Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

alice in wondeland

I love all things Alice in Wonderland, but at nearly 34 years old I realised I had never actually read the book. So while out of action with an injury I said I’d give it a go, partly because I wanted to read some of my favourite quotes in context. This book makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and that’s what makes it brilliant. I think we all know the story – Alice falls down a hole, where she meets a cast of whimsical characters including the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and the Mock Turtle. She also battles a queen with a certain penchant for chopping people’s heads off.

I found this actually quite difficult to read, as it is completely illogical and wholly nonsensical in parts. However, it is equally hilarious with statements such as “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get” and especially applicable to me “She generally gave herself very good advice, though she seldom followed it”. I highly recommend this book if you want a break from real life and an escape into utter nonsense and whimsy.

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

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Brilliant Book Titles #290

home im darling.jpg
Blurb: 
How happily married are the happily married?

Every marriage needs a little fantasy to keep it sparkling. But behind the gingham curtains, being a domestic goddess isn’t as easy as it looks…

Home, I’m Darling is Laura Wade’s new dark comedy about sex, cake and the quest to be the perfect 1950s housewife.

How to Survive the End of the World (when it’s in your own head) by Aaron Gillies

how to survive

How to Survive the End of the World (When it’s in Your Own Head): An Anxiety Survival Guide is one of the funniest yet meaningful books I’ve ever read. If you are someone who struggles with anxiety or panic attacks this book will be a refreshing reminder that you are not alone! If a loved one you know struggles with depression or anxiety, this book will help you realize what exactly is going on in their mind and appreciate the struggle they are dealing with.

Many popular books on the topic of anxiety are written in an almost academic form. The approachable and funny language that Aaron Gillies uses in his book makes it compelling reading. But just because he uses humor, that doesn’t mean he makes light of the subject nature. Far from it! His honesty and genuineness easily comes through. You feel as if a friend is communicating with you.

Another reason that I found this to be a refreshing read is that the author is a young man. Many of the books on the topic of anxiety are written by women, therefore it was interesting to read about anxiety through the eyes of a male. If there is a young male in your life that you are worried about, this book could be the perfect read for them. It’s lighthearted but engaging enough for them to get value from it.

If you are looking for an informative yet funny way of dealing with mental health issues, this book is a good place to start!

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

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

slaughterhousefive

I’m struggling to think of a more inventive anti-war novel; Billy’s extra-terrestrial and temporal explorations, Vonnegut’s casual (or is it percipient, borne from experience?) disregard of form and the author’s willingness to bring down the fourth wall without hesitation.

The novel begins and ends with something akin to Vonnegut’s memoirs, and we get, what seems to be, an unimpeded insight into both his journey in writing this book and his journey through trauma in recovering from his experiences in WWII. It’s a deeply affecting portrait of a man who saw the horrors of war firsthand, and how that, even now, with a family, a good job and a peaceful and prosperous life, he is still haunted. It’s quite a jolt, therefore, when the memoir ends and Billy arrives on the scene.

It’s a very challenging book. The phrase meta gets chucked around but Slaughterhouse 5 almost feels sentient at times. That the character Kilgore Trout’s novels cohere almost precisely with Billy’s experiences, a man who experiences time not linearly but in a four dimensional selective sense, who also happens to resemble the author, but who we know does not represent the author because the author has inserted himself into the novel at quite random instances, all adds up to make this more than a simple condemnation of war.

I’m still thinking about this one. But what I don’t have to think about is the rating. 5 stars!

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

Brilliant Book Titles #289

how to produce
Blurb: 
In HOW TO PRODUCE COMEDY BRONZE, legendary TV producer Jon Plowman lifts the hood on the comedy industry so you can peer inside and wonder how any of it ever got made in the first place. In a career spanning 30 years Jon has learned (almost) everything there is to know about comedy and now wants to share his wealth of knowledge, before he becomes completely demented and forgets how to do it. Working with Fry and Laurie, travelling with the cast of Absolutely Fabulous, saying ‘yes’ to The Office – together these stories combine to tell the uncensored story of how TV comedy works, from the first germ of an idea to the after-party at the Emmys – all through a life in comedy. Read this book and if you’re not careful learn how to make the world laugh at your ideas too!

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

Brilliant Book Titles #288

what a hazard a letter is.jpg
Blurb: 
Why would anyone write a letter and then not send it? ‘What a Hazard a Letter is,’ wrote the poet Emily Dickinson, thinking of ‘the Hearts it has scuttled and sunk’. Once sent, a letter cannot be taken back: it is like a depth charge dropped into the future, into other people s lives. The moment they re written, letters become, as Janet Malcolm puts it, fossils of feeling: they fix and freeze the sentiments we had at the time, though our lives may quickly move on and we may all too soon have second thoughts. But what if, once written, a letter is not sent or never arrives? What a Hazard a Letter is is the first book to look at the strange phenomenon of the unsent letter. It collects together some of the most remarkable examples, from fiction and from real life, and explores the fascinating reasons why they came to be unsent, and the consequences sometimes farcical, sometimes agonisingly poignant, and sometimes actually changing the course of history. Here, then, are authors from Ian McEwan to Iris Murdoch, Abraham Lincoln to Ernest Hemingway, and Virginia Woolf to Van Gogh: magnificent tirades written in the red mist of rage, delicious to read but all the better for not being mailed; letters whose non-arrival sets a novel s plot careering down a new track; and tender words of love that never quite got said all, in their way, a little more eloquent for being unsent.

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

Saturday Night at the Greyhound by John Hampson

satudday nirhgt

I love Valancourt Books. They publish lots of out of print horror and out of print LGBT fiction. They republished my favourite novel – In the Eyes of Mr Fury – in a completely revised edition, and they are republishing lots of the 70s paperbacks featured in Paperbacks from Hell.

This, however. God I hated this.

This short novel (110 pages) was about 50 pages too long. There was no story. Everything was overdescribed and then overdescribed again. All of the characters kept repeating how the new owners were likely to fail. And then they repeated it again. I forced myself to finish it, and regretted it.

Also, I have issue with this being under Gay Literature – the blurb says that the Landlady’s brother, Tom, is gay, but you wouldn’t really know from the book. One woman finds her ‘charms’ don’t work on him, and that’s about it.

Just very disappointing. That said, don’t let this put anyone off Valancourt! I can thoroughly recommend the following: In the Eyes of Mr Fury (gay fiction), Flamingoes in Orbit (short stories/gay fiction), The Elementals (horror)

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You can reserve the following on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue:
Saturday Night at the Greyhound / In the Eyes of Mr Fury / Flamingoes in Orbit / The Elementals

5 New Horror Books to Watch Out For

Well, eight really, but let’s not argue…

All My Colors by David Quantick (16 April 2019)
All My Colors.jpgFrom Emmy-award winning author David Quantick, All My Colors is a darkly comic novel about a man who remembers a book that may not exist, with dire consequences. A bizarre, mind-bending story at the intersection of Richard Bachman, Charlie Kaufman and Franz Kafka.

It is March 1979 in DeKalb Illinois. Todd Milstead is a wannabe writer, a serial adulterer, and a jerk, only tolerated by his friends because he throws the best parties with the best booze. During one particular party, Todd is showing off his perfect recall, quoting poetry and literature word for word plucked from his eidetic memory. When he begins quoting from a book no one else seems to know, a novel called All My Colors, Todd is incredulous. He can quote it from cover to cover and yet it doesn’t seem to exist.

With a looming divorce and mounting financial worries, Todd finally tries to write a novel, with the vague idea of making money from his talent. The only problem is he can’t write. But the book – All My Colors – is there in his head. Todd makes a decision: he will “write” this book that nobody but him can remember. After all, if nobody’s heard of it, how can he get into trouble?

As the dire consequences of his actions come home to both Todd and his long-suffering friends, it becomes clear that there is a high – and painful – price to pay for his crime.

Differently Morphous by Yatzhee Croshaw (18 April 2019) 
differently
Differently Morphous is the latest and greatest tale to emerge from the mind of writer Yahtzee Croshaw (Mogworld, Jam, Will Save the Galaxy for Food).

A magical serial killer is on the loose, and gelatinous, otherworldly creatures are infesting the English countryside. Which is making life for the Ministry of Occultism difficult, because magic is supposed to be their best kept secret.

After centuries in the shadows, the Ministry is forced to unmask, exposing the country’s magical history–and magical citizens–to a brave new world of social media, government scrutiny, and public relations.

On the trail of the killer are the Ministry’s top agents: a junior operative with a photographic memory (and not much else), a couple of overgrown schoolboys with godlike powers, and a demonstrably insane magician.

But as they struggle for results, their superiors at HQ must face the greatest threat the Ministry has ever known: the forces of political correctness . . .

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (28 May 2019)
frankissstein
From ‘one of the most gifted writers working today’ (New York Times) comes an audacious new novel about the bodies we live in and the bodies we desire

In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI.

Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryonics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life.

But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.’

What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest being on the planet? Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realise. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.

The Nest by Gregory A. Douglas (2 April 2019)
When Darkness Loves Us by Elizabeth Engstrom (7 May 2019)
The Reaping by Bernard Taylor (4 June 2019)

Valancourt are re-releasing 60s and 70s horror classics that were featured in Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell. These are the first three releases. (Blurbs on the links above)

And finally, the excellent horror fiction podcast, Welcome to Night Vale, has two new script books, collecting year’s three and four of the podcast. They’re good reads separate from the podcast. Links below:

The Buying of Lot 37 
Who’s a Good Boy? 

The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan

the-magicians-guild-the-black-magician-trilogy

Was looking for something a little lighter to read and picked this up after being recommended it all of 14 years ago.

It’s young adult fantasy fiction but with the strength of the genre the last few years, I’d have to say that it’s not particularly good YA fiction; laden with tropes, functional prose and very conventional characters. It’s a compelling world Canavan has built but the story creaks at every juncture with predictable plot twists. The villain isn’t particularly threatening and it wasn’t until the very end of the novel that my interest was piqued by a genuinely unexpected turn, which I have to say irritated me as much interested me as I had to wait until the very end to reach it!

My other bugbear is the lack of female characters. A female lead is is not enough to carry the flag for the entire gender and the book could really do some more female characters

That said, on the strength of the world-building, I might read on but it’s a book that’s really better suited for younger readers.

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

Brilliant Book Titles #267

dramatic exchanges
Blurb:
There has been always as much drama offstage as on at the National Theatre, and much of it is to be found in the letters, telegrams, scribbled notes and colourful postcards of its main players.

What drove Laurence Olivier to confess: ‘The foolishness of my position starts to obsess me’?
Why did Maggie Smith write: ‘I am absolutely heartbroken by your decision’?
– What prompted Judi Dench to ask: ‘Can’t you write me a musical so that I can sit on a chair in a fur hat & nothing else and sing RUDE songs?’

This book brings together for the first time eight hundred of the most inspiring, dramatic and amusing letters from the life of Britain’s most beloved theatre: from Laurence Olivier’s gracious rejection letters to Peter Hall’s combative memos; from Helen Mirren’s impassioned defence of theatrical innovation to a Tory politician’s brutal telegram damning a play; from fantastical good luck missives to long conspiratorial letters. Together, they reveal the stories behind some of the most lavish, triumphant, daring and disastrous productions in the theatre’s history, including Amadeus, Romans in Britain, Laurence Olivier’s Othello, Closer, The History Boys and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

A rich collection of correspondence like no other, this book offers a fascinating and celebratory look at the world of theatre and beyond.

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