Sadie by Courtney Summers


I think I must be one of the very few people who did not read this when it first came out. I dithered and delayed … and loved it!I think the idea of podcasts put me off. I needn’t have worried.

EXCERPT: Today we’re doing something new – something big. Today, we’re pre-empting your regular scheduled episode of ‘Always Out There’ to launch the first episode of our new serialized podcast, ‘The Girls’. If you want to hear more, you can download all eight episodes – that’s right; the entire season – on our website. We’re pretty sure you’ll want to hear more.

Created and hosted by one of our longtime producers, West McCray, ‘The Girls’ explores what happens when a devastating crime reveals a deeply unsettling mystery. It’s a story about family, about sisters, and the untold lives lived in small town America. It’s about the lengths we go to to protect the ones we love … and the high price we pay when we can’t.

It begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

MY THOUGHTS: I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy this when I first started it. I thought it might be like one of those true crime/reality TV shows where they repeat themselves every few minutes to make sure that you get the point. Sadie wasn’t like that at all. It was intriguing, compelling and I want more. It was tantalizing.

This is a haunting, gut wrenching tale of abuse and neglect, of drug and alcohol abuse/addiction, and of making choices. In this instance, mostly the wrong ones.

Sadie lives a bleak life. Abandoned by their mother, she cares for her younger sister Mattie. Tries to provide for her, protect her, love her, and guide her. When Mattie is murdered, Sadie’s life implodes. She can focus on only one thing: revenge. And this is, amongst other things, the story of her quest for redemption.

Sadie is not always easy to listen to/read. There is nothing explicit, but plenty is implied. There are things no child should ever have to experience, but Sadie has. She had been determined that Mattie should have a different life, one where she was cherished and loved. But she failed. That sense of failure fuels her.

The story of Sadie is told from Sadie’s own point of view and that of West McCray who, diverted from his original task of portraying life in small town America, finds himself caught up in the search for Sadie long after almost everyone else has given up hope.

If you haven’t yet read Sadie by Courtney Summers, I urge you to.


THE AUTHOR: Courtney Summers is the bestselling author of several novels, whose career in writing began in 2008, when she was 22. Her work has been released to critical acclaim and multiple starred reviews, received numerous awards and honors including the Edgar Award, the John Spray Mystery Award, the Cybils Award, the Odyssey Award, the Audie Award, and has enjoyed the recognition of many library, state, ‘Best Of’ and Readers’ Choice lists. Courtney has reviewed for The New York Times, is the founder of #ToTheGirls, a 2015 worldwide trending hashtag, and in 2016, she was named one of Flare Magazine’s 60 under 30. She lives and writes in Canada.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Sadie, written by Courtney Summers, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and a full supporting cast, and published by Macmillan Audio. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page, or the about page on

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and

The House Without A Key by Marin Montgomery


EXCERPT: I’m staring at a hand that appears as if it’s sticking out of a grave. Jumping back in horror as if someone branded me with a hot iron, I gasp for air. This can’t be happening. It must be some kind of sick joke.

But the hand is small…and human. I count five fingers before my mind goes into overdrive.

An overabundance of flies swarm the open air around the skin, aiming for an empty spot to settle on. Their intent is to feed on her. I’m going to be sick from the stench, or maybe it’s the fear of my discovery.

I stare at the olive fabric gathered around a wrist that’s sticking up out of the garbage at a rest stop in Texas. After pawing through the trash on top to discover whose arm it is attached to, I make out the torso of a woman.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When 17-year-old Maddy Pruitt vanishes from her sleepy town, word on the street is that she ran away. The daughter of an abusive alcoholic with a quick temper, she had every reason to leave in search of something better, and everyone who knew Maddy knew the type of company she kept wasn’t always ideal.
But when a second 17-year-old girl from a local, affluent family turns up missing shortly after Maddy’s disappearance, the circumstances become suspicious. Even though the girls are perfect strangers from opposite sides of town, attended separate schools, and traveled in different social circles, it turns out they have more in common than anyone could have imagined.
With the clock ticking, those closest to the girls lead a frantic search, uncovering secrets, lies, and a web of deceit that might have the girls paying an ultimate price…if they don’t find them in time.

MY THOUGHTS: What can I say? Awkward writing about a very topical subject. Repetitive. I lost count of how many times in the prologue we were told it was a rest stop in Texas. I got absolutely no sense of suspense.

It is extremely confusing in parts, implausible in others. I seriously considered not finishing, and seriously wish I had listened to my inner voice. By the time I got to the end, I had completely lost interest which, perhaps was just as well as I found the ending to be absolutely implausible.

Not something I am going to recommend, but with a good edit and a bit of rewriting, it has the potential to be a good read.


THE AUTHOR: Marin Montgomery grew up in the Midwest but traded in the cornfields for desert and now calls Arizona her home.

When she’s not thinking up her next psych twist, she can be found playing a mean game of Scrabble, binge-watching a variety of television shows, and hanging with her Goldendoodle, Dashiell.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The House Without a Key written by Marin Montgomery, narrated by Charles Constant, Hilary Huber and Neva Navarre, published by Tantor Audion, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on or the about page on

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and my page

Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus


EXCERPT: When we slide into the back seat, Nana turns to face us, and so does a younger woman behind the steering wheel. “Ellery, Ezra, this is Melanie Kilduff. Her family lives down the street from us. I have terrible night vision, so Melanie was kind enough to drive. She used to babysit your mother when she was young. You’ve probably heard the name.”

Ezra and I exchange wide-eyed glances. Yes. Yes, we have.

Sadie left echo Ridge when she was eighteen, and she’s only been back twice. The first time was the year before we were born, when our grandfather died from a heart attack. And the second time was five years ago, for Melanie’s teenage daughter’s funeral.

Ezra and I watched the Dateline special – Mystery at Murderland – at home while our neighbour stayed with us. I was transfixed by the story of Lacey Kilduff, the beautiful blond Homecoming Queen from our mother’s hometown, found strangled in a Halloween theme park. Airport Andy was right; the park’s owner changed its name from Murderland to Fright Farm a few months later. I’m not sure the case would have gotten as much national attention if the park hadn’t had such an on-the-nose name.

Or if Lacey hadn’t been the second pretty teenager from Echo Ridge – and from the exact same street, even – to make tragic headlines.

Sadie wouldn’t answer any of our questions when she got back from Lacey’s funeral. “I just want to forget about it,” she said whenever we asked. Which is what she’s been saying about Echo Ridge our entire lives.

Ironic, I guess, that we ended up here anyway.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

MY THOUGHTS: I really loved this author’s first book, One Of Us Is Lying. Two Can Keep a Secret, while good, didn’t resonate with me the way her previous book did.

I still like this author’s writing style, and although I had guessed fairly early on who the guilty party was, I don’t think that this was the problem. I think that this wasn’t as twisty as I had anticipated. And now I am going to stop comparing the two books, and judge this one on its merits alone.

The characters are mostly well rounded, if not always likeable. There was plenty of potential for really creepy moments that were missed, and I think that is where the story suffered most. Lack of suspense.

The story is told from two points of view – that of one of the twins, Ellery, and a friend she makes, Malcolm, the brother of the man suspected of killing Lacey.

I like that despite her penchant for hunting down a murderer, Ellery messes up with her viable theories. She does normal stupid teenage things, believing herself to be ten foot tall and indestructible, then finding out that she isn’t.

There are a lot of layers to this plot, many sub-stories, and all interweave to provide an interesting, but not dynamic, read. An extra half star for the ending… it right to the end. Don’t stop when the killer is identified and caught. You will miss out on what might very well be the best bit of the book.


THE AUTHOR: Karen M. McManus is the author of the New York Times and international bestselling young adult novels One of Us Is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret. Her work has been translated into 40 languages worldwide. Karen lives in Massachusetts and holds a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, which she mostly uses to draft fake news stories for her novels.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus, narrated by Sophie Amoss and Kirby Heyborne, published by Penguin Books Ltd. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please see my profile page or the about page on

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and

Watching What I’m Reading…..

It’s already Monday here in New Zealand so I am a day late with my post. I worked through the weekend and had visitors yesterday, plus a friend arrives today and is staying for the next two weeks while he is working in the area…

Last night I started reading


And I am listening to


Which I was declined for pre publication. I love this author and am enjoying this YA drama.

This week I am planning on reading


When the discovery of a body on a vacant lot puts an end to Police Chief Callie Morgan’s surprise birthday party, Christmas week loses some of its charm. Not only does she know the dead man, he’s a relation . . . of sorts.

Soon she’s juggling a murder investigation and a rash of burglaries that may have been committed by the mythical Edisto Santa—a holiday secret Santa, who may have taken a page from Robin Hood’s book and begun robbing from the tourist rich and giving to the local poor.

Since the suspects for both crimes are Edisto residents, no matter how delicately Callie treads, this holiday season will pit Callie against her beloved Edisto and leave her feeling like the Grinch, Scrooge, and Old Man Potter rolled into one. But she has no choice. Murder trumps Santa.

This year Callie is making a list and checking it twice.

And hopefully I will be able to start The House of Brides by Jane Cockram, the cover of which refuses to download today!

Miranda’s life and career has been a roller-coaster ride. Her successful rise to the top of the booming lifestyle industry as a social media influencer led to a humiliating fall after a controversial product she endorsed flopped. Desperate to get away from the hate-spewing trolls shaming her on the internet, she receives a mysterious letter from a young cousin in England that plunges her into a dark family mystery.

Miranda’s mother Tessa Summers, a famous author, died when Miranda was a child. The young woman’s only connection to the Summers family is through Tessa’s famous book The House of Brides—a chronicle of the generations of women who married into the infamous Summers family and made their home in the rambling Barnsley House, the family’s estate. From Gertrude Summers, a famed crime novelist, to Miranda’s grandmother Beatrice, who killed herself after setting fire to Barnsley while her children slept, each woman in The House of Brides is more notorious than the next. The house’s current “bride” is the beautiful, effervescent Daphne, her Uncle Max’s wife—a famed celebrity chef who saved Barnsley from ruin turning the estate into an exclusive culinary destination and hotel.

Curious about this legendary family she has never met, Miranda arrives at Barnsley posing as a prospective nanny answering an advertisement. She’s greeted by the compelling yet cold housekeeper Mrs. Mins, and meets the children and her Uncle Max—none of whom know her true identity. But Barnsley is not what Miranda expected. The luxury destination and award-winning restaurant is gone, and Daphne is nowhere to be found. Most disturbing, one of the children is in a wheelchair after a mysterious accident. What happened in this house? Where is Daphne? What darkness lies hidden in Barnsley?

Only two ARCs this week



And that’s my lot! I have some reviews written, ready for publication over the next few days just in case I find myself running out of time again.

Happy reading my friends.


One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus

One of Us Is Lying

EXCERPT: Bronwyn, Monday September 24th, 2.55 pm

A sex tape. A pregnancy scare. Two cheating scandals. And that’s just this week’s update. If all you knew of Bayview High was Simon Kelleher’s gossip app, you’d wonder how anyone found time to go to class.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

MY THOUGHTS: High School. . . I hated it, and this book reminded me why. McManus has perfectly depicted the bitchy machinations of the high school elite, those super cool, oh-so-confidant kids that everyone despises, but aspires to be. Those kids who are just as insecure as everyone else, just much better at hiding it.

I loved this book. It started out with me wondering why I was reading this. . . it was reminiscent of those ‘reality’ TV programs that I detest. I thought that I would give it a couple of chapters, then ditch it and move onto something else. But a couple of chapters in, and I was hooked. The plot, along with the characters, matured as I read and, although I correctly guessed the outcome, there were a few neat little twists along the way that threw me off kilter.

One of Us Is Lying is an intriguing take on the classic locked room mystery, one that had my little grey cells working overtime until things clicked into place, and then I simply had to finish the read to see if I was right.


THE AUTHOR: Karen M. McManus is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult thriller One of Us Is Lying, which has been translated into 37 languages worldwide. Her second book, Two Can Keep a Secret, will be released in January 2019. Karen lives in Massachusetts and holds a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, which she mostly uses to draft fake news stories for her novels.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, narrated by Kim Mai Guest, McLeod Andrews, Robbie Daymond and Shannon McManus, published by Audible Audiobooks, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Friday Favorite – All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Looking for something to read over the weekend ?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming ‘read me’?

Take a look at my Friday Favorite. It may be new. It may be old. It may be written by a famous author, or by someone you have never heard of. But wherever in the spectrum it falls, it will be a book that is special to me, one that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

You may think Christmas is an odd time to talk about suicide, but like murder, the suicide rate rises alarmingly at this time of year. So please let’s all take a moment out of our busy lives to remember those who have taken their own lives, and another to reach out to someone who is alone. 💕 Bless you. 💕

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

EXCERPT: Is today a good day to die?

This is something I ask myself in the morning when I wake up. In third period when I am trying to keep my eyes open while Mr Schroeder drones on and on. At the supper table as I’m passing the green beans. At night when I’m laying awake because my brain won’t shut off due to all there is to think about.

Is today the day?

And if not today – when?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘ It is not what you take from this life, but what you leave behind.

There is not a person out there whose life is not touched by suicide at some point, most of us more than once.

This is a wonderfully touching tale of a boy who saves a girl, but is unable to save himself; a book that should be read by everyone.

I grew to love Violet, whose life has been shattered by the death of her elder sister Eleanor in a car accident; a death Violet feels responsible for, both because she survived the accident and because she had told her sister to take that particular road.

And Theodore, a selfless romantic in search of ‘the perfect day’; who each day plans to kill himself but each day is stopped by one small beautiful thing he discovers. Until one day he isn’t.

This book is beautifully written. It is sensitively written, but at the same time it doesn’t hold anything back. Survivor guilt, anger, bullying, the duplicity of teenagers, the ignorance of parents are all interwoven into this emotional story that will bring a tear to your eye.


THE AUTHOR: By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson (“If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win”), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age.

In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven’t stopped… I’ve written nine books (#9 will be out Oct 4, 2016), and when I’m not working on the tenth, I’m writing the screenplay for All the Bright Places, contributing to my web magazine, Germ (, thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of All the Bright Places, written by Jennifer Niven , narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Ariadne Meyers, published by Listening Library, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

EXCERPT: …as I was crossing the street I had a stroke of inspiration about who might have killed Wellington. I was imagining a Chain of Reason inside my head which was like this
1. Why would you kill a dog?
a) because you hated the dog.
b) because you were mad.
c) because you wanted to make Mrs Shears upset.
2. I didn’t know anyone who hated Wellington, so if it was a) it was probably a stranger.
3. I didn’t know any mad people, so if it was b), it was probably also a stranger.
4. Most murders are committed by someone known to the victim. In fact, you are most likely to be murdered by a member of your own family on Christmas Day. This is a fact. Wellington was therefore most likely to have been killed by someone known to him.
5. If it was c), I only knew one person who didn’t like Mrs Shears, and that was Mr Shears who knew Wellington very well indeed.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

MY THOUGHTS: I have been wanting to read this book for some years, ever since it was a Goodreads group read one month, and I couldn’t lay my hands on a copy. Last year I found a copy in a bookshop and brought it for my grandson as part of his Christmas parcel. He read it for an English assignment this year, then his mother read it and, finally, I then got to read it.

I found it fascinating to see into the mind of someone with Aspergers Syndrome. I have read other books with characters similarly affected, but for some reason it is Christopher that will remain with me. I have found myself looking at numbers differently, and I now have a fascination with prime numbers. This from a person who flunked high school mathematics quite spectacularly! I still, however, have to admit to not understanding the maths problems Conways Soldiers or the Monty Hall Problem. And I have no idea, still, what the relationship is between 7 and 865. So while this book has left me in the dark mathematically speaking, I enjoyed it. And I learned a lot.

I know it was written some time ago, but I really would like to know how Christopher gets on at University.


THE AUTHOR: Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English.

In 2003, Haddon won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and in 2004, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Overall Best First Book for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a book which is written from the perspective of a boy with Aspergers syndrome. Haddon’s knowledge of Aspergers syndrome, a type of autism, comes from his work with autistic people as a young man. In an interview at, Haddon claimed that this was the first book that he wrote intentionally for an adult audience; he was surprised when his publisher suggested marketing it to both adult and child audiences. His second adult-novel, A Spot of Bother, was published in September 2006.

Mark Haddon is also known for his series of Agent Z books, one of which, Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, was made into a 1996 Children’s BBC sitcom. He also wrote the screenplay for the BBC television adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s story Fungus the Bogeyman, screened on BBC1 in 2004. He also wrote the 2007 BBC television drama Coming Down the Mountain.

Haddon is a vegetarian, and enjoys vegetarian cookery. He describes himself as a ‘hard-line atheist’. In an interview with The Observer, Haddon said “I am atheist in a very religious mould”. His atheism might be inferred from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in which the main character declares that those who believe in God are stupid.

Mark Haddon lives in Oxford with his wife Dr. Sos Eltis, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and their two young sons.

DISCLOSURE: I was loaned a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, written by Mark Haddon, published by Vintage Classics, by my grandson Kayden Webby, member and blogger at
Here are links to his reviews… and…

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Friday Favorite – The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee by Talya Tate Boerner

Looking for something to read over the weekend ?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming ‘read me’?

Take a look at my Friday Favorite. It may be new. It may be old. It may be written by a famous author, or by someone you have never heard of. But wherever in the spectrum it falls, it will be a book that is special to me, one that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

This was a debut novel by this author. I sincerely hope she has written more since I read this in 2016. As soon as I have finished posting, I am going to check… This is a beautifully written book, and I felt a great deal of nostalgic pleasure reading through my review.

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee by Talya Tate Boerner
The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee 

Talya Tate Boerner (Goodreads Author)

Reviewed by


EXCERPT: Daddy was in a bad mood. I could tell by the slow drawn out crunch of gravel on the driveway. He’d parked by the old plum tree and was taking forever to walk through the back door. He was predictable. Just like my life so far.

‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi….’

The truck engine fell quiet, leaving only the sound of tree frogs. Lucky’sears perked. I rubbed the white spot on the back of his neck, and he relaxed back onto the floor beside me.

‘Three Mississippi, four Mississippi. …’

Tucking Barbie underneath the throw pillow on my lap, I traced my finger over the red blooms that covered my library book. Abby, my little sister, lay dozing on the opposite end of the couch, sprawled flat on her back. She had a way of sleeping through anything – a loud television show, or even one of Momma and Daddy’s late night arguments. As I watched, her long eyelashes fluttered, just slightly. Then she giggled in her sleep, rolled over onto her belly, and continued snoozing.

‘Seven Mississippi, eight Mississippi. …’

Slipping my hands under the pillow, I twirled Barbie’s silky hair and stroked the bumpy fabric of her pin-dot skirt. Momma sewed most all of Barbie’s clothes from scrap material, and sometimes we even dressed alike. Barbie and me, not Momma and me.

‘Nine Mississippi, ten Mississippi. …’

I stared at the back door for a good long time.

What was Daddy doing? Resting, thinking, deciding whether or not to turn around and leave for good?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Ten-year-old Gracie Lee knows a few things. She knows which trees are best for climbing. She knows how to walk through the hallway without making a sound on the hardwood floor. She knows if Daddy’s crop gets one more drop of rain, the whole family will pay the price. There are plenty of things Gracie doesn’t know. These things keep her awake at night. Gracie longs for something bigger and grander and truer, and feels certain there is more to life beyond school and dull church sermons. She worries about the soldiers in Vietnam and wonders what it must be like to have been born Lisa Marie Presley from Tennessee instead of Gracie Lee Abbott from Arkansas. Mostly, she wishes her Daddy wasn’t so mean. Gracie’s unchecked imagination leads to adventure, and adventure leads to trouble. She confides in unexpected characters and seeks solace in a mysterious gray house beyond the cotton field. When Gracie faces a difficult family situation, she must make a life-altering decision, one that will test the very essence of her character. “At best, most first novels indicate potential. It would be wrong to say that, when reading Talya Tate Boerner’s The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee, I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, I was amazed. There’s magic here, in a wonderfully-told story that will find a special place in any reader’s heart.” –Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author

MY THOUGHTS: The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee is one of those books that slowly works it’s way into your heart and leaves you feeling like one of the family. I read it in one sitting, unable to put it down.

Ten year old Grace Lee Eudora (how she hates that name!) Abbott, Gracie to friends and family, hates playing the piano and is fascinated by the French language. She knows a lot of things (some of them she wishes she didn’t), but the things she doesn’t know keep her awake at night. She worries about the soldiers in Vietnam and wonders why she couldn’t have been born Lisa Marie Presley. She has long involved conversations with the father at her local Baptist church and asks him to pray for her Daddy, who surely must be one of the meanest men on earth. She prays for rain in the dry, and for it to stop raining in the wet, so that her Daddy will have a good cotton crop and maybe become nicer, not only to her but to her mother and sister.

She takes to hiding out in the lovely grey house down the road, where the unknown man shot himself, and where there is a whole lot of books, including a coveted set of encyclopaedias. She writes the man letters, telling him about her life and what is going on in the community, without knowing if he is alive or dead.

We follow Gracie through the school year, and long summer holidays. We watch her struggle with her relationship with her father, and try to understand her mother. We watch her cope with betrayal and bullying, and with death.

This is a delightful book, well written and evocative of both the era and it’s setting. It is a book that I know I am going to read again.

Than you to Southern Yellow Pine Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee by Talya Tate Boerner for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my page

The Key to Death’s Door by Mark Tilbury

The Key to Death's Door by Mark Tilbury
The Key to Death’s Door 

Mark Tilbury (Goodreads Author)
Reviewed by

EXCERPT: The day before I died started off pretty much like any other. Up at seven. Breakfast. Ready for school. Just one slight difference: me and my best mate Charlie Finch had cooked up a plan to tell our parents we were sleeping at each other’s houses.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: If you could discover the murderous truth of a past life and seek justice in this one, would you?

Teenager Lee Hunter doesn’t have a choice when he nearly drowns after spending the night at a derelict boathouse with his best friend, Charlie Finch. After leaving his body and meeting a mysterious light, Lee is sent back to relive the final days of another life. A life that ended tragically.

After recovering from his near death experience, Lee begins to realise that he is part of two lives linked by the despicable actions of one man.

Struggling against impossible odds, Lee and Charlie set out to bring this man to justice.

Will Lee be able to unlock the past and bring justice to the future?

MY THOUGHTS: The Key to Death’s Door by Mark Tilbury blew my socks off! How have I missed reading this author before? Why has no one ever pointed me in his direction? This book is so good on so many different levels that I don’t know where to begin. . .

The main character is 14 year old Lee Hunter. Typical boy and his best mate, of whom his mother doesn’t approve. Doing boy stuff. Going where they aren’t supposed to when they are supposed to be somewhere else. We’ve all done it. But for Lee it starts off a series of strange, and for the reader compelling, horrific events.

His friend Charlie’s father, Daryl Finch, is one of the most evil characters I have ever come across. He made my skin crawl. I wanted to go take a shower. And then in direct contrast, we have Lee’s sweet nostalgic memories from when he was Paul.

Author Mark Tilbury is a great writer. I know of few other writers who can switch from darkly disturbing to paranormal to sweet nostalgia like that and carry it off with such finesse. I highlighted so many passages in this book that I wanted to quote in my review that you would have been reading almost the whole book. So instead I stuck with the beginning of the opening paragraph which I loved, because you just know that things are not going to go to plan for these boys. And that is the understatement of the year. As to the rest of it, read it for yourself. You won’t regret it. This is a highly recommended 5 exploding star read.

Thank you to Bloodhound Books via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Key to Death’s Door by Mark Tilbury for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my page

Friday Favorite – The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming “read me!”?

Check out my Friday Favorite  – it may not be new, it may not even be by an author you have ever heard of, but it will be a book that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak certainly captured both my imagination and my heart. It would have to be my top rated read for 2017. It is an unusual book, and won’t be for everyone. But I ❤💙💚💛💜💓💕💖💗💞 love it, even though it 💔 in places.

It was a book that I didn’t want to let go of. I held it, and stroked it, even slept with it. I still can’t peruse my bookshelves without tenderly running my fingers down its spine…

If you haven’t already read this, I urge you to do so. If you have read it, I would like to hear your thoughts.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

EXCERPT: Yes, an illustrious career.

I should hasten to admit, however, that there was a considerable hiatus between the first stolen book and the second. Another noteworthy point is that the first was stolen from snow and the second from fire. Not to omit that others were also given to her. All told, she owned fourteen books, but she saw her story as being made up predominantly of ten of them. Of those ten, six were stolen, one showed up at the kitchen table, two were made for her by a hidden Jew, and one was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon.

When she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything. Was it when she first set eyes on the room with shelves and shelves of them? Or when Max Vandenburg arrived on Himmel Street carrying handfuls of suffering and Hitler’s Mein Kampf ? Was it reading in the shelters? The last parade to Dachau? Was it The Word Shaker? Perhaps there would never be a precise answer as to when and where it occurred. In any case, that’s getting ahead of myself. Before we make it to any of that, we first need to tour Liesel Meminger’s beginnings on Himmel Street and the art of saumensching:

Upon her arrival, you could still see the bite marks of snow on her hands and the frosty blood on her fingers. Everything about her was undernourished. Wirelike shins. Coat hanger arms. She did not produce it easily, but when it came, she had a starving smile.

Her hair was a close enough brand of German blond, but she had dangerous eyes. Dark brown. You didn’t really want brown eyes in Germany around that time. Perhaps she received them from her father, but she had no way of knowing, as she couldn’t remember him. There was really only one thing she knew about her father. It was a label she did not understand.



She’d heard it several times in the past few years.


There were boardinghouses crammed with people, rooms filled with questions. And that word. That strange word was always there somewhere, standing in the corner, watching from the dark. It wore suits, uniforms. No matter where they went, there it was, each time her father was mentioned. She could smell it and taste it. She just couldn’t spell or understand it. When she asked her mother what it meant, she was told that it wasn’t important, that she shouldn’t worry about such things. At one boardinghouse, there was a healthier woman who tried to teach the children to write, using charcoal on the wall. Liesel was tempted to ask her the meaning, but it never eventuated. One day, that woman was taken away for questioning. She didn’t come back.

THE BLURB: A story about, among other things: A girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Ruby Award.

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

MY THOUGHTS: The Book Thief is brutal and beautiful. It is sad and inspiring. It is unforgettable and haunting. It is a book that should be read by everyone.

The Book Thief is narrated by Death himself. There are some things you probably need to know about Death. He does not carry a sickle or a scythe. He only wears a hooded black robe when it is cold. He doesn’t have those skull- like facial features so often ascribed to him. Do you want to know what he truly looks like? Take a look in the mirror. And, believe it or not, he has a heart.

We meet Leisel for the first time in January 1939. She is nine years old. Death also meets her for the first time when he stops to collect the soul of her six year old brother. He will meet her again. And Leisel is about to steal her first book.

The book is written in parts, each titled and with a brief description, eg Part Three, Mein Kampf, featuring: the way home – a broken woman – a struggler – a juggler – the attributes of summer – an Aryan shopkeeper – a snorer – two tricksters – and revenge in the shape of mixed lollies.

Scattered throughout the chapters are little notes from Death – ‘A Nice Thought – one was a book thief. The other stole the sky.’

The author’s language is almost poetic – ‘ As she crossed the river, a rumour of sunshine stood behind the clouds. ‘, ‘the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Leisel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out, like the rain. ‘ – in places, and in others it is clipped and brutal.

This is not an easy book to read at first, but increasingly as I read I could feel the author’s words embracing me, challenging me. It is a worthy read and has earned itsplace as my favorite book of the year to date.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my