Title: Small Things Like These Author: Claire Keegan Genre: Fiction Rating: 4 out of 5
It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.
This was a very short read–I think I finished it in about an hour. Stellar, evocative writing, but I found it very bleak and quite slow. Probably just not a good fit for me, despite how vivid and detailed it was.
Claire Keegan is an award-winning author. Small Things Like These is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Grove Atlantic in exchange for an honest review.)
Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy and her teenage daughter, Lilly, are still recovering from the events of last fall when a strange new case demands Maggie’s attention. The body of an unidentified Irish national turns up in a wealthy Long Island beach community and with little to go on but the scars on his back, Maggie once again teams up with Garda detectives in Ireland to find out who the man was and what he was doing on Long Island. As the strands of the mystery lead Maggie to a quiet village in rural County Clare and back to her home turf, they also lead her in range of a dangerous and determined killer who will do anything to keep the victim’s story hidden forever.
I’ve really enjoyed both books in this series! Maggie is a great character, a flawed character, making her head a fascinating place to live for a while. Of course, I love the Irish connection, but there were so many layers to this mystery! I read this, thinking, “I’m not smart enough to have figured that out!” all through the book.
The characters are great, even the secondary ones, and the settings are so vivid I felt like I was there—and I’ve never been to Ireland or Long Island. I will definitely continue reading these books!
Sarah Stewart Taylor lives in Vermont. A Distant Grave is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
When Kevin Gogarty’s irrepressible eighty-three-year-old mother, Millie, is caught shoplifting yet again, he has no choice but to hire a caretaker to keep an eye on her. Kevin, recently unemployed, is already at his wits’ end tending to a full house while his wife travels to exotic locales for work, leaving him solo with his sulky, misbehaved teenaged daughter, Aideen, whose troubles escalate when she befriends the campus rebel at her new boarding school.
Into the Gogarty fray steps Sylvia, Millie’s upbeat home aide, who appears at first to be their saving grace—until she catapults the Gogarty clan into their greatest crisis yet.
This kind of had the feel of a Fredrik Backman novel, and I love his novels! Millie and her thought processes are hysterical! She’s not quite as funny as Stephanie Plum’s grandmother, but it’s close.
I frequently wanted to thump Kevin on his head, but at least his heart is in the right place. Aideen was moderately annoying, but then again, she’s a teenager, so that’s not a surprise. I enjoyed this novel a lot, although I could see the issues with Sylvia coming. This was a very pleasant read!
Rebecca Hardiman Lives in New Jersey. Good Eggs is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)
In the courtyards of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1978, aspiring actress Maeve meets pottery student Murtagh Moone. As their relationship progresses, marriage and motherhood come in quick succession, but for Maeve, with the joy of children also comes the struggle to hold on to the truest parts of herself.
Decades later, on a small Irish island, the Moone family are poised for celebration but instead are struck by tragedy. Each family member must find solace in their own separate way, until one dazzling truth brings them back together. But as the Moone family confront the past, they also journey toward a future that none of them could have predicted. Except perhaps Maeve herself.
This book…is slow, atmospheric, and yes, dazzling. It’s a small family/personal story, yet it draws the reader into Maeve’s and Murtagh’s lives from the very beginning and keeps them entranced by the simple island life and experiences of the Moone family. The characters are vivid and so realistic I feel like I knew them personally. The story is engrossing, sad, magical…all at the same time, and I definitely recommend reading it.
Helen Cullen is from Ireland and lives in London. The Dazzling Truth is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D’arcy’s family received a call from the Dublin police. Her cousin Erin has been missing for several days. Maggie herself spent weeks in Ireland, trying to track Erin’s movements, working beside the police. But it was to no avail: no trace of her was ever found.
The experience inspired Maggie to become a cop. Now, back on Long Island, more than 20 years have passed. Maggie is a detective and a divorced mother of a teenager. When the Gardaí call to say that Erin’s scarf has been found and another young woman has gone missing, Maggie returns to Ireland, awakening all the complicated feelings from the first trip. The despair and frustration of not knowing what happened to Erin. Her attraction to Erin’s coworker, now a professor, who never fully explained their relationship. And her determination to solve the case, once and for all.
I was engrossed in this novel from the very beginning. I loved that most of it was set in Ireland, and the author managed to capture the unique beauty and charm of the country. The parts set in Maggie’s past were a bit frustrating, as she kept poking her nose into all sorts of things when she shouldn’t, but her determination to find her cousin was strong.
Excellent and evocative writing, with Ireland itself coming to life on the page, as well as the characters. I never did figure out who was behind it all, so I was just as surprised as Maggie with how it played out. Definitely a solid and thrilling read.
Sarah Stewart Taylor grew up on Long Island. The Mountains Wild is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Laine Forrester is in France for her best friend’s fairytale wedding—and to forget about her own failed marriage. But her friend’s devastating diagnosis takes Laine’s mind off her own problems, and she agrees to return to Ireland with her friend and new family. There, she finds an empty castle filled with treasures and a family who won’t even speak to each other, but everything she needs may just be in Ireland.
This story is actually three different stories in three separate timelines, and I loved all three of them! The troubles in Ireland are a sad subject, but the author does a good job capturing the emotions in the situations—as well as the hope. This is well-written and full of vibrant characters and settings I’d love to see!
Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author. Castle on the Rise is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ballybucklebo is an Irish village in the countryside. Christmas is barely over when a fire destroys the cottage of Donal Donnally, but the family escapes unharmed. Now the village will have to rally around the family if they are to get back up on their feet. But at least the family—including the three young daughters and the dog—have each other.
Family is everywhere in Ballybucklebo.
Young Doctor Laverty and his wife, Sue, would love to start their own family, but haven’t been so blessed yet, so they turn to modern medicine in their search for a solution. Doctor O’Reilly must be very careful as he advises a married patient on how to avoid another dangerous pregnancy—the church frowns on such things.
This is the second book in this series I’ve read, and, granted, I love to read anything (well, within reason) set in Ireland, but this series is so peaceful. Set in the mid-1900s, it’s a genuinely different world—and one that seems so much better than our world now. An engrossing, quiet novel, full of vivid characters in a setting I’d love to visit.
Patrick Taylor was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in British Columbia. An Irish Country Cottage is his newest novel.
(Galley provided by Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)
Keira Malone raised her three kids alone when their father decided drinking was more important. When she finally allowed herself to love again, her fiancé died of a heart attack. Now she leaves Ireland behind for Maryland to spend time with her daughter and new granddaughter, and to help her son-in-law with his Irish pub.
She butts heads with Bryan Laramie, the moody chef at the pub, and more than sparks fly as the two try to decide who knows best. Once they reach a truce, Bryan’s long-lost daughter shows up, and he must deal with unresolved issues from the past, when he last saw his daughter as a baby. And Keira has her own issues: having been so unlucky with love twice, is it even worth the effort? While the two try to sort out their problems, the rest of the town takes sides for the upcoming Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, where they will match up to decide who’s really best in the kitchen.
Sherryl Woods is the author of more than 100 novels. Lilac Lane is her newest novel, the 14th book in the Chesapeake Shores series.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
In the small Irish village of Duneen, nothing ever happens. At least, nothing new ever happens. So, when human remains are discovered during a building project, the entire town is in an uproar, wondering who the bones belong to—and who put them there.
The smart money is on the remains being Tommy Burke, who disappeared years ago, leaving two women to suffer his loss. Sergeant PJ Collins, overwhelmingly shy and conscious of his weight, just wants to solve the first real case of his life, but finds himself drawn into the secrets of Duneen’s past as he attempts to unravel the mystery of what happened all those years ago, and what’s going on now.
I’ve never seen The Graham Norton Show—a horrible lack, I’m sure, but I don’t watch much TV—so the author wasn’t a draw for me with this one. The rural Ireland setting, however, was a draw, and the novel did not disappoint. The characters in Holding aren’t that interesting on the surface—an overweight small-town Garda, a middle-aged woman who lives with her sisters and stays at home, the wife and mother who likes to drink—but they end up being compelling and real. PJ has struggled his whole life with his weight and his lack of accomplishments, and his struggles are so relatable they make the reader sympathize with him. The small-town setting of Duneen mixed with the cozy mystery aspect make Holding an engrossing and very readable story.
Graham Norton is the start of the award-winning The Graham Norton Show. Holdingis his first novel.
(Galley courtesy of Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ethel Rohan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but now lives in San Francisco. She is an award-winning author of short stories, chapbooks, and memoirs. The Weight of Him is her first novel.
At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan has always turned to food for comfort. He’s obsessed with food: not just the taste, but the textures and everything about it. Especially the way it makes his mind go quiet. But in the wake of his son Michael’s suicide, not even food will help him.
Embracing the concept of “go big or go home,” Billy decides to lose half his body weight to raise money for suicide prevention…and to save his family from falling apart. But Billy’s family just wants to go on, and Billy struggles alone. As word of Billy’s efforts spreads, he gains unexpected allies as he learns to deal with his emotions and his regrets while he strives to find meaning in Michael’s death.
I wanted to read this novel because it’s set in Ireland—which is at the top of my bucket list—and because it deals with suicide—because a couple of people close to me struggle with debilitating depression and suicide is a real problem that people don’t like to talk about. (Mental illness is real, people, and if we don’t talk about it, how can we help those who struggle with it? Depression is HARD.)
But this book…it’s powerful. Not only does it talk about suicide, but about eating disorders and disordered eating. With the stigma attached to those who are overweight. Billy has emotional wounds he’s never dealt with, and Michael’s death just ripped the scab off them. Now, when he’s actually trying to deal with and heal his issues, his family wants to keep pretending they don’t exist. This is a very moving book that deals with difficult subjects.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley.)