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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

It was Pete’s 65th birthday yesterday so we decided to have a day out. We had originally planned to go down to Awakino and Mokau, stopping at the Awakino pub for lunch. We have stopped there a few times recently and the food is great. But when we checked the road report there were a lot of roadworks and long delays. Pete has been carting concrete out to Raglan quite a bit recently so we decided to go there for the day. I haven’t been there for two years and it’s grown like crazy in that time. We drove around all the lovely little bays, then went for lunch at the Wharf Kitchen and Bar. The fish and chips were lovely, the Heineken cold and we had views out over the water.

It was a lovely day out culminating in calling in on Dustin and Luke on the way home.

We also bumped into Harley who used to chef for us. He has just started working back in the area so tomorrow we are going to lunch at his restaurant at Waitomo, as it’s a long weekend here. We have two in a row!

Currently I am readin House of Correction by Nikki French.

Over half way through. Compelling. Character driven. Totally hooked.

I am listening to The Silence by Susan Allott, an Australian mystery. Almost half way through and enjoying it, but have no idea what happened to Mandy. The husband? (Where is he, anyway?) The neighbour? The neighbours wife? Or is she simply somewhere else, living as someone else?

This week I am planning on reading Hadley and Grace by Susan Redfearn

Needing to escape her abusive marriage, Hadley flees with her two kids, knowing it might be her only chance. A woman who can’t even kill a spider, Hadley soon finds herself pushed to the limits as she fights to protect her family.

Grace, new mother of baby Miles, desperately wants to put her rough past behind her for good, but she finds it impossible when her path crosses with Hadley’s, and her quest for a new start quickly spirals out of control and turns into a terrifying flight for survival.

Stronger together than apart, the two find their fates inextricably entwined, and as the danger closes in, each must decide how much she is willing to risk for the other.

And The Lady in Residence by Alison Pittman.

Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?

Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.

Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

I am also planning a Read/Listen of The Shadow Man by Helen Fields.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.
 
Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.
 
Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.
 
And he’s watching.

And oh, Susan, you are going to laugh at this. You know how I have been saying that I have been requesting books and a lot of them I have either heard nothing about, or they have gone to ‘wishlist’? Well I have had an absolute avalanche of approvals this week….seventeen!!!! So here they are:

The Reach by B. Michael Radburn (Taylor Bridges #3), Australian fiction

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

Lost Souls by Chris Merritt

In Her Tracks (Tracy Crosswhite #8) by Robert Dugoni

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

The Receptionist by Kate Myles

The Best of Friends by Alex Day

The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer

The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

The Broken Ones (Detective Gina Harte #8) by Carla Kovach

One Perfect Grave (Nikki Hunt #2) by Stacy Green

The The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan

The Perfect Lie by Jo Spain

Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams

The Night Gate by Peter May

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

And the audiobook of The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

Stay safe, keep calm and read on! I will leave you with photos of Whale Bay and Manu Bay in Raglan, New Zealand.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Please note: this book is nothing to do with the Fifty series…

EXCERPT: They took me in my nightgown.

Thinking back, the signs were there – family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewellery into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realise that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.

We were taken.

ABOUT ‘BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY’: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

MY THOUGHTS: I had previously read Salt to the Sea by this author and really enjoyed it. Over Christmas I saw the movie based on this book, Ashes in the Snow, which I enjoyed, and did not know until the end that it was based on Between Shades of Gray. Although I enjoyed the movie, the book is much better. It is far more detailed and I felt more invested in the characters.

Ruta Sepetys writes simply and beautifully about one of the darkest periods in our history. The beautiful writing only serves to intensify the horror of the atrocities that happened, that she describes so clearly and dispassionately, that she brings to life with her prose.

It is impossible not to fall in love with her characters: Lina is a talented artist with a determination and strength of character that astounded me; she protected her younger brother Jonas with all the fierceness of a lioness protecting her cub, a trait I believe she inherited from her mother; Andrius is the boy/man whom Lina loves and another source of her strength.

This is a harrowing story of hardship, loss, torture and cruelty. Yet it is also a story of strength, love and compassion.

Don’t expect any resolution at the end. The book ends rather abruptly (as did the film) leaving the reader to decide their fate.

This is a story that needed to be told, a truth that needs to be heard, an atrocity that must never be repeated.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

“Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?”

THE AUTHOR: Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren’t able to tell their story.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, published by Penguin Books, from Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

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EXCERPT: I stopped, noticing an unusual postage stamp on one of the envelopes. It was a red US airmail eight-cent stamp showing a picture of aviatrix Amelia Earhart. My name and address had been scribbled in barely comprehensible letters on the front in bold, black ink. Definitely not a graduate of a British boarding school then, so perhaps not a school friend of Kit’s offering condolences.

I looked at the top left corner to read the return address. A. Bowdoin, Esq., Willig, Williams & White, 5 Wall Street, New York, NY. I assumed Bowdoin was either a funeral director or a lawyer, having never clearly understood the difference between the two when it came to death and taxes.

Climbing the stairs, I slid my finger under the flap and began tearing the envelope, not wanting to go through the bother of retrieving a letter opener. Tucking the rest of the post under one arm, I pulled out a piece of letterhead paper and began to read.

Dear Mrs. Langford,

My condolences on the death of your late husband, Christopher Langford. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but my father, Walter, was a huge admirer and shared with me many stories of your husband’s bravery and courage during the war.

We only recently became aware of your husband’s passing when an old war friend of my father’s mailed him the obituary from the Times. It took a while to find us, which is why it has taken me so long to contact you. I realise my letter might be a surprise and might even be an imposition at best. But I hope that you might bear with me so that I might explain myself and perhaps even enlist your assistance.

In the obituary, it mentioned your husband’s brave exploits in France as well as his involvement with the French Resistance fighter known only as La Fleur. As you may or may not be aware, she has reached nearly mythical proportions in French lore – to the point where some say she never even really existed.

My slow progress up the stairs halted, and I grabbed the banister, the other envelopes slipping from their hold under my arm before gently cascading down the steps. La Fleur.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The heiress . . .
The Resistance fighter . . .
The widow . . .
Three women whose fates are joined by one splendid hotel

France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.

France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.

France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . . .

MY THOUGHTS: What a splendid journey through three time periods, piecing together the mystery of the identity of La Fleur and her ‘talisman’.

All the Ways We Said Goodbye celebrates the strength of women who survived the war against impossible odds while fighting covertly against the Germans. Impeccably researched and beautifully written, this saga spans two world wars, and a period of discovery. Yes, it is greatly sanitised, and relies quite heavily on the romantic aspect, but the bones of the story are good and solid. While there are no great surprises, it is an interesting read, and I will continue to follow this wonderful collaboration of authors. (Is there a term for a group of authors, I wonder?)

I would love to know the story of how these three came to write together. Personally, I find it quite amazing that three different writers can write together to produce a piece of fiction that moves seamlessly from one narrator and timeline, to another, and another. I have seen less cohesion in books written by a single author! The plot is intricate but not confusing, the characters well depicted. There are multiple narrators on this audiobook, and all are superb.

If you like multi-generational family sagas, this is a good one for you.

****.4

THE AUTHORS: Beatriz Williams is the bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Golden Hour, The Summer Wives, A Hundred Summers, and The Wicked Redhead. A native of Seattle, she graduated from Stanford University and earned an MBA in finance from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry.

Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Summer Country, The Ashford Affair, and The English Wife, as well as the RITA Award–winning Pink Carnation series. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, kindergartner, toddler, and vast quantities of coffee.

Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-five novels, including Dreams of Falling and The Night the Lights Went Out. She currently writes what she refers to as “grit lit”—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. She is a graduate of the American School in London and has a BS in management from Tulane University. When not writing, she spends her time reading, singing, and avoiding cooking. She has two grown children and currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and two spoiled Havanese dogs.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of All The Ways to Say Goodbye written by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White, narrated by Helen Sadler, Nicola Barber, Saskia Maarleveld, and published by Harper Audio. 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

Into the Darkest Day by Kate Hewitt

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EXCERPT: Hello, you don’t know me, but I know of you – at least a bit! My grandmother, Sophie Mather, died a few months ago, and she was in possession of your grandfather, Tom Reese’s, Purple Heart medal, awarded during his active service in the second world war. She told me she wanted it returned to ‘it’s proper owner.’

I’ve read on your website that your grandfather passed away some time ago, and I’m very sorry for your loss. I presume that the proper owner now would be you or your father. I’m coming to the United States this summer for an extended visit, and would love the opportunity to return the medal to your family.

Abby had read it all, her mind both blank and spinning. Sophie Mather? What medal? And a visit?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: 1944, London:
When Lily meets enigmatic GI Matthew in war-torn London, she doesn’t expect to fall in love. While her sister starts a reckless affair with another GI, Lily tries to hide her growing feelings for Matthew.

But Matthew has a devastating secret. One that could change their lives forever.

Present day, USA:
Abby lives a quiet life on an apple farm in Wisconsin. Tormented by survivor’s guilt after the tragic deaths of her mother and brother, Abby leaves the orchards as little as possible, keeping her life small, peaceful and safe… Until she is contacted by Englishman Simon Elliot, who arrives nursing a heartbreak of his own, and bearing a World War Two medal that he claims belonged to Abby’s grandfather.

Together they begin to piece together the heartbreaking story of their relatives’ war. But as the story brings Abby and Simon closer—tentatively beginning to lean on one another to heal—they uncover a dark secret from the past.

And like Lily and Matthew nearly eighty years before them, it will make Abby and Simon question whether you can ever truly trust someone, even when they have your heart…

MY THOUGHTS: I went into this book thinking that it was going to be a pleasant mystery/romance. And it was. But I have read enough of Kate Hewitt’s books by now that I should have known better. Anything she writes packs a punch, and Into the Darkest Day sure does that.

The story is written over dual timelines, the current day through the voices of Abby and Simon, and 1944/5 through the voices of Lily and Matthew.

Into the Darkest Day is rich in historical detail. The London blitz, with nights spent in cold and cramped Anderson shelters in the back garden while the skies buzz and scream and crackle under enemy attack, droning planes and thudding bombs, emerging after the all clear into air full of dust and the acrid smell of burning, the smell of destruction, to find a once familiar landscape cratered and littered with rubble and the scant remains of people’s personal possessions.

The Wobbelin internment camp where bodies were stacked like winter logs, one atop the other, waiting to be incinerated. Where the survivors are skeletons, with skin stretched over their bones, starved to the point where to give them food would kill them.

I had never before heard of the Ritchie Boys, German Jews who acted as interpreters and interrogators in the final stages of the war, men who returned to Germany to face and confront those who had once tormented and tortured them. Please make sure that you read Kate’s letter at the end of the book, AFTER you finish.

I have read a lot of books about the war, and the camps, but I don’t think I have ever read anything quite so graphically described in so few words.

The characters and their relationships are absolutely absorbing, as is the mystery surrounding the medals. Yes, there is more than one. Mystery, and medal.

I loved Into the Darkest Day, as I have everything I have read by this author. This book has only strengthened my resolve to read everything that Kate has ever written. Highly recommended.

❤❤❤❤.5

Dysfunctional families are ones with people in them.

THE AUTHOR: Kate is the USA Today-bsetselling author of many books of women’s fiction. Her latest releases are A Vicarage Homecoming and Not My Daughter. Under the name Katharine Swartz, she is the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell.

She likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Into the Darkest Day by Kate Hewitt 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 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3253819616