Sunday, 19 February 2017

Book Review - 'The Good Mother' by Sinéad Moriarty.



Thanks to Penguin Random House Ireland for the ARC of this title...

Kate is just beginning to get her life back on track after a difficult few years. Her husband, Nick, has left her and their three children for a younger model and a new baby son. She has lost the family home and her dignity. Now herself and the children are living with her elderly father and are beginning to adjust. All this changes when her twelve-year-old daughter, Jessica, is diagnosed with leukemia. 

There is no worse fear for a parent than the suffering of a child. Kate is knocked for six with the news and she tries to balance her emotions whilst also staying strong for her family. Her eighteen-year-old son, Luke, has given up on his father and her youngest son, Bobby, is not exactly enthralled with his missing parent either. However, Jess is torn between her two parents. She is the peace-maker, the sounding board and is full of  youthful compassion. As her health deteriorates, she must surrender the parenting to her Mum and Dad. Hospital becomes her new world and she finds friendship within the children's ward. Each family member deals with Jessica's illness differently and they try to put their differences aside, not always successfully. Along with a great support network of friends, they try to make Jessica their priority.

Sinéad Moriarty brings the reader into the sadness of Kate's world as she deals with the most difficult situation imaginable. The anger she feels must be set aside, the resentment smothered and the bitter pills swallowed. She does her best to balance her time between all three children, yet her heart is slowly breaking. Nick is in complete denial (and is tormented by non-stop phone calls from an insecure girlfriend) and tensions are wrought.  The story is written with tenderness and with a good touch of humour. There is an on-going diary entry from Bobby, which although not completely necessary, shows how he is dealing with the changes in his life. But it is Luke who adds a nice parallel narrative. His story unfolds alongside his sisters, with his girlfriends family adding much-needed light-relief. (Think of the family in Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy) There is laughter to balance the tears and childhood innocence to counteract the darkness of cancer treatment. Moriarty has managed to combine the beauty of The Fault in our Stars, the sadness of Me Before You and the emotions of My Sister's Keeper. Jessica is a wonderful character who will linger in your thoughts, long after you turn the final page.  I have tweeted the author, advising her that I shall forward my bill for tissues and therapy.  


The Good Mother is published by Penguin Random House in TBP and ebook format. You can order your copy in all good bookshops or via amazon link below:

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Blog Tour Book Review - 'Secrets We Keep' by Faith Hogan.




Two distant relatives, drawn together in companionship are forced to confront their pasts and learn that some people are good at keeping secrets and some secrets are never meant to be kept..
A bittersweet story of love, loss and life. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks.
The beautiful old Bath House in Ballytokeep has lain empty and abandoned for decades. For devoted pensioners Archie and Iris, it holds too many conflicting memories of their adolescent dalliances and tragic consequences – sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it belongs.
For highflying, top London divorce lawyer Kate Hunt, it’s a fresh start – maybe even her future. On a winter visit to see her estranged Aunt Iris she falls in love with the Bath House. Inspired, she moves to Ballytokeep leaving her past heartache 600 miles away – but can you ever escape your past or your destiny?



MY REVIEW 


Kate has escaped to Ireland, tired of living the busy life of a London lawyer, and unsure what her future holds. Her great-aunts small hotel, in a sleepy coastal village, is the complete opposite of her city life and she can finally breathe. She finds friends and opportunity in the unlikely location and tries to ignore the newspaper headlines, which bring back unwanted memories.  Meanwhile, great-aunt Iris has her own reasons for trying to forget the past. Family connections link the stories of the past and present and the two women find themselves surrounded by the shadows of untold secrets.


This is Faith Hogans second novel and she blends historical fiction with a contemporary twist. The two main characters are very different. Iris is decades ahead of her fellow Irish women. Falling hook, line and sinker for the proverbial bad-boy, she is whisked away from her problems and deposited in Paris for a year, returning to Ireland with a lighter load and a ready-made job. It doesn't take long for her to make more bad decisions and her only saving grace is a wonderful man called Archie. In the present day, Kate is also helped by a host of kind souls, although this is a little frustrating as she should be a strong, independent woman and yet seems to completely rely on the help of her new neighbours. I would have liked to see more strength and less dependency.  However, this is a read-in-one-sitting book. Light, warm and entertaining, it is like a brochure for the beautiful area of Co. Mayo but with family secrets thrown in. The waves on the coast are as high as the drama and the ancient buildings are privy to centuries of stories. Faith Hogan is an author to watch out for. She can certainly spin a yarn and reel you in. Her gentle writing style is ideal for fans of Cathy Kelly and Roisin Meaney.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Faith Hogan was born in Ireland.  She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.  She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.
Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin. It was published by Aria, (Head of Zeus) in 2016.   ‘Secrets We Keep,’ is her second novel out on Feb 1st 2017.. 

Faith Hogan Contact:
Twitter (her favourite) https://twitter.com/GerHogan

You can check out the books on:
Amazon.co.uk     http://amzn.to/2h7Adn6               Amazon.com      Amazon.com Faith Hogan
Kobo  Kobo Secrets We Keep                                         Google Play     http://bit.ly/2gS3iVH

iBooks -  http://apple.co/2hBcaQR

Secrets We Keep is published by Aria Fiction and is available in PB and ebook format.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Book Review - 'How To Murder Your Life' by Cat Marnell.


*****This review was originally posted in the Sunday Independent on 30th Jan 2017.*****


Books: Memoir reveals socialite's shocking addiction

Memoir: How To Murder Your Life, Cat Marnell, Ebury Press, €17.99


Margaret Madden



PUBLISHED

30/01/2017 | 02:30

Cat Marnell’s candid, dark memoir ‘How to Murder your Life’ is a shocking insight into alcohol, drug addiction and self-sabotage1
Cat Marnell’s candid, dark memoir ‘How to Murder your Life’ is a shocking insight into alcohol, drug addiction and self-sabotage
Memoirs of addicts can result in the same, formulaic stories. Miserable childhood, distant parents, lack of self-esteem and the 'victim of circumstance'. Add some alcohol, narcotics or gambling and you have a fully-formed addict. A few trips to rehab, followed by an overwhelming feeling of God's presence, generally will produce a reformed junkie. However, it's uncommon to come across an addict who blames no-one but themselves. Cat Marnell seems to take responsibility for her own journey to addiction yet, reading her memoir, this rings untrue.
Born into an affluent family, living in a beautiful home just 20 minutes from the White House, her father, a renowned psychiatrist, her mother a psychotherapist, she basically raised herself. As a teen, she discovered that ADHD medication improved her grades and she got her father to regularly prescribe it.
She began hanging out with party-loving, credit-card wielding students who spent their weekends in top-class hotels and feeding her new addiction to amphetamines.
"They were the coolest people I'd ever met, even if they weren't the nicest. I wanted to be in their in-crowd so badly that I'd overlook their oft-questionable behaviour."
Still a very young and naive girl, Marnell found herself in situations that were cringe-worthy at best and abusive at worst. Things deteriorated at a rapid rate and she found herself expelled before graduation. There was a traumatic termination, badly-timed attempts at rehab and a move to NYC.
Money was never an issue for the socialite, thanks to her wealthy family. She began interning for glossy magazines and, despite her chronic addiction, she gradually moved up through the ranks for various publications. Friendships were still short-lived and mismatched, seeing her experimenting with heroin and sinking to a new low.
Now she was seeking new doctors to prescribe more pills (uppers, downers, anything she could get her hands on) and her life was a blur of champagne launches, exclusive clubs, crack, cocaine, heroin and complete degradation. Food became an issue and bulimia came knocking at her open door.
Functioning as a beauty editor became more difficult and her behaviour was erratic. "I'd never cried at the office before, but now I couldn't stop. The tears dripped on the keyboard as I continued 'working' on this story. Wretched, guttural sobs kept bursting out of my body […] SOB! I was weirding everyone out. SOB!"
Cat knew she was a junkie, but wanted no help. She was forced into rehab by her boss, then again by her parents. The expensive, luxury clinic worked for a limited time; the state- run one was a disaster. Despite all this, she managed to impress people with her on-line rants and extremely personal, raw and funny anecdotes.
Her social media posts shocked and wowed new publication xoJane and (ironically) she was given the opportunity to become their Beauty and Health director. Her unreliability saw more career moves and rehab in Thailand.
Unsurprisingly, there are huge gaps in her tale but the overall happy-go-lucky party girl persona does not sit easy. There is an underlying sadness beneath the strong, sassy and humorous words. She may say that she does not blame anyone for her addiction, but it is not completely convincing. It is a relief that she does not thank God for her recovery; in fact, she readily admits she is not 100pc recovered. "By keeping away from AA or NA, I remain in the danger zone. Things could - and probably will - get bad again!"
This memoir is designed to shock. A compelling, voyeuristic look at the socialite life and how the dream can be completely airbrushed, How To Murder Your Life is all about functioning addiction and the darkness behind the glittering facade.


How To Murder Your Life is published by ebury press and is available in HB and ebook format.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Book Reviews - 'Danny Brown and the Monster Toothbrush' and 'Danny Brown and the Talking Teeth' by Brianóg Brady Dawson, Michael Connor and Alan Nolan.

DANNY BROWN AND THE MONSTER TOOTHBRUSH


Written by
 Brianóg Brady Dawson
Illustrated by
 Michael Connor
Coloured by
 
Alan Nolan
Danny hates brushing his teeth, so when he gets a new toothbrush he wants to get rid of it! He tries blushing it down the toilet, burying it in the garden and throwing it for Keano, his dog, but it keeps coming back!
A fun story about a boy who can't help getting into trouble. Illustrated in colour throughout.

DANNY BROWN AND THE TALKING TEETH



Written by
  Brianóg Brady Dawson
Illustrated by
 Michael Connor
Coloured by
  
Alan Nolan

Danny Brown is always in trouble. Why did he take Granny’s teeth to school? Just WHAT was he thinking? Now Mum is cross, teacher is cross, and Granny is VERY cross.
But Danny was only having fun, wasn’t he?


The best way to review children's books are to read them with kids and see their reaction. I passed these books on to my latest 'guest reviewer', Rosaleen, aged five. Here is what herself and her Mum, Roisin, thought of Danny Brown...


Guest Review from Rosaleen, aged 5. (via Mum, Roisin).

Danny Brown: the Irish horrid Henry.
Rosaleen loved the books, she laughed and was equally grossed out at the disgusting bits, like when Danny Brown put granny's teeth in his mouth or when he was trying to get rid of his tooth brush and played fetch with it for the dog!
Rosaleen is learning to read at the moment and she was able to pick out words she recognised as I was reading. Short sentences on the pages made it easy for her to follow when I was reading to her.
We would give these books 10/10 and would highly recommend them.


These two delightful early readers are available from The O'Brien Press and are published in paperback and ebook format. The ebooks can be ordered via amazon links below:


          

Friday, 27 January 2017

Blog Tour - Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie


THE BLURB


The charred body of an enigmatic policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out shell of his car on the Southend sea front.

Meanwhile, a vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

As DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team are brought in to solve the mystery of their colleague's death, dark, dangerous secrets begin to surface. Can they solve both cases, before it's too late?


Mark Hardie's stylish and gripping debut introduces a brilliant new detective duo to the world of crime fiction, weaving together two suspenseful stories that end in a breath-taking finale.



'An accomplished debut' The Sunday Times


MY REVIEW


A new police procedural series is always exciting. The reader gets to know the characters from the get-go and follow them on their journey through the world of murder, investigation and discovery. Their individual personalities come alive and the reader can form a bond, book by book.  This is the first in the DS Pearson and DC Russell series, from Mark Hardie, and the protagonists are based in Essex. Investigating the murder of a fellow police officer, who was the victim of an arson attack, it leads them to question their colleagues private life and his work ethic.  Alongside this narrative is the troubled teen, Donna, who is mourning the death of her friend, Alicia. Both girls were just out of the care system and had bonded through their difficult experiences. She does not believe her death was an accident and is searching for answers.  

The novel is broken up in to past and present, with alternating voices. Some of the time frames are blended into the one chapter, which demands a little more concentration than an average crime thriller. The story moves at a steady pace and there are nuggets of personal information relating to the characters dotted throughout. DS Pearson comes to life fairly quickly, with DC Russell taking a bit longer. Their partnership is in the early development stage and the chemistry is a work in progress. The pathology scenes are immaculate and are eerily compelling.  Donna and her side-kick, Malcolm, are two teens that you would recognise from any small town or big city. Both are victims of circumstance and unsure of their futures.

Pearson and Russell are a new duo on the crime fiction scene, and I look forward to seeing their personalities and partnership develop over the series. This would make a fantastic TV drama, with the Essex Police Major Investigation Team becoming a weekly favourite. Let the casting begin...



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Mark Hardie was born in 1960 in Bow, East London. He began writing full time after completely losing his eyesight in 2002. He has completed a creative writing course and an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, both with distinction.

Mark lives with his wife Debbie in Southend-on-Sea.





Burned and Broken is published by Sphere and is available in ebook format, with PB release on 4th May 2017. You can order your copy via amazon link below:


Thursday, 26 January 2017

Exclusive Cover Reveal - 'Our Little Secret' by Claudia Carroll.



I am so honoured to be the first to reveal the cover of the latest release from Bestselling author, Claudia Carroll. Published in TPB in Ireland (ebook version in the UK) on 23rd March. It is a sparkling story about what happens when you let someone into your life… but they turn out to want more than you’d bargained for.  I also have a little giveaway, to celebrate. Every girl deserves a treat, right? Details at the end of the page...


THE BLURB

Sarah Keyes has the perfect life. A high-flying job in a law firm, a beautiful daughter and a house to die for. So how does she find herself looking in through the kitchen window while another woman enjoys it all? When Sarah takes pity on a struggling young graduate who can’t get a job, she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s being kind, generous and helpful to others, as she always is. But as Sarah allows the younger woman into her home, her law firm and even her family, is there more to this pretty youngster than meets the eye? And could this be a good deed that goes further than expected? Claudia Carroll does it again with a sparkling new novel about what happens when your life becomes up for grabs…



PRAISE FOR CLAUDIA CARROLL


 ‘Claudia Carroll is a master of creating a great story . . . A brilliantly readable, funny novel. Highly recommended’ Fabulous magazine

‘An emotional roller-coaster . . . asks some probing questions about relationships and keeps the reader wondering until the very end’ Irish Independent

‘I’ve just spent a gloriously sunny weekend delving into Tess Taylor and Kate King’s lives and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a massive fan of Claudia and her books and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. It was modern, warm, insightful and filled with characters that felt like friends at the end.’ Emma Hannigan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Claudia Carroll is a number one bestselling author in Ireland and a top ten bestseller in the UK,  She was born in Dublin where she still lives and where she has worked extensively both as a theatre and stage actress. She now writes full-time. Her 2013 novel ME AND YOU was shortlisted for the Bord Gais Popular Choice Irish Book Award. Her previous novel ALL SHE EVER WISHED FOR spent 12 weeks at the top of the Irish charts





Our Little Secret is published by Harper Collins in TPB on 23rd March 2017 and will also be available in ebook format. You can pre-order your ebook HERE.

Exclusive Cover-Reveal Giveaway




There is a chance to win this mini-pampering package, including travel-sized luxury face mask, hand cream, bath and shower gel, moisturiser and hair mask, on facebook.com/bleachhouselibrary or twitter.com/margaretbmadden 

Just see pinned post/tweet for entry details. Giveaway ends on Fri 3rd February. Good Luck!




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.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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.
www.laura-f-c-kaye.com


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