Tuesday, 29 March 2016

"The Fallout" by Margaret Scott.




In the Celtic Tiger Era, Dublin's International Financial Services Centre is the place to be.  Lavish parties balance the long hours, corporate junkets are the norm and a hard shell is required.  But for the staff at DKB, times are about to get tougher.  The bubble has burst and expectations have soared.  To top it all, one of their top-ranked staff members has quit in an unprecedented way and questions are being asked.  Just what is the fallout for these hard-working bankers?  

The recession is not a new topic in fiction, by any means.  We have read stories of all classes, all walks of life and all with different endings.  But this novel, from Kildare author, Margaret Scott, shows how women were treated during this difficult time.  As the pressure built to boiling point, throughout the country, just who was expected to deal with all the extra hours?  Women, nationwide, fought to balance their careers with their family lives and often something had to give.  Sure, there were men sitting in darkened office blocks, trying to balance books, but did they worry about bath time for their children?  Wonder what time the supermarket closed at?  Drop everything to collect a sick child from childcare?   Yet, we supposedly live in a modern world, where women are afforded equal rights.  This is a novel that shows this is not always the case.  

Kate is returning to work after a long break and is as nervous as hell.  Even getting the Luas gives her the shivers.  She is replacing Olivia, who recently walked out on her hard-earned job, without notice.  Why?  Mary is a forty something singleton who cannot understand why she is not appreciated more, in her work, her love life or by her sister.  Just because she has no kids does not make her a walkover, right?  Leona is the proverbial Queen Bee.  Top of her game, hard as nails and determined to be the best in her field.  But what must she sacrifice to maintain this?  Along with their male colleagues, these ladies all have one thing in common; a level of frustration, well hidden from each other.  

  Short, sharp chapters, told from different character perspectives and broken up by investigative reports, make for an easy read.  A few too many characters at the beginning, but this settles as soon as you get to know each one.   Margaret Scott uses her relaxed writing style, injected with humour, to bring these ladies to life.  Yes, they are working women, but they are walking on the fine tightrope that is a largely female problem.  Despite our brave declarations of our feminist independence, we still rely heavily on our partners, families and friends when it comes to the great balancing act.  This book shows that it's ok to have a dire day, a miserable week or indeed just throw the towel in altogether.  There are only so many hours in the day, afterall...

The Fallout is published by Poolbeg and is available in paperback and ebook format.



Saturday, 26 March 2016

Ireland 1916 Recommended Reads - Non-Fiction, Fiction and Children's Fiction

EASTER 1916 SPECIAL



With a huge range of books available on the subject of Ireland's journey to becoming a Republic,  just how can you know which book to buy?  Every bookshop in the land has an array of titles, usually on a tri-coloured themed stand and every newspaper has a selection of reviews in their commemorative weekend specials.  I am by no means an expert but have a longstanding love of Irish History and have read many, many 1916 based titles over the years.  The younger readers at Bleach House have also become well-read on the subject and have thrown their favourites into the mix.  So, in no particular order, here are some of the Rebellion Reads we believe are worth checking out...


++ Please not that some titles may have special edition covers and the ones represented below are the editions that we have read.



Non-Fiction



The Irish Times Book of The 1916 Rising by Shane Hegarty and Fintan O'Toole.
  
This heavily illustrated book focuses on the events of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, rather than the background and the consequences. In a widely expanded version of the supplement that appeared in The Irish Times in March to commemorate the 90th Anniversary, The 1916 Rising recreates the actual course of events during that tumultuous week, based on contemporary witnesses, memoirs and later recollections. It adds up to the most comprehensive and accessible account of Easter Week in print.




When The Clock Struck in 1916; Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising by Derek Molynuex

'Well, I've helped to wind up the clock, I might as well hear it strike.' Michael Joseph O'Rahilly The Easter Rising of 1916 was a seminal moment in Ireland's turbulent history. For the combatants it was a no-holds-barred clash: the professional army of an empire against a highly motivated, well-drilled force of volunteers. What did the men and women who fought on the streets of Dublin endure during those brutal days after the clock struck on 24 April 1916? For them, the conflict was a mix of bloody fighting and energy-sapping waiting, with meagre supplies of food and water, little chance to rest and the terror of imminent attacks. The experiences recounted here include those of: 20-year-old Sean McLoughlin who went from Volunteer to Captain to Commandant-General in five days: his cool head under fire saved many of his comrades; volunteer Robert Holland, a sharpshooter who continued to fire despite punishing rifle recoil; Volunteer Thomas Young's mother, who acted as a scout, leading a section through enemy-infested streets; the 2/7th Sherwood Foresters NCO who died when the grenade he threw at Clanwilliam House bounced off the wall and exploded next to his head; 2nd Lieutenant Guy Vickery Pinfield of the 8th Royal Hussars, who led the charge on the main gate of Dublin Castle and became the first British officer to die in the Rising. This account of the major engagements of Easter Week 1916 takes us onto the shelled and bullet-ridden streets of Dublin with the foot soldiers on both sides of the conflict, into the collapsing buildings and through the gunsmoke.





1916: What The People Saw by Mick O'Farrell


When the rebellion of 1916 had ended, more than 400 people were dead and over 2,000 wounded. More than half of these were civilians, but even for those civilians who were not direct casualties, the Rising was one of the most momentous experiences of their lives. The accounts that Mick O'Farrell has collected come from letters, diaries, extracts from otherwise unrelated biographies, and contemporary magazine and newspaper articles. Some common themes are present in the accounts. For instance, a fear of going hungry, which resulted in constant, and dangerous, attempts to stock up with supplies. There was also a grim realisation (despite two years of World War) that war had arrived on their doorstep: 'We know a bit what War is like now'. For some, there was even an undeniable element of excitement - one witness writes that 'now that it's over, none of us would've missed it for the world'. After watching a woman shot in the street, another witness notes that he 'saw a man rush out and take a snapshot'. Elsewhere, there are 'crowds looking on as if at a sham battle'. For most, however, it was the kind of excitement they could do without: Complementing the many historical accounts of the rising and statements from the participants, this book gives a real flavour of what it was like to live through history in the making.




A Nation And Not A Rabble by Diarmaid Ferriter.

Packed with violence, political drama and social and cultural upheaval, the years 1913-1923 saw the emergence in Ireland of the Ulster Volunteer Force to resist Irish home rule and in response, the Irish Volunteers, who would later evolve into the IRA. World War One, the rise of Sinn Féin, intense Ulster unionism and conflict with Britain culminated in the Irish war of Independence, which ended with a compromise Treaty with Britain and then the enmities and drama of the Irish Civil War.

Drawing on an abundance of newly released archival material, witness statements and testimony from the ordinary Irish people who lived and fought through extraordinary times, A Nation and not a Rabbleexplores these revolutions. Diarmaid Ferriter highlights the gulf between rhetoric and reality in politics and violence, the role of women, the battle for material survival, the impact of key Irish unionist and republican leaders, as well as conflicts over health, land, religion, law and order, and welfare.



To Speak Of Easter Week: Family Memories Of The Irish Revolution by Helene O'Keeffe.

This book offers a broad and human perspective on the Easter Rising and its aftermath, using oral history recordings from the families of those involved and adding something new and unique to the wealth of material about 1916 already on the market. 'To Speak of Easter Week' draws on interviews recorded by Maurice O'Keeffe for the Irish Life and Lore Series. Based on the testimonies of the sons and daughters of the rebels, their granddaughters, grandsons and other close relatives, the book examines the very human legacy of Easter Week and looks at the different ways in which the family members have internalised and attempted to make sense of the actions of their antecedents. James Connolly's great-grandson and Eamonn Ceannt's grand-niece, Kathleen Clarke's niece and Con Colbert's nephew, among many others, trace their family history from 1916 through the generations down to the present, and examine the multi-layered meaning of their shared heritage. They tell their stories in their own unique voices, speaking of the pride and the glory, the grief and the agony, the loss and the very real burden of history.




Fatal Path by Ronan Fanning.

This is a magisterial narrative of the most turbulent decade in Anglo-Irish history: a decade of unleashed passions that came close to destroying the parliamentary system and to causing civil war in the United Kingdom. It was also the decade of the cataclysmic Great War, of an officers' mutiny in an elite cavalry regiment of the British Army and of Irish armed rebellion. It was a time, argues Ronan Fanning, when violence and the threat of violence trumped democratic politics.
This is a contentious view. Historians have wished to see the events of that decade as an aberration, as an eruption of irrational bloodletting. And they have have been reluctant to write about the triumph of physical force. Fanning argues that in fact violence worked, however much this offends our contemporary moral instincts. Without resistance from the Ulster Unionists and its very real threat of violence the state of Northern Ireland would never have come into being. The Home Rule party of constitutionalist nationalists failed, and were pushed aside by the revolutionary nationalists Sinn Fein.
Bleakly realistic, ruthlessly analytical of the vacillation and indecision displayed by democratic politicians at Westminster faced with such revolutionary intransigence, Fatal Path is history as it was, not as we would wish it to be.




16 Dead Men: The Easter Rising Executions by Anne-Marie Ryan.

Sixteen men were executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in Ireland, 1916: fifteen were shot and one was hanged. Their deaths changed the course of Irish history. But who were these leaders who set in motion events that would lead to the creation of an independent Ireland? Teachers, poets, trade unionists, a shopkeeper and a farmer, the executed leaders of the Easter Rising were a diverse group. This book contains fascinating accounts of the life stories of these men and recounts the events that brought each of them to rebellion in April 1916.

All these stories are compiled for the first time in one volume, making it an ideal overview for the history enthusiast and a good introduction for the general reader.



Easter Widows by  Sinéad McCoole.

One week in May 1916, seven Irish women became widows. When they had married their husbands they had embarked on very different lives. They married men of the establishment; one married a lecturer, two others married soldiers, another a civil servant. These women all knew each other and their lives became intertwined. 

For the seven women whose stories are told in Easter Widows, their husbands’ interest in Irish culture, citizenship and rights became a fight for independence which at Easter 1916 took the form of military action against the British. These men were among the leaders who formed a provisional government of the Irish Republic and issued a proclamation of Irish Independence.
But the Rising was defeated, and the leaders were arrested and hastily executed. Some of the widows broke under the strain of their experiences and this story tells of miscarriage and tragedy. Yet for another of the women, the execution of her husband allowed her to return from self-imposed exile, freed from the fear that her son would be taken from her by her estranged husband. 
This is also a story of women of power and success – some of the widows emerged from the shadows to become leaders themselves. It is a human story told against the backdrop of the years of conflict in Ireland 1916-1923 - the Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. 
Easter Widows introduces all the characters separately through the romances of these seven women – Lillie, Maud, Kathleen, Aine, Agnes, Grace, Muriel – before bringing their stories together in a cohesive narrative. These interlinking stories are clearly embedded in an authentic historical account.



Fiction



A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle.

Born in the Dublin slums of 1901, his father a one-legged whorehouse bouncer and settler of scores, Henry Smart has to grow up fast. By the time he can walk he's out robbing and begging, often cold and always hungry, but a prince of the streets. By Easter Monday, 1916, he's fourteen years old and already six-foot-two, a soldier in the Irish Citizen Army. A year later he's ready to die for Ireland again, a rebel, a Fenian and a killer. With his father's wooden leg as his weapon, Henry becomes a Republican legend - one of Michael Collins' boys, a cop killer, an assassin on a stolen bike.



Fallen by Lia Mills.


A remarkable love story amidst the ruins of the First World War and the Easter Rising
Spring, 1915. Katie Crilly gets the news she dreaded: her beloved twin brother, Liam, has been killed on the Western Front.
A year later, when her home city of Dublin is suddenly engulfed in violence, Katie finds herself torn by conflicting emotions. Taking refuge in the home of a friend, she meets Hubie Wilson, a friend of Liam's from the Front. There unfolds a remarkable encounter between two young people, both wounded and both trying to imagine a new life. Lia Mills has written a novel that can stand alongside the works of Sebastian Faulks, Pat Barker and Louisa Young.



Citizens by Kevin Curran

Citizens is a gripping account of a modern-day character discovering his great-grandfather's memoir of 1916 Dublin. The diary brings him back to the turbulent years surrounding the formation of the Irish State. A timeless story of lost love and broken dreams that brilliantly counterpoints today's globalised generation with Ireland's nationalist revolutionaries of 1916, Citizens creates a conversation across a century in a unique novel that has echoes of Don DeLillo's Libra (Penguin, 1989) and Transatlantic (Bloomsbury, 2014) by Colum McCann.




Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna.

With the threat of the First World War looming, tension simmers under the surface of Ireland.

Growing up in the privileged confines of Dublin’s leafy Rathmines, the bright, beautiful Gifford sisters Grace, Muriel and Nellie kick against the conventions of their wealthy Anglo-Irish background and their mother Isabella’s expectations. Soon, as war erupts across Europe, the spirited sisters find themselves caught up in their country’s struggle for freedom. 

Muriel falls deeply in love with writer Thomas MacDonagh, artist Grace meets the enigmatic Joe Plunkett – both leaders of 'The Rising' – while Nellie joins the Citizen Army and bravely takes up arms, fighting alongside Countess Constance Markievicz in the rebellion. 

On Easter Monday, 1916, the biggest uprising in Ireland for two centuries begins. The world of the Gifford sisters and everyone they hold dear will be torn apart in a fight that is destined for tragedy.




What Becomes Of Us by Henrietta McKervey.

When Maria Mills flees London with only a suitcase and her young daughter, she is intent on a new life. To hide from her past, she has carefully constructed a story based on a lie even her child believes is true.
It is 1965 and Dublin is a city on the cusp of change. As the country prepares to commemorate the 1916 Rising, Maria meets Tess McDermott, a former member of Cumann na mBan. Tess saw active service during the Rising and Maria soon realises that she, too, is closely guarding a secret.
Set against the backdrop of stifling social mores alongside a defiant new wave of women's liberation, What Becomes of Us is a beautifully told story of the delicate balance between risk and survival, of nationhood and of the struggle to carve out a new identity when the past refuses to let go.


Children's Fiction

The Easter Rising 1916: Molly's Diary by Patricia Murphy.

Easter 1916. The Great War rages in Europe with two hundred thousand Irishmen fighting in the British Army. But a small group of Irish nationalists refuse to fight for Britain and strike a blow for Irish freedom. Caught up in the action in Dublin, is twelve-year-old Molly O’Donovan. 


Her own family is plunged into danger on both sides of the conflict. Her father, a technical officer with the Post Office dodges the crossfire as he tries to restore the telegraph lines while her wayward brother runs messages for the rebels. Molly a trained First Aider, risks her own safety to help the wounded on both sides. 



As violence and looting erupts in the streets of Dublin alongside heroism and high ideals, Molly records it all. The Proclamation at the GPO, the battle of Mount Street, the arrival of the British Troops. But will Molly’s own family survive and will she be able to save her brother? 



This is her diary. 




The Rising Son by Brian Kirk.

It’s 2016 and Jack O’Connor, a twelve-year-old London boy, is confused. He is left in the care of a grandfather he never met in a city he doesn’t know by his mother who wants to be left alone. While in Dublin, in his grandfather’s house, Jack is drawn to an old blanket. The blanket belonged to his late grandmother and seems to have magic powers.

It is the week of the centenary of the 1916 Rising and Jack’s grandfather sets out to teach him some history. In doing so he awakens in Jack a sense of his Irish identity. Thanks to the magic of the blanket Jack gets to see the events of the Rising first-hand and, at the same time, he uncovers the truth about his own family, past and present.




The Guns Of Easter by Gerard Whelan.

It is 1916 and Europe is at war. From the poverty of the Dublin slums twelve-year-old Jimmy Conway sees it all as glorious, and loves the British Army for which his father is fighting. But when war comes to his own streets Jimmy's loyalties are divided. The rebels occupy the General Post Office and other parts of the city, and Jimmy's uncle is among them. Dublin's streets are destroyed, business comes to a halt. In an attempt to find food for his family, Jimmy crosses the city, avoiding the shooting, weaving through the army patrols, hoping to make it home before curfew. But his quest is not easy and danger threatens at every corner.



Countess Markievicz: An Adventurous Life by Ann Carroll

This is the story of Constance Gore-Booth born into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family. She joined the fight for Irish freedom. She fought in the Easter Rising and was later sentenced to death but, because she was a woman, she imprisoned for life instead. This is her story. 




All the featured titles were chosen purely on a personal-choice basis.  No author/publisher was favoured and blurbs were taken from amazon.ie.  The majority of books can be ordered with Free Worldwide Postage from Kennys.ie.  

Friday, 25 March 2016

Exclusive Short Story and Giveaway from Fionnuala Kearney.


 BleachHouseLibrary.ie Exclusive


I am very excited to share this fantastic short story from one of Ireland's finest contemporary fiction writers, Fionnuala Kearney.  I think there will be some major Cal-Crushes after this!  Big thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland for donating a giveaway copy of Fionnuala's Irish Times Bestseller The Day I Lost You.

You can read my review of this gripping read here.  To be in with a chance of winning your own copy of #TDILY, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Good Luck!




Flight of Fancy by Fionnuala Kearney.  

Faye watches the stewardess’s mouth move; sees her angled hands point left and right. She pushes her earphones deep into her ears, blocks out directions to the emergency exits. Silently, Faye counts backwards from ten a few times. She sits on her hands, aware that the man in the aisle seat notices her doing it and she blushes, heat flooding her cheeks. She feels the urge to explain; to tell him, this stranger, that she doesn’t like flying and doesn’t trust herself not to do something stupid with her hands. But she says nothing. Her eyes close as she places her forehead on the back of the seat in front.  Minutes later, Faye has no idea how high they’ve ascended but its enough to make her ears want to pop and her hand want to reach up and press the bell. She swallows the word ‘Help!’ and sits tight on her upturned palms.
Adele plays in her ears, singing of heartache, as only she can, and Faye feels a gentle tap on her arm. She opens her eyes. The middle seat is empty so he’s had to stretch across to reach her. He’s tall, even in the seat; is about her age, she reckons. Earlier, she’d felt his eyes roam over her as he’d stood to let her pass to her seat. She releases a hand, tugs her earphones free, doesn’t speak but her questioning eyes widen.
‘You’re singing,’ he says.
‘Oh,’ she replies, noting the American accent.
‘Rolling in the deep,’ he confirms.
Faye whispers, ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I don’t mind,’ he smiles, ‘Sing away, I’m just not an Adele fan.’
She grimaces as if this is an insult.
‘I’m more a “Sweet Home Alabama” sort of guy.’
Faye nods. ‘Is that where you’re from?’ she asks, immediately horrified at herself. She has no idea where the question has come from.
‘No, New York,’ he says.
Small dark hairs curl on the back of the hand he offers. She shakes it, allowing herself a proper look at his face, trying not to stare at what she thinks are full lips under his trimmed beard.
‘Cam,’ he says.
‘You can what?’ she asks. His eyes are green, very unusual, the colour of pine needles, set under dark, neat eyebrows.
‘No, Cam,’ he says. ‘Cameron.’
‘Oh, yes, sorry. I’m Faye.’
‘Nice to meet you, Faye.’
And they talk. She talks and he listens, seems interested. He talks and she’s interested and before she knows it, the short flight is coming to an end. The captain has put on the fasten-your-seat-belt sign and Faye’s ears tell her that the aircraft is descending. Automatically, her hands assume the butt position and she sees him smile.
‘You going to start singing again?’
She shakes her head. In the thirty minutes spent talking in the skies from Dublin to London, she has learnt that Cam is a New Yorker. His father is a doctor and his mother, a librarian. He has one younger sister who’s travelling Europe and has just spent an incredible Easter weekend with her in Dublin. He seems to have crammed more into one weekend than Faye has in visiting the City regularly for the last year. Cam has not learnt much about her except for she’s newly single, shares a flat in Crouch End with a girl called Cassie and she has a cowardly cat called Mouse. Faye has kept her feelings close to her chest and is as surprised as him when she blurts out, ‘Adele helps. She’s the Queen of heartache.’
‘Ahh, heartache…’ he says. ‘”Expectation is the root of all heartache.”’  
The plane shudders so she closes her eyes, doesn’t respond.
‘Shakespeare,’ he adds. ‘I teach English to sixth form students. Not far from Crouch End actually.’
Faye opens one eye and peers at him. ‘I somehow assumed you were headed home.’
‘Home is where the rent is paid. North London in fact.’
Faye is suddenly lost in her thoughts. She thinks of the quaking plane; thinks of the man next to her and the fact that she’s enjoyed talking to him; of the reality check that she quite fancies him and that if the plane were to go down, at least she could hold Cam’s hand. She thinks of Shakespeare, wonders if he was right; perhaps she’d expected too much from Brian, or vice versa. He lived in Dublin, she in London – they’d tried but in the end… While Cam and his sister had partied, Faye and Brian had drawn an amicable line under their year-long relationship.
 The plane tilts, turns sharply above Heathrow.
‘Holding pattern,’ Cam says. ‘We’ll be down soon.’
And she realises in a eureka-moment that she’s been stuck in her own holding pattern; awaiting permission to be happy. She realises that her ‘heartache’ is simply regret, sadness at something being over. Her heart isn’t actually aching. A smile forms on her lips.
‘You have a lovely smile,’ Cam says.
‘Thank-you,’ she says. ‘Not often seen at thirty thousand feet.’
‘It’s much lower now,’ he reassures her.
‘Would you –’ she says.
‘Yes,’ he replies, ‘definitely.’
She turns, faces him. ‘You have no idea what I was going to say.’
‘No, but the answer is yes.’ He laughs; a deep throaty sound which she likes, before shrugging his broad shoulders.
And through the rain splattered oval window Faye sees the ground approach, watches airport buildings speed by as the wheels bounce once before touch down. She sighs, relief coursing through her veins.
‘Friday works for me,’ he says.
And she remembers how in Dublin airport she had dreaded Crouch End and her cat called Mouse. Friday, she thinks. Could be a complete flight of fancy. Could be a drink. A meal. A chat. A disaster. She looks towards the heavens, tosses a prayer of thanks to Shakespeare, because for the first time in a long time - she has no expectations…


The Day I Lost You is published by Harper Collins and is available in TPB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 13% discount, here.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: 



Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Book Review - "Flawed" by Cecelia Ahern.



I received an ARC of this title, for review purposes, via netgalley.com.


"I am a girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white.  Remember this."

So begins the YA debut of Cecelia Ahern.  These are the words of Celestine North, a teenage girl who is on the cusp of womanhood.  She has an average life with her middle class family, an adoring boyfriend and a love of mathematics and structure.  A bright young thing, with her whole future ahead of her, one chance moment on public transport brings her whole world to another level.  She is now 'Flawed' and her life no longer belongs in the realm she grew up in.  Suddenly she is public property and her every move is monitored for media scrutiny.  Can a girl who has been flawless her whole life survive in the world of the Flawed?

It is hard to give an overview of this novel without making it sound too political, so I will do my best to simplify things, starting with the author's own words...

"The Flawed are regular citizens who have made moral or ethical mistakes in society."

In this fictional city, there is a new way to rule.  Previous Governments have made a mess of things, so the citizens decided to take matters into their own hands.  They introduce The Guild, a committee made up of judges, who are the new leadership,deciding who is 'flawed' and how they should be punished.  The repercussions of being found guilty are permanent ones.  The guilty shall be branded for life and find their movements restricted.  Like the Jews in Nazi Germany, they must wear armbands displaying their 'shame' and while they are not imprisoned, they are constantly undermined and treated as second class citizens.  The problem with all this 'morality policing' is quite simple.  It is extremely subjective.  If the head Judge wants his way, he will get it.  End of.  This becomes a problem for Celestine when she shows respect to a 'Flawed' man on the bus and has to face the consequences.  While Judge Crevan is a family friend and the father of her boyfriend, Art, she suddenly sees herself being used to set an example to the whole county.  Her trial seems rigged from the start and pretty soon everything she has believed in is being called into question. 

This is Cecelia Ahern's first YA novel and she enters the genre with a bang.  Celestine is a good girl, trying to find her footing in the adult world and, like any young woman, is bound to make mistakes. But this is another world.  A world led by peers rather than politicians.  When a country learns to mistrust a government, and hands over its administration to a chosen few, it is fraught with its own problems.  The author has bravely addressed this concept, through the eyes of a young adult, rather   than the daughter of our former Taoiseach of Ireland.  Idealism is always hovering around the minds of teenagers and this novel shows how 'forward-thinking' can actually backfire tremendously.  The scenes of torture involved with the branding of citizens are graphic and memorable, bringing shadows of  Nazism to the readers mind.  The Guild are indeed terrifying party, with 'show-trails' and pre-determined sentencing echoing Stalin's regime.  But, at the heart of this book, there is a young woman who can finally see what her world is made of.  The secrecy, the lies and the hidden agendas of people in power.  Not so different to the government her people pushed aside.  

YA has been riding high on the bestseller lists for a number of years now, with John Green showing that young adults can appreciate a good book as much as the rest of us.  The Twilight Saga, The Book Thief, The Hunger Games and our own Louise O'Neill's Only Ever Yours and Asking For It.  All great sellers, with movies and merchandise and added bonus for many.  This title is a perfect bridge for a teenager moving onto the next level.  Minimal reference to sex, no gratuitous violence (apart from torture scenes) and it addresses bullying, young love and familial relationships.  There are love interests, making it perfect for casting agents in Hollywood, and I can almost see the range of merchandise, on its very own stand, in the near future.  I think Cecelia has got her timing just right, with other authors following her lead very soon.  Hopefully there will be still be room in the market for the authors moving from their original genres.  Flawed is a strong story, once the reader gets past the initial grounding required to set the scene.  Celestine is a character that will surely inspire many young girls (especially the quieter, more studious ones) and there will be many a swooning teenager when they encounter Carrick, a young man who is also 'Flawed'.  I am not the intended audience for this title, but I lost myself in the concept of morality policing and turned the pages just as fast as any other thought-provoking novel.  I can only imagine that the YA market will lap it up...

Flawed is published by Harper Collins on 24th March 2016 and will be available in Hardback and ebook format.



Sunday, 13 March 2016

Book Review - "Sisters And Lies" by Bernice Barrington



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

A phone call we all dread.  Someone you love has been in an accident and clings on to life in a hospital bed.  A heart-stopping moment that usually leads to unanswered questions, uncovered secrets and discovery of truths.  
Rachel and Evie are sisters, but have not much in common.  Rachel is a successful, published author while Evie is stuck in a mind-numbing office based job, with no prospects.   When Rachel receives a call from the police telling of her sister's accident, she begins a journey that unfolds in a way she never could have anticipated.  Evie is trying to warn her sister of hidden dangers but is trapped in an unresponsive body.  She can hear people visiting her in her hospital room, she even sense their presence when they don't speak, but she cannot do the one thing she wants to do.  She cannot protect herself or her sister...

This is Bernice Barrington's debut novel and it starts with a bang.  Rachel's story is revealed from the start, with day by day accounts of her quest to find out the truth about Evie's accident.  Meanwhile, the reader is drip-fed Evie's side of the story.  She has a hidden life.  Her boyfriend knows nothing about her sister, her sister knows nothing about a boyfriend.  Why the need for secrecy?  
   She is is a coma, yet her mind is frustratingly fine.  She fills in the gaps for the reader but not enough for us to gain full insight.  It's a clever approach, as the tension continues to build at a steady pace.  The reader is collecting nuggets of information at a slightly different angle to Rachel and this leads to more twists in the narrative.  Neither of the girls are perfect.  Rachel leans towards the condescending, self-absorbed, while Evie is equally flawed with her motivations lacking in common sense.  There are moments when I felt frustrated with the main protagonists, almost shouting at them like at a pantomime.  They both had elements of sassiness (more Rachel than Evie) but then their random innocence seeped through.  This was semi-believable in the case of Evie, but not so much for Rachel.  She deserved more credit with obvious intelligence.  But, for all this nit-picking, I really enjoyed this debut.  It is a perfect example of the 'Grip-Lit' genre that is riding high in the fiction bestseller lists, worldwide.  The story is one that connects from the first page, the intrigue is present throughout and the thrills are ever-increasing.  This is an ideal read for fans of Girl on a Train.  A page-turner that may have you shouting (in your head, I hope. Especially on public transport.) one minute and biting your nails the next.  A strong debut, from a new Irish voice...


Sisters and Lies is published by Penguin on 24th March 2016 in TBP and ebook version.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Book Review - "Knights Of The Borrowed Dark" by Dave Rudden.



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


Review from Mia, aged 12.

This book is about thirteen year-old Denizen Hardwick, an orphan who only knew his parents for two years.  Crosscaper Orphange is the only place Denizen has seen in eleven years.  But when an auntie he has never heard of about sends for him, his dull life suddenly turns vibrant.  A colleague of his auntie's picks him up.  And after an encounter with a nightmarish creature, the teenager learns about an entire different world.  He's taken to mysterious Serephin Row, where he learns aboout the Knights of the Borrowed Dark, people who use words to destroy creatures made of darkness.  Denizen then meets his auntie and experiences a period of time where light bursts out of him.  This means he can be a Knight, like his auntie and her colleagues.  He's offered a career, but will he choose to take it?

This book was an amazing read with an excellent story-line.  It's the first proof-copy I have gotten in a while and I was glad I got it.  It is fairly easy to read and follow.  Recommended to ages 9+ who like fantasy, action, adventure, fiction and mystery.

The Knights Of The Borrowed Dark is published by Puffin on 7th April 2016.


Monday, 7 March 2016

"Children's Children" by Jan Carson. Guest review from Orla McAlinden.



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

Reviewed by Orla McAlinden, finalist in the Greenbean Novel Fair, 2016. orlamcalinden.com
  In reading, as in life, it is important to acknowledge and face one’s own prejudices and bigotries. Two years ago, when sent a debut novel by a Northern Irish writer (and theology graduate) with the rather evocative name of Jan Carson, entitled Malcom Orange Disappears, I had a good look at my own preconceptions, before turning the cover. To my confoundment, the story was a joyous and imaginative romp in the magical realist genre, set in Portland, Oregon. Malcom quickly became my book of the year.
In Children’s Children, Carson, who was born and raised in Ballymena, County Antrim, has come home with a bang. Having worked as Arts Outreach Officer in Belfast’s Ulster Hall for several years, Carson has set her debut collection of stories in east Belfast, the location she now calls home. The stories reek of Northern Ireland, authentic and richly imbued with the dialect and black humour of the people. From Bill exacting his petty meanness and revenge on his wife’s doorstep, to Samuel the Jon Bon Jovi fan, these people could have come from nowhere else but the cold and brittle streets of the six counties (or “Northern Ireland”, as some of them would very definitely prefer.) These are our people. And how will the people fare? Will we come together, for the greater good? Carson does not answer her question, leaving us to wonder whether we can make the necessary changes within ourselves.
The collection embraces a variety of styles: realist, surrealist to fantastic. We have the mundanity of a life in the day of an unpaid family-carer, but we also have floating infants who must be tethered to the ground, and writers who recycle their unpublished novel of six years, in the hope that it may come back to life as a dictionary, or something useful. Hope, despair, loss, isolation, and a deep sense of duty; duty to a parent, to an unwanted child, to a spouse at home waiting for his ice-cream, to a dream of a life once to be lived, now nearing its end — a gorgeous smorgasbord of stories to be enjoyed in several giant mouthfuls, or savoured, story by story.
Whilst reading In Feet and Gradual Inches, my left hand flew up to my mouth in distress and remained clamped there until the very last word, a rare corporal reaction to the printed word that last happened to me while reading the final story of Laura Weddle’s collection Better than my own life.
A tear slid down my face during the spare and pared-back Den and Estie do not remember the good times, and although I often cry when I read, I will not forget this plain, simple story quickly.
The family in the sixth story must be cousins of the criminal family in Bernard MacLaverty’s classic Belfast story, The Trojan Sofa. Carson’s story evoked that same, pragmatic northern world so clearly that I had to set the book aside and dig out and reread MacLaverty’s (Matter of Life and Death, Vintage 2006). Carson’s tale, We’ve got each other and that’s a lot, is a funny and back-handed glance at middle-class stiff-upper-lipness, and the importance of not being made to look foolish in front of the neighbours. The story also brought to mind the kidnappings of Elizabeth Browne and Patrick Berrigan from Dublin in 1950 and ’54, and it is perhaps no coincidence that both of those children were eventually found in a respectable Belfast home.
Carson has had a wide and varied role in her career as Arts Outreach Officer in the Ulster Hall, and is particularly proud of her Tea-Dances for senior citizens. She has collaborated with other artists to raise funds for the Alzheimers Association’s “Singing for the Brain” workshops. These events use music as therapy for those with dementia, recalling the vital role of The People’s Committee for Remembering Songs which is pivotal in rescuing Malcolm Orange from his incipient disappearance. In this new collection, Carson invites us to look afresh at our society, and at how we treat our most vulnerable; our young, elderly, demented or simply lonely citizens. A prayer of a book, without a word of preaching, even in the penultimate story which is a gentle, carefully nuanced look at faith, and how it is absorbed and passed on.  
Highly recommended.
Children's Children is published by Liberties Press and is available in paperback. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 9% discount, here.  

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Exclusive Cover Reveal & Book GIveaway - "Beneath The Surface" by Jo Spain.



Thanks to Jo Spain, I am delighted to be the first book blogger to show you the cover of her upcoming title, Beneath The Surface, published later this year.  The second in her Inspector Tom Reynolds series, you can read my review of book one, With Our Blessinghere.  I was a big fan of Tom and cannot wait to read book two! 
Jo has kindly donated a signed copy of her debut novel as a giveaway prize.  To be in with a chance of winning With Our Blessing, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Open INT.  Good Luck! 


BENEATH THE SURFACE


The Blurb and Prologue

From top-ten Irish bestselling author Jo Spain comes the second novel in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series
Ryan Finnegan, a high-ranking government official, is brutally slain in Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament. Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds and his team are called in to uncover the truth behind the murder. As the suspects start to rack up, Tom must untangle a web of corruption, sordid secrets and sinister lies.
At first, all the evidence hints at a politically motivated crime, until a surprise discovery takes the investigation in a dramatically different direction. Suddenly the motive for murder has got a lot more personal . . . but who benefits the most from Ryan's death?

Prologue
The death
I am going to die.
I know this as surely as I know I don’t want to.
I can’t bear it. I cannot stand the thought of leaving my girls, of not seeing them again.
Kathryn will never recover. We have defied the odds of so many married couples and are as much in love as the day we met. Sweet, beautiful, funny Kathryn.
And Beth. Oh, my little baby girl. The newness and perfection of her skin. The smell of her soft hair. Her little pudgy hand clasping my finger like she’ll never let go. She’s part of me, but she’ll never know me. People will tell her I loved her but she will never understand how much. She won’t know the almost physical pain I felt when she was born, so overwhelming was my love for her. I couldn’t speak when I held Beth for the first time, the lump in my throat was so large. Kathryn laughed. She’d never seen me cry before and it was because I was so happy.
I’m crying now.
Did I know it would come to this? Why didn’t I realise that I was playing Russian Roulette not just with my own future, but with my family’s too?
I fall forward into the cold arms of the angel. The images fall from my hands, scattering across the floor.
My leverage and my downfall.
How little they mean now.
I would give anything to turn back time and be with my girls, to take them in my arms and squeeze them tight, my heart exploding with love.
Because, too late, I know that’s all that matters.
My body writhes in agony as I try to turn my head.
I want to look my executioner in the eye. Who is this person who will steal everything from me?
My punishment is cruel. My threat was to a career, not a life. This is not fair.
I will beg. I will wail and I will plead and maybe God will intervene. He will forgive my naivety, my arrogance. This angel will carry me not to Heaven but to help, and I will fight to live. I will fight for them, Kathryn and Beth.
But all hope of salvation evaporates as I behold my attacker.
My mouth struggles to form the word.
It’s not ‘Please.’ It’s not ‘Stop.’
It’s… ‘Why?’
And then I see it, but I don’t see it. The end.
There’s no shot at redemption.
I am going to die.
The gun is in my eyeline as the second bullet is fired.
That’s the one that kills me.


Beneath The Surface and With Our Blessing are published by Quercus Books.



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