Now I Found You by Mila Oliver

EXCERPT: She stopped walking, her feet seemingly glued to the spot. Her heart was racing and chills were crawling all over her body, and she didn’t understand why. Slowly, she backed up a few steps, her feet trailing heavily. She looked over at the dock next door again, her eyes carefully scanning each person there. It was a group of young people, probably college aged by the look of the cheap beer cans scattered everywhere. Some were dancing, some were drunkenly swaying, all were laughing and having a good time. She scanned them faster until her eyes locked onto a girl with lush blonde hair standing to the side, her face half hidden from Kate’s view.

Kate took a step closer, wishing she could jump over the water to be on that same dock. The girl looked so familiar, even just from the side. Kate looked down at her hands, surprised to see pricks of blood on her palm from where her nails had been digging into them. She looked up again just in time to see the girl laugh, her face turning towards Kate briefly.

Kate was vaguely aware of the glass she was still holding in her hand fall to the ground next to her, its drop silenced by both the soft earth and by the shrill ringing in her ears. The iciness in her body had spread everywhere, gripping her heart and lungs and squeezing tight. Kate’s hands flew to her throat as she struggled to breathe. She felt a dark curtain start to fall before her eyes, and determinedly kept her gaze glued for as long as she could on the girl on the dock. On Emily.

ABOUT ‘NOW I FOUND YOU’: Seven years ago, Kate Hartfield’s little sister disappeared.

An ordinary summer day of fun at the lake turned into a nightmare when young Emily Hartfield suddenly could not be found. When badly battered body parts were discovered three days later, the investigation concluded that they were Emily’s and the case was closed as an accidental drowning.

Now Kate has returned to her hometown in the Catskills for the first time since her sister’s death, for a work retreat. While at her boss’s lake house, she briefly spies a familiar face.

It’s Emily.

She’s all grown up, but Kate knows her sister’s face better than anyone. The sighting reignites the doubts Kate has always had, and forces her to revisit all the mysterious circumstances that surrounded that day. As she desperately tries to track down the girl she saw at the lake house with the help of her hometown ex-boyfriend, Kate discovers shocking secrets from the past, confronts her own guilt from that day, and becomes obsessed with uncovering the answer to one question.

What really happened to Emily?

MY THOUGHTS: Now I Found You is a good debut novel. It’s a very quick and easy read, written, excepting occasional flashbacks which increase in frequency the closer we get to the end of the book, in a linear timeline. This is a family drama/mystery, with a touch of romance.

I liked this, but didn’t love it. The idea was good, but it could have used a little more development. There were a couple of loose ends and a few things that just didn’t ring true.

Loose ends: Kate was on a work retreat, from which she abruptly leaves and to which she doesn’t return. She ignores calls from her boss and workmates, and then we just don’t hear any more about them.

After reuniting with her grandmother in her quest to find Emily, nothing more is heard of her . . .

Things that didn’t ring true: The ease with which Kate just walks back into Luke’s life. Would anyone really just dump their current girlfriend to resume a relationship with someone who has previously walked out of their life with no explanation, and is currently behaving very erratically? And if I were Luke’s mother, I don’t know that I would have welcomed Kate back into my son’s life with open arms.

I find it difficult to believe Kate’s father’s actions concerning Emily. I would have found it more believable if he just hadn’t noticed the difference after eight months away. I just didn’t find the whole explanation concerning him convincing.

I finished this book with more questions than answers. But, having said that, I am interested to watch how this author develops.

⭐⭐.8

#NowIFoundYou #NetGalley

I:

T:

#familydrama #romance #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Sorry, I could find no information about this author.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Books Go Social via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Now I Found You by Mila Oliver 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, my requesting finger went into overdrive this week because I have eleven (yes 11) new ARCs on my shelf. As they say, it never rains, but it pours!

Amazon are currently not accepting my reviews because I haven’t spent enough money with them. Apparently the books I buy for Pete don’t count. 🤷‍♀️ So I have had a flurry of purchases over the past few days, but still no joy. Maybe I will have to wait until Monday USA time for it to update.

Currently I am reading Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life? 

And Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, one of my new ARCs this week.

The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light. 

I am enjoying both these books immensely.

I am listening to The Unheard by Nicci French, another this week’s ARCs. Also excellent.

Maybe Tess is overprotective, but passing her daughter off to her ex and his new young wife fills her with a sense of dread. It’s not that Jason is a bad father–it just hurts to see him enjoying married life with someone else. Still, she owes it to her daughter Poppy to make this arrangement work.

But Poppy returns from the weekend tired and withdrawn. And when she shows Tess a crayon drawing–an image so simple and violent that Tess can hardly make sense of it—-Poppy can only explain with the words, “He did kill her.”

Something is horribly wrong. Tess is certain Poppy saw something–or something happened to her–that she’s too young to understand. Jason insists the weekend went off without a hitch. Doctors advise that Poppy may be reacting to her parents’ separation. And as the days go on, even Poppy’s disturbing memory seems to fade. But a mother knows her daughter, and Tess is determined to discover the truth. Her search will set off an explosive tempest of dark secrets and buried crimes–and more than one life may be at stake.

This week I am planning on reading The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) by Richard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

I am working the next two weeks straight as I have staff away on leave, so am not overcommitting myself.

The ARCs I received this week, in addition to Apples Never Fall and The Unheard, are:

A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristin Harper

The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope

Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

Past Life by David Mark

Where There’s a Will by Sulari Gentill

The Devil’s Choir by Michael Michaud

Many Deadly Returns, 21 stories celebrating 21 years of the Murder Squad

Stranded, an audio ARC written by Sarah Goodwin and narrated by Esme Sears

Another audio ARC, The Best Mystery Stories of 2021

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

and, finally, an Australian novel, A Little Bird by Wendy James

Thank you to all the enablers out there whose reviews I have read and decided that I can’t live without reading that book, and whose TBR piles have revealed gems that I simply must read. No need to name you all – you know who you are.

I still have 21 pending requests. 🤦‍♀️

This week I have been to Barcelona, Spain; North Devon, England, Austria, France and Panama (1914 – 1935) ; Stamford, Connecticut; and Weybridge in Surrey. Have we crossed paths? Where have your travels taken you this week?

Have a wonderful week of reading, and stay safe my friends ❤📚

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

EXCERPT: When Anton arrived the following day, he found that Delphine had set up a work table for him at the window overlooking the park.

Having never lived with a woman before, still less with one who fascinated him so much, he found it difficult to settle down to work. Panama seemed more than remote, it seemed unreal. Emerald and her devotions, Maxwell and his brandy bottle, the giant wheel that turned the lock gates lying flat in its braced iron bed . . . Perhaps he had in truth caught yellow fever and hallucinated all these things.

What was real was the smell of coffee from the kitchen next door, the sound of Delphine singing to herself as she tidied, her footsteps on the wooden floor. He went in, stood behind her and put his arms around her waist, then pressed himself against her.

ABOUT ‘SNOW COUNTRY’: 1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels himself blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.

1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.

1933: Still struggling to come terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.

MY THOUGHTS: Snow Country is a book of dreams, yearning and hope balanced against the horrors of WWI and the approach of WWII, and the struggles, both political and personal, of the period in between. The scope of this novel is huge, almost too huge, and I sometimes felt swamped by it, rather than encompassed by it as I have with other works I have read by this author.

Lena is the common thread, the character who ties the other characters to the story. She is from a poor background, poor in both money and upbringing. She was also a poor student, leaving school with few academic skills, but natural abilities in other areas. All Lena really wants is to be loved, and a good part of this story is devoted to her journey towards finding that love. It is not a smooth, nor a predictable path.

My favourite characters were those of Delphine, a Frenchwoman with whom a young and inexperienced Anton falls in love; and Martha, a therapist at the psychiatric institute. My least favourite character was Rudolf, whose only great passion is politics, and who seems incapable of recognizing human emotions in others, or of responding to them.

This is a very slow moving read with a lot of dialogue. At times I found it hard to get to grips with the characters. Even after finishing it, I am still not sure if Lena’s, Rudolf’s and Anton’s stories were merely a vehicle for the political history of Austria between the wars, or vice versa. Looking back on this reading experience it was like stumbling down a long, unfamiliar path in the dead of night, with no light, and no idea of where you are going.

I did love the section devoted to the building of the Panama Canal. It was such a huge feat, built at the cost of so many lives, and I had never before considered the logistics of the task. Faulks made this very real for me.

There is some beautiful writing in Snow Country, but this is nowhere near the author’s best work, of which my personal favourite is Birdsong.

⭐⭐⭐.1

#SnowCountry #NetGalley

I: #sebastianfaulks @randomhouseuk @hutchheinemann

T: @ SebastianFaulks @RandomHouseUK @HutchHeinemann

#comingofage #historicalfiction #mystery #romance #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independent”, and then went on to become deputy editor of “The Sunday Independent”. Sebastian Faulks was awarded the CBE in 2002. He and his family live in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks 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 . . .

Here in the southern hemisphere, spring has arrived, and we are having the most magnificent weather.

Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

Currently I am reading Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

and The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves. It’s so good to be back with Matthew and his team. I am totally perplexed as to who is behind these murders.

I am listening to Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer. It’s excellent and I am listening to it every moment I can.

This week I am planning on reading The New Home by Chris Merritt

Freya loves her new home on a quiet suburban street. And her beautiful neighbour Emily is everything she’s ever wanted in a best friend. Finally, she has somebody to share her secrets with over a glass of wine. But as Freya watches her new friend setting the table for dinner one evening, she sees something shocking that makes her think that Emily’s life might not be as perfect as it seems. Days later, Emily and her daughter vanish…

When you meet Emily’s husband, you will think you know what he’s hiding.

You will ask yourself whether Emily and Freya really did meet by chance.

You will think you know what happened to Emily and her little girl the night they went missing.

But when you discover the truth, it will shake you to your core and you will lie awake at night wondering if you can ever really trust the people in the house next door…

And Now I Found You by Mila Oliver

Seven years ago, Kate Hartfield’s little sister disappeared.

An ordinary summer day of fun at the lake turned into a nightmare when young Emily Hartfield suddenly could not be found. When badly battered body parts were discovered three days later, the investigation concluded that they were Emily’s and the case was closed as an accidental drowning.

Now Kate has returned to her hometown in the Catskills for the first time since her sister’s death, for a work retreat. While at her boss’s lake house, she briefly spies a familiar face.

It’s Emily.

She’s all grown up, but Kate knows her sister’s face better than anyone. The sighting reignites the doubts Kate has always had, and forces her to revisit all the mysterious circumstances that surrounded that day. As she desperately tries to track down the girl she saw at the lake house with the help of her hometown ex-boyfriend, Kate discovers shocking secrets from the past, confronts her own guilt from that day, and becomes obsessed with uncovering the answer to one question.

What really happened to Emily? 

I haven’t got another audiobook lined up to listen to yet, as I don’t have any more Netgalley audios waiting to be reviewed. So I may be able to pick something from my discretionary list from the library.

This week I received only two new ARCs. They are: Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

and The Christmas Wish by Sharon Sala

I still have 24 pending requests.

I have been very busy in the garden over the past few days while the weather has been so great, and my yard is looking quite nice at the moment. I am making the most of it, as if rumours are to be believed, I will probably be back to work Wednesday. We find out tomorrow afternoon. If we do drop another level, we still can’t operate at full capacity and there are a lot of restrictions that need to be complied with. If rumours are true, we will stay at that level until after Christmas, and Auckland will remain under lockdown for a few more weeks yet.

It is Father’s Day today in New Zealand. I had a long video call with Luke this morning as he was busy making Dustin a card. He drew a picture of himself and Dustin on the inside, and wrote his own name. The outside of the card is covered with dinosaur stickers!😂🤣🦕🦖 It was made with lots of love, as were the chocolate brownies. He also wished his Poppa a happy Poppa’s Day which pleased Pete no end.

That’s it from me for today. I am going to make a drink and sit in the sun and . . . READ!

Have a happy day all and stay safe. ❤📚

P.S. I completely forgot to write about my virtual travels via my books 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️ In the past week I have been to Stillwater, Minnesota; spent more time at Chammont Point, East Virginia with Jade, Darcy and Taylor; Cutlers Bay on the York Peninsula, South Australia; Barnstaple in North Devon, England; Vienna, Austria; and Riverton Falls, New England.

Did we pass by one another during the week? I hope you have had some wonderful travels too. Stop by and let me know where you have been. ❤📚

Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark

EXCERPT: There were several villages within spitting distance of the practice, which was just outside Stratford-Upon-Avon. Jack was enthusiastic about living close to the surgery, declaring that he could even cycle to work in the warmer weather. Eventually we had plumped for picturesque Avoncote, largely because of the house we had discovered there. We fell in love with Whisper Cottage at first sight. It was one of two semi-detached houses, set apart on a short stretch of road towards the centre of the hamlet. Uneven cobbles winding to a frontage festooned with lilac blooms beneath a thatched roof; endearingly small and perfect newlyweds expecting their first child. Yes, there was a good deal of work to be done, and we were going to have to throw some serious money at the place – something we could ill afford, the mortgage stretching us to the limit – but the location was ideal, and the house had such potential. We moved in at the end of April, the whole summer stretching out before us, leaving several months to prepare for our upcoming arrival.

The chocolate-box village itself, quintessentially English and slightly twee, with its small, close-knit community, seemed like the answer to our prayers. It was like something out of a Miss Marple novel. There was a village green, complete with stocks – thankfully no longer in use. It even boasted a maypole. Next to the green, a large circular duck pond was enclosed by a low wooden barrier. The spire of a beautiful old church pierced the skyline, its immaculately maintained graveyard filled with generations of village’s former occupants. Beyond the church, a canal passed through the village, the towpath providing a scenic walk towards the centre of Stratford.

ABOUT ‘WHISPER COTTAGE’: When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.

Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.

Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?

MY THOUGHTS: First off, I am going to state that I don’t consider Whisper Cottage to be a psychological thriller. In my eyes, it is more of a mystery, and a very good one, a very enjoyable one.

Whisper Cottage is a slow burner. Clark takes her time in setting the scene, but I liked the way she did this, sewing little and seemingly inconsequential seeds of doubt that niggle like a burr caught in your clothing that you just can’t find to remove.

The opening chapter is set in 1964, and gives no clue as to who is involved. This doesn’t become apparent until later in the book.

In real time, we learn about Stina’s background, her mother’s mental instability, and her own fears that she may follow in her mother’s footsteps. Husband Jack is the sensible one, soothing Stina and quietening her fears.

Mrs Barley, their elderly next door neighbour, is lovely and kind to Stina and Jack, making them welcome and plying them with her home cooking. But why do the rest of the villagers have nothing to do with the old lady? What is behind their warnings to Stina to keep her at a distance? And why do bad things happen to those who cross her?

Who is the mystery man? The one that sneaks in and out of Mrs Barley’s summerhouse, the one that no one but Stina has seen, the man Mrs Barley claims she has no knowledge of.

And there’s also the unexplained noises from the attic in the middle of the night. Yes, there are things that go ‘bump’ in the night . . .

I loved the gradual ramping up of tension, the way the author left me hanging as normal life resumed, the oddities seemingly swept under the carpet by Jack’s logic, but lingering like ghostly presences.

If you like a slightly creepy mystery, with a few clever twists, then I am recommending Whisper Cottage. I loved it, and will be looking for more to read from this author. NOTE: At the time of writing this review I was unaware that this is Anne Wyn Clark’s debut novel. An excellent debut, and an author worth watching.

Lauren Moakes was the narrator, and her smooth, honeyed speech was well suited to this story and added to my enjoyment.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#WhisperCottage #NetGalley

I: #annewynclark #harpercollinsukaudio @avonbooksuk

T: @EAClarkAuthor @HarperCollinsUK @AvonBooksUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Anne Wyn Clark lives in the Midlands with her husband and son, plus a rather temperamental cat, a rabbit and a chinchilla. She has three (now grown-up) children and five grandchildren. She is particularly partial to Italian food, decent red wine (or any coloured wine come to that…) and cake – and has been known to over-indulge in each on occasions. She has a penchant for visiting old graveyards and speculating on the demise of those entombed beneath. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK audio, Avon via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Whisper Cottage written by Anne Wyn Clark and narrated by Lauren Moakes 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 . . .

Good afternoon from an unexpectedly sunny afternoon in New Zealand, where we are still in lockdown. Areas outside of Auckland will drop to Level 3 on Wednesday, which someone has famously dubbed lockdown with takeaways. Auckland remains at Level 4 as all but 15 cases of Covid are there and new cases are still occurring at around 80 a day.

Currently I am reading The Restarting Point by Marci Bolden. What a wonderful read! With warm, unlikely friendships, and wonderful characters, I have both laughed and cried while reading this.

I am also reading Lost Angels (Nikki Hunt #3) by Stacy Green which is every bit as good as her previous books.

And I am listening to Whisper Cottage, written by Ann Wyn Clark, and narrated by Lauren Moakes. I really am on a roll this week as so far this, too, is excellent.

This coming week I am planning on reading All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard. Don’t you just love this cover!

At 70, and widowed, Ella is about to find out that blood is not always thicker than water. A wise and warm-hearted story about aging, family and community for readers of Tricia Stringer and Liz Byrski.

At 70, Ella’s world is upended, leaving her at odds with her three adult children, whose attention is fixed more firmly on her money than her ongoing welfare. After an argument with her son Anthony, she flees his Adelaide home for Cutlers Bay, a seaside town on the Yorke Peninsula. There she befriends Angie, a 40-year-old drifter, and becomes an irritant to local cop Zach. He’s keen to shift Ella off his turf, because Anthony phones daily, demanding his mother be sent home. And besides, Zach just doesn’t trust Angie.

Ella warms to Cutlers Bay, and it warms to her. In a defiant act of self-determination, she buys an entirely unsuitable house on the outskirts of town, and Angie agrees to help make it habitable. Zach is drawn to the house on the clifftop, and finds himself revising his earlier opinions of Ella, and Angie.

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves, #2 in her new series Two Rivers. I loved the first, The Long Call, and can’t wait to get stuck into this.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

And Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks, an author I admire greatly.

1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels himself blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.

1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.

1933: Still struggling to come terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.

This week I received five new digital ARCs, and two audiobooks. It’s a lovely mix of new and favourite authors.

The books are: Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer

The Parents by Claire Seeber

Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

And 1979 by Val McDermid

The two audiobooks I received are: A Dream to Die For by Susan Z. Ritz and narrated by Rachel Perry

And Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer, narrated by George Blagden

Over the past week I have very briefly been in Boston, Massachusetts; spent more time in Hull, East Yorkshire; Salterley, somewhere in England; France, Belgium and Amsterdam; Stillwater, Minnesota; Chammont Point, East Virginia; and Avoncot, Wiltshire. Have our paths crossed this week? Where have you been on your bookish travels?

I still have 25 Netgalley requests pending.

Have a great week of reading, and stay safe my friends.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

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

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

Somewhere else, in different circumstances.

But where?

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

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

And now he thinks, Gotcha.

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

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

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

Who is she, really?

What is she?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#56Days #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @blackstonepublishing

T: @cryanhyde @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #crime #irishfiction #mystery #suspense

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of 56 Days by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Now.

Ava Lancet peered through the unrelenting night as she fought down a growing sense of panic. Darkness had fallen twenty minutes ago and she had no idea where she was – or where she was meant to go.

She glanced at the map crumpled on the passenger seat of her rental car, wishing that the agent had provided a GPS instead of the seemingly obsolete, old-fashioned fold-out map that he’d assured her would help her drive from Athens to the tiny village of Iousidous. And perhaps it would have if she could have made sense of the wiggly lines and incomprehensible Greek names. Not that reading Greek even mattered now because darkness had fallen and she could barely make out the road signs on Greece’s National Highway.

She’d been in this country just a few hours and already she was completely lost, both literally and figuratively. Spiritually, emotionally, hopelessly lost. A fortnight ago, escaping a cold wet spring in England had seemed like a wonderful idea, a desperate lifeline since her own life – and marriage – had been put on hold. That’s how Ava liked to think of it anyway, because to consider anything else was too final. Too much of a failure.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE OLIVE GROVE’: When Ava arrives in Greece, it’s with a heart that’s shattered into a thousand pieces. But as she pulls up in a tiny village nestled on a cliff above the glittering Ionian Sea, and steps out in front of a tumbledown house that once belonged to her grandmother Sophia, everything changes.

At first Ava almost wants to laugh at this bizarre inheritance—a home that has been uninhabited since the Second World War—that appears as close to collapse as she herself feels. But with nowhere left to run to, her only choice is to start putting the house together again.

What Ava doesn’t expect is for pieces of her grandmother’s story to emerge, as a local survivor from the war begins to share her secrets. Ava can’t help but be drawn to Sophia’s hidden past… even though the truth could change her own life forever.

Because Sophia’s story is one of devastating choices she had to make during the Nazi invasion of her beloved country. It’s a story of bravery, betrayal and tragedy. But most of all, it is a story about love…

MY THOUGHTS: I am a definite starter for books where the main character is left a house, and uncovers a mystery, so I knew as soon as I saw it that I absolutely must read this book. I have read Kate Hewitt before and enjoyed her, so I knew that I was in for a good read.

Hewitt has described rural Greece beautifully – not that I have ever been there, unfortunately – but just as I have seen it on travel documentaries. In Ava’s ‘now’, there is a dearth of young people in the village, but the villagers of a similar age to Ava, or her mother, are friendly, welcoming and helpful, while the older generations are more reserved and distrustful.

Sophia’s ‘then’ in 1942, has a totally different atmosphere. It is a time of poverty and fear, with many different political factions trying to seize control. There are communists, nazis and fascists all competing against one another, each in their own way equally dangerous. Sophia is content to keep her head down, her opinions to herself, and just get on with her work at the café. But other people have vastly different plans for her.

I didn’t know much about Greece in WWII, so Beyond the Olive Grove was a bit of an education for me. Please make sure you read Kate’s letter at the end of the book. I learned so much more from it, including that Sophia’s story is based on both real events and people.

I liked Beyond the Olive Grove, but regretfully didn’t love it. In all honesty I felt Ava’s story detracted from Sophia’s with her marriage and emotional dramas. A good read, but for me one that I probably won’t be able to recall in a couple of weeks.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#BeyondtheOliveGrove #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Kate 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 Beyond the Olive Grove 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 . . .

I had no idea when I posted last Sunday that my next Sunday post would find New Zealand in lockdown, but here we are! I really am not complaining though. We went into lockdown on Wednesday, which I spent most of at work, shutting everything off and down. I went back to work Friday for a few hours to pay the taxes – even under lockdown, the government still expects to be paid – and touching base with our staff to make sure everyone is okay. 3:00 p.m. today we will be advised if lockdown is to be extended beyond Monday. I would lay money that it will as case numbers are still climbing daily, and they’re currently trying to trace over 5,000 contacts of those who are infected.

Still, we’ve been here before and no doubt will be here again. I am enjoying the break, although I will be back at work tomorrow to pay staff and apply for the wage subsidy and whatever else is available. In meantime we have been stripping wallpaper from the lounge walls and plastering, ready to paint. We are lucky that we can go online and order everything we need and have it delivered. Got to love the internet!

Anyway, let’s get to the real reason we’re here – books. Currently I am reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, a new author for me. Connie, the main character, is a tour guide and I have enjoyed touring through Italy, Poland and the north of Scotland with her.

I am about to start Darkness Falls by David Mark

And I am doing a read/listen to The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson. If you think your mother-in-law is the one from hell, check out Caprice!

This week I planning on reading What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor.

With the court date set for her divorce and the future she’d planned with a younger man presumably kaput, Kassie O’Callaghan shifts attention to reviving her stalled marketing career. But that goal gets complicated when she unexpectedly rendezvous with her former lover in Paris. After a chance meeting with a colleague and a stroll along Pont Neuf, Kassie receives two compelling proposals. Can she possibly accept them both?

Kassie’s decision process screeches to a halt when her soon-to-be ex-husband has a heart attack, forcing her to fly home to Boston. There, she confronts his conniving and deceitful fiancée—a woman who wants not just a ring on her finger but everything that belongs to Kassie. In the ensuing battle to protect what’s legally and rightfully hers, Kassie discovers that sometimes it’s what’s not true that can set you free.

But first I need to read What’s Not Said, the first in the series, which I also have on my shelf.

Kassie O’Callaghan’s meticulous plans to divorce her emotionally abusive husband, Mike, and move in with Chris, a younger man she met five years ago on a solo vacation in Venice, are disrupted when she finds out Mike has chronic kidney disease—something he’s concealed from her for years. Once again, she postpones her path to freedom—at least, until she pokes around his pajama drawer and discovers his illness is the least of his deceits.

But Kassie is no angel, either. As she struggles to justify her own indiscretions, the secret lives she and Mike have led collide head-on, revealing a tangled web of sex, lies, and DNA. Still, mindful of her vows, Kassie commits to helping her husband find an organ donor. In the process, she uncovers a life-changing secret. Problem is, if she reveals it, her own immorality will be exposed, which means she has an impossible decision to make: Whose life will she save—her husband’s or her own.

And The Selling Point by Marci Bolden.

Darby Zamora has always gotten by with work that suits her unique way of life, but success hasn’t exactly come easy. A former bridal seamstress, Darby gave up making custom gowns years ago. Her heart was always too big for her business’s pocketbook, until she comes up with a way to make an old business new again: The Un-Do Wedding Boutique.

Selling dresses online in her bridal consignment shop has merchandise flying off the virtual shelves. People are lining up not only to buy the dress overstock that Darby’s been holding onto, but she has new clients desperate for her to help them re-sell their unused wedding items.

But success comes at a steep price when ghosts from her past resurface and make Darby and her new company confront harsh realities of life and business. With the help of her friends Jade and Taylor, Darby is forced to reassess her business, rediscover herself, and ultimately find her selling point. 

Although, again, I need to read the first in the series, The Restarting Point.

Marketing executive and mother of two, Jade Kelly can now add cancer survivor to her list of successes. But while her life looks good on paper, four months out of treatment, Jade realizes she hardly knows her college-age children and she and her husband Nick are little more than housemates.

Determined to start over, Jade schedules a family vacation to a lakefront cabin. When her kids bail and Nick stays home to handle a last minute work crisis, Jade heads to Chammont Point alone, determined to dust herself off and figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

While she’s away, the life she thought she had unravels. Secrets, lies, and old wounds drive Jade into new adventures and new relationships. With the help of family and new found friends, Jade learns starting over sometimes means finding a brand new restarting point.

So fingers crossed that lockdown continues, otherwise I won’t get the lounge finished, or meet my reading target.

I have 6 new ARCs this week plus one audio ARC. They are:

A Matter of Time by Claire Askew

Now I Found You by Mila Oliver

The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine, another 2nd book in a series where I still have the first, The Christmas Killer, to read 😱

The Editor’s Wife by Clare Chambers, a new author for me.

Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy, an author adore

And The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

The audio ARC that I received is Whisper Cottage by Ann Wynn Clark and narrated by Lauren Moakes, who I don’t believe I have listened to previously.

Where have your book travels taken you in the past week? I have been in a small village in the mountains of Greece in both 1942 and just prior to Covid; Dublin, Ireland; Warsaw, Poland in 1944 ; and London, England in both 1944 and 2019; and Venice, Lake Como, and Verona, Italy, the north of Scotland, and Somerset, England pre-Covid. Have we crossed paths?

And now I am going to bid you arivederci and watch the final 20 laps of the Indy racing from St Louis, Mo., where rookie Kiwi, Scot McLaughlin is coming 4th!

Happy reading ❤📚

Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

EXCERPT: Mum shakes her head decisively in answer to my question: there’s nothing more for me to see. Frustrated, I try another tack.

‘It’s important to Tomasz, too. He barely remembers Gosia and never knew his father, but the man who gave him the photograph when he was a teenager, said that Shona knew his father.’

She looks at me with an expression that is not encouraging.

‘I said I’d ask if you could think of anyone he might talk to.’

She pointedly turns her head to look out at the wintry garden. I keep trying.

‘The man Tomasz spoke to at the Polish Hearth Club who remembered that you were a doctor also said that Shona had a Polish boyfriend. Is that true? Did you ever meet him?’

She stands up abruptly, walks past me out of the kitchen and into the living room, slamming the door behind her.

I’m shocked by the intensity of my reaction when she does this. I’m furious. Nothing ever changes. Even if Shona’s wartime mission had to be kept secret at the time, how can it hurt to talk about it now? Why can’t Mum be happy that I want to understand her sister’s past? But she’s never let me in, never shared her feelings or admitted any frailty. She’s kept me at arms length all her life and now she’s dying, and all she can do when I try to learn more about her is slam a door against me.

ABOUT ‘SISTERHOOD’: Identical twin sisters Freya and Shona take very different paths, leading to long-buried family secrets that reverberate through the generations in this thrilling novel of psychological suspense by the author of Tell Me How It Ends. There are some choices you can’t come back from.

It is 1944 in war-battered London. Freya and Shona are identical twins, close despite their different characters. Freya is a newly qualified doctor treating the injured in an East End hospital, while Shona has been recruited by the SOE. The sisters are so physically alike that they can fool people into thinking that one is the other. It’s a game they’ve played since childhood. But when Shona persuades her twin to swap roles to meet her Polish lover, he is angered at being tricked.

Then Shona proposes a far more dangerous swapping of roles. At first Freya refuses but finally she agrees, with consequences that threaten not only the happiness but the lives of both sisters.

Forty-five years later in November 1989 Freya, now aged 69, is watching television with her daughter Kirsty. Freya is gripped as she witnesses crowds of Berliners attempting to knock down their hated Wall. This sight stirs memories of her own and her sister’s war, especially the tragedy of the Warsaw Uprising – memories that she has never shared with anyone. Even if she wanted to reveal them now, she can’t. She’s suffering from a brain tumour and is unable to speak although her reason is unimpaired. And this is what she’s thinking: if they succeed in knocking down the Wall, what secrets will come tumbling through? If her own were revealed, it would be devastating for all those close to her, especially her daughter, Kirsty.

MY THOUGHTS: I felt a personal connection with Kirsty, Freya’s daughter in this story. I know next to nothing about my mother’s life, and now it’s too late. I felt Kirsty’s anguish and frustration at constantly being pushed away.

But aside from touching me on a personal level, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue of Sisterhood. The story is told over two timelines, from Kirsty’s point of view in 1989 as the Berlin Wall is demolished, and a stranger arrives with a photo looking for her mother Freya’s identical twin sister, Shona, who had been recruited by the SOE; and in 1944 from Freya’s point of view.

But it’s not just her mother’s ill health, and the mystery surrounding her aunt that Kirsty has to contend with. Her Australian husband Martin has been offered his dream job – in Australia.

I started to read this over my morning coffee, intending to read just a chapter or two to get a feel for the story. Instead, I read until I was finished. Yes, a one sitting read that intrigued me from the outset; one that never let me go. This is a multi-generational storyline which starts with Freya and Shona, and moves on encompass Freya’s daughter Kirsty and her family. The plot progresses at a steady pace, and is full of mystery, intrigue, and drama.

Strongly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and family dramas/mysteries.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#Sisterhood #NetGalley

I: @quercusbooks

T: @IsabelleGrey @QuercusBooks

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Manchester, England, and have an English degree from Cambridge. My first job was with a London antique dealer and I spent many years as a freelance journalist and non-fiction author (as Isabelle Anscombe) writing initially about the fascinating world of the art market and the history of decorative arts before going on to contribute features and reviews to national newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Psychologies. I have also written for film, television and radio drama.

I live and work in north London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Sisterhood by V.B. Grey. 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