Brilliant Book Titles #93

shotgunlovesongs

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

Blurb: 
“Impressively original.” ―The New York Times

“Sparkles in every way. A love letter to the open lonely American heartland…A must-read.” ―People

“The kind of book that restores your faith in humanity.” ―Toronto Star

Welcome to Little Wing.

It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friendsall born and raised in this small Wisconsin townit is home. And now they are men, coming into their own or struggling to do so.

One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stressesamong the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.

Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler’s hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story. Shotgun Lovesongs is that rare work of fiction that evokes a specific time and place yet movingly describes the universal human condition. It is, in short, a truly remarkable booka novel that once read will never be forgotten.

Audiobook Review: Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell

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I’ve been listening to lots of audiobooks lately, which is a rather new thing for me. Mostly, they’re books that I tried reading in print, and couldn’t get into/got distracted, and thought – hey, maybe the audio might be cool (I’m currently, very slowly, listening to Infinite Jest in audio, and am about 8 out of 60 hours in!). I had tried a couple of romance in audio, and they didn’t gel with me, but I decided to give this a go, and struck gold.

Michael and Nunzio, both in their 30’s, are best friends. Both teachers, they’ve never been together fully or thought of each other that way, until one night, with too much drink involved, Nunzio joins Mikey and a trick in a threesome. And from then, nothing is ever the same again. Throw in Mikey’s overbearing family, and Mikey’s inherited predilection for booze, and you’ve a whole host of problems.

I liked this book a lot. It’s not a light romance. There’s a lot of angst, and a good bit of mental health issues in it, but that’s fine by me – not all romance has to be candy canes and flowers. I liked that, a lot of the time, I couldn’t stand Mikey (which is fine, I do feel you shouldn’t have to like characters all the time to want to keep reading, although in romance that can be somewhat expected). He pissed me off no end, making stupid decisions, wrecking his life, not realising that the love of his life was right in front of him, the whole time. I felt sorry for Nunzio a little but I understood why Mikey was the way he was, and the journey he took to get there. A theme that runs through this book is that of making something of oneself, from Mikey struggling to keep a grip on things, and his drunk dad and unemployed younger brother.

A lot of whether an audiobook works for me is down to the narrator, and Mr Topsfield did a great job with this one – Nunzio’s voice, in particular, sent shivers down my spine, striding the mix of breathy and firm. I also liked his characterisation for Mikey’s brother, Raymond, and was disappointed to see that the same narrator wasn’t narrating the second book in the series (which is Raymond’s story).

There were definitely a couple of quibbles at times, but nothing major that really detracted from the story. The one that bugged me was Mikey (who I thought was like, 29, but was like 32/33) constantly referred to David (who was 24/25) as ‘kid’ and as being from a different generation. It seemed like something that someone much older would say but that’s really minor, and about all I can point at.

Five Boroughs is an interesting new romance series, heavy on the angst (in this book, but I don’t think necessarily in the rest) of which I’m very much looking forward to the next books (I’ve book 2 downloaded as an audio already and I may just start it right now!).

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The book version of this title is available for request at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 Gay Romances to Watch Out For

dearly-stalked
Dearly Stalked by Allison Cassata (23 Jan 2017)
Writing crime novels catapulted Memphis native Silas Cooper to fame and fortune, but when his words backfire and he becomes trapped in what could be one of his books, he needs a hero of his own.

Silas’s publicist insists he hire a personal assistant, and Silas chooses Scott Kramer. But before Scott starts, he already has a round of steamy phone sex to hold over Silas’s head, and his interest in his boss isn’t decreasing.

Benjamin Logan joined the Army to see the world, and while deployed he read every one of Silas’s books. With his military career over, Ben is back in Memphis working for the police department—and attempting a deeply closeted relationship with fellow cop Morgan Brown.

Over coffee, Silas and Ben become friends who support each other as relationships fall apart, and the attraction between them slowly emerges. When a dangerous stalker threatens Silas, it’s up to Ben to stop him.

If Ben fails, Silas might not live to tell this story… and Ben might not be able to live with himself.

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Clean Slate by Heidi Champa (30 Jan 2017)
Wes Green keeps everyone at arm’s length, either by pushing buttons or simply pushing them away. When that doesn’t work, Wes runs, as far and as fast as he can. This time, bolting from his boyfriend also costs him his professional organizing job. His last resort is to retreat to his brother’s basement and try to pick up the pieces. The only bright spot in his new life is his niece, Kelsey.

One day, while in Kelsey’s school drop-off line, he meets Sam Montgomery, the father of Maya, Kelsey’s best friend. When Wes finds out Sam is gay and interested in some no-strings-attached fun, Wes thinks he’s hit the jackpot. With boundaries firmly in place, keeping Sam at a distance should be easy.

What starts out simple quickly gets complicated when fun turns to feelings between Wes and Sam. But the baggage both men carry threatens to stop things before they start. Can Wes stay put long enough to find real love, or will old habits be too hard to break?

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As I Am by A.M. Arthur (1 Feb 2017)
Will Madden is healing.

Thanks to therapy and a growing support system, he’s taking baby steps into a promising future. One of those steps leads him to an online chat room, where he quickly bonds with fellow PTSD sufferer Taz Zachary.

Despite their virtual connection, Taz is initially freaked out at the idea of meeting Will face-to-face. A sexual relationship may be the last thing on his mind, but his craving for human interaction—and more of the way Will makes him laugh—gives him the courage he needs to take the next step.

In person, the chemistry between them is undeniable. But Will is hurt when Taz doesn’t seem to be in any rush to get him into bed. Still, acceptance, love and happiness all seem within reach for the first time in forever—until demons from the past threaten the future they both finally believe they deserve.

eagles-shadow
Witches of London – Eagle’s Shadow by Aleksandr Voinov and Jordan Taylor (4 Feb 2017)
What if the new love of your life also holds the keys to your past?

When Chicago journalist Tom Welsh meets British banker Sanders Templeton at a conference, Sanders insists they have a connection, though he does not know what it is. They’ve never met before—but the strangest thing is, Tom can also feel it.

Sanders Templeton is a highflier who has it all—the money, the lifestyle and a rare intellect. Only a few chosen people know that he also suffers excruciating pain since childhood, with no cure, a mystery to western medicine.

Sanders knows that meeting Tom may be the most significant event of his life. As their relationship deepens, they learn that this is not the first lifetime in which they’ve fallen for each other. This time, true love can be theirs if they find the courage to forgive.

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Shards in the Sun by Trina Lane (14 Feb 2017)
The heart of Texas beats strong, fueled by the love between two men whose lives are interwoven like the long grass of the hill country they call home.

Brandon Blackstun has spent the last decade moving on from the hellish halls of high school. With an invitation to his reunion in hand, he plans to show his former classmates that not only did the repeated occurrences of being slammed into lockers not cause brain damage, but he’s now a successful cover artist for the very books they buy off the shelves.

Tyler Synder was determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps as head of the international corporation that bears the family name. Instead, his heart is tied to the beat of his horses’ thundering hooves. He operates a breeding program for Tennessee Walkers and a guest ranch a couple of hours from the urban luxury of Dallas where he was raised.

The two men might live very different lives, but the heat between them is hotter than any Texas sun. With the help—or meddling—of an unlikely pair of friends, the two explore a relationship that stirs something deep inside them. Distance and misunderstandings force Tyler and Brandon to consider whether the fulfillment they’ve experienced in each other’s arms is worth the sacrifice of the lives they’ve built individually.

Texas may be the second biggest state in the union, but is it large enough to embrace the love between these two men, or will their deeply hidden fears shatter the boundaries of their hearts?

 

367 Days by Jessica Gadziala

367-days

Blurb: 

I’m not crazy.
It’s not amnesia.
But I somehow lost a year of my life.

When the cops and doctors think you’re out of your mind, but you still need answers, where else is there to turn but a private investigator?

Sawyer is nothing you’d want in a friend- a little detached, cool, sarcastic, cocksure. But he’s everything you’d want in a private investigator- calm, capable, experienced, and just jaded enough by the darkness he’d seen to take a chance on some random girl who insists something more sinister must have happened to her than simple memory loss.

But thrown together, trying to get to the root of my mystery, feelings that were most definitely not client/professional start to emerge.

Review:

This story starts out with Riya waking up behind a dumpster. She is completely lost, confused and in pain. She doesn’t know how she got there or what happened to her. She then figures out she has lost the last 367 days of her memory. Fate brings her to the doorstep of a brooding investigator, Sawyer. Where she asks him to figure out what has happened to her and hopes he doesn’t think she’s crazy!

367 days was great, it kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved Sawyer and his crew. They where funny and likable. I always love a good secondary Character myself! This was hot, funny and yet series. I was kept guessing which is very unusual,  I normal guess who did it within the first few chapters.

Defintely recommend reading 367 Days!

Brilliant Book Titles #92

the-viriginity-of-famous-men

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

Blurb:
The Virginity of Famous Men, award-winning story writer Christine Sneed’s deeply perceptive collection on the human condition, features protagonists attempting to make peace with the choices–both personal and professional–they have so far made. In “The Prettiest Girls,” a location scout for a Hollywood film studio falls in love with a young Mexican woman who is more in love with the idea of stardom than with this older American man who takes her with him back to California. “Clear Conscience” focuses on the themes of family loyalty, divorce, motherhood, and whether “doing the right thing” is, in fact, always the right thing to do. In “Beach Vacation,” a mother realizes that her popular and coddled teenage son has become someone she has difficulty relating to, let alone loving with the same maternal fervor that once was second nature to her. The title story, “The Virginity of Famous Men,” explores family and fortune.

Long intrigued by love and loneliness, Sneed leads readers through emotional landscapes both familiar and uncharted. These probing stories are explorations of the compassionate and passionate impulses that are inherent in–and often the source of–both abiding joy and serious distress in every human life.

Brilliant Book Titles #91

the-secret-lives-of-colour

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

Blurb:
‘A mind-expanding tour of the world without leaving your paintbox. Every colour has a story, and here are some of the most alluring, alarming, and thought-provoking. Very hard painting the hallway magnolia after this inspiring primer.’
Simon Garfield


The Secret Lives of Colour tells the unusual stories of the 75 most fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history. In this book Kassia St Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colours and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilisation. Across fashion and politics, art and war, The Secret Lives of Colour tells the vivid story of our culture.

Fight Your Own War: Power Electronics and Noise Culture edited by Jennifer Wallis

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One of the central tenets of this blog – something that I consider almost sacred – is that its contributors should review what they’re actually reading; if they’re reading a romance, I want them to review it, instead of feeling they should be reviewing a Booker Prize winner (unless, of course, that’s what they read this month, in which case, have at it).

It is in that vein that I’m reviewing this book. I dithered over it, considering that it’s a niche book for a niche audience about a niche subculture, but according to the central tenet, I must!

Before we begin, however, I must confess that whilst I was looking forward to reading it, I bought this book because a musical project (not power electronics, but another type of noise music) that I did for about eight years was briefly mentioned in it, which left me feeling lovely, and I was glad to be included about a book on noise music.

Whilst being a fan of noise music (for those who are wondering what exactly noise music is, I say two things: one, it is what it sounds like and two, there’s a good explanation here) but not particularly the sub-genre of power electronics, this is the first book that I’ve managed to make it through on the topic, but it’s given me the impetus to go back and continue reading the others (They are, for reference, the Irish academic and noise musician Paul Hegarty’s book, Noise / Music, and David Novak’s Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation), especially since they are felt throughout this volume.

As far as noise music goes, however, power electronics was never particularly something that I was drawn to, especially given the often ridiculous and offensive vocals that accompany the noise – my interests lay more at the harsh noise / wall noise (static noise) end of the spectrum, so I thought this book might be an interesting overview of the topic.

Overall, it is interesting, but I felt that overall, somehow – I can’t quite put my finger on it – I felt that this book evaded the topic. The subtitle Power Electronics and Noise Culture never feels resolutely (and thoroughly) addressed. Saying that, there is a huge swathe of articles about power electronics artists, and articles about both notable noise releases and aspects of noise culture such as noise zines.

I primarily bought this for my friend Clive Henry’s article on wall noise, Listening to the Void: Harsh Noise Walls which is an excellent exploration and quasi-history of the sub-genre, but what’s interesting is that the book doesn’t feel like it’s a book on noise culture; it feels like it’s a book on PE, and chapters like this, or on japanoise, feel somewhat out of place, despite being some of the best in the book. I suppose what I’m saying is that I wish this book had a tighter focus, almost, and excluded non-PE artists – I feel it would work better as a book. But then, I also would read an entire book about Harsh Noise Wall, and I’m probably in a very, very small minority.

To discuss the book a little more, it is laid out in three parts: Scenes, Performance and Readings. The opening chapter, The Genesis of Power Electronics in the UK, sets the scene quite well, as does Mikko Aspa’s chapter on The Rise of Power Electronics in Finland but some of the chapters are personal reminiscences of a scene based around a band’s viewpoint of their place in it – which while totally valid, I wish wasn’t the case. My favourite chapter of this first section was Chronicling US Noise and Power Electronics covering as it does a wide range of noise, projects and stances.

The second section, Experience and Performance, talks about noise performance, various notable venues and the like. Again, the most interesting chapters for me were the non-PE chapters, Clive Henry’s HNW chapter and Power [Electronics]: Exploring Liveness in Noise. It’s weird, I think as I write this I feel like the reason that that’s the case is because I’m just not really a fan of power electronics, so reading this book was a love/hate affair. I think, in addition to, and converse to my idea of just having this book as a book about Power Electronics, that it would’ve been stronger for me if it was a book about noise and noise culture, with all genres covered.

The third section is the most interesting in regards to PE. The first chapter, Questionable Intent: The Meaning and Message of Power Electronics was interesting, addressing the fact that a lot of PE projects use highly controversial imagery without comment or context. I feel that a lot of projects with very, very dodgy messages were almost let off the hook because it’s “art”, which shouldn’t be the case. You can talk about controversial topics, but when you make a career trading off controversy, sexism, racism, etc., you shouldn’t be surprised if people try and hold you accountable. What I would’ve liked in this book would’ve been a much more in depth treatment of race, culture and PE than was offered, and at least one where such content was taken to task. The most interesting chapters of this section were the two that viewed Power Electronics as a form of high-impact comedy; where the lyrics and vocals are so ridiculous that it can only be viewed as such. I’m not sure if I agree, but it’s an interesting thesis nonetheless.

What’s interesting though, is that the book ends with a chapter called Talking About Noise: The Limits of Language and the practical inabilities of accurate description, which is perfect for a book where the music discussed is pure noise.

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

5 New Horror Novels to Watch Out For

universal-harvesterUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle (1st March 2017)

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It s a small town in the center of the state the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and even if the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It s good enough for Jeremy: it s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targets an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store she has an odd complaint: There s something on it, she says, but doesn t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it s not defective, exactly, but altered: There s another movie on this tape.

Jeremy doesn t want to be curious, but he brings the movies home to take a look. And, indeed, in the middle of each movie, the screen blinks dark for a moment and the movie is replaced by a few minutes of jagged, poorly lit home video. The scenes are odd and sometimes violent, dark, and deeply disquieting. There are no identifiable faces, no dialogue or explanation the first video has just the faint sound of someone breathing but there are some recognizable landmarks. These have been shot just outside of town.

So begins John Darnielle s haunting and masterfully unsettling Universal Harvester the once placid Iowa fields and farmhouses now sinister and imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. The novel will take Jeremy and those around him deeper into this landscape than they have ever expected to go. They will become part of a story that unfolds years into the past and years into the future, part of an impossible search for something someone once lost that they would do anything to regain.


the-possessions
The Possessions by  Sara Flannery Murphy (9th Mar 2017)
For five years Edie has worked for the Elysian Society, a secretive organisation that provides a very specialised service: its clients come to reconnect with their dead loved ones by channelling them through living ‘Bodies’. Edie is one such Body, perhaps the best in the team, renowned for her professionalism and discretion.

But everything changes when Patrick, a distraught husband, comes to look for traces of his drowned wife in Edie. The more time that Edie spends as the glamorous, enigmatic Sylvia, the closer she comes to falling in love with Patrick. And the more mysterious the circumstances around Sylvia’s death appear.

As Edie falls under Sylvia’s spell, she must discover not only the couple’s darkest secrets, but also her own long-buried memories and desires ― before it’s too late.

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The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker (4 Apr 2017)
In the cold spring of 1936, Arthor Crandle, down-on-his luck and desperate for work, accepts a position in Providence, Rhode Island, as a live-in secretary/assistant for an unnamed shut-in.
He arrives at the gloomy colonial-style house to discover that his strange employer is an author of disturbing, bizarre fiction. Health issues have confined him to his bedroom, where he is never to be disturbed. But the writer, who Crandle knows only as Ech-Pi, refuses to meet him, communicating only by letters left on a table outside his room. Soon the home reveals other unnerving peculiarities. There is an ominous presence Crandle feels on the main stairwell. Light shines out underneath the door of the writer s room, but is invisible from the street. It becomes increasingly clear there is something not right about the house or its occupant.
Haunting visions of a young girl in a white nightgown wandering the walled-in garden behind the house motivate Crandle to investigate the circumstances of his employer s dark family history. Meanwhile, the unsettling aura of the house pulls him into a world increasingly cut off from reality, into black depths, where an unspeakable secret lies waiting.

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White Tears by Hari Kunzru (6 Apr 2017)
A feverish new tale from the bestselling author of The Impressionist: two ambitious young musicians are drawn into a dark underworld, haunted by the ghosts of a repressive past.

Two twenty-something New Yorkers: Seth, awkward and shy, and Carter, the trust fund hipster. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Rising fast on the New York producing scene, they stumble across an old blues song long forgotten by history — and everything starts to unravel. Carter is drawn far down a path that allows no return, and Seth has no choice but to follow his friend into the darkness.

Trapped in a game they don’t understand, Hari Kunzru’s characters move unsteadily across the chessboard, caught between black and white, performer and audience, righteous and forsaken. But we have been here before, oh so many times over, and the game always ends the same way . . .

Electrifying, subversive and wildly original, White Tears is a ghost story and a love story, a story about lost innocence and historical guilt. This unmissable novel penetrates the heart of a nation’s darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge and exploitation, and holding a mirror up to the true nature of America today.

the-truants
The Truants by Lee Markham (25 May 2017)

Following the suicide of his lover, the last of the ‘old-ones’ ancient immortal beings, as clever as they are ruthless and unable to withstand the light of the sun has decided to end his immortality. As he sits on a bench on the edge of a council estate to await his demise with the rising of the sun, he is mistaken for an old man, held up at knifepoint by a young man and stabbed before the sun burns his body to ashes. His assailant scurries back into the belly of the estate with the knife in his pocket, the blood of the old-one seared into its sharpened edge. But once the blade cuts another person, the congealed blood mingles with that of its victim, and awakens in them the old-one’s consciousness from the depths of the afterlife. It is not long before the knife draws blood again, and one by one the youth living on the estate are taken over by the old-one’s mind. Determined to die, he must find and destroy the knife before his soul becomes irrevocably dispersed in the bodies of the city’s children, trapped forever in its feral underbelly. But someone is out to stop him… Inspired by the murders of Baby P, Jamie Bulger and Damilola Taylor, and by the London riots during the summer of 2011, The Truants is a visceral, intelligent, gripping novel which uncovers the fragility and hopelessness of Britain’s social underclass and the horror of their everyday lives.

The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa

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Possibly the best book I have read all year! , It is the little known story of Roger Casement’s activities as a champion for human rights in the Congo and later in Peru. His reporting on the atrocities and the suffering he endured in bringing them to public attention earned him his knighthood. In the book, he is in Pentonville Prison awaiting sentencing and it tells how his consular work on behalf of “The Empire” eventually convinces him of the criminality of colonialism. From this realisation he is consumed by the injustices perpetrated by the British in Ireland and how he tries to embrace his celtic origins .

The story of this virtually unsung hero of 1916 is told so poignantly it would make a great book club read; it covers so many controversial topics and taboos at the time that it created as big an impact as Oscar Wilde’s earlier trial.

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

Brilliant Book Titles #90

keith-moon-stole-my-lipstick

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

Blurb:
A star-struck, naïve 17-year-old country bumpkin leaves her mum, her cat, her budgie and her 16ft caravan home in Oxfordshire and catches a coach to a near-mythical land – London and the Swinging ’60s. Days later, mascara running, itching in her prickly suit and stammering from shyness, she turns up for a job interview with the UK’s first ever pop magazine, Fabulous (later Fab 208). On the strength of a letter she invents on the spot, she is miraculously hired and begins the job of her dreams.

In Keith Moon Stole My Lipstick – which, of course, he did – Judith Wills reveals her remarkable story. She sang with Freddie Mercury, got high with Jim Morrison, had a strange encounter with David Bowie, babysat Kate Beckinsale, accompanied Billy Fury to a christening, went hiking with Mr Spock, starred at the Albert Hall with Tom Jones, lunched with George Best, graced the red carpet with Peter Sellers, got chased by Andy Williams, had the Book of Mormon read to her by an Osmond, and met – and sometimes had to fight off! – just about anyone who was anyone in the day.

Later to become a respected food and health author and journalist, one day Wills decided to return to her time of pop heaven and hell and tell the true – and sometimes shocking – story of those years.