Watching What I Read

It really doesn’t feel like three weeks since I last posted a weekly round up. But we are mostly settled into our lovely new home. There are still 600+ books to be unpacked, but I need to buy some more shelving. I have that on my list for Wednesday, when I am off to the city for the day.

Currently I am reading

Small Great Things

which I am finding difficult to put down. My daughter-in-law loaned it to me, and she read it in one sitting in the plane on the way home from Rarotonga.

I am about to start

A Village Affair: Perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Gervaise Phinn

which is due for publication November 6th.

I am currently listening to

Girl on a Train

which I am also loving. I am almost all done and, for once, was right about ‘whodunit’.

This week I am planning on reading

Winter Cottage

A gripping novel about family secrets…and coming home for the first time.

Still grieving the loss of her wandering, free-spirited mother, Lucy Kincaid leaves Nashville for the faded town of Cape Hudson, Virginia. She goes to see the house she’s inherited—one she never knew existed, bequeathed to her by a woman she’s never even met. At the heart of this mystery is the hope that maybe—just maybe—this “Winter Cottage” will answer the endless questions about her mother’s past…including the identity of her birth father.

Rather than the quaint Virginian bungalow Lucy expected, Winter Cottage is a grand old estate of many shadows—big enough to hold a century of secrets, passions, and betrayals. It also comes with a handsome and enigmatic stranger, a man next in line to claim Lucy’s inheritance.

Now, as Lucy sifts through the past, uncovering the legacy of secrets that Winter Cottage holds, she’ll come to discover as much about her family history as she does about herself. In searching, she could finally find the one thing she’s never really had: a home.

And hopefully I will also fit in

The Coordinates of Loss

From bestselling author Amanda Prowse comes a tale of a blissful life, a happy marriage, a beloved son…and a tragedy that destroys it all.

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.

In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.

Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

Since I last posted, I have been approved for

Lost Lake (Detective Gemma Monroe, #3)

Closer

Our Little Lies

What reads do you have coming up that you are excited about?

Well, I am off to spend a couple of hours in my garden before settling in to watch the Supercars Enduro race from the Gold Coast.

Enjoy what remains of your weekend and happy reading my friends. 😎

Friday Favorite – A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi

Looking for something to read over the weekend ?

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

Take a look at my Friday Favorite. It may be new. It may be old. It may be written by a famous author, or by someone you have never heard of. But wherever in the spectrum it falls, it will be a book that is special to me, one that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi

EXCERPT: ‘I should never have married him,’ said Diana sadly. ‘It was very wrong of me.’

Tom looked at her sharply. ‘Why do you say that?’

‘Because I didn’t love him,’ said Diana. ‘….And should I go to Paris, do you think? It really would cheer me up.’

‘Absolutely not,’ said Tom, sounding as stern as he could. ‘You’d wipe out any goodwill at a stroke.’

She sighed, then managed a watery smile.

‘All right. I’ll do my best. But I can’t promise anything. You’ve no idea what it’s like living with someone who hates you. Or at best dislikes and mistrusts you. That hurts. Oh, Tom, dear friend Tom, I know you’ve got to go, but thank you so much for coming and listening to me, and advising me. Just talking to you has made me feel better. I just hope I can do the same for you one day. Contrary to what you might think, I’m very good at keeping secrets. Go on, home to Alice the angel and I’ll hope to see you very soon.’

She was very tall, hardly had to reach up to kiss him, but she did, a long, gentle kiss on the lips. It was confusing, that kiss, albeit not in the least carnal. Tom said good luck, and half stumbled out the front door and down into the perfectly groomed Padster Mews, where he stood for a while, taking deep breaths and steadying himself.

She was danger, was Diana Southcott. He was more aware of it with every meeting. He started to run, hoping for three things. That Alice wouldn’t be too cross with him; that he had no lingering whiff of Diana’s heady, heavy perfume about him; and that she would not go to Paris.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A Question Of Trust is vintage Penny Vincenzi: rich with characters, life-changing decisions, glamour, love, desire and conflict.

1950s London. Tom Knelston is charismatic, working class and driven by ambition, ideals and passion. He is a man to watch. His wife Alice shares his vision. It seems they are the perfect match.

Then out of the blue, Tom meets beautiful and unhappily married Diana Southcott, a fashion model. An exciting but dangerous affair is inevitable and potentially damaging to their careers. And when a child becomes ill, Tom is forced to make decisions about his principles, his reputation, his marriage, and most of all, his love for his child.

MY THOUGHTS: I read the final chapter of this book with tears trickling down my face. When I finished, I sat with it clutched to my chest like I was hugging an old friend before parting for who knows how long. Vincenzi has this effect on me every time. This time was even more poignant, with A Question of Trust being the last book she published before her death.

Vincenzi has a vast cast of characters, she even lists and explains their role in the book, but they are never hard to keep track of. I know the extract I chose may read like a particularly nauseating soap opera. But it’s not. It is warm, touching, rich and heart-breaking. It is full of glamour, and struggles, both personal and professional. No one can write like Vincenzi.

So, no more sweeping sagas. No more characters who feel like family and friends by the time I reach the end of the book. I will just have to go back to her first book and read them all over again.

😍😍😍😍😍

THE AUTHOR: Her family, Headline and her agent Clare Alexander are sad to announce the death of their beloved Penny Vincenzi who died peacefully on February 25th.

At the launch of her 19th book, A Question of Trust, last year, Penny said: “If nobody buys it, it will be my last book; otherwise, no, I don’t want it to be my last book … I still love writing and the whole process.” And at the time of her death Penny was several chapters into a new book. We would urge those who haven’t discovered all of her books yet to explore the backlist, and we look forward to publishing A Question of Trust in paperback this year.

Penny Vincenzi, who died in 2018, was one of the UK’s best-loved and most popular authors. Since her first book, Old Sins, was first published in 1989, she went on to write sixteen more bestselling novels and two collections of stories. She began her career as a junior secretary for Vogue magazine and went on to work at The Daily Mirror, Tatler, and later as a Fashion and Beauty Editor on magazines such as Woman’s Own, Nova and Honey, before becoming a Deputy Editor of Options and Contributing Editor of Cosmopolitan. Over seven million copies of Penny’s books have been sold worldwide and she is universally held to be the ‘doyenne of the modern blockbuster’ (Glamour).

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi, published by Headline Publishing Group. 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/2473050928

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This will be my last blog until sometime next week, as I am well behind on my packing and cleaning as we prepare to move house this weekend.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

EXCERPT: Charlie – May 1947 – Southampton

The first person I met in England was a hallucination. I brought her with me, on board the serene ocean liner that had carried my numb, grief haunted self from New York to Southampton.

I was sitting opposite my mother at a wicker table among the potted palms in the Dolphin Hotel, trying to ignore what my eyes were telling me. The blonde girl by the front desk wasn’t who I thought she was. I knew that she wasn’t who I thought she was. She was just an English girl waiting beside her family’s luggage, someone I’d never seen before – but that didn’t stop my mind from telling me she was someone else.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

MY THOUGHTS: The Alice Network is a book that drew me in and captivated me from start to finish. Parts of it are true, parts are based on truth, and parts are pure fiction. Purists would argue that it has been sanitized, diluted. And they are probably right. But this book lays no claim to being a historical record, it is marketed as a work of fiction, and it’s a damned good one.

The parallel story lines work well, with Eve Gardiner the link between the two, Charlie St Clair the catalyst for what unfolds.

Although this is a somewhat long book at a little over 500 pages, it didn’t feel long. I have read books with far fewer pages that felt much longer. The audio version lacks the authors afterward which defines what who and what events were actual people or happenings, and so at some stage I will pick up a copy of the actual book for a reread and this information. Saskia Maarleveld does a wonderful job of narrating.

I must admit to having more than a touch of car envy, with the wonderful description of Finn’s beautiful motors!

💕💕💕💕.5 All up, a wonderful experience.

THE AUTHOR: Kate Quinn is a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written seven historical novels, including the bestselling “The Alice Network,” the Empress of Rome Saga, and the Borgia Chronicle. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld and published by Harper Audio via OverDrive. 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/2534867585

Tear Me Apart by J.T . Ellison

Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

EXCERPT: The metal of the casket is the same color as the sky, murky gray with touches of glinting silver as the sun passes behind the clouds. The sound of sobbing, the cries of the justified, the flailing of my heart. Why did I choose such a big casket? She doesn’t fit. It’s the smallest adult coffin they have, but it’s still too large. She is lost inside. They should have handled this. The padding needed to be expanded so her body doesn’t jostle.

The body. Her body.

The words I’ve heard in the past few days are ones I never expected – new, untried, untested. Casket. Body. Funeral. Viewing. Embalming. Autopsy. Severed. Seven-inch non-corrosive steel blade.

Homicide.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.

One moment will change their lives forever…

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers?

The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

With vivid movement through time, Tear Me Apart examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

MY THOUGHTS: Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison is the, most aptly named book I have ever read. It did tear me apart. I ran the whole gamut of my emotions, multiple times. I laughed, I cried, I was shocked, appalled, horrified, excited, scared, tense, and utterly captivated.

And then, when I was 90% through, and my Kindle ran out of charge – I thought the world had come to an end! I could not bear it! I paced. I pleaded with the Gods. I invoked ancient charms. I chewed my lip, and raked my hands through my hair, all to no avail. I simply had to wait. . .

The tension builds slowly, but build it does, into a series of earth shattering peaks, each higher than the last. I gave up chewing my nails years ago but, my goodness, they took a hammering with this read. And the crescendo is. . . well, words fail me.

There are a lot of complex issues dealt with in this book. Child abduction, child trafficking, cancer, depression and suicide. Depression and suicide touch all our lives, and while you or I may or may not suffer directly, we all know someone who does, whose life is affected by the ‘black dog’. And at this point, I would like to quote from the author’s note at the end of the book. . .’ ‘Some day darker than usual.’ It is this I want you to remember, should you ever find yourselfin the darkness. This feeling is temporary, no matter how cruel and pervasive it feels. It will get better. There is hope.

I hope this book will allow us to have more open dialoguesabout mental illness. There is no shame in a diagnosis of depression, or bipolar disorder, or severe anxiety, or any other mental illness. On the contrary, a diagnosis should be celebrated, because you, or your friend, or your family member has been brave enough to seek help. A wonderful doctor once told us there is no difference in these diagnoses than discovering you have diabetes – your body simply doesn’t process the same way another’s does. It is something to remember, and with that mentality, perhaps we can erase the stigma altogether. ‘

There are so many facets to this book, it is like the world’s most intricately cut diamond. But at no point while I read, did I ever feel confused. J. T. Ellison knows her stuff. Tear Me Apart has earned a whole super-nova of stars from me.

💖💖💖💖💖

THE AUTHOR: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes standalone domestic noir and psychological thriller series, the latter starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the international thriller series “A Brit in the FBI” with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the Emmy Award-winning literary television series, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin-Mira via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison 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/2440636892

L’Anglaise by Helen E Mundler

L'Anglaise by Helen E. Mundler

EXCERPT: … (she) had supposed that Hugo’s funeral would take place in a church, none in particular, but behind some blameless edifice of North London, perhaps even beautiful.

Margaret had served the funeral arrangements up as a fait accompli, had completed her message on Ella’s voice-mail with the phrase, ‘It’s at the Mount Vernon crematorium, if you want to come,’ thus rendering her an intruder, an outsider at her own father’s funeral, uncertain of her status, like an au pair on the scene of a family tragedy.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: At 35 years old, Ella is no longer excited by her academic career in France and has not found love. Following the unexpected death of her father, she is thrown into crisis, but then she meets the enigmatic Max. Over the course of a summer, their romance deepens—until she makes a discovery that throws everything off course. As Ella’s life becomes bound up with the stories of two other Englishwomen in France, she finds the freedom to tread an unconventional path and to love in her own way. This rich and complex work examines the effects on children of parents in fraught and painful relationships; the fragility of identity; and the ways love can heal.

MY THOUGHTS: L’Anglaise is a quietly brilliant book. Mundler’s writing is awkward in some places, deliberate I think as it complements Ella’s awkwardness with her own life. For although she is outwardly successful, she is not ‘comfortable’, not in her professional nor private lives, and certainly not with her family. If you have ever felt that you were the only person not issued with a rule book at the outset of life, then you will relate to Ella.

In other places, Mundler’s writing is gentle, touching, surprisingly perceptive. Thesetwo writing styles, artistically combined, produce an engaging and absorbing read. There were several times, as I was reading, that I wondered if this might be a memoir, slightly auto-biographical. Still I wonder.

L’Anglaise is a read that must not be rushed. It was a read that often made me stop and think, to recall moments in my own life and to view them from a different angle.

😍😍😍😍😍

THE AUTHOR: Helen E. Mundler is an associate professor. She is the author of Homesickness, as well as two critical works, Intertextualité dans l’oeuvre d’A.S.Byatt and The Otherworlds of Liz Jensen: a Critical Reading. She lives in Paris.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Holland House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of L’Anglaise by Helen E. Mundler 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/2323364566

Watching What I Read

Happy Sunday! And it is a lovely sunny day, but the wind still has a real bite to it.

Just this morning I have started reading

Kiss of Death (DS Heckenburg, #7)

Could this be the end for Heck?

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with an unforgettable crime thriller. Fans of MJ Arlidge and Stuart MacBride won’t be able to put this down.

Don’t let them catch you…

A Deadly Hunt
DS ‘Heck’ Heckenburg has been tasked with retrieving one of the UK’s most wanted men. But the trail runs cold when Heck discovers a video tape showing the fugitive in a fight for his life. A fight he has no chance of winning.

A Dangerous Game
Heck realises that there’s another player in this game of cat and mouse, and this time, they’ve not just caught the prize: they’ve made sure no one else ever does.

A Man Who Plays With Fire
How far will Heck and his team go to protect some of the UK’s most brutal killers? And what price is he willing to pay?

I certainly hope this isn’t the end for Heck. I want to be reading of his adventures for a good while yet.

This week I am planning on reading

L'Anglaise

At 35 years old, Ella is no longer excited by her academic career in France and has not found love. Following the unexpected death of her father, she is thrown into crisis, but then she meets the enigmatic Max. Over the course of a summer, their romance deepens—until she makes a discovery that throws everything off course. As Ella’s life becomes bound up with the stories of two other Englishwomen in France, she finds the freedom to tread an unconventional path and to love in her own way. This rich and complex work examines the effects on children of parents in fraught and painful relationships; the fragility of identity; and the ways love can heal.

Tear Me Apart

The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.

One moment will change their lives forever…

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers?

The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

With vivid movement through time, Tear Me Apart examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

I was approved for 5 ARCs from NetGalley this week, amongst them was an approval from Avon Books UK for a mystery read to be published this November. There is no title, no cover, no author, but the publicity blurb reads as follows ‘

There’s a stranger in your home…

A haunting and twisty story about the lies we tell those closest to us, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Cass Green.

Would you like to hear a story about two little girls who did something bad?

We’re asking you to be brave and request this book without knowing the title or the plot. If you’re approved, you’ll get to read a brand new psychological thriller and we ask that you keep everything secret until Halloween 2018 when we’ll reveal all…

‘Spooky and absorbing, this had me gripped from the first page’ – Cass Green

The Warning

An Irish Country Cottage (Irish Country, #14)

The Man She Married

In the Galway Silence (Jack Taylor, #14)

I am away looking after my grandchildren this week, so my reading and posting may be a little sporadic. Have a wonderful week and happy reading.

 

 

 

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

EXCERPT: Another drop of sweat slid from Ellis’s fedora, down his neck, and into his starched collar. Even without his suit jacket, his whole shirt clung from the damn humidity. He moved closer to the house and raised his camera. Natural scenic shots were his usual hobby, but he adjusted the lens to bring the kids into focus. With them came a sign. A raw, wooden slat with jagged edges, it bowed slightly against the porch, as if reclining under the weight of the afternoon heat. The offer it bore, scrawled in charcoal, didn’t fully register until Ellis snapped the photo.

2 children for sale

ABOUT THIS BOOK: From New York Times bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes another unforgettable novel inspired by a stunning piece of history.

2 CHILDREN FOR SALE

The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs, and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.

For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined.

At the paper, Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in all that happened. She is far too familiar with the heartbreak of children deemed unwanted. As the bonds of motherhood are tested, she and Ellis must decide how much they are willing to risk to mend a fractured family.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a quietly powerful novel. It is not written in a dramatic fashion, yet it tore my emotions to pieces. It gave me everything I expected, and more, yet it was nothing like I expected.

‘Photography is the art of observation. It has little to do with things you see and everything to do with the way you see them’-Elliott Erwitt

None of us know what is in the hearts and minds of others. We are quick to judge by appearances, seldom taking the time to dig beneath the surface to determine the truth. And we do things ourselves, sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes to further our own interests, mostly without thinking through the consequences. This is just what Ellis and Lily do. They individually set in motion a chain of events that neither one of them could have imagined and, united in the aftermath, what they find is not what they expected.

After the initial photograph of the children and it’s accompanying furor, the book focuses largely on Ellis’s career. I kept thinking, ‘The children. . . what is happening to the children?’ I was beginning to think that the book wasn’t about them at all, that it was just an attention grabbing stunt. But I was wrong. The author was making a point, and a very good one, about how easy it is to lose sight of what is important, to be blinded by other things, superficial things that, easily gained, are also easy to lose.

This book is largely about values, about being true to ourselves and our beliefs, about truth and compassion, choices and consequences. But don’t go thinking it is at all preachy or moralistic, because it’s not. It is a beautifully written, compelling and captivating slice of history that will tug at your heartstrings. But it did leave me with one burning question. . . what happened to the two little boys in the first photo that Ellis took? That haunts me still.

💖💖💖💖💖

I feel sure that this book is destined to become a classic.

THE AUTHOR: KRISTINA MCMORRIS is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her novels have garnered more than two dozen literary awards and nominations, including the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, RWA’s RITA® Award, and a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her works of fiction have been published by Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Kensington Books. Her forthcoming novel, Sold on a Monday (Sourcebooks Landmark, 8-28-18), follows her widely praised The Edge of Lost, The Pieces We Keep, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and Letters from Home. Additionally, her novellas are featured in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. Prior to her writing career, Kristina hosted weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, and has been named one of Portland’s “40 Under 40” by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she is working on her next novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark for providing a digital ARC of Sold On A Monday by Kristina McMorris 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/2517252303

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

EXCERPT: ‘In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

MY THOUGHTS: There is some beautifully evocative writing at the start of the book that had me almost salivating. It was promising a deliciously creepy read. . . that never happened.

I believe that The Woman in White was first published as a serial in 1859, which may explain it’s interminable length. Yes, I have read longer books, and enjoyed them, but the Woman in White seems even longer than its 672 pages. It could easily do with losing at least one third of its length. There is so much irrelevant information thrown at the reader that I completely missed out on the connection between Laura Fairlie (Lady Glyde) and the ill-fated Anne Catherick until, frustrated at the end (but oh so glad to be there!) I turned to the Internet to search for the information.

The story itself has many narrators, which Collins himself points out in the preface, and so we get multiple versions of the same story to little effect, a little like listening to the witnesses in a court case where they are all determined to present themselves and their motives in the best possible light.

The characters are largely vapid (insipid, uninspired, colourless, uninteresting, feeble, flat, dead, dull, boring, tedious, tired, unexciting, uninspiring, unimaginative, lifeless, zestless, spiritless, sterile, anaemic, tame, bloodless, jejune, vacuous, bland, stale, trite, pallid, wishy-washy, watery, tasteless, milk-and-water, flavourless).

The story itself, when cut down to its bare bones, is rather clever and focuses on the lack of rights of married women at the time. Honestly? I would love to see this rewritten by Stephen King because, other than the first encounter between Walter Hartright and the woman in white, there is no creepiness whatsoever and I fail to understand how this can be classified as Gothic Horror.

😐😐.5

THE AUTHOR: William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) was an English novelist, playwright, and short story writer. His best-known works are The Woman in White (1859), No Name (1862), Armadale (1866) and The Moonstone (1868). The last is considered the first modern English detective novel.

Born into the family of painter William Collins in London, he lived with his family in Italy and France as a child and learned French and Italian. He worked as a clerk for a tea merchant. After his first novel, Antonina, was published in 1850, he met Charles Dickens, who became a close friend, mentor and collaborator. Some of Collins’s works were first published in Dickens’ journals All the Year Round and Household Words and the two collaborated on drama and fiction.

Collins published his best known works in the 1860s and achieved financial stability and an international reputation. During that time he began suffering from gout. After taking opium for the pain, he developed an addiction. During the 1870s and 1880s the quality of his writing declined along with his health.

Collins was critical of the institution of marriage and never married; he split his time between Caroline Graves, except for a two-year separation, and his common-law wife Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to one of the audiobook versions of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, a very old one I think, which had been copied from tapes. I would not recommend it. The narrators, and there were several, were largely unaccomplished and at times painful to listen to. They, and particularly one of the male narrators, stumbled over words, ignored punctuation, paused in very odd places and drew out the length of wooorrrdddss when they lost their place in the script. Not to be recommended.

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/2485173833

Watching what I’m reading

Another slow week of reading. I admit to feeling absolutely exhausted, and then have been hit by a rather nasty stomach bug that is currently doing the rounds. So instead of visiting my grandson today, I have spent most of the day in bed.

I am a little over half way through

The Wife Before Me

And I am quite enjoying this read.

This week I am planning on reading

Sold on a Monday

From New York Times bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes another unforgettable novel inspired by a stunning piece of history.

2 CHILDREN FOR SALE

The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs, and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.

For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined.

At the paper, Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in all that happened. She is far too familiar with the heartbreak of children deemed unwanted. As the bonds of motherhood are tested, she and Ellis must decide how much they are willing to risk to mend a fractured family.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home.

Better Than This

Sometimes the most enviable life is really a private hell.

On the surface, Sarah Jenkins appears to have it all: a handsome, wealthy and successful husband, a precocious five-year-old daughter, and a beautiful home in an affluent Seattle neighborhood. Her quirky best friend and fellow high school teacher, Maggie, marvels at her luck—and envies her happiness.

But Sarah is far from happy. She feels empty and on edge, harangued by a critical inner voice—and as the truth about her marriage and details of her past emerge, her “perfect” life begins to crumble. But just when it seems all is lost, a long forgotten, unopened letter changes everything, and with the support of friends, Sarah begins to rebuild her life. Can she quiet the critical voice in her head and learn to value herself instead?

I received 6 ARCs from NetGalley this week

Secrets of the Last Castle

What Happened to Us?: A feelgood story of love, loss and new beginnings...

No Way Out (DI Adam Fawley, #3)

Ruth Robinson's Year of Miracles: An uplifting summer read

Women Behaving Badly

In Harm's Way

This time next week, I will be ensconced with my grandsons being a full time Nana for ten days. I can’t wait! They are both bookworms, with sixteen month old Luke having very definite ideas on what he likes to read, and eleven year old Kayden likes finding books for me that I would not otherwise read. He hasn’t made a bad selection for me yet.

Although we are now officially in Spring, our weather is still  distinctly wintery. It’s cold with heavy rain 😩 The only time I have been warm today is when I have been snuggled up in bed . Speaking of which, I am heading back there now.

Happy reading my friends.

Friday Favorite – The Ballroom by Anna Hope

Well here we are at the end of another working week for most of you, and the end of another month. I haven’t read as much as I would have liked, or planned this month, but that’s just life. So now it’s time to take a look at what I’m recommending if you’re looking for something to read over the weekend …

Looking for something to read over the weekend ?

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

Take a look at my Friday Favorite. It may be new. It may be old. It may be written by a famous author, or by someone you have never heard of. But wherever in the spectrum it falls, it will be a book that is special to me, one that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

EXCERPT: ‘Are you going to behave?’ The man’s voice echoed. ‘Are you going to behave?’

She made a noise. Could have been yes. Could have been no, but the blanket was pulled off her head and she gasped for air.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Where love is your only escape ….

1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors, where men and women are kept apart by high walls and barred windows, there is a ballroom vast and beautiful. For one bright evening every week they come together and dance. When John and Ella meet It is a dance that will change two lives forever.

Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, THE BALLROOM is a tale of unlikely love and dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The language is almost poetic, the descriptions draw you into the scenery, the characters are carefully and cleverly crafted.

The story is set in an lunatic asylum on the edge of the Yorkshire moors in 1911 and revolves around four central characters. An asylum should be a place of refuge, where the insane are cared for and protected. This is far from the truth. And it is far from true that everyone incarcerated within is insane.

Ella Fay worked in a mill where all the windows were painted over to prevent the workers from looking outside and wasting their employers time. Desperate to see the sky, to not be confined in this prison of noise and cloth that leeches the life out of her, Ella breaks a window and is then confined to Sharston Asylum until such time she can be declared sane and not a danger to herself or others.

Clemency has been incarcerated by her father and brother for refusing to marry a man who used to teach her. A man who was not kind to her, and who may already have abused her trust and that of her family. Clemency is a private patient – her family pay to keep her there – and she is able to wear her own clothes rather than the asylum uniform, and to have some of her own treasured belongings.

Charles Fuller is the son of an eminent surgeon, Charles destined to follow in his footsteps. But instead of studying for his exams, he is seduced by music and fails miserably. He takes the position of Second Assistant Medical Officer at Sharston (one of four), purely because he is also to have the role of bandmaster.

John Mulligan is a solitary type of man, and resident of one of the ‘chronic’ (long term) wards. He is a kind man, keeping some of his bread ration to feed the canary imprisoned in a cage in the day room, and trusted enough to be one of a work party charged with digging the unmarked graves, each holding six coffins piled one atop the other, and working on the farm that supplies meat and grains to the asylum.

The one point of beauty in Sharston is the Ballroom, vast and beautiful, where every Friday evening of every week selected patients (the ones who have ‘been good’) come together and dance. It is here that John and Ella meet for the second time and their fate is sealed.

The Ballroom quietly details the atrocities and lack of kindness common in asylums. This is an emotional and heart-wrenching read, one I will come back to time and again.

I award The Ballroom five very brilliant stars. 💖💖💖💖💖

THE AUTHOR: Anna Hope is an English writer and actress from Manchester. She is perhaps best known for her Doctor Who role of Novice Hame. She was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and Birkbeck College, London.

Anna’s powerful first novel, WAKE, sold to Transworld Publishers in a seven-way auction. Set over the course of five days in 1920, WAKE weaves the stories of three women around the journey of the Unknown Soldier, from its excavation in Northern France to Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey. US rights were pre-empted by Susan Kamil at Random House. The book will be published in Doubleday hardback in early 2014 – excerpted from Wikipedia and Felicity Bryan Associates Literary Agency

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers Doubleday via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Ballroom by Anna Hope 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/1598648686