Hot Off the Press: ‘Innocents’ by Cathal Gunning

“Everyone knows anything’s better than being alone.” ‘Innocents’ hits the nail on the head for many among us who’ve found ourselves single.


Title: Innocents
Author: Cathal Gunning
PublisherSolstice Publishing
Available: Here from 27/09/17 
Rating: 3.5/5*

In this confrontational, self-aware cut at the age old love story, Cathal Gunning has taken the tropes, honed them to pointed jibes, and dug deep into how we view romance in ourselves and in others. However, under the saccharine sweetness is a bitter core which drives the characters toward the unexpected. Gunning has done well to achieve this feat in a first novel where so many may lose the thread of self-consciousness which holds this novel together so well.

It was this sense that you could only ever feel in Dublin, and anywhere else where you could get any half-decent pills.

Innocents tells the story of two young lovers who meet in the idyllic setting of a Dublin nightclub, Continue reading “Hot Off the Press: ‘Innocents’ by Cathal Gunning”

On the Turning of ‘The Wheel of Time’: A Rant

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass…” and why, oh Light WHY am I still reading?

I first picked up The Eye of the World a long, long time ago it seems, and just as the Wheel gives birth to the Ages to repeat ad infinitum, I picked it up again to begin the sagacious journey I had previously abandoned after 5,403 pages (or 5 books). I can think of no logical reason for this because, frankly, I hated it the first time round.

This time was no different.

The story follows Rand Al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara, as they leave their small village lives behind in order to save the world with the company of a mysterious Aes Sedai witch, Moiraine, her warder, Lan, and two of the village women: a young girl betrothed to Rand, Egwene Al’Vere, and the village healer Nynaeve Al’Meara. This mission takes them away from The Two Rivers and on an adventure of a lifetime (that is, if we take lifetime to mean how much time you lose by reading every novel).

Needless to say, there’ll be spoilers abounds in this post as well as diatribes, rants, and raves against this series. There’s also a shocking lack of images, as I’m not devoting any more of my time to this infuriating series. If you have already heard all you need to convince you not to read the series, stop here.

Continue reading “On the Turning of ‘The Wheel of Time’: A Rant”

Review: Such Small Hands

With thanks to Portobello Books comes a review of Andés Barba’s chilling ‘Such Small Hands’, his third book to be translated into English. Afterword by Edmund White.

Such Small HandsTitle: Such Small Hands
Author: Andres Barba
Publisher: Portobello
Available: 3rd August 2017 (ooooh we got an advance copy, thanks Portobello)
Rating: 3/5*

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything for review, and even longer since I’ve been so challenged by such a short book. Such Small Hands takes us by the hand and leads us into the strange life of Marina as she assimilates into the orphanage following a car accident in which “Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital”.

Continue reading “Review: Such Small Hands”

An Evening with Sebastian Barry

Meeting your literary hero rarely goes according to plan…

It’s often said never meet your heroes because they cannot live up to the high standards you’ve built them to. In my case the exact opposite of this is true: I don’t live up to them. That is to say I do the horrific awed silence into which pours discomfort for all people.

Last week, I had the great fortune to attend a Faber Members event in the beautiful St. George’s Church, to hear Sebastian Barry read from his Cost Book of the Year winning Days Without End. I must say, should you ever get the chance to see Barry read, jump on the bandwagon. It’s not an experience to be missed. Not only does his prose alone pack a punch, but so too does his delivery. Clearly his days as a playwright have not left him. As the soldiers slashed through the bodies and the trees shrouded in the smoke of a burning lodge, we, the audience were bathed in the gore and soot by Barry’s voice. Shivers rose on more arms than my own.

Image by Diane Elsasser Snider via
Sitting in a church pew, listening to Sebastian Barry read one of the most harrowing passages of any of his novels I’ve read was one of the best ways I’ve spent a Wednesday night in a long time. Not least because after the reading, the author was good enough to take some questions about the novel and then sign copies of his books for the massing fans. It’s no wonder that Matt Haig named him the number one author to see read from his work, a fact that a fellow Guardian Books Desk journalist Sian Cain pointed out when introducing the author.

Sadly, my nerve failed me when it came time to asking questions and I missed out sorely as I spent the whole week building up to asking Sebastian Barry a question. Then I was failed again when all I managed to get out when he signed my copy was “It was a truly beautiful book”. “Thank you very much, was there anything else?” he responded with a glint in his eye, my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth resulted in a brief nod from me.

51rimwr5pulBut it truly was a beautiful piece of work. Part war story, part western, all stunning. I can really appreciate why it’s been so well received and gained so much praise since its release. I must admit this one, like so many others moved me with almost every chapter. You would think that I’d get tired of snivelling every time I open a book. Alas, it’s not so. Sebastian Barry has yet again filled my eyes and heart to brimming with the stunning Days Without End. 

Finally, should Mr. Barry happen to ever read hack bloggers’ opinions, I would like to post my question here and live in hope: As your novels deal with the various places Irish people turn up, and you often claim them as your family, have you set out to write the Irish identity in its entirety from the laudable to the detestable, or is this just the disposition that comes from being an Irish author writing Irish stories?

WLR: Mystery Edition 

It’s that bleak humour that makes me love Christie, a blasé flaunting of the ridiculous that somehow seems plausible as we read it.

Featured Reader: A devilishly handsome man hiding behind a book. AKA Moz but I prefer the mystery man title.

Currently Reading: Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie.

Favourite Part/Line: While trying to recruit a spy, a character pitches the mission in the least appealing way possible, and yet it works: “I’m suggesting another method. Rather a sporting method really. There’s some excitement in it too. I’ll be fair with you. There’s just a hundred to one chance you mightn’t die. But I don’t believe under the circumstances, that you’d really object by that time.” It’s that bleak humour that makes me love Christie, a blasé flaunting of the ridiculous that somehow seems plausible as we read it.

As with last time, if you would like to take part in this ‘What’s London Reading’ feature here on TheCrackedSpineBlog and are free for a quick photo and chat please use the contact page of the blog, or you can message our Instagram or Facebook pages.

The London Bookshop Crawl

I enlisted the help of a friend better up on the streets of London than myself and we set out to explore London’s bookshops.

Some go in for rummaging in charity shops, crawling about to trawl through racks of clothes. Others go in for a pub crawl with their mates and then crawl home too. But me, being prematurely 70 years old, I opt for bookshops, so when I saw NinjaBookbox’s London Bookshop Crawl, I was very excited.

As I mentioned earlier this month, I was too late in booking tickets to get a place on one of the guided tours. Instead, I enlisted the help of a friend better up on the streets of London than myself and we set out to explore London’s bookshops. After a bit of a fumble on timing and a cup of coffee in a nearby café, we began our crawl in the lovely Belgravia Books. In which, I picked up London Stories: a collection of short stories unsurprisingly set in London.

Good job Barb!

From here we headed toward Sloane Square to discover what rapidly became one of my favourite bookshops in all of London, The BookHaus. A cozy little shop set back off the busy street, TheBookHaus offers a relaxed atmosphere and a bargain box filled with books selling for £3 for paperbacks-£5 for hardbacks. The BookHaus is also part of the publishing house of the same name which is housed in the offices above the shop. I was lucky enough to speak to two of the editors, Emma and Silvana (pictured in the featured image), at great length about everything from literature and upcoming publications to how picturesque the shop is. Time incredibly well spent in my opinion. Continue reading “The London Bookshop Crawl”

What’s London Reading 15/02/17

I bumped into Natalie (totally by accident) in the Pret that was London’s newest for a hot minute last week. Check out what she’s reading!

Featured Reader: Natalie, from Floral Republic, took some time out of her busy schedule to meet up in Pret A Manger in Waterloo.
Currently Reading: The Stylist by Rosie Nixon
Favourite Thing About the Book So Far: One reason I’d say I’ve enjoyed the book is that I can relate to the main character. It’s about a girl in her 20s living in London and dreaming to make the big time but realistically is doing the coffee rounds, constantly being bossed around and slouching around London in her fake Ugg boots because she can’t afford designer clothing. It’s a little Devil Wears Prada-esque and is an easy read!

It’s so hard to find an easy read that’s also super engaging like this one! Do you have a go-to author for easy-reads?

As with last time, if you would like to take part in this ‘What’s London Reading’ feature here on TheCrackedSpineBlog and are free for a quick photo and chat please use the contact page of the blog, or you can message our Instagram or Facebook pages.