Sunday, 29 October 2017

Book Review: Hunter and the Grape by Eoin C. Macken.



Eighteen-year-old Cat is on a mission to find Sophie Durango, a girl who has stolen his heart (and his virginity). Fleeing his hometown in Albuquerque, with a few dollars and no real plan, he heads for Los Angeles and finds himself with an infuriating travelling partner, the quirky Star. The pair form an unlikely bond when their bus breaks down in the middle of the desert and they are forced to accept help from an old man and his sullen friend. Re-naming themselves Hunter and Grape they begin a journey of self-awareness, facing up to the past and discovering what true friendship means.

This is the second YA novel from author, actor and screenwriter, Eoin Macken. Like his debut, Kingdom of Scars, this is a contemporary look at a young male's coming of age. Set along the dusty roads of New Mexico, the novel is brought to life with descriptive detail and memorable characters. The dialogue is simple and extremely effective, almost like a play divided into numerous Acts: Act One: A roadside encounter where the two main characters encounter each other for the first time; the initial bus journey and the development of a tentative relationship forming. Act Two: An isolated cabin where the teenagers witness the grief of a stranger. Act Three: Another dusty roadside, further character development and background stories. Act Four: A new friendship with a homeless man and his dog and a trip to Las Vegas. Act Five: An unscheduled trip to Los Angeles and the search for Cat's dream girl; a stolen bike, a new friendship with a lonely french man and a dip in the ocean. The scenery is minimal, as both Hunter and Grape are the main attraction. Their individual stories are all the audience needs. 

These teenagers are both victims of their upbringing  and their circumstances. They are two lost souls who have found each other during their lowest moments. Without each other they may have travelled different paths, but together they complement each other and makes their pilgrimage one of adventure with semi-security. They need each other, despite their initial resistance. Damaged by their pasts, they need to face the realities of the present and learn to wade-into the future.

This is YA fiction, but with a leaning toward drama. A little slow to start, it builds up as the Acts progress and the characters reveal some of their back-stories. Hunter is struggling to be the alpha-male (lots of fist fights and hard-ons) and Grape uses her feminine charms far to much for my liking (including kissing random men to avoid confrontation). There is a sexist undertone throughout the novel which, as an adult reader, I found uncomfortable. I hope that young adult readers will realise that this is not the way gender should be categorised. However, Hunter is a genuinely nice guy, with a good heart, and matures as he travels on his journey. 

A charming, road-trip novel which takes two damaged teenagers on an unlikely adventure through the blistering heat of New Mexico and on to the more capable landscape of Los Angeles. Hunter and the Grape is refreshingly different to other YA novels, with an edgy and arty feel, which would be magnificent on stage or screen. Ideal for older teenagers and young adults alike.

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

Hunter and the Grape is published by Ward River Press and is available in TBP and ebook format. You can order your copy with Free Worldwide Postage HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:


Sunday, 22 October 2017

How To Build A Home Library. Feature from TheGloss.ie & Irish Times by Sophie Grenham






How To Build A Home Library


BLEACH HOUSE LIBRARY was built from scratch by MARGARET MADDEN in her Co. Louth home
Photograph by Eoin Rafferty
Margaret Madden, blogger and reviewer, quite literally lives in her books. The extraordinary Bleach House Library was built from scratch by the flamed-haired mother of five in her listed 18th-century, seven-bedroom pile in Collon, Co Louth.
Madden immediately zoned in on the sprawling ground floor space, before moving in eleven years ago. “I ear-marked it as my library because it has double doors into the garden, it has a fireplace and it’s a big room,” she explains. “It’s away from the hubbub of the house, slightly isolated in its own wing. When you have as many kids as I have, it’s nice to escape without being too far away.” Looking around the light-filled haven, punctuated with pastels, I can’t imagine feeling anything but peaceful in here.
That’s only the beginning, for I quickly discover that Madden’s collection of roughly 5,000 books occupies nearly every single room in the house, bar the bathroom. While very neatly curated, her treasured literary cargo travels from the flagship library, up the staircase and into the master bedroom.
How does one manage this many books and stay sane? Madden admits that while she regularly donates to charity shops and libraries, more volumes typically find their way back in exchange. Books are alphabetised so she can locate desired titles quickly.
In her experience, what key elements make a decent library, should one embark on such a mission?
“There has to be a mix of old and new with a great non-fiction section,” she says. “Definitely have all different genres in a library. Add a good mixture of novels written by people of colour, from different perspectives and religions, translated fiction. I would be surprised if there was no Jane Austen or Dickens. Although they’re curriculum reads now, there are people who still want to read them for pleasure – not just for exams.”
Despite the seemingly complete appearance of Bleach House Library, this labour of love will continue.“Some people are passionate about their cars and some go horseracing,” she says, smiling. “This is my addiction and it just happens to be literary, so having a room of one’s own that is basically a giant book is just heaven! It is literally a dream since I was a child – and it’s come true.”

Monday, 9 October 2017

LMFM October #LateLunchBookclub



Another month, another great selection of recommended reads, for LMFM's #LateLunchBookclub
I was in with Gerry Kelly, on Friday 6th Oct and revealed which books I thought listeners may enjoy. Once again, there is a nice mix of genres and hopefully something may appeal to you. You can listen to our #LateLunchBookclub broadcast via the soundlink below:




BOOK OF THE MONTH


Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, the creators of the much-loved Aisling character and the popular Facebook page 'Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling', bring Aisling to life in their novel about the quintessential country girl in the big smoke.

Aisling is twenty-eight and she's a complete ... Aisling. She lives at home in Ballygobbard (or Ballygobackwards, as some gas tickets call it) with her parents and commutes to her good job at PensionsPlus in Dublin.

Aisling goes out every Saturday night with her best friend Majella, who is a bit of a hames (she's lost two phones already this year - Aisling has never lost a phone). They love hoofing into the Coors Light if they're 'Out', or the vodka and Diet Cokes if they're 'Out Out'.

Ais spends two nights a week at her boyfriend John's. He's from down home and was kiss number seventeen at her twenty-first.

But Aisling wants more. She wants the ring on her finger. She wants the hen with the willy straws. She wants out of her parents' house, although she'd miss Mammy turning on the electric blanket like clockwork and Daddy taking her car 'out for a spin' and bringing it back full of petrol.

When a week in Tenerife with John doesn't end with the expected engagement, Aisling calls a halt to things and soon she has surprised herself and everyone else by agreeing to move into a three-bed in Portobello with stylish Sadhbh from HR and her friend, the mysterious Elaine.

Newly single and relocated to the big city, life is about to change utterly for this wonderful, strong, surprising and funny girl, who just happens to be a complete Aisling.

HISTORICAL FICTION


1993, Key West, Florida. When a Ku Klux Klan official is shot in broad daylight, all eyes turn to the person holding the gun: a 96-year-old Cuban woman who will say nothing except to admit her guilt.

1919. Mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives in Key West exiled in disgrace from her family in Havana. At the same time, damaged war hero John Morales returns home on the last US troop ship from Europe. As love draws them closer in this time of racial segregation, people are watching, including Dwayne Campbell, poised on the brink of manhood and struggling to do what's right. And then the Ku Klux Klan comes to town...

Inspired by real events, At First Light weaves together a decades-old grievance and the consequences of a promise made as the sun rose on a dark day in American history.

THRILLER


It's been twenty years since Lindsey has seen her best friend Rachel.

Twenty years since she has set foot in Thornbury Hall - the now crumbling home of the Bagenal family - where they spent so much time as teenagers. Since Patrick Bagenal's 18th birthday party, the night everything changed . . . for good.

It's time for a reunion

Patrick has decided on one last hurrah before closing the doors of his family home for good. All of the old crowd, back together for a weekend.

For the secrets to come out

It's not long before secrets begin to float to the surface. Everything that Lindsey shared with her best friend at sixteen . . . and everything that she didn't . . .

Some secrets should never be told. They need to be taken to the grave. While others require revenge at any cost.


NON-FICTION/MEMOIR


‘Painfully funny. The pain and the funniness somehow add up to something entirely good, entirely noble and entirely loveable.' - Stephen Fry

Welcome to 97-hour weeks. Welcome to life and death decisions. Welcome to a constant tsunami of bodily fluids. Welcome to earning less than the hospital parking meter. Wave goodbye to your friends and relationships . . .

Welcome to the life of a junior doctor.


Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, comedian and former junior doctor Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking by turns, these diaries are everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn't – about life on and off the hospital ward. And yes, it may leave a scar.

CLASSIC FICTION


Told in Sebastian Barry's characteristically beautiful prose, "A Long Long Way" evokes the camaraderie and humour of Willie and his regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, but also the cruelty and sadness of war, and the divided loyalties that many Irish soldiers felt. Tracing their experiences through the course of the war, the narrative brilliantly explores and dramatises the events of the Easter Rising within Ireland, and how such a seminal political moment came to affect those boys off fighting for the King of England on foreign fields - the paralysing doubts and divisions it caused them.

Gerry Kelly & Margaret Madden
  

Myself and Gerry Kelly hope that there is something here that listeners will love. All these titles are available from your local bookshop or library, but should you have any problems, just ask your bookseller, or librarian, to order a copy in for you. Happy Reading!

Please feel free to let us know what you thought of the books. You can leave a comment on this page, or contact me via twitter @margaretbmadden or via facebook  page Bleach House Library.

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