Monday, December 31, 2012

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan




This is an intriguing and highly unusual novel written entirely in verse. It is quite unlike anything else being published for teenagers at the moment. The book tells the story of Kasienka who has arrived with her mother from Poland in search of her father. He has left their home and travelled to England for a new life. Through the poems we are given an insight into how Kasienka perceives her mother's depression and obsession with finding her husband as they wear their boots out searching Coventry for Tata (Father). We also learn of Kasienka's problems adjusting to life in an English school as she encounters prejudice, bullying and finally friendship. Through a friendly neighbour Tata is found and Kasienka learns that she has a stepmother and a baby half-sister. She is now torn between two families. Swimming becomes her refuge and not only is it fun she is also very good at it and winning gives her a new found confidence. The book's greatest strength is as a poignant portrait of the loneliness of a child who has reached puberty and feels not only the weight of her own worries but all the responsibility for her parent’s happiness. Sarah Crossan is a talented author who has already completed her second novel for teens Breathe which is the first of a dystopian trilogy. The Weight of Water is enjoyable and unique and will appeal to children aged eleven and over especially fans of Sita Brahmachari and Annabel Pitcher.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan


Donal Ryan won both best newcomer and best book at this year’s Irish Book Awards no small achievement for a debut author but it will have come as no surprise to those who have read this small but very powerful novel. This is the first attempt in fiction to examine the aftermath of the financial crash on the ordinary Irish people. The book is divided into twenty one individual first person narratives from interconnected characters. Rather than try to paint a broad picture of the aftermath of the housing boom and bust Ryan has instead opted to concentrate on the impact on one small Tipperary town.  The voices are unique but share a bitterness and bewilderment at their circumstances. The mood of depression and anger is palpable and violence simmers below the surface throughout before finally exploding. There are echoes of Patrick Kavanagh in the writing style and Ryan joins the ranks of talented young writers now emerging in Ireland, including Kevin Barry, Paul Murray and Joe Murphy. Despite the anger which leaps off the page the unifying thread in this compelling story is love and the search for love as Triona the final voice in the novel states “What matters only love?”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Updates, Challenges and Stacks of Books

Just a quick update on some of the reading challenges I set myself this year. I am approaching my target of reading 100 books this year and I still have a month and a bit to go so I'm quite happy about that. However I failed miserably with my Summer reading challenge as I was distracted by buying far too many new books and by receiving an unprecedented amount of books for review. If you have asked me to review a book and still haven't seen a review posted, I am truly sorry, I have been completely swamped but I will do my best to review everything I have been sent as soon as I can. Here is a glimpse at just some of the books I have been sent and haven't got around to yet.

Some great Irish Titles I shall be reading/reviewing soon
A.B. Wells Housewife with a Half-life (abwells.com)
Mary McCarthy After the Rain (Poolbeg)
Donal Ryan The Spinning Heart (Doubleday Ireland/Lilliput Press)
The Istanbul Puzzle Laurence O'Bryan (Avon) (not pictured)

Some Fab Literary titles

Maggie O'Farrell Instructions for a Heatwave (Tinder Press)
Melissa Harrison Clay (Bloomsbury)

Some Fantastic Historical Fiction


James Wilde Hereward The Devil's Army (Random House part of the historical reading challenge)
Kate Williams The Pleasures of Men (Penguin)
Gaynor Arnold After Such Kindness (Tindal Street Press)
Catherine Jones Wonder Girls (Simon & Schuster)

An enormous stack of Sci-Fi and Fantasy titles



Sarah Silverwood the Double-Edged Sword (Indigo)
Cat Patrick Revived (Electric Monkey)
Elizabeth Norris Unravelling (Harper Collins)
Kim Curran Shift (Strange Chemistry)
Cassandra Rose Clarke The Assassin's Curse (Strange Chemistry)
Sean Cummings Poltergeeks (Strange Chemistry)
Gwenda Bond Blackwood (Strange Chemistry)
Melissa de la Cruz Wolf Pact (Atom)
James Treadwell Advent (Hodder)
Kady Cross the Girl in The Steel Corset (Mira Ink)
Kate Johnson The Untied Kingdom (Choc Lit)
G. Willow Wilson Alif the Unseen (Corvus)
Tamara Ireland Stone Time Between Us (Doubleday)
Jo Walton Among Others (Corsair)

And Finally a general pile including some great Crime, Romance and Sci-fi. Spot the book I accidently put into this pile. I cannot wait to get stuck in but it may take me some time.




Also some new discoveries I have recently made and which I love are
Lee Carroll Black Swan Rising and The Watchtower
Carol Goodman Incubus and Water Witch
Sarah Moss Night Waking
Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway Series
Amanda Stevens The Restorer
Cathryn Constable The Wolf Princess


Monday, November 5, 2012

Author Interview with Helen Moorhouse


Helen Moorhouse




  1. Did you always want to write?
Always. As a child I was surrounded by books, learned to read at a very early age and as soon as I was gripped by the power of storytelling and the fun of words, it's all that I wanted to do.

    2. What was your favourite book as a child?
I devoured books as a child and I've been thinking long and hard about this question – Five Children and It is up there, as are the Chalet School and Mallory Towers books, and The Chronicles of Narnia was the best present I got for my tenth birthday but I think the favourite is The Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton – I have a copy of them ready and waiting to read to my own children when they're old enough, in fact. I adored the idea of all the little houses on the way up the tree, the different lands at the top of the magical cloud – the possibilities of adventure were just too exciting!

3.When/where/how do you find the time to write?( do you have a separate writing desk or room?)
I currently work as a sort of 'scribe for hire' so that takes up the mornings meaning that my creative writing is done at night-time which I find a bit of a struggle as it's a recent development and I haven't developed a rhythm yet. My ideal writing time would be mornings or early afternoons but the necessities of making a living and having two young children mean it's a non-runner for now! I like also to write at my kitchen table, or in the garden but it's generally done cross-legged on my bed, propped up with pillows!

4.Who/what inspires your writing?
It probably sounds cheesy but I think that my family are my main inspiration. I wrote The Dead Summer after the birth of my first daughter – I just seemed to have a creative surge and the ambition to actually finish something became very strong. Becoming a mum also stirred something in me that made me realise life was short and precious, and that I owed it to myself and to my daughter to be the best person that I could be and for me that meant fulfilling my lifelong ambition.  I suppose I just want my girls to be proud of me, and that spurs me on to keep doing what I love the most.

5.What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Enjoy it. The minute you feel afraid of the page, or start dreading sitting down to write, or become over-critical of yourself then there's no point. Just write – and write as often as you can because it's a muscle – the more you do it, the better you get at it and the more confident you get. And remember that everyone who writes is always learning, all the time. No one is Dickens on their first attempt – most of us won't be by our hundredth attempt, but we're always getting that bit better or that bit wiser.

6.What's the best advice you ever got?
You can't write it if you don't feel it. You can push it a little bit but there's no point in forcing anything – it'll just end up in the bin.

7.Do you have a favourite fictional character that you love to write about?
I love to write about Gabriel, the camp, selfish, self-obsessed medium from The Dead Summer. He allows me to channel my own sarcasm and he's tons of fun – he created himself entirely, and he minces into my subconscious every now and again, says something pithy and swans out again.  We'll get to see another side to him, I hope, in The Dark Water however. No one could be that shallow, could they?!

8.Have you ever/Would you ever base a character on a real person?
9. Why or Why not?
I'm a beginner so naturally almost all of my characters are a different facet of me. As I write more books, hopefully I'll get over that! I'm not that interesting and it'll get pretty stale, so sooner or later I'll need fresh inspiration and while I think that I wouldn't use an entire individual -  I wouldn't rule out taking little bits of folk I've met along the way and using them if I feel that they might make a character into a whole person. Every writer's been asked by someone 'Am I in it?' anyway, so why not!

10.What do you think of people who dismiss women's books/popular fiction as chick lit and say it is a passing fad or just frivolous?
There's a ridiculous snobbery about what people call 'chick lit' – everyone has different tastes and each to their own, I think. If something brings joy into someone's life, then how can it be a bad thingit shouldn't be frowned upon – and the huge and enduring popularity of so-called chick-lit speaks for itself. Of course there's bad chick lit out there which tends to damage the genre, but there's also bad mystery, bad horror, bad literary writing – women's fiction tends to bear an unfair brunt, I think. But as long as it remains sharp, funny and, most importantly, entertaining – and if it keeps people reading or even encourages previous non-readers to pick up a book then how can it be a bad thing?


11.How do you think the e-book will affect the book world and your career in writing?
On one hand, it's a fantastic vehicle for writers who might not get the conventional publishing deal that they seek purely because their (good) manuscript is 'wrong time, wrong place' for a publisher. E-publishing gives every single writer a good chance and means that the readers decide on the merit of the work. However, there is no doubt that the amount of writing that's out there will just cause such a huge deluge of stuff being published that it could mean books are easily missed and overlooked in the flood.  It will also have a significant and likely detrimental effect on publishing, bookselling, warehousing, shipping etc and jobs will be lost. Good or bad, I have yet to decide – all I am sure of is that it'll get bigger and bigger and bigger, very very fast.

12.How long did it take to write your first book?
With the Dead Summer I had the luxury of time, being able to devote my complete mental attention to 'living' the story and no expectations. I loved every second and it took about three months. With my second book, however, I'm still slogging at it two years down the line! Every book varies – some come easy, some don't!

13.What's the hardest part about writing?
For me, it's having to juggle real life with a story! And every other writer I know is in the same boat! It's difficult to try to pay the mortgage, turn your children into reasonable humans, undertake all of the mundane daily tasks and then still find the time, the inclination, the energy and the inspiration to produce a novel. I'd like nothing more than complete solitude, the freedom to survive on cornflakes (which would last about a day, by the way!) and the space to turn my brain over entirely to the task at hand. That ain't gonna happen any time soon, however, so it's lucky that I love writing so much I'm prepared to just get on with it!

14.What do you think of the 50 Shades phenomenon? what next?
I'm a little mystified – I haven't read it, and anyone I know who has, has done so purely to see what all the fuss is about! No one has read it because they've heard it's good – in fact, the reports of the dire editing, implausible storylines and one-dimensional characters I've had, have been enough to turn a few folk I know right off the idea.  I think that it's a victory of hype over substance – a butterfly wing of 'bloody hell, have you seen this?' which has turned into a tornado of 'what's all the fuss about?' – it's making EL James a squillion quid a week so fair dues to her, however.  Even her husband has gotten himself a publishing deal on the back of it so well done them. I think it's a slightly naughty storm in a teacup however and as for what's next? Maybe a slight resurgence in Jilly Cooper's popularity but other than that I think it's just going to lead to a whole lot of pastiche! Already on Twitter there's been Fifty Sheds of Grey, Fifty Shades of Gran and more besides. I think we'll have the movie, then the spoof of the movie and then things will just go back to normal!

15.Do you enjoy scaring your readers?
Absolutely! It means that I've done something right with my writing and that's all I set out to do. On the same level, however, I also enjoy making my readers cry, or laugh or care about my characters and for some reason I've had reports of all these things from people who've read the Dead Summer. When I read, if I don't feel for or care about what happens to the people I'm reading about then it becomes a bit of a wasted experience for me. When I wrote the Dead Summer, I just wanted to try to write the kind of book that I'd like to read – I don't feel I got there one hundred percent, but people say that they're not able to read it at nighttime because it makes them nervous and I get a real thrill out of that – out of being able to provoke strong emotion. Either that, or I'm a complete psychopath, of course!

16.Have you ever seen a ghost?
Unfortunately not – I've had a few odd experiences, and I know where I'm comfortable and where I'm not, but I have no reason to doubt that those experiences were probably caused by dodgy wiring! I'd love to see one – I think! Although I'm pretty wimpy so if any ghosts are reading this, could they only ever appear when I'm with at least one other (brave) person, and do their best not to be too scary? Thanks!

17.What do think of celebrity psychics?
Pretty sceptical. I think that there are genuinely people out there with some sort of ability but I have to doubt the credibility of anyone who uses their 'gift' or 'ability' or their exceptional perceptual skills for financial gain. I particularly hate that late night thing that's on TV at the moment – those so-called psychics, urging folk to ring them – it just resembles too much that other late-night 'call me' TV and it's embarrassing and unnecessary. There are people out there who put so much hope into these characters, desperate to contact a loved one, or have some sort of uplifting spiritual experience, yet time and time again the celebrity ones have been proven to be fake. It's not an area that makes me comfortable, to be honest.

18. Will you continue to write about ghosts or do you have other plans?
Ghosts are such a fantastic device – putting them in a book creates all sorts of routes that I can travel down as a writer! I will continue writing on a darker streak for the time being, I'd imagine, but not necessarily about ghosts – my third novel which I'm working on at the moment is entirely unhaunted (as of yet!) but I do have some further ideas that will incorporate the paranormal. I have an idea for a fourth novel which has a spiritual side and while I'll probably let Martha, Will and Gabriel just get on with their lives for a bit after The Dark Water, I'd love to check in with them in a few years and see how they're doing? I do have to state, however, that while my writing will stay a bit dark there won't be any vampires, werewolves, zombies, mummies or leprechauns popping up at any stage. Mind you, I adore 'Being Human' so maybe I'm on to something here?

http://helenmoorhouse.weebly.com/

The Dark Water

The Dark Water
By
Helen Moorhouse

Helen Moorhouse is fast becoming one of my absolute favourite authors, having spooked the living daylights out of me last May (2011) with The Dead Summer she has returned on top form with another shiver-fest in The Dark Water.  The new book continues the story of Martha Armstrong who is now living in Edinburgh with her new partner Will. I was so excited to learn that Scotland was the setting for this new adventure and Helen gets the gothic, romantic, misty atmosphere exactly right. Gabriel McKenzie; psychic medium and now television star needs Will and Martha’s help because something or someone is haunting him. Despite a rift between old friends; Will and Gabriel, all three must unite to investigate a ghostly presence at the beautiful but remote Dubhglas Castle. However whatever is haunting the beautiful old castle does not want to go quietly and threatens them all. The novel builds to a thrilling atmospheric climax which will have you cowering under the covers. Helen is a fantastically talented author and I would recommend her if you enjoy being scared out of your wits while also following the tale of some incredibly realistic and sometimes frightening characters. If you enjoyed Celine Kiernan’s Into the Grey or Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black then this is for you.

Defiance


Defiance
By C.J. Redwine

Defiance is a fast paced and well written debut from an author who will be one to watch in the future. A daring combination of Fantasy, Dystopia and Sci-Fi featuring great characters and set in a grim future where women are chattels and life is cheap. Rachel is a headstrong young woman whose father has trained her to survive and to fight, even though in this new world women are bought and sold and are not allowed out alone. Logan has been appointed her protector now that her father is missing and the responsibility weighs heavily on the young apprentice. The citadel in which they live is ruled by a cruel dictator who is keeping secrets from the people he claims to protect. Outside the walls a frightening monster stalks the forest hunting humans but it is to the forest the intrepid young pair must go in search of Rachel’s father and a package he has hidden. A great well plotted adventure which will appeal to fans of Graceling and the Hunger Games.

Dead Dogs



Dead Dogs
By Joe Murphy

A brilliant portrait of the casual cruelty of teenagers and the intense cruelty of one boy in particular; Dead Dogs is a fantastic examination of a young man’s spiral into madness. Joe Murphy is an acute observer of the social and emotional concerns of teens today, including a razor sharp dissection of “popular girl” Jenny
“You like to keep these two around you because they’re not as good-looking as you. You always want everyone to look just at you. If people aren’t looking at you, you disappear.” This is a dark novel which encapsulates some of the bleakness of growing up in post Celtic Tiger Ireland; the ghost estates, the drugs, crime and casual violence. With this novel Joe Murphy proves that he is versatile as well as talented. Last year he conquered historical fiction with 1798: Tomorrow the Barrow we’ll Cross and in Dead Dogs he takes on the psychological crime novel and proves that he is a name to watch in Irish writing. 
Joe is pictured above at the launch of Dead Dogs at Waterstones Drogheda.

The Demon Notebook


The Demon Notebook
By
Erika McGann

The Demon Notebook is a first novel for young Irish author Erika McGann and it’s aimed squarely at girls aged 9 and upwards. The book taps into the current craze for ghostly stories and it is a well plotted adventure with scares, thrills, friendship and laughs. The story has a similar feel to Emily Mason’s Ghost Detectives and will appeal to fans of that title. Grace, Jenny, Adie, Una and Rachel dabble in Witchcraft  with no real success, but they soon learn a lesson about messing with magic when they accidently unleash a demon from beneath their school and all the spells in their notebook start to come true. It’s spooky, scary and great fun. Erika grew up in Drogheda and used her old school, St Oliver’s as the model for the school in the book. Erika visited Waterstones in Drogheda to sign copies of her book; she is pictured above with my eldest daughter Chloe and her friends.


Grave Mercy


Grave Mercy
By Robin La Fevers

Ismae is a Daughter of Death, a trained assassin and tough as nails. She is a wonderful creation and the description of the island convent where the assassins are trained as poisoners, fighters and weapons experts was fascinating in fact I wished this section of the novel had been longer. As interesting as the political intrigue and machinations of the medieval Breton court were, I felt the story sagged a little in the middle. Nonetheless it soon got back on thrilling form towards the end and the author tantalised us with the possibility of a follow up instalment. Robin La Fevers has obviously done extensive research and worked hard to create a genuine historical feel and this was a truly fantastic and unusual blend of fantasy, history and the paranormal. I await the second volume with anticipation.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Queen’s Secret By Victoria Lamb






The Queen’s Secret
By Victoria Lamb

The Queen’s Secret by Victoria Lamb gives us an intriguing insight into the Elizabethan court during the spectacular and lavish visit to Kenilworth Castle; home of the Earl of Leicester in July 1575. This was a celebration which almost bankrupted the young Earl who was determined to impress and woo the Virgin Queen. The heroine of the novel is a young black singer and court entertainer; Lucy Morgan. An orphan, Lucy has grown up as a ward of one the great spies of the age; Master Goodluck and with her enchanting voice and striking looks it’s not long before she attracts the attention of others including the Earl of Leicester, and the Queen’s own spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham as well the Queen herself. As Lucy becomes aware of a dangerous plot against the Queen and pressed for information on all sides she finds deception and betrayal at every turn. As the danger grows not just for the Queen but for Lucy herself, she wonders who she can trust when every courtier seems to be looking after number one. Victoria has brought to life a perennially popular period in History; a time of intrigue and espionage and peopled her novel with a fascinating cast of characters some real some imagined, all of whom seem to leap from the page. The research and effort which have gone into recreating the period detail are apparent on every page as I could feel the sweltering July heat and smell the unwashed bodies of the thousands who made up the crowded royal court. Victoria has already released her first Young Adult novel Witchstruck which will be the first in a series and having loved that book I was delighted to get my hands on this one and it has certainly not disappointed. Romantic, political and full of danger The Queen’s Secret is a fantastic page turner. I hold true to my previous claim that Victoria Lamb has surpassed the reigning Queen of Tudor Fiction; Philippa Gregory as her plots are tighter and her storytelling more powerful. I look forward to more tales of thrilling espionage and romance with Lucy Morgan and more spells and secrets with Meg Lytton courtesy of Victoria Lamb.

The Girl on the Stairs By Louise Welsh







The Girl on the Stairs
By Louise Welsh

 


Louise Welsh’s new novel is a dark and chilling tale of a young mum to be and how easily suspicion and paranoia can breed. Jane has arrived in Berlin; her partner Petra’s home town having given up her old life in England to have a child while Petra takes up a new job in finance. Without the distraction of her old job running a bookshop and feeling cut off because of her poor German, Jane spends a lot of time alone while Petra works. She is counting down the weeks until their baby is born and in the meantime she explores the neighbourhood and is fascinated by the nearby churchyard and the empty building that backs onto her apartment block. Jane is also intrigued by a young girl she sees on the stairs who turns out to be a neighbour. Dressed in a red coat and heels Anna’s makeup and demeanour belie her thirteen years and Jane fears for the loss of the young girl’s innocence and when she hears shouting through the walls and arguments between father and daughter she worries for Anna’s safety. Petra dismisses her suspicions but Jane’s sense of fear continues to grow and she feels it is connected to the lonely hinterhaus which overshadows them. This is a fantastic dark, edgy and edge of the seat thriller which will not disappoint fans of Louise Welsh but will also be perfect for fans of Rosamund Lupton and Julia Crouch. Be prepared to loose sleep.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Road Back by Liz Harris






Patricia is a lonely child with cold parents; a domineering father and a weak mother and she craves love. Kalden is a restless young man, he has learned English from his missionary friends and fallen in love with books and music and he wants more but he is fated as a fourth son to join the monastery. When Patricia travels to Ladakh with her father to research his book she and Kalden meet and fall in love but society and their families are against the union, it is 1962 and when Patricia falls pregnant she is forced to give the baby away. 30 years later her daughter is seeking answers.  This is a really enjoyable page turner with a thrilling story.
A tale of love lost and found; of parents and children; of duty and responsibility and of the contrast between cultures and between past and present. A terrific debut.


The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay






Melissa explores other people's family history for her work as a genealogist, so she is delighted to have a chance to learn more about her own family when her Great Aunt invites her to stay at her ancestral home in Kent; Ashleigh Manor. Melissa is keen to learn why her grandmother became estranged from her sister while Dorothy is keen to put the past to rights. The Manor House seems to cast a spell over Melissa, especially when Great Aunt Dorothy; childless and now in her seventies invites Melissa and her daughter Jolie to come and live with her. Newly divorced and struggling to make ends meet Melissa eventually accepts. Soon she is haunted by dreams and visions of a mediaeval young woman who looks like her and a handsome and charming young knight, could the Manor be haunted and what do these restless spirits want?
In a nearby cottage widowed vet Jake is also having strange dreams and when the two finally meet their connection is instant. This is a wonderful new book from an Award winning author of historical fiction. Christina Courtenay brings history vividly to life with her writing and her tale is compelling and spellbinding. This is Romantic Fiction at its best. The characters are well rounded and interesting and the story deeply satisfying. This book is perfect for fans of time-slip fiction such as the novels of Barbara Erskine or Diana Gabaldon. I was lucky enough to be sent this novel to review from Choc Lit but once I finished it I went straight out and bought Christina's Trade Winds and Highland Storms as I adore her writing style. 


Part of the Spell
By Rachel Heath

For We Love This Book


This is a follow up to The Finest Type of English Womanhood which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. Rachel Heath has opted to move away from historical fiction to examine the dark threads which underlie and hold together small town English life in the 21st Century. There are many characters in the novel and one of the novel’s failings is that we never really get to know any of them. The picture that Rachel Heath presents is a little too broad with glimpses into the lives of a group of people all living in the same place and connected by the disappearance of Sheila; a local mum and grandmother. There is the day dreamy young mum Stella, the busy museum curator Theresa, the disappointed city worker Jonathan, the secretive estate agent Zeki and the angry blogger Tacita. Gradually all the characters are pulled together as the author examines the hopes and ideals behind their search for “the good life” and Stella seeks to understand why her mother kept so many secrets. This is a story that seems to skim along the surface rather than plum the depths; it never truly engaged my attention. It might appeal to fans of Emily Barr or Maggie O’Farrell though I feel it falls short of the standard of either.

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Gillian Tamaki


This is a real gem of a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and with wonderful illustrations by her cousin Gillian Tamaki. Skim is the tale of a teenage girl coming of age in the 90s and exploring Wicca, Shakespeare and First love. Kimberley Keiko Cameron aka Skim is lonely and often bullied at her all-girl school. When a fellow student’s ex-boyfriend commits suicide the girls are encouraged by teachers and counsellors to explore and express their grief. Skim and her best friend Lisa are at first mocking of all this sharing and confiding but soon Skim finds that it can help to talk to someone who understands you. This is a really beautiful coming of age tale which I would recommend to fans of Persepolis.

We Love This Book


This week We Love This Book have featured my review of Rebel Heart as one of their Books of the week.


http://welovethisbook.com/reviews/rebel-heart

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rebel Heart


Rebel Heart
By Moira Young
For We Love This Book



Rebel Heart is the follow up to Moira Young’s outstanding, Costa Winning, Blood Red Road continuing the story of Saba, Lugh, Emmi and Jack. Although it is clearly a bridging book before the final instalment of the trilogy it nonetheless has a story of it’s own as Saba heads West with a price on her head and Jack tries to find her. This book is like a combination of all the best elements of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games set in a not too distant future with a strong heroine and a violent coming of age plot. Saba is a likeable protagonist and she is haunted by her time as a killer and by the change in her brother Lugh who seems distant and much changed after his captivity. She must also contend with a new enemy as the Tonton have a new leader and they are pushing their way across the land imposing a new order.
The book sees the return of some of Saba’s friends and the introduction of new ones but in such dangerous times it can be hard to know who to trust. I would recommend you read Blood Red Road before you read this as there is little back story and the narrative style may take some getting used to. Nevertheless I would highly recommend this for anyone who has finished The Hunger Games and is looking for an intense and enthralling read.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Interview with Michelle Jackson author of 4am In Las Vegas


1. Did you always want to write?

I didn't always want to be a writer but I did always love to read. I studied in the national college of art and design when I left school which was always my dream. I enjoyed my five years there and went on to do design work before becoming a teacher - writing came to me after my daughter was born and I always refer to her as my muse. I had become very frustrated by my own artwork and I was never pleased with anything that I produced. the medium of words suits me much better and I wasn't burdened with any preconceptions about literature that I seemed to have with the visual arts. Writing came very naturally and it is still such a pleasure to sit down at my laptop and work on a novel.

2. What was your favourite book as a child?

As a child I used to often stay in my grandmothers and she always had a pile of Mills and Boon books bedside her bed and I would sneak one under my blankets and read until the small hours. I suppose it is no surprise that I am now writing romantic fiction!

3.When/where/how do you find the time to write?( do you have a separate writing desk or room?)

I write in bed and although I know it is probably not good for my back it is where I am the most comfortable. I am very fortunate to have a view of the sea from my bedroom window and i enjoy looking out while I write. I work part time as an art teacher and have an active part in my children's after school activities so I tend to squeeze my writing time into the mornings that I am off or at night when the children are in bed.

4.Who/what inspires your writing?

Life inspires my writing and as I enjoy to travel very much I like to weave the settings of different places into my stories. I feel that they help me create a colourful texture and tapestry through my writing.

5.What advice would you give aspiring authors? and 6.What's the best advice you ever got?

The best advice that I ever got is the advice that I would give every aspiring author. That is - to get a good editor to look at your work before sending it out. Agents and publishers expect your work to be in top condition before they receive it. Also I would suggest that you know your genre and send it to appropriate agents - the Writers and Artists Yearbook is a good place to start.

7.Do you have a favourite fictional character that you love to write about? 

My favourite fictional character is probably Kate from my novel Two Days in Biarritz. I think an authors first novel is very special and she is the character that I relate to the most.

8.Have you ever/Would you ever base a character on a real person?9.why? or why not?

I would think that most authors get inspiration for their novels and characters from the world around them. The amusing thing about characterisation is that people never recognise themselves!

10.What do you think of people who dismiss women's books/popular fiction as chick lit and say it is a passing fad or just frivolous?

I have no issues with the term chicklit - I am very pleased that I write for women as they read 90% of all books written! I also think that contemporary women writers reflect the world in a very real context - mothers, wives, girlfriends are responsible for so much of how our modern society works that I think in the future  chicklit will be referred to for its social/historic merit - in the same way as Austen's Pride and Prejudice is today.

11.How do you think the e-book will affect the book world and your career in writing?

I think that ebooks will radically change the way that books are produced and it will be a good opportunity for some to self publish. I do think that it will be more difficult for authors to monitor Copying and ultimately this will effect revenue for authors. I suppose we will have to wait and see but it is important that people continue to buy books or pay for their downloads - this will ensure that authors will be able to continue working.

12.How long did it take to write your first book?

It took me three months to write my first book which was 100k words in length. 

13.What's the hardest part about writing?

I don't find writing hard - it has always been a natural and organic medium for me and I put this down to perhaps the fact that I didn't study literature. I have found that the five years that I spent studying art has made me too critical of what I produce visually and I am not confined by writing in the same way.

14.What do you think of the 50 Shades phenomenon? what next?

Fifty shades of grey is just a passing trend but bodice rippers have been popular for years - as I mentioned my granny had plenty beside her bed! Anything that entices people to buy books is good - be it the Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter!

15. Do you travel a lot? What comes first the place or the characters?

I use a vey free and organic approach to my writing and usually I have a germ of an idea for a novel after I have travelled somewhere that has been inspiring. I love to travel as much as I can and I am always taking photographs and collecting brochures and books from the places that I have travelled.

16.What comes first the place or the characters?

The characters will develop from conversations that I will have with people either on holidays or when I return. I always like to weave into the plot something that reflects what is mood or tone of the year in which I write the novel. For example the theme of my new novel is emigration which is a very current situation for many in Ireland and I travelled to Australia in February to research my setting. The book is called 5 Peppermint Grove after one of the most desirable suburbs in Western Australia.

17.Does travel inspire you? How do you keep going after 4 novels ? (finding ideas and inspiration)

As I mentioned before I have been fortunate as writing comes easily to me - I have an endless pool of ideas that I am itching to write about and there are a lot of places that I haven't visited on this lovely planet so I don't imagine I will be running out of ideas for some time!

Images courtesy of http://www.michellejackson.ie/

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb




2012 has seen the publication of Victoria Lamb's first book for adults The Queen's Secret and her first for teens; Witchstruck, the first of a planned trilogy. I was very excited when I saw the publisher's were labelling this book as "Twilight meets Philippa Gregory" it certainly sounded intriguing. I was even more excited when I saw that this book featured a young witch in training who is already in a precarious position as a servant to the imprisoned Queen Elizabeth. With Bloody Mary on the throne Elizabeth is in constant danger but she is an ambitious young woman with an interest in the dark arts and she encourages Meg and her aunt to seek visions of the future. There is intrigue and danger from page one and I was hooked. Meg is a strong and feisty heroine and the magic and mystery seem to hum on the page. To top it all there is also a thrilling romance with a young Spanish priest in training, but can she trust him? I can't wait to read more from this author and her other novel The Queen's Secret is already in my TBR pile.

Here is my Goodreads review

An amazing and absorbing new series with a believable heroine and a real sense of danger, the publishers are marketing this as Phillippa Gregory crossed with Twilight. Yes it is set in the Tudor era and there are real historical characters including the future Queen Elizabeth and the reigning Queen Mary but this is not Twilight, It is so much better. There is a growing friendship and sexual tension between the lead characters but the paranormal power is all hers and she will not compromise. Meg is a stronger and more realistic heroine than Bella Swan and Victoria Lamb has really done her research the descriptions of the rituals and spells that Meg and her Aunt Jane use are not invented and the story fits into the real historical events of Mary's reign. I cannot wait to read more of this series. It is better than Philippa Gregory.

The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul


One of Denmark's foremost literary authors Pia Juul has created in Bess a wonderful narrator who stumbles through this short, unassuming story trying to piece together the puzzle of her husband's life and death. The story questions how well we can ever know those we love and just how safe and secure a small community can be, sometimes a place where everyone knows everyone else, can be claustrophobic. This is a sharp, witty and well observed piece. If you like full on gory crime this is not for you but if you enjoy a book which draws you in entirely to the world of the characters then give this a try. 

The Villa by Rosanna Ley





The Villa is a wonderful, page-turning beach read. An intelligent and romantic tale of three generations of women, each character is a unique creation and Rosanna Ley manages to slip fluidly between the thoughts and concerns of grandmother Flavia, her daughter Tess and granddaughter Ginny. When Tess unexpectedly inherits a villa in Sicily it could be just the new start she needs, For Flavia it stirs up memories of the village she left behind and for Ginny it's time alone to think about her future and what she really wants. Rosanna Ley is a wonderfully talented writer who will appeal to fans of Cathy Kelly, Rachel Hore and Rosamunde Pilcher. I can't wait to read more from this author.

A Humble Companion by Laurie Graham


This is a fascinating novel ideal for fans of Austen which brings alive the History of the Royal family from George III to Victoria, their quirks and foibles, follies and vices. The tale is told through the voice of Nellie Welche; companion to Princess Sofy daughter of mad king George. Nellie is a wonderful creation; smart and outspoken she is a shrewd observer and a candid narrator. She lives a strange existence neither a servant nor a noble, yet she is privy to secrets both dangerous and heartbreaking and yet at times she is rudely treated and belittled. The story begins when Nellie and Sofy are still young girls and Nellie is overawed at the opportunity she has been given to experience life in the royal household. As she grows older and experiences love and heartbreak, marriage and hard work she begins to question the small confined life of the royal princesses and relish her own relative freedom. Nellie and Sofy remain lifelong friends corresponding frequently even in the years when visits were few. Laurie Graham has written a witty and poignant story of a time of great privilege and poverty and enormous change.


Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson
Reviewed for We Love This Book

Fast paced, thrilling and exciting; Losing Lila is the absorbing sequel to last year’s Hunting Lila. Lila is a psy, one of a small group of people with extraordinary abilities. Lila’s gift is telekinesis, she can move objects with her mind and her power is growing stronger. She and her brother’s best friend Alex are being hunted by a secretive military organisation; the Unit who want to harness the psys abilities and create a super weapon. You may want to re-read Hunting Lila as this book dives right into the action with Alex and Lila running across rooftops in Mexico City. Soon we learn that Lila’s brother Jack is in a coma and in hospital under armed guard while their father has arrived and has been asked to work for the Unit. Lila returns to California alone to try and work out how she can rescue her brother and their Mum, but without the other psys will she able to save those she loves before the Unit discover her abilities. It’s a race against time and with Alex unable to help her will she lose him too. Read it and find out. The only problem I had with this book is that everything happens very fast and there are a lot of characters to keep track off. However this series is highly recommended especially if you like Michael Grant or The Hunger Games.
 

The Borrower by Rebecca Makai


The Borrower by Rebecca Makai
Reviewed for
For We Love This Book

Lucy is a clever girl with a good degree, so her parents don’t understand why she chooses not to gain a Masters or to use her father’s contacts to get a successful job. Lucy doesn’t really understand it either but she has effectively buried herself in books, accepting a job as a children’s librarian in Hannibal Missouri even though she hasn’t trained in Library Science and living in a run down apartment unable to let go of the stacks of books around her in case someone might want or need them.
Despite her attempt to run away from her own destiny Lucy discovers a vocation of sorts in Hannibal when she meets Ian a precocious ten year old with a high IQ and a passion for reading. Ian’s parents however are determined to shape his reading and his personality. They have enrolled their son in anti-gay classes and provided Lucy with a list of the kind of books they don’t wish him to read. Examples include anything to do with magic, witchcraft or the theory of evolution.
When Lucy discovers Ian camped out amongst the stacks early one morning they inadvertently run away together. This novel is a paean to the power of children’s literature and the importance of books for children that can inspire and assure when life can seem so confusing. Sweet but not saccharine, entertaining and warm, the writing is wonderful and the characters of Lucy and Ian will stay with you long after the last page.
       

Spy for the Queen of Scots By Theresa Breslin

Spy for the Queen of Scots  By Theresa Breslin

Reviewed for We Love This Book



Theresa Breslin is a Carnegie Medal-winning author with a number of fantastic books for teens and younger readers to her credit, including a number of thrilling historicalnovels. This new book is no exception, engaging and intriguing it tells the story of the young Mary Queen of Scots through the eyes of her companion Jenny. Fiercely loyal to her Queen and oldest friend, Jenny is a wonderful narrator and through her Theresa Breslin brings alive some of the most interesting people in Early Modern History, making then utterly accessible; the strange prophet Nostradamus, the ruthless Catherine de Medici and the captivating Mary Queen of Scots. Jenny becomes a spy accidently when she overhears Catherine de Medici speak of poison and enemies and she determines to keep her ears open in order to protect her Queen. However this is a dark and dangerous time to be royal and the more Jenny learns of the betrayal, intrigue and murder which abound at the French and Scottish courts the more she puts herself in danger. Sometimes being loyal can involve great sacrifice. This is a wonderfully enthralling and page-turning read which fans of Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir and Victoria Lamb will lap up. Theresa Breslin sheds light on an eternally fascinating period in history revealing not only the splendour and politics of court but also the bloodthirsty savagery of war and rebellion. Magnificent.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dreams by Daniela Sacerdoti






I was very excited and grateful to be sent a copy of Daniela's first novel for teens. I had read and adored Daniela's first book a novel for adults, a wonderful romantic story set in the Scottish highlands called Watch Over Me, it was one of the fiction highlights of 2011. So I had a certain amount of expectation with this novel and I wasn't disappointed. The book opens as Sarah's parents are lowered into the ground, all the certainties of her world have come crashing down. Sarah Midnight is a wonderful creation; frightened, vulnerable and very believable she is also the calm centre of the supernatural storm raging around her. With her parents dead she must continue their work as a demon hunter and come to terms with the fact that they have not trained her to survive the danger that this entails. While Sarah battles demons using the blackwater which she draws from the earth and channels to banish them, she must also wage nightly battles as her dreams offer guidance and foretell the dangers to come. It's no wonder she's tired and on top of that she has to go to school, practise her cello and she suffers from OCD. Her long lost cousin Harry arrives and becomes her protector but Sarah cannot be sure if she should trust him. She is tormented by strange and confusing dreams and as demons begin to attack her and Harry it seems there are many more secrets in the Midnight family which Sarah has yet to learn. Daniela Sacerdoti is a talented intelligent writer who creates great fully rounded characters. She avoids the clich├ęs of the YA paranormal genre and instead creates her own mythology and builds an utterly believable world in which her characters relationships feel genuine and warm. I loved reading this book, as the two young people come to depend on each other and  their relationship grows you cannot help rooting for them, of course this is the first of a trilogy so the book ends although the story does not and the twist at the end of this first instalment leaves the reader hungry for more.

In the Postbox

I got more books to review again!!! yay Happy Dance!! These four beauties arrived today. The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay and The Untied Kingdom by Kate Johnson arrived from ChocLit and The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross and Pushing the Limits by Kate McGarry are from MiraInk. Can't wait to get stuck in.



This is How it Ends/ Tyringham Park/ Secrets of the Tides


I was delighted recently to read three popular fiction debuts which each in their own way deal with families, secrets and tragedies and are united by the recurring theme of water. This is How It Ends by Kathleen McMahon is the story of Bruno and Addie who are distant cousins. Irish American Bruno cut adrift from work decides to look up his Irish roots while Dubliner Addie is also out of work and looking after her aging father. The family home at Sandymount looking out to the sea and the sea itself are important recurring symbols for the author and our two protagonists meet appropriately enough at Sandymount strand. Both characters are feeling lonely and vulnerable and their connection is instant. Kathleen McMahon writes beautifully about the simple but all embracing process of falling in love. Through the characters of Bruno and Addie and those around them we learn about the family secrets and the fragility of life for as the title suggests this book is all about endings. Warning, you may need tissues. There was a lot of fanfare upon the acquisition and the release of this book as Kathleen is the granddaughter of acclaimed Irish writer Mary Lavin. Perhaps this novel is not as literary as many had expected. It is a novel of quiet power with some beautiful writing, though I felt it didn't quite grab my soul. Though I’m sure the author has a great future in front of her and her best may be yet to come.

Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin is another debut from an Australian lady who has made Ireland her home. Rosemary McLoughlin has already established herself as an artist but writing has always been a passion and now in her seventies she has realised her dream of publishing a novel. Poolbeg have once again branched out and published this fantastic, historical saga but the timing of this release is impeccable. With the popularity of Downtown Abbey this book will have broad appeal; it has echoes of Daphne du Maurier, Kate Morton and Rachel Hore. Charlotte Blackshaw is the novel's flawed heroine; a neglected child, a tortured artist, a troubled soul. the story opens with the mysterious disappearance of baby Victoria Blackshaw who is feared drowned and follows Charlotte through her cold relationship with her parents, the abuse she receives from her nanny and the comfort she gains from the friendly housekeeper as she grows up to become an artist, a wife and a mother. Through the grand sweep of world history through two wars and the turmoil of Irish independence from Dublin to London to Australia this story is painted across a broad canvas. Overall the novel is an enjoyable and page turning read however I felt that the plot was a little flabby in places and some historical anomalies niggled but didn't detract from what is a really entertaining debut.

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Rihcell is the debut novel of an English author now living in Australia. The book title is a play on words as it deals with the multi-generational tale of the Tide family but also features the power and danger of water as a force of nature both giving and taking life. The opening prologue of the book featuring a young girl travelling by train to London tormented by guilt and regret and finally throwing herself from a bridge into the murky Thames is fantastically powerful and instantly intrigues the reader. With a wonderful narrative drive the story is recounted by different female voices in the Tide family each slowly revealing a little more of the puzzle. Dora who is returning to the family home, the beautiful old house by the sea in Dorset is at the heart of the novel. She is a wonderfully realised character, easy to empathise with. Even the minor players are fully fleshed out and add to the richness of the drama. This is a dramatic and very well written debut which will appeal to fans of Mary Wesley, Daphne du Maurier and Kate Morton. I must admit it was my favourite of the three novels featured here. The author will I'm sure be given the Richard & Judy seal of approval, if not with this novel then surely with the next as she certainly knows how to write a good character driven story.