The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

EXCERPT: It had been a weird day at the Woodyard. Jonathan had come to find her in her studio with a tale of one of the day centre clients having gone missing. Although he was the boss, he called in sometimes, not to talk about work, but to drink coffee and look at her art.

‘Christine Shapland. Gentle soul. Down’s. Very quiet. A bit shy. She just seemed to disappear.’

‘Sorry. I haven’t seen her since last week.’ Gaby thought Jonathan had come to the studio to escape the panic in the rest of the building, to have a few moments of calm. He wouldn’t really expect her to have seen the woman recently. Gaby had nothing to do with the day centre, except for running an art class there once a week.

‘There seems to have been some kind of breakdown in communication. Her uncle thought her mother had picked her up and Susan, her mother, thought the uncle was doing it. Nobody’s seen her since yesterday.’ Jonathan had been standing by the window, the light catching one side of his face, turning the blond hair to silver thread. ‘It’s a bloody nightmare. Her uncle is Dennis Salter. He’s on the Board of Trustees and should have known better. He should have gone in for her, or at least looked out properly. It’ll be the Woodyard that gets the blame, though. The press will have a field day.’

He turned towards Gaby then and she thought she’d never seen him so tense, so fraught.

‘Why don’t you talk to Christopher Preece? He must be good at handling the media.’

‘Yeah, maybe.’ But Jonathan hadn’t seemed too sure. ‘I just want her found safe and well. This, on top of the murder of one of our volunteers, seems like a nightmare. I always thought of the Woodyard as a kind of a sanctuary. Not a place where terrible things happen to the people who belong here.’

ABOUT ‘THE LONG CALL’: In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too.

Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose.

A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew’s new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

MY THOUGHTS: I picked this book up for two reasons: I love Ann Cleeves writing; and as I have recently received a digital ARC for the second in this series, The Heron’s Cry, I wanted to read The Long Call first.

Matthew Venn is going to be a worthy addition to Ann Cleeves existing stable of detectives, Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez. Gay, a bit of a loner/misfit who lacks confidence in himself and feels awkward in company, a bit anal, he has an analytical mind, and is only too aware that his past experiences with some of the people involved in this investigation may colour his perceptions. Jonathan, Venn’s husband, is manager at the Woodyard, so should Venn even be investigating this case?

Jen Rafferty, who has demons of her own is dedicated and smart, and Ross, DCI Joe Oldham’s protege, and a bit of a fashionista with an inflated opinion of himself, make up Venn’s team.

The story, definitely not as dark as many of Cleeves works, moves at a steady pace, and is told from the points of view of Matthew, Jen, and the elderly Maurice Braddick who, along with Luce his daughter, are probably my two favourite characters.

The Long Call is very much a character driven murder mystery. The murder investigation is complicated by the abductions of two of the Woodyard’s other clients, one after the other. Are these abductions connected to the murder, or is something else going on in this tight knit community? It was a definite challenge to figure out whodunit and how, and I failed, miserably.

Thank you Ann Cleeves for a new series and another wonderful whodunit. I am looking forward to reading The Heron’s Cry.

# TheLongCall

I: #anncleeves @panmacmillan

T: @AnnCleeves @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs – child care officer, women’s refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard – before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.

While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person’s not heavily into birds – and Ann isn’t – there’s not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. A couple of these books are seriously dreadful.

In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed a copy of The Long Call written by Ann Cleeves and published by Macmillan, from Waitomo District Library. 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

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

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

EXCERPT: Edward Fosca was a murderer.

This was a fact. This wasn’t something Mariana knew just on an intellectual level, as an idea. Her body knew it. She felt it in her bones, along her blood, and deep within every cell.

Edward Fosca was guilty.

And yet – she couldn’t prove it, and might never prove it. This man, this monster, who had killed at least two people, might, in all likelihood, walk free.

He was so smug, so sure of himself. ‘He thinks he’s got away with it’, she thought. He thought he had won.

But he hadn’t. Not yet.

Mariana was determined to outsmart him. She had to.

She would sit up all night and remember everything that had happened. She would sit here in this small, dark room in Cambridge, and think, and work it out. She stared at the red bar of the electric heater on the wall, burning, glowing in the dark, willing herself into a kind of trance.

In her mind, she would go back to the very beginning and remember it all. Every single detail.

And she would catch him.

ABOUT ‘THE MAIDENS’: Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

MY THOUGHTS: Where to start? At the beginning seems to be the best place:

‘Tell me tales of thy first love –
April hopes, the fools of chance;
Till the graves begin to move,
And the dead begin to dance.’
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Vision of Sin

Love. It has a lot to answer for, or rather the deeds done in the name of love do.

Love is blind – and I am sure deaf and dumb at times too.

As they say, “nothing brings people together like a tragedy.” But in The Maidens, one tragedy piles on top of another.

Mariana has lost the love of her life, Sebastian, who drowned while they were on holiday in Naxos, a Greek Island where Mariana had grown up.

Zoe, Mariana’s niece, was orphaned following the death of her parents in an accident. Mariana and Sebastian raised Zoe, and now Zoe has also lost Sebastian.

Tara is Zoe’s friend and colleague at Cambridge. Now Tara is dead, brutally murdered. And Zoe reaches out to Mariana seeking solace.

Mariana, a psychotherapist, is still struggling to come to terms with her husband’s death, and is being stalked by one of her clients. Cambridge, where Zoe is studying, is also the place where Mariana and Sebastian first met.

Bittersweet memories and murder. Or murders. Tara will not be the last of the elite group of ‘Maidens’ to be murdered. And as in Romeo and Juliet, the emotions of love and hate are the lifeblood of The Maidens. Everything that happens seems to be caused by one, the other, or both, of these two forces.

This really is a classic murder-mystery. There is a little misdirection, and a few good fat red herrings. Agatha Christie with a good dollop of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Greek mythology thrown in. Which I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I mostly found it quite interesting.

There is a diverse cast of characters. I found Henry quite scary, Edward an enigma (a rather creepy one), and I really didn’t know what to make of Fred. Even the peripheral characters are interesting and have their own individual quirks. Between the characters, and Michaelides beautifully atmospheric settings, runs a thread of evil, of menace. The postcards are a great touch.

The plot moves on steadily, casting suspicion on multiple characters before reaching a crescendo where all is revealed. Now it seems that a lot of people were disappointed with the ending, but personally, I liked it. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, but it worked for me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheMaidens #NetGalley

I: @alex.michaelides #orionpublishing

T: @AlexMichaelides @orionbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #psychologicalthriller #serialkillerthriller #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He now lives in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orion Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 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

Fragile by Sarah Hilary

EXCERPT: ‘Rosie,’ I thought. ‘Little, little Rosie.’

It was so cold the night she disappeared, the night I stayed, looking for her. A shiver of stars crept across the lake but it was too dark to separate sky from mountains, or mountains from slag heaps. Waiting for the first breath of dawn to stir in the darkness like an animal waking. The lake breathed at my feet as if it too were sleeping and might wake. All night I stayed, my eyes open on the water. When the first clouds covered the stars, the lake turned grey. So grey I could have reached out and twitched it away, caught it in my fingers and pulled and pulled until it was all gone, except what lay under the surface, also curled, as if asleep. I’d lost everything. Not only at the lake two summers ago, but here and now, in Starling Villas. Everything I’d worked so hard to make, this small happiness, the frail living I’d scratched for myself under his roof. All lost.

ABOUT ‘FRAGILE’: Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.

Only her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .

MY THOUGHTS: She can run, but she can’t hide. Especially not from herself. Guilt, shame and regret are her shadow.

Nell thinks that by running away to London, she and Joe can leave their old selves behind, shed the tragedy of Rosie’s disappearance. Instead, when Joe bails out on her, Nell (Death Knell as Meagan Flack calls her) is caught up in a web of lies, deceit, and manipulation. She is unable to shed her past, which continues to haunt her, and it seems that the future she has planned for herself in a place she thought she could call home may not turn out to be too much different from her past.

Fragile is a grim story. Disturbing. A story of children abandoned for various reasons, flung together in a foster home where their carer, Meagan Flack, wasn’t in the habit of making happy memories for her charges. A home where those who ought to have been cared for, were doing the caring. It is a story of greed, and abuse at many levels. It is a story of the children who fall through the cracks, who live in fear. Continuing to fear Meagan, even after they have fled her, knowing that she will never forgive them, never forget.

It is made all the more dark and disturbing by the beautiful writing. ‘Fear was everywhere in Starling Villas now. Not hiding any longer, but sitting in the sun like a cat, stretching as the sky stretched, greedy for its heat.’

The story is told over two timelines, now at Starling Villas, London, and then at the foster home in Bala, Wales. The story of Rosie’s disappearance is cleverly eked out, so that we don’t learn what actually happened to her until the very end. We are fed snippets of information, teased and tormented by the mystery.

I can’t say that I enjoyed Fragile. I don’t think that it was written to be enjoyed, but it certainly hit its mark with me. It is heartbreaking. It is sad. It tore at my sensibilities. It is beautifully written, and gut wrenching.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#Fragile #NetGalley

I: @sarah_hilary999 @panmacmillan

T: @Sarah_Hilary @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #mystery #psychologicalthriller

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Hilary is a UK crime novelist and former bookseller.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Fragile by Sarah Hilary 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

Waiting to Begin by Amanda Prowse

EXCERPT: I’m running out of time . . . I will never have the job of my dreams and take to the air like lucky Daniel . . . Gone is the prospect of great sex with someone who is yet to discover me and who will in turn help me discover myself . . . I’m running out of time to make amends . . . And with each year my kids slip further from my reach . . . falling into the arms of their life partners who they put before me and I know that’s how it should be, but I find it hard to be happy about it . . . because it leaves Mario and me on our own.

ABOUT ‘WAITING TO BEGIN’: 1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame—and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.

2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss—the hope, the trust, the joy—Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.

Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?

MY THOUGHTS: Whenever I finish a book by Amanda Prowse, I am emotionally bruised, battered and totally wrung out. Waiting to Begin was no exception.

This is a story of actions and consequences, something few teenagers think about. Bessie is one of those teenagers who let her hormones rule her brain. As a result her life becomes a trainwreck.

Fast forward to 2021 and Bess is suffering empty nest syndrome. On top of that she feels that her marriage to Mario has become stale. Things she used to think were cute, now drive her insane. They aren’t close anymore, the loving communication and meaningful discussions, along with affectionate gestures have disappeared. She is at that stage of her life when she wonders, ‘is this all there is?’ She wants to be loved, adored; she wants to feel special, to feel that glimmer of attraction, a frisson of excitement. She wants to feel alive instead of tired and worn out by the repetitiveness of her life.

I didn’t always like Bess, but I have to admit that I could see parts of myself in her at various stages of her life, which gave me food for thought, a reality check.

Prowse takes things that most of us feel at one time or another, combines them with relatable and realistic characters, and weaves a story that both compels and captivates. Tissues mandatory.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#WaitingtoBegin #NetGalley

I: @mrsamandaprowse #lakeunionpublishing

T: @MrsAmandaProwse #LakeUnionPublishing

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

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 providing a digital ARC of Waiting to Begin by Amanda Prowse 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

A Family Affair by Julie Houston

EXCERPT: Aunty Pam smiled. ‘You know, Frankie, when I look back at my twenty-year-old self, I am totally filled with admiration for her. If he and Marco didn’t agree with this, I told Angelo I was going back to my parents immediately; Consettia wouldn’t see anything of her grandchild – I knew your grandmother wouldn’t allow Angelo to get away with that – and I would spill the beans…’

ABOUT ‘A FAMILY AFFAIR’: Frankie Piccione is done running away from her responsibilities, well for now anyway. Having escaped Westenbury after suffering a shattered heart, it’s time to take up her place on the family board. Piccione’s Pickles and Preserves needs Frankie. Frankie knows she can make the business work. But with her brother Luca and the new, rather attractive, Cameron Mancini watching her every move, she’s going to have to come up with something special to get them off her back and recognising she belongs on the board just as much as they do.

With the help of her Aunt Pam and best friend, Daisy, Frankie is thriving with her new sense of purpose. Until someone from her past walks right back into it…

MY THOUGHTS: I absolutely love Julie Houston’s writing, but I have to admit that I initially had a few issues with A Family Affair. It seems that every book now has to be written over more than one timeline and from multiple points of view. And in A Family Affair, Julie has taken this path. When I started reading, I wasn’t convinced that this was going to work. Even halfway through, I wasn’t convinced this was working. But in the end, the author tied it together beautifully and I exited this book with a sigh of contentment.

I love Julie Houston’s characters. They are so real, so down to earth. But for me, this story wasn’t about Frankie and her disastrous love life – it’s Aunty Pam who stole my heart.

And while I may have initially thought that I knew where this story was heading, I was wrong on every count. Julie Houston bested me. And I am happy about that. I should have known better . . .

This author writes with humor and empathy. A delightful read.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#AFamilyAffair #NetGalley

I: @juliehoustonauthor @ariafiction

T: @JulieHouston2 @Aria_Fiction

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #romance

THE AUTHOR: Julie Houston is Yorkshire born and bred. She lives in Huddersfield where her novels are set and her only claims to fame are that she taught at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old school, her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author Joanne Harris and her friend is about to marry Tracy Emin’s cousin! Oh, and she was rescued by Frank Bough when, many years ago, she was ‘working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’ at the Kensington Hilton in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Aria & Aries via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Village Affair by Julie Houston 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

Legacy by Nora Roberts

EXCERPT: The first time Adrian Rizzo met her father, he tried to kill her.

ABOUT ‘LEGACY’: Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.

Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.

A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.

But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins…

MY THOUGHTS: What an attention grabbing opening line! – right?

It certainly grabbed my attention and made me sit up and take notice. I was excited to read this. But, by a third of the way through I was wondering if Nora Roberts was ever going to get to the point. I felt like I had been reading forever, and the story was really going nowhere v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. I honestly debated abandoning this. I was bored. But at the exhortations of various other readers, I kept going. By the 50% point, I was getting into the rhythm, but still wasn’t completely enamoured. By 75%, I was enjoying it, and continued to do so right to the end. But I will stick with my original comment, why did the author take so long to get to the point? Yes, I like to know the background of the characters, and I like to have some build-up to the story, but this was taking it to the extreme. This novel really is too damned long!

I have a few more minor niggles like the stereotyped characters, and the plot predictability, but there was an indefinable something in the second half of Legacy, missing from the first, that kept me reading to the end. I mostly liked the characters. I could understand why Adrian was so disciplined and liked to have control. I liked the way Raylan loosened her up. I liked her friends and family, though I reserve judgement on her mother Lina. I particularly liked her grandfather. And I loved her house. Hell, I covet her house! Relationships are the core of Legacy. It is very light on suspense and thrills.

January Lavoy, narrator, does an amazing job with the characters voices. She is very talented and a pleasure to listen to.

Overall, only a satisfactory read for me. If it’d had all the extraneous stuff cut from it to make it a tighter read, it would have rated higher.

⭐⭐⭐.4

#Legacy #NetGalley

I: @norarobertsauthor @hachetteaudio

T: #NoraRoberts @HachetteAudio

#contemporaryfiction #audiobook #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Nora Roberts also writes the ‘In Death’ series under the name J.D. Robb.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Legacy by Nora Roberts 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 my webpage

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

EXCERPT: Monsters think it’s MONSTER fun
To creep around all scary!
But there’s something they love even more,
Than looking mean and hairy!

ABOUT ‘MONSTERS LOVE UNDERPANTS’: There are prowly monsters howling loudly and drooling monsters from the steamy swamp. There are wild, woolly mountain monsters and spiky, spooky monsters from outer space. And they all have one thing in common – they LOVE underpants!

LUKE AND SANDY’S THOUGHTS: What monsters love even more than looking mean and scary is ….. UNDERPANTS! And they have ever so many pairs of brightly coloured, striped, spotted and patterned underpants. One monster even wears an extra pair on his head!

As well as a fun rhyming story, there are plenty of learning opportunities – counting, colours, and working into the story that even though the monsters are all different, just like people are all different, they all live and play together.

Luke particularly loved the cat being scared by the monsters, and the pirate underpants. He also liked that there are bats and spiders and mice in some of the pictures.

Delightfully silly, bright and cheerful. I have lost count of the number of times we have read Monsters Love UNDERPANTS!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: I’ve been a writer for over 15 years now, but it wasn’t planned!

I had a variety of jobs, including secretary, trainee buyer at Harrods, dental nurse, production assistant in a reprographic and printing company and various others.

I began to write after joining a creative writing class. I had no success with article writing, or short stories, or fiction, but the first children’s story I wrote, for a magazine called Twinkle, was accepted for publication. Hooray!!!

Things snowballed and a lot (yes lots and lots) of hard work later I now write full time and have over 50 books published. I still go to the same writing class and we have become a big happy family of writers!

For me, writing is the best job ever. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I love to create worlds for young children to enjoy and escape into – whether the stories are educational, bedtime, problem solving or just plain good fun. It’s also very exciting to see the first picture roughs, as my wonderful, talented illustrators bring the text to life.

I live on the Essex coast in a lovely two-bed-roomed flat, which I share with my husband, Michael. At long last I have an office to write in, with room for all my books and bits of scribbled on papers.

The seafront is (still) just around the corner, and I find a bracing walk (it gets freezing when the East wind blows from the North Sea!) or gentle stroll when the weather is warmer, is great for clearing my head and mulling over story ideas

DISCLOSURE: Luke owns his copy of Monsters Love Underpants, written by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Ben Cort and published by Simon & Schuster. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely our 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 Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads.com

Entry Island by Peter May

EXCERPT: When the plane began its final descent towards Havre de Maisons, it banked left and Sime saw the storm clouds accumulating in the south-west. And as it swung around for landing, he caught a glimpse once more of Entry Island standing sentinel at the far end of the bay. A dark, featureless shadow waiting for him in the grey, pre-storm light. He had thought, just a matter of days ago, that he had seen the last of it. But now he was back. To try to resolve what seemed like an insoluble mystery. To right what he believed to be a miscarriage of justice. Something that, in all likelihood, would lose him his job.

ABOUT ‘ENTRY ISLAND’: When Detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at Montreal’s St. Hubert airfield, he does so without looking back. For Sime, the 850-mile journey ahead represents an opportunity to escape the bitter blend of loneliness and regret that has come to characterise his life in the city.

Travelling as part of an eight-officer investigation team, Sime’s destination lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Only two kilometres wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of around 130 inhabitants – the wealthiest of which has just been discovered murdered in his home.

The investigation itself appears little more than a formality. The evidence points to a crime of passion: the victim’s wife the vengeful culprit. But for Sime the investigation is turned on its head when he comes face to face with the prime suspect, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

Haunted by this certainty his insomnia becomes punctuated by dreams of a distant past on a Scottish island 3,000 miles away. Dreams in which the widow plays a leading role. Sime’s conviction becomes an obsession. And in spite of mounting evidence of her guilt he finds himself convinced of her innocence, leading to a conflict between the professonal duty he must fulfil, and the personal destiny that awaits him.

MY THOUGHTS: Entry Island criss-crosses between a small island on Canada’s Eastern Seaboard and the Hebrides in a mystery that spans the centuries.

The plot is complex and fascinating. A murder occurs on a small isolated island with a population of only 100 people. How hard could it be to solve? The only suspect, Kirsty, the murdered man’s estranged wife, triggers a strange response in Sime, and thus begins the story of two islands in two times, two mysteries, and a love story that spans two centuries.

May, as always, writes vividly, painting pictures of his characters, the landscapes in which they dwell, and the little known but very real Highland Clearances. He is master of the claustrophobic and isolated island setting, of depicting the very special characters that choose to live there.

May had my heart pounding in places, and had me in tears in others. He wrung every conceivable emotion from me as I read Entry Island. He both thrilled me, and appalled me. He taught me of a period in history that I had known nothing about. He entertained me, superbly.

Thank you Peter May. I will continue to buy every book that you write. And will, no doubt, continue to feel that frisson of excitement as I open the cover of each for the first time.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#EntryIsland

I: @authorpetermay @riverrun_books

T: @authorpetermay @riverrunbooks

#fivestarread #crime #detectivefiction #contemporaryfiction #historicalfiction #murdermystery #mystery #thriller

QUOTES: ‘A light wind blew high clouds across an inky sky, stars like jewels set in ebony. An almost full moon came and went in washes of colourless silver light. The air was filled with the sound of the ocean, the slow steady breath of eternity.’

‘We sow the seeds of our own destruction without ever realizing it.’

THE AUTHOR: Peter May was born and raised in Scotland and now lives in France. As well as being a prolific and award winning writer, he has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of Entry Island written by Peter May and published by Riverrun, a division of Quercus. 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, 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

You Need to Know by Nicola Moriarty

EXCERPT: The kettle boiled and she poured her cup of tea, then she picked up her phone to call Mimi. For a moment her thumb hovered over the mail icon. The email had arrived three days ago. It had taken her a few minutes, but eventually she had recognised the sender’s name. It was a name that gave her a nasty feeling in the pit of her stomach. And it was highly unusual that she would be writing to her.

Then she’d read the subject line: ‘You Need to Know’. Her skin prickled with irritation. What on earth could this woman have to say that Jill apparently needed to know? The presumptious tone annoyed her, so she’d closed the app and ignored it.

Her thumb moved away from her inbox now, and instead she phoned Mimi.

ABOUT ‘YOU NEED TO KNOW’: The holidays are here. The extended family has gathered. The cars are packed and the convoy sets off. The cottage is a few hours’ drive – but not everyone will live to see it …

For Jill, her three sons, their wives and children, a terrifying road crash will tear apart their family.

The crash will be an accident but the shattering that follows has been long coming.

Because at the heart of this family lies a secret – concealed, wrestled with, festering and harmful – and nothing now can stop it coming out.

But will any of them survive it?

MY THOUGHTS: You Need to Know that you need to read this!

I started You Need to Know when I got home from work, and I did not, could not, put it down until I finished. I devoured it, then licked my fingers afterwards.
I inhaled it. I lived it. I loved every word.

Moriarty has written a dramatic tale of family relationships with believable characters, and an original plot that increases in intensity and complexity culminating in multiple wreckages …. not all of them vehicular. Secrets that have been hidden in this family, from this family, are revealed and their relationships are fractured.

Moriarty’s characters are so realistic, so complete, that they could have stepped off the pages and into my life. They could be my friends, my neighbours. This is a situation any family could find itself in. Moriarty writes her characters with a deep understanding and compassion.
An absolutely absorbing page-turner.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#YouNeedtoKnow #NetGalley

I: #nicolamoriarty #harpercollinsaustralia

T: @NikkiM3 @HarperCollinsAU

#contemporaryfiction #australianfiction #familydrama #fivestarread #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Nicola Moriarty lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small daughters. She is the younger sister of bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying teaching at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of You Need to Know by Nicola Moriarty 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