Monday, 22 August 2016

"The Things I Should Have Told You" by Carmel Harrington. Review and Giveaway.



To celebrate the launch of  Carmel Harrington's latest novel, The Things I Should Have Told You, Harper Collins in Ireland have kindly donated three signed copies for me to giveaway to readers.  To be in with a chance of winning one, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Good Luck Everyone!

MY REVIEW

The Guinness family is struggling to stay united.  Mae and Olly have lost the love in their marriage, their thirteen-year-old daughter is in hospital after drinking herself into oblivion and elderly Pops is fading away at a rapid rate.  Tensions within the family unit are at an all-time high and Mae is edging toward surrender.  Pops has something else in mind for his son, his wife and their two kids.  He arranges an epic road trip for the family in an attempt to help them to re-connect.  But can the close- quarters of a camper van travelling through Europe really be the answer to their problems, or could it be the breaking of them altogether?


Wexford writer, Carmel Harrington has put her heart and soul into this novel.  The importance of family becomes obvious from the very first page and the ups and downs within a family unit are not hidden.  Mae is now the sole breadwinner of the Guinness family and Olly is not coping with unemployment as easily as he would like.  He feels that he has lost a large piece of himself and his marriage is suffering.  Mae is finding it hard to surrender her role as the homemaker and the one that her kids turn to.  When Evie is hospitalized, she feels the burden of guilt but is happy to snipe away at her husband in an attempt to shift blame.  Seven-year-old Jamie is too young to notice the bitterness but Grandpa Pop has seen everything.  His final gift to the family is a powerful one.  One camper van, one disjointed and grieving family, ten countries in eight weeks.  There are ferry trips, campsites with varying levels of comfort, miles and miles of road to cover and pre-arranged surprises from Pops.  All this with two kids and no internet.  Interesting times. 4805 miles are travelled, ten countries in eight weeks and a whole host of 'issues'. 
This is a story of a fractured family, a disjointed marriage and a last-ditch attempt at finding what they used to have.  Is staying together for the sake of the kids really the answer? Can discovering areas of Europe help the Guinness family re-connect?  Over the miles there are plenty of tears, tantrums and tensions.  But there are also moments of laughter, adventure and re-connection.  But is it too late?

No family is perfect and this book balances emotions cleverly throughout.  Mae and Olly could be any couple in Ireland who have been affected by the downturn in the economy. Pops is a wonderful character that lingers long after the journey has ended.  This is a novel that you can really escape into, ignoring your own family dramas, and travel the roads of Europe alongside a family you are not related to.  Win, Win!  Female fiction that is perfect for fans of Emma Hannigan, Claudia Carroll and Cathy Kelly.


The Things I Should Have Told You is published on 8th September by Harper Collins.  You can pre-order via amazon link below:





Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Review - "Storm Weaver" by Matt Griffin. Review by Mia, aged 13.




We received a copy of this title, from the publishers, in return for an honest review...

Review by Mia Madden, aged 13.

This book is the sequel to A Cage of Roots.  It again follows Ayla, Benvy, Finny and Sean through caves underground in ancient Ireland.  The mangled flesh and root bodied Queen Maeve has escaped the caves and Ayla wants to hunt down and destroy her.  Since her uncles Lann, Fergus and Yaig gave their lives to heal the group of friends, Maeve is the only thing that has been on Ayla's mind.  A rift begins to grow between her and her friends and Finny, Benvy and Sean set off to free girls who have been turned into goblins.  The group succeed in freeing one, but she runs away.  While searching for her, the gang stumble across the exit.  They leave and find the goblin girl.  But it isn't long before they are attacked by giant wolves.  The friends have a row and split up, Ayla and Finny storming off, and Benvy, Sean and the goblin girl on a set path.  Both parties get caught up in a war which means friend versus friend.  Can their friendship survive the war?

While I was reading this it was pretty hard not to imagine Ayla as Aayla Secura, the blue Twi'lek Jedi from Star Wars, and Finnyas my brother Finn.  My imagination can run a bit off track sometimes.  Anyway, this book is another action-packed story of the buddies from Kilnabracka.  It taught me things I didn't know about Irish mythology, had brilliant battle scenes ( I LOVE battles!) and amazing adventures (you like my alliteration?).  All of this, plus illustrations, crammed into a single 250 page novel.

I would recommend this perfect page-turner for ages 11+.

Storm Weaver is published by O'Brien Press and is available in PB and ebook format. 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Book Review - 'The Privileged' by Emily Hourican.



I received a copy of this title, via netgalley.com, for review purposes.

Three girls, from three different backgrounds, become best friends in their exclusive school.  Stella is the middle-class bright spark, Laura is the only child of a bohemian artist and Amanda is the beautiful and lively offspring of New Money parents.  Although they have virtually nothing in common, the girls are inseparable, until the arrival of a cocky stranger at their end of term party...

Approaching adulthood is a little like jumping off a long pier and hoping for the best.  Stella, Laura and Amanda have never doubted that their friendship would withstand University and eventual careers.  As with most teenagers, they presumed that their bond was unbreakable.  There was always the chance that they would head in different directions when their jobs dictated, but none of them expected the change to occur before they had even finished college.  How did this all happen so fast?

This is a novel I found hard to categorize.  Not female fiction, not grip-lit, not psychological drama and not quite literary fiction.  There were definitely moments of all these genres within the pages of The Privileged, but then the moment was gone and a new chapter would change the course.  The writing is wonderful, full of heady atmosphere and genuine affection, and the story pulls you along at a nice, steady pace.  There was just something lacking, or perhaps the narrative was stretched out a bit too much.  There was an implication that one event was the catalyst of the girl's fallout, but really this was not the case.  They had nothing in common from the start and Amanda was never going to follow the paths that Stella and Laura would.  The drink, drugs and sex angle is nothing new and any tabloid paper could tell the real-life story of girls like Amanda.  Amy Winehouse, Paula Yates, or even as far back as Marilyn Monroe.  All of these women were damaged before meeting the men who would topple them over the edge.  Amanda was destined to fall.  It is just doubtful that her two friends would have remained her friend for as long as they did.  

An enjoyable read, with a leaning toward literary fiction, but just too long. The author's writing style is her strength and I look forward to reading book two...

The Privileged is published by Hachette Ireland and is available in PB and ebook format.  You can order your copy, with 15% discount and Free Worldwide Postage, HERE.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:




Sunday, 7 August 2016

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway - 'My Husband's Wives' by Faith Hogan





Debut author Faith Hogan has invited me to tag along on her Summer Blog Hop.  To celebrate her  debut novel, My Husband's Wives, I have a review and Irish themed giveaway.  To be in with a chance of winning this silver-plated Ireland bookmark, just enter via rafflecopter link below. 
 Good Luck! (Open INT)



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MY REVIEW



When Paul Starr is killed in a car accident in Dublin, he leaves behind three grieving widows.  But they are not all aware of each others existence. The successful and charismatic doctor had charmed his way into the lives of these three vastly different women and he has left more than a tangled web of lies behind him.  There are also children involved.  Through the individual stories of  Grace, Evie and Annalise, the present becomes intermingled with the past as the women say goodbye to the man they all loved...

This is Faith Hogan's debut novel and it grabs the reader with its clever storyline.  Paul managed to charm the pants off three beautiful women, of varying ages and backgrounds, by placing them under his magnetic spell.  Each woman is then shocked to discover the existence of another young female, Kasia, who was in the car at the time of the accident.  The funeral arrangements see the beginning of their future connection and their individual personalities struggle to contain themselves.  How can these women move on without even knowing who Paul truly loved?

This is a very enjoyable read, written with care and delicate precision.  The descriptions of Evie's Howth home are wonderful and Annalise is a shallow character we can love to hate.  Grace is harder to identify with.  She set out to steal someone's husband and then changed her mind when things were not going her way.  Her daughter Delilah struggles to forgive her mother for Paul's desertion, and I can almost agree with her.  Kasia is an odd addition to the tale  but she blends in nicely with Evie.  While I felt nothing for Paul, and could not for the life of me see why these women would give their lives over to him, I did enjoy the story.  These women find out that it is not a man that they need.  It is friendship and confidence.  Faith Hogan is a new voice in Irish fiction and is ideal for fans of Colette Caddle and Cathy Kelly.


My Husband's Wives is published by Aria and is available in ebook format



Friday, 5 August 2016

Book Review - 'Be Frank With Me' by Julia Claiborne-Johnson. My Top Read of 2016.



I received a copy of this title, from the publishers, in return for an honest review...


Nine year-year-old Frank is different to other kids.  Fascinated with old, classic movies he channels his inner Cary Grant and Humprey Bogart, dressing with style and individual flair.  He can quote huge chunks of his favourite movies and sees the world through the eyes of a old-style Hollywood director.  When Alice comes to stay with Frank and his author mother, Mimi Manning, an unusual friendship forms as they learn to adjust their personalities to suit their living arrangements.

Mimi Manning is a reclusive writer, with a massive bestseller under her belt but has now been given the task of writing another.  Herself and Frank have been hidden behind the glass walls off their LA home for years and neither are keen to have a young woman move in with them as the new book is written.  Alice struggles to learn their quirkiness and each day brings new challenges.  It is not long before she sees Frank's compulsive behaviours for what they are... He is a child who lives in the past.  He dresses like a dapper 1950s movie star, accessorizes each outfit with a button hole or cravat, has an array of catch phrases and knows the best places in LA to shop for his vast, eclectic wardrobe.  He may not be great with human interaction, but he is utterly charming in his eccentricity.  

Alice is charged with watching Frank as Mimi holes herself in her bedroom to write the next great novel.  Left to their own devices, there are plenty of hit-and-miss moments between the two.  Frank doesn't like to be touched and Alice learns this the hard way.  He is also not keen on having his 'stuff' touched, which makes things a bit difficult.  However, after some initial teething problems, the unlikely duo settle into a routine.  Watching old black and white movies, driving through the streets of LA, attempting some day trips and flicking through some old photo albums.  Frank unwraps his life, slowly, through vignettes and snatched details garnered from his mother.  Alice relaxes into their quirky routine and their friendship blossoms.  If only she could get Mimi to finish her manuscript...

Julia Claiborne Johnson has produced one of the most enchanting books I have ever read.  I completely lost myself in Frank's world.  He is delightfully weird and wonderful and entirely unforgettable.  A child who has virtually no social skills, a brain full of random and insightful facts, the ability to name and re-count hundreds of classic movies and can wear a top hat on public transport.  He lights up the pages of the novel and you know that each chapter will have his personality seeping into your soul.   Mimi has a touch of the Harper Lee about her, with the One Great Novel being both her saviour and her downfall.  Alice is far from Mary Poppins, but she has something special.  She accepts Frank for who he is, sees what he needs and more importantly what he doesn't need.  A child who is different should not be forced to fit a mould.  Frank is special and Alice brings out the best in him.  They have mini-adventures, fighting the system and learn to adapt as minimally as they can.  Like Christopher Boone, in Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Frank is a boy who will imprint himself on the reader's mind.  You will want to slow down the reading, so you won't have to say goodbye.  This is a truly spectacular novel, written with simple prose and mighty articulation.  Once you enter the gates of Frank's LA home, you will be hooked.  There is magic within the pages of this book, moments that will stay with you long after you have reluctantly turned the back cover.  Frank will linger for days, weeks, months.  He is a monocle-wearing, slicked-haired, mini-gentleman who will charm even the hardest cynic.  I miss him desperately.

This is my book of the year.  I cannot recommend it enough.  A must-read for anyone who loves life, or even for those who need to learn to love life again...





Be Frank With Me is published by Corvus and is available in HB and ebook format.  You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Book Review - 'Watching Edie' by Camilla Way.



I received a copy of this title from the publishers in return for an honest review...

Edie is shocked to open her front door and see Heather standing there.  The girls have not seen each other in years and did not part on good terms.  Before long, Heather has inserted herself firmly into Edie's life again.  At first the friendship is mutually beneficial, with Edie being pregnant and alone and Heather wanting to re-kindle their friendship, but before long things start to slide into an unhealthy relationship and Edie wonders if their unspoken secret could be the reason Heather has turned up out of the blue.  Are her motives more sinister than they seem?  

Edie entered Heather's life at a time when she needed the distraction.  Tension between her parents, an ongoing battle with bullying in school and a worryingly lonely existence all made for a miserable childhood.  Until Edie came and brightened things up.  Beautiful, arty, free-spirited and full of life, she was everything Heather was not.  An unusual friendship formed and soon the girls were constant companions.  However, when Connor became Edie's main focus, Heather was distraught.  She watched her best friend deteriorate before her very eyes and felt completely helpless.  Each day saw Edie slip more and more under the spell of bad-boy Connor and their toxic relationship was spinning out of control.  Heather needed to do something.  Fast forward a decade and Edie is now reliant on Heather.  The tables have turned but she feels uneasy.  Heather is gradually taking over Edie's world and there is a dark shadow hanging over the two girls.  They have a secret.  An awful, unspeakable secret.  Will it raise its ugly head or stay simmering in the background?

Psychological thrillers are hot-to-trot these days and are being published at breakneck speed to keep up with the demand from readers who are devouring them in their droves.  But is this one any different?  Yes is the answer.  It has two strong female protagonists, both dramatically different and both shifting in the readers favour throughout the book.  At first one feels empathy for the harrowed Edie.  Alone in a seedy bedsit, heavily pregnant, no friends and no idea what will happen in the future.  Then we get a glimpse of how she was in her previous existence; the one Heather dealt with.   Not a pleasant person at all.  We watch her spiraling descent, at the bequest of her despicable boyfriend and feel the powerlessness that Heather feels.  Her relationship with Connor is reminiscent of the infamous one between Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil. Destined to end badly.  Sympathies shift to Heather as we read of her miserable home-life and pure devotion to Edie.  She would literally do anything to protect her friend and one fears this will also end badly.  Then the book shifts again, with Edie falling victim to Heather's over-protectiveness, leading the reader on a shifting journey of curiosity.  

This is a great read, full of suspense, hidden corners and uncovered truths.  Two girls, two very different personalities, two unexpected paths.  The thrills begin from the opening chapter, and while there is a little dip mid-way, it picks up pace again and races toward an illuminating ending.  Camilla Way deserves the praise she has received for this title.  She has a way with words.  Watching Edie is a high-caliber psychological thriller, with a literary edge.  The writing is strong and assertive.  There is definitely the makings of a TV drama within the pages of this novel. I will await her next book with pleasurable anticipation...


Watching Edie is published by Harper Collins and is available in HB and ebook format.  You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Book Review - 'Scarred' by Carolann Copland.




Rory McGee has made some bad decisions in life.  Marrying the wrong woman, abandoning his family, running away from the truth surrounding his girlfriends death.  When he spots politician, Fergal O'Gorman, on National TV he vows to unveil the truth.  But will he destroy any chances he had of reconciling with his two daughters?  Was returning to Ireland a mistake?  

Carolann Coplands second novel is written from a male perspective.  A man who has managed to systematically drag himself through life.  Finding himself shackled in an awful marriage at a very young age, Rory does what he thinks is best.  He leaves.  His daughters have grown up without him in their lives and he hopes he can make up for this before its too late.  But the memories of losing his one true love are a constant presence in his gut and he struggles to let go of his obsession with Maria.   The need for revenge overtakes him when he sees the man responsible for Maria's death and he is determined to see the politician brought to justice.  Even if that means he may lose his family all over again.

There are a few links to the authors debut novel, Summer Triangle,  in this story.  Some of the characters cross over but not so much that you can't read this as a stand-alone book.  This is tale of disjointed families and constant regret.  Set in a Donegal town, the main story is centered around a handful of people who are all connected, even if they don't want to be.  Rory and Maria were both the victims of circumstances and seemed drawn to each other, united by their situations.  A chance reunion in London leads to a chain of events, resulting in Maria's death.  In the present day, Rory is struggling to let go of his past.  The book has a mixture of youthful enthusiasm and adult realism.  Carolann is a talented writer who uses gentle language and melodic prose.  There is an over-use of character names within the dialogue, especially when there are only a couple of people conversing.  The story is not fast, rather it rolls out at a gentle pace.  It is elegant and has an unique Irishness about it.  Very different in style to her debut, this is less of a thriller and more of a study of human frailty.  Dialogue issues aside, this is a breath of fresh air in the genre of contemporary Irish fiction. 


Scarred is published via Emu Ink.  You can read my review of Summer Triangle HERE.


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