Sandy’s June 2022 Reading Roundup

Here we are, halfway through the year.

My June reading was severely impacted by my return to work. Two of the books I had scheduled to read in June had their publishing dates moved to August so I rescheduled those (26 – 2 = 24) plus I received one late ARC, which brought the total up to 25. I have only read 16 of my 25 reads for review, though I did manage to sneak in two titles from my backlist and two reads purely for pleasure. So my read for review success rate dropped from the dismal 69% in May to an even more dismal 64% for June.

I read one debut novel in June, which was Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

plus I read five books by authors who were new to me. They were

The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

My Netgalley feedback rate is hanging in there at 69%, though I don’t quite know how 🤷‍♀️ Since I have been back at work I have been requesting more books that I am reading. I find it unwinds me from the stresses of the day.🤦‍♀️

The books that I didn’t get around to reading were:

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Backstory by William L. Myers

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

The Lost Children by Michael Wood (a publisher’s widget) which I will be starting tonight

The Girl Who Left by Jenny Blackhurst

I read four ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ books in June. They were – in no particular order:

The Island by Adrian McKinty

Blind Justice by David Mark

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

I have 18 reads for review scheduled for July and one blog tour to participate in. Hopefully I should be able to just about achieve my goal for the month.

Have you read any of the books I bypassed in June? Let me know.

Happy reading for July!

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

EXCERPT: Olivia – Miami 1990

I should have known better. I shouldn’t have said the things I did.

That’s what I told myself when I learned what happened to my husband on his return flight from the US Virgin Islands. But isn’t that what we all say after something goes terribly wrong and we look back and wish we had behaved differently.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE MOONLIT SEA’: Olivia Hamilton is married to the love of her life, Dean, a charismatic pilot who flies private jets for the rich and famous. But when he vanishes over the Bermuda Triangle, Olivia’s idyllic existence unravels. After years of waiting, Olivia must eventually let go of the fragile hope that her beloved husband might still be alive.

Melanie Brown is a particle physicist who spends late nights studying the Bermuda Triangle. But her research interests falter when her mother dies in a tragic accident. Struggling to reboot her life and career, Melanie begins a forbidden love affair with her therapist.

When a shocking discovery shows Olivia’s and Melanie’s paths are intertwined, it casts Dean’s disappearance in a new light. The two women’s strange connection threatens to unlock secrets that will change everything Olivia thought she knew about her marriage, her husband, and most importantly, herself.

MY THOUGHTS: I am a sucker for stories about or set around the mysterious disappearances that occur in the Bermuda Triangle.

I started Beyond the Moonlit Sea with great excitement and read almost half of it in the first sitting. The storyline, which spans from 1986 through to 2017, and is told from the multiple viewpoints of Olivia, Melanie and Dean, intrigued me although I often found the writing style quite stilted and, at times, awkward.

The second half of the book became predictable, and was largely quite mundane. I found myself skimming over pages until we came to the chapters involving the DNA when my interest was again piqued, but not to the same extent it had originally.

I was expecting suspense, and didn’t get it.

Would I have liked more about the mysteries surrounding the Bermuda Triangle? Definitely. Ditto for Melanie’s thesis.

I found it quite odd that Melanie as described by her ‘friends’ to the police is vastly different from the many facets of Melanie that we see through both her own and Dean’s eyes. This information is dropped into the book, and then – nothing!

Unfortunately, this was only an okay read for me, nothing more.

⭐⭐.5

#BeyondtheMoonlitSea #NetGalley

I: @juliannemaclean @amazonpublishing

T: @Julianne MacLean @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Julianne Maclean loves to travel and has lived in New Zealand, Canada, and England. MacLean currently resides on the east coast of Canada in a lakeside home with her husband and daughter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne MacLean for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Matariki! Matariki is the New Zealand Maori New Year. Matariki has nine visible stars. Each star holds a certain significance over our wellbeing and environment, as seen from the Māori view of the world. This is the first year New Zealand has celebrated Matariki with public holiday.

I’ve had a good reading week. When I have finished two of my current reads, I will have read all five books I had scheduled for read for review for week.

Currently I am reading The Guilty Couple by C.L. Taylor. I’m not yet sure what to think.

I am almost half way through Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter. This is #2 in the Andrea Oliver series and so far I am enjoying this a lot more than the first.

Those were the tail end of my read for reviews. The audiobook I am currently listening to is a backtitle from 2020, Stolen Children by Michael Wood, #6 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. I have enjoyed this whole series and Stolen Children is no exception.

I have five reads for review scheduled in the coming week. They are:

The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher

After nearly two hundred years of housing retardants, as they were once known, the Beechwood Institute is closing the doors on its dark history, and the complicated task of reassigning residents has begun. Ella Jules, having arrived at Beechwood at the tender age of eight, must now rely on the state to decide her future. Ella’s aging parents have requested that she be returned to her childhood home, much to the distress of Ella’s siblings, but more so to Lynetta, her beloved caretaker who has been by her side for decades. The five adult Jules children, haunted by their early memories of their sister, and each dealing with the trauma of her banishment in their own flawed way, are converging on the family home, arriving from the far corners of the country—secrets in tow—to talk some sense into their aging parents and get to the root of this inexplicable change of heart.

A Summer Love Affair by Holly Chamberlain

Sometimes you sense something, deep inside, long before it’s proven true. Thirty-year-old Petra Quirk has always felt as if a vital element of her life is missing. It’s not until she moves back to the small town of Eliot’s Corner for the summer that she learns why. Rummaging in the attic, Petra comes across a diary. The discovery prompts her mother, Elizabeth, to make a confession to her three daughters. Decades ago, she fell in love with her husband’s best friend, Chris—and Petra is Chris’s child . . .

Elizabeth ended the affair before she learned she was pregnant, and Chris has no idea he’s a father. Hugh, who Petra believed to be her dad, was a good-natured but self-centered, blustering man. He and Chris seemed to have little in common, though their friendship was genuine. Elizabeth loved Chris deeply yet refused to tear her family apart. Even since Hugh’s death, she’s resisted contacting Chris. But Petra, floundering and unsure of her path, is compelled to search out her biological father, though she knows it will complicate her relationship with her family.

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

There was a time when Lindy Morris escaped to London and walked along the Thames in the moonlight. When life was full and exciting.

Decades later, Lindy lives back with her Auntie Bell on the edge: on the edge of Donegal and on the edge of Granda Morris’s land. Granda Morris is a complicated man, a farmer who wanted sons but got two daughters: Auntie Bell and Lindy’s mother, who disappeared long ago.

Now, Lindy and Bell live the smallest of lives, in a cottage filled with unfulfilled dreams. But when the secrets they have kept for thirty years emerge, everything is rewritten. Will Lindy grasp who she is again?

And last is a publisher’s widget for The Lost Children, by Michael Wood, #9 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. As I said earlier, I really enjoy this series.

I received three new ARCs via Netgalley this week. They are:

We All Have Our Secrets by Jane Corry

The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

And, The Other Girlfriend by Alex Stone

I also received two publishers widgets, making a total of five new titles for the week, all of which landed in my inbox on Friday. And there I was thinking I was going to have a 0 new additions week. 🤷‍♀️ The two widgets are:

The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland

And, A Cornish Recipe for Murder by Fiona Leitch

I hope that you’re all having a wonderful weekend. The sun is poking its head out from behind the clouds so I will take this opportunity to go for a walk while it’s not raining. I haven’t been for a walk since Wednesday so it will be good to blow the cobwebs out and I should be able to finish listening to Stolen Children. Happy reading!❤📚

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim

EXCERPT: Catherine ‘Cate’ Tibbs stared out the window of her home office at the pine trees lining the backyard of her upstate New York property, taking a moment to study the way the wind and the rain of the autumn storm were making the green needled boughs sway like graceful dancers. The words she wanted to put on the computer screen for the new book she was writing were not coming easily to her. She knew why. She couldn’t stop thinking back to the time she and her two best friends became The Beach Babes. They were such an odd trio of thirteen year olds, but somehow their friendship had formed and had endured through the years. Until recently, that is. She hadn’t heard from either Amber or Brooke for several months now.

Cate sat back in her chair, made a few notes before moving away from her desk, and headed into the kitchen to make a cup of herbal tea. Time to set things in motion, she thought. She and her friends were all turning forty in the upcoming year, and she had a plan.

ABOUT ‘THE BEACH BABES’: Catherine “Cate” Tibbs, Brooke Ridley, and Amber Anderson, friends since they were awkward thirteen-year-olds who named themselves “The Beach Babes,” are about to face their 40th birthdays. Because they haven’t been able to get together for some time, Cate arranges for them to rent a house along the Gulf Coast of Florida for a long weekend. She hopes it will give them the opportunity to celebrate and re-ignite their friendship. Cate, an author trying to finish a book, doesn’t know that Amber, a model, and Brooke, the mother of a boy in college and younger twin girls, are as worried about their own futures as she. Together, the three women support one another as they each face a crisis in her life, proving once again the strength of women’s friendships.

MY THOUGHTS: A pleasant easy summer beach read about the enduring friendship of three women.

Yes, it was pleasant, but wasn’t a particularly engaging read. It took me a good 75% of the book before I began ‘hearing’ these women and seeing them as real characters.

I enjoyed the storyline, even though it was rather predictable, but found the dialogue a little formal and stilted in places.

Of the three main characters, I liked Amber the most. That woman has backbone. I liked Brooke the least. She’s one of those slightly whiny ‘My husband isn’t paying me enough attention. I may just divorce him.’ women. Cate is the facilitator, the glue that holds the three together.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheBeachBabes #NetGalley

I: @judithkeim #wildquailpublishing

T: @judithkeim #WildQuailPublishing

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #friendship #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: I’ve loved stories and reading from the time I played “Librarian” with my sister as a young girl. Living in a relatively small town in upstate New York, reading became a way to experience the world in a way I couldn’t otherwise do.

Many a hot, summer afternoon was spent reading, sprawled on the front porch “glider”, escaping to a time and place far from there. My mother was an avid reader, some might suspect to keep her sanity while raising three active children – especially when my brother was doing experiments with his chemistry set!

Books were always present – being read, ready to go back to the library or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us a wealth of knowledge. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on.

I particularly love and write novels about women who meet unexpected challenges with strength and find love along the way, stories with heart. A child or dog in the story is a plus.

Presently, I lived in Boise, Idaho with my husband and our two dachshunds, Winston and Wally and other members of my family. (judithkeim.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Wild Quail Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Beach Babes by Judith Keim 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 . . .

Welcome to my weekly update post, where I share what I’m currently reading, what my reading choices are for the coming week, and what new ARCs I have received.

Earlier this week I received a paperback copy of Out of Her Depth from the author Lizzy Barber. I was so excited to receive a real book in the post that I started it immediately I opened the parcel. Thank you Lizzy for sending this all the way from England. I am loving this and eager to know what Sebastian has done, or is supposed to have done, and just why he thinks Rachel holds the key to proving his innocence.

For headstrong Rachel, it is the chance of a lifetime: a summer job in the Tuscan hills, receiving room and board in exchange for her services at the luxurious Villa Medici hotel. It’s not long before she finds herself drawn into a cosmopolitan crowd of friends for whom money is no object, and allegiances can change with the toss of a coin.

When she asks her new friend Diana to help her win the affections of the handsome and charming Sebastian, she thinks she might finally have a chance to become part of their world, but when she discovers that Diana may have intentions of her own, she begins to learn the real cost of friendship. And when Sebastian begins to focus on the sweet and innocent Valentina, Rachel discovers there may be an even higher price to pay.

The suffocating heat, the blinding wealth, the beautiful people: it soon becomes too much, and Rachel finds herself not just out of her depth, but drowning in lies . . .

I am also reading The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

And almost finished my read/listen of Fatal Witness – Detective Erika Foster #7 – by Robert Bryndza.

This coming week I have the following reads for review:

His Other Wife by Nicole Trope

She has my husband. She has my child. She has my life.

I never thought I would end up here. Alone, in a cold one-bedroom apartment, only seeing my precious daughter once a week.

Another woman is living the life that was once mine. I wish I was still married to my ex-husband, the love of my life. I dream of tucking my five-year-old child into her ballerina bed sheets every night. I miss living in a beautiful house, the perfect family home, with a winding staircase and a sprawling garden.

I’d do anything to be with my family again. To start over and prove to them that I’ve changed, that I won’t lose control like before.

But when I get my second chance, the vicious messages come. The noises at night. The feeling of being watched. It’s happening all over again. I know I’m not going mad, but no one will believe me. I don’t know if I even believe myself.

All I wanted was my life back. But now my life is under threat – and my darling little girl is in danger…

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Scarlett’s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

On a sweltering Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together. Esther never makes it home.

Ronnie’s going to find her, she has a plan. Lewis will help. Their friend can’t be gone, Ronnie won’t believe it.

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it, she has seen what people are capable of. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible.

Lewis can believe it too. But he can’t reveal what he saw that afternoon at the creek without exposing his own secret.

Five days later, Esther’s buried body is discovered.

The Guilty Couple by C.L. Taylor

Five years ago, Olivia Sutherland was wrongfully convicted of plotting to murder her husband.

Now she’s finally free, Olivia has three goals: repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, clear her name, and bring down her husband – the man who framed her.

Just how far is she willing to go to get what she wants? And how far will her husband go to stop her? Because his lies run deeper than Olivia could ever have imagined – and this time it’s not her freedom that’s in jeopardy, but her life… 

And Girl Forgotten by Karin Slaughter

A small town hides a big secret…

Who killed Emily Vaughn?

A girl with a secret…

Longbill Beach, 1982. Emily Vaughn gets ready for the prom. For an athlete, who is smart, pretty and well-liked, this night that should be the highlight of her high school career. But Emily has a secret. And by the end of the evening, that secret will be silenced forever.

An unsolved murder…

Forty years later, Emily’s murder remains a mystery. Her tight-knit group of friends closed ranks; her respected, wealthy family retreated inwards; the small town moved on from her grisly attack. But all that’s about to change.

One final chance to uncover a killer…

US Marshal Andrea Oliver arrives in Longbill Beach on her first assignment: to protect a judge receiving death threats. But, in reality, Andrea is there to find justice for Emily. The killer is still out there – and Andrea must discover the truth before she gets silenced, too…

This week I have six new digital ARCs from Netgalley and my paperback copy of Out of Her Depth written and gifted to me by Lizzy Barber, who also very kindly signed it.❤ The new ARCs are:

So Long Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

The Night Watch by Neil Lancaster

Light Through the Vines by Fiona Valpy

The Season of Dreams by Fiona Valpy

and The Recipe for Hope, also by Fiona Valpy. These three titles form The Escape to France collection.

My final title is All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien, and was a widget sent to me by publishers Harlequin Australia. Isn’t the cover rather spectacular!

It’s been a grey sort of day after a lovely sunny start, but at least it hasn’t rained since the very early hours of the morning, and it wasn’t foggy. I think that this is the first day in over three weeks that it hasn’t rained.

I got out into the garden for a short time this morning and raked leaves for composting and got rid of all the dead tomato vines. We’re meant to have a few more days of fine weather and even some sun, so hopefully it will dry out enough for me to mow the lawns which are looking decidedly ragged. I was going to bake a banana loaf, but it’s almost time for the roast pork to go in the oven, so that will have to wait for another day.

I spent some time with Luke after school on Tuesday. He loves doing jigsaws and read me a bedtime story! I enjoyed that.

I hope that you have all had a wonderful week, and I wish you another to come. Happy reading all!

The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C. McPhail

EXCERPT: ‘Howard Butterworth? I’m sorry, miss. We have no one by that name in this office. Could someone else be of assistance to you?’

‘You have no one by that name. Are you certain? Look again, please. He works between here and the Memphis office. I’m sure he must be here.’

‘No, miss.’ The starched young woman ran her finger down a catalogued list of names. ‘There is no Howard Butterworth in our records. I am personally acquainted with all of the gentlemen in this exchange, and I assure you, we have no one of that name in our employ.’

‘I know he is here,’ Alice insisted. ‘He is my husband.’

‘He may well be your husband, ma’am. But he is affiliated neither with the cotton exchange nor with this office in any capacity. Would you care to examine the list yourself? Or may I help you with anything else before you leave?’

Alice stared at the woman’s unrelenting face. After a month reality entered her body, and shock numbed her. There would be no verification here. No more than with the police. The Howard Butterworth she knew as her husband did not exist.

ABOUT ‘THE SEAMSTRESS OF NEW ORLEANS’: The year 1900 ushers in a new century and the promise of social change, and women rise together toward equality. Yet rules and restrictions remain, especially for women like Alice Butterworth, whose husband has abruptly disappeared. Desperate to make a living for herself and the child she carries, Alice leaves the bitter cold of Chicago far behind, offering sewing lessons at a New Orleans orphanage.

Constance Halstead, a young widow reeling with shock under the threat of her late husband’s gambling debts, has thrown herself into charitable work. Meeting Alice at the orphanage, she offers lodging in exchange for Alice’s help creating a gown for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the first all female krewe of Mardi Gras. During Leap Years, women have the rare opportunity to take control in their interactions with men, and upend social convention. Piece by piece, the breathtaking gown takes shape, becoming a symbol of strength for both women, reflecting their progress toward greater independence.

But Constance carries a burden that makes it impossible to feel truly free. Her husband, Benton, whose death remains a dangerous mystery, was deep in debt to the Black Hand, the vicious gangsters who controlled New Orleans’ notorious Storyville district. Benton’s death has not satisfied them. And as the Mardi Gras festivities reach their fruition, a secret emerges that will cement the bond between Alice and Constance even as it threatens the lives they’re building . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I was greatly disappointed with The Seamstress of New Orleans. There’s not a great sense of place. I believe a lot more could have been made of the setting of this book. The storyline was very uninspiring and after about quarter of the way through the book, I found myself skimming large tracts until something caught my interest.

The big secret that cements the bond between Alice and Constance is glaringly obvious very early on in the book, which only increased my disappointment.

It was the chance to learn some of the history of the famous New Orleans Mardi Gras that first attracted me to this book, but again I was disappointed. Pickings in this area are very slim.

The only character I really enjoyed was Dorothea. She is a woman who knows her own mind and has the strength of character to stand up for herself. She is also incredibly kind.

I found Alice and particularly Constance to be quite wishy-washy characters. While I admired Constance’s spunk in disguising herself and following her husband, her efforts to behave ‘normally’ afterwards were quite pathetic.

I don’t know if the author was trying to encompass too much with this book, building in a romance, a mystery, deception and the criminal underworld, but it didn’t really work for me and I was seriously tempted to abandon this read more than once.

I adore the cover.

⭐⭐.3

#TheSeamstressofNewOrleans #NetGalley

I: @dianemcphail123 @kensingtonbooks

T: @McPhailDiane @KensingtonBooks

#domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Diane C. McPhail is an artist, writer, and minister. In addition to holding an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., she has studied at the University of Iowa distance learning and the Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers’ Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Seamstress of New Orleans 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 ….

It’s been a week of wild stormy weather here in New Zealand. It would have been an ideal reading week, except that I spent the majority of it at work and both the weather and work situations look much the same for the coming week.

I have just finished The Gin Sisters’ Promise by Faith Hogan

It was a wonderful read and I m not sure yet what I’m going to follow up with, but you can see my list of choices further down the post.

I am currently reading a backtitle – Dark Water by Robert Bryndza – which I inexplicably missed reading earlier. It’s #3 in his Detective Erika Foster series which I have followed from the beginning.

I am a little over halfway through listening to The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain. It’s a lovely sweet story and I have my fingers crossed that Albert will find his lost love.

I have five books to read for review this week, and they are:

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

Riverbend, Texas, doesn’t look like the crossroads of anywhere. But for four high school besties reuniting after twenty years, it’s a place to unpack a lot of baggage.

Risa’s headed for divorce, Mary Nell’s been kicked to the curb by her leech of a boyfriend, and Haley was just blindsided by a shocking family secret. But restless army veteran Jessica Callaway, looking to plant roots, has an idea: corral her fellow former cheerleaders and renovate an abandoned church smack-dab in the middle of three dry counties into a bar. Throw in a grill and Wade Granger—a onetime nerd turned surprisingly crush-worthy investor—and their lives are on tap for a turnaround. Amen to that.

Except for one hitch: the white-clapboard dream is causing a ruckus. With a renewed bond, hard work, and the promise of romance, Jessica and her friends aren’t backing down. For Riverbend, this is going to be a homecoming—and a scandal—to remember. 

Beyond The Moonlit Sea by Julianne MacLean

Olivia Hamilton is married to the love of her life, Dean, a charismatic pilot who flies private jets for the rich and famous. But when he vanishes over the Bermuda Triangle, Olivia’s idyllic existence unravels. After years of waiting, Olivia must eventually let go of the fragile hope that her beloved husband might still be alive.

Melanie Brown is a particle physicist who spends late nights studying the Bermuda Triangle. But her research interests falter when her mother dies in a tragic accident. Struggling to reboot her life and career, Melanie begins a forbidden love affair with her therapist.

When a shocking discovery shows Olivia’s and Melanie’s paths are intertwined, it casts Dean’s disappearance in a new light. The two women’s strange connection threatens to unlock secrets that will change everything Olivia thought she knew about her marriage, her husband, and most importantly, herself. 

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Honorable Alice D. McKerrity is no stranger to violence. From the bench at Manhattan Supreme, she has seen the most hardened killers pass through her courtroom. But there’s something about this trial—a defendant charged with the murder of a pregnant woman—that affects her as no other case ever has. Her chaotic, stressful home life only adds to her mounting feelings of panic and fear. She’s also harboring a secret that if exposed could have far-reaching ramifications both personally and professionally. And now, unbeknownst to Alice, her daughter has begun a search for her biological father.

As the trial progresses, Alice’s life starts to unravel. Nightmares she suffered as a girl return with a vengeance. Phantom sightings torment her. Is she being paranoid? Or are the specters real? Almost at the breaking point, she begins to doubt her own sanity. Then she makes a shocking discovery that sends her on a collision course with her past and a terror-filled night in the woods in Upstate New York. Confronted with the unspeakable, she must face a decades-buried truth as she fights for her survival against a cunning adversary that forces her to question everything she ever believed about herself . . . and tests her limits as a woman, a judge, and a mother.

An Island Summer by Jenny Hale

All that Meghan Gray has left of her beloved Pappy is his cottage on the edge of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean. Longing to feel close to her grandfather, she returns to the golden sands of Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks for the summer, clutching the manilla envelope he gifted her tightly in her hand.

On her first night on the sun-drenched island, she meets brooding Toby Meyers, a local businessman. She might feel lost without Pappy, but looking into Toby’s sparkling blue eyes feels like coming home.

The beach house where she spent her childhood is just how she remembers: a shingled bungalow with two rocking chairs on the porch and shutters on the windows. As Meghan strolls along the sand with Toby, breathing in the salty air, she realizes she is making new memories…

When Meghan opens the envelope, she finds a black-and-white photograph of someone she doesn’t recognize. If she can find out its meaning, and why Pappy gave it to her, she’ll unlock a secret that has been hidden for decades. The truth has the power to change everything Meghan and Toby thought they knew about their lives—and it will either bring them together, or break their hearts…

And The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

All her life, she’s been the girl who survived. Orphaned at age seven after a horrific killing spree at her family’s Oregon cabin, Kara McIntyre is still searching for some kind of normal. But now, twenty years later, the past has come thundering back. Her brother, Jonas, who was convicted of the murders has unexpectedly been released from prison. The press is in a frenzy again. And suddenly, Kara is receiving cryptic messages from her big sister, Marlie—who hasn’t been seen or heard from since that deadly Christmas Eve when she hid little Kara in a closet with a haunting, life-saving command: Don’t make a sound.

As people close to her start to die horrible deaths, Kara, who is slowly and surely unraveling, believes she is the killer’s ultimate target.

Kara survived once. But will she survive again? How many times can she be the girl who survived?

Four new ARCs this week, so at least I am staying consistent. They are: The New House by Tess Stimson

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

And When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

And that’s me done for the week. I’ve decided that my next read is going to be An Island Summer by Jenny Hale. Have any of you read this yet (or any of the others I have lined up for this week), and what did you think?

Have a wonderful week everyone!❤📚

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It seems like an awfully long time since I last did this post,but in reality it was three Sundays ago. I had a wonderful time with Kyle while he was home. Some days we just sat around and talked, some we visited old haunts like Mokau Beach where we used to go every Christmas holidays when he was small, and other days he went and visited his friends. He’s planning on coming home again somewhere around Christmas. And we are planning to go visit him next winter. Luke was very excited to meet his Uncle Kyle again and they spent hours building Lego together. We’ve had Luke stay two nights this week as his school had a teacher only day Friday. We took him home Saturday morning and watched him play soccer before we came back home. He really enjoyed the ducks and ducklings that seem to have moved into the neighbourhood and drew pictures of them which are now on the fridge doors. As is usual when Luke stays, we read and reread many of his books, and I did very little reading for myself.

Currently I have reading The Beach Babes by Judith Keim, A Seashell Cottage Book.

Although I am enjoying the storyline, I’m finding the dialogue stilted and formal. It’s a quick, enjoyable read though.

I have just started a backlist title from February, The Wedding Murders by Sarah Linley. So far, so good.

And I am listening to The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain. Again I have only just started this, but so far, so good.

This week I have five books to read for review. They are:

Blind Justice by David Mark, #10 in the DS McAvoy series

The call comes in before DS Aector McAvoy has had time for breakfast. The news is bad: A body. Found in the woods out at Brantingham.

The reality is even worse.

The young man’s mutilated corpse lies tangled in the roots of a newly fallen tree, two silver Roman coins nailed through his sightless eyes. Who would torture their victim in such a brutal manner – and why?

DS McAvoy makes the victim a promise: I will find answers. You will know justice. But justice always comes at a cost, and this time it may be McAvoy’s own family who pay the price.

Backstory by William L. Myers Jr. I haven’t previously read this author.

In the aftermath of his wife’s apparent suicide, Jackson Robert Hunter wakes up outside a bar with a badly battered head and no memory. Revelations convince Jackson that his wife’s death wasn’t a suicide, but a murder, and he sets out to find the killer.

While hunting the villain and struggling with his amnesia, Jackson discovers that his own backstory is a dark one, littered with broken hearts and dead bodies: a wife he betrayed; a lover he abandoned; a squad of crooked cops he double-crossed; and a city that lives in fear of his name.

Jackson’s odyssey takes him from a small town in Kansas to Philadelphia, then back cross-country to Las Vegas. Along the way he encounters a sister he didn’t know he had, a niece he failed to save, and a mentor ready to lead Jackson down the darkest of paths.

Finally, at the end of his journey, Jackson discovers that it’s not another man he’s been running to, or from, but his own damning deeds, and the paradoxical redemption they might bring.

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson. This appears to be a debut novel.

Aspiring filmmaker June Masterson has high hopes for her first documentary, the true story of the disappearance of famed mystery author Greer Larkin. June learned about the vanishing at age fourteen, locked down on her family’s isolated commune. Now, the deeper she digs into the project, the darker the story gets.

Everyone has a theory. Greer’s mother, Blanche, and her best friend, Rachel, believe that Greer’s fiancé, Jonathan, is the culprit. Greer’s agent is convinced that Greer committed suicide after a debilitating bout of writer’s block. And Jonathan claims it was either Greer’s controlling mother or Rachel, whose attachment to Greer went way beyond friendship.

In desperation, Rachel gives June a suitcase full of Greer’s most personal writings in hopes of finding proof against Jonathan. Then Rachel turns up dead. As June pores over Greer’s writings, she makes a devastating discovery that could finally reveal the truth about the author’s fate. But now, June finds herself in the sights of a killer who’ll stop at nothing to keep their darkest secret. 

Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton, whose writing I love.

Elise King is a successful and ambitious detective–or she was before a medical leave left her unsure if she’d ever return to work. She now spends most days watching the growing tensions in her small seaside town of Ebbing–the weekenders renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals resentful of the changes.

Elise can only guess what really happens behind closed doors. But Dee Eastwood, her house cleaner, often knows. She’s an invisible presence in many of the houses in town, but she sees and hears everything.

The conflicts boil over when a newcomer wants to put the town on the map with a giant music festival, and two teenagers overdose on drugs. When a man disappears the first night of the festival, Elise is drawn back into her detective work and starts digging for answers. Ebbing is a small town, but it’s full of secrets and hidden connections that run deeper and darker than Elise could have ever imagined. 

And The Gin Sisters Promise by Faith Hogan, an Irish author I have read and enjoyed previously.

When Georgie, Iris and Nola’s mother died and their father disappeared into his grief, the sisters made a pact: they would always be there for one another, no matter what.

Now, decades later, they haven’t spoken for years and can barely stand to be in the same room. As his health declines, their father comes up with a plan to bring them back to one another. In his will, he states that before they can claim their inheritance, they must spend six months living together in their childhood home in the village of Ballycove, Ireland, and try to repair their broken relationships.

As the months progress, old resentments boil over, new secrets threaten to come out and each sister must decide what matters more: their pride, or their family. Can they overcome their past and find a way to love each other once more?

And now to new ARCs I’ve received since I last posted. I’m guessing that there’s going to be quite a few!

The Dark Room by Lisa Gray

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim, which I am currently reading.

Guilt Trip by Ed James, DS Vickie Dodds #5

Me and Paul: Untold Stories of a Fabled Friendship by Willie Nelson with David Ritz

After She’d Gone by Alex Dahl

The Last House on the Cliff by Anne Wyn Clark

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please, a new author to me.

The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

The Will by Rebecca Reid, another new author to me.

Everything in Between by Valerie G. Miller, a collection of short stories on love, loss and family by another new to me author.

The Girl Who Left by Jenny Blackhurst, yet another new author to me.

And one audiobook – The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder, narrated by Dan Bittner and Khristine Hvam

So twelve books over three weeks, I haven’t gone overboard averaging four books a week. I did try to drop in occasionally to see what everyone was doing.

Have a great week of reading. ❤📚

Sandy’s May Reading Roundup

Here’s your chance to see what I managed achieve and what I didn’t manage to read over May, which was a scary month to begin with.

At the start of May I had twenty Netgalley ARCs to read/listen for review, but with late approvals this blew out to twenty two. I managed to read/listen to and review twenty books in April. I managed to read/listen to seventeen books in April, two of them audiobooks from last month. So only 15 of these titles were scheduled for May. My May completion rate was a paltry 68% compared with 69% last month and between 75-80% for each of the preceding three months.

Of the books that I read, one was a debut novel – After Happily Ever After by Leslie A. Rasmussen, and seven were authors that I hadn’t previously read. I read two books from my backlist in May in addition to my reads for review, but read nothing purely for pleasure.

My Netgalley feedback rate is still 69%, but I’m sure that it’s only just hanging in there by the narrowest of margins.

The books I never got to read/listen to during May and which are joining my backlist are:

Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothschild

“I could just kill you right now!” It’s something we’ve all thought at one time or another. But Ruby has actually acted on it. Three times, to be exact.

Though she may be a murderer, Ruby is not a sociopath. She is an animal-loving therapist with a thriving practice. She’s felt empathy and sympathy. She’s had long-lasting friendships and relationships, and has a husband, Jason, whom she adores. But the homicide detectives at Miami Beach PD are not convinced of her happy marriage. When we meet Ruby, she is in a police interrogation room, being accused of Jason’s murder. Which, ironically, is one murder that she did not commit, though her vicious mother-in-law and a scandal-obsessed public believe differently. As she undergoes questioning, Ruby’s mind races back to all the details of her life that led her to this exact moment, and to the three dead bodies in her wake. Because though she may not have killed her husband, Ruby certainly isn’t innocent.

Long Lost Girl by Jill Childs

When three-year-old Sara disappeared from their lives, it tore the Turner family apart. Years later, they are still startling at every knock, convinced it is Sara at the door. But the only trace of the cherished little girl is a fading photo in the hall, a single white knitted baby shoe tucked behind the frame.

Then, one day, as they pick at sandwiches in a crowded local café, a beautiful girl approaches, claiming to be Sara. With her wide green eyes and soft, straight hair, could she really be their long-lost girl? But where has she been all this time, and what happened to stop her from coming home?

Soon, Sara is turning up for Sunday lunch, and then moving her things into the little bedroom upstairs. But as Sara makes herself at home, not everyone is happy that she’s back in their lives once more. Long-held secrets are threatening to surface, and someone in this tight-knit family doesn’t want them to be told…

The Island by Adrian McKinty

After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.

When they discover remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.

But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.

Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them all alive. – I am currently listening to this.

A Wedding at Sandy Cove: Always the Bridesmaid Part One by Bella Osborne

This will be Ella’s eighth time down the aisle…

Ella has made it her mission in life to find every bride in their dream dress.

But every time she sends one of her happy customers off to the altar with a perfect, ivory silk gown, she thinks of those seven, hideous bridesmaid dresses hanging in her own closet.

She’s about to add another one, too, because her best friend’s wedding is now only months away. And this one, in a muddy shade of brown, might be the worst dress yet.

Ella is excited for her friend to have the perfect seaside wedding, but every discussion about flowers and centrepieces makes her feel more alone than ever.

So, Ella finally accepts her friends’ pleas to set her up on a blind date.

Ella is set to meet a handsome, gym-going estate agent. But a mix up on the night throws her into the path of Kit, instead.

Kit is most definitely not the man she was supposed to meet, but he could end up changing her life in ways she never thought possible…

A Country Escape by Katie Fforde

Fran has always wanted to be a farmer. And now it looks as if her childhood dream is about to come true. She has just moved in to a beautiful but very run-down farm in the Cotswolds, currently owned by an old aunt who has told Fran that if she manages to turn the place around in a year, the farm will be hers. But Fran knows nothing about farming. She might even be afraid of cows.

She’s going to need a lot of help from her best friend Issi, and also from her wealthy and very eligible neighbour – who might just have his own reasons for being so supportive. Is it the farm he is interested in? Or Fran herself?

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

Albert Entwistle is a private man with a quiet, simple life. He lives alone with his cat Gracie. And he’s a postman. At least he was a postman until, three months before his sixty-fifth birthday, he receives a letter from the Royal Mail thanking him for decades of service and stating he is being forced into retirement.

At once, Albert’s sole connection with his world unravels. Every day as a mail carrier, he would make his way through the streets of his small English town, delivering letters and parcels and returning greetings with a quick wave and a “how do?” Without the work that fills his days, what will be the point? He has no friends, family, or hobbies—just a past he never speaks of, and a lost love that fills him with regret.

And so, rather than continue his lonely existence, Albert forms a brave plan to start truly living. It’s finally time to be honest about who he is. To seek the happiness he’s always denied himself. And to find the courage to look for George, the man that, many years ago, he loved and lost—but has never forgotten. As he does, something extraordinary happens. Albert finds unlikely allies, new friends, and proves it’s never too late to live, to hope, and to love. 

And Carolina Moonset by Matt Goldman

Joey Green has returned to Beaufort, South Carolina, with its palmettos and shrimp boats, to look after his ailing father, who is succumbing to dementia, while his overstressed mother takes a break. Marshall Green’s short-term memory has all but evaporated, but, as if in compensation, his oldest memories are more vivid than ever. His mind keeps slipping backwards in time, retreating into long-ago yesterdays of growing up in Beaufort as a boy.

At first this seems like a blessing of sorts, with the past providing a refuge from a shrinking future, but Joey grows increasingly anxious as his father’s hallucinatory arguments with figures from his youth begin to hint at deadly secrets, scandals, and suspicions long buried and forgotten. Resurfacing from decades past are mysteries that still have the power to shatter lives—and change everything Joey thought he knew.

Especially when a new murder brings the police to his door… 

Have you read any of these, and what did you think?

I had two five star reads in May – The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

And The Last to Disappear by Jo Spain, my review for which will be posted later this week.

Looking at June I have twenty-six Netgalley ARCs to read/listen for review, which is definitely pushing it now that I am back at work a couple of days a week. I can only do what I can do.

Have a wonderful month of reading my friends!

After Happily Ever After by Leslie A. Rasmussen

EXCERPT: A half hour later, I was turning down my block when I realised I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to do any more laundry. I didn’t want to wash any more dishes. Or walk the dog. Or cook dinner. Since Gia started her senior year, and would be leaving for college soon, I’d been struggling with how I was going to find a new purpose to my life. There were plenty of people who would have been happy to not have to go to a job every day, but right now I wasn’t one of them. If I had a job, after she left, I’d have a place where I could still feel important. At forty-five, I was insecure, and I worried whether I’d ever get back into the workforce, and at the same time, wondered if I really wanted to. My mixed-up thoughts depressed me. And then I remembered something that made my day even worse. I’d offered to volunteer at Gia’s school to set up for Winter Carnival. Oh yay! I’d get to be with Mom’s who loved to boss people around.

ABOUT ‘AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER’: Maggie Dolan finds herself at forty-five at a crossroads in her life. Once a high-level executive, she’s chosen to be a stay-at-home mom for the last seventeen years. But now with her daughter, Gia, soon leaving for college, and her husband, disconnected and with secrets he hasn’t shared, Maggie decides it’s time to figure out what she wants for the rest of her life. As she begins her journey, she has to deal with a narcissistic mother, a brother who doesn’t like her and most damaging of all, the news that her father, her rock, has medical issues that may take him from her. Overwhelmed by all these issues, she’s led in a direction that could destroy what she’s built and make her question the choices she’s made. She’s torn between the life she’s always known and something more exciting that she never expected.

MY THOUGHTS: If you’re looking for a character to despise, you’ve found her. Meet Maggie Dolan. The book synopsis calls Maggie’s mom narcissistic, but Maggie wins that contest hands down.

In Maggie’s world, everything is about Maggie. ‘Oh, poor me! My daughter’s leaving home, I won’t know what to do with myself. My psychologist husband seems withdrawn and depressed, he should be paying me more attention. My mom is having to cope with my dad, the love of her life, living in a care facility, but she annoys me and I can’t be bothered to give her the time of day except when I want something from her, and anyway, my mom likes my brother more than me, what’s wrong with her?’ And best friend Ellen is just a killjoy because she wants Maggie to stop seeing the hot, much younger guy from the gym.

Maggie set my teeth on edge.

The story is told almost entirely from Maggie’s point of view, with just the occasional and mostly irrelevant chapter from the point of view of Maggie’s husband, and her father.

I liked Maggie’s dad, and his story is the only reason I continued with this read.

I enjoyed Tiffany Phillips narration of the audiobook.

⭐⭐

#AfterHappilyEverAfter #NetGalley

I: @leslierauthor @blackstonepublishing

T: @LeslieRAuthor @BlackstonePub1

#audiobook #chiclit #contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama

THE AUTHOR: Leslie has written personal essays for online magazines such as Huffington Post, MariaShriver, and SheKnows. She loves dogs and besides having two adorable Labradors, she is a member of The Alliance of Therapy Dogs and has volunteered at her local animal shelter. Leslie lives in Los Angeles and has two sons, and a husband she has been with since college.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of After Happily Ever After written by Leslie Rasmussen and narrated by Tiffany Phillips 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