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A House Full Of Secrets Book Tour – Digital Detox

Zoe MillerI’m excited to have the wonderful Zoë Miller on the website for the book tour for her new book, ‘A House Full Of Secrets’ and today we talk about digital detox and our addiction to social media.

Firstly I’d like to say a big thank you to Bronagh for hosting me on her wonderful book blog, Handwritten Girl. I’m delighted to be featured here today. This post on the blog tour is all about digital detox, one of the story elements in ‘A House Full of Secrets’. I hope you enjoy, Zoë x

What would we do without our mobile technology? Without our phones and tablets and laptops, which have become almost like an additional, invisible vein attached to our bodies, carrying a constant drip feed of disparate information, updates, likes, comments, chit chat, news, fake news intermingling with global catastrophes, selfies and shout-outs, straight to our hearts and minds.

I’m as guilty of the addiction as anyone else. If I find myself in a beautiful location, the automatic reaction is to take a photo or a video to share with on-line friends. Out for a celebratory meal, it’s hard to resist capturing an image of the lovely food and wine, for future posting. Parties and events can seem incomplete without stamping a virtual record of it on some social platform. Our timelines could almost be called our lifelines.

Social media can be a great way of keeping in contact but like everything else, but there are times when life occasions are in danger of being viewed solely through the screens of our mobiles instead of us fully experiencing living in the actual moment and this can have a questionable impact on our wellbeing. Currently, the government, as part of the 2018 healthy Ireland campaign, is recommending that in the interests of mental wellbeing, we take a daily, 30 minute break from our mobile phone. 30 minutes? What does that say about how often we check them? Problem is, as well as checking our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter updates on a regular basis, many of us are always ‘on’ to email, work and otherwise, with the result that we’re never really away from our jobs or free to enjoy quality, genuine downtime.

Coming from an era – not so long ago – when moving to a new house meant waiting years for a connection to a land line, I think mobiles are a brilliant invention for ease of communication. However in view of the way our dependency on all things digital has taken over our lives in a few short years, when I was researching county Mayo as a suitable location for A House Full of Secrets, and discovered there are digital black spots in parts of the county – thanks to its spectacular landscape of towering mountains and deep valleys – inspiration began to fizz in my writerly brain.

Imagine if – you have a family get together, an estranged family no less, divided by old wounds and secrets, at odds with relationship issues and work problems, coerced to come together over a long weekend, in a beautiful and remote house that’s drenched with shadows and secrets.

Imagine if – that family are forced to go cold turkey on all things digital for the weekend because there is no Wifi or mobile coverage. But hey, as Lainey points out, it will be good for the family to have an ‘unplugged weekend’ and be more present to each other instead of communicating through their screens, and anyway, people pay a fortune to retreat to a digital detox weekend, don’t they?

A House Full of Secrets

But is it as easy as it sounds? Would a digital detox rank up there along with withdrawing from other kinds of addiction, where cold turkey is a chilly and difficult place to be?

‘A House Full of Secrets’ finds Vikki incommunicado for the weekend and unable to access an important London work conference, thus putting her job on the line. Jenna’s husband Alex is normally a slave to his phone and she can’t understand how his sister persuaded him to go cold turkey for the weekend when for him, ditching his phone is almost equivalent to losing a limb.

But as the weekend unfolds, it transpires that these are only small concerns. Having no contact with the outside world takes on a far more serious significance when there is a turbulent storm approaching, marooning them all, coupled with the realisation that someone inside that house is out to exact a painful revenge for past hurts.

There are times when a digital detox can be very refreshing and restorative, and there are times when you could do with having a powered up mobile to hand…

© 2018 Zoë Miller

You can buy A House Full of Secrets from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Win A Copy Of My Mother’s Secret By Sheila O’Flanagan

My Mother's SecretI’ve a copy of Sheila O’Flanagan’s book, ‘My Mother’s Secret’ to give away to one lucky person.

What the back cover says –

When Steffie helps her two siblings organize a surprise wedding anniversary party for their parents her only worry is whether they’ll be pleased. What she doesn’t know is this is the day that her whole world will be turned upside down.

Jenny wants to be able to celebrate her ruby anniversary with the man she loves, but for forty years she has kept a secret. A secret that she can’t bear to hide any longer. But is it ever the right time to hurt the people closest to you?

As the entire family gather to toast the happy couple, they’re expecting a day to remember. The trouble is, it’s not going to be for the reasons they imagined…

I recently read this book and really enjoyed the warm hearted story of family secrets and sibling rivalry and you can read my thoughts on the book here.

To be in with a chance of winning this lovely story, simply answer the following question by leaving your answer in the comment box below.

How long has has Steffie’s parents been married?

Closing date is Monday 12th February 2018. Good luck!

My Mother’s Secret By Sheila O’Flanagan

My Mother's Secret‘My Mother’s Secret’ is by bestselling Irish author, Sheila O’Flanagan.

When Steffie helps her two siblings organize a surprise wedding anniversary party for their parents her only worry is whether they’ll be pleased. What she doesn’t know is this is the day that her whole world will be turned upside down. Jenny wants to be able to celebrate her ruby anniversary with the man she loves, but for forty years she has kept a secret. A secret that she can’t bear to hide any longer. But is it ever the right time to hurt the people closest to you? As the entire family gather to toast the happy couple, they’re expecting a day to remember. The trouble is, it’s not going to be for the reasons they imagined.

As a fan of Sheilia’s writing, I was delighted to delve into this book and read about the drama of a surprise anniversary party that had a lot more surprises than what was expected.

Controlling and organised Roisin, the eldest of the three siblings, is determined to throw her parents the best surprise party ever with the help of her younger sister Steffie and their brother and his partner are flying over especially for the event.

But on a night which is meant to be packed with celebrations and happy memories, Jenny the girl’s mother decides to reveal a secret that she can no longer keep to herself and the once solid family is torn apart.

The story is seen through the different perspectives of the women from the family as well as Davy as he tries to pluck up the courage to propose to his girlfriend. Roisin is distraught that her party is ruined whilst Steffie is dealing with the idea that her life was all based on a lie. She’s already conscious that she’s behind in life and is trying to make her new design business a success. As she tries to deal with the new information that Jenny has told her, she finds herself running off into the night into the arms of handsome chef, Liam Kinsella, who was a childhood friend.

The story takes place over the one night and also includes past and present narratives from Jenny, who is a strong and loving mother, who wants nothing more than to be honest with her children but for years, was afraid to say a thing as she was afraid of the consequences.

A tender tale that is perfect for fans of the well loved author, Maeve Binchy, ‘My Mother’s Secret’ explores the complexities of family relationships with an injection of Irish humour and charm.

You can buy My Mother’s Secret from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Smile By Roddy Doyle

Smile‘Smile’ is the latest book by bestselling Irish author, Roddy Doyle.

Just moved in to a new apartment, alone for the first time in years, Victor Forde goes every evening to Donnelly’s pub for a pint, a slow one. One evening his drink is interrupted. A man in shorts and pink shirt brings over his pint and sits down. He seems to know Victor’s name and to remember him from school. Says his name is Fitzpatrick. Victor dislikes him on sight, dislikes too the memories that Fitzpatrick stirs up of five years being taught by the Christian Brothers. He prompts other memories too – of Rachel, his beautiful wife who became a celebrity, and of Victor’s own small claim to fame, as the man who says the unsayable on the radio. But it’s the memories of school, and of one particular Brother, that he cannot control and which eventually threaten to destroy his sanity.

For years, I’ve been a fan of Roddy Doyle’s books, I remember sitting in the local library reading language and situations that were most definitely far more advanced than me. But, for me that was the joy of Roddy Doyle, coarse language and characters that constantly shocked the reader.

But if you’re looking for something like that in his latest book, then you’re in for a surprise as this book is quite different from his previous novels.

In this story we meet Victor Forde, recently moved to a new area in Dublin, he goes to his new local where he meets a man called Fitzpatrick who claims they went to school together. Fitzpatrick stirs up old memories and feelings that Victor had hidden away and makes him confront the childhood that he would rather forget, a childhood of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers Catholic School.

The story travels between the past and present tense and is seen through Victor’s narrative. The story reflects on the prominent moments in his life, where he meets his partner Rachel, their life as a successful celebrity couple and his battle with writing a novel about Ireland as well being respected as an author.

Throughout the story there is a sense of foreboding and an underlying despair that truly comes to light at the end, as Victor finally confronts his ghosts.

Victor is a desperate character, who longs to be successful but his childhood is holding him back from ever moving forward. The scenes where Victor is remembering his childhood are quite unsettling and can make for moving reading at times.

The story flows at a gentle and slow pace but at every moment, the reader is engaged with this likeable and troubled character. Dealing with the dark issue of child abuse that was quite prominent in Catholic Church and still something that the country has to deal with, ‘Smile’ is a bittersweet story that is filled with sharp wit and a troubled lead, this cleverly written tale of life’s journey and observation made for moving and sad reading.

You can buy Smile from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Keep You Safe By Melissa Hill

Keep You Safe‘Keep You Safe’ is the latest book by Melissa Hill.

Every mother faces impossible choices. Vaccination is one of the hardest. For single mum Kate O’Hara, there was no decision to make. Her daughter Rosie is one of a small percentage of Irish children who can’t be vaccinated against measles. All Kate can do is hope that her little girl is safe. For mummy blogger Madeleine Cooper, it was a leap of faith she wasn’t prepared to take when she and her husband declined controversial measles jabs for their daughter Clara. All she can do is pray that it’s the right decision. But when classmates Clara and Rosie both become sick will Kate pay for Madeleine’s choice?

For those who know Melissa Hill, they would have enjoyed her romantic and fun stories of love and friendship. But, with her first book with HQ, Melissa has gone a little bit darker with her writing and writes about most parents fears, when their child becomes seriously ill.

The story is seen through the eyes of mothers Kate O’Hara and Madeleine Cooper, who’s daughters become ill with measles. The possible consequences that both girls were never given the MMR Booster, a vaccination against various illnesses including measles. As Madeleine’s daughter recovers from the illness, Kate’s becomes worse and it suddenly becomes a situation where her daughter is fighting for her life.

The two women are complete polar opposites. Kate is a single mother after her husband suddenly died. She’s struggling to make ends meet as a single parent, but her daughter Rosie is her priority. Unfortunately, Rosie wasn’t able to get the MMR vaccination as she was allergic to it, so Kate lives in constant fear that her daughter will become ill. Meanwhile, Madeleine is the ultimate yummy mummy, with her outspoken views and popular blogs, she voices her views on parenting, which others may not always agree with, but that doesn’t bother Madeleine. She’s confident and occasionally unorthodox. Like Kate, her daughter Clara was also not vaccinated, but that was because, Madeleine and her husband Greg were worried about the side effects, as some people believed that the vaccine could cause Autism.

Essentially the story is a battle of morals and ethnics. As Clara becomes better, Rosie gets considerably worse and all fingers of blame point towards outspoken Madeleine as they decided not to get their children vaccinated.

It’s heartbreaking to read both mothers sides of the story as they are both in their own types of hell. Kate is praying that her daughter gets better whilst also reluctantly disliking Madeleine for having a healthy daughter. But she is also tortured, that her daughter may possibly never fully recover and the only way, she can pay for her treatment is to take Madeleine and her husband to court.

Whilst, the tables have turned for Madeleine, she is delighted that Clara is safe and well but she is also guilt ridden at the thought of poor Rosie. As well as that she has become a public hate figure for her outspoken opinions on not vaccinating her daughter.

This story is realistically and cleverly written and really does tug at heartstrings. With having both sides of the story with two hugely different personalities, where Kate shies away, Madeleine embraces the spotlight. The story is so vivid in parts, that you really get a clear understanding of the torture that both mothers are going through and at the end of the day, the both share a common ground of just wanting to keep their children safe.

Riveting from the very start, ‘Keep You Safe’ is a completely different story from Melissa. Tackling issues and dilemmas that all parents face and face, this book was an emotional roller coaster I kept me gripped and will most definitely raise a lot of questions in book clubs.

You can pre-order Keep You Safe from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops 21st September 2017.