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April 17
Papa Goose by Michael Quetting

papa goose
 


An enchanting account of the rearing of baby goslings from before their hatching until they reach maturity. It gives the humane side of science in seeking to gain a better understanding of the natural world. The 7 goslings are all such individual characters with their own personalities and behaviours.  A research project with a heart.

Delightful.

Submitted by Sheila

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April 15
Dangerous Lady by Martina Cole

dangerous lady
 

This was Martina Cole’s first novel, written when she was in her 20’s 

Dangerous Lady  is a “rattling good read” the reader is drawn into a , a crime saga, dealing as it does with the Ryan’s, an East End criminal family, over a period of thirty years.

It has a fascinating plot,  plenty of twists and turns. Grinding poverty leading to protection rackets, grubby London clubs, gold bullion robberies, violent characters, brutal killings and a most determined and ruthless woman who might never have turned to crime had it not been for sad chance. This was a gory very earthy plot quite unsettling when it came to the amount of corruption she portrayed in the book. But we felt she had lots of strong characters well developed, we also felt a reluctant empathy for the Ryan family. Should you be cheering for the baddies?   Our group would recommend this book and we will read other Martina Cole’s.

Submitted by Donaghadee Reading Group

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April 11
The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

the vintage teacup club.
 

Lovely Story , Lovely Characters.

Three women want to buy a particular Victorian tea set from a car boot sale, but instead of 2 of them walking away disappointed, they agree on a solution that benefits them all.

The story opens a window to each of their lives and it’s not long before the women form a bond not only with each other but also with the reader. ( I loved all three of them ).

Alison, Jenny and Maggie were all such different and engaging characters and their stories were so absorbing that time just flew past when I was reading this.

I liked the way Vanessa Greene brought in the peripheral characters like Anna , Chloe and Alison’s daughters and of course the ladies important other halves.

The book had a charm about it that could almost certainly be real and I wonder whether it was !

Absolutely loved this book, friendships, Teacups and Weddings what more could you want?

Submitted by Lisa

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April 11
Lullaby by Leila Slimani

lullaby
Slimani’s debut novel won the prestigious France’s Prix Goncourt. It’s written in a calm, matter of fact controlled way.

The novel begins telling us that a nanny in Paris murdered her two charges a little boy and girl. The parents Myriam and Paul a middle class couple, live with their children Mila and Adam in the desirable 10th arrondissement district of Paris.

They decide to hire a nanny so that Myriam can return to her profession as a lawyer. Her anxiety about her decision, the emotional weight that only she seems to carry, her snobbery about not hiring a woman from a North African country similar as her own are gleaned in a few sentences.

They choose Louise a woman in her forties, who seems immature, almost girlish. She was extremely well kept, had good references, and got on very well with the children. She made elaborate meals and kept the place immaculate, Myriam of course couldn’t cook.

The couple got on with their careers, putting their trust in Louise who had complete control over the household.

This story is about why their nanny Louise killed the children.

This is an extremely readable book, I read it in two days.

Submitted by Teresa

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April 11
Tina Turner: My Love Story

Tina Turner - My Love Story.
 

Only Tina can tell her story and she discusses her life without restraint. She has overcome some of life’s most difficult hurdles.

She discusses her first meeting and then marriage to Ike Turner.  Tina tells of the degrading behaviour she endured with Ike Turner which led to the eventual need to remove herself from his violent physical and sexual abuse towards her and also of his drug abuse. Tina’s honest account of the struggles she endured with Ike Turner, her unloving relationship with her mother and ensuing health issues that brought her close to death and of the premature death of her son. It is also very much a love story. A love she shares with her second husband Erwin Bach. A love that has grown over the latter years of Tina’s new life chapter. A love that is so profound that Erwin gave Tina one of his kidneys when hers were failing .Tina and Erwin currently live in Switzerland.

Tina Turner is one of the best-selling artists of all time.

Tina Turner has sold 200 million records, won 11 Grammy Awards. Her live shows have been seen by millions, with more concert tickets sold than any other solo performer in music history. 

Submitted by Briege

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April 11
The Dry by Jane Harper

the dry
 

A multiple killing takes Aaron Falk back to his hometown of Kiewarra, a small town in the Australian outback, and into a past he had left behind twenty years earlier.  His childhood friend, Luke Hadler, apparently shot his wife and young son, sparing his baby daughter, before turning the shotgun on himself.  Falk goes back to attend the funerals summoned by a terse note from Luke’s father – Luke lied, you lied – referring to events in the past.  Falk plans to stay for the shortest possible time before returning to Melbourne and his job as a policeman investigating financial fraud.  He stays on at the request of the local policeman, Raco, to help him probe further into the killings.  

Falk’s presence stirs up memories of an earlier death, of another school friend, Ellie Deacon, who had been found drowned in the river, at a time when there had been water,  her pockets weighted down with stones.  The townsfolk were, and remain, convinced that Falk had been implicated in her death.  There has been no rain in the area for 2 years and in the dry heat temperatures and tensions are running high.  Hostility towards Falk is open and takes ugly forms.  One of the few friendly faces is another friend from the old days, Gretchen, who, with Falk and the two dead childhood friends, had been a foursome.  She has stayed on in the town and perhaps has her own secrets.   The narrative switches between the present and the past, as Falk tries to make sense of the recent killings as well as the earlier drowning.  In the tinder dry landscape, a spark is all that is needed to set the place alight. The Dry is an assured debut that keeps the reader in thrall as Falk searches for the truth behind the deaths.  

Jane Harper, a journalist for many years, learnt her craft at a creative writing course.  Readers who would like to try their hand at writing crime fiction should lose no time in seeking out a  writing course to enrol on.

Submitted by Vidya

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April 08
The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson

the sealwoman's gift
 

This novel is based on a true event when, in the mid-17th century, a Turkish fleet flying under Danish flags raids the small Icelandic island community of Heimat, slaughtering many of the inhabitants and abducting 250  to be sold as slaves.

The main character, Asta, is the pregnant second wife of Olafur, a much older priest. Asta gives birth to her youngest child, Jon, during the journey to Algiers. There, the family is split apart, and Asta spends nearly ten years as slave to a Muslim master. During this time, she struggles to hold on to her Christian faith and to reunite with her children and friends. She finds solace in the Icelandic sagas that she loves and also uses them to entertain her master. When Asta learns that her husband (who she had presumed was dead) has finally persuaded the Danish king to ransom the some of the captives, she faces a decision that will be devastating, no matter what choice she makes. She is forced to reassess her life, her priorities, and her values. The group decided that

Although the character of Asta is mainly fictitious, her story reads true as it is based on several other accounts. We loved the way that Asta took solace in the Icelandic Sagas and we empathised with her in the difficult choices she had to make during and after captivity.  The characters-major and minor-were well painted and very well developed.

Sally Magnusson has a real gift for words and we really enjoyed this book. 

Submitted by Donaghadee Reading Group

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April 08
The Devil I Know by Claire Kilroy

the devil i know
 

In The Devil I Know, Claire Kilroy recreates the hubris which drove the Celtic Tiger and the subsequent fallout when the bubble burst during the global financial crisis of 2007- 2008. 

The novel is structured around Tristram St Lawrence’s evidence to a commission that is meeting in 2016 to investigate why Ireland’s economy had fallen off a proverbial cliff. Tristram presents his evidence in a very informal manner, which would probably have been curtailed by most commissions, but the technique provides readers with detailed insights into how uninformed exuberance about unsustainable property prices can lead to financial disaster.

After a number of years abroad, Tristram had returned to Ireland in 2006 when he had a chance meeting with Dessie Hickey, a bully from his time at Junior School. Tristram ends up speculating heavily in a property investment with Hickey. All the time Tristram is driven on by M. Deauville, even though they have never met and only communicate by phone. To remain close to his new business venture, Tristram moves back into Howth Castle to live with his elderly father, the Earl of Howth. The ensuing storylines deal with Tristram’s continuing battle with alcoholism, his prickly relationship with Hickey and how they overstretched themselves financially. The novel risks descending into fantasy when Tristram’s evidence to the commission is concluding but Kilroy’s skill as an author ensures events remain just this side of reality.

The Devil I Know encapsulates the idiom “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”, often with elements of black comedy. 

Submitted by David

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April 08
Becoming by Michelle Obama

becoming
 

Having heard so much about this memoir, I thought, since it was the start of a new year, I would step outside my fiction comfort zone and read something different; I am so glad I did.

Charting the course of Michelle Robinson's life; growing up with her family in Chicago, her drive and ambition throughout her education to prove herself, gaining her Ivy League education, following her career in corporate law and her quest to find fulfilment in her job. Then meeting and marrying Barack Obama followed by the trajectory her life and career took as he embarked on his political career, ultimately culminating in Michelle Obama becoming the First Lady of the US. This book is essentially about how Mrs Obama has adjusted to becoming a new Michelle as each chapter of her life unfolds.

I found it refreshing to hear that Michelle Obama faces the same problems, self-doubt and every day issues that a lot of us go through. She beautifully lays bare the difficulties and guilt that working mothers constantly face, and the struggles and questions that parents are constantly faced with bringing up their children. While also highlighting the importance of family and working hard throughout life.

This is a frank and honest account of a normal life that became extraordinary. It is eloquent and well written, filled with introspective and heartfelt details as well as some of the more seemingly banal elements of everyday life that Michelle manages to add a little something extra to. 

Submitted by Oonagh

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April 08
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

stardust
 

Written by the legendary author, Neil Gaiman, Stardust is a new, modern interpretation on the fairy tales that have influenced people for generations. It does not take place in the modern world, but like many fairy tales the lessons and morals it conveys are increasingly important in the world today.

It begins with Dunstan Thorn going to a magical fair, held every nine years in his hometown of Wall, wherein he meets a mysterious girl who becomes the mother of his child, naming him Tristran. When Tristran grows up, he falls in love with Victoria and pledges to acquire a fallen star called Yvaine, to gain her love. Alongside the plot, one of the antagonists called Septimus is working to become the Stormlord, and witches scheming for Yvaine's heart. Tristran matures greatly, becomes a hero and he and Yvaine fall in true love. In essence, it is both a coming of age tale and a true fairy tale mixed into one fluid story.

Stardust's greatest strength is the fact that it does not bloat the narrative with unnecessary sideplots. The focus is firmly on Tristran's journey to bring Yvaine to Victoria, and only two other important plots- Septimus' journey and the witches- entwine into it by the end of the novel. This enhances the development of the characters and their experiences, allowing no boredom.

Neil Gaiman's talent in storycrafting ensures that all the characters are truly interesting- each of them has their own unique characteristics and traits, such as Yvaine being a sentient star, or Tristran having an abnormal sense of direction while inside the supernatural realm of Faerie.

All in all, Stardust is a phenomenal book that does everything it sets out to do well, and as such is a worthy read.

Submitted by Joshua

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