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3 books for Summer Reading (And One To Avoid)

3 books for Summer Reading (And One To Avoid)

My recent trip to Portugal gave me time to catch up on my reading. A past time I love but don’t indulge in nearly enough. The first three are good reads for a holiday or a book club while the last one should be avoided at all costs.

 

The Woman in the Window

Anna Fox, an agoraphobic who lives alone mixing her pills with alcohol fills her lonely days by spying on her neighbours. While gazing outside her window one night she falls witness to something she shouldn’t have seen. Alone in her beliefs Anna must try prove what happened.

This is hands down my favourite book of the summer. It’s excellent. The brief synopsis above doesn’t do the story justice as there is so much more happening then just the central mystery. While it takes about 100 pages to get into it, once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. The mystery is gripping and full of suspense. While I’m usually good at predicting the direction that stories are going in, I really didn’t see this one moving in the way it does. It’s a page turner, especially the last few chapters which are full of twists and turns. If you liked The Girl on The Train this is written in a similar vein, but ultimately so much better. I’ve read that Amy Adams is set to star in a movie adaption. While I don’t think the movie would possibly do the book justice. It could still be pretty damn good.

Into The Water

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool.

While it’s probably not the best book of all time it was still intriguing enough to hold my attention the entire way through. There’s a lot of characters who otherwise would have been difficult to keep track of but the opening page lists them and the part they will play in the book. I hadn’t come across this method before and while it sounds like reading for dummies, I found it an effective way of keeping track of everyone. I didn’t exactly love the ending but it’s satisfying enough that you won’t regret reading it as has happened with certain other books (looking at you, Hunger Games).

Holding

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama, and yet its inhabitants are troubled: Sergeant P.J. Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; Brid Riordan, a mother of two, hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste. So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As a frustrated P.J. struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his professional life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regrets.

Graham Norton’s debut novel is nothing like you’d expect if you’re a fan of his chat shows. While it maintains a dry humour throughout he doesn’t write for the obvious laughs and there’s a sense of restraint throughout. Basically it’s all very old school Irish. While the central plot is around the mystery of the human remains the real story lies within the array of townspeople and the lives they have found themselves leading. While the main mystery is intriguing I found the various character studies to be what makes this book a standout. In short it’s a quick and easy read that you’ll enjoy.

And one to avoid….

The Couple Next Door

It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors–a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Two words – don’t bother. This is one of the worst books I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading. What astonishes me is that its on multiple bestseller lists I’ve come across – how?! I can only imagine the story of how it ended up on those bestseller lists is likely more interesting then the 300 pages of pure dreck I had to read for my book club. A boring predictable story for the most part – The Couple Next Door serves as a cautionary tale that best seller lists can often be wrong. I actually thought I had guessed how the story would end about 70 pages in but it turns out I had overestimated the writing and it ended up being so much more ridiculous than I could have imagined. With a plot that’s overly complicated and characters far too stupid to believably carry any of it out, this book disappoints all the way through. If I was to describe it in three words they would be; eye-rolling, stupid and frustrating. It also doesn’t help that I could picture that authors smug expression when coming up with the “twists” and thinking that the audience wouldn’t catch on. Think again Shari, think again.

Now take you pick and enjoy

🙂

My Top 3 Irish Shows to Watch

My Top 3 Irish Shows to Watch

While Irish television can be great, I think a lot of you would agree it can also be hit or miss at times.

Greatness has been created on the back of shows like Love/Hate and Father Ted while the obvious mortifications would be Fair City or Deception (I still can’t believe Deception was an actual show, watch the trailer of it for some laughs).

For the longest time I’ve felt the main issue with certain Irish television shows is how serious they tend to take themselves (looking at shows like you Striking Out). They end up boring with the characters feeling difficult to relate to as they’re played by fancy shmancy stage actors with pseudo English accents and a stick up their arse.

Picking the below comedies that have aired in the last year, these are shows that demonstrate that when we get it right how good it can be. It’s not beyond my notice that one thing these shows all have common besides being funny is that none of them have a primary focus on Dublin characters – maybe what we’re missing is a good old fashioned Dublin comedy. Or maybe it’s just that not everyone in Dublin is from Dalkey and therefore it’s difficult to relate to such over the top poshness – a regular middleclass character wouldn’t go amiss in some of these shows.

Take a look at my favourite Irish picks below and see if any of them are for you:

  • Nowhere Fast – Alison Spittle’s comedy sees her star as Angela, a radio journalist who has to return to her midlands hometown after a career ending on air blunder with a politician. She picks up where she left off with her family and two childhood friends and the series highlights her various attempts to get back on top of her career while touching on the lives of those around her. Honestly, I struggled with this at first as I couldn’t stand one of the characters but I convinced myself to stick with it and I’m glad I did. The series consists of six half hour episodes and while I didn’t feel it start to gel until about episode four it still has enough funny moments throughout that you can stay amused and invested in the characters. Standouts of the show include the hapless Brid as well as Angela’s interfering mother Caroline. I’m not sure if this show will be back for a second series but if it does return I do think it could only improve.

 

  • Can’t Cope Won’t Cope – a hilarious and honest comedy that focuses on the adventures of Cork girls Aisling and Danielle attempting adult life in Dublin. This show definitely gives me the nostalgia feels of my mid twenties (there’s actual footage from Coppers so of course it does) and it does gives the most accurate depiction I’ve seen on television of everyday young adult life without being boring. Standouts include Seana Kerslake who is brilliant as the ever relatable mess that is Aisling and Amy Huberman as her nightmare boss (can we just give Amy Huberman her own comedy as it’s where she excels, the woman is hilarious). In lieu of series two starting next week you should catch up on the first series available on Netflix.

 

  • The Young Offenders – this is easily my favourite Irish show on tv right now. A spinoff from the film of the same cast, the series features Jock and Conor in their day to day school life as they face junior cert year and deal with young love, struggles at home and all your other everyday teenage dramas. Every episode is priceless and will have you in stitches but it also full of heart. It’s already been commissioned for a second series and hopefully more beyond that. Standouts include the insane Billy Murphy who lights up the finale episode especially as well as PJ Gallagher who returns as new character Principle Barry Walsh. Conors romance with his daughter Linda is hilariously sweet and will bring most girls (or maybe just me) back to their awkward teenage years of kissing at least one boy who was about a foot smaller than them. If you haven’t seen the series then I urge you to watch the film (available on Netflix) while you wait for it to return. Mark my words you’ll love it.

If you feel I’ve missed any decent shows worth watching please feel free to sound off in the comments.

Enjoy 🙂

Beat The January Blues

Beat The January Blues

“New Year, New Me”

Right? Wrong. If the last few weeks have thought me anything it’s that when under duress to change my bad habits, I panic and get even lazier. Instead of exercising more I’ve done less – an accomplishment I didn’t think possible given that since the wedding I’ve actually merged with the couch. All great intentions for new blog posts went out the window and instead I found myself embracing the SIMS 4 (I’ve an on/off love for the Sims that my husband exposed to everyone at our wedding – now that it’s out there I feel freer somehow, like I can really be myself – faux pas and all).

This year my new year’s goal was easy – become more organised. It seemed simple. Basically not much required you’d think. But no, I wanted to get organised using a Pippa Planner. Now, anyone who follows Pippa products will know that these tend to be on the higher priced spectrum of novelty items whereas January is by all means the stingiest month of the year. People will ask me why I didn’t just request one for Christmas. It certainly would have made sense but for some reason I couldn’t justify asking someone to pay out the 45 yoyos for it. I wanted to go all independent working woman and purchase it for myself… a bit of a conundrum given that when it came time for me to buy it for myself I also couldn’t justify spending it. At least not this month. I don’t know about everyone else but for me, most of January is spent scrounging by on whatever change I can locate from in between couch cushions. Treating myself to a fancy planner just wasn’t on the agenda… even if it would help me to achieve my resolution. 

The Culprit – Pippa’s Planner

And see that’s what threw me; if I didn’t have the Pippa planner then I couldn’t sort my life out. The logical solution would have been to buy a cheaper planner or you know, just use my iPhone like everyone else but nope, I wanted that specific planner so instead of getting organised, I decided to just boycott January completely.

And you know what? It’s been fabulous.

For one I’m free of the guilt which means that I can happily embrace January for what it is.. Crap. January is crap. I’ve always thought this but usually I’d be too busy failing miserably at my New Years resolutions to think about why. Doing nothing this month allowed me to break it down.

You’ve your first week which is full of hope and certainty that this year will be different. Your New Year’s resolution will actually take off and you’ll become a better you. I call this stage denial… or blind optimism. Once you head into week two you’ll realise that you’re actually too broke to become the better you. Be it new gym gear, expensive “clean” food (usually gluten free) you just can’t afford it. Who wants to start being the New You without New Stuff, you’ll need to look the part damn it. I call this stage Easy Acceptance (you’re basically looking for any excuse to stop anyway). Roll around the week three and you’ll have given up completely which makes you feel like a failure. Throw in the dark mornings and a funeral (because there’s always a funeral in January!) and basically it’s just a big load of meh. We’ll just call this the Worst Week. Then finally, like a light at the end of the tunnel week four will hit and a ray of hope will glimmer as you approach payday.

It really is a roller-coaster of emotions. One that can easily be avoided.

Take February as the new January. It’s a shorter month, sounds prettier and you can apply all the hallmarks of January but with less debt and brighter evenings (not by much but christ, it’s dark by 4 at the moment).

Of course I’m not saying everyone should do this. There’s plenty of folk out there who I’m sure are all mentally stronger than moi. But for those who aren’t, don’t feel guilty. Enjoy the slump. Do nothing. Watch TV. Play silly computer games. Lie on the couch. Order takeaways. There’s always next month.

Now after reading back all of the above I feel the need to put a disclaimer on this that I’m not completely locked away. I do have a job that ensures I have to leave the confines of my home at least daily. I’m just moreso happy to let that be it for January. I’ve no doubt that February will be the making of me. I’ve already signed up to Pilates, joined a running club and purchased some gluten free porridge. I’ll be a new woman, a fitter and healthier version of myself. The imprint of my ass in the couch might finally be lifted. Even if it if it doesn’t take off I’m not going to dwell on it. No point in being too hard on myself as I can always try again the following month.

At the very least I’ll at least make sure my Sims exercise.

 

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