The Affair by Hilary Boyd

EXCERPT: The silence in the car was profound, as if she’d suddenly gone deaf.

‘Are you completely out of your mind?’ she whispered, all strength gone from her body.

With a puzzled frown, he leaned over and put both his hands firmly on her crossed forearms, staring intently into her eyes. ‘You look terrified, Connie.’ He drew back a bit. ‘Oh,my God . . . you’re not worried about your husband finding out about us, are you?’ He sighed. ‘You know I’d never betray you. I will never tell a living soul what happened between us, not in a million years.’ He smiled his gentle smile. ‘I just want to be near you.’

ABOUT ‘THE AFFAIR’: Connie McCabe longs for the summer where she spends the days leading tours across the continent.

But it’s on the glamorous shores of Lake Como where she is truly swept away, when Jared, a much younger man, falls for her.

Despite resisting his advances, Connie finds that he’s got under her skin.

And so begins a long, hot, intoxicating summer where Connie succumbs to temptation – breaking her marriage vows.

At the end of the season, Connie returns home to her husband, ready to put this affair behind her.

MY THOUGHTS: Hilary Boyd writes about how easy it is to make a wrong decision when vulnerable. Decisions, actions and consequences are the theme of The Affair.

Connie is an extremely relatable character. Who amongst us has never felt unappreciated, has never wondered if their significant other may have fallen out of love, be bored by them. Who has never felt exasperated by their partner, lost patience with them? Whose marriage has never gone through a rough patch, where you seem to have lost your connection, to be moving in different directions? We’d all like to think that it would never happen to us, but chances are it has, or it will.

Devan, Connie’s husband is a retired G.P. who, now he doesn’t have a purpose in his life, is feeling lost and resentful towards his wife who continues, despite his pleas for her to retire with him, with the job she loves.

Jared is a younger man dancing attendance on his elderly godmother on one of Connie’s tours. One evening, he kisses her . . . and Connie’s life will never be the same.

The Affair is a great cautionary tale, one everyone should read, because what happens after?

Hilary Boyd has written a story that begins as a small meandering stream which gathers power and develops into a raging torrent, one that swept me off my feet.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheAffair #NetGalley

I: @hilaryboyd3837 @michaeljbooks

T: @HilaryBoyd @MichaelJBooks

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mentalhealth #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Boyd was born and spent the first six months of her life in Prestatyn, North Wales, where her father, an army major, was stationed after the war. She was later educated in London, then at the boarding school Roedean. She trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and subsequently as a marriage guidance counsellor with Relate before reading English Literature at London University in her late 30s.

After college, Boyd became a health journalist, writing about depression, step-parenting and pregnancy. She began writing fiction as a hobby whilst raising three children and working at various day jobs including running a cancer charity, Survive Cancer, working for an engineering company, and an online vitamin site.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin, Michael Joseph via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Affair by Hilary Boyd 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

56 Days by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: He made his way to the checkouts where he saw that she was just about to join the line – perfect timing, but whose? – and he’d hung back so she’d have to do it in front of him, and that’s when she’d stopped and looked up and their eyes had met.

A flash of something – surprise? Recognition? – crosses her face just as he thinks to himself, I’ve seen her somewhere before.

Somewhere else, in different circumstances.

But where?

‘It’s okay,’ she mumbles, waving the bottle of water she’s holding in her right hand. ‘I’ve just realised I’ve got the wrong one.’

She turns on her heel and hurries off in the opposite direction.

And now he thinks, Gotcha.

He knew coming back to Ireland would be a risk, but he had presumed that enough time had passed for him to be yesterday’s news. Besides, anyone interested in exposing him would have to find him first. He goes by his mother’s maiden name now. He’s severed all contact with anyone he knew or had known on the day he left London, save for two people: his brother, who can be trusted, and Dan, who is professionally obligated to be. Oliver has a better cover story now and is more practised at sticking to it. He doesn’t take risks. He won’t take them.

There can’t be a repeat of what happened in London.

But now he’s seen this vaguely familiar woman swinging her little space shuttle bag in the supermarket across from his office every day for five days in a row, at a slightly different time each day, and it’s got him paranoid.

Who is she, really?

What is she?

ABOUT ’56 DAYS’: No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, what a tangled web Catherine Ryan-Hyde has woven! Intriguing and at times perplexing, 56 Days is set in the earliest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the author has used this event very cleverly and to great effect. But it is only one of many layers in this story where it seems everyone is hiding something.

I was immediately immersed in the storyline and didn’t come up for air until past halfway through. Ryan-Hyde has taken us back to a time of great change, of fear, of uncertainty, of almost alien landscapes, deserted streets, and suspicion, and dropped into the midst of this two equally suspicious characters who are, while attracted, also circling one another warily.

The suspense is palpable and I was twisted in knots as I tried to figure out where the author was taking me. The plot is set over several timelines and the story told from the points of view of Ciara, Oliver, and the DI investigating the case. It starts at 56 days before the body is discovered, and we follow Ciara’s and Oliver’s story moving forward, with occasional forays into their past. At the same time we follow the investigation into the death, of whom I’m not saying. Now, usually I am fine with multiple timelines, but just occasionally I was thrown and had to frantically page back to check when I was reading about. This was probably more inattention on my part than any fault of the author. Also, we are occasionally shown the same event from multiple viewpoints, which does lead to a certain amount of repetition, not all of which was warranted.

But as far as predicting what was going to happen, the author stumped me. There were a few things I almost got right, but not entirely.

I really enjoyed 56 Days, the second book I have read by this author, and I look forward to reading more from her.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#56Days #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @blackstonepublishing

T: @cryanhyde @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #crime #irishfiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Catherine Ryan Howard is an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork, Ireland. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida. She still wants to be an astronaut when she grows up.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of 56 Days by Catherine Ryan-Hyde 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

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Now.

Ava Lancet peered through the unrelenting night as she fought down a growing sense of panic. Darkness had fallen twenty minutes ago and she had no idea where she was – or where she was meant to go.

She glanced at the map crumpled on the passenger seat of her rental car, wishing that the agent had provided a GPS instead of the seemingly obsolete, old-fashioned fold-out map that he’d assured her would help her drive from Athens to the tiny village of Iousidous. And perhaps it would have if she could have made sense of the wiggly lines and incomprehensible Greek names. Not that reading Greek even mattered now because darkness had fallen and she could barely make out the road signs on Greece’s National Highway.

She’d been in this country just a few hours and already she was completely lost, both literally and figuratively. Spiritually, emotionally, hopelessly lost. A fortnight ago, escaping a cold wet spring in England had seemed like a wonderful idea, a desperate lifeline since her own life – and marriage – had been put on hold. That’s how Ava liked to think of it anyway, because to consider anything else was too final. Too much of a failure.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE OLIVE GROVE’: When Ava arrives in Greece, it’s with a heart that’s shattered into a thousand pieces. But as she pulls up in a tiny village nestled on a cliff above the glittering Ionian Sea, and steps out in front of a tumbledown house that once belonged to her grandmother Sophia, everything changes.

At first Ava almost wants to laugh at this bizarre inheritance—a home that has been uninhabited since the Second World War—that appears as close to collapse as she herself feels. But with nowhere left to run to, her only choice is to start putting the house together again.

What Ava doesn’t expect is for pieces of her grandmother’s story to emerge, as a local survivor from the war begins to share her secrets. Ava can’t help but be drawn to Sophia’s hidden past… even though the truth could change her own life forever.

Because Sophia’s story is one of devastating choices she had to make during the Nazi invasion of her beloved country. It’s a story of bravery, betrayal and tragedy. But most of all, it is a story about love…

MY THOUGHTS: I am a definite starter for books where the main character is left a house, and uncovers a mystery, so I knew as soon as I saw it that I absolutely must read this book. I have read Kate Hewitt before and enjoyed her, so I knew that I was in for a good read.

Hewitt has described rural Greece beautifully – not that I have ever been there, unfortunately – but just as I have seen it on travel documentaries. In Ava’s ‘now’, there is a dearth of young people in the village, but the villagers of a similar age to Ava, or her mother, are friendly, welcoming and helpful, while the older generations are more reserved and distrustful.

Sophia’s ‘then’ in 1942, has a totally different atmosphere. It is a time of poverty and fear, with many different political factions trying to seize control. There are communists, nazis and fascists all competing against one another, each in their own way equally dangerous. Sophia is content to keep her head down, her opinions to herself, and just get on with her work at the café. But other people have vastly different plans for her.

I didn’t know much about Greece in WWII, so Beyond the Olive Grove was a bit of an education for me. Please make sure you read Kate’s letter at the end of the book. I learned so much more from it, including that Sophia’s story is based on both real events and people.

I liked Beyond the Olive Grove, but regretfully didn’t love it. In all honesty I felt Ava’s story detracted from Sophia’s with her marriage and emotional dramas. A good read, but for me one that I probably won’t be able to recall in a couple of weeks.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#BeyondtheOliveGrove #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Kate likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt 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

Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

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

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

Her hands hurt.

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

Not this time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, this was just an average read.

⭐⭐.5

#WildwoodWhispers #NetGalley

I: @willa_reece @hachetteaudio

T: @ReeceWilla @HachetteAudio

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

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Audio, Orbit via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

EXCERPT: Mum shakes her head decisively in answer to my question: there’s nothing more for me to see. Frustrated, I try another tack.

‘It’s important to Tomasz, too. He barely remembers Gosia and never knew his father, but the man who gave him the photograph when he was a teenager, said that Shona knew his father.’

She looks at me with an expression that is not encouraging.

‘I said I’d ask if you could think of anyone he might talk to.’

She pointedly turns her head to look out at the wintry garden. I keep trying.

‘The man Tomasz spoke to at the Polish Hearth Club who remembered that you were a doctor also said that Shona had a Polish boyfriend. Is that true? Did you ever meet him?’

She stands up abruptly, walks past me out of the kitchen and into the living room, slamming the door behind her.

I’m shocked by the intensity of my reaction when she does this. I’m furious. Nothing ever changes. Even if Shona’s wartime mission had to be kept secret at the time, how can it hurt to talk about it now? Why can’t Mum be happy that I want to understand her sister’s past? But she’s never let me in, never shared her feelings or admitted any frailty. She’s kept me at arms length all her life and now she’s dying, and all she can do when I try to learn more about her is slam a door against me.

ABOUT ‘SISTERHOOD’: Identical twin sisters Freya and Shona take very different paths, leading to long-buried family secrets that reverberate through the generations in this thrilling novel of psychological suspense by the author of Tell Me How It Ends. There are some choices you can’t come back from.

It is 1944 in war-battered London. Freya and Shona are identical twins, close despite their different characters. Freya is a newly qualified doctor treating the injured in an East End hospital, while Shona has been recruited by the SOE. The sisters are so physically alike that they can fool people into thinking that one is the other. It’s a game they’ve played since childhood. But when Shona persuades her twin to swap roles to meet her Polish lover, he is angered at being tricked.

Then Shona proposes a far more dangerous swapping of roles. At first Freya refuses but finally she agrees, with consequences that threaten not only the happiness but the lives of both sisters.

Forty-five years later in November 1989 Freya, now aged 69, is watching television with her daughter Kirsty. Freya is gripped as she witnesses crowds of Berliners attempting to knock down their hated Wall. This sight stirs memories of her own and her sister’s war, especially the tragedy of the Warsaw Uprising – memories that she has never shared with anyone. Even if she wanted to reveal them now, she can’t. She’s suffering from a brain tumour and is unable to speak although her reason is unimpaired. And this is what she’s thinking: if they succeed in knocking down the Wall, what secrets will come tumbling through? If her own were revealed, it would be devastating for all those close to her, especially her daughter, Kirsty.

MY THOUGHTS: I felt a personal connection with Kirsty, Freya’s daughter in this story. I know next to nothing about my mother’s life, and now it’s too late. I felt Kirsty’s anguish and frustration at constantly being pushed away.

But aside from touching me on a personal level, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue of Sisterhood. The story is told over two timelines, from Kirsty’s point of view in 1989 as the Berlin Wall is demolished, and a stranger arrives with a photo looking for her mother Freya’s identical twin sister, Shona, who had been recruited by the SOE; and in 1944 from Freya’s point of view.

But it’s not just her mother’s ill health, and the mystery surrounding her aunt that Kirsty has to contend with. Her Australian husband Martin has been offered his dream job – in Australia.

I started to read this over my morning coffee, intending to read just a chapter or two to get a feel for the story. Instead, I read until I was finished. Yes, a one sitting read that intrigued me from the outset; one that never let me go. This is a multi-generational storyline which starts with Freya and Shona, and moves on encompass Freya’s daughter Kirsty and her family. The plot progresses at a steady pace, and is full of mystery, intrigue, and drama.

Strongly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and family dramas/mysteries.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#Sisterhood #NetGalley

I: @quercusbooks

T: @IsabelleGrey @QuercusBooks

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Manchester, England, and have an English degree from Cambridge. My first job was with a London antique dealer and I spent many years as a freelance journalist and non-fiction author (as Isabelle Anscombe) writing initially about the fascinating world of the art market and the history of decorative arts before going on to contribute features and reviews to national newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Psychologies. I have also written for film, television and radio drama.

I live and work in north London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Sisterhood by V.B. Grey. 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

Slough House by Mick Herron

EXCERPT: The study remained like a showroom in a vacant property – books, chairs, curtains; the shelf with its odd collection of trophies: a glass globe, a hunk of concrete, a lump of metal that had been a Luger; the desk with its sheet of blotting paper, like something out of Dickens, and the letter opener, which was an actual stiletto, and had once belonged to Beria – and if David Cartwright had left secrets in his wake they’d be somewhere in that room, on those shelves, among a billion other words. River didn’t know if he really believed that, but he knew for sure that he didn’t know he didn’t, and if River thought that way others might too, and act upon the possibility. Spook secrets were dangerous to friends and foes alike, and the old man had made plenty of both down the years. He could see one of either breed breaking a lock, finessing a window; could see them working round the study, looking for clues. If that was happening, River needed to stop it. Any trail his dead grandfather had left, no one was going to follow but him.

ABOUT ‘SLOUGH HOUSE’: Slough House – the crumbling office building to which failed spies, the ‘slow horses’, are banished – has been wiped from secret service records.

Reeling from recent losses in their ranks, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold, and fatal accidents keep happening.

With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, the aftermath of a blunder by the Russian secret service that left a British citizen dead, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.

But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.

MY THOUGHTS: I have never read Mick Herron previously, although I had heard a lot of great things about his writing, and they are all true. I am not known for enjoying spy thrillers, but Slough House is not your traditional spy thriller. Its characters are misfits, those who have failed in some way, who the hierarchy would prefer to forget even exist. Slough House could best be described as a halfway house, but the question would be, halfway to where?

There is a lot of dialogue in Slough House, which I usually don’t like, but Herron’s wonderful one-liners had me almost hysterical at times. His dialogue is also clever in other ways. He has used reasonably recent events as a background for the plot in Slough House, although it was completed prior to the advent of Covid, so there’s no reference to social distancing or the pandemic.

Slough House is #7 in the series, so I had no knowledge of any of the characters going into this book, something I intend to remedy. I became quite fond of this bunch of misfits who, although they outwardly show disdain and contempt for one another, have an underlying and undeniable deep loyalty. I need to know how they got to where they are, what has shaped, or misshapen them. They are a fascinating bunch for whom I feel great affection, and therefore I am going to start this series from the beginning. In fact, I am going to read everything this author has written.

Herron writes with wicked imagery, sardonic wit and black humour, which I love. I rank him right up there with Adrian McKinty and Ken Bruen.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#SloughHouse #NetGalley

I: @johnmurrays

T: @johnmurrays

#contemporaryfiction #crime #humour #spythriller

THE AUTHOR: Mick Herron was born in Newcastle and has a degree in English from Balliol College, Oxford. He is the author of seven books in the Slough House series as well as a mystery series set in Oxford featuring Sarah Tucker and/or P.I. Zoë Boehm. He now lives in Oxford and works in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to John Murray Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Slough House by Mick Herron 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

Mrs March by Virginia Feito

EXCERPT: When she padded back to bed, something caught her eye in the building opposite. A red light in one of the windows. She tensed, her first thought that it was a fire, but as she looked longer, she realized it was a lamp draped in cherry coloured organza, which cast a warm glow. The various other windows in building were mostly dark, some strobing with the soft pulse of a television screen.

She moved closer to her own window, her nose almost pressing against the glass. It had begun to snow. The snowflakes floated down, the ones passing by the window illuminated red for a split second, lighting up like embers before continuing their descent, the black night flickering saffron, hellish.

Her eyes went back to the glowing room. It was a bedroom, dark except for the reddish glow. After some seconds she managed to make out a woman, bent over, her back to the window. She was wearing a pink silk slip, her milky thighs on full display. Mrs March cleared her throat, then looked over her own shoulder, as if someone had caught her spying. She trained her eyes back on the woman. What was she bending over? Mrs March could see the corner of a mattress, or a couch cushion. Leaning further, she bumped her forehead against the windowpane and, as if she had heard her, the woman in the pink slip turned around.

From Mrs March’s throat issued an unwilling sound, some tortured garble between a gasp and a scream. There was blood – so much blood – soaking the front of the woman’s slip and matting her hair and staining her hands – hands now pressed against the window to form bloody prints. Mrs March pushed herself away from the window in one jerky movement, falling backward onto the bed, her book crunching underneath her spine. She failed her arms toward George’s bedside table, shaking her hands free of the numbness creeping up to her fingers. She pulled the telephone to her and crept to the window. The cord went taut, halting her movement.

She stood there, the receiver pressed to her ear – the dial tone now a harsh beeping – as she looked out across the courtyard. The red glow was gone. The woman was gone, too.

ABOUT ‘MRS MARCH’: George March’s latest novel is a smash hit. None could be prouder than Mrs. March, his dutiful wife, who revels in his accolades and relishes the lifestyle and status his success brings.

A creature of routine and decorum, Mrs. March lives an exquisitely controlled existence on the Upper East Side. Every morning begins the same way, with a visit to her favourite patisserie to buy a loaf of olive bread, but her latest trip proves to be her last when she suffers an indignity from which she may never recover: an assumption by the shopkeeper that the protagonist in George March’s new book – a pathetic sex worker, more a figure of derision than desire – is based on Mrs. March.

One casual remark robs Mrs. March not only of her beloved olive bread but of the belief that she knew everything about her husband – and herself – sending her on an increasingly paranoid journey, one that starts within the pages of a book but may very well uncover both a killer and the long-buried secrets of Mrs. March’s past.

MY THOUGHTS: Mrs March by Virginia Feito is a strangely compelling and disturbing read.

We follow the journey of Mrs March as she descends from a lifestyle of privilege and status as the wife of a successful author, into the realms of paranoia and psychosis as she comes to believe that the main character in her husband’s latest book, an ugly prostitute named Johanna, is based on her.

Mrs March is very much a character driven book, and Mrs March is very much the main character. She appears to have no friends, merely acquaintances. She is terrified of her housekeeper. She maintains a very distant relationship with her son. And even the relationship between her and her husband is very formal. We don’t even know Mrs March’s first name until the final few sentences. She is quite childlike in her inability to take care of herself and her family.

The era Mrs March is set in isn’t specified, although I would guess it to be the late 1950s or early 1960s.

The book itself is a bit of an enigma. I had questions racing through my mind all the time I was reading. Some were answered. Some weren’t. The finale is quite spectacular, and for me was totally unexpected.

This is an outstanding debut novel.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#MrsMarch #NetGalley

I: @4thestatebooks

#domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #psychologicalsuspense

THE AUTHOR: A native of Spain, Virginia Feito was raised in Madrid and Paris, and studied English and drama at Queen Mary University of London. She lives in Madrid, where she writes her fiction in English. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to 4th Estate and William Collins via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Mrs March by Virginia Feito 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 Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

EXCERPT: ‘… if they can’t stand to see a young woman exercise her rights, then maybe they need an education in how the modern world works.’

The waiter turned on his heel and left, and my mother began to collect her things. I reached out and put my hand on hers. ‘Where are you going, Mama? Don’t let them bully us into leaving.’

‘It’s not them,’ she said softly. ‘It’s you.’ I saw her eyes fill with tears. ‘Your manners, your lack of etiquette, of decency – living here with a man you’ve only just met – even your lovely hair . . .’ She reached out and tucked a piece of my cropped hair behind my ear. ‘It’s all gone.’

She stood, pushed in her chair and gently placed her handbag on her arm. ‘Olive, you’re forgetting who you are.’

‘You’re wrong, Mama,’ I said, almost in a whisper. ‘For the first time in my life I know exactly who I want to be.’

ABOUT ‘THE SHOW GIRL’: It’s 1927 when Olive McCormick moves from Minneapolis to New York City determined to become a star in the Ziegfeld Follies. Extremely talented as a singer and dancer, it takes every bit of perseverance to finally make it on stage. And once she does, all the glamour and excitement is everything she imagined and more–even worth all the sacrifices she has had to make along the way.

Then she meets Archie Carmichael. Handsome, wealthy–the only man she’s ever met who seems to accept her modern ways–her independent nature and passion for success. But once she accepts his proposal of marriage he starts to change his tune, and Olive must decide if she is willing to reveal a devastating secret and sacrifice the life she loves for the man she loves.

MY THOUGHTS: Spanning 1927 to 1929, and encompassing the beginning of the great depression, The Show Girl is an exciting and balanced blend of history, drama, and romance.

Harrison has captured the excitement of the end of the roaring twenties; a time of changing social mores, a time of desperate need for excess as people tried to block out the devastation and decimation of the first world war. There is a frantic need for enjoyment, and social boundaries are pushed as women begin to assert their independence.

This is the backdrop to a story of a young woman with ambition, a dream that, despite all the obstacles placed in her way, she is determined to attain. Young and naive in New York City, this is both a coming of age story and a social commentary. I hope I am not making this sound dull, because it is anything but. It is brimming with life, love, and drama.

Harrison’s characters are very true to life. Olive comes from a very traditional family; a rigidly strict father, and a mother who stays at home to care for the children. Their plans for Olive were more along the lines of a nice little job in a department store until she marries, than a scantily clad show girl!

Olive is not always a likeable character. Sometimes, like most of us, she doesn’t even like herself. But Olive is determined, and very single-minded; totally focused on reaching her goal even if she is abandoned by her family along the way. And she is the star of this story. The spotlight never leaves her.

I found this a fascinating read. On my bucket list is a trip to Paris to see the Follies Bergére, and it is on this famous troupe that Ziegfield based his own troupe of dancers in New York. So between that, and The Show Girl being written by Nicola Harrison, I just knew I had to read this book. I was not disappointed.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#TheShowGirl #NetGalley

I: @nicolaharrisonauthor @stmartinspress

T: @NicolaHAuthor #StMartinsPress

#historicalfiction #romance

THE AUTHOR: I’m originally from Hampshire, England, and moved to California when I was 14. I studied Literature at UCLA and received an MFA in creative writing at Stony Brook University. Soon after college I moved to NYC and worked in magazine publishing. I was the fashion and style staff writer for Forbes and had a weekly column at Lucky Magazine. I spent many summers in Montauk, which inspired my first novel, but after 17 years in the Big Apple I recently moved back to California and have settled in Manhattan Beach with my husband, two sons and two chihuahuas. When I’m not writing I love to paddle board, do yoga and get outside with my boys.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to St Martin’s via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison 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

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss

EXCERPT: Of her seven grandchildren, I am Oma’s favourite. In private, she tells me so. It’s because I am curious and have a deductive mind. I collect obscure words like ‘misnomer’ for contradiction and ‘knave’ for someone dishonest. My favourite word is ‘enigma’, for without mystery to challenge a curious mind, it will starve. My brother Grady calls me high and mighty for using ten dollar words in a ten cent town. Out loud, I call him rude, but inside my head I know he’s a chuff. Mama says I can be insensitive. She says language is meant to communicate, not separate, so I mostly spend ten dollar words inside my head.

Oma never returns to Germany. She dies in Riverton on twentieth of May, and her granite tombstone is etched with a mountain sketch we’ve only seen on a page in a travel book in our library. At her passing, our hope for thrilling danger passes with her.

We fear nothing will happen here . . . here where a lazy river rolls by, outsiders are rare, and farming rules our days.

We think we are safe here, where nothing happens – until something comes that undoes us all.

ABOUT ‘ALL THE LITTLE HOPES’: Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing’s the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is curious and clever, but she can’t make sense of it all. Then Allie Bert Tucker comes to town, an outcast with a complicated past, and Lucy believes that together they can solve crimes. Just like her hero, Nancy Drew.

That chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery that takes them beyond the ordinary. Their quiet town, seasoned with honeybees and sweet tea, becomes home to a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—and more men go missing. The pair set out to answer the big question: do we ever really know who the enemy is?

MY THOUGHTS: All The Little Hopes is a quietly moving book that I didn’t realise how much I had enjoyed until the last word faded from my earpiece. I just sat there a while, thinking on it, savouring the beautiful writing, the deceptively lazy pace which conveyed so much.

The characters are fascinating – Trula Freed, who has ‘the sight’; Aunt Fanniebelle, Lucy’s wealthy aunt who comes to the girls rescue more than once; Helen, Lucy’s older sister whose husband is off fighting the war in the Pacific; and Bert and Lucy, from whose points of view the story is told, girls on the cusp of womanhood, learning about life, and playing at Nancy Drew as they investigate the apparently unrelated disappearances of three men.

All the Little Hopes is a portrayal of family life in a small tobacco farming town in North Carolina that has lost a lot of it’s men to the war effort, and into whose midst is dropped a German prisoner of war camp. Weiss has written a deeply moving and atmospheric story of family, of love, of loss, of desperation, of prejudice, and redemption told through the eyes of two teenage girls.

Kate Forbes is an excellent narrator who had me fully immersed in this captivating tale. She has a lilting Southern accent, perfectly suited to this story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#AlltheLittleHopes #NetGalley

I: @leahweissauthor @recordedbooks

T: @RBmediaCo

#audiobook #comingofage #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Leah Weiss is a bestselling author born in eastern North Carolina and raised in the foothills of Virginia. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career as an Executive Assistant at Virginia Episcopal School. Leah writes full time, enjoys meeting with book clubs, and speaking about writing and publishing later in life, after retirement.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media Recorded Books via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss 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 Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

EXCERPT: The sound grew louder.

Tennant had no idea she was screaming, too, until she ran out of breath and choked on the air – dirt, dust, flour – all filling her lungs at once. She coughed it back out, forced herself to stand, clawed at the cellar door.

Why had Poppa locked them in?

They’d die down here.

And Momma and Poppa out there?

On the ground at her feet, Sophie’s hands and arms wrapped around her head, her knees pulled close against her chest. Blood dripped from the corners of her eyes, from her button nose, seeped out from between her fingers over her ears. Thick, congealed blood, dark red, nearly black. One of her hands shot out and wrapped around Tennant’s ankles and squeezed so tight the pain brought her back down to the floor.

The sound grew louder.

Tennant wanted to hold her sister, but her arms and legs no longer obeyed her. Her heart drummed against her ribs, threatened to burst. She couldn’t get air, each gasp no better than breathing water. Her eyes rolled back into her head, her vision first went white, then dark, as the walls closed in. The cellar no better than a grave.

ABOUT ‘THE NOISE’: Young sisters, Sophie and Tennant Riggin, are the only two people to withstand a massive explosion that destroys their community, located in the shadow of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

A team of elite government investigators are sent to research the fallout and the girls – why did only they survive? – but with conflicting objectives. For Dr Martha Chan, a psychologist who analyses large-scale medical emergencies: study them. For Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Fraser, a career military leader with an inherent mistrust of civilians: contain them.

But as the disturbance replicates across the Pacific Northwest, it threatens to topple the chain of command. Dr Chan and Lieutenant Colonel Fraser are caught between the perpetrators of the threat – and those who have the power to resist.

MY THOUGHTS: What the hell did I just read? I didn’t read the publicity blurb prior to requesting this, and I never read the publicity blurb before starting reading. The fact that J.D. Barker is co-author was good enough for me. And I hit the jackpot! I am so pleased I never read the blurb; I would never have requested this and I would have missed out on a spectacular read.

The story is told from the points of view of Tennant, the girl whose sister Sophie is affected by The Noise; Martha a psychologist who deals with large scale medical emergencies, and who is called on to study both this emergency and the sisters; Fraser, a career military officer who dislikes and distrusts civilians, and whose job it is to contain both the sisters and those brought in to examine them and the site; and briefly, the President of the United States, who faces a decision that no other president in history has ever faced.

If you are going to pick The Noise up, and I strongly recommend you do, set a day aside with no distractions or interruptions to read it. It’s not a long read, but it is action packed. This is no runaway train. There is no slow start, no build up. This is a bullet train – it starts fast and just gets faster, more suspenseful, more thrilling, and scarier.

Personally, I find the scariest things are those that are possible. The Noise falls into this category. It scared the living bejesus out of me. And I loved it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheNoise #NetGalley #RandomHouse

I: @jamespattersonbooks @jdbarker_author
@randomhouse

T: @JP_Books @ jdbarker @randomhouse

THE AUTHORS: James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today.

J.D. Barker is a New York Times and international bestselling American author of suspense thrillers, often incorporating elements of horror, crime, mystery, science fiction, and the supernatural.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker 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 will also be published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com