Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman

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To say that I tore through this would be an understatement. This adorable YA graphical novel tells the story of Nick and Charlie, two English schoolboys falling in love. Impeccably written, and evocative of that age (which shouldn’t surprise as Oseman is not too far off), I read this straight through and immediately went online – where it is serialised as a webcomic – to read what was on there which hasn’t been collected in book form yet.

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Sweet, funny, serious, and just perfect. Everyone should read this. And the style of drawing and lettering, loose and well, teenage-y, suits it down to the ground.

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Impatiently awaiting more volumes.

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You can reserve Volume 1 online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Collected Poems by C. P. Cavafy

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I would like to highly recommend the latest revised editions of Cavafy’s Collected Poems – both the 1992 edition and the 2009 Bilingual Edition – as translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard, and edited by George Savidis.

The latter 2009 edition, in particular, offers both the original Greek version and the translated one into English. It is significant, ethical, and a most enlightening experience to see two distinct linguistic voices, that of the original text and the voice that translates and trans-creates, equally brought to the limelight. In this way not only a wonderful reciprocal flow between the two cultures is made possible, but also, vital space is offered to the multi-lingual readers themselves, enabling further translations / trans-creations and a broader understanding of the original text.

This revised edition of Cavafy’s Collected Poems promises to “capture the poet’s mixture of formal and idiomatic use of language and to preserve the immediacy of his frank treatment of homosexual themes, his brilliant re-creation of history, and his astute political ironies”.

Here is the translated version of one of Cavafy’s most memorable poems:

The Journey to Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops, angry Poseidon -don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon -you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy [Translated by Edmund Keeley / Philip Sherrard]

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

Mythos by Stephen Fry

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The Geek myths, through Hesiod, Homer, Ovid and the rest, from the pen of the singular Stephen Fry. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to him gracing our screens, but he’s one of those writers who’s voice leaps out from his prose, every line unquestionably bearing his signature.

The vetting procedure was for Fry’s selection process seems to have been that if Hollywood made a film out of it, best to leave it alone, as he steers clear of the larger myths that many of us might have heard of, e.g. the events of the Iliad and Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, Theseus and the Minotaur, Perseus and Medusa, Hercules etc. Instead we get the more obscure Cresus, Narcissus, Endymion, Phaethon and Cygnus, Asclepius and Sisyphus to name but a few. There’s also an in depth explanation of the creation of the Olympian 12 and the Titans before them, including quite a bit of time spent analysing Prometheus who I suspect is a favourite of Fry’s.

I love the classics and have read a good deal about Greece and Rome in the past so I was aware of some of these myths already. Still, I had a great time reliving them through Fry’s humour and earnestness. What I found most enjoyable was Fry’s etymological digressions, spelling out for the reader the origin of many words that still exist in English today, let alone Greek and Latin. One such example is the above mentioned Cygnus who, in his grief over Phaethon’s death, was transformed into a swan from where we get our word for a young swan, Cygnet.

My one complaint is that, after a while, the myths become a little repetitive. After the initial excitement of Uranus, Kronos and Zeus, a reoccurring pattern starts to emerge. Zeus gets someone pregnant, they give birth, and the child either commits the unforgivable sin of hubris or is so pious and beautiful that one of the Gods takes a special shine to them; cue dangerous liaisons the sequel.

For this reason, a tad tedious, containing just a few morsels of monotony, but altogether a very enjoyable read.

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

The Penguin Classics Book, Edited by Henry Eliot

penguin classics cover.jpgA cross between a coffee-table and a reference book, this handsome volume collects all the titles from the vast Penguin Classics range.

I was spurred to read this as I was looking for a complete list of Penguin Classics online, only to find that there is so, so many at this stage, and found this. Laid out by era and geographical location, this invaluable guide tells you a little about each volume, and its author, as well as showing you the cover, as well as sometimes the previous covers.

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A fascinating book to read through, and for the more adventurous – a reading list that will take years to check off – at the very least, it’s a feast for the eyes and will no doubt give you lots of ideas for new books to read.

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

A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders

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Blurb:
“Usually sharp-witted editor Sam Clair stumbles through her post-launch-party morning with the hangover to end all hangovers. Before the Neurofen has even kicked in, she finds herself entangled in an elaborate saga of missing neighbours, suspected arson and the odd unidentified body. When the grisly news breaks that the fire has claimed a victim, Sam is already in pursuit. Never has comedy been as deadly as Sam faces down a pair from thugs R Us, aided by nothing more than a CID boyfriend, a stalwart Goth assistant and a seemingly endless supply of purple-sprouting broccoli.”

Review:
Strangely, Sam Clair reminded me a little bit of Bridget Jones.  She has that same sort of everywoman warmth and believability. Her life is not perfect, she makes mistakes (a couple of which get her into real trouble).  Her colleagues at work and her neighbours and friends are well rounded characters.  You really feel you would like to get to know them.

The mystery itself is interesting and when the murder comes you are already very involved with the story.

This book is part of a series but I didn’t have any trouble following Sam’s life coming in in the 2nd book. Flanders has a great sense of place and how communities work and live together.  I look forward to now reading the first book in the series.

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

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

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I read very little non-fiction but I always enjoy it.  It is written by Kate Summerscale who also wrote “The Suspicions of Mr Whicher” which I also enjoyed very much.  “The Wicked Boy” is the story of 2 Victorian brothers, the death of their mother and how they were subsequently brought to trial for her murder.  It follows the lives of the Robert and Nattie Coombes from that point until their deaths.

Summerscale is great at setting the scene and giving a taste of what life would have been like for some children during the Victorian era. The boys are able to go about their business for a long time after their mother’s death as children had much more freedom or were just simply ignored more.  However, both boys were tried in court for the murder.  There was no thought of a lighter punishment due to their youth (Robert was 13 and Nattie even younger).  The book also examines how the public and the media reacted to the crime and the trial.

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

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

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I picked this book up by chance, the dust cover was lost so I had no blurb to go by. I read a few lines in page one and instantly I was hooked. Charlie Davis is 17, and a self-harmer, who has done great damage to herself. She is found in an attic by her drug-addicted “friends”, who roll her up in a blanket and driver her to the local Emergency Department. She is currently in a residential psychiatric hospital. She doesn’t speak, and is referred to by her fellow patients as Silent Sue.

She is released into the care of her mother, who swiftly abandons her again. Charlie is left to fend for herself and, despite her best efforts to stay well, inevitably ends up in some tricky situations.

This book is tough going in parts and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Written by a woman with her own self-harm experience, this book is extremely graphic in is descriptions of abuse, addiction and mental health. At 400+ pages this is no light read but it was so gripping that I had it read in a couple of nights – with the possible side effects of some sleep deprivation! I highly recommend it for anyone looking to read something different, and true to life.

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

5 New Music Books to Watch Out For

No Walls And The Recurring Dream by Ani DiFranco (9 May 2019)
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A memoir by the celebrated singer-songwriter and social activist Ani DiFranco. 

In her new memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream, Ani DiFranco recounts her early life from a place of hard-won wisdom, combining personal expression, the power of music, feminism, political activism, storytelling, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and much more into an inspiring whole. In these frank, honest, passionate, and often funny pages is the tale of one woman’s eventful and radical journey to the age of thirty. Ani’s coming of age story is defined by her ethos of fierce independence–from being an emancipated minor sleeping in a Buffalo bus station, to unwaveringly building a career through appearances at small clubs and festivals, to releasing her first album at the age of 18, to consciously rejecting the mainstream recording industry and creating her own label, Righteous Babe Records. In these pages, as in life, she never hesitates to challenge established rules and expectations, maintaining a level of artistic integrity that has impressed many and antagonized more than a few. Ani continues to be a major touring and recording artist as well as a celebrated activist and feminist, standing as living proof that you can overcome all personal and societal obstacles to be who you are and to follow your dreams.

Brian Eno: Visual Music by Christopher Scoates (14 May 2019)
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Visual Music is a one-of-a-kind guided tour through the visual art of creative polymath Brian Eno. Featuring more than 300 images of Eno’s installation, light, and video artwork, this exquisite volume is the definitive monograph of a contemporary master. In addition to page after page of full-color art, Visual Music features Eno’s personal notebook pages, his essay “Perfume, Defense, and David Bowie’s Wedding,” an interview with the artist, scholarly essays, and an original-for-the-book piece of free downloadable music. We’re frequently asked to bring this book back into print and here it is now for the first time in a deluxe paperback edition.

Sir Elton by Philip Norman (16 May 2019) 
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‘He’s got me spot on’ Elton John

‘Anyone who can read will admire the intelligence, the detail and the robust good sense of this biography. It captures the flavour of the times every bit as distinctively as it captures the personality of Elton John’ Sunday Telegraph

Elton John is one of the biggest stars in the world, a man whose extraordinary career has resulted in timeless songs and sold-out world tours. But how did the sensitive boy from Pinner, who started out pounding the piano in a pub, become such an iconic figure?

Philip Norman’s acclaimed biography paints a frank but sympathetic portrait, from Elton’s rise to success to the attempted suicides, from Watford football club chairman to flamboyant Versace shopaholic, from the draining addictions to his turbulent personal relationships and the extraordinary moment in Westminster Abbey when ‘Candle in the Wind’ turned into a requiem for his friend Diana Princess of Wales.

Covering the first five decades of Elton’s life, setting him in the context of the changing music scene, this is a vivid, perceptive, superbly researched account of a musical legend.

Nothing’s Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon by C. M. Kushins (13 Jun 2019)
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As is the case with so many musicians, the life of Warren Zevon was blessed with talent and opportunity yet also beset by tragedy and setbacks. Raised mostly by his mother with an occasional cameo from his gangster father, Warren had an affinity and talent for music at an early age. Taking to the piano and guitar almost instantly, he began imitating and soon creating songs at every opportunity. After an impromptu performance in the right place at the right time, a record deal landed on the lap of a teenager who was eager to set out on his own and make a name for himself. But of course, where fame is concerned, things are never quite so simple.

Drawing on original interviews with those closest to Zevon, including Crystal Zevon, Jackson Browne, Mitch Albom, Danny Goldberg, Barney Hoskyns, and Merle Ginsberg, Nothing’s Bad Luck tells the story of one of rock’s greatest talents. Journalist C.M. Kushins not only examines Zevon’s troubled personal life and sophisticated, ever-changing musical style, but emphasizes the moments in which the two are inseparable, and ultimately paints Zevon as a hot-headed, literary, compelling, musical genius worthy of the same tier as that of Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

In Nothing’s Bad Luck, Kushins at last gives Warren Zevon the serious, in-depth biographical treatment he deserves, making the life of this complex subject accessible to fans old and new for the very first time.

Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn by Brett Anderson (3 Oct 2019)
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‘A compelling personal account of the dramas of a singular British band’ Neil Tennant

The trajectory of Suede – hailed in infancy as both ‘The Best New Band in Britain’ and ‘effete southern wankers’ – is recalled with moving candour by its frontman Brett Anderson, whose vivid memoir swings seamlessly between the tender, witty, turbulent, euphoric and bittersweet.

Suede began by treading the familiar jobbing route of London’s emerging new 1990s indie bands – gigs at ULU, the Camden Powerhaus and the Old Trout in Windsor – and the dispiriting experience of playing a set to an audience of one. But in these halcyon days, their potential was undeniable. Anderson’s creative partnership with guitarist Bernard Butler exposed a unique and brilliant hybrid of lyric and sound; together they were a luminescent team – burning brightly and creating some of the era’s most revered songs and albums.

In Afternoons with the Blinds drawn, Anderson unflinchingly explores his relationship with addiction, heartfelt in the regret that early musical bonds were severed, and clear-eyed on his youthful persona. ‘As a young man . . . I oscillated between morbid self-reflection and vainglorious narcissism’ he writes. His honesty, sharply self-aware and articulate, makes this a compelling autobiography, and a brilliant insight into one of the most significant bands of the last quarter century.