Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor.

Yorkshire, England 1917: When cousins Frances and Elsie take pictures, at the bottom of the garden, they have no idea that the photographs will take on a life of their own.  Their determination to make their parents believe in fairies turns in to a national fascination, with Arthur Conan Doyle falling under the spell of the photographs. In a time of war, people truly want to believe in something.

Ireland, 2017: Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s quirky bookshop. Discovering a manuscript and a copy of a 1917 fairy photograph, she reaches back one hundred years to find out the truth surrounding the Cottingley story. How could so many people be fooled by two young girls, with no photographic expertise? Why would an Internationally acclaimed author place his stamp of approval on such controversial documents? Could there be any truth in the girls claims?

Spanning one hundred years, The Cottingley Secret is a story of dreams, hopes and how a little white lie can turn into something much, much bigger…

Francis Griffiths
Hazel Gaynor has taken the true story of Francis Griffiths and Elsie Wright and weaved it with a fictional tale of grief and challenges in modern-day Ireland. By providing a link between the past and present, she introduces the concept of a desperate need for positivity and hope in times of war and uncertainty.  Her research is meticulous and brings Frances to life, page by page. The small town of Cottingley is lovingly described and is juxtaposed against the coastal village of Howth, Dublin. The world of much-loved, used books is where the reader finds Olivia: her bookshop, Something Old sounding like an oasis in a land of chain-store commercial ventures. Early editions of Peter Pan, The Water Babies and The Flower Fairies all get a mention, instilling a longing for any book-lover/collector.  Escaping from London, Olivia turns her back on her old life, instead choosing to walk in her Grandfather’s shoes. She takes a chance on a dream. Dipping into the Cottingley story helps bring her dream closer than she ever anticipated.

The innocence of the two 18C girls is one that rarely exists today, except in the very young or extremely sheltered: the belief in complete goodness, in dreams coming true, in fairies, unicorns and magic. It is almost unbelievable that the photographs were not revealed as hoaxes until the 1980s. Such is the power of trust surrounding photographic ‘evidence’. The days of ‘fake-news’ are not a by-product of the internet and social media. Untruths have always existed: from whispered gossip to inherited stories; the beginning of the printing press and pamphlets; to radio and television. However, the origins of the fake fairy photographs were innocent. There was no agenda, just a desire to raise spirits and inspire hope in a time of despair.  This is a warm and endearing novel. It oozes old-fashioned charm and has a magical air. A perfect feel-good, fire-side read. 

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

The Cottingley Secret is published by Harper Collins and is available in TBP and ebook format. Available in all good bookshops or via amazon link below:

Friday, 1 September 2017

LMFM September #LateLunchBookclub

LMFM September #LateLunchBookclub 

September Recommendations 

It is time for my September #LateLunchBookclub choices. It can be hard to please all readers, so I have chosen from different genres in the hope of finding you a perfect read. All these books are available from your local bookstore, library or online. (Remember, if you can't find a book in-store, your bookseller can order it in for you.)

I really hope you enjoy the recommendations and feel free to leave me a comment on the blog, twitter: @margaretbmadden or facebook: Bleach House Library. Follow #LateLunchBookclub for all LMFM book reviews, interviews and chances to win some book bundles.  #LateLunchBookclub Podcasts are also available on the LMFM website. So, here we go...

BOOK OF THE MONTH: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.

In Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.

Female Fiction: The Break by Marian Keyes

Amy's husband Hugh has run away to 'find himself'. But will he ever come back?
'Myself and Hugh . . . We're taking a break.'

'A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?'

If only.
Amy's husband Hugh says he isn't leaving her.
He still loves her, he's just taking a break - from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but let's be clear: a break isn't a break up - yet . . .
However, for Amy it's enough to send her - along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers - teetering over the edge.
For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman?
Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .
The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.

Crime Fiction: Let The Dead Speak by Jane Casey

A murder without a body

Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. All the signs point to murder.

A girl too scared to talk

Maeve Kerrigan is determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is hiding something, but getting her to open up is impossible.

A detective with everything to prove

No one on the street is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…

Non-Fiction: Six at the Table by Sheila Maher

In Six at the Table, regular contributor to RTÉ Sunday Miscellany Sheila Maher tells the story of her childhood through meals shared around the kitchen table – and occasionally from the boot of the car on long family trips – and celebrates the central role that the food lovingly prepared by her mother played in her younger years.
Exotic Lilt and exploding Moondust have their thrills, but it is her mother’s Sunday roasts, steak and kidney pies and home-made Jaffa cakes that create the regular and comforting rhythm of Sheila’s life and of the rest of her boisterous family.
From sliced egg and cold ham salad on summer days to the milk puddings that mark the passage of the winter weeks, packets of Tayto, Campbell meatballs and the fascination with Sodastream, Six at the Table is a nostalgic journey through an Irish childhood in the 1970s, when uniforms were itchy, porridge stuck to your ribs, and Cidona felt like the height of sophistication.

Classic Fiction: The Snapper by Roddy Doyle

Twenty-year-old Sharon Rabbitte is pregnant. She's also unmarried, living at home, working in a supermarket, and keeping the father's identity a secret. Her own father, Jimmy Sr., is shocked by the news. Her mother says very little. Her friends and neighbours all want to know whose "snapper" Sharon is carrying.
In his sparkling second novel, Roddy Doyle observes the progression of Sharon's pregnancy and its impact on the Rabbitte family--especially on Jimmy Sr.--with wit, candor, and surprising authenticity.


Here's hoping you find something here that appeals to you, and that you will listen in to the show at 2pm today. The link to the #LateLunchBookclub will be available here, after the show. On behalf of myself and Gerry, we hope you enjoy your September reads and we would love to hear your thoughts via twitter, facebook or the blog...

Gerry Kelly and Margaret Madden


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Irish Author, Claire Allen, Signs with Avon Books.

The joys of book blogging: Meeting the authors.
L-R: Clodagh Murphy, Maria Duffy, Caroline Finnerty, Fionnuala Kearney, Claire Allen, Margaret Madden.

As a book blogger, there are times when I get to hear some news before the readers do. Often it is a sneak peek at an unseen book cover; a debut that is tentatively dipping its toes into the world of early readers; a snippet of an established author's upcoming novel. But recently I have been privy to some seriously juicy information! Today, all can be revealed...

Thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland and Avon Books UK, I am delighted to announce that Claire Allen has signed with Avon! Here are the official details:



Avon Books is delighted to have signed a two-book deal with Claire Allan. Phoebe Morgan acquired World All Language rights to two psychological thrillers from Ger Nichol at The Book Bureau. Claire’s first release with Avon, about a woman who sees a young mother die and begins to inveigle herself into the space left behind will be her first thriller and is slated for publication summer 2018.

Phoebe Morgan, Commissioning Editor at Avon said: ‘I’m so excited to start working with such a talented author. The moment Claire’s manuscript came in I was hooked – it explores some very dark themes and will make each and every one of us question what it really means to have a perfect life.’

Claire Allan said: ‘I'm beyond thrilled to be working with such a talented and dedicated team for my next two books. Getting this deal with Avon really is a dream come true – and there is no one I would rather launch the next chapter of my career with. Avon's reputation really does speak for itself. The shift to writing psychological thrillers has been a challenge but one I am loving – and I look forward to unleashing more of my dark side over the next few years!

‘Huge thanks goes to my agent, Ger Nichol, who sensed that Phoebe at Avon and I would be a good match. I look forward to getting these new books out into the world.’ 

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.


Our first meeting

I have been reading Claire Allen's words since 2007 and here we are ten years later. A new direction; a new genre; a new adventure. Although we had interacted via social media, it was only in 2016 that Claire and I finally met in person. A mutual love of fiction, fashion and current affairs meant that there was no shortage of banter and the craic was ninety! Firm friends were made, in a bookshop on Grafton Street, Dublin. We have met again since and I have watched Claire grow from strength to strength, in both her personal and literary life. I am honoured to share her exciting news with fellow book lovers, and hope you will join me in lifting a virtual glass to congratulate her on her new voyage with Avon Books... 

Claire Allen's first title with Avon is called Her Name Was Rose.

Congratulations, Claire!

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Other Side Of The Wall by Andrea Mara - Review and Giveaway

Thanks to the author, I have two signed copies of The Other Side Of The Wall to giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning, just enter via rafflecopter link below. Open INT and closes 28th August. Good Luck!

My Review

Sylvia sits feeding her baby in the early hours of the morning. Exhausted, she nods off and wakes with a jolt. The dog is barking. Placing her son in his cot, she looks out the window to see why. She is horrified to see a child, floating face-down in her neighbour's pond. When she rushes into the garden, there is no sign of the child and no answer from next-door, despite her incessant knocking.  The incident unnerves her, but she puts it down to lack of sleep and the news that a local child is missing. But she just cannot shift the uneasy feeling that she did not imagine what she saw...

A string of odd happenings lead Sylvia to distrust her new neighbour, Sam. His wife and children are away for the summer and, while he is friendly and a hit with her own husband, she just cannot shake her unease. She struggles to make her husband believe that there are strange things happening and begins to doubt herself. Is there really something going on on the other side of the wall, or is she imagining things?

Andrea Mara opens up her debut with a bang. The night-time exhaustion and dim light add uncertainty to Sylvia's sighting of the child in the garden, but then more unusual events lead to unexplained happenings on the quite suburban road. Told from multiple viewpoints (Sylvia's, Sam's, Kate, an un-named woman) and over different time spans, the layered story reveals itself, one page at a time.  Sylvia's voice is one we all know: juggling work and home-life; trying to please everyone, forgetting about yourself; avoiding interaction with neighbours for fear of judgment; questioning your own parenting skills or even your own sanity, at times. Kate and Sam are going through a difficult time and we learn why they spent so little time together and why Kate is rarely seen. The tension builds, the questions becoming more frequent and the turns jarring the reader from their sense of comfort. 

All is not what it seems and not everyone is telling the truth. At just under 400 pages, this is a psychological thriller to test your trust in its narration. The changing timelines and characters do take a while to get used to, but this is a fine debut that you will struggle to put down. 

The Other Side Of The Wall is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor: Exclusive excerpt and giveaway.

Thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland, I have an exclusive excerpt from Hazel Gaynor's latest novel, The Cottingley Secret, published on 7th September. There is also an amazing giveaway of an  early copy of the book and a fairy house, for one lucky winner! Just enter via rafflecopter link below. Open IRL/UK and closes on 25th August. Good luck!

Giveaway Prize

The Blurb

The New York Times bestselling author turns the clock back to a time when two young girls convinced the world that fairies really did exist…
1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

One hundred years later When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself? 

Exclusive Excerpt from The Cottingley Secret:

                   Fairies will not be rushed. I know this now; know I must
                   be patient.
                   Stiff and still in my favourite seat, formed from the
                   natural bend in the bough of a willow tree, I am wildly
                   alert, detecting every shifting shape and shadow; every
                   snap and crack of twig. I dangle my bare feet in the beck,
                   enjoying the cool rush of the water as it finds a natural
                   course between my toes. I imagine that if I sat here for
                   a hundred years, the water would smooth and round
                   them, like the pebbles I collect from the riverbed and keep
                   in my pockets.
                   In the distance I can see Mr Gardner, the man they sent
                   from London, with his round spectacles and bow tie and
                   endless questions. He peers around the trunk of an oak
                   tree, watches for a moment, and scribbles his observations
                   in his notebook. I know what he writes: remarks about
                   the weather, our precise location, the peculiar sense of
                   something different in the air.
                   Elsie stands on the riverbank beside me, her camera
                   ready. ‘Can’t you ’tice them?’ she urges. ‘Say some secret
                   I shrug. ‘They’re here, Elsie. I can feel them.’ But like
                   the soft breath of wind that brushes against my skin, the
                   things we feel cannot always be seen.

                   I know that the best time to see them is in that perfect
                   hour before sunset when the sun sinks low on the horizon
                   like a ripe peach and sends shafts of gold bursting through
                   the trees. The ‘in between’, I call it. No longer day, not
                   yet night; some other place and time when magic hangs
                   in the air and the light plays tricks on the eye. You might
                   easily miss the flash of violet and emerald, but I – according
                   to my teacher, Mrs Hogan – am ‘a curiously observant
                   child’. I see their misty forms among the flowers and leaves.
                   I know my patience will be rewarded if I watch and listen,
                   if I believe.

                  Tired of waiting, Elsie takes her camera and returns to
                  the house, where Aunt Polly is waiting to hear if we
                  managed any new photographs. The others soon follow:
                  Mr Gardner, the newspaper reporters, the ‘fairy hunters’
                  who come to snoop and trample all over the wildflowers
                  and spoil things. My little friends won’t appear just to
                  please these onlookers. They move according to the patterns
                  and rhythms of nature, not the whims of so-called experts
                  from London. Fairies, I understand. These men, I do not.
                  Glad to be alone again, I watch the pond skaters and
                  dragonflies, listen to the steady giggle of the water, sense
                  the prickle of anticipation all around me. The sun dazzles
                  on the water and I squint to shield my eyes as the heat
                  at the back of my neck makes me drowsy and tugs at my
                  eyelids, heavy with the desire to sleep.
                  I press my palms against the bark, smoothed from
                  decades of weather and countless children who have sat
                  here. How many of them have seen, I wonder? How many
                  of them have known? I wait and I wait, whispering the
                  words from my picture book: ‘“There shall be no veil
                  between them, / Though her head be old and wise. / You
                  shall know that she has seen them, / By the glory in her
                  And then . . .

                  The lightest ringing at my ears. The slightest movement
                  of fern and leaf.
                  My heart flutters. My eyes widen with excitement.
                  A flash of vibrant emerald. Another of softest
                  I lean forward. Draw in my breath. Don’t make a sound.
                  They are here.

The Cottingley Secret is published on 7th September in TPB and ebook format. You can order your copy via amazon link below:

To be in with a chance of winning an early edition of The Cottingley Secret, with a delightful and magical Irish Fairy Door (you just need to believe), just enter via rafflecopter link below:


Monday, 14 August 2017

Book Review: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.

Clara's husband and four-year-old daughter are involved in a single-car collision, where only Maisie survives. The police say that Nick was driving too fast on a dangerous stretch of road and it was a tragic accident. However, Maisie begins to have nightmares and talks of a "Bad Man" in a black car chasing her father, before the accident. 

Grieving for her husband, with a new born baby and a demanding daughter, Clara is drained. Maisie's nightmares begin to seep into their everyday lives and her fears raise Clara's suspicions surrounding Nick's death. Was he being followed? Who was this "Bad Man". Who is responsible for destroying her life, and that of her children?

When Clara opens the door to a uniformed officer, her whole life crumbles in one moment. She spends the next few days in a daze and cannot even bear to tell her daughter that her father is dead. Clara's father helps out as much as he can, but as her mother is suffering from dementia, he is limited to how much time he can spend with his daughter and grandchildren. When the bills start to mount up, Clara becomes aware that Nick's dental practice was not as successful as she was led to believe. The police are not treating the accident as suspicious, but she is. What else was Nick hiding from her? Pushing her grief aside, she decides to visit the scene of the crash and hopes to uncover the truth. But sometimes the truth hurts.

Mary Kubica tells the story from two different angles: Clara's, directly after the accident and Nick's , in the weeks leading up to the crash. The reader is taken on a journey of suspense, doubt and hidden truths, being drip fed information at a steady pace. Clara is carrying a huge load and the weight can be felt on every page. Nick bears a burden that he cannot share and the pressure intensifies, on a daily basis, at great speed. The two stories finally connect toward the end of the novel and the reader finally learns what happened on that fateful night. A tense psychological thriller, with home-truths , interspersed with trauma, grief and despair. Kubica once again provides a twisty, gripping read which demands to be read in one fell swoop. Perhaps wait until your partner is safely home, before starting?

Every Last Lie is published by HQ and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Book Review: The Woman At Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

A Georgian villa in Notting Hill. A mixed bunch of residents. A houseful of stories. Sarah lives on the floor above her ex-husband and his new wife. She is supposedly renovating their apartment, in order to sell and split the proceeds. In reality, she is in denial and struggling to move on. When Tom and Jane move in to number 24, the atmosphere rises a notch and the residents are soon enamored with the enigmatic young couple. 

Tom is an instant hit with Sarah, showing his gentle nature in his approach to the youngest resident of the house. (Una is a timid little girl, who is damaged by her parents separation and refuses to speak). Meanwhile, in the basement flat, lives Mavis. An elderly, cranky lady who is a law unto herself. All the residents begin to open their doors, albeit tentatively,  and as the summer progresses, new friendships form and the building finds a new lease of life. There are secret liaisons; hidden truths; unspoken words; hedgehog rescues...

Opening up with Sarah attending the wedding of her ex-husband, the tensions within the walls of number 24 become apparent. A child psychologist,  she is dragged down with a sense of unworthiness and is uncertain of her future. She has lost a husband, a friend and her joie de vivre.  Una is a child that lingers on the edge of the story, with her sad eyes and solitary stress. Tom is the handsome neighbour who adds some sparkle to the tale, but surprising the reader along the way. Jane takes Sarah under her wing and the two form a firm friendship. Leo (Sarah's ex) is smarmy and repugnant, with his new wife, Helena, rubbing salt in Sarah's newly opened wounds. Mavis is an eccentric character and she saves the book from becoming  run-of-the-mill. She is sarcastic, quirky and her unusual personality unfolds gradually.

The house is brought to life, page by page, and the interlinking stories are all told from Sarah's point of view. A warm and genuine read, slowly paced but with plenty to keep the reader entertained. (Mikey the hedgehog deserves his own picture book).

Well worth adding to your wishlist, The Woman At Number 24 is ideal for escaping the madness of your own household; the daily commute; the pile of ironing. Peeking into the lives of others, without having to leave the house...

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

The Woman At Number 24 is published by Simon and Schuster and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Delivery, HERE. The ebook is available via amazon link below:

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