Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


I read this for my book club and it was not the kind of book I would usually choose myself. However I really enjoyed it. I have a habit of judging books by their covers and this one really does not appeal. The significance of the lobster becomes clear early on in the story but it is not a major part of the plot so I'm curious as to why it was chosen. Anyway the basic premise is that Don Tillman; a geneticist at a top Australian University would like to find someone to share his life with. Don likes order and calm and rational thinking so he decides that a scientifically calculated questionnaire will help to narrow the search for the perfect woman. Don enlists the help of his (only) two friends womaniser Gene and his long suffering wife Claudia. One day Gene sends a striking young woman to Don's office, Don asks her out to dinner and Rosie accepts. Despite a few mishaps they have an enjoyable time and it turns out that Rosie needs Don's help to find her biological father. Despite the fact that Rosie is a complete mismatch according to his questionnaire Don starts to spend an increasing amount of time with Rosie reorganising even at times abandoning his previously rigorous schedule. This is a wonderful story about people, their quirks, realtionships, family, friendship and the search for love. A wonderful warm emotional read. Don is a fun character and Graeme Simsion's writing is incredibly well pitched. 

Published by Penguin The Rosie Project is out in paperback now and is part of the Waterstones Book Club.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mansfield Park Book Club Discussion

My Book Club were filmed for Irish Breakfast TV show Ireland AM for their Book Club Slot. the link below will take you to the video. Not sure if it will work outside of Ireland.

http://www.tv3.ie/3player/show/184/80007/1/Ireland-AM

Here is a reminder of my review of Mansfield Park



Mansfield Park was published 200 years ago this week. It was the book Jane Austen published immediately following her success with Pride & Prejudice and it tells the story of Fanny Price a poor relation of the Bertram's of Mansfield who is brought to live with the family when she is ten years old.
Fanny is a character that a twenty-first century audience will find hard to understand. She keeps her mouth shut even when she disagrees with what others are doing and she remains resolutely good even when the bad behaviour of the other characters leads to her getting hurt. She is the moral compass at the centre of a group of characters of questionable morals. In a way Austen is at her most bleakly comic with this novel as she paints the upper class, as condescending, flighty, arrogant and lazy. Fanny is a lot like Jane herself taking it all in observing not really getting involved possibly because Jane like Fanny held a precarious poistion in society, having to be supported by male relatives. Fanny is never treated as an equal at Mansfield Park she is a niece that was taken in to relieve the burden of her upbringing from her parents who had nine children and were very poor. Fanny is told right from the start that she is inferior and immediately her aunts and cousins treat her as such. Only her cousin Edmund is kind to her but no matter how much he speaks up for her, Fanny will never speak badly about her relatives - she wants to be thought of as a quiet, grateful and no trouble at all.
The Crawfords when they arrive cause a ripple in the carefully subdued society of  Mansfield, Fanny is the only one who seems to be unaffected by them. I first read this book at nineteen and I identified with Fanny trying to find her way in society. Twenty years later I find it harder to sympatise with her - she is too quiet, too weak-willed too willing to please. She doesn't have the spark or the wit that other Austen heroines have. The bad girls get all the good lines in this book and so for me it doesn't appeal as much as Pride & Prejudice or Perausion which is much more mature and belanced work. The book was made in to a movie in 1999 which was arguably the best adaptation of the novel so far though it differs in that there is greater detail about the slave trade which supported grand estates like Mansfield and the dissolute lifestyle that wealthy man and women lived in the regency period.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Irish Kids Publishing, A Golden Age




It seems that Children's Publishing in Ireland is going through a golden age and long may it last. The announcement of a new Laureate Na Nóg; Eoin Colfer and Marie Louise Fitzpatrick winning the CBI award have both brought Irish books for children into the limelight. However there is so much more going on in the world of publishing for children at the moment, especially for older children and teens and it seems O'Brien Press are in the vanguard. O'Brien publish Erika McGann who has recently won a UK books award for The Demon Notebook which was also chosen for a nationwide UK schools reading programme. They also publish Sheila Agnew's debut Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan the first of a series which is getting fantastic reviews and great coverage in the media. Another outstanding O'Brien author is Nicola Pierce whose latest book City Of Fate was recently picked as a Lovereading book of the month. O'Brien have also branched into the YA market with the incredibly successful Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac a 'Bhaird pitched in today's Irish Independent as a a teen "Gone Girl" and the award winning Rebecca series by Anna Carey. Later in the year O'Brien will be releasing a fantastic YA Fantasy series based in Dublin from Ruth Long and bound to appeal to fans of former CBI winner Celine Kiernan. 
Not to be left behind Poolbeg have brought out some fantastic non fiction titles the In a Nutshell series of Irish myths and legends. These will soon by followed by a new historical title from Claire Hennesey called Seeds of Liberty. Little Island champion some fantastic fiction in translation as well as home grown talent like Sheena Wilkinson and the amazing YA author Deirdre Sullivan. Mercier meanwhile have been quietly publishing the brilliantly written Arthur Quinn series by Alan Early which are perfect for fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and deserve more attention. 
I am only mentioning a fraction of what is out there and I think the efforts of all the writers and publishers working in children's books is enormous. Thanks to you all for producing such brilliant books.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen


Mansfield Park was published 200 years ago this week. It was the book Jane Austen published immediately following her success with Pride & Prejudice and it tells the story of Fanny Price a poor relation of the Bertram's of Mansfield who is brought to live with the family when she is ten years old.
Fanny is a character that a twenty-first century audience will find hard to understand. She keeps her mouth shut even when she disagrees with what others are doing and she remains resolutely good even when the bad behaviour of the other characters leads to her getting hurt. She is the moral compass at the centre of a group of characters of questionable morals. In a way Austen is at her most bleakly comic with this novel as she paints the upper class, as condescending, flighty, arrogant and lazy. Fanny is a lot like Jane herself taking it all in observing not really getting involved possibly because Jane like Fanny held a precarious poistion in society, having to be supported by male relatives. Fanny is never treated as an equal at Mansfield Park she is a niece that was taken in to relieve the burden of her upbringing from her parents who had nine children and were very poor. Fanny is told right from the start that she is inferior and immediately her aunts and cousins treat her as such. Only her cousin Edmund is kind to her but no matter how much he speaks up for her, Fanny will never speak badly about her relatives - she wants to be thought of as a quiet, grateful and no trouble at all.
The Crawfords when they arrive cause a ripple in the carefully subdued society of  Mansfield, Fanny is the only one who seems to be unaffected by them. I first read this book at nineteen and I identified with Fanny trying to find her way in society. Twenty years later I find it harder to sympatise with her - she is too quiet, too weak-willed too willing to please. She doesn't have the spark or the wit that other Austen heroines have. The bad girls get all the good lines in this book and so for me it doesn't appeal as much as Pride & Prejudice or Perausion which is much more mature and belanced work. The book was made in to a movie in 1999 which was arguably the best adaptation of the novel so far though it differs in that there is greater detail about the slave trade which supported grand estates like Mansfield and the dissolute lifestyle that wealthy man and women lived in the regency period.

My book club were invited to speak about Mansfield Park for the Bord Gais Energy Book Club on TV3(Ireland) and we were filmed today I will include a link to the discussion when it is available online.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hazel Gaynor Writing Process Interview





Q1  What are you currently working on?

With my debut novel, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, recently released, I'm currently busy with promotion, which is a really fun side of the writing process, and one I've never really experienced before. I've done lots of radio interviews with stations in the U.S. and Ireland and have been busy answering lots of great interview questions for book bloggers and the press. So much of the job of writing is spent in isolation so it's been really great to connect with readers and reviewers and come out from behind the laptop for a while! Other than that, I'm expecting final edits back any day for my second novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE FLOWERS, which will be published in early 2015. I'm also deep in the first draft of my third novel and tinkering with an idea for a screenplay.

Q2 What is about your work and your writing process that is different from other writers?

I suspect I'm very similar to most other writers in that I struggle and I suffer from self doubt and I procrastinate and I wonder how on earth I'm ever going to write another book! I consider myself to be on a wonderful learning curve and I expect (hope) to get better with each novel I write. Every book is an opportunity to stretch yourself that bit further and to learn from the experience of each novel. I'm a long way from where I want to be as a writer, and I know that I have lots more words and novels to write in order to get there, but I am relishing the process and the experience and am excited to see where my writing might go in the future. I'm probably way more disorganised than other writers. Thankfully, nobody can see my desk!

Q3 Why do you write what you do? (and why do you write?)

I write because I simply cannot not write (if that makes sense!) Even when I was at my lowest point, without an agent and with two novels that had failed to secure a publishing deal, I found myself back at the laptop or scribbling ideas in my notebook. It was the only way to lift myself out of my dreadful writing funk. I think if writing is in you there's not much you can do about it but let yourself write. I write historical fiction because I'm fascinated by the past. There are so many untold, intriguing stories of people, events and places and I really find it a wonderful basis to explore for a novel. I write fiction, rather than non-fiction, because I love the creativity. It's the possibilities and the imagined insight into what someone might have felt, thought or said in those historical settings that really interests me. I am excited by the lives of the people whose stories I want to tell in my own words - it is that which gets me out of bed at 6am.

Q4 What is the writing process like for you, what is a typical day?

There isn't really much that is 'typical' about my day. At the moment, I work during school hours (8.30am to around 1pm) and the afternoons are mainly about family and playdates and after school activities, but I can sometimes get a little work done, too. With my publisher and agent being based in New York I also find that I work at the end of the day, when the boys are in bed. It's a little chaotic and ideally it would all be far more organised, but that's not how my life is at the moment. It rarely is when young children are involved! I feel incredibly lucky to be doing a job I adore which gives me time with the children, so I have to be flexible and juggle to allow that to happen. Of course I have visions of the perfect writing space with no interruptions and a sweeping landscape to inspire me and weeks of uninterrupted creative time, but for now the attic, a sleepy cat and a messy desk is just perfect, because that's my normal.

Finally any advice that you would offer to aspiring authors?

Write what you want to write and what you are really passionate about. Don't try to force yourself to write a novel about something if that something doesn't excite you. It may have turned into a bestseller for one author, but that doesn't mean it will do the same for you. I wrote The Girl Who Came Home in 2011 and I am as excited and enthusiastic about the subject matter now as I was when I first wrote my research notes three years ago. I hope to be talking about the book and Titanic for many more years. Write the book you would want to read - and don't give up. Ever. You never know what's ahead.

Thank you so much Hazel for taking time out of your busy schedule to pop by. I had the pleasure of meeting Hazel at the launch for The Girl Who Came home and here is the girl herself (the book that is) with the rest of my haul from the bookshops of NYC

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood


This is a book I have been wanting to read for a while now, it intrigued me, not because I'm a big fan of Hemingway (although I did go out and buy A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast after reading it) but because of the interesting times that he had and his four wives lived through; Paris in the 1920s, Spain during the Civil War in the 1930s and of course the dangers of Europe throughout the Second World War. I haven't read Naomi's work before this and I have to say her writing style is warm, witty and easy to read. For me this was an absolute page turner while also being a thorough character analysis of the four women and the ups and downs of their relationships with each other and with the charismatic Ernest, around whom the novel revolves. Although Ernest is not given a voice his character comes across very strongly as we see him through the eyes of the women who by turns love him, hate him, pity him and are finally abandoned by him. I really enjoyed this novel and anyone with an interest in Hemingway or the fascinating circles he moved in will find something to like here. It would also be of huge interest to anyone who like me is intrigued by the changes in women's lives throughout the first half of the century. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan by Sheila Agnew


I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this lovely debut from Sheila Agnew before publication in March but as I knew I was going to Manhattan myself in April I decided Evie had to come with me. Here she is sitting on my hotel window sill you can just about make out the flag of the United States on The Central Park Hotel across the street. I actually started and finished this book on the plane over. It was that addictive. To be honest the cover misled me a little I was expecting a light hearted tale of shopping, sightseeing and celebrity. However I was pleasantly surprised. Evie travels to New York rather reluctantly as her mum has just died and she has to go and stay with her uncle Scott a vet, although they both agree that she can call him just Scott without the uncle. Apartment living is a strange experience for Evie, as is having a cleaning lady and meeting all kinds of strange and unusual pets and their even stranger owners at Scott's vet practice. In fact Evie feels she could quite enjoy Manhattan she even makes some friends the only real problem is Leela, Scott's girlfriend. When Evie discovers that Leela has been scheming behind Scott's back Evie decides it's time to do some scheming of her own. This is a fast paced adventure featuring some darker themes without ever becoming bleak. Perfect for the 9 plus age group. Fans of Sarah Webb's Amy Green series will wolf this down.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Well Done Erika


Great news today for author Erika McGann she has won this year's Waverton Good Read Children's Award for her book The Demon Notebook published by O'Brien Press. The book has also been selected for Booktrust's "Read for My school Campaign" which means that children all over the UK will be reading it. 
You can read my review of The Demon Notebook here http://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.ie/2012/11/the-demon-notebook.html Erika's second book featuring the adventurous would-be witches Grace, Jenny, Rachel, Adie and Una is called The Broken Spell it was reviewed by Mara over at InkandPaperHearts check out her review here http://inkandpaperhearts.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/the-broken-spell-by-erika-mcgann/ 
The Third book in the series The Watching Wood will be published in September with all three books set for a US release to follow. Well Done Erika.


Friday, May 2, 2014

A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke


This is a Guest post from Margaret Madden of Bleach House  Library which originally appeared on her own blog. http://bleachhouselibrary.blogspot.ie/2014/05/single-breath-by-lucy-clarke.html

One of my first ever reviews was for Lucy Clarke's debut novel, The Sea Sisters.  I adored that book and bought numerous copies for family and friends.  It was one of my top reads of 2013 and I genuinely could not wait for her second novel.  When this popped up in a prize pack from The W6 Book Cafe, I snuck it to the top of my reading pile and retired to my bedroom with an air of "Do Not Disturb" about me!

Eva has lost her husband to a tragic drowning accident in England and feels a trip to his homeland, on a remote Tasmanian island, will help her come to terms with her loss and perhaps gain some insight into his past.  She has never met his family and wants to know more about his life on the other side of the world.  Unfortunately, things do not always turn out the way you expected, and Eva's whole experience of married life, and the depth of her feeling for her husband comes under question. How well did she really know Jackson?  How much does she want to know now that he is gone? 

Lucy Clarke has written another novel full of intrigue and mystery.  The descriptive passages are, yet again, to the forefront of the book as she has such an affinity with the ocean and the wild and wonderful way it can effect people.   Each chapter is lovingly peppered with locations I can only dream of and she draws the reader into this world of unspoilt beaches, sun kissed skin and amazing sea creatures.  I'm not a swimmer or a huge lover of the sea (despite growing up in a seaside village in Ireland) but yet I could almost feel the experience of free diving and snorkling, catching fish for dinner and shaking sand from my hair.  
The story of Eva and Jackson is a clever one, with a few twists and turns along the way and the character, Saul, sounds like every woman's idea of heaven.....Rugged, handsome and good with his hands!!

Lucy is a very talented writer who spreads her love of travel to her readers with gentle ease, with more emphasis of the descriptions than the narrative.  I am curious to see if her next book will also contain epic travel based stories, or will she shake it up and stay closer to home.  Either way, I will definitely be buying her next novel.  I am a big fan.......


Lucy Clarke can be contacted vis Twitter @LucyClarkeBooks and is also on Facebook/LucyClarkeAuthor

A Single Breath is published by Harper and is available in paperback and ebook format

Launch of The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor



I attended a fantastic book launch for a lovely writer of Historical Fiction last night. Author Hazel Gaynor was launching her novel The Girl Who Came Home at Dubray Books on Grafton Street which is a wonderful bookshop in the heart of the capital. I had picked up Hazel's book at Barnes & Noble in New York last month and she was kind enough to sign it and pose for this picture; taken by book blogging buddy Margaret Madden of Bleach House Library. Doesn't Hazel look amazing? She's the one in the gorgeous dress by the way.
Kate Kerrigan author of Ellis Island (review to come soon) and Vanessa O'Loughlin of Inkwell and Writing.ie did the introductions for the launch and Hazel read an extract from the book before thanking her friends and family in verse. The book is based on a real group of people who left Mayo in 1912 looking for a better life in America, however all but three of them died on Titanic. Find out more about Hazel and the book  at her website http://www.hazelgaynor.com/ Review to come.