Brilliant Book Titles #261

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Includes Le Cinq, Beast and Farm Girl Café, and a new introduction by the author.

Jay Rayner isn’t just a trifle irritated. He is eye-gougingly, bone-crunchingly, teeth-grindingly angry. And admit it, that’s why you picked up this book, isn’t it?

Because you aren’t really interested in glorious prose poems celebrating the finest dining experiences known to humanity, are you? You want him to suffer abysmal cooking, preferably at eye-watering prices, so you can gorge on the details and luxuriate in vicarious displeasure.

You’re in luck. Revel in Jay’s misfortune as he is subjected to dreadful meat cookery with animals that died in vain, gravies full of casual violence and service that redefines the word ‘incompetent’. He hopes you enjoy reading his reviews of these twenty miserable meals a damn sight more than he didn’t enjoy experiencing them.

Hell Screen by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa


A friend of mine recommended Akutagawa (famous for the stories Rashōmon and In a Grove, the former which provided the name and the latter which provided the plot of the film adaptation of Rashōmon) and I ordered this tiny pocket book from the library.

I have since become minorly obsessed with these tiny pocket books and subsequently bought four of the Penguin Modern line.

Hell Screen is an excellent introduction to Akutagawa and his work, featuring the title story and The Spider Thread. His work is so well know that The Spider Thread is on most school syllabi.

And it was this I read first. The Spider Thread tells the story of a lord who lowers down a gossamer of thread to help a man damned to hell escape, because he had done a redeeming good deed. I won’t spoil what happens, but this is Saumrai-era folk tales with a moral (and a sting) in the tail.

Hell Screen which is much longer, is almost like an expansive version of The Spider Thread: it details Japanese feudal life, a lord who commands an artist to make a beautiful screen for him, that is covered with images of hell. But this artist cannot imagine, he must see…

All in all, a great primer that has led onto me reading more of his work.


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

5 New LGBTQ+ Young Adult Novels to Watch Out For

Here’s five new LGBTQ+ YA novels that caught my eye:

Pulp by Robin Talley (13 Dec 2018)
From the award-winning author Robin Talley comes an inspiring new novel about the power of love to fight prejudice and hate.

Two women connected across generations through the power of words.

In 1955 eighteen-year-old Janet Jones must keep the love she shares with her best friend a secret. As in the age of McCarthyism to be gay is to sin. But when Janet discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in her. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a new-found ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself – and Marie – to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Cohen can’t stop thinking about her senior project – classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. She feels especially connected to one author, ‘Marian Love’, and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity. Is Abby prepared for what she will find?

A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

The Disasters by M.K. England (18 Dec 2018)
The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure by debut author M. K. England.

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours. But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy.

Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run, Nax and his fellow failures plan to pull off a dangerous heist to spread the truth. Because they may not be “Academy material,” and they may not even get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

Full of high-stakes action, subversive humor, and underdogs becoming heroes, this YA sci-fi adventure is perfect for fans of Illuminae, Heart of Iron, or the cult classic TV show Firefly and is also a page-turning thrill ride that anyone—not just space nerds—can enjoy.

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (1 Feb 2019)
white rabbit
Caleb Roehrig, author of Last Seen Leaving, delivers another spellbinding young adult murder mystery in White Rabbit.

Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian–the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get worse, right?

Then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. He and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox. Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth, but April has something he needs. Her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to clear his sister’s name . . . or die trying.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (29 Jan 2019)
love and lies
Unable to come out to her conservative Muslim parents, Rukhsana Ali keeps that part of her identity hidden. And that means keeping her girlfriend, Ariana, a secret from them too. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life at home and a fresh start at Caltech in the fall. But when Rukhsana’s mom catches her and Ariana together, her future begins to collapse around her.

Devastated and confused, Rukhsana’s parents whisk her off to stay with their extended family in Bangladesh, where she is met with a culture of arranged marriages, religious tradition, and intolerance. Fortunately, Rukhsana finds allies along the way, and, through reading her grandmother’s old diary, finds the courage to stand up for her beliefs, take control of her future, and fight for her love.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali provides a timely and achingly honest portrait of what it’s like to grow up feeling unwelcome in your own culture, and proves that love conquers all.

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig (29 Jan 2019)
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Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them–for good?

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

the president is missing

There has been much hype about this writing duo and the release of this book. This is Bill Clinton’s first foray into fiction, as he has previously published his memoirs as well as a few books on society and economy. James Patterson, on the other hand, is well versed in writing a political thriller.

This book is written from the point of view of the US president who believes that a terrorist attack is about to occur. The book is set in real time, over the course of three days. President Duncan, finds himself in an almost impossible situation. He is currently battling with Congress, who believe the President is working to protect the Sons of Jihad, a known terrorist organisation, and its leader, Suliman Cindoruk. President Duncan denies this but is unable to share exactly what he does know. This leads to a standoff with Congress and talk of Impeachment. The President is thus forced to go in disguise and go off the grid to try and save America from a terrorist attack.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book. I felt it was way too long and not very thrilling. I found parts that were obviously inspired by Bill Clinton and his time as president to be preachy. Also, I felt at times it was very obvious what was going to happen in the story. This is the first time I have ever read James Patterson, so maybe I am just not a fan of his writing, but overall I felt at least a third of the book could have been edited out. For example, in the first 100 pages of the book, I felt as if nothing happened. I only continued on with the book because of the hype the book has generated. Perhaps if you are a die-hard Patterson fan you may love it, but for me it was definitely a disappointment.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #260

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Why do we no longer trust experts, facts and statistics?

Why has politics become so fractious and warlike?

What caused the populist political upheavals of recent years?

How can the history of ideas help us understand our present?

In this bold and far-reaching exploration of our new political landscape, William Davies reveals how feelings have come to reshape our world. Drawing deep on history, philosophy, psychology and economics, he shows how some of the fundamental assumptions that defined the modern world have dissolved. With advances in science and medicine, the division between mind and body is no longer so clear-cut. The spread of digital and military technology has left us not quite at war nor exactly at peace. In the murky new space between mind and body, between war and peace, lie nervous states: with all of us relying increasingly on feeling rather than fact.

In a book of profound insight and astonishing breadth, William Davies reveals the origins of this new political reality. Nervous States is a compelling and essential guide to the turbulent times we are living through.