Brilliant Book Titles #49

An angry, vulgar title that works well given that its a memoir of a hard life and a difficult father-son relationship

another bullshit

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

Nick Flynn met his father when he was twenty-seven years old, working as a caseworker in a homeless shelter in Boston. As a teenager he’d received letters from this mystery father – self-proclaimed poet (and greatest American novelist since Mark Twain), descendant of the Romanov dynasty, alcoholic, and con-man doing time for bank robbery – but there had been no contact. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (a phrase Flynn senior uses to describe his life on the streets) tells the story of the eerie trajectory that led Nick and his father into that homeless shelter, onto those streets, and finally to each other.

Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

union atlantic.jpg

Adam Haslett’s debut novel, after his Pulitzer Prize nominated collection of short stories You are not a stranger here, was published in 2010. It tells the story of Doug Fanning; a former soldier in the Iraqi war, he is now a senior executive at a bank named Union Atlantic. Due to a serious of somewhat shady financial maneuvers, Doug had made Union Atlantic extremely successful. He is handsome, driven,  wealthy although having grown up poor with an alcoholic mother he secretly abhors the wealthy people he works for and of which he has become.

The book settles on a battle of two houses between Doug who has built a McMansion on land previously owned by the family of Charlotte Grieves. Charlotte is an old eccentric former teacher from a true blood New England family. She despises this new greedy corporate America of which Doug epitomises. She decided that she alone will wage war against Doug and all that he stands for. There are a number of smaller plot lines running through the novel. But ultimately it is about how society has changed in America. Where morality fits in with greed and what is it that we value.

Haslett pitches this battle extremely well. He is a superb writer and made me thoroughly enjoy a novel that deals with venture capitalism. Not merely that but he made it make sense to me! I loved the battle and the stubbornness. There is a depth to this novel that makes it so much more than a war of corporate greedy America versus old values America.


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

5 New Plays

Can’t make it to the West End? Or Broadway? Why not check out some of the new playscripts being published right now.

Karagula by Philip Ridley (9 Jun 2016)
A doorway to a new future is ready to open. We are the hinge of that moment. We will let the door swing wide.

On a beautiful spring evening when both moons are full two teenagers vow eternal love. It is a moment that will have cataclysmic consequences. Not just for them, but for the world on which they live. A world where Prom Night is a matter of life or death, where weapons are grown and trained like pets, and where a chosen few are hearing a voice. A voice that speaks of . . . Karagula.

Philip Ridley s extraordinary, form-shattering Karagula is a play of epic proportions. Written in a fractured timescale, it explores our constant need to find meaning. To believe we re here for a reason. To have faith in something. Faith in . . . anything.

Karagula received its world premiere on 10 June 2016 at a secret London location in one of the largest productions ever staged in the Off-West End.

the best american short plays
The Best American Short Plays 2014-2015 edited by William W. Demastes (13 Sep 2016)
For more than 70 years, The Best American Short Plays has been the standard of excellence for one-act plays in America. From its inception, it has identified cutting-edge playwrights Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and others who have gone on to establish award-winning careers. The Best American Short Plays 2014-2015 is the next instalment from series editor William W. Demastes. This volume takes a look at the trinity Shakespeare coined as the lunatic, the lover, and the poet. The works in this volume explore whimsical, imaginative, humorous, and romantic themes. In the introduction, Demastes writes, What really hits home in Shakespeare’s plays is how he uses his own seething brain to put things onstage that cool reason will never be able to comprehend. He shows us that the world is more than facts and figures, that humans are connected by more than a balance sheet, and that life is more than biology. The wonderful short plays in this collection delve into the spectrum of emotions that bubble beneath cool reason and remind us about the some of the aspects that make life worth living for better or worse-the insanity, the beauty, the unbridled joy, and the mystery.

hand to god
Hand to God: A Play by Robert Askins (4 Oct 2016)
In the rec room in at a church in Cypress, Texas, Margery leads her students in a puppet pageant to strengthen their faith in the Bible and evade Satan’s hand. But when the young members of the Christian Puppet Ministry put those teachings into practice, one devout young man’s puppet takes on a shocking personality that no one could have expected. In this hilarious black comedy, a foul-mouthed sock puppet named Tyrone soon teaches those around him that the urges that can drive a person to give in to their darkest desires fit like a glove. In Hand to God, a “true tour de force” (New York Times), Robert Askins has written a play of “unerring perfection” (Huffington Post).

The must-see hit of the 2015 Broadway season, starring Steven Boyer and Geneva Carr, garnered an Obie Award and five Tony Award nominations, including Best Play, following its sold out, critically acclaimed off-Broadway runs at MCC Theater and Ensemble Studio Theatre.

theatre for youth
Theatre for Youth 2 edited by Coleman A. Jennings and Greta Berghammer (8 Nov 2016)
When “Theatre for Youth: Twelve Plays with Mature Themes” was published in 1986, it met a need for plays that could help young people deal with some of the more difficult realities of life. Responding to the sweeping changes in society over the succeeding thirty years, Coleman A. Jennings and Gretta Berghammer have assembled a new collection of plays that reflects not only on themes such as aging, death and dying, friendship, courage, conformity, maturation, sexuality, and struggles with moral judgment but also on gender identity, poverty, diversity, and discrimination.”Theatre for Youth II: More Plays with Mature Themes” presents twelve plays, nine of them new to this anthology, that offer a rich variety of original stories (“The Tomato Plant Girl,” “The Arkansaw Bear,” “Super Cowgirl and Mighty Miracle”), compelling adaptations (“The Afternoon of the Elves,” “Broken Hearts,” “Courage!”), historical drama (“Mother Hicks,” “Johnny Tremain”), diverse themes (“La Ofrenda,” “The Transition of Doodle Pequeno”), friendship (“The Selfish Giant”), and future societies (“With Two Wings”). As these plays explore some of the most challenging themes for today s youth, including the difficulties of single parenthood, divorce, race relations, sexuality, and gender discrimination, they share messages fundamental to us all: open your imagination and dare to dream; embrace life; honor your personal passion, beliefs, and creativity; take a risk; and love with all your heart

here we go
Here We Go / Escaped Alone : Two Plays by Caryl Churchill (15 Nov 2016)
“What Churchill has written is a striking memento mori for an age without faith; and although her play is brief, that in itself evokes the idea that we are here for a short time and then are suddenly gone.” “The Guardian “on “Here We Go”

“Line by line it’s hard to imagine you’ll come across a more brilliant play this year . . . and what makes “Escaped Alone “a great play is that it is strangely euphoric: spiked with terrible, apocalyptic foreboding, yes, but Churchill’s funniest since “Serious Money,” and with an incredible gift for spinning light out of the dark.””Time Out London “on “Escaped Alone”

The prolific repertoire of Caryl Churchill gains two thrilling new entries with “Here We Go “and “Escaped Alone,” both exemplary of her notoriously dark, witty work. Creeping and ruminative, Here We Go “acts as a chilling reminder of our own mortality” (“The Guardian”), with a three-part examination of death and its aftermath. “Escaped Alone “considers a notably broader demise: the apocalypse. Through the musings of four older women idly chatting in an English back garden, the fate of the world is outlined in an unsettling revelation of mankind’s own self-destruction.

Caryl Churchill has written for the stage, television, and radio. A renowned and prolific playwright, her plays include “Cloud Nine,” “Top Girls,” “Far Away,” “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?,” “Bliss,” “Love and Information,” “Mad Forest ,” and “A Number.” In 2002, she received the Obie Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2010, she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

It’s Not Me, It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane

its not me its you

At the start of this story, we meet Delia – she is happily settled in Newcastle with her boyfriend, Paul, and their old dog, Parsnip.  Delia and Paul have been together for ten years and, as Paul is in no hurry to pop the question, Delia takes it upon herself to propose thinking that it’s all pretty much a formality.  All seems to be going well but, as we know, there is another five hundred pages left in this book, so it’s likely that things are going to go to plan.  “It’s not me, it’s you” is a light but enjoyable read.

Our heroine seems to land on her feet despite all life throws at her but is engaging and just quirky enough for us to care about. The author is at her best when exploring her characters’ relationships and emotions so some of the sub-plots involving the world of PR can be a bit distracting.  Delia’s adventures are somewhat unlikely and while the ending is fairly predictable, it is nonetheless satisfying.  The book itself is well written but a little bit long – the pace drags a bit in the middle.

All in all, I’d say if you are looking for a light and (despite the size!) fast read, this could be the book for you.  I would certainly read another of Mhairi McFarlane’s books.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #48

Ahh, I love those humble, modest titles 🙂


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

National Bestseller 

The literary sensation of the year, a book that redefines both family and narrative for the twenty-first century. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is the moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. Here is an exhilarating debut that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and wildly inventive as well as a deeply heartfelt story of the love that holds a family together.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is an instant classic that will be read in paperback for decades to come. The Vintage edition includes a new appendix by the author.

Brilliant Book Titles #47

The importance of punctuation, illustrated in one title:


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

The spirited and scholarly #1 New York Times bestseller combines boisterous history with grammar how-to’s to show how important punctuation is in our world—period.

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. She proclaims, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry.

Featuring a foreword by Frank McCourt, and interspersed with a lively history of punctuation from the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, Eats, Shoots & Leaves makes a powerful case for the preservation of proper punctuation.


The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

art of asking

I don’t really listen to audiobooks. They always seem like a huge time investment compared to reading books (which they aren’t) but more so, I can’t do anything else when listening to audiobooks (whereas when reading, I’d normally listen to music also). Anyway, my main criteria for listening to an audiobook is who is reading it, and like this one, I tend to only listen to ones read by the author and of author’s I’m interested in.

I’m a long term fan of Amanda Palmer and her former band, The Dresden Dolls, who I’ve listened to for well over a decade now, so I was looking forward to getting this book. I initially got it in paperback but I didn’t get very far with it; I was distracted, and also I wasn’t mad about reading it, however, I ended up getting it through Audible and due to some unusual circumstances, I found myself in the position to listen to hours and hours of an audiobook.

And I was very glad I did. The book completely comes alive when Amanda reads it. More than that, she has punctuated sections with her own music, and occasionally, the music of others, the conceit of which works really well when she’s talking about a specific song.

The book stemmed from her crowdfunding over $1million for her record, Theatre is Evil, and the subsequent TED talk she was asked to give which introduced her to a whole new audience. It’s about much more than that though. Part memoir, part journey through an artist connecting with her fans, part self-help at times (in a good way), this book starts with her working in an icecream shop in Boston and on her days off being a living statue, the 9ft tall “The Bride”, replete in white facepaint and an old wedding dress. She talks about this and how it was good training for connecting with an audience and more than that, being unafraid to ask for help when needed, being unafraid of connecting with someone.

There is so much in this book that I could go on and on about it for ages. Like she is in her music and online, she doesn’t hold anything back, going into detail about her relationship with Neil Gaiman, her abortion, what it was like being hated on the Internet, but more than anything, this book is about a musician seeking to connect, seeking to be an artist, and not feeling ashamed for either. Recommended.


You can reserve a print copy of this book on South Dublin Libraries’ online catalogue here.

5 New Fantasy Novels

blood mirror sanderson
The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks (27 Oct 2016)
The Blood Mirror is the action-packed new novel in the Lightbringer series by international bestseller Brent Weeks.

Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he’s dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape.

But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen . . . and only he can save it.

As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: who is the Lightbringer?

rune of the apprentice.jpeg
Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone (1 Nov 2016)
In a world where magic, technology, and nature have merged, the few who can control Runes hold dominance over all of creation. All believe that Aleksi, a sixteen-year-old orphan, was blessed to be born with a Rune embedded in his palm, but that s only because they don t know the truth Aleksi s Rune is so powerful it s killing him.
Asura, a brutal emperor who uses Runes to conquer entire continents, will stop at nothing to kill Aleksi and claim the boy s power for his own. With Aleksi s Rune burning its way through his body and assassins hunting his every step, his survival depends on discerning ally from enemy and learning to tame the competing forces of light and dark within.
With the burden of his rune haunting his days and the prophetic whispers of a young captive priestess illuminating his nights, Aleksi will be able to unravel the mysteries of his past, rescue the girl in his dreams, and challenge the most powerful warlord the world has ever known only if the one thing keeping him alive his Rune does not kill him first.

Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen by Michael Moorcock (1 Nov 2016)
In this spellbinding (“The Sunday Times) “award-winning fantasy, the vast empire of Albion is ruled by the beautiful and forlorn queen, Gloriana who must battle against a nefarious scoundrel, Captain Quire, and a court soured by debauchery with her wits.
First published in 1978, “Gloriana “is the award-winning story set in the alternate English kingdom of Albion that reimagines Queen Elizabeth s reign.
Bawdy, cruel, and brilliant, “Gloriana” has been awarded the World Fantasy Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction, and is often cited as one of the great works of speculative fiction and fantasy along the lines of J.G. Ballard, Thomas Pynchon, and Philip K. Dick.

wall of storms.jpg
The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu (3 Nov 2016)
The second book in The Dandelion Dynasty, the epic fantasy trilogy by Ken Liu.

Dara is united under the Emperor Ragin, once known as Kuni Garu, the bandit king. There has been peace for six years, but the Dandelion Throne rests on bloody foundations – Kuni’s betrayal of his friend, Mata Zyndu, the Hegemon. The Hegemon’s rule was brutal and unbending – but he died well, creating a legend that haunts the new emperor, no matter what good he strives to do.

Where war once forged unbreakable bonds between Kuni’s inner circle, peace now gnaws at their loyalties. Where ancient wisdoms once held sway, a brilliant scholar promises a philosophical revolution. And from the far north, over the horizon, comes a terrible new threat … The scent of blood is in the water.

The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier (8 Nov 2016)
In this gorgeous fantasy in the spirit of Guy Gavriel Kay and Robin McKinley, a prince and a princess must work together to save their kingdom from outside invaders and dangers within.
Long ago the Kieba, last goddess in the world, raised up her mountain in the drylands of Carastind. Ever since then she has dwelled and protected the world from unending plagues and danger
Gulien Madalin, heir to the throne of Carastind, finds himself more interested in ancient history than the tedious business of government and watching his father rule. But Gulien suspects that his father has offended the Kieba so seriously that she has withdrawn her protection from the kingdom. Worse, he fears that Carastind s enemies suspect this as well.
Then he learns that he is right. And invasion is imminent.
Meanwhile Gulien s sister Oressa has focused on what s important: avoiding the attention of her royal father while keeping track of all the secrets at court. But when she overhears news about the threatened invasion, she s shocked to discover what her father plans to give away in order to buy peace.
But Carastind’s enemies will not agree to peace at any price. They intend to not only conquer the kingdom, but also cast down the Kieba and steal her power. Now, Gulien and Oressa must decide where their most important loyalties lie, and what price they are willing to pay to protect the Kieba, their home, and the world.


Morning Sea by Margaret Mazzantini

morning sea.jpg

In this novel Mazzantini explores displacement and the effect that political chaos has on individual lives in this extremely short but intense story of Libyans seeking refuge in Italy and Italians seeking their lost past in Libya.

The book tells the story of two mother’s fight to protect their children’s future.

The Mediterranean, 2010. As rebels battle loyalists, Farid and his mother flee the wreckage of Tripoli for the coast, pinning their hopes on a trafficker’s rusting boat and the perilous crossing to Italy. Across the water, in Sicily, 18-year-old Vito has been raised on stories of a Libya he has never known, his mother one of the Italians exiled when Gaddafi came to power.

He ponders where he belongs and what to make of his life as he picks through the flotsam of past shipwrecks that wash up upon the shore.

The book moves back and forth between the continents. It highlights the dark and uncertain time refugees can face and deals with issues of war, migration and its consequences.

Although very well written I did find the story a little confusing at times. Nevertheless I would recommend it –because of the issues it covers in such a short novel.


You can reserve this item online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #46

I feel I don’t need to say anything about this title:

hollow chocolate bunnies

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

A hilarious comic fantasy from the bestselling cult creator of the Brentford Triangle Trilogy

Once upon a time Jack set out to find his fortune in the big city. But the big city is Toy City, formerly known as Toy Town, and it has grown considerably since the good old days and isn’t all that jolly any more. And there is a serial killer loose on the streets. The old, rich nursery rhyme characters are being slaughtered one by one and the Toy City police are getting nowhere in their investigations. Meanwhile, Private Eye Bill Winkie has gone missing, leaving behind his sidekick Eddie Bear to take care of things.

Eddie may be a battered teddy with an identity crisis, but someone’s got to stop the killer. When he teams up with Jack, the two are ready for the challenge. Not to mention the heavy drinking, bad behaviour, car chases, gratuitous sex and violence, toy fetishism and all-round grossness along the way. It’s going to be an epic adventure!