When I’m writing I tend not to read fiction. Mostly I’m afraid of absorbing the voice of the author I’m reading or having an existential crisis along the lines of THIS AUTHOR IS SO AMAZING, WHAT I AM DOING EVEN TYPING, WHO DO I THINK I AM, WHY DO I EVEN TRY, WHY CAN’T I BE TALENTED LIKE THIS AMAZING WRITER, OH MY GOD THAT LINE WAS AMAZING, I’LL READ THAT AGAIN, MAKE A NOTE OF THAT, BE MORE LIKE THIS WRITER.
So, instead I tend to non-fiction – factual type historical or informational books that I feel may help, in some way with my writing. Facts are less artistic. Facts can be fun! I’ll still be reading research books right up till the editing of my novel is over, often adding little parts in at very late stages.
When I’m finished writing (and by writing I mean the focused weeks / months to produce a novel) I get to return to my stuffed book shelves and start selecting. It’s like walking into a sweet shop. So much to choose.
I got The Nanny at No. 43 sent off this summer and that left me with a few months to catch up on fiction reading. JOY. I usually pick up books by how much they call me. They could be sitting there for a few years, they could be an author I’ve been dying to read, they could be a friend’s book or they could have been sent to me for review. Here is a list of books I’ve read since June of this year. (More or less, who’s counting!?) Some are literary, some are commerical, some are right up my street, some more purposeful reading. See if there any here that may appeal to you. Sometimes it’s good to go outside your comfort zone…
(I’ve linked each book cover to Amazon if you do decide to download to your reading device. These are not affiliate links. Amazon kicked me off their programme because I didn’t make them any money!)
By Emma Donoghue
I saw Emma Donoghue on the Late Late Show some time back and she came across as a quirky, hilarious and FUN person to talk to. I’d love to meet her some day and have the chats. I was interested to see what her writing style would be like and knew that Room had been made into a movie. (Usually a very good sign!) Of course, I refuse to watch the movie until I’ve read the book (anyone else?!) and I’m so glad I did. Fantastic. Loved it. The whole story, as you may know, is told from the perspective of small child locked in a small room with his captive mother. It’s a tale of love, abuse, control and bravery. I was worried it might be hard to read; I find anything with the suffering of small children too hard to bear, but this wasn’t like that, and the author has been careful to get the point of view of the child across without being graphic or sadistic. Emma writes with a deep understanding of children and their thought processes and it is a wonderful piece of work. Highly recommend.
The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood
Ok, I’ll just completely take back what I said above and admit that I watched all of series one of The Handmaid’s Tale before reading the book, but to be fair to myself, I didn’t know anything about the book, before I watched the addictive series! Besides, it came out in the 80s when I was only a whippersnapper! Flamin hell Nora, this is a piece of literature. I adored it! I can’t wait to get my hands on more of Atwood’s books, because the lady is a literary genius. The television series is completely true to the book, and I wonder if Atwood had a hand in the series due to its dedication to detail. It is written in such an underhand, effortless way… it is sinister in her gradual unfolding of the events that show us Offred’s life. A powerful book, particularly in light of the unfolding of political events we’re seeing in feminist politics and where women are questioning control against a barage of Trumponian policies.
Joyride to Jupiter
By Nuala O’Connor
I picked this book of short stories up at Doolin Writers’ Festival this year. It looked like an interesting book and I’d read one of Nuala’s stories in the Long Gaze Back. I enjoyed the diverse tales she tells, the short and longer prose and it was nice to come across the story again I’d already read in the Long Gaze Back as I could examine it against the other stories. Nuala write of different cultures, of characters that are rich and flawed. Short stories are an art in themselves as I am learning with my own attempt at them. I love that short story collections are enduring somewhat of a comeback – I think they suit our busy lives, where we can dip in and out and get a whole story over a cup of tea. I am looking forward to reading her new book, Becoming Belle, so that I can get deeper into a character and enjoy, a genre I love, historical fiction.
By Sheila Forsey
I was thrilled to finally be able to read my good friend Sheila’s debut, Mending Lace. Myself and Sheila have a special connection because we signed with the same agent at the same time (along with Adele O’Neill, a bit of a trio!) We’ve also been on through the submission process twice together and can honestly say we have both been a support for each other at different trying times. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Mending Lace, I loved the title, but had no idea what sort of theme the book would follow. I loved it! It had intrigue, heart and lots of emotion and it took one issue – mental health, something I wasn’t expecting and dealt with it really well. Her characters are warm and I connected with them – Sheila’s writing reminded me of other Irish writers like Maeve Binchy, who have a talent to take you along with the character as they process something very personal to them. I’m looking forward to her second novel, which is due to be released before my second too, both with Poolbeg Press.
By Jo Baker
Jo Baker is one of my favourtie all time writers. I discovered her on my honeymoon when I bought Longbourn to read on the plane. Her writing sucks me in – one of those literary, accessible styles, that I just adore. I think if I could choose anyone to write like, it would be her. Last year I read A Country Road, A Tree, another book that blew my mind! Offcomer is Jo’s first book and was written while she studied in Belfast. It was interesting to watch her develop her characters in a contemporary Irish setting as the other books I read had historical settings. It’s a good read and I enjoyed it, mostly because of her writing style, but I think her later books, the ones that I’ve read, will be the ones that stay with me. I think you can see the arrival of her talent in this though, a case of… here I am readers, get ready! And I am so ready for whatever she brings out next! (Which will be June 2019 btw, yay!)
Her Name Was Rose
By Claire Allan
I’ve been following Claire through social media for a long time now, as I’m always interested in Irish writers and their voices and writing styles. I knew she had a number of novels before this new novel released by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins, but as yet, I haven’t had a chance to read. I downloaded this as soon as it came out, and flew through it in about two days, always a sign for me that it’s a good book! It’s really well written and completely flows. I was intrigued from the start and there was a slight twist that I didn’t see coming. This book became a bestseller straightaway and I can see why
By Annie Proulx
I’ve just realised with all my books listed here, most are contemporary fiction. My great love is historical fiction though and when I’m researching and writing, it’s usually historical I’m reading. This means there’s a build up of contemporary fiction that I try to get through when I’m on a writing break. Barkskins has been in my TBR pile for about two years, ever since a competition judge said one of my short stories read like Annie Proulx. Having never read her at the time, I went straight out and bought this tome… it’s 700 pages long and looks really scary, so I can see why it took me a while to tackle it. Holy God. I am soooo pleased that judge made his comment because it was possibly the best compliment I’ve ever gotten in my life, having now read her! It is by and far my favourite book I’ve read this year and I’d probably put it in my favourite books I’ve read in my life, thus far. It tells the tale of generations of people in the forestry trade, right from 1600s settled Canada, through Europe, China and down to New Zealand and takes us to modern day. You never know where the story will take you or what character will pop up next. The research and detail is exquisite. It is not a difficult read like I thought it might be, but a truly rewarding one. I’ve downloaded The Shipping News, her second novel, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Oh and the movie Brokeback Mountain was adapted from a short story she wrote. (Just in case you didn’t know!)
The Liar’s Girl
By Catherine Ryan Howard
Another book I bought as soon as it came out as Catherine is a fellow Irish writer and I like to support the scene! I also loved Distress Signals, Catherine’s first book, which features one of the best opening chapters I’ve ever read. The Liar’s Girl contains a lot of intrigue too are she leads you down quite a few paths before getting to the truth of the story. Another book that I flew through, although probably not as fast as Distress Signals! I’m looking forward to her third book, because she’s a great writer with strong, story ideas and her books have a great, contemporary feel to them.
Lying In Wait
By Liz Nugent
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, Liz Nugent is the massive break out star of crime fiction in the past number of years. Her first novel, Unravelling Oliver was a beautiful tale of deceit and fear. I’d heard so much about Lying in Wait and it’s won a number of prizes. I loved the coldness of the characters and the paths they were willing to go down to cover their tracks. Liz has a great knack of writing memorable, real people – I think her background in theatre shows through in the tics, traits and personalties she portrays on the page. A really good read and I’m looking forward to getting to Skin Deep which is prepped and ready to do on d’kindle.
In Deep Water
By Sam Blake
I was lucky enough to do an event with Sam Blake and Catherine Ryan Howard this summer in Waterstone’s Drogheda where I interviewed them both on all things crime writing. I’d already read Little Bones, Sam’s first novel in the Cat Connolly trilogy, an Irish set investigative series following the fiesty Detective Cat, so I had to hot foot it to Sam’s second novel which I hadn’t managed to read yet, considering she was already bringing out her third! I loved In Deep Water, even more than Little Bones. I felt Sam had really perfected Cat Connolly’s voice, and I loved how it had all moved on from the ending of Little Bones, which did leave you hanging. I was gripped by the story line. I also liked how she introduced new characters, how each of her books in the trilogy deal with a different type of ‘modern’ crime. Hopefullly I’ll get to book three before I meet Sam next!
Pain Free Life
By Andrea Hayes
lt’s mad the books that lie on your shelf for months, if not years and by the time you do read them, you think, ah, I see why the world had me wait till now to read this. I attended the launch of Andrea Hayes first book, which you can read about here, and it was a fab night launching a book with a powerful message. I’ve mentioned briefly here before about some health issues I’ve been undergoing and just before I went to France in September I was really struggling to manage my as of yet, undiagnosed fatigue and pain. I turned to this book and I found it brilliant. It’s a really positive, realistic look at what it’s like to live with and manage chronic pain. I could identify with a lot of what Andrea had to say, including burning the candle at both ends as you try to juggle family, work and social life. After France, I was in even more pain, from travelling and carrying bags and it took me about a week to get back to some level of ‘normal’ pain. I’ve been learning to try and pace myself, to rest and start dealing with pain as a probably stable in my life and something I need to take control of, instead of letting it take control of me. As so many people in Ireland live with various conditons, this is a book that should be read by anyone suffering or anyone living with someone suffering. I’m going to buy Andrea’s next book, My Life Goals Journal as I’m determined to get my full life back, which really has been hold for much of this year.
By Clar ni Chonghaile
If you look very closely you’ll see that my name appears on the front of this cover! I was delighted to be asked by Legend Press to read an early copy of this book and the quote I gave has made it above the title. That’s the first time that’s happened to me and I’m chuffed! I love the cover actually and it has a terrific poignancy once you read the novel. It takes us through a number of generations of a family who suffer war and loss and it’s about the long reaching impacts those circumstances have on our main character, Lina Rose, who is writing to the daughter she abandoned as a baby. It took me a while to get into it, but once I was in, I was hooked. There’s beautiful detail and I picked up tons of historical information that was previously unknown to me. I would place it as quite a literary read, but one that is very accessible. You should check this Irish author out.
My Name is Elizabeth Barton
By Elizabeth Strout
I’d heard so much about this book, that I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. I brought it to France with me because it was small and slim and I’m trying to get through as much of my TBR list as possible. The characters, their flaws and their thoughts are extremely well played out in this – it’s almost like a collection of short stories, but if I’m very honest, I didn’t fall in love with the book and was a little disappointed by the ending. Strout has a fantastic talent, there’s no denying that – she writes in that form that we’ve come to know from many American essayists – effortless, saying so much in short, clipped sentences, but for whatever reason, the book overall, did not connect with me that much. It wouldn’t put me off reading any more of her work however, as there is a lot to learn from how she writes and how she portrays her characters. Perhaps, there was a slight feeling of depression though the whole thing, which as I read it, in chronic pain, put me off a little.
Me Before You
By JoJo Moyes
Behind Barkskins, THIS is my next favourite novel I’ve read this year. The original cover, which was a bit flowery, hides a fantastically executed enthralling tale. It’s been a long time since I read a book that completely swept me away like this. I was taken in by both characters, as Lou and Will battle their own demons and come to terms with the relationship that develops between them. It takes a lot for a book to move me to tears and I was sniff sniff sniffing through this. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’d like to, purely to see if it looks the same as it played out in my head! It also addresses a really important issue, which is disability and our treatment of people with disabilities in our society. If you haven’t read it yet, stick it to the top of the list. You WON’T regret it.
By Martina Devlin
And now to my final book I’ve managed to clock up in the last three or four months! I’m on a bit of a mission to try and work my way though fellow Poolbeg Press authors, as I’m keen to support and get to know the writing styles of other authors on the label. I loved the premise of this book, which is about a world run by women. There are definite elements here of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, particularly around the breeding programmes for women and some of the symbolic elements. This book is more plot driven however and I enjoyed exploring what a world might be like if it was run by women – would it be better? Would we still face societal issues of control, power and the organisation of many personalities with their own wants and needs in our communities? Of course we would. This is one of the first ‘fantasty’ type books I’ve read in that it is sent in an utopian future and it took me a bit of time to get into the swing of things and some of the new language Devlin created. I really enjoyed it and I can’t wait to check out her new work which has just been released this month Truth and Dare, Short Stories about Women who shaped Ireland.
So there you have it. Fifteen books I read recently. What’s been on your reading list? I’d love to hear from you.