Friday, 29 August 2014

"The Beginner's Guide to the Birds and the Bees" by Sophie Hart - Guest review from Celeste McCreesh

Thanks to Celeste McCreesh for this guest review.  I have this on my Kindle ready to go and she kindly offered to help me get through my review pile.........

Let’s talk about sex… would you share your bedroom secrets if it meant saving your marriage?
This book is a refreshingly uplifting romantic comedy about friendship, love and sex. This book sees Sex therapist Annie Hall try to help three couples put the fizz back into their relationships.  The first couple are Nick and his gorgeous wife but he knows Julia is after only one thing – a baby and Nick is trying to make her see there's more to life than just babies but can Annie help Julia to see that?
The second couple are newly engaged Zoe and Simon can’t seem to keep their hands off each other. They’ve decided to take a vow of celibacy until their wedding night, well Simon reluctantly has agreed to this too. Will Annie help them stick to it?
The third couple are Roy and Linda have been married for over thirty years but she’s more interested in the family business than getting intimate with him, but is there more to why Linda's chooses to be like than just what appears on the surface? Can Annie convince Linda to rediscover her passion for Roy after all this time?
It’s a shame Annie's own love life is non-existent. When Jamie who works next door catches her eye, she can’t ignore the spark of chemistry.   While Annie begins to work her magic with the three couples, she soon finds herself falling for Jamie.  But she’s been hurt before – will he be different?  Will she follow the advice that she's been giving her own clients in order to potentially fall in love and learn a few life lessons of her own?  Maybe it’s time for Annie to take some of her own advice......

This was my first book that I've read from Sophie Hart & I enjoyed it, the story flowed well, made me giggle in parts and I also loved all the quotes from famous people at the start of every chapter.  If you’re looking for a light-hearted read then kick your feet up with a large bar of chocolate, turn off your phone, and sink into Sophie’s new novel.

Thank you to bookouture via Margaret Madden for allowing me to read and review this book. This book will available on Kindle and in all good bookstores and will be published on 19th September.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

I have been Long Listed for RTEGuide/Penguin short story competition!

As most of you know, I dabble in a bit of writing.  I tend to enjoy writing short stories as I can fit them in between mealtimes, school runs and course work.  I had entered a couple of competitions this year, more as a learning curve than anything.  You can imagine my complete surprise then, when I received an email to advise I had been Long Listed for the RTEGuide/Penguin competition!  

I am so thrilled and feel very honoured to be included on the Long List with some amazing writers that I have met since I became a book blogger.  The Long Listed writers of this particular competition are invited to a writer's workshop in Dublin next week and there is a veritable feast of writing talent on the panel.  Top Irish Best Selling authors, agents, editors, publishers, and more, are on the packed timetable.  It sounds like my idea of book heaven and I hope to pick up some tips to transform me into the writer I have always dreamed of becoming.......

Wish me luck !!!!!

Thanks to the RTEGuide and Penguin for running such an amazing competition and rewarding us with a fantastic writer's day.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

"The Watching Wood" by Erika McGann - Review from Mia aged 11.

This is the third book from Erika McGann and is another great story about Grace, a trainee witch, and her friends.  This time, while practicing their flame-running ( cool trick with flaming feet ),they get sucked down into the ground.  They then find themselves in a church-like room, full of other wannabe witches.  The fun really begins here...
They find out more about The Witch Trials, a competition involving crazy magic tasks.  There is a also a new character in this book called The Ferryman and Grace needs his help.

I was so thrilled to open up the post and find Erika's latest book inside!  I think she is an amazing author and reading all of her books has made me want to be Grace!  I think the ending of the book means there might be more from this group of young witches.  I really hope so...

PS : I am such a big fan, I am taking Erika as my confirmation name !!!

 Mia & Erika McGann earlier this year

The Watching Wood is published by The O'Brien Press on 15th September 2014 with her previous two titles, The Demon Notebook and The Broken Spell currently available in paperback and ebook format.

"Ruin and Rising" by Leigh Bardugo ( Grisha Book 3 ) - Guest review from Meabhs Nic Raghnaill

Once again, thanks to Meabh, fantasty fiction lover, for her review of the last in the Grisha Trilogy....

Ruin and Rising is the final book in the fantastic Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.
Time is running out for Alina. She must find the elusive firebird quickly in order to have enough power to stop the Darkling once and for all. But the Darkling's power and his hold over her is also growing. If she gets the power will she even want stop him?
I don't have much to say about the final instalment which I haven't already said about the previous two books. The language is, as always, beautifully wrought, the characters are well presented and realistic and the plotline flows wonderfully. All I can really say is that Ruin and Rising is an epic finale to a brilliant trilogy. We are kept guessing as to how it will all turn out right up to the very end. Without giving anything away I will say that there were a couple of points throughout this book where I was stunned speechless... you will know when you read this book what points I'm talking about!
This final book gives me everything I could hope for as the last in a trilogy. It is fast paced and exciting, there are happy, sad and bittersweet moments and by the end everything is tied up nicely without loose ends.
This trilogy as a whole is the kind I love best. It has something for everyone and I for one found it unputdownable. I would have no problem with recommending it to anyone. I wish Leigh Bardugo a long and successful career as an author as I am looking forward to seeing what world she thinks of next.
My rating for Ruin and Rising is 5/5.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

"Of Things Gone Astray" by Janina Matthewson

I received an ARC of this title for review purposes...

Sometimes you encounter a book that will stay with you for life.  It could be the first sentence, an amazing plot, fantastic characters or a link to a moment in time.  I knew from page one that this book would remain with me, long after I had placed it on a bookshelf, when finished.  I have been trying to think of a way to summarise this novel, while giving it the credit it deserves.  I will attempt to give the gist of the story, and can only hope that in doing so, I can persuade you to try it.

"Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to  discover the front of her house had vanished overnight."

This is the amazing first line of Janina Matthewson's debut novel, All Things Gone Astray.  A New Zealander by birth, the London based author has witnessed, first hand, the experiences of loss.  This novel takes the term 'loss' quite literally and works it into individual stories, gently interlinked, while using the power of the written word to express fear, grief and impossibility.  
The reader is introduced to Jake, a small boy who has lost his mother; Delia, a young woman who has lost her independence; Cassie, a girl who has lost the love of her life; Robert, who has lost his job; Mrs Featherby who cannot seem to find her role in life and Marcus, who has lost his musical ability. 
We have all lost something in our lives, be it a favourite ring, a loved one or even our virginity.  But did we think about what the word lost means? Should we wonder if our loss is someone else's gain? Should we consider renaming lost things as mislaid, misplaced or missing?  The word 'astray' is actually based on the old Irish/Gaelic saying Ar Strae, meaning lost, so it seems even language is no barrier when describing loss.  

Each character is encountering a surreal change, brought on by their individual losses, and through short chapters, the author slowly lets these events unfold.  I was surprised to find myself identifying with these people, their acceptance of their new worlds and I was willing them to find the truth and meaning within themselves, rather than searching for the original loss.  

This book had echoes of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, but unlike that book, Janina Matthewson didn't hide the unusual narrative until the last chapter, rather embraced it from the first line.   If you appreciate good writing, extremely beautiful prose and a imaginative talent within your reading material, then this is for you.  Simply put, it is strange but stunning.  A literary gem.

Of Things Gone Astray is published by The Friday Project in hardback on 28th Aug 2014

Monday, 25 August 2014

EXCLUSIVE PB COVER REVEAL - " A Husband's Confession " by Zoe Miller



The artisan bakery Ali and Max Kennedy own isn't just a successful business - it's a second home, a dream come true. But when bad luck begins to stalk the couple, Ali worries that her fear of losing it all is becoming a reality.
Across the city, Max's brother Finn and his wife Jo long for the carefree happiness they had when they first met in Australia over twenty years ago. But when Finn loses his high profile TV job and becomes more bitter by the day, Jo starts to suspect that he's hiding something from her.
While both couples navigate their marriages, little do they realise that Max and Ali's daughter Jessica harbours a dark secret which threatens to destroy the whole family.
Then it happens - the accident. And the Kennedys will never be the same again.


Zoë Miller lives in Dublin. She is married and has two daughters and a son. She began writing at an early age and her writing career has included freelance journalism and prize winning short fiction. Zoë's page-turning novels are a blend of drama and intrigue, glitz and passion, and she bases them in Ireland and glamorous locations.

You can contact Zoë through her website, or follow her on Twitter @zoemillerauthor.

You can read my review of A Husband's Confession here

"Siege and Storm" ( Grisha Book 2 ) by Leigh Bardugo. Guest review from Meabh Ni Raghnaill

Thanks to Meabh Nic Raghnaill,  lover of fantasy fiction,  for her guest review...

Siege and Storm is the 2nd instalment in Leigh Bardugo's Russian inspired Grisha trilogy.

Alina and Mal are on the run, trying to live a life away form the Darkling and the Grisha. Alina soon finds however that it is not possible to outrun destiny. She must choose between her power, her country and the man she loves. Is there any way she can protect all three?
AS with Shadow and Bone, the plot twists and turns and is basically a plot rollercoaster from start to finish! I seriously love not being able to tell what will happen next. It makes for an exciting read.
 As I said in my review of Shadow and Bone, this trilogy combines action, adventure and romance extremely well. In Siege and Storm we get a fuller view of how war-torn Ravka is and the difficulties surrounding our protagonists. (I debated calling them our heroes but decided against as with Bardugo you never can be sure how the characters will turn out at the end!)

Which leads me nicely into my views on the characters. Once again, Bardugo has produced magnificently intricate characters. As well as getting more insight and understanding of the characters from book1 there are also a few new characters to meet. My absolute favourite of these is the clever and enigmatic Sturmhond. I loved his plots and schemes and his comic inventiveness. He is like a chameleon - able to change between being ruthless and foreboding and cheeky and cheerful in the blink of an eye. I love this guy!

I was thrilled that Siege and Stone continued on so beautifully from Shadow and Bone without any lagging in plot. As such I also rate this book 4.5/5. 

"Viva Alice" by Judi Curtin - Guest review by Jane Roe, aged 10.

Thanks to O'Brien Press for the review copy of this title, which was read by Jane Roe aged 10.  Here is Jane's review :

This book is about thirteen year old Megan and her exciting best friend, Alice.  It's sort of Megan's diary.  Megan and Alice are invited to go to Lanzarote their friend, Grace. They're having fun in the pool, having barbeques and taking in the sun.  Alice can't resist sorting out Grace's brother, Gavin's, love-life.  Megan must go along with Alice's overboard plans, even if they do involve mean girl, Melissa.

This is my first Alice and Megan book.  I wasn't too sure about reading it at first, but I now I am eager to read the other books in the series.

It's just full of Alice's crazy schemes.  I think Judi Curtin is a brilliant author and she has great ideas.  I recommend this book to girls age 9+

Viva Alice is published by O'Brien Press and is available in paperback or ebook format.

"Brian and The Vikings" by Chris Judd & Mark Wickham - Review by Elise aged 5.

We received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  Who better to review a kid's book, than a kid !  Here are Elise Roe's thoughts ( with some help from big sister, Jane ) :

This book is a about a small yet very smart boy called Brian Boru.  When he and his brothers are playing in the woods, he spots some vikings and comes up with a genius plan to get rid of them.  The adventures of Brian Boru, the small boy who legend tells, grew up to be The High King of Ireland

Elise thought this book was funny.  She thought it was good and, every couple of nights, asked for it to be read.  Her favourite character was Brian Boru and her favourite part was when the Vikings realised they were being tricked.

Elise says that she thinks boys and girls aged 4 an up should read this book.

Brian and The Vikings is published by O'Brien Press on 25th Aug and is available in paperback.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

" The Year I Met You " by Cecelia Ahern.

I received an advance reading copy of this title in return for an honest review......

Jasmine and Matt live opposite each other in a small Dublin cul-de-sac, but have never spoken.  They lead very different lives and neither have any interest in being part of the neighbourhood watch scheme, chats across driveways or even bothering to wave as they pass by each day.  They have their own agendas and being pals with neighbours is definitely not part of what this entails. 
One New Years Eve, their paths cross, despite the odds, and suddenly their agendas have altered.  Both have inner demons, and both have fiery tempers.  Family issues are also a common thread but in very different ways.  Jasmine had to take on responsibilities at a young age, where Matt struggles to look after himself, never mind his family.  The two rivals become reluctant allies as they struggle to adjust to their new roles in this new year.

There is no need to fill you in on Cecielia Ahern's resume, as she is one of the best known, and best selling, female fiction authors of our time.  This is her 11th novel and, dare I say it, maybe her best?  
The story is simple. Two people, two struggles with identity and lots of family drama.  So far, so normal.  The only thing is, the author has such a way with words that from page one I was hooked, on that suburban road, with twitching curtains and well kept lawns.  The book is divided over the period of a year, in seasons, starting with Winter. The reader is introduced to Jasmine, recently fired and now wide awake at all hours of the night.  Matt rolls home drunk most evenings and is unaware he is watched by his neighbour regularly.  He unravels in front of her, as she she herself tries to deal with her own troubles.  She knows him, as does most of the country, due to his public role, and she has a grudge which makes her like him even less. This is where I expected the book to get predictably romantic and gushy.  It didn't.  Friendship and support is what this book is about, not love.  Where other female writers may have taken the reader on the journey of dinner dates, champagne and wonderful love-making scenes,  Cecelia Ahern uses her talent to tell us stories of nature, solidarity and change.  True, money does not play a part in either Matt or Jasmine's new lives of leisure, and this rarely is the case, but on the other hand, money is not the issue here.  Trust in a person cannot be bought, and honesty can sometimes be cruel but is usually the best policy.  

There are wonderful descriptions of garden life throughout this novel and these are cleverly balanced with harsh realities like dependency on alcohol, the need for reassurance and the day to day living with disability.  Jasmine's sister, Heather, has Down's Syndrome and the author has researched her extremely well , giving us a glimpse of her yearning for independence yet showing the fears her family will always have for her well-being.  
I really enjoyed the supporting characters, mainly neighbours and even pictured Mr  Malone reading to his wife in their garden, bringing a little lump to my throat.  The retired GP who lives in the cul-de-sac was also great and his voice and posture seemed to come alive.

I genuinely loved this book.  A great look at how we should not presume we know everything about people we know, or think we know and a great reminder that we should never judge a book by its cover ( or in this case, genre ).

The Year I Met You is published by Harper Collins on 9th October 2014. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

"Shadow and Bone" by Leigh Bardugo. Guest review from Meabh Nic Raghnaill

As I never read fantasy or sci-fi books, I asked my good friend and fantasy lover Meabh to review this trilogy for me.  This is the first part and reviews for the next two installments will follow shortly..............

Shadow and Bone is the first book in the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. It follows the journey of Alina, a young, lonely orphan who discovers she has an extraordinary power. The characters in this book are beautifully written and I had great empathy for Alina from the very first page when she's described as an "ugly little thing". As the story is told mainly from Alina's point of view she is of course the most well rounded character however, even the minor characters are three-dimensional and realistic. From the Darkling, a seductive, powerful and mysterious figure to Nadia and Maria who are shallow and gossipy, Bardugo really captures both the good and bad points of people.

Shadow and Bone is a brilliantly written fantasy. It is wonderfully descriptive without being overly descriptive. The story moves at a good pace and I found myself eagerly turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. Whether you're a fan of action, adventure, magic or romance this book has it all!

My favourite thing about this book is that it was in no way predictable. Just as I got a handle on what was happening and thought I could predict the outcome there would be a twist and I was once again left in a state of pleasurable uncertainty. 

Though I believe this was originally marketed as a YA book, I would have no problem in recommending it to any fantasy lover. I would rate Shadow and Bone 4.5/5

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Jill Dawson

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

Patrick has had heart transplant surgery.  A fifty year old disgraced Professor, divorced and insular, he wakes up after the surgery and subtle changes become slowly apparent.  Obviously, the physical changes are there as the new organ tries to find it's place within its strange surroundings, but there are also more emotional changes. Memories, feelings and dreams that are unusual and surreal to Patrick.
When the transplant co-ordinator lets slip that the donor was a sixteen year old boy, it begins to make a bit more sense.  He know has emotions that he has never truly felt.  Compassion, love and basic understanding. Will he dismiss these new found feelings or revert to his dismissive, hard former self?

The story is told in four parts.  The donor's ancestors are part of the tale, linking Patrick's dreams to the past. The story of sixteen year old Drew and his love for an older woman and the events leading up to his death.  The reader is then brought back to Patrick and sees how he copes after major surgery and how his former life comes to the forefront of his current one.

This is my first time reading Jill Dawson and I had no pre-conceptions.  I knew from the first chapter that the writer is one of high caliber and deserved her many awards from the literary world.  The characters were well drawn and deeply emotive.  Their inner thoughts were intense and honest and showed their true nature. Patrick reminded me of people I have encountered over the years and were so narcissistic that I often wondered how they slept at night.  It seems entirely possible that the only thing that would shake someone like this is a life threatening surgery.  But will it change them enough that they feel the organ is being used to its best potential?
Drew, the donor, had a short life but reading his narrative made the book come alive.  So achingly real, his emotions were beautifully described and gave the novel the bite that it needed after a slow start.  His ancestors story was informative and like Drew's love for his forbidden love, the 1800s forbidden love was injected with sexual tension, longing and desire.  The history of the Fenland are in England was not really of interest to me but the stories of the people were.

This short novel would not be to everyone's taste, but if you are fan of detailed prose and literary genre, I think this one is for you......

Monday, 18 August 2014

My Mining Memories Article on " The Library"

The Library by Margaret Bonass-Madden

Article by ©. Margaret Bonass Madden
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: ).
From a very young age, books have been a huge part of my life – the prized possessions I could not live without. Some people have an old blanket or teddy that has just always been there; some have heirlooms passed down from generation to generation and treasure these items, along with the memories attached to them. I have books. Lots of books. Thousands of books.
I cannot remember life without books. My father used to take me to the our local library in Malahide, Co. Dublin, every fortnight, in the evening time. While the adult section was on the ground floor, behind a heavy wooden door, the children’s section was upstairs. He would hand me my three green, cardboard library tickets at the main entrance and I would head up the vast winding staircase, to the sound of my patent leather shoes on the creaking floorboards. Pushing open one of the double doors, I would be hit by the smell of beeswax, which was used to polish the huge wooden counter dominating the room. The silence was deafening and I would tiptoe over to the section relevant to my age group. A large patchwork turtle or ladybird (I was never brave enough to ask which it might be) was perched on top of a free standing bookshelf and I longed to stroke its velour and corduroy panels. It was never within reach, always a few inches too high.
The limited selection of books were, none the less, a source of great excitement and the joy on my face must have been obvious. After choosing my three books, I would approach the stern-faced librarian, (well protected from us mere readers, behind her sturdy barricade of mahogany) and then watch her root through her boxes of dockets, using the tips of her fingers like a harpist, remove a card, place it in the pouch of my library card and place both into her filing system. Then she would stamp the return date on the inside of my chosen book, with a definitive and confident ‘thud’. I always wanted to do that – it seemed so exotic!
I would then descend the staircase and wait for an adult to let me in through the big door of the ‘grown-up’ library. I always entered cautiously, head kept low as the librarian down here was even scarier than upstairs. I would wait patiently for my father. He was allowed take out six books (how jealous I was) and had blue tickets, unlike my green ones. I was amazed at the pure size and weight of the books he chose and never imagined that I would be old enough to borrow something that great. We would head home, discussing our choices and already planning our next trip.
This routine was written in stone for many years. I worked my way through all the available books by Enid Blyton, with tales of rabbits left out in the rain, goblins drinking raindrops from cups of flower petals, moving on to the midnight feasts of Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s. Then a new genre was introduced to me; Mystery. Nancy Drew became my new best friend and I devoured her titles, with the certainty I was going to be just like her when I grew up. Then I hit a wall. There were no more books left for me in the room upstairs. Judy Blume books were hard to get, booked out weeks in advance, and I had read most of the classics. This was it. Time to head for the big door downstairs, and the six blue tickets. Around the same time, my father decided he didn’t need to come with me anymore and I think this was the beginning of the end of my love affair with the library. Lack of eye-contact from the librarian, a poor selection of Young Adult books and a fear of ‘grown-ups’ meant that I lost interest at an alarming rate. I stop going completely and starting buying ‘Bunty’, then ‘Jackie’ and ‘Top of The Pops’ magazines. Princess Diana was in every newspaper and Wham! were Choosing Life. I was choosing to grow up.
However, once a book addict, always a book addict……
I discovered Maeve Binchy. Light a Penny Candle was all the rage, and I started my mother’s copy on holiday. A big leap from Enid Blyton, but I was soon hooked. Now I understood what fiction was, was it could hold and how it was another world open to me. This was the beginning of my love of modern literature. I had never been a TV person and books were always my escapism, my journey of discovery and entertainment. Through the world of books I could read peoples thoughts, dreams and ambitions. I read the odd classic but found the different writing styles, eras and language could be off-putting for a teenager. In recent years I had re-visited the classics and can now appreciate the wonderful penmanship of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. I read them now because I WANT to, not because the library has an empty space from age twelve to adult.  I learned, through their books, that they were brave. I think all writers are brave. Without their imagination and creativity, there would be no library, no bookstore, no written word.
I now have my own ‘library’, complete with a rubber stamp kit (a very thoughtful gift from a friend ) and I never get rid of books. I choose to keep them, cherish them and lend some of my favourite titles to trustworthy, book-loving friends, who I know will threat the book with the respect it deserves. I store them carefully, in alphabetical order and while this library may not have the smell of beeswax, or have different sections for different genres, each book deserves its place. Each book has its own memory, a story, a cover to be appreciated.   This is MY library, this is MY world….
(c) Margaret Bonass-Madden

Saturday, 16 August 2014

"Summer at Castle Stone" by Lynn Marie Hulsman

Thanks to Harper Impulse via for the review copy of this title.

In the spirit of honesty, I must point out that I have become great friends with this author.  I had read and reviewed her first novel, Christmas at Thornton Hall, last year and we became twitter buddies.  I was lucky enough to have her come to stay here at Bleach House earlier this year and I think we will be life-long friends.  That said,  my review site is all about honest reviewing and I would never say I enjoyed a book if I didn't, or big it up more than it deserves.  So, here is my review of Summer at Castle Stone :

Shayla is a native NewYorker.  The daughter of a famous author, she hates the fact that people treat her differently when they discover who her father is and she does her best to be an independent woman in the Big Apple.  Working in publishing, she dreams of writing her own book, rather than ghost writing, and when the opportunity to co-author a cookbook arrives, she jumps on the idea with gusto.  Only one snag.  The chef is not interested in a cookbook, despite her pleading her case.  Herself and best friend, Maggie, hatch a plan to get her close to the Irish Chef, without him knowing who she is.  Shayla becomes Sheila,  work experience is organised in the beautiful Irish country mansion and the life swap begins. But will she get away with it? Will Ireland be her cup of tea or will she pine for the espresso life of NYC?

This second novel from Lynn Marie Hulsman is a real tale of two countries.  Their differences are obvious but it's the little things that make a house a home, or a group of people a great set of friends.  Shayla has a wonderful friend in Maggie, but an awful job and an uncertain future.  The culture shock of her move to rural Ireland is wonderfully written and, thankfully, well researched.  I am always worried, as an Irish reader, that the writer will use the stereo-typical green fields and 'top of the morning' to extreme, but Lynn Marie has got it spot on.  Her Irish characters a a mixture of young and old, landowners and staff, outside workers and indoor workers.  A full pot full of people, with different roles to play in the running of a country house.  
Shayla is a likeable protagonist, a little bit wimpy, but she finds herself midway through the book.  The chef in question is a real Irish lad, rugged and no nonsense.  Also, very close to his Mammy just like most men over here!  The writing is great, a nice steady pace throughout and the descriptions of the countryside and small villages are dead-on.  Wellies are needed, trips to the hairdressers are rare and the coffee can be hit-and-miss outside the larger towns.  Food wise, the author knows her stuff.  Irish food is certainly wholesome and carb loaded but, man, it is really tasty and feels like a great big hug......

Summer at Castle Stone is a romantic comedy that is impossible not to like.  The concept seems a bit far fetched but the story and characters, along with the lovingly described location, makes this a great read.  Not just for summer, in fact, I would suggest reading while wrapped up in a nice warm throw, fire lit and a great big mug of tea near by. Oh, and maybe a slice of home-made apple tart might help!

Summer at Castle Stone is published by Harper Impulse and is available in ebook format.  The paperback will be released on 9th October 2014

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

"Daughter" by Jane Shemilt

Thanks to PenguinUK and for supplying an ARC of this title, in return for an honest review....

The Malcom family seem to have it all. Jenny is GP within a successful practice, Ted is a highly ranked neurosurgeon and their three teenage children are just like normal kids, heading to sports practice, studying for exams and practicing for the school play.  Life is busy for Jenny, but she rides the wave and is secure in her skills as a wife and mother.  All that changes in one night.  Naomi, their sixteen year old daughter goes missing after her play rehearsals and the life that the Malcom family had thought was normal, all becomes exposed, one layer at a time, until the whole thing seems like a dream.
What has happened to Naomi? Why are there so many secrets within the family? Was it Jenny's fault, Ted's, or should they have noticed something amiss? Does every mother and wife have a certainty that they know everything about their family?

Jane Shemilt has written her debut novel with a clever insight into the world of families.  What keeps them ticking. How they interact with each member of the household.  What they really do when they shut that front door behind them.  She has also added her knowledge of the world of medicine, but without ramming it down our throats, which can sometimes be the case with authors who have worked in this area.  She captures the world of teenagers very well and although I could see failings in the character of Jenny, I can understand how she thought, as a mother, that she had her work/home life balanced.  Lots of women struggle with this, more than they care to admit.  Her relationship with Ted was very real.  Together many,  years, with three older children and busy careers, it is sometimes days or weeks before some real conversation can commence between partners.  The 'realness' of this novel is what made it great.  Not all families are perfect and we are all guilty of rushing through days with blinkers on, avoiding conflict within the confines of our homes.  Keeping secrets is also the norm for teenagers, but what about adults?
While Jenny drags herself through each day, not knowing what has happened to her daughter, we are part of her world.  I genuinely felt her pain, her guilt, her needing to know more.  The pages were turning at break neck speed and I read it in three hours.  I had not expected such a clever thrilling drama from an unknown, but then I remembered, most of my page turners, this year, were from new or underrated novelists.  I can see how publishing houses will have their banks of reliable, well known authors, but thank God, PenguinUK published this.  It's a cracking, thrilling ride, a snapshot of a mother's worst nightmare, and the reasons behind it.  Not an original idea, a missing child, a devastated mother, but a slightly different approach which works extremely well.  Perfect for fans of Sophie Hannah and Elizabeth Haynes.  Go and grab a copy, banish all distractions and read it before someone leaks the ending to you........

Daughter is published by PenguinUK on 28th Aug 2014.

"No Time For Bed" by Alison Edgson & Annette Rusling

Thanks to Little Tiger Press/ Catepillar Books for the review copy of this title.......

I am a sucker for kid's picture books and love ones with a cute story as well as great graphics.  This has both.  

Alfie is told it is time for bed, but, like all toddlers, has far too much to do and thinks that it's not a good idea. He has ships to sail, adventures in the jungle, snowy mountains to be climbed and a castle to protect.  A child's imagination is a wonderful thing and this book shows how they don't need the expensive toys of gadgets to enjoy playtime.  Mommy bear is a constant presence and Alfie feels safe in his make-believe world.

This story is the perfect length for young toddlers and an ideal book for bedtime, as also has an added bonus of a musical/light up page which plays a soothing lullaby.  
Beautifully illustrated with lots of classic toys to spot, this is well worth buying for any budding adventurers or hesitant sleepers.....

Ideal for ages 1-3

No Time For Bed is published by Caterpillar Books and is available in bookshops and from online retailers.

Monday, 11 August 2014

"Hoot- A Hide and Seek Book of Counting" by Jonathon Litten & Fhiona Galloway

Thanks to Little Tiger Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Years of being a mother, and foster parent, also means years of reading board books to toddlers while recited ABC and 123 over and over again.  It amazes me how many books there are out there for young kids, but how do you choose? This is where reviews and large online sellers like Amazon and Book Depository really work out.  Buyers can share there views on the book as the child can't, and may help you find the one book that your child wants to read again, and again. and again.  

This is a great board book for babies. Strong and sturdy, with ever decreasing cut-out circles for those chubby little fingers.  The graphics are bright and cute with each character having their own colour and a name with the relevant letter ( like Rodney Red ) as well as a number on their t-shirts.  Kids this young don't need much of a story so don't expect to bond with this book, as you would with Guess how much I love you or similar.  It does what it set out to do....... Grabs a baby's attention with the little holes, and with repetition, may just help you teach them their colours and numbers a bit earlier than expected.

Tiger Tales have a few similar books, so should you like this one, grab the others, before your child grows up before your very eyes!!!

Hoot is published by Little Tiger Press on 1st September 2014

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

"The Good Girl" by Mary Kubica

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

Sometimes, being a book blogger means that you get to discover an author you may have never have encountered through the normal bookselling channels.  This is one such case.  I wouldn’t normally associate Harlequin with thrillers but the MIRA division is a new approach and having read the blurb and seeing the fantastic cover, I was sucked in.  A few pages in, I had to check that this was a debut novel, and it was.  This is an author to watch out for!
Mia Dennett, daughter of a wealthy, prominent Judge and his English born, stunning wife, has always been unique.  A lover of art, independent thinking and basically anything the opposite of her father’s world.  Rarely seen at home since she left at eighteen, Judge Dennett doesn’t seem too worried when she is reported missing by her friend.  Her mother, Eve, knows something is wrong and will do anything to find Gabe Hoffman is assigned the case and traces her last movements.  Meanwhile, Mia is cold, terrified and has no idea what is happening to her........

Mary Kubica has written a story of any mother’s worst nightmare.  The disappearance of her child, no matter what their age.  The Chicago based family are not used to getting their own way and are divided in how to approach the whole ordeal.  Detective Hoffman resents their wealth and power but yet manages to form a connection with Eve.  Their mutual desire to discover what has happened to Mia is the momentum the case needs.  Alongside this, is Mia’s story.  The reader knows from the start where she is and why she is there, but Mia herself doesn’t.  I won’t divulge any more information as it is the unknown that keeps you flicking those pages over.  And flick, I did. Read in one 24 hour period, I loved this book.  It was a perfect pace, dragging you along nicely, great characters, amazing location descriptions and plenty of thrills.  It resembles some of Harlan Coben’s stand alone novels and is a great cross gender novel.  No fluffed out filler chapters, just one great page after another.  A psychological thriller with the flair of a more established author, I can’t wait for Mary’s next book!  Harlequinn MIRA, I am impressed........

The Good Girl is published by Harlequinn MIRA and is available in paperback and ebook 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

"Six Postcards Home" by Michelle Jackson

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her novel, in return for an honest review.......

Karen and Greg are teenagers in love.  More than that, they are connected by an invisible bond that makes their love seem unbreakable.  Life is a mix of exams, discos and walks in the park. Kissing, holding hands and dreaming of their future.  One stupid misunderstanding breaks the bond and here begins a lifetimes worth of  ‘what-ifs’ and bad timing.  Over the decades, Greg sends the occasional postcard to Karen, letting her know that he thinks of her, as much as she does him.  Life moves on,  from Ireland in the 1980s, across America and Europe, but will their love for each other ever lose its intensity?

Michelle Jackson has written a story of young love in Ireland and using her experience as a travel writer, has weaved some great locations into the tale.  She describes the North Dublin areas of Sutton and Howth very lovingly and anyone who is from the area will know the street names, landmarks and pubs that are mentioned throughout.    The Grove disco was indeed a rite of passage in the 1980s and many a romance started there.  However, there seems to be a trend for this kind of story lately and while I am all for the nostalgic flashbacks to the 80s, this particular book was a bit too serious for me.  There was very little humour in any of the memories and I know that young love is intense and all consuming at that age, but there are definitely some laughs and giggles along the way.  I like the mention of Top of the Pops and what songs Karen was listening to at the time, but I still couldn’t connect with her teenage self.  She seemed too one dimensional and lacked a realism that would have brought the story alive.  Greg began to annoy me with his teasing phone calls, visits and postcards.   I could feel the bond that was there between them and the sexual tension that built up over the years was well written, but due to decades passing by with no real story to grip to, I soon gave up caring too much.

In saying all that, I did enjoy the book.  I read in two sittings and kept turning those pages.  Michelle’s writing style is fluid and easy to read with good chapter lengths. I also loved the addition of the pictures of Greg’s postcards.  Even the stamps are accurate. I had penpals, back in the day, and recognised the stamps straight away.  Overall, had the book been edited down a bit, it may have worked better for me.  Less Howth and more story.  Poolbeg seem to thrive on books based near the Irish coastline, but after years of reading the same descriptions of the landscape of the same areas, I would like to see more books about the rest of Dublin, or indeed the many other beautiful parts of Ireland.

Six Postcards Home is published by Poolbeg and is available in paperback of e-book.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

"Wolf" by Gillian Cross - Guest Review by Matthew Fitzsimons

Thanks to Matthew for this guest review ............

Review by Matthew Fitzsimons age 14

This book is about a girl called Cassy who lives in a flat with her Nan. Her Nan is the most ordinary person on earth but one day she sends Cassy to live with her Mam , claiming to be sick. Cassy’s Mam is a squatter and lives with a man called Lyall and his son Robert.

 When Cassy looks through the bag of food her Nan gave her she finds a lump of yellow mouldable material like play-dough. Her Nan doesn’t have a phone so Cassie rings her next-door neighbour to ask her Nan. But her Nan does not want to speak to her. This was very strange. Nan shouldn’t have even been at home as it was her work hour. A few days later she rang her next-door neighbour again, but her neighbour said she hadn’t seen her Nan all day. This was even weirder as it was her Nan’s day off. It was then the stranger started to show up! A flitting shadow watching the house through the bushes. Cassy began to worry about her Nan.

Who was the mysterious stranger and what was the connection between him, the yellow stuff and her Nan?
This is a very good book. There are lots of twists in the story to keep you entertained. I would recommend it for people around 11-13 years as it’s quite short and not a hard read.  

"The Last Wild" by Piers Torday - Guest Review by Rachel Fitzsimons

Thanks to Rachel  for this Guest Review of The Last Wild......

There is a terrible disease raging the whole world, a disease causing every animal to lose their mind and die. But before they die, their eyes turn a bright shade of red. This disease is called “The Red Eye”.

  The main character in the book is called Kester. He has an extraordinary gift, he can talk to animals! He sets off on an amazing journey to find the cure of “The Red Eye”. On this adventure Kester encounters many dangers including meeting the ghastly Captain Skuldiss.

I really enjoyed this book because of the exciting plot twists and it’s  great story line. I would recommend this book for 10-13 year olds.
If you like Eva Ibbotson or Michael Morpurgo this would be one to read.

By Rachel Fitzsimons Age 12 

"The Broken Spell" by Erika McGann - Review by Mia Madden aged 10

Thanks to O'Brien Press for sending a review copy this book ..............

This book is the sequel to the award winning book, The Demon Notebook, which was just awesome.  You can read my review and interview with the author here.

Grace and her friends are back for some more witchy adventures.  They are taken to a hidden witch supply store by Ms. Lemon.  Grace looks into an ancient mirror and sees a creepy creature staring back at her.  In the shop, Jenny finds a spell to bring you into the past and writes it down for later.  The girls use the spell to look into the past of Ms. Lennon, as well as Mrs. Quinlan and find there was another girl in their group who is now Grace's new teacher, Ms. Gold.  
Along with finding out out about the teachers pasts, a new girl joins Grace and her friends as the start learning cool new spells.  Also, the MirrorMan, from the shop, starts following Grace, after he comes back with them from the past

I enjoyed this book even more than the first one and can't wait for the third one, The Watching Wood which is due out in September.

The Broken Spell and The Demon Notebook are published by O'Brien Press and are available in paperback now.  The Watching Wood will be published on 15th Sep 2014

Popular Posts