To Love and Be Loved by Amanda Prowse

EXCERPT: Breathing long and slow, Merrin closed her eyes briefly, feeling instantly better, calmed. This was the perfect spot with the widest view and she could spend hours here, staring at the waves. Her dad once told her that they were the heads of white, foaming horses, cantering up to the break and crashing, before making a sharp turn and petering to nothing on their return. It was now impossible for her to see them in any other way. Looking out over the purple bruise of sky where clouds hung low over the ocean, she offered up a silent prayer.

Please don’t rain! Not on my wedding day . . .

ABOUT ‘TO LOVE AND BE LOVED’: Young and desperately in love, Merrin had the whole world ahead of her. But just as her new life was about to start, the ground beneath her feet was cruelly swept away. Devastated by the humiliation, she ran far away from the beloved fishing village she had always called home to lick her wounds and escape her gossiping friends and neighbours.

It hasn’t been easy, but six years later Merrin has forged a new life for herself far from the sea, burying the impulsive girl she once was. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to return to the village she swore she’d never set foot in again.

Reluctantly back in the arms of her community, Merrin begins to realise what she’s been missing out on all these years. As she begins to remember the person she used to be, she is forced to make choices about her future, and to question the past. What does she want from her life? Who is important to her? Who is to blame for everything that went wrong? And can she forgive them, let old wounds heal and finally be her true self again?

MY THOUGHTS: As with all of Amanda Prowse’s books, To Love and Be Loved is a very emotional read. I had shredded a great number of tissues before I was a quarter of the way through! If only the worst Merrin had to worry about on her wedding day was the weather . . .

We follow Merrin’s life journey as her future is ripped apart and she flees her home to try and make a life elsewhere. But, as we all know, the problem with running away is that we take along the problems that are in our hearts and our heads. And at some point, we just have to turn around and deal with them.

Don’t expect a fast paced book, you won’t get it. To Love and Be Loved is a meandering and often sad read as Merrin spends a lot of time treading water, surviving rather than living.

The sadness and grief is, at times, overwhelming. But it is also punctuated with some beautiful moments in Prowse’s trademark style.

Prowse has created a very close knit family in the Kellows. Ben and Heather are still very much in love after their many years of marriage and I enjoyed the easiness of their relationship. Merrin is the younger of their two daughters and a very different personality than her older sister Ruby, who is more prickly and brash, Merrin more dreamy and soft. And I loved their friend Bella, whose role in life seems to be a buffer between the sisters.

Initially, I loved this book, and I still do, but with some reservations. It is intense, emotionally. But, in places it is just too much. Was there ever a family as perfect as the Kellows? I would like to hope so, but probably not. (view spoiler) And the ending is very sudden, and for me was, considering Merrin’s past, far too fast and unlikely.

Yet, despite all this, I finished with a smile on my face and am eagerly awaiting Prowse’s next.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#ToLoveandBeLoved #NetGalley

I: @mrsamandaprowse @amazonpublishing

T: @MrsAmandaProwse @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance

THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK, Lake Union Publishing, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of To Love and Be Loved by Amanda Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Betrayal (Olivia Sinclair #1) by Terry Lynn Thomas

EXCERPT: Sunday October 5th

When the alarm blared the Sunday financial recap, the woman woke with a start. She didn’t care about the Dow Jones Industrial Average, nor did she care about market volatility. Fumbling, she unplugged the old-fashioned clock radio and tossed it under the bed. Her thoughts, as they often did, went to her lover. She rolled over and pressed her face into his pillow, taking in the scent of him, that strange concoction of vanilla and citrus that made her senses reel.

Rolling over on her back, she took a deep breath and cradled her belly, thinking of the baby that grew inside her. The positive pregnancy test lay on the table next to her, its vertical pink line a source of unimaginable joy. She snuggled under the duvet as the automatic coffee maker kicked into gear, filling her apartment with the aroma of the dark roast coffee her lover preferred.

She saw the card on the doormat just as she poured her first cup of coffee.

I’ve rented a beach house for us tonight. I’ll send a key and the address by messenger. Meet you there around ten?

Leaning back against the counter, the woman closed her eyes, anticipating their rendezvous. Dear God, she craved him.

She did not know that she had less than fifteen hours to live.

ABOUT ‘THE BETRAYAL’: Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?

MY THOUGHTS: Delicious! Tightly plotted. Fast-paced. Gripping. I didn’t want to put this down. And even though I suspected who the murderer was quite early on, and for once I was right, I enjoyed the journey. Immensely.

The Betrayal has all the ingredients of a great domestic drama – the cheating husband, the big reveal at the worst possible moment, a dead body, the finger – and a great deal of evidence – pointing to the wronged wife, revenge, and duplicity. And the author whips all these into a delicious, captivating and entertaining read.

Of course, Olivia – a very strong woman – doesn’t just have a cheating husband and a murder charge to deal with. She is also having issues with her daughter, who seems determined to cut her mother out of her life.

The characters are well portrayed, realistic and believable, the tension palpable.

I believe that this is the first in a series featuring Olivia. I will definitely be lining up to read the next.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheBetrayal #NetGalley

I: @ terrylynnthomasbooks @terrylynnthomas @hqstories

T: @TLThomasBooks @HQStories

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #murdermystery #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: The Betrayal and The Witness are Terry’s first foray into the world of domestic suspense, and introduce attorney Olivia Sinclair. When she’s not writing, Terry likes to spend time outdoors gardening and walking in the woods with her husband and her dogs.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to HQ, HQ Digital via Netgalley, for providing a digital ARC of The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas 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 . . .

Oh my goodness, have seen what is happening in Tonga? My thoughts and prayers are with you all, and all those in low lying areas that may be impacted by tsunamis caused by the volcanic eruptions. The far north of the North Island has suffered some damage in marinas but thankfully no loss of life.

Currently I am reading The Night of the Party by Anna-Lou Weatherley. If I hadn’t had to go to work today I would have finished this. All I can say is that if you don’t have this on your radar, add it!

I am also reading Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, purely for pleasure, and loving it!

I am currently listening to Fallen (Kate Burkholder #13) by Linda Castillo.

This week I plan on reading The Girl She Was by Alafair Burke

HOPE CAN BE A DANGEROUS THING…

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she really is.

Fourteen years ago, she was found thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Hope started a new life, but never recovered her memory.

Now she’s missing. With nowhere else to turn, Hope’s best friend, Lindsay Kelly, calls NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher.

In pursuit of answers, three women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.

And Where There’s A Will by Sulari Gentill. I absolutely loved the last book I read by this author and am really looking forward to reading this.

Hell hath no fury like a family disinherited…

American millionaire Daniel Cartwright has been shot dead: three times in the chest, and once in the head. His body is found in Harvard Yard, dressed in evening attire. No one knows who he planned to meet there, or why the staunch Oxford man would be caught dead at Harvard–literally.

Australian Rowland Sinclair, his mate from Oxford and longtime friend, is named executor of the will, to his great surprise–and that of Danny’s family. Events turn downright ugly when the will all but disinherits Danny’s siblings in favor of one Otis Norcross, whom no one knows or is able to locate. Amidst assault, kidnapping, and threats of slander, Rowly struggles to understand Danny’s motives, find the missing heir, and identify his friend’s killer before the clock–and his luck–run out.

A deft blend of history and mystery, WHERE THERE’S A WILL offers an alternately charming and chilling snapshot of Boston and New York in the 1930s, with cameo appearances by luminaries of the day including Marion Davies, Randolph Hearst, Errol Flynn, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and an arrogantly ardent Joe Kennedy, who proves no match for Rowly’s sculptress friend Edna.

I have read and enjoyed few books lately about families and inheritances, and loved this author’s previous book so I am looking forward to this.

I have another three books scheduled for this week, but as I am starting to train my replacement at work it’s unlikely that I will get to them on time. So apologies to authors and publishers.

Six new ARCs were approved this week; so much for keeping my TBR mountain under control!

This week I have been approved for: Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton. I have absolutely loved everything I have read by this author so am looking forward to reading this.

The Baby Shower by S.E. Lynes, an author I follow avidly.

Dead End Street by Trevor Wood

A Village Secret by Julie Houston

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey

And the audiobook The Captain’s Wife by Norma Curtis and narrated by Josh Wichard.

I am honestly going to try and avoid Netgalley for the coming week. 🤣😂🤣😂 Well, you just know how successful that’s going to be!

Anyway, I’m off to bed. It’s been a long day at work and Pete has a 4am start tomorrow. I seldom go back to sleep after he goes to work so I need to cram as much sleep in before as I can.

Stay safe and keep reading. We’ve had our first community case of Omicron announced today so I guess we will soon be following in everyone else’s footsteps. We’ve had our boosters, and I interact with the public as little as possible, so I hope that will be enough to protect us.

The House Fire by Rosie Walker

EXCERPT: I haven’t been able to access reports from the post-mortem, so I don’t know if the flames touched her. What I do know is smoke is hot. And when it’s inhaled, it sears the respiratory tract.

She burned from the inside out, because of me. Because of what I did.

I have to live with that. What surprises me most is that I can.

ABOUT ‘THE HOUSE FIRE’: A tired old seaside town hiding a series of unsolved arson attacks.

A derelict mansion in the woods with a long-buried secret.

A bundle of old love letters that mask a dark story.

When Jamie’s documentary investigation gets too close to uncovering the truth behind a series of deadly arson attacks that tormented Abbeywick in the 1980s, her family might be the ones who pay the price.

But for her younger sister Cleo, the secrets Jamie uncovers have the potential to get exactly what Cleo wants: to remove her mum’s toxic new husband from their lives, forever.

All it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke . . .

MY THOUGHTS: This was a surprising read. I did not enjoy the first 25% at all. It was boring, repetitive and I skimmed pages and pages. I was seriously considering abandoning this read, but then . . . it took off like a rocket and all my reservations were forgotten. I read the remainder of The House Fire in two sittings and had to pick my jaw up from the floor when I finished.

There are a number of issues addressed in this novel, but the author makes it clear at the end that she was showcasing that of coercive abuse. Unfortunately I think that it got tather overshadowed by the arson and the spectacularly bad behaviour of teenager, Cleo, who is at that stage where she is sure that she knows everything and will go to extraordinary lengths to prove herself right. While the motivation behind her actions may have been commendable, her methods of gaining attention left much to be desired.

The characters are mainly quite unlikable, with the exception of Jamie, Chloe’s older sister, and Lucasz, Chloe’s friend. They are complex and unreliable, all with their own agendas.

The story is told from three points of view, Chloe, Jamie and the arsonist. I am not convinced that the arsonist’s point of view added a lot to the story.

While I can’t say that I enjoyed The House Fire, it did, in the later parts, become compelling.

⭐⭐⭐.1

#NetGalley

I: @rosiejanewalker @onemorechapterhc

T: @ciderwithrosie @Onemorechapter @HarperCollinsUK

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth #murdermystery #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: Rosie Walker is a novelist who lives in Edinburgh with her husband Kevin and their dog Bella. Rosie has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Lancaster University.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The House Fire by Rosie Walker for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller

EXCERPT: Unexpectedly my eyes filled with tears. Dad loved and encouraged my early interest in words. He conversed in French with me, discussed the fundamental principles of Esperanto, showed me how to interpret cryptic crosswords and, when I was pretty young, no more than seven, he taught me shorthand. Not the old fashioned Pitman kind he’d learned as a young clerk, which required fountain pens to make the all-important thick and thin line distinctions, but a more modern type called Teeline. He’d picked this up during the early 1970s at journalism evening classes. I had a vague idea that he’d planned to retrain as a journalist. But other than writing articles for the parish magazine, I don’t think this ever came to fruition. At some point in the late 1970s he became a headteacher, which I suppose made teaching seem interesting again.

For a while he and I would communicate in Teeline’s secret code. I remember the thrill of it, of reading something neither of my brothers could understand. As late as my fifteenth birthday, the year he gave me the field glasses – a few weeks before he left us – Dad put a shorthand message in my card. I didn’t remember, now, what it said, but I remembered reading it. The card that came for my sixteenth birthday, the first to come through the post rather than waiting for me on the kitchen table, didn’t contain any secret message.

‘What does it say?’ Jeanie said, craning over to try to look at the page.

‘I’m not sure,’ I lied. ‘I’d have to refresh my memory about how to read it, it’s been such a long time.’

‘This is ridiculous,’ she snapped. ‘She can’t even read them. There’s no reason for Pearl to have these. I can easily get someone to translate them.’

Pointing at the page, Benjy said, ‘Doesn’t this line say, “Wow, my second wife is such a cow”?’ And with that the gloves were finally off.

‘Mr Claymore, do you see what we are up against?’ Jeanie’s face was red with fury. ‘I demand you intervene. These notebooks may contain material that my husband’s former children will exploit.’

‘Former children?’ Benjy said, laughing.

I glanced down at the page again, and read: It would be necessary to keep this . . . then there were several symbols I couldn’t read, followed by I have hidden so much. What the heck was in these diaries?

ABOUT ‘THE WOMAN WHO CAME BACK TO LIFE’: Pearl Flowers lives in a fairytale cottage in the woods in France. Her life is small, strict and safe. Every day is planned: Mondays she takes the middle path through the trees, on Wednesday the right and on Fridays, her special day, she takes the long way into the village. If she makes sure to follow her routine, she can avoid thinking about the past.

But then an unexpected phone call throws everything into chaos: Francis, Pearl’s estranged father, has died and left her a bequest. One she can only claim if she agrees to come to his funeral and see the family she’s been hiding from for so long. But when Pearl begins to read Francis’s diaries, his last gift, she realizes that the truth about her father couldn’t be further from what she expected. That each page is addressed to her, the daughter he loved, causes her to question everything she thought she knew about her past.

Now Pearl must face the world for the first time in many years. Her father was the only person who knew her deepest secret. Is she ready to finally confront the truth of what happened, and take a second chance at happiness now that it is finally within reach?

MY THOUGHTS: You have to love families. They must be the most complex social and interpersonal structure ever. We take umbrage at things said and done by family that we would brush off coming from anyone else. We keep secrets from family, either under the guise of ‘protecting’ them, or because it might change the way they see us. We are probably less truthful with family than with anyone. Well, that’s how this family works.

Pearl’s family is a family shattered by abandonment and secret relationships. After one heartbreak too many, Pearl and husband Denny have taken refuge in their remote holiday home in France, shutting themselves off from the world in general and her family in particular. But her attendance at her father’s funeral in order to collect a mystery bequest opens a whole new can of worms . . . one that is either going to make or break Pearl.

This is a complex but entertaining story. My heart broke for Pearl with each new revelation. But Pearl also has a wicked sense of humor, as does brother Benjy, which shines through occasionally causing me to burst into laughter. There’s a lot of loss and grief in The Woman Who Came Back to Life, but there are also funny moments, and scenes of redemption and hope. My favourite character was Ellie, Pearl’s once best friend who is married to her oldest brother Greg.

The characters, like the relationships between them, are complex. All have baggage, all are aggrieved, hurting in one way or another, and some are angry. The story is told from the points of view of Pearl, and another initially unknown character named Carrie. It takes some time for the connection between these two characters to be revealed, but it’s worth the wait. We also get to read extracts from Francis’ diaries, which puts a whole new slant on things. The story covers the period from 1981 to 2018, but not chronologically. Despite this it is easy to follow, and entertaining, but have a box of tissues handy – it’s heartbreaking in parts.

I love the way that Beth Miller takes situations that any one of us may face at any time and gives them an empathetic and realistic airing.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheWomanWhoCameBacktoLife #NetGalley

I: @beth_miller_author @bookouture

T: @drbethmiller @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Beth Miller has been a sex educator, alcohol counsellor, university lecturer and inept audio-typist. She has a PhD in Psychology, which is yet to come in handy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller 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 . . .

The first week of 2022 is done and dusted and now most of us are, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, facing going back to work. We’ve had a lovely break, mixing getting a few of those niggly little jobs around the house and yard done with catching up with friends whom we don’t get to see very often. We’ve eaten out a lot, which has been a real treat, been to the beach, and had lot of fun. The weather has been absolutely magnificent. Now, it’s back to reality and work tomorrow and there is, apparently, rain on the horizon for which my garden will be grateful. I have been watering the fruit trees and vegetable garden, but everything else is having to fend for itself.

While I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year, I have decided to try and take control of my reading life. Instead of reading 3 books at a time, I am just going to read one and listen to one at any one time. I have been doing this for the past week and, so far, it’s working well. I am enjoying my reading more and feeling less pressured. I also intend reading more titles for pleasure and made a good start over the Christmas break while also reducing the number of titles on my backlist. I hope I can keep this up. I tried last year with variable results, although I did get my Netgalley ratio up to 68% from 64%.

Currently I am reading To Love and Be Loved by Amanda Prowse which is due for publication 11 January. One third through and I have already shredded innumerable tissues.

I am listening to The Lost Days of Agatha Christie by Carole Owens and, although I am halfway through, I’m still not sure what to make of it.

This week I am planning on reading A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment.

Matt Antony is just trying get by.

Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom’s a stoner, his deadbeat dad is a no-show, his brother’s fighting in Nam . . . and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she’s just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn’t believe it. Not after another missing girl turns up dead on the beach.

All Matt really wants to do is get his driver’s license and ask out the girl he’s been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it’s up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don’t trust the hippies and the hippies don’t trust the cops, uncovering what’s really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast.

If it’s not already too late.

And, The Night of the Party by Anna-Lou Weatherley

Two Couples. Three Secrets. One Murder.

In a beautiful house surrounded by woodland, the Drayton family and their dearest friends are enjoying dinner together. The wine is flowing, the meal has been lovingly prepared, and it’s going to be an evening none of them will ever forget…

A doting mother
with a manipulative daughter.

A loving husband
lying to his family.

A close friend
keeping a shocking secret.

A beautiful girl
who will be dead by the end of the night.

I have three new ARCs this week: Secrets to the Grave by Steve Frechs

One For Sorrow by Helen Fields

and One of Us is Dead by Jeneva Rose which I requested after reading Michael David’s review on https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com/

In the past week my reading travels have taken me to the Yorke Peninsula and Adelaide in South Australia; Louisiana in the USA; Hastings in the UK; Sèvèrac Le Chateau, France; Langdale, North Yorkshire; and Marin County, San Francisco. Have we crossed paths this week?

To all my friends in the Fraser Coast area of Queensland, Australia please stay safe. Although Tropical Cyclone Seth has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it still has sting in its tail with heavy rain and severe flooding.

Everyone, no matter where you are, take care. Stay safe and read on.

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

EXCERPT: I look at my shaky hands on the steering wheel and notice I don’t have my wedding ring on. That whole time, he never saw a ring. Not that Luke Ellison was flirting with me. I am 100 per cent positive that the stress has made me delusional,and he was just being friendly the way he would with anyone he found sitting reading his book. He wasn’t making a pass. No.

I look at my naked ring finger. I didn’t leave it off intentionally. I was making turkey meatballs with Ben, and I was wrist deep in raw meat. Last time we made them, bits got stuck in the grooves in my ring, and it took me half a day to figure out why a tinny, bloody smell was following me around. It’s sitting on the windowsill above the sink right now. But it doesn’t matter. He wasn’t coming on to me. I didn’t do anything wrong. Except that I was going to let him.

ABOUT ‘SUCH A GOOD WIFE’: Melanie Hale is a devoted mother to her two children, a diligent caregiver to her ailing mother-in-law and a trusted neighbor in their wealthy Louisiana community. Above all, she’s a loving partner to her wonderful husband, Collin.

Then there are the parts of herself that Mel keeps hidden. She’s exhausted, worried and unfulfilled. So much so that one night, after a writers’ group meeting, Mel begins an affair with a successful local author named Luke. Suddenly she’s transformed into a role she doesn’t recognize—a woman who deceives with unseemly ease. A woman who might be capable of just about anything.

When Mel finds Luke’s dead body in his lavish rented house, she realizes just how high the stakes have become. Not only does she have to keep her affair a secret in order to preserve her marriage, but she desperately needs to avoid being implicated in Luke’s death. But who would want to kill him? Who else in her life is keeping secrets? And most terrifying of all, how far will they—and she—go to keep those secrets hidden?

MY THOUGHTS: Every now and then I come across a book that is deliciously trashy and that I just love. Such a Good Wife doesn’t quite make the grade, but it comes close. It’s a good read and I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it.

The characters are all flawed, and even though Mel makes some stupid decisions I could relate to her. I loved her take on the book club women. I think we all know women like them!

I had totally the wrong person picked for who had killed Luke, so that was a twist that surprised me. I’m still not 100% sure about the ending. On one hand I think it was quite clever, but I think it would be extremely difficult for Mel to have done what she did and pull it off.

One thing puzzled me though, and that was how Mel, who has her mother-in-law Claire who has dementia living with her, sometimes hires a day nurse to look after Claire while she keeps her assignations, and at other times seems to just waltz off and leave Claire to fend for herself. Minor quibble, I know, but it annoyed me.

Altogether Such a Good Wife is a quick, easy and entertaining read.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#SuchaGoodWife #NetGalley

I: @seraphinanovaglass @titanbooks

T: @SeraphinaNova @TitanBooks

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Seraphina Nova Glass is an Assistant Professor of Instruction and Playwright-In-Residence at the University of Texas, Arlington where she teaches Film Studies and Playwriting.

She holds an MFA degree in Dramatic Writing from Smith College, and a second MFA in Directing from the University of Idaho.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Titan Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Such a Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass 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

Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

EXCERPT: Two months before 9/11

Death was in the air.

He smelled it as soon as he ducked under the crime scene tape and stepped onto the front lawn of the palatial estate. The Catskill mountains rose above the roofline as the early morning sun stretched shadows of the trees across the yard. The breeze rolled down from the foothills and carried the smell of decay, causing his upper lip to twitch when it reached his nostrils. The smell of death filled him with excitement. He hoped this was because this was his first case as a newly minted homicide detective, and not from some perverse fetish he had never known he possessed.

A uniformed police officer led him across the lawn and around to the back of the property. There he found the source of the foul odour. The victim was hanging naked from a second story balcony, his feet suspended at eye level, and the white rope around his neck angling his head like a broken-stemmed lollipop. The detective looked up to the terrace. The rope stretched over the railing, tight and challenged by the weight of the body. The twine disappeared through french doors that led, he presumed, into the bedroom.

The victim had likely twirled for most of the night, the detective imagined, and had now unfortunately come to rest facing the house. Unfortunate because, as the detective walked across the back lawn, the first thing he saw was the man’s naked buttocks. When he reached the body he noticed welt marks covering the man’s right burr cheek and upper thigh. The contusions flared a faint lilac against the liver mortis blue of the dead man’s skin.

ABOUT ‘TWENTY YEARS LATER’: Avery Mason, host of American Events, knows the subjects that grab a TV audience’s attention. Her latest story–a murder mystery laced with kinky sex, tragedy, and betrayal–is guaranteed to be ratings gold. New DNA technology has allowed the New York medical examiner’s office to make its first successful identification of a 9/11 victim in years. The twist: the victim, Victoria Ford, had been accused of the gruesome murder of her married lover. In a chilling last phone call to her sister, Victoria begged her to prove her innocence.

Emma Ford has waited twenty years to put her sister to rest, but closure won’t be complete until she can clear Victoria’s name. Alone she’s had no luck, but she’s convinced that Avery’s connections and fame will help. Avery, hoping to negotiate a more lucrative network contract, goes into investigative overdrive. Victoria had been having an affair with a successful novelist, found hanging from the balcony of his Catskills mansion. The rope, the bedroom, and the entire crime scene was covered in Victoria’s DNA.

But the twisted puzzle of Victoria’s private life belies a much darker mystery. And what Avery doesn’t realize is that there are other players in the game who are interested in Avery’s own secret past–one she has kept hidden from both the network executives and her television audience. A secret she thought was dead and buried . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I liked Twenty Years Later a lot, but I didn’t love it. I failed to become totally immersed in the story and am not really sure if it was because the narrator didn’t narrate with much emotion, or because the reader is being told much of the story rather than experiencing it.

There are several different storylines going on, narrated in the present and in flashbacks, primarily by Avery, secondly by Walt, and thirdly by various other minor characters. It was the murder that opens the book that I was mainly interested in, but that is very much a secondary thread though, to me, it was definitely the more interesting. I really had no interest in Avery’s salary negotiations which went on, and on, and had no real relevance that I could fathom.

I found Avery’s character difficult to relate to and I never really warmed to her, although I did admire her cleverness in resolving her family problem.

I really liked the way Donlea tied everything up at the end, even if it was a little tedious in parts getting there.

But the absolute ending, where the solution to the murder is revealed, that is absolutely delicious and made wading through all the other stuff worthwhile.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TwentyYearsLater #NetGalley

I: @charliedonlea @recordedbooks

T: @CharlieDonlea @recordedbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Charlie Donlea resides in Chicago with his wife and two young children.

He spends a part of each year fishing with his father in the far reaches of Canada, where the roads end and lakes are accessible only by floatplane.

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to RB Media, Recorded Books, via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Twenty Years Later written by Charlie Donlea and narrated by Vivienne Leheney for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Well here we are, the first Sunday of 2022. I am still very much in holiday mode and not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, although it is only for the one day and then I have the remainder of the week off. I’m not sure that I can drag myself out of bed in time!

Currently I am reading The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller. What characters!

And The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer, a library book. This is my first book by this Australian author and I am loving it.

I am also listening to an audiobook from the library, Murder is Easy (Superintendent Battle #4) by Agatha Christie. I haven’t previously read any of this series, but am enjoying this immensely. I have a firm suspect in mind for the murderer, but am I right?

This week I am planning to read The House Fire by Rosie Walker

Play with fire and you’ll get burned . . .

Who can you trust in this brand new edge-of-your-seat thriller.

A tired old seaside town hiding a series of unsolved arson attacks.

A derelict mansion in the woods with a long-buried secret.

A bundle of old love letters that mask a dark story.

When Jamie’s documentary investigation gets too close to uncovering the truth behind a series of deadly arson attacks that tormented Abbeywick in the 1980s, her family might be the ones who pay the price.

But for her younger sister Cleo, the secrets Jamie uncovers have the potential to get exactly what Cleo wants: to remove her mum’s toxic new husband from their lives, forever.

All it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke . . .

And The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?

I received three new ARCs in the past week: The Bluebonnet Battle by Carolyn Brown

Shadow in the Glass by M.E. Hilliard

And, better late than never, The Bells of Christmas II: Eight stories of Christmas hope

What are you reading this New Year?

Happy reading my friends. It’s too hot to be out in the garden so I am going to stretch out on the daybed out on my deck where there is a little breeze and read some more. Enjoy your New Year reads my friends.

The Road Leads Back (Stonehill #1) by Marci Bolden

EXCERPT: She stared at him as realization started to weave its way through her oncoming buzz. He hadn’t responded to her letters because he hadn’t received her letters. And if he hadn’t received the letters, he hadn’t sent her money. And if he hadn’t sent her money, he hadn’t known that she needed it. Sighing, she let some of her decades old anger slip. Her head spun, either from the alcohol or the blurry dots she was trying to mentally connect. Leaning into the bar, she exhaled slowly. ‘They never told you, did they?’

‘Who? Told me what? What are you talking about?’

Kara couldn’t speak. Her words wouldn’t form.

Someone wrapped an arm around Kara’s shoulder, startling her and making her gasp quietly. She turned and blinked several times at the man who had just slid next to her.

‘Sorry to interrupt,’ he said, ‘but I need to get home.’ Leaning in, he kissed her head. ‘Congratulations on the opening, Mom. It was great.’

‘Ummm . . .’ She swallowed, desperate to find her voice. ‘Thank you, sweetheart.’ She flicked her gaze at the man sitting next to her. The longer Harry looked at her son, the wider Harry’s eyes became.

Phil cast a disapproving glance at Harry, the way he always did when assessing a man who might distract her from her responsibilities, and then focused on her again. ‘Don’t forget that Jess is expecting you to make pancakes in the morning. You promised.’

‘I haven’t forgotten.’ Kara returned her attention to Harry. His jaw was slack and his cheeks had grown pale.

Phil nodded at Harry, as if he were satisfied that he’d made his point that his mother didn’t need to stay out all night, and walked away. Harry watched him leave while Kara waved down the bartender and pointed at her glass. The tattooed kid hesitated, likely debating the ethics of giving her another shot. She pointed again, cocking a brow for emphasis, and he finally filled her glass.

‘Kara … ‘ Harry’s voice was breathless, like he’d been kicked in the gut. ‘Was … was that my … son?’

No. His mother definitely hadn’t given him the letters Kara had written. She lifted her shot, toasting him. ‘Congratulations, Harry. It’s a boy.’

ABOUT ‘THE ROAD LEADS HOME’: Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.

Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of his parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to.

Can Harry convince her to forgive those who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome?

MY THOUGHTS: The Road Leads Back by Marci Bolden is the first ever romance book I have given 5 stars. I picked it up, started reading and by the end of the first chapter I was absolutely smitten. This is not just a romance – it is so much more – family dynamics, second chances, love, and living with disability.

I have read and loved Marci Bolden’s books previously, but The Road Leads Back has blown everything else she has ever written way out of the water. The story is one we have all heard before, but Bolden’s writing takes it to a new level. Her characters are very real as are their reactions to situations and their emotions. I felt Kara’s and Harry’s pain. I admired Kara’s resourcefulness. I fell in love with Jess, who has Down’s syndrome. I understood Phil’s resentment at his childhood, but wanted to tell him to wake up to what a wonderful mother he has. And I wanted to strangle both Kara’s and Harry’s parents.

Speaking of parents, every parent tempted to meddle in their child’s life needs to read this. No, we don’t always know what is best for them. What we want for our children is not necessarily what they want or need.

I loved this unique, believable and unpredictable book to the point where I ignored all my other reads to focus on this. Marci Bolden, you hit the ball out of the park. And now I can’t wait to read the next in this series!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheRoadLeadsBack #NetGalley

I: #marciboldenauthor #pinksandpress

T: @BoldenMarci #PinkSandPress

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: As a teen, Marci Bolden skipped over young adult books and jumped right into reading women’s fiction and romance novels.

Marci lives in the Midwest with her husband, two teenaged kiddos, and numerous rescue pets. If she had an ounce of will power, Marci would embrace healthy living but until cupcakes and wine are no longer available at the local grocery store, she’ll put that ambition on hold and appease her guilt by reading self-help books and promising to join a gym “soon.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pink Sand Press via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Road Leads Home by Marci Bolden 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