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Derek Landy book signing in Limerick

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I brought Bláthnaid to Limerick last weekend to have her copy of ‘Skulduggery Pleasant – Last Stand of Dead Men’ signed by the author, Derek Landy.

I *had* to bring her. When she’d heard the book had been released she was into Easons in Clonmel as fast as I could drive her there (without breaking any speed limits of course).  The books had only been delivered that day and she had to wait while a box was opened especially for her.

That’s dedication, surely.

So off to Limerick we went last Sunday and queued for an hour to meet Derek and to get Bláthnaid’s book signed, similar to the way we’d queued in Cork last year.

Bláthnaid

The last time Bláthnaid met Derek she didn’t have any questions for him as she was so nervous.  This time when asked if she had any questions she came out with ‘Why?’

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Reading – Childhood Favourites

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In keeping with the theme of books (from my last blog post), this week the focus is on getting kids to read more.  When so many children are going practically square-eyed from staring at computer monitors, iPads and T.V. screens, there’s a real need to spend time reading to younger ones, or planning regular trips to either the library or local bookshop.

I was reminded, last night, of how much reading I used to do in my younger years, by the #keepthekidsreading campaign being promoted on Twitter by @SummerBuzz, a Twitter account from Irish Libraries. My father was an avid reader – still is – and my aunt (on his side) would always buy us books for birthdays and Christmas.

Enid Blyton’s books were a favourite of mine. I’d say they formed 90% of my little library from the time I was about seven until I’d reached my mid-teens. And, although I’d an English teacher who criticised the long sentence structure, I do believe that they were (and are) a great asset in developing a child’s imagination.  I remember, to this day, being unable to pass a cave on a beach without having a good look around inside for treasure, and feeling the urge to investigate wooden panels in any room that would happen to have them, in case a secret passage way would be hidden somewhere.

Back then we used to trade our books in The Banba Bookshop (I think it was in Rathmines). We’d spend ages in there picking books out. If we traded for cash we’d get a third of the price back, depending on the condition/age of the book. If we swapped we’d get half the value of our books, so we nearly always swapped.

I still have a few of my childhood favourites. I was doing a clear out yesterday of the book cabinets, and still couldn’t find it in my heart to bring the books (below) to the charity shop. They’re third hand now as I’ve read them, and my daughter has read them too.

Do you still have books from your childhood days? Which ones have become emotionally attached to?  Have your children read them too?

Books

 

 

 

 

 

Anne of Green Gables – Review

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Book cover

Last month’s Blogger’s Book Club choice was Anne of Green Gables chosen by Jennifer Svajlenko Smith.  I was happy to see this suggested as, with exams and projects and other stuff going on, I didn’t want to be getting into any heavy reading.

It’s a book that I feel is geared towards young teenage girls.  It’s a lovely, easy read, and full of the most fabulous descriptions of characters and landscapes.  I don’t know how it escaped my attention when I was younger as it’s exactly the sort of book I would have loved.

Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert (brother and sister) of Green Gables make the decision to adopt a boy who will help them with the work around their farm.  They are, therefore, surprised when Anne (with an ‘e’) Shirley is sent to them.  Anne is a talkative little girl whose imagination and outspoken nature have a habit of getting her into trouble. Matthew, a shy, retiring sort, warms to her instantly.  Marilla, who is more reserved, initially attempts to send Anne back but has a change of heart.

Anne’s red hair and freckles are the bane of her life and she laments them often, but when others pass comment she flares up, resulting in her having to apologise for her actions.  When she reacts to Mrs. Lynde’s comments on her appearance she does so by insulting her and is then made to stay in her room by Marilla until she apologises.  When eventually she apologises she does it so dramatically that Marilla is astonished by how Anne relishes the drama.

Anne attends the local school, where she enters into academic competition with Gilbert Blythe after he teases her over her hair and calls her ‘carrots’.  She desires to engage with ‘kindred spirits’ and finds one of these in Diana who becomes her ‘bosom friend’.

As Anne matures, Marilla begins to realise how much she means to her, and Anne, in turn, realises how important Green Gables has become in her life.  The book culminates in Anne having to make a life changing decision in relation to her future and that of Green Gables.  It takes an unexpected, romantic twist at the end that hooks the reader into wanting to read more. Luckily we can find out what happens next in the rest of the series – eight books in total.

Personally I feel I can’t stop at reading just the first one, and look forward to reading the rest of them very soon.

 

 

Derek Landy at Easons, Cork

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Apparently today was the best day EVER according to Bláthnaid.   She got to meet her favourite author, Derek Landy, at Easons in Cork today.

Bláthnaid is a big fan of the Skulduggery Pleasant books that Derek Landy writes. So much so that she dressed up as him last Hallowe’en…..as Skulduggery, not as Derek Landy….

Skulduggery Halloween

Skulduggery Halloween (Photo courtesy of Natalia)

Ally did her makeup/face paint, which I thought was really well done.

This is the real Skulduggery from the Skulduggery Pleasant website. Continue reading

Are you happy? Play the ‘Glad Game’.

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Thought for today, courtesy of  www.yourlifeyourway.net.

It made me think.

What about the things you can’t change?  Because there are lots of things that we don’t have the ability to change.

And then I remembered the ‘Glad Game’.

Ok….before you hit the ‘x’ button and go running for a bucket, first read this piece that I found over on www.care2.com, because I couldn’t put it any better than this lady, Annie B.Bond has.

The very name “Pollyanna” has come to mean someone who is
eternally upbeat and optimistic, who spreads positivity and
good will wherever she goes. Before you decide that such
unremittingly cheerful behavior is truly nauseating and deserves
a good smack, think of this: people who take time every day to
count their blessings are truly happier (and live longer) than
those who don’t.

So spread a little good cheer in the New Year with this great game that helps you to focus on the glad, not the bad. Your heart–and everyone who knows you–will be grateful. It only takes a minute.

You can play this game when you’re driving in your car, or taking a walk, or sitting at your computer–pretty much under any circumstances.

Start small: just think of ONE THING that you’re glad for. Maybe it’s the taste of the special coffee that Aunt Ruth from Winnetka sent you for Christmas. Maybe it’s the fact that the holidays are over. Perhaps you have a new love in your life, or an interesting new project to work on. Or you could be glad for your family, or your dog or cat. Really think about whatever it is for a moment. Allow yourself to smile over it. Feel your heart open and glow with gratitude for whatever it is.

That’s it. But tomorrow, try thinking of two things you’re really, truly glad for. Expand the field of your gratitude every day. Really take time to appreciate the many many blessings you enjoy. You’re alive: you have the capacity to be a beneficial and positive presence on the planet. You are needed–or you wouldn’t be here. Enjoy this life that you have been given! And be glad.

 

Says it all, doesn’t it?  Thanks to Eleanor H. Porter for teaching us about ‘The Glad Game’. Now it’s time to play it.

Us 2 Today FM Book

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Us2 Book

I finally managed to get hold of an US2 book, thanks to the Book Centre in Clonmel who had two copies of it in stock this morning.  I thought I’d have to wait another couple of weeks to get one as everywhere seemed to be sold out of it yesterday.

For anyone reading who doesn’t know what the US2 book is, it’s the follow up to the US book that was published in 2005, when listeners of TodayFM were invited to submit snapshots of Ireland taken on the 1st of October.

US TodayFM Book

This year’s date was the 2nd of October and, as far as I’m aware, there were over 20,000 photos received from the public.

All proceeds of the book go to Barnardos and it’s an amazing book to have, full of normal, everyday snapshots from all over the country.  It’s lovely to look through it and see who you recognise.

A friend had posted a message on Facebook yesterday to tell me that one of my photographs was in it.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to see which one it was.  (I’d sent in a few).

I was fairly sure it would be the one below of our much loved Roxy:-

Roxy

But, I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw the photo that had actually made it into the book.

Suction Cup Us2

Suction Cup

I laughed so hard I thought I was going to do serious injury to myself. Even now, sitting here, with Ally trying very hard to look annoyed and not quite managing (because she thinks it’s funny but still wants to be cross with me), I can’t stop laughing.

When I took the above photo I told Ally it was just for ‘practise’.  Then I emailed it off not really expecting to see it again except on my laptop. I knew when I saw it that I was in for it.

US2

I picked Bláthny up from school earlier and showed it to her and she was a bit miffed that she wasn’t in it.  She took great consolation from the fact, however, that Ally looked perfectly ‘ridiculous’ and that I was ‘dead meat’.  I told her not to say a WORD when we got home and that we’d just leave the book open somewhere while I went to work.  She agreed that this was a good idea.

Until we got home and she emitted the most evil of laughs and ran into the sitting room yelling ‘ALLY, YOU BETTER TAKE A LOOK AT THAT BOOK THAT MAM HAS!!’

I got an earful despite the fact that I was struggling to breathe with the laughter.

‘Ah mam…why did you do that…I don’t believe it…that’s not funny…ah no…I hope you didn’t show that to anyone….’

‘No, not at all’, I said, ‘I never brought it into college at all today’.

‘Ah MAM!!!’

Then Bláthny who’d gone looking at the book again suddenly held it aloft, pointing at the cover and shouting ‘Hey, what’s this???’

And, there, on the back cover of the book, for everyone to see….

Us2

Queue convulsions of laughter from both myself and Bláthny! I honestly thought I was going to have to ring my mother and ask to borrow her nebuliser.

Roll on US3! I know I’m going to have to watch myself now that Ally has her own camera! She has me warned!

Book Review: Room – Emma O’Donoghue

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I bought this book a few weeks ago not realising it was on the BBC list. I’ve been preoccupied recently with college and assignments and haven’t had time to check in with fellow bloggers.  Catherine spotted that I’d mentioned Room on Facebook and let me know that it was on the list so a big thanks for that.  At last I’ve a review that I can contribute.

Room is one of the few books I’ve bought this year that I’ve actually opened and read from beginning to end. It wasn’t that I particularly enjoyed it….abduction and entrapment is not the most entertaining of subjects to dwell on….but it held my interest sufficiently long enough for me to finish reading it, which is more than can be said for any other books I’ve started recently.

The story is told from the point of view of  five year old Jack who lives in ‘Room’ with Ma who, at nineteen, was abducted by ‘Old Nick’ and imprisoned in a shed in his garden.

Room Emma Donoghue

Through the innocence of a child’s eyes the awful situation is revealed.  Ma and Jack fill their day with reading, exercising (running around Room), making things out of food wrappings, and watching tv.  Somethings on tv, like vegetables, are real, but other things like icecream are not.  People are on other planets in tv.  So are stores. Sometimes Jack and Ma stand up on Table and see who can scream the loudest at Skylight.  They play Orchestra and see what noises they can make by banging and hitting things.

At night Jack goes to sleep in Wardrobe.  The sound of bleeps signal Old Nick’s arrival and Jack counts the creaks of Ma’s bed before going to sleep (turning off).

The fact that Room is told from Jack’s perspective makes the experiences in the story more disturbing.  This is a situation that no child should find themselves in and there is a great sense of Jack reaching an age when he is beginning to ask questions, although he is still very innocent.  Ma tries to protect him as best she can and her efforts are both pitiful and admirable….which leads me to the part of the book I just didn’t find very credible – her escape plan!

Spoiler Alert!!

If you haven’t read Room and are planning to, then skip the next paragraph. You’ve been warned!

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Would Ma, who had done so much to protect her child from ever having anything to do with ‘Old Nick’ really be so desperate as to hatch such a dangerous escape plan? Thoughts ran through my mind of Jack being discovered and being murdered by Old Nick, or not being able to free himself from the rolled up carpet and being buried alive.  After seven years living in captivity had Ma’s mind eventually flipped?

Who can tell what Ma would have been driven to, but this plot just didn’t sit right with me.

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All in all, this was a disturbing read, probably because abduction featured so much in the news over the last few years with the cases involving Elizabeth Fritzl, Natascha Kampusch, and, more recently, Jaycee Lee Dugard. But it was told exceptionally well and very cleverly.  No surprise then that it won the Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year a couple of weeks ago.  I look forward to reading more from Emma O’Donoghue in the future.

Emma O’Donoghue reads from Room

Today FM US 2 Book

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US

My copy of the US Book

Five years ago TodayFM came up with a lovely idea for a book that they called ‘US’ .  It contained photos that they had asked people to send to them of what they were doing on the 1st of October 2005. Sales of the book raised over €300,000 for Childline.

This year they are looking for photos for US2, the proceeds of which will go to Barnardos.

You have till midnight tonight to take a photo of what you’re doing today, or something that captures the day that is the 2nd of October 2010 and email it to TodayFM at usbook@todayfm.ie.

Full details are on the TodayFM website so,pop over for a look and then get busy snapping!! :)

Update:  The Us 2 book should be available in shops from November, according to Barnardo’s website – just in time for Christmas!! :)

The Big Book of Hope

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Big Book of Hope

I am really looking forward to curling up on the couch tomorrow evening, in front of a warm fire, wine bottle *cough* glass at my side, munchies at the ready, and making a start on The Big Book of Hope.  I’ve been waiting for a quiet moment to read it ever since being lucky enough to win a copy on Twitter a couple of weeks ago.

A ‘competition’ was run  on Twitter where users were asked to tweet a story of hope with the hashtag #bigbookofhope in order to win a copy of the book.  There were some amazing stories tweeted.

A few hours before the competition ended, I happened to be browsing photos of Ally’s debs and thinking of how the last 17 years had flown by.  She was so tiny (1lb 10 ozes), and so ill when she was born.  I had her baptised when she was two days old on the advice of her doctors.  It felt awful heading back home to Kildare, a week after her birth, and leaving her in an incubator in the ICU in The Coombe Women’s Hopsital in Dublin, connected to a ventilator, with tubes everywhere.

Ally

I’ll never forget the day the phone rang and a nurse at the hospital asked me to come in as Ally wasn’t expected to make it.  She’d developed a stomach bug overnight, a very serious complication for such a tiny baby.  All I could do was touch her hand through the opening in the incubator cover and watch and pray.  Someone was watching over her because she began to improve.  Slowly and steadily she gained weight and, four months later, weighing 5lbs, she was discharged from the hospital.

Ally

Ready to come home

Ally4

Home at last!

While thinking back on this, a few lines popped into my head and I tweeted them as my story of hope.

Tweet #bigbookofhope

It’s always nice to win something and this book, in particular, is very special.  The book was launched in order to raise funds for the Hope Foundation, which works with the street children of Calcutta.  It contains lots of stories by well known figures such as Joseph O’Connor, Maeve Binchy, Evelyn Cusack, Denis O’Brien, Claudia Caroll, among others, and was compiled by Hazel Katherine Larkin and Vanessa O’Loughlin of Inkwell.

The Big Book of Hope can be bought online from Poolbeg.  There’s been so much talk on Twitter about it that I’d advise you to buy quickly! With so many fantastic contributors, this is a gem of a book and something to be treasured for years to come.

P.S.  Ally completed her Leaving Cert this year.  This is a photo of her heading off to her Debs last month.

Ally

Ally’s Debs Photo

An Irish Butcher Shop – Pat Whelan

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I stopped by James Whelan’s Butchers this afternoon to pick up a copy of Pat Whelan’s new book ‘An Irish Butcher Shop’.  I’d been following all the latest on the book from Pat via his twitter account and when I heard the books were being delivered yesterday I couldn’t wait to get one.

An Irish Butcher Shop

An Irish Butcher Shop - Pat Whelan

This is a book for meat lovers! From the field to the table the reader can follow the entire story of the farm animal, the meat it produces, and how it is cooked. Each individual method of cooking meat is explained thoroughly and even the subject of cooking utensils is dealt with.

It’s fascinating to read the history of James Whelan’s butchers.  It’s worth reading too for the informative quality and the little touches of humour and local references here and there, but most of all for the recipes.  The book is crammed full of wonderful beef, pork, chicken and other meat recipes, as well as ideas for vegetables and sauces.

If the recipes themselves don’t leave your mouth watering, then the colourful photography will.  I certainly can’t wait to see if my own Moussaka turns out as well as Pat’s!