books & reading

Romance

Everything I know about love I learned from romance novelsIt's Valentines Day and I'm reading Everything I know about Love I learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books (an actual excellent blog I'd recommend to anyone interested in the genre, the D and F reviews are howlingly funny).  Her other book Beyond Heaving Bosoms is also in the libraries.  They don't take themselves seriously, but they do take the topic of romance seriously, particularly when it comes to Genre Snobbery.

Romance is often the bottom of the pile when it comes to respect, dismissed as women's and often trivialised I sometimes almost feel like apologising when I admit to reading Mills & Boons and people sometimes ask me if I read "real" books.  For me Mills and Boons are often great fun, good reads and often a palette refresher. Yes the outcome is known, but that could be argued of a lot of genre books, at the end of a murder mystery you expect to resolve the murder, spy novels expect to save the world, it's the journey that matters, the way in which the characters resolve their relationship that matters with a romance.  Most fiction involve a romance of some sort in the story, it's the believability that counts.  How does James Bond manage to have so many women fall into his arms?

Pole to Pole

Scott2012 is the centenary of Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, arriving there only to find that Amundsen had beaten him to it by 35 days. The harrowing return journey, culminating in the death of Scott and his three companions, is a gripping story. In fact, the polar regions maintain a grip on the imagination, probably because so few of us ever visit them that they retain a mystery that has been lost to other places. Here’s a small celebration of all things polar.

Charles Dickens's 200th Birthday!

ScroogeFirst we had the 130th anniversary of the birth of James Joyce, now today, 7th February, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the world’s other greatest novelists, Charles Dickens!

And to mark the occasion, Laurence Foster has re-created Charles Dickens’ first public performance in Ireland, and the performances (Dickens in Dublin) are taking place in a number of our branch libraries (details below - but do check with location, may well be booked out at this stage).

Norway Revisited

Bergen, NorwayBack in March 2011 I wrote a post on Jo Nesbo, probably the best known and most widely read of the Norwegian crop of crime writers. Jo had been to Dublin, and I had the pleasure of meeting him in Eason's bookshop where he was in conversation with leading Irish crime novelist John Connolly. Since then I have been meaning to revisit Norway (metaphorically speaking on this occasion, have been to Bergen, wonderful in the sun if you can get it!) and talk of some of the other, maybe less well known, Norwegian crime novelists. Then, on the 22 July, the horrendous attacks in Oslo and Utøya that left so many dead and injured, and which are said to have changed Norway forever. And it felt somehow wrong for a time after that to write at all about crime fiction and applaud the many wonderful writers and novels coming out of Europe in general, and Norway in particular. And the very incident itself I know, has impacted not alone on Norwegian society, but also on Norwegian crime writers, and it might be fair to say that their future writings will have the shadow of the Oslo/Utøya tragedy over them. In this regard you may want to read the article "How do you write crime fiction in the wake of a massacre?" that appeared in the Guardian in November 2011.

Spotlight: Muriel Spark

Muriel SparkMuriel Spark (1918-2006) wrote psychological novels, usually set in respectable, middle-class environments but dealing with the darker side of human nature. Her writing is wonderfully economical, so that, though her novels are mostly short, they manage to convey a lot.  Chronology isn’t an important feature: they leap backwards and forwards in time, and you often know the ending at the start, or at least you think you do. Here’s a taster of some of her better-known works.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is probably Spark’s best known work, and one of her best creations. The magnificent and monstrous Miss Brodie teaches her classroom of girls about the art of life and love, while battling against the narrowness of her world, her loneliness, and of course her own prime.

Picks of 2011, Children's and Teen

There are no cats in the bookPart 3 of my three part comments on my own reading during 2011.  Non-Fiction was the first in the series with Adult Fiction second. This is my Children's and Young Adult or Teen reads.  Some great fantasy is being published in the Teen section and I do enjoy the reads.

I read a lot of books over the last year, approximately 290 of which I noted from the library.

Of all the books I read from the library some stood out, I couldn't pick a small number but I'm going to put them into themes and pick the best of that theme.  Sometimes it's hard to pick just one, the first listed is my favourite, the rest are in no particular order.  This isn't a definitive list, it's a list of books that are readable alone or are the start of a series, that I read during 2011, that stood out above the others and that I would recommend to others.

Adult Fiction favourites of 2011

Sprit Thief I was intending to post this earlier this week, and then I got laryngitis and my doctor determined that I needed rest, so here's part 2 of my 2011 favourites.  Fiction, of a more adult nature, post 1 was Non-Fiction and post 3 will be Young Adult and Children's

I read a lot of books over the last year, approximately 290 of which I noted from the library.

Of all the books I read from the library some stood out, I couldn't pick a small number but I'm going to put them into themes and pick the best of that theme.  Sometimes it's hard to pick just one, the first listed is my favourite, the rest are in no particular order.  This isn't a definitive list, it's a list of books that are readable alone or are the start of a series, that I read during 2011, that stood out above the others and that I would recommend to others.

My non-fiction favourites of 2011

Contemporary Irish KnitsI read a lot of books over the last year, approximately 290 of which I noted from the library.  Over the next few weeks I'm going to pick out a few that stood out from the herd.  This week is Non-Fiction.

Write to a friend!

Everything you need to know about letter writingDecember is National ‘Write to a Friend’ Month. With the advent of email and social network sites, few people write proper old-fashioned letters anymore - you know: the kind you don’t need to be logged on to read! The only mail we get through our doors these days is bills and junk mail, so we’ve forgotten how nice it is to get a real letter; and we’ve also forgotten how to write one, which is a shame. Here is a selection of books based on letter-writing to hopefully whet your appetite, stir your imagination, and get you into the mood to write to a friend.

The Snows They Melt The Soonest

As I get older, I increasingly think that it is a great pity that mankind does not follow the example of some of its fellow mammals and hibernate through the bleak months of winter. There is little to be said for a time when Mother Nature shuts up shop and darkness prevails. Thankfully a few things relieve the gloom - Christmas and books. Winter must surely be the ideal time for snuggling up in front of the fire with a good book. Here are a few that will make you glad that you are indoors, safe, and toasty-warm.

Season's Greetings to ye all.

The Worst Journey in the WorldThe Worst Journey In The World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)

A riveting account of Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole between 1910 and 1913. Cherry-Garrard joined the journey as a scientific advisor - to collect the eggs of the Emperor Penguin - but instead became a chronicler of horror. Freezing conditions, mental exhaustion, and physical deprivation are catalogued in a clear and simple manner. The spirit-sapping news that Amundsen has beaten them to the South Pole is conveyed without an ounce of self-pity. I dare you not to move closer to the fire when reading this classic of travel literature.

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