Monday, 25 November 2013

" Lettice & Victoria " by Susanna Johnston





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

Victoria is a young woman who, due to financial difficulties,  takes a job as a companion to an elderly academic in Northern Italy.  Isolated in the countryside, she becomes her master's eyes as she reads the blind man's correspondence to him as well as reading passages from his favourite books.  She also enjoys the visitors to the villa and even manages to fall for one particular guest, Edgar, an Englishman.
Although Victoria is hesitant to leave her employer and begin married life in England, she does not see any alternative.  

She is thrown into her her new husband's life in England and most particularly, his eccentric and highly strung Mother, Lettice. She is a difficult woman, demanding, interfering and protective of her family and friends.  Victoria is out of her depth at first and avoids her Mother-in-law at all costs.  However, a change in her circumstances mean that the two women are thrust even closer in proximity and cracks begin to show in both of their veneers. 
Lettice becomes enraged at Victoria's friendship with Archie, an old aquantence and she tries to keep them seperated at all costs.

This wonderful little book is more like a clever, character driven,  play.  Darkly humorous, cleverly written and extremely observational, this is a welcome change in contemporary literature, reading as something more along the lines of classic fiction.  It has a feel of The Royal Tenenbaums about it and for anyone who has ever felt the wrath of their Mother-in-law, is a perfect short novel with lots of snide comments and witty retorts.

Definitely ideal for readers who love a book steeped with strong, individual, quirky characters!


"Lettice & Victoria" will be published in hardback by Arcadia Books on 15th December 2013.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

" Someday Find Me " by Nicci Cloke






Thanks to Lisa at http://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.ie/ for giving me this book to review for her blog.

This novel is mainly about two characters: Fitz, a 25year old barworker/DJ and his girlfriend Saffy, an art student.  After meeting at a party, they are drawn to each other and very quickly move in together.  However, Fitz discovers Saffy has issues. Drink, drugs and an eating disorder are all symptoms of deeper problems.  He is slow discovering these issues though, as he is completely blinded by his love for her.  When the seriousness of her addictions begin to threaten Saffy's health, and even her safety, Fitz feels he has no option but to call for help.

Saffy's side of the story interlaces with Fitz's and the reader can see how she has many problems that are spiraling out of control.  Her dependence on drugs reads as a dark and dirty place to be, and her problems surrounding food are causing bouts of OCD.  Basically, she is drowning and cannot see anyway through the surface of her despair.

Rehab has not worked for her before, and she describes being force fed and being watched as she visits the toilet, but with no happy ending.  When she sees that she may have to return to the rehab centre, she runs away.  As with the drink and drugs, running away seems to be her only way to escape.  Saffy's family clearly do not see any light at the end of the tunnel and when her sister Jelli, talks to Fitz about her, this is when he questions if he has made a mistake by asking for help.

"    "Don't get hung up on Saf. She lives on her own planet most of the time,"
"Find yourself someone new, hon, without issues.  Saf's sweet but she'll always put herself first, it's just the way she's wired."
The ache in my chest grew bigger and bigger and my hands and feet felt itchy and I realised all of a sudden that the Saffy her family knew wasn't her - maybe it was a her they'd just made up to explain it all away but whatever it was, it wasn't her. My Saffy was the real Saffy, and I knew her better than any of them ever would and there was no way in hell I was letting her just leave or be alone or be afraid.   "

Nicci Cloke has written an in-depth look at love which knows no judgment.  Fitz is just blown away by Saffy and will do anything to be with her.  Saffy, while adoring Fitz, is just too far gone in her depths of darkness to see how much he wants her, how much he can help her, how he can try to fix her. 
It is a harsh read, with some very dark moments.  The scene where Saffy's mother is force feeding her is heartbreaking. Another where Fitz tried to make her eat an apple is also disturbing.  However, we can't ignore the realities in this world and this book is as real as it gets.
Recommended.

" Someday Find Me " is published by 4th Estate 

Monday, 18 November 2013

" A Cinderella Christmas " by Holly Kingston





Thanks to Novelicious for the review copy of this book.

The Christmas Pantomime season has arrived and this year Lucy has been "promoted" from chorus girl to the very important role of.......the rear end of the comic cow. She must spend the season bent over behind her pal, Ben and learn to tap dance in unison, while wearing udders.  Not the glamorous role she had envisioned.
The Panto's stars, Charmaine and Ryan, are both well known personalities and have the egos to match.  Lucy volunteers to dogsit Charmaine's handbag sized pet and ends up spending more time looking after the Reality TV star than the dog.
Ryan, all spray tanned and groomed to within an inch of his life, is Lucy's secret crush and she can't believe she is getting to hang out with him on a daily basis.  He even seems to be interested in her, cow costume and all.

This short book is a perfect little read for the Christmas period.  It has everything a Chic-lit novel needs; great characters, simple storyline and a fair helping of feel good moments.  I love the way the author pokes fun at TV stars and their Diva lifestyles but shows that everything is not always what it seems.

Lucy and Ben are the balancing act and are charming and fun. One of the stars of the book is Charmaine's Chihuahua , Lenin. You can almost picture his antics in the Dressing Room and visualize the poor thing in his Christmas outfit....

This is Holly Kingston's first full length novel and I hope we will get to read more of her books very soon.

The author can be contacted via Facebook at HollyKingstonWriter or on Twitter @HollyKWriter
"A Cinderella Christmas" is published by Novelicious Books and is available from 15 Nov 2013



Saturday, 16 November 2013

" Saying Goodbye To Warsaw " by Michael Cargill






The author sent me a copy of this in return for an honest review.

A different look at the effects of World War 2, this is Abigail's tale.  She is 9 years old and living in the Warsaw Ghetto, created by the Nazis as a way of keeping all Jews together and under control before sending them to concentration camps.  Abigail lives with her mother and her brother, Leo in a grim bedsit within the ghetto.  While the young girl is content to spend the days dreaming of better times and remembering her father, Leo is restless and angry with the Regime.  While their mother works in a secret soup kitchen, her two children get involved in the day to day issues within the ghetto.

This book is mostly written from Abigail's point of view and while her innocence is no different to any other 9 year old's at the start of the book, as she turns 10 and witness some harrowing things over time, her view on the world becomes more harsh and real.

Towards the end of the book we are introduced to a new character, Alenka, a young woman who is part of the resistance, and the narrative becomes a little confusing.  Having very few paragraphs, I found it a little hard to follow who's thoughts I was reading.

The horrors of World War 2 have been written about by thousands of authors but not many have approached it from the Ghetto angle.  Although nowhere near as horrific as the camps, there are still some heartbreaking stories to be heard, and you could do worse than reading this novel to see the war from a new perspective.  
I would recommend this book more as a YA read, as the language is simple and clean with a lack of graphic description which younger readers can be upset by. 

Michael Cargill can be contacted via Twitter @MichaelCargill1 of Facebook.com/MichaelCargillAuthor
This book is available in Paperback or as an e-book




Friday, 15 November 2013

" What Would Oprah Do? " by Erin Emerson







I was having a bad day and feeling down when the author contacted me and sent me a copy of her book to cheer me up.  How sweet of her!

Cate is a 30 something who has lost her job and is feeling a bit lost.  Due to the recession, her apartment is in negative equity, she can't afford her BMW anymore and has had to cut back on trips to the hairdressers, beauty salon and treating herself to good coffee.  We all know what that feels like right now. 
Her emails to Oprah are a way of venting and her admiration of the star is endearing, in a cute, comical way. She decides to change her life and here begins her, often hilarious, attempts at starting her own business.  She volunteers at a dog shelter, tries to create her own organic blue cheese dressing , takes a stab at being a hat designer and meets a wonderful old lady who needs help in her garden.
Cate is basically a nice girl who has hit hard times but with the support of her sister and some great friends she tries to make a change.  


This novel is fun.....It is current and the reader will definitely recognise some of the cut backs she has to make.  Each chapter begins with an email to Oprah, who Cate sees as an idol.  Her requests for Oprah to adopt her are really funny and her reasoning for the requests are even funnier.
There are a great bunch of supporting characters in the book.  Vivian, the elderly lady she helps is a wonderful old dear who I would love to have as a friend myself.  
Unlike other female fiction, What Would Oprah Do? does not have filler chapters and does not rely on romance to carry it.  It is a story of friendship and change. My day did get better after reading this fun book.
Thank You Erin, for sending it to me :)




What Would Oprah Do? is available all this week for the special price of 99c.  

Erin Emerson can be contacted vis twitter @EmersonErin

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

" Cinnamon Toast and the end of the World " by Janet E Cameron





I was given a copy of this book by a friend who knows the author.  Having heard nothing about it, I went in to reading it with no pre-conceptions.

It's 1987 and Stephen Shulevitz is finishing high school in Nova Scotia, listening to The Cure, smoking dope and drinking vodka, along with his classmates.  He is preparing for college, his mother is upset at the thought of him leaving and he is carrying around a huge secret.  He is gay.  Although some people have suspicions, he has yet to announce it and the thought of it scares him. The other problem he has is that he is in love with his best friend, Mark, who is homophobic.

This book surprised me. I had expected an average tale of high school angst and coming of age cliches.  I was so wrong!
Janet E Cameron has turned the story of Stephen into one of the most pleasurable reads of this genre I have come across.  Her writing is sharp, clever and up to date. The characters are likeable, believable and endearing.  Stephen's mother and father are ex hippies who separate early on in his life but play a pivotol role in his teenage years. Lana, who is a great friend to Stephen, since they met years before,  is also an ever present force in his life.
The author brings us along with Stephen as he struggles through some difficult times; in school, at home and socially.  Mark and Lena surround him with friendship and patience when times are tough and Stephen fears he may lose this closeness by telling the truth.

This novel is just wonderful.....An ideal read for anyone aged 14 upwards although be aware that there are some references to sex and drug use, but only in a minor way.

Highly recommended, I am so glad that it was passed on to me as I may have never discovered this wonderful novel or this talented author !!



Published by Hachette Books Ireland and is available in Paperback.

Monday, 11 November 2013

" Cloudland " by Joseph Olshan





I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

The discovery of a body thawing out in the melting snow of Vermont is the opening scene of this novel from Joseph Olshan.  Ex Journalist, Catherine Winslow, is the person who makes the grim discovery and this is her story.  Along with stunning descriptions of the Vermont countryside, the author tells of Catherine's lost love, change of career and introduces her eclectic neighbours.

"That day, on the surrounding hillsides, the trees were mostly budded, but the leaves were still that light electric green that set the darker. coniferous trees in relief.  My lilacs were just barely blooming, the apple trees decked out in luxurious boas of white and pink flowers, beset by loops of honeybees, the air graced with the sweet smell of pollen.  Depending on my mood, the land either seems to breathe and expand or close in around me.  The good thing about living in a rural place is that the cycles of nature, ever-changing, help give a broader perspective, particularly when you're down in the dumps."


The novel boasts high caliber writing, with a never ending supply of beautiful prose.  However, this book is marketed as a thriller and I was just not thrilled.  The serial killer is almost treated as an inconvenience rather than a person to be feared and Catherine's journalistic experience seems to be of no benefit to her.  She is included in the investigation from the start and she is given information which would never be shared with the general public.  When more bodies are discovered, she is informed, despite the fact that she should have no access to this case. She is not an investigative journalist anymore.

The chapters which deal with her daughter and her ex lover are smooth and interesting.  I would have preferred a novel based on her life, not on one that tries to include a complex string of murders to which she has a tenuous link. 
The books ends with a rushed, jumble of facts which are disappointing, unbelievable and cancel out some of the amazing writing that the author is capable of.

I would read more of the authors work, as he has a beautiful writing style, but I would hope he concentrates on the character driven style, rather than the thrillers.



"Cloudland" is published by Arcadia Books and is available in Paperback and E-Book format.



Wednesday, 6 November 2013

" Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes " by Sue Watson





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

Stella Weston is stuck in a job which she barely tolerates, with a boss who makes things even more difficult. When she is pushed too far, Stella quits her job on the spot, without thinking it through and this leads to some life changing events, not all for the better.
Her marriage is hanging on by a thread, money is tight and the future looks bleak.  Luckily, she has some wonderful friends: Lizzie, an eternally singleton with a penchant for Marlboros and booze,  and Al, a fabulous Gay who loves his two "fag hags" dearly.
With her friends help, she discovers that she has the power to change her life and to have fun while doing so!

This book is about friendship more than anything else.  It shows the reader that anything is possible if you have the support of loved ones and while bad times are almost inevitable, good ones can come close behind.

The characters of Al and Lizzie are just amazing and I would gladly have them in my life, anyday!
Stella's Mum appears every now and again and,  with her misunderstanding of phrases and her complete technophobia, she is so much fun.
Stella has a love of baking and there are plenty of descriptions of her creations,  which makes the novel not ideal to read on an empty stomach....be warned!

Just like a good sponge, this book is light, fluffy and full of sweetness. It even has some yummy recipes included at the end, which readers can try out for themselves.



"Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes" is published by Rickshaw Publishing and is available in paperback and e-book format.
Sue Watson can be contacted via twitter @SueWatsonWriter and FatGirlsandFairyCakes.Blogspot.com


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Guest Review of " Always You " by Erin Kaye from Erins-Choice.Blogspot.Com






Thanks a million to lovely fellow blogger, Erin McEwan for her review of Erin Kaye's " Always You ".
Us bloggers are sent some amazing books to review but there are not enough hours in the day to get to them as quickly as we would like, hence we help each other out ......


The bit on the back…
If only they could rewrite their past…
It’s 1992 and Sarah is in love with Cahal, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. As they plan to graduate from university, all seems set for their happily ever after.
Fast forward to 2012 and something’s gone wrong. Cahal is out of the picture and Sarah is divorced from Ian by whom she’s had two children. What happened? As Cahal walks back into Sarah’s life, can they do things differently this time?



Always You is the story of Sarah and Cahal, childhood sweethearts who were pushed apart by their families when Cahal left for Australia. Now, by circumstance, they have been reunited years later, all grown up with kids and emotional baggage. Each of them has their own version of the events that took place back when Cahal left. When Sarah is introduced to Cahal at a comany event she is taken completely by surprise, and their old, buried but not forgotten feelings come to the surface all over again.
Sarah, divorced mum of Molly and Lewis, and also a successful career woman, has never been truly happy. Her one true love, Cahal, flew out of her life 20 years ago. Even though she married the father of her children she was never in love. With her ex-husband being re-married, and his mother health deteriorating by the day Sarah has a lot on her plate.
Cahal flew to Australia to escape from his rough background and had expected Sarah to follow him. Disappointed then he is now also a divorcee with three sons. He is less than keen on the man who has effectively taken his place, in his house, Brady his ex-wife Adele's new husband.
Ian, Sarah's ex-husband, is having marriage problems again. His new wife isn't interested in his kids, in his mother and family commitments, and barely seems interested in him. Ian is still in love with Sarah, and is on the verge of trying everything he can to get her back again.
The story is told in the third person and is mostly narrated by Sarah, Cahal and Ian. Third person really helped with the story as it saves the reader having to remind themselves who is telling the story. It starts in 1992, with a look at Sarah and Cahal's relationship before everything broke down, and them jumps to 2012, where it would seem, they are destined to meet again. Throughout the story there are flashbacks from both Cahal and Sarah which allow you to get glimpses at different parts of their past together. I think this really makes the book accessible to readers of any age as younger chic-lit/romance readers will be able to empathise with the younger characters as well as translating those feelings to the grown up version of the characters.
I liked Sarah and Cahal's characters; I thought they were both believable in their feelings towards each other but also in their actions. The story has some underlying themes, mainly an almost Romeo and Juliet-esque theme as Cahal and Sarah are from different sides of the track. Sarah's family are less than pleased when her young self announces her relationship with Cahal. And when the pair are reunited again it would seem that her family went to lengths she couldn't have imagined to keep her apart. So there is a bit of a mystery to be solved which is a bit of a page turner.
I wasn't keen on Ian's character, I always felt quite uneasy reading about him, because I wasn't sure of what he was capable of, what lengths he would go to, to reclaim his family. But, in the end, Ian is only a poor soul who has lost his way slightly and with some gentle guidance from his mother he gets himself back on track.
Overall, a really great read, touching and though provoking, plus I kind of imagined Cahal as Gerald Butler so that was a bonus too.



 erin's choice
Erin X

" Always You " is published by Avon Books as is currenly available at the great price of £0.99 on Amazon and is also available in paperback.


The reviewer can be contacted via Twitter @ Erin'schoicee or www.facebook.com/erinschoice
www.erins-choice.blopspot.com

Monday, 4 November 2013

" Ghost Moth " by Michele Forbes





This is the story of Katherine Bedford. She is a wife and mother of four and the book starts with a look at her present life in Northern Ireland, 1969.

In her earlier years she was an opera singer with a local musical society in 1940's Belfast.  While being fitted for her costume for a production of Carmen she meets a handsome tailor for whom she feels an immediate attraction.  The only problem is, she has a long term boyfriend who she has agreed to marry.  The novel is a combination of the early life of Catherine and brings the reader right up to date.  
The intense desire that Katherine feels for Tom, her tailor, is so wonderfully described that the author makes you feel like you are actually in the room with them.  Katherine is torn between loving this man or continuing down the path that she has already taken with her Fiancee, George.  The expectation is that she will marry the kind, reliable and steady George but her heart is consumed by Tom. 

The outcome of her decision is known from the beginning of the book and we get a glimpse of the struggle to keep her marriage alive while bearing witness to the angst of growing up as a Catholic child in 1960's Belfast, through the tales of Katherine's offspring.  George is a reserve fireman and during The Troubles is called to many horrific scenes.  But he also has his own cross to bear, a secret he has kept from Katherine for their whole married life.  Katherine dreams of what could have been and this eats her up from the inside, out.

This is Michele Forbes debut novel and I can honestly say I am seriously jealous of her writing ability.  Full of beautiful, heartfelt storytelling with a constant flow of gentle but acute prose, it is simply perfection.  It is a work of art and although the story is slow and unravels at a leisurely pace , it is reminiscent of literary giants Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry.  You would never know this was a debut novel , as the standard is so high.  It is almost like a very long and very moving poem.  The characters linger on with you well after you have finished the book and you may even be tempted to keep it close by, purely to pick up and read some of the wonderful prose again and again.

Highly recommended.



Ghost Moth is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and is widely available as paperback or e-book. 
Distributed by Orion Books.




Saturday, 2 November 2013

November Giveaway - " Something From Tiffany's " by Melissa Hill - Random Recommendation


November Giveaway!!




It's fast approaching Christmas and when anyone asks what Christmas books I like, this always springs to mind.  Not technically a Christmas book, but has some wonderful scenes that make it qualify in my eyes!
I'm a huge fan of Melissa Hill and love promoting Irish Authors.  Random Recommendations tend to be older books, and this one is from 2011. 

This Giveaway is open Internationally and all you have to do to enter is leave a blog comment here, or RT and follow on Twitter @MargaretBMadden.

Last month saw tons of entries for the October Giveaway.  Let's see can we beat it this month?
Closing date : 10Nov13

Published by Hodder.



" The Mommy Letters " by Anne M Carpenter





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

Sarah Hartsford is barely coping.  Her Husband and her youngest daughter disappeared 18 months ago and she is still trying to come to terms with this.  Her two teenage daughters need her to be strong, but when a part of you is missing it's not as easy at it seems.  While she continues to work and try to hold life together, she is constantly wondering if her husband just ran off with her daughter after an argument about custody, or if something more sinister has happened to them?  The arrival of a letter, supposedly written by Robin, the missing child, causes her to panic.  Where is she, who took her and is she ok?
With the help of her ex-husband Shawn, a policeman , Sarah begins her own desperate investigation to try and locate her daughter.

Anne M Carpenter has written about every Mother's worst nightmare, a missing child. Most of us panic when our children get lost in the supermaket for 10 seconds, never mind not knowing where they were for 18 months!
Sarah's grief is described when she receives each letter, as she goes into a trance-like state.  She also has the added trauma of a Mother who suffers from Alzheimer's and a stressful job in the local Mayor's Office.  Her two teenage daughters are a blessing to her, well rounded and very well behaved, they are a blessing to her. 
She also has the added benefit of a wonderful ex-husband (the teenager's father) who will do anything for the struggling family.

I enjoyed this novel from the start.  It is well paced, nicely written and easy to read.  There are a little too many American slang words, like "heck", "time out" etc to make it transferable to the European market without it seeming a bit twee.  The story gets very rushed towards the end and tangles itself up a bit without addressing some major issues.  All in all, it's a good thriller which makes the reader what wants to know what's going to happen next and I was reluctant to put it down in the evening.
I will certainly look forward to reading more of this authors novels.....................



" The Mommy Letters " is published by KLG Press and is available as an e-book.
Anne M Carpenter can be contacted via Facebook.com/AnneMCarpenter and Twitter.com/AnneMCarpenter.




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