Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Memoir, Motivational, Non-Fiction, Travel

Walking Back To Happiness Penelope Swithinbank 4* #Review @minstriesbydsgn @malcolmdown @LoveBooksGroup #lovebookstours #Motivational #Walking #Travel #Relationships #Marriage #Memoir #Faith #nonfiction #BlogTour #BookReview @LoveBooksTours

Two vicars, their marriage in tatters with wounds reaching far back into the past, set out on a journey to find healing and restoration. Their route will take them from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, but will it help them find their way home? Along the 320-mile route across rural France, burdened by backpacks and blisters, Kim and Penelope stumble across fresh truths, some ordinary, others extraordinary. But will they be defeated by the road ahead or triumph over the pain of the past? Is there a chance they’ll find themselves in France and walk back to happiness? In this simple but enchanting book, part travelogue and part pilgrimage, Penelope invites you to walk with her and her husband on their epic journey as they encounter new faces and new experiences, and reconnect with each other and with God. Every step of the way, you’ll discover more about yourself and what’s really important to you.

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#WalkingBackToHappiness

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

My Thoughts…

An interesting, motivational travelogue, full of honest reflection and astute observation.

Even if, you are not religious, there is something important to take away from this book. The author’s shared experiences show that marriage is a journey in itself. Like the walk they embark on, it is punctuated by happiness and sadness, hope and despair, and courage and fear.

The description of the walk, the people encountered and the places visited has intrinsic interest for those familiar with this region and those, like myself who are not. The statistics at the end of the story and the highlighted moments rounded off the book well.

Using an arduous physical walk, as a way of making sense of, and coming to terms with a couple’s emotional and spiritual journey works well. Both in a literary sense, and thankfully, in reality for Penelope and Kim.

Worth reading on many levels, whatever your marital status or religious belief.

Penelope Swithinbank

Penelope is an avid walker and spends a lot of her time stomping in the hills and valleys near her home outside Bath. She is a chaplain at Bath Abbey and a spiritual therapist and counsellor for clergy (and some normal people too). Since becoming a vicar nearly 20 years ago, she has worked in churches in the UK and the USA, and has led pilgrimages in the UK and in Europe. She and her husband Kim have been married for more than 40 years and have three children and six grandchildren. Penelope rarely sits down, loathes gardening and relaxes by reading, going to the theatre or playing the piano. She is the author of two books, Women by Design and Walking Back to Happiness and is currently working on her third, due out in 2020: Scent of Water, a devotional for times of spiritual bewilderment and grief.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

The Wife’s Revenge Deirdre Palmer 4*#Review @DLPalmer_Writer @crookedcatbooks @darkstrokedark @rararesources #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller #Revenge #Relationships #Suspense #PublicationDay

#TheWifesRevenge

Sometimes the lie is safer than the truth.

Fran made the biggest mistake of her life when she had an affair with Ben. Both families live in the village of Oakheart; their children are friends. Fran’s guilt shadows her days. But it’s no more than she deserves, or is it? At least she’s managed to protect her husband, Hector, from the harsh truth.

But for how long?

Tessa has left her troubles in the past and now has the perfect life. Ben might have his faults, but his life has not been easy. They need each other, and Tessa will do whatever it takes to eliminate any threats to her marriage.

Threats from women like Fran.

A cliff overlooks a disused chalk-pit. The locals call it High Heaven. It’s a place of secrets. And it’s where Oakheart newcomer Maria died. When Fran discovers a link between Maria and Ben, disturbing questions arise to which she has no way of knowing the answers. 

Faced with an ultimatum from Tessa, time is running out for Fran. She’s scared, every minute of every day.

But where does the real danger lie?

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#TheWifesRevenge

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

My Thoughts…

This starts with a tragic event and then lapses into normality, which although slow-paced is essential world-building. Told from two points of view Fran and Tessa, you meet Fran first and realise her normal life is unbalanced with a few strange events. You don’t meet Tessa in any detail straight away, but when you do, immediately you realise she is not happy.

The suspense building is steady and relentless, you are constantly waiting for what something bad to happen. Fran appears to be a reliable protagonist, but she does have secrets she wants to keep hidden. Tessa has an agenda, but are past events really as she sees them?

The plot is clever, not too complicated, but effective. I guessed one of the twists early on, believing things are never as obvious as they seem, but the final twist is chilling.

A well-paced story of love, obsession and revenge in an everyday village setting.

#DeirdrePalmer

I live in Brighton with my husband and a tabby cat called Chester. After a career in public sector admin, most recently at the University of Brighton, it was time to stop dreaming about being a writer and actually do something about it!  Fast forward to the present, and now I’m both traditionally published and self-published, with five women’s fiction novels under my own name, and five ‘cosy’ reads, writing as Zara Thorne.  I’ve also published a book of short stories, most of which were previously published in The People’s Friend magazine. ‘The Wife’s Revenge’ is my first foray into the psychological suspense genre.

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Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Noir, Psychological Thriller

The Truth Naomi Joy 5*#Review @naomijoyauthor @Aria_Fiction #psychologicalthriller #contemporaryfiction #BlogTour #GuestPost #Extract #DomesticThriller #Noir

Perfect wife. Perfect life. Perfect crime.

Anthony is not the man everyone believes him to be. And Emelia is not the woman he wants her to be.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance, Anthony was the doting boyfriend, the charismatic and successful career man who swept her off her feet. But now Emelia is trapped in a marriage of dark secrets and obsession. She is no more than something Anthony wants to ‘fix’, one of his pet projects.

Emelia has no escape from the life that Anthony insists on controlling, so she shares her story through the only means she can – her blog. Yet Anthony can never find out. Forced to hide behind a false name, Emelia knows the only way that Anthony will allow her to leave him, is death.

Trapped with a man she knows is trying to kill her, Emelia is determined that someone will hear her story and Anthony will meet his ends. That everyone will discover the truth.

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

My Thoughts…

A story of two halves as many psychological thrillers are.

The story begins with a blog post, Emelia has a life-limiting condition and wondered if she would have the chance of a normal marriage. Anthony was more than she thought possible until he wasn’t. Once married, things change and the doting man becomes increasingly controlling. Limiting her life, even more than her physical state does.

This is a domestic thriller, claustrophobic and dark, and you wonder if she has it in her to escape. Then there’s a twist that turns this into a noir psychological thriller, where you doubt what you read, and don’t know who to believe, and wonder if anything that came before is ‘The Truth’?

The ending has another twist and leaves ‘normal’ minds with more questions. Based on a collection of real events, this is chilling, claustrophobic and clever, something different.

Guest Post – Naomi Joy – The TruthNotes on Inspiration

If you ask authors where they get their inspiration, you’ll receive a range of answers. It might be an amazing location that’s captured their imagination – I think of Mandy Baggot’s Greek settings or Pat Black’s dark forests. They could have picked up on trends in our society – how more and more people are meeting one another online (Click, L.Smyth). It could have been a big change in their own lives – a new baby, a new job, a new man on the train (The Note, Z.Folbigg) – that sparked their creative fuse. I read about an author whose grandparent had lived through the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and written a diary about the day – inspiration indeed. It could be other worlds, imagined worlds, or a hypothetical question they’re keen to explore. But for me, my interest is usually piqued by a real-life person, most often a fascinating female case-study who’s done something terrible. I love to start from that point and imagine what’s come before: how did this evil emerge? What made this person who they are? Why?

Before I started writing The Truth, I was inspired by a collection of real people who’ve all committed the same sociopathic crime and, though I can’t go into detail about the specifics, as soon as I heard about them I couldn’t do anything else until I’d written a version of their stories myself.

The Liars, inspiration came from a number of toxic women I’d worked with, but, more interesting than their devious and despicable behaviour, was what made them that way. I read about how modern office culture favours competition and actively encourages employees to cut-down their competitors rather than collaborate, and thus the office-culture at the heart of the story was born.

As I sit down to work on my third novel for Aria Fiction, I will follow the same process, so, if you hear about any deranged and dastardly women: send them my way!

Naomi Joy is the pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.

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Extract from ‘The Truth’.

‘Emelia? Are you up?’

My ears prick, and I tune into the crescendo of footsteps, the turn of a lock, the twist of a doorknob. I push my laptop under the bed, determined to keep my blog a secret. It’s not that I don’t trust him, I just… It thuds as it hits the damask rug beneath and I recoil my arm quickly, pulling the covers back over my body and up around my neck to make it looks as though I’ve been sleeping rather than typing, but this sudden movement throws fistfuls of confetti-dust into the splinters of light in the room and I worry he’ll suspect that I’ve been up to something.

He knocks.

‘Come in,’ I reply.

My dressing gown fans as the door opens, the gust catching the silk sleeve and part of the body, transforming it, for a second, from inanimate object to ghostly spectre.

‘Morning, darling. How are you feeling?’

He peers at me through full-moon black-rimmed spectacles, the paper-thin skin beneath his eyes tinged purple – not enough sleep – his long fingers curled around the door handle. His carefully groomed moustache quivers above his top lip flicked up at the ends. He’s excited about something.

‘Any better?’ he asks.

‘No,’ I croak from my resting place. ‘I still feel like death.’

He walks towards me, eyebrows crooked, wedding ring flashing as he passes through the bursts of sunlight. He dabs the sweat slathering my brow and folds back the duvet gently, eager to help, but the movement releases the smell of my own stench into the otherwise beautiful room. His lips pucker in response. He tries not to gag.

‘I want to take you somewhere today,’ he says, bitter coffee on his breath.

I turn my head fully towards him and we lock eyes.

‘Where?’ I ask too quickly, too eagerly, droplets pooling anew in the curve of my lower back.

‘The excavation. I thought it might make you feel better.’

I smile, elated for a moment, then look away, my eyes on the opposite wall. There are a couple of problems with this suggestion. The first: he’s promised this before. I must not get my hopes up. The second: I am sick, deathly unwell, and, though I have the will to leave, I’m not sure there’s any possible way that I can. My stomach twists and jealousy rumbles in its pit. He is well. He can go wherever he likes. He can work and, better still, he loves his job. Anthony’s a famous archaeologist and, although that might sound oxymoronic, to those in the industry he’s a rock star. Literally.

‘I’d love to,’ I answer.

Despite my reservations, I am hopeful that I will go outside today. In fact, it is imperative that I do; Anthony is nothing but kind and patient with me and yet my brain is turning me against him, doubting his intentions. If I could just find the strength to ignore the searing pain in my abdomen, the tightness in my chest, the raging sweats, the all-consuming itch of my skin, the fire beneath, things would start to improve, we’d get back to who we were before. I know we would. My heart thumps, already exhausted, as I heave my reluctant body up to a seated position and swing my feet to the floor. I balance on the edge of the mattress, letting the black spots from my headrush pass, and, just as I’m about to stand, my toes hit the edge of my laptop hidden beneath the bed, making me jump. I glance behind me, hoping he won’t have noticed.

‘Now then,’ he says softly, taking my hand. ‘Time for your medicine.’

Two pills land in my palm – Antriptophene – and for once I stutter at what he’s given me: I don’t recognise this brand and I’m immediately suspicious of it. I look at the long drink of lukewarm water left on the bedside table overnight, coated now with a thin film of dust. Something doesn’t feel right.

‘What are these?’

‘Your doctor’s recommended them, they’re supposed to be excellent.’

I look at the pills again, at the blocky red writing atop bright orange casing and make a decision.

‘I’m not taking these.’

Anthony’s face breaks with lines, lips curling at my refusal, shocked that I would even question what he’s giving me. Taken aback, he stalls, then relents, folding them into his hand and leaving the room without another word, his tall frame pausing momentarily in the light of the doorway.

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

Lies Lies Lies Adele Parks 4*#Review @HQStories @adeleparks #BlogTour @izsmith95 #noir #FamilyDrama #DomesticThriller #Marriage #Secrets

#LiesLiesLies

Amazon UK

Back Cover Blurb

Waterstones

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

#LiesLiesLies #BlogTour

My Thoughts…

‘Lies, Lies, Lies’, deals with serious contemporary issues, has characters who are hard to empathise with, and yet, it is a compulsive read.

It starts with a lie, and as it infolds the web of lies intensifies. Simon is an alcoholic, he tells so many lies to hide the extent of his addiction. When he stumbles upon an uncomfortable secret, alcohol is his solace, but his lies are less believable and Daisy. his usually forgiving wife is losing patience. Daisy protects her daughter at all costs., increasingly she feels it’s Simon she needs to protect her from. His descent into alcoholism is accelerating, and the changes of keeping a secret and their family intact recede.

The first part of the book focuses on Simon’s alcoholism, how it affects him, Daisy and Millie their six-year-old daughter. For me this part of the story is hard going, it is authentic and believable, but a little long. The second part of the story is better. Faster paced, the hint that everything isn’t quite how it seems. The final part is suspenseful and shocking. The lies fall apart and the truth is finally revealed. The plot twists, are realistic, even though I guessed some, others are not revealed until the very end.

This book is primarily a family drama, an exploration of how addiction can damage family life. Sacrifice, secrets nd suspense all feature in this story, and the menace increases as the final chapters.reveal the truth.

This believable, claustrophobic story for fans of family drama and domestic thrillers.

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

The Starter Wife – Nina Laurin – 4*#Review @MulhollandUK @HodderBooks @HodderFiction @NinaLaurinBooks #PsychologicalThriller #Suspense #DomesticThriller

Claire Westcott tries to be the perfect wife to Byron but fears she will never measure up to his ex, Colleen. After all, it’s hard to compete with the dead.

Colleen went missing eight years ago. Her body was never found but the police ruled it a suicide. So when Claire receives a phone call from a woman she believes is Colleen, it sparks a million terrifying questions.

Claire discovers the couple weren’t as happy as they would have people believe. And now she’s worried Byron has been lying to her.

There are secrets in every marriage, but sometimes those secrets are deadly.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton UK – Mulholland Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The illusion of a perfect marriage is a popular trope for psychological thrillers. but this one has enough originality to make it addictive. Told from two points of view, Claire, Byron’s second wife, and an unknown younger woman, it uncovers a web of lies. Claire is an unreliable protagonist, she drinks and is obsessive. She is hard to empathise, even though she appears to be the victim. The other point of view is also obsessive and appears to present a threat to Byron and Claire’s marriage.

The pace and length of the story are perfect, no unnecessary detail, to detract from the character insights and the events, past and present that the plot reveals. This is a complex story, with many twists, the reader deviates between Claire, Byron and the mystery point of view, who is the victim and who is the antagonist?

It’s a story that demands concentration, you can’t dip in and out, the clues are there, and are more obvious as the story heads towards its conclusion, but they are easy to miss, or misconstrue.

The ending fits well with what has gone before and is a satisfactory conclusion of this cleverly plotted, page-turning, psychological thriller.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship

Her Husband’s Mistake- 5* #Review Sheila O’Flanagan @headlinepg @HeadlineFiction @sheilaoflanagan #Family #Relationships #Life #PublicationDay

Roxy’s marriage has always been rock solid.

After twenty years, and with two carefree kids, she and Dave are still the perfect couple.

Until the day she comes home unexpectedly and finds Dave in bed with their attractive, single neighbour.

Suddenly Roxy isn’t sure about anything – her past, the business she’s taken over from her dad, or what her family’s future might be. She’s spent so long caring about everyone else that she’s forgotten what she actually wants. But something has changed. And Roxy has a decision to make.

Whether it’s with Dave, or without him, it’s time for Roxy to start living for herself…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Living and then married to her school sweetheart, Roxy’s adult life has always been a partnership, she thought their marriage was strong, their family, all they both wanted. When her father became terminally ill, she expected, and received her husband Dave’s support, until she didn’t.

Arriving home unexpectedly after the funeral, she finds her loving husband committing the ultimate betrayal, with their attractive next-door-neighbour, and just like that everything changes for Roxy and her young children.

Even though this a soul-destroying discovery, it is written with self-deprecating humour, Roxy is restrained, her reactions even surprise herself, but she is a reflective thinker and doesn’t make life-changing decisions on impulse. She walks away to the safety of her childhood home, kids in tow, to decide on the future for all of them.

Grief for her father and her marriage rule her emotions, but she has responsibilities and moves forward, even though she wants to hide in a dark room and lick her wounds, like an injured animal. This story charts her journey of self-realisation, as she discovers new challenges and possibilities suddenly visible now she is released from the safety bubble of her marriage.

Dave wants his easy life back, even though he is the one who jeopardised it, It’s hard to feel any empathy for such a self-absorbed creature. Roxy is strong, giving and dependable, she is easy to empathise, many mothers will recognise something of themselves in her behaviour and personality traits, regardless of their circumstances.

Easy to read, with contemporary issues and believable, complex characters, this story of empowerment and family life is relatable, and that is why it’s so engaging to read.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance -Dark and Steamy

Cape May – 4* #Review Chip Cheek @orionbooks @wnbooks @ChipCheek @PoppyStimpson

September 1957

Henry and Effie, young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. It’s the end of the season and the town is deserted. 
As they tentatively discover each other, they begin to realize that everyday married life might be disappointingly different from their happily-ever-after fantasy.

Just as they get ready to cut the trip short, a decadent and glamorous set suddenly sweep them up into their drama – Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing – W&N Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Told from Henry’s point of view, this story explores his honeymoon with Effie as they discover marriage isn’t quite the fairytale they believed. Disillusioned they are swept away by a glamorous trio of people who they meet in the deserted jet-set resort. What follows changes their lives forever, and explores a way of life that is far removed from the clean, wholesome ideal of 1950s North America.

There are obvious and deliberate similarities between this story and ‘The Great Gatsby’. The glamour, the importance of money, the innocence of the young couple, and the ethos of desperate sadness.

Henry’s innocence and naivety, and the lack of reality he feels in Cape May make him easy prey. Full of sexual innuendo and passion, which highlight the differences between the young couple and their new friends. Most disturbing is the way Clara, Max, Alma, and ultimately Henry and Effie, treat other people’s houses and possessions. They are similarly careless of people’s feelings.

Whilst you may be taken in by their glamour, and their risque way of life, especially against the staid historical background of 1950s America. They also appear shallow, immoral and pathetic as they strive for something decadent to give them their next high.

Even though the characters are not likeable, the story is. I like its authenticity, sensuality and insight. The ending is poignant and full of lost opportunities for happiness. There is an undeniable question of what if they’d honeymooned on Florida?