Thursday, 19 January 2017

Blog Tour - 'English Animals' by Laura Kaye. Review and Giveaway.

Thanks to the publishers, I have two copies of English Animals to giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning one, just enter via rafflecopter link below. Good Luck!

A funny, subversive and poignant debut novel from an exciting new writer, perfect for fans of Cold Comfort Farm,
I Capture the Castle and Nina Stibbe.

I took off my belt and moved between the seats to look. We were at the top of a big hill. Below were squares and diamonds of green and brown fields all the way to the sunset. Then I saw the house. It was more perfect than the one I had been dreaming about. A red cube in the middle of the land, like someone threw a dice. I could not believe that I was going to live there.

When Mirka gets a job in a country house in rural England, she has no idea of the struggle she faces to make sense of a very English couple, and a way of life that is entirely alien to her. Richard and Sophie are chaotic, drunken, frequently outrageous but also warm, generous and kind to Mirka, despite their argumentative and turbulent marriage.

Mirka is swiftly commandeered by Richard for his latest money-making enterprise, taxidermy, and soon surpasses him in skill. After a traumatic break two years ago with her family in Slovakia, Mirka finds to her surprise that she is happy at Fairmont Hall. But when she tells Sophie that she is gay, everything she values is put in danger and she must learn the hard way what she really believes in.

My Thoughts on English Animals

This is an absolutely stunning literary debut that hooked me from page one, as Mirka approaches her new life in England. Landing in the midst of a strange environment, with an eccentric English couple she finds herself surrounded by tension, temptation and Taxidermy. The prose is both delicate and insightful as the author has chosen a protagonist who does not speak English as her first language. Sophie and Richard manage to make Mirka feel welcome yet an outsider; helpful but surplus to requirement and  yet she blends in like a piece of their quirky furniture. Creaky floorboards, dripping taps and rusty taps are balanced out with diverse personalities and a sense of claustrophobia. The art of taxidermy is Mirka's escape from the craziness and yet Sophie is a constant drug, flowing through her veins.  
This is a debut that deserves a lot of attention. Sublime storytelling from a new literary voice. Highly recommended.


Laura Kaye is a graduate of Goldsmith's Creative Writing MA and did a further year of study under the mentorship of MJ Hyland at the University of Manchester. When she isn't writing, Laura works on music and arts documentaries for the BBC including Flamenco: Gypsy Soul, Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany and Songs of the South.  She lives in Hackney. English Animals is her debut novel.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Book Review - 'Through the Barricades' by Denise Deegan

Guest Review from Emma Crowley

I’ll readily admit I haven’t read a Denise Deegan book in a long time. I think Turning Turtle must have been the last book I have read from Denise but when I saw a few people talking about this new young adult book Through the Barricades and saying how good they were finding it I knew I wanted to give it a try. I love historical fiction and although this was released late last year it places the spotlight on the events of 1916 which were the focus of major attention here in Ireland during 2016 as the 100th anniversary was celebrated. The cover for the book  made me want to get stuck straight into the story all the more. I know this was a young adult book but I do think anyone could read it and take just as much if not more from it. At times I did think would it be a little too detailed for young teenagers. I was thinking in particular sixth class as I teach in a primary school. It was quite a long book and I felt if a class were to read it their attention may waver ever so slightly. Saying that this was a very good, eye opening read and it was evident Denise Deegan had undertaken plenty of research into the years of the residents living in Dublin leading up to 1916 and in to World War One where our main male protagonist finds himself fighting on the enemy lines. I did find the book quite slow to get going and wondered what direction it would eventually take but when we reached part two I felt the pace and the general development of both the plot and the characters picked up significantly and it needed to do so to keep the reader engaged as my attention had begun to wander by this point. But I was glad I persisted because if I had not I would have missed out on interesting historical story combined with a riveting romantic element.

The book opens with a brief prologue in 1906 as a fire engulfs the home of Maggie. Her father throws her out the window to safety saying’ Make a difference in this world Maggie’. This is a motto/advice that Maggie lives by throughout the course of this story and in times of desperation and struggle she remembers the words her beloved father told her and carries on no matter how tough the situation is that she may find herself in. Part one of the book follows Maggie and Daniel as their paths converge on the streets of Dublin as Maggie battles with a flat bicycle tyre. Right from that first point of contact the reader can sense that although they may be from different class backgrounds they have a connection, a spark which will weather many storms and obstacles yet at all times their affinity and respect and eventual love for each other shine through even at the most despairing of times. I felt the first part of the book was a slow and gentle introduction leading up to more wider events taking place in the coming years. It did give the reader a good insight into the lives of people living in Dublin at the time and how they were dealing on a daily basis with the repercussions of the Lockout. Maggie and her mother volunteer in a soup kitchen and here is where the character of young Lily is introduced and soon taken under the family’s wing. There wasn’t a huge amount of interaction between Daniel and Maggie at this point. Yet Daniel was always there hovering away in the background. He would do anything for Maggie and never wanted to see any harm befall her. It was wonderful to see such compassion in someone so young. He too volunteered at the soup kitchen which would have been frowned upon if his lawyer father had discovered this but to me it showed the love despite his age that Daniel had for Maggie. That he would do anything to be near her even if it meant going against his parents and keeping things hidden from them. I did think it’s sad that in today’s society that we could say that soup kitchens are very much in use in Ireland today and it makes one wonder have we really come all that far in some ways as a country since 1916?

As I have mentioned the book for me was slow to begin with and then as Maggie and her family and even Daniel become embroiled in events in Dublin and the build up the Rising of Easter 1916 the history buff in me loved every aspect of this and it was great to see the story we have read about in history books since primary school come to life in a fiction book but in a way that became more easy and accessible the further I read. My only worry would be would readers from outside Ireland get everything connected with 1916 and the fight engaged in by both Maggie and Daniel for freedom? Yes there may be readers not from Ireland but who take a keen interest in Irish history and would know the background to the story but maybe others would just read the book for the love story involved. I suppose everybody would take something different from it. As events in Eastern Europe began to make headlines in 1914 the cosy relationship between Maggie and Daniel took a different turn and therefore resulted in different sides of our two main characters emerging. Both were pushed to the pin of their collar and tested in more ways than one. Yet Maggie was a character who showed unbelievable strength and tenacity and she wanted to be out there doing her bit even if the general belief held by many was that a woman’s place was in the home behind closed doors. It was almost as if she could sense times were changing and she wanted to be at the forefront of everything and I suppose she did have the words of her father echoing in her ears. 
As Daniel finds himself signing up for the war effort and far from home the author never spared any details about life on the battle front and even though this may have been a young adult novel I felt the detail needed to be there. The horrors of war should not be spared at all and the later half of the book would not have had the same impact on me if they had not been present. Daniel does an awful lot of growing up pretty quickly yet I felt his deep longing for Maggie and in one way I wanted to tell him why put yourself through this? Why have a forced separation from the one you love and in turn put them through so much agony and heartache? Yet maybe he felt obliged deep within his soul to do his best for his country and the wider world. I kept reading eagerly to see how all the events would lead to a big climax to the story. Denise Deegan should be proud of Through the Barricades. She has written an excellent story with plenty of historical fact mixed well with a beautiful love story that aims to endure for as long as possible despite all the barriers and hurdles placed in its way. I did feel the ending left room for a sequel and heading into the 1920’s and the setting that could be possible with another book would make for another great read. Through the Barricades was an honest, emotional and at times intense read but it is one I am glad I took the time to read. I would urge you to do the same.

Through the Barricades is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy via amazon link below:

Monday, 16 January 2017

Blog Tour - 'Relativity' by Antonia Hayes. Review and Giveaway.

Thanks to Corsair Books, I have a copy of relativity to giveaway to one lucky reader. Enter via rafflecopter link below. Open INT. Good Luck! 

My Review

Twelve-year-old Ethan lives with his mother, Claire, and has never met his father. An unusually gifted child, he has no idea of the circumstances surrounding his fathers absence. When he discovers a letter from his father to Claire, it leads to a fascination and journey to discover just why his father left and how he can reunite the family. Using his unique scientific logic, Ethan believes he can re-visit the past and change the futures outcome. But the past is suddenly a scary place to visit and leaves many questions unanswered. Can he trust his father or did he really do what they say he did?

Claire is a woman trying to keep her son safe. Safe from bullies, safe from the harsh realities of traditional expectations and safe from the truth of his near-death experience as an infant. She gave her life as a ballerina to raise her child and each day is filled with protecting him and keep sane herself. When Mark lands back in their lives, she needs to examine her limited memories of the most horrific days of her life; a night of shock, fear and a nightmare dash to the hospital. What really happened that day? Would Mark really have hurt his own son, like they said he did? Has she ever really believed what the jury found him guilty of? What is the truth?

Antonia Hayes has written a story which will touch the hearts, souls and emotions of its readers. The divided family is riddled with uncertainty, lack of trust and fear of addressing the past. Ethan is a delightfully different child. His love of physics is introduced from the very start of the book and shows he is way beyond any other child of his age. He is socially awkward and has few friends. School is basically wasted on a child like Ethan. The love that Claire feels for Ethan is easy to feel and the author drip feeds information about the past, leading to the fateful day that saw the family divide. Beautifully descriptive and an emotional journey, this is a strong debut that deserves attention. Don't be put off by the first few pages, which are loaded with Ethan's attempts to understand the relativity between time and space. He is really just trying to find his own relativity to the world we live in. You will struggle to forget Ethan.  Sharp, astute and emotional, this is a highly recommend read.


Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

Relativity is published by Corsair and is available in paperback and ebook format.
You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 18% from The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Blog Tour: 'The One' by John Marrs. Review and Giveaway.

Thanks to Ebury and Dead Good Books, I have an ARC of The One to giveaway to one luck reader. To be in with a chance, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Good Luck!

Scientists have discovered that each and every one of us has a gene which is shared with one other person. Our soulmate. Our perfect match. All you need is a simple DNA test to discover who you should be with.  Sending a swab off in an envelope is now the way to fulfill your destiny. But what happens if you are already with someone you love and care for deeply? Are you prepared to take the test, in the hope of proving you are already with your destined partner? Are you prepared to travel the world to meet your match? And are all soulmates as perfect as they seem?


The concept is simple. You sign up to a website which has millions of DNA results on its database. You provide a mouth swab, return it in a pre-paid envelope, and sit back and wait for the email which reveals your perfect match. The One.  What could go wrong?
Mandy has been matched and begins her research online. Finding his facebook profile gives her access to photos and details of his life and she is suitably impressed. So far, so good.
Jade chats with her match on a daily basis and her friends can't figure out why she can't just bite the bullet and travel the thousands of miles to meet him face-to-face. Can she pluck up the courage for such a journey?
Nick is engaged to be married and is more than content with his current partner.  She, however, wants him to take the test and confirm that they are indeed meant for each other. Nick is highly amused when he is matched with a man. There has obviously been a mix-up. Right?
Ellie is the founder of of the DNA-match website and is wealthy, powerful and determined. When she finds she herself has been matched, she wonders if she should take the plunge herself. She's not getting any younger and the evenings are quite lonely without that special someone. But how can she hide her identity when her face is so famous?
Christopher receives his email a few months after registering and thinks the timing might be just right. He is after getting away with murder, after all.

Five DNA matches; five stories. Each of the five are given equal space and the overall story moves along at a powerful pace.  The chapters are short, sharp and end with mini-cliffhangers. This is one of those books that has the reader gagging for more.  Definitely a 'just one more chapter' book, that sees you reading well into the night. I read it in one sitting and was completely lost in the craziness of DNA matching and all the moral, ethical and potential life-changing issues that could arise from its concept. The added tension of a serial killer at large was a bonus. The challenges that the killer encountered by meeting his match, whist in the middle of a killing spree, gave the character more depth and even likability.
  John Marrs has created a narrative that is frighteningly feasible and entirely compelling. By the end of this novel, you will definitely find yourself wondering if you would be the type to take the test, or not. This may be the most enjoyable thriller I have read in years. A complete page-turner, a razor-sharp concept and short, sharp, addictive chapters all make for an absolutely cracking psychological thriller.  Read it and let me know; would you take the test? 

The One is published in ebook format on 26th January 2017 and in paperback on 4th May 2017. You can order your copy via amazon link below:

Monday, 9 January 2017

Book Giveaway - 'The Truth Will Out' by Brian Cleary.

A new name in Irish Fiction, Brian Cleary has kindly offered two giveaway copies of his debut thriller, The Truth Will Out.  To be in with a chance of winning a copy, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Good Luck!


The novel is set in Ireland. The friendship of Jamie, Shane and Mary Kate is tested to the limit after Mary Kate is brutally raped and lies in a coma. The evidence against Jamie is overwhelming and is compounded by the fact he maintains he cannot recall what happened that night. However, the one secret that Jamie has never disclosed can prove his innocence.

Corrupt guards, a narcissistic film director and his mercenary private detective, an ex-girlfriend, a serial killer and an inept solicitor all weave a complicated compelling plot with twists and turns right to the end. A gripping read.



 Brian Cleary was born in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland where he lives with his wife, two kids and two dogs.

Brian began writing this novel in the 1980's but only got so far and didn't re-visit it until 20 years later. In 2007 he started again but, this time, fate was to intervene. He had written the first chapter on the computer and, unknown to him, his then seven year old daughter showed it to the babysitter, Brian's mother Maureen!

She was impressed and encouraged him to finally complete the story. Nine years later, here we are!

The Truth Will Out is available in Easons nationwide and via amazon link below:

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Realities of Christmas Day - Article originally posted on

The Realities of Christmas Day For A Book Addict by Margaret Bonass Madden

Article by writingie © 22 December 2016 .
Posted in the Magazine ( · The Big Idea ).
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  I totally agree. The Christmas decorations are up, the songs are being sung (in my case, the same one over and over in my head) and the Elf DVD has been dusted down.  But, in all honesty, how can I escape to read? How early is it acceptable to abandon my family and head to bed? I can get away with it the rest of the year, but Christmas is different.  There is no nice way of sneaking off for an hour of solitude.
I have been a mother for twenty seven years now and Christmas is definitely a big occasion in our house.  We have a slightly different tradition, where we open our presents on Christmas Eve (carried through from my side of the family) and the kids get the joy of their Santa presents and stockings on Christmas Day.  We all gather in our kitchen late on Christmas Eve, sharing a mammoth Chinese take-away and then move into the drawing room where the great unwrapping begins.  It is done in age order and, as I’m the oldest (by five whole weeks,) I am always last.  Then there is a couple of hours of playing around with recently opened gifts, watching TV and getting the youngest packed off to bed before Santa arrives.  I begin to get book-withdrawal symptoms just after the last present is opened.  I shuffle around the room, pretend to watch TV and laugh along with in-family jokes.  I briefly forget my literary addiction while preparing the room for the next day and then dash upstairs to read.
Then comes Christmas Day.  Obviously a no-go area for solitary reading,  what with the whole spending-time-with-the-family thing.  The big dinner is eaten, the food-coma  is in full swing, the Prosecco is all gone and the paper hats have been abandoned.  The board games come out and the banter begins.  I can usually manage a sneaky chapter or two during these competitive sessions, but refereeing may be required.  There is an overall feeling of contentment in the house and the normal daily chores can be forgotten.  There are power-sleeps for some, family phone calls made and new toys assembled.
In the midst of all this seasonal chill-out is a book lover, reading glasses perched on the top of her head, snatching sneaky moments with her fictional characters.  Ironically, there are people all over the world who are reading Christmas books alone and dreaming they had a family to spend the day with.  I think this year I shall step away from the books, even for just one day, and see how I do.  Hang on, that might be a bit adventurous. Would anyone notice if I listened to an audio book with earphones in?
Merry Christmas from all at Bleach House….
(c) Margaret Bonass Madden

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Book Review - 'The Last One' by Alexandra Oliva.

In The Dark is a reality survival show that pushes its contestants to the limits.  The prize money is high but some are competing for more than the cash.  Zoo is running from her own reality and thinks the show may give her a new perspective.  Things start to go terribly wrong and one by one the contestants dwindle. But where are the crew and supplies, and is the whole world watching Zoo with admiration or horror as she battles the elements?

This is such a clever novel.  While the characters are given unusual names (and this takes a bit of getting used to) the concept is taught and as the game begins, the reader is right there alongside its participants. Zoo is a tough cookie, despite her slight appearance.  She has an inner-determination that sees her holding her own against some of the tough guys.  She soon gains some respect and the group begins to divide.  Online comments are dotted through the start of the book and its easy to relate to how the viewers feel about the reality show and its stars.  When obvious cameras begin to disappear, Zoo finds herself battling the elements with just her mini-cam and starts to suffer from paranoia.  Can she survive through to the bitter end? Is it really worth it? 

The over-all mood of Oliva's debut is one of tension and determination. Zoo is a strong character and the concept is even stronger.  It takes a few chapters to get really into the story, and the character names do not help this, but it is WELL worth persevering with it.  Once the games begin and challenges are set for the players, individual personalities come to light and clashes appear.  The woodlands have a personality of their own and the camera crew cannot interfere. Days slip into night and sleep is restricted.  The desire for food is intense and inner-survival skills become worth more than anything else.  The pace is choppy, with bursts of intense thrills and dips back to a steadier feel. The story line shifts about two thirds through and the protagonist takes on a more intense role.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Last One.  I had no idea what I was about to read and enjoyed the journey all the more for it.  A cross between Black Mirror and Survivor, with a great feisty, female lead. 
 A whip-cracking debut that I can highly recommend. 

The Last One is published by Penguin Michael Joseph in HB and Ebook and is released in PB on 29th December 2016. 
 You can order your copy, with 12% discount and Free Worldwide Postage,HERE.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

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

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