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review 2018-08-12 14:01
Ireland the Best
Ireland the Best - Sally McKenna,John McKenna

by Sally McKenna, John McKenna

 

This is an amazingly comprehensive resource for travel to Ireland. The authors have traveled extensively and actually tried the restaurants and hotels and ferreted out both popular tourist attractions and lesser known things to do.

 

After a general information section are chapters on different regions that give a lot of information on hotels, restaurants and things to see and do as well as any special festivals to watch out for. Dublin takes a lot of space, as you might expect, but I didn't expect to think of Dublin as a place where I would look for great Mexican food! Everything from a psychedelic van with Mexican street food to an Aztec restaurant can be found. Other ethnic restaurants are also separated by categories.

 

The sections that follow cover Belfast, Cork, Galway and then some of the less population dense areas in various parts of the country. After that, something new happens. I've never seen a book organised this way before but I can see how it works!

 

There's a section on specific types of restaurants you might look for, like vegetarian or tea rooms. Then a section on historical places to visit, followed by outdoor places and activities and strolls, walks and hikes. By the time you get to section 13, it's pointing out where to look for specific interests that travelers might have, like linen, crystal or Aran sweaters. Followed by information on what you'll find to do on the outer islands.

 

There's an extensive index and codes to finding things on the maps in the back of the book. Unfortunately the maps are not included in my advance readers copy so I can't comment on how easy they are to follow!

 

I can say, though, that I'll be referring to this book any time I plan a trip to Ireland. It really is a treasure trove of information!

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review 2018-07-24 04:30
THE LIBRARY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
The Library at the Edge of the World - Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Hanna left her cheating husband and moved back to Ireland with her daughter to her mother's home.  She begins to rebuild her life but her ability to trust and fit in are sorely lacking.  The council is deciding where to put their budget money and Hanna brings together the community together to defeat the council's plan where the taxpayers money for the Finfarran Peninsula.
 
I liked Hanna.  I could feel what she felt.  I was rooting her on as she takes on the council.  The people around her are fun.  Her ex, Malcolm, is a jerk.  Jazz, her daughter, needs to grow up.  Her mother is tough.  Conor and Fury are interesting and probably her best friends although she does not realize it.  The story was good.  I felt like I was there in Ireland.  I look forward to the next book.
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review 2018-07-02 03:44
Dread Nation: Started off loving it... ended up only liking it.
Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

I enjoyed and admired a lot of things about Dread Nation, but for some reason it didn't gel into a book that I would rave about the way all the positive professional reviews do. I found myself getting sidetracked with other books until I finally made up my mind to finish it, and when I did, I found the ending a little lacking. Strengths of the book include its core premise, backstory, setting, world-building, and protagonist. A Reconstruction-era, zombie-fighting, sickle-wielding WOC and her friends from combat school is an idea that I haven't seen before in any medium, and I was on board after the first few pages. Jane is fiery and clever and doesn't fit into the subservient little role that polite society wants ("society" being a long parade of authority figures). The antagonists are pretty convincing evil racists, who long for the "good old days" of slavery that are still in living memory and blaming the zombies on man's "mistake," the Civil War and emancipation. The humans are worse than the shamblers, and I'm still fine with that as a theme.

But when I got to the ending, it felt a little flat. Let me see if I can critique this without spoilers. The big emotional punch is a revelation about backstory. That's nice to tie together the ongoing correspondence we see that begins every chapter, but I feel like it's got to break some kind of writing rule. Why? I cared about what Jane was going to do in the present *because* of her backstory a lot more than new information about something she did long ago. On top of that, the protagonists get out of the mess they've been getting into in the last third of the book pretty easily, and within a few pages, shoop, there's setup for a sequel. I realize pretty much every genre fiction book these days sells with franchises in mind, no shame there, but I felt like it came at the expense of a satisfying climax. I might be interested in sequels, but unfortunately, it's a "might" for me instead of a "hoo-rah, yes." I hope the narratives of the series improve with the author's skill, because she's definitely got some, and I want to see where these characters and their world go. So... 3 out of 5.

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review 2018-06-24 21:58
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Lying in Wait - Liz Nugent

This takes place primarily in the 1980s, in Ireland. On the surface, Lydia, her husband Andrew, and her son Laurence appear to have a perfect life. The whole family lives in Lydia's family home, a beautiful mansion. Lydia is a stay-at-home mom who is devoted (overly so) to her son, and Andrew is a respected judge.

This happy life is a facade. Andrew and Lydia hired Annie, a prostitute, to help them with a problem, and when Annie tried to blackmail Andrew he choked her and Lydia finished her off. Lydia proposed that they bury Annie in their garden, a perfectly safe spot since of course they'd never sell off her family home. Unfortunately, the family also has money problems, brought on by Andrew placing his trust in the wrong accountant. Cracks are beginning to appear in their pretty little life, and those cracks widen when Laurence sees news reports about Annie and begins to suspect that his father had something to do with her disappearance.

I picked up an ARC of this during a recent conference. Although it's been out since 2016, it looks like it was released in hardcover earlier this month.

I read this hoping for an exciting and tense thriller. What I got was sometimes achingly slow pacing, characters I didn't care much about, and boredom. I thought this would be about Lydia and Andrew's increasingly futile efforts to hide their part in Annie's murder. I suppose there was a little bit of that, but the story mostly turned out to be about Lydia and her deeply unhealthy attachment to her son (no incest, but there were a couple moments when I worried that that was where Nugent was going with all of this). Everyone's secrets poisoned everything around them, and the ending was just depressing.

There is no justice and goodness to be found here.

(spoiler show)


The book alternated between chapters from Lydia, Laurence, and Karen's POVs. Karen was Annie's sister, and probably the most sympathetic of the book's more prominent characters. Although I disliked her actions where Bridget was concerned, I wanted things to work out well for her.

Too bad this wasn't that kind of story.

(spoiler show)


I felt some sympathy for Laurence, who was clearly being suffocated by his mother, but that sympathy eventually evaporated. He was more like his father than his mother - he actually had a bit of a conscience, but it didn't stop him from doing horrible things and then finding ways to rationalize most of it later. I completely gave up on him when I got to the chapter from his POV about the first time he met Karen. This took place a lot later than the publisher's description led me to believe it would, by the way.

The bulk of the book was pretty boring. Despite the fact that Andrew made several enormous mistakes, he and Lydia didn't have to work nearly as hard to hide their tracks as I'd have expected. As time passed (the story took place over the course of about 6 years, I think), it seemed less and less likely that the mystery of Annie's disappearance would ever be solved. The story finally became more tense and interesting near the end, as everyone's lies started to unravel. Unfortunately, the ending was a disappointment.

I'll end this with a warning for readers for whom weight and weight loss in fiction are an issue. At the start of the book, Laurence is fat and bullied because of his weight. Throughout the rest of the story his weigh yo-yos. The descriptions of his weight loss bothered me - he struggled with a relentless appetite, but that appetite had a tendency to magically disappear after he started dieting, and deciding to diet also magically gave him the energy and ability to exercise.

All of this was actually addressed later on in the story, but it took a while, and until then readers had to put up with the implication that all Laurence needed to do to lose weight was exert a bit of willpower.

(spoiler show)

There were also lots of mentions of Laurence feeling repulsed by his own weight and of Laurence worrying that the women he was with were repulsed by his weight.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-06-17 23:58
Patrick: Son of Ireland
Patrick: Son of Ireland - Stephen R. Lawhead

I began this book appropriately on St. Patrick's Day and by the following day was almost half done. This is much the most interesting and readable book I've read so far by Lawhead. (Right now, I am reading Merlin and that would be a close second so far).

 

Over the bare bones of what is actually known about Ireland's patron saint, Lawhead spreads a fully embodied coat of flesh, told in the first person, from which comes its ease of reading and liking the future saint. The Roman-British Succat goes by several names throughout his life; only the last is the one he is known by: Patricius. After Irish raiders capture him, he first demands to be ransomed back to his family. Unfortunately no one understands his Latin, and he does not speak Irish. He becomes a slave instead, a sheepherder and briefly a stable boy. He abandons his Christian faith after God does not answer his plea bargain for rescue. Or at least He does not answer in the way Succat wishes. Over time, he learns the Irish tongue, makes three unsuccessful escape attempts, and has his life saved more than once by a druid. He takes a lover who he knows he will abandon once he makes yet another try at escape. In the meantime, he serves the druids and asks for training in their ways. This is not because becoming one interests him, but he sees it as a way to escape back home.

 

But is there really a home for him after all these years except in the God he has rejected, but Who has not rejected him?

 

After a stint in the Roman army, Succat works toward becoming a senator. But tragedy strikes and only after despair crushes him, does he offer himself back to God. He hears a call to return to Ireland, where he is still considered an escaped slave, but where he realizes his true freedom lies.

 

This story shows God can use any sinner for His greater glory and to bring more souls to Him. God bless St. Patrick!

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