a few Irish (and British) books for St. Patrick's Day

In previous years, I attempted to shed some light on the real person behind the very green, often raucous holiday called St. Patrick's Day (here and here). However, I have finally read enough Irish books to compile a small list of recommended St. Patrick's Day reads. So here you go:

Patrick: Son of Ireland | Stephen R. Lawhead
I'll start with the obvious choice. Although Lawhead's writing style tends to be a little dark for my taste, I enjoyed this informative work of historical fiction about the life of spoiled, wealthy Succat Morgannwg and his journey to become Saint Patrick.

Only the River Runs Free | Bodie & Brock Thoene
Another historical novel, Only the River Runs Free contains vividly painted characters that help bring a story involving the tension between Irish Catholics and Protestants to life. It also makes a good Christmas read, being set on Christmas eve in 1941. I wrote a brief review of it two years ago.

The Shadow Things | Jennifer Freitag
Here is where I cheat a bit, as this novel is actually set in southern Britain. My reasoning is this: St. Patrick was born in Britain, and this novel had a similar feel to Patrick. This beautiful novel has a riveting plot and very well-written characters. And, to quote my full review, "The introduction of a loving God provides a beautifully stark contrast to the fear-motivated paganism, which, while I can say nothing to the historical accuracy, was explained well."

Surprised by Joy | C.S. Lewis
This book provides a fascinating, inspiring, remarkably relateable look into C.S. Lewis's youth, from his childhood in Belfast, Ireland, to his studies at Oxford. It's a book to savor. If you're a fan of Lewis, this is definitely a must-read.

The Princes of Ireland | Edward Rutherfurd
At 778 pages, this epic novel may seem daunting, but don't let its wonderfully massive size scare you away (actually, that's partially what drew me to it!). The Princes of Ireland paints a beautiful, sweeping image of ancient Ireland through well-written stories encompassing major events and popular legends. Far from dry and dense, it will suck you into its pages.

The Crows of Beara | Julie Christine Johnson
If contemporary fiction is more your style, this one's for you. Something of a cross between the movie Leap Year and a Barbara Kingsolver novel, this book contains beautiful Irish landscapes, refreshingly believable characters, and a poetic story. It is a narrative of both people and place, and I highly recommend it.


if I stand {a poem}

if I stand upon a mountaintop
will I see what God sees,
know what God knows,
view the world with understanding

will my path finally present itself
with utter clarity,
my next step--and the one that follows it--
laid out before me
with unquestionable certainty


I am in this world but
God permeates and surrounds
fills and transcends

the Almighty created the amoeba
and me and the stars
with equal care
and how can I even begin to comprehend


Bronze (The Glister Journals #1)

It's been a while since my last book review, so I'm doubly excited to write a post about B. B. Shepherd's first novel, Bronze! If you like young adult books, horses, novels with mental health themes, or all of the above, I highly recommend The Glister Journals. Bronze is being re-released next week with a brand new cover, and you definitely want to pre-order a copy! I admittedly didn’t get much done the week I read it because it's so hard to put down. Check out the Glister Journals website for excerpts from the book, reviews, and links for pre-ordering.

In many ways, Allison Anderson is like most girls. In others, she's very different. The differences aren't immediately obvious but have caused misunderstandings and avoidance from others in the past. Starting high school in a new town, she expects the same experiences—until she meets the Calderas.

David Caldera, charismatic son of a local rancher, adopts Allison into his social circle. He and other new friends introduce her to their world of horses and extreme sports. Along with a lost horse she befriends, they help her to trust, gain confidence, and venture beyond her previously isolated world. She also falls helplessly but hopefully in love.

Navigating through confusing emotions, over-protective parents, and jealous classmates is difficult, but Allison's overriding fear is losing the people she's grown to love. To prove her determination to keep up, she enters a race—a dangerous decision that could cost her everything.
(from the author’s website)

Bronze is an engaging story with well-written descriptions. Though a bit cliché, I also thought it was very realistic, and overall found it to be an addicting, light (though long—604 pages!) read. I had a really hard time putting it down . . . and leaving it down.

It’s obvious that B. B. Shepherd knows horses, as all of the horse scenes are very well written. I also appreciated that the prevalent riding style is Western, as many YA horse books center around English riding. My only complaint in this area is that the horses lacked much individual personality.

As for the human characters, well, let’s make a list!

  • Allison is a likeable, very relatable protagonist. I loved reading her mental processes, emotions, and interactions—I felt like I was walking around in her skin. Her social awkwardness is palpable and very realistic. Bonus: she wears glasses.
  • Allison’s parents are, happily, neither absent nor villains.
  • Robin is a good friend and a likeable character. She accepts Allison for who she is, and I love that. I hope we get more of her story in the sequels.
  • Dave is kind, outgoing, adorable, and impossible not to like, but with somewhat mysterious intentions. He’s also very protective of those he loves.
  • Chris is a more mature, reserved version of Dave—almost a Mr. Darcy to his Mr. Bingley.
  • Melanie is a complete mystery, a potentially very good friend, and unfortunately extremely flat.
  • Matthew threatens to create an annoying love triangle, though is otherwise seemingly benign and a good friend.

Despite the fact that the blurb says Allison’s new friends “help her to trust, gain confidence, and venture beyond her previously isolated world,” this is not a fix-the-shy-person story so much as a narrative of Allison’s journey. She develops throughout the novel, but her personality remains essentially the same, and I love that.

A huge thank you to B. B. Shepherd for sending me a free copy of Bronze in exchange for my honest review!

I’d give it 4.5 leaves, but darn, I don’t have a graphic for that. ;)

Pre-order Bronze here or check out the website for more info!
(And don't forget to add it on Goodreads!)


tired {a poem}

I'm so tired of hate
tired of anger
tired of negativity
and instead of joining the rage
I yearn for joy
yearn for peace
yearn for love
and why can't we spread these
instead of insults and fear


autumn comes {a poem}

A crow swoops down from his perch on the wire
to strut in the middle of the road, haughty

in the midst of frolicking squirrels who
dart from one solid trunk to the next with
reckless, zigzagging abandon

as rain softly falls and
verdant boughs begin to drip amber leaves.