Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

EXCERPT: Prologue: Frozen to the bone, I stumble from the boat and look around me at the village. It’s not Creel, but some place exactly like it; houses tumbling like rocks down towards the hungry sea. Fishing boats and cracked concrete. I stand there, swaying slightly with the motion of the boat I’ve left behind. There’s no sound or movement from the houses.

Somehow, despite coming so far, through so much, the idea of going up to one of those doors and knocking, being confronted by a stranger, has me frozen. What is waiting in those houses? Is there even anyone there?

‘Are you all right, poppet?’

I turn so fast I nearly fall over. On the doorstep of a tiny cottage is an old woman in a wool skirt and fluffy slippers. Her eyes are wide and she has a wire cage of milk bottles in one hand, her back still half stooped to put it on the doorstep.

As I turn, her eyes fall to the strap of the rifle and she drops the bottles. They smash, throwing glass all over the concrete step. Fear is etched on her face as I remove the rifle and lay it on the ground.

I rise, and glance down at my ripped and muddy clothing, hanging off my skeletal body. With effort, I part my sticky, salt encrusted lips.

‘I need the police.’

ABOUT ‘STRANDED’: Eight strangers.
One island.
A secret you’d kill to keep.

When eight people arrive on the beautiful but remote Buidseach Island, they are ready for the challenge of a lifetime: to live alone for one year.

Eighteen months later, a woman is found in an isolated fishing village. She’s desperate to explain what happened to her: how the group fractured and friends became enemies; how they did what they must to survive until the boat came to collect them; how things turned deadly when the boat didn’t come…

But first Maddy must come to terms with the devastating secret that left them stranded, and her own role in the events that saw eight arrive and only three leave.

MY THOUGHTS: In all honesty, I believe you would need to be a fan of TV ‘reality’ shows like Survivor to appreciate this book. In hindsight, I am probably the wrong demographic. I was thinking that this would be more of a murder mystery, and it is not.

Maddy is the narrator. She is grief stricken following the death of her parents. She lost her job as a botanist after clashing with her boss, and is temping office work. She is lost and lonely and believes she needs this challenge to find herself. So she isn’t very happy when life on the Island starts to mirror the life she left behind. Tensions between the contestants escalate until . . .

Initially I found the personality clashes between the contestants interesting, and while I knew that bad stuff had to happen, I was expecting a more even division into ‘sides’ than occurred.

While I never quite lost interest, Stranded seemed inordinately long. It felt like we lived through every day of those eighteen months, task by repetitive task. And in the end? It became tedious. And frankly, unbelievable.

⭐⭐.7

#Stranded #NetGalley

I: @sarah_goodwin_author @harpercollinsuk @avonbooksuk

T: @SGoodAuthor @HarperCollinsUK @AvonBooksUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Goodwin is a novelist who grew up in rural Hertfordshire and now lives in Bristol. She was raised on C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie by her parents and spent her summers in castles and on battlefields making up stories about women struggling for survival against war, poverty and dragons.

At Bath Spa University Sarah studied for a BA in Creative Writing and self-published seven novels across various genres, including YA magical realism, contemporary women’s fiction, romance and horror.

While undertaking her Master’s degree, Sarah participated in writing and performing in sketches for Bristol-based What Have You Comedy and now appears regularly on Bristol Youth Radio Rocks as part of a weekly mental health hour for young people.

Sarah graduated in 2014 with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK audio for providing an audio ARC of Stranded by Sarah Goodwin, and narrated by Esme Sears, 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 Parents by Claire Seeber

EXCERPT: ALEX: Mist had begun to gather all along the edge of the woods – the Whispering Woods – as day slipped into night. When I’d arrived, I’d parked the Land Rover beside other cars, but now it stood alone near the looming trees, which looked like they were floating behind the carpark as tendrils of mist crept through them like smoky fingers.

There was something nameless but intensely intimidating in the air; something about the height and thickness of the trees, the twisted trunks just visible as I hurried to the car; something ancient and mythical and utterly uninviting. The surface of the dark pool by the gates was also seething with mist now, and the strange bottles stacked along the wall no longer glinted, the weak autumn sun having given up for the day.

ABOUT ‘THE PARENTS’: Moving to this village was supposed to be a fresh start for me and my thirteen-year-old son Harry. After the tragic death of my husband, it was a chance to leave everything bad behind and make better memories at Primrose Cottage, the postcard-perfect house with honeysuckle around the door.

However, things haven’t exactly been easy since we arrived, and after what we’ve been though, I’m scared of letting anyone new into our lives.

But when one of the local dads asks Harry to join the weekend sports club, I find myself saying yes. The smile on my son’s face gives me hope that I might have made the right decision in uprooting our lives.

All the other parents seem so kind in welcoming me into the fold. At least, they are to begin with… Until someone begins anonymously exposing secrets about everyone in the group.

As betrayals surface and the claws come out, I see how imperfect these people really are; and how far they’ll go to hide the truth. Then when one of the parents ends up dead at the end of a party, I realise that it’s not just lies and scandal they’re covering up.

Too late, I realise that I should have stayed away…

MY THOUGHTS: I should have stayed away too.

At 47%, when I found myself thinking that I would rather go get a tooth pulled, I closed the covers for the final time.

This author can write; there’s no disputing that, and had she continued in the vein of the extract above, I would still be avidly flipping pages. Instead we get cardboard cutout characters with absolutely no depth, who fancy themselves as WAGS, and a bunch of wannabe footballers pushing their failed aspirations down the throats of the under 14 team.

Mystery? Who’s behind the ‘revealing’ video clips that are tearing apart the lives of the footballers enclave? Don’t care. Mysterious death? Hasn’t happened yet, and I am not interested enough to wait around for it.

And I never want to hear the term ‘babs’ again – unless it’s an abbreviation of Barbara. What is it, anyway? ‘Babe’ I can understand, but ‘babs’?

Sorry, but The Parents gets a resounding thumbs down from me.

The Parents by Claire Seeber may well be a book that you enjoy, so please check out a selection of the more positive reviews if you are considering reading it.

⭐.5

#TheParents #NetGalley

I: @claireseeberauthor @bookouture

T: @claireseeber @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mystery

THE AUTHOR: After a stab at being a (bad) actress, best-selling author Claire directed factual TV for years, before writing the first of eight psychological thrillers, including the chart-topping Never Tell and The Stepmother. In 2012, she was nominated for a CWA Dagger for He Does Not Always See Her. She also writes for stage and screen, features for newspapers such as The Guardian & The Independent and is a qualified Gestalt therapist, when she’s not writing or herding feral kids (hers) or animals.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Parents by Claire Seeber 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

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

EXCERPT: This is how most cases start. With a bubble of desperate hope and tentative trust. Where things go from here, how Guerline and Emmanuel might view me months from now . . .

Emmanuel walks me back downstairs. He doesn’t speak a word, relying on the rigid set of his shoulders to radiate disapproval.

‘You love Angelique,’ I state softly when we reach the lobby. She’s a good older sister. She looks out for you.’

He glares at me, but I see a bright sheen in his eyes. The pain he’s trying hard not to show.

‘You really done this before?’ he asks roughly.

‘Many times.’

‘How many people have you actually found?’

‘Fourteen.’

He purses his lips, clearly taken aback by that number.

‘Goodnight Emmanuel. And if you think of anything I should know.’ I stick out my hand. This time he takes it.

Then I exit the triple, out into the crisp fall night, where the sun has set. Bright lights wink in the distance. But on this block no streetlights are working. Not the best idea for a lone woman to be walking around after dark, but I hardly have a choice.

I square my shoulders and head briskly back toward Stoney’s, grateful it hadn’t occurred to Emmanuel to ask the next logical question.

Not just how many people I’d found, but how many people I’d found alive.

None.

At least, not yet.

ABOUT: ‘BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARED’: Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.

MY THOUGHTS: Can someone please explain to me how and why I have never previously read anything by this author of twenty books? Because I am sure I don’t know. What I do know is – that is about to change!

Before She Disappeared is the first of two books featuring Frankie Elkin, an alcoholic with enough baggage to make a porter shudder. She keeps her demons at bay by focusing her energies on investigating disappearances that are cold cases.
To fund her search, she tends bar, something she is very good at. She regularly attends AA meetings, and has nightmares that gave me the willies just reading about them, never mind having them invade my sleep night after night. And just in case that isn’t enough, she is sharing her accommodation with Piper, an attack cat, and just one more to add to the list resenting Frankie’s intrusion.

Frankie doesn’t endear herself to the police, who resent her involvement and accuse her of many things including trying to rip off the families of the missing. But what Frankie has on her side is a kind and caring heart and the ability to ask the right questions.

Before She Disappeared is a fast paced and gripping story that kept me immersed throughout as the search for one missing girl turns into a search for two missing girls; the second never reported missing by her family or her school. As Frankie slowly builds up a picture of Angelique’s life, little snippets of Frankie’s back story are revealed.

This is a story that has something for everyone. There are two incredibly bright and talented young girls, living in poverty in a crime ridden Boston neighbourhood, determined to rise above their backgrounds and make something of themselves. So there is hope. There are thrills as Frankie is warned off her endeavours to find Angelique and Livia. There are chills and dread as it becomes apparent just how vulnerable these young girls are. There is sadness, and joy. Mystery, crime and suspense. The characters are realistic and beautifully crafted, their stories ones that happen every day. Gardner has taken these stories and written a moving and thrilling book that highlights the plight of the ‘forgotten’ missing – those who come from a background of poverty, from high crime areas where the police have more important issues to deal with than looking for some teenage girl who has probably run of with some boy.

This is no ordinary missing person story!

Gardner’s author notes at the end of the book are worth reading as she explains what inspired her to write Before She Disappeared.

I may be late discovering this author, but I now have a lot of backtitles to catch up on. And Frankie Elkin #2 to look forward to.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#BeforeSheDisappeared #NetGalley

I: @lisagardnerbks @randomhouse

T: @LisaGardnerBks @RandomHouse

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has transformed her interest in police procedure and criminal minds into a streak of internationally acclaimed novels, published across 30 countries.

Lisa lives in New Hampshire where she spends her time with an assortment of canine companions. When not writing, she loves to hike, garden, snowshoe and play cribbage.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon everyone!

I have just started reading The Parents by Claire Seeber, a new author to me.

I am 2/3 through listening to Stranded by Sarah Goodwin. The jury is still out. I do see the resemblance to Lord of the Flies, which I never particularly liked, but there is still a third of the book to go, and it sounds like there’s still plenty to happen.

This week I am planning on reading My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt, an author I know I can depend on for an emotionally wrenching read.

I look at my daughter. My darling girl. I remember her tiny hand in mine, her first smile. I recall her tears when she’d tumble over, healed instantly with a band-aid and a little kiss. I have to keep her safe. Even if it means someone else gets hurt…

In the pretty, privileged college town of Milford, New Hampshire, everyone is friendly, everything is safe. And on this cold autumn day, as red and yellow leaves begin to fall from the trees, and everyone wraps up for the first time, it would be easy to believe nothing bad could ever happen here.

Until a screech of tires is heard, a thud, a child’s scream. The crash that sees Jenna’s six-year-old daughter Amy Rose being hit by a car driven by seventeen-year-old Maddie.

Maddie’s mother, Ellen—a college professor with a warm, approachable reputation—insists it must have been an accident. Her daughter is always safe on the road—and she’s vulnerable herself.

But as Amy Rose lies unconscious in hospital, the town begins to take sides. With Ellen, who just wants to defend her daughter. Or with Jenna, a single mother with a past, whose child hovers between life and death…

The truth is that both mothers have secrets they’re trying to keep. And, with Amy Rose’s life hanging in the balance, one of them will stop at nothing to protect the person she loves—her daughter.

And Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer, another new author to me.

Eve has been a partner in a Wallaby Bay fishing fleet as long as she can remember. Now they want her to sell – but what would her life be without work? She lives alone, her role on the town committee has been spiked by malicious gossip and she is incapacitated after surgery. For the first time in her life she feels weak, vulnerable – old.

When her troubled god-daughter Julia arrives at Wallaby Bay, she seems to offer Eve a reprieve from her own concerns. But there is no such thing as plain sailing. Eve has another house guest, the abrasive Lucy, who is helping her recuperate and does not look kindly on Julia’s desire for Eve’s attention.

But Lucy, too, has demons to battle and as each woman struggles to overcome their loss of place in the world, they start to realise that there may be more that holds them together, than keeps them apart.

But will these birds of feather truly be able to reinvent what family means? Or will the secrets and hurts of the past shatter their precarious hold on their new lives … and each other? 

During the past week I have been: Stranded on Buidseach Island off the Scottish Coast; in the poverty stricken suburb of Mattapan, Boston; to the tea shop in Charon’s Crossing, wherever that may be; and I am currently in the football obsessed village of Tenderton, Kent. Have we crossed paths this week? Where have you been?

I have eight new ARCs this week: At the End of the Day by Liz Byrski, an English born Australian author I love.

Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

A Life Without Water by Marci Bolden which I was declined for back in 2019 when it was first released. I found it as ‘read now’ when I was browsing the Netgalley shelves.

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou, another Australian author also new to me.

A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale, an author I have been wanting to read for some time.

Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson, an author I enjoy.

And finally, The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

and I still have 29 requests pending. 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️❤📚

The Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland

EXCERPT: ‘Nina? Are you coming in, then? ‘ Zac’s warm brown eyes beckon.

I realise I’m standing on the doorstep in a dream while Zac has stepped into the hallway. Suddenly, I’m giddy with nerves and excitement. I can’t wait to get inside, but I’m also a little anxious. The one and only time we saw the inside of the flat was three months ago before we put in the offer. I knew we had to move fast to secure it. Property gets snapped up so quickly in this area. I hope it lives up to my memory.

ABOUT ‘THE COUPLE UPSTAIRS’: I should never have become friends with the couple upstairs…

The first time I step inside this cosy apartment with its sash windows, just minutes from the sea, I think it would be the perfect place for me and my partner Zac to start again. A chance to leave our troubled past behind.

Chris and Vanessa, the couple upstairs, are so welcoming: smiles, flowers, a home-baked cake. It’s strange how he does all the talking, and she seems so shy, but I’m just thrilled to have new friends nearby.

But everything starts to go wrong… my business begins to crumble, I can’t ignore the whispers at our housewarming party and loud arguments from upstairs keep me awake at night. I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight and I feel like someone is watching me in my own home.

And then Zac comes home one afternoon, his face clenched with fury, and says he knows what’s going on. He knows about my secret…

He won’t listen to me. He storms out and I’m left in tears, completely devastated.

Why has my life fallen apart since we moved here? Am I going mad? Or is someone trying to destroy us?

If only I’d known what I know now.
If only I hadn’t trusted the couple upstairs.

MY THOUGHTS: I have read, loved and rated books by this author at five stars in the past but, to be honest, The Couple Upstairs was a very average read. As I got to the 50% mark, I realised I was bored. I seriously debated not finishing, and couldn’t quite believe I was considering doing this to a book by Shalini Boland! I had decided to read one more chapter – they are very short – when Boland threw me a curveball, and I kept reading.

Even though I kept reading, The Couple Upstairs was ultimately a disappointment for me. ‘Average’, and ‘obvious’ are the words that come to mind, and there’s no way that I consider this to be a psychological thriller. No thrills, no suspense, and the psychological motivation is very weak.

Even though this is written in the first person, I didn’t feel that I was there, living Nina’s experiences. I didn’t like Nina, or Zac, their families, or their neighbours. I didn’t relate to any of them.

There were a number of things that seemed totally unrealistic to me, from buying a flat after only one viewing, to the end where (view spoiler)

Not a read that I will be recommending. This author can do, and has done, much better. Had this been the gripping psychological thriller it’s promoted as, I would have read the 260 odd pages in one sitting rather than taking 3 days, as I did.

⭐⭐.6

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama

I: @shaboland @bookouture

T: @ShaliniBoland @Bookouture

THE AUTHOR: Hello 🙂 I write suspense thrillers and dark adventures, and I live in Dorset, England with my husband, two children and our dog. I only write reviews for books I enjoy!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland via Netgalley for review.

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 Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

EXCERPT: taken from 30 and Out by Doug Allyn

The sign on the door read Sgt. Charles Marx, Major Crimes. I raised my fist to knock, then realised the guy at the desk wasn’t just resting his eyes. He was totally out, slouched in his chair, his grubby Nikes up on his desk, baseball cap tipped down over his eyes, snoring softly. Looked like a Class C wrestling coach after a losing season. Edging in quietly, I eased down into the chair facing his desk. When I glanced up, his eyes were locked on mine like lasers.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I’m Jax LaDart, Sergeant Marx. Your FNG.’

He frowned at that, then nodded. ‘The f*****g new guy,’ he said, massaging his eyelids with his fingertips. ‘Ah, right. You’re the home boy the chief hired, straight out of the army. I was reading your record. It put me to sleep.’ He spun the Dell laptop on his desk to show me the screen. ‘According to the Military Police, you’ve closed a lot of felony cases overseas, but the details are mostly redacted, blacked out.’

‘The army’d classify Three Blind Mice if they could. You don’t remember me, do you?’

ABOUT ‘THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP PRESENTS THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR: 2021: Under the auspices of New York City’s legendary mystery fiction specialty bookstore, The Mysterious Bookshop, and aided by Edgar Award-winning anthologist Otto Penzler, international bestseller Lee Child has selected the twenty most suspenseful, most confounding, and most mysterious short stories from the past year, collected now in one entertaining volume.

Includes stories by:

Alison Gaylin
David Morrell
James Lee Burke
Joyce Carol Oates
Martin Edwards
Sara Paretsky
Stephen King
Sue Grafton (with a new, posthumously-published work!)

And many more!

MY THOUGHTS: There are a couple of absolutely brilliant stories in here – Sue Grafton’s ‘If You Want Something Done Right . . .’ and Stephen King’s ‘The Fifth Step’ are the two that stood out for me. Others that I enjoyed were: ‘The Locked Cabin’ by Martin Edwards, Janice Law’s ‘The Client’, and David Morrell’s ‘Requiem For A Homecoming.’ There was one story I absolutely detested – Parole Hearing by Joyce Carol Oates, and I didn’t much care for David Marcum’s ‘The Home Office Baby’ either, or the first two stories which were ‘tough guy’ fiction and almost completely put me off reading any more of the collection. The rest fell somewhere in the middle and were mostly quite mediocre.

This is by no means anywhere near my favourite collection. Quite a few, I zoned out of as I was listening, and had to return to. They just didn’t hold my interest; absolutely no reflection on the narrators who, on the whole did an excellent job.

I know 2020 was a difficult year for all, but I am sure that there were far better mystery stories out there that could have been included in this collection.

⭐⭐⭐

#TheBestMysteryStoriesoftheYear2021 #NetGalley

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

Edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Highbridge Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Best Mystery Stories of the Year:2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler 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 Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (The Thursday Murder Club #2)

EXCERPT: The nights are beginning to draw in a little, and the sun is sinking behind the trees on top of the hill as Elizabeth reaches Ruskin Court and rings the bell for number 14. Here goes nothing. There is a brief wait and she is buzzed up.

There are lifts in all the buildings, but Elizabeth will use the stairs while she still can. Stairs are good for hip and knee flexibility. Also it is very easy to kill someone in a lift when the doors open. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and a ping to announce that you’re about to appear. Not that she’s worried about being killed, it doesn’t feel to her like that’s what’s happening here, but it’s always important to remember best practice. Elizabeth has never killed anyone in a lift. She once saw someone pushed down an empty lift shaft in Essen, but that was different.

She turns left at the top of the stairs, transfers the flowers to her left hand and knocks on the door of number 14. Who will answer the door? What is the story here? Should she be worried?

The door opens, and she sees a very familiar face.

It’s not Marcus Carmichael, how could it have been? But it is certainly someone who knew the name Marcus Carmichael. And who knew it would get her attention.

And it turns out that, yes, she should be worried.

ABOUT ‘THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE’: It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

MY THOUGHTS: I just loved The Thursday Murder Club, but approached The Man Who Died Twice (don’t you just love that title!) with just a modicum of apprehension. Would the author fall victim to the second book syndrome? He didn’t. Osman hasn’t put one word wrong.

I love these characters, and the fact that we learn a lot more about them in the course of the book. Am I allowed to admit that as I was reading I was hearing Penelope Keith’s voice as Elizabeth?

This disparate club of characters will delight, charm and amuse. There were times I felt afraid for them, times when they amazed me. Never are they predictable.

I am not going to waste any more time talking about this book, other than to say ‘Read it!’ This is the book we all need.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheManWhoDiedTwice #NetGalley

I: @misterosman @penguinrandomhouse

T: @richardosman @PenguinUKBooks

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #humour #murdermystery #mystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Richard Thomas Osman is an English comedian, producer, television presenter, writer, and the creator and co-presenter of the BBC One television quiz show Pointless.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin General UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman 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 Unheard by Nicci French

EXCERPT: People say you can’t die in your dreams but last night I felt I was going to die. I was falling, like she fell, and it was just before I hit the concrete – dark, rushing up at me – that I woke, gasping, sweating. I hadn’t got away. It was happening again.

ABOUT ‘THE UNHEARD’: Maybe Tess is overprotective, but passing her daughter off to her ex and his new young wife fills her with a sense of dread. It’s not that Jason is a bad father–it just hurts to see him enjoying married life with someone else. Still, she owes it to her daughter Poppy to make this arrangement work.

But Poppy returns from the weekend tired and withdrawn. And when she shows Tess a crayon drawing–an image so simple and violent that Tess can hardly make sense of it—-Poppy can only explain with the words, “He did kill her.”

Something is horribly wrong. Tess is certain Poppy saw something–or something happened to her–that she’s too young to understand. Jason insists the weekend went off without a hitch. Doctors advise that Poppy may be reacting to her parents’ separation. And as the days go on, even Poppy’s disturbing memory seems to fade. But a mother knows her daughter, and Tess is determined to discover the truth. Her search will set off an explosive tempest of dark secrets and buried crimes–and more than one life may be at stake.

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, who to trust? Does Tess have something to worry about in Poppy’s behaviour, or is she becoming increasingly neurotic and seeing danger where it doesn’t exist?

The Nicci French team has written a gripping psychological thriller that messed with my mind. It was like walking on quicksand – the ground shifting beneath my feet as I first suspected one person, then another, and even Tess herself. But suspected them of what? Because that’s the question. What, if anything, has happened?

Poppy has said a few rude words. And, ‘He did kill. Kill and kill and kill.’ And wet the bed. And drawn a disturbing picture. So, yes, as a mother I too would have been concerned and taken my child to the doctor to be checked out. I would have watched carefully the people my child came into contact with. I would have been suspicious and protective. But Tess takes it to a whole new level . . .

The entire story is told by Tess. We share her worries, her fears, her suspicions, her anger as she finds out the truth about . . . let’s just say, people she thought she knew and could trust. We feel her frustration as people, including me, begin to feel that she has lost the plot and gone completely overboard. But Tess is doggedly determined, to the point of being obsessive, to find out who is behind the changes in her daughter, who is terrifying her. Some of the things Tess does are completely over the top, but make for brilliant reading.

The Unheard is a brilliantly plotted, intriguing, twisty psychological thriller that keeps the reader off balance throughout.

Narrator Olivia Vinall was a delight to listen to, and I will be watching for her narrations in future.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheUnheardoliviavinallniccifrenchaudiobookswfhowes #NetGalley

I: #niccifrench @wfhowes

T: @FrenchNicci @WFHowes

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #domesticdrama #murdermystery #psychologicalthriller #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Nicci Gerrard was born in June 1958 in Worcestershire. After graduating with a first class honours degree in English Literature from Oxford University, she began her first job, working with emotionally disturbed children in Sheffield.

Sean French was born in May 1959 in Bristol, to a British father and Swedish mother. He too studied English Literature at Oxford University at the same time as Nicci, also graduating with a first class degree, but their paths didn’t cross until 1990.

Sean and Nicci were married in Hackney in October 1990. Their daughters, Hadley and Molly, were born in 1991 and 1993.

In 1995 Nicci and Sean began work on their first joint novel and adopted the pseudonym of Nicci French. Nicci and Sean also continue to write separately.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to W.F. Howes Ltd via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Unheard by Nicci French for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I am currently reading two books, both of which I have only just started: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her. 

And The Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland

Our new home was supposed to be a chance to leave our past behind. But was moving here the worst mistake of our lives?

All our friends and family were gathered, glasses raised to toast our fresh start. It should have been a night for happiness and celebration. Zac and I had worked so hard for this: our first home together, just minutes from the sea. But the dream quickly turned into a nightmare…

We’d invited our neighbours too. I wanted to make a good impression – to show them we’re exactly the sort of people they want living on their street.

I hadn’t thought about who they might be, the strangers I was letting in.

It was going so well. There was laughter in the air and the wine was flowing. But then I noticed the narrowed eyes, the whispers.

And then the lights went out.

As my heart thumped in my chest, all the little things that had been going wrong since we moved here flashed through my mind: the food poisoning, the arguments, the flood of nasty reviews shaking my business.

Am I going crazy? Or is someone trying to destroy us?

I am 3/4 of the way through listening to The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021

I didn’t much like this collection after the first two stories, but after these they became far more interesting.

This week I am planning on reading Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

And The Parents by Claire Seeber

Moving to this village was supposed to be a fresh start for me and my thirteen-year-old son Harry. After the tragic death of my husband, it was a chance to leave everything bad behind and make better memories at Primrose Cottage, the postcard-perfect house with honeysuckle around the door.

However, things haven’t exactly been easy since we arrived, and after what we’ve been though, I’m scared of letting anyone new into our lives.

But when one of the local dads asks Harry to join the weekend sports club, I find myself saying yes. The smile on my son’s face gives me hope that I might have made the right decision in uprooting our lives.

All the other parents seem so kind in welcoming me into the fold. At least, they are to begin with… Until someone begins anonymously exposing secrets about everyone in the group.

As betrayals surface and the claws come out, I see how imperfect these people really are; and how far they’ll go to hide the truth. Then when one of the parents ends up dead at the end of a party, I realise that it’s not just lies and scandal they’re covering up.

Too late, I realise that I should have stayed away…

And I plan to listen to Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

Eight strangers.
One island.
A secret you’d kill to keep.

When eight people arrive on the beautiful but remote Buidseach Island, they are ready for the challenge of a lifetime: to live alone for one year.

Eighteen months later, a woman is found in an isolated fishing village. She’s desperate to explain what happened to her: how the group fractured and friends became enemies; how they did what they must to survive until the boat came to collect them; how things turned deadly when the boat didn’t come…

But first Maddy must come to terms with the devastating secret that left them stranded, and her own role in the events that saw eight arrive and only three leave.

Only three new ARCs this week. They are: The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

and Prose and Cons by Wendy Corsi Straub

In my bookish travels this week,I have been all over the world in The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021; Sydney, Australia; Kent, England; and Boston, Massachusetts. Have we crossed paths this week?

Sorry about the brevity of the this post but I have worked through the entire week and am still a week away from my next day off. Going to make dinner, soak in bath with one of my books, then head off to bed. Enjoy the remainder of your weekend. ❤📚

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

EXCERPT: The waitress approached the table . . . noting how they each sat in the same distinctive way, with their ankles locked around the front legs of their chairs, as if to prevent them from sliding away.

‘Excuse me?’

They didn’t hear her. They were all talking at once, their voices overlapping. They were definitely related. They even sounded similar: low,deep, husky-edged voices. People with sore throats and secrets.

‘She’s not technically missing. She sent us that text.’

‘I just can’t believe she’s not answering her phone. She always answers.’

‘Dad mentioned her new bike is gone.’

‘What? That’s bizarre.’

‘So . . . she just cycled off down the street and into the sunset?’

‘But she didn’t take her helmet. Which I find very weird.’

‘I think it’s time we reported her missing.’

‘It’s over a week now. That’s too long.’

‘Like I said, she’s not technically -‘

‘She is the very definition of missing because we don’t know where she is.’

The waitress raised her voice to the point where it was perilously close to rude. ‘Are you ready to order yet?’

They didn’t hear her.

‘Has anyone been over to the house yet?’

‘Dad told me please don’t come over. He’s “very busy”.’

‘Very busy? What’s he so busy doing?’

The waitress shuffled alongside them, in between the chairs and the wall, so that one of them might see her.

‘You know what could happen if we reported her missing?’ The better looking of the two men spoke. He wore a long sleeved linen shirt rolled up to the elbows; shorts and shoes without socks. He was in his early thirties, the waitress guessed, with a goatee and the low-level charismatic charm of a reality star or a real estate agent. ‘They’d suspect Dad.’

‘Suspect Dad of what?’ asked the other man, a shabbier, chunkier, cheaper version of the first. Instead of a goatee, he just needed a shave.

‘That he . . . you know.’ The expensive version brother drew his finger across his neck.

The waitress went very still. This was the best conversation she’d overheard since she’d started waitressing.

‘Jesus, Troy.’ The cheaper version brother exhaled. ‘That’s not funny.’

The other man shrugged. ‘The police will ask if they argued. Dad said they did argue.’

‘But surely – ‘

‘Maybe Dad did have something to do with it,’ said the youngest of the four, a woman wearing a short orange dress dotted with white daisies over a swimsuit knotted at the neck. Her hair was dyed blue (the waitress coveted that exact shade), and it was tied back in a sticky, wet, tangled knot at her neck. There was a fine sheen of sandy sunscreen on her arms as if she’d just that moment walked off the beach, even though they were at least a forty minute drive from the coast. ‘Maybe he snapped. Maybe he finally snapped.’

ABOUT ‘APPLES NEVER FALL’: The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

MY THOUGHTS: Apples Never Fall is an excellent family drama/mystery that delves into family dynamics with disarming honesty and more than a little humour. I laughed as I recognized shades of myself and my three brothers in these conversations. Even Savannah was startlingly familiar. Though the cuckoo in our nest was called Sharilyn, and she was far more benign than Savannah.

Moriarty has a definite talent for characterisation. Her characters are vibrant and alive, and tend to leap off the page and move into your life for the duration of the book. This, combined with her devious mind which conjures up intriguing mysteries, guarantees a read that just can’t be put down.

Like an onion, the layers of the Delaney family are peeled back one by one, revealing their insecurities, their resentments, their petty jealousies, their disappointments, their fears. Like most families, they have wallpapered over the cracks in their lives, given up on their dreams, settled for second best, all the time telling themselves that it’s just life, that this is the reality of adulthood. But when Savannah intrudes and Joy goes missing, the plasters are ripped off, the wounds and battle scars exposed for all to see. There are some shocking revelations and surprises!

Although the mystery of Joy’s disappearance is always there, it is not the main focus of the story. It is merely a vehicle for the dissection of a family unit under pressure; an examination of their values, their loyalties, their coping strategies. I would be interested to learn if Brooke ever has another migraine.

Apples Never Fall had me laughing and, at one point, snivelling into a fistful of tissues. Moriarty put my emotions through the wringer. Apples Never Fall is an irresistible read. It’s charming, and surprising, just what I have come to expect from one of my favourite authors.

What I wasn’t expecting was that final chapter. Stunning!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#ApplesNeverFall #NetGalley

I: #lianemoriarty @macmillanaus

T: #LianeMoriarty @MacmillanAus

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery

THE AUTHOR: She lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter. When she’s not writing she can be found reading, demanding coffee, being taken for a brisk walk by her Labrador, skiing like she’s thirty years younger than she is, recovering from skiing injuries, talking to old friends about getting old, and begging her children for help with technology.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty 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