books & reading

Window on a winner

The Real RebeccaI am on record as being not very caught up with the entire book awards industry.  However this week I couldn't but be caught up with Anna Carey's experience of the Irish Book Award.  The Real Rebecca is a book I've watched happen over twitter with a woman I don't think I've ever met but I care about. 

It's funny, I have no idea why I followed Anna (or Urchinette as she is known on Twitter), possibly because she's a fellow Irish Knitter, possibly because a friend recommended her, but I do.  I watched over the last year or so as she wrote the book, launched it in the Gutter Bookshop (and watched the Gutter Bookshop on Twitter talk about their preparations for the launch) and watched both of them worry about people not turning up (thankfully people did).  I waited with bated breath for it to turn up in the libraries and snapped up an early copy to read it and enjoyed the story of a girl trying to prove who she is in the face of a mother who wrote about a character not completely unlike her.

Barry shortlisted for Costa Award!

Kevin BarryCongrats to Irish novelist Kevin Barry on being shortlisted for the 2011 Costa First Novel Award for his novel City of Bohane. Three other authors are shortlisted in this category of the annual Costa Book Award.

Judges: "Startlingly original – a tour de force of language and imagination."

City of Bohane'City of Bohane' is a visionary novel that blends influences from film and the graphic novel, from Trojan beats and calypso rhythms, from Celtic myth and legend, from fado and the sagas, and from all the great inheritance of Irish literature" (catalogue summary).

Kevin Barry was born in Limerick in 1969 and now divides his time between Sligo and Dublin. He won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2007 for his short story collection There are Little Kingdoms

Kevin was one of a number of authors involved in a series of talks and readings presented by Dublin City Public Libraries and Ireland Literature Exchange in the Central Library in May 2011.You can listen on our blog to Kevin reading from City of Bohane, and taking questions afterwards.

Swedish Crime is on the Climb (Part Four)


This is the last of four in my series on Swedish crime writers (until I discover and read more!), I hope you get lots of enjoyment from some if not all, should you dare to be so ambitious as to read all! But why not, can you think of a better pastime? And should you have a different  view from me on any, do share by commenting on any of the posts, I will take no offence (or try not to!). Happy reading.

Kerstin Ekman (b.1933) is the author of Blackwater (1996) 2 stars, a novel set in remote northern Sweden. Teacher Annie Raft stumbles upon the bodies of two campers, apparently stabbed to death in their sleep. The crime remains unsolved until eighteen years later when she sees the man she suspected of being responsible for the murders in the arms of her daughter. I didn't really enjoy this book I'm afraid, I found it slow and uninvolving. I have just finished another of her books, Under the Snow (1997), which I am going to desist from giving a star rating for the simple reason that I am not sure if it were the book or me on this occasion, but, well, when the shortest book (164 pages) I have read in a long time takes me an inordinate amount of time to read, something is amiss.

Literary Award Longlist is out!

The International IMPAC Dublin Award Longlist came out this Monday, read on to find out what I think about the Longlist and some of my picks.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't read many deep and serious fiction books.  I am the despair of my mother and professorial sister.  I don't normally peruse award longlists, not any of the calibre of the IMPAC Dublin Award.  Let's be honest here, the Romance Writers of America Awards or some of the Fantasy or SF awards aren't treated as seriously as many of the more literary awards.  And the IMPAC Dublin Award is pretty serious. 

Glasnevin hosts ghostly launch

If you were passing the gates of Glasnevin Cemetery on Wednesday 26th October at about 6.30pm you'd be forgiven for thinking that ghosts were walking. Just as the moon rose eerily over the O'Connell monument, giving it an alien sheen against the darkening sky, small creatures with strange faces and stranger shapes moved through the famous 'Dead Centre of Dublin' and disappeared into the doors of the new Museum building.

The Season Of The Witch

Halloween seems to be as good as time as any to peruse the Gothic section of your local library. Horror supremo Stephen King recommended that everyone should have a favourite reading place in their home. A comfy seat, adequate lighting, sufficient distance from domestic distractions and your favourite tipple to hand are prerequisites. Try some of these 'delights' over this coming Samhain. Beats bobbing for apples anyway...


Ireland nominates Conor Kostick for Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize

Conor Kostick photo by Mark GrenierAuthor Conor Kostick has just been nominated by Ireland for the prestigious international award The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. 'It's very flattering', Conor told me when I met up with him on one of his visits to Cabra Library to meet young readers. 'I'm really proud of the honour and very proud of the association with Astrid Lindgren herself. In Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren created one of the most delightfully irreverent and independent characters in children's literature; this creation was connected to the fact that Astrid Lindgren herself was a radical humanist and opponent of violence. There is a humanist philosophy at work in my books and maybe they (the nominating bodies) picked up on that. I'm extremely proud to be associated with her legacy.'

You can choose your friends...

The Addams FamilyThe family is a rich source of material for novelists – the dramas, feuds, bonding, support, recriminations, and downright insanity of families have kept writers in ideas for centuries. Happy families don’t tend to make for good reading: all happy families are alike, and who’d want to be a Walton anyway? Here are a couple of suggested reads which revolve around the ups and downs of family life.


Everything ChangesEverything Changes by Jonathan Tropper is the story of Zack, a thirtysomething who finds life becoming increasingly complicated: unhappily engaged to the ideal woman, secretly in love with the widow of his best friend who died in a car crash, and, along with his brothers and mother, still suffering the fallout from being abandoned twenty years earlier by philandering Norm. Norm’s reappearance on the scene, derelict and Viagra-fuelled, and his (pretty funny!) attempts to patch things up with his family, form the catalyst for Zack to take back control of his life. Lots of great characters,  particularly Norm and housemate Jed. Tropper looks at the complications of family loyalties and the sheer inertia that can take over people when going through tough times in a way that’s both humourous and realistic.

Life On Mars?

Science Fiction is 'Literary Marmite' for most readers. Either you love it or you hate it - although, curiously, any scepticism about the genre disappears once it is dressed up as 'literary fiction', e.g.   1984, A Clockwork Orange, Never Let Me Go, Cloud Atlas, The Road, anything by the great J.G. Ballard.

Curious Ear and curious ear...

book cover taking sidesNo, this post hasn't anything to do with Alice in Wonderland - I just couldn't resist the lame pun (I'm a tabloid sub-editor in an alternative life). The 'curious ear' I refer to is the RTE radio programme The Curious Ear, part of RTE radio's Documentary on One. The Curious Ear team were at the Central Library on Monday 10th October to record a visit by Irish children's author Brian Gallagher and his young readers and listeners. Brian has just published his second historical novel for young readers, 'Taking Sides' set in Dublin during the Civil War. The book is an exciting read, following the fortunes of a group of young friends, as they get caught up in a Civil War that tears families and a country apart.