Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Book Review - 'Lyrebird' by Cecelia Ahern.

Review originally appeared in Irish Independent Living, 7/11/2016

Love story with moral message

Fiction: Lyrebird, Cecelia Ahern, HarperCollins, €12.99

Margaret Madden

PUBLISHED07/11/2016 | 02:30

Cecelia Ahern2
Cecelia Ahern
A documentary crew discovers a young and beautiful woman on a remote farm in Cork. Laura has lived in an abandoned cottage for more than 10 years and the only person who knew of her existence is now dead.
Sound engineer Solomon is fascinated by her ability to mimic sounds, and compares her to the Australian lyrebird. She can invoke even the most buried feelings with her unusual gift, yet she struggles to identify with the real world.
Solomon is drawn to her simplistic nature and feels an overwhelming urge to protect her from outside influence.
It is not long before "Lyrebird" becomes a household name and she is surrounded by people wanting to exploit her unusual talent.
The reader gets a glimpse into the world of celebrity TV and its knock-on effects.
Irish show StarrQuest is similar to shows like Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor, where raw ability is "discovered" and the private becomes public. Laura is a diamond in the rough and without guidance she finds herself being eaten alive by a network of greed and insincerity.
Solomon is prevented from seeing her and can only watch from afar as she is transformed from her wild, form into a media-friendly celebrity. Can you tame something so rare and beautiful without damaging its true nature?
Cecelia Ahern has written a love story with a moral message. While not ground-breaking, and a little repetitive at times, it is sure to delight her millions of fans.

Article originally appeared in Sunday Indo Living on 7 November 2016.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Book Review - 'On Sackville Street' by A. O'Connor.

Dublin 1869, and Sackville Street is one of the most prestigious places to live.  When young widow, Milandra Carter moves in, she shakes up the conservative society, with her bright clothes, her 'forward' attitude and her disregard for traditional etiquette.  But behind her beauty lies a woman of purpose.  She will do anything to get what she wants and she will take down anyone who gets in her way.

Constance Staffordshire is engaged to marry one of Dublin's most eligible bachelors, Nicholas Fontenoy, and is on the cusp of a bright future with the man she loves.  But when Milandra sets her eyes on Nicholas, this future becomes uncertain.  Constance has her suspicions about this glamorous, wealthy widow but no one else seems to agree with her.  Is she imagining it?

Dublin 1916 and Milandra finds herself taken hostage by a group of rebels who are fighting for Ireland's Independence.  As Sackville Street is crumbling under fire and the body count rises, she remains stoic and determined.  The past catches up on her and the memories of long hidden secrets come seeping out.

Drama, subterfuge and secrets. All the ingredients of a novel you can escape into.  From the very first page the reader is enveloped into the crazy world of Milandra Carter and her zany side-kick and  cook, Flancy.  A wicked pair, they land with aplomb on the stunning Sackville Street, surrounded by the elite of Dublin society and its genteel residents.  Ignoring all advice to keep a low profile after her husbands death, Milandra immediately gets to work on becoming the most talked about lady in Dublin.  Poor Constance doesn't stand a chance, as this femme-fatal inserts herself into the Fontenoy fold and takes control of Nicolas' future.  The games begin and the reader is witness to the determined actions of Milandra and Flancy.  The novel switches forward to 1916, where Milandra remains on Sackville Street, now in her old age, and is trapped in a volatile situation with a group of young and fearful rebels.  She refuses to bow to their commands and in usual Milandra style, cooks up a storm.  

This is a racy, pacy piece of historical fiction.  Full of drama and decadence. It flies along with a steady pace and the characters immediately come to life.  It may be just over 500 pages long but can be devoured in a few sittings.  You will not be bogged down with historical facts, just the bare essentials to help the reader place Sackville Street in relation to the 1916 rising.  If you enjoyed Downton Abbey, RTÉ's Rebellion and BBC's The Paradise, then this is for you.  Improbable, addictive storylines which unfold gloriously as you turn the pages.  Light and fun, not to be taken too seriously, this is pure escapism. Another enjoyable historical drama from A.O'Connor.

On Sackville Street is available in TPB and ebook format.  You can order your copy (currently half price as part of Black Friday promotion from Poolbeg BooksHERE.  The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Procrastination: A Student Lesson in how NOT to approach coursework.

When asked to write an article for the DkIT Times, I had no hesitation.  It's not like I had anything else to do, right? Wrong. Very wrong. It's official.  I am the Queen of procrastination.  So, here it is. My honest approach to tackling assignments, reviews and pretty much anything...

When will I ever learn?  For almost three decades I have promised myself I will become one of those organised humans.  The type who can plan their days/weeks/months in advance and stick to the plan.  The type who buys a new calendar at least six months in advance and begins by writing everyone’s birthdays in nice, neat, legible writing.  The type that buys Christmas cards in the January sales and plans the following year’s summer holidays before they’ve even finished their current one.  I can organise things for other people, no problem.  I am the queen of organisation when it comes to someone else’s life.  It’s just my own agenda I have issues with.  So, can you imagine how this now plays out as a mature student, with a (non-existent) diary jammed with assignment due dates?  Not very well, let me tell you.
Here we are.  Heading into the final leg of semester one, year three (final year in Digital Humanities) and, as usual for me, it’s a case of ‘not a child in the house washed’ (not literally true, as I have five kids and I can confirm they are all very clean).  As part of our course, we must complete a dissertation on a topic of choice, related to one of our subjects.  Mine is grounded in the area of English, so comes with the added bonus of reading a large body of books.  Great, she says.  Reading is my favourite thing.  I can do that no problem.  My logical self conveniently forgets that just reading the books and articles doth not an essay make, and my dissertation proposal is due in tomorrow.  I have just typed the last word on my first draft.  I have spent months reading around the actual topic and yet completely balked at committing anything to paper (or Word).  That’s ok, says you, sure you did it.  Just in the nick of time. Well, yes. Technically this is true.  But I am omitting the fact that I have another essay due in by next week, one the week after and so on, and so on.  And, guess what? I haven’t started those either.  I hear my classmates discussing their (finished) essays on a daily basis and I seethe with envy.  When will I EVER learn? I am my own worst enemy, says my poor husband who has to listen to me moaning about deadlines for months on end.  I snap that it is just the way I work (whist secretly agreeing with him) and how l have heard that ‘creative’ people leave everything to the last minute.  He gives me the one-raised-eyebrow look and finds something to do (thus leaving me to stew in my own stress).    It is also worth noting that I do the same with newspaper reviews, blog posts, bills to be paid, car tax to be renewed, etc, etc.  I may have a PhD in Procrastination, I just have no actual paperwork for it.  

In the spirit of honesty, I have managed to do quite well in year one and year two despite this ridiculously, and frankly, time-consuming procrastination.  I know I could make less mistakes if I was to type up essays weeks in advance, take notes as I go along or even create a document with the correct title (instead of one that is so generically titled that I have lost it in the abyss of my document folder on my archaic laptop).  I also know that this is my last chance. The great grades that I received in year one and year two do not count toward my final marks.  This is it.  I have waited twenty seven years for this degree and I am still leaving everything to the last minute.  I have not learned from my mistakes.  I am a stubborn old(ish) woman who knows she is doing this all wrong.  I have constant doubt and fear and insecurities about my work and yet I continue to say “Sure, I’ll do a bit tomorrow” or “I’ll definitely do that (really important) thing at the weekend”, whilst booking theatre tickets online or seeing what new articles have popped up on The Guardian app.  The logical part of my brain that should tell me to get OFF twitter and onto Moodle  is obviously wired incorrectly.  However, I will keep trying to cut the rhetorical red (or is it black) cable that is causing the problem and get with the actual programme.  I am also guilty of printing off reams of journal articles, reading them and forgetting to note which ones were most useful, leading to a massive re-reading session as the deadlines close in on me. There is a lesson in all this.  A moral, if you will. Stop making excuses, turn off your devices (or at least silence them), buy a sharpie and write the dates of deadlines down in a very obvious place.  Having them scribbled on a little pug calendar hidden behind a pile of books is perhaps not the best way to plan.  Trust me.  I am the perfect example of how NOT to do it!  Now, off I go to find reasons why I should not open a new Word document called ‘Sit your arse down and write’. (I may trademark this).

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Book Revew - The Secrets of Grindlewood: Zora's Revenge. Review by Mia, aged 13.

Review by Mia Madden, aged 13.

This is the enchanting fourth book in The Secrets of Grindlewood series, from Jackie Burke.  It's spring in the small village of Grindlewood and Jamie, Jemima, Luke and Abigail are waiting for a possible new quest.  Their waiting pays off when the children are summoned, along with trusty malamute Timber, to meet up with newly appointed Queen Wanda of the Wandeleis in Hollow Hill. The children are told that wicked sorceress Zora, sister of defeated enemy Worfeus, has returned and is seeking revenge on all of the Wandeleis. They are also told that they are people known as the worthy, beings who are capable of bringing peace.  The four kids, Timber and the residents of Grindlewood garden stop Zora before she destroys everything they know and love.  But Zora has much more in mind than just destroying a village and a few humans.  She plans to bring her brother Worfeus back from the dead with the help of her old teacher Lord Vargon and Wandelei traitor Audmund.  To add to the confusion, the worthy must also safeguard a special key each: Luke guards an iron key, Abigail a crystal key, Jemima a silver key and Jamie a gold one.  Both sides search and fight for these keys, but what do they unlock?  And will the occupants of Grindlewood stop Zora before she raises Worfeus from the dead?

This fourth addition to the Grindlewood series is jam-packed with adventure, mystery and very well-described battle scenes!  A long enough read with about 300 pages, but it has very big print and is nice and easy.  One thing that I wasn't keen on was the fact that the illustrations were the same from previous books and are placed rather randomly around the book.  Otherwise, I enjoyed it very much.

I would recommend this book for ages 8+

The Secrets of Grindlewood; Zora's Revenge is available in paperback and ebook format.  You can order your copy via amazon link below

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