New Short Book Reviews – April 2017

Bless me gods of all literature, it has been 2 months since my last post  of reviews and in that time I have read…

Lisa McInerney – The Blood Miracles

If you remember how much I liked her debut The Glorious Heresies then it may not come as an enormous surprise to find that the continuing story of Ryan and those that surround him in Cork is just as compelling. Fast, elegantly written in a world of drugs, amorality and dance music but an expansion on the first book that’s far more than a sequel – you end up so much more invested in these characters than you ever were in TGH.

Genuinely, I’d forgotten how much I’d enjoyed her first novel and how I had to restrain myself from barrelling through it too quickly rather than slowing down and savouring what was on offer.

She has told the legendary “second album syndrome” to go feck itself here and I can’t wait for more.

An absolute must-read for me.

Michelle Tea – Black Wave

Now this was an unexpected (for me at least) and thoroughly entertainingly mind-bending read. Part (sort of) impending apocalypse book, part ramble through gay life and drug culture in 90s San Francisco and beyond, part hallucinatory story in which one Michelle steps in and writes about Michelle the character, mostly just fantastic and with prose in places that’s just edible.

Hard to explain so I’m not going to try, I just think you should grab it instead.

Samer – The Raqqa Diaries – Escape From Islamic State

Simply out, this is the non-fiction book I most want to put into the hands of complete strangers this year. It’s about the life of one young man living in Raqqa in Syria and the unimaginable fate that befalls him, his family and friends as ISIS take over his city and proceed to drag it back into medieval times before his escape to a refugee camp.

It is one of those books that could completely change your view on a whole part of the 21st century world and beautifully illustrated too.

Ciarán McMenamin – Skintown

As I said when I made it one of my books of the month over on the ROSBC this month Skintown is a debut novels set in the 90s in Enniskillen where a couple of young lads get caught in a huge drug deal on the rave scene between provisionals of both stripes just after the IRA ceasefire.

I read the first page of this and was immediately hooked. It’s rattlingly written, hugely immersive, funny too. Adored it. Cracking stuff.

Daniel Levitin – The Organised Mind

Not a new book but nonetheless The Organised Mind is one of those texts you need to read if you want to understand how the human mind works in an age of information overload that it was never genetically designed for. Yes, a small amount of skimming may be required as it’s a little dense in places but thoroughly worth your time and might even change the way you try to use (and organise) your brain.

Dave Rudden – The Forever Court

Did you, like me, read and really enjoy the first in this series Knights Of The Borrowed Dark? This, second book in the series, is a bajillion times better. And I don’t use that term lightly. Denizen is now fully in the world of the KOTBD, we’ve gotten all that messy introduction stuff out of the way and Dave now has free rein to, gloriously, let his extraordinary imagination fly.

People have (lazily) compared the first book in this series, a little, to Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter, but when was the last time J.K. Rowling wrote a sentence so beautiful you had to re-read it three times? That’s what you’re getting here. Incredible visual descriptions, ideas and conceits that start to drag this world into more YA territory (think Empire as opposed to Star Wars).

Book three. Now please.

Arja Kajermo – The Iron Age

What a little gem.

It’s a short, evocative novel of growing up in 1950s Finland in cold, miserable, hard conditions that one of the characters refers to as not being unlike “The Iron Age” before the family move to Sweden and attempt to assimilate in what seems like another world.

Now I know this could seem grim but, weirdly, I broke into smiles on a fairly regular basis as it’s wryly funny in quite a few places. The illustrations too are wonderful, just as evocative but with a hint of the strangely unsettling.

An unexpected joy from the current home run hitting champions of Irish independent publishing.

Laline Paull – The Ice

As with two of our other titles here, The Ice is a second novel from an author (here’s your reminder of how much I adored The Bees, her debut) but unlike the others it’s not second in a series but a completely different book altogether.

It’s the near future, the Summer Arctic ice has melted, opening up trade routes and a cruise, desperate for a glimpse of an almost extinct population of polar bears takes a route usually forbidden up a fjord. They witness a huge cleaving of ice and, in its wake, a corpse in the water. It’s the body of a man missing in an accident years previously and from there a narrative of love, friendship, money, politics and commerce unfolds into murkier and murkier waters…

China Miéville – The City And The City

Why, oh why has it taken so long for me to finally get my arse in gear and read China Miéville? This is, at its core, a crime story starting with a dead body being found under a mattress in an anonymous crappy Eastern European city and working through the investigation across two cities when it turns out the dead woman was killed in one and dumped in the other.

So far so ordinary, except that the two cities occupy the same place in space, that you can see from one into the other in certain areas and that both populations have trained themselves to ignore anything they might see in the other city for fear of being disappeared by the mysterious Breach.

Hands down one of the best SF novels I’ve read in forever. Intelligent, sweeps of Orwell, Kafka, North Korea and just a bloody great cop story too.

I’m always nervous about TV adaptations – the BBC have one of this coming out next year and the casting of David Morrissey is a great start…


More reviews from me and 6,999 others over in the Rick O’Shea Book Club: