My Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: . . . he centred himself over the telescope, and prepared to do a better job setting it in place.

Before he could, an image caught his eye: a white wall with a mantelpiece, and an abstract painting on the wall above it. It was captured in the eyepiece of the telescope, which was now pointing downward at the building across the street. Anthony’s eye had accidentally hovered at just the right distance above the eyepiece. The scene was in perfect focus.

Realizing he was looking through somebody else’s window, and uncomfortable with the idea, he moved to correct the angle of the scope quickly. Or, more accurately, he prepared to move. He gave his various limbs and their muscles a signal to move. But, before they could, something happened.

A figure streaked into the scene, clearly captured by Anthony’s new telescope.

It appeared to be a woman, though it all happened very fast. She was running. Scrambling. Her body was bent forward, as if to accelerate getting out of the way of something. Something behind her. Her head was bent slightly forward, her arms raised, hands hovering behind her head as if to protect it.

Then, just as quickly, a male hand and arm entered the view. It was a bare arm, save for the short sleeve of a white undershirt. It was noticeably hairy. In a disconnected and more or less inadvertent thought, it struck Anthony that he owned a very good telescope, because it could reveal hair on the arm of a man across the street.

The man’s hand grabbed the woman by her hair.

Anthony sucked in air with an audible gasp as he watched the woman’s head jerked backward. It was a breathtakingly violent gesture.

Then the woman disappeared from his view. Backward. Pulled back out of the scene. By her hair.

ABOUT ‘MY NAME IS ANTON’: It’s 1965, and life has taken a turn for eighteen-year-old Anton Addison-Rice. Nearly a year after his brother died in a tragic accident, Anton is still wounded—physically and emotionally. Alone for the holidays, he catches a glimpse of his neighbor Edith across the street one evening and realizes that she’s in danger.

Anton is determined to help Edith leave her abusive marriage. Frightened and fifteen years Anton’s senior, Edith is slow to trust. But when she needs a safe place to stay, she lets down her guard, and over the course of ten days an unlikely friendship grows. As Anton falls hopelessly and selflessly in love, Edith fears both her husband finding her and Anton getting hurt. She must disappear without telling anyone where she’s going—even Anton.

If keeping Edith safe means letting her go, Anton will say goodbye forever. Or so he believes. What would happen, though, if one day their paths should cross again?

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, so now I know what all the fuss is about. I read a book by this author a few months back, and it was okay, nothing special, and couldn’t really understand why everyone was raving about her writing. Now I do.

My Name is Anton is a deeply emotional read. Anton is grieving. In a short space of time he has lost his beloved grandfather, his brother and his right hand. Then into his life comes Edith. Anton couldn’t save his brother, but he can, he hopes, save her.

The story spans fifty-five years, starting in 1965 when Anton is eighteen, and Edith thirty-three. This is a story of great personal strength, of grief, love, loss, sacrifice, moral dilemmas and doing what is right. Not what is right for yourself, but what is right.

There is a wonderful mix of characters in this book. Anton’s grandmother Marion, and his Uncle Gregor, a psychiatrist, are towers of strength and fonts of wisdom. At the other end of the spectrum are Anton’s parents, Abel and Vera, who are horrible, self-obsessed people, more concerned with ‘what would people think!’ than about the welfare of their only surviving child.

Ryan-Hyde touches on a lot of subject matter – suicide, mental illness, alcoholism, domestic abuse, disability, child welfare and adoption – but weaves them all together seamlessly to produce a compelling narrative that I devoured in one sitting.

I will definitely be reading more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#MyNameisAnton #NetGalley

‘Looking directly at a painful truth hurts less than being stalked by it.’

THE AUTHOR: Catherine Ryan Hyde is an American author born in 1955. Hyde has found success both as a novelist and short story writer in the U.S and the U.K, winning numerous honors and awards in the process.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan-Hyde 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 . . .

Welcome from a wet and windy New Zealand.

It’s meant to clear up a little later this afternoon, but I am wondering if it will be fine enough for the BBQ we had planned for this evening. At the moment it’s not looking promising. Fingers crossed I guess.

I am about to start reading Suspicious Minds by David Mark.

I am currently listening to Olive Again (Olive Kitteridge #2) by Elizabeth Strout.

This week I am planning on also reading Limelight by Graham Hurley

Actress Enora Andressen is catching up with her ex-neighbour, Evelyn Warlock, who’s recently retired to the comely East Devon seaside town of Budleigh Salterton. The peace, the friendship of strangers and the town’s prestigious literary festival . . . Evelyn loves them all.

Until the September evening when her French neighbour, Christianne Beaucarne, disappears. Enora has met this woman. The two of them have bonded. But what Enora discovers over the anguished months to come will put sleepy Budleigh Salterton on the front page of every newspaper in the land . . .

I will also, hopefully, catch up on another back title from my Netgalley list. I will pick it at random.

Only two ARCs this week from Netgalley:

Single Mother by Samantha Hayes

And Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan

I seem to be going through one of those patches where everything I request goes onto my wishlist. Is anyone else having this problem? Mind you, it could be as a result of my geographical location.

I really can’t believe that we are in December in a couple of days time! Other than Luke’s gifts, I tend to pick up bits and pieces throughout the year, I have absolutely nothing organised. I hope that you are all better organized than I am!

I am looking forward to spending some time with Luke later this week. I am having him for the day Friday. We will have morning tea with his granny and grandma, who I haven’t caught up with since early this year, and then we have his daycare Christmas party in the afternoon.

Have a wonderful week everyone. Stay safe and read on!

Her by Garry Disher

EXCERPT: 1909 – out in that country

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by with his wife, who had cost him twelve shillings once upon a time, and a wispy girl, who had cost him ten.

The people of the hut heard them first, the clop two three four of hooves, the creature-in-torment shriek of an axle and a mad symphony of rocking and rattling. They froze. Then, from the scrub line, came a bony horse, a wagon hung with pots and pans, a dog panting along in the lurching shade and three faces, dusty and gaunt.

‘Whoa!’ said the man, spying the hut and hauling on the reins.

The dust settled over the clearing. The pots and pans fell silent on their hooks. The horse hung its head and the dog belly-flopped onto the dirt.

After a while a child appeared, wearing a flour-bag dress and slipping soundlessly from beneath a sulky parked broken-backed in a collar of grass. Other figures joined her, the odds and ends of a used-up family, materialising from the hut, a barn, a post-and-rail fence and the tricky corners of the mallee scrub. Count them: a mother, a father and eleven children, ranging from a baby on a hip to a boy whose voice had broken, all staring at the apparition.

ABOUT ‘HER’: Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

MY THOUGHTS: Dark. Unsettling. Heartbreaking.

We follow the unfortunate existence of ‘You’, a child sold into a life of slavery with the scrap man for the princely sum of nine shillings and sixpence. She becomes one of his possessions, his ‘assets’, along with Wife and Big Girl. She learns to read human character, not least that of Scrap Man, who is a lazy drunken wastrel, and abuser of women and children.

Her is not a pretty book. It is bleak, but beautifully written. It is a portrait of a time that I am glad I never had to live through. It is a time my grandparents lived through and sometimes spoke of, although their upbringing was somewhat easier than Hers. It is a time of making do, scratching a living, dressing in clothes made from flour sacks, and avoiding the authorities who might take a child away and put into care. For no matter how terrible life may be, it was better the known than the unknown. No school – she could not count, add, subtract, spell, read or write. She could pick pockets and act whatever role was required of her, and quietly rob a house while the Scrap Man kept the homeowner otherwise occupied.

If you have ever thought longingly of the past, this is the book to disabuse you of your romanticized notions. Just like now, vulnerable people were victimized, abused, and left powerless. The gap between the haves and the have nots was just as wide then as it is now. We are, with our constant communication, just far more aware of it today than it was possible to be then. Not that this ‘awareness’ has made any inroads into fixing the problem.

There are also certain parallels with today’s Covid crisis. The country’s population, already short of able-bodied men after the first world war, is then decimated by the Spanish Influenza. No more than five people in a shop. A five minute time limit to enjoy a beer in the pub. Social distancing, although that term had not then been coined. And, of course, the mandatory masks, made from whatever was at hand, a pillowcase, an old rag.

If Her teaches us anything, it is that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Her is a powerful book. I loved it. I hated it. It ripped my heart out, but still I came back for more.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Garry Disher was born in 1949 and grew up on his parents’ farm in South Australia.

He gained post graduate degrees from Adelaide and Melbourne Universities. In 1978 he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he wrote his first short story collection. He travelled widely overseas, before returning to Australia, where he taught creative writing, finally becoming a full time writer in 1988.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Her, by Garry Disher, published by Hachette Australia from the Waitomo District Library. I actually went to borrow ‘Hell to Pay’, the first in a trilogy of which I have the second and third books, but it was out on loan. This was the only of his books sitting on the shelf. I am so glad that I picked it up.

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

For some reason, today I have been thinking about the music I used to listen to as a teenager, and one song in particular came to mind – Lazy Sunday Afternoon, from the Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake album by the Small Faces.

The album cover was round – a tobacco tin. It was beautiful and I had it for many years before it got lost in one of my many moves. This particular track featuring today is probably the result of wishful thinking. It definitely wasn’t the most played track or album of my teenage years, that accolade would have gone to the Led Zeppelin II album.

I had, and still have, very eclectic music tastes.

Currently I am reading Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon. I only started this last night and I am almost finished (okay, my Kindle ran out of charge otherwise I would still be reading) and wow! What a page turner!

I am also reading Living Ayurveda. I started Ayurveda yoga earlier this year and really love it, so when I saw this book I knew I had to have it.

I am also reading it’s always the husband by Michelle Campbell

And listening to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I am back to work this week. Because I am still struggling with health issues, I am planning a light week commitmentwise, so am only going to commit to one other book, Her Sister’s Child by Alison James.

She rolls over and reaches for her instinctively: her baby. Her hand hits air and flaps redundantly. She stumbles out of bed and switches on the light. But this only confirms it. The baby is gone. Someone has taken her.

Sixteen years ago, Lizzie Armitage woke to find her newborn baby gone. Just days later, Lizzie was dead.

Her sister Paula swore she would do everything she could to find the child. If she hadn’t promised to keep Lizzie’s pregnancy secret, maybe the baby wouldn’t have disappeared. And maybe Lizzie would still be alive. But, in nearly a decade, Paula’s never found any trace. Until now…

When Paula bumps into an old friend from the past, she realises she wasn’t the only one who knew about her sister’s child. Someone knows what happened that day. Someone knows where Lizzie’s baby went.

But can Paula find out the truth before another family is ripped apart?

Only three ARCs this week – Susan, your 👑 is on the courier, winging its way back to you. 🤣😂👑 I am sure that you have far more new ARCs than me this week! I am sure to have many more next week after I check out Susan’s, Carla’s and Carol’s posts today.

Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colasanti

The Boatman’s Wife by Noelle Harrison

And, Ghosts by Dolly Alderton which has been sitting on my wishlist for ages. Thanks for the recommendation Ceecee.

And to finish off I would like to share a few bright spots of colour from my garden with you.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Sandy

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight collated by Jeffrey Deaver

EXCERPT: A moment later Beth heard a soft sound behind her.

Humming.

Gasping, Beth turned and, in shock, stared at Joanne, who was gazing at her sister-in-law. Her face had the same eerie, blank expression as Robert’s.

And the humming too, was the same as earlier, the notes her husband had hummed over and over again.

The notes that spelled D-E-A-D.

– A Creative Defense by Jeffrey Deaver.

ABOUT ‘NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT’: The sun sets. The moon takes its place, illuminating the most evil corners of the planet. What twisted fear dwells in that blackness? What legends attach to those of sound mind and make them go crazy in the bright light of day? Only Suspense Magazine knows…

Teaming up with New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, Suspense Magazine offers up a nail-biting anthology titled: “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight.” This thrilling collection consists of thirteen original short stories representing the genres of suspense/thriller, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and more.

Readers’ favorites come together to explore the mystery of midnight. The ‘best of the best’ presenting these memorable tales, include: Joseph Badal, Linwood Barclay, Rhys Bowen, Jeffery Deaver, Heather Graham, Alan Jacobson, Paul Kemprecos, Shannon Kirk, Jon Land, John Lescroart, D. P. Lyle, Kevin O’Brien, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Take their hands…walk into their worlds…but be prepared to leave the light on when you’re through. After all, this incredible gathering of authors, who will delight fans of all genres, not only utilized their award-winning imaginations to answer that age-old question of why “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight”—they also made sure to pen stories that will leave you…speechless.

MY THOUGHTS: An interesting collection. There is not one story in this collection that I disliked. And there’s three good solid five star reads amongst the thirteen offerings. There are authors that I am familiar with, and others that I have not previously read. The title line, ‘Nothing good happens after midnight’ appears in several of the stories.

My favourite three stories, in the order that they appear in this anthology, are:

Night Shift by Linwood Barclay, who is a ‘go to’ author for me;
Midnight in the Garden of Death by Heather Graham, a new author to me, and which had my heart pounding; and
A Creative Defense by Jeffrey Deaver.

My least favourite was 12:01am by Alan Jacobson

A good collection for dipping into when you have five minutes to fill.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#NothingGoodHappensAfterMidnight #NetGalley

ABOUT JEFFREY DEAVER: #1 international bestselling author of over thirty novels and three collections of short stories. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into 25 languages. His first novel featuring Lincoln Rhyme, The Bone Collector, was made into a major motion picture starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. He’s received or been shortlisted for a number of awards around the world.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Suspense Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Nothing Good Happens After Midnight, collated by Jeffrey Deaver, 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 my webpage

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

EXCERPT: Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake, a nasty broken thing, dragged from the fountain after steeping there for months, through the cold winter, then that fitful, bratty spring, almost into summer proper. Face gone, much of my flesh gone.

And no one cared until you came along, gave me that stupid nickname, began rattling doorknobs and pestering people, going places you weren’t supposed to go. No one outside my family was supposed to care. I was a careless girl who went out on a date with the wrong person and was never seen again. You come in at the end of my story and turned it into your beginning. Why’d you have to go and do that, Madeline Schwartz? Why couldn’t you stay in your beautiful house and your good-enough marriage, and let me be at the bottom of the fountain? I was safe there.

Everybody was safer when I was there.

ABOUT ‘LADY IN THE LAKE’: Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.

Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she is about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

MY THOUGHTS: I ended up liking Lady in the Lake a lot more by the end than I did at the start. This is a book that is impossible to categorise; there are just so many facets to it. But they all meld seamlessly together to paint a portrait of life in the 1960s, a time when I was becoming a teenager, a time of great social change. Maddie is merely the vehicle for this story of the changing role of women in society, and the initial tentative steps towards racial equality, as is the death of Chloe (Eunetta) Sherwood. Don’t go into this book expecting a murder mystery; you will be disappointed. It is more of a social commentary.

I have to say that I didn’t much like the character of Maddie. She is cold, aloof, and selfish, and not inclined to think things through. Yet, I can also empathise with her. She had a dream and she followed it. We also find out more about her earlier life towards the end of the book and the events that shaped her.

Even though her ‘dream job’ of journalist left a lot to be desired – women didn’t get promoted and she still had to answer to men who were much like her husband – she stuck with it and stuck by her principles. While she grows as a person, and becomes more politically aware, she is still rather careless of the feelings of those around her. Her ambition is paramount. She is not a woman to whom relationships mean much, and she doesn’t appear to have friends. So, no, I didn’t much like Maddie, but I did have a little sneaking admiration for her here and there.

The ending of Lady in the Lake is interesting, and entirely unexpected.

The author’s notes at the end of the book are illuminating. While the two murders are inspired by two cases from 1969, the author has created her own version of these, and set them amongst real events from some years earlier.

While Lady in the Lake didn’t bowl me over, and I am not about to recommend it widely, it is an interesting and thought provoking read made up of a blend of historical fiction, politics, human rights and mystery.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#LadyInTheLake #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Since her debut in 1997, New York Times bestseller Laura Lippman has been recognized as one of the most gifted and versatile crime novelists working today. Her series novels, stand-alones and short stories have all won major awards, including the Edgar and the Anthony, and her work is published in more than 20 countries. A former Baltimore Sun journalist, she has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Glamour and Longreads. “Simply one of our best novelists, period,” the Washington Post said upon the publication of the ground-breaking What the Dead Know. She lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Faber and Faber via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman 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 . . .

Apologies for disappearing on you so suddenly last week. I was rushed off to ED in the early hours of last Sunday morning with breathing difficulties, which resulted in a five day stay in hospital. I am not yet allowed back to work, and will be going for more tests and follow up during the week ahead.

Currently I am not reading anything. I have finished two books this morning, the delightful Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson

And Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Which as well as being a Netgalley ARC, was a group read for my Goodreads.com Mystery, Crime and Thriller group.

I started listening to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout this morning.

This week I only have one ARC that I need to read for review which is Nothing Good Happens After Midnight: A suspense magazine anthology, with contributions by Jeffrey Deaver, Linwood Barclay and John Lescroart, amongst others.

I will use any other reading time I get to catch up on back titles.

I have received ten new ARCs over the past two weeks:

The Haunting of Beatrix Greene by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

The Perfect Life by Nuala Elwood

Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

Suspicious Minds by David Mark

Without Blood by Martin Michaud

Limelight by Graham Hurley

Our Little Secret by Lesley Sanderson

And finally I’m So Effing Tired by Amy Shah

And on that note, I am off for a nap.

Happy reading ❤📚

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean

EXCERPT: I looked about me at our attic – the library, the horrible bits of Victorian taxidermy we’d picked up from junk shops, the dust-furred oil paintings of bleak landscapes, the interesting and peculiar objects that inevitably gathered on any horizontal surface in the vicinity of either of us. The only significant thing we hadn’t added to the place was a large home-made dolls house, which we had discovered in the attic the first time we ever went up there, and had deemed both creepy enough to keep, and too heavy to move.

‘We’ll have to tidy up a bit.’

‘Yes. Get some extra lights, hide the books, that sort of thing. Make it look respectable.’

Abigail must have read some element of doubt in my face. She leaned forward in her armchair and fixed me with her dark eyes.

‘All we have to do is make out that it’s all fine. We take her up here, she sees how absolutely unhaunted our attic and indeed our entire house is, and that’s that.’ Abi touched her fingertips to her lips. ‘All we have to do is be normal for a while.’

And so it was agreed between us that Janice Tupp would come over to our house after school next Thursday, in order not to see a ghost.

ABOUT ‘THE APPARITION PHASE’: Tim and Abi have always been different from their peers. Precociously bright, they spend their evenings in their parents’ attic discussing the macabre and unexplained, zealously rereading books on folklore, hauntings and the supernatural. In particular, they are obsessed with photographs of ghostly apparitions and the mix of terror and delight they provoke in their otherwise boring and safe childhoods.

But when Tim and Abi decide to fake a photo of a ghost to frighten an unpopular school friend, they set in motion a deadly and terrifying chain of events that neither of them could have predicted, and are forced to confront the possibility that what began as a callous prank might well have taken on a malevolent life of its own.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose’ – Haldane

I couldn’t help but thinking of the Adams family children when I read the physical descriptions of Abi and Tim, intelligent twins with enquiring minds and a passion for the macabre.

Maclean has written an atmospheric and intriguing gothic thriller with all the required elements: a missing person, a select group of people confined together in a creepy old house, and unexplained phenomena. Mass hysteria? Cleverly orchestrated fraud? Or something darker and more sinister? This is what Maclean will have you wondering. His skilful machinations will have you changing your mind with every twist and turn.

Yarlings has a gruesome history and yet has never made it into the books of haunted houses, making it perfect for a scientific experiment to once and for all prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. ‘It seemed that, no matter how bright the day outside, the interior of Yarlings was always dark, always gloomy, always permeated with a troubled air, as if overthinking its presence.’ Ancient timbers crack like knuckles, the rooms are filled with an oppressing and brooding silence, almost an air of expectation, like it is waiting to be brought back to life, a place of ‘weird emotional textures.’ The ideal place in which to conduct a seance, or several.

The people who have been carefully selected for the experiment by Graham and Sally, are college students, all known to one another, and who seem to be a fairly ordinary lot. Tim enters the mix quite by accident, the seventh person, and catalyst for all that follows.

The Apparition Phase is unsettling rather than terrifying; unsettling, unnerving and deliciously creepy.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheApparitionPhase #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Originally from the Wirral, Will Maclean has been fascinated by ghost stories since he was a child, and has been writing them almost as long as he can remember.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Magic Lessons (Practical Magic #0.1) by Alice Hoffman

EXCERPT: Hannah came around from the apothecary garden as Maria was studying the pin that had been cast into the tall grass. In the girl’s hands, the silver turned black in an instant, as if brushed with dark paint, though the rubies shone more brightly because of her touch. Hannah clutched the leeks she had gathered more tightly to her chest, and felt an ache inside her bones. The wide-brimmed straw hat she wore to protect her from the sun fell from her head, and she didn’t bother to go after it. What she had long suspected had now been shown to be true. She’d felt it from the start, that first day under the junipers when she spied the baby in her basket, a rare sight that had spread cold pinpricks along her spine. As she’d unwrapped Maria from her blanket, she’d spied an unusual birthmark in the shape of a star, hidden in the crease of the girl’s inner elbow. Right away she wondered if this was the cause of the child’s abandonment, for bloodline witches were said to be marked in such sly, concealed places, on the scalp, upon the small of the back, at the breastbone, along the inner arm. It was one thing to learn magic, but quite another to be born with it.

ABOUT: MAGIC LESSONS (PRACTICAL MAGIC 0.1) – Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

MY THOUGHTS: Love potion #9? There’s a recipe contained in Magic Lessons. But there is a tenth love potion, an enchantment only fit for those so desperate that they do not fear the consequences. There are always consequences.

It is said that love makes the world go round. But some swear by revenge. It must always be remembered though, that whatever you cast out into the world will come back to you threefold. Cast a spell in haste? Repent at leisure.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned . . . from remedies for fevers, salves for cuts, scrapes and infections, a cure for colic, and for dysentery, (no recipes, but it makes for interesting reading) to spells for all manner of things.

But this is mere embroidery for the cloth of the story, of how it all began, the heritage and the legacy of the Owen women.

Despite that we are told the story, rather than experiencing it, it did not take long for Hoffman’s beautiful writing to enchant and bewitch me. The descriptions are vivid, as are the characters. It is an intense blend of history, love and family saga. The witch trials of Salem are touched on, as is the inhumane treatment of women in the 1600s, usually at the hands of men who felt threatened by them, or who simply saw it as a sport.

Prepare to have your heart shattered, and shattered again. Neither the characters nor the plot are predictable. Having just finished Magic Lessons, I am not sure that I am ready to be reimmersed in the 21st century. I may need to brew some calming tea. Oh, and I must remember not to cut my parsley with a knife; to add Hyssop and Horehound to my shopping list; and to buy my own paper copy of Magic Lessons.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.6

#MagicLessons #NetGalley

These are the lessons to be learned:
Drink chamomile tea to calm the spirit.
Feed a cold and starve a fever (I remember both my Nan and my Mum telling me that).
Read as many books as you can.
Always choose courage.
Never watch another woman burn.
Know that love is the only answer.

THE AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman is an American novelist and young-adult and children’s writer, best known for her 1995 novel Practical Magic, which was adapted for a 1998 film of the same name. Many of her works fall into the genre of magic realism and contain elements of magic, irony, and non-standard romances and relationships. (Wikipedia)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a digital ARC of Magic Lessons (Practical Magic #0.1) 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 . . .

Happy Sunday! I have been at work this morning, came home and tussled with a few weeds in the back yard. The jury is still out on who won that round! I swear they grow faster than I can deal to them. I can almost feel them nipping at my heels on the ground I have just cleared. Such are the joys of a warm wet spring!

Currently I am reading Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman.

This is a series that has been written back to front – the first book published was Practical Magic, published in 1995 (Practical Magic #1). I have yet to read this. The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #0.2) followed in 2017. I was captivated and enchanted. Magic Lessons (Practical Magic #0.1) was published October 2020, and tells of the beginning of the Owen’s family bloodline.

I have just started listening to Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr. I only discovered this author earlier this year.

This week I am planning to read A Galway Epiphany by Ken Bruen (Jack Taylor #16)

Jack Taylor has finally escaped the despair of his violent life in Galway in favor of a quiet retirement in the country with his friend Keefer, a former Rolling Stones roadie, and a falcon named Maeve. But on a day trip back into the city to sort out his affairs, Jack is hit by a truck in front of Galway’s Famine Memorial, left in a coma but mysteriously without a scratch on him.

When he awakens weeks later, he finds Ireland in a frenzy over the so-called “Miracle of Galway.” People have become convinced that the two children spotted tending to him are saintly, and the site of the accident sacred. The Catholic Church isn’t so sure, and Jack is commissioned to help find the children to verify the miracle or expose the stunt.

But Jack isn’t the only one looking for these children. A fraudulent order of nuns needs them to legitimatize its sanctity and becomes involved with a dangerous arsonist. Soon, the building in which the children are living burns down. Jack returns to his old tricks, and his old demons, as his quest becomes personal.

And, The Searcher by Tana French

Retired detective Cal Hooper moves to a remote village in rural Ireland. His plans are to fix up the dilapidated cottage he’s bought, to walk the mountains, to put his old police instincts to bed forever.

Then a local boy appeals to him for help. His brother is missing, and no one in the village, least of all the police, seems to care. And once again, Cal feels that restless itch.

Something is wrong in this community, and he must find out what, even if it brings trouble to his door

This week I received three new ARCs from Netgalley:

Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristen Harper (thank you to my major enablers, Carla and Susan, for this one!) Isn’t the cover gorgeous!

The Boy Between by Josiah Hartley and Amanda Prowse

and The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean

No doubt after I have read Susan’s, Carla’s, and Carol’s posts today, I will be rushing back to Netgalley, my requesting finger quivering in anticipation.

Happy reading my friends. Sitting here in the relative safety of New Zealand, I am worried for all my reading friends scattered around the world where Covid-19 is raging out of control. Take care my friends. Stay home in safety and read.

Sandy

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com