Stoner by John Williams

stoner

Never has the title of a book been so misleading!

Published in 1965, Stoner managed to be as The New York Times described it in their 2006 classics review ‘ The Greatest American Novel you have never heard of’

This has all changed since it was reissued by Vintage and also Penguin Classics and in recent years it has topped best seller lists worldwide.

Stoner tells the life story of William Stoner, a young man from Missouri farming stock who heads off to University to study agriculture and instead falls head over heels in love with literature and thus sets off on a journey into Academia. We follow him through a life peppered with disappointment throughout.

Now here is why Stoner fully deserves all it’s praise. It is, quite frankly exquisite. Williams writes so sublimely and beautifully. If you were looking for a piece of elegant prose to quote, you could quite simply allow the book to fall open on any random page. William Stoner is a man who can look deeply into the tragedy’s of life and our human frailties and John Williams has crafted a character that makes me feel all manner of emotions. His writing is exquisite. I have reread this book many times as it is, simply put, perfect.

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #40

stranger in the house

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
‘It is as if I have been waiting for someone to ask me these questions for almost the whole of my life’

From 1945, more than four million British servicemen were demobbed and sent home after the most destructive war in history. Damaged by fighting, imprisonment or simply separation from their loved ones, these men returned to a Britain that had changed in their absence.

In Stranger in the House, Julie Summers tells the women’s story, interviewing over a hundred women who were on the receiving end of demobilisation: the mothers, wives, sisters, who had to deal with an injured, emotionally-damaged relative; those who assumed their fiancés had died only to find them reappearing after they had married another; women who had illegitimate children following a wartime affair as well as those whose steadfast optimism was rewarded with a delightful reunion.

Many of the tales are moving, some are desperately sad, others are full of humour but all provide a fascinating account of how war altered ordinary women’s lives forever.

Brilliant Book Titles #39

friendship and other weapons

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
Long before most school programs begin anti-bullying campaigns, young girls are getting a full education in social aggression. Girls as young as age five are experiencing acts of bullying, disguised as friendship, that shake the carefully laid foundations of their self-image, personal values, and beliefs about peer relationships. Based on thought-provoking discussions, engaging games, strength-discovering exercises, and confidence-boosting fun, the hands-on activities in Friendship and Other Weapons build critical knowledge and friendship survival skills such as: Recognizing the Red Flags of Girl Bullying Responding Assertively to Bullying Behavior Realizing Personal Strengths Becoming an Ally to Others Facing Bullying Resolving Conflicts Directly Using Technology and Social Media Ethically This photocopiable resource book provides educators, social workers and counsellors with a complete, ready-to-use group curriculum to help young girls aged 5 11 build constructive and fulfilling friendships.

Patience by Daniel Clowes

patience-daniel-clowes-books-amazonca-1440780142pl8c4

Even by Clowes’ own estimation, he thought he’d spend maybe two years working on this book, and not the five it eventually took him (I’m, of course, avoiding the obvious joke given the title).

Patience is the story of Jack and his wife Patience, and what happens when he comes home one day to find Patience dead and later gets his hands on a time machine. Sounds kitsch, but it isn’t. It’s a beautiful book, full of heartbreak and longing, full of reliving one’s past, putting oneself at risk for someone else. I’ve read everything Clowes has every put out and more than anything this book seems to be a distillation of his entire oeuvre – part Ghost World, part Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, part David Boring, part The Death Ray, it’s parts of them all really, but so much more than the sum of them.

The thing that struck me the most is how human this book is, how heartfelt and real the emotions are, how we follow Jack’s desperate search to somehow save his already dead wife. And that’s a humanity that I felt was lacking in his previous couple of books, Wilson and Mister Wonderful.

A rumination on love and loss with some of Clowes’ most gorgeous and striking art. His mastery of the page, and the panel, clear in this book; little things like overheard speech are shown as partially visible speech bubbles – nothing new there, he’s been doing that for years – but his craft is quite breathtaking. The book really is something that defies easy summation but it has lodged in brain ever since I read it, and I find myself thinking it over – always the sign of a good book.

One of America’s finest cartoonists and this is very much the book he was always meant to write. I cannot recommend it enough.

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

patience back cover

5 New Thrillers to Watch Out For

cold killers
Cold Killers by Lee Weeks
(25 Aug 2016)
Eddie Butcher, one of four brothers from a notorious  East End family, is tortured and brutally murdered while visiting London from his home in Marbella. SIO Carter and DI Willis monitor his extravagant funeral in case Eddie’s violent brother Terry, under house arrest in Spain, tries to make an appearance. Terry is wanted for robbery, drug trafficking and murder – and the police strongly suspect he is even prepared to kill his own family to maintain his power.
What Carter hasn’t told all of his colleagues is that this family’s history is personal to him. More than ten years earlier, he was part of an operation that tried to trap Terry as he made his first big drugs deal. Carter was an undercover agent then, along with a female operative, Della. She and Carter were an item until she fell for Eddie Butcher and the case collapsed. She became Della Butcher – and now, a widow at the mercy of the remaining Butcher brothers, her life is in danger.
When Della offers Carter a chance to finally catch Terry, he knows he cannot refuse. But his reunion with Della comes at a heavy personal, and professional, cost – and Willis must protect them all as the Butcher family’s enemies close in, wanting money and revenge.

never never
Never Never by James Patterson (25 Aug 2016)
When Sydney police department sex crimes detective Harriet Blue is called into her boss’s office, she never imagined it would be to tell her that her brother is the prime suspect in the brutal murders of three women.

Shocked and in denial, Harry is transferred to Perth to avoid the media exposure this case will attract. Harry is sent into the outback – the never never – to investigate the disappearance of mine worker Danny Carter. The mining town is a seedy place, full of money and immoral ways to spend it. As Harry delves deeper into the murky lives of these miners, she finds that Danny isn’t the first to go missing.

closed casket.jpg
Closed Casket: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah (6 Sep 2016)
Hercule Poirot returns in another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

Following the phenomenal global success of The Monogram Murders, which was published to critical acclaim following a co-ordinated international launch in September 2014, international best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah has been commissioned by Agatha Christie Limited to pen a second fully-authorised Poirot novel. The new book will be published in 2016, which marks the centenary of the creation of Christie’s world-famous detective Hercule Poirot, introduced in her first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

the ice beneath her
The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe (8 Sep 2016)
NO ORDINARY PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER …For fans of Jo Nesbo and The Bridge, The Ice Beneath Her is a gripping and deeply disturbing story about love, betrayal and obsession that is impossible to put down. Fast-paced and peopled with compelling characters, it surprises at every turn as it hurtles towards an unforgettable ending with a twist you really won’t see coming …A young woman is found beheaded in an infamous business tycoon’s marble-lined hallway. The businessman, scandal-ridden CEO of the retail chain Clothes & More, is missing without a trace. But who is the dead woman? And who is the brutal killer who wielded the machete? Rewind two months earlier to meet Emma Bohman, a sales assistant for Clothes & More, whose life is turned upside down by a chance encounter with Jesper Orre. Insisting that their love affair is kept secret, he shakes Emma’s world a second time when he suddenly leaves her with no explanation. As frightening things begin to happen to Emma, she suspects Jesper is responsible. But why does he want to hurt her? And how far would he go to silence his secret lover?

stay dead
Stay Dead by Jessie Keane (8 Sep 2016)
Stay Dead is the heartstopping sixth book in Jessie Keane’s bestselling Annie Carter series.

Annie Carter finally believes that life is good.

She and Max are back together and she has a new and uncomplicated life sunning herself in Barbados. It’s what she’s always dreamed of.

Then she gets the news that her old friend Dolly Farrell is dead, and suddenly she finds herself back in London and hunting down a murderer with only one thing on her mind . . . revenge.

But the hunter can so quickly become the hunted, and Annie has been keeping too many secrets. She’s crossed and bettered a lot of people over the years, but this time the enemy is a lot closer to home and she may just have met her match . . .

Our Endless, Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

our endless

Our Endless Numbered Days starts with Peggy, a 17 year old who has recently returned to her family after many years and having obviously suffered some traumatic experience.  The book then flashes back 9 years where we meet 8 year old Peggy, her German pianist mother, Ute, and her survivalist father, James.  One evening while Ute is away on tour, James and Peggy take off.   Their destination is Die Hütte, the exact location of which is something of a mystery.  As we’re relying on Peggy to tell us what’s happening and as she has only a vague idea what’s happening herself, details are a bit hazy.  The world has been destroyed, James tells Peggy, your mother and everyone else is dead, we are the only people left.  And so, their tale of survival begins.

First the positive, I really did want to find out what exactly had happened to Peggy and James, how they managed and how Peggy ended up back home.  The structure of this novel works very well, with gaps in the past gradually being filled in.  I thought the plot was an interesting one with a lot of potential.  However, I did think the pacing was a little bit off as the downside to Peggy never knowing what day/month/year it is that the reader is somewhat at a loss as to where we are timewise also.  Peggy herself is a difficult character to warm to although her ordeal may have caused her to disassociate herself somewhat from her surroundings.  The plot is disturbing and the ending shocking if not altogether surprising.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #38

Came across this book this morning!

power dressing

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
Some find the constant scrutiny an unwelcome intrusion; others use fashion as their secret weapon. Whatever their views, women in politics know they will be judged by how they dress more than their male counterparts. In Power Dressing, fashion journalist Robb Young offers an engaging perspective on the ability of style to influence the careers of women politicians and first ladies. Concise thematic chapters are interspersed with profiles of more than 50 serving and former women presidents, prime ministers, MPs, royals and wives from over 30 countries, ranging from such contemporary figures as Michelle Obama, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Queen Rania of Jordan to such iconic women as Eva Perón, Imelda Marcos and Margaret Thatcher. Featuring hundreds of photographs that shed light on political context, and quotes from prominent figures commenting on each woman s style, this fascinating book reveals the milestone ‘fashion moments’ as well as the unspoken rules of the political fashion game.

Brilliant Book Titles #37

A patron brought this to my attention today! Love this title.

my grandmother

You can reserve a ccpy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
A must-read for fans of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure, by the author of the New York Times bestselling phenomenon A Man Called Ove will charm and delight anyone who has ever had a grandmother.

Everyone remembers the smell of their grandmother’s house.

Everyone remembers the stories their grandmother told them.

But does everyone remember their grandmother flirting with policemen? Driving illegally?
Breaking into a zoo in the middle of the night? Firing a paintball gun from a balcony in her dressing gown?

Seven-year-old Elsa does.

Some might call Elsa’s granny ‘eccentric’, or even ‘crazy’. Elsa calls her a superhero. And granny’s stories, of knights and princesses and dragons and castles, are her superpower. Because, as Elsa is starting to learn, heroes and villains don’t always exist in imaginary kingdoms; they could live just down the hallway.

As Christmas draws near, even the best superhero grandmothers may have one or two things they’d like to apologise for. And, in the process, Elsa can have some breath-taking adventures of her own . .

 

Did You Ever Have a Family? by Bill Clegg

did youe ver

Did you ever have a family? caused quite a stir when it was published last year.  It is the debut novel of Bill Clegg – a literary agent who had previously written two volumes of his memoir detailing his addiction to crack cocaine – and was subsequently longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

This is the story of June, a woman who has lost her family in a domestic accident on the morning of her daughter’s wedding.  Numb and needing to get out of her small Connecticut town, June gets in her car and drives.  Eventually she arrives at a small motel on the Pacific Coast and there she starts to heal.

A lot of the story is told in flashback and as we move towards the time of the accident, more and more is revealed.  There is a cast of narrators – some with more to offer than others – who gradually fill in the story until we finally reach the day of the wedding and at last have the answers we’ve sought.

Did you ever have a family? is beautifully written with a compelling plot.  It took a while to get used to the changing narrators but I felt that structurally it worked well.  I enjoyed this book greatly and look forward to reading whatever Bill Clegg writes next.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

We’ve Been Shortlisted for Arts & Culture Blog of the Year!

Littlewoods-Blog-Awards-2016-Website-MPU_Shortlist

We are jumping up and down today in Ballyroan Library as we’ve been shortlisted in the Arts & Culture (Corporate) Blog category in the 2016 Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards!

All I have to say at this point is …. *starts crying* I’d like to thank the academy!

No, but seriously, this blog has been a labour of love and I’m thrilled at the response its been getting from readers and that we’ve been shortlisted! It’s an honour!

AND, my colleague Eleanor, who also contributes reviews to this blog has had her blog for Young Adults, YAPS, nominated too! AND AND AND her personal blog, Real Tasty Pages, also! So yes, as you can imagine, lots of jumping and down here today.

You can view the full Corporate Shortlist here.

Littlewoods-Blog-Awards-2016-Website-MPU_Vote-For-Us

Now, whilst 80% of the competition is judged, 20% of it is reliant on public votes! And the public vote is only open for one week (17th Aug – 23rd Aug 2016).

We would really appreciate it, if you enjoy our site and like what we do, if you could take a minute to vote for us here. (You do have to, unfortunately, create an account, but it only takes a minute, and it’s so you can only vote once, instead of over and over, so your vote really does count!). And, it doesn’t matter where you’re based – anyone can vote, not just people from Ireland.

Again, to vote, go here: https://blogawardsireland.secure-platform.com/a/gallery/rounds/17/details/8071 , quickly create an account, and vote for Ballyroan Reads!

And seriously, thank you so much for all your kind words and comments since we started the blog in March – it’s hard to believe that it was only six months ago, such a fixture has it become!

Thanks, and don’t forget to:

Littlewoods-Blog-Awards-2016-Website-MPU_Vote-Now

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PS. If you’d like to know more about the other blogs I mentioned, the Young Adult blog, YAPS (http://southdublinteenagers.wordpress.com/), you can also vote for it here (and yes, weirdly, we are in DIRECT COMPETITION with each other, but as long as one of us wins, we’ll be happy).
Eleanor’s personal blog, Real Tasty Pages, (https://realtastypages.wordpress.com/) is up for voting in the Personal Blogs category, and if you feel like giving her an oul vote, she’d be very happy. Her voting page is here.