Sandy’s June 2022 Reading Roundup

Here we are, halfway through the year.

My June reading was severely impacted by my return to work. Two of the books I had scheduled to read in June had their publishing dates moved to August so I rescheduled those (26 – 2 = 24) plus I received one late ARC, which brought the total up to 25. I have only read 16 of my 25 reads for review, though I did manage to sneak in two titles from my backlist and two reads purely for pleasure. So my read for review success rate dropped from the dismal 69% in May to an even more dismal 64% for June.

I read one debut novel in June, which was Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

plus I read five books by authors who were new to me. They were

The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

My Netgalley feedback rate is hanging in there at 69%, though I don’t quite know how 🤷‍♀️ Since I have been back at work I have been requesting more books that I am reading. I find it unwinds me from the stresses of the day.🤦‍♀️

The books that I didn’t get around to reading were:

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Backstory by William L. Myers

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

The Lost Children by Michael Wood (a publisher’s widget) which I will be starting tonight

The Girl Who Left by Jenny Blackhurst

I read four ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ books in June. They were – in no particular order:

The Island by Adrian McKinty

Blind Justice by David Mark

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

I have 18 reads for review scheduled for July and one blog tour to participate in. Hopefully I should be able to just about achieve my goal for the month.

Have you read any of the books I bypassed in June? Let me know.

Happy reading for July!

The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

EXCERPT: There was a constant stream of visitors in and out of her home, and Connie could never remember their names. She had to be polite to them or she would get in trouble with Ma, but she stamped hard on their toes and said, ‘Oops, I’m so clumsy.’ She put salt in their tea and slaters under their pillows. There was never enough food to go around as far as she was concerned and since his father had joined up Gabe Mabbett had come every single Sunday for lunch with his mother and brother Mike. Gabe sat behind her in Sunday school and pulled her long ringleted pigtails. One morning he took crickets to Sunday school in a condensed milk tin and then released them up the curled tunnel of her pigtails. They were sticky and quickly became tangled in her hair and she had screamed and rolled around on the floor sure she was going to die. Miss Mitchell had run and fetched her ma from church and Ma took her to the kitchen and plucked the crickets out one by one and said, ‘Well, Gabe has his own problems and no harm was done.’ But harm was done, because those crickets were going to go all the way up her pigtails and then once they reached her head they would burrow through her skin and into her brain and kill her. She’d probably only had seconds to live.

ABOUT ‘THE SECRET WORLD OF CONNIE STARR’: Connie Starr was always a difficult child. Her mother knew as soon as Connie entered the world that day in Ballarat in 1934 and opened her lungs to scream, there was more chaos in the world than before and it wouldn’t leave until Connie did. From the safety of a branch high in her lemon tree where she speaks to angels, she sees the world for what it is – a swirling mass of beauty and darkness, of trauma and family, of love and war and truth and lies – lies that might just undo her and drive her to a desperate act.

MY THOUGHTS: This is the story of both Connie Starr’s life and the lives of a group of people from the South Australian community of Ballarat through WWII and into the 1950s.

Connie is the central character, the only child of Flora and Joseph, a Baptist Pastor in Ballarat. She has three older half-siblings from Joseph’s first marriage. She’s an odd child, not known for being ‘good’. She’s ‘a right handful’, disobedient and always up to some sort of mischief. She sees and speaks with demons and angels, and is a consummate liar. But I loved her. My heart ached for this misunderstood child who had very few friends, who takes refuge from life in her lemon tree and chats with the Archangel Michael. I wanted to pick her up and cuddle her, let her know she was loved.

Born into a world of turmoil, Connie’s childhood could not be described as a happy one, as interesting as it may be. She is the proverbial fish out of water. Then a huge betrayal in her early teenage years only serves to isolate her further.

The Secret World of Connie Starr is a quietly powerful book, heartwrenchingly beautiful, a chronicle of a life and an era.
Gloom was what people woke to and took to bed. The hunger and desperation of the Depression had barely had time to leave people’s bodies. Memories of the last war were fresh and raw. Was it just yesterday? It seemed so. They had been promised it was the war to end all wars. And now here was another one waiting for its moment, greedy and angry and hungry for more young men, and everyone felt the bitterness of having been duped.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheSecretWorldofConnieStarr #NetGalley

I: @artwritebooks @harlequinaus

T: #RobbiNeal @HarlequinAUS

#australianfiction #historicalfiction #sliceoflife #WWII

THE AUTHOR: She has lived in country Victoria, Australia, for most of her life and lives only a few of blocks from where her novel THE SECRET WORLD OF CONNIE STARR (2022) is set. She loves to walk down Dawson Street past the church her grandfather preached in, the same church with the same columns that appear in in this book.

When Robbi isn’t writing, she is painting, or reading or hanging out with her family and friends, all of whom she adores. She loves procrasti-cooking, especially when thinking about the next chapter in her writing. She also loves cheese, any cheese, all cheese and lemon gin or dirty martinis, the blues, and more cheese.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Model Wife by Tricia Stringer

EXCERPT: ‘How long have you known each other?’ she asked.

Faye pondered a moment. ‘Thirty-five years. She’s reliable in a crisis, is Dot.’

‘I imagine you are too.’

‘Hmmm.’ Once again Faye seemed to ponder. ‘Fifteen years ago both my sons got jobs overseas and in a flash they were gone. They’d been my reason for getting out of bed each day for so long, I fell in a big hole. I was fifty-three and all I’d done with my life was teach and raise two boys.’

Faye’s words were like a can-opener peeling back the lid on her own life. ‘What did you do?’

‘I took up swimming.’ Faye raised her sunglasses, looked steadily at Natalie and grinned. ‘Some people buy fast cars. I have a heated lap pool in my backyard now.’

Natalie tried to think of something she was so passionate about that she would invest that sort of money in it and came up blank.

‘I also went to a life coach,’ Faye said. ‘I only lasted one session but I came away with a nugget I’ve stuck by. Don’t let anyone should you. Even people close to you with the best of intentions will want you to do things their way. Accepting that I had a right to do things my way helped me deal with the guilt of my marriage failure, of raising two sons without their father.’

Natalie studied Faye. Never in a million years would she have thought her the kind of person who felt guilt about divorcing an alcoholic husband. She appeared so composed and in control of her life but perhaps she hadn’t always been like that.

ABOUT ‘THE MODEL WIFE’: Natalie King’s life is full. Some might say too full. With her teaching job, a farm to run, three grown daughters who have not quite got a handle on things, a reserved husband and a demanding mother-in-law, most days she is too busy to think about whether she is happy. But her life has meaning, doesn’t it? After all, she is the one person everyone depends upon.

But when an odd gift from her mother-in-law – an old book in the form of stern and outdated advice for young wives – surfaces again, it brings with it memories she thought she had buried deep. Has this insidious little book exerted some kind of hold over her? Could it be that in her attempts to be a loving wife and mother, she no longer knows who she is?

On a day when it seems everyone is taking her for granted, and as the ghost of a past betrayal rises, it becomes clear that even this good mother and model wife can be pushed too far

MY THOUGHTS: The Model Wife is a multi-generational family drama about struggling relationships, betrayal and the stress caused by not only the expectations people place on others, but also the expectations we place on ourselves.

The title of this book is taken from a book passed down from generation to generation of the women in this family. It’s full of advice for women in the early eighteen hundreds, and the chapter headings are things like The Husband is Master and Family Before all Else. Natalie has somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the book. Although she outwardly acknowledges that it has little relevance to modern life, she can’t bring herself to toss it out and sees herself as a failure when she measures herself against the advice in the book.

Feeling overwhelmed by her demanding family, a health scare, and a betrayal from the past that seems to be creeping into her current life, she decides to take some time out and sets off to Brisbane to visit her best friend Brenda and hopefully get a better perspective on her life.

I loved the characters in this book, well all except Connie. Every family unfortunately has to have a Connie. I think most women will be able to relate to Natalie, working outside the home, trying to do everything around the home, support her husband and daughters, care for her mother-in-law, and deal with all the paperwork associated with a business.

Her daughters are all very different women. Kate, the eldest is married to Sean, childless, and runs the office of her
husband’s family transport business. They live some distance from Natalie and Milt. Bree, the middle daughter, loves the outdoors, and works on the property with Milt, not always amiably. Laura, the youngest, is a hairdresser and the creative daughter. She seems to always be upsetting her father with her hair, her makeup, her friends.

The situations and emotions that Tricia Stringer depicts are all very real, and that is probably the thing I love most about this author’s writing. She’s also able to portray the setting and community with great skill.

Although this book is almost 500 pages, it kept my interest t and I was sad to come to the end. There are little nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout. I got a bit emotional in places.

A fulfilling read.

‘Holidays are good but you still have to go home.’

‘It’s a mother’s lot to worry about (her) kids, feel we should have been there more, done things differently….we can’t go back. We just have to learn to carry the guilt as best we can.’

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheModelWife

I: : @triciastringerauthor @hqstories

T: @tricia_stringer @HQstories

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Tricia lives in the beautiful Copper Coast region of South Australia, often exploring Australia’s diverse communities and landscapes, and shares this passion for the country and its people through her authentic stories and their vivid characters.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed a copy of The Model Wife by Tricia Stringer published by HQ Fiction from the Waitomo District Library. 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 is also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It seems like an awfully long time since I last did this post,but in reality it was three Sundays ago. I had a wonderful time with Kyle while he was home. Some days we just sat around and talked, some we visited old haunts like Mokau Beach where we used to go every Christmas holidays when he was small, and other days he went and visited his friends. He’s planning on coming home again somewhere around Christmas. And we are planning to go visit him next winter. Luke was very excited to meet his Uncle Kyle again and they spent hours building Lego together. We’ve had Luke stay two nights this week as his school had a teacher only day Friday. We took him home Saturday morning and watched him play soccer before we came back home. He really enjoyed the ducks and ducklings that seem to have moved into the neighbourhood and drew pictures of them which are now on the fridge doors. As is usual when Luke stays, we read and reread many of his books, and I did very little reading for myself.

Currently I have reading The Beach Babes by Judith Keim, A Seashell Cottage Book.

Although I am enjoying the storyline, I’m finding the dialogue stilted and formal. It’s a quick, enjoyable read though.

I have just started a backlist title from February, The Wedding Murders by Sarah Linley. So far, so good.

And I am listening to The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain. Again I have only just started this, but so far, so good.

This week I have five books to read for review. They are:

Blind Justice by David Mark, #10 in the DS McAvoy series

The call comes in before DS Aector McAvoy has had time for breakfast. The news is bad: A body. Found in the woods out at Brantingham.

The reality is even worse.

The young man’s mutilated corpse lies tangled in the roots of a newly fallen tree, two silver Roman coins nailed through his sightless eyes. Who would torture their victim in such a brutal manner – and why?

DS McAvoy makes the victim a promise: I will find answers. You will know justice. But justice always comes at a cost, and this time it may be McAvoy’s own family who pay the price.

Backstory by William L. Myers Jr. I haven’t previously read this author.

In the aftermath of his wife’s apparent suicide, Jackson Robert Hunter wakes up outside a bar with a badly battered head and no memory. Revelations convince Jackson that his wife’s death wasn’t a suicide, but a murder, and he sets out to find the killer.

While hunting the villain and struggling with his amnesia, Jackson discovers that his own backstory is a dark one, littered with broken hearts and dead bodies: a wife he betrayed; a lover he abandoned; a squad of crooked cops he double-crossed; and a city that lives in fear of his name.

Jackson’s odyssey takes him from a small town in Kansas to Philadelphia, then back cross-country to Las Vegas. Along the way he encounters a sister he didn’t know he had, a niece he failed to save, and a mentor ready to lead Jackson down the darkest of paths.

Finally, at the end of his journey, Jackson discovers that it’s not another man he’s been running to, or from, but his own damning deeds, and the paradoxical redemption they might bring.

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson. This appears to be a debut novel.

Aspiring filmmaker June Masterson has high hopes for her first documentary, the true story of the disappearance of famed mystery author Greer Larkin. June learned about the vanishing at age fourteen, locked down on her family’s isolated commune. Now, the deeper she digs into the project, the darker the story gets.

Everyone has a theory. Greer’s mother, Blanche, and her best friend, Rachel, believe that Greer’s fiancé, Jonathan, is the culprit. Greer’s agent is convinced that Greer committed suicide after a debilitating bout of writer’s block. And Jonathan claims it was either Greer’s controlling mother or Rachel, whose attachment to Greer went way beyond friendship.

In desperation, Rachel gives June a suitcase full of Greer’s most personal writings in hopes of finding proof against Jonathan. Then Rachel turns up dead. As June pores over Greer’s writings, she makes a devastating discovery that could finally reveal the truth about the author’s fate. But now, June finds herself in the sights of a killer who’ll stop at nothing to keep their darkest secret. 

Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton, whose writing I love.

Elise King is a successful and ambitious detective–or she was before a medical leave left her unsure if she’d ever return to work. She now spends most days watching the growing tensions in her small seaside town of Ebbing–the weekenders renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals resentful of the changes.

Elise can only guess what really happens behind closed doors. But Dee Eastwood, her house cleaner, often knows. She’s an invisible presence in many of the houses in town, but she sees and hears everything.

The conflicts boil over when a newcomer wants to put the town on the map with a giant music festival, and two teenagers overdose on drugs. When a man disappears the first night of the festival, Elise is drawn back into her detective work and starts digging for answers. Ebbing is a small town, but it’s full of secrets and hidden connections that run deeper and darker than Elise could have ever imagined. 

And The Gin Sisters Promise by Faith Hogan, an Irish author I have read and enjoyed previously.

When Georgie, Iris and Nola’s mother died and their father disappeared into his grief, the sisters made a pact: they would always be there for one another, no matter what.

Now, decades later, they haven’t spoken for years and can barely stand to be in the same room. As his health declines, their father comes up with a plan to bring them back to one another. In his will, he states that before they can claim their inheritance, they must spend six months living together in their childhood home in the village of Ballycove, Ireland, and try to repair their broken relationships.

As the months progress, old resentments boil over, new secrets threaten to come out and each sister must decide what matters more: their pride, or their family. Can they overcome their past and find a way to love each other once more?

And now to new ARCs I’ve received since I last posted. I’m guessing that there’s going to be quite a few!

The Dark Room by Lisa Gray

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim, which I am currently reading.

Guilt Trip by Ed James, DS Vickie Dodds #5

Me and Paul: Untold Stories of a Fabled Friendship by Willie Nelson with David Ritz

After She’d Gone by Alex Dahl

The Last House on the Cliff by Anne Wyn Clark

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please, a new author to me.

The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

The Will by Rebecca Reid, another new author to me.

Everything in Between by Valerie G. Miller, a collection of short stories on love, loss and family by another new to me author.

The Girl Who Left by Jenny Blackhurst, yet another new author to me.

And one audiobook – The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder, narrated by Dan Bittner and Khristine Hvam

So twelve books over three weeks, I haven’t gone overboard averaging four books a week. I did try to drop in occasionally to see what everyone was doing.

Have a great week of reading. ❤📚

Gone But Still Here by Jennifer Dance

EXCERPT: My name is Mary, and I have Alzheimer’s disease.

Lurching gut.

It makes me think of AA meetings I’ve seen in the movies. My name is so-and-so, and I’m an alcoholic. It’s an acknowledgement, a way of facing your problem. Writing this is an acknowledgement too. A way of confronting the truth.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ve just been having a few memory lapses – part of normal aging. But I’m slipping away. I can feel it.

Getting confused.

Losing logic and understanding.

Having to tell myself that red means stop and green means go.

I’ve been trying to hide it. Hide from it. Ignore it. Make excuses. But one day I’ll be gone, even though I will still be here.

It’s hard to accept. Hard to believe. A living death. A dying life.

Will I know what’s happening? I hope not.

ABOUT ‘GONE BUT STILL HERE’: Coming to terms with advancing dementia, Mary has no choice other than to move into her daughter’s home. Her daughter, Kayla, caught between her cognitively impaired mother and her belligerent teenage son, soon finds caregiving is more challenging than she imagined. Sage, the family’s golden retriever, offers comfort and unconditional love, but she has her own problems, especially when it comes to dealing with Mary’s cat.

Throughout it all, Mary struggles to complete her final book — a memoir, the untold story of the love of her life, who died more than forty years earlier. Her confused and tangled tales span Trinidad, England, and Canada, revealing the secrets of a tragic interracial love story in the 1960s and ’70s. But with her writing skills slipping away, it’s a race against time.

MY THOUGHTS: Although Gone But Still Here is a work of fiction, Mary’s backstory is the author’s own.

This wonderful book can’t have been easy to write, but it is written with wisdom and wit. Gone But Still Here is an emotional read. I cringed at the treatment Mary and Keith received from both family and strangers because of their interracial marriage. I cried as Mary struggled to raise three small children alone with little support, but I also applauded her bravery and determination. And Mary’s journey into Alzheimer’s? That engendered a whole range of emotions.

The story is told from multiple points of view: Mary – we get to live her disease through her eyes; Kayla, Mary’s daughter who puts her own life on hold to care for her mother; Jesse, Kayla’s teenage son and Mary’s grandson whose life is also impacted by the arrival of his ‘nutty’ grandmother; and Sage, the wonderful family dog who provided a lot of light relief with her dog’s view of life.

The author shares the struggles, frustrations, fears, and incredible joys that accompany caring for an Alzheimer’s patient as a previously fractured family is drawn closer together by the experience.

While I loved this book and the storytelling, Sage (or Toby as Mary was sure she was called) is the outstanding character and earned this read an extra star.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#GoneButStillHere #NetGalley

I: #jenniferdance @dundurnpress

T: @JenniferDance1 @dundurnpress

#contemporaryfiction #historicalfiction #aging #familydrama #deathanddying #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Dance was born in England and holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Animal Science from the University of the West Indies. She migrated to Canada in 1979. With family in the Native community, Jennifer has a passion for equality and justice for all people.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Dundurn Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Gone But Still Here by Jennifer Dance 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

After Happily Ever After by Leslie A. Rasmussen

EXCERPT: A half hour later, I was turning down my block when I realised I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to do any more laundry. I didn’t want to wash any more dishes. Or walk the dog. Or cook dinner. Since Gia started her senior year, and would be leaving for college soon, I’d been struggling with how I was going to find a new purpose to my life. There were plenty of people who would have been happy to not have to go to a job every day, but right now I wasn’t one of them. If I had a job, after she left, I’d have a place where I could still feel important. At forty-five, I was insecure, and I worried whether I’d ever get back into the workforce, and at the same time, wondered if I really wanted to. My mixed-up thoughts depressed me. And then I remembered something that made my day even worse. I’d offered to volunteer at Gia’s school to set up for Winter Carnival. Oh yay! I’d get to be with Mom’s who loved to boss people around.

ABOUT ‘AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER’: Maggie Dolan finds herself at forty-five at a crossroads in her life. Once a high-level executive, she’s chosen to be a stay-at-home mom for the last seventeen years. But now with her daughter, Gia, soon leaving for college, and her husband, disconnected and with secrets he hasn’t shared, Maggie decides it’s time to figure out what she wants for the rest of her life. As she begins her journey, she has to deal with a narcissistic mother, a brother who doesn’t like her and most damaging of all, the news that her father, her rock, has medical issues that may take him from her. Overwhelmed by all these issues, she’s led in a direction that could destroy what she’s built and make her question the choices she’s made. She’s torn between the life she’s always known and something more exciting that she never expected.

MY THOUGHTS: If you’re looking for a character to despise, you’ve found her. Meet Maggie Dolan. The book synopsis calls Maggie’s mom narcissistic, but Maggie wins that contest hands down.

In Maggie’s world, everything is about Maggie. ‘Oh, poor me! My daughter’s leaving home, I won’t know what to do with myself. My psychologist husband seems withdrawn and depressed, he should be paying me more attention. My mom is having to cope with my dad, the love of her life, living in a care facility, but she annoys me and I can’t be bothered to give her the time of day except when I want something from her, and anyway, my mom likes my brother more than me, what’s wrong with her?’ And best friend Ellen is just a killjoy because she wants Maggie to stop seeing the hot, much younger guy from the gym.

Maggie set my teeth on edge.

The story is told almost entirely from Maggie’s point of view, with just the occasional and mostly irrelevant chapter from the point of view of Maggie’s husband, and her father.

I liked Maggie’s dad, and his story is the only reason I continued with this read.

I enjoyed Tiffany Phillips narration of the audiobook.

⭐⭐

#AfterHappilyEverAfter #NetGalley

I: @leslierauthor @blackstonepublishing

T: @LeslieRAuthor @BlackstonePub1

#audiobook #chiclit #contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama

THE AUTHOR: Leslie has written personal essays for online magazines such as Huffington Post, MariaShriver, and SheKnows. She loves dogs and besides having two adorable Labradors, she is a member of The Alliance of Therapy Dogs and has volunteered at her local animal shelter. Leslie lives in Los Angeles and has two sons, and a husband she has been with since college.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of After Happily Ever After written by Leslie Rasmussen and narrated by Tiffany Phillips 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Good afternoon from a damp and drizzly New Zealand. My garden and all the farmers will be loving this weather. It’s cool, but not cold and the rain hasn’t been so heavy that it will run off the baked hard ground instead of sinking into it. And I believe that we’ve been forecast rain for the week. That’ll make the weeds grow!

Less than a week now until Kyle arrives home. I pick him up from the airport on Friday. I’m excited and counting down!

I have just finished The Last to Disappear by Jo Spain. It was an overnight read for me. I couldn’t put it down. Watch for my review.

I am also reading Before the Storm by Di Morrissey. This is a title from my backlist and I am really enjoying it. It’s been far too long since I last read anything by this author.

and I am listening to The Wednesday Morning Wild Swim written by Jules Wake and narrated by Laura Brydon. Etti is a hoot! Who wouldn’t love her?

I have five books to read for review in the coming week, but I doubt I will get through them all because of work commitments and Kyle coming home. Rest assured, I will do my best!

Long Lost Girl by Jill Childs

The little girl you lost is back… but who is she really?

When three-year-old Sara disappeared from their lives, it tore the Turner family apart. Years later, they are still startling at every knock, convinced it is Sara at the door. But the only trace of the cherished little girl is a fading photo in the hall, a single white knitted baby shoe tucked behind the frame.

Then, one day, as they pick at sandwiches in a crowded local café, a beautiful girl approaches, claiming to be Sara. With her wide green eyes and soft, straight hair, could she really be their long-lost girl? But where has she been all this time, and what happened to stop her from coming home?

Soon, Sara is turning up for Sunday lunch, and then moving her things into the little bedroom upstairs. But as Sara makes herself at home, not everyone is happy that she’s back in their lives once more. Long-held secrets are threatening to surface, and someone in this tight-knit family doesn’t want them to be told…

Gone But Still Here by Jennifer Dance

Coming to terms with advancing dementia, Mary has no choice other than to move into her daughter’s home. Her daughter, Kayla, caught between her cognitively impaired mother and her belligerent teenage son, soon finds caregiving is more challenging than she imagined. Sage, the family’s golden retriever, offers comfort and unconditional love, but she has her own problems, especially when it comes to dealing with Mary’s cat.

Throughout it all, Mary struggles to complete her final book — a memoir, the untold story of the love of her life, who died more than forty years earlier. Her confused and tangled tales span Trinidad, England, and Canada, revealing the secrets of a tragic interracial love story in the 1960s and ’70s. But with her writing skills slipping away, it’s a race against time.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

The moment she laid eyes on Heather Wisher, Tully knew this woman was going to destroy their lives.

Tully and Rachel are murderous when they discover their father has a new girlfriend. The fact that Heather is half his age isn’t even the most shocking part. Stephen is still married to their mother, who is in a care facility with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Heather knows she has an uphill battle to win Tully and Rachel over – particularly while carrying the shameful secrets of her past. But, as it turns out, her soon-to-be stepdaughters have secrets of their own.

The announcement of Stephen and Heather’s engagement threatens to set off a family implosion, with old wounds and dark secrets finally being forced to the surface.

A garage full of stolen goods. An old hot-water bottle, stuffed with cash. A blood-soaked wedding. And that’s only the beginning… 

Good Neighbours by Mary Grand

was meant to be a safe place to start again…

In need of an escape from her failing marriage, Nia agrees to house-sit her aunt’s cottage on the Isle of Wight. She feels sure the cosy close in a quaint harbour town will be a safe place to hide and figure out what to do next.

But things are not all as they seem in the close, and the neighbours who welcome her with open arms, are keeping secrets. When Nia finds the body of one of her new friends lying on the beach, she feels sickeningly sure that the killer is dangerously near to home.

Who killed her friend and why did she have to die? And if Nia discovers the answers she’s looking for, is she next on their hit list? Good neighbours may become good friends, but they can also make deadly enemies…

And I have the audiobook of The Island written by Adrian McKinty and narrated by Mela Lee

After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.

When they discover remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.

But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.

Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them all alive.

I overextended myself yet again. The Netgalley fairies dropped six new ARCs onto my Kindle . . .

Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza

His Other Wife by Nicole Trope

The Party Guest by Amanda Robson

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell

The Lost Children by Michael Wood

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen-Marie Wiseman

Do we have any books in common this week?

Have a great week. I am planning on taking a sabbatical while Kyle is home so once we get to Friday (New Zealand time) I will be offline until June.

Happy reading!

Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

EXCERPT: ‘I agreed to read it to him. And then I said we could go over it word by word and see what words he knows and what ones he doesn’t.’

‘Excellent!’ The principal clapped her hands together, startling Marilyn. ‘That could make such a difference. I feel very optimistic now.’

Clearly a great weight had been lifted off the principal’s shoulders. Marilyn had lifted it away. And it had been dropped squarely onto her own.

They both stood, an agreement that the meeting was ending.

‘No good deed goes unpunished,’ she thought as she stepped into the outer office. Somehow it had fallen to her not only to teach the boy to read, but to heal his traumatic life. And all she had wanted was to buy a few cartons of unusually fresh eggs.

ABOUT ‘DREAMING OF FLIGHT’: Never knowing his parents, eleven-year-old Stewie Little and his brother have been raised on a farm by their older sister. Stewie steadfastly tends the chickens left by his beloved late grandmother. And every day Stewie goes door to door selling fresh eggs from his wagon—a routine with a surprise just around the corner. It’s his new customer, Marilyn. She’s prickly and guarded, yet comfortably familiar—she reminds the grieving Stewie so much of the grandmother he misses more than he can express.

Marilyn has a reason for keeping her distance: a secret no one knows about. Her survival tactic is to draw a line between herself and other people—one that Stewie is determined to cross. As their visits become more frequent, a complicated but deeply rooted relationship grows. That’s when Stewie discovers how much more there is to Marilyn, to her past, and to challenges that become more pressing each day. But whatever difficult times lie ahead, Stewie learns that although he can’t fix everything for Marilyn or himself, at least he’s no longer alone.

MY THOUGHTS: A sweet and touching story that has almost a timeless feel to it. Dreaming of Flight is a gentle tale that moves along at a slow pace (and that’s not a criticism), one that focuses on feelings rather than technology and action.

Stewie is an odd but loveable boy. He is grieving the loss of his beloved ‘Gam’, who raised him from a baby along with his older brother and sister following the death of his parents in an accident. He struggles with school and his only friends are his late grandmother’s hens, all of whom have names and distinct personalities.

Marilyn is an irascible older woman who cares for the daughter of a single mother in return for free room and board. Prickly and remote, she doesn’t have a filter on her mouth and whatever she is thinking tends to pop out. She reminds Stewie of his Gam, who wasn’t always the nicest
woman, and this keeps drawing him back to her.

The two form a wary friendship. But over time the bonds strengthen and deepen.

Dreaming of Flight is a quick and easy read. The relationship between the characters is complex, but is written about in a simple way. I enjoyed both the characters of Stewie and Marilyn and thought that CRHs depiction of them was perfectly drawn.

While I really enjoyed this book for myself, it could certainly also be used for tweens dealing with the death of a loved one

⭐⭐⭐⭐

#DreamingofFlight #NetGalley

I: @catherineryanhyde @amazonpublishing

T: @cryanhyde @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: I am the author of more than 30 published and forthcoming books. I’m an avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan-Hyde for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinion.

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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Good Afternoon from New Zealand

Photo by photos_by_ginny on Pexels.com

We had our first frost this morning, not a particularly heavy one, but it’s a reminder that winter is only a matter of weeks away. It’s a little after 3pm, and already I can feel the chill in the air so we are likely to have another heavier frost in the morning.

Mt Ruapehu

crater lake temperature has peaked at 41°C in the last 12 days following weeks of temperatures around 36°C to 38°C, but experts are predicting only minor eruptive activity from the volcano in the near future.

Coq au Vin for dinner tonight. It’s been simmering away in the crockpot all day and the house smells delicious!

I’m going to put my good morning from New Zealand post on hold for the immediate future. I have found myself back at work – don’t ask how that happened! – and regrettably I just don’t have the time. Hopefully it’s a temporary thing as I was really enjoying my retirement. I will still be posting my book reviews.

Have a wonderful day.


	

Good morning from New Zealand

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

It’s so foggy this morning I can barely see my hand in front of my face. And there hasn’t been a drop of that rain that was forecast. I was planning a trip to the supermarket this morning, but will put that off until the fog lifts as I have to cross two major roads to get there and there are an awful lot of people who don’t use their fog lights so you can’t see them coming – especially when their vehicles are silver or gray.

I had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday. Dustin and Luke came for the afternoon. Luke had drawn me a picture and made me a card which will be going in my treasure box. We picked up feijoas from the ground, and picked the first of the ripe mandarins from the tree. Luke portions them out, bags them and sells them at the gate for Lego money. Quite enterprising for an only just five year old!

I hadn’t put away my tennis racquet and balls from my bash around earlier in the morning, so I had to show him what I do – hit the ball against the basement wall – and then of course he wanted a go. He has excellent eye ball coordination and even managed a few return shots. He’s also started soccer on Saturday mornings and is loving that. We also spent some time curled up in the reading chair reading some very old and battered books from Dustin and Kyle’s childhood.

It was an absolutely lovely afternoon topped off with a roast lamb dinner and a glass of my favourite French red wine, a 2015 Castlemère Aude.

As I have been writing this, the fog has lifted enough that I can see to the bottom of our street, and a light rain is falling. My garden is going to love this!

To all the other Mums out there, I hope you had/have a wonderful mother’s day filled with love and laughter.

Photo by asim alnamat on Pexels.com

By the way, my roses are also confused about the seasons and are a mass of buds and bursting into bloom again!