Sunday, 31 July 2016

Book Review - 'Scarred' by Carolann Copland.

Rory McGee has made some bad decisions in life.  Marrying the wrong woman, abandoning his family, running away from the truth surrounding his girlfriends death.  When he spots politician, Fergal O'Gorman, on National TV he vows to unveil the truth.  But will he destroy any chances he had of reconciling with his two daughters?  Was returning to Ireland a mistake?  

Carolann Coplands second novel is written from a male perspective.  A man who has managed to systematically drag himself through life.  Finding himself shackled in an awful marriage at a very young age, Rory does what he thinks is best.  He leaves.  His daughters have grown up without him in their lives and he hopes he can make up for this before its too late.  But the memories of losing his one true love are a constant presence in his gut and he struggles to let go of his obsession with Maria.   The need for revenge overtakes him when he sees the man responsible for Maria's death and he is determined to see the politician brought to justice.  Even if that means he may lose his family all over again.

There are a few links to the authors debut novel, Summer Triangle,  in this story.  Some of the characters cross over but not so much that you can't read this as a stand-alone book.  This is tale of disjointed families and constant regret.  Set in a Donegal town, the main story is centered around a handful of people who are all connected, even if they don't want to be.  Rory and Maria were both the victims of circumstances and seemed drawn to each other, united by their situations.  A chance reunion in London leads to a chain of events, resulting in Maria's death.  In the present day, Rory is struggling to let go of his past.  The book has a mixture of youthful enthusiasm and adult realism.  Carolann is a talented writer who uses gentle language and melodic prose.  There is an over-use of character names within the dialogue, especially when there are only a couple of people conversing.  The story is not fast, rather it rolls out at a gentle pace.  It is elegant and has an unique Irishness about it.  Very different in style to her debut, this is less of a thriller and more of a study of human frailty.  Dialogue issues aside, this is a breath of fresh air in the genre of contemporary Irish fiction. 

Scarred is published via Emu Ink.  You can read my review of Summer Triangle HERE.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Book Review - "Cut To The Bone" by Alex Caan.

YouTube Vlogger, Ruby, has made it.  She has millions of followers, sponsorship deals and the adoration of a whole generation of young girls.  But she has gone missing.  A video is sent to her parents which shows her pleading for her life.  Ruby is in real danger and the whole world can watch her fear.  Detective Inspector Kate Riley is called in to investigate.  Along with her newest team member, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris, they need to understand the world of vlogging before they can attempt to locate Ruby.  But is it too late?

Alex Caan's debut thriller is a modern take on the genre of police procedural.  DI Kate Riley has her own past to contend with, let alone trying to keep up with corporate coding and YouTube sensations.  DS Harris also has baggage.  Recently transferred to London's Met, he needs to hide his traumatic past and learn to trust again.  The case originally seems like a regular missing person one, but why is it getting fast-tracked after such a short time?  There are far bigger elements involved in Ruby's disappearance and the team needs to scratch more than the surface to uncover some hidden truths.

The concept of a vlogger disappearing and then re-appearing under dreadful circumstances is very clever.  The YouTube generation think nothing of spending hours upon hours watching their favourite personalities testing products, playing video games, playing pranks on unsuspecting victims and even unwrapping parcels.  There is a vlog for pretty much everything and each vlogger has their own unique touch.  Ruby's is her honesty and integrity.  But what went wrong?  A web of deceit and lies seems to lay at the core of her disappearance.  Alex Caan brings the world of the Met to the forefront as they delve further and further into Ruby's online presence.  Kate and Zain are likable characters, who work well together on the page.  Their back stories were what interested me the most.   The world of coding and online agencies were a little too tedious for me and I wanted to know more about Ruby.  Why she began her vlog, who was she really, why were her parents acting so strangely?  The former MI5 and counter terrorism links were also wasted on me.  They have a real 'man-book' feel about them (Yes, Yes. I know that is a very sexist turn of phrase, but I think you get the gist.  All Jason Bourne-ish, Die Hard, guns, helicopters etc etc) and I just wanted to get to Ruby's story.  The novel is written in short, sharp chapters (which I love) but some seemed like one longer chapter bisected in order to keep chapter length down. I devoured the first third of the book.  The ending is fast-paced, thrilling and leaves the author free to write sequels galore.  I just lost interest in the tech angle and the secret police type story line.  In fairness, I think it is my personal mental block with this kind of thing.  I reckon my husband would love Cut To The Bone and I shall pass him the kindle very soon.  

I am actually curious to see how Kate and Zain get on in the inevitable sequel.  I liked their individual personalities, their chemistry and their potential.  There are plenty of thrills contained in these pages, with London as a delightful character.  I think I would prefer more focus on the human stories and less on the tech?  (Loved the St.Lucian dealer and Kate's housekeeper, for example).  Alex Caan is a new-kid-on-the-block author, and is definitely one to watch...   

Cut To The Bone is published by Twenty7 books and is currently available in ebook format, with the PB released on 3rd Nov 2016.  You can order via amazon link below: 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Blog Tour Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - "The Light Of Paris by Eleanor Brown.

I am honoured to be part of the blog tour for this amazing title from Eleanor Brown.  Thanks to Borough Press/Harper Collins UK for inviting me to participate as well as supplying an excerpt and five copies of The Light Of Paris as a giveaway.  To be in with a chance of winning, just enter via rafflecopter link below (four copies up for grabs) or RT pinned tweet on @margaretbmadden (One copy to giveaway).  Good Luck!


From the bestselling author of THE WEIRD SISTERS comes an enchanting tale of self-discovery that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt they’ve lost their way.
‘I adored The Light of Paris. It’s so lovely and big-hearted’ JOJO MOYES
‘Soulfulness and emotional insight meet laugh-out-loud humour’ PAULA McLAIN, author of The Paris Wife
Chicago, 1999.
Madeleine is trapped – by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband – in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. But when she finds a diary detailing her grandmother Margie’s trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets a woman she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict family and spent a summer living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.
When Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she escapes to her hometown to stay with her disapproving mother. Shaken by the revelation of a family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own summer of joy. In reconnecting with her love of painting and cultivating a new circle of friends, the chance of a new life emerges – but will she be bold enough take it?

My Review

Inspired by letters that the author found belonging to her own grandmother, The Light of Paris is a dual-time novel written with obvious care and attention to detail.  The two stories link together with ease with Madeleine and Margie brought to life within the 320 pages.

In recent time Chicago, Madeleine goes through the daily chore of being at her husbands beck and call, forgetting what her own purpose in life is.  After an argument she flees to her childhood home and is shocked to realise just how much she misses it. Helping her mother clear out the family home, she discovers her grandmothers journals and is transported back to 1920s Paris and all its post-war optimism.  Art, music and literature are all part of Margie's new world and Madeleine begins to question her own purpose in life. An only child, who had always seemed a let-down to her mother, she now sees her hometown in a new light and is reluctant to return to a stale marriage and a soulless existence.  
There are parallels within the pages of her grandmothers journals.  She too was not living up to her mothers expectations and felt that Paris could bring out the missing elements required to add much-needed joie de vivre to her life.  Surrounded by artist, writers and musicians, she glimpses a new world.  A world with opportunity, inspiration and freedom.  Her love of Paris is deepened when she meets Sebastian, a french man who shows her around his world of relaxed and bohemian joy.  How is a young woman, with stifling expectations chained around her neck, supposed to return to America after experiencing the joys of such an iconic city?

Each protagonist has equal standing in this wonderful novel.  The vastly different worlds they inhabit seem all too familiar, as they both struggle to choose their fate.  The streets of Paris are brought to life with ease and the atmosphere of a new beginning in the aftermath of World War 1 is subtly woven through the prose.  Margie is hesitant at first but soon falls under the spell of the French capital. In comparison, Madeleine is also unsure of her surroundings and has no real plan for her future.  Both women are embraced by their different surroundings and change becomes a real possibility.  

 Eleanor Brown has introduced us to two women, from two different eras, linked by a timeless theme of change.  She has breathed life into the streets of Paris and the outskirts of Chicago and added two strong women.  Both characters are experiencing tentative changes in their lives and are linked by a family tree.  This is a warm novel with witty dialogue and stunning descriptive passages.  An easy read, you can find yourself immersed in the sights and sounds of Paris as you stroll along with Margie and Sebastian while suddenly sensing the shift back to Chicago and its structured restrictions.  It would almost be a shame not to sit outside a bistro or cafe, with an obligatory glass of red, and slip into the worlds of these two women.  Views of the Eiffel Tower are not essential...  

Excerpt from The Light of Paris

My grandmother Margaret (Margie) Pearce was first and foremost a daydreamer, and as soon as she was old enough to write, she began to record the stories she told herself. They were adventure stories some- times, love stories often. They were stories of escape, of romance, of the future she thought she might have, of the life she wished to live.
And in the same way I thought my life would begin with my wed- ding, my grandmother thought hers would begin with her debut. She believed her life had been a closed bud until that moment, waiting politely until that rite of passage came to bloom, to bring her all the things she dreamed aboutromance and beauty and adventure and artwith the certain cultivated wildness of a rose.
Of course that wasnt the way it worked out. In fact, if Grandmother and I had given it any thought at all, we would have realized debutante balls and weddings were the precise opposite of freedom: a courtly cementing of our futures into the concrete of the families and society in which we had been raised. But at the time, they seemed nothing more than a chance, for once, to be beautiful, and how could either of us turn that away?
Margie made her debut on a blustery, icy December day in Washing- ton, D.C. It was so cold

the clouds had been chased away, leaving a clear sky, bright with stars against the darkness. 

The week before, she had come home from her first semester of college, the months of classes a blur as she dreamed of the moment when she would finally descend the hotels staircase and make her grand curtsy, when everything would change, everything would begin.
Margies appetite had all but disappeared in the excitement, so her collarbones stuck out prettily, her cheekbones high, her face flushed. She tried to read, to sew, anything to pass the hours, but she couldnt sit still. Instead, she found herself running to the window again and again, watching people stepping quickly along the sidewalk, their heads bent to break the wind. The weather made everyone hurry, rushing to get back inside, so it looked as though the entire scene had been sped up, the cars hurtling down the street, the tram at the corner buzzing recklessly by. But when she stepped away from the window and looked at the clock again, time had barely moved.
When five oclock finally came, she rushed upstairs to her room and was already stripping off her day dress and putting on her own corset and petticoat by the time Nellie, the maid, came in.
The gown fell over her head in a rush of silk and the scent of flowers. Nellie had placed rose petals inside the dress while it was hanging, and a few of them fluttered to the floor when Margie slipped her arms into the sleeves. The gown was made with the palest cream silk and had a wide V-neckline. Despite the season, the sleeves were short, and she had a pair of long white gloves sure to make her hands sweat. But the dresss loveliest feature was the delicate pink silk roses crossing the bodice and trailing their way down the skirt, tiny buds of spring pink with green leaves set behind them. To Margie, it looked like a garden come to life.
Other girls, in high school and in college, had suitors, even beaux, though Margie had never thought of such a thing for herself. Her parents would have forbidden it, for one, and for two, who would look at her, with her fat ankles and her broad shoulders, when there were girls like
Elizabeth Tabb or Lucinda Spencer around, delicate little things with
the girlish smile of Mary Pickford and dramatic eyes like Gloria Swan- son? But that night, listening to the rustle of the silk against her petticoat as she walked slowly down the stairs, her head held high under the unfa- miliar weight of a tiara, she thought she might, for once, be worth look- ing at. This was it, she thought. This was the night her life would begin.
At the hotel, the debutantes waited in an anteroom. Some of their dresses, Margie thought as she looked around, were shockingly modern casual, even, a loose flow of fabric draping over their bodies without pause, making them look elegantly boyish and square. The dressmaker had offered Margie a similar gown. Its the newest fashion, the woman had said, showing a dress of thin satin with a lace overlay, loose and flowing.
Margies mother had been horrified. You cant even wear a corset under that!
About the corset, Margie didnt mind, as she was rather fond of breathing, but she did mind that tender afterthought of a dress. It looked so plain compared to the gown she had imagined. And it was all well and good for someone who looked chic in dresses like the one the pleading designer was holding out to her. Those women didnt have broad shoul- ders or large bosoms or muscular calves like she did. Margie knew well what she would look like in that kind of dress.
But clearly a number of the other girls had been brave enough to take the plunge. Anne Dulaney and Elsie Mills, who had been the first to bob their hair (to their mothers fury and everyone elses shock), were, of course, wearing those dresses and, of course, being tall and so slender, looked stunning. They were lounging on a pair of fainting couches as though the very thought of the evening exhausted them. Two other girls in shorter dresses huddled together by an open window, smoking (and she was fairly sure the flask they were sharing wasnt lemonade), and another cluster of girls in more traditional gowns stood at the opposite
end of the room, pretending to talk while catching admiring glimpses of
themselves in the mirror above the fireplace.
Feeling desperate, Margie kept looking for someone she knew well enough to sit with, until she spied Grace Scott and Emily Harrison Palmer, with whom she had gone to school  until  the  ninth  grade, when she had left for Abbott Academy and they for Miss Porters. Their dresses were as formal and old-fashioned as hers, and she felt a sense of relief as she settled down on a sofa beside them, the slight and familiar tremor she had felt upon comparing herself to the others, girls who would always be more beautiful, more fashionable, more right than she was, fading.
Who are they?” Margie whispered, leaning forward and cocking her head toward the smokers.
Southern, Emily Harrison said, with a touch of haughty contempt, which was rich, considering her parents had come to Washington from Atlanta and her mother had an accent so thick you could have spread it on toast. But those girls, she said, nodding toward the group at the fireplace, are European royals. Can you believe it? Minor, of course. Rumor has it theyre making the rounds looking for husbands here because their parents are flat broke.
Dont gossip, Emily Harrison, Grace scolded. Grace had always been overly kind, the sort of girl teachers selected to pal around with the new student, and prone to fits of tears over the tiniest of disappoint- ments. Im sure theyre perfectly nice.
I didnt say they werent perfectly nice, I said they were perfectly broke, Emily Harrison said. She lifted her hands and examined her fingernails. “Everyone in Europe is broke. Everyone here, too, it seems. My mother says there never would have been a ball with this many deb- utantes in her day.
Theyre so glamorous, Margie said dreamily, looking at the Europeans. They faced away 

from her, a few of them with dresses cut low enough otheir  backtreveaskin  luminous

Margie wondered. Two of them wore tiaras, sparkling in the firelight, but Margie wore one herself and she was hardly a princess. It was just that they seemed so graceful, so perfect, every movement of their hands expressive as ballerinas, the curves of their throats, the bones of their faces as though they had been carved from marble. Their spines were stiff, their shoulders straight, and Margie self-consciously pulled herself back from slouching. Even if they werent princesses, they were royalty, and they would be walking down the steps with her.
Isnt it exciting?” Margie asked. She couldnt contain herself. She supposed she ought to be blasé, like Anne and Elsie, so languidly aloof on their fainting couches, but she couldnt. The night lay in front of them like a glittering promise, the sparkle of it, the elegance, the mystery of the excitement to come. Oh, Anne and Elsie were old poops, thats all there was to it. She was going to dance with Robert Walsh, the terribly handsome friend of the family who was to be her escort, and drink champagne even if her parents didnt approve, and she was going to enjoy every moment.
Dreadfully exciting, Grace said, and the sparkle in her eyes matched Margies, even though Grace was assured of marrying Theo Halloway their families had arranged it long ago—and might not have bothered coming out at all if her mother hadnt practically run Washington soci- ety. I saw the ballroom on the way in, Margie. Its simply gorgeous. And your gown is really stunning. You look lovely.
Thank you, Margie said demurely, though inside she fluttered at the compliment.
Her father had said, You look pretty, kitten, but that was his job, and her mother had 

said, Your tiaras on crooked, and then, after she had fixed it, “Nellie didnt do a horrible

job with your hair, which was the closest thing to praise Margie had ever gotten from her

mother, a tiny, precise woman who had never understood the starry-eyed, lead-footed daughter she had managed to produce.
You look pretty too, she said to Grace. Under normal circumstances that might have been an exaggerationit was a good thing Grace was so kind and her parents were so wealthy, because Grace was so plainbut not that night. Grace was dark and the pale yellow of her gown glowed against her skin, and she looked happy, and Margie felt a little rush of sentimental nostalgia for the girls they had once been and the women they were becoming.
Ladies. Graces mother, Mrs. Scott, appeared at the doorway. The Southern girls quickly pitched their cigarette ends out the window and Margie saw the flask of not-lemonade disappear into one of their skirts. Mrs. Scott sniffed the air and looked at them disapprovingly. We are ready to begin.
Margies last name, Pearce, put her solidly in the middle of the line, right behind Emily Harrison Palmer, but that night she wished it were Robertson, or better yet, Zeigler, so she could savor the anticipation, the shiver in her stomach, the heat in her face. At first all she could see was the hallway and the line of debutantes in front of her, but as Emily Har- rison began her slow descent, Margie saw it all laid out before her: the chandelier brilliant above, the pale glow of the girlsdresses, light spark- ing prisms off hundreds of diamonds, setting the hall aglow. Her breath caught hard in her chest and she didnt breathe, didnt move, holding the moment in her hand like crystal, like snow, terrified it might disappear, shatter and whirl away in the air.

She promised herself she would remember it all, hold on to every moment. But as soon as 

she set one satin-slippered foot on the stairs, it became nothing more than a lovely blur. She

stored away memories of everything she couldthe plush carpet beneath her shoes, Roberts

 hand under hers, the fall of her dress around her knees when she executed he

curtsy, graceful  and slow as a dancers plié. The sparkle of champagne on
her tongue, and Robert standing beside her, stiff and formal in his white tie, and the kiss her father dropped on her forehead as they waltzed, and the sight of all the debutantes with their escorts, swirling around the enormous dance floor like flowers, like snowdrops, like everything beautiful and bright and enchanted.


 The Light of Paris is published by Borough Press and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide PostageHERE.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

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