Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Girl at the Window Rowan Coleman 5* #Review @EburyPublishing @rowancoleman #thegirlatthewindow #familydrama #historicalfiction #gothicfiction #emilybronte #wutheringheights #yorkshiremoors #love #loss #grief #bookreview

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

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I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House – Ebury Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Reading this story is rather like opening a Pandora’s box, there are surprises, light and dark. love and hate, purity and evil, all intertwined into an epic story that keeps on giving, as you turn the pages.

I love, the clever fusion of genres, family drama, romance, timeslip, historical fact and fiction, paranormal, gothic fiction, are all part of this novel’s embroidery. Whilst, this will not be for everyone, there are many timelines to negotiate, it is compelling and worth the effort, to move out of the ease of contemporary reading into the more elaborate historical details and subterfuge.

This story works for me because of Trudy’s state of mind, she is heartbroken, without hope, and open to any experience that lessens the pain. Her maternal instinct keeps her on track, making sure Will gets the emotional and practical support he needs, but she needs more than this and discovering hidden secrets that the house gives up is part of this. She is a sensitive woman, a loner, her childhood was full of imagination and literature, and it gave her purpose and solace. Now, in her pain, she seeks the familiar and is prepared to accept whatever the house reveals, even if it sometimes defies explanation and is frightening.

This is an escapist novel, something to enthral and capture your imagination, full of emotion and a clever medley of fact and fiction, it makes you want to visit Ponden Hall, and find out if it’s as magical and troubled as it seems.

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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 

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Mystery

4* #Review The First Time Lauren Pailing Died – Alyson Rudd @HQStories @allyrudd_times #LiteraryFiction #timeslip #love #grief #family #friends #mystery

Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties and a child of the seventies. She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.

Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.

But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.

And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to finally being found…

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Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

This story may not appeal to everyone. You have to be willing to accept the concept of parallel lives that exist but only come to your notice, if you act in a certain way. Lauren Paling as a young girl, sees snapshots of her other possible lives, she learns not to share these insights with others who don’t understand, but then she dies and the emotional rollercoaster journey begins.

In each life she is different, and although surrounded by those who love her, they may relate to her, in different ways. The stories explore, love friendship, relationships loss and grief in a poignant way.

Lauren is searching for a mystery man in each life, without knowing his significance to her, if any. This is a story that can be read more than once, and perhaps needs to be, to fully grasp everything it is about, but that might just be me?

The historical scene-setting is well done, I grew up in this time frame, and I enjoyed the mid to late 20th Century references. Each life has subtle differences to authenticate it to Lauren, as part of her struggles to accept her new present and forget what has gone before.

The plot is detailed and the characters are likeable and believable, despite the extraordinariness of the storyline. This has a uniqueness, because of its emotional content and characterisation, even though the parallel lives concept is often used in science- fiction literature.

If you enjoy variety in your reading and enjoy a lovely, out worldly story this is for you.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Noir, Suspense, Thriller

The Whisper Man -Alex North- 5* #Review @MichaelJBooks @writer_north #Thriller. #Crime #TheWhisperMan #Supernatural

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.

Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle into their new home.

Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

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Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

A curious medley of a creepy, suspenseful thriller and poignant sadness are my impressions of this complex, multi-layered story.

A little boy is missing, and the disapperance has echoes of serial killings years before, but ‘The Whisper Man was caught, so who has taken the little boy?

There are so many facets to this story, a crime to be investigated, a little boy who hears voices and talks to imaginary people. A troubled father and son relationship, in the wake of a family tragedy, and a policeman haunted by his past both personal and work.

The plot slips effortlessly between points of view and different genres. The police procedural is authentic and helps you keep past events and what is currently known in mind. The sadness experienced by Tom and Jake is profound and you empathise with their grief and loss. The killer is damaged and dangerous and the level of menace pervades the entire story. Finally, there is a supernatural element, hinted at, leaving the reader to decide if it is really there or not.

Everything is fused together cleverly, making this a suspenseful, shocking and often sad story. The ending is fast-paced and breathtaking and written packed with vivid imagery. You can see the events unfolding in your mind as you read.

A page-turning, absorbing read that makes this thriller stand out above the rest.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

A Miracle on Hope Street – Emma Heatherington – 5*#Review – @HarperImpulse @emmalou13

A Happy Christmas to everyone who reads my blog. This story has the perfect sentiments for this time of year.

Can a single act of kindness change a life forever?

To many people, Ruth Ryans has everything: the perfect job, a home to die for and a loving family. But it’s all lies. As Christmas approaches, Ruth feels lonelier than ever.

Then Ruth meets Michael. A man who, on the night of her father’s death the year before, she showed kindness to during his darkest moment. That one single act, his miracle, helped change his life forever.

Can one act of kindness really change a person’s life? Ruth decides to find out and plans to make this Christmas the most perfect one ever, opening up her home to those who need her help – the lonely, the lost and the ignored.

This Christmas actions will speak louder than words and Ruth Ryans’ kindness will create little miracles for everyone … including her own battered heart.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

If you’re looking for a heartwarming, poignant festive story, ‘ A Miracle on Hope Street’ is the perfect book.

Ruth Ryans is a national treasure, an agony aunt who spends her life solving other people’s problems. She ignores her own issues, which eight days before Christmas take a tragic turn, sending her in a downward spiral. Her random act of kindness on that night is forgotten, in her sea of grief, but a year later it may be her only salvation.

This is a story of despair and hopelessness countered with courage and kindness. The characters are complex and believable, and you empathise with their situations. The story charts Ruth rebuilding her life by helping others and is a charming often tearful read, but the ending is positive and uplifting and underscores the true meaning of this time of year.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Lucy Coleman – Snowflakes Over Holly Cove – Guest Post – 5* Review

 

As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…

For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’

So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart. Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…

Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.

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Guest Post – Lucy Coleman – The Birth of a New Story

Virtually every story I’ve written begins with a single line that pops into my head. It stays there for a while like an app (my Writer’s app), processing away in the background while I continue with my work in progress.

Usually, on one of my daily walks (unless it’s pouring down), my little Writer’s app will come to the fore and little pieces, like threads, of the story, will present themselves to me. That’s why I always carry a pen and a small notebook with me. I’ve almost walked into lamp posts on occasion, as I frantically scribble away. Probably looking very odd, as I do so!

Eventually, I end up with an A4 folder, often with a title (which tends to be quite important for me in the process) and a growing mountain of scribbled notes. But it’s usually one of a small stack of similar folders, and I rarely write a story out of sequence.

Why? Because each story is desperate to be written. Although I write full-time and I’m quite prolific, there never is enough time. I’ve just finished the last of three manuscripts now queuing to go through edits and be polished up ready to be published in 2019. But I have four folders all crying out to me.

Three of those have been in my head for well over a year and yet the fourth, and latest idea, is also vying for attention. Not least because it involved going to the Palace of Versailles in June of this year. A very lavish and magnificent setting for a contemporary love story … you can imagine how excited I am!

But it must wait its turn.

Snowflakes Over Holly Cove is my thirteenth published full-length novel. And in that time, I only broke my own rule ONCE. It was a story that wouldn’t disappear nicely into the background of my mind but kept fighting me to be written. I put down the work-in-progress, and I wrote the first draft from start to finish in twenty-four days – ninety-five thousand words.

I will admit that for probably half of those days I didn’t get out of my PJs – just showered and sat down to write. I will admit they were very long days!

And, yes, it was Snowflakes Over Holly Cove.

Why was it so insistent?

Unusually for me, it was the location that came first. Caswell Bay has memories for me going back to writing my very first book. The edits arrived on the day my husband, and I were heading off for a week’s holiday in a beautiful apartment looking out over the bay. I ended up working all week, interspersed with bracing walks along the coastal path between Caswell Bay and Langland Bay. And we had some wonderfully relaxing dinners at the local restaurants.

During the day my husband was content to sit out on the balcony reading while I beavered away making my writing dream come true.

We often drive over to spend the day walking that path again and enjoying the stunning views. I knew that one day the right story would pop into my head and I truly believe that Tia and Nic’s story could only have been set in Caswell Bay and the fictional Holly Cove.

There’s something about the dramatic beauty of the coastline, the often-bracing sea breeze and the views out across the bay that has a poignancy to it.

Once Tia and Nic were in my head they were both so unhappy I became caught up, wondering if there really could be a happy ending. And now it’s published. That other work-in-progress is long finished and several more since then.

Caswell Bay is a place that if you get a chance to visit it, you will never forget the memories you make while you are there. I can say that hand on heart.

My Thoughts…

If, like me, you’re a reader who likes to empathise with the story’s characters, feel every emotion, and experience something magical as you turn the pages this is the story for you.

Christmas has always been important to Tia, even when her life is hard, Christmas is time to celebrate and escape. After the death of her mother, Tia struggles to come to terms with her loss. Her job is busy, and she hopes this will get her through the grief that threatens to destroy her. Her latest assignment has her living in a picture perfect cottage by the sea, the setting is breathtaking, and straight away she feels its healing presence. Life gets complicated, and she still has Christmas to face, but will Tia emerge stronger at the end of this experience?

The vividly described coastal setting comes alive the first time Tia visits the beach you can feel the sea spray on your face and appreciate the power of the sea. The characters are varied and realistically portrayed, you can imagine having a conversation with them. The perfectly orchestrated romance is lovely and gentle and full of magic in this poignant, story of coming to terms with life’s setbacks and valuing family and friendships. There are many lighthearted moments to offset the heartaches, rather like life itself.

A festive read that you can enjoy all year long with characters to treasure in a perfect Christmas card setting.

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

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean with her husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction Award. When she’s not writing, Lucy can be found in the garden weeding or with a paintbrush in her hand.

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Posted in Book Review

5* Review Kathleen McGurl- The Drowned Village –

A village destroyed
It’s the summer of 1935, and eleven-year-old Stella Walker is preparing to leave her home forever. Forced to evacuate to make way for a new reservoir, the village of Brackendale Green will soon be lost. But before the water has even reached them, a dreadful event threatens to tear Stella’s family apart.

An uncovered secret
Present day and a fierce summer has dried up the lake and revealed the remnants of the deserted village. Now an old woman, Stella begs her granddaughter Laura to make the journey she can’t. She’s sure the village still holds answers for her but, with only days until the floodwaters start to rise again, Laura is in a race against time to solve the mysteries of Stella’s almost forgotten past.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Laura turns to her grandmother Stella when her boyfriend and best friend betray her. Life with Stella is quiet and safe, but her grandmother worries Laura is missing out. A TV news item brings Stella’s secret past to the present and Laura is easily persuaded to help her Grandmother solve past secrets and enjoy an escape to the beautiful English Lake District.

The destruction of villages through the creation of reservoirs must leave its community with latent resentment. Even though the villagers are usually financially compensated this doesn’t negate the sense of loss and destruction of a community. Stella village is resurrected after an exceptional drought and with it the chance to right a wrong and find the answers to some family secrets buried by the water.

The timeslip between the present day and the thirties is well written and adds depth to the story. The characters are complex and flawed but believable, and it’s easy to empathise with the choices most of them are forced to make. The gentle romance between Laura and Tom is lovely and the ending when family secrets are revealed poignant and satisfying.

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