Brilliant Book Titles #286

my vocabulary
In 1965, when the poet Jack Spicer died at the age of forty, he left behind a trunkful of papers and manuscripts and a few copies of the seven small books he had seen to press. A West Coast poet, his influence spanned the national literary scene of the 1950s and ’60s, though in many ways Spicer’s innovative writing ran counter to that of his contemporaries in the New York School and the West Coast Beat movement. Now, more than forty years later, Spicer’s voice is more compelling, insistent, and timely than ever. During his short but prolific life, Spicer troubled the concepts of translation, voice, and the act of poetic composition itself. My Vocabulary Did This to Me is a landmark publication of this essential poet’s life work, and includes poems that have become increasingly hard to find and many published here for the first time.

Broken Shelves by Anne Malcolm

broken shelves


Freshly brewed tea. Earl Grey, loose leaf.
Rain on the windowsills. The smell of library books. Escape into worlds greater than this.
A quiet life. Maybe boring, but boring was never dangerous. Until I saw what I was missing out on. Who I was missing out on. The man who shattered my boring, safe life and lay it to ruin.
The man I’d been in love with since I was a teenager. Who I’d been invisible to since I was a teenager.
The man who just happened to be a world-famous rock star.

Whisky. Neat. Leave the bottle.
Crowd of hundreds of people. No, make it thousands. All shouting my name. Live fast. Die…
Die? I’m too young, too famous and far too badass to die. Death doesn’t happen when you stop breathing, it’s what happens before that. Death is the monotony of life. The grave? Well, all the greats live there. You’re not a rock star until you die before you’re thirty. The grave doesn’t bother me.
Just the quiet.
That is death in the life of rock.
But then… her.
She’d been there all along and I’d been too blind, too obsessed with the fast, loud life to realize where the real Nirvana lay.
In the silence.
Even the grave couldn’t hold me if I didn’t get her.
And I’m a rock star.
And a badass.
And as stubborn as I am good-looking.
I know how to get what I want.
I also know how to kill anyone who gets in my way.


Broken Shelves is the third book in the Unquiet Mind Series and what a book it was. Gina was my girl, I could relate to her so much. Getting lost in books it my JAM! Gina has done everything she could to maintain her life and fade into the background as much as she can. She’s doesn’t want to be seen and wants to live her life cocooned within her safe haven of her home. She wants to go to work to teach her kids and that’s it. Until her best friend’s wedding where she meets the man she’s been in love with since she was in school. Not only that but he’s a rock star, wanted by every female in the world. Sam gets her into bed and they have an unforgettable night. The next morning he dismisses her and breaks her heart.

“Didn’t all the great love stories have obstacles? Didn’t every single great couple have to go through almost unbearable amounts of pain in order to be together? Wasn’t it the watermark of true love?”

This was such a fantastic read that I was hooked on from the very beginning. Malcom shows the Struggles that comes with the spotlight, the constant judgement and criticism that comes along with it. This book was totally a 6 star read for me and I would highly recommend reading it.

The Cake Tree in Ruins by Akiyuki Nosaka

cake tree

This was one of those wonderful books you just happen upon while browsing.

All of the stories are set in the days leading up to the 15th of August, 1945, the date of Japan’s surrender in WWII. The stories are short, sharp and deeply moving. They read like fables grandparents might tell children, with magical realism to the fore. Except these fables come with a parental warning. Although replete with talking animals, spiritual adventures and ludicrous inventions, these cautionary tales are loaded with tragedy and trauma, and never have a happy ending.

I was nearly brought to tears on the bus by one of the stories, the she-wolf and the little girl I think it was called. It’s a wonderful book of a time and a region I don’t know enough about.

Not all of the stories are are wrought with the same beauty, but enough of them are to make this an easy 5 stars.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #285

im telling the truth.jpg
A Publishers Weekly Spring Preview Selection

“A part of me was writing non-fiction short stories about things I remembered, while another part was preserving the lies I tell myself to ensure the truth doesn’t kill me. This book is about those truths and the ways in which we parcel fact in order to survive.” –Bassey Ikpi

From her early childhood in Nigeria through her adolescence in Oklahoma, Bassey Ikpi lived with a tumult of emotions, cycling between extreme euphoria and deep depression–sometimes within the course of a single day. By the time she was in her early twenties, Bassey was a spoken word artist and traveling with HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, channeling her life into art. But beneath the façade of the confident performer, Bassey’s mental health was in a precipitous decline, culminating in a breakdown that resulted in hospitalization and a diagnosis of Bipolar II.

In I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying, Bassey Ikpi breaks open our understanding of mental health by giving us intimate access to her own. Exploring shame, confusion, medication, and family in the process, Bassey looks at how mental health impacts every aspect of our lives–how we appear to others, and more importantly to ourselves–and challenges our preconception about what it means to be “normal.” Viscerally raw and honest, the result is an exploration of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of who we are–and the ways, as honest as we try to be, each of these stories can also be a lie.

Brilliant Book Titles #284

girl walks out of a bar
Lisa Smith was a bright, young lawyer at a prestigious firm in NYC in the early nineties when alcoholism started to take over her life. What was once a way of escaping her insecurity and negativity became a means of coping with the anxiety and stress of an impossible workload.  Girl Walks Out of a Bar is Smith’s darkly comic and wrenchingly honest story of her formative years, the decade of alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, and her road to recovery. Smith describes how her spiraling circumstances conspired with her predisposition to depression and self-medication, nurturing an environment ripe for addiction to flourish. Girl Walks Out of a Bar is a candid portrait of alcoholism through the lens of gritty New York realism. Beneath the façade of success lies the reality of addiction.


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

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath

mary ventura

Celebrating their 90th birthday, Faber has put out a collection of little short story books – and I love those little single short story books for some reason – and the jewel in the crown in this series is this recently rediscovered and never before publicly available short story by Sylvia Plath.

Plath wrote this fable when she was 20 and it was rejected by her desired outlets. So is it any good? Yes, it is. The writing in it is clean and sparse and a little bit surreal at times, which fits the confusing scenario that Mary Ventura finds herself in.

I could recount the plot of the story, but I won’t, because it won’t do it justice, also because there’s so little I wouldn’t want to dampen your enjoyment. And anyway, you’re likely reading this to read Plath’s excellent prose, more so than the specific story. It makes me want to go back and reread her short story collection, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (which, still, is one of the best titles ever).

A gorgeous little allegorical story deserving of being out in the world. Recommended.


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

My Brother’s Husband (Volumes 1 and 2) by Gengorah Tagame

Many an eyebrow was raised when Gengorah Tagame put out an all ages story of family. Primarily because he was – up until then – known for hardcore erotic comics (so hardcore that I’d advise you not to google them in work!) and then he put out this. This beautiful, sweet, sad, funny, engaging story which nobody has expected this coming from Tagame. And arguably, this will be – and rightly should be – the book he is known for.

Yaichi hasn’t seen his twin, Rjoyi in a long time, their relationship taking different turns when Rjoyi came out to Yaichi. Now Rjoyi is dead and his husband, Mike Flanagan, has come to visit to see the places his brother talk about and the family he left behind.

This beautiful two part graphic novel tells the story of a brother coming to terms with his the loss of his brother and the relationship that can now never be repaired, and for the first time in a relatively mainstream way, shows how homosexuality is still a very closeted thing in Japanese culture; something not to be talked about, still.

The story is simple but beautifully told, although it has some subplots that pay off in a really enjoyable way. It’s a story about Yaichi realising that this stranger is family, and the second volume (which I would argue is slightly better than the already fantastic first) actually made me cry.

The art is beautiful and Kana, Yaichi’s young daughter is a complete force of nature who says the unsayable just like a child would, puncturing ideals with her childlike wonder.

A beautiful story, well told, and highly recommended.


You can reserve this on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue – Volume 1 / Volume 2

Brilliant Book Titles #283

out of step
What makes a pink-haired queer raise his hand to enlist in the military just as the nation is charging into war? In his memoir, Out of Step, Anthony Moll tells the story of a working-class bisexual boy running off to join the army in the midst of two wars and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era. Set against the backdrop of hypermasculinity and sexual secrecy, Moll weaves a queer coming-of-age story.

Out of Step traces Moll’s development through his military service, recounting how the army both breaks and builds relationships, and what it was like to explore his queer identity while also coming to terms with his role in the nation’s ugly foreign policy. From a punk, nerdy, left-leaning, poor boy in Nevada leaving home for the first time to an adult returning to civilian life and forced to address a world more complicated than he was raised to believe, Moll’s journey isn’t a classic flag-waving memoir or war story—it’s a tale of finding one’s identity in the face of war and changing ideals.