Sunday, January 30, 2011


Pages: 273
Date: 30/01/2011
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 11 Elvis Cole

Before I start this review I should probably admit that I just love the characters of Elvis Cole and Pike, and seem to be loving them more with every subsequent book in the series. They really can't do any wrong by me. And neither can the author. He never fails to pull me into his stories and hold me in his grip until I've read the very last word of what is always a thrilling and fascinating mystery.
In this, the 11th book in the Elvis Cole series, Elvis finds himself revisiting a case he thought he had closed years ago.
Seven years previously he was asked to investigate a man who was accused of having killed a young woman. Through a witness statement he proved that the man, Lionel Byrd couldn't possibly have committed the murder, and Byrd was released without the case every going to trail.
Now Byrd has been found, apparently after committing suicide, with a photo album in his lap containing photos of seven girls, taken just moments after they were murdered. The police waste no time closing both the investigation of Byrd's death and the seven as yet unresolved murders; Byrd killed them all. They also waste no time rubbing Elvis' mistake in his face.
Elvis Cole is not so easily convinced though. He knows that his investigation years ago was solid and if Byrd couldn't have committed that murder, there's a good chance he didn't commit the other six either.
And with the police investigation, such as it was, having been highly unusual and secretive, Elvis has every reason to be suspicious.
This was a solid mystery, with less violence then I've come to expect from Robert Crais' books, but just as much tension. There was a nice twist near the end of the story and no loose ends that I could detect.
I find myself in a bit of a quandary now though. Do I rush on and read the next book ("The Sentry", a Joe Pike story) leaving me only the soon to be released "The Sentry" to look forward to. Or do I leave it for a bit, and drag the pleasure out with a bit of anticipation? Decisions, decisions..

Sunday, January 23, 2011


By accident far more than design my library book club and I found ourselves being filmed by TV3 last Monday while we were being interviewed about our thoughts on THE TWELVE by Stuart Neville.
Before I write about the actual experience of being filmed and seeing myself on television, I suppose I'd better explain how we ended up in that situation.
A while ago Bord Gais Energy (Ireland) started a book club (BGEB) online which I joined as soon as I found out about it. Since there was an option to register book clubs, and it came with the promise of prices if you were selected as book club of the month, I signed my Bailieborough Library Book Club up as well. I don't remember seeing any mention of TV3 or the possibility of a book club being picked for a television appearance, but that may well be a case of me not paying enough attention.
I had sort of forgotten about signing the book club up when I received a news letter from BGEB and discovered, much to my surprise, that my book club had been picked both as book club of the Month for January AND to read and discuss a book for a broadcast on TV3.
Thanks to wintry weather and the Christmas holidays the copies of THE TWELVE reached us rather late and all of us had to do some speed-reading to have the book read in time for filming. But, we all managed it. Not in the least because THE TWELVE is a very well written and gripping story.
Last Monday morning a small crew from TV3 arrived in Bailieborough library at 11 in the morning and spend the next two hours filming the book club, the library and individual interviews with six members of the book club. 
All of us were a bit nervous and giddy about the thought of being filmed and subsequently broadcast. The actual filming was far less scary than we thought though. Because the individual sections were done through a process of questions and answers (with only the answers being broadcast) we were able to concentrate on Michelle, who was asking the questions, and more or less ignore the fact that there was a camera there.
After the interviews were over, the library itself was filmed, both inside and out.
The following morning just before half past nine we could see ourselves on television. I have to say it's strange to see and hear myself like that. 
Why is it that I never look or sound like I think I do?
Other than that though, I'm extremely happy with the six minutes piece that was broadcast that morning. It advertises my library to its best advantage and I do think that all of us came across as reasonably sensible and well spoken people, even if they did get the name tags a bit mixed up. Just in case you're curious, I am the person who is identified as Pauline Keogan (and she appears with my name attached). If it had been left up to me to create a piece to advertise the library and its book club, I couldn't have done a better job.
I'm not sure I'd want to appear on TV again, anytime soon. But the experience wasn't anywhere near as frightening as I thought it would be. 
Whether or not I'm right to be proud of what went out you can judge for yourself here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Pages: 318
Date: 22/01/2011
Grade: 4+

This is a book about World War Two, but it is different from most of the books about that time I have read.
A lot of the story is set in America in 1941 before the US entered the war. Yet, some Americans were in England and Continental Europe, already part of a war that most of America saw as having nothing to do with them.
This is the story of three women.
Emma Fitch has recently married Will, a doctor in Franklin on Cape Cod and for the first time in a long time Emma feels like she belongs somewhere, with someone. For the first time in a long time she feels safe. Then, after a tragedy occurs, Will decides to go to England to offer his medical services there and Emma once again finds herself left behind and on her own.
Iris James is the postmistress in Franklin and prides herself on running a faultless postal service, making sure that the messages people send each other safely make it to where they should be.
Frankie Bard is already in London where she's a radio reporter, bringing the ordeal of the Blitz to the listeners in America. Trying to tell the truth and make them see and care about what is happening in Europe but never convinced that she is succeeding.
Then one day, after a very bad night in London the lives of the three women collide, although none of them is aware of it. And before the summer of 1941 has come to an end, all three women will have dealt with tragedy and two of them will have done something that is completely against everything they stand for and believe in.
Yes, this is a story about the war. But it is also a story about loneliness, about being isolated in a world filled with people. It's a story about the choices we make and what constitutes right and wrong. A story about how sometimes the wrong thing can be the only right thing to do.
This is a very good story with several layers. I didn't find it an easy book to read though. A lot of what was happening, of what was being said and more importantly what was not being said made me feel very uncomfortable. The feeling the book left me with is one of sadness about lives so very close, yet never really able to touch each other. This is a story I will be thinking about a lot in days to come.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Pages: 354
Date: 17/01/2010
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Northern Ireland thriller

This the second thriller by Stuart Neville set in Northern Ireland and it is another fast and furious story with lots of violence.
The story starts a few months after the end of The Twelve. The main character this time is Jack Lennon, the policeman who left Marie from the first book when she was pregnant with his daughter, Ellen.
Marie and her daughter have disappeared after all the violence they were exposed to, and Jack is trying to find his daughter and to discover what exactly happened before she disappeared. But as he asks questions and starts digging he keeps on running up against conspiracies and secrets. When people who were connected to the earlier events start dying, Lennon is convinced they are being murdered because of that connection and that Marie and his daughter are also in danger. His superiors in the police force however seem determined to not investigate the suspicious deaths and keep on warning him to let the whole situation rest.
The instigator of this new round of violence is Bull O'Kane. When Gerry Fegan allowed the Bull to live during their confrontation he created a wounded but still powerful enemy. An enemy who now only has one purpose in life, to get his revenge on Gerry and who will do anything to get it. Bull has hired a killer, at least as ruthless as Gerry used to be, to kill all those who were connected to Gerry's killing spree and then to get Marie and Ellen in order to draw Gerry out.
Gerry meanwhile is in New York trying to build himself a new and non-violent life. Deep inside though he knows that unfinished business waits for him in Northern Ireland and that it's only a matter of time before he will have to fulfill his promise to Marie and go back to protect her and her very special daughter once again.
This book is at least as well written as the first one. Another book that grabs you by the throat on page one and doesn't let go until you've read the last word on the last page. It is also once again a story filled with lots of, at times very brutal, violence. But, I did think this book was more balanced than The Twelve. Where I thought there were just black characters in The Twelve, the characters in this book have more nuances. Even Gerry Fegan, who is only one of the characters making a re-appearance, comes out of this story looking far better. While I was looking for reasons to like Fegan in the first book, I didn't have to try at all in this one. With his ghosts out of the way, he was only a man looking for a quiet life, forced to keep his promise.
Lennon is also a well-rounded character. There are definitely sides to his character that are easy to dislike, but he's really just a man like any other, trying to do his best but bound to fail every now and again.
I also like the super-natural aspects to these stories. They may take a back seat to the more standard thriller aspects of the stories, but they give these books that little extra that makes them stand out from your run of the mill thriller.
I really hope Stuart Neville continues with this series. I'd love to meet Lennon and Ellen again in the future and see how their lives develop.

On a side note; On this book is listed as the second Jack Lennon thriller. Because Lennon didn't really feature in the first book at all I decided to list it as I did above instead.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I don't usually participate in reading challenges. I like to pick my reads as the mood strikes me and a reading challenge can potentially lead to the feeling that I have to read (a) certain book(s) before a given date. 
However, I do like the sound of this particular challenge.
I like the idea of reading at least a few books this year that is either written by an Irish author, set in Ireland, or involving Irish history or Irish characters. 
I've lived in Ireland for almost 14 years now and still feel that I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to reading Irish authors. This challenge might just give me the push I need to read a few more. 
The challenge itself is not too demanding either. Yes, the participant commits to reading a certain amount of books, but the numbers are, for me anyway, quite low:

Shamrock level: 2 books
Luck o’ the Irish level: 4 books
Kiss the Blarney Stone level: 6 books

I've decided to commit myself to reading at least 6 Irish books this year, but would be disappointed if I didn't read a few more then that. Especially since I'm already on my second book by an Irish author this year and have at least two unread books by Irish authors on my shelves. Working in a library will make it very easy to come up with any other Irish novels.
For anyone wanting to know more about this challenge, here's the link to the Ireland Reading Challenge 2011.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Pages: 433
Date: 14/01/2011
Grade: 4.5

In terms of year of publication Oryx and Crake would be a prequel to The Year of the Flood. However chronologically it would be more accurate to call it a parallel novel, if there is such a thing.
We are once again introduced to our world at some time in the (not too distant?)future. A lot has changed, whole species of animals are completely distinct and human experiments have introduced new creatures; combinations of pre-existing animals theoretically with only the good qualities of old species, but in reality turning out to have quite unexpected and often undesirable characteristics.
This is the story of Snowman, formerly Jimmy, who is, as far as he knows the only human survivor of a worldwide disaster. Dressed in only a sheet he sleeps in a tree and keeps an eye on "Crake's People", a new creation looking somewhat like humans, but also completely different. With little to occupy his time Jimmy/Snowman spends his time looking back on his life and on the events that lead to him being in the position he finds himself in.
Slowly a picture emerges of a world where the population is divided up into basically two groups. There are the privileged ones who are talented enough to work for the corporations that create products, medication, new animals and anything else their minds can think of that might create a profit. And there is the rest of humankind, living in what's called the Pleblands where life is less regulated and far more dangerous.
Jimmy is the son of corporation employees but doesn't have an easy life. His mother runs away and disappears when he's still young. He's nowhere near as smart as most of his contemporaries and struggles with life.
When he's in his teens Crake enters his life, and although he doesn't meet her face to face, so does Oryx.
Crake is a genius, a quality that will end up having severe consequences for Jimmy and for the whole of humankind.
This story, like the one in The Year of the Flood leaves the reader with lots of fruit for thought. If, like me you are already afraid of the human need to expand, dominate and "improve", this book will re-enforce those fears. No conspiracy theory I have come across paints as bleak a picture as these two novels do. And yet it is all to easy to believe that some day, something like this could all to easily happen. A very bleak picture presented in a way that is all to plausible, this is a story that will stay with me for a long time.
There is room for a third book I think, one that does take the story forwards from the endings of both books. I hope Atwood will write that book.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Pages: 464
Date: 09/01/2011
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 1 Jack Lennon Investigations

I read this book for the Bord Gais Energy Book Club on TV3’s “Ireland AM”.
Coming Friday some my book club will be filmed while we answer questions about this book the result of which will be broadcasted at a later date.
In the time between now and then I’ll have to try and figure out what I actually think about this book.
This is the Story of Gerry Fegan. For years he was a hit man for the Republican’s in Northern Ireland, killing who he was told needed to be dead without questioning either the deed or the motives of those ordering him.
Now Fegan finds himself haunted by the ghosts of 12 people he killed. They won’t leave him alone, following him everywhere they leave him sleepless and trying to drink himself and his ghosts into oblivion.
But no amount of drink can keep the ghosts at bay. They want their revenge on those who ordered or caused their deaths, and they want Fegan to do the killing.
And so Fegan finds himself in modern day Belfast, hunting down those the ghosts want killed and doing the ghost’s bidding. And with every new killing, Fegan loses a ghost.
But today’s Belfast in this book is not such a different place from what it was during the troubles. The hard-men still run the city, politicians scheme to gain or retain power and the powerful both, Republican and British, won’t stand by and allow a lone madmen to derail what it took them over 30 years to accomplish.

I’m really not sure how I feel about this book.
It is really well written and it’s a page turner if ever there was one. Once I started reading the book I couldn’t put it down.
On the other hand, I can’t remember ever having been this enchanted by a story in which none of the characters appeared to have a redeeming quality. The problem with this book is not that it’s too black versus white, it is that there appears to be no white, and not a whole lot of grey either.
At times while reading The Twelve I really wanted to like Fegan, wanted to try and explain his actions, both in the past and now, away, wanted to make it alright for him to be who and what he was. But really, you can’t. He is a cold blooded killer. Killing in the past because he was told to do so and killing in the present to make his pain go away. But always killing because “he had always thought of killing as work”.
This book also left me feeling that either Stuart Neville is very cynical or I’m a complete innocent. My fear is that I’m probably an innocent, and that is a very scary thought. 

I will say this for the book though:
It would also make a great discussion book. 
If I find myself arguing with myself in my review I can only imagine what it might be like if I had others to discuss this story with.
It is however not a book for those who abhor violence, nor for those who can’t read about cruelty to animals. And if you want your endings to be of the (all) evil gets punished variety, you’d better stay away from this book too.

Morality issue and possible spoiler:
Fegan’s killing spree was really only about getting rid of his ghosts, in an effort to make his own life bearable again. It had nothing to do with trying to right wrongs or get revenge for those who had unjustly been killed. He only killed those who the ghosts pointed out to him and allowed others, at least equally bad, to live because they had no ghost attached to them.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Pages: 336
Date: 07/01/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 2 Flavia de Luce Mystery

This book was send to me by Bookdagger for my honest review.

This is the second book by Alan Bradley featuring the precocious Flavia de Luce.
Flavia is eleven years old, the youngest of three sisters who live with their philatelist and rather absent father in a mansion in the country-side in England in the 1950's.
Flavia could easily have been a lonely and sad little girl, bullied by her sisters, half believing that she caused her mother's death and more or less ignored by her father, but she's far to busy to be miserable. Her natural curiosity, her chemical laboratory, her fascination with poisons and her trusted bicycle Gladys combined keep her more than occupied.
It is on one of her rambles in the neighbourhood that she meets puppeteer Rupert Porson and his assistant Nialla. She immediately senses that there is a strong undercurrent between these two characters and that there might a mystery to resolve. But even Flavia's more than active imagination couldn't have conjured up what happens during a show put on my Rupert and Nialla. Within days of first meeting the duo Flavia is not only trying to solve a murder she all but witnessed but also the tragic death of a five year old boy six years earlier.
I do enjoy these mysteries, and am growing quite fond of Flavia.
The mysteries are very well plotted and the solutions make perfect sense. The characters in the book are quirky and eccentric enough to keep a smile on my face and the story flows really well.
My only reservation is that Flavia at times is a bit too precocious for an eleven year old. While in may ways she is a child and acts as one, she seems to be a bit too wise when it comes to solving a crime, and, this stretches the imagination the most, understanding the motivations of adults.
I personally could also do without the, at times very elaborate, descriptions of chemical experiments and compounds.
But, despite these two, minor, issues I do enjoy these books and the character of Flavia a lot. And I'm very happy to know that a third book in this series is due to be published this year.

On a side-note, I ran into two coincidences while reading this book.
To start with, the line I quoted from my previous read, Alice in Wonderland, "I shall begin at the beginning, and go on till I come to the end. And then I shall stop" made a re-appearance in this book. Serendipity like that never ceases to amaze me and happens more often that you'd expect.
The second surprise was to find an online friend and fellow book enthusiast, Lesa Holstine, mentioned in the acknowledgements.
Surprises like that make reading even more fun than it is for its own sake.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Pages: 164
Date:; 04/01/2011
Grade: 4

It's hard to know what to write about story that everybody in the world must be familiar with, even if they haven't read the book.
Most people would know about the little girl, Alice, who is out with her sister when she sees a White Rabbit in a waistcoat, looking anguishedly at his pocket-watch, muttering to himself about being late.
Being a curious little girl, Alice can't help herself and follows the rabbit down a rabbit hole only to find herself in a world filled with strange and wonderful creatures.
She finds herself growing very small and very tall in turns, scaring little animals by mentioning her cat, playing a strange game of croquet and taking part in a trial in front of the king and queen of Hearts, who appear to be obsessed with chopping heads off.
This is a wonderful children's book, and I enjoyed reading it.
My main reason for picking it up though was to familiarize myself with Wonderland and it's creatures now that I've taken a liking to Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars series, and I do feel that I'll have a better picture in my head now.
This copy of the book also contained the nonsense rhyme, The Hunting of the Snark. Which is exactly what it proclaims to be, nonsense put to rhyme. Great fun, but don't try to make sense of it.
Now I'm ready to get back to Beddor's series in the near future.

Two side-notes:

I read the short biography of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) that was included in the book and have to say I had quite a few qualms about his fondness of children and little girls in particular. I can't help wondering what we would think about him if he were alive now. Having said that, maybe I'm seeing sinister motives where none were intended by Carroll. I suppose we will never know for sure.

Finally, here is what must be my favourite quote from the story:

"Begin at the beginning, the king said, very gravely, and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Pages: 435
Date: 02/01/2011
Grade: 4+

When you decide to read a book that has received some serious hype, that everybody appears to be raving about and that's about to be turned into a movie, I suppose there's always the risk of setting yourself up for a disappointment.
This wasn't so much a disappointing experience, as not quite as good as I hoped it would be.
I love the premise of following two people over the course of twenty years by focusing on a single date, year after year. It gives the reader all the information she needs to keep up with the lives of the two main characters, but also keeps the story steadily moving forwards.
I really like that this is basically the story of my generation. The two main characters meet in 1988, when they graduate from university. A year later I graduated myself. But, that's also where one of my personal downfalls of the novel occurs. I don't recognize a lot, if anything, of myself in these two contemporaries.
This is the story of Emma and Dexter, who spend their graduation night, July 15th, and the following day together. Both are really drawn to each other, but Dexter is about to go travelling and that first encounter is over within 24 hours.
Over the subsequent years they stay in touch, sometimes through letters, sometimes face to face, but never losing contact for a long time. They never really get back together either. Although it's clear from their individual stories that they care about each other and probably should be together, jobs, other people, drink, drugs and life in general keep on getting in the way.
While Emma struggles to get herself out of a dead end job, Dexter finds fame as a television personality. But with the fame comes a life-style that isn't very attractive and might well destroy him.
Emma, at the same time, seems to have a hard time allowing herself to be happy, to follow her dreams.
Years later, when it is Dexter who is facing a tough time and Emma seems to have made it they are granted another opportunity at happiness together. But are they really destined to get that?

If I'm honest I have to admit that as much as I got caught up in the story, I really didn't like the main characters very much. I wanted to shake Emma for most of the first part of the book and tell her to kick start her life already. And don't even get me started about Dexter who came across as self-indulgent, selfish and childish in his efforts to sabotage his life. While I could see why Dexter would want Emma in his life, if only to provide stability, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why she stayed so hung up on him.
This book fascinated me, kept me compulsively reading and I did really enjoy it. But, like I said before, it just didn't quite live up to what I hoped it would be.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Well, 2010 is over, and it is welcome to 2011 and a happy New Year to everybody.
Last year was not a bad reading year for me at all. I didn't manage to read as many titles as I did in previous years, but that's just due to having less time. Taking on a course in Local Government Studies took up a lot more of my time than I thought it would and did cut into my reading time. Since I won't take my exam until April, the same will be true for 2011, but it's all in a good cause.
I did have a few nice developments last year.
First of all, I discovered the joys of Young Adult and, to a lesser degree, juvenile fiction, and I can definitely see myself reading more books aimed at younger people in the future.
Secondly, I've discovered the joys of receiving books from publishers and bookshops for review. This was both encouraging, because it's nice to think that people like my reviews enough to want me to review their books, and fascinating because it brought me books I would otherwise never have encountered.

Here are the statistics for last year:
I read 144 books of which only 36 copies were my own. I guess that is an occupational hazard for a librarian, but it still isn't good enough. With over 150 unread owned books on my shelves, and in the certain knowledge that I bought more than 36 books last year, I'll have to make sure I read more books of my own shelves in the future.

My favourite books last year were:
ROOM by Emma Donoghue
NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro
THE REBEL PRINCE by Celine Kiernan
THE LACUNA by Barbara Kingsolver
AMONG THE MAD by Jacqueline Winspear

Not quite a top 10, but why restrict myself? It was hard enough getting the list down to these 13 titles (16 if you count the trilogy as three books), and I didn't want to force myself into further reductions. Also, the titles mentioned are not the only books I read last year that I marked 5 or more; in total there were 42 books ranging between 5- to 5++. The big question being if that is because I tend to mark high or because I'm good at picking books for myself. I guess it's probably a mixture of both. 
The books I listed above made the list because they still made me feel excited about having read them, because they made me flash back to the feelings they invoked at the time, and because I can see myself reading them again at some point in the future.

Another highlight of the year was the meeting my book club had with Celine Kiernan, author of THE REBEL PRINCE, last October. It's so rewarding to be able to discuss a book with its author, and when that author happens to be a very friendly and engaging person, you find yourself rewarded with a brilliant experience.

As far as my reading plans for next year. Well, I don't really have any. I hope to continue reading at least 10 books a month and I intend to read more of my own books. However, that last resolution is one I have at the start of every year, so whether I actually manage to read more of my own books remains to be seen. 
Ultimately my goal for next year has to be to continue enjoying my reading and writing about what I read as much as I've done this year. If I manage that, next year will be another reading success.