Friday, August 30, 2013

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 borrowed from wikimedia and goireland)

I brought both my daughters along to Kilruddery House in Bray, the eldest and I and my Mum are frequent visitors but it was Emily's first visit there. We climbed through the woods up a steep incline and stepping out on to a rocky ledge we had a stunning view back across the lawns towards the house and the hills beyond. However as you may have gathered from the title of this post I forgot to bring a camera. You can find out more about Kilruddery on their website here. In the meantime enjoy these pictures. Courtesy of, antorra.coma and

Kilruddery hosts numerous events, concerts and markets throughout the year and you can take a guided tour through the house; not all of it though it is still home to the fifteenth Earl and Countess of Meath, their son and daughter in law and young family. It is very family friendly and it is a working farm, you can even buy the produce. The house and gardens date back to the Seventeenth Century although the house was significantly remodelled  in the 1820s. It is well worth a visit and in fact you have probably seen it before, due to the estate's proximity to Ardmore Studios in Bray it is a popular location for filming and was used in productions such as My Left Foot, The Count of Monte Christo , The Tudors and Camelot. I feel a personal connection to the place as my grandfather worked for the previous Earl and his family for a number of years. 

I have been trying to catch up on some reading during my holiday time however finding time to blog and write while the kids are off school is a nightmare. I hope to have some new reviews soon though.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

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 scale during the "chick-lit" boom is of no interest to writers or readers in a post financial crash reality. 
Kiss Me First is the story of Leila she is a socially awkward young woman who has lived in a very closed world, her adult life has been focused on looking after her Mum who suffered from MS and now that she has died she has no-one. Her whole life takes place on-line. In between on-line role playing games she works remotely as a software tester. It is after she joins a philosophy discussion site called Red Pill that her world begins to change. The site administrator Adrian singles her out for attention and noticing her liberal views on euthanasia her tasks her with taking on the on-line persona of a woman who has chosen to die called Tess. Tess and Leila never meet in person but through on-line chats, emails and facebook Leila studies Tess and learns about a life utterly different to her own. Tess has had a priveleged upbringing and an expensive education, she is an artist suffering from bi-polar disorder who has traveled widely, experimented with drugs and had realtionships with a lot of men. Leila finds her fascinating.
However as the story begins with Leila searching for Tess at a commune in Spain we know from the start that it all goes wrong and the drama lies in how exactly it all unravels. This is a short book and it is well written and tightly plotted. I think Lottie Moggach has touched on the dangers of our reliance on social media and the need to make genuine connections. This is a sharp and fast paced thriller which I would highly recommend. Kiss Me First is out now from Picador. Thank you to Francesca Main who sent me a copy to review.

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)
Park Lane- Frances Osborne (early twentieth century)
Abdication- Juliet Nicolson (1930s)
The Knot- Jane Borodale (sixteenth century)
The Painter's Apprentice- Charlotte Betts (seventeenth century)
Summer of 76- Isabel Ashdown (1976 as you might expect ;)
Habits of the House- Fay Weldon (late Victorian)
Midnight in St Petersburg- Vanorra Bennett (Russia early 20th century)


Z A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald- Therese Anne Fowler (1920s)
Dodger James Benmore (Victorian London)
My Notorious Life by Madame X- Kate Manning (19th Century New York)
The Paris Winter- Imogen Robertson (19th Century Paris)
Fever- Mary Beth Keane (19th Century New York)
The Summer Queen- Elizabeth Chadwick (12th Century England and France)
Rome The Art of War- M. C. Scott (Rome A. D. 69)
The White Princess- Philippa Gregory (Cousins War book 5)


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

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 imprisoned by Warden a Rephaite leader and while she does not trust him she soon learns that he is not the darkest enemy she will have to face. Samantha Shannon has created a fascinating and darkly gothic world and at just twenty one her writing skills are astounding. The Bone Season is the first of a seven book series and film rights have already been optioned. With huge crossover appeal this will undoubtedly be the next big thing in fantasy fiction.

The Bone Season is published by Bloomsbury on 20th August 2013  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

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 living a double life daughter of a government official but also part of the criminal underworld until she comes face to face with The Rephaim and untold danger. This is the book everyone will be talking about this Autumn.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay Harper Collins HB

Inspired by the decadent Song Dynasty Guy Gavriel Kay re-imagines China in stunning detail. A Fantastic historical adventure which will sweep you away.

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgeway Penguin HB

Another beautiful cover for a wonderful tale of love and time travel perfect for fans of Susanna Clarke and Diana Gabaldon.

Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson Jo Flethcher  Books HB and TPB

Blending Viking History and mythology this is the first in a new series from first time Icelandic author Kristjansson and is sure to appeal to fans of Giles Christian and Tim Severin.

Path of Needles by Alison Littlewood Jo Fletcher Books PB

Following her Richard and Judy Bookclub selected debut can't have been easy but horror queen Littlewood blends murder and fairytales to great effect in this pocket sized little chiller.

So thats my Fantasy Round up and I will by posting up reviews asap. If you don't want to fork out on hardbacks all the books listed above are available on kindle and the next post will feature some purse friendly paperbacks.