“House of Echoes” Brendan Duffy

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. Ballantine Books (Random House). Published April 14, 2015.

HouseOfEchoesBen Tierney and his wife Caroline live with their baby boy and eight-year-old son Charlie in a Manhattan apartment. When Ben’s grandmother dies, he and his brother inherit a sprawling mansion called the Crofts built between two mountains in the small upstate New York town of Swannhaven. Charlie has endured severe bullying at his school, so Ben is sure he and his family should start a new life at the Crofts. In a short time, the Tierney’s move to Swannhaven to renovate and turn the mansion into an inn has become a reality.

As time goes on creepy things begin to happen at the Crofts, and Ben finds himself facing questions that don’t seem to have any answers. Why does Charlie keep disappearing into the forest? Why do the villagers look at them so strangely? Why does it feel like someone is watching his family? What is really going on at Swannhaven? These questions and more will keep readers at the edges of their seats.

“House of Echoes” has many similarities to the 1973 novel “Harvest Home,” by Thomas Tryon. It is such a creepy and shocking read, I suggest you read during the day. If you must read at night, make sure you have plenty of lights on in the house! Duffy doles out the creepiness in enough doses to keep readers turning pages, eagerly trying to find out what will happen next to the Tierney family.

Recommended for Adult readers.

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“My best everything” Sarah Tomp

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. Published March 3, 2015. Little, Brown & Company.

MyBestEverythingSeventeen-year-old Lulu tells her story through a letter to the boy she met and fell in love with during the summer she graduated from high school. Falling in love was not part of her plan, as she was supposed to leave Virginia in just a few months. She planned to say goodbye to her best friend Roni and to her backwoods town of Dale so she could start a new life at the University of San Diego. For her part Roni is certain her future lies in marrying her boyfriend Bucky and living in Dale forever. Neither of them can understand why Lulu is so anxious to leave, but Lulu is undeterred. She will leave Dale.

Unfortunately all of Lulu’s plans come to a screeching halt when her father loses her college money in a poor financial move. She is devastated, but is determined that she will get out of Dale no matter the cost. When a moonshine still is delivered to the junkyard where she works with Roni, Lulu is sure selling moonshine will be the answer to her problems. Bucky’s friend Mason has been in the moonshine business with his cousin Seth, and offers to help with their endeavor.

As Lulu, Roni, Bucky and Mason work together to secretly make and sell their illegal moonshine, Lulu again finds her life turned upside down. Her need to leave Dale has compromised everything she has ever believed in, as she finds herself turning into someone she doesn’t recognize. Confused over her feelings for Mason, and now questioning her desire to leave Dale, Lulu’s summer turns into a bubbling mess that will rival any moonshine in her secret still.

Determination, strength of will, and stubbornness are just a few of the adjectives that describe some of the characters in “My best everything.” Though I don’t agree with the way Lulu decided to try and solve her problems, I admire the way she owned up to her mistakes.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“1999: A novel of the Celtic Tiger and the search for peace” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 4 stars **** 2008. Irish Century Novels #5. Tom Doherty Associates. 399 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters,Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1999 AnoveloftheCelticTigerandthe searchforpeaceBarry Halloran’s personal fight as a photojournalist against Ireland’s occupation by the British continues in the last book of The Irish Century series. In “1999” readers are infused with information about the various IRA Republican factions which continued their battles for a united Ireland, contrasted with crimes committed against Catholics by British and Protestant organizations aided and abetted by local police.

As usual, Llywelyn summarizes information covered in previous books to bring the reader “up to speed.” However I found a glaring error in “1999,” which disappointed me since the author has always been very good at seamlessly joining all her books.

The error was a complete changing of an event that happened in “1972” in which Barry woke Barbara Kavanagh from a deep sleep and proposed to her. Afterwards they both woke up his best friend Séamus to ask him to be the best man.

I was very dismayed to have the marriage proposal be completely changed in “1999”, as the proposal now occurs while Barbara is having an argument with her mother over the telephone. Later that evening, Séamus returns home and is asked to be Barry’s best man.

I am at a loss as to why Barry’s proposal was changed from one book to the other. Did an editor not catch the change? If Morgan Llywelyn were to read this review I would ask why she changed such a romantic proposal from “1972” into this “ho hum” proposal in “1999.” In my opinion, a change was not necessary.

Other than having a problem with this change, I enjoyed “1999.”

Recommended for Adult readers.

“1972: A novel of Ireland’s unfinished revolution” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2005. Irish Century Novels #4. Tom Doherty Associates. 365 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Bipartisan Declaration from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1972Barry Halloran, Ursula’s son and Ned’s grandson, now takes up the centuries long fight for Ireland’s independence in Llywelyn’s latest book.

Eager to fight for his country Barry joins the IRA as a foot soldier, and is soon enamored with the feeling of camaraderie amongst the men in the army. He has hope for his country’s future but, when he actually killed someone, Barry decided there had to be a way to make a difference without killing. In time he became a demolition expert for the IRA, but insisted his targets be places where lives would not be lost. Soon, he became the best demolition expert in the army.

With Northern Catholics experiencing severe civil rights violations, various political factions within the country sought to copy the nonviolent civil rights movement undertaken in America in an effort to reunite the country. Now an experienced photojournalist, Barry is in the midst of the action as Northern extremists clash with Catholics. Ireland and Barry’s coming of age story are uniquely joined, culminating in the terrible events known to history as Bloody Sunday.

Recommended for Adults.

“1949: A novel of the Irish Free State” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2003. Irish Century Novels #3. Tom Doherty Associates. 485 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Ireland Act from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1949With Ned off fighting for the Republic and Henry living in America, it is up to Ursula Halloran to take up the story of Ireland and her struggles for freedom in this newest edition to the Irish Century series.

After two years at a Swiss finishing school, Ursula arrives back at the home of Louise Hamilton determined to get a job at a radio station and become more heavily involved in Ireland’s quest to become a Republic. Determined not to marry and to remain independent, contrary to what the Catholic Church has instilled into the consciousness of her countrywomen, she forges a strong path for herself.

Ursula’s strong willed tendencies make her extremely attractive to two men. With each determined to win her love Ursula refuses to give in to her feelings, even when she becomes pregnant. Without telling the father of her child, she travels to Switzerland to work for the League of Nations and to give birth as a single mother outside of the condemnation of the Church. Unfortunately Adolf Hitler and the rise of Fascism have led to a thirst for power and land among various leaders. With almost all of Europe falling to his army, she and little Barry are no longer safe.

Ireland’s role during the war, along with its own internal battles for freedom, form a background to Ursula’s story, the rise of Hitler and the horrors of World War II. Readers will learn of important historical events while continuing to follow the highs and lows of the Halloran clan who we have grown to love.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Gracelin O’Malley” Ann Moore

Rated 5 stars ***** 2001. Gracelin O’Malley #1. New American Library (Penguin Putnam). 398 pp. (Includes “Conversation Guide” and “Questions for Discussion.”)

GracelinO'MalleyGracelin O’Malley experienced tragedy at a young age when her older brother Sean was crippled in the accident that took her mother’s life. Times were rough for the Irish in 1840, as they worked hard for their English landlords and struggled to pay the quarterly rents on their small farms and avoid eviction. When money became tighter than ever Grace’s father Patrick made a deal with their landlord, Squire Donnelly, who promised to care for the family if Grace was given to him in marriage. He wanted an heir and, despite having had two wives die, was sure Grace would give him a son. Though only 15 years old Grace agreed to the marriage, knowing her family needed his financial promise to hold on to their small farm but unaware of his cruelty.

Unable to pay their rents when blight caused the potato crops to fail in the Great Famine of 1845, the Irish people soon faced starvation and eviction from their land. With her brother and his best friend caught up in the Young Ireland revolutionary group formed to help free their country from British rule, and with a love for Ireland and its people, Grace disobeyed her husband to feed as many people as possible. What follows is a heartrending account of her husband’s behavior as well as Britain’s apathy to the millions of starving Irish men, women and children who roamed the land seeking aid in their time of need. The bravery of young Irish rebels, including Grace, who worked hard to save many in the face of impending disaster is applauded.

Ann Moore’s well-researched novel is sure to reach even the hardest of hearts and turn many towards asking the only question that makes sense over 150 years after this novel took place: “Why won’t Great Britain let Ireland be free?” As shown in her novel, England had no love for the land nor its people, allowing a million Irish men, women and children to starve to death or die from typhus and other diseases while losing another million to immigration.

I believe the Irish people should be the ones to decide the future of their own land, not a conqueror like Great Britain. I feel the same way about Puerto Rico still being owned by the United States, and believe she should also be set free. As Moses said to Pharaoh long ago “let my people go.” The time of colonization and ownership of people and their lands has ended.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry” Amanda Hughes

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2011. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform).

BeyondTheCliffsOfKerryDarcy McBride and her brother Liam had survived the Great Hunger of 1740 in their hometown of Kerry, Ireland. With the rest of their family lost to starvation, Liam turned into a bitter, hard drinking man who hated the British for their laws against Catholics. He and Darcy joined a small ring of smugglers in 1755 to trade wool with the French, helping their village obtain food and allowing them a small measure of revenge against the British.

One night they smuggled a priest into the village, deliberately breaking the British law that did not allow the Irish to have a priest or worship as Catholics. Severe penalties would result if it were known they were harboring a priest, but the villagers of Kerry were determined to worship as they pleased. Father Etienne was eager to help the people who had been without a priest for so long, and soon became an important part of their lives. Sensing a love for knowledge he taught Darcy to read, opening a new world for her as she and Father Etienne’s friendship bonded over her education.

Darcy’s life changed again when she was arrested and sentenced to 7 years of bondage in the American Colonies for her role in the smuggling ring. Her life as an indentured mistress, as well as battles of the heart and the times are excitingly detailed in “Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry.” Readers will be drawn to her independent spirit and fiery attitude, and lovers of historical fiction will see the beginnings of the French and Indian War come to life in its pages.

Despite a few too many commas in the wrong places, I thoroughly enjoyed this self-published book. It is one of the rare ones that captured my attention because of its storyline, and because it was well edited.

Recommended for Adult readers.