t know that it was entirely necessary, but I didn’t see it coming. Personally I would have ended the book a little earlier than the author does, but that is just me….

All in all an interesting read. And love this cover!

#TheDoctor #NetGalley

🙂🙂🙂.5 stars

THE AUTHOR: I live in England and have three children. I have always been a writer – from when I was at school, with poems and articles in the school magazine. In my teens I began writing short stories, a few radio plays and novels. I finally made it into the bestseller charts with Damaged in 2007 which I wrote under the pseudonym Cathy Glass. Since then I have had 28 books published, many of which have become international bestsellers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to publishers Avon via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Doctor by Lisa Stone for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on my webpage, sandysbookaday/wordpess.com This review and others also appear on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2860835205