Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M Appel

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming “read me!”?

Check out my Friday Favorite  – it may not be new, it may not even be by an author you have ever heard of, but it will be a book that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

If you have been following my blog for some time, you will be familiar with Jacob M Appel’s work. He writes with a wry humour and a strong grasp of our all too human foibles. If you are new to my blog, then I am delighted to introduce you to one of my favorite short story authors who has recently branched out into writing novels. Please do wander through my archives and take a look at the other works of this amazing author.

Einstein's Beach House by Jacob M. Appel
Einstein’s Beach House 
by Jacob M. Appel (Goodreads Author)
Reviewed by

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EXCERPT: That year Lizzie’s kid sister kept a list of things that were funny when they happenedto other people: tarring and feathering, Peeping Toms, mad cow disease. The rare encephalopathy from which their father suffered didn’t actually come from eating infected cattle, it turned out, but from a spontaneous somatic mutation – which Bill Sucram’s neurologist described as ‘losing the Genetic lottery ‘ – yet the ailment was enough like mad cow that Lizzie’s mother swore off animal products. Overnight Myra Sucram stopped fricasseeing duck and took to ordering exotic soy dishes from a newly opened vegan-kosher deli on Walloon Street. Her family’s health consumed her: she spent mornings arguing with Bill’sinsurance carrier, afternoonsresearching manganese contamination and do it yourself dioxin tests at the public library, and evenings promising her husband and daughters that medical breakthroughs can happen overnight. She wore her smile like a shroud.
Lizzie’s father resigned himself to his diagnosis. He informed the Pontefract Board of Education that he had six months to live and that he did not intend to spend them at the office. Then he composed a list of people who harbored him ill will – a shady plumber he’d sued in small claims court, his estranged step-brother in Las Vegas – and he telephonedeach one to apologize. One night, the thirty-eight year old agnostic middle school principal summoned his daughters to hot cocoa at the kitchen table and announced, “I fear I’ve taught you girls too much grammar and not enough forgiveness.” So Lizzie was mortified, but not unprepared, when her father insisted on taking them to meet the sex offender.

THE BLURB: A couple adopts a depressed hedgehog; a stranger shows up, claiming to be the father of a girl’s imaginary friend; a woman kidnaps her ex-husband’s turtle; a family is evicted from their home, but was it ever really theirs? Heartbreaking and hilarious, the eight stories of Einstein’s Beach House examine how we deceive ourselves and others, all to arrive at something far more real.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved these stories and will be seeking out more of Mr Appel’s works.
I tried to limit myself to one story per day as they are so thought provoking, but was not always successful.

This is a quirky, eclectic and occasionally dark collection of stories about human nature – mostly about that “aha!” moment in our lives, when things become perfectly clear, even if only momentarily.
Both Appel’s stories and his characters remain with you long after you have finished reading.
Highly recommended.

Thank you to author Jacob M Appel for providing a copy of Einstein’s Beach House 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/1249010959

My Man Jeeves & Thank You, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

While I have been working around the yard over the past week, I have been listening to audiobooks, primarily books in the Jeeves series, which are light and amusing. Here are my reviews.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by

30817744

EXCERPT: Jeeves – my man, you know – is really a most extraordinary chap. So capable. Honestly, I shouldn’t know what to do without him. On broader lines he’s like those chappies who sit peering over the marble battlements in the Pennsylvania Station in the place marked ‘inquiries’. You know the Johnnies I mean. You go up to them and say: ‘When’s the next train for Melonsquashville, Tennessee?’ and they reply, without stopping to think, “Two-forty-Three, track Ten, change at San Francisco.” And they’re right, every time. Well, Jeeves gives you the same impression of omniscience.

THE BLURB: Who can forget our beloved gentleman’s personal gentleman, Jeeves, who ever comes to the rescue when the hapless Bertie Wooster falls into trouble. My Man Jeeves is sure to please anyone with a taste for pithy buffoonery, moronic misunderstandings, gaffes, and aristocratic slapstick.

Contents:
“Leave It to Jeeves”
“Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest”
“Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg”
“Absent Treatment”
“Helping Freddie”
“Rallying Round Old George”
“Doing Clarence a Bit of Good”
“The Aunt and the Sluggard”

MY THOUGHTS: I had, of course, heard of Jeeves, but until I was sick in bed some time ago and had the great fortune to discover the TV series playing, I had never encountered Wodehouse’s paragon of virtue. Had Stephen Fry not been playing Jeeves, I probably would have flicked on past. Thankfully I didn’t.

This is my first encounter with Jeeves off screen, and a thoroughly enjoyable encounter it was. I loved the good natured but bumbling Bertie, and Georgie Pepper, an earlier prototype for Bertie Wooster. The stories simply reinforce a belief of mine that no good deed goes unpunished.

British humour at its best.

I listened to My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse, narrated by Simon Pebble, produced by Blackstone Audio, courtesy of OverDrive.

Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by

30817744


EXCERPT: About three months before, noting a certain liveliness in my Aunt Agatha, I had deemed it prudent to pop across to New York for a space to give her time to blow over. And about halfway through my first week there, in the course of a beano of some description at the Sherry-Netherland, I made the acquaintance of Pauline Stoker.

She got right in among me. Her beauty maddened me like wine.

THE BLURB: Thank You, Jeeves is the first novel to feature the incomparable valet Jeeves and his hapless charge Bertie Wooster – and you’ve hardly started to turn the pages when he resigns over Bertie’s dedicated but somewhat untuneful playing of the banjo. In high dudgeon, Bertie disappears to the country as a guest of his chum Chuffy – only to find his peace shattered by the arrival of his ex-fiancée Pauline Stoker, her formidable father and the eminent loony-doctor Sir Roderick Glossop. When Chuffy falls in love with Pauline and Bertie seems to be caught in flagrante, a situation boils up which only Jeeves (whether employed or not) can simmer down…A display of sustained comic brilliance, this novel shows Wodehouse rising to the top of his game.

MY THOUGHTS: I have been having a bit of a Wodehouse/Jeeves fest this week. You really can’t beat a bit of bumbling Bertie and the dry acerbic wit of Jeeves. The British do the ‘comedy of manners’ superbly well. I will be listening to more episodes of the series.

I listened to the audiobook Thank You, Jeeves recorded live by L. A. Theatre Works 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. These reviews and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page

Friday Favorite- My top ten books of 2017

I know that it is not quite the end of the year yet, but the run up to Christmas is always hectic with last minute preparations and catching up with friends. Plus you might need a few ideas for last minute gifts, or books to read yourself over the holiday period.

So here are my top ten picks for 2017. I am not going to rank them into any order of preference because they were all outstanding reads.

Please note, some of these books are reviewed in an old review format and do not contain excerpts. This list only contains books that have been published in 2017 or earlier and are currently available.

The first, you are already familiar with if you have been following me for some time. But it is always the book I think of first when someone is looking for a really great crime thriller. A brilliant read from a favorite author-

And So It Began by Owen Mullen
And So It Began (Delaney #1) 
byOwen Mullen(Goodreads Author)



EXCERPT: ‘It was good to feel apart from the herd. Different from the masses. What could be worse than being just another walking number on the earth? Thank God that wasn’t the way of it. Society saw it otherwise of course, that was to be expected. Closed minds.

A woman passed with a child dressed in top hat and tails. Fred Astaire? The kid was bawling something impossible to make out, its small face distorted in an anguish that would cease the second the mother relented and let it have its way. When children acted like that they were almost as unattractive as the adults who spawned them. Well, the mother could relax, her whining offspring was safe; repulsively secure.

No matter, there were plenty more.

Lots and lots and lots more.

Where to begin? The biggest question. The answer would dictate how the rest of the day would go. The trick was not to wait too long. That was dangerous. Anxiety about missing out produced poor-quality decisions. Risk was all very well so long as the thrill allowed for escape.

It was all about timing.

A lost looking girl came close. Pretty, but pretty wasn’t enough. There were many here who outscored her on that, boys as well as girls, it didn’t matter.

Cute. Cute. Cute. Nothing but cute.

‘Darlene! Darlene, honey!’

A woman bent to scoop up her daughter.

Mother and child reunion.

Time to make a move. But what was the rush? There was a whole day ahead.

All day. All day, every day if need be.

THE BLURB: PI Vincent Delaney thought he was done with the NOPD until a string of seemingly unrelated child murders brings an unexpected invitation from the FBI, and his old boss.

A serial killer is roaming the South, preying on children appearing in pageants, and the police want him to go undercover using his own family. Accepting would mean lying to people he loves and maybe even putting them in harm’s way.

In Baton Rouge, a violent criminal has escaped and is seeking revenge for the brother Delaney shot dead. But Delaney isn’t going anywhere. He has unfinished business.

Meanwhile, north of the French Quarter, shopkeepers are being extorted and ask for Delaney’s help. Extortion is a matter for the police.

But what do you do when those responsible are the police?

Delaney has his work cut out and he’ll be lucky if he makes it out of this alive…

MY THOUGHTS: Owen Mullen knows how to write.

I rank him right up there with Mr King. Different genres, but there is something in the writing style that just sucks me right in. Cocoons me from the outside world. Has me snarling at anyone that would dare try interrupt my reading.

I fell in love with Charlie Cameron, Mullen’s Glaswegian PI in his first series. Now we have Delaney in New Orleans. And I’m in love all over again.

Delaney has a past. But that doesn’t guarantee he has a future. Delaney is dedicated. When he is on a case, all else is pushed to the side. I would hate to be in a relationship with this man. He is unfailingly loyal. He is stubborn. And tenacious. He reminds me of my very favorite chocolates, strong and hard on the outside, liquid inside. This is a man who will go to any lengths to protect those he loves.

And he is a man with old scores to settle.

And So It Began by Owen Mullen is a breathtaking read. There is nothing ordinary or mediocre about this book. It grips from page one and never lets go.

Crime fiction has a new master.

Thank you to author Owen Mullen for providing an ARC of And So It Began. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis

THE BLURB: A tragic suicide?

When Rose’s daughter, Vivien, is found dead in a suspected suicide, Rose has questions nobody can answer. Wasn’t Vivien living the perfect life? A caring husband, a sweet little girl of her own.

Or the perfect murder?

But as the police investigation develops, their findings raise new questions. Did Vivien kill herself, or was she attacked? If so, who has something to hide?

As Rose struggles to piece together the secrets of her daughter’s life, the cracks in the family begin to show. But once Rose knows the answers, there’s no going back…

MY THOUGHTS: Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis is a deceptive book on many levels.

It is simply written, and this in itself is deceptive, for it is not a simple book. It is a multi-layered book; there are layers and layers of lies and near lies, things that are hidden; more deception. And yet it is an easy read. The characters are well defined, the plot complex but simple. Nothing blurs. The author writes fluidly and with great clarity.

Set amid complex family relationships, a young woman, Vivien – a mother, a daughter, a wife – dies. Was it suicide? Was it murder? Told mainly through the eyes of Vivien’s mother Rose, with occasion flashbacks from Vivien herself, this is a book that slowly drew me in until I was completely immersed in the story. It left me breathless, stunned and very, very satisfied.

Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Corgi via NetGalley for a digital ARC of Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

I have long had a love affair with Penny Vincenzi’s family sagas. And in 2017 I read and fell in love with
A Perfect Heritage by Penny Vincenzi

THE BLURB: The House of Farrell – home of The Cream, an iconic face product that has seen women flocking to its bijoux flagship store in the Berkeley Arcade since 1953.

At Farrell, you can rely on the personal touch. The legendary Athina Farrell remains the company’s figurehead and in her kingdom at the Berkeley Arcade, Florence Hamilton plies their cosmetics with the utmost discretion. She is sales advisor – and holder of secrets – extraordinaire.

But of course the world of cosmetics is changing and the once glorious House of Farrell is now in decline, its customers tempted away by more fashionable brands.

Enter Bianca Bailey, formidable business woman, mother of three, and someone who always gets her way. Athina and Bianca lock horns over the future of the House of Farrell but it is the past that tells its devastating tale of ambition and ego, passion and wonder.

Here is a tale of survival … and a perfect heritage.

MY THOUGHTS: I have mixed feelings when I finish a Vincenzi novel. Exhilaration and sadness to name but two. Her plots are always complex with a large cast of characters. Characters whom, by the time you have finished the book, have completely enchanted you, as has the plot.

A Perfect Heritage is no different. A door stopper of a book, I have been sitting on it since publication in 2014. Perhaps ‘hoarding’ is a more apt description.

I adore my Kindle, but I have to read Vincenzi in a physical book. And now, having finished this marvelous saga, it will join my Vincenzi collection, to be taken out and reread numerous times, sighed and exclaimed over, treasured.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

And one from one of my all time favorite authors, Susan Hill, but surprisingly not one of the Simon Serrailler series!
From the Heart by Susan Hill

EXCERPT: ‘…it occurred to her that she had a choice- now, here. She could fret about whether her father had done the right thing, marrying again, coming to this town, confining his life to a small space, and whether he would be able to grow old here in some sort of contentment- and she was right, he was not old yet, only in his early sixties. Or she could simply leave him- them- to it, let them carry on with their life as they would have done if she had not existed. Trying to discover how happy he really was, if he had regrets, was pointless because his life was not hers.’

THE BLURB: You’re a young woman. You can choose. Which career to pursue. Who to have sex with. Who to marry and have children — or not — with. This is now.

Step into the shoes of Olive. You’re a happy, open-hearted girl. Your (tricky) mother is dead and you live with your father in a solid, Edwardian house with apple trees in the garden. He’s a kind man who does his fair share around the house. Your passion for books gets you easily into university, where the world is surely waiting for you.

There, you take part in a play, and are noticed by the leading man. Even though he’s not as glamorous off-stage, he becomes your boyfriend. But then you make a mistake – the kind any one of us could make – and face an impossible choice. You are young, still, and full of hope. You can’t possibly know how that mistake will sit in your heart. Or that when you get a job at a wonderful school you will meet an older colleague and fall in love. But the affair must stay secret; the world won’t have it any other way.

All you have ever wanted is for your heart to be free. But you are living in a time and place where freedoms we now take for granted had the power to destroy.

MY THOUGHTS: Susan Hill, no matter in what genre she is writing, and she is a very versatile author, never fails to inspire me to want to write.

She writes from the heart, so this book is aptly titled. She takes perfectly ordinary situations- friendship, love, birth, death, marriage, second marriages – and explores the emotions of them and the impact on the lives of the characters, the choices they make.

Hill’s writing makes me think of friends, of choices I have made, of relationships that have flourished, and those that have failed. She makes me question if I could have done, or indeed could do, better. There is a lot of wisdom in her writing.

Don’t expect conventional endings, happy ever afters; you won’t get them. You will get an interesting and thought provoking read.

My favorite quote from this book- ‘Books had been all to her. They saved her. …’

Thank you to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, Chatto and Windus for providing a digital copy of From the Heart by Susan Hill for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

You by Caroline Kepnes

EXCERPT: YOU walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn’t slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige and it’s impossible to know if you’re wearing a bra but I don’t think that you are. You’re so clean that you’re dirty and you murmur your first word to me—hello—when most people would just pass by, but not you, in your loose pink jeans, a pink spun from Charlotte’s Web and where did you come from?

You are classic and compact, my own little Natalie Portman circa the end of the movie Closer, when she’s fresh-faced and done with the bad British guys and going home to America. You’ve come home to me, delivered at last, on a Tuesday, 10:06 a.m. Every day I commute to this shop on the Lower East Side from my place in Bed-Stuy. Every day I close up without finding anyone like you. Look at you, born into my world today. I’m shaking and I’d pop an Ativan but they’re downstairs and I don’t want to pop an Ativan. I don’t want to come down. I want to be here, fully, watching you bite your unpainted nails and turn your head to the left, no, bite that pinky, widen those eyes, to the right, no, reject biographies, self-help (thank God), and slow down when you make it to fiction.

Yes.

I let you disappear into the stacks—Fiction F–K—and you’re not the standard insecure nymph hunting for Faulkner you’ll never finish, never start; Faulkner that will harden and calcify, if books could calcify, on your nightstand; Faulkner meant only to convince one-night stands that you mean it when you swear you never do this kind of thing. No, you’re not like those girls. You don’t stage Faulkner and your jeans hang loose and you’re too sun-kissed for Stephen King and too untrendy for Heidi Julavits and who, who will you buy? You sneeze, loudly, and I imagine how loud you are when you climax. “God bless you!” I call out.

You giggle and holler back, you horny girl, “You too, buddy.”

Buddy. You’re flirting and if I was the kind of *sshole who Instagrams, I would photograph the F–K placard and filter the sh*t out of that baby and caption it:

F—K yes, I found her.

Calm down, Joe. They don’t like it when a guy comes on too strong, I remind myself. Thank God for a customer and it’s hard to scan his predictable Salinger—then again, it’s always hard to do that. This guy is, what, thirty-six and he’s only now reading Franny and Zooey? And let’s get real. He’s not reading it. It’s just a front for the Dan Browns in the bottom of his basket. Work in a bookstore and learn that most people in this world feel guilty about being who they are. I bag the Dan Brown first like it’s kiddie porn and tell him Franny and Zooey is the sh*t and he nods and you’re still in F–K because I can see your beige sweater through the stacks, barely. If you reach any higher, I’ll see your belly. But you won’t. You grab a book and sit down in the aisle and maybe you’ll stay here all night. Maybe it’ll be like the Natalie Portman movie Where the Heart Is, adapted faithlessly from the Billie Letts book—above par for that kind of crud—and I’ll find you in the middle of the night. Only you won’t be pregnant and I won’t be the meek man in the movie. I’ll lean over and say, “Excuse me, miss, but we’re closed” and you’ll look up and smile. “Well, I’m not closed.” A breath. “I’m wide open. Buddy.”

THE BLURB: When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

MY THOUGHTS: In her author’s acknowledgements, Kepnes thanks Joe Goldberg for demanding to be heard. I would like to thank Kepnes for listening to him.

I had a love-hate relationship with this book. It is at once both irritating and compelling.

I loved this book. I hated this book.

I loved Joe. I hated Joe. Ditto Beck. I was captivated/ repelled by Joe’s obsession with her. He has total control over his life. He has no control over his life.

I guess we have all had an earworm experience at some stage; probably more than one. I had a bookworm experience with ‘You’. It wormed its way into my head and would not leave me alone. I tried to leave it alone, but it stalked me. I had to finish it.

Stephen King tweeted Caroline Kepnes that her book YOU was “hypnotic and scary” and having “never read anything like it before.”

Full marks to Kepnes for a very clever piece of writing. And a plea for more please.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

A collection of short stories from another of my very favorite authors-
The Liars' Asylum by Jacob M. Appel

EXCERPT: My best friend that spring was Lacey Moretti. Soon enough we would drift apart, our natural differences overcoming our common history, so when I saw her at the twentieth reunion last year, where Lacey gulped champagne from a slipper and made a sloppy pass at every unhitched male within groping distance, I could hardly remember what had drawn us together on long-ago evenings studying the polarity of magnets and the trajectories of cannon balls. Yet in those final months at Laurendale, we were truly inseparable–so much so that when a third former classmate sensed the tension between us at the reunion, she’d confessed she’d always suspected we’d been lovers. The reality was that we’d both been far too innocent for anything like that. – Prisoners of the Multiverse

The wipers swept the windshield hypnotically, and when the rain stopped, the rubber blades scraped furiously across the dry glass. I didn’t even register the sound until Sheila reached across the steering column and snapped them off.
“What can a forty-six year old man possibly see in my mother?” she demanded. “I’ll tell you what! He’s either after a green card or he’s after her money. ”
“Or both, ” I offered.
Sheila glared at me. “Don’t you dare take her side. ”
“I’m not taking sides, Sheila. ”
“How can you not take sides?” she snapped. “That’s like not taking sides about the Holocaust. Not taking sides is the same thing as taking sides. ”
Sheila had worked in the creative division at an advertising agency before we married. She has a winning slogan for every argument. – Good Enough For Guppies

THE BLURB: SHORT STORY COLLECTION: The frustrations of romantic love in its various guises—a domineering kindergarten teacher for a dashing artificial foliage designer, a suicidal physicist for his star student, a dialysis patient at a sleep-away camp for the camp owner’s daughter—provide the common theme for the stories in Jacob M. Appel’s seventh collection. We meet a psychiatrist dabbling with infidelity during a crisis in which rain turns into truth serum, a Finnish-American soldier charged with facilitating his commanding officer’s extra-marital affair, and a couple transporting a wealthy, “locked-in” patient across the Piedmont to his new nursing home. Appel’s literary short fiction offers a quirky window into the pangs and promise of love.

MY THOUGHTS: I have a special place reserved both in my heart and on my shelves for Jacob Appel’s books. I have almost the full set and they are on the shelf right beside my favorite reading chair. It is a collection that I dip into frequently and The Liars’ Asylum will take pride of place amongst them.

This is yet another wonderful collection of eight short stories from an extremely talented writer. The focus in this collection is love. But they are not your traditional love stories. They range from tales of first love to that of a last love, and everything in between. And don’t expect happy ever after. There is duplicity and truth, desire and rejection, hope and despair, success (of sorts) and failure.

Appel demonstrates an excellent understanding of human character. From the young couple who become more interested in scoring points over each other than in the truth of their relationship, to the desperate for a husband Aunt Jill, all these characters are people we know, we can relate to and, if we are honest, there is probably more than a little bit of ourselves in there too.

Appel has a wonderful sense of the ridiculous which he crafts into clever and believable stories. Another winner from a favorite author.

Publication date is October 15, 2017.

Thank you to author Jacob M Appel, Black Lawrence Press and Netgalley for providing a copy of The Liars’ Asylum for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

Not a new book, but definitely oneof the top reads of my year was
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

EXCERPT: Yes, an illustrious career.

I should hasten to admit, however, that there was a considerable hiatus between the first stolen book and the second. Another noteworthy point is that the first was stolen from snow and the second from fire. Not to omit that others were also given to her. All told, she owned fourteen books, but she saw her story as being made up predominantly of ten of them. Of those ten, six were stolen, one showed up at the kitchen table, two were made for her by a hidden Jew, and one was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon.

When she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything. Was it when she first set eyes on the room with shelves and shelves of them? Or when Max Vandenburg arrived on Himmel Street carrying handfuls of suffering and Hitler’s Mein Kampf ? Was it reading in the shelters? The last parade to Dachau? Was it The Word Shaker? Perhaps there would never be a precise answer as to when and where it occurred. In any case, that’s getting ahead of myself. Before we make it to any of that, we first need to tour Liesel Meminger’s beginnings on Himmel Street and the art of saumensching:

Upon her arrival, you could still see the bite marks of snow on her hands and the frosty blood on her fingers. Everything about her was undernourished. Wirelike shins. Coat hanger arms. She did not produce it easily, but when it came, she had a starving smile.

Her hair was a close enough brand of German blond, but she had dangerous eyes. Dark brown. You didn’t really want brown eyes in Germany around that time. Perhaps she received them from her father, but she had no way of knowing, as she couldn’t remember him. There was really only one thing she knew about her father. It was a label she did not understand.

A STRANGE WORD

Kommunist

She’d heard it several times in the past few years.

“Communist.”

There were boardinghouses crammed with people, rooms filled with questions. And that word. That strange word was always there somewhere, standing in the corner, watching from the dark. It wore suits, uniforms. No matter where they went, there it was, each time her father was mentioned. She could smell it and taste it. She just couldn’t spell or understand it. When she asked her mother what it meant, she was told that it wasn’t important, that she shouldn’t worry about such things. At one boardinghouse, there was a healthier woman who tried to teach the children to write, using charcoal on the wall. Liesel was tempted to ask her the meaning, but it never eventuated. One day, that woman was taken away for questioning. She didn’t come back.

THE BLURB: A story about, among other things: A girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Ruby Award.

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

MY THOUGHTS: The Book Thief is brutal and beautiful. It is sad and inspiring. It is unforgettable and haunting. It is a book that should be read by everyone.

The Book Thief is narrated by Death himself. There are some things you probably need to know about Death. He does not carry a sickle or a scythe. He only wears a hooded black robe when it is cold. He doesn’t have those skull- like facial features so often ascribed to him. Do you want to know what he truly looks like? Take a look in the mirror. And, believe it or not, he has a heart.

We meet Leisel for the first time in January 1939. She is nine years old. Death also meets her for the first time when he stops to collect the soul of her six year old brother. He will meet her again. And Leisel is about to steal her first book.

The book is written in parts, each titled and with a brief description, eg Part Three, Mein Kampf, featuring: the way home – a broken woman – a struggler – a juggler – the attributes of summer – an Aryan shopkeeper – a snorer – two tricksters – and revenge in the shape of mixed lollies.

Scattered throughout the chapters are little notes from Death – ‘A Nice Thought – one was a book thief. The other stole the sky.’

The author’s language is almost poetic – ‘ As she crossed the river, a rumour of sunshine stood behind the clouds. ‘, ‘the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Leisel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out, like the rain. ‘ – in places, and in others it is clipped and brutal.

This is not an easy book to read at first, but increasingly as I read I could feel the author’s words embracing me, challenging me. It is a worthy read and has earned itsplace as my favorite book of the year to date.

J. T. Ellison is an author who consistently blows me away with her writing prowess.
Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

THE BLURB: They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. The couple seems made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, some are strong at the broken places.’ – Ernest Hemingway. ………. and some are just broken.

Lie to Me opens with the words ‘You aren’t going to like me very much’…………….’Truly, you are going to despise me. I am the rot that lives in the floorboards of your house. I am the spider that shuttles away when you shine a light in my corner, ever watching, ever waiting. I am the shard of glass that slits the skin of your bare foot. I am all the bad things that happen to you.’

I was hooked from the first page.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair both love and hate each other. Their jealousy and rivalry is both personal and professional. On the anniversary of the death of their baby, Sutton disappears. Was Sutton Montclair responsible for her baby’s death? Or was it Ethan? Did she kill the baby, lose her mind, fake her own death, set up her husband? Or has Ethan orchestrated the whole thing to make her look mentally unstable? People have done worse. …..

I love the writing style. The chapters are short, gritty and to the point. Chapter titles (not numbers) are enticing – eg DID SHE OR DIDN’T SHE?

The pace of Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison is frantic. It doesn’t allow you to draw a breath. It twists and turns and twists again. Every time I thought I was even close to sorting it all out, Ellison would turn everything on its head. It was like trying to read a kaleidoscope; the picture kept changing, but it was never pretty.

‘I told you at the beginning you weren’t going to like me very much. You really don’t like me right now, do you? Am I a horrible person? A loathsome creature? You bet. I ‘m evil to the core. And I warned you. I warned you, and you didn’t listen. …’

And now a warning from me – don’t miss reading this book. Lie to Me must be one of, if not THE best psychological thriller of 2017.

Thank you to Harlequin (Australia) via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

EXCERPT: ‘Is it really a coincidence she is here or has she purposely tracked me down? And if so, why?

‘Revenge’ whispers the voice inside my head.’

THE BLURB: ‘You know that feeling? When you want something so badly, you almost feel you’d kill for it?’

Be careful what you wish for…

Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream.

But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets.

And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye.

As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family…

MY THOUGHTS: Twisted, twisty and oh so nerve wracking! I almost tore my fingernails out of their beds reading The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, and I do not bite my nails!

Full marks to Louise Jensen. She has demonstrated that she is mistress of her art. I thought I knew where she was going with this. She reinforced my beliefs. But she took me for a ride – up the wrong road. More than that, I am not going to say. I don’t want to give anything away. I don’t want to spoil any surprises. And they come thick and fast.

I am going to liken reading this book to riding a roller coaster in one of those spinning teacups with no seat belts. Thrilling, scary. Yes, you may have to suspend belief occasionally, but believe me, by then, you won’t care.

Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Surrogate for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

And last, but definitely not least,
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

EXCERPT: ‘Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society. The children’s mother had done just that.’

THE BLURB: Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

MY THOUGHTS: I was bereft when I finished The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. I wanted to go right back to the beginning and start all over again. This is a fairy story for adults. It is bewitching, enchanting and compelling. I want to move in with the Owen’s family, to be embraced by them, to become one of them.

Just as Mrs Russell was instantly in thrall to Vincent when she spied him in the kitchen, I was instantly in thrall to Hoffman’s writing. Alice (may I call you Alice?) writes in a lazy, indolent fashion that slowly seduces the reader, leaving one feeling languidly intrigued.

I scribbled pages of notes as I read, highlighted sections to quote. But as I prepared to write this review, I realised that, taken out of context, they mean nothing.

If you think this book is about witchcraft, you are wrong. Yes, there are black cats and spells and potions, but that is not what this book is about. It is about acceptance, of ourselves and of others. It is about family, and it is about love. And if you do not read The Rules of Magic then you will miss out on a wonderful book which really is all about finding the magic in yourself.

I am going out to buy a hard copy of this book for my shelf. It is a ‘forever’ book. I am also going to read everything by this author that I can lay my hands on.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or my ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

Thank you all for your support in the months since I started this blog. Postings may be a little erratic over the holiday period as we are planning on freedom camping in some remote beaches, weather permitting. I wish you and your loved ones a joyous and safe  festive season with lots of wonderful books to read, and the time to create some wonderful memories.

The Liars’ Asylum by Jacob M. Appel

The Liars' Asylum by Jacob M. Appel
The Liars’ Asylum 
by Jacob M. Appel (Goodreads Author)

Reviewed by


EXCERPT: My best friend that spring was Lacey Moretti. Soon enough we would drift apart, our natural differences overcoming our common history, so when I saw her at the twentieth reunion last year, where Lacey gulped champagne from a slipper and made a sloppy pass at every unhitched male within groping distance, I could hardly remember what had drawn us together on long-ago evenings studying the polarity of magnets and the trajectories of cannon balls. Yet in those final months at Laurendale, we were truly inseparable–so much so that when a third former classmate sensed the tension between us at the reunion, she’d confessed she’d always suspected we’d been lovers. The reality was that we’d both been far too innocent for anything like that. – Prisoners of the Multiverse

The wipers swept the windshield hypnotically, and when the rain stopped, the rubber blades scraped furiously across the dry glass. I didn’t even register the sound until Sheila reached across the steering column and snapped them off.
“What can a forty-six year old man possibly see in my mother?” she demanded. “I’ll tell you what! He’s either after a green card or he’s after her money. ”
“Or both, ” I offered.
Sheila glared at me. “Don’t you dare take her side. ”
“I’m not taking sides, Sheila. ”
“How can you not take sides?” she snapped. “That’s like not taking sides about the Holocaust. Not taking sides is the same thing as taking sides. ”
Sheila had worked in the creative division at an advertising agency before we married. She has a winning slogan for every argument. – Good Enough For Guppies

THE BLURB: SHORT STORY COLLECTION: The frustrations of romantic love in its various guises—a domineering kindergarten teacher for a dashing artificial foliage designer, a suicidal physicist for his star student, a dialysis patient at a sleep-away camp for the camp owner’s daughter—provide the common theme for the stories in Jacob M. Appel’s seventh collection. We meet a psychiatrist dabbling with infidelity during a crisis in which rain turns into truth serum, a Finnish-American soldier charged with facilitating his commanding officer’s extra-marital affair, and a couple transporting a wealthy, “locked-in” patient across the Piedmont to his new nursing home. Appel’s literary short fiction offers a quirky window into the pangs and promise of love.

MY THOUGHTS: I have a special place reserved both in my heart and on my shelves for Jacob Appel’s books. I have almost the full set and they are on the shelf right beside my favorite reading chair. It is a collection that I dip into frequently and The Liars’ Asylum will take pride of place amongst them.

This is yet another wonderful collection of eight short stories from an extremely talented writer. The focus in this collection is love. But they are not your traditional love stories. They range from tales of first love to that of a last love, and everything in between. And don’t expect happy ever after. There is duplicity and truth, desire and rejection, hope and despair, success (of sorts) and failure.

Appel demonstrates an excellent understanding of human character. From the young couple who become more interested in scoring points over each other than in the truth of their relationship, to the desperate for a husband Aunt Jill, all these characters are people we know, we can relate to and, if we are honest, there is probably more than a little bit of ourselves in there too.

Appel has a wonderful sense of the ridiculous which he crafts into clever and believable stories. Another winner from a favorite author.

Publication date is October 15, 2017.

Thank you to author Jacob M Appel, Black Lawrence Press and Netgalley for providing a copy of The Liars’ Asylum for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. 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 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2101863772

Friday Favorite

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming “read me!”?

Check out my Friday Favorite  – it may not be new, it may not even be by an author you have ever heard of, but it will be a book that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

I had always known Penny Vincenzi for her compelling and sweeping family sagas. So I was surprised and excited to find, in 2014, a collection of short stories by her. I have to admit to also being just a little apprehensive. ……after all, her going from writing tomes of 700+ pages to short stories was quite a change, and no doubt, something of a challenge. How did she do? Read on. …..

Love in the Afternoon and Other Delights by Penny Vincenzi
Love in the Afternoon and Other Delights
by Penny Vincenzi (Goodreads Author)

Reviewed by


EXCERPTS: Because this is a book of short stories, I am going to give you two excerpts. The first is from a story titled ‘Knowing Best’.

‘Laura Maddox and Fergus O’Connell were very fond of telling people they had met at an old people’s home. Since they were both young, stylish and successful, it was not a story that was easy to believe; nevertheless, it was perfectly true in essence, if not in detail, and was made much of in speeches at their wedding.
The detail was that the meeting place had been not quite an old people’s home, rather a very expensive nursing home, where Laura’s widowed grandmother was recovering from a hip operation and complaining ceaselessly about having to live with a lot of old people (most of whom were in fact the same age as, if not a little younger than, herself), and Fergus’s twice-divorced great-uncle, in a room just two along the corridor, was recovering from a very nasty bout of pneumonia and was constantly in trouble with the nurses for locking himself in the lavatory with a flask of his best Irish whiskey.’

The second excerpt is from a story titled ‘The Brooch’.
‘It was a very beautiful brooch. It was what used to be called paste, and would now be called Diamante: glittery and brilliant and in the shape of a full moon and two stars trailing off it in two slender threads. It was the sort of thing you could make stories up about, which Anna had when she was little – like the moon wearing the stars as a sort of a sash. Or the stars were trying to get away from it. The brooch belonged to her grandmother, Bella, and was pinned to her large, cushiony bosom, and Anna would sit on her knee and play with it. Later on, she had been allowed to wear it when they went to tea with her and she would keep saying she wanted to go to the lavatory so she could pass the big mirror in the hall and admire it, pinned on to her cardigan, right in the middle of her small flat chest. One day, she thought, she would have wonderful bosoms like her grandmother and the brooch would show up much better. She had always known she would have the brooch; her grandmother had promised her that, adding quickly that Rachel, Anna’s older sister, would have her pearls.

THE BLURB: A fabulous collection of short stories and essays by much loved and multi-million-copy bestselling author Penny Vincenzi.

From her sweeping novels to her searing journalism, Penny Vincenzi has been writing all her life, and this is a collection of her work brought together in a single edition for the first time. As well as ten stunning short stories, Penny also shares some of her thoughts on a huge range of subjects from love and relationships to work and families, and gives us a peek at the tantalising first chapter of her new novel – making LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON AND OTHER DELIGHTS a must-have for any Vincenzi fan.

MY THOUGHTS: I love Penny Vincenzi – and this collection of short stories, like the sweeping family sagas she is known for, I just couldn’t put down. Along with the short stories is a preview of her then next book, A Perfect Heritage, and a series of published articles by Penny giving us a great insight into her character, including ‘Getting Older’, ‘Being a Mother’, and ‘My Career in a Nutshell’. She also gives some great tips on writing, and I think this may have overtaken Stephen King’s “On Writing” as my bible.
The short stories are amusing, entertaining and absorbing. Just the way they should be.