The Lauras by Sara Taylor | Book Review

The Lauras by Sara Taylor. Advance Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher, Windmill Books, via included. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

The Lauras by Sara Taylor

On the surface The Lauras is a mother – child road trip novel. So far so easy, right? Not quite. Ma is restless and after one fight to many with her husband she bundles Alex into the car in the middle of the night and takes off.

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Mercury by Margot Livesey | Book Review

Mercury by Margot Livesey. Advance Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher, Sceptre, via bookbridgr. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

Mercury by Margot Livesey

Donald thought he had it all; a thriving marriage, happy children and a job as an optometrist he loves. Sight is his thing, yet he failed to see his wife Viv’s obsession with a horse named Mercury until it was too late. He couldn’t have predicted that he would end up drawn to Bonnie, who is one of his patients. How did things end up this way?

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5 questions with Denise Deegan

Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan. Advance Reader Copy (eARC) included. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

Every so often you come across a character you love so much that they remain long after the final page has been turned. Characters that cross your mind from time to time as you wonder how life worked out for them. Maggie Gilligan, the protagonist of Denise Deegan’s latest novel Through the Barricades, is one such character. Maggie is determined and fiercely loyal. If you haven’t yet spent time in her company, you should.

Thank you to Denise Deegan for taking some time to answer my questions.

Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan (Digital Flatlay)
Photo by Amanda Horan

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5 questions with Orla Shanaghy

Mental: Short Stories by Orla Shanaghy. Advance Reader Copy (ARC) from the author included. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

Mental is a thought-provoking look at how people experience mental ill-health. Across five stories Orla Shanaghy explores the impact of mental illness not only on the person who is ill, but also on the people around them.

The collection is short enough to finish in one sitting. But you’ll want to take your time; to sit with the characters and ponder whether you would have reacted differently in their situations.

To mark the launch of this debut collection, Orla Shanaghy took some time to answer my questions.

Mental by Orla Shanaghy

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Notes on make-up

Notes on make-up

Is make-up feminist? No. Is make-up anti-feminist? No. Can you be a feminist if you wear make-up? Yes. Can you be a feminist if you don’t wear make-up? Yes. One thing does not negate the other. There are plenty of make-up loving feminists, myself included.

This blog started out as a beauty blog and evolved as my relationship with make-up changed because, well, it’s complicated. For me, the act of applying make-up is as much fun as going out in said make-up. It’s an enjoyable process, despite my inability to blend a decent smoky eye. It was never something I wanted to become a chore. Yet, for a while, it did. I went from wearing it when I wanted, to feeling like I couldn’t leave the house bare-faced. Why? Because that’s what women do, we put on our faces in order to face the world.

Sometimes this is an act of self-care, sometimes it’s what helps you through caring for a loved one with an illness, but sometimes it feeds into a pressure to conform. It was the latter for me, which annoyed me no end because I couldn’t work out when the shift happened. When did it become another stick to hold over women’s heads in an effort to control what’s seen as “acceptable beauty”?

Eh, it was always this way. Of course it was and I knew that. Would not wearing make-up make that any less true? No. But the world wasn’t going to end if I was wearing it, was it? Nope. Overthinking, on my part, much? Probably, but here we are. I told you my relationship with make-up was complicated.

So, yes, I am a feminist with a weakness for red lipstick. Has living in a society that is centred on patriarchal beauty standards played a part in that? Of course it has and owning that is important. But sometimes red lipstick is just red lipstick.

What I’m Listening To | March Edition

I realised that a couple of years ago I stopped listening to new music. I stayed up on new releases from old favourites, but most music from the last few years has passed me by. After some recommendations from friends I’ve been listening to music more often. Here’s what is catching my attention at the moment; it’s a mix of new(ish) tracks and old favourites.

Youth | Daughter

Haze – Tessa Violet

Green Light – Lorde

Chanel – Frank Ocean

Russian Roulette – Rihanna

Cranes in the Sky – Solange

Jesus to a Child – George Michael

Eve, the Apple of my Eye – Bell X1

Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole – Martha Wainwright

Jonathan (feat. Perfume Genius) | Christine and the Queens

Notes on female body hair

A post shared by Priyanka Paul (@artwhoring) on

Women have body hair. We all know this. Yet we live in a world that pretends it’s not a thing, while simultaneously aggressively marketing hair removal products to women. Products which more often than not come in pink packaging and cost more than the equivalent product aimed at men. You know that patriarchy thing I keep going on about? Well, this is another manifestation of it.

There are women who enjoy the process of body hair removal, which is great. There are women who enjoy letting their body hair do its own thing, which is great. A lot of women like having hair free armpits, legs and bikini line, but aren’t massive fans of the accumulative time they spend in a lifetime on waxing, shaving, threading etc. Many women shave their legs only when they know they’ll be on show and relish winter because it means opaque tights. Many women don’t have a problem with their own body hair, but do have an issue with how society views them whatever they choose to do.

What a woman does with her body hair is her decision. No one else’s. And if the sight of a woman with unshaven arms or legs offends you, the problem is most definitely with you and not the other person.

Notes on walking home alone

Notes on walking home alone
Designed by Roseanne Hansen

My most recent trip to Dublin reminded me how much I dislike walking alone when it’s dark. A friend walked me to the bus stop and went on her way. I missed the bus and there was a 25 minute wait for the next one. There were a few people so I felt OK waiting. After a few minutes I realised I was on edge. Every noise made me jumpy, especially when those noises came from groups of men who were passing by.

I was texting Paul and thought about phoning him, but didn’t want to take my phone fully out of my pocket. I was too on edge to feel comfortable standing around much longer, so I got a taxi. Of course I had to phone my friend and let her know my way of getting home had changed. We chatted until I was home safely.

Was I more aware of it because I’ve been away from Dublin so long? Was my discomfort stronger because I no longer drink alcohol and as a result pay more attention when the people around me are drunk? That’s not to say I feel inherently safer living in the country, because I don’t, but the geography of the place means I always have a lift waiting for me.

I think most women know the feeling I’m talking about. We slow down or speed up depending on who is walking behind us. We spend our time crossing and re-crossing the road to avoid men or stay in places lit by street lights. We change our routes. We have something on hand that can be used a weapon if we need it. We take note of which taxi our friends get into. We arrange to let each other know that we got home safely. Waiting for that text from someone can feel like an eternity.

These things are so ingrained in us that sometimes we don’t even think about them, we just do them. They are second nature to us. This. This, right here, is what I mean when I talk about rape culture. It’s exhausting to feel like this. Yet we do what we have to.

The most depressing thing is that so many women feel like this and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Notes on smashing the patriarchy

Notes on smashing the patriarchy

Here’s the thing about the patriarchy, it’s insidious and it’s everywhere. What starts small becomes a big deal; take Trump being elected as an example.

No one is immune from it. We all have the ability to be sexist, misogynistic and perpetuate rape culture. Most of us choose not to be because we know nothing good comes from it. A lot of us are working to ensure others fully understand the dangers inherent in the patriarchy. Some of us are also dealing with our own internalised misogyny, something that takes time and work to fully unpack, learn from and let go. It’s not always easy, but we do it because to do nothing is to allow the status quo to continue unchecked. And that is not an option.

Notes on comfort food

Notes on comfort food

If there is pasta in house I’ll never go hungry. Carbonara is a particular favourite. It’s not a particularly authentic version, so I’m sure Italian people would roll their eyes if you put it in front of them, but I love it. When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease, the thought of not being able to eat pasta freaked me out more than the lack of bread. So began my search for good gluten-free pasta. Of course good in gluten-free terms is always second best to the gluten filled version of anything, but there had to be an edible alternative out there somewhere. Trial and error ensued. Pasta made with rice is OK. Pasta made with corn is better. Pasta made with a mix of rice and corn is only so so. Pasta made with corn, potato and lupin is the best. And so my love affair with pasta continues.