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

The Women Who Ran Away by Sheila O’Flanagan

EXCERPT: ‘I’ve no car and no way of getting around.’

‘But I have a car,’ said Grace. ‘And I have an itinerary. I also have more clues to be deciphered. We’ve already seen that two heads are better than one. Why don’t you come with me?’

‘On all your stops? Through France and Spain?’ Deira looked at her in astonishment.

‘Why not?’ said Grace. ‘To tell you the truth, you’d be doing me a favour. My elder daughter thinks I’m off my rocker doing this trip on my own. If I tell her I have company, she might stop worrying about me and asking me to share my location with her so she can check up on me without me even realizing it.’

‘I’m not sure . . .’

‘We still haven’t worked out the full La Rochelle clue,’ said Grace. ‘Besides, I’d love your company.’

‘Really?’

‘Why not?’ repeated Grace.

Why not indeed, thought Deira. Why not do something even madder than her original plan and travel with a woman she hardly knew, following a treasure hunt set by a dead man?

ABOUT ‘THE WOMEN WHO RAN AWAY’: Deira is setting out on the holiday she’d planned with her long-term partner Gavin… only she’s on her own. Gavin will not be amused when he finds out she’s ‘borrowed’ his car, but since their brutal break-up Deira’s not been acting rationally. Maybe a drive through beautiful France will help her see things differently…Grace is also travelling alone, each stage of her journey outlined in advance by her late husband. Ken was head of the household when he was alive, and it seems he’s still in charge. His last decision was a surprise – could there be more surprises to come? There’s only one way to find out, galling though it is to dance again to Ken’s tune…Thrown together by chance, Deira and Grace are soon motoring down the French highways, sharing intriguing stories of their pasts, as they each consider the future…

MY THOUGHTS: Don’t you just love that cover! Especially now when we’re still all restricted to armchair travel, I can just imagine strolling through that open gate, feel the sand between my toes and the water lapping at my ankles.

Unfortunately I liked the cover better than the story. I found it difficult to readily connect with both main characters, but Deira in particular. It could be an age thing, but I don’t really think so. I enjoyed the story, but never became fully invested in it. I did love the travelling aspect, and O’Flanagan’s descriptive powers are excellent. I loved learning about the history of some of the locations Grace and Deira travelled to and the references to famous historical literary and artistic characters. I found the map coordinates at the beginning of the chapters frustrating. I would rather have had dates and locations.

The idea behind the plot is excellent. It covers some serious subjects: terminal illness, grief, loss, suicide, and infidelity. But don’t go thinking that this novel is full of doom and gloom, because it isn’t. It is a novel of hope, friendship and personal growth.

I’m not quite sure why I didn’t love this. I usually do love O’Flanagan’s books. This is a nice, quick, easy read, just not one that left me enchanted and missing the characters when I closed the covers.

⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheWomenWhoRanAway #NetGalley

@sheilaoflanagan @hachetteaus

‘One thing I’ve learned about life is that no matter how shitty a time you are having, it does pass. And then you look back and say, that was a terrible week, or month, or year. But you’ve got to remember that it’s only a tiny bit of your whole life. It’s important to put it into perspective.’

THE AUTHOR: As you can see, a Dubliner all my life. My parents owned a grocery shop in the Iveagh Markets, in the Liberties area of the city and I guess city blood runs through my veins.

As a child I enjoyed reading and telling stories and everyone thought that I end up in a job which had something to do with books and literature. But though I applied for a job in the library all of the job offers I got were in commerce.

I turned down lots of them before my mother accepted one for me (I was on holiday at the time). It was in the Central Bank of Ireland and that’s how my career in financial services began.

But I still loved reading and writing (which I did in my spare time) and I desperately wanted to write my own book. I guess I never quite got over the fact that I was never offered the library job! In my thirties I decided that it was now or never and I sat down, stuck Chapter 1 on a page, and started. I wrote the whole thing before sending it off.

I was offered a publishing deal (with no advance) by an Irish company but only if I wrote a different book! So back to the drawing board, I started again. It was another two years before it was published. It wasn’t until I’d written a few books and was offered a contract (this time with an advance!) from another publisher that I felt able to give up my trading job and write full time. So, even though it took a long time, I eventually realised my dream of being a full-time writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hachette Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Women Who Ran Away by Sheila O’Flanagan 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

Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐

#Syrian Brides

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

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

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedict Grant a wealthy Londoner, leading a lonely life.

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

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

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

I received three new Netgalley ARCs this week:

The Last Night in London by Karen White

My Little Girl by Shalini Boland

and The Whispers by Heidi Perks

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

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

Have a wonderful week everyone!❤📚

The Incredible Winston Browne

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

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

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

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

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

It was a little girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

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

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

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

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events that have led to both killings.

And Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

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

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

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

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

A Million Things by Emily Spurr

The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

and the audiobook is The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

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

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

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐.3

#AHomeLikeOurs #NetGalley

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

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

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich

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

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

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

The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd

And audiobook The Good Neighbour by R.J. Parker

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

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