Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Classic and Contemporary Titles by Irish Authors

St. Patrick’s day is more than an excuse to wear green and pinch those who aren’t, it’s also a great time to read globally, rather than locally. There are a host of traditions that are celebrated each year around the holiday, several of which include:

  • Boston – St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston bring over 600,000 visitors to the city, which has a large Irish-American community. The city has one of the largest parades, which many veterans take part in, and events are held in the large number of Irish pubs in the city. The Irish Cultural Center holds a celebration, and many events feature Irish food, such as corned beef.
  • New York – New York City is the place of the oldest civilian parade, which boats over 150,000 participants. This may include veterans along with firefighters, policemen, and cultural clubs. It is led New York’s 69th infantry regiment. Another city in New York state, Pearl river, has the second largest parade in the state with crowds of over 100,000. In Buffalo, there are two St. Patrick’s parades.
  • Ireland – This celebration is more religious in nature, as it is considered a religious feast day. While it was made an official holiday in 1903, the first Saint Patrick’s Festival was held in 1996. During these recent years, the even has become more cultural and consists of many celebrations in the streets. – ( St. Patrick’s Day – The History and Traditions Of St. Patty’s Day. https://wilstar.com/holidays/patrick.htm)

If you’d prefer to keep the celebration more low key, go to your local library, pull up a chair, and tuck into some fantastic Irish titles this holiday.

1. If you’d like to start off with a bang, why not dive straight into Ulysses by James Joyce. As a staple of 20th century literature, Ulysses follows the events of a day in Dublin in 1904 and what happens to the characters Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and his wife Molly. Ulysses is a slice of the day to day of human condition, and stands the test of time as a moment in writing that cannot be forgotten.

2. From the critically acclaimed author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne, comes The Heart’s Invisible Furies . The novel tracks a man’s life in post-war Ireland and the main characters complicated relationship with Catholicism.

3. Described by The Irish Times as “arguably the most talented writer at work in Ireland today,” Lisa McInerney‘s debut novel The Glorious Heresies follows the fringe life of a city plagued by poverty and exploitation, where salvation still awaits in the most unexpected places. Following several main characters through a variety of criminal and difficult situations, McInerney captures hope in the underbelly of a small community.

4. John Banville‘s The Sea is an intimate look at the power of love, loss and the power of memory. This Booker Prize–winning novel follows Max Morden, an Irishman experiencing the loss of his wife and traveling back to his childhood seaside town. Banville does a fantastic job weaving together the history of Morden’s wife, both her life and death, into one powerful story.

5. Emma Donoghue, Dublin native and bestseller brings the story of mother and child to life in Room. Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating–a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

Looking for more? Check out these authors/titles you may have missed.

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Normal People by Sally Rooney

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

 Faithful Place by Tana French

Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

What, I ask you, is better that curling up inside with good book when it’s cold and blustery outside? So grab a blanket and a hot beverage, throw another log on the fire, and grab a couple of library books to cozy up with during the long winter nights ahead.

Here are ten to tempt you:

Beartown by Frederik Backman. People say Beartown is finished. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. Five people, buffeted by life’s difficulties, come together at a rundown estate house in Northern Scotland during a revelatory Winter Solstice.

One Day in December by Josie Silver. Tells the story of Jack and Laurie, who meet at a bus stop and continue to circle each other’s lives seemingly fated to be together, except not actually managing it, for a ten years.
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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. A childless couple working a farm in the brutal landscape of 1920 Alaska discover a little girl living in the wilderness, with a red fox as a companion, and begin to love the strange, almost-supernatural child as their own.
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The Snowman by Jo Nesbø. In Oslo, after the first snow of the season has fallen, a woman disappears, and a sinister snowman is left in her wake. Detective Harry Hole realizes that this is only one of multiple disappearances, he begins to think a serial killer may be at work.
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Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
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Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg. Isaiah, the son of one of Smilla Jasperson’s neighbors, is found face-down in the snow outside her Copenhagen apartment building. Smilla quickly rejects the official verdict of accidental death when she observes the footprints the boy left in the snow, and starts investigating.
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Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva. After poor reviews about his latest book, writer Charles Dickens is given a one-month ultimatum by his publisher to write a successful, nostalgic Christmas book, a challenge that is complicated by self-doubt and the hardships of an impoverished young woman and her son.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The classic tale chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. In an alternative world in which every human being is accompanied by an animal familiar, the disappearance of several children prompts Lyra and her bear protector to undertake a journey to the frozen Arctic in pursuit of kidnappers.

 

The big, BIG list of literary adaptions coming to screens in 2020

There are so many outlets for watching movies and series out there nowadays, the amount of content is a bit overwhelming! With the current glut of original content hitting our big and small screens, it can be a bit of a shot in the dark to find something to watch that’s actually good. Which is why literary adaptations are experiencing a bit of a heyday, movies and TV based on popular books have a built-in fan base from people who’ve read and enjoyed the books, and also introduce the source material to new readers.

Several book-based series are continuing with new seasons this year:  season 5 of the Starz series Outlander, (based on The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon), season 3 of BBC series C.B. Strike, (based on Lethal White by Robert Galbraith),  and season 2 of the HBO series His Dark Materials, (based on The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman) are all coming to the small screen in 2020.

Beyond that, the list of new movies and television set to be released in the coming year is  HUGE. Check out all this book-based programming :

JANUARY

FEBRUARY

MARCH

APRIL

MAY

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

DECEMBER

There are still more book adaptations expected to premiere in 2020, with release dates yet to be finalized:

This is not a completely comprehensive list, and is subject to change as the year goes on. What literary adaptations are you most excited to see this year?

 

Susan’s Best Reads of 2019

I don’t read as much as I wish I could; I just don’t have time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I wind up with sometimes 600 page books in my hands, and those take longer.  I never know what I’ll read next, and I read a bunch of good ones last year. Here are some of my favorites:

One of the two best books I read this year, I’ve already blogged about: Creativity, Inc, by Ed Catmull, was amazing. Not just a history of Pixar films, it’s also the best darned, most entertaining book on business and employee management you will read. Pixar is a 5-star company for a reason.

The second of my Best Reads this year is The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James.  From approximately 1898 to 1912, a serial killer traversed the US by train – coming through New Haven’s Union Station on the way – with an MO of bludgeoning his victims with the back of an axe. Because of communications at the time, few people were able to connect the murders. James painstakingly, with the utmost detail, traces the dozens of murders and examines them, deciding if they were likely by the same killer or not, and why. He traces the paths through the states and the seasons, chasing the trail to a man who was most likely the killer. By the time he’s done, you are convinced and amazed. I could not stop reading this book. I read it while waiting for the school bus. I read it while cooking. I would have read it in the shower if I could have. If you love a mystery, if you love history, if you love crime stories, this book is a must.

I’m only 30 years late in reading Neuromancer, the Hugo-winning cyberpunk novel by William Gibson. I can see why it is held as one of the greatest novels of our time. Gibson predicts and writes about today’s modern computers and internet and gaming – long before they existed. The scenarios he describes are both familiar and futuristic at the same time. While not only visionary, it’s written in  a flawless style and with realistic, interesting characters. If you loved Ready Player One or The Matrix (which has to have been influenced by this book), you will love Neuromancer.

If you’re aware of social and racial issues, I strongly recommend Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson. A professor of writing, in achingly beautiful prose worthy of Martin Luther King Jr., with the voice of a preacher without being preachy, Johnson breaks down the issues faced in his own family, examining how he came to where he is, how racism played into it without even being visible, and how despite all the odds, it’s possible to thrive. He covers harsh topics without flinching. The book is brilliant, spellbinding, and a superb read from a voice that soars with truth.

Far more than I expected, I loved Total Recall, an older door-stop of a biography on Arnold Schwarzenegger. From his birth in a tiny town in Austria (which still has only 2500 people) to his divorce from Maria Shriver, Arnold is witty and candid and down to Earth. No matter what you think of his politics or his movies or his personal life, this book may be older, but it was highly entertaining. His best friend just died in September of this year.

Not my favorite, but worth mentioning because of its local importance, is Frog Hollow  by Susan Campbell. Campbell, a former reporter with the Hartford Courant, digs into the history of the notorious Frog Hollow section of Hartford, and through tireless research shows the former glory of the neighborhood as not only an important area in Colonial times, but once a major manufacturing center (in 1898, Pope automotive made half the cars in the US). I was hoping for a deep sociologic dissection of the issues, but instead Campbell gives us an upbeat view from street level about the good aspects of Hartford and the people who live there, not just the doom and gloom of ad-selling news clips.

Last but not least, I’ll throw in a kid’s series you probably missed; with 18 years between my last two kids, I certainly did, but my youngest is so hooked on the British easy reader series Urgency Emergency! by Dosh Archer, I wound up buying most of them. The series is so witty and enjoyable you don’t mind reading them over and over again. Doctor Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the Pengamedics, in predictable melodrama, assist the maladies of Humpty Dumpty, The Big Bad Wolf, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and many more. They are a delight. The library has several of the stories; be sure to read them all!

Fooled by Fiction – 11 Books with Surprising Plot Twists

Ever read  book and gotten to a part where you just had to put it down for a minute and go “WHAT???”. If you’ve ever felt a little pranked by a plot twist you didn’t see coming (and even liked it!), here are 11 books that fool you into thinking one thing, then a “big reveal” changes everything …

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court and she discovers she has an ability of her own.


The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. Melanie knows that she is a very special girl, but she doesn’t know why. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, a gun is pointed at her while two of people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh… wait till you find out what’s so special about this girl.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben. Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to?

The Girl Before by JP Delaney. Seizing a unique opportunity to rent a one-of-a-kind house, a damaged young woman falls in love with the enigmatic architect who designed the residence, unaware that she is following in the footsteps of a doomed former tenant.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and deadly secrets.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down upon them. But nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. And neither is Teddy Daniels.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child & a painful past. As police try to get to the bottom of the hit-and-run accident, they are frustrated by unexpected twists in the case.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  A zookeeper’s son sets sail for America, but the ship sinks and young Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with a handful of remaining zoo animals. Soon it’s just Pi and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, lost at sea for months together. When they finally reach land, the tiger escapes, leaving Pi to relay the story of their survival at sea to authorities, who refuse to believe his tale and press him for the “truth”.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. The rise of a terrorist organization, led by a waiter named Tyler Durden who enjoys spitting in people’s soup.  He starts a fighting club, where men bash each other, which quickly gains in popularity, and becomes the springboard for a movement devoted to destruction for destruction’s sake. But who is Tyler Durden?

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. Perfect socialite couple Jack and Grace seem to have it all. But why are they never apart? Why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? How can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim? And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for her sister Kate, who has been battling leukemia most of her young life. As a teenager Anna begins to question her moral obligations in light of countless medical procedures and ultimately decides to fight for the right to make decisions about her own body. The ending of this emotional novel is a stunner.