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S.L Ireland (Ireland)

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Bird's Nest Soup: Locked-up  in an Irish Psychiatric Hospital (Hanna Greally)
Bird's Nest Soup: Locked-up in an Irish Psychiatric Hospital (Hanna Greally)
Price: £8.55

5.0 out of 5 stars A shameful period in Irish history, 20 July 2016
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"It was a dustbin for people who were slightly different"

Growing up near Longford, the pressure of exams or parents would always lead myself or a peer to sigh "if they don't let up I'll end up in Loman's". St. Loman's Hospital (formerly the Mullingar District Lunatic Asylum, serving Longford, Meath and Westmeath) is situated on the Delvin Road in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. A mental hospital, an asylum - "The Big House".

This book is the story of Hanna (Johanna) Greally, a young Athlone woman who was signed in to St. Loman's at the age of 19 by her mother "for a rest" after a supposed mental breakdown. Hanna had returned home to her mother after working in the UK as a nurse. She ended up spending 20 years of her life in Loman's - this is her account of her time there.

This book is outrageously sad. Ireland has many positive things going for it - but our history of how we treat those with mental health issues is appalling. This isn't a million years ago - this was just in the 1950s. My Mum was a child. People were thrown into institutions for reasons that would cause uproar today - poverty, abuse, homelessness, addiction, family disputes. Women were thrown in and locked away for "bringing shame" on the family when they were raped. The abused, the depressed, the argumentative, the unwanted, the unloved, the sad, the quiet, the 'slow', the 'odd' - all locked away in dark, dank places and subjected to 'therapies' like ECT, Insulin Coma, Lobotomy, Sedation, Seclusion, Confinement. Thrown away, hidden, forgotten. When Hanna Greally was signed in circa 1946, she was one of 3,000 patients in Loman's. One of over 20,000 in Ireland at the time.

"I could never believe I had struggled through all my childhood of illnesses, measles, chickenpox, that I had studied to pass the matriculation in eight subjects, to be told obliquely that I was ineffectual, to become a byword, or even worse, to be remembered as a sort of female village idiot."

With the building above now due to be sold by the HSE only time will tell what the future holds - but there are many accounts of its past history. A miserable place full of sadness and despair, it's a place where humanity was stripped, hope was lost, spirits were broken, people were forgotten. 1,304 bodies are reportedly buried in the grounds of the hospital - the last one in 1970. As of 2011 they are unmarked, with numbered crosses being stored in an outbuilding.

This is a report from 2007. NINE years ago.

St Loman's, Mullingar:

Inspector's comments:

"Apart from the admission units, the conditions in areas of St Loman's Hospital remained very poor with damp, peeling paint, tiles lifting on floors, poor sanitary facilities, curtains falling down and drab and institutional-style furnishings and decor. A significantly large number of these areas were dirty, including sluice rooms and bathrooms and toilets. In short, the conditions that people with enduring mental illness have to live in permanently in St Loman's Hospital were deplorable....every effort must be made to close the hospital immediately."

Currently, all patients have been moved to other buildings and the 95% vacant building is now used for administration only. Elderly patients who have spent the bulk of their lives in St. Lomans have been moved to other units in Mullingar.

Hanna Greally was not one of the forgotten - she had a remarkable spirit. She fought to keep her identity, her humanity - she fought for her freedom, her liberation. She got out - and prompted a long overdue discussion in Ireland in the 1970s with the publication of this book.

A fascinating, very human account of a shameful period in Irish history. Personally I'd leave the forewords until you've read Hanna's account first.

The Leaving
The Leaving
Price: £5.03

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing but a great premise, 20 July 2016
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This review is from: The Leaving (Kindle Edition)
Six children, all aged five, go missing. Eleven years later, five come home. They have no idea where they have been for eleven years, or how they returned - but they are determined to find out what happened, and where the sixth went.

This was an interesting premise and one I've not seen before in a YA book - I liked the mystery element and the collective amnesia meant we were finding things out at the same time as the characters. The story is told from three POVs - Lucas, Scarlett (both have returned after 11 years) and Avery (the sister of one of the missing).

It wasn't massively exciting - the story plodded along, but it was a good enough read. The chapters were short (1-2 mins long each) so it was easy to get through. There were formatting issues for me - different fonts and lines were used at times to convey how the characters were feeling when they thought they remembered something or when they were worried and I felt that was gimmicky and unnecessary, I thought there was something wrong with my copy at first.

Overall it was good - I felt like it ended just as it was getting started and I'd love to know more about the missing years but it wasn't as disappointing as some reviews here would have led me to believe. I only had one real eye-rolling moment that involved something one of the children said when they were five, but other than that it was fine. I'd definitely recommend it if you'd like to read something fresh and different.

The Loney: Costa Winner 2015
The Loney: Costa Winner 2015
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Slow, Creepy, Suspenseful, 20 July 2016
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"The temperature dropped and the clouds darkened. The road steamed in driving rain. Shreds of mist hung over the cold lakes and woods. Moorland turned the colour of mould and the becks coursed in spate down the peaty slopes, white and solid-looking from a distance, like seams of quartz."

So gives us our first glimpse of "The Loney" - a wild area somewhere on the Cumbrian coast. Every Easter, the family pack up and head to a deserted Victorian house in order to visit a nearby shrine with the eldest son, Hanny (Andrew), who has been mute since birth. Hanny's mother is determined that he will be cured.

The younger brother is the narrator, the book opens as he must face something that happened on one of those family pilgrimages to The Loney in the 1970s. We are taken back to that fateful week, and the story unravels slowly before we find out what happened and how it has affected the narrator and his brother.

Firstly, this was fantastically atmospheric. It was dark, gothic, creepy - The Loney was a character in itself. It lived, it breathed, it hid secrets and spat them back out again. There's an element of religion to this - one of the main characters is a Priest who accompanies the family to the shrine. It doesn't preach or beat religion into the reader, it's used appropriately to illustrate the level of faith some members of the party have. There are much darker forces at work here too, and that gives a nice contrast to the religious aspect.

I found this similar to books I've read by Susan Hill, Shirley Jackson, some of the Hammer novellas (e.g. Joanna Briscoe's Touched) - but it's right up there with the best of them. It's not fast paced, it's not action packed, it's a slow burner but it's all the better for it. Genuinely creepy and really well written.

Canon 8287B005 Ink Cartridge - Multi-Colour
Canon 8287B005 Ink Cartridge - Multi-Colour
Price: £18.25

5.0 out of 5 stars As Described, 20 July 2016
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Good value, well packed, genuine cartridges, no complaints.

Terraria (Nintendo 3DS)
Terraria (Nintendo 3DS)
Price: £19.24

5.0 out of 5 stars A hit with 11 year old boy, 20 July 2016
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My 11 year old son has played it lots since I bought it for him, and he really enjoys it. It's challenging, he often asks me to google how to fight a particular boss or make a particular weapon. He says he'd recommend it for people who like Minecraft and RPGs.

The Couple Next Door
The Couple Next Door
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for Fans of Twisty Thrillers, 20 July 2016
Anne and Marco Conti attend a small get-together hosted by their neighbours, Cynthia and Graham. They leave their 6 month old baby girl, Cora, at home alone - but it's okay, because they've got a baby monitor and either Anne or Marco nip next door every half hour to check on Cora. But when they return home - Cora is gone.

So begins the twistiest thriller I've read in a long time - none of these characters were particularly likeable, it was hard to find empathy for anyone who would leave their young child alone - but I did feel for Anne and her personal struggle after having Cora. I felt it was a really real portrayal of how a baby can change your life and make you feel inadequate compared to others. There are no innocents in this story - everyone has a closet stuffed with skeletons.

"Everyone is faking it, pretending to be something they're not. The whole world is built on lies and deceit."

Thank you to the publisher for granting me approval to read a digital copy via Netgalley.

Those Summer Nights: The perfect romantic comedy on a gorgeous Greek island
Those Summer Nights: The perfect romantic comedy on a gorgeous Greek island
by Mandy Baggot
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love is on the menu, 18 Jun. 2016
Imogen's brother Harry has bought a restaurant in Corfu, Greece and he wants Immy to help him run it. Imogen is perfectly happy in England, where she is a waitress with a dream of getting into the hotel industry. She goes to Greece to try and dissuade Harry from opening the restaurant but Harry's having none of it - this is happening, it's going to be a success, and he's going to get his wife back after a separation. When Greek millionaire Panos makes Harry a tempting offer, he's having none of it. But speaking of tempting...

This is predictable, it's cheesy - but that's exactly what I wanted. This is something light to read on a Summer evening, it's pure escapism and it's Mandy Baggot - so it's always that little bit sharper and wittier than others in the genre (the line "watch me whip, watch me flambé" was so funny) - the pop culture references are always razor sharp and the characters are likeable and well rounded. I really enjoyed Elpida, the Greek mother - I thought she was brilliant. It's also full of delicious Greek food references and contains recipes to try some out yourself. A great holiday read!

Thank you to Bookouture for the digital ARC provided through Netgalley.

The Little Village Bakery: A feel good romantic comedy with plenty of cake (Honeybourne Book 1)
The Little Village Bakery: A feel good romantic comedy with plenty of cake (Honeybourne Book 1)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Little Village Bakery, 15 Jun. 2016
Jasmine Green lives with her husband and their triplets in the small village of Honeybourne. It's a happy place - everyone might know everyone else's business, but nobody would have it any other way. When new girl Millie moves in to the old bakery, the villagers rally round to help - but Millie isn't so keen for people to get close. She's afraid that history will repeat itself and she'd have to leave Honeybourne if that happened...

This author's books are always a little sharper and fresher than others in the same genre. There are themes here that normally would be considered too dark, but they're handled sensitively and realistically. My only complaint was that for a book with 'Bakery' in the title, it didn't have much baking - but hopefully this will be the beginning of a series and we'll be back to visit Honeybourne in the future. An easy Summer read.

Thank you to Bookouture for granting my request to read the ARC via Netgalley.

My Name is Leon
My Name is Leon
by Kit de Waal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars The emotional journey of a foster child, 9 Jun. 2016
This review is from: My Name is Leon (Hardcover)
Set in the UK in the late 70s / early 80s, this is Leon's story. Leon is 8 years old, he lives with his Mum, Carol. She has just had another baby boy, Jake, who Leon instantly adores. He becomes Jake's protector, he fends for him when Carol is too unwell to mind them. He dreams of Jake growing up and playing with him properly - but in the meantime, he'll do all he can to keep him safe.

Unfortunately, Carol is unable to cope and Social Services get involved. For a time, the boys stay with lovely Maureen with the frizzy hair - until it becomes apparent that something more permanent is needed. A family is found for Jake - but nobody will take Leon - his age and mixed race do not make him as desirable as bouncing baby Jake, who is white. Leon is determined to get his brother back, no matter what it takes.

This is hard to read. It's upsetting, it's emotional, it's heartbreaking - I read it months ago and I'm tearing up now even writing this. I had to put it away for a little while and go back to it, I felt angry for Leon. At one point Leon buys some baby dinners in a shop for Jake and even thinking about that scene now makes me feel so sad. Ultimately - it's a poignant look at fostering and how some children just manage to soldier on - but it's a lovely story and one that's really worth a read. It's also a great insight to that particular time period in the UK - with the Royal Wedding hype, simmering racial tensions, the IRA, etc.

I received this as a digital ARC from the publisher, thank you. I originally rated it 4 stars but it has stayed with me for months, hence the upgrade.

My Husband's Wife
My Husband's Wife
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Holiday Read, 30 May 2016
This review is from: My Husband's Wife (Kindle Edition)
October 2015: Ed Macdonald has been murdered in his home.

Rewind fifteen years, and Ed is newly married to Lily, a criminal lawyer. Lily is consumed by her first case, Ed is a struggling artist. Salvation arrives in the form of a muse - 10 year old neighbour Carla, who just wants to be like all the other girls at school and will do just about anything to get her way. The story is told in chapters alternating between Lily and Carla.

This is twisty, dark - there are no heroes here, everyone has a secret. It held my attention from the first page. I received a physical proof from the publisher but also bought it on kindle so I could continue reading in bed. If you're looking for a good holiday read, this could be a runner. The only thing that let it down for me was the last 20% - I felt that Lily began to unravel a bit and I found myself unable to understand her decisions. Apart from that, this was an enjoyable thriller and easy to read.

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