#BlogTour #TheAbandoned by Sharon Thompson

Thanks so so much to Sarah from Bloodhound Books and Sharon Thompson herself for allowing me to be part of the book tour for The Abandoned, which is out now and, at time of posting, only £0.99 on Kindle!

9781912175901

What they say: Peggy Bowden has not had an easy life. As a teenager her mother was committed to an asylum and then a local priest forced her into an abusive marriage. But when her husband dies in an accident Peggy sees an opportunity to start again and trains as a midwife.

 

In 1950s Dublin it is not easy for a woman to make a living and Peggy sees a chance to start a business and soon a lucrative maternity home is up and running. But when Peggy realizes that the lack of birth control is an issue for women, she uses their plight as a way to make more money. Very soon Peggy is on the wrong side of the law.

 

What makes a woman decide to walk down a dark path? Can Peggy ever get back on the straight and narrow? Or will she have to pay for her crimes?

 

Set against the backdrop of Ireland in the 1950’s The Abandoned tells the story of one woman’s fight for survival and her journey into the underbelly of a dangerous criminal world.


The Review: I can’t even tell you how long I’ve waited to see Sharon Thompson appear on this blog! Sharon, a member of Carmel Harrington’s ‘Imagine Write Inspire’ Writing group, has to be one of the most inspirational, hard working people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing in the writing world. Her work has always been of the standout variety, with characters that are bold and brazen with flaws, quirks and imperfections and yet morals and beauty and an incredible story to tell. And there is always, always a nice layer of dark humour to grab you too! And so here we stand with Peggy Bowden. From the second I met Peggy I was hooked. She is strong with sass and backchat ever present, but with a multitude of worries and fears. The thing is she tries to hide anything that could be seen as a weakness from her girls, the women who work for her in a brothel in number thirty four in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, in the 1950’s. (The most special mention for the innocent Molly, who stole my heart and made my stomach ball up with nerves on more than one occasion.)
 This is the story of Peggy’s journey as she tries to get out of said house and her life as she knows it. We are shown where Peggy came from, via beautiful scenes of her mother, who farmed and tended lands and then thrown into the harsh reality of how hard it was for women of the time and how men were seen as saviours for all women. This was a running theme, which Peggy battled sometimes successfully, sometimes not as we learned and saw some of the things Peggy did to make money, always justifying her actions, even when she doubted her motives.
This is a gritty, rise to power, revolutionary type of book, that shows what men do to keep their strongholds and how women do what they can purely to keep alive. It is filled with sorrow, angst, hope, love and a wealth of characters, some that disgust you, some who make you cheer, some that give you hope and others that disappoint when you least expect it. It’s gritty, dark, vivid and sometimes very very brutal (see blurb for her job descriptions, throw in some violence and you’re halfway there), but always gripping, with dark laughs in there to keep your head above water. I have to admit I was terrified that this wouldn’t be my cup of tea, as to me it sounded more like historical fiction, but to be honest I’m not sure that this can be put into any category (I’ve seen it described as a thriller but personally I wouldn’t put it there), it seems different to anything in the charts out there at the moment, and is very much a standout. Ridiculously highly recommended!
Rating: 5/5
Author Profile: 

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Sharon Thompson lives in Donegal, Ireland. She is a member of Imagine, Write, Inspire. This is a writing group, under the mentorship of HarperCollins author Carmel Harrington. Sharon’s short stories have been published in various literary magazines and websites. #WritersWise is her collaboration with writer, Dr Liam Farrell. This is a trending, fortnightly, promotional tweet-chat with corresponding Facebook page and website (www.writerswise1.wordpress.com). Its mission is to encourage and support writers to reach as wide an audience as possible. Although she mostly writes crime fiction, Sharon does have a fun-side and she writes the quirky Woman’s Words column for the Donegal Woman websiteSharon Thompson. Writing Fun is her writing page on Facebook and she tweets @sharontwriter.

Connect with her online

Website    
twitter   @sharontwriter        

 

Now, How about you check out the rest of the blog tour?

BLOG TOUR

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

midnightLength: 319 pages

Please note that the book cover leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has inherited his meagre worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long-buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu.

The review: So I actually found this book via Claire Heuston over at Art and Soul (an epic book and baking blog, see review here  and, having read the blurb, was keen to get over to Netgalley to request (Thanks so much to Cornerstone and Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review!)

Now Claire’s review basically told me that it was a beautiful book, with a fabulous bookstore in it that didn’t feature quite enough, with the story moving away from this fantastic setting to investigate a murder that had happened in the protagonist, Lydia’s life. She found this to be a slight disappointment and I was slightly disappointed when she said this, but decided that maybe this element would be different for me. Unfortunately not, although it didn’t always take away from the book.

It is a book of two paths, the first, the story of Joey, who sadly committed suicide at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. His suicide fully took hold of me, his climb to his death, with the sound of fluttering pages and falling books echoing around a bookstore that oozed character adding to the intrigue as to what was going on. Joey is a Bookfrog, one of many characters that enter the bookstore solely for somewhere to be, and my heart went out to him and wished for him to be stronger, and less beaten down by life.

We meet Lydia, one of the only people in Joey’s life, without being his actual person, and we soon realise she has some monstrous skeletons in her closet. Lydia starts looking into Joey’s death, and it brings her back to her own past, as we find out the horror she had to face as a child int he presence of ‘Hammerman’. There’s a number of characters about, some lovely, some tougher. I found Lydia to be overdramatic at times, even given her circumstances, and so I sometimes struggled.

We come to know her estranged childhood friend and father, who have also been affected by the goings on of times past. Her past itself, when revealed, is tough going, not by any means the toughest I’ve read by a longshot, but you’re so immersed in it and so filled with the sensation of the darkness and being enshrouded by snow, that it was one of the more headachy reads I’ve read recently, causing me to blink a few times on finishing, as if I’d just woken up, or stepped into the light myself. The way everything was put together in the end slightly perplexed me at times, and there was some overdramaticness on Lydia’s part in relation to her father especially.

It’s a tough book to review, because I was incredulous at some things that happened in terms of coincidences, and yet was so taken by some of the storytelling, settings and beauty of it all that it made me want to make people read just so they could experience it too, in particular the opening.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

Mean Sisters by Lindsay Emory

meansisters

Amazon UK version

Amazon US version: Sisterhood is Deadly

What they say: *‘Well written and Legally Blonde funny!’ Reader review*

Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Lindsey Kelk and Mean Girls.

Margot Blythe: 20-something, sharp, friendly and totally incapable of letting her college glory days go.

When she returns to her old college as an advisor, she can’t wait to be reunited with her sorority sisters. But her homecoming reception isn’t exactly what she expected. Tragedy strikes, sending shock waves down sorority row, and Margot is forced to step up.

She’s determined to save her fifty frazzled sisters, keep the suspicious (but dangerously cute) police officer at bay and find out the real truth – could a sister have committed such an unimaginable sin as murder?

A sassy, hilariously funny murder mystery where the closest bonds of friendship might just kill you …

The review: The cover got me here, and when I heard the claim ‘Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Lindsey Kelk and Mean Girls,’ I was fairly sure I’d enjoy. I have to admit I’ve never read chick lit enshrouded in something akin to murder mystery/ thriller clothing before, and I was intrigued.

We meet Margot Blythe, ‘professional sorority girl,’ who is on her sixth year in the Delta Beta  sororities. Now obviously over here we don’t have sororities and so I really enjoyed hearing about the background, nuances and values of the sororities, and I liked the way there was a glossary at the back of all of the terminology associated with it. The murder was nicely done, as was the investigation, both tinged with humour. At times I found ‘Mean Sisters’ very funny, at times it didn’t quite hit the spot, but I did always enjoy.

Margot was extremely tunnel visioned in terms of her duties and how she believed everyone should be in relation to their sorority duties and this added to the ‘Elle Woods’  aspect. There were rivalries, twists and turns and suspects and dead ends. There were a lot of characters, but you weren’t just introduced to them and then dropped, you were gently reminded who they were and I liked the way this was done.  The backdrop of the college was great to showcase some greatly atmospheric, dark descriptions that kept you at the scene of the crime. All in all, a very enjoyable read. By the way, as you might note from above this book seems to be titled ‘Sisterhood is Deadly’ on Amazon US, and it also seems to be the start of a series. Thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

 DistressSignalspack

What they say: Did she leave, or was she taken?

The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads ‘I’m sorry – S’ sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate – and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before. To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…

NOTE: As always the top picture leads to  a universal buy link for the book (author image leads to author’s website).

The Review:You’ll probably remember (or maybe not) that I made a big leap and decided I was going to properly get back into writing with a world of good intentions (only now beginning to be fulfilled) and I raved about my Holy Trinity of writing books  which contained (among others) Catherine Ryan Howard’s how-to self publish guide, Self Printed . I’m not going to go on and on here about the fact that when I self published I did it step by step with my husband, going solely on everything said book told me to do and that at one point my tech-savvy hubby  exclaimed ‘We’d be properly (insert curse here) if we didn’t have this book, wouldn’t we?’ Because this isn’t about Self Printed. It’s about Distress Signals.

The premise of this book is perfection. It’s essentially that, out in the sea, the law is sketchy around jurisdiction, so in terms of who can investigate a crime, there are limited options and resources creating a crime free for all, if you will.
I received the book with the genius pack you see above (how great is the ‘do not disturb’ sign?) which included a post-it that said simply ‘I’m sorry-S’ as Adam Dunne, the lead character, did, and (after trying to figure out for some time if they’d sent me the book late and someone whose name began with the letter ‘S’ was responsible-I know, I know(!)), I began.

As you can see above, Adam is investigating the disappearance of his girlfriend Sarah.His deductions have led him onto a cruise ship, the Celebrate, much to his confusion. I loved Adam as a character, his personality and his tenacity. The fact that  he was a scriptwriter and so we got a bit of writerly background didn’t hurt!

In terms of the story itself I really liked the mix of dead ends, helpful (and unhelpful) characters, but also the many open doors which I felt were present largely due to the fact that Alan was a civilian, without the constraints and bureaucracy which generally accompany crime stories that follow somebody from the law enforcement arena. The descriptions were commendable, in fact most of the book played out as a movie in my head, and I’m sure I was as in awe of the majesty of the cruise liner as he was! The pacing was brilliant, my eyes devoured each and every word and yet the pages turned swiftly in my fingers. The characters played their parts well and came to life before my very eyes.

The only things that niggled a tiny bit with me, was that a few times in the book we were reminded of something that had happened before, which was fine, but this would be in a very obvious way, and also a few deductions were hammered home, where I felt they could have been more subtle and we’d still have got it. The other thing that I was unsure of, is the story that ran with Adam’s, which is that of Romain.

Romain’s story was one of cruelty and isolation, and could become fairly uncomfortable in parts. I’m warning you of this because I do feel that some people might be bothered by it. It’s not that it’s in anyway gruesome or graphic, it’s definitely neither of those things, it’s more that it’s a story that might stay around in your head for a little while. I found it funny that one of the book’s recommendations on the cover came from Liz Nugent, from ‘Unravelling Oliver’ (which I adored!) fame, because Romain’s story stuck with me the way Oliver’s did, with a mish-mash of why questions and  ‘if only X hadn’t happened’ swimming around in my head. The darkness of this story contrasted hugely with the rest of the book which, although thrilling and dramatic, still stayed relatively light for me.
All in all the a great book. The ups, downs, twists and turns were brilliant and I was a step behind most of the way which made it both a satisfying read and conclusion. I’ll tell you I was praying this would be a goodie and I wasn’t disappointed. Very much recommended. Thanks to the author and Corvus/ Atlantic for this book in return for an honest review and apologies in advance for the lengthy post(!).
Rating:4.5/5

The Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

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Catherine Ryan Howard’s website

Catherine on Twitter @cathryanhoward

Catherine on Facebook

Catherine on Instagram

 

 

 

Room by Emma Donaghue

By the

 

room

Amazon US

Amazon UK

What They Say: NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE — nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating–a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

The Review: I read this some time ago but due to all the buzz and craziness (probably warranted) I thought I’d post a review. It’s now a bit overdue but anyhoo …

I adored this book. When I read it there was a lot of talk about it (pre film, though a lot of people were hoping for one), but I had no real idea what it was about and I’ll admit, hadn’t even read the blurb. The narrator  of the book is the gorgeous five year old Jack, obviously intriguing and ingenious in itself,a s he goes through everyday life in ‘Room, ‘with ‘bed’ and ‘wardrobe’ practically characters in his mind. We are given insights into his mother’s frame of mind and yet her strength as she struggles to give Jack a ‘normal’ life, playing with him, telling him of stars and things ‘out there’ that he doesn’t believe exist. This may just be a mother’s view, but I think one of the big themes of this book was that even faced with huge amount of adversity in life, if a child has some form of stability in forms of a parent or guardian, they can still be well adjusted and educated.

It’s funny how such a simple story can bring you along with it, for most of it is simple, you remember that they’re trapped there, you have a slight feeling of unease  and yet you’re just listening to a mother and son converse, a mother explaining things to her son without trying to upset him and yet, as would be expected, it’s not always that easy, nobody could be expected to hold it together all the time, and there are times she falls and you feel the horror again, how can anyone exist like this and what will happen to make things change?

Her captor makes appearances every so often and he’s everything you expect him to be, a monster who thinks of people as property, with no thought for what he’s doing. Even though he is this, and even though the subject matter is oh so dark, I didn’t really empathise with the reviews that found it so disturbing, and I think that that’s where Ms. Donoghue’s simple and effective writing, as well as the child’s narrative comes in. We’re so deeply involved in the story, in listening in, in thinking about their next move, as in the next five minutes, not whether this can continue long term, that we just read on, we have the slight uneasy feeling the whole time, but there’s not the graphicness and horror that other writers may have added to shock. I have not seen the films, but was a bit shocked by the unnecessary spoiler contained in the trailer, in the same way I’m pretty sure the paperback had a hint as to what might happen in the book and it annoyed me. Let me tell you, you don’t need to know. A must, must, must read (in my humble opinion!) Oh and make sure to let me know, have you read? Have you seen the film? Maybe you plan to do both together or are you just not bothered?I’d love to know!

Rating: 5/5

 

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

ThegirlonthetrainWhat they say:

THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER.
YOU DON’T KNOW HER. BUT SHE KNOWS YOU.
Rear Window meets Gone Girl, in this exceptional and startling psychological thriller

‘Gripping, enthralling – a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read’
S J WATSON, bestselling author of Before I Go To Sleep

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

 

The Review: Chances are, you’ve heard of this. Neatly coupled with ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn for every mention, it’s the book that everybody wants to know if you’ve read. So I read it. I had read ‘Gone Girl’ some time ago and I was firmly in the ‘loved it’ camp (yes, you have to take sides, apparently it’s not possible to just like it, it’s a black and white love or hate game).

As you can see above, it’s the story of Rachel, who is taking the train every morning. Up until now, Rachel had been stumbling through life, reeling from the break up of her marriage, and was dealing with alcohol issues. We start to get some of her back story, while seeing her struggling to keep it together. I loved her reasoning and justifications, and I felt for her, although there were times when you did wish she could get it together (I felt a bit guilty for thinking this.) Anyhoo, in first person, we experience Rachel imagining the stories of a couple she sees from afar when the train stops at a signal. She is obsessed with them, thinking of them as the perfect couple, no flaws, no secrets. One morning, she thinks she sees something, and this, coupled with a news story, brings her life new meaning. The alcohol was a great tool in the story as you weren’t quite sure what Rachel was remembering or whether she was credible at all, but then, there weren’t a lot of credible people in this story!

The story is given to us mostly from her point of view, and then we get the point of view of other people who are involved with what happens. I did wish we could have had one or two more points of view to even it out a little.

A psychological thriller, ‘The Girl on the Train’ is actually a light enough read, I didn’t get fully absorbed into it as I did ‘The Girl with no Past‘ (they coupled it with these two books so I’m going to go there too!) but I did enjoy it. I think, had this been the first thriller I’d read, I’d possibly have enjoyed it more, but ‘Gone Girl’ was in the back of my head and I was constantly making comparisons and clumping them together. Conversely, if I read ‘Gone Girl’ now I don’t know if I’d think it was so innovative or enjoyable. I’d say read it and enjoy. Either way, you’re probably going to read it anyway, aren’t you? I would say it’s more for those of us who don’t read a lot of thrillers, and who are on the lookout for something not too violent or gruesome.

Rathing: 4/5