Isa’s Daughter by Catherine Byrne

This moving book can be read as a series of interlocking romances, but it’s much more than that. Life on the Orkney island of Raumsey is tough after the Great War and the widow Isa, who has returned from Canada with her daughter Annie, is poor and hardly able to maintain the family croft without a man in the home. So she marries the local Presbyterian minister.

Annie wants to study and persuades the attractive young teacher Alexander to give her lessons in the evenings. The complications start as we follow her and several other characters’ troubled relationships. Read more

Mercy by Jodi Picoult

Another brilliantly researched and well-told story of desperately strained relationships.

Two overlapping plots lead us on, as we explore the ethics of mercy killing as well as the torment a respected public figure goes through when he falls in love with another woman and his wife disposes of all his possessions.

Manumission by E. R. Harding

Immortality! In the age of unlimited stellar computing power and virtual reality, it at last seems possible. When your body wears out, you can be uploaded into the Metaform and then downloaded into a new bio-frame (i.e. a biologically enhanced human body). But the incorporeal personalities within the mainframe also have a life of their own within the mainframe. Read more

The girl I used to know, by Faith Hogan

The story revolves around forty-eight year old Amanda and sixty-six year old Tess, whom we come to know intimately. They are very different from each other in many ways, but each struggling with who they really are, or would like to be.

We are transported back and forth between the days of their respective youth with the blossoming of their first loves, and present-day life in Dublin’s fair city, where they happen to live – separately and at loggerheads – in the same old Georgian house. Amanda’s career-obsessed husband is found to be unfaithful, her teenage children provide an occasional alternative perspective on their expensive but child family life. Meanwhile Tess has given up on life after her younger sister ran off with the man she loved. Each of them resolves to turn over a new leaf, make peace, and start living again. New romances develop and things seem to work out.

The time-hopping is somewhat irritating and confusing, as we tend to forget their ages in any particular scene.

Mirror Image by Trish Moran

Trish Moran has conceived a tantalising plot and from it woven an exciting story for teenagers. Rich celebrities have donated stem cells, which are being preserved at the Centre so as to be able to repair the donor’s body in the event of injury or disease. However, these cells are secretly cultivated into multiple super clones of the donor, which are stored in a dormant state and used when needed as a source of Spare Parts, the remainder of the body being discarded. Read more

Is God Really Legit? Making Sense of Faith and Science, by Neil Laing

This book discusses many aspects of the common tension between scientists and believers, with some vivid illustrations but no hard and fast answers. It is written in a chatty style, appropriate and intelligible for teenagers, though perhaps a bit patronising and on one occasion moralising. Laing comes across as honest and open, respecting opposing views. He presents the believer’s position plausibly without attempting to force anyone to accept it; instead, he encourages young people to examine the evidence, think things through and form their own convictions. Read more

The Knight and the Serpent by John Richard Gabourel

This retelling of a legend of medieval Normandy intrigued me from the start, because a major scenario centres on my home island of Jersey, at Grouville Beach, Gorey Castle and what is now known as La Hougue Bie Dolmen, places I know well. It’s an elaborate tale of loyalty and treachery, love, remorse and forgiveness. The complex plot with its religious and mystical elements is compelling, several characters are historical and the setting is very realistically and accurately portrayed. Read more