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on January 1, 2012
I've been reading a lot of stinkers lately, so when I got the chance to read this book (the title and cover automatically grabbing me), I jumped on it. The first thing you'll notice is how engaging both the dialogue and the dialect of the characters is; I loved words like "eegit" and how the mother, Scarlett, always ended her sentences with an exclamation. And then there's Mary, the main character, who, of course, is just becoming a teenager and uses a certain word until it's worn'll see. Either way, it's humorous and the way they talk grows on you after a while.

I also found virtually no grammatical errors, which I love to see! It makes me more secure when I read a book to trust the author when he/she uses grammar correctly, if that makes sense. I also thought the "chapter markers," or whatever they are called, were beautiful illustrations and added to the beauty of the story in a way you could actually see. I think my favorite thing about this book was not only the humor in it, but the suspense at the end, and how touching it was. I don't cry with many stories, and although I still didn't cry with this one, the story made me yearn to see my grandmother, which the thought of did make me start to tear up.

There were a few quotes I highlighted that I really enjoyed, especially one that proves my theory that all ages are meant to enjoy it. I will wait until the book is actually released, however, before I spout out what the author might decide at the last minute to remove.

Even though the story is aimed at children and YA, and even though one of my favorite characters from the story just so happened to be a ghost, I truly believe this is a book that all ages will enjoy. Like the four generations of women who came together in the story, different generations can come together to read this book.
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VINE VOICEon May 22, 2012
Mary O'Hara's grandmother is in the hospital, dying. She's trying to come to terms with things when she meets Tansey. Tansey is a little odd, but super sweet to Mary. Mary discovers a lot of things when she introduces her mother to Tansey. Tansey also apparently knows Mary's grandmother and the three of them go to visit her in the hospital. Mary learns a lot about the past while trying to figure out how to cope with the future.

This was a very interesting novel. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this(not in a bad way). It was quite neat though. Mary was a snarky girl and all her female family members were quite interesting. I really liked them all. This novel was a bit too short for me though, but realistic I suppose. You can't have the tragic decline last for too long, otherwise it's not as dramatic, it's just drawn-out. I don't know anyone from Ireland--but the author is--and the dialogue seems to be realistic, if a bit strange. There was a bit of a surprise in the book which was nice to have a little mystery in such a short novel. I just really wanted more with these characters. I did love diving into the past while the characters reminisced about life on the farm. That was a big part of the story. I think the largest part was just the relationship between the four women characters. How all their actions led to things being the way they were and how they all got to be at this point. This was a quick, touching and slightly quirky novel that I recommend you check out.

First Line:
"She hated the hospital."

Favorite Line:
"Although, now, you threw your sandwich at a seagull."

Disclaimer: I was sent this item to review. This does not influence my opinion.
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on May 8, 2012
This book is a tale about love and loss, and the connection between daughter and mother's. I found this book both funny yet tedious. I loved the cheekiness of Mary, and some of the witty lines that Doyle has included in the dialogue, yet I also found myself struggling to keep my attention focused.

This is a ghost story, without being scary. Yet 12-year-old Mary and her mother Scarlett don't seem to be wary or worried that ghost's are real or that one has turned up on their doorstep - they just took it in their stride, which struck me as rather odd. After stealing Mary's dying grandmother from the hospital, they take a trip to the farm she grew up.

Doyle has made this book fun and serious all at the same time, I even found myself reading with a (horrible) Irish accent!

This book would be perfect for understanding death and the importance of family for a younger child - but adults would love it as well.
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on June 28, 2014
Received from Netgalley for review, thank you. I love the one-sentence premise: that four generations of Irish women are on a road trip – "one is dead, one is dying, one is driving, and one is just starting out." And that is the strict truth.

I own a book or two by Roddy Doyle, but this is the first I've read by him. I don't know what I was expecting – but this wasn't it. Maggie, Scarlett, Emer, and Tansey are vibrant and individual, and believable: Maggie is a precocious 12-year-old, and somewhat obnoxious; Scarlett, her mother, is bouncy and inextinguishable (no matter how hard Maggie tries); Emer, <i>her</i> mother, is on her deathbed, but the glimpses into her heart and her past show her to be tough and pragmatic; Tansey is a little of the best of all of this, loving and gently regretful that she never had the chance to raise Emer and she frightens Scarlett a little and she can't feel Maggie's hand in hers. I can't say I liked all of them all of the time; I never warmed to Maggie at all, I'm sorry to say. Emer's toughness was not lovable to me, and neither were Scarlett's !!!'s. I loved Tansey, though, and that made up for it all.

Taken all in all, I was moved by this story; I recommend it for anyone facing impending loss, or recent loss. Or for anyone with strong women in their life. Or – need I say? – for anyone with Irish blood. It's a lovely, silly, stirring thing, and I'm glad I broke the ice with it.
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on August 26, 2013
I go to Ireland in less than a month! It's going to be fabulous! I can't wait for September! And how am I progressing on my goal of reading all those Irish middle grade and young adult books anywa...? Oh dear. I fell off the wagon. I've been so busy planning my actual trip and trying out Irish pub recipes that I've failed to read kid lit by Irish authors. EXCEPT! Look at this: today's review qualifies! Roddy Doyle's A Greyhound of a Girl is a lovely, haunting little book - a ghost story with heart. Set in Ireland. By an Irish author. I'm saved!

Mary is a precocious girl whose best friend just moved away (such cruelty!) and whose beloved grandmother is in the hospital. She's at the intersection of childhood and teenage angst, and she's that special mix of angry-at-the-world/loving/rude that goes along with upsetting life change. Enter a ghost and the memories and perspectives of four generations of women in her family. The resulting interactions transform each woman, and show them the things that connect them all.

Doyle's strength is his dialogue - it is funny, moving, and only contains the absolute necessary - there are no info-dumps or long, over-wrought passages full of description. At the same time, this is not a spare, minimalist story - it is Just Right, as Goldilocks would say. Really, beautifully, right. It's nominally fantasy (there's a ghost!), but it reads a bit like Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls, the fantastical is woven into a very real, solid contemporary setting, with threads of the past woven in too with distinct narrators and voices.

In all, A Greyhound of a Girl is a lovely little book that impressed me with its depth, its sense of place, and its sentiment.

Recommended for: readers of all ages who appreciate funny, emotional fiction, fans of middle grade ghost stories, and anyone interested in Ireland as a setting for literary children's fiction.

(review originally posted at: [...]
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Though they're often targeted to one specific group, some books are meant for all ages. Such is the case of "A Greyhound of a Girl," by Roddy Doyle.

Mary O'Hara is a spunky 12-years-old living in Dublin who likes cooking and spending time with her mother, even if her mom has an annoying habit of ending each sentence with an exclamation point. But just recently Mary's been going through a bit of rough stretch --her best friend moving away and her Granny being hospitalized.

Granny is dying, but she doesn't want to let go. It appears there's nothing Mary can do to help Granny until she meets a mysterious young woman named Tansey. Tansey has a message for Granny: "Tell your granny it'll all be grand." It's a strange, simple message that starts Mary on a grand adventure. It turns out Tansey is the ghost of Granny's own mother. She's come to help her daughter say goodbye and move on. With the help of Mary and Mary's mother, Scarlett, Tansey takes Granny on a road trip into the past,

"A Greyhound of a Girl" is a quiet book that won't appeal to everyone. What some will find to be quirks and charms, others will find as distractions. Roddy Doyle's prose is not your standard fare, and it takes a while to get used to it. Once you do, however, there's a lilting quality that rolls the story forward at just the right pace.

For me, the appeal of this story came in the four women, all at different stages, but bound together in love. Mary is bright and exciting, not quite to the detached teenage stage. Scarlett is strong and sweet and has an infectious enthusiasm. Granny is kind and patient with a defiant streak. And Tansey is sure while being unpredictable. In these four women, I see bits of my own family -- my mom, sister and my own Granny.

I found "A Greyhound of a girl to be delightfully fresh with a hint of rustic charm. There are layers to this novel not often seen in books geared toward young readers. It's one book I'll happy to share with fellow readers -- young, old or in between.
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VINE VOICEon May 6, 2012
While sister-sister relationships are my weakness, I love exploring any stories that feature female relationships. In this case, we have four generations of mothers/daughters. The main character is Mary, a twelve-year old struggling with the hospitalization of her beloved grandmother who is fighting death. Then Mary is visited by a ghost; in fact it is the ghost of her great-grandmother Tansy, who died too soon. Rounding out the group is Mary's mother. These four will embark on a road trip together to usher in the next phase.

This is a fast easy read although I found the writing a little twee. "Grand" was used a lot as Tansy's favorite descriptor and one which the other women adopt. Needless to say it drove me crazy although imagining the characters saying this in their Irish accents helped a bit. Mary's mother Scarlett also had her own annoying quirk, which was ending every sentence in an explanation point or points. This one was easier to skip over but it grated.

I guess my problem with this book is that I didn't really see much character growth or plot movement. The big conflict is whether or not the family can face the death of the grandmother. By the end of the book, we have a greater understanding of the formative events in each lady's life and can see how much they mean to each other. But it didn't hit me hard and left me with a meh feeling at the end. I just wondered why this book was written and why I read it (it was the cover, which I think is beautiful although it also makes me think of an Austen novel...)

Overall: A sweet quiet book but not anything that made me excited. May be better for younger readers; would be interested to know their opinion.

Cover: I do think the cover is very beautiful-I love the swirly fonts, the flowers, and the silhouettes.
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on April 24, 2012
This story was a touching family tale. It involves four generations of women and gives readers a glimpse into their current lives and past. Of the four women, Emer was my favorite.

The concept of the story was a good one - the family members are brought together to reflect on their lives and help each other move forward despite difficult circumstances. Unfortunately I found parts of it quite slow and elements repeated too often for my liking. Even though this is a short novel, it dragged.

* * Spoilers

I'm puzzled about the title of the book. There isn't a strong enough tie in to the story for me to warrant this being the title. Yes, Emer was referred to as `a greyhound of a girl' due to her tall stature and lanky arms and legs. There were also greyhound dogs in the story, but was that story element pertinent enough to name the book after them? In my mind, no.

Another item that confused me was the book description. At the time of this review the description states the women get together and take a journey... this doesn't occur until the story is 80% completed. Once it happens, it is slow and slightly anticlimactic.

I feel the author wanted to make a strong statement with these two items, but didn't quite get there. The lack of punch left me scratching my head.

** End Spoilers

I wanted to enjoy this story more than I did. It seemed to be simultaneously vague and wordy. Not a good combination.

Despite the problems I found in this title, I would definitely read more by Roddy Doyle.

Thank you NetGalley and Abrams for the review copy of this book.
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on July 5, 2012
Roddy Doyle is one of my favorite contemporary novelists. I especially like The Woman Who Walked into Doors and Paula Spencer. So I was intrigued to discover he also writes fiction for children. His latest is A Greyhound of a Girl, and it's an unusual take on a ghost story. Set in present day Dublin, the novel's protagonist is Mary, a 12-year-old who speaks her mind, occasionally veering into being cheeky. One day coming home from school she meets a curiously old-fashioned woman who seems familiar, although Mary is sure she's never seen her before.

It turns out the woman is the ghost of her great grandmother, who died suddenly of the flu in 1928. She's returned to guide her daughter, Emer, who's dying, from this world to the next. To do that she needs Mary and her mother Scarlett's help. The four generations of women embark on a journey one night, traveling to revisit the farm where the great grandmother and grandmother once lived.

As in his adult books, Doyle is especially strong on dialog and the three women and one-woman-in-waiting banter in distinctive, colloquial voices. Doyle explores mother-daughter relationships from different viewpoints and young readers will enjoy seeing how Scarlett's struggles for independence are later echoed by Mary. And while the novel pingpongs from present to past, because the characters are so clearly drawn, the reader is never confused. If you like your ghost stories light on scary and full of heartfelt emotion, A Greyhound of a Girl is for you.
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VINE VOICEon June 22, 2012
Mary O'Hara is finding out that at 12 years, life doesn't go the way it should. Her best friend has moved away to another part of Dublin, her mother ends every sentence with an exclamation point, her beloved granny is ill and she's met a strange woman who seems to know who she is.

In the hands of Booker winner Roddy Doyle, Mary is about to undertake a journey of wonder, wrapped up in love. Because that strange woman, Tansy, is the great-grandmother that she never met, that her mother never met and who her granny lost when she was much younger than Mary is now.

Doyle breaks the book up into separate stories about their different lives. They're all quite different and show the different ways women were expected to help their families in their own eras. But the stories also show how strong women who love their families can do that and remain themselves as well.

The final sections of the book depict a fanciful way that they can discover each other's strengths and loves in a way that perhaps could only happen in Ireland. It's a wild ride of a finish that is sweet without being maudlin. Best of all, Doyle shows a way that generations can remember and honor those they loved, and who loved them. This way shows how the novel got its title.

Although marketed as a children's novel, this is a grand little story that would be a delight to any woman who cares about the women who helped make her who she is, and who likes the idea of carrying on a legacy of love.
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