Tuesday, 30 September 2014

#BloggerShelfie for The O'Brien Press


I was a bit panicked when asked to share my shelfie as the majority of the books in Bleach House are kept in our library, and as they are in alphabetical order, I was afraid that my book tastes would not be seen as a whole.  However, there are books all over the house and I just grabbed a few that are among my favourites and took separate photos of the two younger kid's bookshelves.  I was afraid to enter the teenager's rooms!

As you can see, I have mixed taste.  The classics, contemporary fiction, thrillers, women's fiction and basically anything except sci-fi and fantasy.  As we foster, there are lots of kids books around the place and right now the blue band O'Brien Press is the age group used most.  YA is also hitting the spot.  My all time favourite book is Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and I have a first edition which I will never part with!

With over 3000 books to choose from, you would think I would stop buying books. But, despite my husband's efforts, I still buy on a weekly basis!

" A Long Long Way" by Sebastian Barry

Being a fan of Sebastian Barry, I was delighted to see that this novel was a reading assignment as part of Irish Literature in my English course in college.  I had yet to read it, so it was actually an assignment I was really looking forward to.

This novel tells the tale of young volunteer Private Willie Dunne, of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers in World War I.  Like most young Irishmen of the time, Willie joins the British Army after hearing James Connolly recommend that to do so could only benefit Ireland's cause.  Young, naive and impressionable,  he sees this as a way of impressing his widowed father, himself a high ranking member of the Dublin Metropolitan  Police.  Willie was a slight boy and never reached the minimum height of 6 Foot required to join the Police Force and saw his recruitment into His Majesty's Army as a very close second.  A teenager, he had a rose-tinted idea of what army life would be like, off fighting The German's abroad and it is with great excitement he, and other Irish volunteers, board the boat to fight for Britain.

1st Battalion of Dublin Royal Fusiliers 1915

He leaves behind his father, three sisters and his sweetheart, Gretta.  The pride he feels as he sets off is juxtaposed by the knowledge that he won't see his loved ones for a long time.  The new recruits are waved off from the monuments of Sackville Street and they march with pride.  It is 1915 and while there are ripples of Nationalism throughout the streets of Dublin, most of these young soldiers genuinely believe they are off to do a great deed for Ireland and its future.  

Recruitment poster from WW1, used in Ireland

The novel introduces the reader to the life of a new recruit, thrown in the deep end of a bitter, dirty and atrocious war.  A war that we are all aware of, but not from the perspective of a young Irish man, barely old enough to be considered an adult, yet fighting for a country other than his own.  The horror he witnesses from his very first day in the trenches,  is not sugar coated and is realistic, graphic and intense.  His thoughts wander from shock, to terror, to a childlike longing for his family and lover.  

GPO, Dublin 1916

Willie is granted leave and docks in Dublin full of hope and eagerness.  It is now 1916, and unbeknownst to Willie, things have changed in Ireland.  As he heads back to re-join his brigade, he notices something amiss. There is tension in the air and before long, the company are ordered to disembark, back onto the streets of Dublin.  They hear gunshots and believe they are being attacked by Germans.  When they are told of of a Republican rising, they are genuinely shocked and cannot understand how Irishmen could be fighting fellow Irishmen.  Willie witnesses the shooting of a young IRA man and watches the man die.  This is a confusing time, as these rebels seem no different to Willie.  When he returns to billet, later that day, he is still covered in the mans blood and none the wiser as to what is really happening at home. 

" he noticed that his uniform was badly stained with blood.  It was the blood of that young man dying. Willie scrubbed his face at the basin provided and he tried a few scrubs at the cloth.  There were instructions in his soldier's small-book for the cleaning of khaki.  Yellow soap and a little ammonia in a solution of water was advised.  But he had no yellow soap and he had no ammonia.  He tried again in the morning but in the main he carried the  young man's blood to Belgium on his uniform."

Flanders, Belgium 1916

The novel continues with the protagonists view of life at war.  There are no glamorous scenes of beautiful scenery, red sunsets or love stories.  Just a glimpse at the realism of war, death, fear and loyalty.  These young men are loyal to their fellow soldiers, not caring whether they are being loyal to Ireland or the Britain.  They were volunteers, but did they understand what they were volunteering for?  One young recruit tells Willie that he joined up after a young lady gave him a white feather and suggested he should join the great fight, rather than being a coward.  He was so moved by this girl's beauty, that he agreed, and would not go back on his word.  Others joined so they could provide an income for their families at home.  It is unclear how many of these young men realised what they were getting themselves into, and it this novel also looks at how they were once seen as heroes by their fellow Irishmen, but this opinion changed rapidly after the Easter Rising in 1916.  The next time Willie returned on leave, he was not seen as a gallant young Irish man, but as a traitor to his country.

All throughout the novel, the reader becomes a firsthand witness to Willie's battles.  His battles on the Fields of Belgium, his battles of his conscience and his battles to survive as an Irishman in a British war.  

I cannot recommend this novel enough.  My respect for Sebastian Barry's talents and skills as a writer was already immense, but I think this novel may stay with me forever.  The prose is hypnotic, the characters ( loosely based on real characters - see links below for details )  perfectly constructed and the narrative strong and true.  There is a raw elegance in this book.  It is emotional, regardless of the readers nationality, showing the protagonist as a genuine, innocent young man who just wanted to be part of the bigger picture.  Simply stunning.

Unmarked Graves, Flanders, WWI

The character of Willie Dunne may well have been based on the famous ballad about Willie McBride, from "The Green Fields of France". Watch the video here .

The Character Jessie Kirwan may have been based on WWI poet Francis Ledgwidge, who was profoundly affected by the news that he had backed the wrong horse and joined the British Army rather than staying and fighting for the Irish Republic.  Read about him here

A Long Long Way is available in paperback and ebook format

Monday, 29 September 2014

"One Last Dance" by Judith Lennox. Guest review from Emma Crowley

One Last Dance is the gripping new novel from Judith Lennox. This is a family saga spanning three generations beginning during World War One and continuing right up until the early 1970’s. At over 500 pages this is quite a long book but it does give the author ample time to develop most of the characters and for the reader to follow the ups and downs of the family. I love historical fiction novels and this certainly did not disappoint. Judith Lennox writes really well and the story is full of varied characters some you will love and others you will just despise. The plot progresses at just the right pace without the reader becoming bored and the author made the transition from one section to the next appear seamless. Ultimately this is a story of love, betrayal, sibling rivalry, power and forgiveness and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In the first half of the novel the story focuses on the Langdon sisters- Esme and Camilla they are poles apart in every way and this is reflected throughout the book. Camilla is ruthless and always wants what isn’t hers and is determined to achieve this even though her methods may hurt others. Esme is the younger sister, shy and quiet she yearns for the simple things in life and to be loved by someone special. Onto the scene arrives Devlin Reddaway, he has returned wounded from World War One and soon catches the eye of Camilla, falling deep in love and wanting to marry her. But early on Camilla shows her nasty side and agrees to marry another man despite her promises to Devlin. Needing a woman to help restore and run his crumbling ancestral home Rosindell House, Devlin turns to Esme and soon they are married. Esme’s love and affection for Devlin is never fully returned once they are married, it really frustrated me that Esme would marry knowing full well that her husband to be couldn’t return the love she felt. Surely that is the point of marriage to experience love and a happy relationship together?

Esme’s marriage gets off to a rocky start and doesn’t really get much better even though she goes on to have two children. Everything is built upon a lie and Camilla’s hold is felt for many years to come. I really didn’t like Camilla, she came across as evil, vain, self-centred and basically just out to ensnare a rich man who would keep her in the way she had become accustomed to. Her actions had far reaching consequences for the generations to come and it just highlighted how one lie can change the fortunate of everyone so dramatically.
 Rosindell House is a character in itself throughout the novel, it seems to have an unnatural hold over all its occupants and people never really seem happy there. It is the main place where many of the key events are played out during the course of the book, it offers some sort of solace for Esme but also later in the novel a refuge for Coral as she tries to unravel the past and contemplate her future. Later generations always seem drawn to Rosindell House and each new section of the book introduced us to new characters  and they all one way or another became interconnected with the house. At one point there were numerous characters being introduced and it did become a bit difficult to remember who was going out with who and how they were all connected. Especially in the final sections of the book it did appear to be slightly rushed as if after 500 pages the author needed to tie up loose ends quickly. We never really got to know enough about Stephen (Esme’s grandson) and Coral ( Camilla’s granddaughter) and therefore I wasn’t too pushed as to how their story ended.

Overall a great read that I would highly recommend. This book is long enough to spend several hours curled up on the couch during cold winter nights as you become lost in the world of Rosindell House and its inhabitants. With such vivid descriptions I felt I was really there with each character and was eager to see how events would unfold and connections would be made. Judith Lennox has produced another terrific novel and I can’t wait to read her next offering.

Many thanks to Margaret for sending me this to review.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Happy Publication Day for "Levi's Gift" by Jennifer Burke. Author Interview.

A rare trip to Dublin, in July, was a multi-purpose trip.  A chance to enjoy the sunshine, browse some bookshops and meet up with author Jennifer Burke, for a chat about her upcoming release, Levi's Gift.  I was honoured to be asked to do the cover reveal last month and had a few questions about the 'dreaded second novel' as well as wanting to know what it was like to win a publishing contract on National television?   We settled down in our outdoor seats, in Starbucks, soaked up the sun and got down to some serious book talk.

I asked Jennifer to start by telling me what it was like the day she found out she was chosen as the winning novelist for the TV3 Write A Bestseller Competition with Poolbeg.

"It was the best day ever, but mortifying as well.  They had rung me a couple of days before to say 'you have been shortlisted, we are going to come to your office, we are filming all the people shortlisted, then you'll come to the studio later and we'll announce the winner.'  She was delighted to be shortlisted but, like most females, was worried about what to wear.  

Jennifer had booked a room downstairs in her office "where no one would see ".... TV3 then announced 'Well actually that was a little lie, we just told you that so that we would know you would be here.  There actually is no shortlist. You've just won!'   She was stunned and said "they barged into the office and told everyone.  I hadn't told anybody, as I didn't want to make a fuss or anything.  Everyone was like ‘What's Happening?’  It was amazing.  Then they brought me to the studios and I was introduced to Paula, my publisher from Poolbeg.  It was straight onto the set, and then the interview.  It was so great."  
This seems slightly surreal so I wanted to know how that felt.
"I always thought, someday, I would get published. That was always the dream.  I always thought that would be the best day ever, to have it published.  But to have it happen in that way, with all this extra excitement, where all my friends and family saw it on TV, it just made it really special.  It was mortifying, but you can't ask for better."

Jennifer explained that she has been writing for years and years, and had always hoped to be published, but to have this happen was a complete dream come true.  She has had amazing support from family and friends, but this really showed her how supportive people can be.

I love knowing how writers come up with their stories, so I asked where the idea behind The Secret Son came from?
"I was studying Law and had to do this probate course, where they teach you how to write a will and how cases end up in court".  She couldn't get over how many cases were brought to court to contest the contents of the wills.  “I was really taken with this and I didn't realise there was such an epidemic, as such, in this country."
She describes how she was sitting in lectures, pretending to write notes but actually day dreaming about a fictional story.  “I had loads of ideas, but it was sitting down and writing it.  When I actually qualified as a solicitor this was the one that kept coming back to me, I couldn't get rid of it"

The excuses that we all use "I'm too busy, I have no time. I have too much to do" were wearing thin and she knew that if she didn't write it then, she may never do it.

Jennifer explained that she has a few ideas and had started a few different books.  However, she decided to focus on the one that kept coming back to her. "It's a real commitment. It took about eighteen months to write it.  I wanted to really get into it.  Then a few months later I did get the idea for the second one."

Most authors I have interviewed say that they started writing as a child and I wondered if Jennifer had some early inklings of her future novelistic talents?
"It is something I have literally always done. I have all these early memories of sitting in the sitting room, beside this little table, on this little chair. I had one of those story books with a tape that you could listen to.  I would scribble away, I have been doing that since I could write. Stupid little stories and I could barely write.  I used to write poems when I was kid.  I always had it. They [her family] could never stop me.  Then I went to college, studied The Law, and it was only when I qualified that I realised that what I really wanted to do, all the time, was write.  That is when I started entering short stories competitions and went to the Irish Writers Centre and did courses.  Life is too short for this, there is something I really, really want to do, and I'm going to do it."

I told Jennifer that I still have lots of those books and tapes and my kids all loved them too.  The fact that she had started on her serious writing journey, at such a young age is impressive, as most female writers tend to wait until their career is settled or finished, the kids have grown up, and there are more available hours in the day.  I admire her for making the decision to get down to it while still in her twenties, as it gives so much more time and scope for further novels.

When I write something, my family and friends are always telling me how wonderful it is, but they are completely biased.  I wondered if Jennifer had all positive feedback now that she was published?
"It has been really positive. When they made the announcement, it was only then, about two weeks later that the editor got in touch with me, that was when it really kind of hit me that people are going to read this and possibly hate it. Nobody likes every book. Even the best book in the world, there are people who don't like it." But after that initial fear, Jennifer started to think that "hopefully someone will like it. And it has been really positive, I haven't heard a negative thing about it. I do tell people that I don't mind critique" She says this will help her learn.
A letter even found its way over from America from a woman who was waiting on a kidney transplant and had read The Secret Son.  "She wanted to let me know that she thought I had handled the whole situation really well, it was realistic and that's how people feel".  This was a very special moment for Jennifer as it validated her work.  A friend had helped with the research on the medical side, but the emotional parts were where her talent as a writer came in.

A busy solicitor and now a published author, I was curious to see if she ever has time to read other peoples books anymore?  With a change in job hours, Jennifer is now free most evenings and weekends to write, or read.  "Since getting published I have met a lot of Irish authors and I go to book launches where I pick up their book and have something new to read."
We had actually bumped into each other at the launches of Maria Duffy's One Wish and Hazel Gaynor's The Girl Who Came Home, so these were the two books Jennifer was reading at the time.  The great thing about the writing community, in Ireland, is that you get to meet lots of like-minded people and tend to grab more books after meeting an author at an event or hearing people say how much they enjoyed a book.  My own To-Be-Read pile is HUGE!

So, the second book is released today and as I don't have an advance reading copy, I needed to know what this new book is about and where the idea behind it originated.  Jennifer sings with a choir, and back in 2012 they went on a trip to Italy where they sang in a seminary.  "The seminary that we went to was up the hills, absolutely gorgeous, so picturesque.  It's just such a different lifestyle to anything I would be used to here." They stayed and had dinner and the idea came to her that this would be a perfect place to set a book.  "An idea came to me, of somebody who visits the seminary and becomes romantically involved with one if the seminarians."  Over time the story changed and adapted so now it's more of a mother/daughter relationship.  Unfortunately, there was not a chance to go back to Italy, under the guise of 'research', despite a longing to return.  
"This book feels very personal to me, even though I did NOT have this experience in the seminary," laughs Jennifer.  The experience of motherhood is also not something she would have experienced so I asked her how does she get it just right? "I like writing about emotions." She says she is known in her writing group for writing stuff that is very sad and gets teased about it.

When it came to choosing a cover for Levi's Gift, Jennifer knew she wanted a seminary in there, in some shape or form.  The designers worked on a few different images and after some feedback from booksellers, she was delighted with the final image. “I'm really happy with it. It's a really exciting part of the process, picking the cover!"

Lots of authors dread the release of the second book and find it harder to write than the first.  I wondered if this applied to Levi's Gift? 
"It wasn't harder, as I had a second book already written and now I have my third.  I guess it was weird writing Levi's Gift, as it was the first time I had written a book knowing that it was going to be published,"  She explained there was a different approach to writing this book as there were three parts,  and she had written it in different sections.  She wasn't sure the publishers would like the different style but luckily they loved it.

We finished up having a chat about the importance of having an added feature in the book, designed for book clubs.  I am a big supporter of this idea as sometimes book clubs can struggle to discuss the book in any depth and these author interviews and questions can be a great guide.  Ward River Press titles feature this in all their books as they are geared towards a more literary style than their Poolbeg titles.

We had a nice relaxed chat over tea, coffee and scones and then headed off to Easons to check the shelves. Well, why not? One can never have too many books, right?

Levi's Gift is published, today, by Ward River Press and is available in paperback and ebook format. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

"The Secrets of Grindlewood; The Secret Scroll Book 2" by Jackie Burke. Review by Mia, aged 11

We received a copy of this book from the author, in return for an honest review....

Review from Mia Madden, aged 11.

We are back in Grindlewood with Jamie, Jemima, Timber and the gang, for more adventures.
This book starts with the ending of Book 1.  The bad guys are still there and the children and animals need to find Wanda's Scroll ( she is a good witch ) and translate it from witch language to English.

But there is a problem, and it is getting closer and closer to Grindlewood every day. 

The animals are still talking to each other but, once again, the humans can't hear them.  I have read, in lots of books, that humans are too dumb to understand animal talk ( I think this might be true, as animals are very intelligent ). 

I liked this book a lot, as there were loads of new mysteries and I LOVE mysteries!  Jamie is pretty cool because he likes archery. Jemima is just ordinary and Timber, the malamute dog is awesome!
There is another cliffhanger at the end of this book and I can't believe I have to wait until next year for book 3.   *Frowning Face*

Perfect for age 8+
The Secrets of Grindlewood; The Secret Scroll Book 2 is published by Lindon Books and is available in Paperback 

Friday, 19 September 2014

"Hide and Seek - Part 2" by Amy Bird ( with UK Competiiton : WIN A TRIP TO PARIS )

For those of you who have read the first part of Hide and Seek, today is the day that you can buy the next installment and find out what happens next......

Now six months pregnant, Ellie and Will are more distant than ever.  But do they each realise how large the gap is?  
Will is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he was adopted, and that his past was based on a lie.  He embarks on a strange journey of self-discovery, which leads to  some random thoughts and dreams ( bizzare and quiet tiresome ) and ignores his wife as he becomes more and more obsessed with his childhood.  
Meanwhile, Ellie does her own detective work to discover what caused the adoption in the first place. She is pretending, to herself, that she is doing it for Will's benefit, but the reader gets access to her inner thoughts and she is not a very nice person at all.  She hates her 'mother-in-law', Gillian, and each time she mentions her, the bitterness of her true personality comes to light.  

" I Know that as a mother I will be priceless, eventually.  And so Sophie must be too. "

" Even if she did abandon Will.  But I can teach her how to be a good mother again.  And I'm sure she had her good reasons for leaving.  Gillian was probably one of them. "

"I look at it [ Gillian's car ]. Inside, there are nice plush comfy seats.  Cream seats.  At least if I am going to go into labour early, or the worse thing, the m-word, I will get the satisfaction of doing it on thise seats.  Maybe even manage to get some fluids on that sodding green jacket of hers,"

Neither spouse seems able to see the real person they are married to, which is a disturbing factor adding to the psychological aspect of this suspense novel.  The fact that I hate the character, Ellie, means she is written well.  A woman who can slap her pregnant belly, as the baby moving inside is annoying her, (and then add that she won't ever hit the child when it arrives) is a pretty dark female lead.  The fact that her  husband is having some kind of mental breakdown, without her really noticing, shows how a seemingly perfect marriage can be anything but.

Once again, I can't wait for the next part of this book and despite me hating Ellie, I am curious to see how she handles the cliffhanger ( which I had guessed ) at the end of this part.  

Remember, the first part is free and this part is only 99p.  The final installment is out on 25th Sep.

Hide and Seek is published by Carina and is available in three parts as e-book.

Monday, 15 September 2014

"The Scary Spider" by Dolores Keaveney

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

Dolores Keaveney is an author and artist from Mullingar, in the Irish Midlands.  She has written some amazing children's picture books and I can honestly say the illustrations are the most amazing ones I have come across.  The sense of colour and detail are impossible to recreate here and I would be 100% comfortable with recommending these books to anyone who has a young relative or friend with young children.  These titles will be firm favourites for years to come!

This is Dolores' latest release, The Scary Spider

Some people never grow out of their fear of spiders.  I am not a huge fan and give them a wide berth when encountered.  However, maybe if I had read a book like this as a young child, I wouldn't be so scared of them now.  The story tells of how a spider is spotted, watched and becomes an object of fascination.  The spider is trying to trap a fly and the artwork of the web is just stunning.  Food is placed out to tempt the spider and again the pictures are miniature works of art.  The actual spider is drawn very true to life, rather than the norm in children's books of making all creatures doe eyed and unrealistic, and I think this is an ideal way to introduce younger kids to the world of nature.  I am an adult though, so thought the best thing was to let the kids have a say....
I brought the book up to Miss Reid's class of 6/7 year olds in Collon National School and asked for their opinions.  Out of the mouth of babes :

"I like the part when the spider got the food!" - Emma

"The fly flying away was cool!" - Isabella

"The fly got trapped! This was favourite bit" - Alice

" The pumpkin pictures are pretty!" - Abbie

" The spider is like a spiderman spider!!" - Rory

" I like the designs on the spider's back" - Danny

"The fly is creepy and he has red eyes" - Danny

"I like the tattoos on the fly's wings!!" - Blake

"The silver web is shining" - Callum

"The food pictures are delicious, they're making me hungry!" - Amira

Seems I'm not the only one who loves the artwork!

Dolores has lots of other beautiful titles for children, which I aim to review over the next few weeks and all are available for purchase on her website :  http://www.doloreskeaveney.com/ which posts worldwide!

All books will be available from Amazon very shortly but in the meantime, order from author's website.

The author can be found on facebook https://www.facebook.com/dbeelicious?fref=ts  and Twitter   https://twitter.com/DbeePress

Sunday, 14 September 2014

"The Mutts Diaries" by Patrick McDonnell. Review by Mia, aged 11.


We received a copy of this comic book from NetGalley.com

Review by Mia, aged 11.

This is a comic book with lots of different stories about animals.  There are cats; Mooch, Sour Puss, Chick Pea, Shtinky Puddin' ; There are squirrels: Bip & Bop ; A crab; Crabby and dogs ; Guard Dog and Earl.

My Favourite was Earl the dog, as he reminds me of my crazy black & white dog, Luna.  She wags her tail just like Earl and even looks like him!
I loved all the stories, they were sooooo funny.  I couldn't put it down.  The drawings were great too. 
There are colour pictures mixed in with black & white ones and it was really nice to read a comic book for a change.  We have never heard of Mutts Diaries over in Ireland, I would definitely read more of of these books.....

I would recommend this book for ages 6+ as nice and easy reads.

The Mutts Diaries is published on 7th Oct 2014 by Andrews McMeel Publishing and will be available in paperback.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Hide and Seek by Amy Bird. Part 1. Review and e-book giveaway

I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Amy Bird's Hide And Seek.  Split into three parts, with the first installment free, it is the story of secrets, discovery and risk. I have read Part One and here is a little about it:   

I knew nothing about this title and went in completely open-minded.  Part One concentrates on introducing the two main characters, Will and Ellie, as they prepare for the arrival of their first born child.  The twenty week scan is complete and all is well.  Ellie is up to no good though.  She thinks she has uncovered a secret in Will's family and is determined to uncover it, at any cost.  

I had mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I liked Will and the Ellie that he describes.  A normal couple, excited about the pregnancy and getting the nursery ready.  Then things take a turn as we read from Ellie's perspective.  She is sneaky and underhanded and seems hell bent on causing trouble for Will and his family.  It is a case of clever marketing, as I can't wait to read what happens next, and while I have access to parts two and three of this title, readers will have a little wait for theirs.  Very affordable, and ideal for a read in one sitting,  this should be bought by everyone with an e-reader.

As an added bonus, here is the Book Trailer....

Hide and Seek Part 1 is published by Carina UK and available now. 
Part 2 will be available on 18th Sep and Part 3 will be available on 25th Sep.

The Giveaway of an e-copy of Hide and Seek is open internationally.  Please click on the Rafflecopter link to enter for your chance to win a copy of this great novel...


Amy Bird was born in Hampstead, North London, and returned there to live with her husband after moving all around the UK as a child. Her work includes short stories, plays and novels. Her debut 'Yours is Mine', part of a three-book deal with Harlequin digital imprint, Carina UK, reached No. 1 on the Amazon.com Women's Crime chart, and her second book 'Three Steps Behind You' received glowing praise. Part 1 of her new book, 'Hide and Seek', is released for free on 11 September. Amy's favourite issue to write about is identity.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

"The Secrets of Grindlewood" by Jackie Burke. Review by Mia, aged 11

We received a copy of this book, from the author, in return for an honest review.

Review by Mia Madden, aged 11.

Ten year old Jamie, seven year old Jemima have moved to Grindlewood House and love to explore the gardens with their dog and cat.   They read about the history of Grindlewood and learn about dark magic in the forest behind their garden.  Here begin their adventures and their search for a secret spell.

One of the things I loved about this book is the fact that the animals have dialogue, but the humans don't hear it.  There are not only a cat and dog, but birds, ducks, foxes, frogs and a cute hedgehog - all of these animal talk!
There is also lots of mystery and I  love reading about witches, spells and warlocks so the storyline was perfect for me.  The book has pictures dotted through it which I liked and there is a great cliff-hanger at the end, which made me want to start the second book in the series straight away.

I really enjoyed this book and was lucky enough to get a signed copy, which is very special.  I can't wait to read part two and will let you know what I though of it...
Ideal for confident readers aged 8 +

The Secrets of Grindlewood is available in paperback or e-book format.   

Monday, 8 September 2014

" The Rosie Effect " by Graeme Simpsion

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

If anyone asks me to recommend a book to them, my go-to title is usually The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpsion.  A massive international best seller that deserves to be on everyone's bookshelf, male of female.  This is the follow up and, once again, follows Prof. Don Tillman on his characteristically madcap approach to life.  

Don and Rosie have moved to New York.  Don is working at a University, Rosie is still a student and they both continue to shake up a few cocktails in a downtown bar.  There is one big change in their lives though.  Rosie is pregnant.  This is the humourous look at what happens to Don's regulated daily routine as a result of this news and how Rosie sees the future with Don as a parent.  
We also see the return of some familiar characters which helped make the first book a huge success.  

 I have been so eager to read the next installment of Don's saga, and starting this book was like a child finding their long-lost blanket.  Within three pages I was hooked back into Don's special way of thinking and could't wait to see how he would cope with the whole pregnancy issue.  
Gene is also back but his character is no longer funny or quirky, just a man who appears to be aging.  Rosie is absent for a lot of the book and even when she is on the pages, she is not very likable.  A new neighbour, George, lends a bit of newness to the narrative but not enough to make him special.  Dave and his wife, Sonia, also appear to help Don through some confusing times.  

Don is still amazing.  A truly wonderful protagonist and an unlikely hero.  I missed him so much after finishing The Rosie Project and thought the new book would never come.  Unfortunately, this novel is not as good as the first, but anything that contains Don will still be on my wishlist.  I would advise that if you have not read The Rosie Project, go and get it straight away.  But maybe there is no need to rush out and buy its sequel.  Savour the first installment for a little while, then if you miss Don as much as I did, grab this new book and visit him again.  Just don't expect the rest of the characters to move you....

The Rosie Effect is published by Penguin/Michael Joseph on 25th September 2014 in hardback and ebook format

Sunday, 7 September 2014

"Into The Night Sky" by Caroline Finnerty

I attended the book launch of  Caroline Finnerty's latest novel earlier this week and was lucky enough to get my edition signed by the author.  Always a bonus for a book lover ...

Ella is a household name due to her TV career and when she is discovered to have broken the law, things spiral downwards at an alarming rate.  Suddenly a stay-at-home mother of three and realising that she has very few allies, she wonders if she should reveal her secret to ease her pain.

Conor is Ella's friend since their college days.  He owns a bookshop, a lifelong dream, but the recession is hitting him hard and he is struggling to keep his business afloat.  The death of his partner has caused immeasurable pain, and he wonders if he will ever feel happiness again.

Rachel is a social worker, madly in love and dreaming of the future.  Unfortunately, her partner has different views on what this future should hold.  She needs to make a decision before it is too late.

Eight year old Jack loves to read.  His life is a mess and he needs company. Like a moth to a flame, Jack is drawn to Conor's bookshop and the two soon find solace in their comparable silence and solitude.  

This is the story of how human interaction is essential to a persons wellbeing.  We all think we are strong enough to go it alone at times, but two heads are better than one and sometimes all we need is a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on or just to know that we are not alone. 

I am a great fan of Caroline Finnerty and seriously could not wait to get my hands on a copy of this.  I even gave in and ordered a copy online from Poolbeg so I wouldn't have to wait for the official launch party. I have NO willpower when it comes to buying books.  Published by Ward River Press, a new division from Poolbeg which features non genre-specific titles, I knew this would be my kind of book.  I wasn't wrong.  
The characters were just wonderful, with my favourite being Conor and little Jack.  The dialogue between Jack and adults was spot on ( sometimes this can be forced and contrived in fiction ) and I felt I could hear his voice as I read.  Conor was charming but cool, sad and intense and a man I would actually like to know in real life.  The two characters reminded me of About a Boy by Nick Hornby, in that they actually brought out the best in each other, without them realising it. 
I didn't connect as well with Ella, the disgraced TV star, I'm not sure why.  Her depression and subsequent decline is a familiar story, but as she lived in her own protected world, with no financial restraints of lack of babaysitters, I just didn't feel sorry for her at all.  Not many people have the cosiness of her life, so my sympathies were with her eldest daughter, but not with her or her distant husband. 
Rachel is someone I could recognise, a social worker under pressure but who still has feelings.  Each case affects her and some more than others.  Her personal life was irrelevant, in my opinion, but did bring her character more substance.  The strongest parts of her story were where she dealt with Jack's mother and tried to do the best for Jack.  Having to remain non-judgmental is probably the hardest role for a social worker and in this case, knowing the outcome in advance, makes things all the harder.

Caroline Finnerty is one talented girl.  She has weaved together four strands to create one fluid novel.  Well researched and with her beautiful writing style, it was well worth the wait.  A small dip in the middle, it didn't put me off, as the characters were strong and the individual stories worked well.  Definitely not to be over looked when you are book shopping...

Into The Night Sky is published by Ward River Press/Poolbeg and is available in trade paperback or ebook format.

Evie Blake Erotic Fiction Giveaway

The Desires Unlocked Trilogy is an erotic fiction series by Evie Blake, inspired by the graphic novels, Valentina by Guido Crepax.   She is aware I never review this genre but we thought that some of my followers may be interesting in discovering this collection.
The author has kindly agreed to donate a paperback copy of  Surrender Yourself, the last in the series, and to enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below.  The three books are available as ebooks and here is the blurb for each one ...

For fans of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and BARED TO YOU comes LIBERATE YOURSELF, the first in an erotic, emotionally charged and addictive romance trilogy.

Valentina lives with her lover, Theo Steen, in Milan. They have an explosive sexual connection... but are they in love? As Valentina questions her true feelings for Theo, she finds herself drawn into Milan's shadowy, sensuous underworld - one which allows her to explore her deepest desires.

In Venice in 1929, Belle is trapped in an unhappy marriage and plays out her most erotic fantasies by living a secret life as a courtesan. Yet she is only truly free when she falls wildly, passionately in love. 

Valentina and Belle are two women living in different times, each poised on the brink of a passionate, all-consuming love affair.


In LIBERATE YOURSELF, Valentina Rosselli realised that Theo Steen is the only
man she's ever loved. Now, in LOSE YOURSELF, she travels to London to win Theo back - and to continue their relationship from where they left off. But has she left it too late, and lost him forever?

In London in 1948, virginal Maria falls in love for the first time, and is drawn into a passionate, intensely erotic relationship with the charismatic Felix Leduc. Maria is soon overwhelmed with desire - and finds that love induces her to behave in ways she never thought possible.

As Valentina uncovers Maria's story and its ties to her own, she is tipped headlong back into her romance with Theo - passionate, intense and powerful.

Valentina Rosselli is heartbroken - she has lost Theo, her true love, seemingly forever. Yet, with the help of good friend Leonardo, Valentina gradually rediscovers her liberated sexual self, unlocking her deepest erotic desires and reaching a level of passion she'd never thought possible. And then a shock from the past sends her reeling...

In Berlin in 1984, Tina Rosselli risks everything for a steamy, highly charged romance with a charismatic young cellist. Their brief but explosive affair will affect Tina for the rest of her life.

As the stories of the two women converge in the trilogy's thrilling and intensely passionate conclusion, both must surrender themselves: to desire, and to love.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Desires Unlocked Trilogy is published by Headline and is available now

"Keeping Up With The Kalashnikovs" by Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

We received a copy of this title from the publisher, in return for an honest review.

“Keeping up with the Kalashnikovs” is  the latest novel in the highly popular Ross O’Carroll-Kelly series . Fans of his weekly column in “The Irish Times” might be surprised to know that this is actually the fourteenth novel in the series .

This story revolves around the kidnapping in Uganda of Ross’ nerdish friend and former school team mate , Fionn , and the attempts of Ross to rescue him . Before that can be achieved Ross must deal with a number of more pressing issues closer to home . His long-suffering wife Sorcha is pregnant with triplets,his mother is dabbling in illicit substances and his eight year old daughter is up to no good . As Ross says “ Life in Killiney has become a nerve-shredding plate-spinning act” In addition to these , Ross manages to involve himself in the relationship woes of his great friends Oisin,JP and Christian !

The Ross O’Carroll-Kelly series has been a fantastic success over the years as people follow his story with regularity and dedication.  I am a fan of this character, and the series, so looked forward to this latest book.  It was a little darker then previous titles, with the pirate element, but had plenty of laugh out loud moments and was full of Ross' usual humour.

 Regular readers of the series are bound to enjoy the many moments of hilarity and cringe that ensue in this episode and I am sure there is more of Ross to come .

Review by Declan Madden

Keeping up with the Kalashnikovs is published by Penguin Ireland on 11th Sep 2014

Friday, 5 September 2014

" Only Ever Yours " by Louise O'Neill. Review by Erin Madden aged 15.


In this novel, the School is a place where young girls are brought up in ways focused on pleasing men.  In their 16th year, they will attend a ceremony where they will be chosen by the boys to become either companions ( wife types ) or concubines ( more like mistresses, seemingly less desirable ) - Everybody strives to be a companion but who is chosen depends on the lessons they have been taught, from the age of 4. Their beauty is their only asset.

I had been struggling to find an enjoyable book for a while, until this was recommended and bought for me.  It's the first one I have finished in over a month.  Interesting Cover. Unique idea. Darker than the average YA. It really made me think about the pressure to be 'perfect' in reality.  I grew attached to the main character, Freida and found myself worried along with her.  It's really well written and has great character development.

Over all I genuinely enjoyed reading this book.  I think the author did a great job of making it unpredictable.  I would think "it's going to end this way" but I would find myself completely wrong.  I would definitely read more of Louise O'Neill's work!

Only Ever Yours is published by Quercus and is available in paperback or ebook format

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Exclusive UK and Ireland cover reveal of " A Memory of Violets" by Hazel Gaynor


I was delighted to be asked to do the official unveiling of New York Times best selling author, Hazel Gaynor's second novel "A Memory of Violets".  It is great to be the first to see the cover as,  in a weird way, I have become attached to the book before it has even been released!  I hope you enjoyed Hazel's first novel, about Titanic, "The Girl Who Came Home" and that this new novel piques your interest too.  I am hoping to get some more of my historical fiction fix from this wonderful author very soon.........



From the author of the Irish Times bestseller The Girl Who Came Home comes an unforgettable historical novel that tells the story of two little sisters - orphaned flower sellers - and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.

 ‘For Little Sister … I will never stop looking for you.’
 1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden’s flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by the presence of each other. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.
 1912. Twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, taking them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start; a chance to leave her troubled past behind.
Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora’s entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her sister.  Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.


Born in North Yorkshire, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband, two children and an accident-prone cat. Hazel has been writing ever since 2009 when she swapped her life in corporate training and development to become a full-time writer. Since then she has written a guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for Irish writing website www.writing.ie and also interviewed many authors for the blog. For more info on Hazel please visit her website, www.hazelgaynor.com or follow her on Twitter @HazelGaynor

A Memory of Violets is published by Willam Morrow Paperbacks/Harper365 on 12th March 2015 and can be 
pre-ordered online now.   Her previous novel, The Girl Who Came Home is available in paperback and kindle editions.

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