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The Art Of Creativity By Susie Pearl

The Art Of Creativity ‘The Art Of Creativity’ is the latest book by self help coach Susie Pearl.

After 20 years working with some of the most creative people on the planet, writer and business coach Susie Pearl has unearthed the habits of highly creative people and takes you on a journey to unlock your own inner stream of creativity. Over the course of this easy-to-follow guide, you will learn to take risks with your inner artist, ignore critics, release blocks and get into daily creative habits in order to build better projects, ideas and artistic collaborations, and unearth creative solutions and innovations.

One of my resolutions for this year was to write and complete a story. I’ve written 2 completed stories that unfortunately came to nothing and my desktop is littered with starts, middles and ends of ideas that transpired to nothing.

This helpful book which was a short and quirky read, was filled to the brim offering advice and insights on how to improve your creativity, harnessing it through mind mapping, journaling and meditation as well the simply basic needs of a healthy diet and good sleep.

I found this book to be a really useful tool and came at the right for me, as I’m struggling with my own writing, not the idea creation side but the finding time to right and the stepping out of my comfort zone and approaching people looking for feedback.

Sue helps address these issues in a friendly and relatable manner, offering guidance with useful exercises that encourages the reader to flex their creativity minds and to take a step further with their life desires. The book also includes useful tools and apps, that will help the reader with mind mapping, journaling and I found myself throughout the book noting down app names to use.

This vibrant book was a great information outlet and I think it will also be one that I’ll regularly be returning to for reference. With facts, exercises and achievable goals, ‘The Art of Creativity’ is a fantastic motivational tool for people who want to embark on a new project and are uncertain as to where to begin.

You can buy ‘The Art Of Creativity’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Secrets In The Snow By Emma Heatherington

Secrets In The Snow‘Secrets In The Snow’ is the latest book by Northern Ireland author, Emma Heatherington.

As the winter snow falls on the small Irish village of Ballybray, Roisin O’Connor and her young son, Ben, are saying goodbye to their beloved neighbour Mabel Murphy. Mabel lived a bold and colourful life, but the arrival of her brooding nephew, ‘blow-in’ Aidan Murphy, just makes life more complicated for Roisin. However, in one final act of love, a message arrives from Mabel that changes everything. And as winter turns to spring and the cold snow melts, the secrets both Roisin and Aidan are hiding must be revealed at last…

The story is seen through the narrative of Roisin, who’s recovering from the death of her elderly neighbour and best friend called Mabel, who took Roisin and her little boy called Ben under her wing who moved to Ballybray to start their new lives. Mabel’s favourite nephew has returned to Ballybray for the funeral. He’s a successful business man in New York, who’s struggling with life. Mabel can see that both Roisin and Aidan are struggling with their lives and sets them on a series of tasks to help them get back on their feet as well as unite them in their grief.

Sweetly written this book is a tender story of new beginnings and friendships. Roisin is a lovely leading lady, she’s kind but insecure having come from a troubled marriage which resulted in the death of her husband. Although shes’s recovering from years of abuse, anytime that she feels free and happy in herself, memories of her abusive husband come back to haunt her. She’s a creative spirit, who found not only a friend in Mabel but also a maternal figure as she never had a proper mother/daughter relationship.

Like Roisin, Aidan is struggling with the death of Mabel and finds solace in Ballybray away from the hustle of New York and his unhappy life.

As Mabel send them on series of adventures informing them of her old life and sharing her stories, the pair of them become close friends and see a connection in each other. Both of them are a fork in their lives and Mabel’s videos are the only constants in their lives.

Emma’s writing is sweet and warm-hearted conjuring up vivid imagery of the small Irish village and the descriptive fashion sold in the vintage shop were Roisin works. Both Aidan and Roisin are lovely characters and it’s sweet reading their interactions as they tentatively embark on their new friendship creating new memories. Mabel is also a great addition to the story with her vibrancy and lust for life. Whilst Ben adds an element of innocence to the story with his sweet nature.

‘Secrets in the Snow’ is a warm-hearted story that is perfect to curl up with during these cold winter nights.

You can buy ‘Secrets In the Snow’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Push By Ashley Audrain

The Push‘The Push’ is the debut novel by Ashley Audrain.

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right. I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers. My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child. But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.

‘The Push’ is Michael Joseph’s most anticipated book of 2021, a dark and chillingly crafted story about motherhood and love goes wrong.

The story is seen through the narrative of 3 generations of women, Cecelia, Etta and Blythe as they experience motherhood for the first time and they wait for the influx of emotions of love and care and are instead left with nothing. They retreat, they become cold and become completely different to the person they were before the babies.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Blythe who’s own mother had struggled with motherhood and Blythe is determined to be the perfect mother when her own baby is born. But her daughter Violet is the total opposite to what she expected with a vicious, cold and nasty streak that makes Blythe fearful of her and guilty and frustrated that she’s unable to have a close relationship with her daughter. When, when Blythe has a son, she is overjoyed at the second chance with motherhood and embrace it wholeheartedly, aware that in the background, Violet is watching closely.

‘The Push’ is a chilling and an uncomfortable read. It’s delves deeply into motherhood and the impact of the difficult children and the fear that something bad is going to happen. Throughout the book, it’s riddled with tension and unease as Violet connects with her father and grandparents but constantly pushes Blythe making her doubt her own sanity as well as capability as a mother. Ashley has created a compelling book with intriguing and unsettling characters that made it impossible to put down. The book also slightly reminded me of ‘Good Me, Bad Me’ by Ali Land, which is another fantastic debut. The perspectives of the different mothers throughout the years was a clever addition to the story and kept the reader on their toes, as you piecing the story together.

A book that delves into the insecurities and expectations of motherhood with an unravelling protagonist that makes for sympathetic and gripping reading, ‘The Push’ is a stunning debut that is well worthy of the hype and publicity behind it and was also my first read book of 2021.

You can buy ‘The Push’ from Amazon and other good bookshops.

The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke By Caroline Smailes

The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke‘The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke’ is the latest book by Theodora Quirke.

Theodora Quirke has no reason to be merry. It’s bad enough that she has to work on Christmas Eve but now there’s a drunk bloke dressed as Santa and claiming to be St Nick hanging around outside her flat. Given he’s professing to be the giver of Christmas miracles and nearly 2000 years old, she’s wary. Things get even more weird when St Nick insists he’s there to save Theo. And with the next St Nicholas Day somehow fast approaching, he’s even got a plan that’ll change her life forever. It all seems pretty straightforward, apart for one awkward fact: Theodora Quirke doesn’t actually need saving.

Just before Christmas I read this book and it gave me a warm feeling and get into the festive spirit.

The story is about Theodora Quirke who’s at a crossroads in her life, after her boyfriend and best friend suddenly died leaving her completely alone. Disheartened and full of despair, she’s at a low when St. Nick turns up at her doorstep. Even though, he looks like Santa Claus, he’s not and he’s there to save her life and bring her on a journey of her life and the significant moments that made lasting effects on her life. Meanwhile, Dottie Smith who is the founding member of Spitfire Saint Nicholas Umbrella Collective, who is convinced that Saint Nick performs miracles on 6th December and she’s one of the miracle receivers.

This ie a heartwarming story that is both inventive and creative and pulls the reader in from the start with the dysfunctional character. It’s hard not to connect with Theodore, she’s fiery and fun who’s lost without her boyfriend in her life. Having lost her mother and lived her life in uncertainty, Gabriel was the only constant in her life and when he’s taken away from her, her life falls apart and she questions her place in the world. St Nick is a great character, he’s witty and flamboyant but is also at a crossroad in his life and wants an opportunity to live his life for himself.

A story of magic and hope, this book was a joy to settle into and was filled with Christmas cheer. But as well as being as being witty with sweet and nostalgic references to ‘A Christmas Carol’, this book was a tender story that explored the ugly hardships of the world with a fierce protagonist who’s determined to save Christmas.

You can buy ‘The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Big Girl Small Town By Michelle Gallen

Big Girl Small Town‘Big Girl Small Town’ is Michelle Gallen’s debut novel and was shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Award.

Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn’t like gossip and she isn’t interested in knowing her neighbours’ business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers. Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way. But Majella’s safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella’s one chance at escape.

I was immediately drawn to this book after it was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel of the Year written by a Northern Ireland author and nothing could prepare me for the pleasure and joy this story provided during lockdown.

The story is seen through the narrative of Majella, a woman who lives with her mother and works in the local chippy with her friend called Marty. Majella likes the simple pleasures in life, ‘Dallas’, cleanliness and good hygiene. The story starts with the police investigation into her grandmother’s murder and its latest developments which is the talk of the small rural town.

Everyone wants to know everyone’s business, but Majella prefers to keep herself to herself. Her mother hasn’t recovered, after her father suddenly disappeared and spends most of her time feeling sorry for herself and drinking.

The story is mostly based in the chip shop called A Salt an Battered! that Majella works in and this setting provides hours of entertainment with residents from the local, gossipy town coming in for their curry chips whilst putting the world to rights under Majella’s watchful eye.

As a a native of Northern Ireland, I am slightly bias that we produce some of the best comedy writers with our unique dialect and sayings. And for me ‘Big Girl, Small Town’ wholeheartedly embraced it with one liners that made me roar with laughter and snort at the sheer timing of lines as well as names of the characters and the history of their titles.

Majella herself, is the star of the show. She’s not backwards in coming forwards and has a sensitive soul that takes no crap. I envied her for her enjoyment for the simpler things in life and also felt such an empathy with her with her troubled relationship with her mother.

The book has been described as ‘Milkman’ meets ‘Derry Girls’ and I’m saddened to say that I couldn’t get into ‘Milkman’, for me it was a difficult book. But this book was a joy to read from start to finish and one that I wholeheartedly enjoyed, with relatable characters and scenarios and anecdotes.

With an insightful protagonist and a sharp tongue that observes the drama and rumour mill of a small Irish community wonderfully. ‘Big Girl, Small Town’ embraces Irish wit and drama tremendously and showcases the wondrous and occasionally complicated sayings that keep people on their toes in this fantastic debut novel.

You can buy ‘Big Girl Small Town’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.