Never Forget by Martin Michaud

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EXCERPT: They were startled by a noise resembling the striking of a matchstick: the burner on the gas furnace had just lit up. Victor released his breath, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, and opened the door at the far end of the workshop.

The beam of his flashlight slid across the room, and a cry froze in his throat. An odour of death and offal hung in the air. The body of a man in his underwear lay in a puddle of blood and excrement.

The detective sergeant snapped a mental image of the scene: the corpse was lying face up, arms crossed. Brownish wounds were visible on the diaphanous skin of the throat and chest. The wrists bore purple bruises, and the cracked dry lips had split open in several places.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When an eccentric homeless man jumps to his death in Old Montreal, the police discover two wallets in his possession: those of a retired psychiatrist who was recently murdered in a bizarre ritual and a powerful corporate lawyer who has vanished. As police detective Victor Lessard and his partner, Jacinthe Taillon, work to solve the separate mysteries, a dark history begins to emerge.

While the pressure builds and the bodies accumulate, dark and disturbing secrets come to light about a pivotal moment in Quebec’s history. But will Lessard and Taillon crack the case in time to prevent the killer from striking again?

MY THOUGHTS: It’s complicated . . .

I am unsure why a publisher would choose to start translating a series with the third book. I know that some series are easy to pick up part way through. This isn’t one of them.

The plot is complex. The characters are complex, and there are a lot of them. It took me a long time to settle into this book, and even then, I managed to lose my way a couple of times and had to go back and reread things. There are frequent references to past cases, past events, past history.

Victor Lessard is an alcoholic (not drinking, but once an alcoholic…) suffers from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and tends to vomit at the sight of a body. There is a lot of vomiting takes place. His partner, Jacinthe Taillon, is obsessed with food and only trusts Lessard to a certain point. Not an easy working relationship. She is rude, insensitive and brings nothing to the story other than her ability to break down doors.

If you are a fan of conspiracy theories, you will love this book. It covers a lot of historical ground, from CIA funded experiments into mind control using drugs and other even more barbaric methods to the assassination of President John Kennedy.

This was definitely an interesting read, but as I said, it is complicated. Would I read more in this series? That would depend on being able to start from the beginning.

🤯🏙🚔

‘Evil creeps. Evil prowls. It insinuates itself into the soul’s blank spaces. And sometimes, for no apparent reason, when you’re sure it’s busy elsewhere, it catches your scent of ashes on the cold air, turns from its path and follows you.’

‘By deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill, we’ve put all our eggs in one basket. We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. It’s gotten to the point where most people who need custodial care are now on the streets.’

‘Once a mistake is made, there’s no going back to unmake it.’

‘Unlike the movies, where there’s always a ruthless logic behind every action, reality can be disappointing and disturbing.’

THE AUTHOR: Born in 1970, Martin Michaud is a musician, novelist and screenwriter. He worked as a business lawyer for twenty years before devoting himself to writing full-time in 2012.

His novels have gained a wide readership in Quebec and Europe, winning numerous literary prizes. He is hailed by critics as “the master of the Quebec thriller.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Dundurn Press via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Never Forget by Martin Michaud 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 and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3286118044

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

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EXCERPT: Larne.

Not the most aesthetically pleasing town in Ireland. Not one for the Tourist board calendars, or the Guinness posters, or the coffee table books.

Working port, blue collar – nothing wrong with that, but the big UVF mural on the A2 as you drove into town, in which a masked gunman promised ‘death to informers’ perhaps wasn’t the most welcoming of messages.

Larne RUC was a recently renovated, rather impressive, fortress on Hope Street (no irony intended). Larne had more manpower, money and resources than Carrick RUC and their district stretched from Whitehead all the way up to the Glens of Antrim. They even had a boat division and a separate wing for the Harbour and British Transport Police. So you’d think they’d be a high;y professional crew who had their shit together. You’d think wrong. All the young guys were good, but the McBain murder investigation was being run by CI Kennedy – a first-class arse, if there ever was one – and CI Monroe, who was an ill-natured, red-faced son-of-a-bitch. Both of them were Masons, promoted way beyond their level of competence through insider connections. To add that they were lazy, Catholic hating scumbags would be obvious and redundant but I’ve added it anyway out of spite.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: It’s just the same things over and again for Sean Duffy: riot duty, heartbreak, cases he can solve but never get to court. But what detective gets two locked-room mysteries in one career?

When journalist Lily Bigelow is found dead in the courtyard of Carrickfergus Castle, it looks like a suicide. Yet there are a few things that bother Duffy just enough to keep the case file open, which is how he finds out that Bigelow was working on a devastating investigation of corruption and abuse at the highest levels of power in the UK and beyond.And so Duffy has two impossible problems on his desk: Who killed Lily Bigelow? And what were they trying to hide?

MY THOUGHTS: Northern Ireland. 1987. The Troubles are still brewing, if no longer boiling over. Duffy still isn’t any better at getting, and keeping, people onside. Even his lovers. It could have something to do with his snarky irreverence. Personally, this is something I love, but then I don’t have to work/live with him.

McKinty is an atmospheric and entertaining writer. He brings the setting and the people alive. And he’s not above throwing in the odd curveball. Neither McKinty nor his creation, Sean Duffy, are ever predictable.

This is, quite honestly, one of the best series, if not THE BEST series I have ever read. I am feeling quite sad that there is only one more book in the series (currently) for me to read. I hope there are more underway.

❤❤❤❤.5

THE AUTHOR: Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Victoria Council Estate, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He read law at the University of Warwick and politics and philosophy at the University of Oxford. He moved to the United States in the early 1990s, living first in Harlem, New York and from 2001 on, in Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English and began writing fiction. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty, published by Seprent’s Tail, from Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed int his 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 and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3221154053?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty

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EXCERPT: ‘It was just out there where your Land Rover was parked. They must have been hiding behind the stone wall. Two of them, they said. Gave him both barrels of a shotgun and sped off on a motorbike. Point blank range. Dr McCreery said that he wouldn’t have known a thing about it.’

‘I’m sure that’s the case,’ I said and tried to let go, but still she held on.

‘He only joined for the money. This place doesn’t pay anything. We’ve forty sheep on twelve acres of bog.’

‘Yes, the–‘

She pulled me closer.

‘Aye, they say he didn’t know anything but he was still breathing when I got to him, trying to breathe anyway. His mouth was full of blood, he was drowning in it. Drowning on dry land in his own blood.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Sean Duffy knows there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. But a torso in a suitcase is pretty close.

Still, one tiny clue is all it takes, and there it is. A tattoo. So Duffy, fully fit and back at work after the severe trauma of his last case, is ready to follow the trail of blood-however faint-that always, always connects a body to its killer.

A legendarily stubborn man, Duffy becomes obsessed with this mystery as a distraction from the ruins of his love life, and to push down the seed of self-doubt that he seems to have traded for his youthful arrogance.

So from country lanes to city streets, Duffy works every angle. And wherever he goes, he smells a rat…

MY THOUGHTS: 1982 Northern Ireland. The Troubles. The Falklands war. The hope that the manufacturing plant for the De Lorean brings. This is the backdrop for the second book in the Sean Duffy series, I Hear The Sirens in the Streets’.

McKinty does a wonderful job of portraying the atmosphere…’the curling pigtails of smoke from hijacked cars, Army helicopters hovering above the city like mosquitoes over a water hole, heavily armed soldiers and policemen walking in single file on both sides of a residential street…’, the smell, the sound, the taste of a country at war with itself, the grinding poverty, the hopelessness and despair of both the people and the situation.

But overriding all this is the body in the suitcase and the brick walls he keeps hitting during his investigation.

I initially read the third book in this series, In the Morning I’ll be Gone, and fell in love with Sean Duffy, for all his faults, and so have gone back and am reading the series from the beginning. Loving it. McKinty has me reading late into the night, nails digging into palms, gasping, and laughing. Yes, laughing. Mr. McKinty has quite the sense of humour. Add to this his descriptive prowess and his brilliant ability to create characters far more human than I thought possible, and you have a winning combination.

I guess it helps that McKinty grew up in Carrickfergus, the setting for this series, but the whole time I am reading, I am also hearing the story in a lilting Irish brogue. Such is the strength of his writing.

If you haven’t yet read any of this author’s books, I urge you to give him a try. Highly recommended.

❤😯😳🤯.5

A few of my favourite lines from I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty:

‘….that tea’s too wet. I’ll get some biscuits.’

‘Even when you were completely wrong about something, the journey into your wrongness was always fucking interesting.’

‘…the coffee itself tasted like it had been percolated through a tube previously used for stealing petrol from parked cars.’

THE AUTHOR: Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Victoria Council Estate, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He read law at the University of Warwick and politics and philosophy at the University of Oxford. He moved to the United States in the early 1990s, living first in Harlem, New York and from 2001 on, in Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English and began writing fiction. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty, published by Serpent’s Tail, from Waitomo District Library. 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 and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2994284920

The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

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EXCERPT: I shone my flashlight and then I saw her.

She was fully clothed, hanging under the limb of an oak tree. She had set up the noose, put her head in it, stepped off a tree stump and then regretted it.

Almost every person who hanged themselves did it wrong.

The noose is supposed to break your neck, not choke you to death.

Lucy had tried desperately to claw through the rope, had even managed to get a finger between the rope and her throat. It hadn’t done any good.

She was blue. Her left eye was bulging out of its socket, her right eyeball had popped onto her cheek.

Apart from that and the lifeless way the breeze played with her brown hair she did not look dead. The birds hadn’t found her yet.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Two dead.

One left in a car at the side of a road. He was meant to be found quickly. His killer is making a statement.

The other is discovered hanged, deep in a forest. She is surely a suicide.

Detective Sergeant Duffy is the man tasked with trying to get to the bottom of it all. It’s no easy job – especially when it turns out that one of the victims was involved in the IRA, but last seen discussing business with someone from the UVF. Add to that the fact that as a Catholic policemen, it doesn’t matter which side he’s on, because nobody trusts him – and Sergeant Duffy really is in a no-win situation.

MY THOUGHTS: I discovered Sean Duffy late in this series, but loved him so much that I have gone back to read this series from the beginning.

McKinty’s writing is, though often brutal, like liquid honey. It flows easily, even as Duffy makes huge leaps of deduction, often unfounded and misguided. But he is no bumbling fool, merely a man who feels too much, who longs to make a difference, who wants to help stop the madness of the Irish troubles.

Set in the reign of Margaret Thatcher, with the marriage of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer looming, resources are stretched thin. Riots are an every day occurrence, political prisoners are on hunger strikes, and innocent civilians are being killed in the random bombings.

And yet amongst all this carnage and hatred, McKinty manages to convey that there are still good people, people not interested in either side winning, people invested in finding an equitable peace. He even manages to insert a little Irish folk lore – ‘My grandmother told me that the forest was an opening to someplace else. Where things lurked, things we could only half see. Older beings. Shees. Shades of creatures that once walked the natural world, redundant now, awaiting tasks, awaiting their work in dreams.’

McKinty is one of the most talented writers I have ever read for setting atmosphere. As I read, I can hear every inflection, every nuance in the voices, I can smell the odour of death, of putrefaction, I can taste the food, even the whisky – ‘It was the good stuff and it tasted of salt, sea, rain, wind and the Old Testament.’ He brings his work alive.

😍😲😍😲.5

My favourite quote from The Cold, Cold Ground: ‘William Burroughs said that a paranoid is somebody who knows what is actually going on.’

THE AUTHOR: Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Victoria Council Estate, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He read law at the University of Warwick and politics and philosophy at the University of Oxford. He moved to the United States in the early 1990s, living first in Harlem, New York and from 2001 on, in Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English and began writing fiction. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty, published by Serpent’s Tail, from Waitomo District Library. 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 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2994284793

Watching What I’m Reading ….

It is a funny afternoon, hot and windy with a storm brewing. We have had storms mid to late afternoon for the last three days . It’s almost like living in the tropics 😂🤣

I am currently reading

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and should finish it tonight. I am listening to

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after abandoning listening to Lost Roses.

This week I am planning on reading

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Her husband says it’s suicide. The police say it’s murder.
Liam Buckley was a married man with two teenage children when he moved out of the family home to start a new life with his lover. His wife Jennifer never forgave him, but now she needs him to come back: she’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the kids can’t cope alone.

One day after Liam moves home, Jennifer is found dead. Liam thinks it’s suicide. But the police, led by DS Louise Kennedy, are convinced it’s murder.

Liam hires a retired detective to help prove his innocence, but it’s no easy task. The children are distraught, and Jennifer’s best friend, Sarah, is waging a campaign against Liam, determined to expose him for a liar and a cheat.

As secrets surface from the complex web of Buckley family life, DS Kennedy must decide. Did Jennifer Buckley end her own life, or did Liam take it from her? The answer, when it comes, will shock them all…

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As a child, Vicky Hall never had the sort of family she wanted. The least important person in her new step-family, ignored by her mother in favour of her two younger half-siblings, Vicky was always an afterthought. Sitting alone at her graduation ceremony at the age of twenty-one, she vows to create her own family and her own life, one which is full of the love and attention she has always craved.

When Vicky meets William and falls pregnant in Greece that summer, it isn’t planned. But the two of them believe they can make it work, showering their child with the love which they believe should be enough.

But when her son Theo is two, Vicky leaves him in the care of her mother-in-law, walks out of her front door and drives to a hotel where she takes a room for the night. She doesn’t return.

I have received four new ARCs from Netgalley this week, plus a widget directly from the publisher for a book I had already been approved for from Netgalley…

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and the widget I received was

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I am slowly catching up to where I should be on my reading schedule, I think I am currently only five books behind. Though I haven’t yet looked at my December list 😂🤣 that’s a job for tomorrow.

My big excitement for the week was the arrival of my new oven. It is stored downstairs ready for next February when my new kitchen is due to be fitted.

I hope you all have your Christmas wish lists sorted…only three and a bit weeks to go now. it will be here and gone before we know it . In the meantime, happy reading my friends, and don’t stress.
Cheers
Sandy

Watching What I’m Reading…

It is a hot summer day here in my little corner of New Zealand. It is not often that you will hear me say this, but it’s actually too hot to be out in the garden. It was the same yesterday, and apparently we have a whole week of this lovely weather to look forward to. Bring on summer…this is my kind of weather. It is lovely sitting out on the deck in the shade, my book in one hand and a nice cold drink in the other.

I actually squeezed an extra book in last week

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Which I read last night. Watch for my review.

I am about to begin

And I am listening to

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the follow up to The Lilac Girls.

This week I am planning on reading

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When Nick’s wife Kerry falls ill and dies, he realises for the first time how fragile his happiness has always been, and how much he’s been taking his good life and wonderful family for granted. Now, he suddenly finds himself navigating parenthood alone, unsure how to deal with his own grief, let alone that of his teenage son, Olly.

In the depths of his heartbreak, Nick must find a way to navigate life that pleases his son, his in-laws, his family and his friends—while honouring what Kerry meant to them all. But when it comes to his own emotions, Nick doesn’t know where to begin. Kerry was his childhood sweetheart—but was she really the only one who could ever make him happy?

And in the aftermath of tragedy, can Nick and his son find themselves again?

And hopefully I will also be able to start

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Louise Bridges has the perfect life.

A loving husband, Patrick. Two adorable children. A comfortable home.

So when PC Becca Holt arrives to break the news that Patrick has been killed in an accident, she thinks Louise’s perfect world is about to collapse around her.

But Louise doesn’t react in the way Becca would expect her to on hearing of her husband’s death. And there are only three plates set out for dinner as if Louise already knew Patrick wouldn’t be home that night…

The more Becca digs, the more secrets she uncovers in the Bridges’ marriage – and the more she wonders just how far Louise would go to get what she wants…

Is Louise a loving wife – or a cold-hearted killer?

And I have seven new ARCs from Netgalley….well what can I say? There are currently just so many tempting titles out there begging to be read. And those of you who know me well will know that I can resist everything but temptation 🤣😂🤣😂

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I also bought two books this week…

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So I had better go get some reading done! I hope you got some lovely books to read this week….

Happy reading my friends
❤😍📚

The Secret Letter by Debbie Rix

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EXCERPT: The letter landed on the mat, just as Imogen walked into the narrow hall from the kitchen. She usually ignored the uninteresting brown envelopes that slipped through the letter box. They lay undisturbed for days in an untidy pile until she was forced to gather them up simply to open the door. But even at a distance, this handwritten envelope was intriguing. In spite of her arthritis, she bent down slowly and retrieved it, along with the pile of bills, and carried them through to the conservatory at the back of the house, Winter sun streamed in as she sat down in her favourite wicker armchair. She laid the unwanted mail on the kelim covered footstool in front of her and examined the handwritten envelope, noting the German postmark and slid her long elegant finger under the flap.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Germany, 1939: Thirteen-year-old Magda is devastated by the loss of her best friend, shy and gentle Lotte, cruelly snatched from her and sent to a concentration camp – the Star of David sewn on her faded, brown coat. As the Nazi’s power takes hold, Magda realizes she’s not like the other girls in her village – she hates the fanatical new rules of the Hitler Youth. So Magda secretly joins The White Rose movement and begins to rebel against the oppressive, frightening world around her.

But when an English RAF pilot lands in a field near Magda’s home she is faced with an impossible choice: to risk the lives of her family or to save a stranger and make a difference in the war she desperately wants to end.

England, 1939: Fifteen-year-old Imogen is torn from her family and evacuated to the Lake District, a haven of safety away from the war raging across Europe. All she has to connect her to the bombs and the battles are the letters she writes to her loved ones. Little does she know, on the other side of the enemy line, her fate rests on the actions of one girl who will change her life forever…

MY THOUGHTS: I didn’t get what I was expecting…..and that was a secret revealed by a long lost letter that, through some circumstance, suddenly comes to light. To that end I think the book is mis-named. But that really is my only criticism of The Secret Letter. There is a secret letter, written by Karl to his sister Magda which, although he demands that she destroy it after reading, she hides in her bible.

What I did get was a beautifully written story, based on reality, set during WWII. The characters are well fleshed out and totally believable, as is the plot. The story begins with a letter received by Imogen in 2018, from Magda, a woman in Germany who had met Imogen’s husband during the war, inviting her to Germany. The story then backtracks to 1939 and we experience the war through the eyes of two young women, Magda in Germany and Imogen in England, firstly as schoolgirls then as young women helping with the war effort, before coming back to 2018/19 for a reunion of the survivors.

I think that because the author has based some of the story on the wartime experiences of her parents, there is an enhanced sense of reality; of people just getting on with it as best they could. While the war itself was inhumane, there were a lot of instances where people went to extreme lengths to help others, and these actions form the heart of this book. In the author’s own words, ‘I wanted more than anything else to explore the humanity that exists in wartime – the acts of selflessness and nobility, as well as the love and loss that affected ordinary people…..I also discovered acts of great courage performed by those who chose to rebel against the Nazi regime.’

Debbie Rix has done a wonderful job of portraying the ordinary people who had to fight and whose lives were devastated by the war. She has included them all, from the woman who simply went to bed and didn’t get up again, to those who put their own lives on the line.

This is the first book I have read by this author. It won’t be the last.

🤩😍😥😍🤩

THE AUTHOR:
I started writing novels after a long career in broadcasting and journalism. My first novel – The Girl with Emerald Eyes (originally published as ‘Secrets of the Tower’ in March 2015), is set in two time zones – the modern day and 12th century. It explores the extraordinary woman who left the money to build the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
My second novel: Daughters of the Silk Road follows the journey of a family of merchant explorers who return to Venice from China with a Ming Vase. The book again straddles two time zones.
The Silk Weaver’s Wife was published in 2017 and is set in the world of the Italian silk industry. The period story follows the journey of a young Veronese woman who is forced into an abusive marriage. The modern heroine uncovers her remarkable story.
My last two novels are set in 20th century. ‘The Photograph’ tells the story of Hungarian refugee Rachael who escapes to London from Budapest in 1956. Travelling to Sardinia with her archaeologist father, she meets the man who will change her life. Meanwhile in 2018, her anthropologist grand-daughter Sophie is struggling with infertility. As their two stories intertwine, Sophie uncovers her grandmother’s secret.
My latest novel: ‘The Secret Letter’ is due out on 22nd July. It explores the lives of two young girls in the 2nd world war – Imogen separated from her parents as an evacuee, and Magda who is determined to fight the Nazi regime. Their lives are brought together by a young RAF pilot. The story is based in part on the extraordinary experiences of my father who escaped a German prisoner of war camp at the end of the war.
I live in Kent with my family, four cats and chickens.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Secret Letter by Debbie Rix for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2891283309

Watching what I’m reading. . .

I never quite made it to

The Stone Circle (Ruth Galloway, #11)

last week as I had planned. It took me all week to read the Adele Parks book, I Invited Her In. So just in case you missed last week’s post, here is the synopsis for The Stone Circle  –

Dr Ruth Galloway returns to north Norfolk in her latest chilling adventure.

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters. They are anonymous, yet somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?

The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.

This week I also plan to read

The Promise

It was their darkest secret. Three schoolgirls made a promise – to take the horrible truth of what they did to the grave.

Thirty years later, Beth and Sally have tried to put the trauma behind them. Though Carol has distanced herself from her former friends, the three are adamant that the truth must never come to light, even if the memory still haunts them.

But when some shocking news threatens to unearth their dark secret, Beth enlists the help of private investigator Matthew Hill to help her and Sally reconnect with estranged Carol ­– before the terrible act they committed as teenagers is revealed.

Beth wishes she could take back the vow they made.

But somebody is watching and will stop at nothing to ensure the secret stays buried. Now, with her beloved family in peril, can Beth still keep the promise?

I am currently listening to

The Masterpiece

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist.” Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded–even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter–Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece–an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

I have two approvals this week from NetGalley

Amazing Things Are Happening Here

a book of short stories by acclaimed author Jacob M. Appel.

The Last Thing She Told Me

Hopefully I will have a more relaxed week and my reading goes to plan.

Wishing you a wonderful week’s reading 💕📚

Cheers

 

 

Five Star Friday – The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes

The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar screaming read me?

Then take a look at my Five Star Friday pick. It may be old, it may be new. But it is a book that is special to me , one that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

EXCERPT: 1848 AUTUMN
She steps down from the carriage into the yard. Behind the snort of horses and whispers of wind, there is silence. It clings to the branches of the trees, hides in the hedges and the nooks of walls, seeping out again when the murmured words between her husband, William Holland, and the coachman cease. Moonlight spills down between broken clouds. There is the Rectory, their new home. No welcoming light at the window, only a lantern hanging by a closed front door. And over there, the church, the purpose of their life here, silhouetted against the sky, headstones set around it like crooked teeth.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Plucky and headstrong Mildred Holland revelled in the eight years she and her husband, the vicar William Holland, spent travelling 1840s Europe, finding inspiration in recording beautiful artistic treasures and collecting exotic artifacts. But William’s new posting in a tiny Suffolk village is a world apart and Mildred finds a life of tea and sympathy dull and stifling in comparison. When a longed-for baby does not arrive, she sinks into despondency and despair. What options exist for a clever, creative woman in such a cossetted environment? A sudden chance encounter fires Mildred’s creative imagination and she embarks on a herculean task that demands courage and passion. Defying her loving but exasperated husband, and mistrustful locals who suspect her of supernatural powers, Mildred rediscovers her passion and lives again through her dreams of beauty. Inspired by the true story of the real Mildred Holland and the parish church of Huntingfield in Suffolk, the novel is unique, emotive and beautifully crafted, just like the history that inspired it.

MY THOUGHTS:🌌🌌🌌🌌.5 brilliant stars for the Huntingfield Paintress. I empathised with Mildred (Millie to her adoring husband). She and William have spent many years travelling Europe gathering ideas for when their living, purchased for them by William’s uncle, at Huntingfield parish will be theirs.

But just because you dream longingly of something doesn’t mean that when it actually happens you will like it. Mildred feels isolated in Huntingfield. The people are largely parochial and seem boring to Mildred. They have led narrow insulated lives and love to gossip. They accept her help, but at the same time resent her for it. They are suspicious of her and her ‘foreign ideas’ including that of hand-washing to stop the spread of infection. And they are nothing less than ‘shocked’ when Mildred decides to paint the church ceiling after the fashion of the great European churches and to adorn it with angels, especially when she elects to dress like a man for her work as it is far more practical. She manages to make only one friend Anne, who then shuns her when she goes ahead with her painting.

But not everyone is prepared to pass her off as eccentric and leave her to get on with it. She has enemies in the fold. Those who wish to stop her. And will go to any lengths to do so.

This is a gentle book that slowly enfolds you like a warm blanket. The writing is beautiful and evocative of the era. While The Huntingfield Paintress is fiction, it is based on truth and the author has done her research well.

THE AUTHOR: Pamela Holmes was born in Charleston, South Carolina. At the age of eight, she moved with her family to England. She won the Jane Austen Short Story Award in 2014 and published her first novel The Huntingfield Paintress in 2016. Pamela lives in London with her husband, acclaimed cartoonist Kipper Williams.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Netgalley and Urbane Publications for providing a digital ARC of the Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1626493626

The Parisians by Marius Gabriel

The Parisians by Marius Gabriel

EXCERPT: . . . the eve of war had come as a shock. It was here suddenly, the thing they had all dreaded but not wished to look at, like the monster that lurked under the beds of children. Now, with terrifying purpose, it had clambered out and proved itself real after all.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Paris, 1940. The Nazis have occupied the city¬—and the Ritz. The opulent old hotel, so loved by Parisians, is now full of swaggering officers, their minions and their mistresses.

For American Olivia Olsen, working as a chambermaid at the hotel means denying her nationality and living a lie, every day bringing the danger of discovery closer. When Hitler’s right-hand man moves in and makes her his pet, she sees an opportunity to help the Resistance—and draw closer to Jack, her contact, whose brusque instructions may be a shield for something more…

Within the hotel, famed designer Coco Chanel quickly learns that the new regime could work to her benefit, while Arletty, one of France’s best-loved actresses, shocks those around her—and herself—with a forbidden love.

But as the war reaches its terrible end, all three women learn the true price of their proximity to the enemy. For in the shadow of war, is anyone truly safe?

MY THOUGHTS: What began as a fairly average read about a young American woman in Paris to make her name as an artist, slowly morphed into a gritty novel of surviving the war, and the German occupation of Paris, by whatever means possible.

I particularly liked how the author contrasted the lives of these three women, whose lives intersect at times, to give different perspectives. I also liked how he contrasted the grim reality, the melancholy of everyday life under the occupation, with rare moments of unadulterated joy, the spark that lit the desire to survive, no matter what.

The book is peppered with real people. I learned a lot about Coco Chanel. I had never known her background, nor that she was a Nazi sympathizer. I had, in the past, simply admired her style. And I had never heard of Arletty, the French film star.

At the end of the book, the Author’s Note provides a lot of information about the people in the book who were real and what happened to them after the war, as well as further information about the history of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. It, like the book itself, is well worth reading.

Although one of the categories I have assigned The Parisians is romance, don’t let that put you off. There is no schmaltzy romance, more of an awakening, and nothing that is inappropriate to the story. If anything, the love story enhances the overall realism.

This is not a book to be rushed through. It is a book to be lingered over, one that may challenge your previous perceptions about the people on both sides of the war.

I would like to read more by this author.

😊😊😊😊

THE AUTHOR: Marius Gabriel is an international thriller and mystery writer.

Under the pseudonym Madeleine Ker, he wrote over 30 romance novels in the 1980s.

As Marius Gabriel he has written several mystery best-sellers, some of them historical novels.

He has three grown-up children and currently lives in Cairo and London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Parisians by Marius Gabriel for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2619715333