Revolution by Russell Brand

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My estimation of Russell Brand grew slow and steady over the years. First, I thought only of him as a loud/lewd sort of comic, bangled and bedecked; funny, but a little irritating. As his activism and journalism increased, I began to pay closer attention. He wrote a couple of books, he was interviewed frequently on current affairs programmes, often side by side with respected members of the British establishment and his YouTube channel took off. Bit by bit, his activism became more public, his journalism more vitriolic in its intolerance of injustice and, gradually, my own intolerance of him was eroded. So I thought I’d give Revolution a look. 

A fair chunk of the first section of the book (100 pages or so) recounts his own personal journey from addiction and the highs and lows of fame to a spiritual awakening. While it certainly wasn’t trying reading, I have to say I did feel a little bit cheated as I was looking for more fire and brimstone socio-political upheaval rather than spiritual musings. Nevertheless, if you’re of an open mind and not averse to yoga, meditation and all that malark you’ll still find plenty to take from Brand’s spiritual approach to life. 

There is method to the madness though, as the section does prove vital to the structure Brand would like to impose on any political or economic revolution we have in the future. Brand believes that a political, social and economic revolution is only possible and sustainable if a spiritual revolution precedes it; like a stiff breeze that heralds the coming tornado. 

As the book progresses and you get into the meat of social injustice, hence the calls for revolution. I was of the opinion before I read this that a political/social/economic revolution (and not the political revolution of GE 2011 where Tweedle-Dum replaced Tweedle-Dee) was somewhat necessary, so I was a perfect audience for Brand. However, if you’re not of that opinion, I think you’d have to concede he sells it pretty well. On the other hand, if you’re not of that opinion, I get the feeling you’d rather stay oblivious to the painful truth so you’re  unlikely to cause yourself further pain by picking up this book. Also, as Brand can be something of a marmite figure, there’s many who can conjure up plenty of reasons to object to Brand as a proponent of this kind of talk, thus further muddying the waters of revolution. 

He sums up his thesis quite well though, and I’ll conclude by relaying it here. Our current economic system has created a world wherein the world’s richest 80 people (you could squeeze them comfortably onto a double-decker bus) have more assets than half the world’s population. If that was the only example of injustice and cruelty that had come about from our horribly warped version of society, we could live with it. But it’s not. The current global economic system is quite literally killing the planet. So not only is it immeasurably fairer, kinder, nobler and more just to have a revolution, it is absolutely necessary in order to guarantee the survival of the human species.

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

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Brilliant Book Titles #180

the people's republic of desire

Blurb:
An uncensored, eye-opening, and laugh-out-loud funny portrait of modern China as seen through the lives and loves of four professional women in contemporary Beijing.

Divorce, oral sex, plastic surgery. Indulging in a Starbucks coffee, admitting to the emotional repercussions of a one-night stand, giggling over watching pornography.

These once taboo subjects have become the substance of daily conversations and practices among urban women in contemporary Beijing. It seems that no one remembers what happened at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

A cross between Sex and the City and The Joy Luck Club, The People’s Republic of Desire follows four sassy gals as they preen and pounce among Beijing’s Westernized professional class, exultantly obsessed with brand names, celebrity, and sex.

We Are Changing Our Name (from 1st March)

Hi everyone,

So, from 1st March, we are changing the name of our blog. When I started Ballyroan Reads in 2016, all of the contributors worked in Ballyroan Library, but one part of working in libraries that all library staff know is that you can get moved from branch to branch, and now, most of the contributors work elsewhere!

So, starting from March 1st, to better reflect the contributors and what the blog now is, Ballyroan Reads will be changing its name to South Dublin Reads. The URL (librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com) will always remain the same (I figured we’d change the name eventually, which is why Ballyroan Reads isn’t in the URL!).

Anyway, a long post about a short thing: 1st March, new name!

sdr

Brilliant Book Titles #179

fantasy freaks

Blurb:
An amazing journey through the thriving worlds of fantasy and gaming.

What could one man find if he embarked on a journey through fantasy world after fantasy world? In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds—from Boston to New Zealand, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar.

“For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes. For those who have not, it will educate and enlighten.” —Wired.com

“Gandalf’s got nothing on Ethan Gilsdorf, except for maybe the monster white beard. In his new book, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, Gilsdorf . . . offers an epic quest for reality within a realm of magic.” —Boston Globe

“Imagine this: Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.” —National Public Radio’s “Around and About”

“What does it mean to be a geek? . . . Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks tackles that question with strength and dexterity. . . . part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky . . . playful . . . funny and poignant. . . . It’s a fun ride and it poses a question that goes to the very heart of fantasy, namely: What does the urge to become someone else tell us about ourselves?” —Huffington Post

 

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Picked it up after Ishiguro was given the nobel prize as I had previously only read The Remains of the Day. It’s set between the wars in London and colonial Shanghai and the protagonist moves in fairly elite circles in British society. Similar to The Remains of the Day, the novel evokes the era of Britain’s disappearance as a major world power and the cocktail parties and dinners the protagonist constantly attends become synonymous with the last days of the Roman Empire. The satirical portrait of the false assurance of the British people while their empire falls apart and the critique of the consequences of Britain’s colonial past are not the real treasure of this book, however. Above all else, the book’s real power is in Ishiguro’s prose. It’s very hard to put your finger on how his sentences flow so well and I’m sure other writers tear their hair out trying to emulate him. You really notice how good he is if, like me, you dive straight into his work directly after finishing another book. A hugely enjoyable read that flies by.

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

5 Romances for Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Here’s five new romances to watch out for!

Time Was by Ian McDonald (24 April 2018)
time was
Ian McDonald weaves a love story across an endless expanse with his science fiction novella Time Was

A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.

Twice in a Lifetime by PJ Trebelhorn (13 Feb 2018) 
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Police detective Callie Burke returned to western New York after a bad breakup. She immerses herself in work as a way of avoiding any personal connections. But as her feelings for her sister’s boss and late friend’s widow move beyond friendship, she isn’t quite sure how to handle it.

Bar owner Taylor Fletcher lost her firefighter wife almost four years ago. Dating is the last thing on her mind. She gave her heart away once and isn’t willing to risk that kind of pain again. But now Callie, a woman she isn’t even sure she likes, is getting under her skin.

Because of a threat on Taylor’s life, they spend more time together, and both begin to feel things they never expected. Callie’s never had the once-in-a-lifetime type of love. Taylor has, but Callie makes her wonder if it’s possible to find that kind of love twice in a lifetime.

Emerald by Elle Casey (12 Apr 2018)
emerald
A million reasons to go home. One hot reason to stay.

Emerald Collins is nothing like her strong-willed sister Amber. When she found out her father was a member of the legendary rock group Red Hot, sensitive Em was determined to carry on as normal—she had no interest in finding out more about her dad or leaving her quiet sanctuary in Maine.

But while visiting Amber in New York, Em meets Sam, a tortured, sexy, and utterly unsuitable musician. Sam and Em are used to life behind the scenes but their undeniable attraction is about to put them right in the spotlight.

When Sam reveals a shocking secret about his past, Emerald has to make a choice. Will she follow her head and return home or is the magnetism between them and the excitement of the big city enough for her to follow her heart?

The Allotment Girls by Kate Thompson (22 Mar 2018)
allotment.jpg
During the Second World War, life in the iconic Bryant & May match factory is grimy and tough. Annie, Rose, Pearl and Millie carry on making matches for the British Army, with bombs raining down around them.

Inspired by the Dig for Victory campaign, Annie persuades the owners to start Bryant & May allotment in the factory grounds. With plenty of sweat and toil, the girls eventually carve out a corner of the yard into a green plot full of life and colour.

In the darkest of times, the girls find their allotment a tranquil, happy escape. Using pierced dustbin lids to sieve through the shrapnel and debris, they bring about a powerful change, not just in the factory, but their own lives.

As the war rages on, the garden becomes a place of community, friendship – and deceit. As the garden thrives and grows, so do the girls’ secrets . . .

The Allotment Girls is an inspiring and heartwarming novel of wartime hardship, friendship and fortitude from Kate Thompson, author of the Secrets of the Sewing Bee.

Geek Out: A Collection of Trans and Genderqueer Romance
geek out


 

 

 

Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

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Historical fiction from a period of British history I wouldn’t be well up on at all. One of the main reasons i picked this one up is in fact because George R.R. Martin reportedly uses the wars of the roses as much of his source material for writing Game of Thrones. However, this one is far from the standard of Game of Thrones. It’s apparently quite accurate in its facts without too much embellishment of characters and events but it’s not a great book by any means. The characters are derivative and the dialogue is really poor; there are some cases where the author has 4 or 5 of his character’s words italicised over the course of one small conversation, it’s just silly. The action is relatively exciting and i think you can tell that the author enjoyed researching the true nature of 15th century combat but the fight scenes aren’t enough to sustain the book. This is one of a series but I won’t be continuing on to the next book.

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

Carol by Patricia Highsmith

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Before it was an Oscar nominated film starring Cate Blanchett, Carol was a highly regarded novel originally titled “The Price of Salt”. Written in 1959 by Patricia Highsmith, part of Carol’s reputation comes from being one of the first lesbian novels with a happy ending (SPOILER ALERT: no one dies/goes crazy/ends up in a relationship with a man in the end! Hurrah!)

Set in New York during the 50’s, Carol tells the story of the relationship between a young woman named Therese Belivet and Carol Aird, a beautiful, older married woman. After a chance meeting in a department store on Christmas Eve where Therese is working for the holidays, the two women soon form a close bond that develops into a passionate love affair. The relationship is complicated by Carol’s estranged husband and young daughter, and Therese’s boyfriend who can’t fathom his girlfriend falling for another woman.
Carol is a beautiful love story beautifully told. It is a remarkably frank novel written at a time when homosexuality was invisible and forbidden, particularly among the burgeoning middle class of America in the 1950’s. At the book’s heart is the story of two women who pay a high price for facing society’s moral judgements and attempting to build a future together. Repressed longing and desire is illustrated with such complexity and intimacy that it is impossible to hope for anything other than a happy ending for Carol and Therese.

A highly recommended read.

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

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the 70s and 80s by Grady Hendrix

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Print Copy Klaxon: This is a gorgeously put together book, and one you should definetly read the print copy of, rather than an ebook.

I have not (yet) read either of Mr Hendrix’s horror novels, both of which I’ve vaguely heard good things about (and now have on order) but I loved this.

This book stemmed from book reviews that Grady did on his website. The book is laid out thematically, talking about the different major themes in the horror fiction of these decades, such as creepy kids, killer animals, terrifying houses, etc. and within each chapter you see a lot of the original artwork for the covers, and an extended page about a notable cover artist of the time, as well as Grady recounting what these books are about. And he’s very, very funny with it. And he makes you want to read the books. I returned my copy to the library, but I wish I had kept a little booklist of books to read from this. I did see one he spoke about – James Herbert’s The Rats, which I am currently reading and very much enjoying (and will review here soon).

An interesting history of the culture, writing, plotting and art of 70s and 80s horror fiction, that could easily double as a coffee-table book (although, it really has too much information).

In short, a funny, accessible and handsomely designed history of the stories and art of horror gone-by.

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

Falling Fast by Aurora Rose Reynolds

falling fast
Blurb: 

Colton Allyster is relieved to be back home. After a year of rehabilitation, losing his career as a Marine along with his fiancé, he’s had to learn quickly what’s really important. Colton grew up wanting to serve his country. Managing his parents’ biker bar was never part of his plan, but after meeting Gia Caro, he’s beginning to think that’s exactly where he’s meant to be.

Ever since Gia Caro arrived in the small, sleepy town of Ruby Falls, Tennessee, her life has spiralled out of control. Between losing her grandmother a little more each day to dementia, and her hot boss’s constant attention, her once quiet existence isn’t so quiet anymore.

After weeks of sidestepping Colton, things get out of hand, and before Gia knows what’s happening, she’s spending her nights in his bed and her mornings in his kitchen. And as he cleans out drawers and makes room in his closet, she starts to wonder if she’s falling too fast.

Review:

5 Falling Fast Stars

I know I say this about every Aurora Rose Reynolds books but this was just brilliant! She knows what her readers want out of her books and she deliveries every time.

Colton is local, sweet, sexy straight talker who looks after his family and the people he cares about.

Gia, well Gia is the same. She drops her whole life to come take care of her grandmother who she thinks is dead. But her grandmother isn’t dead and needs her now more than ever.

The attraction between the two is undeniable and you can feel the sexual build up between them. I couldn’t get enough of this book. It was Sweet, romantic and sexy in one. A perfect chilled out read for a lazy weekend.

I loved the secondary characters, Aurora always does them so well and I can’t wait for the next book in this series.