Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s probably a bit indulgent of me, but I have lit the fire as it’s a miserable grey, windy day with occasional smatterings of rain. It’s not particularly cold, but looking at the fire makes me feel better.

Currently I am reading The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

and A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristen Harper

both of which are due for publication this coming week.

I am listening to The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp for which I received both digital and audio ARCs this week.

This week I am planning on reading Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

And Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson

Lie #1 was to my new friends, about why I moved here.
Lie #2 was to my husband, about who I was before I met him.
Lie #3 was to myself, that I would get away with what I’ve done.

When I met Seb, it was like everything fell into place. My daughter Evie finally had a proper dad, and I had found the husband of my dreams – and what Seb didn’t know about my past wouldn’t hurt him.

But lately he’s been acting strangely. He won’t look me in the eye, he keeps coming home late and the other day at the school fair I saw him arguing with an unknown woman – the same woman I’ve seen hanging around outside our house.

And just as I start wondering whether I’m not the only one with a secret, Evie goes missing…

Oh, dear! 15 new ARCs this week! I fell off the wagon big time 😂🤣😂🤣❤📚 and I still have 28 pending requests.

My new ARCs are: Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart

The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson

Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons, DI Kim Stone #15

Why She Left by Leah Mercer

The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

The Widow by K.L. Slater

Old Sins by Aline Templeton

Backstory by William L. Myers, Jnr

A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs

The Secret in the Wall by Ann Parker

And, of course, The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp, which I have already started.

Yes, well . . . What can I say?

In the past week I have travelled to: Tinworthy, Cornwall; Edinburgh, Scotland; Derbyshire, England; New York City; and New Ross, Ireland.

We are still in lockdown, so this last week was the first time in I don’t know how long that I was able to read and review all the books on my list for the week!

It doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon, so I plan on making the most of it. I still pop into work every second day just to check the chiller temperatures and make sure everything is secure. My home office is almost ready to have the carpet laid, we’re just waiting on a new piece of skirting board to be fitted and painted. Then I plan to paint my library nook. The ceiling will need some work as there are quite a few little holes in it, almost like someone has repeatedly pushed a pool cue into it.

A little later this afternoon I will videocall my son and grandson, whom I had been planning on seeing on Tuesday when I was going to Hamilton to have my hair done. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. I will also call my youngest son in Australia and have a chat with him. I called my older brother in Sydney, Australia during the week as it was his birthday. They have recently come out of lockdown, and he is enjoying being able to get out and about again.

Have a wonderful week everyone. Stay safe and read on.❤📚

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

EXCERPT: He took hold of the knob and turned it. The door swung open and the ice-cold air trapped behind it spilled out.

Isak gasped. I blinked; looked again.

Inside the room was nothing but darkness; not even a silvering of moonlight.

And it was empty.

No light was glowing, no flame flickered, nobody was there.

Only the rocking chair moved, rocking forwards and backwards as if whoever had been sitting in it had, a moment earlier, got up and left the room.

ABOUT ‘THE ROOM IN THE ATTIC’: A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

MY THOUGHTS: I became totally absorbed in The Room in the Attic, the first book I have read by author Louise Douglas. She has written an eerily atmospheric book that took me quite by surprise.

I was sitting in my reading chair, totally engrossed, when my cat, who had been asleep across the top of the back, jumped down onto the arm of the chair, then my lap. My husband swears that I shot a good foot into the air and squealed in fright. It’s not often that a book has that effect on me. The cat, Tighe, while disgruntled, was unharmed. My pounding heart took a little longer to recover. My husband is unlikely to let me forget this any time soon.

An old lunatic asylum is the perfect setting for this story; A large, old, gothic building, full of unexplained sounds and dark corners with a tragic history is a fitting backdrop for the story Louise Douglas tells.

The story is told over two timelines: 1903 when All Hallows is still an asylum and takes in a woman who is found unconscious, and a child presumed to be her daughter; and 1993 when Lewis and Isak are pupils there, sleeping in the room directly under the room in the attic where the young child was murdered.

An asylum in the early 1900s was no refuge. There was no treatment for mental illness. Violent or troublesome patients were chained to the walls, and most were heavily sedated. Some of the drugs given actually caused hallucinations. Such places were very easy to be admitted to; few people got to leave other than in a coffin.

All Hallows as a school was not a much more inviting establishment than it was as an asylum. Bullying and corporal punishment are the norm; the staff border on brutal.

The characters in both time frames are beautifully crafted. 1993 – Lewis and Isak, both motherless, have been sent to All Hallows by their fathers basically to get them out of the way. Lewis’s father has remarried and Lewis is not liked nor understood by his new stepmother. Isak’s father simply hasn’t the time for him – he is far too busy in politics to be bothered with a grieving son.
1903 – Nurse Emma is getting on in years and no longer able to carry out the heavier duties of her job. She is still grieving for the loss of her young son many years previously and so she is given the task of caring for the young child who was admitted alongside the unconscious mystery woman. There are no shifts, no relief. It’s a 24/7 task, locked in the attic with only another nurse, Maria, to bring meals, clean linen, and gossip from the wards below.

The tie-in between these two threads is incredibly clever; the resolution immensely satisfying. The writing is haunting and emotionally apt. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheRoomintheAttic #NetGalley

I: @louisedouglas3 @bookandtonic

T: @LouiseDouglas3 @BoldwoodBooks

#fivestarread #gothic #historicalfiction #mystery #paranormal #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Hello and thank you for visiting my profile page. I write contemporary Gothic novels which are usually inspired by places close to where I live in the Mendips, close to Bristol in the UK, or by places I’ve visited, especially Italy and Sicily.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas 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

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries

EXCERPT: ‘After all,’ said our host, ‘it’s Christmas. Why not let the skeleton out of the bag?’

‘Or the cat out of the closet?’ said the historian, who likes to be precise even about clichés. ‘Are you serious?’

‘Yes,’ said our host. ‘I want to know if it’s safe for anyone to sleep in that little room at the head of the stairs.’

He had just bought the place. This party was in the nature of a house warming; and I had already decided privately that the place needed one. It was a long damp, high-windowed house, hidden behind a high hill in Sussex. The drawing-room, where a group of us had gathered around the fire after dinner, was much too long and much too draughty. It had fine panelling – a rich brown where the firelight was always finding new gleams – and a hundred little reflections trembled down it’s length, as in so many small gloomy mirrors. But it remained draughty.

Of course, we all liked the house. It had the most modern of lighting and heating arrangements, though the plumbing sent ghostly noises and clanks far down into the interior whenever you turned on a tap. But the smell of the past was in it; and you could not get over the idea that somebody was following you about. Now, at the host’s flat mention of a certain possibility, we all looked at our wives.

‘But you never told us,’ said the historian’s wife, rather shocked, ‘you never told us you had a ghost here!’

‘I don’t know that I have,’ replied our host quite seriously. ‘All I have is a bundle of evidence about something queer that once happened. It’s all right; I haven’t put anyone in that little room at the head of the stairs. So we can drop the discussion, if you’d rather.’

‘You know we can’t,’ said the Inspector: who, as a matter of strict fact, is an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He smoked a large cigar, and contemplated ghosts with satisfaction. ‘This is exactly the time and place to hear about it. What is it?’ – Taken from Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson.

ABOUT ‘A SURPRISE FOR CHRISTMAS’: Two dead bodies and a Christmas stocking weaponised. A Postman murdered delivering cards on Christmas morning. A Christmas tree growing over a forgotten homicide. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except for the victims of these shocking and often elaborate murders. When there’s magic in the air, sometimes even the facts don’t quite add up and the impossible can happen — and it’s up to the detective’s trained eye to unwrap the clues and put together an explanation neatly tied up with a bow. Martin Edwards compiles an anthology filled with tales of seasonal suspense where the snow runs red, perfect to be shared between super-sleuths by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the better collections of short stories that I have read in some time. All are set at Christmas, although Santa only features in one story.

The stories range from extremely short and pithy, to very long and rambling.

I was not particularly impressed by the first two stories, but once I got past them, there were several in a row that I absolutely adored. Overall this is an excellent collection. I have read stories by some of the authors before, other authors were new to me, as were all the stories.

Below is my rating for each story:

1. The Black Bag Left on a Doorstep by Catherine Louisa Pirkis ⭐⭐⭐

2. The Hole in the Wall by G.K. Chesterton ⭐⭐.5

3. Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4. Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5. Dead Man’s Hand by E.R. Punshon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

6. The Christmas Eve Ghost by Ernest Dudley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

7. Dick Whittington’s Cat by Victor Canning ⭐⭐⭐⭐

8. A Surprise for Christmas by Cyril Hare ⭐⭐⭐⭐

9. On A Christmas Day in the Morning by Margery Allingham ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

10. Give Me A Ring by Anthony Gilbert ⭐⭐⭐

11. Father Christmas Comes to Orbins by Julian Symons ⭐⭐⭐.5

12. The Turn-Again Bell by Barry Perowne ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My absolute favourite was the Ngaio Marsh story featuring Inspector Roderick Allyen, followed by the Margery Allingham story, On Christmas Day in the Morning.

If you are looking for a Christmas treat to dip into over the festive season, this is it, or it would make a wonderful gift for the mystery lover in your life.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#ASurpriseforChristmasandOtherSeasonalMysteries #NetGalley

I: @medwardsbooks @poisonedpenpress

T: @medwardsbooks @PPPress

#christmasfiction #cosymystery #crime #detectivefiction #historicalfiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

THE AUTHOR: Kenneth Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, whose work has won awards in the UK and the United States. As a crime fiction critic and historian, and also in his career as a solicitor, he has written non-fiction books and many articles.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries compiled by Martin Edwards 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

Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond

EXCERPT: An engine rumbled outside the window and he rushed to look; he would have to make a run for it if it was them back from their holiday. A white van had turned into the street and was pulling into Amanda’s drive – looked like a couple of builders. He couldn’t carry on trashing the place while they were parked there. He studied the two men in the front seat for a moment before noticing the gun on the dashboard. The hairs on the back of Jason’s neck stood on end when he realised they were watching the boy who was still cycling up and down the street on his own. What he had assumed were beanies revealed themselves to be balaclavas as the men pulled them down over their faces.

Should he call the police? That would land him in a whole heap of shit. He couldn’t just let this happen though. He picked up a sweater off the floor and dialled triple nine before wrapping the sweater around the mouthpiece in an attempt to conceal his voice. He knew his phone was untraceable. It was something his brother made him promise: always use pay-as-you-go phones with disposable SIMs; don’t let anyone trace where you are. That’s how they’d got Luke on his GBH charge – by finding his location through his phone.

As Jason spoke to dispatch, refusing to answer the questions that might give him away, the engine on the van started again, one man exiting the passenger side and sliding open the back door. Jason felt powerless as the boy cycled towards the van. He knew what was going to happen next, but it still made him sick to his stomach to watch as the scene played out before his eyes.

‘Please, you have to hurry. They’ve taken him, the little boy across the road. They grabbed him and put him in the back of a white van. Forty-six Golding Road.’

ABOUT ‘TRICK OR TREAT’: A stranger. A child. A liar who will stop at nothing…

When six-year-old Marcus is taken from outside his house on Halloween, there is only one witness: a frightened teen determined to keep himself hidden.

After an anonymous tip off, Detective Imogen Grey is called out to an expensive Exeter street, caught up in the buzz of the holiday. But when the police visit Marcus’s house, his parents claim everything is fine. Imogen is sure there is more to the family than meets the eye. But just how much more, she could never have imagined…

What has happened to little Marcus? And will he ever come home?

MY THOUGHTS: A rather mundane police procedural that focuses more on DS Imogen Grey’s life with her ex-copper boyfriend, Adrian, than it does on the abduction of young Marcus Carlyle.

There were a lot of things in Trick or Treat that just didn’t add up for me, the major one being that the person behind the kidnapping had previously been in jail, and so you would think that the fingerprints would be on record, and had they taken fingerprints for elimination purposes, they would have discovered an anomaly.

The other thing that really irritated me was the author’s constant use of ‘said’. Sara said. Imogen said. Adrian said. Peter said . . . It was really grating on my nerves by the end.

There were several things that weren’t explained to my satisfaction, but going into them would give away spoilers, so I am not prepared to do that.

I seriously considered not finishing this once or twice. I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters, even Sara. This book could have been greatly improved by hearing from Marcus; his view of what was happening to him would have made the story far more interesting. We have absolutely no idea what happened to him while in captivity.

A lacklustre narration didn’t help either. The narrator has a limited range of tone, and certainly wasn’t expressive. She could have been reading the telephone directory.

Trick or Treat was a disappointing experience for me.

⭐⭐.4

#TrickorTreat #NetGalley

I: @katerinadiamondauthor @harpercollinsuk

T: @TheVenomousPen @HarperCollinsUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #mystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Katerina Diamond was born in Weston in the seventies, and her parents owned a fish and chip shop in the Greek community. She moved to Thessaloniki in Greece and attended Greek school where she learnt Greek in just 6 months. After her parents divorce, they relocated to Devon. After school, and working in her uncles fish and chip shop, she went (briefly) to university at Derby, where she met her husband and had two children. Katerina now lives in the East Kent Coast with her husband and children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK Audio for providing an audio ARC of Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond 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

A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale

EXCERPT: A tiny gasp from across the room pricked Mia’s consciousness, but her eyes felt as though they were cemented shut so she couldn’t view the source. She took in a long steady breath, the faint spice of it calming, the sounds around her becoming clear. The coastal wind howled outside, rattling the latch on the screen door of the lighthouse the way it always had, and her mother’s faint whisper floated over her, too quiet to decipher. She wriggled comfortably, only then feeling a foreign hand under her own. Trying to swallow, she was aware of her dry mouth.

The end of the evening came back to her in snippets – talking with Will on the sofa, him making her giggle with a little joke about the snow angels despite the fact that she could hardly keep her eyes open, and then laying her head back on the sofa just to rest for a second . . . Oh, no. She’d asked Will to the Christmas party. Thank goodness he’d declined. What had she been thinking? All she needed was to have to try to balance entertaining Will with being a fake wife to Milo for everyone’s benefit. And right now she was –

Her eyes flew open and she froze. Will’s relaxed lips breathing quietly against her, as he slept. She was suddenly aware of the gentle rise and fall of his breathing, his hand on his chest, her fingers over his. It was intoxicating while simultaneously mortifying.

Carefully she engaged her core muscles and kept them tight to lift herself up and away from his body without having to push off of him. Their legs were intertwined, so she put a hand on the back of the sofa to steady the first leg as she hoisted it off him, planting one foot on the floor. With one leg to go, she hovered over him and his eyes flicked open, meeting hers. The lips that had been slack with sleep turned upward just slightly as he took her in.

‘Morning,’ he said.

Riley coughed conspicuously from the kitchen, and Mia knew they were probably being watched. Will heard it too and his smile spread wider.

But while Mia grinned back, internally she was scolding herself for letting this happen. She’d just spent the night draped across the real estate agent. Have mercy.

ABOUT ‘A LIGHTHOUSE CHRISTMAS’: When her beloved grandmother passes away, Mia Broadhurst returns to the snow-covered seaside village of Winsted Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the lighthouse overlooking the golden beach.

This will be Mia’s first Christmas without her, and she can’t bear to part with the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations. As she steps into it, childhood memories rush back to her. She can almost hear them playing tag on the steps… But her life is back in New York, dedicated to a busy PR firm, and she has no choice but to sell.

With the snow falling, turning the grounds into a winter wonderland, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker. As they restore the historical building, she tries not notice how handsome he is. After all, she’s only home for Christmas… And Will’s deep blue eyes, as stormy as the Atlantic Ocean, tells her he has his own heartbreak to contend with.

Warmed by a crackling fire, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings with the help of her mother and sister. But waiting for them is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription. The mysterious message is the key to a family secret that has been hidden for decades––one that changes everything.

When Mia finds out the truth, will it save the precious lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs? Or will it tear her from Winsted Cape––and Will––for ever?

MY THOUGHTS: I was so excited to finally be approved for an ARC of a Jenny Hale book, and every atom of that excitement was justified. There is a little bit of everything in A Lighthouse Christmas – family drama, mystery, romance.

It’s pretty clear from the outset just where the author is taking us, but the journey to get there is fun and heartwarming. There are plenty of complications along the way to keep the reader interested, but I am not going to give any of those away.

The setting is beautiful – a windswept lighthouse and winter snow. The characters are so well depicted that I felt I could just walk right into their lives with them. Three heartbroken women mourning the loss of a much loved mother and grandmother, one of the women also facing the demise of her marriage. One handsome real estate agent, also in mourning. His sister, owner of the failing local bakery, and her gorgeous little son, Felix. I just wanted to hug all these characters. But of course, there must always be a fly in the ointment, and that is where our mystery characters come in. They turn the whole situation upside down and disrupt all the carefully laid plans.

The descriptions of the Christmas decorations were magical and inspirational. I would love to have seen the barn in its full glory. And the food . . . I just had to make a batch of snickerdoodles to nibble on while I read. Jenny Hale, if my work trousers don’t fit tomorrow, I’m blaming you!

A Lighthouse Christmas is a delightful and enjoyable read. Jenny Hale is on my ‘read everything by this author that I can find’ list.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#ALighthouseChristmas #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 A Lighthouse Christmas 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

Watching What I’m Reading. . .

Well, one week down the track and we are still in lockdown. Our 75th Jubilee has been cancelled, and we are waiting to hear tomorrow whether or not we will remain in lockdown. I am not hopeful that we will be coming out any time soon. Still I am enjoying the break and getting caught up on lots of little jobs around the house and garden. On nice days my neighbour and I sit outside on our respective sides of the fence and have coffee and chat.

I bumped into Allison from the library book group in the pharmacy in town yesterday and she said the thing that she misses most is human contact; actually being able to touch someone. She is in her eighties, lives alone and has no family close by. We ended up crossing the street to sit at either end of a park bench in the sun and talking for quite some time. So I hope that, for her sake and the sakes of everyone else in the same position, that we will soon be allowed to move around a little more freely. Though having just glanced at today’s figures, it’s not looking all that likely.

Currently I am reading Oh William by Elizabeth Strout. I love her writing; reading Strout is like sitting down having a ‘remember when’ conversation with a friend.

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas, which is set in an old mental asylum – although they were called lunatic asylums in 1903 which is one of the two time periods in the book. The other is 1993 when it is a boys school.

I am listening to The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine which is certainly an interesting murder-mystery/police procedural.

This week I plan to read A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald

Jilted grooms, sudden deaths, broken hearts and threatening letters. All in a day’s work for super sleuth Kate Palmer!

Nurse Kate Palmer thought the pretty Cornish village of Tinworthy would be the perfect place for a peaceful retirement. She couldn’t have been more wrong! But even she is shocked when she attends a beautiful wedding at St. Pirin’s Church and the handsome groom drops dead in front of her very eyes.

While the rest of the wedding party panics, Kate notices the strange behaviour of the not-so-blushing bride and the posh mother-in-law – and vows to find out the truth behind the poor young man’s sudden demise. Especially when the new detective Charlotte Martin makes it known that she doesn’t want Kate involved – and also shows an interest in Woody Forrest, Kate’s partner in crime-solving.

Undeterred, Kate discovers this isn’t the only wedding to have been sabotaged. A series of peculiar letters contain the clues Kate needs to get to the heart of the matter. But is the mystery letter writer behind the unusual deaths? Or is more than one person responsible for the strange goings on in the seaside village…

As Kate digs deeper, she adds more suspects to her growing list: the world-weary vicar, the unlucky-in-love cleaner and the bride’s former flame. But, as a pair of boots bring Kate closer to the killer, it becomes clear their investigation has placed Woody in danger.

Can Kate solve the murder and save the man she loves at the same time?

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel finds herself entangled in some tricky familial and financial situations that will require all of her kindness, charm, and philosophical expertise to navigate.

Just when Isabel and Jamie finally seem to have some time to connect and unwind, a wealthy Edinburgh resident reaches out to Isabel with an unusual request–he would like her to become the executor of his large Highland estate. Though Isabel initially demurs, he presses on. He has only a short time to live, and, without any direct heirs, is struggling to determine which of his three cousins would be the best caretaker. Should it go to the bohemian artist, the savvy city property developer, or the quiet, unassuming bachelor?

As if this weren’t enough to keep Isabel occupied, she’s also spending more time helping her niece Cat at the deli. Cat, perennially unlucky in love, seems to have finally found her match in the leonine Leo. But Isabel is beginning to suspect that Leo might be interested in more than Cat’s charms, namely her access to the family trust. Isabel will need to rely upon remarkable reserves of intelligence and compassion in order to give all parties exactly what they want and deserve–no more, and no less. 

And I have made up for the excesses of the previous few weeks with only one new ARC this week:

The Life She Wants by Mel Sherratt

I still have 27 requests pending, though there are quite a few that have already been published so I presume that I will never see them. I do wish that the publishers would hit the ‘decline’ button though, and remove them from my pending list.

In the past week I have been to Sydney, Australia; Glasgow, Scotland; Sweden; various locations in England in the mid-1900s; and Exeter, England. Have we crossed paths anywhere?

Safe travels and happy reading. ❤📚

The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope

EXCERPT: His teachers call him ‘spirited’, or ‘full of energy’, sometimes ‘boisterous’. They have a lot of different words for what he really is in class, which is disruptive and occasionally rude. Too disruptive? Too rude? She feels like there’s some sort of memo she missed on raising a child. The other mothers at the school gates seem to know exactly what to do in any situation. She watches them, listens to them, while she waits for Riley, her ears tuned for exchanges of information she’s reluctant to ask for. They would be friendly enough, she supposes, if she just stepped forward and said ‘Hello,’ but she worries about saying the wrong thing, about giving too much away.

She can see the way they look at her when Riley calls her ‘Mum’. ‘My goodness,’ his teacher from last year said on parent-teacher night, ‘and how old-‘

‘Twenty,’ Beverley replied before the teacher could finish the question. ‘I was twenty when I had him.’ It’s a lie. She was actually only eighteen, but people tend to look at teenage mothers a certain way, make an assessment a certain way. A single teenage mother is met with pursed lips and narrowed eyes. It’s why she works so hard at getting everything right, at making sure Riley arrives at school with a full lunch box and a clean uniform every day. She makes sure that he never leaves homework undone and that he’s always got his hat and sports kit on sports days. Things that other mothers brush off, like forgetting to send in money for an excursion, bother Beverley because they make her feel that she’s falling. She cannot fail at this.

ABOUT ‘THE MOTHER’S FAULT’: I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever?

MY THOUGHTS: A quick, easy and enjoyable read that certainly won’t overwork the little grey cells, although there was one twist that I was not expecting.

The story is told mainly by Beverley, her son Riley, and in latter parts, an unknown narrator. There is plenty of misdirection to keep the reader on their toes, and although the perpetrator is decidedly ‘unbalanced’ I am not convinced that this is a true psychological thriller. Personally I would have liked a little more subtle manipulation to ramp up the tension and a little less of the soap-opera style drama.

Sam and his dog ‘Scotty’ were my favourite characters.

I know that I can always rely on Nicole Trope for a good read, and The Mother’s Fault definitely doesn’t disappoint, although I do feel that it would have been better titled ‘The Mother’s Lie.’ This is a book that will fly off the shelves.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#TheMothersFault #Bookouture

I: @nicoletropeauthor @bookouture

T: @nicoletrope @Bookouture

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth

THE AUTHOR: Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’ She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree in Children’s Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.
The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I am currently reading a very atmospheric piece of Australian fiction, The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. I keep expecting my furniture to be covered in a fine layer of red dust whenever I surface from this read.

I am listening to Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond, which I have only just started, and which received this week.

This week I am planning on making a start on my Christmas reads, with A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale. I have heard such wonderful things about this author and am looking forward to reading this.

When her beloved grandmother passes away, Mia Broadhurst returns to the snow-covered seaside village of Winsted Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the lighthouse overlooking the golden beach.

This will be Mia’s first Christmas without her, and she can’t bear to part with the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations. As she steps into it, childhood memories rush back to her. She can almost hear them playing tag on the steps… But her life is back in New York, dedicated to a busy PR firm, and she has no choice but to sell.

With the snow falling, turning the grounds into a winter wonderland, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker. As they restore the historical building, she tries not notice how handsome he is. After all, she’s only home for Christmas… And Will’s deep blue eyes, as stormy as the Atlantic Ocean, tells her he has his own heartbreak to contend with.

Warmed by a crackling fire, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings with the help of her mother and sister. But waiting for them is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription. The mysterious message is the key to a family secret that has been hidden for decades––one that changes everything.

When Mia finds out the truth, will it save the precious lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs? Or will it tear her from Winsted Cape––and Will––for ever?

And The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope, an author I always enjoy.

I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever? 

I have 9 new ARCs this week, two of them audiobooks, one of which, Trick or Treat, I have started listening to. I still have 31 requests pending.

My new ARCs are: The Maid by Nita Prose

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay which, when I requested it, I was unaware was #13 in a series!

A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald. I also have the previous book in this series, A Body at the Tea Rooms to catch up on.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Put Out to Pasture by Amanda Flower

and the audiobook Touching Strangers by Stacey Madden

Thank you to all my enabler friends who provided fodder for my book list this week. You know who you are. ❤📚

My posting has been a bit irregular this week for a number of reasons starting with the brutal, senseless and cowardly murder of one of my husband’s workmates last weekend while we were away. Antz was an all round good guy and father of six who will be greatly missed. We are grateful that two suspects have been apprehended.

I have also been helping to care for a friend who started chemotherapy this week and who has had a very violent reaction to it.

And we went back into lockdown at midnight on Thursday night. So Friday was spent going through all the lockdown procedures as we have no idea how long this will be for. It doesn’t affect the whole of New Zealand, just from the middle of the North Island, north. Case numbers are continuing to rise daily with an alarming number not connected to current cases. We had our Club’s 75th Jubilee scheduled for the last weekend this month and, depending on the news tomorrow afternoon, are probably going to have to postpone it again. We were meant to have it last year, but the same thing happened. Maybe we should just wait for the 80th now!

I had planned to go to visit my son and grandson this past week, but they went into lockdown a week ahead of us, so I am having to make do with videocalls. Aren’t we lucky to have this technology available to us. I also had a long videocall with my son in Western Australia earlier today. It was lovely to be able to see and talk to him.

So that was my week. I didn’t get all the reading done that I had planned, but that’s life and I am grateful that I and all my loved ones are safe. I hope your week wasn’t as eventful as mine.

Happy reading all. ❤📚

My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Glancing at Amy Rose lying so still, I reach over and take her hand; it feels so tiny and lifeless, her skin dry and papery. Gently I press her fingers between mine, as if I can imbue her with my strength, my vitality. I can almost imagine her eyes opening as she smiles sleepily at me.

Hey, Mama. What are you doing here?

Hey, baby girl. You had such a big sleep.

Did I dream?

You had the best dreams, sweetheart. The very best dreams.

A choked sound escapes me, something far too close to a sob. I can picture it so perfectly; I can’t believe it’s not real, that it’s not going to happen in just a few seconds. Every morning as she sits tangle-haired before her bowl of Cheerios, Amy Rose asks me if she dreamed the night before.

It’s become a thing between us; I tell her all about the dreams she had. I make up stories about ice-cream castles and fairies with sparkly wings, and she listens, rapt, and she always wants more.

I want to tell her about her dreams now. You flew up to heaven on your sparkly wings and then you came back, baby girl, and you had such stories to tell! Up there in the sky, you saw everything there ever was – the Great Wall of China, the lions in Africa, and that big red rock in Australia you think is so cool. You saw it all, and then came back to tell me about it.

Please come back, Amy Rose, 
I plead silently. Please come back and tell me all about it.

ABOUT ‘MY DAUGHTER’S MISTAKE’: I look at my daughter. My darling girl. I remember her tiny hand in mine, her first smile. I recall her tears when she’d tumble over, healed instantly with a band-aid and a little kiss. I have to keep her safe. Even if it means someone else gets hurt…

In the pretty, privileged college town of Milford, New Hampshire, everyone is friendly, everything is safe. And on this cold autumn day, as red and yellow leaves begin to fall from the trees, and everyone wraps up for the first time, it would be easy to believe nothing bad could ever happen here.

Until a screech of tires is heard, a thud, a child’s scream. The crash that sees Jenna’s six-year-old daughter Amy Rose being hit by a car driven by seventeen-year-old Maddie.

Maddie’s mother, Ellen—a college professor with a warm, approachable reputation—insists it must have been an accident. Her daughter is always safe on the road—and she’s vulnerable herself.

But as Amy Rose lies unconscious in hospital, the town begins to take sides. With Ellen, who just wants to defend her daughter. Or with Jenna, a single mother with a past, whose child hovers between life and death…

The truth is that both mothers have secrets they’re trying to keep. And, with Amy Rose’s life hanging in the balance, one of them will stop at nothing to protect the person she loves—her daughter.

MY THOUGHTS: Am I a masochist? Whenever I pick up a Kate Hewitt book, I know that I am about to have my heart shredded into tiny little pieces; but I keep on doing it.

Hewitt will wring every possible emotion from you as you read this heart-wrenching story. Each and every copy of it should come with its own extra large, extra absorbent, box of tissues.

Two mothers, both in desperate situations, are battling head to head over an accident that has critically damaged both their daughters. My Daughter’s Mistake is told from the points of view of the two mothers, Jenna – mother of the beautiful six year old Amy Rose; and Ellen – mother of the vulnerable Maddy.

My Daughter’s Mistake is the story of two families torn apart by one tragedy. Like any tragedy, this doesn’t stop with just those in the accident. Hewitt explores how the effects ripple outwards, affecting every member of the families and beyond.

As always in her books, Hewitt presents us with a situation that could befall any of us. Her characters are very real and I could not help but experience all the emotions of the characters – I seesawed in my sympathy between Jenna and Ellen – but I also felt their love, their loss, their fear and their anger. A master of family dynamics, Hewitt also involves the fathers, the siblings, and grandparents, friends and work colleagues in a story that will leave you emotionally drained but satisfied.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#MyDaughtersMistake #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Kate is the USA Today-bsetselling author of many books of both historical and contemporary fiction. Under the name Katharine Swartz, she is the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell.

She likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt 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 . . .

Thank you all for your good wishes for our weekend away. It was long drive in unpleasant conditions, and a detour to avoid a road closure due to an accident, but it was worth it to catch up with my brother. We share a passion for wine and I brought a few bottles home from his collection, plus the leftovers from the very delicious white chocolate cheesecake Rachel made for dessert. I am going to have to spend some time on my cross trainer this week as a result.

Currently I am reading 1979 by Val McDermid. I only started this before work this morning, but I am hooked.

I am listening to Our House by Louise Candlish which I am enjoying.

This week I am planning on reading Bad Apples by Will Dean – my second book title featuring apples in as many weeks.

It only takes one…

A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated

A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest

A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…

And The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou, Australian fiction by a new author to me.

A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Six new ARCs this week – where did they come from?🤷‍♀️ And, oh dear, 33 requests still pending.

Two titles from Marci Bolden, both read now – A Life Without Regrets (Thank you Susan of susanlovesbooks.wordpress.com )

And Hidden Hearts

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Echo Man by Sam Holland

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

And The Perfect Neighbour by Susanna Beard

I still have two reviews to write, so I had better crack on.

Stay safe. Covid Delta has escaped Auckland and there are cases just an hour up the road. Where my son and grandson live is now off limits to us . . . They are both fine, and Dustin is fully vaccinated so hopefully they will be fine.

Happy reading!❤📚