Watching what I’m reading . . .

Good afternoon from an unexpectedly sunny afternoon in New Zealand, where we are still in lockdown. Areas outside of Auckland will drop to Level 3 on Wednesday, which someone has famously dubbed lockdown with takeaways. Auckland remains at Level 4 as all but 15 cases of Covid are there and new cases are still occurring at around 80 a day.

Currently I am reading The Restarting Point by Marci Bolden. What a wonderful read! With warm, unlikely friendships, and wonderful characters, I have both laughed and cried while reading this.

I am also reading Lost Angels (Nikki Hunt #3) by Stacy Green which is every bit as good as her previous books.

And I am listening to Whisper Cottage, written by Ann Wyn Clark, and narrated by Lauren Moakes. I really am on a roll this week as so far this, too, is excellent.

This coming week I am planning on reading All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard. Don’t you just love this cover!

At 70, and widowed, Ella is about to find out that blood is not always thicker than water. A wise and warm-hearted story about aging, family and community for readers of Tricia Stringer and Liz Byrski.

At 70, Ella’s world is upended, leaving her at odds with her three adult children, whose attention is fixed more firmly on her money than her ongoing welfare. After an argument with her son Anthony, she flees his Adelaide home for Cutlers Bay, a seaside town on the Yorke Peninsula. There she befriends Angie, a 40-year-old drifter, and becomes an irritant to local cop Zach. He’s keen to shift Ella off his turf, because Anthony phones daily, demanding his mother be sent home. And besides, Zach just doesn’t trust Angie.

Ella warms to Cutlers Bay, and it warms to her. In a defiant act of self-determination, she buys an entirely unsuitable house on the outskirts of town, and Angie agrees to help make it habitable. Zach is drawn to the house on the clifftop, and finds himself revising his earlier opinions of Ella, and Angie.

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves, #2 in her new series Two Rivers. I loved the first, The Long Call, and can’t wait to get stuck into this.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

And Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks, an author I admire greatly.

1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels himself blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.

1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.

1933: Still struggling to come terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.

This week I received five new digital ARCs, and two audiobooks. It’s a lovely mix of new and favourite authors.

The books are: Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer

The Parents by Claire Seeber

Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

And 1979 by Val McDermid

The two audiobooks I received are: A Dream to Die For by Susan Z. Ritz and narrated by Rachel Perry

And Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer, narrated by George Blagden

Over the past week I have very briefly been in Boston, Massachusetts; spent more time in Hull, East Yorkshire; Salterley, somewhere in England; France, Belgium and Amsterdam; Stillwater, Minnesota; Chammont Point, East Virginia; and Avoncot, Wiltshire. Have our paths crossed this week? Where have you been on your bookish travels?

I still have 25 Netgalley requests pending.

Have a great week of reading, and stay safe my friends.

Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

EXCERPT: Mum shakes her head decisively in answer to my question: there’s nothing more for me to see. Frustrated, I try another tack.

‘It’s important to Tomasz, too. He barely remembers Gosia and never knew his father, but the man who gave him the photograph when he was a teenager, said that Shona knew his father.’

She looks at me with an expression that is not encouraging.

‘I said I’d ask if you could think of anyone he might talk to.’

She pointedly turns her head to look out at the wintry garden. I keep trying.

‘The man Tomasz spoke to at the Polish Hearth Club who remembered that you were a doctor also said that Shona had a Polish boyfriend. Is that true? Did you ever meet him?’

She stands up abruptly, walks past me out of the kitchen and into the living room, slamming the door behind her.

I’m shocked by the intensity of my reaction when she does this. I’m furious. Nothing ever changes. Even if Shona’s wartime mission had to be kept secret at the time, how can it hurt to talk about it now? Why can’t Mum be happy that I want to understand her sister’s past? But she’s never let me in, never shared her feelings or admitted any frailty. She’s kept me at arms length all her life and now she’s dying, and all she can do when I try to learn more about her is slam a door against me.

ABOUT ‘SISTERHOOD’: Identical twin sisters Freya and Shona take very different paths, leading to long-buried family secrets that reverberate through the generations in this thrilling novel of psychological suspense by the author of Tell Me How It Ends. There are some choices you can’t come back from.

It is 1944 in war-battered London. Freya and Shona are identical twins, close despite their different characters. Freya is a newly qualified doctor treating the injured in an East End hospital, while Shona has been recruited by the SOE. The sisters are so physically alike that they can fool people into thinking that one is the other. It’s a game they’ve played since childhood. But when Shona persuades her twin to swap roles to meet her Polish lover, he is angered at being tricked.

Then Shona proposes a far more dangerous swapping of roles. At first Freya refuses but finally she agrees, with consequences that threaten not only the happiness but the lives of both sisters.

Forty-five years later in November 1989 Freya, now aged 69, is watching television with her daughter Kirsty. Freya is gripped as she witnesses crowds of Berliners attempting to knock down their hated Wall. This sight stirs memories of her own and her sister’s war, especially the tragedy of the Warsaw Uprising – memories that she has never shared with anyone. Even if she wanted to reveal them now, she can’t. She’s suffering from a brain tumour and is unable to speak although her reason is unimpaired. And this is what she’s thinking: if they succeed in knocking down the Wall, what secrets will come tumbling through? If her own were revealed, it would be devastating for all those close to her, especially her daughter, Kirsty.

MY THOUGHTS: I felt a personal connection with Kirsty, Freya’s daughter in this story. I know next to nothing about my mother’s life, and now it’s too late. I felt Kirsty’s anguish and frustration at constantly being pushed away.

But aside from touching me on a personal level, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue of Sisterhood. The story is told over two timelines, from Kirsty’s point of view in 1989 as the Berlin Wall is demolished, and a stranger arrives with a photo looking for her mother Freya’s identical twin sister, Shona, who had been recruited by the SOE; and in 1944 from Freya’s point of view.

But it’s not just her mother’s ill health, and the mystery surrounding her aunt that Kirsty has to contend with. Her Australian husband Martin has been offered his dream job – in Australia.

I started to read this over my morning coffee, intending to read just a chapter or two to get a feel for the story. Instead, I read until I was finished. Yes, a one sitting read that intrigued me from the outset; one that never let me go. This is a multi-generational storyline which starts with Freya and Shona, and moves on encompass Freya’s daughter Kirsty and her family. The plot progresses at a steady pace, and is full of mystery, intrigue, and drama.

Strongly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and family dramas/mysteries.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#Sisterhood #NetGalley

I: @quercusbooks

T: @IsabelleGrey @QuercusBooks

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Manchester, England, and have an English degree from Cambridge. My first job was with a London antique dealer and I spent many years as a freelance journalist and non-fiction author (as Isabelle Anscombe) writing initially about the fascinating world of the art market and the history of decorative arts before going on to contribute features and reviews to national newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Psychologies. I have also written for film, television and radio drama.

I live and work in north London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Sisterhood by V.B. Grey. 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 . . .

I have just started reading Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt, a consistently good writer whom I enjoy.

I am also reading Slough House by Mick Herron, my first book by this author. I wasn’t too sure to start with, but this is #7 in the Slough House series, and I haven’t read any of the previous books, something I intend to remedy. Now that I have settled into the read, Herron’s writing style is reminiscent of two of my favourite authors, Adrian McKinty and Ken Bruen.

And I am listening to Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

This week I am planning on reading Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

and The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson

I received 9 new ARCs, plus the audio of The Unwelcome Guest by Amanda Robson, so I will be able to do a read/listen for this. The other ARCs I received are: The Summer We Buried by Jody Gehrman

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt

The Perfect Daughter by Kerry Wilkinson

The Woman on the Beach by Julia Roberts

the Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland

Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt, which I am currently reading

and The Selling Point by Marci Bolden

This is #2 in a series, Chsmmont Point, of which I still have the first to read, so I going to try squeeze this in this week. It’s titled The Restarting Point

This week I have spent a lot of time in the Adirondack mountains, both in the present time and during WWII. I have also been in Cincinnati, New York City, and Minnesota in the USA; London, England; and Greece, both in the present time and again during WWII.

Where have you been this week? And did we cross paths at all?

Have a great week everyone. Stay safe and read. ❤📚

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss

EXCERPT: Of her seven grandchildren, I am Oma’s favourite. In private, she tells me so. It’s because I am curious and have a deductive mind. I collect obscure words like ‘misnomer’ for contradiction and ‘knave’ for someone dishonest. My favourite word is ‘enigma’, for without mystery to challenge a curious mind, it will starve. My brother Grady calls me high and mighty for using ten dollar words in a ten cent town. Out loud, I call him rude, but inside my head I know he’s a chuff. Mama says I can be insensitive. She says language is meant to communicate, not separate, so I mostly spend ten dollar words inside my head.

Oma never returns to Germany. She dies in Riverton on twentieth of May, and her granite tombstone is etched with a mountain sketch we’ve only seen on a page in a travel book in our library. At her passing, our hope for thrilling danger passes with her.

We fear nothing will happen here . . . here where a lazy river rolls by, outsiders are rare, and farming rules our days.

We think we are safe here, where nothing happens – until something comes that undoes us all.

ABOUT ‘ALL THE LITTLE HOPES’: Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing’s the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is curious and clever, but she can’t make sense of it all. Then Allie Bert Tucker comes to town, an outcast with a complicated past, and Lucy believes that together they can solve crimes. Just like her hero, Nancy Drew.

That chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery that takes them beyond the ordinary. Their quiet town, seasoned with honeybees and sweet tea, becomes home to a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—and more men go missing. The pair set out to answer the big question: do we ever really know who the enemy is?

MY THOUGHTS: All The Little Hopes is a quietly moving book that I didn’t realise how much I had enjoyed until the last word faded from my earpiece. I just sat there a while, thinking on it, savouring the beautiful writing, the deceptively lazy pace which conveyed so much.

The characters are fascinating – Trula Freed, who has ‘the sight’; Aunt Fanniebelle, Lucy’s wealthy aunt who comes to the girls rescue more than once; Helen, Lucy’s older sister whose husband is off fighting the war in the Pacific; and Bert and Lucy, from whose points of view the story is told, girls on the cusp of womanhood, learning about life, and playing at Nancy Drew as they investigate the apparently unrelated disappearances of three men.

All the Little Hopes is a portrayal of family life in a small tobacco farming town in North Carolina that has lost a lot of it’s men to the war effort, and into whose midst is dropped a German prisoner of war camp. Weiss has written a deeply moving and atmospheric story of family, of love, of loss, of desperation, of prejudice, and redemption told through the eyes of two teenage girls.

Kate Forbes is an excellent narrator who had me fully immersed in this captivating tale. She has a lilting Southern accent, perfectly suited to this story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#AlltheLittleHopes #NetGalley

I: @leahweissauthor @recordedbooks

T: @RBmediaCo

#audiobook #comingofage #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Leah Weiss is a bestselling author born in eastern North Carolina and raised in the foothills of Virginia. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career as an Executive Assistant at Virginia Episcopal School. Leah writes full time, enjoys meeting with book clubs, and speaking about writing and publishing later in life, after retirement.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to RB Media Recorded Books via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss 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 have had a beautiful week of weather: cool but not actually cold nights, and gloriously sunny days with temperatures not quite reaching those of summer, but very close. But it seems that is coming to an end. We had thick fog this morning and now it is mizzling. The forecast for the week to come is rain, all week. I am glad my new dryer arrived and was installed on Friday.

We were planning on going out for lunch today at a new bar about 3/4 hour away. It has Heineken on tap and I have heard only good things about the food. But I was much longer at work this morning than I thought I was going to be, and then I got home to find friend had called in, so lunch out has been postponed for a couple of weeks. I made us all toasted sandwiches instead, and we caught up on each other’s news before he had to head off again. If he hadn’t been travelling in the opposite direction, we would have suggested he join us.

I have had a wonderful week’s reading based mainly in England, with a little time in Wales. Have you been anywhere interesting?

Currently I am reading The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. Intriguing!

I am also reading Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben. I only started this yesterday, and am almost finished.

And I am about to begin listening to If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan and narrated by Kristen James

This week I am planning to read Dead Sorry by Helen H. Durrant

Twenty-five years ago a schoolgirl was attacked by three bullies in her home where she lived with her grandmother.

Now, the mother of one of those bullies is found murdered on the Hobfield housing estate. Written on the wall in the victim’s blood is the word, “sorry.”

There is a link to the discovery of bones at an old house up in the hills — the home of the teenage girl who was attacked.

Detective Tom Calladine and his partner DS Ruth Bayliss have more than this puzzling case on their hands. Arch-villain Lazarov is threatening Calladine’s granddaughter and a valuable hoard of Celtic gold is coming to a local museum.

The pressure is on, and this time Calladine is cracking . . .

Discover an absolutely unputdownable crime thriller from a best-selling author.

If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, Mel Sherratt, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham you will enjoy this exciting new crime fiction writer.

DEAD SORRY is book eleven of a new series of detective thrillers featuring DS Ruth Bayliss and DI Tom Calladine.

What readers are saying about the series
“I read it in one sitting.” Aileen

“This books has lots of twists and turns throughout and with a cracking ending to this brilliant book.” Nessa

“Really enjoyed this book.” Nerys

“Kept me guessing till the end.” Anna Maria

“I finished it in twenty-four hours and enjoyed every page.” Joan

THE DETECTIVES
Tom Calladine is a detective inspector who is devoted to his job. His personal life, however, is not so successful. Having been married and divorced before the age of twenty-one has set a pattern that he finds difficult to escape.

Ruth Bayliss is in her mid-thirties, plain-speaking but loyal. She is balancing her professional life with looking after a small child.

THE SETTINGThe fictional village of Leesdon is on the outskirts of an industrial northern English city. There is little work and a lot of crime. The bane of Calladine’s life is the Hobfield housing estate, breeding ground to all that is wrong with the area that he calls home.

The Vacation by John Marrs

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

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

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

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

I went to my local library last week to return a book. Honest. I had no intention of picking up anything new to read. You will understand why when you see the number of ARCs I received this week. And sitting there, right beside the return slot, is a shelf of recent releases – and if that’s not fighting dirty, I don’t know what is! – and New Zealand author Paul Cleave’s latest, The Quiet People. But it wasn’t just sitting there, quietly. Oh no. It was fluttering it’s pages alluringly at me, whispering seductively, ‘How about I come home with you. I can show you a really good time’ . . . Then it literally (no pun intended) threw itself at me and manoeuvred me to checkouts. I know when I’m beaten and gave in quietly. So this week I will also be reading

Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful crime-writers. They have been on the promotional circuit, joking that no-one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.So when their 7 year old son Zach goes missing, naturally the police and the public wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time – are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime? 

I had a day during the week when I was feeling quite overwhelmed by an accumulation of different things. So that night when I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t concentrate on my reading, I took refuge in Netgalley with result that I received twenty-seven (yes, Susan. 27.) ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤦‍♀️ I don’t know whether to be appalled or excited.

As well as the audiobook If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan, Dead Sorry by Helen H. Durrant, and The Vacation by John Marrs, I received:

What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor

My Mother’s Children by Annette Sills

In Another Light by A.J. Banner

The Darkest Flower by Kristin Wright (thank you Michael David https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com/)

The Beauty of Fragile Things by Emma Hartley

Summer Island Book Club by Ciara Knight

Death and Croissants by Ian Moore

I Don’t Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards

The Murder Box by Olivia Kiernan

One Left Behind by Carla Kovach

The Shut Away Sisters by Suzanne Goldring

The Grandmother Plot by Caroline B. Cooney

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Slough House by Mick Herron

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water (audiobook) by Shawn Nocher, narrated by Elizabeth Evans

The Third Grave by Lisa Jackson

And two more audiobooks, Know No Evil by Graeme Hampton, narrated by Julie Maisey

And, The Man I Married by Elena Wilkes, narrated by Colleen Prendergast

I have never had that many ARCs in one week before. I bet that does a bit of damage to my review ratio! What is the most ARCs you have received in any one week?

Now I have two reviews to write so I had better get writing and get them done before dinner. Nice fresh snapper tonight with an avocado salsa and salad.

Happy reading my friends. ❤📚

The Night Gate by Peter May

EXCERPT: A sound that whispers like the smooth passage of silk on silk startles him. Movement in the darkness ahead morphs into silhouette. Momentary light catches polished steel, before he feels the razor-like tip of it slash across his neck. There is no real pain, just an oddly invasive sensation of burning, and suddenly he cannot breathe. His hands fly to his neck, warm blood coursing between cold fingers. He presses both palms against the wound as if somehow they might keep the blood from spilling out of him. He hears it gurgling in his severed windpipe. Just moments earlier he had been consumed by anger. Now he understands that he is going to die, but somehow cannot accept it. It is simply not possible. Consciousness rapidly ebbs to darkness and he drops to his knees. The last thing he sees, before falling face-first to the floor, is his killer. Caught in a fleeting moment of moonlight. And he simply cannot believe it.

ABOUT ‘THE NIGHT GATE’: The body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree.

A famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house.

Both deaths have occurred more than 70 years apart.

Asked by a forensic archaeologist in Paris to take a look at the site of the former, Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter, and two narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding against a backdrop of real events in Occupied France in the 1940s; the other contemporary, set in a France going back into Covid lockdown in the autumn of 2020.

At the heart of both is da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Tasked by de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of the Mona Lisa as it is moved from chateau to chateau by the Louvre, she finds herself both wooed and pursued by two Germans sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.

What none of them know is that the Louvre has secretly engaged the services of the 20th century’s greatest forger to produce a duplicate of the great lady, one that even those who know her well find hard to tell apart. The discovery of its existence is the thread that links both narratives. And both murders.

MY THOUGHTS: The Night Gate is the seventh in the Enzo Files series by Peter May. It is a superb blend of contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and ‘whodunnit’ that switches between WWII in France and the current Covid pandemic.

In the 1940’s we follow Georgette Pignall as she lays her life on the line to protect La Jaconde from the Nazi invaders. This is a fascinating thread full of intrigue and action, and one that will leave you wondering about the provenance of what is probably the most famous painting in the world.

In 2020 the remains of a ranking officer of the Luftwaffe with a bullet hole in his skull are discovered in the tiny medieval village of Carennac on the banks of the River Dordogne when a dead tree is dislodged by a slip. Enzo is called in to cast a professional eye over the ‘grave’ when the forensic archaeologist Professor Magali Blanc is unable to travel to the site.

While he is there another, contemporary, murder is discovered and the local gendarmes, unused to dealing with such a crime, make use of Enzo’s expertise.

May’s characters are, as always, superb. They seem to jump from the page and stride about, such is the realism. The intertwining stories are intriguing, and the links between the timelines, other than the Mona Lisa (La Jaconde) not apparent until the end.

Many of the characters in The Night Gate are real, and many of the events actually occurred – the evacuation of artworks from the Louvre to various Chateaux around France; the Nazis burning of paintings; the shooting of Maquis fighters in Saint-Cere; the courageous action of Berthe Nasinec in preventing a massacre of the citizens of Saint-Cere; and the extraordinarily selfless work of Rose Valland in cataloguing the art the Nazis stole so that it could be tracked down, post-war, and returned to its rightful owners. And these are just a small portion of the actual historical events Peter May has woven through his narrative.

While The Night Gate is not my very favourite of the Enzo series, it is right up there. I don’t recommend that The Night Gate be read as a stand-alone as there is too much background of the contemporary characters that you would be missing out on and which would impact on your understanding of some of the events and references to the past storylines that are included in this book. But I do strongly recommend that you read it.

NOTE: The Night Gate is, apparently, the finale to the Enzo series.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheNightGate #NetGalley

#authorpetermay #quercusbooks

@authorpetermay @quercusbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #historicalfiction #historicalfaction #murdermystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BBC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane fifteen years that followed, became one of Scotland’s most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels.

He has won several literature awards in France. He received the USA’s Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy. In 2014 Entry Island won both the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and a CWA Dagger as the ITV Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year.

Peter lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally, and in 2016 both became French by naturalisation. (Peter May)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Night Gate by Peter May for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events that have led to both killings.

And Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

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

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

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

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

A Million Things by Emily Spurr

The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

and the audiobook is The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

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

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

The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

EXCERPT: “I have been asking myself who I intend to be when this war is over—the woman with much who gave little, or the woman with little who gave much. That is always the question, isn’t it, when we walk through the fire in our lives? And I now know my answer.”

ABOUT ‘THE PARIS DRESSMAKER’: Based on true accounts of how Parisiennes resisted the Nazi occupation in World War II—from fashion houses to the city streets—comes a story of two courageous women who risked everything to fight an evil they couldn’t abide.

Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquarters. But when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.

Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.

Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.

MY THOUGHTS: I struggled. I really wanted to like this, but it fell flat for me and I did consider abandoning the read.

The Paris Dressmaker is a book that would have worked better for me in a chronological timeline. It jumps all over the place. 1939, to 1943, then back to 1940. It was confusing and sometimes I had trouble remembering who was who, and who was related to who until I got well into the story. The chapters are headed with the date and the location, but not whose point of view we are reading. These problems severely impacted my enjoyment, and I never became invested in the storyline, or the outcomes for the characters.

The pace is agonisingly slow and I felt that the story was centred more on the characters relationships than their resistance work. It also felt rather ‘sanitised’. I prefer a grittier approach. This was all the more disappointing as The Paris Dressmaker is supposedly based on true accounts.

I had a few other minor niggles too. The book is set in Paris, France, but Sandrine Paquet is often referred to as Mrs Pacquet. Surely it should have been Madame or, in the case of the Germans, Frau. I don’t know why this irritated me so much, but it did.

The Paris Dressmaker was a disappointing read for me. None of it felt real and there is little connection between Lila’s and Sandrine’s stories until the very end. By then, it was far too late for me. I simply didn’t care.

While the narrator, Barrie Kreinik, has a beautiful voice, I don’t think it was well suited to this story.

Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from The Paris Dressmaker, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy this.

⭐⭐

#TheParisDressmaker #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: KRISTY CAMBRON is a vintage-inspired storyteller writing from the space where art, history, and faith intersect. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can be found penning her next stories in a beloved coffee shop corner with kayaks on the wall. (She’s only bumped her head twice…)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Zondervan via Netgalley for providing an ARC of the audiobook of The Paris Dressmaker, written by Kristy Cambron and narrated by Barrie Kreinik, for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Luke has been with us for the weekend. I picked him up Friday afternoon and we have had a fun and busy time. My cousin had kept some eggs for him that she was sure were double yokers, which I scrambled for his dinner Friday night. They weren’t, but he enjoyed them anyway. Yesterday we baked cookies. I took photos but they’re too dark to post. We also made garages for the cars out of shoeboxes. Today we made sleeping bags for his favourite cuddlies for when he and Dustin go camping. They have just left to go home. Luke is one tired bunny as he didn’t sleep well last night, so of course I didn’t either!

I am still reading Lost Souls by Chris Merritt. Although I have read a lot this weekend, not much of it was for me.

And I am listening to The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron.

This week I am planning on reading The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t.

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in…

And The Dare by Lesley Kara

When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together – and that only Lizzie will come back alive.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice’s friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend’s death.

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find traumatic memories and paranoia suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge . . .

I have only one new ARC this week –

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

I introduced Luke to Roald Dahl’s poems, and Mole and Toad of The Wind in the Willows this weekend. What have you been reading with your grandchildren or children?

Have a wonderful week. Mine is very busy workwise, and Pete is working long hours so it looks like the lawns will also be on my ‘to do’ list this week.

An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse

EXCERPT: . . . the memory of her lover’s palm running over her back beneath the winter sunshine on a stolen afternoon, as they lay close together on a tartan blanket among the ruins of war was, even now, enough to make her weep like the willow beneath which they had sought shelter. His face, captured in her mind like a picture, a particular smile, lips closed, one side of his mouth raised more than the other, his hair flopping forward, his eyes mid-laugh…It had always been him.

And now, here she was. Lying alone on a trolley in a corridor, unable to imagine whatever might come next, able to think only about what had gone before: each step, each breath and each day that had led up to that point in time. Her body quite useless now, but oh! The miraculous thing it had done: bearing a child, a boy! A beautiful son . . .

She cursed her inability to finish the note she had started, wishing nothing more than to place it in the hand of the boy who had shaped her whole life. She needed to tell him of her history. Her story, her ordinary life, and thus his story, the full truth he’d never known but that she’d promised, finally, to tell him. The truth that now he might never know.

ABOUT ‘AN ORDINARY LIFE’: Christmas Eve, 2019. Ninety-four-year-old Molly lies in her hospital bed. A stroke and a fall may have broken her body—but her mind is alive with memories.

London, 1940s. Molly is a bright young woman, determined to help the war effort and keep her head up despite it all. Life becomes brighter when she meets and falls in love with a man who makes her forget everything with one dance. But then war forces her to make an unforgettable sacrifice, and when she’s brought to her knees by a daring undercover mission with the French Resistance, only her sister knows the secret weighing heavily on Molly’s heart.

Now, lying in her hospital bed, Molly can’t escape the memories of what she lost all those years ago. But she is not as alone as she thinks.

Will she be able to find peace—and finally understand that what seemed to be an ordinary life was anything but?

MY THOUGHTS: This is a steady-paced but extremely emotional family drama that had me in tears several times during the read. Amanda Prowse is very adept at that.

I adored and admired Molly. She was an extremely strong and courageous woman, but that strength was also her undoing. No matter what befell her, she picked herself up and kept going, until she could go no further.

I didn’t think that I would enjoy An Ordinary Life when I first began it. It felt like it was going to be a ‘soppy romance.’ But I should have known better. Amanda Prowse has never let me down yet, and she certainly didn’t this time either. A few twists, and the book went off in an entirely different and unexpected direction.

I enjoyed An Ordinary Life. Molly wormed her way into my heart as I celebrated her successes, cried with her at her heartbreak, held my breath when she was in danger, and took pleasure in her joy.

An Ordinary Life is proof that Prowse can turn her hand to any genre, successfully. Every book she writes is different, yet every book stirs my emotions.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#AnOrdinaryLife #NetGalley @MrsAmandaProwse

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #romance #WWII

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK, Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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