Recent Reads

Short reviews of some recent reads!
Vivian vs the Apocalypse – Katie Coyle
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse (Vivian Apple, #1)

This book has been on my TBR pile for a long time, I was glad to finally get to it! A gripping YA read set in a version contemporary USA under the power of the fanatical Church of America. I won’t say too much about the plot (don’t want to give it away!) but this was an exciting read with strong characters, and I am very keen to read the follow up Vivian vs America. A very strong debut, and Vivian Apple is an excellent protagonist.

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

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I read this book over Christmas, and felt a bit guilty all snuggled up in blankets and cosy slippers while the author was trekking the Pacific Crest Trail, down to only one hiking boot. This was an utterly gripping and moving read. Strayed is very honest in her writing, and the result is a powerful and uplifting book. While I won’t be hiking the PCT any time soon, it made me think a lot about my own life and what I want to do.

History is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera (ARC, will be published in February 2017)

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A very moving read about first love, loss and grief. I loved how the book switched between past and present (the shift in person was interesting also). Griff, the protagonist, is mourning his first love and best friend Theo, while also becoming more and more controlled by his compulsions. The mix of romance, grief and friendship was strong, and the depiction of Griffin’s struggles with OCD felt very real and honest. I definitely want to read More Happy Than Not this year.

On Beauty – Zadie Smith
On Beauty

After reading Swing Time, I’m keen to discover the rest of Zadie Smith’s work. As a former student of art history, I enjoyed the role art played in this book but what I really loved was how Smith gets us into the characters’ heads and how she explores their relationships. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Ink – Alice Broadway (ARC, will be published in February 2017)
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First of all, how beautiful is this book? The cover is gorgeous and shiny and I was immediately enticed to read it. The book itself is very compelling, and I cannot wait to read the read of the trilogy. It is set in a world in which everyone is ‘marked’, inked with tattoos cataloguing your life. The idea is that this is a way of creating an honest and good society, but Leora soon comes to see that things are not as black and white as they may seem…

I’m currently reading an ARC of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and it’s just as brilliant as I had heard!

The Hate U Give

 

Ulster Museum Visit January 2017

I was visiting a friend in Belfast this weekend, and I was delighted we could fit in a visit to the Ulster Museum. Their art exhibitions are fantastic, and I haven’t been doing enough gallery-going lately.

Here are a few highlights from my visit.

Bare Life: Abstraction and Figuration in 20th Century British Art

This exhibition explored modernism, and the opposing modes of abstract and figurative art. There was a mixture of paintings, photographs and sculpture.

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The highlight of this exhibition for me was the Duncan Grant painting Interior at Charleston (1918) which shows Vanessa Bell and David Garrett at Charleston, the house the three of them lived in. Bell is shown painting a still life and while Garrett is translating Dostoevsky. It offers a glimpse into the world of the Bloomsbury group, an avant garde group of creatives that I have a great interest in.

This is an essay I wrote about the art of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.

The New Past: Irish Art from 1800 to 2016

I loved this exhibition. There was a wide selection of Irish painting on show, with works by such artists as Paul Henry, Sir John Lavery, Jack B Yeats, Margaret Clarke, Louis le Brocquy and Sarah Cecilia Harrison to name but a few. The exhibition is divided into sections – Invention, Theatre, Myth and After the Past.

Highlights of the exhibition for me included the wonderful Margaret Clarke self-portrait, Robin Redbreast. It was so different from other works by her I had seen (Stringbergian (1927), one of her better known paintings is also in the exhibition). This work was more realist in style. She has painted herself wearing a red waistcoat, part of the traditional dress of the Aran Islands.  Her expression is so compelling; she looks directly at the viewer and is quite vulnerable. I was captivated by this painting.

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One of Sir John Lavery’s many portraits of his glamorous wife Hazel, The Green Coat (1926) was another highlight of the exhibition for me. It is a large scale work, and Hazel’s height is accentuated. She looks off into the distance and has an almost mystical quality about her, like a fairy queen.

Rita Duffy’s Titanic (2002) was another work I hadn’t come across before. It’s a small mixed media work, echoing the texture of the metalwork of the ship. This aspect of the work recalls engineering and industry in Belfast and the presence of the storm and the iceberg point to the tragic outcome of the voyage.

Another modern work I enjoyed was Elizabeth Magill’s Chronicle of Orange (2007). Her landscapes have quite an eerie, almost mystical quality yet details like electricity lines firmly ground them in the contemporary. The influence of Romantic painting is there, as is the influence of photography. Her use of colour is stunning, and I always enjoy her work.

If I had to pick an overall highlight, it would be Alicia Boyle’s Potato Washers (1949). It was a delight to see this as I had researched her sketchbooks as an intern in the National Gallery of Ireland a couple of years ago. Having seen some of the sketches for this work it was a real joy to see the actual painting, especially unexpectedly! I loved the vibrant use of colour and expressive brushwork.

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There are many more wonderful artworks in both exhibitions, I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in Belfast. The Elements exhibition was also very interesting, particularly the part about poisons! Several great murder mystery ideas there…

Top 10 Books of 2016

I was very pleased with my reading this year – I hit my Goodreads target of 100 books yesterday. While (as usual) I read mostly YA my reading was more varied this year – encompassing more commercial and literary fiction, as well as more non-fiction.

It was very hard to pick my top books of the year, but here they are – in order of reading. And yes I cheated by putting a couple of series in as one book.

The powerful and poetic Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan, one of my favourite releases of 2016, was on my 2015 list hence its absence here!

Drumroll please…

Spinster by Kate Bolick

Spinster by Kate Bolick

This started off my non-fiction reading for the year and was a very moving read. Part memoir, part literary criticism and part social/cultural history it was a compelling read about what it was to be a single woman in various eras, and offered a fascinating insight into the lives of such women as Maeve Brennan and Edith Wharton.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

What a gorgeous book. This Pultizer Prize winner lives up to all the hype. A beautifully written tale set between France and Germany in WWI, this is a book that lingers in your mind long after you’ve read it. People have come back into the bookshop to say how much they loved it.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden

Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden

This is a fantastic fantasy adventure, and I am really excited to read the next installment of the trilogy in 2017. I have been recommending this book to fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson in the bookshop, and months after reading it that scene with the lightbulbs still sends shivers down my spine.

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

I adore Marian Keyes, and this is my very favourite of her books. As ever, she combines a striking insight into the darker side of her protagonist’s mind, combined with laugh-out-loud funny moments. If you haven’t read the Walsh family series, you are missing out!

Bone Gap

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

This book is absolutely gorgeous. I received an ARC to review, and I couldn’t put it down. I can’t wait to read it again. A chilling piece of magical realism with an intricate plot and unforgettable characters. It is a book about love, what it means to see and be seen. Unmissable.A stunning read, I’m glad it is finally out in Ireland and the UK!

 

Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy

Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy

Claire Hennessy’s hard-hitting look at eating disorders and body image has a fantastic narrator in snarky ghost Annabel. This is a moving, honest and raw read. I can’t wait for Like the Other Girls, Claire Hennessy’s next book published in 2017!

How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Part literary criticism, part memoir, this is a book readers will love. Ellis revisits favourite books from various points in her life, examining what the heroines meant to her then and how she sees them now. I adored this, especially the discussion of Ballet Shoes!

Six of Crows by Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

This is the best fantasy YA I have read in a long long time. The characters are all so interesting and well developed (it’s rare for me to love all the voices in a multiple POV novel), the plots are tight and exciting, and the world is enthralling.

What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne...And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

What’s a Girl Gotta Do? and …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if there was ever a series I wish was around when I was a teenager, it’s the Spinster Club. The characters are real and honest, the focus on friendship is refreshing, and Bourne writes about feminism and mental health in a way that readers can really connect to.

 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

In a year of reading more non-fiction, and moving into writing essays myself, this was a brilliant book to finally get to. It was utterly compelling. I stayed up late, I cried, I marked particularly powerful sentences. Another book that I feel deserves the praise it has received. What a remarkable woman and writer!

I’m looking forward to much more reading in 2017, my first book will be this beauty  (ha) which was one of my Christmas presents:

On Beauty

Recent Reads

Christmas is coming and we are busy busy busy in the bookshop! Here are some quickfire reviews of the last five books I read.

Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell

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This has been on my TBR list for a while, and it did not disappoint! A soaring tale of adventure, love and hope set on the rooftops of Paris. It’s beautifully written, and Sophie is a winning heroine. It has a real classic feel, fans of Cornelia Funke and Eva Ibbotson will love this!

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The One Memory of Flora Banks – Emily Barr

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Out in Jan 2017 – thanks LoveReading4Kids for the ARC!

A tense and exciting YA thriller, a very impressive debut from Emily Barr. Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia, meaning she has no short term memory. When a memory sticks, it sets Flora off on a mission to try and cure herself.

The Making of Mollie – Anna Carey

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I really enjoyed this novel – historical fiction with warm and likeable characters. Set in Dublin 1912 and told through letters, this is the story of teenage suffragettes who want votes for women. Entertaining and enjoyable, and I love the cover illustrated by Lauren O’Neill.

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Murder Most Unladylike – Robin Stevens

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A jolly-good murder mystery! Think Enid Blyton meets Agatha Christie. Hazel is an excellent narrator, and I loved how the book was structured as her casebook. I love the Detective Society, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

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Swing Time – Zadie Smith

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I have wanted to read Zadie Smith’s writing for a long time, and I am happy to say that Swing Time exceeded all my expectations. It is beautifully written, and explores themes of family, friendship, race, place and dancing. It is such an insightful study of character, and I  just loved how she wrote about bodies and dancing. I am keen to read more of Zadie Smith’s books now!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in the First Half of 2017

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature run by The Broke and the Bookish, combining the joys of books and lists. This week’s topics is releases we are excited about in the first half of 2017. I have arranged my list by month of release.

January

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr (have an ARC)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

February

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (read & loved an ARC)

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

May

Release by Parick Ness

Like Other Girls by Claire Hennessy

June 

Once & For All by Sarah Dessen

Looks like a very exciting year of books! Link to your TTT in the comments so I can make my TBR list even longer…

Review: …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

Oh how I love the Spinster Club! This is the series I wish could have been around when I was a teenager. I have had the new (and final, sob) book since DeptCon2 but I had been putting off reading it because I didn’t want this wonderful series to end. However, last weekend it was exactly the book I wanted to read. Now I have read it, I am happy to report that fans of Holly Bourne and the Spinsters will not be disappointed.

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…And a Happy New Year

Holly Bourne

Usborne (2016) YA

Same bench. Same view. Same girls.

And yet totally different girls…

…And a Happy New Year? is set at Amber’s New Year’s Eve party, and sees the Spinsters reunited after their first term of university. The distance and their new experiences has altered their friendship, and they are all keeping secrets.

Amber has made a life-changing decision, she just hasn’t found the right moment to tell her best friends yet.

Lottie is not enjoying university life in London, but she is too ashamed to admit it.

Evie’s boyfriend has had a relapse. She is afraid for him and for herself, but she is also afraid of her friends’ reaction.

With all these terrible secrets, this will be a New Year’s Eve to remember…

This is shorter than the other Spinster Club books (a novella rather than a novel) and switches between the POVs of the main characters. All three voices were distinctive, and using this format gave us an insight into each character.  I also loved the ‘countdown’ aspect of the book. There are some wonderful quotes about how New Year’s Eve is actually kind of terrible.

It’s about feeling let down by life. It’s about a sinking feeling in your stomach that the night should’ve worked out better. It’s about your high expectations being dashed. It’s about your feet getting really cold watching shit fireworks. It’s about worrying everyone is having a better time than you. It’s feeling, only ten seconds after midnight, that actually, yes, your problems are still here and you were a deluded idiot for thinking a new year could change that.

As ever, Bourne’s writing is both funny and moving, and she writes brilliantly about friendship, feminism and mental health. What I loved was how this book explored the complexities of growing up (and sometimes growing apart), showing how expectations and reality can differ. Each character’s story was strong and their struggles felt very real. I like that Bourne did not opt for a ‘happily ever after’ ending to her series.

And I was angry at the world and the future and growing up and becoming an adult and all the other things that just do not turn out how they’re supposed to.

This book (and this series) is very much focused on feminism. Romance comes into each character’s story, but the focus really is on their friendship. Bourne explores the difficulty of maintaining friendships when you are all off having different experiences and adventures. Her characters are faced with the question of whether growing up means growing apart.

My favourite of the three characters is still Evie, and her story was very moving in this book. Bourne evokes Evie’s anxieties in a real and honest way. She shows both Evie’s own struggles, and how Evie copes with her boyfriend’s relapse. Exploring this connection between mental health and relationships is a very important part of the book, and I liked that Bourne engaged with the complexities of this issue.

We’d both worked so hard to get better. Us, our love, was our reward. We were supposed to be basking in the harvest of our efforts, not tumbling back down into dark rabbit holes.

Amber and Lottie’s stories were also emotional, and this book has all of the best things about a Spinster Club book – feminism (Does any Christmas movie pass the Bechdel test? Is the New Year the most feminist of all the holidays?), great dialogue, friendship, cheesy snacks etc. etc.

This is a beautifully produced book. It was released in a lovely hardback edition. The dust jacket (pictured above) is gorgeous and festive, and the self cover with its foil design is also lovely.

I adored this book and it is definitely one I will re-read at New Year’s. While I am sad to leave the Spinsters (this book made me very emotional) I am looking forward to Holly Bourne’s next book, due out in 2017!

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors 2016

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An ever-so-slightly belated TTT, the best new-to-me authors of this year! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature combining lists and books, run by the lovely folk at The Broke and the Bookish

Leigh Bardugo

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I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom – intricately plotted fantasy adventures with fantastic characters.

Zadie Smith

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I have been meaning to read Zadie Smith’s work for a long time, and I have just finished Swing Time. I adored it, Smith’s writing certainly lived up to my expectations.

Laura Ruby

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Bone Gap was one of the best books I read this year. I’m delighted that it is being released in Ireland and the UK this month (I received an ARC, and it is already available in the US). Stunning magical realism, I was enchanted by it.

 

Hannah Rothschild

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I adored The Improbability of Love, it is one of my staff picks in the bookshop now. Set in the London art world, and featuring a mix of mystery, history and romance, this book is perfect for art lovers.

Curtis Sittenfeld

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I really enjoyed Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld’s spirited retelling of Pride & Prejudice, and I also read her novel Prep – an engrossing coming-of-age story.

Samantha Ellis

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How to be a Heroine is part literary criticism, part memoir and I loved it. Ellis’ life is fascinating, and her love of reading leaps right off the page.

 

Dave Rudden

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Knights of the Borrowed Dark was a cracking fantasy adventure, and I am excited about the second book, due out in 2017. Fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson will love KOTBD, and Dave Rudden is certainly a writer to watch!

 

Melissa Keil

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Melissa Keil is an Australian author, and her book The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl was released in the UK and Irish market this year. I adored Alba and her story, and I am keen to track down some of Keil’s earlier books.

Jan Carson

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Jan Carson’s short story collection Children’s Children is full of strange, moving and memorable stories, and I loved that they were set in Northern Ireland. Her novel Malcolm Orange Disappears is on my TBR list.

Frances Hardinge

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Frances Hardinge is another writer who has been on my list for some time, and when I read the Costa award winning Lie Tree, I was enthralled. I will be catching up on the rest of her novels for sure.

Post the link to your TTT below, point me to more amazing authors 🙂

Author Interview: Ruth Frances Long (Dubh Linn trilogy)

I interviewed the fabulous Ruth Frances Long when A Hollow in the Hills, the second book in her Dubh Linn trilogy, was released last year. Now that the final volume, A Darkness at the End, is out in the world I caught up with Ruth to chat fantasy, trilogies, mythology, YA and more…

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1)   A Darkness at the End, the finale of the Dubh Linn trilogy, was published this autumn. What was it like to finish the series?

A bit of a rollercoaster, to be honest. I had a difficult time with the second book, A Hollow in the Hills, so I thought book three, A Darkness at the End might kill me. But as it happened, the story came together quite easily and the characters behaved themselves for once. Even the ones who did not want to die. It is actually incredibly fulfilling to know the complete story is out there now and I’m really pleased with the way it worked out.

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2)    There were some fantastic locations in the third book – was there one that stood out for you? I loved the scene in the National Gallery.

So difficult to choose just one so I’ll cheat a little. There’s a sequence where three characters go through the tunnels carrying the River Poddle until they reach St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then go to Marsh’s Library which is one of my favourite parts of A Darkness at the End. There’s a lot going on with the characters at this point, especially with Clodagh and there’s a certain symbolism tied in with this underground journey. Usually when researching a location I would go there, but with the Poddle, being a subterranean river, I couldn’t do that. Luckily I was able to find some documentary footage and photos online of the route and used that for reference.

 

3)      Which of your characters are you most like?

If I say Brí will it frighten everyone?

In reality, there is probably a bit of me in all of them, and a bit of all of them in me.

 

4)    Did you have a favourite character to write, or one whose head you found difficult to get into?

The Magpies became my favourites to write over the course of the three books. They were minor characters to begin with, hired thugs who didn’t have that much to do, but they grew into something much more and I was so sorry to say goodbye to them at the end. Not that I’d want to hang out with them or anything!

As for difficult to pin down, I was very worried about including the Morrigan in the final book because she’s such a huge and important character in so much literature and I wanted to do her justice.

 

5)    Do you prefer the first draft stage, or the editing stage?

A mixture of both. There are moments in the first draft when the story is flowing and it all just feels like magic. However, the editing stage often feels more solid and rewarding to me.

 

6)    Could you tell me a bit about the Morrigan in the third book – when did she come into your mind, and what did the research process for this character involve?

I always wondered if she would show up in the books. She’s a very difficult character to pin down and I didn’t want to make mistakes. I read a lot, of course and winnowed through various legends where she appears. I also spoke to a friend dedicated to the Morrigan, and we discussed her various aspects at length which was really eye opening and fulfilling. She’s often portrayed as a goddess of death, but she’s more like a goddess of life lived to the full on the edge of death. She’s a war goddess, and there’s a tremendous amount of energy in that. I see her and Brigid (who I portrayed as Brí) as being two sides of a coin, intricately linked together and immensely powerful for that.

 

7)    You have really strong female characters in the trilogy, particularly with the matriarchs. Was creating a female power structure in the books something you did consciously?

When you look at Irish legends there are incredibly strong and determined women running all the way through them. Because of the Christianisation of these stories when they were written down they are often given a very bad ending. But we still remember the likes of Maeve and Gráinne as the key character in the tale.  I really wanted hierarchy in Dubh Linn to reflect that, so the matriarchs came about quite naturally. They’re also very strong characters so it’s hard to imagine them being told to sit down and be quiet and putting up with that.

 

8)    There are some dramatic (and devastating!) moments in A Darkness at the End. What have reader reactions been like?

Throughout the series I’ve tried to confront dark moments head on. The biggest reactions I had from readers were from the end of A Hollow in the Hills and a certain death in A Darkness at the End. My husband is still only tentatively speaking to me about it.

 

9)    I love how you bring figures and creatures from Irish mythology into the Dubh Linn books. Are there other legends or mythologies you would like to explore in your writing?

I’ve always been fascinated with legends and folklore so there are many. I’m currently thinking quite a bit about Arthurian legends so I’d love to explore them some more.

 

10)  What are your favourite YA books you have read this year?

In no particular order… Caramel Hearts by Elizabeth Rose Murray, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín and Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy.

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Thanks to Ruth for her fascinating answers, I can’t wait to read more of her books! If you are a fan of fantasy, romance or mythology (or all three!) be sure to check out the Dubh Linn trilogy (A Crack in Everything, A Hollow in the Hills, A Darkness at the End)

Ruth Frances Long’s website

Recent Reads

This blog has been very quiet lately, partly because I am doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and that is taking up a lot of time. I decided to do short reviews of the last five books I have read (I stuck two in together, so six really), and they are a varied bunch (one non-fiction, one fiction, four YA)!

In Therapy – Susie Orbach

In Therapy: How Conversations With Psychotherapists Really Work

An interesting look at the therapeutic process and what goes on inside the consulting room and inside the therapist’s head in session. Orbach uses five case studies (therapy sessions with actors) to explore the dynamics of the relationship between therapist and client. She explores the importance of tone, body language, silences and judging her role with each patient. Somewhat introductory but an interesting and thought-provoking read nonetheless! There is a BBC4 radio series too, in which you can listen to the recorded sessions (they are reproduced in script format in the book).

Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen (ARC release date Feb 2017)

Optimists Die First

Following a family tragedy, Petula de Wilde is terrified of the world, convinced a deadly accident will befall her or someone she loves. She is a reluctant participant in a youth art therapy group, where she meets the annoyingly optimistic Jacob Cohen. Slowly, Jacob begins to change the way Tula sees life. However, secrets from his past threaten their new relationship. I loved this book, Tula’s anxieties and emotions are so powerful, and all the characters are well developed. Also, there is a reenactment of Wuthering Heights WITH CATS (!) If that’s not a perfect scene, I don’t know what is.

Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep

The prestigious boarding school Ault is a whole new world for shy and self-conscious Lee Fiora, a fourteen-year old scholarship student who comes from a completely different background to her peers. Prep traces her high-school career as somewhat of a wallflower and observer. The rituals and secrets of the school are compelling, and the narrative really gets us into Lee’s head. She isn’t the most likeable of characters, but I think this is a real strength of this coming-of-age story. An engrossing read and made a good companion to Gilmore Girls, which I am currently watching.

Spare & Found Parts – Sarah Maria Griffin

Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin

A feminist Frankenstein retelling set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic Dublin in which everyone is missing parts, and everyone must make a contribution to society. Our heroine Nell Crane has a ticking machine for a heart, and is the daughter of a famed inventor, who is considered their society’s saviour. Nell is at a loss as to what her contribution could be…until she decides to build herself a robotic companion. Lots here about family, friendship, technology…all written in prose that is electric and poetic, that shifts into the second person. I loved it (full review soon)

Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)

As these books are a duology I stuck them in together. Heists! Magic! Intrigue! Diversity! I absolutely loved these books, they are the best fantasy novels I have read in a long time. The characters are so well-developed and have absolutely heart-wrenching back stories. The world building is exquisite, and the magic system very interesting.  The multiple point of view format really works, and (a rarity) there was no POV I wasn’t keen on or wanted to get out of the way (although Inej was my favourite). Bardugo is a master of slow-burning romance, and there was a scene in Crooked Kingdom that just broke my heart. Also the plotting is just incredible, particularly the heist in Six of Crows. Intricate, stylish and packed with twists. I could go on and on…

Last month, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell before their Worlds Collide event in Dublin. Still fangirling. See photographic evidence below.

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Review: A Darkness at the End (Dubh Linn #3) by Ruth Frances Long

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A Darkness at the End
Ruth Frances Long
O’Brien Press, 2016 (YA)
The final installment of Ruth Frances Long’s Dubh Linn trilogy is gripping and dramatic. It opens with Izzy reeling from the loss of Jinx, and struggling with the gaps in her memory left by the storyteller’s book.  But with Holly more powerful and more ruthless than ever, and angels, fae and demons on the brink of all out war, Izzy must act now. The darkness is coming, and there is no escape…

I loved the third Dubh Linn book, I couldn’t put it down. For me, it was the most powerful of the books emotionally. Long does not pull her punches when describing Izzy and Jinx’s pain (yet, Izzy’s grief and trauma is handled very sensitively) and the body count is high in this book (one loss was particularly painful. If you’ve read the book you’ll know who I mean. Gulp.) I loved the development of characters like Dylan and Clodagh in this book, both are given greater roles in the plot and we get more of an insight into their minds.  I am impressed by how rounded all the characters are considering the vastness of the cast. There is a complexity to all of the characters, to how they handle magic and power, and to their histories. Izzy is a strong protagonist, but this is a series with many strong women. In Long’s magic system it is women, the matriarchs, who hold power. Brí and Silver are fantastic and memorable characters, and I was delighted to see the Morrigan make an appearance in the book (I loved all the hints about her earlier in the book too).

As always, Long makes excellent use of locations in Dublin – Marsh’s Library, the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin, the National Gallery of Ireland and Glasnevin Cemetery all feature in this volume. She skillfully melds real Dublin and magical Dubh Linn, making excellent use of the history surrounding the locations. She writes about Dublin as a place of magic and story, making the (Irish) reader see their place in a new way. The final showdown, on Dalkey Island, was very dramatic and provided a suitably spectacular climax for the trilogy.

A Darkness at the End is a brilliant read, both heart-pounding and heartbreaking, and I look forward to re-reading the trilogy as a whole in the future.

Ruth Frances Long will be appearing at Octocon this weekend.

My interview with Ruth Frances Long following the publication of A Hollow in the Hills (Dubh Linn #2)