Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Book Review: Mine by J. L. Butler

Francine is applying for Queen’s Counsel and is determined to prove her worth: “’How many state-school-educated QCs are there…How many women, Northerners, ethnic minorities … The very top end of our profession is still full with white upper-middle, Oxbridge men…’” Then she meets Martin Joy. Seeking a divorce, he sweeps in to Francine’s office and the attraction is instant. A chance encounter in Selfridge’s sees Francine being wooed by the handsome millionaire: “He pushed his shirtsleeves up and I noticed what good forearms he had: strong and tanned with a light trail of hair across the top.” Within hours, the lawyer is “in love” and seems to have repressed all her legal training. She has also forgotten the small detail of her bipolar pills: “I had missed taking my medication last night and this morning, and I knew I would soon feel a comedown, or panic or derailment, but for now, my mind was consumed by him and all felt well.”

Francine is loving the wining and dining, the Aston Martin and lavish properties: “we were the beautiful people, sophisticated and urbane.” What could go wrong? A missing wife, that’s what. Donna fails to appear in court and questions are asked. Martin suggests she has probably jetted off “for a detox” and will return to Chelsea “tanned, ten pounds lighter.” Briefly, Francine considers the alternative: “I’d heard about Missing White Woman Syndrome before … Donna Joy wasn’t just blonde, white and beautiful. She was estranged from her millionaire hedge fund banker husband.” The plot becomes gloopier when Francine ‘remembers’ following her client; seeing him with Donna on the night she disappeared.

Mine attempts to be on-trend and ripe for TV adaptation; full of hedonistic-lifestyles of the self-entitled. However, it also ticks every cliché box: mental health, alcohol, handsome/wealthy man causing brain fog, sexual assault (not reported), amazingly-patient female friend and forgiving boss. The writing can be beautifully descriptive when detailing the high-end streets of London, but the concept of a high-flying lawyer is rather spoiled by many clangers. While undergoing therapy (of which one ten-minute session seems to do the trick), Francine is asked if she has heard of the term dissociation. “She shakes her head”. Really?  Like a Harold Robbins novel from the 80s - sexy and bizarre - but the women of today deserve more than the suggestion that Martin “had the most muscular and tanned forearms that were the very definition of manliness.” 

Mine is published by Harper Collins and is available in Hardback and ebook format.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Book Review: The Wives by Lauren Weisberger

***originally posted in Sunday Independent 29 July 2018***

Hard-nosed Emily steps in to save the reputation of ex-supermodel

Fiction: The Wives, Lauren Weisberger, Harper Collins, €15.99

The Wives by Lauren Weisberger1
The Wives by Lauren Weisberger
Margaret Madden
Emily Charlton, ex-assistant to fashion editor Miranda Priestly, is now in her 30s, running her own image-consultancy business to the stars.
Her days of pandering to the devil are over, yet now she faces a new problem. The millennial Snapchat generation is stepping on her territory and stealing her business: "Olivia Bell was twenty-six and gorgeous and popping up at every worthwhile party and event on both coasts. She was loud. And all over every social-media platform. And moving in on Emily's clients as if she owned the industry."
Emily is asked to help when Karolina, a former supermodel and now wife of a presidential candidate, is arrested for drink-driving and insists she was not drunk. Something is not right. Emily agrees to crisis-manage the situation. This requires a visit to the suburbs and the hard-nosed Emily is out of her comfort zone.
Karolina has side-stepped her modelling days and now devotes her time to minding her stepson while her husband races toward the White House.
When the women discover just how low Senator Hartwell has gone to discredit Karolina, they plan their revenge and are determined to do whatever it takes. Emily turns Karolina's scandal into a platform for re-invention. A more 'mumsy' haircut, complete wardrobe overhaul: "from her eight-thousand-dollar Hermes Kelly to a much more accessible Michael Kors tote. The supermodel had downgraded herself to something resembling normal".
Emily is now less sharp around the edges, but her fighting spirit is ever-present. Less Up-Lit and more Fun-Lit.
Bar the overuse of the word "asinine", I thoroughly enjoyed this. Real Housewives meets The Good Wife.
Sunday Indo Living

Friday, 27 July 2018

The Clubhouse Mystery by Erika McGann. Review by Endija, aged 10.

Cass and her best friends, Lex and Nicholas, are the Bubble Street Gang! They investigate crimes, solve mysteries and have brilliant adventures. They’ve even got their own secret clubhouse.

After the annoying baby twins demolish the fort Cass has built in the sitting room, she has the great idea of building a proper fort – outdoors – that can be the Bubble Street Gang’s clubhouse. Lex’s granny suggests the perfect spot at the back of Mr McCall’s field and Cass and the gang get to work.

The gang settle in quickly and begin planning their next adventure, when they realise someone is using the clubhouse when they’re not there. Stuff moves around, cookie crumbs are left behind and the door is left open. Join Cass and the Bubble Street Gang as they investigate The Clubhouse Mystery.

Review from ten-year-old Endija.

"The Clubhouse Mystery is about three kids, Cass, Lex and Nicholas and their club, the Bubble Street Gang. Someone has broken into their clubhouse who could it be?

The three of them go into a fun and exciting adventure to find clues and solve the mystery.

I thought the book was really good and exciting, with a lot of adventure. It was one of the best books I've ever read".

Suitable for age 7+

The Clubhouse Mystery is published by O'Brien Press and is available in PB from all good bookshops. The ebook can be purchased via amazon link below:

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: A Soldier's Wife by Marion Reynolds.

Thanks to Poolbeg Books, I am delighted to share the cover of A Soldier's Wife by Marian Reynolds. I also have an early copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Just enter via rafflecopter link below. Open in Europe and closes 31st July 2018. Good Luck to everyone! 

About the Book

A Soldier’s Wife is a compelling family saga, set during the years 1902 to 1922. Ellen, romantic and naïve, falls in love with James, an Irishman serving in the British Army. They are posted to India but on the journey their first child dies. They are both devastated and isolated in their grief. Gradually, with the help of friends and a further pregnancy, Ellen and James begin to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle.  

After seven years, they return to Ireland and James is demobbed. Dublin is rife with political and civil unrest which leads to the General strike. Their lifestyle is very different and although James has a secure job, Ellen witnesses terrible poverty among her neighbours. They and their three children settle down in their small house but WW1 is declared and James enlists. Ellen is left to bring up her children in a city which views the wives of British soldiers with suspicion. For over four years, letters are her only contact with James.  He is wounded twice and posted missing. 

He returns home in 1919 to find Ellen has become a different woman, one who has held her family together  through the 1916 Rising, taken in her unmarried sister and child, been influenced by the suffragettes and nursed her neighbours through the Black Flu. Their children have become nationalists which inevitably causes conflict with their father.          
James is traumatised by his experiences in the trenches and suffers from nightmares and depression. He cannot understand the anti-British feeling in his home and his city. His place in the family has been usurped by his son. Unable to find employment, he feels emasculated and impotent, abandoned and isolated. Can Ellen heal James, restore his relationship with his children and draw their  family back together again? 

About the Author

Marion Reynolds is from Dublin and read English at Trinity College, Dublin and was awarded an Communications by DCU. During her career, she worked as a teacher and lecturer in both Ireland and the UK. She is a regular contributor of articles, interviews and book reviews to newspapers such as the Irish Examiner and the Evening Echo. She has had a number of short stories published. She teaches creative writing and mentors writers of memoir and historical fiction.

West Cork, where she lived for many years and Wicklow, where she now lives with her husband, have inspired her writing and her painting. 

She is currently writing the sequel to A Soldier’s Wife.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


A Soldier's Wife is published in PB by Poolbeg Books on 1st August and is available for pre-order in all good bookshops, and via amazon link below:

Monday, 16 July 2018

'The Book of Revenge: Nine Lives Trilogy Book 3' by E.R. Murray. Q&A with Mia, aged 14.

In 'The Book of Revenge,' the final book in E.R. Murray's Nine Lives trilogy, Ebony Smart faces her toughest challenge so far. Her enemies, Judge Ambrose and Zach Stone, have a powerful new ally and an army of Shadow Walkers to use against her. Without the help of The Book of Learning, Ebony, with pet rat, Winston, and the Order of the Nine Lives, must find a way to discover their plans, defeat the magical beings and rescue her parents. A story of ghosts, time-travel, battles and dark magic, this is Ebony’s greatest adventure so far – but will it also be her last?


As fourteen-year-old Mia is a firm-fan of E.R.Murray, who better to grill her about the final installment of the Nine Lives Trilogy? It can be difficult getting a teenager to commit to writing anything out of school time, so we compromised on a Q&A about The Book of Revenge. Kudos to Mia for not revealing any spoilers and shame on me for the delay in posting this article. However, it is totally worth it...

Q&A with E.R.Murray and Mia Madden

     Now that you’ve finished your first book series, are you going to miss the characters? Which would will you miss the most?

Funnily enough, I won’t miss them like I expected. But I was working with these characters for eight years in total, if you count all the years prior to any publishing deal, and although I’m fond of the characters I created and I wanted to do my best for them by finishing the trilogy, I’ve been ready for new characters for some time now. But writers are like that; we’re magpies, always chasing the next shiny new idea.

But out of all the characters, I think I would miss Winston the most – I enjoyed writing him so much and he developed way beyond what I expected when I started out writing The Book of Learning - Nine Lives Trilogy 1. I always knew that he was integral to the overall concept, but I thought he might be eclipsed by Uncle Cornelius. However, he took on a life of his own and stole the show.

      Do you plan on starting another book or series?

I’ve already started two books and they’re both very different. One is for an adult audience and set in the future; the other is a potential series for children (aged 8-12) with a female protagonist and another interesting pet – this time, it’s a crow. I don’t know where these projects will lead and it’s really early days, but I’m enjoying writing them.

I don’t ever like to not have a manuscript on the go – I tried that once and it felt really horrible to start from absolute zero with no guarantees, so I always have at least one first draft waiting in the wings for when the current priority project is finished. I started these current manuscripts as side projects while writing The Book of Shadows and The Book of Revenge – it meant I didn’t feel directionless when the trilogy was published and it also meant ideas could tick away in the background over time.

       If you were to choose one of these characters as a sidekick, who would you choose? Icarus, Winston, Chiyoko, Seamus or Uncle Cornelius?

I’ve already given Winston some love, so I’m going to say Uncle Cornelius. He’s such a quirky character and lots of fun – I like the way he swings from being like a naughty, inquisitive kitten to a ferocious, protective beast. Plus, he’s big enough to take rides on – how could that be anything other than the best fun?!

      What do you imagine Ultimation would be like?

Ooh, this is a great question! In my mind, it’s peaceful. Calm. With no bodily or human limitations, dissolving into the universe and all its nature, I can picture a sense of true freedom. Imagine no pain, no need to sleep, no conflict! And yet it would be as wild as wind and ocean storms, as well as nurturing and gentle like spring growth. I think it would be wonderful.

      Would you rather fight against Zach or Mrs O’Hara?

I think Mrs O’Hara has more heart but Zach would be easier to overcome because he’s so hot headed and therefore, I’d rather challenge him. Mrs O’Hara has a powerful dark side and I get the feeling you shouldn’t mess with her.

       If you were faced with the same truth as Ebony at the start of the trilogy, how would you react?

Although I’m intrigued by everything, I’m actually very practical and a quite a realist, so, just like Ebony in the beginning, there’s no way I’d believe that I was reincarnated. Ebony’s initial reaction is what influenced the title of the first book, The Book of Learning; she has to learn the truth and learn to accept it to survive the curse. I’d be difficult to convince – I’d probably fob everything off on a scientific basis – though I have seen ghosts when I don’t really believe in ghosts so you never know!

      Do you think there is actually a secret base in the Botanical Gardens?

I think we should go and create one – how cool would that be? Especially the room based in the glass roof! I’ve always wanted to walk around those walkways up high, even though I know it’s probably not safe. But it looks so special up there. I always write stuff into my books that I want and can’t have, so that’s definitely where this idea came from originally. 

      Was it more fun creating the Shadowlands and its inhabitants or 23 Mercury Lane?

I really liked creating both, but 23 Mercury Lane was based on an apartment I lived in on Lower Hatch Street and had some real descriptions of features etc. The Shadowlands meant using more imagination and so I probably enjoyed that a bit more. I did like turning Mercury Lane into a kind of character in its own right  and adding plenty of spookiness and fun additions like the breakfast room with its dump trucks and mini helicopters – I’d be too jumpy to live there though.

Weirdly I think I’d find the Shadowlands more attractive; there’s a sense of being able to control what happens in there when you master it, whereas that’s not the case with the house. The Shadowlands came to me almost fully formed; I didn’t realise it at the time but the idea started when I was walking with my husband around the country lanes of West Cork and we started talking about what it would be like if we could rip up the earth to travel faster. As soon as I got home I wrote our ideas down and by that evening, I had the Shadowlands completely clear in my mind. But then I had to get it down on paper…

      If you were to pick one object that would stay with you throughout your life, what would it be?

I’m not really sure. I’m not really a belongings person – I prefer to experience than to have – and I always lose stuff. So perhaps my passport? That way, I would never have to give up travelling and meeting new people or seeing/trying new things. I love travel. Travel and words – my two favourite things.

Are there any characters in the trilogy based on people you know?

I usually imagine a character and then steal bits of other people’s habits and personalities to make them come to life, but no character is ever based on just one person – at least not yet. But Ebony Smart is based on the kind of person I wish I had been when I was her age – I think she sticks up for people and bravely stands her ground, which was something I would often be afraid to do, particularly around bullies. I have some clear memories of when I let bullies won by turning away – it’s not something I would ever do now but I always felt powerless as a child and it frustrated me so much, I couldn’t wait to be an adult.

I also have a close friend who Aunt Ruby is loosely based on – the way she is so free and doesn’t care what people think – but I don’t think she likes that character very much so I’m not going to reveal her name! I stole the name Cornelius from a man I met while out walking when I first visited West Cork, where I now live, and I pinched someone else’s fishing boat for some dramatic sea scenes. Other than that, the one-eyed dog Mitzi was my favourite of my father’s nine dogs, so I immortalised her in the book for being so friendly. Otherwise, they’re all make-believe. 


You can hear E.R.Murray talking about the Nine Lives Trilogy (and her top three reads) to myself and Bob Johntson, of the Gutter Bookshop, on  Headstuff's Bookish Podcast.

The Book of Revenge is published by Mercier press and is available in PB in all good book shops. Also available in ebook format.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan. Exclusive Excerpt.

Her Name Was Rose, by Irish author Claire Allan, is published tomorrow and - in true Bleach House Library style - I have a little teaser for you. The extract below gives a little glimpse into the world of Rose. You can also read my review from The Sunday Independent HERE. Hope you enjoy the world of Rose, Cian and Emily as much as I did...


Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy.

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.


Rose Maguire: is in a relationship with Cian Grahame

    There’s a freckle about two inches under my left breast that Cian loves. I’m not sure I even paid attention to it before he told me how cute he thought it was. Before he circled his finger around it as we lay in bed together before leaning across to kiss it, so tenderly that I could only hold my breath.

    ‘Even your imperfections make you more perfect,’ he had whispered, and my heart had soared. I was falling in love with him. Properly in love. Not just lust, or desire or those feelings that aren’t real that just rush in at the start of something to make people obsessed with each other. This was something more. Love that I’d read about, where you feel invincible; as if you have met the other half of yourself that you didn’t quite know was missing.

    I knew that I ached when we weren’t together – although he sent me flowers to work, called me at lunchtime, sent romantic text messages telling me he couldn’t wait to be with me again. When I went home he would come and make me dinner – and he finally let me start reading what he had been working on.

    It was so different to what I normally read – but it was good. He was good. He had talent to burn. I wanted to tell everyone about him – about his writing – but God, he was so shy about it. So secretive. It had to be just right he said. I felt so privileged that he let me read it.

    But more than that, Cian wanted me to keep him company while he wrote round the clock. I was his muse, he said. Imagine that. Me? A muse! It made me feel unique and special, even if sometimes it seemed that a muse’s role was not to talk much but supply cups of coffee and Custard Creams when needed.

    Of course I got to be there when the doubt started to creep in too – doubt, it seems, having a habit of creeping in with writers quite frequently at 3am when I was trying to sleep. But I loved him enough not to mind waking to soothe him, to calm him with a kiss. To tell him how good he was. It made me feel special, and he would hold me tighter and tell me he didn’t know how he ever wrote without me, how he felt as if he was on the cusp of his life finally coming together, both personally and professionally. He was getting all he ever wanted – and taking me with him.

    There was a hotshot agent interested in representing Cian and this book so the stakes were high on him getting this just right. It was incredible pressure to work under. Not like my job where I went in, sorted out people’s teeth, and went home again. I didn’t have to think about my job morning, noon and night. Cian said the book was always with him. Always. I’d laughed, asked him if it was with him even when we were, you know …

    He looked at me very intently and I felt that familiar curl in the pit of the stomach – the one that made me want to forget the run of myself and have noisy, messy sex with him right there and then.

    ‘It’s always with me,’ he had said and then he’d kissed me so passionately, with such an intensity it almost took my breath away.

    If he became a little distracted from time to time I reminded myself it was, as he called it, just part of the creative process. I remembered how it came and went – how when things were going well for him he became almost euphoric with the joy from it and I encouraged those good times and was suitably sympathetic when he had a bad day.

Chosen as LMFM's #LateLunchBookclub you can hear myself and Gerry Kelly chatting all about Her Name Was Rose HERE (at 31.54m).


Claire Allan is from Northern Ireland and is the bestselling author of eight books. A mother of two, she spent 18 years as a journalist with the Derry Journal working on high profile cases. She has previously sold over 100,000 copies of her women’s fiction and lives in Derry with her family. You can follow Claire on twitter @ClaireAllan and facebook Claire Allan Author

Her Name Was Rose is published on 28th June 2018 by Avon and is available in PB from all good booksellers.  Also available in ebook fomat.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Book Review: Deadly Blind by Siobháin Bunni.

Karin Bolger is a determined woman who has fought her way to the top of her game, despite her gender. Gaining enemies on her rise to success, the business woman does not suffer fools gladly. When Karin and best friend Sive are kidnapped from a remote house is Co. Galway, DI Naomi Fox is called to investigate the case. Karin is a wealthy woman and a ransom note is the inevitable next step. But will her husband pay heed to the Gardaí's advice or give into a ransom demand?  Who has upset Karin so much, or is Sive the real target? Two very different women, both fallen foul of a sinister scheme. DI Fox needs to side-step office politics to gain traction on the difficult case...

While Irish crime fiction is awash with fiesty female detectives, Bunni has introduced a character that needs no mention of stunning good looks or sexual chemistry with her co-workers. DI Fox is the lead investigating officer, that is true, but there is no need to describe what she is wearing, what brand of phone she carries or whether her shoes hurt or not. She is simply a Garda, doing her job. This is a case focused on two female victims and they are polar opposites. Bunni allows for a brief nod to designer clothes and a designer lifestyle, but allows for the fact that this is irrelevant to the thrilling narrative. Readers are not expecting to know (or care) what labels male detectives are wearing so, thankfully, Bunni does not pepper her novel with such irrelevant fashion details. Instead, we are treated to a good old-fashioned who-dunnit with page-turning deftness and a thoroughly likable protagonist.

Dublin's streets are balanced with the wilds of Galway, allowing for an understanding of the limited geography of our small island. You can travel from one side of the county, to the other, in less than 2.5 hours and poor DI Fox has to make this journey frequently. A new position in Galway may have seemed ideal, but Garda HQ is based in Dublin and she finds herself more on the the road, than not. The case unfolds with many unexpected turns and Fox is constantly questioning what appears to be obvious. Karin and Sive have been friends since college and their bond has withstood the different paths their lives have travelled. So, why have they both been taken? Fox is not prepared to presume anything and takes the time to know the victims of the crime, rather than rushing to close off another case.

This is one of those novels that keeps you guessing until the end. Just when you think you have it figured out, another twist arrives to surprise you. DI Naomi Fox is smart, intuitive and endearing but without over-kill backstory or emotion. The final chapter seemed an unnecessary one, which actually has echoes of another crime-fiction series but - aside from this - was pretty flawless. Deadly Blind is an ideal read for holidays, waiting rooms or those moments where you want to escape and switch-off. Definitely worth throwing in the suitcase/handbag/glove compartment/man-bag.

Deadly Blind is published by Poolbeg Crimson and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy with FREE Worldwide Postage here.  At time of posting, Deadly Blind is reduced to €6.99 on  Also available from amazon link below:

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