Sunday, 19 February 2017

Book Review - 'The Good Mother' by Sinéad Moriarty.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Ireland for the ARC of this title...

Kate is just beginning to get her life back on track after a difficult few years. Her husband, Nick, has left her and their three children for a younger model and a new baby son. She has lost the family home and her dignity. Now herself and the children are living with her elderly father and are beginning to adjust. All this changes when her twelve-year-old daughter, Jessica, is diagnosed with leukemia. 

There is no worse fear for a parent than the suffering of a child. Kate is knocked for six with the news and she tries to balance her emotions whilst also staying strong for her family. Her eighteen-year-old son, Luke, has given up on his father and her youngest son, Bobby, is not exactly enthralled with his missing parent either. However, Jess is torn between her two parents. She is the peace-maker, the sounding board and is full of  youthful compassion. As her health deteriorates, she must surrender the parenting to her Mum and Dad. Hospital becomes her new world and she finds friendship within the children's ward. Each family member deals with Jessica's illness differently and they try to put their differences aside, not always successfully. Along with a great support network of friends, they try to make Jessica their priority.

Sinéad Moriarty brings the reader into the sadness of Kate's world as she deals with the most difficult situation imaginable. The anger she feels must be set aside, the resentment smothered and the bitter pills swallowed. She does her best to balance her time between all three children, yet her heart is slowly breaking. Nick is in complete denial (and is tormented by non-stop phone calls from an insecure girlfriend) and tensions are wrought.  The story is written with tenderness and with a good touch of humour. There is an on-going diary entry from Bobby, which although not completely necessary, shows how he is dealing with the changes in his life. But it is Luke who adds a nice parallel narrative. His story unfolds alongside his sisters, with his girlfriends family adding much-needed light-relief. (Think of the family in Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy) There is laughter to balance the tears and childhood innocence to counteract the darkness of cancer treatment. Moriarty has managed to combine the beauty of The Fault in our Stars, the sadness of Me Before You and the emotions of My Sister's Keeper. Jessica is a wonderful character who will linger in your thoughts, long after you turn the final page.  I have tweeted the author, advising her that I shall forward my bill for tissues and therapy.  

The Good Mother is published by Penguin Random House in TBP and ebook format. You can order your copy in all good bookshops or via amazon link below:

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Blog Tour Book Review - 'Secrets We Keep' by Faith Hogan.

Two distant relatives, drawn together in companionship are forced to confront their pasts and learn that some people are good at keeping secrets and some secrets are never meant to be kept..
A bittersweet story of love, loss and life. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks.
The beautiful old Bath House in Ballytokeep has lain empty and abandoned for decades. For devoted pensioners Archie and Iris, it holds too many conflicting memories of their adolescent dalliances and tragic consequences – sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it belongs.
For highflying, top London divorce lawyer Kate Hunt, it’s a fresh start – maybe even her future. On a winter visit to see her estranged Aunt Iris she falls in love with the Bath House. Inspired, she moves to Ballytokeep leaving her past heartache 600 miles away – but can you ever escape your past or your destiny?


Kate has escaped to Ireland, tired of living the busy life of a London lawyer, and unsure what her future holds. Her great-aunts small hotel, in a sleepy coastal village, is the complete opposite of her city life and she can finally breathe. She finds friends and opportunity in the unlikely location and tries to ignore the newspaper headlines, which bring back unwanted memories.  Meanwhile, great-aunt Iris has her own reasons for trying to forget the past. Family connections link the stories of the past and present and the two women find themselves surrounded by the shadows of untold secrets.

This is Faith Hogans second novel and she blends historical fiction with a contemporary twist. The two main characters are very different. Iris is decades ahead of her fellow Irish women. Falling hook, line and sinker for the proverbial bad-boy, she is whisked away from her problems and deposited in Paris for a year, returning to Ireland with a lighter load and a ready-made job. It doesn't take long for her to make more bad decisions and her only saving grace is a wonderful man called Archie. In the present day, Kate is also helped by a host of kind souls, although this is a little frustrating as she should be a strong, independent woman and yet seems to completely rely on the help of her new neighbours. I would have liked to see more strength and less dependency.  However, this is a read-in-one-sitting book. Light, warm and entertaining, it is like a brochure for the beautiful area of Co. Mayo but with family secrets thrown in. The waves on the coast are as high as the drama and the ancient buildings are privy to centuries of stories. Faith Hogan is an author to watch out for. She can certainly spin a yarn and reel you in. Her gentle writing style is ideal for fans of Cathy Kelly and Roisin Meaney.  


Faith Hogan was born in Ireland.  She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.  She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.
Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin. It was published by Aria, (Head of Zeus) in 2016.   ‘Secrets We Keep,’ is her second novel out on Feb 1st 2017.. 

Faith Hogan Contact:
Twitter (her favourite)

You can check out the books on:      Faith Hogan
Kobo  Kobo Secrets We Keep                                         Google Play

iBooks -

Secrets We Keep is published by Aria Fiction and is available in PB and ebook format.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Book Review - 'How To Murder Your Life' by Cat Marnell.

*****This review was originally posted in the Sunday Independent on 30th Jan 2017.*****

Books: Memoir reveals socialite's shocking addiction

Memoir: How To Murder Your Life, Cat Marnell, Ebury Press, €17.99

Margaret Madden


30/01/2017 | 02:30

Cat Marnell’s candid, dark memoir ‘How to Murder your Life’ is a shocking insight into alcohol, drug addiction and self-sabotage1
Cat Marnell’s candid, dark memoir ‘How to Murder your Life’ is a shocking insight into alcohol, drug addiction and self-sabotage
Memoirs of addicts can result in the same, formulaic stories. Miserable childhood, distant parents, lack of self-esteem and the 'victim of circumstance'. Add some alcohol, narcotics or gambling and you have a fully-formed addict. A few trips to rehab, followed by an overwhelming feeling of God's presence, generally will produce a reformed junkie. However, it's uncommon to come across an addict who blames no-one but themselves. Cat Marnell seems to take responsibility for her own journey to addiction yet, reading her memoir, this rings untrue.
Born into an affluent family, living in a beautiful home just 20 minutes from the White House, her father, a renowned psychiatrist, her mother a psychotherapist, she basically raised herself. As a teen, she discovered that ADHD medication improved her grades and she got her father to regularly prescribe it.
She began hanging out with party-loving, credit-card wielding students who spent their weekends in top-class hotels and feeding her new addiction to amphetamines.
"They were the coolest people I'd ever met, even if they weren't the nicest. I wanted to be in their in-crowd so badly that I'd overlook their oft-questionable behaviour."
Still a very young and naive girl, Marnell found herself in situations that were cringe-worthy at best and abusive at worst. Things deteriorated at a rapid rate and she found herself expelled before graduation. There was a traumatic termination, badly-timed attempts at rehab and a move to NYC.
Money was never an issue for the socialite, thanks to her wealthy family. She began interning for glossy magazines and, despite her chronic addiction, she gradually moved up through the ranks for various publications. Friendships were still short-lived and mismatched, seeing her experimenting with heroin and sinking to a new low.
Now she was seeking new doctors to prescribe more pills (uppers, downers, anything she could get her hands on) and her life was a blur of champagne launches, exclusive clubs, crack, cocaine, heroin and complete degradation. Food became an issue and bulimia came knocking at her open door.
Functioning as a beauty editor became more difficult and her behaviour was erratic. "I'd never cried at the office before, but now I couldn't stop. The tears dripped on the keyboard as I continued 'working' on this story. Wretched, guttural sobs kept bursting out of my body […] SOB! I was weirding everyone out. SOB!"
Cat knew she was a junkie, but wanted no help. She was forced into rehab by her boss, then again by her parents. The expensive, luxury clinic worked for a limited time; the state- run one was a disaster. Despite all this, she managed to impress people with her on-line rants and extremely personal, raw and funny anecdotes.
Her social media posts shocked and wowed new publication xoJane and (ironically) she was given the opportunity to become their Beauty and Health director. Her unreliability saw more career moves and rehab in Thailand.
Unsurprisingly, there are huge gaps in her tale but the overall happy-go-lucky party girl persona does not sit easy. There is an underlying sadness beneath the strong, sassy and humorous words. She may say that she does not blame anyone for her addiction, but it is not completely convincing. It is a relief that she does not thank God for her recovery; in fact, she readily admits she is not 100pc recovered. "By keeping away from AA or NA, I remain in the danger zone. Things could - and probably will - get bad again!"
This memoir is designed to shock. A compelling, voyeuristic look at the socialite life and how the dream can be completely airbrushed, How To Murder Your Life is all about functioning addiction and the darkness behind the glittering facade.

How To Murder Your Life is published by ebury press and is available in HB and ebook format.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Book Reviews - 'Danny Brown and the Monster Toothbrush' and 'Danny Brown and the Talking Teeth' by Brianóg Brady Dawson, Michael Connor and Alan Nolan.


Written by
 Brianóg Brady Dawson
Illustrated by
 Michael Connor
Coloured by
Alan Nolan
Danny hates brushing his teeth, so when he gets a new toothbrush he wants to get rid of it! He tries blushing it down the toilet, burying it in the garden and throwing it for Keano, his dog, but it keeps coming back!
A fun story about a boy who can't help getting into trouble. Illustrated in colour throughout.


Written by
  Brianóg Brady Dawson
Illustrated by
 Michael Connor
Coloured by
Alan Nolan

Danny Brown is always in trouble. Why did he take Granny’s teeth to school? Just WHAT was he thinking? Now Mum is cross, teacher is cross, and Granny is VERY cross.
But Danny was only having fun, wasn’t he?

The best way to review children's books are to read them with kids and see their reaction. I passed these books on to my latest 'guest reviewer', Rosaleen, aged five. Here is what herself and her Mum, Roisin, thought of Danny Brown...

Guest Review from Rosaleen, aged 5. (via Mum, Roisin).

Danny Brown: the Irish horrid Henry.
Rosaleen loved the books, she laughed and was equally grossed out at the disgusting bits, like when Danny Brown put granny's teeth in his mouth or when he was trying to get rid of his tooth brush and played fetch with it for the dog!
Rosaleen is learning to read at the moment and she was able to pick out words she recognised as I was reading. Short sentences on the pages made it easy for her to follow when I was reading to her.
We would give these books 10/10 and would highly recommend them.

These two delightful early readers are available from The O'Brien Press and are published in paperback and ebook format. The ebooks can be ordered via amazon links below:


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