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I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. There, I said it.

January is hard enough without the tradition of keeping your favourite things at arm’s length or deciding that your body isn’t good enough because you’ve enjoyed the seasonal festivities. The culture of starting anew and being bombarded with advertisements about ‘really going for it this year’ are enough to make anyone feel awful when they can’t quit something cold turkey or commit to an insane exercise regime for more than a week.

I am all for starting new things, but resolutions don’t have to revolve around inviting loss into your life. I like resolutions that invite us to look after ourselves in different ways, to invite good and useful things into our day-today lives. Maybe not an insane exercise routine, but just getting out for a walk on your lunch break for some air and light for you mental health, or starting a few mornings a week with a quick meditation, taking more time to do the things you love.

I think one of the things we all rediscovered this year was a love of reading, and in 2021, I want to commit to incorporating it into my routine in a meaningful way. With the vaccine on the way, it’s going to be too easy to slip back into that non-stop, always on the go lifestyle. But if lockdown has taught me anything, it’s the happiness that can be found in slowing down, in having an excuse to stay in and say no to invitations, and simply settle down with a good book. I don’t want to lose this habit, as it’s something that has brought me joy in a dark and confusing time in my life and I’m sure it has done the same for plenty of you.

With that in mind, I’ve created a master guide on the advice available out there for cultivating or continuing your reading habits in 2021…good luck readers!

Read what you want to read.

I hate when people say they hate reading and have only ever read the books they were forced to read in school. Of course you hate reading if the book was picked out for you for educational purposes. Or worse, you’re reading a book because ‘it’s a classic’. Just because it’s a classic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something you’ll like. I’m an English major and I don’t particularly love Herman Melville or Yeats (there I said it). By reading what we want to read – whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, thriller or romance – we automatically become more invested in the habit. Take pride in your favoured genre or style and dig in!

'The world belongs to those who read'. – Rick Holland

Always have a book with you

You never know when you may have a spare few minutes here or there throughout your day. Waiting in a long line at the bank, the doctor’s office, the journey to and from work, are all opportunities to stick your nose in a book for a few hours. If you have time to take out your phone to scroll through Instagram, you have time to check out a couple more pages of your book.

'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.' – Mason Cooley

Set aside time for it

It’s all well and good to get snatches of time here and there while you go about your day, but to make real progress, fully immerse yourself and reap the calming benefits of reading, there needs to a be part of your day that you dedicate to reading. Even if it’s three days a week, take the time you usually spend on your phone before bed or grabbing a few extra minutes snoozing after your alarm goes off to get into your book. Do you really need to watch Gilmore Girls or Friends again for the fourth time? Is it not time to spend that effortless Netflixing doing something both entertaining and useful?

'Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.' – Charles Scribner Jr.

Keep a list

Write down the books you hear about, the books you want to read, the books you have read and tick each one off as you get through it. This is not to rush you through them or to make it feel like a race, but to create a sense of achievement. This time next year, looking back on that list, you will have a head full of new worlds, ideas and perspectives that all came from slowly chipping away at your list.

'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; The man who never reads lives only one.' – George R. R. Martin

Thrift shop

Books are expensive – trust me, I know – but there are so many places supplying secondhand books these days. There are amazing finds to be found amongst the bargain stacks. There’s usually stacks in the back of charity shops, which are especially good for bestsellers and romances, but if your genre is a little more specific, there are some great bookshops with second hand sections to check out like Vibes and Scribes in Cork, Charlie Byrnes in Galway, Chapters Bookshop in Dublin and plenty more all around the country.

'Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes place for that.' – John Green

Create a space in your routine for reading

Make this time a treat for you. Have your favourite hot drink nearby, a small treat for yourself and a do not disturb sign on the door. Put your phone on silent or airplane mode so you don’t get distracted and fully commit to having this time just for you and this book.

'When trouble strikes, head to the library. You will either be able to solve the problem or simply have something to read as the world crashes down around you.' – Lemony Snicket

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Alternative histories, strange tales and kickass women – all on your reading list for 2021! 2020 has been the year we all got a little time to rediscover books and 2021 is the year that’s going to get us fully addicted again.

There are some seriously intense and gripping stories coming to our shelves, all centring around complex and dark women, tense and strange explorations of family dynamics, and hard-hitting, jaw-dropping secrets being revealed.

Have a browse through our top picks for what to look out for this year and let us know which ones you’re excited about!

‘Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First’ by Laura Tremaine (Zondervan) 2nd Feb 2021

Part memoir and part guidebook, Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First. is the invitation you've been waiting for to show up with your whole self and discover the intimate, meaningful relationships you long for.

In spite of the hyper-connected culture we live in today, women still feel shamed for oversharing and being publicly vulnerable. And no matter how many friends we seem to have, many of us are still desperately lonely.

Laura Tremaine says it's time for something better. Openness and vulnerability are the foundation for human growth and healthy relationships, and it all starts when we share our stuff, the nitty-gritty daily details about ourselves with others. Laura has led the way in her personal life with her popular blog and podcast, and now with light-hearted self-awareness, a sensitivity to the important things in life, and compelling storytelling, Laura gives you the tools to build and deepen the conversations happening in your life.

Laura's stories about her childhood in Oklahoma, her complicated shifts in faith and friendships, and her marriage to a Hollywood movie director will prompt you to identify the beautiful narrative and pivotal milestones of your own life. Each chapter offers intriguing and reflective questions that will reveal unique details and stories you've never thought to tell and will guide you into cultivating the authentic connection with others that only comes from sharing yourself.

‘Tall Bones’ by Anna Bailey (Penguin) 1st Apr 2021

Set in a small town in Colorado, Tall Bones begins with 17-year-old Abi going missing after a party in the woods. Abi’s disappearance rocks Whistling Ridge, and stirs up long-held grudges, including among Abi’s family.

Her older brother Noah still resents Abi for betraying him, her younger brother Jude has already seen too much for someone his age, her mother Dolly’s suffering is ignored by the town, and her father Samuel holds the whole family in his threatening grasp.

Whistling Ridge is a tinder box waiting to explode, and what happened to Abi is the spark.

‘The Rose Code’ by Kate Quinn (William Morrow Paperbacks) 9th Mar 2021

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…

‘The Four Winds’ by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press) 9th Feb 2021

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbours —must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

‘Dangerous Women’ by Hope Adams (Penguin) 4th March 2021

Set in 1841, ‘Dangerous Women’ follows three women as they board a ship in London that will take them on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world. The women are all convicts, being transported for petty crimes. Except for one, who is a secret killer fleeing justice. When a woman on the ship is mortally wounded, the hunt is on for the culprit.

‘The Good Neighbours’ by Nina Allan (Riverrun) 18th March 2021

Cath is a photographer hoping to go freelance, working in a record shop to pay the rent and eking out her time with her manager Steve. He thinks her photography is detective work, drawing attention to things that would otherwise pass unseen and maybe he’s right . . .

Starting work on her new project – photographing murder houses – she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.

Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it’s occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk.

‘The Smash-Up’ by Ali Benjamin (Random House) 2nd Feb 2021

Life for Ethan and Zo used to be simple. Ethan co-founded a lucrative media start-up, and Zo was well on her way to becoming a successful filmmaker. Then they moved to a rural community for a little more tranquillity – or so they thought.

When newfound political activism transforms Zo into a barely recognizable ball of outrage and #MeToo allegations rock his old firm, Ethan finds himself a misfit in his own life. Enter a houseguest who is young, fun, and not at all concerned with the real world, and Ethan is abruptly forced to question everything: his past, his future, his marriage, and what he values most.

Startling, witty, thought-provoking, and wise, Ali Benjamin’s exciting debut novel offers the shock of recognition as it deftly illuminates some of the biggest issues of our time. Taking inspiration from a classic Edith Wharton tale about a small-town love triangle, The Smash-Up is a wholly contemporary exploration of how the things we fail to see can fracture a life, a family, a community, and a nation.

‘The Girl in the Walls’ by A.J. Gnuse (Harper Collins) 11th May 2021

Eventually, every hidden thing is found.

Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her, before they were taken from her in a car crash. And home is where you stay, no matter what.

Eddie is a teenager trying to forget about the girl he sometimes sees out of the corner of his eye. But when his hot-headed older brother senses her, too, they are faced with the question of how to get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists. And as they try to cast her out, they unwittingly bring an unexpected and far more real threat to their doorstep.

Written with grace and enormous heart, ‘Girl in the Walls’ is a novel about carrying on through grief, forging unconventional friendships, and realizing, little by little, that we don’t need to fear what we do not understand.

‘The Moon Over Kilmore Quay’ by Carmel Harrington (Harper Collins) June 2021

Meet Bea. Living in Brooklyn, in a tight-knit Irish community, Bea O’Connor has it all – a loving family, great friends and a boyfriend she believes she could grow old with. So why does she feel so lost and unsure? Only a letter, written over a decade ago, can give her the answers she’s unknowingly looked for all her life.

Meet Lucy Years earlier, with her sister Maeve by her side, Lucy Mernagh leaves her home in Ireland in search of adventure and the New York dream.

But the busy streets of the Big Apple are a world away from the quiet village she grew up in, and the longing for home aches deep within her. Until she learns that opportunity lies around every street corner and just maybe this city – and one of its occupants – will steal her heart if she lets them…

Told over four decades, from the unspoilt, picturesque fishing village of Kilmore Quay, to the mesmerising and electric city of New York, this is the story of two women, enduring friendships, family secrets and the voices that call you home.

‘The Lost Cafe Schindler: One Family, two wars and the search for the truth’ by Meriel Schindler (Hachette) 6th May 2021

Kurt Schindler was an impossible man. His daughter Meriel spent her adult life trying to keep him at bay. Kurt had made extravagant claims about their family history. Were they really related to Franz Kafka and Oscar Schindler, of Schindler’s List fame? Or Hitler’s Jewish doctor – Dr Bloch? What really happened on Kristallnacht, the night that Nazis beat Kurt’s father half to death and ransacked the family home?

When Kurt died in 2017, Meriel felt compelled to resolve her mixed feelings about him, and to solve the mysteries he had left behind.

Starting with photos and papers found in Kurt’s isolated cottage, Meriel embarked on a journey of discovery taking her to Austria, Italy and the USA. She reconnected family members scattered by feuding and war. She pieced together an extraordinary story taking in two centuries, two world wars and a family business: the famous Café Schindler. Launched in 1922 as an antidote to the horrors of the First World War, this grand café became the whirling social centre of Innsbruck. And then the Nazis arrived.

Through the story of the Café Schindler and the threads that spool out from it, this moving book weaves together memoir, family history and an untold story of the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It explores the restorative power of writing, and offers readers a profound reflection on memory, truth, trauma and the importance of cake.

‘Outlawed’ by Anna North (Hachette) 5th Jan 2021

On the day of her wedding-dance, Ada feels lucky. She loves her broad-shouldered, bashful husband and her job as an apprentice midwife.

But her luck will not last. It is every woman’s duty to have a child, to replace those that were lost in the Great Flu. And after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are hanged as witches, Ada’s survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang. Its leader, a charismatic preacher-turned-robber, known to all as The Kid, wants to create a safe haven for women outcast from society. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

‘Black is the Body’ by Emily Bernard (Penguin) 11th Feb 2021

In these 12 interconnected essays, Emily Bernard looks at everything from surviving a random stabbing to inheriting a family name from a white man to her experiences being a Black woman teaching in a primarily white university. Ann Patchett has called the collection “really life-changing”.

‘Widowland’ by C. J. Carey (Quercus) 10th June 2021

An alternative history with a strong feminist twist, perfect for fans of Robert Harris’ Fatherland, Christina Dalcher’s Vox and the dystopian novels of Margaret Atwood. London, 1953, Coronation year – but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance between Great Britain and Germany was formalized. George VI and his family have been murdered and Edward VIII rules as King. Yet, in practice, all power is vested in Alfred Rosenberg, Britain’s Protector.

The role and status of women is Rosenberg’s particular interest. Rose Ransom belongs to the elite caste of women and works at the Ministry of Culture, rewriting literature to correct the views of the past. But now she has been given a special task. Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country; graffiti daubed on public buildings. Disturbingly, the graffiti is made up of lines from forbidden works, subversive words from the voices of women.

Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run-down slums where childless women over fifty have been banished. These women are known to be mutinous, for they have nothing to lose. Before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony of King Edward and Queen Wallis, Rose must infiltrate Widowland to find the source of this rebellion and ensure that it is quashed.

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Mary’s marriage is unfulfilling, and unfaithful. So when she meets Dr. Drake Lucifer, who is prepared to sweep her off her feet, she is totally enchanted by his allure and attentiveness. Utilising his role as Mary’s doctor to his own perverse advantage, Drake makes his way into Mary’s psyche, using power and fear to attract her. As Mary’s marriage crumbles, she becomes more and more enslaved to Drake as he masterfully manipulates her every move, their relationship turning down a dangerous and possibly inescapable path…

M. L. Stark who has just released the second book in this series (Burning Desire Fades) hopes to reach both women and men who are navigating romantic relationships with one another through this revelatory book. What starts out as a romance quickly takes a turn as Stark educates us on the tell-tale signs of a toxic relationship, helping women learn how to identify psychopathic and manipulative behaviour early on. This is a guidebook on how to take the necessary precautions during courtship to protect oneself. She hopes that this book can also help male readers, who are in relationships with women who have dated a psychopathic man, to understand their partner and treat them with the love, respect and patience that they need.

She calls out the hallmarks of abuse, citing unequal power balances, unequal monetary situations and low self-esteem as facilitators of abuse and warns against the signs of narcissism. Lack of boundaries, respect and self-control all start as small issues that gradually grow to encompass the entire relationship, until there seems to be no way out.

Reading like a dark confession, this is a dramatic and sometimes fantastical read, but the message at its core remains the same; beware. Written from personal experience, the tone is retrospective, looking back on mistakes and missed red flags with regret and shame – but also hope that other women will not fall into the same traps. It is unclear how much is based on Stark's real experiences, but it is emphasised that these are fictional accounts. She now lives in the UK, knowing she achieved the impossible; documenting being a survivor of the cruelty of childhood abuse and mental abuse from the man she loved.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major anxiety for millions around the world. Our mental health will take a serious hit due to self-isolation and social distancing, but one thing that will help is reading.

Studies have found that reading has a positive impact on your mental health. Natalie Phillips, who is an English scholar, teamed up with Stanford neurobiologists and radiologists to look at the benefits reading has on our mental health.

They found that reading increases the blood flow to certain parts of the brain. They asked participants to read a chapter of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park– both leisurely and analytically- as the participants read their brain was scanned by an MRI machine.

The team found that reading “requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions”, meaning reading exercises underworked parts of your brain.

I would never have thought reading an old copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby would keep my anxious thoughts away, but it did. Reading is one of the things that has helped ease my symptoms the most.

Pick up a book and dive into a new world, meet new characters and learn about their lives. Reading is a great way to push the anxiety away. It eases your mind when it is full of doubt and fear.

It is the perfect form of escapism. Pop into your local bookshop or order a book online; whether it’s a classic like Wuthering Heights or the latest Sally Rooney novel.

It may not work for everyone, but something as simple as channelling your inner Matilda may keep those dreaded symptoms at bay.

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That’s it though. Fate, decisions, a conversation with a stranger, a moment of irresponsibility, someone hearing your faint cry. And opportunities, choices, decisions, Richard, Ted…Questions are falling like rain on Paris rooftops.’

Small, unassuming, delicate. Not Plath, but the package she comes in, in David Haslam’s newest fifty-seven-page cultural biography of the tortured and talented woman. A vignette of a strange and intimate turning point in the young poet’s life, it chronicles the decisions made in this snapshot moment that make her who she is, incites some of her best art and most deliriously happy moments. But had she known the cost of those fruitful years, would the decisions have been the same?

Sylvia Plath is in Paris and the year is 1956. She arrived – alone – and booked herself into an attic room in a hotel near Notre Dame, looking out over Paris’ windows and rooftops. She was here not three months ago, with Richard Sassoon for Christmas, thinking she had met the love of her life. The day before she left on this second trip, she had met Ted Hughes.

They would be married ten weeks later.

Chasing a man and a future that Richard no longer considers them to have, Sylvia wanders Paris, a city that had held her heart longer than any man had. Stifled and stifling, she gives herself over to the city as a place to ‘uncage’ herself, leaning into the intensity and oddities that she would come to fear later on in her life. But somehow, in Paris, those parts of her make sense.

David Haslam pinpoints a moment in Sylvia’s life that is tumultuous and intense and draws a portrait of her personal relationships with herself, the city and her love life that teeters on the edge of fate. As her letters to Richard remain unanswered, Plath loses herself in the city, always longing, always seeking, not a man, but the strange and impossible perfection that will haunt her the rest of her life. It is a period in which the choices she makes will come to define her, but watching Plath, on the cusp of making these decisions, is poignant and painful. Her demons are yet to get the better of her, Ted Hughes is yet to permanently cast his strange spell on her but she is also yet to produce some of her most incredible and daring work, because those things have not yet happened.

We see her as she is just about to fall in thrall of Ted and their first night together, an intense and wild relationship that is already harmful in its dark obsession, leaving her with bruises and marks. But there is a sense of inevitability about the whole thing, that the darkness in both of them calls out to one another, even across the sea, even as she begins to let go of Richard, Ted already beginning to consume her. Even if she does not quite realise it in that moment, that desire for ‘things that will destroy me in the end’ will never really go away.

New Yorker Picture Credit

 

And while this is a time of the cusp of long reaching and irreparable change, she is so content perusing the Left Bank book stalls, sitting in the sun on Pont Neuf and sketching Saint-Germaine, that you wonder how it all goes so wrong. Even then, she sees the danger that lies within herself, that persistent melancholy that dogs her steps across the bridges of the Seine, the deep-rooted hedonism that cannot be indulged for too long, or it takes control. She constantly fights it, writing a list of commandments to follow, including being more disciplined with her writing, being more ‘chaste and subdued’, to be a ‘good girl’.

‘Paris seems to have been a time of self-discovery, and a chance for Plath to shape a new life. It was appropriate that she was there at Easter, a time of death, resurrection, renewed hope.’ And yet in so many ways it was the beginning of the end. But this book is about her life, not her death

This little chapbook is a pocket-biography version of her life, refusing to fall into the trap that many of her biographers do, that is writing with the shadow of her death hanging over her life. Instead, here for a brief fifty-seven-pages, she vitally alive and at war with herself. Haslam explores the independence she finds in the streets of Paris, the loneliness she discarded there like an old, worn coat, the happiness and inspiration that the city had for her. He finished with her spirit wandering Paris still;

‘A brasserie on Boulevard Raspail, a surrealist film in Montparnasse. Hearing the Easter bells, crossing the river, the Seine flowing beneath her feet, the wide Paris sky arching towards all the horizons. She has as much right to those moments of happiness as any of us, perhaps more; her sketchbook in her hand, making her way to the park, in the sun, in her Paris.’

Dave Haslam is a broadcaster, DJ and author. He has written five books including Manchester, England – a cultural biography of Manchester which was declared one of the ten books that best represent Britain. His other books include ‘Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs & Music Venues’, and his autobiography ‘Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor’.

Purchase this book here

Main feature image: New York Times

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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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Sophie Hinchcliffe, the cleaning legend herself, is bringing out a Memoir, titled This is Me, all about the woman behind Mrs. Hinch. The social media sensation took to Instagram this morning to reveal the book’s cover, including a behind-the-scenes video of how they created Sophie’s stunning cover-shot.

“Soooo, a slightly different morning post from me today guys… I’ve noticed some of you have spotted it already. I can now share my Memoir front cover with you all! I have everything crossed and I just hope you like it,” Sophie prefaced before the big reveal.

In the black-and-white video, Sophie is seen wearing a gorgeous, dusky-grey ball-gown dress. In the montage of clips, she’s fixing her makeup, draped across a velvet couch and of course, dancing and playing with her adorable dog, Henry, all while the emotional song, This Is Me, plays in the background.

“Well guys, here we are! What an absolute whirlwind of a journey this has been so far,” Sophie wrote.

“It's often felt like a fairy tale but it hasn't always been easy, and I'm going to let you in on the highs and the lows as well as my biggest fears and my darkest challenges. Because this book right here, is me.”

“This is me: Soph – the wife, the mother and the person behind Mrs Hinch. So let's do this! Put your Hinch Lists to one side, get comfy and join me on the sofa with a cuppa. Welcome to my world. This is my story.”

Mrs. Hinch’s adoring fans were eager to share their pride and admiration for their cleaning guru. “That’s brought a tear to my eye… I love you all so much, so proud of you and what you have achieved,” one fan wrote. Another gushed, “Can someone explain to me why I am welling up with pride for you! Got mine on pre-order. Well done!”.

This is me is being published by Penguin and will be out on October 1. You can pre-order your copy here.

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While we may not be jetting off to exotic places this Summer, at least we have more time to dedicate to our never-ending reading lists.

With so many exciting titles being released each and every day, from such incredible authors, it really was a struggle to whittle it down. However, somehow we managed to figure out our top 10 reads, which we can’t wait to dive into — along with our book of the month: The Bird in the Bamboo Cage.  

  1. Midnight Sun 

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

  1. The Midnight Library

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time, Matt Haig.

  1. Finding Freedom

The first, epic and true story of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s life together, finally revealing why they chose to pursue a more independent path and the reasons behind their unprecedented decision to step away from their royal lives, from two top royal reporters who have been behind the scenes since the couple first met. 

Finding Freedom is complete with full colour photographs from Harry and Meghan’s courtship, wedding, Archie’s milestones, and many more unforgettable moments.

  1. Hell in the Heartland

On December 30, 1999, in rural Oklahoma, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman and her best friend, Lauria Bible, were having a sleepover. The next morning, the Freeman family trailer was in flames and both girls were missing.

While rumours of drug debts, revenge, and police collusion abounded in the years that followed, the case remained unsolved and the girls were never found.

In 2015, crime writer Jax Miller, who had been haunted by the case, decided to travel to Oklahoma to find out what really happened on that winter night in 1999, and why the story was still simmering more than fifteen years later. What she found was more than she could have ever bargained for. These forgotten towns were wild, lawless, and home to some very dark secrets.

  1. Death Sets Sail

The final novel in the number-one bestselling, award-winning Murder Most Unladylike series.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are in Egypt, where they are taking a cruise along the Nile. They are hoping to see some ancient temples and a mummy or two; what they get, instead, is murder. Daisy and Hazel leap into action and begin to investigate their most difficult case yet. But there is danger all around, and only one of the Detective Society will make it home alive…

  1. The Liar’s Daughter

Joe McKee – pillar of the Derry community – is dead. As arrangements are made for the traditional Irish wake, friends and family are left reeling at how cancer could have taken this much-loved man so soon. But grief is the last thing that Joe's daughter Ciara and step-daughter Heidi feel. For they knew the real Joe – the man who was supposed to protect them and did anything but.

 As the mourners gather, the police do too, with doubt being cast over whether Joe's death was due to natural causes. Because the lies that Joe told won't be taken to the grave after all – and the truth gives his daughters the best possible motive for killing him.

The Liar's Daughter is a dark, powerful and twisty psychological thriller that will keep you glued to the pages.

  1. The Pull of the Stars

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds.

  1. The Friendship List

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever…

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.

So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humour, heartache and regrettable tattoos.

  1. Jump: One Girl’s Search For Meaning

The point of all this has nothing to do with finding yourself. It’s about what you can do to lose what you don’t need.

Daniella is 26, a highly successful radio presenter, model and influencer, but panic is building in her head and chest, the internal state of affairs she has been trying to ignore finally spilling over into something undeniably physical. She is frozen, petrified, looks to her boyfriend and says, ‘I don’t know who or where I am.’ This day changed Daniella’s life. It derailed almost everything she had worked to achieve and set her on a new path. 

Jump is the story of what happened when Daniella quit her job to backpack around the world for two years, and how freedom from the trappings of what society considers success leads to true contentment, strength and authenticity.

  1. Utopia Avenue

Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you've never heard of. Emerging from London's psychedelic scene in 1967. Fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey. From the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell's new novel tells a story about Utopia Avenue; of fame's Faustian pact and stardom's wobbly ladder.

 

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British mummy-vlogger and social media sensation, Louise Pentland, has written a new book all about her experiences with motherhood, and it’s out now! 

Louise started her blog, Sprinkle of Glitter, in 2009, and shortly afterwards created a YouTube channel of the same name. Nowadays Louise’s channels cover topics such as plus-size fashion, motherhood and family-life, garnering an audience of 2.3 million subscribers. You can also be sure to catch her on Instagram, regularly taking the cutest photos of her two adorable daughters, and all the adventures they get up to together. 

Her latest book, MumLife, is a real deep dive into the ups and downs Louise has had to face over the years — and let’s just say there’s been a few! From a traumatic birth with her first daughter, to single motherhood, to finding love again and having a second child, Louise's parenting journey has been full of surprises.

Source: Instagram
Source: instagram.com/louisepentland

 

Discussing the realities most working mums face, plus the impact of maternal mental health, Louise is on a mission to make other mums feel less alone, and very much heard. She beautifully reveals her own imperfect but perfect route to motherhood, as well as the loss of her mum so early in her life, how it shaped her and the mother she became.

Reflective and uplifting, with her signature wit, MumLife will share Louise's ups and downs and the honest truth, from someone who's been there and experienced it all.

“Thought it’d be a cute little Mummy Memoir but it turned out to be so much deeper than I thought it would. I’m glad. There are happy, funny bits (the whole chapter on dating as a #singlemum lol) to balance it out but I’m glad the tough stuff is in there- that’s life isn’t it? Ups and down, happy and sad. That’s what makes us human,” Louise wrote on Instagram.

If you’re not a mum though, don’t worry — Louise has assured us that MumLife is for anyone who loves her online content, which she lovingly refers to as ‘MummyContent’. MumLife is published by Bonnier, and you can pick up a copy here.

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The Harry Potter books are one of the most iconic series of all time. Bookworms from all around the world adore the wizarding world and we can see why.

The books transport you to a magical and mysterious world that helps you forget about your worries and fears.

Reading is one of the best forms of escapism, no matter what age you are.

However, we did not realise that reading certain books actually made us better human beings. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, J.K Rowling's tales about Harry, Ron and Hermione can actually help children to understand the social stigmatism of minority groups. 

The research focused on how people view stigmatised members of  society, which led them to discover that people who have read the Harry Potter books had a better understand of disenfranchised people. 

Yes, Harry Potter has the power to influence people’s world views and their perception of minority groups in a positive way, no matter who they are. Muggles and all!

So, if you haven't picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone then we suggest you do.

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The summer will come to an end in a few weeks so it is time to make the most of all the free time and embrace your cultural side. The National Library of Ireland have an immense amount of events happening throughout August and you can’t miss out.

Check out the full programme below:

Guided tour: ‘Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats’

Thursday, August 1 at 1pm

Explore the life and works of one of the great poets of the twentieth century at the NLI’s award-winning Yeats exhibition.

Free admission. All welcome. Booking not required. Group tours may be booked at: learning@nli.ie.

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Guided tour: ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ exhibition

Tuesday, August 6, 13, 20, 27 at 1pm

Gain insight into the archival material on display, the work of one of Ireland’s best loved poets and the context and structure of the exhibition on this guided tour.

Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, College Green (entry via Westmoreland Street)

Free admission. Booking required via Eventbrite or email heaneyexhibition@nli.ie.

Guided tour: ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ exhibition

Saturday, August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 at 1pm

Gain insight into the archival material on display, the work of one of Ireland’s best loved poets and the context and structure of the exhibition on this guided tour.

Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, College Green (entry via Westmoreland Street)

Free admission. Booking required via Eventbrite or email heaneyexhibition@nli.ie.

Guided tour: ‘A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O'Malley's Ireland’

Thursday, August 15 at 1pm

Understand an outsider’s fascination with Irish people and Irish life at this free tour of the NLI’s latest exhibition at the National Photographic Archive, Temple Bar.

National Library of Ireland, 7-8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638.

Free admission. All welcome. Booking not required.

Guided tour: ‘The National Library's History & Heritage’

Saturday, August 17 at 1pm

Explore the National Library's rich architectural history and heritage on this free tour which includes a visit to its iconic Victorian reading room.

National Library of Ireland, 7-8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638.

Free admission. All welcome. Booking not required.

Turas treoraithe: Stair agus Oidhreacht na Leabharlainne Náisiúnta

Monday, August 19 at 1pm

Tá fáilte romhat bheith i gcomhluadar Niamh Ní Riain ar thuras stair agus oidhreacht na Leabharlainne Náisiúnta.

National Library of Ireland, 7-8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638.

Free admission. All welcome. Booking not required.

Research Workshop: Using the National Library

Monday, August 19 at 3pm

Receive advice and guidance on researching the rich and varied collections of the National Library. Suitable for first-time Library users. Places limited. Booking required.

National Library of Ireland, 7-8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638.

Free admission. All welcome. Booking not required.

Heritage Week talk: Past & Present- Digital Collections at the NLI

Tuesday, August 20 at 1pm

Join Maria Ryan for a lunchtime talk and learn how the NLI protects and makes available Ireland’s digital heritage through digitisation, web archiving and born digital collecting.

National Library of Ireland, 7-8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638.

Free admission. Booking not required.

Heritage Week Readings and Performance: Helen Hooker O'Malley's Ireland

Wednesday, August 21 at 1.05pm

Celebrate the work of American artist, Helen Hooker O'Malley with music and poetry readings and take in the exhibition of her photography presents an outsider’s fascination with Irish people and Irish life.

National Photographic Archive, Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Free. Booking not required.

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Turas treoraithe: Taispeántas Yeats

Wednesday, August 21 at 6pm

Tá fáilte romhat bheith le Niamh Ní Riain ar thuras treoraithe, trí Ghaeilge, saor in aisce don taispeántas  'Yeats: The Life & Works of William Butler Yeats'.

National Library of Ireland, 7-8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638.

Free admission. Booking not required.

Heritage Week Tour: ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’

Thursday, August 22 at 11am

Take in a special National Heritage Week tour of our exhibition, Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again and share in the story of one of Ireland’s greatest writers and most-loved figures.

Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, College Green (entry via Westmoreland Street)

Free admission. Booking required via Eventbrite or email heaneyexhibition@nli.ie.

Heritage Week Talk: ‘Cooking the Books’

Thursday, August 22 at 1pm

Explore the recipe and cookery books held in the NLI’s collections with a display of some items in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

National Library of Ireland, 7-8 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638.

Free admission. Booking not required.

Lecture: ‘Heaney on the Border’

Friday, August 23 at 1pm

Join Roy Foster for a lecture on the development of Heaney's poem, 'Station Island' and its companion pieces, and the ways in which it is anticipatory of the writer's later life.

Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, College Green (entry via Westmoreland Street)

Free. Booking required via Eventbrite or email heaneyexhibition@nli.ie.

Book club: Electric Light  by Seamus Heaney

Friday, August 30 at 1pm

Join in the discussion of this month's poetry collection Electric Light.

Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, College Green (entry via Westmoreland Street)

Free. Booking required via Eventbrite or email heaneyexhibition@nli.ie.

More information available at www.nli.ie.

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All of Ireland mourned the loss of beloved Irish author Emma Hannigan in March of this year. 

Following a cancer battle of over a decade, Emma sadly passed away, but not before she released her twelfth novel Letters to my Daughters which was one of the bestselling books of the year.   

The writer and mum-of-two was met with an outpouring of love and support as she revealed her cancer diagnosis devastatingly left her little time to live. But she was determined to channel every good moment she had into helping others – with her efforts and everyone coming together, over €100,000 was donated to breast cancer research. She was an inspiration to all around her. 

And as it turns out, Emma left us one final gift: her final novel 'The Gift of Friends,' to be published in Spring 2019. 

Emma always said that writing was her way of escaping from the reality of living with her cancer diagnosis, especially during the many hours she spent undergoing treatment. True to form, in the final months of her life, and despite the limitations of her illness, Emma continued to write. The first draft of a new novel was delivered to her editors, Ciara Doorley and Sherise Hobbs and in January; Emma emailed the acknowledgements for the book just days before she passed away.

Today, September 25th, on Emma's birthday, her family and publishers are delighted to announce that her last novel will be released on 28th February 2019.  

Emma's family said they were thrilled to share her final gift with the world on, fittingly, the special day of her birthday. 

"Today is Emma’s birthday. It’s hard to believe that six months have already passed since she left us. We miss her love, her ever-generous spirit and, of course, her wicked sense of humour. We’ve always felt that Emma wrote so that a part of her would always be with us. So we are very happy to tell you that Emma left us one last gift, her final book."

"The Gift of Friends is a story of joy and friendship, love and light. As Emma said, “When it comes down to the wire, all that matters is love … I will be there in your hearts and you will be in mine.” We hope you open your hearts and enjoy this very special book. Love and Light."

Emma’s editors, Ciara Doorley of Hachette Books Ireland and Sherise Hobbs of Headline Publishing Group say the book is filled with the writer's trademark warm characters and skilful storytelling; a story, as with all the others, that she poured her heart and soul into. They described it as a "life-affirming story that celebrates the power of female friendship."

We can't wait to read it. 

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