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Noireland International Crime Festival, Belfast

Noireland International Crime Festival, Belfast

If you’re a fan of the crime genre, whether you enjoy reading the books or aspire to be an author, then Belfast’s debut crime festival is a must attendance.

Noireland (great name by the way) will be running from 27-29th October and taking place in the Europa Hotel.

Organised by the people behind the amazing bookshop ‘No Alibis’ which is situated in Botanic in Belfast, this festival celebrates the island’s love of crime fiction.

The 3-day event will be showcasing the amazing talent emerging from Ireland currently as well as some of the popular authors from all over the world, such as Sophie Hannah, Arne Dahl and Benjamin Black, to name just a few.

Noireland International Crime was organised to provide a platform for the wealth of crime writing talent emerging from Ireland, showcasing it alongside some of the biggest international names in crime and thriller writing.

With a jam-packed programme of great authors plus a selection of entertaining events, this debut festival is an exciting introduction to Northern Ireland’s love of all things crime and suspense.

As a very new and independent organisation they rely on partnerships, sponsors, donations, ticket sales and volunteers to support their work.

If you are interested in partnering with Noireland or sponsoring them you can contact them at

For more information and updates about the events plus tickets, go to

Belfast Book Festival 2017

Belfast Book Festival 2017

Running from 7th-17th June, Belfast Book Festival is a must for all book lovers and aspiring authors.

Now in its 7th year, the festival has a jammed pack schedule with over 100 live events and workshops taking place across Belfast.

Featuring well known authors, comedians and journalists, the festival promises to have something for everyone, young and old!

To find out more about the event, click here.

Jodi Picoult Talks About Elephants

Jodi PicoultTowards the end of last year, bestselling American author Jodi Picoult, travelled over to Northern Ireland for a one off appearance at The Theatre At The Mill, Newtownabbey, to talk about her research for her latest book, ‘Leaving Time’ which is about the relationship between humans and elephants. After reading an extract from the book, Jodi then shared some of her research and new found knowledge about elephants.

  1. Elephants are the largest land animals. They are herbivores, they weigh 7 – 10 pounds.
  2. Elephants are recognisable by tusk, by voice, by personality, by hair and most importantly by their ears. The edges of an elephants ears are all different from each others. So their exactly like our fingerprints and that’s how most researchers tell them apart.
  3. They live for up to 50 – 70 years in the wild and they live in families of two – ten adult females who are led by the largest oldest female of the group who is called the Matriarch
  4. Babies are allomothered that means it really does take a village to raise a calf, it’s not just the biological mom who takes care of her calf. It is all the aunties and cousins and older siblings who all pitch in to raise that baby and in fact if you watch elephants in the wild and a calf stumbles and falls, no less than five or six elephants rush over to see if it’s ok.
  5. Leaving Time

  6. Males are chased out of the herd when they are about thirteen years old by the Matriarch and it’s to be coincidently be when they discover girls. They come into must which is the Hindu word for madness and then the Matriarch forces them out. We used to think that the males, the bull elephants roamed very solitary lives on the savannah plains but now we know that they actually form small groups of boys, almost like a miniature fraternity and the older guys teach the younger guys what to do
  7. Elephants have a remarkably large and complex brain. They are not only capable of learning and remembering but also feeling fear and pain and loss. In the animal sanctuary in Tennessee, they had to institute a no fly zone with helicopters because everytime a helicopter came overhead all the elephants would go insane. For most of these elephants, the only helicopter that they have heard in their lifetime was 50 years ago when they were calves in Africa during the governmental cull to control elephant population during which government hunters were shooting
  8. Elephants have also got extraordinary powers of empathy and in particular a very special kind of empathy. As humans, we have such a thing called cross species empathy which means that even though you are not a dog and your dog is not a human, you would take your dog to the vet if it was sick, we’re willing to do that for other species. That doesn’t happen very often in the animal world except for elephants. Elephants have been seen multiple times rescuing rhino babies that have been caught in the mud or caught in the ditch.
  9. And finally relationships between elephants last a lifetime.

    You can buy Leaving Time from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The First Time I Said Goodbye By Claire Allan

The First Time I Said Goodbye‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is the latest book by Northern Ireland author, Claire Allan.

In 1959, factory girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a US marine based in Derry. Caught up in the whirlwind of romance, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray. But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise that they may have said their first and last goodbye. In 2010, Stella’s daughter Annabel is reeling from the loss of her father, agrees to accompany her mother back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time. In Derry they both start to realise that sometimes you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted, in order to find what you all needed all along.

I have read a few of Claire’s book and I have enjoyed them all, as a local author I always feel I can relate to her, with her dialogue and local humour. Even though I have enjoyed her previous books, I have to admit that ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ was by far my favourite book by the author and for the first time, her book struck a chord in me that made me cry when the poignant tale came to an end.

‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is loosely based on a true story that Claire worked on in her job in local newspaper ‘The Derry Journal’. I think the fact that the story is fictional and there are probably a few stories like this that are unheard off make for particularly touching reading.

The story is set in two different eras, the first is Derry 1959 when young Stella Hegarty falls for marine Ray Cooper, they plan their lives together, setting off to Boston and finding their happy ever after but sadly this doesn’t happen for the young couple and fast forward to Florida 2010, Stella decides to return home after her husband’s Bob’s death with her only daughter Annabel.

Unknown to Annabel, she thinks that Stella wants to return to roots after her long absence but infact Stella is hiding a secret for the last fifty years and hopes returning home will finally bring her closure.

As well as set in two eras, the story is seen from both Stella and Annabel’s perspectives which does make the story even more intriguing. Annabel is unhappy with her life, particularly the relationship she is in and hopes that some time apart will help sort out her head. Even though I enjoyed Annabel, I thought she was an interesting character, a lost soul trying to find her place in the world, It was the scenes with Stella that I thought were particularly interesting, as she accounted her short time with her first love through recollections and letters to her sweetheart, all these scenes I thought made for bittersweet and tender reading and gave the tale a beautiful essence of innocence as we joined her become a young woman and experience love for the first time.

A tragically sad and wonderfully romantic story from start to finish, that will have you gripped throughout, ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is truly a strong triumph of a story that will have you smiling and laughing and is most definitely Claire Allan at her very finest.

You can buy The First Time I Said Goodbye from Amazonand is available to buy from most good bookshops.

Always You By Erin Kaye

Always You‘Always You’ is the latest book by Northern Ireland author, Erin Kaye.

At university it all seemed so simple; Sarah and Cahal would conquer the world. Nothing could separate them. But Cahal was born from the wrong side of the tracks and when family pressures mounted, they weren’t as brave as they hoped to be. Fast forward twenty years and Sarah and Cahal lead very different lives to each other. But a chance meeting brings them together again. Can they do things differently this time?

‘Always You’ is the second book that I have read by Erin Kaye in recent months and I thought it was refreshing and compelling story. Set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland, Cahal and Sarah are the star crossed lovers, that promised to be together forever but life didn’t work out as they intended. Both set up their lives on other sides of the world, having married other people, they realise that in a chance meeting that their hearts still belong to each other.

The story is seen through the eyes of the main characters, Cahal and Sarah and this makes for interesting reading as they both thought that they had left each other behind, but through a series of meet ups they see that it is not the case. Set in the past when the lovers first got together at university, the story is seen through a series of flashbacks and the present. Right from the offset, it seemed that everyone is against the young lovers, but as the story develops, we discover that their relationship is not as straight forward as they thought. Sarah comes from a strict religious Protestant background where her dad is a senior police officer, and Cahal’s family are not as highly regarded, living off benefits and crimes, they have a bad reputation. Throughout the story there is a sense of unease and tension, as the couple try to overcome their past. One of the things that I enjoyed most about the story, was purely a simple thing, as the story in set in Northern Ireland, where I am from, I felt very much included in the story, with the vivid descriptions and mentions of landmarks, I almost felt like I was part of the cast. Filled with local sayings and sayings, I found myself giggling at how we speak at times.

Erin is a lovely writer and as the story is of quite sad nature and shocking in parts, especially when a terrible secret is revealed, it flows along lovely and is very easy to get caught up in and suddenly you discover that your evening is away.

An absorbing story, that will most definitely pull at the heartstrings, a story of lost love, regret, Northern Ireland conflict and putting the past to right, ‘Always You’ is a wonderfully emotional and bittersweet story filled with twists and turns and the odd surprise or two, that will have you hooked from the start.

You can buy Always You on Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.