56 Days by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: He made his way to the checkouts where he saw that she was just about to join the line – perfect timing, but whose? – and he’d hung back so she’d have to do it in front of him, and that’s when she’d stopped and looked up and their eyes had met.

A flash of something – surprise? Recognition? – crosses her face just as he thinks to himself, I’ve seen her somewhere before.

Somewhere else, in different circumstances.

But where?

‘It’s okay,’ she mumbles, waving the bottle of water she’s holding in her right hand. ‘I’ve just realised I’ve got the wrong one.’

She turns on her heel and hurries off in the opposite direction.

And now he thinks, Gotcha.

He knew coming back to Ireland would be a risk, but he had presumed that enough time had passed for him to be yesterday’s news. Besides, anyone interested in exposing him would have to find him first. He goes by his mother’s maiden name now. He’s severed all contact with anyone he knew or had known on the day he left London, save for two people: his brother, who can be trusted, and Dan, who is professionally obligated to be. Oliver has a better cover story now and is more practised at sticking to it. He doesn’t take risks. He won’t take them.

There can’t be a repeat of what happened in London.

But now he’s seen this vaguely familiar woman swinging her little space shuttle bag in the supermarket across from his office every day for five days in a row, at a slightly different time each day, and it’s got him paranoid.

Who is she, really?

What is she?

ABOUT ’56 DAYS’: No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, what a tangled web Catherine Ryan-Hyde has woven! Intriguing and at times perplexing, 56 Days is set in the earliest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the author has used this event very cleverly and to great effect. But it is only one of many layers in this story where it seems everyone is hiding something.

I was immediately immersed in the storyline and didn’t come up for air until past halfway through. Ryan-Hyde has taken us back to a time of great change, of fear, of uncertainty, of almost alien landscapes, deserted streets, and suspicion, and dropped into the midst of this two equally suspicious characters who are, while attracted, also circling one another warily.

The suspense is palpable and I was twisted in knots as I tried to figure out where the author was taking me. The plot is set over several timelines and the story told from the points of view of Ciara, Oliver, and the DI investigating the case. It starts at 56 days before the body is discovered, and we follow Ciara’s and Oliver’s story moving forward, with occasional forays into their past. At the same time we follow the investigation into the death, of whom I’m not saying. Now, usually I am fine with multiple timelines, but just occasionally I was thrown and had to frantically page back to check when I was reading about. This was probably more inattention on my part than any fault of the author. Also, we are occasionally shown the same event from multiple viewpoints, which does lead to a certain amount of repetition, not all of which was warranted.

But as far as predicting what was going to happen, the author stumped me. There were a few things I almost got right, but not entirely.

I really enjoyed 56 Days, the second book I have read by this author, and I look forward to reading more from her.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#56Days #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @blackstonepublishing

T: @cryanhyde @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #crime #irishfiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Catherine Ryan Howard is an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork, Ireland. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida. She still wants to be an astronaut when she grows up.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of 56 Days 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I didn’t do very well with my reading target last week, mainly because the company who made my kitchen suddenly moved the installation date forward from the end of this month to the end of this coming week! So my house was full builders, taking out the old kitchen and removing another wall, and plumbers and electricians moving everything ready for the installation of the new kitchen. Because I had move the sink and the dishwasher and the fridge. I think the only new appliance being installed in the same place as the old one is the oven. But the result will be that I have a decent amount of bench space, which I didn’t previously have. Plumbers and electricians are back on Monday, then the builders Tuesday and Wednesday to reline the walls and put the ceiling in. Thursday the kitchen arrives and installation begins. This is so exciting!

Anyway, because of all this, I got very little reading done. Instead I was fetching and carrying, making decisions and morning and afternoon teas coffees, and cleaning up behind everyone while I was home. And, of course, I was also working. So the books on my planned reading list last week will reappear this week. 🤦‍♀️

Currently I am reading Cabin Fever by Alex Dahl. Halfway through and it has suddenly taken an extremely interesting turn.

I am almost finished listening to Know No Evil (DI Denning and DS Fisher #1) by Graeme Hampton. This has the makings of really good series. I will certainly be putting my hand up for #2.

This week I am planning on reading Silver Tears by Camilla Lackberg, #2 in her

She’s had to fight for it every step of the way, but Faye finally has the life she believes she deserves: she is rich, the business she built has become a global brand, and she has carefully hidden away her small family in Italy, where Jack, her ex-husband, can no longer harm them. She even has the wherewithal to occasionally turn a business trip to Rome into a steamy tryst. But when several major investors–women Faye had trusted implicitly–suddenly sell off their shares in the company, and the police officer who helped search for her daughter discovers the dark secret of Faye’s childhood, and she learns that Jack is no longer locked behind bars, Faye has no choice but to return to Stockholm. Not only does she have to fight again to keep her family safe, but now, at long last, she is forced to face the truth about her past. In this bold, mesmerizing story of seduction, deceit, and female power, a woman’s secret cannot stay buried forever.

The Stalker by Sarah Alderson

Newly-weds Liam and Laura are spending their honeymoon in paradise: just the two of them on a remote island off the coast of Scotland.
But they soon discover that all is not as it seems, and the island has a tragic past. And they can’t shake the feeling of being watched…

When one morning, they wake to find a message scratched into the window, their worst fears are confirmed. They aren’t alone on the island.

And this stranger wants them dead.

And The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd

HOW DID IT COME TO THIS?

The news doesn’t strike cleanly, like a guillotine’s blade. Nothing so merciful. This news is a slovenly traveller, dragging its feet, gradually revealing its horrors. And it announces itself first with violence – the urgent hammering of fists on the front door.

Life can change in a heartbeat.

Lucy has everything she could wish for: a beautiful home high on the clifftops above the Devon coast, a devoted husband and two beloved children.

Then one morning, time stops. Their family yacht is recovered, abandoned far out at sea. Lucy’s husband is nowhere to be found and as the seconds tick by, she begins to wonder – what if he was the one who took the boat? And if so, where is he now?

As a once-in-a-generation storm frustrates the rescue operation, Lucy pieces together what happened onboard. And then she makes a fresh discovery. One that plunges her into a nightmare more shocking than any she could ever have imagined . . .

Let’s see how well I can do.

I received five new ARCs this week, and was declined for five (perhaps just as well!) I received The Library by Bella Osborne

The Girl Upstairs by Georgina Lees

The Perfect Ending by Rob Kaufman

About Us by Sinead Moriarty

And finally, The Lies We Tell by Jane Corry

I didn’t travel overly much in the past week. I left Baltimore for Stonesend, a lovely village near Oxford in England, and am currently dividing my time between East London, and Oslo in Norway.

What have you been reading this week? What are planning on reading? And where have you been on your reading travels?

Have a wonderful week of reading!

The Lost Girls of Ireland by Susanne O’Leary

EXCERPT: ‘Nellie Butler . . . Your great-aunt, was she?’

‘That’s right. On my father’s side. I only met her once.’

‘Interesting woman,’ Sorcha said. ‘Talk about rough times. She had them in spades. During the war, I mean. But she was a bit of a heroine, too, I believe.’

‘Really?’ Lydia looked at Sorcha, wanting to know more. ‘In what way?’

‘I don’t really know. I can just tell you what I’ve heard. There was an old man in the village who knew everything about everybody, but he passed away last winter. Mad Brennan he was called. Not mad at all. Very sharp, actually. He told me once that your Aunt Nellie was a spy, but I think he was joking.’

Lydia laughed. ‘A spy?’

‘I know,’ Sorcha said. ‘That’s impossible. What kind of spying could she have done around here? He was pulling my leg as usual. He loved having people on.’

ABOUT ‘THE LOST GIRLS OF IRELAND’: The picturesque beach of Wild Rose Bay is the last place Lydia Butler thought she’d be. But having just lost everything, the run-down cottage she inherited from her Great Aunt Nellie is the only place she can take her daughter, Sunny. Hidden away in a tiny Irish village, she can protect Sunny from the gossip in Dublin, and the real reason they have nowhere else to live…

The cottage is part of the old coastguard station and other eccentric residents are quick to introduce themselves when Lydia arrives. Lydia instantly feels less alone, fascinated by the stories they have about Nellie, and she’s charmed by American artist, Jason O’Callaghan, the mysterious man who lives next door.

But the longer Lydia relaxes under the moonlit sky, the more the secret she’s keeping from Sunny threatens to come out. And as she finds herself running into Jason’s arms, she knows she must be honest and face up to the past she has tried to forget. Has she finally found people who will truly accept her, or will the truth force her to leave the cottage for good?

MY THOUGHTS: This is a fairly predictable romance that missed the opportunity to capitalize on a family mystery and move the whole book up a level. Why speculate about Great Aunt Nellie if you’re not going to follow it through? She was by far the most interesting character, the one with the most potential, and there was definitely the opportunity to run her story concurrently with Lydia’s.

I really failed to connect with any of the characters and the plot was very thin, lacking in substance. I also didn’t get the relevance of the title.

If you are looking for a (very) light romance, The Lost Girls of Ireland will fit the bill admirably. Personally, I prefer a little more depth.

⭐⭐.5

#TheLostGirlsofIreland #NetGalley

I: @susanne.olearyauthor @bookouture

T: @susl @bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #irishfiction #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Susanne O’Leary is the bestselling author of 22 novels, mainly in the romantic fiction genre. She has also written three crime novels and two in the historical fiction genre. She has been the wife of a diplomat (still is), a fitness teacher and a translator. She now writes full-time from either of two locations, a ramshackle house in County Tipperary, Ireland or a little cottage overlooking the Atlantic in Dingle, County Kerry. When she is not scaling the mountains of said counties (including MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, featured in Full Irish), or keeping fit in the local gym, she keeps writing, producing a book every six months.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Lost Girls of Ireland by Susanne O’Leary 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

The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan

Due for publication 6th May 2021

EXCERPT: They had gone to see the old building, a sprawling grey, derelict structure that had angels at the doors and serpents in the remaining stained glass windows.

Although it was emptied over a quarter of a century ago, there was no denying its looming presence; there was an eerie feeling of ghosts who would never fully rest.

‘For some, perhaps it was better than the alternative – many of the girls came from simple farming backgrounds. Back then, a respectable man would prefer to have a dead daughter than an illegitimate grandchild.’ She shivered then, perhaps remembering things she would prefer to forget. ‘Come on, let’s walk around the old gardens, this place isn’t going to do either of us any good.’

Dan looked once more at the building, mostly boarded up, apart from the occasional window where storms had blown away their covers, revealing stained glass that would have been striking once. He wondered for a moment if he came back again and broke in – would there be files?

ABOUT ‘THE LADIES MIDNIGHT SWIMMING CLUB’: Three women, three different stages of life, united by one thing: the chance to start again.

When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, she must turn to her friend, Jo for help, who calls in her daughter, Lucy to run the village surgery. Leaving her city life, and past demons, behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to resemble something normal for the three women, Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of some solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice; to take a dip in the nip.

MY THOUGHTS: Why have I never read anything by this author before? Her characters are stunning. They made themselves at home in my heart and I don’t want to say goodbye to them.

Other than Elizabeth, Jo and Lucy, there’s Lucy’s teenage son Niall, acting out in reaction to his parents divorce and determined to make his mother suffer for bringing him to this backwater. And Dan, who has lost his high profile job in London and rented a cottage in Ballycove to realise his dream of writing a book, is searching for his birth mother, and is mortified to find himself, one evening, standing on a beach with two near naked pensioners and a dog yapping at his feet. He finds far more material for his book in this little village than he ever dreamed!

The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club is a beautifully paced and plotted story about the indomitable spirit of friendship told from the points of view of all the major characters. Despite, or maybe because of this, it flows seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly through the various crises the characters face.

I loved this read. It warmed my heart, and made my eyes well with tears. Yes, tissues are mandatory. I loved the way Elizabeth’s character grew and strengthened, and Jo, what can I say about Jo? If I am ever in her position I only hope that I have her strength of character.

I am going to be reading a lot more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#MidnightSwimmingClub #NetGalley

I: @faithhoganauthor #ariaandaries

T: @GerHogan @aria_fiction

#contemporaryfiction #mystery #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author. She was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.

She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Aria and Aries for providing a digital ARC of The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan 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 . . .

I have had a busy week dashing from dashing back and forth from the remote Entry Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence 850 miles from the Canadian mainland with Peter May, to Scotland with Stuart MacBride, to Gozo, a Maltese Island, and Snowdonia with C.L. Taylor, to Alexandria, Cairo and London with Carol Cooper! I feel quite exhausted 😂🤣

Where have you been this week? Leave me a message and tell me about your travels.

Currently I am reading the amazing and addictive The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson. I started it this morning and haven’t been able to put it down! I adored Mr Tender’s Girl back in 2017, and The Dead Husband is on track to be another five star read.

I am also reading Entry Island by Peter May.

And am almost finished listening to The Coffin Maker’s Garden by Stuart MacBride. This has taken somewhat longer than usual as I am training new staff, so can’t listen to my audiobooks as I am working. Definitely no reflection on the plot, author or narrator. All are excellent.

This week I am planning on reading The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan

When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, she must turn to her friend, Jo for help, who calls in her daughter, Lucy to run the village surgery. Leaving her city life, and past demons, behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to resemble something normal for the three women, Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of some solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice; to take a dip in the nip. 

And The Lost Girls of Ireland by Susanne O’Leary

The picturesque beach of Wild Rose Bay is the last place Lydia Butler thought she’d be. But having just lost everything, the run-down cottage she inherited from her Great Aunt Nellie is the only place she can take her daughter, Sunny. Hidden away in a tiny Irish village, she can protect Sunny from the gossip in Dublin, and the real reason they have nowhere else to live…

The cottage is part of the old coastguard station and other eccentric residents are quick to introduce themselves when Lydia arrives. Lydia instantly feels less alone, fascinated by the stories they have about Nellie, and she’s charmed by American artist, Jason O’Callaghan, the mysterious man who lives next door.

But the longer Lydia relaxes under the moonlit sky, the more the secret she’s keeping from Sunny threatens to come out. And as she finds herself running into Jason’s arms, she knows she must be honest and face up to the past she has tried to forget. Has she finally found people who will truly accept her, or will the truth force her to leave the cottage for good?

I also plan on listening to The Silent Suspect by Nell Pattison

A FIRE. A MURDER. A SILENT SUSPECT…

On a quiet street, one house is burning to the ground…

By the time sign language interpreter Paige Northwood arrives, flames have engulfed her client’s home. Though Lukas is safe, his wife is still inside. But she was dead before the fire started…

Lukas signs to Paige that he knows who killed his wife. But then he goes silent – even when the police charge him with murder.

Is he guilty, or afraid? Only Paige can help him now…

I have seven new ARCs this week . . .

An Ambush of Widows by Jeff Abbott, an author I used to read regularly but whom has somehow dropped off my reading radar for no particular reason that I can recall. Though I have just noticed that this is an excerpt only, which is a bit disappointing.

The Marriage Mender by Linda Green

Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

Dream Girl in Laura Lippman

The Stalker by Sarah Alderson

Invite Me In by Emma Curtis

And 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

So that’s it from me for today. I need to get back to The Dead Husband . . . I am going to have to finish this before I go to sleep tonight.

Please do tell me where your reading travels have taken you this week. Happy reading!❤📚 Sandy

The Women Who Ran Away by Sheila O’Flanagan

EXCERPT: ‘I’ve no car and no way of getting around.’

‘But I have a car,’ said Grace. ‘And I have an itinerary. I also have more clues to be deciphered. We’ve already seen that two heads are better than one. Why don’t you come with me?’

‘On all your stops? Through France and Spain?’ Deira looked at her in astonishment.

‘Why not?’ said Grace. ‘To tell you the truth, you’d be doing me a favour. My elder daughter thinks I’m off my rocker doing this trip on my own. If I tell her I have company, she might stop worrying about me and asking me to share my location with her so she can check up on me without me even realizing it.’

‘I’m not sure . . .’

‘We still haven’t worked out the full La Rochelle clue,’ said Grace. ‘Besides, I’d love your company.’

‘Really?’

‘Why not?’ repeated Grace.

Why not indeed, thought Deira. Why not do something even madder than her original plan and travel with a woman she hardly knew, following a treasure hunt set by a dead man?

ABOUT ‘THE WOMEN WHO RAN AWAY’: Deira is setting out on the holiday she’d planned with her long-term partner Gavin… only she’s on her own. Gavin will not be amused when he finds out she’s ‘borrowed’ his car, but since their brutal break-up Deira’s not been acting rationally. Maybe a drive through beautiful France will help her see things differently…Grace is also travelling alone, each stage of her journey outlined in advance by her late husband. Ken was head of the household when he was alive, and it seems he’s still in charge. His last decision was a surprise – could there be more surprises to come? There’s only one way to find out, galling though it is to dance again to Ken’s tune…Thrown together by chance, Deira and Grace are soon motoring down the French highways, sharing intriguing stories of their pasts, as they each consider the future…

MY THOUGHTS: Don’t you just love that cover! Especially now when we’re still all restricted to armchair travel, I can just imagine strolling through that open gate, feel the sand between my toes and the water lapping at my ankles.

Unfortunately I liked the cover better than the story. I found it difficult to readily connect with both main characters, but Deira in particular. It could be an age thing, but I don’t really think so. I enjoyed the story, but never became fully invested in it. I did love the travelling aspect, and O’Flanagan’s descriptive powers are excellent. I loved learning about the history of some of the locations Grace and Deira travelled to and the references to famous historical literary and artistic characters. I found the map coordinates at the beginning of the chapters frustrating. I would rather have had dates and locations.

The idea behind the plot is excellent. It covers some serious subjects: terminal illness, grief, loss, suicide, and infidelity. But don’t go thinking that this novel is full of doom and gloom, because it isn’t. It is a novel of hope, friendship and personal growth.

I’m not quite sure why I didn’t love this. I usually do love O’Flanagan’s books. This is a nice, quick, easy read, just not one that left me enchanted and missing the characters when I closed the covers.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheWomenWhoRanAway #NetGalley

@sheilaoflanagan @hachetteaus

‘One thing I’ve learned about life is that no matter how shitty a time you are having, it does pass. And then you look back and say, that was a terrible week, or month, or year. But you’ve got to remember that it’s only a tiny bit of your whole life. It’s important to put it into perspective.’

THE AUTHOR: As you can see, a Dubliner all my life. My parents owned a grocery shop in the Iveagh Markets, in the Liberties area of the city and I guess city blood runs through my veins.

As a child I enjoyed reading and telling stories and everyone thought that I end up in a job which had something to do with books and literature. But though I applied for a job in the library all of the job offers I got were in commerce.

I turned down lots of them before my mother accepted one for me (I was on holiday at the time). It was in the Central Bank of Ireland and that’s how my career in financial services began.

But I still loved reading and writing (which I did in my spare time) and I desperately wanted to write my own book. I guess I never quite got over the fact that I was never offered the library job! In my thirties I decided that it was now or never and I sat down, stuck Chapter 1 on a page, and started. I wrote the whole thing before sending it off.

I was offered a publishing deal (with no advance) by an Irish company but only if I wrote a different book! So back to the drawing board, I started again. It was another two years before it was published. It wasn’t until I’d written a few books and was offered a contract (this time with an advance!) from another publisher that I felt able to give up my trading job and write full time. So, even though it took a long time, I eventually realised my dream of being a full-time writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Women Who Ran Away by Sheila O’Flanagan 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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Dusk on Good Friday.

It’s Easter Sunday today, and despite the Easter Bunny forgetting me, it’s been a beautiful day, a beautiful weekend after a week of thunder, lightning and heavy rain.

Currently I am reading Hummingbird Lane by Carolyn Brown. This is the second book that I have read by this author and she is definitely on my favourites list. Her characters are superb.

I am listening to A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo, #10 in the Kate Burkholder series.

This week I am planning on reading The Best of Friends by Alex Day.

Susannah is rebuilding her life…
Susannah has had a tough year. After a sticky divorce and losing the life she had grown accustomed to, moving to a small town in the south of England with her two sons is exactly the fresh start she needs.

Charlotte seems to have it all…
Charlotte is delighted when Susannah moves in. Charlotte may appear to have the perfect husband, the perfect family, the perfect house, but deep down she’s lonely, and she needs someone to confide in.

But one of them is not who they pretend to be…
The two women instantly become best friends. But underneath the surface, secrets, lies and betrayals are all hiding. And when the truth comes out, not everyone will live to tell the tale…

That is probably all I will get read this week as I am training my new staff member plus have a number of functions on including a lunch for our over 60s group, an engagement party and the speedshear. We have travelled up to our son in Hamilton each day this week to help get his new workshop ready to move into. He had been planning the move for this weekend but delays in the electrical cabling for the hoists has put him behind. I have spent the weekend sanding down and painting the offices, customer area, lunch room, bathrooms and library. One final coat tomorrow and at least that area will be ready. I could hardly move when I got out of bed this morning. I have found muscles that I’d forgotten I had!

I received 4 new Netgalley ARCs this week, all of them from Carla and Susan’s lists from last week.

A Road Trip to Remember by Judith Kleim. Isn’t that cover delicious! I could do with some time at the beach right now.

A Bucket List to Die For by Lorraine Fouchet

The Lost Girls of Ireland by Susanne O’Leary

And Little Boy Lost by Ruhi Choudhary.

I am going to leave you with this morning’s sunrise. If you look closely you will see the Easter Cross lit up between the trees on the skyline.

Happy Easter, and happy reading my friends.

A Weekend to Remember by Esther Campion

EXCERPT: ‘We could have gone to Bali!’ Aisling was on one of her moaning rolls as the two friends strode along Freers Beach under a milky blue sky that promised another hot day in Tasmania. ‘Why did I let Mick’s family decide how we’d spend our anniversary?’

Heather was already well versed in the circumstances that had led to the latest drama in the Fitzgerald’s lives, but Aisling went over it again just to blow off steam.

‘The indignity of it! Spending a week in the bogs of Ireland when we could be in some idyllic resort, drinking cocktails at one of those swim up bars.’ But as Aisling knew only too well, the gift from her in-laws, or outlaws as she liked to call them, was as much a present for Mick’s forthcoming fortieth as it was for their anniversary. If it had been left to her, there’d have been a big party. But no, Lilian Fitzgerald had other ideas. She’d give her son a holiday in West Cork and she’d have a few weeks with the grandchildren all to herself in Tasmania.

Aisling had all manner of fantastic ideas for surprise parties, but although loath to admit it, Mick would have hated that. So in the end, Lily Fitz got her way.

ABOUT ‘A WEEK TO REMEMBER’: Whether it was the lure of the rugged coastline or the comforting image of the house, he wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken a holiday. . .

With its brightly painted front door, white-sash windows and garden path sweeping down toward the sea, Lizzie O’s guesthouse promises a welcome escape from the world. Aisling and Mick Fitzgerald are travelling all the way from Tasmania to celebrate their wedding anniversary, but Aisling is burdened with a secret that could ruin their marriage. Declan Byrne, exhausted from an unhealthy routine of long hours, takeaway and too much red wine, has spontaneously taken the week off to visit the village of his childhood summers. Katie Daly returns to West Cork after an absence of 35 years to care for her ageing mother only to find she must confront her painful past. Finally, Mia Montgomery is taking this holiday without telling her husband.

Each of this group of strangers is at a crossroads. And one week in the middle of winter may change all of their lives.

MY THOUGHTS: A Week to Remember is a lovely, lovely read reminiscent of a Maeve Binchy. It was a delight to read this beautifully written story of a disparate group of people, all at a crossroads in their lives, thrown together in a guest house on the Irish coast. The subplot follows Lilian Fitzgerald as she looks after Mick and Aisling’s two children in Tasmania.

Campion writes with humour and feeling, and A Week to Remember enveloped me from the start. She describes both cultures and landscapes eloquently and accurately. I could smell the Aussie BBQ every bit as clearly as I could hear the lilting Irish voices.

There are a lot of issues dealt with in this gentle drama, both current and historic. There’s a marriage or two on the brink, burnout, infidelity, caring for an aging infirm parent, and in the past, abuse, rape, and the shunting off to a home for unwed mothers of a pregnant teenager. There are tragic pasts to overcome, and present problems to conquer.

I loved this book from start to finish and I will definitely be reading more from this author who blends the Australian and Irish essences seamlessly.

Don’t be put off by the twee cover. A Week to Remember is anything but.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

‘Life (is) far too unpredictable to miss an opportunity to eat icecream on a searing hot day with someone you love.’

#AWeekToRemember #NetGalley @hachetteaus @esther_campion_

#contemporaryfiction #australianfiction #irishfiction #domesticdrama #romance #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Esther Campion is from Cork, Ireland and currently lives in north-west Tasmania. She attended North Presentation Convent in Cork and has degrees from University College Cork and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Esther and her Orcadian husband have lived in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and South Australia. They have a grown-up daughter in Adelaide and the two youngest at home in Tassie with an over-indulged chocolate Labrador and two horses, which Esther firmly believes are living proof that dreams really can come true.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Week to Remember by Esther Campion 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Won’t take long this week! I apologise for missing posts this week. I had a busy 6 day week at work with three extra-long days in there and, unfortunately, this week looks like being more of the same.

I am currently reading A Caller’s Game by JD Barker, which I started last night. Diabolical and riveting!

I am also reading The Ex by Nicola Moriarty and, at this point, I am not entirely convinced that it is the ex who is the problem. Intriguing.

I am still listening to The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron, which is not as gritty as I would have liked.

I am probably only going to read one other book after A Caller’s Game this week. But as I have 4 more books scheduled as read for review this week, and they are all appealing, I have no idea which one it will be. I think that I will have to select by lucky dip. The contenders, which are all due for publication this week are:

A Week to Remember by Esther Campion

A converted stone farmhouse on the Irish coast is about to receive its first guests in this warmly captivating story for fans of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney

Whether it was the lure of the rugged coastline or the comforting image of the house, he wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken a holiday. . .

With its brightly painted front door, white-sash windows and garden path sweeping down toward the sea, Lizzie O’s guesthouse promises a welcome escape from the world. Aisling and Mick Fitzgerald are travelling all the way from Tasmania to celebrate their wedding anniversary, but Aisling is burdened with a secret that could ruin their marriage. Declan Byrne, exhausted from an unhealthy routine of long hours, takeaway and too much red wine, has spontaneously taken the week off to visit the village of his childhood summers. Katie Daly returns to West Cork after an absence of 35 years to care for her ageing mother only to find she must confront her painful past. Finally, Mia Montgomery is taking this holiday without telling her husband.

Each of this group of strangers is at a crossroads. And one week in the middle of winter may change all of their lives.

The Gorge by Matt Brolly

DI Louise Blackwell is still reeling from her brother Paul’s murder when she is brought back from enforced leave and tasked with solving a strange new case—the slaughter of wild sheep at Cheddar Gorge, a place shrouded in mystery and folklore.

When a man is brutally attacked with a machete on the clifftop and a young girl disappears, Louise realises that the horror is just beginning. Rumours of a mythical presence near the gorge are spreading fast, and why is a local environmental cult resisting all attempts to solve the case? With the investigation into Paul’s death about to be shelved and her bereaved niece to care for, Louise is under pressure—and running out of time. Can she find the girl and catch the kidnapper before her worst fears come true?

Drawn deeper into the dark and shocking truth behind the crimes, she soon finds she isn’t the only one with secrets to hide. 

One Perfect Grave (Nikki Hunt #2) by Stacy Green

She didn’t see the patch of black ice until it was too late. The car started to spin, and as it veered off into the deep ditch and the mounds of snow beside the road, she saw him. The little boy frozen in the ice.

When the remains of two bodies are found in an open grave along a desolate highway in Stillwater, Minnesota, Special Agent Nikki Hunt knows exactly who they are. The bright blue jacket lying on the frozen earth belongs to Kellan Rhodes, the missing boy she’s desperately been trying to find for the last two days. The other body is his mother Dana, who had been Nikki’s lead suspect.

Although the wounds on Dana’s body suggest she murdered her son and took her own life, Nikki finds evidence that suggests she was a victim too. Dana was desperately trying to regain custody of Kellan, and Nikki finds boot prints at the scene that belong to someone else.

When another child is reported missing, local journalist Caitlin Newport claims the cases are linked: Zach Reeves was taken away from his own mother in a custody battle, just like Kellan was.

Caitlin once helped Nikki find out the truth about her own parents’ murders, but her desire for a story nearly cost Nikki her life. Now, Nikki must decide if she can trust Caitlin again, before time runs out to find the killer and bring Zach home alive…

And The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

She has everything at stake; he has everything to lose. But one of them is lying, all the same.

When an Oxford student accuses one of the university’s professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley’s team think they’ve heard it all before. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department, and the student a six-foot male rugby player.

Soon DI Fawley and his team are up against the clock to figure out the truth. What they don’t realise is that someone is watching.

And they have a plan to put Fawley out of action for good…

So that’s the selection. Instead of a lucky dip, why don’t you pick my next read for me. Put your selection in the comments and whichever book has the most votes when I am ready to start my next read will be it.

I am going to have the same problem the following week….my New Year’s resolution this year was to schedule only 2 Netgalley reads each week so that I can catch up on my backlist and also read some books that I have been wanting to read for some time. The biggest problem is

Only 1 ARC this week (no time to go browsing!) Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay.

Have an awesome week my friends, and don’t forget to tell me what you want me to read next.

Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan

EXCERPT: Nancy (1868)
When I was a child, my mother often told me that we’d been a hundred generations on Clear Island, one branch or another of us, and on the day the last one of us left, the island would sink out of grief to the bottom of the sea. And at sixteen, as I sat in the prow of the Sullivan brothers’ boat, wanting more than anything to risk a backward glance, those words kept me afraid. For the entire crossing, my mother’s voice sang loud inside me and so truthful sounding that, had I turned my head, I felt sure I’d see the cliffs crumbling in on themselves and their blankets of gorse and heather flushing the stony grey water with shades of pink and gold. And worse still, that there’d be scatterings of my dead watching after me from the strand, thin-shouldered and forlorn, knowing I’d never return, that this was the end.

ABOUT ‘LIFE SENTENCES’: At just sixteen, Nancy leaves the small island of Cape Clear for the mainland, the only member of her family to survive the effects of the Great Famine. Finding work in a grand house on the edge of Cork City, she is irrepressibly drawn to the charismatic gardener Michael Egan, sparking a love affair and a devastating chain of events that continues to unfold over three generations. Spanning more than a century, Life Sentences is the unforgettable journey of a family hungry for redemption, and determined against all odds to be free.

MY THOUGHTS: The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan was one of my top five reads of 2018. So I looked forward to Life Sentences with great anticipation. It’s not that I didn’t like it, because I did. I didn’t love it.

There is a family tree at the beginning of the book which helps to make sense of it all. This is the author’s own family, and Billy is the ‘Bill, who’s seven now’ of the extract, son of Liam O’Callaghan and Gina Murphy.

The book (not the story, the book) begins in 1920 with Jer drowning his sorrows at the death of his sister, Mamie. We learn Jer’s story in the first third of the book, his service in WWI, his love for his wife and children, the poverty, the desperation.

The narrative then moves back in time to the 1800s, and we learn Nancy’s story. After the famine and the death of all her family, she leaves the island of Clear and moves to the mainland, where after living as an itinerant picking up seasonal farm work, she falls into a job in service. It is here she meets Michael Egan the man who will father her two children but will never be her husband.

Finally we get Nellie’s story, Jer’s daughter and Billy’s grandmother.

Quite why it was written in this format, I don’t know. It didn’t add to the appeal. For a while there I thought that somehow I had downloaded the wrong book. Although Life Sentences is a scant 250 pages, it is a long story. In the author’s notes, Billy O’Callaghan writes: ‘What’s here in Life Sentences is a skin of fiction laid over a considerable amount of fact and truth drawn from things I’d been told over the years.’

Although the writing is quite beautiful and lyrical in places, in others it just dully recounts events, some of them quite horrific, in the history of this family. It probably is heart-rending, all the more so because of the truth of it, but I was left unmoved, and I don’t know why.

⭐⭐⭐.4

#LifeSentences #NetGalley

‘When the night turns still, what keeps us awake, what haunts us, are the things we’ve done more so than the things we’ve had done to us.’

‘Hell might be the ceaseless repetition of who we are in our lowest moments, with our mistakes, the ones that have defined our lives, playing over and over…’

‘Nobody dies, not really, not when their same blood runs through ever younger bones.’

THE AUTHOR: Billy O’Callaghan is an Irish short fiction writer and author. He was born in Cork in 1974, and grew up in Douglas village, where he still resides.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Vintage via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan 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