Posted in Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Giveaway, Guest post

Surviving Me Jo Johnson #GuestPost #BookSpotlight #JoJohnson @rararesources #Life #MentalHealth #Men #Society #Giveaway

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.

If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

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Everybody hurts – Guest Post – Jo Johnson

In my debut novel “Surviving Me” my main character Tom Cleary is hurting. He’s experiencing feelings of loss, guilt, anxiety and sadness. Instead of acknowledging his pain, he ignores and buries his painful feelings, he withdraws from others and uses alcohol in an attempt to drown his sorrows.

The R.E.M. song tells us, ‘Everybody hurts sometimes’. I don’t think many would argue with that.

However good life is, there will be times this week when you’ve experienced emotional pain. Whenever we do something meaningful, it gives us pain as well as pleasure.

Writing this blog feels positive, I hope it helps someone but I feel anxious it is boring, guilty that I should be at home and frustrated that the table I’m working on is making my neck hurt.

Unless you live on a desert island you’ll know even the best relationships bring disappointment, frustration, conflict, grief, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness and guilt.

Given the amount of experience we have with emotional pain, we should be great at dealing with it but most of us are not.

Often, when we are hurting, we inflict further hurt on ourselves.

The most recent research makes it clear that self-compassion helps.

Self-compassion involves acknowledging your own emotional pain and responding with compassion and care. This means treating yourself with the same warmth and kindness that you’d show to someone else.

Here is a little test.

When a friend is hurting, would you?

  • -Tell them to stop whining, to man up.
  • -call them boring, pathetic or stupid.
  • -encourage them to isolate themselves, stay in, keep quiet.
  • -make them self-harm by drinking or eating too much, make them starve or dehydrate.

Now ask yourself these questions.

What do you do to yourself when you are hurting?

What do you say to yourself when you are hurting?

How do you say it?

I bet you are a good friend. Are you as good to yourself? If not, here are a few starter steps:-

1. Acknowledge you are hurting, simply say or write, I’m sad, hurting or feeling ashamed.

2. Notice where in your body you feel this pain. Draw it out on the outline of a body. Colour in where it hurts.

3. Write down the thoughts that are taunting you. For example, you might write or say, “I’m noticing painful feelings of rejection” or “I’m noticing thoughts about being a loser” or “I’m noticing sadness and anxiety”.

4. Then ask yourself, what do I need? How might I treat my friend? Perhaps you could have a warm bath, enjoy a walk or spend time with people who care.

Self-compassion doesn’t get rid of our pain but it changes the way we manage it and makes us less likely hurt ourselves further. Our default is to try and stop emotional pain by distraction or another behaviour. The most common are excessive or restrictive eating, substance misuse, over work, blaming others, searching the internet or using social media. Notice what you are doing, ask yourself if the behaviours will help you in the long term. Would you suggest the behaviour to a friend in pain?

‘’Surviving Me” tackles hard issues such as depression, male suicide and degenerative disease. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

Follow this link to read 120 reviews or to purchase the book on Amazon:

Amazon UK

Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specialising in neurological disorders and mind health.

I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.

I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.

I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.

Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”. 

In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.

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Giveaway to Win two signed copies of Surviving Me &  five Surviving Me fridge magnets  (Open INT)

Click on Giveaway Link To Enter

1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me

5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway Link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Romance

The Neighbours Nicola Gill 4* #Review @Nicola_J_Gill @AvonBooksUK #BlogTour #Romance #TheNeighbours #Friendship #life #multigenerational #relationships #BookReview #Paperback

#TheNeighbours

Some women have it all. Others are thirty-four and rent a tiny flat alone because they recently found their long-term boyfriend in bed with their boss. Ginny Taylor is certain her life can’t get any worse. But then she meets her downstairs neighbour…
 
Cassie Frost was once a beloved actress, but after a recent mishap, she desperately needs a new publicist. And Ginny is a publicist who desperately needs a job – but can she be persuaded to work for the prickly woman who lives below her floorboards?
 
Ginny and Cassie are two very different women, but they have more in common than they’d care to imagine (or admit). And when their worlds collide, they realise that sometimes – just sometimes – bad neighbours become good friends…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

An excellent multi-generational look at friendship, romance, career, self-esteem, self-realisation, seen from 30 something, Ginny’s point of view. The writing style is contemporary, referencing current events and issues. It’s easy to read and focuses on the lives of Ginny and Cassie, who is in her fifties and experiencing the sharper end of being a media star.

It takes a while for us to meet Cassie, and to begin I wondered where the title ‘The Neighbours’, related to the story. When the two do meet, both women are experiencing all-time lows in their lives, and consequently are lashing out. Any kind of friendship seems unlikely, but Cassie needs someone to promote her positively and Ginny needs a job, so they start there, and out of a professional need, a worthwhile. mutually beneficial friendship grows.

Ginny is lovely but flawed, and meeting Cassie forces her to look at herself, and see how she can achieve her life goals. The relentless, unforgiving nature of modern life is explored, with its consistent toll on mental health, and self-worth. Like many good friendships, the two women are different in many ways, and this draws them together because they both have something positive to offer the other.

Humorous and poignant, this is a relevant story about life in the twenty-first century and the importance of friends, who care about you, and not your career or financial status.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Romance

Rewrite The Stars Emma Heatherington 5*#Review @emmalou13 @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam #Family#Drama #Romance #MentalHealth #relationships #life #serendipity #BookReview

It’s never too late to say I love you…

From the moment they meet one December day there’s something between Charlotte Taylor and her brother’s best friend, Tom Farley. But Tom’s already taken and Charlie has to let him go…

It’s another five years before their paths cross again only a secret from the past forces Charlie to make a choice. She promises herself she’ll never look back…

The years pass and Charlie moves on with her life but she can never forget Tom. He’s always there whispering ‘What if?’.

Can Charlie leave the life she has built for one last chance with Tom?  Or is the one that got away not really the one at all…?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A heartwarming, serendipitous story, about Charlotte’s life and loves. At twenty-two, she meets the one, but there’s someone else in Tom’s life, and the love remains unrequited. The story continues with chance meetings, but life events force them apart.

Music is a recurrent theme in this story, reflecting life events and changes in emotions.

The romance is chequered, but Charlotte faces family tragedies and difficult decisions that shape her as a person. The impact of mental health issues on families is explored with sensitivity. The idea that our lives could be different if we’d made another choice is also a theme of this emotional story. As Charlotte matures and changes, as life events occur.

There is a strong sense of place in this story that grounds it, adds interest and give it authenticity.
The characters are realistic and draw you into their world.

The ending is plausible and positive.

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, 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, Literary Fiction

Lost Daughter – Ali Mercer -5* #Review @bookouture @AlisonLMercer #LiteraryFiction #Family #Secrets #MentalHealth

If you think photos aren’t important… wait until they’re all you have left of your child.

Your life isn’t perfect, but you’re still happy. Your husband has stuck by you and he’s a good dad. Your daughter Becca makes your heart explode with love. And then, in the time it takes to say ‘bad mother’, there’s no longer a place for you in your own family. Your right to see your child has disappeared.

Life goes on in your house – family dinners, missing socks and evening baths – but you aren’t there anymore. Becca may be tucked up in bed in Rose Cottage, but she is as lost to you as if she had been snatched from under your nose.

Everyone knows you deserve this, for what you did. Except you’re starting to realise that things maybe aren’t how you thought they were, and your husband isn’t who you thought he was either. That the truths you’ve been so diligently punishing yourself for are built on sand, and the daughter you have lost has been unfairly taken from you. Wouldn’t that be more than any mother could bear?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Losing your child is every parents’ nightmare, losing your child because of something you did, leaves you with a lethal cocktail of grief and guilt, and makes you wonder if you can carry on.

Lost Daughter’, follows Rachel’s tragic tale of being cut out of her teenage daughter’s life, because of one lapse of judgement. Written in a multi-point of view format, with flashbacks to the past, and more recent past, the story follows Rachel, and later Leona and Viv, as they try to live with themselves after being estranged from their children.

All three stories are unique, the women are from different generations, but they share a bond of guilt and loss. Two of the three main female characters in this story, Rachel and Viv are easy to empathise, they do have flaws, but that makes them believable. Leona is the hardest character of the three to empathise, but she does have redeeming features. The story has some surprising twists as the women’s lives’ become woven together.


Complex and poignant the plot engages you. This story is an emotional rollercoaster, you feel anger at the women’s acceptance of their fate, frustrated that they seem in a cycle of despair and guilt, and hopeful that through sheer determination, they are able to move forward and live rather than exist.

As a footnote, the only thing I found hard to believe is Rachel’s forgiving attitude to her self-absorbed, judgemental husband, but clearly, he is an authentic character because I disliked him so much.

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

Little Darlings -Melanie Golding – 5* #Review – #Author #Interview @HQStories @HQDigital @mk_golding #Thriller #MentalHealth #Folklore #WednesdayWisdom #WednesdayThoughts

THE TWINS ARE CRYING. 
THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.

LAUREN IS CRYING. 
LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .

Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her new-born twins when a terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves her convinced someone is trying to steal her children. Lauren, desperate with fear, locks herself and her sons in the bathroom until the police arrive to investigate.

When DS Joanna Harper picks up the list of overnight incidents that have been reported, she expects the usual calls from drunks and wrong numbers. But then a report of an attempted abduction catches her eye. The only thing is that it was flagged as a false alarm just fifteen minutes later.

Harper’s superior officer tells her there’s no case here, but Harper can’t let it go so she visits the hospital anyway. There’s nothing on the CCTV. No one believes this woman was ever there. And yet, Lauren claims that she keeps seeing the woman and that her babies are in danger, and soon Harper is sucked into Lauren’s spiral of fear. But how far will they go to save children who may not even be in danger?

Amazon UK

 Little Darlings –  Blog Tour – Interview Questions – Melanie Golding

What inspired you to write this story?

I began with a re-telling of an obscure folktale which features in the book, A Brewery of Eggshells. After a while, I started thinking about who thought it up in the first place and why. I thought maybe it was actually about postpartum depression and psychosis. Either that or fairies were real….

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

Characters begin as amalgamations of people I know; maybe they have one or two opinions in common with someone in real life. After a while, they become real people that live in my head, with no connection to anyone outside of it apart from the few seeds I might have used to create them. Often they are or contain aspects of myself, extrapolated.

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

The story comes first, and the characters are part of that; the story wouldn’t be happening to anyone else, it’s always because of something the characters are or are involved in. The setting is very important, but it tends to grow up around the story.

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

I think writing for many people is unavoidable. However, I did make a conscious choice to switch from writing lyrics and music to writing novels, as performing never seemed to fit around my personal life. I’m so glad I did because it turns out I’m a lot more successful, for whatever reason, at writing novels than being a singer/songwriter.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

All books! I will read anything, everything, always. If there is text in front of my eyes it gets read. In the shower, I have to turn the shampoo bottle away or I’ll keep reading the back of it, over and over.

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

Best thing: solitude

Worst thing: loneliness

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

My Thoughts…

Where to start with this unusual thriller. It is a curious mix of folklore and medicine, seen from Lauren’s point of view, she is acting sanely to ensure her babies are safe. Seen from a medical perspective she has mental health issues, most likely puerperal psychosis. The question is what do you believe, and even at the end of the story, I’m not sure.

This story resonates. In Victorian times any non-conformist behaviour was considered a mental aberration, many young women incarcerated in mental institutions, just because they had children out of wedlock, So perhaps, in this case, the truth lies somewhere in between the folklore and the medicine?

Intense and suspenseful, you are torn between Lauren’s anxiety and need to find her children, and the prospect that if she isn’t stopped innocents will suffer. It’s an intelligent thriller, with many layers and possibilities and a poignant ending that makes you wonder what if.

Lauren is an unreliable protagonist, but she is easy to empathise, even though part of you believes she may be dangerous. Harper is a complex character, a police detective, who is drawn to the case by her own history, and even though she finds answers she is still not sure she’s discovered the truth. The cast of supporting characters are essential and give the story depth and diversion.

Prefacing each chapter with folklore concerning Changelings, .the reader compare them with what is happening in the story, adding to its complexity.

This is a creepy, unsettling thriller, exploring the grey areas of mental health and the power of folklore, why did it originate, was it to explain why some mothers seemed to endanger their children, or is there a twisted truth, we don’t understand?

‘Little Darlings’ is disturbingly different.