Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Now.

Ava Lancet peered through the unrelenting night as she fought down a growing sense of panic. Darkness had fallen twenty minutes ago and she had no idea where she was – or where she was meant to go.

She glanced at the map crumpled on the passenger seat of her rental car, wishing that the agent had provided a GPS instead of the seemingly obsolete, old-fashioned fold-out map that he’d assured her would help her drive from Athens to the tiny village of Iousidous. And perhaps it would have if she could have made sense of the wiggly lines and incomprehensible Greek names. Not that reading Greek even mattered now because darkness had fallen and she could barely make out the road signs on Greece’s National Highway.

She’d been in this country just a few hours and already she was completely lost, both literally and figuratively. Spiritually, emotionally, hopelessly lost. A fortnight ago, escaping a cold wet spring in England had seemed like a wonderful idea, a desperate lifeline since her own life – and marriage – had been put on hold. That’s how Ava liked to think of it anyway, because to consider anything else was too final. Too much of a failure.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE OLIVE GROVE’: When Ava arrives in Greece, it’s with a heart that’s shattered into a thousand pieces. But as she pulls up in a tiny village nestled on a cliff above the glittering Ionian Sea, and steps out in front of a tumbledown house that once belonged to her grandmother Sophia, everything changes.

At first Ava almost wants to laugh at this bizarre inheritance—a home that has been uninhabited since the Second World War—that appears as close to collapse as she herself feels. But with nowhere left to run to, her only choice is to start putting the house together again.

What Ava doesn’t expect is for pieces of her grandmother’s story to emerge, as a local survivor from the war begins to share her secrets. Ava can’t help but be drawn to Sophia’s hidden past… even though the truth could change her own life forever.

Because Sophia’s story is one of devastating choices she had to make during the Nazi invasion of her beloved country. It’s a story of bravery, betrayal and tragedy. But most of all, it is a story about love…

MY THOUGHTS: I am a definite starter for books where the main character is left a house, and uncovers a mystery, so I knew as soon as I saw it that I absolutely must read this book. I have read Kate Hewitt before and enjoyed her, so I knew that I was in for a good read.

Hewitt has described rural Greece beautifully – not that I have ever been there, unfortunately – but just as I have seen it on travel documentaries. In Ava’s ‘now’, there is a dearth of young people in the village, but the villagers of a similar age to Ava, or her mother, are friendly, welcoming and helpful, while the older generations are more reserved and distrustful.

Sophia’s ‘then’ in 1942, has a totally different atmosphere. It is a time of poverty and fear, with many different political factions trying to seize control. There are communists, nazis and fascists all competing against one another, each in their own way equally dangerous. Sophia is content to keep her head down, her opinions to herself, and just get on with her work at the café. But other people have vastly different plans for her.

I didn’t know much about Greece in WWII, so Beyond the Olive Grove was a bit of an education for me. Please make sure you read Kate’s letter at the end of the book. I learned so much more from it, including that Sophia’s story is based on both real events and people.

I liked Beyond the Olive Grove, but regretfully didn’t love it. In all honesty I felt Ava’s story detracted from Sophia’s with her marriage and emotional dramas. A good read, but for me one that I probably won’t be able to recall in a couple of weeks.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#BeyondtheOliveGrove #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Kate 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 Beyond the Olive Grove 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

I had no idea when I posted last Sunday that my next Sunday post would find New Zealand in lockdown, but here we are! I really am not complaining though. We went into lockdown on Wednesday, which I spent most of at work, shutting everything off and down. I went back to work Friday for a few hours to pay the taxes – even under lockdown, the government still expects to be paid – and touching base with our staff to make sure everyone is okay. 3:00 p.m. today we will be advised if lockdown is to be extended beyond Monday. I would lay money that it will as case numbers are still climbing daily, and they’re currently trying to trace over 5,000 contacts of those who are infected.

Still, we’ve been here before and no doubt will be here again. I am enjoying the break, although I will be back at work tomorrow to pay staff and apply for the wage subsidy and whatever else is available. In meantime we have been stripping wallpaper from the lounge walls and plastering, ready to paint. We are lucky that we can go online and order everything we need and have it delivered. Got to love the internet!

Anyway, let’s get to the real reason we’re here – books. Currently I am reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, a new author for me. Connie, the main character, is a tour guide and I have enjoyed touring through Italy, Poland and the north of Scotland with her.

I am about to start Darkness Falls by David Mark

And I am doing a read/listen to The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson. If you think your mother-in-law is the one from hell, check out Caprice!

This week I planning on reading What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor.

With the court date set for her divorce and the future she’d planned with a younger man presumably kaput, Kassie O’Callaghan shifts attention to reviving her stalled marketing career. But that goal gets complicated when she unexpectedly rendezvous with her former lover in Paris. After a chance meeting with a colleague and a stroll along Pont Neuf, Kassie receives two compelling proposals. Can she possibly accept them both?

Kassie’s decision process screeches to a halt when her soon-to-be ex-husband has a heart attack, forcing her to fly home to Boston. There, she confronts his conniving and deceitful fiancée—a woman who wants not just a ring on her finger but everything that belongs to Kassie. In the ensuing battle to protect what’s legally and rightfully hers, Kassie discovers that sometimes it’s what’s not true that can set you free.

But first I need to read What’s Not Said, the first in the series, which I also have on my shelf.

Kassie O’Callaghan’s meticulous plans to divorce her emotionally abusive husband, Mike, and move in with Chris, a younger man she met five years ago on a solo vacation in Venice, are disrupted when she finds out Mike has chronic kidney disease—something he’s concealed from her for years. Once again, she postpones her path to freedom—at least, until she pokes around his pajama drawer and discovers his illness is the least of his deceits.

But Kassie is no angel, either. As she struggles to justify her own indiscretions, the secret lives she and Mike have led collide head-on, revealing a tangled web of sex, lies, and DNA. Still, mindful of her vows, Kassie commits to helping her husband find an organ donor. In the process, she uncovers a life-changing secret. Problem is, if she reveals it, her own immorality will be exposed, which means she has an impossible decision to make: Whose life will she save—her husband’s or her own.

And The Selling Point by Marci Bolden.

Darby Zamora has always gotten by with work that suits her unique way of life, but success hasn’t exactly come easy. A former bridal seamstress, Darby gave up making custom gowns years ago. Her heart was always too big for her business’s pocketbook, until she comes up with a way to make an old business new again: The Un-Do Wedding Boutique.

Selling dresses online in her bridal consignment shop has merchandise flying off the virtual shelves. People are lining up not only to buy the dress overstock that Darby’s been holding onto, but she has new clients desperate for her to help them re-sell their unused wedding items.

But success comes at a steep price when ghosts from her past resurface and make Darby and her new company confront harsh realities of life and business. With the help of her friends Jade and Taylor, Darby is forced to reassess her business, rediscover herself, and ultimately find her selling point. 

Although, again, I need to read the first in the series, The Restarting Point.

Marketing executive and mother of two, Jade Kelly can now add cancer survivor to her list of successes. But while her life looks good on paper, four months out of treatment, Jade realizes she hardly knows her college-age children and she and her husband Nick are little more than housemates.

Determined to start over, Jade schedules a family vacation to a lakefront cabin. When her kids bail and Nick stays home to handle a last minute work crisis, Jade heads to Chammont Point alone, determined to dust herself off and figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

While she’s away, the life she thought she had unravels. Secrets, lies, and old wounds drive Jade into new adventures and new relationships. With the help of family and new found friends, Jade learns starting over sometimes means finding a brand new restarting point.

So fingers crossed that lockdown continues, otherwise I won’t get the lounge finished, or meet my reading target.

I have 6 new ARCs this week plus one audio ARC. They are:

A Matter of Time by Claire Askew

Now I Found You by Mila Oliver

The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine, another 2nd book in a series where I still have the first, The Christmas Killer, to read 😱

The Editor’s Wife by Clare Chambers, a new author for me.

Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy, an author adore

And The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

The audio ARC that I received is Whisper Cottage by Ann Wynn Clark and narrated by Lauren Moakes, who I don’t believe I have listened to previously.

Where have your book travels taken you in the past week? I have been in a small village in the mountains of Greece in both 1942 and just prior to Covid; Dublin, Ireland; Warsaw, Poland in 1944 ; and London, England in both 1944 and 2019; and Venice, Lake Como, and Verona, Italy, the north of Scotland, and Somerset, England pre-Covid. Have we crossed paths?

And now I am going to bid you arivederci and watch the final 20 laps of the Indy racing from St Louis, Mo., where rookie Kiwi, Scot McLaughlin is coming 4th!

Happy reading ❤📚

Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

EXCERPT: Mum shakes her head decisively in answer to my question: there’s nothing more for me to see. Frustrated, I try another tack.

‘It’s important to Tomasz, too. He barely remembers Gosia and never knew his father, but the man who gave him the photograph when he was a teenager, said that Shona knew his father.’

She looks at me with an expression that is not encouraging.

‘I said I’d ask if you could think of anyone he might talk to.’

She pointedly turns her head to look out at the wintry garden. I keep trying.

‘The man Tomasz spoke to at the Polish Hearth Club who remembered that you were a doctor also said that Shona had a Polish boyfriend. Is that true? Did you ever meet him?’

She stands up abruptly, walks past me out of the kitchen and into the living room, slamming the door behind her.

I’m shocked by the intensity of my reaction when she does this. I’m furious. Nothing ever changes. Even if Shona’s wartime mission had to be kept secret at the time, how can it hurt to talk about it now? Why can’t Mum be happy that I want to understand her sister’s past? But she’s never let me in, never shared her feelings or admitted any frailty. She’s kept me at arms length all her life and now she’s dying, and all she can do when I try to learn more about her is slam a door against me.

ABOUT ‘SISTERHOOD’: Identical twin sisters Freya and Shona take very different paths, leading to long-buried family secrets that reverberate through the generations in this thrilling novel of psychological suspense by the author of Tell Me How It Ends. There are some choices you can’t come back from.

It is 1944 in war-battered London. Freya and Shona are identical twins, close despite their different characters. Freya is a newly qualified doctor treating the injured in an East End hospital, while Shona has been recruited by the SOE. The sisters are so physically alike that they can fool people into thinking that one is the other. It’s a game they’ve played since childhood. But when Shona persuades her twin to swap roles to meet her Polish lover, he is angered at being tricked.

Then Shona proposes a far more dangerous swapping of roles. At first Freya refuses but finally she agrees, with consequences that threaten not only the happiness but the lives of both sisters.

Forty-five years later in November 1989 Freya, now aged 69, is watching television with her daughter Kirsty. Freya is gripped as she witnesses crowds of Berliners attempting to knock down their hated Wall. This sight stirs memories of her own and her sister’s war, especially the tragedy of the Warsaw Uprising – memories that she has never shared with anyone. Even if she wanted to reveal them now, she can’t. She’s suffering from a brain tumour and is unable to speak although her reason is unimpaired. And this is what she’s thinking: if they succeed in knocking down the Wall, what secrets will come tumbling through? If her own were revealed, it would be devastating for all those close to her, especially her daughter, Kirsty.

MY THOUGHTS: I felt a personal connection with Kirsty, Freya’s daughter in this story. I know next to nothing about my mother’s life, and now it’s too late. I felt Kirsty’s anguish and frustration at constantly being pushed away.

But aside from touching me on a personal level, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue of Sisterhood. The story is told over two timelines, from Kirsty’s point of view in 1989 as the Berlin Wall is demolished, and a stranger arrives with a photo looking for her mother Freya’s identical twin sister, Shona, who had been recruited by the SOE; and in 1944 from Freya’s point of view.

But it’s not just her mother’s ill health, and the mystery surrounding her aunt that Kirsty has to contend with. Her Australian husband Martin has been offered his dream job – in Australia.

I started to read this over my morning coffee, intending to read just a chapter or two to get a feel for the story. Instead, I read until I was finished. Yes, a one sitting read that intrigued me from the outset; one that never let me go. This is a multi-generational storyline which starts with Freya and Shona, and moves on encompass Freya’s daughter Kirsty and her family. The plot progresses at a steady pace, and is full of mystery, intrigue, and drama.

Strongly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and family dramas/mysteries.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#Sisterhood #NetGalley

I: @quercusbooks

T: @IsabelleGrey @QuercusBooks

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Manchester, England, and have an English degree from Cambridge. My first job was with a London antique dealer and I spent many years as a freelance journalist and non-fiction author (as Isabelle Anscombe) writing initially about the fascinating world of the art market and the history of decorative arts before going on to contribute features and reviews to national newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Psychologies. I have also written for film, television and radio drama.

I live and work in north London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Sisterhood by V.B. Grey. 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 . . .

I have just started reading Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt, a consistently good writer whom I enjoy.

I am also reading Slough House by Mick Herron, my first book by this author. I wasn’t too sure to start with, but this is #7 in the Slough House series, and I haven’t read any of the previous books, something I intend to remedy. Now that I have settled into the read, Herron’s writing style is reminiscent of two of my favourite authors, Adrian McKinty and Ken Bruen.

And I am listening to Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

This week I am planning on reading Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

and The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson

I received 9 new ARCs, plus the audio of The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson, so I will be able to do a read/listen for this. The other ARCs I received are: The Summer We Buried by Jody Gehrman

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt

The Perfect Daughter by Kerry Wilkinson

The Woman on the Beach by Julia Roberts

the Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt, which I am currently reading

and The Selling Point by Marci Bolden

This is #2 in a series, Chsmmont Point, of which I still have the first to read, so I going to try squeeze this in this week. It’s titled The Restarting Point

This week I have spent a lot of time in the Adirondack mountains, both in the present time and during WWII. I have also been in Cincinnati, New York City, and Minnesota in the USA; London, England; and Greece, both in the present time and again during WWII.

Where have you been this week? And did we cross paths at all?

Have a great week everyone. Stay safe and read. ❤📚

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss

EXCERPT: Of her seven grandchildren, I am Oma’s favourite. In private, she tells me so. It’s because I am curious and have a deductive mind. I collect obscure words like ‘misnomer’ for contradiction and ‘knave’ for someone dishonest. My favourite word is ‘enigma’, for without mystery to challenge a curious mind, it will starve. My brother Grady calls me high and mighty for using ten dollar words in a ten cent town. Out loud, I call him rude, but inside my head I know he’s a chuff. Mama says I can be insensitive. She says language is meant to communicate, not separate, so I mostly spend ten dollar words inside my head.

Oma never returns to Germany. She dies in Riverton on twentieth of May, and her granite tombstone is etched with a mountain sketch we’ve only seen on a page in a travel book in our library. At her passing, our hope for thrilling danger passes with her.

We fear nothing will happen here . . . here where a lazy river rolls by, outsiders are rare, and farming rules our days.

We think we are safe here, where nothing happens – until something comes that undoes us all.

ABOUT ‘ALL THE LITTLE HOPES’: Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing’s the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is curious and clever, but she can’t make sense of it all. Then Allie Bert Tucker comes to town, an outcast with a complicated past, and Lucy believes that together they can solve crimes. Just like her hero, Nancy Drew.

That chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery that takes them beyond the ordinary. Their quiet town, seasoned with honeybees and sweet tea, becomes home to a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—and more men go missing. The pair set out to answer the big question: do we ever really know who the enemy is?

MY THOUGHTS: All The Little Hopes is a quietly moving book that I didn’t realise how much I had enjoyed until the last word faded from my earpiece. I just sat there a while, thinking on it, savouring the beautiful writing, the deceptively lazy pace which conveyed so much.

The characters are fascinating – Trula Freed, who has ‘the sight’; Aunt Fanniebelle, Lucy’s wealthy aunt who comes to the girls rescue more than once; Helen, Lucy’s older sister whose husband is off fighting the war in the Pacific; and Bert and Lucy, from whose points of view the story is told, girls on the cusp of womanhood, learning about life, and playing at Nancy Drew as they investigate the apparently unrelated disappearances of three men.

All the Little Hopes is a portrayal of family life in a small tobacco farming town in North Carolina that has lost a lot of it’s men to the war effort, and into whose midst is dropped a German prisoner of war camp. Weiss has written a deeply moving and atmospheric story of family, of love, of loss, of desperation, of prejudice, and redemption told through the eyes of two teenage girls.

Kate Forbes is an excellent narrator who had me fully immersed in this captivating tale. She has a lilting Southern accent, perfectly suited to this story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#AlltheLittleHopes #NetGalley

I: @leahweissauthor @recordedbooks

T: @RBmediaCo

#audiobook #comingofage #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Leah Weiss is a bestselling author born in eastern North Carolina and raised in the foothills of Virginia. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career as an Executive Assistant at Virginia Episcopal School. Leah writes full time, enjoys meeting with book clubs, and speaking about writing and publishing later in life, after retirement.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media Recorded Books via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss 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 Vineyard Crossing by Jean Stone

EXCERPT: It wasn’t going to work. Annie sat in the jeep that she’d parked on the clamshell driveway once she was back at the Inn. From there she could see two gray-haired ladies on the patio chatting with the young honeymooners, all of whom were drinking what looked like lemonade, all gazing toward the harbour and the sailboats and the lighthouse and it’s beacon that blinked red every sixty seconds. From where she sat, she could tell that the conversation was upbeat, the pleasant white noise of summer vacation.

But Annie wasn’t on vacation; this was her life. And she knew that her plan to focus on her book promotions, at the exclusion of her other responsibilities, simply would not work. Not this week, anyway, which promised to be as busy as the week of the 4th of July, with its pulse set to quicken the next day when Simon arrived. He and his assistant (whoever it was) would total seven guests, with the honeymoon couple, Mary Beth Mullen, and the Indiana sisters. Adding the four year-round tenants – two singles and one couple – the count increased to eleven people who’d be depending on Francine by day and Earl by night – both of whom, of course, must be worn out by now. Annie wished she’d paid closer attention to the state of their wellbeing.

And as upset as she was about Kevin having taken off, she suddenly realised that she hadn’t been carrying her share of the load, either; she’d selfishly expected that the place would run smoothly with her barely lifting a finger.

Shutting off the ignition, she faced the facts. The Inn was thriving, but she could not sit back while two people she loved were being run into the waterfront property ground. Her writing life would never – could never – be more important than her Island family.

ABOUT ‘A VINEYARD CROSSING’: Martha’s Vineyard may be picturesque and peaceful, but even there, happily-ever-after has its dark side . . .

Annie Sutton is not only a bestselling mystery author, she’s the proprietor of the newly opened Vineyard Inn. Recently engaged to local police sergeant John Lyons, instead of making wedding plans, Annie’s fighting with him about his older daughter, a troubled teen who has moved home—bringing chaos in her wake. With Annie’s beloved brother away on a troublesome journey of his own, Annie needs a friend. She begins to confide in one of the Inn’s guests, a mysterious stranger named Mary Beth Mullen. Her mix of kindness and vulnerability makes Annie trust her—until Mary Beth shares a secret that leaves Annie torn between family loyalty and a promise she made.

When a handsome, internationally acclaimed journalist checks into the Inn, he too unpacks a boatload of trouble for Annie, triggered by a provocative photo, covertly snapped—and posted on the internet. Intrigued, as tensions mount between her and John, Annie decides to eschew the police and get involved herself—enlisting Mary Beth’s help. But Annie is soon questioning whether anyone on the Vineyard this season is who they seem—and realizing that any chance of happiness rests in finding out just who her real friends are . . .

MY THOUGHTS: Although this is #4 in the Vineyard series, and I have read none of the previous three books, I had no problem, I had no problem with character backstories, or plot development. A Vineyard Crossing can easily be read as a stand-alone.

This is a wonderful summer read set in the renowned Martha’s Vineyard, a place I long to visit. The main characters are fully fleshed out, interesting, vibrant and very realistic. There are squabbles, jealousies, mysteries and
secrets. There is romance, but this is secondary to the mystery and family relationships.

I haven’t read Jean Stone before, but I really enjoyed her style of writing. It flows nicely, and I never lost interest in either the characters or the plot. I liked Annie’s nosiness and her penchant for interfering.

I am keen to read this series from the beginning, and will definitely be requesting any further books.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#AVineyardCrossing #NetGalley

I: @kensingtonbooks

T: @KensingtonBooks

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: With a career that has spanned over 25 years, Jean Stone is the author of 22 novels about the families, friends, lives, and lovers (who needs more?) of contemporary women that have been published by Kensington, Random House, and HarperCollins—10 of which take place on the celebrated island Martha’s Vineyard. A VINEYARD MORNING is the third book in her current Vineyard Series (A VINEYARD CHRISTMAS, A VINEYARD SUMMER). A fourth book in the series—A VINEYARD CROSSING—will be released in July 2021. All of her books are available in print and eBook versions; her Vineyard Series is also available in audio book format. From Germany to Japan, over a dozen countries around the world have purchased the subrights to her novels and translated them. Her titles have appeared on the USA TODAY bestseller list, Amazon eBook bestseller list, and one has been optioned for a Lifetime movie. Jean is a graduate of Skidmore College, has taught at a number of writers’ conferences, and has been a guest lecturer at many colleges and conferences. A native of New England, she has lived on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod for several years.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Vineyard Crossing by Jean Stone 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

Stolen by Tess Stimson

EXCERPT: ‘You know why you’re so frantic to get her back?’ Harriet cries, shaking me off. ‘It’s not because you love her so much, Alex! It’s because you didn’t love her enough! You feel guilty because you never really wanted her! That’s what all this is about!’

I reel as if I’ve been sucker-punched.

It’s because you didn’t love her enough.

Seven words that damn me to hell.

ABOUT ‘STOLEN’: You thought she was safe. You were wrong…

Alex knows her daughter would never wander off in a strange place. So when her three-year-old vanishes from an idyllic beach wedding, Alex immediately believes the worast.

The hunt for Lottie quickly becomes a world-wide search, but it’s not long before suspicion falls on her mother. Why wasn’t she watching Lottie?

Alex knows she’s not perfect, but she loves her child. And with all eyes on her, Alex fears they’ll never uncover the truth unless she takes matters into her own hands.

Who took Lottie Martini? And will she ever come home?

MY THOUGHTS: For future reference: next time I have a Tess Stimson book to read, I will call in sick to work, or take a mental health day. I picked up Stolen and I didn’t want to put it down. I fretted while I was at work, I fumed, I sulked. I did not want to be there. I wanted to be at home with Alex, having my mind tied into knots by all the twists and turns Stimson threw into the plot.

I admit to feeling quite smug. Early on I had an inkling as to who had taken Lottie. I continued to feel smug, secure in the certainty that I was right, until the very end, when I wasn’t.

There is something about a missing child story that strikes fear into the heart of every parent. Put the story in Tess Stimson’s hands, and it immediately becomes a terrifying rollercoaster of a read. Stimson has crafted a story of desperation, fear, and suspicion that had my mind spinning and my heart pounding. It’s complex, twisty, and tense.

The characters are brilliantly depicted. The missing child, Lottie, isn’t at all likeable. She is wilful, stubborn, gluttonous, clever and manipulative. Her mother, Alexa, never wanted a child. She is career oriented, and had left the bulk of the childcare to husband Luca, until his death in the Genoa Bridge collapse. Journalist Quinn, who gets a strange tingling in her spine when she is assigned to cover Lottie’s abduction.

The resolution was highly unexpected, and entertaining. Movie potential.

There are a lot of books out there about missing and abducted children, but nothing that comes close to Stolen.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#Stolen #NetGalley #tessstimsonauthor

I: @tessstimson @avonbooksuk

T: @tessjstimson @AvonBooksUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: I was born in Surrey, in the south of England, and read English at Oxford University.

​Upon graduating I joined ITN as a news producer.
I reported and produced regional and world stories, travelling to hotspots and war-zones all over the
globe, before leaving bullets behind to become
a full-time writer.

​Since then, I’ve written more than a dozen novels, numerous short stories, and two non-fiction books, which have been published internationally and translated into more than twenty languages.

​In recent years, I’ve moved away from writing women’s fiction and towards darker psychological thrillers,
which seem to suit my personality better – make
of that what you will.

​As well as writing fiction I continue to work as
a journalist, and also teach reporting for media and creative writing at a university in the North-Eastern US.

​I live in Vermont with my husband, and am visited intermittently by my three grown-up children whenever they need their laundry done.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Stolen by Tess Stimson 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 . . .

We’re expecting cold weather this week. We don’t often get snow where we live, but it’s on the cards this week!

Currently I am halfway through reading The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker. It’s both chilling and thrilling, and I read the first half in one sitting.

I am also currently reading Mrs March by Virginia Feito, which is fascinating. And now I understand the significance of the cockroach on the cover.

I am listening to All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss. It took me a little to get into, not helped by the fact that Luke must have fiddled with the settings and I was listening to it at 1.5 x normal speed for a while, and so had completely negated the North Carolina accent.

This week I am planning on reading The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

It’s

1927 when Olive McCormick moves from Minneapolis to New York City determined to become a star in the Ziegfeld Follies. Extremely talented as a singer and dancer, it takes every bit of perseverance to finally make it on stage. And once she does, all the glamour and excitement is everything she imagined and more–even worth all the sacrifices she has had to make along the way.

Then she meets Archie Carmichael. Handsome, wealthy–the only man she’s ever met who seems to accept her modern ways–her independent nature and passion for success. But once she accepts his proposal of marriage he starts to change his tune, and Olive must decide if she is willing to reveal a devastating secret and sacrifice the life she loves for the man she loves.

And Slough House by Mick Herron

Slough House – the crumbling office building to which failed spies, the ‘slow horses’, are banished – has been wiped from secret service records.

Reeling from recent losses in their ranks, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold, and fatal accidents keep happening.

With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, the aftermath of a blunder by the Russian secret service that left a British citizen dead, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.

But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.

Only three new ARCs this week, which is a bit of a relief 😇

Buried Memories by Simon R. Green

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

and the audiobook Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

On my book travels this week I have been to Hendon, London; North Carolina; Balham, London; St Pete’s Beach in Florida; Devon, England; Sicily; Mt Hood, Oregon; and New York City. Where in the world have you been? Have we crossed paths anywhere?

Have a safe and happy week everyone! ❤📚

False Witness by Karin Slaughter

EXCERPT: She looked down at the label on the file.

TENANT, ANDREW TREVOR

The clenched fist kept moving up her throat, every horrific detail she had suppressed over the last twenty three years threatening to choke her.

Callie’s terrifying phone call. Leigh’s frantic drive to reach her. The horrific scene in the kitchen. The familiar smell of the dank house, the cigars and scotch and blood – so much blood.

Leigh had to know for sure. She needed to hear it said out loud. Her teenage voice came out of her mouth when she asked, ‘Trevor?’

The way Andrew’s lips curved up to the left was so chillingly familiar. Leigh felt a tingle of goosebumps prickle her skin. She had been his babysitter, and then, when she was old enough to find real work, she had passed the job on to her baby sister.

‘I go by Andrew now,’ he told her. ‘Tenant is mom’s maiden name. We both thought it would be good to change things up after what happened with dad.’

‘After what happened with dad.’

Buddy Waleski had disappeared. He’d abandoned his wife and son. No note. No apologies. That’s what Leigh and Callie made it look like. That’s what they had told the police. Buddy had done a lot of bad things. He was in debt to a lot of bad people. It made sense. At the time, all of it had made sense.

Andrew seemed to feed off her dawning recognition. His smile softened, the upward curve of his lips slowly smoothing out.

He said, ‘It’s been a long time, Harleigh.’

‘Harleigh.’

Only one person in her life still called her by that name.

Andrew said, ‘I thought you’d forgotten all about me.’

Leigh shook her head. She would never forget him. Trevor Waleski had been a sweet kid. A little awkward. A lot clingy. The last time Leigh had seen him, he had been drugged into oblivion. She had watched her sister gently kiss the top of his head.

Then the two of them had gone back into the kitchen to finish murdering his father.

ABOUT ‘FALSE WITNESS’: AN ORDINARY LIFE

Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.

HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST

But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.

BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP

Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT

If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Callie, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…

MY THOUGHTS: A definite thriller that kept me guessing!

Where do I start with this review? Slaughter never fails to surprise me. False Witness is a complicated (I mean that in a positive way) story of abuse on many levels. Paedophilia, alcohol, drug, and parental abuse are all a part of False Witness, as is the Covid-19 pandemic.

I am not going to talk about the plot, because I don’t want to give anything away. I will say, however, that I didn’t much like False Witness to start with, thanks to Ms Slaughter’s realistic and graphic portrayals of drug addicts their habits, of Buddy Waleski and his proclivities. It made me feel dirty, like I wanted to go stand under a hot shower until the water ran out. I didn’t like Callie, although by the time I had finished, I had a sneaking admiration for her. And although she could not resist the siren song of heroin, she was incredibly strong in other ways. As was Harleigh who, although facing a major moral dilemma, put both her daughter’s and her sister’s welfare first.

There are many surprising twists to this story, and the characterisation is wonderful. I particularly liked the elderly vet, teetering on the brink of dementia, that Callie worked for. And despite everything else that occurs in False Witness, the violence and the cruelty, no animals are harmed. Another thing I absolutely loved was Callie’s conversations with and about her cat. Purr genius! (The pun is deliberate.)

False Witness is an intense, dark and gritty read that won’t be for everyone. There were times I doubted that it was for me. And it is overly long, with a fair bit of repetition which, really, wasn’t necessary. It was like the author was taking up a sledgehammer to ram home certain points.

While I can’t say I enjoyed this read, I am glad that I read False Witness. Slaughter is making statements about our society that need to be heard. Not only heard, but taken on board. And not just in America.

Kathleen Early made an excellent job of the narration. She made me forget that I was listening to an audiobook. I felt like I was right in amongst the drama.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#FalseWitness #NetGalley

I: @karinslaughterauthor @blackstonepublishing

T: @SlaughterKarin @BlackstonePubl1

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her 21 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated COP TOWN and the instant NYT bestselling stand-alone novels PRETTY GIRLS, THE GOOD DAUGHTER, and PIECES OF HER. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, she lives in Atlanta. Her stand-alone novel PIECES OF HER is in development with Netflix, starring Toni Collette, and the Grant County and Will Trent series are in development for television.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing – Audiobooks via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of False Witness by Karin Slaughter for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Butterfly Garden by Sophie Anderson

EXCERPT: Her heart thumped harder, louder in her chest. It was Maggie lying in her daughter’s bed, clutching Mr Gilbert, hoping her smell wouldn’t fade. Maggie, drunk on the street, banging her front door down. Maggie, hitting her son and hating herself. Maggie who had lost her daughter. And blamed her son? What had happened? Where was he? And Richard? How had she ended up all alone, dying in this huge house on a Cornish hilltop with only Erin for company?

ABOUT ‘THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN’: When twenty-five-year-old Erin flees London for Cornwall and takes a job at Hookes End, a huge house clinging precariously to the Cornish cliffs, all she knows about it are the stories people tell. The owner, reclusive novelist and butterfly enthusiast Maggie, has kept the curtains of her dusty house drawn for many years. But now she is dying, and Erin, seeing the shadows that cross Maggie’s face, wants to help in any way she can.

Years ago, Maggie’s only son Lucas ran away to the other side of the world and the searing heat of the Costa Rican jungle. Maggie is desperate to see Lucas again – there is something she needs him to know.

Erin wants to help Maggie find peace. But when she travels to the warm white sands and tropical butterfly gardens of Costa Rica to find Lucas, it becomes very clear that he is hiding something too.

As Erin unravels the webs of deceit entangling mother and son, she learns about the terrible tragedy that changed their lives forever: the night when a little girl in a fairy nightdress went missing. But with Maggie’s time fast running out, is it too late for them to find the forgiveness they need to move on?

MY THOUGHTS: I love stories about families, secrets, and relationships, and The Butterfly Garden ticks all the boxes.

Although the plot focuses mainly on Erin, home with her tail between her legs after her relationship with her married lover failed, and Maggie, the elderly recluse with terminal cancer who employs Erin to help finish the book she is writing, it also encompasses Erin’s parents, who are hiding a secret of their own, and Maggie’s son Lucas, who has exiled himself in Costa Rica, guarding his own secret. An old friend of Maggie’s, Fred, also appears and is a stabilizing influence.

The Butterfly Garden is a beautifully crafted story that certainly doesn’t read like a debut novel. The characters are well rounded and delightfully human. Maggie, although nearly blind and dying, is not above being manipulative in order to get what she wants. Erin, who is feeling more than a little lost, and who is feeling betrayed both by her parents and her lover, starts out as an easy mark, but slowly the two women develop a mutual liking and respect.

The two separate storylines of Maggie’s secret, and the secret that Erin’s parents have kept works well. Their secrets are very different, but equally heartbreaking.

This is a touching and unpredictable story, one that surprised and delighted me. I will definitely be at the front of the line for this author’s next novel, due to be published in 2022.

Thank you Carla Johnson-Hicks, whose wonderful review inspired me to read this.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheButterflyGarden #NetGalley

I: @sophieandersonfiction @bookouture

T: @MSophieanderson @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Sophie Anderson is an author of contemporary women’s fiction. She writes emotional stories about families and their secrets, friendship, forgiveness and personal growth. Her debut novel ‘The Butterfly Garden’ will be released on June 21st 2021 and she is currently writing her second novel which will be out early 2022. Sophie lives in East Sussex with her husband, four children and several animals. When she is not writing or ferrying her children around the countryside she enjoys travelling, delicious food, yoga, playing the piano, walking in the South Downs, binging on box sets and curling up with a good book! (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Butterfly Garden by Sophie Anderson for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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