Author: Lily B

Sophia Rose Review: Fatal Finds in Nuala by Harriet Steel

Posted May 20, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 10 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: Fatal Finds in Nuala by Harriet SteelFatal Finds in Nuala by Harriet Steel
Series: The Inspector de Silva Mysteries #4
Published by Stane Street Press on July 11th 2018
Genres: Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 212
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

In this fourth instalment of the Inspector de Silva mysteries, it is monsoon season in the Hill Country. One stormy night, a ghostly encounter on a lonely road leads de Silva into a case of murder, and a mystery that stretches back to Ceylon’s distant past. To uncover the truth, he will have to face death and his inner demons. Fatal Finds in Nuala is another absorbing and colourful mystery in this series that vividly portrays Sri Lanka’s Colonial past.

I have come to really enjoy this engaging historical cozy mystery series set in Ceylon of the 1930’s. In this installment, Shanti, Jane, and Archie Clutterbuck engage in an archeological mystery in the jungle outside Nuala that involves murder during the height of the Monsoon season.

Fatal Finds in Nuala is the fourth of the Inspector de Silva mysteries. This is a series that is enjoyed best when read in order, but is versatile so it can easily be treated as a series of standalones, too.

There is a lovely blend of exotic location, time period, engaging characters, and a clever mystery. I love that the detective is non British and a native Singalese of middle-age. Shanti is thoughtful and clever. He respects others and struggles to be patient when he isn’t accorded the same and it interferes with his work.

A chance breakdown begins the chain of events that leads him to investigating a villager’s murder that seems to be connected with curious, but not necessarily priceless coins from the Kandy empire era. Or are they worthless? Shanti’s instincts are aroused even with few facts. His boss, Archie, is in an expansive mood, so he pursues thread-like leads.

Unlike some cozies, this series have some pretty exciting moments of danger and action. I do enjoy seeing Shanti get himself out of some tight situations and the setting of jungle and the poor weather adds to the suspense. And, it’s fun when the lightbulb comes on and he nails the villain. This was one where there is some foreshadowing that puts the reader onto some of the truth before the facts got there for the reveal. That said, I didn’t have it all figured out.

There were a few sweet moments when Jane comes along with Shanti to find clues in the jungle and a trip on the train to visit the city where they met.

So, it was another solid entry in the series and leaves me eager for more. Definitely a recommended series.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

Posted May 16, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 13 Comments

Review: The Echo Killing by Christi DaughertyThe Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty
Series: Harper McClain, #1
Published by Minotaur Books on March 13, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 356
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

When a murder echoing a fifteen-year-old cold case rocks the Southern town of Savannah, crime reporter Harper McClain risks everything to find the identity of this calculated killer.
A city of antebellum architecture, picturesque parks, and cobblestone streets, Savannah moves at a graceful pace. But for Harper McClain, the timeless beauty and culture that distinguishes her home’s Southern heritage vanishes during the dark and dangerous nights. She wouldn’t have it any other way. Not even finding her mother brutally murdered in their home when she was twelve has made her love Savannah any less.
Her mother’s killer was never found, and that unsolved murder left Harper with an obsession that drove her to become one of the best crime reporters in the state of Georgia. She spends her nights with the police, searching for criminals. Her latest investigation takes her to the scene of a homicide where the details are hauntingly familiar: a young girl being led from the scene by a detective, a female victim naked and stabbed multiple times in the kitchen, and no traces of any evidence pointing towards a suspect.
Harper has seen all of this before in her own life. The similarities between the murder of Marie Whitney and her own mother’s death lead her to believe they’re both victims of the same killer. At last, she has the chance to find the murderer who’s eluded justice for fifteen years and make sure another little girl isn’t forever haunted by a senseless act of violence―even if it puts Harper in the killer’s cross-hairs…

At the age of twelve, Harper McClain found her mother brutally murdered in their beautiful Savannah home. Since her killer was never found, the unsolved murder of her mother left Harper obsessed and drove her to become one of the best crime reporters in the state. Now years later, another killing occurs and Marie Whitney has echoes of Harper’s mother’s murder. There are so similar, down to the finer details that Harper is sure that it is the same killer that killed her mother years ago, surfacing after all this time. But no one seems to believe her. Now Harper is left alone trying to find the killer in a world where no one seems to believe her hunch, but her actions might leave her more alienated and losing everything in order to bring forth justice.

This book was…

Interesting. I liked it. For the most part, I thought the story was compelling for the most part. I think the set up had me very invested in finding out how all of this ties together in the end even if the killer becomes obvious halfway through.

I liked the writing. I thought Christi Daugherty’s writing is really good. My issue wasn’t with the story and the concept so much as it was with Harper. This is a very character driven book and if you don’t like the main character, it can definitely hinder how you feel about this book and it did with me. I liked Harper to begin with but then her obsession turned into recklessness and started testing her morality and it showed me that there are many lines that she is willing to cross despite who it hurts in the process. I found her reckless, impulsive, a user and morally questionable. I agreed with Luke and the other characters about their stance on her visit to the victim’s daughter. Even when the author played the outcome more subdue. I felt like this was a good example of how Harper really did not care the lengths she went to find this killer, or how her actions would affect multiple people in this book and her actions have caused a lot of consequences as a whole. That for me was just a little much, she wasn’t even a detective.

There was a bit of a push and pull romance going on here with Luke, the cop. She’s a crime reporter, his a cop, they shouldn’t have a relationship, they want a relationship, but they shouldn’t and Luke is also a casualty of how far she was willing to go. I love Luke, he was such a great character with a lot of heart, but I agree with his words in this book to her and don’t want to see this relationship work out.

Overall, I liked the writing, I liked the concept. It was a solid read, but ultimately I just did not care for Harper. I will probably continue on with the series because it left a hook interesting enough to see how it plays out, but I’ll be more cautious.

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Review: The Summer House by Jenny Hale

Posted May 15, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

Review: The Summer House by Jenny HaleThe Summer House by Jenny Hale
Series: standalone
Published by Forever, Bookouture on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback, Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From this USA Today bestselling author comes a delightful summer read about friendship, family, and the healing power of love.
Callie Weaver and her best friend, Olivia Dixon, have finally done it: put their life savings into the beach house they admired through childhood summers, on the dazzling white sand of North Carolina's Outer Banks. They're going to buff the salt from its windows, paint its sun-bleached sidings, and open it as a bed-and-breakfast. Callie's too busy to think about her love life, but when she catches the attention of local heartthrob Luke Sullivan, his blue eyes and easy smile make it hard to say no. He's heir to his father's real estate empire, and the papers say he's just another playboy. But as they laugh in the ocean waves, Callie realizes there's more to this man than money and good looks. Just when true happiness seems within reach, Callie and Olivia find a diary full of secrets . . . secrets that stretch across the island and have the power to turn lives upside down. As Callie reads, she unravels a mystery that makes her heart drop through the floor. Will Callie and Luke be pulled apart by the storm the diary unleashes, or can true love save them?

Callie Weaver with her best friend, Olivia Dixon, have finally done what they always wanted. They bought the beach house they have admired through their childhood summers, and they are going to turn the lovely house on the sands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks into a bed and breakfast. With everything to focus on the last thing Callie has in mind is falling in love, until she catches the attention of the very local heartthrob Luke Sullivan. With his easy smiles and charming personality, it’s hard to say no. The paper’s all splash him as an entitled playboy, but as Callie spends more time with Luke, she realizes that he is nothing that the media is trying to paint him to be. Underneath all the expectations, his struggles and generosity are just as real. But when Callie discovers an old journal in the house, she finds secrets that can shake an entire family.

I enjoyed this so much. This was just a lovely, quiet summer read. I adored the wonderful group of characters and how much this made me wish for warmer weather during this very cold and dreary spring.

Jenny Hale really has a way to bring her characters to live with flaws and all and make them easy to relate to and very human. Both Callie and Olivia give you the girl next door vibes that, have you rooting for them and their success with the beach house. The romance was super sweet and cute and I really enjoyed watching Luke and Callie grow close. I liked that Luke was just a bit out of touch because of money, but not to the point where it made him completely superficial. It made him that much more endearing in a way.

There is a bit of a secret in the story that leads to some revelations and complications, but I found that it worked and I enjoyed it.

Overall, I really loved how Jenny Hale writes her romances and her characters that just have a way of endearing themselves to you. Charming, with a lot of heart, and wonderful writing, The Summer House by Jenny Hale is just the book you need for the summer nights.

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Review Round Up #6

Posted May 12, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review Round Up #6Deadly Obsession by April Hunt
Series: Steele Ops, #1
Published by Forever on April 30, 2019
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:three-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“April Hunt’s romantic suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat.”—New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster
Someone is watching their every move.
After a lifetime spent in and out of hospitals, Zoey Wright is tired of playing it safe. She’s ready to take charge of her own life and get out of her comfort zone, starting with a new job as a CSI agent. But when her childhood crush Knox Steele gets pulled onto her case, Zoey needs to put her feelings for him aside or more women will die at the hands of the serial killer preying on her hometown.
Former Army Ranger Knox Steele is back in Washington to help his brothers open an elite private security firm. He never expected to stumble onto a crime scene, or see his best friend’s little sister working it. Zoey is all grown up now, and the attraction between them is electric, despite his best efforts to resist it. But all that changes for Knox when he realizes the victims have one thing in common . . . and Zoey might be next.

After spending most of her life in and out of the hospital Zoey Wright is done playing it safe. She is ready to get out of her comfort zone and take charge of her own life, starting with her new job as a CSI agent. All of that is easier said than done when you have an overprotective, overbearing brother Cade and his friends the Steele brothers. All to whom Zoey has been nothing but a little sister, including Cade’s best friend Knox. But Zoey does not want Knox to see her as a little sister. Knox is just “passing” through and the last thing he wants is to get attached, too bad that Zoey is ready to meet that challenge. Meanwhile, there is a serial killer on the loose called the Cupid Killer who has the tendency to murder his victims and leaving them with a cut the shape of a heart on their chest, and Zoey fits the profile.

I really enjoyed this one more than I expected. I loved all the Steele brothers, especially Roman and Knox and this book was a great start to what is promising to be an enjoyable series.

I thoroughly loved Knox and Zoey. Zoey with her spunky go get them personality, that has undergone so much in her life and Knox with his protectiveness over Zoey as well as his search to find where he belongs. These two made such a cute couple with their touch and go relationship, I found myself really rooting for them.

I did find that the book meandered a bit at times. The action with the serial killer mostly happens in the end, this is mostly a romance novel first and suspense second. Which is fine and works, and it works for what the Steele brothers are trying to do. It wasn’t hard to figure out who the Cupid Killer was, but I still found myself racing through the pages at the end.

I am really looking forward to more books in the series. I am especially looking forward to Cade and Grace’s story that left me wanting more and Roman, who I think at this moment is becoming my favorite.

Review Round Up #6Fire Season by Stephen Blackmoore
Published by Daw Books on April 16th 2019
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 294
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The fourth book of this dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.
Los Angeles is burning.
During one of the hottest summers the city has ever seen, someone is murdering mages with fires that burn when they shouldn't, that don't stop when they should. Necromancer Eric Carter is being framed for the killings and hunted by his own people.
To Carter, everything points to the god Quetzalcoatl coming after him, after he defied the mad wind god in the Aztec land of the dead. But too many things aren't adding up, and Carter knows there's more going on.
If he doesn't figure out what it is and put a stop to it fast, Quetzalcoatl won't just kill him, he'll burn the whole damn city down with him.

Los Angeles is burning and someone is out there blaming Eric Carter for all the mages that are dropping dead. Now he is being hunted by his own people. With a help of a few friends, he might just have enough to find who is responsible for the death of the mages and how it’s linked to the fires that are breaking out throughout the city.

Everything points to the god Quetzalcoatl a mad Aztec wind god, who Carter defied in the Land of the Dead. But things aren’t adding up and it’s up to Eric to put a stop to it, even if it means making a bargain he managed to avoid so far.

I really, really enjoyed this. I forgot how much I love Urban fantasy and this one was great. I liked the use of the Aztec gods, to me personally, that’s a new encounter in Urban fantasy and I found it different and refreshing. I liked Eric, I loved his personality, it was witty and a bit out there, and I found myself giggling more than once.

The world was also great. I thought following a necromancer was different and just a great spin in general.

There is a warning for drug use if it might be triggering.

Overall, I thought the world that Stephen Blackmoore created here is fantastic. This was my first book from this author, so yes, I was starting kind of four books into the series, but I found that I was able to follow everything regardless. Eric has a lot going on. Being married to the Death Goddess is just one of those things. This book has a great cast of side characters as well as some really brave female characters that made my day.  The story was fast paced, it was fun and I enjoyed the writing. I will be looking for more.

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Review: Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Posted May 10, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review: Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew WhalenOnly Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Series: standalone
Published by Lake Union Publishing on May 7th 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 279
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It was to be the perfect wedding—until the bride disappeared.
Annie Taft’s wedding is four days away, and it will be one of the grandest anyone can remember in her small South Carolina town. Preparations are in order. Friends and family are gathering in anticipation. Everything is going according to plan. Except that Annie herself has vanished. Did she have second thoughts?
Or has something much worse happened to the bride-to-be?
As the days pass, the list of suspects in her disappearance grows. Could it be the recently released man a young Annie misidentified as her mother’s killer? Could it be someone even closer to her?
While her loved ones frantically try to track her down, they’re forced to grapple with their own secrets—secrets with the power to reframe entire relationships, leaving each to wonder how well they really knew Annie and how well they know themselves.

Annie’s wedding is only four days away and it’s a big event for the small town. Such a big event that the local reporter Laurel is doing her best to try and get the scoop. The wedding isn’t the only big event that happens. Annie is contacted by a lawyer about the man that went to prison for her mother’s murder, one that after all these years might be innocent and is serving a sentence he wasn’t meant to. Now Annie is missing, and her friends and family are trying to find her. While the search for Annie is moved into actions, the characters must come to terms with their own regrets and what it means to finally let them go.

I enjoyed this story. I thought it was a fast read. I loved the last book by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen. So while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I thought it was a good, quick read. That being said.  The book is classified as a thriller on goodreads and I don’t believe that this is a thriller but more of a general fiction.

The story mostly follows Clary, Annie’s cousin. Faye her aunt who raised her. Kenney, a kid that admired Annie since school and Laurel a reporter. It follows their lives as this situation unfolds and how they deal with Annie’s disappears as well as some major milestones in their lives.

I really wanted more character development. I think this had a lot more potential that it just did not seem to reach. While I liked the premise and the characters, I just really wanted more.

I was confused about how a town that took the testimony of a three-year-old and jailed an innocent man. She was three… How does that even happen?

Also, the revelation, in the end, felt completely out of the blue and perhaps added for shock value?

But I saw what the author mostly wanted to do with this. I appreciated that. I thought some of it was really sad and emotional and I do enjoy her writing. Overall, I am looking forward to see what she does next.

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Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Posted May 3, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 19 Comments

Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall KellyLost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
Series: Lilac Girls
Published by Ballantine Books on April 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline's mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.
It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker's treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov's. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.
From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre's who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

The year is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so often, that most people have started to disregard it. Eliza Ferriday is happy to be traveling to St. Petersburg with her friend Sofya Streshnayva, who is the cousin of the Romanovs. As the Russian Whites and the Monarchy continue to enjoy their wealth and privilege with fancy balls, the turmoil on the streets continues to spin out of control as the red coats continue to gain power. Until the day that the Russian monarchy is overthrown finally comes, and Russia is left in peril.

The story follows three women. Eliza Ferriday, a socialite that lives in Manhattan, married to Henry Ferriday, mother of Caroline Ferriday. Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin to the Romanovs, the current reigning family of Russia and Varinka Kozlov a poor village girl that gets hired as a nanny to Max by Sofya. A decision that comes back to haunt Sofya when Varinka brings something dangerous back into her home that causes Sofya to part with Max and finds herself on the run for her life in hopes of getting her son back.

This story was, wow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I adored Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I have not read the Lilac Girls and I found that it was okay. This book actually happens before Lilac Girls and to me seemed like a good place to start not only with the story but also with Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I wasn’t disappointed. The writing and the storytelling were woven so beautifully that I found myself savoring as much of the book as I could. I didn’t want to part with it, I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters that Martha Hall Kelly has managed to capture. Both compelling, strong and realistic, the three women really drove the book and I was happy for the slow pace.

The ending had me on the edge of my seat biting my nails, waiting for resolution, wanting to see how the story wraps up for these women. The author left some threads loose, making it a possible consideration for future books. The writing was really lovely, I really enjoyed the authors writing style, I thought it was just so beautiful.

The story itself seems well researched and I have to admit I don’t recall reading many historical books set during WWI in Russia. I found the story itself, the fall of the Russian monarchy fascinating and heartbreaking. It was just such a dark time during the Russian revolution and I was glad to learn a bit more about it through the eyes of these characters.

There wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy. The ending felt super fast-paced as far as how it wrapped up and despite being slow-paced, to begin with, I found I wouldn’t have minded a bit of a slower ending, yet it worked. My general nit-pickiness comes to the Russian terminology in the book, but as someone who has a general understanding of the language, some sentences with Russian words thrown into them had me pack paddling a little bit. The Russian language uses congregations and every time they appeared wrong in the book my brain automatically found it a bit awkward to read. Like for instance, the word Zala appears throughout the book, which I assume refers to like the grand ballroom type room for gatherings and I’m pretty sure it should have been Zalo. But those are just minor details and don’t affect people that wouldn’t know otherwise.

I do love that the author has made a distinction between Ukrainian people and Russian when at one point the White Russian women were told they are going to be sent back to Ukraine and Eliza acknowledged that they are Russian.

Overall. I loved this book like I knew I would the moment I saw it. With that, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the Lilac Girls because I absolutely am in love with this authors beautiful writing style, there is just something about the way she weaves her words that completely draw me in. I really enjoyed the characters and their flaws, I also enjoyed that time and place this book took place because to me it was a whole new experience that I would love to farther explore.

I will be looking forward to more works from this author in the future.

 

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Spotlight + Giveaway: A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas

Posted April 30, 2019 by Lily B in Spotlight / 23 Comments

Howdy, all!

We have a special post introducing a debut author who has definitely gone with the ‘write what you know’ idea and produced a story in her own world of therapy and mental health. Let’s welcome author, Bev Thomas.

But first a little about her book: 

Ruth Hartland is an experienced therapist at the top of her game. The director of a renowned psychiatric unit for trauma victims, she is wise, intelligent, successful, and respected by her peers. But her calm professional demeanor belies a personal life full of secrets and sadness. The mother of grown twins, she is haunted by the fact that her son Tom, a beautiful but fragile boy who could never seem to fit in, disappeared eighteen months ago. So when Dan—a volatile new patient bearing an eerie resemblance to Tom—wanders into her waiting room, it’s not long before her judgment becomes clouded, boundaries are crossed, and disaster ensues. Bev Thomas’ debut novel, A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER (Pamela Dorman Books / Viking; Hardcover; $26.00; On Sale: April 30, 2019), is a powerful page-turner about motherhood, grief, obsession, and the importance of letting go.

A clinical psychologist herself, author Bev Thomas has in-depth knowledge of therapy and mental health, and takes readers inside Ruth’s head with rich detail and realism. Who among us hasn’t wondered what goes on in the private thoughts and life of a therapist? What is it like to be a sounding board for someone else’s troubles—and how do you deal with your own demons in the meantime? A deeply compelling narrator, Ruth is poised on the outside but troubled within, incapable of moving on, fixated on how she failed her son and whether he can be found. With her family in pieces and her marriage crumbling, Ruth finds this new patient Dan is both a balm and a landmine—he is clearly unstable and manipulative, but he is also the shadow son she might actually be able to save. As Ruth twists herself into knots about her duties as a mother and a therapist, she becomes frantic and reckless, events spiral out of control, and her once calm and orderly life is violently disrupted.

A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER will have readers on the edge of their seats, but it is also a brilliant, beautiful story of parenting, of how love consumes us and how difficult it is to heal from tragedy, even when we must.

Now, let’s see what Bev has to say about her book that she shared in an interview with Penguin Viking:

 

 

A CONVERSATION WITH BEV THOMAS

1.       The protagonist of A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER is Ruth Hartland, an experienced therapist who specializes in helping trauma victims. You were also a clinical psychologist for many years, and have an in-depth understanding of this world. What made you want to explore the patient-therapist relationship in fiction and how did your real-life experiences inform the novel?

 

In my work, I had always been very interested in grief and loss – powerful emotions that not only underpin the human condition, but frequently find their way into the therapy room. But I was initially reluctant to explore the therapeutic world in fiction, as I didn’t want the focus to be on a patient. It was only when I flipped the concept and made the protagonist a flawed therapist instead, that the story began to emerge. What if a brilliant therapist is blindsided by feelings of grief about her own missing son? What if one of her new patients reminds her of him? And so the story began. 

 

All the detail around the case work is fictionalized, but the world is real. The workings of a National Health Service [NHS] department, the therapy work, and the understanding and treatment of psychological difficulties are very much drawn from my experience of working as a clinical psychologist in the public sector.

 

2.       How do you feel about the way therapy is typically depicted in popular culture, including books, movies, and television shows? And why do you think people are so consistently fascinated with this subject?

 

I find that in popular culture, therapy is often used as a plot device rather than something to be explored in its own right. There are many different types of therapy, but since my training was in the psychoanalytic model, it was this area that I wanted to explore in greater depth in fiction. It places emphasis on the transference, the relationship between therapist and patient, and the importance of boundaries, and these are the elements that get played out in Ruth’s story. 

 

Therapy is about enabling a person to make sense of their own life story. I think the general fascination with therapy in the media is partly because it’s such a private world: just two people talking in a room. There’s both an intimacy and secrecy to that relationship. In my book, people come to therapy feeling desperate, and hope their lives will change for the better. By opening a window into this world, the reader becomes a fly on the wall, and by seeing it all through Ruth’s point of view, the reader is simultaneously party to, and full of, her anxieties and struggles. People are endlessly fascinated and intrigued about other people’s lives, but I believe it’s more than just curiosity. I think people want to ‘listen in’ to learn about what makes people tick, in order perhaps to apply that learning and wisdom to their own lives.

 

There is clearly an appetite for this subject matter. Among recent works of nonfiction, there is the brilliant An Examined Life by the psychotherapist Stephen Grosz, where he writes beautiful case study vignettes. They read like perfect short stories that teach us about life, love, emotions and relationships. On television, the series In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne was an excellent portrayal of the complexities of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

 

3.       A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER is also, as the title suggests, about the responsibilities and challenges of motherhood. Why did you choose to ground the novel in Ruth’s role as a mother and in her relationships with her children—and were there particular themes or issues you hoped to explore?

 

In my clinical work, I became particularly interested in attachment theory, and how this can affect the relationship between a mother and child. The title is taken from the writings of Donald Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst. It refers to the necessary progressive detachment of a mother to her child, so that the child is able to develop appropriate independence. The aim is for something less than perfect, not all encompassing, enabling a child to learn to thrive. In the book, the irony for Ruth is that, despite her best intentions, it is her own difficulties in separating from her son that contribute to his problems. 

 

Attachment and mothering are key themes in the book, reflected in the relationship between Ruth and her mother, Ruth and her son Tom, and also what we come to learn about the relationship between Dan and his mother. We also see how patterns can unintentionally be repeated through the generations. And in making Ruth the mother of twins, I wanted to help the reader to see differences in the way she parents her two children. Carolyn, as the overtly less ‘needy’ child, gets much less attention and focus, which clearly affects their relationship.

 

I think the book highlights a general tendency towards ‘over parenting’ and perhaps taps into the maternal anxiety of our generation. We are bombarded with messages that encourage perfection, success, and the emotional happiness of our children. And while we of course need to offer love and support to our kids, we also need to know when to stand back and let them find their own way, however painful that might be. 

 

4.       Because of your background, you already had firsthand knowledge of psychological therapy and psychoanalytic theory before beginning this book. But you did do some additional research while writing. Can you talk a little bit about what that process looked like, and what you learned more about?

 

I did further research into the psychology of trauma. It was something I had encountered in my clinical work, but I was able to deepen this understanding through research, particularly into the psychoanalytic understanding and treatment of trauma. I came to appreciate the difficult and enormously valuable work done by therapists who treat the survivors of awful tragedies and traumas. We might read those stories on the front page of the paper, or see them on the evening news, but we don’t always think about how those people go on to live their lives after experiencing such terrible events. While Ruth is a flawed character, I hope readers will gain an insight into the psychoanalytic model of therapy and the extraordinary work done by skilled therapists in this field.

 

I also did further research into missing persons. I was appalled by the statistics of young people and adults that go missing every year.  My research focused on the lives of families and loved ones who are left in an awful limbo, a state that has been described as an ‘ambiguous loss’—a particularly painful psychological experience that is punctuated by hope, uncertainty, and a lack of closure.

 

5.       From the first introduction of Dan—Ruth’s new patient who bears a striking resemblance to her missing son—it is clear that he is damaged and manipulative. Yet Ruth is drawn to him all the same, and the reader must wait with bated breath to see just how bad things get. How did you go about building suspense, and were you inspired by any other novels or films?

 

I probably spent an inordinate amount of time on the opening chapter! It really needed to set up the book, revealing simultaneously both the risk and the inevitability of Ruth’s choice to continue seeing this patient. The reader needs to knows it’s unwise, but also to understand the pull. In the book, the two parallel stories of Dan and Tom are interwoven. In each strand, there are important questions to which the reader wants answers, and it is the slow and steady revelations that build suspense, continuing until the narratives collide and come to a climax at the same time.

 

Unsurprisingly, I’m drawn to books and film that explore psychological and emotional complexities. One film that gets a mention in the book is Ordinary People, which is an extraordinary film about the aftermath of grief and loss in a family. I am endlessly fascinated about why people do the things they do.  The books and films I enjoy the most are often about ordinary people’s lives. The dynamics of family life are steeped in conflict and tension, and encapsulate huge drama.

 

One of the fundamentals for me in writing this book was to ensure the characters make ‘psychological sense’.  I wanted the reader to really believe in them as characters; back stories, motivations, emotions and subsequent behaviors had to be believable and true. 

 

6.       In many ways, Ruth represents the archetype of the “wounded healer.” Can you expand on that idea a little further, and what it means in the world of this book?  

 

The “wounded healer” was a term originally created by the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It refers to the idea that analysts are compelled to treat patients because they themselves are ‘wounded.’  

 

Many people in the caring professions come to the work because they are interested in it, but also perhaps because they have also had difficult personal experiences.  Therapists, just like all people, deal with the complexities of emotional and family life, and this can often add, rather than detract, from ability to do a good job.

 

As is highlighted in the book, however, a problem arises if work becomes a way of trying to heal a personal problem. For Ruth, helping and fixing was something that was rooted in her complicated childhood. She was the child of an alcoholic, and after her father left her family, she was the sole caretaker of a mother who was volatile and inconsistent. Undoubtedly, this life experience played a part in her decision to train as a therapist – and probably contributed to her being an extremely good one.

 

Yet, it is her more recent, current grief for her missing son that is her undoing. She is ‘wounded’ by this trauma, so at the very time she needs to be pulling back, she sinks in deeper, and Dan becomes a focus of her feelings of grief and despair. 

 

Therapists are not immune from the tragedies of life, and support and supervision are essential to ensure that their work is not compromised by their personal lives. In the book, Ruth has a supervisor, but she is not honest with him, hiding crucial information because she knows exactly what he would say if he knew the truth. She fails to practice what she preaches. 

 

7.       Without giving too much away, A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER culminates in a terrible act of violence. But the book doesn’t end there, and instead shows the characters working through the aftermath—confusion, grief, penance, acceptance. Why was it important to you to examine the effects of trauma and to grapple with the toll that this violence takes on the characters?

 

There is a multilayered aspect to the book, as I wanted to create mirroring between the emotional experiences of the characters. We see how Ruth’s childhood feeling of suffocation and lack of individuation at the hands of her mother is mirrored in her relationship with her son. We also see how her unresolved trauma regarding the disappearance of Tom draws her inexorably to Dan, as she’s compelled to try to find a way to ‘fix’ him, in a way she has failed to do with Tom. Dan was looking for a mother; she was looking for a son. It was a perfect storm. Interweaving these stories was fundamental to the plot, but I also wanted to make sure the emotional fallout following the tragedy was similarly multilayered. It couldn’t be a clearcut line of blame and responsibility that would fall at the door of one person – life very rarely works that way. It felt important to show the subsequent emotional unravelling in all its complexity.

 

8.       What do you hope readers take away from A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER?

 

First and foremost, it’s a book of fiction, and so I hope they enjoy it and find the narrative thought-provoking. But I also hope they learn something new about the model of therapy, and the fact that you don’t need to be in a therapy room to find the concepts useful. I hope people will take away the value of acknowledging and experiencing our feelings. While Ruth thinks she is in control of her world, she is in denial about the strength of her deep feelings of grief and loss. But these feelings seep out. While there’s no instant ‘cure’ for such feelings, talking and connecting with them is essential. Ruth’s state of denial involves the suppression of feeling and that is what causes problems. 

 

I’ve worked in the NHS for many years, and currently work with staff teams in mental health services. On a daily basis I work in a system that is stretched and under-resourced. Mental health problems are increasing and services to support people are decreasing. It was my aim to highlight this pressure in the book. In one chapter, when Ruth works with a traumatized staff team, we see firsthand the tragic impact of the unavailability of in-patient beds for a desperately unwell patient. Services for mental health patients are shockingly underfunded and as a patient group, they are often disenfranchised and without voice and power to demand better services. One in four people will be affected by a mental health problem in their lives regardless of culture and social class, so this is an issue we should all be paying attention to. In particular, the book highlights adolescent mental health issues and so I hope it will draw attention to our responsibility for the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.

Where to find A Good Enough Mother:

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40603516-a-good-enough-mother?from_search=true

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Enough-Mother-Novel/dp/0525561250/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1555179848&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-good-enough-mother-bev-thomas/1129244860;jsessionid=63BE91CA198B451E735CDC1230448E8B.prodny_store01-atgap07?ean=9780525561255&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20Inc#/

Giveaway

Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin Viking is graciously giving away one (1) print copy of A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas to one randomly selected commenter on this post. This is a US ONLY giveaway. The winner will be contacted by email and asked to provide US mailing address details that will be forwarded to Penguin Group who are handling the giveaway and responsible for distribution. The giveaway will remain open for ONE WEEK beginning the date of the post. You must be over 16 years old to enter, or have a parent enter for you.

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About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts

Posted April 25, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 14 Comments

Review: The Summer Retreat by Sheila RobertsThe Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts
Series: Moonlight Harbor #3
Published by Mira on April 23, 2019
Genres: Womens Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Join USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts for a seaside escape to the beaches of Moonlight Harbor
Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.
As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.
Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach.

After finding out that her boyfriend cheated on her Celeste Jones joins her sister Jenna at Moonlight Harbor, where she helps her take care of the Driftwood Inn. Celeste is more than happy to do the chores in exchange for a summer escape.

Finding The One isn’t easy and her sister Jenna of all people should know that. Still, Jenna is determined to help her sister out by introducing her to Pastor Paul in hopes that her sister would make the right connection and choice. All Celeste wants is to find the perfect man, one that isn’t reminiscent with her ex-boyfriend who did her wrong. Pastor Paul definitely checks out in that department, he definitely wouldn’t cause her the heartache. But while Paul is sweet and comfortable, maybe being the Pastor’s wife is not something Celeste is all cut out to be and what about Henry the writer in room number 12?

This was a cute summer read. I found that I really enjoyed it and flew through the pages. I liked how it felt like a good beach read and I really enjoyed the characters and the small town life, despite having a few issues.

I had a hard time believing Celeste age in her late 30s. She acted a lot younger, especially when it came to love and men and she continued to make some wickedly bad decisions. I could see why she did it though, I think she was truly afraid of being hurt again but settling down with a family appealed to her. I wish it didn’t take her till the very last minute to see where she went wrong, but it was still a fluffy entertaining story. I really loved the interaction between Celeste and Henry and wished there was more of them over Paul.

There was a lot going on and I’d normally have a hard time with the character’s actions, but I found that I was just thoroughly enjoying it despite her decisions and it was an awesome fast phased palate cleanser.

I really want to see where Jenna’s storyline goes. From what little I got from Seth here I already found myself taking his side and hope she comes to a decision. While  I really enjoyed this, I do find that Celeste’s actions are probably not for everyone. But with it’s fast-paced writing, a charming small town and a wonderful cast of characters, this book makes a lovely summer read.

Overall, I will be coming back for more of the small town drama because I really enjoyed this book, despite some issues.

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Review Round Up #5

Posted April 24, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review Round Up #5The Highland Chieftain by Amy Jarecki
Series: Lords of the Highlands, #4, #4
Published by Forever on July 31, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heat:three-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

He is the last man she would ever marry…After being unceremoniously jilted by her betrothed, Lady Mairi MacKenzie is humiliated and heartbroken – but she’s not desperate. As the daughter of an earl, she won’t give her hand to just anyone, and she definitely isn’t swayed by a last-minute proposal from Laird Duncan MacRae. The powerful clan chieftain may be disarmingly handsome and charming, but he’s not a nobleman. Mairi doesn’t want his pity or his charity – even though his dark smoldering gaze makes her melt with desire.
She is the only woman he could ever love…Dunn may be a battle-hardened clansman, but he’s always had a soft spot for Mairi. For years, she tormented him with flirtation – only to reject him. But he’s not giving up. When Mairi is attacked by redcoats, Dunn goes after the woman he loves. Through brute strength and fierce action, he will protect her life at any cost. But to win her heart, he will have to show her the tenderness in his own.

Lady Mairi MacKenzie has been left humiliated and heartbroken when she is jilted by her betrothed, but she is not desperate enough to accept a last-minute proposal from Laird Duncan MacRae. When Mairi is attacked by redcoats in the forest, Dunn rides to her rescue. But rescuing Lady Mairi seemed to come with a cost because now her father wants Dunns head for “kidnapping” his daughter.

This was a good Highlander read. I really enjoyed Amy Jarecki writing, I think she is a really good author. Although I liked Mairi and Dunn well enough, I found the plot to be a little lacking. I did enjoy the two characters together, the romance was really sweet. I found Mairi’s father to be completely unreasonable in his assumptions and what he did to Dunn. I am still interested in the next book in this series, because it features what looks like a forbidden romance.

Review Round Up #5Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane,
Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 17, 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 308
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heat:three-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A LADY OF LIGHT
Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.
A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS
Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.
CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER . . . AND DESIRE
Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?

Elizabeth Hoyt reminds me time and time again, how much I enjoy her writing and how easy it is to immerse yourself in her world. This book was no different. I love her witty writing style, I also love the humor she weaves into her stories that can at times be a bit on the dark side.

Duke of Desire, thought was an interesting read, wasn’t always an easy read for me. I loved Raphael and Lady Iris. I love how the characters were crafted. How much depth she bought into Raphael’s character through his past. He was such a damaged character and it took him a while to come out as Iris continue to try and break down his barriers.

I really loved these two characters, I thought they were really well crafted. That being said, this wasn’t my favorite background storyline. The chapters with Lords of Chaos went to some disturbing areas and sometimes were a bit hard to read. Despite that, I really enjoyed most of this book and it’s making me want to revisit the books I’ve missed. I really adore her writing.

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Sophia Rose Review: The Mint Julep Murders by Angie Fox

Posted April 20, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: The Mint Julep Murders by Angie FoxThe Mint Julep Murders by Angie Fox
Series: Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #8
Published by Moose Island Books on April 25th 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 331
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

For Southern girl Verity Long, friendship means sitting down to stories and sweet tea on the front porch. For her gangster ghost housemate, it means dragging Verity out to a remote haunted asylum during a raging thunderstorm to do a favor for a long-dead mob boss.
But Verity is always ready to help out a friend, even one as eternally eccentric as Frankie. And in the case of Mint Julep Manor, the stakes are too high to refuse. The criminally insane mob boss holds a secret to Frankie’s past, one that might set Frankie free. Do the favor—survive the favor—and they might change Frankie’s afterlife for good. Fail, and they might never leave the asylum.

In this latest ghost hunting adventure for Verity and Frankie, they must brave an old haunted insane asylum if they want to get answers that might help Frankie.  Not long after their arrival, they are up to their necks in murder and trapped inside with a bunch of insane ghosts and a killer.

 

The Mint Julep Murders is the eighth installment of the Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries.  These fun blend of paranormal and cozy mysteries work well read/listened to in order as the reader gets to see how it all began with Verity and Frankie and Verity’s relationship with cop boyfriend, Ellis.  But, that said, they are all standalone mysteries so could be gotten out of order in a pinch.

 

Most of the time, these get a little bit creepy with a nice ghostly, scary setting, but this one took the cake.  A decrepit insane asylum where the traumatic old-style treatments took place and every room more chilling than the last with a bunch of ghosts and odd people was a perfect spooky read.  I was more into the description of the setting and the situations for all those poor haunts than the murder mystery.

 

Verity was her usual Pollyanna naive self that gets on more by luck than anything else which gives her a bravado that had me rolling my eyes along with Frankie and feeling sympathetic to Ellis’ worry that she’s in over her head.  The trouble is that she has a tender, giving heart and blithely ignores danger because she thinks she’s Mother Theresa to all those ghosts. She manages to fumble and bumble her way through each case including this one. When she ends up in a tight spot and the death is knocking, she admits that maybe Ellis and Frankie have a point, but then later, she’s back to offended that they ever doubt her.  She’s a sweetheart and funny. I admire her for doing as well as she is after all that has happened to change her life and I’m not just referring to all the ghost adventures.

 

Verity can be a trip at times, but I have a pretty good time with each story in this series and this one was no exception.  Frankie was his usual gangster wise-cracking self, reluctantly at her side, and comes through when it counts. Verity poo-poos Ellis’ worry, but she’s actually got it pretty good that she has a man who stalwartly believes in her ghost business and in the ghosts, who isn’t scared off, but only struggles because he cares about her safety.  I sure hope she figures out how to compromise instead of the path she’s on insisting he do all the bending.

 

The murder mystery wasn’t hard for me to figure out even when the twists happened, but I enjoyed trailing along behind Verity as she worked to get to the truth.

 

All in all, I zipped through this one enjoying it thoroughly.  It was the first cozy mystery series I liked and remains a firm favorite that I can gladly recommend to those who enjoy spooky-style cozy mysteries that focus on old historical settings around a small town in Tennessee.

 

I rec’d this book from Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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