Reviewing the Unreviewed – February 2018

This was originally supposed to be a more regular feature than it has ended up being, but I’m back with my second installation of Reviewing the Unreviewed!

I went wild reading, but not reviewing, in February of this year, so this post is all the books I read in February that didn’t get a whole post of their own.

  • Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • The Alphabet Sisters (The Alphabet Sisters #1) – Monica McInerney*
  • The Names They Gave Us – Emery Lord
  • Winnie-the-Pooh (Winnie the Pooh #1) – AA Milne
  • The House at Pooh Corner (Winnie the Pooh #2) – AA Milne*
  • Wilde Like Me – Robin Pentland
  • The Loneliest Girl in the Universe – Lauren James
  • Motherfoclóir – Darach Ó Séaghdha
  • Accidentally Married (Married #1) – Victoria E Lieske
  • My Favourite Husband ( Romantic Comedy Duo #1) – Pam McCutcheon
  • Golden Chances – Rebecca Hagan Lee
  • The Fandom – Anna Day
  • My True Love Gave To Me – (ed) Stephanie Perkins
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Chance for Love – Ann B Harrison
  • Her Favourite Cowboy – Ann B Harrison
  • A Mail-Order Heart – Janelle Daniels
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • The Lottie Project – Jacqueline Wilson*
  • Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ink – Alice Broadway
  • The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame*
  • Second Chances – Heather Tullis
  • The Sheikh’s Twin Baby Surprise – Holly Rayner

32365675Hamlet & Macbeth – William Shakespeare

I had never read either of these before. I’m very glad I did. Lots of plotting, lots of death, tragedies galore, and I feel like I’m a little more clued-up on a cornerstone of the English literary history canon. And actually, they were both very entertaining, and relatively easy to read.

Hamlet – Four Stars
Macbeth – Three Stars

The Alphabet Sisters – Monica McInerney

It’s been about ten years since I first read this, and cried so hard I couldn’t see the page any more. I thought that ten years and a different format (audiobook) might have changed that. I was wrong. Still gut-wrenching, but very enjoyable.

The Alphabet Sisters – Five Stars

The Names They Gave Us – Emery Lord34200229

Lovely. Interesting to read a book where religion is a big part of the main character’s life, it’s not something I read a lot of. A gorgeous coming of age story.

The Names They Gave Us – Three Stars

Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner – AA Milne

Nostalgia galore here. I have a very old, very battered copy of The House at Pooh Corner which I absolutely refuse to get rid of, despite the fact that the spine is entirely destroyed.

Winnie the Pooh – Four Stars
The House at Pooh Corner – Five Stars

Wilde Like Me – Louise Pentland

32498973I wasn’t wild about this one. It was a bit predictable, and a bit clichéd. Plus I listened to an audiobook, and I wasn’t crazy about the narrator. But this was definitely a personal preference. The sequel has recently been announced.

Wilde Like Me – Three Stars

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe – Lauren James

This was really interesting, but not at all what the blurb suggested it would be. I was expecting a romance, which was not at all what I got. What I did get was enjoyable, but the difference between expectation and reality was jarring.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe – Four Stars

Motherfoclóir – Darach Ó Séaghda36198019

A light-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable investigation of the Irish language and the Irish people’s relationship with it. Packed with fun instances of trivia, it had a little difficulty deciding whether it had a narrative thread or not, which made it a little disjointed, but still very fun.

Motherfoclóir – Four Stars

Accidentally Married – Victorine E Lieske

Utterly forgettable. I have trouble even remembering the circumstances without flipping through the pages. Very run of the mill, nothing good or bad to distinguish this one.

Accidentally Married – Three Stars

23356374My Favourite Husband ( Romantic Comedy Duo #1) – Pam McCutcheon

Some ridiculous slapstick in this which actually made me laugh out loud, but really it was just too much to be believed. Toning it down just a smidgeon would have made it a surprising favourite, but it was altogether too much for me, and entirely unbelievable.

My Favourite Husband – Two Stars

Golden Chances – Rebecca Hagan Lee

Just… a terrible book. A horrendous story, a naive protagonist, a romantic lead who was utterly uninteresting, and a resolution which felt rushed. Plus the coincidences between characters having past connections was just… ugh, ridiculous.

Golden Chances – Two Stars

The Fandom – Anna Day

An interesting idea, to mix a dystopian world with a fourth-wall-breaking story of fans sucked into the book, I wasn’t really thrilled by this. It seemed like two different things mashed together, and not very smooth.

The Fandom – Three Stars

My True Love Gave To Me – (ed) Stephanie Perkins

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A bunch of sweet, but ultimately depthless stories.

My True Love Gave To Me – Three Stars

Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

God, women had it hard. Thomas Hardy’s excoriation of Tess’s horrendous circumstances is harrowing at times. But seriously Tess. Stand up for yourself a bit!!

Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Three Stars

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Chance for Love – Ann B Harrison

This was silly, and there was no depth to it.

Chance for Love – Two Stars

Her Favourite Cowboy – Ann B Harrison

Knowing the above, why did I read another book in the same series by the same author? Well, it was free. It was equally silly, but it passed a few hours.

Her Favourite Cowboy – Two Stars

A Mail-Order Heart – Janelle Daniels29967219

I like the set-up for this series, and the story of Sawyer and Clara was very sweet, but it all got a bit melodramatic towards the end.

A Mail-Order Heart – Three Stars

Animal Farm – George Orwell

A classic, and an allegorical tale of great importance, but not exactly the kind of thing you’d curl up and re-read.

Animal Farm – Four Stars

11491102The Lottie Project – Jacqueline Wilson*

Classic Jacqueline Wilson, with added historical (Victorian) perspectives. Charlie is a brat, but still very loveable.

The Lottie Project – Four Stars

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

It turns out that since this is often associated with Catch-22, I thought it was just a war story. It turns out there’s aliens in it. Not at all what I expected.

Slaughterhouse-Five – Two Stars

Ink – Alice Broadway32827036

This was beautiful-looking, and had a lot of good stuff in it, but it didn’t really tick all the boxes for me. The main character didn’t get into my head the way many do.

Ink – Three Stars

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame*

18680745I love this. Such a nostalgic read for me. I was entranced by the adventures of Ratty and Mole. And Toad and Badger. Love this.

The Wind in the Willows – Four Stars

Second Chances – Heather Tullis

Free on Amazon, and I’m not even sure it was worth that… Utterly forgettable.

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Second Chances – Two Stars

The Sheikh’s Twin Baby Surprise – Holly Rayner

It is not a SURPRISE when it is in the TITLE of the book. This. Was. Terrible.

The Sheikh’s Twin Baby Surprise – One Star

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The Woman at 72 Derry Lane – Carmel Harrington

I’ve seen a lot of discussion of this book in the Rick O’Shea book club, and my mother read it around Christmas time. She was intrigued by the mention of a particular person in the book – my boss, actually. it’s taken me several more months, but I finally picked it up and read the Woman at 72 Derry Lane one night last week, when I had forgotten to grab the paperback I was reading, and therefore was looking for something to fill the void. Fairly insubstantial, I don’t really understand why this has gotten all the praise I’ve seen for it. There was nothing massively wrong with it, but it was pretty forgettable.

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane – Carmel Harrington

33229417.jpgTake the warmth and wit of Maeve Binchy and the secrets and twists of a Liane Moriarty and you get the utterly original and compelling voice of Carmel Harrington, a voice that has captured the hearts of readers around the world.

Set on a beautiful leafy street in Dublin, the novel explores the unlikely friendship between two neighbours. Beautiful, serene Stella, who appears to have it all, and gruff, bad-tempered Rea, who seems to have lost it all…including her marbles if you believe the neighbourhood gossip.

But appearances can be deceiving and both women discover that behind closed doors everyone has a secret they are desperate to keep…

There were a few things I found quite interesting about this book. One was that the narrative was split between three characters – Stella, Skye, and Rea.

Skye is seventeen and on holidays with her family for the first time, in Thailand in December 2004.

Stella and Rea, meanwhile, live next door to each other on Derry Lane in 2014, each a slightly unwilling audience member to the other’s life.

Skye is told in first person narrative, while Stella and Rea are both third person – except for a few paragraphs in one of Stella’s chapters where she abruptly switches to first person, then back to third. I don’t know if this was accidental or deliberate. There is also one chapter which is clearly Stella’s story, but Skye’s name is at the top of the chapter (they’re labelled with the name of the focal character). Again, I don’t know if that was deliberate or accidental.

I don’t like books, generally, which switch between first and third person like that. It unfairly privileges one story over the others, and to be honest, Skye’s story was the least interesting of the three. As soon as you see ‘Thailand, December 2004’, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen. I was far more interested in the more home-based and present stories of Rea and Stella. But that might have been a personal preference.

Knowing what was going to happen to Skye, however, meant that I found her story to be extremely dragged-out. It was obvious from the first chapter what was coming, but it took a long time (not least because her story only reappeared every third chapter) before anything actually happened, and I was left impatiently flipping pages as fast as I could to get to something actually starting.

So I thought the balance of the three stories was off. I’m not opposed to interweaving narratives from different times – there have been some great books have done that to wonderful effect, but I thought this particular effort was clunky, and the relationship between Skye and the 2014 stories became obvious to me very early on, meaning I was bored very quickly with the mystery surrounding it.

My other issue with this book, and I don’t know if it’s a complaint or a comment or just a musing, is that the author includes real-world people as characters. Although I’m not opposed to this notion, it happened a lot in this book, and every time I found it quite jarring.

Maybe it’s just because it doesn’t happen very often, but when characters in the book started talking about how they loved Claudia Carroll’s new book, and wasn’t she a wagon in Fair City, or that they loved a good Maeve Binchy to curl up and read, I was very pulled out of the story. Are these the author paying tribute to fellow authors she knows (knew?) and loved? Is it supposed to be authentic to the characters? If you’re supposed to be entrenching them in real-world 2014 Ireland, surely the cultural references would be much more frequent?

There is also a discussion of a fledgling carpentry business which gets a boost when Anne Doyle (a newsreader, for non-Irish among us) buys a bench, which then leads to Bono buying one. Again, why name real people here? What does it add to the story? Is it a sly nod to people the author knows, or is it designed to ground the story in realism? Also, does Anne Doyle like to buy garden benches?

The final example of this (which I actually knew about before I started the book) is in one of the later scenes, with Skye. An employee of the Irish diplomatic service is offering assistance and his name is given in-text as Dan Mulhall. Dan Mulhall is the current Irish Ambassador to the United States, and was my boss (I mean, like, many, many levels above my pay grade) in my last job, when he was Irish ambassador to GB. So although I’ve only met the man a few times, and couldn’t claim to know him well, and he was actually working during the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, it was wildly jarring to see a real-life person thrown into the pages of this fictional book.

Perhaps other people would find this an addition to the book, and appreciate the meticulous effort that Carmel Harrington must put into her research, but for me it really threw me out of the reading mindset. Also, it’s really not common in books (and I read a lot of books) so I have to wonder what motivates Harrington to include these kinds of details. Not in a rude or cruel way, it’s a stylistic choice which I don’t like, but I certainly don’t disagree with it.

In any case, although there were some great moments in this book, some heart-string-tugging scenes and a delicate exploration of the nuances of domestic abuse, as well as agoraphobia, in the end it wasn’t really a winner for me, because I spent too much time picking over little details and losing momentum in the story.

 

Three Stars
***

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Austentatious

As I mentioned near the start of the year, I’m working my way through a list of classics and books that I feel like I should have read by now, trying to get as many of them ticked off as I can before I turn 30. Less than two years to go, eek!

In any case, as part of this, I’ve read four of Jane Austen’s six major novels (With Northanger Abbey and Mansfield park not making the cut) and I’ve decided I actually really like them.

The reason I read my first Austen was that I watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and felt like I was missing out by not knowing the underlying story. So I listened to the audiobook of that on my way home from the Lake District last September. Since then, I’ve also ticked off Emma, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, meaning I now feel like I have some ability to offer opinions on some of the Austen canon.

Pride and Prejudice

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Thus memorably begins Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, one of the world’s most popular novels. Pride and Prejudice–Austen’s own ‘darling child’–tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.

Humorous and profound, and filled with highly entertaining dialogue, this witty comedy of manners dips and turns through drawing-rooms and plots to reach an immensely satisfying finale. In the words of Eudora Welty, Pride and Prejudice is as ‘irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.’

My first introduction to Austen has a cast of characters universally known, with the taciturn but good-hearted Darcy and headstrong Elizabeth coming together to their inevitable happiness at the end. No zombies in this version though – not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Very enjoyable, and set me up to try others with a good will.

Four Stars
****

Persuasion

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

I don’t know what it was about this, but I really didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps it was that the characters weren’t as endearing as in P&P, perhaps I was just in the wrong mood for it, but having read it only months ago, I actually can’t remember what happened in the plot. If I had read this first, I doubt I would have been so happy to read more.

Three Stars
***

Emma

‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.’

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

Yes, this is wonderful. I can see why people love Austen so much. Emma is headstrong, arrogant, and interfering. Knightley is benevolent and they are so cute together! Witty and endearing, I loved the characters in this, as well as Austen’s examination of social class and the restrictions on people’s behaviour.

Four Stars
****

Sense and Sensibility

‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Two parallel heroines here, although with Elinor being slightly more prominent, made it easy for Austen to compare the behaviour of these two sisters. With a cast of entertaining and obnoxious supporting characters – like their elder half brother – I really enjoyed the twin tales of love lost, won, and troubled for the Dashwood sisters.

Four Stars
****

Overall, I have to say that I’m impressed with how witty, entertaining, and interesting Austen’s novels have been. I had a sense of them as being very dry and dull, but that’s certainly not the case. I can see why they’ve stood the test of time, and I think Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey will be making their way onto my TBR. Eventually. After I read all the other books on my list, of course.

 

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May Roundup

I can’t believe it’s June already. I have to lodge a complaint with someone. This year is going by too fast, and I really can’t cope with this. We’re almost half-way through, and I don’t feel like I’ve done enough this year! Someone tell me who I can raise this worry with!

Books

  1. Holding – Graham Norton
  2. A Court of Frost and Starlight (ACOTAR #3.5) – Sarah J Maas
  3. The Singing (Pellinor #4) – Alison Croggon
  4. The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) – Philip Pullman
  5. The Last Laugh – Tracy Bloom
  6. All Our Wrong Todays – Elan Mastai
  7. The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella*
  8. The Parent Pact – Laurie Kellogg
  9. Alex and Eliza (Alex and Eliza #1) – Melissa de la Cruz
  10. When it’s Real – Erin Watt
  11. Yours Royally (Billionaires and Brides #3) – Krista Lakes
  12. Kiss the Bride (Montana Born Brides #5, The Davis Sisters #2) – Rachael Johns
  13. The Royal Companion (Companion Series #1) – Tanya Bird
  14. In Search of a Love Story (Love Story #1) – Rachel Schurig
  15. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  16. La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) – Philip Pullman
  17. Something in the Heir (It’s Reigning Men #1) – Jenny Gardiner
  18. Bride in Trouble (Bay of Islands Brides #1) – Serenity Woods
  19. The Power – Naomi Alderman
  20. The Children Act – Ian McEwan
  21. My Sister’s Secret – Tracy Buchanan
  22. Surprise Me – Sophie Kinsella

 Short Stories

  1. The Friendship (Pellinor #0.6) – Alison Croggon
  2. The Island (Pellinor #4.1) – Alison Croggon

Cover Art

Favourite Book This Month

Definitely my favourite book this month was delving back into Lyra’s world of daemons and Oxford, and meeting my new favourite person, Malcolm Polstead. I can’t wait for the second book in the Book of Dust trilogy to come out, as La Belle Sauvage was utterly engrossing.

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Least Favourite Book This Month

I mentioned this in my Royal Weddings post. I really, really disliked The Royal Companion. I will *not* be reading the rest of the series.

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Favourite cover art

A Court of Frost and Starlight. I may have been disappointed with the story itself, but this series is spectacular in terms of cover design. Every time I look at it I notice beautiful new details.

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Other…

I am delighted and completely relieved that Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution, allowing for proper, compassionate regulation of women’s healthcare.

I also spent an incredibly relaxing extended weekend in Edinburgh with some good friends near the end of this month, and I have to say, there really is nothing like having the free time to sit around, chat, read books, and play videogames to recharge your batteries.

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Meet Detective Garda Cat Connolly

I don’t review all of the crime fiction I read on here, because I tend to review the YA books more. But I want to tell you about this series that I’m quite excited about.

Meet Cathy Connolly. Champion kickboxer, Detective Garda, and soon-to-be single mum, she’s set to take the crime fiction world by storm.

I love reading books set in Ireland, but I especially love books written by Irish authors or authors who live in Ireland. You can almost always tell when an author isn’t actually Irish, or has no real experience of Ireland, because it doesn’t ring true. And I really hate that. I’ve mentioned it in a few blog posts. Thankfully, that’s not the case for Cat Connolly.

Sam Blake, the pen name of Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, is not one of those authors. From the opening pages, this feels like it’s really set in Ireland. Married to a retired garda, this means that the author has all the information she needs about police processes in Ireland at her fingertips, and you can tell from the off that she’s not messing around.

I haven’t yet finished Little Bones, the first of the Cat Connolly books, but I have In Deep Water and No Turning Back lined up already, and am very much looking forward to them.

To celebrate the publication of the third book in the series, No Turning Back, which came out earlier this month, books one and two are only 99p on Kindle at the moment. So, in all honesty, I don’t really know what you’re waiting for. Why are you still reading this blog post? Go meet Cat Connolly, and get sucked into her seedy world of investigations, learning about the dark side of Dublin!

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For fans of Alex Barclay and Niamh O’Connor, Little Bones introduces Cathy Connolly, a bright young heroine set to take the world of crime fiction by storm.

Twenty-four-year-old Garda Cathy Connolly might be a fearless kick-boxing champion but when she discovers a baby’s bones concealed in the hem of a wedding dress, the case becomes personal.

For artist Zoe Grant, the bones are another mysterious twist in her mother’s disappearance. Then her grandmother, head of the Grant Valentine department store empire is found dead, and a trail of secrets is uncovered that threatens to shake a dynasty.

In a story that moves from London’s East End to the Las Vegas mafia, one thing is certain – for Cat, life will never be the same again.

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Royal Wedding Fever

With Harry and Meghan tying the knot and becoming the Duke and Duchess of Sussex last week, I thew off my republican persona and set out on a mission to find a few romances, especially royal romances. So over the next ten days I racked up quite a few books which fell into the category of ‘Royalty’, ‘Weddings’ or even both!

Something in the Heir

Lurking on my kindle for months, I decided to dig this one out when I thought of royal romances. It was light and fluffy and, naturally, as the first in a series it set up the story for the next one. A lot of slapstick and unrealistic humour (although why I expected anything else when it included royals, I don’t know), but generally fine.
Two Stars
**

Bride in Trouble

This had no royalty in it at all, but was probably my favourite of the books in this post. A traumatic brain injury ten days before her wedding means that heartthrob Rafe Masters has just over a week to convince his amnesiac fiancée that they should still walk down the aisle together. Although, again, littered with implausibility, I actually really liked the romance in this one.
Three Stars
***

The Royal Companion

Set in a world where women are bought and sold as Companions to wealthy families, I couldn’t get on board with this story at all, and very strongly considered DNF-ing it. With no real conclusion, it was an obvious set-up for a series, and I was very disappointed.
One Star
*

Yours Royally

Another one where I was disappointed in how implausible the story was. Not just because royal Prince Marco would have been drilled from a ridiculously young age about the difference between staff and friends, but also because Sabrina was an incredibly self-deprecating and even irritating heroine. But it did include the commoner marries a prince aspect, which is always fun.
Two Stars
**

Kiss the Bride

No royalty in this one either, but there is a normie meets celebrity story. Marietta, home of so many wedding stories, was the location of this one too, and while it was utterly forgettable, it was nice enough to read while it lasted.
Three Stars
***

I think, in general, I prefer romances with relative equality between the parties, rather than the huge disparity between celebrities/royalty and ‘normal’ people, for want of a better word. That’s probably why Bride in Trouble was my favourite of the books listed here.

Plus, you would think that books about royalty would have better dresses on the covers, but that was manifestly not the case here. I want The Selection-level dress eye candy please!

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No Blogs This Week

This week, although you might not know if it you’re not Irish, is a week which is historic in Irish society. On Friday, a referendum is running, asking voters whether or not to repeal the 8th, 13th, and 14th amendments to the Constitution, which make up Article 40.3.3, read as follows:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right. This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state. This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

and replace it with the following text:

Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.

At present, abortion in Ireland is available only where there is an immediate and grave risk to the life of the pregnant person.

This has led to the following situations:

  • 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar presented to a hospital in Galway miscarrying her pregnancy at 17 weeks. Although she asked multiple times for a termination, she was refused on the basis of the law in Ireland. She later died of a heart attack brought on by septic shock.
  • A 12 year old girl travelled to the UK last year for a termination. In Ireland, her only option would be to carry the pregnancy to term.
  • On average, three Irish women a day illegally obtain pills to induce an abortion. Taking those pills carries with it a potential fourteen-year prison sentence.
  • On average, nine Irish women a day travel to the UK to obtain an abortion. The cost of obtaining an abortion in the UK, when you take into account travel, accommodation and medical costs, is generally over €1,000.
  • In 2014, the grieving father of Ms P was forced to take a case to court and argue that his brain-dead daughter’s life support should be turned off as her body was literally rotting. The opposition in this case was legal representation for the 15-week foetus she was carrying.
  • Michelle Harte, a mother-of-one, was having treatment for cancer when she realised she was pregnant. After multiple delays in investigating whether she was entitled to an abortion in Ireland (she was not), obtaining a passport, she travelled to the UK to obtain an abortion. Her pregnancy meant that she was not able to continue the drug trial she was on, but she was unable to lawfully obtain an abortion in Ireland. She later died.

If you have any doubt about how to vote on Friday, please, please take a few minutes to read some of the stories on In Her Shoes – Women of the Eighth. Imagine if you were one of those women, if you were in that situation. If one of those women came and asked you for help. There are thousands of Irish women every year who need your help, who need your kindness, who need you to vote to remove the Eighth Amendment, and allow Ireland to move forward into a situation where women who are pregnant, whether wanted or not, are able to receive the healthcare they need and they want, and are able to discuss this with their doctor, and agree a treatment plan which works for them.

Take those twelve women a day by the hand, and help them to live in a country which provides them the help and the care that they need. Please, because I can’t, because I want my sisters and cousins and nieces to live in a country which cares about them, which allows them to access the healthcare they need.

Together, we can create an Ireland which is more compassionate, and which acknowledges the spectrum of pregnancy, that not all pregnancies result in a healthy, happy baby. Together, by voting yes, we can change the Ireland which forces women who’ve been raped and don’t want to carry their rapist’s baby to term to leave the country, which foists the need to travel onto women who are already undergoing the tragedy of a fatal foetal abnormality, which reduces the options available to pregnant women with complex or life-threatening illnesses into an Ireland which cares for its women, which does not tell women who want or need or obtain abortions that they are criminals.

Vote Yes. Vote for compassion. Vote for help. Vote for protection. Vote yes.

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Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is mental health awareness week, so in honour of that, here are my recommendations of books that deal with mental health, whether as the main plot point, or as a side plot.

Today is also IDAHOT, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, but I actually don’t read that many books with LGBTQI+ main characters, so that’s something I’m going to try and change before this day next year..

 

 

They Both Die At The End – Adam Silvera

The Astonishing Colour of After – Emily XR Pan

Sam & Ilsa’s Last Hurrah – David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

The Taste of Blue Light – Lydia Ruffles

Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland

Nothing Tastes As Good – Claire Hennessy

Countless – Karen Gregory

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

 

Taking care of your mental health is every bit as important as taking care of your physical health. If you’ve been struggling, please, please reach out and talk to someone. You can always talk to me here, or on twitter (@aislinnoc) and there are lots of services available for people who are struggling. There is nothing more important than your health, so don’t let yourself struggle unnecessarily. There are people and organisations out there that can help you.

If you are feeling suicidal, depressed, or down, or just want to talk, please reach out. Talk to a friend, a family member, a counsellor, a doctor, a professional. Talk to someone.
Samaritans: http://samaritans.orgjo@samaritans.org

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Alex and Eliza – Melissa de la Cruz

I recently went to see Hamilton: An American Musical, and loved it. So I spent last month’s credit on Alex and Eliza, a fictionalized retelling of the romance of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.

Alex and Eliza (Alex and Eliza #1) Melissa de la Cruz

51dKyfgX6xL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTheir romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

I haven’t read many of de la Cruz’s books. In fact, to my knowledge, I’d only read one – The Au Pairs. So I was going into this with a skewed understanding of the story (thanks, Lin Manuel Miranda) and little knowledge of what was to come.

To be honest, though, while this book was fun to listen to, I doubt it was at all accurate. And, honestly, if you’re going to fictionalise like that, why not just go the whole hog and write a fiction book?
There was nothing I abjectly disliked about this book. It was a fun and interesting romance which talked a lot about societal pressure, set against the backdrop of the American revolutionary war. All good, but nothing really brilliant. And the characters being historical figures and the subject of the hottest show on Broadway and in the West End probably detracts from this more than adds to it.
Altogether, inoffensive but forgettable.

Three stars
***

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The Last Laugh – Tracy Bloom

I bought this on a whim because it was 99p on Kindle and I thought it looked like the kind of book I would like. And it was, indeed, the kind of book I like.

The Last Laugh – Tracy Bloom

36986900.jpg‘Oh this was such a brilliant read. I was engrossed and laughed out loud and welled up. It was great!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Jenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair…

Frankly, she had enough on her plate already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago.

And now this. Enough is enough! Jenny vows to keep both revelations a secret. She takes her life into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest… in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?

The Last Laugh is both hilarious and heartbreaking, a book about how to find happiness and live your life as though every day is your last.

From No. 1 bestseller Tracy Bloom, this book is perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and The Kicking the Bucket List.

What readers are saying about The Last Laugh:
I laughed and cried… Reading it has given me a new perspective! You really don’t know the minute your world could change forever. I read it in one day!’ The Introverted Mum

‘A stunning book that was both funny and incredibly heartbreakingly sad. This book was just a wonderful celebration of the character’s life, strength and courage. Fabulous.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Absolutely loved this book! What should be a really sad story is written so well and with such zest and optimism that it’s impossible not to be smiling. A beautifully-told tale.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Thought-provoking, warm, and extremely funny. You will love Jenny! She is all of us! A hard-working, sweats wearing, wine-loving mother (complete with “mom body”), who possesses a great sense of humour about everything… even death.’ Reels and Reads

‘I laughed and cried in equal measure at this book… highly recommended.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘A wonderful blend of humour and at times tears, as Jenny struggles to “live” each moment and to move as if she was “on top of the world” in 1996… Jenny has courage along with humour and as she says: “Time to start living.” Great story!’ Goodreads reviewer

‘This book is heartbreaking at times but hilarious in others… fantastic.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘If Tracy Bloom’s other books are like The Last Laugh she definitely has a new fan. I felt instantly connected to the main character, Jenny, like I was part of her life… It inspired me to make the most of the life I have.’ After the Rain

I never wanted this book to end… A delightful, yet emotional book which will make you laugh and cry.’ Jenny in Neverland, 5 stars

‘An unforgettable and highly entertaining read.’ Pretty Little Book Reviews

Uplifting, life-affirming, and most of all funny!

Given that the blurb was full of effusive reviews, I actually didn’t expect this to be all that good – a collection of delighted reviews is often a hallmark of a self-published novel which isn’t, well, all that good.

But I was pleasantly surprised by this. Not only did it have a really lovely examination of family life and interaction between spouses, it also had a husband who was a total shit, but had some real character development.

Jenny’s twin realisations on the same day mean that her entire life is turned upside down, and the best way she can think of to deal with it is to throw a blowout party based on the best night of her life. On the road to the party she gets into some situations, and sorts out her life, which is important as her days are rapidly getting fewer.

I read this over the course of about two days, and really enjoyed it, shedding a few tears at the end, and laughing out loud in certain parts. A touching and thoughtful novel about what it means to love, to choose each other, what makes a family, and the importance of grabbing life when you can, and recognising the good things while you have them, I will definitely look out for more by Tracy Bloom.

Four Stars
****

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