The Devine Doughnut Shop by Carolyn Brown

EXCERPT: ‘Where’s the nearest convent or bootcamp?’ Grace Dalton stormed into the kitchen of the Devine Doughnut Shop that Friday morning. ‘That daughter of mine needs to spend some time in whichever one that will take her.’
‘What has Audrey done now?’ Grace’s younger sister, Sarah, asked.
She sent me a text last night after I’d gone to bed and said that she had been suspended for today,’ Grace answered as she slipped a bibbed apron over her head and tied the strings in the back. She tucked her hair up into a net and moved over to the sink to wash her hands.
Their cousin Macy, who was a partner in the doughnut shop, set the bowls up on the counter to get the dough made and rising. ‘Good Lord! What did she do?’
Grace flipped the hot doughnuts into a bowl of powdered sugar glaze, turned them over, and set them out on a different rack to cool. ‘She got caught with a pack of cigarettes and one of those little sample bottles of whisky at school. When she goes back after spring break, she gets to spend two days in the in-school suspension building. I’m paying for your raising, Sarah June, not mine. I was the good child.’

ABOUT ‘THE DEVINE DOUGHNUT SHOP’: For Grace Dalton, her sister, Sarah, and her cousin Macy, the Devine Doughnut Shop is a sweet family legacy and a landmark in their Texas town. As the fourth generation to run the Double D, they keep their great-grandmother’s recipe secret and uphold the shop’s tradition as a coffee klatch for sharing local gossip, advice, and woes. But drama brews behind the counter, too.

Grace is a single mother struggling with an unruly teenage daughter. Heartbroken Sarah has sworn off love. Macy’s impending wedding has an unexpected hitch. And now charming developer Travis Butler has arrived in Devine with a checkbook and a handsome smile. He wants to buy the shop, expand it nationally, and boost the economy of a town divided by the prospect.

With the family’s relationships in flux, their beloved heritage up for grabs, and their future in the air, it’s amazing what determination, sass, a promise of romance, and a warm maple doughnut can do to change hearts and minds.

MY THOUGHTS: I want a maple doughnut – more than one in fact. I am glad we don’t have a decent doughnut shop in our town or I would have been down there every morning buying a dozen to get me through the day.

Anyone who has a teenage daughter, or who has ever been a teenage daughter, is going to relate to this read. Audrey is at that age where being popular is the most important thing in her life. Her mother neither likes nor approves of her friends and Audrey is certain her mother is out to ruin her street cred.

The relationship between Grace and her daughter had me chuckling, recalling similar battles between my mother and myself. I loved the relationship between Grace, her sister Sarah and their cousin Macy. The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, but in this case it just takes a close knit family. I love the way these three support one another and indulge their love of ice-cream in times of crisis.

These characters are all smart, resilient and sassy. Carolyn Brown sure can write them.

This is a heartwarming story of family, friendship, faith and romance that kept me smiling throughout.


#TheDevineDoughnutShop #NetGalley

@carolynbrownbooks #montlake

T: @thecarolynbrown #Montlake

#christianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #friendship #romance #sliceoflife #smalltownfiction

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

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

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


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

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Montlake via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Devine Doughnut Shop by Carolyn Brown for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

EXCERPT: Plates are filled and passed, caps popped off of beer and prosecco bottles. We are having a bona fide party! Edi’s got a glass of bubbly and a chocolate pudding cup from the kitchen. We drag in a couple of extra chairs from the conference room. Farrah Fawcett joins us. Jude gets Nina Simone to pour out of somebody’s speaker. Belle’s got a band-aid on her head and maybe a concussion, but still both girls gleam almost obscenely: shiny pink cheeks; shiny, dark hair – Jules’s long and curly, Belle’s short and bristly – and huge smiles. I catch Honey’s eye: We made these people . Jude is telling Jules the cake story, and Jules is laughing her sleigh-bells laugh. Belle is asking Jonah something about his work, and I hear her say, ‘I know it’s not actually a hedgehog fund.’ Alice is bent over Edi, talking and laughing quietly, tears glinting like diamonds in her long eyelashes. Nina Simone is feeling good. I’m standing with a can of deliciously bitter beer in my hand, beaming and beaming – my jaw actually aches from smiling so much. I have never been so sad and happy in my entire life. The whole time Edi’s been here, I’ve thought: Live like you’re dying? Who would do that? Dying sucks. Now I see it, though. I do want to live like this!

ABOUT ‘WE ALL WANT IMPOSSIBLE THINGS’: Who knows you better than your best friend? Who knows your secrets, your fears, your desires, your strange imperfect self? Edi and Ash have been best friends for over forty years. Since childhood they have seen each other through life’s milestones: stealing vodka from their parents, the Madonna phase, REM concerts, unexpected wakes, marriages, infertility, children. As Ash notes, ‘Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.’

So when Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ash’s world reshapes around the rhythms of Edi’s care, from chipped ice and watermelon cubes to music therapy; from snack smuggling to impromptu excursions into the frozen winter night. Because life is about squeezing the joy out of every moment, about building a powerhouse of memories, about learning when to hold on, and when to let go.

MY THOUGHTS: Every star in the sky for this beautiful book.

Reading We All Want Impossible Things, I cried and laughed and cried and laughed some more, often at the same time. Catherine Newman has written rawly and honestly about love and grief, the messiness of the emotional rollercoaster of caring for, and about, the dying.

But, this is a story that is just as much about living as it is about dying. It is a story of sadness and of hope; it is full of life and laughter, and tears and grief. I loved the way Edi’s family and friends farewelled her, how they all supported and cared for one another. I wanted to be part of this messy and emotional group, to be one of them.

Intertwined with the story of Ash caring for Edi in her final weeks is the story of Ash’s messy life. This doesn’t detract at all from the main thread; they blend and complement each other.

I did have some initial difficulty in keeping the characters straight in my mind: Jude, Jules, Jonah; but this didn’t last long. Ash is a character who grew on me. I didn’t like her much at first, but that changed as the book progressed, and now I would love to have her as a friend.

I love this book enough to buy a hard copy. It’s going on my ‘forever’ shelf: the books I will never be parted from.

This is Catherine Newman’s debut adult novel.

My favourite quote: . . . aren’t you the person who eavesdropped on your mum and her Dublin cousin gossiping about someone’s hysterectomy and thought for years that The Troubles in Ireland were gynecological?’


#WeAllWantImpossibleThings #NetGalley

I: @catherinenewman @randomhouse @doubledayukbooks

T: @CatheriNewman @doubledaybooks

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #friendship #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Hi! I should probably tell you about myself as a writer, even if you were here to find out some other kind of thing! I write (wrote?) the cooking and lifestyle blog Ben & Birdy. I’m not sure why I wrote “lifestyle.” Maybe I mean the kind of lifestyle where you sew your hand to a maple leaf garland while drinking pinot noir.
I have written the grown-up parenting memoirs Catastrophic Happiness (Little, Brown) and Waiting for Birdy (Penguin). I have also written the middle-grade novel One Mixed-Up Night (Random House), Stitch Camp, which is a kids’ craft book I co-wrote with my friend Nicole, and the award-winning bestselling skill-building books for kids How to Be a Person and What Can I Say? (both from Storey). My first adult novel, We All Want Impossible Things, is out now.
I have also written about kids, parents, teenagers, food, cooking, love, loss, gender, eating, death, sex, politics, books, babies, snakes, foraging, relationships, crafts, holidays, travel, and fortune telling for lots of magazines, newspapers, and online publications, including the New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, The Boston Globe, Romper, Self, The Huffington Post, FamilyFun, Parents, and Full Grown People. I am a regular contributor to the Cup of Jo website.
I was, until recently, the etiquette columnist at Real Simple for ten years, even though yes, I swear a lot and don’t know what an oyster fork is. I edit the James-Beard-Award-winning nonprofit kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop.
My work has been in lots of books and anthologies, including On Being 40, the fabulous Unbored series, The Bitch in the House, Oprah’s Little Book of Happiness, and the Full Grown People collections.
I’ve also done plenty of consulting, public radio commentaries, readings, talks, workshops, and TV appearances.
Two random things: I have a PhD, and I’m the secretary of Creative Writing at Amherst College. (

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman 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 profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Sunrise With the Silver Surfers by Maddie Please

EXCERPT: Someone switched on the fairy lights that surrounded the Wipe-Out. They were like white stars against the dark sea-scented sky and the whole evening was suddenly unforgettable.
I looked at my aunt and uncle, laughing together across the table, Benjo trying and failing to flip and catch six beer mats at once. Maggie mopping up his spilled beer with a paper napkin and slapping his arm for his clumsiness. Next to me, Rowan and Shane were singing along to a Beatles song, Shane with his arm around her and tapping out the beat with his feet. It was lovely to see how relaxed and carefree they were.
The tears pricked at my eyes. How and why had I stayed away from my lovely family for so long? I’d left Australia filled with optimism and excitement. I’d returned having learned a hard lesson, one that had changed me from a confident, extroverted young woman into someone who had settled for so little when life had so much to offer.

ABOUT ‘SUNRISE WITH THE SILVER SURFERS’: Newly single at sixty, Elin Anderson decides it’s finally time for an adventure of her own. With her marriage to tedious Tom now officially over, Elin plans to visit the family she hasn’t seen in years. First stop: Australia!

But going home is harder than Elin thought. Everywhere she turns Elin sees brightness and colour, which only makes her own life seem even more drab and beige. How has she let herself fade away?

Determined to have some fun, Elin reluctantly agrees to join The Silver Surfers – a group of seniors who travel the coast, only caring about their next big adventure. Because life’s too short to watch the ocean when you could be making waves…

There’s only one catch – her road trip companion, Kit Pascoe. Kit is a man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word fun and makes it clear to Elin that this adventure will be subject to his own strict rules.

But with every new day, Elin slowly begins to rediscover who she really is. And she’s certain that rules are meant to be broken…aren’t they?

MY THOUGHTS: Maddie Please certainly does – please, that is.

Her books are heartwarming, poignant and fun; her characters lifelike and relatable. I think I was originally married to the same man as Elin; he just used a different name. And funnily enough, Australia was also where I rediscovered the original me. So there was a lot for me to relate to in this read, but that’s not the only reason I enjoyed this book.

Maddie Please’s writing is full of fun, humor and energy. Her characters are engaging, and I was swept along by the storyline. It is upbeat and enchanting. There is, of course, a certain amount of soul-searching on Elin’s part, but it is swamped by her desire to rediscover the person she used to be and not ever to lose her own identity again.

A great alternative title for this book would be ‘Elin Grows a Backbone’!

There are lots of laugh-out-loud moments in this read which is funny without being silly. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a heartwarming and fun read!


#SunriseWithTheSilverSurfers #NetGalley

I: @maddieplease1 @bookandtonic

T: @MaddiePlease1 @BoldwoodBooks

#contemporaryfiction #friendship #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Maddie Please was born in Dorset, brought up in Worcestershire and went to University in Cardiff.

After a career as a dentist Maddie now lives in Devon with her exceptionally handsome and supportive husband. They have 4 adult-ish children all of whom have left home and are probably rather surprised by all this. She did warn them.

Maddie is a voracious reader, and would enjoy hoovering, defrosting the fridge and cleaning the windows but unfortunately she doesn’t really have time. She is very disciplined and sensible about her writing and she likes to write every day because it gets her out of doing the ironing.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Sunrise With The Silver Surfers by Maddie Please 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 profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Watching what I’m reading . . .

BRILLIANT BOOK ALERT! This book, which I finished today – a one day read – has earned every star in the Galaxy from me.

I am too emotional at the moment to write a review about this book, but please watch for it in the coming days. I cried, and laughed, and cried some more. I now want to read everything this author has written.

Currently I am reading The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

I am continuing with my read of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths with #4, A Room Full of Bones.

and doing a read/listen of Devil’s Way (Kate Marshall #4) by Robert Bryndza, which I am loving in both formats.

This week I have six books to read for review in addition to The Sisters We Were. They are:

A Winter Grave by Peter May

It is the year 2051. Warnings of climate catastrophe have been ignored, and vast areas of the planet are under water, or uninhabitably hot. A quarter of the world’s population has been displaced by hunger and flooding, and immigration wars are breaking out around the globe as refugees pour into neighboring countries.

By contrast, melting ice sheets have brought the Gulf Stream to a halt and northern latitudes, including Scotland, are being hit by snow and ice storms. It is against this backdrop that Addie, a young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station, discovers the body of a man entombed in ice.

The dead man is investigative reporter, George Younger, missing for three months after vanishing during what he claimed was a hill-walking holiday. But Younger was no hill walker, and his discovery on a mountain-top near the Highland village of Kinlochleven, is inexplicable.

Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to be flown north to investigate Younger’s death, but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda. He has just been given a devastating medical prognosis by his doctor and knows the time has come to face his estranged daughter who has made her home in the remote Highland village.

Arriving during an ice storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at the inappropriately named International Hotel, where Younger’s body has been kept refrigerated in a cake cabinet. But evidence uncovered during his autopsy places the lives of both Brodie and Roy in extreme jeopardy.

As another storm closes off communications and the possibility of escape, Brodie must face up not only to the ghosts of his past, but to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that George Younger’s investigations had threatened to expose.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed – if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong, and the truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined.

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston

Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.

When Rosa Quinn left her childhood home in Westenbury, she never expected to return over a decade later as the village vicar. But after a health scare and catching her boyfriend cheating, Rosa jumps at the chance to start over and live closer to her triplet sisters Eva and Hannah.

But Rosa’s isn’t the only old face in the village, and when her role in the parish throws her into the path of her ex, she begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake. Meanwhile, Eva and Hannah face their own troubles, as secrets about their family threaten to emerge.

Can Rosa make a life for herself in Westenbury? Or will the sisters discover you can’t run away from the past?

That Night at the Beach by Kate Hewitt

As mothers we never dare to delve into our worst-nightmare scenarios. What if… we might murmur to each other, and then shake our heads, telling ourselves it’ll never happen to us if we’re just good enough mothers. Yet here we are. And the steady beep of the heart monitor is the only evidence the child in front of us is alive…

It’s Labor Day weekend, so of course we went to the beach. Like we do every year. For a barbecue picnic with my best friend Rose. It’s the perfect tradition—drinks, games, burgers, music, laughter. Together with our husbands, my two teenage sons and her two daughters, we all arrived as the sun was still shimmering over the water, the whole evening ahead of us.

But nothing goes to plan. Old secrets emerge, tempers flare. And so we parents decide to leave the beach, telling the teenagers to enjoy themselves, reassuring them someone will be back to collect them in an hour or two.

But when I return a little while later, I know something is really wrong. Our teens are slurring their words, stumbling to the car. It’s clear they have been drinking and I’m shocked. I never expected our kids to behave this way. I’m bracing myself to have firm words with them in the morning, but the next day my concerns fade to nothing, when seventeen-year-old Bella claims my son Finn assaulted her.

Finn insists he would never do that. And I so want to believe him. Because I brought my son up right. Because a mother would know, wouldn’t she?

What I don’t know is that the answer to what happened that night on the beach may be a matter of life and death for one of our beloved children… 

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

One Day With You by Shari Lowe

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

One Day with You – two fateful goodbyes, two unexpected hellos, and 24 hours that change everything. 

I have received two new ARCs from Netgalley for review this week.

the audiobook The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake and narrated by Aiofe McMahon

A Mischief of Rats by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

I have 17 requests pending. I have had lot of requests declined this week. 🤷‍♀️

My husband is undergoing major surgery this week, so I am not going promise to post regularly, nor to interact with other bloggers to my normal level. Please keep Pete in your prayers. ❤

The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley

EXCERPT: As soon as I woke this morning, I imagined myself going through Tony’s things. I thought about it at the hairdressers while the girl tried to curl my straight white hair, and while I made up my face and wrestled myself into my black wool dress, and again when Carol arrived with her husband to take control of the day. I was still thinking about it when Tony’s coffin disappeared behind the curtain. While I should have been focused on the enormity of never seeing him again, never sharing another meal, a conversation, a bed with the man I’d been married to for fifty-five years, I’d actually been imagining myself coming home, kicking off my shoes and walking straight into his study to rifle through his possessions. With good reason it would seem.

ABOUT ‘THE SECOND CHANCE HOLIDAY CLUB’: Evelyn Pringle isn’t the sort to make rash decisions. Or any decisions, really – she’s always left that sort of thing up to her husband. But he’s been found dead, wearing his best suit, with a diamond ring in his pocket that doesn’t fit her. When Evelyn finds a letter addressed to a woman on the Isle of Wight, she decides to deliver it. By hand.

So begins a very unusual holiday, and an adventure no one could have predicted – least of all Evelyn herself. With the help of some unexpected new friends, and a little effort on her part, Evelyn discovers that it is never too late to have a second chance at life and forge friendships that are well-worth living for.

MY THOUGHTS: The Second Chance Holiday Club is an entertaining and amusing later-life story about it never being too late to change the habits of a lifetime and chase your dreams.

Evelyn is staid and stuck in her ways. So she is somewhat surprised at herself for booking a ‘Tinsel and Turkey’ coach tour getaway to the Isle of Wight – anything to avoid Christmas with her sister Carol and her family! But there’s a reason Evelyn has chosen the Isle of Wight.

Cynthia is an overly-made-up, outgoing woman with a bung knee who sits beside Evelyn on the bus, noisily sucking sweets and talking to all and sundry. She drives Evelyn insane! And Evelyn knows she is a liar.

Joy is an attractive but quiet woman with more secrets than the bruises she is trying to hide. Why, for instance, does she need two phones?

So, how do these three overcome their differences and become friends? Read The Second Chance Holiday Club to find out. Enjoyable, entertaining, but with some real ‘wakeup’ calls to us senior citizens and the not so senior citizens amongst us, The Second Chance Holiday Club is an amusing read with some good life lessons cleverly woven into the fabric of the plot.

Even the supporting cast of characters are a breath of fresh air – Alan, the bus driver, on his last tour before taking retirement; Liam, the young student helping out at the ‘hotel’ (take that description very loosely!) and who wants a career in hospitality; Carol, Evelyn’s sister, who Carol resents; and Sarah, the woman Evelyn finds when she’s looking for Margaret.

This is a stellar debut novel, one that will not only entertain, but will give you food for thought.


#TheSecondChanceHolidayClub #NetGalley

I: @kategalley1 @ariafiction

T: @KateGalley1 @AriaFiction

#ageing #contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #friendship #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Kate Galley is a debut author who lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children and Meg, their Patterdale Terrier. Much of Kate’s inspiration comes from the many varied lives of her clients as a mobile hairdresser, and the inspiration for this book came from one woman’s tale of a hilarious Christmas coach trip.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Head of Zeus, Aria, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley 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 profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy holidays my bookish friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day filled with love and laughter. Our Christmas Day was quiet, but fun. Then Boxing Day we had an open house and friends dropped by throughout the day. It was a fun day and good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a while.

Currently I am reading The Girls by Bella Osborne which was published earlier this year. I am only a few pages in, so no comment as yet.

Four old friends. Thrown back together after fifty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a flat and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

No One Saw it Coming by Susan Lewis, due to be published early January 2023. I h also only just started this.

Secrets lie at the heart of every family…

When the unthinkable happens…

Hanna’s world is crumbling.

An unimaginable crime has been committed, and everyone’s looking for someone to blame. Her loved ones are under suspicion.

Now Hanna must work out who is threatening her family – before it’s too late.

No one could have seen this coming…

And I am listening to The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley, purely for pleasure. I have listened to quite a bit of this today as I have been pottering around the house and garden. It’s shaping up nicely.

It has been twenty-four years since a young Helena spent a magical holiday in Cyprus, where she fell in love for the first time. When the now crumbling house, ‘Pandora’, is left to her by her godfather, she returns to spend the summer there with her family.

Yet Helena knows that the idyllic beauty of Pandora masks a web of secrets she has kept from William, her husband, and Alex, her son. At the difficult age of thirteen, Alex is torn between protecting his beloved mother, and growing up. And equally, he is desperate to learn the truth about his real father . . .

When Helena meets her childhood sweetheart by chance, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens to make her past and present collide. Both Helena and Alex know that life will never be the same, once Pandora’s secrets have been revealed.

I again don’t have any reads for review scheduled for the week ahead so will just be picking reads at random from my backlist and perhaps making a start on my January reads for review.

I have received three new ARCs for review since my last Watching what I’m reading post ten days ago. They are:

The Doctor’s Wife by Daniel Hurst. I have just finished my second book by this author, Til Death Do Us Part, and it was great. I’m really looking forward to this.

The Island of Longing by Anne Griffin, a new author to me.

And The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell, another author new to me.

So, that’s my week all nicely wrapped up. Enjoy your holiday break and make marvellous memories with your loved ones. ❤📚🎄

The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer by Isla Evans

EXCERPT: ‘I have a theory,’ began Beth.

‘Oh, god!’ said Shirley. ‘Not another one!’

Beth sent her a brief frown. ‘No, hear me out. I have a theory that in thirty years we’ll be sitting where your mother is now. Celebrating our ninetieth birthdays. We’ll have been carted over from the retirement village and we’ll be surrounded by wheelchairs and walking sticks and those Zimmerframe things. And also family. Just like now.’ She wiped at the window, clearing away the condensation from her breath. ‘Your Sam will still be running around organising everything, and Alex will have settled himself somewhere with a beer, and Hamish will be tending the bar, and Cleo will still probably be finding her way.’

‘And Daniel?’ asked Shirley in a low voice.

Beth hesitated, but only for a second. ‘Yes,even your rotten Daniel. And also Avery, who’ll probably have children of her own, and Caitlin and Charlie. All grown up. And you know what? People will be arguing, and others will be estranged, and still others will be taking sides when they maybe shouldn’t. Some will be happy and some will be sad. They’ll have mortgages and marriage issues. Some will be unemployed. All of them will have regrets in one way or the other. Maybe wishing they’d made better choices. And it doesn’t matter.’ She shrugged. ‘Because, well, that’s life.’

ABOUT ‘THE UNUSUAL ABDUCTION OF AVERY CONIFER’: Two women abduct and hide out with their four-year-old granddaughter Avery, who they suspect is being harmed. They both love Avery … shame they can’t stand each other. A wise and witty novel for readers of Sophie Green and Brooke Davis.

What would you do to protect a child?

Beth’s daughter Cleo and Shirley’s son Daniel used to be married. Now Cleo is in gaol for supposedly contravening a family violence order, and Daniel has full-time care of their four-year-old daughter, Avery.

When Shirley suspects that Daniel is harming Avery, she enlists Beth to abduct their own granddaughter, even though the two women can’t stand each other. They are joined on the run across country Victoria by Winnie, Shirley’s own 89-year-old tech-savvy mother, and Harthacnut, Beth’s miniature schnauzer.

The abduction gives rise to crises both personal and social, as Shirley’s large and interfering family – including her toxic son – struggle to come to terms with her actions, amid a whirl of police investigation and media excitement. This heartfelt, wise, witty and wholly original novel explores of the lengths we may go to for those we love, and the unintended damage folded into daily life.

MY THOUGHTS: Relationships are an endless source of fascination for me. The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer is the story of mothers in their role as grandmothers (and one great-grandmother) doing what they do best – nuture and protect.

Of course, as someone once famously said, ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time,’ and yet mothers constantly try as they do their best for their families. And these mothers certainly upset more than one person in their efforts to keep Avery safe and give Daniel a much needed wake up call.

Daniel is a character who is easy to dislike. He’s one of those ‘entitled’ people, one who never takes responsibility for anything, who believes that he is treated unfairly, and – need I go on? You know the sort. He’s manipulative and needy and controlling. What makes him so different from his brother and sister? Who knows, but he is different, very different.

But the crux of the story is what brings together two women who previously couldn’t stand each other. Beth thinks Shirley is common; Shirley thinks Beth is stuck up; and Winnie thinks they both need to get over themselves. Shirley is worried that Winnie is in the early stages of dementia but Beth has a sneaking admiration for Winnie – she is capable of being sneaky and thinking on her feet.

I admired these three women for having the courage of their convictions. They tried to do the right thing the right way, but when that failed they took matters into their own hands. We need more women like these three. You only have to look at the skyrocketing child abuse numbers to know why.

An inspiring story told with empathy, pathos and humour.


#TheUnusualAbductionofAveryConifer #NetGalley

I: #islaevansauthor @harlequinaus

T: @islaevans @HarlequinAUS

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Ilsa Evans is an Australian author. She has written across several genres from light fiction (such as the books that make up the ‘laundry series’) to more gritty social realism. Two of her books, Broken and Sticks and Stones stem from the findings of a PhD on the long-term effects of family violence that Ilsa completed in 2005. Ilsa teaches creative writing and carries out public speaking when she is not writing. She lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne with her children, assorted pets and several uninvited possums.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer by Isla Evans for review. I’m only sorry that I waited so long to read this little gem. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Watching what I’m reading . . .

You’re going to think it never does anything but rain on a Sunday where I live, and today you might be forgiven for that. We’ve had heavy rain off and on – more on than off – since sometime last night. Though we have so far been spared the forecast thunderstorms. It’s meant to clear by 4pm, but it’s after 3.30 now and by the look of the sky, that’s not likely to happen.

Currently I am reading The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor, my first book by this author. This is a ‘purely for pleasure’ read.

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

I featured this as my First Lines Friday selection this week, so if you missed it, you can find it here:

and All That We Are (Wyndham Beach #3) by Mariah Stewart which is due for publication Dec 13th 2022. You can trust Mariah Stewart to just rip your heart clean out of your chest!

In the decade since Emma Dean’s husband died, she’s maintained a peaceful and organized life in her hometown of Wyndham Beach—until she finds evidence of her husband’s longtime affair. How, Emma wonders, can a man who’s been gone for ten years still break her heart?

Still reeling from the betrayal, Emma must focus on the group of artists she’s invited to take up residence at the art center she founded, one of whom is secretly seeking refuge from her abusive ex. Toss in a charming businessman who’s returned to town with eyes for only Emma, and it’s becoming a most interesting summer.

And the biggest surprise of all is about to ring Emma’s doorbell and turn her life completely upside down yet again.

As Emma struggles between what was and what is, she discovers that the life she really wants—however unexpected—is just within reach, if she’s willing to fight for it. 

I am still listening to The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley, which I am also loving.

This week, in addition to All That We Are by Mariah Stewart which I have already started, I have two other books to read for review. They are: The Charity Shop Detective Agency by Peter Boland

A serial killer is stalking the elderly of Southbourne. The only clue left behind is a domino in the hand of each victim — with a name scratched on the back.

Eighty-six-year-old Sarah Brown is found dead in her hallway one morning by her delivery man. She was stabbed in the back.

Fiona, Sue and Daisy, volunteers at the local charity shop, Dogs Need Nice Homes, can’t believe their favourite customer is dead. The ladies vow to bring the killer to justice.

With plenty of tea and cake along the way, and despite squabbles with their rivals, the Cats Alliance across the street, the Charity Shop Detective Agency is born.

And Shadow Sands (Kate Marshall #2) by Robert Bryndza

When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was the victim there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown?

Kate is certain there is more to this case than meets the eye. As she and her research assistant Tristan Harper dig deeper, they discover a bloody trail that points towards an active serial killer hiding in plain sight. People have been silently disappearing for years, and when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate. 

This is a backtitle that I am reading playing catch up on this series before I read #4 which is being published in January 2023.

I received 3 new ARCs from Netgalley in the past week. They are: A Winter Grave by Peter May

Murder Visits a French Village by Susan C. Shea

A Cryptic Clue by Victoria Gilbert

and I still have 22 requests pending.

It’s been a bit of a disastrous week this week. There’s been a young man riding an unregistered trail bike up and down our street, no protective gear, revving the engine loudly, usually on a Saturday afternoon, but also at other random times including in the middle of the night. I know several people in our street have complained, including us and the hospital across the road as he sometimes rode through the hospital as well. Last Sunday, he was riding on the riverbank, came up onto the road without looking, swerved to miss a car and instead crashed into a concrete power pole. He is now in a critical condition still in hospital. Why are these young men such idiots?

Monday my debit card was hacked. Nothing I did, I’m glad to report and I will be getting all the money back, but it took until midday Friday to sort out and gave me a real fright. I’ve always been paranoid about security on my devices and not shopping online unless it’s a known and trusted site, so I thought that it couldn’t happen to me. But the bank assured me that it can happen anyway. Now I’m just waiting on my new card which, as it’s coming via New Zealand Post, could take weeks.

Tuesday, my son in Western Australia wound up in hospital overnight after getting concussion playing touch rugby and had to have scan to discount damage to his

Wednesday a good friend and Pete’s fishing mate died suddenly following a cardiac arrest. Stan was a great guy and will be missed. It was a very large and very sad funeral on Saturday. Now we are concerned for his wife who suffers from Parkinson’s disease as Stan cared for her.

I am glad to see the end of this week.

Happy reading my friends and stay safe. ❤📚

Lucy by the Sea (Amgash #4) by Elizabeth Strout

EXCERPT: I am a novelist and I had a book coming out that fall, and so after our trip to Grand Cayman I had a great deal of travelling to do around the country and I did it; this was in late October. I was also scheduled to go to Italy and Germany in the beginning of March, but in early December – it was kind of odd – I just decided I was not going to go to those places. I never cancel book tours and the publishers were not happy, but I was not going to go. As March approached someone said, ‘Good thing you didn’t go to Italy, they’re having that virus.’ And that’s when I noticed it. I think that was the first time. I did not really think about it ever coming to New York.

But William did.

ABOUT ‘LUCY BY THE SEA’: Lucy is uprooted from her life in New York City and reluctantly goes into lockdown with her ex-husband William in a house on the coast of Maine.

MY THOUGHTS: Not everyone is going to want to read about living through the first wave of the pandemic and the lockdown. I’m not going to say that this is Elizabeth Strout’s best book, because I don’t believe it is, but it certainly has merit. There are lots of things written within that gave me pause for thought.

Lucy by the Sea made me realise that we all coped with the isolation of the pandemic in our own ways. My experience was vastly different to Lucy’s.

While I wouldn’t describe reading Lucy By the Sea as an uplifting experience, there were a few moments of pure, unadulterated joy such as when Lucy sees the first dandelion flowering after winter. Who would have thought that the humble dandelion would bring such pleasure?

As always, Elizabeth Strout made me think, and remember.


#LucybytheSea #NetGalley

I: #elizabethstrout @penguinukbooks

T: @LizStrout @PenguinUKBooks

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

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: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout 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 profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Good Sunday afternoon and – it’s still raining! Apparently we’re getting all the heavy rain out of Australia that caused the recent heavy flooding in New South Wales. We had a couple of fine days during the week and I managed to get a bit more done outside, but I have had to postpone the delivery of the river stone I had ordered for the garden as the truck won’t be able to get to where I need it dumped until after everything has dried out a bit.

Luke has gone home to collect his new pup from the breeders – a black labrador he has named Timmy after the dog in the Famous Five series which he just loves. I picked him up from school on Friday, in the midst of a downpour and I had to park quite some distance from school – and we had a very lazy day together yesterday, reading, doing puzzles and watching TV. We did pop outside to the garden during a fine spell and picked strawberries and lettuce leaves. There’s nothing nicer than strawberries fresh out of the garden!

Currently I am reading The Doctor’s Wife by New Zealand author Fiona Sussman, thanks to a recommendation from Sybil, one of our library book group members. I haven’t read this author before but have been unable to put this down.

Nothing in Stan Andino’s unremarkable life could prepare him for the day he discovers his wife in the living room, naked except for a black apron, bleaching out a stain in the carpet that only she can see. A CT scan one week later explains the seemingly inexplicable; Carmen Andino has a brain tumour. As Stan and their teenage sons grapple with the diagnosis and frightening personality changes in their wife and mother, Austin Lamb, close friend and local doctor, does everything possible to assist the family in crisis. Months later, just when it feels as though life couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Andinos, the body of Austin Lamb’s wife Tibbie is discovered at the bottom of the Browns Bay cliffs.

Hidden Crimes (DCI Sophie Allen #11) by Michael Hambling

Nine Elms (Kate Marshall #1) by Robert Bryndza, a backtitle from 2019. I have the rest of the series to read also.

Kate Marshall was a promising young police detective when she caught the notorious Nine Elms serial killer. But her greatest victory suddenly turned into a nightmare. Traumatized, betrayed, and publicly vilified for the shocking circumstances surrounding the cannibal murder case, Kate could only watch as her career ended in scandal.

Fifteen years after those catastrophic events, Kate is still haunted by the unquiet ghosts of her troubled past. Now a lecturer at a small coastal English university, she finally has a chance to face them. A copycat killer has taken up the Nine Elms mantle, continuing the ghastly work of his idol.

Enlisting her brilliant research assistant, Tristan Harper, Kate draws on her prodigious and long-neglected skills as an investigator to catch a new monster. Success promises redemption, but there’s much more on the line: Kate was the original killer’s intended fifth victim…and his successor means to finish the job.

And I am listening to Blue Lightning (Shetland Isles #4) by Ann Cleeves

Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancee, Fran, to his parents. When a woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, Jimmy must investigate the old-fashioned way.”

This week I have only two other reads scheduled: The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter

There’s something in my neighbour’s attic.

Something steeped in shadows. A secret to everyone. Seen by no one…

He stands sometimes at the window. Hidden in the corner of my eye.

I know he’s there. I know he’s watching.

Now my son is dead. My neighbour is not.

And I’m going to find out why.

And On Spine of Death (By the Book Mysteries #2) by Tamara Berry

In the aftermath of solving their first murder, bestselling author Tess Harrow and her teenage daughter Gertrude have decided to stay in Winthrop permanently. Now that they’ve made some updates to their cabin in the woods, they’re turning to the family hardware store that Tess inherited and converting it into the town’s first independent bookstore. But when renovations unearth bones from a cold case and send them toppling—literally—onto Tess’s head, the work comes to a grinding halt. With the whole town convinced that her grandfather was a serial killer, Tess has to call in a fellow horror author for reinforcements. Together, they’ll come up with a perfect story to make all the clues fit…and solve a mystery more than thirty years in the making.

I also managed to pick up a Tricia Stringer novel from the library when I was at book group that I haven’t read – Table for Eight – so I want to read that this week too. I’m looking forward to my virtual cruise around the Pacific Islands!

A cruise – no matter how magical – can’t change your life. Can it…? Clever, charming dressmaker Ketty Clift is embarking on her final cruise from Sydney before she must make serious changes in her life. Supported by the ship’s all-powerful maitre d’ Carlos, she has a mission: transform the lives of those who join her at her dining table every evening. Not only can Ketty turn Cinderellas into princesses with her legendary style–eye, but she has a gift for bringing people together. But this trip is different. As the glamour and indulgence of the cruise takes hold, and the ship sails further away from Sydney towards the Pacific Islands, it becomes clear that her fellow travelers – a troubled family, a grieving widower and an angry divorcee determined to wreak revenge on her ex – are going to be harder work than usual. As Ketty tries to deal with her own problems, including the unexpected arrival on board of her long-lost love, Leo – the man who broke her heart – as well as troubling news from home, she begins to realize this might be the one cruise that defeats her…

I received two new ARCs for review via Netgalley this week, and one publishers invite. The invite was for A Pen Dipped in Poison by J.M. Hall

The two ARCs are Reef Road by Deborah Goodrich Royce

and Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, also a New Zealand author I haven’t previously read.

It’s our 18th wedding anniversary today. I have couple of nice steaks to grill for dinner and a nice bottle of French wine (red of course), but I need for the rain to ease off so I can get out to the garden for the salad ingredients. Plan B? Rosemary parmesan fries.

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend. Happy reading. ❤📚🥂