Watching what I’m reading . . .

Welcome to a wet and windy New Zealand Sunday afternoon. The wind howling around the house, the heavy rain and the thunder and lightning kept me awake last night. Today is a lot calmer, I’m pleased to say.

Unusually for me, I am not currently reading anything! Sorry, should I have warned you to be sitting safely down before I made that statement? But be reassured, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I finished reading two books this morning: The novella Foster by Claire Keegan

A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And then a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.

The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry, A Garden Squad Mystery #5

Ever the quintessential New England town, Goosebush, Massachusetts, truly shines in springtime, but when an underhanded undertaker digs herself an early grave, only Lilly Jayne and her Garden Squad can unearth the cryptic killer . . .

With spring’s arrival in Goosebush, Lilly and the Beautification Committee turn their eyes to new projects. A cleanup of the historic Goosebush Cemetery may be in order, after Lilly and Delia find the plots there sorely neglected and inexplicably rearranged. Lilly soon discovers that Whitney Dunne-Bradford snapped up custodianship of the graveyard once she inherited Bradford Funeral Homes. But before Lilly can get to the bottom of the tombstone tampering, she stumbles upon Whitney’s body at the Jayne family mausoleum . . .

Though at first it appears Whitney died by suicide, Lilly has doubts, and apparently, so does Chief of Police Bash Haywood, who quickly opens a murder investigation. Plenty of folks in town had bones to pick with Whitney, including her stepdaughter, Sasha, and funeral home employee, Dewey Marsh–all three recently charged with illegal business practices. But when the homicide inquiry suddenly targets an old friend, Lilly and the Garden Squad must rally to exhume the truth before the real killer buries it forever . . . 

I have written reviews for both of these, and I also finished listening to The Tilt by Chris Hammer, but am still to write my review on this Australian crime thriller.

A man runs for his life in a forest.
A woman plans sabotage.
A body is unearthed.

Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her home town, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.

But this is no ordinary cold case, as the discovery of more bodies triggers a chain of escalating events in the present day. As Nell starts to join the pieces together, she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her. Could her own family be implicated in the crimes?

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more dangerous the present becomes for her, as she battles shadowy assailants and sinister forces. Can she survive this harrowing investigation and what price will she have to pay for the truth?

I actually read all the books that I had planned to read for the week (1 dnf) , a definite bonus of having a chest infection.

I have loaded Day’s End by Garry Disher, #4 in the Paul Hirschausen series, to start reading when I have finished this post.

Hirsch’s rural beat is wide. Daybreak to day’s end, dirt roads and dust. Every problem that besets small towns and isolated properties, from unlicensed driving to arson. In the time of the virus, Hirsch is seeing stresses heightened and social divisions cracking wide open. His own tolerance under strain; people getting close to the edge.

Today he’s driving an international visitor around: Janne Van Sant, whose backpacker son went missing while the borders were closed. They’re checking out his last photo site, his last employer. A feeling that the stories don’t quite add up.

Then a call comes in: a roadside fire. Nothing much—a suitcase soaked in diesel and set alight. But two noteworthy facts emerge. Janne knows more than Hirsch about forensic evidence. And the body in the suitcase is not her son’s.

I have also loaded The Work Wives by Rachel Johns to start.

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

And No Strangers Here (County Kerry Mystery #1) written by Carlene O’Connor, and narrated by Emily O’Mahony, to listen to.

On a rocky beach in the southwest of Ireland, the body of Jimmy O’Reilly, sixty-nine years old and dressed in a suit and his dancing shoes, is propped on a boulder, staring sightlessly out to sea. A cryptic message is spelled out next to the body with sixty-nine polished black stones and a discarded vial of deadly veterinarian medication lies nearby. Jimmy was a wealthy racehorse owner, known far and wide as The Dancing Man. In a town like Dingle, everyone knows a little something about everyone else. But dig a bit deeper, and there’s always much more to find. And when Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien is dispatched out of Killarney to lead the murder inquiry, he’s determined to unearth every last buried secret.

Dimpna Wilde hasn’t been home in years. As picturesque as Dingle may be for tourists in search of their roots and the perfect jumper, to her it means family drama and personal complications. In fairness, Dublin hasn’t worked out quite as she hoped either. Faced with a triple bombshell—her mother rumored to be in a relationship with Jimmy, her father’s dementia is escalating, and her brother is avoiding her calls—Dimpna moves back to clear her family of suspicion.

Despite plenty of other suspects, the guards are crawling over the Wildes. But the horse business can be a brutal one, and as Dimpna becomes more involved with her old acquaintances and haunts, the depth of lingering grudges becomes clear. Theft, extortion, jealousy and greed. As Dimpna takes over the family practice, she’s in a race with the detective inspector to uncover the dark, twisting truth, no matter how close to home it strikes . . .

Other books that I have to read for review this week are: Auld Acquaintance by Sofia Slater

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Millie Partridge desperately needs a party. So, when her (handsome and charming) ex-colleague Nick invites her to a Hebridean Island for New Year’s Eve, she books her ticket North.

But things go wrong the moment the ferry drops her off. The stately home is more down at heel than Downton Abbey. Nick hasn’t arrived yet. And the other revellers? Politely, they aren’t exactly who she would have pictured Nick would be friends with.

Worse still, an old acquaintance from Millie’s past has been invited, too. Penny Maybury. Millie and Nick’s old colleague. Somebody Millie would rather have forgotten about. Somebody, in fact, that Millie has been trying very hard to forget.

Waking up on New Year’s Eve, Penny is missing. A tragic accident? Or something more sinister? With a storm washing in from the Atlantic, nobody will be able reach the group before they find out.

One thing is for sure – they’re going to see in the new year with a bang.

The Next Best Day by Sharon Sala

A fresh start for a young teacher to build the life she’s dreamt of
A second chance at romance for a single dad
The warm and uplifting small-town community cheering them on

After two back-to-back life-changing events, first grade teacher Katie McGrath left Albuquerque for a fresh start in Borden’s Gap, Tennessee. She is finally back in the classroom where she belongs, but it will take a little while for her to heal and feel truly like herself. She’ll need to dig deep to find the courage it takes to try again—in life and in love—but with some help from her neighbor Sam Youngblood and his adorable daughters who bring her out of her shell, her future is looking brighter than she dared imagine. 

A Body at Lavender Cottage, (A Kate Palmer mystery #6) by Dee MacDonald

Nurse Kate Palmer is Cornwall’s answer to Miss Marple! But when a body turns up in her own garden can Kate solve the crime? Or is the murder a bit too close to home?

Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…

When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.

Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?

When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.

But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?

I received six new ARCs from Netgalley this week, including the audio of No Strangers Here. They are: Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza

Those Empty Eyes by Charlie Donlea

On Spine of Death by Tamara Berry

Tell Me Lies by Teresa Driscoll

And the audiobook, The Couple in the Cabin, written by Daniel Hurst and narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates

Do you have any of these on your tbr shelf?

Before I go, does anyone have a nice, tasty pumpkin pie recipe that they don’t mind sharing? I love pumpkin pie, but there are so many recipes out there it’s mind boggling!

Have a great weekend.

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!❤📚

Good morning from New Zealand

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

It’s so foggy this morning I can barely see my hand in front of my face. And there hasn’t been a drop of that rain that was forecast. I was planning a trip to the supermarket this morning, but will put that off until the fog lifts as I have to cross two major roads to get there and there are an awful lot of people who don’t use their fog lights so you can’t see them coming – especially when their vehicles are silver or gray.

I had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday. Dustin and Luke came for the afternoon. Luke had drawn me a picture and made me a card which will be going in my treasure box. We picked up feijoas from the ground, and picked the first of the ripe mandarins from the tree. Luke portions them out, bags them and sells them at the gate for Lego money. Quite enterprising for an only just five year old!

I hadn’t put away my tennis racquet and balls from my bash around earlier in the morning, so I had to show him what I do – hit the ball against the basement wall – and then of course he wanted a go. He has excellent eye ball coordination and even managed a few return shots. He’s also started soccer on Saturday mornings and is loving that. We also spent some time curled up in the reading chair reading some very old and battered books from Dustin and Kyle’s childhood.

It was an absolutely lovely afternoon topped off with a roast lamb dinner and a glass of my favourite French red wine, a 2015 Castlemère Aude.

As I have been writing this, the fog has lifted enough that I can see to the bottom of our street, and a light rain is falling. My garden is going to love this!

To all the other Mums out there, I hope you had/have a wonderful mother’s day filled with love and laughter.

Photo by asim alnamat on Pexels.com

By the way, my roses are also confused about the seasons and are a mass of buds and bursting into bloom again!

Good morning from New Zealand

Good morning from the shaky isles!

200km to the south-east of our town is Mt Ruapehu, an active volcano that likes to flex its muscles every so often just to remind us it’s there. It’s currently in a level of elevated volcanic unrest, and the temperature of the crater lake has risen by 2°C to 39° over the past few days. Although it has been as high as 45° in the past, it normally sits around 20° .

According to vulcanologists, “The volcano is more active than it was. In particular, the temperature is rising. We’ve been seeing volcanic earthquake activity in the style of volcanic tremor. That tremor has been relatively strong compared to what we have seen the last four or five years. The “sustained nature of the volcanic unrest now differs from those typically seen during the start of a heating phase”, and the tremors and increased gas output “are now more indicative of processes being driven by molten rock (magma) interacting with the geothermal system at depth in the volcano”. Which, in a nutshell means that there is a heightened risk of eruption and yesterday a 2km exclusion zone was put in place surrounding the crater lake.

Mt Ruapehu last errupted in 2007.

Although there have been some of the strongest tremors in twenty years, I haven’t felt any of them. Watch this space for more news.

We’re looking at another fine, sunny day today with a high of 22°c and an overnight low of 7° I certainly felt the heat when I was gardening yesterday afternoon. I replaced a couple of plants that I lost during the summer, planted crocus bulbs, and repotted a few houseplants. Today I am working so must crack on so that I’m not late. I’m afraid that I have quite gotten out of the habit of rushing in the morning. There’s no leisurely breakfast on the deck in the sun with my nose in a book today!

Pork steaks and salad for dinner tonight.

Enjoy your day

Good morning from New Zealand

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

Sorry I missed my post yesterday. I had left to drive to the city before it was light and had a busy day there with a couple of appointments and a list of things to do as long as my arm, the majority of which remain undone.

We left daylight saving time early April, and I honestly couldn’t remember how to change the time on the clock in the car, which was showing the time to be an hour later than it actually was. This hasn’t been a problem until yesterday. I had finished my appointments, crossed the most important ‘to do’ from my list when I got a phone call from work. Half an hour later when I got off the phone, I looked at the clock and panicked. There were a few things I had to pick up and take to my son’s house, and I was not leaving the city without trawling at least one charity shop for books, besides which, I had a few items to drop off. More on charity shop books later. So I did all that and decided to head for his house as it was close to the time he said he would be home. I thought the traffic was very light considering the time.🤣😂 I pulled into his drive and picked up my phone and caught sight of the real time. 🤦‍♀️ I made good use of the hour I waited by changing the clock to the correct time – it’s really very easy once you know how, but no doubt I will have forgotten again by the time we have to put them forward – and sitting in the sun reading.

Luke is loving school. I expected him to be tired when he got home but he was bouncing with excitement and telling me all about his day the highlight of which was a visit to the school library.

It was me who was tired. I used to really enjoy a day in the city, but now there’s too much traffic, too much noise, too many people and I am glad to leave it behind.

The weather really is amazing and I am enjoying all this extra sun and warmth no end, but it is confusing the hell out of my garden. The daphne is flowering prolifically, and my jonquils are bursting their buds.

There were two chrysalis hatched yesterday, but unfortunately one caterpillar hanging ready to form a chrysalis has died, probably as a result of wasps.

We’re looking at another warm, 22°C, day today. There’s a few smudges of cloud in the sky, and a low of 8°C tonight.

Helen and I are heading off on our walk in a few minutes before it gets too hot to tackle our hill.

Dinner tonight is a cheesy ham and potato bake.

And the books?

A great haul!

Enjoy your day.

Good Morning from New Zealand

Photo by Cindy Gustafson on Pexels.com

Our weather today is going to be very similar to yesterday, although it was a couple of degrees cooler this morning and there was a heavy dew which the garden will enjoy. We are still only allowed hand held hoses which is a great improvement on not being allowed to water at all. We’re planning on putting in a tank this winter to catch the rainwater from the roof so I can use that for the garden in the summer.

I got the lawns finished yesterday but didn’t get the weeding done, so once I have hung out the laundry, that will be my next task.

We had another chrysalis hatch yesterday, there are two new chrysalis this morning and one caterpillar hanging ready to form a chrysalis. I am carefully collecting the seed pods from the swan plant to sow next spring so that I will have many more plants and a bigger nursery.

Curried sausages for dinner tonight. They are simmering away in the slow cooker and the whole house is redolent with the spices I use.

Have a wonderful day!

Friday Flowers . . .

Tibouchina

African Iris – an absolutely beautiful flower, but each flower lasts only a day or two.

Magnolia

I haven’t had any funnies from Grumps this week. He must be hard at work with his pick and shovel in his underground coal mine. So I decided to share a few of the prettiest flowers from my garden before they get battered by ex-tropical cyclone Dovi which is due to hit us tomorrow. I managed to get most of the lawn mowed this morning before the drizzle turned into steady rain which the garden is enjoying.

Stay safe and read on my friends. ❤📚💐

Fall Friday

Down here, in the Southern hemisphere, it’s fall or, as we call it, autumn. So I would like to share the changing colours that I can see from my deck today.

I hope all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying your spring. My garden seems to have lost track of the seasons – I have a jonquil blooming! (In amongst the weeds – I plan to tackle them today.)

And a few of the back garden:

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

A Day in the Life of my Garden

No, unfortunately I didn’t get to spend the day in my garden, but when I get home at night, I like to wander around the garden and pick whatever produce is ripe. I did the picking before I took the photos tonight, which probably wasn’t the brightest idea, but we’re having an autumn vegetable pasta for dinner….

We don’t use pesticides or insecticides….purely organic.

Just 2 of our 16 pumpkins.

Lettuce in amongst pumpkin vines.

I had already picked the ripe tomatoes

We have so many lemons for the gin….and limes but I forgot to take photos of them and it’s too dark now.

I got 9 avocado from my tree last year. This year, there must be 90!

I know you can’t eat them, but these roses are beautiful and beautifully scented.

And while the dahlia isn’t scented, it is spectacular.

And this is the delicious result…fresh basil and parsley from the garden, capsicum and cherry tomatoes. The spinach was frozen down from last winter. I bought the mushrooms, and red onion. And added feta and parmesan, and fresh ground pepper. The pasta is gluten free.

And that’s Tuesday!

Adding to my collection . . .

Wednesday I had to go to an appointment in the next town north. It didn’t take as long as I expected, so I went out for coffee and cake afterwards and took a stroll past their bookstore. They only had half a dozen books on the sale table outside, but I scored The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor and Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan. 2 books I have been wanting to read, for $20. I think I must be the last person in the world who hasn’t read these!

THE CHALK MAN:

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL: Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart. Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes. Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience?

Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy. Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth? 

Have you scored any bargains recently?

I went out and picked all the ripe produce before it started to rain today. It always tastes so much better fresh out of the garden!

Have a happy day!