Books of the Year 2016 – Part 2

Hello again all! I’m sure you are all Christmassed out by now so here’s the 2nd part of our Books of the Year feature. We have eight contributors and Part 1 highlighted our first four picks out of the books we reviewed this year. Here’s the remaining four.

Mark’s pick:
I picked Patience by Daniel Clowes, because I’m still thinking about it after all this time. It’s just a perfectly constructed, beautiful and sad story, told in bright clear panels. His best work so far, by a mile (and that’s saying something)
[Mark’s original review is here]

Mairead’s pick:
imagine me gone
Out of all the books I’ve read this year, Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett stands out the most. Exquisitely written and a book full of love that I will certainly read again.
[Mairead’s original review is here]

Michael’s pick:
my name is red
My book of the year is My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. It’s a wonderful, detailed, colourful and exotic tale a bit in the style of the nineteenth century classics. A big story that takes you to a different world in a past time married to a mystery story. I think this is an author you would want to return to again.
[Michael’s original review is here]

Rosie’s pick:
diary of the fall
My book of the year for 2016 is Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub. The book tells the story of 3 generations….. and the key events which shapes/controls their lives. Each main character keeps a diary-and the book itself is written in the form of notes. The novel is gripping and thoughtful through to the end. I read this all in one sitting-it was too engrossing to put down!
[Rosie’s original review is here]


So, a big congrats to our Books of the Year authors: CJ Sansom, Nicole Jacquelyn, Pamela Erens, Sarah Crossan, Patricia Forde, Daniel Clowes, Adam Haslett, Orhan Pamuk & Michel Laub.

Normal daily posts resume on 2nd Jan 2017! Happy New Year to you all!

Books of the Year 2016 – Part 1

Happy Holidays!

Today is the first of two posts (with the second out on the 29th Dec) that highlight our favourite books out of those we reviewed in the past year. We’ve eight contributors, so this first post has the first four.

Lucy’s pick:
My book of the year is “Dissolution” by C. J. Sansom because it seamlessly combines meticulous research with a gripping murder and wonderful writing.  It was my introduction to a series of books which I have enjoyed immensely.
[Lucy’s original review is here]

Eleanor’s pick:
My favourite book this year was “Unbreak My Heart” by Nicole Jacquelyn. I think the reason why it was my favourite was because even now 7 months after reading it I can feel it. It was such a heart wrenching book that had me crying most of the way through. When a book can bring that emotion out of you, then you know its well written. Aside from the emotional hook, Unbreak My Heart, also has two very flawed main characters. But you do get to a place where you can’t help but root for them to get it right. Nicole Jacquelyn nailed it with Unbreak My Heart. In my opinion she wrote a book that will go down as a book to remember. A story that you’ll recommend to everyone and not stop until all your friends have read it!
[Eleanor’s original review is here]

Helen’s pick:
My book of the year is “Eleven Hours” By Pamela Erens ,because of the breath taking quality of the writing, the emotional power of the subject matter and the totally absorbing nature of the narrative. This novel certainly had the “wow” factor for me, it stood out from the crowd, by a mile.
[Helen’s original review is here]

Emma’s pick(s!):

I picked two!
“One” by Sarah Crossan is a favourite as it is such an original idea and also I love that the book is in verse. It’s emotional, compelling and different. I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

“The Wordsmith” by Patricia Forde was a story I loved but it was also very thought provoking.The ideas in it have stayed with me long after I read it and it really stands out to me as something I enjoyed. I particularly like dystopian fiction so this really appealed to me.
[Emma’s review for One is here and her review for The Wordsmith is here]

Don’t forget to tune in on the 29th for our remaning four Books of the Year.


Irish Christmas Stories edited by David Marcus


This satisfying collection, by Irish writers if the highest calibre, makes the perfect companion for those languid days around Christmas, when you finally sit down and get a moment to yourself. The contents  page reads like a who’s who of the greats of Irish writing , John McGahern, James Plunkett, Frank O’Connor and the recently deceased, the wonderful William Trevor, to name but a few.  There is a full range of moods and emotions here, from childlike wonder to bitter resignation to life’s difficulties. My own favourite is the incomparable Clare Boylan’s story, “The Spirit of the Tree”, which is a pure delight and conveys the era it is set in and the magical thinking of childhood, exquisitely. Eddie Stack’s “Time Passes”  presents us with a sombre, poignant study on the emigrants who return home each year, for Christmas and will strike a chord with many.  William Trevor’s story, “Another Christmas”, also deals with the theme of exile and we are reminded of how Christmas can be a time of particular loneliness for many people. If you are looking for a “Christmas Read” that will do more than just pass the time, this anthology is highly recommended. It’s ideal for dipping in and out of, each story with its individual flavour and viewpoint on the Christmas theme. In the introduction, Marcus says of the book, “It reveals, preserves, delights. It is the writers gift, their Christmas present to all readers.” I urge you to give yourself this present, its one you will truly remember.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #73

worth dying for.jpg

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

When you see your nation’s flag fluttering in the breeze, what do you feel?

For thousands of years flags have represented our hopes and dreams. We wave them. Burn them. March under their colours. And still, in the 21st century, we die for them. Flags fly at the UN, on the Arab street, from front porches in Texas. They represent the politics of high power as well as the politics of the mob.

From the renewed sense of nationalism in China, to troubled identities in Europe and the USA, to the terrifying rise of Islamic State, the world is a confusing place right now and we need to understand the symbols, old and new, that people are rallying round.

In nine chapters (covering the USA, UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America, international flags and flags of terror), Tim Marshall draws on more than twenty-five years of global reporting experience to reveal the histories, the power and the politics of the symbols that unite us – and divide us.

Adulthood is a Myth: A Sarah Scribbles collection


Oh, how I love this book. Rarely does a book make laugh out loud – but this had me cackling and snorting on my sofa. I love her simplistic style and her piercing self-deprecating humour. I’d first come across her pictures on Facebook where she has over a million likes, and had been eagerly awaiting this collection.

Unlike the rest of my reviews, where I talk about the book and why it’s great or rubbish, this book simply made me laugh, so I’m instead going to share three or four of my favourite Sarah Scribbles comics – you’ll either love them, and want to read the book, or not. Sometimes it’s better to show, instead of tell.

First things first, all comics are by and from where she posts regularly.

And now, comics:

^this comic has famously since turned into a popular meme online where the text in the fourth panel is replaced with whatever the poster wants, for example food, or yarn.

^ I love this comic so much
^Something all book lovers can relate to….

^ I cannot relate to this at all. I cannot. Honestly. *cries*

If you like what you see, you can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Happy Christmas from Ballyroan Reads!

So, all of us here at Ballyroan Reads would like to wish ye all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (or Happy Holidays, or just Happy Time Off Work?).

Thanks for all the reposts, comments and likes during the year.

….but we’re not done yet.

We’ll have our last Brilliant Book Title of the year tomorrow, as well as a review. And on Christmas Eve, we’ll have an extra-special christmass-y book review. And to prevent the post-Christmas, pre-New Years slump, Ballyroan Reads will be doing our BOOKS OF THE YEAR. Join us on Tues 27th and Thurs 29th to find out which books were the cream of the crop! Normal service resumes on the blog resumes on the 3rd January.

Also, Ballyroan Library closes for Christmas Friday 23rd December at 1pm (note the earlier than usual closing time) and re-opens on Tuesday 3rd January at 9.45am, but don’t worry, if you need a library fix, all of our services such as our ebooks, magazines, language learning, etc are all available 24/7 through our website.

Anyway, enough of that – it’s Christmas! See you on the 27th for Books of the Year Part 1.

Dream States: The Collected Dreaming Covers by Dave McKean

dream states cover

I’m a big fan of Dave McKean’s artwork so I was delighted to see that alongside the new edition of Dust Covers (his covers for the Sandman series), this now existed, collecting his The Dreaming covers and various Sandman Presents and miscellaneous work.

McKean’s illustrations are peerless and unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. They look wonderful in their unadorned, lavishly put together fashion in this book. We also get, as we did in Dust Covers, lots of other smaller work from him littered through the book.

dream states 1

My big gripe with this is that its missing the voices of Dust Covers, wherein Dave and Neil Gaiman commented on the covers and their creation. This would’ve been a perfect opportunity to do that with the various writers of the series. In particular, I would’ve loved to read the dialogues between primary The Dreaming writer, Caitlin R Kiernan, and McKean, but instead we get one page of text, about McKean’s work about The Sandman Overture covers. This shouldn’t surprise me, since Vertigo has always seemingly (incorrectly, in my view) seen The Dreaming as the poor cousin of The Sandman no one should talk about (which is why, bar the one out of print collection that collated various issues from the middle of the run, I guess they’ve never bothered putting out The Dreaming as collection editions WHICH IS TOTALLY SOMETHING THEY SHOULD DO).

dream states 2

Still, it’s wonderful to have McKean’s stellar Dreaming work collected in one book. There’s also a new McKean-illustrated, Gaiman-written comic at the start, but I wasn’t crazy about it, and it’s not a patch on The Last Sandman Story from Dust Covers.

In short, excellent, but if they had’ve treated this book as Dust Covers’ equal, instead of its little brother, it could’ve been much more engaging.


You can reserve on South Dublin Libraries a copy of Dream States here and a copy of Dust Covers here.

5 Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

Running out of time, and stumped as to what to get as a christmas gift?
Looking to avoid reactions to presents like this:

Let Ballyroan Reads guide you. These are all 2016 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Winners, so should be available in your local bookshop (so hopefully making them easy to get in a rush a few minutes before closing on Christmas Eve!)

For the little ones…
Winner of The Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year Award (Senior):
The first book in a new series about an orphan boy who discovers he is part of a secret army that protects the world from a race of shadowy monsters.

Grey placed his finger in the middle of the shadow.
‘What’s this?’ he asked.
Denizen frowned. ‘It’s a shadow.’
‘No, it isn’t,’ Grey said. ‘It’s a door.’

Denizen Hardwick doesn’t believe in magic – until he’s ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight.

That kind of thing can really change your perspective.

Now Denizen is about to discover that there’s a world beyond the one he knows. A world of living darkness where an unseen enemy awaits.

Fortunately for humanity, between us and the shadows stand the Knights of the Borrowed Dark.

Unfortunately for Denizen, he’s one of them . . .
[You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here]

For those who love crime…
Winner of The Books Are My Bag Crime Fiction Book of the Year Award:
‘Contains the most tense and serpentine interrogation scenes outside of John Le Carré’ – Guardian

This is the case she imagined. Precision-cut and savage, lithe and momentous.

Antoinette Conway, the tough, abrasive detective from The Secret Place, is still on the Murder squad, but only just. She’s partnered up with Stephen Moran now, and that’s going well – but the rest of her working life isn’t. Antoinette doesn’t play well with others, and there’s a vicious running campaign in the squad to get rid of her. She and Stephen pull a case that at first looks like a slam-dunk lovers’ tiff. All she and her partner have to do is track down Lover Boy and bring him in. Then it’ll be back to business as usual, watching from a distance as the real detectives go up against the psychopaths. Except when Antoinette takes a good look at the victim’s face, she realises she’s seen her somewhere before. And suddenly the conviction that there’s a different answer takes her breath away.

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

For those into non-fiction…
Winner of The National Book Tokens Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award:
i-read-the-new-todayFew people rode the popular wave of the sixties quite like Tara Browne. One of Swinging London’s most popular faces, he lived fast, died young and was immortalized for ever in the opening lines of ‘A Day in the Life’, a song that many critics regard as The Beatles’ finest. But who was John Lennon’s lucky man who made the grade and then blew his mind out in a car?

Author Paul Howard has pieced together the extraordinary story of a young Irishman who epitomized the spirit of the times: racing car driver, Vogue model, friend of The Rolling Stones, style icon, son of a peer, heir to a Guinness fortune and the man who turned Paul McCartney on to LSD.

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy is the story of a child born into Ireland’s dwindling aristocracy, who spent his early years in an ancient castle in County Mayo, and who arrived in London just as it was becoming the most exciting city on the planet.

The Beatles and the Stones were about to conquer America, Carnaby Street was setting the style template for the world and rich and poor were rubbing shoulders in the West End in a new spirit of classlessness. Among young people, there was a growing sense that they could change the world. And no one embodied the ephemeral promise of London’s sixties better than Tara Browne.

Includes a sixteen-page plate section of stunning colour photographs.

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

For those who want to impress their book club…
Winner of The Eason Book Club Novel of the Year Award
Once a year, on All Souls Day, it is said that the dead may return; Solar Bones tells the story of one such visit. Set in the west of Ireland as the recession is about to strike, this novel is a portrait of one man’s experience when his world threatens to fall apart. Wry and poignant, Solar Bones is an intimate portrayal of one family, capturing how careless decisions ripple out into waves, and how our morals are challenged in small ways every day.
[You can reserve a copy on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here]

For someone you don’t know very well and you’ve to buy something small for…
Winner of The Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award
‘A considerable achievement … one of the more authentic debuts I’ve read in recent years … in such an understated manner, eschewing linguistic eccentricity … in favour of genuine characters and tender feeling…this is a fine novel.’ John Boyne, Irish Times

‘Poised and perceptive’ the Sunday Times

‘It’s funny and wonderfully perceptive’ Wendy Holden

‘It is beautiful and yet devastatingly sad’ Daily Express

‘Deeply accomplished…brilliantly observed’ Good Housekeeping

‘An undercurrent of black comedy accompanies the ripples that ensue – but with a pathos that makes this deftly plotted story as moving as it is compelling.’ Sunday Mirror

‘Strenuously charming…surprisingly tender’ Metro

‘Heartwarming and observant’ Stylist

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

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

The Keeper by Darragh Martin

the keeper darragh martin.jpg

I have been meaning to read this book for a while, I love the cover, I know you are not supposed to judge a book by this, but it’s a really nice one!

Oisin, his brother Stephen and sister Sorcha are transported to the island of the Tuath De Danann when Oisin finds the book of magic, or it finds him. He is not sure about the book and whether he wants to be its keeper, especially when he realised the kind of power it has.

Sorcha is kidnapped by the evil Morrígan(The Queen of Shadows) and they set off on a quest to rescue her with their new friends who also happen to be fairy folk. They manage to get aboard an enchanted ship called Eachtra run by Druids and need to find Sorcha by the harvest festival of Lughnasa. All is not plain sailing though and lots of obstacles get in the way along their journey. The Morrigan is a shape shifter and Oisin and Antimony start to suspect one of the students or teachers aboard is the evil queen in disguise

I wasn’t familiar with stories of the Tuath De Danann so I enjoyed the background to this story, the characters are very likeable and their world is a fantastic place to visit.


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

RELEASE DAY REVIEW – No Small Parts by Ally Blue


I’ve never read any Ally Blue novels before, but after this, I shall DEFINITELY be giving her a go. This is book sixteen in the Bluewater Bay romance novels series (although they can be read as standalone, and I’ve been reading them completely out of order). Some I didn’t finish (Selfie, How the Cookie Crumbles), some I wish I hadn’t finished (There’s Something About Ari), some just didn’t gel with me (Lone Wolf), some which were solid three-star romances (The Burnt Toast B+B, Hell on Wheels), and some which were absolutely brilliant (Starstruck, Rain Shadow). No Small Parts was definitely in the final category, in fact, was the best Bluewater Bay novel I’ve read since Starstruck, which is no faint praise!

Why did this one beat out all others? I loved the writing, I found it really engaging (which sometimes can be hard to do in romances) and the characters relatable, flawed, adorable, interesting, and found myself rooting for them.

Nat Horn is a werewolf extra on Wolf’s Landing, the supernatural show that runs through the whole series of books. He’s got a crush on the female star, Solari, but she hasn’t noticed him. Instead, they become friends and he ends up seeing Rafael; caring, funny, cute Rafael, and they tentatively get together. Rafael is Solari’s assistant, comes from Hollywood and has dreams of become a director.

Their relationship, and how it was written, was gorgeous. More so than some romances, where characters are just ciphers, or names, I felt like I got to know Nat, with all of his bloke-ish reserve and problems with his pill-addicted father, and Rafael, optimistic, charming, sometimes interfering. The supporting character of Solari is well fleshed out, and regular character Anna is featured quite a bit, and there’s a good few cameos from other characters in the series.

Oh, and did I mention that this book is sexy. Something about the way that Blue describes Nat, I could picture him perfectly, and I could see, and feel, the growing attraction between him and Rafael, and the resulting sex scenes between him and Nat were perfect; hot, descriptive, not too long, or frequent, with a real connection forming.

In short, if you like m/m romance, I heartily recommend this and congratulate Ally Blue on a wonderful book – I’m already looking forward to her next Bluewater Bay novel!


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