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Dubray Review

The Sweet One (but not exclusively)

Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake is an absolutely stunning book; and by far the most mouth-watering collection of cakes I have ever seen in one volume (sorry Nigella). Not only are the recipes accompanied by beautiful colour photographs, their range – from Chocolate and Potato Cake to Polenta, Cheese, and Chilli Muffins, from Sticky Sour Cream, Golden Syrup and Ginger Cake to Brie and Pear Tart, and from Lemonade Scones to Crunchy Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Biscuits – is exceptional. And if that were not enough, the recipes are easy to follow and Jeffers is a veritable encyclopedia of useful tips and tricks, making this book a must have for anyone looking to make their own, or simply expand their repertoire of cakes, bakes and breads.

- Veronica Hinterdorfer, Stillorgan

|Leningrad 1941: a city under siege.  Music conductor Karl Eliasberg remains in the city while his eminent colleagues are taken to safety.  The composer Shostakovich finally leaves, reluctant to abandon his city. The people starve as food supplies are cut off.  When the bombing starts, Eliasberg’s Radio Orchestra is ordered to perform Shostakovich’s latest work to boost morale in the city and on the frontlines and, in doing so, the conductor and his surviving musicians are pushed to the limits of their endurance.  Hope disappears as life becomes unbearable – a child is lost, friends and family die – but then a small piece of good news revives their spirits and these brave souls struggle on. Love, after all, is still possible in this world.  This is a tough, beautiful story and the characters linger long in your mind once you have finished the book.

- Olivia Clear, Stillorgan
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Twelve year-old Peter gets the shock of his life when a German plane crash-lands into the field near his house.  Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpses a parachute descending towards the woods.  It is summer, 1941, rations are in place and Peter’s father is away fighting in the war.
A couple of days later, Peter’s new friend, Kim, dares him to accompany her searching for “souvenirs” from the crash.  At the edge of the woods, they discover the German parachutist – starving, injured and petrified for his life.
 
Believing the airman will be shot on capture, the children decide to hide him, slowly realising that the soldier they have befriended is not all that different from an English person.  But is helping a German the right thing to do?
 
I really enjoyed this captivating debut novel, which is as good as any book by Michael Morpurgo.  There were occasions in the story when my heart hammered in my chest with fear and excitement.  But among all the mines, incendiaries and bombs, this is a really brilliant story of friendship and family.  I highly recommend this book to boys and girls aged 9 and upwards.
 
- Vivienne Luke, Rathmines
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Human Remains is both a chilling psychological drama and a heartbreaking portrayal of lives that have slipped between the cracks. Annabel is a police intelligence analyst who happens upon the badly decomposed body of a neighbour. Struck initially by the tragedy of a missing person having gone unnoticed for so long, Annabel becomes suspicious when other bodies are discovered in the area and she decides to investigate.   With the sudden death of her mother, Annabel is alone in the world and the well-intentioned concern of a caring stranger may not be all that it seems. Her life begins to unravel and she finds herself in the same vulnerable predicament as those souls who have gone before her, only to be brought back from the brink of desperate loneliness by Sam, a journalist with the local paper who also takes an interest in these cases.
 
- Nicola Kennedy, Bray
|French academic and ardent anti-Semite Paul-Jean Husson’s epistolary confession to a local SS officer is the basis of this novel. Having fallen for his son’s wife, Ilse, Paul-Jean feels compelled to outline the reasons for his subsequent actions that culminated in an act of betrayal so shocking that it leaves the reader stunned.  The combination of Paul-Jean’s self-justification, his increasing hatred of Jews and his burgeoning love for Ilse makes for compelling, if unsettling, reading. The suspense mounts as Paul-Jean continues with his confession, resulting in harrowing and heartbreaking scenes. Longlisted for the Prix Goncourt in 2011, the themes of Monsieur le Commandant may be familiar but the viewpoint from which it is told makes it chillingly unique. A powerful yet difficult read, this book is a reminder, if one were needed, of the devastating inhumanity and cruelty of the Second World War.

- Sally Kingston, Bray
|When Camille receives an unsigned letter in the post, she is sure that it has been sent to her by mistake. More unsigned letters follow, detailing the relationship between Madame M. and her husband – a wealthy couple in pre-World War Two France – and Annie, a young village girl. When Annie decides to carry a child for the couple, their lives become inexorably linked.  Initially, the letters give Annie’s perspective but, in the latter part of the novel, the reader is given Madame M.’s point of view. Both women have been wronged, mainly by each other, so the reader’s sympathies switch back and forth. The identity of the eponymous Confidant is not immediately revealed but it is clear that he knew both women well. Grémillon’s debut novel is powerful and intricate, clearly demonstrating the danger of secrets and the power of obsession.

- Sally Kingston, Bray

|Meet Tochtli: the ten year-old son of a violent drug baron. Tochtli lives in an isolated palace somewhere in Mexico and his many interests include his hat collection, the French and their guillotines, the Japanese and their samurai swords and,  most important of all, the Liberian Pygmy hippopotamus. Tochtli’s biggest concern is acquiring a Liberian Pygmy hippopotamus for his own private collection of wild (and dangerous) animals but events soon begin to spiral out of control. This is a thrillingly authentic short novel that will have you gripped right from the very first line. Told from Tochtli’s point of view, it will doubtless be compared to Emma Donoghue's Room but it’s for anyone who enjoys original, moving, highly-entertaining and extremely well-written stories. Get your year off to a great start by reading this exciting new voice in fiction. You'll be glad you did.

- Tony O’Neill, Blackrock

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Tommy is more than just the new boy at school: he's the new boy who wears a different balaclava to school each day. As a result, no one has ever seen his face or knows exactly what he looks like – or even why he wears the balaclavas. It doesn't take long for the students of Grade Four to claim they know the real reason but their sometimes sneaky attempts to find out why take a back seat once the Grade Five bullies finally notice Tommy. His classmates soon come to understand that it's not really that important why Tommy wears the balaclava. However, none of them are prepared for what they hear once Tommy tells them the truth!

Balaclava Boy successfully deals with serious topics like fitting in, bullying and deciding not to follow the crowd, and does so both with humour and without preaching. It's brilliant for readers aged 7 and up.

- Helen Corcoran, Grafton Street

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Meet Primrose Leary, aged 16, post-Junior Cert and ready for summer. No longer obsessed with putting moustaches on babies (as she was aged 12, in Prim Improper) or with a never-ending glossary of unusual words (as she was aged 14, in Improper Order), Prim is now facing impending adulthood (ish!) without the company of her beloved rat, Roderick, or her best friend, Joel. But hilarity is never far from Prim’s life, whether in the form of her own mishaps or of those around her – or when the Big Things in life can no longer be avoided.

- Helen Corcoran, Grafton Street

 

|Oisín has never fitted in – even sometimes within his own family – but his destiny is rewritten when, in his grandmother's house, he discovers the Book of Magic and it jumps into his hands. Oisín is now the Book’s Keeper but, when his sister Sorcha is kidnapped by the Morrígan, he soon realises that magic can have terrible consequences.

To find Sorcha, Oisín and his brother must travel through the Island of the Tuatha de Danann, where there is little resemblance to the myths the boys remember from their early childhood: the island may be magical but it is also savage and neither of them is entirely sure where anyone's true loyalty lies. To free Sorcha, Oisín must give the Book of Magic to the Morrígan but the Book can be destructive in the wrong hands and Oisín isn't entirely sure he wants to give it up.

This is a thrilling, fast-paced novel that drags Irish legends into the present day and gives them a fresh, new spin. It's ideal for readers aged ten and up.

- Helen Corcoran, Grafton Street
|Sophie's little brother Patrick is a brat with a capital B, always getting Sophie into terrible trouble.  But all their mother sees is a little angel being persecuted by his big sister! Bruno is strictly forbidden to follow his passion for boxing.  His mother insists he practices the piano each day and has hung a picture of Mozart on his bedroom wall for inspiration. Emily is fed up with forever having to rescue her mother.  If her disorganised Mum hasn’t lost her wallet, then she has more than likely ran out of petrol.

Each of these three children enters a competition to find The World’s Worst Mother.  But the organisers – a toy factory owner and his deranged technician – have their own ulterior motives and the mothers disappear, to be replaced by friendly and efficient ‘Aunt Annas’. Is this a dream come true for the children or might it just be their worst nightmare?

I loved this brilliantly funny adventure/detective story by Sabine Ludwig, who is one of Germany’s most successful children’s authors.  Translated by Laureate na nÓg, Siobhán Parkinson, it is a must read for all the boys and girls who have ever considered trading in their mother for a better model. David Walliams fans: you’re in for a treat!

- Vivienne Luke, Rathmines

I really enjoyed the book The World’s Worst Mothers.  The book was very funny at times.  At other times the book really has your blood pumping.  In the story there are three children who have three of the world’s worst mothers.  One of the children is called Bruno, he wants to box but his mother wants him to play the piano.  Even though he’s rubbish at playing the piano.  Then there’s Sophie.  She’s misunderstood by her mother.  Her little brother, Nicolas, he keeps on putting dead animals in Sophie’s bed.  And we can’t forget Emily.  Emily’s mother is a scatter brain.  Emily is looking after her mother more than her mother is looking after her.  Then one day all three children see an advertisement.  The advertisement said World’s Worst Mothers wanted.  Go to www.worldsworstmothers.eek. Reading The World’s Worst Mothers was amazing.  I was really looking forward to reading The World’s Worst Mothers when I had finished my homework.

- Molly Raftery, age 11


|Fleeing his war-torn country with nothing but a suitcase and his grand-daughter, Monsieur Linh is confused by his new surroundings and fellow immigrants. Landing in a strange country with other refugees, he takes to walking the city with his grand-daughter in his arms. As time goes by, Monsieur Linh comes across a fellow loner in the English-speaking Monsieur Bark, a man in need of a confidante. Neither can understand the other but, despite this, a firm friendship forms between the two men. Monsieur Bark needs to talk and Monsieur Linh has plenty of time to listen. It is easy to lose yourself in the quiet world of these two different yet somehow still very alike men. This beautifully written, simple novel is compulsive enough to be read in one sitting and will stay with you long after you've reached the end.

Olivia Bergin, Dubray Books Kilkenny|From the bestselling author of Inkheart: a spellbinding story of imagination and adventure.

What if fairy tales do not spring from the imagination, but actually exist in another world? Jacob Reckless finds the entrance to such a world through the mirror in his father’s study – a place full of fairies, dwarves and mythical creatures; a land of adventure, plunder and war. For years now, Jacob has happily disappeared into the hidden realm of Mirrorworld while keeping its knowledge a secret from those around him. Until, that is, Jacob’s secret is discovered by his brother, Will. This one mistake leaves Will in danger of being turn to stone and becoming a Goyl. With the help of Will’s girlfriend, Clara, and of a shape-shifting girl called Fox, Jacob must find a cure for Will or risk losing him forever.

Cornelia Funke, the author that brought us the Inkheart Trilogy, has once again created a spellbinding story of imagination and adventure. If you like the Brothers Grimm, then you’ll love Reckless.

Edwina Boyce, Dubray Books Stillorgan|This is one of those very rare novels that you you gasp in admiration while reading and will  remember forever afterwards.  As the title suggests, it’s beautifully translated from the original French.  An ‘Elegant Hedgehog’ is how twelve year-old Paloma sees the nondescript concierge of her grand Parisian apartment building.  Shuffling about in her concierge’s lodge, Renee has a secret: beneath the façade, she is cultivated, devoted to the arts, and something of a philosopher.  Meanwhile, misunderstood Paloma lives a privileged life yet contemplates suicide.  The death of one neighbour brings a dramatic change to the whole building. Renee and Paloma strike up an unlikely friendship, a balm to two lonely souls who are out of step with their world.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog took France by storm and for very good reason.

- Aileen Smyth, Rathmines


|From The Book Jacket:

Bassam and George grew up together in war-torn Lebanon.  Wild young men in the ruins of a splintered city, their childhood games have taken on a dangerous edge.  Bassam needs money to fund his escape to the West and George wants the power that only the criminal underworld can give him.  But their hopes and dreams betray them, dragging the boys towards a fate they don't know how to resist.