Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post

The Time of Our Lives Abby Williams 4* #Review @fionajourno @Aria_Fiction @HoZ-Books #MultiGenerational #Friendship#SecondChances #NewBeginnings #BlogTour #GuestPost

Two women from two very different generations are brought together through dramatic circumstances and help each other to forge new paths.

Twenty-six-year-old Erin has everything she’s ever wanted – a good job, a gorgeous fiancé and a best friend who’s always there for her. But suddenly her life comes crashing down around her. Unable to return home to her parents, she takes a room in a house nearby and her life starts over in the most unexpected of ways…

Seventy-six-year old Lydia, who, shocked by the sudden death of her husband, is devastated to discover that he has left her in crippling debt. With no choice but to take in a lodger, Erin comes into her life. When they find a letter hidden in the attic old secrets come to light and, with Erin by her side, Lydia finds herself going on a trip of a lifetime.

Amazon Kobo Google Play iBooks

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A delightful multi-generational story of love, loss, friendship and new beginnings.

Erin’s life implodes, when she is betrayed by those she loves, she needs to escape, to rebuild her life. Lydia still in shock from her sudden bereavement, finds that loss isn’t the only emotion she has to contend with. Her financial security is compromised, and taking in lodger seems the only way to make ends meet. The unlikely pair, find that material security isn’t the only benefit of living together, and they forge a friendship that opens up a new lease of life for both.

A chance discovery, reveals more family secrets, and a chance to experience something special for both women.

This is a story full of emotion and poignancy, but there are plenty of humorous moments too. Lydia is a witty woman, and Erin soon realises that age is no barrier to a true friend.

A lighthearted, emotional read, with characters who you can empathise and a heartwarming ethos.

#TheTimeofOurLives
Naked Saunas – The Inspiration behind The Time Of Our Lives– Abby Williams

I’ve always enjoyed running. Not only is it a great stress reliever, it’s great for allowing you to eat lots of cake, and also great for me, as I usually find all my best novel ideas come to me when I’m pounding the pavement.

The idea for The Time Of Our Lives was no different. One summer’s evening, I was out with my running club, when Nella, my lovely Finnish friend started telling us all about the naked saunas she and her fellow Finns all enjoyed back home! Cue much hilarity amongst us British girls who were positively squeamish at the thought of showing off our bits and pieces to all and sundry. Not so for Nella. She said she thought it was a good thing – young and old came together to enjoy simple pleasures. Inhibitions and modesty were left at the door she said, and real, lasting connections were formed, regardless of age.

She was right. It was us Brits that were repressed. After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea of these generations coming together and although I didn’t really want to write about naked saunas, (Sorry Nella, it was a step too far), what did strike a chord was the idea of age being no barrier to friendship. It was then I knew that what I wanted to write about next was the power of friendship.

And so I found millennial Erin and almost-octogenarian, Lydia. Two women who come to need each other more than they can ever realise after their lives implode in very unexpected ways.

The moment I hit upon the idea I found I couldn’t wait to spend time with my characters. Lydia and Erin became as real to me as any of my friends and family, and I found their friendship as charming and inviting as any relationship I’ve experienced in real life. It was funny because even though I never wrote about naked saunas the image Nella created for me that day was so strong, I only had to shut my eyes and I could see young and old coming together, laughing, sharing, joking and confiding about all manner of things to bond Lydia and Erin.

And so no, there are no naked saunas in this book, but there’s still lots of running for me. The last time I ran with the girls we started talking about the best places to go to the loo on a long run…someone mentioned the bushes and Paula Radcliffe. Safe to say, that hasn’t inspired anything in me quite yet.

Fiona Ford – Abby Williams

Abby Williams is the pseudonym for Fiona Ford, writer of romantic up-lit and historical fiction. Fiona started out as a freelance journalist for titles such as Grazia, Sunday Mirror and Stylist before realising her passion lay in novels. Now she spends her days immersed in made-up worlds and reckons she has the very best job in the world. When she’s not writing, Fiona is a gym nut, but only so it means she can eat lots of cake and drink lots of wine – not necessarily in that order. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and two cats who she sometimes thinks she might love just a little bit more than all the humans she knows. The Time of Our Lives is her first romantic novel and she is now busy scribbling away her second.

Facebook Twitter Website

Advertisements
Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller

The Daughter-In-Law Nina Manning #BlogTour @ninamanning78 @BoldwoodBooks #PsychologicalThriller #AuthorInterview #PublicationDay

No one is good enough for her son…
As a single mother, Annie has an especially close relationship with her son, Ben. They have always been together. Just the two of them. So, when Ben brings home his mysterious beautiful new wife, Daisy, immediately Annie doesn’t trust her. Who is this woman who has taken her son away from her? And what is she hiding?
She’ll protect him with her life…
When Ben disappears, suddenly Annie and Daisy are all the other one has. Alone in Annie’s big, remote house, just the two of them, the tension is rising. And like any protective mother, Annie will stop at nothing to expose her new daughter in law, and the secrets she is hiding…

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Claustrophobic, menacing and yet so believable, ‘The Daughter In Law’, is a riveting read.

It was always Annie and Ben until it wasn’t. Annie can’t understand why her only child has left her and married in secret. Now he is bringing her daughter in law to visit, and she has to be prepared.
Daisy’s has secrets, her whirlwind romance with Ben offers her a new life, but still, she dreads meeting her mother in law.

Told from Annie and Daisy’s point of view, the story begins to unfold, and each chapter brings a new revelation making you uneasy as you read on. The characters are complex, emotionally damaged, but believable. Annie seems extreme in her dominance of Ben, but the bond between a mother and her child is strong, and not always easy to share.

The plot twists begin early on, and gradually you start to realise there is something sinister going on, but who is the true victim. The suspense building is excellent, making this a genuine page-turner.

The last few chapters are so atmospheric, creepy and visual. You can see the action unfolding in your mind, even though you are metaphorically watching through your fingers.

A classy psychological novel, with many unique elements, vivid imagery and characters that resonate.

Author Interview with Nina Manning – The Daughter in Law

;

 What are the inspirations behind this story?

I was interested in the relationship between a mother and son and how it is different from a mother and daughter relationship. I was fascinated by how some mothers find it difficult to let go of their sons and how they can even feel threatened by their son’s partner. I wanted to explore that idea on a deeper and darker level.

What characteristics does your story have that makes it unique, in the popular psychological thriller genre?

The Daughter in law has many themes running through it, such as grief and love and friendships. It also tackles covert narcissistic abuse and the one thing that binds, Annie, Daisy and Ben are that they were all emotional neglected as children. My book also has book club questions!

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

It’s inevitable that a characters foibles, or the way they gesticulate have been drawn from observations of the thousands of people I have encountered during my varied and interesting life so far. But all the characters in the book are purely a figment of my imagination.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

When I wrote The Daughter in Law, it was the ending that came first. I had in my mind, a dramatic climax to the story as well as a big reveal so I wrote the story towards that ending.

The second psychological thriller that I am writing at the moment is purely plot-driven. I have added characters in as and when I need them and then seeing where it takes me. But I have an overall plot in mind and again, that dramatic ending.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

Writing has been part of my life since I was a small child. I have always had an innate desire to write. I have tried working for other people but I was always drawn back to my writing. I have never been able to conform and I have never been any good at being told when to be a desk/place of work and when I can leave. I am now thankful writing is my job and I can fit all my work around my family life.  

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I enjoy reading any kind of book as long as it has great prose, interesting characters and an engaging plot. I read a lot of books for my podcast, Sniffing The Pages which goes out every two weeks, so as well as reading books for leisure, I also review books. I have just read a women’s fiction book by Holly Bourne and now I am reading Circe by Madeline Miller. 

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

There are many best things but I would say being able to completely create an entire world, characters and scenarios from nothing, put them on to paper for the world to read and enjoy.

The worst bit so far is the painful part of getting that first draft done when you know what you need to do but it’s a struggle to get there. However, once the first draft is done, it’s an enjoyable experience moulding and shaping the novel to the finished piece.

Nina Manning

Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. She lives in Dorset.

Nina’s Author Profile Website Twitter Instagram Facebook

;

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Mystery, Romance

Buried Treasure – Gilli Allan 4* #Review @gilliallan @rararesources #BlogTour #Romance #Mystery #Friendship

Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different. And there is nothing in the first meeting between the conference planner and the university lecturer which suggests they should expect or even want to connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Both have unresolved issues from the past which have marked them; both have an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems.

Amazon UK

Amazon

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

I love to read something a little different, this story is a mix of genre, there is a gentle romance. which is slow-burning, ridden with internal obstacles to its success. There is a mystery, with historical roots, that draws the couple together, when it seems, in the beginning, they have nothing in common, except that they irritate each other. There is also a strong emotional thread in this story, as the first part of the book reveals, why Theo and Jane are unwilling to trust again, this poignancy makes the characters easier to empathise.

The believable setting is contemporary and well researched, and has intrinsic interest. Your primary focus is always on Jane and Theo in this character-driven story. The subsidiary characters both past and present are complex and realistic. The flaws and emotional baggage carried by the two protagonists make them authentic.

An easy to read, engaging romance with an intriguing mystery set against a politicised contemporary background.

Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real-life supplanted the fiction.

After a few false starts, she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, and only began writing again when she became a mother. 

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

Currently published by Accent Press, each of her books, TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL has won a ‘Chill with a Book’ award.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is ‘Viking Britain’.

Amazon Profile Twitter Facebook Website/Blog Goodreads

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller

Then She Vanishes – Claire Douglas 5* #Review @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks @Dougieclaire #PsychologicalThriller #Crime #FamilyDrama #MondayBlogs

THE ONLY THING MORE SHOCKING THAN THE FIRST CHAPTER . . . IS THE LAST.

Everything changed the night Flora disappeared.

Heather and Jess were best friends – until the night Heather’s sister vanished.

Jess has never forgiven herself for the lie she told that night. Nor has Heather.

But now Heather is accused of an awful crime.

And Jess is forced to return to the sleepy seaside town where they grew up, to ask the question she’s avoided for so long:

What really happened the night Flora disappeared?

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

It is this novel’s complexity and depth that makes it such a riveting read.

A shooting, a missing girl and a failed suicide, the clues are evident, but there are so many permutations when the past is interwoven with the present, is it really as simple as it seems? The beginning is shocking, and the guilty party obvious? Until you meet the cast of characters, both in the present day and eighteen years previously. Everyone seems guilty, and you begin to doubt your observation skills and understanding of what is happening.

Jess, a journalist is trying to make a new start in Bristol, but when there is a sudden, violent incident in the town where she grew up, the past and present collide, and she has to face secrets she kept for years, and confront why she always seems to be running away.

Margot’s life changed irrevocably eighteen years ago, but not for the first time. Now she faces heartbreak again, can she survive the loss of both her daughters?

The plot is fast-paced and easy to follow, as it moves between the past and present, and the different points of view. The characters are believable, as are the situations they find themselves in. Jess has a unique role in the story, both objective from her profession and subjective from her relationship with the family. This allows her, and the reader insights that an outsider wouldn’t have, but also raises moral questions of bias and loyalty.

The unravelling of what led to the murders and the disappearance of Flora is realistic. The twists are clever, and the final chapters, adrenaline led and thought-provoking.

A cerebral thriller, that is both poignant and twisted.

Posted in Audiobook Review, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Mental Health, Romance

The Unfinished Garden – Barbara Claypole-White Narrated by Ana Clements, Paul Heitsch #OCD #MentalHealth #Grief #Family #Friends 5*#AudiobookReview #BlogTour @bclaypolewhite @rararesources @audibleuk @SpokenRealms #TheUnfinishedGarden

A love story about grief, OCD, and dirt 

Tilly Silverberg is rebuilding her life with her young son, Isaac, one potted-up plant at a time. Since her husband’s death, gardening has become her livelihood and her salvation. Hiding out in the North Carolina forest, she wants only to be left alone with Isaac and her greenhouse.

New to the area, successful software developer James Nealy needs a garden. On a solitary mission to reclaim his life from irrational obsessions and relentless compulsions, he has a plan: to conquer his greatest fear. Dirt. One glimpse—or two—of Tilly’s garden, and he knows she holds the key. But when he asks her to take him on as a client, she refuses.

After a family emergency pulls Tilly and Isaac back to her native England, she’s quietly happy, because nothing has changed in her childhood village. Or has it? Her first love is unexpectedly single, her mother is scheming, and her best friend is keeping secrets. Then James appears on her doorstep.

Tenuous at first, but gradually taking root, James and Tilly forge an unlikely bond. As they work together to rescue a garden choked by neglect, they unearth each other’s secrets, each other’s fears, each other’s hopes—and maybe, a shared second chance.

Media Reviews

“Claypole White does not merely write about people with mental illness—she inhabits them.”  Lee Smith, New York Times bestseller author

“Claypole White’s gift is her ability to put us into the troubled minds of her characters in a way that helps us not only understand them but fall in love with them as well. We discover that while their minds may be different from ours, their hearts are the same.” Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author

“A fabulous debut novel, The Unfinished Garden easily earns Romance Junkies’ highest rating of five blue ribbons and a recommended read status for its unpredictable originality! So good!” Romance Junkies

The Unfinished Garden is a powerful story of friendship and courage in the midst of frightening circumstances … I highly recommend this wonderful love story.” Bergers’ Book Reviews 

“Claypole White … conveys the condition of OCD, and how it creates havoc in one’s life and the lives of loved ones, with style and grace, never underplaying the seriousness of the disorder.” Romantic Times

Amazon UK

Amazon

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I enjoyed this audiobook, and it is interesting to review a narrated book.

The story’s main themes are Mental Health Issues, primarily Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), bereavement, grief and coping with loss. This is also partly a family drama, as Tilly has to return to England for a time to help her mother. Tilly experiences guilt over her husband’s death, this and her need to be both mother and father to her son, are common reactions to the death of a partner. Friendship and romance are also intrinsic to this varied, emotion-driven story.

James’ life is governed by OCD, he hopes to confront his fears, to lessen the condition. He associates gardens with loss, and the start of his compulsive behaviour, he wants Tilly to help him overcome his fear of dirt and all gardens represent to him.

Tilly is torn between her feelings for her first love, who turns up in her village when she returns, and a new relationship with James. The story is written with insight and sensitivity. Tilly is courageous and kind, even when life throws another curve ball her way, she is easy to root for. James is lovely, he understands his current limitations but hates himself for them. He is attracted to Tilly and senses, she is keeping secrets and hiding her vulnerability through her reclusive behaviour.

The pacing is gentle, the emotional insight of the main characters, particularly Tilly and James, complex and intensive. You experience James’ OCD and explore how it constrains his life. His point of view is sometimes exhausting to read but is authentic and enthralling, and James is easy to like.

The characters and setting are vividly described, and the character flaws and motivations easy to understand. The story flows well, and the conflicts are both external and internal. Narration brings out the internal musings of James and Tilly, more directly than just reading the book. The narration is good, however, I would have preferred James’ dialogue to be spoken by the male narrator who reads his point of view.

This is an emotional read, James’ attachment to Tilly and Issac, seems to occur quickly, but this is because she holds the key to his aversion therapy, on one hand, and Tilly and Issac represent the family he wants to complete his life but doesn’t think he deserves.

A well-written thought-provoking, story that holds your interest, despite the complexity intensity and length of the novel.

Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Born in England, she works and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, which won the Golden Quill for Best First Book; The In-Between Hour, a SIBA Okra Pick; The Perfect Son, a Goodreads Choice Awards Semi-finalist; Echoes of Family, aWFWA Star Award Finalist; and The Promise Between Us, a 2018 Nautilus Award Winner.

Barbara is an OCD advocate for the nonprofit A2A Alliance, which promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with her, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com 

Twitter

Facebook

BookBub

Goodreads

Instagram

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller

I Looked Away – Jane Corry 5*#Review @JaneCorryAuthor @PenguinUKBooks #PsychologicalThriller #DomesticThriller #Secrets #Family #Friendships #MentalHealth #Homelessness

Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anyone else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swears it’s over now, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.

Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And just for a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.

Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.

And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder. 

Amazon

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a psychological thriller that resonates. Whilst, it has all the expected qualities of the genre, it contains so much more. A domestic thriller and a family drama, with secrets and tragedy. Mental Health issues and homelessness are major themes woven into the hard-hitting emotional story. The unreliable protagonist Ellie is a grandmother, which affords her a certain uniqueness in this genre, but her life is riddled with neglect, trauma and self-loathing. She is someone you empathise with, as each terrible injustice and secret are revealed. The ending seems just, but there is a twist that leaves you wondering.

The plot is complex and pacy, it keeps you guessing, whilst you are reeling from the horror and injustice of the women’s lives that are explored. It confuses, it’s meant to. The story is addictive, coherent, and full of relevant examples of mental health issues, and the largely overlooked plight of homelessness. It makes you think, and worry about the society we live in.

The thriller aspect is clever and calculating, the emotion is genuine and heartbreaking, the moral issues raised are thought-provoking and worrying. You will carry this story with you, and not many books in this genre can say that.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Romance, Mystery, Romance

A Postcard From Italy – Alex Brown 4* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @alexbrownbooks #Romance #Italy #WW2 #Mystery #SelfDiscovery #Carers #Family

Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930s.

Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.

Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts...

Grace needs to escape from her daily life, she has a broken heart, a controlling mother and a family who take her for granted, no wonder she enjoys her work, where she is appreciated. Finding some letters and treasures in a storage unit whose payments have lapsed, Grace finds a kindred spirit in Connie. She finds both, courage and solace whilst learning her story and tracking down her heirs.

There is a good mystery to solve, romance, but most of all a journey of self-discovery for Grace. The Italian scenes are vividly described and give the story added interest. The historical aspect of the story is well-written and shows the problems faced by women in the 1940s. There are obvious similarities between Connie and Grace’s stories, but some important differences too.

This is an emotion-driven story, you feel for both Connie and Grace as they are constrained by their circumstances, familial demands and society’s expectations.

There is a detailed epilogue, which draws the drama together well, and gives Grace the hopeful ending she deserves.