A 3rd Birthday and a Giveaway!

Today is my Blogversary!

3-today

Yep, it’s been three long years since I counted up all those books, almost had a heart attack and planned to cut down the TBR.

So, it’s another year done and how far on am I? I’m so close to the 500s I can taste it! Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have reached that milestone. 146 books in 3 years isn’t great, but it’s better than the pre-blog days and if I keep up the momentum, 746 books will be done and dusted by 2028. Go me!

Despite having made it through another year without buying myself a book, I have acquired books through other means. My use of Net Galley has risen and I did receive quite a few books from publishers this year. I have tried to stick to my (very loose) rules and only read new books by Irish writers, but this little habit has definitely slowed my progress in my challenge. I may have read 71 books this year, according to Good Reads, but I only reduced the 746 by 47.

Reading aside, I’ve had another great year on the blog. According to my friends at WordPress, I’ve had over 23,000 views and 11,500 visitors. I was also delighted this year to pass my 1,000 follower mark, so thanks to you all for continuing to read.

Highlights this year have been the second annual Reading Ireland Month back in March which generated over 100 posts.

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Plans are already afoot for 2017, which I will again be co-hosting with my pal Niall of Raging Fluff fame, so if you have any books by Irish authors lurking in your TBR why not save them until March and join in the craic. This year I’ll be focusing entirely on Irish women writers, but there will be lots of other fun posts and giveaways.

20 Books of Summer also went down a treat this year, with over 120 fantastic bloggers participating and as a bonus, I actually managed to read all 20 of my books! This feature will certainly be back in 2017 as it gives my reading a real kick up the butt mid-year!

Once again I was delighted to make the finals of the Irish Blog Awards for the best Books and Literature blog – getting that far never ceases to amaze me! Plus I clearly take every opportunity throughout the year to show off about it….

finalist

On a personal level, 2016 has been both a difficult and an amazing year. Since this time last year I had the real pleasure of interviewing Nuala O’Connor and Dame Fiona Kidman for the Belfast Book Festival and of course, I started a new and wonderful job at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy. Leaving the job I had done for 17 years was frightening and daunting, but I have to say that I have never been happier. I adore my new job, surrounded by books, poetry and writers all day; it feels like it was made for me!

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The intensity of my new position and some health issues this year meant that I haven’t blogged as much as usual. I am trying to rectify that and make some time for this lovely little corner of the blogosphere I call home and I just hope I can continue with the same enthusiasm next year.

I’ve never really been one for a year round up, but this year I am picking my five best reads of 2016. Of course, these haven’t been published in 2016 but you all know what I mean!

  1. The Republic of Love – Carol Shields

For sheer enjoyment, Carol Shields wonderful, heartwarming, sprawling tale of love in all its forms tops my list of the year. I didn’t read another book that made me as happy as this one.

  1. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

I didn’t get to join in with Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong as much as I would have liked, but I am so delighted that it nudged me to read this luminous, wonderful book, that was everything I hoped and more

  1. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle makes it into my Books of the Year list for the second time. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha was nothing like I imagined. It was simply magnificent.

  1. The Rose Garden – Maeve Brennan

Maeve Brennan was my author of the year, with both this collection of spiky short stories and her wonderful novella The Visitor. She’s undergoing a bit of resurgence here in Ireland and next year I plan to read her biography by Angela Bourke and her collected works from the New Yorker, which have just been published by Stinging Fly

  1. Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

Can Kate Atkinson do no wrong? Ruby Lennox stayed with me long after I closed this book which is wonderfully plotted and beautifully uplifting.

I’m looking forward to a positive 2017. With Reading Ireland Month and 20 Books of Summer planned, I also hope to start a feature called ‘The Books that Built the Blogger’ where my favourite bloggers chat about the books that made them into the readers and bloggers they are today.

built-bloggers

Each month I plan to chat about a book which has formed and influenced my reading life as well. If you’d be interested in taking part, drop me an email, I’d love to hear from you.

Finally, as it’s a birthday and a birthday needs presents, I’m hosting a little giveaway today. Up for grabs is a paperback copy of Mike McCormack’s critically acclaimed one sentence novel ‘Solar Bones’

solar-bones

Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards this year, Solar Bones has been called ‘an extraordinary hymn to small town Ireland’ by The Guardian. To win a copy, just comment below. I’ll draw a winner on Monday 12 December and will post world-wide.

Good luck and thanks, as always, for reading

x

20 Books of Summer 2016!

1 summer.

96 Days.

20 Books.

6060 pages.

63 pages a day.

Will this year finally be the year I complete my 20 Books of Summer challenge?

From now until 5 September I will be attempting to read my 20 Books of Summer. Why not join in with your own 20 (or 10, or 15!), read along with some of the books or just cheer me on as I try and get that dreaded 746 down by another 20 in just 3 months.

20booksfinal

Here are my 20, all by women writers this year:

  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon
  • A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa
  • Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
  • Blue Nights by Joan Didion
  • I Am No One You Know by Joyce Carol Oates
  • The Keep by Jennifer Egan
  • A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne
  • The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
  • The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge
  • My Lover’s Lover by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • Sister by Rosamund Lupton
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
  • Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively replaced with Solace by Belinda McKeon
  • This Is How by MJ Hyland

Now, anyone who knows me, knows I am flexible with rules, so I may swap some books for something else during the course of the challenge and I will be keeping reviews short and sweet for the sake of my sanity!

Don’t forget to check out these other fabulous bloggers who are also taking part:

Cleopatra Loves Books

Faith, Hope and Cherrytea

Liz Dexter

The Writerly Reader

Raven Crime Reads (and Mum too!)

Well Read Pirate Queen

The (blank) Garden

Heaven Ali

Books Are My Favourite and Best

Smoke and Mirrors

Booker Talk

Consumed by Ink

Marina Sofia

Avid Mystery Reader

The Aroma of Books

Fiction Fan

Raging Fluff

Bookarino

My Book Strings

Books Please

The Bookworm Chronicles

A Crime is Afoot

LouLou Reads

Aleksandra Grabwicz

From First Page to Last

Onemore.org

Vanquer Boarding House

Beaches and Books

Grab the Lapels

Pining for the West

An Armchair by the Sea

Brona’s Books

Ipsofactodotme

Bookskeptic

A Great Book Study

Jill M Wanders

That’s What She Reads

Fig and Thistle

Elle Thinks

Behold the Stars

A Voluptuous Mind

Drunk Off Rhetoric

Nothing of Importance Again

Reading American Leaves

Big Reading Life

He Said Books or Me

Ravenscroft Cloud

A Bibliophile’s Style

Penni’s Perceptions

Geekarella

Rattle The Stars

Jaffa Reads Too

Books and Reviews

Sarah Reads Too Much

Head Full of Books

Simpler Pastimes

Mrs Bloggs Books

Have Books Will Read

Dancing With Architecture

Runt of A Reader

Poppy Peacock Pens

Books and Me!

Lisa Loves Literature

Julie’s Reading Room

Bloomin’ Brilliant Books

Rachel’s Random Reads

Polishing Mud Balls

Mareli Thalk Ink

My Little Library In the Attic

The Book Stop

The Story Book Girl

In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

52 Books or Bust

My Reader’s Block

Fictionophile

What’s Better Than Books?

Snow Feathers

Reader Writerville

Esther Writes

An Anthology of Clouds

Kathy Waller

*If you’re taking part and I’ve missed you off this list, link back and I’ll add you on!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @cathy746books and use the hashtag #20booksofsummer to join in the chat with everyone taking part!

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Here’s to a great summer of reading!

 

Summer round up and season changes…..

20 books of summer - master image

This post could alternatively have been titled ‘Where Did That Summer Go?’ or, if you live in Northern Ireland, ‘Summer? What Fecking Summer??’

The last three months have flashed by in a flurry of work, kids, work and more work and generally ended up much, much busier than I anticipated. One minute I was watching Wimbledon and the next my twins were starting school.

These kids......

These kids……

Add to that the fact that the weather was just miserable and I feel like I didn’t really get much of a summer at all. (Word of advice to anyone thinking of holidaying in Donegal on three of the wettest days of the year – DON’T.)

Irish Café Life....

Irish Café Life….

And yet, I managed to read 18 of my 20 Books of Summer. Two more than last year and two less than hoped for, but at least not an abject failure. I really enjoyed reading real books for a change and found that I made more time for reading than I normally would if I was just reading on my iPad or my phone.

Despite managing to read, I didn’t find a lot of time to blog and my posts have been sporadic and my reviews a bit piecemeal. In fact, I haven’t even managed to review my final two summer reads – The Tiger’s Wife and The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet – both of which I enjoyed very much but both of which I felt suffered at times from style over substance. I may write reviews of them over the coming days, but I have a bit of a new term feeling at the moment and am ready to move on with my reading.

Of my 20 Books, my favourite was definitely the weird, woozy and wonderful Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway, closely followed by The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. My least favourite is probably pretty easy to guess and there were two I didn’t get to – Motel Chronicles & Hawk Moon by Sam Shepard and Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy, both of which I will try to read over the coming months. I also need to give special mention to Jon McGregor’s short story We Wave and Call which is one of the most beautifully formed short stories I have read and is still lingering in my mind weeks after reading it.

I’d like to thank all the fantastic bloggers who took part along with me this summer, I was delighted by the response and feel bad that I couldn’t keep up with all your reading as much as I would have liked to. You’ve all been brilliant and I have loved reading your posts.

I’ve never really been one for New Year resolutions, but the start of the school year always makes me re-evaluate and make plans. This year is no different.

If you are a regular reader, you may notice a few changes coming on 746 Books. The inaugural Reading Ireland Month held back in March has reignited my love of Irish literature, and has also brought about opportunities I could never have imagined when I started my wee blog. I am being offered books to preview and events to chair and it would be silly of me not to see where this leads.

However, I still want to stick to the spirit of 746 Books and my original plan not to buy any new books until the 746 are read. So, if you start to see reviews of old, new or forthcoming Irish books pop up on the blog, rest assured that the books have either been sent to me for review or have been borrowed from the library. The 746 will still be my main priority, my book buying ban will continue and I’ll keep counting down those hundreds of books still mocking me from my shelves!

Although this shelf is definitely a little more roomy……

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Playing Catch Up….

My 20 Books of Summer challenge may look like a complete disaster at the moment, but things are not quite as bad as they seem. My reading is going well, it’s just the reviewing that I don’t seem to have the time for!

We are just back from a rainy week in the West of Ireland and I’m playing catch up with all aspects of my life, so I’ve decided to just do a few flash reviews of what I’ve been reading and get back up to date on my challenge. I would love to do longer reviews of some of these books but sometimes you just have to be realistic about what you can and can’t do!

No 669 The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt

The blurb for The Dead of Summer calls it a ‘thrilling raw crime novel’. Well, it’s a crime novel alright but raw and thrilling? Not so much.

suymmer

Set on the Swedish island of Gotland, a young father Peter Bovide is shot during his camping holiday on a morning jog. Police commissioner Anders Knutas is on holiday too, so it falls to his assistant Karin Jacobsson to lead the investigation until he returns. Both the police and the local press, led by TV reporter Johann Berg are at a loss as to the perpetrator until a second murder hints that they have been looking in the wrong direction.

The crime at the centre of The Dead of Summer isn’t the most exciting and the use of a flashback narrative means most readers will guess the identity of the killer by about two-thirds of the way through. A lot of the book focuses on the characters relationships but this are either predictable or not fully explored. The writing is a little workmanlike, but that may be down to translation and I may have had more of an emotional investment if there was a clear main protagonist (as it is there are three) or if I had read the other four books in the series.

It got the job done, but it was a forgettable read.

20 Books of Summer: 7/20

Number Read: 78

Number Remaining: 668

No 668 Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgeway

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This is the book I wish I could devote a really long review to because I loved it. I loved it so much. It is my book of the year so far and I can’t imagine anything bettering it. Hawthorn & Child are two detectives who investigate the shooting of a man in a London street. He claims to have been shot by a car. An old vintage car and that is all he can remember. So begins a woozy, otherworldly series of interconnected stories in which Hawthorn & Child may or may not appear. A man believes Tony Blair has poisoned him. A couple can only communicate through writing in a notebook. A young man takes a baby hostage and Hawthorn tries to make sense of his life.  Ridgeway has fashioned a crime novel with no real crime, a detective story that doesn’t really focus on the detectives and a novel that may be a short story collection or a short story collection that may be a novel. The only problem I had with Hawthorn & Child was that it wasn’t longer. If I have time I may give it a full review at the end of the summer, but for now, all I’ll say is read it.

20 Books of Summer: 8/20

Number Read: 79

Number Remaining: 667

No 667 Life by Keith Richards

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This hugely entertaining autobiography which charts Richards’ life from working class London childhood to global superstardom with one of the world’s biggest bands is an incredibly amusing, insightful and often sobering read. I like The Rolling Stones but often thought Keith was the caricature of the rock n’roll lifestyle and not much more. The book explores his love and knowledge of music (blues in particular) in great depth, his massive drug habit, his questionable parenting skills and his fractious relationship with both Brian Jones and Mick Jagger. What comes across most in Life is that for Keith, the image of the drug taking, crazy rock musician is something that he has both cultivated and come out the other side of, but that at the end of the day, it is all about the music.

People say, ‘Why don’t you give it up?’ I can’t retire until I croak. I don’t think they quite understand what I get out of this. I’m not just doing this for the money or for you. I’m doing it for me.

20 Books of Summer: 9/20

Number Read: 80

Number Remaining: 666

No 666 This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor

It’s a very beautiful world. It’s a shame what will happen

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In Jon McGregor’s novels, he explores how the small unanticipated moments of our existence can have a devastating outcome on our lives. In this collection of his short stories, he uses this skill to stunning effect, the stories littered with events that come out of nowhere – accidents, meetings, and moments of rash judgments.

A group of school leavers in a car discuss setting up a bespoke snack business until a moment of inattention threatens their futures. A young man knocks down and kills a man and buries his body in an attempt to keep his own life on track. A young student survives an accident when a sugar beet smashes through her windscreen, only to potentially find herself in more danger. In the stunning ‘A Wave and A Call’ a young man snorkels with friends on a foreign holiday, only to find himself floating further out to sea.

There is an apocalyptic nature to some of the stories as in ‘If It Keeps on Raining’ where a man is building a treehouse to save himself from a coming flood and throughout all the stories there is a sense of nature being a force greater than we can withstand. There is also some humour, particularly in The Chicken and The Egg, where a man develops a phobia of cracking open an egg

If he does find himself in an unavoidable egg breaking scenario, the tension is almost literally palpable

The book explores lives fractured, interrupted and sent off course with a beautiful poetic prose that is both grounded and otherworldly. The stories in this collection are lingering, unsettling and quite, quite brilliant.

20 Books of Summer: 10/20

Number Read: 81

Number Remaining: 665

No 665 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? By Edward Albee

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In The Goat or Who is Sylvia? Edward Albee uses bestiality as the discussion point rather than the true subject of his play about Martin, a world-famous architect at the top of his game who has the rather unfortunate problem of having fallen deeply in love with a goat called Sylvia. The play takes the form of a Greek tragedy and the goat becomes a metaphor for any unacceptable act or desire that produces revulsion within society when revealed. The play is oddly funny – particularly when Martin describes the beauty of Sylvia’s eyes – but by the end the laughs peter out, mainly in the face of the pain of Martin’s wife Stevie, who asks

How can you love me when you love so much less?

Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl in the US Premiere of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl in the US Premiere of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Albee is certainly no stranger to controversy and here he brings it in spades, but the ending is somewhat sanitised given all that has gone before. The Goat may stick in the mind for the content, but it doesn’t stay there like ‘Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?’

20 Books of Summer: 11/20

Number Read: 82

Number Remaining: 664

So, 9 books left and 4 weeks to read them. Tough, but still doable!

20 Books of Summer!

1 summer.

96 days.

20 books.

4.8 days per book.

Can I do it?

From now until 4 September I will be attempting to read my 20 Books of Summer. Why not join in with your own 20, read along with some of the books or just cheer me on as I try and get that dreaded 746 down by another 20 in just 3 months.20 books of summer - master image

  • The Selected Works of TS Spivet by Reif Larsen
  • In the House, Upon the Dirt, Between the Lake and the Trees by Matt Bell
  • The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
  • The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson
  • This Isn’t The Sort of Thing that Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor
  • The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
  • Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
  • Killer Joe by Tracy Letts
  • Out by Natsuo Kirino
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
  • Motel Chronicles and Hawk Moon by Sam Shepard
  • Life by Keith Richards
  • The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? By Edward Albee
  • The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen
  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  • Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway
  • The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart
  • Light Boxes by Shane Jones

_DRB7528sharp Don’t forget to check out these other fabulous bloggers who are also taking part, there is such a great range of reading going on!

My Book Strings

J Mill Wanders

You, Me and a Cup of Tea

Faith Hope & Cherry Tea

A Bibliophile’s Style

Well Read Pirate Queen

Vauquer Boarding House

Fiction Fan

Cedar Station

Little Bookworm

Ali Jini Vs The Universe

Kirsty @ The Literary Sisters

Cleopatra Loves Books

The Bookworm Chronicles

Books Are My Favourite and Best

A World of Books

Sarah Reads Too Much

Brona’s Books

That’s What She Read

The Writerly Reader

The Fluff is Raging

Books Please

Brittany Marie Reads

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Bookarahma

Becky’s Books

Forrest Of Books

The Worn Bookmark

I’d Rather Be at the Beach

Ana’s Lair

Akylina @ The Literary Sisters

The Skeptical Reader

Jayne’s Books

Heaven Ali

Nashville Bookworm

Adventures in Reading, Writing and Working from Home

Emerald City Book Review

The Evening Reader

My Carved Words

CK’s Reading Corner

And why not follow me on Twitter @cathy746books and use the hashtag #20booksofsummer to join in the chat with everyone taking part!

20 Books of Summer 2015!

20 books of summer - master image

It’s hard to believe a year has passed, but there are hints of a change in the weather here in Ireland and I’ve decided to challenge myself again this year to read my 20 Books of Summer!

Last year I managed a mere 16 ½ books, so hopefully I can beat that record this time round.

When I started trying to decide on my 20 Books, I had an idea. At the start of 746 Books, the aim was to read what I had, save some money by not buying books and clear some space by reading what was in the house. And I have managed to read what I have and save some money but over the last 18 months though, I’ve come to realise that I mostly read on my iPad, so the piles in the house are still there, mocking me.

So, this summer, I will only read physical books. It’s a bit daunting, because it removes the opportunity to read on my phone, but it will be nice to spend some time reconnecting with some real, actual books for a change! Plus, I might have a clear shelf by September!

So, starting from 1 June and running until 4 September, I’m hoping to read 20 actual books. 7 a month, I can do that, right? Like last year I’ve gone for as broad a range of genres and books as I can and like last year I have included a rock star memoir, a trashy 70s classic, and some sneaky short plays, poetry collections and short stories!

Photo: drbimages

Photo: drbimages

I won’t be reading in any particular order and be warned, reviews may be shorter than usual – I’ve still a job and a couple of twins to look after you know!

So, here are my 20 Books of Summer, click on the titles for a link to their Goodreads description:

I’m going to keep a Master post at the start of the blog so you can follow my progress as books get crossed off the list and if anyone feels their reading needs a bit of oomph then why not join me? Just take the Books of Summer image, pick your own 10 or 20 books you’d like to read and link below.  I’d love your support and I’ve provided a 10 Books image in case 20 seems too daunting! I’ll be tweeting my way through the challenge as well using the hastag #20booksofsummer.

10 books

So, any thoughts on my choices? Have you read any of my 20? Any I should start with straight away, or save for later? Any I’m going to regret putting on the list? I’d love to hear what you think.

I’m 1 today!

1st Birthday

Today is my Blogversary!

I’m quite surprised by this for several reasons, but the main one is that I’ve stuck at it for a year! I’ve started several blogs in the past, but never one with such a tight focus, so I’m pleased that I didn’t just give up. I did worry that because I wasn’t reviewing the latest books or the newest releases that I wouldn’t find an audience, but I’ve been delighted to discover that’s not the case.

I’m also surprised that I stuck to my vow not to buy any new books. This is a big one for me given the amount I was buying! Yes, I’ve received books as gifts but I really didn’t buy one book for myself since I started blogging. I’ll try to stick to it in the coming year, but the longer it goes on the more chance I have of slipping off the wagon….

So, where am I with the dreaded TBR? When I started my blog I worked out that it would take me 20.72 years to read all the 746 based on the fact that I had only read 32 books in the previous year. I’ve done a little better this year reading 52 (one a week!) so if I keep up the momentum it looks like I’ll be all done by mid 2028….. 🙂

The main thing I’ve had this year is lots of fun. I never realised how friendly and supportive others book bloggers are and I’ve come to know a great bunch of people.  I love reading others’ thoughts on books, even if I can’t buy them myself – it’s like a weird kind of vicarious book thrill!

I’ve also had fun taking part in Reading Challenges – RIP IX, The Wharton Review, Non Fiction November and the aptly named March Madness. I even managed to set up a few for myself, namely Reading Roulette and 20 Books of Summer. It has been interesting to read books that I don’t think I would ever have bothered getting round to, authors like Shirley Jackson and Edith Wharton who were just languishing on my shelves before but are now are firm favourites.

Other highlights of the year have been winning my gorgeous Scribbelicious necklace courtesy of a giveaway by Naomi at The Writes of Women and of course, being nominated for an Irish Blog Award.

I’m really looking forward to 2015. I would love to get in to the 500’s by the end of next year, but over 90 books is a bit of a stretch what with the kids and the job and the myriad of other things that life throws! What I do know is I’ll be reading The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton in February along with the lovely Jacqui at JacquiWine’s Journal (will you join us?)  and I’ll try and complete 20 Books of Summer once again from June to September.

But I’m most excited to be hosting Reading Ireland Month in March along with Niall at The Fluff is Raging

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To celebrate Irish literature and culture we’ll be reviewing books, music, movies, theatre and television from Ireland, there will be giveaways and the chance for you to link up your reviews of books by Irish writers. I do hope some of you will take part. I’ll be posting more details about it next month, so keep an eye out for how to sign up!

A big thank you to everyone who has viewed, read, liked, commented, tweeted, retweeted, reposted and generally supported me along the way this last year. It might sound corny but I wouldn’t be here without you all!