Sunday, 31 May 2015

"Only Eva" by Judi Curtin. Guest review from Jane, aged 11.

We received a copy of this title, from O'Brien Press, in return for an honest review...

Guest review from Jane Roe, aged 11

This book is about the amazing Eva Gordon.  She is the most determined girl you'll ever meet.  So when Aretta, the new girl at school, rushes out of school and hurries home every day, Eva must find out why.  But Eva has another problem on her hands.  Her best friend, Ella's granny has been separated from her gorgeous dog.  Eva tries her hardest to cheer her up.  Eva has an amazing talent for bringing people together and making everyone happy.  But sometimes it all becomes a bit too much for a young girl like her.  With the help of her friends, can she help everyone?

I really enjoyed this book.  I couldn't put it down.  I have read other books in this series and I was not surprised at how great it was.  Judi Curtin is a fantastic author and I think she has an amazing imagination.  My favourite character is definitely Eva.  She is funny, clever and never gives up.  She also has a talent for dragging people, especially her best friend Ella, into her crazy but clever schemes. 

I would recommend this book to girls age 10+.

Only Eva is published by O'Brien Press and is available in paperback and ebook format

Sunday, 24 May 2015

3000 twitter followers #Giveaway - PB edition of Colette Caddle's "Every Time We Say Goodbye".

Here is another little giveaway as a thanks to all my followers.  A bit of female fiction, this time, with the fantastic Irish author, Colette Caddle.  Grab your beach towel, sunscreen and sunglasses, pick up of of Colette's easy reads, and relax...
Just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Open INT and closes on 31st May 2015.

The Blurb
Marianne has worked hard to get where she is today. Brought up in care, she's always been determined to make sure her children have what she so badly craved: a secure and loving home. But then comes the news that will change everything: her husband, Dominic, has been found dead. But as Marianne listens, she realises that not everything adds up: Dom had said he was at work, and yet he died at a restaurant. And what's more, his mobile phone has disappeared. As she, and the police, delve deeper into the circumstances surrounding Dominic's death, they discover a web of lies which conceal a shady double life. And those lies now threaten to tear apart everything that Marianne has worked so hard for. Now, as Marianne stares down at her husband's coffin, little does she realise that the worst is yet to come...

Best of luck!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Giveaway - 2 paperback editions of "Ashenden" by Elizabeth Wilhide.

Here is the second Giveaway to celebrate reaching 3000 twitter followers.  I came across this title while shopping in Drogheda, Co. Louth and basically totally judged a book by its cover!  In fairness, the blurb interested me too, as I live in an 18thC house (although not on the same scale- regrettably) and the concept of finding out about a house, and its previous residents, is one that intrigued me.  I picked up three copies, one for me and two for giveaway.  Open INT, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Closes 31st May 2015.

The Blurb

Spring 2010, and when Charlie and Ros inherit Ashenden from their aunt Reggie a decision must be made. The beautiful eighteenth-century house, set in acres of English countryside, is in need of serious repair. Do they try to keep it in the family, or will they have to sell?

Moving back in time, in an interwoven narrative spanning two and a half centuries, we witness the house from its beginnings through to the present day. Along the way we meet those who have built the house, lived in it and loved it; those who have worked in it, and those who would subvert it to their own ends, including Mrs Trimble, housekeeper to the rackety, spendthrift Mores; the wealthy Henderson family, in their Victorian heyday; six-year-old Pudge; Walter Beckmann, prisoner in its grounds; and Reggie and Hugo, agents of its postwar revival.

Through good times and bad, the better we get to know the house, the more we care about its survival. A novel about people, architecture and living history, Ashenden is an evocative and allusive reflection on England and its past.

Best of Luck! 

Friday, 22 May 2015

3000 twitter followers #Giveaway - "The Lie" by C.L. Taylor

I have reached another milestone in my book blogging 'career' and, as a thank you, I have a couple of giveaways planned this weekend.  First up is a paperback copy of The Lie by C. L. Taylor, which is my thriller of the year.  You can read my review of this amazing novel here.

To enter, just click on the rafflecopter link below.  Open INT and closes 31 May 2015.  Best of luck!

Check back for more giveaways this weekend...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

"The Lie" by C.L. Taylor

I received a copy of this via, for review purposes...

Jane has a nice settled life.  Living and working in the Welsh countryside has its benefits.  A job in the local animal sanctuary, a new boyfriend with great potential as a keeper and a peaceful existence overall.  However, she has been hiding the truth from everyone and an anonymous note may be the beginning of the end of her quiet days, as her secret comes back to haunt her. 
Five years previously,  a different world,  a  different circle of friends and a summer of change. 
 A girls holiday,  a right of  passage that most young women enjoy before settling down and having kids.  Sun, adventure and escapism.  What could go wrong?  What, indeed...

C.L. Taylor has taken the concept of a girls trip and twisted it on its axis, bringing the reader on a journey to hell.  Jane and her three girlfriends decide to escape their humdrum lives (and a recent heartbreak) to Nepal, with expectations of luxury spa treatments, trekking up mountains and a safari finale.  The planning is quickly arranged, finances sorted and off they go.  Lazing around the pool, lizard watching, having a few beers and laughing til their bellies ache.  The sun beats down and the girls begin to unwind.  Unfortunately, tensions build at break neck speed and the atmosphere becomes icy, despite the heat.  Things take an even darker twist when the girl hike up a mountain to stay at a commune for meditation and massage.  There is a sinister aura and friendships are tested to the extreme.  Lies, deceit and disappearances replace the plans for retreat and relaxation.  Just who can be trusted?  Will everyone make it back down the mountain in one piece? 

This is my favourite thriller of the year, so far!  I read it in one day and completely ignored my family for the duration.  (No need to call social services, my husband had the day off). A psychological thriller to rival The Girl on The Train, this is a cracker of a novel.  From the beginning, the reader is aware that Jane has a secret, one that is serious enough to warrant a change of name.  Usually this is where authors head down the abusive husband/missing child/whacko relative past, but this book leads us on an exotic journey into the minds and actions of some seriously damaged souls.  As Taylor peels back the layers from her characters, teasingly switching time frames, there is a real need to read 'just one more page'.  Four very different girls, Emma, Daisy, Leanne and Al make for a wonderful mixture of personalities and the friction between them increases as the trip becomes a dangerous, disaster zone.  The author writes with fantastic insight into her character's minds and produces a flawless, dark tale which hooks the reader from page one.  Not too long, or too short, with great pacing, this is a must read for fans of a cracking good thriller.  Thankfully, the tagline does not read 'For fans of Gone Girl' which is my pet hate, due to over-use, but I am sure there will be many novels, to follow this one, which will have 'For fans of The Lie' sprawled across the front.  Sure to linger on bestseller lists for the foreseeable future...

The Lie is published by Avon Books and is available in paperback and ebook format

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

"The Whitehall Mandarin" by Edward Wilson.

Thanks to Arcadia Books for sending us a copy of this title, for review purposes...

Review by Declan Madden.

William Catesby , SIS agent ,operates in a world where no one or nothing is as it seems to be.  Tasked with discovering the source of leaked classified files concerning nuclear weaponry, he finds himself questioning who exactly he should be investigating.
Lady Penelope Somers is the first female to head up the Ministry of Defence.  Wealthy and powerful but also with something to hide, it falls to Catesby to find the secret and bury it.
The Whitehall Mandarin is set in the Cold War era spanning over a decade from the mid fifties to the late sixties and is a real classic spy story.  The action moves from London to Moscow and eventually the conflict in Vietnam with various stops along the way. The main character, William Catesby,  works in a world of double-cross and counter-bluff where every person is suspected of spying, either for the Soviet KGB or the new rising power that is China.  China’s rapid ascent to world super power poses serious questions to both the British secret services and the KGB as to how it acquired the ability to manufacture its own nuclear weaponry so quickly.  A trip to Moscow for Catesby ends up leading to a search across South East Asia during the Vietnam war for the daughter of Lady Somers and the secret she has hidden for years.

Edward Wilson has written a cracker of a story here.  He has set the story in the height of the Cold Ward crisis and used real time events as background to the events occurring in the novel.  From the Bay of Pigs crisis through to the Profumo Scandal, Philby, Burgess and Maclean and the Vietnam War there is a definite sense of reality through the pages.  The action takes place over a number of years and builds up to a dramatic ending with the writing well-paced.  The character of Catesby is well developed and we see an outsider looking in at the peculiarities of the upper-class English who dominate officialdom and how their hedonism allows for them to be recruited by foreign espionage agents.  It’s a clever story with plenty of twists and fans of classic spy novels by Le Carre will certainly enjoy this work.

The Whitehall Mandarin is published by Arcadia Books and is now available in paperback and ebook format.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

"The Life and Death of Sophie Stark" by Anna North

Thanks to W&N for supplying an ARC in return for an honest review...

Sophie Stark is unusual.  From childhood she spent most of her time alone, or in her brother's company and was always on the edge of her peer circle.  When she moved off to college, her life took a curious turn.  She became interested in directing movies and required little or no assistance. Through the eyes of six different characters, the reader begins to unravel the intense personality of Sophie Stark, and gets a glimpse into the troubled mind of a young woman on the permanent edge of sanity...

Anna North is a seasoned journalist so I was expecting a certain writing standard.  However, her talent as a creative writer is phenomenal.  She writes with raw passion, deep and dark intensity and uses clever techniques to draw us into a murky world we know little about.  Sophie is a damaged and dangerous girl.  Like a preying mantis, she draws people close, makes them fall under her spell, then chews them up and spits them out.  Each character recalls their encounters with the director and the narrative rarely overlaps (which can be repetitive in some novels).  The overall shadow that Sophie casts is one of self-motivation, coldness and dramatic indifference.  The ability to create a protagonist like Sophie Stark is no mean feat.  There are moments in this novel where the prose is reminiscent of strong novelist voices, like Margaret Atwood or Kate Atkinson.  The sadness of the story dragged me down somewhat though, as harsh bullying, difficult childhood experiences and a lack of ambition seeped out of some of the characters.  The tone is dark, with little light breaking through, but it is a novel that should be read and savoured.  Not every cloud has a silver lining, some are just prequels to a storm...

A highly recommended debut.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is published by Weindenfeld & Nicolson in ebook format on 18th May 2015 and in paperback in 2016.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

"The Mute Button" by Ellie Irving. Review from Mia, aged 11.

Review by Mia Madden, aged 11.

This book is about a boy, called Anthony Button, who has gone an 'I'm Not Talking' strike.  This is because he felt he wasn't getting enough attention at home.  The first person to notice that he had stopped talking was his sister, Susie.  She was very surprised as he was normally a chatterbox.  His two brothers were next to notice, with his parents being last.   The discovery of an older brother was the reason for the lack of attention at home.  The strike is going well until Anthony has to give a presentation in school, which means a lot of talking....

I enjoyed this book a lot.  It was really interesting. It had lots about family and was very sweet.  I would recommend this for age 8+.

The Mute Button is published by Corgi Childrens and is available in paperback and ebook format.

"The Dress" by Kate Kerrigan.

I received an ARC of this title in return for an honest review...

1950s New York and one of the most beautiful women in the city is on the hunt for a dress.  Not just any dress, one that is unique, alluring and awe inspiring.  The hope is that the right dress could save her marriage.  For Joy, beauty has always been part of her life.  Blessed with looks, money and breeding, life has always been plain sailing.  But lately things are not as straight forward.  She finds herself needing a drink to help her get through the day, finds the walls of her fifth avenue home closing in around her and her husband drifting away for no obvious reason.  A chance encounter with a talented young designer sets a plan in motion.  The perfect party, the perfect dress and the return to the perfect marriage.  
Meanwhile, unknown Irish seamstress, Honor, struggles to believe in her talent.  She knows she can design and create, but is it enough for the high-maintenance socialite?  Can she produce a dress so exquisite that it could change Joy's life? Or even her own?  Thousands of dollars are spent as the two women pin their hopes on the dream of the perfect dress...

This is Kate Kerrigan's first novel with Head of Zeus and what a way to kick off!  Using her talent for writing historical fiction, and blending it with a current timeline, this novel is pitched perfectly for the reader who wishes to escape to another world.  There are actually a few worlds rolled into the this; 1950s New York, 1930s Ireland, Present day London, Miami and Ireland, all with their own tales to tale.  Lily is a vintage fashion blogger and while researching images for her blog, she stumbles across a photo of Joy in an outstanding, intricate dress which blows the blogger's mind.  As the woman also has the same surname, Lily delves some more and discovers they are loosely related.  The photo inspires Lily to dust down her dressmaking equipment and re-create the dress.  
The narrative shifts from time and location with ease and there is a softness about the overall story that remains throughout.  While there are plenty of design and dress making moments in the novel, it is written in such a way that the reader is not overloaded.  The big selling point of  The Dress is very simple: imagination.  The descriptions of New York in its Hey Day, the dresses, the dinner parties, the cocktail hours and the need for a drinks cabinet in the drawing room.  Those days may be long gone, along with women's unequal status (for the most), but that doesn't mean we can't slip into these women's marabou slippers, and lives, for a bit.  Look at the success of  the TV show, Mad Men.  Don Draper and fashion to die for. Simple.  The imagination is also used to bring us on fashion shoots in 2014 Miami and lace-hunting trips to rural Ireland.  Lily has a part to play in all  of this, but it is Joy and Honor who remain to the forefront.  Two very different women, from immensely different backgrounds, they somehow find solace in each other's company and form a special bond while creating the masterpiece.  But what happens when it's finished?  Can their friendship withstand the aftermath? 

This is women's fiction at its finest.  The writing is flawless, flows nicely and has a perfect pace.  The past links well with the present and the overall package is finely crafted.  A stunning cover is sure to call out to many from the shelves of bookshops everywhere,in September (when it is released in hardback) and no doubt will be downloaded to many an e-reader this summer.  For anyone who has gazed longingly at the pages of Vogue, drooled over the costumes in period dramas or wondered what rich socialites in Manhattan really did all day, this is for you.  A fusion of fashion and feeling... 

The Dress is published by Head of Zeus in ebook format on 1st July 2015 and in hardback on 10th September 2015.  

"The Sudden Departure of the Frasers" by Louise Candlish

Thanks to for sending me a review copy of this title...

When you feel something is too good to be true, it tends to be fact.  But if you want that something badly enough, you can ignore niggling feelings and take a chance.  In this novel from Louise Candlish, young couple, Christy and Joe Davenport bag the bargain of a lifetime when they buy a beautiful three story residence in the exclusive area of Lime Park Road, London.  The price may have been well below the average in the area, but the house is finished to perfection, with top of the range extras and immaculate attention to detail.  The previous owners, Amber and Jeremy Fraser, seemed to have left in a hurry, and Christy begins to wonder why they would sell so quickly and at such a low price.  When she tries to ask the neighbours about the Frasers' departure, she gets curt responses and even manages to block friendships she had yet to form.  Why all the secrecy surrounding her house?  What kind of people were the Frasers?  Digging deeper may lead to digging herself into a hole that she cannot clamber out of...

London author, Louise Candlish is one of many writers who are underrated.  Comparisons have been made to Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain, but I feel she has even more to offer.  Placing this book into women's fiction would be accurate but the writing is above par and teeters on the borders of the thriller genre as well as literary.  There are some stunning passages that bring the standard above general women's fiction and because of this, there is a possibility that fans of more mainstream fiction could lose interest in the plot at times. At 505 pages, it was a little long. On the (big) plus side, there is the great enigma that is Amber, the dangled carrot throughout the novel,  and what a character she is.  Cunning, self-motivated and a master of deception, she is forever lingering in the background of Lime Park Road.  Even when she has left.  When Christy becomes more than a little obsessed by the former mistress of her house, the narrative becomes very similar to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca; the meek bored wife, wondering why she cannot be as striking as the former head of the big house.  Joe, and indeed Amber's husband, Jeremey, are two men who seem highly intelligent but lacking in basic cop-on.  The women rule this story.  Christy, Amber and a host of bored housewives lead the reader through a maze of rumour, innuendo and the world of the wealthy.  This is a thriller/female/literary fiction hybrid, along the vein of  Girl On The Train, but at a slower pace.  A great story, one that will have you desperate to know why the Frasers left so abruptly, and why at all?  A fantastic read, that had me ignoring my family for two solid days.  It had a hook that kept reeling you in, and that hook was Amber.  Just like Rebecca's Mrs DeWinter, even hearing her name gives you desire to know more.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is published by Penguin on 21st May 2015 and is available in paperback and ebook format.  

Friday, 8 May 2015

"The First Phone Call From Heaven" by Mitch Albom

When I read the first page of this book, I actually had to stop and take deep breaths.   It was memorizing.   A woman just misses getting to her phone before the answering machine clicks in... 

Too Late.
"Ach, this thing," she mumbled.  She heard the machine click on her kitchen counter as it played her outgoing message.
"Hi, it's Tess.  Leave your name and your number.  I'll get back to you as soon as I can, thanks."
A small beep sounded.  Tess heard static.  And then.
"It's Mom... I need to tell you something."
Tess stopped breathing.  The receiver fell from her fingers.
Her mother died four years ago.

Now, that is  what I call a first page.  I was hooked.  This is Mitch Albom's sixth book, including Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven.  I had high expectations, based on these previous works but the opening lines were promising.

Coldwater, Lake Michigan is a sleepy town, close to the Canadian border, and like many rural communities, is struggling in these difficult times.  Shops have closed down, unemployment is heavy and the morale is at an all-time low.  Things take a dramatic turn when many of the residents of Coldwater start receiving phone calls from their loved ones who have passed away.  The calls are intimate, heart wrenching and full of spiritual hope.  The town is bustling again as people travel far and wide in the hope of contacting their own lost ones.  Business is booming again and the churches are packed to the rafters.   One man who has mixed feelings about these calls, and their effects, is Sully Harding.  Having lost his wife in a tragic accident, he already carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.  His disbelief in these phone calls from heaven causes friction from some of the locals, especially his own young son.  He is determined to find out, once and for all, if there is a direct line, from the supposed next world, to the one he is living in...

Mitch Albom has a way with words.  Simple, yet unique.  His gentle approach, to a delicate subject, is what makes this novel a success.  The urge to overplay narrative could have been a temptation to a less experienced writer, but as a former journalist, screen writer and playwright, this author seemed to know when to reel it in.  The characters are wonderfully individual, each with their own story to tell. 
Grief can be difficult to address is fiction and often the atmosphere can be oppressive.  Not so with this novel.  It has a nice and steady pace, with the story twisting from Tess and other phone call recipients, to Sully, journalist Amy, Ministers, Priest and local council officials.  While there are many characters dotted through the story, the reader is not confused as they are all interlinked in one way or another.  Another feat that only a good writer can achieve.

There was just a little bit too much predictability for my liking, though.  Sully was the typical widower.  Damaged but distressed, drinking heavily but still a dependable father, dishevelled yet attractive.   I'm not sure, considering what had happened to himself and his wife (no spoilers), he would have been as reliable an employee, son or father that he seems to be in this novel.  Similarly, TV reporter, Amy, is saccharine sweet and comes across as an unlikely character.  That said,  the narrative is clever, the whole idea of a direct link with the deceased being something that enters many minds, and the magical writing of Albom makes it seem less fantasy and more of a tale of inspiration. A clever book, short in length but strong on ideas...

The First Phone Call from Heaven is published by Sphere and is available in paperback and ebook format


Monday, 4 May 2015

"Meet Me In Malmo" by Torquil MacLeod. Guest review from Niall Moore.

The Blurb

A British journalist is invited to Malmö to interview an old university friend who is now one of Sweden’s leading film directors. When he discovers the director’s glamorous film star wife dead in her apartment, the Skåne County Police are called in to solve the high-profile case. 

Among the investigating team is Inspector Anita Sundström, who soon finds the list of suspects growing. As Anita battles to discover the answers amid the antagonism of some of her colleagues, she even begins to think that the person she is becoming attracted to could be the murderer. 
Meet me in Malmö is the first Anita Sundström mystery. 

“Anita Sundström deserves a place alongside the best Nordic detectives.” 
Quentin Bates 

“An entertaining debut novel.” 
Euro Crime 

“This book has more twists and turns than a plate of spaghetti and is sure to grip any reader’s emotions throughout.” 
Lancashire Telegraph 

“Torquil MacLeod has put Malmö on the current international map.” 
Bo Lundin, Sydsvenskan (Sweden) 


Niall's Review

This is the first in a set of three novels by Torquil MacLeod featuring Inspector Anita Sundstrom and I am eagerly looking forward to the rest of the series.

A British journalist is invited to Malmo to interview a famous Swedish film director who he just happened to be in university with.  Instead of an interview, he discovers the body of the directors wife and he subsequently gets caught up in the case, first as a witness and then as a suspect.

Inspector Anita Sundstrom iu assigned the case and her presence is not welcomed by some of her more male chauvinistic colleagues.  She starts to develop an attraction for the journalist and this leads to her questioning her, and the police teams, objectivity in the case.

Throw in a couple of false trails and a number of twists and you have a book that will keep you reading later than you should.  Be prepared to apologise to your boss for being late for work, as you try to catch up on your lost sleep.

A detective series written by a Scottish novelist set in Sweden sounds strange but works incredibly well...

Meet Me In Malmo is published by McNidder and Grace Crime and is available in paperback and ebook format.

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