Watching what I’m reading . . .

We’ve had a particularly vicious tropical storm through the North Island of New Zealand over the past couple of days and it seems it’s not finished with us yet. Personally, we have escaped unscathed. My cousin and her husband are marooned in their home, they can’t get down their drive due to flooding, and if they did they’d be unable to go anywhere as their road is closed in both directions. The Mangaokewa burst its banks yesterday afternoon and houses along the riverside were evacuated. But if we think we got it bad, Auckland had it much worse with three confirmed dead and one still missing. It’s the heaviest rainfall recorded in 24 hours since records began. Although clean up has begun, it is going to be a long slow process with rain being forecast for all the coming week.

Currently I am reading One Day With You by Shari Low

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell #coverlove

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

And listening to The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake

Tess Morgan has finally made her dream of restoring beautiful Kilfenora House and Gardens into a reality.

But during rehearsals for the play that forms the opening weekend’s flagship event, her dream turns into a nightmare when a devastating accident looks set to ruin her carefully laid plans.

There are rumours that Kilfenora House is cursed, but this feels personal, and becomes increasingly terrifying when more than one body is discovered. Could someone be closing in on Tess herself?

Clarissa Westmacott, ex star of stage and screen, certainly believes so, particularly when she learns that purple-flowered aconite has been picked from the Poison Garden. And Clarissa will stop at nothing to protect the friend she has come to see as a daughter…

Four tragic accidents. Or four brutal murders? Unravel The Mystery of Four . .

This week I am planning to read The Doctor’s Wife for which I have both an audio and digital ARC.

My husband is a doctor. He’s smart and charming and everybody trusts him. Except me.

On the surface, it looks like I have it all – the perfect marriage, the perfect husband, the perfect life. But it’s far from the truth.

Doctor Drew Devlin is not the respectable figure he makes out to be. The reason we moved to this beautiful, old property with a gorgeous view of the sea was because we needed to put our past behind us. It should’ve been a fresh start for us both.

Except I’ve discovered my husband has been lying to me again. He’s using the power he has in his job to mess with people’s lives, and to get exactly what he wants – no matter who it hurts.

But he’s underestimated me. I’ve had plenty of time, in this big, isolated house, to think about all of his mistakes.

And my husband has no idea what’s about to happen next…

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

In the two weeks since I last posted, I have received seven ARCs for review. They are:

Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

The Last Passenger by Will Dean

Beginning of Forever by Catherine Bybee

The Edinburgh Mystery by Martin Edwards

The Little Board Game Cafè by Jennifer Page

The Last Dance by Mark Billingham

Do you have any of these titles on your reading radar?

Thank you to all my bookish friends who offered moral support during my husband’s recent surgery. It was greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, they have found more cancer and further surgery is on the horizon, so I will be disappearing again at some point in the reasonably near future.

Have a wonderful week of reading. ❤📚

First Lines Friday . . .

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Welcome to First Lines Friday originally hosted by Reading is my SuperPower.

Instead of judging a book by its cover, here are the first few lines which I hope will make you want to read this book.

This story really begins at midnight one month after Aurora was born, the night of her due date, the night she couldn’t wait for, such was her wish to rush headlong into our lives.

Like what you’ve just read?

Want to read more?

These are the opening lines of one of my current reads, What is Left After by Australian author Natasha Lester. This book was first published in 2010, but is being republished by Fremantle Press and is due to hit the shelves February 01, 2023.

Gaelle has a dream job working for a fashion magazine, and a husband who loves her. Life should be perfect, but life does not always go according to plan. Feeling lost and alone, Gaelle flees to a tiny seaside town on the other side of the country. As she revisits the legacy of a strange, sometimes magical childhood in France, Gaelle finds unexpected help from a thirteenyear-old stranger. As if she was experiencing her childhood all over again, she must ask: when you lose everything you love, what is left over after?

The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley, narrated by Camilla Rockley

EXCERPT: It was the morphine turning his brain to jelly. Tomorrow he’d have none, and then he’d remember what it was he must do before he died.
‘Okay. You just relax and try to get some sleep,’ she soothed him, her hand stroking his forehead. ‘The doctor will be here soon.’
He knew he mustn’t go to sleep. He closed his eyes, desperately searching, searching . . . snatches of memories, faces . . .
Then he saw her, as clear as the day he’d first met her. So beautiful, so gentle . . .
‘Remember? The letter, my darling,’ she whispered to him. ‘You promised to return it . . .’

ABOUT ‘THE LOVE LETTER’: 1995, London. When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of 95 he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, so devastating that it could rock the English establishment to its core.

Joanna Haslam is an ambitious young journalist assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral. The great and the good of the celebrity world are there.

But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind, the contents of which others have been desperate to conceal for over 70 years.

As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that there are other forces attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does.

MY THOUGHTS: The Love Letter took a bit more for me to become fully immersed in than is normal for this author. At first I thought the storyline very similar to The Angel Tree, which I had just finished. But then the story took a turn that I wasn’t expecting, and everything changed.

The Love Letter is a sweeping novel that encompasses secrets, murder, treachery, love, lies, and questions of identity and loyalty spread over two timelines – the period immediately before and after George VI coming to the throne, and 1995 when actor Sir James Harrison dies without fulfilling a promise he had made many years earlier.

A blend of thriller, drama and romance involving MI5, the royal family, an acting dynasty and a young investigative reporter eager to make a name for herself, Lucinda Riley seems to have added a new dimension to her writing with the Love Letter, not entirely successfully in my honest opinion.

The narrative doesn’t flow as smoothly as it should and I had some problems with the ending where I was required to suspend my belief and just go with the flow. It then finishes on a bit of a cliffhanger which, in this case, I enjoyed.

Despite my reservations regarding the choppy nature of the narrative at times, I did enjoy this read, although not to the same extent as other titles I have read by Riley. The Butterfly Room remains a clear favourite.

Camilla Rockley is a superb narrator. I don’t think this particular cover does the book justice.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheLoveLetter #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @lucindarileybooks @wfhowes

T: @lucindariley @WFHowes

#historicalfiction #mystery #romance #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four. Lucinda died in June 2021.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of the audiobook The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

BRILLIANT BOOK ALERT! This book, which I finished today – a one day read – has earned every star in the Galaxy from me.

I am too emotional at the moment to write a review about this book, but please watch for it in the coming days. I cried, and laughed, and cried some more. I now want to read everything this author has written.

Currently I am reading The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

I am continuing with my read of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths with #4, A Room Full of Bones.

and doing a read/listen of Devil’s Way (Kate Marshall #4) by Robert Bryndza, which I am loving in both formats.

This week I have six books to read for review in addition to The Sisters We Were. They are:

A Winter Grave by Peter May

It is the year 2051. Warnings of climate catastrophe have been ignored, and vast areas of the planet are under water, or uninhabitably hot. A quarter of the world’s population has been displaced by hunger and flooding, and immigration wars are breaking out around the globe as refugees pour into neighboring countries.

By contrast, melting ice sheets have brought the Gulf Stream to a halt and northern latitudes, including Scotland, are being hit by snow and ice storms. It is against this backdrop that Addie, a young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station, discovers the body of a man entombed in ice.

The dead man is investigative reporter, George Younger, missing for three months after vanishing during what he claimed was a hill-walking holiday. But Younger was no hill walker, and his discovery on a mountain-top near the Highland village of Kinlochleven, is inexplicable.

Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to be flown north to investigate Younger’s death, but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda. He has just been given a devastating medical prognosis by his doctor and knows the time has come to face his estranged daughter who has made her home in the remote Highland village.

Arriving during an ice storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at the inappropriately named International Hotel, where Younger’s body has been kept refrigerated in a cake cabinet. But evidence uncovered during his autopsy places the lives of both Brodie and Roy in extreme jeopardy.

As another storm closes off communications and the possibility of escape, Brodie must face up not only to the ghosts of his past, but to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that George Younger’s investigations had threatened to expose.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed – if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong, and the truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined.

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston

Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.

When Rosa Quinn left her childhood home in Westenbury, she never expected to return over a decade later as the village vicar. But after a health scare and catching her boyfriend cheating, Rosa jumps at the chance to start over and live closer to her triplet sisters Eva and Hannah.

But Rosa’s isn’t the only old face in the village, and when her role in the parish throws her into the path of her ex, she begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake. Meanwhile, Eva and Hannah face their own troubles, as secrets about their family threaten to emerge.

Can Rosa make a life for herself in Westenbury? Or will the sisters discover you can’t run away from the past?

That Night at the Beach by Kate Hewitt

As mothers we never dare to delve into our worst-nightmare scenarios. What if… we might murmur to each other, and then shake our heads, telling ourselves it’ll never happen to us if we’re just good enough mothers. Yet here we are. And the steady beep of the heart monitor is the only evidence the child in front of us is alive…

It’s Labor Day weekend, so of course we went to the beach. Like we do every year. For a barbecue picnic with my best friend Rose. It’s the perfect tradition—drinks, games, burgers, music, laughter. Together with our husbands, my two teenage sons and her two daughters, we all arrived as the sun was still shimmering over the water, the whole evening ahead of us.

But nothing goes to plan. Old secrets emerge, tempers flare. And so we parents decide to leave the beach, telling the teenagers to enjoy themselves, reassuring them someone will be back to collect them in an hour or two.

But when I return a little while later, I know something is really wrong. Our teens are slurring their words, stumbling to the car. It’s clear they have been drinking and I’m shocked. I never expected our kids to behave this way. I’m bracing myself to have firm words with them in the morning, but the next day my concerns fade to nothing, when seventeen-year-old Bella claims my son Finn assaulted her.

Finn insists he would never do that. And I so want to believe him. Because I brought my son up right. Because a mother would know, wouldn’t she?

What I don’t know is that the answer to what happened that night on the beach may be a matter of life and death for one of our beloved children… 

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

One Day With You by Shari Lowe

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

One Day with You – two fateful goodbyes, two unexpected hellos, and 24 hours that change everything. 

I have received two new ARCs from Netgalley for review this week.

the audiobook The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake and narrated by Aiofe McMahon

A Mischief of Rats by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

I have 17 requests pending. I have had lot of requests declined this week. 🤷‍♀️

My husband is undergoing major surgery this week, so I am not going promise to post regularly, nor to interact with other bloggers to my normal level. Please keep Pete in your prayers. ❤

The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley

EXCERPT: Dressed in a pair of wellingtons that were far too big for her and an old Barbour, Greta strode out across the virgin snow, breathing in the wonderful clean, crisp air. She paused, wondering which way to go, hoping some inner instinct would guide her, and decided to take a stroll through the woods. As she walked, she looked upwards at the deep blue sky above and a sudden joy filled her veins at the sheer beauty of the scene. It was such an unusual and rare feeling that she almost skipped as she zigzagged her way through the trees.

Arriving in a clearing, she saw a majestic fir tree standing in the centre of it, the rich green of its bushy, snow-laden branches a contrast to the tall, bare beech trees that made up the rest of the wood. Walking towards it, she noticed there was a gravestone beneath it, the inscription covered by snow. Surmising that it was almost certainly the grave of a family pet – perhaps one she had known – Greta reached down and scraped away the hard, icy flakes with her gloved hand.

Slowly the inscription began to appear.

JONATHAN (JOHNNY) MARCHMONT
Beloved son of Owen &Greta
Brother of Francesca
BORN 2nd JUNE 1946
DIED 6th JUNE 1949
May God guide his little angel up to heaven

ABOUT ‘THE ANGEL TREE’: Thirty years have passed since Greta left Marchmont Hall, a grand and beautiful house nestled in the hills of rural Monmouthshire. But when she returns to the Hall for Christmas, at the invitation of her old friend David Marchmont, she has no recollection of her past association with it – the result of a tragic accident that has blanked out more than two decades of her life. Then, during a walk through the wintry landscape, she stumbles across a grave in the woods, and the weathered inscription on the headstone tells her that a little boy is buried here . . .

The poignant discovery strikes a chord in Greta’s mind and soon ignites a quest to rediscover her lost memories. With David’s help, she begins to piece together the fragments of not only her own story, but that of her daughter, Cheska, who was the tragic victim of circumstances beyond her control. And, most definitely, not the angel she appeared to be . . .

MY THOUGHTS: The Angel Tree is a multigenerational family saga, intricately plotted and compelling. Lucinda Riley excels at this type of story, interweaving the historical and cultural mores of the times in which the story is set with a richly emotional family drama.

The Angel Tree encompasses both love and tragedy. At the heart of the story is Marchmont, the family home lived in by several generations, and which ties all the characters and story threads together.

The story is told over several different timelines, definitely nonlinear, but it works well. The main narrators are David Marchmont, his mother Laura-Jane known as LJ, Greta who married David’s uncle Owen Marchmont, and Greta’s daughter Francesca, known as Cheska. Not only does The Angel Tree span several different timelines, but also different continents.

Not all the characters are likeable, and rifts appear between family members leading to estrangements and resentments. There is a story of unrequited love running through the novel, of missed chances, misunderstandings and bad timing. Also one of envy and greed and mental illness.

I found The Angel Tree to be a satisfying read and I have gone on to immediately read another of this author’s books.

The audiobook of The Angel Tree is ably narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheAngelTree #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @lucindarileybooks @panmacmillan

T: @lucindariley @panmacmillan

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four. Lucinda died in June 2021.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of the audiobook of The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley 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, Instagram and Goodreads.com

All That We Are by Mariah Stewart

EXCERPT: . . . then she reached the fourth drawer, the one marked RECEIPTS in Harry’s awkward uppercase print.

There were files for almost every purchase he’d ever made – cars, appliances, furniture, clothing. Reading through them was like watching a quick movie reel of their life together. There was the receipt for the car Harry’d bought Emma the year their son, and only child, Christopher was born. A silver baby’s cup Harry’d ordered to mark the birth of his sister Prudence’s first child. A new chimney liner. The first guitar they’d bought Chris. Her eyes lingered over this one as she recalled how Harry had later ‘rued the day’ he’d ‘opened that can of worms.’

Emma dropped that receipt on the desk; Chris might get a kick out of it.

There was a file containing personal purchases Harry had made for himself. A three piece charcoal suit and a lightweight summer sports coat. Three white dress shirts and a bill for monograming the cuffs. A receipt from a jeweller in Boston for an eight inch gold bracelet, and a . . .

‘Wait. What?’

She held up the receipt and scrutinised the fine print. ‘One eight inch fancy link bracelet – 14K gold. The price was staggering.

Confused, she reread the receipt several times. Was she losing her mind? Had he bought her such a thing and she’d forgotten? Sure, we all lose a little as we age, and forgetting some things now and then is normal. But could she have forgotten such a wonderful and expensive a gift? No, she was sure she’d have remembered that. She’d have worn it every day. She’d probably be wearing it right then.

No, Harry’d never given her a gold bracelet, and since he’d never worn any jewelry other than his wedding ring and cufflinks, she knew it wasn’t for him.

And then she noticed the print at the bottom of the receipt: Add gold disk charm, front engrave: CJD 2-14-2012. Back engrave ‘My heart’.

ABOUT ‘ALL THAT WE ARE’: In the decade since Emma Dean’s husband died, she’s maintained a peaceful and organized life in her hometown of Wyndham Beach—until she finds evidence of her husband’s longtime affair. How, Emma wonders, can a man who’s been gone for ten years still break her heart?

Still reeling from the betrayal, Emma must focus on the group of artists she’s invited to take up residence at the art center she founded, one of whom is secretly seeking refuge from her abusive ex. Toss in a charming businessman who’s returned to town with eyes for only Emma, and it’s becoming a most interesting summer.

And the biggest surprise of all is about to ring Emma’s doorbell and turn her life completely upside down yet again.

As Emma struggles between what was and what is, she discovers that the life she really wants—however unexpected—is just within reach, if she’s willing to fight for it.

MY THOUGHTS: The standout attraction of this series for me is the fabulous and very real characters. I love the relationships between the three women – Liddy, Maggie and Emma – friends since their schooldays, they are not backwards with telling each other what they think, but they are also very supportive of one another. I would love a group of friends like this.

There are a few different threads to this story, which is centred around Emma, who has been a widow for the past ten years. A secret is uncovered which leaves her both devastated and angry. Then a knock on the door turns her and her family’s lives upside down.

All That We Are is a heartwrenching story that, despite a few slow spots, held me captivated until the very end. I just have to say that I finished this read with a wobbly bottom lip and tears pooling in my eyes. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a read that had me chuckling at times, sometimes angry at the actions of some of the characters (just see if you don’t get angry with Owen too!) , crying – sometimes sad tears, sometimes happy ones – but mostly hopeful that things were going to work out for everyone.

All That We Are is the second book I have read in this series. Although they can be read as stand-alones, I really recommend that you start the series from the beginning to get the entire backstory and relationship history. I am certain planning on going back to read the first, and I am hoping that there will be more books to come.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#AllThatWeAre #NetGalley

I: @mariah_stewart_books @amazonpublishing

T: @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #friendship #mystery #romance #smalltownfiction #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Mariah Stewart considers herself one lucky son of a gun to have landed the best job in the world: getting paid for making up stories. At home. In sweats and J. Crew flip flops. Could life be sweeter?

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Montlake via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of All That We Are by Mariah Stewart 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

So Long, Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: . . . I wandered over to the only closed bedroom door. I stood in front of it, breathing purposefully, for what felt like a long time.

Then I rapped softly. Very softly.

Chester’s gravelly voice came back at me immediately. It was not soft.

‘Leave me alone, Ellie.’

‘It’s not Ellie,’ I said through the door. ‘It’s me, Lewis. Can I open the door?’

‘I don’t care. I don’t need you here. Just go away and leave me on my own. I’ll call you if I’m dying.’

‘I’m going to open the door now, Chester.’

‘No, do not open that door.’

I opened the door.

The room was dusty and depressingly dim. Everything had such a dank feel, and the air was so heavy it was almost too thick to breathe. It felt weirdly like being under water.

He was sitting in his wheelchair by the window, as though looking out, but he couldn’t possibly have been looking out because the shades were drawn. That seemed odd. Then again, it was Chester Wheeler. Did I expect anything non-odd?

ABOUT ‘SO LONG, CHESTER WHEELER’: Lewis Madigan is young, gay, out of work, and getting antsy when he’s roped into providing end-of-life care for his insufferable homophobic neighbor, Chester Wheeler. Lewis doesn’t need the aggravation, just the money. The only requirements: run errands, be on call, and put up with a miserable old churl no one else in Buffalo can bear. After exchanging barbs, bickering, baiting, and pushing buttons, Chester hits Lewis with the big ask.

Lewis can’t say no to a dying wish: drive Chester to Arizona in his rust bucket of a Winnebago to see his ex-wife for the first time in thirty-two years—for the last time. One week, two thousand miles. To Lewis, it becomes an illuminating journey into the life and secrets of a vulnerable man he’s finally beginning to understand. A neighbor, a stranger, and a surprising new friend whose closure on a conflicted past is also just beginning.

MY THOUGHTS: So Long, Chester Wheeler is a quietly important book. Most of the read, it felt quite ordinary. But every now and then there were these ‘WOW!’ moments. And it’s those moments that matter.

This is a reminder that everyone has a past, a story, that has helped form the person that they are today. And until we know that story we have no right to judge.

I loved the parts about the caregiving to the elderly and dying. It’s a very special and undervalued role. It’s not all about wiping bottoms and cleaning up messes. It’s also about listening and providing emotional support.

Despite his being a curmudgeonly old grump, I loved Chester’s character. There’s brilliant dialogue between Chester and Lewis; some is touching, some is funny, some is downright sad.

I felt that the epilogue was totally unnecessary. It really doesn’t add anything of value to the story.

There are a number of valuable life lessons woven seamlessly into this book. As I said earlier, it’s a quiet book. CRH doesn’t slap the reader around the ears with a piece of 4 x 2 and say ‘You need to take this lesson away from this story.’ I think we will all take different things away, as we should.

Although I don’t think this is her best work, ‘So Long, Chester Wheeler’ is definitely worth reading.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#SoLongChesterWheeler #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @amazonpublishing

T: @cryanhyde @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #romance

THE AUTHOR: I am the author of more than 30 published and forthcoming books. I’m an avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of So Long, Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinion.

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

First Lines Friday

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Welcome to First Lines Friday originally hosted by Reading is my SuperPower.

Instead of judging a book by its cover, here are the first few lines.

Lainie Cornell was a real runaway bride. She had crawled out the window of the Country Club, gotten into her car, and driven all the way from Dallas to Houston before she stopped and finally answered her father’s call.

Like what you’ve just read?

Want to read more?

These are the opening lines of one of my current reads, A Chance Inheritance by Carolyn Brown, which is due for publication 10 January 2023.

What do a runaway bride, a free spirit, and a corporate exec have in common? Besides all being down on their luck, Lainie, Jodi, and Becky are Lizzie Cornell’s granddaughters. Upon inheriting their grandmother’s home and family bait shop, the three cousins return to Catfish, Texas, grieving Lizzie’s passing and hoping to find the fresh start they all need. 

Turns out cohabitating together and running the Catfish Fisherman’s Hut isn’t at all like the idyllic summers they spent as children on the banks of the Red River. The days are long and hot, the tourists demanding and rude. And then there’s Chris, a local river guide who seems to have eyes only for Becky. 

But Lizzie’s death has set in motion a chain of events that will cause a new generation of Cornell women to come together. And thanks to this chance inheritance, some local fishermen, and the love of their Granny Lizzie, the Cornell cousins discover that sometimes an ending is really the beginning of a brand-new happily ever after.

This book actually contains two novellas – the title story A Chance Inheritance, and The Third Wish. This is not made clear or even mentioned in the publicity blurb.

Table For Eight by Tricia Stringer

EXCERPT: She recalled her reason for booking the cruise and her spectacular tumble on the stairs. She pressed her fingers to her lips but couldn’t stop the laugh that erupted.

Jim looked at her in surprise.

She took a sip of water and composed herself. ‘My ex is on this cruise.’

‘Really?’ Jim glanced around as if he was about to meet Ed.

‘The thing is, I knew he was going to be here with his new wife.’

ABOUT ‘TABLE FOR EIGHT’: Clever, charming dressmaker Ketty Clift is embarking on her final cruise from Sydney before she must make serious changes in her life. Supported by the ship’s all–powerful maitre d’ Carlos, she has a mission: transform the lives of those who join her at her dining table every evening. Not only can Ketty turn Cinderellas into princesses with her legendary style–eye, but she has a gift for bringing people together.

But this trip is different. As the glamour and indulgence of the cruise takes hold, and the ship sails further away from Sydney towards the Pacific Islands, it becomes clear that her fellow travellers – a troubled family, a grieving widower and an angry divorcee determined to wreak revenge on her ex – are going to be harder work than usual.

As Ketty tries to deal with her own problems, including the unexpected arrival on board of her long–lost love, Leo – the man who broke her heart – as well as troubling news from home, she begins to realise this might be the one cruise that defeats her…

MY THOUGHTS: I enjoyed my cruise around the South Pacific with Ketty Clift and the group of people at her table for eight. There are strained relationships; grief in a few different forms; people looking for love, or something resembling it; people determined to avoid any and all emotional entanglements; and one person intent on revenge.

I love Ketty’s character. She is a woman who has endured great sorrow in her life, but she is a battler and never lets circumstances keep her down for long. With current financial problems weighing heavily on her mind, she has some difficult decisions to make. Is the reappearance of ex-lover Leo just the distraction she needs, or just another problem for her to deal with?

Table For Eight was full of surprises. Initially I thought it was going to be predictable, but that was just the author lulling me into a false sense of security. Tricia Stringer weaves a few deft twists into the story and it ends in a completely different way to what I had expected.

The characters are not spring chickens which adds another dimension to the storyline, one that I liked. The story is told from multiple points of view by the different people at the table, so sometimes we are given more than one view of events. But Tricia Stringer does this well and it is never repetitive or boring.

I enjoyed this warm-hearted shipboard drama which focuses on friendship and second chances.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#TableForEight

I: @triciastringerauthor @hqstories

T: @tricia_stringer @HQstories

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #friendship #romance #womensfiction

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

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed a copy of Table For Eight by Tricia Stringer published by HQ Fiction from the 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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy holidays my bookish friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day filled with love and laughter. Our Christmas Day was quiet, but fun. Then Boxing Day we had an open house and friends dropped by throughout the day. It was a fun day and good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a while.

Currently I am reading The Girls by Bella Osborne which was published earlier this year. I am only a few pages in, so no comment as yet.

Four old friends. Thrown back together after fifty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a flat and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

No One Saw it Coming by Susan Lewis, due to be published early January 2023. I h also only just started this.

Secrets lie at the heart of every family…

When the unthinkable happens…

Hanna’s world is crumbling.

An unimaginable crime has been committed, and everyone’s looking for someone to blame. Her loved ones are under suspicion.

Now Hanna must work out who is threatening her family – before it’s too late.

No one could have seen this coming…

And I am listening to The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley, purely for pleasure. I have listened to quite a bit of this today as I have been pottering around the house and garden. It’s shaping up nicely.

It has been twenty-four years since a young Helena spent a magical holiday in Cyprus, where she fell in love for the first time. When the now crumbling house, ‘Pandora’, is left to her by her godfather, she returns to spend the summer there with her family.

Yet Helena knows that the idyllic beauty of Pandora masks a web of secrets she has kept from William, her husband, and Alex, her son. At the difficult age of thirteen, Alex is torn between protecting his beloved mother, and growing up. And equally, he is desperate to learn the truth about his real father . . .

When Helena meets her childhood sweetheart by chance, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens to make her past and present collide. Both Helena and Alex know that life will never be the same, once Pandora’s secrets have been revealed.

I again don’t have any reads for review scheduled for the week ahead so will just be picking reads at random from my backlist and perhaps making a start on my January reads for review.

I have received three new ARCs for review since my last Watching what I’m reading post ten days ago. They are:

The Doctor’s Wife by Daniel Hurst. I have just finished my second book by this author, Til Death Do Us Part, and it was great. I’m really looking forward to this.

The Island of Longing by Anne Griffin, a new author to me.

And The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell, another author new to me.

So, that’s my week all nicely wrapped up. Enjoy your holiday break and make marvellous memories with your loved ones. ❤📚🎄