Title: Future Popes of Ireland

Author: Darragh Martin

Pages: 448 pages

Publisher: Fourth Estate

The Blurb

In 1979 Bridget Doyle has one goal left in life: for her family to produce the very first Irish pope. Fired up by John Paul II’s appearance in Phoenix Park, she sprinkles Papal-blessed holy water on the marital bed of her son and daughter-in-law, and leaves them to get on with things. But nine months later her daughter-in-law dies in childbirth and Granny Doyle is left bringing up four grandchildren: five-year-old Peg, and baby triplets Damien, Rosie and John Paul.

Thirty years later, it seems unlikely any of Granny Doyle’s grandchildren are going to fulfil her hopes. Damien is trying to work up the courage to tell her that he’s gay. Rosie is a dreamy blue-haired rebel who wants to save the planet and has little time for popes. And irrepressible John Paul is a chancer and a charmer and the undisputed apple of his Granny’s eye – but he’s not exactly what you’d call Pontiff material.

None of the triplets have much contact with their big sister Peg, who lives over 3,000 miles away in New York City, and has been a forbidden topic of conversation ever since she ran away from home as a teenager. But that’s about to change.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I don’t really know what I was expecting when I picked up The Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin. I knew it would have something to do with Ireland – that was a given and I knew it was going to be a family drama but how it was going to play out I was at a bit of a loss with. I think I wanted a book version of Derry Girls meets Mrs Brown. Sadly, I don’t feel I got that.

This is not a critique on the writing of Darragh Martin. I want to make that very clear. He has obviously invested a lot of time into writing and researching his book. For me, it just felt very disjointed. The way the timescale lashed forwards and backwards and the extremely short chapters or segments of chapters left me feeling dizzy and constantly trying to play catch up over which character I was reading about. It was due to this that I didn’t feel like I could connect with any of the Doyle family.

This is something that I don’t particularly like in any book but I think it is brave when a writer uses that choice of style.

Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin is available now.

Title: We Should All Be Feminists

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pages: 65 Pages

The Blurb

A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

An eBook short.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences – in the U.S., in her native Nigeria – offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a best-selling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today – and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

The Review

I’ll start this review with a personal anecdote.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing what he would like to do for his birthday. He said that he would like to stay in a really fancy hotel that we had been looking into staying in for a while. I thought that this was a great idea and since it is six months until his birthday it gives me time to save up. When I told him this, he became sweetly defensive and told me that he didn’t expect me to pay for it. This was lovely of him to say because I earn substantially less than him. What I earn in a month he can in 3 times that amount in a week. However, it will be his birthday and I told him no, that I will pay for it. We then argued for a bit and I posed the question to him asking if it was my birthday and I wanted to stay somewhere would he let me pay and he became quiet before agreeing that he wouldn’t let me. When I asked him what the difference was his response was….wait for it…. “because I am a man.”

Apparently you need to have a penis to pay for hotels these days. Who knew?

Now my boyfriend is a good guy, he is respectful and he does believe that everyone (not just women) should have equal rights and I would even say that he is a bit of a male feminist. However, these ideals of men have money, they pay for things, this is how the world works mentality is so ingrained in our minds and societal functionality that even he slipped up and made this faux pas.

This whole theme of male power is the concentration of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay, We Should All Be Feminists. This essay was only written a few years ago but the same issues are happening everyday in modern society: men get paid more for the same jobs that women do; men still hold the majority of high paid positions; women still take on the bulk of housework whilst holding down a full time job. Now, of course, you could argue that these are massive generalisations and I am homogenising groups for my own pleasure but, come on, even you (dear review reader) have to admit that there is some truth in what I am saying.

Please give this short essay a read; it is fascinating in the fact that many things that we take for granted – both women and men (linguistic flip intended) – and gives us a deeper insight into modern society and how much things have changed yet how much there is still yet to achieve.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is available now.

Synopsis

Lena Dunham invites you into her world and delivers an account of some of the random events that have shaped her life and made her the person she is today.

Review

Pssst! Yes you, the one reading this. I have a slight confession. Before reading Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I didn’t have a clue who Lena Dunham was. I’ve never watched HBO’s Girls nor had this tiny blonde lady from Manhattan made it anywhere near my radar (Lena Dunham – if you are reading this then I am very sorry). Instead, I was drawn to her book in that very way that us ‘high-brow’ book bloggers hate admitting to. I liked the pink and black writing on the cover. I hang my head in shame.

Having read Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I do feel like I know who Lena Dunham is. Not just in a 21st century someone-who-is famous-and-therefore-known sort of way but on a more personal level.  This may seem like a crazy idea being that Dunham is only really showing us what she wants us to see; revealing only the parts of herself that she deems suitable for human literary consumption.

However, I get the sense that Dunham knows that the events of her life are funny and that by sharing them she really isn’t looking for judgement but looking to allow the reader to realise that life – anyone’s life – is full of humour, sadness, ambition and dark matter amongst a whole list of other things. She seems so conscious that in parts she comes across as a little unhinged but she bares her bones to us and good on her. There is a cathartic self-indulgence to this memoir in the sense that whilst I know the stories belong to someone else it has allowed me to reflect on my own life, the memories that have made up my story and it has given me the genus to laugh along with some of the things I used to take seriously.

So whilst I can’t honestly say that this book has inspired me to have a Girls marathon it has inspire me to take life as it comes and see the potential in each event I encounter. For that I thank you, Lena Dunham.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham is available now.

You can follow Lena Dunham on Twitter @LenaDunham

 

Synopsis

Lena Dunham invites you into her world and delivers an account of some of the random events that have shaped her life and made her the person she is today.

Review

Pssst! Yes you, the one reading this. I have a slight confession. Before reading Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I didn’t have a clue who Lena Dunham was. I’ve never watched HBO’s Girls nor had this tiny blonde lady from Manhattan made it anywhere near my radar (Lena Dunham – if you are reading this then I am very sorry). Instead, I was drawn to her book in that very way that us ‘high-brow’ book bloggers hate admitting to. I liked the pink and black writing on the cover. I hang my head in shame.

Having read Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I do feel like I know who Lena Dunham is. Not just in a 21st century someone-who-is famous-and-therefore-known sort of way but on a more personal level.  This may seem like a crazy idea being that Dunham is only really showing us what she wants us to see; revealing only the parts of herself that she deems suitable for human literary consumption.

However, I get the sense that Dunham knows that the events of her life are funny and that by sharing them she really isn’t looking for judgement but looking to allow the reader to realise that life – anyone’s life – is full of humour, sadness, ambition and dark matter amongst a whole list of other things. She seems so conscious that in parts she comes across as a little unhinged but she bares her bones to us and good on her. There is a cathartic self-indulgence to this memoir in the sense that whilst I know the stories belong to someone else it has allowed me to reflect on my own life, the memories that have made up my story and it has given me the genus to laugh along with some of the things I used to take seriously.

So whilst I can’t honestly say that this book has inspired me to have a Girls marathon it has inspire me to take life as it comes and see the potential in each event I encounter. For that I thank you, Lena Dunham.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham is available now.

You can follow Lena Dunham on Twitter @LenaDunham

 

As you may have seen (if you have read my previous post A Month in the Life of a Book Addict) I am addicted to books. I am not ashamed of this addiction…although I am slightly worried about my inability to stop buying books and also the structural integrity of my home under all the weight of the paper. I love books of all kinds and from most genres. If there are words on something I will give it a read – there is no prejudice here. An often told anecdote in my family is how I used to take forever with my breakfast because I would be reading the cereal packet.

It has been said (although not over my aforementioned breakfast table) that when you see someone reading a book you like it is the book recommending the person…or something to that effect. What I have noticed about myself recently is that a new reading habit has emerged. I like reading books about books. I am drawn to knowing what authors are recommending, why they liked the book, what was going on in their lives during this time. Frequently, the books that they mention make it to my book wish list even though I have far too many to read as it is. My Kindle books are in the thousands, my NetGalley downloads are becoming silly and my actual physical copies already manifest two small shelves, one large double layered shelf and I have had to purchase a further six tier double layer shelf for the overspill.

Quite frankly, this amount of literature is daunting. When you think about it and you do the maths I will probably never read all the books that I own. This will not be through lack of trying. At thirty years old, let us say that I am (optimistically) a third of the way through my life. Let us also imagine that I average one book a week (this is a very conservative estimate) that means I only have approximately 3,120 books left to read. This is terrible. In those optimistic sixty years that I have left there are bound to be more books that are released that I want to read. I am mathematically screwed.

However, that does not stop me reading books about books which kind of negate the whole point of reading books; books which deserve to be read.

That being said, here are three of the best ones that I have read recently.

 

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

As some of you may or may not know, I almost died this year. If you didn’t know then you can read all about it here – My IBD Story. However, I didn’t die but recuperation has taken (and is still taking) a long time. Since being out of hospital I have spent my days reading; consuming books with a vociferous appetite. A book that I happened to stumble across was this delightful little gem – The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails.

Broken down into its simplest form it is a book that looks at what illness or condition that you have and directs you to the best literature to make you feel better. So say you are fatigued or you suffer from insomnia or you are an alcoholic or you have period pain this book has the answer for you. It is great because you can dip in and out of it or you can do what I did and read it from A to Z. A lot of the joy comes from seeing the writers mention a book that you have read.

This is definitely the quirkiest book that I have read this year and one that I will probably be giving out to my friends at Christmas time.

 

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller

Ok. I admit it. I was seduced by the title. Escaping near death made me hungry for adventure; safe adventure mind, nothing more daring than perhaps a paper cut from a new book purchase. Also, having nearly died this year (have I mentioned that I nearly died?) I wanted to see if literature could save my life too. Heck it had already cured my ails; and it had also cured my boredom – seriously sitting in bed getting better for a few months takes its toll on the levels of boredom. So with eagerness I picked up this tome from Andy Miller and you know what, I am awfully glad that I did.

Why you may ask. Well let me tell you. This book was special. The premise being that we all fib a little bit about literature. We have said we love a book when never having really read it just so we can stay in the conversation or even just to make ourselves look smarter.

I myself have never lied about this…well that is technically not true. I have a mini confession. Well two really. The first is that I have never made it all the way through Anna Karenina. I got to the book about the fields and I just kind of gave up. Yet on my Goodreads account I still have this Tolstoy classic listed as a book that I am currently reading. I have technically been currently reading it for near on fourteen years. I will finish this book one day. No. I will start it afresh. I will not be beaten by a man and his love for his fields.

My second confession is that I can’t actually remember if I have read Little Women or not. I know what you are thinking. How could someone not remember reading a classic like Little Women? The thing is that I know the story so well. I just can’t remember if that has come from watching the movie or reading the book. Therefore I have added this to my ‘to-be-read’ list. At least then I will know that I am not a literature fraudster.

What I liked about this book was that Miller allowed you to see how and why books mean so much to him and how they shape aspects of his life. I both respect and relate to that. Again, the titillation came from knowing that I had read certain books. Miller did have a lot on his list that I had never even heard of and so I am now keen to read some of them too.

My book wish list had increased by at least 20 at the end of reading it. This does not bode well for me.

 

Stuff I’ve Been Reading by Nick Hornby

I have recently found myself on a Nick Hornby kick. I read Juliet, Naked and A Long Way Down among others. I even did a crazy eBay order which mean accidentally purchased two copies of High Fidelity. I loathed the film even with my bizarre crush on John Cusack but I wanted to give the book a whirl.

Anyway, when I was in my local library I saw this book and I thought to myself “Hey, I like Nick Hornby’s writing. I wonder if we have any books in common.” Out of the plethora of books featured in this book (which happens to be a collection of his articles from Believer magazine – which is, to my knowledge, not affiliated with Justin Bieber or his fan base) I had read three of them. Three. Now I consider myself well read so this low number is shocking but I guess this is what happens when you read books about books rather than reading book books.