Watching What I’m Reading

I can’t believe it is 5 days since I last posted. I have had a bout of bronchopnuemonia and it knocked the stuffing out of me. All I have done is sleep…I tried reading but would fall asleep again and then, when I woke, was unable to remember what I had read.

So I have read very little in the past few days, and requested nothing… though a couple of my pending requests were approved. Hopefully as I continue to improve so will my powers of concentration. I have to admit to struggling with writing this. My brain really doesn’t want to function. I tried and failed yesterday, which is why this is a day late.

Currently I am reading an Australian novel, Tiny White Lies by Fiona Palmer. It is set initially in Perth, Western Australia, then moves to the southwest coast somewhere in the region of Albany. I am enjoying this domestic drama/romance set in a slightly warmer climate than my own.

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I am listening to Sadie by Courtney Summers, but like reading at the moment, I keep having to rewind and listen again. This is no reflection on the quality of the book or the narration, purely the fault of my cotton wool brain!

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This week I am planning on reading The Bad Sister by Kevin O’Brien

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TOO CLOSE
The site of the old campus bungalow where two girls were brutally slain is now a flower patch covered with chrysanthemums. It’s been fifty years since the Immaculate Conception Murders. Three more students and a teacher were killed in a sickening spree that many have forgotten. But there is one person who knows every twisted detail. . . .

TO SEE
Hannah O’Rourke and her volatile half-sister, Eden, have little in common except a parent. Yet they’ve ended up at the same small college outside Chicago, sharing a bungalow with another girl. Hannah isn’t thrilled—nor can she shake the feeling that she’s being watched. And her journalism professor, Ellie Goodwin, keeps delving into Hannah and Eden’s newsworthy past. . . .

THE DANGER
When Hannah and Eden’s arrival coincides with a spate of mysterious deaths, Ellie knows it’s more than a fluke. A copycat is recreating those long-ago murders. Neither the police nor the school will accept the horrific truth. And the more Ellie discovers, the more she’s convinced that she won’t live to be believed. . . .

This week I have received two new ARCs, again more by circumstance than good management.

Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas

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and, Ransomed by M.A. Hunter, for which I was sent a widget.

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Have a wonderful week all. I will post when I can, but right now I am snuggling back down for another nap.

Secrets of a Serial Killer by Rosie Walker

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EXCERPT: (She) remembers the woman’s words, hours ago in the caravan:’He doesn’t work alone. He likes to share.’

She knows why he hasn’t raped her, like she initially feared. As if that was the worst thing that can happen. She knows better than that, now.

And why he took her to the caravan and left her there, like it was a waiting room. Because it was a waiting room: waiting for something far, far worse than she could imagine. Something was there, all along, lingering on the other side of a flimsy partition wall in that caravan, listening to her wail and struggle and cry. She knows why that man only taped her eyelids, and did not slice them.

The real threat is standing next to her in the darkness, digging the burning end of a cigarette into her ribs.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: There it is: fear. It’s crawling all over her face and in her eyes, like a swarm of insects, and it’s all because of him.

A serial killer has been terrorising Lancaster for decades, longer than should ever have been possible. The police are baffled, eluded at every turn by the killer whose victims span generations. Speculation is rife among the true crime forums; is someone passing on their gruesome trade?

Every local mother’s worst nightmare has become Helen Summerton’s reality; he’s taken her daughter, Zoe. As the clock runs down so do her chances of survival. Can Helen unearth the secrets of the killer before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS:

Serial Killer – urban legend or reality?

Creepy old lunatic asylum

Missing teenager

Two kids egging each other on to explore

All the ingredients for a great creepy thriller. And it was, in parts. The beginning. And the end. But in the middle, it lost impetus.

There are probably too many threads to this story.

The serial killer who adopts other people’s identities is an excellent premise. But we only got a superficial look at this.

There’s a journalist, certain that a, or more than one, serial killer has been operating in the area for years. The police say her theory is not credible, even though there are striking resemblances between the missing girls, who the police have classified as runaways, despite the fact that they have never been seen again, and nor have their bank accounts been touched. Again, this storyline isn’t fully explored.

I didn’t think that the dark web inserts added anything to the story.

Gripes: I have never been in a caravan where the door opened inwards.

Tony, father of the abducted Zoe, had been a policeman who worked on the Mr X serial killer case which was never solved. So why would the police be denying the existence of a serial killer?

And why was he delaying reporting Zoe’s disappearance?

The knife – it’s not a pocket knife. Driving it through someone’s eye is going to put it into the brain. Is someone going to be able to escape after that?

Secrets of a Serial Killer (for the record, I don’t like the title) is a debut novel, a good one, but not a great one. I can see the potential, and with a good edit, it could be greatly improved.

Note to the author: less is often more. Don’t overcomplicate the storyline.

Will I try this author again? Probably.

🤔🤨🤷‍♀️

THE AUTHOR: Rosie Walker is a novelist who lives in Edinburgh with her husband Kevin and their dog Bella. ‘Secrets of a Serial Killer’ is her debut novel, “an edge-of-your-seat serial killer thriller that you won’t be able to put down”.

Rosie has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree from Lancaster University.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, for providing a digital ARC of Secrets of a Serial Killer by Rosie Walker 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

Playdate by Alex Dahl

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EXCERPT: My mind churns with the possibilities this scenario suggests. Someone watching us – for years perhaps. Planning. Someone studying every detail of my family’s routine. Waiting. Someone who hates us. Me. Someone who would do anything, absolutely anything, to get revenge. Someone who knew that when the day came, there would be absolutely nothing I could do to stop them.

I feel the past stirring in me, as if time were running on a loop and I will now be forced to go back there. There are things that if I said them would cost me everything I have left. Fredrik, Lyder, this home, my job, perhaps even my life. Any chance of getting Lucia back. But could it be, if Lucia was taken for revenge, that speaking up could prove to be the only way to find her? And we have to find her. I have always said I would give up anything, even my own life, to find my child. But would I? Would I really?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, Lucia’s mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight.

That was the last time she saw her daughter.

The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.

In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation. Who has taken their daughter, and why?

MY THOUGHTS: A novel idea, well executed, Playdate had me on the edge of my seat for the majority of the read. As with Dahl’s first book, The Boy at the Door, Playdate is an unsettling read. The characters are mercurial, the reader’s perception of them constantly being challenged and changing.

It is impossible to know who, if anyone, is telling the truth. Fragments of the truth, yes, but definitely not the whole truth. And as little truths were revealed, my sympathies shifted from one character to another to another. But by the end, the only people I felt any sympathy for were the two little girls, Lucia and Josie, and Selma’s father.

The story is narrated from five points of view – Elisa, Lucia’s mother; Lucia herself; the kidnapper; a prisoner; and Selma, a journalist who has her own unique way of unearthing stories and the truth. The role of the prisoner intrigued me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Selma was far cleverer than I.

Alex Dahl has written a taut and suspenseful psychological thriller that kept me slightly off balance for most of the read. But the epilogue…did we need it? Or is there more to come?

😲😲😲😲.2

#Playdate #NetGalley

We are all more than the sum total of what we show others, even our spouses and children. There are vast unseen spaces inside us that could be filled with anything at all…

The sun is always shining, whether (we can) see it or not.

THE AUTHOR: Half-American, half-Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. She is a serious Francophile and currently lives in both London and Sandefjord.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Head of Zeus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Playdate by Alex Dahl for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Ten Little Words by Leah Mercer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

😊😊😊.7

#TenLittleWords #NetGalley

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

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

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

Leah also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland.

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

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

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

The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse

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EXCERPT: The woman shook her head. ‘No, your name isn’t Victoria.’

‘Okaaay,’ Victoria raised her eyebrows, thinking she would get this conversation over as quickly as possible and make her way back into the house. Even the maudlin, quiet gathering of the pensioner bees was better than this. ‘What is it then?’ she challenged, intrigued. ‘What’s my name?’

‘Victory.’ She smiled. ‘Your name is Victory.’

The woman searched her face and Victoria saw a brief reflection of something so familiar it made her heart jump.

‘Victory?’ She bit her lip. ‘Is that right?’

‘Yes. A strong name, a name that I thought would see you through anything.’

Victoria took a step backwards.

Her heart beat loudly in her ears and her stomach flipped with nausea. Whatever this was, whatever joke, prank or deception, she was not enjoying it and wanted to be anywhere else. It was as if her feet had grown roots in the mud and, as much as she wanted to run, she felt stuck.

‘I don’t know why you would say that to me. Who are you? Who did you come with? Because I will see if they are ready to leave.’ Still she was torn between wanting to throw the woman out and being polite: it was a funeral, after all. She was aware she had raised her voice slightly.

‘Who am I?’ The woman’s tone suggested the question almost pained her.

‘Yes, who are you?’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When her loving, free-spirited grandmother Primrose passes away, Victoria is bereft, yet resilient—she has survived tragedy before. But even her strength is tested when a mysterious woman attends Prim’s funeral and claims to be the mother Victoria thought was dead.

As the two women get to know each other and Victoria begins to learn more about her past, it becomes clear that her beloved grandmother had been keeping life-changing secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she still struggles to trust anyone to tell her the truth.

To live a full and happy life, Victoria knows she must not only uncover the truth, but find a way to forgive her family. But after so many years, is trusting them even possible?

MY THOUGHTS: Another ‘I couldn’t put it down’ read from Amanda Prowse.

I read The Day She Came Back overnight, a box of tissues handy for the second half. I cried tears of sadness, sympathy, and joy. Prowse does human emotion so eloquently, so realistically, that the reader is transported into the book alongside the beautifully crafted characters. She understands grief, and anger, and how, when someone is hurting, they lash out at the ones who love them. Which is exactly what Victoria does. Her world is turned upside down, and she is angry with everyone whose life is unaffected. She is eighteen years old, alone, vulnerable, and ripe for the picking. With the whole foundation of her life ripped out from beneath her, Victoria reacts, and reacts badly. Some version of her story is played out multiple times every day all around the world. I wanted to reach out and hug her, she became that real to me. I also, at various times, wanted to ground her, slap her, and give her a reality check or two. Very realistic characters. All of them.

The Day She Came Back is a beautifully poignant story of a young woman finding her place in the world. There is nothing predictable about Prowse’s writing. When I was expecting the storyline to go in one direction, she took it in another. The plot is as superbly crafted as the characters.

Five very tear-stained but smiling stars.

😪😍❤😪😍

#TheDaySheCameBack #NetGalley

‘I used to sit there in a warm spot like a sun-puddling cat and read.’

‘I love to see people in love. I think it is one of the most hopeful sights known to man. I think that as long as people love one another, then there is hope.’

ABOUT 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 via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Day She Came Back 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

Watching What I’m Reading…

It’s easy to tell when I am having a bad week…I request/buy/borrow books to make myself feel better. And I have had a bad week this week; a combination of work, one son in hospital with blood poisoning, and the dismal weather have drained me, resulting in 9 new ARCs this week! Susan and Carla can stop laughing right now, I’m sure they were responsible for some of my requests.

I am about to start Dead Wicked by Helen H. Durrant, a series that I have been enjoying.

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And I am a little over half way through All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White.

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This week I am planning on reading One in Three by Tess Stimson of which Jayme of theblondelikesbooks.wordpress.com says ‘That. Was. Fun’

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Both of them loved him. One of them killed him . . .

Louise has had to watch her husband, Andrew, start a new family in the four years since he left her. The ‘other woman’ is now his wife – but Louise isn’t ready to let Caz enjoy the life that was once hers, or to let go of the man she still loves.

As Louise starts to dig into Caz’s past, the two women’s pretence of civility starts to slip. But in trying to undermine each other, they discover more about the man they both married.

And when Andrew is murdered at a family party, both women are found standing over the body.

And when Andrew is murdered during the anniversary celebrations, both women are found standing over the body.
It’s always the wife. But which one?

I also plan on reading The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse

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When her loving, free-spirited grandmother Primrose passes away, Victoria is bereft, yet resilient—she has survived tragedy before. But even her strength is tested when a mysterious woman attends Prim’s funeral and claims to be the mother Victoria thought was dead.

As the two women get to know each other and Victoria begins to learn more about her past, it becomes clear that her beloved grandmother had been keeping life-changing secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she still struggles to trust anyone to tell her the truth.

To live a full and happy life, Victoria knows she must not only uncover the truth, but find a way to forgive her family. But after so many years, is trusting them even possible?

And now (drumroll please!) my ARCs…..

Out of Her Mind by T.R. Reagan

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One In Three by Tess Stimson, and yes I know that I wasn’t going to request any more books due for publication in July or August, but I love this author…

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The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley

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What’s Not Said by Valerie Taylor

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The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

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A Pretty Deceit (Verity Kent #4) by Anna Lee Huber

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Come When I Call You by Shayna Krishnasamy

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The Ocean House by Mary Beth Hughes

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and finally, The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane

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There’s a lot of variety there, so I hope that you have found something to tempt your bookish taste buds.

Cheers
Sandy
❤😍📚☕🍪

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

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EXCERPT: When Rory died, Jessie’s one consolation was that she’d never again have to live through something as bad. Her Dad’s passing was painful. Her mother’s was worse. The wound of having been cut out of the Kinsella inner circle had taken a while to heal. Giving up on having a sixth child had, for a patch, been oddly unbearable. But nothing had ever come close to the visceral punch of Rory ceasing to exist.

Over the years, whenever a big drama had blown up, her second or third thought was, I’ve already survived the worst thing that could happen.

It had made her feel safe. Almost lucky. But this – tonight – was as bad as Rory, that same light-headed combination of disbelief and stone-cold certainty: something terrible had happened. She didn’t want it to be true, but everything had already changed forever. Once more, the jigsaw of her life had been thrown up in the air and she had no idea where the pieces would land.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys. Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together–birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie–who has the most money–insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Still, everything manages to stay under control–that is, until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets a concussion and can’t keep her thoughts or opinions to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, and Cara starts spilling all their secrets.

As everything unravels, each of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s–finally–the time to grow up.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this mad book about this absolutely mad family. But it took me a little while to get there. About 20% of the book, in fact.

There is an absolutely wonderful cast of characters and paradoxically, they are one of the problems. Because there are a lot of them, and I struggled to keep them straight, who was married to whom, and where all the children belonged. Now, to be absolutely fair, there is a family tree, but because I have a digital ARC of Grown Ups, in which the formatting is less than wonderful, I couldn’t make sense of it. But eventually I managed to get all the relationships straight in my mind.

Another thing that I adored about Grown Ups is the absolute Irishness of it. And there’s another problem. It would be incredibly helpful to have a glossary of Irish terms, and a bit of a guide to pronunciation. Now, I live in New Zealand, so I am going to throw Ngaruawahia at you, and see how you get on with pronouncing that. My Australian husband, who has lived in New Zealand for fifteen years, still can’t get his mouth around it! And I have similar problems with some of the Irish words, and particularly with the name Saoirse. I would be grateful if someone could enlighten me. But please don’t leave them out Ms Keyes. They are an integral part of the character of this book.

But putting all that aside, this is a brilliant read. The writing is excellent (thanks for restoring my faith in you Ms Keyes), well paced, the plot absorbing and entertaining. I laughed and cried, and laughed and cried, and did both some more.

It is the characters that really drive this novel. Jessie, slowly bankrupting herself and husband Johnny with her largesse, frightened that if she doesn’t pay for everything, the ‘spensie’ stuff, no one will love her. Cara, reservations manager at an exclusive hotel, married to Johnny’s younger brother Ed, who hides a dangerous secret. Finally there is Nell, artistic and enviably comfortable in her own humanitarian and environmentalist skin, married to the youngest brother, Liam. Then there is a dead husband, the numerous children, an ex-wife (Liam’s), parents, parents-in-law, ex-parents-in-law, cousins, friends, partners, business associates, Karl Brennan – who defies description, workmates, a barman named Gilbert and, no, on reflection, I don’t think there was a milkman.

The book begins with Johnny’s birthday dinner, and Cara’s cataclysmic revelations. It then goes back six months and we learn of all the things leading up to the eruption.

There is love and lust, secrets and deceit, grief and loss, envy and just about any emotion you care to name. In summary, a novel about people living up to others expectations of them and, in doing so, losing sight of themselves and what is truly important.

❤❤❤❤.4

#GrownUps #NetGalley

‘He’d had dementia and just faded away, like a picture left in the sun.’

‘You get one precious life. Why not try to have a contented one.’

THE AUTHOR: Marian Keyes (born 10 September 1963) is an Irish novelist and non-fiction writer, best known for her work in women’s literature. She is an Irish Book Awards winner. Over 22 million copies of her novels have been sold worldwide and her books have been translated into 32 languages. She became known worldwide for Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, and This Charming Man, with themes including domestic violence and alcoholism.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin Random House, Doubleday Canada for providing a digital ARC of Grown Ups by Marian Keyes 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 Unexpected Education of Emily Dean by Mira Robertson

For some unknown reason, the cover photo just won’t download. 🤬
But the cover isn’t important, as eye catching as it may be. It’s what is between the covers that is the treat…

EXCERPT: Passengers moved along the platform, opening carriage doors and saying their goodbyes. Emily leaned out of the train window. She gave her father an especially pleading look.

‘There are snakes and spiders, and I’m allergic to sheep. Please don’t make me go.’

She knew it was hopeless – the train was due to leave at any moment – but she had to make one last attempt. If nothing else, she wanted her father to feel guilty about bundling her off against her will.

‘Don’t be silly,’ he replied, impervious to her tragic countenance. ‘No-one is allergic to sheep. Fresh air, sunshine and the splendors of nature. You’ve always enjoyed it.’

But that was on her last visit, ages ago. She’d been thirteen then, and knew no better.

‘I can’t go. Mummy needs me.’

She wished she hadn’t said ‘Mummy’ as it sounded immature, and now it was she who felt a twinge of guilt, knowing that it wasn’t about helping her mother at all, but the thought of spending weeks with ancient relatives in the middle of nowhere.

Further up the platform, the stationmaster blew his whistle. Carriage doors slammed shut as her father reached out and patted her arm.

‘Send my love to your Grandmother and the others,’ he said, ignoring her last words. ‘Make yourself useful and don’t be a burden. And don’t forget to collect your suitcase when you arrive at the station. As soon as things are back to normal, I’ll come for you.’

But when would that be?

ABOUT HIS BOOK: In 1944 Emily Dean is dispatched from Melbourne to stay with relatives in rural Victoria. At the family property, Mount Prospect, she finds that Grandmother is determined to keep up standards despite the effects of the war, while Della, the bible-quoting cook, rules the kitchen with religious fervour. If only Emily’s young aunt – the beautiful, fearless Lydia – would bestow her friendship, but that seems destined never to occur. Emily can’t wait to go home.

But things start to improve when she encounters Claudio, the Italian prisoner of war employed as a farm labourer. And become more interesting still when William, Lydia’s brother, unexpectedly returns from the war, wounded and bitter. He’s rude, traumatised, and mostly drunk, yet a passion for literature soon draws them together.

MY THOUGHTS: The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean is a delightfully funny, wry, and touching story of a girl transitioning to a young woman who is packed off from her home to relatives in the country after her mother, who appears to suffer from bi-polar disorder (or manic-depressive disorder as it used to be called), is admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a recuperative stay.

She discovers great literature, and Fanny Hill. She learns about love, sensuality and desire, about hope and despair, and about the consequences of lying. Her uncle, invalided home from the war suffers from PTSD, and her Aunt Lydia who is engaged to a serving soldier, appears to be dispensing her favours elsewhere. This is a summer of discovery for Emily, about life and love, socially acceptable behaviour and impropriety, but most of all about herself.

This is another sterling example of the wonderful fiction currently coming out of Australia.

****

THE AUTHOR: Mira Robertson is an award winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction. Her feature film credits include the multi award winning films Only the Brave and Head On, co-written with director Ana Kokkinos. The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean is her first novel. She lives in Melbourne.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean, written by Mira Robertson, and narrated by Zoe Carides, published by Whole Story Audiobooks. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse written and illustrated by Charlie Mackesy

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EXCERPT: ‘the truth is, everyone is winging it.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

MY THOUGHTS: I received this book for my birthday from my good friend Gayel, who has an extraordinary talent for finding me books that I love that I would never have picked out for myself. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy is one such book. I can already think of a few people for whom I am going to gift copies.

It is beautifully illustrated, reminiscent of the style of the illustrations in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books and written with the same down to earth wisdom. Perfect for the days when you’re not quite….., and the world is a bit daunting/overwhelming/scary.

Delightful and enchanting, this book is ageless, and written for all ages. It is inspiring, comforting. And there is cake.

💝💖💞💖💝

‘Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charlie Macksey was born during a snowy winter in Northumberland. He has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press. He has collaborated with Richard Curtis for Comic Relief, and Nelson Mandela on a lithograph project, ‘The Unity Series.’ Collectors of Mackesy’s works include Elizabeth Gilbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Roger Waters, Richard Curtis, The Murdoch Freuds, Tim Bevan, M. Night Shyamalan, Bear Grylls, Howard Goodall, Harry Enfield and Sting. He has lived and painted in South Africa, Southern Africa, and New Orleans. He co-runs a social enterprise, Mama Buci, in the Zambian copperbelt, which helps families of low and no income to become beekeepers.

DISCLOSURE: I own my very beautiful copy of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse written and illustrated by Charlie Mackesy, published by Ebury Press. 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, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Museum of Forgotten Memories

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EXCERPT: She grinds her shoe against the floorboards, tips the toe of it onto the rug. The black leather is dusty grey with what is left of summer. ‘I wondered for years if I should have told the truth. And then, when Richard . . . you know.’

I have no idea what to say next. I am a dumb beast and my body has been replaced with the mounted frame of one of the animals. My eyes are glass and staring, my mouth is full of plaster teeth, solid pink stone tongue.

The house has claimed me as it’s own.

I try to remember that this loss belongs to her too – the loss of the brother she loved and hadn’t been able to see for years – but there isn’t room in my hurt heart for other people’s problems.

‘And that’s it?’ I am reeling. One stupid conversation, one banal argument. One single moment that ricocheted through my family for years: that cast a shadow over my whole marriage. ‘That’s the whole reason he never spoke to his grandfather again? Ever? Just a family secret?’

‘Family secrets can be huge, Cate.’ She gestures at herself. ‘They destroy those who know them and they torture those who are outside them.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Cate Morris thought she’d met her match in Simon at university—until she laid eyes on his best friend, Richard. Cate and Richard felt an immediate and undeniable spark, but Richard also felt the weight of the world more deeply than most.

Now, four years after Richard’s suicide, Cate is let go from her teaching job and can’t pay the rent on the London flat she shares with her and Richard’s son, Leo. She packs the two of them up and ventures to Richard’s grandfather’s old Victorian museum in the small town of Crouch-on-Sea, where the dusty staff quarters await her. Despite growing pains and a grouchy caretaker, Cate falls in love with the quirky taxidermy exhibits and sprawling grounds and makes it her mission to revive them. When the museum is faced with closure because of a lack of visitors, Cate stages a grand reopening, but threats from both inside and outside the museum derail her plans and send her spiraling into self-doubt.

As Cate becomes more invested in Hatters, she must finally confront the reality of Richard’s death—and the role she played in it—in order to reimagine her future.

MY THOUGHTS: What a magnificent read! Harris writes with a lyrical realism. She takes tough subjects: grief, suicide, depression and fractured families, and writes with such emotional rawness, such descriptive beauty, that the reader cannot help but be drawn in. I finished this book with tears running freely and a goofy smile on my face. But don’t be thinking that this is a ‘happily-ever-after’ book. It’s not. This is not a romance. This is a story of a deep and lifelong love, of an abiding loyalty, of grief, of desperation and determination.

Cate lost her husband to suicide. Now she has lost her job and her home. Out of options, she turns to her dead husband’s family estate, using the clause in the Trust documents that allows tenure to the direct descendants of Hugo, founder of the museum and Richard’s grandfather, to give her son and great-grandson to Hugo, a home. Richard always refused to take her to his childhood home, so she has no idea what to expect.

Cate is a Londoner, as is son Leo, used to places filled with chattering people, a cacophony of smells, sounds and taste, with friends who are able to step in to care for Leo if necessary. And Leo had everything he needed in London: sports teams and music lessons, art groups, dancing and, most importantly, his friends. How are they going to survive living in a outdated ‘apartment’ where the kitchen is three floors below their rooms, in a rambling and remote country mansion (Hatters) seriously in need of maintenance, their only company a strange and resentful old woman and a pot smoking gardener with a criminal conviction?

The only thing that makes it bearable for Cate is the thought that it’s not permanent, it’s only until she gets another job…

The Museum of Forgotten Memories by Anstey Harris is an intricate and beautiful story of three generations of a family dogged by the black dog of depression. It is sad, tragically so, but it is also one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that I have ever read.

❤❤❤❤❤

#TheMuseumofForgottenMemories #NetGalley

In some parts of the world, this book is published under the title ‘Where We Belong’

‘The most bitter thing about love; you can’t understand it, measure it – not all its edges and intricacies – until it’s gone and the clear print of its negative self is left behind.’

‘We none of us get out alive and none of us get out without some pain.’

‘The sun is thinking about setting, lowering itself into a comfortable position on the horizon, letting go of the heat of the day.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Museum of Forgotten Memories by Anstey Harris 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