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Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis – Blog Tour Book Review

Book cover with letter


Lizzie James is happy.

She has a steady office job (with a steady stream of snacks), has had the same best friend since school, and she sees her family ever Thursday night for take-away and trashy TV, Lizzie likes her uncomplicated life.

Then a letter arrives one day from her first love, Roman. A letter dated the day he disappeared, 12 years before. As Lizzie uncovers the secrets of the letter, she discovers what really happened the year her life fell apart – and all avenues lead back to Roman.

Lizzie James thought she was happy, or somewhere close to happy, at least. Now she’s not so sure.

About the Author

Lia Louis is a writer from Hertfordshire where she lives with her partner and three young children. In 2015, she won ELLE magazine’s annual talent competition with her contemporary love letter, #RelationshipGoals. Lia’s fascination with letters doesn’t stop with her writing: she also has a varied collection of old letters which are a source of inspiration to her. Somewhere Close to Happy is her first novel. Lia can be found tweeting at @LisforLia.

What I Thought

This debut novel hit the sweet spot for me with a tender YA style first love and a gradual unpicking of a mystery later in life.

Lizzie thinks she’s moved on and moved past what happened when Roman disappeared but the delivery of his twelve year old letter opens those wounds and there’s only one way to heal them. She needs the truth.

Her best friend Priscilla has been with her since school, through her time at The Grove (the mental health unit where she met Roman), the year he left and now she’s the Sherlock to her Watson. I loved the female friendships in this book, most notably between Lizzie and Priscilla but also with Katie, her sister-in-law. There was one scene where Katie’s support had me fist pumping.

Of course Somewhere Close to Happy also represents the fauxships too, in all their agonising false niceties.

The novel flicks forward and back in time and this gradual unfurling of the story of first love and first loss is deftly handled, it had me so invested. I wanted to hug young Lizzie and young Roman in particular.

With hugely honest and accurate mental health portrayal, that comes from the author’s authentic experience. The experience of anxiety and panic pulses from the page. Also the hurt of one’s experience not being validated is raw and the, “she’s being a teenager”, “she’s just being awkward”, comments show how much more awareness is needed. The family relationships in this story are complex, some good (Hubble – sweet Hubble), some complex (Mum and Dad) and some downright 🤬 (Auntie who Shall be named – see what I did there!).

This story just feels so real, so bittersweet and the writing just had me hooked. I needed to know what happened. Lizzie goes on a journey, and the outcome is one of self understanding and growth. The moments when she quietly and calmly is able to state what she needs are powerful.

As a personal note there is something that happens with Priscilla (no spoilers) that I hope becomes Louis’ second novel, because I know this author has the sensitivity to write that empathetically. I’d also love to spend more time with these characters.

Trigger warning for mental health, suicide, drug addiction and abortion.

Somewhere Close to Happy is out on Thursday.

Thank you to Alex and Orion for the review copy #gifted for the purposes of an honest review. I loved it.

This review is part of a blog tour, do check out what everyone else thought on the other stops.

Double Felix by Sally Harris – Blog Tour Book Review

Today’s Middle Grade book title is published by WackyBee Books and is a story that taps into the current push to gain a greater understanding of mental health, particularly in boys.


He skips every second step when he takes the stairs, taps door handles twice and positions objects in pairs. The problem has become so bad that Felix is on the verge of being expelled from school because the principal has had enough of trying to run the school around his very specific rules. Then Charlie Pye arrives and turns his world upside down. She’s grown up with very few rules. She eats cereal for lunch, calls a boat home, and has a very loose interpretation of school uniform. The question is, can Felix ever learn to be wrong when he is so obsessed with being right?


Sally Harris grew up in rural Australia and after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in Children’s Literature, Sally has been busy writing and working as a primary teacher in both Australia and the UK. Her first book Diary of a Penguin-Napper, sold over 10,000 copies and her second book Ruby Marvellous, has inspired children all over the world to try their hand at cooking exploding finger buns! Sally loves animals, including penguins, but as she can’t have one of those as a pet, she has found that a dog is definitely the next best thing.


Maria Serrano was born in Murcia, Spain where she still lives and works. After completing her BA in Arts at Complutense University in Madrid, she went on to illustrate children’s books for several Spanish publishers, all of which are still available to buy at bookshops in Spain. In the UK she has worked with Oxford University Press, Pearson Education and Templar books amongst others. She is represented by the Plum Pudding agency.

What I Thought

We join Felix’s story when he is already reliant on rules and patterns and he is in the midst of those being challenged. It has got to a stage where it is affecting his daily life, his ability to deal with change and to engage with other children.

As well as being introduced to the new girl at school Charlie, Felix’s latest episode means that he is sent to see the school counsellor who starts to work with him on addressing his anxieties.

I loved how the story focused on the introduction of these new characters into Felix’s life and how they both help Felix, and those around him to see things differently. Felix’s difficulties are spoken about in every day language that children would understand and I love the analogy the counsellor comes up with of ‘Basil the Bully’. I think this would be a great book for any child experiencing anxiety to read to maybe start off a discussion with parents or school staff. Or indeed it would make a great classroom read to explore with children how we can support others who see the world differently.

Both Felix and Charlie are fun characters and I loved following their growing friendship. They felt very authentic to their age.

Author Sally very cleverly introduces common anxiety provoking incidents into Felix’s life – some that are everyday (playing with other children at break times) and others that are often out of anyone’s control (substitute teachers who don’t know you, medical problems affecting those we love). And these scenarios help him begin to see how to deal with the uncertainty that life throws at us.

The illustrations by Maria really bring the story and Felix’s thoughts to life and I particularly loved the Rool Boy comic which was an adorable way for Charlie to share her understanding with Felix.

The story comes across as very realistic with no quick fix, no perfect ending but a hopeful journey. Check out the structure of the contents page which also forms part of the story.

It is worth noting that the book is set in Australia and schools in the UK are set up differently. In fact children and adolescent mental health services are generally under too much demand and there is pressure for schools to focus on academic achievement. This means that when children with mental health or social learning challenges (such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, ADHD etc) are achieving academically despite them having social and behavioural challenges they are not readily able to access additional support.

As an Occupational Therapist I see a huge potential role for OTs to be employed within schools addressing this more generally. Charlie even introduces Felix to an occupation that she thinks will help his anxiety. I sense a future fabulous OT in that character. One of my OT friends is exploring a PhD on this topic and I’ll definitely share this book with her, and also with friends who might have children experiencing similar challenges.

Today is the start of the blog tour. Do check out the other stops for reviews and author content.


This is a PSA to approach conversations about having children with others sensitively and with an open mind, and try not to make assumptions.

Not all women are broody.

Some women don’t want children.

Some women have partners who don’t want children.

Some women can’t have children.

Some women can’t relax and let it happen naturally.

Some women have lost children.

I am usually pretty open online about my life and my health. I’ve posted about my experiences of depression for example (and in case you didn’t know it’s Mental Health Awareness Week). But there’s something I haven’t posted about and that is changing today because I think it may be helpful to others (and myself) to talk about it. Also, as an occupational therapist the route to becoming a mother (an occupational role) is an important topic to consider, and one I now think should be explored more with people as part of health wellbeing and lifestyle screening.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you may be aware that I am turning 40 this year. I am also still single. And I am and have been broody for a number of years. In fact the issue has always come up when I’ve been for counselling. When I was younger I always imagined I’d be married with a couple of children by the age of 21. Clearly that didn’t happen. Now we hear of women who are having babies well into their 40s/50s and even 60s so many people are leaving it later. For career reasons, for financial reasons or simply because the nature of how we enter into or stay in relationships seems to have changed. It’s not as easy as the media makes it seem though and that’s why I have decided to share.

A few years back I considered looking at freezing my eggs, I even asked a GP about it but was told that obviously it would have to be done privately and I didn’t know where to start and didn’t take it further.

A number of things have happened over the last year, to me and other people, that have made me decide to act. I decided that I first needed to have an assessment of my fertility status because having not been trying to get pregnant I simply don’t know if I can.

Now although the NHS does help people with fertility there are a number of conditions that have to be met including having been trying for a certain amount of time without success, weight limits, previous children by either partner etc. Also the amount of cycles you can have is dependent on area.

Just a note about the weight limit. It seems that you don’t even get referred for assessment until you’ve lost weight which to me makes assumptions that weight is the only issue that can affect fertility (not the case) and may have an impact on timeliness of accessing treatment.

So basically I decided to look at this privately. And I can tell you this isn’t a cheap process by any means and involves scans and blood tests and depending on the results of these possibly more investigations.

Now despite what we are led to believe age is a limiting factor in having children. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and over time the quantity and quality of eggs diminishes. Supposedly this dips rapidly after the age of 35 but may affect people younger. Being aware of the age your mother went through the menopause (yet another thing we don’t talk enough about) may be a useful indicator for you.

So my results came back and my AMH – measure of ovarian reserve (which looks at egg quality/quantity) was 0.4 which is very low. My scan indicated I had ovulated that month and that I don’t seem to have any endometriosis or other internal problems. But my age and AMH only give me a 12% chance of getting pregnant via IVF with my own eggs.

Ironically the first IVF ‘test tube’ baby was born in 1978 – 40 years ago.

IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilisation where basically a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm are introduced outside the body in a clinical environment and the fastest sperm hopefully wriggles in and fertilises the egg (just like in Look Who’s Talking 😂). Then things need to happen. Cells need to divide etc and if they do so correctly then the resulting embryo is reintroduced into the woman’s body to hopefully implant.

As a single lady I obviously have the complication of not having access to half of the process but thankfully nowadays there are sperm and even egg donors. You can literally add sperm to an online shopping cart. It’s surreal and I’ll talk about that process another time.

For now my role in the process is the following: –

Losing weight and eating healthier so that I:

Increase my chances of getting pregnant

Increase my chances of staying pregnant (I don’t think I ever realised how common miscarriage is. Obviously when getting pregnant naturally this can happen without people knowing but with IVF you can know the exact date of conception and are monitored earlier).

Decrease the likelihood of complications

Reviewing my health and the medications I am on and reducing/coming off or switching medication to safer forms. This should be a process that you explore with your GP and one that looks at balancing risks to the health of the mother and the embryo.

Trying to manage stress and be as relaxed as I can be through what is inherently a stressful and emotional process.

Be patient and wait for my next period – usually the thing you don’t want to have.

Self inject with drugs to stop natural ovulation and hormones to stimulate the growth of follicles from which hopefully eggs can be harvested.

Go for regular scans and blood tests and be prepared for things to change the whole way through.

Go for egg collection and have a general anaesthetic.

Try to coordinate all of this alongside working.

This post is long enough now so to conclude I will just say that I will be starting this process soon and I will post updates when I can. Although I think it will be helpful to write about it I will also need to safeguard my own mental health and may find that there are times when I can’t write or post about the process or may delay publishing posts.

I have some topics I want to write about but if there are any particular topics that people want me to discuss then let me know and I will do so as well as I am able but with the proviso that this only reflects my particular experience and that we are all very different.

Take care all and as I am learning if there is something you want to do look into it sooner rather than later.

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