Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Crack in Everything by Ruth Frances Long

I was very excited when I heard that Ruth was publishing a YA Fantasy title with O'Brien Press and not just one book but a trilogy. I loved Ruth's previous YA book The Treachery of Beautiful Things which was based on English folktale and myth and this book does not disappoint as it too blends myth and fantasy. This time it is the Sídhe who take centre stage and Angels are also a major force as the front cover hints (just a little). I have been reading this book on holidays and tweeted Ruth a picture of my daughter sneaking a peek on Dublin bus. I had the book in (and out of ) my bag as I travelled all over Dublin on my holidays which was cool as the book is set in Dublin and Dubh Linn the Sídhe city which overlaps and intertwines our own. Somehow Izzy finds herself on an ordinary summer afternoon in Dublin pushed into the Sídhe world and rescued by a silver studded and incredibly attractive Cu Sídhe called Jinx. When Izzy realises that she's been followed home by strange creeping shadows and that she has a strange mark on her neck she knows that something is not right so she turns to Jinx for answers. However instead of answers she ends up dragging her friends into the Sídhe world and all kinds of mythical creatures chasing after her. As the truth of what the mark on her neck means is revealed Izzy and Jinx find themselves in a race across Dublin and Dubh Linn and against time and although they should be mortal enemies it seems life and love have other plans. This is a smart, modern and entertaining read which will appeal to Fantasy fans young and old. Perfect for fans of Celine Kiernan, Katherine Farmar, Kate Thompson and Orla Melling. I can't wait for the next installment. Thanks to Geraldine at O'Brien for a review copy. This book is published on 1st September and will be launched at the Gutter Bookshop on 4th September.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You By Joanna Briscoe

Having first read Joanna Briscoe when I reviewed her most recent novel Touched I knew I had found a writer whose writing utterly enthralled me and I had to discover her back catalogue so I picked up this novel from 2011. The story is told by mother and daughter Dora and Cecilia in two periods; the 1970s when Cecilia was growing up the second child in Dora and her husband Patrick's chaotic bohemian household with damp walls, hippy lodgers, music, books and running wild on the moors, and now as Cecilia returns to the moors with her own family after years in London to look after her mother who is ill. This book drew me in from the first line "IT'S HAUNTED, she thought" this is Cecilia returning to her childhood home and finding that her past is here waiting for her. She has been estranged from her mother and she needs answers. Dora meanwhile is feeling vulnerable delighted that her daughter has returned and that she will have time with her grandchildren she is also keeping secrets and the guilt like her cancer is eating her up. Both women have had a devastating love affair that they have kept secret and they are more alike than they would care to admit. I said in my previous review that Joanna Briscoe "takes a scalpel to humanity and shows us the human heart in all its darkness and glory. " (July 3rd Review of Touched )
I second that now and this book is even better than Touched. If you haven't read her before get your hands on her work right now she is a writer of amazing talent. 

Last Kiss by Louise Phillips

Last Kiss is the third crime thriller from award winning Irish writer Louise Phillips. I met Louise last year when she came to talk to my book club about her first two books. I really enjoyed both of Louise's previous books but this third one is even better and proves that she is absolutely at the top of her game. Last Kiss like the previous novels is told from multiple view points including the killer which is unusual but doesn't in any way detract from the mystery and the desire to read on. Louise's stories are whydunnits not whodunnits because it is the psychological aspect that interests her and the main protaganist is psychologist Dr Kate Pearson. While this book is the third in a series and I recommend you read the rest of the series in order to understand Kate and the police officers that she interacts with, you could read this book without having read the previous two. In this novel Kate is coming to terms with the disintegration of her marriage, feeling guilty about spending time away from her son and of course getting far too involved with the case she is investigating. The book begins a chilling prologue of a young woman in labour and utterly alone in a forest in rural Ireland. The narrative does not hide the fact that the killer is a woman but we read on because her story is so compelling and heartbreaking. Cassie is a disturbed young woman who uses her sexuality to lure her victims to their death but why does she kill? Travelling from Dublin to Paris and Rome this is a page turning, gut wrenching thriller which will  undoubtedly earn Louise further accolades and hordes of new fans. This book will appeal to fans of Sophie Hannah, Arlene Hunt, Erin Kelly and Claire McGowan.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

This review originally appeared as a guest review on Shaz's Book Boudoir http://shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.ie/2014/08/guest-book-review-jessica-brockmole.html

Letters from Skye is the debut novel from Jessica Brockmole. She was inspired by a trip to Skye with her family while she was living in Edinburgh a couple of years ago. The story began as scribbled notes that she wrote just for herself. The story is told entirely through letters between the main characters which I loved and it takes place during both World Wars which I also loved. Beginning in 1912 a young student Davey Graham writes a letter to a poet he admires Elspeth Dunn and she replies and a warm and loving friendship begins. In 1940 the adventurous Margaret writes to her mother and her friend Paul a pilot in the Royal Air Force desperate to discover more about her mother's mysterious past and learn who her father could be. Alternating the two storylines means that the reader cannot resist reading on desperate for more and I found myself finishing this book in a day. An utterly enchanting read which will appeal to fans of quality historical fiction or if like me you just love anything set in Scotland. Thanks so much Sharon and the publishers for the chance to read this wonderful book.
I adored this book I felt it was similar in style and tone to Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase and it's one not to be missed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A little note on last week's launch

At the launch of Last Kiss, Louise held a competition for anyone who wanted to sign up on the night to have their name used as a character in Louise's next novel and I won. I have borrowed the photo above from Louise's Facebook page, I hope she doesn't mind. I am delighted to have won and maybe I'll get to be a baddie. I have finished reading Last Kiss and it's amazing will write a proper review soon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Launch of Last Kiss by Louise Philips

Last Night was the launch party for Louise Phillips' third novel, already an award winning crime author this book has been hugely anticipated and the turn out was enormous. Eason on the Green was packed and despite the intense heat Louise read the prologue aloud and it was chilling stuff. I cannot wait to read the book. Louise is a wonderful warm and modest person. I first met her when she visited my book club for an author evening at Bleach House Library http://bleachhouselibrary.blogspot.ie/2013/09/author-night-at-bleach-house-library.html

The launch was a huge success and featured gorgeous Last Kiss cupcakes

I also met lots of lovely authors and book peeps.
Here is (l-r) Clodagh Murphy, Carmel Harrington, Jennifer Burke, Hazel Gaynor and Caroline Finnerty.

and here is Margaret Madden, Maria Duffy, Bob Johnston and Arlene Hunt.

and finally looking splendid in red is Louise herself, signing my copy of the book.

The Secret of Kit Cavenaugh by Anne Holland

Published in hardback last October Anne Holland's  wonderful biography is a thrilling read and a testament to a remarkable Irish Woman. The book is written in an informal and novelistic style bringing us right into the action. It never feels overly academic and yet the research and attention to detail are meticulous. Anne Holland has done a wonderful job of bringing the story of Kit Cavenaugh to life. Born in 1667 Kit grew up in Leixlip, daughter of a farming family, her father also ran a successful Dublin brewery so although her parents may not have been high born they certainly built up respectability. Kit was given a good quality education though she generally preferred being out on the farm and horse riding. Kit was impetuous from childhood and managed to involve herself in a minor scuffle as a young woman when to rescue her mother she hit a local sergeant in the calf, she was called before the magistrate but she must have made a persuasive plea as the case was dismissed. Although he was a Protestant Kit's father fought for James at the Battle of the Boyne and although he survived that battle he was injured at the Battle of Aughrim and died soon after thus his property was seized by the Williamite government leaving Kit and her mother destitute. Not long after Kit was sent to live with an aunt in Dublin who ran a tavern. When her aunt died Kit inherited the tavern and married her servant Richard Welsh despite his being of a lower class than her. The couple had two children with a third on the way when Richard disappeared. Kit continued running the tavern and went into mourning assuming her husband was dead. It was over a year later that she received a letter from Richard and she discovered that he had been pressed into the army. Brave and impetuous as ever Kit determined to go to him. She had no desire to be a camp follower many of them ending up as whores, right from the beginning Kit was determined to be a soldier. Kit cut her hair, put on her husband's clothes and joined up. As soon as she and the other new recruits reached The Netherlands Kit began searching for her "brother" Richard Welsh. The soldiering life suited Kit and it was many years before she returned home. Anne Holland has written a lively, insightful and page turning biography of a unique woman and I urge anyone with an interest in history to read it.
Thanks so much to The Collins Press for a copy of this book for review.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

I have mentioned Hazel Gaynor quite a lot on my blog, so it's about time I reviewed her book, don't you think? Firstly a little history, I first heard of Hazel when I saw her interviewed on TV3 about her parenting blog. I also followed her writing posts on writing.ie and I was delighted when she announced that she had a book deal and her novel would be published in April this year. I was determined to go along to the launch and a few weeks before hand when I was in New York with my brother I saw The Girl Who Came Home on a table in Barnes & Noble so I couldn't resist it. I made it to the launch details HERE and I also interviewed Hazel HERE and finally I invited Hazel and her good friend Carmel Harrington to do a signing event at Waterstones Drogheda before spending the evening with Hazel at my blogging friend Margaret's house details HERE 

The Girl Who Came Home is a novel about the Titanic and that was enough to get me interested but it was even more enticing as it is based on some real people who traveled on the famous liner. The Addergoole Fourteen were a real group of friends, family and neighbours from County Mayo who were travelling to make a new life in America, all but three of them died. The story of this tragic group inspired Hazel's fictional account she has changed names and amalgamated some of the people to create composite characters. The writing is wonderful and I loved Hazel's portrayal of the life in steerage class and for the crew, as this the side of Titanic we don't usually see. The story also revolves around Grace Butler a journalism student forced to drop out of college, but when her great grandmother decides to finally tell her Titanic story Grace has the chance for the story that will help get her career back on track. I loved this book. It's a perfect book club read and I would recommend it to anyone with it an interest in Titanic or in the history of Irish emigration. Perfect if you are a fan of Katherine Webb, Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley and Kate Kerrigan. 

(I was delighted to learn that my sister in law and her Mum both recently read this book and loved it.)

The Lost Garden by Kate Kerrigan

The Lost Garden is the tale of Aileen Doherty who travels away from her beloved island of Ilaunmor for the first time to spend a summer in Scotland potato picking with her father and brothers. Onthe way she meets another migrant worker Jimmy Walsh who charms her with his quick wit and friendly way. In Scotland the pair quickly fall in love as they work together. However any dreams of happiness are cut short by a tragic accident and Aileen returns home feeling lost and lonely. Aileen begins to work on an overgrown garden on the island that had been part of the "Big House" and in bringing life to the plants and flowers she finds hope and redemption, but can she ever find love again?

I won't spoil the ending for you as this is a wonderful story that will have you enchanted from page one. Based on real events which you can read about in an author's note at the end. Kate Kerrigan also known as Morag Prunty is the author of a number of bestselling novels including New York Times Bestseller Ellis Island. I love historical fiction which takes a few historical facts and builds on them and this is beautifully done; a lovely portrait of a time, a place and a people. Perfect for fans of Hazel Gaynor, Lucinda Riley and Kate Morton. I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Interview with Nuala Ní Chonchuír

Unlike with the majority of the interviews I do I was able to meet Nuala and chat in person. Any errors of fact or otherwise are entirely mine. 

Who are the biggest influences on your writing? 

Edna O'Brien, Flannery O'Connor and Anne Enright, they all write about women's experiences in an honest and brave way and they are not afraid of the colloquial. 

Have you always wanted to write?
I wrote poetry as a child and came second in a national competition at the age of nine for a poem I wrote at school.  

Your five favourite novels?
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Silk by Alessandro Baricco, The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien and Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor

Favourite Book/Author as a teenager?
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, The Classics; Somerset Maugham, DH Lawrence, 

Your writing advice to new writers?
Read alot, write alot, don't worry about what others are doing, take your time, find your own voice, remember to take time out for yourself and your family. Walk, think and just do it, don't put it off. Forget about money.  You'll learn more by finishing one story than by starting ten. 

Any strange writing rituals?
No rituals but as I get older I need more quiet. 

Do you think all Irish writers are haunted by our past or is that beginning to change?
Yes there is a generational difference I think writers over forty are still dealing with issues of guilt, the church, rebellion but the younger writers now focus on different things; emmigration, drugs, urban life. 

Can creative writing be taught? Is there any need for Creative Writing MAs?
An MA will give you discipline and good teachers who will guide your writing and help you make connections and I think that's very important for example meeting agents and publishers, that's harder to do if you are outside those circles. However I  think more experimental writers eschew the MA route. 

Do you think the future is bright for Irish publishing?
I think there are a number of dedicated, small literary publishers who will publish the best work they find but there is very little money in it.

What next? Tell me about the next book about Emily Dickinson's maid and the new book deal (if you can?)
I read about Emily Dickinson and have been interested in her for a long time. I knew that she loved to bake and that she had an Irish maid and there was a gap in the records that are available and I created a fictional Irish maid and fitted her in there. It will be published by Penguin USA in 2015. 

What is the one essential writing guide you would recommend?
Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King 

Thanks Nuala for being such a charming and interesting interviewee. Nuala's newest book is The Closet of Savage Mementoes which I reviewed earlier this year. 

Here is my Review originally published on June 1st this year.

I love to read new Irish fiction especially from women writers. I had been aware of Nuala for a while, had read interviews with her but hadn't read any of her work so I was intrigued when I learned this novel (her second) was on the way. The premise sounded very interesting a young Dublin woman Lillis escapes her grief at the death of her boyfriend and the difficult relationship with her alcoholic mother by taking a job as a waitress in the Scottish highlands. She falls for her much older boss and feels that her future is secure until a terrible betrayal brings her to crisis and she has to make a momentous decision. I was intrigued too to learn that this story was based on Nuala's personal experiences. To say that I loved this book would be a huge understatement. I felt the characters breathe out of the page, the writing is stark, sensual and intense, Nuala is a force to be reckoned with, her writing is poetic, sharp, spare and utterly beautiful. The character of Lillis is a brave and raw portrait of womanhood in all its states; daughter, wife, mother and lover and the portrait of her relationship with her mother Verity is a study in claustrophobia. In just under 200 pages I discovered a story and a group of characters so real and haunting I would not be surprised to meet them in the street. This book is so good I wish I had written it myself. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Interview with YA author Caroline Healy

Caroline Healy is an award winning writer of literary and Young Adult Fiction her new book Blood Entwines is published by Bloomsbury as part of the Spark Imprint this August. Blood Entwines is the story of Kara Bailey who receives a blood transfusion after an accident and finds that her senses are heightened and she has a new found strength. At school she is drawn to a dark stranger and it seems that they are connected through the blood they share. You can find out more about Caroline at her website Caroline Healy. Caroline kindly consented to answer some questions about her reading and writing life.

1. Your favourite childhood books/authors and why?

I don't have a favourite children's book but I do have fond memories of my mum reading stories to me at bedtime and it was magical. I was an avid reader and used the local library religiously. Over summer holidays I would max out my card. I read everything in the children's section and I remember the first book I borrowed from the teen section. I borrowed a copy of Little Women,devouring stories Jo and all her sisters. It was my first reading experience of bigger issues, characters with flaws, put into real life situations...contemporary y.a. Fiction (well kinda contemporary). From this point onwards I was hooked! 
2. What did you read as a teenager how influential were your teachers/parents/authors you read?

My mum read to me every night as a child. She drove me to the library and waited patiently as I pored over every book. She was very supportive. When I went to secondary school my English teacher introduced me to Tolkien and The Hobbit. She also put the classics on the syllabus.  It was here that my love of English literature took root. I read everything as a teenager and when I went to University College Cork I studied English, linguistics, American literature, screenwriting, women's fiction, science fiction, I studied and read whatever I could get my hands on. It was fantastic. 

3. Have you always wanted to write? 

No. I always wanted to read. I wanted to read every story, explore every world on the pages of books. I've always dabbled in writing. I've kept a journal since I was young, I started a few projects on summer holidays from school but nothing ever got finished. Then I started to work in the arts, dance projects, creative collaborations with different disciplines, visual arts, music, photography and this sparked my own artistic practice. I got an idea one day and almost as a personal challenge I wanted to see if I could do it. The first draft of Blood Entwines came about but it was a disaster. So I went back to college to get a proper grounding, to learn about writing and the craft itself. 

4. When did you decide to sit down and take writing seriously?

 After I finished the first draft of Blood Entwines, I realised I had a full draft -  that I had written a complete book...I mean it was a disaster, so full of plot holes and inaccuracies. I had no idea what to do next but I knew that i wanted to keep going. I knew that I had finally found something that I loved doing. I've have had a number of jobs and never felt at home...this, to me, was like coming home. 

5. What did you study at University and what new influences did you discover?

I studied English literature and archaeology at university. I read Dion Bouccicoult and Isaac Asimov, Beowulf and Virginia Woolfe, Joyce, Irvine Walsh, Edna OBrien, Frederick Douglas and Walt Whitman ...It was like a literary awakening, a full blown assault on my senses, and it was great. 

6. How much is your writing informed by your own teenage years?

 Not much really. I work with teenagers in my job so I think that my writing is influenced most by that. I remember the strength of emotions from my teenage years so sometimes for my writing I draw on these. I read a lot of y.a. books now so I think I mix my imagination, my reading, my memories and my first hand experience working with young people to influence my work.

7. What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer now?

Don't give up. Join a writing group. Read read read! 
8. What are the last three great books you read? 

Eleanor and Park, Wonder, Game of Thrones. 

9. If you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would you choose? 

That is a really difficult question...I think it would be Austen. She is so great at character and commentary. She is witty and smart and a feminist, even though she wrote in the 19th century. 

10. What are you working on now?

I've just finished the next book in the series and I'm in the planning stage of a new contemporary Y.A. book which I am very excited about. 

11. Do you have a typical writing day? and any habits or quirks (such as a special pen or a room of your own?)

I write in some big bursts...I plan and sketch out, think about my characters then when I feel the I feel the pressure of the book, like I can't think of it anymore I physically have to write it out...I begin...I sit every day for a couple of hours a day and I will write, every day, till the first draft is finished. Then I can't look at the project for a week or so. When I recover from the marathon of writing I get into the editing zone and edit and edit and edit till its done. Then I don't write anything for a few months. But I read all the time. If I'm writing contemporary or children's or adults I will not read that genre while I write I case the voice or style of the book leaks over into mine. So if I'm writing  Y.A.  contemporary I will read classics or high fantasy or crime thriller. Helps keep the two things separate.

12. Do you plan very carefully or just fly by the seat of your pants?

Depends on the project. I rough plan content for chapters, major points in the story then I go from there. It's exciting to see what your characters will do.

Rebecca Newton and The Sacred Flame by Mario Routi

Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame is a high fantasy, high octane adventure for Young Adults which will apppeal to those who have read and loved the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan and the Starcrossed books by Josephine Angelini as Mario's book is also set in the world of Greek Myth. The story features gods and monsters, immortal beings and mythical creatures and a battle between the forces of good and evil. The world building in this novel is vast in scope and takes a while to establish. The action mostly takes place in the Land of the White Sun which was built by the ancient Gods who live in the Elysian Fields and who also built Tartarus where demons and Titans dwell. Rebecca has grown up on earth unaware that she is an Orizon, a child of the Land of the White Sun but it is clear that she is an exceptional young woman from our first introduction to her; as she communicates fearlessly with a hungry lion. Rebecca journeys to the land of her ancestors and trains in fighting with a variety of weapons. She soon proves herself to be an adept and skilled soldier, a born leader and a thoughtful and mature young woman in fact her teachers believe her to be the most highly skilled Orizon soldier in many years. She attracts the attention of the leader of the kingdom of Beast King Turgoth and Rebecca discovers good and evil are harder to define that she thought. 

Although this book is aimed at a young adult audience it is written in high fantasy style which can at times veer off from the action towards more traditional storytelling becoming somewhat verbose. Too often it feels that the pace and action are sacrificed on the altar of detail and description. The character development also suffers as the narrative jumps from head to head presenting a variety of back stories and introspection rather than dialogue as would be more common in most YA novels. This won't bother fans of the high fantasy genre but may be off putting for some younger readers. The book has an interesting premise and a well constructed plot and a slow burning love story that builds from a slightly implausible beginning and makes the reader want to read on despite some of the minor irritations in the writing style. This book is winning praise from a variety of quarters and is bound to have broad appeal. You can learn more about the author at his website Mario Routi 

This book is published by Oak Tree Press http://www.oaktreepress.co.uk/ and I was sent a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame is available in paperback and e-book now. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Apologies, Updates and Literary Rendevouzes

So Sorry not to have blogged in so long. I have really missed blogging, twittering and connecting with other bloggers. I am way behind on everything and  I feel like I have missed so much. I have been working like mad this month, at my book selling job rather than my writing and blogging which is good for the pocket but not quite so good for the soul. Also my own writing has taken a back seat which makes me jittery and puts me in a bad mood.

Nevertheless this July I have had the opportunity to attend some great literary events, some I organised myself, some organised by a great friend and fellow blogger Margaret Madden of Bleach House Library. Margaret invited three authors to visit her wonderful library to talk about their books, their writing and to meet her book loving friends including me. This month we had a wonderful dinner with Lyn Marie Hulsman find out more about her HERE. Lyn Marie is a wonderful lady, an author of cookbooks and romantic comedies who told wonderful stories about her writing adventures and her life in New York, Lyn Marie has worked as an actor and a stand up comedian in her previous lives and if you don't follow her on twitter or facebook you are missing out, find her @LynnMarieSays. Lynn Marie's first novel Thornton Hall is now available in paperback and e-book and her second novel out soon is set in Ireland and is called Summer at Castle Stone. Both are published by Harper Impulse. Lynn Marie also ghosted a gorgeous cook book The Irish Pantry published by Running Press available in hardback and e-book.

The next author we met at Margaret's home Bleach House was Nuala Ní Conchúir author of The Closet of Savage Mementoes one of my favourite books so far this year. Here's a link to my review of the book. Nuala is a wonderful writer and our discussion was in depth, detailed and even heartbreaking as we discussed love, loss and motherhood as well as writing and very exciting plans for Nuala's next book which is the story of Emily Dickinson's Irish maid. The new book will be published in 2015 and sees Nuala move to Penguin USA which has necessitated a name change to Nuala O'Connor easier for American and Canadian tongues to get around. I am very excited to read the new book not only because of the subject matter but because I adore Nuala's writing. I interviewed Nuala in person and I will post up my interview asap. Follow Nuala on twitter @NualaNiC.

Finally last weekend Margaret had Hazel Gaynor to stay who is the author of the wonderful The Girl who came Home. I interviewed Hazel earlier this year, Link to the interview HERE
This was a wild and slightly drunken night but we had great fun chatting to Hazel about the writing process, Titanic, future projects and how she met her husband. Margaret also invited Nicola Pierce author of City of Fate and Spirit of the Titanic and it was great to have two wonderful historical fiction authors together especially two Titanic experts. I loved Hazel's book and will review it very soon. Follow Hazel on Twitter @HazelGaynor and Nicola @NicolaPierce3.

Just before she traveled out to Margaret's house Hazel attended a signing event at Waterstones Drogheda, along with Camel Harrington (I reviewed Carmel's first book HERE) Carmel has a lovely new book out called The Life you Left which of course I bought and we had a lovely event with both authors chatting with customers, signing and selling a healthy amount of books too. Here are Carmel and Hazel with Margaret and our friend Meabh. Follow Carmel @happymrsh

I am afraid to say how far behind I am on reviews but I should have plenty for you all very soon, including The Girl Who Came Home, The Life You Left, The Lost Garden by Kate Kerrigan and the wonderful Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell as well as news, reviews and interviews on some fantastic YA Fantasy coming your way this Summer/Autumn.

Finally I have been nominated and longlisted for the Blog Awards Ireland 2014, so thanks to anyone who voted for me and I am delighted to be included. I'll try to put up a link asap so that anyone who wants to can vote for me for the shortlist.