Watching what I’m reading . . .

I didn’t quite get all my planned reading done last week – lockdown restrictions were eased and so I spent most of the week at work. The least said about that the better. I did pick Luke up Friday afternoon and bring him home for sleepover which he enjoyed, although he was very tired after his first swimming lesson in over two months and went to bed early. We were going out to my cousin’s farm to see the calves Saturday morning, but as they weren’t home we didn’t go. He was exceedingly pleased with himself though when he managed to get the ball in the basketball hoop twice. It’s so high up the wall that I have trouble scoring a goal, so he did really well.

We have been out for lunch today for our wedding anniversary. There is a new bistro a couple of towns north that we had been wanting to try so we went there. I doubt that we will go back as the food is decidedly average. But it was a nice drive and lovely to be able to go out again.

I am currently reading The Significant Others of Odie May by Claire Dyer which I am enjoying.

I am still listening to The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham which I am loving. I am almost finished, BUT my i-pod had a good soaking when the lid came off my water bottle in my bag on the way home Friday afternoon. It’s dead. So I can’t finish listening until I get a new one.

Still, things could have been worse. My phone and my tablet escaped damage, for which I am grateful.

This week I am planning on reading Devil’s Choir by Martin Michaud

When a young Montreal family dies in an orgy of bloody violence, all signs point to a rampage by the father. But Victor Lessard isn’t convinced. The brilliant, brooding detective suspects that others were involved in the killings. But who? And why? As Lessard struggles to solve the puzzle, the discovery of a nightmarish chamber of horrors seems to confirm that the murders are part of a wider pattern. With a ghost from his past making him doubt his own sanity, Lessard must evade the lethal operatives of a powerful, highly secretive organization as he races to untangle the mystery before a diabolical killer can strike again.

And The Mark by Matt Brolly

In the quiet seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, a man is found unconscious on the beach with a strange symbol carved into his skin. The victim―a local drug addict―has no recollection of who attacked him or how he got there.

The sleepy coastal community is sent into shock. And when another victim branded with the same vicious mark dies from his wounds, DI Louise Blackwell realises she is dealing with a sadistic serial killer.

But why is the twisted attacker targeting Weston’s most vulnerable people? And what is the meaning behind the mysterious symbol? Still struggling to overcome her own demons in the wake of her brother’s death, Blackwell must stay one step ahead of both the killer and corrupt DCI Finch, whose meddling in the investigation makes her more determined than ever to bring him down for good.

As the body count rises, and her feud with Finch puts her own life in danger, Blackwell faces a race against time to discover the dark crime that unites the victims and put an end to the carnage―before someone puts an end to her.

This week I received five digital ARCs and three audio ARCs. They are: The Guest room by Rona Halsall

The Night of the Party by Anna-Lou Weatherley

Sundial by Catriona Ward

The Blood Tide by Neil Lancaster

A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall

The three audio ARCs are: The Life She Wants by Mel Sherratt and narrated by Emma Gregory. I also have a digital ARC of this.

Why She Left by Leah Mercer and narrated by Mira Doveni, another that I also have a digital copy of.

And Outback Creed by Jonathan MacPherson and narrated by Steve Shanahan

I still have twenty six requests pending.

This week I have been on road trip in the USA, the highlights being Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia; NYC; and Liberty Island. I have also been to Dayton, Ohio; Inverbeg, Scotland; Dewstow, Wales; and London, England. Have we crossed paths this week? Where have you been?

Have a wonderful week!

Watching what I’m reading . . .

I had a very lazy day yesterday. The weather was terrible, so I read, finishing two books, and wrote up the two reviews, and snoozed. I even watched a movie which I don’t often do. We had toasted sandwiches for dinner. We’ve been a bit more active today. We met up with my cousin and her husband for morning tea. I picked a whole bunch of roses for in the dining room as the weather forecast for the coming week is more wind and rain, and I cleaned up behind Peter as he went around sanding the plastering I had done during the week. I had a great day in Hamilton on Tuesday. My car is serviced and warranted, and I was able to collect Luke from daycare. We went out for icecream, played soccer, and then lay on his bed and read books until Dustin arrived home. Depending on the news in Monday’s Covid update, I am planning on picking Luke up from his Mum on Friday and bringing him home for a sleepover. Fingers crossed!

I am currently reading The Dinner Lady Detectives by Hannah Hendy. I am only one chapter in, so I haven’t really got a feel for it yet.

A Life Without Flowers, #2 in A Life Without series by Marci Bolden. I read just over half before I got out of bed this morning, and have been taking note of the plants Tobias had in his scented garden, intending to plant them here if they are compatible with our climate.

I am listening to The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham, and narrated by Lucy Price-Lewis.

This week I am planning on reading Old Sins by Aline Templeton

On a clear, moonlit night, DCI Kelso Strang hears the unmistakable howl of a wolf. A disturbing sound, but not the only unsettling thing about the remote town of Inverbeg, where he is taking a break with an old army friend.
Sean Reynolds is obsessive about rewilding his Auchinglass estate and there are rumours that he has taken illicit steps to hurry that on, much to the anger of local farmers. There are other tensions too. An elderly lady died some months before, officially in a tragic stumble off a cliff path, but she was burdened with many secrets and her closest friend believes it was murder.
When horror strikes in Inverbeg, Strang fears further retribution is at work and as he gets closer to uncovering the ugly truth, he finds himself in more danger than ever before.

And A Life Without Regrets, #3 in Marci Bolden’s A Life Without series.

Since losing her husband, Tobias, in a tragic accident, Carol Denman has been on a journey of self-growth. She’s taken steps to finally grieve her daughter’s death, forgive her first husband, and mend her broken relationship with her mother. The one heartbreak she can’t seem to come to terms with is losing her husband.

As Carol continues her travels, family, old friends, and new confidants want to help her heal. However, this is a path Carol must travel alone. She knows her husband would want her to be happy again. She just has to figure out how to move forward.

Carol must dig deep to find a way back to the peace and happiness she once had in her life with Tobias. Coming to terms with being a widow isn’t going to be easy, but with the support from her loved ones and a few strangers, Carol embarks on her most poignant journey yet—finding a life without regrets.

I only received three new ARCs this week, but have 30 requests still pending. My ARCs are:

To Love and Be Loved by Amanda Prowse

The Road Leads Back by Marci Bolden

And The Significant Others of Odie May by Claire Dyer

This week I have been to Houston, Texas, plus travelled to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and Mt Rushmore amongst other notable tourist destinations in the USA; Poland; Lynwick in Nottinghamshire; Halesowen in the West Midlands of England; Portland, Maine; Harlesiel, Germany; Shelburne, Vermont; Boston, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; and Hatteras, North Carolina. Have we crossed paths anywhere in the past week? Where have you been?

Enjoy whatever remains of weekend, and happy reading my friends. ❤📚

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Well, the office never got finished during the week as our new aluminium joinery arrived Monday and I had builders here all week fitting it. I seem to have spent my week cooking morning teas, lunches and afternoon teas, and cleaning up behind them. So now we’re all double glazed and with the stacker doors we installed, we now have a wonderful indoor/outdoor flow. But I do have a lot of stopping and painting ahead of me this week.

It is my cousin’s birthday today. She’s seventy-nine and had her children and grandchildren to lunch today. We are meeting up for coffee and cake tomorrow.

Currently I am reading: A Life Without Water by Marci Bolden. I do love this author. Reading her books is like sitting down with an old friend. A Life Without Water is the first in A Life Without series, and I have the other two lined up right behind it, ready to go.

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 edited by Alafair Burke

and I am listening to The Second Marriage written by Jess Ryder and narrated by Rosamund Hine, which is absolutely delicious!

This week I am planning to read: The Widow by K.L. Slater

My husband was not a monster. No matter what they say…

The day my husband, Michael, stepped in front of a lorry after being questioned by the police, my world fell apart. He was devoted to me and our six-year-old daughter. But they’d connected him to the disappearance of a young mother from our tiny village.

Now I stand at Michael’s funeral, clutching my little girl’s hand, with tears in my eyes as I insist to all our friends that he died an innocent man. Yet the questions have started, and nothing I say will stop them digging for the truth.

But none of them can read the secrets in my heart, or know about the phone I found hidden in his toolbox…

I’m determined that my daughter will not remember her father as a monster. I will erase any hint of wrongdoing in this house whatever the cost.

Because to keep my daughter safe, the last thing I need is for people to start looking at me…

The Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons

My husband was not a monster. No matter what they say…

The day my husband, Michael, stepped in front of a lorry after being questioned by the police, my world fell apart. He was devoted to me and our six-year-old daughter. But they’d connected him to the disappearance of a young mother from our tiny village.

Now I stand at Michael’s funeral, clutching my little girl’s hand, with tears in my eyes as I insist to all our friends that he died an innocent man. Yet the questions have started, and nothing I say will stop them digging for the truth.

But none of them can read the secrets in my heart, or know about the phone I found hidden in his toolbox…

I’m determined that my daughter will not remember her father as a monster. I will erase any hint of wrongdoing in this house whatever the cost.

Because to keep my daughter safe, the last thing I need is for people to start looking at me…

and Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

Told in the intimate voices of unique and endearing characters of all ages, these tales explore desire and heartache, loss and discovery, moments of jolting violence and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. A bookseller’s unspoken love for his employee rises to the surface, a neglected teenage boy finds much-needed nurturing from an unlikely pair of college students hired to housesit, a girl’s loss of innocence at the hands of her employer’s son becomes a catalyst for strength and confidence, and a proud nonagenarian rages helplessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. Romantic, hopeful, brutally raw, and unsparingly honest, some even slipping into the surreal, these stories are, above all, about King’s enduring subject of love.

Eight new ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️, one of which I am already listening to: The Second Marriage by Jess Ryder

Other ARCs are: The Mark by Matt Brolly

The Perfect Neighbour by Susanna Beard, which I read during the week and the review for which will be posted this week

The Girl in the Ground by Stacy Green

The House Fire by Rosie Walker

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

and No Less the Devil by Stuart MacBride

My reading schedule for the first six months is already looking quite daunting, and I still have 28 requests pending.

This week I have been in the Cotswolds in England; Menlo Beach, Victoria, Australia; Reading, England; all over England and America in various short story collections; and Houston, Texas. Have we crossed paths anywhere this week?

I have to take my car up to my son’s on Tuesday for a service, so I will get to see Luke and collect him from daycare. I am so looking forward to it. Nothing can replace hugs and cuddles.

Have a wonderful week everyone. ❤📚

The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp

EXCERPT: Prologue – ten years ago

Three go into the forest.

Two squint against the lash of rain, grunt with the effort it takes to half carry, half drag the third through the claw of branches and brambles. Mud already slick beneath their boots. Feet already sodden.

One of them wishing to be anywhere but here.

The other just wishing it done.

Their burden is not yet sixteen. Easier to haul than a full-grown adult, but . . .

Dead weight.

Dead.

ABOUT ‘THE LAST TIME SHE DIED’: She came back on the day of her father’s funeral, ten years after she vanished. But she can’t be who she says she is…

When Blake disappeared as a teenager, on a cold dark night, her father never reported her missing. She is presumed dead.

Now, ten years later, a young woman with white-blonde hair sits comfortably in the family living room and smiles at the shocked faces around her.

“Don’t you recognise me?” she says. “I’m Blake.”

Detective John Byron isn’t sure whether she’s telling the truth. But as he investigates, he soon realises no one is happy to see her.

And the people who should be welcoming her back with open arms know she can’t be Blake. Because they killed her the night she vanished…

Didn’t they?

MY THOUGHTS: It is not often that I agree with the statement, bandied about so often on book covers, mostly undeserved, that the book contained within is “A totally unputdownable crime thriller with a mind-blowing twist.”, but in this case I do. Wholeheartedly.

Full of tension and suspense, The Last Time She Died had me jamming my buds into my ears or picking up my book at every opportunity. After the enticing prologue, the book begins at a funeral. What’s not to love?

And it just keeps on getting better, and better – there’s a family fortune to be inherited, and a second wife. But is everything quite as straightforward as it seems? Especially if the stranger at the funeral does indeed prove to be Blake, the dead man’s daughter who disappeared ten years earlier and was presumed, if not actually declared dead; something the second wife Virginia was intent on taking care of the minute she had Gideon’s funeral out of the way.

Other than an old neighbour, no one is convinced Blake is who she says she is, including John Byron, a detective on recuperative medical leave who, strictly speaking, shouldn’t even be there.

There are many twists and turns in this book, but all work well and keep the reader guessing and off balance. And while there is plenty of action in The Last Time She Died, it is really the amazing cast of characters that Sharp has created that carry the plot.

Blake is a chameleon. She is Blake. She isn’t Blake. She may be Blake. Whoever she is, her presence is a danger, and there’s more than one person who wants her out of the picture, completely.

Byron is an astute and more than competent detective. But has he hooked his wagon to the wrong horse in believing in Blake?

Even Gideon’s death in a motor accident may not be quite as straightforward as it seemed. That’s what Byron is there to find out – unofficially. There is just a hint of scandal in his past and the possibility that someone may have killed him to prevent it coming to light. Or, the car accident could just be . . . a car accident.

Virginia and her children Lily and Tom (not Gideon’s children); Underhill- a bent cop; Roger Flint – Virginia’s brother, Gideon’s right hand man, and a compulsive gambler; the Hardings, with whom Blake often took refuge after the death of her mother; and a delightfully nosy pub landlady are some of the other characters who people this novel.

Tamsin Kennard, narrator of the audiobook, had me completely entranced and believing in her characters. I will be looking for more books using this narrator.

I was totally riveted by The Last Time She Died; from the title – that is definitely an attention grabbing title! – to the very last word. Sharp hasn’t put a word wrong.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheLastTimeSheDied #NetGalley

I: @authorzoesharp @bookouture

T: @authorzoesharp @Bookouture

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #mystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Zoë Sharp spent most of her formative years living aboard a catamaran on the northwest coast of England. She opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. She became a freelance photojournalist in 1988 and started writing her Charlie Fox crime thriller series after receiving death-threats in the course of her work.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture and Bookouture Audio via Netgalley for providing both a digital and an audio ARC of The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I hope to get my home office finished this week so that the carpet can be laid. The new double glazed joinery arrives tomorrow and will begin to be installed. Yes, we are under lockdown but things like this can still go ahead. Which is good. But there are other things that cannot be done, which I simply don’t understand. Why can’t those of us who are double vaccinated move about freely? Instead a large number of unvaccinated met publicly in Auckland yesterday to protest . . . I guess it is what it is and in the meantime I am just going to enjoy my time off. I do miss being able to see my son and grandson though. I have been trying to do some Christmas shopping for Luke online. It’s difficult, especially when it comes to books, so as a result it hasn’t got past Lego and a couple of small toys. There’s nothing quite like being able to riffle through a child’s book.

Currently I am reading Many Deadly Returns, a short story collection by members and past members of the Murder Squad, a group of award-winning crime and mystery writers, compiled to celebrate their twenty-first birthday. There are some cracking good stories in here, and Vera Stanhope makes an appearance in the very first story in the book written, of course, by Ann Cleeves.

I am currently listening to Down the Hatch (Agatha Raisin #32) by M.C. Beaton. I have only read or listened to a handful of this series, and not in order, but it really doesn’t seem to matter. I am enjoying this, especially since it is narrated by Penelope Keith, whom I could listen to all day.

This week I am planning on reading The Way it is Now by Garry Disher, which I received during the week.

Set in a beach-shack town an hour from Melbourne, The Way It Is Now tells the story of a burnt-out cop named Charlie Deravin.

Charlie is living in his family’s holiday house, on forced leave since he made a mess of things at work.

Things have never been easy for Charlie. Twenty years earlier his mother went missing in the area, believed murdered. His father has always been the main suspect, though her body was never found.

Until now: the foundations are being dug for a new house on a vacant block. The skeletal remains of a child and an adult are found—and Charlie’s past comes crashing in on him.

And The Best American Mystery and Suspense, an annual short story anthology.

Crime writers, forgive the pun, are killing it right now creatively,” writes guest editor Alafair Burke in her introduction. “It was difficult—painful even—to narrow this year’s Best American Mystery and Suspense to only twenty stories.” Spanning from a mediocre spa in Florida, to New York’s gritty East Village, to death row in Alabama, this collection reveals boundless suspense in small, quiet moments, offering startling twists in the least likely of places. From a powerful response to hateful bullying, to a fight for health care, to a gripping desperation to vote, these stories are equal parts shocking, devastating, and enthralling, revealing the tension pulsing through our everyday lives and affirming that mystery and suspense writing is better than ever before.

I received 4 new ARCs this week, one of which was the M.C. Beaton audiobook, and another the Garry Disher Australian crime novel which is my next read. The other two I received are:

The Dinner Lady Detectives by Hannah Hendy

And A Thousand Steps by Jefferson T. Parker

I managed to read one back title this week on top of my planned reads, which was Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger. Watch for my review.

I still have twenty-seven requests pending.

In the past week I have been to Dune Island, Massachusetts; Netherton and Sheffield, both in Yorkshire, England; the Cotswolds, also in England; Kirkby Abbey, Cumbria; Ludlow, Shropshire; and London, England. Have we crossed paths anywhere? Where have you been?

The sun has gone behind the clouds now and the wind is picking up so I think that I will abandon my gardening plans and instead settle down with my book.

Have a wonderful week. ❤📚

The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes

EXCERPT: Ava

When I think about that morning, it is beat by beat, like a heart – my own heart, my daughter’s, at the time so enmeshed it seemed she was part of me: my body, my tissue, my bones. She is part of me. She will always be part of me.

When I think about that morning, I watch myself, over and over, as if from above. I watch myself like you watch your children in a school play or a sports match, silently willing them to succeed, to shine, to not get hurt. I watch myself bleeding on the sidelines of slowly unfolding disaster, alive with the pain I know is coming but she, the me of that moment, does not.

I do this every minute of every hour of every day. And I have done this for almost a year.

I watch myself: there I am, making my way downstairs with an armful of laundry. I can’t see over the top. I take it slowly, both feet on one step before I lower myself to the next. Another step down, another. I am always so careful these days. I used to be carefree, but now I see danger everywhere: an electric socket is a hazard, a glass left too near the edge of a tabletop risky, a staircase perilous.

Another step. I call her name. Abi.

ABOUT THE HOUSEWARMING: Everyone is going to the housewarming party.
All the same people who lived on the street the day Abi vanished…
Will her mother finally learn the truth?

Ava only left her daughter in the pushchair for five minutes. The buckle was fastened, and she was sure it was safe. But when she came downstairs, the door was open and Abi was gone – she walked down the road, past the Lovegoods’ house, and was never seen again.

A year later, the Lovegoods throw a housewarming party, showing off the results of their renovation. Ava doesn’t want to go. She can’t bear to look down that end of the road, to see the place where Abi vanished, and she doesn’t want to spend time with people who don’t share her grief. Her husband Matt persuades her: he’s worried about her. A night out might do her good.

But as her friends and neighbours chat, and the drink and gossip flows, Ava learns something new about the day she has re-lived a thousand times. A throwaway comment which could change everything.

Ava thought she knew every last detail of that day.

She’s about to find out she was wrong…

MY THOUGHTS: The opening chapters left me stunned and breathless. And it didn’t stop there. The pace is relentless. The tension palpable. As is the grief, the despair, the guilt. Lynes has written a blockbuster of human emotion that left me exhausted, drained, wrung out, and absolutely certain that this is the best book she has ever written!

The characters are superbly depicted. They are complete. They are you. They are me. They are our husbands and wives, our friends and neighbours. They gossip and assume. They are horrified, and smug. They have their own pristine lives that they don’t want touched by tragedy. Ava becomes isolated, a prisoner of her anxiety and her feeling of being contagious in her unresolved guilt and grief.

Her neighbour Jen is the only person she feels any connection with. Jen, who never pressures her, who lets her just be. So when Jen throws a party to celebrate the end of the renovations on their house, Ava reluctantly agrees to attend, just for an hour. And there begins the unravelling of everything Ava thought she knew about Abi’s disappearance.

Gripping. Heartwrenching. Devastating. Dark. The Housewarming lives up to every promotional promise.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheHousewarming #NetGalley

‘My eyes are incontinent.’

THE AUTHOR: After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome, where she lived for five years. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children in Teddington, Middlesex.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes 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