The Verdict by Olivia Isaac-Henry

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EXCERPT: ‘Julia Winter?’ the woman says.

I stand up. The whole office stops and looks at me.

“You are Julia Winter?’

‘Yes,’ I say.

The female officer steps forward. ‘I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Brandon Wells. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence of you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?’

No one moves. The office stands silent.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A cheating wife. An estranged mother. But is she guilty of murder?
Please raise your right hand.
An affair at work has cost Julia Winter her job and her marriage. There’s no denying she has let her family down.

Please remain standing.
When a body is discovered on the North Downs, it hits local headlines. But for Julia, the news is doubly shocking because the body was buried just opposite the house she lived in over twenty years ago. And it is one of her former housemates.

Please resume your seat.

Up on the stand, Julia’s not the only person to have secrets that are unearthed during the trial. But the evidence against her is overwhelming.

And yet one question remains: is she the murderer, or the victim?

Jurors, you may be excused.

Readers, what is your verdict?

MY THOUGHTS: Interesting premise, and I enjoyed the read with one or two reservations.

Firstly, the timelines, multiple…. too many. It got quite confusing even though each chapter was headed with the date and location. 1994&5, 2001, 2017&18. This is one book that may have been better served by the story being told in a simpler timeline rather than one which jumped about all over the place.

There was a noticeable lack of suspense…and that is a biggie for me.

None of the characters were particularly likeable, but they were mostly interesting. My favourite was definitely Genevieve D’Auncey, who claimed to be a classically trained actress, but who is rumoured to have been a ‘hostess’. She is still mourning the loss of her son, although she refuses to acknowledge his death. She is mysterious about everything, believing that it makes her more interesting, and invents dramas to fill her time and attract attention. She dresses flamboyantly, and affects mannerisms to match. Her sister Ruth, while lacking the mannerisms, hairpiece and flamboyant clothes, is very much a watered down version of Genevieve (real name Jennifer Pike), but has hidden depths.

Brandon is a thoroughly unlikable wastrel, who uses other people for his own gain. Alan is a nasty little, backstabbing wimp. And Gideon is a chameleon, one of those people who fit in anywhere, blending in, making friends.

And Julia? Is she the bad mother who screwed around behind her husband’s back, a hard-nosed career woman more concerned with climbing the corporate ladder than caring for her husband? Or is she someone being swept along by events that she doesn’t have the skills or confidence to control?

My favourite quote: A second marriage is a triumph of stupidity, not hope.

***.75

THE AUTHOR: In addition to writing novels, Olivia Isaac-Henry is a crime drama lover, occasional keyboard player, and backing vocalist in the band The Protaganist. She grew up in Worcestershire but now lives in London, where she loves the theatres, food markets and festivals.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Impulse and Killer Reads via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Verdict by Olivia Isaac-Henry for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2923282912?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

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The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse

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EXCERPT: These are the things I know…

I know my name is Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott.

I know I’m not like everyone else.

I know I was born a little bit different, like someone held the instructions upside down, or lost a part when they opened the box.

I also know that words are powerful things and they have weight.

I know certain words have sat in my stomach for as long as I can remember and weigh so much that when i am in a crowd or meet someone new they pull my shoulders down and make my head hang forward so I can only look at the floor.

Tard.

Fuckwit.

Rabbitmouth.

I know I want to see other countries.

I know I want to go to New York.

I know I want a boyfriend.

I know I want my own kitchen.

I know I want to paint my nails instead of having them caked in mud.

I know I want to own clothes that are pretty.

I know that I want to own sparkly red shoes that I will never get to wear but I can look at whenever I want…

What I don’t know is just how different I am and I also don’t know how I can find this out.

And I know that some days I’m happy and other days I’m sad, but that’s the samne for everyone, isn’t it?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott loves living and working on the remote family farm and B&B. But she also wants more. To see the world. To own her own home. To fall madly in love.

But those are fairy tales, and if her life is a fairy tale, then she’s the ugly duckling. Her deformed lip, her crooked limbs and her weak heart have kept her from taking chances. But that’s about to change.

When Grayson Potts comes to stay, he’s unlike anyone Thomasina has ever met. He’s aloof, eccentric and exceptionally kind. He’s also totally unconcerned with the physical flaws that have always defined Thomasina.

The two form a bond that neither has had before. It’s possible that it could become something more, but Thomasina also wonders if it’s too good to be true. By putting her heart on the line, Thomasina may open herself to heartbreak. But she may also open herself to so much more.

MY THOUGHTS: Heartwarming. Heartbreaking. This is a reminder that we should always encourage our children to be the best that they can be, not to enforce our ideas of their limitations upon them, even if we believe we do so out of love.

Thomasina (I refuse to call her Hitch) is a wonderful character. I laughed with her. I cried for her.

Prowse is an extraordinary writer…. she writes with empathy, not sympathy, or pity, but empathy. I think she must be a woman with an exceedingly big heart. A woman who values people just for who they are, not what they are. This shines through into her writing. She never fails to touch my heart.

4.5 very bright stars.

THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for a providing a digital ARC of The Things I Know by Amanada Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on my webpage sandysbookaday/wordpess.com This review and others also appear on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2843852328?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke

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EXCERPT: Noah is getting restless, squirming in my arms. Quickly, I place him back in the pram, but as I tuck the blanket around him, my hand touches something cold. Picking it out from the covers, I see it’s a locket.

My first instinct is that it’s mine. That the clasp must have come undone and the necklace fallen into the pram as I picked Noah up. My hand rises to my chest, but immediately my fingers make contact with the telltale shape of the locket beneath my jumper.

I stare at the one in my hand, not understanding. It looks just like mine.

Easing my thumbnails into the crack, I prise the two halves apart. Even though I know it’s not possible, I half expect it to contain photographs of my children, but of course it doesn’t. Both sides are empty.

I turn the locket over, a feeling of unease creeping up my spine. On its smooth surface, someone has scratched a word.

Sister.

The necklace slips through my fingers onto the tarmac. I know this locket. I haven’t seen it in fifteen years. It’s the one Freya was wearing the day she died.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Kelly is taking her twin daughters to their first day of school, ushering them into the classroom, her heartbreaking to think they might not need her anymore when she turns around and sees that her newborn baby is gone.

As a desperate search ensues, baby Noah is quickly found – parked in front of a different classroom. But when Kelly reaches forward to comfort him, she finds something tucked beside his blanket. A locket that belonged to her sister Freya. A locket Kelly hasn’t seen since the day Freya died.

And then Kelly’s perfectly-ordered life begins to unravel…

MY THOUGHTS: I never really got into this book. I didn’t like the main character, Kelly, at all and felt quite sorry for her poor husband, Mitch. Nor did I like Freya.

We Were Sisters was slow and drawn out with a lot of unnecessary introspection on Kelly’s part. The book lacks suspense and as I read on, I became more and more frustrated, both with the characters and the lack of plot development.

The story is set over two timelines, Kelly and Freya’s childhood together, and Kelly’s adulthood. Some chapters are interspersed with letters: we don’t know who has written them, or who they are to, until later in the book.

Overall, I thought the plot was poorly developed, the supposed surprises very hit and miss. This certainly isn’t the heart-pounding suspense thriller that the blurb promised.

This is the second book I have read by this author, and my reaction to both books is almost identical. I think that this author’s writing style just doesn’t suit my tastes, but I know that a lot of people will enjoy this read so, if after reading the EXCERPT this book appeals to you, please pick up a copy and read it.

Lovely cover.

#WeWereSisters #NetGalley

🤔🤔.5

THE AUTHOR: Wendy Clarke has had over three hundred short stories published in national women’s magazines. With a degree in psychology, and intrigued with how the human mind can affect behaviour, it was inevitable she would eventually want to explore her darker side. What She Saw is her debut psychological thriller, published by Bookouture. Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke 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 profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2891289012?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

The Doctor by Lisa Stone

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EXCERPT: It was pitch black outside except for the small light coming from the outbuilding at the very end of their neighbour’s garden. Emily could just make out the slither of light through the tall shrubs and trees that flanked their boundary fence. No moon or stars shone in the cloudladen sky and no wind stirred the foliage. She liked their secluded garden, it had been one of the reasons she and Ben had bought the house, but sometimes it felt just a bit creepy. Especially at night.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: How much do you know about the couple next door?

When Emily and Ben move in next door to Dr Burman and his wife Alisha, they are keen to get to know their new neighbours. Outgoing and sociable, Emily tries to befriend the doctor’s wife, but Alisha is strangely subdued, barely leaving the house, and terrified of answering the phone.

When Emily goes missing a few weeks later, Ben is plunged into a panic. His wife has left him a note, but can she really have abandoned him for another man? Or has Emily’s curiosity about the couple next door led her straight into danger?

MY THOUGHTS: If you have a creepy neighbour, I don’t know if I should recommend you read this book, or not read this book…..

We all want to live forever, don’t we? Well, I don’t, but Dr Burman does. In fact he is fanatical in his quest. It rules his life……

I was prepared not to like this book. There were a few things in the first few pages that kind of annoyed me and I actually put the book down and walked away from it for a couple of days. Then I picked it up again….and found it difficult to put down.

The writing, in places, felt a little unweildly, but the plot is excellent, and for once the blurb was right…there was a twist that I just didn’t see coming. I don’t know that it was entirely necessary, but I didn’t see it coming. Personally I would have ended the book a little earlier than the author does, but that is just me….

All in all an interesting read. And love this cover!

#TheDoctor #NetGalley

🙂🙂🙂.5 stars

THE AUTHOR: I live in England and have three children. I have always been a writer – from when I was at school, with poems and articles in the school magazine. In my teens I began writing short stories, a few radio plays and novels. I finally made it into the bestseller charts with Damaged in 2007 which I wrote under the pseudonym Cathy Glass. Since then I have had 28 books published, many of which have become international bestsellers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to publishers Avon via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Doctor by Lisa Stone for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on my webpage, sandysbookaday/wordpess.com This review and others also appear on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2860835205

The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

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EXCERPT: ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,’ he quotes. ‘Sonnet 116, remember? We read it at our wedding. Four lines each in turn. Then the final couplet together.’

You shake your head. You don’t remember that, no.

‘It’ll come back to you.’ You wonder if he means the memory or the sentiment. ‘My point is, those weren’t just empty words to us. You were always unique, Abbie. Irreplaceable. A perfect wife. A perfect mother. The love of my life. Everyone says that, don’t they? But I really meant it. After I lost you, plenty of people told me I should move on, find someone else to spend my life with. But I knew that was never going to happen. So I did this instead. Was I right to? I don’t know. But I had to try. And even just talking to you now, for these few minutes – seeing you here, in our house, hearing you speak – makes all the years I put into this worthwhile. I love you, Abs. I will always love you. Forever, just like we promised each other on our wedding day.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s an icon of the tech world, the founder of a lucrative robotics company. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago, and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss. She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

MY THOUGHTS: Fascinating. Creepy. Plausible.

This is not what I was expecting at all. It is unconventionally creepy on many levels, mostly because I can see it happening if it hasn’t already done so. That woman in the restaurant who merely pushes the food around her plate? That person who seems too good to be true. How many times have you asked yourself if someone is even real? This book will have you asking that question all over again.

All this is tied in with a ‘love story’. He is a visionary, a wunderkind. What Gates was to personal computers, Jobs was to smartphones, or Musk was to electric cars, Tim Scott is to AI. Abbie is a free spirit, artist, surfer. They are opposites who have attracted, who complement each other, two halves of a whole. Until they have a child who develops CDD. Tim sees Danny as a problem to be solved, he just needs reprogramming. Abbie wants to try every alternative therapy. Cracks begin to appear…

The story is told from two points of view, from that of an unknown narrator, and Abbie. Abbie’s story is split over two timelines – Abbie now, and Abbie then. The identity of the unknown narrator is revealed at the end of the story, and came as somewhat of a surprise to me.

The story itself keeps the reader slightly off balance. Every time I thought I had something figured out, Delaney tipped me on my head. Her characters are unpredictable and thoroughly believable, even the AI ones.

And I want to applaud Delaney for not reducing the impact of autism on the family, for not stinting on her descriptions of autistic behaviour, and for including the joy that is taken from every little gain, no matter how small, no matter if it is never repeated.

This is an excellent read. An unconventional read. A read that will make you think about the role of robots (or, in this case, cobots – emotionally intelligent companion robots ) in our lives.

#ThePerfectWife #NetGalley

😍🤩🤔🤩😍

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of a writer who has previously published best-selling fiction under another name.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney 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 and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2891285546

A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards

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EXCERPT: ‘….I’m not coming home. I can’t, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to. I need you to go back to Seabank and take care of the girls until things clear up for me.’

‘You’re kidding.’ I really thought she might be.

‘I don’t want to go into detail. Can’t you just trust me and do it?’

I paused, with no plan to restart until I made sense of her request. Finally I said the only thing that occurred to me. ‘Look, this sounds crazy. You have to tell me more.’

“Great. Thanks a lot.’ For the first time Wendy choked up, as if she was trying not to cry. ‘I’m in Phoenix. Okay? There was a murder last night, and I’m pretty sure the sheriff will think I’m involved. I need to disappear for a while until it’s sorted out. Is that enough to get you moving?’

I tried to rearrange her words into sentences that didn’t catapult our family into an unfamiliar dimension. ‘Murder?’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Could a lifetime of memories…be a lifetime of lies?

All her life, Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead, Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now, Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder – and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lays low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar – or worse?

MY THOUGHTS: For most of the time I was reading the book I was thinking 3 stars, maybe at a pinch, 3.5. Then 80% into the book, it became 4. A good solid 4 stars.

It is an interesting story. Unlikely….but interesting. A lot of things were very obvious from the start, and so most of the reveals lacked oomph. But I really liked the effort the author put into her characters. Ryan grows enormously as a person throughout the book. Even though I liked her from the start, I liked her a whole lot better by the end. And the end is not entirely predictable…..

It begs the question ‘how well do we know our nearest and dearest?’ and ‘how reliable are our childhood memories?’ Although a little wordy and slow in places, I still enjoyed A Family of Strangers far more than I thought I would when I was 25% through.

****

THE AUTHOR: I’m the author of seventy-something novels, including romance, women’s fiction and mystery. When We Were Sisters debuted in June 2016, a stand alone novel about two foster sisters traveling back into their past together. I loved writing it and love the cover my publisher chose.

I’m also excited about my recent series, Goddesses Anonymous, which started with One Mountain Away and was followed by Somewhere Between Luck and Trust. The third book in the series, A River Too Wide, came out in July 2014. The Color of Light debuted in August 2015. Will there be more? We’ll see.

I’m also putting up my newly edited romance backlist and love re-reading and updating them a bit.

Last year my husband and I moved from Virginia, to Osprey, Florida, the state where both of us were raised, met, and married. In the summer we live in Chautauqua, New York. I’m a quilter, knitter, kayaker, and the mother of four children, whom I regard as my greatest creative endeavors. And now there are four wonderful grandchildren to spoil.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin-Mira (USA & Canada) via Netgalley fro providing a digital copy of A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2769259489?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Don’t Ever Tell by Lucy Dawson

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EXCERPT: ‘You don’t LOVE me! You LIED to me!’ Tears are streaming down his face, he looks deranged, a stranger – no hint of the gentle man I love. ‘You LIED and you stole it from me! LIAR!’ His face contorts; the harder he pushes the angrier he becomes, or maybe it’s the other way round.

It all happens very fast. The music is building again, about to drop, I’m not sure if his hand slips because he’s drunk, or he means to – but suddenly he isn’t pushing on my jaw, it’s my throat. It’s extraordinarily painful and I can’t breathe properly. I start to writhe up against the wall. My hands flutter up like butterflies, pulling at his fingers in panic.

I’m going to die.

He’s going to kill me.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Never make a promise you can’t afford to keep…

This is a story about Charlotte – a mother and a wife with the perfect job, the perfect life… at least, that’s how it looks from the outside.

But behind closed doors, the marriage is breaking, and Charlotte’s husband Tris doesn’t even know how much. He has no idea what Charlotte has planned for him, who she has found, why she has hired someone to pretend to be her. But he doesn’t have long to wait to find out…

MY THOUGHTS: The blurb says I was going to be gripped from the very first page and kept guessing until the very last, but I didn’t believe it….I WAS WRONG! I read this book overnight, unable to put it down. I even left work early after having started it at lunchtime!

Dynamic. Gripping. Unpredictable. I had no idea what Charlotte was doing.

This book deserves a second, and slower, read. Brilliant!

So brilliant, I am not even going to bitch about the mediocre cover featuring the woman in the red coat that is so overused it has quite lost its impact.

💕💖💝💖💕

THE AUTHOR: Lucy studied Psychology at Warwick University before becoming a children’s magazine editor. Her first bestselling book – His Other Lover – was published in 2008. Since then she has published four other novels and her work has been translated into numerous other languages. She lives in Exeter with her husband and children. Lucy finds writing in the third person uncomfortable.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Don’t Ever Tell by Lucy Dawson for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on my webpage, sandysbookaday/wordpess.com This review and others also appear on Twitter, Amazon, and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2864658716?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1