Monday, 22 June 2015

The Ballroom Café by Ann O'Loughlin

Welcome to Book-Love-Bug and the next stop on 
The Ballroom Café Blog Tour....

"Sisters Ella and Roberta O'Callaghan live in separate wings of their crumbling Irish mansion. They haven't spoken for decades, torn apart by a dark family secret from their past, and only communicate through the terse and bitter notes they leave for each other in the hallway.

Debbie, an American woman, is searching for her birth mother. She has little time left but as she sets out to discover who she really is and what happened to her mother, she is met by silence and lies at the local convent.

With the bank threatening, Ella tries to save the family home by opening a café in the ballroom – much to Roberta's disgust. And when Debbie offers to help out in the café, the war between the sisters intensifies. But as Debbie finally begins to unravel the truth, she uncovers an adoption scandal that will rock both the community and the warring sisters.

Powerful and poignant, The Ballroom Café is a moving story of love lost and found."

You can follow every stop of the blog tour by visiting each of the following blogs:

I adored The Ballroom Café which is a very touching story and will no doubt touch the hearts of many people across the world (and not just those with Irish connections) as it features the uncovering of an Irish adoption scandal.  

It brings to mind Philomena and the scandal which has shocked people in recent years.  However, at the same time this book is not really comparable to to PhilomenaThe Ballroom Café is so much more than just a story about adoption; it is a thought-provoking story of community, of love and loss, of hope and of friendship.  I loved that the backdrop was based on true events, and you can read more about the Irish adoption scandal below.

I immediately felt like I belonged in this story which is set in County Wicklow, Ireland.  Whilst heavily tinged with tragedy, there is a really light and buoyancy  that radiates from this book.  The characters are fabulous, whether that be the main characters or the supporting cast.  I loved the relationship between the two sisters and the way they communicated only by short terse notes having not spoken for decades and I loved the way the various characters really touched each others lived. 

The story is both intriguing and captivating.  I was totally hooked and when the ending came, it was satisfying but there were some loose ends that left me craving more.  My one and only complaint would be that the ending felt a little bit rushed, as though the editing sword had fallen a little to harshly in places.  I wanted to bask in the ending and I wanted to know more.

I loved Ann O'Loughlin's style of writing, the words and chapters flowed perfectly which keeps you turning the pages and the characters are all excellently drawn to create the perfect story.  I was shocked to discover that The Ballroom Café is Ann's debut book, as it feels like something from an extremely accomplished author; Ann's years of journalism and writing clearly shine through.

Thank you to Black & White Publishing for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Ballroom Café is out now in kindle format and paperback.  I cannot recommend highly enough that you get your copy NOW.  It is currently an absolute bargain on Kindle:


"About the Irish Adoption Scandal

A scandal that has been simmering under the surface for many years in Ireland, novel portrays the never-ending pain of those taken from the arms of their mothers and the unbearable heartbreak of the young unmarried mothers who never saw their children again.

Up to 2,000 children were secretly adopted and sent to America from Mother and Baby homes run by religious orders in Ireland.The mothers left behind were unmarried, rejected by their families and almost outcasts in Catholic Ireland.

The ‘mail-order adoptions’ to the US continued well into the 1960s and 1970.While it was illegal to pay for adoption, the adoptive parents gave donations towards expenses – several hundred pounds, which equates to thousands in today’s terms.

Many children were simply spirited away, with little thought for their birth mothers left behind or indeed the homes the children were sent to, which were often dysfunctional,’ Ann O’Loughlin said.

She added: ‘In my research for this book I have listened to so many stories of heartbreak. Only now in Ireland are women beginning to tell their stories and realise the shame is not theirs, but at the feet of the Catholic Church.’ "

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

"International bestselling author Marian Keyes is bringing you another masterfully told story full of wit and charm.

'Name: Stella Sweeney.

Height: average.

Recent life events: dramatic.'

One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life.

For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That's okay. She doesn't really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car).

But in this meeting is born the seed of something which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart.

Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad?

For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it?"

The Woman Who Stole My Life is simply fabulous and utterly divine.  It is engaging, funny in places, always messy, delicious and real.  It feels so right to be back in the arms of Marian Keyes.  

Whilst the main narrative of the present day spans only a dozen or so days, the story covers a four and a half year period as we slowly come to learn how Stella ended up in NYC and then how she ended up back in Ireland in the state she is in.  I enjoyed the time when Stella was in the hospital most, watching that 'spark' develop into a raging fire.  I also enjoyed watching that fire burn and I have to say I enjoyed it burning in Ireland more than in NYC.

The Woman Who Stole My Life is not gripping in a psychological thriller type of way, but it does draw you in and it keeps you engaged.  It is plump; full of detail (none of which you want to skip right over) and Keyes' has the knack of making you feel like you are in the room with the characters.  

I have to admit it is not my absolute favourite Marian Keyes book; it does not have the warm Irish family loveliness that the Walsh family books have and I also have to admit that it is not totally recognisable as a Marian Keyes book from the style of writing; it didn't feel like reading Marian (in the way that reading Watermelon, for example, feels like being in a room with Marian Keyes telling you a story).  However, at the same time, it is not totally unrecognisable - I still loved it; it is absorbing and I love getting lost in the world of Marian Keyes.  I am not sure MK could ever disappoint, and she certainly doesn't here!

You can follow Marian on twitter here and I wholeheartedly recommend you do so; if you do nothing else this year, do this.  She is hilarious, the funniest thing on the planet!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen

"What to believe 

Who to betray 

When to run…

Plastic surgeon Dr Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone, in prison and has no memory of the murder.

DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember… 

A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.

As Maria gets closer to the truth she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive."

Nikki Owen weaves a complicated web in The Spider in the Corner of the Room which is a gripping psychological, conspiracy-theory thriller and the first in a trilogy.  

Nikki Owen is an exceptional writer.  She has managed to concoct a story where the reader does not have the slightest inkling of what is going on but at the same time it is not frustrating, but totally absorbing.  

The story is set mainly with Maria in intense therapy sessions but the story shifts around a lot and it is not always entirely obvious whether the shifts are to her memories, an alternative present or the future.  The Spider in the Corner of the Room is not the sort of book you can just skim through; it requires your full attention and concentration.  Even with that, there is so much going on that it was not until I sat down to write this review that I fully worked out how the shifts worked and what the present time consisted of.  It is hard to say anything more without giving away the storyline!

With each shift, I found myself thinking that I finally knew what and who to believe and then I would turn the page, the timeframe would shift again, and once more I would myself back to square one and was left wondering whether I was going mad.  

I have not read a book which has a character with Asperger's before and have no first hand experience of it so cannot say how true to form it is, but from reading other reviews of this book, it would appear that Maria is a well-researched and thought out character rather than being the stereotypical version of someone with Asperger's.

The book is powerful and it does make you think how scary and powerless you would feel if you found yourself accused of a murder you cannot remember committing and in a prison where you do not know who you can trust or what you can believe.

Around the middle of the book, I did find my interest waning slightly as the book  as a whole is a little drawn-out and slightly repetitive but that adds to the powerful message.  The build up is slow and the pace does not really accelerate until towards the end of the book when the answers you have been searching for begin to suddenly cascade into the reader's awareness.  As I was nearing the end of the book, I was worried that Nikki Owen was going to end the first in this trilogy without answering a single question that I had flying around my head, but suddenly, right at the last minute, everything begins to come together and the ending does wrap up this part of the series as well as leading the way perfectly for the next instalment.

The Spider in the Corner of the Room is out today, 4 June!

Thank you to Midas PR for the review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.