The Fireman by Joe Hill

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EXCERPT: His newfound calm did not entirely surprise her. Terror was a fire that held you trapped in the top floor of a burning building; the only way to escape it was to jump. He had been stoking himself up to this last leap for weeks. She had heard it in his voice, every time they talked on the phone, even if she didn’t recognize it at the time. He had made his choice at last and it had brought him the peace he was looking for. He was ready to go out the window; he wanted only to be holding her hand on the way down.

What did surprise her was her own calm. She wondered at it. In the days before the earth began to burn, she had carried anxiety to work with her every morning and brought it home with her every night; a nameless, inconsiderate companion that had a habit of poking her in the ribs whenever she was trying to relax. And yet in those days there was nothing really to be anxious about. Her head would spin at the thought of defaulting on her student loans, of getting into another yelling match with her neighbour about his dog’s habit of tearing open garbage and spreading it all over her lawn. And now she had a baby in her, and sickness crawling on her skin, and Jakob was crazy, sitting there watching her with his gun, and there was only this quiet readiness, which she irrationally believed had been waiting for her all her life.

‘At the end, I get to be the person I always wanted to be,’ she thought.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

MY THOUGHTS: I said it after reading NOS4A2,and I will say it again, ‘Joe Hill is definitely his father’s son. He writes with the same easy narrative flow and sardonic wit.’

Reading Joe Hill’s writing is like sitting down and having a good yarn with someone who has led the most fascinating life. It’s an immersive experience. I forgot I was reading. I experienced every step of Harper’s journey. I smelled the burning, felt the heat, and even imagined the beautiful glowing lacy patterns across my own skin.

Hill has written a chilling novel about a global pandemic long before the advent of Covid-19. Instead of a pneumonia-like infection, this spore causes spontaneous combustion, which threatens to reduce civilisation to ashes. But what if there was a way to harness it, to make it work for you, rather than against you? Enter the Fireman, aka John Rookwood. But are his skills enough to save his group from the Cremation Squad, a group of the uninfected determined to exterminate the infected.

He is aided by the pregnant nurse, Harper, a fan of Mary Poppins. ‘She had all her life longed for a world that operated like an early sixties Disney musical, with spontaneous song and dance routines to celebrate important events like sharing a first kiss or getting the kitchen spick and span.’ Despite these fantasies, this woman has a heart of gold and a core of steel.

There are a lot of parallels between the situations in The Fireman and our current situation. The chaos. The fear. The misinformation. The justification of certain actions – ‘The people in charge can always justify doing terrible things in the name of the greater good. A slaughter here, a little torture there. It becomes moral to do things that would be immoral if an ordinary individual did ‘em.’

But there are some wonderfully ‘good’ characters in this book to counterbalance the bad, the evil, the misguided. The hard part is working out who is who.

There are multiple musical references as well as literary ones. I have made a ‘Joe Hill – The Fireman’ playlist to go alongside my ‘Adrian McKinty – Sean Duffy’, and ‘Ken Bruen- Jack Taylor’ playlists.

I finished this read with tears seeping from my eyes. It doesn’t end how I expected. But the ending is perfect. The Fireman contains many lessons for us. I hope we learn them.

‘So much kindness. So many people looking after us. They don’t know a thing about us except that we’re in need….we need kindness like we need to eat. It satisfies something in us we can’t do without.’

Brilliant, beautiful, terrifying, sad and uplifting.

❤❤❤❤❤

#TheFireman #NetGalley

‘There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone always dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your children. Or your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.’

THE AUTHOR: Joe Hill, born in 1972 as Joseph Hillstrom King, is an American writer of speculative fiction. Hill is the second child of the authors Stephen and Tabitha King. His younger brother Owen King is also a writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orion Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Fireman by Joe Hill 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…

As the Covid-19 numbers continue to escalate around the world, I am very grateful that we live in virtual isolation here in New Zealand. Even our closest neighbour, Australia, continues to have escalating outbreaks, particularly in Melbourne currently, so I guess that there’s little chance of the borders being opened between here and there any time in the near future. But as the Pacific Islands continue to remain Covid free, I would hope that the borders between us and our island neighbours will soon reopen. I would love a week in the Cook Islands to shake off the midwinter blues. In the meantime, I guess we just carry on and read!

Currently I am reading Grown Ups by Marian Keyes. Although I wasn’t too sure about this to begin with, largely due to the sheer number of characters in this mad family, I am now loving it.

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I am listening to All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White.

Sorry, the cover photo just would not download. I think I had the same problem with my audiobook cover last week, which is just downright weird.

This week I am planning on reading All Our Summers by Holly Chamberlain

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It came as no surprise to anyone in Yorktide when glamorous Carol Ascher fled the little Maine town for New York City. While Carol found success as an interior designer, her younger sister, Bonnie, stayed behind, embracing marriage and motherhood. She even agreed to take in Carol’s teenage daughter during a tumultuous patch. Now both their girls are grown and Bonnie, recently widowed, is anticipating the day she’ll retire to Ferndean House, the nineteenth-century family home on the rocky Maine coast.

But forty-five years after leaving Yorktide, Carol suddenly announces that she’s moving back—into Ferndean. Bonnie is indignant. She’s the one who kept the homestead in order and tended to their dying mother. Now Carol expects to simply buy her out? As far as Bonnie is concerned, Ferndean is part of their heritage—not just another of Carol’s improvement projects, to be torn apart and remade according to her whim.

The entire Ascher family is in flux, uncovering secrets that upend their relationships. Carol’s longing to be welcomed home is fueled by a painful truth she’s carried for years. It will take an extraordinary
summer—in a remarkable place—to lead these women back to each other, buoyed by the tides of friendship and forgiveness.

And The Life She Left Behind by Nicole Trope

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You tell him everything. The husband you adore, the father of your child, your best friend. He knows, just by looking at your sage-green eyes, when something is wrong. The two of you can communicate with a glance, or a touch of the hand. Except what if you can’t? What if your happy marriage has plastered over one huge lie? A lie you have even started to believe yourself, in order to survive? What if you have a secret, something you have hidden from your beloved husband and your strawberry-scented baby girl, to keep them safe? What if the guilt has kept you up, night after night, for as long as you can remember? What happens when suddenly, after twenty-eight years, that secret refuses to stay buried? What will you do now everyone you love, everything you cherish, is in harm’s way?

I did a little better with my requesting this week, and have received only four new ARCs, but what a mixed bag!

No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan

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Still Life by Val Mcdermid

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My Mother’s Choice by Ali Mercer

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and finally, The Shore House by Heidi Hotstetter

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Happy Independence Day to all my American friends. Celebrate safely.

Cheers
Sandy

My book mail today…

It only took 4 weeks to get these delivered!

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Have yet to read them…..

Got absolutely no reading done today other than children’s books. I have had a lovely day on Nana duty. Luke is finally in bed, asleep, so time to put my feet up with a cup of tea and my book before I head to bed.

Sweet dreams everyone.

❤😍📚☕🍪

The Institute by Stephen King

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EXCERPT: Her name was Marjorie Kellerman, and she ran the Brunswick library. She also belonged to something called the Southeastern Library Association. Which, she said, had no money because ‘Trump and his cronies took it all back. They understand culture no more than a donkey understands algebra.’

Sixty five miles north, still in Georgia, she stopped at a poky little library in the town of Pooler. Tim unloaded the cartons of books and dollied them inside. He dollied another dozen or so cartons out to the Volvo. These, Marjorie Kellerman told him, were bound to the Yemassee Public Library, about forty miles further north, across the South Carolina state line. But not long after passing Hardeeville, their progress came to a stop. Cars and trucks were stacked up in both lanes, and more quickly filled in behind them.

‘Oh,I hate it when this happens,’ Marjorie said, ‘and it always seems to in South Carolina, where they’re too cheap to widen the highway. There’s been a wreck somewhere up ahead, and with only two lanes, nobody can get by. I’ll be here half the day. Mr Jamieson, you may be excused from further duty. If I were you, I would exit my vehicle, walk back to the Hardeeville exit, and try your luck on Highway 17.’

‘What about all those cartons of books?’

‘Oh, I’ll find another strong back to help me unload,’ she said, and smiled at him. ‘To tell you the truth, I saw you standing there in the hot sun and just decided to live a little dangerously.’

‘Well, if you’re sure.’ The traffic clog was making him feel claustrophobic. The way he’d felt being stuck halfway back in economy class of the Delta flight, in fact. ‘If you’re not, I’ll hang in. It’s not like I’m racing a deadline or anything.’

‘I’m sure,’ she said. ‘It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr Jamieson.’

‘Likewise, Ms Kellerman.’

‘Do you need monetary assistance? I can spare ten dollars if you do.’

He was touched and surprised – not for the first time – by the ordinary kindness and generosity of ordinary folks, especially those without much to spare. America was still a good place, no matter how much some (including himself from time to time) might disagree. ‘No, I’m fine. Thank you for the offer.’

He shook her hand, got out, and walked back along the I-95 breakdown lane to the Hardeeville exit. When a ride was not immediately forthcoming on US 17, he strolled a couple of miles to where it joined State Road 92. Here a sign pointed toward the town of DuPray. By then it was late afternoon, and Tim decided he had better find a motel in which to spend the night. It would undoubtedly be another of the cheesedog variety, but the alternatives – sleeping outside and getting eaten alive by skeeters or in some farmers barn – were even less appealing. And so he set out for DuPray.

Great events turn on small hinges.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

MY THOUGHTS: The scariest thing about The Institute? That it is perfectly possible and plausible. Just think about it for a moment. You will think about it for much longer than that when you have finished reading.

I like that King has returned his focus to children, as he did in some of his best and earlier works. And not just to any children, but those who have special powers. Luke Ellis is a TK (telekinetic). His powers aren’t huge, mainly confined to knocking (empty) pizza dishes from the table to the floor. But he is also intelligent. Seriously intelligent. Admission to two colleges at the age of twelve intelligent. Plus he has a good dose of street smarts and common sense. Enough to realise that if he and the other TK and TP (telepathic) teens being held in the Institute can combine their powers for their own use, they may just have a chance of survival.

King’s characterisation is, as always, absolutely superb. We get to know his characters better than we know ourselves. We are privy to their thoughts, we feel their fears, their triumphs, their jealousies, their love. I always feel sad, bereft, when I close a King cover for the final time. I feel like I am farewelling old friends. But that’s all it is, a farewell, a do drop by again. It is never goodbye.

This is a gripping story. If you are a seasoned King reader, or a constant reader as he terms us, the size of this read is nothing. If you are new to Mr King (where have you been?), it may appear daunting. Don’t be put off. You will be spellbound, mesmerized and by the end will be wondering where all those pages went.

If you are wondering what the excerpt I have quoted has to do with Luke Ellis, I can only say ‘lots.’ The two disparate threads are skillfully combined for an explosive and satisfying ending.

The Institute is an emotional read, creepy, horrifying, and perfectly possible. While I don’t think that it’s his best ever, it is pretty much up there. Thanks for stopping by, Mr King. I will see you again, soon.

😱😱😱😱.5

…her fear was like a rat running on a wheel in the middle of her head.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father’s family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen’s grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale (“The Glass Floor”) to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men’s magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Institute, written by Stephen King, published by Hodder and Stoughton. 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

She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker

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EXCERPT: Pittsburgh had a lot of cemeteries. This particular one, All Saints Hollow, was one of the largest.

The mausoleums.

I didn’t much like the mausoleums.

When we drove by a cemetery, Auntie Jo said you’re always supposed to hold your breath to keep the spirits of the dead from finding you. I’m not sure why this rule didn’t apply when you were actually in the cemetery, but if it applied anywhere, it would be at the mausoleums. The air was still here. I pictured the dead peeking out from the cracks in the stone, bony hands ready to reach out and snatch unsuspecting little boys, pulling us into those squat structures, never to be seen again.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: After the loss of his parents, young Jack Thatch first met Stella as a child—this cryptic little girl of eight with dark hair and darker eyes, sitting alone on a bench in the cemetery clutching her favorite book. Gone moments later, the brief encounter would spark an obsession. She’d creep into his thoughts, his every waking moment, until he finally finds her again exactly one year later, sitting upon the same bench, only to disappear again soon after.

The body of a man found in an alley, every inch of his flesh horribly burned, yet his clothing completely untouched. For Detective Faustino Brier, this wasn’t the first, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last. It was no different from the others. He’d find another just like it one year from today. August 9, to be exact.

Isolated and locked away from the world in a shadowy lab, a little boy known only as Subject “D” waits, grows, learns. He’s permitted to speak to no one. He has never known the touch of another. Harboring a power so horrific, those in control will never allow him beyond their walls.

All of them linked in ways unimaginable.

MY THOUGHTS: When I read the promotional blurb for this book, ‘SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE conjures thoughts of early King and Koontz. A heart-pounding ride that creeps under your skin and will have you turning pages long into the night.’, I thought ‘Yeah, right.’ I had not been having a good run with my reading. Nothing seemed to satisfy me. But this did.

I was consumed by it. I woke in the early hours of the morning after dreaming of Jack and Stella, and cemeteries, and read through the remainder of the night until it was finished with me.

And the blurb is right. She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be, is reminiscent of early King and Koontz. ‘As the older woman turned, as she spun around, the wind caught the edge of her coat and I saw something beneath it, an image that is still as clear as day in my mind; the barrel of a shotgun resting against her leg.’ …. ‘The Gunslinger’ was the first thing I thought of. But it is also so much more…there really is nothing to compare this to. It is in a class of its own.

Yes, this is horror, but it is plausible. Do we know what trials/medical experiments are/were being carried out? No, we only know what we are told. And as my favourite uncle was fond of saying, believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.

Although the main theme is horror, there’s more. Barker writes with a tongue in cheek humour-
‘What don’t you do while I’m gone?’
‘Open the door.’
‘Except for the pizza guy.’
‘Except for the pizza guy.’…..’What if the pizza guy is an axe wielding murderer and he wants to chop me into little pieces?’
‘Well then, don’t tip him.’

There is romance, and coming to grips with the reality of life and death, and adventure and heartbreak and action all wrapped into one package. And it works, brilliantly. I have in the past, and very recently, criticised authors for trying to pack too many genres into their work, of trying to be too many things to their readers. Barker proves that it can be done, and very successfully.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and yet it is surprisingly easy to keep track of them. Some of them are very ordinary, some are strange, and others just downright weird. All have depth and all, strangely, feel very real.

This book is eerie, and weird. It is enthralling and compelling. It will stay with me for a long time. I will especially remember it whenever I see a white SUV. This is a book that is going on my favourites shelf, and one that will be reread.

❤😱😱😱❤

‘The light of morning reached through my window and tried to grab me under my mound of blankets.’

‘She wore her uniform like a hanger with feet.’

‘Potential parents paraded through in search of a good find, not unlike bargain shoppers at a yard sale.’

‘You don’t answer any of my questions.’…..’Maybe you should stop asking questions.’

And one quote that I think is particularly pertinent right now:’Of all things, I believe I’ll miss the night sky the most. The absolute vastness of it, the unknown. While we’re down here, fighting our pesky little battles, we’re really just a little speck on the shoe of the universe. Any problem life may present seems so small, so insignificant, when you simply look up and realise your true place in all things.’

THE AUTHOR: J.D. Barker is the international best-selling author of numerous novels, including DRACUL and THE FOURTH MONKEY. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson. His novels have been translated into two dozen languages and optioned for both film and television. Barker resides in coastal New Hampshire with his wife, Dayna, and their daughter, Ember.

A note from J.D.
As a child I was always told the dark could not hurt me, that the shadows creeping in the corners of my room were nothing more than just that, shadows. The sounds nothing more than the settling of our old home, creaking as it found comfort in the earth only to move again when it became restless, if ever so slightly. I would never sleep without closing the closet door, oh no; the door had to be shut tight. The darkness lurking inside needed to be held at bay, the whispers silenced. Rest would only come after I checked under the bed at least twice and quickly wrapped myself in the safety of the sheets (which no monster could penetrate), pulling them tight over my head.

I would never go down to the basement.

Never.

I had seen enough movies to know better, I had read enough stories to know what happens to little boys who wandered off into dark, dismal places alone. And there were stories, so many stories.

Reading was my sanctuary, a place where I could disappear for hours at a time, lost in the pages of a good book. It didn’t take long before I felt the urge to create my own.

I first began to write as a child, spinning tales of ghosts and gremlins, mystical places and people. For most of us, that’s where it begins—as children we have such wonderful imaginations, some of us have simply found it hard to grow up. I’ve spent countless hours trying to explain to friends and family why I enjoy it, why I would rather lock myself in a quiet little room and put pen to paper for hours at a time than throw around a baseball or simply watch television. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want to do just that, sometimes I wish for it, but even then the need to write is always there in the back of my mind, the characters are impatiently tapping their feet, waiting their turn, wanting to be heard. I wake in the middle of the night and reach for the pad beside my bed, sometimes scrawling page after page of their words, their lives. Then they’re quiet, if only for a little while. To stop would mean madness, or even worse—the calm, numbing sanity I see in others as they slip through the day without purpose. They don’t know what it’s like, they don’t understand. Something as simple as a pencil can open the door to a new world, can create life or experience death. Writing can take you to places you’ve never been, introduce you to people you’ve never met, take you back to when you first saw those shadows in your room, when you first heard the sounds mumbling ever so softly from your closet, and it can show you what uttered them. It can scare the hell out of you, and that’s when you know it’s good.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hampton Creek Press (IBPA) via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker. 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 on https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3119732314

The Warning by Paul Pen

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EXCERPT: I don’t wish to frighten you, but it’s impossible to explain any other way. Please do not go to the gas station in Arenas. The American’s store. Do not go there on August 14, 2009. I don’t want to scare you, but it could be the day of your death. Don’t go. I’m sorry, I had to warn you.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: I don’t wish to frighten you, reads the anonymous note introverted and bullied eight-year-old Leo Cruz finds in his backpack. All the sender asks is that he avoid a certain spot on a certain day, or he’ll die. Leo has reason to be afraid. The warning hearkens back to nearly a decade ago—to the same site, where a murder has become local folklore and a favorite campfire tale reinvented year after year by the kids of Arenas, a small Spanish town.

Leo’s parents initially suspect the lonely boy’s cruel classmates. The perfect joke to terrorize an impressionable victim. Unless, as they come to believe, it’s Leo himself who is the author of the warning.

Is Leo being lured to an unavoidable fate? Is someone taking bullying to a dangerous new level? Or is there something else at work in Arenas, a town with intersecting destinies and a century of secrets?

MY THOUGHTS: I am going to start with an excerpt from the author’s foreword….’I reread The Warning today and suffer when I discover certain passages that I’d never write in the same way now. I wince at each confusing shift in point of view, I roll my eyes at certain similes and metaphors, and I cringe at characters’ intrusive thoughts.’

I feel your pain Paul Pen. I really do, as I did throughout this read. The shifts in not only the point of view, but also the timelines, was confusing. Very confusing. The story doesn’t flow at all. It ought to have been creepy and suspenseful – the plot certainly had all the right ingredients – but I felt none of that. In fact, by the time I reached the 40% point, I was skimming, and I continued to do so through to the 90% point where it finally caught my interest.

I felt nothing for any of the characters – they are simply awful and unlikable, except for poor little Leo, bullied both at school and at home, and Linda, the housekeeper.

I would love to see Paul Pen rewrite this book now, knowing what he does now with several more novels to his name. I believe it would be a vastly different book. There is so much potential that could be explored and developed.

😐😐.5

#TheWarning #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Paul Pen is an Amazon top-3 best-selling Spanish author whose four novels have been translated to English, German, Italian, Russian and Turkish. His book The Light of the Fireflies has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide, while his debut novel El aviso —soon to be published in English for the first time—was adapted to the big screen in 2018. Motion pictures of The Light of the Fireflies and Desert Flowers are also in development, the latter scripted by Pen himself. In his capacity as scriptwriter, Paul Pen is also working on a forthcoming Netflix series.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Crossing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Warning by Paul Pen 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/3150404319?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Behind Dark Doors (One) by Susan May

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EXCERPT: Then this producer rang from ‘Today Tonight’ – or ‘Yesterday Morning’, or something sounding equally cliched – and asked if he could do a piece on them.

A piece, he thought. He wished he could have done just a piece of marriage, instead of the whole lot. They never ask you that during the wedding ceremony. ‘How much do you think you can do? Five years? Twenty? Fifty? After fifty we’ll come and get you out, George.’ No, they do not. They say ‘until the day you die.’ And that is that.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Twilight Zone, Darker Things and Black Mirror.
These tales will delight fans of the horror short story with their ingenius twists and wicked irony. Brought to you by the international best-selling author readers have named the new Stephen King.

Enter strange worlds and meet their unusual and sometimes terrifying residents.Dive into the first collection of ;Behind Dark Doors, filled with stories of suspense, horror, paranormal and supernatural, from the dark mind of short story award-winning author Susan May.

DO US PART
When you’ve been married seventy years, what secret and deadly thoughts lie behind the smiles?

HELL’S KITCHEN
Gordon must survive the elimination round in an intense cooking competition. But he’s made a fatal mistake and winning is now a matter of life and death.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES
When a mother feels she’s not being heard at a parent-teacher meeting, sometimes actions can speak louder than words.

I HATE EMMA CARTER
New girl in school, Emma Carter, is assigned Angie Dutton as her babysitter. Angie’s nobody’s keeper but perhaps this time she’s picked the wrong victim.

IT’S IN THE GENES
Ever since Brandon joined his father on his late-night fishing trips he’s changed from Helen’s happy-go-lucky son. Today, she’ll discover why.

THE WAR VETERAN
For seventy years, World War II veteran Jack Baker has endured vivid flashbacks to that horrific June day on Omaha Beach. Tonight, Jack’s seventy-year-old secret comes back to claim him.

MY THOUGHTS: Susan May has a twisted mind….be very careful around her and her family. Don’t upset her. You may, if her stories are anything to go by, live (or not live, as the case may be) to regret it.

My favourite story was Do Us Part. It’s something that I have often wondered about…. as my dear husband often says, you get less for murder.

This is a wonderful collection of macabre stories, some of which will amuse, while others will chill. Sit back and enjoy the ride…..

🤣😱🤯😳

THE AUTHOR: I was four when I decided I would be a writer, packed a bag, and marched down the road looking for a school. But for forty-six years, I suffered from life-gets-in-the-way-osis. Setting a goal to write just one page a day cured me in 2010. This discipline grew into an addictive habit that has since borne several novels, and dozens of short stories and novellas–many of which are published award-winners in Australia, the US and the UK.

My childhood reading diet consisted of Edgar Allen Poe, O’Henry, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plus horror comics like Tales From the Crypt. Anything out of this world like The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits had me glued to the television.

Inspired by these classics, I attempt to pen tales that are simply about the story and the characters and not about fancy words or beautiful descriptions. At the end of my stories I hope, wonderful reader, that you will feel you’ve enjoyed a journey into the fantastic with a neat twist at the end.

Every day I pinch myself that I am able to do what I love and be in control of every facet of it. And I can wear my track suit pants and slippers while doing it. Bliss.

Most days I’m just an average mother and wife living in Perth, Western Australia, but this darn imagination of mine keeps constantly venturing into the crevices of dark worlds, whether I want to go there or not.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Susan May for providing a digital copy of her short story collection Behind Dark Doors 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 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1386311068?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni

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EXCERPT: The bus wound its way along the Moskva River, already filling with chunks of floating ice, another harbinger of the wicked winter to come. Thirty minutes after Zarina boarded, the bus reached her stop in front of the supermarket on Filevsky Bulvar. She crossed the bleak park, listening to the spindling tree limbs click and clack with each wind gust. Soviet-era apartment buildings stood like sentries around the park, grotesque concrete blocks with tiny windows and tagged with graffiti. Zarina pushed open a brown metal door to a spartan lobby.The light fixtures had long ago been stolen – along with the marble floor and brass stair railing. Russians had interpreted capitalism to mean: “Steal what you can sell.” Attempts to replenish the buildings had only led to more thefts.

Zarina rode the elevator to the twelfth floor and stepped into a hallway as drab and bare as the lobby. She undid the four locks to what had once been her parents’ apartment, wiped the soles of her boots on the mat so as not to mark the oak floor, inlaid with an intricate geometric design, and hung her coat and hat on the rack before she stepped into the living area.

“We were beginning to wonder if you were coming home, Ms Kazakova.”

The man’s voice startled her, and Zarina screamed.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.

Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.

Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.

MY THOUGHTS: I am not a fan of the spy-thriller/legal thriller genres, and had this book been written by anyone other than Robert Dugoni, I may not have finished it. Even so, I struggled at times to maintain my interest. And, if I have to be honest, I probably didn’t check out the subject matter as carefully as I should have before hitting the ‘request’ button. Just seeing the Robert Dugoni name was recommendation enough for me.

And as I said, if The Eighth Sister had been written by anyone other than Dugoni, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. However, his writing style carried me through; that and the mystery of the eight ‘sisters’, a spy ring.

While this is definitely not my favorite of Dugoni’s books, it is certainly to be recommended if you are a spy-thriller aficionado.I am glad I read it, but not entirely sure that I want to repeat the experience with more of this series to come.

#The Eighth Sister #NetGalley

🤔😏🤔.5

THE AUTHOR: Robert Dugoni is the New York Times, #1 Amazon, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of the Tracy Crosswhite series. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, released April 2018. Dugoni’s first series featured attorney David Sloane and CIA agent Charles Jenkins, both of whom appear in The Eighth Sister.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thomas & Mercer via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own 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/2701024725?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

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EXCERPT: May 19, 1924
It had started when Hattie was a little girl.

She’d had a cloth-bodied doll with a porcelain head called Miss Fentwig. Miss Fentwig told her things – things that Hattie had no way of knowing, things that Hattie didn’t really want to hear. She felt it deep down inside her in the way that she’d felt things all her life.

Her gift.

Her curse.

One day, Miss Fentwick told her that Hattie’s father would be killed, struck by lightening, and that there was nothing Hattie could do. Hattie tried to warn her daddy and her mother. She told them just what Miss Fentwick had said. “Nonsense, child,” they’d said, and sent her to bed without supper for saying such terrible things.

Two weeks later, her daddy was dead. Struck by lightening while he was putting his horse in the barn.

Everyone started looking at Hattie funny after that. They took Miss Fentwig away from her, but Hattie, she kept hearing voices. The trees talked to her. Rocks and rivers and little shiny green beetles spoke to her. They told her what was to come.

‘You have a gift,’ the voices told her.

But Hattie, she didn’t see it that way, Not at first. Not until she learned to control it.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and their teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home–wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks–she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day.

MY THOUGHTS: This wasn’t chilling, but it was a good listen. It didn’t give me goosebumps, or night horrors, or any sort of horror really, but it kept me interested.

Really this is a family drama with a little paranormal thrown in. It centres on greed, obsession and jealousy, and the effects it has on people. Which is a lot scarier than ghosts, any day.

😱😱😱.5

THE AUTHOR: I’m the author of seven suspense novels, including Promise Not to Telll, The Winter People, and most recently, The Night Sister . I live in central Vermont with my partner and daughter, in an old Victorian that some neighbors call The Addams Family house.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Invited by Jennifer McMahin, narrated by Amanda Carlin and Justine Eyre, published by Random House Audio, 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, and other reviews, are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3031299201?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Watching What I’m Reading…

I woke this morning to heavy rain on the roof and pelting against the windows. The wind was swirling through the trees, whistling under the eaves and screaming around the corners of the house. I lay in bed and thought what a wonderful day it was to stay in bed and read. Then came the dawning realisation that I had to work today…

Tonight I will finish reading

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This week I plan on reading

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Just when she’d sworn off men for good, Sarah Evans met Eddie. Sarah was a magazine editor, living in Manhattan, and loving her life—except for the heartbreaks. A successful real estate developer, Eddie was a breath of fresh air, a meeting of minds—and bodies. Soon came wedded bliss, baby number one—and the proverbial move to the suburbs . . .

You just sit there like a slob while I do all the work. Nine years later, this is increasingly what goes through Sarah’s mind when she looks at Evan, propped in front of the TV with a beer, ignoring their two children. The truth is, she misses her old life. She misses the old Eddie. She can’t help wondering if she’d be happier alone . . .

When Eddie’s job sends him to Chicago indefinitely, Sarah shocks him by suggesting a trial separation. But she knows it’s just a precursor to divorce—even if Eddie chooses to think of it as a “vacation.” Yet a lot can change—on both sides—as time goes by. And once Christmas arrives, Sarah and Eddie might re-discover gifts they’d forgotten they had . . .

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Discredited British Army officer Jack Elliot is a man with nothing left to lose—or to live for. For him, life is cheap and death expensive: He kills now for money. So when Ang Yuon, a wealthy Cambodian refugee, asks him to cross Thailand to rescue his wife and children from the Khmer Rouge, Elliot demands a large price. This time he expects, even hopes, to die. But two things curse him with a reason to live—the enormous suffering of the Cambodian people and the appearance of his estranged daughter, Lisa. On the day of her mother’s death, Lisa learns that there is more to her father’s past than the picture of the heroic soldier killed in battle her mother had painted for her. So Lisa sets out in search of Elliot and follows him as far as Bangkok, where she falls foul of his Thai associates, Tuk Than and “La Mère Grace,” ruthless people whose business interests encompass girls as well as guns. From the fetid jungles of Cambodia to the sleazy back streets of Bangkok, The Noble Path is a hard-hitting tale of suspense and intrigue.

Only 2 ARCs from Netgalley this week. Didn’t I do well achieving my target for the first time in who knows how long!

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Happy reading my friends.

I’m going to snuggle up with my book now until it’s time to cook dinner. I am really enjoying All About Evie. I want her for my BFF!