Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Book Review - Cats Undercover by Ged Gillmore.


We received a copy of this title, from the author, for review purposes.

REVIEW FROM MIA MADDEN, AGED 13.


This is the hilarious sequel to Cats On The Run by Ged Gillmore. It is about three cats named Ginger, Tuck and Minnie, who live a fairly happy life on an abandoned farm called Dingleberry Bottom which is bordered by a great, dark forest called (funnily enough) the Great Dark Forest. Ginger's role is to take care of food supplies for winter and also for daily use. Tuck helps his two friends, despite being a massive scaredy-cat. As for Minnie, well she really just sits around and does nothing but watch her favourite TV show, Kitten's Got Talent. Ginger starts to notice the food stocks decreasing and suspects Minnie of stealing food. But it's not Minnie. Ginger soon finds the real thief and follows them to get what is rightfully hers (and Tuck's and Minnie's, technically). 


While this is happening, Minnie gets news that she is going to audition for Kitten's Got Talent. She sets off without considering the fact that she has no money for transport. And poor Tuck is left by himself. And so, being the scaredy-cat that he is, goes off to search for his friends. He gets lost along the way and ends up in the place of his nightmares; The Dark Forest. As if things couldn't get worse, he gets captured by a pair of humans who plan to turn him, and other cats, into a a fur coat! Will the three cats get reunited and achieve whatever goals they had at first?

Cats. It just had to be cats. It couldn't have been dogs? I hate cats. But the animal choice evidently didn't affect my opinion of the book as it is one of the funniest books I have read since Skulduggery Pleasant. But maybe the author would write some books about dogs? *Nudge, Nudge* Just kidding. The book is absolutely pun-derful. The sheer pun-tasticness of it made it a very enjoyable read. I recommend this for ages 8+.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Ged Gillmore was born slap-bang in the middle of England and spent his formative years there before moving to London and trying to sound posh. But he failed miserably and after 18 years in the capital he moved to Sydney. 

When he's not falling off his surfboard at Bondi or dabbling with a day job which pays the bills he sits at his laptop and bashes out fiction. He frowns while writing his crime fiction series about an English criminal forced to become a private investigator (it's fiction - honest!), but laughs his head off when he's working on his children's chapter book series starring Nip & Tuck, his two cats. Sometimes Nip & Tuck sit on his laptop and he loses a day's work...
Cats On The Run, the first book in the hilarious Tuck & Ginger series, was written for friends as a distraction while Ged was working on his first crime thriller. After being pestered by multiple parents to turn it into a book Ged did just that and it was published in mid-2015 and distributed via Scholastic Australia. Ged has been thrilled with the reaction to the book and enjoys touring schools in Sydney and introducing school children to his laugh-out loud fiction. The much-anticipated sequel, Cats Undercover, launches in early 2017 and promises to take the craziness up a notch.
And of course work continues on Ged's crime series, which follows the lovable English rogue Murdoch as he tries to adapt to a new life in Australia and leave his criminal tendencies behind. Murdoch's dangerous past is never far behind and certain shady characters are hell bent on seeking their revenge in his little piece of paradise. 
Ged will release this gripping three-part crime noir series in September 2017. Stay tuned!


Cats Undercover is available in paperback and ebook format. You can order your copy via the amazon link below:


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Book Review - Joyful Trouble by Patricia Furstenberg. Ages 8+



We received an advance copy of this title, for review purposes.

Review from Endija, aged 10.


This book is based on the true story of a dog called Joyful Trouble. There are three main characters: five year-old Tommy, his nine-year-old sister Anna, and their grandad. When they see a Great Dane in a parade, Grandad tells the kids the story of a dog he loved, called Joyful Trouble. He remembers being in the Navy during WWII and meeting the dog on the way to work one day.

Joyful Trouble was a mischievous but very helpful dog. The seamen got to know and love him and the dog was soon part of the crew. Joyful Trouble and Grandad were good friends and were put to work together. Along the way, the dog meets new friends, loses old ones and still is very happy. He causes a lot of trouble (that's how he got his name) but also stops fights and commotion. In this book, Grandad is the story-teller and Anna and Tommy are the very eager listeners.

I love this book and it made me happy and, at some parts, sad. It is also a bit funny. The reason I love it so much is because I love dogs and true stories. I hope others will also enjoy it. I would recommend it for ages 8+.

About The Author

Patricia Furstenberg came to writing though reading, her passion for books being something she inherited from her parents.

She won two key legs (chapter six, "Someone is Missing" and chapter nine, "Reconstruction of the Crime") of the Write Your Own Christie Competition and was runner-up for chapter four. The Judges "were impressed by her thorough investigation and admired the strength of her narrative; they were impressed by her style" and congratulated Patricia on winning the penultimate chapter. "This was perhaps one of the hardest rounds of the competition and the judges felt that Patricia's chapter was confident and intriguing." The judges thought Patricia's writing style is "well structured, with a great sense of tension and suspense."
The Judges were Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie's grandchild involved in publishing and promoting her books since 1960s, David Brawn, Agatha Christie's Publisher at Harper Collins UK for the last 20 years and Daniel Mallory who works primarily with thrillers and crime fiction at Harper Collins US.

When she’s not writing Patricia likes to read, read, read, drink coffee and listen to music.
One of the characters portrayed in her children stories is Pete, the yellow toy elephant. Not many know, but Pete exists and lives in Pat's home.
This Romanian born writer is living happily with her husband, children and dogs in sunny South Africa.

Patricia Furstenberg Author Page and Blog: http://alluringcreations.co.za/wp/
Patricia Furstenberg for Huffington Post SA: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/patricia-furstenberg/

Connect on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PatFurstenberg
Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaFurstenbergAuthor

Joyful Trouble is available in paperback and ebook format. You can order your copy via amazon link below:

Book Review - The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy.



Guest Review from Merith Jones.


The Possessions was a real surprise. I was expecting a competent psychological thriller but Sara Flannery Murphy has delivered so much more.

The first sentence plunges us into mystery and rapid character building; Patrick and Sylvia Braddock are to become central figures but whose voice are we listening to? The description is sensuous and poetic and we are quite unprepared for the introduction of a world with the assured normalisation we associate with Margaret Attwood’s prose. Nothing here is ‘our’ normal. The Elysian Society offers a service whereby the living may be reunited with lost loved ones by means of a ‘host’, a medium through which they might speak, a body which is literally possessed by the dead for the benefit of others.

We are told that the society is strictly regulated, unlike the back street services which alerts us early on to the potential abuses and dangers of the system. Whilst this world builds we come to know the protagonist and appreciate that there is much hidden in her background. Why would she take up this profession? What needs does she fulfil by negating her very existence ?
The relationship with Patrick, her client, begins to demonstrate the frailty of her sense of self until at one point it is difficult for either she or the reader to be sure who she really is? The power of the novel’s title becomes ever clearer. Even more alarming is a growing sense of how the margins between past and present become obscured. Danger looms as the tension builds relentlessly. Self is dissolving into Time, driven by her overwhelming passion and her desire to be engulfed in Patrick’s world. But perhaps he has secrets too ? And is the Society itself all it claims to be?

This is a totally absorbing experience exploring self, womanhood, loneliness and the nature of obsession. The expertly crafted movement between first and third person offers some respite from the intimate intensity of escalating events and the use of classical names adds a layer of further depth, as does the key location, Lake Madeleine, with its allusion to time past associated with Proust’s famous madeleine – the catalyst which was the trigger to memories of the past.
This is a layered novel of absolutely page turning readability. It does lose a little pace at one point when there is a great deal to be revealed at one go but it soon re-establishes the mood and tone to power towards its conclusion. This is a remarkable achievement in a debut novelist and there is still so much more I could say !  Sara Flannery Murphy is certainly a name to watch out for.  Do read it and find out for yourself.
 (Also, this edition  has sprayed page edges which makes it a physical pleasure to pick up!)

The Possessions is published by Scribe Publishing and is available in HB and ebook format. Available in all good bookshops and via amazon link below:


Friday, 7 April 2017

Book Review: The Forever Court by Dave Rudden.



Review by Mia Madden, aged 13.


This is the enthralling second part in the Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy. It takes us back to Seraphim Row (a couple of months after the Clockwork Three incident), where Denizen, Simon, Abigail, Darcie and Vivian remain. Since his run in with the Tenebrous Mercy, daughter of the Endless King, Denizen's mind has been on fire (pun intended) with the new power Mercy gave him. With all seventy-eight Cants in your head, it takes a lot of willpower not to utter a few syllables and accidentally destroy the whole world. An old friend returns with an invitation to meet up with the Endless King's most trusted minions, the Forever Court. Denizen thinks of it as a chance to see Mercy again. But is it a trap?


The book also follows Uriel Croit, a member of a very powerful family that worships a being known as the Redemptress. She is said to have given the Croits her Favour, a fire that burns in their hearts and takes the form of whatever you choose. With this mass fire-power (I can't help it! I love puns!), the army of the Favoured plan on taking down 'the Aversary', an enemy who doomed their Redemptress. But Uriel is having second thoughts about what he is doing as soon as he sees what he is up against. Will he fight for his family, or hide from the horror that is war?


Another outstanding novel from Dave Rudden. It shows two different styles of writing: humorous in Denizen and dark and literary in Uriel. Unfortunately, the week I started reading The Forever Court was the week I got back from a trip with my school. I was exhausted and couldn't read much. Fortunately, I had plenty of free-classes the next week, so I got plenty of reading done. I can't wait for book 3: The Endless King! It's hopefully coming out next year (no pressure).

HIGHLY recommended for ages 10+.

You can read my review of Knights of the Borrowed Dark HERE.




The Forever Court is published by Puffin and is available in paperback and ebook format.  You can get your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. Check out the great book trailer below.


      

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Movie Review: The Gift.

THE GIFT


Directed by Damian O’Callaghan.
Screenplay by Paul Fitzsimons.
Starring Alan Devine, Una Kavanagh, Dawn Bradfield, Brendan Grace.
Running Time 82 mins
OC Productions
Screening Omniplex, Cork. 12 April 2017.



A year after losing his wife to cancer, Sean (Alan Devin, Veronica Guerin) is consumed by grief.  His teaching job has lost its appeal, his rent is overdue and he is avoiding contact with his friends and family. Without Sarah (Una Kavanagh, Fair City) he has nothing left to live for and decides to end it all. Putting his whiskey bottle aside, he begins to plan his own death. However, it is not as simple as he thought. As he thinks through the potential methods, the realities of dying become crystal clear.  It will not be a pleasant task and there are a few barriers in his way.

Set in Killarney, the opening scenes of The Gift are breath-taking. Director, Damian O’Callaghan, uses stunning aerial shots which sweep across the landscape and show the magical beauty of Co. Kerry. The soundtrack is raw; literally tugging at strings; haunting cello combined with pizzicato overtones; matching the barren scenery perfectly. Sean’s mood is haunted and his eyes are almost a character in themselves.  While he roams the quiet roads of Killarney, his appearance matches the dreary weather and solemnness of the surrounding fields. Flashbacks are used to reveal the depth of his grief and the memories are a no-holds-barred look at how cancer took a part of Sean along with Sarah.


The story is poignant, with Sarah’s death ever-present and the young widower sinking further and further into the depths of his grief, but there are comical moments that lift the story to a new level. A half-hearted encounter with a local barmaid; a well-meant pep-talk from his landlord and friend; a spontaneous decision to buy a length of rope from the local hardware shop. The dark humour is subtle yet effective.  The interactions with the locals show how a small community can rally around, quietly, and really make a difference.  Shop assistant, Jane (Dawn Bradfield, The Clinic), adds some colour to the scenes, with her witty retorts and frank approach to depression. There is a superb cameo performance from Brendan Grace, who ditches his Bottler alter-ego and shows that he is a truly talented actor.

Make no mistake, this is a sad story; but it is an honest look at grief, depression and loneliness. It carries the message that there are good days; bad days and days in-between. The darkness can be broken by moments of brightness; and sometimes that brightness can be found in the most unexpected places. The barren landscape of Killarney is utilised to maximum effect, the casting is perfect and the soundtrack ideally matched. A wonderfully warm and touching story which cleverly blends grief with black humour.



Blog Tour: Perfect by Cecelia Ahern. Author Q&A and Review,





What an honour to be hosting a stop on the blogtour for Cecelia Ahern's latest YA novel, Perfect. On this stop, there is a fantastic Q&A session with the author. We are huge fans of Cecelia's books, here at Bleach House Library. You can read my review of Flawed HERE and thirteen-year-old, Mia, has reviewed Perfect for this tour.





PERFECT is the thrilling, shocking and romantic sequel to Cecelia Ahern’s bestselling YA debut FLAWED.

When we embrace all our flaws, that’s when we can finally become PERFECT… Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine's life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with the complicated, powerfully attractive Carrick, the only person she can trust. But Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save only herself, or risk her life to save all the Flawed. And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?.



Q&A WITH CECELIA AHERN

What made you decide to write a YA series?

I didn’t have a specific plan to write a YA series but when I came up with the idea for Flawed and Perfect, I knew I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a 17 year old. I felt that was the best way to tell the story because although we’re constantly learning about ourselves throughout our life, teenage years are the years when you first really start to question authority and society, and start figuring out how you really feel about things, instead of what you’re being told to feel. I wanted to take Celestine from being that logical, obedient girl who thinks in black and white and turn her into somebody who questions, who doubts, who finds her own voice. She suddenly realizes she has to follow her own instincts, and her heart. We do this at different stages of her life when life throws us dilemmas but I wanted this to be the first big lesson in my character’s life, and also a voice and character that could teach society a thing or two.


Celestine and Carrick both rebel against a restrictive regime and are severely punished for it. Do you think our young adults should use their voices more, or less, in this age of ‘Fake News’?

I always encourage using your own voice. Celestine is not an obvious leader, she doesn’t realize her own strengths, she is not a leader because she wants to be but because she naturally makes the right choices. She brings compassion and logic to a society that has lost its humanity and I don’t think that shouting the loudest is necessarily what makes people be heard, it’s the strength of the character with quiet confidence that can truly gain a following. It’s not about shouting, it’s about leading by example, it’s about action, your own behavior, who you can influence in a positive way.


Do you find yourself noticing the restrictions of society more, since writing this series?

This story was inspired by my feelings on society so no I’m noticing it even more than before. I was inspired to write this by my belief that we live in a very judgemental society, one quick to point the finger at those who are different, who make life decisions that are frowned upon. I felt that we have a society that publicly shames, it’s almost like a sport at times, and it’s a form of entertainment for the media. It frustrated me to the point that I had to write this novel. We already label people, but this time I wanted to see what it would be like physically labeling people, branding them with an F. I’ve always felt strongly about inequality, so I suppose this was my way of condensing all my feelings on the issue and explaining it in a way that I knew how.
Of course as I was writing I realized that I was writing about everything in our history; the Flawed rules mimic the anti-Jewish decrees in World War 2, Celestine’s moment on the bus that leads her to be Flawed was inspired by the Rosa Parks event on the bus during the civil rights movement. Children born to Flawed parents are taken away from them and raised in state institutions and of course in Ireland children of unmarried mothers were taken from them. Aboriginal children in Australia were removed from their parents by the government in order to dilute the gene pool. We have tortured each other because of race, sex and religion in the past, we still do now, I wanted to explore this inhumane behaviour to punishing people for the moral and ethical decisions they make.

How important is it to have a male protagonist alongside a strong female one?

When I write, balance is very important. I like to take a dark story and bring it to a place of light, take a sad story and inject it with humour, take something negative and bring it to a positive place. I need to have the balance also of male and female.


Are there any parts of you within the character of Celestine?

I certainly wasn’t the girl that Celestine begins out as, I was probably more like her sister Juniper, who was quieter, had one close friend at school, she just can’t wait to get through it so that her life can begin. She is more of an outsider, cynical of society and questions everything around her, something Celestine learns later.  However, despite Juniper quietly grumbling about the things that bother her, Celestine is the one that takes action. I think writing this book is my version of Celestine’s action. 


REVIEW BY MIA MADDEN, AGED 13.

This is the amazing new YA novel from Cecelia Ahern. It is the follow-up to Flawed and it catches up with Celestine North, the most flawed person in the history of the Guild. Celestine is on the run from Judge Bosco Crevan and his Whistleblowers and she just wants one thing: to find her fellow inmate, Carrick Vane. Celestine believes that Carrick has vital footage of Crevan lashing out at her and she wants to use this to bring him, and hopefully the entire Guild, down. 
Celestine makes new friends in more Guild evaders; Mona, Lennox, Fergus and Lorcan. While the group are going about as normal (as evaders do), Whistleblowers find their hideout and this squad is led by Celestine's ex, Art Crevan, son of the deluded Judge. Art claims to still be on Celestine's side but she is not so sure. Now she must choose between Carrick and Art. Who will she choose? Will she get the footage of Crevan before he gains control of the entire country?

Awestruck - That is how these two books left me. Flawed was the first book to almost bring me to tears and Perfect was not far off it either. And I am not the kind to cry at books or movies. (I did not even cry when a certain house-elf came to a tragic end in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). With beautiful language, dramatic scenes and characters you will miss when you finish the book. I would rate Perfect 5*. 
Recommended for ages 12 +.

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Perfect is published is published by Harper Collins and is available in Hardback and ebook format. Published today, it is in all good bookshops or you can order your copy via amazon link below:

         



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Book Review: 'The Truth Will Out' by Brian Cleary.



Huge thanks to Merith Jones for her guest review of The Truth Will Out. I read and review as many titles as I physically can, but have a handful of readers that I trust to help me out when I cannot catch up. Merith has a wonderful way with words and, like me, is a voracious reader. I really appreciate all her help.

THE BLURB

The novel is set in Ireland. The friendship of Jamie, Shane and Mary Kate is tested to the limit after Mary Kate is brutally raped and lies in a coma. The evidence against Jamie is overwhelming and is compounded by the fact he maintains he cannot recall what happened that night. However, the one secret that Jamie has never disclosed can prove his innocence. Corrupt guards, a narcissistic film director and his mercenary private detective, an ex-girlfriend, a serial killer and an inept solicitor all weave a complicated compelling plot with twists and turns right to the end. A gripping read.

Guest review from Merith Jones.


Cleary throws us straight into the conversation between a lawyer and the prisoner he defends who desperately hopes to finally gain his freedom after forty years. Is this man innocent? Could there have been a gross miscarriage of justice? Or is the truth more complex?
We are taken back to the 70s and Jamie’s childhood recollection of his affections, loyalties and frustrations; a time of sometimes uncontrolled anger but also the potential for friendship and burgeoning teenage romance.  As he reaches his teenage years he confronts the often brutal world of The Sweeney-like policing of the era, particularly centred around the aftermath of a night of heavy drinking about which he has no recollection. His childhood friend has been raped and violently murdered; Jamie doesn’t know himself how culpable he is.
As the investigation moves forward Jamie is increasingly dependent on his best friend Shane as the net appears to close around him and court appearance looms. And then…
Cleary gives us an unpredictable and daring twist at the half way point just when the reader has become comfortable with this fast paced procedural and throws our preconceptions up in the air. The pace increases and, with the introduction of an American PI and a manipulative film producer after a new blockbuster story the tone changes.
This is a debut with much to recommend it. The two time settings are skilfully interwoven and the psychological profile of Jamie is convincing. There is promise in both halves of the story and it is to Cleary’s credit that he manages to bring some disparate elements to a cohesive and punchy finale.
If you love a plot driven thriller full of page turning twists and turns then you’ll really enjoy this one – I read it in one sitting and look forward to what Mr Cleary comes up with next !



The Truth Will Out is available in PB and ebook format. You can get your copy in bookshops or via the amazon link below:



Monday, 3 April 2017

Blog Tour: 'The Reunion' by Roisin Meaney. Author Feature and Review.




I am kicking off the blog tour for the PB edition of The Reunion by Roisin Meaney. Huge thanks to the author for her blog feature and to the publishers for inviting me along for the ride. Check out the other stops on the tour this week.


There is also a giveaway running over on twitter @margaretbmadden. See pinned post to enter. Open INT. Good Luck!



AUTHOR FEATURE


Home Sweet Office

  
The best part about working from home? You can stay in pjs all day and meet nobody. The worst part about working from home? You can stay in pjs all day and meet nobody.
It’s complicated.
In 2008, with four published novels under my belt, I took the quantum leap and gave up my permanent, pensionable teaching job to become a full-time writer. My parents, both former teachers, threw up their hands in horror at the thought. For me, it wasn’t such a big deal. Granted, I was taking a bit of a risk: despite my third novel having ascended the year before to the giddy heights of number one in the Irish charts (staying there for all of one memorable week) I was far from a household name in the literary world. Despite having had the incredible luck in 2002 to win a two-book publishing deal on the strength of the first three chapters of my first offering, I was still very much a newbie among Irish female writers of contemporary fiction.
On the other hand, I was single with no family to support, nobody to feed and clothe but myself – and I’d long been a fan of the charity shop, where you could kit yourself out from head to toe and have change from a tenner. I’d also been lucky enough to buy my house before prices had leapt into the stratosphere, so my mortgage was what estate agents would describe as bijou. My third trump card was that my aforementioned (horrified) parents lived a ten-minute stroll from me, so in the event of imminent starvation all I had to do was lift the phone and request that my mother add half a dozen spuds to the dinner pot. In short, I needed very little to live on, and I was young(ish) and blessed with an optimistic disposition, so I quit the classroom and became a bone fide fulltime writer.
Nine years on, I’m still here. Still writing, still solvent. Still not a household name, and certainly not well off in monetary terms, but my fourteenth novel is about to hit the shelves, and each new book garners a few more readers, and my publishers since book three (Hachette Books Ireland) are showing no signs of losing interest.
And as for working from home, it’s been wonderful. I took to it right away. I’m pretty organised – years of teaching will do that to you – so I found it easy enough to plan a schedule each time a new book was called for. After that, it was just a matter of nailing down a plot – a month or so of hair-tearing and sleepless nights, but it got done – and then parking myself in front of the laptop every morning once breakfast was dispensed with, and hoping for the best.
Thankfully, the schedules were followed and the books emerged. I discovered quite early on that there’s nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind. It’s one thing to rail against setting boundaries on creativity, but when it’s a case of ‘deliver the manuscript or don’t get paid’, creativity becomes amazingly obliging. To date I’ve met all my first draft deadlines, and coped with the joys of editing the subsequent drafts, and with each new publication I’ve settled more happily into the routine of working from home. 
And here’s what I’ve learnt.

Not having to set an alarm is psychologically great. I say psychologically because I’m a rubbish sleeper and wouldn’t know a lie-in if it smacked me in the face with a pillow. It’s just the idea of not having to wake up at a given hour that puts a smile on my face when I wake up an hour before that – and the smile widens in direct proportion to how heavily the rain is smacking against the bedroom window.
Following on from that, staying half the day, or the whole day, in pjs isn’t really what it’s cracked up to be. I rarely do it now, and when I do I feel obscurely guilty, and in nagging need of a shower – and of course Murphy’s law decrees that on those rare occasions the doorbell will definitely ring, and I’ll have to present myself in all my unwashed dishevelment to the caller. 
Lidl on a Monday morning is a very different animal to Lidl on a Friday evening. Shopping, particularly Christmas shopping, becomes a whole lot easier when you can choose what time to do it.
The fridge morphs into your enemy when it’s ten paces from your office. Since telling myself not to snack has as much effect as telling myself to go to sleep, I’ve had to adjust what the fridge contains: the prospect of bingeing on a bowl of carrot sticks or eating an entire cucumber in one sitting holds surprisingly little appeal. Mind you, my fruit bowl empties at an alarming rate – but it’s fruit, which everyone knows has zero calories.

I thought I’d miss the workplace interaction more. As long as I make sure I meet up regularly with pals after hours – not a problem – I’m happy to spend my days alone. Although now and again I tuck the laptop under my arm and head out to a coffee shop, just because I can.
I’m trying not to sound smug. I suspect I’m failing. The truth is, I love my life. I love working from home, making up stories and getting paid for it. I hope I can keep doing it till the day I keel over and stop breathing – and if that happens when I’m at the office, I’ll die happily.





MY REVIEW


Opening a school reunion invitation brings feelings of uncertainty for sisters, Caroline and Eleanor Plunkett.  Do they want to return to their past?  Caroline is now a successful designer, splitting her time between the UK and Italy.  Eleanor is stuck in a rut, overweight and struggling to connect with her husband and son.  Both women may have been born to the same parents, but their lives began to split while they were still in their teens.  Can facing up to the past help them improve their present, or is going back the wrong thing to do?

It's funny how two siblings can end up in completely different situations.  Caroline was the studious one, destined for a career in academia,  whilst younger sister Eleanor was the more fun-loving of the two; more interested in her boyfriend and having a laugh with her mates.  However, one fateful evening changes their paths in life.  Caroline soon finds herself pushed away from the family home and Eleanor's boyfriend dashes all hopes for her own future.  In the midst of all this change is the girls mother, who is more concerned with the goings-on of her neighbours than of her own two daughters.  Secrets are kept, lies are told and damage is done. 

Roisin Meaney has a way of telling a story that makes you feel like you are in a room with the characters, hearing them chat to each other, rather than reading words on a page.  From very early on in the novel, there is a feeling of genuine concern as to how these two girls will handle their own stories.  Caroline is the victim of the most despicable crime, yet is treated as if she is to blame.  Her mother takes control of the situation and God help anyone who tries to object.  A distance cousin, Florence, steps up to the plate and becomes Caroline's saviour.  A wonderfully warm and quirky character, she has a delightful presence throughout the novel.  Back in Ireland, Eleanor is weighed down with personal grief and is scared to face up to her past.  Her story is addressed further into the book, with memories unfolding which help to explain her distance.  

The Reunion is a book about families and how they can sometimes be fractured and displaced.  The keeping of secrets, the hiding of home-truths and the attempt at showing a united front are not always the right approach to take.  Most families have drama within their folds.  Sometimes admitting your flaws is the only way to gain solidarity.  By using two sisters, both with hidden traumas, the author has created a novel which is both endearing and astute.  The dual time frame is very cleverly used and every single character adds something to the overall narrative.  Florence is fantastic and her group of older-generation friends are a breath of fresh air.  Her bijoux cottage sounds like a place that we would all love to visit, with its mis-matched decor and charity shop finds.  Added to the narrative are Caroline's trips to Italy, with its stunning surroundings, warm family get-togethers and an air of change. 

It's easy to see why Roisin Meaney is one of Ireland's best-loved authors.  She has a way of bringing her characters to life, making them part of your world as you move from chapter to chapter.  Should you spot this on a bookshelf, grab a copy.  This is what female fiction is all about. 


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The Reunion is published by Hachette Ireland on 6th April and is available in PB and ebook format. You can pick up your copy in all good bookshops, or order via the amazon link below:

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Blog Tour: 'Sometimes I Lie' by Alice Feeney. Review and Giveaway.


I was lucky enough to read a very early copy of Sometimes I Lie and read it in one, frenzied sitting. It is with great pleasure that I am now able to share my thoughts on this chilling thriller and offer three paperback copies for giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning one, just enter via rafflecopter link at the bottom of this post. UK and Ireland only, I'm afraid. Good Luck!

MY REVIEW

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me.
1. I am in a coma.
2. My husband doesn't love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

This is the no-nonsense opening page of the debut novel from former BBC reporter, Alice Feeney. We are introduced to Alice as she lies, confused and with gaping holes in her memory, in a hospital bed. She has been in a road traffic accident and is in a coma. She can hear everything and yet has no way to express herself; her fears, her uncertainty and her own self-doubt are all pent-up. Before long we are brought back to the week before the accident and catch glimpses of what led up to the present day. With her husband and her sister taking turns at her bedside, Alice struggles to recall the details; big and small. Her comatose body lets her down and her frustration is palpable;

"Despite my internal cries, on the outside I am voiceless and perfectly still. [...] The Vice tightens around my skull once more, as though a thousand fingers are pushing at my temples. I can't remember what happened to me, but I know, with unwavering certainty, that this man, my husband, had something to do with it."

The novel flicks back and forth with delicious teasers and tightly woven tensions. A thrilling read that is like a kite flying on a uncertain wind. It launches with great gusto, dipping and diving through partial memories, all the while tethered to the reader with a thread of thrilling anxiety.  The story soars and crashes, rises and turns, with gruesome twists and  unforeseen turns galore.  I have no doubt that this novel will crash land onto bestseller lists worldwide and linger there for a long, long time. Whether you are reading on your commute or huddled up in your bed, just do not expect to communicate with anyone as you eagerly turn the pages. It will suck you in, refusing to let you go without a fight.  An intense reading experience that you will not forget in a hurry. Ideal for fans of BA Paris and Elizabeth Haynes. Highly recommended.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 16 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

Alice is a Faber Academy graduate from the class of 2016. She has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.
Sometimes I Lie is her debut thriller.


Sometimes I Lie is published by HQ Stories and is available in PB and ebook format. It is available in all good bookshops or you can order your copy via the amazon link below:




Monday, 27 March 2017

Book Review: 'Orange Blossom Days' by Patricia Scanlan.

This article originally appeared in The Sunday Independent on 26th March 2017

Warm stories of family and friendship under a hot Spanish sun

Fiction: Orange Blossom Days Patricia Scanlan, Simon and Schuster, €19.60



Orange Blossom Days by Patricia Scanlan1
Orange Blossom Days by Patricia Scanlan
Margaret Madden
It is 25 years since Patricia Scanlan's City Girl was published and became a bookshelf staple, inspiring a nation of young women. You would be hard pressed to find an Irish female over 40 who does not remember the feisty protagonist, Devlin, or her journey to success. Scanlan has remained one of Ireland's bestselling authors with over 20 titles under her belt and a loyal following. Her latest novel shows that her readership has matured alongside her.
Orange Blossom Days is based around an apartment complex in southern Spain where residents escape from routine and soak up their surroundings.
Within the small community there is a hidden hive of activity, both front-of-house and behind closed doors. There is the Irish couple who are preparing to enjoy their retirement and foresee days of golf, spa treatments and no pressures; "All the stresses of rearing the girls and running a business and a home had taken their toll over the years".
In the next-door penthouse is a wealthy Texan who is not shy about coming forward and is gearing up to leave her cheating husband; "She was married in name only and had been for a long time. It was time to face reality".
Downstairs is Eduardo, who bought his small apartment to escape the heat of Madrid and perhaps persuade his wife to stop her feminist nonsense and assist his aging aunt; "What was wrong with his wife? Was she ill? A brain tumour perhaps, or the beginning of dementia?". Meanwhile, rental-property consultant, Jutta is focusing on turning a profit. Independent and resolute, she dreams big and is determined to get what she wants.
This is a charming look at the realities of overseas property ownership. From the early 2000s, when having 'a place in Spain' was achievable to anyone with access to a bank manager, right through to the darker days of the recession when the economy collapsed, the fictional gated-community is brought to life with Scanlan's warm and humorous writing style.
She shows that times have changed for her readers and the days of sitting back and enjoying middle-age in comfort are not what they used to be. Her character's responsibilities have shifted from the workplace and home to caring for grandchildren and elderly relatives; while marriage-survival and menopause are the new hot topics.
However, friendship and family are themes that remain the same. A delightful and engaging read.
*(c) Sunday Indo Living

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Blog Tour: 'Six Stories' by Matt Wesolowski. Book Review.



Thanks to Orenda Books for including me on the blog tour for Six Stories. Their titles always excite me and have yet to disappoint...

My Review


Scarclaw Fell, England, 1997. The body of fifteen-year-old Tom Jeffries is found after his disappearance from a camping lodge a year earlier. The cause of death is officially recorded as misadventure and the case is closed. 
Twenty years later, a serialised podcast brings the case back to life by interviewing the friends of Tom, who were there that fatal night. Over six episodes, journalist Scott King delves deep into the memories from six different perspectives and leaves his listeners to draw their own conclusions...


This is a murder mystery with a twist. By using the concept of transcribed podcasts the author draws the reader in; minute by minute; hour by hour. A close-knit group of friends travel together regularly, to the marshy area known as Scarclaw, supervised by some of their parents. The dynamic usually changes when a new member is added to the group, not always for the better, but each child looks forward to their time in the isolated cabin and the opportunities the trips provide. All that changes when Tom disappears in the middle of the night. The group break all ties and the property is sold. When the podcast airs, the individual stories of each group member shed a new light on the death of the teenager and the questions bring back some uncomfortable memories. Six teenagers; six stories; multiple viewpoints. But which one is real?

This debut is an addictive and compelling read with multiple layers. There are elements of suspense, fear, uncertainty and heart-pounding thrills. The unusual technique employed by Wesolowski is right on-trend, with nods to ground-breaking podcasts like Serial and TV documentaries like Making A Murderer and Amanda Knox. The search for the truth has gone beyond traditional police work and investigative journalism. Now the public want to feel part of the investigation; wanting more and more access to witnesses and documentation surrounding these mysteries. The days of Cagney and Lacey are a distant memory. This novel is sharp as a butchers knife, cutting straight through to the nerve of its reader. A read-in-one-sitting experience that will surely inspire many authors to explore new methods of narration. Highly Recommended.


About The Author


Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. 

Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous magazines and US anthologies.

Wesolowski's debut novella ‘The Black Land‘ a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 by Blood Bound Books and his latest horror novella set in the forests of Sweden is available in 'Dimension 6' magazine through Coeur De Lion Publishing.
Wesolowski was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at 'Bloody Scotland'; Crime Writing Festival 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel, Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.

Six Stories is published by Orenda Books and is available in PB and ebook format. You can get your copy at all good bookshops or via amazon link below:

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