Showing posts from January, 2017

Books to watch out for in 2017, Recent and soon to be Released

Out now in Paperback

Hallie Rubenhold's second novel continues the tale of Henrietta Lightfoot and sees our heroine caught up in the dangerous and bloodthirsty events in Paris in 1792. It is a dark, compelling romp through a fascinating period of history. Hallie Rubenhold is a historian and an expert on the Eighteenth Century. Well worth seeking out. Just published in paperback by Transworld

Already being hailed as a major rival to C. J. Sansom's Shardlake this is the first in a series from bestselling crime writer Andrew Taylor. Set amongst the chaos of the Great Fire of London, this looks set to be one of the big books of the year. Published by Harper Collins.

Recent Releases

Sophia Tobin's third novel has just been released in hardback from Simon & Schuster. It's gothic, dark and Bronte-esque. I'll have a full review for this one next month after it appears in the Historical Novel Review Magazine.

This tale of three witches in 1880s New York was published in …

Madwomen in the Attic #2 Regina Maria Roche

Regina Maria Roche (née Dalton) was born in Waterford in 1764 before the family moved to Dublin where she grew up. Little is known about her early life other than that she was the daughter of Captain Blundel Dalton and she is quoted as claiming that books were a passion from a young age and that she had begun to write stories as soon as she could hold a pen. Her first two novels were published in her twenties The Vicar of Landsdowne (1789) and The Maid of Hamlet (1793). Her marriage in 1794 to Ambrose Roche led to a move to England and although her previous books had had some success it was the next book that made her a household name. Children of the Abbey a Gothic Romance published in 1796 was an instant hit. The book went through several editions and was translated into French and Spanish. The book appeared at the height of the Gothic novel trend and Roche quickly followed up with Clermont (1798) a novel with a much darker tone and containing all the trappings we have come to asso…

Netflix Binges

The Crown
The Crown is beautifully shot, beautifully acted and beautifully written. It is absolutely as good as everyone says it is. Don't miss out on this gem. I can't wait to see more of this. If you haven't already heard about this one it follows Elizabeth in the last years of her father's reign and the early years of her own as she struggles with being a public figure and being a devoted wife and mother. It stars Claire Foy and Matt Smith. If you have any interest in character development and even a passing interest in twentieth century history this is a must see.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
The BBC made a pretty good mini series from Douglas Adams' books just a few years ago so I was sceptical about this American version which is inspired by the characters and the world of the books rather than a straight remake. However it is very, very funny and well worth a look. If you are a fan of wacky screwball sci-fi comedy, like You, Me and the Apocolyp…

Writing competitions and Book News

This is a short post full of links to other things around the interwebs that may be of interest to writers and readers. 
First up can you believe that The Crow Road by Iain Banks is 25 years old? No neither can I. Scottish Book Trust have collected a list of influential books that turn 25 this year and there are some absolute gems in there. Check out the list below.

Brain Pickings is a fantastic website for writers and readers and this recent interview with Jennifer Egan is full of fantastic advice

If you are looking for submissions opportunities for short stories then there is £1000 up for grabs from Jane Austen 200 who are seeking stories of 2017 words or fewer inspired by the following quote from Mansfield Park 'Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.' Find …

When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea

Caroline Lea's beautiful debut is set on the island of Jersey during the brutal period of Nazi occupation. A group of people are brought together by circumstances during this time of hunger, fear and violence. There is ten year old Claudine, Edith the so called witch, fisherman Maurice, English doctor Carter and Gregor a German soldier. As each story is revealed, overlaps and comes together the characters come to rely on each other and to gain strength from their friendship, strength enough to stand up to the terrifying regime they live under. So little is written about the Channel Islands during the war and this book though peopled by fictional characters is a stark reminder of the harsh realities that Channel Islanders endured during the Second World War. At times heartbreaking at times uplifting this is a beautifully written book with vivid characters and a tense and nerve wracking atmosphere. The descriptions are poetic and the plotting superb. This is a perfect choice for bo…

The Silk Weaver Blog Tour

The Silk Weaver is Liz Trenow's fourth novel and it draws on her family's history in the silk trade. Set in a time of scientific discovery and social upheaval the novel features a heroine with a passion for art and nature. The daughter of a country vicar Anna has had a peaceful, quiet life in Suffolk but as the book opens she is bound for London to begin a new life with her aunt, uncle and cousins; a family of London silk merchants. Anna knows that the purpose of her coming to London is so that she can make a successful marriage to support her aging father and younger sister. However it is the young French silk weaver she meets on her first day in London that interests Anna. Soon Anna is thrust into a world of beautiful dresses and strict social rules but it is a world which is rapidly changing as workers riot and protest and fashions and fortunes change. However Anna also discovers that in this changing world she can make her own way using her artistic talent, with her frien…

Madwomen in the Attic #1 Frances Sheridan

Most of what we know about the early life of  Frances Sheridan (née Chamberlaine) comes from Memoirs of the Life and writings of Mrs Frances Sheridan which was written by her granddaughter Alicia LeFanu and published in 1824. Frances was born in Dublin in 1724, her mother died when she was a baby and she was raised by her father; an Anglican minister under a strict and repressive regime. Her father did not believe in educating girls, but luckily Frances had some liberal minded brothers who taught her Latin, Botany and Literature and by her mid teens Frances had begun writing fiction herself, 'Eugenia and Adelaide'was written on paper stolen from the housekeeper's account books. Frances also attended the theatre with her brothers and it was there that she met actor and manager of the Smock-Alley theatre Thomas Sheridan. They married in 1747. Soon she was writing plays of her own. Marriage to Thomas brought Frances into literary circles including Dr Johnson, Sarah Fielding …

Upcoming Blog Tour

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Blog tour for The Silk Weaver by Liz Trenow, thanks to her publishers Pan Macmillan. My review will be live on Sunday 22nd January along with some comments from Liz herself on her research and inspiration. You can check out the rest of the blog tour online through the sites listed below. The Silk Weaver is published next Thursday 26th January.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

An enchanting story of a young violin prodigy sent violently hurtling back in time to 1776 at the whim of a cruel and controlling family of time travellers. Etta must find a coveted astrolabe while her mother is held prisoner by the Ironwood family. She is aided in her frantic race against time by Nicholas Carter, a young sailor also entangled with the Ironwood family. This is a romantic, action packed page turner perfect for fans of fantasy and historical fiction. This is the first in a series and I can't wait for the second book.  Perfect for fans of Outlander and Sarah J Maas.
I reviewed this book for the Inis Reading Guide 2016 published by Children's Books Ireland 

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers first book A Long way to a Small Angry Planet was one of my favourite books of 2015. In fact probably one of my favourite books of all time. So I was very eager to read a copy of her follow up A Closed and Common Orbit. It isn't exactly a sequel as it doesn't continue the story of the crew of the Wayfarer however it is a companion novel as it is the story of Lovelace formerly the artificial intelligence system of the Wayfarer who in the final moments of the events of A Long Way... was transfered into a new body. In the new book Lovelace wakes up in her new body travelling with Pepper to her home planet. Pepper worked hard to reinstall Lovelace who renames herself Sidra and she helps her to adjust to her new life. In tandem with this is the story of Jane who escapes a cruel childhood and as you will no doubt quickly work out grows up to become gutsy mechanic Pepper. As in the previous book the writing is full of character development moments and wonderful learni…

Coffin Road by Peter May

I am a huge fan of Peter May having devoured The Lewis Trilogy last year in just a few days. Coffin Road is a stand alone novel that sees the author return to the Hebrides. I love anything set in Scotland especially the Highlands and Islands so I was sold on this book within seconds and I love the fact that the name reminds me of another great Scottish novel Iain Banks' The Crow Road. The book opens with a man stumbling around a beach having been apparently washed ashore. He has no memory of how he got there or even of who he is. The first part of the novel sees our mystery man trying to figure out what on earth is going on as he fakes knowing neighbours, friends and even lovers and the reader is right there with him. I found myself flying through the pages desperate to know, what next?
The other major characters in the novel are a rebellious Edinburgh teenager desperate to find out what happened to her father and a seasick detective determined to unravel it all.
I can't say …

Relativity by Antonia Hayes

Antonia Hayes is an Australian novelist now living in San Francisco and Relativity is her debut novel. It's a book that explores, love, forgiveness, family and physics. It's a departure from my usual type of book as it's contemporary although there is an attempt at time travel. The book is about Ethan; an incredibly bright twelve year old boy with a passion for physics, his mum Claire a former ballerina and devoted single mum and his dad Mark who has reentered their lives for the first time since Ethan was a baby.
We learn early on that Ethan is a special child and that his brain works differently to other children, it seems he can see physics all around him, while Ethan is overjoyed at his savant abilities Claire knows that Ethan's brain is different because it's damaged and gradually it is revealed that Mark is no longer part of their lives because when Ethan was a baby he hurt him and Ethan's seizures and unusual brain activity are a result of shaken baby s…


Herstory is a cultural movement aiming to bring into the public focus amazing Irish women from the past; scientists, writers, artists, activists, sportswomen, rebels and much more to rescue them from the dusty forgotten corners and restore them to the forefront of history where they belong. The mission of all involved is that no longer will people say "I've never heard of her." You can find out more about this project at the herstory website and you too can get involved. There will be events all over the country and the project will tour internationally in 2018.

I am interested in learning more about the pioneering women writers of Ireland and so I have planned a project of my own to rediscover the female Irish writers from the past with a new blog post each week.  I aim to collect a whole series of Madwomen in the Attic.

The Shogun's Queen

The Shogun's Queen is the latest novel from the amazing Lesley Downer and it serves as both a stand alone novel and as a prequel to the previous trilogy of The Last Concubine, The Courtesan and the Samurai and the Samurai's Daughter. The book is a masterly study of the Japanese court and culture in the mid nineteenth century just as the American's were making their aggressive overtures to Japan and forcing a trading relationship. Okatsu is a defiant, confident and strong young woman trained in the arts of the samurai she knows how to fight and to ride an horse and carries a dagger at all times. Okatsu is well versed in court intrigue and it is her intelligence as well as her beauty that sees her raised up from her relatively provincial life in Satsuma province and adopted first by Lord Nariakira and then by Prince Konoé before becoming the bride of the weak and ineffectual Shogun Iesada Tokugawa. The arrival of the Americans was known as the time of the Black Ships. Lord …