Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: An Unsung Hero: Tom Crean- Antartic Survivor by Michael Smith

Collins Press


332 pages

Anyone who knows me, knows of my love of the Dingle Peninsula off the Southwest coast of Ireland in my favorite county, Kerry. I spend a lot of time(but not nearly as much as I like) in a place called Inch beach- with unparalleled beauty and where the movie, Ryan's Daughter was filmed. A stone's throw from Inch is a little village called Anascaul- a place I've been several times. There's a little pub- unremarkable despite its bright blue and pebble dash exterior, called The South Pole Inn. The pub's former owner was Tom Crean, who made, not 1 but 3 trips to the Antarctic at the turn of the last century in the race to the South Pole.

I could not put this book down. Initially, I was afraid that it would be one of those dry books that make you dread opening it. Not this. It's written in an easy style and examines the personalities of the leaders, Scott and his disastrous expedition to the Pole in 1909 and then Ernest Shackleton's adventure during the outbreak of World War I when their ship, The Endurance became trapped in ice in the Antarctic and eventually lost to the sea, leaving all 28 men stranded on an ice floe and cut off from civilization.

But this man, from Kerry, Tom Crean, is truly remarkable. During his second trip to the Antarctic with the tragic Scott expedition, he walked- walked- 35 miles in 18 hours to save the life of another man despite the fact that he himself was starving and despite the fact that it was sub freezing temps.

The photos in the book are fantastic and one can't help but fall a little in love with the mythical figure of Tom Crean. Both Scott and Shackleton wanted him on their expeditions. He's handsome in a rugged way- in a 'come to my Antarctic tent' kind of way.
The first 2 trips are Scott's attempts to be the first one to reach the South Pole. They had to abandon that goal on the first trip. On the second trek, it was a Norwegian who beat them to the Pole, Scott made it eventually only to die along with his comrades in their sleeping bags in a tent on the way back due to blizzard conditions. The third trip with Ernest Shackleton was not so much to reach the South Pole but to walk across Antarctic itself. That goal was soon abandoned once Endurance was lost to the ice right at the beginning of the journey and they had no contact with civilization. It became a journey of survival and it took them almost 2 years to make it back to civilization. It's a gripping, entertaining read and it's miraculous that they survived at all.
But on all three treks, Crean comes across as mentally resilient, unafraid of any task and an even keeled kind of fella. Just the type you'd want around in a crisis.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


There won't be any posts this week as I am in the middle of moving and the broadband won't be available until the end of the week.
See you soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Guest Blog: Keris Stainton

Today, I'm excited to have Keris Stainton as a guest blogger. Keris is the consummate multitasker when it comes to writing. She's written articles for magazines and newspapers and hosts 2 blogs of her own. She is a former book reviewer for Trashionista and now reviews books for Five Minutes Peace. She co founded Chicklish with fellow author Luisa Plaja. I met her through Write Words, an online writing group where she founded and hosted the Chick Lit group. Her first book, Della Says:OMG! was released last week. Today, she talks about her current work in progress- see collage above.

Keris Stainton:

I am completely obsessed with New York. I've been five times and think of it as my spiritual home (I'm not sure I'm tough or cool enough to make it my actual home, but still). So when I was trying to think of an idea for my next book, a New York setting seemed like a good one. This was partly because I like to write the first drafts during National Novel Writing Month and so I try to think of things that will make writing every day for a month more enjoyable: researching New York locations and basically pretending I was there for 30 days appealed to me.
I've already forgotten how I came up with the character of Jessie, but Finn appeared in my mind, fully-formed. I just saw him, standing in Times Square, wearing a tuxedo, holding a bunch of red roses and trying (and failing) to hail a cab. I hadn't planned to have a boy's point of view, but I kept coming back to Finn and so the book alternates between Finn and Jessie.
I don't want to say too much since I haven't finished writing yet, but this is the synopsis I sent to my editor. I hope you like the idea, at least!
Jessie and Finn would be perfect together. But first they have to find
each other.
Jessie's had a horrible relationship experience and wants to get away. Far away. Fortunately, her mother lives in New York. Unfortunately, her mother didn't have much time for her when they were living together and Jessie doubts anything will be different now. Particularly since Jess suspects the big-shot theatre producer responsible for taking her mum's play (and her mum) to Broadway may have a more than professional interest... Jessie's dad can't chaperone (or stand to spend the summer with his ex-wife) - he's too busy with his architecture practice and with moving his boyfriend (yes, boyfriend - no one said Jessie's life was simple) in. When Jessie arrives in New York, she notices the good-looking, tuxedo-wearing, red rose-carrying American boy who takes their cab (how could she not?), but she's not likely to see him again in a city of eight million people, is she?
New Yorker Finn has some issues of his own - the main one being that he's completely and utterly in love with his best friend's girlfriend, Samantha. Of course he has no plans to do anything about it... unless Sam and Josh break up. Which could happen, couldn't it? When Finn's not preoccupied with Sam, he's worrying about what he's going to do with his life. His mother's a journalist and theatre critic and his father works in insurance. Finn's not interested in insurance, but he is fascinated by the building his father works in - the Empire State Building. In fact, he wonders if he might like to be an architect. When Finn's running late for his (totally not a surprise) surprise 18th birthday party, he's intrigued by the curly-haired British girl
whose cab he takes. Maybe she could take his mind off Sam. If only she wasn't a tourist - a holiday romance is not what he needs right now. Or maybe it's exactly what he needs. But he's hardly likely to bump into her again in a city of eight million people, is he?
Jessie *hearts* NYC is about first love, chance meetings and travelling thousands of miles to find yourself.
Since it was a nice day for once, they met in Cathedral Gardens. Molly was wearing tiny cut-offs and causing the boys on bikes to almost wheely straight into the side of the Urbis Centre. Jess sat down on the grass and Molly perched cross-legged next to her.
“So do you want the good news or the bad news?” Jess asked. She was almost certain Molly would ask for the bad news, she always had done before. Although if she asked for the good, Jess was in trouble.
Molly pulled a face. “Bad.” She wrinkled her nose and closed her eyes.
“I'm going away for the summer,” Jess said.
Molly opened her eyes. Wide. “Noooo!”
“Yes. I have to. I can't be around Taylor all summer, I just can't.”
“Oh I know what you mean, but we don't need to go anywhere we know he'll be.”
“He goes to all the same places as us,” Jess said. She plucked some grass and fiddled with it.
“We'll find new places. All our places are shit anyway.”
Jess laughed. “They're not. But they would be this summer. I just can't stay. I'm sorry. I know we had loads of plans.”
“Well, exactly! Plans to do new things! Away from Taylor. You don't need to go away away.”
“But I want to, Mol'. You know how my mum's been--”
Molly leaned forward so fast she almost knocked Jess over backwards. “You're going to New York? Shit! God, I'm not surprised you'd rather go. Bloomingdale's beats The Trafford Centre. God. You lucky cow.”
Jess smiled. “And do you want the good news?”
“You'll bring me back some Krispy Kremes?”
“Nope.” Jess grinned. “You're coming with me.”
-- Keris Stainton

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: Saving Grace by Ciara Geraghty

Hachette Books Ireland
440 pages
One minute I'm in a long term, if long distance, relationship with Shane. The next I'm waking up in bed beside Bernard O'Malley, geek almighty and newest member of the IT department.
Another entry in a list of mistakes. The worst was Spain. What I did there. And what happened to my brother Patrick. Ever since that night things have been spiralling out of control.
But what can a girl do except dust off her stiletto boots, have a sneaky cigarette and face another day...
I sometimes wonder though, who would be there to save me if I can't save myself?
I took this book out from the library and I loved it so much, that I'm going to have to order my own copy from Amazon. This is by far, the best chick lit book I have ever read. It's not just funny, it's piss your pants, laugh out loud funny. And Grace isn't just a character you'll like, she's someone you'll love.
The story, set in contemporary Dublin, opens up with a Prologue giving us a glimpse of what did happen in Spain with Grace and her brother Patrick. Fast forward to the present and Grace is waking up besides Bernard O'Malley, geek extraordinaire. Everything soon spins out of control and finally comes to a head at her sister's wedding.
This fabulous book is not only funny but heartbreaking as well as we watch Grace try to reach out to her mother, who is difficult at best and haunted by what happened in Spain. Single-handedly, she's trying to keep her relationship with Shane afloat despite the explosive chemistry between her and the geek, Bernard. She smokes too much, she drinks too much and she eats all the wrong foods- but you can't help but love her and cheer her on. And the supporting cast of characters are all oddballs and just as hilarious.
On a final note, I'd like to add that as an aspiring writer, Geraghty is the type of writer I'd like to be. But after reading this, I realize I am light years away from this. It made me want to give up writing and spend the rest of my life face down in my bed, that's how good it is.
If you like chick lit, you'll love this.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

Body Surfing
Little, Brown & Co.
264 pages

At the age of twenty-nine, Sydney has already been once divorced and once widowed. Trying to find her footing again, she answers an advertisement to tutor the teenage daughter of a well-to-do couple as they spend a sultry summer in their oceanfront New Hampshire cottage.
But when the Edwards' two grown sons arrive at the house, Sydney finds herself caught up in old tensions and bitter divisions. As the brothers vie for her affections, the fragile existence Sydney has rebuilt is threatened.

It's no secret that I think Anita Shreve to be one of the greatest prose writers alive today. Having read her previous endeavors such as The Weight of Water, Resistance, The Pilot's Wife, and Sea Glass, this book only solidifies my opinion.
I think you could hand Shreve a telephone book and she'd be able to weave something magical out it.
She tells the story with such simplicity and subtlety that it really is sublime. And the setting- summer at an oceanfront cottage is just gorgeous- reminds me why I love the beach so much.
I love the evolution of Sydney- at the beginning, after the loss of her second husband, she's obviously detached and somewhat aloof. But as the novel progresses, and she becomes involved with this family, you watch as she slowly drifts back down to earth and reconnects with life.
It's another amazing book by Shreve- read it if you can.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Della Says: OMG! by Keris Stainton

Orchard Books
270 pages

Della's over the moon when she kisses her long-standing crush at a party-but then she discovers her diary has disappeared...When scans of embarrassing pages are sent to her mobile and appear on Facebook, Della's distraught-how can she enjoy her first proper romance when someone, somewhere, knows all her deepest, darkest secrets.

To say that I and a host of others have been waiting to read this book, would be an understatement. Della Says:OMG! is the debut novel by Keris Stainton. Let me say from the start that Keris is an online writer friend.
Friend or not, this is a little gem of a book. It rained all day Saturday and I literally curled up with a good book to read. I read it in one day and I can count on one hand how many books I've read in one day over the past 30 years.
I loved Della. She possesses a self-deprecating sense of humor, her parents embarrass her and her self-confidence just isn't where it should be. In other words, she has universal appeal.
But this book is also peopled with fabulous characters as well: her outrageous best friend, Maddie; Bob, who works in her parents' deli and goes to a Zen place to cut salami and her own mother, with the gorgeous model looks (what kind of nightmare is that for a teen aged girl?).
Keris bravely and deftly deals with an issue in the book that you rarely see mentioned in YA books. At first it took me by surprise but then I was glad it was there and I admired her for putting it there.
Another reviewer said it's the Forever of our century. I'd go one further and say it reminded me of the award winning, classic Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly which was published in 1942.
It's a great coming of age book: witty, tender and warm. It's also the type of book that I wished was around when I was a teenager- it might have helped, or at the very least, given me hope.