Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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 it comes in unexpected and incredibly clever. Do not mistake this book for a fluffy romance it is gripping, intense and will get book groups talking everywhere.  A perfect beach read with a dark thread. Ideal for fans of Emily Barr and Hannah Richell.

Thanks to Stacey Bartlett of The Bookseller for the chance to read this book before publication.

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 which can be summed up in Carlotta’s observation “It is interesting …how we always think most about the one who has gone away…and least about the one who has remained…” P.192.

Thanks to Stacey Bartlett of The Bookseller for the opportunity to read and review this title.

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 Niamh Greene.

Another guest review from the lovely Margaret Madden who now has her own blog at so follow her blog to keep up to date with Margaret's four book a week book habit and the many books she and her five children share.

Thanks very much to Cliona Lewis and Penguin Ireland for an early reading copy. Coco's Secret will be published on August 15th and will make a perfect holiday read.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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 plot is peopled throughout with fantastic characters and dialogue so witty and alive that I read a number of passages aloud just so I could hear the fantastic language. When I say fantastic I mean alive and nasty and filthy and real. I wish Kevin McCarthy was writing for TV or stage. I am amazed that anyone but a Dublin native would have such a gift for the patterns and peculiarities of Dublin speech. (My grandfather was a Dublin taxi driver and I am married to a Northside Dub.) The convolutions of the plot twist and turn satisfyingly through the various strata of society, though never too far from the bleak dingy bedsits or the filth-strewn tenements. The descriptions of tenement life are vivid and shocking and so is the violence. Whether you are interested in Irish History or just enjoy a cracking crime novel then this is a book not to be missed. I had a personal interest in requesting this book from the publisher as parts of the novel I'm writing are set during The Irish War of Independence just before events in this novel take place. I didn't realise when I requested it that this was the second in a series so it can be read without any knowledge of the first book, nonetheless I will be buying the first Seán O'Keefe novel Peeler at the earliest opportunity.
I would be very interested in learning more about the author and his writing and research process.

Irregulars is out now from New Island  

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 developed the new characters more!

I could feel Emma's frustration when she read the text messages and received inappropriate gifts in the post. The description of her heart pounding away like mad seemed so real.

Good read for the summer, especially if you are of a certain age and a bit of a worrier!!


Mad about You is out on August 1st and published by Penguin Ireland.
Learn more about Sinéad here

The Letter by Maria Duffy Guest Review by Margaret Madden

Ellie is getting married and off to New York with her two best friends for the Hen Party. Finding a letter addressed to her dead sister, while clearing out her old room, sets in motion a very different trip to The Big Apple than expected.

This is Maria Duffy's third book and its a little gem!
Lighthearted, warm and perfect for a day at the beach or at a window seat while listening to the rain.

The storyline held my interest all the way through and the trip to New York really made me want to visit again ( even just for the Waldorf Salad ).
The author's love of Glasnevin and its surrounding areas really show her love of Dublin and reminded me of day trips I had as a child.

Ellie's friends are two different types of characters but both are equally endearing. Her family sound a little too perfect for my liking, as does her fiancée but other than that, I couldn't fault Maria's style at all.
Will look toward to her next book......


The Letter is out now from Hachette Books Ireland 
Find out more about Maria and her books here

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

I have wanted to read this book ever since my favourite author Diana Gabaldon posted it on her methadone list. This is a list which Diana posts on her website and updates regularly of books which she recommends you read while waiting fora new book in her Outlander series.  The Outlander books are a series of historical adventure romances featuring a time travelling doctor and her 18th century Scottish lover. They are not to be missed. Diana recommended this series for those who enjoy mystery or crime fiction a few years ago but until this year they weren't published in UK and Ireland. A friend of mine who saw my earlier post about this book sent me a copy (Thanks Carrie) it has a different cover not as attractive as the one above but if you are in the UK or Ireland these are the covers to look for as the design implies the story takes place in Alaska on the edge of the National Park. It is a bleak cold and lonely place and many of the locals find comfort and amusement in drinking and fighting. However when a young park ranger goes missing and the investigator who went looking for him also disappears Kate Shugak is asked to investiagte, she had once worked for the DA in Anchorage and doesn't really want to get involved but when the danger seems to come closer to home she has little choice. Kate is a wonderful creation; wild, resourceful and unafraid she lives on the edge of the wilderness with just her husky Mutt for company. This is the first in the series and there are a number of Kate Shugak mysteries available now in paperback from Head of Zeus.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In the Postbox

I have received some great new fiction to review to add to the teetering TBR pile I already have. This has led  me to do a bit of a clear out so I have given some books (Not review copies) away, I hope to do a blog giveaway soon. I simply won't be able to review all the books I have been sent in time for their release dates. In fact I have books that were released in April, May and June still to review so I apologise for my slowness. Instead I will be doing a round up of summer reads and the best of this years books so far, which will have to be enough for now and I will just continue to keep making my way through the many many books I have awaiting review. In fact I may even ask some guest reviewers to make a contribution, so let me know if you would be interested in doing that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Secrets of the Sea House

Elizabeth Gifford’s debut novel is an enthralling piece of storytelling set in the remote and beautiful Outer Hebrides and featuring family secrets, folklore and mystery. Ruth and Michael have bought the Sea House in Scarista, once the manse and home of the local minister, they want to renovate it and provide accommodation for tourists. Ruth’s heritage is Scottish though she grew up mostly in care in London after her mother’s death. As soon as work begins there is a grim discovery; the skeleton of a baby found beneath the floorboards, a baby with its legs fused together, a mermaid baby.
Ruth remembers the tales of mermaids from the islands that her mother told her and now she has two mysteries to solve; the origins of the baby and her own Island heritage. She discovers the notebooks of a minister who lived in the manse in the 1860s Reverend Alexander Ferguson; he was also interested in the mermaid folklore of the islands. Alexander’s story and that of his maid Moira are then interspersed with Ruth’s throughout the rest of the novel.
Elizabeth Gifford’s writing is poetic and haunting. The dual-time narrative is a device used here to great effect and the plot is well paced. This is a heartfelt story and a real page turner. Fans of historical fiction, folklore and Scotland will all enjoy this wonderful debut. Elizabeth Gifford is writer to watch.

Secrets of the Sea House will be published by Corvus on 6th August 2013.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce

 Niamh Boyce writes poetry and short stories, she won the Hennessey XO New Writers Award 2012 and has been shortlisted in the Francis McManus and Molly Keane awards among others. The Herbalist is her debut novel. The novel tells the story of four women in Ireland in the 1930s; Emily, Sarah, Carmel and Aggie whose lives are changed by the arrival in their small midlands town of an exotic herbalist. The women are all spellbound and excited to try out the herbalist's lotions and potions. 

Carmel is recovering from the loss of her baby and hopes that the herbalist's tonics will give her back her lust for life and help her have another baby. Sarah is a clever young woman forced to become a shop assistant and desperate to escape the town before her secret is discovered. Aggie is the town prostitute, living alone on the edge of town drinking herself to death and making predictions for women's futures. Emily is a young girl who falls for the charms of the exotic stranger only to discover that he has a darker side.

This is a wonderfully written exploration of women's lives in a time of narrow choices. Richly peopled with believable characters and beautifully constructed. The interweaving stories sit perfectly together and the pace never flags. While rural mid century Ireland is not new territory for writers Niamh Boyce approaches it with a fresh eye and her interest in women's lives and women's history shines through.

The Herbalist is published by Penguin Ireland and is available now in Trade Paperback.
Thank you to Cliona Lewis at Penguin Ireland for sending me an early reading copy.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

The Sea Sisters is a debut novel from writer Lucy Clarke. Lucy travels regularly, her husband is a professional windsurfer and she is passionate about keeping a diary wherever she goes. Using her travel diaries as inspiration she has crafted a beautiful novel of two sisters who struggle to understand each other. Kate is the organised and sensible sister and while she tries to find space in her life for messy and chaotic Mia it sometimes can get a bit much so when Mia announces that she is going travelling, Kate feels as much relief as she does worry. However just a short while later Kate receives the devastating news that Mia is dead and it appears to be suicide. Just as in the last book I reviewed where a daughter reads her mother's diaries to understand her, here it is Kate who must use her sister Mia's travel journal to piece together the puzzle of her sister's final weeks. Kate retraces Mia's steps to the final tragic place where she has been told that her sister committed suicide. As she travels Kate learns more about the heartache Mia suffered from and just how strong and how complicated her sister really was. 
This is an assured piece of storytelling, a family drama, a romance and a mystery. It will appeal to fans of Gone Girl and The Secrets of the Tides.

Thanks a million to Harper Fiction who sent me an early reading copy of this book and sent out a bundle of copies for my book club, the majority of whom really enjoyed it.

The Sea Sisters is out now from Harper in paperback and e-book.

The Girl from Station X by Elisa Segrave

A follow up to Elisa Segrave’s The Diary of a Breast which detailed her battle with breast cancer, in this book she explores her mother’s life. Anne Segrave was an alcoholic and Elisa did not have an easy relationship with her. In her last years as Anne disappeared into dementia Elisa began the daunting task of sorting through her mother’s belongings. She discovered that just like her; her mother had kept diaries for most of her life. Through the diaries Elisa discovered not only the privileged upbringing and spoiled childhood that her mother had enjoyed, but also a secret life during the war as a WAAF officer part of the code breaking and intelligence operation based at Bletchley Park and at Bomber Command. Through the diaries Elisa gains new understanding and insight into her mother’s life and her choices both before and after the war. Elisa discovers a woman of great intelligence and restless spirit and learns of her mother’s loneliness and search for love with both men and women. She also observes her descent into alcoholism and battles with depression and anxiety. Gradually she comes to understand and empathise with her mother who had spent many years grieving for her son who drowned as a toddler, her older son who committed suicide and the loss of her father and brother when she was a young child.  A fascinating glimpse into a time of great change for women and a perfect read for fans of William Boyd’s Restless or Sebastian Faulks Charlotte Grey.

Follow the link below to see my original review and those of other reading panel members at Lovereadinguk.

The Girl from Station X is out now in hardback from Union Books.

Wild Irish Women By Marian Broderick

Wild Irish Women is a fun and useful reference work enabling readers to rediscover some fascinating Irish women from history. There are over 70 different short biographies of women who were either born in Ireland or have an Irish connection.  Included are actresses, writers, rebels, activists, wives and mistresses. Famous names like Maude Gonne and Kitty O'Shea are here along with Maria Edgeworth and Peig Sayers, but there are many less well known names also such as Christian Davies also known as Mother Ross who posed as a male soldier for fifteen years in the British army. There is the pirate Anne Bonny and Dr James Barry who also posed as men and led exciting lives travelling the world. The dancer Lola Montez mistress of composer Franz Lizt and of King Ludwig of Bavaria also makes an appearance. There are women who worked hard and yet remain relatively unknown; Biddy Early wise woman of Munster, Kathleen Behan, mother of Brendan an active member of Cumann na mBan in 1916, female athlete Lady Mary Heath, to name but a few. Written in a lively and accessible style this book will be of interest to historians and the casual reader. I would recommend this book to schools especially as a supplement to the history curriculum where the teaching of women's history could be much improved. It would make a great starting point for research for Leaving Certificate students.

Wild Irish Women in available now in paperback from O'Brien Press

Never Forget By Lisa Cutts

Never Forget is the first in a thrilling new detective series from a British author who is an experienced and serving police officer. The detective in question is DC Nina Foster who is drafted in to her first murder investigation after a young woman is found brutally stabbed. As the victims mount up so do the suspects and it soon appears that the crimes are linked to Nina’s own past and a traumatic event in her childhood. The action is fast and well paced, the characters interesting and believable and the storytelling is gripping. Lisa Cutts is a talented writer and she brings to life the reality of the Major Incident Room, the witty banter, the relentless paperwork and the genuine hard graft of real policing. Nina is a great character fond of a drink and often a disaster on the romance front and when the killer seems to be coming ever closer to home she proves herself a worthy heroine. I know this will appeal to a lot of crime fans who want to know more about the reality of crime investigation. Perfect for fans of Cath Staincliffe and Elizabeth Haynes.

Originally reviewed for
Never Forget will be publised by Myriad Editions on July 11th and will be available in paperback and e-book formats.