Showing posts from April, 2015

The House Where It Happened by Martina Devlin

This book has become one of my all time favourites because it's fantastically well written and a wonderful page turner but it also includes many of my favourite elements; witches, mystery, ghosts, history it's all here. It's set in 1711 and based on the real events surrounding Ireland's only mass witch trial. Just as the belief in witchcraft is beginning to fade, in a quiet corner of Ulster where superstitions and fear took root easily a young woman, a newcomer but a member of a respected local family begins to accuse one woman after another of torturing her through the power of witchcraft.
The author has fictionalised the events though the narrative remains essentially true to the actual accounts of the incident. The story is narrated by Ellen the 18 year old maid at Knowehead House where Mary Dunbar was a guest when she began to make her claims of being attacked by witches. As the community begins to fall under Mary's spell, Ellen is not entirely convinced howev…

I am in Blood by Joe Murphy

I am in Blood is the third novel from Wexford born author Joe Murphy. This outing sees the author combine the psychological suspense of Dead Dogs and the historical fiction of 1798 Tomorrow the Barrow We'll Cross. I am in Blood proposes the fictional possibility that after his Whitechapel murders Jack the Ripper came to Dublin. The story is told through three narrative voices; Nathan Jacob a present day teenager coming to terms with his father's death, Sgt George Frohmell a member of the 1890s Dublin Metropolitan Police force and the killer himself.
The book opens with the brutal killing of Mary Shortt in Victorian Dublin's notorious red light district The Monto and as Frohmell investigates he starts to see similarities to the Whitechapel slayings. The narrative device is incredibly clever as we see Nathan map out and follow in the footsteps of George who is also attempting to map out and track the killer.
The book is an utterly compelling read and I simply couldn't p…

Orkney Twilight by Clare Carson

Part spy thriller, part detective novel, part family drama and part coming of age story ‘Orkney Twilight’ is a beautifully written evocative novel set in London and Scotland in the early 1980s. It features undercover policeman Jim who is struggling with alcohol addiction and a failed marriage and his bright and rebellious daughter Sam who is about to go away to Oxford. Together they and Sam’s friend trainee journalist Tom travel to Orkney at midsummer and while Sam and Tom attempt to find out what Jim is up to Sam becomes convinced that she is being followed. Sam soon becomes mixed up in a dark and shadowy world and tragedy is only ever a wrong turn away. Full of references to Norse mythology and the gorgeous twilight of an Orkney summer, perfect for fans of Erin Kelly, Ann Cleves and Peter May.

This review originally appeared at

Prayer for the Dead by James Oswald

Prayer for the Dead is the fifth book in James Oswald's Inspector McLean series featuring the troubled detective who sees things most other detectives don't. This book sees Tony teaming up with an unlikely ally, a journalist who has been a thorn in his side in the past. However another journalist has gone missing and is soon discovered dead, murdered in a bizarre ritual. With no forensic evidence to go on Tony must use his hunches and insights to discover the killer but as the body count mounts and no suspect is revealed Tony must visit the ghosts of the past before the killer comes far too close to home. I love this series they are far from your average police procedural as the paranormal and the spiritual are a subtle but important part of the story and the characters are a wonderful cast, well worth revisiting. 

Granuaile Queen of Storms by Dave Hendrick and Luca Pizzari

This brilliant new graphic novel just blew me away. The O'Brien Press have published a steady stream of fab new graphic novels featuring episodes and characters from Irish history and mythology and the quality of the storytelling and artwork is top notch. The story of Granuaile Ireland's Pirate Queen will be familiar to many school children and readers of Irish history and this wonderful book brings that story gloriously alive in good old fashioned comic book style. It's savage, bloody and feisty just like Gráinne herself and I have no doubt that kids and grown ups will enjoy it equally. A wonderful addition to any collector's shelf.

Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

This is the first in a thrilling new series from a superbly talented new author and is my other top teen debut of the year. A modern day Romeo and Juliet set amongst the feuding criminal gangs of Chicago. this is a tale of love, power, death and revenge. The story would make an amazing movie with breathtaking action, characters that leap off the page and a love story that will just about break your heart. I cannot wait for the next book.
Sophie thinks the summer is going to be long, hot and deathly dull especially as she and her Mum are coping with her Dad being in prison and having a lot less money as well as being social pariahs, but then not one but five hot boys move into the old abandoned mansion next door. Then Sophie meets Nic Falcone and sparks fly and by the time they learn the truth about each other's family it's too late. Aah just go and buy it okay.

Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

This is the fifth book in the series featuring Ruth Galloway; a forensic archaeologist based in Norfolk who teaches at the fictional University of North Norfolk and occasionally assists DCI Harry Nelson with criminal investigations. I read the first four in the series quite close together and then had a break of almost two years before starting this one so I am fairly confident that it could be read as a stand alone but I do urge anyone who hasn't yet done so to read the entire series because it is without a doubt one the best crime series out there. While some authors start to get repetitive after a couple of books this series remains fresh and innovative and in many ways this book sees the author really hitting her stride in terms of character development making this my favourite in the series so far. The action opens with Ruth receiving the news that an old University friend has died in a house fire, although she hasn't seen Dan in nearly twenty years Ruth is devastated bu…

Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow

This book is one of the teen debuts of the year so far a thrill ride of a novel combining contemporary, dystopia and magic. The characters are brilliantly drawn the story is excellent and the writing fast paced and gritty. Set in the near future, the south west has cut itself off from the rest of England and renamed itself The Greenworld this is a self sufficient community run by powerful female witches. Danny is a typical sixteen year old boy in that his biggest worries are avoiding work and trying to get girls to sleep with him, his Mum is head witch in his village and he is feeling bored and longs for adventure, when the chance to travel through dangerous moorland roamed by outlaws comes, Danny jumps at it and heads off to the next village. Here he meets a gorgeous young witch called Saba, draws the attention of an outlaw set on destroying the witches way of life and discovers powers of his own. This book is among the brilliant new wave of fantastic UKYA being published at the mom…

A Cage of Roots by Matt Griffin

An intriguing debut for the 9 to 12 (Middle Grade) age group with some fabulous illustrations from the author. Ayla has grown up in a New York orphanage with no knowledge of her background. She is rescued and brought back to Ireland by her three very large and burly uncles. In Ireland she settles down into a new life and makes good friends with Finny, Sean and Benvy but before she has gotten used to this new way of life she is kidnapped and imprisoned underground by strange otherworldly beings. It's up to her uncles and her friends to rescue Ayla who it turns out has been born for a very special purpose. A jam packed adventure featuring time travel and Irish mythology this is perfect for fans of Alan Early.

The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn

The May Bride is Suzannah Dunn's fifth historical novel and fans of Philippa Gregory and Victoria Lamb will delight in her depiction of Tudor life. Dunn departs from the habits of most historical novelists by using comtemporary language and dialogue, it takes a little getting used to but does lend the story immediacy. There are many novels about the Tudors; it is almost an industry in itself, but Dunn has managed to hit upon a subject matter in The May Bride which has quite literally become a mere footnote in history. The novel deals with the scandal at Wolf Hall that rocked the Seymour family while Jane was still a teenager. Jane narrates the story and this gives us great insight into her character. History has relegated Jane to the role of a mousey, obliging, dull little woman who gave Henry VIII his only surviving male heir and died before he got bored of her. This book shines a light on Jane's girlhood and Dunn certainly does give us a portrait of the straight laced and o…

Resonance by Celine Kiernan

Celine Kiernan is a writer I simply cannot recommend enough, I love her writing so much that I am struggling to write this review but here goes. Firstly this book combines gothic, historical, fantasy and horror in a way that is completely unique. Secondly the two settings; a gothic mansion in the Irish countryside and the narrow streets of inner city 1890s Dublin are brilliantly realised, Kiernan's use of dialogue and wonderful , rich, descriptive prose are a real treat. Thirdly Kiernan really knows how to create amazing, unique and interesting characters.

If that wasn't enough to get you racing off to the shops to buy this book perhaps the plot will hook you. The story focuses on two groups of friends; Tina a seamstress in a Dublin theatre, who works for the aging diva Ursula Lyndon, her suitor Joe who works several jobs trying to raise money for a future with Tina and Harry a young American magician who has arrived in Dublin looking for work (Actually a young Harry Houdini)…

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

This review originally appeared in HNR Issue 71 Feb 2015 you can view it online here
Crooked Heartis the first adult novel from Lissa Evans since the Orange Prize-shortlistedTheir Finest Hour and a Half(2009). This novel tells the story of ten-year-old evacuee Noel Bostock, who leaves blitz-ravaged London to stay in St Albans. His new family consists of the scatter-brained and near penniless Vera Sedge, her ungrateful teenage son Donald and her apparently housebound mother. Noel has had an unusual upbringing; with no family of his own, he has lived most of his life with his recently-deceased godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette who has provided an eclectic education and passed on to Noel her suspicion of and disdain for authority. Vera feels scorn for authority for different reasons; all around her she sees people making money from the war effort, and Vera is determined to get her share, but her haphazard schemes have rarely b…

The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland

This review originally appeared in the Historical Novels Review Issue 71 February 2015. You can also see it online here

The Raven’s Head is an intoxicating blend of history, mystery and magic, and Maitland’s storytelling is deft and detailed. Told in the form of three interlocking narratives, the stories converge beautifully. The raven’s head is a beautiful carved silver object covered in alchemical symbols, and Vincent is stuck with it after his attempt to blackmail his master causes him to leave his job as an apprentice scribe in France. On the run, Vincent is a wanted man and begs passage to England hoping to sell the head and make enough money to become a wealthy man. However, the raven’s head is powerful, and it refuses to be sold. Meanwhile young Gisa, the apothecary’s niece, must put all her knowledge of herbs and plants to use in her new position as a servant for the mysterious alchemist Lord Sylvain. We also get the s…

Half Wild by Sally Green

This review originally appeared on

Half Wild continues the story of Nathan who we first encountered in Green’s outstanding debut Half Bad. With the first book ending on a cliffhanger this one opens precisely where Half Bad ended. Nathan is now 17; he has met his father and received his gift. Nathan is alone at first, his father having abandoned him once again. Gabriel is missing, presumed dead, and Mercury has disappeared taking Annalise who is under a sleeping spell. Nathan is not alone for long though as he finds himself making some unlikely alliances and meeting up with friends and enemies old and new. 

Green has excelled herself in this second outing creating a tale as dark and gritty and compelling as her previous novel that manages nonetheless to be shot through with hope, kindness and friendship. This is the kind of novel that transcends genre and deservedly so. This is a work of powerful fiction that is classifi…

Nunslinger by Stark Holborn

Set in 1864, Nunslinger tells the story of Sister Thomas Josephine a Visitandine nun who has chosen to travel out to the state of California to bring God and her nursing skills to the Catholic mission in San Francisco. On the way however her wagon train is attacked and burned out. She is rescued by union soldiers but just a few hours later she is kidnapped by the outlaw Abe Muir and thus begins her wild ride through the old west as she meets fur trappers and Mexican bandits, homesteaders and outlaws. Falsely accused of murder she escapes hanging and goes on the run with Muir by her side and Lieutenant Carthy on her trail. This is a whipcracking tale full of wit and adventure, perfect for fans of historical fiction or adventure. Sister Josephine must stay one step ahead of the law wherever she goes and rely on her own wit and skill to keep her out of a variety of scrapes as she travels across the territories from Indian country to the Sierra Nevada and Missouri to Mexico. Her reputati…

Novel notebooks

And finally in this day of links and tips here is a wonderful insight into the novel writing process from another favourite and also Australian author Kate Forsyth

On Creativity and Distraction

And here's Kim again with this brilliant lecture on creativity in the internet age.

Kim Wilkins on genre

I had to share this article from an author I greatly admire Kim Wilkins about the battle between literay and genre fiction. I couldn't agree with her more.Kim Wilkins on genre
 Find out more about Kim and wonderful books at her website