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

EXCERPT: This one guy understood me like no one else. He understood me on the deepest level imaginable. Likewise, I understood him. How is it we could communicate without even talking? One look is all we needed. In my case, my only sibling is my sister, Bobbie. Paul became the brother I never had. In Paul’s case, he had siblings – wonderfully talented people – and yet our bond felt deeper than blood. It was unbreakable. It defied understanding. It was like I knew him before we even met. And now that he’s gone, he’s still here. He still knows me. He still lives in my heart and in the hearts of everyone whose hearts he touched.

ABOUT ‘ME AND PAUL’: “I’ve got this song that begs to be a book and a book that begs to read like a song–a long, romping ballad of sweetness and scandal bridging seven decades of friendship . . .”

Immortalized in Willie Nelson’s road song “Me and Paul,” Paul English was the towering figure who for 70 years acted as Willie’s drummer, bodyguard, accountant, partner in crime, and right-hand man.

Together, the two men roamed the country, putting on shows, getting into a few scrapes, raising money for good causes, and bringing the joy of their music to fans worldwide. Stories of Willie and Paul’s misadventures became legendary, but many have gone untold–until now.

Set against the backdrop of the exploding Americana music scene and told in Willie’s inimitable, colorful style, Me and Paul follows the two performers through their decades-long careers.

MY THOUGHTS: I selected this extract because it demonstrates the closeness between Willie Nelson and his longtime drummer, Paul English. But most of the book is taken up by the antics that these two got up to. Most of the antics are enacted by Willie. Paul is the caped superhero who swoops in to rescue him. I kid you not!

I’m a long time Willie Nelson fan. But I learned an awful lot about Willie that I never previously knew. Did you know that he used to sell vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias? Strange but true. Try as I might, I just couldn’t imagine it!

I loved this insight into Willie’s life and his relationship with Paul. I laughed and cringed at their antics. I wished that I had a friend in my life who was as important to me as Paul was to Willie. But it wasn’t a one-sided relationship, although for many years it looks that way. When Paul needed him, Willie was there.

I finished Me and Paul with eyes overflowing. And a wonderful playlist.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.6

#MeandPaul #NetGalley

I: @willienelsonofficial @harperhorizon

T: @WillieNelson @HarperHorizon

#friendship #memoir #nonfiction

THE AUTHOR: Willie Hugh Nelson is an American singer-songwriter and actor. He is widely regarded as one of the most beloved and notorious country music singers. He reached his greatest fame during the so-called “outlaw country” movement of the 1970s, but remains iconic, especially in American popular culture. In recent years he has continued to tour, record, and perform, and this, combined with activities in advocacy of cannabis, as well as a well-publicized 2006 arrest for cannabis possession, have made him the subject of renewed media attention.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Horizon via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Me and Paul: Untold Stories of a Fabled Friendship by Willie Nelson. 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 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 didn’t post yesterday as I was struggling with a migraine all day. We were meant to be going out for lunch with friends, but that never happened. Feeling better today, but sluggish.

My posts over the next few weeks will be sporadic. I have my grandson arriving this afternoon for the first week of the NZ school holidays. There are a few activities at our local library that he will enjoy, so I will take him to those. Whatever else we decide to do will be dependent on the weather.

After he goes home, I have my replacement starting at work so that will be pretty intensive for the first couple of weeks. After that I will gradually withdraw and hopefully my time will be my own again. 🤞 this one works out.

Currently I am reading Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths

The Party Guest by Amanda Robson

And listening to On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass

Who wouldn’t want to live in Brighton Hills? This exclusive community on the Oregon coast is the perfect mix of luxury and natural beauty. Stunning houses nestle beneath mighty Douglas firs, and lush backyards roll down to the lakefront. It’s the kind of place where neighbors look out for one another. Sometimes a little too closely…

Cora thinks her husband, Finn, is cheating—she just needs to catch him in the act. That’s where Paige comes in. Paige lost her son to a hit-and-run last year, and she’s drowning in the kind of grief that makes people do reckless things. Like spying on the locals, searching for proof that her son’s death was no accident. And agreeing to Cora’s plan to reveal what kind of man Finn really is. All the while, their reclusive new neighbor, Georgia, is acting more strangely every day. But what could such a lovely young mother possibly be hiding?

When you really start to look beyond the airy open floor plans and marble counters, Brighton Hills is filled with secrets. Some big, some little, some deadly. And one by one, they’re about to be revealed…

This week I have the following books to read for review:

Bernice Runs Away by Talya Tate Boerner

Life hasn’t always been easy for Bernice, but she is reasonably content at the ripe age of eighty-one. She has raised two children, buried both her husband and son, and is doing okay despite a few minor health issues. When Bernice’s daughter, Sarah, insists the time has come for Bernice to forfeit her independence and move into her backyard carriage house, Bernice refuses.

“I have a perfectly good house in Arkansas. Why on earth would I move to Atlanta?”

Despite Bernice’s protestations, Sarah moves forward with death cleaning and estate sale planning as though Bernice has no say in the matter.

Bernice has plenty to say about a variety of things.

With Miss Fiona packed stem to stern with only those things that spark joy (thank you, Marie Kondo) and inspired by an old black-and-white photograph of her first true love, Bernice leaves her cozy home in Savage Crossing without a glance in the rearview mirror. And without a word to her family.

Once Bernice decides to run away, there is no telling what might happen next.

The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

Twelve clues. Twelve keys. Twelve days of Christmas. But how many will die before Twelfth Night?

The annual Christmas Game is afoot at Endgame House, the Armitages’ grand family home. This year’s prize is to die for–deeds to the house itself–but Lily Armitage has no intention of returning. She hasn’t been back to Endgame since her mother died, twenty-one years ago, and she has no intention of claiming the house that haunts her dreams.

Until, that is, she receives a letter from her aunt promising that the game’s riddles will give her the keys not only to Endgame, but to its darkest secrets, including the identity of her mother’s murderer.

Now, Lily must compete with her estranged cousins for the twelve days of Christmas. The snow is thick, the phone lines are down, and no one is getting in or out. Lily will have to keep her wits about her, because not everyone is playing fair, and there’s no telling how many will die before the winner is declared.

The Stranger Vanishes by Wendy Corsi Staub

In the quirky, picturesque lakeside community of Lily Dale, where the residents can talk to the dead, young widow Bella Jordan is the lone skeptic among believers. She doesn’t believe in ghosts . . . but after a year in the village, she would admit that her new friends do sometimes seem to know impossible things.

Still, when a Black stranger dressed in old-fashioned clothing arrives unexpectedly at Bella’s guesthouse at midnight on Juneteenth, only to vanish the next day as if he’d never existed, Bella’s sure there has to be a logical explanation. One that has nothing to do with the strange warning Odelia, the medium next door, delivers from the Spirits: Beware of . . . Barry?!

Bella doesn’t know a Barry, and she has enough people in her life already, what with her young son Max and their two kitties, handsome vet Drew, a plethora of kind but nosy neighbors and a full house of summer guests. But as the mystery of the missing stranger deepens, she starts to wonder: did the Spirits really mean Barry? Or did they mean bury . . .

Keeping Up Appearances by Tricia Stringer

Privacy is hard to maintain in Badara, the kind of small Australian country town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. So discovers single mum Paige when she and her three children arrive from the city seeking refuge. Paige’s only respite from child care and loneliness is the Tuesday gym club, where she had feared the judgement of the town matriarchs, but she is met only with generosity and a plethora of baked goods. Besides, both the brusque Marion and her polished sister-in-law Briony are too busy dealing with their own dramas to examine hers.

Well-to-do farmer’s wife and proud mother Briony is in full denial of her family’s troubles. Even with her eldest daughter’s marriage in ruins and her son Blake’s recent bombshell. Suddenly Briony and husband Vince have a full house again – and the piles of laundry aren’t the only dirty linen that’s about to be aired.

For Marion, the unearthing of a time capsule – its contents to be read at the Celebrate Badara weekend – is a disaster. She was only a teenager when she wrote down those poisonous words, but that doesn’t mean she won’t lose friends and family if they hear what she really thinks of them – especially as the letter reveals their darkest secrets to the world.

When the truth comes out for Badara, keeping up appearances may no longer be an option for anyone … 

Wolf Pack by Will Dean

A closed community

Rose Farm is home to a group of survivalists, completely cut off from the outside world. Until now.

A missing person

A young woman goes missing within the perimeter of the farm compound. Can Tuva talk her way inside the tight-knit group to find her story?

A frantic search

As Tuva attempts to unmask the culprit, she gains unique access to the residents. But soon she finds herself in danger of the pack turning against her – will she make her way back to safety so she can expose the truth?

Will Dean’s most heart-pounding Tuva Moodyson thriller yet takes Tuva to her absolute limits in exposing a heinous crime, and in her own personal life. Can she, and will she, do the right thing? 

We Spread Iain Reid

Penny, an artist, has lived in the same apartment for decades, surrounded by the artifacts and keepsakes of her long life. She is resigned to the mundane rituals of old age, until things start to slip. Before her longtime partner passed away years earlier, provisions were made, unbeknownst to her, for a room in a unique long-term care residence, where Penny finds herself after one too many “incidents.”

Initially, surrounded by peers, conversing, eating, sleeping, looking out at the beautiful woods that surround the house, all is well. She even begins to paint again. But as the days start to blur together, Penny—with a growing sense of unrest and distrust—starts to lose her grip on the passage of time and on her place in the world. Is she succumbing to the subtly destructive effects of aging, or is she an unknowing participant in something more unsettling?

Winter People by Gráinne Murphy

Sis Cotter has lived her whole life in a small house by her beloved beach. Here, she grew up, reared her family, and buried her husband. Now her children are far away and, in three days, her house will be taken from her.

Next door, Lydia has withdrawn from her husband, her friends, her life. She watches the sea as her own private penance for a wrong she can never put right.

Peter’s best friend is dying, and his long-time foster mother is slowly forgetting who he is. Adrift without his two anchors, and struggling with the ethics of displacing people for a living, he looks for something to remind him of who he is and who he wants to be.

I received twelve (yes 12 – stop laughing Susan and Carla!) new ARCs for review. They are:

The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter

The Hemsworth Effect by James Weir

Where They Lie by Joe Hart

The Devil Stone by Caro Ramsay

A Song of Comfortable Chairs by Alexander McCall Smith

When We Were Friends by Nancy Yeager

Hidden Scars (DI Kim Stone #17) by Angela Marsons

Death at an Auction by E.C. Bateman

A Body at Lavender Cottage by Dee MacDonald

A Cast of Falcons by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

And the audiobook Dead Man’s Grave, written by Neil Lancaster and narrated by Angus King. This is the only book in the series that I haven’t yet read.

I went to an annual charity book sale earlier this afternoon – encouraged by my lovely husband because he thought it might make me feel better. He even drove me there as I didn’t feel up to driving – and came home with fourteen new books for me and one for him. I will write a post about them at a later date. But you can tell that I still wasn’t feeling great – last year I came home with 30!

Have a wonderful week’s reading!

There’s Been A Little Incident by Alice Ryan

EXCERPT: Who were we without Molly?

No matter how exasperating she was, somehow Molly had a special connection to each of us. Molly and Blur shared a history of minor crime and rescued each other from dodgy situations without alerting the wider family. She and Oasis led marches to government buildings about the environment. After babysitting late one Easter weekend, Molly accidentally got hooked on the Masters and, ever since, she and Uncle Mike compared notes on all the Majors – a more unlikely golf fan there never was. Molly indulged Aunt Angela by attending 7 a.m. mass although, unbeknownst to Angela, Molly spent the time alternating between meditating and singing the soundtrack to Evita in her head. Molly brought Ann to life, was more reasonable than Even-Steven and ate Helen out of house and home. Aunt Frances approved of Molly’s non-conformist walkabout lifestyle and, weirdly, Molly and Bobby both loved swimming in the rain. There was a reason John was so worked up – sometimes it seemed like Molly was the daughter he’d never had. Molly had a connection to each of us but, more than that, she brought us all together – for good reasons and bad. Molly Black was like electricity – sometimes she lit up the world. Sometimes she electrocuted you.

ABOUT ‘THERE’S BEEN A LITTLE INCIDENT’:
‘There’s been a little incident…’

Molly Black has disappeared. She’s been a bit flighty since her parents died (sure, hadn’t she run off with a tree surgeon that time?) but this time, or so says her hastily written leaving note, she’s gone for good.

That’s why the whole Black clan – from Granny perched on the printer all the way through to Killian on Zoom from Sydney – is huddled together in the back room of Uncle John’s semi-D in the Dublin suburbs, arguing over what to do.

Cousin Bobby’s having a hard enough time of it as it is, convincing his family he’s happy single and childless. Lady V reckons this is all much too much fuss over a thirty year old. And Uncle Danny knows all too well how it feels to be lost with no one trying to find you.

But Uncle John is determined never to lose anyone again. Especially not his niece, who is more like her mum than she realises.

MY THOUGHTS: Warm and witty doesn’t even begin to cover it. There’s Been a Little Incident is a story of grief, of family, of love, in all it’s various forms.

This vast extended family reminds me of the diagram of an atom; you remember the one with a nucleus and all the particles whizzing about it? Only I’m not quite sure who the nucleus is here. It could be Uncle John, who loves to be the centre of things; the organiser. But it’s more likely that the nucleus is fluid and that each individual slips effortlessly in and out of the role in some strange uncoreographed dance that only they know the steps to.

Molly is a wonderful character. She seems to be a free spirit, but perhaps she’s simply lost, untethered, unsure of her place in this world. She appears relaxed and nothing seems to irritate her. She sings ‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina’ (off-key) when she’s driving, and counts upwards in fives when she’s stressed. She can’t stay in any one place for any length of time; she is always on the move – running, running, running, mostly from herself and the insurmountable grief that she doesn’t know how to live with. But, of course, the problem with running away is that you take yourself with you.

I love the dynamics in the Black family; the way they both support and gossip about one another. Electrons and neutrons.

I also enjoyed the mystery that is woven into this story. Because Molly was not the only person to disappear that night . . .

There’s Been a Little Incident is a superb debut novel and Alice Ryan is an author I will be watching for.

Family was sometimes simultaneously not enough and too much. You needed them and there were times when what you needed was not to need them.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheresBeenALittleIncident #NetGalley

I: #AliceRyanAuthor @headofzeus

T: @Alice_Ryan @HoZ_Books

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #friendship #irishfiction #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Alice Ryan grew up in Dublin. After moving to London to study at the LSE, she spent ten years working in the creative industries, holding roles in publishing, film and TV. She was Head of Insight and Planning at BBC Studios before returning to Ireland. She now works at The Arts Council of Ireland and lives in Dublin with her husband Brian and their daughter Kate.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Head of Zeus, Apollo via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of There’s Been a Little Incident by Alice Ryan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Rise by Shari Low and Ross King

EXCERPT: He accepted his coffee from Nurse Greta with his million dollar smile and a wink that ensured that the same scene would play out again tomorrow morning. It was Groundhog Day in here. Same walls, same people, same shit for weeks now. The expensive carpets, manicured gardens, the top-class therapists, and the prime location on top of one of Malibu’s most scenic clifftops didn’t mask what this was – a collection of misfits and desperados who had everything but couldn’t deal with reality without a pill or a swig from a bottle. And he was one of them. Again.

ABOUT ‘THE RISE’: (Previously published as ‘TAKING HOLLYWOOD’ by Shari King.)

When we bury our secrets, they always come back to haunt us…Their rise was meteoric.

Only a few years before, they had been three friends from Glasgow, just trying to survive tough lives of danger and dysfunction.

But on one Hollywood evening in 1993, they were on the world’s biggest stage, accepting their Oscar in front of the watching world.

That night was the beginning of their careers. But it was also the end of their friendship.

Over the next twenty years, Mirren McLean would become one of the most powerful writers in the movie industry.
Zander Leith would break box-office records as cinema’s most in-demand action hero.

And Davie Johnson would rake in millions as producer of some of the biggest shows on TV.

For two decades they didn’t speak, driven apart by a horrific secret. Until now…

Their past is coming back to bite them, and they have to decide whether to run, hide, or fight. Because when you rise to the top, there’s always someone who wants to see you fall.

MY THOUGHTS: I wasn’t sure that I was going to like The Rise, but I enjoy Shari Low’s writing so decided to give it a try and I am so glad I did.

I’m not a fan of glitz and glamour and all the so-called benefits that accompany it, but The Rise is reminiscent of Jackie Collins’ novels with the bonus of a decent mystery running through it, and I was kept entertained throughout. There are a lot of real-life people and locations thrown into the mix, which just made it all much more realistic.

Yes, there are sex scenes, but most are well done except for one that I thought gratuitous and unnecessary.

The Rise is definitely not a thriller, but if you want a fun read with drama, tragedy and romance, it fits the bill nicely.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheRise #NetGalley

I: @sharilowbooks @therossking @bookandtonic

T: @ShariLow @TheRossKing @BoldwoodBooks

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdram #familydrama #friendship #mystery

THE AUTHORS: When a budding radio DJ and actor met a young nightclub manager in Glasgow in the late 1980s, little did they know that over thirty years and thousands of miles later, they would still be friends.

Shari Low – In real life, once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband and a labradoodle. Her two teenagers have now left home, so she spends an inordinate amount of time on video calls checking if they’re eating well and keeping up to date with their laundry.

Ross King – Los Angeles based Ross King, MBE, is an award winning TV and radio host, actor, producer, writer, voice-over artist and performer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Rise by Shari Low and Ross King 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 . . .

So much for spring 🤷‍♀️ it seems that we have jumped straight into summer. After squally heavy rain showers yesterday and even a hailstorm, we have 22°C today. I have been out in the garden for most of the day, but now I’m starting to tire and stiffen up, so thought it was time I came inside. There’s always tomorrow!

Currently I am reading The Three Loves of Sebastian Cooper by Zoë Folbigg

And I have started a new cosy-mystery series of which I have all seven books. If they are all as good as the first, which I started last night and will finish tonight, then I am in for a real treat. The Murder Mystery (A Beth Haldane Mystery #1) by Alice Castle is a quick, easy read which has kept me intrigued. I’m over 80% through and still have no idea who the murderer is.

I am listening to Aftermath by Peter Robinson, (Inspector Banks series #12).

This week I am planning on reading A Familiar Stranger by A.R. Torre.

Such a quiet and ordinary wife and mother. Who will even notice what she’s done?

Lillian Smith leads an unexceptional life, writing obituaries and killing time with her inattentive husband and disconnected son. Then she meets David, a handsome stranger, in a coffee shop. Lured into an affair, she invents a new persona, one without strings, deadlines, or brooding husbands.

Lillian has never felt so reckless, unpredictable, or wanted. But as her affair with David intensifies, she withdraws from everything that’s real, even her closest friend. When evidence of her life as a secret lover finds its way onto her son’s social media, she risks ruining much more than her marriage or reputation.

As lies beget lies, Lillian’s two worlds spiral dangerously out of control. And betrayals run deeper than she imagines. Because Lillian isn’t the only one leading a double life. 

Next in Line (William Warwick #5) by Jeffrey Archer

London, 1988. Royal fever sweeps the nation as Britain falls in love with the ‘people’s princess’.

Which means for Scotland Yard, the focus is on the elite Royalty Protection Command, and its commanding officer. Entrusted with protecting the most famous family on earth, they quite simply have to be the best. A weak link could spell disaster.

Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick and his Scotland Yard squad are sent in to investigate the team. Maverick ex-undercover operative Ross Hogan is charged with a very sensitive—and unique—responsibility. But it soon becomes clear the problems in Royalty Protection are just the beginning. A renegade organization has the security of the country—and the Crown—in its sights. The only question is which target is next in line… 

The Party Guest by Amanda Robson

A birthday to remember. But would they rather forget…?

Ralph is turning 45, and the only gift he wants this year is his ex-wife.
Gemma, his trophy girlfriend, is trying to ignore this.
Sarah, the ex-wife, has agreed to attend Ralph’s birthday party, but with her new man in tow.
And Jack, Sarah’s partner, is keen to accompany Sarah to keep an eye on the proceedings.

It’s a birthday trip like no other. The whole extended family in a villa on the beautiful Amalfi coast. But under the politely strained surface, every party guest harbours their own agenda.

By the end of the trip, two people will be dead. But while Ralph unwraps his presents, will anybody be able to unwrap the truth…?

Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths

DS Cassie Fitzgerald has a secret – but it’s one she’s deleted from her memory. In the 1990s when she was at school, she and her friends killed a fellow pupil. Thirty years later, Cassie is happily married and loves her job as a police officer.

One day her husband persuades her to go to a school reunion and another ex-pupil, Garfield Rice, is found dead, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of her old friends has killed again.

Is Cassie right, or was Garfield murdered by one of his political cronies? It’s in Cassie’s interest to skew the investigation so that it looks like the latter and she seems to be succeeding. 

I have received 3 new Netgalley ARCs this week: Stephen King – a complete exploration of his work and influences by Bev Vincent

The Work Wives by Rachael Johns

How to Kill Men and Get Away With It by Katie Brent

I had a grandstand view of the steam train as it came through town heading north this afternoon. My maternal grandfather was a stoker/fireman on the railway when he was young, and that is what brought him and my Nana to this town – and they never left. The steam engine is coming back heading south next weekend and Dustin and Luke will be on it. Luke will be staying on with us for the first week of the school holidays, and Dustin will be heading back to Hamilton on a diesel train.

Have a wonderful week!❤📚

Becoming Beth by Meredith Appleyard

EXCERPT: My laptop sat on the kitchen table where I’d left it. I eyed it with apprehension. How should I respond to Andrew’s email? You’d think in the five hours I’d tossed and turned in bed thinking about it, I would have come up with something. But no, I still hadn’t moved past the bit about Andrew casting me adrift in favour of a man called Rodney.

How had I missed that about my husband? The person I’d shared a home and a bed with for fifteen years. Was I stupid or what? Had there been subtle hints along the way that had slipped right by me? Obviously. Blind and clueless, that was me.

What was even worse was when I’d discovered that a few of our friends, who were also work colleagues, had worked it out. It also explained why, towards the end, I’d sometimes catch them watching me with a strange mix of compassion and bemusement. Stupid, clueless Beth.

Tears burned at the back of my throat. I sniffed, loud and unladylike. Would the shame ever go away? Thank God I’d had Mum and Dad and Miners Ridge to retreat to.

ABOUT ‘BECOMING BETH’: Since adolescence, 58-year-old Beth has lived her life with blinkers on, repressing the memory of a teenage trauma. Her mother, Marian, took control of that situation, and of all else in their family life – and as much as she could in the small town of Miner’s Ridge as well.

Now Marian is dead, and Beth, unemployed and in the middle of a humiliating divorce, is living with her gentle-hearted father in the family home. Beth feels obliged to take over her mother’s involvement in the local town hall committee, which becomes a source of new friendships, old friendships renewed, and a considerable amount of aggravation.

Researching town hall history, Beth finds photographs that show Marian in a surprising light; sorting through Marian’s belongings, she realises that her mother has left a trail of landmines, cruel revelations that knock the feet out from under her supposed nearest and dearest. Beth struggles to emerge from the ensuing emotional chaos … in middle age, can she really start anew?

MY THOUGHTS: I’m always excited by the appearance of a new Meredith Appleyard novel, and Becoming Beth doesn’t disappoint.

‘Life is difficult and full of challenges. We end up doing some things for all the wrong reasons. We make mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and move on. Forgive others and forgive yourself.’

Becoming Beth is an emotional and, at times, heartbreaking story of a woman in emotional turmoil following the breakdown of her marriage and the death of her mother.

Beth’s relationship with her mother had never been an easy one. Beth feels like she has never measured up to her mother’s expectations, and now Marian has died, still disappointed in her daughter.

Beth has carried around her secret for all her life. She has never shared it with anyone, not even Andrew. As far as she is aware that secret was kept between herself, her mother and her mother’s sister. Now, nearing sixty, her life in freefall, Beth is discovering that her mother wasn’t the woman she’d always thought her to be.

Is this just another burden for Beth to bear? Or will it finally set her free to find her own place in life?

I loved this story of an older woman’s ‘coming of age’. This is a story of family secrets, set in a small South Australian town. It’s also a story of kindness and friendship and community spirit. Meredith Appleyard excels at this genre, and I read this in a day, invested in Beth’s dilemma.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

I: #meredithappleyard @harlequinaus

T: #MeredithAppleyard @HarlequinAUS

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance #sliceoflife

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I was born and raised in a farming community in the Murray Mallee region of rural South Australia, and my heart will always be in the country, and when I’m not physically there, I yearn to return. These days home is the Clare Valley wine-growing region in South Australia.

Before following my dream to become a writer, a career as a registered nurse gave me the opportunity to experience many country health practice settings – lots of ideas and inspiration!

My ongoing fascination with the complexities of small country communities, the characters I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had, are all reflected in the novels I’ve written, and the ones I’m planning.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ and MIRA via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard 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 . . .

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. It’s Sunday afternoon here in New Zealand, and it’s been a beautiful day, albeit with a chilly breeze. I’ve been at work for a few hours today playing catch up from last week. Surgery went well, though took longer than expected, and then I had to stay in as both blood pressure and O2 levels plummeted. But I came home the following day and, other than some mild discomfort and a lack of energy, I am fine. There’s a two week wait for the pathology. I’m back looking after Luke tomorrow through to Wednesday, and am planning on catching up with an old friend who I haven’t seen for some time Tuesday while he is at school. Other than that I am just going to be taking it easy for a few days more.

Currently I am reading Blood & Ink by Brett Adams and really enjoying it. I don’t know just how reliable the main character, a Professor of Literature, is.

Literature professor Jack Griffen has recently suffered a nervous breakdown. His wife has divorced him and she and their adult daughter have moved to the USA. Into the void steps exchange student Hieronymus Beck, claiming to be the professor’s greatest fan.

But everything changes when Jack finds Hiero’s list. Five sheets of paper. Five ways to commit a murder.

His student has told him he’s writing a crime novel, but is that all he is doing? Caught up in his protégé’s dangerous game, the mild-mannered professor finds himself asking how far will he go to save a life. As far as murder? 

I am also reading Me and Paul: Untold Stories of a Fabled Friendship by Willie Nelson, a series of anecdotes about Willie and his drummer Paul English who died in 2020. Some of the stories are hair-raising!

I’ve got this song that begs to be a book and a book that begs to read like a song–a long, romping ballad of sweetness and scandal bridging seven decades of friendship . . .”

Immortalized in Willie Nelson’s road song “Me and Paul,” Paul English was the towering figure who for 70 years acted as Willie’s drummer, bodyguard, accountant, partner in crime, and right-hand man.

Together, the two men roamed the country, putting on shows, getting into a few scrapes, raising money for good causes, and bringing the joy of their music to fans worldwide. Stories of Willie and Paul’s misadventures became legendary, but many have gone untold–until now.

Set against the backdrop of the exploding Americana music scene and told in Willie’s inimitable, colorful style, Me and Paul follows the two performers through their decades-long careers.

And I have loaded Aftermath (Inspector Banks #12) by Peter Robinson to start listening to tomorrow. This is a series that I have been following for years.

Aftermath centres upon a grim case in which attractive young girls have disappeared, victims of a cunning psychotic killer whose identity is well concealed behind a façade of respectability. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks of the Yorkshire Police is in charge of the case, but he’s also got unavoidable personal distractions. His estranged wife is pregnant by her lover and wants the divorce he’s been dragging his heels over.

This week, other than Me and Paul, and Blood & Ink, I am also planning to read The Three Loves of Sebastian Cooper by Zoë Folbigg. I know it’s morbid but I love books about disputed family Inheritances, funerals that go spectacularly wrong, and long lost family members who pop up at the most inconvenient times.

As friends and family gather for the funeral of charming and charismatic Seb Cooper, three women sit in the congregation, mourning his loss.

First there is Clair, Seb’s wife and partner of twenty years, and mother of his two children. Furious at Seb for dying and leaving their children without a father, Clair isn’t sure of her place, and has been left baffled and bemused by the conflicting stories of Seb’s last days.

Then there’s Desiree, the woman Seb left Clair for. Heartbroken, self-conscious, and wondering if she made a mistake coming today.

And the third and noisiest mourner of all is Noemie – Seb’s lover and the last woman to see him alive.

Three women who loved Seb in their own different ways.

Three women whose lives have now changed forever.

But only one woman knows what really happened at the end…and only one truly had his heart…

I received five ARCs from Netgalley for review this week and bought three new books, making a total of 8 titles added to the TBR mountain range.

First, the Netgalley titles: Picking up the Pieces by Amanda Prowse

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North (Harold Fry #3) by Rachel Joyce. The Love Songs of Miss Queenie Hennessy is one of my favourite books ever.

Winter People by Gráinne Murphy

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

And Retribution by Sarah Barrie

The three new books I bought were: Sweetheart by Peter James

Blowback (Enzo files #5) by Peter May

Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah

Enjoy whatever is left of your weekend. I have roast of lamb in the oven which smells delicious, so now I will go prepare vegetables for roasting.

Happy reading!

Photo by Malidate Van on Pexels.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Happy Sunday. It’s cool, overcast, and windy in my corner of New Zealand, with occasional squalls of rain. We’ve been out for lunch today with friends who are soon moving back to Western Australia.

This week I am in Hamilton for the first three days doing the school run with Luke. I’ll be back home in time for the Library Book Club Wednesday afternoon. I am having surgery Thursday, so will probably be M.I.A. for a few days.

I currently reading The Night Watch (DS Max Craigie #3) by Neil Lancaster. I m enjoying this series and finding this book difficult to put down. I started it last night and will probably finish it tonight.

I am listening to His & Hers by Alice Feeney. I enjoyed Rock, Paper, Scissors so much that I grabbed the next available book by this author from my library audio service.

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown―the sleepy countryside village where she grew up―Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth. 

This week I have seven books to read for review. They are: The Rise by Shari Low and Ross King

When we bury our secrets, they always come back to haunt us…

Their rise was meteoric.

Only a few years before, they had been three friends from Glasgow, trying to survive in a world of danger and dysfunction.>br>
Suddenly they were thrust on to the world’s biggest stage, accepting an Oscar in front of the watching world.

That night was the beginning of their careers. But it was the end of their friendships.

Over the next twenty years, Mirren McLean would become one of the most powerful writers in the industry.

Zander Leith would break box-office records as cinema’s most in-demand action hero.

And Davie Johnson would break the bank, raking in millions as producer of some of the biggest shows on TV.

For two decades they didn’t speak, driven apart by a horrific secret.

Until now…

Their past is coming back to bite them, and they have to decide whether to run, hide, or fight.

Because when you rise to the top, there’s always someone who wants to see you fall… 

This is Us by Helen McGinn

A story about friends, sisters, motherhood and starting again – one day at a time…

Stella fell in love with Simon hard and fast. He was everything she wanted in a husband, and he seemed to feel the same way about her. More than a decade of marriage later, life is sweet. They have three much-wanted children, a successful business, and a comfortable London home. What more could Stella possibly want?

But then, out of the blue, Simon is gone. Vanished. No one knows where he’s gone or why.

Now Stella, with the help of her friends and family, has to pick up the pieces of her and her children’s life, all the while wondering what she missed. Was her husband who he said he was, and can she trust her own memories of their life together?

There’s Been a Little Incident by Alice Ryan

‘There’s been a little incident…’

Molly Black has disappeared. She’s been a bit flighty since her parents died (sure, hadn’t she run off with a tree surgeon that time?) but this time, or so says her hastily written leaving note, she’s gone for good.

That’s why the whole Black clan – from Granny perched on the printer all the way through to Killian on Zoom from Sydney – is huddled together in the back room of Uncle John’s semi-D in the Dublin suburbs, arguing over what to do.

Cousin Bobby’s having a hard enough time of it as it is, convincing his family he’s happy single and childless. Lady V reckons this is all much too much fuss over a thirty year old. And Uncle Danny knows all too well how it feels to be lost with no one trying to find you.

But Uncle John is determined never to lose anyone again. Especially not his niece, who is more like her mum than she realises.

All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

Just let him go. These are the words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny—optimistic, guileless, brilliant Denny—is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, an indifferent police force, and the worst heroin epidemic in Australian history.

Returning home to Cabramatta for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by Denny’s case: a dozen people were at Lucky 8 restaurant when Denny died, but each of the bystanders claim to have seen nothing.

Desperately hoping that understanding what happened might ease her suffocating guilt, Ky sets aside her grief and determines to track down the witnesses herself. With each encounter, she peels back another layer of the place that shaped her and Denny, exposing trauma and seeds of violence that were planted well before that fateful celebration dinner: by colonialism, by the war in Vietnam, and by the choices they’ve all made to survive.

The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker

It all starts with an innocuous curiosity: at the Hotel Verbier, a luxury hotel in the Swiss Alps, there is no Room 622.

This anomaly piques the interest of the writer Joël Dicker, Switzerland’s most famous literary star, who is staying at the hotel to recover from a bad breakup, mourn the death of his longtime publisher, and begin his next novel. Before he knows it, Joël is coaxed out of his torpor by a fellow guest – Scarlett, a captivating aspiring novelist with a nose for intrigue, who swiftly uncovers the reason behind Room 622’s deliberate erasure: an unsolved murder.

Meanwhile, in the wake of his father’s passing, Macaire Ebezner is set to take over as president of the largest private bank in Switzerland. The succession captivates the news media, and the future looks bright, until Macaire learns that the bank’s board plan to appoint one Lev Levovitch ­- Geneva’s very own Jay Gatsby ­- in his place. What seemed a race to the top has just become a race against time . . .

My Darling Daughter by J.P. Delaney

The child you never knew
knows all your secrets . . .

Out of the blue, Susie Jones is contacted on social media by Anna, the girl she gave up for adoption fifteen years ago.

But when they meet, Anna’s home life sounds distinctly strange to Susie and her husband Gabe. And when Anna’s adoptive parents seem to overreact to the fact she contacted them at all, Susie becomes convinced that Anna needs her help.

But is Anna’s own behaviour simply what you’d expect from someone recovering from a traumatic childhood? Or are there other secrets at play here – secrets Susie has also been hiding for the last fifteen years?

Marple: Twelve New Stories by Agatha Christie; Naomi Alderman; Leigh Bardugo; Alyssa Cole; Lucy Foley; Elly Griffiths; Natalie Haynes; Jean Kwok; Val McDermid; Karen M. McManus; Dreda Say Mitchell; Kate Mosse; Ruth Ware

This collection of twelve original short stories, all featuring Jane Marple, will introduce the character to a whole new generation. Each author reimagines Agatha Christie’s Marple through their own unique perspective while staying true to the hallmarks of a traditional mystery.

I h received only one new ARC for review this week: Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni

Have a wonderful week and happy reading!❤📚

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon, and to all the Dads out there, happy Father’s Day.

Currently I am reading Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly, and finding it enthralling.

THIS REUNION WILL TEAR A FAMILY APART…

Summer, 2021.
 Nell has come home at her family’s insistence to celebrate an anniversary. Fifty years ago, her father wrote The Golden Bones. Part picture book, part treasure hunt, Sir Frank Churcher created a fairy story about Elinore, a murdered woman whose skeleton was scattered all over England. Clues and puzzles in the pages of The Golden Bones led readers to seven sites where jewels were buried – gold and precious stones, each a different part of a skeleton. One by one, the tiny golden bones were dug up until only Elinore’s pelvis remained hidden.

The book was a sensation. A community of treasure hunters called the Bonehunters formed, in frenzied competition, obsessed to a dangerous degree. People sold their homes to travel to England and search for Elinore. Marriages broke down as the quest consumed people. A man died. The book made Frank a rich man. Stalked by fans who could not tell fantasy from reality, his daughter, Nell, became a recluse.

But now the Churchers must be reunited. The book is being reissued along with a new treasure hunt and a documentary crew are charting everything that follows. Nell is appalled, and terrified. During the filming, Frank finally reveals the whereabouts of the missing golden bone. And then all hell breaks loose.

And listening to Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney

Think you know the person you married? Think again…

Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.
Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts – paper, cotton, pottery, tin – and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.

Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.

This week I have seven books to read for review, all due ffor publication this week. They are:

The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

As a little girl raised amid the hardships of Michigan’s Copper Country, Fenna Vos learned to focus on her own survival. That ability sustains her even now as the Second World War rages in faraway countries. Though she performs onstage as the assistant to an unruly escape artist, behind the curtain she’s the mastermind of their act. Ultimately, controlling her surroundings and eluding traps of every kind helps her keep a lingering trauma at bay.

Yet for all her planning, Fenna doesn’t foresee being called upon by British military intelligence. Tasked with designing escape aids to thwart the Germans, MI9 seeks those with specialized skills for a war nearing its breaking point. Fenna reluctantly joins the unconventional team as an inventor. But when a test of her loyalty draws her deep into the fray, she discovers no mission is more treacherous than escaping one’s past.

Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse has built a bestselling career on the lives of fictional women. Now she turns the pen on her own life.

I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe?

If you look behind her, you’ll see me.

From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency—and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible—against the odds—to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.

In Little Stars by Linda Green

In a divided northern England, love and hate are about to collide . . .

Sylvie and Donna travel on the same train to work each day but have never spoken. Their families are on different sides of the bitter Brexit divide, although the tensions and arguments at home give them much in common.

What they don’t know is that their eldest children, Rachid and Jodie, are about to meet for the first time and fall in love. Aware that neither family will approve, the teenagers vow to keep their romance a secret.

But as Sylvie’s family feel increasingly unwelcome in England, a desire for a better life threatens Rachid and Jodie’s relationship. Can their love unite their families – or will it end in tragedy? 

Becoming Beth by Meredith Appleyard

Since adolescence, 58-year-old Beth has lived her life with blinkers on, repressing the memory of a teenage trauma. Her mother, Marian, took control of that situation, and of all else in their family life – and as much as she could in the small town of Miner’s Ridge as well.

Now Marian is dead, and Beth, unemployed and in the middle of a humiliating divorce, is living with her gentle-hearted father in the family home. Beth feels obliged to take over her mother’s involvement in the local town hall committee, which becomes a source of new friendships, old friendships renewed, and a considerable amount of aggravation.

Researching town hall history, Beth finds photographs that show Marian in a surprising light; sorting through Marian’s belongings, she realises that her mother has left a trail of landmines, cruel revelations that knock the feet out from under her supposed nearest and dearest. Beth struggles to emerge from the ensuing emotional chaos … in middle age, can she really start anew?

The Night Watch by Neil Lancaster

A lawyer is found dead at sunrise on a lonely clifftop at Dunnet Head on the northernmost tip of Scotland. It was supposed to be his honeymoon, but now his wife will never see him again.

He’ll hunt you.
The case is linked to several mysterious deaths, including the murder of the lawyer’s last client – Scotland’s most notorious criminal… who had just walked free. DS Max Craigie knows this can only mean one thing: they have a vigilante serial killer on their hands.

He’ll leave you to die.
But this time the killer isn’t on the run; he’s on the investigation team. And the rules are different when the murderer is this close to home.

He knows their weaknesses, knows how to stay hidden, and he thinks he’s above the law… 

The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas

A notebook full of secrets, two untimely deaths – something sinister is stirring in the perfect seaside town of Morranez…

It’s summer and holidaymakers are flocking to the idyllic Brittany coast. But when first an old traveller woman dies in suspicious circumstances, and then a campaign of hate seemingly drives another victim to take his own life, events take a very dark turn.

Mila Shepherd has come to France to look after her niece, Ani, following the accident in which both Ani’s parents were lost at sea. Mila has moved into their family holiday home – The Sea House – as well as taken her sister Sophie’s place in an agency which specialises in tracking down missing people, until new recruit Carter Jackson starts.

It’s clear that malevolent forces are at work in Morranez, but the local police are choosing to look the other way. Only Mila and Carter can uncover the truth about what’s really going on in this beautiful, but mysterious place before anyone else suffers. But someone is desperate to protect a terrible truth, at any cost… 

The Santa Killer by Ross Greenwood

The Santa Killer is coming to town…
One night less than two weeks before Christmas, a single mother is violently assaulted. It’s a brutal crime at the time of year when there should be goodwill to all. When DI Barton begins his investigation, he’s surprised to find the victim is a woman with nothing to hide and no reason for anyone to hurt her.

A few days later, the mother of the woman attacked rings the police station. Her granddaughter has drawn a shocking picture. It seems she was looking out of the window when her mother was attacked. And when her grandmother asks the young girl who the person with the weapon is, she whispers two words.

Bad Santa.

The rumours start spreading, and none of the city’s women feel safe – which one of them will be next?

He’s got a list. It’s quite precise. It won’t matter even if you’re nice. 

I received seven new ARCs this week, three of them publishers’ widgets.

In addition to The Skeleton Key, which I have already started, and Becoming Beth, which is on this week’s reading list, I received:

Just Like Family by Barbara Casey (thank you Susan)

Wolf Pack by Will Dean (Publisher’s widget)

The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston (Publisher’s widget)

And Silent Victim (DCI Matilda Darke #10) by Michael Wood also a publisher’s widget

That’s me for the weekend. Now that the wind has dropped I want to do a few jobs in the garden before it starts cooling off out there.

Have a great week and happy reading my friends. ❤📚


	

Sandy’s August 2022 Reading Roundup

Wow! Where did August go? It’s the meteorological first day of spring here in New Zealand, and it has been a beautiful spring day, but now – late afternoon – it’s clouded over and is cooling off. The daffodils and daphne are almost finished flowering, but the freesias look and smell beautiful; the hyacinths are about to flower, closely followed by the tulips. The kowhai trees are flowering – I planted two more over winter – and so the tui are back. I love listening to them; they are such clever mimics.

I started August with seventeen books to read for review, and managed not to add any during the month. That’s a first! I managed to complete twelve and am currently reading and almost finished three more. I will probably finish all three tonight. That’s an 88% completion rate. I read two more books purely for pleasure, but didn’t get to any of the titles on my backlist. So that was a total of seventeen books read during August.

One of the titles I am currently reading is a debut author – And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke.

Two of the books I read in August were by new to me authors. They were: The Hidden Truth by Hilary Boyd ⭐⭐⭐.8





And one of my reads for pleasure, The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

The two books I didn’t get read during August were Solace and Other Stories by M. Syaipul Nasrullah

and Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I intend to start tonight.

I only had one five star read in August – The New House by Tess Stimson. I loved this so much I had a huge book hangover afterwards which lasted until almost the end of the month.

I have somehow managed to collect twenty-five books for review in September 🤦‍♀️ – I’m sure that request button operates on its own volition while I’m asleep!🤷‍♀️

So, I’m off to finish my three almost finished titles. Happy September reading!❤📚