Irish Book Awards Bord Gais Energy

Yesterday took place the 12th Irish Book Awards event promoting Irish Writers.

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The names of the shortlisted and awarded authors can be found on their website.

http://www.irishbookawards.irish

 

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Blowing in the wind

 

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The Blow-In by Susanne O’Leary book was available to download for free from Kobo, so I gave it a go. It was an easy and dynamic read. The writing wasn’t bad. The plot was interesting enough. A young burnt out successful journalist leaves Dublin in search for a quieter and calmer way of life. Instead of chasing scandals involving corrupt politicians in the capital city, she takes a position as a newspaper editor in  a small town and promises not to stir trouble. She settles in a cosy little cottage and even acquires a puppy.

The descriptions of the quarks of life in the little towns of Ireland (like never using the front door by the locals but the back entrance instead) add a bit of charm to the book. The protagonist soon learns that the paper is in trouble and in need of refurbishment. She agrees to do her best to make it more successful.

The book touches an important subject of bullying and racial hatred. Finola wants to know why her predecessor left his position at the newspaper. She suspects something must have happened to make him give it up, pack his bags and leave. People in the village are very evasive about the subject and won’t answer her questions. She is warned to stay away and called a “blow-in”.

There was quite a big chunk of romance in the book that I found rather cheesy. A Hollywood film crew arrives to the small town to make a movie, a romance happening during the 1916 Easter Rising. The unexpected arrival gives the small local newspaper the desired bust in sale. The male star called Colin Foley falls deeply and truly in love with Finola.

Overall, I will give the book 3 1360612009-300px1360612009-300px1360612009-300px rabbits, hairs or dogs as it was an OK read, but not quite for me. There is a second part but I don’t think I will be reaching for it.

 

Rabbits, hairs or dogs rating.

1360612009-300px1360612009-300px1360612009-300px1360612009-300px1360612009-300px – one of the best books I read

1360612009-300px1360612009-300px1360612009-300px1360612009-300px – charmed

1360612009-300px1360612009-300px1360612009-300px – good read

1360612009-300px1360612009-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

1360612009-300px – don’t waste your time

The World came crushing down

 

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In And Then It Happened by Linda Green, a married couple who have known each other since they were kinds was about to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. When things go smoothly and everything seems to fall right in its place, do you ever fear that there might be something lurking around the corner ready to destroy your happiness? Mel is grateful for her loving husband and a beautiful daughter. She doesn’t want to tempt the faith by showing it off, by celebrating their happiness at a big party that her husband is determined to throw. She takes her umbrella on a sunny clear day, just in case. Adam finds her caution endearing but there is something she hasn’t told him about. Mel carries a dark secret, one that make cause her happiness to crumble. She did something terrible and is afraid that what she has, might be taken away from her as a punishment.

While Adam plans a surprise party as a way of thanking his wife for all the happy years they have had together, the faith has something else in store for them. A day before their big do, a freak accident changes their lives forever.

A skull of a tyrannosaurus rex with a nick name Monty placed at the museum where Adam works, lands on Adams head and knocks him unconscious. He is transported into a hospital and reminds in coma for quite some time. His wife spends her evenings researching the Internet in order to learn as much as she can about his condition. (The same the author herself most likely did, as it seems she has done a great deal of research).

Mel is wishing for her husband to get better, to open his eyes. When he finally does however, things are not looking as great as she have hoped for. The doctors declare that he his in a vegetative and not making any more progress, and that there is nothing more they can do for him. They recommend a nursing home care. Mel is devastated but refuses to believe that her husband will not be returning to her. We as readers see that her believe that Adam is still somewhere inside the still body is not without grounds. We get to see his perspective which makes the story even more compelling. Adam adds a kind of a black humour to the book, creates a running commentary to the things that are happening around him. While people visit him and spend hours at his bed side unaware of his consciousness, he serves as a confessional and hears their secrets, deepest thoughts, dreams and feelings. He learns his wife’s secret.

If you would like to find out if Mel ever gets her husband back, I encourage you to read the book, it is a fast page turner. Overall a good read, so 3 1479728769-300px1479728769-300px1479728769-300px dinosaurs, butterflies or bed time stories.

Dinosaurs, butterflies or bed time stories rating

1479728769-300px1479728769-300px1479728769-300px1479728769-300px1479728769-300px – one of the best books I read

1479728769-300px1479728769-300px1479728769-300px1479728769-300px – charmed

1479728769-300px1479728769-300px1479728769-300px – good read

1479728769-300px1479728769-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

1479728769-300px– don’t waste your time

Squeal

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If you enjoyed The Dead Summer by Helen Moorhouse, you may also like its sequel The Dark Water. Martha and Will are together. The book opens on a Halloween night and Will is off to an old and recently renovated house in Edinburgh desperately trying to record and proof the existence of paranormal activities. It is hard evidence he is after, sieving through and rejecting the ones that are merely blurred shadows, reflections that trick the eye and make people believe that what they see are spirits. Will and Gabriel aren’t in the best of terms since Gabriel decided to star in a psychic medium in a ghost hunting TV show Ghosts R Us, a program that according to Will, has compromised his reputation. Martha is saddened that the two best friends refuse to speak to each other.

On the same Halloween night Gabriel is alone in his apartment and terrified. Spirits that would usually seek his attention at this time of the year are not present. The absence of one in particular worries him, his spiritual guide and his brother Laurence. Nevertheless he knows that he is not alone. He didn’t hear anybody but someone was leaving their fingerprints around his dusty apartment, moving stuff and leaving handwritten notes with the same message “Do it.”

Paraller to their story, another one happening in the ’60 is described and it shows a young girl who has finally found the courage to leave her violent and abusive partner. Claire finds a refuge and a job in the Turnbull family house. She feels safe and happy there. The only disturbance is the presence of Mr Ball aka Uncle Jack, who spends the summers in the house and whose personality she fears, it reminds her of the life she gladly left behind.

Gabriel receives an invitation to Dubghlas Castle where he used to spend his summer holidays when he was a kid. The letter he received is from an old butler that works for his godfather, asking him to come and help with a problem they are experiencing, one of a supernatural nature. He is worried that he may not be able to help as he seems to have lost his gift. He pleads Martha to convince Will to take his equipment and accompany him.

Martha’s ex-husband suddenly contacts her demanding regular contact with Ruby. She doesn’t welcome this new development and is dreading having to tell Will, who loves the girl like his own daughter.

Eventually the whole group with little Ruby in tow, takes the journey up north to the Highlands, to the Castle. Big old scary house. Secrets, people don’t want to spill. Interesting plot. A page turner. A good read. You may want to sleep with the night light on. 😉 3 hand printsPalmprint-by-Rones-300px Palmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300px, pumpkins or leaves

Hand prints, pumpkins or leaves rating

Palmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300px – one of the best books I read

Palmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300px – charmed

Palmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300px – good read

Palmprint-by-Rones-300pxPalmprint-by-Rones-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

Palmprint-by-Rones-300px – don’t waste your time

Spooky tale

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In The Dead Summer by Helen Moorhouse we meet Martha who divorced her cheating husband, sold the house in London they shared, quit the advertising job she despised, packed her own and her six moth old daughter’s bags and moved to start a new life in an isolated cottage in the countryside. She was hoping to finally write a book she always wanted to. She came across the picturesque Hawthorn Cottage when while browsing rental properties on the Internet. The farmer’s cottage was abandoned for years and only recently renovated by its new owner Rob Mountford. She fell in love with the place and booked it for the next six months.

After the first night in the new place Martha already questioned her decision. She wondered if they would be alright in such a remote location. She was getting an uneasy feeling about the house. The lights on the baby monitor spiked all the way to red and she heard a loud noise, but found her daughter Ruby peacefully asleep. It left her puzzled. With the first light of the sunny morning, all her fears of the previous night disappeared. She felt a bit silly that she let her imagination carry her away.

Still there were things that bugged her. Why, she wondered, did the postman refuse to drop her mail to the cottage and kept leaving it all the way down the road? Why did the local crazy old lady keep referring to the cottage as the Eyrie Farm? Was there something about the place that she didn’t know? It seemed perfect during the day. Her new friend Mary convinced her she shouldn’t be listening to the made up spooky tales.

Another story plot runs parallel in the book. Back in the 50’s two young Irish women were sent to the Eyrie Farm, which was owned by the girls’ father’s friend at the time. Their parents planned for them to stay there till the older of the two sisters, Marion gave birth to her child. The baby was then meant to be put into adoption and they could return home with their secret unraveled.

Marion made the stay a real hardship for her younger sibling Lily. Lily was eager to make Marion as comfortable as possible in her condition, but the pregnant young woman hated the place and the fact that she was pregnant. She didn’t seem to care much about anything and anybody, not even her unborn child.

It was a spooky tale that gripped right from the start and kept you glued to the pages till the very end. Full of interesting characters. Pragmatic Will and sensitive Gabriel introduced to Martha’s by her old friend Sue, who send them to her rescue. Why? Find out for yourself. I don’t think I have come across such a ghostly kind of a thriller before, but I enjoyed reading it. If you like scary stories, you will not be disappointed. 3 PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxpumpkins, broom sticks or candle wicks.

Pumpkins, broom sticks or candle wicks rating

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– one of the best books I read

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– charmed

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– good read

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

PlainPumpkin-300px– don’t waste your time

Right behind you

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The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty is a rather intriguing story about a hypnotherapist who meets a man called Patrick. She hopes that this time he will be the one for her, unlike her previous long term relationships. He confesses to her that he comes with a package and he doesn’t mean his eight year old boy. He is a widower. After his wife Colleen died of cancer he was in relationship with Saskia. Saskia isn’t quite out of the picture. She is following him almost everywhere, texting, sending letters and gifts. He has a stocker. Ellen’s reaction at first is amusement, she even finds it a bit exciting. She wonders if she should be afraid instead, if they are in any kind of danger.

Readers get to see Saskia’s point of view as well, and it is hard not to feel some degree of compassion. Even Ellen has some level of understanding towards the woman. Saskia struggles to come to terms with the break up. She says, that if she had been widowed people would let her grieve for years, and because she got dumped she is expected to just get over it and carry on as normal. She is devastated having lost not only Patrick but also Jack. She stepped into the role of his mam and was suddenly asked to give him up, just like that. She just wants to be part of their life. What has innocently started as one phone call reminding Patrick of Jack’s swimming lesson, has slowly and gradually escalated towards stocking.

Liane Moriarty draws a believable picture of each persons’ feelings and thoughts, she is not holding back. Their emotions are real and complex, just like in real life, they are never simple and straightforward. Ellen feels Saskia loved Patrick more than she does, and fears that Patrick loved his first wife more than he ever loved Saskia or herself.

The unhealthy situation builds tensions in everyone. Ellen feels sorry for the abandoned girl and sees Patrick’s wrongdoings. Patrick is hurt that Ellen doesn’t see the anxiety that Saskia is causing him nowadays. Something has to break sooner or later. If you are curious how the situation is resolved, I encourage you to read the book. From me 4 Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px picture frames, photo albums or stones.

 

Picture frames, photo albums or stones rating.

 

Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px – one of the best books I read

Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px – charmed

Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px – good read

Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

Angelo-Gemmi-frame-outline-300px – don’t waste your time

Twelve days of Christmas

Winter Tales by Kenneth Steven

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Thank you for this generous review!

Kenneth Steven

I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I don’t usually choose short stories fearing that they will leave me wanting more. But something about the title and the cover made me reach for it. It looked wintry and magical. And when I read that the stories were placed in different settings, different countries even, I decided that I had to read it.

After reading the first story, I knew I have chosen well. It was a perfectly shaped slice, it didn’t need anything taken away or anything added. The Cullen Skink was about a fisherman who has lost his son at sea and was helping his widowed wife with the care of their only child. The little boy who has never met his own father became very dear to the old man’s heart.

The next one, Elmeness, was containing all the goodness of a good writing. Really, really short but reach like an essence. A small orphaned school girl Annie was too young to comprehend the whole extend of her tragic situation and was enjoying her summer holidays and her aunt’s baking. Although the first two stories were soaked thoroughly with great sadness, they also bore hope towards what the future might bring.

In The Skylarks and the Horses we meet Dr Aitken who is treating patients with, what we would have called nowadays a post traumatic stress disorder. His patients are soldiers who fought on the front. Despite the large and growing number of the men that come to the hospital, he takes a particular interest in a man called Ruary. This story is longer than the previous two. It was a bit unclear in places who was the narrator describing, or who was speaking, perbaps it could use a bit more editing to make it easier to follow. It was an intersting story but it left me wondering, just like the doctor had, who the patient was and what has happened to him.

Nex one called Lemon Ice Cream was about an Italian family from Sicily who leave their lemon grove behing and head for New York taking with them whatever they could carry, including an old family recipe for lemon ice cream. The author skilfully brings the city into life, the metropoli can be both amazing and frightening. I found this particular story deeply sad.

Through the next one The Song of a Robin, we see the horrifying fate of the soldiers on the fronts during the I World War. Young men, drawn in by various resons, sometimes stories they heard and a promisse of an adventure, had their life changed for ever, often loosing what they treasured most. Even if they managed to survive they were left scarred for life with both physical and psychological wounds.

I liked The Listener. It was a story about a writer who hasn’t written anything significant for the last decade and one day decided to rent a cabin in the rural area of the country, to listen to the nature’s heart beat in hope of finding his lost talent. The descriptions of the wilderness close to the Arctic Circle in Finland where amazing and packed with a great amount of detail for a short story.

In A Christmas Child we meet a fisherman called Angus, who is bracing himself for a long and cold winter with very little luck in bringing any fish. He refuses to be part of the crowd who go and take supplies from a wrack of a ship. They inform him that they won’t share their goods with him, as he is unwilling to help them. In the end it turns out that they bring him something precious after all.

In Out Ronald sets on a long journey after an argument with his brother over a girl. He takes rides from strangers, works on a ship and reaches as far as South America, where he feels homesick and tries to find ways to go back home to Scotland. It was a funny story.

The Gift was a story about a traveller family who has settled in Dublin after they lost their baby boy to pneumonia. They never wished for his sister to share his fate, so they moved into a house to put a roof over her head, to keep her warm. There is another story inside this one, a legend that explains why the travellers feel the pull to move from one place to another. A nice Christmas story.

In The Healing a young monk Sasha asks for the privilige to visit the chapel of St. Lucy that is believed to grant health to the pilgrims. It is not his health he is praying for but his sister’s with whom he had no contact, but feels needs his help.

The next one The Miracle describes a woman called Sonia who out of compassion visits an elderly woman Marie. Marie is an Irish woman and lives in a part of Glasgow that supports Rangers and is hostile towards Catholics. Sonia makes her tea and attends to her needs, trying to make things easier and more confotable for the old woman whose days seem to be counted.

The last story, the longest I believe, called The Ice was about a boy Lewis whose father decided to send him to a bording school after the boy’s mother dies. Lewis comes home for Christmas to the Scottish highlands, where his family lives, and cannot wait for the lake in front of their house to freeze over, so they can cross it to get to their cabin lodge. He is counting the days and dreading the time when he will have to return to his school, where he is bullied by the other boys. This story will take your heart out and wrench it.

Twelve stories, each one very different than the other. I loved them all, some more than the other. Gladly 4 rubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300px gem stones, frozen lakes or fire logs.

Gem stones, frozen lakes or fire logs rating.

rubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300px – one of the best books I read

rubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300px – charmed

rubi-300pxrubi-300pxrubi-300px – good read

rubi-300pxrubi-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

rubi-300px – don’t waste your time

 

Knock on my door

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As readers of The People Next Door by Roisin Meaney we enter three townhouses to watch their occupants lifes. Yvonne from number seven is living with her young adult daughter Clara. Yvonne is a widowed whose husband died tragically shortly after they got married. Right before the accident, Yvonne has informed him that she wanted a divorce. He didn’t take it well and asked her to reconsider. She feels horrible knowing that he has died unhappy and that she felt a slight relief. She wanders if her son has confided in his mother, as her mother in law seems to be full of resentment towards her. Clara hides a dark and painful secret she is yet unwilling to share with anyone, including her mother.

Her next door neighbour Dan has been dumped by his wife Ali two years after they got married. She left him for his uncle Brendan. Dan was now living on canned beans, sausages and frozen pizzas. He decided to take in a tenant to help him pay the bills. A middle aged man has moved into the spare bedroom who luckily turned out to love cooking delicious meals. He is an eccentric and insists on wearing an old funny hat whenever he goes out. But something seems to be bothering Kieran that prevents him from sleeping, so he keeps pacing around the house at night. Dan realises that he doesn’t really know anything about the man he let into his home.

Kathryn from number nine loves her husband Jason, but is worried that the age difference may cause him to loose interest in her. She is ten years or so older than him and desperate to have a baby, but after two miscarriages and a stillborn child she has given up hope. Her mother in law Grainne moved into their house when she fell and broke her hip, she keeps reminding Jason about Kathryn’s age and shows no signs of planning to move back to her house again, complaining of reacuring headaches.

The neighbours mingle and their lives get entwined at times, but each house bears their own weight of drama. A book full of vigour and a bit of romance. A light read, good for the long autumnal evenings. Three old hats nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px, scones or forks.

Old hats, scones or forks rating

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – one of the best books I read

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – charmed

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – good read

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – don’t waste your time

Rooted to the spot

Half Past by Victoria Helen Stone

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Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed the picture of small-town America!

Victoria

 

I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Hannah always felt out of place in her small home town Coswell, in Iowa. She felt more at home in Chicago, where she now lived. She liked the anonymity that the city gave her, no nosy neighbours gossiping about her not having children and divorcing her second husband at the age of forty five. Recently being handed a satisfying redundancy packet at work, she packed her bags and reluctantly moved back to her old room in her parents house to look after her mother, who had dementia and spent her days in a care home.

Her older sisters who have settled with their families in Coswell, need her to help them looking after their mum, but Hannah doesn’t stay long. Soon enough she informs them that she is leaving. Dorothy keeps saying that Hannah isn’t her daughter. The sisters Rachel and Becky try to convince Hannah that this is just because she is confused by the memory loss she is experiencing. Hannah retorts that she hasn’t forgotten any of her two other daughters, but more importantly that she has just came across some medical reports with a blood type, which indeed proves it impossible for Dorothy to be her biological mother. The resemblance to her father she bears, makes her believe that he must have had her with another woman and she is determined to find out who she was.

Hannah hopes that the answers she is looking for will finally explain the detachment she has always felt to the town and the people closest to her. Even with her happy childhood, she has always felt that something has been missing all along, she wonders if it was the cause of her inability to build lasting relationships. As she sets on her journey she uncovers secrets that were perhaps best left buried away.

It was a nicely written and interesting story about a search for one’s past, for their close relatives. Hannah hoped that it would teach her something about herself, explain things that she wouldn’t have been able to understand otherwise. I enjoyed the descriptions of the town and the land, the cornfields and the way people who lived there tended to behave, they values and believes. I have never been to the States myself but the picture the author draw gave me a good idea how things were in that part of the wast country. The book shows how the family history is important to us, that we feel an inner need to learn it, to help us explain who we are. Whatever has happened in the past, has an impact on who we are today, this said, it has been also stressed that it is our role in life to build our future on these foundations and not just let them shape us.

Overall a good read, 3 Autumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxautumn leaves, building blocks or telephone cables.

 

Autumn leaves, building blocks or telephone cables rating

Autumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300px – one of the best books I read

Autumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300px – charmed

Autumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300px – good read

Autumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300pxAutumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

Autumn-Leaf4--Arvin61r58-300px – don’t waste your time