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Clara and Olivia By Lucy Ashe

Clara and Olivia By‘Clara and Olivia’ is the debut book by Lucy Ashe.

What the back cover says-

Disciplined and dedicated, Olivia is the perfect ballerina. But no matter how hard she works, she can never match identical twin Clara’s charm.

I would kill to be with her.

As rehearsals intensify for the ballet Coppélia, the girls feel increasingly like they are being watched. And, as infatuation turns to obsession, everything begins to unravel.

You can buy ‘Clara and Olivia’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Mammy Banter – The Secret Life Of An Uncool Mum By Serena Terry

Mammy Banter - The Secret Life Of An Uncool Mum‘Mammy Banter – The Secret Life Of An Uncool Mum’ is the debut book by Northern Irish viral sensation and comedian Serena Terry.

Tara Gallagher is knackered. She used to dream of being Beyoncé but suddenly she’s thirty-six – with three kids, a loving husband, a very boring job – and instead of headlining Glastonbury, she’s in her pyjamas on a Friday night, watching Gogglebox. It’s time for a mammy makeover. She’s going to show her teenage daughter she’s still cool. She’s going to show her husband she’s still an absolute ride. She’s going to show her colleagues she’s still a Boss Bish. But most of all, she’s going to prove to herself that she can still be a mum, still work full time, and still be Beyoncé…

Serena Terry aka Mammy Banter has become a TikTok sensation since lockdown began. Her daily videos show the trials and tribulations of being a mum during lockdown particularly to a teenage girl who thinks everything about her mother is wildly embarrassing.

This book is a story that can be devoured in one sitting, it’s warm, heartfelt and genuinely packed with some comedy gold moments that it was impossible to put down.

I love Mammy Banter and I follow her on social media and her characters are so fun and relatable and when I was reading this story, I could clearly hear the characters when reading the story. From the ‘Jesus, Mary and wee donkey’ that Tara muttered regularly to the way Gemma huffed at her mother.

I wholeheartedly connected with Tara, the fear of losing yourself and wanting to return to a time when you were cooler, with less responsibilities and didn’t care as much about what people think of you.

There are so many fabulously funny moments in the story that made for delicious reading from the slide scenario to the moment that the poor George Clooney lookalike hit on Tara, not to mention, her little boys Nathan and Jax were quick to repeat what Tara said and report to Miss Rose, who’s Nathan’s teacher.

As a debut, this book is a wonderful one, it’s fun, relatable and packed with charisma and a fantastic lead. Set in the heart of Northern Ireland, Serena’s book is brimming with Northern Irish humour and sayings that had me snorting with laughter throughout.

If you’re looking for a pick me up, then look no further, as ‘Mammy Banter – The Secret Life Of An Uncool Mum’ is an inspirational and uplifting story about being true to yourself and embracing your inner Beyoncé!

You can buy ‘Mammy Banter – The Secret Life Of An Uncool Mum’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? By Seamus O’Reilly

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?2021 saw Seamus O’Reilly’s debut book about childhood loss in Derry made for heartfelt reading called ‘Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?’.

Seamus O’Reilly’s mother died when he was five, leaving him, his ten brothers and sisters and their beloved father in their sprawling bungalow in rural Derry. It was the 1990s; the Troubles were a background rumble (most of the time), and Seamus at that point was more preoccupied with dinosaurs, Star Wars and the actual location of heaven than the political climate.

The story is seen through Seamus’innocent narrative as he adapts to life without his leading female role model as well as deal with the guilt and fear of forgetting her and that his father will be taken also.

This story is beautifully written and as it’s set in Northern Ireland and it’s a relatable one that made for genuinely heartwarming reading. Seamus’ father is the real hero of the story, who took on the role of mother/father to 11 children and made a life for them that all children would be envious off.

Packed with heartwarming and funny scenarios that made for laughing and tearful reading as one boy tries to find his place in life and within a huge family. ‘Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?is a sentimental and loving story filled with Northern Ireland charm made for poignant reading.

You can buy ‘Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

On The Bright Side By Nell Carter

On The Bright Side‘On The Bright Side’ is the debut novel by Nell Carter who also writes as Fionnuala Kearney.

There’s always time for a second chance. At least that is what people say. But what if it’s true? What if you could walk out the door and build a whole new you, a whole new life? Clare and Jack are about to find out. He’s a middle-aged barrister, living life as he ‘should’. She’s a recently divorced dance teacher and mum to a teenage daughter. Change isn’t easy for either of them. But it’s not impossible.

It’s taken a wee while for Nell’s debut to hit the shelves but boy was it worth the wait. An emotional roller coaster about grief and toxic relationships, I couldn’t put this book down until I reached the final page.

The story is seen through the narrative of Clare and Jack who are both at crossroads in their lives. Jack has never gotten over the loss of his girlfriend Alice and Clare is going through a messy divorce and unsure where to go to next. When Alice’s sister suggests that Jack does something big with his life to help him move on, he decides to travel the world like he and Alice had intended but whilst he’s away he will give the house that he’s been building to someone less fortunate. And that someone is Clare and her teenage daughter Grace who’s trying to escape her abusive ex, Tim.

The story is seen through the narrative of Jack and Clare and how they are moving trying to move forward with their lives. The pair become friends before Jack goes off on his epic travel adventure and they both become crutches for each other, when times becomes too tough.

Clare is trying to be strong and escape the clutches of Tim, who always manages to sneak back into her life with forceful and manipulative behaviour and it’s not only Tim who affected Clare but also her own mother. As an only child, Clare was forced to live with her mother’s controlling behaviour and she is determined that neither of these people will treat Grace the same way. Grace is the sunshine in this dark story, she’s kind with a bright spirit and is quick to put people in their place including her father. She’s the bond that brings Jack and Clare as they both care for the infectious teenager.

One particular topic that Nell wrote about that I found interesting was the isolation of being an only child as well as the controlling parent. There are many issues that are addressed in this book, such as grief, abuse and toxic relationships and there are some moments in the story that does make for unsettling reading.

This story is a powerful one and one that stays with the reader long after they close the book. It’s dark, it’s powerful, life-affirming and strangely it’s relatable.

Beautifully crafted with relatable characters and heartwarming moments, ‘On The Bright Side’ is a story that strikes a chord from the hard hitting first line. A story of new beginnings and second chances, this book is about the power perseverance that will have you smiling and crying throughout.

You can buy ‘On The Bright Side’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

My Best Friend’s Secret By Emily Freud

My Best Friend's Secret‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ is the debut book by Emily Freud.

Kate Sullivan has a beautiful home, a job she loves and a handsome fiancé: all she’d ever dreamed of since getting sober and painstakingly piecing her life back together. But a chance encounter with her old best friend Becky threatens Kate’s newfound and fragile happiness. Kate remembers nothing of their last drunken night out, the night Becky broke off their friendship without warning or explanation. With Becky back in her life, Kate is desperate to make amends for the past. For the closure she craves, Kate needs to know what she did that ruined everything. But what if the truth is worse than Kate could have imagined?

If you’re looking for an exhilarating thriller, then look no further as this book is everything a good thriller should be. Tense, intriguing and packed with dislikable characters that keeps the reader on their toes.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of Kate, a recovering alcoholic who’s celebrating 6 years sober, looking forward to marrying her fiancée Ben and enjoying her rewarding job as an English teacher. Her life is great until her former best friend Becky comes back into her life and with that brings back uncertainty, insecurity and memories of a life that she’d like to leave behind.

Right from the first page, this book gripped my attention. Kate is a fascinating protagonist who’s flawed from her previous life and battles not to return to her old ways. Her sponsor Clare is always there to help her as well as is Ben who’s been her rock and helped her recover her confidence in herself. When Becky returns, Kate finds herself questioning her old life and Becky’s sudden return as they had parted on bad terms. But she takes Becky in as a housemate, she notices a shift in the dynamics of relationship including Ben’s.

From the first page, there’s an underlying sense of tension to the story that made me read the book faster. I’m surprised I didn’t give myself paper-cuts with the speed that I raced through the pages! The characters are fascinating mix of personalities, all damaged and flawed in their own ways, battling addictions and insecurity. Kate is a kind character who as a teacher finds herself connecting with Lily, a young girl who’s on a similar path as Kate was and Kate is determined for her life to be better and not to waste it like she did.

A cleverly crafted story that made for suspenseful and dark reading, ‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ is a twisted and sordid story about secrets and lies with a fascinating protagonist that leaves you hooked at every turn.

You can buy ‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.