The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

EXCERPT: I closed my eyes and tried to pretend I was in Nantucket.

The house we’d rented every year there had a widow’s walk – a square porch on the roof, where the wives of sea captains were supposed to have watched for their husband’s ships. At night, we’d hear creaks and moans. Once I thought I heard footsteps pacing the widow’s walk. You could feel the ghosts in that house, scaring you in the best way.

If there were any ghosts in this one, they weren’t moaning about husbands lost at sea but slamming doors over modern, trivial matters, such as not being allowed to go water skiing.

ABOUT ‘THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING’: Generous-hearted and wickedly insightful, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing maps the progress of Jane Rosenal as she sets out on a personal and spirited expedition through the perilous terrain of sex, love, and relationships as well as the treacherous waters of the workplace. With an unforgettable comic touch, Bank skillfully teases out issues of the heart, puts a new spin on the mating dance, and captures in perfect pitch what it’s like to be a young woman coming of age in America today.

MY THOUGHTS: I was actually looking for something else when I came across this, stuck behind some other books on my shelf. I remember reading this not long after it was first published, somewhere around 2000, twenty years ago now, so I thought that I would give it a reread and see how it has stood the test of time. And I am delighted to say that it has stood up well.

Now I am not a chic lit lover. But I needed something light and easy to read, something where I wasn’t going to have to remember 93 characters and their relationships with one another, where I wasn’t going to have to remember a complicated plotline with numerous twists. The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing ticks all those boxes.

The chapters are all separate stories, so it’s a good book for picking up and putting down again. Although I have to admit to reading it over a twenty four hour period, stretched out on the sofa watching the rain beating against the windows and catching a few zzzzzzzs every now and then.

I liked Jane’s character. There’s a lot more depth to her than your average Chic Lit heroine. She’s kind, funny, smart and sassy, even if she doesn’t always have much confidence in herself. And I like her relationship with her family. And despite the light hearted tone, the author does deal with some serious issues, and does so with empathy.

I had originally planned to read then discard this, but somewhere along the line, I changed my mind. It is now tucked back in its little hideyhole, ready for me to rediscover and hopefully enjoy again in a few more years.

And for what it’s worth, IMHO The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing leaves Bridget Jone’s Diary for dead.

⭐⭐⭐.7

THE AUTHOR: Melissa Bank (born in 1961 in Philadelphia) is an American author. She has published two books, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, a volume of short stories, and The Wonder Spot,” a novel, which have been translated into over thirty languages. Bank was the winner of the 1993 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton.

Bank was born in Philadelphia; her father, a neurologist, died of leukemia in his late 50s. Bank attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges,and has an MFA from Cornell University.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. I obtained it from the Gateway Book Exchange, Gosford, NSW, Australia, probably somewhere around 2001/2. 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

My Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: . . . he centred himself over the telescope, and prepared to do a better job setting it in place.

Before he could, an image caught his eye: a white wall with a mantelpiece, and an abstract painting on the wall above it. It was captured in the eyepiece of the telescope, which was now pointing downward at the building across the street. Anthony’s eye had accidentally hovered at just the right distance above the eyepiece. The scene was in perfect focus.

Realizing he was looking through somebody else’s window, and uncomfortable with the idea, he moved to correct the angle of the scope quickly. Or, more accurately, he prepared to move. He gave his various limbs and their muscles a signal to move. But, before they could, something happened.

A figure streaked into the scene, clearly captured by Anthony’s new telescope.

It appeared to be a woman, though it all happened very fast. She was running. Scrambling. Her body was bent forward, as if to accelerate getting out of the way of something. Something behind her. Her head was bent slightly forward, her arms raised, hands hovering behind her head as if to protect it.

Then, just as quickly, a male hand and arm entered the view. It was a bare arm, save for the short sleeve of a white undershirt. It was noticeably hairy. In a disconnected and more or less inadvertent thought, it struck Anthony that he owned a very good telescope, because it could reveal hair on the arm of a man across the street.

The man’s hand grabbed the woman by her hair.

Anthony sucked in air with an audible gasp as he watched the woman’s head jerked backward. It was a breathtakingly violent gesture.

Then the woman disappeared from his view. Backward. Pulled back out of the scene. By her hair.

ABOUT ‘MY NAME IS ANTON’: It’s 1965, and life has taken a turn for eighteen-year-old Anton Addison-Rice. Nearly a year after his brother died in a tragic accident, Anton is still wounded—physically and emotionally. Alone for the holidays, he catches a glimpse of his neighbor Edith across the street one evening and realizes that she’s in danger.

Anton is determined to help Edith leave her abusive marriage. Frightened and fifteen years Anton’s senior, Edith is slow to trust. But when she needs a safe place to stay, she lets down her guard, and over the course of ten days an unlikely friendship grows. As Anton falls hopelessly and selflessly in love, Edith fears both her husband finding her and Anton getting hurt. She must disappear without telling anyone where she’s going—even Anton.

If keeping Edith safe means letting her go, Anton will say goodbye forever. Or so he believes. What would happen, though, if one day their paths should cross again?

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, so now I know what all the fuss is about. I read a book by this author a few months back, and it was okay, nothing special, and couldn’t really understand why everyone was raving about her writing. Now I do.

My Name is Anton is a deeply emotional read. Anton is grieving. In a short space of time he has lost his beloved grandfather, his brother and his right hand. Then into his life comes Edith. Anton couldn’t save his brother, but he can, he hopes, save her.

The story spans fifty-five years, starting in 1965 when Anton is eighteen, and Edith thirty-three. This is a story of great personal strength, of grief, love, loss, sacrifice, moral dilemmas and doing what is right. Not what is right for yourself, but what is right.

There is a wonderful mix of characters in this book. Anton’s grandmother Marion, and his Uncle Gregor, a psychiatrist, are towers of strength and fonts of wisdom. At the other end of the spectrum are Anton’s parents, Abel and Vera, who are horrible, self-obsessed people, more concerned with ‘what would people think!’ than about the welfare of their only surviving child.

Ryan-Hyde touches on a lot of subject matter – suicide, mental illness, alcoholism, domestic abuse, disability, child welfare and adoption – but weaves them all together seamlessly to produce a compelling narrative that I devoured in one sitting.

I will definitely be reading more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#MyNameisAnton #NetGalley

‘Looking directly at a painful truth hurts less than being stalked by it.’

THE AUTHOR: Catherine Ryan Hyde is an American author born in 1955. Hyde has found success both as a novelist and short story writer in the U.S and the U.K, winning numerous honors and awards in the process.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Name is Anton 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 and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

For some reason, today I have been thinking about the music I used to listen to as a teenager, and one song in particular came to mind – Lazy Sunday Afternoon, from the Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake album by the Small Faces.

The album cover was round – a tobacco tin. It was beautiful and I had it for many years before it got lost in one of my many moves. This particular track featuring today is probably the result of wishful thinking. It definitely wasn’t the most played track or album of my teenage years, that accolade would have gone to the Led Zeppelin II album.

I had, and still have, very eclectic music tastes.

Currently I am reading Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon. I only started this last night and I am almost finished (okay, my Kindle ran out of charge otherwise I would still be reading) and wow! What a page turner!

I am also reading Living Ayurveda. I started Ayurveda yoga earlier this year and really love it, so when I saw this book I knew I had to have it.

I am also reading it’s always the husband by Michelle Campbell

And listening to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I am back to work this week. Because I am still struggling with health issues, I am planning a light week commitmentwise, so am only going to commit to one other book, Her Sister’s Child by Alison James.

She rolls over and reaches for her instinctively: her baby. Her hand hits air and flaps redundantly. She stumbles out of bed and switches on the light. But this only confirms it. The baby is gone. Someone has taken her.

Sixteen years ago, Lizzie Armitage woke to find her newborn baby gone. Just days later, Lizzie was dead.

Her sister Paula swore she would do everything she could to find the child. If she hadn’t promised to keep Lizzie’s pregnancy secret, maybe the baby wouldn’t have disappeared. And maybe Lizzie would still be alive. But, in nearly a decade, Paula’s never found any trace. Until now…

When Paula bumps into an old friend from the past, she realises she wasn’t the only one who knew about her sister’s child. Someone knows what happened that day. Someone knows where Lizzie’s baby went.

But can Paula find out the truth before another family is ripped apart?

Only three ARCs this week – Susan, your 👑 is on the courier, winging its way back to you. 🤣😂👑 I am sure that you have far more new ARCs than me this week! I am sure to have many more next week after I check out Susan’s, Carla’s and Carol’s posts today.

Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colasanti

The Boatman’s Wife by Noelle Harrison

And, Ghosts by Dolly Alderton which has been sitting on my wishlist for ages. Thanks for the recommendation Ceecee.

And to finish off I would like to share a few bright spots of colour from my garden with you.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Sandy

Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas

EXCERPT: We reach the end of the narrow street and look out on the market square in front of us. It’s like a Christmas card, just as I imagined. A quiet town, with tall half-timbered buildings all around, dark wood beams, tiny windows and very pointy red roofs. There are little chalet-type huts all the way around the square and even a carousel with painted horses and carriages. It’s beautiful and so peaceful. It actually brings tears to my eyes. Maybe it’s tiredness, but suddenly I’m gripped with fear. Part of me wants to turn around and head home. What if Heinrich is nothing like he is on Messenger? What if . . . what if he isn’t like I’ve imagined him to be? What if this is one big mistake, like last time?

ABOUT ‘FINDING LOVE AT THE CHRISTMAS MARKET’: Residential-home caterer Connie has had one online-dating disaster too many. Hurt in the past and with her son to consider, now she’s feeling hesitant. Then one of Connie’s residents sets her up on a date at a beautiful German Christmas market – with the promise she’ll take a mini-bus full of pensioners along with her…

Amongst the twinkling lights and smell of warm gingerbread in the old market square, Connie heads off on her date with a checklist of potential partner must-haves. Baker Henrich ticks all the boxes, but when Connie meets Henrich’s rival William, she starts to wonder if ticking boxes is the answer.

Will Connie’s wish for love this Christmas come true, and if so – with who?

MY THOUGHTS: A lovely simple romantic Christmas read, with no surprises. There were things I liked, and things I didn’t . . .

There is a lot of dialogue at the beginning, so I found it very hard to get a sense of the characters. Information is doled out in little parcels throughout the story, but it would have been nice to have a little of it at the start.

The author portrays the old German town beautifully, capturing the atmosphere of the surroundings. Particularly enticing were her descriptions of the food! I could smell the spices, taste the hot chocolate made with real chocolate, not the powder! I was busily looking up recipes as I read. The final publication will have recipes included, but as I read an ARC, this section was blank.

I didn’t feel that the author had the same dexterity when it came to the characters. None of the characters seemed particularly real to me. There was the potential for some delightful characters amongst Connie’s group, unfortunately it wasn’t developed. I couldn’t connect with Connie at all. She seemed very immature thinking that after chatting online, and a brief meeting, that she would be engaged to be married. The two contenders for Connie’s heart are as different as they could be, diametric opposites in fact even down to their appearance, which didn’t work for me. I guessed the outcome from the start, which was more than a little disappointing. I would have liked a little more uncertainty in the outcome, some serious will she/won’t she moments. Fritz, the deaf dog, had the biggest character of all
– he was definitely my favourite! This read was a little too sweet and predictable for this cynic.

If you are looking for a sweet, Christmas romance, this will swell your stocking.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#FindingLoveattheChristmasMarket #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Hello, I’m Jo Thomas. I write romances about food, love, family and fun and believe every story should have a happy ending. Welcome to my world.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Corgi for providing a digital ARC of Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

EXCERPT: For Adele and Justine, the twenty year age difference was just the beginning. They had never really lived in the same house. Justine was in college when Adele was born. Elaine had been in her forties when surprised by a second pregnancy. Then, probably because of her age and experience, Elaine made Adele the centre of her universe in a way Justine had never been. Adele had been dreadfully spoiled, her parents doting on her every moment.

It wasn’t as though Justine had been pushed to one side, but she certainly didn’t get as much attention. Many times Justine had told Adele the story of her asking her mother to make her wedding gown, Elaine having been a gifted seamstress. But according to Justine, Elaine had said, ‘How could I find the time? I have a small child!’ When Justine pointed out that the small child was now in school, Elaine had said, ‘But I have myself and Adele to get ready for the wedding!’ So how could she find time to make a complicated gown for the bride?

It had ever been thus as far as Justine could see. Adele was the chosen one and Justine was supposed to understand, step aside and worship her darling baby sister. Justine’s great accomplishments, and there were many, were taken in stride while Adele’s merest babble was praised to the skies. Justine used to claim, ‘If Adele put a turd in the punch bowl, Mother would say, ‘Look what Addie made! Isn’t she brilliant?”

ABOUT ‘SUNRISE ON HALF MOON BAY’: Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other.

When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.

Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.

Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.

MY THOUGHTS: I enjoyed this story despite a few flies in the ointment. Robyn Carr repeats basic information about the characters multiple times. I lost count of the number of times the twenty year age gap between the two sisters is mentioned in the first chapter alone. And this is only one of many examples.

There are two different emotional stories, one from each sister. Justine has worked hard for her marriage and family life, supporting her stay at home husband and daughters. Now her marriage is foundering at the same time that her workplace is undergoing a merger, endangering her job, and she is having to adjust her life to fit her new circumstances.

Addie has spent the past eight years caring for her ailing parents. Now that they have both passed, it is time for her to resume her life, but that is easier said than done. Overshadowed by her successful sister, she is struggling to get out of her pyjamas each day, never mind make a decision about the course that her life should now take.

Although this is a pretty predictable storyline, it is interesting to see how the relationship between the sisters grows and strengthens. Both the main characters have their faults. Both sisters have been manipulated by the men in their lives, but have reacted to their betrayals in totally different ways. Justine is a very strong character. She is organised and logical in her approach to her problems. Addie is her polar opposite. She is emotional and indecisive. There were times I wanted to slap her and tell her to wake up to herself. One thing that struck me as odd was that apart from Addie’s friend Jake, whom she treats like a doormat, neither sister appears to have any friends.

This is a quick, pleasant and easy read, and one that I probably will have forgotten by next week.

⭐⭐.9

THE AUTHOR: Robyn Carr was a young mother of two in the mid-1970s when she started writing fiction, an Air Force wife, educated as a nurse, whose husband’s frequent assignment changes made it difficult for her to work in her profession. Originally from Minnesota, they lived in all four corners of Texas, Alabama, Florida, California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Little did the aspiring novelist know then, as she wrote with babies on her lap, that she would become one of the world’s most popular authors of romance and women’s fiction, that 11 of her novels would earn the #1 berth on the New York Times bestselling books list.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Sunrise on Half Moon Bay written by Robyn Carr, narrated by Therese Plummer, published by Harper Audio. 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

Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

EXCERPT: DOVE

This was how she knew the end was near.

At night time, after she’d gone to bed and begun the welcome voyage toward sleep, her friends would appear. They fluttered the curtains and stirred the dust, bringing with them the smell of long ago, far away places.

When she was young, she would have thought them ghosts, but at the clear-eyed age of ninety five, she knew better. They were only memories, flickers of her past. The stories she’d kept hidden for so long that she almost didn’t recognize the players when they reentered the stage.

The visits (she liked to think of them as visits) had started in the summer when she still lived at the Alabama house across the road from Pritchard Hospital. In July, she’d seen her mother, the Major, and Dell. Then in August, Ethel and Erma and Jimmy Singley. Also, old Steadfast and Arthur showed up. Come that September – when the business with the Honeysuckle Girls came to a head – Jinn, Collie and Trix arrived, laughing and fiercely beautiful. They filled the room with the smell of wine. It was her first night back in California that brought the most welcome guest – her greatest friend and staunchest ally, Charles. He sat on his side of the bed and sang to her, and she kept her eyes on his strong, safe profile until sleep descended.

She was glad to see them all. Their presence brought her comfort. When they were alive, some had not treated her well; some had even been cruel, but she didn’t mind now. That was one of the many blessings of old age. This softening of memory, the melting away of grudges. Forgiveness was no longer something to strive for. Now it entered her room through an open window.

One chilly night toward the end of October, Dove was wakened by a dream she couldn’t remember. She looked at the clock, but she’d left her glasses outside and couldn’t see the time. She could see the shadow man who sat motionless in the slipper chair beside her dressing table. He watched her with eyes that glittered.

‘You,’ she said, her voice filled with wonder and the edge of a memory she would have rather not revisited.

‘You shouldn’t have run, Ruth,’ the shadow man said. ‘You brought so much sorrow in doing that. So much pain.’

‘I’m sorry.’

It was all she could think to say, although she knew it certainly didn’t make up for what she’d done.

He rose then, letting the faint light fall over him, and when he held up a length of faded pink ribbon, it seemed to glow in the light of the moon.

‘You belonged to him,’ he said. ‘You always belonged to him.’

It wasn’t true, but she knew it was pointless to argue. He’d spoken with the zeal of a convert, and that was a thing she was well acquainted with. As soon as she realized this, she also realized something else, something she should have known sooner, from the first moment she’d opened her eyes.

The figure in the dark wasn’t a ghost, or an ephemeral memory from her past, but a real flesh and blood man. And he hadn’t come as a friend. He’d come for revenge.

ABOUT REVIVING THE HAWTHORN SISTERS: Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa, 1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free or set her world on fire?

MY THOUGHTS: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is a multigenerational story of the family of Dove Jarrod, where secrets are discovered, lies uncovered, and a long lost treasure searched for, all set over a dual timeline switching between the present and the 1930s.

While this has some of the same characters as Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, it is not a sequel as such, and each book can be read as a stand-alone. Whereas the Honeysuckle Girls focused on Jinn and her great granddaughter Althea, the Hawthorn Sisters is centred around Dove in the 1930s and her granddaughter Eve in the present. Jinn barely rates a mention, but Althea features quite prominently.

I didn’t feel the same connection to the characters that I felt with the Honeysuckle Girls, and yet I was excited at the thought of learning Dove’s backstory because I was sure, from what we saw of her in the Honeysuckle Girls, it was going to be most interesting. And the sections of the book that focus on Dove are interesting, and exciting. It was Eve’s story that fell flat for me. I didn’t connect with her at all, and I was a little disappointed with the similarities between Althea’s character in the Honeysuckle Girls, and Ember’s in the Hawthorn Sisters. I don’t think that the story flows as smoothly as Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. There are hints of the supernatural in this story, which I am not generally averse to, but sometimes they just didn’t quite fit. Carpenter’s writing remains beautiful and atmospheric, just the characters let this book down.

Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is a good read, just not, in my opinion, as good as Burying the Honeysuckle Girls which entranced and riveted me from beginning to end.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#RevivingtheHawthornSisters #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Emily Carpenter, a former actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in Georgia with her family. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter 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

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

EXCERPT: Helen’s husband, Dan, died suddenly eleven months and three days ago, dropping his coffee cup and sliding almost noiselessly out of his kitchen chair and onto the floor. Helen, who’d been standing at the sink, still feels guilty about yelling at him for breaking his cup before she turned to see him sprawled on his back, his eyes wide open and startled looking. She believes the last thing Dan felt was surprise, and to her way of thinking, it wasn’t a bad way to go. The bad part is he left her here without him, ignorant of, . . . oh, everything.

ABOUT HOME SAFE: In this novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames–recently widowed, coping with loss and grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her–is beginning to depend far too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, and is meddling in her life, offering unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Helen’s problems are compounded by her shocking discovery that her mild-mannered and loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. The Ameses had painstakingly saved for a happy retirement, but that money disappeared in several large withdrawals made by Helen’s husband before he died. In order to support herself and garner a measure of much needed independence, Helen takes an unusual job that ends up offering far more than she had anticipated. And then a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery that causes both mother and daughter to reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.

MY THOUGHTS: It’s a long time since I have read anything by Elizabeth Berg. My mum and I used to share this author, discussing our latest read over coffee and scones (my mum made the best scones, I miss them) or lunch out at some cafe or other. This is the first book I have picked up by this author since my mother passed away some years ago. I haven’t consciously avoided them, I just haven’t even thought about them, which is kind of strange. But on the plus side, look at all the wonderful titles I have to catch up on!

Berg writes quietly, with compassion, tenderness, empathy and flashes of humor. I have heard people comment, ‘But nothing happens!’ But in fact a lot happens. Just because there’s not a lot of ‘action’ doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Home Safe is an intimate novel, not in a sexual sense, but in the context that we get to know Helen intimately; her frustrations, her disappointments, her fears, her achievements, her hopes and dreams. We watch her grow as a person after Dan’s sudden death, to learn that she can survive, even flourish, without him, that she has untapped strengths and potentials that come to light as her life takes her in new directions.

Helen starts out as a not very likeable character; whiny and insecure with not an ounce of common sense! She calls the police in the early hours of the morning when there is water dripping from a bulge in her ceiling and the sheer number of plumbers in the yellow pages overwhelms her! She is needy, almost pathetically so, but I do love her snarky side! You know those unkind thoughts we have sometimes that none of us like to admit to? Yeah, those.

Without the buffer of Dan between them, Helen and daughter Tessa are forced to realign their relationship. Helen has been an overbearing mother, Tessa a dismissive daughter, Dan the conduit between them.

And there is the mystery of the missing money. What did Dan do with the $850,000 he withdrew from the investment account? Paradoxically, it is this money that Helen no longer has that saves her from herself.

I love this quote from the Wichita Sunday Eagle – ‘A beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit.’ That sums it up beautifully.

This is a lovely read written with Berg’s trademark warmth and humour, her wry observations guaranteed to bring a smile to the face and a better understanding of our own characters.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Berg is an American novelist. Berg was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, and lived in Boston prior to her residence in Chicago. She studied English and Humanities at the University of Minnesota, but later ended up with a nursing degree. (Wikipedia)

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Home Safe written and narrated by Elizabeth Berg, published by Random House Audio, via Overdrive. 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

Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter

EXCERPT: I drew the box to me and lifted the lid. Closed my eyes, then opened them again, hoping nothing else had been taken. It hadn’t. Everything was the same as the first time I’d opened the box all those years ago.

I pulled each item out, one by one: the prayer Dr Duncan had held, the pill bottles (six total, all of them empty), an old wine bottle label (Jinn’s Juice – The Most Refreshing!) with a name and address scratched on the back in pencil: Tom Stocker, Old Cemetery Road. An old brass and ivory hair barrette with a tiny bird, wings outstretched, in the middle of it. A postcard sized amateur watercolour painting, the paper folded into fourths, showing two women sitting under an arbor, deep in conversation. A few odds and ends like arrowheads, papery locust skins, and bottle caps.

I arranged the items in a row on the counter, the way I used to line them up across my comforter every night before I went to sleep. I touched one now with reverent fingers, like they were holy relics.

And now that thing was happening, the way it had always happened when I opened the box. The memories were taking over, expanding inside me, suffocating me. Blotting out everything reasonable and sane.

ABOUT BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS: Althea Bell is still heartbroken by her mother’s tragic, premature death—and tormented by the last, frantic words she whispered into young Althea’s ear: Wait for her. For the honeysuckle girl. She’ll find you, I think, but if she doesn’t, you find her.

Adrift ever since, Althea is now fresh out of rehab and returning to her family home in Mobile, Alabama, determined to reconnect with her estranged, ailing father. While Althea doesn’t expect him, or her politically ambitious brother, to welcome her with open arms, she’s not prepared for the chilling revelation of a grim, long-buried family secret. Fragile and desperate, Althea escapes with an old flame to uncover the truth about her lineage. Drawn deeper into her ancestors’ lives, Althea begins to unearth their disturbing history…and the part she’s meant to play in it.

MY THOUGHTS: What a wonderful debut novel. I am kicking myself that I waited so long to read this.

The characters are wonderfully developed. With the family history of madness, Althea seems bent on self destruction, maybe as an antidote to the fate that no doubt awaits her on her thirtieth birthday. Her character is at once fragile and surprisingly strong as she determines to break the cycle and solve the mystery of the fates of the previous three generations of women. I was rooting for her from beginning to end, even when she did stupid things, counterproductive to her goal. And Jinny, my heart just broke for her.

The story is told seamlessly over two timelines: Jinn, Altheas great-grandmother in the 1930’s, a time when people were broken by the war, devastated by the depression; and 2012 by Althea, the only one left who could discover what had happened to the women in her family.

The plot is superbly crafted, it doesn’t stall at all and kept my attention throughout. I just had to know if there actually was a strain of insanity running through the female line of this family, or if there was something more sinister afoot. There’s an old abandoned psychiatric hospital that features prominently in the family history, starting from the times when a man could have his wife committed if she wouldn’t do as she was told. And even more frighteningly, a newer but no less austere hospital has been built in the grounds of the old one, and it is the threat of this that Althea’s family hold over her head.

The writing is beautiful. The prose encompassed me, I could hear the strong Alabama accents as I read. I could smell the honeysuckle, almost taste the wine.

I loved this book. I loved the characters, and if I didn’t love them, I loved to hate them. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.6

THE AUTHOR: Emily Carpenter, a former actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in Georgia with her family. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter 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

The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo

EXCERPT: I don’t mind telling you that my sister is a bit of a nutcase about making a Plan. And yes, it’s capital-P Plan. She got the trait from our grandmother who started each day by asking the nearest victim, ‘What’s the Plan?’ meaning a list of tasks the victim was going to accomplish for her with a precise time schedule by which they’d be accomplished. Louisa’s version is somewhat different. When she sees something she thinks needs to be fixed, she comes up with a Plan to fix it, and if God has something else in mind, well, I’ve got to say, it might be too bad for God because once Louisa’s head is down and she’s got her mind set, you might as well fasten your seatbelt because you’re going on her ride.

ABOUT THE BOOK OF CAROLSUE: CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years.

Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta–until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother–a young immigrant who fears deportation.

Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?

MY THOUGHTS: I am always up for a book that isn’t centred around young, beautiful, rich people. Not that I have anything against them; indeed I aspire to be one. And The Book of CarolSue certainly meets that criteria. The two main characters, Louisa and CarolSue appear to be in their mid-sixties, now both widowed, CarolSue only recently. Louisa, as she is prone to do, takes charge and shepherds the bereft CarolSue ‘back home’. The trouble is, CarolSue feels like a fish out of water . . . and a gooseberry around her sister and the town sheriff, Gus, who like to ‘nap’ noisily in the afternoons.

I liked the feistyness of both these women who each have a strong sideline in sarcasm. But what started out charming and amusing deteriorated into tedious and repetitive by the 50% mark, and I finished the book feeling rather like a hampster trapped on it’s wheel. The book loses its focus on CarolSue and Louisa and becomes bogged down by the Gary/Gus/Church/embezzlement debacle, much to its detriment.

I’m afraid that this is another case of one book trying to cover too many issues – sisterhood, grief, love, loss, and family would have been enough, but the addition of immigration and illegal labour issues, con-men, and embezzlement only muddied the waters and overloaded the storyline.

The Book of CarolSue is actually the second in a proposed trilogy, the first of which is The Testament of Harold’s Wife, which focuses on Louisa and her loss. I have not read this, and I probably won’t. But The Book of CarolSue is easily read as a stand-alone and, in fact, is not promoted as part of a series.

Had the book continued on in the same vein as it started, this would have been an excellent read, but as it stands it only rates ⭐⭐.8 stars from me.

#TheBookofCarolSue #NetGalley

There are lots of little gems in here:
‘ . . . people disappeared, here to track mud on your clean floor and laugh when you complained about missing chocolate chip cookies one instant, dead the next, and you don’t get two weeks notice in the mail that it’s going to happen.’

‘Isn’t it strange how we think one thing is going to happen and something utterly different happens? Inside we are so disappointed and have no idea that life might just have handed us a huge gift.’

‘I’ve not only lost my marbles, but they’ve rolled way under the furniture never to be retrieved.’

‘Life does not follow clean lines, but ones that stagger. We limp along, trying to keep up, carrying baskets unevenly loaded with failures and regrets. We find our joys accidentally, unexpectedly, along the way and must cherish them. Cling to, remember, and cherish them.’

THE AUTHOR: Lynne Hugo is an American author whose roots are in the northeast. She lives with her husband, a former Vice President for Academic Affairs of a liberal arts college and now a professional photographer, in the Midwest. They have two grown children, three grandchildren, and a yellow Labrador retriever.

Ms. Hugo has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, and a Master’s from Miami University.

When an editor asked her to describe herself as a writer, she responded:

“I write in black Wal-Mart capri sweatpants. They don’t start out as capris, but I routinely shrink them in the drier by accident. And I always buy black because it doesn’t show where I’ve wiped the chocolate off my hands. Now that my son and daughter are grown, my previous high grade of ‘below average’ in Domestic Achievement has dropped somewhat. But I’m less guilty about it now. I lose myself in crafting language by a window with birdfeeders hanging in the branches of a Chinese elm towering over the house. When I come up for air, I hike by the ponds and along the river in a nearby forest with my beloved Lab. My husband, with whom I planted that elm as a bare root sapling, joins us when he can.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books for providing a digital ARC of The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Another Sunday, and another week’s reading completed. I even managed to sneak in an extra book this week . . . I picked it up last night, intending to read just a chapter or two before I went to sleep. Instead I read the whole thing. But more about that later in the post.

I am currently reading The Whisper Man by Alex North. Two of my Goodreads.com reading groups, the Crime, Mystery and Thriller group and the All About Books group, have picked this as the October group read.

I am about to start You Can Trust Me by Emma Rowley

Currently I am listening to Bodies From the Library 2: Forgotten stories of mystery and suspense by the Queens of Crime and masters of Golden Age detection.

I am also planning on reading The Book of Carol Sue by Lynn Hugo this week.

CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years.

Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta–until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother–a young immigrant who fears deportation.

Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?

I am keeping my reading load deliberately light this week as I have a busy week ahead at work, culminating next Sunday so am probably going to be very late with my Watching what I’m reading post – like Monday!

Four new ARCs this week:

The Girl Who Never Came Home by Nicole Trope

The House at Magpie Cove by Kennedy Kerr

Consolation by Garry Disher

And The Open House by Sam Carrington

Now, the extra book that I read this week? My Darling by Amanda Robson. WARNING: don’t start reading this unless you have cleared the rest of your day. Yes, it is THAT good. Review coming tomorrow!

Have a wonderful weekend to all of you who still have some left to enjoy. It’s time for me to start planning the meals for the rest of the week….

Happy reading!