Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Sunday. Luke has just gone home with his Dad and I have done a quick sweep around the house. I found a pair of his socks halfway down the hall, and his raptor in the dining room after we had been playing dinosaur hide and seek.

We have also baked cookies, caught up with all the laundry, and read lots of stories. He is starting to make up stories of his own now. I should write them down for him and illustrate them. Something to keep in mind for his next visit. Luke turns 4 next week and we’re having a birthday party for him next Saturday.

But, on to books….. I am currently reading Sally Hepworth’s The Good Sister.

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

And listening to Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo, #2 in the Kate Burkholder series that I had somehow missed reading.

This week I am planning on reading The Whispers by Heidi Perks.

A MISSING WIFE. FOUR FRIENDS. WHO IS TELLING THE TRUTH?

Anna Robinson hasn’t been seen since she went on a night out with her four closest friends.

She has a loving husband and a son she adores. Surely she wouldn’t abandon them and her perfect life. . .

But what has happened to her?

At the school gates, it’s not long before the rumours start. Anna’s oldest friend Grace is beside herself with worry – desperately searching for answers, and certain that someone is hiding the truth.

With each day that passes, Anna’s life is under increasing threat. And a the pressure mounts, it won’t be long before something cracks. . .

I am keeping my reading load deliberately light because of my workload, but if I can, I will add a title from my backlist.

Only two new ARCs this week: Twisted Lies by Angela Marsons

And A Family Affair by Julie Houston

What are you planning on reading this week? Have a great one.

Cheers

Sandy ❤📚

Hummingbird Lane by Carolyn Brown

EXCERPT:Emma wondered if it could have been the chocolate cake that kept her from having the recurring nightmares the night before? Or was it the fact that she was so far away from that big mansion of a house and her overbearing mother, or even the many centres she’d been sent to for more than two decades? Whatever happened, it sure was nice to sleep all night without drugs and horrible dreams. If it was because she’d arrived at Hummingbird Lane, then Emma didn’t ever want to leave the place.

ABOUT ‘HUMMINGBIRD LANE’: Ever since childhood, Emma Merrill and Sophia Mason were bound by a passion for painting. Like all young best friends, they promised to never lose touch. But the girls came from different worlds, and their paths diverged when Emma went to an elite college and Sophie worked her way through state school.

After a decade they’ve reconnected, both in a time of need. Emma has been struggling with depression since her college years, and she’s lost herself under the suffocating influence of her controlling and manipulative mother. Sophie, under pressure to prepare for an upcoming gallery show, whisks the fragile Emma away to a small artist’s colony in south Texas. It’s a raw and beautiful landscape where wildflowers bloom—and perhaps Emma can bloom there, too. In the company of such nurturing and creative strangers—especially Josh Corlen, the openhearted manager of the commune—Emma allows herself to breathe again.

For Sophie and Emma, it’s the perfect place for reflection and to finally share the secret burdens each has carried. Most of all it’s a chance to rediscover their true selves and to make good on the old promise that their friendship would last forever.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a story about the power of friendship and how sometimes, friendship can endure and transcend both distance and years of separation.

Emma and Sophie are such wonderful characters. I laughed and cried with them and got angry with them at times. They support each other and recognize each other’s strengths, but fail to see their own.

Art and Filly, the elderly permanent residents of Hummingbird Lane, are the sort of people everyone needs in their lives. Wise and humourous, kind and generous.

My only criticism is the brief, one month, period of time that it takes for Emma to turn her life around. And the author makes quite a big thing about the small time frame, frequently. Perhaps if she hadn’t have mentioned the time frame at all, this would have been a five star read. Her recovery was far too fast, and far too easy. It annoyed me enough to knock a star off, but not enough to put me off reading more from this wonderful author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

#HummingbirdLane #NetGalley #carolynbrownbooks #montlakeromance @thecarolynbrown

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #romance

THE AUTHOR: Hi! I’m twenty five years old and movie star gorgeous. The camera added thirty plus years and a few wrinkles. Can’t trust those cameras or mirrors either. Along with bathroom scales they are notorious liars! Honestly, I am the mother of three fantastic grown children who’ve made me laugh and given me more story ideas than I could ever write. My husband, Charles, is my strongest supporter and my best friend. He’s even willing to eat fast food and help with the laundry while I finish one more chapter! Life is good and I am blessed!

Reading has been a passion since I was five years old and figured out those were words on book pages. As soon as my chubby little fingers found they could put words on a Big Chief tablet with a fat pencil, I was on my way. Writing joined reading in my list of passions. I will read anything from the back of the Cheerio’s box to Faulkner and love every bit of it. In addition to reading I enjoy cooking, my family and the ocean. I love the Florida beaches. Listening to the ocean waves puts my writing brain into high gear.

I love writing romance because it’s about emotions and relationships. Human nature hasn’t changed a bit since Eve coveted the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Settings change. Plots change. Names change. Times change. But love is love and men and women have been falling in and out of it forever. Romance is about emotions: love, hate, anger, laughter… all of it. If I can make you laugh until your sides ache or grab a tissue then I’ve touched your emotions and accomplished what every writer sets out to do.

I got serious about writing when my third child was born and had her days and nights mixed up. I had to stay up all night anyway and it was very quiet so I invested in a spiral back notebook and sharpened a few pencils. The story that emerged has never sold but it’s brought in enough rejection slips to put the Redwood Forest on the endangered list.

Folks ask me where I get my ideas. Three kids, fifteen grandchildren, two great grandchildren. Note: I was a very young grandmother! Life is a zoo around here when they all come home. In one Sunday afternoon there’s enough ideas to keep me writing for years and years. Seriously, ideas pop up at the craziest times. When one sinks its roots into my mind, I have no choice but to write the story. And while I’m writing the characters peek over my shoulder and make sure I’m telling it right and not exaggerating too much. Pesky little devils, they are!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Montlake for providing me with a digital ARC of Hummingbird Lane by Carolyn Brown for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Dusk on Good Friday.

It’s Easter Sunday today, and despite the Easter Bunny forgetting me, it’s been a beautiful day, a beautiful weekend after a week of thunder, lightning and heavy rain.

Currently I am reading Hummingbird Lane by Carolyn Brown. This is the second book that I have read by this author and she is definitely on my favourites list. Her characters are superb.

I am listening to A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo, #10 in the Kate Burkholder series.

This week I am planning on reading The Best of Friends by Alex Day.

Susannah is rebuilding her life…
Susannah has had a tough year. After a sticky divorce and losing the life she had grown accustomed to, moving to a small town in the south of England with her two sons is exactly the fresh start she needs.

Charlotte seems to have it all…
Charlotte is delighted when Susannah moves in. Charlotte may appear to have the perfect husband, the perfect family, the perfect house, but deep down she’s lonely, and she needs someone to confide in.

But one of them is not who they pretend to be…
The two women instantly become best friends. But underneath the surface, secrets, lies and betrayals are all hiding. And when the truth comes out, not everyone will live to tell the tale…

That is probably all I will get read this week as I am training my new staff member plus have a number of functions on including a lunch for our over 60s group, an engagement party and the speedshear. We have travelled up to our son in Hamilton each day this week to help get his new workshop ready to move into. He had been planning the move for this weekend but delays in the electrical cabling for the hoists has put him behind. I have spent the weekend sanding down and painting the offices, customer area, lunch room, bathrooms and library. One final coat tomorrow and at least that area will be ready. I could hardly move when I got out of bed this morning. I have found muscles that I’d forgotten I had!

I received 4 new Netgalley ARCs this week, all of them from Carla and Susan’s lists from last week.

A Road Trip to Remember by Judith Kleim. Isn’t that cover delicious! I could do with some time at the beach right now.

A Bucket List to Die For by Lorraine Fouchet

The Lost Girls of Ireland by Susanne O’Leary

And Little Boy Lost by Ruhi Choudhary.

I am going to leave you with this morning’s sunrise. If you look closely you will see the Easter Cross lit up between the trees on the skyline.

Happy Easter, and happy reading my friends.

Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen

EXCERPT: I haven’t looked at this music since the day I bought it in Rome. Now, as I clip the page to the stand, I think of that gloomy antiques shop, and the proprietor, lurking like some cave creature in the alcove. Goose bumps suddenly stipple my skin, as if the chill of the shop still clings to this music.

I pick up my violin and begin to play.

On this humid afternoon, my instrument sounds deeper, richer than ever, the tone mellow and warm. The first thirty-two bars of the waltz are as beautiful as I’d imagined, a lament in a mournful baritone. But at measure forty, the notes accelerate. The melody twists and turns, jarred by the accidentals, and soars into the seventh position on the E-string. Sweat breaks out on my face as I struggle to stay in tune and maintain the tempo. I feel as if my bow takes off on its own, that it’s moving as though bewitched and I’m just struggling to hold onto it. Oh, what glorious music this is! What a performance piece, if I can master it. The notes skitter up the scale. Suddenly I lose all control and everything goes off-pitch, my left hand cramping as the music builds to a frenzy.

A small hand grasps my leg. Something warm and wet smears my skin.

I stop playing and look down. Lily stares up at me, her eyes as clear as turquoise water. Even as I jump up in dismay and wrench the garden tool from her bloody hand, not a ripple disturbs her calm blue eyes. Her bare feet have tracked footprints across the patio flagstone. With growing horror, I follow those footprints back to the source of the blood.

Then I start screaming.

ABOUT ‘PLAYING WITH FIRE’: What if your child wanted you dead?

Julia doesn’t understand what is happening to her daughter, but she thinks she knows what’s causing it. She is terrified for Lily, and for herself, but what scares her more is that no one believes her.

If she is going to help Lily, she will have to find the answers alone, embarking on a search that will take her to the shadowy back streets of Venice.

There, Julia uncovers a heartbreaking, long-buried tale of tragedy and devastation – a discovery that puts her in serious danger. Some people will do anything in their power to keep the truth silent…

MY THOUGHTS: Wow! I picked this up and didn’t put it down until I had finished. Playing With Fire is an extremely cleverly crafted novel. The melody in ‘Incendio’ is not the only thing that twists and turns.

We switch between present day Brookline, Massachusetts with violinist Julia Ansdell, and the late 1930’s in Venice, Italy with violinist Lorenzo Todesco, composer of Incendio.

Interspersed with Julia’s battles to master this complex composition, and the atrocities perpetrated by her three year old daughter Lily, is Lorenzo’s story which takes place as the rights of the Italian Jews are being eroded, and eventually as they are rounded up and sent north to ‘labour camps.’ But as we all know, they were no labour camps. The reality was far more grim.

Playing With Fire gripped me from the first page to the last. There is a palpable sense of menace emanating from both storylines. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to fear that your angelic looking three year old daughter is trying to kill you. Nor what it must be like to be torn from your home in the middle of the night with only the clothes on your back, herded away from everything that is familiar and dear to you, and then forcibly separated from your loved ones.

Playing With Fire was nothing like I expected. It was even better.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#PlayingWithFire #NetGalley #tess.gerritsen #bantampress

@tessgerritsen @BantamPress

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #historicalfaction #mystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.

While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. Now retired from medicine, she writes full time. She lives in Maine.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishing, Bantam Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen for review. I unreservedly apologise for taking so long to read this. 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

Small Town Secrets by Alys Murray

EXCERPT: On the outskirts of Fortune Springs, the houses lined the streets with modern, rustic elegance, but the closer I got to the heart of town, the older those buildings grew. Sure, it had two whole traffic lights and wired electricity and everything else you’d expect from a modern town, but the buildings were constructed in that classic, Western settlement style. Some dark, timber structures soaked up all the light of the street, while some of the brightly coloured shops and hotspots reflected it, nearly blinding in the afternoon sunshine.

It was all so beautiful. So simple. So painfully quaint and so obvious that the entire town had been built by love and determination. It was part real-life fairytale and part Hollywood Old West backlot. The muscle buried in the left side of my cheek tweaked painfully as I tried to school my enthusiasm back into cool indifference.

This place was a means to an end. It couldn’t be anything more. I couldn’t let it be.

ABOUT ‘SMALL TOWN SECRETS’: “Young women needed for the Fortune Springs Town Improvement Initiative. One year’s room and board provided.”

I should have known it was too good to be true when I first saw the ad. It turns out that Fortune Springs, Colorado isn’t just a one-horse town, it’s a two-woman one, and this is their attempt to keep the community alive. I want to say the scheme is ridiculous, totally outdated, but I’m carrying everything I own in my canvas backpack and the greyhound I stepped off this morning is long gone. If this is my chance at a fresh start, I’d better grab it with both hands.

I know I should feel guilty about pretending to be a lonely heart willing to help repopulate this rural logging town, but all I feel is relief at having escaped the apartment in Savannah. And after all, what’s one more secret to add to the pile? I only hope I’ve hidden my tracks well enough, and that the kind Fortune Springs locals who’ve opened their doors to me will never find out what made me run away in the first place…

MY THOUGHTS: Although it was obvious from the outset where Alys Murray was taking us in Small Town Secrets, it was an enjoyable journey that left me with a big smile on my face.

I picked up this book for two reasons. I adored the cover. It is simple, eye catching and enigmatic. And I thought of Middlemarch, a small town in the South Island of New Zealand that, pre-Covid, biennially hosted a singles ball which, inspired by the matchmaking dances of the 1950s, has been bringing together thousands of young, mostly unattached, people every two years since 2001. There is a well known man drought in New Zealand, so ‘the event has become especially appealing to single women. That in turn has attracted rural men – shepherds, stock agents and farmers in the high country of the underpopulated South Island. Isolated and time-poor, they are often ignored on dating apps such as Tinder because the GPS pinpoints their location as hundreds of kilometres from the nearest cocktail bar. So for many the singles ball at Middlemarch (normal population 186) is a significant calendar event, a genuine opportunity to meet a partner, a companion, a husband or wife.’ (The Guardian)

I guess I was expecting Small Town Secrets to be a little like this. It was, and it wasn’t.

While Virginia is looking for sanctuary, she definitely is not looking for love. She just needs somewhere to hide out for a while, to get her life back together, and then she plans to high tail it out of this one horse town the moment her year is up and head for sunny California.

Only she hadn’t reckoned on Calla, Willa, Owen and a bunch of Dalmatian puppies.

There are very few characters in this book. Virginia, her ex Porter, and those mentioned above is just about it…..there are, of course, a few on the periphery, but really, that is it.

I loved Calla from the outset, and I would love to know what her story is. She has obviously been through some tough times, but she is warm and generous and big-hearted. Calla’s granddaughter Willa, Virginia, and Owen have also been through some bad times. They have all suffered trauma, physical and emotional, and find it difficult to open up and trust people. Although there are very few characters, they are well developed, and their stories captured my heart.

Small Town Secrets is a lovely, if predictable, read. I will be reading more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#SmallTownSecrets #NetGalley #writeralys #bookouture

@writeralys @bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #romance

THE AUTHOR: Alys Murray is an author who writes for the romantic in all of us. Though she graduated with a degree in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a Master’s in Film Studies from King’s College London, her irrepressible love of romance led her to a career as an author, and she couldn’t be happier to write these stories!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Small Town Secrets by Alys Murray for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Storm clouds are gathering. The weather that has flooded New South Wales this week is due to hit New Zealand tonight. The sunrise this morning was spectacular, but I’m afraid that I just lay in bed and enjoyed it this morning. I did think about leaping out of bed and grabbing the camera, but my body wasn’t listening 🤷‍♀️

Currently I am reading Small Town Secrets by Alys Murray, which is absolutely delightful! This is a book that I requested because the cover appealed, but it is definitely a winner. It’s a light romance with a few life lessons. I love the characters, who are well developed, quirky, and believable.

I am listening to Partners in Crime by Stuart MacBride, (Logan McRae 6.5-7.5) I love this author’s sense of humour.

I am also reading The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. This is another book peopled by characters I love. This is the April group read for the ‘All About Books’ Goodreads.com group. This would make an excellent movie.

This week I am planning on reading Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi. The author provided me with an ARC.

This delightful collection of short stories offers insight into the lives of Syrian women, both the married and the brides-to-be. It reveals the warmth and humor as well as the oppression in the Syrian society. The stories make the reader laugh while addressing serious issues such as domestic violence.
Um Hussam can’t find a suitable bride for her son, testing each candidate’s sight, hearing and reading skills, occasionally cobbing a feel. Jamila’s husband Hassan can’t forget his deceased wife, until she makes sure he never mentions her again. Rami can’t help but wonder whether his new bride is a natural beauty or a talented surgeon’s masterpiece. Khadija’s maid stabs her in the back while Rana’s husband Muafak can’t find the right excuse to avoid a fight. 

And Of Magpies and Men by Ode Ray. This is also an author ARC.

Can any good come of longings that a person can never satisfy? If so, good for whom?

Two corpses wash ashore in a picturesque Italian village, the violence that put them there is bound to a long-held secret and two strangers living worlds apart with seemingly nothing in common.

Benedict Grant a wealthy Londoner, leading a lonely life.

Marie Boulanger a nurse and single mum, struggling to make ends meet in Marseille.

However, a mother’s illicit revelation will set in motion a chain of events that will reshape their identities, stir poignant family affairs and delve into the by-products of lawless decisions.

I am possibly being a little ambitious this week as it is the end of our financial year so there’s a lot of extra work to be done.

I received three new Netgalley ARCs this week:

The Last Night in London by Karen White

My Little Girl by Shalini Boland

and The Whispers by Heidi Perks

What are you planning on reading this week? I have three reviews I need to write, but as I am having trouble stringing my thoughts together coherently, I will wait until the morning to make a start, and hope that get a good night’s sleep tonight.

Has anyone else had any trouble downloading the audiobook Mrs Wiggins? I have made several unsuccessful attempts to download it to my ipod. It jams at around 10% and goes no further. I haven’t had this problem with any of the other audiobooks I have downloaded from Netgalley.

Have a wonderful week everyone!❤📚

The Incredible Winston Browne

EXCERPT: His ankle was acting up, and he was pretty sure he’d pulled his groin. He hadn’t moved this fast since he wore catcher’s gear. By the time he reached the chicken house, he was limping like a lame horse and his ankle was throbbing. Whatever was making the noise was tangled in the homemade booby trap of pots and pans. Before he opened the door, he handed the lantern to Robbie. ‘You hold the light, I’ll scare him! Whatever you do, don’t let him get away!’

After a few deep breaths, Jimmy cocked the rifle, kicked open the door to the coop, and used such force he almost brought the little building down.

Chickens screamed. Virgil fluttered his wings like he was possessed by the Devil. White feathers went everywhere. Jimmy barged inside, rifle in both hands. Robbie stayed beside him, holding the lantern outward.

Jimmy dropped the rifle. He expected to see an old drunk, or a few teenagers, or a hobo tangled in wire and tin pots. But it was no man.

‘That’s your chicken thief?’ said Robbie.

It was a little girl.

ABOUT ‘THE INCREDIBLE WINSTON BROWNE’:
In the small, sleepy town of Moab, Florida, folks live for ice cream socials, Jackie Robinson, and the local paper’s weekly gossip column. For decades, Sheriff Winston Browne has watched over Moab with a generous eye, and by now he’s used to handling the daily dramas that keep life interesting for Moab’s quirky residents. But just after Winston receives some terrible, life-altering news, a feisty little girl with mysterious origins shows up in his best friend’s henhouse. Suddenly Winston has a child in desperate need of protection—as well as a secret of his own to keep.

With the help of Moab’s goodhearted townsfolk, the humble and well-meaning Winston Browne still has some heroic things to do. He finds romance, family, and love in unexpected places. He stumbles upon adventure, searches his soul, and grapples with the past. In doing so, he just might discover what a life well-lived truly looks like.

MY THOUGHTS: I honestly don’t know how to describe this book. I loved the characters and the setting, and I really, really wanted to love this overall, but I just didn’t. I liked it. I liked it a lot, but I just didn’t quite fall in love with The Incredible Winston Browne.

I loved the character of Winston Browne. He is everything to the town of Moab, and the town and its people have been everything to him, but now that he is dying there are a few things he realizes he has missed out on, including the love of a good woman. He has never married – and there is a story behind that – and has no children. But it’s obviously too late for all of that – or is it? Life has a strange habit of filling the gaps in the most unexpected ways.

I also loved the growth in Eleanor’s character. I was amazed at how old the characters seemed for their age. They all acted a lot older than their age if you compare them with people of the same age today. But then they didn’t have all the labour saving devices that we enjoy today either. If you look back at photos of people in the 1950s, they even look older.

Jessie is the sort of character you can’t help rooting for. She is determined and loyal.

This is a good story that defies categorization. There is a little romance, a little thriller, a little drama. A little like life.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheIncredibleWinstonBrowne #NetGalley
#thomasnelsonpublishing #seanofthesouth
@ThomasNelson @seanofthesouth1
#historicalfiction #sliceoflife #romance

THE AUTHOR: Sean Dietrich is a columnist, podcaster, speaker, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, The Tallahassee Democrat, Good Grit, South Magazine, The Bitter Southerner, Thom Magazine, and The Mobile Press Register, and he has authored ten books.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thomas Nelson via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage.

Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

EXCERPT: Home.

Amy felt better just seeing her front garden. Her beautiful pots guarded the house faithfully. She held her keyring tightly in her hand as she finally slid her key into the lock. Amy went in and closed the door behind her, ready to forget that the evening had ever happened.

She stepped forward into her hallway and tripped. One of her giant stacks of newspapers had fallen over. Again. Newspapers were mingling with unopened mail and dried petals. The debris lined the floor like autumn leaves. She shuffled through; she couldn’t face clearing up the mess. Not this evening. Some of the other towers of newspaper looked precarious too, reaching floor to ceiling like Doric columns. Her hallway reminded her of the Acropolis.

The Acropolis after a party, she thought, stumbling over an empty wine bottle. She used to store her collection of green bottles in the kitchen, but she’d had to move some so she could get into the fridge. Ten or twenty privileged bottles sat on her hallway shelves; a couple had even been transformed into vases with stems of honeysuckle. But that had been some time ago, and the flowers had dehydrated into crunchy brown husks.

Many of the bottles lounged empty on the floor, still waiting for a purpose.

A second chance.

ABOUT ‘EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL’: Sometimes it’s impossible to part with the things we love the most…

When Amy Ashton’s world came crashing down eleven years ago, she started a collection. Just a little collection, just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.

Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery long buried, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?

MY THOUGHTS: Everything is Beautiful was a little more chic-lit than I was expecting… I liked the plot and thought it had a great deal of potential, but I found most of the characters, including Amy, quite stylized. I loved Richard and his boys.

Amy’s ‘collection’ addiction is treated very sympathetically.

The mystery was quite unexpected, as was the solution and, for me, was the highlight of the book.

This is a quick, easy and entertaining read but I was expecting a little more depth than what I got.

⭐⭐⭐.3

#EverythingisBeautiful #NetGalley
#hachetteaudio #eleanorraybooks
@HachetteAudio @#eleanorraybooks

#contemporaryfiction #mystery #domesticdrama #romance

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette UK Audio via Netgalley for providing an audiobook ARC of Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

EXCERPT: Riverbend picnic ground greeted her in a spectacular sherbet dawn with myriad shades of pink, purple and peach splaying across the sky in long graceful strands. The Murray River, wide at this bend, glinted violet in the light and a lone pelican glided towards her. Cockatiels shrieked and wheeled above, bursting yet another myth that the country was a quiet and peaceful place.

The wide sandy beach with its tall over-hanging trees – perfect for swinging and bombing into deep water – provided Helen with the real gift. Its existence meant the shire had spent the big bucks installing a boat ramp, gas barbecues, an instant hot water tap, picnic tables and a playground. There was also a state-of-the-art amenities block complete with a toilet for people with a disability, a sink, baby-change area and, miracle of miracles, a shower.

Despite her exhaustion, Helen whooped with delight. She lathered up and washed her hair, herself and then her clothes. Afterwards she fired up a barbecue, cooked an egg in bread and ate it sitting in the folding camping chair she’d found on a roadside collection weeks before. Soaking up the view, she pretended she was living in one of the impressive riverside homes, enjoying her custom-built outdoor kitchen on her deck.

Daylight meant no one would ask her to move on; she had a few hours reprieve. A few hours to luxuriate in normalcy and ignore her homelessness. Then the sun would inevitably sink, giving carte blanche to the insidious march of inky darkness and all the dangers that lurked within.

ABOUT ‘A HOME LIKE OURS’: Tara Hooper is at breaking point. With two young children, a business in a town struggling under an unexpected crime wave, and her husband more interested in his cricket team than their marriage, life is a juggling act. Then, when new neighbours arrive and they are exactly the sort of people the town doesn’t want or need, things get worse.

Life has taught Helen Demetriou two things: being homeless is terrifying and survival means keeping your cards close to your chest. Having clawed back some stability through her involvement in the community garden, she dares to relax. But as she uncovers some shady goings-on in the council, that stability turns to quicksand.

For teenage mother Jade Innes, life can be lonely among the judgement of the town and the frequent absences of her boyfriend. A chance encounter draws her into the endangered community garden where she makes friends for the first time. Glimpsing a different way of life is enticing but its demands are terrifying. Does she even deserve to try?

Can such disparate women unite to save the garden and ultimately stop the town from tearing itself apart?

MY THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed the prologue, in which we meet the homeless Helen who is living in her car.

At 30% I was seriously considering abandoning this book. We have jumped forward in time several years and are introduced to Tara, Jade, and Bob and the various people in their circles. I wasn’t connecting with any of the characters and was bored by the repetition, Tara’s obsession with sex, and Jade’s adoration of her deadbeat boyfriend and father of her baby. And then there’s the machinations of the local council, vandalism, racism, prejudice, Tara’s mainly horrible ‘friends’, her obsession with her gym instructor, and her husband’s medical problem. Too much! It was like tipping several different salads into one bowl, mixing them up and then expecting people to eat them.

I finished the book mainly because of Helen. And Fiza. And Bob and his nephew Lachlan. In the end it was almost okay read, but only just. A Home Like Ours is a long book and frequently dragged. The author tries to address far too many issues at once and while we get a lot of information about some, others are virtually ignored after being introduced. And none of them were really done justice.

I would have loved this book to have focused on Helen’s story, which is where it started. Each of the other main characters and issues deserves their own book.

I finished still feeling mostly dissatisfied. There were questions I had that remained unanswered, and the ending felt glib and shallow. I am glad that others have found this an uplifting read. I didn’t.

Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from A Home Like Ours, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Many other people have read and enjoyed A Home Like Ours and rated it higher than I have. Please also check out their reviews.

⭐⭐.3

#AHomeLikeOurs #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Fiona’s been the recipient of a RITA and a RuBY award. Families and communities intrigue her and she loves creating characters you could meet on the street and enjoys putting them in unique situations where morals and values can blur and she begs the reader to ask themselves, ‘What would you do?’

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia & MIRA for providing a digital ARC of A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe 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 . . .

I am sitting in the shelter of the windbreak on our deck enjoying the heat of the sun on my back. It’s been a real mixed bag weatherwise today. We have had heavy downpours, strong winds and it was really cold overnight. I can always tell how cold it is by where Tighe, our cat, chooses to sleep. Last night it was on my raspberry mohair throw on the end of our bed. And she was in no hurry to move this morning. Neither was I, but I had to go to work so I had no choice.

After work Pete took me out for a late lunch in Otorohanga, the next town north of here, where he works. The Thirsty Weta has recently changed hands and has been beautifully renovated. We had a delicious lunch; fish and chips for him, and I had chili prawns and a glass of pinot gris as I wasn’t driving.

I think we will just be having something light for dinner tonight, eggs on toast, or toasted sandwiches.

I finished A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe in the early hours of this morning and will be posting my review tomorrow.

I am currently listening to Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray.

And reading Raven Black by Ann Cleeves for my Goodreads.com Mystery, Crime and Thriller group read.

This is the first in her Shetland series featuring Detective Jimmy Perez. I love her writing and am finding it hard to put this down. I will probably have finished it before the group read officially starts on the Street 15th (the ides of March?)

This week I am planning on reading Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colisanti, an author I haven’t previously read.

Twenty years ago, Myra Barkley’s daughter disappeared from the rocky beach across from the family inn, off the Oregon coast. Ever since, Myra has waited at the front desk for her child to come home. One rainy afternoon, the miracle happens–her missing daughter, now twenty-eight years old with a child of her own, walks in the door.

Elizabeth Lark is on the run with her son. She’s just killed her abusive husband and needs a place to hide. Against her better judgment, she heads to her hometown and stops at the Barkley Inn. When the innkeeper insists that Elizabeth is her long lost daughter, the opportunity for a new life, and more importantly, the safety of her child, is too much for Elizabeth to pass up. But she knows that she isn’t the Barkleys’s daughter, and the more deeply intertwined she becomes with the family, the harder it becomes to confess the truth.

Except the Barkley girl didn’t just disappear on her own. As the news spreads across the small town that the Barkley girl has returned, Elizabeth suddenly comes into the limelight in a dangerous way, and the culprit behind the disappearance those twenty years ago is back to finish the job.

And The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich

In the small, sleepy town of Moab, Florida, folks live for ice cream socials, Jackie Robinson, and the local paper’s weekly gossip column. For decades, Sheriff Winston Browne has watched over Moab with a generous eye, and by now he’s used to handling the daily dramas that keep life interesting for Moab’s quirky residents. But just after Winston receives some terrible, life-altering news, a feisty little girl with mysterious origins shows up in his best friend’s henhouse. Suddenly Winston has a child in desperate need of protection—as well as a secret of his own to keep.

With the help of Moab’s goodhearted townsfolk, the humble and well-meaning Winston Browne still has some heroic things to do. He finds romance, family, and love in unexpected places. He stumbles upon adventure, searches his soul, and grapples with the past. In doing so, he just might discover what a life well-lived truly looks like.

This week I have two new ebook ARCs, and one audiobook from Netgalley.

The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd

And audiobook The Good Neighbour by R.J. Parker

So that’s my lot for today. Let me know what you’re reading and what new books have found their way into your TBR piles.

We are back to the new normal as from 6am today, so just recording where we’ve been with whom, social distancing from people we don’t know and sanitize, sanitize, sanitize! I hope restrictions are also easing wherever you are. ❤📚