This week: a book about how to save time and money

This week there’s a debut novel about a young man who leaves his job to look after his ailing father and there’s also a book about how to save time and money from a well-known recipes author who has almost 300,000 followers on Instagram.

There’s a book about breaking through personal obstacles to find a better way of living and to become what it is we’re meant to be so we can live our best possible life. And the story of one man’s gambling addiction makes for a sobering and cautionary, but ultimately inspiring memoir.

Break Through, Mark Fennell, Gill, €18.99

In his introduction, the author tells the story of being in a bar with his father one Thursday at 2pm. The other customers were regulars, older men who could always be found there at that time in the afternoon, holding court about the weather, the government, the TV – we all know the types. His father remarked that those old guys had all suffered misfortunes in their lives and had adopted the lifestyle of whiling away their afternoons over a pint in the local. Fennell says those men are stuck. They can’t imagine breaking out of their routine to find something better to do with their days.

The thing is, we all suffer misfortunes in life. It’s impossible to escape them. But not all of us end up in the boozer for the afternoon. Every afternoon. We can, however, immerse ourselves in similar non-productive activities and this book is for people who feel they could be doing better. It’s for people who have suffered adversity (as the author himself has and he shares that story) but who can’t seem to get out from under the slings and arrows. Divided into parts, it advises the reader on how to move on and get going on what he calls the road to fulfilment.

Lost Ways, CM Donnell, Lettertec Publishing, €15

In this novel we meet James, a care worker who enjoys his job working with intellectually challenged adults but gives it up to look after his father. James’s dad is suffering from dementia and failing rapidly. The novel is similar to Eugene O’Brien’s Going Home, but while O’Brien gives us a likeable if vaguely roguish protagonist (Scobie Donoghue, whom we first met in the 2005 TV series Pure Mule), Donnell simply doesn’t. James is an embittered young man who refers to his ex-wife only as Whorebags, his loving father as Oulfella, and his attitude to women is… well… not good. His life outside of the hours he spends caring for his father is aimless and mostly solitary, except for the occasions when he sees his little daughter, Abi.

Kurt Vonnegut advised creative writers to give their stories at least one character that the reader can root for. But this reader found it difficult to root for James. To be fair, he does have a minor epiphany in the story, but it’s too little, too late. However, it’s a convincing depiction of the societal underbelly of the midlands. This is smalltown Ireland, awash with drink and drugs, violence, lies and lethargy, certainly not the Ireland of the tourist industry. It’s a gritty novel, delivered in the raw.

A Hundred to One, Pat Sheedy, Gill, €18.99

Gambling really is the silent addiction. Generally speaking, people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs have visible symptoms and their downward spiral can be physically observed. And that might be why most patients in addiction centres are people with substance issues, while gamblers, if they reach treatment at all, are in the minority. If you bet your house in a card game and lose, you’re still going to look the same.

Pat Sheedy’s story of gambling addiction is both compulsive and horrendous. He has racked up almost 100 convictions, frittered away almost €1m and ended up in prison in the height of the pandemic. It was there he applied for a creative writing degree and his life began to change. And so, although this memoir is, as the blurb says, ‘unvarnished’, it’s also an immense message of hope for anyone with any addiction. It’s extremely well-written and therefore it’s no surprise to discover that Sheedy is the winner of the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week Short Story Award for two years in a row. That’s quite a comeback from a prison cell, and this memoir is quite the page-turner.

The Batch Lady: Grab and Cook, Suzanne Mulholland, Ebur €25

Suzanne Mulholland has already published several books on batch cooking, but this latest volume concentrates on reducing preparation time. The prep time is, for most of these recipes, a mere five minutes. And rather than cooking in advance, here she’s advocating a method of preparation that lets you take food out of the freezer in a ready-to-cook state. She has divided these recipes into three; one-pot recipes, one-tray recipes and no-cook recipes and she covers every mealtime from brunch to supper.

There’s also a section she calls The Batch Lady’s Larder (with a clever cheat list), itemising the foodstuffs to keep to hand, including frozen and dried, to ensure one is never stuck. Since time is optimum for so many busy mothers (and busy fathers), this is an invaluable source of information and great ideas, designed to take the slavery out of the kitchen but also not be tempted by takeaways. The result is a big saving of time and money, along with a enjoying healthy diet. It’s a high-gloss, classy presentation, and anyone who’s responsible for their daily family meals would love it.


The Dublin International Film Festival, always worth a trip or two to the capital, begins on Thursday February 22 and runs until March 2. If you’re not interested in going yourself, you could always buy a ticket or two for the film buff in your life? See for details and bookings.

If you fancy a trip to Belfast, the ever-popular Belfast Tradfest takes place on February 23-25. See for details and tickets.

From the top of the north to the tip of the south, the Ortús Chamber Music Festival takes place in Cork from Friday February 23 to Sunday March 3 in venues across Cork city and county. Details on