Book Review: If You Could See Me Now – Cecelia Ahern


When Cecelia Ahern arrived on to the worlds chick lit scene I went along with the hype and read P.S. I Love You which I thought was ok.  It wasn’t great but it wasn’t awful.  As is my usual habit I read her next book thinking it would be better so I read Where Rainbows End and this was truly awful in my opinion so I decided Cecelia had her chances with me and I didn’t have time for reading rubbish books.  Reading time is valuable so if an author doesn’t impress me I usually don’t keep giving them chances.

8 years later and one night I don’t have a book to read only a Cecelia Ahern book that has sat at the back of the wardrobe for a couple of years.  Rather than have nothing to read I started reading If You Could See Me Now and was sure it would be rubbish. I read the first chapter and while it wasn’t rivetting it wasn’t awful either so I carried on and slowly but surely I ended up enjoying the book.  It is the story of Elizabeth who sees her invisible friend and how he helps her with some life problems. Some of it is quite unbelieveable but isn’t that what makes some books a bit more different.

I would give it a 3 out of 5 rating and still wouldn’t be rushing out to buy another Cecelia Ahern book but haven’t totally written her off either.

 

If You Could See Me Now - Cecelia Ahern

If You Could See Me Now – Cecelia Ahern

Summer Reading List & Ratings


Some summer reading books

Some summer reading books

During the holidays I finally managed to move my little girl out to her own room and I must say that I have really enjoyed all the bedtime reading I’m doing. I always liked reading a chapter or two before going to sleep.  I have really gone on a light summer reading bonanza and not read a serious book all summer. Rather than review them all separately I’m just going to list them and give my opinion on them.

  • The Thief of Time – John Boyne – the story of a man living for over 250 years.  The story moves back & forth between his lives but for me the best one was his first life. By the end of the book I was starting to think he’d done enough living – 4/5
  • The Art of Friendship – Erin Kaye – a book about 4 friends and the ups and downs of their friendship. Very readable but not gripping 3/5

  • Sparkles – Louise Bagshaw – A family saga about a French jewellery family. A good story and a nice couple of twists – 4/5

  • Homecoming – Cathy Kelly – This author never fails to disappoint.  A novel about friendships, forgiveness and second chances – 4/5

  • Picture Perfect – Jodi Picoult – my first time reading a Jodi Picoult book and possibly my last!  It was only average and annoyed me.  3/5

  • Please Forgive Me – Melissa Hill – another good book from Melissa Hill but not as gripping as The Last To Know – 4/5

  • Love Match – Mary Malone – typical book of friendships and relationships. Average 3/5

  • The Drowning Girl – Margaret Leroy – a book about a troubled child whose past is trying to be heard. Well written.  3/5

  • No Angel – Penny Vincenzi – this book is definitely my favourite of all my summer reads. Over 700 pages long. A dynasty saga and book 1 of a trilogy.  It has a great story and interesting characters.  I’m on the lookout for books 2 and 3 so I can keep on reading. 5/5

  • Set In Stone – Catherine Dunne – This is kind of a strange book. It wasn’t really here nor there. It wasn’t good or bad. Only average. It had the potential to be much better but wasn’t  – 3/5

Book Review: The Last To Know by Melissa Hill


I was told by a friend to read a Melissa Hill book. Last February I went to London and took this book in my bag but brought it home again as I was reading another book.  It has been on my pile of books to read since then and finally made it to the top last week.  As I have only recently moved my little girl to her own room I have rediscovered the joy of reading in bed so I read a few chapters every night. By Saturday night I was nearly halfway through but the book totally grabbed my attention and I kept reading until I finished it at 2.30am. I can’t remember the last time a book caught me like that.  I was glad it wasn’t a night before going to work but didn’t regret it the following morning.

The Last To Know - Melissa Hill

The Last To Know – Melissa Hill

The Last to Know is the story of 4 women – Eve, Anna, Sam and Brooke and how their lives are intertwined.  Eve has been waiting for years for her partner, Liam, to marry her.  Anna is engaged but slow to set the date.  Sam is Eve’s sister who knows too much about Liam and doesn’t think he’s good enough for her sister.  Brooke is living in Australia not knowing that a secret is going to be revealed that will change her life forever.

 

What I liked about this book is that it was so different from regular chick-lit as there was a twist and while I knew there was a twist there was a few red herrings to make you think things and then I discovered I was wrong.  I love when I can’t predict the ending of the book.  I’m not going to reveal too much about the book as don’t want to give the plot away but I do recommend this book to read.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more Melissa Hill books.

 

Book Review: This Is How It Ends – Kathleen MacMahon


This is how it ends - Kathleen MacMahon

This is how it ends – Kathleen MacMahon

I read this book in 2 parts as I borrowed it from my local library and read about a quarter of it but was too busy to finish it at the time and had to return it.  Months later I got a copy so I decide to finish it.

It’s the story of Bruno who comes from America in search of his Irish ancestors and meets his family consisting of Addie, Della and their father Hugh.  It is set in Ireland in 2008 in the run up to Obamas election. It’s basically a love story with a few twists.  It could have done with a bit of liveliness to push the story along.  I found it’s pace quite slow at times.  It is well written but it needs something more to make it a book that you want to keep reading.

I had read a lot of reviews and they were all positive but this didn’t do it for me.  I found the story dragged and it wasn’t a page turner for me but I did finish it out to the end.  I don’t think I’ll be running off to get her next book.

Book Review: The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry


My sister came home on holidays and was telling me about this great book she had been reading on the plane.  She couldn’t remember the name of the book but knew the author was Sebastian Barry.  On the way home, she had stopped off in London for work. She said she was dying to finish the book when she got to her hotel but couldn’t find it anywhere and realised she had left it on the plane.  This made me laugh as it could only happen to her.   She stayed at home a couple of days and then set off on a shopping trip to Cork and landed home with the book called The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.  She finished it and gave it to me to sell or do whatever I wanted with it.  It was on the pile of books that was supposed to go down to my book store but I was curious as to what had got my sister so hooked so I decided to read it myself.

The book is the story of a nearly 100 year old woman, Roseanne, who is in a mental hospital.  She goes back and tells her life story and how she ended up in the mental hospital.  At the same time her doctor, Dr. Grene, is updating his records and trying to learn more about his patient so that he can move her to another hospital.   The book is written from both Roseanne and Dr Grenes’ point of view. It is a well written book and it’s descriptive language gives a picture of what the author is trying to show.  It covers back to the 1930’s in Ireland so there are the different social aspects through the years.  Roseanne is an amusing character and made me laugh on a few occasions.  At times I wished it gave some more information but I think they way it’s written makes you stay curious right to the end.

I did find myself drawn back to the book, wondering what was going to happen next and kept on reading until the end.  It was also one of those books that I wished had a few more chapters.  I can see why my sister had to go and buy another copy.  We rarely read the same books so I was surprised to enjoy it.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Irish Country Houses – Books & TV Programmes


Last year I got Tarquin Blakes Abandoned Mansions of Ireland and it revived my interest in history but especially the history of the old houses and castles in Ireland.  I then saw a gorgeous new book that came out before Christmas called Irish Country Houses: A Chronicle of Change by David Hicks.  I had hoped someone would buy it for me but alas no one took my hints about it.

I finally got a copy a few weeks ago and started reading it straight away.  It’s a large book, what we call a coffee table book as it’s so big it has to be read on a table.  It’s a lovely book illustrated with beautiful photos. It covers houses in all provinces of Ireland but I was particularly interested in the Cork ones especially Castle Bernard in Bandon and Castle Freke, both in Cork.  

What makes this book different from the rest is that the author and photographer have gone to the trouble of finding the old pictures and then taking a photograph of how the place looks now and how they were in the past for comparison.  It’s sad to see the state of some of these gorgeous old houses but it’s a long and sometimes bitter history as to how some of them became the way they did.  As I also work for a builder I was interested in the architectural details and cost of building at the time.

The book is very simply written but with a wealth of detail.  I only read a chapter per night so that I could enjoy whatever house I was reading about and digest the historical detail. There is a lot of Irish social history in the book and makes me want to read many more books about people, places and periods of history. That is the best and the worst thing about these books. They make you want more.

I hope there will be a follow up to this book as it is one of the best presented books on Irish country houses that has come out with a while.  David Hicks blog is certainly one to follow if you are interested in Irish country houses.

I hadn’t long finished reading Irish Country Houses when the TV3 series The Big House started on television.  This was more country house history but more from the servants side of things.  Again, it’s great social history and very well researched.  There are three more episodes to air and I don’t think they will disappoint me.

Book Review: The Story of Chicago May by Nuala O’Faolain



This book is a biography of May Duignan who was born in Longford, Ireland. She stole her family’s savings and ran off to America to start a new life. Her new life was a life of crime and she soon earned the name Chicago May.  Her adventures took her to Chicago, New York, Paris and London.  Her crimes and jobs varied from theft, prostitution, showgirl and outlaw.

Within the first few pages of reading this book, Nuala O’Faolains devotion to writing a correct account of Chicago Mays life was clear.  Because the time covered is from 1890-1929, some details are missing but O’Faolain is quick to fill in what she thinks happened.   May kept using different names which must have made research hard. O’Faolain has done an amount of research into re-creating Mays journey from Longford to America and her new life and events that happened including visiting the places herself which makes the book so good.  I liked that she went to the places May lived so she could paint a true picture of the time.

There is so much detail in the book it is easy to picture it all.  It is a great social history of Ireland, America and London at the time.  It covers an escape from rural Ireland to America and then various moves to cities in America.  May had bad taste in men which led to a lot of her troubles.  She did end up in prison in the UK.  This was a very interesting chapter as it was during her time in prison that she met Constance Markieviez, one of the famous women in the 1916 rising in Dublin.

While some of the things May did are not admirable she is still a likeable character.  She lived a life full of experiences, some good and a lot bad but this was all part of her character.

It is a great book. It is so detailed.  It’s not one that can be quickly scanned over as there is information in every line.  I really enjoyed it as there was a broad range of life experience, history and tales of crime.  I can highly recommend it as something different to read. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I picked this book up as I wanted to read something different from what I usually read and this proved to be an exceptional choice.  It also makes me want to read other books on events raised in this book.

The Story of Chicago May – Nuala O’Faolain
Penguin, 2006
ISBN: 0141006587

Re-launch of Darkwood Books at Bantry Book Fair


After a break from doing book fairs Darkwood Books will be at the Book Fair at Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork on 8th July as part of the West Cork Literary Festival week events.

This may seem like an ordinary piece of news but to us its a bit like getting ready for our debutante dance.  Like all debutantes preparing for their night ranging from dress to fake tan to jewellery we are just the same.  We are busy choosing what books to take and display. We haven’t done a book fair in 7 years due to personal circumstances but are now ready to re-launch ourselves back on to the book-selling scene.

It is with a degree of uncertainty that books are being chosen.  Book selling has changed so much in the last few years. A lot of bookshops closed when internet selling became an easier way of life and in due course internet sellers are getting pushed out by the rise of the e-reader so it’s hard to pick what books potential customers might want to buy.

We have two tables which can take four bookcases so we can display a broad range of our books.  We always like to have one bookcase of books of Irish Interest as there are some collectors who like Irish history, literature, art, poetry and anything to do with Ireland.  We also like to cater to all people so take books priced from 5 euro to 500 euro.  We like to see regular book buyers there as well as serious collectors.  It’s always nice to see a book going off to a new home with a new owner and a bit like a pet we hope the book gets a good home.


So, a few hours of sorting books and choosing which ones get a day out and more annoying wondering which ones will have to be packed up and brought home again.

If any of you are in the Bantry area on 8th July, please call and see us.  Admission is free and with a lot of book-sellers there, there is sure to be something for everyone.

A PDF catalogue is available also with some books that will be on offer there. If you’d like one please email me and I’ll forward it to you.

The Oldest Book Club In Ireland


A friend recommended that I listen to this radio programme  about one of Irelands oldest book clubs.  It is a group of 12 women who meet once a month to discuss books. The book group was formed in 1974 and one of its rules was no husbands.  The oldest member of the group is Nan Fitzgerald who is now 84 years.  There is 30 years between the oldest and youngest members of the group.  Because of the age difference their opinions vary which helps make their discussions interesting.

In the group of 12 are seven Irish women, three English women and two American women. Over the nearly 40 years they have been meeting they have read over 240 books on many subjects which has lead to some lively discussions.  They have read fiction, history, booker prize books and anything that they thought would be interesting.  Books by Irish authors and books on Irish history and politics were a learning experience for the “foreigners” in the group.

The book club is a social event as they have some food and chat after their book discussion. They have been meetings for so many years that they have had pregnancies, children, grandchildren and all the events life brings. These women are the best of friends. You can hear that in their chat.  You can also hear their passion for books and how reading connects them.  Nan, the oldest member of the group at 84 reminds me of my own mother as she is from the same area, same age and an avid reader.  Nan recalls the banning of Edna O’Briens The Country Girls in the 1960’s.  I remember my mother telling me about this also.

The programme is recorded over a few months so there are snippets from a few book club meetings.  It really is a lovely listen for anyone interested in books, literature and it tells a bit of Irish social history also.

It can be listened to here: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/documentary-podcast-oldest-book-club-ireland-cork.html

Book Review: Lies of Silence by Brian Moore


Lies of Silence by Brian Moore
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 1990.
ISBN: 0747506108
Finished 02/06/2012


Lies of Silence was chosen by my book club group as our next book to discuss.  Luckily I had two copies (a bonus to having over 20,000 books) so could start reading it straight away.

This book is set in Northern Ireland and is about a hotel manager who, with his wife, is held hostage and made to deliver a bomb in his car to the hotel he works in.  If he doesn’t the IRA will kill his wife. It’s complicated by the fact that it happens the same day as he was going to tell his wife he was leaving her.

It’s not a bad read.  It’s quite short. I expected it to be more exciting.  The story moved along but there was no great suspense in it.  It is well written but I was expecting it to be very well written as Brian Moore is such a renowned author.

There will be a few items for discussion at book club as there are a few decisions in the book that people will and won’t agree with.

I didn’t rate this as a great book but it’s not bad either. The way I judge a book is would I read another by the author and the answer this time is yes I would.  However, I wouldn’t recommend this book.