The Betrayal (Olivia Sinclair #1) by Terry Lynn Thomas

EXCERPT: Sunday October 5th

When the alarm blared the Sunday financial recap, the woman woke with a start. She didn’t care about the Dow Jones Industrial Average, nor did she care about market volatility. Fumbling, she unplugged the old-fashioned clock radio and tossed it under the bed. Her thoughts, as they often did, went to her lover. She rolled over and pressed her face into his pillow, taking in the scent of him, that strange concoction of vanilla and citrus that made her senses reel.

Rolling over on her back, she took a deep breath and cradled her belly, thinking of the baby that grew inside her. The positive pregnancy test lay on the table next to her, its vertical pink line a source of unimaginable joy. She snuggled under the duvet as the automatic coffee maker kicked into gear, filling her apartment with the aroma of the dark roast coffee her lover preferred.

She saw the card on the doormat just as she poured her first cup of coffee.

I’ve rented a beach house for us tonight. I’ll send a key and the address by messenger. Meet you there around ten?

Leaning back against the counter, the woman closed her eyes, anticipating their rendezvous. Dear God, she craved him.

She did not know that she had less than fifteen hours to live.

ABOUT ‘THE BETRAYAL’: Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?

MY THOUGHTS: Delicious! Tightly plotted. Fast-paced. Gripping. I didn’t want to put this down. And even though I suspected who the murderer was quite early on, and for once I was right, I enjoyed the journey. Immensely.

The Betrayal has all the ingredients of a great domestic drama – the cheating husband, the big reveal at the worst possible moment, a dead body, the finger – and a great deal of evidence – pointing to the wronged wife, revenge, and duplicity. And the author whips all these into a delicious, captivating and entertaining read.

Of course, Olivia – a very strong woman – doesn’t just have a cheating husband and a murder charge to deal with. She is also having issues with her daughter, who seems determined to cut her mother out of her life.

The characters are well portrayed, realistic and believable, the tension palpable.

I believe that this is the first in a series featuring Olivia. I will definitely be lining up to read the next.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheBetrayal #NetGalley

I: @ terrylynnthomasbooks @terrylynnthomas @hqstories

T: @TLThomasBooks @HQStories

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #murdermystery #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: The Betrayal and The Witness are Terry’s first foray into the world of domestic suspense, and introduce attorney Olivia Sinclair. When she’s not writing, Terry likes to spend time outdoors gardening and walking in the woods with her husband and her dogs.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to HQ, HQ Digital via Netgalley, for providing a digital ARC of The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas 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

Murder in Easy (Inspector Battle #4) by Agatha Christie

EXCERPT: Luke’s eyebrows rose. ‘Murder?’

The old lady nodded vigorously.

‘Yes, murder. You’re surprised, I can see. I was myself at first . . . I really couldn’t believe it. I thought I must be imagining things.’

‘Are you quite sure you weren’t?’ Luke asked gently.

‘Oh, no.’ She shook her head positively. ‘I might have been the first time, but not the second, or the third or the fourth. After that one knows.’

Luke said: ‘Do you mean there have been – er – several murders?’

ABOUT ‘MURDER IS EASY’: In a quiet English village, a killer is about to strike. Again and again.

Officer Luke Fitzwilliam is on a train to London when he meets a strange woman. She claims there is a serial killer in the quiet village of Wychwood. He has already taken the lives of three people and is about claim his fourth victim.

Fitzwilliam dismisses this as the ramblings of an old woman. But within hours she is found dead. Crushed by a passing car.

And then the fourth victim is found.

Each death looks like an accident. But in Wychwood nothing is as it appears….

MY THOUGHTS: I enjoyed this romp in a series by Agatha Christie that I hadn’t come across previously. Although quite why this is included in the Inspector Battle series I am unsure, as Battle makes only a brief appearance at the end.

The mystery is an excellent one; one that had me quite sure that I had the murderer in my sight until I found that I didn’t. There is a little romantic interest and an interesting cast of characters from which to select the murderer. Luke doesn’t seem to be the brightest lightbulb in the pack, but then his mind was not entirely focused on the murders.

I listened to the audiobook of Murder is Easy, written by Agatha Christie and narrated by Hugh Fraser, published by Harper Collins Audio.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

The House Fire by Rosie Walker

EXCERPT: I haven’t been able to access reports from the post-mortem, so I don’t know if the flames touched her. What I do know is smoke is hot. And when it’s inhaled, it sears the respiratory tract.

She burned from the inside out, because of me. Because of what I did.

I have to live with that. What surprises me most is that I can.

ABOUT ‘THE HOUSE FIRE’: A tired old seaside town hiding a series of unsolved arson attacks.

A derelict mansion in the woods with a long-buried secret.

A bundle of old love letters that mask a dark story.

When Jamie’s documentary investigation gets too close to uncovering the truth behind a series of deadly arson attacks that tormented Abbeywick in the 1980s, her family might be the ones who pay the price.

But for her younger sister Cleo, the secrets Jamie uncovers have the potential to get exactly what Cleo wants: to remove her mum’s toxic new husband from their lives, forever.

All it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke . . .

MY THOUGHTS: This was a surprising read. I did not enjoy the first 25% at all. It was boring, repetitive and I skimmed pages and pages. I was seriously considering abandoning this read, but then . . . it took off like a rocket and all my reservations were forgotten. I read the remainder of The House Fire in two sittings and had to pick my jaw up from the floor when I finished.

There are a number of issues addressed in this novel, but the author makes it clear at the end that she was showcasing that of coercive abuse. Unfortunately I think that it got tather overshadowed by the arson and the spectacularly bad behaviour of teenager, Cleo, who is at that stage where she is sure that she knows everything and will go to extraordinary lengths to prove herself right. While the motivation behind her actions may have been commendable, her methods of gaining attention left much to be desired.

The characters are mainly quite unlikable, with the exception of Jamie, Chloe’s older sister, and Lucasz, Chloe’s friend. They are complex and unreliable, all with their own agendas.

The story is told from three points of view, Chloe, Jamie and the arsonist. I am not convinced that the arsonist’s point of view added a lot to the story.

While I can’t say that I enjoyed The House Fire, it did, in the later parts, become compelling.

⭐⭐⭐.1

#NetGalley

I: @rosiejanewalker @onemorechapterhc

T: @ciderwithrosie @Onemorechapter @HarperCollinsUK

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth #murdermystery #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: Rosie Walker is a novelist who lives in Edinburgh with her husband Kevin and their dog Bella. Rosie has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Lancaster University.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The House Fire by Rosie Walker 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 Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller

EXCERPT: Unexpectedly my eyes filled with tears. Dad loved and encouraged my early interest in words. He conversed in French with me, discussed the fundamental principles of Esperanto, showed me how to interpret cryptic crosswords and, when I was pretty young, no more than seven, he taught me shorthand. Not the old fashioned Pitman kind he’d learned as a young clerk, which required fountain pens to make the all-important thick and thin line distinctions, but a more modern type called Teeline. He’d picked this up during the early 1970s at journalism evening classes. I had a vague idea that he’d planned to retrain as a journalist. But other than writing articles for the parish magazine, I don’t think this ever came to fruition. At some point in the late 1970s he became a headteacher, which I suppose made teaching seem interesting again.

For a while he and I would communicate in Teeline’s secret code. I remember the thrill of it, of reading something neither of my brothers could understand. As late as my fifteenth birthday, the year he gave me the field glasses – a few weeks before he left us – Dad put a shorthand message in my card. I didn’t remember, now, what it said, but I remembered reading it. The card that came for my sixteenth birthday, the first to come through the post rather than waiting for me on the kitchen table, didn’t contain any secret message.

‘What does it say?’ Jeanie said, craning over to try to look at the page.

‘I’m not sure,’ I lied. ‘I’d have to refresh my memory about how to read it, it’s been such a long time.’

‘This is ridiculous,’ she snapped. ‘She can’t even read them. There’s no reason for Pearl to have these. I can easily get someone to translate them.’

Pointing at the page, Benjy said, ‘Doesn’t this line say, “Wow, my second wife is such a cow”?’ And with that the gloves were finally off.

‘Mr Claymore, do you see what we are up against?’ Jeanie’s face was red with fury. ‘I demand you intervene. These notebooks may contain material that my husband’s former children will exploit.’

‘Former children?’ Benjy said, laughing.

I glanced down at the page again, and read: It would be necessary to keep this . . . then there were several symbols I couldn’t read, followed by I have hidden so much. What the heck was in these diaries?

ABOUT ‘THE WOMAN WHO CAME BACK TO LIFE’: Pearl Flowers lives in a fairytale cottage in the woods in France. Her life is small, strict and safe. Every day is planned: Mondays she takes the middle path through the trees, on Wednesday the right and on Fridays, her special day, she takes the long way into the village. If she makes sure to follow her routine, she can avoid thinking about the past.

But then an unexpected phone call throws everything into chaos: Francis, Pearl’s estranged father, has died and left her a bequest. One she can only claim if she agrees to come to his funeral and see the family she’s been hiding from for so long. But when Pearl begins to read Francis’s diaries, his last gift, she realizes that the truth about her father couldn’t be further from what she expected. That each page is addressed to her, the daughter he loved, causes her to question everything she thought she knew about her past.

Now Pearl must face the world for the first time in many years. Her father was the only person who knew her deepest secret. Is she ready to finally confront the truth of what happened, and take a second chance at happiness now that it is finally within reach?

MY THOUGHTS: You have to love families. They must be the most complex social and interpersonal structure ever. We take umbrage at things said and done by family that we would brush off coming from anyone else. We keep secrets from family, either under the guise of ‘protecting’ them, or because it might change the way they see us. We are probably less truthful with family than with anyone. Well, that’s how this family works.

Pearl’s family is a family shattered by abandonment and secret relationships. After one heartbreak too many, Pearl and husband Denny have taken refuge in their remote holiday home in France, shutting themselves off from the world in general and her family in particular. But her attendance at her father’s funeral in order to collect a mystery bequest opens a whole new can of worms . . . one that is either going to make or break Pearl.

This is a complex but entertaining story. My heart broke for Pearl with each new revelation. But Pearl also has a wicked sense of humor, as does brother Benjy, which shines through occasionally causing me to burst into laughter. There’s a lot of loss and grief in The Woman Who Came Back to Life, but there are also funny moments, and scenes of redemption and hope. My favourite character was Ellie, Pearl’s once best friend who is married to her oldest brother Greg.

The characters, like the relationships between them, are complex. All have baggage, all are aggrieved, hurting in one way or another, and some are angry. The story is told from the points of view of Pearl, and another initially unknown character named Carrie. It takes some time for the connection between these two characters to be revealed, but it’s worth the wait. We also get to read extracts from Francis’ diaries, which puts a whole new slant on things. The story covers the period from 1981 to 2018, but not chronologically. Despite this it is easy to follow, and entertaining, but have a box of tissues handy – it’s heartbreaking in parts.

I love the way that Beth Miller takes situations that any one of us may face at any time and gives them an empathetic and realistic airing.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheWomanWhoCameBacktoLife #NetGalley

I: @beth_miller_author @bookouture

T: @drbethmiller @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Beth Miller has been a sex educator, alcohol counsellor, university lecturer and inept audio-typist. She has a PhD in Psychology, which is yet to come in handy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller 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 Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer

EXCERPT: ‘Hello, Hazel.’

The gentle voice startled her. She spun and the room seemed to spin with her as if everything was suddenly slightly off kilter. She stuck out a hand and gripped the back of a chair. The woman before her had been the one she’d noticed talking to Father Donnelly earlier. Hazel hadn’t recognized her from the distance but now, here, right in front of her . . . those eyes . . .

‘Are you all right?’ The woman gripped her arm and edged her to the chair.

‘What are you doing here?’ Hazel’s words came out in a croak.

‘I’ve come to see you and . . .’ The woman stood back a little and glanced around. ‘Your family.’

Hazel looked around too but everyone was busy packing up and taking no notice. She got back to her feet, pushed away the hand that still rested on her arm. She had to end this before her daughters came back.

‘You keep away from my family. They’ve had enough for one day.’

The woman hesitated, looked at her pityingly. ‘He’s gone now, Hazel.’

‘I know that,’ Hazel hissed, her heart beating faster. ‘But they don’t know about you.’ She could hear footsteps coming closer across the wooden floor. She didn’t dare look around. It was bound to be one of her daughters.

‘We can start afresh.’

‘We cannot.’

‘Hello?’ It was Felicity who’d stepped up beside her mother.

‘Who are you?’ June asked.

‘My name is Alice Pollard.’ The woman smiled at each of them.

Hazel’s heart beat so fast and her head pounded so hard she thought herself in danger of having a stroke like the one that had killed her husband.

‘I’ve just farewelled my husband . . . this is not the time.’

‘For what, Mum?’ It was June’s sharp voice again. ‘What’s going on?’

Alice fixed her gaze on Hazel. ‘I’m Alice Pollard nee Jones . . . your mother’s sister.’

ABOUT ‘THE FAMILY INHERITANCE’: Felicity Lewis’s fiftieth birthday party in her newly renovated home, loving husband and daughter Greta by her side, is going off with a bang when disaster strikes. Her father, Franklyn, with his usual impeccable timing, has keeled over and died.

For some members of the family, his wife Hazel for example, Franklyn’s death is not the great loss it first appears to be. But when his toxic and inexplicable will is read out, it becomes clear that long-buried secrets are about to surface, starting with the astonishing reappearance of Hazel’s long-lost sister.

Indeed, Franklyn’s death sets in motion a chain of events that will cause three generations of Gifford family women to question everything they hold dear – their relationships, their loyalties, even their identities. Until, that is, they choose to fight back against their dark inheritance …

MY THOUGHTS: An absolutely delicious family saga full of decades old secrets and the lies that are perpetuated to keep those secrets.

I loved this story of four women whose lives are turned upside down when the family patriarch dies and his will is read. Believe me, you will love to hate Franklyn Gifford, a miserable old git who has found a way to maintain control over his family even after his death.

His widow Hazel is secretly relieved by his death, believing herself to be free for the first time since she married him. But Franklyn has other plans for her, his will leaving Hazel almost destitute, and her family ripped apart.

The story is told from the points of view of four women: Hazel, the widow; her estranged sister Alice; Hazel’s younger daughter, Felicity; and Felicity’s daughter, Greta, all of whom are facing a watershed moment in their lives.

The characters are totally relatable with a good mix of traits. There are characters that you will root for, characters that you will worry about, and one or two that are eminently dislikeable. Stringer makes good use of the weapon of inherited money, the rifts it causes, and the greed that becomes evident at times like these.

I would have liked for the furore that I imagine would have occurred when Hazel contests the will to have been included as I can’t see June and her husband meekly accepting Hazel’s decision, but the whole situation is skipped, which is my only, and minor, criticism.

The Family Inheritance is a well written, moving family saga with a tightly woven plot that kept me absorbed from start to finish.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheFamilyInheritance

I: @triciastringerauthor @hqstories

T: @tricia_stringer @HQstories

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Tricia lives in the beautiful Copper Coast region of South Australia, often exploring Australia’s diverse communities and landscapes, and shares this passion for the country and its people through her authentic stories and their vivid characters.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed a copy of The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer published by HQ Fiction from the Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Smoke and Mirrors (The Brighton Mysteries #2) by Elly Griffiths

This was a catch up on my backlist read as Smoke and Mirrors was the only book in the Brighton Mysteries series that I hadn’t read.

EXCERPT: Stan entered stage left. Of course he did; he was the villain. Villains always enter from the left, the good fairy from the right. It’s the first law of pantomime. But, in this case, Stan Parks (the Wicked Baron) came running onto the stage in answer to a scream from Alice Dean (Robin Hood). He came quickly because Alice was not normally given to screaming. Even when Stan had tried to kiss her behind the flat depicting Sherwood Forest she hadn’t screamed; instead she had simply delivered an efficient uppercut that had left him winded for hours. So he responded to the sound, in his haste falling over two giant toadstools and a stuffed fox.

The stage was in semi-darkness, some of the scenery still covered in dustsheets. At first Stan could only make out shapes, bulky and somehow ominous, and then he saw Alice, kneeling centre stage, wearing a dressing gown over her Principal Boy tights. She was still screaming, a sound that seemed to get louder and louder until it reached right up to the gods and the empty boxes. Opposite her something swung to and fro, casting a monstrous shadow on the painted forest.

Stan stopped, suddenly afraid to go any further. Alice stopped screaming and Stan heard her say something that sounded like ‘please’ and ‘no’. He stepped forward. The swinging object was a bower, a kind of basket chair, where the Babes in the Wood were meant to shelter before being covered with leaves by mechanical robins (a striking theatrical effect). The bower should have been empty because the Babes didn’t rehearse in the afternoon. But, as Stan got closer, he saw that it was full of something heavy, something that tilted it over to one side. Stan touched the basket, suddenly afraid of it’s awful, sagging weight. But he saw Betsy Bunning, the fifteen-year-old girl who was playing the female Babe. She lay half in, half out of the swinging chair. Her throat had been cut and the blood had soaked through her white dress and was dripping heavily onto the boards.

It was odd. Later, Stan would go through two world wars, see sights guaranteed to turn any man’s blood to ice, but nothing ever disturbed him quite as much as the child in the wicker bower, the blood on the stage and the screams of the Principal Boy.

ABOUT ‘SMOKE AND MIRRORS’: Brighton, winter 1951.

Pantomime season is in full swing on the pier with Max Mephisto starring in Aladdin, but Max’s headlines have been stolen by the disappearance of two local children. When they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the press nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. The girl, Annie, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms’ fairy tales. Does the clue lie in Annie’s unfinished – and rather disturbing – last script? Or might it lie with the eccentric theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?

For Stan (aka the Great Diablo), who’s also appearing in Aladdin, the case raises more personal memories. Back before the Great War, he witnessed the murder of a young girl while he was starring in another show, an event which has eerie parallels to the current case.

Once again Edgar enlists Max’s help in penetrating the shadowy theatrical world that seems to hold the key. But with both distracted by their own personal problems, neither can afford to miss a trick. For Annie and her friend, time is running out…

MY THOUGHTS: This is the only book in the Brighton Mysteries series that I hadn’t read, so I was excited to stumble upon it on my Kindle when I was searching for something else, and started it immediately. I don’t know how I missed it originally, but apologies to both author and publisher for the tardiness of my review.

I have loved this entire series and Smoke and Mirrors, #2 in the series, is no exception. Set in Brighton, 1951 in the pantomime season in the lead up to Christmas, there is a definite similarity between the current murder and one which occurred of a pantomime cast member in Hastings in 1912. Some of the same pantomime cast members are even on hand.

Smoke and Mirrors is a deliciously twisty mystery with a tremendous range of red herrings and some sharp detective work from DI Edgar Stephens and Sergeant Emma Holmes. As always Elly Griffiths has created a charming but sinister atmosphere in which she sets her story. Two children have literally vanished into thin air, one of whom writes macabre and violent tales, and several characters associated with the children who are perhaps more than they seem combine to produce a clever, engaging and gripping story of magic and muder that had me reading through the night. My suspicions swung wildly from one character to another but never actually alit on the actual murderer.

The children, both the missing and the present, are the stars of this tale. The precocious and imaginative Annie, her friend and acolyte Mark, her younger sister Betty, apparently even more intelligent and imaginative than her older sister, and Richard who loves and admires his sisters provide much entertainment and speculation.

A ripping good murder mystery.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#SmokeandMirrors #NetGalley

: @ellygriffiths17 @quercusbooks

T: @ellygriffiths @QuercusBooks

#fivestarread #crime #historicalfiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural #detectivefiction

THE AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly’s husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece’s head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths 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 Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

EXCERPT: I wash up and listen for the front door.

That’s it.

The noise of the bolt.

Blessed relief. I breathe out and wait, scouring pad in hand, and then he’s there at the back field on his quad, a monster riding away on four wheels, riding off towards the pigs, his brethren. I wish upon him a heart attack and a bad fall, perhaps into the dike, drowning, the quad on top, and a lightning strike. But nothing ever happens to him, no consequences. He’s as solid and as basic as a concrete wall. The times I’ve begged to all the gods, to the horizon, to the four spires I can see to the north on a clear day and the three to the south, to the wind turbines, for some retribution to be brought, some penalty, and yet he thrives on.

The tapes are rolling. They’re always rolling. If I move, they start recording, that’s how he installed them. Leonard’s quite handy with electrics and plumbing. And he may come back. He says he’s off to feed the pigs, those royal animals luxuriating on their throne of filth, unaware of their relative freedom, but he could just as well race back in five minutes. To surprise me. To control his small world and keep things exactly as he likes them.

ABOUT ‘THE LAST THING TO BURN’: On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm?

MY THOUGHTS: The cleverly titled The Last Thing to Burn is an intense read, dark, gripping and heartbreaking. Trafficked from Vietnam, Thanh Dao is systematically stripped of everything, including her identity, by the cruel and controlling Lenn. Renamed Jane after Lenn’s mother, she is forced to live in a ramshackle dwelling in the Fens, to wear Lenn’s mother’s clothes, to cook the food she used to cook in exactly the same way, to clean the house to her exacting regime, and to submit to Lenn’s precise demands for sex.

This is not an easy read and nor should it be. Lenn is nasty, cruel and abusive, and yet every now and then he throws out a nugget of relative kindness to keep Jane off balance.

Jane is an amazing character. In spite of being stripped of her few precious possessions, her language and her identity, she remains Thanh Dao in her mind. She creates a space for herself where Lenn cannot go, where she can talk to her sister Kim-Ly who escaped Vietnam with her and whom she believes to be working in a nail salon in Manchester.

The story of Thanh Dao’s struggles is an emotional and heartbreaking one. It is one that, although fiction, depicts the plight of many and deserves to be shared. Will Dean has done his research well. I appreciated the fact that in the afterword he listed organisations able to help if you suspect someone needs help.

Well done Will.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheLastThingtoBurn #NetGalley

I: @willrdean @atriabooks

T: @willrdean @AtriaBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #humanrights #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, for providing a digital ARC of The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean 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

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

EXCERPT: I look at my shaky hands on the steering wheel and notice I don’t have my wedding ring on. That whole time, he never saw a ring. Not that Luke Ellison was flirting with me. I am 100 per cent positive that the stress has made me delusional,and he was just being friendly the way he would with anyone he found sitting reading his book. He wasn’t making a pass. No.

I look at my naked ring finger. I didn’t leave it off intentionally. I was making turkey meatballs with Ben, and I was wrist deep in raw meat. Last time we made them, bits got stuck in the grooves in my ring, and it took me half a day to figure out why a tinny, bloody smell was following me around. It’s sitting on the windowsill above the sink right now. But it doesn’t matter. He wasn’t coming on to me. I didn’t do anything wrong. Except that I was going to let him.

ABOUT ‘SUCH A GOOD WIFE’: Melanie Hale is a devoted mother to her two children, a diligent caregiver to her ailing mother-in-law and a trusted neighbor in their wealthy Louisiana community. Above all, she’s a loving partner to her wonderful husband, Collin.

Then there are the parts of herself that Mel keeps hidden. She’s exhausted, worried and unfulfilled. So much so that one night, after a writers’ group meeting, Mel begins an affair with a successful local author named Luke. Suddenly she’s transformed into a role she doesn’t recognize—a woman who deceives with unseemly ease. A woman who might be capable of just about anything.

When Mel finds Luke’s dead body in his lavish rented house, she realizes just how high the stakes have become. Not only does she have to keep her affair a secret in order to preserve her marriage, but she desperately needs to avoid being implicated in Luke’s death. But who would want to kill him? Who else in her life is keeping secrets? And most terrifying of all, how far will they—and she—go to keep those secrets hidden?

MY THOUGHTS: Every now and then I come across a book that is deliciously trashy and that I just love. Such a Good Wife doesn’t quite make the grade, but it comes close. It’s a good read and I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it.

The characters are all flawed, and even though Mel makes some stupid decisions I could relate to her. I loved her take on the book club women. I think we all know women like them!

I had totally the wrong person picked for who had killed Luke, so that was a twist that surprised me. I’m still not 100% sure about the ending. On one hand I think it was quite clever, but I think it would be extremely difficult for Mel to have done what she did and pull it off.

One thing puzzled me though, and that was how Mel, who has her mother-in-law Claire who has dementia living with her, sometimes hires a day nurse to look after Claire while she keeps her assignations, and at other times seems to just waltz off and leave Claire to fend for herself. Minor quibble, I know, but it annoyed me.

Altogether Such a Good Wife is a quick, easy and entertaining read.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#SuchaGoodWife #NetGalley

I: @seraphinanovaglass @titanbooks

T: @SeraphinaNova @TitanBooks

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Seraphina Nova Glass is an Assistant Professor of Instruction and Playwright-In-Residence at the University of Texas, Arlington where she teaches Film Studies and Playwriting.

She holds an MFA degree in Dramatic Writing from Smith College, and a second MFA in Directing from the University of Idaho.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Titan Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Such a Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass 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 Place Like Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

EXCERPT: Anyway, there we were, on an early April afternoon riding along the sands when the mist came in. Or ‘fret’ as they call it in Northumberland. Daisy, being Northumbrian born and bred, was no more spooked by the fret than I was, but continued placidly on her way until we came to the rocks that mark the end of the bay.

We could not see these rocks, but there was the tang of seaweed, and the hiss and rumble of the flood tide moving in beneath the cliff. Fulmars nested on these shallow cliffs and the clammy air was rent with their strange cries. Daisy splashed through a deep sand pool and up on to the hard sand on the other side. The cliffs reared up before us, sinister in the fog, and I said to Daisy, ‘This is as far as we come,’ and started to turn her when we heard the cry. It could have been a Fulmar. I stopped and listened, and it came again.

‘Hello-o-o…?’

Daisy’s ears pricked. We stared into the fog, saw nothing.

‘Where are you-ou-ou?’

‘Here,’ I called back, and my voice sounded unfamiliar and puny and was lost in the echoes of the cliff face.

There came a scramble of falling stones. Daisy, uneasy of the unknown, whickered anxiously. I laid a hand on her neck, and her shaggy coat, beneath my palm, was beaded with damp. We waited, both straining our eyes and ears.

A movement through the fog; another stone rattled over rock, and the next moment, as though from nowhere, a figure appeared, took shape, not ten feet from where we stood. A small boy wearing jeans and a blue sweater, apparently soaking wet and all alone. – taken from the short story ‘Skelmerton’.

ABOUT ‘A PLACE LIKE HOME’: A heartwarming, escapist collection of fifteen stories from bestselling author Rosamunde Pilcher, published two years after her death, with an introduction by the now also deceased author Lucinda Riley.

In ‘Our Holiday’, a wife surprises her husband of twenty-five years with a trip full of Mediterranean sunshine, red rocks and blue seas, in an effort to rekindle the romance they had before children.

‘Skelmerton’ takes the reader to the bright spring sunshine and sparkling waves of a Northumbrian village, where old flames meet again.

In ‘A Place Like Home’, a young woman goes to recuperate in the Scottish countryside after a brief illness. The fruit orchards and fresh sea air offer refreshment and renewal – but not as much as the handsome, mysterious farmer.

Each of the stories is a perfect slice of romance written with warmth and passion, featuring some wonderfully memorable, smart and fiery female characters that will transport the reader to another time and place.

MY THOUGHTS: I am, and always have been, an ardent Rosamunde Pilcher fan and this delightful collection of fifteen short stories has only increased my admiration for this author. It has also made me realise that I am going to have to trawl the shelves of all the second hand bookstores and charity shops in order to fill in the gaps in my collection of her books.

Pilcher writes of a gentler time: a time of rambling old houses set in beautifully maintained gardens; of scones with clotted cream and jam for tea; and drinks parties where sherry is the tipple of choice.

Her characters are simple but endearing and each of these short stories is a story in its own right. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. And always, a happy ever after.

This is a collection I shall treasure and I am so grateful that it arrived just in time for Christmas.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#APlaceLikeHome #RosamundePilcher @HodderBooks

#historicalfiction #romance #shortstories #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Rosamunde Scott was born on 22 September 1924 in Lelant, Cornwall, England, UK, daughter of Helen and Charles Scott, a British commander. Just before her birth her father was posted in Burma, her mother remained in England. She attended St. Clare’s Polwithen and Howell’s School Llandaff before going on to Miss Kerr-Sanders’ Secretarial College. She began writing when she was seven and published her first short story when she was 18. From 1943 through 1946, Pilcher served with the Women’s Naval Service. On 7 December 1946, she married Graham Hope Pilcher, a war hero and jute industry executive who died in March 2009. They moved to Dundee, Scotland, where she remained until her death in 2019. They had two daughters and two sons, and fourteen grandchildren. Her son, Robin Pilcher, is also a novelist.

In 1949, her first book, a romance novel, was published by Mills & Boon, under the pseudonym Jane Fraser. She published a further ten novels under that name. In 1955, she also began writing under her married name Rosamunde Pilcher, by 1965 she her own name to all of her novels. In 1996, her novel Coming Home won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award by Romantic Novelists’ Association. She retired from writing in 2000 following publication of Winter Solstice. Two years later, she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of A Place Like Home by Rosamunde Pilcher and published by Hodder &Stoughton. 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, Instagram, and my Goodreads.com

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

EXCERPT: She thought she’d eventually become a professor at a school similar to Olyphant, teaching film studies to the next generation of cinephiles.

What she hadn’t planned on was Madeleine Forrester swanning into their dorm room that first day of college on a gust of cigarette smoke and Chanel No. 5. She was beautiful. That was the first thing Charlie noticed. Pale and blonde and voluptuous, with a heart-shaped face that reminded her of Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind. Yet she seemed slightly worn around the edges. An intriguing exhaustion. Like a hungover debutante dragging herself home the morning after a cotillion.

Framed in the doorway, teetering on three inch heels, she surveyed their room and declared, ‘What a dump!’

Charlie got the reference – Maddy was impersonating Liz Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? impersonating Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest – and her whole body fizzed like a jostled bottle of champagne. She’d just met a kindred spirit.

‘I think I adore you,’ she blurted.

ABOUT ‘SURVIVE THE NIGHT’: Charlie Jordan is being driven across the country by a serial killer. Maybe.

Behind the wheel is Josh Baxter, a stranger Charlie met by the college ride share board, who also has a good reason for leaving university in the middle of term. On the road they share their stories, carefully avoiding the subject dominating the news – the Campus Killer, who’s tied up and stabbed three students in the span of a year, has just struck again.

Travelling the lengthy journey between university and their final destination, Charlie begins to notice discrepancies in Josh’s story.

As she begins to plan her escape from the man she is becoming certain is the killer, she starts to suspect that Josh knows exactly what she’s thinking.

Meaning that she could very well end up as his next victim.

MY THOUGHTS: I had heard so many great things about author Riley Sager, and started Survive the Night in great anticipation, which soon waned. This book is just NUTS! And sorry, but I don’t mean that in a good way. I struggled to survive this.

I love an unreliable narrator, but Sager has taken this trope a step or two too far. At first I was intrigued, then I became disgruntled, and finally bored by the whole ‘is this real?/is this a hallucination/dream?’ minefield.

The story has oodles of potential, and there was one twist that I didn’t see coming that earned this read an extra half star. Sager’s description of Charlie and Maddy’s first meeting is absolutely superb, but honestly? I could have done without the endless movie references. And yes, I have watched and enjoyed the majority of the movies referred to but, as I am fond of saying, sometimes less is more, and these were overdone.

Will I read more from Riley Sager? Yes. But I won’t be recommending Survive the Night to anyone.

⭐⭐.2

#SurvivetheNight #NetGalley

I: @riley.sager @hodderbooks

T: @Riley_Sager @HodderBooks

#historicalfiction #mentalhealth #murdermystery #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Survive the Night by Riley Sager for review. I’m just sorry I didn’t like this more. 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