Monday, June 25, 2012

Dreams by Daniela Sacerdoti

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 foretell the dangers to come. It's no wonder she's tired and on top of that she has to go to school, practise her cello and she suffers from OCD. Her long lost cousin Harry arrives and becomes her protector but Sarah cannot be sure if she should trust him. She is tormented by strange and confusing dreams and as demons begin to attack her and Harry it seems there are many more secrets in the Midnight family which Sarah has yet to learn. Daniela Sacerdoti is a talented intelligent writer who creates great fully rounded characters. She avoids the clich├ęs of the YA paranormal genre and instead creates her own mythology and builds an utterly believable world in which her characters relationships feel genuine and warm. I loved reading this book, as the two young people come to depend on each other and  their relationship grows you cannot help rooting for them, of course this is the first of a trilogy so the book ends although the story does not and the twist at the end of this first instalment leaves the reader hungry for more.

In the Postbox

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

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 McMahon is 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 may need tissues. There was a lot of fanfare upon the acquisition and the release of this book as Kathleen is the granddaughter of acclaimed Irish writer Mary Lavin. Perhaps this novel is not as literary as many had expected. It is a novel of quiet power with some beautiful writing, though I felt it didn't quite grab my soul. Though I’m sure the author has a great future in front of her and her best may be yet to come.

Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin is another debut from an Australian lady who has made Ireland her home. Rosemary McLoughlin has already established herself as an artist but writing has always been a passion and now in her seventies she has realised her dream of publishing a novel. Poolbeg have once again branched out and published this fantastic, historical saga but the timing of this release is impeccable. With the popularity of Downtown Abbey this book will have broad appeal; it has echoes of Daphne du Maurier, Kate Morton and Rachel Hore. Charlotte Blackshaw is the novel's flawed heroine; a neglected child, a tortured artist, a troubled soul. the story opens with the mysterious disappearance of baby Victoria Blackshaw who is feared drowned and follows Charlotte through her cold relationship with her parents, the abuse she receives from her nanny and the comfort she gains from the friendly housekeeper as she grows up to become an artist, a wife and a mother. Through the grand sweep of world history through two wars and the turmoil of Irish independence from Dublin to London to Australia this story is painted across a broad canvas. Overall the novel is an enjoyable and page turning read however I felt that the plot was a little flabby in places and some historical anomalies niggled but didn't detract from what is a really entertaining debut.

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Rihcell is the debut novel of an English author now living in Australia. The book title is a play on words as it deals with the multi-generational tale of the Tide family but also features the power and danger of water as a force of nature both giving and taking life. The opening prologue of the book featuring a young girl travelling by train to London tormented by guilt and regret and finally throwing herself from a bridge into the murky Thames is fantastically powerful and instantly intrigues the reader. With a wonderful narrative drive the story is recounted by different female voices in the Tide family each slowly revealing a little more of the puzzle. Dora who is returning to the family home, the beautiful old house by the sea in Dorset is at the heart of the novel. She is a wonderfully realised character, easy to empathise with. Even the minor players are fully fleshed out and add to the richness of the drama. This is a dramatic and very well written debut which will appeal to fans of Mary Wesley, Daphne du Maurier and Kate Morton. I must admit it was my favourite of the three novels featured here. The author will I'm sure be given the Richard & Judy seal of approval, if not with this novel then surely with the next as she certainly knows how to write a good character driven story.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Apologies, New Books and finally some reviews

I have been very quiet on the review front recently and for that I must apologise, especially to the authors and publishers who were kind enough to send me books to review and most especially to Daniela Sacerdoti and Janne at Black & White Publishing who sent me Dreams (Book 1 of the Sarah Midnight Trilogy) ages ago and which I have taken forever to get around to reviewing. I don't know why I have been so lax recently as my house is certainly not tidy and my own novel is certainly not finished. So what have I been doing with my time? Well apart from discovering the addictive time waster that is Twitter, I have been reading. I have received quite a few books to review recently as well as buying far too many and borrowing a few from the library. Yes surprise! even though I already have tonnes of books to read I still love my library. Also I visited two second hand bookshops recently and I can never leave one empty-handed. So the piles of books that I have recently acquired are something to behold. Check out the photos below.
Books Recently Bought, Won and Received for Review

By the way that young librarian is my nearly eight year old who thinks taking pictures of piles of books is silly and insisted I take a picture of her instead; we compromised. I took this photo at the end of last week and since then even more books have arrived.

I have received The Borrower, Part of the Spell, Losing Lila and Spy for The Queen of Scots from Stacey at We Love This Book a great website that I am really excited to be involved with and I will be reviewing those  a.s.a.p. I am already reading and loving The Borrower. I have also been asked to review Housewife with a Half-Life by the lovely and talented Alison Wells and I am really looking forward to that. If you are in Dublin check out Alison's book launch this Friday at Hughes & Hughes in Dundrum. The big grey hardback in the middle is Lisa Appignanesi's Mad, Bad and Sad which I am reading for research.  I have also been very happy to get hold of an early copy of Revived by Cat Patrick, I loved Forgotten so can't wait to read this. Other books I am really looking forward to reading this summer are The Villa by Rosanna Ley which I have already started, The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick  and Night Waking by Sarah Moss. 
A final photo shows my current collection of library books. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ghostly Tales

Ghosts are big news in fiction for teens and tweens at the moment. The ghostly trend has firmly taken over from the vampire craze and seems to be almost as popular as the wave of dystopian fiction currently riding high in the wake of the hugely popular Hunger Games. I am always glad to see ghost stories back in fashion though as I am a huge fan and I envision a surge of interest amongst publishers, booksellers and readers after Celine Kiernan’s triumph at the CBI awards this year winning the book of the year and the children’s choice for Into the Grey on of my favourite books of this year.

There are a number of different kinds of ghost stories available depending on your tastes. If you want to be utterly chilled then Into the Grey, Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough and Unrest by Michelle Harrison are for you.

For younger readers though there are some great stories which use ghosts as a narrative device to explore history, examples of this include Spirit of the Titanic by Nicola Pierce and The newly published Ghost Detectives: The Lost Bride by Emily Mason (did you know that Emily Mason is really Rachel Pierce; Nicola’s sister?) this is the first in a series which features four friends on the cusp of their teen years who worry about friendship and fitting in more than ghosts. When the friends perform a ritual as a bit of fun they attract a restless spirit in need of help; the lost bride. This is a light-hearted adventure which will appeal to girls of 9 and upwards.

Another debut to watch out for is Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway a darker tale than Emily Mason’s it features a young girl; Becky who is confused and worried by her mother’s depression she knows there are secrets being kept from her and her new friend Rosa- May seems to be the only one who understands, but who is Rosa-May and why does she never leave the Butterfly Garden?
Another series of smart, funny, ghostly adventures are the Kitty Slade books by Fiona Dunbar. The feisty heroine of this series does lots of normal stuff; school, blogging, dealing with annoying siblings and a crazy grandma but she also suffers from phantorama; an ability to see ghosts, so she does a bit of ghost busting on the side. The Titles so far are Divine Freaks, Fire &Roses and Venus Rocks and these books will appeal to girls aged approx 10-15.

Also for teens a series I have mentioned before and which I adore are the Angel Kiss books by Laura Jane Cassidy; Angel Kiss and now Eighteen Kisses; featuring protagonist Jacki King who is haunted by the spirits of murdered women. These books are crime thrillers in which Jacki uses her physic gift to help the police. Laura has a fresh and individual voice and her second book won’t disappoint her fans as she continues to develop her likeable heroine taking her away from her small town home and back to Dublin building the tension and danger around her as Jacki solves the murder of another young woman. Although the books deal with a dark subject Laura’s writing is sparkling and conversational. She reminds me of Maeve Binchy and as a long time Binchy fan that is intended as the highest of compliments. The Angel Kiss books are suitable for readers aged 12 and above.

Rumours by Freya North

Rumours is a delightful new novel by bestselling author Freya North.
Set in and around the quaint English village of Long Dansbury and Longbridge Hall the seat of the Earls of Barbary. The novel is peopled with a wonderful array of characters young and old.
I have read five of Freya’s previous novels and her latest does not disappoint. Stella is an art historian who has reinvented herself as an estate agent tasked with the sale of Longbridge Hall. Lydia is the Lady of the Manor growing old as the Hall crumbles around her. Xander is a lifelong resident of the village who grew up around the Hall. All are tied to the future of Longbridge and the village and as rumour spreads about what will happen and who the new owners will be so the cast of characters are brought together.
As always in a Freya North novel there are a number of unashamedly raunchy scenes, these she writes with style and panache, helping to bring alive the character growth and the growing relationship between the two romantic leads; Stella and Xander.
However there is much more to this novel than romance and raunch there are realistic portraits of the tangled web of village life, of the pain of love lost, of grief and the reality of growing older.
If you haven’t read Freya North before then start now, perfect whether you enjoy Jilly Cooper or Joanna Trollope, Freya provides the perfect slice of English life with a dash of spice.