A Force for Justice: The Maurice McCabe Story by Michael Clifford

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Is there anyone in the country who hasn’t heard of Maurice McCabe? This fascinating and absorbing work by award winning journalist, Michael Clifford, fleshes out the broad headlines of this story. It manages to do so in a highly readable style. However, the unavoidably convoluted nature of the narrative requires attention and rewards re-reading of some passages. I would say this is an essential read, rather than an enjoyable read. It is essential for anyone interested in how the powerful institutions of the Irish state operate, especially how they operate when under perceived threat. The amount of detail can sometimes feel daunting but it is all necessary to our understanding of what was happening. I was struck by the sheer determination of one man to do what he felt was right, regardless of the consequences.  It is no surprise but something of a shock all the same to see how the organisation closes ranks against the “awkward” individual, who shines an unwelcome light on the dark corners of that organisation.

There is a feeling that this story is far from over. I would highly recommend this book to all who care about the way our state operates. It exposes the hypocrisy and double speak often evident in public life. But, ultimately, this book is a tribute to a man who kept going in the face of huge opposition and growing isolation. Read it and weep!


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

Brilliant Book Titles #174

the truth is a cave
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novells The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains is a haunting story of family, the otherworld, and a search for hidden treasure, and was serialised on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime in November 2015. ‘Gaiman’s achievement is to make the fantasy world seem true’ (The Times). Neil Gaiman is the bestselling author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and the epic American Gods, whose storytelling genius will appeal to fans of J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin.

The text of The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains was first published in the collection Stories: All New Tales (Headline, 2010). This gorgeous full-colour illustrated book version was born of a unique collaboration between writer Neil Gaiman and artist Eddie Campbell, who brought to vivid life the characters and landscape of Gaiman’s story.

Brilliant Book Titles #173

you shall know our velocity
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

You Shall Know Our Velocity is a compelling and thought-provoking novel by award-winning Dave Eggers

Will and Hand are burdened by $38,000 and the memory of their friend Jack. Taking a week out of their lives, they decide to travel around the world to give the money away. They can’t really say why they’re doing it, just that it needs to be done. Perhaps it’s something to do with Jack’s death – perhaps they’ll find the reason later. But as their plans are frustrated, twisted and altered at every step and the natives prove far from grateful to their benefactors, Will and Hand find that the world is an infinitely bigger, more surreal and exhilarating place than they ever realised. In fact, it’s somewhere to get lost in . . .

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

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“Hagseed”, by Margaret Atwood, is the fourth proffer in an intriguing series of novels, by Hogarth, based on Shakespeare’s famous works; in this case “The Tempest”. Set in modern-day Canada the novel stars Felix, art director of the Makeshewig theatre festival, the Prospero of this comic, tender retelling of Shakespeare’s last play.

Atwood’s Prospero, Felix, is as exaggerated as he is complex. He stages wild productions in Makeshewig, a domain as grand in Felix’s world as Milan is for Prospero. He is a widower but has also lost his Miranda when she was only three, a detail elevating Atwood’s offering to the realm of the authentically tragic. As in “The Tempest”, there is a spectacularly disastrous fall from grace leaving the protagonist isolated, half-mad, and plotting revenge. It is a failure of imagination that leaves Felix undone. His theatre partner Tony, the operations manager of the festival, whom it’s discovered too late has his own ambitions, betrays him. He is cast away, disgraced, forced to live a hermetic existence in which he feverishly half-believes he is raising a ghostly version of his lost daughter, in the cold Canadian country-side.

Atwood, true to Shakespearean form, stages a-play-within-a-play. This elegant device perfectly handles the problem of modernising Shakespeare’s more fantastic elements; the faeries, nymphs, and spirits. Felix stages “The Tempest”. Sating his vengeful drive and his need for rehabilitation, Felix takes a job teaching literacy to prisoners. The play becomes a vehicle for revenge and it is during the performance, in perfect step with the play itself, where the bad-guys meet their undoing.

The novel perfectly mimes the play, though at times apes it. Felix spends twelve years in isolation, though he is not stranded, an adroit understanding of depression and grief’s power. Atwood’s wry characterization, pays particular attention to Felix’s darkening mind, while deftly honouring the original. Her Prospero is self-effacing, aware, and tragically broken. But Atwood’s comic timing, never dips into melodrama.

The actual staging of the play is cumbrous, Atwood misses the credulity mark. Her characters behave in criminal ways. Despite their satisfyingly evil-spiritedness that conjures up the kind of wraith-like malevolence Shakespeare’s demons usually inspire, their actions aren’t credible.

In spite of this nod to Shakespearean signature impetuousness, the plot succeeds in giving the reader their due. This is an ambitious recitation of the story, experimental and economical as only Atwood can be. Full marks!


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

5 New Television Books to Watch Out For

captive audience
Captive Audience by Lucan Mann (3 Apr 2018)

An intimate portrait of a marriage intertwined with a meditation on reality TV that reveals surprising connections and the meaning of an authentic life. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.

In Lucas Mann’s trademark vein–fiercely intelligent, self-deprecating, brilliantly observed, idiosyncratic, personal, funny, and infuriating–Captive Audience is an appreciation of reality television wrapped inside a love letter to his wife, with whom he shares the guilty pleasure of watching “real” people bare their souls in search of celebrity. Captive Audience resides at the intersection of popular culture with the personal; the exhibitionist impulse, with the schadenfreude of the vicarious, and in confronting some of our most suspect impulses achieves a heightened sense of what it means to live an authentic life and what it means to love a person.

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Just the Funny Parts… And a Few Hard Truths about Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys Club (20 Mar 2018)
You’ve almost certainly laughed at Scovell’s jokes—you just didn’t know it until now.

Just the Funny Parts is a juicy and scathingly funny insider look at how pop culture gets made. For more than thirty years, writer, producer and director Nell Scovell worked behind the scenes of iconic TV shows, including The Simpsons, Late Night with David Letterman, Murphy Brown, NCIS, The Muppets, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which she created and executive produced.

In 2009, Scovell gave up her behind-the-scenes status when the David Letterman sex scandal broke. Only the second woman ever to write for his show, Scovell used the moment to publicly call out the lack of gender diversity in late-night TV writers’ rooms. “One of the boys” came out hard for “all of the girls.” Her criticisms fueled a cultural debate. Two years later, Scovell was collaborating with Sheryl Sandberg on speeches and later on Lean In, which resulted in a worldwide movement.

Now Scovell is opening up with this fun, honest, and often shocking account. Scovell knows what it’s like to put words in the mouths of President Barack Obama, Mark Harmon, Candice Bergen, Bob Newhart, Conan O’Brien, Alyssa Milano, and Kermit the Frog, among many others. Through her eyes, you’ll sit in the Simpson writers’ room… stand on the Oscar red carpet… pin a tail on Miss Piggy…bond with Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy… and experience a Stephen King-like encounter with Stephen King.

Just the Funny Parts is a fast-paced account of a nerdy girl from New England who fought her way to the top of the highly-competitive, male-dominated entertainment field. The book delivers invaluable insights into the creative process and tricks for navigating a difficult workplace. It’s part memoir, part how-to, and part survival story. Or, as Scovell puts it, “It’s like Unbroken, but funnier and with slightly less torture.”

screening stephen king
Screening Stephen King: Adaptation and the Horror Genre in Film and Television by Simon Brown (28 Feb 2018)
Since the 1970s, the name Stephen King has been synonymous with horror. His vast number of books has spawned a similar number of feature films and TV shows, and together they offer a rich opportunity to consider how one writer’s work has been adapted over a long period within a single genre and across a variety of media―and what that can tell us about King, about adaptation, and about film and TV horror. Starting from the premise that King has transcended ideas of authorship to become his own literary, cinematic, and televisual brand, Screening Stephen King explores the impact and legacy of over forty years of King film and television adaptations.

Simon Brown first examines the reasons for King’s literary success and then, starting with Brian De Palma’s Carrie, explores how King’s themes and style have been adapted for the big and small screens. He looks at mainstream multiplex horror adaptations from Cujo to Cell, low-budget DVD horror films such as The Mangler and Children of the Corn franchises, non-horror films, including Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption, and TV works from Salem’s Lot to Under the Dome. Through this discussion, Brown identifies what a Stephen King film or series is or has been, how these works have influenced film and TV horror, and what these influences reveal about the shifting preoccupations and industrial contexts of the post-1960s horror genre in film and TV.

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All The Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams (13 Feb 2018)
The definitive oral history of the iconic and beloved TV show The Wire, as told by the actors, writers, directors, and others involved in its creation

Since its final episode aired in 2008, HBO’s acclaimed crime drama The Wire has only become more popular and influential. The issues it tackled, from the failures of the drug war and criminal justice system to systemic bias in law enforcement and other social institutions, have become more urgent and central to the national conversation. The show’s actors, such as Idris Elba, Dominic West, and Michael B. Jordan, have gone on to become major stars. Its creators and writers, including David Simon and Richard Price, have developed dedicated cult followings of their own. Universities use the show to teach everything from film theory to criminal justice to sociology. Politicians and activists reference it when discussing policy. When critics compile lists of the Greatest TV Shows of All Time, The Wire routinely takes the top spot. It is arguably one of the great works of art America has produced in the 20th century.

But while there has been a great deal of critical analysis of the show and its themes, until now there has never been a definitive, behind-the-scenes take on how it came to be made. With unparalleled access to all the key actors and writers involved in its creation, Jonathan Abrams tells the astonishing, compelling, and complete account of The Wire, from its inception and creation through its end and powerful legacy.

tv writing on demand
TV Writing on Demand: Creating Great Content in the Digital Era by Neil Landau (25 Jan 2018)
TV Writing on Demand: Creating Great Content in the Digital Era takes a deep dive into writing for today’s audiences, against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving TV ecosystem. Amazon, Hulu and Netflix were just the beginning. The proliferation of everything digital has led to an ever-expanding array of the most authentic and engaging programming that we’ve ever seen. No longer is there a distinction between broadcast, cable and streaming. It’s all content. Regardless of what new platforms and channels will emerge in the coming years, for creators and writers, the future of entertainment has never looked brighter.

This book goes beyond an analysis of what makes great programming work. It is a master course in the creation of entertainment that does more than meet the standards of modern audiences―it challenges their expectations. Among other essentials, readers will discover how to:

  • Satisfy the binge viewer: analysis of the new genres, trends and how to make smart initial decisions for strong, sustainable story. Plus, learn from the rebel who reinvented an entire format.
  • Develop iconic characters: how to foster audience alignment and allegiance, from empathy and dialogue to throwing characters off their game, all through the lens of authenticity and relatability.
  • Create a lasting, meaningful career in the evolving TV marketplace: how to overcome trips, traps and tropes, the pros and cons of I.P.; use the Show Bible as a sales tool and make the most of the plethora of new opportunities out there.


Cowboy Up by Harper Sloan

cowboy up

Release Date: 19/12/17

New York Times bestselling author Harper Sloan returns with the third in her sultry, Western-set Coming Home series, in which the eldest Davis sibling Clay may have finally met his match—but will he be able to give up the solitary, quiet life he’s built in the name of love?

As the eldest of the Davis clan, Clayton has always tried to lead by example. Along with taking his job as head of the family business seriously, he is also determined to keep his brother and sister in line. Clay is known for being serious, silent, and stoic—completely in control of his life. And with the way he grew up, coupled with a disastrous end to the last relationship he was in, he’s just fine with his quiet, solitary life.

What he hadn’t counted on was Caroline Michaels. She’s the proverbial woman next door—the town next door, that is. Caroline hasn’t lived an easy life, but after escaping from an abusive relationship, she’s finally living for herself and no one else. The last thing the quirky, shy bookstore owner expected was a steamy one-night stand with Clay Davis.

When Caroline and Clay meet, the connection is instant, both falling into one heated night of passion before parting ways—both driven by their own reasons to deny what they clearly wish didn’t have to end. It isn’t until Caroline falls on hard times and Clay comes back into the picture that they realize just how impossible it will be to stay away from each other.

Will Clay be able to give up his rootless existence in favor of finally settling down? And, more important, will Caroline want him to?


4 Cowboy Up stars on Goodreads

The oldest Davis sibling, Clay, is perfectly content to stay on the ranch and take care of his horses. After being burned once he doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of a girlfriend and he doesn’t trust the female population all that much. Famous last works. Caroline falls into Clay’s life and all of a sudden he’s not so sure of his perfect lonely life.

I really liked that we got to see his internal struggle of wanting Caroline but having a hard time trusting a relationship again. Soon though we were watching him be the one that needed to convince Caroline to give them a chance and I really liked that switch in his characters.

This was such a lovely story and I really enjoyed the read. I wasn’t expecting to like Clay much as I didn’t really click with him in the other books in this series. But I ended up loving him surprise, surprise haha! This series is such a lovely read perfect for any Sunday after read fest.

Brilliant Book Titles #172

grief is the thing
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him.

This extraordinary debut, full of unexpected humour and emotional truth, marks the arrival of a thrilling and significant new talent.

Brilliant Book Titles #171

the beautiful room is empty
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

When the narrator of White’s poised yet scalding autobiographical novel first embarks on his sexual odyssey, it is the 1950s, and America is “a big gray country of families on drowsy holiday.” That country has no room for a scholarly teenager with guilty but insatiable stirrings toward other men. Moving from a Midwestern college to the Stonewall Tavern on the night of the first gay uprising–and populated by eloquent queens, butch poseurs, and a fearfully incompetent shrink–The Beautiful Room is Empty conflates the acts of coming out and coming of age.
“With intelligence, candor, humor–and anger–White explores the most insidious aspects of oppression…. An impressive novel.”– “Washington Post book World”

Running into Love by Aurora Rose Reynolds

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Fawn Reed has kissed one too many toads and has finally decided that Prince Charming doesn’t exist. After countless mishaps, mistakes, and unmitigated disasters on the dating scene, she’s decided to give up and move on with her life…solo.

Everything changes, however, after Fawn runs into Levi Fremont, a homicide detective new to New York City.

Dedication to the job has rendered Levi’s love life non-existent—until he moves in next door to the free-spirited Fawn. After a series of comedic run-ins push them together, will they finally give in to the inevitable and realize—maybe—they are perfect for each other?

5 Meet Cute Stars

Fawn meets Levi when they both least except it, when both are not looking for a relationship. Fawn literally runs into him with her eyes closed. Very meet cute.

“Who would have thought running with your eyes closed would lead to love?”

It has been so long since I’ve read an Aurora Rose Reynolds book, well since her last release which feels like ages and it was just so refreshingly sweet and funny, with very little drama. Don’t get me wrong I love the drama at times but this was just what I needed at the moment. I couldn’t put it down and I just loved everything about this book including the secondary characters. With me a book must have some excellent secondary characters it helps make a book great in my opinion.

If you are looking for a light read to disappear into for an evening this is for you!

Snow by Benjamin Rivers


This book surprised me. This quiet little book, in which not much happens, but it still manages to be very engrossing is about Dana, a solitary woman who lives an unobtrusive life, working in a bookstore, and occasionally meeting up with a friend, but mostly, hiding away from the world a little. Her street starts to change – the small business disappear, the old fashioned pubs go under, and Dana becomes obsessed with a tragic event that happens in one of these small business, and this colours her whole outlook on life, and her emotional state. Add to that a dipping economy, and nothing seems sure.

I really liked this graphic novel and it tells Dana’s story very well, with a singular, original voice. Highly recommended. Interestingly, the book was also adapted into a feature film, which retains a lot of these qualities, and can be watched for free here (and Snow was also made into a video game too!! Benjamin also is behind the excellently creepy point and click horror game, Home).