The Secret Letter by Debbie Rix

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EXCERPT: The letter landed on the mat, just as Imogen walked into the narrow hall from the kitchen. She usually ignored the uninteresting brown envelopes that slipped through the letter box. They lay undisturbed for days in an untidy pile until she was forced to gather them up simply to open the door. But even at a distance, this handwritten envelope was intriguing. In spite of her arthritis, she bent down slowly and retrieved it, along with the pile of bills, and carried them through to the conservatory at the back of the house, Winter sun streamed in as she sat down in her favourite wicker armchair. She laid the unwanted mail on the kelim covered footstool in front of her and examined the handwritten envelope, noting the German postmark and slid her long elegant finger under the flap.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Germany, 1939: Thirteen-year-old Magda is devastated by the loss of her best friend, shy and gentle Lotte, cruelly snatched from her and sent to a concentration camp – the Star of David sewn on her faded, brown coat. As the Nazi’s power takes hold, Magda realizes she’s not like the other girls in her village – she hates the fanatical new rules of the Hitler Youth. So Magda secretly joins The White Rose movement and begins to rebel against the oppressive, frightening world around her.

But when an English RAF pilot lands in a field near Magda’s home she is faced with an impossible choice: to risk the lives of her family or to save a stranger and make a difference in the war she desperately wants to end.

England, 1939: Fifteen-year-old Imogen is torn from her family and evacuated to the Lake District, a haven of safety away from the war raging across Europe. All she has to connect her to the bombs and the battles are the letters she writes to her loved ones. Little does she know, on the other side of the enemy line, her fate rests on the actions of one girl who will change her life forever…

MY THOUGHTS: I didn’t get what I was expecting…..and that was a secret revealed by a long lost letter that, through some circumstance, suddenly comes to light. To that end I think the book is mis-named. But that really is my only criticism of The Secret Letter. There is a secret letter, written by Karl to his sister Magda which, although he demands that she destroy it after reading, she hides in her bible.

What I did get was a beautifully written story, based on reality, set during WWII. The characters are well fleshed out and totally believable, as is the plot. The story begins with a letter received by Imogen in 2018, from Magda, a woman in Germany who had met Imogen’s husband during the war, inviting her to Germany. The story then backtracks to 1939 and we experience the war through the eyes of two young women, Magda in Germany and Imogen in England, firstly as schoolgirls then as young women helping with the war effort, before coming back to 2018/19 for a reunion of the survivors.

I think that because the author has based some of the story on the wartime experiences of her parents, there is an enhanced sense of reality; of people just getting on with it as best they could. While the war itself was inhumane, there were a lot of instances where people went to extreme lengths to help others, and these actions form the heart of this book. In the author’s own words, ‘I wanted more than anything else to explore the humanity that exists in wartime – the acts of selflessness and nobility, as well as the love and loss that affected ordinary people…..I also discovered acts of great courage performed by those who chose to rebel against the Nazi regime.’

Debbie Rix has done a wonderful job of portraying the ordinary people who had to fight and whose lives were devastated by the war. She has included them all, from the woman who simply went to bed and didn’t get up again, to those who put their own lives on the line.

This is the first book I have read by this author. It won’t be the last.

🤩😍😥😍🤩

THE AUTHOR:
I started writing novels after a long career in broadcasting and journalism. My first novel – The Girl with Emerald Eyes (originally published as ‘Secrets of the Tower’ in March 2015), is set in two time zones – the modern day and 12th century. It explores the extraordinary woman who left the money to build the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
My second novel: Daughters of the Silk Road follows the journey of a family of merchant explorers who return to Venice from China with a Ming Vase. The book again straddles two time zones.
The Silk Weaver’s Wife was published in 2017 and is set in the world of the Italian silk industry. The period story follows the journey of a young Veronese woman who is forced into an abusive marriage. The modern heroine uncovers her remarkable story.
My last two novels are set in 20th century. ‘The Photograph’ tells the story of Hungarian refugee Rachael who escapes to London from Budapest in 1956. Travelling to Sardinia with her archaeologist father, she meets the man who will change her life. Meanwhile in 2018, her anthropologist grand-daughter Sophie is struggling with infertility. As their two stories intertwine, Sophie uncovers her grandmother’s secret.
My latest novel: ‘The Secret Letter’ is due out on 22nd July. It explores the lives of two young girls in the 2nd world war – Imogen separated from her parents as an evacuee, and Magda who is determined to fight the Nazi regime. Their lives are brought together by a young RAF pilot. The story is based in part on the extraordinary experiences of my father who escaped a German prisoner of war camp at the end of the war.
I live in Kent with my family, four cats and chickens.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Secret Letter by Debbie Rix for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2891283309

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Two Silver Crosses by Beryl Kingston

Two Silver Crosses by Beryl Kingston

EXCERPT: ‘Don’t worry,’ Ginny whispered as she kissed her sister goodbye outside the Advocate’s house. ‘I shan’t come to any harm. She’s exaggerating.’

Emily didn’t argue because there wasn’t time, and because Maman might hear it and, in any case, she was too drained by the emotion of the last few minutes to want to provoke any more outbursts. She simply kissed Ginny’s cheek and said a private prayer for her safety. But she was still cold with dread and she went on feeling afraid for the rest of the day; when she finally got into bed, she carried her unspoken fears into nightmares.

Lacerated with rage, Ginny ran to the station. To say such things just at the very moment when she was packed and ready to go! It was hateful. And unnecessary. She felt upset all the way to Paris, justifying her anger with her mother and pushing pity to one side, concentrating on feeling aggrieved and hurt so that she didn’t have to face the possible truth of what had been said. Because it couldn’t be true. She wouldn’t let it be true. It was too horrible.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: ‘Nobody is to know where we are. You must forget England. That part of your lives is over.’

Twins Ginny and Emily Holborn have everything they could ever need in their Wolverhampton home: a loving family, a garden to play in and a staff waiting to attend to their every need. Until, one summer day in 1926, they disappear without a trace.

Ten years later, bright-eyed solicitor Charlie Commoner is given his first job: track down the still-missing Holborn twins. Despatched to France, he’s left to unravel a web of infidelity, mystery, and terrifying family secrets.

MY THOUGHTS: I almost abandoned this book at one early point, but I am so very glad that I didn’t. I ended up heavily invested in the lives, struggles and very different romances of the Holborn twins.

This is not a short read, but the appeal for me was two-fold: Beryl Kingston is an author I remember my mother enjoying immensely; and I have recently found myself enjoying historical fiction set around the two world wars.

The story travels from a wealthy beginning in England, to poverty and almost destitution in France. The contrast in life-styles is immense. It is told mostly from four points of view: that of Hortense, the young French wife of the only son of a wealthy industrialist and mother to the twins; Agnes her sister-in-law, married to the social climbing Claude; and the twins themselves, Virginia and the blind Emily.

The mystery is really not that mysterious; in fact, I thought it rather obvious. I also thought that Charlie should have made the connection between the missing heiresses and Jeannie a lot sooner. That, I felt, was a little too drawn out. The constant string of near misses became somewhat irritating. Perhaps the story would have had more appeal had we begun with the death of the twins grandfather, and the resulting search for them, and learned their earlier history in flashbacks. But we must also remember that this book was written and first published almost thirty years ago.

It was an interesting read, and I might be tempted to read another by this author at some point in the future.

☺☺☺.5

THE AUTHOR: BERYL KINGSTON has been a writer since she was seven when she started producing ‘poetry’ which, according to her, was very, very bad. She was evacuated to Felpham at the start of WWII, igniting an interest in one time resident poet William Blake (which later inspired her novel The Gates of Paradise). She was a school teacher until 1985, but became a full-time writer when her debut novel became a bestseller. Kingston lives in west Sussex, and has three children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Agora Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Two Silver Crosses by Beryl Kingston for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2701023084

Watching What I’m Reading. . .

Happy Sunday everyone. I have been to work this morning, now home and making Quince Jelly. So while it is simmering away, I will talk about what I am currently reading, what I am planning on reading in the coming week, and what new approvals I have received.

Currently I am reading

Two Silver Crosses: A heartwarming family saga of love and war

I remember my mother enjoying this author. I blew hot and cold on this book for the first third, but now 2/3 through I am enjoying it.

In 1926 the Holborn twins, Ginny and her blind sister Emily, disappear from their comfortable home in Wolverhampton. Why? No one knew. Ten years later, aspiring solicitor Charlie Commoner is dispatched to France to track them down. What he finds instead is a mystery, a tragedy and a love affair.

But as the Second World War darkens over Europe, so, too, does the legacy from a terrifying disease that holds the family in its grip . . .

I need to download a new audiobook book, but as we are going away Thursday, I probably won’t bother until we get back.

As you may have gathered, I have not yet started on

Run Away

which was on last week’s list. . .

You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, quite by chance, you see her busking in New York’s Central Park.

But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is wasted, frightened and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And

The Woman I Was Before

The perfect picture hides the darkest lies.

A new home can be a happy ending. Or a fresh start. Or a hiding place…

Kate Jones is running away. She has left her old life behind, changing both her own name and her daughter’s. No-one must ever connect Kate with the mistake that destroyed her life.

Starting afresh on Parkview Road – a brand new street full of newly built houses – Kate looks at the other women on the street with envy. They seem to have it all: Gisela with her busy life, full house and successful children, Sally with her exciting spontaneous marriage, her glamorous holidays, her high-flying career. The pictures that Kate’s new friends post online confirm their seemingly perfect existence, whilst Kate hides from the world at all costs.

Until one day, everything changes. Kate is called to the scene of a devastating accident, which is about to test everything the women thought they knew about each other, and themselves.

My requesting finger has been a bit out of control this week. . .this week I have received

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot

The Dark Bones (A Dark Lure, #2)

Picture of Innocence

A Family of Strangers

So much for only two requests a week so that I can reduce my huge pile of back titles. I have no self control when it comes to books, okay?!

Tomorrow  is the first day of the new financial year here in New Zealand, so between stocktaking, closing off the financial records for the year, setting up for the new financial year, and doing rollover of our membership records, and getting everything set up for my relief staff while I am away,  I am unlikely to get anything posted, possibly for a couple of days.

So until next time, happy reading my friends. 💕📚

 

 

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Firstly I must apologize for my absence over the past few days. We had wedding #2 of the three family weddings in 9 weeks. The weather gods were kind to us, the bride was radiant, and everyone had fun. Now a little less than three weeks to wedding #3, for which we will be heading to Australia.

Now onto the real reason we are here. . . Books! Currently I am reading

My Daughter's Secret

for which I gave you a sneak preview last Tuesday. I can’t wait to see where this is going. Only started this last night, and very intrigued.

I am listening to

The Dead Tracks (David Raker, #2)

I have been wanting to get into this series for some time now.

This week I am planning on reading

Two Silver Crosses: A heartwarming family saga of love and war

In 1926 the Holborn twins, Ginny and her blind sister Emily, disappear from their comfortable home in Wolverhampton. Why? No one knew. Ten years later, aspiring solicitor Charlie Commoner is dispatched to France to track them down. What he finds instead is a mystery, a tragedy and a love affair.

But as the Second World War darkens over Europe, so, too, does the legacy from a terrifying disease that holds the family in its grip . . .

Run Away

You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, by chance, you see her playing guitar in Central Park. But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is living on the edge, frightened, and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs. 

And you do the only thing a parent can do: you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Before you know it, both your family and your life are on the line. And in order to protect your daughter from the evils of that world, you must face them head on.

I have to admit to not particularly liking the cover of this one.

This week I have received four ARC approvals from NetGalley.

The Bones She Buried (Detective Josie Quinn #5)

The Last Thing She Remembers

Tomorrow's Bread

Pray for the Girl

I hope you have had a wonderful week’s reading, and that you have another lined up ahead of you. 💕📚

Five Star Friday – The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming ‘read me’?

Then take a look at my Five Star Friday pick. It may be old. It may be new. But it is a book that is special to me, one that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth came to mind today for a couple of reasons. I was looking through the books I have coming up to read and review, and noticed that Sally has a new book out next month, The Mother-in-Law, which made me think of The Things We Keep and of how much I loved it. The second reason is that it is almost the anniversary of the passing of a good friend of mine who was afflicted by this terrible disease. We shared not only our name, but a love of laughter, wine and gardening, often all at the same time! Sandra, I miss you, and this post is for you.

The Things We Keep

EXCERPT: Fifteen months ago. . .

No one trusts anything I say. If I point out, for example, that the toast is burning or that it’s time for the six o’clock news, people marvel. How about that? It is time for the six o’clock news. Well done, Anna. Maybe if I were eighty-eight instead of thirty-eight I wouldn’t care. Then again, maybe I would. As a new resident of Rosalind House, an assisted living facility for senior citizens, I’m having a new appreciation for the hardships of the elderly.

‘Anna, this is Bert,’ someone says as a man slopes by on his walker. I’ve been introduced to half a dozen people who look more or less like Bert: old, ashen, hunched over. We’re on wicker lawn chairs in the streaming sunshine, and I know Jack brought me out here to make us both feel better. Yes, you’re checking into an old folks home, but look, it has a garden!’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: With honesty and true understanding, Sally Hepworth pens this poignant story of one of today’s nightmares: early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there’s just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna’s and Luke’s families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.

MY THOUGHTS: I have to say – I Loved this book.

Sally Hepworth has done a wonderful job of humanising Alzheimer’s patients and the elderly in general. I have read and enjoyed other books about people with Alzheimer’s, most noticeably Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which was extremely informative about Alzheimer’s, but I learnt a more humanitarian lesson from The Things We Keep.

Anna Forster is only 38 years old and has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. She has elected to be placed in a care facility following an accident which could have claimed the life of her favourite nephew Ethan. There is one other resident of a similar age in Rosalind House, Luke, who suffers from a different variation of dementia. Anna has gone there to die, she doesn’t expect to fall in love with ‘young guy’ (Luke, Luke, Luke – if she says his name three times she night just remember it). As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

Sally Hepworth’s writing is beautiful, lyrical, never soppy, never sentimental. She shows great perception, great empathy, great understanding.

‘ If I don’t remember, will I have been here at all? ……Maybe it doesn’t matter what you remember. Maybe if someone else remembers and speaks your name, you were here.’

‘I might not remember this, but I’m glad I got to live it.’

Her characters are complex human beings. They have problems of their own; their own back stories, their own triumphs and tragedies. Hepworth reminds us that elderly people have lived and loved, that they deserve our time, our respect, our affection.

The Things We Keep is a keeper for me. It is on a very short list of ‘Never delete this book from my Kindle’.

💖💖💖💖💖

THE AUTHOR: Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives (2015), The Things We Keep (2016) and The Mother’s Promise (2017), and The Family Next Door (Feb 2018). Sally’s books have been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”.

Sally’s novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 15 languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan MacMillan Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1455296642

A Taste of . . . Tuesday – The Town With No Roads by Joe Siple

The Town with No Roads

Today I would like to tempt your reading tastebuds with a little tidbit from The Town With No Roads by Joe Siple, published by Black Rose Writing.

<i>Everyone has a story to tell.

That truth has bound humanity together for ages. From the caveman who discovered fire to the toddler who fell off the monkey bars, every person who has lived could say those magical words: “Guess what happened ?”

And that was where Jamison Hightower fit in. He told people’s stories.

Some people said his stories didn’t matter. Actually, most people said his stories didn’t matter. They thought the important part of the news was at the top of the show. The latest cheaters on Wall Street or the murder on the corner of 7th and Fairfax. Or even the weather  –  as if the chance of rain was somehow more important than stories of humanity.

They mocked his assignments. Called them ‘fluff’ and ‘kickers’. Half the time Chance Browner went over his allotted four minutes just so he could point out yet again that people care more about the Twins-Yankees game than about Mrs Hutchinson’s fundraiser over at St Francis Elementary.

“People thank me every day for cutting into your time,” Browner had said last week. “No one cares what you have to say.”

And it was probably true. But it didn’t change the fact that someone needed to say it. At least that’s the way Jamison Hightower saw things.</i>

ABOUT THIS BOOK:  A miracle has come to Sparkling Pond, Minnesota.

Memorable objects from Aspen Collins’ childhood are appearing in the town square, accompanied by notes in her father’s handwriting. The notes relate to things happening in her life now. But that’s impossible —Aspen’s father is in a coma.

The miracle brings chaos in the form of a ghost hunter, three different factions of people with conflicting beliefs about the miracle, and a television reporter who Aspen finds herself falling for. But when everything comes to a head, an impossible choice must be made. And the consequences of either decision could be too much to bear.

I hope that I have tempted you to dip into The Town With No Roads by Joe Siple. I will be reading it soon, so watch for my review. And if you read it before I do, I look forward to hearing how you enjoyed it.

Happy reading my friends. 💕📚

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom by Beth Miller

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom by Beth  Miller

EXCERPT: What happened next, Leah used to ask.

It’s a good question.

It was adorable, how fascinated she was by our love story when she was little. She still is fascinated in a sense, if last night was anything to go by. Maybe horrified is a more accurate description. Anyway, I don’t want to think about last night. I don’t want to think about Leah’s face as she stood in the doorway, the black eyeliner she favours making her seem even less childlike, looking at me with that cool, clear way she has. I prefer to think about Leah when she was little, and I could do no wrong as far as she was concerned. Not now, when she is fourteen, and angry, and has been missing for five hours.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Meet Eliza Bloom: She likes to live life by the rules: long, blue skirt on Thursdays, dinner with mother on Fridays and if someone tells you a Valentine should be anonymous, give your new husband a blank card. Nothing is out of place in her ordered life…

But last night her teenage daughter found something in a hidden shoebox that no-one was supposed to see and started asking questions. Questions that might just change everything in Eliza’s carefully constructed world.

Join Eliza as she shows you how to run away with the love of your life (quite fast actually, as your family are coming after you), how to make your grandfather happy (this might involve a little bit of lying), how to let someone you love go (actually, this never gets easier) and how (now, this is a bad idea) to keep secrets from your new husband.

The only way to truly live is to learn how to open your heart.

MY THOUGHTS: I. Loved. This. Book.

I didn’t want it to end. Ever.

I wanted to stay with Eliza, the Scarlet Woman of Hackney E5, as she muddled her way through life. She made me smile. And laugh. And shed a few tears. And Alex? (‘My name is Alex Symons and I’m an idiot. It’s been a few weeks since I was last a complete idiot.’) Lord, I love that man! I want a friend like Deborah. One who is not afraid to call it like she sees it, and who loves you no matter what. And Leah? The glue that holds the package together, the tsunami that tears it apart.

Six hours after I finished reading The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom, I am still not ready to say goodbye. I want to stay immersed in the world of this unconventional family. I am not ready, nor willing, to return to the ‘real world’.

More please, Beth Miller!

THE AUTHOR: Beth Miller’s first novel, When We Were Sisters, was recently published by Ebury Press. Her second novel, The Good Neighbour, will be published in September 2015, also by Ebury. She is currently writing her third novel, The Privacy Room, and is also working on a book about the world’s greatest radio show, called For The Love of The Archers. She is a columnist for The Chap magazine, and the rest of the time she runs courses about writing, works with fellow writers as their book coach, and drinks tea while staring vacantly into space. She has been a sex educator, alcohol counsellor, and inept audio-typist. She has a PhD in psychology, which has yet to come in handy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you, thank you, thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom by Beth Miller for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2726960119