Book Review – The Abandoned by Sharon Thompson


Sharon Thompson - The Abandoned_cover_high resThe Abandoned by Sharon Thompson has been my first read of 2018, and what a brilliant one!

I got an advance copy from Bloodhound Press and finished it in two sittings.

The main character is Peggy Bowden, a woman in 1950’s Ireland. Peggy has been dealt a poor hand in life, but pulled herself up to train as a midwife. But Ireland has a dark side, controlled by the Catholic Church, and Peggy moves into other things to help downtrodden women, such as selling babies and doing abortions, no one wants to end up in the Magdalen laundries. It’s a gritty read and does cover harsh topics, but yet this was the harsh life for women back then. The Nuns were also selling babies to rich Americans, but in the book it’s only Peggy who gets caught and does time inside.

The book starts once Peggy is out of jail, and sooner or later things start to go wrong again and she is mired up to her neck in different events.

As a character, Peggy is incredibly vivid and real, perhaps not altogether lovable, but definitely unforgettable!

The Abandoned reminds me of an Irish 1950’s version of the Peaky Blinders.

For a debut I found this a highly entertaining novel full of sparkling dialogue with a dark heart but with a touch of humour too.


Thoroughly recommend.


The Other Side of the Wall – by Andrea Mara – Book Review

Now, it could be entirely true that I am biased when writing a gushing book review for Andrea Mara’s debut psychological thriller, we are in the same creative writing group; but, I was thoroughly engrossed in the book and believe you will be too.

In her gripping debut, The Other Side of the Wall, Andrea has managed to weave a tale of suburban terror that creeps up on you so slowly, builds, then throws you off in a way you never expected. You hardly know what’s coming next, it’s like taking a roller coaster ride, blindfolded.

The opening pages are about Sylvia, a young working mother, who is up in the night and more than a bit sleep deprived. She thinks she sees the body of a child in the pond next door. But by the time she gets downstairs and outside to investigate, the body, if in fact it was ever there, has vanished. Is she seeing things? Is she stressed from her demanding job and a new baby? Did it actually happen, because if it did, who was the child and who murdered her?

As a reader you make all kind of assumptions about where the story is going to lead you, who is essentially ‘good’, and who is the ‘baddie’, but don’t make assumptions about anything. The twists and turns of this debut novel will have you glued to the book, and if you actually do guess correctly about the why’s and wherefore’s about the child (or not) in the pond, then you are far cleverer than I am.

But stop trying to guess. Just enjoy the book, and let it scare you just a little bit more. And remember to lock your door at night!

Well done Andrea Mara on an amazing debut, and I look forward with interest to her next novel sometime in the future.

Book Review of The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain

heidi swain cherry tree cafe

I totally adored this book. The writing was sublime and it slipped through my brain like cherry jam on whipped cream!

The beauty of Heidi Swain’s writing is that she laid out such a satisfying, compelling world, that by the time I had finished reading, I was entirely convinced I should set up my own craft cafe. And let me tell you I can’t even crochet!

Heidi managed to fabricate such a  desirable little cafe, with bunting and cake, and sewing and scones and also a totally gorgeous couple that I fell totally in love.

The Cherry Tree Cafe was a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Scheme Award for debut authors, and although didn’t win, in my opinion, was just as good as the winning book, The Gunner Girl by Clare Harvey. See post here.

I would give this book a huge ten out of ten, and I am totally looking forward to her next book coming soon.


Book Review – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert

You have to read this book.

If you write fiction, if you paint, if you draw, if you craft, if you create in any shape or form, then you need to read this book.

But mainly if you put yourself ‘out there’ in a creative way AND you are filled with self doubt and negative thoughts then you need to read this book.

There are so many ideas and concepts in this book, that even if some of her more, shall we say, ‘unconventional’ ideas make you want to sit in the corner and squirm, you will still find something in here that gives you the confidence and the freedom to get out there and create stuff.

As a writer, one of her concepts that I find so utterly fantastic is that of the ‘idea’.

Ideas have their own life and are floating, or whizzing around looking for somewhere to land. If we are open to it it stays; if we are too busy it moves on and may find someone else who is open and ready for it.

You know what it feels like, when suddenly, out of the blue this amazing, fantastic idea for a story arrives in your head, and it is so wonderful and marvellous that you simply must die if you don’t write it down. Except of course you were asleep, or were in the supermarket doing the grocery shop, or on the M25 stuck in the most horrendous traffic jam and you have 3 kids and 2 dogs who are all starving in the back and then your boss phones, and by the time you get home the idea has suddenly, unexplainedly vanished because you couldn’t/didn’t listen/write it down?

Sounds familiar?

Well, so Elizabeth says, maybe it will come back round again, or maybe it will carry on, whizzing through the world until it finds the right person who is able to give birth to it. Sometimes even, it may land on a couple of people at the same time.

Interesting concept.

You may think its a complete load of nonsense, or you might be jumping up and down right now thinking OMG! I totally understand. Some of the concepts might be, well, unusual.

Except…except…maybe not.

There are so many things she talks about that make complete sense. We are creative people. We have always been creative people, but perhaps in the last few hundred or so years we have forgotten that its ok to be creative for the sake of it.

We are so caught up now, with the idea of being perfect, or good enough etc, so much of social media is a constant drain on our positive image, and we spend a lot of our time looking for instant gratification that we have become disjointed from the actual joy of creating for the sake of creating. For to be creative, we have to have a certain amount of confidence in ourselves as unique individuals, and that its ok to be different.



I can’t say everyone will like the book, but I do challenge you to read it and NOT find a single thing that resonates with you.

Create. Write. Craft. Make. Bake. Enjoy it.

There is so much more to the book than this, just go and read it.


Love From Paris – by Alexandra Potter – Book Review

love from paris

Recently I thought I was tired of Chick lit type books. But then I found Alexandra Potter and #LoveFromParis.

Oh my!

All my favourite things in one book.





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Book Review – Colm Toibin – Brooklyn


brooklyn - colm toibin

I saw the film Brooklyn a little while ago. Although not being genuinely Irish, only sort of ‘adopted country’ Irish, I laughed my head off. Now, I don’t think that was the intention of the film, to be funny, but all the little asides, the comments about clothes, behaviour, morals and the rest, well I knew it and I understood it, and it made me laugh. One of the characters, Mrs Kehoe commands all the young ladies to stop their ‘giddiness’ when they are seated around her table. I can see it now, we still use it in our house.

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Book Review Of The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

the tea planters wifeWant I want when I read now is to be transported somewhere else. To be so engrossed in a story that I want to devour it in one sitting, for it to fill my life, and make an emotional connection with my soul.

The Tea planter’s Wife did just that.

Dinah Jefferies has subtly woven an intricate world from the 1930’s, of tea plantations, of Ceylon and the Far East in a way that I could fully understand, yet it was the emotional impact of the story that caught me.

The costs and sacrifices that each of the two main characters make are so high that it is extraordinary that they can still survive, and not just that, but that the deep romance that is intertwined through the book survives intact too.

This is a story with a mystery, with dramas, and intrigue, but overall it is a story about love and loss.

Whatever else you do, make sure you read it.