Thursday, November 10, 2011

Earth Angels are Everywhere Are You One? By Dolores Keaveney Reviewed by Lisa Redmond


Earth Angels are Everywhere Are You One? is a beautiful little book which is so hard to categorise. It is a picture book for both adults and children and would make an ideal Christmas gift. The book features illustrations, poems and quotations which celebrate the people all around us in our everyday lives who through their work, their actions and their kindness become earth angels. With different poems  and illustrations for the various different earth angels such as teachers, nurses, doctors, carers, parents, counsellors and many more.  This gift book celebrates all those who bring joy into our lives through small acts of kindness. The message is a simple one; that we can be angels here on earth by just putting more thought into our everyday acts. The book is deeply spiritual but it speaks to people of all different faiths celebrating our humanity not highlighting difference. Dolores has illustrated the book herself and the subtle watercolour paintings in various soft and pastel shades are undoubtedly influenced by her training as a healer with each angel in a different shade representing a different energy.  I would recommend this book to young and old and it would make a lovely gift for a teacher, caregiver or any earth angel in you life.

If Only You Knew By Claire Allan Reviewed by Lisa Redmond


Claire Allan’s fifth novel proves she has both the storytelling gifts of Cathy Kelly and the wit and warm humour of Marian Keyes. If Only You Knew is the story of cousins Ava Campbell; the sensible married teacher  and Hope Scott; the flighty single journalist  who are thrown together when, at the reading of their aunt’s will they discover her request that they visit her house in the South of France to pack up her belongings. The girls are bemused at first but they decide to go, for the chance of a holiday if nothing else. Through a series of letters left in various parts of the house in France Aunt Betty’s story is revealed and her reasons for asking her nieces to visit the house and raise a glass to her and to each other become clear. Through the discoveries they make both women learn to move their lives forward and to reconcile the past especially when they discover some of the shocking truths about Aunt Betty’s life and the reason why she ran away to France. Claire Allan’s story is a hilarious and life affirming tale of families, secrets and love which you won’t be able to put down. 

Spirit of the Titanic By Nicola Pierce Reviewed By Lisa Redmond


There  are many books about the Titanic but this book is unique in that it takes as it’s starting point not  14th April 1912 but 20th April 1910 because that was when Titanic claimed it’s first victim Samuel Joseph Scott a fifteen year old boy who worked on the ship at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. Samuel roams the ship as a ghost, witness to the glamour of first class and the hard work below decks. The book features a cast of both real and imagined characters including Frederick Fleet; the young lookout who spotted the iceberg, Harold Bride; the radio operator, the brave band leader and of course Captain Edward John Smith. I admit I approached this book with trepidation, I have had a lifelong fascination with Titanic and reading anything about those that perished makes me weep. I even cry reading the wiki entry. I wondered how on earth a writer would be able to create a novel which deals with such a tragic event and make it not only suitable but an enjoyable read for the 10+ age group. In this her first novel for children Nicola Pierce has done just that and her tale is compelling, even though we all know the ending the narrative is utterly engrossing. I admit I laughed I cried and I stayed up way past my usual bedtime in order to finish this poignant and beautifully written book. This is one not to be missed.


5 stars *****

Titanic by Martin Jenkins and Brian Sanders Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond


The Titanic is an eternally fascinating topic for young and old alike and this book is a brilliant way to explore the famous ocean liner and its tragic first and only journey.
The book includes a host of information about the ship, those who travelled on it, how it was built and designed and a wealth of detail about the running of the great ocean liner. There is information about some of the passengers and crew, a replica ticket for the maiden voyage and a replica of one the first news stories about the tragedy from the New York Times. Other interesting additions include a restaurant menu and plans of each deck.
However the best thing about this book is the 75cm long pop up model of the Titanic which will provide hours of fun. This book is ideal for anyone with an interest in the Titanic from 7 to 97. It is currently out of print but due to be reprinted in time for the anniversary next April.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress


Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

By Sarwat Chadda
Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond


Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress is a fantastic action packed read for teens. If you have enjoyed Percy Jackson, Darren Shan and Skulduggery Pleasant then this book is for you.  Sarwat Chadda’s new book is steeped in Indian legend with a hero torn between the high tech London of his everyday life and the ancient land of snake charmers, gurus and demon legends of his ancestors. In case you didn’t know Demons are in and there are no darker demons then those of Indian mythology. Ash is an unlikely hero; plump, nerdy and a little bit lazy but when his family are endangered he has to step up and learn how to fight and when he discovers an ancient Indian artefact he realises that he his stronger then he thought. I really enjoyed this and hopefully it will be the first in a series. It’s bound to excite the interest of readers aged 10+ especially as Asian mythology has rarely if ever been featured in books for this age group before and it offers an exciting new area for the author to explore.  I am a huge fan of mythology and I knew nothing about Indian mythology before I picked this up so it's been a great introduction. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Winter Flowers by Carol Coffey



Winter Flowers is Carol Coffey’s third novel and I believe it is her best to date. It is the story of two sisters who have both been wounded by life. Iris has always taken care of her younger sister and Hazel has always let her, but they must both learn to heal the wounds of the past just as they must confront the dangers of the present. Hazel also has two young sons caught up in a dysfunctional lifestyle and the two sisters realise that is time to stop the cycle of damaged childhood.

When Hazel discovers some of her mother’s letters in the attic some long held family secrets are revealed. Gradually the story of the past and the present unfold and the sister’s stories are given alternate chapters.

Carol Coffey has often been compared to Jodi Picoult and I can understand why; like Jodi Picoult Carol deals with “issues” such as alcoholism, depression and violence. However what Carol excels at, is in creating utterly believable characters that the reader cannot help but care about and in detailing the nuances of character and family relationships with faultless writing. In that I believe Carol Coffey deserves comparison with the Queen of Women’s Fiction; Maeve Binchy.

Earwig and the Witch By Diana Wynne Jones


Earwig and the Witch
By Diana Wynne Jones
Reviewed By Lisa Doyle Redmond

Earwig and the Witch is the final book by Diana Wynne Jones who after a long and prolific career lost her battle with cancer in March this year. Diana was one of the worlds best loved Children’s authors creator of such classic tales as Howl’s Moving Castle and Charmed Life. She has been a huge influence on the current generation of Fantasy writers and will undoubtedly continue to enthral and inspire for generations to come.

Earwig and the Witch is aimed at younger readers and will hold six and seven year olds spellbound. Boys and girls will delight in the unexpected storyline and entrancing illustrations by Marion Lindsay which match the tale superbly. It is most likely to appeal to fans of Horrid Henry or Clarice Bean as Earwig is a cheeky, bossy but utterly lovable heroine who manages to charm all around her even demons and witches.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes By Lauren Child




Ruby Redfort will already be familiar to Lauren Child fans as she is the fictional heroine of a series of books beloved of Clarice Bean, star of Lauren’s wonderful series for younger readers. Now Lauren has given Ruby her own series and aimed the books at the 9-12 age group who having adored Clarice will undoubtedly take Ruby to their hearts also. Ruby like many of Lauren Child’s characters is larger than life yet utterly believable. She is a genius code cracker with a nose for mysteries making her the perfect candidate to be recruited as a spy. Together with her close friend Clancy and her ever present butler or should that be “household manager” Ruby manages to solve the puzzles and save the day. Lauren consulted with a maths professor to create unique puzzles to challenge readers and hopefully instil and encourage an appreciation for maths.  The book is a fast paced thrill ride with a retro feel reminiscent of Nancy Drew of the Hardy Boys but bursting with Lauren Child’s trademark wit. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Penance Room by Carol Coffey

The Penance Room is set in the small mining town of Broken Hill in Australia. It follows the story of Christopher, a deaf young boy who feels a special connection to the hurt and damaged souls of the residents in the nursing home which his parents run. There are the eccentric English sisters, the lonely German man and the inseparable Hungarian couple. When a young man arrives to document the lives of those who came seeking a better life in Australia for his sociology thesis, Christopher follows their stories as each character reveals their hurt, heartache and regret so that each one can find redemption and peace. Most of all though this is Christopher's journey. Carol Coffey is a very talented author who tells heartbreaking stories that are still filled with hope. She is a must for fans of Jodi Picoult.
Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


The Name of the Star
By Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson represents a change of direction for the author who is venturing for the first time into paranormal fiction for teens. Thankfully she avoids the usual clich├ęs of the genre; i.e. vampires and angels. Instead Maureen has brought Jack the Ripper back from the dead.
The book is witty and well-written and offers some genuinely frightening moments.
The main character; American teenager Rory is a gorgeous creation fizzing with intelligence and energy but feeling lonely and isolated in a new country and at a new school, she attempts to form friendships with wise cracking and the author gives her some sparkling dialogue. The villain remains a constant threatening presence however and the menace grows throughout. I was delighted to discover that this title is only the first in a series and look forward to more in the near future.

Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond

The Carrier of the Mark
By Leigh Fallon

I eagerly anticipated The Carrier of the Mark as I was longing to read a paranormal romance with an Irish setting. I was not disappointed the author’s own Irish roots were evident as the language and landscape were pitch-perfect. Leigh made clever use of Irish mythology and history while at the same time giving the background detail of the story a unique edge that is all her own.
The novel tells the tale of Megan; newly arrived in Ireland who is instantly drawn to Adam de Ris and his family who seem to have strange magical abilities. Soon Megan discovers a magical heritage all of her own. I was glad to see that the author had avoided the vampires and angels which are currently saturating the market in favour of a more unique story.
The characters are well drawn and the writing style is confident and assured. As the book ends before all of Megan’s powers are explored I assume that there will be a sequel. I look forward to more from this author and the world that she has created for her characters.

Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Review of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
By Jenny Wingfield


The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is an outstanding debut which swept me away to 1950s Arkansas. At times gut wrenching and heart rending it is an ultimately uplifting tale of faith and hope. Wingfield introduces a cast of such memorable characters that they will live in your head long after the last page.
The writing is pitch perfect, capturing the voices, thoughts and dreams of young Swan as clearly as those of her extended clan and the blackened heart of the villain Ras Ballenger. This story will enchant you but it will also make you angry as it builds to a terrifying climax. Jenny Wingfield is a powerful storyteller and I find it hard to compare this book with anything other than “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I only hope that Jenny Wingfield unlike Harper Lee will follow this debut with another book that breaks my heart once again. This is a book not to be missed.

By Lisa Doyle-Redmond

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Review of The Weird Sisters
By Eleanor Brown


Eleanor Brown’s debut is a wonderfully rich and poignant story of the three Andreas sisters; named by their father; an authority on Shakespeare for some of the bard’s more memorable characters. Rose for Rosalind, Bean for Bianca and Cordy for Cordelia.
The sisters are not weird in the modern sense but wyrd as Shakespeare would have known it, meaning fated. Each seems to carry the traits of their namesake and a feeling that they cannot escape their destinies, in fact they feel like failures. Rose the sensible homebody fears adventure and the unknown; Bean is caught stealing to maintain her dream Manhattan lifestyle and Cordy the bohemian drifter knows it’s time to settle down when she finds herself single and pregnant.
When their mother falls ill the girls return home and discover that they must create their own futures.
The narrative device of the third person narrator unites the sisters, though each has a distinctive voice in the book; it’s a device which works well. The writing is fluid and poignant. The Shakespeare quotes are dotted throughout but are never heavy handed. This is an accomplished and well written debut. Eleanor Brown knows her Shakespeare but she wears her learning lightly. The book is an ideal summer read with a similar feel to Rebecca Miller or Alice Hoffman. I recommend it to mothers, daughters and sisters everywhere and it is ideal for book clubs.

By Lisa Doyle-Redmond

Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie-Louise Jensen

I absolutely adored this book. Once again Marie-Louise has recreated history in a way which transports the reader. This is the kind of book which you will be unable to put down. The inclusion of shape-shifters and psychic abilities fits perfectly with the pagan setting and the characters are so entirely believable, not perfect but easy to empathize with and absolutely of their era. If you have enjoyed her books before you won't be disappointed, if not start now. This book will appeal to any reader aged 10 and upwards who enjoys historical drama and romance. Try this if you like Mary Hooper, Celia Rees, Mary Hoffman, Meg Rosoff or Eva Ibbotson.

Firebrand By Gillian Philip

This is the first Gillian Philip book I have read and I know it won't be the last because I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

It is set in sixteenth century Scotland and tells the story of Seth and his brother Conal who are sons of a Sithe nobleman, they live behind the veil in the land of the Sithe where their world has been at peace for many hundreds of years but all that is about to change when the brothers are banished into the mortal world. 

What makes this book so special is that the characters are so alive, so real, you will feel their pain as though you are inside them. Unlike many other books about fairies, pixies, vampires etc., aimed at teenagers these characters despite being magical and otherworldly feel like real flesh and blood. 

I also adore the Scottish accented speech and the banter between the brothers and I couldn't help being reminded of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books. 

This is a fantastic novel which anyone of any age could enjoy and it may appeal especially to fans of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy. 

It is the first in a trilogy which is great because yey! more to come but annoying because boo! I have to wait. 

Outstanding read it!

A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore


This is Rachel Hore's fourth novel. It recounts the story of auctioneer Jude who is bereft after the loss of her husband and travels to her home county of Norfolk to value a collection of books and scientific instruments at Starborough Hall. Through Jude's research we learn the story of astronomer Anthony Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther and we also see Jude try to heal the rifts in her family and discover more about her own ancestors and their connection to the wonderful Starborough and it's atmospheric woods and folly. 

This is a fantastically written book with wonderful insight into the characters. It has the page-turning quality of a thriller but yet it is a romantic tale of family and relationships. Mystery and the idea of fate and destiny pervade the story. The motif of the star is a comforting constant and I felt the loving but at times bickering and jealous relationship between the sisters was particularly well drawn. The sense of place was inherent to the story and just as Rachel has previously captured the beauty and wild atmosphere of Cornwall in "The Memory Garden" here she has described the beauty of the North Norfolk countryside vividly. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good quality contemporary women's fiction with the an emphasis on mystery, secrets and the past, especially if you are a fan of Kate Morton, Barbara Erskine, Diana Gabaldon, Joanne Harris, Audrey Niffenegger or Kate Mosse.

Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen


Between Two Seas
By Marie-Louise Jensen
Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond


***** 5 stars



Between Two Seas is the first novel from author Marie-Louise Jensen. The novel takes place mostly in Denmark in the late 19th Century and Jensen’s lyrical writing style will sweep readers away into a different time and place from the first paragraph. The novel tells the story of Marianne Shaw who has been brought up almost penniless in the North of England by her mother. She has been bullied and stigmatised because of her illegitimacy so when her mother dies she has no-where to turn. She has made a promise to her mother that she will seek out her father and a better life and so she sets off for Denmark to find the fisherman her mother had fallen in love with when she was just a young girl. The journey is long and difficult and for a young woman travelling alone it is not without peril. At last she arrives in the fishing community of Skagen and she determines to make a new life for herself in this strange but beautiful place.

The novel was nominated for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2008. It will appeal to readers aged ten or over especially those who enjoy historical fiction.


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


A Great and Terrible Beauty
By Libba Bray
Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond



A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first book in a fantastic trilogy by Libba Bray. The books are an intriguing mix of history, fantasy and magic. The story begins in India in 1895 when a horrific event changes the course of 16-year-old Gemma Doyle’s life and she is sent to the very prim and proper Spence Academy in England. She must learn to become a young lady just as her world has been shattered and she has developed a strange and uncontrollable ability to glimpse visions of past and future. She must navigate the rigid social hierarchy of Victorian England as well as discovering her own destiny. Why is she being followed by a handsome young Indian man?  How will she ever make friends with the cold and unwelcoming young ladies of Spence? How is her mother connected to an ancient magical group called the Order? Featuring a witty and feisty heroine and a magical spellbinding plot which unfolds through all three books this is a tale for those who like to curl up and enter a fantasy realm that is dark thrilling and gothic.

5 stars

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I loved this book and I can't believe that I will have to wait a whole year for the next one. Imagine if Diana Gabaldon, Kate Mosse and Philip Pullman got together and said lets re-write twilight but for adults and make it more like Anne Rice, this book would be the result. Highly recommended.

Review of Blood Red Road by Moira Young

I loved this book. It is utterly unputdownable. Saba is a fantastic main character heroic yet flawed and the world in which she lives is frightening but completely believable. This book will appeal to fans of Patrick Ness but I urge everyone young and old who enjoys a cracking read with fantastic characters to just read it.

Review of One Day by David Nicholls

I was looking forward to reading this book as so many people had recommended it me. However I was disappointed with some of the character development and with the ending. Despite that I think the writing was good and I really wanted to know what happened next. I can't help thinking that this book got the praise it did because it was written by a man, if it had been written by Alison Pearson or Marian Keyes it would have been dismissed as "chick-lit". I think Nicholls is neither more literary nor more talented than either of those popular authors and while the book is a light hearted and a romantic read it's not essential or life enhancing. It will undoubtedly make a good rom-com and I look forward to watching it. It doesn't make me want to rush out and buy more of this author's work and I don't imagine it will be on a school curriculum in the near future. If you enjoyed The time Traveller's Wife or Bridget Jones you may enjoy this.

Review of Faery Tale by Signe Pike



Do you believe in Fairies? Signe Pike does. Faery Tale is a memoir and travel book recounting Signe’s travels through Britain and Ireland looking for the magic which is everywhere in childhood but which in our modern era we as adults dismiss so easily. Signe examines the mythology and traditions of England, The Isle of Man, Ireland and Scotland and the stories which were fireside favourites not so long ago and she travels to the places associated in folklore with Fairies such as Glastonbury, Dun Aengus, Snaefell, The Fairy Bridge and many others. With a similar feel to the bestselling Eat, Pray Love this book focuses on both the inward and the physical journey. This is a beautiful book highlighting our need to reconnect with nature and the past. If you’re interested in folklore this is a must read.

I loved this book. Signe Pike is a really talented writer and her search for fairies and enchantment had me hooked from the beginning.

Review of The Dead Summer by Helen Moorhouse


'The Dead Summer' by Helen Moorhouse.

Martha Armstrong is starting over after a bitter divorce. She moves to the Norfolk countryside with her baby daughter and there she hopes to find peace and enough time to write the children’s book which has been in her head for years. Instead Martha finds a mystery and a chilling ghostly presence.

Helen Moorhouse’s first novel is a spine-tingling and haunting story which will entrance readers. The book romps along at breakneck speed for almost three hundred and fifty pages and the pace never lets up throughout. The sense of menace builds to a cracking climax and a heart-breaking secret.

This is a book which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys gothic, ghostly and atmospheric stories. It has a similar feel to that of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, The Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore and House of Echoes by Barbara Erskine

I look forward to more from this author and more of this type of book from Poolbeg.

Also Reading

Starcrossed


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Friday, June 3, 2011

Hey so as you can see from my previous post I have joined BookChickCity in the quest to read 100 books this year it should be do-able, I hope. I will try to post reviews here as I progress and I will of course be including everything I've read so far this year. So recently I've read The Help, Blood Red Road, The Distant Hours. I am up to 35 books so far, but some books I just couldn't finish, e.g. The Slap one of the most horrendous books I have ever encountered.