The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan


A gripping, mile-a-minute debut about selfishness, self-obliteration and one girl’s perseverance. The Killing Jar tells the story of Kerri-Ann who lives on a drug-riddled estate. She doesn’t know who her father is, and her mother is a junkie.

By the age of 10 she’s selling drugs at school. By 12, she’s been beaten up by a customer, hidden stolen guns, done time in a girl’s home, and already has a taste for whiz. She is also left to care for her little brother Jon.

She has one true friend, Mark who is the one person she can trust. Friendship turns to love- but can it stand the caustic world they live in?

This book is fast-paced and, to be honest, very chilling! Once I started I couldn’t put it down.

Definitely recommended.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #78

A lovely, somewhat aggressive perhaps, title. (Also, great subtitle!)


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

What is modern art? Why do we either love it or loathe it? And why is it worth so much damn money? Join Will Gompertz on a dazzling tour that will change the way you look at modern art forever. From Monet’s water lilies to Van Gogh’s sunflowers, from Warhol’s soup cans to Hirst’s pickled shark, hear the stories behind the masterpieces, meet the artists as they really were, and discover the real point of modern art.

You will learn: not all conceptual art is bollocks; Picasso is king (but Cézanne is better); Pollock is no drip; Dali painted with his moustache; a urinal changed the course of art, why your five year-old really couldn’t do it. Refreshing, irreverent and always straightforward, What Are You Looking At? asks all the basic questions that you were too afraid to ask. Your next gallery trip is going to be a little less intimidating and a lot more interesting.


Brilliant Book Titles #77

Yes, I’m singing the Pharrell Williams song in my head as I make this post. He has somewhat wrecked that word for me BUT this is mostly for the subtitle.


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

‘Deeply informative, moving, wise and full of love’
Alain de Botton

‘Should be on everyone’s reading list – always!’
AC Grayling

Everyone says they want to be happy. But that’s much more easily said than done. What does being happy actually mean? And how do you even know when you feel it?
Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness. They have defined it in many different ways and come up with myriad strategies for living the good life. Drawing on this vast body of work, in Happy Derren Brown explores changing concepts of happiness – from the surprisingly modern wisdom of the Stoics and Epicureans in classical times right up until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own. He shows how many of self-help’s suggested routes to happiness and success – such as positive thinking, self-belief and setting goals – can be disastrous to follow and, indeed, actually cause anxiety. This brilliant, candid and deeply entertaining book exposes the flaws in these ways of thinking, and in return poses challenging but stimulating questions about how we choose to live and the way we think about death.
Happy aims to reclaim happiness and to enable us to appreciate the good things in life, in all their transient glory. By taking control of the stories we tell ourselves, by remembering that ‘everything’s fine’ even when it might not feel that way, we can allow ourselves to flourish and to live more happily.

Most Requested #6 – Jan 2017

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.

And it’s back in our chart again for the new year, this time with 91 holds.

Joint Seventh (3-way tie!)

New entrant, Anthony Horowitz, joins two other thriller writers with their latest offerings, all three having 177 holds.

Another new entrant, the perenially popular author of Staring at Lakes and Hanging With The Elephant‘s new book, is flying up the charts with 210 holds.

However, the seventh and final book in the Clifton Chronicles far outstrips Mr Harding, shooting up the charts with 324 holds.

Night School is Lee Child’s 21st Jack Reacher book which tells a tale of Reacher from his younger days, back in 1996. It currently has a fantastic 397 holds.

lying in wait
3rd? Lying in Wait is third? I must say I’m shocked – I thought Nugent’s grip would last a couple of more months, but these things ebb and flow and no doubt it’ll head back up for #1 or 2 soon enough as those just finished tell their friends. Perhaps they’ve all reserved it – and that’s why this book has 423 holds.

As the quote says, Harris is the ‘master of the intelligent thriller’ and he has clearly been missed by the public since his last book, as this book currently has 457 holds.

300 holds? 400 holds? Pah! Graham Norton doesn’t mess about. His debut novel has shot to the top of our charts, and with a staggering 905 holds (!), he’s not going anywhere soon.


That’s all for this month! Join us next month to see who’s up, who’s down, and if everyone has read Holding yet….

The Empathy Problem by Gavin Extence

the empathy problem.jpg

This is the third novel by Extence – his first, “The Universe versus Alex Wood” was a word- of- mouth success in 2013. He sets this novel in a very specific time and place. It is the height of the “Occupy” movement in the City, in London. St Paul’s cathedral grounds have been taken over by the Occupy movement which swept the world, briefly, in response to the economic collapse of the noughties. The protesters were in St Paul’s from October 2011-February 2012.

Against the backdrop of this, Extence gives us the story of Gabriel, a City trader, ruthless and aloof, completely lacking in human connection or empathy. He exists in a bubble of his own design, without friends or relationships. He is estranged from his father and uses escorts for sex but drops them when he feels any closeness developing. In short, Gabriel is a stereotype of all bankers and traders, and totally unlikeable.

However, in a plot development that gives the novel a parable-like structure, Gabriel is faced with his own mortality and he changes radically, and not quite believably, into a feeling compassionate human being, much to his own bewilderment and discomfort. The fairy-tale nature of the story gathers pace, as Gabriel comes to some life changing decisions, which affect him, but also those around him and the world he inhabits.

I enjoyed this book very much. Extance’s style is readable and descriptive. His portrayal of London is instantly recognisable to anyone who has been there. The language is pared back and precise, however, I struggled with the unfolding of the plot, as it was hard to believe the transformation taking place. The ending was particularly difficult, as it had the feel of a Disney movie. In spite of this I would recommend this novel, as fresh, original and thought-provoking.


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

5 Music Books to Watch Out For

When Broadway Went To Hollywood by Ethan Mordden (1 Jan 2017)

The Wizard of Oz, Gigi, Top Hat, High Society – some of the most popular movie musicals ever made were written by Broadway songwriters. The Sound of Music, Chicago, West Side Story, The Music Man, Grease – some of the other most popular movie musicals were adaptations of Broadway shows.

From the very first talkies to the present, Broadway’s composers and lyricists have given much of their best work to the movies – but with varying results. In the 1930s, Rodgers and Hart’s Love Me Tonight, with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald at their sexiest, is a masterpiece of fairytale sophistication. But Hallelujah, I’m a Bum, an Al Jolson vehicle about tramps in Central Park, is one of the outstanding flops, partly because Rodgers and Hart wrote it as a kind of opera that is spoken instead of sung.

Or take the big films based on Broadway shows in the 1960s. After The Sound of Music, Hollywood sought to fill the screen with lots of scenery, lots of drama, and lots of Julie Andrews. But Camelot and Hello, Dolly! had too much scenery, Paint Your Wagon was the hippie musical, and Song of Norway was simply loony. Even Julie Andrews couldn’t save the Broadway bio film called Star!, all about the adventures of Gertrude Lawrence. Who?

As historians have begun to consider the movie musical along with the stage musical, Ethan Mordden explores just how influential such writers as Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and Stephen Sondheim have been when they moved from Broadway to Hollywood. Are the welcomed? Do they get to experiment, using the freedom of the camera to expand the very geography of song? Or do movie producers resent that New York sophistication? Broadway excels in the bittersweet “Send in the Clowns.” But Hollywood wants it simple: “White Christmas.”

With his usual combination of scholarship and wicked wit, Ethan Mordden tantalizes us with anecdotes and fresh observations. He discusses many unusual titles as well – Viennese Nights, The Boys From Syracuse, Anything Goes, with Ethel Merman preserving her classic stage part as Reno Sweeney, the swinging evangelist. The first of its kind, this book is made for the moviegoer and theatre buff alike.

Hank: The Short Life and Long Country Road of Hank Williams by Mark Ribowsky (6 Jan 2017)
After he died in the backseat of a Cadillac at the age of twenty-nine, Hank Williams?a frail, flawed man who had become country music’s most compelling and popular star?instantly morphed into its first tragic martyr. Having hit the heights in the postwar era with simple songs of heartache and star-crossed love, he would, with that outlaw swagger, become in death a template for the rock generation to follow. But unlike those other musical giants who never made thirty, no legacy endures quite like that of the “Hillbilly King.” Now presenting the first fully realized biography of Hiram King Williams in a generation, Mark Ribowsky vividly returns us to the world of country’s origins, in this case 1920s Alabama, where Williams was born into the most trying of circumstances, which included a dictatorial mother, a henpecked father, and an agonizing spinal condition. Forced by his overbearing matriarch to do odd jobs-selling peanuts, shining shoes-young Hank soon found respite in street-corner blues man Rufus “Tee Tot” Payne, who showed him how to make a guitar sing. It wasn’t long before young Hank found his way onto those nascent American radio airwaves, where his melodic voice and timely tunes slowly garnered a following. On that dusty path to early stardom, Hank was indefatigably supported by his overbearing mother, who would shepherd his band, the Driftin’ Cowboys, to shows along backroads of the Jim Crow South. Yet it was a different woman who would supply Hank with the fuel he needed to explode out of the local spotlight: his sometimes wife, Audrey Mae Sheppard. As Ribowsky brilliantly evokes, their fiery relationship-as abusive as it was passionate-would inform nearly every song he ever wrote, and provide a template for country music for generations to follow. In chronicling Hank’s rise to stardom, Ribowsky also explores all those cautionary tales that have, until now, remained secreted beneath the grooves of his records. Drawing from new interviews, Ribowsky connects those seemingly eternal afternoons and nights spent choked in booze and desperation to the music that Williams would create. With remarkable nuance and insight, Ribowsky allows us to witness the man behind the tipped cowboy hat-the charismatic troubadour who hid the wounds of his domestic quarrels, relied on painkillers to get through the day, and was always teetering on the edge of tragedy, even when he saw the light. Tracing the singular rise of a music legend from the street corners of the Depression-era South to the now-immortal stage of the Grand Ole Opry, and finally to a haunting, lonely end on New Year’s Day 1953, Hank uncovers the real man beneath the myths, reintroducing us to an American original whose legacy, like a good night at the honkytonk, promises to carry on and on.

Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, the Beats and Drugs by Martin Torgoff (10 Jan 2017)
Bop Apocalypse, a narrative history from master storyteller Martin Torgoff, details the rise of early drug culture in America by weaving together the disparate elements that formed this new segment of the American fabric. Channeling his decades of writing experience, Torgoff connects the birth of jazz in New Orleans, the first drug laws, Louis Armstrong, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, swing, Lester Young, Billie Holliday, the Savoy Ballroom, Reefer Madness, Charlie Parker, the birth of bebop, the rise of the Beat Generation, and the launch of heroin in Harlem. Having spent a lifetime immersed in the overlapping worlds of music and drugs, Torgoff reveals material that has never been disclosed before.Bop Apocalypse is a truly fresh contribution to the understanding of jazz, race, and drug culture.

How to Make it in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician by Ari Herstand (12 Jan 2017)
Forget everything you think you know about the odds of “making it” in the music industry. Today, odds mean nothing and success is not about lucky breaks. It’s about conquering social media, mastering the art of merchandising and simply working harder and being smarter than everyone else. We are living in the midst of an industry renaissance, one that has left the record companies desperately struggling to maintain their prominence, as a subculture of dedicated, DIY (do-it-yourself) musicians have taken over. These days talent is a given and success has to be earned. In 2008, Ari Herstand boldly turned in his green Starbucks apron to his manager, determined to make a living off his craft as a singer/songwriter. Almost a decade later, he has become a founding member of the new DIY movement and a self-sustaining musician, all without the help of a major label. Now, drawing from years of experience, Herstand has written the definitive guide for other like-minded artists, the ones who want to forge their own path and not follow the traditional markers of success, like record sales, hits on the radio or the amount of your label advance. Incredibly comprehensive and brutally honest throughout, How to Make It in the New Music Business covers every facet of the “new” business, including how to: * Build a grass-roots fan base-and understand the modern fan * Book a profitable tour, and tips for playing live, such as opening vs. headlining etiquette, and putting on a memorable show * Become popular on YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud * Get songs placed in film and television * Earn royalties you didn’t know existed and reach your crowdfunding goals Musicians will not only be introduced to all the tools available today but will be shown how to effectively leverage them to actually make money. More important, they will develop the mindset to be aware of new advancements both online and in the real world and always stay in tune with a constantly evolving landscape. There has never been a better time to be an independent musician. Today, fans can communicate with their idols by simply picking up their phones, artists are able to produce studio-worthy content from their basement and albums are funded not by “record men” but by generous, engaged supporters. As result, How to Make It in the New Music Business is a must-have guide for anyone hoping to navigate the increasingly complex yet advantageous landscape that is the modern music industry.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash: David Litvinoff and the Rock’n’Roll Underworld by Keiron Pim (26 Jan 2017)

David Litvinoff was one of the great mythic characters of ‘60s London.

Flitting between the worlds of music, art and crime, he exerted a hidden influence that helped create the Krays twins’ legend, connected the Rolling Stones with London’s dark side, shaped the plot of classic film Performance – and saw him immortalised in a portrait by Lucian Freud.

Litvinoff’s determination to live without trace means that his life has always eluded biographers, until now. Intent on unravelling the enigma of Litvinoff, Keiron Pim conducted 100 interviews over five years, speaking to Eric Clapton and Marianne Faithfull, James Fox and ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser. The result is an extraordinary feat of research that traces a rogue’s progress amongst aristocrats, gangsters and rock stars.

The Book of Learning by E. R. Murray


When Ebony Smart’s grandfather dies under strange circumstances she is sent from her cottage in the countryside to live with her Aunt in atmospheric 23 Mercury lane in Dublin. Ebony’s family has a mysterious background, she is part of a society of people who reincarnate and have 9 lives. Over the years people from the order have been disappearing and Ebony makes the discovery that her Grandfather was murdered. She finds herself caught up in a race to find out what has been happening to people from the order of nine lives. Ebony is very mistrustful and suspicious of everyone except Winston her pet rat and starts to rely on the mysterious book of learning found in the study of Cornelius, her most unusual uncle.

The story is full of quirky  characters, is fast paced and compelling and is set against the back drop of Dublin.Lots of the action takes place around well-known places  such as the National Library, St Stephen’s Green and the Botanic Gardens. This all helps to make the story come to life and appear more real.  There is a lot going on in the plot and it’s quite spooky in places which I love, slightly older readers around 9+ should enjoy this.


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


Brilliant Book Titles #76

Okay, this really is brilliant.

feminist fight club.jpg

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

Part manual, part manifesto, a humorous yet incisive guide to navigating subtle sexism at work—a pocketbook Lean In for the Buzzfeed generation that provides real-life career advice and humorous reinforcement for a new generation of professional women.

It was a fight club—but without the fighting and without the men. Every month, the women would huddle in a friend’s apartment to share sexist job frustrations and trade tips for how best to tackle them. Once upon a time, you might have called them a consciousness-raising group. But the problems of today’s working world are more subtle, less pronounced, harder to identify—and, if Ellen Pao is any indication, harder to prove—than those of their foremothers. These women weren’t just there to vent. They needed battle tactics. And so the fight club was born.

Hard-hitting and entertaining, Feminist Fight Club blends personal stories with research, statistics, infographics, and no-bullsh*t expert advice. Bennett offers a new vocabulary for the sexist workplace archetypes women encounter everyday—such as the Manterrupter who talks over female colleagues in meetings or the Himitator who appropriates their ideas—and provides practical hacks for navigating other gender landmines in today’s working world. With original illustrations, Feminist Mad Libs, a Negotiation Cheat Sheet, as well as fascinating historical research and a kit for “How to Start Your Own Club,” Feminist Fight Club tackles both the external (sexist) and internal (self-sabotaging) behaviors that plague today’s women—as well as the system that perpetuates them.

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Wanted, A Gentleman by K. J. Charles


This was my first book by K J Charles, whose historical romances I had seen about, but never tried. I thought I’d give this a shot, having really liked the premise (a writer of romances, who also runs a gazette called The Matrimonial Advertiser) and props to Riptide for the way they blurbed the book like an advert featured in the gazette:


It’s a bit of a romp, this. Martin St. Vincent, a black business owner at a time when they were very much a rarity is trying to get his former slaver’s only daughter away from the man who has been secretly wooing her through the personals. Cue Theodore Swann, operator of The Matrimonial Advertiser and their meeting.

It was quite a solid, short book that was well written. Charles has a great command of using language to evoke a time, and slipped in then regularly used words into the prose almost unnoticed (although, it took me a little while to realise what she meant when she referred to ‘the stand’, which I found quite funny when I realised!).

Liked Theo and his writing of romances as Dorothea Swann. Wasn’t as much a fan of Martin, who is described well, but I feel overall the book is a little skewed in his view, despite Theo arguably being ‘the main character’; almost the whole way through Theo is referred to, disparagingly, as ineffectual, slight, and forgettable, which left me wondering by the time they got together, why they did considering those comments. This was reined in a little when they did get together, but it felt like the damage was done and I had real trouble connecting with and believing their connection. If this aspect wasn’t there, the book would’ve been much improved, I feel. Still, there are plus points, such as Theo’s ‘dirty mouth’ wonderfully puncturing the Victorian air and posturing, which grounded the book quite well. Their characters and their motivations are understandable, as is the ‘twist’ about two-thirds in.

Overall, a book that I’m sure will appeal to Charles’ many fans, and I shall be definitely reading more of her books, and while this was a little disappointing it still has lots to recommend it, especially Charles’ evocative way with words. If any of you have read more KJ Charles, what book of hers should I read next?