Classic Comfort reads…

Now that the A-Z of books is drawing to a close (it’s the letter V next), I thought I’d start a new +/- monthly series, and this time, let other people choose the books too. I’m starting today, and next month, crime writer Kerena Swan is going to tell us about her favourites. The idea is, each person chooses a favourite title from the classics and a favourite ‘comfort read’ – a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each Classic Comfort post, we’ll have one by the featured writer. My choices:

Classic:

One of my all-time favourites is A Room With A View, which has also been very successfully filmed. I love the way the book takes us to the Italy of the time and back to rural England, and Lucy is a very sympathetic protagonist as she takes in the sights and deals with cousin Charlotte, as well as growing up and falling in love. Nostalgia, travel and history all have a part in this novel – and it’s a fabulous love story as well!

Comfort:

I hope it’s not odd to have ‘a shock-packed chiller’ as my comfort read, but there’s something about Coma that keeps me coming back to it. Maybe because, as an ex-physiotherapist, I find hospital novels of all kinds fascinating, or maybe it’s because I first read it in the late 1970s, and associate it with those heady teenage ‘anything is possible’ days. I went on to read almost every book Robin Cook wrote, so he’s definitely an all-time favourite writer.

My book:


Daria’s Daughter is set in Glasgow and was published last Tuesday by Hobeck Books – and it’s a kindle bargain this weekend.

A mother and daughter torn apart
An explosive accident on the way to Glasgow airport leaves Daria hurt, bereaved and confused. Her daughter has vanished without a trace and nobody is telling her what happened. Evie’s gone. That’s all. Gone. What does Daria have left to live for?

A mother and daughter reunited
Margie can’t believe it. Bridie is hurt. Bridie needs her. They manage to escape the smoke, the noise and the confusion. They are together, that’s all that matters. Everything will be better in the morning, Margie tells Bridie. And it will.

The bonds that never break
Will Daria ever be able to put the pieces of her tattered life back together after the loss of her daughter? Is it possible that things aren’t quite as they seem? Can the unimaginable turn out to be the truth?

Click HERE to see the book on Amazon.

At the end of March, crime writer Kerena Swan will tell us about two of her favourite books and choose one of her own to complete the trio. Next week, we’re having a snippet of daily life in pandemic Switzerland – see you then!

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A sneak peek inside Daria’s Daughter… #newbook

I’m very excited about my new book, published next week by the lovely people at Hobeck Books. It’s set in my old home town, Glasgow, so today we’ll have a look at some of the places in the book, and I’ll share the first chapter with you too.

Glasgow is a green and leafy place, as you can see from the photo below. Every time I visit, it strikes me how wide the sky feels in Scotland. My main characters, Daria, Liane and Margie all live on the south side of the city, where I grew up.

Below is the kind of street where the dress shop Liane worked in might be found. It could also be where Margie goes searching at the end of the book, desperate to find her little Bridie.

Like many buildings in Glasgow, the Art Gallery and Museum is built in lovely warm red sandstone. Liane and her daughter Frith always enjoy a visit here; as well as the paintings, the gallery has plenty of child-friendly animal and dinosaur exhibits.

And just a few miles outside the city, you find scenery like this. Daria came here to plant a memory tree for little Evie.

Three little girls: Frith loved life. Evie was going to Spain.
And Bridie – Bridie belonged to the past…

(Apologies for the somewhat gappy appearance of the text. If anyone knows how to indent paragraphs easily in WordPress, do let me know.)

Daria’s Daughter

Chapter One

They would miss their flight if the taxi didn’t come in the next five minutes. Daria stood at her first-floor living room window, peering up the street. And oh, glory, as if there wasn’t enough to worry about – the thunder that had growled in the distance for the past hour was rumbling ever louder, and look at those clouds. Her shoulders slumped as the sun vanished abruptly and fat raindrops spattered across the window, transforming the street below from Glasgow dustiness into a slick dark stripe, punctuated by blobs of hailstones that melted to join the torrents scudding along in the gutters. Daria leaned her head on the window. A spring storm when she had to get her daughter, along with everything the two of them would need over the next couple of weeks, into a taxi, out again at the airport, into the terminal building and through departures – it was exactly what she didn’t need.

‘Where’s Daddy?’ Four-year-old Evie pushed in front of Daria’s legs to see outside, her pink ‘ready for the taxi’ jacket matching her hot little face.

Daria held out her hand. ‘Come on, we’ll wait downstairs. Daddy’s at a conference in Stirling – remember he said bye-bye yesterday? Got your rucksack?’

Evie ran to fetch the pink elephant rucksack she’d left on the sofa. ‘Daddy’s in Stirling?’

They’d been through it a million times, but what did Stirling mean to a child who’d never been there? Daria dredged up a calm-Mummy smile.

‘That’s right. And today we’re going to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Spain, and Daddy’s coming to join us next week.’

Case, daughter, handbag, travel bag. Daria pulled out her compact and checked her make up. She would do. Come on, Daria, you can do this.

Downstairs, they stood in the shelter of the doorway, Evie leaning out to catch stray raindrops with her tongue while Daria fumbled for her phone. She was still scrolling down her contacts for the minicab company when a blue and white taxi screeched around the corner and pulled up by the gate. At last.

Thank heavens the airport was a mere fifteen minutes away; they would make it. Daria pulled Evie’s hood over her head and wheeled the case down the path to meet the taxi driver, who was standing beside his vehicle glowering at them. He heaved their case into the boot, and Daria opened the back door.

‘In we get, Evie-love.’ She fastened Evie’s seat belt, then her own. Her daughter was a slight little thing and it was never a good feeling in a cab, when Evie had no child seat. Another reason to be thankful the airport was so near. Daria sat tapping her fingertips together as the driver organised his meter and turned on the engine. Come on, come on, we have to go.

The rain intensified as they crawled along to the main road and joined a column of blurry red lights as every commuter in the city headed homewards for the weekend. A band of tension tightened around Daria’s head. They had less than twenty minutes now and they were inching along at a speed she could have matched on foot.

‘We’ll take the back road.’ The driver pulled into a side street, and Daria breathed out. Traffic was flowing here, albeit slowly, but they were on their way at last. She put an arm around Evie and the little girl beamed up at her, then reached across to take Daria’s hand and oh, it was so lovely, travelling with her daughter. They were picking up speed all the time; it was going to be all right. They cut round the back of the cemetery and picked up speed again. This was better.

Daria leaned over to kiss Evie’s damp little forehead, then jerked back in horror as a deep horn blared and headlights from an approaching lorry swept through the cab. A single, sickening scream left Daria’s soul as Evie’s rucksack scratched across her forehead and the taxi skewed sideways, only to be hit from behind and flipped skywards. Her arms opened in search of her child, but she was pitched across the car, twisting in the air as metal tore around her, and–

She was flying. Daria clutched at empty air, then crashed down, rolling over and over, more screams coming from a distance. Hers? Her leg, her arm, oh please, Evie.

Silence. Stillness. Pain. Daria sank into darkness, but far, far away, something was buzzing, irritating. Find Evie, you have to find Evie. Swirling grey shapes replaced the darkness, but breathing was agony and she couldn’t move her leg. Darkness was hovering; God no, she mustn’t die here. A thunderclap above, and stinging rain soaked through her hair, running down her cheeks, down her neck. Far-away voices were screaming behind her, Evie’s high-pitched wail the nearest.

Evie, oh baby, Mummy’s here.

Daria fought to call to her child, but black pain was all around now, no, no, she was going to pass out. Her fingers splayed and met wet plastic: Evie’s rucksack. Wailing sirens swooped closer as Daria fought to stay awake. Please, somebody come…

The background shouts were still too far away to help when the choking smell of petrol reached Daria’s nose. And everything went black. 


The book comes out on Tuesday, and if you haven’t read my novella The Clarice Cliff Vase yet, you can get it free right now by subscribing to Hobeck Books on their website.

I’ll leave you with another Glasgow photo.

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The ‘U’ Books… #A-Z books

This series is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

An emotionally gripping story of love and forgiveness

Six-year-old Karla longs for her dead mother. Anna struggles with her husband’s deception, and Jonas mourns the death of his wife. Together they battle the demons of their past.

Three people with a troubled past meet in Zurich, Switzerland. While caring for and teaching little Karla, who promises to be a talented painter, Anna and Jonas fall in love, but sinister events in their past threaten their budding romance.

An Uncommon Family
is a story about loss, lies and betrayal, but also about the healing power of love and art. It takes place in Switzerland, New York City, and Guadalajara, Mexico.

I always look forward to meeting Swiss-American Christa Polkinhorn in Zurich when she’s home for a few weeks. Her book gives a real flavour of the city, and An Uncommon Family is a lovely story.

Step into a world of enchanted forests and magical creatures, where every page takes the reader on a wondrous journey.

Incredible realms await, with unicorns, fairies, mermaids, and dragons, and so much more. Together with beautiful illustrations, this collection of short stories and poems will capture the hearts of children of all ages and transport them on a magical adventure.

A fairy stuck in a wishing well. A mermaid who can’t swim. A girl who doesn’t know she’s a witch. A mystical portal that leads to another land. These are just some of the enchanting tales that will spark every child’s imagination.

I read this book as an ARC last year – wish it had been around when my children were small! Sarah Northwood and Julia Clements have a wonderful website, too, with puzzles and downloadable pictures to colour in.

A gorgeously hopeful book

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.

He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.

Harold Fry is the most ordinary of men. He just might be a hero for us all.

I loved Harold Fry when I read this several years ago now – he’s such an unlikely hero, and I agree with The Times – the book’s impossible to put down.

Next time, it’s the ‘V’ books. Not the easiest letter, especially as I’ve made it a rule to include only books I’ve read anyway, and not buy them especially for this series. But there’s a cunning plan…

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Alison Gray and Peony Rose…

Alison Gray is no stranger to my blog, so I was really pleased last week to hear she had released Peony Rose, the final instalment of her DS Abby Foulkes crime series. Getting this book finished is in itself a huge achievement, and it’s very fitting that it was published in the same week we mark World Cancer Day.
As many of you will know, Alison isn’t on social media now, so it’s up to us to spread the word.

Alison Gray and I first became friends on Facebook, then the following year we met up in real life to go to the Edinburgh Book Festival, so she’s been there since the start of my life in the writing community.

2014 – Crime writers wore turquoise that year.

Peony Rose is the fourth of her series, which moves to and fro between the Aegean and the northeast of England. They’re all lovely reads; Alison’s writing style makes you feel as if she’s right there in the room with you when you’re reading.

Here are the four Abby books:

You can find them all HERE on Alison’s Amazon author page. In Peony Rose, Abby is on maternity leave, juggling a baby, a nine-year old and a long-distance relationship, but she still manages to investigate when a woman goes missing.
The book can be read as a standalone, but if you’re new to the series, why not start with Hotel Hibiscus Fruit, and get the whole story?


While we’re here, I’ll just give a mention to Alison’s standalone suspense novel Out of the Tower, one of my all-time favourite reads and the first of her books I read. I raced through it almost in one sitting.

Out of the Tower is set in west central Scotland, my old stamping ground, and tells the story of seven-year-old Jemima, whose father and uncle disappear very mysteriously. When Jemima is old enough, she leaves home to find out more…

Alison Gray was born and grew up in Scotland during the 1960s and 1970s. She has lived in the northeast of England since the 1980s.

Her first novel, Out of the Tower, was shortlisted for the Constable Trophy, a competition for the best unpublished novel by a writer from the north of England. It was described by the judges as powerful, strong, heartfelt, admirably tense, a work of great promise.

The Abby Foulkes mysteries are set in Newcastle upon Tyne and the Aegean. The second mystery – Lady’s Slipper – won Indie Book of the Day Award in November 2015 and the third – Forget-me-not Blues – was picked as an Official Selection in the Mystery Category of the 2017 New Apple Summer E-Book Awards.

Her book Growing the Light outlines a journey through primary breast cancer, looking at conventional and alternative treatments, and Living a Spiritual Life in the 21st Century is a collection of spiritual learnings, reflections and applications in life as we live it in the 21st Century.

Alison’s books can all be purchased here, and you can find out more about them by putting her name into the search box at the top of the blog sidebar above right.

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The ‘T’ Books… #A-Z books

This series is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

Today, it’s the ‘T’ books.

‘Deeply compelling, quietly threatening.’

It’s the summer of 1984 and there is a sense of unease on the troubled Sweetmeadows estate. The residents are in shock after the suspicious death of a baby and tension is growing due to the ongoing miners’ strike.

Journalist Clare Jackson follows the story as police bungle the inquiry and struggle to contain the escalating violence. Haunted by a personal trauma she can’t face up to, Clare is shadowed by nine-year-old Amy, a bright but neglected little girl who seems to know more about the incident than she’s letting on.

As the days go on and the killer is not found, Clare ignores warnings not to get too close to her stories and, in doing so, puts her own life in jeopardy.

This Little Piggy is one of those books that stays with you. I can remember the miner’s strike, and the atmosphere of the time is brilliantly recreated in the novel. And to say the ending is chilling is an understatement.

When her mother and father are killed in a car crash, thirteen-year-old Emma goes to live with her aunt in Edinburgh. Aunt Patsy, a freelance designer, is eccentric, forgetful, untidy and always waiting for the next cheque to arrive…

Emma’s music-loving brother, Richard, is sent to live with another aunt, Laura, who has meals on the dot and everything organised.

It looks as thought the well-organised Emma has chosen the wrong aunt – and yet…

I have an aunt in Edinburgh too, and this made The High House a very attractive read when I was a girl. This is the first of three Emma books – I loved them all, but I’m not sure they’re still available.

A cosy Cotswolds crime novel

When Meredith Mitchell’s old friend Toby Smythe turns up on leave, she is delighted to see him. But Toby has a problem – or rather his relative Alison Jenner has – and he wants to enlist the help of Meredith’s fiance, Detective Superintendent Alan Markby. Alison has been receiving anonymous hate mail which alludes to the murder of her aunt, Freda Kemp, of which Alison was acquitted when she was just twenty. Who is the writer, and how does he or she know about this secret in Alison’s past?

Markby is at first reluctant to become involved, especially as he and Meredith are busy planning their wedding, but enquiries into a poison pen campaign soon turn into a murder hunt. With the help of Inspector Jessica Campbell, a new member of Markby’s team, the investigation unravels a twenty-five-year-old mystery and its dreadful legacy of violence.

I have all the Mitchell and Markby mysteries – I wish there were more!

Coming next month, the ‘U’ books. Watch this space.

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Snow…

On Thursday night, it started to snow. And it snowed and snowed and snowed, and by the time we got to Friday morning, it was, well, pretty snowy. We don’t often get this much ‘down’ here in N.E. Switzerland, so here are a few wintry photos for you. I took them all from my windows or balconies – how lucky am I to have scenes like these right outside my window?

It’s all very pretty, if a shade chilly… We had about this much snow here in 2006 too, and before that in 1999. That was the year Lake Constance flooded badly in the late spring, due to a massive amount of snowmelt coming down from the mountains. We’ll be watching this space with interest in May.

And of course, everyone’s out making snowmen. Click HERE for a selection on SRF news.

Meanwhile, stay safe and warm – and watch out for the ‘T’ books next week!
(Baby Dear’s still just 99p/c – see newsflash at the top of the sidebar.)

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(Almost) Silent Sunday…

Cold January in one corner of N. E. Switzerland.

A winter-empty whirlpool fountain, and the remains of a muted New Year celebration.

A local hotel, locked down and waiting for customers.

Beavers have been at work in the woods near Lake Constance.

Reminders of the warmer weather.

The latest addition to my bookshelf, the Hobeck Books anthology.

More book news: Baby Dear is on a 99p/c deal atm – grab it while it’s hot!

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2020 – the year that was…

Well. I usually give my New Year post the subheading: the best of times and the worst of times. But there wasn’t much about 2020 that was ‘best’, though we can sum up the lowlights of the past twelve months in one word – coronavirus. So many deaths, so many empty places at the table. There’s one in my family too.

So let’s leave the pandemic being the worst of the past year, and move on to other 2020 moments.

Best tree: my lilac tree bloomed its heart out last spring.

Biggest distraction: That would be Brexit, another cheerless topic.

Best new (to me) discovery: In a word, Zoom.

Best book moment: The Runaway came home to Switzerland, closely followed by the new edition of Death Wish. Huge thanks once again to The Cover Collection, who have covered seven of my books now.

Favourite read of 2020: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. An absolutely spectacular book. All the positive superlatives.

Most unusual search term bringing someone to my website: ‘551804 battery’. And no, I have no idea…

Most inconvenient breakage: My reading specs!

Most put-off celebration: Son 1’s birthday in March, when we were beginning to intuit what was about to hit us. The plan started as a family weekend in Tessin in the south of Switzerland; this was downsized first to a couple of days somewhere else in Switzerland, then to a day in Friedreichshafen over the lake in Germany (the local equivalent of someone in Leeds going to Harrogate for the day) and ended up as lunch outside in a hotel a short walk away. It was exactly the wrong time to have a birthday…

Best writers’ meet-up in Zürich: We only had one in real life – but it was fabulous! (Here with Jill Marsh, Alison Baillie, Cass Grafton and Louise Mangos.) The next time we met was on Zoom.

Most important signature: the one I put on my contract with the wonderful Hobeck Books. It’s for my tenth book, Daria’s Daughter, which will be published on February 23rd and is on pre-order now. (Just sayin’…)

I wrote a novella for Hobeck Books this year too – The Clarice Cliff Vase. You can get a free copy of this, and several others too, by subscribing to Hobeck on their website.

Best book event: My evening at the Anglo-Swiss Club in Wil. It was the only book event too, squeezed into October between lockdowns, and it was wonderful. We were in a beautiful old conference room with an old tiled oven, and frescoes.

Biggest hope for next year: I’m not even going to put this into words, in case I jinx it. But I’m sure it’s everyone’s biggest hope right now. Please, 2021…

Thank you all for your support and friendship this year. 2020 has been easy for no one, and thinking back, it’s the little things that have made it better than it might have been – a message on Facebook, a couple of retweets, a like or a virtual hug. Let’s carry on like that and one day, we’ll be on the other side looking back. Here’s to happy days. ❤

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The ‘S’ books… #A-Z books

This series is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

This month, after a bit of a delay due to one thing and another, it’s the S books:

Your best friend dies. All because of you. How do you go on?

Layla is struggling to come to terms with the death of her best friend, Danni, at a student party almost a year ago. Perhaps she never will – because only Layla knows the truth about what happened that night.

Danni’s parents, Melody and Reece, invite Layla for weekend visits to their Sussex farmhouse home, and she’s happy to accept – until Melody’s increasing dependence on her sends out warning signals. Although she knows it’s time to break away, for all their sakes, Layla’s guilt over Danni’s death has her returning, time and again.

When Layla meets Morgan, the connection between them is unmistakable. But until she confronts the past, she can’t face the future, let alone allow herself to fall in love.

There is only one way out: Layla must confess her secret to Danni’s parents. But can she risk breaking their hearts all over again? And will Morgan still love her, once he discovers the kind of person she really is?

It’s the hardest decision. And time is running out…

This is lovely, insightful book – who doesn’t remember being that age, coming to terms with being an adult, trying to make sense of what the world throws at you. It isn’t easy, and like most kids, Layla doesn’t always get it right. A great read from Deirdre Palmer.

Set on Guernsey and the Channel Islands

The seven scamps have built up something of a reputation for themselves. From Madelaine, who was seventeen and therefore might have been supposed to know better, down to Tim, who was five and a handful, they were up to every mischievous trick imaginable.

It was hardly surprising they were involved in escapades with boats, ghostly midnight adventures on Lihou Island, and heroic rescues on the storm-girt island cliffs.

Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, of “Chalet School” fame, has added to her thousands of admirers with this fine book, the fourth in the La Rochelle series.

I was a huge fan of the Chalet School books when I was in my teens, and when I’d read them all I went on to collect the La Rochelle series too – some of the characters in these books return later as parents of Chalet School pupils. My copies are all aged and worn used hardbacks, but I have all seven.

If you’re a Sister, there’s no such thing as a mistake

Sister can cope with any crisis you can imagine. Everyone knows that – patients, doctors and nurses all believe it.

Today, Helen Davies dons that blue uniform for the first time. She’s proud, excited – and scared. Twenty-eight patients will be in her care. Can she handle it?

Because being a Sister isn’t just a job like any other…

This book is set in the eighties, when I was a young physiotherapist. The author has “drawn on eighteen years’ experience in nursing”, and every word in the book rings true.

Next time, it’s the ‘T’ books!
(And I’ll just mention that The Attic Room is 99p on kindle in Amazon’s UK Twelve Days of Christmas Sale…)

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Crime for Christmas…


Welcome to the third and final week of my Christmas reads posts – it’s crime fiction today, and I have three fabulous and very different books for you!
(Click the covers to see the books on Amazon.)

Love is a driving passion. So is hate.

December in a small Devonshire village is the perfect time for a Yuletide festival, a Narnian wedding or a murder.
Now retired, Beatrice is working on a book, planning a wedding and pretending she doesn’t miss the cut and thrust of Scotland Yard.

When a local celebrity dies in suspicious circumstances, Matthew encourages Beatrice to do some private investigating. Her enquiries reveal more than predicted and she discovers even her nearest and dearest are capable of deceit.

A snowstorm hits the village and Beatrice chases a lead, throwing everyone’s plans into disarray and threatening lives. The ancient forest conceals a primeval web of complex loyalties and lethal bonds.

Angels protect their friends. But destroy their enemies.

Detective Beatrice Stubbs travels the world in JJ Marsh’s 12-book series. I haven’t read them all yet, but they’re lovely reads – Beatrice has been described as a modern-day Miss Marple. This one’s set in a Devonshire village during a very snowy December. Jill has a free novella as a prequel to this series, see HERE on her website.

A cracking Christmas crime thriller

It looks like a regular advent calendar.

Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors . . . and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.

The police hope it’s a prank. Because if it isn’t, a murderer has just surfaced – someone who’s been killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station?

As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them . . .

It’s shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas.

I read this one a couple of years ago and I’ve never felt quite the same about advent calendars since… A lovely dark Christmassy read.

The perfect thriller to curl up with this winter…

To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last . . .

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger.

The twelfth day is getting closer.

After that, there will be no more Christmas cheer for me.

No mince pies, no carols.

No way out . . .

This one’s on my festive season tbr list – I read the first few pages and bought it straightaway last week. Can’t wait to get stuck in!

That’s the end of the Christmas reads, and I’ll take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, in spite of all restrictions. Whatever you do, stay safe.
Next week, we’ll catch up with the ‘S’ books in my A-Z – see you then!

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