The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

EXCERPT: The Greer mansion was one of the original houses in Arlen Heights. It was an ugly Frankenstein of a house even when it was built – a pseudo-Victorian style of slanted roofs and spires, though the walls were of butter-yellow brick. And when Julian Greer bought it in 1950 with his newly inherited pharmaceutical fortune, he made it worse. He remodeled the lower floor to be more modern, with straight lines and dark brown wood. He also put in a bank of windows along the back wall to open up the house’s dark gloomy interior. The windows looked out to the house’s back lawn and it’s drop off to the ocean beyond.

The effect was supposed to be sweeping, breathtaking, but like most of Julian’s life, it didn’t work out as planned. The windows fogged and the view was bleak. The lawn was flat and dead, and the ocean beyond the cliff was choppy and cold. Julian had done the renovations in hopes of pleasing his new wife, Mariana. But instead the relentless view from the windows unsettled her, and she kept the curtains closed. She decorated the rest of the house dutifully but listlessly, which was a harbinger of their marriage. Something about the Greer mansion stifled laughter and killed happiness. It might sound dramatic but anyone who had lived there knew it was true.

By 1975, both Julian and Mariana were dead, Julian with his blood all over the kitchen floor, Mariana in the twisted wreck of a car crash. The house watched all of it happen, indifferent.

ABOUT ‘THE BOOK OF COLD CASES’: In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect – a rich, eccentric 23-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017, Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases – a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

MY THOUGHTS: I love books where the house is a character in its own right. The Greer mansion certainly is that. It is a cold house, caught in a time warp, where Beth Greer, once charged with the Lady Killer murders, lives – alone.

St. James has ramped up the supernatural element in The Book of Cold Cases, maybe a little too much, but that is purely a personal opinion. The writing is certainly as compelling as usual and the characters incredibly well depicted. I could ‘see’ and ‘hear’ Beth; while not the main character, it is Beth who fascinated me and her story is revealed slowly throughout the book.

The Book of Cold Cases is a compelling page-turner, one that provides multiple murder-mysteries; an infamous recluse; a detective who may have been just a little in love with the main suspect; and a true-crime blogger with her own secrets.

The audiobook is superbly narrated by Brittany Pressley, Kirsten Potter and Robert Petkoff.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheBookofColdCases

I: @simonestjames @penguinaudio

T: @simone_stjames @PRHAudio

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery #paranormal

THE AUTHOR: Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat. She is addicted to sushi, rainy days, coffee, and My Favorite Murder.

The Ghost of Gracie Flynn by Joanna Morrison

Happy Publication Day to Joanna Morrison and Fremantle Press for The Ghost of Gracie Flynn!

EXCERPT: 2019 Monday, 18th February
The first person to know your father was dead was a woman. A young woman. Early twenties. Emerald eyes and a dark mass of hair.

Image her eyes now closed – eyelashes dark against her pale skin. She’s lying on her back, her hair spread out around her head.

When she wakes, there’s a gurgling sound and a briny smell coming in on the breeze. She opens her eyes and a throb of pain spreads from the back of her head to the front.

Slowly a shape comes into focus, white in a sea of darkness.

The moon.

A mast reaches into the night sky, sails furled up tight.

The woman sits up and the throbbing intensifies – a blinding flare behind her eyes. Through the ache, she sees lights over on the shore, rising and falling with the rocking of the boat. Their reflections slip in and out of the water’s skin.

Not that far away.

She pulls herself onto her knees, and that’s when she sees it: a shoe. A black shoe, on someone’s foot, pointing up at the sky. Fear moves through her like a slow, augmented arpeggio. Barely breathing, she studies the shape of him. He’s long. His clothes are dark. On his left hand, which is pale and still, a wedding band catches the light from the shore intermittently. Like a lighthouse. A warning pulse.

She recognizes him then. It’s Sam. Sam Favier.

Yes, your father.

ABOUT ‘THE GHOST OF GRACIE FLYNN’: Two deaths, eighteen years apart. A tension-filled mystery by debut author Joanna Morrison.

Gracie Flynn may be dead, but she’s not gone. Three university friends are divided by a tragic death. Eighteen years later, chance reunites them. Robyn is still haunted by memories of her best friend Gracie, and Cohen’s heart has never healed. Only Sam seems to have moved on and found success and happiness. But death rocks their lives again when Sam’s body is found in mysterious circumstances. And the ghost of Gracie Flynn has a story to tell about the night that changed their lives forever.

MY THOUGHTS: I read The Ghost of Gracie Flynn in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down.

This is not your normal supernatural/paranormal novel. There’s nothing spooky or creepy. There’s no hauntings, no moving things around, no wanting revenge for an untimely death.

The story is narrated by Gracie, speaking to Sam’s baby daughter Isla.

Sam is one of the original four: Sam and Robyn; Gracie and Cohen. Gracie was taken from them, eighteen years before this novel begins; the circumstances surrounding her death never resolved.

But, over the years, Gracie has kept a benevolent watch over them, never quite able to let go of her friends, just as none of them have ever been able to come to terms with her death.

And now there is the perfect storm of events when chance finally reunites the three survivors. Will the circumstances surrounding Gracie’s death finally be revealed?

I loved this book. I loved the characters, even the ones that I didn’t particularly like. They are real: you, me, our friends. I loved the plotting: clever, clever plotting. Just as real as the characters. Fallible people falling into situations where, due to their emotional imbalance, they make the wrong choices. I was completely absorbed in the storyline. I just sat and read until I was finished. Dinner was exceedingly late . . .

I don’t know that I have ever given five stars to an author’s debut novel before. It’s usually four and a half – where merited – to give them room for improvement. But there is absolutely no way that The Ghost of Gracie Flynn could be improved upon. It is word perfect. Every line, every nuance is orchestrated into a symphony; an absolute delight.

The Ghost of Gracie Flynn is definitely in my top ten reads of 2022.

My favourite line: ‘No other species swings from idiocy to genius like we do. We’re uniquely mental.’

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheGhostofGracieFlynn #FremantlePress

I: @jomorrisonauthor @fremantlepress

T: @JodijoMo @FremantlePress

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #friendship #mystery #paranormal

THE AUTHOR: Joanna Morrison has a background in journalism and a PhD in creative writing. Her short fiction has appeared in Australian literary journals and anthologies. Joanna lives in Perth with her husband, two sons and a miniature schnauzer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Fremantle Press for providing a copy of The Ghost of Gracie Flynn by Joanna Morrison 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

First Line Friday

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Happy Friday & welcome to First Line Friday hosted by Reading Is My SuperPower.

2019 Monday, 18th February

The first person to know your father was dead was a woman. A young woman. Early twenties. Emerald eyes and a dark mass of hair. ‘

Intrigued and wanting to read on? I was.

This is the opening paragraph to The Ghost of Gracie Flynn by Joanna Morrison.

Two deaths, eighteen years apart. A tension-filled mystery by debut author Joanna Morrison.

Gracie Flynn may be dead, but she’s not gone. Three university friends are divided by a tragic death. Eighteen years later, chance reunites them. Robyn is still haunted by memories of her best friend Gracie, and Cohen’s heart has never healed. Only Sam seems to have moved on and found success and happiness. But death rocks their lives again when Sam’s body is found in mysterious circumstances. And the ghost of Gracie Flynn has a story to tell about the night that changed their lives forever. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanna Morrison has a background in journalism and a PhD in creative writing. Her short fiction has appeared in Australian literary journals and anthologies.

Joanna lives in Perth with her husband, two sons and a miniature schnauzer.

The Ghost of Gracie Flynn is due for publication 5 October 2022

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

EXCERPT: Gil stands next to her, breathing tobacco smoke and mineral air. She smokes the third rollie contemplating an area of scrub. One of the bushes is bigger, more gnarly and set apart. It’s branches are hung with ribbons and beads. Around the base of the bush, children’s toys are arranged. Some of the offerings look new: a yellow plastic yo-yo, a tiny red bus. Some look old and weathered: faceless dolls, faded bears.
‘That’s the raggedy tree. Now you’ve seen all the landmarks, apart from Bill Nord’s new dunny.’
Gil watches the ribbons flutter. ‘What’s all this for?’
‘The dead girl who haunts the island. She hangs out here mostly.’
Gil, suddenly breathless, thinks of his mother. She was young here. ‘What dead girl?’
‘Old time ghost from the shipwreck.’
Gil feels himself calm. ‘There’s no such thing as ghosts.’ He moves forward, touches the ribbons, straightens a fallen toy at the foot of the bush.
‘You know about the shipwreck?’ Sylvia takes a few deep, reflective puffs. ‘Way, way back. They were Dutch. One lot went about murdering the other lot. Their boat was called the Batavia.’

ABOUT ‘THE NIGHT SHIP’: 1629: A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks.

1989: A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck…​

MY THOUGHTS: ‘The dead can’t hurt you. It’s the living you need to watch out for.’

I think I would have been a lot happier with this read had it simply been Gil’s story. I found Mayken’s story to be largely tedious and repetitive, while Gil’s story is a touching one of a boy who is different and very much alone. His grandfather, with whom he comes to live on Beacon Island, is a hard man, a fisherman. He didn’t understand his daughter, and he doesn’t understand his grandson.

Both children are nine when their mothers die. Other than that and a relic that once belonged to Mayken that is found and treasured by Gil, there’s not a lot that connects them. I kept waiting for some amazing connection, some revelation, but it never came.

I didn’t know when I began this read that Mayken’s story is based around a real shipwreck. But this doesn’t occur until quite late in the book and I was already disillusioned with that portion of the story by then. The shipwreck didn’t improve the story at all.

Mayken’s story went from grim to grimmer; whereas I always felt hope for Gil. He is lonely and bullied, his only friend a tortoise, but there is something about this boy that touched my heart.

⭐⭐.5 and all for Gil.

#TheNightShip #NetGalley

I: @jesskiddwriter @canongatebooks

T: @JessKiddHerself @canongatebooks

#contemporaryfiction #historicalfiction

THE AUTHOR: Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from county Mayo and has been praised for her unique fictional voice.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Canongate via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Night Ship by Jess Kidd for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

EXCERPT: The night it all ended, Vivian was alone.

That was fine with her. She preferred it. It was something she’d discovered, working the night shift in this place in the middle of nowhere: being with people was easy, but being alone was hard. Especially being alone in the dark. The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s own thoughts – that person was stronger than anyone else. More ready, more prepared.

Still, she pulled into the parking lot of the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York, and paused, feeling the familiar beat of fear. She sat in her beat-up Cavalier, the key in the ignition, the heat and the radio on, her coat huddled around her shoulders. She looked at the glowing blue and yellow sign, the two stories of rooms in two long stripes in the mshape of an L, and thought I don’t want to go in there. But I will. She was ready. But she was still afraid. It was 10:59 p.m.

She felt like crying. She felt like screaming. She felt sick.

I don’t want to go in there.

But I will. Because I always do.

Outside, two drops of half frozen rain hit the windshield. A truck droned by on the road in the rearview mirror. The clock ticked over to eleven o’clock, and the news came on the radio. Another minute and she’d be late, but she didn’t care. No one would fire her. No one cared if she came to work. The Sun Down had few customers, none of whom would notice if the night girl was late. It was often so quiet that an observer would think that nothing ever happened here.

Viv Delaney knew better.

The Sun Down only looked empty. But it wasn’t.

ABOUT ‘THE SUN DOWN MOTEL’: The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

MY THOUGHTS: Things go bump in the night. Locked doors open. There’s a constant smell of cigarette smoke. And voices when no one is there . . . ‘Help me.’ And ‘Run’

The Sun Down Motel is a taut and twisty blend of mystery and ghost story. Set over two timelines: 1982 when Viv Delaney works the night reception at the Sun Down Motel; and 2017 when her niece, Carly Kirk, unable to let go the mystery of her missing aunt, works the same job, the story is compelling from the very first sentence.

I enjoyed Viv’s story a little more than Carly’s. It’s somehow a little creepier to not have mobile phones and technology at hand. Not that they work at the Sun Down anyway. It’s a bit of a dead spot – excuse the pun. Viv is the bad girl, the one compared unfavorably to her ‘good’ sister. Her mother asked her, before she left home, ‘What would you do if you ever got into real trouble?’ She’s about to find out.

While I loved Carly’s tenacity and determination to find out what happened to her aunt, it was Viv’s character that enthralled me. She was determined to get justice for the dead girls, and there are a number of them, far too many for a town the size of Fell. She put on her Nancy Drew persona and followed the clues, listened to the ghosts.

There are a number of twists throughout the book in both timelines, none of which I saw coming. St. James has written a subtlely creepy, unsettling mystery that kept me guessing and enthralled from beginning to end.

I listened to the audiobook of The Sun Down Motel superbly narrated by Brittany Presley and Kirsten Potter.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheSunDownMotel

I: @simonestjames @penguinaudio

T: @simone_stjames @PRHAudio

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery #paranormal

THE AUTHOR: Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat. She is addicted to sushi, rainy days, coffee, and My Favorite Murder.

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

EXCERPT: In the summer of my eleventh year, a monster came to Black Mouth. It came in the night, slinking below the sightline of normal folks, destined to arrive at the threshold of my youth. Perhaps it sought me out the way a bloodhound tracks a scent. Or perhaps it was sheer happenstance, a flip of a coin, a flutter of distant butterfly wings. Events in our lives often have meaning because we choose to give them meaning. Whatever the case, it arrived in the way monsters sometimes do; as a creature in need.

A clash of thunder, a deluge of rain. Some indistinct sense of wrongness roused me from a fitful sleep. I rolled over in a bed damp with sweat just as a flash of lightning pulsed against the bedroom window. Briefly, Dennis’s silhouette stood in sharp relief against the dazzle of a storm-churned sky. It was the hottest summer in a hundred years, or so the old-timers at the Quay attested, and Dennis and I had taken to sleeping with our bedroom window open because the old farmhouse’s HVAC unit was on the fritz. Again.

‘Dennis,’ I said, sitting up in bed. My sheets were soggy with dream-sweat, and the breeze coming through the open window on the storm felt good against my hot, sticky flesh. ‘What are you doing over there? Get back in bed.’

Dennis didn’t answer, didn’t get back in bed. That was Dennis’s way. He only pressed his face against the screen. Rainwater rushed in, sprinkling against his face and chest, raindrops rapping along the windowsill. I climbed out of bed and joined my nine-year-old brother at the window. The floorboards were wet beneath my feet.

‘It’s just a thunderstorm,’ I told him, a half-whisper. Maybe the storm had frightened him. Maybe something else had. ‘Go back to bed.’

Dennis was staring out into the yard, across the dark field of dessicated alfalfa toward the edge of our property. It was where the black crest of trees rose up like something massive and prehistoric and deceivingly alive.

I saw it – a flicker of tangerine light dancing between the warped slats of the barn at the edge of our property. Firelight.

Someone was in there.

ABOUT ‘BLACK MOUTH’: For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.

MY THOUGHTS: Another book that started out brilliantly, but eventually left me feeling a tad disappointed.

Malfi starts by setting a wonderfully atmospheric scene. The Magician is a delightfully creepy character. So what went wrong?

In a nutshell – Jamie the main character. He is a weak man who repeatedly takes refuge in a bottle of whatever comes to hand. I was fed up with his constant drinking, puking and dodging responsibility. Although he does have one particularly touching moment of redemption. Dennis, his younger Down’s Syndrome brother, is the star of this book. He is incredibly perceptive.

I did a read/listen of Black Mouth, and I must admit to much preferring the read to the audiobook. I didn’t enjoy the narration by Joe Hempel, finding his delivery very flat.

I have read and really enjoyed other books by this author and was disappointed by this merely okay read. Shivers and chills? Sadly, no.

⭐⭐⭐.3

#BlackMouth #NetGalley

I: @ronaldmalfi @titanbooks @tantoraudio

T: @RonaldMalfi @TitanBooks @TantorAudio

#contemporaryfiction #friendship #horror #mystery #paranormal

THE AUTHOR: Ronald Malfi was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, the eldest of four children, and eventually relocated to Maryland, where he and his wife, Debra, currently reside along the Chesapeake Bay with their two daughters.

When he’s not writing, he’s performing with the rock back VEER.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Titan Books and Tantor Audio for respectively providing digital and audio ARCs of Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Hotel Nantucket by Erin Hildebrand

EXCERPT: ‘I’m calling to shed some light on things that might have been unclear.’

Lizbet steels herself. What is Xavier going to tell her?

‘You’ve never asked me – in fact, no one has asked me – why I bought this hotel. After all, I live in London and I’ve never visited Nantucket.’ He pauses. ‘Have you wondered about this?’

Lizbet has, in fact, wondered, but she chalked it up to her understanding of the very wealthy: they buy things because they can.

‘I bought this particular hotel,’ Xavier says, ‘because I’m trying to impress two women.’

Whoa! Lizbet pinches her thigh to keep from gasping. This is probably the only answer worth sacrificing her thirty minute hip-hop ride with Alex Toussaint for.

‘Two women?’ Lizbet says. She checks her image on her laptop screen; she’s maintaining a sort of straight face. Lizbet has, naturally, Googled Xavier Darling. According to an article in the Times (London), he never married and has no children. The internet showed pictures of him at the Royal Ascot and the Cartier Queen’s Cup with young, combatively beautiful women on his arm, but never the same one twice. Who are the lucky two, and will they both be coming to Nantucket?

ABOUT ‘THE HOTEL NANTUCKET’: After a tragic fire in 1922 that killed 19-year-old chambermaid, Grace Hadley, The Hotel Nantucket descended from a gilded age gem to a mediocre budget-friendly lodge to inevitably an abandoned eyesore — until it’s purchased and renovated top to bottom by London billionaire, Xavier Darling. Xavier hires Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton as his general manager, and Lizbet, in turn, pulls together a charismatic, if inexperienced, staff who share the vision of turning the fate of the hotel around. They face challenges in getting along with one another (and with the guests), in overcoming the hotel’s bad reputation, and in surviving the (mostly) harmless shenanigans of Grace Hadley herself — who won’t stop haunting the hotel until her murder is acknowledged.

MY THOUGHTS: A perfectly lovely summer read with a little romance, a little crime, a little deception, a little haunting, a little heartbreak, and a whole lot of developing friendships.

The Hotel Nantucket is one of those reads that had me smiling throughout, even when things weren’t going exactly as they should. The cast of characters are mostly likeable and are an interesting mix. The story is told in the third person from a number of pov, but never gets confusing.

Grace the ghost brings much to the story. Her antics when trying to defuse a situation often had me chuckling. She also provides insight into the changes in society over the intervening hundred years between her death and this reincarnation of the hotel. She develops a protective attitude to others on the staff who have had their hearts broken and gives some relationships a ghostly nudge.

Lizbet has had her heart broken by her personal and business partner of fifteen years, JJ, hence the move to hotel management.

Magda English, the head of housekeeping, has a mysterious past and is so much more than she appears to be on the surface.

Chad Winslow is Magda’s emergency maid hire. He’s from a wealthy family who summers on the island and she doubts he will last more than a few days which is why she names him ‘Longshot’. But, he may just surprise her, and himself.

The two women on front desk could hardly be more different. Alessandra speaks five languages fluently and has travelled the world, but she is a chancer. Edie is a local girl, a graduate of Cornell, with a huge heart but who is desperate for money.

And then there’s Kimber, a walk in guest with two children who both play a large part in the story, a dog, and wads of cash. She is perhaps the most enigmatic character of all.

Everyone has a story, and over the course of this enchanting read, we learn them all, including that of the hotel which is a character in its own right.

Erin Bennett narrated superbly.

A fun and engaging read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheHotelNantucket #NetGalley

I: @elinhilderbrand @hachetteaudio @littlebrown

T: @elinhilderbrand @HachetteAudio @littlebrown

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #mystery #paranormal #romance

THE AUTHOR: THE AUTHOR: Elin Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for her five previous novels. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Audio, Little Brown via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hildebrand for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Prose and Cons by Wendy Corsi Staub

EXCERPT: She turns off the overhead light so she can see outside. Pressing her forehead against the glass, she finds the porch vacant, as it should be. The stained-glass angels are twirling slowly, lacking sufficient wind to make them chime. Beyond the porch lamp’s glow, there’s nothing but falling rain and darkness.

Bella turns away.

‘See that Chance? You don’t have to worry, because everything’s okay out there. In here, too.’

The cat’s green eyes glitter at her across the dim hall.

‘Yeah, I know. I don’t believe me either.’ With a sigh, Bella slowly returns to the kitchen to clean up the pomegranate confetti. The seeds are starting to thaw, pooling and glistening like droplets of blood.

ABOUT ‘PROSE AND CONS’: It’s been nine months since widowed mom Bella Jordan and her young son Max moved to Lily Dale, the quirky, close-knit New York community populated by people who can speak to the dead . . . if one believes in that kind of thing. Now she counts Valley View, the guesthouse she runs, as home and her psychic medium neighbours as friends. Even haughty, British Pandora, who used to own Valley View before her difficult divorce.
So when Pandora sweeps in, requesting an urgent tete-a-tete, Bella expects it to be another complaint about book club. It isn’t. Pandora airily reveals her elderly Auntie Eudora is taking a last-minute cruise from London to New York with her gentleman friend Nigel – and minutes later Bella is bemused to find she’s agreed to host them at Valley View free of charge.
Bella has enough on her plate: her son Max, their two kitties, a budding relationship with local vet Drew . . . not to mention this month’s book club pick to read. But when she begins to have suspicions about one of her new guests, she’s determined to uncover the truth for Pandora’s sake – even if it kills her first.

MY THOUGHTS: This was fun, and the first in this four book series that I have read, but it won’t be the last.

Prose and Cons – I loved the title and it is relevant – moves along at a meandering pace, yet the read just flew by. The characters are engaging, although not entirely believable. But then, they don’t have to be. Max and his friend Jiffy stole my heart. Typical young boys who are always hungry and love a good practical joke.

The women, with the exception of Pandora who is a pain in the derriere, are a delight. They revel in their characters and aren’t about to change for anyone – Except for Bella, who is still trying to find her feet in this odd little town, and is trying to please everyone to her own detriment. She really needs to grow a pair! But having said that, I also loved her character and she is a great foil for Pandora.

I guessed early on what the mystery was, but it was fun following the characters in their discoveries.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#ProseandCons #NetGalley

I: @wendycorsistaub @severnhouseimprint

T: @WendyCorsiStaub @severnhouse

#contemporaryfiction #cozymystery #crime #paranormal #romance

THE AUTHOR: New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than ninety novels, best known for the single title psychological suspense novels she writes under her own name. She also writes women’s fiction under the pseudonym Wendy Markham.

Raised in Dunkirk, NY, Wendy graduated from SUNY Fredonia and launched a publishing career in New York City. She was Associate Editor at Silhouette Books before selling her first novel in 1992. Married with two sons, she lives in the NYC suburbs. An active supporter of the American Cancer Society, she was a featured speaker at Northern Westchester’s 2015 Relay for Life and 2012 National Spokesperson for the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation. She has fostered for various animal rescue organizations.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Cannongate Books, Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Prose and Cons by Wendy Corsi Staub for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s 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