Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I tried to take Luke to the library to borrow some books a couple of weeks ago, but he told me he wanted to keep the books forever, so we didn’t go. I had a book to return yesterday, so I took him with me and he brought 4 books home, and suddenly it’s a really good idea to borrow books then take them back and swap them for new ones. These were his selections:

Currently I am reading and loving Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham. I can see myself reading late into the night tonight despite having an early start tomorrow so that I can get done what I need to before going for my Covid vaccination.

I am also reading A Vineyard Crossing by Jean Stone, a new author for me. I have to admit it was the cover that first attracted me. I just wanted to plonk myself down on the sand and soak up the view. The Adirondack chair? Am I the only person earth who finds these uncomfortable? It probably has something to do with my short legs…. But however I came select this, I am enjoying this warm, gentle read.

I am not currently listening to an audiobook, but I have All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss ready to go.

Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing’s the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is curious and clever, but she can’t make sense of it all. Then Allie Bert Tucker comes to town, an outcast with a complicated past, and Lucy believes that together they can solve crimes. Just like her hero, Nancy Drew.

That chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery that takes them beyond the ordinary. Their quiet town, seasoned with honeybees and sweet tea, becomes home to a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—and more men go missing. The pair set out to answer the big question: do we ever really know who the enemy is?

This week I am planning on reading Stolen by Tess Stimson

You thought she was safe. You were wrong…

Alex knows her daughter would never wander off in a strange place. So when her three-year-old vanishes from an idyllic beach wedding, Alex immediately believes the worast.

The hunt for Lottie quickly becomes a world-wide search, but it’s not long before suspicion falls on her mother. Why wasn’t she watching Lottie?

Alex knows she’s not perfect, but she loves her child. And with all eyes on her, Alex fears they’ll never uncover the truth unless she takes matters into her own hands.

Who took Lottie Martini? And will she ever come home?

And The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

If you hear it, it’s too late. Can two sisters save us all?

In the shadow of Mount Hood, sixteen-year-old Tennant is checking rabbit traps with her eight-year-old sister Sophie when the girls are suddenly overcome by a strange vibration rising out of the forest, building in intensity until it sounds like a deafening crescendo of screams. From out of nowhere, their father sweeps them up and drops them through a trapdoor into a storm cellar. But the sound only gets worse .

I received 8 new ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️

Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh – I was excited by this as I have been requesting this author for some time, and this is my first approval.

The Sunshine Club by Carolyn Brown

Darkness Falls by David Mark

The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths

Plus Cause of Death by Jeffery Deaver. This is an excellent novella which I read last night. Watch for my review later this week.

The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker which I am reading this week

A Vineyard Crossing by Jean Stone, which I am currently reading

And the audiobook All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss, which I will start tomorrow.

I have travelled mainly in USA this week, Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Porto Rico; Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts; Martinsville County, also Massachusetts; with side trips to Porthteal,Cornwall; and Hendon, a suburb of London. Where have you travelled this week?

Have you read any of the books I have coming up, or are they on your TBR? Or have I tempted you to add them to your TBR?

Have a wonderful week. Stay safe and keep on reading!❤📚

A Mother’s Lie by Leah Mercer

EXCERPT: Ali reached into the bag and pulled out a tiny onesie in a soft, buttery yellow. Her heart shifted, and she met Meg’s eyes. Meg was watching her with a smile. ‘I know,’ she said quietly. ‘It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? That the baby inside of you now, will one day – soon! – be in your arms.’ She reached out to touch Ali’s arm. ‘You’ll be her mother, her whole world. You’ll do anything for her.’ She smiled. ‘It’s wonderful, really.’

Ali nodded again, a moment of understanding swirling around them. Meg was right. Ali would do anything to keep her baby safe, away from anyone who might harm her. Wasn’t that the very reason she’d come here? In the midst of this turmoil, her daughter was the most important thing. This pregnancy was special, and no one should ruin that – nothing should ruin that. If Ali focused solely on her baby, she didn’t have to let even one day be darkened by fear or uncertainty.

‘Thank you,’ she said, then turned and went into the night, clutching the yellow onesie like a guiding light.

ABOUT ‘A MOTHER’S LIE’: My darling child… all I’ve ever yearned for. But how do I keep you safe?

When Ali retreats to her seaside cottage, all she wants is to be alone. To reconnect with a place that has always felt like home until her baby is born.

But then her life collides with the people living in the house next door, Michael and Meg, and she is immediately welcomed into their perfect life with their beautiful baby Jem. As they help her prepare for her own arrival, Ali knows she has made the right choice for her baby in returning to Seashine Cottage.

When Michael leaves suddenly for a work trip, and Meg impulsively invites Ali to move in, it becomes clear things aren’t as perfect as they first seemed.

Meg is holding on to a dark secret. And as her behaviour becomes ever more erratic – leaning on Ali for increasing amounts of help – while Michael shows no signs of returning, Ali begins to worry.

Does she need to protect herself and her unborn child from the new friend she thought would help keep her safe? And what about her own devastating secret… the one she’s been running from?

This book was previously titled ‘Safe From Harm’.

MY THOUGHTS: It took me a week to read A Mother’s Lie by Leah Mercer. I found it difficult to relate to the characters of Ali and Meg, even after the revelations. Ali’s and Meg’s stories were dramatic, but almost soap-operaish.

The most interesting facet of this book for me was Violet’s story, which both intrigued me, and broke my heart. Violet seemed very real to me, more so than Meg or Ali.

The story is told over two timelines: in the present by Ali, and 2018 from Violet’s perspective, her past being recalled in memories.

I’m sorry I didn’t like A Mother’s Lie so much, particularly as I loved Leah Mercer’s last offering, Ten Little Words.

I don’t recommend reading this book if you are pregnant.

⭐⭐.7

#AMothersLie #NetGalley

I: @leahmercerauthor @bookouture

T: @LeahMercerBooks @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #domesticdrama #mentalhealth

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

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

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

Leah also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Mother’s Lie by Leah Mercer for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley

EXCERPT: I stared at the clock on the wall. It said one-thirty, but surely it wasn’t the afternoon already.

I sunk further into the sagging back of the chair. I felt small and sad and very sorry for myself. Things that had previously consoled or even gladdened me were no longer doing the trick. I felt out of kilter, like a crooked painting on the wall, or a cheese straw without paprika. A house with no windows. A dog with one ear. I could go on. I could go to the library and look up section 400-499 English Language to find the perfect metaphor, but would it actually fix anything? I glanced at the clock again. It was still one-thirty. Had the clock stopped? Who knew? All I did know was that I was frozen in time, shackled to my self-pity, my grief, my fears. I was like the ‘i’ in the middle of my name, trapped between other letters, unable to break free. I wanted to be alone, yet I was lonely. I wanted to stay home, yet I felt isolated. I wanted to be with my husband, but he was dead. Tears sprung forth as if I was chopping onions, and my heart flapped so vigorously that, had it been windy outside with no roof over the house, I may have taken off. I couldn’t bear the sight of the clock looming over me, reminding me of my fate, any longer.

With a surge of adrenalin and rage, I exploded from the armchair, my focus solely on pulling the wooden-framed clock with its black numbers and unmoving hands off the wall. I saw nothing else, not even Jack. I should have, because there he was, in the way. My foot clipped the underside of the suitcase and got stuck. I upended the wheels, lost my balance, and floundered. A flaying arm knocked the christmas tree, the suitcase handle right-jabbed my chin and I fell as if in slow motion, landing with a thud on the living room floor, two suitcase wheels and five christmas tree branches needling me in the back. My right ankle was at a wrong angle and my left wrist in pain. And it was still one-thirty.

ABOUT ‘GERALDINE VERNE’S RED SUITCASE’: Jack had two dying wishes: that his wife scatter his ashes somewhere ‘exotic’, and that she not give up on life once he was gone. He intended to spur her on to new adventures, but despite clinging to her red suitcase, Geraldine Verne hasn’t left the house for three months.

It takes an accident for Geri to accept help from her friends, but when Meals on Wheels arrive she is mortified. Yet heartbroken volunteer Lottie brings with her more than cottage pie and custard. Like Geri, she too is struggling to cut loose.

As a gloriously unlikely friendship blossoms, Geraldine begins to feel a long-lost spark of life and a newfound confidence. Perhaps what both women needed most, after all, was each other.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book. I loved Geraldine. I loved Lottie. I enjoyed every tear I shed as I was reading, and every laugh that escaped my lips. And there was plenty of both. I even loved the chapter titles: 306.7 Love; Apple Crumble Days; Toilet Paper; Whisky and Cake . . .

Divided into four parts, the story is told entirely from the perspective of Geri (Geraldine), mostly in a linear timeline with occasional flashbacks in the form of memories. It is a story of grief, the grief of a woman who has lost the love of her life after more than 50 years together. Geraldine describes their relationship as being like a pair of shoes, one left, one right. They were not the same but complemented one another, they worked well together. But now that she is only one shoe . . . well, you see her problem.

She thinks that if she just pretends he’s still there, and he is, then everything will be all right. She still makes him cups of tea, puts out biscuits for him, dances with him. And if she can shut out the world that is going to remind her that he’s not there, all the better. But the world has other plans for Geri, as did ‘Jackie-Boy’.

Geri is one stubborn lady. I have to admit to seeing more than a little of myself in her. I loved her kind heart, her sense of humor. I loved her devotion to Jack. I loved Jack.

Even the supporting characters are ‘characters’. I am sure that we all know a Len, a Crystal and a Sue.

The first part of this book is sad. I cried a lot, and laughed a little. The second part I laughed a lot and cried a little. Parts three and four are mostly humorous, heartwarming and just occasionally sad.

This is the second book by this author, but the first that I have read. I will be seeking out her first.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#GeraldineVernesRedSuitcase #NetGalley

I: #JaneRiley #AmazonPublishingUK

T: @JaneRileyAuthor

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Hi, I’m Jane Riley!

I was born and raised in New Zealand. After graduating from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in French and English literature, I headed to Europe to practise my French, got waylaid in Germany and ended up in Australia.

I have had a varied career in public relations, publishing, freelancing as a writer and editor, and launching an online e-commerce business, which involved writing a design blog interviewing makers and creators. When The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock was published, I achieved my dream of becoming a full-time author.

I live in Sydney with my husband, an energetic but scared-of-heights Australian cattle dog-staffy cross, and two daughters old enough to not be living at home anymore. I volunteer as an English language tutor for the Adult Migrant English Program, am learning the piano and teaching myself Italian.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK for providing a digital ARC of Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley 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 Vacation by John Marrs

EXCERPT: ‘So you are never curious how Joe’s life became such a waste?’
‘Who are you to judge him? Just because he hasn’t got what you have doesn’t mean he’s wasted it.’
‘He’s got no money, no home, no family . . . Nobody deserves that.’
‘But a man can live without all those things. And you have more in common with him than you think.’
‘Please enlighten me, oh divine oracle.’
‘Neither of you has any freedom.’
‘Well that’s crap. I may not have much money but I’m not a slave to my next fix.’
But you’re not free from the limits you set yourself either. You’re one of the most uptight, frightened little shits I’ve ever met. You went travelling to escape something – that’s clear – then you separate from your friend and you end up here where you hide in the margins, never in the middle of the page. You’re too scared to embrace freedom . . . you’re like a fish in a bowl looking out towards the ocean but too gutless to make the jump.’

ABOUT ‘THE VACATION’: How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

MY THOUGHTS: I never did the backpacker experience when I left school. It wasn’t much done back then, so I enjoyed this experience. I like stories where a disparate group of people are thrown together. I enjoy the dynamics of them all getting to know one another.

In The Vacation we are introduced to eight characters who are staying at the same hostel in Venice Beach. Their stories move between the current time and the past, as the reasons behind their travels are slowly revealed. It is all a bit disjointed in the beginning, and it doesn’t really come together cohesively until two thirds of the way through the book when things begin to get really interesting. So be patient.

The characters, although all running from their pasts for various reasons, are all very different and easily distinguishable. It really is no mean feat to be able to tie together this number of threads without it becoming confusing, but John Marrs succeeds admirably.

There were a few things that initially puzzled me, but the author ties everything up before the ending. There are plenty of twists and turns, especially in one of the threads. Every time I thought I had that storyline figured out, Marr would double back on himself and disrupt my theories.

While The Vacation is not the best book I have read by this author, it is entertaining and enjoyable.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheVacation #NetGalley

I: @johnmarrs.author @panmacmillan

T: @johnmarrs1 @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery

‘…trying to second-guess a crystal meth addict was as pointless as giving a dog a Rubik’s cube.’

THE AUTHOR: After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, John Marrs is now a full-time writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Vacation by John Marrs 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 Goodreads.com

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

EXCERPT: A long gallery stretches before her, running the length of the house. The gallery has no windows. The air is cool, controlled to a fraction of a degree. Display cases and framed photographs line the walls, each lit by a single low spotlight. This is his collection; the museum, he calls it. She has heard of it. It is well known, if your interests lie in that direction. The man obtains things that most people can’t. Things that no one should see. He collects artifacts of death. Photographs, vials of blood stolen from evidence, letters in spiky Victorian copperplate, pieces of the unclaimed dead, the pieces the killer did not have time to eat before he was caught.

ABOUT ‘THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET’: This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…

MY THOUGHTS: The Last House on Needless Street is one of, if not THE strangest book I have ever read, and loved.

It is told from three points of view: Ted, overweight, a recluse with a disabled daughter, who has episodes where he loses time; Olivia, the cat he rescued as a kitten and who is never allowed outdoors; and Dee, whose little sister Lulu (Little Girl with Popsicle) disappeared at the lake eleven years ago, and who has a pathological fear of snakes. Or, maybe it’s not.

The Last House on Needless Street is weirdly compelling. Twelve hours after finishing it (another one sitting read!) I am still unsure what I read. I am buzzing. It is mind-bending. Unsettling. Almost alive. It twisted and slithered and changed shape as I read. A hall of mirrors with an uneven floor, one that suddenly drops away into a void, one that moves as you walk.

Alice in Wonderland for adults with darker tastes.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheLastHouseonNeedlessStreet #NetGalley

I: @catward66 @serpentstail @viperbooks

T: @Catrionaward @serpentstail @ViperBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #horror #mentalhealth #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Serpent’s Tail, Viper Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward 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

Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colasanti

EXCERPT: Herb says Myra has drowned herself with Charlotte, where the beach is rocky and the tide tinged gray-yellow, its crest effervescent.

At the inn, wind batters the wooden shingles like the ocean thrumming the shore at high tide. The squall sends sand whipping through the air. The pier empties of people, except for the lone fishermen who wear rubber boots and heavy yellow raincoats, casting their lines in turbid water.

Myra and Herb are ensconced in the inn, wrapped in sweaters and crocheted afghan blankets. Occasional guests trickle in, but not often. People visit the Oregon coast in summer.

Myra doesn’t take vacations during the off-season, no matter how many empty winters pass. Charlotte knows her mother is waiting. She lived for the scent of the ocean, for the lacquer of salt on her skin. The crabs hidden under mounds of sand and the starfish in the tide pools enchanted Myra’s youngest child. Myra supposes this is why Charlotte was so attracted to the mystery of the deep dark sea. The waves sweep away an entire pool of living things, but with the next tide, they begin again.

And so, Myra is not particularly surprised when her dead daughter walks in the door.

ABOUT ‘CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK’: Twenty years ago, Myra Barkley’s daughter disappeared from the rocky beach across from the family inn, off the Oregon coast. Ever since, Myra has waited at the front desk for her child to come home. One rainy afternoon, the miracle happens–her missing daughter, now twenty-eight years old with a child of her own, walks in the door.

Elizabeth Lark is on the run with her son. She’s just killed her abusive husband and needs a place to hide. Against her better judgment, she heads to her hometown and stops at the Barkley Inn. When the innkeeper insists that Elizabeth is her long lost daughter, the opportunity for a new life, and more importantly, the safety of her child, is too much for Elizabeth to pass up. But she knows that she isn’t the Barkleys’s daughter, and the more deeply intertwined she becomes with the family, the harder it becomes to confess the truth.

Except the Barkley girl didn’t just disappear on her own. As the news spreads across the small town that the Barkley girl has returned, Elizabeth suddenly comes into the limelight in a dangerous way, and the culprit behind the disappearance those twenty years ago is back to finish the job.

MY THOUGHTS: Don’t go into Call Me Elizabeth Lark expecting a thriller. Yes, there is gunfire and a car chase. But this is not a thriller. A character driven mystery is, to my mind, a more apt description.

Myra has bi-polar. She is a mother who has become untethered by grief and, although she has two other children, her life centres around the missing, presumed dead (by everyone but Myra) Charlotte. Several times in the past she has believed that she has found Charlotte, only to be disappointed. But this time…

Gwen is Charlotte’s older sister. She was ‘looking after’ Charlotte when she disappeared. She believes her mother blames her for Charlotte’s disappearance, and mother and daughter don’t seem to connect at all. She overcompensates by being the ‘perfect mother’ to her daughters, and she is rigidly in control of her life as if that will make up for her mother’s flakiness. Jimi, the youngest, and only son, never knew Charlotte. He was born after she disappeared, but he has lived his life in her shadow.

Into their lives arrives Elizabeth and her five year old son Theo.

There are a lot of things I liked about Call Me Elizabeth Lark. The first is the cover, which is absolutely beautiful, but has nothing whatsoever to do with the story. I love the way Elizabeth is torn between wanting to give her son a wonderful home with the Barkley family, and not wanting to cause them any more pain than they have already endured. Similarly I love the way the author has depicted motherhood, the pressures to do it better than anyone else, the uncertainties, the doubts, the insecurities. I also love the way she has portrayed the intricacies of marriage, the give and take, the compromises, the flare-ups, the betrayals, the forgiveness, the stand-offs.

The mystery carried me along beautifully until almost the end of the book, when everything became overly dramatic and, dare I say it? – faintly ridiculous. The ‘white room’ in which several of the characters are held, the confrontation when he could have just ‘disappeared’ his captives, and the gunfight at the Okay Corral. All a bit OTT and unnecessary.

Yes, it does get a bit messy in places, but mostly I liked this read. The author has a great talent for getting to the essence of her characters. I will definitely be putting my name down to read whatever she comes up with next.

Also available as an audiobook.

⭐⭐⭐.5

‘Life is messy. Decisions are complicated. And dammit, you can’t change the past.’

#CallMeElizabethLark #NetGalley #melissacolasanti #crookedlanebooks

@mmcolasanti @crookedlanebks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mentalhealth #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Melissa Colasanti is a mother and an author. She has a BFA in fiction from Boise State University. Her writing has appeared in Lithub, Memoir Magazine, The Coffin Bell Journal and others. She is the Stephen R. Kustra scholar in creative writing for 2019, and was awarded the Glenn Balch Award for fiction in 2020. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colasanti 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

An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse

EXCERPT: . . . the memory of her lover’s palm running over her back beneath the winter sunshine on a stolen afternoon, as they lay close together on a tartan blanket among the ruins of war was, even now, enough to make her weep like the willow beneath which they had sought shelter. His face, captured in her mind like a picture, a particular smile, lips closed, one side of his mouth raised more than the other, his hair flopping forward, his eyes mid-laugh…It had always been him.

And now, here she was. Lying alone on a trolley in a corridor, unable to imagine whatever might come next, able to think only about what had gone before: each step, each breath and each day that had led up to that point in time. Her body quite useless now, but oh! The miraculous thing it had done: bearing a child, a boy! A beautiful son . . .

She cursed her inability to finish the note she had started, wishing nothing more than to place it in the hand of the boy who had shaped her whole life. She needed to tell him of her history. Her story, her ordinary life, and thus his story, the full truth he’d never known but that she’d promised, finally, to tell him. The truth that now he might never know.

ABOUT ‘AN ORDINARY LIFE’: Christmas Eve, 2019. Ninety-four-year-old Molly lies in her hospital bed. A stroke and a fall may have broken her body—but her mind is alive with memories.

London, 1940s. Molly is a bright young woman, determined to help the war effort and keep her head up despite it all. Life becomes brighter when she meets and falls in love with a man who makes her forget everything with one dance. But then war forces her to make an unforgettable sacrifice, and when she’s brought to her knees by a daring undercover mission with the French Resistance, only her sister knows the secret weighing heavily on Molly’s heart.

Now, lying in her hospital bed, Molly can’t escape the memories of what she lost all those years ago. But she is not as alone as she thinks.

Will she be able to find peace—and finally understand that what seemed to be an ordinary life was anything but?

MY THOUGHTS: This is a steady-paced but extremely emotional family drama that had me in tears several times during the read. Amanda Prowse is very adept at that.

I adored and admired Molly. She was an extremely strong and courageous woman, but that strength was also her undoing. No matter what befell her, she picked herself up and kept going, until she could go no further.

I didn’t think that I would enjoy An Ordinary Life when I first began it. It felt like it was going to be a ‘soppy romance.’ But I should have known better. Amanda Prowse has never let me down yet, and she certainly didn’t this time either. A few twists, and the book went off in an entirely different and unexpected direction.

I enjoyed An Ordinary Life. Molly wormed her way into my heart as I celebrated her successes, cried with her at her heartbreak, held my breath when she was in danger, and took pleasure in her joy.

An Ordinary Life is proof that Prowse can turn her hand to any genre, successfully. Every book she writes is different, yet every book stirs my emotions.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#AnOrdinaryLife #NetGalley @MrsAmandaProwse

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #romance #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK, Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse 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

House of Correction by Nicci French

EXCERPT: … now the person who had abused her was dead. Mr Rees the maths teacher. Stuart Rees her neighbour. The pillar of his little community. His body in her shed, his car parked outside, his blood all over her.

She bit her lip so hard that she tasted iron in her mouth. She put her hands over her eyes to make the darkness darker. She couldn’t remember that day, or only a few snatches. It had been a day of wild weather and of a crouching fear. The kind of day that she had to crawl blindly through, just to get to the end.

What had happened? Why had he come to her house and why had he died and what had she been doing?

Her solicitor believed she had murdered him. What did she, Tabitha Hardy, believe? She didn’t know. She didn’t know, and not knowing tipped dread through her like poison.

She didn’t know what to do. She had no idea. She had no one to turn to and the night went on and on and on and when morning came she still didn’t know.

ABOUT ‘HOUSE OF CORRECTION’: ‘So,’ said Mora Piozzi, her lawyer, looking down at her laptop. ‘In brief: you are charged with the murder of Stuart Robert Rees, on December 21st, between the hours of ten-forty in the morning and half-past three o’clock in the afternoon.’

Tabitha is accused of murder. She is in prison awaiting trial.
There is a strong case against her, and she can’t remember what happened on December 21st.

She is alone, frightened and confused.

But somehow, from the confines of her cell, she needs to prove everyone wrong.

MY THOUGHTS: Tabitha is a difficult character to like. She is depressed, angry – sometimes to the point of violence – and quite hostile towards the people in her village. She doesn’t have friends. But then she has been through a lot – seduced/raped at the age of fifteen by the man she is accused of murdering, she never told anyone at the time. She has had spells in psychiatric hospitals. She is medicated. She struggles to live any semblance of a ‘normal’ life.

All the evidence seems to point to her, even the CCTV footage. Tabitha at times doubts her own innocence. She doesn’t think she did it, killed Stuart, doesn’t think she is capable of it, but can’t be certain…

Nicci French has written a ‘locked room’ mystery set in a small coastal English village. There is only one road in and out which, on the day of the murder, was blocked by a fallen tree. So we have a limited pool of suspects, none of whom, other than Tabitha, appear to be in the right place at the right time.

I became absorbed by her case. She has fired her brief, who believes her to be guilty, and elects to defend herself against all advice. Her defence is haphazard and stumbling. She constantly erupts in the courtroom, doing herself no favours. She has the feeling that she is missing something, something important that dances around the periphery of her mind but that she can’t quite grasp…

There are plenty of twists in this story, none of which I saw coming. At the beginning, I wasn’t entirely convinced that Tabitha hadn’t murdered Stuart, yet I was busy trying to work out who else could have killed him right through to the end. Believe me, I suspected almost everyone in the village at some point.

House of Correction is a read that will set your ‘little grey cells’ humming. While I can’t say that I liked Tabitha by the end, I had certainly grown to admire her.

An interesting and absorbing read with a cast of interesting characters. Definitely recommended.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#HouseofCorrection #NetGalley @niccifrenchauthor
#contemporaryfiction #crime #legalthriller #mentalhealth #murdermystery #psychologicalthriller

THE AUTHOR: Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard (born 10 June 1958) and Sean French (born 28 May 1959), who write psychological thrillers together.

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Simon and Schuster via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of House of Correction by Nicci French 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 WOMAN IN THE WINDOW BY A.J. FINN

EXCERPT: With a tumbler in one hand and the Nikon in the other, I settle down in the corner of my study, cupped between the south and west windows, and survey the neighbourhood – inventory check, Ed likes to say. There’s Rita Miller, returning from yoga, bright with sweat, a cell phone stuck to one ear. I adjust the lens and zoom in: she’s smiling. I wonder if it’s her contractor on the other end. Or her husband. Or neither.

Next door, outside 214, Mrs Wasserman and her Henry pick their way down the front steps. Off to spread sweetness and light.

I swing my camera west: two pedestrians loiter outside the double-wide, one of them pointing at the shutters. ‘Good bones,’ I imagine him saying.

God. I’m inventing conversations now.

Cautiously, as though I don’t want to be caught – and indeed I don’t – I slide my sights across the park, over to the Russells’. The kitchen is dim and vacant, its blinds partly down, like half-shut eyes; but one floor up, in the parlour, captured neatly within the window, I spot Jane and Ethan on a candy-striped loveseat. She wears a butter yellow sweater that exposes a terse slit of cleavage; her locket dangles there, a mountaineer above a gorge.

I twist the lens; the image sharpens. She’s speaking quickly, teeth bared in a grin, her hands in a flurry. His eyes are on his lap,but that shy smile skews his lips.

I haven’t mentioned the Russells to Dr Fielding. I know what he’ll say; I can analyse myself: I’ve located in this nuclear unit – this mother, this father, their only child – an echo of my own. One house away, one door down, there’s the family I had, the life that was mine – a life thought lost, irretrievably, except there it is, right across the park. ‘So what?’ I think. Maybe I say it; these days I’m not sure. I sip my wine, wipe my lip, raise the Nikon again. Look through the lens.

She’s looking back at me.

I drop the camera in my lap.

No mistake: even with my naked eye, I can clearly see her level gaze, her parted lips.

She raises a hand, waves it.

I want to hide.

ABOUT ‘THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW’: Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

MY THOUGHTS: The Woman in the Window is everything a psychological thriller should be. It is gripping. It is unpredictable. Amazing. Riveting. Twisty. Compelling. Dark. Exciting. Creepy. This is my new benchmark for psychological thrillers. Every one I read from now on will be measured against The Woman in the Window.

I danced around the room more than once because I was just so excited at how good this book is. I found myself holding my breath, more than once. The writing is so good that I felt like I was in that house with Anna, her shadow, watching her as she watched everyone else. I loved the characters, every damned one of them. And the ending is brilliant!

If you haven’t read this yet, and I am only three years and twenty odd days behind the eight ball with this, read it. It lives up to all the hype. In fact, it far exceeded all my expectations.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (I need more stars!)

THE AUTHOR: A.J. Finn, pseudonym for Daniel Mallory, has written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement (UK). A native of New York, Finn lived in England for ten years as a book editor before returning to New York City.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, published by Harper Collins. This is the second book I have read this year that is going on my ‘keep forever/save from fire’ shelf. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh

Published 19 January 2021

EXCERPT: ‘So here I am,’ Tasha says. ‘Back in the real world.’

‘How does it feel,’ Milt asks.

‘The truth?’

Milt nods.

‘Terrifying,’ she says.

ABOUT ‘WEEKEND PASS’: Who can forgive a mother who poisons her eight-year-old son? Even if it was an accident.

Tasha thought she had everything under control – her family life, her career as a nurse – until her son got into her stash of painkillers. Now, during her first weekend home from drug treatment, she must come to grips with the damage she’s done and somehow pick up the pieces. Told from the points of view of four different family members, Weekend Pass is a story about the lies we tell ourselves and the people we love. And it’s about struggling to rise above the mistakes that threaten to define us.

MY THOUGHTS: The excerpt I have quoted from Weekend Pass comes from the end of the first chapter. Milt, Tasha’s father, has collected her from the treatment centre for her first weekend pass since being admitted. I have worked with alcohol and drug addicts during my psychiatric nursing career, and this was a common emotion; the fear that being back in the same place with the same triggers will lead to a relapse. It is a perfectly justified fear. I thought I was in for an emotional roller coaster of a read.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that this author’s style of writing gets the full potential from this story. At the half way point I made this comment: ‘Meh. I hope this improves soon. I am not enjoying being ‘told’ what is happening. I feel quite removed from the characters, and not really interested in them with the exception of Jake. Really only reading on to see what happens to him. Have started skimming as this is failing to hold my attention.’

There was plenty of potential here to play with. There are complex family relationships dealing with death, addiction, betrayal, guilt, denial, abandonment issues, and infidelity. There is drama when Jake goes missing (that piqued my interest and earned an extra half star). Yet the majority of the story is narrated in a plodding manner that left me bored and restless.

I admire what the author was trying to do. It didn’t work for me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to work for you. Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from The Ocean House, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Many other people have read and enjoyed Weekend Pass and rated it higher than I have. Please also check out their reviews.

I do love the cover.

⭐⭐.5

#WeekendPass #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Paul Cavanagh burst onto the international literary scene when he was crowned the world’s first Lit Idol at the London International Book Fair in the UK. The novel that won him the title, After Helen, was published by HarperCollinsCanada to glowing reviews. His deft touch for creating compelling characters comes in no small part from working for some 30 years in health care. He developed his literary talents at the Humber School for Writers and Western University. He currently lives in London, Ontario, Canada. (Goodreads.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Not That London Writer, IBPA, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh 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