Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s probably a bit indulgent of me, but I have lit the fire as it’s a miserable grey, windy day with occasional smatterings of rain. It’s not particularly cold, but looking at the fire makes me feel better.

Currently I am reading The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

and A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristen Harper

both of which are due for publication this coming week.

I am listening to The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp for which I received both digital and audio ARCs this week.

This week I am planning on reading Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

And Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson

Lie #1 was to my new friends, about why I moved here.
Lie #2 was to my husband, about who I was before I met him.
Lie #3 was to myself, that I would get away with what I’ve done.

When I met Seb, it was like everything fell into place. My daughter Evie finally had a proper dad, and I had found the husband of my dreams – and what Seb didn’t know about my past wouldn’t hurt him.

But lately he’s been acting strangely. He won’t look me in the eye, he keeps coming home late and the other day at the school fair I saw him arguing with an unknown woman – the same woman I’ve seen hanging around outside our house.

And just as I start wondering whether I’m not the only one with a secret, Evie goes missing…

Oh, dear! 15 new ARCs this week! I fell off the wagon big time 😂🤣😂🤣❤📚 and I still have 28 pending requests.

My new ARCs are: Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart

The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson

Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons, DI Kim Stone #15

Why She Left by Leah Mercer

The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

The Widow by K.L. Slater

Old Sins by Aline Templeton

Backstory by William L. Myers, Jnr

A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs

The Secret in the Wall by Ann Parker

And, of course, The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp, which I have already started.

Yes, well . . . What can I say?

In the past week I have travelled to: Tinworthy, Cornwall; Edinburgh, Scotland; Derbyshire, England; New York City; and New Ross, Ireland.

We are still in lockdown, so this last week was the first time in I don’t know how long that I was able to read and review all the books on my list for the week!

It doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon, so I plan on making the most of it. I still pop into work every second day just to check the chiller temperatures and make sure everything is secure. My home office is almost ready to have the carpet laid, we’re just waiting on a new piece of skirting board to be fitted and painted. Then I plan to paint my library nook. The ceiling will need some work as there are quite a few little holes in it, almost like someone has repeatedly pushed a pool cue into it.

A little later this afternoon I will videocall my son and grandson, whom I had been planning on seeing on Tuesday when I was going to Hamilton to have my hair done. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. I will also call my youngest son in Australia and have a chat with him. I called my older brother in Sydney, Australia during the week as it was his birthday. They have recently come out of lockdown, and he is enjoying being able to get out and about again.

Have a wonderful week everyone. Stay safe and read on.❤📚

A Body at the Tea Rooms

By Dee MacDonald

EXCERPT: In the medical centre Kate went about her duties, without comment, as all around everyone voiced their theories about Locker Man’s identity. News traveled fast in a small place like this.

‘Your sister must have got the shock of her life when she found that body,’ Sue said, with a delighted shiver, as she and Kate stood chatting to Denise at the reception desk later.

‘Yes, she did,’ Kate agreed.

‘But how come Polly Lock never found it then?’ Denise asked. ‘She must have had that place a good ten years. And Larry had it before that. It’s funny that Angie was the one to find it…’

Kate was aware that Angie could be a suspect in the minds of the villagers who had no idea how old the body was. After all, she was a newcomer to the village and not everyone knew her very well.

ABOUT ‘A BODY AT THE TEA ROOMS’: Meet Kate Palmer! A semi-retired nurse with a sweet tooth for cake and a talent for solving crimes.

Kate Palmer is most disappointed when renovations at her sister Angie’s new tea rooms are derailed after a body is discovered in the cellar. She was looking forward to clotted cream teas with a seaside view. Instead she has another murder mystery to solve…

If the village gossip is to be believed, the unfortunate man was connected to the wealthy Hedgefield family. Kate is reluctant to get caught up in the investigation but a curious card in the victim’s jacket pocket sparks her interest. Not to mention the ridiculous rumour Angie is somehow involved! Keen to clear her sister’s name so she can finally eat cake in the charming tea rooms, Kate teams up with handsome retired Detective ‘Woody’ Forrest to untangle the baffling case.

After quizzing the locals over copious cups of tea, Kate begins to realise the Hedgefields, who live in a grand mansion and own half the village, are not as perfect as they make out. They’re hiding a long-buried family secret and plenty of people have a grudge against them, including a number of their ex-employees.

But who could have murdered a member of Lower Tinworthy’s most enviable family? Was it the old gardener? The seemingly sweet cook? Or the bitter maid?

Just as she inches closer to the truth, Angie goes missing. Does amateur sleuth Kate have what it takes to get to the bottom of this extraordinary puzzle and save her sister at the same time?

MY THOUGHTS: A Body at the Tea Rooms is the first book I have read by Dee MacDonald, but it’s not the last. I enjoyed this so much I have already begun the next in this series, A Body at the Altar.

I am really enjoying reading books about older characters, and by older I mean not in their first flush of youth, who still have a zest for life and a penchant for ‘sticking their noses in’. Kate Palmer is a fifty-nine year old semi-retired nurse, dubbed ‘Cornwall’s Miss Marple’ after she has become involved in solving a series of murders. Her partner is Abraham Lincoln Forrest, mostly known as ‘Woody’ except when Kate is trying to make a point, a retired detective. Kate and her sixty-one year old sister Angie live in Lavender Cottage, a property they purchased together. Angie has been what is known as ‘a free spirit’, but seems to be setting down and is working on opening a café/bistro with Fergus, an Irishman she has become attached to.

It’s in the cellar of the old building that Angie is renovating that a body is discovered, and Kate decides to get involved in the investigation as some of the locals are blaming Angie. No one knows whose the body is, but a DNA test provides some interesting information.

I love both the characters and the plot development in A Body at the Tea Rooms. Kate and Woody have an interesting relationship. While Woody is rather proud of Kate’s investigative prowess, he is also concerned about the danger she puts herself in and from time to time tries, unsuccessfully, to rein in her endeavours and this does lead
to the occasional discord between them. I love Kate’s thought processes, her penchant for making lists, and the numerous questions she inevitably comes up with. She and Angie row quite often, but love each other fiercely.

Although I guessed most of the twists and the eventual outcome by playing ‘if I were the author, what would I plot?’, I absolutely loved A Body at the Tea Rooms. It was great fun solving the murder, and I am enjoying getting to know the many and varied residents of Tinworthy who will, no doubt, appear in other stories to come.

Although A Body at the Tea Rooms is #3 in the Kate Palmer series, it is easily read as a stand-alone. Personally, I intend to get my hands on #s 1 and 2 in the series so I can discover how Kate and Woody meet and begin their relationship.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#ABodyattheTeaRooms #NetGalley

I: #deemacdonald @bookouture

T: @DMacDonaldAuth @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Dee MacDonald wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Body at the Tea Rooms 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

Oh William! By Elizabeth Strout

EXCERPT: As we drove, William suddenly made a noise that was almost like a laugh. I turned my face toward him. ‘What?’ I said.

He kept looking straight ahead at the road. ‘Do you know one time when you and I had a dinner party – well, it wouldn’t have been called a dinner party, you never really knew how to pull off a real dinner party – but we had some friends over, and long after they had gone home, way after I had gone to bed, but then I came downstairs and found you in the dining room -‘ William turned his head to glance at me. ‘And I saw -‘ Again he gave an abrupt sound of almost laughter, and he looked straight ahead again. ‘And I saw you bending down and kissing the tulips that were there on the table. You were kissing them, Lucy. Each tulip. God, it was weird.’

I looked out the window of my side of the car, and my face became very warm.

‘You’re a strange one, Lucy,’ he said after a moment. And that was that.

ABOUT ‘OH WILLIAM!’: Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband – and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante. Recalling their college years, the birth of their
daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people.

MY THOUGHTS: After having read the first two Amgash books, My Name is Lucy Barton, and Anything is Possible, which focussed on Lucy’s earlier life – i.e. leading up to 63, and on people she has known at various times in her life, respectively – I was excited to pick up Oh William!, which looks at her current relationship with her ex-husband, father of her two daughters, and sometimes friend, William.

Lucy is still grieving the loss of her second husband, David, who, I feel obliged to point out, was a much nicer man than William. William liked to belittle Lucy, mainly I think to cover his own feelings of inadequacy, the reasons for which come to light in Oh William!

Sometimes, in my head, I am very much like Lucy Barton. I try not to be, although I love Lucy to bits, but I am. And that is the thing about Strout’s characters – we are able to recognise bits of ourselves in them. But the point that I am getting to is that unlike Lucy, I would have never agreed to go on a trip with my ex-husband, not even with the temptation of finding a half sister he never knew he had, and discovering more about the first marriage of his mother, another unknown. Okay, I might have been momentarily tempted, but I would never have gone. But then William and Lucy have a totally different relationship to mine which is completely non-existent and will remain that way.

We learn a lot about William which, I guess, is the whole point of this book. He is exposed, warts and all, and I was left liking him even less than I had originally.

Oh William! is, like it’s two predecessors, a book that I completely lost myself in. I hope that it is not the last in the series. I want to know if Chrissy will succeed in becoming pregnant and carry to full term. I want to know Lucy in old age. I am not yet ready to say goodbye to this family.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#OhWilliam #NetGalley

I: #elizabethstrout @penguinukbooks

T: @LizStrout @PenguinUKBooks

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin General UK – Fig Tree via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Oh William! 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

Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond

EXCERPT: An engine rumbled outside the window and he rushed to look; he would have to make a run for it if it was them back from their holiday. A white van had turned into the street and was pulling into Amanda’s drive – looked like a couple of builders. He couldn’t carry on trashing the place while they were parked there. He studied the two men in the front seat for a moment before noticing the gun on the dashboard. The hairs on the back of Jason’s neck stood on end when he realised they were watching the boy who was still cycling up and down the street on his own. What he had assumed were beanies revealed themselves to be balaclavas as the men pulled them down over their faces.

Should he call the police? That would land him in a whole heap of shit. He couldn’t just let this happen though. He picked up a sweater off the floor and dialled triple nine before wrapping the sweater around the mouthpiece in an attempt to conceal his voice. He knew his phone was untraceable. It was something his brother made him promise: always use pay-as-you-go phones with disposable SIMs; don’t let anyone trace where you are. That’s how they’d got Luke on his GBH charge – by finding his location through his phone.

As Jason spoke to dispatch, refusing to answer the questions that might give him away, the engine on the van started again, one man exiting the passenger side and sliding open the back door. Jason felt powerless as the boy cycled towards the van. He knew what was going to happen next, but it still made him sick to his stomach to watch as the scene played out before his eyes.

‘Please, you have to hurry. They’ve taken him, the little boy across the road. They grabbed him and put him in the back of a white van. Forty-six Golding Road.’

ABOUT ‘TRICK OR TREAT’: A stranger. A child. A liar who will stop at nothing…

When six-year-old Marcus is taken from outside his house on Halloween, there is only one witness: a frightened teen determined to keep himself hidden.

After an anonymous tip off, Detective Imogen Grey is called out to an expensive Exeter street, caught up in the buzz of the holiday. But when the police visit Marcus’s house, his parents claim everything is fine. Imogen is sure there is more to the family than meets the eye. But just how much more, she could never have imagined…

What has happened to little Marcus? And will he ever come home?

MY THOUGHTS: A rather mundane police procedural that focuses more on DS Imogen Grey’s life with her ex-copper boyfriend, Adrian, than it does on the abduction of young Marcus Carlyle.

There were a lot of things in Trick or Treat that just didn’t add up for me, the major one being that the person behind the kidnapping had previously been in jail, and so you would think that the fingerprints would be on record, and had they taken fingerprints for elimination purposes, they would have discovered an anomaly.

The other thing that really irritated me was the author’s constant use of ‘said’. Sara said. Imogen said. Adrian said. Peter said . . . It was really grating on my nerves by the end.

There were several things that weren’t explained to my satisfaction, but going into them would give away spoilers, so I am not prepared to do that.

I seriously considered not finishing this once or twice. I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters, even Sara. This book could have been greatly improved by hearing from Marcus; his view of what was happening to him would have made the story far more interesting. We have absolutely no idea what happened to him while in captivity.

A lacklustre narration didn’t help either. The narrator has a limited range of tone, and certainly wasn’t expressive. She could have been reading the telephone directory.

Trick or Treat was a disappointing experience for me.

⭐⭐.4

#TrickorTreat #NetGalley

I: @katerinadiamondauthor @harpercollinsuk

T: @TheVenomousPen @HarperCollinsUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #mystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Katerina Diamond was born in Weston in the seventies, and her parents owned a fish and chip shop in the Greek community. She moved to Thessaloniki in Greece and attended Greek school where she learnt Greek in just 6 months. After her parents divorce, they relocated to Devon. After school, and working in her uncles fish and chip shop, she went (briefly) to university at Derby, where she met her husband and had two children. Katerina now lives in the East Kent Coast with her husband and children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK Audio for providing an audio ARC of Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale

EXCERPT: A tiny gasp from across the room pricked Mia’s consciousness, but her eyes felt as though they were cemented shut so she couldn’t view the source. She took in a long steady breath, the faint spice of it calming, the sounds around her becoming clear. The coastal wind howled outside, rattling the latch on the screen door of the lighthouse the way it always had, and her mother’s faint whisper floated over her, too quiet to decipher. She wriggled comfortably, only then feeling a foreign hand under her own. Trying to swallow, she was aware of her dry mouth.

The end of the evening came back to her in snippets – talking with Will on the sofa, him making her giggle with a little joke about the snow angels despite the fact that she could hardly keep her eyes open, and then laying her head back on the sofa just to rest for a second . . . Oh, no. She’d asked Will to the Christmas party. Thank goodness he’d declined. What had she been thinking? All she needed was to have to try to balance entertaining Will with being a fake wife to Milo for everyone’s benefit. And right now she was –

Her eyes flew open and she froze. Will’s relaxed lips breathing quietly against her, as he slept. She was suddenly aware of the gentle rise and fall of his breathing, his hand on his chest, her fingers over his. It was intoxicating while simultaneously mortifying.

Carefully she engaged her core muscles and kept them tight to lift herself up and away from his body without having to push off of him. Their legs were intertwined, so she put a hand on the back of the sofa to steady the first leg as she hoisted it off him, planting one foot on the floor. With one leg to go, she hovered over him and his eyes flicked open, meeting hers. The lips that had been slack with sleep turned upward just slightly as he took her in.

‘Morning,’ he said.

Riley coughed conspicuously from the kitchen, and Mia knew they were probably being watched. Will heard it too and his smile spread wider.

But while Mia grinned back, internally she was scolding herself for letting this happen. She’d just spent the night draped across the real estate agent. Have mercy.

ABOUT ‘A LIGHTHOUSE CHRISTMAS’: When her beloved grandmother passes away, Mia Broadhurst returns to the snow-covered seaside village of Winsted Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the lighthouse overlooking the golden beach.

This will be Mia’s first Christmas without her, and she can’t bear to part with the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations. As she steps into it, childhood memories rush back to her. She can almost hear them playing tag on the steps… But her life is back in New York, dedicated to a busy PR firm, and she has no choice but to sell.

With the snow falling, turning the grounds into a winter wonderland, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker. As they restore the historical building, she tries not notice how handsome he is. After all, she’s only home for Christmas… And Will’s deep blue eyes, as stormy as the Atlantic Ocean, tells her he has his own heartbreak to contend with.

Warmed by a crackling fire, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings with the help of her mother and sister. But waiting for them is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription. The mysterious message is the key to a family secret that has been hidden for decades––one that changes everything.

When Mia finds out the truth, will it save the precious lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs? Or will it tear her from Winsted Cape––and Will––for ever?

MY THOUGHTS: I was so excited to finally be approved for an ARC of a Jenny Hale book, and every atom of that excitement was justified. There is a little bit of everything in A Lighthouse Christmas – family drama, mystery, romance.

It’s pretty clear from the outset just where the author is taking us, but the journey to get there is fun and heartwarming. There are plenty of complications along the way to keep the reader interested, but I am not going to give any of those away.

The setting is beautiful – a windswept lighthouse and winter snow. The characters are so well depicted that I felt I could just walk right into their lives with them. Three heartbroken women mourning the loss of a much loved mother and grandmother, one of the women also facing the demise of her marriage. One handsome real estate agent, also in mourning. His sister, owner of the failing local bakery, and her gorgeous little son, Felix. I just wanted to hug all these characters. But of course, there must always be a fly in the ointment, and that is where our mystery characters come in. They turn the whole situation upside down and disrupt all the carefully laid plans.

The descriptions of the Christmas decorations were magical and inspirational. I would love to have seen the barn in its full glory. And the food . . . I just had to make a batch of snickerdoodles to nibble on while I read. Jenny Hale, if my work trousers don’t fit tomorrow, I’m blaming you!

A Lighthouse Christmas is a delightful and enjoyable read. Jenny Hale is on my ‘read everything by this author that I can find’ list.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#ALighthouseChristmas #NetGalley

I: @jhaleauthor @bookouture

T: @jhaleauthor @Bookouture

#christmasread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Jenny Hale is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic contemporary fiction. Her novels Coming Home for Christmas and Movie Guide Epiphany Award Winner Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses are Hallmark Channel original movies. Her stories are chock-full of feel-good romance and overflowing with warm settings, great friends, and family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale 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, one week down the track and we are still in lockdown. Our 75th Jubilee has been cancelled, and we are waiting to hear tomorrow whether or not we will remain in lockdown. I am not hopeful that we will be coming out any time soon. Still I am enjoying the break and getting caught up on lots of little jobs around the house and garden. On nice days my neighbour and I sit outside on our respective sides of the fence and have coffee and chat.

I bumped into Allison from the library book group in the pharmacy in town yesterday and she said the thing that she misses most is human contact; actually being able to touch someone. She is in her eighties, lives alone and has no family close by. We ended up crossing the street to sit at either end of a park bench in the sun and talking for quite some time. So I hope that, for her sake and the sakes of everyone else in the same position, that we will soon be allowed to move around a little more freely. Though having just glanced at today’s figures, it’s not looking all that likely.

Currently I am reading Oh William by Elizabeth Strout. I love her writing; reading Strout is like sitting down having a ‘remember when’ conversation with a friend.

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas, which is set in an old mental asylum – although they were called lunatic asylums in 1903 which is one of the two time periods in the book. The other is 1993 when it is a boys school.

I am listening to The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine which is certainly an interesting murder-mystery/police procedural.

This week I plan to read A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald

Jilted grooms, sudden deaths, broken hearts and threatening letters. All in a day’s work for super sleuth Kate Palmer!

Nurse Kate Palmer thought the pretty Cornish village of Tinworthy would be the perfect place for a peaceful retirement. She couldn’t have been more wrong! But even she is shocked when she attends a beautiful wedding at St. Pirin’s Church and the handsome groom drops dead in front of her very eyes.

While the rest of the wedding party panics, Kate notices the strange behaviour of the not-so-blushing bride and the posh mother-in-law – and vows to find out the truth behind the poor young man’s sudden demise. Especially when the new detective Charlotte Martin makes it known that she doesn’t want Kate involved – and also shows an interest in Woody Forrest, Kate’s partner in crime-solving.

Undeterred, Kate discovers this isn’t the only wedding to have been sabotaged. A series of peculiar letters contain the clues Kate needs to get to the heart of the matter. But is the mystery letter writer behind the unusual deaths? Or is more than one person responsible for the strange goings on in the seaside village…

As Kate digs deeper, she adds more suspects to her growing list: the world-weary vicar, the unlucky-in-love cleaner and the bride’s former flame. But, as a pair of boots bring Kate closer to the killer, it becomes clear their investigation has placed Woody in danger.

Can Kate solve the murder and save the man she loves at the same time?

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel finds herself entangled in some tricky familial and financial situations that will require all of her kindness, charm, and philosophical expertise to navigate.

Just when Isabel and Jamie finally seem to have some time to connect and unwind, a wealthy Edinburgh resident reaches out to Isabel with an unusual request–he would like her to become the executor of his large Highland estate. Though Isabel initially demurs, he presses on. He has only a short time to live, and, without any direct heirs, is struggling to determine which of his three cousins would be the best caretaker. Should it go to the bohemian artist, the savvy city property developer, or the quiet, unassuming bachelor?

As if this weren’t enough to keep Isabel occupied, she’s also spending more time helping her niece Cat at the deli. Cat, perennially unlucky in love, seems to have finally found her match in the leonine Leo. But Isabel is beginning to suspect that Leo might be interested in more than Cat’s charms, namely her access to the family trust. Isabel will need to rely upon remarkable reserves of intelligence and compassion in order to give all parties exactly what they want and deserve–no more, and no less. 

And I have made up for the excesses of the previous few weeks with only one new ARC this week:

The Life She Wants by Mel Sherratt

I still have 27 requests pending, though there are quite a few that have already been published so I presume that I will never see them. I do wish that the publishers would hit the ‘decline’ button though, and remove them from my pending list.

In the past week I have been to Sydney, Australia; Glasgow, Scotland; Sweden; various locations in England in the mid-1900s; and Exeter, England. Have we crossed paths anywhere?

Safe travels and happy reading. ❤📚

The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope

EXCERPT: His teachers call him ‘spirited’, or ‘full of energy’, sometimes ‘boisterous’. They have a lot of different words for what he really is in class, which is disruptive and occasionally rude. Too disruptive? Too rude? She feels like there’s some sort of memo she missed on raising a child. The other mothers at the school gates seem to know exactly what to do in any situation. She watches them, listens to them, while she waits for Riley, her ears tuned for exchanges of information she’s reluctant to ask for. They would be friendly enough, she supposes, if she just stepped forward and said ‘Hello,’ but she worries about saying the wrong thing, about giving too much away.

She can see the way they look at her when Riley calls her ‘Mum’. ‘My goodness,’ his teacher from last year said on parent-teacher night, ‘and how old-‘

‘Twenty,’ Beverley replied before the teacher could finish the question. ‘I was twenty when I had him.’ It’s a lie. She was actually only eighteen, but people tend to look at teenage mothers a certain way, make an assessment a certain way. A single teenage mother is met with pursed lips and narrowed eyes. It’s why she works so hard at getting everything right, at making sure Riley arrives at school with a full lunch box and a clean uniform every day. She makes sure that he never leaves homework undone and that he’s always got his hat and sports kit on sports days. Things that other mothers brush off, like forgetting to send in money for an excursion, bother Beverley because they make her feel that she’s falling. She cannot fail at this.

ABOUT ‘THE MOTHER’S FAULT’: I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever?

MY THOUGHTS: A quick, easy and enjoyable read that certainly won’t overwork the little grey cells, although there was one twist that I was not expecting.

The story is told mainly by Beverley, her son Riley, and in latter parts, an unknown narrator. There is plenty of misdirection to keep the reader on their toes, and although the perpetrator is decidedly ‘unbalanced’ I am not convinced that this is a true psychological thriller. Personally I would have liked a little more subtle manipulation to ramp up the tension and a little less of the soap-opera style drama.

Sam and his dog ‘Scotty’ were my favourite characters.

I know that I can always rely on Nicole Trope for a good read, and The Mother’s Fault definitely doesn’t disappoint, although I do feel that it would have been better titled ‘The Mother’s Lie.’ This is a book that will fly off the shelves.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#TheMothersFault #Bookouture

I: @nicoletropeauthor @bookouture

T: @nicoletrope @Bookouture

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth

THE AUTHOR: Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’ She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree in Children’s Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.
The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope 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

Our House by Louise Candlish

EXCERPT: Friday 13 January, 2017

London 12:30 p.m.

She must be mistaken, but it looks exactly like someone is moving into her house.

The van is parked halfway down Trinity Avenue, its square mouth agape, a large piece of furniture sliding down the ribbed metal tongue. Fi watches, squinting into the buttery sunlight – rare for the time of year, a gift – as the object is borne shoulder-high by two men through the gate and down the path.

My gate. My path.

No, that’s illogical: of course it can’t be her house. It must be the Reese’s, two down from hers; they put their place on the market in the autumn and no one is quite sure if a sale has gone through. The houses on this side of Trinity Avenue are all built the same – red-bricked double-fronted Edwardians in pairs, their owners united in a preference for front doors painted black – and everyone agrees it’s easy to miscount.

Once when Bram came stumbling home from one of his ‘quick drinks’ at The Two Brewers, he went to the wrong door and she heard through the open bedroom window the scrambling and huffing as her inebriated husband failed to fit his key into the lock of number 87, Merle and Adrian’s place. His persistence was staggering, his dogged belief that if he only kept trying the key would work.

‘But they all look the same,’ he’d protested in the morning.

‘The houses, yes, but even a drunk couldn’t miss the magnolia,’ Fi had told him, laughing. (This was back when she was still amused by his inebriety and not filled with sadness – or disdain, depending on her mood.)

Her step falters: the magnolia. It’s a landmark, their tree, a celebrated sight when in blossom and beautiful even when bare, as it is now, the outer twigs etched into the sky with an artist’s flair. And it is definitely in the front garden of the house with the van outside.

ABOUT ‘OUR HOUSE’: On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

MY THOUGHTS: Plenty of twists and turns culminating in an unexpected and ironic ending.

I love Louise Candlish’s talent for writing engrossing neighbourhood dramas! There is a lot more going on in this story than is immediately obvious.

The plot is as outlined above, and I am not going to elaborate on that in any way for fear of revealing spoilers. But let’s just say that Candlish strung me along beautifully.

Bram is an awful husband. He is unfaithful to Fi, and those are not the only secrets he is keeping from her! I can’t say that I really warmed to Fi either – she seemed to me to be a bit of a cold fish, concerned more about appearances and status than the reality of the situation.

But the story itself is delicious. It’s told from the viewpoints of both Fi and Bram as their marriage crumbles and Bram is caught up in a web of deceit and blackmail. So we, the readers, know things about Bram that Fi doesn’t and vice-versa. While ignorance may be bliss in some situations, that certainly isn’t the case here.

I loved the ending.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#OurHouse

I: @louisecandlish @wfhowes

T: @louise_candlish @WFHowes

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama

THE AUTHOR: Sunday Times bestselling author ​Louise Candlish was born in Northumberland and grew up in the Midlands town of Northampton. She studied English at University College London and has lived in the capital ever since.

Louise lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband, teenage daughter and fox-red Labrador, Bertie. Besides books, the things she likes best are: coffee; TV; salted caramel; tennis; lasagne; old heavy metal; ‘The Archers’ (but not the lockdown monologues); white wine; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or, failing that, a Starbar). Her favourite book is Madame Bovary.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to Our House written by Louise Candlish, narrated by Deni Francis and Paul Panting, published by W.F. Howes Ltd via Overdrive. 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, Instagram and my webpage.

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I am currently reading a very atmospheric piece of Australian fiction, The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. I keep expecting my furniture to be covered in a fine layer of red dust whenever I surface from this read.

I am listening to Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond, which I have only just started, and which received this week.

This week I am planning on making a start on my Christmas reads, with A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale. I have heard such wonderful things about this author and am looking forward to reading this.

When her beloved grandmother passes away, Mia Broadhurst returns to the snow-covered seaside village of Winsted Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the lighthouse overlooking the golden beach.

This will be Mia’s first Christmas without her, and she can’t bear to part with the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations. As she steps into it, childhood memories rush back to her. She can almost hear them playing tag on the steps… But her life is back in New York, dedicated to a busy PR firm, and she has no choice but to sell.

With the snow falling, turning the grounds into a winter wonderland, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker. As they restore the historical building, she tries not notice how handsome he is. After all, she’s only home for Christmas… And Will’s deep blue eyes, as stormy as the Atlantic Ocean, tells her he has his own heartbreak to contend with.

Warmed by a crackling fire, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings with the help of her mother and sister. But waiting for them is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription. The mysterious message is the key to a family secret that has been hidden for decades––one that changes everything.

When Mia finds out the truth, will it save the precious lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs? Or will it tear her from Winsted Cape––and Will––for ever?

And The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope, an author I always enjoy.

I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever? 

I have 9 new ARCs this week, two of them audiobooks, one of which, Trick or Treat, I have started listening to. I still have 31 requests pending.

My new ARCs are: The Maid by Nita Prose

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay which, when I requested it, I was unaware was #13 in a series!

A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald. I also have the previous book in this series, A Body at the Tea Rooms to catch up on.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Put Out to Pasture by Amanda Flower

and the audiobook Touching Strangers by Stacey Madden

Thank you to all my enabler friends who provided fodder for my book list this week. You know who you are. ❤📚

My posting has been a bit irregular this week for a number of reasons starting with the brutal, senseless and cowardly murder of one of my husband’s workmates last weekend while we were away. Antz was an all round good guy and father of six who will be greatly missed. We are grateful that two suspects have been apprehended.

I have also been helping to care for a friend who started chemotherapy this week and who has had a very violent reaction to it.

And we went back into lockdown at midnight on Thursday night. So Friday was spent going through all the lockdown procedures as we have no idea how long this will be for. It doesn’t affect the whole of New Zealand, just from the middle of the North Island, north. Case numbers are continuing to rise daily with an alarming number not connected to current cases. We had our Club’s 75th Jubilee scheduled for the last weekend this month and, depending on the news tomorrow afternoon, are probably going to have to postpone it again. We were meant to have it last year, but the same thing happened. Maybe we should just wait for the 80th now!

I had planned to go to visit my son and grandson this past week, but they went into lockdown a week ahead of us, so I am having to make do with videocalls. Aren’t we lucky to have this technology available to us. I also had a long videocall with my son in Western Australia earlier today. It was lovely to be able to see and talk to him.

So that was my week. I didn’t get all the reading done that I had planned, but that’s life and I am grateful that I and all my loved ones are safe. I hope your week wasn’t as eventful as mine.

Happy reading all. ❤📚

My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Glancing at Amy Rose lying so still, I reach over and take her hand; it feels so tiny and lifeless, her skin dry and papery. Gently I press her fingers between mine, as if I can imbue her with my strength, my vitality. I can almost imagine her eyes opening as she smiles sleepily at me.

Hey, Mama. What are you doing here?

Hey, baby girl. You had such a big sleep.

Did I dream?

You had the best dreams, sweetheart. The very best dreams.

A choked sound escapes me, something far too close to a sob. I can picture it so perfectly; I can’t believe it’s not real, that it’s not going to happen in just a few seconds. Every morning as she sits tangle-haired before her bowl of Cheerios, Amy Rose asks me if she dreamed the night before.

It’s become a thing between us; I tell her all about the dreams she had. I make up stories about ice-cream castles and fairies with sparkly wings, and she listens, rapt, and she always wants more.

I want to tell her about her dreams now. You flew up to heaven on your sparkly wings and then you came back, baby girl, and you had such stories to tell! Up there in the sky, you saw everything there ever was – the Great Wall of China, the lions in Africa, and that big red rock in Australia you think is so cool. You saw it all, and then came back to tell me about it.

Please come back, Amy Rose, 
I plead silently. Please come back and tell me all about it.

ABOUT ‘MY DAUGHTER’S MISTAKE’: I look at my daughter. My darling girl. I remember her tiny hand in mine, her first smile. I recall her tears when she’d tumble over, healed instantly with a band-aid and a little kiss. I have to keep her safe. Even if it means someone else gets hurt…

In the pretty, privileged college town of Milford, New Hampshire, everyone is friendly, everything is safe. And on this cold autumn day, as red and yellow leaves begin to fall from the trees, and everyone wraps up for the first time, it would be easy to believe nothing bad could ever happen here.

Until a screech of tires is heard, a thud, a child’s scream. The crash that sees Jenna’s six-year-old daughter Amy Rose being hit by a car driven by seventeen-year-old Maddie.

Maddie’s mother, Ellen—a college professor with a warm, approachable reputation—insists it must have been an accident. Her daughter is always safe on the road—and she’s vulnerable herself.

But as Amy Rose lies unconscious in hospital, the town begins to take sides. With Ellen, who just wants to defend her daughter. Or with Jenna, a single mother with a past, whose child hovers between life and death…

The truth is that both mothers have secrets they’re trying to keep. And, with Amy Rose’s life hanging in the balance, one of them will stop at nothing to protect the person she loves—her daughter.

MY THOUGHTS: Am I a masochist? Whenever I pick up a Kate Hewitt book, I know that I am about to have my heart shredded into tiny little pieces; but I keep on doing it.

Hewitt will wring every possible emotion from you as you read this heart-wrenching story. Each and every copy of it should come with its own extra large, extra absorbent, box of tissues.

Two mothers, both in desperate situations, are battling head to head over an accident that has critically damaged both their daughters. My Daughter’s Mistake is told from the points of view of the two mothers, Jenna – mother of the beautiful six year old Amy Rose; and Ellen – mother of the vulnerable Maddy.

My Daughter’s Mistake is the story of two families torn apart by one tragedy. Like any tragedy, this doesn’t stop with just those in the accident. Hewitt explores how the effects ripple outwards, affecting every member of the families and beyond.

As always in her books, Hewitt presents us with a situation that could befall any of us. Her characters are very real and I could not help but experience all the emotions of the characters – I seesawed in my sympathy between Jenna and Ellen – but I also felt their love, their loss, their fear and their anger. A master of family dynamics, Hewitt also involves the fathers, the siblings, and grandparents, friends and work colleagues in a story that will leave you emotionally drained but satisfied.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#MyDaughtersMistake #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Kate is the USA Today-bsetselling author of many books of both historical and contemporary fiction. Under the name Katharine Swartz, she is the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell.

She likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt 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