What if your child was stolen? The tagline of Nicola Cassidy’s debut novel draws the reader in and plays on their emotions immediately. Her book, December Girl, is a historical fiction novel, based in the 1800s in Drogheda. I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy to take part in the Blog Tour to launch this wonderful book, and have been devouring it over the past few nights. So, what’s the book about, and is it any good?
Our family holiday wasn’t exactly a lie back on the beach with a good book type of break, but that didn’t stop the reads from accumulating. Long flights will do that for you – the Kindle app on my iPad was definitely kept busy. Here’s a look at my October reads, the books I dove into over the last month, and what I thought of them.
I’ve been getting back into reading lately, having failed for quite a while on my earlier resolution to read 40 books this year. On suggestion of some other bloggers, I signed up for NetGalley, and as a result have been lucky enough to receive advance review copies of books. These make up a substantial amount of the books I’ve read lately – and my to-read list grows ever longer, as I’ve gotten a bit request-happy! Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading lately.
I’ve been a fan of Marian Keyes since I was about fourteen and picked up a copy of Watermelon. Her writing is funny, passionate and it draws you into her world with a warm hug. Eleven years on, I’ve read all the previous books and loved them in differing amounts. Her non fiction books (Under the Duvet and Further Under the Duvet) stuck out for me as particularly special, but I spent much time in the worlds of the Walsh family and their idiosyncracies. Much like the work of Emma Hannigan, with Keyes there is a habit of looking around your family and seeing them in the characters, it brings them to life. So, when I saw that there was a new book, The Break, to be read a little jump of joy was happening in me.
I’ve been a fan of Claire Hennessy since my early teens. Her writing spoke to me at my different ages that I was reading it. Published in 2000 (when she was thirteen!), Dear Diary was my first introduction to a writer who would reoccur throughout my teen and early adult life. Through the teen angst years Abi and Emily (of Stereotype and Good Girls Don’t) were my touchstone. Adulthood has not changed their charm. That’s the thing with the YA fiction genre – when it’s good, it doesn’t matter what age you are. So, when I saw her latest novel “Like Other Girls” was about a teenager from Dublin, but dealt with things like the 8th amendment, questioning sexuality and the obligatory pop culture references, I was hooked.
For many of my teen years, I wanted to be Rory Gilmore. The grades, the relationship with her mother, the boys, the unashamed introvert love of books and writing. Her ambition. Her out-of-the-norm name! Now, I’m not sure I could ever speak as quickly as her, but I’m sure that my binge-watching of Gilmore Girls on Netflix before the new episodes air on the 25th November,Â I could give it a good stab.
So, I’m not exactly going to get back to being 16 and in Chilton (who wants that uniform anyway?), or studying at an Ivy League, but a girl can dream. Like Rory though, I do have a love of books and of writing, so when I came across this A-Z of books on Claire Hennessy’s blog (she has a new fab book out now too!), I was compelled to do it too! So, in embracing my inner Rory Gilmore, here is my life according to books…
I am not a fan of bedtime. The child going to bed, yes, perfectly happy with that (what parent isn’t?) but it’s an ordeal at the moment. No matter what kind of routine we try to put in place, it’s a bit of a non-runner. Basically my two year old has skipped childhood and gone straight to the teenage years. Refuses to sleep until late at night, is a GRUMP in the mornings and doesn’t want to listen to a word I say. I’ve not yet gone seeking a refund from the midwives in CUMH just yet but I’ve been close. However, the one bit I do like of the whole farcical routine is curling up with bedtime stories and reading together. It’s a nice time for the two of us and once I’ve got the books that I can’t stand out of the way (I’m talking to you Stickman!), it can be nice and relaxing. So, what have we been reading lately? A mesh of old and new books on the shelves, some I’ve spoken about before, but this is what the two and a half year old is loving right now (and I’m not tearing my hair out reading).
I’ve written recently about suffering with chronic pain. I’ve done so for two years, since a few months into my pregnancy, and have experienced many ups and downs with it. There have been many visits to many different doctors, trying different medications, different physical therapies and many mornings waking up and hoping “Today Is The Day” (As of yet, It’s never been the day). Pain is a constant in my life, which I’m working on reducing alongside some incredible medical professionals, but one that I try my hardest not to get me down.
While listening to podcasts while out walking one day recently, I came across an interview which my Dad had recommended I listen to, Sean Moncrieff interviewing the TV Presenter and author Andrea Hayes. She spoke about her life living with chronic pain, the feelings it instilled in her, different things she had done to cope. While her pain is from a different source, listening to her I related so much to the interview and found myself sending it to other friends who have suffered with chronic illness – all of whom reacted the same as me “I’m not cracking up, it’s not just me, she’s telling our story”. So, when I got home I downloaded a copy of the book “Pain Free Life: My Journey To Wellness” and was excited to get stuck in.
I’m a bookworm at heart, I have been since I was a child. I was that kid who was always, without fail, in the book section if you lost me in a toy shop – while my brothers were instructed to go to the security guard by the door if we lost sight of either parent, there was really no need for such instruction when I would be most likely to be found devouring an Enid Blyton tale of boarding school and ginger ale. My love of reading for pleasure somewhat waned when I hit college – ironically studying literature – because the sheer volume of academic reading intimidated me into ignoring the growing pile of books which I had been eyeing up for fun, as to attempt to get on top of difficult articles in multiple languages that I would be able to quote in assignments or exams. It wasn’t that I had lost my love of a good book, rather I realised that with working part time alongside a heavy college workload and extra curricular activities which were adding value to my CV did not allow much time for relaxing with a Marian Keyes book and a cup of tea. Since graduating three years ago, I have been making a concious effort to get back into reading, and have discovered a love for non-fiction, particularly Irish nonfiction. While it started with economics books (Freakonomics, numerous David McWilliams tomes and rather depressing tales of how the Irish economy had been flushed down the toilet), it quickly spread into biographies and tales of events happening within the last century in Ireland, things that have shaped the society I live in and that I am bringing my child up in.
Ah reading, my old friend, the thing I used to do before my spare time was taken up with blogging, and singing “Ali Baba had a big farm” (to myself, sans child, before cursing myself for singing the bloody thing again). I was one of those children who literally devoured books – under the covers with a torch after bedtime, hiding them in school books to finish a chapter, even my go-to place in a toy shop, if lost, was the book section. I saw myself as a bit of a Matilda, minus the dysfunctional family and the magical powers, though I always envied the magic powers. Though life is now taken up more with watching things, and writing things, and saying I’ll get around to reading things, there is no denying that there is no better relaxation than curling up with a hot cup of tea, a duvet and a book you’re looking forward to reading.