Showing posts from 2013

Keeping Mum By Emma Hannigan Guest reviewed by Margaret Bonass Madden of Bleach House Library

I have read a couple of Emma Hannigan's books and found them great so was delighted when asked to review this newest offering. It is a novel about eight women, four mothers and their daughters. Each has their own story and as the four mothers are roughly the same age, as are the four daughters, it is nice to see how each family are different but have some similarities. The main link between the mothers is the fear of their little girls growing up and finding themselves in the big bad world without their Mums, while the daughters yearn to get out there and gain some independence with their parents approval. A week in Spain is on the cards for the women and their offspring, to help build some bridges and perhaps regain some trust. Although they have never crossed paths before, all the ladies find their problems are not exclusive to them and sometimes a stranger's opinion can be just as valued as a friend's. The book flicks between characters at a nice pace and each stor…

Tips on Writing a Synopsis from Victoria Lamb

Historical Romantic fiction author Victoria Lamb shares some top tips on writing a synopsis on her blog below

Victoria's latest book His Dark Lady which I reviewed Here is now available in paperback

Guest Review Midwinter Sacrifice

I was inundated with great crime fiction this year but I simply couldn't read it all so some good friends of mine Carrie and Anthony who are big fans of Scandi fiction and TV have been reading some books and here is the first of their guest reviews.

Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft reviewed by Anthony Mc IntyreIt is the coldest winter that anyone in Sweden can remember. ‘Winters here are the devil’s work’ is the phrase from her father’s repertoire dancing around the head of Malin Fors, a senior detective in the city of Linkoping. A body of a very heavy man is found hanging from a tree. There is no rush to cut him down. In this weather he is not about to thaw out anytime soon. When he does eventually make the drop he lands on top of one of the cops, given new meaning to having a crush on somebody.

The killing makes the third item on the national news even though it has not been ascertained that the man was murdered. It is not a supernatural story but Mons Kallentoft has pitche…

Someday Find Me by Nicci Cloke from Guest Reviewer Margaret Madden

Another Guest Review from my dear friend Margaret of Bleach House Library

This novel is mainly about two characters: Fitz, a 25year old barworker/DJ and his girlfriend Saffy, an art student. After meeting at a party, they are drawn to each other and very quickly move in together. However, Fitz discovers Saffy has issues. Drink, drugs and an eating disorder are all symptoms of deeper problems. He is slow discovering these issues though, as he is completely blinded by his love for her. When the seriousness of her addictions begin to threaten Saffy's health, and even her safety, Fitz feels he has no option but to call for help. Saffy's side of the story interlaces with Fitz's and the reader can see how she has many problems that are spiraling out of control. Her dependence on drugs reads as a dark and dirty place to be, and her problems surrounding food are causing bouts of OCD. Basically, she is drowning and cannot see anyway through the surface of her despair. Rehab …

Kevin McCarthy Interview

Kevin McCarthy's second novel published earlier this year is shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards, you can vote for him here and check out my review of Irregulars here.
1. Who are your favourite authors/biggest influences and why?

My favourite authors? Like favourite films, this list changes often, but I do keep going back to Joseph Conrad and one of his acolytes, American novelist Robert Stone. As far as influences go, both of them would be big influences in terms of outlook and the notion of average men, working men and women put in positions of moral (and actual) peril. I’ve huge, big love for Derek Robinson as well, and his novel, Goshawk Squadron—nominated for the first ever Booker prize, incidentally—was a real influence on Peeler. Robinson went to great lengths to debunk the mythologies of the air war in WWI and instead reveal the grim realities of the pilot’s lot. I took this as a template for my treatment of the policeman’s lot in Ireland during the War of Independence. …

Wolf Bride out in paperback

I was delighted to receive a copy of this for review today, a gift from the author, and signed no less. Wolf Bride is published in paperback today, it is also available as an e-book. A delicious mash-up of erotica and historical intrigue. I am really looking forward to reading this. Thanks Ms Moss.

Graham Joyce Wins British Fantasy Award

Don't worry, my month long immersion in independent and self published fiction will result in plenty of reviews but for now a quick post about a wonderful author of Fantasy; Graham Joyce. Here is the press release from Gollancz. I hope to read and review the book this Winter.

GRAHAM JOYCE SOME KIND OF FAIRY TALE WINS THE BRITISH FANTASY AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL Graham Joyce received a standing ovation at the 1,000-strong awards ceremony of the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton on Sunday 2nd November 2013.  Picking up the Best Fantasy Novel Award for an unprecedented sixth time in his career, Joyce was earlier this year diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma cancer.  The event marked his first public appearance since his diagnosis. Joyce won the Best Fantasy Novel Award for Some Kind Of Fairy Tale, a story in which a young girl thought to have been abducted from the woodlands of the East Midlands returns to her family after twenty years [Gollancz; Paperback £7.99; e-Book £4.99]. Six months a…

Seven for a Secret

Seven for a Secret is a crime novel which succeeds both as a follow up to last year’s Gods of Gotham and as a mystery in its own right. We are back with the fledgling NYPD in 1846 and Copper Star Timothy Wilde has a new case to solve as a young woman rushes into the police headquarters reporting her family has been stolen. Soon Wilde is on the trail of a gang of blackbirders; legal slave catchers who Mrs Lucy Adams claims have illegally taken her sister and son. With the help of the Vigilance Committee and his brother Captain Valentine Wilde, Timothy discovers a web of corruption that leads to his old adversary Silkie Marsh and to the heart of The Democratic Party. Lyndsay Faye has painstakingly recreated 19th Century New York with meticulous research, rich contemporary language and fantastic characterisation. From the wealthy and well-dressed politicians to the starving orphans, from the drunks to the dandies, this book is peopled with a fascinating cast of characters. The Wilde brot…

October is small publisher month

Throughout the rest of October I will be reading and reviewing books; both print and e-books which are published by smaller independent publishing houses and self published by the author.

Some of the titles up for review are
Inceptio by Alison Morton published by SilverWood Books

A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage published by Matador

The Blackheath Séance Parlour by Alan Williams published by Cutting Edge Press

Some other titles I hope to review include Shadows of the Past by Carmen Stefanescu The Call of Agon by Dean F Wilson and  A Man Against a Background of Flames by Paul Hoggart.

The Incredible Life of Jonathan Doe by Carol Coffey Guest Review by Margaret Madden of Bleach House Library

A Guest Post from my lovely friend, book club buddy and fellow blogger Margaret Bonass Madden of Having read Carol Coffey's previous novels, The Penance Room and Winter Flowers, I was delighted to see this on my To-Be-Reviewed pile.  I am a big fan and was dying to see if this new novel was as good as her others.  I was not disappointed.
Brendan is forced to go to live with his Uncle in New Jersey after a brush with the law.  He has also to complete some community service as part of his bail conditions.  A big change for a man in his 30s who lived a pretty self centered life in New York.  His ex-cop Uncle is hard, tough and extremely old school.  His Aunt is meek and mousy.  Their daughter, Eileen is a nervous, shy  woman who is completely controlled by her bullying Father.  However, Brendan and Eileen form a bond and the changes in their lives mean their days become a bit more bearable for both of them.
Eileen introduces Brendan to staff and…

Some top notch writing tips

Elizabeth Moss is the author of a number of Regency romances and most recently has released Wolf Bride the first in a series of raunchy Tudor Romances. You can find out more on her website here Elizabeth writes historical fiction and teen fiction under another name. Guess who? Check out her fantastic writing tips below.

The Opening Pages of your Novel Part One


Opening Pages of your Novel Part Two

Three competitions for novel writers

Irish Children’s Prize This year A. M. Heath are launching their Irish Children’s Prize.  We are looking for a new standout voice in children’s fiction. The Irish Children’s Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A. M. Heath, and David Maybury of Brown Bag Films, Penguin Children’s Books and Inis Magazine editor.

Novel Fair 2014 The Prize Twelve entrants will be anonymously selected by a judging panel to take part in the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair on February 22nd, 2014. Each writer will have a stand at the Fair where they will present the synopsis of their novel, the finished novel itself and biographical material. Top Irish publishers and agents will be invited to the Irish Writers’ Centre to meet these writers in person.

Richard and Judy launch bestseller competition…

A fantastic interview with my favourite author Diana Gabaldon

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley's latest novel is out in paperback now. I bought this while on holidays and started it straight away I had heard great things from The Historical and Time Slip Novels Book Club on facebook so I just had to have it. I certainly wasn't disappointed. Nicola has a special gift she can hold an object and see a glimpse of its past. It's a tool that's come in handy in her work as an art dealer. Margaret Ross travels down from Scotland to the London gallery where Nicola works to find out more about a family heirloom and how much it could be worth. Nicola holds the carved wooden firebird for a moment and immediately she sees that the Ross family stories are true it was given to an ancestor of Margaret's by The Russian empress Catherine. However Nicola has never told her boss or any clients about her gift so she needs to find evidence to back up her vision. She decides to investigate and enlists the help of old flame Rob McMorran who has a psychic gift even…

The Golem and Djinni by Helene Wecker

This a fabulous debut. An historical fantasy tale set in New York in 1899 in which the author conveys a strong sense of time and place. The author brings to life the many various neighbourhoods of turn of the century New York, the cold, the poverty, the overcrowding but also the customs and the habits and most importantly she brings alive the legends and the heritage as the two main characters are creatures of Arabic and Jewish mythology. The Golem is Chava a woman made from clay her purpose to serve her master in all things but when her master dies she is cast adrift and must find new purpose. Ahmad is the Djinni trapped for centuries in a copper flask and freed by a unwitting tinsmith. Each has their own separate beginning but the author seemlessly weaves together the disparate mythologies and unites the two characters who are hunted by a desperate and dangerous magician. This is a glorious and page turning escapist read perfect for fans of Susanna Clarke, Deborah Harkness and Caro…

Longbourn By Jo Baker

Many authors have attempted to write about the world of Jane Austen's fiction including most recently P.D James whose Death Comes to Pemberley  left me a bit cold. With Longbourn however debut author Jo Baker takes an entirely new approach telling the story of the Bennett Household from a vantage point we have never seen before; that of the servants. The story is told through the eyes of Sarah one of the housemaids who doesn't view Jane and Lizzie through the same rosy tones as we might having met so many film and television versions of them. They are rather different creatures to Sarah who has the washing of their muddy petticoats and soiled linen. Longbourn shows us the harsh realities of a servant's life Sarah suffers blisters and chillblains and is sent out in the rain to fetch shoe roses. She is constantly carrying bedpans and hanging out washing. She does however find some time for romance flirting with Mr Bingley's footman a former slave who reveals that the Bi…

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

It's a number of years since I first read Diane Setterfield's debut The Thirteenth Tale and I enjoyed it so much I have recommended it to many others since, friends, family and customers alike I even listed it in my top five reads of all time which believe me was not an easy list to compile.
So of course I jumped at the chance to read an early review copy of her next book Bellman & Black which will be published by Orion this October in time for Halloween. I dived straight in to find a glorious slice of Victoriana layered with gothic suspense and mystery. The story opens with the last dying moments of William Bellman as his life flashes before him. He remembers being a ten year old playing in the cemetery with his friends and firing a stone at a rook with his catapult. He knocks the bird to the ground and instantly feels that he has crossed a line. Death has entered William's young life and it follows him through the years. The image of the rook, of the cemetery of the…

Writing Tips


Rebecca (1940) - Full movie

Reviews and Interviews coming Very Soon


The Golem and the DJinni by Helene Wecker

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Bellmann and Black by Diane Setterfield

and Interviews with Irish authors Kevin McCarthy and Caroline Finnerty

In which I get distracted and forget my camera

I have spent most of the past month on a holiday of sorts, I say of sorts because as a mum for nearly fourteen years now I know well that there are no holidays. My self the hubby and the three kids have been galavanting about the countryside and the city visiting museums, galleries and historical sites. We spent a long time looking at this famous Renoir Painting Les Parapluies

which is part of a group of impressionist paintings shared between The National Gallery in London and the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. It recently returned to the Hugh Lane and will be on display for the next six years. Do go and have a look, the gallery is fascinating and there is no admission charge. 
My eldest daughter Chlöe and I also visited Newgrange and Knowth in The Boyne Valley. Visiting the monuments requires two separate tours from the centre but I urge everyone to see both as Knowth is if anything even more fascinating than the more famous Newgrange, both pictures below are of Knowth. (Images borrow…

August Aquistions

Bought, Won and Received for Review this month

An eclectic mix featuring Gothic Victoriana from Diane Setterfield, author of The Thirteenth Tale one of my favourite books of all time. More Historical Fiction from Seventeenth Century France by Jean Teulé and Sixteenth Century England by Jane Borodale. Also Conn Iggulden's take on The Wars of the Roses. Debut novels from Frances Osborne, Justin Quinn, R.S. Pateman and Kimberley McCreight. Werewolf urban fantasy from Martin Millar, the new Ruth Galloway mystery from Elly Griffiths, Muriel Bolger's fascinating literary tour of Dublin and the intriguing and beautifully packaged Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Along with all of the above my brilliant book club are reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier another favourite of mine. So if you need me I'll be reading.

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

Lottie Moggach's first novel was the subject of a bidding war between eleven different publishers, she had a lot of pressure on her as the daughter of bestselling novelist and a real favourite of mine; Deborah Moggach (check out Deborah's hilarious rules for writing here) I wondered whether the daughter would live up to the promise of the mother. I can certainly say that Lottie's book is as good as some of Deborah's work though not as good as my favourite Tulip Fever but that's probably because she writes in a very different style and that's not a bad thing, just a different thing.  Kiss Me First fits neatly in the category of post Gone Girl female led thrillers. There seems at the moment to be a shift towards a darker edge in contemporary women's fiction and I don't think there is any sense that writers are jumping on the bandwagon, rather writers are simply responding to the zeitgeist and the sex and shopping and cosy humour at either end of the scal…

Holiday Reads Part Three Contemporary/Crime/Thriller and everything else

Last one some contemporary reads

Dying Fall- Elly Griffiths Reconstructing Amelia- Kimberley McCreight Love is the Easy Bit- Mary Grehan How to be a Good Wife- Emma Chapman Penelope- Rebecca Harrington The Shining Girls- Lauren Beukes The Sea Change- Joanna Rossiter The Sea Sisters- Lucy Clarke Alex- Pierre Lemaitre

Hardbacks and Trade Paperbacks The Incredible Life of Jonathan Doe- Carol Coffey My Father's House- Bethany Dawson The Second Life of Amy Archer- RS Pateman Dot- Araminta Hall An Englishwoman in New York- Anne-Marie Casey The Doll's House- Louise Phillips

Non Fiction Possessed by The Devil- Andrew Sneddon ( The History of the Islandmagee Witches) Flappers- Judith Macrell (Six extraordinary women of The Jazz Age)

Holiday Reading Part Two Historical Fiction

I apologise for the dealy in posting this up but I was surprise, surprise on holidays and doing lots of reading. Here is my round up of the best Historical Fiction which has been recently published but I have not yet gotten a chance to review. Do let me know if there is anything you would recommend from the list.

Out Now in Paperback  A Dangerous Inheritance- Alison Weir (Tudor era) Citadel- Kate Mosse (WW2 France) Merivel -Rose Tremain (Restoration England) The Secret Keeper- Kate Morton (1960s England) Ratlines- Stuart Neville (WW2 Germany 1960s Ireland) Beautiful Ruins- Jess Walter (1960s Italy) The Daughters of Mars- Thomas Keneally (WW1) Tigers in Red Weather- Liza Klausman (WW2 and after) The Pleasures of Men- Kate Williams (Victorian)  The Girl in Berlin- Elizabeth Wilson (1950s Britain and Germany) My Life in Black and White- Kim Izzo (Contemporary and 1950s) Mistress of the Sea- Jenny Barden (Sixteenth Century) The Memory of Lost Senses- Judith Kinghorn (early 20th century) P…

The Bone Season

Samantha Shannon is being hailed as the new J. K. Rowling and having been given the chance to read her first novel I can see why. The Bone Season blends fantasy and dystopia and is darker and bloodier than Harry Potter or The Hunger Games to which it has also been compared. Our 19 year old heroine Paige Mahoney is tough as nails and living a double life; while her father works for the government, unknown to him she works for the criminal underworld using her clairvoyant skills which the government of Scion have declared illegal. It is 2059 and Britain as we know it no longer exists and is now under totalitarian rule, Paige is already an outsider as she hails from Ireland and through her memories we catch glimpses of her past there. Paige is attacked and kidnapped and finds herself a prisoner in Oxford, a city controlled by the Rephaim, a non-human race who have invaded Scion and are using voyants to control the Scion government and fight their own enemies. Here Paige is trained and im…

Holiday Reads Part One Fantasy

So its August and if you haven't already done so I'm sure some of you may be thinking of getting away for a few days or even just a for a quiet afternoon in the garden to read and relax. All of the summer reads are available now but what do you choose? Fear not I am here to help. Check out my essential reading lists divided by genre and hopefully you will spot something that will relax, entertain or enthrall you.

Fantasy Fiction
The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker. Harper Collins HB
Perfect for fans of The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches the story blends 1899 New York with Arabian mythology and Kabbalistic magic in a tale of love, community, friendship and self sacrifice.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon Bloomsbury (20th August) HB
21 one year old author Samantha Shannon is already being hailed as the next J.K Rowling. This book is the first in a projected series of Seven set in an alternate future where clairvoyance has been outlawed, Irish born Paige is livi…

The Disappearance of Emily Marr

Louise Candlish’s latest book is an intriguing take on morality and celebrity culture. Emily Marr is a dissatisfied thirty year old who longs for more from life, her mother died when she was young, her father suffers from dementia, her job is poorly paid and she is bored with her long-time boyfriend. When she meets Arthur she feels her life has truly began but she couldn’t have known the tragic sequence of events that had been set in motion, events that will make her infamous and hated. Tabby has been abandoned by her boyfriend while they were travelling; she has made her way to France and the beautiful Ile de Re. She is penniless and desperate, contemplating sleeping rough when she overhears Emmie repeat the access code to her front door, thinking that she won’t be back for a day or two Tabby lets herself. Caught by Emmie asleep in the house Tabby expects to be reported to the police instead Emmie invites her to stay and slowly as the women bond she reveals her story. The twist when …

The Glass Ocean

Lori Baker who has won awards for her short stories is set to be a major literary star. Her first novel is a strange and dreamy tale of flame haired six foot two orphan girl Carlotta Dell’Oro. Carlotta’s tale begins as she sets out on a new adventure in a new land. She is the author of her own beginnings of how her parents met and their individual stories. Through her young narrator Lori Baker presents fascinating characters and recreates a Victorian world of stuffed animals, sea voyages, insatiable thirst for knowledge, creaking houses stuffed to the brim with clutter and a marriage of misunderstanding. Carlotta’s parents are thrown together by circumstance and they are distant both from each other and from their child. She grows up neglected and alone in a house full of curiosities from all over the world brought back from her grandfather’s travels and the glass which her father works in a constant search for perfection. This is a beautifully written novel full of loss and longing w…

Coco's Secret by Niamh Greene Reviewed by Margaret Madden

This book is a little bit perfect!
A little slice of chic-lit heaven all packaged into 339 pages.
Coco finds an original Chanel handbag at the bottom of an odds and ends box purchased at auction. On closer inspection she discovers an old letter inside the bag and it moves her to search for the bag's original owner. With not much to go on, she trusts her inner voice and follows the leads from her small hometown to London and Paris. She begins to get a picture of the owner's life and so does the reader. 
From the first page I was hooked. I too wanted to know the origins of the bag and along with a great set of characters Niamh Greene brings us on a a nice easy trip from the 1950s to the present day.
Coco's grandmother Ruth is a wonderful addition to the tale and a character I would love to meet in real life. I could just picture their little antiques shop and all its little bits and bobs, and could almost smell the atmosphere.
Very chic, very sweet, very clever. Well done N…

Irregulars by Kevin McCarthy

Irregulars is a novel set in Dublin in 1922 at the height of the civil war. That description might be enough to put many people off. We all know about the civil war, don't we? We learned all about it at school, how brother turned against brother but no-one likes to examine it in too much detail because even nearly one hundred years later the politics are just too raw and personal. We all have family stories which place us firmly on one side or the other. However was it really so black and white? Along comes Kevin McCarthy with the second of his novels to feature Seán O'Keefe and he shows us Dublin in its raw and unglorified state. This book features good and bad on all sides and on none. Seán O'Keefe is a demobbed RIC officer hired by a well known Monto madam to find her missing son. So our hero sets off with unwanted companion Just Albert and their search takes them through classroom, doss house, and hotel to Gormanstown Free State Army Camp and Dublin City Morgue. The p…

Mad about You by Sinéad Moriarty Guest Review by Margaret Madden

After 10 years of Marriage, two children and career changes, Emma and James find themselves relocated to London for James' new job as coach to London Irish Rugby Club. While Emma struggles with loneliness and looking after her young kids, James is getting home later and later from work.  When James starts getting sextexts from an unknown number, Emma fears the worst. Then the parcels start arriving to their home and panic sets in...... Mad About You is Sinead Moriarty's ninth novel. She introduced Emma and James in the 1990s so readers of the previous novels will remember Emma's wacky sister, Babs , as well as their best friends, Lucy and Donal. However, if you haven't read the previous novels it doesn't affect the enjoyment of this one. The author has introduced some great new characters and I especially loved Poppy, who is a forty something Divorcée on the hunt for a man with money. Should Sinead write another novel in this series, I would love if she develope…