Thursday, 29 August 2013

" Love is the Easy Bit " by Mary Grehan

Thanks to Penguin Ireland for the review copy of this book........

The cover of this book led me to believe I was about to read some chic-lit but this book is far from that genre.

Sylvia is a former artist who is now a full time mother.  Her husband JP is the warm and caring parent that she has never been.  After a C-Section birth 11 years previously, Sylvia has struggled to be a "normal" mother and has bouts of depression than can crush her.  
On a family trip to visit her Mother, Sylvia feels smothered and seeks escape.  She is withdrawn and distant and looks to her past loves for answers. 
The writing is precise and descriptive but I just could not take to Sylvia or her self centered pity and woe.
While I am aware that depression can make a person feel dragged down in life, I cannot see why dragging your family down with you would seem like an option.

I felt frustrated with Sylvia's mother for seemingly treating her "sensitive" daughter differently for most of her life.  I felt empathy for JP who is just trying to do his best, and has been for at least 11 years.  Most of all, I felt sorrow for Sylvia's daughter, Kate , who has never looked to her mother for advice, reassurance or love. 

I suppose all these feelings mean that the author has created characters that are quiet real and memorable. This is obviously a sign of a good writer and for this I congratulate Irish author Mary Grehan and look forward to reading her second novel.

This book is published by Penguin Books and is currently available from all good book retailers.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Giveaway!!! " The Snapper " by Roddy Doyle

Win a copy of this weeks random recommendation " The Snapper " by the wonderful Irish author, Roddy Doyle.

Just follow my blog and Retweet link @MargaretBMadden .

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

" Did I say that out loud? Conversations about life " by Kelly McDermott Harmen

I received a copy of this from the author for review purposes......

I knew nothing about this book or its author before today when I received a copy via email.  I am so glad I opened it and began to read.

Similar to the best selling " Sh*t my Dad says " by Justin Halpern, this is a wonderful little book full of endearing, funny and heartwarming stories involving Kelly, her family, close friends and her soulmate, Bob.

Some stories are just plain mad ( my favourite kind of stories, coming from a madhouse ) and some are just bordering on dramatic without being sorrowful or boring.

I loved them all and wish I had a hard copy to pull out of my handbag and make my friends read while we have coffee.  I bet they would say " just one more before I give it back ".

Thank God for the internet, as I would never had come across this book without the wonders of Facebook and Twitter as Kelly is Canadian based and I'm in Ireland.

Recommended Reading.....
Best of luck to Kelly and her family!

" Mount Merrion " by Justin Quinn

Thanks to Cliona Lewis at PenguinIreland for this review copy of " Mount Merrion "

This refreshing debut novel by Justin Quinn tells the story of Declan and Sinead Boyle and follows their story from when they first met in 1950s Dublin right through to the different times of Ireland in the New Miillenium.

From their idealistic visions of their future in a country struggling to hold onto its natives rather than lose them to emigration, onto the harsh realities of family life and all that entails,  this book flows along through the decades with ease.
Sinead struggles to find herself while Declan starts up his own business, leaving his wife to raise the children and maintain the family home. While this was the norm in the last century in Ireland, many wives of prominent men were overlooked, it was refreshing to see it addressed by a male writer.
As social and economic times change and money exchanges hands all over the country, under the guise of      " political contributions  ", and the bankers and politicians line their pockets, Sinead and Declan's lives move on in a gentle manner.

Written at a nice pace with delicate prose and well researched content, this book should be part of our reading lists in Secondary Schools.  It  may just teach the next generation a few things, both from a writing aspect and a realistic view of the Celtic Tiger era.

I struggle to think of a book to compare " Mount Merrion " with, as it is an individual work with nicely formed characters and a story that most of the country has read about in one way or another.
Depending on the reader, you will either relate to Declan and Sinead or, at worst, recognise someone you know from the past ten years in Ireland as the  country's leaders struggle to gain back credibility.

This title is published by Penguin Ireland on 5th September,,9781844883011,00.html?strSrchSql=mount+merrion%2A/Mount_Merrion_Justin_Quinn

Sunday, 25 August 2013

" Reconstructing Amelia " by Kimberly McCreight

This debut novel from American Author, Kimberly McCreight was one that kept cropping up with mixed reviews but the whole concept of the book sounded so current and topical I just went into it with my eyes wide open.

Kate is a single Mum to 15 year old Amelia who has been the perfect, bright and well adjusted child we all dream of. Although the small family struggle with finding time together, the time they do spend is precious and full of the closeness any mother would want for herself and her daughter.

All this comes crashing down when Kate receives a call from Amelia's school..........
The police confirm that the teenager has jumped off the roof of the school and all signs point to suicide.
Weeks after the tragedy, Kate receives an anonymous text saying " Amelia didn't jump ".

The book is written from several different angles. Kate and her grief, anger and shock, Amelia and the lead up to the fatal day and social media entries from Amelia, her friends and peers. I loved the emails, texts and Facebook updates as they are so important to todays teenagers and the best way of gauging their moods and how they see themselves at one particular time.

Oct 24

Amelia Baron
" Alone, condemned, deserted, as those who are about to die are alone, there was a luxury in it, am isolation full of sublimity; a freedom which the attached can never know." Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

George McDonnell     can you say, Lexapro? "

The story unravels piece by piece through the eyes of confused and pressured teenagers in a society of unforgiving peers who have access to miniature torture devices which take the shape of handheld, portable electronics.
This book is not for the faint hearted , who believe they know everything about their children.  It is a peek at the harsh, real world of teenagers today and while this particular story may be extreme, do not be fooled into thinking this kind of thing does not go on everywhere.
The only issue I had with it was the fact that Kate genuinely believes she knows her daughter despite only spending a few hours with her every week and not monitoring her online activities or who she is hanging out with on a daily basis.  This seems a bit dated for a family living in modern America.

There are lots of twist and turns throughout the story and the reader is taken on some trips they may not see

A fantastic novel, thought provoking, eye opening and so very very real.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

" The Green Hills Of Home " by Emma Bennet

I received a review copy of this book from the author.......

This is the Debut Novel from Welsh author, Emma Bennet.  At 170 pages, it is a nice short read which is printed on fabulous paper and is beautifully bound.

Gwen is a writer who has just received a book deal from a London Publishing House.  On her way out of the publishing office she literally bumps into a handsome stranger who may change her life.
Set in Wales, where Gwen is trying to save her family home while her mother recovers from a stroke in hospital, this novel is an old fashioned love story.
The characters of Gwen and John reminded me a bit of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. Chemistry from the beginning. I did find the first part of the book a little twee, but this settled down .The authors love of animals is obvious with the introduction of Oscar, the fab chocolate lab belonging to Gwen, I wanted to bring him home :)

Sweet, harmless and easy to read, it is perfect for the older reader who prefers her books with no bad language, sexual content  or violence. Perfect Christmas Present for your Aunt or Grandmother who loves Mills & Boon.

Monday, 19 August 2013

" Red Ribbons " by Louise Phillips

Having read so many wonderful reviews on Louise Phillips new release, " The Doll's House ", I just had to get a copy of her debut novel.  Eason have it at the moment as part of their 3 for 2 offer and I managed to get a signed copy. Nice bonus!

This a crime thriller set in Dublin and Wexford featuring two wonderful characters, DI O'Connor and Dr. Kate Pearson, Criminal Psychologist who helps out with Criminal Profiling.
When the body of a schoolgirl is found buried with her hair plaited and tied with unusual red ribbons, the police are worried. When another body is found in similar circumstances, they fear the worst. Meanwhile, a Doctor in a psychiatric hospital hears details from a patient which may tie in with the recent events. This is a wonderful thriller that I really struggled to put down. The writing is superb and fluent with beautiful descriptive passages and a great insight to the mind of a killer.
With short, sharp chapters and the story unfolding slowly but elegantly throughout, Louise Phillips has become an author to rival the likes of Sophie Hannah and Michael Connolly. 
Unlike many of the genre's writers, she does not let the characters lives take over the story and makes the victims, families, police and the actual murderer tell the story.  This is a welcome relief to me as the well published authors seem to have forgotten that crime/thriller should be just as it suggests.....full of crime and lots of thrills!

I have a copy of " The Doll's House " on the way, and I genuinely can't wait to get started......This is definitely and Irish Author well able to hold her own in the Worldwide Market of Crime Writing!!!

A huge thumbs up from Bleach House Library.

" Red Ribbons " is currently available from all good bookstores and is published by Hachette Books Ireland.
Louise Phillips is also on Twitter @LouiseMPhillips

Saturday, 17 August 2013

" The Great Escape " by Megan Rix. Guest review by Rachel Fitzsimons

The Great Escape
By Megan Rix
The Great Escape is set in England during World War 2.This book tells the story of two children , Michael and Lucy ,  and their pets ,Buster a Jack Russell Terrier ,Rose a collie ,and Tiger a white-and-ginger tom, and their time during the war. Michael and Lucy are evacuated from London and sent to live with their mentally ill granny in Devon. Their pets are sent to live with Mr Harris who throws them out on the street to fend for themselves. The story tells the pets’ amazing journey to be united with their owners!

I really enjoyed this book because it was very exciting and it had lots of clever twists. I would recommend The Great Escape to eleven year olds and over.

If you like books by Michael Morpurgo or you are an animal lover, this is the book for you.

By Rachel Fitzsimons. Aged 11

Friday, 16 August 2013

" The Fault In Our Stars " by John Green

Let me start by saying that this book was marketed as a teen novel, but it is so much more than that......

Hazel is dying. She has terminal cancer. She has accepted this fact, and is living life one day at a time.
"Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quiet a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death. "
This is the first line of this moving book.

Hazel's doctors recommend she attends a weekly support group and it is here she is introduced to Augustus, and her fragile life starts to change.
John Green has written an honest and genuine account of what it is like to be a child with cancer and how it looks from inside the heads of these amazing characters,  who's personalities jump off the page.
The parents of the Hazel and Augustus are supporting roles but are no less important to the story, as these children, are who they are,  because of who reared them.

Unlike similar style novels, this book skims over the regular hospital admissions and drug intakes and procedures but not to the extent that is deemed irrelevant.  The reader is constantly aware of the daily struggle Hazel and her mother have to endure but also of their acceptance of the inevitable.

Myself and two of my daughters read this book and we are all in agreement that it was just, simply, a wonderful book and can be read by both teens and adults alike.

Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

" The Lifeboat " by Charlotte Rogan

This book is set in 1914 when a luxury ocean liner sinks after an unexplained explosion.  Like Titanic, the lifeboats were poorly equipped and insufficient for needs.
When 22 year old Grace is placed as the last passenger in the boat, little does she realise she will be onboard the cramped and damaged craft for three weeks.

This is a story of fear, uncertainty and survival in a harrowing novel that makes you question how you would cope under similar circumstances.

I can honestly say that the first chapter of this book was just amazing, one of the best beginnings I have read in a long time.

The concept of having too many people crammed into a lifeboat gave way to some fantastic writing  " Mr Hoffman was the first to mention what we all were thinking : The boat had not be designed for so many. A few minutes later, Colonel Marsh pointed out a brass plaque that was nailed next to the second starboard oarlock and engraved with the words capacity 40 persons.  But even with the 39 of us, it was obvious to everyone that the boat rode far too low in the water and that it was only because the day was still that this this did not present a greater danger.", 

The atmosphere in the boat becomes unbearable quite early on in their journey, when the appointed skipper declares that some people should volunteer to throw themselves overboard in order to save the majority.
Grace spots this but keeps it to herself.  " I had a feeling we were being manipulated in some way; but my mind was numb with fear and perhaps it is only in retrospect, now that I am facing a different sort of authority, that it seems there might have been webs of influence and deceit in the lifeboat from the very start."

The storyteller, Grace quickly becomes unlikable though and the shallowness of the other characters on the boat makes it very difficult for the reader to make a connection with the rest of the book.
" Mary Ann began to cry and wail. It was a pitiful sound and would have been heart-rending if I had not gone long past pity and if it weren't for the clearly advantageous fact that the boat was now two people lighter than when we had started out ".

There are a few flashback type memories, from Grace of how she came to meet her new Husband, who brought her on the ship, but this just made me dislike her even more. She was cold and calculated long before she boarded the large liner.

I felt as if I was stuck in the middle of the ocean myself while reading most of this, not because of the wonderful descriptions or scene setting, but because I was bobbing along on a wave of boredom.......

" Leopard Adventure " by Anthony McGowan

Thanks to Lisa from and InkandPaperHearts for this proof copy*****

This is the story of Amazon and Frazer, cousins who have been given the task of tracking down a rare type of Leopard in the forests of Russia.
Frazer brings his cousin to America before they head off on their adventure.  This is their first time meeting as their Fathers had a falling out years before.

Amazon learns on this trip to America all about her Uncles' foundation which is involved in the protection and conservation of rare animals.
When they arrive in Russia they head off on their unusual journey which leads them through The Siberian Jungle.  This leads to a deadly game of cat and mouse with an injured tiger and a roller coaster of emotions!

I loved the style of writing which switched from the human's to the tiger's. It kept it interesting all the way through and there were a few twists and turns along the way to keep the reader interested.  The book also has rough drawings every now and again which I really liked.

Fans of Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy will enjoy this book and I would recommend it to my friends and relations of similar age.

Review by Finn aged 13.

Leopard Adventure is published by Puffin Books.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Books to review this week.

" The Lifeboat " by Charlotte Rogan
" Small As An Elephant " by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
" The Fault In Our Stars " by John Green
" Any Dream Will Do " by Maria Duffy

Sunday, 11 August 2013

"The Disappearance of Emily Marr" by Louise Candish

Thanks to Lisa from for this proof copy *****

I had heard good things about this book and was looking forward to getting a hand on a pre-release copy so I could review it. I started after midnight and would have read straight through if it wasn't for the fact I had 
 to mind 5 kids the next day.  However, the next day, the sun shone and plonked myself in my outdoor office ( my sun lounger ) and got stuck in.
This book should come with a health warning : You may not eat/drink/sleep for many hours!! I even got takeaway for dinner as I couldn't bear to put it down for more than a few minutes at a time...

Running from a broken relationship and low on cash, Tabby finds herself in a little village off the Coast of France. While wandering the streets wondering where she can sleep, she overhears an English woman repeating her access code to her apartment.  As the woman appears to be heading off somewhere with a large bag, Tabby seizes the opportunity and lets herself in. 

Meanwhile, the book splits into two stories, Tabby's and the apartment owner's, Emmie.
The two women become unexpected flatmates and unlikely friends.  Emmie obviously has a story to tell but   it is only through snooping and surfing the internet that Tabby can try to discover what is making her so reclusive and withdrawn.

The girl's stories are set in both France and England and while there are some similarities in their lives, the reader starts to wonder if it's a good thing that they met at all?

This is a wonderfully warm novel with a nice easy pace and enough bite to make you want to keep reading. The character of Emily Marr is well described and you genuinely feel like you may know her and why she chooses to disappear.  The descriptions of her life before the disappearance are well thought out and give her some depth which I think is needed for the main storyline.

The character, Nina, is hateful. Angry, bitter and hell bent on revenge she doesn't care who she mows down on the way.  Her anger hops off the pages and becomes quite understandable as the story unfolds.

This is a great Summer read, full of surprises, wonderful writing and would be ideal for bookclub discussions. It also has Reading Group Questions at the end which is a nice bonus. The only fault I would have is the lack of description of the French island.  I would have liked to get a bit more of the sense of the place, the smells, the sounds and the atmosphere. Other than that ,a lovely novel and perfect for holidays!

The Disappearance of Emily Marr was released by Sphere Books on 1 Aug 2013

Thursday, 8 August 2013

" Gone Girl " by Gillian Flynn

Having heard so much about this book, from both the media and friends, I was delighted to be given a copy recently and immediately rushed to my " indoor office " to get started.......

The blurb on the back says " The addictive No.1 US Bestseller that everyone is talking about ",
" Gone Girl is a book you'll be begging other people to read, just so you can discuss it with them ".

I find myself dying to ask people why it has been "Thriller of the year" and is it a case of the hype taking over?

The premise of the story is a strong one : Man comes home to find front door open, furniture overturned as if part of a struggle and his Wife missing. It seems all was not perfect in the marriage but then again, how many marriages can says that they are perfect?
It is obvious from the start that the police are seeing Nick, The Husband,  as their prime/only suspect and after some pretty disastrous television appearances and an ill timed photo leaked to the press, the public are not convinced of his innocence.  Amy, said Gone Girl, had a priviliged and quasi-famous upbringing so the case receives notoriety from the Get Go. Her parents stand by Nick and make heartfelt appeals for her return.
But as the tagline on the cover states : " There are two sides to every story " and the second half of the book shows how appearances can be overly deceptive.

The whole book is interlaced with extracts from Amy's diary and delves deep into the minds of both Nick and Amy respectively. Nick's sister Go ( short for Margo, I found it hard to see Go as a name of a character and it began to really annoy me. eg: " Go moved into our old house, and we slowly relocated our toys, piecemeal, to The Bar : A Strawberry Shortcake doll, now scentless, pops up on a stool one day (my gift to Go). A tiny Hot Wheels El Camino, one wheel missing, appears on a shelf in the corner (Go's to me).....
"Go, I enjoy this revisionist history in which you're Amy's champion" - maybe it didn't bother most readers, but I really felt very distracted by it.)
As the days pass and there are no leads in the case, the reader starts to question the seemingly weak police presence and then the immediate appearance of a topclass lawyer who drops everything to go on a wild goose chase with his client.

The twists and turns are frequent and cleverly written and I envy Gillian Flynn her ability to reach into the minds of some dark and twisted souls and turn it into entertainment.  All in all, it was not my favourite book of the month, never mind the year, and I was disappointed that I did not feel the compulsion to buy several copies for friends or start tweeting about how wonderful it was.  The hype surrounding this book had set my expectations way too far.

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