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

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is my rating for each story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#ASurpriseforChristmasandOtherSeasonalMysteries #NetGalley

I: @medwardsbooks @poisonedpenpress

T: @medwardsbooks @PPPress

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

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries compiled by Martin Edwards for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

EXCERPT: His funeral was sparsely attended. Wallace wasn’t pleased. He couldn’t even be quite sure how he’d gotten here. One moment, he’d been staring down at his body, and then he’d blinked, and somehow, found himself in front of a church, the doors open, bells ringing. It certainly hadn’t helped when he saw the prominent sign sitting out front. A CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF WALLACE PRICE it read. He didn’t like that sign, if he was being honest with himself. No, he didn’t like it one bit. Perhaps someone inside could tell him what the hell was going on.

ABOUT ‘UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR’: When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

MY THOUGHTS: Under the Whispering Door is an utterly amazing, beautiful and inspiring story. I finished with a great sense of peace and awe.

Wallace was not a nice person. This is evident at his funeral. He lacked empathy, had no friends. There is a woman at his funeral he doesn’t recognize, not difficult since there are only six people there. She is different from the others – she can see him. Here starts Wallace’s journey.

I am so glad I got to go on that journey with him. It was a wondrous experience. This is a magical and emotionally powerful read. I cried for Wallace, for Cameron, for Nancy. I laughed at Mei’s ascerbic tongue, at Nelson’s antics.

Under the Whispering Door is a book that will stay with me a long time, and one that I am going to purchase a hard copy of.

If you haven’t read this yet, please do. It’s a beautiful experience.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#UndertheWhisperingDoor #NetGalley

#fivestarread #fantasy #humour #paranormal #romance

I: @tjklunebooks @macmillanusa

T: @ tjklune @MacmillanUSA

THE AUTHOR: TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you, thank you, thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing a digital ARC of Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune. 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. ❤📚

Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

EXCERPT: Twelve year old Sarah Ross reached quickly for the fragrant charm beneath her pillow the same way she would have reached for a parachute ripcord if she’d been rudely pushed from a plane cruising at ten thousand feet. It was only an imaginary fall, one that had propelled her awake, as bad dreams do, but her trembling fingers clutched at the familiar shape of the tiny crocheted mouse like a lifeline. The charm her mother had filled with sage and lemon balm was supposed to help Sarah sleep, and it did, usually, but the dream fall had cannoned her awake with stomach-swooping dread, as if the entire world had disappeared beneath her sleeping body.

This time her knuckles didn’t stop hurting even after the bed solidified beneath her. She wasn’t falling. She was awake. Her soft bedding still smelled of sunshine from its time on the clothesline.

Her hands hurt.

It was only a ghost pain that had haunted her first waking moments since she was a little girl. There was nothing wrong with her fingers, her knuckles, the palms of her hands. The mouse usually banished the pain by grounding her in the real world.

Not this time.

ABOUT ‘WILDWOOD WHISPERS’: At the age of eleven, Mel Smith’s life found its purpose when she met Sarah Ross. Ten years later, Sarah’s sudden death threatens to break her. To fulfill a final promise to her best friend, Mel travels to an idyllic small town nestled in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains. Yet Morgan’s Gap is more than a land of morning mists and deep forest shadows.

There are secrets that call to Mel, in the gaze of the gnarled and knowing woman everyone calls Granny, in a salvaged remedy book filled with the magic of simple mountain traditions, and in the connection, she feels to the Ross homestead and the wilderness around it.

With every taste of sweet honey and tart blackberries, the wildwood twines further into Mel’s broken heart. But a threat lingers in the woods—one that may have something to do with Sarah’s untimely death and that has now set its sight on Mel.

MY THOUGHTS: I was looking forward to listening to Wildwood Whispers, a story of magical realism set in a village in the Adirondacks. But, sorry, this just didn’t strike a chord in my heart. I found it difficult to connect with the characters and found the story very slow moving.

There is no real mystery, because it is apparent very early on, who is responsible. The why takes longer to be revealed, but by then I had lost interest.

I really enjoyed the scenes based around the bees, but the mouse really didn’t work for me. I also felt that the romantic interest wasn’t necessary, and was far too obvious.

The description of the wildwood and the garden interested me, and I would have liked more information about the recipes.

While I usually like audiobooks to have multiple narrators, there was one narrator whose voice grated on my eardrums, which definitely didn’t enhance my experience.

Overall, this was just an average read.

⭐⭐.5

#WildwoodWhispers #NetGalley

I: @willa_reece @hachetteaudio

T: @ReeceWilla @HachetteAudio

#audiobook #fantasy #contemporaryfiction #cult #mystery #paranormal #romance

THE AUTHOR: Besides writing, Willa is devoted to animal rescue and her three scientist sons—a biologist, and an aspiring chemist and physicist. Willa lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where stories are often told on a dark side porch by the flicker of firefly light.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Audio, Orbit via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece 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 Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

EXCERPT: Sadie – ‘… I still have family up that way. My older sister, her husband, and their little boy live up there. And my mother owns a bed-and-breakfast cottage on the lake, and my great-uncle, who’s more like a granddaddy to me, lives and works at the cottage, too.’ I bit my lip to keep from saying any more, from spilling my heart onto the cutting board next to the pecans. Why was I revealing so much?

But I knew why.

The water.

I missed Sugarberry Cove.

I missed my old home.

ABOUT ‘THE LIGHTS OF SUGARBERRY COVE’: Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama since she survived a near-drowning in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?

Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost drowned. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted—so why is she so unhappy?

When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers. It’s the last place either of them wants to be, but with a little help from the inn’s quirky guests, the sisters may come to terms with their strained relationships, accept the past, and rediscover a little lake magic.

MY THOUGHTS: How I loved the characters in The Lights of Sugarberry Cove! I wanted to move into Sugarberry Cove and be with them. This is a story of second chances, fresh starts, and the art of recognizing what is really in our hearts.

The story is told from the perspectives of Leala Clare, and Sadie her younger sister, both characters easy to relate to and emphasize with, both strong personalities, as has their mother Susannah. So you just know that there are going to be fireworks! Each one of them thinks that they know what is best for the others, and no one wants to back off.

The other characters – Uncle Camp, Teddy, Bree, Buzzy, Iona, Connor, Will and Tucker – all have their own important roles to play, and all are well portrayed and full-bodied. Each character has their own story and these are all woven together to form an intricate and detailed tapestry designed to delight.

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove is delightful, and entrancing, but I don’t think some of the magical aspects worked quite as well here as they have in this author’s previous books.

There is a lot to love about this read. I loved Sadie’s blog, A Southern Hankerin’, which explores family recipes, and the stories behind them. What a wonderful idea, and I do wish that recipes had been included.

There are lots of life lessons to be taken away from this read, but they work beautifully in with the story so that the reader is not being ‘lectured’. Some of them I have written down in my notebook, well, more than some. Sometimes I need to be reminded to count my blessings, to appreciate my family, my friends.

This story of grief, love, guilt, forgiveness and family will have you reaching for the tissues, but will leave you feeling warm and satisfied.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheLightsofSugarberryCove #NetGalley

I: @booksbyheather

T: @BooksbyHeather

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #fantasy #mystery #paranormal #romance

THE AUTHOR: Heather Webber, aka Heather Blake, is the author of more than twenty-five novels. She loves to read, drink too much coffee and tea, birdwatch, crochet, and bake. She currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, and is hard at work on her next book.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing a digital ARC of The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber 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

Golden Girl by Elin Hildebrand

Due for publication June 1st 2021

EXCERPT: The song changes to opening guitar chords that seize Vivi’s attention. It’s ‘Stone in Love’ by Journey. Vivi almost trips over her own shoes. She stops and stares at her phone’s screen. What is this song doing on the Nine Pound Hammer playlist? Did Carson add it? But Carson hates classic rock; she calls it ‘music from beyond the grave.’

Vivi is spooked. This song brings back such intense memories of high school that she feels if she turns her head, she’ll see Brett Caspian standing in the middle of Kingsley Road. She nearly pushes the skip button, but she does love the song, despite her complicated history with it, and it’s been so long since she heard it. When she starts running again, she sings along, ‘Burning love comes once in a lifetime.’

Her eyes are closed and by the time she realises something is wrong, it’s too late – Vivi’s neck snaps; her heart feels like a stick of dynamite exploding. Vivi is airborne, she’s flying – until her head slams against the ground. Her leg. Something is wrong with her leg.

A tinny, faraway voice sings, ‘Golden Girl, I’ll keep you forever.’ Then the music stops. The dark turns to velvety black. The quiet becomes silence.

ABOUT ‘GOLDEN GIRL’: Golden Girl follows Nantucket novelist Vivi, who gets one final summer — after she is killed in a hit-and-run accident — to protect her secrets and learn from her mistakes while her loved ones still on earth try to solve the mystery of her death.

Vivian Howe, author of 13 beach novels and mother of three young adults, is killed in a hit and run car accident while jogging near her home in Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she’s assigned to a Person named Martha, who agrees Vivi’s death was unfair. Martha allows Vivi to watch what happens below with her children, her best friend, and her ex-husband.

Martha gives Vivi the use of three “nudges” so that she might influence the outcome of events in the world of the living. Vivi discovers her children’s secrets, watches the investigation of her death (headed by Chief Ed Kapenash from The Perfect Couple) and worries about a secret from her youth, fictionalized in her novel, coming to light.

MY THOUGHTS: The ocean beach, mouthwatering food, incredibly interesting characters, and a plot that had me entranced – Elin Hildebrand had me hooked from page one.

This is the first book that I have read by this author, and now I understand why everyone has been telling me ‘You have to read her!’ The blurb doesn’t do this book justice. I am glad that I didn’t reread it before I started. I probably would have nudged this read further down the pile.

Elin Hildebrand not only entranced me, she amazed me with Golden Girl. I was expecting a fairly predictable family drama/romance/paranormal tale, but there is nothing predictable about Golden Girl. The wonderful characters and plotting made sure of that! From the first page I felt like I had stepped right into this novel and was right there amidst the action and drama.

The story is told from multiple points of view, mainly in the present, but with forays into Vivi’s past. And what a past she had! I loved her character. She has dignity and fortitude.

I became totally invested in this family, and I shed a tear or two at Vivi’s death, and again while reading Savannah’s amazing tribute to her best friend.

I love sandwiches. I could live on sandwiches, and there’s some delicious ones described in here. I have bookmarked them and intend to eat my way through them.

Make sure that you read the author’s note at the end. It explains a lot. Elin Hildebrand is definitely an author whose backtitles will be finding a place on my shelves right beside Golden Girl.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#GoldenGirl #NetGalley

I: @elinhildebrand #hodderstoughton

T: @HodderBooks

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #paranormal #romance #womensfiction

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 Hodder &Stoughton via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Golden Girl 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

Whoever Fights Monsters by Angelo Marcos

EXCERPT: He placed the phone back in it’s cradle – noting what a struggle it was with his hand trembling – and stared at the door. William was due any moment now, he had to be ready.

Aurora sat patiently in the corner of the room. Nathaniel caught her gaze and she smiled, her face telling him everything he needed to know. He could do this. He needed to.

It was the only way to save his daughter.

ABOUT ‘WHOEVER FIGHTS MONSTERS’: You’d kill to protect your family. The question is… how many times?

Three men are about to begin the worst bombing campaign in history, targeting schools in order to kill as many innocent children as they can.

One night, the mysterious Aurora appears and tells family man Nathaniel Bennett three things.

Firstly, that his daughter will be one of the victims.

Secondly, that he is the only one who can stop these atrocities from happening.

Thirdly, to stop them he’ll have to kill all three of the men. If even one is left alive, the bombings will still happen and hundreds of children – including his daughter – will die.

We follow Nathaniel as he wrestles with his mission – and himself. Is he a soldier following orders and saving children, or is he the monster, stalking and killing three men who – so far – have done nothing wrong?

And, to the rest of the world – and the police – does it even make a difference?

MY THOUGHTS: I think that this is the first of the many books that I have read by this author that I haven’t absolutely loved. I liked Whoever Fights Monsters. I didn’t love it.

The premise is interesting, and Angelo Marcos jumps straight into the action. There’s no mucking about here and I was eagerly turning the pages, the burning question for me being was Aurora real, or was Nathaniel gripped by a delusional psychosis? I’m not going to tell you.

The problem for me was Nathaniel’s endless angst and introspection. I guess I have to qualify that statement. Aurora is telling Nathaniel that he has to kill three people that he knows otherwise many hundreds of children will die and he is able to ‘see’ what will happen if he doesn’t. But in between the killings he is beset by doubt. Yes, natural. But the angst and self-recrimination got a tad too repetitive, and wearing.

Despite this, I still enjoyed this read.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#WhoeverFightsMonsters #angelomarcos @theangelomarcos

#contemporaryfiction #crime #paranormal #scifi #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Angelo Marcos is a writer, actor and stand-up comedian, who for some reason refers to himself in the third person.

He writes psychological thrillers and crime fiction, often with a dash of humour thrown in for good measure.

Drawing on his background in law and psychology, he crafts memorable characters and suspenseful mysteries which shine a light on human behaviour and why people do what they do.

See? I told you he refers to himself in the third person…

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Angelo Marcos for providing a digital ARC of Whoever Fights Monsters 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