The Caretaker by Ron Rash.

I love Ron Rash's short stories and this was recommended as a real quiet read and despite it's plotting it is.

It's 1951 in North Carolina and Jacob's parents have disinherited him for marrying Naomi, a young hotel maid. Jacob gets called to fight in Korea and Naomi is left pregnant with no support. Enter Blackhurst, Jacob's best friend to help. As Jacob is set to return from war, a deceitful act happens and threatens to destroy their lives.

The prose is gorgeous. The setting too. But, despite careful attention to the character's lives and actions I just couldn't connect emotionally..the ending comes quickly and too easily. I just didn't feel this the way I think the reader is meant to.

It's a very short novel so it's worth a read.

#ronRash #rozzie #novel
Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon.
Thanks to Penguin General for sending me this book to review.

Love the cover!
Love the fact this book is set in ancient Greece because I only have a degree and masters in classical studies Latin.

Not that you need those to read and enjoy this book but it did bring me back many years to the Classics Department of U.C.D...Good times...

Back to the book!
This is a debut novel by Irish author, Ferdia Lennon. He also did a Classics degree so he knows it.

The book is set in 412 BC, and Athens' invasion of Sicily has failed . Thousands of Athenian soldiers are captured and held in the quarries of Syracuse, starving to death there.

In comes our protagonists, Lampo and Gelon with Lampo beiing the narrator. They are potters from the area and they love Greek tragedies for some reason I was unable to make out or connect with! 
The dialogue is spot on and the irish dialect in an Ancient Greek setting works extremely well, there is a brilliant sense of craic and humour throughout. 
They find out the poor, dejected Athenians will recite lines from Greek tragedies to get fed so the two lads set about putting on Medea.

I found this book very hard to get into. I was not feeling it so I also listened to it on audible as I read. This helped immensely. Ferdia narrates this wonderfully and if you are going to read this, try it on audible as his accent just works!

There is a lot of swearing in this book and at times too much for the story. 

But, it has a good energy to it and is written very well. I love the parts where Lampo finds love and his friendship and bond with Gelon shines. 

I think if you are not interested in this part of Ancient Greek history you may not be drawn to this. It is quite a masculine (Can I say that!?) cursing, fighting, boozing type of book that may isolate some readers. It is hard not to like the book.

The Hunter by Tana French.
To be released March 7th.
Thanks to @penguinukbooks for sending me a review copy.

I love Tana French and have devoured all her books. She writes well, makes interesting characters and her books can be quite unnerving!

The Hunter is set in the West of Ireland and is about a retired American cop who is building his life and relationships there.

He is in a relationship with Lena and formed a strong bond with a rebellious teenager, Trey,

All is just perfect until Trey errant father returns from England with a crazy plan to make money from gold in them mountains..

A murder, of course, happens as this is Tana French and Tana French writes excellent crime murder novels.

The big problem with this novel for me was the way the local men and women were portrayed. They come across as complete bumbling eejits who speak with a "Paddy begorra" dialogue and vocab throughout. I nearly put the book down at point as it was awful and laughable. I felt like the locals lived in 1950s Ireland yet the mention of sat navs and celebs like Beyonce just jarred with me. Irish people, even rural ones ( I am from very rural Mayo!) do not speak or think like this anymore.

Half way through these characters become less a part of the story so I started to enjoy it but it was hard to shake that off!

The plot and writing are excellent. I still would recommend this book if you like Tana.

#netgalley #thehunter #tanaFrench #rozzie
Wild Houses by Colin Barrett

I love Colin Barrett for some reasons..
He is a Mayo man, in fact not just Mayo but Ballina, Co. Mayo. Ballina is the nearest "big" town to where I am originally from in Rossport Mayo so I immediately connect and appreciate the Mayo characters he writes about. He gets them so right!
He is also a supremely talented writer and extremely modest. He writes gorgeous short stories, pieces of art.
"Young Skins", his short story collection was published in 2014 and I thoroughly enjoyed every story. One of the longer stories in that collection "Calm with horses" was made into a feature film with Barry Keoghan, which is also excellent.
Disclaimers over!

Wild Houses-my thoughts
This is a novella so it is the perfect short-er read.
It is set in Ballina coming up to the Ballina Salmon Festival which is a real thing and the biggest festival in the town every summer.
Cillian English is a small-time drug dealer and prepares for its biggest weekend of the year, the simmering feud between small-time dealer, Cillian English, and he is trouble deep with two other bigger-dealers, Gabe and Sketch. 
Dev, an anxious recluse, answers his door in the first pages to Gabe and Sketch and they've kidnapped someone-Cillian's brother, Doll.

Nicky is Doll's girlfriend and she knows something is wrong when she can't get through to Doll.

The scene is set as is the story.
First of, the characters, setting and dialogue are just perfect. Colin, being a Mayo man gets and observes Mayo people. Mayo people are really cute and quite funny but not any writer could capture this the way Colin does.
There are hugely emotional parts to the past of some of the characters, traumatic even. Dev's character's past is especially heartbreaking. I loved the way the story goes back and forth into Nicky and Dev's past. I didn't want to let these characters go. 
Hopefully, there is a sequel. Highly recommend.
Colin has written his first novel/novella and he has excelled! Love it!

Thanks to @groveatlantic for an proof copy of Wild Houses. So appreciative to read this before launch in March 2024.
One of lovely book gifts this Christmas was the Winter Papers 9.

Winter :Papers is Ireland’s annual anthology for the arts and is published by Curlew Editions aka my favourite short story writer , Kevin Barry and Olivia Smith.
 It contains so much lovely, cuddly writing and photos-fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography, visual arts, along with interviews and in-conversation pieces on writing, film, theatre, photography and music.

#Olivia Smith
So late in the day by Claire Keegan.
This time last year I promised myself I would read more books!

I set myself an aim of one book a week. I kept a reading journal and everytime I started a new book, I divided the pages by 7-10 days and then made sure I read so many pages a night to achieve my aim. This sounds all very clinical and cold but it has been so enjoyable and the best use of my free time. When I sat down and counted up the books with a few days left in 2023, I counted 50 books! 

I intend to do the same in 2024, I am not going to be able to read more than 50 books a year but I would like to increase the amount of non-fiction I read. It is difficult and I tried to name my top three or top five reads of 2023 but I cannot. In the same way, I cannot pick a favourite. I read only one or two duds but let’s not focus on them! 

Would love to hear what your top reads were and your reading goals for 2024.

Here are my most, most loved reads of 2023 below...

Kala by Colin Walsh
Prophet Song by Paul Lynch
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
How to build a boat by Elaine Feeney
The Rachel Incident by Caroline O Donoghue
Winter people by Grainne Murphy
Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

Outgrowing God by Richard Dawkins
A thread of violence by Mark O Connell
We don’t know ourselves by Fintan O Toole

#rozzie #irishNovel #Reading #novels #bookstagrammer #whatyoureading
Seven Steeples by Sara Baume.
This book thinks it is a novel or a piece of fiction. Instead, it is a very long poem written in prose like language otherwise known as a prose poem.

This prose poem spans seven years and it tells the story of a couple, Bell and Sigh. Sigh is obviously short for Simon or "Si" as humans might use but no, it is "Sigh" here and that alone annoyed me enough.

I rarely put a book aside but this one was put aside and picked up again as I would not let it beat me. It must be good! Other authors have said amazing things!

The writing was beautiful, of course. 

Here is the story if we can call it that.

Bell and Simon move to the South coast of Ireland and cut themselves off from their friends and family. We don't know why. What we do know if that they live in a house that is falling apart and they are extremely un-house proud. We also know that there is a mountain behind their house that they promise to climb.

Over the seven years, we read about their life of ritual and basically doing nothing at all apart from walking up and down to the beach with their very dirty dogs and eating very expensive foods which I wondered where they got the money from as we are told they are on a small welfare supplment. 

They have the occasional glance at the local farmer and their landlord and there are many storms and winds and lots of household items break. They get dirtier and dirtier as does the house and the dogs.

There is no plot to speak of apart from wondering will they climb the mountain and the only character development I could see was that Bell and Si/Simon/Sigh enjoy living like nomads (which is fine btw) and they cast judgements on the people in the area who work and own holiday homes and dare to own anything that is new. Materialism is the bad guy here. Dirt is in!

The writing is gorgeous but nothing happens. Will I give away the ending? I must. They set off to climb the mountain after 7 years but to be honest, I did not care one bit and was so relieved to finish this book.

I think that this book is written for a type of person that I am not. I just could not relate or connect with the characters.

#prosePoem #notForMe #rozzie
All the little bird-hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow.
Long listed for the Man Booker.
I go through similar routines last with some books. It starts off the book being slow then amazing and I can’t put it down then it slows and slows and gets a bit too slow and on the verge of tedious then it really goes for it with one last push and ends with an overall disappointing feeling.
This is one of those. I had high hopes as the writing is gorgeous and so well observed.
It’s about an autistic mother and her teenage daughter. A couple move in next door and the wife is just beautiful and fun and the mother and daughter’s life starts to feel much better until we realise the new next door neighbour is a bit too perfect and a bit too controlling.
I won’t give anything away.
The author of this book is autistic so obvious it’s going to be very genuine in terms of one autistic person’s life experience and this is both the strength and the challenge of this novel. Because the narrator is autistic and at times finds the situation she is in impossible to comprehend or even react to as another person might it leaves the reader frustrated with the lack of action or strong feelings that should be provoked in the main character. But, then that’s the strength as to be an authentically autistic outlook, those frustrations must be seen and felt. Yet it doesn’t come together as well as that. The plot meanders for far too long and the climax of the inevitable explosion happens too late so i@just didn’t care. The daughter, Dolly, also is just not a nice person! Despite everyone adoring her throughout. She treats her mum and family despicably and we are lead somehow to believe that this is ok.
The writing saved it, the language and there’s great similarities with the novel, Pet, that I read during the summer though the characters here are more rounded.
It won’t harm you to read it but long list for the man booker, I’m unsure.
@littlecassreads @reads_eats_explores
This other Eden by Paul Harding.
This is one of the three Pauls that were shortlisted for the Man Book 2023.
the book is inspired by historical events in the 20th century where where mixed-race descendants of a former slave, Benjamin Honey escape to Apple island, off the coast of Maine, where they set up their life. 
I found this point in history to be an interesting place to start a story but it should never have become a novel as there is just not enough plot and action to keep the entire novel going. It would have made an excellent short story. 
The novel works when it is in action, where the characters are actually doing something but these action pieces don't occur much. Instead I was left with pages and pages of prose on a tree blowing in the wind or two dogs running up and down to the shore or one of the characters taking his shack apart. 
This book is written in a very rambling, lyrical style. That's fine but it needed to be contained for the reader. In the end I was bored by this book for most of it. I was so happy to finish it and dreaded picking it up. It is a gloomy, grey book with no room for any humour or lightness at all. The characters all bled into each other and I felt little for any of them. Gosh, I sound harsh, I know but it is what it is. @aoifecass 
#rozzie #novel #manbooker #shortlist #writing
Marzahn, mon amour by Katya Oskamp.
This is a gorgeous little book. Broken up into small vignettes so it’s easy to read. The narrator is facing a mid life crisis and decides to retrain as a chiropodist. She begins work in Marzahn, a suburb in East Berlin, once the GDR's largest prefabricated housing estate. From her unique observations at the foot of the clinic chair, she works with her clients and co-workers, telling their stories. This book is like a short story collection mixed with memoir and history. I really enjoyed this. #rozzie
The wren, the wren by Anne Enright.
The Wren, the Wren is narrated by three characters. We have Carmel, the mother looking back over her childhood with her difficult older sister, Imelda and her philandering and general pain in the bottom father, Phil Mc Daragh. 
Phil Mc Daragh is a distant father and also happens to be a much loved nature type Irish poet. Phil is our second character though he only gets a short chapter where he recounts his “running through the fields” childhood in a cottage in Offaly. 
Carmel has a daughter, Nell, who is our third voice or narrator. Nell’s character was problematic for me and though Enright is very humorous and observant, the style of Nell’s sections wore me out. I also am becoming annoyed/tired of the seemingly helpless young woman I keep reading about in many of the current Irish female written novels. You know the ones. A young woman has a boyfriend who is not a nice person. Scratch that. The boyfriend is actually an abuser and frequently abuses, physically and sexually, their girlfriend. In this case it is Nell. 
Yes, this topic is of complete relevance and violence against women has to be highlighted, discussed and put out there to enact real change, But, Nell’s character is a carbon copy of many of the other “lost” and “emotionally frozen” young female characters I have read about in novels and short stories this year. It leads me to think that young women under thirty are all like this? Fiction?
Nell is trying to get away from her supposed traumatic past which isn’t really traumatic. That is not just my opinion, it just isn’t traumatic. She grew up with a very capable and confident single mother, Carmel. Though Carmel loses her temper with Nell in one section when Nell is quite small, this could hardly count as trauma.
"The Wren, The Wren" is a beautifully written exploration of family ties, Irish life, and the weight of the past, no matter how trivial that person’s suffering might seem. It's not for everyone, but if you're into character-driven narratives and don't mind a slower pace, give it a go. 
The End of the World is a Cul De Sac by Louise Kennedy.

This is Louise's debut short story collection, published before her debut novel, Trespasses, which I thought was rather good!
I bought this book a few years ago and read the first story and put it down till last week. 
First of all, Louise is such a good writer, she writes so well about the female gaze, nature and men who are generally not very nice humans. 
When I started the first story I found myself enjoying the writing but feeling a little confused by what was happening and still am. I understand the writer needs to leave space for the reader but the space was wide in the first and second story and that is what put me off finishing the collection.
The rest of the stories are all excellent. 

She writes about almost every single current themes for females-fertility issues, terminations of pregnancy a nd the aftermath, widows, inferiority complex issues, affairs, drugs, sex, sex, sex..Yes, there was a huge amount of sex and affairs. Adn also plenty drugs and guns!

It made me feel as if everyone is probably having an affair of some sort.

She also writes about Irish folklore within nature and I think this collection will appeal to the American or English reader especially. 
However, I found that there were almost too many boxes ticked, too many female issues and too many stories though they were all excellent stories in their own right. 

I think a smaller collection with less stories and room for the characters to breathe would have been really blissful for me. I love a good, long short story.

Louise is excellent, no doubt, and am interested to see what her next collection might focus on.
Western Lane by Chetna Maroo.
This novel is shortlisted for the Man Booker 2023 and it's the third I have read from the 6 novels that are shortlisted.
I am unsure if I will read the other three in time but in order of interest I will try to read these shortlistees next:
If I survive you
This other Eden
Study for Obedience.

Anyway, back to Western Lane!
It is a decidedly short novel and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a short novel. But, after reading I think that the charaters and story deserved much more space. The writing is just gorgeous. The story is sad, about a young girl whose mother dies and the father decides to start to coach the young girl in the game of squash. Not just a gentle coaching but in fact the father becomes obsessed with the whole game and pushes the girl on and on. 
A good story but needed more space.
Not sure why this was shortlisted over other long listees but there you go, what do I know...