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book recommendations

This time of year can be extremely dark and troubling for so many people. The post-Christmas comedown can take a major knock on your mental health and leave you feeling extremely low. The lack of daylight, financial woes and quieter social calendars don’t help either.

One thing that has helped me get through dark moments in my life is reading.

There are dozens of books available in both your local library and bookshops that offer helpful advice and fill you with hope during these hard times.

I decided to put together a list of the top books that will hopefully help you beat the January blues. 

As always, we encourage anyone who is suffering with their mental health to reach out to a loved one or a professional. You can call the Samaritans on 116 123.

  1. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Matt Haig has been praised for how incredibly honest he is about his mental health struggles. The author has encouraged so many people to feel that little bit more comfortable when talking about their personal troubles. In Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt discusses modern life and the impact it has on our mental health.

  1. Big Magic By Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert’s words have been a huge source of comfort to many women around the world. Her book Eat, Pray, Love is one of the most beloved tales that helped so many of us realise that your own company is the most valuable of all. Big Magic is full of Gilbert’s words of wisdom about love, hate and finding the “strange jewels” hidden inside of us.

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  1. It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue and Other Lies by Scarlett Curtis

This collection of essays curated by Scarlett Curtis has got to be one of the warmest (and biggest) books I’ve ever owned. It is full of words of advice, tales of loss, stories about struggle and most importantly, hope. Emma Thompson, Ben Platt, Elizabeth Day, Scarlett Moffatt, Fearne Cotton and more pen essays for this raw and touching book.

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  1. How To Fail by Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day has taught me that you can learn from your failures. The journalist’s podcast of the same name has been a massive comfort to me when I feel like I’m not doing good enough. Elizabeth speaks to her guests, all successful in their fields, about three failures in their lives. The book is genuinely one of the most uplifting and refreshing reads. I couldn’t recommend it more.

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  1. Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Another book by the fantastic Matt Haig because nobody writes about mental health like he does. This book genuinely saved my life, and I’m not the only one. Matt opens up about the darkest time in his life when he was suicidal and suffering from the most crippling anxiety. The chapters are eye-opening, reassuring and will fill you with so much hope for the future.

 

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(https://dublinbookfestival.com/beyond-the-tape-questions-with-dr-marie-cassidy/)

When you open Dr. Marie Cassidy’s new book, ‘Beyond the Tape’, you can feel her look you up and down, assessing whether or not you can handle what she is about to tell you. With a discerning, frank and removed gaze, she sizes you up – and decides to tell you anyway.

‘Forensic pathology is a problem-solving speciality, and this is the greatest problem to be solved; murder or not. No prizes for a correct answer. The possibility of being struck off the medical register for a wrong one. No pressure, then!’

With over thirty years as a forensic pathologist under her belt, Dr. Cassidy has more than a few stories to tell. The book starts with a bang, landing us in her early years of training as a doctor, and finding herself unsuited to the wards of the living, preferring the far less reputable (at the time) forensic pathologist mortuary. We leap from story to story, while she barely pauses for breath to contextualise us, setting the fast-paced tone that is laced with a dark and dry wit. She occasionally glances back at us, to check if we’re still there (we are, we’re just clutching our stomachs and hanging on to every word) before plunging back in.

Her voice doesn’t revel in the scenes she reveals to us, gory as they are. It is not a murder mystery documentary, nor a true crime show, glorying in the horrifying details. She strives to keep the tone matter of fact throughout, remaining removed, while lifting the curtain on a part of life that we’re morbidly curious about, but can hardly stand to look at. The cast of the dead rise through the years of her memories, reanimated in their final dark moments through her analysis.

‘The post-mortem is a snapshot of the last moments of life. It tells you the state of the organs at the time of death. Like looking at a photograph taken on a night out showing happy faces, but not the events leading up to it, or what happened next.’

She takes us to the dark underside of life and shines a light on the intricate processes involved in a suspicious and complex death. This is no courtroom drama – this is the part of the show that you don’t see; The delicacy required in the removal of the body, the dissections that discover or rule out the cause of death. We can almost smell the sharp sterility of her instruments as she lifts the veil on death and somberly beckons you forward to view.

This colourful and at times, suffocating account (fair warning), walks through the different kinds of death Cassidy has encountered over the years. The burned and battered bodies, the sadistic sexual assaults, the suspicious and strange strangulations – this is not a book for the faint of heart.

And yet, at its core, is Cassidy, approaching every death with an almost holistic approach. Her job is monstrous, and she recalls even prostitutes telling her they would hate to do it. And with the nightmarish mounds of bodies that builds up as her career unfolds, we have to agree. And yet, with each death, Cassidy gives each person their due dignity and is compassionate in her approach. There is an incredible science, creativity and tenacity that goes into the process of identification alone, never mind actual identification of the cause of death.

To her, the job is about bringing dignity to a horrific death, closure to the family, and seeing justice done for the deceased. While she is matter of fact about death itself, she is softer, and empathetic when discussing the people behind the deaths. One would have to appear removed, would have to develop coping mechanisms when surrounded with the evidence of how awful humans can be every day. She gives the victims the dignity of being known, not just as a murdered body, but as a person who had their life unfairly and unexpectedly ended. To her, the least she can give someone is the ‘how’ of their death. It’s the police that uncover the ‘why’.

‘There is never a happy ending in these circumstances, but at least a name had been restored to its rightful owner and the deceased returned to her family.’

A study of pathology and indeed, of death, Cassidy performs technical examinations before our eyes. He subject shifts every few pages, a new way to die, to be harmed, to look like an innocent death, but really have a suspicious underlying cause. These examinations begin broadly and slowly focus in more and more narrowly, like a microscope, until we get to the minute detail in her ‘body reading’ that pinpoints how this victim came to be.

Though Cassidy deals in death she holds people's lives in her hands. Both the living and dead. Their future identities, their future plans, whether they're guilty or not, all hinge upon her verdict. Will someone become a murderer upon her verdict? Or rather, a confirmed, and known murderer? Will the victim's widow grieve the rest of their days, thinking there might have been something they could have done, come home earlier, called to check in? The lives affected by her examinations of death are numerous.

‘The marks and injuries on a body speak as loudly to me as a voice. Like translating French, or sign language, I have been trained to interpret it. And I may have to think carefully about what I have seen and recorded before I can be sure that I’ve ‘listened’ to the deceased and understood exactly what happened to them.’

There are hopeful notes in this dark account. Cassidy herself, is one of them, as she overhauls the system, improving and reforming as she goes, to ensure justice is being carried out to the highest degree. That dignity and closure is given to the victims and their families. She details some of the experiments she is carrying out to bring forward the process of pathology, modernising it, making it more efficient, and more accurate all the time. And while this is not a book for those with a squeamish stomach (read: me), it is an utterly fascinating and eye-opening report on a world that is thankfully foreign to many of us. Cassidy opens the door to death and allows us to peek inside, if only for a few pages.

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Olive Stone is thirty-something, a top journalist, has amazing friends and is ‘child-free’. And right now, that one lack in her life is all she can think about.

 Her best friends since secondary school, Cecily, Beatrice and Isla, all seem to be moving on to a new stage in their lives. They’re all married, all expecting or trying for children and Olive can’t help but feel a little…behind. She has never wanted children, but as the friendships she considered rock-solid begin to crumble and she is asked to write an article as to why millennial women don’t want children, she begins to question all the choices she has made. And time is running out – isn’t it?

You would be right in thinking that this is a Dolly Alderton-esque kind of book. Brutally honest, deeply personal and thoroughly relatable, Emma Gannon’s columnist experience shines through in the snappy writing. Flashing back and forth between her present and her past, we see how Olive’s friendships with Isla, Cecily and Bea has developed from a constant thing in her life to something less solid as children and fertility struggles take over. Olive envisions herself as a bit of an outsider to all of this, having recently just broken up with a boyfriend of nine years due to the fact that she doesn’t want children. A the tight-knit security of friendship begins to unravel too, she finds herself increasingly frustrated by the all-consuming lifestyle of motherhood, when she needs her friends around her.

Olive, while witty, entertaining and relatable, is not the world’s most likeable protagonist. Her deep dive into the world of women who are ’Child-Free by Choice’ leads to many uncomfortable and painful moments, particularly for her friend struggling with fertility issues. She can be abrasive, her break up has her drinking too much at odd hours in the day and frustratingly wallowing her way through the post-break up period. But she is fiercely independent, a dedicated journalist, and an assertive person who generally tries to do the right things. But Olive isn’t supposed to be perfect. Women who don’t want to have children don’t have to be perfect in order for their choice to be valid. There doesn’t have to be one perfect reason or type of person who is the right type to deem that decision valid. It simply is, because it is their choice.

‘The more I try to hide it, the heavier it becomes. Each woman I know carries it – the shame – but it’s a different shape for us all. There is always a hidden shame related to motherhood; whether you want a baby, or you don’t, or whether you hate being a mother or whether you love it more than anything else in your life.’

The interrogation of this social issue is fully dissected and examined form every angle in this book. It is easy to see how Gannon’s own journalistic experience has fed this piece, with the investigative cultural journalism taking form in a very personal and people-centric, rather than simply political way. This is not just a book about women who don’t want children, though the exploration of this is refreshingly real. It is also a book that pushes back against ‘perfect mummy’ culture, explores how personal fertility issues seem to be open to public debate and de-romanticizing the frightening aspects of becoming a new mother.

And what is most important about this book’s approach to its subject is the fact that Olive’s decision is in no way made in connection to her friend’s choices. There is no moment when she looks at a friend’s baby and thinks ‘No, not for me.’ There is a deep love and understanding for mothers, a core appreciation of all that they accomplish and sympathy for all they go through. Gannon holds modern parenting up to the light and examines who takes on the loads of responsibility and emotional and physical care, what work can be like to go back to in a modern, intense work place, and how returning to work can be a frightening and panicking time after such a life change.

But at the fascinating heart of this book is the paranoia that Olive feels in admitting that motherhood just isn’t for her. Judgement surrounds this assertion like a flock of furious vultures, with close friends and family calling it phase, a selfish decision, that she’ll change her mind, that it’s because her dad left her, rather than an autonomous, conscious decision made by a woman who knows what shape she wants her life to take. People take an extremely personal affront to her choice, although it’s nothing to do with them, and no judgement on their personal choices. She grapples with the incorrect social idea that infertility is a refute to not having a child, and that child-free people should be ashamed about not using their bodies to reproduce. Gannon’s interrogation of these ideas as well as the rhetoric behind why society wants women to have children so badly is frightening and worryingly familiar in this modern world.h

'I’m sorry to say it Olive, but it is insensitive of you when so many women are struggling hugely with conceiving. Women whose eggs have not frozen properly. Bodies and wombs that are not working. You have a healthy womb…You have nothing to complain about. You’re pursuing needless drama’.

Societal dismissal of child-free women and the mental health struggles that come along with that decision, shines a light on a major gap in our collective social empathy. Instead of accepting this decision, there is a sense of the need to change or ‘fix’ them, to criticise their choices. There is almost an undertone of jealousy to it, the freedom that comes with that choice. But that attitude disregards that it is a difficult and lonely decision to make in these modern times, when friends and society are obsessed with your social progress as a mother and not your personal or career progress.

‘I know what it’s like to want something, to pine and long and cry for something. I have longed for boys who didn’t love me; I have longed for a new version of myself; longed for a dream job…But this lack of longing for a baby feels so lonely.’

Olive’s anguish could come across as melodramatic, but at the point she has hit in her life – her thirties – and having just broken up with a long-term boyfriend, the situation is tenuous. Her erratic behaviour becomes understandable the more people that crowd into her life to tell her that ‘you that you will change your mind’ and that ‘it’s just a phase’. And she does start to doubt herself, even though deep down in her gut she knows that this is not for her. But it is different for women. We have a very limited window in which to make this decision, especially when a serious relationship ends in our thirties. It puts pressure on an early and uncertain part of our lives, leaving no room for mistakes or taking back decisions.

‘Let go of your guilt, Ol. Women are made to feel guilty for everything. The food we eat, the bodies we have, the relationships that don’t work out. We must accept the challenge and refuse to take on this guilt.’

By navigating the awkward, honest conversations that real people are avoiding having with their friends, Gannon highlights the micro-aggressions, the passive-aggressive comments, the comparisons the jealousy and the insecurity that surround reproductive decisions. It isn’t bitchiness – it’s life, just a particularly charged aspect of it for a group of women in their thirties. These women, their children and their reproductive decisions are our vehicle to explore these huge questions and Gannon masterfully weaves them together to create a beautiful, varied and realistic tapestry of modern womanhood.

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‘I’ve always been inclined to live mostly inside my head. My own thoughts tend to consume me, ravish me, delight me or torment me. There is a lot to be said in favour of this approach to life. It is insulating.’

Dark, eccentric and unholy in its religious extremism. This is just a tasting palette of words that could describe Rachel Mann’s first novel ‘The Gospel of Eve’. An Anglican priest, poet and writer, Mann pens this piece in a style that is becoming increasingly popular; Dark Academia. A trend that started out on Tik Tok, it is inspired by books like Donna Tartt’s ‘Secret History’ and films such as ‘The Dead Poet’s Society’. Inherently gothic, it draws on the architecture and atmosphere of academia of Ivy League colleges and Oxford in the 1930s. Mann’s book indulges in this theme to the extreme, delivering a jaw-clenching, intellectual read.

 

‘The Gospel of Eve’ is an unsettling and atmospheric read and from the start. It is instantly clear that all is not quite right in the seminary of Littlemore, where Kitty Bolton is training to be a priest. We follow her through her first year in training in the surprisingly loosely moral-ed seminary that dwells in the looming shadow of the disused Victorian mental asylum next door. As Kitty navigates her first year there, she falls in with an academically intense and wonderfully dark crowd, who’s intelligence, extremism and upper class behaviour seem to separate them from the rest of the trainees.  Things begin to take a glorious and terrifying turn for her as she, in her awkward self-consciousness is accepted into their elusive and effortless folds.

A character obsessed with medievalism and the mediaeval church, Mann’s Kitty masterfully weaves her story in and around powerful and potent academic theory. The history and literature and liturgy that permeates this text is certainly accessible for anyone with an interest, but this is an extremely cerebral read, for anyone looking for something lighter. Voracious readers will appreciate the almost lust-like thirst for knowledge, the quest for it seductive and haunting throughout the book, causing people to go to dangerous and unthinkable lengths for it. As mediaeval practices become a focal point, not just in their studies but their daily lives, a persistent sense of dread hangs over the reader. Things begin to get stranger and stranger around the campus, the combination of sin, feverish scholars and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the seminary making a pressure bomb that explodes with implications not only for Kitty, but the wider Church as a whole.

Our eyes and ears into a world that we do not understand, Kitty is just as puzzled as we are by the games afoot and calculated insinuations that all is not as it seems. We follow along with her as she discovers the strange trails of blood mar the corridors and uncovers the strange rituals and symbols drawn into the backs of pages and palms. This author presents a new style of mystery novel, that is made all the more enigmatic by the fact that Kitty is an unreliable narrator. Constantly out of the loop, she is telling this story retrospectively and seems keen to redeem herself in this dark narrative. She is determined to come across as innocent in all the ploys playing out around her and yet she never seems gives us whole story or fully reveal herself. Keen to down-play certain aspects and hype up other ones, she points her finger in almost every direction but herself.

Keeping you guessing until the end, this mysterious and unusual text kept reminding me of a twisted version of Hogwarts; secret hideaways and strange symbols, books older than than time itself and a strange dormitory-like feeling. But this place is less warm and welcoming than the Harry Potter universe. Here, the students are grown up, tortured and bitter, the magic is replaced with self-mortification and the camaraderie shrivels when their worst fears begin to come true.

‘God sends us the people and the books and the art we need, if we are only wise enough to spot them’.

But what happens when dangerous knowledge falls into the wrong hands? When the interpretation of a text takes over lives, when knowledge is the most dangerous weapon one can wield? If the seven deadly sins could all be written into one book, this would be it. An examination of the monstrosities humans commit in the name of God, the place of feminism in the modern church and eccentric and alternative forms of Christianity, this hardcore theological mystery will keep nay dark academia lover hooked to the end.

An occasionally violent, often fanatical and always gothic read, the sense of creeping paranoia will stay with you after finishing this novel. Being drawn into a world so alien from our own, where theology is king and ancient tomes are worth your life – or even someone else’s – leaves the reader stumbling from its last page, disoriented, intrigued, and terrified by their hunger for more.

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#BlackLivesMatter may not be trending anymore, but that doesn't mean that the problem has disappeared. It's important that as a predominantly white society we continue to actively work towards learning and improving, to strive for better equality. In order to gain a finer understanding of the perspective of Black people, or people of colour (POC), why not read books through their narrative?

Romance and chick-lit books are always fun to read. If ever you're craving a bit of light escapism to distract you from this slightly worrying reality we're all living through at the moment, then romance is the way to go. We've compiled a list of fun romance books, perfect for easy reading, all featuring characters who are Black/POC, to help you diversify your shelves. Because at the end of the day, everyone deserves a happily ever after, no matter the colour of your skin.

You Had Me at Hola

Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling, Jasmine, finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she lands a coveted, starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents.

Naturally though, rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

The Sun Is Also A Star

So much more than a teen love story.

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

This hilarious best-seller is quite frankly, a treat, which perfectly illustrates the age-old relationship trope, when opposites attract.

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost-but not quite-dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”. She’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

That's when she enlists Red to help her out; the tattooed handyman and artist — not to mention he drives a motorcycle!

Now That I've Found You

This is a YA novel about searching for answers, love, and your eccentric grandma in all the wrong places. It features romantic tension, Hollywood scandal and a fun-filled chase all around New York — what's not to love?

Following in the footsteps of her überfamous grandma, eighteen-year-old Evie Jones is poised to be Hollywood’s next big star. That is until a close friend’s betrayal leads to her being blacklisted . . .

Fortunately, Evie knows just the thing to save her floundering career: a public appearance with America’s most beloved actress— her retired grandma, Gigi, aka the Evelyn Conaway.  Days before Evie plans to present her grandma with an honorary award in front of Hollywood’s elite, Gigi does the unthinkable: she disappears.

With time running out and her comeback on the line, Evie reluctantly enlists the help of the last person to see Gigi before she vanished: Milo Williams, a cute musician Evie isn’t sure she can trust. As Evie and Milo conduct a wild manhunt across New York City, romance and adventure abound while Evie makes some surprising discoveries about her grandma — and herself.

The Marriage Game

This entertaining rom-com featuring a high stakes wager between an aspiring entrepreneur and a ruthless CEO, is wonderfully scattered with references of Indian culture.

After her life falls apart, Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco to start a new business above her father's restaurant. But what she doesn’t know, is that her worrisome father has set her up on a dating site and arranged a series of blind dates, just for her — leaving Layla completely in the dark, until the first one comes knocking on her door…

CEO, Sam Mehta, is in search of a quiet new office, when he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he's forced to share his space with the owner's beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

Real Men Knit

After the death of his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, Jesse and his brothers struggle over what to do with her Harlem knitting store. Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out the knitty-gritty of how to run the business. The more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a sweet YA romance, is the story of Lara Jean. She's never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed.

But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh.

As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

The Worst Best Man

Critically acclaimed author Mia Sosa delivers a sassy, steamy enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy about a woman whose new job requires her to work side-by-side with the best man who ruined her wedding: her ex-fiancé's infuriating, irritating, annoyingly handsome brother.

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them.

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I adore reading. I am happiest when I have a book in my hand, but I must admit I’ve been struggling to read during lockdown. My focus is wavering and I’ve struggled to find a book that has truly gripped me.

Until I picked up The Switch by Beth O’ Leary.

The charming story of a grandmother and granddaughter who trade lives is the feel-good story my heart needed during lockdown.

The Switch follows 79-year-old Eileen and her granddaughter Leena who are in dire need of a change. Leena has completely run herself into the ground in work and Eileen is uninspired by her quiet life at home.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The pair decide to trade places. Eileen heads to London to embrace the hectic city life Leena wants to escape from. Her granddaughter returns to a tiny Yorkshire village which is full of painful memories for her, but her time there will offer her a fresh outlook on life.

Eileen is eager to find a new love and Leena needs to switch off after she is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical, but stepping into one another's shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Switch was one of the most touching stories I read this year. It was heartwarming, but emotional, witty and sentimental. It helped me see just how valuable our families are, especially our grandmothers. It left me yearning for a cup of tea at my Nanny’s house, something I’ve been missing since lockdown was introduced nearly ten weeks ago. It helped me treasure moments we’ve shared and will continue to share when this strange chapter of our lives comes to a close.

I resonated a lot with Leena and found myself daydreaming about living in a little cottage in West Cork, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Leena’s experience will undoubtedly remind women of just how important it is to take a break. Us millennials can get whisked away in the career world and we don’t realise just how intense it can be until it has had a damaging impact on us.

The Switch is the perfect book to read on a sunny day so curl up in the garden and get ready to fall in love with this sweet tale. 

The Switch is published by Quercus Books.

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The Christmas holidays are almost here and I am more than ready to unwind and switch off for a couple of days.

One thing I cannot wait to do is catch up on the giant mountain of books on my bedside locker. I’ve got dozens of reads calling my name,  so I decided to share a list of my top Christmas tales that are bound to warm your heart on a cold December day.

  1. It Won’t Be Christmas Without You by Beth Reekles (One More Chapter)

From the author of The Kissing Booth, this festive tale follows two sisters, Eloise and Cara, who have grown apart since workaholic Cara moved to London. Will she make it home for Christmas or will Eloise be left heartbroken when her twin sister is absent for the holidays?

This is a short and easy read that will show you that Christmas is all about who you spend it with.

  1. One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom (Penguin)

Evangeline isn't feeling festive this December as it marks the one year anniversary of her adoptive mum’s death. However, could things look up when she travels to New Zealand to find her birth mother or will it be another lonely Christmas?

  1. Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (Harper Collins)

A tense and touching tale set during the First World War. This book is told through personal letters, making it easy to read and all the more touching. Watching Thomas and Evie’s love develop through their words was so intimate and stunning. 

I was left in floods of tears as I read the last word on the final page. Beyond remarkable.

  1. Rewrite the Stars by Emma Heatherington (Harper Collins)

This book has been on my TBR pile for quite some time so I cannot wait to read it this Christmas. From the moment they meet one December day there’s something between Charlotte Taylor and her brother’s best friend, Tom Farley. But Tom’s already taken and Charlie has to let him go…

Will they risk it all and say those three little words? Or will they be left wondering ‘what if?’ forever?

  1. One Day In December by Josie Silver (Broadway Books)

I read this sublime book last Christmas but must read it again this December. It has got to be one of the most thrilling and tense love stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. 

Laurie is convinced love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees Jack, who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away.

 

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It’s Electric Picnic weekend and instead of prancing around a field to The 1975, I will be staying at home and sulking like a toddler because I left it too late to get a ticket.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom as I’ve got a reading list the length of my arm to get through. I’ve picked five of my top reads for those of you who are going to be stuck at home whilst half the country descends upon Stradbally.

Why not avoid the never-ending EP posts on Instagram by reading one of these books?

1. Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory (Bloomsbury)

You’re never too old for a glorious coming-of-age story. I Hold Your Heart follows the love story of Gemma and Aaron, but when does love become possession? 

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about. But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

2. Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard (Harper Collins)

Nobody writes a crime story quite like Catherine Ryan Howard. Her latest release Rewind is bound to grip your attention from the very first page.

Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages witnesses the murder of his only guest via a hidden camera in her room, but when the killer destroys the camera, Andrew questions how he will live with himself. And can’t help but question who is the killer?

Rewind is a tense tale about a murder caught on camera, but you’ve already missed the start. To discover the murderer you must rewind the tape and watch it until the very end, no matter how terrifying the footage.

3. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Penguin)

I recently watched the movie adaption of this book and it is nothing compared to Nicola Yoon’s phenomenal story. It's safe to say The Sun Is Also a Star is by far one of the greatest YA books of our time.

The Sun Is Also a Star follows Natasha as she fights to stop her family being deported from New York to Jamaica. Natasha doesn’t believe in destiny, fate or love at first sight, but then she meets Daniel, a budding poet who is living the life his parents want him to lead. Daniel believes he can make Natasha fall in love with him in a few hours, but can he change the mind of the girl who believes in science,not fate?

4. Meet Me In Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (Harper Collins)

Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb are the most delightful duo in the literary world. Their book Last Christmas in Paris will forever hold a special place in my heart so I was unbelievably excited to hear about the release of Meet Me In Monaco.

Their latest tale whisks the reader away to 1950s Cannes for the iconic film festival. The mesmerising tale features not one but two love stories, including one of the iconic Grace Kelly who married Prince Rainier III. The other love story follows that of struggling perfumer Sophie Duval and British photographer James Henderson. The two couples may live incredibly different lives, but they are all asking the same question- What are they prepared to give up for love?

5. For Ava by Vera Twomey (Mercier)

To what lengths would you go to give your sick child the chance of a better life?

When Very Twomey’s daughter, Ava, is diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that causes frequent and often life-threatening seizures, the family’s life is thrown into chaos.

As prescribed drug after prescribed drug fails, and the medical system all but gives up on her daughter, a potential new treatment comes to light: medical cannabis. Illegal in Ireland, Vera vows to do whatever it takes to ensure that her daughter gets access to this potentially life-saving treatment. Whether it’s protesting and campaigning across the country, walking hundreds of miles to the country’s seat of power, breaking the law, or even confronting a government minister face to face- Vera Twomey will do it all for Ava.

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Mother’s Day is fast approaching and it’s time to find the perfect gift for mother dearest. One of the best things to receive is a good book, whether you like fiction, self-help or gardening books, being gifted an endearing tale is such a treat.

We’ve put together a list of the best reads to buy your mum (or yourself) this Mother’s Day. They’ll certainly make the book lover in your life very happy.

1: The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen (Gill Books)

Taking up where book one left off, Aisling is now 29 and she’s still a complete Aisling. After a tough year, things seem to be going well with Aisling and boyfriend John, and life with her flatmates Sadhbh and Elaine in their notiony Dublin apartment is more craic than ever.

However, readers can expect big changes for Aisling in book two when a shock change sees her moving back Down Home. Can she give up the sophistication of brunch and unlimited Pinot Greej? Will she and Mammy kill each other living back under the same roof? And where does that leave her and John? The storyline includes a hilarious girls’ trip to Vegas which gives Aisling some unexpected confidence that sees her going on to grab Ballygobbard by the horns with a new venture.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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2: The Positive Habit by Fiona Brennan (Gill Books)

This ultimate manual for the mind will help you train your brain to embrace negative thoughts and transform them into positive emotions.

The Positive Habit is a transformative book that helps readers embrace their negative thoughts and cultivate a positive mindset, through six practical steps, which are grounded in the science of habit, mindfulness, positive psychology and neuroscience. Learn how to self-generate six core positive emotions that guide you from negativity to positivity, from anxiety to calm and from fear to love.

Accompanied by an audio-hypnotherapy meditation plan that takes just a few minutes a day, split between morning and evening, The Positive Habit will transform your mental health as you doze off peacefully to the sleep-time audio and wake up happy as you listen to the 7-minute morning ritual. The relaxing morning- and sleep-time audios will programme your brain effortlessly and help you develop the ability to take control of your emotional health, as you build your ladder to happiness and develop The Positive Habit!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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3: Happily Imperfect by Stacey Solomon (Harper Collins)

In Happily Imperfect, be moved to tears and laughter by joining Stacey in her journey so far, as she reveals how to stay positive despite the everyday pressure to be and look perfect. Told through hilarious, sometimes moving, and always charming anecdotes, discover how to get the best out of life by being positive, not following the crowd and trusting your gut instincts.

Covering how to navigate motherhood, deal with anxiety and prejudice, as well as the experience of getting older, Stacey has plenty of words of wisdom to share. With tips and tricks on how to apply a positive mindset within your own day-to-day life, become emotionally freer and happier with Stacey by your side.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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4: Lost in Motherhood by Grace Timothy (Harper Collins)

Best described as The Wrong Knickers for mums, in this wry, resonant and darkly funny memoir, journalist Grace Timothy explores motherhood as an issue of identity.

The hilarious book follows Grace’s journey from a young married woman at the top of her editorial game in London, to a thirty-something mum, confused as to how she can love someone as much as her daughter and yet feel lost as a person.

Compulsively readable, irresistibly written and incredibly well-observed, Grace’s searingly-honest account of motherhood is essential reading for every mum trying to find their way after the mother of all identity crises.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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5: Organised by Sarah Reynolds (Gill Books)

Wouldn’t life run more smoothly if your home was organised? Enter Sarah Reynolds, Ireland’s leading professional organiser and her new book Organised: Simple Ways to declutter your house, your schedule and your mind.

Whether you live in a chaotic family home or a small apartment, this book will show you how to organise your self, schedule and space so that getting and staying organised is easy; declutter with confidence; set up your wardrobe so you wear the clothes you have; entertain friends in a relaxing, clean space; tame your inbox!

Step-by-step, room-by-room, you'll soon find that you hardly ever lose things, massive clear outs become a thing of the past and you never spend more than 10 minutes a day tidying up.

If you are stuck in a vicious cycle of wanting to get organised but not having enough time to do so, then Organised is what you’ve been waiting for. This book will help you fall in love with your home again and keep it that way.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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6: The Baby-Friendly Family Cookbook by Aileen Cox Blundell (Gill Books)

With a 16-year-old, an 11-year-old vegetarian and a lively 4-year-old, Aileen Cox Blundell has a breadth of experience with catering to all appetites and demands. 

In her new cookbook, The Baby-Friendly Family Cookbook, Aileen is back with over 150 wholesome recipes that suit the entire family. From winning breakfasts like MacMammy Egg Muffins and Sweet Potato Orange Pancakes, to lunchbox wonders like Veggie-Loaded Mini Quiches and Italian Quinoa Bites.

Every recipe has been developed with health and nutrition in mind and will appeal to the whole family, making mealtimes a pleasure rather than a chore. As well as the recipes, Aileen includes practical advice including how to cook for a vegetarian, safety tips around baby-led feeding, and the ultimate guide to fussy eating.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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7: The Newborn Identity by Maria Boyle (Penguin)

Meeting a baby is like meeting someone from the internet: you got used to calling them by a weird nickname and now you need to call them by their real name; they look nothing like their photo; it is hard to believe they’re real until they are actually there…

The hilarious and poignant cartoons of illustrator Twisteddoodles bring a smile to the faces of parents every single day. Her drawings brilliantly capture the unique experience of motherhood and the huge range of emotions that it brings.

In this warm and witty book, Maria writes candidly about what becoming a mother has meant for her. Interspersing her words with brilliant cartoons, she delivers a marvellously entertaining snapshot of life as a modern-day parent. Her sharp observations cover everything from the sleep-deprived early days of having newborn twins to the reality of being a working mum; from just getting out of the house to slowly get your social life back. Upbeat and humorous, this is a wonderful book for parents and parents-to-be.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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8: The Gift of Friends by Emma Hannigan (Hachette Ireland)

The final novel from the beloved and inspiring Emma Hannigan is a life-affirming, uplifting story that celebrates the strength and joys of female friendship.

Kingfisher Road- a leafy, peaceful in the town of Vayhill. But there are whispers behind closed doors. Who is moving into Number 10? Danielle appears to her new neighbours to have a perfect, glossy life. But not everything is as it seems… In fact, each of the other four women who live close by has a secret and each is nursing their own private heartache.

But could a gift be waiting on their doorsteps? And, by opening their front doors, and their hearts, to each other, could the women of Kingfisher Road discover all the help they need?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The untimely passing of Irish author Emma Hannigan broke the hearts of the nation but the talented writer’s spirit will forever live on in the pages of her stories.

In 2007, Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer and her eleven-year battle with cancer began. In February 2018, Emma shared that her team of dedicated doctors had exhausted all avenues in terms of her treatment.

Emma tragically passed away on February 28, 2018, and on her one year anniversary, Hachette Ireland published her final novel and it comes as no surprise to see it soar through the bestsellers list.

The final novel from the beloved and inspiring Emma Hannigan is a life-affirming, uplifting story that celebrates the strength and joys of female friendship.

Kingfisher Road- a leafy, peaceful in the town of Vayhill. But there are whispers behind closed doors. Who is moving into Number 10? Danielle appears to her new neighbours to have a perfect, glossy life. But not everything is as it seems… In fact, each of the other four women who live close by has a secret and each is nursing their own private heartache.

But could a gift be waiting on their doorsteps? And, by opening their front doors, and their hearts, to each other, could the women of Kingfisher Road discover all the help they need?

If there is one book you are going to purchase this month then make it The Gift of Friends by Emma Hannigan. The heartwarming and eye-opening tale will teach you so many valuable lessons that you’ll hold close to your heart for many years after you finish Emma’s final book.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Breast Cancer Ireland and Emma’s family are launching a new drive to continue Emma’s legacy of raising funds to support research efforts. Her dad, Philip Hannigan said: “Emma was very clear that every effort should be made to support ongoing research into breast cancer so that no other family would have to suffer a loss like this.”

Breast Cancer Ireland raises significant funding for research into breast cancer as well as promoting education and awareness on the importance of breast health amongst women of all ages.

To make a €4 donation text CURE to 50300 or go to www.breastcancerireland.com.

Feature Image: Hachette Ireland

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