Monday, 29 December 2014

'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins



I received a review edition of this title via Netgalley.com...


Rachel is on a downward spiral.  Her marriage has broken down, she has lost her job and her drinking is more than a small problem.   Taking the commuter train to London, at peak times, each working day, she watches the world go by, rather than confronting it.  As she observes the same people, in the same houses, each day, she begins to form a picture of them in her mind.  Their names, their jobs and their routines.  The fog of alcohol helps bring these people to life, for her, and when she hears that a young woman, that she he has been watching, has disappeared without trace, the reality of what she has witnessed hits her with a bang.  The only thing is, with a reputation as a drunk, prone to mental breakdown, will anyone believe her?

This debut novel is creating a lot of discussion at the moment, although not released until Jan, the reviewers have given it a resounding thumbs up.  I agree. 
An addictive read from page one, Rachel is a character that demands attention.  Her descent to her current level is drip fed to the reader and the pity, shame and despair that she feels is palatable.  She is a victim of circumstance and there but for the Grace of God go I...

The unsuspecting 'actors' in her real life play are only seen for a few minutes each day, but she feels a connection to them, makes them part of her journey and her routine.  The past is interlinked with this street and the alcohol keeps her connected more than she could be.  Prone to blackouts after some of her drinking sessions, Rachel struggles to piece together the weak parts of her memory that may contain information about Megan, the missing girl, and the night she disappeared.  Did she witness something or is all related to her depressed and drunk state?  

The standard of this novel is high. Way high.  Much stronger than Gone Girl, paced at break neck speed, hidden stories and twist and turns throughout.  For fans of Into The Darkest Corner and Before I Go To Sleep, it is a superb psychological thriller, with hints of classic black and white Hitchcock movies throughout.  A perfect way to escape reality, and may make you look at your fellow commuters in a new light.  Sure to be a massive bestseller!

Highly Recommended.


The Girl On The Train is published by Doubleday on 15th Jan 2015 and will also be available in ebook format.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

'Waiting For Doggo' by Mark B. Mills




Thanks to Bookbridgr.com for  the review copy of this title.....

Daniel is the recipient of a goodbye note from his girlfriend of four years, Clara.  Not only has she dumped him, without warning, but she has also left her rescue dog, Doggo, behind.  Daniel and Doggo are by no means best mates.  Actually, they are pretty much ignoring each other.  Doggo is a mutt, described by many as one of the ugliest dogs they have ever seen.  Daniel is, however, glad of the company, as the departure of Clara means more time alone in his apartment.  Himself and Doggo begin to settle in to a routine and they become almost inseparable.  

When Daniel starts a new job, he insists Doggo is allowed come to the office and pretty soon, the dog becomes part of the furniture.  He learns to deliver letters, has the ladies bringing him for haircuts and shows that looks are not everything.  Daniel finds friendship through his canine friend and sees life differently.  He now notices when Doggo doesn't like someone, usually with good reason, and is amazed to learn that his pet has a crush on Jennifer Anniston.  All in all, life has not turned out so bad.  But, Daniel thinks someone may be missing Doggo and knows that the Battersea Dogs Home may hold the key to finding out more about Doggos past.  With the help of his new co-worker, Edith, the search for Doggos previous owner begins.  There is also the question of his own past.  A possible secret has surfaced and needs more investigating....


Mark Mills has written a tale of friendship.  Not everyone is a dog lover, some are more tolerant than others and Daniel really didn't have an opinion, one way or the other, before he found himself the sole carer of Doggo.  His newly single status affects him less than his newly found pet-ownership.  His previous lack of responsibility and his laid back lifestyle has never been an issue before, but now, thanks to Doggo, he can see the pointlessness, the lack of direction and the need for maturity in his own life.  

With a similar tone to Nick Hornby's About A Boy, this is a story of growing up.  Not in years, or in a coming-of-age way.  It shows how a grown man can actually do some growing up, with the help of the right friends, and move onto the next stage of his life.  Sometimes it is a woman who instills this change, perhaps becoming a father could be the catalyst.  Maybe watching family members grow up, move on, get married or start new lives abroad.  For Daniel, Doggo is his motivation.  

A short, sweet novel which gets under your skin and has the reader cheering on as Doggo and Daniel take on their world, one day at a time, together.  Very enjoyable with memorable characters that linger long after the last page is turned.

Recommended.

Waiting For Doggo is published by Headline Review and is available in Hardback and ebook format

'The Pierced Heart' by Lynn Sheperd. Guest review from Lisa Redmond.



We received a copy of this title from netgalley.com...

The Pierced Heart like Shepherd’s previous novels pays homage to a literary classic and although set a good deal earlier in the century than Bram Stoker’s Dracula it beautifully mirrors the plot and language while also maintaining the drama necessary in a murder mystery. Our hero Charles Maddox is sent to investigate a mysterious Austrian baron who has promised a large donation to Oxford University but despite the chance to escape to the beautiful Austrian countryside Maddox does not rest easy as Von Reisenberg proves a mysterious and disturbing subject and Maddox is plagued by nightmares and curiosity about the Baron. Returning to England Maddox learns of a string of strange and vicious murders in London and he knows just who the killer is if only he could prove it. A wonderful twist in the tale at the end left me greedy for more. I loved Shepherd’s writing and look forward to the next instalment. I read this book without realising that it was book four of a series, the three previous books featuring Investigator Charles Maddox are also inspired by literary classics and I look forward to catching up on the story so far.

The Pierced Heart is published by Delacorte Press and is available in hardcover and ebook format


Sunday, 21 December 2014

"Kingdom of Scars" by Eoin C Macken




Thanks to Poolbeg/WardRiverPress for the review copy of this title...

Fifteen year old schoolboy, Sam, is at that stage where he has one foot in childhood, and the other is on the cusp of maturity.  One minute he reads football magazines, the next he dreams of sleeping with girls and escaping his boring suburban existence. Although he attends a private catholic school, in Dublin,  he struggles to belong to any one group and finds himself bullied on an almost daily basis.  Even when he returns home to the affluent area of Howth, he jumps from the frying pan into the fire, as his desire to fit in with local lads causes more misery than it's worth.   The bruises, shame, disrespect and abuse are a constant in Sam's world, but he persists, on a dangerous journey through the wilderness of adolescence.

I started this novel with no pre-conceptions, no plot detail and no genre assignment.  After the first chapter, I went online and ordered copies for all of my nephews (teenagers) with the hope that they will read this book and know what power writing can wield.  Eoin Macken has dissected the awful inner world of a teenage boy, showing how sometimes wanting the wrong thing can be the only way to survive among peers. The drink, the drugs, the sex and the violence, these can often be misconstrued as being a side effect of location, upbringing and parental neglect.  This novel is a perfect example of how this is not true.  The need to fit in can sometimes overtake all common sense, no matter what age one is, and right and wrong can easily become blurred.  

The moment where Sam meets a schoolgirl, from Bray, called Antoinette, is such a delicate passage.  The innocence, flirting, clumsiness and uncertainty that the author describes is delightful.  The first kiss, the raging hormones and consequent let downs are enough to bring back the bushing days of any adolescent.   Sam is a genuine good guy, deep down wanting to please everyone, prepared to do anything to get through the day in one piece.  His parents are unaware of the hard knocks he is taking, despite the bruises and scars, but his mentor in school is ever watchful.   Teachers seem to take a dislike to Sam too and the weight of the world appears to be on his shoulders.  Yet, throughout all this,  he just wants to be loved.  To find love.  To find his space.

This is a novel of fear, uncertainty and the constant demand to fit in.  Considering the approach to adolescent mental health, in the teenage age bracket, in this country, maybe more adults should read this book and take notes.  Not all children are as happy and content as they seem, and not all boys are as miserable as they pretend to be either.  Balance is the key.  Balance and honesty.  

Spectacular debut fiction....



Kingdom of Scars is published by Ward River Press/Poolbeg and is available in paperback and ebook format...

Blog Special - My Top Reads of 2014


The Best of 2014




I have put this blog post off as long as possible, as I kept coming across more and more wonderful reads and was afraid I would leave something off the list, unintentionally.  I have finally drawn a line, reluctantly, knowing that some of my followers still have some last minute book shopping to do. 

 Here are my top reads of 2014....Each review can be read by clicking on the link beside each title. Drum Roll Please......

Overall winners: 

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent  Review here



Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy  Review here



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Best Crime Fiction

The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly  Review here


Last Kiss by Louise Phillips  Review here


Black's Creek by Sam Millar  Review here




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Best Historical Fiction

Anyush by Martine Madden  Review here


White Feathers by Susan Lanigan  Review here


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Best Non-Fiction

The Decline and Fall of the Dukes of Leinster by Terence Dooley  Review here


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Best popular fiction

The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern  Review here


The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman   Review here


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Best YA novel

Only Ever Yours by Louise  O'Neill  Review here



Kingdom of Scars by Eoin C Macken  Review here


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Best Children's fiction 

City of Fate by Nicola Pierce  Review here



The Watching Wood by Erika McGann  Review here


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Best Literary Fiction

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh Review here


If I knew you were going to be this beautiful I would have never let you go by Judy Chicurel  Review here


The Closet of Savage Mementos by Nuala Ni Chonchuir   Review here



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There you are!  A few recommended titles to suit everyone.  It was an almighty task to undertake, and I am sure there are still plenty of books which were published this year that deserve a place on this list, but I just couldn't get to finish in time.  Obviously I have a weakness for Irish fiction and considering the amount of talent on our little island, I just have to spread the word!  Looking back over my notes and reviews, it seems I have read over 250 books this year (not including academic titles), so I am hoping that these favourites will make it on to some bookshelves very soon....









"An Island Christmas" by Nancy Thayer




Thanks to netgalley.com for the review copy of this book, under the title 'Christmas on Chestnut Street' 

Nantucket once again comes to life, at Christmas time, in this seasonal novel from Best Seller, Nancy Thayer.  With some familiar characters and places, the island is now about to become a wedding venue on the 25th December.  The bride-to-be is back home for the last minute preparations and the holiday spirit is in full flow as the neighbours throw parties, shopping begins and presents are wrapped.  Life of Nantucket is always idyllic in Nancy Thayers novels, and this one is no different.  

Herein is the problem.  The well bred, wealthy islanders seem to have nothing to complain about. Ever.  The biggest problem they have is when the cat breaks a few Christmas ornaments.  There is always plenty of food (the best of the best), lots of booze, plenty of heat, cosy jumpers, and an endless supply of friends.  Nantucket is obviously a truly amazing location, but surely there must be something new to write about?  The summer season is full of holiday makers and part time residents.  The Christmas season is full of all-year-rounders who march down main street every year with the town crier hollering his jaunty news.  A Christmas wedding could have made for a different angle, but it was a wasted opportunity.  More descriptions of the main streets, this time with white horses and red leather lined carriage.  The characters were over sweet, if a bit cloying and the story was fragile.  

I really enjoyed Nantucket Sisters, which I reviewed earlier this year and A Nantucket Christmas was a nice read too.  However, this one was just not for me.  It seemed a bit like overkill of the Christmas theme and was a disappointment.  Possibly more suitable for Granny's Christmas read.   Fingers crossed for the next novel...


"Rudey's Windy Christmas" by Helen Baugh & Ben Mantle




Thanks to http://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.ie/ for the review copy of this kids Christmas title.


It's that time of the year.  Last minute gifts have to be purchased and it's too late to order anything online.  The bookshop is the perfect place to go, and with so many kids titles available, this is my go-to, perfect Christmas story book for the younger readers...

Rudey has been snacking away on the sprouts, and has now got a bit of a wind problem.  Flying through the night sky, a smell starts to linger, and the other reindeer are blown away.  Rudey blushes, and makes light of the situation. " Oh, pardon me! said Rudolph.  "But I think I've done a pump.  My tummy did a rumble, then my bottom did a trump."

Each new page has another great rhyme, more potty humor and lots of laughs.  Kids will love to resd this one aloud and put on all the silly voices. 

Lots of giggling reindeer, rhyming text and spectacular illutsrations, this is a cracker of Christmas cheer, which caused some serious laughing, here at Bleach House.  Cheeky, fun and guaranteed a hit with the kids... 

Rudey's Windy Christmas is published by HarperCollins Children's Books and is available in paperback and ebook format  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

"White Feathers" by Susan Lanigan



I was late to the game with this one, only managing to get my hands on a copy a few weeks ago.  I am so glad I got to read it, this side of the new year, so I can add to my best reads of 2014!

1913 and War hovers, as a very real possibility, in the air of London.  Men are signing up. women are demanding rights and mothers all over the land fear for their young sons.  The lucky ones are hidden behind the safety of their status, education or rank.  An unexpected bequest means that Eva Downey gets to escape the wrath of her stepmother and stepsister, gaining entry into an exclusive boarding school.  A major change in the young girls life, she embraces the world of learning, structure, poetry and self-improvement.  She is embraced by two very different characters at the school and life takes a very different turn in her sheltered world.

1914 and Eva has a heart-wrenching decision to make.  An evil twist of fate has her held hostage to this decision and the pain remains long after the deed is done.  Love is pain, loss is pain and regret is pain.  But how can one forget what caused the pain? How can one move on?

Written in delicate prose, in the style of the period, the first thing that appealed to me when turning the opening pages, was the fluidity of the words.  They slipped across the page, like a satin scarf slipping off the back of a chair.  Gliding, without any apparent effort, taking the reader along their journey.   This elegance didn't fade once throughout the novel.  Each chapter, each character and each sub-story, all had this unique feel.  I felt like I was discovering some forgotten antiques at an old house auction, that could now be appreciated by a lover of stories.

Susan Lanigan began this book long before this years WWI centenary, but the timing of its release was impeccable.  The White Feathers of the title, are all too well known for their message of cowardice, and may my children never know the impact of such a statement in their lifetime.  Eva is a wonderfully drawn protagonist, one who has been dealt the bad hand but who uses this to make her a stronger person.  Her father is the biggest coward in the whole tale, not the men avoiding war.  A spineless, selfish man, who has hurt the ones who are closest to him, without a second thought.  

Sybil, Christopher and Lucia are the Holy Trinity of Eva's new world.  Unaware of how their roles will affect her, she stumbles across their company, like a moth to a flame.  Their fates are aligned, both in the UK and on the fields of France and Belgium.  Friendship can be a bond, hard to break and harder to forget.  Even when war tears people apart, life has a way of bringing people together.   Heroes, cowards, life, death, duty and honor.  Fear of humiliation, nervous conditions, unplanned pregnancies, and pre-arranged marriages.  This book has a bit of everything.  The most powerful thing it does possess; soul.  Good, old-fashioned, soul.  Beautifully crafted, immaculately researched and lovingly produced.  Place this novel on your best piece of furniture, as it deserves to be displayed prominently, and admired regularly. 


Highly Recommended





White Feathers is published by Brandon/The O'Brien Press ans is available in paperback and ebook format...

"Now That I've Found You" by Ciara Geraghty




I received an ARC of this title from http://www.lovereading.co.uk/ in return for an honest review…


Ellen is housebound after an accident, only getting to venture out once a week when she has physiotherapy. 
Vinnie is learning to cope with being a single dad and has forgotten what it is like to be himself anymore.
A regular taxi fare eventually leads to a form of friendship that neither person has wanted, expected or even realised that they needed.

Ciara Geraghty is one of Ireland’s best loved contemporary fiction writers.  She weaves human stories together with a dash of minute magic and gives her readers a little bit more than the average chick-lit.  This novel is not only warm, clever and moving, it has some of the most wonderful supporting characters that I have read in years.  Vinnie’s friend, Kenny, is a modern day Fonzie, all swish and swagger, with a vintage wardrobe to die for.  Full of random advice and words of wisdom, he would be a welcome addition to any circle of friends.  Vinnie’s mother is one of those salt-of-earth Mammies that are well loved in Irish fiction.  She would do anything to protect her son and his kids, and has such a huge heart that she forgets about herself most of the time.  A regular committee member of many active retirement meetings, including Bingo, Swing Dance, Aqua aerobics and other amazing clubs, she rarely has a moment to sit down.  However, she supports Vinnie 100% and spends more time in his house, than her own.  A true gem of a woman.

Ellen’s mother does not get as much of a look in, but the reader can see the women relax in each other’s company as the novel progresses.  Ellen makes some changes in her life and while they may have been frowned on in previous times, it seems her mother may now see how a life change may be just what the doctor ordered for Ellen.


This story is not one of dramatic events.  It has touches of depression, loneliness and broken families and trust.  It is not full of lessons to be learned, just basic knowledge that sometimes family and friends are all you need.  I admire Ciara Geraghty for not trying too hard to make this a book of morals, as sometimes that comes across as twee.  She has a talent for storytelling, similar to Cecelia Ahern, which deserves to be recognised. Give this Irish author a chance, you won’t be disappointed… 

Now That I've Found You is published by Hodder in paperback on 15th Jan 2015 and is currently available in ebook format.

"The Perfect Mother" by Nina Darnton



I received a review copy of this title from Netgalley.com...
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A happy, healthy all American family.  Mom, Dad, three perfect kids.  One late night phone call changes all that...

Jennifer Lewis, stay at home mother, former actress and model, and wife to successful lawyer, Mark, receives a call from her student daughter, Emma, from a police station in Spain.  She has been linked to the murder of a young Spanish man and the details are sketchy.   Jennifer swings into action and boards the first flight, to try to help her twenty year old in her hour of need.  
The story Emma has told the police does not seem to make much sense and she appears to be tumbling over her own lies.  Who was the murder victim?  Why was he in Emma's flat?  Who is Paco, the mysterious older man?  Why is Emma acting so brittle to her mother?

Starting this late on Friday night, I really didn't think I would still be reading it three hours later, but I was hooked!  The story has echoes of the 'Foxy Knoxy' trial and the reader is introduced to the possibility that we never really know what our kids are up to, when out of sight. 

The character of Emma, the accused student, is the most frustrating one I have read in years.  A spoilt madam who has had everything handed to her on a plate, since birth, yet still manages to be a complete bitch, enabled by her wimpish parents.  This brings me to Jennifer, the mother... From the first page, where a life changing phone call breaks the silence of the night, she is worrying about what clothes to pack in her little travel case.  She demands the best lawyers, private investigators and even gets her friend to recruit a publicity firm for damage control within the media.  All this while fixing her make up and sweeping her hair up into a chic look, for yet another dinner date with the handsome PI.   Mark is unable to  join her, as he says he needs to stay working to keep the money coming in.  Grandparents are left minding the two remaining children at home in the States and don't seem too worried about their eldest Grandchild, languishing in a Spanish Prison.  The whole thing is, frankly, bizarre.  Emma is a douche, Jennifer is a self-centered woman who has used her looks to get her own way most of her life and Mark is a stereotypical lawyer.   However, I have to admit to really enjoying this book.  Interesting narrative, desire to know what really happened that night and some clever writing techniques all made for a great read.  Spain is a magnificent country, and while it was a bit odd to find the protagonist giving tourist tips to her mother, while waiting to see if she would be charged with murder, it was a good way of setting the location.

This novel should not have worked, for many reasons. (Unlikable characters and bizarre gaps in the story being the main problems).  But it DID work.  I flew through it.  Maybe it's because the story is so similar to recent real events, maybe it's because I am a mother who thinks I know what my girls are up to and believe I have reared them with core values and a sense of justice.  Possibly it is because it is just a great page turner, not to be taken too seriously.  Just what we all need, every now and again.


The Perfect Mother is published by Plume Books/Penguin USA and is available in paperback and ebook format

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

"Ignoring Gravity" by Sandra Danby



I recieved an ARC of this title, from the author, for review purposes...

Journalist, Rose Haldan is craving more.  A more successful career, a btter boyfriend and an improved family life.  Following the death of her Mother, herself and her sister come across some diarys hidden away in her childhood home.  Her father doesn't know anything about them and Rose begins to flick through the pages.  She is devastated to learn that her identity is now in question.  It seems she was adopted and her sister, Lily, was not.  This means they have no biological link and Rose struggled to cope with this information.  Suviving family and friends can only shed the barest of light to the events surrounding Rose's adoption , so she takes on the investigative task herself.  Is she really ready for what she may discover?

Sandra Danby has taken the age-old tale of adoption, and the lies that can often surround the event, and written a novel about discovery.  Discovery of lies, discovery of a new identity and discovery of a hidden past.  The chapters are divided amoung characters, with Rose and her sister, Lily, being the main players.  Rose is horrified to discover the truth about her parentage and does not seem to cope with the overall idea very well.  Almost immediately, she refers to her birth mother as Mum and the woman who raised her is virtually wiped from her memory.  I can understand a person stuggling to deal with the discovery that they were adopted, but I found it very hard to sympathise with Rose's dismissal of the mother she had known her whole life.  The search for the truth begins to consume Rose and her treatment of her existing family seems very harsh.  She knows her sister is struggling with fertilty and marriage issues and that her father has lost his job and, in turn, his role if life, and yet she keeps her distance from them.  She is an adult, but her manner suggests otherwise.  I could not connect with her.  She jumps into the search for her birth mother with no thought for the good life that she was given by her adopted family.  There was obviously a reason why she was placed for adoption in the first place, however weak, and she rushes her inquiries without thinking of the bigger picture.  Perhaps the fact that I have had expericence with adoption, from many angles, I took the novel to heart.  I just didn't like Rose. 

Sandra Danby has written about a topic that touches many people, using simple language and bringing in a romantic story alongside the main event.  The romance part was slightly unbelievable, as declarations of love appear after only a couple of dates and the perfectness of the relationship just didn't ring true.  I enjoyed the chapters written from Lily's perpective.  She was a great character, almost child-like in her innocence and her desire to have a child and please her husband gave her an almost Stepford Wife feel.   When she realises that life is not that perfect, she embraces the change whole heartedly and throws herself in to re-discovering herself.

Overall, a good debut but the approach to adoption was quite negative.  I would have liked a more balanced view...

Monday, 8 December 2014

"Bing: Bedtime" by Ted Dewan



Thanks to Lisa from http://inkandpaperhearts.wordpress.com/ for the review copy of this title...


Toddler books can be difficult to get right.  A lot depends on the illustrations and the wording is minimal.  Colours are important and it helps if the story has a purpose.  Luckily, Harper Collins has hit the jackpot with this super sweet book from Ted Dewan.  
The primary colours are the first thing I noticed about this title.  The arrangement is bright and hops off the page.  The accompanying story is one that all parents know, trying to get a routine at bedtime.

Bing, the little black rabbit, is trying to avoid bed.  He has had a long day and is assisted by his favourite toy, Flop.  They run through the routine together and this includes a bath, brushing teeth and a trip to the loo.  Of course, a bedtime story is mentioned, and the last page asks the reader what order do they have for their bedtime routine.  Although the children in this house are too old for this book,  they actually loved it!  They really enjoyed the illustrations and then had great fun with the routine map at the end.  I think a toddler would ask for this story again and again as it is so much fun.

Bing and Flop are just adorable characters.  I would definitely recommend this for ages 1-3 and will make sure to get a copy for my nephew...

Bing: Bedtime is published by Harper Collins Children's Books and is available in paperback and ebook format 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

"The Poison Tree" by Erin Kelly



When asked to pick a novel for our bookclub, this debut from Erin Kelly was the first that came to mind.  It has been on my wishlist since its release in 2010 and I remember reading the most wonderful reviews in the newspapers.  Only a couple of the members of our bookclub would be avid thriller readers, and I knew this was a perfect opportunity to get this genre introduced again.

Karen is a language student in a run-of-the-mill college, her days are dull, her manner reserved and her boyfriend and flatmates are boring.  She is extremely intelligent but lacks ambition.  All this changes after a chance encounter with the enigmatic and bohemian Biba.  A fellow student, but of a very different background, herself and her brother, Rex, live in a crumbling townhouse with an eclectic mix of characters.  Their unusual lifestyle is frightening and alluring in equal measures and Karen quickly falls in love with the charm of Biba, Rex and the craziness of their home.  Here begins a summer of cheap wine, recreational drugs and sexual adventure. Zipping around London in a decrepit Mini, parties and sleeping all day.  The intense personality of Biba begins to seep into Karen's pores and they almost become one.  

Inevitably, something goes wrong.  The comings and goings through the open house are a magnet for disaster and Karen is caught in the middle of it. But can this summer be wiped out of her memory? Can the deaths of two people be brushed under the carpet?  One chance encounter has led Karen into a world of deceit, lies and death.

From the beginning, the reader knows something big is going to happen.  It is obviously something related to Biba and Karen, but the author uses such beautiful language and tone, that it doesn't really matter what happens.  The main protagonists are so completely opposite that they could be from different generations.  But they work so well together.  One is calm, astute and reserved, the other is flighty, insecure and needy.  The two girls spark off each other and the intense connection they have just oozes from the page.  Rex, the older brother is harder to gauge.  He adores his sister and watches over her, to an almost borderline addiction.  When Karen is around, the trio struggle to gel and the atmosphere is not as relaxed as it should be.  The writing of these scenes is dissected to fit the mood and makes the reader feel like a hidden spectator.  The descriptions of the house and all its contents are trickled throughout the novel, which is part of the authors ingenious way of sucking us in to the story.
When the deaths occur, there may not be a huge intake-of-breath moment, but what happens afterwards is again teased out, page by page, chapter by chapter, until you can barely take anymore.

I can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading this amazing book.  Beautifully crafted, with evocative narrative and clever balancing of detestable characters, placed alongside more sympathetic ones.  The story hops off the page from the first chapter and pulls you into the hot, sticky summer in London that changed many lives forever.  A powerful piece of fiction....

Highly Recommended.

The Poison Tree is published by Hodder and is available in paperback and ebook format.


"Keep Quiet" by Lisa Scottoline




Thanks to Headline and Bookbridgr.com for the review copy of this title...


Ryan is almost old enough to get his drivers licence and has been taking lessons for months.  Jake thinks that he can gain some credibility with his son by letting Ryan drive on a quiet country road, late one evening.  This one error of judgment leads to the death of a young girl out for a jog.  A split second decision is called for, leaving Jake and Ryan riddled with guilt.  Can they get away with it?  Can they live with their decision for the rest of their lives?  Why is a stranger approaching Jake at a school basket ball game?  Is covering up a secret like this really worth the pain it causes?

This is a book of choices.  Firstly, would you flee the scene of a hit-and-run? Would you put the future of your child ahead of homicide? Could you live with your choice forever? Could you hide your distraught state from those who love you?  Secondly, how far would you go to keep this secret?  Who or what would you sacrifice to ensure the secret never escapes?

All these questions are asked early on in this thriller.  The accident causes a ripple effect and someone is going to have to pay.  The start of this novel had me turning the pages at a frantic pace and I was settling in for a one-sitting book.  However, something went wrong.  Maybe it's because it is set in USA and a lot of the slang, terminology and high school references were beginning to tire me.  There was also a lot of financial and legal aspects to the book which, frankly, bored me.  I think the premise was fantastic, a father prepared to do anything to protect his son, but it just fell flat after the first few chapters.  Ryan, the son, is a bit too sweet-as-candy and Pam, the legal eagle mother is seriously annoying.  Jake is in dire need of a holiday from his wife and child, if you ask me, and the combination of the three together was a bit head-wrecking.  A pair of police detectives are introduced halfway through the story, and they are infuriatingly weak characters.  The last chapter is over done and the epilogue was not needed at all. 

I think this could have been so much better.  It was trying to be a Lee Child or David Baldacci type book, but fell short due to character flaws and a story which tried to be too clever.  Had it been stripped back to basics, it could have been great.

A quick read, suited for a holiday in the sun, with not too much attention required.




"The House of Robots" by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein





Thanks to the publishers for sending us an ARC of this title....

Review by Mia Madden, aged 11 years.


This book is about a boy called Sammy.  His mother is an inventor and is making him a robot to bring to school.  She thinks it will help his sister, Maddie who is housebound due to an illness.  The robot can then teach her all the things he has been taught in school.  The robot is called 'E' (short for egghead). 

'E' goes to Sammy's classroom to learn, but gets suspendended for interrupting teachers and having food fights.  When he is allowed to return to the school, he behaves better after some 'cool' lessons from Sammy.  The book takes a turn when 'E' is kidnapped and Sammy and hos family need to find him.

I liked this story, especially as it had some great puns included.  Sammy is just an average boy with a very special robot brother.  Coming from a family if inventors means his life is unusual, but fun.
Hanging out with 'E' has it's benefits (like having a personal bodyguard to protect him against bullies).  Because Maddie is stuck at home, 'E' is her way of seeing what is happening outside of the house.  

I loved the drawings.  They helped make the book come to life.  I can't wait to read the next in the series of House of Robots!

I would recommend this book for ages 8+

The House of Robots (House of Robots 1) is published by Arrow and is available in hardback and ebook format.



Saturday, 6 December 2014

"Once Upon A Bedtime" by Various Authors

Thanks to Poolbeg books for sending us a review copy of this book...


Earlier in the year, RTE Guide invited their readers to submit children's stories for a Poolbeg Publication in partnership with the Jack & Jill Foundation.  All royalties would go to the charity and the competition was open to anyone who wanted to share their stories.  Now, in December, we have this fantastic collection, an ideal time of year, as kids all over the country would be delighted to get this for Christmas. 

The collection is made up of twenty stories, written by authors of all ages and varying backgrounds.  There are a few teachers stories in here, which is a good sign.  They are the one who have chosen their career in the confines of a classroom, with eager young faces looking up at them all day, and they know what kids love to read.  There are also mothers, fathers and grandparents galore.  Who better than the ones who read to youngsters on a regular basis?  I handed the book over to the two young resident reviewers in Bleach House and they insisted on reading them out loud each evening.  This may explain the delay in reviewing the title!
 Here are some of their thoughts....

Declan the fire-breathing Dragon  and A silly story were lovely stories, suitable for the younger toddler age group.
Lonely at the Top went down very well with the two readers as was a Christmas themed tale.
Larry the Ladybird had a lovely moral within the story, that it's ok to be different.  Always a good thing to teach kids.
Lester the Lazy Elf made the girls giggle.
The Little Magic Turtle was everyone's favourite.  I think the illustrations played a big part in this.
The Sun, the Moon and the Nightingale lead to further discussions about the planet and how nature works.  
The girls also both enjoyed reading the poems out loud.  It can be hard to get the juices flowing for poetry as they grow up, so it was great to see them enthusiastic about these rhymes.

All in all, a lovely book.  A great cause and wonderful to see new writers getting their voices heard.  Lovely length stories for bedtime or even just when you have a spare five minutes to sit with your child during the day.  The reviewers in this house preferred the older style illustrations and kept asking for these stories to be read again and again.

I would recommend this book to kids from 1-8. Younger ones will love to cuddle up and look at the pictures while the stories are being read to them, while the older ones will feel very grown up as they read the tales aloud.  A lovely parcel of storytime love....

Once Upon a Bedtime is available in all good bookshops, is part of Eason's 3 for 2 offer at time of review and can also be ordered online from Poolbeg.com or other online retailers

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

"Don't call me Christina Kringle" by Chris Grabenstein




We received a copy of this title from netgalley.com

Review by Mia Madden, aged 11.

This is the story of a 12 year old girl, called Christina Lucci.  She used to love Christmas but then, the previous year, her father died in a fire (he was a fire fighter)and her Mom died giving birth to her on Christmas Day.  She now lives with just her Grandfather, Guiseppe.  Her dads old friend, Captain Dave, calls her Kristina Kringle but she has no reason the celebrate. 

Then, a few days before Christmas, she meets two elf-like characters (Brownies) in her Grandfather's shoe repair shop.  They are helping out like in the story of the elves and the shoemaker.  They even starting helping her with her homework!  They all become friends and even find more Brownies, in other stores close by.  One Brownie Hunter (bad guy) called Donald McCracken is after all the Brownies on behalf of their true owner (also bad guy).  Christina helps them hide from the Hunter. 

All the excitement helps her get through this difficult time of year.  She delivers presents to kids in hospital and to kids whos parents have no money.  Her father used to do this too, so she feels connected.  She gets help from her new Brownie friends, Nails and Prof. Pencilneck.

I thought this book was hilarious!  There were Brownies who spoke in rhyme and certain puns that made me giggle.  It's a nice quick read, ideal for this time of the year.  I would love to read more books by Chris Grabenstein.

I would recommend this for ages 7+.

Don't call me Christina Kringle is published by Open Road Media and is available in ebook format...


"The Long and the Short of it" by Annmarie Miles

 
 
I received a copy of this title, from the author, in return for an honest review...
 
Short stories, as a rule, tend to be overlooked.  Collections are often purchased as gifts and pushed to the bottom of the reading piles in favour of the latest novel that everyone is talking about.  However, Irish authors are not so hesitant to commit to a story under 3000 words.  We have all read classic short stories from famous authors like James Joyce, Walter Macken and Edna O'Brien as well as the more modern collections like the annual Fish Anthology, along with the lighter works of women's fiction authors like Marian Keyes or Cathy Kelly.  There are wonderful short stories appearing in publications on a weekly basis and competitions are inundated with entries from eager writers hoping to see their words on the page.  According to current statistics, the short story is making its comeback and the award winning Dubliners 100, published by Tramp Press earlier this year, shows how many established authors are willing to take on the challenge of telling a story within a limited amount of words.  It can be a daunting task, one that seems easier than it actually is....
 
Annmarie Miles has embraced her love of writing the short story and gone with the flow.  This collection is a range of  tales, not connected in anyway, each with  different word counts, morals and depth.  She chooses darker topics such as bullying, death, grief alonside the lighter momets in life.  The book is designed in such a way, that it can picked up at any time, a story read and absorbed and perhaps not picked up again until you have a spare minute or two. The stories range from 100 - 3,500 words.  Each story has a basis of reality. No fantasy or sci-fi, just real people.  An ideal book to have in the kitchen, as a story or two can be read while kids do homework, a cup of coffee is brewing or a pot simmering on the stove. 
 
I had mixed feelings with the individual stories.  Some were outstanding for me, notably A Life Saved and The Disappearance of Bernie Francis, while others were just a bit too twee.  It seems I favour the darker themes, but this collection caters for all tastes.  I applaud Annmarie for her brave move in self-publishing her collection of short stories and I would love to see more authors take the risk.  I personally hope that the short story is indeed coming back to the forefront of fiction, and that authors will continue to tap out these little gems along with their popular novels.  This collection would be a great way to re-introduce yourself to the, often forgotten, world of Short Stories 
 

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