Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old by Steven Petrow

EXCERPT: Perhaps you remember a few years ago, ‘Saturday Night Live’ spoofed the American Echo, better known as ‘Alexa’, beginning with this cautionary sentence: ‘The latest technology isn’t always easy for people of a certain age.’ Referring to a fictitious partnership between Amazon and AARP, the announcer declares that the ‘American Echo Silver’ edition is designed specifically for the Greatest Generation. It is super loud, and responds to any name remotely like Alexa, including Allegra, Odessa, Anita, Alberta, Alisha, Alessandra, Excedrin and Alopecia. I especially liked the SNL promo for the Echo Silver’s handy-dandy feature that helps old people find things.

‘Amelia, where did I put the phone?’
‘The phone is in your right hand.’

Alexa also provides the latest in sports:

‘Clarissa, how many times did Satchel Paige strike out last night?’
‘Satchel Paige died in 1982.’
‘How many did he get?’
‘Satchel Paige died. Is dead.’

Unlike other Alexa editions, this one also provides an ‘uh-huh feature’ for long rambling stories – because you know the stereotype of old people always repeating themselves.

Simultaneously hilarious and ageist, the skit highlighted several of the ways that our parents generation struggles to master new devices, social media apps and plain old email. Sure, we laugh – but it’s not like we’re doing so well right now, either.

For instance, one friend told me about her mother’s struggles with the new TV she and her siblings had given her. ‘Mom loved the picture quality, but the remote just about did her in. We heard from neighbours that every so often, they’d get a call asking for help,’ she said. ‘We finally figured out that every time Mom accidentally hit ‘menu’, she practically had to dial 911 – she could press up and down on volume and channels, but the options on the menu were beyond her, so she’d need help getting back to a screen she recognized.’

This friend got a good laugh out of it at the time, but now reports a new found sympathy for her mom. ‘I have a new smart TV that’s definitely smarter than I am,’ she told me.

ABOUT ‘STUPID THINGS I WON’T DO WHEN I GET OLD’: Soon after his 50th birthday, Steven Petrow began assembling a list of “things I won’t do when I get old”—mostly a catalog of all the things he thought his then 70-something year old parents were doing wrong. That list, which included “You won’t have to shout at me that I’m deaf,” and “I won’t blame the family dog for my incontinence,” became the basis of this rousing collection of do’s and don’ts, wills and won’ts that is equal parts hilarious, honest, and practical.

The fact is, we don’t want to age the way previous generations did. “Old people” hoard. They bore relatives—and strangers—with tales of their aches and pains. They insist on driving long after they’ve become a danger to others (and themselves). They eat dinner at 4pm. They swear they don’t need a cane or walker (and guess what happens next). They never, ever apologize. But there is another way . . .

In Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I’m Old, Petrow candidly addresses the fears, frustrations, and stereotypes that accompany aging. He offers a blueprint for the new old age, and an understanding that aging and illness are not the same. As he writes, “I meant the list to serve as a pointed reminder—to me—to make different choices when I eventually cross the threshold to ‘old.’”

Getting older is a privilege. This essential guide reveals how to do it with grace, wisdom, humor, and hope. And without hoarding.

MY THOUGHTS: Getting older. We’re all doing it, until we stop, and Steven has written about his parents and his own journey with an easy humour and realism that had me simultaneously laughing and recognizing little bits of both myself and my husband, and our parents.

He has written a checklist of pitfalls and ways to avoid them as we reach certain milestones. He hasn’t confined himself to those amongst us who are aging healthily – he himself hasn’t, and he offers great advice tempered with experience on judging just how much people want to know, and just how much and how to tell them.

Along with the amusing anecdotes and sage advice on aging both with and without familial support, Steven takes us through the journeys to the end of some of his beloved friends, and how well, or otherwise, they handled their impending demise.

There is plenty to take away from this read. It offers a wonderful insight for children struggling to deal with the changes in their aging parents, and for those of us who have no idea how we got to the number of years we are so rapidly. I am closer to 70 than 60. Some days I feel twenty one and some days I feel ninety one. I have no idea where all those years went, and so fast! but I enjoyed them and I intend to enjoy the years left to me, without being a burden. Thanks to Steven’s lists I now have markers to recognize, and actions I can take.

A book for everyone, no matter your age.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#StupidThingsIWontDoWhenIGetOld #NetGalley

I: @mrstevenpetrow @kensingtonbooks

T: @StevenPetrow @KensingtonBooks

# health #memoir #aging #practicalguide #nonfiction #life

THE AUTHOR: Steven Petrow is an award-winning journalist and book author who is best known for his Washington Post and New York Times essays on aging, health, and LGBTQ issues. He’s currently a contributing writer to The Post and The Times as well as a columnist for USA Today.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books, Citadel, via Netgalley for providing both a digital ARC and an audio ARC of Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old by Steven Petrow, and narrated by Michael Butler Murray, for review. I really enjoyed the audio narration. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher

EXCERPT: ‘Willy,’ she had said, nudging her shoulder into his where they sat on the stoop together, her voice small and papery, like it might blow away. ‘I don’t think my momma likes it here no more.’

‘Now, girl,’ he said, patting her knee, ‘what makes you say such things?’ But his heart had already tightened in his chest because he’d been thinking the same thing, the very same thing. May wasn’t happy, and it didn’t seem right since he had thought for sure she would be. He had been so proud to bring her home on their wedding day, and after that first night with her, feeling so good, he couldn’t imagine she would feel any different from him.

That was just the thing that confounded him – that he could feel one way and she could feel another. Of late, when he touched her, she just lay still, not saying ‘no’ to him, but like she’d taken out her heart and set it aside. And just last night, when he’d lifted his head from the sweet-salty crook of her neck, she lay wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling, and he couldn’t go on.

It was a terrible thing, to feel connected to a woman and then find out you weren’t really touching her at all. Something like that made a man start asking questions that he didn’t want to know the answers to.

But even then, at that moment, with Lacey tucked against his shoulder and his hand patting her knee, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that May would disappear the way she did, that she could just quit the life they had like it meant nothing, leaving him and little Lacey without even so much as a ‘so long and see ya later’. Gone. Like a breath that has been inhaled and exhaled and done with.

ABOUT ‘A HAND TO HOLD IN DEEP WATER’: Willy Cherrymill and his stepdaughter Lacey are deeply bruised by a past brimming with unanswered questions. It’s been thirty years since May DuBerry, Willy’s young wife and Lacey’s mother, abandoned them both leaving Willy to raise Lacey alone.

Lacey Cherrymill is smart, stubborn and focused. She’s also a single mother to a young daughter recently diagnosed with a devastating illness. The last thing she needs to think about right now is the betrayal that rocked her childhood. Reluctantly, she has returned to her rural beginnings, a former dairy farm in the Maryland countryside, and to Willy, a man steeped in his own disappointments and all the guilt that goes with them.

Together they will pool their wobbly emotional resources to take care of Tasha, all the while trying to skirt the issue of May’s mysterious disappearance. But try as she might, Lacey can’t leave it alone. Just where is May DuBerry Cherrymill and why did she leave them, and how is it that they have never talked about the wreckage she left behind?

MY THOUGHTS: The writing in A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is beautiful, lyrical. It flows like molasses from a spoon. It is a novel that drew me in so that I was breathing the same air that the characters breathed, experiencing their triumphs, their pain, feeling their emotions, living their lives
along with them.

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is an exploration of love – the love of a mother for her daughter, her need to protect her daughter at any cost, even that of her own happiness.

At first I thought this story belonged to Lacey and her daughter Tasha, as Tasha is diagnosed with cancer and their battle with this demon is the predominating thread, with the mystery of May surfacing only occasionally. But gradually the tables turn as Lacey faces up to her need to know just what happened to her mother, her need to know her mother and where she came from. And so she packs up Lacey and Willy and Carlotta, and they embark on a mission to find out just who May duBarry was.

The story is split between the ‘present’, being the mid-2000s, and the ‘past’ of the early 1970s. The story is interspersed with May’s diary entries. I found the telling of Tasha’s battle with cancer difficult to read. It is a brutally honest, no holds barred account. But it was worth getting through, because it is May’s story that is the crux of the book.

This is very much a character driven novel. If you are looking for action and excitement, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a beautiful, tender and heart-piercing story of family, love, sacrifice, secrets and shame, then you couldn’t do better than pick up A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher.

I both read and listened to A Hand to Hold in Deep Water. Elizabeth Evans is a wonderful narrator, and enriched my experience with this book.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#AHandtoHoldinDeepWater #NetGalley

I: @shawnnocher @ blackstonepublishing

T: @shawn_nocher @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #love #mystery #sliceoflife #audiobook

THE AUTHOR: Shawn Nochers compelling short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Eunoia Review, and MoonPark Review, and she has been longlisted or won honorable mentions from both SmokeLong Quarterly and Glimmer Train.

She earned her master of arts in writing at Johns Hopkins University, has given wings to two children, and lives with her husband and an assortment of sassy rescue animals in Baltimore, Maryland, where she writes in a room of her own. This is her first novel. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and Blackstone Audio via Netgalley for providing both a digital and an audio ARC of A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley

EXCERPT: I stared at the clock on the wall. It said one-thirty, but surely it wasn’t the afternoon already.

I sunk further into the sagging back of the chair. I felt small and sad and very sorry for myself. Things that had previously consoled or even gladdened me were no longer doing the trick. I felt out of kilter, like a crooked painting on the wall, or a cheese straw without paprika. A house with no windows. A dog with one ear. I could go on. I could go to the library and look up section 400-499 English Language to find the perfect metaphor, but would it actually fix anything? I glanced at the clock again. It was still one-thirty. Had the clock stopped? Who knew? All I did know was that I was frozen in time, shackled to my self-pity, my grief, my fears. I was like the ‘i’ in the middle of my name, trapped between other letters, unable to break free. I wanted to be alone, yet I was lonely. I wanted to stay home, yet I felt isolated. I wanted to be with my husband, but he was dead. Tears sprung forth as if I was chopping onions, and my heart flapped so vigorously that, had it been windy outside with no roof over the house, I may have taken off. I couldn’t bear the sight of the clock looming over me, reminding me of my fate, any longer.

With a surge of adrenalin and rage, I exploded from the armchair, my focus solely on pulling the wooden-framed clock with its black numbers and unmoving hands off the wall. I saw nothing else, not even Jack. I should have, because there he was, in the way. My foot clipped the underside of the suitcase and got stuck. I upended the wheels, lost my balance, and floundered. A flaying arm knocked the christmas tree, the suitcase handle right-jabbed my chin and I fell as if in slow motion, landing with a thud on the living room floor, two suitcase wheels and five christmas tree branches needling me in the back. My right ankle was at a wrong angle and my left wrist in pain. And it was still one-thirty.

ABOUT ‘GERALDINE VERNE’S RED SUITCASE’: Jack had two dying wishes: that his wife scatter his ashes somewhere ‘exotic’, and that she not give up on life once he was gone. He intended to spur her on to new adventures, but despite clinging to her red suitcase, Geraldine Verne hasn’t left the house for three months.

It takes an accident for Geri to accept help from her friends, but when Meals on Wheels arrive she is mortified. Yet heartbroken volunteer Lottie brings with her more than cottage pie and custard. Like Geri, she too is struggling to cut loose.

As a gloriously unlikely friendship blossoms, Geraldine begins to feel a long-lost spark of life and a newfound confidence. Perhaps what both women needed most, after all, was each other.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book. I loved Geraldine. I loved Lottie. I enjoyed every tear I shed as I was reading, and every laugh that escaped my lips. And there was plenty of both. I even loved the chapter titles: 306.7 Love; Apple Crumble Days; Toilet Paper; Whisky and Cake . . .

Divided into four parts, the story is told entirely from the perspective of Geri (Geraldine), mostly in a linear timeline with occasional flashbacks in the form of memories. It is a story of grief, the grief of a woman who has lost the love of her life after more than 50 years together. Geraldine describes their relationship as being like a pair of shoes, one left, one right. They were not the same but complemented one another, they worked well together. But now that she is only one shoe . . . well, you see her problem.

She thinks that if she just pretends he’s still there, and he is, then everything will be all right. She still makes him cups of tea, puts out biscuits for him, dances with him. And if she can shut out the world that is going to remind her that he’s not there, all the better. But the world has other plans for Geri, as did ‘Jackie-Boy’.

Geri is one stubborn lady. I have to admit to seeing more than a little of myself in her. I loved her kind heart, her sense of humor. I loved her devotion to Jack. I loved Jack.

Even the supporting characters are ‘characters’. I am sure that we all know a Len, a Crystal and a Sue.

The first part of this book is sad. I cried a lot, and laughed a little. The second part I laughed a lot and cried a little. Parts three and four are mostly humorous, heartwarming and just occasionally sad.

This is the second book by this author, but the first that I have read. I will be seeking out her first.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#GeraldineVernesRedSuitcase #NetGalley

I: #JaneRiley #AmazonPublishingUK

T: @JaneRileyAuthor

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Hi, I’m Jane Riley!

I was born and raised in New Zealand. After graduating from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in French and English literature, I headed to Europe to practise my French, got waylaid in Germany and ended up in Australia.

I have had a varied career in public relations, publishing, freelancing as a writer and editor, and launching an online e-commerce business, which involved writing a design blog interviewing makers and creators. When The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock was published, I achieved my dream of becoming a full-time author.

I live in Sydney with my husband, an energetic but scared-of-heights Australian cattle dog-staffy cross, and two daughters old enough to not be living at home anymore. I volunteer as an English language tutor for the Adult Migrant English Program, am learning the piano and teaching myself Italian.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK for providing a digital ARC of Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

A Million Things by Emily Spurr

EXCERPT: I swallow the acid and keep yelling. ‘A squashed, leathery, manky-furred cat with a paper plate on top of it.’ My shouting’s getting higher and squeaky in a way I don’t recognize. ‘That’s not what you keep in a house. That’s crazy!’

‘A cat?’

‘A dead cat!’ My breathing sounds funny. ‘Dead. A dead thing. Dead.’ I can’t stop saying the word. I need to stop saying that. ‘Dead.’ I push past her shaking, biting my tongue to stop my mouth betraying me further. I need to sit down.

‘You found my cat?’

I’m sitting with my head in my hands. Not thinking about the shed. Not thinking about the leathery cat body. This was a mistake. I’ve been working all day and all I’ve managed to do is clean a hallway. And the crazy old cat-smothering goat isn’t even thankful. As soon as I can get to my feet I’m going home. She can deal with the council and get kicked out of her house and I’m going to stay the hell away from it all. They’ll be so preoccupied with this pile of shit they probably won’t even look at my yard. It’s not like you can smell anything else when you’re inside her house. I shouldn’t have got involved in the first place. She’s nothing to me. I don’t need her or her stinking house and definitely not all the trouble she’s about to bring with her.

‘You found my cat?’ She drops a plastic bag – it looks like it’s got banh mi in it – on the chest and sits on the porch in front of me. I glance at her face. Her eyes are huge. Her face is so pale the little red veins near her nose look like they’ve been drawn on with pen. ‘You’ve found Sylvester?’

‘Who?’

‘My cat. I thought he ran away.’ She looks horrified. ‘He was-‘

I don’t know what to say. I glance over to our yard, at the bin where I dumped the stiff, leathery, hole-filled carcass. I remember the sparkle I focused on as I shovelled the body off the floor. ‘Did he have a collar with jewels on it?’

She puts her head in her hands. ‘Oh God.’

I hover my hand near her head, then pull it back and slip it into my pocket. There are tissues in there. I kneel in front of her and offer her one. She takes it, holds it in her hand, nods. And we sit there like that, the two of us and a yard full of rubbish bags.

ABOUT ‘A MILLION THINGS’: Rae is ten years old, and she’s tough. She’s had to be: life with her mother has taught her the world is not her friend. Now suddenly her mum is gone and Rae is alone, except for her dog Splinter.

Rae can do a lot of things pretty well for a kid. She can shop and cook a little and take care of Splints and keep the front yard neat enough that the neighbours won’t get curious. But she is gnawed at by fear and sadness; haunted by the shadow of a terrible secret.

Lettie, the old woman who lives next door, might know more about Rae than she lets on—but she has her own reasons for keeping the world at arm’s length. When Rae finds out what they are, it seems like she and Lettie could help each other.

But how long can a friendship based on secrets last?

MY THOUGHTS: Funny. Sad. Heartbreaking. A Million Things will have your emotions all over the place. I laughed. I cried. A lot.

Rae is a resourceful ten-year-old. She’s had to be. Even more so now. But in reality, how’s she going to hold it together now that her mother’s not there? How long can she make the meager amount of money in the bank account last? How long before someone notices that her mother is no longer there, and calls in the authorities? Someone like the nosy old goat next door.

Lettie is the nosy old goat next door. She thinks Rae’s rude. But she watches out for her all the same. She doesn’t want the authorities poking their noses in either, for reasons of her own.

When someone down the street reports Lettie, these two form a mutual protection society and slowly, a friendship. But, even together, they can’t hold off the authorities forever.

A Million Things is one of those rare, beautifully written books that is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It is a story of resilience, grief and friendship. The characters are so very real, they could have stepped off the page and into my lounge. I simply couldn’t get enough of this book.

The story takes place over 55 days, and is told from Rae’s point of view. Her dog, Master Splinter, is another important character in this book. He is all Rae has left from ‘before’.

This is a moving read. A very emotional one. A beautiful one. One that I am going to be recommending to everyone.

Yet another new, extremely talented, Australian writer for me to follow. Please put me down for her next book now.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#AMillionThings #NetGalley

I: @spurr.emily @text_publishing

T: @SpurrEmily @text_publishing

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #australianfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Originally from Tasmania, Emily lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her partner, their twins and a deaf, geriatric cat.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Million Things by Emily Spurr. 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.

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

The Vacation by John Marrs

EXCERPT: ‘So you are never curious how Joe’s life became such a waste?’
‘Who are you to judge him? Just because he hasn’t got what you have doesn’t mean he’s wasted it.’
‘He’s got no money, no home, no family . . . Nobody deserves that.’
‘But a man can live without all those things. And you have more in common with him than you think.’
‘Please enlighten me, oh divine oracle.’
‘Neither of you has any freedom.’
‘Well that’s crap. I may not have much money but I’m not a slave to my next fix.’
But you’re not free from the limits you set yourself either. You’re one of the most uptight, frightened little shits I’ve ever met. You went travelling to escape something – that’s clear – then you separate from your friend and you end up here where you hide in the margins, never in the middle of the page. You’re too scared to embrace freedom . . . you’re like a fish in a bowl looking out towards the ocean but too gutless to make the jump.’

ABOUT ‘THE VACATION’: How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

MY THOUGHTS: I never did the backpacker experience when I left school. It wasn’t much done back then, so I enjoyed this experience. I like stories where a disparate group of people are thrown together. I enjoy the dynamics of them all getting to know one another.

In The Vacation we are introduced to eight characters who are staying at the same hostel in Venice Beach. Their stories move between the current time and the past, as the reasons behind their travels are slowly revealed. It is all a bit disjointed in the beginning, and it doesn’t really come together cohesively until two thirds of the way through the book when things begin to get really interesting. So be patient.

The characters, although all running from their pasts for various reasons, are all very different and easily distinguishable. It really is no mean feat to be able to tie together this number of threads without it becoming confusing, but John Marrs succeeds admirably.

There were a few things that initially puzzled me, but the author ties everything up before the ending. There are plenty of twists and turns, especially in one of the threads. Every time I thought I had that storyline figured out, Marr would double back on himself and disrupt my theories.

While The Vacation is not the best book I have read by this author, it is entertaining and enjoyable.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheVacation #NetGalley

I: @johnmarrs.author @panmacmillan

T: @johnmarrs1 @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery

‘…trying to second-guess a crystal meth addict was as pointless as giving a dog a Rubik’s cube.’

THE AUTHOR: After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, John Marrs is now a full-time writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Vacation by John Marrs for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

A quick post today. I have been at work since early this morning and it’s now almost time to start dinner – rare roast beef with red wine jus, and roast vegetables. I also have two reviews to write.

I haven’t done any great travels this week, having split my time between Venice Beach and another unspecified location in California, a fictional location on outskirts of Manchester in England, and Christchurch New Zealand.

. Have you been anywhere interesting?

I am currently reading The Guilty Wife by Alison James, which was previously titled Happily Ever After

A Million Things by Emily Spurr

And I am listening to A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher

I have a really busy week ahead of me, so I am not going overcommit myself on what I intend to read.

Sleepless by Romy Hausmann

It’s been years since Nadja Kulka was convicted of a cruel crime. After being released from prison, she’s wanted nothing more than to live a normal life: nice flat, steady job, even a few friends. But when one of those friends, Laura von Hoven–free-spirited beauty and wife of Nadja’s boss–kills her lover and begs Nadja for her help, Nadja can’t seem to refuse.

The two women make for a remote house in the woods, the perfect place to bury a body. But their plan quickly falls apart and Nadja finds herself outplayed, a pawn in a bizarre game in which she is both the perfect victim and the perfect murderer…

If I can get through what I currently reading, and Sleepless, I will be quite happy, especially as I have only just started all my current reads.

I have three new ARCs this week, which is relief after last week’s 27! They are:

The Affair by Hilary Boyd

Silver Tears by Camilla Lackberg

And Survive the Night by Riley Sager. I am so excited as this is the first of Riley Sager’s books that I have been approved for.

I am looking forward to Tuesday, my only day off in coming week. The way I feel right now I think I will spend it sleeping!

Have a great week of reading and don’t forget to pop in and tell me what you’re reading where you’ve been in your reading travels.

Have great week ❤📚

Waiting to Begin by Amanda Prowse

EXCERPT: I’m running out of time . . . I will never have the job of my dreams and take to the air like lucky Daniel . . . Gone is the prospect of great sex with someone who is yet to discover me and who will in turn help me discover myself . . . I’m running out of time to make amends . . . And with each year my kids slip further from my reach . . . falling into the arms of their life partners who they put before me and I know that’s how it should be, but I find it hard to be happy about it . . . because it leaves Mario and me on our own.

ABOUT ‘WAITING TO BEGIN’: 1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame—and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.

2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss—the hope, the trust, the joy—Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.

Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?

MY THOUGHTS: Whenever I finish a book by Amanda Prowse, I am emotionally bruised, battered and totally wrung out. Waiting to Begin was no exception.

This is a story of actions and consequences, something few teenagers think about. Bessie is one of those teenagers who let her hormones rule her brain. As a result her life becomes a trainwreck.

Fast forward to 2021 and Bess is suffering empty nest syndrome. On top of that she feels that her marriage to Mario has become stale. Things she used to think were cute, now drive her insane. They aren’t close anymore, the loving communication and meaningful discussions, along with affectionate gestures have disappeared. She is at that stage of her life when she wonders, ‘is this all there is?’ She wants to be loved, adored; she wants to feel special, to feel that glimmer of attraction, a frisson of excitement. She wants to feel alive instead of tired and worn out by the repetitiveness of her life.

I didn’t always like Bess, but I have to admit that I could see parts of myself in her at various stages of her life, which gave me food for thought, a reality check.

Prowse takes things that most of us feel at one time or another, combines them with relatable and realistic characters, and weaves a story that both compels and captivates. Tissues mandatory.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#WaitingtoBegin #NetGalley

I: @mrsamandaprowse #lakeunionpublishing

T: @MrsAmandaProwse #LakeUnionPublishing

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Waiting to Begin by Amanda Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan

Due for publication 6th May 2021

EXCERPT: They had gone to see the old building, a sprawling grey, derelict structure that had angels at the doors and serpents in the remaining stained glass windows.

Although it was emptied over a quarter of a century ago, there was no denying its looming presence; there was an eerie feeling of ghosts who would never fully rest.

‘For some, perhaps it was better than the alternative – many of the girls came from simple farming backgrounds. Back then, a respectable man would prefer to have a dead daughter than an illegitimate grandchild.’ She shivered then, perhaps remembering things she would prefer to forget. ‘Come on, let’s walk around the old gardens, this place isn’t going to do either of us any good.’

Dan looked once more at the building, mostly boarded up, apart from the occasional window where storms had blown away their covers, revealing stained glass that would have been striking once. He wondered for a moment if he came back again and broke in – would there be files?

ABOUT ‘THE LADIES MIDNIGHT SWIMMING CLUB’: Three women, three different stages of life, united by one thing: the chance to start again.

When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, she must turn to her friend, Jo for help, who calls in her daughter, Lucy to run the village surgery. Leaving her city life, and past demons, behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to resemble something normal for the three women, Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of some solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice; to take a dip in the nip.

MY THOUGHTS: Why have I never read anything by this author before? Her characters are stunning. They made themselves at home in my heart and I don’t want to say goodbye to them.

Other than Elizabeth, Jo and Lucy, there’s Lucy’s teenage son Niall, acting out in reaction to his parents divorce and determined to make his mother suffer for bringing him to this backwater. And Dan, who has lost his high profile job in London and rented a cottage in Ballycove to realise his dream of writing a book, is searching for his birth mother, and is mortified to find himself, one evening, standing on a beach with two near naked pensioners and a dog yapping at his feet. He finds far more material for his book in this little village than he ever dreamed!

The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club is a beautifully paced and plotted story about the indomitable spirit of friendship told from the points of view of all the major characters. Despite, or maybe because of this, it flows seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly through the various crises the characters face.

I loved this read. It warmed my heart, and made my eyes well with tears. Yes, tissues are mandatory. I loved the way Elizabeth’s character grew and strengthened, and Jo, what can I say about Jo? If I am ever in her position I only hope that I have her strength of character.

I am going to be reading a lot more from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#MidnightSwimmingClub #NetGalley

I: @faithhoganauthor #ariaandaries

T: @GerHogan @aria_fiction

#contemporaryfiction #mystery #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author. She was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.

She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Aria and Aries for providing a digital ARC of The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Girls From Alexandria by Carol Cooper

EXCERPT: Most of Simone’s warm clothes still appeared untouched. Funny. I’d have thought she’d have needed them in Europe. There at the back was a well-loved teddy bear. So much for her claim of having got rid of all soft toys by the age of ten. The yellow ribbed cardigan next to it was actually mine. A cigarette burn went through the right elbow. Well, that would explain why she had never returned it. I sniffed the cardigan and picked up a faint scent of Femme de Rochas which, in Mother’s opinion, reeked of sharmouta. I returned the cardigan to the drawer alongside a stack of monogrammed handkerchiefs and Mother’s ubiquitous cotton bags for socks and tights.

Inside the white painted bedside table, I found various nail varnishes, a Mary Quant lipstick, and a lipstick brush. In the drawer lay a few 45 rpm records. Bobby Azzam’s big hit would never be the same again now that Simone had gone. I sang ‘Ya Mustafa’ softly to myself, willing the tune to work its magic and bring her back.

ABOUT ‘THE GIRLS FROM ALEXANDRIA’: Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

MY THOUGHTS: Other than odd passages, such as the one above, The Girls From Alexandria is strangely detached. I expected a little, no, to be truthful, A LOT more emotion.

Although I found the history of Egypt, and particularly Alexandria, interesting, I sometimes wondered if the author were more interested in imparting that, than solving the mystery of where Simone had disappeared to. It ought to have been an interesting backdrop to the main story, but at times overwhelmed it. Although I have to admit that at times, as I was reading, I would exclaim, ‘I remember that happening!’

I also found the constant shifts in the timeline from the past (1950s onwards) to more recent times a little hard to follow as they jumped all over the place, but I guess that this was forgivable as we were remembering through Nadia’s muddled mind.

I liked the character of Nadia, but never connected with her, or really got to know her. I did, however, develop an interest in Alexandria and Googled it to find out more. If I ever get to travel to Egypt, I will certainly head there. The author’s knowledge of and love for Alexandria shone through her writing, as did her medical knowledge.

Reading through my review, it sounds as though I really didn’t like this book at all. But I did. A little. I would love to have liked it a whole lot more.

⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheGirlsFromAlexandria #NetGalley

I: @drcarolcooper @agorabooksldn

T: @DrCarolCooper @AgoraBooksLDN

THE AUTHOR: Dr Carol Cooper is a practising family doctor, journalist, and mother of twins. She writes for The Sun newspaper and teaches medical students at Imperial College. Her non-fiction books include a number of parenting titles and an award-winning medical textbook. She is honorary consultant in family medicine to Tamba (the Twins & Multiple Births Association), and gives regular talks to those expecting twins, triplets, or more. Carol also broadcasts on TV and radio, and is President of the Guild of Health Writers. She has two novels to her name.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Agora Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Girls From Alexandria by Carol Cooper for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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