First Lines Friday . . .

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Welcome to First Lines Friday originally hosted by Reading is my SuperPower.

Instead of judging a book by its cover, here are the first few lines which I hope will make you want to read this book.

This story really begins at midnight one month after Aurora was born, the night of her due date, the night she couldn’t wait for, such was her wish to rush headlong into our lives.

Like what you’ve just read?

Want to read more?

These are the opening lines of one of my current reads, What is Left After by Australian author Natasha Lester. This book was first published in 2010, but is being republished by Fremantle Press and is due to hit the shelves February 01, 2023.

Gaelle has a dream job working for a fashion magazine, and a husband who loves her. Life should be perfect, but life does not always go according to plan. Feeling lost and alone, Gaelle flees to a tiny seaside town on the other side of the country. As she revisits the legacy of a strange, sometimes magical childhood in France, Gaelle finds unexpected help from a thirteenyear-old stranger. As if she was experiencing her childhood all over again, she must ask: when you lose everything you love, what is left over after?

Watching what I’m reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Winter Grave by Peter May

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

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

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

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

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

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston

Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.

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

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

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

That Night at the Beach by Kate Hewitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

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

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

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

One Day With You by Shari Lowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Mischief of Rats by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

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

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

All That We Are by Mariah Stewart

EXCERPT: . . . then she reached the fourth drawer, the one marked RECEIPTS in Harry’s awkward uppercase print.

There were files for almost every purchase he’d ever made – cars, appliances, furniture, clothing. Reading through them was like watching a quick movie reel of their life together. There was the receipt for the car Harry’d bought Emma the year their son, and only child, Christopher was born. A silver baby’s cup Harry’d ordered to mark the birth of his sister Prudence’s first child. A new chimney liner. The first guitar they’d bought Chris. Her eyes lingered over this one as she recalled how Harry had later ‘rued the day’ he’d ‘opened that can of worms.’

Emma dropped that receipt on the desk; Chris might get a kick out of it.

There was a file containing personal purchases Harry had made for himself. A three piece charcoal suit and a lightweight summer sports coat. Three white dress shirts and a bill for monograming the cuffs. A receipt from a jeweller in Boston for an eight inch gold bracelet, and a . . .

‘Wait. What?’

She held up the receipt and scrutinised the fine print. ‘One eight inch fancy link bracelet – 14K gold. The price was staggering.

Confused, she reread the receipt several times. Was she losing her mind? Had he bought her such a thing and she’d forgotten? Sure, we all lose a little as we age, and forgetting some things now and then is normal. But could she have forgotten such a wonderful and expensive a gift? No, she was sure she’d have remembered that. She’d have worn it every day. She’d probably be wearing it right then.

No, Harry’d never given her a gold bracelet, and since he’d never worn any jewelry other than his wedding ring and cufflinks, she knew it wasn’t for him.

And then she noticed the print at the bottom of the receipt: Add gold disk charm, front engrave: CJD 2-14-2012. Back engrave ‘My heart’.

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

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: The standout attraction of this series for me is the fabulous and very real characters. I love the relationships between the three women – Liddy, Maggie and Emma – friends since their schooldays, they are not backwards with telling each other what they think, but they are also very supportive of one another. I would love a group of friends like this.

There are a few different threads to this story, which is centred around Emma, who has been a widow for the past ten years. A secret is uncovered which leaves her both devastated and angry. Then a knock on the door turns her and her family’s lives upside down.

All That We Are is a heartwrenching story that, despite a few slow spots, held me captivated until the very end. I just have to say that I finished this read with a wobbly bottom lip and tears pooling in my eyes. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a read that had me chuckling at times, sometimes angry at the actions of some of the characters (just see if you don’t get angry with Owen too!) , crying – sometimes sad tears, sometimes happy ones – but mostly hopeful that things were going to work out for everyone.

All That We Are is the second book I have read in this series. Although they can be read as stand-alones, I really recommend that you start the series from the beginning to get the entire backstory and relationship history. I am certain planning on going back to read the first, and I am hoping that there will be more books to come.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#AllThatWeAre #NetGalley

I: @mariah_stewart_books @amazonpublishing

T: @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #friendship #mystery #romance #smalltownfiction #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Mariah Stewart considers herself one lucky son of a gun to have landed the best job in the world: getting paid for making up stories. At home. In sweats and J. Crew flip flops. Could life be sweeter?

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Montlake via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of All That We Are by Mariah Stewart 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 Murder Question (A Beth Haldane Mystery #3) by Alice Castle

EXCERPT: Beth’s breath was rapidly misting up the window as she squinted this way and that, trying to work out what was going on. She stepped back a little to wipe the condensation down with the sleeve of her coat. Suddenly, a twig snapped somewhere behind her in the dense mass of dripping darkness that was the garden. In the quiet, it was as loud as a gunshot going off. She clutched her chest. Her heart had started pounding. Was it a fox? Or maybe Jen’s beloved cat, Meow? She knew from Magpie that sometimes you could see cats’ eyes glittering in the darkness. She swung round, suddenly supremely conscious that she shouldn’t be here. But there was no sign of the cat, or anything else. Thank goodness. She turned back again.

Instantly, there was a flurry of movement right behind her. Then pain exploded through her skull as something hard and heavy connected mercilessly with the back of her head.

ABOUT ‘THE MURDER QUESTION’: When her best friend goes missing, amateur sleuth Beth Haldane is determined to do some digging of her own… but can she crack the mystery before it becomes a murder?

Beth Haldane is worried. First her dear friend and fellow single mother Jen suddenly gets married to a new man who seems too perfect to be true, then she moves out of leafy Dulwich Village – and now seems to have disappeared without a trace.

Beth knows Jen would never leave her little daughter to handle playground predicaments or her sneaky stepmother alone. Heading to Jen’s new home for answers, Beth’s knocks on the periwinkle-blue front door go unanswered. Police are convinced the lovebirds are on an extended honeymoon: but Beth suspects Jen’s new husband is up to no good… why does no-one in Dulwich know where he came from? Are his looks hiding a dark past?

With Jen’s unpleasant ex popping up at every turn, and gruff but handsome policeman DI Harry York insisting Beth should leave things to the professionals, it’s going to take all her sleuthing skills to track Jen down. But searching Jen’s overgrown garden for clues, Beth hears a twig snap… and next thing she knows, she’s woken up in a hospital bed.

Someone in normally peaceful Dulwich Village will do anything to stop her reaching the truth. Can Beth get to the bottom of this mystery before she’s the next to disappear?

MY THOUGHTS: I don’t know quite what it is about this series that keeps drawing me back. I love a good mystery, but in The Murder Question, the mystery definitely takes a back seat to Beth’s life. Yet, I enjoyed it. It’s entertaining. Amusing. I could easily be friends with Beth. I wouldn’t employ her, but we could be friends.

Beth’s friends and workmates are ganging up on her, saying that after almost a decade of being a widow it’s time she got back on the dating bandwagon. Beth is slowly coming around to their way of thinking. She misses the companionship of a relationship. And her friend Jen’s sudden marriage to the unknown Ted has only reinforced her own loneliness. But while she is browsing a dating website one day, she finds something disturbing. Then, Jen disappears.

I like the way Beth bumbles around in her ‘investigations’. She has no finesse, no real idea of what she is doing. Probably just as I would do in her place. She’s relatable. Ordinary. She’s not beautiful, but rather resembles a Shetland pony with her long thick fringe, sturdy build and short stature. She has a bit of a thing for local DI Harry York, who always seems to be rescuing her from whatever predicament she finds herself in, but doesn’t believe her feelings are reciprocated. Harry, a DI addicted to the works of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham, has a disastrous love history. He has all but given up when he is called to a flat where the body of an elderly pensioner has been laying undiscovered for some time, and he wonders if this will be his fate.

The characters are definitely what attract me to this series. From the smug newly married, pregnant Janice to the head ‘yummy mummy’ at the school gates, they are all beautifully drawn and realistically portrayed.

Every book in this series gets better and now I’m ready for book #4, The Murder Plot.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#TheMurderQuestion #NetGalley

I: @alice_castle_ @bookouture

T: @AliceMCastle @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery

THE AUTHOR: Alice Castle lives in South London with her two children and two cats. She was a feature writer on the Daily Express for many years and has written for most other national newspapers. She has a degree in Modern History from St Andrews University, is the British Royalty expert for Flemish TV, and lived in Brussels for nearly a decade.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Murder Question (A Beth
Haldane Mystery #3) by Alice Castle 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

Exiles (Aaron Falk #3) by Jane Harper

EXCERPT: The baby was asleep when she was discovered. She was just short of six weeks old, a good weight for her age, healthy and well, other than being completely alone. She would have been warm enough deep inside her bassinet pram. She was swaddled carefully in a clean wrap purchased from the state’s leading baby-wares retailer, and tucked in with an artisan wool blanket, thick enough to have the effect of flattening out the bundle of her shape if placed in the right way. A casual glance towards the pram would inevitably first see the blanket rather than the baby.

It was a spring night and the South Australian sky was clear and starry with no rain forecast, but the weatherproof hood had been pulled over to full stretch. A linen square normally used as a sunshield was draped over the opening between the hood and the pram. A casual glance would not now see the sleeping girl at all.

The pram was parked alongside a few dozen others in the Marralee Valley Annual Food and Wine Festival’s designated pram bay, fighting for space in the shadow of the ferris wheel with a tangle of bikes and scooters and a lone tricycle. It had been left in the far corner, the foot brake firmly on.

The contents of the bay were collected one by one over the next couple of hours, as families who’d been mixing wine, cheese and carnival rides decided they’d celebrated local produce enough for one night. By a little after 10.30 pm, only the pram and the assistant electrical technician’s bike were left.

ABOUT ‘EXILES’: At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.

A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.

Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.

MY THOUGHTS: Marralee is a small town in the heart of the South Australian wine country. A small, pretty town, where everyone knows everyone else and nothing bad ever happens. Only something bad has happened. And no one saw.

Exiles is an intricately plotted mystery, the third in the Aaron Falk series. This was planned as a trilogy, but please Jane Harper, give us more! I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to Falk.

This is very much a character driven mystery, my very favourite kind, and I relished the seemingly slow pace, the introduction of another, older, unsolved crime, and a welcome diversion in Falk’s private life.

I loved the sense of family that surrounds Raco and Rita, whom we first encountered in The Dry. Falk is welcomed, even embraced, in this family and it stirs the feeling that maybe work isn’t everything, that maybe there could be more if he would just open himself to the possibility.

The mysteries are engaging and compelling. My suspicions were all over the place. The clues were there, but caught up in the atmosphere of Harper’s writing and seeing the situation from the perspective of her friends, I missed them. Well, not exactly missed them, but didn’t attach to them the importance they deserved. The answer to Kim’s disappearance is chilling; to who caused the death of Dean Tozer, sad.

As always, Jane Harper kept me glued to the page, totally immersed in the world of Marralee. I hope we have the chance to return.

Exiles is able to be read as a stand-alone.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Exiles

I:

T: @janeharperautho @MacmillanAus

THE AUTHOR: Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Exiles, by Jane Harper and published by Pan Macmillan Australia, from 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 and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

I featured this as my First Lines Friday selection this week, so if you missed it, you can find it here: https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/2022/12/09/first-lines-friday-10/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murder Visits a French Village by Susan C. Shea

A Cryptic Clue by Victoria Gilbert

and I still have 22 requests pending.

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

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

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

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

I am glad to see the end of this week.

Happy reading my friends and stay safe. ❤📚

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon. Pete and I have been working in the yard this afternoon. Other one small corner still needing to be weeded, it’s looking really nice again.

I have enjoyed getting back into walking with my neighbour Helen, and going back to aquarobics this week. I finally feel like I have beaten off the last of the flu. It’s nice to have some energy again.

Currently I am reading Wake by Shelley Burr, a debut Australian crime thriller which I am finding difficult to put down. I featured this novel on my First Lines Friday post this week. You can check it out here if you missed it: https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/2022/12/02/first-lines-friday-9/

I am also reading The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley, another debut novel that I am loving.

And I am listening to The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley.

Thirty years have passed since Greta left Marchmont Hall, a grand and beautiful house nestled in the hills of rural Monmouthshire. But when she returns to the Hall for Christmas, at the invitation of her old friend David Marchmont, she has no recollection of her past association with it – the result of a tragic accident that has blanked out more than two decades of her life. Then, during a walk through the wintry landscape, she stumbles across a grave in the woods, and the weathered inscription on the headstone tells her that a little boy is buried here . . .

The poignant discovery strikes a chord in Greta’s mind and soon ignites a quest to rediscover her lost memories. With David’s help, she begins to piece together the fragments of not only her own story, but that of her daughter, Cheska, who was the tragic victim of circumstances beyond her control. And, most definitely, not the angel she appeared to be . . .

This week I only have two reads for review to complete, so hopefully I’ll read a couple of backtitles as well. Just which titles they will be is yet to be decided. My next read will be The Whispering Dead by David Mark

Cordelia Hemlock is teetering on the verge of joining MI6 when she meets the enigmatic Walt, a high-ranking member of the Secret Intelligence Service, who tells her: They won’t want you to do well. They won’t ever trust you. They don’t trust me and I’m one of them. She takes this as a challenge rather than a warning. She wants to protect the nation. Serve Queen and country. Who would turn down such a glorious opportunity?

Fourteen years later, Cordelia is desk-bound after finishing an undercover operation and going quietly mad with boredom. So when the call comes through on the top-secret Pandora line – so-called after the locked-box the telephone is kept in – she answers it.

It’s Walt. No longer officially MI6, he still inhabits the murky world of intelligence, where information always comes with a price. He tells her he has a secret to share with her – and only her. And once she knows it, nothing will ever be the same again . . .

Followed by So Long Chester Wheeler by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

Lewis Madigan is young, gay, out of work, and getting antsy when he’s roped into providing end-of-life care for his insufferable homophobic neighbor, Chester Wheeler. Lewis doesn’t need the aggravation, just the money. The only requirements: run errands, be on call, and put up with a miserable old churl no one else in Buffalo can bear. After exchanging barbs, bickering, baiting, and pushing buttons, Chester hits Lewis with the big ask.

Lewis can’t say no to a dying wish: drive Chester to Arizona in his rust bucket of a Winnebago to see his ex-wife for the first time in thirty-two years—for the last time. One week, two thousand miles. To Lewis, it becomes an illuminating journey into the life and secrets of a vulnerable man he’s finally beginning to understand. A neighbor, a stranger, and a surprising new friend whose closure on a conflicted past is also just beginning.

I received only one new ARC for review from Netgalley this week, which is a bit of a relief after seven last week! It is Ever Since that Day by Sara James.

Well that’s me for the week. I hope you have had an enjoyable week of reading. I’m off now to make salads for our bbq dinner tonight. Happy reading. ❤📚

Death at the Auction by E.C. Bateman

EXCERPT: The staircase ended at a door. Nudging it open, Felicia poked her head around, eyes widening. Moonlight spilled through the tall sash windows, casting the room in a silvery, chequered pattern. Pale cream paneling lined the walls, finely moulded with a frieze of fruiting vines. High above their heads, an enormous crystal chandelier sprouted from the centre of an intricate plaster ceiling rose. The floor space was dominated in the centre by a colossal four poster bed, heavy tapestry curtains hanging loose.

They certainly weren’t in the servants’ quarters now.

‘A hidden door,’ Dexter surveyed the doorway they’d just passed through, the front of which was decorated to match the wall that surrounded it. He let it go and it closed soundlessly, melting seamlessly back into the plaster. Unless you knew where to look, the joins were almost impossible to see. ‘Very neat.’

‘Dexter, look.’ Advancing into the room, Felicia pointed at the fire, the coals of which still glowed faintly in the grate. ‘Someone’s been here recently.’

‘Well, they’re not here now.’ Dexter strolled over to the high wing-backed armchair, which faced the fire. ‘So we might as well . . .’

Surprised at the way he broke off, Felicia turned to see him staring down at the chair, eyes wide in shock. Her heart jolted.

‘Dexter?’ she rasped, suddenly finding that her throat was tight with fear. ‘What . . . what is it?’

ABOUT ‘DEATH AT THE AUCTION’: Murder stalks the cobbles in England’s finest Georgian town…

When an accident forces Felicia Grant back to her family’s auction house in Stamford, she vows it’ll only be a flying visit. But as the gavel falls on the final lot, a hidden secret is revealed—the body of her father’s business rival, murdered during the packed sale!

Soon, Felicia is swept into a mystery that has everyone in the community as a potential suspect―including her.

As the body count rises and with the people she loves under threat, Felicia takes matters into her own hands. But even the most picturesque place has its secrets…

MY THOUGHTS: I love British murder mysteries, and if this is the start of a new series, it’s going to be a good one.

Felicia and Dexter are recently divorced and she has returned home to Stamford with their twelve year old son Algernon to help out after her father breaks his leg. Imagine her surprise when a body falls out of the final lot – a Jacobean cupboard. Felicia and Dexter, who turns up just as the body makes its impromptu appearance, instantly become the main suspects.

Algernon is the pick of the characters. He’s a very observant twelve year old and has an enquiring nature. He’s also just getting to that age where he’s not going to take any nonsense from his parents.

The other main character is the detective, Pettifer, who has a face which looks like it’s been repeatedly hit by a shovel and who is somewhat enchanted by Felicia, giving her far more leeway in the investigation than should be allowed.

This is an intelligent rather than a ‘cute’ cosy mystery with good character development, an excellent setting and a solid murder mystery to be solved. There are several subplots and numerous red herrings culminating in a surprising revelation. The characters private lives are almost as interesting as the murder mystery making this an all round good read that I hope will be developed into a series.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#DeathattheAuction #NetGalley

I: @harpercollinsuk @onemorechapterhc

T: @HarperCollinsUK @OneMoreChapter

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery #familydrama #murdermystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: E.C. Bateman is a novelist and antique jewellery specialist. Having made the questionable decision to marry an auctioneer, she moved to Stamford and dreamt up the idea for this series whilst living in a converted Georgian flat overlooking St. Mary’s Church in the heart of town. They’ve since decamped to the surrounding countryside with their baby daughter, but can still be spotted around the cobbled streets on a regular basis, usually being dragged along by their effervescent cocker spaniel, Audrey.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley, for providing a digital ARC of Death at the Auction by E.C. Bateman 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

A Body at Lavender Cottage by Dee MacDonald

EXCERPT: She wondered why Barney was barking so manically at the back of the garage. Laying down her basket, Kate went to investigate, expecting to find a dead squirrel, rabbit or even a fox.

Instead, the first things she saw were two upturned, dirty trainer-clad feet, just visible around the edge of the garage. Her blood ran cold. Why would anyone be lying there unless they’d been very drunk and forgotten how to get home from the pub down the lane?

ABOUT ‘A BODY AT LAVENDER COTTAGE’: Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…

When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.

Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?

When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.

But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve loved this series with its brilliant cast of characters, and plots with plenty of red herrings. This case hits a little closer to home for Kate, as her beloved Woody has past history with the victim and is the main suspect. Perhaps that’s why Kate does the absolutely stupid thing she does – putting her own life in danger – that completely took the shine off what otherwise was a great story.

Not only is there a murderer on the loose – Kate is having to deal with her sister’s relationship difficulties, and the possibility that both her sister and a workmate are being targeted by conmen.

I love Kate’s character. She’s sensible, sharp and witty, and I love that she’s a woman in her sixties; which made what she did seem all the more out of character. Angie, Kate’s sister, is another great character. Angie and Kate are polar opposites, but are very loyal to one another.

This is probably my least favourite book in the series so far, but I still enjoyed this entertaining, quick, easy read although I didn’t become as invested in it as I have in the previous books.

While it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in the series as each one is an complete mystery, it does help to understand the relationships and dynamics between the core characters.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#ABodyatLavenderCottage #NetGalley

I: #deemacdonald @bookouture

T: @DMacDonaldAuth @Bookouture

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #romance #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Dee MacDonald wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Body at Lavender Cottage 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 . . .

We’ve had no power so no internet all day. Power was restored just a little after 4pm. Thank goodness for the BBQ – I boiled water on it for coffee and made toast on it (not quite as successful) for breakfast and made cheese toasties (much nicer than in the sandwich press) for lunch. This morning was beautiful and sunny and warm, but it was raining again just after lunch and is still raining. I am feeling soggy. Everything is waterlogged and plants are looking miserable. I picked a big bunch of roses this morning before the wind and rain wrecked them. They look lovely on the table. There’s few more days of this weather forecast before we get a high pressure system and some sun. It feels like it’s been raining forever!

Currently I am reading and loving Table for Eight by Tricia Stringer – a purely for pleasure read.

The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer by Isla Evens, a Netgalley 2021 backtitle I was motivated to read as it’s one of the Goodreads.com Aussie Reader’s Group reads for November. So far it’s a fun read about some serious issues.

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

What would you do to protect a child?

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

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

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

I am listening to The Book of Cold Cases written by Simone St. James and narrated by Brittany Pressley , Kirsten Potter , and Robert Petkoff .

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect – a rich, eccentric 23-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017, Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases – a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

This week I have four books to read for review, which should be able to achieve. They are: Isabel Puddles Abroad by M.V. Byrne

Isabel has crafted a life she loves in her Lake Michigan hometown, but she’s eager to use her golden years to make up for missed opportunities. That’s why she’s traveling to England for the first time to visit her pen pal, Teddy Mansfield, an acclaimed mystery writer who lives just outside the village of Mousehole, Cornwall. First impressions are charming–Isabel is staying in the guest cottage on the grounds of Teddy’s beautiful country manor, and Mousehole is home to an assortment of characters as colorful as any in Teddy’s books.

Teddy’s housekeeper, Tuppence, is a dab hand at baking–her scones are regularly runner-up in the village bake-off, and this year she’s determined to scoop top prize. But it appears that other, possibly more dangerous rivalries have been brewing in Mousehole. And when a resident is found pushing up daisies in a flowerbed, Isabel is drawn into an investigation that will require all of her newly honed skills to solve–and to survive . . .

The Hemsworth Effect by James Weir

It started with the Hemsworths. Now, Byron Bay local, Aimee Maguire, is about to lose everything because she can’t afford to pay the rent. Her engagement is also on an official time-out since her fiancé doesn’t know what he wants. The last thing she needs is a surprise visit from her micro-influencer niece looking to ‘build her brand’.

Her arrival sets off a chain of events that ends with Aimee tangled up with a group of influencers-turned-reality TV stars, exposing her to the absolute worst of humanity. But somewhere amid this mother of all messes there just might be a silver lining Aimee has been searching for. All she needs to do is embrace the one thing she’s been fighting so hard against – change.

Cashed-up celebs, desperate wannabes, cranky Karens and cringe-worthy hashtags – it’s all here in this hilarious novel about the celebrification of Byron Bay and the power of letting go. 

The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley

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

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

The Devil Stone (DCI Christine Caplan #1) by Caro Ramsay

In the small Highland village of Cronchie, a wealthy family are found brutally murdered in a satanic ritual and their heirloom, ‘the devil stone’, is the only thing stolen. The key suspects are known satanists – case closed? But when the investigating officer disappears after leaving the crime scene, DCI Christine Caplan is pulled in to investigate from Glasgow in a case that could restore her reputation.

Caplan knows she is being punished for a minor misdemeanour when she is seconded to the Highlands, but ever the professional, she’s confident she can quickly solve the murders, and return home to her fractious family. But experience soon tells her that this is no open and shut case.

She suspects the murder scene was staged, and with the heir to the family estate missing, there is something more at play than a mythical devil stone. As she closes in on the truth, it is suddenly her life, not her reputation that is in danger! Will Caplan’s first Highland murder case be her last?

Seven new ARCs from Netgalley made their way into my inbox during the past week 😬😊 They are:

No One Saw It Coming by Susan Lewis

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

The audiobook of The Vanishing of Margaret Small written by Nick Alexander and narrated by Annie Aldingham

Death Comes to Marlow (Marlow Murder Club #2) by Robert Thorogood

The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

Sunrise With the Silver Surfers by Maddie Please

The Devine Doughnut Shop by Carolyn Brown

I’m off to cook dinner – chicken burgers with rosemary parmesan roast potato cubes. Have a wonderful week – reading and generally. ❤📚