Judas by Amos Oz

judas

I’ve only read one other book by Oz (Panther in the Basement) but I’m very impressed by him. Israel’s baneful treatment of the Palestinian people, particularly in light of all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, is one of humanity’s great failures in the 20th century. Oz manages to imbue his fiction with parables of how and why Israel have failed to live peacefully alongside their Levantine neighbours without ever laying the blame, fairly or unfairly so, at anyone’s doorstep. Stories of great personal trauma, of a generation post-independence Israelis struggling to understand their nation’s belligerence towards their Muslim neighbours whilst never questioning that fire can only be fought with fire.

One thing you’ll notice reading this book is that Oz tends to repeat himself, or rather, his characters do. Again and again, they tell the same stories, have the same arguments and complete the same domestic rituals. It’s wonderful prose, written with great humour, of a people seemingly locked in an eternal struggle for survival but the repetitiveness tells its own story. It’s Oz’s tribute to humankind, a celebration of banality, way of showing us that life goes on while the shots echo across no man’s land. If nothing else, I would advise anyone read Oz for the simple truth that you are what you read. If you want a two state solution between Israel and Palestine to remain a mystery, then keep reading thrillers and forget about Oz.

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

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Brilliant Book Titles #217

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

Blurb: 
As a teenager in Nottingham, Tom Cox was possessed. Despite the best endeavours of his frankly rather groovy parents, nascent fashion sense and regular exposure to credible music from an early age, he was inexorably drawn into the bizarre, esoteric world that is golf, with its male-bonding rituals and strange trousers. And thus a strange hybrid was born — from 1988 to 1995, Tom was Midlands golf’s answer to Iggy Pop.

Assisted by his fellow junior members at the local club, he cut a swathe through the golfing establishment, putting dead animals in his fellow golfers’ shoes, setting fire to the club professional’s shop, bringing Colin Montgomerie close to tears and repeatedly wearing the wrong colour of socks. On the golf course he felt simultaneously at home and somehow alienated. But Tom also wanted to be (and became) the best, taking five years out of normal adolescent existence to live, breathe, walk and talk nothing but the sport he loved.

Nice Jumper is the story of how Tom tried to fit in, failed, got down to a handicap of two, tried to fit in again, got suspended from the club, got corrupted by rock and roll, then attempted to corrupt golf itself. Original, poignant and highly entertaining, it’s a book about one teenager’s obsessive attempts to attain sporting nirvana – despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fashion.

Brilliant Book Titles #216

hum if you don't know

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

Blurb: 
Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred…until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

Told through Beauty and Robin’s alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don’t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

From Bended Knee to a New Republic: How the Fight for Water is Changing Ireland by Brendan Ogle

from bended knee to a new republic

I was firmly on the fence during the anti-water charges campaign of 2014-2016 in Ireland. I can remember thinking that water shouldn’t be privatised and “fair play” to the protesters for getting out and exercising their democratic rights, but further than that, I couldn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. A year ago, I would have told you that this was because I came from a family that was financially comfortable and politically status-quo. While both of these reasons are probably fairly accurate, I’m more aware now politically in ways I never been had before and this book is a decent contributor to that process.

I’m beginning to suspect that the mainstream Irish media and political establishment aren’t being fully honest with the electorate. If they are being honest, I’m also beginning to suspect that they’re only in the position they’re currently in because it’s impossible for them to conceive of anything otherwise. It’s a complete and total cognitive dissonance, in which the alternative reality wherein Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael aren’t in power, inequality isn’t a fact of life and the Sunday Independent isn’t gospel is a dangerous world where the sinister fringe has taken over.

Brendan Ogle’s book is a personal journey as much as it is an account of the lifespan of the Right2Water movement. He comes across as very humane, very fair and principled. He never goes below the belt in his criticisms of his political opponents and makes some compelling arguments backed up by facts and figures to get his point across.

The book does have some weak points though. It could have definitely used a good editor to iron out the typos (there were quite a few and to give the whole book a better structure, e.g. Ogle includes the submission to the Government’s expert commission at the end of the book and it feels as if the entire book has just been condensed to 12 pages. And I’m no expert on debating but surely you should avoid rhetorical devices like “…and don’t even get me started on private schools!”.

It’s very readable though, which non-fiction often isn’t, and since Brendan himself works as a educator in political and economic issues for the trade union movement we shouldn’t be surprised. Anyone at all, no matter your background/accent/educational attainments, could pick this up and feel well-armed the next time they get into a political debate and well-able to put smooth talking guff merchants firmly back in their box.  And well they should.

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

Chaser by Kylie Scott

Chaser

Blurb: 

Given his well-earned bad boy reputation, Eric is having a tough time scoring.. When single Jean moves to town, she seems heaven sent by the sex gods. Only problem is, she not only wants nothing to do with him, but it turns out that she’s pregnant.

Starting over in a small town, Jean is determined to turn her wild lifestyle around and be the kind of mother she always wished she’d had. Since local bar owner and all round hottie, Eric Collins, is now determined to steer clear of her pregnant self, it should be easy. When she goes into labour during a snow storm and her car slides on some ice, it’s Eric who comes to the rescue.

There seems to be a bond between them now, but is it enough? And can Eric give up his manwhore ways to be the man Jean needs?

Review:

5 Dive Bar Stars

Chaser by Kylie Scott is the third book in the Dive Bar Series and it was not what I was expecting at all. Eric is part owner in Dive Bar and he has a new woman in his bed ever night. He is up front with them all that he is not into commitment and is just in for a good time. Not one of his friends thinks he can be celibate for any amount of time, So Eric plans to put them all in their place and prove them wrong.

Jean is pregnant and has no one but herself and a few friends and she is going to prove to herself and her parents, who have abandoned her that she can do this on her own.

Hell, I loved being the person she asked for help. Being the person she relied on, someone she trusted, felt damn good.

Both out to prove that they can do it, the two end up bounding and becoming fast friends. No one believes Eric when he says he just wants to be friends and help Jean out. So much so that Jean is warned against him, but Jean sees a different Eric that maybe his friends haven’t seen before. Like always I love great secondary characters and this book has this in spades.

This was a bit of a surprise for me, it was so sweet, funny, and so emotional, I couldn’t put it down and the spark between Eric and Jean was epic and I couldn’t get enough of their story. Eric might just be my new favourite in this series.

Brilliant Book Titles #215

busman's honeymoon
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
A must-read for fans of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Margery Allingham’s Campion Mysteries, Lord Peter Wimsey is the immortal amateur sleuth created by Dorothy L Sayers.

They plan to have a quiet country honeymoon. Then Lord Peter Wimsey and his bride Harriet Vane find the previous owner’s body in the cellar.
Set in a country village seething with secrets and snobbery, this is Dorothy L. Sayers’ last full-length detective novel. Variously described as a love story with detective interruptions and a detective story with romantic interruptions, it lives up to both descriptions with style.

Brilliant Book Titles #214

three martini

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

Blurb:
Parents were here first! How did the kids suddenly take control? Sure the world has changed from the days when children were supposed to be seen and not heardbut things have gotten a little out of hand. What about some quality time for the grownups? Author Christie Mellor’s hilarious, personal, refreshing, and actually quite useful advice delightfully rights the balance between parent and child. In dozens of short, wickedly funny chapters, she skewers today’s parental absurdities and reminds us how to make child-rearing a kick. With recipes, helpful hints, and illustrations, this high-spirited book is the only book parents will really needand enjoy.

The Vertical Plane by Ken Webster

the vertical plane

There is a podcast I love called This Paranormal Life. In it, one ‘paranormal investigator’ presents this weeks case to the other, full of whatever evidence they can find, to the other. These two guys are absolutely hilarious, and this comedy podcast presents the world’s weirdest and wackiest paranormal cases, which whilst hilarious and first to make fun of it, is also seriously interested in its topic.

Anyway, this is where I heard about this book, and case, which was featured in a rare two part episode (part 1 here and part 2 here, or check your podcast provider). The Vertical Plane details a paranormal case that happened in England in the 1980s. The book was published in 1989 and went out of print, with prices fetching into the hundreds for it. As a result, the book was republished late last year.

The blurb for the book sets up the story quite well:

A unique supernatural detective story.

For a period of two years, Ken Webster found himself in the extraordinary position of corresponding directly with an individual who had lived on the site of his own cottage four centuries earlier. The correspondence began with messages left on his home computer on the kitchen table, and ended with communications scrawled directly onto paper. Fully prepared for some form of elaborate hoax, Webster found to his consternation that the language of the messages tallied precisely with 16th century English usage.

The Vertical Plane is a riveting personal experience of an inexplicable fault in the fabric of time – and a moving account of a relationship mediated across four hundred years.

This book is an in-depth account of this relationship, and the messages. Is it real? Who knows. The story is certainly a rollicking good read with twists and turns, and it is strangely moving – you can tell Ken and crew grow to view this person/hoax/paranormal event as a genuine friend, which makes it all the sadder that their time is limited. Throw in messages from the future which begin to happen later, and you get a really interesting account.

Recommended for those who like their stories weird and wonderful, and maybe, possibly, even true…

(and of course listen to the This Paranormal Life episodes!)

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

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

then she was gone

Review

As a reluctant reader, I picked up this book expecting to lose interest a few chapters in but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Having thought of Lisa Jewell as a chick lit writer, I didn’t hold much hope for her first thriller. This book was a real page-turner for me, it’s a great story and is more than just a little bit disturbing. I’ll definitely be reading another of her books soon.

From the beginning I was hooked, all the characters are relatable, some are likeable and some aren’t. Poppy in particular really gave me the creeps! It got a little bit predictable in the second part of the story when we learn what happened to Ellie, but then went on to give us some more good twists and turns. The ending came as a bit of a shock to me and, as someone who usually spots a plot twist a mile away, that was a really nice treat!

Blurb

THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s
golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie
disappeared, but Laurel has never given up
hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long s THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s
golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie
disappeared, but Laurel has never given up
hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

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

Brilliant Book Title #213

man of war

Blurb: 
“A rollicking good ride.” –Jay Winik, bestselling author of April 1865

It’s the middle of a heat wave, and Charlie Schroeder is dressed in heavy clothing and struggling to row a replica eighteenth-century bateau down the St. Lawrence River. Why? Months earlier, Schroeder realized he knew almost nothing about history. But he wanted to learn, so the actor–best known for his role as Mr. Pussy on Sex and the City–spent a year reenacting it.

Man of War is Schroeder’s hilarious account of the time he spent chasing Celts in Arkansas, raiding a Viet Cong village in Virginia, and flirting with frostbite en route to “Stalingrad” in Colorado. Along the way, he illuminates just how much the past can teach us about the present.