Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Irish Author, Claire Allen, Signs with Avon Books.

The joys of book blogging: Meeting the authors.
L-R: Clodagh Murphy, Maria Duffy, Caroline Finnerty, Fionnuala Kearney, Claire Allen, Margaret Madden.

As a book blogger, there are times when I get to hear some news before the readers do. Often it is a sneak peek at an unseen book cover; a debut that is tentatively dipping its toes into the world of early readers; a snippet of an established author's upcoming novel. But recently I have been privy to some seriously juicy information! Today, all can be revealed...

Thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland and Avon Books UK, I am delighted to announce that Claire Allen has signed with Avon! Here are the official details:



Avon Books is delighted to have signed a two-book deal with Claire Allan. Phoebe Morgan acquired World All Language rights to two psychological thrillers from Ger Nichol at The Book Bureau. Claire’s first release with Avon, about a woman who sees a young mother die and begins to inveigle herself into the space left behind will be her first thriller and is slated for publication summer 2018.

Phoebe Morgan, Commissioning Editor at Avon said: ‘I’m so excited to start working with such a talented author. The moment Claire’s manuscript came in I was hooked – it explores some very dark themes and will make each and every one of us question what it really means to have a perfect life.’

Claire Allan said: ‘I'm beyond thrilled to be working with such a talented and dedicated team for my next two books. Getting this deal with Avon really is a dream come true – and there is no one I would rather launch the next chapter of my career with. Avon's reputation really does speak for itself. The shift to writing psychological thrillers has been a challenge but one I am loving – and I look forward to unleashing more of my dark side over the next few years!

‘Huge thanks goes to my agent, Ger Nichol, who sensed that Phoebe at Avon and I would be a good match. I look forward to getting these new books out into the world.’ 

Claire Allan is from Northern Ireland and is the bestselling author of eight books. A mother of two, she spent 18 years as a journalist with the Derry Journal working on high profile cases. She has previously sold over 100,000 copies of her women’s fiction and lives in Derry with her family.


Our first meeting

I have been reading Claire Allen's words since 2007 and here we are ten years later. A new direction; a new genre; a new adventure. Although we had interacted via social media, it was only in 2016 that Claire and I finally met in person. A mutual love of fiction, fashion and current affairs meant that there was no shortage of banter and the craic was ninety! Firm friends were made, in a bookshop on Grafton Street, Dublin. We have met again since and I have watched Claire grow from strength to strength, in both her personal and literary life. I am honoured to share her exciting news with fellow book lovers, and hope you will join me in lifting a virtual glass to congratulate her on her new voyage with Avon Books... 

Claire Allen's first title with Avon is called Her Name Was Rose.

Congratulations, Claire!

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Other Side Of The Wall by Andrea Mara - Review and Giveaway

Thanks to the author, I have two signed copies of The Other Side Of The Wall to giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning, just enter via rafflecopter link below. Open INT and closes 28th August. Good Luck!

My Review

Sylvia sits feeding her baby in the early hours of the morning. Exhausted, she nods off and wakes with a jolt. The dog is barking. Placing her son in his cot, she looks out the window to see why. She is horrified to see a child, floating face-down in her neighbour's pond. When she rushes into the garden, there is no sign of the child and no answer from next-door, despite her incessant knocking.  The incident unnerves her, but she puts it down to lack of sleep and the news that a local child is missing. But she just cannot shift the uneasy feeling that she did not imagine what she saw...

A string of odd happenings lead Sylvia to distrust her new neighbour, Sam. His wife and children are away for the summer and, while he is friendly and a hit with her own husband, she just cannot shake her unease. She struggles to make her husband believe that there are strange things happening and begins to doubt herself. Is there really something going on on the other side of the wall, or is she imagining things?

Andrea Mara opens up her debut with a bang. The night-time exhaustion and dim light add uncertainty to Sylvia's sighting of the child in the garden, but then more unusual events lead to unexplained happenings on the quite suburban road. Told from multiple viewpoints (Sylvia's, Sam's, Kate, an un-named woman) and over different time spans, the layered story reveals itself, one page at a time.  Sylvia's voice is one we all know: juggling work and home-life; trying to please everyone, forgetting about yourself; avoiding interaction with neighbours for fear of judgment; questioning your own parenting skills or even your own sanity, at times. Kate and Sam are going through a difficult time and we learn why they spent so little time together and why Kate is rarely seen. The tension builds, the questions becoming more frequent and the turns jarring the reader from their sense of comfort. 

All is not what it seems and not everyone is telling the truth. At just under 400 pages, this is a psychological thriller to test your trust in its narration. The changing timelines and characters do take a while to get used to, but this is a fine debut that you will struggle to put down. 

The Other Side Of The Wall is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor: Exclusive excerpt and giveaway.

Thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland, I have an exclusive excerpt from Hazel Gaynor's latest novel, The Cottingley Secret, published on 7th September. There is also an amazing giveaway of an  early copy of the book and a fairy house, for one lucky winner! Just enter via rafflecopter link below. Open IRL/UK and closes on 25th August. Good luck!

Giveaway Prize

The Blurb

The New York Times bestselling author turns the clock back to a time when two young girls convinced the world that fairies really did exist…
1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

One hundred years later When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself? 

Exclusive Excerpt from The Cottingley Secret:

                   Fairies will not be rushed. I know this now; know I must
                   be patient.
                   Stiff and still in my favourite seat, formed from the
                   natural bend in the bough of a willow tree, I am wildly
                   alert, detecting every shifting shape and shadow; every
                   snap and crack of twig. I dangle my bare feet in the beck,
                   enjoying the cool rush of the water as it finds a natural
                   course between my toes. I imagine that if I sat here for
                   a hundred years, the water would smooth and round
                   them, like the pebbles I collect from the riverbed and keep
                   in my pockets.
                   In the distance I can see Mr Gardner, the man they sent
                   from London, with his round spectacles and bow tie and
                   endless questions. He peers around the trunk of an oak
                   tree, watches for a moment, and scribbles his observations
                   in his notebook. I know what he writes: remarks about
                   the weather, our precise location, the peculiar sense of
                   something different in the air.
                   Elsie stands on the riverbank beside me, her camera
                   ready. ‘Can’t you ’tice them?’ she urges. ‘Say some secret
                   I shrug. ‘They’re here, Elsie. I can feel them.’ But like
                   the soft breath of wind that brushes against my skin, the
                   things we feel cannot always be seen.

                   I know that the best time to see them is in that perfect
                   hour before sunset when the sun sinks low on the horizon
                   like a ripe peach and sends shafts of gold bursting through
                   the trees. The ‘in between’, I call it. No longer day, not
                   yet night; some other place and time when magic hangs
                   in the air and the light plays tricks on the eye. You might
                   easily miss the flash of violet and emerald, but I – according
                   to my teacher, Mrs Hogan – am ‘a curiously observant
                   child’. I see their misty forms among the flowers and leaves.
                   I know my patience will be rewarded if I watch and listen,
                   if I believe.

                  Tired of waiting, Elsie takes her camera and returns to
                  the house, where Aunt Polly is waiting to hear if we
                  managed any new photographs. The others soon follow:
                  Mr Gardner, the newspaper reporters, the ‘fairy hunters’
                  who come to snoop and trample all over the wildflowers
                  and spoil things. My little friends won’t appear just to
                  please these onlookers. They move according to the patterns
                  and rhythms of nature, not the whims of so-called experts
                  from London. Fairies, I understand. These men, I do not.
                  Glad to be alone again, I watch the pond skaters and
                  dragonflies, listen to the steady giggle of the water, sense
                  the prickle of anticipation all around me. The sun dazzles
                  on the water and I squint to shield my eyes as the heat
                  at the back of my neck makes me drowsy and tugs at my
                  eyelids, heavy with the desire to sleep.
                  I press my palms against the bark, smoothed from
                  decades of weather and countless children who have sat
                  here. How many of them have seen, I wonder? How many
                  of them have known? I wait and I wait, whispering the
                  words from my picture book: ‘“There shall be no veil
                  between them, / Though her head be old and wise. / You
                  shall know that she has seen them, / By the glory in her
                  And then . . .

                  The lightest ringing at my ears. The slightest movement
                  of fern and leaf.
                  My heart flutters. My eyes widen with excitement.
                  A flash of vibrant emerald. Another of softest
                  I lean forward. Draw in my breath. Don’t make a sound.
                  They are here.

The Cottingley Secret is published on 7th September in TPB and ebook format. You can order your copy via amazon link below:

To be in with a chance of winning an early edition of The Cottingley Secret, with a delightful and magical Irish Fairy Door (you just need to believe), just enter via rafflecopter link below:


Monday, 14 August 2017

Book Review: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.

Clara's husband and four-year-old daughter are involved in a single-car collision, where only Maisie survives. The police say that Nick was driving too fast on a dangerous stretch of road and it was a tragic accident. However, Maisie begins to have nightmares and talks of a "Bad Man" in a black car chasing her father, before the accident. 

Grieving for her husband, with a new born baby and a demanding daughter, Clara is drained. Maisie's nightmares begin to seep into their everyday lives and her fears raise Clara's suspicions surrounding Nick's death. Was he being followed? Who was this "Bad Man". Who is responsible for destroying her life, and that of her children?

When Clara opens the door to a uniformed officer, her whole life crumbles in one moment. She spends the next few days in a daze and cannot even bear to tell her daughter that her father is dead. Clara's father helps out as much as he can, but as her mother is suffering from dementia, he is limited to how much time he can spend with his daughter and grandchildren. When the bills start to mount up, Clara becomes aware that Nick's dental practice was not as successful as she was led to believe. The police are not treating the accident as suspicious, but she is. What else was Nick hiding from her? Pushing her grief aside, she decides to visit the scene of the crash and hopes to uncover the truth. But sometimes the truth hurts.

Mary Kubica tells the story from two different angles: Clara's, directly after the accident and Nick's , in the weeks leading up to the crash. The reader is taken on a journey of suspense, doubt and hidden truths, being drip fed information at a steady pace. Clara is carrying a huge load and the weight can be felt on every page. Nick bears a burden that he cannot share and the pressure intensifies, on a daily basis, at great speed. The two stories finally connect toward the end of the novel and the reader finally learns what happened on that fateful night. A tense psychological thriller, with home-truths , interspersed with trauma, grief and despair. Kubica once again provides a twisty, gripping read which demands to be read in one fell swoop. Perhaps wait until your partner is safely home, before starting?

Every Last Lie is published by HQ and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Book Review: The Woman At Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

A Georgian villa in Notting Hill. A mixed bunch of residents. A houseful of stories. Sarah lives on the floor above her ex-husband and his new wife. She is supposedly renovating their apartment, in order to sell and split the proceeds. In reality, she is in denial and struggling to move on. When Tom and Jane move in to number 24, the atmosphere rises a notch and the residents are soon enamored with the enigmatic young couple. 

Tom is an instant hit with Sarah, showing his gentle nature in his approach to the youngest resident of the house. (Una is a timid little girl, who is damaged by her parents separation and refuses to speak). Meanwhile, in the basement flat, lives Mavis. An elderly, cranky lady who is a law unto herself. All the residents begin to open their doors, albeit tentatively,  and as the summer progresses, new friendships form and the building finds a new lease of life. There are secret liaisons; hidden truths; unspoken words; hedgehog rescues...

Opening up with Sarah attending the wedding of her ex-husband, the tensions within the walls of number 24 become apparent. A child psychologist,  she is dragged down with a sense of unworthiness and is uncertain of her future. She has lost a husband, a friend and her joie de vivre.  Una is a child that lingers on the edge of the story, with her sad eyes and solitary stress. Tom is the handsome neighbour who adds some sparkle to the tale, but surprising the reader along the way. Jane takes Sarah under her wing and the two form a firm friendship. Leo (Sarah's ex) is smarmy and repugnant, with his new wife, Helena, rubbing salt in Sarah's newly opened wounds. Mavis is an eccentric character and she saves the book from becoming  run-of-the-mill. She is sarcastic, quirky and her unusual personality unfolds gradually.

The house is brought to life, page by page, and the interlinking stories are all told from Sarah's point of view. A warm and genuine read, slowly paced but with plenty to keep the reader entertained. (Mikey the hedgehog deserves his own picture book).

Well worth adding to your wishlist, The Woman At Number 24 is ideal for escaping the madness of your own household; the daily commute; the pile of ironing. Peeking into the lives of others, without having to leave the house...

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

The Woman At Number 24 is published by Simon and Schuster and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Delivery, HERE. The ebook is available via amazon link below:

Friday, 4 August 2017

LMFM August #LateLunchBookclub recommended reads.

August Recommendations 

It is time for my August #LateLunchBookclub choices. It can be hard to please all readers, so I have chosen from different genres in the hope of finding you a perfect summer read. All these books are available from your local bookstore, library or online. (Remember, if you can't find a book in-store, your bookseller can order it in for you.)

I really hope you enjoy the recommendations and feel free to leave me a comment on the blog, twitter: @margaretbmadden or facebook: Bleach House Library. Follow #LateLunchBookclub for all LMFM book reviews, interviews and chances to win some book bundles.  #LateLunchBookclub Podcasts are also available on the LMFM website. So, here we go...


BOOK OF THE MONTH: I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

Ruth’s tribe are her lively children and her filmmaker husband, Simon, who has Motor Neurone Disease and can only communicate with his eyes. Ruth’s other ‘tribe’ are the friends who gather at the cove in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and regularly throw themselves into the freezing cold water, just for kicks. 

‘The Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club’, as they jokingly call themselves, meet to cope with the extreme challenges life puts in their way, not to mention the monster waves rolling over the horizon. Swimming is just one of the daily coping strategies as Ruth fights to preserve the strong but now silent connection with her husband. As she tells the story of their marriage, via diagnosis to their current precarious situation, Ruth also charts her passion for sea swimming – culminating in a midnight swim under the full moon on her wedding anniversary.

An invocation to all of us to love as hard as we can, and live even harder, I Found My Tribe is an urgent and uplifting letter to a husband, family, friends, the natural world and the brightness of life.

Female FictionThe Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

If you could change the past, would you?

Thirty years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. Something she’s only prepared to reveal after her death. 

Now Luna and her sister have a chance to go back to their mother’s birthplace and settle her affairs. But in Brooklyn they find more questions than answers, until something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977. 

At first Luna’s thinks she’s going crazy, but if she can truly travel back in time, she can change things. But in doing anything – everything – to save her mother’s life, will she have to sacrifice her own? 

Non-FictionMy Shitty Twenties: A Memoir by Emily Morris

The baby’s father’s parting shot was “Enjoy your impending shitty, snotty, vomity twenties.”

When Emily Morris was 22 and half way through university, she found out she was pregnant. It felt like an alien invasion but her instincts took over and, despite being totally unmaternal, she found herself going ahead with the pregnancy.
My Shitty Twenties is an award-winning memoir about being a single mum. Emily Morris started writing when her son was two and she needed to try to find something funny in a crap, banal day. Six years later, this is her story.

Classic Fiction: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

Working as a lady's companion, the orphaned heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers . . .
Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

Crime Fiction: Rattle by Fiona Cummins

He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one he's just like anyone else. But in the other he is the caretaker of his family's macabre museum.
Now the time has come to add to his collection. He is ready to feed his obsession, and he is on the hunt.
Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle have something in common. They have what he needs.
What begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey's father and Etta Fitzroy, a troubled detective investigating a spate of abductions.
Set in London's Blackheath, Rattle by Fiona Cummins explores the seam of darkness that runs through us all; the struggle between light and shadow, redemption and revenge.
It is a glimpse into the mind of a sinister psychopath. And it's also a story about not giving up hope when it seems that all hope is already lost.

Here's hoping you enjoy some of these recommended reads.


 From myself and Gerry Kelly, Happy Reading!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Book Review: The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo.

A young girl commences the story of her harsh childhood in 1950s Finland. Living in poverty, the girl and her family battle through extreme weather and with the bare essentials. They have no electricity, wear hand-me-down clothes and are on the receiving end of the sharp tongue and temper of their veteran father. Local folklore and legend add a new dimension to the children's lives and they hover halfway between fear and hope. The family are forced to leave their small holding, when they are disinherited.  "Mother and the baby and me were put on the train. Father went in the hired lorry from the village with Tuomas and Tapio, two cows and three piglets." The boys are bullied in school and a disastrous night sees their new life abruptly halted. Once again the family move, this time to Sweden, leaving one child behind. "a country that had been at peace for well over a hundred years, where nobody knew anyone who had been in a war, where people look prosperous and healthy, where people seemed at ease with themselves and at peace with the world". For a girl who is coming-of-age, this brings temporary hope. But it is short-lived: "But we brought our war with us. The shrapnel that had gone into Father's legs, in 1944 in the painful retreat when the war was lost, had somehow worked its way into his children. Each one of us carried a shard of that iron in our hearts."

As with all immigrants, school is problematic. Language; culture; attitudes. The girl soon tires of her incomprehensible surroundings. "We were now what Mother called ummikko. We were people who could only speak our own language and we could not understand the language around us. And the people around us could not understand us. It was a terrible fate to be ummikko. It was like being deaf and dumb Mother said." She misses the brother they have left behind and in an act of defiance, chooses to stop speaking, instead, escaping into the world of books. From fairytales to Enid Blyton; Pippi Longstocking to The Little Mermaid; Robinson Crusoe to Anna Karinina. "I did not just read the books. I lived the stories in the books."

This is a small, yet perfectly formed examination of a child with longing. Longing for love and respect; for equality and acceptance; for a brighter future. She is sharp and sassy beyond her years and despite her abusive upbringing, she continues to look toward the light. She uses her imagination to escape the realities of her situation and her story is inspiring, heartwarming and full of magical release. There are stunning illustrations (by Susanna Kajermo Torner) dotted throughout the book, depicting the thoughts of the un-named girl and they are a delightful bonus. An abrupt ending leaves the reader gasping for more but also signifies the reaching of age. The Iron Age is a captivating read. Short in length but loaded with depth. It is at times difficult, but the young narrator lifts the tale to its inspiring stature. A fine debut from a distinctive new literary voice.


ARJA KAJERMO has contributed cartoons to the feminist publisher Attic Press and occasionally to the Sunday Press, The Irish Times, Image magazine, Magill and others. Her strip Dublin Four ran in the Sunday Tribune. She now draws the strip Tuula in the Sunday edition of a Swedish daily newspaper. In 2014 she was shortlisted for the prestigious Davy Byrnes Award for her short story The Iron Age,upon which this novel is based. Arja lives in Dublin.

The Iron Age is published by Tramp Press and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Treatment by C.L. Taylor. Review from Mia Madden, aged 13.

Review from Mia Madden, aged 13.

This is the stunning YA debut from C.L. Taylor. It is about sixteen-year-old Drew Finch, who's brother, Mason, has been sent to a reforming school.  One day, Drew meets Dr. Cobey, a person who has been working at the school. Cobey gives Drew a letter from Mason saying that the school has been brainwashing teenagers. She dismisses it at first, thinking that her younger brother is just pranking her, but then she starts to grow worried. What if her brother is being serious? What if Norton House actually was brainwashing teenagers?

She does a little bit of research and finds nothing, except for a single person claiming to know the truth about Norton House. Drew meets up with this person, who calls themself Zed Green. Zed brings her boyfriend, who was a victim of Norton House's 'treatment'. The boy, that was once a rebellious skater-kid, was now a mindless, polite, contributor to society. Drew decides to take action. She has to find a way to be sent off to Norton House to rescue Mason, without raising too much suspicion. Will she get to the school to save Mason? And will she be able to avoid the treatment, herself?

I would never be able to do this book justice. I absolutely adored it. It's probably the best book I've read this year and I would be surprised if it doesn't win some form of award. C.L. Taylor is now my favourite (non-Irish) YA author. I just couldn't see the end coming! I love Drew's character, probably because she reminded me of myself. At one stage, she claims she was Emo. I'm sort of an Emo now. I mean if she listens to Evanescence, Fall Out Boy, Paramore and other bands that I like, she's basically an older, British, fictional version of me! Anyway, I would definitely recommend this book for ages 11+.

The Treatment is published by HQ Young Adult on 19th Oct 2017, in PB and ebook format. You can pre-order your copy via amazon link below:

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

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