Monday, 31 March 2014

" Black Lake " by Johanna Lane

Thanks to for the ARC of this novel.

Ireland.  A home.  A childhood lost.

The Campbell family have lived in Dunlough for generations.  A large stately home and estate in Co. Donegal, it is steeped with history and memories.  When John Campbell realises that he can no longer afford to maintain such a large house, he decides to open the house to the public and move into a small cottage on the property.  This is a difficult move for his wife, Marianne and his two children Kate and Philip.  Watching the moving men transfer their antique furniture and all their possessions affects young Philip the most.  He can't understand why the Government have taken over his house and he watches, unseen, as groups of tourists traipse through his former home.
Marianne seems resigned and just goes with the flow.  But when a tragic accident occurs on the grounds of Dunlough, everything changes.  Here begins a story of loss, heartache and grief and how each member of a family deals with the effects in their own different way......

This is Irish author Johanna Lane's first novel, and what a way to start!
The story is split into four different narratives. One for each family member.  For me, the most interesting one  was young Philip's view of the changing environment and atmosphere.  The characters are quite serious and this makes it hard for the reader to fully connect with them. However, a lot of these landed gentry types are insular and distant, in their own way, so the writing depicts this very accurately.  The real star of this novel, for me, is the amazing way descriptive passages are used.  As the house, and its demesne, are the core of the story, Johanna Lane uses her writing skills to bring the reader into the world of Dunlough.  The creaking floorboards, the dusty mirrors, long corridors and imposing tapestries hung on the walls.  The workings of the kitchen and gardens , as well as the visuals of an unused ballroom, make for a feeling of the large house and its dark rooms full of large, well used furniture and few modern conveniences. The chill of the water in the rarely used outdoor swimming pool, and the shifting tides of the water on the estate, all add to the feeling of the unusual habitat of the Campbell family.  The sense of family entitlement is still with John but Marianne did not come from this way of life,  so is more upset about losing her gardens.  The descriptions are the pulse of the novel, pushing life through the pages, chapter by chapter, until the whole package comes to life. The book is a clever piece of contemporary fiction, which should place Johanna Lane on bookshelves beside Sebastian Barry and Maggie O'Farrell.

Highly Recommended.

Black Lake is published by Tinder Press on the 1st May 2014

Thursday, 27 March 2014

" The Boy That Never Was " by Karen Perry

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

Harry and Robin have lost the most important thing in their lives, their son Dillon.  When their apartment was destroyed in Tangier, during an earthquake, their three year old son was never found. Guilt eats up Harry on a daily basis and their marriage is teetering on the edge of survival.  Now back in Dublin, trying to move on, things seem to be settling and the grief seems less intense, after five years.  That is, until Harry spots a young boy on the streets of Dublin and is convinced it is his son.  Here begins an obsession which eats into Harry and even seeps into the core of his marriage.  Can he tell Robin what he saw, or should he try to find the boy alone?  Will his bouts of alcoholism and depression be reason for her not to believe him?  

The chapters of the book are divided into Harry and Robin's stories.  The tale drifts between Tangier and Dublin very smoothly and you can almost smell the streets of Morocco and sense the tension in Dublin.  This is a hard book to place within a specific genre.  Part thriller, part literature, but certainly with high class writing.  Karen Perry is actually a pen name for two authors; Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Both highly acclaimed authors in their own right, this combination is very successful and amazingly seamless.  I'm not sure how combined writing works. Do they take turns? Does one person write one characters part and the other person write the other character?  There is no way I would have known this was a joint venture as the work is clever, writing superb and the story is unique.  A few twists along the way stop this from becoming too focused on a the grief of parents who have lost a child,  and gives the novel a new angle.

I look forward to reading some more of this author partnership again, and congratulate Paul and Karen on a wonderful piece of contemporary literature.

The Boy That Never Was is published on Amazon on 27th March and in all good bookshops on 7th April.

Monday, 24 March 2014

" Someone Else's Skin " by Sarah Hilary - Review and INT Giveaway!

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

Detective Inspector Marnie Rome has seen plenty of murder and mayhem in her life, both professionally and personally.  When she is assigned a case involving an honour based crime, it brings more than she had bargained for.  Herself and DS Noah Jake find themselves at the centre of an attempted murder in a women's refuge. Someone is not telling the truth and the witnesses are all abused women with plenty of experience at keeping secrets.  Too many loose ends make for uneasy feelings for Marnie and she begins her search for answers.

This debut novel from Sarah Hilary is high class crime fiction.  DI Rome is a new character with buckets of potential for follow up novels.  Her sidekick, DS Jake, is the calmer of the two and together they are a team to be reckoned with.  The partnership works really well and the reader is not given too much backround information, paving the way for further insight at a later stage.

The writing is razor sharp and the use of short sentences, throughout the novel, gives it a snappy pace that makes you want to keep turning those pages.  Some hard-hitting topics make a great plot, with domestic violence, racism, homophobia and foster care all getting a look in.
The violence is described in depth and has a gritty feel without it seeming to be an attempt at shock tactics.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where such violence exists and we can't hide from that fact.  I did see how the story was heading fairly early on in the book, but this didn't take away any of the enjoyment.  The characters are sufficiently different to avoid the usual stereotypes of the crime thriller genre; no aging alcoholic detective with an ex wife who couldn't stand being married to the job, or young rookie cop with a plan to change the ways of the police force.  This is a modern novel, with a crisp approach.  It would be a great TV series and I have no doubt that we will hear more from DI Marnie Rome in the near future.........


Someone Else's Skin is published by Headline and is available in paperback and ebook format.

Headline have kindly supplied a copy of Someone Else's Skin as a giveaway and I am opening it Internationally.  Just enter via Rafflecopter below : a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats to @mell_61, the winner of this giveaway!!!!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

My Top 5 reads for Spring 2014


We are almost through the first quarter of the year and I thought it would be a perfect chance to pass on my top 5 reads since January.  It was not an easy task to choose these, and please be assured, that while I have read some amazing books this year, I had to narrow it down.  So, here they are.....Drum roll please!!!

1. ZENITH HOTEL By Oscar Coop-Phane - Published by Arcadia Books

A completely wonderful book. A gritty, realistic look at the darker side of Paris through the eyes of a prostitute and her clients.  Short and perfectly formed, overlook this novel at your own peril !!


2. UNRAVELLING OLIVER By Liz Nugent - Published by Penguin Ireland

A stunning debut novel by an Irish author who has shot to number one on the Irish Times Bestseller list.  This novel opens with Oliver beating his wife into a coma and the story unfolds, chapter by chapter.  Engrossing.


3. GOLDEN BOY By Abigail Tarttelin - Published by Phoenix

The eye-opening story of Max, an inter-race teenager and how a decision made by his parents, on his behalf, has affected his future.  I finished this in one sitting, seriously!


4. THE DEAD WIFE'S HANDBOOK By Hannah Beckerman - Published by Penguin

A heartfelt story of a wife and mother watching her family learning to live life without her, one day at a time. Made me thankful for all that I have.....


5. BEYOND GRACE'S RAINBOW By Carmel Harrington - Published by Harper Impulse

When Grace finds out she has cancer, and needs to find a suitable bone marrow donor, it leads to a journey of discovery, hope and fear.  A novel which shows the power of friendship....

That's my Fave Five.....So hard to whittle it down but if you want to see more of my recommendations, just scroll through the blog for more wonderful reads.  All the reviews from my top 5 are also ready to view by just clicking on the links on the right hand side.  




Friday, 21 March 2014

" City Of Fate " by Nicola Pierce

A gripping, heart-wrenching World War II drama from the author of the
critically acclaimed Spirit of the Titanic

Imagine your home is bombed one Sunday afternoon by a horde of enemy planes. Imagine your family has gone and you are left behind. This is the fate of five-year-old Peter and teenagers Yuri and Tanya.

Imagine being ordered to leave school to fight the terrifying Nazis in World War II. Imagine you are right in the middle of a battle; it’s you or them – you have no choice. This is the fate of Vlad and his three classmates.

The battlefield is the city of Stalingrad, the pride of Russia. Germany’s Adolf Hitler wants the city badly,   but Josef Stalin refuses to let go.

Nobody has managed to stop the triumphant Nazi invasion across Europe. It all depends on one city – Stalingrad – her citizens, her soldiers - and her children.

Thanks to O'Brien Press for the review copy of this book........

The battle of Stalingrad is the setting for this Children's/ YA novel by Irish author, Nicola Pierce.  We have all read the familiar accounts of children's experiences in WW2 but these stories tend to based around Germany and the Nazis.  This book looks at the effects of war on the children and families of Russia.  Peter is found wandering the streets, orphaned and afraid.  Yuri has lost his family also, and takes Peter under his wing.  They spend their time hiding from the Germans and searching for food.
We also learn of the fate of schoolboys forced to join the Russian Army despite their young age, and lack of understanding of the war and what it entails.  
The author combines these two angles very well, in basic english, making it the ideal read for children from 10 years plus.  There are some harrowing tales within the book and the idea that they are based on fact makes it all the more shocking.  Reading City Of Fate should be a great benefit to any kids who are interested in World History and would be ideal as a read aloud book for teachers.

Like John Boyne's The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief, this novel is not just for kids.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and was happy to read of WW2 from the Russian perspective ......

City of Fate is published by O'Brien Press and is available as a paperback or ebook

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

" Mother, Mother " by Koren Zailckas

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book from Killer Reads so a big Thank You to them......

Violet Hurst finds herself as an inmate at a psychiatric unit despite her protestations that she has done nothing wrong. She is only sixteen years old.  Her brother, Will, has been taken to the ER with substantial cuts to his hands which Violet has been accused of doing.  He is twelve years old and has been diagnosed with epilepsy and autism.  Violet swears she has seen her sister, Rose, who has been missing since dropping out of college.  Then there are Josephine and Douglas, the parents, with their own issues.  This is the start of this family's 
story.  Told from the perspective of each family member, in chapter form,  the reader is given the opportunity to know each character, albeit in a one dimensional way.  

Had you ever wondered what a narcissist is really like, then this is the book for you.  Josephine is a perfect package of what narcissism is : cocky, overly confident, dismissive and short on praise for anyone but herself.  She homeschools Will and this is a typical conversation she has with her son :
" There are days when I wonder if leaving the art department was the right thing to do.  I've given my life for you, I've sacrificed it all. "
" It means a lot to me ".
" I know. You love me, right? Tell me you think I'm a good mom and a good teacher. Tell me you don't hate me as much as Rose and Violet do.  It's you and me against everyone, Will " 

Violet meets some other teenagers, with their own troubles, in the unit and through her conversations with them, she soon learns some insight into her mother's personality.  
" Some mothers cannot love, " Edie said,her voice a touch too aggressive and loud. "As any farmer, they'll tell you some moms just aren't naturals. Having a baby doesn't make you a mother, anymore than buying a piano makes you Fucking Beethoven. "

The story is drip fed, very slow to start with, building up intensity mid way through the novel which is where we start to question motives and wonder how a family like this can go about their daily lives without anyone noticing how unnatural their behaviour is.  The characters are well written, if a little stiff, and the main storyline is pretty thrilling as a concept.  However, I did not find the book thrilling at all.  It picked up some momentum in the middle but by then I had guessed the ending and was willing the book to hold my interest until I got to the last bit.  Unfortunately, the last couple of chapters were rushed and disappointing.  Had the author spent less time introducing the characters so slowly at the beginning and given more detail to the ending of the novel, it could have been a perfect examination of a flawed family and how to learn from them.....

Mother, Mother is published by HarperCollins and is available in Hardback, Paperback and ebook format.

Monday, 17 March 2014

" The Lost " by Claire McGowan

I received a copy of this via in exchange for an honest review.....

This is Claire McGowan's second novel, but my first time coming across her work.  An Irish author, she has based her novel around the border between the North and South of Ireland, and as I live very close to this area, I was curious to see how the atmosphere would be captured.

Paula Maguire, a forensic psychologist, has been living and working in London for many years helping the police with their missing persons cases.  When she pushes her luck too far with her bosses she agrees to take on a secondment position back in Northern Ireland.  She has avoided the return to her homeland for many reasons, of which she would rather forget.  However, when two teenage girls disappear without trace, Paula finds herself back in her family home, driving through familiar streets and digging up secrets from the past. 
The cross border tensions are still present as Paula sets to work within a team of police officers and detectives from both sides.  There are rumours of a link with previous cases of missing teenage girls in the 1980s and despite being told to concentrate on the recent disappearances, Paula decides to enroll the help of a local journalist to aid her investigation.  The fact that he is an ex makes the request all the more difficult.

This is a multi layered story of lost loved ones, bitter memories and the longing to uncover truths.  All through this novel is the backround story of the tensions in Northern Ireland and the reprecussions of the troubles.  Ireland is one of the few countries where a simple statement, like where you went to school or what your surname is, can identify your religion and this is the cause of a lot of the bitterness within the cross-border police units.  Claire has seen and felt the tremors throughout her home town since childhood and now her new caseload includes the clashing of the Traveller community and the NI police force aswell as the usual problems.

I found this book gripping from the very first chapter.  The main story line of the missing girls is not a new one, but is handled extremely well by combining it with the sub plots.  Paula is a great protagonist and the supporting cast are equally well researched and cleverly used to strengthen the story.  The writing is done at a nice pace, with lots of twists and turns along the way.  I understand that this is first of a series of Paula Maguire novels, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next instalment.  
Claire McGowan is well able to hold her head up high in the world of crime fiction.  Perfect for fans of  Louise Phillips and Julie Parsons.  Just don't expect to be able to put it down for any length of time!

The Lost is published by Headline and is available in paperback and ebook format

Sunday, 16 March 2014

"Keep Away From Those Ferraris" by Pat Fitzpatrick

We were sent a copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review. 

The following review is by Declan......

"Keep away from those Ferraris" is not, as you might expect from the title, a book about keeping your prized automotive possession safe.Rather it is a novel from Pat Fitzpatrick , the well known journalist, about the dying days of Celtic Tiger Ireland .

Noel Byrne is a leading business reporter with BCE ,the national broadcaster but what he doesn't know is that he is being set up by two distinct groups who stand to make many millions of euro depending on the lines that he has been asked to broadcast live on national TV . The Ferraris in question are father, Cosmo ,and son , Johnny , who Noel was friendly with while in school . The story revolves around the downward spiral of Celtic Tiger Ireland and the lengths people will go to in order to make profits from other people's misfortune . The main character , Noel, isn't a particularly pleasant guy and some of the excesses described felt a little forced .

This novel is certainly black in humour and sometimes meanders away from the central story line but is tidied nicely together for the finish .  Overall I thought this was a reasonably entertaining read and I think it has potential as a good screenplay.


Pat Fitzpatrick lives in Cork, Ireland. After 19 years working in the I.T. industry he decided to jump ship in 2008 and head for the lucrative world of writing. So don't hire him as a life coach, investment advisor or anything to do with your career. His Sunday Independent newspaper columns plus TV and radio appearances have been entertaining Irish people through some tough times. He is now busy writing a series of novels about the weird place that was Ireland in the last 15 years.

You can follow Pat Fitzpatrick via twitter @pdfitzpatrick or his blog
Keep away from those Ferraris is available in paperback or ebook format :

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Chocolate Book Tag......

Thanks to Jill from for tagging me in this great idea.  Like a top ten with a difference!

1. Dark chocolate: a book that covers a dark topic.

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas.
A gritty read but so cleverly done. The story of one boys failure and how he perceives himself afterwards.

2. White chocolate: your favourite lighthearted / humorous read.

The Snapper by Roddy Doyle.
An absolutely hilarious look at family life in Dublin in the 1990s.

3. Milk chocolate: a book that has a lot of hype that you're dying to read.

The Rosie project by Graeme Simion.  I actually picked it up in Waterstones the other day, so will start very soon.

4. Chocolate with a caramel centre: a book that makes you feel all gooey in the middle while you are reading it

Marley & Me by John Grogan.  I'm a huge dog lover so, say no more!

5. Wafer free kit kat: name a book that has surprised you lately

How to get a (love) life by Rosie Blake. I was expecting a run of the mill chick-lit story but I really did laugh out loud!

6. Snickers: a book that you are going nuts about

The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce.  Pure perfection. I wish I had written it!

7. Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows: a book that you would turn to for a comfort read.

Pride & Prejudice. Works for me, everytime. I ADORE Mr. Darcy :)

8. Box of chocolates: what series have you read that you feel has a wide variety and something for everyone.

I love the Camilla Lackberg novels featuring Patrick Hedstrom . So well written, great crime thrillers. 

( I am making up the next type of chocolate, so I can fit this book in! )
9. Chilli chocolate : you don't think you are going to like it, buy you SO do !!

My unexpected love this year was Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane.  Translated from french, it is a short, sharp novel with some real depth. 

Hope you may spot something you like here.  Keep checking back for reviews and giveaways!!!!

Here are the other bookbloggers I have tagged : @Lisareadsbooks @thischickreads @erinschoicee & @Lizzy11268.

Friday, 14 March 2014

St. Patrick's Day Giveaway - Hardback copy of John Boyne's "Stay Where You Are And Then Leave" + Irish Goodies

It's St. Patrick's Day Weekend and as I am just 3 followers away from 1000 on Twitter @MargaretBMadden, I felt the need for a fab Irish Giveaway!

I have a hardback edition of Irish Author, John Boyne's amazing novel, for children & adults alike, "Stay Where You Are And Then Leave" along with some Irish Goodies to giveaway.    Just enter via the rafflecopter code below, and Luck Of The Irish to you  :)

The Giveaway is open til Midnight GMT on 17th March and is open INT.

The Giveaway includes not only the book, but a t-shirt, pen, wellie socks, badges and Irish sweets!

The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield's father promised he wouldn't go away to fight - but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn't know where his father might be, other than that he's away on a special, secret mission.
Then, while shining shoes at King's Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father's name - on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realises his father is in a hospital close by - a hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place . . .

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Blog Stop Q&A with Hannah Beckerman, author of "The Dead Wife's Handbook"

I am a massive fan of this book and was delighted to be asked to join Hannah's Blog Stop as it gave me a chance to ask her some burning questions.....
I have added a copy of my review of The Dead Wife's Handbook, which was on the blog last month, just underneath the Q&A session for those who missed it.

1.  How many false starts did you have with writing  “The Dead Wife’s Handbook”?

When I initially wrote the first chapter (which only my husband and a friend, Stephanie, ever read) Rachel was more sassy and comedic because I imagined that’s what readers would want her to be. The feedback from both my husband and Stephanie was that the voice didn’t ring true (they were right) and that there was a more profound, serious book to be written which was actually more in keeping with my own emotional sensibilities (also true). So I allowed Rachel to become who she is now: more thoughtful and emotionally engaged. There were plenty of other subtle changes during the twenty-three drafts of the book, but that early change of emotional direction was really key to what the book became, and proves how important it is to have early, trusted readers of your work.

2.    Did you feel the grief of the characters as you wrote them?

Absolutely. By the time I actually started writing the book in earnest, I’d been thinking about - and ‘living with ‘ (in my head at least) - all the characters for six months. I knew and loved them and absolutely felt their pain, which meant that I did cry quite a bit while writing some of the scenes between Max and Ellie, and during a fair few of Rachel’s reminiscences.

3.  Did it make you appreciate your family even more seeing it from another perspective?

I was pregnant with my daughter when I wrote The Dead Wife’s Handbook, and she was six months old when I was working on my editor’s notes. When I was initially writing the book, I could only imagine what it might be like to leave your young child behind. By the time I came to revise, and was a mother myself, I felt acutely that sense of fear of never wanting to leave her prematurely. So in my revisions some of Rachel’s distress about that became more pronounced. I think it’s a two-way dynamic: I think my own worries about ever leaving my daughter played into the narrative, but in writing the book I’ve come to cherish more every day that I have with her and my husband.

4.  Should Mothers consider leaving notes for their loved ones in case of unforeseen death, or should we leave our thoughts to fate?

I think that’s a really interesting question: who do you want to be responsible for your legacy? The truth is, others will always be the guardians of that because once we’re gone there’s nothing that we can do to control it. The only thing we can do is live the kind of life that will leave behind the kind of legacy we’d like. Having said that, my family are big letter and card writers (and hoarders) so I’ve read acres of correspondence between my (now deceased) grandparents. And my husband and I have written many letters and cards to our (seventeen-month old) daughter already to mark significant occasions. So I guess it’s a combination of the two.

5.  You have a huge presence on Twitter. Does it help that you get to “know” your readers?

It does, definitely. Some of the feedback I’ve had on The Dead Wife’s Handbook - particularly about the moments people felt were particularly effecting or moving - have already started to influence my revisions for book 2: having that kind of detailed feedback is invaluable. But what I most like about Twitter is that it helps me feel part of a community with both readers and writers. I think publishing The Dead Wife’s Handbook might have felt like quite a lonely process if there hadn’t been all that fabulous support from the blogging community (it made publication day feel like a very unique birthday). And there are days - like in any job - when you’re struggling or just not feeling particularly motivated, when Twitter can be a huge support.

6.  How do you react to bad reviews, if you get any?

I don’t think there’s anything that can prepare you for a bad review (however much other authors warn you that they’re inevitable). Someone on goodreads gave the book 1-star and, of course, instead of focussing on the fifty 5-star ratings, I focussed all my attention on that one bad one, even though, having read her review, I understood why the book hadn’t been for her. When you’ve poured your heart and soul into something, I think it’s always going to be upsetting when someone (very publicly) doesn’t like it. But the thing my husband keeps reminding me is that no book is going to please everyone and that if you’re going to happily accept approbation, you have to take the criticism too, and he’s absolutely right. It’s ironic, though, that writers - who are generally pretty sensitive types - choose to do something with their lives that’s so open to public criticism.

7.  Do you feel it’s easier  to write something now, considering  that your first novel is such a success?

I wish! Every author I’ve spoken to - even those on their fifth or sixth book - has told me that whatever book you’re currently writing feels like the hardest book you’ve ever attempted. But, of course, you forget that about the last one once you’re on the next. Also, I think a lot of writers aren’t the kind of people who ever necessarily think they are a success so you’re always striving to do better next time around.

8.  Do people ask you for writing tips more now, since your book was published?

Actually, people ask more about publishing tips: how to find an agent, how your book gets a publishing deal etc. I think a lot of that stuff is a bit of a mystery until you’ve done it so it’s knowledge and experience I’m more than happy to share.

9.  Is the balance of writing and motherhood difficult?

It is definitely a constant juggling act, although largely one of my own making: I’ve chosen to look after my daughter full-time until she starts pre-school in the autumn and of course that means rather less time to write than I’d ideally like. I tend to work very early in the morning (5am) for a couple of hours before my husband leaves for work, during her lunchtime nap and at weekends. It means there’s not much time for anything else at the moment (including sleep) but I love hanging out with my daughter and everyone keeps telling me how time as a parent just whizzes by and suddenly one day they’re off to university and you wonder where the hell the last eighteen years went. So it can be tricky, yes, but I don’t think I’d really want it any other way right now.

10.  What current authors do you admire?

Authors whose books I really look forward to include Nicole Krauss, Siri Hustvedt, Sarah Waters, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Paul Auster to name but a few. Philip Roth would have topped that list but he’s retired from writing, which I guess is fair after five decades!

Thanks to Hannah for answering the questions so honestly and sharing an insight to how she works.  
The Dead Wife's handbook is available from all good bookshops as well as online retailers and is also available as an ebook.  Now, here's my review :

Rachel is dead.  She looks down from above as her husband, Max and her seven year old daughter, Ellie, try to continue their lives without her.  She feels the pain as much as anyone alive would, maybe even more.  It's raw, intense and heartbreaking.  Unlike the living, there is no way to send her loved ones a message.  She has no control over when she can see them,  sometimes months going by.  Then things start to get very emotional as she watches her husband dip his feet back into the dating world....

" My mind surrenders to an army of schizophrenic thoughts.  Rationally I know that I'm dead, that Max is a widower, that he's free to pursue other relationships.  Rationally I don't want him to be unhappy, in mourning and lonely forever.  But those rational feelings aren't sufficiently robust to repel an onslaught of irrational impulses, that Max has betrayed me, that he's moved on too quickly, that he's desecrated the memory of our marriage with this act of emotional and physical treachery.  And stoking the flames of envy's fury are those repetitive, invidious images of what I presume took place last night. "

This novel explores the deepest thoughts of Rachel, as she has no choice but to be a witness at the changing lives of her family.  We see Max and Ellie try to move on with their lives but we also see Rachel's mother, who is grief stricken and alone, many miles away from her grandaughter and any link she had to Rachel.  We also see Rachel's best friend, of many years, as she struggles with Max's new life and all that entails.

The main characters, however, are Max and Ellie.  When I read the first few chapters I couldn't help but think of the discussions I have had with my own husband about whether I would want him finding someone new after my death, or whether he should stay a faithful widower.  We are expected to say we want them to move on with their lives and find happiness if we are taken from them early.  That may not be what we are really thinking though, as to watch the love of your life meet someone new scares the hell out of some of us.  Maybe we would never know.  May not be able to see anything when we have passed on. Who knows?
This novel will make you think about it a bit more.  It might even make you appreciate what you have, even more than usual.  

A wonderful way with words and some fantastic, heartbreaking prose make the perfect combination for this moving debut novel from Hannah Beckerman.  I eagerly await her next book......

The Dead Wife's Handbook is published by Penguin and is available from 13 Feb 2014

Hannah can be contacted via Twitter @HannahBeckerman

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

" Hands Off My Honey " by Jane Chapman and Tim Warnes

I am always delighted to review children's books and when this one arrived in the post there was a resounding chourus of " Aaaaawww " from the family. Beautiful colours and stunning illustrations are the first thing that grab you with this picture book.  The story is of how bear has a huge pot of honey and will not share it with anyone.  The little forest creatures watch on as he takes the pot and starts tucking in.  They hatch a plan to get to the honey and this story just gets cuter and cuter!

A wonderful take of the importance of friendship and how sharing really is caring.  The pictures are some of the nicest I have seen since "Guess how much I love you" and the youngest child in this house was enthralled.  The next oldest loved the rabbits and my personal favourite was mole.  A great book for reading over again and again, I can definitely see this as a firm favourite on many bookshelves. Suitable from age 2-6 years.

Hands off my honey is published by Little Tiger Press and is available from good booksellers and online retailers.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

" A Special Delivery " by Clare Dowling

Aisling Brady is a married Mother of four, who is dreading Christmas for the second year running.  There is an empty chair at the table and her heart is broken.  Tension in the house is building and to make matters worse, the gaudy outdoor illuminations have blown her fuse box so they have no electricity on Christmas Eve.  What else can happen? A lot, as it turns out.  Their make-shift nativity scene,on their front lawn, has a new addition.  One that requires nappies and bottles. But why did someone choose to leave their child on Aisling's lawn on Christmas Eve? 
This is the story of a regular family, on a regular Dublin street, trying to come to terms with changes within their four walls. Aisling and her husband, Mossie, are drifting apart and as their children are growing up, they wonder if they can bear the thought of spending time together forever.  A special delivery brings about change in the Brady household, but is it enough to forget the past and heal wounds that are gaping open?  

Clare Dowling has written an account of family life that is real and has a warts and all feel about it.  Issue such as depression, drug abuse and unplanned pregnancies are all dealt with in this novel, but in a non-judgemental way.  It shows that every family has its issues and not everyone, within the family unit, will agree with how to address these issues.
A strong cast of family characters makes the story more believable and some guest appearances by Aisling's Polish neighbour, Zofia, adds some comedy to the tale.  Her antics, and language faux pas, had me smiling a lot and wanting more.  This is a book with a message or two. Forgiveness, understanding and adjustment being the ones that jumped out at me.  I'm sure everyone can find something to take away from this story. Even if it's just the longing for a make-up artist, polish neighbour to brighten up your day!

This is Clare Dowling's tenth novel and it is perfect for fans of Sinead Moriarty and Sarah Webb.

A Special delivery is published by Headline Review
You can follow Clare on Twitter @Clare_Dowling

Friday, 7 March 2014

" The Wolf In Winter " by John Connolly

I received a copy of this for review from NetGalley.......

I have been a huge fan of John Connolly since his debut novel "Every Dead Thing" back in the 90s.  The series of Charlie Parker novels has been a huge success and this is the latest installment.  While I admit to not reading them all, this novel works well whether you have read previous books or not... 

PI Charlie Parker is moving on with his life, one day at a time, after losing his wife and child and more recently, his friend.  When he hears of the death of a homeless man, that he knew as a genuine nice guy, he looks into the supposed suicide a little deeper.  As the man was trying to locate his missing daughter and had even saved some cash to secure the services of Charlie, alarms bells start ringing for the PI and he decides to try to locate the girl as a favour to the dead man.  The small town of Prosperous is where the trail goes, and soon Charlie is vexed with the atmosphere of the town and all it's inhabitants. Too many loose ends and a varying array of strange characters are uncovered and there is definitely something sinister going on behind closed doors.

John Connolly has pulled another rabbit out of the hat with this superb crime thriller.  Not only is a real page turner, but the amount of research put into this novel is what takes it up a notch. Almost Gothic in its feel, the tension is ever-present and has the reader gripped at all times. The writing is flawless and, as with his other books, you would never know that the author is not an American.  No corny, obvious catch-phrases or lack of knowledge of the areas involved. Nicely spaced out chapters and great cliffhanger makes this the perfect thriller.  For anyone who has yet to try Connolly's books, what are you waiting for?

Highly recommended!

The Wolf In Winter is released on 10th April 2014 and is published by Hodder & Stoughton

Follow John Connolly on Twitter @jconnollybooks

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Happy Publication Day to Zoe Miller " A Husband's Confession "

An enthralling story of two families and one life-changing secret
Today is publication day for the Irish Author, Zoe Miller and her new novel " A Husband's Confession ".   I'm hoping to be able to make it to the book launch, where I will pick up a copy to read and review. Watch this space!

About the book

A deserted laneway.
A hit and run accident.
Two families will never be the same . . .

Max and Ali Kennedy own a renowned artisan bakery in Dublin's creative quarter. Max has given Ali everything she ever wanted - marriage, children and security. Now, her biggest fear is that her precious family will be taken away from her.

Across the city, Finn and Jo Kennedy live a life of responsibility and success - far removed from the carefree couple they were when they first met in Australia twenty years ago. But in the best of marriages, appearances can be deceiving.
When a tragic accident befalls one of the families, a long-buried secret between the Kennedy brothers comes to the surface and a house of lies comes tumbling down.

As the couples discover life-changing truths about their marriages, each must make a decision - to forgive, to forget or to move on?

About the author
Zoe Miller was born in Dublin where she now lives with her husband. She began writing stories at an early age. Her writing career has also included freelance journalism and prize-winning short fiction. She has three children.
Her previous novels include The Compromise, A Family Scandal and Rival Passions.  ·  @zoemillerauthor  ·

Price: £12.99
Format: Trade Paperback
Also available as e book 

Published by Hachette Books Ireland

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