The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson

EXCERPT: Saffron: It’s not Miles I have problems with, but you, Caprice. His mother. A frail and lonely widow, with kind eyes and a swan-like neck? Or the mother-in-law from hell with a witches cackle for a laugh? Either way, you have infiltrated our lives.

ABOUT ‘THE UNWELCOME GUEST’: Saffron vowed to love Miles no matter what life threw at them both. But when her mother-in-law moves into their happy family home, Saffron’s shiny life begins to tarnish.

Even as Caprice’s barbed comments turn to something more sinister, Saffron hopes the new nanny’s arrival will shield her from the worst of it. She’s starting to feel paranoid in her own home.

Little does she realise that Caprice longs for a new daughter-in-law – and she’ll do anything to make that happen…

MY THOUGHTS: I thought my first mother-in-law was the MIL from hell, but compared to Caprice, she was a mere amateur. Mind you, she never had Caprice’s resources.

The Unwelcome Guest is told from many points of view, probably too many. Saffron; her husband Miles; Caprice, Miles’ mother; Hayley, the nanny; and Aiden, Miles’ brother.

I did a read/listen of The Unwelcome Guest as I was lucky enough to receive both the Kindle and Audio ARC. The audio has 5 narrators, which should have been a bonus,but in the end irked me. Let me explain. Instead of each narrator doing their own character’s voice, they merely read the chapter from their character’s point of view. So we have the narrator telling Saffron’s point of view doing all the characters voices in that chapter. Most of the time it was okay. But Hayley, the nanny, came from New Zealand, and one of the narrators made an absolute hash of her accent, giving her a distinctive Aussie twang. If the production is going to have a different narrator for each character, is it really that much of a stretch to have them do their own character’s voices?

I loved the idea of The Unwelcome Guest, but because we knew what an evil old cow Caprice was and what she was up to throughout, it killed the suspense.

But if you are looking for a quick, easy and entertaining read, or you have the mother-in-law from hell, The Unwelcome Guest will fit the bill nicely. There’s not much depth to any of the characters, but that doesn’t really seem to matter. There’s not much reason, either, to like any of them but, again, that hardly seems to matter. Probably the nicest of the bunch, other than the children, is Julie, Aiden’s ex-wife and Saffron’s PA. Oh, did I mention that she is also Miles’s ex-girlfriend?

Don’t go into this expecting mystery or suspense. You won’t get it. What you will get is an easy, fun read with a couple of satisfying twists at the end.

Other than my above niggle about the narration, I thought the narrators did an excellent job.

⭐⭐⭐.8

I: @amandarobsonauthor #harpercollinsukaudio @avonbooksuk

T: @AmandaRobson @HarperCollinsUK @AvonBooksUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #familydrama

THE AUTHOR: After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and at the Poisons Unit at Guy’s Hospital, where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning. Amanda attended the Faber novel writing course and writes full-time.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK and Harper Collins UK audio via Netgalley for providing digital and audio ARCs of The Unwelcome Guest written by Amanda Robson, narrated by John Hopkins, Claire Vousden, Olivia Mace, Natalie Beran and Thomas Delacourt 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

What’s Not Said, and What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor

EXCERPT: Kassie spent much of the first half of their marriage trying to save it, and most of the second half trying to escape it.

Several years ago, well at least over the last four to be sure, she’d start each year with one goal: get the hell out. And then something unpredictable, either work or family related, derailed her, making her put off what she knew deep in her heart she had to do.

ABOUT ‘WHAT’S NOT SAID’: Kassie O’Callaghan’s meticulous plans to divorce her emotionally abusive husband, Mike, and move in with Chris, a younger man she met five years ago on a solo vacation in Venice, are disrupted when she finds out Mike has chronic kidney disease—something he’s concealed from her for years. Once again, she postpones her path to freedom—at least, until she pokes around his pajama drawer and discovers his illness is the least of his deceits.

But Kassie is no angel, either. As she struggles to justify her own indiscretions, the secret lives she and Mike have led collide head-on, revealing a tangled web of sex, lies, and DNA. Still, mindful of her vows, Kassie commits to helping her husband find an organ donor. In the process, she uncovers a life-changing secret. Problem is, if she reveals it, her own immorality will be exposed, which means she has an impossible decision to make: Whose life will she save—her husband’s or her own?

MY THOUGHTS: I started What’s Not Said by Valerie Taylor with high hopes. Unfortunately, as I read, I became increasingly disenchanted. No doubt there are plenty of people who have marriages like Kassie and Mike. But the more I read of them, the less I liked them, and I really didn’t care what happened to them. They were as bad as one another and probably deserved each other.

Then we meet Kassie’s lover, and the storyline deteriorated even more. Large tracts are given over to the characters sexual exploits. While it is not explicit I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable and I found myself skimming and even skipping pages. By the time I got to 44% I was skipping more than I was reading, so I decided to abandon this read.

I am no prude and I don’t mind sex scenes in my reading matter as long as it is relevant and fitting. With What’s Not Said, I felt that the storyline (if indeed there was one) existed merely as a device to string the sex scenes together.

After my experience with What’s Not Said, I have absolutely no desire to read What’s Not True.

I am well aware that I am very much on my own with my feelings on What’s Not Said, and that it may well be a book that you enjoy, so please check out a selection of the very many positive reviews.

#WhatsNotSaid #NetGalley

I: @valerieetaylor @ shewritespress

T: @TaylorsTracker

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama

THE AUTHOR: Valerie Taylor was born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut. She earned a B.S. Marketing degree and an MBA from Sacred Heart University, as well as a graduate certificate in health care administration from Simmons University (formerly Simmons College). She had a thirty-year career in the financial services industry as a marketer and writer.

After her divorce, she spread her wings and relocated her career to Boston and then to Seattle. When she retired, she resettled in her home state to be near her two grown children and granddaughter. She enjoys practicing tai chi and being an expert sports spectator.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to She Writes Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of What’s Not Said by Valerie Taylor 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 Affair by Hilary Boyd

EXCERPT: The silence in the car was profound, as if she’d suddenly gone deaf.

‘Are you completely out of your mind?’ she whispered, all strength gone from her body.

With a puzzled frown, he leaned over and put both his hands firmly on her crossed forearms, staring intently into her eyes. ‘You look terrified, Connie.’ He drew back a bit. ‘Oh,my God . . . you’re not worried about your husband finding out about us, are you?’ He sighed. ‘You know I’d never betray you. I will never tell a living soul what happened between us, not in a million years.’ He smiled his gentle smile. ‘I just want to be near you.’

ABOUT ‘THE AFFAIR’: Connie McCabe longs for the summer where she spends the days leading tours across the continent.

But it’s on the glamorous shores of Lake Como where she is truly swept away, when Jared, a much younger man, falls for her.

Despite resisting his advances, Connie finds that he’s got under her skin.

And so begins a long, hot, intoxicating summer where Connie succumbs to temptation – breaking her marriage vows.

At the end of the season, Connie returns home to her husband, ready to put this affair behind her.

MY THOUGHTS: Hilary Boyd writes about how easy it is to make a wrong decision when vulnerable. Decisions, actions and consequences are the theme of The Affair.

Connie is an extremely relatable character. Who amongst us has never felt unappreciated, has never wondered if their significant other may have fallen out of love, be bored by them. Who has never felt exasperated by their partner, lost patience with them? Whose marriage has never gone through a rough patch, where you seem to have lost your connection, to be moving in different directions? We’d all like to think that it would never happen to us, but chances are it has, or it will.

Devan, Connie’s husband is a retired G.P. who, now he doesn’t have a purpose in his life, is feeling lost and resentful towards his wife who continues, despite his pleas for her to retire with him, with the job she loves.

Jared is a younger man dancing attendance on his elderly godmother on one of Connie’s tours. One evening, he kisses her . . . and Connie’s life will never be the same.

The Affair is a great cautionary tale, one everyone should read, because what happens after?

Hilary Boyd has written a story that begins as a small meandering stream which gathers power and develops into a raging torrent, one that swept me off my feet.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheAffair #NetGalley

I: @hilaryboyd3837 @michaeljbooks

T: @HilaryBoyd @MichaelJBooks

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mentalhealth #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Boyd was born and spent the first six months of her life in Prestatyn, North Wales, where her father, an army major, was stationed after the war. She was later educated in London, then at the boarding school Roedean. She trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and subsequently as a marriage guidance counsellor with Relate before reading English Literature at London University in her late 30s.

After college, Boyd became a health journalist, writing about depression, step-parenting and pregnancy. She began writing fiction as a hobby whilst raising three children and working at various day jobs including running a cancer charity, Survive Cancer, working for an engineering company, and an online vitamin site.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin, Michael Joseph via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Affair by Hilary Boyd 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

56 Days by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: He made his way to the checkouts where he saw that she was just about to join the line – perfect timing, but whose? – and he’d hung back so she’d have to do it in front of him, and that’s when she’d stopped and looked up and their eyes had met.

A flash of something – surprise? Recognition? – crosses her face just as he thinks to himself, I’ve seen her somewhere before.

Somewhere else, in different circumstances.

But where?

‘It’s okay,’ she mumbles, waving the bottle of water she’s holding in her right hand. ‘I’ve just realised I’ve got the wrong one.’

She turns on her heel and hurries off in the opposite direction.

And now he thinks, Gotcha.

He knew coming back to Ireland would be a risk, but he had presumed that enough time had passed for him to be yesterday’s news. Besides, anyone interested in exposing him would have to find him first. He goes by his mother’s maiden name now. He’s severed all contact with anyone he knew or had known on the day he left London, save for two people: his brother, who can be trusted, and Dan, who is professionally obligated to be. Oliver has a better cover story now and is more practised at sticking to it. He doesn’t take risks. He won’t take them.

There can’t be a repeat of what happened in London.

But now he’s seen this vaguely familiar woman swinging her little space shuttle bag in the supermarket across from his office every day for five days in a row, at a slightly different time each day, and it’s got him paranoid.

Who is she, really?

What is she?

ABOUT ’56 DAYS’: No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, what a tangled web Catherine Ryan-Hyde has woven! Intriguing and at times perplexing, 56 Days is set in the earliest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the author has used this event very cleverly and to great effect. But it is only one of many layers in this story where it seems everyone is hiding something.

I was immediately immersed in the storyline and didn’t come up for air until past halfway through. Ryan-Hyde has taken us back to a time of great change, of fear, of uncertainty, of almost alien landscapes, deserted streets, and suspicion, and dropped into the midst of this two equally suspicious characters who are, while attracted, also circling one another warily.

The suspense is palpable and I was twisted in knots as I tried to figure out where the author was taking me. The plot is set over several timelines and the story told from the points of view of Ciara, Oliver, and the DI investigating the case. It starts at 56 days before the body is discovered, and we follow Ciara’s and Oliver’s story moving forward, with occasional forays into their past. At the same time we follow the investigation into the death, of whom I’m not saying. Now, usually I am fine with multiple timelines, but just occasionally I was thrown and had to frantically page back to check when I was reading about. This was probably more inattention on my part than any fault of the author. Also, we are occasionally shown the same event from multiple viewpoints, which does lead to a certain amount of repetition, not all of which was warranted.

But as far as predicting what was going to happen, the author stumped me. There were a few things I almost got right, but not entirely.

I really enjoyed 56 Days, the second book I have read by this author, and I look forward to reading more from her.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#56Days #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @blackstonepublishing

T: @cryanhyde @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #crime #irishfiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Catherine Ryan Howard is an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork, Ireland. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida. She still wants to be an astronaut when she grows up.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of 56 Days by Catherine Ryan-Hyde 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

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Now.

Ava Lancet peered through the unrelenting night as she fought down a growing sense of panic. Darkness had fallen twenty minutes ago and she had no idea where she was – or where she was meant to go.

She glanced at the map crumpled on the passenger seat of her rental car, wishing that the agent had provided a GPS instead of the seemingly obsolete, old-fashioned fold-out map that he’d assured her would help her drive from Athens to the tiny village of Iousidous. And perhaps it would have if she could have made sense of the wiggly lines and incomprehensible Greek names. Not that reading Greek even mattered now because darkness had fallen and she could barely make out the road signs on Greece’s National Highway.

She’d been in this country just a few hours and already she was completely lost, both literally and figuratively. Spiritually, emotionally, hopelessly lost. A fortnight ago, escaping a cold wet spring in England had seemed like a wonderful idea, a desperate lifeline since her own life – and marriage – had been put on hold. That’s how Ava liked to think of it anyway, because to consider anything else was too final. Too much of a failure.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE OLIVE GROVE’: When Ava arrives in Greece, it’s with a heart that’s shattered into a thousand pieces. But as she pulls up in a tiny village nestled on a cliff above the glittering Ionian Sea, and steps out in front of a tumbledown house that once belonged to her grandmother Sophia, everything changes.

At first Ava almost wants to laugh at this bizarre inheritance—a home that has been uninhabited since the Second World War—that appears as close to collapse as she herself feels. But with nowhere left to run to, her only choice is to start putting the house together again.

What Ava doesn’t expect is for pieces of her grandmother’s story to emerge, as a local survivor from the war begins to share her secrets. Ava can’t help but be drawn to Sophia’s hidden past… even though the truth could change her own life forever.

Because Sophia’s story is one of devastating choices she had to make during the Nazi invasion of her beloved country. It’s a story of bravery, betrayal and tragedy. But most of all, it is a story about love…

MY THOUGHTS: I am a definite starter for books where the main character is left a house, and uncovers a mystery, so I knew as soon as I saw it that I absolutely must read this book. I have read Kate Hewitt before and enjoyed her, so I knew that I was in for a good read.

Hewitt has described rural Greece beautifully – not that I have ever been there, unfortunately – but just as I have seen it on travel documentaries. In Ava’s ‘now’, there is a dearth of young people in the village, but the villagers of a similar age to Ava, or her mother, are friendly, welcoming and helpful, while the older generations are more reserved and distrustful.

Sophia’s ‘then’ in 1942, has a totally different atmosphere. It is a time of poverty and fear, with many different political factions trying to seize control. There are communists, nazis and fascists all competing against one another, each in their own way equally dangerous. Sophia is content to keep her head down, her opinions to herself, and just get on with her work at the café. But other people have vastly different plans for her.

I didn’t know much about Greece in WWII, so Beyond the Olive Grove was a bit of an education for me. Please make sure you read Kate’s letter at the end of the book. I learned so much more from it, including that Sophia’s story is based on both real events and people.

I liked Beyond the Olive Grove, but regretfully didn’t love it. In all honesty I felt Ava’s story detracted from Sophia’s with her marriage and emotional dramas. A good read, but for me one that I probably won’t be able to recall in a couple of weeks.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#BeyondtheOliveGrove #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Kate likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt 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 had no idea when I posted last Sunday that my next Sunday post would find New Zealand in lockdown, but here we are! I really am not complaining though. We went into lockdown on Wednesday, which I spent most of at work, shutting everything off and down. I went back to work Friday for a few hours to pay the taxes – even under lockdown, the government still expects to be paid – and touching base with our staff to make sure everyone is okay. 3:00 p.m. today we will be advised if lockdown is to be extended beyond Monday. I would lay money that it will as case numbers are still climbing daily, and they’re currently trying to trace over 5,000 contacts of those who are infected.

Still, we’ve been here before and no doubt will be here again. I am enjoying the break, although I will be back at work tomorrow to pay staff and apply for the wage subsidy and whatever else is available. In meantime we have been stripping wallpaper from the lounge walls and plastering, ready to paint. We are lucky that we can go online and order everything we need and have it delivered. Got to love the internet!

Anyway, let’s get to the real reason we’re here – books. Currently I am reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, a new author for me. Connie, the main character, is a tour guide and I have enjoyed touring through Italy, Poland and the north of Scotland with her.

I am about to start Darkness Falls by David Mark

And I am doing a read/listen to The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson. If you think your mother-in-law is the one from hell, check out Caprice!

This week I planning on reading What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor.

With the court date set for her divorce and the future she’d planned with a younger man presumably kaput, Kassie O’Callaghan shifts attention to reviving her stalled marketing career. But that goal gets complicated when she unexpectedly rendezvous with her former lover in Paris. After a chance meeting with a colleague and a stroll along Pont Neuf, Kassie receives two compelling proposals. Can she possibly accept them both?

Kassie’s decision process screeches to a halt when her soon-to-be ex-husband has a heart attack, forcing her to fly home to Boston. There, she confronts his conniving and deceitful fiancée—a woman who wants not just a ring on her finger but everything that belongs to Kassie. In the ensuing battle to protect what’s legally and rightfully hers, Kassie discovers that sometimes it’s what’s not true that can set you free.

But first I need to read What’s Not Said, the first in the series, which I also have on my shelf.

Kassie O’Callaghan’s meticulous plans to divorce her emotionally abusive husband, Mike, and move in with Chris, a younger man she met five years ago on a solo vacation in Venice, are disrupted when she finds out Mike has chronic kidney disease—something he’s concealed from her for years. Once again, she postpones her path to freedom—at least, until she pokes around his pajama drawer and discovers his illness is the least of his deceits.

But Kassie is no angel, either. As she struggles to justify her own indiscretions, the secret lives she and Mike have led collide head-on, revealing a tangled web of sex, lies, and DNA. Still, mindful of her vows, Kassie commits to helping her husband find an organ donor. In the process, she uncovers a life-changing secret. Problem is, if she reveals it, her own immorality will be exposed, which means she has an impossible decision to make: Whose life will she save—her husband’s or her own.

And The Selling Point by Marci Bolden.

Darby Zamora has always gotten by with work that suits her unique way of life, but success hasn’t exactly come easy. A former bridal seamstress, Darby gave up making custom gowns years ago. Her heart was always too big for her business’s pocketbook, until she comes up with a way to make an old business new again: The Un-Do Wedding Boutique.

Selling dresses online in her bridal consignment shop has merchandise flying off the virtual shelves. People are lining up not only to buy the dress overstock that Darby’s been holding onto, but she has new clients desperate for her to help them re-sell their unused wedding items.

But success comes at a steep price when ghosts from her past resurface and make Darby and her new company confront harsh realities of life and business. With the help of her friends Jade and Taylor, Darby is forced to reassess her business, rediscover herself, and ultimately find her selling point. 

Although, again, I need to read the first in the series, The Restarting Point.

Marketing executive and mother of two, Jade Kelly can now add cancer survivor to her list of successes. But while her life looks good on paper, four months out of treatment, Jade realizes she hardly knows her college-age children and she and her husband Nick are little more than housemates.

Determined to start over, Jade schedules a family vacation to a lakefront cabin. When her kids bail and Nick stays home to handle a last minute work crisis, Jade heads to Chammont Point alone, determined to dust herself off and figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

While she’s away, the life she thought she had unravels. Secrets, lies, and old wounds drive Jade into new adventures and new relationships. With the help of family and new found friends, Jade learns starting over sometimes means finding a brand new restarting point.

So fingers crossed that lockdown continues, otherwise I won’t get the lounge finished, or meet my reading target.

I have 6 new ARCs this week plus one audio ARC. They are:

A Matter of Time by Claire Askew

Now I Found You by Mila Oliver

The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine, another 2nd book in a series where I still have the first, The Christmas Killer, to read 😱

The Editor’s Wife by Clare Chambers, a new author for me.

Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy, an author adore

And The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

The audio ARC that I received is Whisper Cottage by Ann Wynn Clark and narrated by Lauren Moakes, who I don’t believe I have listened to previously.

Where have your book travels taken you in the past week? I have been in a small village in the mountains of Greece in both 1942 and just prior to Covid; Dublin, Ireland; Warsaw, Poland in 1944 ; and London, England in both 1944 and 2019; and Venice, Lake Como, and Verona, Italy, the north of Scotland, and Somerset, England pre-Covid. Have we crossed paths?

And now I am going to bid you arivederci and watch the final 20 laps of the Indy racing from St Louis, Mo., where rookie Kiwi, Scot McLaughlin is coming 4th!

Happy reading ❤📚

Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

EXCERPT: Twelve year old Sarah Ross reached quickly for the fragrant charm beneath her pillow the same way she would have reached for a parachute ripcord if she’d been rudely pushed from a plane cruising at ten thousand feet. It was only an imaginary fall, one that had propelled her awake, as bad dreams do, but her trembling fingers clutched at the familiar shape of the tiny crocheted mouse like a lifeline. The charm her mother had filled with sage and lemon balm was supposed to help Sarah sleep, and it did, usually, but the dream fall had cannoned her awake with stomach-swooping dread, as if the entire world had disappeared beneath her sleeping body.

This time her knuckles didn’t stop hurting even after the bed solidified beneath her. She wasn’t falling. She was awake. Her soft bedding still smelled of sunshine from its time on the clothesline.

Her hands hurt.

It was only a ghost pain that had haunted her first waking moments since she was a little girl. There was nothing wrong with her fingers, her knuckles, the palms of her hands. The mouse usually banished the pain by grounding her in the real world.

Not this time.

ABOUT ‘WILDWOOD WHISPERS’: At the age of eleven, Mel Smith’s life found its purpose when she met Sarah Ross. Ten years later, Sarah’s sudden death threatens to break her. To fulfill a final promise to her best friend, Mel travels to an idyllic small town nestled in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains. Yet Morgan’s Gap is more than a land of morning mists and deep forest shadows.

There are secrets that call to Mel, in the gaze of the gnarled and knowing woman everyone calls Granny, in a salvaged remedy book filled with the magic of simple mountain traditions, and in the connection, she feels to the Ross homestead and the wilderness around it.

With every taste of sweet honey and tart blackberries, the wildwood twines further into Mel’s broken heart. But a threat lingers in the woods—one that may have something to do with Sarah’s untimely death and that has now set its sight on Mel.

MY THOUGHTS: I was looking forward to listening to Wildwood Whispers, a story of magical realism set in a village in the Adirondacks. But, sorry, this just didn’t strike a chord in my heart. I found it difficult to connect with the characters and found the story very slow moving.

There is no real mystery, because it is apparent very early on, who is responsible. The why takes longer to be revealed, but by then I had lost interest.

I really enjoyed the scenes based around the bees, but the mouse really didn’t work for me. I also felt that the romantic interest wasn’t necessary, and was far too obvious.

The description of the wildwood and the garden interested me, and I would have liked more information about the recipes.

While I usually like audiobooks to have multiple narrators, there was one narrator whose voice grated on my eardrums, which definitely didn’t enhance my experience.

Overall, this was just an average read.

⭐⭐.5

#WildwoodWhispers #NetGalley

I: @willa_reece @hachetteaudio

T: @ReeceWilla @HachetteAudio

#audiobook #fantasy #contemporaryfiction #cult #mystery #paranormal #romance

THE AUTHOR: Besides writing, Willa is devoted to animal rescue and her three scientist sons—a biologist, and an aspiring chemist and physicist. Willa lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where stories are often told on a dark side porch by the flicker of firefly light.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Audio, Orbit via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece 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

Slough House by Mick Herron

EXCERPT: The study remained like a showroom in a vacant property – books, chairs, curtains; the shelf with its odd collection of trophies: a glass globe, a hunk of concrete, a lump of metal that had been a Luger; the desk with its sheet of blotting paper, like something out of Dickens, and the letter opener, which was an actual stiletto, and had once belonged to Beria – and if David Cartwright had left secrets in his wake they’d be somewhere in that room, on those shelves, among a billion other words. River didn’t know if he really believed that, but he knew for sure that he didn’t know he didn’t, and if River thought that way others might too, and act upon the possibility. Spook secrets were dangerous to friends and foes alike, and the old man had made plenty of both down the years. He could see one of either breed breaking a lock, finessing a window; could see them working round the study, looking for clues. If that was happening, River needed to stop it. Any trail his dead grandfather had left, no one was going to follow but him.

ABOUT ‘SLOUGH HOUSE’: Slough House – the crumbling office building to which failed spies, the ‘slow horses’, are banished – has been wiped from secret service records.

Reeling from recent losses in their ranks, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold, and fatal accidents keep happening.

With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, the aftermath of a blunder by the Russian secret service that left a British citizen dead, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.

But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.

MY THOUGHTS: I have never read Mick Herron previously, although I had heard a lot of great things about his writing, and they are all true. I am not known for enjoying spy thrillers, but Slough House is not your traditional spy thriller. Its characters are misfits, those who have failed in some way, who the hierarchy would prefer to forget even exist. Slough House could best be described as a halfway house, but the question would be, halfway to where?

There is a lot of dialogue in Slough House, which I usually don’t like, but Herron’s wonderful one-liners had me almost hysterical at times. His dialogue is also clever in other ways. He has used reasonably recent events as a background for the plot in Slough House, although it was completed prior to the advent of Covid, so there’s no reference to social distancing or the pandemic.

Slough House is #7 in the series, so I had no knowledge of any of the characters going into this book, something I intend to remedy. I became quite fond of this bunch of misfits who, although they outwardly show disdain and contempt for one another, have an underlying and undeniable deep loyalty. I need to know how they got to where they are, what has shaped, or misshapen them. They are a fascinating bunch for whom I feel great affection, and therefore I am going to start this series from the beginning. In fact, I am going to read everything this author has written.

Herron writes with wicked imagery, sardonic wit and black humour, which I love. I rank him right up there with Adrian McKinty and Ken Bruen.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#SloughHouse #NetGalley

I: @johnmurrays

T: @johnmurrays

#contemporaryfiction #crime #humour #spythriller

THE AUTHOR: Mick Herron was born in Newcastle and has a degree in English from Balliol College, Oxford. He is the author of seven books in the Slough House series as well as a mystery series set in Oxford featuring Sarah Tucker and/or P.I. Zoë Boehm. He now lives in Oxford and works in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to John Murray Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Slough House by Mick Herron 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 my webpage

Watching what I’m reading . . .

I have just started reading Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt, a consistently good writer whom I enjoy.

I am also reading Slough House by Mick Herron, my first book by this author. I wasn’t too sure to start with, but this is #7 in the Slough House series, and I haven’t read any of the previous books, something I intend to remedy. Now that I have settled into the read, Herron’s writing style is reminiscent of two of my favourite authors, Adrian McKinty and Ken Bruen.

And I am listening to Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

This week I am planning on reading Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

and The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson

I received 9 new ARCs, plus the audio of The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson, so I will be able to do a read/listen for this. The other ARCs I received are: The Summer We Buried by Jody Gehrman

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt

The Perfect Daughter by Kerry Wilkinson

The Woman on the Beach by Julia Roberts

the Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt, which I am currently reading

and The Selling Point by Marci Bolden

This is #2 in a series, Chsmmont Point, of which I still have the first to read, so I going to try squeeze this in this week. It’s titled The Restarting Point

This week I have spent a lot of time in the Adirondack mountains, both in the present time and during WWII. I have also been in Cincinnati, New York City, and Minnesota in the USA; London, England; and Greece, both in the present time and again during WWII.

Where have you been this week? And did we cross paths at all?

Have a great week everyone. Stay safe and read. ❤📚

The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

EXCERPT: The sound grew louder.

Tennant had no idea she was screaming, too, until she ran out of breath and choked on the air – dirt, dust, flour – all filling her lungs at once. She coughed it back out, forced herself to stand, clawed at the cellar door.

Why had Poppa locked them in?

They’d die down here.

And Momma and Poppa out there?

On the ground at her feet, Sophie’s hands and arms wrapped around her head, her knees pulled close against her chest. Blood dripped from the corners of her eyes, from her button nose, seeped out from between her fingers over her ears. Thick, congealed blood, dark red, nearly black. One of her hands shot out and wrapped around Tennant’s ankles and squeezed so tight the pain brought her back down to the floor.

The sound grew louder.

Tennant wanted to hold her sister, but her arms and legs no longer obeyed her. Her heart drummed against her ribs, threatened to burst. She couldn’t get air, each gasp no better than breathing water. Her eyes rolled back into her head, her vision first went white, then dark, as the walls closed in. The cellar no better than a grave.

ABOUT ‘THE NOISE’: Young sisters, Sophie and Tennant Riggin, are the only two people to withstand a massive explosion that destroys their community, located in the shadow of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

A team of elite government investigators are sent to research the fallout and the girls – why did only they survive? – but with conflicting objectives. For Dr Martha Chan, a psychologist who analyses large-scale medical emergencies: study them. For Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Fraser, a career military leader with an inherent mistrust of civilians: contain them.

But as the disturbance replicates across the Pacific Northwest, it threatens to topple the chain of command. Dr Chan and Lieutenant Colonel Fraser are caught between the perpetrators of the threat – and those who have the power to resist.

MY THOUGHTS: What the hell did I just read? I didn’t read the publicity blurb prior to requesting this, and I never read the publicity blurb before starting reading. The fact that J.D. Barker is co-author was good enough for me. And I hit the jackpot! I am so pleased I never read the blurb; I would never have requested this and I would have missed out on a spectacular read.

The story is told from the points of view of Tennant, the girl whose sister Sophie is affected by The Noise; Martha a psychologist who deals with large scale medical emergencies, and who is called on to study both this emergency and the sisters; Fraser, a career military officer who dislikes and distrusts civilians, and whose job it is to contain both the sisters and those brought in to examine them and the site; and briefly, the President of the United States, who faces a decision that no other president in history has ever faced.

If you are going to pick The Noise up, and I strongly recommend you do, set a day aside with no distractions or interruptions to read it. It’s not a long read, but it is action packed. This is no runaway train. There is no slow start, no build up. This is a bullet train – it starts fast and just gets faster, more suspenseful, more thrilling, and scarier.

Personally, I find the scariest things are those that are possible. The Noise falls into this category. It scared the living bejesus out of me. And I loved it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheNoise #NetGalley #RandomHouse

I: @jamespattersonbooks @jdbarker_author
@randomhouse

T: @JP_Books @ jdbarker @randomhouse

THE AUTHORS: James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today.

J.D. Barker is a New York Times and international bestselling American author of suspense thrillers, often incorporating elements of horror, crime, mystery, science fiction, and the supernatural.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker 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 will also be published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com