The Collective @alisongaylin @WmMorrowBooks @yayareadslotsofbooks

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MY REVIEW

A very interesting plot line makes for a ride on the wild side.

Perhaps a person has wronged you in so many ways, that all you see that person is with eyes that are full of hatred. It does seem sometimes that many a guilty party goes scot free, and our ire at the injustice of the world gets the better of us. We are consumed with hate, enough so that we can’t go forward and lose everything else that was once of value to us.

It’s been five years since the death of her daughter that Camille Gardener has been grieving. She has cut herself off from her former husband, her friends, and things that could allow her to move beyond the tragedy that had occurred.

Camille knows that the young boy who killed her daughter is free, a member of a privileged family, a boy who has it all. After all this time is there a way to extract revenge? When an invitation comes to join a secret, dark web group, that pledges to carry out acts of revenge in a clever and somewhat anonymous manner to those who escaped justice the first time, Camille decides to join.

The question comes down to are these people carrying out a vigilante justice or are have they themselves become the very people they have pledged to hate?

There are a number of plot holes, but overall it’s a tense story that keeps the reader engaged from start to finish.

and here’s the author:

Alison Gaylin

USA Today and international bestselling author Alison Gaylin has won the Edgar and Shamus awards, and has been nominated for many more, including the ITW Thriller, the Strand Book Award, the Anthony and the Macavity. She is currently at work on her 12th novel.

This book comes highly recommended!

The Island of Missing Trees @Elif_Shafak @Viking Books @yayareadslotsofbooks

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MY REVIEW

The trees know. They have through millennia been here. They are witness to our history as violent as it is. They have loved us and yet they see what we have become. They know what we are capable of and through the senses of a special fig tree, we are witnesses to a sad and tragic story.

What causes the most pain on our planet? Could it be death and destruction brought on by the many ways in which war starts?

It is a theme that runs through history, one that pits race against race, color against color, and the human race against what nature has said they are. Add to that religion which has divided us through the ages as if god considers one faith superior to another.

This story deals wonderfully with the consequences of a man and woman falling in love with other even though the mores of the times demand that their love is wrong, indecent, and immoral. However, love does not know country lines, religious bigotry, or boundaries. It transcends all making the above issues irrelevant and mindless.

This story is set in Cyprus where strict lines have been drawn between the Greeks and the Muslims. One traversing over these lines offers them so up to ridicule and ostracism.

Yet, Kostos and Defne do. They have the nerve to fall in love. Set inside the Cyprus civil war, the author takes us through the prejudices, the hated, the murder that occurs when people are trained to hate those who they live with. (Sounds familiar does it not?)

Wonderfully told with an open eye on war against neighbor and its repercussions that do travel through generations, this excellent story can show us how we might recognize from whence we come and make our impact felt on presenting a better future.

The trees point the way to life. They know our story since it blends with theirs. Perhaps their way to coexist with all is the future humankind needs to take as a way of life.

and here’s the author:

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty @praddenkeefe @doubledaybooks @absltmomMy review

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It has taken me awhile to formulate my thoughts about this amazing book Empire of Pain. This nonfiction, written by Patrick Radden Keefe, will not only inform you of three generations of the infamous Sackler family, it will also made you incensed that their company, Purdue Froelich initially, later entitled Purdue Pharma was able to ensnare the public to the drug OxyContin.

The family became enormously wealthy donating to a plethora of institutions including hospitals, universities, museums, etc with always the one caveat, their name must appear on the donation. Across the word the name appeared which would one day be removed because of the insidious practices of their company. They were a family who flew under the radar, one that always remained in the shadows, never affixing their name to any company they owned and clandestinely operated. The family’s beginnings were traced back to Issac Sackler, who in 1904, immigrated to America, He sired three sons, encouraged them to become doctors which they did. He also told them ““What I have given you is the most important thing a father can give… a good name.” Unfortunate, in so many ways, his ensuing progeny didn’t consider his words as they did everything, they could to push their wonder drug OxyContin.

Labeled as an answer to pain sufferers dream, this drug’s side effects were hidden, as undocumented studies were used and often quoted in selling the drug. …and selling they did.
Offering huge benefits to doctors who prescribed the drug and a sales staff that was trained well, the drug became a word wide phenomenon. FDA approved added that additional push to Oxy’s fame and the money poured in making the Sackler’s one of the richest families in our nation. They encouraged their sales staff to target poor areas under the guise of knowing the spots where pain was most prevalent thus hooking countless people onto this drug requiring more and higher dosages to abate their pain.

The Sackler’s knew what was happening. The drug they claimed was nonaddictive was, but as their sales increased and millions were amassed, they didn’t care. Lawsuits that came in, were put down quickly by teams of high-powered attorneys would dig into the past of the plaintiff to disgrace them. The kicker to me was that the company (aka the Sackler’s) said that the people who became addicted were those who had an addiction flaw in their nature, already were addicts, not that the drug made them so.

The thousands who died because of their drug is immeasurable. Parents lost children, couples lost each other, children lost their parents, and the suffering mounted up for the people who were sucked into the Sackler web of deceit and deplorable practices. There is an excellent chance you know someone who perished, or is currently fighting their addiction.

It took many a year for the drug to be understood and although Purdue did try to make a pill that couldn’t be broken down, their initial push of this drug, started many down the path to heroin and morphine.

Thanks to the investigative talent of both the author and others, the Sackler family no longer remains hidden. The very infuriating thing was that they knew the end was coming so they pulled millions out of Purdue Pharma, hid the money in untraceable accounts, and finally declared bankruptcy for Purdue. However, in a turn of their need to be philanthropically recognized many institutions pulled their name from structures as well as refusing future donations. It seems the one good thing that Issac gave his family, they successfully destroyed.

****As a caveat, there is so much money to be had in this industry, that many can be “bought” both in government agencies and legal services. Most concerning of all to me is that drug companies have been indemnified by our government, meaning that they can’t be sued or held accountable for the havoc that might ensue. Makes you wonder does it not? Hopefully the Sackler’s will have a wing in hell with their name over it awaiting their arrival!****

A most excellent book that will infuriate you as well as fascinate you with the family’s arrogance and evilness. Kudos to Patrick Keefe for writing this masterpiece.

and here’ the author:

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Snakehead and Chatter. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Slate, New York, and The New York Review of Books. He received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, for his story “A Loaded Gun,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016, and is also the recipient of an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellowship at the New America Foundation and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Rock Paper Scissors @alicewriterland @Flatironbooks #mysterythriller #psycologicalthriller @JanBelisle@absltmom

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Jan’s review

Adam & Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland and decide to use it to celebrate their anniversary. Adam is a screenwriter and a workaholic, which isn’t helping their marriage. Maybe a weekend away will be just what they need to repair their relationship. Adam suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness), but in public his wife stays by his side and helps him out when someone they know approaches. Sometimes. She can be a little passive-aggressive. This feature adds a fun and unique element to the story.  

The couple, along with their dog Bob, arrive at the remote location in the midst of a raging snowstorm, and strange things begin happening, starting with a bedroom that is decorated exactly like the one they have at home. Add in a spooky old church, a graveyard, lost power, and a strange face that appears in the window, and you have all of my favorite elements in a thriller. 

The story alternates chapters between Amelia, Adam, and a mysterious woman named Robin.  Interspersed between these chapters are anniversary letters, which his wife would never want Adam to read. They both have their secrets, which we learn about through the letters. No one is likable here, which is not a deal breaker for me. 

It’s clear something devious is afoot. Who will win this game and will all come out alive? This one kept Marialyce and I furiously flipping the pages, and playing amateur sleuth. Once again, the author fooled us with brilliant twists and turns. By the final reveal everything I thought I knew was in question, and I wanted to start over and read it again, knowing what I now know. Were there a few inconsistencies and loose ends? Maybe, but I didn’t care, because I was engaged and thoroughly entertained throughout. I loved how the author laid out the story and how the secrets were revealed to the reader. 

This would be a terrific winter read, and if you live in the northern climes, reading it in the midst of a snowstorm curled up by the fire would be perfect. 

Marialyce’s review

Take a couple whose marriage is on shaky ground, a very spooky old church in the middle of nowhere, a person who is spying on them, and a plethora of weird occurrences and you have the makings of Alice Feeney’s book Rock, Paper, Scissors.

From the beginning of this tale, a blizzard is blowing, and our main characters, Adam and Amalia, are on their way to a free weekend away in Scotland. Both of them have their secrets which Ms Feeney lets out in drips, and from Adam, we see a man who has been plagued with face blindness, not being able to recognize even those closest to him. They have been married for ten years and each year in the spirit of giving, they exchange gifts symbolic of the year. Year one was paper, year two was cotton and so on. What Adam doesn’t know is that each year, his wife also pens a letter which she doesn’t give to him. How very strange indeed!

As the wind blows and the electricity goes, the couple start to discover their surrounding accompanied by doors that are locked and suddenly open, a cellar that provides its own level of eeriness, and strange sounds. This is not turning into a getaway weekend that will aid their marriage indeed! Add to that there is an old strange woman, reputed to be a witch, who lives in a dilapidated cottage down the lane.

The snow falls, the wind blows, and we are entrenched in a story that takes many turns as it is revealed what is occurring and how their lives or in peril.


Jan and I enjoyed this telling, holes in the story and all. It was downright spooky fun and did manage to keep our sleuthing going. We both decided that we would have left that setting pronto! Definitely, a story you will enjoy in the midst of winter with the snow and wind setting you up for a blustery and frightening evening.

and here’s the author:

Alice Feeney

Alice Feeney is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. Rock Paper Scissors is her fourth novel and is being made into a TV series for Netflix by the producer of The Crown. It will be published around the world in 2021.

Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was an international bestseller, has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. His & Hers is also being adapted for screen by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films.

Alice was a BBC Journalist for fifteen
years before becoming an author. She lives in Devon with her family.

A Line To Kill @AnthonyHorowitz @HarperCollins #mystery #suspence #crimethriller @JanBelisle @absltmom

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Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery #3

Jan’s review

This is the 3rd installment in the Horowitz/ Hawthorne series, my favorite duo. This can work as a standalone, but for insight into the characters I would recommend reading the previous two books first (plus they are really good!). Horowitz is both author and a character in his own novel, as a bumbling ‘Watson’ to retired Detective Hawthorne’s ‘Holmes’.  

In book #1 Horowitz was engaged to write about Hawthorne’s life and accompany him on cases. The problem? They are an unlikely pair that get along as well as oil and water. Their relationship adds much to the charm and humor in this story, with Horowitz’s cluelessness adding to the fun.

The cast of suspects/characters from the literary world is colorful and quirky, and I loved the witty satire, with the author poking fun at the literary world, and himself. Not every attendee is who they say they are and there are plenty of suspects and secrets to uncover. There are an awful lot more than six people who wanted him dead… It’s a line to kill if ever I saw one.”

This was a buddy read with Marialyce, and one we thoroughly enjoyed. It’s great fun for those who enjoy a clever take on a classic Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, with the requisite multiple suspects and red herrings. Locked room mysteries are my favorite, in this case the ‘room’ being an island. I was kept guessing until the end, although the clues to the resolution are there for anyone to find. I loved this smartly written whodunit, but the characters of Hawthorne and Horowitz have completely won me over. 

Marialyce’s Review

Welcome to they world of mystery and suspense in the new book, A Line To A Kill by a favorite author of mine, Anthony Horowitz. Inserting himself into story line and teaming up once again with a somewhat nemesis, Hawthorne, this third installment offers lots for those is us who love mystery novels.

The cleverness of the duo, of course superseded by Hawthorne is the driving force which provides a plethora of characters all seemingly capable of Murder.

Hawthorne and Horowitz arrive at an island for a writers’ conference invited by Charles le Mesurier, a rich man, who is pushing for an electrical line running through the island he and his wife reside on. Needless to say, there are many residents of the island opposing this idea and the list of possible suspects increase as said rich man is found murdered.

As usual Hawthorne’s usual intuitive skills are fine tuned as he continued to banter Horowitz who often appears clueless. It makes for the often funny interactions between them.

This book is a pure pleasure to read and enjoy and Jan and I took part in both the enjoyment and the pleasure of a well done whodunnit.

Keeping our fingers and toes crossed in the hope that the team of Hawthorn and Horowitz will be back with book four of a riveting series. Jan and I will be hot on the trail of a new installment.

and here’s the author

Anthony Horowitz, OBE is ranked alongside Enid Blyton and Mark A. Cooper as “The most original and best spy-kids authors of the century.” (New York Times). Anthony has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision, among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009.

On 19 January 2011, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle announced that Horowitz was to be the writer of a new Sherlock Holmes novel, the first such effort to receive an official endorsement from them and to be entitled the House of Silk.

Many thanks to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for:

A Letter From Pearl Harbor @annastuartbooks @bookuture @sarahhardy681 @absltmom

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My review

This lovely story told in two timelines, one at the dawn of America’s was fostered upon us by the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the other a story of two women, Robyn and Ashley Harris sisters, Who were greatly influenced by their grandmother, Ginny McAllister.

Ginny was a definite free spirit and became a pilot in a time when women certainly did not fit into that role. She was living in Hawaii with her beloved brother, Jack, enjoying the life of this tropical paradise, when all hell breaks loose on December, 7, 1941. In the ensuing battle that rages, she witnesses colossal destruction and the loss of one so very dear to her. She and her fellow women pilots are determined to do what they can to allay the war effort and follow through with courage and determination.

We are given the backstory of Ginny in dribs and drabs due to a treasure hunt she sets up for her granddaughters prior to her death. The granddaughters are devastated at the loss of their grandmother, but have a few surprises to learn about a grandmother they thought they knew. Both women learn about courage, about determination, about facing up to responsibility. For Ashley, confined to a wheelchair due to a cycling accident, she finds it within herself to once again enter the competitive world she once loved. For Robyn, she finds that although loving someone hurts, it is well worth the risk involved to be enamored with someone.

Through the use of mostly alternate chapters, we delve into the grit of the ladies both now and then. We find ourselves rooting for the granddaughters, adapting to change and loss. This well-done story is one to add if you are fond of strong women, who never let others stand in their way. Resiliency in the face of tragedy is an ongoing theme, and the voice of carrying on is prevalent in the story.

Thank you to Anna Stuart, Bookouture, Sarah Hardy and NetGalley for providing an advanced copy of this based on true events story.

and here’s the author:

I wanted to be an author from the moment I could pick up a pen and was writing boarding-school novels by the age of nine. I made the early mistake of thinking I ought to get a ‘proper job’ and went into Factory Planning – a career that gave me some wonderful experiences, amazing friends and even a fantastic husband, but didn’t offer much creative scope. So when I stopped to have children I took the chance to start the ‘improper job’ of writing. During the baby years I wrote in the brief gaps provided by sleeps, playschools and obliging grandparents, publishing short stories and serials in all the women’s magazines.

But my ultimate aim was to write longer fiction and several years ago I published a series of successful historical novels under the pseudonym Joanna Courtney. I will continue to publish under that name but am delighted, as Anna Stuart, to also be able to write contemporary fiction. Bonnie and Stan is a true to life romance set in both the present day and sixties Liverpool and Four Minutes to Save a Life is a domestic drama about how small acts of kindness might just change the world!

The Book of Magic @ahoffmanwriter @SimonBooks #series #magic #fantasy #magicalrealism @absltmom

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My review

How very wonderful to have completed a series that made me wonder and love the gifts of magic contained within its pages! As Alice Hoffman’s series of Practical Magic continued, we once again are enamored with the Owens family as they deal with the many possibilities love can take and how being denied this wondrous emotion can possibly be overcome.

Perhaps, for those of us who find joy in reading of magic, we, too, would love to be part of this family either in the past or presently. The curse placed on the family has had many who have valiantly tried to avoid its happening and when a young man loved by one of the current sisters, is seriously hurt, she will do anything to trace down the curse and try to eliminate it. The family rallies to her support traversing overseas to eventually wind up where it all started with Maria Owens. As three generations of the Owens family work together to reverse the curse and save the young man traveling to death’s door, they learn that love in all its forms can conquer all. Franny Owens, with the aid of a book and her long lost brother realize that anything worth fighting for involves a sacrifice, perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all.

Joined in love and that wonderful gift they all possess even though Sally Owens wants to keep her daughters away from the secret, they all come to the final truth that love is worth every sacrifice, every stolen moment, and sometimes requires every bit of courage and magic one possesses.

I have loved this entire series, and of course am saddened by its ending. However, the magic in the world will continue as the old saying goes, love conquers all.
Thank you to Alice Hoffman, Simon Schuster, and NetGalley for a copy of this endearing story which published recently.

and here’s the author:

Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew; The Marriage of Opposites; The Red Garden; The Museum of Extraordinary Things; The Dovekeepers; Here on Earth, an Oprah’s Book Club selection; and the Practical Magic series, including Practical
Magic; Magic Lessons; The Rules of Magic, a selection of Reese’s Book Club; and The Book of Magic. She lives near Boston.

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Image taken from uniteforliteracy.com

BLOG TOUR: The New Mother @thatjuliacrouch @bookuture @absltmom

MY REVIEW

We all know when it comes to having a new baby in the house, one could certainly use an extra pair of hands. For Rachel, an influential influencer, it’s a most needed addition so she advertises and proceeds to hire Abbie, a sweet, kind, loving girl, who is an avid fan of Rachel’s. Seems like a perfect match and as both ladies await the arrival of the baby, they learn things about one another, that perhaps they never wanted to know. They both have secrets, ones that could bring ruin onto to both their heads.

There’s many things going on in the story and just as you think you know what will happen, a curve is thrown in and viola! off you go in another direction. This was a well-done psychological thriller which pits the new age of the internet with everyday issues.

The story is told in alternate voices and it was compelling to learn of the personalities of Rachel and Abbie, as they look at each other each day a bit differently. I can’t say that I would want either of them as friends or even someone I would follow on the various sites. However, the author kept them interesting as she explored the psychological elements that drove each of them, and indeed these women were driven.
I recommend this story to those who enjoy delving into reasons and motivations of people. The old adage of “if it looks too good, it probably is” certainly applies to the meeting of Rachel and Abbie.
Thanks, to Julia Crouch, Bookouture, and NetGally for a copy of this story that was recently published.

and here’s the author:

Julia Crouch

Julia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration re-awoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.

She works in a shed at the bottom of the Brighton house she shares with her husband, the actor and playwright Tim Crouch, their three children, two cats called Keith and Sandra, a dog called Uncle, and about twelve guitars (you can find #Keith, who has his own hashtag, on twitter). She is a self-confessed geek and fights a daily battle to resist tinkering with the code on her website.

In the Shadow of Time @kevinansbro @2QT Ltd #magicalrealism #timetravel #lovingfamilies @absltmom

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There is no greater honour on Earth than to share one’s wisdom with those who seek it.”

My review

It is wonderful to read a book that fills you with only good feelings, that makes you see how love can come in many ways through many different people, and that evil doers are punished.

Take a trip into the mystical and magical with Kevin Ansbro’s newest book, In The Shadow of Time, where through the wonders of a time machine, a bit of whimsy and a lot of beautiful words, this reader breathe a sigh, shed a few tears, enjoyed many giggles, and was so happy such books as this exist.

There are some wonderful luscious characters, that were begging for you to want them as forever friends. Let’s power forward to 2020 where we encounter Hugo Wilde, the erstwhile James Bond agent, perfect in his allure with women, an operative with a mission to kill a Russian assassin, all the while fulfilling death defying deeds of deering-do. There is the beautiful alluring temptress, a Soviet scientist, Sofia Ustinova, who due to her research on time travel has attracted of all things, beings from another galaxy, bearing a most intriguing gift. For Sophia, married to a brute of a husband, she is soon with her cat, Copernicus, about to embark on a stellar mission. Meeting Hugo, as he is her husband’s assassin, it’s love at first sight and the happy couple swoon and do other things toot sweet!

While in a forest in 1970, a child born in Silkeborg Forest, with porcelain skin is orphaned when her parents perish and is left in a tree to survive. Found by one of the evil doers. Luna, grows and at sixteen comes under the tutelage of Sophia and Hugo. (Oh yes, did I mention anything about a time machine?)

Arriving in Mexico City in 1970, (time machine wise), we meet Gerardo Quiroz, and his son Pablo also sixteen. Geraldo is viciously killed by another evil doer and Pablo comes to live with Sophia and Hugo, making for a very diverse but loving family.

I know I am making a muck of describing this book, but it’s wonderful in so many ways. It is the way we wish people, all kinds of people would live, with respect and concern for others, with love in their hearts with an outpouring of gratitude for the life they have.

Truly if you love stories that weave their way into and around your heart, written with beautiful prose, (oftentimes comical), and the wish that a book would never end, this is exactly what you are looking for. I must add that time travel has never been my thing, but in Kevin’s Ansbro’s hands it became a “thing” for me. Oh! and the evil doers get their just deserts!

“I predict that there will be many more like him in the future,” she sighed. “People of privilege speaking heroically on behalf of those with whom they have no intention of mixing.”

and here’s the author:

Kevin Ansbro was born of Irish parents, and has lived in Malaysia and Germany: He was educated at Hamond’s Grammar School in Swaffham, and at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology, King’s Lynn. Kevin also has a background in karate and kickboxing and has travelled extensively – particularly in the Far East. He is married to Julie, and currently lives in Norwich, England. More stuff about me (as if anyone cares): Likes: Art, travel, good manners, independent women, Sunday newspapers and dirty laughs; funk, punk, Bob Marley, Pulp, Foo Fighters, Marmite, winks, pouts, Masterchef Australia and Earl Grey tea. Dislikes: Strawberries (I’m not alone with this one), drivers who don’t indicate, men who devote their weekends to cleaning the family car (what’s that all about?) English winters, 1970s-style armpit hair on women, skinflints, insufficiently-chilled white wine, homophobes, misogynists, xenophobes and ignorant jerks in general. Right, enough about me: my books are way more interesting.

@SGoodAuthor @AvonBookUK

Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

#reality #island #danger #mobrule @JanBelisle @absltmom

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Jan’s review

Maddy had an overprotective upbringing and the untimely deaths of her parents have left her reeling.   She needs a change and signs up for a reality Survivor-type show where 8 contestants (four men, four women) are left on an island off the coast of Scotland, where they will live for one year. It’s an experiment to see how they will survive, and no one is voted off. But alliances are soon drawn, and Maddy, having few social skills, becomes the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong. If you wonder what would happen if society breaks down and it’s survival of the fittest, this is a prime example of mob mentality.

The book opens with Maddy sitting for an interview for a tv show. She’s painfully thin and bedraggled, after unspecified criminal charges and time in prison. Things obviously have gone terribly awry, and not everyone made it back from the island.  Maddy tells her story, and what a story it is!

Please note I hate camping or rustic anything. My idea of roughing it is making reservations at a luxury resort. But, still, I loved the setting and the descriptions of how the group uses their skills to forage and provide shelter and food for themselves. The second half of the book was riveting and unputdownable, and the ending…well, I needed to talk about it! 

As an aside, you do not have to be a fan of camping or roughing it in order to enjoy this book. My husband and I were huge fans of the show Survivor in its early days, and he would always joke (not really joking…) that had I been on the show I’d be the first voted off the island for two reasons: 
a. I would tell everyone once every 2 minutes that I was hungry. Seriously, I have an uncontrollable urge to voice it repeatedly. I don’t do hungry well
b. I have a 2-degree temperature level of comfort. I’m either too hot or too cold. The proper temperature is elusive and I have a need to repeatedly tell him how hot or cold I am.
My fellow survivors would hate me and couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. 

However, I do like living vicariously, and there was the Survivor nostalgic factor. Plus, this story was unique, which I appreciate. So many books are a variation of the same theme but this was different and I will likely remember it for that alone.

At the 50% mark, winter is setting in and conditions deteriorate rapidly after a surprising discovery.  The tension ramps up, and I simply could not put the book down. I was glued to the page to find out what would happen and who would survive.  I was at 95% at the end of a very long car trip where I would ordinarily be ready to get out of the car, but I found myself urging my husband to run an errand so I could finish the book. He wasn’t buying it. It’s been a long time since a book has affected me this way. 

Is it perfect? No. Told in the 1st person POV, we only hear Maddy’s story with no input from the others. It left me wondering why she was ostracized and if she was an unreliable narrator. But that also works in the plus column because it left me as a reader uncertain. Secondly, foreshadowing annoys me, and there was too much “if only I’d known how much worse it would get…”. To be fair, it DID get much, much worse, but I didn’t need to hear it repeatedly. Thirdly, the ending is problematic and requires some suspension of disbelief. The more I talked about it with my reading buddy Marialyce, the more I became annoyed. So, this isn’t a book for book clubs! Just read it, accept it as a purely entertaining read, and move on. The strengths outweigh any criticisms I had.

·       I received a digital copy via Netgalley for review. All opinions are my own.

Marialyce’s Review

One things for sure, you would never find me being on one of those survival shows. I love my creature comforts and would be the first to say plodding through a Forrest or taking an RV trip sends shivers down my spine.

Reading the book Stranded reinforced that view. To me, placing myself not only in the wild but with people who I didn’t know seems to be an exercise in stupidity. The main character of the story finds herself the eventual pariah of this motley group of eight left on an island close to Scotland, meaning this is no tropical oasis.

Things start to go wrong almost immediately as the division of duties and tasks seem to be inequitable and groups start to form eventually leaving Maddie out, seemingly because of her what one might call her common sense concerns.

The group, particularly their leader, comes to hate Maddie infusing this animosity into all. Eventually, she is thrown out of the camp left more or less to fend for herself.

Meanwhile time passes and various occurrences happen which start to boil over and tragedy in many forms stresses the group to a breaking point. Will Maddie or anyone make it out alive?

This was a somewhat interesting tale reminding me of Lord of the Flies but it did have many plot holes which decreased the enjoyment level for me. For a new author, it was a good effort but this book left me with more questions than answers.

Jan and I discussed all of the details plus the various omissions and inconsistencies of the story. Jan liked it a tad more than me but for the enjoyment level, we both agreed that this book managed to hold our interest.

Bottom line is point me in the direction of a Four Season hotel and I will be a happy “camper” This book convinced me I am not a roughing it girl.

and here’s the author:

Sarah Goodwin

Sarah Goodwin is a novelist who grew up in rural Hertfordshire and now lives in Bristol. She was raised on C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie by her parents and spent her summers in castles and on battlefields making up stories about women struggling for survival against war, poverty and dragons.

At Bath Spa University Sarah studied for a BA in Creative Writing and self-published seven novels across various genres, including YA magical realism, contemporary women’s fiction, romance and horror.

While undertaking her Master’s degree, Sarah participated in writing and performing in sketches for Bristol-based What Have You Comedy and now appears regularly on Bristol Youth Radio Rocks as part of a weekly mental health hour for young people.

Sarah graduated in 2014 with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.