The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa

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Possibly the best book I have read all year! , It is the little known story of Roger Casement’s activities as a champion for human rights in the Congo and later in Peru. His reporting on the atrocities and the suffering he endured in bringing them to public attention earned him his knighthood. In the book, he is in Pentonville Prison awaiting sentencing and it tells how his consular work on behalf of “The Empire” eventually convinces him of the criminality of colonialism. From this realisation he is consumed by the injustices perpetrated by the British in Ireland and how he tries to embrace his celtic origins .

The story of this virtually unsung hero of 1916 is told so poignantly it would make a great book club read; it covers so many controversial topics and taboos at the time that it created as big an impact as Oscar Wilde’s earlier trial.

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

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Brilliant Book Titles #90

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

Blurb:
A star-struck, naïve 17-year-old country bumpkin leaves her mum, her cat, her budgie and her 16ft caravan home in Oxfordshire and catches a coach to a near-mythical land – London and the Swinging ’60s. Days later, mascara running, itching in her prickly suit and stammering from shyness, she turns up for a job interview with the UK’s first ever pop magazine, Fabulous (later Fab 208). On the strength of a letter she invents on the spot, she is miraculously hired and begins the job of her dreams.

In Keith Moon Stole My Lipstick – which, of course, he did – Judith Wills reveals her remarkable story. She sang with Freddie Mercury, got high with Jim Morrison, had a strange encounter with David Bowie, babysat Kate Beckinsale, accompanied Billy Fury to a christening, went hiking with Mr Spock, starred at the Albert Hall with Tom Jones, lunched with George Best, graced the red carpet with Peter Sellers, got chased by Andy Williams, had the Book of Mormon read to her by an Osmond, and met – and sometimes had to fight off! – just about anyone who was anyone in the day.

Later to become a respected food and health author and journalist, one day Wills decided to return to her time of pop heaven and hell and tell the true – and sometimes shocking – story of those years.

Brilliant Book Titles #89

queen-bees

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

Blurb:
‘SO ENTERTAINING’ The Times | ‘A FASCINATING ACCOUNT’ The Sunday Times
‘GLORIOUSLY GOSSIPY’ Red Magazine | ‘DELIGHTFUL’ Herald
Queen Bees looks at the lives of six remarkable women who made careers out of being British society hostesses between the wars, including Lady Astor, who went on to become the first female MP, and Mrs Greville, who cultivated relationships with Edward VII, as well as Lady Londonderry, Lady Cunard, Laura Corrigan and Lady Colefax. Written with wit, verve and heart, Queen Bees is the story of a form of societal revolution, and the extraordinary women who helped it happen.

In the aftermath of the First World War, the previously strict hierarchies of the British class system were weakened. For a number of ambitious, spirited women, this was the chance they needed to slip through the cracks and take their place at the top of society as the great hostesses of the time. In an age when the place of women was uncertain, becoming a hostess was not a chore, but a career choice, and though some of the hostesses’ backgrounds were surprisingly humble, their aspirations were anything but. During the inter-war years these extraordinary women ruled over London society from their dining tables and salons – entertaining everyone from the Mosleys to the Mitfords, from millionaires to maharajahs, from film stars to royalty – and their influence can still be felt today.

Joint Review: Welcome To Night Vale Episodes Volumes 1 and 2

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I’m a big Welcome to Night Vale fan, in fact, I reviewed the Welcome to Night Vale novel on here last year. For those who don’t know what Night Vale is, I’m going to crib my own explanation from last time

“Welcome to Night Vale is a biweekly podcast presented in the form of a local community radio show, hosted by Cecil Baldwin, for the town of Night Vale, which reports on the strange events that are common in the town: hooded figures roaming the town, statements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, a Dog Park that by law nobody is allowed to enter, a literal five-headed dragon running for mayor. The podcast is one of the most popular, successful and well-known on the internet, with a huge, loyal fanbase.”

As a fan, I bought these straight away and read both on holiday, and considering I’ve listened to all of these episodes they were a quick, easy read that reacquainted me with some of Cranor and Fink’s most beautiful lines and moments in their podcasts. And boy, do these really do have a beautiful turn of phrase; I could give an example, but they are literally all throughout the book.

These books, however, could’ve been curios. They are script books of the podcasts themselves, and if you’ve heard them, what is there to entice you? Well, cleverly, they’ve addressed that. Each episode is introduced with a short essay (1-2 pages) by the creators, or (and at times, more interestingly) by lead or even guest actors on the podcast. They illuminate a good bit of the behind the scenes of the podcast, as well as some of the inspiratations for some of the characters and setting. Both books have absolutely beautiful (and exclusive) illustrations by Welcome to Night Vale artist and alum, Jessica Hayworth, some of which would make absolutely stunning prints.


There are two books currently out.

The first, Mostly Void, Partially Stars, is subtitled ‘Episodes, Volume 1’ and covers the first year of the podcast, from Episode 1: Pilot to Episode 25: One Year Later. It also includes the script for their first live show, Condos.

The second, The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe, subtitled ‘Episodes, Volume 2’ covers the second year of the podcast from Episode 26: Faceless Old Woman to Episode 49: Old Oak Doors, and also includes the script for the live show, The Debate, which is a mayoral debate between potential candidates Hiram McDaniels (literally a five-headed dragon), The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home and Marcus Vanston, Night Vale’s resident billionaire.


I feel, of the two books, that The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe works a little better as the show is already introduced, and the second year (as do the subsequent years) have a clearer, overall arc. That said, both are excellent, and very likely unlike anything you’ve ever read before. These books are a must-have for fans, but they’re also something that could attract new listeners, who will possibly read along with the podcast itself (note: do! It’d be a crime to not hear Cecil Baldwin bring life to these words).

A recommended introduction to the weird, wonderful and brilliantly written world of Night Vale, a strange little desert town.

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You can reserve both books online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue; Mostly Void, Partially Stars is here, and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe is here.

5 Books for LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month in the UK, although it slowly is making its way over here (we were one of the first to do programmes for it). Here’s five gay history books to celebrate the month

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Gay Life and Culture: A World History
Gay Life and Culture is the first ever comprehensive, global account of gay history. It is spectacularly illustrated throughout and includes an extensive selection of images, many of them only recently recovered. From Theocritus verses to Queer as Folk, from the berdaches of North America to the boywives of Aboriginal Australia, this extraordinarily wide-ranging book illustrates both the commonality of love and lust, and the various ways in which such desires have been constructed through the ages.

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Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 by Matt Houlbrook
In August 1934, young Cyril L. wrote to his friend Billy about all the exciting men he had met, the swinging nightclubs he had visited, and the vibrant new life he had forged for himself in the big city. He wrote, “I have only been queer since I came to London about two years ago, before then I knew nothing about it.” London, for Cyril, meant boundless opportunities to explore his newfound sexuality. But his freedom was limite: he was soon arrested, simply for being in a club frequented by queer men.

Cyril’s story is Matt Houlbrook’s point of entry into the queer worlds of early twentieth-century London. Drawing on previously unknown sources, from police reports and newspaper exposés to personal letters, diaries, and the first queer guidebook ever written, Houlbrook here explores the relationship between queer sexualities and modern urban culture that we take for granted today. He revisits the diverse queer lives that took hold in London’s parks and streets; its restaurants, pubs, and dancehalls; and its Turkish bathhouses and hotels—as well as attempts by municipal authorities to control and crack down on those worlds. He also describes how London shaped the culture and politics of queer life—and how London was in turn shaped by the lives of queer men. Ultimately, Houlbrook unveils the complex ways in which men made sense of their desires and who they were. In so doing, he mounts a sustained challenge to conventional understandings of the city as a place of sexual liberation and a unified queer culture.

A history remarkable in its complexity yet intimate in its portraiture, Queer London is a landmark work that redefines queer urban life in England and beyond.

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Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele
‘Queer: A Graphic History Could Totally Change the Way You Think About Sex and Gender’ Vice

Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel.

From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.

Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.

Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.

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When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones
Born in 1954, Cleve Jones was part of the last generation of gay people who grew up not knowing if there was anyone else on the entire planet who felt the same way he did. It wasn’t until Jones was fourteen, flipping through the pages of Life magazine, when he saw the headline “Homosexuals in Revolt!” followed by several pages of text and photographs of the new gay rights movement, including photos of men marching with fists in the air through the streets of Greenwich Village, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, that he understood that he was part of a larger community. To say Cleve was thrilled to discover this movement is an understatement; it saved his life.

In the early 1970s Cleve moved to San Francisco, a city whose beautiful streets, progressive politics, and sexually charged nightlife were drawing in thousands of young gay men every year from towns across America. After some time in Europe, Jones took an internship in Harvey Milk’s City Hall office, and Milk would become Cleve’s mentor, an experience that would bring Cleve the forefront of the gay rights movement (and make him a witness to Milk’s 1978 assassination). With the onset of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s Jones emerged as one the gay community’s most outspoken activists – a role that continues to today. In 1983, Cleve co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and in 1987 founded The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the world’s largest community arts project. In 2009 he led the National March for Equality in Washington, D.C.

From one of the most iconic living LGBTQ activists,WHEN WE RISE is a beautifully written memoir that brings to life the drama and heartbreak of the AIDS crisis – and the lost San Francisco and lost generation of men who came before it.

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Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day (25 May 2017)
Peter Ackroyd is our preeminent chronicler of London. In Queer City, he looks at the metropolis in a whole new way – through the history and experiences of its gay population.

In Roman Londinium the penis was worshipped and homosexuality was considered admirable. The city was dotted with lupanaria (‘wolf dens’ or public pleasure houses), fornices (brothels) and thermiae (hot baths). Then came the Emperor Constantine, with his bishops and clergy, monks and missionaries. His rule was accompanied by the first laws against queer practices.

What followed was an endless loop of alternating permissiveness and censure, from the notorious Normans, whose military might depended on masculine loyalty, and the fashionable female transvestism of the 1620s; to the frenzy of executions for sodomy in the early 1800s and the ‘gay plague’ in the 1980s.

Ackroyd takes us right into this hidden city, celebrating its diversity, thrills and energy on the one hand; but reminding us of its very real terrors, dangers and risks on the other. In a city of superlatives, it is perhaps this endless sexual fluidity and resilience that epitomise the real triumph of London.

‘Peter Ackroyd is the greatest living chronicler of London’ Independent

Joint Review: O Human Star Volumes 1 and 2 by Blue Delliquanti

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Readers of this blog will know that I review a lot of LGBT-interest books, and I’m back with another. Lately, I’ve been getting back into reading comics. Comixology is Amazon’s digital comics service and one thing I like about them is all the releases are tagged with genre and description tags, and this book was tagged as LGBTQ (a tag that I completely stalk and have read most of the books on there. It’s great because I found books like this that I may never have heard of otherwise).

O Human Star is a webcomic that has been running since 2012. Set in the near-future, Alastair Sterling was one of the pioneers in robotics, however, he didn’t live to see the fruits of his labour and the effect they would ultimately have on society. That is, until he awakes as a robot that’s an exact replica of his human form with his memories. It promptly drops his home, to his business and life partner Brendan, where he meets another young robot, Sulla, who looks a lot like Alastair.

This is wonderfully intelligent and beautifully written piece of work. When I finished Volume 1 (which collects the first three chapters), I involuntarily shouted at my tablet when I realised the book was over and I was left hanging – luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long for Volume 2 (collecting chapters 4, 5 and a side story) and that’s why this is a joint review.


This is a near-future sci-fi story with a beautiful gay romance at the centre, and without saying too much, it will definitely also appeal to trans readers (my favourite character in the whole book!) but it shouldn’t be limited to these readers – anyone who likes comics, sci-fi or both should like this.

It’s also beautifully drawn – Delliquanti’s style is clean, crisp and gorgeous; this is simply an artist at the top of her game. Both volumes are available on Comixology, or direct as ebooks from Delliquanti (there’s also paperbacks which you can buy on her site). Looking forward to and a little sad that Volume 3 will be the last. Also, new pages are posted weekly on her site where I will be very, very impatiently waiting for more!

Since it’s a webcomic, you can read the entire thing, for FREE, here. But if you love it like I do, please support the artist (she has a Patreon here)!

 

Brilliant Book Titles #88

#godmomstopembarassingme!

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

Blurb:
If you have a teenage girl, there’s a 50 percent chance she’s already sexually active and a 33 percent chance she’s been solicited by an online predator in the past year. How prepared is she for the risks and realities of sex?

You hold in your hands a comprehensive crash course for girls into staying safe ― emotionally, mentally, and physically ― while navigating the danger-laden worlds of teenage sex and sexuality in a digital age. This book is the first of its kind for girls and young women ages 12-24, and for parents of girls as young as 8.

Your teen will learn proven, effective ways to:
Avoid pregnancy, and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections
Stay safe online and avoid sexual harm
Ask someone out (and let someone down easy)
Understand bodies and body issues, both male and female
Accept that sexuality comes in all shapes and sizes
Know the consequences of abstinence, indulgence, and everything in between
Decide what is right for her, remaining true to herself and respectful of others
In language that’s relatable, unflinchingly honest (and often funny), veteran sex educator Langford offers a powerful supplement to those notoriously awkward parent-daughter sex talks, answering the tough questions that teenage girls really have ― but would rather die than ask.

Jo Langford is a certified counselor and sex educator who for two decades has provided outreach programs in high schools, residential medical, and psychiatric settings. He is the author of Spare Me the Talk: A Guy’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Growing Up, a Sex Offender Treatment Provider and adjunct faculty for Saybrook University’s Washington campus. He can be reached at beheroes.net.

Brilliant Book Titles #87

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah…”

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

Blurb:
Bob Stanley’s Yeah Yeah Yeah tells the chronological story of the modern pop era, from its beginnings in the fifties with the dawn of the charts, vinyl, and the music press, to pop’s digital switchover in the year 2000, from Rock Around the Clock to Crazy In Love. It was more than just music – it could be your whole life.

Yeah Yeah Yeah covers the birth of rock, soul, punk, disco, hip hop, indie, house and techno. It also includes the rise and fall of the home stereo, Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits and “this week’s highest new entry”. Yeah Yeah Yeah is the first book to look back at the entire era: what we gained, what we lost, and the foundations we laid for future generations.

There have been many books on pop but none have attempted to bring the whole story to life, from Billy Fury and Roxy Music to TLC and Britney via Led Zeppelin and Donna Summer. Audacious and addictive, Yeah Yeah Yeah is essential reading for all music lovers. It will remind you why you fell in love with pop music in the first place.

Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano

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This non-fiction book about organized crime in the Naples region of Italy and the region of Campania is part of the inspiration for the movie and tv-series of the same name. Saviano, a journalist and native of the region had spent several years investigating the Camorra “System”; some of it undercover working in the port of Naples and in the illegal factories. This is not a history; he does not go into the origins of the crime families or why that region more than any other in Italy is affected by crime. It’s like a review of the different aspects of the economy and society that are affected by the crime syndicates. He starts in the port, one of the major import routes for illegal narcotics and goods smuggling into Europe and then leads into illicit sweatshop manufacturers producing both genuine and counterfeit products. He also talks about political corruption and infiltration of town councils and the fact that most of them have had to be abolished by central government at one time or another.  He also deals with inter clan rivalry and warfare and how being part of “the system” the clans own term for the Camorra gives them protection and status. Those outside of this are vulnerable to scapegoating and assassination. In a largely patriarchal structure the role of women in the clans is also discussed some of whom have become clan leaders, particularly when the male members of the family are in prison.

I found this a fascinating if disturbing account of the reality of organised crime in a region where this activity is the major source of economic and social power.

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

5 Small Business Books to Watch Out For

Running a small business, or got an idea for one? Here’s five books that might interest:

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The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the killer companies of the new silicon valley are changing the world by Brad Stone (2 Feb 2017)
New York Times bestselling author of The Everything Store Brad Stone takes us deep inside the new Silicon Valley.

In 2007, the crash had Wall Street and Silicon Valley reeling. The original renegades like Steve Jobs were now the establishment, and tech had become a way of life for suburban moms as much as for visionaries. The Valley was ready for a new revolution. Enter THE UPSTARTS. Genius entrepreneurs with no lack of self-confidence created companies that turned our expectations on their heads. Travis Kalanick of Uber and Brian Chesky of Airbnb are just two of the disrupters Brad Stone examines in this fly-on-the-wall look at the intersection of tech, business, and culture. With unprecedented access to all the key players, Stone illuminates the smart, driven, and often comically flawed people who are upending industries and changing the way we all live and work.
The world today is vastly different than it was even ten years ago, and it is due to the upstarts. In THE UPSTARTS, Brad Stone provides the rollicking narrative that shows the how our latest – and perhaps greatest – technological wave was born.

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Overcrowded: Designing Meaningful Products in a World Awash with Ideas 
by Roberto Verganti (7 Feb 2017)
The standard text on innovation advises would-be innovators to conduct creative brainstorming sessions and seek input from outsiders — users or communities. This kind of innovating can be effective at improving products but not at capturing bigger opportunities in the marketplace. In this book Roberto Verganti offers a new approach — one that does not set out to solve existing problems but to find breakthrough meaningful experiences. There is no brainstorming — which produces too many ideas, unfiltered — but a vision, subject to criticism. It does not come from outsiders but from one person’s unique interpretation. The alternate path to innovation mapped by Verganti aims to discover not how things work but why we need things. It gives customers something more meaningful — something they can love. Verganti describes the work of companies, including Nest Labs, Apple, Yankee Candle, and Philips Healthcare, that have created successful businesses by doing just this. Nest Labs, for example, didn’t create a more advanced programmable thermostat, because people don’t love to program their home appliances. Nest’s thermostat learns the habits of the household and bases its temperature settings accordingly. Verganti discusses principles and practices, methods and implementation. The process begins with a vision and proceeds through developmental criticism, first from a sparring partner and then from a circle of radical thinkers, then from external experts and interpreters, and only then from users. Innovation driven by meaning is the way to create value in our current world, where ideas are abundant but novel visions are rare. If something is meaningful for both the people who create it and the people who consume it, business value follows.

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Online or Flatline: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Digital Marketing by Nick Choat (21 Feb 2017)
Digital marketing is a daunting task for many small business owners. It often seems intimidating and complicated, and the benefits are not easily measured, but without it, many businesses die out. In Online or Flatline, Nick Choat offers compelling reasons to get your business online and easy-to-use tools to make it possible:

  • How to set up an attractive webpage
  • How to prioritize your social media efforts
  • How to use review feedback to interact with customers
  • How to optimize your ability to be found on Google
  • How to combine traditional and digital advertising
  • and many more

Nick Choat has witnessed the evolution of digital marketing. He started at a young age, working in his parents’ small, hometown grocery store in rural Tennessee, where he learned about customer service and loyalty. When he was offered a management position with Kroger, he made the bold move to exit the food industry, and took a chance on a degree in software development long before the tech boom of the 1990s. His first job was for Boeing, followed by several years consulting businesses for Ernst & Young. He was on board with Disney when they pioneered the online streaming of hi-def television, a revolutionary move when corporations were still fearful of the shifting marketplace. After realizing that he wanted to exchange his life in corporate America for one with more autonomy in his business, he bought a Sports Clips franchise and set a personal goal to empower all small business owners to utilize the tools at their fingertips.

Online or Flatline gives small business owners an easy to follow, affordable guide and a strong plan of action for creating a successful and valuable online presence.

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Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz (21 Feb 2017)
You are about to discover the profoundly simple yet shockingly effective accounting plug-in that will transform your business from a cash eating monster into a money making machine. In Profit First, Mike Michalowicz, author of The Pumpkin Plan & The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, explains why the GAAP accounting method is contrary to human nature, trapping entrepreneurs in the panic-driven cycle of operating check-to-check and reveals why this new method is the easiest and smartest way to ensure your business becomes wildly (and permanently) profitable from your very next deposit forward.

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How to Make It: 25 Makers Share the Secrets to Building a Creative Business by Erin Austen Abbott (14 Mar 2017)
This is the ultimate tell-all, show-all guide to making a living by making things. Featuring 25 profiles of illustrators, jewelry designers, ceramicists, painters, clothing designers, and printmakers, How to Make Itprovides a behind-the-scenes look at the daily rituals and best practices that keep these creative entrepreneurs on track. With Q & As, insider tips, and DIYs from each maker, these pages offer guidance and encouragement to artists just starting their careers and to professionals looking to take their creative business to the next level. Brimming with practical advice and inspiration, this book is a perfect gift for anyone interested in making it as a maker.