Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi

EXCERPT: ‘How much do I owe you for the ma’amoul?’ she asked.

‘No, nothing at all. The first order is on the house for new customers. It is tradition in my shop. So that we can have the pleasure of welcoming you here again. Ahlan wa Scanlan,’ he said and smiled at her like a teenager with a crush.

The boy at the oven snorted loudly and smirked. His boss shot him a warning glare that sent him back to the counter in the back, where he slouched over the balls of dough and started kneading briskly.

‘No, I can’t possibly accept your generous offer, Abu Issam,’ the young woman protested. ‘Please let me pay for the ma’amoul. After all, we’re neighbours, not strangers.’

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

MY THOUGHTS: I think that I am quite alone in my opinion of Syrian Brides. I struggled. I found this collection of short stories to be neither delightful, nor humorous. I wanted to give up, close the cover and move onto something else. But I persevered, hoping to find what so many other readers found to enjoy. I failed.

The ideas for the stories were mostly good, some very clever. But I struggled with the repetitive speech of the characters. I admire the intent of the author, and I can think of several of my friends who would enjoy this, but I am sorry, it’s just not for me.

⭐⭐

#Syrian Brides

THE AUTHOR: Anna Halabi was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. She emigrated to Europe in 1999 for her university studies. She currently lives with her family in Germany.
Syrian Brides is her debut as an author. The stories and characters in this collection were inspired by her personal experiences as well as her relatives, friends and TV shows.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Anna Halabi for providing me with a digital copy of Syrian Brides for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedict Grant a wealthy Londoner, leading a lonely life.

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

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

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

I received three new Netgalley ARCs this week:

The Last Night in London by Karen White

My Little Girl by Shalini Boland

and The Whispers by Heidi Perks

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

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

Have a wonderful week everyone!❤📚

The Incredible Winston Browne

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

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

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

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

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

It was a little girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

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

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

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

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

After a week of cool,wet and stormy weather, the weekend has been magnificent. Clear blue skies, and hot. Just how I like it. 🏖

I have been working every day since my 2-i-c left, and will work right through until my new one starts after Easter. I have had Luke this weekend too, so other than Luke’s books, I haven’t read anything.

Currently I am reading The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich.

and listening to The Good Neighbour by R.J. Parker

This week I am planning on reading The Night Gate by Peter May

In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree.
A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house.
The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart.
Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter.  Two extraordinary narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown.

And Enzo’s investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders – the Mona Lisa.

Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.

What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades.

Events that have led to both killings.

And Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

Newlyweds Sam Statler and Annie Potter are head over heels, and excited to say good-bye to New York and start a life together in Sam’s sleepy hometown in upstate New York. Or, it turns out, a life where Annie spends most of her time alone while Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his downstairs office, tending to the egos of his (mostly female) clientele.

Little does Sam know that through a vent in his ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist’s wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist listening? Everything is fine until the French girl in the green mini Cooper shows up, and Sam decides to go to work and not come home, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie’s happily ever after.

This week I received 4 Kindle ARCs and 1 audiobook from Netgalley.

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

A Million Things by Emily Spurr

The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

and the audiobook is The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

I am super excited about both The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson and Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson.

And now I had better get back to Luke…he has devised another game for us to play, one that requires me to make a tent 🤣😂

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐.3

#AHomeLikeOurs #NetGalley

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia & MIRA for providing a digital ARC of A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich

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

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

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

The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd

And audiobook The Good Neighbour by R.J. Parker

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

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

Olive by Emma Gannon

The audiobook of Olive by Emma Gannon is due for publication 09 March 2021. The Kindle edition is available now.

EXCERPT: When I was twelve in 1999, I remember being obsessed with snipping cut-outs from my Mum’s old Argos catalogues and sticking them into the blank pages of my notepads. Notepads were the only present people bought me or put in my stocking, because I was always doodling as a tiny kid. I would have stacks of them: beaded ones, velvet ones, bright pink ones, furry ones, holographic ones and secret ones with a lock and key. But I had stopped writing and started making collages instead. I would neatly cut around pictures of products I found interesting from the flimsy thin pages of Argos and Pritt-stick them inside the blank pages. Navy blue patterned plates. A big wooden rolling pin. Hand painted tea cups. A garden slide. A stylish armchair. A woollen throw for a sofa. A picture frame designed for four landscape shaped photos. I would trim carefully around each one with big kitchen scissors, in circular motions, around the plates, bowls, crockery. I would stick them into the blank pages, designing my life in detail from an early age. I believed I would have these perfect things in my home when I was older. I would have a garden. I would live in a big house, bigger than my mum’s. I would have a husband. I would have a baby too, probably. Or two. Or three! Because that’s what you do. My friends would come round with their babies. They would all play together. We would go to the beach and tell them not to eat the sand, while we drank tea in flasks and reminisced about the good old days. That’s what grown ups did. When I am an adult, I would think, everything will be good. I will finally be free. Adulthood = Freedom.

I painted a picture of my Big Bright Future through the lens of an old Argos catalogue, and today I am inside that distant future; in the painting, living and breathing it. But I don’t have the hand painted tea cups, or the navy blue patterned plates. I don’t have a garden slide. And I don’t have the baby either.

ABOUT ‘OLIVE’: Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
Knows her own mind.

OLIVE is many things, and it’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made, boxes to tick and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. And when her best friends’ lives start to branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, Olive starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.

MY THOUGHTS: Oh where do I start? This is chic-lit, but not chic-lit. It is funny, and serious at the same time. Olive explores many things, but mainly the dilemma of the woman who chooses not to have a child. (No, I am not talking about abortion.) While Olive’s friends are all madly nesting, and procreating, or trying to procreate through IVF, Olive makes the decision to remain ‘child-free’.

Emma Gannon has written a humorous, searching, thoughtful and honest book about Olive’s decision and how it impacts her life, her relationship, her friendships, particularly those with her three best friends: Bea, who has it all – the husband, the house, and 2.4 children (3 actually); Cec, who is pregnant with her first child; and Isla who is struggling with infertility and the impact it’s having on her marriage.

Olive demonstrates how easily we can feel threatened by other people’s life choices, how we become so defensive of our own, and how our life choices can affect our friendships.

I didn’t always like Olive, or her friends, but sometimes I loved them, a reflection on how friendships wax and wane. All of these friends are, at various times, self-obsessed, dismissive, judgemental, supportive, and loyal. They were definitely fun.

Sian Clifford made an excellent narrator of the audiobook.

Olive is both entertaining and thought provoking, a lighthearted look at some serious subjects.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#Olive #NetGalley
T: @AndrewsMcMeel @emmagannon
I: @andrewsmcmeel @emmagannon

#audiobook #chic-lit #contemporaryfiction #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Emma Gannon is a Sunday Times bestselling author, speaker, novelist and host of the no. 1 careers podcast in the UK, Ctrl Alt Delete.

Emma started her career in digital marketing at agencies and then at Condé Nast as social media editor. She has been a columnist for The Times, Telegraph and Courier magazine on the topics of business, creativity and the future of work.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Andrews McMeel Publishing via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Olive by Emma Gannon for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Firstly, apologies for no Friday funnies again this week. I just plain ran out of time, and I am afraid I am going to have time issues for the next month or so until I can get someone in place to replace one of my key staff who left suddenly. I will do what I can, but between working extra long hours and caring for Luke every second weekend while my son gets his new premises ready and then moves (scheduled for Easter) I am going to be pretty time challenged.

Currently and am reading Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay from Netgalley.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves for the Goodreads.com Crime, Mystery and Thriller group read for March.

And listening to Olive by Emma Gannon

I hope to get another book read this week too, but have not yet decided what it will be.

I have three new ARC ebooks approvals this week, and one audiobook:

Hummingbird Lane by Carolyn Brown

Small Town Secrets by Alys Murray

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer by Joël Dicker

And the audiobook is Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

That’s my plan, and I use the word loosely, for the week. We’re back under Level 2 restrictions, with Auckland under Level 3 lockdown. So who knows what is going happen….

My neighbours are stranded in Wellington after taking the train down yesterday. The trains were cancelled overnight. They are trying to get a bus back but don’t know if they are running either. They may have to get a hire car. Their cats are happy and well fed in their absence.

Have a great week everyone. Stay safe and healthy and read on!

A Weekend to Remember by Esther Campion

EXCERPT: ‘We could have gone to Bali!’ Aisling was on one of her moaning rolls as the two friends strode along Freers Beach under a milky blue sky that promised another hot day in Tasmania. ‘Why did I let Mick’s family decide how we’d spend our anniversary?’

Heather was already well versed in the circumstances that had led to the latest drama in the Fitzgerald’s lives, but Aisling went over it again just to blow off steam.

‘The indignity of it! Spending a week in the bogs of Ireland when we could be in some idyllic resort, drinking cocktails at one of those swim up bars.’ But as Aisling knew only too well, the gift from her in-laws, or outlaws as she liked to call them, was as much a present for Mick’s forthcoming fortieth as it was for their anniversary. If it had been left to her, there’d have been a big party. But no, Lilian Fitzgerald had other ideas. She’d give her son a holiday in West Cork and she’d have a few weeks with the grandchildren all to herself in Tasmania.

Aisling had all manner of fantastic ideas for surprise parties, but although loath to admit it, Mick would have hated that. So in the end, Lily Fitz got her way.

ABOUT ‘A WEEK TO REMEMBER’: Whether it was the lure of the rugged coastline or the comforting image of the house, he wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken a holiday. . .

With its brightly painted front door, white-sash windows and garden path sweeping down toward the sea, Lizzie O’s guesthouse promises a welcome escape from the world. Aisling and Mick Fitzgerald are travelling all the way from Tasmania to celebrate their wedding anniversary, but Aisling is burdened with a secret that could ruin their marriage. Declan Byrne, exhausted from an unhealthy routine of long hours, takeaway and too much red wine, has spontaneously taken the week off to visit the village of his childhood summers. Katie Daly returns to West Cork after an absence of 35 years to care for her ageing mother only to find she must confront her painful past. Finally, Mia Montgomery is taking this holiday without telling her husband.

Each of this group of strangers is at a crossroads. And one week in the middle of winter may change all of their lives.

MY THOUGHTS: A Week to Remember is a lovely, lovely read reminiscent of a Maeve Binchy. It was a delight to read this beautifully written story of a disparate group of people, all at a crossroads in their lives, thrown together in a guest house on the Irish coast. The subplot follows Lilian Fitzgerald as she looks after Mick and Aisling’s two children in Tasmania.

Campion writes with humour and feeling, and A Week to Remember enveloped me from the start. She describes both cultures and landscapes eloquently and accurately. I could smell the Aussie BBQ every bit as clearly as I could hear the lilting Irish voices.

There are a lot of issues dealt with in this gentle drama, both current and historic. There’s a marriage or two on the brink, burnout, infidelity, caring for an aging infirm parent, and in the past, abuse, rape, and the shunting off to a home for unwed mothers of a pregnant teenager. There are tragic pasts to overcome, and present problems to conquer.

I loved this book from start to finish and I will definitely be reading more from this author who blends the Australian and Irish essences seamlessly.

Don’t be put off by the twee cover. A Week to Remember is anything but.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

‘Life (is) far too unpredictable to miss an opportunity to eat icecream on a searing hot day with someone you love.’

#AWeekToRemember #NetGalley @hachetteaus @esther_campion_

#contemporaryfiction #australianfiction #irishfiction #domesticdrama #romance #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Esther Campion is from Cork, Ireland and currently lives in north-west Tasmania. She attended North Presentation Convent in Cork and has degrees from University College Cork and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Esther and her Orcadian husband have lived in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and South Australia. They have a grown-up daughter in Adelaide and the two youngest at home in Tassie with an over-indulged chocolate Labrador and two horses, which Esther firmly believes are living proof that dreams really can come true.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Week to Remember by Esther Campion for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons

EXCERPT: When Eudora Honeysett hears the flip-clunk of her letterbox on this particular Thursday morning, her heart skips before she pulls it back down to earth like a rapidly descending hot air balloon. It will be junk mail as usual. Unsolicited junk. As she struggles to a standing position, retrieves her stick and anchors herself to gravity, Eudora marvels, not for the first time, at humanity’s ability to fill the world with unwanted junk. The oceans are stuffed with plastic, the landfills with broken three-year-old fridges, and her doormat with an endless littering of pizza leaflets, advertisements for retirement homes, and flyers from individuals offering to re-pave a driveway she doesn’t have. Occasionally, she casts a critical eye over the expensively produced retirement home brochures filled with photographs of smiling elderly couples toasting their successful move to the old person’s equivalent of a Premier Inn. Eudora can’t imagine anything worse. She was born in this house, and intends to die in this house, hopefully sooner rather than later.

ABOUT ‘EUDORA HONEYSETT IS QUITE WELL, THANK YOU’: Eudora Honeysett is done – with all of it. Having seen first-hand what a prolonged illness can create, the eighty-five-year-old has no intention of leaving things to chance. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland she takes her life into her own hands.

But then ten-year-old Rose arrives in a riot of colour on her doorstep. Now, as precocious Rose takes Eudora on adventures she’d never imagined she reflects on the trying times of her past and soon finds herself wondering – is she ready for death when she’s only just experienced what it’s like to truly live?

MY THOUGHTS: Initially I didn’t particularly like Eudora Honeysett. We’ve all known an elderly woman like her, self-contained, forever correcting grammar and pronunciation, and complaining about everything. She doesn’t join in with anything, doesn’t associate with anyone. Her routine is rigid. She is lonely, but would never admit it. But as her life story was revealed, I began to understand her. By the end of the audiobook, I admired her.

This is the story of an elderly woman facing death, on her terms. This is not a depressing story. It is a story of hope. It is confirmation that it is never too late to start living, or to make friends.

It would have been easy to over-sentimentalise this tale, but Annie Lyons has adroitly avoided this trap. Instead it is poignant and touching, honest and realistic.

The character of Rose, the child next door, who inveigles herself into Eudora’s life, is a breath of fresh air. Rose is full of life, of joy de vivre. She is a force to be reckoned with, impossible to resist. She is a child who prefers the company of adults after being bullied at school. Her family adopts Eudora, and Rose and Stan, the man who rescues Eudora after a fall, slowly broaden Eudora’s horizons.

We all think about death and, naturally at her age, so does Eudora. Annie Lyons uses Eudora’s story to introduce us to the concept of the death doula, and the option of the arranged death. There is a lot of information contained in this story, unbiased and unemotionally presented.

Narrator Nicolette McKenzie does a wonderful job of the many different voices and I will be watching for her name on other recordings.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#EudoraHoneysettisQuiteWellThankYou #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: After a career in bookselling and publishing, Annie Lyons published five books including the best-selling, Not Quite Perfect. When not working on her novels, she teaches creative writing. She lives in south-east London with her husband and two children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins Audio UK, One More Chapter via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You, written by Annie Lyons and narrated by Nicolette McKenzie. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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