This is the Ritual by Rob Doyle

this is the ritual

I read Doyle’s first book, the novel Here are the Young Men. Although very enjoyable and quite unique as far as Irish writing goes, based on the strength of some of his short stories and non-fiction with which I was familiar with, I thought Doyle was falling slightly short of the mark given the prodigious talent I believed him to be. However, with This is the Ritual, I think he is growing into the writer he is capable of being.

It’s a collection of short stories with some highly experimental flourishes. A 30 page section of the book is a disjointed series of vignettes in what appears to be postwar Europe starring two doomed lovers like some Beckettian romance; a series of fictional biographies of unsuccessful writers is presented with all credibility and sincerity; and haunting the collection like a bad smell is the (possibly) semi-autobiographical spectre of Doyle himself. But amidst all of the fictional failed writers, it’s uncertain how much Doyle is in these figures and how much of it is Doyle having a long, sustained and cynical laugh at himself.

Besides the experimental flourishes and the spectral authorial self-insertion, the more conventional stories are all very strong making this an excellent collection.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #254

the poem's heartbeat

An indispensable guide for poets, readers, students, and teachers.

The Poem’s Heartbeat may well be the finest general book available on prosody.”–Library Journal (starred review)

“A provocative, definitive manual.”–Publishers Weekly

Finally back in print, this slender, user-friendly guide to rhyme, rhythm, meter, and form sparks “intuitive and technical lightning-flashes” for poets and readers curious to know a poem’s inner workings. Clear, good-humored, and deeply readable, Alfred Corn’s book is the modern classic on prosody–the art and science of poetic meter.

Each of the book’s ten chapters is a progressive, step-by-step presentation rich with examples to illustrate concepts such as line, stress, scansion marks, slant rhyme, and iambic pentameter. “By the book’s end,” noted a rave review in The Boston Review, “Corn, magi-teacher and impeccable guide, has taught the novice to become artist and magician.” The Poem’s Heartbeat also includes a selected bibliography and encourages readers and students to carry their investigations further.

The word “line” comes from the Latin linea, itself derived from the word for a thread of linen. We can look at the lines of poetry as slender compositional units forming a weave like that of a textile. Indeed, the word “text” has the same origin as the word “textile.” It isn’t difficult to compare the compositional process to weaving, where thread moves from left to right, reaches the margin of the text, then shuttles back to begin the next unit . . .

Brilliant Book Titles #253

dead girls

A New York Times Editor’s Choice, best of summer 2018 according to Bitch Magazine, Harpers Bazaar, The Millions, Esquire, Refinery29, Nylon, PopSugar, The Chicago Tribune, Book Riot, and CrimeReads

“Stylish and inspired.” – New York Times

In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.

Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture.

The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsay Davis

iron hand of marsz

Roman Imperial agent Marcus Didius Falco must transport a gift from the emperor to the Northern Rhine frontier and remind the legions who is in charge.  Along the way he meets a suspicious barber, his girlfriend’s brother and a tragic Celtic Priestess.  Life is never easy!

This is my favourite of Lindsey Davis’s Falco novels.  Set during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian in the 1st century AD they really bring the period to life.  You can smell the dingy inns and feel the cold misery of life on the northern frontier. You can picture the crowded streets of Rome and get a real sense of daily life.  This does not mean that there is no fun to be had.  Falco is an engaging character, tough and sarcastic at times but full of warmth and only made stronger by his fantastic girlfriend Helena Justina.

Although this is the fourth in the Falco series it can be read as a standalone novel.  Read it and then run out to reserve the other titles in the series.


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

5 New Biographies/Memoirs to Watch Out For

Becoming by Michelle Obama (13 Nov 2018)
An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Super Chill: A Year of Living Anxiously by Adam Ellis (23 Oct 2018)
super chill
Adam’s comics deal with weightier topics like seasonal affective disorder and struggles with self-esteem, while also touching on the silly and absurd—like his brief, but intense obsession with crystals. With a bright, positive outlook and a sense of humor, Super Chill tells a story that is both highly relatable and intensely personal.

Annie Leibovitz at Work by Annie Leibovitz (5 Nov 2018)
Annie Leibovitz, our most celebrated living photographer, explains how her pictures are made

Leibovitz addresses young photographers and readers interested in what photographers do, but any reader interested in contemporary history will be fascinated by her account of one of the richest bodies of work in the photographic canon. The subjects include photojournalism, studio work, photographing dancers and athletes, working with writers, and making the transition from shooting with film to working with digital cameras. Originally published in 2008, this revised and updated edition brings Leibovitz’s bestselling book back into print.

The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy by Paul Myers (6 Nov 2018)
one dumb guy
“Individually, we’re all smart guys, but collectively we’re really just one dumb guy.”

It’s finally here — the definitive, authorized story of legendary sketch comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall. Meticulously researched and written with the full cooperation and participation of the Kids by critically acclaimed biographer and comedy aficionado Paul Myers, The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy features exclusive interviews with Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson, as well as key players from their inner circle, including producer Lorne Michaels, the “man in the towel” Paul Bellini, and head writer Norm Hiscock. Marvel as the Kids share their intimate memories and behind-the-scenes stories of how they created their greatest sketches and most beloved characters, from the Chicken Lady and Buddy Cole to Cabbage Head and Sir Simon & Hecubus.

The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy spans the entirety of the Kids’ storied career, from their early club shows in Toronto to their recent live reunion tours across North America — and everything in between. Along for the ride are a plethora of fans, peers, and luminaries to celebrate the career and legacy of Canada’s most subversively hilarious comedy troupe. You’ll read tributes from Seth Meyers, Judd Apatow, Garry Shandling, Paul Feig, Mike Myers, David Cross, Michael Ian Black, Brent Butt, Jonah Ray, Dana Gould, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Richter, and Canada’s newest sensation, Baroness Von Sketch. As an added bonus, the book will include never-before-seen photographs, poster art, and script excerpts from the personal archives of the Kids themselves.

Perfect for diehard fans and new initiates alike, The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy will make you laugh and make you cry . . . and it may even crush your head.

Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill by Deanne Stillman (29 Nov 2018)
blood brothers
“Deanne Stillman’s splendid Blood Brothers eloquently explores the clash of cultures on the Great Plains that initially united the two legends and how this shared experience contributed to the creation of their ironic political alliance.” —Bobby Bridger, Austin Chronicle

It was in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883 that William F. Cody—known across the land as Buffalo Bill—conceived of his Wild West show, an “equestrian extravaganza” featuring cowboys and Indians. It was a great success, and for four months in 1885 the Lakota chief Sitting Bull appeared in the show. Blood Brothers tells the story of these two iconic figures through their brief but important collaboration, in “a compelling narrative that reads like a novel” (Orange County Register).

“Thoroughly researched, Deanne Stillman’s account of this period in American history is elucidating as well as entertaining” (Booklist), complete with little-told details about the two men whose alliance was eased by none other than Annie Oakley. When Sitting Bull joined the Wild West, the event spawned one of the earliest advertising slogans: “Foes in ’76, Friends in ’85.” Cody paid his performers well, and he treated the Indians no differently from white performers. During this time, the Native American rights movement began to flourish. But with their way of life in tatters, the Lakota and others availed themselves of the chance to perform in the Wild West show. When Cody died in 1917, a large contingent of Native Americans attended his public funeral.

An iconic friendship tale like no other, Blood Brothers is a timeless story of people from different cultures who crossed barriers to engage each other as human beings. Here, Stillman provides “an account of the tragic murder of Sitting Bull that’s as good as any in the literature…Thoughtful and thoroughly well-told—just the right treatment for a subject about which many books have been written before, few so successfully” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Shtum by Jem Lester


To be honest, I only picked up this book because the author has the same name as my dog! It was a lucky catch though, because the story caught my interest.

Told from the perspective of Ben, this book tells the story of his son Jonah and his parents struggle in finding him suitable placement in a residential school. Jonah is ten years old and profoundly autistic. He doesn’t speak and he is doubly incontinent, and requires constant care. Ben and his wife Emma are struggling to cope. They are both working parents, although Ben’s spiralling alcoholism is impacting his duties as manager of his dad’s catering business. As their Local Authority are refusing to pay the fees for the required residential school, Jonah’s parents are taking the case to tribunal. Emma moves out of the family home, arguing that a single father situation will help their case in court. So Jonah and Ben go to live with Ben’s dad Georg, with home he has a difficult relationship.

This book turned out to be extremely different to what I was thought it would be. Yes, it is the expected sometimes hilarious – sometimes tragic story of a boy with severe autism, but there is much more to it than that. A lot happens in this book, including the tribunal (Ben’s speech made me cry) Georg’s illness, Jonah’s quirks and even an unexpected flashback to Georg’s childhood. And although not something I’d usually comment on, I found all the different relationship dynamics quite interesting, particularly the uneasy relationship between Ben and his own father, in complete contrast to Jonah’s relationship with the same man.

I really enjoyed this book, it was quite different and remained interesting the whole way through. It is an unusual read though, and probably not everybody’s cup of tea.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #252

they both die at the end.jpg

From the bestselling author of HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME comes another unforgettable story of life, loss and making each day count

On September 5th, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure – to live a lifetime in a single day.

Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of History Is All You Left Me (a Zoella Book Club 2017 novel)

History Is All You Left Me overflows with tenderness and heartache. Even when its hero is screwing up royally, maybe especially then, Silvera’s humanity and compassion carve out a space where it’s not the falling that’s important, it’s how you pick yourself back up. There isn’t a teenager alive who won’t find their heart described perfectly on these pages.’ Patrick Ness
‘Adam Silvera is a master at capturing the infinite small heartbreaks of love and loss and grief. History Is All You Left Me is a beautiful meditation on what it means to survive devastating loss. This book will make you cry, think, and then cry some more.’ Nicola Yoon
‘Bold and haunting.’ Lauren Oliver on They Both Die At The End
‘A phenomenal talent.’ Juno Dawson


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

Brilliant Book Titles #251

no art

This book brings together for the first time Ben Lerner’s three acclaimed volumes of poetry, along with a handful of newer poems, to present a decade-long exploration of the relationship between form and meaning, between private experience and public expression. No Art is an exhilarating argument both with America and with poetry itself, in which online slang is juxtaposed with academic idiom, philosophy collides with advertising, and the language of medicine and the military is overlaid with echoes of Whitman and Keats. Here, cliches are cracked open and made new, made strange, and formal experiments disclose new possibilities of thought and feeling. No Art confirms Ben Lerner as one of the most searching and ambitious poets working today.

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

Meet Me at the Lighthouse by Mary Jayne Baker

meet me at the lighthouse.jpg

If you are in the mood for a light and feel good adventure, I’d recommend Meet Me at the Lighthouse.

The premise of the the book is that on the day Bobbie Hannigan turns 28, she buys a lighthouse and meets the love of her life. The love of her life is not a stranger, in fact he’s Ross Mason – the first boy she ever kissed. It’s Ross’s uncle that owns the lighthouse and he is willing to sell it for one pound, just to be rid of it. So Bobbie buys it and over a few drinks, her and Ross decide to turn the lighthouse into a music venue.

The attraction between Bobbie and Ross is apparent from the outset, however Ross is in the process of separating from his wife – so the partnership between Bobbie and Ross must remain strictly business. However, it’s hard to fight feelings that never go away.

While at times a little preposterous, the story is a sweet and engaging one. If you love stories based in small towns, with lots of family drama and laughs – you’ll love this. The story, while somewhat predictable, has a few unexpected twists and turns. And if you love a man who writes songs for his girl, you’ll positively melt for Ross Mason. Overall the perfect beach read!