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book recommendations

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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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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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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