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Its Ireland Reads Day; will you squeeze in a read?

It's Ireland Reads Day! Time to pick up a book!

Libraries Ireland’s campaign centres around ‘National Day of Reading’ on Thursday February 25th.  The ‘Ireland Reads’ campaign is asking everyone to ‘squeeze in a read’ before that date and providing lots of information and resources to help you do that. By teaming up with lots of publishers, booksellers, authors and others for the campaign, they launched their website www.irelandreads.ie to reach out to people and get the nation reading!

The website allows you to pledge to read a certain amount on the 25th and has so far had 477,100 minutes pledged! The challenge is open to all ages and stages of reading, with a personalised book recommendation suited to a person’s interests and the time they have available. There are more than 800 recommendations from librarians all around the country in the database, so you know it’s only the best books being put forward.

Not only do they provide a recommendation, but they make every resource to get your hands on the book available in-site. With links to your local library and local bookstore that supplies the book, you can start reading right away! Although libraries are not currently open for browsing or borrowing due to Covid restrictions, library members can use the library’s Borrowbox service online and choose from more than 44,000 eBooks and 33,000 eAudiobooks.

If you’re not already a member or you haven’t yet used these services, find out how to join and start using online services right now.

In honour of Ireland Reads Day, we've picked a few of our own reccomendations from the last year and some new releases, both from Irish writers and voices from abroad to inspire you to squeeze in a read!

‘Home Stretch’ by Graham Norton (Coronet)

It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for the wedding of two of its young inhabitants. They're barely adults, not so long out of school and still part of the same set of friends they've grown up with.  As the friends reunite before the wedding, there is a car accident. Three survive the crash but three are killed. And the reverberations are felt throughout the small town.

Connor, the young driver of the car, lives. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame, and so he leaves the only place he knows for another life in New York.

 The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forge a new life. But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to meet his past.

'The Art of Falling' by Danielle McLaughlin (John Murray)

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Nessa McCormack’s marriage is coming back together again after her husband’s affair. She is excited to be in charge of a retrospective art exhibit for one of Ireland’s most beloved and enigmatic artists, the late sculptor Robert Locke. But the arrival of two outsiders imperils both her personal and professional worlds: a chance encounter with an old friend threatens to expose a betrayal Nessa thought she had long put behind her, and at work, an odd woman comes forward claiming to be the true creator of Robert Locke’s most famous work, The Chalk Sculpture.

As Nessa finds the past intruding on the present, she must decide whether she can continue to live a lie – or whether she’s ready to face the consequences once everything is out in the open. In this gripping debut, Danielle McLaughlin reveals profound truths about love, power, and the secrets that rule us.

‘Ghosts’ by Dolly Alderton (Penguin)

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he's going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn't have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone's moving to the suburbs. There's no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who's caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

Dolly Alderton's debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.

'Madam' by Phoebe Wynne (Quercus)

Madam


For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’.

Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be.

But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.

‘After the Silence’ by Louise O’Neill (Riverrun)

On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella's wild party at their big house, a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland.

When morning broke Nessa Crowley's lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.

The killer couldn't have escaped Inisrun, but no-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever. Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella's carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry's guilt and Keelin's complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.

'The Prophets' by Robert Jones Jr (Hachette)

The Prophets

The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love – away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs – where they can be alone together.

But, Amos – a fellow slave – has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them.

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Tramp Press)

‘When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries.'

A true original, this stunning prose debut by Doireann Ní Ghríofa weaves two stories together. In the 1700s, an Irish noblewoman, on discovering her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem that reaches across the centuries to another poet. In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy in her own life. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with finding out the rest of the story.

Doireann Ní Ghríofa has sculpted a fluid hybrid of essay and autofiction to explore Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, famously referred to by Peter Levi as ‘the greatest poem written in either Ireland or Britain during the eighteenth century.’

A devastating and timeless tale about finding your voice by freeing another’s.

'Everything is Beautiful' by Eleanor Ray (Hachette)

Everything is Beautiful: the most uplifting, heartwarming read of 2021

When Amy Ashton’s world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.

Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.

Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?

Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places

‘Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy’ by Ben Macintyre (Crown Publishing Group)

The true story behind the Cold War’s most intrepid female spy.

In 1942, in a quiet village in the leafy English Cotswolds, a thin, elegant woman lived in a small cottage. Ursula Burton was friendly but reserved, and spoke English with a slight foreign accent. By all accounts, she seemed to be living a simple, unassuming life.

They didn’t know that she was a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer. Behind the facade of her picturesque life, Burton was a dedicated Communist, a Soviet colonel, and a veteran agent, gathering the scientific secrets that would enable the Soviet Union to build the bomb.

This true-life spy story is about a woman who, over the course of her career, was hunted by the Chinese, the Japanese, the Nazis, MI5, MI6, and the FBI—and she evaded them all.

Ben Macintyre has written a history of a legendary secret agent, a woman who influenced the course of the Cold War and helped plunge the world into a decades-long standoff between nuclear superpowers.

'Love Letters of Kings and Queens' by Daniel Smith (Hachette)

Love Letters of Kings and Queens

From Henry VIII’s lovelorn notes to Anne Boleyn and George IV’s impassioned notes to his secret wife, to Queen Victoria’s tender letters to Prince Albert and Edward VIII’s extraordinary correspondence with Wallis Simpson – these letters depict romantic love from its budding passion to the comfort and understanding of a long union (and occasionally beyond to resentment and recrimination), all set against the background of great affairs of state, wars and the strictures of royal duty.

Here is a chance to glimpse behind the pomp and ceremony, the carefully curated images of royal splendour and decorum, to see the passions, hopes, jealousies and loneliness of kings and queens throughout history. By turns tender, moving, heartfelt and warm (and sporadically scandalous and outrageous too), these are the private messages between people in love. Yet they are also correspondence between the rulers of nations, whose actions (and passions) changed the course of history, for good and bad.

This morning I received your dear, dear letter of the 21st. How happy do you make me with your love! Oh! my Angel Albert, I am quite enchanted with it! I do not deserve such love! Never, never did I think I could be loved so much. Queen Victoria to Prince Albert (28 November 1839)

'Grown Ups' - Marian Keyes (Penguin)

Grown Ups Book Cover

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers, Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much…

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets. In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

‘Mad and Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency’ by Bea Koch (Grand Central Publishing)

Discover a feminist pop history that looks beyond Jane Austen to highlight the Regency women who succeeded on their own terms and were largely lost to history — until now.

The popular image of the Regency continues to be mythologized by the hundreds of romance novels focusing on wealthy, white, Christian members of the upper classes.

But there are hundreds of fascinating women who don't fit history books limited perception of what was historically accurate for early 19th century England. Women like Dido Elizabeth Belle, whose mother was a slave but was raised by her white father's family in England, Caroline Herschel, who acted as her brother's assistant as he hunted the heavens for comets, and ended up discovering eight on her own and Anne Lister, who lived on her own terms with her common-law wife at Shibden Hall.

In Mad and Bad, we look beyond popular perception of the Regency into the even more vibrant, diverse, and fascinating historical truth.

‘Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here's the Science: A scientist's guide to the biggest challenges facing our species today’ by Luke O'Neill (Gill)

In his fascinating and thought-provoking new book, Professor Luke O'Neill, one of the leading voices of authority during the COVID-19 pandemic, grapples with life's biggest questions and tells us what science has to say about them:

Do we have control over our lives?

Must we vaccinate our children?

Are men and women's brains different?

Will we destroy the planet?

Covering topics from global pandemics to gender, addiction to euthanasia, Luke's trademark easy wit and clever pop-culture references deconstruct the science to make complex questions accessible. ‘Never Mind the B#ll*ocks’ is a celebration of science and hard facts in a time of fake news and sometimes unhelpful groupthink.

'Girl A' by Abigail Dean (Harper Collins)

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. 

Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

‘Here's the Story: A Memoir’ by Mary McAleese (Penguin)

When a young Mary McAleese told a priest that she planned to become a lawyer, the priest dismissed the idea: she knew no one in the law, and she was female.

The reality of what she went on to achieve – despite obstacles like the sectarian attack that forced her family to flee their home – is even more improbable.

In this luminous memoir, Mary McAleese traces that astonishing arc: from the tight streets of north Belfast, to a professorship in Dublin while still in her twenties, behind-the-scenes work on the peace process, and two triumphant terms as President of Ireland. She writes of prime ministers, popes and royalty with the same easy candour and intimacy with which she describes her childhood.

Here's the Story is an extraordinarily intimate memoir by one of the most remarkable public figures of our time.

Happy reading!

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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