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Friday, 13 December 2013

Spring Ravens

As we near the Winter Solstice, it's time to start preparing for the shift towards Spring - snowdrops, baby lambs, and a whole host of new titles to tickle our literary fancy. The first choice for the Raven Readers is however an older title, one to tide us over from the depths of darkness into the slow emergence of "a stretch in the evenings". I first read William Maxwell over the summer and was deeply impressed; I hope The Chateau will live up to my high expectations. There is an interview with him here which is well worth perusing. (January 30th)

Just so you know, Willy Vlautin has a reputation for breaking hearts. I don't doubt that reading his shopping list would leave me with a tear in my eye. The Free is his fourth novel and opens with Leroy, a young, wounded, Iraq veteran, waking to a rare moment of clarity, his senses flooded with the beauty of remembering who he is but the pain of realising it won't last. (February 27th)

March is a very special read as Liz is a dear customer of ours. Unravelling Oliver is, in the words of her publisher Penguin Ireland, "a complex and elegant study of the making of a sociopath". It might also be described as "a very dark tale about neglect, abandonment, grief and lost children" (March 27th)

Finally in our Spring cycle is Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys. Her previous novel Olive Kitteridge deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize and this offering promises to be no less impressive. (April 24th)

A reminder that places are limited and it is essential that you let us know (i)if you would like to join in the discussion (7:30pm start time) (ii)if you would like us to supply you with a copy of the book. Email us at hello@ravenbooks .ie

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Gaisce and School Libraries

For the second year running, we will later this week be welcoming students from Loreto Beaufort who are participating in the Gaisce President’s Award. They are each given a budget to pick out books that will be entered into the school’s library system and tracked for the academic year. There are many lessons to be learned in this excellent exercise and we will gladly welcome other schools/libraries who may wish to try out the scheme.

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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Raven Readers

One of the sadnesses of my job is listening to customers bemoaning the fact that they are expected to read a book that they have absolutely no interest in for their book club. Based on this experience, I intend on being entirely dictatorial in choosing the titles for the Raven Readers book club - folks can choose in advance which titles might pique their interest and avoid those that don't grab them.

Our inaugural read will be Penelope Fitzgerald's novel The Bookshop (September 26th); the October discussion will be on Jhumpa Lahiri's much anticipated The Lowland (October 24th); our final autumnal read as the days darken will be Paul Harding's Enon (November 28th - this gives you loads of time if you wish to read Tinkers first).

Places are limited and it is essential that you let us know (i)if you would like to join in the discussion (7:30pm start time) (ii)if you would like us to supply you with a copy of the book. We have been graciously welcomed to meet in the Blackrock wine bar, Le Grape Escape, who also serve craft beer and cider, and might even provide a pot of tea if requested.

Does this sound like something you'd like to get involved with? Email me now to reserve a place: louisa @ravenbooks.ie

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Novella

This morning on Newstalk in a discussion on abandoned books, the thesis was voiced that these days it is only because of electronic publishing that a 70 page novella could be presented to the reading public. As it was off-topic, I didn't raise the recent novellas which have successfully traversed the traditional publishing route but as I am a fan of the short form I thought I would share three of them here.

The first, Claire Keegan's Foster, began life as a short story in The New Yorker in February 2010 and later that year was published by Faber & Faber in slightly longer form. A best seller on release, the novella is now studied by Leaving Cert students across the country.

Anita Desai has spoken eloquently on her growing preference for the novella form and her most recent publication, The Artist of Disappearance, contains three stories in a gorgeous little hardback of only 176 pages.

My final choice is disputable as Part II of Jhumpa Lahiri's stellar collection Unaccustomed Earth is technically three linked short stories, however I read them as the beginning, middle and end of a novella (they had me up way past my bedtime unable to stop turning pages until I had reached the conclusion).

For more on novellas, I suggest listening to BBC Radio 4's Open Book from August 2011 which includes an interview with Anita Desai and a history of the form by literary critic Peter Kemp: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013rj91. For more of our short favourites: http://www.ravenbooks.ie/shortstories.html ~Louisa

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Kudos to Courageous School Librarians

Graphic novels are all too often frowned upon by school librarians and it is highly commendable that Joan and Alison of Loreto High School supported and encouraged one of their students in her reading passion. Blanaid wrote and presented a fantastic piece on the drawn word which you can read here: Graphic Storytelling from Around the World by Blanaid NiBhraonain

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Steampunk

Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy set in a steam-powered world, often inspired by Victorian Britain or the Wild West. Frequently these stories present an alternative history of the United Kingdom and the plot is regularly based on a crime. At times it incorporates elements from other genres - fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction - making Steampunk a hybrid genre.

The best known modern example is Philip Pullman's Golden Compass trilogy. Here, the plot centres on an alternative Oxford where many modern contraptions have steam-powered equivalents. Other authors such as Gail Carriger bring romantic elements to the fore, delivering quirky crime/romance tales with fantastical costumes.

This genre also contains some classic authors such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne; my favourite Steampunk novel is The War of the Worlds (1898) by the former. In this famous novel, Martians invade our world and prey on humans, doing to us as we have done to our environment. They manipulate their surroundings to create landscapes of productivity to the detriment of the earth (last week we passed a landmark event in atmospheric science as CO2 levels reached their highest since humans have existed on Earth). The story is terrifying, so much so that a 1938 radio adaptation of the novel, read by Orson Welles, provoked mass fear in the US and Canada. One of the strongest messages I took from the book was to imagine what would happen should humans change from being hunters to becoming the hunted. Aside from this revelation, what attracts me to the book is the excitement and zest for knowledge, and the inclusion of scientific discoveries of the time which, despite the fact that several of his ideas have been disproved, still engage the imagination. ~ @emcnicho

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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Benediction

In a word? Intimate. Also, heartbreaking. Which sounds like a cliche, sorry, but it really is - once I was reading it in a public place and had to just close the book and look away I was that close to tears. Why should you read a book that might make you cry? Maybe you shouldn't, this isn't a book for everyone. Here, there are no car chases or explosions, no macho heroes or damsels in distress, the dramas that unfold are not meant to shock or provoke. There is beauty though, and elegant prose. Haruf is a painter, slowly filling in the details of each picture that gives form to the chapters. With a single sentence, he has the ability to wash your understanding of a character's disposition a completely different hue. Towards the end... no spoilers but yes, it's hard; unsentimentally rendered with love and tender devotion shining through.

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