Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

A Thousand Roads Home Carmel Harrington 5*#Review @HappyMrsH @ HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #IrishFiction #LiteraryFiction #UrbanFiction #FamilyDrama #Homelessness #Autism

Meet Tom. Or Dr O’Grady, as he used to be called. When you pass him on the street, most people don’t even give him a second glance. You see, Tom isn’t living his best life. Burdened by grief, he’s only got his loyal dog, Bette Davis, for company and a rucksack containing his whole world.

Then there’s Ruth and her son, DJ, who no longer have a place to call home. But Ruth believes that you can change the world by helping one person at a time – and Tom needs her help.

There are a thousand ways to find your home – you just need to be brave enough to look for them. Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I didn’t read what this story is about before reading it because it is written by a favourite, trusted author. I knew I would be taken on an emotional journey, by relatable characters, with sometimes tragic stories, Despite the tears and poignancy, ultimately they would find hope and peace. I wasn’t disappointed,

Ruth is autistic. People find her different from them, and as often happens in such circumstances, they ridicule her. Even her parents constantly find fault, and when her mother feels she behaves unacceptably she is abusive to her.

A serendipitous meeting changes the course of Ruth’s life and brings her into contact with Tom. He helps her, when she needs it most but then they lose touch. Ten years on Ruth and Tom are not where they want to be, but a chance meeting once again changes everything.

The characters are believable, not stereotypical, and you want them to find the happiness they deserve. This story explores autism and what it means for the individual and those closest to them. How it is so easy to be isolated when you appear different. Homelessness is also a prevalent theme. It could happen to anyone, and this is what makes this story disturbingly real.

The story has a powerful, uplifting ending, one you would like everyone in Ruth and Tom’s situation to benefit from. Reality sometimes is less kind, so if this story does nothing else, let it help you to look a little deeper into people who seem different or have fallen on hard times. They deserve compassion and respect, isn’t that what you would want if it were you?

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama

Home Truths Susan Lewis 5*#Review @susanlewisbooks @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #FamilyDrama #Relationships #Crime #Poverty #Debt #homelessness

How far would you go to keep your family safe?

Angie Watts had the perfect ordinary family. A new home. A beloved husband. Three adored children.
 
But Angie’s happy life is shattered when her son Liam falls in with the wrong crowd. And when her son’s bad choices lead to the murder of her husband, it’s up to Angie to hold what’s left of her family together.
 
Her son is missing. Her daughter is looking for help in dangerous places. And Angie is fighting just to keep a roof over their heads.
 
But Angie is a mother. And a mother does anything to protect her children – even when the world is falling apart…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

An intense family drama, with an authentically crafted contemporary plot.’ Home Truths’ is exactly what it says on the cover. A realistic and thought-provoking insight into people who are failed by the welfare system and wider society. The homeless, the young people recruited by crime gangs and abusers, and the millions of families drowning in debt.

I often read fiction for escapism, but this is not that. It gets your attention in a dramatic, tragic way, and then while you’re reeling from the horror, it explores the aftermath. Ordinary, people are drawn into lives of crime, debt and poverty, though, circumstances out of their control, poor decisions and unscrupulous individuals and organisations, who see a financial gain, and not the collateral damage their decisions leave behind.

Angie and her husband have what many people want, each other, children and somewhere to call home. When Liam as a child is corrupted by local gangs, it changes the course of their lives. This story follows Angie and her family, as she fights to keep her remaining family safe when everything is against her. Her situation is relatable, and her motivations to her imploding situation believable and disturbing.

The story manages to highlight the issues, whilst delivering a gripping family drama. ‘Home Truths’ is an excellent story, with a realistic, and positive conclusion. It makes you think, about contemporary issues and the society’s blame culture and lack of compassion.

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, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Guest Post -Moonlight on the Thames – Lauren Westwood – 5* Review

Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright. Nicola is a star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has run its course, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is the last straw… Dmitri loves conducting his pop–up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist. Can two lonely hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?

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 Guest Post – Music, Moonlight and Inspiration – Lauren Westwood

As a writer, I’m often asked where I get my inspirations from. The simple answer is that inspirations come from everywhere! For me, usually, a book will start out with just a simple idea or image, or some kind of trigger event from real life. For Moonlight on the Thames, the opening scene was inspired by a real choir who were performing last year at Waterloo Station during the Christmas season, and a real delayed train. I’m happy to say that unlike my main character, Nicola, I did not create a scene (nor, unfortunately, did I meet the love of my life as a result). But thanks to that night and that choir, my book was born.

To create the two main characters, I also drew on my past. Nicola is a high-powered investment banker, and over the years I’ve dealt with a lot of those in my day-job as an in-house lawyer. I thought it would be interesting for the heroine to be the ‘alpha’ character in the book, though this was somewhat risky. She’s not instantly likeable, but I’m hoping that she’s interesting and different enough for people to stick with her, find out why she is like she is, and see her story unfold.

In contrast, Dmitri is more likeable upfront, but he too has secrets from his past that adversely affect his whole life and forced him to give up his career as a concert pianist. Many years ago, I studied music at university, and though I was not suited for a life as a performer, I did encounter some brilliant musicians who inspired me to want to write about music. There is truly an agony and ecstasy about being a musician, and it takes a very particular personality type to be able to achieve the focus and sacrifice that is required.

The piano music that Dmitri plays in the book was also an inspiration for the tone of the book and also some of the scenes. It was great fun trying to search out the perfect pieces that evoked the mood and emotion that I was going for. And while it is hard to ‘describe’ the effect of music in words, I have put together a playlist to accompany the book that hopefully allows the music to speak for itself. The link is here: http://www.laurenwestwoodwriter.com/playlist.

Finally, I also drew inspiration from a trip I took twenty years ago to Russia. There is something incredibly poetic about the country, its past, its people, its music and literature, that resonates with me. Growing up in America in the 70s and 80s, we were brainwashed into thinking of Russia as ‘the evil empire’ governed by dictators whose fingers were on the red button (hmm, who does that sound like nowadays?) So, it was interesting to travel there myself, form my own opinions, and meet some of the people. I also really like Russian literature, and I have a lovely illustrated book of Russian fairytales with lacquer box designs that inspired the retelling of the Firebird that is in the book.

So, all in all, Moonlight on the Thames was a fun book to imagine and write, and I really hope that readers will enjoy it. I am grateful to Aria for the lovely cover, and also for believing in my somewhat dubious interpretation of an ‘escapist Christmas romance’ that also covers many darker, more serious issues.

If you do read Moonlight on the Thames, please do leave a review or a rating where you purchased it. This helps so much to spread the word to people who might not otherwise find the book.

Most of all, best wishes for the rest of the year and the holiday season.

My Thoughts…

‘Moonlight on the Thames’ is not the lighthearted festive read the title suggests but it does have romance, a fairytale quality and a Christmas message.

Nicola’s successful career masks an empty life and deep, damaging secrets that seem worse at Christmas time. Dimitri’s giving nature is especially evident at Christmas, but he is finding it increasingly difficult to hide the despair and guilt he feels. The couple’s meeting is festive, and Nicola is more ‘Scrooge’than ‘Santa Claus’, but their serendipitous meeting makes them both look at their empty lives.

Poignant and romantic this festive tale focuses on those less fortunate at this time of the year. Dimitri and Nicola’s life are both blighted despite their outward success, and this story explores their inner turmoil and seemingly unlikely romance. Both protagonists are authentic and flawed and carry a damaging amount of emotional trauma but their courage and need to find more in their lives lets both characters develop in a believable and heartwarming way.

Music in all its forms underscores this story and gives it a uniqueness not usually found in festive reads. There are no sugar-coated platitudes in this story, just two people trying to make the best of shattered lives but the outcome makes all the angst worthwhile and leaves an important message in the readers’ minds.

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

 

Lauren Westwood writes romantic women’s fiction and is also an award-winning children’s writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a pernickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.  

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