Brilliant Book Titles #69

♫They said some day you’ll find / All who love are blind / When you heart’s on fire / You must realize /Smoke gets in your eyes♫


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


‘Unforgettable . . . a hilarious, poignant and impassioned plea to revolutionise our attitudes to death’ Gavin Francis, Guardian

From her first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into her curious new profession. Coming face-to-face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated and the mourning families they left behind, and found herself confounded by people’s erratic reactions to death. Exploring our death rituals – and those of other cultures – she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying. Full of bizarre encounters, gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), this illuminating account makes this otherwise terrifying subject inviting and fascinating.

King of the World: Mohammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick


Don’t be fooled by the title of this book into thinking it is simply another biography of Mohammad Ali, it is not. Remnick focuses on 3 boxers Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston and Ali during the middle and late 20th Century. Remnick uses this period of American history to show us Ali, formerly Cassius Clay transformed how the world of Boxing was viewed and in turn became a great American hero. He shows how social, political and historical factors all contributed to this.

Firstly he focuses on Patterson, brought up in a dirt poor neighbourhood, a quiet, troubled, thoughtful, often neglected child, who follows the route society affords him and inevitably gets into trouble through petty crime. Patterson gets a break though when he is sentenced for a period to a progressive camp for troubled kids. Upon returning home he begins to train at a Boxing gym where his talent is spotted. As a profession boxer, Patterson is considered to be lacking in that killer instinct and almost too polite.

Liston by comparison is considered the bad boy of boxing. He has serious criminal convictions behind him, is controlled by the mob and is by far to me the saddest figure in the book. Continually exploited throughout his entire life, he has grown up in abject poverty where he has been left to fend for himself and never catches the small break that Patterson did. Even when becoming World champion he once again receives nothing but rejection.

Ali, although also growing up in segregated America is from what could be classed as a black middle class background. While also supremely talented he is handsome, charming, cocky, everything that one needs to be ‘King of the World’

Remnick shows us how Ali was disliked by the generally American public, who saw his beliefs as aggressive Black agitation, he refused to join the draft before the tide of public opinion turned against the Vietnam War. But Remnick examines the lives and achievements of these 3 World Heavy Weight Boxers, in a social, cultural, economic and criminal context that makes for a fascinating read.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.
[Editor’s Note: Another contributor has reviewed this on the blog. Compare and contrast!]

5 New Christmas Books to Watch Out For

chicken soup christmas
Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love and Wonder by Amy Newmark
(15 Nov 2016)
Anyone who loves this joyous time of year will love these heartwarming and entertaining stories of family bonding, holiday hijinks, community spirit, and family and religious traditions. A fantastic holiday gift and a great way to start the season!
Christmas is a merry and joyful time of year, full of family, friends, and traditions. You ll delight in reading these 101 holiday tales of inspiration, love, and wonder. Many will make you laugh out loud; others will make you tear up a little. And all the stories are Santa safe so they can keep the magic alive for the whole family!

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But What If There’s No Chimney?
(1 Dec 2016)
Five-year-old Ben is new in town and shocked to find his house has no chimney! How will Santa get into his house to deliver gifts? As Christmas approaches, Ben looks for answers, asking his dad, friend, teacher, mailman, and even his dog! Ben’s search ends with a letter to Santa Claus, Indiana. Will Santa reply, and what will he say? Did you know that Santa Claus, Indiana is a real place? You can write to Santa and the Elves at P.O. Box 1, Santa Claus, Indiana 47579.Don’t forget to include your return address to get a reply in December! Checkermint the elf is hiding inside! Can you find him?

the santa claus man
The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York by Alex Palmer
(1 Dec 2016)
Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan – until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop. The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide Christmas tree and Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft (1 Dec 2016)
For Ava Bliss, it’s going to be a Christmas to remember …

On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones.

Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas.

So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…

Curl up with this gorgeous, festive read – the perfect treat for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

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Christmas Days: Twelve Stories by Jeanette Winterson (6 Dec 2016)
From the “New York Times” bestselling author of “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” comes an enchanting collection of stories for the holiday season.
For years Jeanette Winterson has loved writing a new story at Christmas time and here she brings together twelve of her brilliantly imaginative, funny and bold tales. For the Twelve Days of Christmas a time of celebration, sharing, and givingshe offers these twelve plus one: a personal story of her own Christmas memories. These tales give the reader a portal into the spirit of the season, where time slows down and magic starts to happen. From trees with mysterious powers to a tinsel baby that talks, philosophical fairies to flying dogs, a haunted house and a disappearing train, Winterson’s innovative stories encompass the childlike and spooky wonder of Christmas. Perfect for reading by the fire with loved ones, or while traveling home for the holidays. Enjoy the season of peace and goodwill, mystery, and a little bit of magic courtesy of one of our most fearless and accomplished writers.”


Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

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[Editor’s Note: No, your mind is not playing tricks on you – we did have a review of this book previously, but given that we’ve eight contributors, I figured that this would not only happen eventually, but be interesting to see how the reviews compare and contrast]

This book by an American author I hadn’t heard of before is on the surface a modern tale of conflict between a nouveau riche investment banker blow-in from Boston, Doug Fanning and a retired liberal schoolteacher, Charlotte Graves.

Fanning, a high-flying ruthless amoral executive in the eponymous bank has built a trophy home next door to Graves’ run-down farmhouse after buying a site formerly owned by her family which had been donated to the local town, Finden, Massachusetts as parkland in perpetuity.  On the surface it seems a hopeless fight for Graves, now very eccentric, who seems to spend a lot of her time having political discussions with her two dogs. Everyone has a past, however, and Fanning, Graves and the bank are all connected to the local town either directly or indirectly. The fact that Charlotte’s brother Henry is a federal bank regulator who also is investigating Union Atlantic perhaps stretches coincidence too far. I think too many links to current issues are introduced, for example rogue trading and the US wars in the Middle East which aren’t developed.

I found this a reasonably engaging tale of modern America, though perhaps the author over-complicates the history of his main characters, neither of which are particularly likeable, though perhaps their complexity gives a feeling of realism to the novel. Still, worth a read.

Brilliant Book Titles #68


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

Jules Coll was a slim child, which was misleading in a way, as she spent her formative years doing little other than consuming vast quantities of sugar and plotting to secure her next fix. It wasn t until her late teens, when hormones began playing havoc with her metabolism, that Jules’s diet began to take its toll. Year by year, pound by pound, her weight began to tick upwards until she was tipping the scales at 19 stone.

Self-esteem at rock bottom, her love life on life support, Jules decided it was time to contemplate a radical change. Flabyrinth is the story of Jules’s escape from maximum insecurity prison. As well as sharing her journey from thin to fat and back again, it’s a hilariously, refreshing and honest take on what it feels like to be a girl!

Brilliant Book Titles #67


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

21 February 1989. Three men fly into Moscow, representing software giants from Britain, America, and Japan. Each of them is determined to undercut the others in order to secure a technology so powerfully addictive it has brought the government department that created it to a standstill. In a country on the brink of seismic change, where spycraft is about to give way to cut-throat capitalism, Tetris has become the grand prize.

Featuring corporate espionage, unmarked government organizations, courtroom drama and international conspiracies, the origin of the world’s most popular video game is a gripping, fast-paced thriller of the highest order. Not only this, but it is also the tale of a one-in-a-million software start-up – a unique example of an idea, a product, and an era coming together at exactly the right moment. Tetris was perfectly (if accidentally) crafted to hit primal triggers in our minds and in Ackerman’s hands its story is unputdownable.

Most Requested #5 – Dec 2016

A monthly series of blog posts where I discuss the most requested books in Irish Libraries. Our library management system now caters for 17 authorities across the country and these are the most requested books across that system.

A new entry into Most Requested with 102 holds this novel has been described as “an extraordinary hymn to small-town Ireland” and a “portrait of a universe in deriliction“.

born to run
Springsteen has beaten out fellow autobiography, The Battle by Paul McConnell, which last month had this same amount of holds as Springsteen. The Battle has gone from our reserve charts, but Born to Run is still going strong with 116 holds

Also still going strong (bolstered perhaps by another block of tickets being recently released and instantly snapped up) is the script to the Harry Potter play, which currently has 119 holds.

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Another new entry into Most Requested, Grisham’s latest (dubbed a return to form by the NY Times) has entered our chart with 173 holds.

Climbing from 121 holds last month to 186 holds this month, Connolly’s new thriller is still going strong.

As predicted in last month’s Most Requested, Archer’s final Clifton Chronicles has shot up in holds, as people realise it’s been released – from 87 holds last month to 277 holds currently.

A writer without any need of introduction, Lee Child’s 21st Jack Reacher thriller smashes its way into our charts with 335 holds

Harris’ popular thriller is going from strength to strength; from 287 holds last month to a whopping 436 holds this month.

lying in wait
What is this? Liz Nugent’s 2016 smash is at number two? And with a whopping 502 holds? Who on earth has beaten out this year’s hottest thriller?

Holding‘s popularity continues to rise and rise, leading to an absolutely mesmerising 768 holds (!!). Huge congratulations to Norton on the success of his first novel!


And that’s it for this month! Tune in after Christmas to see what’s hot, who’s where, and what’s topping the charts in Most Requested!

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens

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Pamela Erens packs a huge emotional punch into this short novel covering the labour of a young women in a busy New York hospital, the eleven hours of the title.

The evolving relationship between Lore, the single, unaccompanied woman and her midwife, Franckline is beautifully drawn. Erens has an astonishing talent for description and the passages on the physical progress of the labour are totally absorbing. She moves effortlessly between Lore’s story and that of Franckline, the immigrant midwife, and makes us care about them and their life journeys.

The author is skilled, in the things she suggests, as well as those things she describes and there is a sparseness and economy in the writing that is refreshing. I could say that there is not a superfluous word used and this conveys the urgency and intensity of the birth process.

I would have to say that this is one novel that would definitely appeal more to women readers, as it deals with the momentous and profound act of giving birth. I particularly like the way the novel ended, with all possibilities left open and nothing defined. The best recommendation, I can give this novel is that I am now rushing out to read Erens’ other two previous titles.Verdict- a tour de force.


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

5 New Biographies

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Dali’s Moustaches: An Act of Homage by Boris Frieldwald
(7 Nov 2016)
This original and utterly captivating celebration of Salvador Dali s life and career traces the countless, often outrageous, ways the artist employed his moustache to brilliant effect. Whether curled into a figure 8 or splayed like a cat s whiskers, Dali s moustache is arguably the world s most famous facial hair. But when asked to explain why he styled it in such bizarre and seemingly comic fashion, the artist remarked that his moustache was the most serious part of his personality. In this book, Boris Friedewald tells the life story of the renowned Spanish Surrealist through the various moustache styles he had throughout his life. Dali cultivated his moustaches he staged them and had them photographed. But these were more than mere vanity projects. Dali s evolving facial hair signifies certain points in the artist s own metamorphosis and was a kind of antenna of his metaphysical inspiration. Illustrated with many intriguing photographs of the artist and his ever-changing moustache, this book describes how Dali cared for and styled his facial hair, and shows how it influenced many artists in his wake from Ringo Starr to Lady Gaga. Filled with anecdotes and engaging commentary about Dali s work, this book offers readers a fascinating new way of looking at the artist, his life, and his legacy.

eye of the beholder
Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni Van Leewenhoek and The Reinvention of Seeing by Laura J. Snyder (1 Dec 2016)
By the early 17th century the Scientific Revolution was well under way. Philosophers and scientists were throwing off the yoke of ancient authority to peer at nature and the cosmos through microscopes and telescopes.

In October 1632, in the small town of Delft in the Dutch Republic, two geniuses were born who would bring about a seismic shift in the idea of what it meant to see the world. One was Johannes Vermeer, whose experiments with lenses and a camera obscura taught him how we see under different conditions of light and helped him create the most luminous works of art ever beheld. The other was Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, whose work with microscopes revealed a previously unimagined realm of minuscule creatures.

By intertwining the biographies of these two men, Laura Snyder tells the story of a historical moment in both art and science that revolutionized how we see the world today.

the january man
The January Man: A Year of Walking Britain by Christopher Somerville
(12 Jan 2017)
In January 2006, a month or two after my father died, I thought I saw him again – a momentary impression of an old man, a little stooped, setting off for a walk in his characteristic fawn corduroys and shabby quilted jacket. After teenage rifts it was walking that brought us closer as father and son; and this ‘ghost’ of Dad has been walking at my elbow since his death, as I have ruminated on his great love of walking, his prodigious need to do it – and how and why I walk myself.

The January Man is the story of a year of walks that was inspired by a song, Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’. Month by month, season by season and region by region, Christopher Somerville walks the British Isles, following routes that continually bring his father to mind. As he travels the country – from the winter floodlands of the River Severn to the lambing pastures of Nidderdale, the towering seabird cliffs on the Shetland Isle of Foula in June and the ancient oaks of Sherwood Forest in autumn – he describes the history, wildlife, landscapes and people he encounters, down back lanes and old paths, in rain and fair weather.

This exquisitely written account of the British countryside not only inspires us to don our boots and explore the 140,000 miles of footpaths across the British Isles, but also illustrates how, on long-distance walks, we can come to an understanding of ourselves and our fellow walkers. Over the hills and along the byways, Christopher Somerville examines what moulded the men of his father’s generation – so reticent about their wartime experiences, so self-effacing, upright and dutiful – as he searches for ‘the man inside the man’ that his own father really was.

The Mistress of Paris: The 19th Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret by Catherine Hewitt (24 Jan 2017)
Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne was a celebrated nineteenth-century Parisian courtesan. She was painted by Manet and inspired Emile Zola, who immortalized her in his scandalous novel “Nana.” Her rumored affairs with Napoleon III and the future Edward VII kept gossip columns full.

But her glamorous existence hid a dark secret: she was no Comtesse. She was born into abject poverty, raised on a squalid Paris backstreet; the lowest of the low. Yet she transformed herself into an enchantress who possessed a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages, and art that drew the envy of connoisseurs across France and Europe. A consummate show-woman, she ensured that her life and even her death remained shrouded in just enough mystery to keep her audience hungry for more.

Catherine Hewitt s biography, ” The Mistress of Paris,” tells the forgotten story of a remarkable French woman who, though her roots were lowly, never stopped aiming high.”

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Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt (26 Jan 2017)
In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible. Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as “human computers”–who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews, Nathalia Holt offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading.


Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn



What do you do when your soul mate marries your best friend?

If you’re Kate Evans, you keep your friend Rachel, bond with her kids, and bury your feelings for her husband. The fact that Shane’s in the military and away for long periods helps-but when tragedy strikes, everything changes.

After Rachel, pregnant with her fourth child, dies in a car accident and the baby miraculously survives, Kate upends her entire life to share parenting duties. Then on the first anniversary of Rachel’s death, Kate and Shane take comfort in each other in a night that they both soon regret.

Shane’s been angry for a year, and now he feels guilty too – for sleeping with his wife’s best friend and liking it . . . liking her. Kate’s ability to read him like a book may have once sent Shane running, but their lives are forever entwined and they are growing closer.

Now with Shane deployed for seven months, Kate is on her own and struggling with being a single parent. Shane is loving and supportive from thousands of miles away, but his homecoming brings a betrayal Kate never saw coming. So Kate’s only choice is to fight for the future she deserves – with or without Shane. . .


This book gutted me so badly! I woke this morning with a Book Hangover, I just couldn’t put it down. I cried my ass off and had a consent ache in my heart throughout. But that just made this book even better. It sucked me right in.

“For the past couple of nights when I’d lain down beside her, after she’d fallen asleep and I knew she couldn’t hear me, I’d promised her that she’d never have to forgive me again if she could do it one last time.”

If you’re questioning picking this book up to read, don’t! Pick it up and read it! It was one of the best reads so far this year for me and I’ve read some great books this year let me tell you!


Author Bio:

Nicole Jacquelyn is the mom of two little girls and a full time college student. She hasn’t watched television in well over a year, she still does things that drive her mother crazy, and she loves to read. At eight years old, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she told people she wanted to be a mom. When she was twelve her answer changed- to author. By the time she was eighteen, when people asked her what she wanted to do with her life, she told them she really wanted to be a writer- but the odds of that happening were so slim that she’d get her business degree “just to be safe”. Her dreams stayed constant. First she became a mom, then she went to college, and during her senior year- with one daughter in first grade and the other in preschool, she sat down and wrote a story.


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