WE WON!

Blog Awards 2018_Winners Gold MPU

We won Best Books and Literature Blog (Business) of the Year! For the second year running! Chuffed and delighted and shocked and thrilled. Here’s some pics from the night:

 


I’d like to thank all of our contributors: Rosie, Helen, Morgan, Alison, Rebecca, Ciaran, Sarah, Eleanor, Sinead and Maria!

Thanks to the Blog Awards! And, of course, all of you for reading!

Wild is the Wind by Carl Phillips

wild is the wind

I should’ve written this review directly after reading – or rather starting, and abandoning this book. Carl Phillips is lauded as a poet but Wild is the Wind, my first book by him just irritated the hell out of me. The poetry is vague and imprecise. The titles bear little to no relation to the poems, and are often the best thing about the poems. I can’t remember a single line, image or poem from the book. And worst of all, I couldn’t finish it.

Look, it might be personal taste. As a poet myself, I’m very critical of poetry collections, and when I’m reading something that doesn’t tickle me, I find it hard to continue, but I usually do, however this was a wisp of wind that I cannot recommend.

But to keep things positive – recent collections which I can recommend:
Donte Collins’ Autopsy, which I have read twice and keep meaning to review for the blog, but every time I sit down to do it I stop as I want to re-read it again and then review it straight after (soon, the stars will align)
Andrew McMillan’s playtime – the new collection from the Guardian First Book Award winner, that in my opinion far outshines his excellent first book physical
Thom Gunn’s Collected Poems – I’ve been reading a lot of Gunn at the moment, for the first time, and I can’t recommend him enough: his control of form – something almost lost to this day and age – is assured, sultry and revelatory.

Brilliant Book Titles #250

calling a wolf
Blurb: 
A POETRY BOOK SOCIETY RECOMMENDATION

I could not be held responsible
for desire
he could not be held at all

Tracking the joys and pains of the path through addiction, and wrestling with desire, inheritance and faith, Calling a Wolf a Wolf is the darkly sumptuous debut from award-winning poet Kaveh Akbar. These are powerful, intimate poems of thirst: for alcohol, for other bodies, for knowledge and for life.

‘The struggle from late youth on, with and without God, agony, narcotics and love, is a torment rarely recorded with such sustained eloquence and passion as you will find in this collection’
FANNY HOWE

‘Compelling . . . strange . . . always beautiful’
ROXANE GAY, AUTHOR OF BAD FEMINIST AND HUNGER

‘Truly brilliant’
JOHN GREEN, AUTHOR OF THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

‘A breathtaking addition to the canon of addiction literature’
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW)

Brilliant Book Titles #249

A-Guide-to-Undressing-Cover-Border

Blurb:
Sam Sax’s A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters, a runner up for the 2013 Button Poetry Prize.

“Sam Sax is an absolutely dazzling poet. A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters will rivet you, while it is shaking you up. These are poems of high velocity exploration and fiercely inquisitive passion.”
Naomi Shihab Nye, Author of Transfer

“Forgive my bluntness, but…Goddamn, Sam Sax can write some poems. Devastating, comic, inventive, weird, dangerous, smart as hell. I could talk about the diction sometimes glass and sometimes bouquet. Or the syntax jagged here, balletic there. Or the metaphors, good lord. But the bottom line is that when reading poems in A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters, one after the next, I kept saying to myself, probably twisting my face a little bit or squirming in my seat, “Goddamn, Sam Sax can write some poems.” –Ross Gay, author of Bringing the Shovel Down

Cornish Cafe Series by Phillipa Ashley

 


If you are looking for the perfect light summer read, I would suggest you check out the Cornish Cafe series by Philipa Ashley.

The first book in the series is called Summer at the Cornish Cafe and it is in this book that we are introduced to our main characters, Cal and Demi. Cal has taken up the task of renovating his holiday resort, Kilhallon Park, which was run by his father. Set above a Cornish cove, the once popular tourist resort has now gone to wreck and ruin. Cal dives head first into the project and along the way meets Demi, who is the perfect match for Cal. Together they work on transforming the resort and turning one of the old outhouses into a cafe that Demi hopes to run.

The second book is called Christmas at the Cornish Café. This book is a festive, feel-good follow-up to the first and continues the story of Cal and Demi’s life at the Cornish Cafe.

Finally the last book in the series is called Confetti at the Cornish Cafe and brings together all the characters and storylines from the previous books.

I enjoyed these books as the dynamic between Cal and Demi was interesting and it kept me guessing to how everything was going to work out. I also found it included story-lines, like the Syrian refuge crisis, that you wouldn’t expect to find in a romance book. I couldn’t wait to finish each book to continue onto the next. If you want to get lost in the Cornish Isles for a few days, I would definitely recommend giving this series a look.

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You can reserve these books from South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

The Republic of Motherhood by Liz Berry

the republic of motherhood

I bought this on a whim – having heard nothing about the poet or the book – purely because it was a beautifully made and printed little chapbook, by a publisher who I don’t think normally does them (Chatto & Windus).

After a little bit of digging, I think the reason for this short collection is because, after her Forward Prize winning first collection Black Country, the title poem of this new collection is currently shortlisted for this year’s Foreword Prize for Best Single Poem. And it’s an excellent poem, using the repetitions of the word Motherhood to great effect. Whilst excellent, much better is the following poem, Connemara, which discusses becoming pregnant, and has some absolutely beautiful language such as “The drizzle / made sore music / of my nerve ends”.

Sadly, whilst there are interesting and not so interesting poems that follow, the book doesn’t hold together as a book for me. Certainly a poet to watch, and I have ordered her first collection to read, but this one was a miss for me.

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

Brilliant Book Titles #248

depression.png

Blurb: 
Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views. Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living.

“I read this book on a day I couldn’t get out of bed and it made me feel like I had a friend in the world. Slow-dancing with depression and heartbreak, the loss in Sabrina Benaim’s poems arrives as a roadmap; a guide to finding ourselves in what we lose. The magic trick of this collection is that the language, wisdom, wonder and humor make even the most mundane moments of our lives feel possible, even gorgeous. Simply put, this book disappears loneliness.” -Andrea Gibson, author of The Madness Vase

Brilliant Book Titles #247

lord of the butterflies.png
Blurb: 

Andrea Gibson’s latest collection is a masterful showcase from the poet whose writing and performances have captured the hearts of millions. With artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family, Lord of the Butterflies is a new peak in Gibson’s career. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart, while giving the body wings to soar.

One of the most celebrated and successful poets of the last two decades, Andrea Gibson began their career in 1999 with a break-up poem at an open mic in Boulder, Colorado. In 2008, Gibson leapt into the forefront of the national spoken word poetry scene when they won the first ever Woman of the World Poetry Slam. Gibson is the author of four previous books of poetry and has released seven spoken-word albums. The honesty of Gibson’s work makes audiences and readers feel welcome as they are.

Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry by BS Johnson

christy malry

Listened to the Audible edition of this book, narrated excellently by Kris Dyer.

BS Johnson was a very popular novelist in the 1960s and 70s, despite being quite avant-garde and very experimental. One of his novels came in a box with loose chapters, of which only the first and last were marked. Another had holes in the pages so the reader could see ahead to future events. He was the king of metafiction, and continues that here.

I first came across this book when a musician I adore, the sardonic Luke Haines, did his own soundtrack, which was to the movie adaptation of this novel (as he said “to be found in bargain bins across the land”). I don’t remember the movie, which I’ve seen, but the soundtrack is worth checking out.

Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry is the story of young Christie who goes to work for a bank, and later a factory, as an accountant, and fascinated and inspired by double-entry bookkeeping – where every debit must have its own corresponding, exacting credit, and vice versa. And this great idea, he takes from applying to finance and applies to his life. So every time his boss annoys him, or belittles him, he seeks revenge. However, given the job and Christie – who slowly, almost without noticing, spirals out of control – is never in credit and has to exact ever increasing acts of disruption and revenge.

This is also a book that knows it’s a book. The characters occasionally refer to being in a book and the narrator is the author himself. This, you would think, would distract from the book, but if anything it adds to it. And I love some metafiction messing about. And the whole book is a commentary and push-back against the form of the novel, which Johnson is trying to progress and views as stale, as evinced by the narrator’s description of Malry:

“What writer can compete with the reader’s imagination!

Christie is therefore an average shape, height, weight, build, and colour. Make him what you will: probably in the image of yourself. You are allowed complete freedom in the matter of warts and moles; as long as he has at least one of either.”

The narrator, Johnson, even becomes a character in the novel towards the end. Johnson is taking the novel apart and trying to square it against its internal components, much like Malry does with his double ledger accounts. Recommended.

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

Snap by Belinda Bauer

snap pic

The tag line on this book reads “she’s not alone…but she’ll wish she was”. While I know what that refers to, it is quite misleading with regards to the general nature of the story.

We begin with three children unaccompanied in a broken down car at the side of a motorway. Their mother has left to walk to the phone to get help and left eleven year old Jack in charge of his two sisters Joy and Merry. It’s over an hour later and she hasn’t returned, it’s getting too hot to stay in the car so they walk to the payphone to find her. But she’s not there. Days later her body is found in a ditch beside the same motorway, with a single fatal stab wound. The murder was never solved.

Three years later, the children’s father has abandoned them, leaving them living in a dangerous, dilapidated house. 14 year old Jack is trying to provide for himself and his sisters the only way he knows how, by robbing people’s houses when they’re away on holiday.  In another house, a woman wakes up to the sound of an intruder in her house. Finding nobody there she goes back to bed to find a knife on her pillow and a note saying I could’ve killed you.

And so the story begins…

This was a brilliantly gripping book; I had it read in one night. I’ve never read anything by this author before but I’ll definitely read more of hers in the future. The characters are very relatable, I instantly felt for Jack and his sisters, and wanted to know more about them. This is quite a clever book, and quite realistic. While depressing in parts, and thrilling in others, there is nothing that could be considered over the top. There are also one or two turns in the story, but nothing too predictable. In fact one of them came as a complete surprise. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a great read. ​

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