Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill. Review and Giveaway.

As the HPV vaccination debate heats up in Ireland, there is a very timely new release from Irish author, Melissa Hill. Every parent has their own views on vaccines and no matter which side of the debate you are on, this is a novel that will drag you in to its story and may even introduce doubts that you never had. The MMR vaccine has saved million of lives and introduced the concept of herd immunity. But what happens when your child is not vaccinated and then contracts measles? Hill explores this idea in Keep You Safe, and it is a page-turning experience.

 I have five copies of this book, in a hat trick of giveaways: Two copies here on the blog (just leave a comment below); Two copies on twitter @margaretbmadden (see pinned tweet) and a copy over on the facebook page of Bleach House Library, (see pinned post). The giveaways end on 1st October and are open INT. Good Luck!

Photo from @MelissaHillBks

My Review

(originally posted in The Sunday Independent, 11 Sep 2017)

Kate's five-year-old daughter Rosie could not be vaccinated because of an intolerance to the gelatine used in live vaccines. Her classmate Clara was not vaccinated either - her mother Madeleine chose not to, fearful of its side-effects. Neither women anticipated the outcome of their decision, and Melissa Hill's new novel examines how both their worlds are turned upside down when their children are hit by the measles virus.

It is not against the law to refuse the childhood vaccination programme in Ireland, and Madeleine and her husband Tom genuinely believe they are protecting their daughter by refusing it: "They'd been hugely uncomfortable about the vaccine's link to autism, and while the original research paper suggesting the connection had long been discredited, it was very difficult to ignore the multitude of real-life anecdotal experiences that were so prevalent". On the other hand, nurse Kate, who thoroughly researched her decision, would gladly have vaccinated Rosie were it not for her allergy. While she is now widowed, her husband had approved her decision: "We had no choice but to opt Rosie out of the standard childhood vaccination programme and hope against hope that herd immunity would prevail".

Kate finds herself in a terrifying situation when Rosie is hospitalised. Meanwhile, Clara recovers from her illness but parenting blogger Madeleine is feeling the pressure in another way: "The public loved to express an opinion - never more so than on the internet - and right now, the full force of those primarily negative opinions was heading directly her way". The two women find themselves embroiled in a legal battle which seeks to assign blame. The media are having a field day with sympathy leaning toward Kate and Rosie while Madeleine and Tom are not being afforded the same respect: "It wasn't just her and Tom's decision on vaccination that was on trial here - it was their parenting".

Kate is homely, medically trained and dealing with the long-term effects of her daughter's illness; Madeleine - wealthy and media-savvy, is judged more for her personality than for her decision. Told from both mothers' perspectives, Keep You Safe is both astute and divisive and Hill (pictured left) has addressed the vaccine debate in a fictional tale of fear, judgement and choice. A topical, timely read.

Keep You Safe is published by HQ and is available in HB, TPB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor.

Yorkshire, England 1917: When cousins Frances and Elsie take pictures, at the bottom of the garden, they have no idea that the photographs will take on a life of their own.  Their determination to make their parents believe in fairies turns in to a national fascination, with Arthur Conan Doyle falling under the spell of the photographs. In a time of war, people truly want to believe in something.

Ireland, 2017: Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s quirky bookshop. Discovering a manuscript and a copy of a 1917 fairy photograph, she reaches back one hundred years to find out the truth surrounding the Cottingley story. How could so many people be fooled by two young girls, with no photographic expertise? Why would an Internationally acclaimed author place his stamp of approval on such controversial documents? Could there be any truth in the girls claims?

Spanning one hundred years, The Cottingley Secret is a story of dreams, hopes and how a little white lie can turn into something much, much bigger…

Francis Griffiths
Hazel Gaynor has taken the true story of Francis Griffiths and Elsie Wright and weaved it with a fictional tale of grief and challenges in modern-day Ireland. By providing a link between the past and present, she introduces the concept of a desperate need for positivity and hope in times of war and uncertainty.  Her research is meticulous and brings Frances to life, page by page. The small town of Cottingley is lovingly described and is juxtaposed against the coastal village of Howth, Dublin. The world of much-loved, used books is where the reader finds Olivia: her bookshop, Something Old sounding like an oasis in a land of chain-store commercial ventures. Early editions of Peter Pan, The Water Babies and The Flower Fairies all get a mention, instilling a longing for any book-lover/collector.  Escaping from London, Olivia turns her back on her old life, instead choosing to walk in her Grandfather’s shoes. She takes a chance on a dream. Dipping into the Cottingley story helps bring her dream closer than she ever anticipated.

The innocence of the two 18C girls is one that rarely exists today, except in the very young or extremely sheltered: the belief in complete goodness, in dreams coming true, in fairies, unicorns and magic. It is almost unbelievable that the photographs were not revealed as hoaxes until the 1980s. Such is the power of trust surrounding photographic ‘evidence’. The days of ‘fake-news’ are not a by-product of the internet and social media. Untruths have always existed: from whispered gossip to inherited stories; the beginning of the printing press and pamphlets; to radio and television. However, the origins of the fake fairy photographs were innocent. There was no agenda, just a desire to raise spirits and inspire hope in a time of despair.  This is a warm and endearing novel. It oozes old-fashioned charm and has a magical air. A perfect feel-good, fire-side read. 

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

The Cottingley Secret is published by Harper Collins and is available in TBP and ebook format. Available in all good bookshops or via amazon link below:

Friday, 1 September 2017

LMFM September #LateLunchBookclub

LMFM September #LateLunchBookclub 

September Recommendations 

It is time for my September #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 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: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.

In Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.

Female Fiction: The Break by Marian Keyes

Amy's husband Hugh has run away to 'find himself'. But will he ever come back?
'Myself and Hugh . . . We're taking a break.'

'A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?'

If only.
Amy's husband Hugh says he isn't leaving her.
He still loves her, he's just taking a break - from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but let's be clear: a break isn't a break up - yet . . .
However, for Amy it's enough to send her - along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers - teetering over the edge.
For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman?
Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .
The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.

Crime Fiction: Let The Dead Speak by Jane Casey

A murder without a body

Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. All the signs point to murder.

A girl too scared to talk

Maeve Kerrigan is determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is hiding something, but getting her to open up is impossible.

A detective with everything to prove

No one on the street is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…

Non-Fiction: Six at the Table by Sheila Maher

In Six at the Table, regular contributor to RTÉ Sunday Miscellany Sheila Maher tells the story of her childhood through meals shared around the kitchen table – and occasionally from the boot of the car on long family trips – and celebrates the central role that the food lovingly prepared by her mother played in her younger years.
Exotic Lilt and exploding Moondust have their thrills, but it is her mother’s Sunday roasts, steak and kidney pies and home-made Jaffa cakes that create the regular and comforting rhythm of Sheila’s life and of the rest of her boisterous family.
From sliced egg and cold ham salad on summer days to the milk puddings that mark the passage of the winter weeks, packets of Tayto, Campbell meatballs and the fascination with Sodastream, Six at the Table is a nostalgic journey through an Irish childhood in the 1970s, when uniforms were itchy, porridge stuck to your ribs, and Cidona felt like the height of sophistication.

Classic Fiction: The Snapper by Roddy Doyle

Twenty-year-old Sharon Rabbitte is pregnant. She's also unmarried, living at home, working in a supermarket, and keeping the father's identity a secret. Her own father, Jimmy Sr., is shocked by the news. Her mother says very little. Her friends and neighbours all want to know whose "snapper" Sharon is carrying.
In his sparkling second novel, Roddy Doyle observes the progression of Sharon's pregnancy and its impact on the Rabbitte family--especially on Jimmy Sr.--with wit, candor, and surprising authenticity.


Here's hoping you find something here that appeals to you, and that you will listen in to the show at 2pm today. The link to the #LateLunchBookclub will be available here, after the show. On behalf of myself and Gerry, we hope you enjoy your September reads and we would love to hear your thoughts via twitter, facebook or the blog...

Gerry Kelly and Margaret Madden


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