The First Wife by Jill Childs

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EXCERPT: ‘Difficult, these cases. Unidentified remains.’ She gave me a half-smile. ‘They often get a good public response. They bring back so many memories, you see. So many questions from the past. What if it were my estranged mother or my long-lost sister or my first girlfriend? It makes people stop and think, doesn’t it? About the people who’ve really mattered in life.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: What secrets lie behind this isolated house by the sea?

When Sophie’s life falls apart, she accepts an invitation from a childhood friend, Caroline, to visit her family’s beautiful beach house, situated at the mouth of an isolated cove, miles from the nearest town. The silence is broken only by the rhythmic crash of the waves against the jagged black rocks below.

But when Sophie arrives, she finds her friend much changed. Caroline – who used to be so warm and confident – is secretive and on-edge, spending long, unexplained hours away from her family. And then there’s Caroline’s little daughter Lucy – who stopped speaking soon after they moved in. Caroline assures Sophie that it’s only a phase, but Sophie thinks Lucy looks a little uncared for, a little afraid…

Then one night Sophie is woken by a scream and runs to find Lucy, out of bed and at the attic window, staring in terror at the view below. When Sophie goes to look, her blood runs cold…

MY THOUGHTS: When I first started reading The First Wife by Jill Childs, I thought it was a pretty ordinary sort of book. I have had a run of 2.5 – 3.5 star books, and I thought that this was another. I was WRONG! Very Wrong.

This is one of those books where the suspense creeps up on the reader insidiously. At just over 50%, I was reading along thinking, ‘Yeah, yeah, alright, nothing special,’ then only seconds later I am sitting bolt upright going ‘OMG! OMG! O! M! G!’ And then it just never let up.

Every time I thought I had things figured out, Childs threw in another twist, and I had to rethink things. Very clever writing, Ms Childs.

The story is told from two points of view: Sophie in the here and now; and Caroline in the past. I didn’t particularly like Caroline’s character to start with. I thought that she was a terrible mother, and that Sophie’s mother was correct in her assessment of her as a spoiled little rich girl. But then…I can’t say any more on that subject without giving away a major spoiler. So, Dom, Caroline’s husband. I really don’t know what to make of him, even after finishing this read. He is very focused, a bit of a player, and yet… he does have some redeeming features, like his love for Lucy. Sophie, Caroline’s oldest friend is grief-stricken following the death of her father and the break up of her own relationship. She has low self esteem, and is probably suffering from depression. Initially, it was really hard to like her. Pity, yes, but like, no. And Lucy, a three year old who has clearly been traumatised by something, but what?

I really enjoyed this book, and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a domestic mystery/thriller.

#TheFirstWife #NetGalley

❤😲💇‍♀️✍.5

THE AUTHOR: Jill has always loved stories – real and imaginary. She’s spent 30 years travelling the world as a journalist, living overseas and reporting wherever the news took her. She’s now made her home in London with her husband and twin girls who love stories as much as she does.

Although she’s covered everything from earthquakes and floods, riots and wars, she’s found some of the most extraordinary stories right here at home – in the secrets and lies she imagines behind closed doors on ordinary streets, just like yours.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The First Wife by Jill Childs for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3202478265?type=review#rating_273380278

Unfollow Me by Charlotte Duckworth

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EXCERPT: GoMamas

Topics >Mummy Vloggers>Violet is Blue>Violet’s Whereabouts

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So guys, a friend of a friend knows Violet’s next door neighbour. Apparently on Saturday evening she heard Violet and Henry screaming at each other. Like properly screaming, through the walls. It was so bad it woke up this woman’s newborn. Then – and this is the best/worst bit – an ambulance arrived. She couldn’t see who it was for and she didn’t want to go outside and stare like a horrible rubbernecker. But still! WTAF has happened?

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Oh my god!!!!

Bluevelvet
I’m really upset to hear this. I thought they were rock solid.

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Do you remember earlier in the year though? All that business with Mandy? Maybe something did happen, she lost her temper and…

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Who knows what goes on behind closed doors…?

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Did your friend find out any more, Horses?

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Yes, she said she hasn’t seen Violet since. But, weirder still, there’s been some other woman there, coming and going with shopping and stuff. Letting herself in with a key. It’s not the cleaner. She’s never seen her before, doesn’t know her name. It’s just SO weird now, Violet’s been missing for four days and there’s been nothing. Not even a statement from her management.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: I loved the beginning of this book. It had the potential to be an exciting read. Instead it became repetitive and a little boring in places. I didn’t feel anything for any of the characters – but then that may have something to do with the fact that I don’t understand people who choose to live their lives on social media.

The story is told from three points of view: Henry, husband of Violet; Lily, solo mum, avid but sometimes jealous fan of Violet; and Yvonne, struggling with infertility issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike this book, I just found it an average read. It has all the ingredients for a better than average read: the disappearance of a ‘public’ figure; three unreliable narrators; manipulative characters; infidelity; secrets and lies. But it never quite all came together for me. The ending felt contrived and left me feeling shortchanged.

On the positive side, this is a quick and easy read.

😏🙄🤔

‘Holding on to anger is like drinking poison.’

#UnfollowMe #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Charlotte Duckworth has spent the past fifteen years working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites. She lives in Surrey with her partner and their young daughter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Unfollow Me by Charlotte Duckworth for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2994156516

Watching What I’m Reading…

We are having a day of steady rain for which all the gardeners and farmers are extremely grateful. A nice day in which to do nothing (even our cat has not moved from her bed other than to eat) and go nowhere. Although I have not quite been doing nothing…I have stewed and bottled apples and currently have a large pot of tomato sauce simmering away. My house smells beautiful!

Coronavirus has played havoc with my reading and posting this week as the number of cases in New Zealand has escalated. Not many compared with overseas, but then our total population is less than that of Sydney, Australia. I am pleased to report that there have been no deaths in New Zealand, yet. But government directives have resulted in much extra work for me. We have had to implement a system of recording every person who comes onto the premises, and have had to reconfigure the layout of the club, making more smaller areas for our members, with more space between seats and wider table spaces. Most of our members have been wonderful, but as always, there has been the odd one who has protested and tried to circumvent the rules. ‘If you don’t like it, there’s the door’ has become our answer.

I hope you and all your loved ones are safe and well. Hopefully, this will soon pass, and we can all get back to normal again. Although I think that it will be a slightly new version of normal.

Currently I am reading The Chain by Adrian McKinty who, as any of you who are regular readers know, is one of my favourite authors. I love his Sean Duffy series, and 80 pages in, The Chain seems to be every bit as good. Mr McKinty is a very versatile writer.

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I am currently listening to The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths, another great favourite of mine. This is the first in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series, of which I have read several of the later books.

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This week I am planning on reading Knock, Knock by Chris Merritt

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Natasha Mayston wasn’t expecting anyone to knock on her door so late at night. And she has no idea that the face staring back at her is the last one she’ll ever see…

As Detective Dan Lockhart is called to a wealthy London street to investigate Natasha’s death, he’s startled by the similarity to a previous case. Noticing the cable-tie restraints and the tiny scratches on Natasha’s wedding finger, Dan already knows what he will find if he looks in her mouth – the metal ball which choked her to death. He knows Natasha isn’t the killer’s first victim and is certain that he will strike again.

Months earlier, Kim Hardy was found in the same position in a run-down hotel across the city – an identical silver ball in her throat. But Kim’s murderer was caught and sent to prison – did they arrest the wrong man? And what connects the two victims? Fearing that he’s dealing with a psychopathic serial killer, Dan calls in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help him to get into the perpetrator’s mind. Tough and smart, Lexi will stop at nothing to hunt down the man responsible for the deaths.

Then, another body is discovered, just as Lexi finds a clue online leading to the killer. Dan’s team aren’t convinced, but in pushing Lexi away from the investigation, they force her to dig further into the case on her own. Convinced that she’s on to something, she puts herself in unthinkable danger… but can Dan piece together the clues and identify the killer before it’s too late?

And The First Wife by Jill Childs

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When Sophie’s life falls apart, she accepts an invitation from a childhood friend, Caroline, to visit her family’s beautiful beach house, situated at the mouth of an isolated cove, miles from the nearest town. The silence is broken only by the rhythmic crash of the waves against the jagged black rocks below.

But when Sophie arrives, she finds her friend much changed. Caroline – who used to be so warm and confident – is secretive and on-edge, spending long, unexplained hours away from her family. And then there’s Caroline’s little daughter Lucy – who stopped speaking soon after they moved in. Caroline assures Sophie that it’s only a phase, but Sophie thinks Lucy looks a little uncared for, a little afraid…

Then one night Sophie is woken by a scream and runs to find Lucy, out of bed and at the attic window, staring in terror at the view below. When Sophie goes to look, her blood runs cold…

I have received six ARCs from NetGalley this week:

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

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One Way to Venice by Jane Aiken Hodge

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The Island Girls by Noelle Harrison

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Find Her Alive (Detective Josie Quinn #8) by Lisa Regan

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And finally After the Accident by Kerry Wilkinson

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Stay safe and read.
❤😍📚
Sandy

A Forgotten Murder by Jude Devereux

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EXCERPT: Puck didn’t expect to find a body. She certainly hadn’t been looking for a skeleton of a man no one seemed to remember. How she had mourned him when he disappeared. Her mother told her to stop snivelling, that at fourteen she had no idea what love was.

But she did know!

Now, so many years later, she was still at Oxley Manor, and this morning she was hiding from her mother – as usual. The absurdity that she was thirty-eight years old and still trying to escape Mummy wasn’t lost on her. If her beloved cottage hadn’t been gifted to her, she would leave Oxley. Maybe.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: An English manor home, an unsolved mystery, too many suspects to count… It’s the perfect holiday for romance novelist Sara Medlar.

After solving two murder cases in their hometown of Lachlan, Florida, Sara Medlar, her niece Kate and their friend Jack need a change of scenery. Sara arranges for them to visit an old friend of hers in England. Upon arrival at Oxley Manor, a centuries-old estate that has been converted to a luxury hotel, Kate and Jack quickly realize that Sara is up to something. They learn that Sara has also invited a number of others to join them at Oxley.

When everyone assembles, Sara lets them know why they are there. Decades earlier, two people ran off together from Oxley and haven’t been heard from since—and Sara wants to solve the case. As the people who were there the night the two went missing, the guests find themselves cast in a live mystery-theater event.

In reenacting the events of that night, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide and no one is safe, especially when the discovery of a body makes it clear that at least one of the people who disappeared was murdered.

Sara, Jack and Kate are once again at the heart of a mysterious case that only they are able to solve. But someone is willing to continue to kill to keep the truth about Oxley Manor buried, and none of the guests are safe.

MY THOUGHTS: I liked the gist of this story but really, it was too long. I loved the characters…Sara, a well known romantic novelist who has developed a penchant for solving real life mysteries; Jack and Kate, her proteges; Puck, whose mother appears to detest her; Clive, the hanger-on; Nadine, so beautiful, so lonely; Willa, who just wants to be loved; Diana, earmarked to marry the heir to Oxley Manor, but who disappears the same night as Sean, the stable manager; Byon the poet; Nicky, heir to Oxley; Mrs Aiken, housekeeper and Puck’s mother; and Bella, friend of Sara and current owner of Oxley.

This book had the potential to be really suspenseful, but it wasn’t. Oxley is an old Manor House with its own chapel, graveyard, an attic and, no doubt, a cellar. A lot could have been made of the setting, but this was an opportunity missed to create a really atmospheric read.

It was interesting, and while I wouldn’t call it ‘irresistible’ it was certainly intriguing enough to keep me reading. There are plenty of suspects for the title of murderer, all with motive and opportunity.

I did not realise, when I picked this book up, that A Forgotten Murder is the third in a series. While it does work as a stand alone, personally I would have liked a little more information on how Jack and Kate came to be involved with Sara. I enjoyed this enough that I intend to read the first two books in the series just to find out.

This is a cosy mystery. There are references to violence and sex, but no graphic descriptions.

🤫🗝💌.5

THE AUTHOR: Jude Gilliam was born September 20, 1947 in Fairdale, Kentucky. She has a large extended family and is the elder sister of four brothers. She attended Murray State University and received a degree in Art. In 1967, Jude married and took her husband’s surname of White, but four years later they divorced. For years, she worked as 5th-grade teacher.

She began writing in 1976, and published her first book, The Enchanted Land (1977) under the name Jude Deveraux. Following the publication of her first novel, she resigned her teaching position. Now, she is the author of 31 New York Times bestsellers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Mira US & Canada for providing a digital ARC of A Forgotten Murder by Jude Devereux for review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3232233877

Watching What I’m Reading…

Beat Coronavirus… stay home and read books!

Not sure what is going to happen with my posts over the next two weeks. My youngest son was due home from Australia for a wedding and his friend’s 40th on Tuesday. He was coming home for 12 days….but from midnight tonight, anyone entering New Zealand is required to go into self isolation for 14 days. You see the problem. He tried calling the NZ Embassy in Australia, but it tells him to call back after 8am Monday. You would think that under the current circumstances, it would be manned 24/7. I have a room booked in an airport hotel for Tuesday night as he was coming in on the Red-Eye from Perth. So now we are all in limbo, waiting….All small stuff in the greater scheme of things I know, but frustrating none the less.

Anyway, on to what you are really here for….books.

I am almost finished reading One Moment by Linda Green

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Talk about touching…..between Finn, Kaz, and even the stubborn Martin, this is a tearjerker of a read.

I am currently listening to The Guise of Another by Allen Eskines

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I am not enjoying this as much as The Life We Bury, but it is still a good, if not great, read.

This week I plan on reading A Forgotten Murder by Jude Devereux, an author I used to read a lot of and have recently rediscovered.

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An English manor home, an unsolved mystery, too many suspects to count… It’s the perfect holiday for romance novelist Sara Medlar.

After solving two murder cases in their hometown of Lachlan, Florida, Sara Medlar, her niece Kate and their friend Jack need a change of scenery. Sara arranges for them to visit an old friend of hers in England. Upon arrival at Oxley Manor, a centuries-old estate that has been converted to a luxury hotel, Kate and Jack quickly realize that Sara is up to something. They learn that Sara has also invited a number of others to join them at Oxley.

When everyone assembles, Sara lets them know why they are there. Decades earlier, two people ran off together from Oxley and haven’t been heard from since—and Sara wants to solve the case. As the people who were there the night the two went missing, the guests find themselves cast in a live mystery-theater event.

In reenacting the events of that night, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide and no one is safe, especially when the discovery of a body makes it clear that at least one of the people who disappeared was murdered.

Sara, Jack and Kate are once again at the heart of a mysterious case that only they are able to solve. But someone is willing to continue to kill to keep the truth about Oxley Manor buried, and none of the guests are safe.

And The Liberation of Brigid Dunne by Patricia Scanlan, another author I have recently rediscovered after not reading her for several years.

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Marie-Claire has just made the shocking discovery that her boyfriend (and business partner) is cheating on her. Reeling, she leaves her apartment in Toronto to travel home to Ireland, hoping the comfort of her family and a few familiar faces will ground her. She arrives just in time to celebrate her beloved great-aunt Reverend Mother Brigid’s retirement and eightieth birthday. It will be a long-awaited and touching reunion for three generations of her family, bringing her mother Keelin and grandmother Imelda—who have never quite gotten along—together as well.

But then all hell breaks loose.

Bitter, jealous Imelda makes a startling revelation at the party that forces them all to confront their pasts and face the truths that have shaped their lives. With four fierce, opinionated women in one family, will they ever be able to find common ground and move forward?

At the moment, I am not going to commit to any more reading in the coming week.

Only three new ARCs this week….

Lapse, by Sarah Thornton, a debut Australian author

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The Road to Zoe by Nick Alexander

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and South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber

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Have a wonderful week everyone. May you and your loved ones stay safe.

Cheers
Sandy
❤😍📚

The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton

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EXCERPT: Everyone looks the same here. Block-printed athleisure-wear leggings with Olivia Cunningham’s brand new Motherhood Mania clothing-line tops. Brightly coloured slogan tees – ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ – complete with lozenge shaped pills underneath. She jolts when she realizes she can’t see Casper, his blond bowl haircut flying up and down as he leaps from level to level, before she remembers he’s safely ensconced in his Champions Forever tennis lesson.

‘See her now?’ says Liza. ‘It’s a good ‘un.’

‘Nope.’ Sarah wonders why Liza is staring at her so intently, waiting for her reaction. A Z-list celebrity, she wonders. Unbearable if it is. But, all she can really think is: why is everyone still smiling? Three days into the autumn half-term and she’s done in. Yet here they are, all the other women (and where are all the bloody men today?) bouncing around. Long, lean legs, feet in pristine trainers, chatting so animatedly. Why aren’t they exhausted? She knows she’s probably just jealous – but what’s wrong with them? She’d never stopped to think that maybe they’re all normal and it’s actually her with the problem. She rubs a mark off her own leggings. Weetabix, she guesses, from Casper’s breakfast.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The accident.
The lie.
The fallout will be huge . . .

When Liza’s little boy has an accident at the local health club, it’s all anyone can talk about.

Was nobody watching him?
Where was his mother?
Who’s to blame?

The rumours, the finger-pointing, the whispers – they’re everywhere. And Liza’s best friend, Sarah, desperately needs it to stop.

Because Sarah was there when it happened. It was all her fault. And if she’s caught out on the lie, everything will fall apart . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I tried to like this book but, honestly, it is all about self entitled, selfish, women who see their children as fashion accessories. These women are horrible, shallow, grasping creatures who judge each other by what they buy. Grasping and competitive. Ghastly.

I hate Brussel Sprouts, but faced with the choice of digesting this book or Brussel Sprouts, I would have to choose the sprouts!

The only nice thing I can say about this book is that I liked the cover. This was a dnf for me.

😵

THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Thornton is an alumna of the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton, narrated by Charlie Sanderson and Guy Mott, published by Harper Collins Publishers. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3210955233

Watching What I’m Reading…

We can definitely feel autumn in the air in the evenings…it is quite crisp, and again in the mornings. But the days are still deliciously hot, and we are still waiting on rain. Our garden is parched and the cracks in the lawn are still widening. I love this weather but do feel bad about the garden. I have lost quite a few plants, but am using the water from the washing machine to water our vegetable garden and keep that alive, although there have been a couple of instances when I have forgotten to grab the bucket in time and the laundry room has flooded out onto the hall carpet. I will be so glad when the laundry is moved downstairs and into the garage…then it won’t matter.

I have just begun Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

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I am only one chapter in and already loving this!

I am still listening to The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton. I am not finding it particularly captivating so far…

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This week I also plan on reading

Night Train to Murder by Simon R. Green

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When Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are asked to escort a VIP on the late-night train to Bath, it would appear to be a routine case. The Organisation has acquired intelligence that an attempt is to be made on Sir Dennis Gregson’s life as he travels to Bath to take up his new position as Head of the British Psychic Weapons Division. Ishmael’s mission is to ensure that Sir Dennis arrives safely.

How could anyone orchestrate a murder in a crowded railway carriage without being noticed and with no obvious means of escape? When a body is discovered in a locked toilet cubicle, Ishmael Jones has just 56 minutes to solve a seemingly impossible crime before the train reaches its destination.

And One Moment by Linda Green

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Finn and Kaz are about to meet for the first time.

Ten-year-old Finn, a quirky, sensitive boy who talks a lot and only eats at cafes with a 5-star hygiene rating, is having a tough time at school and home.

Outspoken Kaz, 59, who has an acerbic sense of humour and a heart of gold, is working at the café when Finn and his mum come in.

They don’t know it yet, but the second time they meet will be a moment which changes both of their lives forever . . .

I have five ARCs from Netgalley this week

Can You See Her by S.E. Lynes

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The Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm

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An Artificial Light by Petra Durst-Benning

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Tell Me How It Ends by V.B. Grey

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And We Are Not in the World by Conor O’Callaghan

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BUT….I have also been on a little buying spree. Well, I had to do the rounds of the bookstores in search of books for my grandson’s upcoming third birthday. I managed to find him one book

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He loves anything Paw Patrol so this will definitely be a hit. But I do need to find him a few more books…which may just be a dangerous escapade. For while I got him one book yesterday, I managed to pick up eight for myself (Yes! I am hanging my head in shame…😔)

Dead Time by Matt Brolly

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Two by Peter May, Entry Island, and The Critic

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The Whisper Man by Alex North

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The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

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The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley

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One Minute Later by Susan Lewis

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It’s Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell

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So now I am going to sit in the naughty corner and read, and read, and read…😂🤣😂🤣

I only have one day off this week, so I may have overestimated what I am going to be able to read. We’ll see.

If you have any suggestions for books my grandson would like, please tell me. His absolute favourite at the moment is Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss

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I must have read it to him three times before he went to bed when I was up there earlier this week. And if I make a mistake with the tongue twisters, he says ‘No, Nana, that’s not right. Read it again!’

Happy reading my friends.

Cheers
Sandy
❤😍📚

The Orphan House by Ann Bennett

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EXCERPT: She’s drifting off again, her mind wandering as it always does, back to that time she tried for years to bury. Tonight, against her will, it takes her to a place she has trained herself never to visit. But there is no stopping it now. The memories rush to the surface like bubbles in a bottle of champagne when the cork is popped.

It is spring. The hedgerows are coming into bloom, dusted with powdery white hawthorn flowers. Drifts of yellow primroses sprinkle the bank. She’s not alone. Her arm is tucked inside his. She can feel the smooth cotton of his shirt against her skin. His body is strong and warm next to her, a comforting shield between her and the river. She knows she should feel guilty, she should feel bad about this, but she doesn’t. She can imagine the shock and recriminations that would follow if Mother or Evie were to find out; their wide eyes, their wagging fingers.

She shakes her head, trying to banish the memory. She can feel the tears welling again, aware that they’re tears of self pity and of mourning for what might have been.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: As she looks at the baby wriggling in her father’s arms, a bolt of recognition goes through her and she takes a step back. And it’s in that moment that she begins to protect her father’s secrets.

1934, Weirfield-on-Thames. Connie Burroughs loves living in the orphanage that her father runs. Exploring its nooks and crannies with her sister, hearing the pounding of a hundred pairs of feet on the wooden stairs, having a father who is doing so much good. But everything changes the day she sees him carrying a newborn baby that he says he found near the broken front gate. A baby she recognises…

Present day. Arriving at her father’s beloved cottage beside the river, Sarah Jennings is hoping for peace and quiet, to escape her difficult divorce. But when she finds her father unwell and hunched over boxes of files on the orphanage where he was abandoned as a child, she decides to investigate it herself.

The only person left alive who lived at Cedar Hall is Connie Burroughs, but Connie sits quietly in her nursing home for a reason. The sewing box under Connie’s bed hides secrets that will change Sarah’s life forever, uncovering a connection between them that has darker consequences than she could ever imagine.

MY THOUGHTS: I enjoyed The Orphan House by Ann Bennett, which is a mix of historical and contemporary fiction, moving between the 1930’s and today, Colonial India and England.

It pays to remember, as you read, that the social mores of the 1930s were vastly different to those of today. The father in the household wielded absolute power – his word was law. Having a child out of wedlock was the kiss of death for any young girl hoping to make a ‘decent’ marriage – she was damaged goods – as was having a parent in jail. Thank goodness for India, a place where those not quite socially acceptable, and those who failed to live up to family expectations, could be shipped off to.

And that is where we find Anna, one of the three women who narrate this story. Connie, when we first meet her, is the elderly resident of a retirement home, and her story is told in flashbacks. Sarah is the contemporary woman who buys Connie’s home and discovers the secrets contained within. How does Anna in India connect to Connie and Sarah? That is the mystery…..

While there is nothing startling in the revelations, this is a lovely read, and one that I enjoyed. The characters are well portrayed, as are the historical and emotional aspects.

😊😊😊.5

#TheOrphanHouse #NetGalley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Bennett was born in a small village in Northamptonshire, UK and now lives in Surrey. Her first book, A Daughter’s Quest, originally published as Bamboo Heart, was inspired by her father’s experience as a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma Railway. The Planter’s Wife (originally published as Bamboo Island) a Daughter’s Promise and The Homecoming, (formerly Bamboo Road) are also about the war in South East Asia. The idea for The Orphan House came from researching her great-grandfather, Brice Bennett, who was headmaster of a county school for pauper children in Wargrave, Berkshire. The Orphan House and a further WW2 historical novel will be published by Bookouture in 2020. Ann is married with three grown up sons and works as a lawyer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Orphan House by Ann Bennett for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3202485641

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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EXCERPT: Libby picks up the letter off the doormat. She turns it in her hands. It looks very formal; the envelope is cream in color, made of high-grade paper, and feels as though it might even be lined with tissue. The postal frank says: “Smithkin Rudd & Royle Solicitors, Chelsea Manor Street, SW3.”

She takes the letter into the kitchen and sits it on the table while she fills the kettle and puts a tea bag in a mug. Libby is pretty sure she knows what’s in the envelope. She turned twenty-five last month. She’s been subconsciously waiting for this envelope. But now that it’s here she’s not sure she can face opening it.

She picks up her phone and calls her mother.

“Mum,” she says. “It’s here. The letter from the trustees.”

She hears a silence at the other end of the line. She pictures her mum in her own kitchen, a thousand miles away in Dénia: pristine white units, lime-green color-coordinated kitchen accessories, sliding glass doors onto a small terrace with a distant view to the Mediterranean, her phone held to her ear in the crystal-studded case that she refers to as her bling.

“Oh,” she says. “Right. Gosh. Have you opened it?”

“No. Not yet. I’m just having a cup of tea first.”

“Right,” she says again. Then she says, “Shall I stay on the line? While you do it?”

“Yes,” says Libby. “Please.”

She feels a little breathless, as she sometimes does when she’s just about to stand up and give a sales presentation at work, like she’s had a strong coffee. She takes the tea bag out of the mug and sits down. Her fingers caress the corner of the envelope and she inhales.

“OK,” she says to her mother, “I’m doing it. I’m doing it right now.”

Her mum knows what’s in here. Or at least she has an idea, though she was never told formally what was in the trust. It might, as she has always said, be a teapot and a ten-pound note.

Libby clears her throat and slides her finger under the flap. She pulls out a sheet of thick cream paper and scans it quickly:

To Miss Libby Louise Jones

As trustee of the Henry and Martina Lamb Trust created on 12 July 1977, I propose to make the distribution from it to you described in the attached schedule…

She puts down the covering letter and pulls out the accompanying paperwork.

“Well?” says her mum, breathlessly.

“Still reading,” she replies.

She skims and her eye is caught by the name of a property. Sixteen Cheyne Walk, SW3. She assumes it is the property her birth parents were living in when they died. She knows it was in Chelsea. She knows it was big. She assumed it was long gone. Boarded up. Sold. Her breath catches hard at the back of her throat when she realizes what she’s just read.

“Er,” she says.

“What?”

“It looks like… No, that can’t be right.”

“What!”

“The house. They’ve left me the house.”

“The Chelsea house?”

“Yes,” she says.

“The whole house?”

“I think so.” There’s a covering letter, something about nobody else named on the trust coming forward in due time. She can’t digest it at all.

“My God. I mean, that must be worth…”

Libby breathes in sharply and raises her gaze to the ceiling. “This must be wrong,” she says. “This must be a mistake.”

“Go and see the solicitors,” says her mother. “Call them. Make an appointment. Make sure it’s not a mistake.”

“But what if it’s not a mistake? What if it’s true?”

“Well then, my angel,” says her mother—and Libby can hear her smile from all these miles away—“you’ll be a very rich woman indeed.”

Libby ends the call and stares around her kitchen. Five minutes ago, this kitchen was the only kitchen she could afford, this flat the only one she could buy, here in this quiet street of terraced cottages in the backwaters of St. Albans. She remembers the flats and houses she saw during her online searches, the little intakes of breath as her eye caught upon the perfect place—a suntrap terrace, an eat-in kitchen, a five-minute walk to the station, a bulge of ancient leaded windows, the suggestion of cathedral bells from across a green—and then she would see the price and feel herself a fool for ever thinking it might be for her.

She compromised on everything in the end to find a place that was close to her job and not too far from the train station. There was no gut instinct as she stepped across the threshold; her heart said nothing to her as the estate agent showed her around. But she made it a home to be proud of, painstakingly creaming off the best that T.J.Maxx had to offer, and now her badly converted, slightly awkward one-bedroom flat makes her feel happy. She bought it; she adorned it. It belongs to her.

But now it appears she is the owner of a house on the finest street in Chelsea and suddenly her flat looks like a ridiculous joke. Everything that was important to her five minutes ago feels like a joke—the £1,500-a-year raise she was just awarded at work, the hen weekend in Barcelona next month that took her six months to save for, the MAC eye shadow she “allowed” herself to buy last weekend as a treat for getting the pay raise, the soft frisson of abandoning her tightly managed monthly budget for just one glossy, sweet-smelling moment in House of Fraser, the weightlessness of the tiny MAC bag swinging from her hand, the shiver of placing the little black capsule in her makeup bag, of knowing that she owned it, that she might in fact wear it in Barcelona, where she might also wear the dress her mother bought her for Christmas, the one from French Connection with the lace panels she’d wanted for ages. Five minutes ago her joys in life were small, anticipated, longed-for, hard-earned and saved-up-for, inconsequential little splurges that meant nothing in the scheme of things but gave the flat surface of her life enough sparkles to make it worth getting out of bed every morning to go and do a job which she liked but didn’t love.

Now she owns a house in Chelsea and the proportions of her existence have been blown apart.

ABOUT THIS BOOK:Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, right off the bat, this is NOT my favourite Lisa Jewell book. It was alright….but I didn’t have my usual Lisa Jewell reading experience which is akin to Alice falling in the rabbit hole…I didn’t fall into and become part of the book. That was a tad disappointing.

I liked the story, the plot, which was complex, but then they always are. The characters were sometimes a little scary, and although I thought I had it all figured out, I didn’t. The narrators were good. They weren’t the problem. So then, what was?

I am at a loss. I have listened to other Lisa Jewell books on audio, and loved them. I just have the sneaking feeling that I would have enjoyed this more if I had read the written word, but I can’t explain why. I shall table the reading experience for some time in the future and then, if I need to, amend my rating and review.

🙂 🙂 🙂

THE AUTHOR: Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell, narrated by Tamaryn Payne, Bea Holland and Dominic Thorburn, published by Penguin Audio. 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.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2896543925

Watching What I’m Reading…

March! It feels like it should still be January…I am not ready for autumn, not at all. Or winter. I love the long, light days. I hate getting up in the dark to go to work, then coming home in the dark again, the fog, the rain, the cold…. I probably live in the wrong country entirely.

Currently I am reading The River Home by Hannah Richell whose writing I love. I only started this late last night, but already she has drawn me into the story with her wonderful, though not always likeable, characters. I really am not sure what has gone on in the past between Margot and her mother Kit. I am look ing forward to finding out!

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I have only just started listening to The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton, a new author for me.

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This week I am planning on reading The Orphan House by Ann Bennett, another new author for me.

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As she looks at the baby wriggling in her father’s arms, a bolt of recognition goes through her and she takes a step back. And it’s in that moment that she begins to protect her father’s secrets.

1934, Weirfield-on-Thames. Connie Burroughs loves living in the orphanage that her father runs. Exploring its nooks and crannies with her sister, hearing the pounding of a hundred pairs of feet on the wooden stairs, having a father who is doing so much good. But everything changes the day she sees him carrying a newborn baby that he says he found near the broken front gate. A baby she recognises…

Present day. Arriving at her father’s beloved cottage beside the river, Sarah Jennings is hoping for peace and quiet, to escape her difficult divorce. But when she finds her father unwell and hunched over boxes of files on the orphanage where he was abandoned as a child, she decides to investigate it herself.

The only person left alive who lived at Cedar Hall is Connie Burroughs, but Connie sits quietly in her nursing home for a reason. The sewing box under Connie’s bed hides secrets that will change Sarah’s life forever, uncovering a connection between them that has darker consequences than she could ever imagine.

And Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer, yet another new author for me.

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With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

I have just looked at my reading schedule for March, and it is scary….very scary! I think I may have over-committed myself, just a little.Ce la vie!

Only four new ARC’s this week…still two more than what I planned on. Yes, you know all about my lack of will power when books and/or chocolate are involved.

They are: One of Us Is Lying by Shalini Boland

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The House Guest by Mark Edwards

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My Husband’s Lie by Emma Davies

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and finally, The Liberation of Brigid Dunne by Patricia Scanlan

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Off to do some reading! Have a happy weekend all.

Cheers
Sandy
❤😍📚