Review: Queen of Coin & Whispers by Helen Corcoran

Having just attended Helen Corcoran’s virtual launch (a mark of the times!) for her debut ‘Queen of Coin & Whispers’ I decided it was high time I shared my thoughts on this wonderful book. Thanks to O’Brien Press for sending me an ARC of the book. During lockdown I purchased a copy of the finished book online from the lovely Gutter Bookshop.

Queen of Coin and Whispers

Image from O’Brien Press

Queen of Coin and Whispers

Helen Corcoran

O’Brien Press, 2020

YA – fantasy

Lia has been newly crowned as queen of a corrupt state. She is passionate and idealistic, determined to reform her kingdom and be a better ruler than her uncle was. However, this is complicated by her growing attraction to Xania, her new spymaster. Xania is an intelligent and determined young woman, who has taken on the role of spymaster in a bid to avenge her father’s murder. The love that blooms between them complicates things, and they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice. With political intrigue throughout the Court and hidden enemies everywhere, they face danger and betrayal at every turn.

This was a brilliant, pacey and intriguing story. The world building is luscious and detailed – I particularly loved the mythology in the book around the Midsummer Ball.  The costuming in the book is also incredible, and tells so much about the characters, their identities and their place in the Court. The world of the book is also wonderfully diverse. There are many people of colour represented in the book – both with Xania and many minor characters.  There is excellent representation of queer relationships, and I love how well represented LGBTQ+ characters were in the book. These relationships are also completely normal and accepted in this world. Thus this world is aspirational, while also having a range of characters for LGBTQ+ readers to identify with. This is a book I wish had been around when I was a teenager, and it was so meaningful to me now.

The dual narration created two compelling narrative trends, and allowed each main character become fully rounded and developed. I adored the central characters – I loved Lia’s idealism and Xania’s stubborn nature. I shipped them with every fibre of my being. Helen Corcoran is queen of the slow burning romance, I have never been so thrilled by two characters’ hands brushing! The connection between them is intense and feels authentic. I loved how a sapphic novel brought them together! 

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’

Of course, this review has to mention the stunning cover designed by Emma Byrne. It really captures the spirit of  the book, while also being very eye-catching. The rose motif links to the setting of the book, and the embossed matte foil is lush.

I would highly recommend this book for fantasy fans, particularly those looking for novels featuring queer relationships and strong, authentic female protagonists. I cannot wait to read more from Helen Corcoran.

Author Interview: Claire Hennessy (Like Other Girls)

I reviewed Claire Hennessy’s powerful new YA novel Like Other Girls recently, and was delighted to get the chance to chat to Claire about the book, her writing process, being an editor, and the joy of musicals.

Photo by Aisling Finn

Could you tell me about your writing routine? When and where do you write? Do you have any writing rituals?

I yearn for a proper writing routine but it really depends on what else I’m doing or working on at the time. For example, during the summer I teach on summer camps for teenagers, which means I might write in the evenings, whereas if I’m teaching a lot of evening classes then the writing tends to get done in the morning. It really depends on the stage the manuscript is at, too – when I’m in the middle of a first draft, getting new words down as often as possible (every weekday, hopefully) is really important, whereas when I’m revising I might think over things for weeks and then go and attack the manuscript again.

How do you find writing for teens as an adult, compared to writing for teens as a teen yourself?

I’m an adult? When did that happen?! I’m more wary of getting details wrong now, because I know that being a teenager today is different in certain ways – the endless encroaching presence of social media, for example – and I also try not to be preachy.

Do you think your work as an editor has changed how you approach your writing?

I am incredibly aware now of the importance of opening chapters, in a way that I wasn’t before – there are so many clichéd and tired ways to begin a story, and as an editor you really start to notice all the recurring and worn-out tropes. I actually overdid it slightly with Like Other Girls and had a scene that really belonged much later at the start, for dramatic purposes, but it didn’t quite work, so it got moved.

When in the process of writing Like Other Girls did you come up with the title?

It was when I was close to finishing the manuscript, and we already had a synopsis for the book before that, so it was quite late. But we agreed on it very quickly, which was brilliant.

Like Other Girls is a book that makes readers angry (to quote the wonderful Marian Keyes, it is a book that ‘all but quivers with righteous anger’), which books make you angry?

Oooh. Anything about feminism makes me angry at the world, for obvious reasons, and then I get angry at books for pulling cheap stunts or having twists that don’t quite work.

To my delight, musicals play a big role in Like Other Girls. What is your favourite musical, and your favourite song from a musical?

WICKED! And ‘For Good’. I just love the fact that it has two female leads, and that the love story isn’t everything, and that it’s basically set in a magical boarding school at the start. It’s very different from the book, of course, which is much darker and twistier.

I feel that the inclusion of newspaper articles and other media references really reflected what it is like being a young woman in Ireland at the moment, and also showed how Lauren’s story is one that happens every day, to many women. Was this aspect of the book there from the start?

I  didn’t necessarily know I was going to include newspaper articles but I was conscious that I’d probably be addressing what the narrative is around reproductive rights in Ireland, as well as how such issues are handled in popular culture. And then as it went on, it seemed to make sense to include actual articles (and sadly the media continues to offer up many examples to work with…)

Like Other Girls is a book that confronts and explores real experiences and problems without turning into the dreaded ‘issue novel.’ What do you think is the importance of books and other art forms in exploring issues we are facing today?

Thank you, that is very kind of you to say! I did worry hugely about this turning into a big rant, which a novel shouldn’t be, and I was aware in certain chapters that I needed to go back and make things about the characters rather than The Issues. What stories are wonderful for is creating empathy – seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and learning to understand each other a little bit better. So much cruelty and ugliness in the world comes from a capacity to dehumanise certain groups of people, and empathy is the cure for that.

As both an editor and a reader, what would you like to see more of in YA?

More funny books for teenagers that still manage to deal with serious issues. More books set outside of the UK and the USA. More books featuring protagonists with disabilities, chronic illness, etc. And, as ever, more boarding school novels.

What are your favourite YA reads of 2017 so far?

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer completely blew me away. I absolutely adored Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Spellbook of the Lost and Found. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan was, predictably, brilliant. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give lived up to the hype. And Sara Zarr’s Gem & Dixie is amazing.

Review: Like Other Girls by Claire Hennessy


Like Other Girls

Claire Hennessy

Hot Key Books (2017)

YA, Contemporary

Like Other Girls is the story of Lauren, a 16-year-old bisexual girl grappling with the sometimes harsh realities of being a young woman in contemporary Irish society. Lauren is struggling with her identity – with the expectations of perfect femininity espoused by her all girls school, with dismissive attitudes towards bisexuality she finds even within the LGBTQIA community, and with her relationships, particularly with her boyfriend and the best friend she is still somewhat in love with. Then, she finds out she is pregnant. Readers familiar with Irish law will know the implications of this for Lauren, as she journeys alone to England for an abortion.

Lauren is a complex protagonist, and one in an incredibly difficult situation. She makes some bad choices, and Hennessy doesn’t shy away from showing Lauren’s darker and more ‘problematic’ (to use a much discussed word) thoughts. At times this can make for uncomfortable reading, particularly when Lauren is dealing with a close friend (whom she still has feelings for) coming out as transgender, or considering the degree of privilege you have as a cisgender woman in a country that denies women bodily autonomy. I do wish some of Lauren’s attitudes had been challenged a bit more, the transphobia in the book did make me uncomfortable, however her friend Ellie does call her out and at the end of the book there is a sense of Lauren growing as a person. Besides, in other ways Lauren’s flaws are a strength of the book and part of the way it pushes back against the pressure on girls to always be perfect.

Hennessy’s book is incredibly timely and will make readers angry. She uses articles very similar to those Irish readers will have encountered over the last few years, and a chilling scene in which her protagonist is given misleading and false information at a ‘counselling’ service. It evokes a very true-to-life sense of what it is like to be female in a country in which you don’t have bodily autonomy, in which abortion is illegal, and in which girls and women like Lauren must travel to the UK every single day for a medical procedure that should be available safely and legally in their home country. The trauma Lauren goes through makes the book painful to read, and shows how damaging the lack of access to abortion in Ireland is. Acclaimed Irish writer Marian Keyes has said that this book ‘all but quivers with righteous anger’, and I think its readers will too.

Like Other Girls tackles a number of very sensitive topics without falling into that dangerous trap of becoming an issue novel, without moralising or preaching, and without demonising its protagonist or giving her an unrealistic ‘happily-ever-after’ type ending. It is also a funny book, filled with pop culture and musical references, and with a strong, snarky voice at its centre. It also has a fantastic cover – it’s a label! for a book about labels! – designed by Leo Nickolls.

To sum up – Like Other Girls is a fierce, feminist book that while not an easy read, is an important one. We need stories like Lauren’s, and we need to repeal the eighth amendment.

Like Other Girls will be launched tonight, May 25th, in Dept 51 at Eason O’Connell Street at 6pm.

Review: The Space Between by Meg Grehan


The Space Between

Meg Grehan

Little Island (March 2017)


Beth has decided to take a year of solitude. Hidden away in her house, she lives according to a schedule, it makes her feel safe and secure. She has her own little world, and everything is under control there. Then, one day a dog called Mouse arrives at her window. Mouse brings Beth a rare and unexpected burst of joy, but it is his owner Alice who really changes Beth’s world. But Beth’s anxieties are still there, her year of seclusion rolls out, and letting someone else into her life is strange and scary.

This is a beautiful book in so many ways. The cover (designed by Paula McGloin) is gorgeous, and sets the tone for the book. The Space Between is a tender love story; quiet, emotional and moving. Grehan really conveys Beth’s anxiety and the ways in which her phobias trap and restrict her. At times the book can be difficult to read, and I felt panic setting  in myself reading some of the poems.

Just do the same thing

at the same time

just do it again and

again and again and

again and again and

again and again and

again until it sinks in

until your brain accepts it

until you can pretend

until you can pass as a person

Beth’s connection with Alice, the progression from friendship to something more, is handled tenderly. This relationship was built up slowly, in a manner that felt very realistic. Grehan explores the complexity for Beth of having a connection to the outside world once more. Beth has cut herself off from the rest of the world, and Alice’s ability to navigate it and to do things Beth isn’t able to do anymore is a source of tension. It is always good to see more LGBTQ love stories out there, particularly one portrayed in such a positive light. At times it did feel a bit too rosy, but of course I was glad Alice and Beth got their happy ending. I also would have liked the book to have been a bit longer,  I was enjoying it so much!

I also loved the fact that Alice, while playing a major role in Beth’s recovery, was not a knight in shining armour and Beth has to rely on her own inner strength to get better. Alice says to Beth at one point ‘I can’t be your reason.’ The Space Between shows how love and friendship can enrich your life and bring healing, but in the end Beth is the one who must take the steps, who must save herself. The ending is hopeful, but it is clear that Beth still has a long way to go and there is a sense that her recovery will be an ongoing process, with ups and downs. In this way, Grehan portrays mental illness in a very realistic way. Beth’s anxieties are by no means romanticised or beautified, and we really see how difficult coping with her agoraphobia, anxiety and depression is.

Above all, this is a beautifully written work. Even in the third person, we get right inside Beth’s head. The poems bring us right into her consciousness, and they flow beautifully. The formatting and typesetting are clever, and Grehan plays with the forms of the poems. I loved the part in which Beth is focusing on her breathing. In verse novels, words carry so much weight, and Grehan deftly weaves a moving tale of anguish, love and redemption. It is a short book, yet it has impact. Verse novels are much more prevalent in the US than in Ireland or the UK. Sarah Crossan is the most popular and prolific verse novelist in these parts, and it is great to see a new talent like Meg Grehan working in this format. Here’s to more Irish verse novels in the future!

The Space Between is an honest, delicate love story in verse, a book that warmed my heart and made me cry.

The Space Between will be launched in The Gutter Bookshop on Thursday March 30th by Deirdre Sullivan (author of Needlework and the Primrose Leary trilogy).

Space Between Launch

Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

Cover image from Goodreads

Cover image from Goodreads

Asking For It

Louise O’Neill

Quercus, 2015

“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.”

Emma O’Donovan is beautiful, popular and more than a bit arrogant. One night Emma is at a party. She is the centre of attention. She drinks too much, she takes some drugs. The next morning she wakes up half naked on her front porch, bruised and sunburnt. She has no recollection of how she got there. Slowly, through Facebook posts and whispers in school, she pieces together the awful truth.

O’Neill’s second novel has been topping bestseller lists and has received a lot of hype in the media. It is a powerful read, O’Neill does not pull any punches. Unrelentingly bleak, this is not an easy read but it is certainly a very important one. O’Neill explores the complexities of rape cases and how they are treated in the media, and looks at questions surrounding consent and culpability. One of the strengths of the novel is that Emma is no “perfect” victim. She isn’t likeable, she undercuts the self-esteem of even her closest friends and flirts with their boyfriends. When her friend Jamie is raped at a party, Emma’s reaction is far from ideal:

“You didn’t say no […] You told me you didn’t say no.”

” But […] I didn’t say yes either.”

The reluctance of both girls to use the word rape is explained by the reaction of their community to the attack on Emma. The boys who assaulted her are local sporting stars, and she is blamed for ruining their lives. There is much to commend in O’Neill’s novel. None of the characters come out well, except perhaps Emma’s brother. O’Neill shows how Emma is destroyed by the rape, and the impact it has on her community. She also reveals the damaging impact of how the discussions of these cases in the media can be. The fact O’Neill’s book has drawn on true cases makes this all the more chilling. She shows how hurtful social media can be, the images from that horrific night are spread around the whole school, and further, and the comments further Emma’s spiral into despair. The ending is as bleak as the ending of Only Ever Yours, but without the distance provided by the dystopian setting it is all the more horrific. For Irish readers, O’Neill’s fictionalised Irish village is very familiar. The repetition of certain phrases and images are very striking, this is a book that will haunt readers.

This is another hard-hitting triumph for Louise O’Neill, and it is certainly deserving of all the hype it has received. O’Neill has been involved with consent campaigns run by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and UCD and written a number of powerful articles. Asking For It and O’Neill’s outspokenness about the issues in the book will start a lot of important conversations and raise awareness about consent. O’Neill has signed a new deal for two adult books with Quercus, and I am really looking forward to seeing what she writes next.

Louise O’Neill will be speaking at DeptCon, a YA convention in Dublin later this month. Check out the full programme here.

Author Interview: Ruth Frances Long

Ruth Frances Long writes fantasy books. Her latest release is A Hollow in the Hills, second in the Dubh Linn series. I am a big fan of Ruth’s books and was delighted when she agreed to answer some questions about her writing.

Author Pic

Ruth Frances Long (image from

When and where do you write?

Whenever and wherever I can. I have always written but I really got serious about it when my children were small and I had to take every opportunity that presented itself. I often write longhand, so I can write in bed, and take my notebook with me everywhere so I’ve been known to write while waiting outside schools or waiting for people, or having a coffee. If I’m working on the laptop I’m usually on the sofa surrounded by cushions, cat and dog. Or, in the morning I like to sit in the sunroom at the back of our house and write over breakfast.

A Crack in Everything and A Hollow in the Hills both have a large cast of characters and an action-packed plot. How do you plan your novels?

I don’t really plan my novels at all. Not when I start. They grow from the characters first – I think about them a lot until they are very real in my head. When I start writing, I tend to have the beginning and the end in my mind, and perhaps some scenes in between but no real idea of what path the story is going to take. Having the characters first makes it something of an adventure, and they usually take off and leave me trying to keep up. As a writer, if I’m getting bored I know the reader is going to be too, so I try to avoid that. If something seems predictable and there isn’t a reason for that, I’ll try to do something different. And if I don’t the characters will. They always surprise me. It is always very difficult to talk about the way I write without sounding slightly strange. But that’s writers for you.

Dubh Linn

You have also written a stand-alone novel, The Treachery of Beautiful Things. How does this experience compare to writing a series? Which do you prefer?

I don’t really set out to write a stand-alone or a series. The story is the thing, and I try to make sure each book tells a complete story. In the case of A Crack in Everything, when I reached the end of the book, I had thought it would be a stand-alone, but the characters and the world just wasn’t finished. There was so much more to explore. So A Hollow in the Hills began. And now I’m working on the third book in the series. I don’t prefer stand-alones or a series. It’s a case of being true to whatever you’re writing. Similarly I wouldn’t want to drag out a series for too long just for the sake of making it another volume.

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

At the launch of A Hollow in the Hills you mentioned writing groups and book club, how important do you think it is for writers to have a community?

I think it’s vitally important. Writing is a solitary pursuit, and as writers we spend so much of our time inside our own heads, so having friends with similar interests is really important. I love the book world and the writing/reading community in Ireland. I find it incredibly supportive and I always know I have friends to turn to if I am finding things difficult, whether in writing or just generally.

You have incorporated a lot of Irish mythology into your books. How did your interest in myth and legend develop?

I remember having copies of Roger Lancelyn-Green’s books on mythology as a child and I loved them. They were mainly Greek, Egyptian and Roman legends, and tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood. Later, but not much later, I started to hear Irish legends like the Children of Lir or the Salmon of Knowledge. In time, I came across local folklore and stories that weren’t famous, or part of some grand mythological saga, but were small and local and just incredible. That’s when I was well and truly hooked. I love when stories are linked to the land around them, when they seem to grow out of the land itself, rather than being captured in a book. I love stories from an oral tradition, which change with each retelling. When I went to university I took a course in Celtic Civilisation and on the first day our lecturer arrived in to tell us that King Arthur wasn’t real. I almost quit the course there and then. I stayed of course, and to me King Arthur is always going to be real, regardless of whether a historical Arthur or proto-Arthur actually existed, because the stories made him real.

Place is very important in A Crack in Everything and A Hollow in the Hills with many of the scenes set in recognisable Irish settings. Could you tell us about how you researched the locations for the book? Was there any scene you found hard to place?

Because the idea for the world of Dubh Linn came out of Irish Folklore, which is intimately connected with place, the settings were hugely important. Dublin is an amazing place to explore. I sometimes think it changes while we aren’t looking. There always seems to be something different, something I haven’t noticed before. When researching I always try to visit the places, I take a ton of photos, I read up on the history and folklore as much as possible. Sometimes I already have an idea of a place where I want to have a scene take place, but sometimes I need to find it. I talk to people, get their Dublin stories too. Sometimes I just have to make something up as I did with the Liberty – based on the idea of the area known as the Liberties in Dublin, but here a combination of the tiny house on Dame Street, the Botanical Gardens, the Long Stone and the Thingmote where St. Andrews Church now stands, all mashed together by Sídhe Magic. More often the settings are places where I grew up, or ones that made a particular impact on me at various times in my life.

Where did the idea of melding familiar and fantastical Dublin come from?

It was a mix of things. In 2009, on my birthday, I was in Dublin and as I walked down South Andrews Street I came across a piece of graffiti. It was an angel, just as described in A Crack in Everything. She stuck with me and I started to wonder about her, imagining how she came to be there other than the obvious. She seemed so real, like she was just waiting to take off. I remembered the Irish legend that the Sídhe were once angels who refused to take a side in the war in heaven, who tried to sit on the fence and were exiled. They were, so the legend said, not good enough for Heaven, or wicked enough for Hell. With nowhere else to go, they were sent to Earth and chose Ireland as their home because they found it beautiful. They became the Tuatha de Dannan. When the Milesians arrived the magician Amergin promised to divide the island evenly between them but he tricked the Sídhe, dividing into above and below, splitting it along dimensional lines and once more they were exiled. They have envied us and plotted revenge ever since. I always loved this idea and so it was only a short leap to imagine how they would have changed and evolved over the many centuries. The links were all there waiting for me.


You have said that A Crack in Everything was inspired by a piece of street art in Dublin. Do you use a lot of visual references when you write?

Definitely. I am a fiend when it comes to taking photos, so much so that my family refer to me as “picture Lady”. I find art very inspirational as well and keep a Pinterest account with ideas for different projects.

You have made a playlist for A Hollow in the Hills, and music plays an important role in the book, as well as in The Treachery of Beautiful Things. Do you listen to music when you write?

I listen to music when I think about writing, rather than when I am actually writing. That said, I do need noise when I’m writing. I find it hard to concentrate when it’s too quiet – I have that mother’s instinct that something is definitely up. But I make playlists for my books, and I listen to particular songs which I associate with characters, settings and scenes while driving, or doing other jobs. It helps the ideas to percolate while I’m not writing so that when I sit down to do it the ideas are there. I make CDs of my playlists and listen to them especially in the car while driving, or doing another automatic sort of action. I have so many ideas when I’m halfway along the motorway, which can be a problem. But I always think that if the idea is good enough it’ll either stay with me or come back when I have the opportunity to write it down.


Playlist for A Hollow in the Hills (image from

A Hollow in the Hills has a large cast of characters, all complex and nuanced. Do you prefer writing the heroes or villains? Do you have a favourite character in the book?

It would be a bit like picking a favourite friend. They’re all so different and distinct to me, and they all have their parts to play. I will admit, however, to having an enormous affection for the Matriarchs. They’re not so much evil as amoral – they look out for themselves. But sometimes they take sides.

You baked a very impressive book cake for the launch. What are your other hidden talents?

I really enjoy making things – all sorts of things. I’ve made jewellery and decorated cakes, I occasionally paint, or make costumes. But I don’t do them regularly enough to really call them a hobby. I use them as a way to procrastinate mainly.


Ruth’s fantastic book cake!

What do you plan to write about in future? Can you tell us anything about the next Dubh Linn book?

I’m currently working on the third Dubh Linn book. It’s somewhat darker in tones, following events in A Hollow in the Hills but I’m heading to a pretty spectacular showdown at the end. I’m still picking settings but I have a number of places in mind. Any suggestions are always welcome. Because of the way I write, I’m pretty much making it up as I go along.

I also have a timeslip which I’m editing at the moment, and a Space Opera (because who doesn’t love Space Opera) which started off life because I read a book about medieval Queen Consorts. I am also working on some ideas for new books but I’m not quite at the writing stage yet. More on the mulling over stage, getting to know my characters and worlds.

You are very involved with the Irish Sci Fi community – would you write a sci fi book?

Definitely. I’ve always written fantasy, and have recently written a Space Opera (think Star Wars). I’m also very into Steampunk. I’m not particularly interested in hard Sci-Fi, but if the right story presented itself I would definitely give it a go. The Sci-Fi community is very broad and incorporates all sorts of things so it’s very welcoming.

The tagline on your website is ‘where fantasy meets romance.’ How do you balance these two genres in your writing?

The main thing is to maintain the balance. Both fantasy and romance go very well together – there are a lot of links between the two. I try not to let one outweigh the other in the course of the story but to maintain the importance of both. A good level of realism also helps and make both the fantasy and the romance more believable.

What books would you recommend to fans of A Hollow in the Hills?

Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising Series

Alan Garner – The Owl Service

Pat O’Shea – The Hounds of the Morrigan

Gillian Philips – Firebrand (and the rest of the Rebel Angels series)

Liz de Jager – Vowed (and the rest of the Blackheart series)

My sister Amy, Ruth Long and myself at the launch of A Hollow in the Hills.

My sister Amy, Ruth Frances Long and myself at the launch of A Hollow in the Hills.

A big thank you to Ruth for answering my questions, I really enjoyed learning more about her writing and research. I can’t wait to read the third Dubh Linn book!

Review: Demon Road by Derek Landy

Cover image from Goodreads

Cover image from Goodreads

Demon Road

Derek Landy

HarperCollins, August 2015

YA – Thriller

Sixteen-year-old Amber has a fairly ordinary life – she gets through high school, works at a diner, watches TV and spends her free time online. Then she discovers she’s not so normal after all. She’s a demon. So are her parents, and they want to eat her. Amber goes on the run, driving along the Demon Road, a route leading through the dark heart of America. Her guide is Milo – a mysterious and silent stranger with a car that seems to have a mind of its own. They embark on an epic supernatural roadtrip, encountering demons, vampires, witches and serial killers along the way.

Fans of Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series will enjoy his new book. While at first I missed the wise-cracking skeleton detective, I was soon sucked into this action-packed adventure. Amber is a likeable protagonist, and Landy does an excellent job of showing how she has to adjust to her new identity. I really liked the character of Glen, the Irish boy cursed with a Deathmark who they pick up on their journey. He brought a lot of humour to the book. As always, Landy’s dialogue is cracking and there are twists and turns aplenty. Demon Road is the first in a trilogy, but I think it would have made a strong standalone. While I enjoyed the book, at over 500 pages it is a long book, and I was hoping for a more conclusive finale. However, with the strong characters he has created Landy has plenty to work with in the next two books.

Reviewed for LoveReading4Kids.

Top Ten Tuesday: Irish YA 101

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme run by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is ‘Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101.’ I have decided to do Irish YA, as I am always keen to discover and promote Irish writers. It is great to read something that relates to your own place, and there is a lot of talent in Irish children’s and young adult fiction at the moment. This was a hard list to make, but I tried to get a mix of authors and genres. Happy reading!


Bog Child – Siobhán Dowd

Bog Child

Solace of the Road – Siobhán Dowd

Solace of the Road

The Primrose Leary Trilogy (Prim Improper, Improper Order, Primperfect) – Deirdre Sullivan

9246512 Improper Order (Prim, #2) Primperfect (Prim, #3)

Annan Water – Kate Thompson


Sisters…no way! – Siobhán Parkinson

Sisters...No Way!: Cindy's Diary, Ashling's Diary

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

Only Ever Yours

Taking Flight and Grounded – Sheena Wilkinson

Taking Flight (Declan Kelly, #1) 15698391

The Weight of Water – Sarah Crossan


The Moorehawke Trilogy (The Poison Throne, The Crowded Shadows, The Rebel Prince) – Celine Kiernan

4618801 6753329 11047979

Chalkline – Jane Mitchell


Extra reading: Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy, Rebecca series by Anna Carey, Anila’s Journey – Mary Finn, Finding A Voice by Kim Hood and October Moon by Michael Scott.

All cover images from Goodreads.

Review: Weightless by Sarah Bannan


Cover image from Goodreads


Sarah Bannan

Bloomsbury, 2015

Adamsville, Alabama is a small town. Everyone knows each other, they have for years. Then, one sweltering summer’s day, Carolyn Lessing arrives in town. New, beautiful and talented, Carolyn enthralls everyone in Adams High. They look on her Facebook page, trying to find out as much as they can about her past. She is watched constantly, everyone is intrigued by this mysterious newcomer who suddenly makes it onto the Adams High Hot List. Rumours about her fly about the school. But soon the gossip takes a darker turn and Carolyn’s perfect facade begins to crack…

Told in the first person plural (we) Sarah Bannan’s debut novel is utterly compelling. The novel is told from the point of view of a group of girls hovering on the edge of the popular crowd, who watch Carolyn’s fall from popularity and her downward spiral into despair. The effect of the narration is chorus-like, and implicates the reader as one of those silent watchers. The novel is interspersed with texts, Facebook posts, letters and school reports showing both the role of social media in bullying and the attitude the school takes to the various incidents.

This is not an easy book to read, Bannan doesn’t pull back from showing the harshness of the bullying and the destructive impact it has on Carolyn. Bannan shows the pressure on all the girls in the book to keep up with the in-crowd and the gossip. But the attacks on Carolyn – from others and herself – are described in detail by the narrators, who are enthralled by the unfolding drama. There is a real sense of surveillance as Carolyn’s outfits are discussed, her actions filmed, photographed or discussed via text or Facebook.

Weightless is a chilling read, reminiscent of recent tragedies, that will make the reader question their own culpability as a bystander to bullying and that shows vividly the how bullying operates in the digital age. I think the UK cover is excellent – the little cursor on the girl’s face reflecting the role of social media in the book, and the image itself the pervasive pressure on Carolyn and the other girls to appear perfect. This book has crossover appeal, for both adult and YA audiences. Gripping, horrifying and unforgettable.

Review: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

I received an advance copy of Vendetta, Catherine Doyle’s debut novel, from Chicken House to review. It arrived tied in a black ribbon with a handful of rose petals.

Vendetta Vendetta ARC


Catherine Doyle

Chicken House, January 2015

YA – Contemporary/Thriller

Sophie Gracewell’s life revolves around working at her uncle’s diner, hanging out with her best friend Millie and her home life with her mother. When five mysterious brothers move into the abandoned old Priestly home, Sophie’s world is changed completely. She is increasingly attracted to Nic, despite being warned that his family is bad news. Soon Sophie is inextricably tangled with the dark underworld of the mafia, and secrets from her own family are revealed…

I found the comparison of Sophie and Nic’s love story to Romeo and Juliet to be a bit heavy handed, the two have their own ‘what’s in a name?’ scene and are strongly presented as star-crossed lovers. I definitely found the action parts more enjoyable, maybe because the good girl gets caught up with bad boy thing has been done so often before and doesn’t appeal to me personally. However,I did like Nic’s character, and his brother Luca too. The brothers were interesting characters, even if they did seem to exclaim in Italian a lot. Luca was particularly interesting as his motives were hard to work out. Millie’s character brought comedy to the book, and I enjoyed the descriptions of characters, particularly this one which made me laugh:

‘Robbie Stenson, a stockier, way less attractive version of a Ken Doll, who came complete with floppy brown hair and groomed eyebrows. H didn’t walk so much as lope around, kind of like a stylish troll.’

That said, I found the thriller part of the book very exciting. There is an excellent twist, and the pacing in the second half makes for a gripping read. Doyle creates a lot of mystery and intrigue with the Falcone family and sustains this throughout the novel. Sophie’s complicated feelings about her family were also handled well (don’t want to spoil anything here) and I felt these relationships were dealt with very well.

While I had mixed feelings about Vendetta, it is good to have a new voice in Irish YA, and I look forward to seeing what Catherine Doyle writes next.