Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s the middle day of our long weekend . . . I always think that I am going to accomplish so much over a three day weekend, but in reality it’s a different matter.

I did get a bit of gardening done at Dustin’s yesterday, and I have done a little bit at home today, but mainly I have been catching up on laundry and housework, both of which have been somewhat neglected over the past couple of weeks.

Now it has started to drizzle, so I have come back inside for a late lunch. Hopefully it won’t come to much and I can finish tidying up the front gardens.

This morning I started reading The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes. The first few chapters have left me stunned and breathless! This is going to be a great read.

Currently I am listening to The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet.

A little over a quarter of the way in, and suddenly it is becoming very interesting . . .

Now, as to what I am planning on reading this week, I veered completely off track last week and read neither of my planned books 🤦‍♀️ I will see if I can do better this week 🤣😂

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

It’s a dark, smog-choked new Delhi winter. Indian American single mother Anjali Morgan juggles her job as a psychiatrist with caring for her autistic teenage son. She is in a long-standing affair with ambitious police commissioner Jatin Bhatt – an irresistible attraction that could destroy both their lives.

Jatin’s home life is falling apart: his handsome and charming son is not all he appears to be, and his wife has too much on her plate to pay attention to either husband or son. But Jatin refuses to listen to anyone, not even the sister to whom he is deeply attached.

Across the city there is a crime spree: slum women found stuffed in trash bags, faces and bodies disfigured by acid. And as events spiral out of control Anjali is horrifyingly at the centre of it all. . .

The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

At nearly ninety, retired nature writer Hattie Bloom prefers the company of birds to people, but when a fall lands her in a nursing home she struggles to cope with the loss of independence and privacy. From the confines of her ‘room with a view’ of the carpark, she dreams of escape.

Fellow ‘inmate’, the gregarious, would-be comedian Walter Clements also plans on returning home as soon as he is fit and able to take charge of his mobility scooter.

When Hattie and Walter officially meet at The Night Owls, a clandestine club run by Sister Bronwyn and her dog, Queenie, they seem at odds. But when Sister Bronwyn is dismissed over her unconventional approach to aged care, they must join forces — and very slowly an unlikely, unexpected friendship begins to grow.

I have three ARCs this week from Netgalley:

Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

One Way Street by Trevor Wood

No doubt after I have visited Susan’s, Carla’s and Carol’s posts today, I will be rushing back to Netgalley, my requesting finger itching! I still also have several requests pending.

Happy reading my friends and stay safe, particularly if you are living in those parts of the world which are having a Covid resurgence. Stay home and read. It’s safer. ❤📚

Cheers

Sandy

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

EXCERPT: … Stacey went into the sitting room and, as she often did, sat in a second armchair, close to Mum’s TV chair, and started talking. Mum glanced at her without particular recognition but without alarm either, and then went back to watching a nature programme about meat-eating pitcher plants.

‘I’ve been to see Gaby,’ Stacey said. ‘You remember Gaby? She was the little blonde one I was at uni with. Well, she’s now a really big shot in a huge international bank. You’d be amazed to see her, Mum. Tiny Gaby controlling all that money, and all those people. We went to a cocktail place and I had two mojitos. I shouldn’t think you’ve ever had a mojito in your life, have you?’

Mum’s gaze didn’t waver from the screen. Some kind of climbing shrew had cleverly learned to balance on the rim of the pitcher plant and lick off the alluring sweetness without falling in. Mum’s expression was blank. What, exactly, was she seeing?

‘We talked about so much,’ Stacey said. ‘Over an hour of solid talking. And I found myself telling her all kinds of things, like I’d been longing – don’t get me wrong, Mum – to go back to work, but I was surprised to find that being in Canary Wharf didn’t turn me on as I thought it would. I thought that I’d be gazing at all those busy people and envying them and longing to join them, but I wasn’t. I didn’t. Isn’t that weird? I’d imagined that all I wanted was to be back where I used to be, but something in my head seems to have moved on a bit, and however much I am dying to feel my own purpose and power again, it doesn’t feel right returning to what I used to do. Does that sound insane to you?’

The shrew had now clambered nimbly off the plant and a large flying insect had replaced it and fallen in. There were extraordinary camera shots of the liquid in the pitcher plant engulfing the struggling insect. How had they done that? How had they got a camera inside a pitcher plant? Mum’s expression betrayed not a trace of wonder or curiosity.

‘Mum,’ Stacey said, ‘can you imagine how I feel? Can you visualise this really strange sensation of liberation?’

Mum suddenly said, with emphasis, ‘Good dog.’

ABOUT CITY OF FRIENDS: The day Stacey Grant loses her job feels like the last day of her life. Or at least, the only life she’d ever known. For who was she if not a City high-flyer, Senior Partner at one of the top private equity firms in London?

As Stacey starts to reconcile her old life with the new – one without professional achievements or meetings, but instead, long days at home with her dog and ailing mother, waiting for her successful husband to come home – she at least has The Girls to fall back on. Beth, Melissa and Gaby. The girls, now women, had been best friends from the early days of university right through their working lives, and for all the happiness and heartbreaks in between.

But these career women all have personal problems of their own, and when Stacey’s redundancy forces a betrayal to emerge that was supposed to remain secret, their long cherished friendships will be pushed to their limits . . .

MY THOUGHTS: Joanna Trollope is a ‘go to’ author for me. Though, I must confess, it took me a little longer to get comfortable in this book than it normally does with one of her novels. I didn’t immediately engage with her characters because, I think, their personalities are not immediately apparent. The first chapter on each is almost a biography, or at least a CV. Once I got past the initial four chapters, (one for each character) I became immersed in their lives and, by the end, could have had a coffee and a chat with them at the kitchen table.

Trollope writes somewhat elegantly about four middle aged career women who lead rather privileged lives. By that I mean that they don’t have to worry about finding the money to settle the power account or meet the mortgage payment. Although they may not have money worries, they do have other problems.

Stacey has just lost her job because she wanted to work from home in order to care for her mother who has been diagnosed with dementia. Beth is facing a personal crisis. The father of Melissa’s son is encroaching on her life, complete with his new family, and Gaby’s work and personal lives are clashing. It seems that life is spiralling out of control for all four women who have always been proud of their ability to keep everything under control and, indeed, to ‘have it all,’ and to always be there for one another.

This is real life stuff, with tiredness, and misunderstandings, ‘off’ days, the occasional snarky comment and loss of temper. While we may always love our nearest and dearest, we don’t always like them or things that they do.

Trollope depicts her characters with an astute understanding of human relationships. I love her characters, warts and all. City of Friends is not her best book by far, but I enjoyed this comfortable read.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#CityofFriends #NetGalley

‘I have put properties in joint names with someone else, but I have never shared a bank account.’

‘Children are lent to us. They never belong to us. They belong only to themselves.’

THE AUTHOR: Joanna Trollope Potter Curteis (aka Caroline Harvey)

Joanna Trollope was born on 9 December 1943 in her grandfather’s rectory in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, England, daughter of Rosemary Hodson and Arthur George Cecil Trollope. She is the eldest of three siblings. She is a fifth-generation niece of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope and is a cousin of the writer and broadcaster James Trollope. She was educated at Reigate County School for Girls followed by St Hugh’s College, Oxford. On 14 May 1966, she married the banker David Roger William Potter, they had two daughters, Antonia and Louise, and on 1983 they divorced. In 1985, she remarried to the television dramatist Ian Curteis, and became the stepmother of two stepsons; they divorced in 2001. Today, she is a grandmother and lives on her own in London.

From 1965 to 1967, she worked at the Foreign Office. From 1967 to 1979, she was employed in a number of teaching posts before she became a writer full-time in 1980. Her novel Parson Harding’s Daughter won in 1980 the Romantic Novel of the Year Award by the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan McMillan Australia, Mantle, for providing a digital ARC of City of Friends by Joanna Trollope 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

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

EXCERPT: Helen’s husband, Dan, died suddenly eleven months and three days ago, dropping his coffee cup and sliding almost noiselessly out of his kitchen chair and onto the floor. Helen, who’d been standing at the sink, still feels guilty about yelling at him for breaking his cup before she turned to see him sprawled on his back, his eyes wide open and startled looking. She believes the last thing Dan felt was surprise, and to her way of thinking, it wasn’t a bad way to go. The bad part is he left her here without him, ignorant of, . . . oh, everything.

ABOUT HOME SAFE: In this novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames–recently widowed, coping with loss and grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her–is beginning to depend far too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, and is meddling in her life, offering unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Helen’s problems are compounded by her shocking discovery that her mild-mannered and loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. The Ameses had painstakingly saved for a happy retirement, but that money disappeared in several large withdrawals made by Helen’s husband before he died. In order to support herself and garner a measure of much needed independence, Helen takes an unusual job that ends up offering far more than she had anticipated. And then a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery that causes both mother and daughter to reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.

MY THOUGHTS: It’s a long time since I have read anything by Elizabeth Berg. My mum and I used to share this author, discussing our latest read over coffee and scones (my mum made the best scones, I miss them) or lunch out at some cafe or other. This is the first book I have picked up by this author since my mother passed away some years ago. I haven’t consciously avoided them, I just haven’t even thought about them, which is kind of strange. But on the plus side, look at all the wonderful titles I have to catch up on!

Berg writes quietly, with compassion, tenderness, empathy and flashes of humor. I have heard people comment, ‘But nothing happens!’ But in fact a lot happens. Just because there’s not a lot of ‘action’ doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Home Safe is an intimate novel, not in a sexual sense, but in the context that we get to know Helen intimately; her frustrations, her disappointments, her fears, her achievements, her hopes and dreams. We watch her grow as a person after Dan’s sudden death, to learn that she can survive, even flourish, without him, that she has untapped strengths and potentials that come to light as her life takes her in new directions.

Helen starts out as a not very likeable character; whiny and insecure with not an ounce of common sense! She calls the police in the early hours of the morning when there is water dripping from a bulge in her ceiling and the sheer number of plumbers in the yellow pages overwhelms her! She is needy, almost pathetically so, but I do love her snarky side! You know those unkind thoughts we have sometimes that none of us like to admit to? Yeah, those.

Without the buffer of Dan between them, Helen and daughter Tessa are forced to realign their relationship. Helen has been an overbearing mother, Tessa a dismissive daughter, Dan the conduit between them.

And there is the mystery of the missing money. What did Dan do with the $850,000 he withdrew from the investment account? Paradoxically, it is this money that Helen no longer has that saves her from herself.

I love this quote from the Wichita Sunday Eagle – ‘A beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit.’ That sums it up beautifully.

This is a lovely read written with Berg’s trademark warmth and humour, her wry observations guaranteed to bring a smile to the face and a better understanding of our own characters.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Berg is an American novelist. Berg was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, and lived in Boston prior to her residence in Chicago. She studied English and Humanities at the University of Minnesota, but later ended up with a nursing degree. (Wikipedia)

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Home Safe written and narrated by Elizabeth Berg, published by Random House Audio, via Overdrive. 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, Instagram, and Goodreads.com

I went to the second hand bookstore Tuesday…..

I took ten books in,

And came out with twenty.

Just doing my bit for the economy.

🤣😂❤😍📚☕🍪

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

EXCERPT: ‘Eleanor.’

She sat up because she hadn’t even been aware of answering the phone and the night was still black and nothing made sense. Her head spun, and she dropped it forward to make it stop, which allowed other things to fall into place.

‘Robert?’

‘I’m sorry to wake you.’

‘What time is it?’

‘Just after four.’

‘My God, has something happened?’

‘No. well, I don’t know. Nancy’s not here. I must have fallen asleep when I was reading, because I’ve just woken up and she’s not back. And her phone’s going straight to voicemail.’

The streetlights were seeping in through the cracks in Eleanor’s curtains, and she tried to focus on the strip of artificial light, as if it meant something.

‘You don’t know where she is, do you? I mean, she didn’t by any chance come back to your place after dinner, did she?’ His voice sounded like overstretched elastic.

‘No – no, she didn’t.’ She swung her legs out of the bed, and all the irritation she’d felt for Nancy the night before, for ages really, sloshed about in her body. ‘Look, I can be there in fifteen minutes.’

Oh, God, you don’t have to…’

‘It’s fine, Robert. I’ll throw on some clothes and get into the car.’

The elastic in his voice snapped. ‘Oh, God, do you think, then … I mean, should I call the police?’

‘No, wait for me.’ Eleanor pulled on her jeans as she spoke, and her irritation mutated to anger. She wanted to pick up something and hurl it against the wall. She wanted to scream into Nancy’s perfect face. She wouldn’t let her get away with this. She would recount everything, every last painful second, she would spare her nothing.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, an adoring husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous, wealthy, and cherished by those who knew her—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, and maybe even themselves.

A gripping, immersive novel about impossible expectations and secrets that fester and become lethal, Imperfect Women unfolds through the perspectives of three fascinating women. Their enduring, complex friendship is the knot the reader must untangle to answer the question Who killed Nancy?

MY THOUGHTS: I finished Imperfect Women with a definite sense of despondency. I felt weighted down by it. It was not the book I needed right at this moment. It has taken a long walk in the sunshine and a couple of hours of my favorite music to brighten my mood.

Imperfect Women is a brutally honest book about the bonds of friendship and marriage, human stupidity, love (or what passes for it), family, and the destructive powers of guilt and deception (in its many forms). It deals deeply with the expectations women place upon themselves, and those that the men in their lives impose upon them. It is a well written and well plotted book. But it is not a book to be read lightly; it is full of despair and introspection. I think that this is a book that will haunt me for some time.

The murder of Nancy is the catalyst for a chain reaction, but it is not the focus of the story. That remains firmly on the after effects of Nancy’s death.

The story is told in three parts: the first by Eleanor, best friend of both Nancy and Mary, philanthropist career woman, unmarried, childless and with no ‘significant other’ in her life; the second part is told from Nancy’s point of view and, believe me, there is not a lot to like about this woman, who has a brilliant brain which she has never put to use, and who is married to wealthy Robert with one daughter, and is careless with her affections; the third part is told from Mary’s point of view, married to University lecturer and narcissist Howard, with three children and no life outside the home. It is incredible to me that these three women have continued to be friends through all the years since their university days as they have absolutely nothing but their past in common.

At no time did I ever consider abandoning this read, yet neither did I rush to pick it up again after putting it down. I think I need a bit of time and distance from this one to gain a better perspective. I plan, in a week or so, to return and edit this review and possibly even my rating. Would I read another book by this author? Definitely.

🤔🤔🤔.3

#ImperfectWomen #NetGalley

‘We live in a world now where there has to be an answer to everything. We wonder about something and Google tells us the answer, but death isn’t always like that. And nor is love.’

‘What seems like great catastrophes to you are really just small sorrows in the big scheme of things.’

‘We have a responsibility to those who love us. … being loved makes us precious, and that means we have to take care of ourselves. You know, I think you and I, and Nancy as well, we’re good at loving, but not good at being loved. But that means we’re missing something important. We’re taking on too much of the bad responsibility and not enough of the good…’

‘There is always the possibility of new chapters in everyone’s stories.’

THE AUTHOR: Araminta Hall began her career in journalism as a staff writer on teen magazine Bliss, becoming Health and Beauty editor of New Woman. On her way, she wrote regular features for the Mirror’s Saturday supplement and ghost-wrote the super-model Caprice’s column.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall 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

Tiny White Lies by Fiona Palmer

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EXCERPT: ‘This is amazing,’ said Ash, her head turning to watch the bushes that went past her window. Hard waxy leaves of all shapes and sizes, made to endure the coastal winds and Aussie summers.

They started to climb up, bouncing through large holes in the track until they finally hit the summit. Micky pulled up next to Luke where the track had widened for a small passing lane or a parking spot.

‘Oh, wow.’

Ash gaped and so did Nikki even though she had seen this view a long time ago. In front of them the green shades of vegetation fell away until it hit the ocean edge and then for miles all nothing but the dark blue of water to the horizon.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Ashley has recently lost her husband. Daughter Emily is being bullied online.

Best friend Nikki is holding a huge secret. And why is husband, Chris, receiving so many text messages lately?

Their teenage children are glued to technology, be it PlayStation, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat . . .

The two women hatch a plan: for three weeks, both families will stay in a rustic, remote coastal camp with no phone reception. While the teenagers struggle to embrace this new world of self-entertaining in the rugged bushland, the adults are trying to maintain a certain facade. Soon, around the flames of the camp fire, their tiny white lies might just begin to be exposed.

MY THOUGHTS: Tiny White Lies delivered so much more than I expected. Palmer paints a portrait of deep friendship between two women. Yet, despite this bond, there are things, secrets and fears, that they are keeping to themselves. Things that they paper over with tiny white lies…

Palmer doesn’t back away from the difficulties of ordinary life, she tackles her subjects head on, but with great empathy. Ash’s husband committed suicide and, because of this, his insurance policy won’t pay out. She is struggling to make ends meet with a mortgage, a teenage daughter, and an unfulfilling job. Then, on a random check of her daughter’s social media, she discovers Em is being bullied….’If you died, no one would care.’, and ‘Just kill yourself already u know u want to just like your daddy!!!’ And then Ash is told that she is being made redundant. How much can one woman take?

Best friend Nikki has problems that she is not about to share with anyone. What she will share though is that she believes her husband, Chris, is having an affair. Her teenage children are glued to technology. Chloe has no ambition in life other than to be an ‘influencer.’ Josh will play video games all night. Desperate for some time to think, and to give their children some new and real experiences, the two families head to a wilderness retreat at Bremer Bay in southwestern Australia. No internet, no phones, no pressure.

What they are about to learn is that you can’t run away from your problems. Wherever you go, they come along with you. And those secrets and tiny white lies might not be quite so easy to conceal at close quarters.

I picked Tiny White Lies for two reasons. One, I was in need of a little Australiana. I got it in spades. From the beautifully depicted landscapes, to the dialect and slang, the food, right down to my favourite Australian movie ‘Red Dog,’ it was there. I think the only thing I missed was prawns on the barbie – my absolute favourite! And the movie Red Dog? If you ever get the chance, watch it. Tissues mandatory. Even my husband cries at this one. The second reason was the astonishing amount of excellent fiction currently coming from Australian authors, and Palmer definitely doesn’t disappoint there either. I will be reading more from this author.

The storyline is honest and emotional, the characters realistic and engaging. Tiny White Lies is a wonderful domestic drama/romance that I read in one sitting in between naps.

😍😍😍😍.4 Highly recommended.

‘I don’t like it. It’s like having a night sky with no stars.’

THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: Perth, Western Australia https://www.australia.com/en/places/p…
and Bremer Bay https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attract…

Fiona Palmer mentions several of the features and attractions of both Perth and Bremer Bay in Tiny White Lies.

THE AUTHOR: Before becoming an author, Fiona Palmer was a speedway driver for seven years and now spends her days writing both women’s and young adult fiction, working as a farmhand and caring for her two children in the tiny rural community of Pingaring, 350 km from Perth, Western Australia.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Tiny White Lies 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…

Hi all! Well the worst of the weekend is over and I have finished work for the day. Pete and I went out for a late lunch together. We started out by heading to our favourite cafe in the next town south, but it was packed to capacity and a line of people waiting to be seated, so we headed almost an hour further south to a little coastal pub in Awakino. We had a lovely lunch, an open Gurnard sandwich for me with homemade tartare, salad and capers. It was delicious. As was Pete’s beef burger which featured a good sized tasty homemade beef patty. I took some photos on the way down, mainly of the single lane tunnel which is going to be bypassed. My boys used to love the echoes of the car horn in the tunnel and we sounded the horn all the way through the tunnel as a farewell salute today. Not that we needed to, as traffic lights mean there’s no chance of meeting anyone in the middle coming from the other direction. I had intended to take more on the way back, but the rain was too heavy. Once I remember how to download the photos from my phone to my tablet, I will share them. Too tired this afternoon to even think about it…Pete is currently asleep in his chair in front of the footy.

Anyway, on to what I’m reading….

I have started Rachel Joyce’s Miss Benson’s Beetle.

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I am at 30% and, honestly, am not yet feeling the love. To be quite honest, I am finding it slightly ridiculous. I hope that is not going to be my final opinion. I absolutely adored The Love Songs of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and liked but did not love The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

I am currently listening to The Chess Men by Peter May. This is the second book in his wonderful Lewis trilogy. As always with this author, I was instantly absorbed.

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This week I am planning on reading The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson

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Two friends go on holiday. Only one comes back.

Orla and Kate have been best friends forever. Together they’ve faced it all – be it Orla’s struggles as a new mother or Kate’s messy divorce. And whatever else happens in their lives, they can always look forward to their annual weekend away.

This year, they’re off to Lisbon: the perfect flat, the perfect view, the perfect itinerary. And what better way to kick things off in style than with the perfect night out?

But when Orla wakes up the next morning, Kate is gone. Brushed off by the police and with only a fuzzy memory of the night’s events, Orla is her friend’s only hope. As she frantically retraces their steps, Orla makes a series of shattering discoveries that threaten everything she holds dear. Because while Lisbon holds the secret of what happened that night, the truth may lie closer to home…

and The Descent by Matt Brolly

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Were they pushed to the edge—or over it?

In the quiet coastal town of Weston-super-Mare, a body is discovered at the foot of a cliff just months after a near-identical tragedy—and Detective Inspector Louise Blackwell can’t believe it could be a coincidence.

Next to the body, she discovers a note that echoes one found beside the first: Death is not the end. Louise is certain that behind these desperate acts someone is pulling the strings, but how many more will plunge to their demise before she can find out who—and why?

Struggling to stay focused under the strain of her troubled brother’s disappearance with his young daughter, Louise hits a much-needed breakthrough when a third tragedy points to the involvement of a charismatic cult leader. The suspect is within her sights, but he knows she’s on to him…

Short on proof and with the body count rising, can Louise intercept his deadly mission—or has she taken on an unbeatable foe?

And nine, yes 9, new ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️

I have two titles by Hannah Mary McKinnon,

The Secret Son

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and The Neighbors

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What Became of Us by Anna Mansell

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Good Will by Tiffany W. Killoren

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When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

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Glimmer As You Can by Danielle Martin

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The Wife by Shalini Boland

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Stolen Children by Michael Wood

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And, The Last to Know by Jo Furniss

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Well, after that haul, there’s only one thing that I can do….READ!

Enjoy whatever is left of your weekend. I am ordering dinner in tonight so that I don’t lose any reading time!

Happy reading and stay safe and healthy.

Cheers
Sandy

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

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EXCERPT: Wearing nothing but their father’s old seersucker pajama tops over their panties, the four girls pushed Genevieve’s convertible to the end of the long drive before Vivi climbed behind the wheel and started it. There was only a dollop of gas in the tank so they couldn’t get far.

‘I just know we shouldn’t be doing this,’ Necie said as they journeyed into the night. ‘We should have at least put on pajama bottoms.’

‘Necie, this is not a mortal sin, you know,’ said Teensy.

‘I do not recall it being listed in the Baltimore Catechism,’ Vivi said.

‘Moses didn’t utter one word about pajama bottoms when he came down from the mountain,’ said Caro.

‘Well,’ Necie said, ‘I guess these tops do cover more of our bodies than our swimsuits do.’

As Vivi drove, it seemed that not only the Ya-Yas’ bodies but the earth and sky were sweating. The very air they breathed was almost a juice. Moonlight spilled down into the convertible, onto the four friends’ shoulders and knees and on the tops of their heads, so that their hair seemed to have little sparks shooting off it. ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered ‘ played on the radio. Vivi had no idea at all where she was headed, but she knew that whatever direction she went, her friends would go with her.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.” Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘The beauty of imperfect love.’ That is the essence of the series of books that begins with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

On the surface, this is a story of friendship, love and survival. But it goes so much deeper than that. Wells explores the mother daughter bond, with all its misunderstandings and misconceptions, hurt feelings and petty feuds, and the underlying love that ultimately overshadows everything else.

This is not a subtle story. It is big and loud and blowsy. Flamboyant. Southern. It is full of emotion from full-blown histrionics to studied indifference. It’s characters love and hate with equal abandon, they drink, and cuss, and appear to neglect their children. But they have a bond, seemingly unbreakable, so that when something threatens one of them, they circle their wagons and protect one another.

But what happens when that threat, that danger, comes from inside? Siddalee Walker is about to find out. A few careless words to a reporter about her mother may have just exiled her from her family forever….

I love this book. Adore it. It is my favourite of the three in the series. Tattered is how I would describe its condition. Definitely beyond well worn. I read it often and I find it extremely difficult to put into words how much this book makes me feel. I laugh (a lot) and cry (not quite so much) every time I read it. It invokes memories, pleasant and not so pleasant, of my own childhood. Every time I read this, I get something different from it. Definitely one of my lifetime top ten books.

❤❤❤❤❤

THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Wells was born and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana. “I grew up,” she says, “in the fertile world of story-telling, filled with flamboyance, flirting, futility, and fear.” Surrounded by Louisiana raconteurs, a large extended family, and Our Lady of Prompt Succor’s Parish, Rebecca’s imagination was stimulated at every turn. Early on, she fell in love with thinking up and acting in plays for her siblings—the beginnings of her career as an actress and writer for the stage. She recalls her early influences as being the land around her, harvest times, craw-fishing in the bayou, practicing piano after school, dancing with her mother and brothers and sister, and the close relationship to her black “mother” who cleaned for the Wells household. She counts black music and culture from Louisiana as something that will stay in her body’s memory forever.

In high school, she read Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” which opened her up to the idea that everything in life is a poem, and that, as she says, “We are not born separately from one another.” She also read “Howl,” Allen Ginsberg’s indictment of the strangling consumer-driven American culture he saw around him. Acting in school and summer youth theater productions freed Rebecca to step out of the social hierarchies of high school and into the joys of walking inside another character and living in another world.

The day after she graduated from high school, Rebecca left for Yellowstone National Park, where she worked as a waitress. It was an introduction to the natural glories of the park—mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, and geysers—as well as to the art of hitchhiking.

Rebecca graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, where she studied theater, English, and psychology. She performed in many college plays, but also stepped outside the theater department to become awakened to women’s politics. During this time she worked as a cocktail waitress–once accidentally kicking a man in the shins when he slipped a ten-dollar bill down the front of her dress—and began keeping a journal after reading Anais Nin, which she has done ever since.

DISCLOSURE: I own my own copy of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, published by Harper Collins. And do not ever try to part me from it.

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, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

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EXCERPT: Tommy knew many things as a result of being the janitor in that school for more than thirty years: he knew of girls’ pregnancies and of drunken mothers and cheating spouses, for he overheard these things talked about by the students in their small huddles by the bathrooms, or near the cafeteria; in many ways he was invisible, he understood that. But Lucy Barton had troubled him the most. She and her sister, Vicky, and her brother, Pete, had been viciously scorned by the other kids, and by some of the teachers too. Yet, because Lucy stayed after school so often for so many years, he felt – though she seldom spoke – that he knew her the best. One time, when she was in the fourth grade, it was his first year working there, he had opened the door to a classroom and found her lying on three chairs pushed together, over near the radiators, her coat as a blanket, fast asleep. He had stared at her, watching her chest move slightly up and down, seen the dark circles beneath her eyes, her eyelashes spread like tiny twinkling stars, for her eyelids had been moist as though she had been weeping before she slept, and then he backed out slowly, quietly as he could; it had felt almost unseemly to have come upon her like that.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Short story collection Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.

Here are two sisters: one trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother’s happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence.

MY THOUGHTS: Elizabeth Strout always creeps up on me and takes me unawares. She is a master of making the ordinary extraordinary, of taking the everyday minutiae of life and revealing their hidden depths and nuances, of highlighting the gaps between perception and reality.

The common thread between all ten of these short stories, is Lucy Barton, of ‘My Name is Lucy Barton’, which was the first book I had ever read by this author. These stories are set in the town of Amgash, Illinois, where Lucy grew up. They are about other members of her family, people she knew, and people who knew, or knew of, her.

The characters are complex, and not always nice, the relationships difficult, the plot intricately ordinary. This could be any community, anywhere in the world. There is luck, good and bad, plenty and poverty, opportunities taken, and wasted, love reciprocated, and unrequited, affairs, deceit, blackmail, abuse, and bravery, so much bravery, although it is mostly not recognised as such.

I was sad to close the cover on this book (or, if I am being honest, to put away my earbuds). But I will be back to visit with Ms Strout soon. I have Olive Kitteridge in my sights.

****

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Anything is Possible, written by Elizabeth Strout, beautifully narrated by Kimberley Farr, and published by Penguin Books Ltd, via Overdrive. 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 posted on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Breaking & Mending by Joanna Cannon

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EXCERPT: Up until that first day as a junior doctor, I had never met death outside of my own family, other than in the detached, leather cadavers of the dissection room and in the neat rituals of a post-mortem. As a medic, I had never found myself face to face with the end of someone’s life, at least not one that didn’t rest quietly upon a stainless steel table, but still I went to the ward on that day to fulfill my first task as a junior doctor feeling more than prepared for the experience.

And I did know how to feel for a pulse and how to look for signs of respiratory effort. I did know how to check for the presence of a pacemaker and fill out the death certificate. I had been taught all of this, and I could deal with it. But what I couldn’t deal with, and what I didn’t know, was how I would feel walking into a room at the end of someone’s life and seeing all the small details around that room that told me who this person was. The small details that told me this person’s story. The bag of knitting and the get-well cards, the half-eaten pack of Polo Mints, and the puzzle books. It was the paperback on the bedside table that stayed with me more than anything else. Closed shut, its bookmark resting forevermore halfway through a story. I took the sight of that paperback and kept it with me. It joined other small details I collected on the wards as I went through my days, not realizing that it was the weight of these details that would eventually break me.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: An intimate, urgent account of doctor burnout and life as a psychiatrist from bestselling author Joanna Cannon

“A few years ago, I found myself in A&E.

I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn’t eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to the rest of the hospital happen around me, and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat, from the acceptance of a failure I assumed would be inevitable, but I knew I had to carry on. I had to somehow walk through it.

Because I wasn’t the patient. I was the doctor.”

A frank account of mental health from both sides of the doctor-patient divide, from the bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie, based on her own experience as a doctor working on a psychiatric ward.

MY THOUGHTS: I admire Joanna Cannon greatly. I loved her novels, Three Things About Elsie, and The Difference Between Goats and Sheep. Now I understand how she can write like she does, with such great empathy and understanding.

I have worked in both general and psychiatric nursing in New Zealand, as well as in private practice. I have seen a lot of people, both nurses and doctors, burn out for the same reasons – the hours, the stress, the lack of care and concern for those who care for the ill and dying. People revere actors and sports stars, but are often rude and dismissive of those who save lives. Somewhere, we have managed to get our priorities wrong.

Breaking & Mending is a short but emotional read. This is, as it says in the promotional blurb, ‘an intimate account’ of a woman’s determination to become a doctor, and what happens on her journey.

Next time I need a doctor, I hope that I get a ‘cardigan’, not a ‘coat’.

Thank you Joanna, for sharing your journey with us. I admire you even more than I did before I read Breaking &Mending.

❤❤❤❤❤

#Breaking&Mending #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Joanna Cannon is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, which has sold over 250,000 copies in the UK alone and has been published in 15 countries. The novel was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, shortlisted for The Bookseller Industry Awards 2017 and won the 2016 BAMB Reader Award. Joanna has been interviewed in The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Times, and Good Housekeeping magazine, and her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Guardian, amongst others. She has appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC News Channel’s Meet the Author, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5, and is a regular at literary festivals across the country including Edinburgh and Cheltenham. Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs – barmaid, kennel maid, pizza delivery expert – before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing, and Joanna currently volunteers for Arts for Health, an organisation bringing creative arts to NHS staff and patients. Joanna Cannon’s second novel Three Things About Elsie is published in January 2018 and explores memory, friendship and old age. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Serpent’s Tail/Profile Books for providing a digital ARC of Breaking & Mending by Joanna Cannon 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