Thursday, 21 April 2016

Picture Book Review - "I Am Doodle Cat" by Kat Patrick and Lauren Marriott.




Big thanks to Molly from Scribe Publishing for sending this book for an honest review...




Doodle cat has learned to love.  He loves his pjs, he loves the ocean, adores small animals and is fascinated by maths.  He is beginning to share his love of absolutely everything around him, including farts! Most importantly, he loves himself. 

This wonderful picture book is an ideal way to show the under 4s just how amazing people, animals, nature and science are.  Doodle cat is a combination of clever words and dynamic graphics which is sure to be as much of a hit with the adults as it is with the kids...


Although the children in Bleach House are technically to old for this book, there was actually many,many giggles to be heard as they read aloud to each other.  The made the fart sound effects
(don't ALL kids love this?) and were highly amused by the items doodle cat uses to practice his maths.  We are a dog loving family, but doodle cat has all the characteristics of our crazy springer, Luna.  When doodle cat scratches the good rug and announces 'I Love This Rug', we all agreed it was just like our house.

The children had great fun with the two page spread where doodle cat declares his love for "difference". There are amazing drawings of cats who are all different shapes and sizes, all ages and with many distinguishing features.  Each child spotted something new and we can see how a small child would have great fun pointing these differences out to their parents, teacher or sibling.  


Beautifully produced, this is the kind of book that will be handed to an adult over and over again, with many hours of memories building up as the child learns to appreciate all the thing that they can love in the world.  Not just merchandise from the latest TVshow or recognizable branded cartoon heroes, but very real things and people.  Trees, stars, water, food, music and maths.  Most importantly, it opens discussion for these kids.  Discussion about how to love themselves and others...

All of us at Bleach House HIGHLY RECOMMEND this picture book, for the little ones in your life (or maybe just for yourself)!


I Am Doodle Cat is published by Scribe Publications and is available in Hardback.  You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 10% discount, HERE, or via amazon link below:

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Book Review - "All She Ever Wished For" by Claudia Carroll.



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

Tess and Bernard are getting married and the wedding preparations are in full swing.  Choosing to have the event at Tess's family home seemed like a good idea at the time but as the date approaches, the bride-to-be encounters many obstacles, not least the fact that her family don't like Bernard and Bernard's family are not overly-keen on her.  To make matters worse, Tess has been called for jury duty and all the wedding plans are side-tracked.  

Kate and Damien King were Ireland's golden couple and held the whole country in rapture with their lavish lifestyle.  Now the tides have turned, with their bitter court battle becoming the new media folly.  Just how can a marriage go so badly wrong?  

The two women's lives come with different sets of expectations and realities, yet they both want the same thing.  A new beginning and a chance at happiness.  Courtrooms can be more than an arena for judgment...

This is Claudia Carroll's thirteenth novel and she once again captures the essence of friendship, comedy and a little romance with her signature wit and humour.  The two main characters are Tess and Kate, but these are supported by an amazing cast of memorable personalities.  Tess's fiancee, Bernard is an absolute howl, with his parents tendency to overwhelm everyone with their academic lifestyle and attitudes causing many a giggle.  Their family home is one we have spotted on every tree lined street, with overgrown garden, cranky cat and a air of disrepair despite it's affluent location.  The Prendergasts just don't care.  On the other side of the coin is Tess's family.  Salt of the earth, living in an immaculately maintained three-bed-semi, they are throwing themselves into preparing their home for the wedding day. Tess just wishes they 'got' Bernard and Bernard 'got' them.  

Kate and Damien are living the life most of us could only dream of.  A country mansion, straight out of the pages of VIP or Hello magazines, extravagant  parties, luxurious holidays and a well-connected circle of friends.  However, all this is irrelevant to  Kate.  There are some things that money can't buy.  When their marriage disintegrates, she hits Damien where it hurts hardest; landing herself in court.  
As the drama unfolds daily, the jury are thrown together and what a bunch they are.  Tess is one of the youngest, by a few decades, and the matriarchal group are like the panels of a patchwork quilt; all stitched together, despite their differences.  There are some cringe-worth moments, dodgy hypochondriac monologues and entertaining pensioner tensions.  Everytime they convene to their waiting room, the comedy balances the structure of the court system.  The jurors take their roles very seriously and the verdict lies in their hands.  Tess needs to put her wedding woes aside and make a decision that may change her own life as well as deciding the fate of Kate King. 

 This is a book that relaxes the soul and warms the heart.  At the end of a busy day there is nothing better than switching off, relaxing with a light read and escaping into a world that can do you no harm.  The humour is a constant presence throughout the novel and the interactions of the jury are just brilliant.  In contrast, the life of the Kings is drip fed and the reader builds a picture of how they ended up on either side of a Dublin Courtroom.  An idyllic holiday read, or a tonic at the end of a more demanding day.  Highly recommended contemporary fiction. 

All She Ever Wished For is published by Avon and is available in TPB in Ireland and ebook format is available worldwide via amazon link below: 
  

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Book Review - "The Anglo-Irish War: The Troubles of 1913-1922" by Peter James Cottrell.



I purchased this title as part of a research assignment for a college history assignment. One can never read too much history, right? Wrong...

I found this book very weak and extremely biased. Phrases like 'Arguably many Rebels like Pearse, Childers, Connolly and Griffith had as much English [...] blood in their veins as many Unionists had Irish.' and 'the protagonists on either side were mostly Irish' are irrelevant, offensive and have no references showing their basis. There is also an opaque view of the executed leaders of 1916, when the author says 'Although the executions that followed the Easter Rising were perfectly legal they damaged British standing and created a new crop of martyrs for the cause'. The author may call these executions 'legal' but dues not elude to the fact that these men were 'prisoners of war', and as such, should have been imprisoned, not shot en-masse.

I should have abandoned the book after reading the very first line: 'It is likely that many people have never heard of the Anglo-Irish War.'
Seriously??? Did he mean Irish people, English people? Americans? I think he may be underestimating a vast percentage of Europe.
Should you want to read an Englishman's view of another of England's colonies, go for it. Should you want a balanced, non- biased look at the relationship between Ireland and England, buy a decent book, like Charles Townshend's 'The Republic' or go online and read witness statements on http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/

The Anglo-Irish War: The Troubles of 1913-1922 is published by Osprey and is available in paperback and ebook format.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Blog Tour - "All Their Minds In Tandem" by David Sanger. Exclusive Extract.


Thanks to the publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour for David Sanger's "All Their Minds In Tandem".  As a history student, I find historical fiction particularly enticing and this is definitely one for me...  Follow the chat on twitter #MindsInTandom #MindMemory

The Blurb

The setting is October 1879. The stage is New Georgetown, West Virginia.
A mysterious figure by the name of 'The Maker' has entered this small community and, almost immediately upon doing so, started entering the minds of the townsfolk.
Townsfolk who are as curious as The Maker himself. Like Dr Umbründ, the pint-sized physician with a prodigious capacity for sin; like the three sisters in the house on the hill - one stern, one wild, one mysterious; like the tavern's semi-mythical siren, 'The Bird', who plays spellbinding music from behind a black velvet curtain, and whom no patron has ever laid eyes on; like Odell, a youth with dreams and ambitions that his craven disposition will forever prevent him from seizing; and who has spent the entirety of his erstwhile existence under the crushing heel of Clay, New Georgetown's lead cad and chief alpha male.
As we enter these characters' lives, and lightly tread our way through their brains, their bedrooms, their backstories and beyond, we will see what it is they all hope for and hide - and learn just why The Maker has chosen to meet them.

 Extract from All Their Minds In Tandem

October 1879

Emerson arrived and was glad for it. His heavy pack had long since begun to cut into his skin and, at seeing the fresh sign that read Post Office, he dropped it from his shoulders and dragged it the last few paces. Where other men tied their horses, Emerson left his pack, securing it to a wooden post. He trusted the lack of interest regarding its contents more than the men who walked by, and casually strode into the building.
A heavyset woman with greying brown hair leaned over the main desk as she sifted through a tall pile of letters. Her face was red with exertion, and a sheet of paper, possibly a letter, stuck to one of her clammy forearms. She didn’t seem to notice, nor did she look up once Emerson walked in. He gazed along the sides of the post office. On the floor near a window was an upturned crate sat next to another. On the second one stood a stack of white paper, pristine and neatly ordered.
‘You’ll have to excuse the mess,’ the woman said. ‘Things have changed hands and there’s plenty still to do.’
Emerson walked up to the desk and placed his hands there, pushing back the edges of envelopes with his fingertips.
‘I’m here to collect some mail,’ he said.
The woman smiled and looked up. She fanned her red chest with the clutch of envelopes in her hand.
‘Then you’re in the right place.’
She stepped back into a slight corridor lined with pigeonholes.
‘Name,’ she called.
‘It’s more a title,’ Emerson began, the words soft.
‘Name,’ the woman called, not hearing him.
‘The maker,’ Emerson shouted.
‘Baker?’ the woman returned, tracing a finger along the italicised names below each hole.
‘The maker,’ Emerson repeated, looking over his shoulder to the door.
The woman looked at him and her face pushed back in the folds of her neck. A rumble came from her chest and she blew out a belch, diverting her breath as best she might. ‘The maker?’ she asked.
Emerson nodded, turning back to her. The woman muttered some things under her breath and took to looking over the names on the holes once more.
‘As if I haven’t got enough to do without some crookedminded—’
She halted over one of the pigeonholes and peered closer, as though doubting the handwriting. With a thumbnail, she pulled the slip of card from its brass frame and studied it. Emerson watched as she wandered over and held it up to him.
‘This you?’ she asked.
Emerson nodded.
‘My husband must have had the folly to write this down. We take names here, mister.’
She strode back and took a cream envelope from the pigeonhole, tapping it against her shoulder as she went. She handed it to Emerson and then tore the label in two, all the time watching his face. Emerson pocketed the envelope and met her eyes.
‘There’s another. Emerson.’
‘Emerson?’ she asked.
‘That’s right.’
The woman went back and looked impatiently over the names before finding the one labelled Emerson. She pulled a fold of paper from this hole and handed it over.
‘Any more names?’ she asked him, her faced twisted with suspicion.
‘No, ma’am,’ Emerson said. ‘And I’d appreciate it if you could keep our conversation to between us.’
The woman’s eyes widened before she returned to poring over the envelopes in front of her.
‘And there was me about to tell the Gazette all about it,’ she said under her breath.
Emerson smiled and placed the fold of paper in his pocket next to the cream envelope. He took one of the dollar bills he’d gotten earlier and pushed it across the desk. The woman’s eyes fixed on it like a hawk’s on a mouse.
‘I’d right appreciate it,’ Emerson said.
The woman looked up, her fat, reddened face suddenly kinder.
‘And would there be anything else I could help you with, young sir?’ she said.
‘This town,’ Emerson began. ‘It a new one?’
The woman nodded. ‘Since the old one was near levelled. It’s in the name too. New Georgetown. After that prancing pony, McClellan. Pretty much why I’m looking over these letters like I am. You think it’s hard sending a letter to no place? Try delivering one. Another building pops up, another number does too. Then you gots yourself two “13 Chestnut Street”s. Depending on your
trade, you might be able to find yourself some work.’
Emerson felt the stab of the woman’s enquiries and nodded to her in thanks. Once he was outside, he drew in the cool evening air, pleased to find his pack still there. Pulling the envelope from his pocket, he tore along its edges and spilled the contents – a single white card – into his hand.
It read:
Meet me at the Long Cape tavern. Wednesday 15th, six o’clock.
The writing was finely done and gave Emerson the impression of great wealth. But he noticed the absence of a name and pondered whether to tear it up and head back the way he came.
The farmer’s son would most likely sell him back his horse for those same three dollars.
He looked down at the card again.
Today is Wednesday, thought Emerson.
As though the town conspired to play out the urgency of the situation, he heard the bell strike five. He twirled the card in his hand and watched as the gas lamps at the far end of the street were lit. He had not noticed the darkening blue of the sky and would have to make up his mind soon enough lest he want to sleep rough. He read the card once more and then placed it back inside the torn envelope. Untying his pack from the post, he heaved it on to his back, the straps neatly settling in the painful grooves from before. More lights were lit as several men worked their way down the street towards him.
‘I’ll meet you at the Long Cape,’ Emerson said in a hushed voice, as though the light might overhear his words.

All Their Minds in Tandem by David Sanger is published in Hardback, by Quercus. 


About The Author


David Sanger was born in Maidstone in 1984. He has previously worked for Faber & Faber and Scholastic Children's Books. He studied acting at LAMDA before reading English at King's College London and has written for Sofilm Magazine. He has lived in Berlin and London, and is currently based in Kent.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Book Review - "A Letter From America" by Geraldine O'Neill.



We received a copy of this title, from the publishers, in return for an honest review.  Many thanks to my new guest reviewer, Martina, for her insightful review...

Guest review from Martina O'Connor.


The Tracey family are like any Irish family living in 1960s Ireland. Seán and Nance Tracey are the parents of three girls, Fiona, Angela and Bridget. Fiona lives at home and helps out in the family run shop and public house while Angela lives independently in Dublin and Bridget is on course to become a nun while living at a convent in Athlone. Throughout the book, we get an insight into the Tracey family through the perspectives of Fiona, Angela and Bridget.

            Geraldine kicks off by introducing Fiona, the eldest daughter, who receives a letter from America from her friend Elizabeth, who informs her that she has been successful in getting a nanny position with a family in New York. Looking forward to her new adventure in America, Fiona helps her parents during the busy Christmas period in the shop and the pub until she leaves for New York in the New Year.
            When the reader is introduced to Angela, they also get introduced to an independent young woman who has suffered from polio, which affected her leg, from a young age. Angela has not let this hold her back as she manages to get around. She lives amongst people who suffer from the same disability as her so she feels comfortable in her surroundings. Throughout the book, you feel the tensions Angela feels towards her mother, as she doesn’t feel close to her parent as much as Fiona would.
            Bridget, the third daughter, is living in a convent with the hope of becoming a nun. Bridget also has her independence but is set on completing her vocation as she has strong religious beliefs.
            Like every family, tragedy strikes when you least expect it to. When a tragedy strikes the Tracey family each of the girls deal with this event in their own way and Fiona is forced to postpone her trip to New York. She does this so that she can help her mother run both the shop and the pub but when her mother falls ill, Fiona has no choice but to cancel her trip altogether and look after her mother at home. Fiona soon finds herself yearning for the independence her sisters have. Bridget has her religion to help her through the tragedy and Angela is busy with work in Dublin so both are away from home and Fiona is left to take on the responsibilities of two businesses and looking after their mother by herself. This aspect of the book made me feel sorry for Fiona as she had her hopes and dreams for the future taken away from her. Fiona feels like she is left looking after things at home on her own as her sisters are unable to return home from their own responsibilities. I also get the idea that Angela is reluctant to return home, which is unfair on Fiona who is left to look after their mother on her own.
Soon, the story gives hope to the reader that Fiona can find happiness again, when a handsome American books into one of the rooms above the pub. Fiona immediately finds herself attracted to the American tourist, Michael O’Sullivan, and a romance blossoms. Could things work out for Fiona? Only one way to find out.  

Geraldine O’Neill’s writing is extraordinary. She finds a way to draw the reader in with her dialogues and depiction of family life in Ireland at this time. Throughout the book, we get a sense that there are family secrets and tensions when we are introduced to Nance’s relationship with her sister Catherine. Fiona, Angela and Bridget don’t understand the tension between Nance and their aunt and this tension keeps the reader turning the page to find out what is the reason behind this fallout. The girls get caught in the crossfire as all three sisters hear something that could change the family for good. What is the secret that has caused this tension in the Tracey family? Geraldine O’Neill keeps the reader hooked from start to finish in order to find out.

Throughout the book, many characters are introduced. While most characters are likable, there are one or two characters that the reader would find less appealing. For me, Fiona is the most likable as she is a strong character. She shows great strength in the way she runs the family businesses while looking after her sick mother. People would be able to relate to her after she had to sacrifice her trip to America to look after things at home.
On the other hand, a character I disliked, to some degree, was Nance Tracey. She started off as a strong character with a happy marriage and three beautiful daughters. However, when she fell ill, she didn’t show the strength that she portrayed at the beginning of the book and showed no interest in getting better which affected Fiona the most. In my opinion, Nance holds Fiona back from following her dreams and holds her back from gaining real independence, which she aches for. Also, when she pushes her only sister away because of the fallout they had, it just doesn’t give a good insight to the character.

There are many twists and turns throughout the course of this book that are exquisite. Geraldine O’Neill has a talent for bringing up plot twists at just the right moment. Each character in the book is dealt with a challenge that throws their future plans in the balance. Angela finds out what the Tracey secret is at a moment when her relationship with her mother is looking up. Fiona is unsure what her future holds and doesn’t know whether her dreams for America will happen and what that means for her relationship with Michael O’Sullivan. Another incident puts Bridget’s vocation in jeopardy. Nance also reaches a new low with her illness that threatens her life. Will the Tracey family be able to overcome these challenges in order to find true happiness for themselves?  My advice, read “A Letter from America” to unfold all the secrets, sadness and happiness that the Tracey girls become subject to in Geraldine O’Neill’s magnificent story about family, grievance, romance and new opportunities. 


A Letter from America is published by Poolbeg Books and is available in TPB and ebook format.  At the time of posting, Poolbeg are running a 50% sale on all their fiction titles. You can check out their range here.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: 


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Blog Tour - "Flawed" by Cecelia Ahern. Review and Goodie Pack Giveaway.





Flawed is the debut YA novel from bestselling author Cecelia Ahern and to celebrate its release
I have a limited edition goodie pack to give away to one lucky reader, thanks to the lovely people at Harper Collins.  To enter, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  Good Luck!


My Review 

"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 SagaThe 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 and is available in Hardback and ebook format.  You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postagehere.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:





Saturday, 2 April 2016

Book Review - "The Missing" by C.L. Taylor.




Fifteen year old Billy Wilkinson disappeared from his family home six months ago.  His mother, Claire is preparing to hold another television appeal in the hope of jogging someones memory.  Her husband and older son are not as hopeful as Claire and she feels undercurrents of defeat within the walls of her house.  A mother can't ever give up hope of finding her missing child, can she?  Who can she blame for the disappearance?  Was there someway she could have prevented it?  When her mind starts playing tricks on her, and she finds herself waking up in strange places with no memory of how she got there, Claire realises there is a chance someone has been lying to her.  Can she discover who is hindering her search for her son, and will it be too late?

The third psychological thriller from the author of The Accident and The Lie, and C.L. Taylor addresses every parents biggest fear; the disappearance of a child.  While Billy is fifteen years old, and bigger than his mother, he is still her baby.  The pain felt by Claire is palpable, the uncertainty,the fear and the empty spaces in her everyday life.  Her husband, Mark, seems resigned to the fact that he may never see his son again and his deflation becomes an issue within the Wilkinson household.   Older brother, Jake, is struggling to control his moods and turns to alcohol to numb his pain.  His live-in girlfriend, Kira, can only watch his slow spiral into depression.  Overall the atmosphere of the novel is dark.  There are Snapchat messages throughout the book and it is left to the reader to decide who the users are.  This is a clever way to identify with the situation, outside of the household, adding a new perspective.   When Claire  begins to literally lose parts of her day and finds herself with more questions than possible answers, the darkness seems to extend beyond the scope of grief or stress.  The mind is a funny thing, and hers seems to be telling her something.  

So many high profile missing children cases spring to mind when you start reading this novel. Names like Madeline, Ben , JonBenét and Natascha.  Some of these missing children are found alive, some are found too late.  This book looks at what happens when you don't know either way.  How can you continue your day-to-day life with that aching pain bearing down on you?  Do you cease your search, on the advice of experts?  Do you trust your instincts or begin to doubt them?  The author asks all of these questions, and more, in this 'grip-lit' title.  Slow burning, with a strong female protagonist, there are many moments where you might think you have guessed the ending, then another chapter makes you change your mind again.  Just what a psychological thriller should do.  Another great read from one of the UK's finest genre writers...

The Missing is published by Avon Books on 7th April 2016 and will be available in paperback and ebook format. 

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