The House In The Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

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Description

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

Quote

I am but paper. Brittle and thin. I am held up to the sun, and I can never be used again. These scratches are a history. They’re a story. They tell things for others to read, but they only see the words, and not what the words are written upon. I am but paper, and though there are many like me, none are exactly the same. I am parched parchment. I have lines. I have holes. Get me wet and I melt. Light me on fire, and I burn. Take me in hardened hands, and I crumple, I tear. I am but paper. Brittle and thin.

My thoughts

This was a slow burner for me. I think I read it at the wrong time because it is currently being talked about everywhere and I should have waited a year or so for the hype to die down. I was at the 30% mark before my interest started to pick up, and the halfway mark before I can say I was enjoying it. However by the time I finished I can honestly say it’s a lovely story about what it means to be different, and how and why we should embrace our own differences and those of others, and I’m glad I persevered and finished it because it was well worth it.

The Boatman’s Wife by Noëlle Harrison

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Description

There was some dark secret in this western edge of Ireland that her husband never wanted her to find out. She might never be able to lay his body to rest, but she could gain some kind of closure by finding out who the man she married was.

When Lily married her soulmate Connor, buffeted by the sea spray and wild winds of her coastal homeland in Maine, she never imagined she’d be planning his memorial just three years later. Connor has been lost at sea in the bleak stormy Atlantic, leaving Lily heartbroken.

But as she prepares to say goodbye to Connor for the last time, she is shocked to discover a message to him that he never told her about:

Does your wife know who you really are, Connor Fitzgerald? Don’t ever think you can come home. Because if you do, I swear I’ll kill you.

Unable to bear living in the home she and Connor shared, Lily decides to find out her husband’s secret. She flies to Connor’s home town of Mullaghmore on the west coast of Ireland, a harbour town hugged by golden beaches and emerald-green fields. But when doors are slammed in her face, she begins to realise that she knows nothing about her husband’s past.

Connor’s grandmother, a hermit living on the cliffs of the wild Atlantic, must know the truth about her grandson. But when Lily tries to find her, threatening notes are pushed through her door warning her not to stay. Will Lily leave the darkness of the past where it belongs? Or will she risk everything to find out the truth about the man she married…

A completely heartbreaking story about the lies we tell to protect the ones we love. Fans of The Light Between Oceans, Lisa Wingate and Susanne O’Leary will lose their hearts to The Boatman’s Wife.

My thoughts

The story is told via a dual timeline told from the POV of newly widowed American Lily, who finds a threatening email on his computer and realises her husband may have a history she knows nothing about, and Irish Niamh, who comes of age during an active period of the Troubles and becomes involved in the cause.

Niamh felt real and more fleshed out as a person, and the conflict over the border was very well told. The choices made and actions taken felt authentic and I could feel the ever-present undercurrent of danger that her situation put her in. In contrast, where I should have been feeling Lily’s anguish over becoming a very young widow and the tensions it caused within her family, I never quite warmed to her or felt any of that anguish.

This was a good story and I did enjoy it, but I definitely found myself enjoying Niamh’s parts more than Lily’s. I liked the ending.

Their Frozen Graves by Ruhi Choudhary

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Description

Two women are dead. They both look like you.


The giant stretch of frozen river was melting and the light made the lake glitter like crystals. The women lay side by side on the shore, eyes open and glassy. Their long, dark hair was like tangled rope, their faces a reflection of each other…

When two bodies are found dumped in a vast lake in Lakemore, Washington, Detective Mackenzie Price is first on the scene. She identifies one of the victims as Katy Becker, a local known for her work helping the community. The other victim looks strikingly similar.

Still grappling with a shocking revelation from her past, Mack is only too happy to throw herself into the case. But when she goes to break the news to Katy’s husband, the investigation takes an unexpected turn: Katy is very much alive, and has never met the women who resemble her so closely.

Now the race is on to find the killer before Katy becomes the next victim. But when Mack unearths a disturbing connection to a sixteen-year-old suicide, she realizes they could be hunting someone whose crimes span decades—and there are more lives than just Katy’s at stake.


Addictive, pulse-pounding and packed full of jaw-dropping twists, fans of Lisa Regan, Angela Marsons and Karin Slaughter will love the Their Frozen Graves.

My thoughts

This is the first book I have read by this author. It is the second book in the series but it was fine jumping in with this one. I picked up on the threads of the main character’s life quite easily.

I liked the characters. Detective Mackenzie “Mack” Price’s life is thrown a curveball when her assumed long-dead father turns up on her doorstep. There are reasons why this is extremely unsettling and Mack has to play things carefully throughout the book as she tries to figure out why and how he has reappeared in her life.

Alongside this story is the mystery of the bodies that were found in the frozen lake. They are strikingly similar in appearance, not just to each other but to a well-known local woman. Mack and her team have to figure out what is happening and who might be at risk next.

I love trying to figure things out and seeing if I guessed right, but this story line had me guessing until the end. The writing style has a nice flow to it and I’ll look forward to the next book in the series.

In A Town Called Paradox

by Miriam Murcutt and Richard Starks

In a Town Called Paradox

Description

“I wasn’t looking for Marilyn Monroe when I bumped into her, even though I knew she was in town filming River of No Return…”

So begins In a Town Called Paradox, which asks the question: If each of us has a life story, then who determines how it unfolds and how it should end?

After her mother’s untimely death, the young Corin Dunbar is banished to live with her aunt Jessie, an obsessively religious spinster who runs a failing cattle ranch near a speck of a town called Paradox in southeast Utah. It’s the mid-1950s, and Corin hates her new life until the Big Five Hollywood studios arrive, lured by the fiery red-rock scenery that provides a perfect backdrop to the blockbuster Westerns they plan to film. Overnight, Paradox is transformed from a rural backwater to a playground for glamorous stars like Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson.

Seduced by the glitz of the movies, Corin finds work with the studios, but after a brush with the casting couch, she channels her growing ambitions into saving the ranch—the jewel of the Dunbar family for three generations. When she falls for a charismatic stranger, her future seems bright, but a tragic accident she believes is her fault wrecks her dreams and forces her to make an agonizing decision that will change the course of her life.

Told mainly by Corin—now a middle-aged woman haunted by this watershed moment—In a Town Called Paradox is a compelling read that redefines the meaning of love.

My Thoughts

Set in the small desert town of Paradox, Utah, this is the story of Corin and Ark. Corin grew up in New York and has had to adjust to ranch life, while Ark was born to missionaries in tribal Africa. On opposite sides of the world they both lost parents and went to live with relatives in completely different environments to the ones they had grown up in. Eventually their paths cross and their story begins.

The book covers a lot of ground: loss; learning to adapt; the importance of belonging; racism; sexism and the hopelessness and helplessness that women experienced; the confining expectations and limited opportunities of living in a small community; science versus faith; and a few others. The book is mainly set in the 1950’s era when attitudes to almost every facet of life were very different, and particularly so in small towns.

I’m being careful not to give away spoiler details, but I loved Corin’s and Ark’s story line and where it took them and the decisions that needed to be made. Yiska’s story was particularly poignant. The injustices of the time were infuriating as well as heartbreaking. The subject matter covered has obviously been well researched and the book is well written.

I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

This Is Not A Lie by S. C. Farrow

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Description

In 1984, St Kilda is the heart and soul of Melbourne’s thriving music scene. Joel Reed, a brilliant young guitarist and songwriter, had followed his sister Karen to the bohemian beachside suburb to chase his dream of becoming a rock star. On the surface, it seems like Joel has got it all together. He’s in an up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll band and is surrounded by people who want to see him succeed. However, he is also a high-functioning heroin addict and closet homosexual. Desperately lonely and dangerously self-destructive, he lives a carefully constructed lie lest he be discovered, outed and shunned by the city’s legion of hard rock fans.

When the band is forced to audition for a new frontman, Joel’s world is turned upside down. Harry Engel, the offbeat and disarmingly charismatic vocalist, rocks up to audition and Joel falls in love, but there’s no way he can tell Harry how he feels. He can’t do anything to jeopardise the band’s success and so he continues living the lie – until tragedy strikes and he realises the lie was never going to save them.

My thoughts

Wowser!

I was completely drawn into the story of Joel, founding member and guitarist in a band which is trying to secure a recording contract in the early 1980’s. Joel is also a heroin addict and closet homosexual in an era when it was still stigmatised. He knows that for the band to have any chance of success he can’t be outed as gay, but he’s drawn to the band’s new charismatic and talented front man, Harry Engels.

The music scene and the struggles of the band drip with authenticity. I can’t comment on the drug usage but it certainly seemed authentic too. The ups and downs of Joel and the band and his long-suffering but dedicated sister, Karen, who is also the band’s manager, absolutely hooked me.

I was rooting for this band and every step of the way!

Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristin Harper

Aunt Ivy's Cottage (Dune Island, #2)

Description

Up in the attic, with views across the sparkling bay, she opens the lid of the carved trunk. Carefully moving aside the delicate linen wedding dress once worn by her great-aunt, she unpacks all the smaller boxes inside until she finds the leather-bound diary. She knows this will change everything…

All Zoey’s happiest childhood memories are of her great-aunt Ivy’s rickety cottage on Dune Island, being spoiled with cranberry ice cream and watching the tides change from the rooftop. Now, heartbroken from a recent breakup, Zoey can see her elderly aunt’s spark is fading, and decides to move to the island so they can care for each other.

When she arrives to find her cousin, Mark, sitting at the solid oak kitchen table, she knows why Aunt Ivy hasn’t been herself. Because Mark—next in line to inherit the house—is pushing Ivy to move into a nursing home.

With the cousins clashing over what’s best for Ivy, Zoey is surprised when the local carpenter who’s working on Ivy’s cottage takes her side. As he offers Zoey comfort, the two grow close. Together, they make a discovery in the attic that links the family to the mysterious and reclusive local lighthouse keeper, and throws doubt on Mark’s claim…

Now Zoey has a heartbreaking choice to make. The discovery could keep Ivy in the house she’s loved her whole life… but can Zoey trust that the carpenter really has Ivy’s best interests at heart? And will dredging up an old secret destroy the peace and happiness of Ivy’s final years—and tear this family apart for good?

A stunning and emotional read about old secrets, new love and never forgetting the importance of family. Perfect for fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Robyn Carr and Mary Alice Monroe.

My thoughts

This was a lovely light read about relationships – with complex siblings, devious cousins, aunts with mysterious pasts, tricky teenagers, and hunky handymen. All in the idyllic setting of an old cottage in a small community on an island. It has all the ingredients I like and the romance wasn’t syrupy. Very enjoyable.

The Beekeeper of New York By Summer Luqman

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Description

Yusra has spent a lifetime protecting her autistic brother, but when he falls gravely ill she discovers how little she really knows about his life. Now, not only must she come to terms with his secret world, but she must use what she learns to help save his life.

Part Paulo Coelho, part Lee Child… The Beekeeper of New York twists from philosophical and mystical to a more earthy thriller as Yusra’s quest to discover the truth and save her brother heats up.

Yusra’s earliest memory is from the vibrant marketplace in Al Hudaydah, when her autistic brother Someer is savagely beaten by a crowd who believe he is possessed by demons. Since that moment she has protected Someer and rejected gods and monsters, and all of the invisible forces that make people do cruel and unthinking things.

But now Someer is lying unconscious in a New York hospital bed, and Yusra is discovering his secret, invisible world that she had never imagined possible. But can she come to terms with her discovery and put her trust in Someer in time to save his life?

Slowly Yusra discovers that nobody in her life is exactly who she thought they were, and that help can arrive from the most unexpected places, if only she can develop a little faith.

Quote

She wondered how it would feel to face death without faith. How it would feel to face a true ending, not just a transition between worlds. An ending with no hope of anything else to follow.

My thoughts

I absolutely agree that this book has shades of Paul Coelho’s poetic and philosophical prose, but I failed to see a likeness with Lee Child, although I have only read one book by that author.

The story is deceptively simple. Yusra has an autistic brother, Someer, whom she is very protective of as he is incapable of looking after himself and his autism makes him vulnerable to harm. Someer falls off a building and is in a coma from which he may never recover. And Yusra begins to uncover things about Someer’s life that she had no idea about.

During the course of the book Yusra is forced to face some realities that she doesn’t want to. There is a question mark hanging over the cause of Someer’s fall from the rooftop and as Yusra begins to seek answers by looking into the life Someer had that was unknown to her, lots more questions arose.

The book is simply written but has unexpected depth. It is a very paced novel but I never found it to be boring and I became very invested in the characters and uncovering the truth of their lives. I absolutely recommend this lovely story, the debut by this author. I will be looking out for further books by her.

A Tiny House On Wheels by Enni Amanda

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Description

A sweet, funny romance set in rural New Zealand.

Nina is 36, single, and running out of time to start a family. She quits her advertising job, and moves into a small coastal town, in a tiny house on wheels. Surely, the laid back country life with organic veggies will turn back the clock for her. Now, she only has to find the right guy – and it can’t be her odd, new neighbour who doesn’t want kids. No matter how hot he is. This time, Nina is determined to follow the plan, not her heart.

Jay is used to solitary life. After his father’s death, he tries to keep the farm running, even if he’s more comfortable with the veggies than people. But who needs social skills? In the backside of Raglan, nothing ever happens. Until a cute, Finnish blonde moves into the neighbouring lot, in a ridiculous tiny house. Can Jay work out his issues and take a chance on the most exotic thing that’s ever walked into his life?

Work, life, love and all those other big questions that vex us are are tackled in this humorous and thought-provoking book, which will stay with you long after you reach the end.

My thoughts

This was a lighthearted and enjoyable read. Nina and Jay are well-fleshed out characters with their own quirks and insecurities which, in the best tradition of romances, keep them apart until they are finally brought together. I absolutely loved the setting. I’ve always fancied living in a tiny house in a field. While it’s not practical for me I can still live vicariously through books where others do it. The rural setting of Raglan in New Zealand is about as grass roots kiwi-culture as it gets, and it was entertaining to read how someone from a different country sees us 😉

Dark Falls by Gregg Olsen

Dark Falls (Detective Megan Carpenter, #3)

Description

They say your past can come back to haunt you. For Detective Megan Carpenter, her past might just come back to kill her.

Detective Megan Carpenter is no stranger to horrifying crime scenes, but when she arrives at the home of a woman whose body has been brutalized, Megan is shocked to discover that she knows the victim. Monique Delmont helped Megan when she was in danger years ago. And the killer has left a disturbing calling card… two laminated photographs of a sixteen-year-old high school girl – Megan.

Someone is taunting her in the worst way possible and Megan is convinced she knows who is responsible. She just has to find him.

With the help of her new partner, Deputy Ronnie Marsh, Megan begins to unravel the clues that will lead them to the killer including links to three female murder cases from nearly twenty years ago – one of which was Monique’s daughter.

But to protect those closest to her, Megan must continue to hide the dark truth of her past, even if that means lying to her team about her connection to Monique.

When two photographs of a teenage Megan are found at her boyfriend’s place in Snow Creek, she knows the killer is circling and ready to strike again.

Can she get to him before he finds her? And will she pay the ultimate price for trying to keep her terrifying past buried?

My thoughts

I didn’t know this was the third book in a series when I requested it from Netgalley, and for a while I was confused because it felt like the continuation of a series but the recaps were so many and detailed that it also felt like a standalone giving the character her backstory.
I got frustrated with the main character outright lying to everyone around her and withholding vital information in a murder case. I have to be honest and say I didn’t like her very much. She was very egocentric.
My favourite character was Ronnie without a doubt. She is smart and I look forward to her character and role development in future books. And I liked the small town setting.
The story was good and a page turner.

Contacts by Mark Watson

Contacts - Mark Watson - Paperback

Description

James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He’s said goodbye. To him, it’s the end of his story – and time to crack open the biscuits.But across the world, 158 phones are lighting up with a notification. Phones belonging to his mum. His sister. His ex-best friend. The woman who broke his heart. People he’s lost touch with. People he barely knows. And for them, the message is only the beginning of the journey.

Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.

My thoughts

This is a powerful cautionary tale. James has reached the end of his emotional endurance, feeling insignificant and shunned or forgotten by his friends and family. He decides to end his life and sets off on an overnight train journey to the place he has chosen to die. En route he sends a text message to the 158 contacts on his phone, and then switches it to flight mode so that he doesn’t have to deal with any responses.

From here the story is told from the points of view of his former best friend, his ex-girlfriend, his flatmate, his sister, and his mother as they reflect on their relationships with James and where they may have failed him or done better, interspersed with James reflecting back on the pivotal moments in his life that have brought him to this point. The chapter headers show the clock ticking toward 7.30 a.m. when the train will arrive at its destination, which enhances the sense of urgency.

I can honestly say there were elements to almost every point of view that I could relate to, and some hit close to home in this era of everyone being busy and how easy it is to lose touch with loved ones because we always assume there is more time. As a result I felt emotionally invested in the outcome and sat up to find out how it ended. Which is all I will say as I don’t want to give away the ending.

The afterword by the author sums it up well:

“‘Contacts’ is about the fact that, for all its dangers, the age of instant communication gives us what is basically a superpower … If only we choose to use it.”