Sandy’s June 2022 Reading Roundup

Here we are, halfway through the year.

My June reading was severely impacted by my return to work. Two of the books I had scheduled to read in June had their publishing dates moved to August so I rescheduled those (26 – 2 = 24) plus I received one late ARC, which brought the total up to 25. I have only read 16 of my 25 reads for review, though I did manage to sneak in two titles from my backlist and two reads purely for pleasure. So my read for review success rate dropped from the dismal 69% in May to an even more dismal 64% for June.

I read one debut novel in June, which was Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

plus I read five books by authors who were new to me. They were

The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

My Netgalley feedback rate is hanging in there at 69%, though I don’t quite know how 🤷‍♀️ Since I have been back at work I have been requesting more books that I am reading. I find it unwinds me from the stresses of the day.🤦‍♀️

The books that I didn’t get around to reading were:

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Backstory by William L. Myers

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

The Lost Children by Michael Wood (a publisher’s widget) which I will be starting tonight

The Girl Who Left by Jenny Blackhurst

I read four ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ books in June. They were – in no particular order:

The Island by Adrian McKinty

Blind Justice by David Mark

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

I have 18 reads for review scheduled for July and one blog tour to participate in. Hopefully I should be able to just about achieve my goal for the month.

Have you read any of the books I bypassed in June? Let me know.

Happy reading for July!

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

EXCERPT: Olivia – Miami 1990

I should have known better. I shouldn’t have said the things I did.

That’s what I told myself when I learned what happened to my husband on his return flight from the US Virgin Islands. But isn’t that what we all say after something goes terribly wrong and we look back and wish we had behaved differently.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE MOONLIT SEA’: Olivia Hamilton is married to the love of her life, Dean, a charismatic pilot who flies private jets for the rich and famous. But when he vanishes over the Bermuda Triangle, Olivia’s idyllic existence unravels. After years of waiting, Olivia must eventually let go of the fragile hope that her beloved husband might still be alive.

Melanie Brown is a particle physicist who spends late nights studying the Bermuda Triangle. But her research interests falter when her mother dies in a tragic accident. Struggling to reboot her life and career, Melanie begins a forbidden love affair with her therapist.

When a shocking discovery shows Olivia’s and Melanie’s paths are intertwined, it casts Dean’s disappearance in a new light. The two women’s strange connection threatens to unlock secrets that will change everything Olivia thought she knew about her marriage, her husband, and most importantly, herself.

MY THOUGHTS: I am a sucker for stories about or set around the mysterious disappearances that occur in the Bermuda Triangle.

I started Beyond the Moonlit Sea with great excitement and read almost half of it in the first sitting. The storyline, which spans from 1986 through to 2017, and is told from the multiple viewpoints of Olivia, Melanie and Dean, intrigued me although I often found the writing style quite stilted and, at times, awkward.

The second half of the book became predictable, and was largely quite mundane. I found myself skimming over pages until we came to the chapters involving the DNA when my interest was again piqued, but not to the same extent it had originally.

I was expecting suspense, and didn’t get it.

Would I have liked more about the mysteries surrounding the Bermuda Triangle? Definitely. Ditto for Melanie’s thesis.

I found it quite odd that Melanie as described by her ‘friends’ to the police is vastly different from the many facets of Melanie that we see through both her own and Dean’s eyes. This information is dropped into the book, and then – nothing!

Unfortunately, this was only an okay read for me, nothing more.

⭐⭐.5

#BeyondtheMoonlitSea #NetGalley

I: @juliannemaclean @amazonpublishing

T: @Julianne MacLean @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Julianne Maclean loves to travel and has lived in New Zealand, Canada, and England. MacLean currently resides on the east coast of Canada in a lakeside home with her husband and daughter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne MacLean for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Dark Water (Detective Erika Foster #3) by Robert Bryndza

EXCERPT: Autumn 1990

It was a cold night in late autumn when they dumped the body in the disused quarry. They knew it was an isolated spot, and the water was very deep. What they didn’t know was that they were being watched.

ABOUT ‘DARK WATER’: Beneath the water the body sank rapidly. She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip-off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.

The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins. The missing girl who made headline news twenty-six years ago.

As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she must dig deeper and find out more about the fractured Collins family and the original detective, Amanda Baker. A woman plagued by her failure to find Jessica. Erika soon realises this is going to be one of the most complex and demanding cases she has ever taken on.

Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone is keeping secrets. Someone who doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.

MY THOUGHTS: I love this series and Dark Water is an earlier book that I somehow missed reading when it was published.. It’s a great addition to the series and I absolutely flew through this. It’s fast paced and gripping.

Erika is one of those characters that isn’t always easy to warm to. She can be rude and arrogant. But she is thorough and stands up for what she believes in and those workmates who deserve her loyalty. She can be quick tempered – with everyone, including her sister Lenka. Yet despite all this, I can’t get enough of her.

Moss and Peterson continue with their supporting roles, as does gay pathologist, Isaac Strong. The original detective on the case, Amanda Baker is also an excellent character. Beaten down by her failure in the case, she has become an alcoholic recluse until Erika visits her to get her take on the case.

The Collins family, the family of the missing child, are hard to fathom. If you didn’t know that they were a family, you would think that they were a group of strangers thrown together.

I had no idea, until it was revealed, just who had abducted and killed Jessica Collins. My jaw dropped. I really didn’t expect that. And yet, it was just perfect.

Although this is book #3 of a series, the author provides enough background for Dark Water to be read as a stand-alone.

Dark Water is fast paced, gripping, absorbing and exciting!

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#DarkWater #NetGalley

I: @robertbryndza @bookouture

T: @RobertBryndza @Bookouture

#detectivefiction #familydrama #mystery #policeprocedural #series #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Robert Bryndza was born in the UK and lived in America and Canada before settling in Slovakia with his Slovak husband Ján.

When he’s not writing Rob is learning Slovak, trying to train two crazy dogs, or watching Grand Designs all in the hope that hell be able to understand his mother-in-law, build his dream house, and get the dogs to listen.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dark Water by Robert Bryndza 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 . . .

Happy Matariki! Matariki is the New Zealand Maori New Year. Matariki has nine visible stars. Each star holds a certain significance over our wellbeing and environment, as seen from the Māori view of the world. This is the first year New Zealand has celebrated Matariki with public holiday.

I’ve had a good reading week. When I have finished two of my current reads, I will have read all five books I had scheduled for read for review for week.

Currently I am reading The Guilty Couple by C.L. Taylor. I’m not yet sure what to think.

I am almost half way through Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter. This is #2 in the Andrea Oliver series and so far I am enjoying this a lot more than the first.

Those were the tail end of my read for reviews. The audiobook I am currently listening to is a backtitle from 2020, Stolen Children by Michael Wood, #6 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. I have enjoyed this whole series and Stolen Children is no exception.

I have five reads for review scheduled in the coming week. They are:

The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher

After nearly two hundred years of housing retardants, as they were once known, the Beechwood Institute is closing the doors on its dark history, and the complicated task of reassigning residents has begun. Ella Jules, having arrived at Beechwood at the tender age of eight, must now rely on the state to decide her future. Ella’s aging parents have requested that she be returned to her childhood home, much to the distress of Ella’s siblings, but more so to Lynetta, her beloved caretaker who has been by her side for decades. The five adult Jules children, haunted by their early memories of their sister, and each dealing with the trauma of her banishment in their own flawed way, are converging on the family home, arriving from the far corners of the country—secrets in tow—to talk some sense into their aging parents and get to the root of this inexplicable change of heart.

A Summer Love Affair by Holly Chamberlain

Sometimes you sense something, deep inside, long before it’s proven true. Thirty-year-old Petra Quirk has always felt as if a vital element of her life is missing. It’s not until she moves back to the small town of Eliot’s Corner for the summer that she learns why. Rummaging in the attic, Petra comes across a diary. The discovery prompts her mother, Elizabeth, to make a confession to her three daughters. Decades ago, she fell in love with her husband’s best friend, Chris—and Petra is Chris’s child . . .

Elizabeth ended the affair before she learned she was pregnant, and Chris has no idea he’s a father. Hugh, who Petra believed to be her dad, was a good-natured but self-centered, blustering man. He and Chris seemed to have little in common, though their friendship was genuine. Elizabeth loved Chris deeply yet refused to tear her family apart. Even since Hugh’s death, she’s resisted contacting Chris. But Petra, floundering and unsure of her path, is compelled to search out her biological father, though she knows it will complicate her relationship with her family.

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

There was a time when Lindy Morris escaped to London and walked along the Thames in the moonlight. When life was full and exciting.

Decades later, Lindy lives back with her Auntie Bell on the edge: on the edge of Donegal and on the edge of Granda Morris’s land. Granda Morris is a complicated man, a farmer who wanted sons but got two daughters: Auntie Bell and Lindy’s mother, who disappeared long ago.

Now, Lindy and Bell live the smallest of lives, in a cottage filled with unfulfilled dreams. But when the secrets they have kept for thirty years emerge, everything is rewritten. Will Lindy grasp who she is again?

And last is a publisher’s widget for The Lost Children, by Michael Wood, #9 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. As I said earlier, I really enjoy this series.

I received three new ARCs via Netgalley this week. They are:

We All Have Our Secrets by Jane Corry

The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

And, The Other Girlfriend by Alex Stone

I also received two publishers widgets, making a total of five new titles for the week, all of which landed in my inbox on Friday. And there I was thinking I was going to have a 0 new additions week. 🤷‍♀️ The two widgets are:

The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland

And, A Cornish Recipe for Murder by Fiona Leitch

I hope that you’re all having a wonderful weekend. The sun is poking its head out from behind the clouds so I will take this opportunity to go for a walk while it’s not raining. I haven’t been for a walk since Wednesday so it will be good to blow the cobwebs out and I should be able to finish listening to Stolen Children. Happy reading!❤📚

An Island Summer by Jenny Hale

EXCERPT: Walking over to the kitchen sink, she turned on the water. It spit and sputtered before letting out a stream. She turned it back off. “How am I supposed to be a chef in the middle of nowhere?” She laughed out loud now at the ridiculousness of her choices.

If she were being honest with herself, there were many more opportunities in New York. There were a handful of culinary schools in the city nearby and she could’ve researched grants or scholarships, but she’d come to Hatteras Island instead. What was she thinking, planning to build a new life here?

ABOUT ‘AN ISLAND SUMMER’: In the summer, everything feels possible… A heartwarming small-town romance about new beginnings, old secrets and how home is truly where the heart is. Fans of Susan Mallery, Pamela Kelley, and Mary Alice Monroe will fall head over heels for this romantic page-turner.

All that Meghan Gray has left of her beloved Pappy is his cottage on the edge of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean. Longing to feel close to her grandfather, she returns to the golden sands of Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks for the summer, clutching the manilla envelope he gifted her tightly in her hand.

On her first night on the sun-drenched island, she meets brooding Toby Meyers, a local businessman. She might feel lost without Pappy, but looking into Toby’s sparkling blue eyes feels like coming home.

The beach house where she spent her childhood is just how she remembers: a shingled bungalow with two rocking chairs on the porch and shutters on the windows. As Meghan strolls along the sand with Toby, breathing in the salty air, she realizes she is making new memories…

When Meghan opens the envelope, she finds a black-and-white photograph of someone she doesn’t recognize. If she can find out its meaning, and why Pappy gave it to her, she’ll unlock a secret that has been hidden for decades. The truth has the power to change everything Meghan and Toby thought they knew about their lives—and it will either bring them together, or break their hearts…

MY THOUGHTS: An Island Summer is a quick, light read about a young woman trying to find her place in the world after her career hopes are dashed. There’s some romance, and a little mystery involved.

Now, I have read a few of Jenny Hale’s books, and they have all been 4 – 5 star reads, but An Island Summer just didn’t work that same magic on me. I couldn’t connect with Meghan’s character – I felt absolutely nothing for her. She raised all sorts of questions for me (probably totally irrelevant to the storyline, but once they lodge themselves in my brain there’s no getting rid of them!), like if she and Tess have been doing the same job, why does Tess have savings and Meghan doesn’t, especially as she hasn’t spent the money on cooking courses? Her first day in her new job, she gets $200 in tips, so over the course of her six-day-week, she’d earn $1200 give or take, plus her base wage. She has no accommodation costs, only food and utilities – half of which would be covered by Tess – and fuel, so is she just bad at managing her money? Oh, yes, and no one is going to take a waitress and put her in a chef’s position. You got to work your way up. And cooking the same dish for a handful of people is vastly different to cooking for a large number of people all eating different things.

I loved Rupert, Toby’s grandfather, who lives in a care facility and who has dementia. When he meets Meghan, he thinks that she’s someone from his past, someone he once loved. This is a lovely story with an element of mystery as Meghan slowly pieces together Rupert’s story and makes a startling discovery that affects her own life.

And now I’m going to put my medical hat on. Rupert’s doctors talk about him withdrawing inwards and ‘indulging in his fantasies’, which made me a little cross. Rupert has Alzheimer’s. Most of the time he honestly believes he is twenty years old, and that’s the life he’s living. It’s not fantasy. To Rupert, it’s very real, and I don’t believe any doctor these days, when we know so much more about the ravages and effects of Alzheimer’s, would say that.

Although this was a disappointing read for me, I still love Jenny Hale’s writing and continue to look eagerly for her next title. I love the cover.

⭐⭐⭐.3

#AnIslandSummer #NetGalley

I: @jhaleauthor @bookouture

T: @jhaleauthor @Bookouture

#christmasread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Jenny Hale is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic contemporary fiction. Her novels Coming Home for Christmas and Movie Guide Epiphany Award Winner Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses are Hallmark Channel original movies. Her stories are chock-full of feel-good romance and overflowing with warm settings, great friends, and family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of An Island Summer by Jenny Hale 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

Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton

EXCERPT: The signature is a scrawl, but I know who it is. Now I want to know what they told each other. The painful things they dug up.

Leave it alone, Dee, I tell myself. It’s ancient history. And Phil is dead.

But I know I won’t. Can’t. It’s never over, is it? The past is always there, flickering like our old telly in a dark corner of my head. Most of the time, I can make myself blank it out, but little things – like a song that used to make me cry or the smell of cheap Chinese takeaways, our birthday treat – and it fizzes into focus. I’ve got a lot of bad memories – my childhood was one long nightmare, really. But this is different. Unfinished business; a time bomb ticking quietly like a second heart in my chest.

ABOUT ‘LOCAL GONE MISSING’: Elise King is a successful and ambitious detective–or she was before a medical leave left her unsure if she’d ever return to work. She now spends most days watching the growing tensions in her small seaside town of Ebbing–the weekenders renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals resentful of the changes.

Elise can only guess what really happens behind closed doors. But Dee Eastwood, her house cleaner, often knows. She’s an invisible presence in many of the houses in town, but she sees and hears everything.

The conflicts boil over when a newcomer wants to put the town on the map with a giant music festival, and two teenagers overdose on drugs. When a man disappears the first night of the festival, Elise is drawn back into her detective work and starts digging for answers. Ebbing is a small town, but it’s full of secrets and hidden connections that run deeper and darker than Elise could have ever imagined.

MY THOUGHTS: Local Gone Missing is fun. And it is the central core of characters – Ronnie (unabashedly nosey, and my absolute favourite), Elise the detective on sick leave, and Dee the cleaner of many of the homes belonging to people in the village, all-seeing, all-hearing and almost invisible – that are the stars. There are a lot of characters spread across the two timelines, 1999 and twenty years later, 2019, and they can get a little confusing. My advice is not to stress about it, just go with the flow. The author provides little prompts to help us remember.

The missing man is Charlie, a happy, charming and generous man with a disabled daughter in full time care. Everyone is shocked when he is reported missing by his ex-model wife, Pauline. Elise, bored but not yet ready to return to work, and her delightfully nosey neighbour Ronnie decide to investigate Charlie’s disappearance to give themselves something to do.

Now I have to say that I enjoyed the first half of this book where Elise is still on leave and Ronnie is a prominent character infinitessimaly more than the second half, where Elise is officially investigating the disappearance and we don’t see so much of Ronnie. I missed Ronnie’s enthusiasm, her humour, her flashes of inspiration. She made me laugh, she made me wince. She’s brash and brainy. I love her.

The mystery, which at first seems simple, soon becomes complex, as secrets are revealed and the true natures of the characters are revealed. My head spun. My grey cells whirred. Cogs ground. But I didn’t have a clue. Lots of ideas, but none which stood up to the test of time in Barton’s writing. I loved it.

An intriguing mystery, that I read in the course of one day. A read that left me smiling, satisfied, and hoping to meet these characters again.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#LocalGoneMissing #NetGalley

I: #fionabartonauthor @penguinrandomhouseuk

T: @figbarton @penguinrandom @TransworldBooks @BantamPress

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: My career has taken some surprising twists and turns over the years. I have been a journalist – senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where I won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards, gave up my job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008, have trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world.
But through it all, a story was cooking in my head. As a national newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, I found myself wondering what the families of those accused really knew – or allowed themselves to know.
My husband and I are living the good life in south-west France, where I am writing in bed, early in the morning when the only distraction is our cockerel, Sparky, crowing.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Welcome to my weekly update post, where I share what I’m currently reading, what my reading choices are for the coming week, and what new ARCs I have received.

Earlier this week I received a paperback copy of Out of Her Depth from the author Lizzy Barber. I was so excited to receive a real book in the post that I started it immediately I opened the parcel. Thank you Lizzy for sending this all the way from England. I am loving this and eager to know what Sebastian has done, or is supposed to have done, and just why he thinks Rachel holds the key to proving his innocence.

For headstrong Rachel, it is the chance of a lifetime: a summer job in the Tuscan hills, receiving room and board in exchange for her services at the luxurious Villa Medici hotel. It’s not long before she finds herself drawn into a cosmopolitan crowd of friends for whom money is no object, and allegiances can change with the toss of a coin.

When she asks her new friend Diana to help her win the affections of the handsome and charming Sebastian, she thinks she might finally have a chance to become part of their world, but when she discovers that Diana may have intentions of her own, she begins to learn the real cost of friendship. And when Sebastian begins to focus on the sweet and innocent Valentina, Rachel discovers there may be an even higher price to pay.

The suffocating heat, the blinding wealth, the beautiful people: it soon becomes too much, and Rachel finds herself not just out of her depth, but drowning in lies . . .

I am also reading The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

And almost finished my read/listen of Fatal Witness – Detective Erika Foster #7 – by Robert Bryndza.

This coming week I have the following reads for review:

His Other Wife by Nicole Trope

She has my husband. She has my child. She has my life.

I never thought I would end up here. Alone, in a cold one-bedroom apartment, only seeing my precious daughter once a week.

Another woman is living the life that was once mine. I wish I was still married to my ex-husband, the love of my life. I dream of tucking my five-year-old child into her ballerina bed sheets every night. I miss living in a beautiful house, the perfect family home, with a winding staircase and a sprawling garden.

I’d do anything to be with my family again. To start over and prove to them that I’ve changed, that I won’t lose control like before.

But when I get my second chance, the vicious messages come. The noises at night. The feeling of being watched. It’s happening all over again. I know I’m not going mad, but no one will believe me. I don’t know if I even believe myself.

All I wanted was my life back. But now my life is under threat – and my darling little girl is in danger…

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Scarlett’s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

On a sweltering Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together. Esther never makes it home.

Ronnie’s going to find her, she has a plan. Lewis will help. Their friend can’t be gone, Ronnie won’t believe it.

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it, she has seen what people are capable of. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible.

Lewis can believe it too. But he can’t reveal what he saw that afternoon at the creek without exposing his own secret.

Five days later, Esther’s buried body is discovered.

The Guilty Couple by C.L. Taylor

Five years ago, Olivia Sutherland was wrongfully convicted of plotting to murder her husband.

Now she’s finally free, Olivia has three goals: repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, clear her name, and bring down her husband – the man who framed her.

Just how far is she willing to go to get what she wants? And how far will her husband go to stop her? Because his lies run deeper than Olivia could ever have imagined – and this time it’s not her freedom that’s in jeopardy, but her life… 

And Girl Forgotten by Karin Slaughter

A small town hides a big secret…

Who killed Emily Vaughn?

A girl with a secret…

Longbill Beach, 1982. Emily Vaughn gets ready for the prom. For an athlete, who is smart, pretty and well-liked, this night that should be the highlight of her high school career. But Emily has a secret. And by the end of the evening, that secret will be silenced forever.

An unsolved murder…

Forty years later, Emily’s murder remains a mystery. Her tight-knit group of friends closed ranks; her respected, wealthy family retreated inwards; the small town moved on from her grisly attack. But all that’s about to change.

One final chance to uncover a killer…

US Marshal Andrea Oliver arrives in Longbill Beach on her first assignment: to protect a judge receiving death threats. But, in reality, Andrea is there to find justice for Emily. The killer is still out there – and Andrea must discover the truth before she gets silenced, too…

This week I have six new digital ARCs from Netgalley and my paperback copy of Out of Her Depth written and gifted to me by Lizzy Barber, who also very kindly signed it.❤ The new ARCs are:

So Long Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

The Night Watch by Neil Lancaster

Light Through the Vines by Fiona Valpy

The Season of Dreams by Fiona Valpy

and The Recipe for Hope, also by Fiona Valpy. These three titles form The Escape to France collection.

My final title is All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien, and was a widget sent to me by publishers Harlequin Australia. Isn’t the cover rather spectacular!

It’s been a grey sort of day after a lovely sunny start, but at least it hasn’t rained since the very early hours of the morning, and it wasn’t foggy. I think that this is the first day in over three weeks that it hasn’t rained.

I got out into the garden for a short time this morning and raked leaves for composting and got rid of all the dead tomato vines. We’re meant to have a few more days of fine weather and even some sun, so hopefully it will dry out enough for me to mow the lawns which are looking decidedly ragged. I was going to bake a banana loaf, but it’s almost time for the roast pork to go in the oven, so that will have to wait for another day.

I spent some time with Luke after school on Tuesday. He loves doing jigsaws and read me a bedtime story! I enjoyed that.

I hope that you have all had a wonderful week, and I wish you another to come. Happy reading all!

The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C. McPhail

EXCERPT: ‘Howard Butterworth? I’m sorry, miss. We have no one by that name in this office. Could someone else be of assistance to you?’

‘You have no one by that name. Are you certain? Look again, please. He works between here and the Memphis office. I’m sure he must be here.’

‘No, miss.’ The starched young woman ran her finger down a catalogued list of names. ‘There is no Howard Butterworth in our records. I am personally acquainted with all of the gentlemen in this exchange, and I assure you, we have no one of that name in our employ.’

‘I know he is here,’ Alice insisted. ‘He is my husband.’

‘He may well be your husband, ma’am. But he is affiliated neither with the cotton exchange nor with this office in any capacity. Would you care to examine the list yourself? Or may I help you with anything else before you leave?’

Alice stared at the woman’s unrelenting face. After a month reality entered her body, and shock numbed her. There would be no verification here. No more than with the police. The Howard Butterworth she knew as her husband did not exist.

ABOUT ‘THE SEAMSTRESS OF NEW ORLEANS’: The year 1900 ushers in a new century and the promise of social change, and women rise together toward equality. Yet rules and restrictions remain, especially for women like Alice Butterworth, whose husband has abruptly disappeared. Desperate to make a living for herself and the child she carries, Alice leaves the bitter cold of Chicago far behind, offering sewing lessons at a New Orleans orphanage.

Constance Halstead, a young widow reeling with shock under the threat of her late husband’s gambling debts, has thrown herself into charitable work. Meeting Alice at the orphanage, she offers lodging in exchange for Alice’s help creating a gown for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the first all female krewe of Mardi Gras. During Leap Years, women have the rare opportunity to take control in their interactions with men, and upend social convention. Piece by piece, the breathtaking gown takes shape, becoming a symbol of strength for both women, reflecting their progress toward greater independence.

But Constance carries a burden that makes it impossible to feel truly free. Her husband, Benton, whose death remains a dangerous mystery, was deep in debt to the Black Hand, the vicious gangsters who controlled New Orleans’ notorious Storyville district. Benton’s death has not satisfied them. And as the Mardi Gras festivities reach their fruition, a secret emerges that will cement the bond between Alice and Constance even as it threatens the lives they’re building . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I was greatly disappointed with The Seamstress of New Orleans. There’s not a great sense of place. I believe a lot more could have been made of the setting of this book. The storyline was very uninspiring and after about quarter of the way through the book, I found myself skimming large tracts until something caught my interest.

The big secret that cements the bond between Alice and Constance is glaringly obvious very early on in the book, which only increased my disappointment.

It was the chance to learn some of the history of the famous New Orleans Mardi Gras that first attracted me to this book, but again I was disappointed. Pickings in this area are very slim.

The only character I really enjoyed was Dorothea. She is a woman who knows her own mind and has the strength of character to stand up for herself. She is also incredibly kind.

I found Alice and particularly Constance to be quite wishy-washy characters. While I admired Constance’s spunk in disguising herself and following her husband, her efforts to behave ‘normally’ afterwards were quite pathetic.

I don’t know if the author was trying to encompass too much with this book, building in a romance, a mystery, deception and the criminal underworld, but it didn’t really work for me and I was seriously tempted to abandon this read more than once.

I adore the cover.

⭐⭐.3

#TheSeamstressofNewOrleans #NetGalley

I: @dianemcphail123 @kensingtonbooks

T: @McPhailDiane @KensingtonBooks

#domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Diane C. McPhail is an artist, writer, and minister. In addition to holding an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., she has studied at the University of Iowa distance learning and the Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers’ Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Seamstress of New Orleans 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

The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda Riley

EXCERPT: Outside Study Number Seven, the figure paused for a moment, listening. Being a Friday, the eight boys on this floor would have signed out and walked to the pub in the nearby market town of Fotlesham, but it was as well to be sure. Hearing nothing, the figure turned the handle and went in.

Closing the door quietly and switching on the light, the figure was aware almost immediately of the ingrained, musty smell of unwashed socks, sweat and raging hormones which had, over the years, permeated every nook and cranny of Fleat House.

Shuddering, the smell triggering painful memories, the figure nearly stumbled on a pile of underwear thrown carelessly onto the floor. Then, reaching carefully for the two white tablets placed on the boy’s locker every night and replacing them with identical ones, the figure turned, switched off the light and left the room.

ABOUT ‘THE MURDERS AT FLEAT HOUSE’: The sudden death of a pupil in Fleat House at St Stephen’s – a small English private boarding school in deepest Norfolk – is a shocking event that the headmaster is very keen to call a tragic accident.

But the local police cannot rule out foul play and the case prompts the return of high-flying Detective Inspector Jazmine ‘Jazz’ Hunter to the force. Jazz has her own private reasons for stepping away from her police career in London but reluctantly agrees to front the investigation as a favour to her old boss.

Reunited with her loyal Sergeant, Alastair Miles, she enters the closed world of the school, and as Jazz begins to probe the circumstances surrounding Charlie Cavendish’s tragic death, events are soon to take another troubling turn.

Charlie is exposed as an arrogant bully and those around him had both motive and opportunity to switch the drugs he took daily to control his epilepsy.

As staff at the school close ranks, the disappearance of young pupil Rory Millar and the death of an elderly Classics Master provide Jazz with important leads but are destined to complicate the investigation further. As snow covers the landscape and another suspect goes missing, Jazz must also confront her own personal demons…

Then a particularly grim discovery at the school makes this the most challenging murder investigation of her career. Because Fleat House hides secrets darker than even Jazz could ever have imagined…

MY THOUGHTS: Although this isn’t Lucinda Riley’s normal genre, I rather enjoyed what was obviously meant to be the first book in a series featuring DI Jazz Hunter.

Jazz is a person who notices the human detail, tending to follow her instincts and take her time, learning the stories of those involved and exhausting every avenue of inquiry before arriving at a conclusion. These skills certainly serve her well in The Murders at Fleat House and make for an interesting story.

The start is slow, but the story picks up pace slightly as it moves along. The plot is twisty and at one point I would have loved for there to have been a family tree or list of characters, but on reflection after finishing the book, this may have been difficult to do without giving away too many connections and spoiling the mystery.

I didn’t get the sense of place that I usually get with this author’s novels, and there is an awful lot of dialogue, hence the four stars rather than five. BUT, the mystery itself is wonderful. Riley, as always, had me fully engaged trying to work out who had killed Charlie, for the suspects were numerous. He was not a nice young man!

Then there’s a missing man or two, a missing child, another death, and a historical death. Jazz’s gut tells her that all these incidents are connected but putting it all together is like doing a jigsaw puzzle with no picture and no edge pieces.

Although this is a 400+ page book, I read it overnight, totally engaged in the mystery and invested in the characters. Lucinda Riley wrote this in 2006, and it was published, largely as is, posthumously. I’m sad that we’re never going to be able to read more of Jazz Hunter and her solid, capable, dependable and always cheerful sidekick DS Alistair Miles. It just goes to show, that even all those years ago, Lucinda Riley was an established storyteller. She will be greatly missed. Thank you to her family for sharing this previously unpublished work with us.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheMurdersatFleatHouse #NetGalley

I: @lucindarileybooks #authorbuzz

T: @lucindariley @AuthorBuzzUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four. Lucinda died in June 2021.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to AuthorBuzz via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading ….

It’s been a week of wild stormy weather here in New Zealand. It would have been an ideal reading week, except that I spent the majority of it at work and both the weather and work situations look much the same for the coming week.

I have just finished The Gin Sisters’ Promise by Faith Hogan

It was a wonderful read and I m not sure yet what I’m going to follow up with, but you can see my list of choices further down the post.

I am currently reading a backtitle – Dark Water by Robert Bryndza – which I inexplicably missed reading earlier. It’s #3 in his Detective Erika Foster series which I have followed from the beginning.

I am a little over halfway through listening to The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain. It’s a lovely sweet story and I have my fingers crossed that Albert will find his lost love.

I have five books to read for review this week, and they are:

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

Riverbend, Texas, doesn’t look like the crossroads of anywhere. But for four high school besties reuniting after twenty years, it’s a place to unpack a lot of baggage.

Risa’s headed for divorce, Mary Nell’s been kicked to the curb by her leech of a boyfriend, and Haley was just blindsided by a shocking family secret. But restless army veteran Jessica Callaway, looking to plant roots, has an idea: corral her fellow former cheerleaders and renovate an abandoned church smack-dab in the middle of three dry counties into a bar. Throw in a grill and Wade Granger—a onetime nerd turned surprisingly crush-worthy investor—and their lives are on tap for a turnaround. Amen to that.

Except for one hitch: the white-clapboard dream is causing a ruckus. With a renewed bond, hard work, and the promise of romance, Jessica and her friends aren’t backing down. For Riverbend, this is going to be a homecoming—and a scandal—to remember. 

Beyond The Moonlit Sea by Julianne MacLean

Olivia Hamilton is married to the love of her life, Dean, a charismatic pilot who flies private jets for the rich and famous. But when he vanishes over the Bermuda Triangle, Olivia’s idyllic existence unravels. After years of waiting, Olivia must eventually let go of the fragile hope that her beloved husband might still be alive.

Melanie Brown is a particle physicist who spends late nights studying the Bermuda Triangle. But her research interests falter when her mother dies in a tragic accident. Struggling to reboot her life and career, Melanie begins a forbidden love affair with her therapist.

When a shocking discovery shows Olivia’s and Melanie’s paths are intertwined, it casts Dean’s disappearance in a new light. The two women’s strange connection threatens to unlock secrets that will change everything Olivia thought she knew about her marriage, her husband, and most importantly, herself. 

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Honorable Alice D. McKerrity is no stranger to violence. From the bench at Manhattan Supreme, she has seen the most hardened killers pass through her courtroom. But there’s something about this trial—a defendant charged with the murder of a pregnant woman—that affects her as no other case ever has. Her chaotic, stressful home life only adds to her mounting feelings of panic and fear. She’s also harboring a secret that if exposed could have far-reaching ramifications both personally and professionally. And now, unbeknownst to Alice, her daughter has begun a search for her biological father.

As the trial progresses, Alice’s life starts to unravel. Nightmares she suffered as a girl return with a vengeance. Phantom sightings torment her. Is she being paranoid? Or are the specters real? Almost at the breaking point, she begins to doubt her own sanity. Then she makes a shocking discovery that sends her on a collision course with her past and a terror-filled night in the woods in Upstate New York. Confronted with the unspeakable, she must face a decades-buried truth as she fights for her survival against a cunning adversary that forces her to question everything she ever believed about herself . . . and tests her limits as a woman, a judge, and a mother.

An Island Summer by Jenny Hale

All that Meghan Gray has left of her beloved Pappy is his cottage on the edge of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean. Longing to feel close to her grandfather, she returns to the golden sands of Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks for the summer, clutching the manilla envelope he gifted her tightly in her hand.

On her first night on the sun-drenched island, she meets brooding Toby Meyers, a local businessman. She might feel lost without Pappy, but looking into Toby’s sparkling blue eyes feels like coming home.

The beach house where she spent her childhood is just how she remembers: a shingled bungalow with two rocking chairs on the porch and shutters on the windows. As Meghan strolls along the sand with Toby, breathing in the salty air, she realizes she is making new memories…

When Meghan opens the envelope, she finds a black-and-white photograph of someone she doesn’t recognize. If she can find out its meaning, and why Pappy gave it to her, she’ll unlock a secret that has been hidden for decades. The truth has the power to change everything Meghan and Toby thought they knew about their lives—and it will either bring them together, or break their hearts…

And The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

All her life, she’s been the girl who survived. Orphaned at age seven after a horrific killing spree at her family’s Oregon cabin, Kara McIntyre is still searching for some kind of normal. But now, twenty years later, the past has come thundering back. Her brother, Jonas, who was convicted of the murders has unexpectedly been released from prison. The press is in a frenzy again. And suddenly, Kara is receiving cryptic messages from her big sister, Marlie—who hasn’t been seen or heard from since that deadly Christmas Eve when she hid little Kara in a closet with a haunting, life-saving command: Don’t make a sound.

As people close to her start to die horrible deaths, Kara, who is slowly and surely unraveling, believes she is the killer’s ultimate target.

Kara survived once. But will she survive again? How many times can she be the girl who survived?

Four new ARCs this week, so at least I am staying consistent. They are: The New House by Tess Stimson

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

And When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

And that’s me done for the week. I’ve decided that my next read is going to be An Island Summer by Jenny Hale. Have any of you read this yet (or any of the others I have lined up for this week), and what did you think?

Have a wonderful week everyone!❤📚