The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

EXCERPT: His best friend these days was Gus, a seventy year old black man who lived down the road. They had met a couple of weeks after Noah had bought the house, when Gus had shown up with some homemade liquor and Brunswick stew, and the two had spent their first evening together getting drunk and telling stories.

Now Gus would show up a couple of nights a week, usually around eight. With four kids and eleven grandchildren in the house, he needed to get out of the house now and then, and Noah couldn’t blame him. Usually Gus would bring his harmonica, and after talking for a little while, they’d play a few songs together. Sometimes they played for hours.

He’d come to regard Gus as family. There really wasn’t anyone else, at least not since his father died last year. He was an only child; his mother had died of influenza when he was two, and though he had wanted to at one time, he had never married.

But he had been in love once, that he knew. Once and only once, and a long time ago. And it had changed him forever. Perfect love did that to a person, and this had been perfect.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Set amid the austere beauty of the North Carolina coast begins the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned from the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.

Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes.

MY THOUGHTS: I had just written this review, hit enter . . . and it disappeared – ‘Poof!’ So here we go again . . .

Although I am not particularly fond of the story, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks holds a very special place in my heart. This was the very first book that my now husband ever gave me. I like to take it out every now and then and reread it, not because of the story, but because of the precious memories it inspires.

Books can do that. Bring back wonderful memories. If I was rating The Notebook on that alone, it would earn 5 stars plus from me. But as for the actual story, it earns a little over three stars. It is a bit too sweet for my taste, but perfect for those times when you want a read that you can enjoy without having to think too much.

BTW, this is not the book he would choose for me now. He is the romantic in this relationship. He cries every time he watches ‘Titanic’. I have yet to sit through it.

***.2

THE AUTHOR: Sparks lives in North Carolina. He contributes to a variety of local and national charities, and is a major contributor to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame, where he provides scholarships, internships, and a fellowship annually.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, published by Grand Central Publishing. It definitely isn’t in pristine condition; it is well traveled and well loved. 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, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

EXCERPT: He was standing atop a small rise staring at something when Evan staggered up beside him and gasped softly. A strange yellowish vehicle-cum-dwelling: they couldn’t take their eyes off it.

The depleted shell of a truck cabin at one end merged into a decrepit caravan at the other. It was like some bizarre caterpillar with extremities so different they might have belonged to separate species. The truck’s bonnet lay on the ground, engine parts flung around it like a mad mechanic’s toys. Where once were wheels, tree stumps now propped the apparition up. Skew-whiff sheds and lean-tos lay scattered around it, rotting in the grass. The caravan was covered in peeling tan and yellow paint and above the door a faded sign declared ‘Highway Palace’. It was a ruined palace though, with oval windows cracked or broken, glinting like jagged teeth, shreds of lace curtains behind them. There was nothing palatial or grand about it now, and probably never had been. But behind the curtains, mystery seemed to lurk in every corner.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: It’s 1966. Hal and his little brother, newly arrived in Moorabool with their parents, are exploring the creek near their new home when they find the body of a dog.

Not just dead, but recently killed.

Not just killed, but mutilated.

Constable Mick Goodenough, recently demoted from his city job as a detective, is also new in town—and one of his dogs has gone missing. He’s experienced enough to know what it means when someone tortures an animal to death: it means they’re practising. So when Hal’s mother starts getting anonymous calls—a man whistling, then hanging up—Goodenough, alone among the Moorabool cops, takes her seriously.

The question is: will that be enough to keep her safe?

MY THOUGHTS: Atmospheric. Very atmospheric. There is a palpable air of menace in this small rural town where most people are either hiding something, or watching … and waiting.

Set in the 1960’s, there is blatant racism in this book that may upset some people. But that is just the way things were then. While we can’t change the past, we can learn from it.

There are multiple layers to this mystery – corrupt police, corrupt town councillors, extra-marital activity, missing and mutilated animals, mystery and murder. But Woodland has also captured the essence of the time, particularly the way kids were allowed to roam about unfettered, the only restriction that they ‘be home in time for tea.’ Parents weren’t at all concerned about where the kids were, who they were playing with or what they were doing, as long as they stayed out of trouble and came home on time. Step out of line, and you’d get a whack around the ear or a slap around the legs for your trouble. People drank and drove. And smoked – everywhere.

Woodland’s writing is vivid, both his descriptions and his characters come alive. I could smell the heat, taste the dust, hear the voices. I knew, well before I reached the end of the first chapter, that I was onto a winner.

The plot is enthralling, and takes place in Aussie time. ‘Don’t worry mate, it’ll get done, some time. Crack a stubby while you wait.’

Mick Goodenough (pronounced Good-no, or as his boss likes to quip, no-good) has two strikes against him before he starts. 1. He’s an indigenous Australian. 2. He’s been demoted from the rank of Detective in Sydney and exiled to Moorabool as a probationary constable. The problem is that Mick still thinks like a detective. And his boss takes great delight in rubbing his nose in the fact that he isn’t.

Hal, twelve, has also only recently moved to Moorabool for his father’s work. Summer holidays, so he hasn’t really had a chance to meet anyone else his own age. Until Allie, an indigenous girl who takes him crawbobbing, and talks to him about the spirits trapped in the Highway Palace, the scene of a murder-suicide years earlier. Hal is more concerned about what happened to the one surviving child. Where did he go, and where is he now? And could it be him that is making the strange and threatening calls his mother is receiving? If not, then who? And why?

I was riveted by this story. Gritty and honest. And I want more.

I have lived in a small town in Australia, a little like this. Some of my happiest years were spent there. Woodland made me homesick. Dust, flies, spiders, snakes and all…

❤❤❤❤.8

#TheNightWhistler #NetGalley

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: I think that Moorabool is a fictional town in the New England region of New South Wales, Australia.

New England or New England North West is the name given to a generally undefined region in the north of the state of New South Wales, Australia, about 60 kilometres inland, that includes the Northern Tablelands and the North West Slopes regions.

Dubbed the Cathedral City, Armidale in the New England High Country is one of Australia’s most elegant regional cities. With an altitude of a kilometre above sea level, it’s known for vibrant autumn foliage and cool breezes in summer. Wander its streets and find 19th century churches mixed with modern cafes and restaurants.

THE AUTHOR: Greg has been a script developer and consultant for Australian film funding bodies and the Australian Writers Guild for 25 years. He is the founder-director of a leading Australian script service. As writer/director Greg’s award-winning short films and documentaries screened nationally and internationally at over 60 film festivals and many TV channels. His screenplays The Whistler and Pangs won several script competitions including the Fellowship of Australian Writers Best Drama Manuscript, the Inscription Open Script award, and three Varuna Fellowships between them. Greg has lectured in Scriptwriting at Macquarie University, UTS, NIDA, and AFTRS. His script editing credits include feature films ‘Moon Rock for Monday’, ‘Don’t Tell’, ‘Needle’, ‘Cold Turkey’, ‘The Bet’, ‘Broken’, several Project Greenlight and Monte Miller Award finalists, the 2013 Tropfest Best Film Winner, the 2016 AWG John Hinde Science Fiction script award winner and many others. His first crime novel ‘The Night Whistler’ was published by Text Publishing in August 2020, and he’s now writing the sequel, The Carnival is Over.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Cry Baby (Tom Thorne #17) by Mark Billingham

Now, before you all go ‘never read this series, not starting it. 16 previous books to catch up on is too many,’ let me point out that Cry Baby is actually the prequel to ‘Sleepyhead’, the first book in this series. So that is an excellent reason to pick it up and read it if you haven’t yet read Billingham. Of course, if you’re a dyed in the wool Billingham fan, like me, then you probably already have this on your reading radar.

EXCERPT: Cat moved quickly through the playground towards the exit on the far side, calling her son’s name, oblivious to the stares of other parents whose kids stopped what they were doing to watch. Maria hurried to catch her up and they both stopped dead when Josh appeared suddenly and came running from the trees towards them.

His yellow coat was streaked with mud and he burst into tears the instant he laid eyes on his mother.

‘Josh?’ Maria leaned down and took her son’s face in her hands. ‘You OK?’

‘Where’s Kieron?’ Cat asked, looking towards the trees. ‘Josh, where’s Kieron?’

The boy began wailing and buried his face in his mother’s stomach.

The unlit cigarette fell from Cat’s hand and she began to run.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In the summer of 1996, two boys run from a playground into the adjoining woods, but only one comes out. DS Tom Thorne takes on a case that quickly spirals out of control when two people connected with the missing boy are murdered. As London prepares to host the European Soccer Championships, Thorne fights to keep on top of a baffling investigation while also dealing with the ugly fallout of his broken marriage.

MY THOUGHTS: Although the 17th book in the Tom Thorne series, Cry Baby is a prequel to Mark Billingham’s debut novel ‘Sleepyhead’, which was the first book I ever read by this author, and which put him firmly on my reading radar.

Tom Thorne is a credible and engaging character. He is flawed. Detests his boss, Boyle, and has conversations in his mind where he bests Boyle. He can be quite sarky. He is going through a marriage break up, and I love his thoughts on the ‘hippy-dippy, sandal-wearing’ university lecturer Jan left him for. He’s not good at friendships, and even seems uncomfortable with his own family. Yet he shows an unexpected humanity and compassion towards the victims. Our Tom is a complex character.

We meet, for the first time, Phil Hendricks, the new pathologist, tattooed, pierced and gay, though Tom hasn’t figured that out yet. Hendricks and Thorne have nothing in common – they don’t like the same music, or support the same football team – yet Cry Baby is the start of their decades long friendship.

In a new format for Billingham, Cry Baby is told from multiple points of view: Thorne, as usual; Cat, the mother of the missing boy; Maria, her friend and Josh’s mum; Kieron, the abducted boy, and his abductor.

There are plenty of subplots inside the main storyline – relationship issues, both personal and professional, for Tom and several other characters. There is some confusion about the parentage of the missing boy. And of course, a few red herrings.

I must admit that it took me a while to settle into this story. But once I got into the rhythm of Billingham’s writing again, I was away.

I don’t think that Cry Baby is the best of Billingham’s books, although it is certainly a valuable addition to the series. I wasn’t totally invested in the ending, but loved the journey.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#CryBaby #NetGalley

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: Cry Baby by Mark Billingham is set in London, mainly in the Highbury-Islington area. London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is a 21st-century city with history stretching back to Roman times. At its centre stand the imposing Houses of Parliament, the iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower and Westminster Abbey, site of British monarch coronations. Across the Thames River, the London Eye observation wheel provides panoramic views of the South Bank cultural complex, and the entire city.
Highbury is home to Premiership football at Arsenal FC’s Emirates Stadium, as well as a sports centre and tennis courts in leafy Highbury Fields park. Upscale restaurants cluster near Highbury Corner, with artisan food stores, cafes, and global eateries in the village-like area on Highbury Grove. Quiet, tree-lined residential streets feature Italianate villas and grand Georgian homes, many converted into flats.

THE AUTHOR: Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham. Having worked for some years as an actor and more recently as a TV writer and stand-up comedian his first crime novel was published in 2001. Mark lives in North London with his wife and two children.
He also writes as Will Peterson with Peter Cocks.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Cry Baby by Mark Billingham for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It is Father’s Day here in New Zealand so happy father’s day to all the dads out there. It’s a fairly dismal day, wet and windy, so we have postponed the plans we had made for this afternoon until next week. Currently we are waiting for the Supercar racing out of Townsville, Queensland, Australia to start. There is the delicious aroma of curried sausages (Chelsea Winters – Eat) simmering away in the slow cooker drifting through to the lounge. All is well in our little world.

I have had a good reading week, although I deviated from my reading plan as you may have noticed if you have been following my reviews during the week.

I am currently reading Cry Baby by Mark Billingham, #17 in the Tom Thorne series. This story is set in 1996 and is the prequel to Sleepyhead which was the first book I ever read by Billingham.

I am listening to an audiobook by a New Zealand author, Katherine Hayton, called The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton which is set in the South Island of New Zealand.

You may have a feeling of deja vu as you read on regarding what I plan on reading this week.

Night Whistler by Greg Woodland.

It’s 1966. Hal and his little brother, newly arrived in Moorabool with their parents, are exploring the creek near their new home when they find the body of a dog.

Not just dead, but recently killed.

Not just killed, but mutilated.

Constable Mick Goodenough, recently demoted from his city job as a detective, is also new in town—and one of his dogs has gone missing. He’s experienced enough to know what it means when someone tortures an animal to death: it means they’re practising. So when Hal’s mother starts getting anonymous calls—a man whistling, then hanging up—Goodenough, alone among the Moorabool cops, takes her seriously.

The question is: will that be enough to keep her safe?

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, a loving husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous and wealthy, with adoring friends and family—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, maybe even themselves.

A gripping, immersive novel about impossible expectations and secrets that fester and become lethal, Imperfect Women unfolds through the perspectives of three fascinating women. Their enduring, complex friendship is the knot the reader must untangle to answer the question: who killed Nancy?

My copy of Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian McKinty, #6 in the Sean Duffy has finally arrived, so I want to read that also.

Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.

I have 6 new ARCs from Netgalley this week . . . so I guess you could say that once again, I have fallen off the wagon!

I have Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman, but I plan to read Practical Magic before I start this. I read and loved The Rules of Magic last year.

Peace by Garry Disher, Australian fiction.

The Girls in the Snow by Stacy Green

Without Blood by Martin Michaud

Stolen Children by Michael Wood

And Living Ayurveda by Claire Ragozzino. I have been going to Ayurveda yoga classes over the winter and have really enjoyed them, so couldn’t resist this title when I saw it. Even the cover invokes a feeling of calm and peace.

Have a wonderful week my friends. I hope that, wherever in the world you are, the Covid-19 situation is easing. Keep calm and read on. In our local library, even the books are put into quarantine when they are returned!

Happy reading!

Sandy ❤😍📚☕🍪

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

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EXCERPT: When Margery was ten, she fell in love with a beetle.

It was a bright summer’s day and all the windows of the rectory were open. She had an idea about sailing her wooden animals across the floor, two by two, but the set had belonged to her brothers once and most of them were either coloured-in or broken. Some were missing altogether. She was wondering if, in the circumstances, you could pair a three legged camel and a bird with spots when her father came out of his study.

‘Do you have a moment, old girl?’ he said. ‘There’s something I want to show you.’

She put down the camel and the bird, and she followed him. She would have stood on her head if he’d asked.

Her father went to his desk. He sat there, nodding and smiling. She could tell he didn’t have a proper reason for calling her: he just wanted her to be with him for a while. Since her four brothers had left for the war, he often called her. Or she’d find him loitering at the foot of the stairs, searching for something without seeming to know what it was. His eyes were the kindest in the world, and the bald top of his head gave him a naked look.

‘I think I have something that might interest you, old girl,’ he said. ‘Nothing much, but maybe you will like it.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Margery Benson’s life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery’s expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.

MY THOUGHTS: I desperately wanted to love Miss Benson and her beetle. I didn’t. I adored The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: it sits firmly in my top ten books for forever. I liked, but did not love The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. But Miss Benson’s Beetle struck me as faintly ridiculous. The characters are not characters, but caricatures. The whole thing played out like an Abbott and Costello movie. A slapstick comedy that didn’t make me laugh. It didn’t make me cry either. I could picture someone like Mary Pickford playing Enid, and hear the dramatic piano music coming from the pit. But I could feel nothing for the characters, and even less for the plot. Farcical is the word that comes to mind.

There were glimmers of Rachel Joyce’s beautiful writing style, but only glimpses. My heart would soar with each one, then come crashing back down to earth.

Maybe it’s me, because the rest of the world appears to love this book. Reading is a very personal subjective experience, and not every book is for every reader. So, if you enjoyed the extract, and the plot summary interests you, please do read Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce. I hope that you are one of the many who love this book.

There are good things in it: life lessons like not judging people by appearance, and waiting until you have gotten to know them before deciding whether or not you like them.

But, ultimately, this was not a book for me. And I am sad about that.

😪😪.3

#MissBensonsBeetle #NetGalley

‘I have begun to feel comforted by the thought of all we do not know, which is nearly everything.’

‘It was as much use as a chocolate teapot.’

‘She experienced the dense feeling…..as if she was always on the other side of a flawed glass wall and seeing the truth way after it was too late.’

‘Her favourite time was still that brief stretch before full daylight when silver filtered into the sky, light blossomed where the stars had been, the air was sweet and fresh, and everything came back to life. It seemed full of such hope.’

‘We are not the things that happened to us. We can be what we like.’

THE AUTHOR: Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman’s Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday for providing a digital ARC of Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading…

Hi all! Well the worst of the weekend is over and I have finished work for the day. Pete and I went out for a late lunch together. We started out by heading to our favourite cafe in the next town south, but it was packed to capacity and a line of people waiting to be seated, so we headed almost an hour further south to a little coastal pub in Awakino. We had a lovely lunch, an open Gurnard sandwich for me with homemade tartare, salad and capers. It was delicious. As was Pete’s beef burger which featured a good sized tasty homemade beef patty. I took some photos on the way down, mainly of the single lane tunnel which is going to be bypassed. My boys used to love the echoes of the car horn in the tunnel and we sounded the horn all the way through the tunnel as a farewell salute today. Not that we needed to, as traffic lights mean there’s no chance of meeting anyone in the middle coming from the other direction. I had intended to take more on the way back, but the rain was too heavy. Once I remember how to download the photos from my phone to my tablet, I will share them. Too tired this afternoon to even think about it…Pete is currently asleep in his chair in front of the footy.

Anyway, on to what I’m reading….

I have started Rachel Joyce’s Miss Benson’s Beetle.

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I am at 30% and, honestly, am not yet feeling the love. To be quite honest, I am finding it slightly ridiculous. I hope that is not going to be my final opinion. I absolutely adored The Love Songs of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and liked but did not love The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

I am currently listening to The Chess Men by Peter May. This is the second book in his wonderful Lewis trilogy. As always with this author, I was instantly absorbed.

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This week I am planning on reading The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson

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Two friends go on holiday. Only one comes back.

Orla and Kate have been best friends forever. Together they’ve faced it all – be it Orla’s struggles as a new mother or Kate’s messy divorce. And whatever else happens in their lives, they can always look forward to their annual weekend away.

This year, they’re off to Lisbon: the perfect flat, the perfect view, the perfect itinerary. And what better way to kick things off in style than with the perfect night out?

But when Orla wakes up the next morning, Kate is gone. Brushed off by the police and with only a fuzzy memory of the night’s events, Orla is her friend’s only hope. As she frantically retraces their steps, Orla makes a series of shattering discoveries that threaten everything she holds dear. Because while Lisbon holds the secret of what happened that night, the truth may lie closer to home…

and The Descent by Matt Brolly

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Were they pushed to the edge—or over it?

In the quiet coastal town of Weston-super-Mare, a body is discovered at the foot of a cliff just months after a near-identical tragedy—and Detective Inspector Louise Blackwell can’t believe it could be a coincidence.

Next to the body, she discovers a note that echoes one found beside the first: Death is not the end. Louise is certain that behind these desperate acts someone is pulling the strings, but how many more will plunge to their demise before she can find out who—and why?

Struggling to stay focused under the strain of her troubled brother’s disappearance with his young daughter, Louise hits a much-needed breakthrough when a third tragedy points to the involvement of a charismatic cult leader. The suspect is within her sights, but he knows she’s on to him…

Short on proof and with the body count rising, can Louise intercept his deadly mission—or has she taken on an unbeatable foe?

And nine, yes 9, new ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️

I have two titles by Hannah Mary McKinnon,

The Secret Son

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and The Neighbors

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What Became of Us by Anna Mansell

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Good Will by Tiffany W. Killoren

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When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

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Glimmer As You Can by Danielle Martin

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The Wife by Shalini Boland

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Stolen Children by Michael Wood

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And, The Last to Know by Jo Furniss

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Well, after that haul, there’s only one thing that I can do….READ!

Enjoy whatever is left of your weekend. I am ordering dinner in tonight so that I don’t lose any reading time!

Happy reading and stay safe and healthy.

Cheers
Sandy

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

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EXCERPT: It was 2 pm on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. The Lusitania had been struck by two torpedoes in succession and was sinking rapidly, while the boats were being launched with all possible speed. The women and children were being lined up awaiting their turn. Some still clung desperately to husbands and fathers; others clutched their children closely to their breasts. One girl stood alone, slightly apart from the rest. She was quite young, not more than eighteen. She did not seem afraid, and her grave, steadfast eyes looked straight ahead.

‘I beg your pardon.’

A man’s voice beside her made her start and turn. She had noticed the speaker more than once among the first class passengers. There had been a hint of mystery about him which had appealed to her imagination. He spoke to no one. If anyone spoke to him, he was quick to rebuff the overture. Also he had a nervous way of looking over his shoulder with a swift suspicious glance.

She noticed now that he was greatly agitated. There were beads of perspiration on his brow. He was evidently in a state of overmastering fear. And yet he did not strike her as the kind of man who would be afraid to meet death!

‘Yes?’ Her grave eyes met his inquiringly.

He stood looking at her with a kind of desperate irresolution.

‘It must be!’ He muttered to himself. ‘Yes – it is the only way.’ Then aloud he said abruptly, ‘You are an American?’

‘Yes.’

‘A patriotic one?’

The girl flushed.

‘I guess you’ve no right to ask such a thing! Of course I am!’

‘Don’t be offended. You wouldn’t be if you knew how much there was at stake. But I’ve got to trust someone, and it must be a woman.’

‘Why?’

‘Because of ‘women and children first’.’ He looked round and lowered his voice. ‘I’m carrying papers – vitally important papers. They may make all the difference to the allies in the war. You understand? These papers have got to be saved. They’ve more chance with you than with me. Will you take them?’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Tommy and Tuppence, two young people short of money and restless for excitement, embark on a daring business scheme – Young Adventurers Ltd.

Their advertisement says they are ‘willing to do anything, go anywhere’. But their first assignment, for the sinister Mr Whittington, plunges them into more danger than they ever imagined…

MY THOUGHTS: Tommy and Tuppence have never been my favourite Christie characters, but I must admit to having quite enjoyed The Secret Adversary, the first in the series, in which we learn about their backgrounds, and how they came to be sleuths.

The timeline starts not long before WWII, and then jumps to after the end of the war and the quest to find the young woman to whom the vitally important papers were entrusted.

This is rather a good, adventurous romp, and not at all classic Christie. All the same I did quite enjoy trying to figure out just who was the traitor – I was completely wrong! Again. There are Russians, secret meetings with passwords, kidnappings, and murders.

While not my favourite Christie, this was still a more enjoyable read than I expected.

😊😊😊.3

THE AUTHOR: Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE was an English writer known for her sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections, particularly those revolving around fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. (Wikipedia)

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Secret Adversary, written by Agatha Christie, narrated by Andrea Giorgani, and published by A.R.N. Publications via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

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EXCERPT: Wearing nothing but their father’s old seersucker pajama tops over their panties, the four girls pushed Genevieve’s convertible to the end of the long drive before Vivi climbed behind the wheel and started it. There was only a dollop of gas in the tank so they couldn’t get far.

‘I just know we shouldn’t be doing this,’ Necie said as they journeyed into the night. ‘We should have at least put on pajama bottoms.’

‘Necie, this is not a mortal sin, you know,’ said Teensy.

‘I do not recall it being listed in the Baltimore Catechism,’ Vivi said.

‘Moses didn’t utter one word about pajama bottoms when he came down from the mountain,’ said Caro.

‘Well,’ Necie said, ‘I guess these tops do cover more of our bodies than our swimsuits do.’

As Vivi drove, it seemed that not only the Ya-Yas’ bodies but the earth and sky were sweating. The very air they breathed was almost a juice. Moonlight spilled down into the convertible, onto the four friends’ shoulders and knees and on the tops of their heads, so that their hair seemed to have little sparks shooting off it. ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered ‘ played on the radio. Vivi had no idea at all where she was headed, but she knew that whatever direction she went, her friends would go with her.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.” Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘The beauty of imperfect love.’ That is the essence of the series of books that begins with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

On the surface, this is a story of friendship, love and survival. But it goes so much deeper than that. Wells explores the mother daughter bond, with all its misunderstandings and misconceptions, hurt feelings and petty feuds, and the underlying love that ultimately overshadows everything else.

This is not a subtle story. It is big and loud and blowsy. Flamboyant. Southern. It is full of emotion from full-blown histrionics to studied indifference. It’s characters love and hate with equal abandon, they drink, and cuss, and appear to neglect their children. But they have a bond, seemingly unbreakable, so that when something threatens one of them, they circle their wagons and protect one another.

But what happens when that threat, that danger, comes from inside? Siddalee Walker is about to find out. A few careless words to a reporter about her mother may have just exiled her from her family forever….

I love this book. Adore it. It is my favourite of the three in the series. Tattered is how I would describe its condition. Definitely beyond well worn. I read it often and I find it extremely difficult to put into words how much this book makes me feel. I laugh (a lot) and cry (not quite so much) every time I read it. It invokes memories, pleasant and not so pleasant, of my own childhood. Every time I read this, I get something different from it. Definitely one of my lifetime top ten books.

❤❤❤❤❤

THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Wells was born and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana. “I grew up,” she says, “in the fertile world of story-telling, filled with flamboyance, flirting, futility, and fear.” Surrounded by Louisiana raconteurs, a large extended family, and Our Lady of Prompt Succor’s Parish, Rebecca’s imagination was stimulated at every turn. Early on, she fell in love with thinking up and acting in plays for her siblings—the beginnings of her career as an actress and writer for the stage. She recalls her early influences as being the land around her, harvest times, craw-fishing in the bayou, practicing piano after school, dancing with her mother and brothers and sister, and the close relationship to her black “mother” who cleaned for the Wells household. She counts black music and culture from Louisiana as something that will stay in her body’s memory forever.

In high school, she read Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” which opened her up to the idea that everything in life is a poem, and that, as she says, “We are not born separately from one another.” She also read “Howl,” Allen Ginsberg’s indictment of the strangling consumer-driven American culture he saw around him. Acting in school and summer youth theater productions freed Rebecca to step out of the social hierarchies of high school and into the joys of walking inside another character and living in another world.

The day after she graduated from high school, Rebecca left for Yellowstone National Park, where she worked as a waitress. It was an introduction to the natural glories of the park—mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, and geysers—as well as to the art of hitchhiking.

Rebecca graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, where she studied theater, English, and psychology. She performed in many college plays, but also stepped outside the theater department to become awakened to women’s politics. During this time she worked as a cocktail waitress–once accidentally kicking a man in the shins when he slipped a ten-dollar bill down the front of her dress—and began keeping a journal after reading Anais Nin, which she has done ever since.

DISCLOSURE: I own my own copy of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, published by Harper Collins. And do not ever try to part me from it.

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, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Tell Me How It Ends by V.B. Grey

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EXCERPT: England, early 1950s

I have lost everything a person can lose. And, should I ever attempt to forget, my failing body will remind me. I’ve lived in the cramped attic flat of this big house in Birmingham, where I work as a housemaid, since the Red Cross parceled me up and sent me here seven years ago.

I see her face for the first time as I’m tidying up after Miss Irene and her brother had entertained some friends the previous evening. I’d heard them laughing as they danced to some of the records Miss Irene loves to buy, and later slamming the front door, starting up the growling engines of their sporty little cars and crunching the gravel on the driveway. It doesn’t matter how much noise they make. I seldom sleep for more than an hour at a time.

They’ve left most of the records scattered across the sideboard and, before I can dust and polish, I must match the black platters to their colourful sleeves and put them away on their allotted shelf.

I’ve heard the name Delia Maxwell, have caught snatches of her singing on the radio, but I haven’t seen her face before. Although her hair, always naturally wavy, is now a shining halo of blonde, and her heavily made-up eyes make her appear older, I recognize her instantly for who she really is.

She wears a strapless bodice of pearl white satin and has been posed smiling over one naked shoulder, her lips pink and glossy. I feel a spasm of hate such as I’d never felt for even the most sadistic guards in the camp.

I shuffle quickly through the other album sleeves, my hands shaking with shock and fury. There is only one other image of her. She has been photographed as if on stage, smiling and stretching out arms encased in long white gloves that match a floor length gown embroidered with a thousand sparkling diamante jewels. To one side of the cardboard square is simply the name Delia in a curling script of vivid pink. The image speaks of beauty and sophistication, of comfort and safety, of all the things she has taken away from me.

I’d never known what happened to her, whether she made good her escape or perished with so many countless others. The revelation that she is alive reminds me of why I have survived. I have a purpose after all.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Delia Maxwell is an international singing sensation, an icon of 1950s glamour who is still riding high on the new 60s scene. Adored by millions, all men want to be with her, all women want to be her. But one woman wants it maybe a little too much…

Lily Brooks has watched Delia all her life, studying her music and her on-stage mannerisms. Now she has a dream job as Delia’s assistant – but is there more to her attachment than the admiration of a fan? Private investigator Frank is beginning to wonder.

As Lily steps into Delia’s spotlight, and Delia encourages her ambitious protegée, Frank’s suspicions of Lily’s ulterior motives increase. But are his own feelings for Delia clouding his judgement?

The truth is something far darker: the shocking result of years of pain and rage, rooted in Europe’s darkest hour. If Delia thought she had put her past behind her, she had better start watching her back.

MY THOUGHTS: Time warp – and a delightful one!

We start in the early 1950s and ease into the 1960s music scene. It is wonderful reading about the clothes and music and films, a lot of which I remember. The story is narrated from the point of view, initially, of an unknown person, and then we move between Delia, Frank and Lily.

Delia is a star, one with a past that has stayed, until now, hidden. Frank is a friend of Delia’s manager, an old war buddy, suffering from shell shock (PTSD), and at a loose end. Peter brings him in to keep an eye on Delia, and to investigate Lily, who has inveigled herself into Delia’s life and launched herself into showbiz claiming to be Delia’s daughter. Is this true? And where does Delia disappear to on the eve of one of the most important days of her life?

Frank is an interesting character, perhaps the most interesting of all. He has an unrequited love in his past, and is a lost soul. He neither likes nor trusts Lily, and at times is at odds with Celeste, Delia’s best friend. His loyalties are tested before his past starts to catch up with him.

Although I thought I knew where this was going, I was wrong. I liked that it wasn’t predictable and that not everything was tied up neatly at the end. After all, life is not like that. V.B. Grey’s writing is easy to read and she creates an atmosphere of old world glamour with just a little seediness in the background. Tell Me How It Ends is an interesting read with a mystery and a grudge at it’s core that spans several decades, and which explores the mother/daughter bond, and survivors guilt.

***.6

#TellMeHowItEnds #NetGalley

‘People must always be forgiven for surviving.’

THE AUTHOR: After many years of writing television crime drama and the D.I Fisher series of contemporary crime novels as Isabelle Grey I wanted to take a different approach to my fiction – so please give a warm welcome to my pseudonym, V. B. Grey.

They say, Write the book you want to read. Well, I’ve always loved old noir movies and black & white melodramas – as well as their glamorous stars. Having written many screenplays for film and television, I wanted to immerse myself in stories inspired by my favourite films, and to create strong female characters who might once have been played by Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis or Joan Crawford.

Growing up in the 1960s I was also aware of the long shadow still cast by the Second World War, a subject I explore in ‘Tell Me How It Ends’.

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

I live and work in north London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Tell Me How It ends by V.B. Grey for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Ten Little Words by Leah Mercer

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EXCERPT: I aimlessly flipped through the pages, running my eyes over articles on the latest summer trends and celeb weddings. Reading this newspaper made me feel like an alien from another planet. Who were these people, and why would I care? I was just about to fold it up and push it away from me when a tiny box advert in the classifieds caught my eye. The text leaped out at me, each word hammering my eyes.

I am always with you.
I will always be here.

My heart pounded and everything inside me went cold. The words echoed in my mind, growing larger and larger until they pressed on my skull. Images of my mother holding me close each night as she whispered those same ten words clawed and scratched at my soul, demanding entry, and I shoved the paper away from me.

I sat frozen for a minute, forcing air in and out of my lungs as I batted away those memories. Then I let out a little laugh. God, how silly was I? It was just ten words.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: I am always with you. I will always be here.

This was the promise Ella’s mother betrayed thirty years ago when she walked into the sea, leaving her five-year-old daughter alone in the world. Ella’s been angry ever since, building up a wall to protect herself. But that all changes the day she opens a newspaper and finds those ten little words printed in a classified ad.

Ella refuses to believe her mother could still be alive—that would mean she did want to live, just not with her daughter. So she throws herself into finding out exactly what happened all those years ago, determined to extinguish even the tiniest flame of hope—for Ella, hope is torture.

But rather than settling things once and for all, what Ella discovers shatters her world. As she pieces together the truth behind her mother’s disappearance, she learns that the words are not what she thought.

Now she knows the truth. Is it possible that Ella can allow herself to love—and be loved—once again?

MY THOUGHTS: In Ten Little Words author Leah Mercer addresses the issue of abandonment and it’s psychological effects on those left behind.

Ella’s mother Jude, suffering from a severe depression following a traumatic event, walks into the ocean when Ella is five and is never seen again.

Told over two timelines from the perspectives of Ella in the present and Jude in the early 1980s, we discover what led Jude to abandon her small daughter to the care of her childless older sister and her husband, and the effects of that abandonment on Ella’s life.

Ten Little Words is a story that grew on me as I read. It’s a quick and easy read, with a little mystery and romance and, although it is a tad predictable in places and everything is tied up rather neatly at the end, it is a satisfying and enjoyable read.

😊😊😊.7

#TenLittleWords #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Leah can’t remember a time when she didn’t love writing. From creating fake newspapers to writing letters to the editor, scribbling something was always on the agenda. Even the rejections she received after completing her first novel at age 13 didn’t dent her enthusiasm.

So it makes sense, then, that she pursued a career in anything but writing. Public relations, teaching, recruitment, editing medical journals — even a stint painting houses — until she finally succumbed once more to the lure of the blank page.

When she’s not being jumped on by her young son or burning supper while thinking of plot-lines, Leah can be found furiously tapping away on her laptop, trying not to check Twitter or Facebook.

Leah also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Ten Little Words by Leah Mercer for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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