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 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

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and illustrated by Jay Cooper

EXCERPT: CRICKET
What a lovely English pastime. A sport where the players wear nice white sweaters, the matches go on for five days, and everyone drinks large quantities of tea and gin. The terminology is so quaint! Wickets, pudding, bunny, teapot, lollipop . . . Just a lovely, civilised time, with players running around a squishy green field with paddle-shaped bats, whacking a rock-hard ball, thinking about how much they resent their teammates. The highest trophy in the cricketing world is literally an urn full of ashes, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.

ABOUT ‘YOUR GUIDE TO NOT GETTING MURDERED IN A QUAINT ENGLISH VILLAGE’: In the England of murder mysteries and TV detectives, no destination is deadlier than a quaint country village, and you never know you’re in a murder village until it’s too late. No attraction or local character is safe–whether in the pub for a pint, or on the manicured grounds of the local estate for a shooting party, bodies can turn up anywhere! Danger lurks around every cobblestone corner. If you are foolish enough to make the trip, at least be prepared.

Brought to life with dozens of Gorey-esque drawings by illustrator Jay Cooper and peppered with allusions to classic crime series and unmistakably British murder lore, Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village gives you the tools you need to avoid the same fate, should you find yourself in a suspiciously cozy English village (or simply dream of going). Good luck, and whatever you do, avoid the vicar.

MY THOUGHTS: A mostly amusing and clever, tongue-in-cheek read for fans of classic English murder mystery series such as Miss Marple and Midsomer Murders, which I devoured along with my breakfast this morning.

I did think the section on the butler could have used a bit more work. After all, isn’t it always the butler?

And a note of warning – don’t do the quizzes! I only got one answer right, and it still killed me.

Not to be taken seriously, unless, of course, you are planning on visiting a quaint English Village.

I wonder if a body has ever been concealed in the thatch of one of those lovely chocolate-box cottages?

⭐⭐⭐.5

#YourGuidetoNotGettingMurderedinaQuaintEnglishVillage #NetGalley

I: @maureenjohnsonbooks @clarksonpotter @tenspeedpress

T: @maureenjohnson @TenSpeedPress

#humour #practicalguide #crime

THE AUTHOR: Maureen Johnson is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle (now on Netflix), and several works in the Shadowhunter universe with Cassandra Clare. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and illustrated by Jay Cooper 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. ❤📚

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

EXCERPT: She felt tears begin, felt their dampness on her face, and she wiped them away with the back of her hand, furious, and terrified. She wanted her mother, she wanted her father, she wanted someone, anyone, to come help her and fix this, and take care of her and tell her what to do. She pressed her palms to her face, trying to hold it all in and make it go away and when she opened her eyes, Jem would be laughing at her. And she’d be so mad. Then she’d storm out of here and never see this idiot again.

She stared at him, ignoring her own tears now, willing him to be joking with her, some stupid insane boy joke, and she’d laugh, she promised she would. But Jem’s face, serene and still, and blood on his cheek, seemed to taunt her.

There could be no more wishful thinking. She had to do something.

She took a deep shuddering breath.

Okay. She knew what to do. First, stop being hysterical. Then call 911. She reached for the receiver of the black phone on the end table, the one that Jem had probably used to call his friend. She stopped, hand in midair, halfway to the phone.

Jem had called his friend. Who was on his way here. She felt her heart racing, constricting, making it difficult to breathe. Whoever showed up here – Jem’s friend or the ambulance people, or whoever – would find her here in this apartment.

What if he even died?

ABOUT ‘HER PERFECT LIFE’: Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?

MY THOUGHTS: There is no such thing as a perfect life, no matter what we see on social media. But, to all her followers and fans, that is what TV star Lily Atwood has, a myth perpetuated by her sycophantic producer, Greer. As long as Lily is adored and successful, Greer has job security. But there are things about Lily that not even Greer knows. In fact, there’s a lot about Lily that Greer doesn’t know. Only Greer doesn’t know that she doesn’t know. At least not until the mysterious ‘Mr Smith’, source of some of their most successful stories, puts her in the picture. But ‘Mr Smith’ has his own agenda. He is a master manipulator.

Lily
has skeletons in her closet. Things she is torn about. Does she want her sister back in her life if she can find her, or would finding Cassie put everything she holds dear in danger?

Lily spends her life exposing other people’s secrets and misdemeanors. She is focused; on her career, her daughter. In order to protect her secrets, she never lets anyone get close to her. So how is she going to feel, and what is she going to do when her past, her secrets, are in danger of being exposed?

I was very ambivalent about Lily’s character. She comes across as hard boiled, but daughter Lily is her Achilles heel.

One thing struck me as very odd – she doesn’t actually do any work whatsoever at any point in this novel! And come to think of it, Greer doesn’t do that much either.

Despite several stupid decisions on both their parts, Her Perfect Life is a twisty mystery. What happened to Cassie? Is she alive somewhere? If she is, why hasn’t she contacted her baby sister? After all, Lily’s not exactly hard to find. Or is she dead, her body hidden by her killers? And does Lily really want to know? After all, once you know something, it’s difficult to unknow.

The chapters are short and sharp, and are told from the points of view of Lily, Greer, and Cassie (retrospective). There are a lot of surprises, one of which is absolutely jaw-dropping. I felt sucker-punched!

This is a mostly tense, and definitely twisty thriller. The characters decisions aren’t always rational, but whose are when under pressure, and there are perceived threats to a loved one?

As I said, mostly tense. There were a few places I found repetitive. But only a few. I liked Her Perfect Life, a lot. But I didn’t love it like The First to Lie.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#HerPerfectLife #NetGalley

I: @hankpryan @macmillanusa

T: @MacmillanUSA

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Hank Phillippi Ryan is an American investigative reporter for Channel 7 News on WHDH-TV, a local television station in Boston, Massachusetts. She is also an author of mystery novels.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan 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 . . .

Well, my requesting finger went into overdrive this week because I have eleven (yes 11) new ARCs on my shelf. As they say, it never rains, but it pours!

Amazon are currently not accepting my reviews because I haven’t spent enough money with them. Apparently the books I buy for Pete don’t count. 🤷‍♀️ So I have had a flurry of purchases over the past few days, but still no joy. Maybe I will have to wait until Monday USA time for it to update.

Currently I am reading Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life? 

And Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, one of my new ARCs this week.

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. 

I am enjoying both these books immensely.

I am listening to The Unheard by Nicci French, another this week’s ARCs. Also excellent.

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.

This week I am planning on reading The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) by Richard Osman

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?

I am working the next two weeks straight as I have staff away on leave, so am not overcommitting myself.

The ARCs I received this week, in addition to Apples Never Fall and The Unheard, are:

A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristin Harper

The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope

Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

Past Life by David Mark

Where There’s a Will by Sulari Gentill

The Devil’s Choir by Michael Michaud

Many Deadly Returns, 21 stories celebrating 21 years of the Murder Squad

Stranded, an audio ARC written by Sarah Goodwin and narrated by Esme Sears

Another audio ARC, The Best Mystery Stories of 2021

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

and, finally, an Australian novel, A Little Bird by Wendy James

Thank you to all the enablers out there whose reviews I have read and decided that I can’t live without reading that book, and whose TBR piles have revealed gems that I simply must read. No need to name you all – you know who you are.

I still have 21 pending requests. 🤦‍♀️

This week I have been to Barcelona, Spain; North Devon, England, Austria, France and Panama (1914 – 1935) ; Stamford, Connecticut; and Weybridge in Surrey. Have we crossed paths? Where have your travels taken you this week?

Have a wonderful week of reading, and stay safe my friends ❤📚

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

EXCERPT: She could see the man now, and moved slowly towards him, frightened already of what she might find. He’d have responded to her shout, jumped to his feet, called out a greeting in return. Put his arms around her. And she was scared because she still had an image of her father, lying on her studio floor in a pool of blood.

There was blood here too, and a shard of glass, her glass, not green this time, but blue, was sticking in his neck. A blue vase had been shattered here – she remembered making it and giving it to Frank Ley as a present – and there were pieces of glass scattered across the bench, reflecting the single beam of the sun. Blood had spattered across the bench and as far as the nearest wall. She pulled her gaze back to the pieces of glass, which looked almost decorative in the shaft of sunlight, and wondered how they had got here – anything rather than look at (X), who was still and white, stark against the red pool of blood, already dried and dark in the heat – and was deciding she should phone 999 when there was a sound outside. The screaming of sirens and the thumping of boots, loud and rhythmic as soldiers’ drums, on the uneven concrete, and half a dozen police officers ran in through the doors, yelling for her to get on her knees and put her hands on her head.

ABOUT ‘THE HERON’S CRY’: North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

MY THOUGHTS: It has been said that Ann Cleeves is a master of her craft, and I am not going to disagree. She paints fluent pictures of her characters and their environs, drawing the reader into their dramas.

Matthew, despite his rank and his success in his role still suffers, at times, from a lack of confidence. He is logical and orderly, and can come across as cold and unfeeling, in direct contrast to his more spontaneous and warm-hearted husband Jonathan. This difference in their natures creates a few problems in their relationship in The Heron’s Cry. Matthew is also ambivalent in his feelings about Ross May,a young man with great potential, but who is Chief Superintendent Oldham’s prodigy and, often, his ear to the ground.

I like that we learn significantly more about Ross May and his wife Mel in The Heron’s Cry. He came across as quite an unlikable character in the first book of the series, but in this, we see a lot of growth and he begins to shine, although Matthew continues to be wary of him and gives Jen Rafferty a lot of the responsibility that Ross thinks is his due.

The plot is superb, encompassing murders that appear to have no obvious motive, but are linked by method and weapon. This is not a fast paced crime novel, but one that is very much character driven. Several of the characters from The Long Call appear again – I was so pleased to see Lucy and her dad back – along several new characters.

If you are looking for a thriller, you’re in the wrong place. But if you enjoy a well crafted murder mystery, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Heron’s Cry. And, while it is possible to read this as a stand-alone, you will miss out on vital information about relationships and character development.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheHeronsCry #NetGalley

I: #anncleeves @panmacmillan

T: @AnnCleeves @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: THE AUTHOR: Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs – child care officer, women’s refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard – before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.

While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person’s not heavily into birds – and Ann isn’t – there’s not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. A couple of these books are seriously dreadful.

In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves 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

A Dream to Die For by Susan Z. Ritz

EXCERPT: Larry talked right over her. ‘I’m serious here, Cel. If ya wanna keep working with me, then ya gotta keep up. How many times do I gotta say it? You go right back to the same old defensive patterns. Look at how you’re sitting, all locked up around yourself, keeping that heart all suited up for battle, but afraid to make a move. Am I right?’

Celeste shook her head, staring down. She watched as a fat tear from each eye fell into her lap, and then she hugged herself tighter. How could he still have this much power over her? Do it, goddamn it, she yelled inside her head. Tell him!

‘I’m not -‘

‘Feel the pain,’ Pete squawked, drowning out her whispered words.

Larry wasn’t listening to her, anyway. ‘Like how you still got that ring on.’

Celeste protectively covered the engagement ring with her right hand. Jake had designed it for her before he’d even asked her to marry him – a sapphire, her birthstone, a sky blue Ceylon surrounded by diamond chips in an antique white gold setting – the most beautiful thing she’d ever owned, better than anything she’d ever imagined – though engagement rings had never been something she’d thought much about.

‘Jesus, Cel, when are you ever going to let go and move on in your life? Don’t you know it’s over with Jake? We’ve gone around and around on this. Your dreams are crystal clear, even if you refuse to believe them. Jake’s no good for you; he’s holding you back, keeping you from surrendering to the Dreamscape, to Dreamland. Let go of him. The choice is clear. You can’t keep living this double life.’ Larry shook his head, puckering his lips as if he wanted to spit. ‘Jeez, just make your mind up once and for all.’

Celeste felt her face flush red. ‘Jake’s none of your business, Larry. In fact, I’m . . . this is . . .’ She drew in her breath, trying to summon her earlier resolve, but just as she was about to get the practiced words out, Larry exploded from his chair, arms outstretched, hands waving like signals in the air. He suddenly looked like a furious dwarf out of some Grimm’s fairytale, bellowing and snorting at her as he shot out from behind his desk on his stumpy little legs.

‘No, I’m just your therapist! Are you fucking kidding me? Everything’s my business! When are you going to finally get that?’

ABOUT ‘A DREAM TO DIE FOR’: In Riverton Falls, a small New England town, globe-trotting bartender Celeste Fortune stands in her kitchen puzzling over last night’s frightening dream—a woman at a window, lilacs blowing in the breeze, someone’s hands tight around her neck. Celeste is sure the dream belongs to someone else. Perhaps she has finally broken through to the collective dreams of Dreamland cult. Hoping her therapist and cult leader will help her untangle it, she heads off into the cold November morning to her final appointment with him—or so she hopes. Her estranged fiancé has delivered an ultimatum: Leave the cult of Dreamers, or end their relationship for good.

Instead of help, however, Celeste discovers her therapist dying in a pool of blood, skull stove in by his own healing crystal. His computer, containing the intimate dreams and secrets of half the town, is gone. Suspicion immediately falls on Celeste, known to be a rebellious member of his cult. To clear her name, Celeste enlists the help of her old friend, Gloria. But when the two women discover the power of the stolen dreams, they unwittingly become the killer’s next target.

MY THOUGHTS: A Dream to Die For is much more a story about the ‘Dreamers’ cult, than it is a murder mystery, which is one of the reasons I didn’t like this. I felt very much like tossing this in at the ten percent mark, but figured that it must get better. And it did, briefly. But just before the fifty percent point, I could stand it no longer, and pushed the delete option.

Where do I start explaining why I didn’t like this? The characters? They were all weird. Now I don’t mind a bit of weird. I find weird quite entertaining. But not here. Celeste had no backbone. Why would a person who is probably on minimum wage and living off her tips pay $150 an hour to talk to this therapist, Larry, simply because ‘everyone in town goes to him’? Especially when her friend Gloria, the reason she moved to Riverton Falls, has already warned her against him, as has her fiance Jake. Celeste is the sort of person who would consult her therapist, or a tarot card reader, before she blew her nose, or changed her underwear.

Larry, the therapist, is a totally unbelievable twit. The only thing about him that astounds me is how he lived so long. I don’t know why someone didn’t murder him earlier.

Jake, the fiance, has been married before to the woman who is Larry’s right hand woman in the cult. I completely understand why he broke up with Celeste. But he does behave very strangely . . .

Gloria, Celeste’s estranged friend, is an environmental lawyer, but is the only person she can think to call when she is taken into custody at the murder scene.

The supporting cast is made up of ‘Adam’, the tarot card reader in the park, and the ‘Dreamers’, Celeste’s so called friends who turn on her when they believe she murdered Larry.

And if you’re wondering who the Pete in the extract is, he’s a parrot.

How can anyone believe that if they are able to dream each other’s dreams, or all dream the same dream, it is going to elevate them to a higher plane of being? Puhlease!

I started listening with interest, which rapidly faded, peaked with Larry’s murder, then plummeted again. This read is seriously Weird.

And the murder mystery isn’t even much of a mystery. It’s pretty obvious from very early on who killed Larry, but I did check with someone else who read and enjoyed A Dream to Die For, after I had abandoned it, just to make sure.

I would like to point out that the narrator, Rachel Perry, was excellent, and certainly had nothing to do with my abandoning this book.

I am well aware that I am very much on my own with my feelings on A Dream to Die For, and that it may well be a book that you enjoy, so please check out a selection of the many positive reviews.

#ADreamtoDieFor #NetGalley

I: @susanzritz @ orangeskyaudio

T: #SusanZRitz #OrangeSkyAudio

#audiobook #crime #cultfiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Susan Ritz grew up in Minnesota, but she left home to become a wandering scholar; she lived, studied, and worked as a social worker in Kenya, Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia in the 1970s. She worked as a human rights lobbyist in Washington, DC, during the Carter Administration before moving to Dachau, Germany, the setting for her memoir in progress, On the Edge of Dachau. For the past thirty years she has lived with her husband and three children in Montpelier, Vermont, where she has worked as a fund raiser, events coordinator, and philanthropic advisor for a wide range of nonprofit organizations, especially those promoting economic equality for women. Writing, however, has always been her passion, and after receiving an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College, she began writing for local publications, teaching creative writing to adults and high school students, and writing her first novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orange Sky Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of A Dream to Die For, written by Susan Z. Ritz and narrated by Rachel Perry, 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

Lost Angels (Nikki Hunt #3) by Stacy Green

EXCERPT: ‘There’s something here.’ Still crouched next to the truck, Miller snapped on a latex glove and reached behind the front driver’s side tire. He held up a business card. ‘Annmarie Mason, Network Engineer at VP-Cloud. Her cell and a PO Box are listed.’ He turned the card over, and Nikki could tell by his shocked eyes that something important was on the back.

‘What is it?’ she asked.

‘If found, call FBI Special Agent Nikki Hunt’ – your office number is on here.’

Wordlessly, Nikki put on a glove, and Miller placed the card in her hand. She immediately recognized the neat cursive she’d always envied. ‘Oh Annmarie,’ Nikki whispered. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. ‘What did you get yourself into?’

ABOUT ‘LOST ANGELS’: When Special Agent Nikki Hunt is called to the Boundary Waters near Stillwater, Minnesota, it’s not just the cold that shocks her to her core: the body of a young woman has been found frozen beside a remote lake. Nikki is devastated to see the victim is her childhood friend Annmarie, and she recognizes the velvet ribbon tied in her hair as the hallmark of a serial killer who she has been hunting for years.

Desperate for justice, Nikki throws herself into the case. But she is shaken by what she finds at Annmarie’s home: a dead-bolt on her front door and a map in the spare room, with the locations of murdered women circled in thick, red marker. Did Annmarie know she was next? Then Nikki finds out that the killer has left a clue in Annmarie’s bedroom: a photo of Nikki’s mother that no one has ever seen. Has the murderer at large been in Nikki’s life since she was a child?

Nikki soon realizes that the key to unlocking this case is in her own family, but digging up the past could put her own daughter in danger. She has spent her whole life protecting the ones she loves, but to find this killer Nikki might have to risk everything…

MY THOUGHTS: I loved Stacy Green’s Lucy Kendall series, and although it has taken me a little longer to warm to Nikki Hunt, I really found my footing with this series in Lost Angels.

I had far more trouble liking Nikki than I did Lucy. I am still not sure that I actually like Nikki much. Not that that’s necessary for me to like the book, obviously, but . . . just saying. She comes across as kind of ‘cold’, despite her obvious love for her daughter, Lacey, who is one cool kid, and absolutely my favourite character. This could be because Nikki is very good at compartmentalising her life. But she makes decisions that I simply do not understand, often just handing Lacey over to whomever is available. It’s job first, everything else second for Nikki.

Now that I have had my rant . . . Nikki has been trying to catch this killer for 5 years, but now it’s become personal. The killer is taunting her, killing first her high school best friend, then abducting the sister of one of his first victims.

This is high octane stuff. It’s gripping, and tense. I had absolutely no idea where the story was headed, and was giving my ‘little grey cells’ plenty of exercise trying to figure out who the killer was.

My only criticism of the story was that, despite the strong personal connections, Nikki was allowed to remain on the case when, really, she should have been stood down, especially once it became obvious that her family was in danger.

A good, solid read. I do recommend that this series be read in order, otherwise a lot of character development, family relationships, and references to past incidents won’t be completely understood.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

#LostAngels #NetGalley

I: @authorstacygreen @bookouture

T: @stacygreen26 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #FBI #murdermystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Stacy has a love of thrillers and crime fiction, and she is always looking for the next dark and twisted novel to enjoy. She started her career in journalism before becoming a stay at home mother and rediscovering her love of writing. She lives in Iowa with her husband and daughter and their three spoiled fur babies.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Lost Angels by Stacy Green 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