Brilliant Book Titles #191

if i die in a combat zone
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Hailed as one of the finest books to emerge from the Vietnam War, If I Die in a Combat Zone is a fascinating insight into the lives of the soldiers caught in the conflict.

First published in 1973, this intensely personal novel about one foot soldier’s tour of duty in Vietnam established Tim O’Brien’s reputation as the outstanding chronicler of the Vietnam experience for a generation of Americans.

From basic training to the front line and back again, he takes the reader on an unforgettable journey – walking the minefields of My Lai, fighting the heat and the snipers in an alien land, crawling into the ghostly tunnels – as he explores the ambiguities of manhood and morality in a war no one believes in.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith


Patricia Highsmith’s sociopathic anti-hero Tom Ripley is probably her best known character. This, the first of her 4 Ripley books (the Ripliad) is something dreadful and full of menace. The Talented Mr. Ripley is quite unlike any crime book I have read before. Highsmith uses a spare, economical language to drive the story, the horror of Ripley’s crimes of identity theft and murder juxtaposed with gorgeous descriptions of the beautiful Italian landscape. It has a jarring effect, both repellent and fascinating. Highsmith stated that Tom Ripley was her favourite character and it’s not hard to understand why. She imbues him with almost relatable motivations behind his crimes, making us identify with someone we should be horrified by. When Ripley commits his first murder it is horribly descriptive and difficult to read and yet, somehow, you are almost willing him to get away with it. Ripley comes close to capture a number of times throughout the book and while there is no moral ambiguity to his crimes there is a desire to see him escape to the better life he dreams of. It makes for an interesting reading experience.

I loved this book, so much so that I started the second book in the Ripliad almost immediately afterwards. It’s not hard to understand why the talented Tom Ripley has remained such an iconic figure in the literary crime landscape since his inception. He is a uniquely charming monster.


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

5 New Poetry Collections to Watch Out For

The Last Shift by Philip Levine (3 Apr 2018)
the last shift
The final collection of new poems from one of our finest and most beloved poets. The poems in this wonderful collection touch all of the events and places that meant the most to Philip Levine. There are lyrical poems about his family and childhood, the magic of nighttime and the power of dreaming; tough poems about the heavy shift work at Detroit’s auto plants, the Nazis, and bosses of all kinds; telling poems about his heroes–jazz players, artists, and working people of every description, even children. Other poems celebrate places and things he loved: the gifts of winter, dawn, a wall in Naples, an English hilltop, Andalusia. And he makes peace with Detroit: “Slow learner that I am, it took me one night/to discover that rain in New York City/is just like rain in Detroit. It gets you wet.” It is a peace that comes to full fruition in a moving goodbye to his home town in the final poem in the collection, “The Last Shift.”

Soho by Richard Scott (5 Apr 2018)
In this intimate and vital debut, Richard Scott creates an uncompromising portrait of love and gay shame. Examining how trauma becomes a part of the language we use, Scott takes us back to our roots: childhood incidents, the violence our scars betray, forgotten forebears and histories. The hungers of sexual encounters are underscored by the risks that threaten when we give ourselves to or accept another. But the poems celebrate joy and tenderness, too, as in a sequence re-imagining the love poetry of Verlaine.

The collection crescendos to Scott’s tour de force, ‘Oh My Soho!’, where a night stroll under the street lamps of Soho Square becomes a search for true lineage, a reclamation of stolen ancestors, hope for healing, and, above all, the finding of our truest selves.

Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (10 Apr 2018)
“Nezhukumatathil’s poems contain elegant twists of a very sharp knife. She writes about the natural world and how we live in it, filling each poem, each page with a true sense of wonder.” –Roxane Gay

“Cultural strands are woven into the DNA of her strange, lush… poems. Aphorisms…from another dimension.” —The New York Times

“With unparalleled ease, she’s able to weave each intriguing detail into a nuanced, thought-provoking poem that also reads like a startling modern-day fable.” —The Poetry Foundation

“How wonderful to watch a writer who was already among the best young poets get even better!” –Terrance Hayes

With inquisitive flair, Aimee Nezhukumatathil creates a thorough registry of the earth’s wonderful and terrible magic. In her fourth collection of poetry, she studies forms of love as diverse and abundant as the ocean itself. She brings to life a father penguin, a C-section scar, and the Niagara Falls with a powerful force of reverence for life and living things. With an encyclopedic range of subjects and unmatched sincerity, Oceanic speaks to each reader as a cooperative part of the earth, an extraordinary neighborhood to which we all belong.

From “Starfish and Coffee”

And that’s how you feel after tumbling
like sea stars on the ocean floor over each other.
A night where it doesn’t matter
which are arms or which are legs
or what radiates and how–
only your centers stuck together.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four collections of poetry. Recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the prestigious Eric Hoffer Grand Prize, Nezhukumatathil teaches creative writing and environmental literature in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi.

Essex City by Andrew Motion (7 Jun 2018)
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Andrew Motion’s prose memoir In the Blood (2006) was widely acclaimed, praised as ‘an act of magical retrieval’ (Daily Telegraph) and ‘a hymn to familial love’ (Independent). Now, twelve years later and three years after moving to live and work in the United States, Motion looks back once more to recreate a stunning biographical sequel – but this time in verse.

Essex Clay rekindles, expands and gives a tragic resonance to subjects that have haunted the poet throughout his writing life. In the first part, he tells the story of his mother’s riding accident, long unconsciousness and slow death; in the second, he remembers the end of his father’s life; and in the third, he describes an encounter that deepens the poem’s tangled themes of loss and memory and retrieval. Although the prevailing mood of the poem has a Tennysonian sweep and melancholy, its wealth of physical details and its narrative momentum make it as compelling as a fast-paced novel: a settling of accounts which admits that final resolutions are impossible.

How He Loved Them by Kevin Prufer (17 Apr 2018)
How He Loved Them
Kevin Prufer’s How He Loved Them sets love in a fraught, paradoxical world where bombs explode, fields burn, and armies advance. With clear, compassionate eyes, Prufer finds powerful intimacy between fathers and sons, soldiers and civilians, the living and the (sometimes un)dead. An exceptional new work by a necessary voice.

Praise for Kevin Prufer

“…Poetry at full boil, poured with deliberate abandon.” – David Orr, The New York Times, “Ten Favorite Poetry Books of the Year”

“…Prufer creates stunning scenarios that observe the world from surprising angles….” – Library Journal

“…There is no other contemporary voice quite like his, and I believe that, taken as a whole, Kevin Prufer’s prognostic backward gaze may someday prove to have shown us where we were going before we got there…..” – Judith Kitchen, The Georgia Review

“Kevin Prufer is one of the most vital poets on his generation, saying important things about our culture in fearless, eloquent ways.” – David Walker, Field: Contemporary Poetry& Poetics

“Among the best poets in the USA….” – The Notre Dame Review

Disobedience by Naomi Alderman

disobedience pic

Disobedience is the debut novel of British author Naomi Alderman. It received widespread positive reviews when it was released in 2006 and was recently adapted into a critically acclaimed movie starring Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz.

The novel is set in the midst of a close-knit community of Hasidic Jews in a suburb of London. When a prominent rabbi dies, his outcast daughter, Ronit, returns to bury her father and come face to face with her past.

I found Disobedience an unusual read. I unabashedly borrowed it from the library because of the lesbian plot (I’m a sucker for a good lesbian plot!) but it is far from a straightforward love story. Alderman has a wonderfully descriptive way about her and the passages which address the intricacies of Jewish life and customs make for insightful reading. The three central characters of the love triangle (Ronit, her ex-girlfriend Esti and Esti’s husband Dovid) are realistically drawn, sympathetic characters who have dealt with the oppressiveness of their Jewish world in different ways.

With that said, I didn’t necessarily enjoy Alderman’s book. While I found the subject matter and setting intriguing, I came away with a dissatisfaction for how the story played itself out. And while the principal characters were realistic, I still felt a disconnect from their story.

In short, Disobedience is a thought-provoking read, but it falls short of an enthusiastic recommendation from me.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #190

the meaning of night.jpg
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

A cold October night, 1854. In a dark passageway, an innocent man is stabbed to death.

So begins the extraordinary story of Edward Glyver, book lover, scholar and murderer. As a young boy, Glyver always believed he was destined for greatness. This seems the stuff of dreams, until a chance discovery convinces Glyver that he was right: greatness does await him, along with immense wealth and influence. And he will stop at nothing to win back a prize that he now knows is rightfully his.

Glyver’s path leads him from the depths of Victorian London, with its foggy streets, brothels and opium dens, to Evenwood, one of England’s most enchanting country houses. His is a story of betrayal and treachery, of death and delusion, of ruthless obsession and ambition. And at every turn, driving Glyver irresistibly onwards, is his deadly rival: the poet-criminal Phoebus Rainsford Daunt.

Thirty years in the writing, The Meaning of Night is a stunning achievement. Full of drama and passion, it is an enthralling novel that will captivate readers right up to its final thrilling revelation.

Brilliant Book Titles #189

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

Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys – stories by Booker-shortlisted author Will Self

‘Self at his most nihilistic and funny; you’ll laugh and flinch at the same time’ Guardian

‘Self has turned out an hilarious collection, with the requisite touch of disorientation. “Flytopia”, the story about a man who suddenly finds flies more lovable than his girlfriend, follows the Kafkaesque line Self opened with his recent novel Great Apes – man as animal … “Story for Europe”, about a two-year-old north Londoner who suddenly starts speaking business German, is comic genius’ Brenda Maddox, New Statesman

‘When Will Self wants to step outside his cultivated amoral threshold and shock us into rage, the effect can be profound … an awesome London Dungeon of a collection … Self is a massive talent’ Time Out

‘He has a powerful sense of place: the murkier streets of London … where anything can happen … And modernity is his urgent subject’ The Times

Fairy Tales by Joanne Larby


The term ‘online influencer’ has entered into common usage when it comes to talking about those bloggers and Instagramers who use these platforms to showcase and document their lives as well as advertise items to their followers. One of the largest ‘online influencers’ in Ireland is Joanne Larby, or as she is better known to her followers, ‘The Makeup Fairy’.

As the name suggests, one of Joanne’s passion is makeup and beauty. She also regularly blogs about fitness, travel and life advice. It is these topics that make up most of the content of her book ‘Fairy Tales’.

Joanne’s book is a mix of autobiography, life advice, beauty and fitness tips and a large dollop of relationship guidance.

Overall, I enjoyed Joanne’s book. I learned a lot about her personal life, especially before she started blogging. If you have recently started following Joanne on her social media, it’s a great way to get to know her quickly and see how it shapes her personality.

The parts of the book focused on relationships was full of good advice when it comes to dating and making sure that you don’t settle. I also enjoyed the health and fitness tips. Joanne has gone from a plus-size model to a fitness model so has spent a lot of time and effort changing her body shape. She honestly talks about the struggles and the rewards that come from this journey. This is definitely a book that promotes body confidence and looking after yourself.

The only criticism I would have is that some of the information provided by Joanne is out of date, especially regarding her favorite makeup products. From watching her Snapchat and Instagram, it’s obvious that she now has new products that she prefers.

Overall, this is an easy read and is perfect for anyone that is interested in bloggers or vloggers. It gives an inside peak into the life of an ‘online influencer’.


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

5 New Horror Books to Watch Out For

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan (3 May 2018)
a secret history of witches.jpg
‘Will sweep you away to a time of magic, love, and loss . . . Mesmerizing’ Tish Thawer

‘Deftly captures the greatest magic of all: the love between mothers and daughters’
Jordanna Max Brodsky


‘It’s true, ma petite. If they know – if they discover what we are – they will try to kill us.’
Brittany, 1821. After Grand-mere Ursule gives her life to save her family, their magic seems to die with her. Even so, the Orchires fight to keep the old ways alive, practicing half-remembered spells and arcane rites in hopes of a revival. And when their youngest daughter comes of age, magic flows anew. The lineage continues, though new generations struggle not only to master their power, but also to keep it hidden.

But when World War II looms on the horizon, magic is needed more urgently than ever – not for simple potions or visions, but to change the entire course of history.

A Secret History of Witches is a moving historical saga that traces five generations of fiercely powerful mothers and daughters – witches whose magical inheritance is both a dangerous threat and an extraordinary gift. Perfect for fans of A Discovery of Witches, Outlander and Nora Roberts.

‘A deeply satisfying and magical work of great craft’ Carol Goodman, author of Incubus

‘Enthralling . . . Deeply moving and richly conceived’ Kay Kenyon

‘I loved it. A beautiful generational tale, reminiscent of Practical Magic . . . Grounded and real, painful and hopeful at the same time’ Laure Eve

‘Epic in scope and heartbreakingly tender . . . Recommended for fans of Nora Roberts’ Booklist

The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese (3 May 2018)
the spirit photographer
With dramatic twists and reminiscent of Gothic novels, The Spirit Photographer is replete with fugitive hunters, voodoo healers, and dangers lurking in the swamp. Varese’s deftly plotted debut is an intense tale of death and betrayal that will thrill readers as they unravel the mystery behind the spirit in the photograph and what became of her. Boston, 1870. Photographer Edward Moody runs a booming business capturing the images of the spirits of the departed in his portraits. He lures grieving widows and mourning mothers into his studio with promises of catching the ghosts of their deceased loved ones with his camera. Despite the whispers around town that Moody is a fraud of the basest kind, no one has been able to expose him, and word of his gift has spread, earning him money, fame, and a growing list of illustrious clients. One day, while developing the negative from a sitting to capture the spirit of the departed son of a senator, Moody is shocked to see a different spectral figure develop before his eyes. Instead of the staged image of the boy he was expecting, the camera has seemingly captured the spirit of a young black woman. When Moody recognizes the woman, he is compelled to travel from Boston to the Louisiana bayou to resolve their unfinished business. But more than one person is out to stop him…

The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan (17 May 2018)
the dead house.jpg
Sometimes the past endures—and sometimes it never lets go.
This best-selling debut by an award-winning writer is both an eerie contemporary ghost story and a dread-inducing psychological thriller. Maggie is a successful young artist who has had bad luck with men. Her last put her in the hospital and, after she’s healed physically, left her needing to get out of London to heal mentally and find a place of quiet that will restore her creative spirit. On the rugged west coast of Ireland, perched on a wild cliff side, she spies the shell of a cottage that dates back to Great Famine and decides to buy it. When work on the house is done, she invites her dealer to come for the weekend to celebrate along with a couple of women friends, one of whom will become his wife. On the boozy last night, the other friend pulls out an Ouija board. What sinister thing they summon, once invited, will never go.
Ireland is a country haunted by its past. In Billy O’Callaghan’s hands, its terrible beauty becomes a force of inescapable horror that reaches far back in time, before the Famine, before Christianity, to a pagan place where nature and superstition are bound in an endless knot.

Witch Wood by John Buchan (22 Mar 2018)
witch wood
Buchan’s favourite of all his novels, Witch Wood deals with the hypocrisy that can lie beneath god-fearing respectability. The book is set in the terrifying times of the first half of the seventeenth century when the Church of Scotland unleashed a wave of cruelty and intolerance. Minister Sempill witnesses devil worship in the ‘Witch Wood’ and is persecuted. It comes with an introduction by Allan Massie.

The World of Lore, Volume 2: Wicked Mortals by Aaron Mahnke (29 May 2018)
A chilling, lavishly illustrated who’s-who of the most despicable people ever to walk the earth, featuring both rare and best-loved stories from the hit podcast Lore, now an online streaming series.

Here are the incredible true stories of some of the mortals who achieved notoriety in history and folklore through horrible means. Monsters of this sort – serial killers, desperate criminals, and socially mobile people with a much darker double-life – are, in fact, quite real . . . including H. H. Holmes, the infamous Chicago serial killer; William Brodie, the Edinburgh criminal mastermind who inspired The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and Bela Kiss, a Hungarian tinsmith with a most disturbing hobby: collecting women in gasoline drums.

As Aaron Mahnke reminds us, sometimes the truth is even scarier than the lore.

What Do You Think of That? by Kieran Donaghy

what do you think of that pic.jpg

For anyone who has even a passing interest in Gaelic football, the name Kieran Donaghy will be familiar. The big man with the big personality is impossible to ignore, as many opponents  on the field of play have learned to their cost. For those who are consumed with the detail of important matches, there’s a lot to enjoy here.  Donaghy writes with an intensity  and honesty that characterised his play. Donaghy fills the role of warrior, whether it’s basketball of Gaelic football and this book is full of the highs and lows that sport brings to the life of a dedicated competitor.

For me, the personal story of the big man was every bit as fascinating as the sporting exploits. He writes with raw emotional honesty about his difficult relationship with his father and he acknowledges the love and support given him by others in his life.   His devotion to his wife and young daughter is a joy to behold. The photos in this book are an integral part of understanding Kiernan Donaghy the man, as well as the sports star. My favourite one is of him lying on the turf of Croke Park after losing to Dublin in  2016, watching his beautiful baby, Lola Rose enjoying her time with Daddy.

Books like this are very important as we tend to forget that our sporting heroes are human beings, rather than there merely to fulfil our dreams.  I highly recommend this account of life as a high profile sportsman, it’s honest, passionate, sad, funny and above all so real.  What do I think of that? As a person with no Kerry connections, I think it’s pretty impressive, Kieran, well done.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #188

a love story starring my dead best friend.jpg

For months, Cass has heard her best friend, Julia, whisper about a secret project. When Julia dies in a car accident, her drama friends decide to bring the project, a musical called Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad, to fruition. But Cass isn’t a drama person. She can?t take a summer of painting sets, and she won’t spend long hours with Heather, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school and has somehow landed the leading role. So Cass takes off. In alternating chapters, she spends the first part of summer on a cross-country bike trip and the rest swallowing her pride, making props, and, of all things, falling for Heather.

This is a story of the breadth of love. Of the depth of friendship. And of the most hilarious musical one quiet suburb has ever seen.