Reading Challenge Roundup

Isn’t this time of year when we assess where we are with our reading?  I’ve taken stock and here are the hard numbers.  I enjoyed most if not all of the books I read this year, and I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store for me.

2014 War Through the Generations Challenge With a Twist

  • signed up for Expert: Read 2+ books for each war for a total of 12 books
  • read 34 (including 2 per war)

2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

  • signed up for Renaissance Reader – 10 books
  • read 38

2014 Portuguese Historical Fiction Challenge

  • signed up for Afonsine – 1 to 3 books
  • read 1

Dive Into Poetry 2014

  • signed up for Dive in and read 7 or more books of poetry
  • read 24

New Authors Challenge 2014

  • signed up for 50 New-to-Me Authors
  • read 84

2014 European Reading Challenge

  • signed up for Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) — at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.
  • read 28 (Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, Scotland, England, Crete, Greece, Ireland, France, Germany, Portugal, Monaco, Hungary, Norway)

Ireland Reading Challenge 2014

  • signed up for Shamrock level: 4 books
  • read 4

How did you do on reading challenges this year?

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan

tlc tour host

Source: William Morrow and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 336 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan, the third book in the Ellis Island trilogy (Ellis Island and City of Hope), could be read alone as Kerrigan provides enough background on Ellie Hogan that new readers could pick this one up without a problem, but readers may find a richer reading experience when they read all three.

(If you haven’t read the other 2 books, this review could contain spoilers for those books)

Ellie Hogan has come into her own as a wife, mother, and artist, only to have her life disrupted when her oldest adopted son Leo runs away from his upstate New York boarding school.  Ellie is a first generation Irish immigrant who has lost a lot to the Irish war against the English, but she’s also gained a sense of purpose in America, learning to make her own way.  Her artist’s life is very isolated on Fire Island, and with her son, Tom, she has a quiet existence among the people who have become like family.  But when her son, Leo, runs away to Hollywood, she has to make a choice — send the police or go after him herself.  Making her away across the United States, Ellie tries to keep her fears at bay while being thankful that her youngest son is in the care of good friends while she makes the journey.  Along the way, she meets Stan, a composer who escaped from Poland before the Nazis took over.

“Yet surely the desire for fame was not so different from the desire to be loved, and everyone in the world wants to be loved.  The desire for fame and love is born from a deep human need to be seen, and I felt as if I could really see this young woman now, beyond the mules and the dye and her ridiculous ideas and affectations.  So I started to draw her.”  (pg. 122)

Ellie may have been a quintessential landscape painter with her own signature for delivering paintings to her clients, but in Los Angeles, she’s a mother in search of a star-struck son.  She must decide whether at 16 he should pursue his dream or return to New York and school, and it is a tough decision for any mother with a son who has finally found something to be passionate about.  Ellie’s experiences in a restrictive Catholic home in Ireland inform her ultimate decisions, as she decides that she would rather be more open-minded than her parents had been with her.  Kerrigan easily tackles the ideas of nature versus nurture in Ellie’s parenting, touches upon the seedier side of Hollywood — though not as much as some readers would expect — and incorporates significant details about World War II and the internment of Japanese-Americans.

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan is a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy about seeking out a home and family, but also stability.  But it is also about the realization of dreams across generations and having the gumption to take the leap.  While everything is not as it appears in Hollywood, the facades of the city also mirror those of Ellie’s own adopted country — a land of freedom and opportunity that still oppresses certain minorities and immigrants seeking a better life.

About the Author:

Kate Kerrigan is the author of three previous novels. She lives in Ireland with her husband and their two sons.  Visit Kate’s website at www.katekerrigan.ie and follow her on Twitter: @katekerrigan.



35th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





29th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.




4th Book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2014.

The Paradise Tree by Elena Maria Vidal

Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Paperback, 252 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Paradise Tree by Elena Marie Vidal recounts the real life of Daniel O’Connor, the author’s great-great-great-grandfather, based upon his own letters and writing and family lore and woven into a work of historical fiction.  Daniel O’Connor was a young man during the potato famine in Ireland, and watched as his parents struggled against starvation, political wills, and bigotry.  Even as he had dreams of becoming a doctor, laws in the land of his birth forbade his ascension in the profession, despite his skill in setting bones and working as an apprentice with other non-Catholic physicians.  After running out of the funds to attend medical school, he set his sights on a new life — one that would take him across the Atlantic into the harsh wilderness of Ontario, Canada, in the late 1880s.

Vidal has crafted a tale based on fact, and although it is fictionalized, the prose has a very non-fiction feel, which leaves readers at a distance from the characters.  The factual feel of the novel can fall flat for readers looking to connect with the characters, especially as the years pass along and the interactions are few in dialogue and often seem more like a recounting of the past.  Daniel and his family are separated from one another for a long time as he makes his way in a new country and builds his own family, but eventually, he is reunited with some of his kin as they follow him to the new world.  Vidal does an excellent job of demonstrating the lifeline that the Catholic faith becomes for the O’Connor family and how it binds them together in the toughest of circumstances.

The Paradise Tree by Elena Marie Vidal is about the perseverance of family and faith in the face of a number of struggles, though at times the prose is a bit too dry.  The O’Connor family not only faces hardships in Ireland, but in Ontario as they literally cut out a life for themselves from the wilderness.  They must battle against prejudices toward Catholics in both settings and strive to be their own guidance in their faith, as there are few churches close enough to them to tend to their religious needs.

About the Author:

Elena Maria Vidal grew up in the countryside outside of Frederick, Maryland, “fair as the garden of the Lord” as the poet Whittier said of it. As a child she read so many books that her mother had to put restrictions on her hours of reading. During her teenage years, she spent a great deal of her free time writing stories and short novels.

Elena graduated in 1984 from Hood College in Frederick with a BA in Psychology, and in 1985 from the State University of New York at Albany with an MA in Modern European History. In 1986, she joined the Secular Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Elena taught at the Frederick Visitation Academy and worked as a private tutor as well as teaching children’s etiquette classes. During a trip to Austria in 1995 she visited the tomb of Empress Maria Theresa in the Capuchin crypt in Vienna. Afterwords she decided to finish a novel about Marie-Antoinette she had started writing ten years before but had put aside. In 1997 her first historical novel TRIANON was published by St. Michaels Press. In 2000, the sequel MADAME ROYALE was published, as well as the second edition of TRIANON, by The Neumann Press. Both books quickly found an international following which continues to this day. In 2010, the third edition of TRIANON and the second edition of MADAME ROYALE were released.

In November 2009, THE NIGHT’S DARK SHADE: A NOVEL OF THE CATHARS was published by Mayapple Books. The new historical novel deals with the controversial Albigensian Crusade in thirteenth century France. Elena has been a contributor to Canticle Magazine, Touchstone Magazine, The National Observer, and The American Conservative. In April 2009 she was a speaker at the Eucharistic Convention in Auckland, New Zealand. In August 2010 Elena spoke at The Catholc Writers Conference in Valley Forge, PA. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the Eastern Shore Writers Association. She currently lives in Maryland with her family.  For more information please visit Elena’s website and blog.  You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.






23rd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Ireland)



33rd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





65th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.





3rd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane

Source: Little, Brown and Company
Hardcover, 224 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Black Lake by Johanna Lane is set in Northern Ireland at the Campbell estate of Dulough, which translates to Black Lake.  A pool, a cold lake, hills, valleys, mountains, cottages, and a massive estate would seem overwhelming to any newlywed, and it is hard to believe that it can be run by just three people — John Campbell, Mary Connelly, and Francis Connelly.  Woven with alternate points of view, Lane provides the reader with a well-rounded view of the hardships this family faces.  Young Philip is named after the first ancestor who built Dulough and threw out the Irish tenants after the Great Famine, and he has a legacy that weighs heavily on his head, but he’s not the only Campbell to feel the weight of family history in this place.  Will the deal with the government be enough to keep the family estate in tact or will the deal break this family from its moorings.

“Finally, he began clearing a patch of brambles and thistles; their roots went deep into the earth and he had to be content with lopping them off at ground level rather than pulling them out altogether.” (page 66-7 ARC)

John is a quiet man who knows how to deal with solitude in the Irish country, but his wife Marianne must grow accustom to the quieter life after living so long in Dublin.  His ability to be alone becomes a detriment in matters of his family, though he does enjoy schooling the children at home.  His relationship with his wife is enigmatic because he is less expressive, and she passively follows his lead until she reaches a breaking point.

“The whole painting gave the impression that Dulough might be engulfed at any moment, the lake rising to envelop the house, the sea covering the island, and the land reclaimed, the work of his ancestor obliterated.” (page 194 ARC)

Deep beneath the surface of this family are hidden bonds that only can surface in tragedy and loss.  From a man who is backed into a corner to maintain a large estate without the inheritance to do so to wife and son who have come to love their home as much, if not more, than their ancestors.  Black Lake by Johanna Lane is by turns as dreary as the rainy countryside and as dangerous as the quick-footed tide that nearly swallows the island where the estate church and graveyard lie.  Readers will be swept away by Lane’s frail family and their struggles.

About the Author:

Johanna Lane was born in Ireland, studied English Literature in Scotland, and earned her MFA at Columbia University. She teaches composition and creative writing in New York City.  Check out her Pinterest board for the book.

12th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in Ireland)





32nd book for 2014 New Author Challenge.





2nd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

Born & Bred by Peter Murphy

Source: Story Plant
Paperback, 395 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Born & Bred by Peter Murphy set in 1970s Ireland is a Boyle family saga.  Like many families, there are those members who have secrets, those that are well loved, and those who are tolerated because of their connection with someone revered in the family history.  Danny Boyle, a young teen who is growing up at his grandmother’s knee, is caught in the middle of God and religion and his father’s alcoholism and his mother’s mental illness.  He’s found solace in religion, but as he grows up and is pulled into drugs and the seedier side of Ireland, he’s spiraling so fast, that he barely sees everything as it whizzes past his bleary eyes.

“Danny had thought about it for a moment but he couldn’t say no.  He had been at the edge of everything that happened for so long.  Now he was getting a chance to be connected — to be one of those guys that everybody spoke about in whispers.  Sure it was a bit risky but he could use the money and, besides, no one would ever suspect him.  Most people felt sorry for him and the rest thought he was a bit of a spaz.”  (page 3 ARC)

He wishes for his mother’s return, but when he gets his wish, behind-the-scenes events lead to the loss of his one anchor in his life.  While many people in town sympathize and feel sorry for him, they also are not surprised when he gets in trouble.  There are few that believe him incapable of murder after a “pagan-like” dance in church, but there are some who are behind him and pulling for his reformation.  Murphy is an accomplished story-teller shifting between points of view to round out the story that is Danny Boyle’s life in Ireland, though there are moments toward that end that draw out the suspense a little too much.

Born & Bred by Peter Murphy raises questions about whether family genetics, upbringing, or environment can lead us to the actions we take or whether there is free will at all when God has a plan for us all.  Murphy’s setting and characters bring to life 1970s Ireland in a way that is disturbing, realistic, and harsh, but those realities help to shape Danny.  As the first book in a series, Murphy has created a lasting story with great potential in future installments.

About the Author:

Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family was deported to Dublin, the Strumpet City.

Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for ‘The Wine and Gold’. He also played football (soccer) in secret!

After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff; Paddy, Tommy and Sean.

Murphy financed his education by working summers on the buildings sites of London in such places as Cricklewood, Camden Town and Kilburn.

Murphy also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world. But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while – thirty years ago. He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened. Having raised his children and packed them off to University, Murphy answered the long ignored internal voice and began to write.

I’ve also reviewed:

Lagan Love

1st book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.






16th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

2014 Reading Challenges

Everyone got a jump ahead of me on signing up for challenges this year. At least that’s how it seems to me. Anyway, here are my reading challenges and goals. I’ll try to update this if I decide on more or less. 

Click on the images for the challenge rules and sign-up pages.

1. Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014

Goal: Dive in and read 7 or more books of poetry



2.  2014 War Challenge With a Twist

Goal: Expert: Read 2+ books for each war for a total of 12 books



3.  2014 European Reading Challenge

Goal: Two Star (Adventurer): Read two qualifying books.

**I could increase this personal goal throughout the year.

I’m already revising this goal to Five Star (Deluxe Entourage): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

4.  2014 Portuguese HF Challenge

Goal: Afonsine – 1 to 3 books



5.  2014 New Author Challenge

Goal: 50 New-to-Me Authors



6. 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Goal: Renaissance Reader – 10 books




7. 2014 Ireland Reading Challenge

Goal: Shamrock level: 4 books


What reading challenges have caught your eye that you’d think I’d be interested in?

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Source: Borrowed from Diary of an Eccentric
Paperback, 460 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt is a memoir about his young life and his coming of age.  The memoir does not gloss over the hardships he and his family face, nor does it leave out the bad things McCourt did as a child to survive.  It’s heartbreaking to see how a father can shun his responsibilities in favor of alcohol, while leaving his wife little recourse but to beg for charity on a weekly and daily basis just to feed her young children.  Angela, his mother, becomes a shadow of herself with the trials they face, especially as some of their youngest children perish from starvation and disease in America and even at home in Ireland.  Beginning in America, Angela meets a young man and falls in love, but he’s not the man she thinks he is and soon discovers that he is plagued by the need for drink.  Their hardships continue even as they are sent back to Ireland by relatives in the New World.

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all.  It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.  Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”  (page 9)

Living in a time when women were not allowed to work and when men were not expected to hand over their wages to their wives or to have their wives with them when they got paid — because his father takes the wages when he’s paid and eventually comes home with nothing — becomes a heavy burden on the family.  This leaves his wife to beg the grocer for credit so she can buy necessities for her family, and in Ireland it is worse because with a husband from the North, he’s unable to get a job in the first place.  Even when he does get a job, he often loses it by drinking late into the night and then sleeping in the next day.  These circumstances make it difficult for her and the family to stay healthy and even survive.

Although readers will be surprised at how long this family is able to survive in spite of the deaths and the starvation, they’ll also be surprised at the depth of their own loyalty and love for their father.  Rarely is anything said by the children about their father, though the mother surely speaks her mind about his penchant for the pint and his irresponsibility — to no avail.  McCourt pulls no punches about telling the darkest moments of his early life, including the beatings he took from teachers and family members.  There is still a sense of hope in him even in the most dire of circumstances.

Whether all of the things that happened in the memoir are fact or just his remembrances, there is clearly an atmosphere of struggle that has driven him to make the most of the circumstances he’s given.  He strives to do his best in school, to care for his family as best he can in the absence of his father, and to make something of himself in spite of all he must battle against.  Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt is dark and hopeless at times, but there is the light of humor and hope between the lines.  This is a memoir that reads more like a novel.

About the Author:

Frank McCourt (1930-2009) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, grew up in Limerick, Ireland, and returned to America in 1949. For thirty years he taught in New York City high schools. His first book, “Angela’s Ashes,” won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the L.A. Times Book Award. In 2006, he won the prestigious Ellis Island Family Heritage Award for Exemplary Service in the Field of the Arts and the United Federation of Teachers John Dewey Award for Excellence in Education.

This is my 4th and final book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2013.

The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

Source: Borrowed from Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
Paperback, 373 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins is a dual narrative novel with heroines in present day Queens, N.Y., and County of Mayo, Ireland, during the potato famine when a blight hit all of the crops and the fever was rampant.  Normally, readers either connect with the present day or the historical narrative in books like this, but the eventual entanglement of these narratives reinforces the strength, weaknesses, fears, and courage mothers must face when they are responsible for children.  Majella is a new mother who had certain expectations about motherhood, which are blown to bits in her first emotional months after Emma is born, while Ginny is an Irish potato farmer whose husband ventures to America in the hope that he will send money home to keep his family from being evicted after the blight destroys their crops.

“They didn’t notice that pungent bitterness in the dark, beyond their walls, and turf fires, beyond the milky breath of their sleeping children.  They slept, while that mortal fog stole into their bright, green country, and grew like a merciless stain across the darkened land.  It killed every verdant thing it touched.” (page 2)

Majella considers herself a strong, independent woman with a mother that is less than connected to her own emotions, let along those of her daughter, but when she gives birth to her first child, fears rise up in Majella awful fast.  She’s scrambling for something to hold onto other than her fears and her daughter because holding her too tightly could cause even more harm.  Leo, her husband is supportive but must work and even then, his nerves are fraying with all of his wife’s tears and outbursts.  Her brash and unfiltered commentary on motherhood and her fears is fresh and tangible, and will speak to the hearts of every new mother who has floundered and wondered about how to be a mother.

“I passed out.  The contractions were ferocious because the doctor had turned off my epidural so I could feel them.  As if I was in danger of not feeling the eight-pound child who was attempting to exit my body.  He was a male doctor, and he thought the pain would help me push, which is like the philosophy that waterboarding helps people confess to hiding weapons of mass destruction.” (page 7)

Ginny is another strong woman and she’s forced by their poor circumstances as tenant farmers to take her family’s fate in her own hands after her husband’s letters do not come for months.  As she comes to the estate of Mrs. Alice Springs, she begs for the lives of herself, her children, and her unborn son, seeking employment and safety as the world around them crumbles to Irish dust.  Even though life as a chambermaid is not hellish at the estate, what is is the separation from her children with the knowledge that the crops have gone bad and that they could be starving.  She musters the courage and crafts a plan to save them and herself, at least for a while.

Cummins’ passionate prose brings these women’s struggles to life, making them relate-able in ways that readers will never foresee.  Motherhood is both joyous and full of struggle, and it is life-altering in so many ways, much more so in modern society where women work outside the home and have innumerable choices.  What the author is able to build is an underlying tension between the narratives that pulls the reader forward, hooking them to the very last page when their connections are revealed in full.  What Majella learns about herself and her family will propel her beyond the hormonal mess she has become, and what Ginny has learned as a chambermaid working outside the home, forces her to assume the mantle of decisionmaker at a time when few women did.  The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins is stunning and a powerful read that will open up readers eyes to the emotional and psychological mess that new mothers face, often alone if their husbands and own families are unavailable emotionally.

About the Author:

Jeanine Cummins is the author of the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, which People magazine called: “…a straightforward, expertly paced narrative that reads like a novel.” She lives in New York City.



This is my 3rd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2013.




This is my 52nd book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

Source: William Morrow, Harper
Paperback, 400 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan is the second novel in the life of Ellie Hogan (if you haven’t read Ellis Island, this review could contain spoilers), a young Irish woman who has traveled to New York City to help save her first love’s mobility and returned home to find her family torn by tragedy.  Beginning in the 1930s, Ellie has settled back into her Irish life without electricity and indoor plumbing, embarking on unconventional business ventures for a woman.  While her family may stand back and allow her to continue with her ambitions, the resentment and angst these businesses bring into their lives simmers beneath the surface.  Ellie is far from the conventional house wife and mother of Ireland, and she knows that she’s the star of her own small town’s gossip, but as long as her life is calm at home, that is all that matters to her.

“However, this morning his blue eyes shone wild with delight.  He looked the same as he had done when I had first fallen in love with him at sixteen.  Fresh and full of the heart of life, like the outdoors — a man made of earth and air.” (page 11 ARC)

While she’s bustling about with her businesses and her life outside the home, the trials of miscarriages and failed births weigh heavily on her and her husband.  Despite the passions she may feel for her husband, they are tainted by his failure to take joy in what she seeks to accomplish and her inability to mourn the losses of her children with her husband at her side.  The wall between them causes fissures in their marriage as they bitingly argue about the little things and the signs of things to come are ignored.  Her three years in New York changed her from the small town girl who wanted merely a husband and family into a woman who wanted the finer things and a better life.

With the lost children spurring her to make the dreams she had in New York a reality in Ireland, Ellie is able to better the lives of the town’s own daughters and wives, prompting these women to rethink their own roles.  Kerrigan takes the time to build up the changes seen in Ellie’s town of Kilmoy, and how those changes are tied to Ellie’s experiences in New York and her own personal devastation at home.  Tragedy strikes her home again, altering Ellie’s course once again and pushing her to run away to America.  In her grief, she reaches out and lifts those around her up, showing them the way to improve themselves, work for their own betterment, and to help others around them.  In many ways, this second book is about redemption and recovery.

City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan is a solid second book in a series, but without having read the first book, readers may find it hard to relate to Ellie’s past and her current situation, particularly her burning desire to run away from Ireland.  However, there are enough hints about the past to guide readers who have picked up the second book.  Ellie is a strong woman who can inspire others to rise above their own poverty and misfortune, but who continues to struggle internally with who she is and wants to be.  Kerrigan’s poise and pacing help readers come to know Ellie as a troubled friend who is still finding her way, even as tragedy strikes and good opportunities present themselves.  There is hope that her journey is nearing a conclusion, and readers will hope that comes with the third book.

About the Author:

Kate Kerrigan is an author living and working in Ireland. Her novels are Recipes for a Perfect Marriage which was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year in 2008 and been translated into 20 languages, The Miracle of Grace, which has been adapted as a film script with funding from the Irish Film Board and Ellis Island, the first of a trilogy which was selected as a TV Book Club Summer Read in Britain and launched in the U.S. with Harper Collins in July 2011. Its sequel City of Hope is published by Pan Macmillan in Britain and scheduled for publication in America by Harper Collins in 2013

This is my 2nd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2013.

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

Source: Harper
Paperback, 351 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan is a historical fiction novel set in the 1920s when Ireland is fighting for Home Rule, and Ellie Hogan makes a bold choice to accept a job in New York City to raise the money her husband needs for an operation.  Ellie is not like the other members of her school group; she dreams of fine things and a life outside her little village of Kilmoy.  Her childhood friend, John, and his family become like a surrogate family for her, showing her the kindness she lacks from her own parents who are so insulated that they forget to hug their daughter and encourage her.  Her friendship soon blossoms into love, a childhood love that becomes a motivation for her to impress, to move beyond the bounds of her family.

“I hated insects, but I wanted to feed the blue tit, and I wanted to impress him.  So I kicked back the rock, picked up a wood louse between my thumb and forefinger and carefully placed it into the bird’s open, hungry beak.  As it swallowed it back, I touched the top of its little head with my finger and felt how small and soft and precious it was.  I looked at John and my heart flooded through.  It was the first time I remember sharing love with somebody.”  (page 8)

Young love can be passionate and sometimes it can be ever-lasting.  Because Ellie has finally shared love with someone, she’s able to lock it away inside herself, stoking its growth even when hundreds of miles separate them.  She makes that hard but necessary choice to leave her Irish home to earn the money John needs after he’s injured while part of the Irish Republican Army.  It is this love she turns to when she worries about what lies ahead in a strange country, and it is what she holds onto when she makes frightening decisions that lead her out of servitude into the life of a career woman.  What had been a year commitment soon turns into something much more, but Ellie is ill-prepared for the challenges and temptations before her.

Kerrigan has done her homework, and it shines in the small town feel of Ellie’s Irish home where everyone knows everyone and their business, and where judgments of families’ past actions still haunt the newest generations.  The harsh realities of fighting for independence from British rule are present as John fights for what he believes.  Her trip to NYC and her experiences with Ellis Island and the immigration process feel real, and readers will be just as awestruck by the city as Ellie is.  More than anything, Kerrigan’s novel is about the search for something just over the horizon, obtaining it, and bringing it back to the family and friends who need it most.

“Ireland was in my heart, but under my feet was America.” (page 128)

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan is an immigrant story that requires the deepest of sacrifices and commitments but the growth Ellie experiences make her a better woman, capable of selfless generosity even when she has so little.  She’s grown into a woman her father and mother can be proud of, even though she didn’t go about the way that they would have preferred.

About the Author:

Kate Kerrigan is an author living and working in Ireland. Her novels are Recipes for a Perfect Marriage which was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year in 2008 and been translated into 20 languages, The Miracle of Grace, which has been adapted as a film script with funding from the Irish Film Board and Ellis Island, the first of a trilogy which was selected as a TV Book Club Summer Read in Britain and launched in the U.S. with Harper Collins in July 2011. Its sequel City of Hope is published by Pan Macmillan in Britain and scheduled for publication in America by Harper Collins in 2013.


This is my 1st book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2013.




This is my 51st book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

2013 Challenges

I’m joining this challenge again because there are some books I wanted to read in 2012, that I didn’t get to read yet. I’ll sign up for Shamrock level: 4 books

I really enjoy the different books i can find for this challenge from Irish characters to historical fiction and even young adult and poetry books.


For this challenge, which I co-host with Anna at Diary of an Eccentric, I plan to read Wade 4-10 books. And no, I don’t have a list of books for this beforehand.  I don’t read a lot about the American Revolution, but I do plan to read Treacherous Beauty.



I always enjoy this challenge, so I’m signing up again. I can’t wait to see which new authors I discover in 2013. I seem to always surpass my goal for this one, but I’m still sticking with the basic level of 25 for me.




I’m hosting a new poetry reading and participation challenge this year called Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

I’ll likely be doing all of the options in the challenge, so click on the button for the rules and sign up!

Some other challenges I’m considering for 2013, but have not signed up for due to possible time constraints include:

Completed 2012 Challenges

I’ve completed my goal for the Ireland Reading Challenge (4 books), and even surpassed it by one; here’s a list of the books with links to the reviews:

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry
The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri
The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
The Realm of the Lost by Emma Eden Ramos

For the New Authors Reading Challenge, I chose to read 25 new to me authors, and I exceeded that goal, reading 87 and still counting.

These authors included fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  You can click the link to see which ones I reviewed.

And finally, for my own two challenges, the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge and the WWI Reading Challenge, I exceeded my goals there as well.  For the poetry challenge, I pledged to read more than I had read in a previous poetry challenge (in which I read 15) and I read 29 books.  There could be more!

For the WWI Reading Challenge, I pledged to read 4-10 books, and I read 14 books.  Please feel free to click the link to see which ones I reviewed.  I’m hoping to finish up one more in this challenge, but I’m swiftly running out of time.

This leaves me with one unfinished challenge, but I’ll leave you in suspense about that.  I hope everyone has a great weekend.  Please do let me know about your own reading goals in 2012 and how well you did.