The Cottage on Winter Moss by Allie Cresswell

I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Cottage on Winter Moss by Allie Cresswell today.

Burned-out author Dee needs fresh inspiration. Impetuously, she abandons London and her good-for-nothing boyfriend to go wherever her literary quest takes her. Journey’s end is a remote village on the shores of a wild estuary, overshadowed by a ruined pele tower. She rents Winter Cottage and waits for a story to emerge.

The bleak beauty of the whispering dunes, the jacquard of colour and texture of the marsh and a romantic tree in a secluded glade—The Trysting Tree—all seduce DeeNevertheless, the secretive behaviour of a handsome neighbour, lights across the marsh, a spurious squire and a bizarre, moonlit encounter all suggest there is something odd afoot.

Local gossip and crumbling graveyard inscriptions give Dee the opening she needs. She begins to weave hints about the tragic history of a local family, feuding brothers and a fatal fire into a sweeping historical saga. Her characters clamour for a voice as the tale spools effortlessly onto the page—demanding to be told. Dee feels more like its instrument than its instigator.

As she becomes enmeshed in the local community, Dee is startled to find her fiction unnervingly confirmed by fact, her history still resonating in the present-day.

Is she being guided by echoes of the past?

FROM THE AUTHOR: My new book is a dual timeline novel, a book within a book. This extract is from the inner book, ‘<i>The Trysting Tree, </i> a family saga stretching over a period of almost one hundred years. It features an unusual silver birch tree that grows on a remote and eerie marsh. The tree plays a significant role in the family annals and here, Todd Forrester waits beneath it to meet his childhood sweetheart, the squire’s wayward daughter, after seven years of separation.

The tree was in shadow, the sunset blocked out by the hill that rose up between the Moss and the coast. It’s silver branches had a strange luminescence of their own, though, and he had no difficulty navigating his way through the encircling screen of willow and elder to the still heart of the glade. The evening was windless – a rarity – and a deeper level of quietude shimmered amongst the saplings so Todd almost felt as though he was under a spell.

An early owl flew low over the marsh, calling to its mate, and in the east a silver moon rose in the pearly sky.

He felt her before he saw her – the slight flex of the bough beneath his thighs, the shiver of leaves above his head in spite of the calm of the night. He remained still for a few moments, as though he had felt nothing, as though he still waited. He could feel her impatience mounting, a pulsing vein through the fibre of the tree. He knew she was stifling laughter. If he honed his ears he could hear her breath, muffled by a hand clapped over her mouth. Leisurely, he removed a packet cigarettes from his pocket and took his time about lighting one, blowing the smoke up through the canopy of the tree, but keeping his eyes down. It would madden her, he knew, that her trick had backfired. Now she was the one who was kept waiting.

At last he said, ‘Are you going to come down?’

The tree above him shook, and her hoot of amused frustration erupted. ‘Oh!’ she cried out. ‘I thought you’d never cotton on.’

Then he looked up into the branches of the tree, squinting past their tracery, the glow of their bark in the moonlight making a miasma that dazzled his night vision. The tree trembled and she emerged from it, like a dryad, dropping lightly onto her feet on the bough beside him.

‘I knew you’d come,’ she said, lowering herself until she was sitting beside him.

He did not turn his head to look at her but inspected the tip of his cigarette with casual interest. ‘I knew <i>you</i> would,’ he returned levelly – much more levelly than he felt. His hands were sweating. A pulse throbbed in his throat, and he felt the old ache of his desire for her in the pit of his stomach. He was suddenly conscious of his flat vowels, the narrowness of his world. Her accent was like a shard glass in comparison and he could not even begin to imagine the life she led in London. He inhaled, and she smelled of roses and something astringent she could not name.

‘It’s been a long time,’ he said.

‘Seven years,’ she agreed. ‘A lot has happened.’

‘Not here,’ he said. ‘My mam died, that’s all.’

‘Oh,’ she said. Her hand traveled from where it had lain in her lap and took his. He winced, that she would feel its dampness; <i> her </i>hand was cool and dry. But he didn’t refuse her gesture. Still they did not look at each other. ‘I’m sorry.’

He didn’t reply because suddenly his throat was thick with grief and he knew that if he spoke his words would come out as a sob. He swallowed, choking down his sadness.

She said, ‘Have you got a spare cigarette?’

He had felt let go of her hand to fumble one out of the packet for her, and when he struck the match his hand shook. He could not help but turn to her then, to hold the flame to the end of her cigarette. They looked at each other through the flickering tongue of light, their faces inches from each other. Her eyes were dark wells made fathomless by an application of smoky make up and thickly blackened eyelashes. He realised her whole face was painted – powder, rouge and a gash of red lipstick. The match went out but he continued to look at her, seeing both the impossible image of the fashionable debutante that had burned itself into his retinas and also, in his mind’s eye, the softly delicious girl he had known before, his old playmate, the brave, impish, teasing vixen. He loved her. He had always loved her. The hectic exasperation he had felt about her as a child had been love, but he had been too young and stupid to recognise it.

Slowly, he raised a hand to her face and, with his thumb, smeared away the greasy coating from her mouth. Then he leaned towards her and kissed her.

The UK purchase link is: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cottage-Winter-Moss-timeline-literary-ebook/dp/B09YYHRR5J/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3K8W6V2X4X7XH&keywords=allie+cresswell&qid=1654091699&sprefix=allie+cresswell%2Caps%2C216&sr=8-2

The Australian link is https://www.amazon.com.au/Cottage-Winter-Moss-timeline-literary-ebook/dp/B09YYHRR5J/ref=sr_1_11?crid=2634UBQMFHFKR&keywords=allie+cresswell&qid=1654096581&sprefix=allie+cresswell%2Caps%2C245&sr=8-11

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and by the time I was in Junior School I was writing copiously and sometimes almost legibly.

It was at this time that I had the difference between fiction and lies forcefully impressed upon me, after penning a long and entirely spurious account of my grandfather’s death and funeral…..

The teacher had permitted it as being good therapy for bereavement whereas in fact it was only a good excuse to get out of learning my multiplication tables (something I have never achieved).

Clearly I was forgiven. For for my next birthday I asked for a stack of writing paper and my parents obliged, it being more easily obtained and wrapped than a pony.

A BA in English and Drama at Birmingham University was followed by an MA in English at Queen Mary College but marriage and motherhood put my writing career on hold for some years until 1992 when I began work on Game Show.

In the meantime I worked as a production manager for an educational publishing company, an educational resources copywriter, a bookkeeper for a small printing firm, and was the landlady of a country pub in Yorkshire, a small guest house in Cheshire and the proprietor of a group of boutique holiday cottages in Cumbria.

I am currently teaching literature in the community alongside full time writing.

I have two grown-up children, Tom and Abby, and am married to Tim.

I live in Cheshire. 

Sandy’s June 2022 Reading Roundup

Here we are, halfway through the year.

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

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

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

The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

The Beach Babes by Judith Keim

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

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

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

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Backstory by William L. Myers

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Riverbend Reunion by Carolyn Brown

First Victim by Debbie Babitt

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

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

The Girl Who Left by Jenny Blackhurst

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

The Island by Adrian McKinty

Blind Justice by David Mark

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

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

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

Happy reading for July!

The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

EXCERPT: She was seven again, unlocking the attic door and running down the stairs that curved around and around, spiraling downward to the sound of music – Christmas music. It was faint and there was conversation. Her father arguing with someone. A door slamming. Her mother’s screaming. Marlie’s warnings insisting that she keep quiet and stay in the attic. Faster and faster Kara ran, always downward along the never-ending staircase, her bare feet stumbling on the wetness, her fingers grazing the rail that was slick. “Mama,” she called. “Daddy . . .”

But her voice was muffled over the sound of thuds and shouts and shrieks and that song, that carol echoing loudly as the grandfather clock resounded up the staircase.

Bong, bong, bong.

She lifted her hand from the rail. It was red with blood.

And her feet? They, too, were red, slipping in the blood that dripped from one step to the next.

“Mama!” she cried as the clock’s tolling and the horrid Christmas Carol echoed through her brain.

“Sleep in heavenly peace . . .”

ABOUT ‘THE GIRL WHO SURVIVED’: All her life, she’s been the girl who survived. Orphaned at age seven after a horrific killing spree at her family’s Oregon cabin, Kara McIntyre is still searching for some kind of normal. But now, twenty years later, the past has come thundering back. Her brother, Jonas, who was convicted of the murders has unexpectedly been released from prison. The press is in a frenzy again. And suddenly, Kara is receiving cryptic messages from her big sister, Marlie—who hasn’t been seen or heard from since that deadly Christmas Eve when she hid little Kara in a closet with a haunting, life-saving command: Don’t make a sound.

As people close to her start to die horrible deaths, Kara, who is slowly and surely unraveling, believes she is the killer’s ultimate target.

Kara survived once. But will she survive again? How many times can she be the girl who survived?

MY THOUGHTS: If you’re looking for a read to make your heart race, pick up a copy of The Girl Who Survived. My heart beat at an accelerated rate from beginning to end. This was a read that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, never knowing until the big reveal, just who really was behind the gruesome killings.

This is a twisty and twisted tale. There is a lot of enmity between the various factions of the extended and blended McIntyre family. Lust, jealousy and greed combine to form a maelstrom that many don’t survive. But the burning question is ‘Did Jonas do it?’

Kara is a complex character. She has been in therapy for the twenty years since the massacre. She suffers from anxiety (no surprise there!) and paranoia, always feeling as though she is being watched. She still has nightmares. She has anger and trust issues, and drinks more than is good for her to try and keep her demons at bay. She feels guilty about an off duty policeman having lost his life while saving hers, but is resistant to the efforts of his son to connect with her. And all the time in the background is Aunty Fai, the woman entrusted with her care and the administration of her parents estate, badgering her, and trying to make money from the family tragedy. No wonder Kara hides from the world!

Although this is a pulse pounding read, it does have a few faults. Just how many times do we need to have the massacre described in full? It became repetitious, and was unnecessary. The ending felt rushed and just a little OTT, BUT I loved the scene with the turntable. Maximum points for that Lisa Jackson! I think the chapter at the end with the police recapping exactly what they thought had happened and Kara and Wesley doing the same, was unnecessary and overkill. We got what really happened. It would have been much better to have cut straight to the epilogue.

But overall, I enjoyed this. And next time I want a prolonged period with an elevated heart rate, I will be picking up another Lisa Jackson thriller.

The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson is due for publication 28 June 2022.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheGirlWhoSurvived #NetGalley

I: @readlisajackson @kensingtonbooks

T: @readlisajackson @KensingtonBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Before she became a nationally bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a mother struggling to keep food on the table by writing novels, hoping against hope that someone would pay her for them. Today, neck deep in murder, her books appear on The New York Times, the USA Today, and the Publishers Weekly national bestseller lists.

With over thirty bestsellers to her name, Lisa Jackson is a master of taking readers to the edge of sanity – and back – in novels that buzz with dangerous secrets and deadly passions. She continues to be fascinated by the minds and motives of both her killers and their pursuers—the personal, the professional and downright twisted. As she builds the puzzle of relationships, actions, clues, lies and personal histories that haunt her protagonists, she must also confront the fear and terror faced by her victims, and the harsh and enduring truth that, in the real world, terror and madness touch far too many lives and families. Before she became a nationally bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a mother struggling to keep food on the table by writing novels, hoping against hope that someone would pay her for them. Today, neck deep in murder, her books appear on The New York Times, the USA Today, and the Publishers Weekly national bestseller lists.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson 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

Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean

EXCERPT: Olivia – Miami 1990

I should have known better. I shouldn’t have said the things I did.

That’s what I told myself when I learned what happened to my husband on his return flight from the US Virgin Islands. But isn’t that what we all say after something goes terribly wrong and we look back and wish we had behaved differently.

ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE MOONLIT SEA’: Olivia Hamilton is married to the love of her life, Dean, a charismatic pilot who flies private jets for the rich and famous. But when he vanishes over the Bermuda Triangle, Olivia’s idyllic existence unravels. After years of waiting, Olivia must eventually let go of the fragile hope that her beloved husband might still be alive.

Melanie Brown is a particle physicist who spends late nights studying the Bermuda Triangle. But her research interests falter when her mother dies in a tragic accident. Struggling to reboot her life and career, Melanie begins a forbidden love affair with her therapist.

When a shocking discovery shows Olivia’s and Melanie’s paths are intertwined, it casts Dean’s disappearance in a new light. The two women’s strange connection threatens to unlock secrets that will change everything Olivia thought she knew about her marriage, her husband, and most importantly, herself.

MY THOUGHTS: I am a sucker for stories about or set around the mysterious disappearances that occur in the Bermuda Triangle.

I started Beyond the Moonlit Sea with great excitement and read almost half of it in the first sitting. The storyline, which spans from 1986 through to 2017, and is told from the multiple viewpoints of Olivia, Melanie and Dean, intrigued me although I often found the writing style quite stilted and, at times, awkward.

The second half of the book became predictable, and was largely quite mundane. I found myself skimming over pages until we came to the chapters involving the DNA when my interest was again piqued, but not to the same extent it had originally.

I was expecting suspense, and didn’t get it.

Would I have liked more about the mysteries surrounding the Bermuda Triangle? Definitely. Ditto for Melanie’s thesis.

I found it quite odd that Melanie as described by her ‘friends’ to the police is vastly different from the many facets of Melanie that we see through both her own and Dean’s eyes. This information is dropped into the book, and then – nothing!

Unfortunately, this was only an okay read for me, nothing more.

⭐⭐.5

#BeyondtheMoonlitSea #NetGalley

I: @juliannemaclean @amazonpublishing

T: @Julianne MacLean @AmazonPub

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Julianne Maclean loves to travel and has lived in New Zealand, Canada, and England. MacLean currently resides on the east coast of Canada in a lakeside home with her husband and daughter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne MacLean 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

Dark Water (Detective Erika Foster #3) by Robert Bryndza

EXCERPT: Autumn 1990

It was a cold night in late autumn when they dumped the body in the disused quarry. They knew it was an isolated spot, and the water was very deep. What they didn’t know was that they were being watched.

ABOUT ‘DARK WATER’: Beneath the water the body sank rapidly. She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip-off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.

The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins. The missing girl who made headline news twenty-six years ago.

As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she must dig deeper and find out more about the fractured Collins family and the original detective, Amanda Baker. A woman plagued by her failure to find Jessica. Erika soon realises this is going to be one of the most complex and demanding cases she has ever taken on.

Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone is keeping secrets. Someone who doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.

MY THOUGHTS: I love this series and Dark Water is an earlier book that I somehow missed reading when it was published.. It’s a great addition to the series and I absolutely flew through this. It’s fast paced and gripping.

Erika is one of those characters that isn’t always easy to warm to. She can be rude and arrogant. But she is thorough and stands up for what she believes in and those workmates who deserve her loyalty. She can be quick tempered – with everyone, including her sister Lenka. Yet despite all this, I can’t get enough of her.

Moss and Peterson continue with their supporting roles, as does gay pathologist, Isaac Strong. The original detective on the case, Amanda Baker is also an excellent character. Beaten down by her failure in the case, she has become an alcoholic recluse until Erika visits her to get her take on the case.

The Collins family, the family of the missing child, are hard to fathom. If you didn’t know that they were a family, you would think that they were a group of strangers thrown together.

I had no idea, until it was revealed, just who had abducted and killed Jessica Collins. My jaw dropped. I really didn’t expect that. And yet, it was just perfect.

Although this is book #3 of a series, the author provides enough background for Dark Water to be read as a stand-alone.

Dark Water is fast paced, gripping, absorbing and exciting!

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#DarkWater #NetGalley

I: @robertbryndza @bookouture

T: @RobertBryndza @Bookouture

#detectivefiction #familydrama #mystery #policeprocedural #series #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Robert Bryndza was born in the UK and lived in America and Canada before settling in Slovakia with his Slovak husband Ján.

When he’s not writing Rob is learning Slovak, trying to train two crazy dogs, or watching Grand Designs all in the hope that hell be able to understand his mother-in-law, build his dream house, and get the dogs to listen.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dark Water by Robert Bryndza 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 Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

EXCERPT: Gracie was still asleep on his lap when I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! began at nine o’clock. In this episode, a comedian Albert had never found funny, a pop star he’d never heard of, and somebody who called himself a ‘social media influencer’, a profession he’d never understood, were sitting around the camp talking about their biggest fears.

‘Mine’s spiders,’ said the pop star, pulling a face.

‘Mine’s snakes,’ said the comedian, squirming. He turned to the influencer. ‘What’s yours?’

‘People,’ Albert said out loud, talking over the influencer. ‘People.’

As the chatter on TV continued, Albert couldn’t help considering his answer. He hadn’t always been frightened of people; when he’d been at school he’d been quite sociable and had lots of friends, friends like Tom Horrocks and Colin Broadbent. When they were little, the boys had played British Bulldog, Piggy, and Finger, Thumb, or Icky in the playground, later on meeting up to go to the pictures or the local temperance bar, later still sneaking into pubs, each of them doing their best to look old enough to be served at the bar, goading each other on and reveling in the shared thrill of transgression. It was a transgression they knew was only minor and might even make their fathers proud, reminding them of a similar rite of passage in their own youth.

But then everything had changed.

Albert had been given a blunt message about what his friends thought of people like him, what the world at large thought about people like him – of the real him, the him he’d been careful to keep well hidden. As a result, he’d gradually begun backing away from everyone and had first retreated into his work, later into caring for his mam. Little by little, he’d been overwhelmed by a new shyness, a shyness that was bolstered by fear, like a current he’d been powerless to swim against – until he was drowning in it.

But it doesn’t do to dwell.

ABOUT ‘THE SECRET LIFE OF ALBERT ENTWHISTLE’: Albert Entwistle is a private man with a quiet, simple life. He lives alone with his cat Gracie. And he’s a postman. At least he was a postman until, three months before his sixty-fifth birthday, he receives a letter from the Royal Mail thanking him for decades of service and stating he is being forced into retirement.

At once, Albert’s sole connection with his world unravels. Every day as a mail carrier, he would make his way through the streets of his small English town, delivering letters and parcels and returning greetings with a quick wave and a “how do?” Without the work that fills his days, what will be the point? He has no friends, family, or hobbies—just a past he never speaks of, and a lost love that fills him with regret.

And so, rather than continue his lonely existence, Albert forms a brave plan to start truly living. It’s finally time to be honest about who he is. To seek the happiness he’s always denied himself. And to find the courage to look for George, the man that, many years ago, he loved and lost—but has never forgotten. As he does, something extraordinary happens. Albert finds unlikely allies, new friends, and proves it’s never too late to live, to hope, and to love.

MY THOUGHTS: Love and loss. I bet there are a lot of Albert (and Alberta) Entwhistles out there, people who have hidden their love, their desires, their dreams in order to conform to society.

Albert is the loveliest character. It’s a wonderful journey, watching him come to terms with himself, come out of his shell, and work out what he really wants from life. Of course, he has some help along the way. Marjorie, his boss, has a terminally ill grandson, a diabolical digestive system, and is not coping well with menopause, a fact she is not at all reticent about sharing, much to Albert’s embarrassment. Nicole, a young black single mum with aspirations and an uncertain love life. Edith, elderly and alone, who used to be a great beauty with many suitors, but is now desperate for company.

Albert’s coming out is a wonderfully warm story that had me with earplugs in, listening at every opportunity. It’s a story of personal growth, of a man filled with fear and shame who slowly becomes honest with himself, optimistic and looking forward to his future. It’s an emotional story. I cried for Albert the teenager, and for his friend George. I was saddened by the unhappy, reclusive man Albert became. I wept tears of joy and relief as Albert found himself, his new self, a man who made friends and helped others. There were places I laughed out loud, and snorted coffee through my nose.

There’s really nothing surprising in this story, but that’s not a criticism. It’s a lovely heartwarming experience and one that I am glad to have had. Two things further enriched my listening pleasure: narrator Simon Vance was superb. He singly narrated a large cast of characters and not once was I confused about who was speaking. The second was author Matt Cain talking about his research and some excerpts of his interviews with gay men who lived through the eras that Albert’s story is set in.

Highly recommended.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheSecretLifeofAlbertEntwhistle #NetGalley

I: @mattcainwriter @recordedbooks

T: @MattCainWriter @rbmediaco

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #comingofage #historicalfiction #lgbt #romance

THE AUTHOR: Matt Cain is a writer, broadcaster, and a leading commentator on LGBT+ issues. Born in Bury and brought up in Bolton, Matt now lives in London with his partner, Harry, and their cat, Nelly.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle 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 . . .

Happy Matariki! Matariki is the New Zealand Maori New Year. Matariki has nine visible stars. Each star holds a certain significance over our wellbeing and environment, as seen from the Māori view of the world. This is the first year New Zealand has celebrated Matariki with public holiday.

I’ve had a good reading week. When I have finished two of my current reads, I will have read all five books I had scheduled for read for review for week.

Currently I am reading The Guilty Couple by C.L. Taylor. I’m not yet sure what to think.

I am almost half way through Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter. This is #2 in the Andrea Oliver series and so far I am enjoying this a lot more than the first.

Those were the tail end of my read for reviews. The audiobook I am currently listening to is a backtitle from 2020, Stolen Children by Michael Wood, #6 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. I have enjoyed this whole series and Stolen Children is no exception.

I have five reads for review scheduled in the coming week. They are:

The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher

After nearly two hundred years of housing retardants, as they were once known, the Beechwood Institute is closing the doors on its dark history, and the complicated task of reassigning residents has begun. Ella Jules, having arrived at Beechwood at the tender age of eight, must now rely on the state to decide her future. Ella’s aging parents have requested that she be returned to her childhood home, much to the distress of Ella’s siblings, but more so to Lynetta, her beloved caretaker who has been by her side for decades. The five adult Jules children, haunted by their early memories of their sister, and each dealing with the trauma of her banishment in their own flawed way, are converging on the family home, arriving from the far corners of the country—secrets in tow—to talk some sense into their aging parents and get to the root of this inexplicable change of heart.

A Summer Love Affair by Holly Chamberlain

Sometimes you sense something, deep inside, long before it’s proven true. Thirty-year-old Petra Quirk has always felt as if a vital element of her life is missing. It’s not until she moves back to the small town of Eliot’s Corner for the summer that she learns why. Rummaging in the attic, Petra comes across a diary. The discovery prompts her mother, Elizabeth, to make a confession to her three daughters. Decades ago, she fell in love with her husband’s best friend, Chris—and Petra is Chris’s child . . .

Elizabeth ended the affair before she learned she was pregnant, and Chris has no idea he’s a father. Hugh, who Petra believed to be her dad, was a good-natured but self-centered, blustering man. He and Chris seemed to have little in common, though their friendship was genuine. Elizabeth loved Chris deeply yet refused to tear her family apart. Even since Hugh’s death, she’s resisted contacting Chris. But Petra, floundering and unsure of her path, is compelled to search out her biological father, though she knows it will complicate her relationship with her family.

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney

There was a time when Lindy Morris escaped to London and walked along the Thames in the moonlight. When life was full and exciting.

Decades later, Lindy lives back with her Auntie Bell on the edge: on the edge of Donegal and on the edge of Granda Morris’s land. Granda Morris is a complicated man, a farmer who wanted sons but got two daughters: Auntie Bell and Lindy’s mother, who disappeared long ago.

Now, Lindy and Bell live the smallest of lives, in a cottage filled with unfulfilled dreams. But when the secrets they have kept for thirty years emerge, everything is rewritten. Will Lindy grasp who she is again?

And last is a publisher’s widget for The Lost Children, by Michael Wood, #9 in the DCI Matilda Darke series. As I said earlier, I really enjoy this series.

I received three new ARCs via Netgalley this week. They are:

We All Have Our Secrets by Jane Corry

The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

And, The Other Girlfriend by Alex Stone

I also received two publishers widgets, making a total of five new titles for the week, all of which landed in my inbox on Friday. And there I was thinking I was going to have a 0 new additions week. 🤷‍♀️ The two widgets are:

The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland

And, A Cornish Recipe for Murder by Fiona Leitch

I hope that you’re all having a wonderful weekend. The sun is poking its head out from behind the clouds so I will take this opportunity to go for a walk while it’s not raining. I haven’t been for a walk since Wednesday so it will be good to blow the cobwebs out and I should be able to finish listening to Stolen Children. Happy reading!❤📚

An Island Summer by Jenny Hale

EXCERPT: Walking over to the kitchen sink, she turned on the water. It spit and sputtered before letting out a stream. She turned it back off. “How am I supposed to be a chef in the middle of nowhere?” She laughed out loud now at the ridiculousness of her choices.

If she were being honest with herself, there were many more opportunities in New York. There were a handful of culinary schools in the city nearby and she could’ve researched grants or scholarships, but she’d come to Hatteras Island instead. What was she thinking, planning to build a new life here?

ABOUT ‘AN ISLAND SUMMER’: In the summer, everything feels possible… A heartwarming small-town romance about new beginnings, old secrets and how home is truly where the heart is. Fans of Susan Mallery, Pamela Kelley, and Mary Alice Monroe will fall head over heels for this romantic page-turner.

All that Meghan Gray has left of her beloved Pappy is his cottage on the edge of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean. Longing to feel close to her grandfather, she returns to the golden sands of Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks for the summer, clutching the manilla envelope he gifted her tightly in her hand.

On her first night on the sun-drenched island, she meets brooding Toby Meyers, a local businessman. She might feel lost without Pappy, but looking into Toby’s sparkling blue eyes feels like coming home.

The beach house where she spent her childhood is just how she remembers: a shingled bungalow with two rocking chairs on the porch and shutters on the windows. As Meghan strolls along the sand with Toby, breathing in the salty air, she realizes she is making new memories…

When Meghan opens the envelope, she finds a black-and-white photograph of someone she doesn’t recognize. If she can find out its meaning, and why Pappy gave it to her, she’ll unlock a secret that has been hidden for decades. The truth has the power to change everything Meghan and Toby thought they knew about their lives—and it will either bring them together, or break their hearts…

MY THOUGHTS: An Island Summer is a quick, light read about a young woman trying to find her place in the world after her career hopes are dashed. There’s some romance, and a little mystery involved.

Now, I have read a few of Jenny Hale’s books, and they have all been 4 – 5 star reads, but An Island Summer just didn’t work that same magic on me. I couldn’t connect with Meghan’s character – I felt absolutely nothing for her. She raised all sorts of questions for me (probably totally irrelevant to the storyline, but once they lodge themselves in my brain there’s no getting rid of them!), like if she and Tess have been doing the same job, why does Tess have savings and Meghan doesn’t, especially as she hasn’t spent the money on cooking courses? Her first day in her new job, she gets $200 in tips, so over the course of her six-day-week, she’d earn $1200 give or take, plus her base wage. She has no accommodation costs, only food and utilities – half of which would be covered by Tess – and fuel, so is she just bad at managing her money? Oh, yes, and no one is going to take a waitress and put her in a chef’s position. You got to work your way up. And cooking the same dish for a handful of people is vastly different to cooking for a large number of people all eating different things.

I loved Rupert, Toby’s grandfather, who lives in a care facility and who has dementia. When he meets Meghan, he thinks that she’s someone from his past, someone he once loved. This is a lovely story with an element of mystery as Meghan slowly pieces together Rupert’s story and makes a startling discovery that affects her own life.

And now I’m going to put my medical hat on. Rupert’s doctors talk about him withdrawing inwards and ‘indulging in his fantasies’, which made me a little cross. Rupert has Alzheimer’s. Most of the time he honestly believes he is twenty years old, and that’s the life he’s living. It’s not fantasy. To Rupert, it’s very real, and I don’t believe any doctor these days, when we know so much more about the ravages and effects of Alzheimer’s, would say that.

Although this was a disappointing read for me, I still love Jenny Hale’s writing and continue to look eagerly for her next title. I love the cover.

⭐⭐⭐.3

#AnIslandSummer #NetGalley

I: @jhaleauthor @bookouture

T: @jhaleauthor @Bookouture

#christmasread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Jenny Hale is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic contemporary fiction. Her novels Coming Home for Christmas and Movie Guide Epiphany Award Winner Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses are Hallmark Channel original movies. Her stories are chock-full of feel-good romance and overflowing with warm settings, great friends, and family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of An Island Summer by Jenny Hale 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 Gin Sisters’ Promise by Faith Hogan

EXCERPT: It occurred to Georgie that their father’s death was almost like a final loosening of whatever ribbons still joined the sisters together. She experienced the thought as a weight being removed from her shoulders, and then felt immediately guilty. How had things got so bad? Georgie’s eyes shot across to Iris when she spoke of Nola and she could feel it, writ large between them. Nola hated both of them and even if Georgie and Iris managed to rub along together until this ordeal was over, Nola was quite a different matter.

Georgie shifted uncomfortably in her seat. When Georgie thought of Nola she had to admit that her feelings for her younger sister were complex. There was always a hint of jealousy. Everything seemed to come so easily to Nola. She gathered up friends as effectively as Georgie pushed the chance of any away. She sighed deeply, elbowed her way further down in the passenger seat and pretended to sleep for the rest of the journey home.

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: What’s not to love about a book that made me laugh (a lot), cry (a little), and exhale a huge sigh of regret that my visit with the GIN (Georgie, Iris, Nola) sisters was over. But I also had, and still have, a huge smile on my face.

I do love a good story about family inheritances, and The Gin Sisters’ Promise definitely also ticks that box. Add into the mix that it’s largely set in a small Irish Village, and Faith Hogan’s ability to write realistic characters we can all relate to, and I’m in book heaven!

Who’s never fallen out with their siblings? There always seems to be at least one of my three brothers not talking to me over some slight or another, real or imagined. But these three, they take sibling alienation to a whole new level. Georgie is a hard-hearted bitch; Iris is a doormat; and Nola a traitor. There’s things gone on that all of them are determined not to forget, and definitely not to forgive. But when their lives are in tatters, and they find themselves all living under the same roof, the fun begins . . .

Faith Hogan has written an utterly charming, absorbing and uplifting family drama about the importance of family, forgiveness and second chances.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheGinSistersPromise #NetGalley

I: @faithhoganauthor @headofzeus

T: @GerHogan @HoZ_Books

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #irishfiction #sliceoflife #smalltownfiction #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 Head of Zeus, Aria, for providing a digital ARC of The Gin Sisters’ Promise 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

Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton

EXCERPT: The signature is a scrawl, but I know who it is. Now I want to know what they told each other. The painful things they dug up.

Leave it alone, Dee, I tell myself. It’s ancient history. And Phil is dead.

But I know I won’t. Can’t. It’s never over, is it? The past is always there, flickering like our old telly in a dark corner of my head. Most of the time, I can make myself blank it out, but little things – like a song that used to make me cry or the smell of cheap Chinese takeaways, our birthday treat – and it fizzes into focus. I’ve got a lot of bad memories – my childhood was one long nightmare, really. But this is different. Unfinished business; a time bomb ticking quietly like a second heart in my chest.

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: Local Gone Missing is fun. And it is the central core of characters – Ronnie (unabashedly nosey, and my absolute favourite), Elise the detective on sick leave, and Dee the cleaner of many of the homes belonging to people in the village, all-seeing, all-hearing and almost invisible – that are the stars. There are a lot of characters spread across the two timelines, 1999 and twenty years later, 2019, and they can get a little confusing. My advice is not to stress about it, just go with the flow. The author provides little prompts to help us remember.

The missing man is Charlie, a happy, charming and generous man with a disabled daughter in full time care. Everyone is shocked when he is reported missing by his ex-model wife, Pauline. Elise, bored but not yet ready to return to work, and her delightfully nosey neighbour Ronnie decide to investigate Charlie’s disappearance to give themselves something to do.

Now I have to say that I enjoyed the first half of this book where Elise is still on leave and Ronnie is a prominent character infinitessimaly more than the second half, where Elise is officially investigating the disappearance and we don’t see so much of Ronnie. I missed Ronnie’s enthusiasm, her humour, her flashes of inspiration. She made me laugh, she made me wince. She’s brash and brainy. I love her.

The mystery, which at first seems simple, soon becomes complex, as secrets are revealed and the true natures of the characters are revealed. My head spun. My grey cells whirred. Cogs ground. But I didn’t have a clue. Lots of ideas, but none which stood up to the test of time in Barton’s writing. I loved it.

An intriguing mystery, that I read in the course of one day. A read that left me smiling, satisfied, and hoping to meet these characters again.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#LocalGoneMissing #NetGalley

I: #fionabartonauthor @penguinrandomhouseuk

T: @figbarton @penguinrandom @TransworldBooks @BantamPress

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: My career has taken some surprising twists and turns over the years. I have been a journalist – senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where I won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards, gave up my job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008, have trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world.
But through it all, a story was cooking in my head. As a national newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, I found myself wondering what the families of those accused really knew – or allowed themselves to know.
My husband and I are living the good life in south-west France, where I am writing in bed, early in the morning when the only distraction is our cockerel, Sparky, crowing.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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