Category: Recommendations

5 Books I Loved This Year (so far)

I kind of think of summer as reading season. It seems like everyone suddenly wants books to read for their holidays or to keep them occupied during all the extra time they plan on spending outdoors in the sun. So everyone is looking for a good book to read and to help you narrow down the list of possibilities here are the 5 books I loved this year. It’s not a list of books released this year, just ones that I read and really enjoyed.

5 books I loved this year summer reading recommendations


UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

Fantasy, published May 2015

This wonderful book centres on a village close to an (evil) enchanted wood that is protected from said wood by a wizard known as The Dragon (are you feeling all excited for the fairytale magic yet?). Every 10 years he visits the village and takes a girl back with him to his castle. No one in the village knows what he does with the girls just that when they return after the 10 years they are different and never stay in the village. This year he takes Agnie despite everyone believing he will take her more beautiful and skilled best friend, Kasia. But Agnie does something at the Choosing Ceremony that makes him feel he must take her.

Based on that much you’re probably expecting a Beauty and the Beast style fairytale romance but you ain’t getting it!

That wood I mentioned at the beginning is the real centre of this story. Its power is growing and it wants to consume as much of its surroundings as possible. Including people! There are creatures living inside it that torment and steal villagers from all areas around the wood. It separates one province from another and attempts to incite war between them which Agnie and the Dragon try to prevent. If you like magic and fantastical battles then this one is for you.

Asking For ItAsking For It by Louise O’Neill

Contemporary, published September 2015 Trigger warning for rape

This book follows Emma O’Donovan, an 18-year old girl from a small town in Ireland, who goes to a house party one night with her friends where something disgustingly awful happens to her. The book is more about how the characters deal with this event than the actual event itself.

One of the more interesting aspects of this novel is how unlikeable all of the characters are. Especially Emma herself who is very concerned with status, her looks and how they affect people. The only character that may be a bit likeable is her neighbour and childhood friend Conner though he annoys me a bit as well because he’s very interested in her romantically and is often telling her she’s beautiful. He’s focusing on her in a romantic physical way which is not something that helps her. But I guess he can’t help how he feels and other than that he’s a good guy.

RELATED: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill Full Review

Anyway, after this party, Emma is found by her parents dumped in front of their home her clothes askew, her underwear missing and burning in the sun. She has no memory of what happened to her but she soon finds out because a Facebook page titled Easy Emma reveals all. The page features photographs of her seemingly unconscious and 3 boys performing various acts to her. Many people are commenting on them, some of them people Emma knows, and what they’re saying is not good. A lot of them seem to be of the mind that these boys are just treating her they should be treated.

Suddenly everyone is against her and she tries to make it all go away (she doesn’t remember any of it after all) but it becomes too big. She ends up pursuing it legally. The book doesn’t follow the case exactly, it focuses on the emotional upheaval and strain on Emma and her family. It’s about how this act affects people and how they react to it happening to someone they know and by someone they know. How rape is so bad people try to pretend it doesn’t exist. How boys they know aren’t like that so the girl must be lying and afraid of being thought of as slutty. And if they can see her as a slut then it doesn’t matter what’s done to her. She’s just some slut.

The story is very emotional and hard-hitting but it’s an extremely important one that I hope will reach people far and wide.

I saw the play version last week in Cork and it was utterly amazing. The production was fantastic, they did a great job adapting it. It will be showing at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin soon, I highly recommend going if you can.

Mom & Me & MomMom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Memoir, published April 2013

I listened to an audiobook of this read by Maya Angelou, the best way to read a memoir in my opinion. (Check out John Cleese’s audio memoir as well it’s very funny)

In this memoir, Angelou explores her relationship with her mother which was pretty non-existent in the early years of her life but grew into something resilient and empowering later.

Her mother was essentially a stranger to her as a child, she chose to call her Lady instead of Mom which says a lot about the distance she felt. It also shows how she saw her as no ordinary woman but as someone to look up to, someone refined and feminine but still in charge.

This book really shows how love grows between people and how it makes us stronger.

Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer, #8)Ride the Storm by Karen Chance

Urban Fantasy, published August 2017 (part of a series)

This is the 8th book in the Cassie Palmer series, Touch the Dark is book 1.

I can’t go into too much detail about this one without spoiling the whole series since it’s a series full of cliffhangers (but lucky you, all the books are out so you don’t have to wait) and has an ongoing plot. The series follows Cassie Palmer, a clairvoyant who was raised by a gangster vampire after the death of her parents. She’s on the run from that vampire when she’s thrust into the position of Pythia, the supernatural world’s chief seer because it suits certain people to have someone they perceive as pliable in the position. She ends up the target of several factions, good and bad, and of some extremely powerful ancient beings.

RELATED: Reader Problems Tag

The series is mostly based around Greek mythology with some of the more popular supernatural beasties thrown in for good measure. As opposed to a lot of urban fantasy, the individual books don’t really follow the monster-of-the-week formula but do have their own stories. There’s a larger plot that the entire series follows but it can be broken down into two main storylines that are 4 books each.

Chance knows how to create a story that grabs attention so this series is perfect if you want several books to binge read in the sunshine.

An Artificial Night (October Daye, #3)An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

Urban Fantasy, published September 2010 (part of a series)

This one is 3rd in the October Daye series but follows the monster-of-the-week style. Rosemary and Rue is book 1. There is, of course, a larger plot throughout but it isn’t really necessary to enjoy the book (I do recommend reading the whole series though it’s brilliant!). This formula is still very enjoyable to read cause it doesn’t leave you chewing at the bit for the next book (I don’t mind cliffhangers as long as I don’t have to wait years for the next book).

This series is based on fairies such as the Tuatha Dé Danann (the narrator pronounced Tuatha as “tootha” and drove me crazy!!!!) which I grew up with and just loved having them feature in modern adult stories.

Toby (October) is a fae halfling or changling who works as a knight and has to constantly prove her worth and strength to full-blooded fae. The ongoing plot of the series centers around her life in this position, she has many experiences and undergoes many changes.

This book focuses on The Wild Hunt which has been taking children, human and fae, to its realm to convert them to beings possible of joining the Hunt. They take some children connected to Toby and she chases after them to get them back.

McGuire is amazing at writing urban fantasy that is full of all the magic and action you expect but also fills it with real human emotion that is completely relatable despite the events being so fantastical.

There are moments in this book where Toby feels isolated and frightened that really resonated with me.


I’ve read around 50 books so far this year but choosing these 5 was actually pretty easy, I loved them that much! I’m off to continue rereading Reap The Wind as part of Jazzy June in the sunshine now. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

What books have you read this year that stand out from all the rest? What are you planning on reading this summer?

Nadiya’s Family Favourites (Sampler) Review

Nadiya’s Family Favourites: Easy, beautiful and show-stopping recipes for every day from Nadiya's upcoming BBC TV seriesTitle: Nadiya’s Family Favourites
 
Author: Nadiya Hussain
 
Genre: Cookery
 
Series: n/a
 
Goodreads Rating: 5/5
 
 

Synopsis: This is the OFFICIAL companion cookbook, featuring the beautiful, simple and must-try recipes from her upcoming BBC TV series NADIYA’S FAMILY FAVOURITES.

Nadiya shares the food she loves to cook and eat with her family and friends, offering fast, easy and delicious new recipes for every kind of day.

This cookbook shows you how to create the perfect dishes to complement the moments we all love, from days out with friends to big get-togethers and lazy weekends at home, as well as simple and satisfying solutions for busy weeknights and speedy showstoppers for impromptu guests.

Here’s a taster of Nadiya’s new classics . . .

· Mocha Swirls
· Smoky Spinach Shakshuka
· Bombay Potato Tacos
· Lamb Ribs
· Grapefruit Chicken Stew
· Peanut Honeycomb Banana Cake
· Raspberry Ice Cream Cake

With over 100 easy and rewarding recipes, Nadiya’s family favourites will soon become yours too. This is the cookbook you’ll reach for time and time again for those memorable moments. You’ll find quick meal solutions, food to lift the spirits, fuel for hungry bellies and feasts for feeding friends.

Let Nadiya’s recipes fill your home with memories, just as they do hers.

‘She baked her way into our hearts and hasn’t stopped since’ Prima 

 

 
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What I thought about the book:

This is the way family cookbooks should be. Nadiya’s includes lovely homey little introductions to each recipe that gives them a real comfort food vibe. I especially love her introduction to the book where she discusses her family life around food and how food is a representation of home.

“Food is such a simple word. A simple four-lettered word that can evoke every human emotion possible.”

The recipes included are very appetising and achievable. In the dessert section, she includes an Éclair Roll and Back-to-Front Baked Cheesecake that are very inventive but not over the top so still within the realms of everyday cooking.

 
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My Rating: ★★★★★
 
Get the book: Amazon / Book Depository

Female Fantasy Author Flowchart

Jennifer Estep posted on her Facebook recently about this female-authored fantasy flowchart on Reddit. She discovered it on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books which is a very fun site you should check out if you’re into romance.

 

Click to enlarge

 

I have read 6 of the authors mentioned. Looks like I have some reading to do? Who have you read?

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Awesome Contemporary Irish Literature to read this St. Patrick’s Day

When people think of Irish writers they usually think of James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, or Roddy Doyle. Basically, they think of the old guys but we have a lot more to offer than that.

Avoid the crowds this St. Patrick’s Day and curl up with one of these great contemporary Irish books.


Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling: Just a Small-Town Girl Living in a Notions World Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght, Sarah Breen

Soon to be made into a film, Oh My God, What a complete Aisling is the story of a particular type of Irish girl. “We all know an Aisling**. She’s your stereotypical friend who carries her court shoes to work in a bag while pounding the pavement with her MBTs on the walk in from Rathmines.” Aisling has stepped out from her Facebook group roots and taken the country by storm! The book has been hugely popular and it’s not hard to see why.

Synopsis

Aisling is twenty-eight and she’s a complete … Aisling. She lives at home in Ballygobbard (or Ballygobackwards, as some gas tickets call it) with her parents and commutes to her good job at PensionsPlus in Dublin.

Aisling goes out every Saturday night with her best friend Majella, who is a bit of a hames (she’s lost two phones already this year – Aisling has never lost a phone).

Aisling spends two nights a week at her boyfriend John’s. He’s from down home and was kiss number seventeen at her twenty-first.

But Aisling wants more. She wants the ring on her finger. She wants the hen with the willy straws. She wants out of her parents’ house, although she’d miss Mammy turning on the electric blanket like clockwork and Daddy taking her car ‘out for a spin’ and bringing it back full of petrol.

When a week in Tenerife with John doesn’t end with the expected engagement, Aisling calls a halt to things and soon she has surprised herself and everyone else by agreeing to move into a three-bed in Portobello with stylish Sadhbh from HR and her friend, the mysterious Elaine.

Newly single and relocated to the big city, life is about to change utterly for this wonderful, strong, surprising and funny girl, who just happens to be a complete Aisling.

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, the creators of the much-loved Aisling character and the popular Facebook page ‘Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling’, bring Aisling to life in their novel about the quintessential country girl in the big smoke.

buy now on amazonbuy now on Book Depository

Almost Love Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

Louise O’Neill’s first two books have been wildly popular especially Asking For It which is currently being adapted for a stage production in Cork’s The Everyman Theatre. Almost Love is her first adult fiction release and if it’s anything like Asking For It it will crawl under your skin and take up residence.

Synopsis

If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not love: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of Asking for It. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jodi Picoult.

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.

So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.

Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.

But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.

And love is supposed to hurt.

Isn’t it?

buy now on amazon buy now on Book Depository

The Glorious Heresies The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

McInerney won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016 for this darkly comic book set in Cork city’s criminal underbelly. You know you want to read something described by the Irish Times as “a big, brassy, sexy beast of a book“.

Synopsis

‘He was definitely dead, whoever he was. He wore a once-black jumper and a pair of shiny tracksuit bottoms. The back of his head was cracked and his hair matted, but it had been foxy before that. A tall man, a skinny rake, another string of piss, now departed. She hadn’t gotten a look at his face before she flaked him with the Holy Stone and she couldn’t bring herself to turn him over.’

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight…

Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.

buy now on amazon buy now on Book Depository

 

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Holding Holding by Graham Norton

The debut novel from one of Ireland’s most loved exports. Norton makes us laugh most Friday nights on his BBC chat show but now he sets his sights on criminal mystery in the Irish countryside.

Synopsis

Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

buy now on amazon buy now on Book Depository

The Break The Break by Marian Keyes

Keyes has the amazing ability to write witty fun books around serious topics such as addiction, depression, and the loss of a loved one without making light of the topic. She approaches them with such a humane eye making it seem like even though this shitty thing has/is happening everything will be alright.

Synopsis

Amy’s husband Hugh has run away to ‘find himself’. But will he ever come back? ‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’ ‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’ If only. Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . . However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . . The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best. ‘Just brilliant’ Sunday Times ‘Girl-power at its best. I laughed . . . I cried’ Daily Mail ‘Another belter. Full of brilliantly fun characters, genuine emotion and heaps of charm. We loved it!’ Heat ‘Keyes writes extremely well about modern women. A breezy, candid and deeply felt account of a wife, mother and career woman rediscovering herself’ Metro ‘Fabulously entertaining. Classic Keyes. The queen of intelligent women’s fiction’ Sunday Mirror ‘A glorious life-affirming novel with Keyes on top form’ Woman & Home ‘When it comes to writing page-turners that put a smile on your face and make you think, Keyes is in a class of her own’ Daily Express.

buy now on amazon buy now on Book Depository

The Secret Scripture The Secret Scripture by Sebastion Barry

This was adapted into a movie recently. Don’t watch it. Read the book. It’s written with such real emotion there’s a good chance you will forget you’re reading fiction. And, yes, ok, this is really historical fiction but it’s written by a contemporary author so I’m including it.

Synopsis

Nearing her one-hundredth birthday, Roseanne McNulty faces an uncertain future, as the Roscommon Regional Mental hospital where she’s spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure. Over the weeks leading up to this upheaval, she talks often with her psychiatrist Dr Grene, and their relationship intensifies and complicates.

Told through their respective journals, the story that emerges is at once shocking and deeply beautiful. Refracted through the haze of memory and retelling, Roseanne’s story becomes an alternative, secret history of Ireland’s changing character and the story of a life blighted by terrible mistreatment and ignorance, and yet marked still by love and passion and hope.

buy now on amazon buy now on Book Depository


Of course, this list could go on and on. What contemporary Irish literature would you add?

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TEDEd – Why You Should Read The Handmaid’s Tale

How have you not read The Handmaid’s Tale yet? You need to read it and if you don’t believe me check out this video by Naomi R. Mercer for TEDEd.

Get The Handmaid’s Tale now on Book Depository.

Seriously, read the book. Its message is so valuable if a little bit terrifying…


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