We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

EXCERPT: Plates are filled and passed, caps popped off of beer and prosecco bottles. We are having a bona fide party! Edi’s got a glass of bubbly and a chocolate pudding cup from the kitchen. We drag in a couple of extra chairs from the conference room. Farrah Fawcett joins us. Jude gets Nina Simone to pour out of somebody’s speaker. Belle’s got a band-aid on her head and maybe a concussion, but still both girls gleam almost obscenely: shiny pink cheeks; shiny, dark hair – Jules’s long and curly, Belle’s short and bristly – and huge smiles. I catch Honey’s eye: We made these people . Jude is telling Jules the cake story, and Jules is laughing her sleigh-bells laugh. Belle is asking Jonah something about his work, and I hear her say, ‘I know it’s not actually a hedgehog fund.’ Alice is bent over Edi, talking and laughing quietly, tears glinting like diamonds in her long eyelashes. Nina Simone is feeling good. I’m standing with a can of deliciously bitter beer in my hand, beaming and beaming – my jaw actually aches from smiling so much. I have never been so sad and happy in my entire life. The whole time Edi’s been here, I’ve thought: Live like you’re dying? Who would do that? Dying sucks. Now I see it, though. I do want to live like this!

ABOUT ‘WE ALL WANT IMPOSSIBLE THINGS’: Who knows you better than your best friend? Who knows your secrets, your fears, your desires, your strange imperfect self? Edi and Ash have been best friends for over forty years. Since childhood they have seen each other through life’s milestones: stealing vodka from their parents, the Madonna phase, REM concerts, unexpected wakes, marriages, infertility, children. As Ash notes, ‘Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.’

So when Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ash’s world reshapes around the rhythms of Edi’s care, from chipped ice and watermelon cubes to music therapy; from snack smuggling to impromptu excursions into the frozen winter night. Because life is about squeezing the joy out of every moment, about building a powerhouse of memories, about learning when to hold on, and when to let go.

MY THOUGHTS: Every star in the sky for this beautiful book.

Reading We All Want Impossible Things, I cried and laughed and cried and laughed some more, often at the same time. Catherine Newman has written rawly and honestly about love and grief, the messiness of the emotional rollercoaster of caring for, and about, the dying.

But, this is a story that is just as much about living as it is about dying. It is a story of sadness and of hope; it is full of life and laughter, and tears and grief. I loved the way Edi’s family and friends farewelled her, how they all supported and cared for one another. I wanted to be part of this messy and emotional group, to be one of them.

Intertwined with the story of Ash caring for Edi in her final weeks is the story of Ash’s messy life. This doesn’t detract at all from the main thread; they blend and complement each other.

I did have some initial difficulty in keeping the characters straight in my mind: Jude, Jules, Jonah; but this didn’t last long. Ash is a character who grew on me. I didn’t like her much at first, but that changed as the book progressed, and now I would love to have her as a friend.

I love this book enough to buy a hard copy. It’s going on my ‘forever’ shelf: the books I will never be parted from.

This is Catherine Newman’s debut adult novel.

My favourite quote: . . . aren’t you the person who eavesdropped on your mum and her Dublin cousin gossiping about someone’s hysterectomy and thought for years that The Troubles in Ireland were gynecological?’


#WeAllWantImpossibleThings #NetGalley

I: @catherinenewman @randomhouse @doubledayukbooks

T: @CatheriNewman @doubledaybooks

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #friendship #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Hi! I should probably tell you about myself as a writer, even if you were here to find out some other kind of thing! I write (wrote?) the cooking and lifestyle blog Ben & Birdy. I’m not sure why I wrote “lifestyle.” Maybe I mean the kind of lifestyle where you sew your hand to a maple leaf garland while drinking pinot noir.
I have written the grown-up parenting memoirs Catastrophic Happiness (Little, Brown) and Waiting for Birdy (Penguin). I have also written the middle-grade novel One Mixed-Up Night (Random House), Stitch Camp, which is a kids’ craft book I co-wrote with my friend Nicole, and the award-winning bestselling skill-building books for kids How to Be a Person and What Can I Say? (both from Storey). My first adult novel, We All Want Impossible Things, is out now.
I have also written about kids, parents, teenagers, food, cooking, love, loss, gender, eating, death, sex, politics, books, babies, snakes, foraging, relationships, crafts, holidays, travel, and fortune telling for lots of magazines, newspapers, and online publications, including the New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, The Boston Globe, Romper, Self, The Huffington Post, FamilyFun, Parents, and Full Grown People. I am a regular contributor to the Cup of Jo website.
I was, until recently, the etiquette columnist at Real Simple for ten years, even though yes, I swear a lot and don’t know what an oyster fork is. I edit the James-Beard-Award-winning nonprofit kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop.
My work has been in lots of books and anthologies, including On Being 40, the fabulous Unbored series, The Bitch in the House, Oprah’s Little Book of Happiness, and the Full Grown People collections.
I’ve also done plenty of consulting, public radio commentaries, readings, talks, workshops, and TV appearances.
Two random things: I have a PhD, and I’m the secretary of Creative Writing at Amherst College. (catherinenewmanwriter.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman 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

Happy publication day for What is Left Over After by Natasha Lester

EXCERPT: I was six years old when my mother came to collect me from my grandparents’ farm in France as if I were simply a piece of luggage that had been misdirected. I had never expected to be granted a mother-creature and only knew of their existence because the children on the neighbouring farms all had one and because I had heard about them in fairytales: mothers died tragic deaths so their children could be persecuted by evil stepmothers, or they made promises to give their children away in return for magic powers. Knowing this should have made me more careful.

ABOUT ‘WHAT IS LEFT OVER AFTER’: Gaelle has a dream job working for a fashion magazine, and a husband who loves her. Life should be perfect, but life does not always go according to plan.

Feeling lost and alone, Gaelle flees to a tiny seaside town on the other side of the country. As she revisits the legacy of a strange, sometimes magical, childhood in France, Gaelle finds unexpected help from a thirteen-year-old stranger.

As if she were experiencing her childhood all over again, she must ask: when you lose everything you love, what is left over after?

MY THOUGHTS: Natasha Lester certainly put me through the emotional wringer with What is Left Over After.

The early part of the novel isn’t an easy read as Gaelle lashes out against the world and those she loves in a rage of despair and grief. And then she runs, just as her mother did, just as her mother taught her.

I can’t say I particularly liked Gaelle initially, but as the story of her childhood is revealed I began to understand her, and with that understanding came admiration for how far she’d come and hope that she would find her way through to be the person she deserved to be.

The characters in What is Left Over After are beautifully drawn: Gaelle in all her pain and despair; Gaelle’s wonderful childhood friend, Imogen; the wise but very typical teenager Selena and her mother, Marie; and even Gaelle’s quite dippy and totally irresponsible mother.

Lester’s writing is beautiful, almost poetic in places. She writes with a depth of emotion that comes from the heart, and which touched mine.


What is Left Over After was originally published in 2010. It is being republished with new cover art by Fremantle Press 01 February 2023.


I: @natashalesterauthor @fremantlepress

T: #NatashaLesterAuthor @FremantlePress

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #familydrama #friendship #romance

THE AUTHOR: Natasha Lester lives in Perth, Western Australia with her 3 children and loves fashion history, practising the art of fashion illustration, collecting vintage fashion, travelling and, of course, books.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Fremantle Press for providing a paperback copy of What is Left Over After by Natasha Lester 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 . . .

BRILLIANT BOOK ALERT! This book, which I finished today – a one day read – has earned every star in the Galaxy from me.

I am too emotional at the moment to write a review about this book, but please watch for it in the coming days. I cried, and laughed, and cried some more. I now want to read everything this author has written.

Currently I am reading The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

I am continuing with my read of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths with #4, A Room Full of Bones.

and doing a read/listen of Devil’s Way (Kate Marshall #4) by Robert Bryndza, which I am loving in both formats.

This week I have six books to read for review in addition to The Sisters We Were. They are:

A Winter Grave by Peter May

It is the year 2051. Warnings of climate catastrophe have been ignored, and vast areas of the planet are under water, or uninhabitably hot. A quarter of the world’s population has been displaced by hunger and flooding, and immigration wars are breaking out around the globe as refugees pour into neighboring countries.

By contrast, melting ice sheets have brought the Gulf Stream to a halt and northern latitudes, including Scotland, are being hit by snow and ice storms. It is against this backdrop that Addie, a young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station, discovers the body of a man entombed in ice.

The dead man is investigative reporter, George Younger, missing for three months after vanishing during what he claimed was a hill-walking holiday. But Younger was no hill walker, and his discovery on a mountain-top near the Highland village of Kinlochleven, is inexplicable.

Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to be flown north to investigate Younger’s death, but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda. He has just been given a devastating medical prognosis by his doctor and knows the time has come to face his estranged daughter who has made her home in the remote Highland village.

Arriving during an ice storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at the inappropriately named International Hotel, where Younger’s body has been kept refrigerated in a cake cabinet. But evidence uncovered during his autopsy places the lives of both Brodie and Roy in extreme jeopardy.

As another storm closes off communications and the possibility of escape, Brodie must face up not only to the ghosts of his past, but to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that George Younger’s investigations had threatened to expose.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed – if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong, and the truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined.

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston

Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.

When Rosa Quinn left her childhood home in Westenbury, she never expected to return over a decade later as the village vicar. But after a health scare and catching her boyfriend cheating, Rosa jumps at the chance to start over and live closer to her triplet sisters Eva and Hannah.

But Rosa’s isn’t the only old face in the village, and when her role in the parish throws her into the path of her ex, she begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake. Meanwhile, Eva and Hannah face their own troubles, as secrets about their family threaten to emerge.

Can Rosa make a life for herself in Westenbury? Or will the sisters discover you can’t run away from the past?

That Night at the Beach by Kate Hewitt

As mothers we never dare to delve into our worst-nightmare scenarios. What if… we might murmur to each other, and then shake our heads, telling ourselves it’ll never happen to us if we’re just good enough mothers. Yet here we are. And the steady beep of the heart monitor is the only evidence the child in front of us is alive…

It’s Labor Day weekend, so of course we went to the beach. Like we do every year. For a barbecue picnic with my best friend Rose. It’s the perfect tradition—drinks, games, burgers, music, laughter. Together with our husbands, my two teenage sons and her two daughters, we all arrived as the sun was still shimmering over the water, the whole evening ahead of us.

But nothing goes to plan. Old secrets emerge, tempers flare. And so we parents decide to leave the beach, telling the teenagers to enjoy themselves, reassuring them someone will be back to collect them in an hour or two.

But when I return a little while later, I know something is really wrong. Our teens are slurring their words, stumbling to the car. It’s clear they have been drinking and I’m shocked. I never expected our kids to behave this way. I’m bracing myself to have firm words with them in the morning, but the next day my concerns fade to nothing, when seventeen-year-old Bella claims my son Finn assaulted her.

Finn insists he would never do that. And I so want to believe him. Because I brought my son up right. Because a mother would know, wouldn’t she?

What I don’t know is that the answer to what happened that night on the beach may be a matter of life and death for one of our beloved children… 

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

One Day With You by Shari Lowe

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

One Day with You – two fateful goodbyes, two unexpected hellos, and 24 hours that change everything. 

I have received two new ARCs from Netgalley for review this week.

the audiobook The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake and narrated by Aiofe McMahon

A Mischief of Rats by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

I have 17 requests pending. I have had lot of requests declined this week. 🤷‍♀️

My husband is undergoing major surgery this week, so I am not going promise to post regularly, nor to interact with other bloggers to my normal level. Please keep Pete in your prayers. ❤

So Long, Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: . . . I wandered over to the only closed bedroom door. I stood in front of it, breathing purposefully, for what felt like a long time.

Then I rapped softly. Very softly.

Chester’s gravelly voice came back at me immediately. It was not soft.

‘Leave me alone, Ellie.’

‘It’s not Ellie,’ I said through the door. ‘It’s me, Lewis. Can I open the door?’

‘I don’t care. I don’t need you here. Just go away and leave me on my own. I’ll call you if I’m dying.’

‘I’m going to open the door now, Chester.’

‘No, do not open that door.’

I opened the door.

The room was dusty and depressingly dim. Everything had such a dank feel, and the air was so heavy it was almost too thick to breathe. It felt weirdly like being under water.

He was sitting in his wheelchair by the window, as though looking out, but he couldn’t possibly have been looking out because the shades were drawn. That seemed odd. Then again, it was Chester Wheeler. Did I expect anything non-odd?

ABOUT ‘SO LONG, CHESTER WHEELER’: Lewis Madigan is young, gay, out of work, and getting antsy when he’s roped into providing end-of-life care for his insufferable homophobic neighbor, Chester Wheeler. Lewis doesn’t need the aggravation, just the money. The only requirements: run errands, be on call, and put up with a miserable old churl no one else in Buffalo can bear. After exchanging barbs, bickering, baiting, and pushing buttons, Chester hits Lewis with the big ask.

Lewis can’t say no to a dying wish: drive Chester to Arizona in his rust bucket of a Winnebago to see his ex-wife for the first time in thirty-two years—for the last time. One week, two thousand miles. To Lewis, it becomes an illuminating journey into the life and secrets of a vulnerable man he’s finally beginning to understand. A neighbor, a stranger, and a surprising new friend whose closure on a conflicted past is also just beginning.

MY THOUGHTS: So Long, Chester Wheeler is a quietly important book. Most of the read, it felt quite ordinary. But every now and then there were these ‘WOW!’ moments. And it’s those moments that matter.

This is a reminder that everyone has a past, a story, that has helped form the person that they are today. And until we know that story we have no right to judge.

I loved the parts about the caregiving to the elderly and dying. It’s a very special and undervalued role. It’s not all about wiping bottoms and cleaning up messes. It’s also about listening and providing emotional support.

Despite his being a curmudgeonly old grump, I loved Chester’s character. There’s brilliant dialogue between Chester and Lewis; some is touching, some is funny, some is downright sad.

I felt that the epilogue was totally unnecessary. It really doesn’t add anything of value to the story.

There are a number of valuable life lessons woven seamlessly into this book. As I said earlier, it’s a quiet book. CRH doesn’t slap the reader around the ears with a piece of 4 x 2 and say ‘You need to take this lesson away from this story.’ I think we will all take different things away, as we should.

Although I don’t think this is her best work, ‘So Long, Chester Wheeler’ is definitely worth reading.


#SoLongChesterWheeler #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @amazonpublishing

T: @cryanhyde @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #romance

THE AUTHOR: I am the author of more than 30 published and forthcoming books. I’m an avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of So Long, Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinion.

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

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

Gone But Still Here by Jennifer Dance

EXCERPT: My name is Mary, and I have Alzheimer’s disease.

Lurching gut.

It makes me think of AA meetings I’ve seen in the movies. My name is so-and-so, and I’m an alcoholic. It’s an acknowledgement, a way of facing your problem. Writing this is an acknowledgement too. A way of confronting the truth.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ve just been having a few memory lapses – part of normal aging. But I’m slipping away. I can feel it.

Getting confused.

Losing logic and understanding.

Having to tell myself that red means stop and green means go.

I’ve been trying to hide it. Hide from it. Ignore it. Make excuses. But one day I’ll be gone, even though I will still be here.

It’s hard to accept. Hard to believe. A living death. A dying life.

Will I know what’s happening? I hope not.

ABOUT ‘GONE BUT STILL HERE’: Coming to terms with advancing dementia, Mary has no choice other than to move into her daughter’s home. Her daughter, Kayla, caught between her cognitively impaired mother and her belligerent teenage son, soon finds caregiving is more challenging than she imagined. Sage, the family’s golden retriever, offers comfort and unconditional love, but she has her own problems, especially when it comes to dealing with Mary’s cat.

Throughout it all, Mary struggles to complete her final book — a memoir, the untold story of the love of her life, who died more than forty years earlier. Her confused and tangled tales span Trinidad, England, and Canada, revealing the secrets of a tragic interracial love story in the 1960s and ’70s. But with her writing skills slipping away, it’s a race against time.

MY THOUGHTS: Although Gone But Still Here is a work of fiction, Mary’s backstory is the author’s own.

This wonderful book can’t have been easy to write, but it is written with wisdom and wit. Gone But Still Here is an emotional read. I cringed at the treatment Mary and Keith received from both family and strangers because of their interracial marriage. I cried as Mary struggled to raise three small children alone with little support, but I also applauded her bravery and determination. And Mary’s journey into Alzheimer’s? That engendered a whole range of emotions.

The story is told from multiple points of view: Mary – we get to live her disease through her eyes; Kayla, Mary’s daughter who puts her own life on hold to care for her mother; Jesse, Kayla’s teenage son and Mary’s grandson whose life is also impacted by the arrival of his ‘nutty’ grandmother; and Sage, the wonderful family dog who provided a lot of light relief with her dog’s view of life.

The author shares the struggles, frustrations, fears, and incredible joys that accompany caring for an Alzheimer’s patient as a previously fractured family is drawn closer together by the experience.

While I loved this book and the storytelling, Sage (or Toby as Mary was sure she was called) is the outstanding character and earned this read an extra star.


#GoneButStillHere #NetGalley

I: #jenniferdance @dundurnpress

T: @JenniferDance1 @dundurnpress

#contemporaryfiction #historicalfiction #aging #familydrama #deathanddying #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Dance was born in England and holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Animal Science from the University of the West Indies. She migrated to Canada in 1979. With family in the Native community, Jennifer has a passion for equality and justice for all people.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Dundurn Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Gone But Still Here by Jennifer Dance 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

Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: ‘I agreed to read it to him. And then I said we could go over it word by word and see what words he knows and what ones he doesn’t.’

‘Excellent!’ The principal clapped her hands together, startling Marilyn. ‘That could make such a difference. I feel very optimistic now.’

Clearly a great weight had been lifted off the principal’s shoulders. Marilyn had lifted it away. And it had been dropped squarely onto her own.

They both stood, an agreement that the meeting was ending.

‘No good deed goes unpunished,’ she thought as she stepped into the outer office. Somehow it had fallen to her not only to teach the boy to read, but to heal his traumatic life. And all she had wanted was to buy a few cartons of unusually fresh eggs.

ABOUT ‘DREAMING OF FLIGHT’: Never knowing his parents, eleven-year-old Stewie Little and his brother have been raised on a farm by their older sister. Stewie steadfastly tends the chickens left by his beloved late grandmother. And every day Stewie goes door to door selling fresh eggs from his wagon—a routine with a surprise just around the corner. It’s his new customer, Marilyn. She’s prickly and guarded, yet comfortably familiar—she reminds the grieving Stewie so much of the grandmother he misses more than he can express.

Marilyn has a reason for keeping her distance: a secret no one knows about. Her survival tactic is to draw a line between herself and other people—one that Stewie is determined to cross. As their visits become more frequent, a complicated but deeply rooted relationship grows. That’s when Stewie discovers how much more there is to Marilyn, to her past, and to challenges that become more pressing each day. But whatever difficult times lie ahead, Stewie learns that although he can’t fix everything for Marilyn or himself, at least he’s no longer alone.

MY THOUGHTS: A sweet and touching story that has almost a timeless feel to it. Dreaming of Flight is a gentle tale that moves along at a slow pace (and that’s not a criticism), one that focuses on feelings rather than technology and action.

Stewie is an odd but loveable boy. He is grieving the loss of his beloved ‘Gam’, who raised him from a baby along with his older brother and sister following the death of his parents in an accident. He struggles with school and his only friends are his late grandmother’s hens, all of whom have names and distinct personalities.

Marilyn is an irascible older woman who cares for the daughter of a single mother in return for free room and board. Prickly and remote, she doesn’t have a filter on her mouth and whatever she is thinking tends to pop out. She reminds Stewie of his Gam, who wasn’t always the nicest
woman, and this keeps drawing him back to her.

The two form a wary friendship. But over time the bonds strengthen and deepen.

Dreaming of Flight is a quick and easy read. The relationship between the characters is complex, but is written about in a simple way. I enjoyed both the characters of Stewie and Marilyn and thought that CRHs depiction of them was perfectly drawn.

While I really enjoyed this book for myself, it could certainly also be used for tweens dealing with the death of a loved one


#DreamingofFlight #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @amazonpublishing

T: @cryanhyde @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: I am the author of more than 30 published and forthcoming books. I’m an avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinion.

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

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

Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley

EXCERPT: Peg lit a stick of incense, then went into the bath-mat sized kitchen and started clanging pans around and washing cups for coffee. I leaned against the open doorway, admiring the curve of her shoulder, the angle of her arm. She wasn’t beautiful. I knew that and I didn’t wish for her to be anything other than what she was. I felt easy with her. I liked the way she threw herself at things, the way she’d opened the door too fast so it slammed into the bed. I liked the way she banged around the kitchen. I liked that she held onto her idea of the parlour even though it made no sense. I liked that she argued with me. It let me know that when she did smile I could believe she meant it.

ABOUT ‘OTHER PEOPLE MANAGE’: It’s Minneapolis in the 1970s, and two women meet in the Women’s Coffeehouse. Marge is a bus driver, and Peg is training to be a psychotherapist.

Over the next twenty years, they stay together, through the challenges any couple faces and some that no one expects. Then one day things change, and Marge has to work out what she’s left with – and if she still belongs to the family she’s adopted as her own.

MY THOUGHTS: I have the feeling that Other People Manage is going to be the most underrated book of the year. Which is a pity. This is a beautifully written book about the ordinary lives of ordinary people. It is a book about love – not romance – love. Everyday love. Family love.

‘Love’s such a strange thing. One minute the world’s crashing down around your head, the next minute everything’s fine.’ I think we can all relate to that sentiment.

I was immediately drawn into this story. I laughed, I cried and my heart ached for these characters stumbling through their lives, trying to do their best, not wanting to repeat the mistakes of their parents, but having few reference points to guide them. While it might be love that brought Marge and Peg together it’s loss that binds them, not just to each other, but to Peg’s family. It’s a book about acceptance, and doing what needs to be done.

This isn’t a book of grand gestures. It’s largely a quiet book, but one that wormed its way into my heart and is firmly anchored there. These characters will stay with me for a long time.


#OtherPeopleManage #NetGalley

I: @ellenhawley_the @_swiftpress

T: @ellen_hawley @_SwiftPress

#fivestarread #deathanddying #familydrama #love #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Ellen Hawley has worked as an editor and copy editor, a talk-show host, a cab driver, a waitress, a janitor, an assembler, a file clerk, and for four panic-filled hours, a receptionist. She has also taught creative writing. She was born and raised in New York, lived in Minnesota for many long, cold winters, and now lives in Cornwall, U.K.(Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Swift Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley 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 Life You Left Behind by Debbie Howells

EXCERPT: After – March
I know exactly what you’d say if you were sitting next to me.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Not your words – they’re Lao Tzu’s. You loved old wisdom – the way it held true, even hundreds of years later. And you would have loved this journey: the wide, open road ahead of us, the ever-changing landscape, your imagination sparking off in a hundred different directions. Poring excitedly over spread-out maps, you’d have made lists of places to check out, while I’d be thinking about getting my nails done and wondering how many outfits I could cram into a small suitcase.

But adventures were your lifeblood – you told me your boyhood tales of climbing and wild camping, gazing at seascapes and skyscapes, riding waves harnessing the wind. The beaten track wasn’t for you. There are a million other paths, Cassidy, you’d say to me. The same old is never going to take you anywhere new. It was one of the hundred reasons I fell in love with you.


One missed flight.

It only takes a moment to change a life.

One year ago Casey Cassidy was happy. She had great friends, a wonderful teaching job and a busy life – until with one missed flight, everything changes.

One year later Casey knows what it means to find that once-in-a-lifetime love people dream of. But when Ben leaves, her heart is shattered.

Left facing a year of firsts without him, piecing her life back together seems impossible. But then a friend offers her a home in rural France.

In the solitude and emptiness, Casey needs to comes to terms with what’s happened and find a way to move forward. She has no idea where that will take her one year later…

MY THOUGHTS: (may contain spoilers) What I read was totally not what I was expecting. I was looking forward to a bit of light relief from what I have been reading. That’s not what happened. From the publicity blurb, The Life You Left Behind sounds like a light and fluffy read with a bit of heartbreak in it. Believe me, that’s not what you’re going to get. It’s the absolute reverse.

Written over two alternating timelines a year apart, we follow Casey Cassidy as she meets, marries and loses the man she regards as her soulmate. It could still be light and fluffy, but it’s not. There’s a lot of darkness.

The Life You Left Behind deals with depression and suicide. And eco-something (stress caused by concern over the environment), a term I thought I must remember but then neglected to either highlight or write down.

I couldn’t get invested in the story at all, nor the characters who simply did not seem real to me. I felt like I was being lectured on mental health and environmental issues, both extremely important I know, but if I want a lecture I’ll buy textbooks rather than fiction, thanks.

Debbie Howells may have achieved what she set out to achieve, and kudos to her for even attempting this, but I didn’t enjoy it at all, and didn’t like the feeling that I had been hoodwinked by the book’s description. I also didn’t like the way the author initially tried to make a mystery out of where Ben had gone, saying he had left, or gone, when all the time . . .


#TheLifeYouLeftBehind #NetGalley

I: @_debbiehowells @bookandtonic

T: @debbie_howells @BoldwoodBooks

#contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #mentalhealth #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Having previously worked as cabin crew, a flying instructor and a wedding florist, Debbie started writing during her busiest summer of weddings.

Debbie now writes full time, inspired by the peacefulness of the countryside she lives in with her partner Martin and Bean the rescued cat.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Life You Left Behind by Debbie Howells 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 . . .

Currently I am reading The Life You Left Behind by Debbie Howells which, to be totally honest, I am not enamoured with. It started out well, but then it was like it was trying too hard to be mysterious. I began to feel like I was being lectured to on watching for suicidal tendencies and environmental problems, of which I am perfectly aware and doing my personal best. This is not what I expecting from this author. I applaud her intent, but this is really not working out for me.

I am also reading another book from my backlist, Coast to Coast Murders by James Patterson and J.D. Barker. I am loving this and unsure why it has taken me so long to get to this.

I am listening to Do You Follow by J.C. Bidonde. I’ve only just started this but already it’s interesting and keeping my attention.

This week I have four titles to read for review. They are:

Put Out to Pasture (Farm to Table Mysteries) by Amanda Flowers

There’s fowl play afoot on the farm

Shiloh Bellamy has saved her family’s farm from financial ruin—but now what? She’s barely scraping by on the farm’s new organic business model and the fall festival she organized to drum up business comes to a screeching halt when the body of a prominent townswoman is discovered underneath a scarecrow in a nearby field. Worst of all, the evidence points to Shiloh’s childhood best friend, Kristy, as the prime suspect.

Between cooking up delicious treats made with her farm’s produce, convincing her cantankerous father to let her do things her own way, and dealing with a newcomer in town who could be serious competition for her customers, Shiloh doesn’t have time to wade into a murder investigation. But with a killer on the loose and suspicious activity circling closer and closer to Shiloh and the people she loves, she realizes there’s nothing to do but roll up her sleeves and get down to the dirty work of finding the killer and clearing Kristy’s name once and for all.

Afraid by Alexandra Ivy and Lisa Jackson

Dark secrets and revenge converge as former students from an elite boarding school, which is also a haven for the daughters of the rich and famous, come face to face with the crimes of the past…

Lucy Champagne was sent to St. Cecilia’s after her movie-star mother was brutally attacked by her sleazy boyfriend, Ray Watkins. Lucy’s damning testimony landed Ray a twenty-five-year sentence. But now, Ray is free. And he’s going to find Lucy and make her pay, no matter how far and how fast she runs . . .

Rayne Taylor found unexpected happiness at St. Cecilia’s, until her roommate, Natalie, committed suicide. Only when Rayne finds a box of mementoes from that time does she realize how wrong she may have been about Natalie’s death—and how far someone will go to keep the truth hidden . . .

Erin MacDonald remembers little about the long-ago night she and her sister, Anna Beth, were kidnapped. While Erin was found safe, Anna Beth vanished forever. Now Erin has reluctantly come back to the family estate, where Detective Rafe Montego hopes to finally crack the case. But as flashes of Erin’s memory reemerge, she learns how deep the danger goes . . .

Blood Tide by Neil Lancaster

You get away with murder.
In a remote sea loch on the west coast of Scotland, a fisherman disappears without trace. His remains are never found.

You make people disappear.
A young man jumps from a bridge in Glasgow and falls to his death in the water below. D. S. Max Craigie uncovers evidence that links both victims. But if he can’t find out what cost them their lives, it won’t be long before more bodies turn up at the morgue…

You come back for revenge.
Soon cracks start to appear in the investigation, and Max’s past hurtles back to haunt him. When his loved ones are threatened, he faces a terrifying choice: let the only man he ever feared walk free, or watch his closest friend die…

Midnight Lies by Chris Collett

Secrets, lies, bodies. Nothing stays buried forever . . .

An abandoned campsite in Norfolk. Developers unearth a human skeleton. The remains of an eighteen-year-old girl.

Robina Scanlon. A blast from the past that shocks Detective Tom Mariner to his core.

She was his holiday romance in the sweltering summer of 1976.

He thought she was the one who got away. Now he realizes she never even left.

All these years, she’s been buried back at their campsite. Who left her there to rot?

Mariner heads to Norfolk, driven by an obsessive need to uncover the truth. But the trail went cold years ago, with just one lead left to cling to.

Robina was last seen out on the campsite, with a mystery man at her side.

Was he her friend? Her killer? Or what?

The closer Mariner gets to the twisted truth, the more he fears the answers lie buried in his own dark past.

Can he face up to his demons before the killer strikes again?

I only read three of the five books I had scheduled for last week, so what do you think I should start with this week?

This week I got five new Netgalley ARCs, and I thought I was cutting back! They are:

My Mother’s Gift by Steffanie Edward

The Girls by Bella Osborne

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Tea Ladies of St. Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell

and Unmissing by Minka Kent

Well, that’s my lot for the week. I’ve been at work and am tired so it’s sandwich, shower and bed for me. Have a wonderful reading week.

Lily Harford’s Last Request by Joanna Buckley

EXCERPT: ‘You won’t need it.’


So that’s that then, is it? Each piece, large and small. Pass, fail,this is worthy of transporting, that doesn’t make the grade, space for this, no requirement for that. My coveted Wedgwood serving platter, twin silver candlesticks (a wedding gift from Pa and Ma that they couldn’t afford), my mother’s pale blue napkin rings, two handtowels embroidered with cream ribbon, red high-heeled shoes now too narrow to accommodate the bunions on my feet, silk scarves in colours of the sea, boxes of cut crystal wine glasses, the Victorian oak dining table that has eavesdropped on many a family conversation. My life is being offered up, judged, valued and dispensed.

I tighten my jaw like it’s the weir stopping a brewing fury from escaping. I sit, as straight backed as I can, willing my emotions to follow suit as the animated discussion and pointing and measuring and nodding and stickering happens around me. I’m expecting a rage to rip me apart any minute. I try to tell myself the move will be for the best, that they have my interests at heart. But all I want to do is bellow: ‘Put everything back and get out of my house! I’ve changed my bloody mind – you can take the ‘FOR SALE’ sign down and stick it where the sun don’t shine!’

ABOUT ‘LILY HARFORD’S LAST REQUEST’: Knowing she is sliding into dementia, Lily Harford is ready to give up her life … but can she persuade someone to commit the illegal act of taking it from her?

Lily has lived a joyful, independent life in a seaside town in Queensland, running her own business and raising a daughter as a single mother at a time when few women did so. Now health and circumstance have pushed her into a nursing home, and her memory is failing, although events of the past remain fresh. Like pulling back the layers of a Russian doll, Lily recalls the former selves – mother, professional woman, lover, daughter – who still exist inside her.

Lily’s daughter, Pauline, has been pushed to her limits by her demanding job, as well as the needs of her mother, husband, daughter and grandchildren. And now her mother is begging to die. Nurse aide Donna, still recovering from a dysfunctional childhood and the demise of her marriage, finds comfort in Lily’s kindness and down to earth wisdom. As Lily fades, she asks Donna, too, to help her end her life.

MY THOUGHTS: I wanted to love Lily Harford’s Last Request but, while I mostly liked it, I didn’t love it. I found the characters hard to empathize with, hard to relate to, even Lily, whom I had expected to adore. The only character who I thought was really well portrayed was Donna, the very caring Nursing Assistant in the care home. I liked the way we saw into both her personal and professional lives and are made aware of how often her very important role is belittled and disrespected by others.

Pauline, Lily’s HeadTeacher daughter, overpowered Lily’s story which I thought was a shame. Although I could understand the author’s intent in demonstrating the effects Lily’s declining health has on her, she didn’t come across well. I thought she was controlling and manipulative.

Told from the viewpoints of Lily, Pauline and Donna, the story lost impetus with the inclusion of flashbacks to the characters earlier lives. There needs to be a point to flashbacks – the revelation of an important piece of information, or something relevant to the formation of the person’s character – but mostly these were just fillers and made the story feel disjointed.

I would have enjoyed Lily Harford’s Last Request more had it focused more on Lily and less on Pauline. The ‘surprise’ revelation at the end would have been better built up to, rather than just dumped in there. I think the conversations between Lily and ‘Frank’ would have made for interesting reading – a lot more interesting than Pauline’s constant introspection.

If you are looking for an uplifting read, this isn’t it. But if you are interested in or concerned about the concept of assisted dying, there is definitely food for thought here.

Lily Harford’s Last Request is a debut novel, and I applaud the author in her intent, but would like to encourage her not to overcomplicate the plot. Keep it simple and let it flow.

PS: I don’t see why Lily couldn’t have taken her beautiful silk scarves with her!


#LilyHarfordsLastRequest #NetGalley

I: @joannabuckleyauthor @harlequinaus

T: @HarlequinAUS

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #familydrama #mentalhealth #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Joanna Buckley is an author based in Melbourne. She has a background in creating short stories, poetry, social media content and educational materials, and has also worked as a copywriter and editor. Joanna is a mother of three and a part-time careers counsellor.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ, for providing a digital ARC of Lily Harford’s Last Request by Joanna Buckley 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