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Showing posts from 2012

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

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This is an intriguing and highly unusual novel written entirely in verse. It is quite unlike anything else being published for teenagers at the moment. The book tells the story of Kasienka who has arrived with her mother from Poland in search of her father. He has left their home and travelled to England for a new life. Through the poems we are given an insight into how Kasienka perceives her mother's depression and obsession with finding her husband as they wear their boots out searching Coventry for Tata (Father). We also learn of Kasienka's problems adjusting to life in an English school as she encounters prejudice, bullying and finally friendship. Through a friendly neighbour Tata is found and Kasienka learns that she has a stepmother and a baby half-sister. She is now torn between two families. Swimming becomes her refuge and not only is it fun she is also very good at it and winning gives her a new found confidence. The book's greatest strength is as a poignant portr…

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

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Donal Ryan won both best newcomer and best book at this year’s Irish Book Awards no small achievement for a debut author but it will have come as no surprise to those who have read this small but very powerful novel. This is the first attempt in fiction to examine the aftermath of the financial crash on the ordinary Irish people. The book is divided into twenty one individual first person narratives from interconnected characters. Rather than try to paint a broad picture of the aftermath of the housing boom and bust Ryan has instead opted to concentrate on the impact on one small Tipperary town.  The voices are unique but share a bitterness and bewilderment at their circumstances. The mood of depression and anger is palpable and violence simmers below the surface throughout before finally exploding. There are echoes of Patrick Kavanagh in the writing style and Ryan joins the ranks of talented young writers now emerging in Ireland, including Kevin Barry, Paul Murray and Joe Murphy. De…

Updates, Challenges and Stacks of Books

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Just a quick update on some of the reading challenges I set myself this year. I am approaching my target of reading 100 books this year and I still have a month and a bit to go so I'm quite happy about that. However I failed miserably with my Summer reading challenge as I was distracted by buying far too many new books and by receiving an unprecedented amount of books for review. If you have asked me to review a book and still haven't seen a review posted, I am truly sorry, I have been completely swamped but I will do my best to review everything I have been sent as soon as I can. Here is a glimpse at just some of the books I have been sent and haven't got around to yet.

Some great Irish Titles I shall be reading/reviewing soon
A.B. Wells Housewife with a Half-life (abwells.com)
Mary McCarthy After the Rain (Poolbeg)
Donal Ryan The Spinning Heart (Doubleday Ireland/Lilliput Press)
The Istanbul Puzzle Laurence O'Bryan (Avon) (not pictured)

Some Fab Literary titles

Magg…

Author Interview with Helen Moorhouse

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Helen Moorhouse




Did you always want to write?Always. As a child I was surrounded by books, learned to read at a very early age and as soon as I was gripped by the power of storytelling and the fun of words, it's all that I wanted to do.
2. What was your favourite book as a child? I devoured books as a child and I've been thinking long and hard about this question – Five Children and It is up there, as are the Chalet School and Mallory Towers books, and The Chronicles of Narnia was the best present I got for my tenth birthday but I think the favourite is The Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton – I have a copy of them ready and waiting to read to my own children when they're old enough, in fact. I adored the idea of all the little houses on the way up the tree, the different lands at the top of the magical cloud – the possibilities of adventure were just too exciting!
3.When/where/how do you find the time to write?( do you have a separate writing desk or room?) I currently …

The Dark Water

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The Dark Water By Helen Moorhouse
Helen Moorhouse is fast becoming one of my absolute favourite authors, having spooked the living daylights out of me last May (2011) with The Dead Summer she has returned on top form with another shiver-fest in The Dark Water.  The new book continues the story of Martha Armstrong who is now living in Edinburgh with her new partner Will. I was so excited to learn that Scotland was the setting for this new adventure and Helen gets the gothic, romantic, misty atmosphere exactly right. Gabriel McKenzie; psychic medium and now television star needs Will and Martha’s help because something or someone is haunting him. Despite a rift between old friends; Will and Gabriel, all three must unite to investigate a ghostly presence at the beautiful but remote DubhglasCastle. However whatever is haunting the beautiful old castle does not want to go quietly and threatens them all. The novel builds to a thrilling atmospheric climax which will have you cowering under the…

Defiance

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Defiance By C.J. Redwine
Defiance is a fast paced and well written debut from an author who will be one to watch in the future. A daring combination of Fantasy, Dystopia and Sci-Fi featuring great characters and set in a grim future where women are chattels and life is cheap. Rachel is a headstrong young woman whose father has trained her to survive and to fight, even though in this new world women are bought and sold and are not allowed out alone. Logan has been appointed her protector now that her father is missing and the responsibility weighs heavily on the young apprentice. The citadel in which they live is ruled by a cruel dictator who is keeping secrets from the people he claims to protect. Outside the walls a frightening monster stalks the forest hunting humans but it is to the forest the intrepid young pair must go in search of Rachel’s father and a package he has hidden. A great well plotted adventure which will appeal to fans of Graceling and the Hunger Games.

Dead Dogs

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Dead Dogs By Joe Murphy
A brilliant portrait of the casual cruelty of teenagers and the intense cruelty of one boy in particular; Dead Dogs is a fantastic examination of a young man’s spiral into madness. Joe Murphy is an acute observer of the social and emotional concerns of teens today, including a razor sharp dissection of “popular girl” Jenny “You like to keep these two around you because they’re not as good-looking as you. You always want everyone to look just at you. If people aren’t looking at you, you disappear.” This is a dark novel which encapsulates some of the bleakness of growing up in post Celtic Tiger Ireland; the ghost estates, the drugs, crime and casual violence. With this novel Joe Murphy proves that he is versatile as well as talented. Last year he conquered historical fiction with 1798: Tomorrow the Barrow we’ll Cross and in Dead Dogs he takes on the psychological crime novel and proves that he is a name to watch in Irish writing. 
Joe is pictured above at the launch …

The Demon Notebook

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The Demon Notebook By Erika McGann
The Demon Notebook is a first novel for young Irish author Erika McGann and it’s aimed squarely at girls aged 9 and upwards. The book taps into the current craze for ghostly stories and it is a well plotted adventure with scares, thrills, friendship and laughs. The story has a similar feel to Emily Mason’s Ghost Detectives and will appeal to fans of that title. Grace, Jenny, Adie, Una and Rachel dabble in Witchcraft  with no real success, but they soon learn a lesson about messing with magic when they accidently unleash a demon from beneath their school and all the spells in their notebook start to come true. It’s spooky, scary and great fun. Erika grew up in Drogheda and used her old school, St Oliver’s as the model for the school in the book. Erika visited Waterstones in Drogheda to sign copies of her book; she is pictured above with my eldest daughter Chloe and her friends.

Grave Mercy

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Grave Mercy By Robin La Fevers
Ismae is a Daughter of Death, a trained assassin and tough as nails. She is a wonderful creation and the description of the island convent where the assassins are trained as poisoners, fighters and weapons experts was fascinating in fact I wished this section of the novel had been longer. As interesting as the political intrigue and machinations of the medieval Breton court were, I felt the story sagged a little in the middle. Nonetheless it soon got back on thrilling form towards the end and the author tantalised us with the possibility of a follow up instalment. Robin La Fevers has obviously done extensive research and worked hard to create a genuine historical feel and this was a truly fantastic and unusual blend of fantasy, history and the paranormal. I await the second volume with anticipation.

The Queen’s Secret By Victoria Lamb

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The Queen’s Secret By Victoria Lamb
The Queen’s Secret by Victoria Lamb gives us an intriguing insight into the Elizabethan court during the spectacular and lavish visit to KenilworthCastle; home of the Earl of Leicester in July 1575. This was a celebration which almost bankrupted the young Earl who was determined to impress and woo the Virgin Queen. The heroine of the novel is a young black singer and court entertainer; Lucy Morgan. An orphan, Lucy has grown up as a ward of one the great spies of the age; Master Goodluck and with her enchanting voice and striking looks it’s not long before she attracts the attention of others including the Earl of Leicester, and the Queen’s own spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham as well the Queen herself. As Lucy becomes aware of a dangerous plot against the Queen and pressed for information on all sides she finds deception and betrayal at every turn. As the danger grows not just for the Queen but for Lucy herself, she wonders who she can trust when ever…

The Girl on the Stairs By Louise Welsh

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The Girl on the Stairs By Louise Welsh
Louise Welsh’s new novel is a dark and chilling tale of a young mum to be and how easily suspicion and paranoia can breed. Jane has arrived in Berlin; her partner Petra’s home town having given up her old life in England to have a child while Petra takes up a new job in finance. Without the distraction of her old job running a bookshop and feeling cut off because of her poor German, Jane spends a lot of time alone while Petra works. She is counting down the weeks until their baby is born and in the meantime she explores the neighbourhood and is fascinated by the nearby churchyard and the empty building that backs onto her apartment block. Jane is also intrigued by a young girl she sees on the stairs who turns out to be a neighbour. Dressed in a red coat and heels Anna’s makeup and demeanour belie her thirteen years and Jane fears for the loss of the young girl’s innocence and when she hears shouting through the walls and arguments between father an…

The Road Back by Liz Harris

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Patricia is a lonely child with cold parents; a domineering father and a weak mother and she craves love. Kalden is a restless young man, he has learned English from his missionary friends and fallen in love with books and music and he wants more but he is fated as a fourth son to join the monastery. When Patricia travels to Ladakh with her father to research his book she and Kalden meet and fall in love but society and their families are against the union, it is 1962 and when Patricia falls pregnant she is forced to give the baby away. 30 years later her daughter is seeking answers.  This is a really enjoyable page turner with a thrilling story. A tale of love lost and found; of parents and children; of duty and responsibility and of the contrast between cultures and between past and present. A terrific debut.

The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay

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Melissa explores other people's family history for her work as a genealogist, so she is delighted to have a chance to learn more about her own family when her Great Aunt invites her to stay at her ancestral home in Kent; Ashleigh Manor. Melissa is keen to learn why her grandmother became estranged from her sister while Dorothy is keen to put the past to rights. The Manor House seems to cast a spell over Melissa, especially when Great Aunt Dorothy; childless and now in her seventies invites Melissa and her daughter Jolie to come and live with her. Newly divorced and struggling to make ends meet Melissa eventually accepts. Soon she is haunted by dreams and visions of a mediaeval young woman who looks like her and a handsome and charming young knight, could the Manor be haunted and what do these restless spirits want? In a nearby cottage widowed vet Jake is also having strange dreams and when the two finally meet their connection is instant. This is a wonderful new book from an Award …
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Part of the Spell By Rachel Heath
For We Love This Book

This is a follow up to The Finest Type of English Womanhood which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. Rachel Heath has opted to move away from historical fiction to examine the dark threads which underlie and hold together small town English life in the 21st Century. There are many characters in the novel and one of the novel’s failings is that we never really get to know any of them. The picture that Rachel Heath presents is a little too broad with glimpses into the lives of a group of people all living in the same place and connected by the disappearance of Sheila; a local mum and grandmother. There is the day dreamy young mum Stella, the busy museum curator Theresa, the disappointed city worker Jonathan, the secretive estate agent Zeki and the angry blogger Tacita. Gradually all the characters are pulled together as the author examines the hopes and ideals behind their search for “the good life” and Stella seeks to u…

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Gillian Tamaki

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This is a real gem of a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and with wonderful illustrations by her cousin Gillian Tamaki. Skim is the tale of a teenage girl coming of age in the 90s and exploring Wicca, Shakespeare and First love. Kimberley Keiko Cameron aka Skim is lonely and often bullied at her all-girl school. When a fellow student’s ex-boyfriend commits suicide the girls are encouraged by teachers and counsellors to explore and express their grief. Skim and her best friend Lisa are at first mocking of all this sharing and confiding but soon Skim finds that it can help to talk to someone who understands you. This is a really beautiful coming of age tale which I would recommend to fans of Persepolis.

We Love This Book

This week We Love This Book have featured my review of Rebel Heart as one of their Books of the week.


http://welovethisbook.com/reviews/rebel-heart

Rebel Heart

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Rebel Heart By Moira Young For We Love This Book


Rebel Heart is the follow up to Moira Young’s outstanding, Costa Winning, Blood Red Road continuing the story of Saba, Lugh, Emmi and Jack. Although it is clearly a bridging book before the final instalment of the trilogy it nonetheless has a story of it’s own as Saba heads West with a price on her head and Jack tries to find her. This book is like a combination of all the best elements of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games set in a not too distant future with a strong heroine and a violent coming of age plot. Saba is a likeable protagonist and she is haunted by her time as a killer and by the change in her brother Lugh who seems distant and much changed after his captivity. She must also contend with a new enemy as the Tonton have a new leader and they are pushing their way across the land imposing a new order. The book sees the return of some of Saba’s friends and the introduction of new ones but in suc…

An Interview with Michelle Jackson author of 4am In Las Vegas

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1. Did you always want to write?I didn't always want to be a writer but I did always love to read. I studied in the national college of art and design when I left school which was always my dream. I enjoyed my five years there and went on to do design work before becoming a teacher - writing came to me after my daughter was born and I always refer to her as my muse. I had become very frustrated by my own artwork and I was never pleased with anything that I produced. the medium of words suits me much better and I wasn't burdened with any preconceptions about literature that I seemed to have with the visual arts. Writing came very naturally and it is still such a pleasure to sit down at my laptop and work on a novel.2. What was your favourite book as a child?As a child I used to often stay in my grandmothers and she always had a pile of Mills and Boon books bedside her bed and I would sneak one under my blankets and read until the small hours. I suppose it is no surprise that I …

Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

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2012 has seen the publication of Victoria Lamb's first book for adults The Queen's Secret and her first for teens; Witchstruck, the first of a planned trilogy. I was very excited when I saw the publisher's were labelling this book as "Twilight meets Philippa Gregory" it certainly sounded intriguing. I was even more excited when I saw that this book featured a young witch in training who is already in a precarious position as a servant to the imprisoned Queen Elizabeth. With Bloody Mary on the throne Elizabeth is in constant danger but she is an ambitious young woman with an interest in the dark arts and she encourages Meg and her aunt to seek visions of the future. There is intrigue and danger from page one and I was hooked. Meg is a strong and feisty heroine and the magic and mystery seem to hum on the page. To top it all there is also a thrilling romance with a young Spanish priest in training, but can she trust him? I can't wait to read more from this auth…

The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul

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One of Denmark's foremost literary authors Pia Juul has created in Bess a wonderful narrator who stumbles through this short, unassuming story trying to piece together the puzzle of her husband's life and death. The story questions how well we can ever know those we love and just how safe and secure a small community can be, sometimes a place where everyone knows everyone else, can be claustrophobic. This is a sharp, witty and well observed piece. If you like full on gory crime this is not for you but if you enjoy a book which draws you in entirely to the world of the characters then give this a try.

The Villa by Rosanna Ley

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The Villa is a wonderful, page-turning beach read. An intelligent and romantic tale of three generations of women, each character is a unique creation and Rosanna Ley manages to slip fluidly between the thoughts and concerns of grandmother Flavia, her daughter Tess and granddaughter Ginny. When Tess unexpectedly inherits a villa in Sicily it could be just the new start she needs, For Flavia it stirs up memories of the village she left behind and for Ginny it's time alone to think about her future and what she really wants. Rosanna Ley is a wonderfully talented writer who will appeal to fans of Cathy Kelly, Rachel Hore and Rosamunde Pilcher. I can't wait to read more from this author.

A Humble Companion by Laurie Graham

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This is a fascinating novel ideal for fans of Austen which brings alive the History of the Royal family from George III to Victoria, their quirks and foibles, follies and vices. The tale is told through the voice of Nellie Welche; companion to Princess Sofy daughter of mad king George. Nellie is a wonderful creation; smart and outspoken she is a shrewd observer and a candid narrator. She lives a strange existence neither a servant nor a noble, yet she is privy to secrets both dangerous and heartbreaking and yet at times she is rudely treated and belittled. The story begins when Nellie and Sofy are still young girls and Nellie is overawed at the opportunity she has been given to experience life in the royal household. As she grows older and experiences love and heartbreak, marriage and hard work she begins to question the small confined life of the royal princesses and relish her own relative freedom. Nellie and Sofy remain lifelong friends corresponding frequently even in the years wh…
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Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson Reviewed for We Love This Book
Fast paced, thrilling and exciting; Losing Lila is the absorbing sequel to last year’s Hunting Lila. Lila is a psy, one of a small group of people with extraordinary abilities. Lila’s gift is telekinesis, she can move objects with her mind and her power is growing stronger. She and her brother’s best friend Alex are being hunted by a secretive military organisation; the Unit who want to harness the psys abilities and create a super weapon. You may want to re-read Hunting Lila as this book dives right into the action with Alex and Lila running across rooftops in Mexico City. Soon we learn that Lila’s brother Jack is in a coma and in hospital under armed guard while their father has arrived and has been asked to work for the Unit. Lila returns to California alone to try and work out how she can rescue her brother and their Mum, but without the other psys will she able to save those she loves before the Unit discover her abilitie…

The Borrower by Rebecca Makai

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The Borrower by Rebecca Makai
Reviewed for
For We Love This Book

Lucy is a clever girl with a good degree, so her parents don’t understand why she chooses not to gain a Masters or to use her father’s contacts to get a successful job. Lucy doesn’t really understand it either but she has effectively buried herself in books, accepting a job as a children’s librarian in Hannibal Missouri even though she hasn’t trained in Library Science and living in a run down apartment unable to let go of the stacks of books around her in case someone might want or need them.
Despite her attempt to run away from her own destiny Lucy discovers a vocation of sorts in Hannibal when she meets Ian a precocious ten year old with a high IQ and a passion for reading. Ian’s parents however are determined to shape his reading and his personality. They have enrolled their son in anti-gay classes and provided Lucy with a list of the kind of books they don’t wish him to read. Examples include anything to do with magic, …

Spy for the Queen of Scots By Theresa Breslin

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Spy for the Queen of Scots  By Theresa BreslinReviewed for We Love This Book


Theresa Breslin is a Carnegie Medal-winning author with a number of fantastic books for teens and younger readers to her credit, including a number of thrilling historicalnovels. This new book is no exception, engaging and intriguing it tells the story of the young Mary Queen of Scots through the eyes of her companion Jenny. Fiercely loyal to her Queen and oldest friend, Jenny is a wonderful narrator and through her Theresa Breslin brings alive some of the most interesting people in Early Modern History, making then utterly accessible; the strange prophet Nostradamus, the ruthless Catherine de Medici and the captivating Mary Queen of Scots. Jenny becomes a spy accidently when she overhears Catherine de Medici speak of poison and enemies and she determines to keep her ears open in order to protect her Queen. However this is a dark and dangerous time to be royal and the more Jenny learns of the betrayal, intrigu…

Dreams by Daniela Sacerdoti

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I was very excited and grateful to be sent a copy of Daniela's first novel for teens. I had read and adored Daniela's first book a novel for adults, a wonderful romantic story set in the Scottish highlands called Watch Over Me, it was one of the fiction highlights of 2011. So I had a certain amount of expectation with this novel and I wasn't disappointed. The book opens as Sarah's parents are lowered into the ground, all the certainties of her world have come crashing down. Sarah Midnight is a wonderful creation; frightened, vulnerable and very believable she is also the calm centre of the supernatural storm raging around her. With her parents dead she must continue their work as a demon hunter and come to terms with the fact that they have not trained her to survive the danger that this entails. While Sarah battles demons using the blackwater which she draws from the earth and channels to banish them, she must also wage nightly battles as her dreams offer guidance and…

In the Postbox

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I got more books to review again!!! yay Happy Dance!! These four beauties arrived today. The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay and The Untied Kingdom by Kate Johnson arrived from ChocLit and The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross and Pushing the Limits by Kate McGarry are from MiraInk. Can't wait to get stuck in.



This is How it Ends/ Tyringham Park/ Secrets of the Tides

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I was delighted recently to read three popular fiction debuts which each in their own way deal with families, secrets and tragedies and are united by the recurring theme of water.This is How It Ends by Kathleen McMahonis the story of Bruno and Addie who are distant cousins. Irish American Bruno cut adrift from work decides to look up his Irish roots while Dubliner Addie is also out of work and looking after her aging father. The family home at Sandymount looking out to the sea and the sea itself are important recurring symbols for the author and our two protagonists meet appropriately enough at Sandymount strand. Both characters are feeling lonely and vulnerable and their connection is instant. Kathleen McMahon writes beautifully about the simple but all embracing process of falling in love. Through the characters of Bruno and Addie and those around them we learn about the family secrets and the fragility of life for as the title suggests this book is all about endings. Warning, you m…