Monday, 31 May 2010

Busy times

Hmm, been very busy reading and rereading for the Branford Boase award - great fun and you can see the short list here - www.branfordboaseaward.org.uk. It's a really strong short list and can't wait for the announcement of the winner in July! Judging an award - any award - is great because you get the chance to discuss books with other like minded individuals - i.e. real readers, and it's often about books you might not otherwise have read because they hadn't come across your desk or been picked up in the library.

But there's also the pleasure of reading what you like best - and I have finished one long series from a favourite author - Garth Nix's 'Keys to the Kingdom'. Lord Sunday was a fitting finale to the mayhem and battle that has troubled the house, though I was not surprised that our hero ended up as the Architect at the end of the book - though his answer to how to still live on Earth too was novel. Fantasy of a superior sort!

Then there was a new series from well established pair Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Wyrmeweald: Returners Wealth is the first novel set in a new world where man (the two skins) both protect and prey on the variety of wyrmes that live in this harsh and unforgiving landscape. Gripping and involving - this should be the start of another successful series from these two.

Now I must finish this post as I am reading Larsson's Millennium trilogy - and the middle of book two is calling to me!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Mr Golightly's Holiday

This is a simple tale - you think- of a slightly unworldly man who has obviously suffered some tragedy in the past associated with his family - who decides to take a holiday in Great Calne on Dartmoor. The story follows him as he gets to know the village, it's characters and its politics and settles himself into his new temporary home. Throughout the whole of his holiday Mr G seems to be getting odd, short email messages - unsigned and untraceable - are they sinister or a joke played on him by someone from the office?

Whilst he is In Great Calne he thinks he may rewrite his book (his great work) in a new and novel modern way and employs a young man - who appears to be from a very disadvantaged background - as his researcher on the internet. This is the story of the repercussions of small coincidences, meetings and interactions and the impact they have on the everyday lives of the village occupants.

The sudden realisation half way through the book of the significance and importance of Mr Golightly was a shock to the system in this very enjoyable, very readable and recommended tale.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sequels, sequels

Hmm - two such dissimilar sequels could not be imagined but both work on their own terms.

Following on from well loved authors must be a nightmare in many respects but both of these authors have been chosen by the executors - so at least they are 'approved' in some sense.

Eoin Colfer has been recognised for his wonderful humour in many of his children's books - especially the Artemis Fowl series (read them if you haven't already), so it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise when he was suggested as the author to follow Douglas Adams and write a sequel to HHGTTG. And Another Thing follows straight on from the last of Douglas' books and offers a fun and fanciful chapter in the plot to exterminate the Earth by the Vogons. I'd like to know more about Constant Mown - and his dilemma - hope there's more to come. If you have enjoyed Douglas, Tom Holt or Pratchett try this as a holiday read - you wont be disappointed. Knowing Douglas in his University days I imagine he would approve too...

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus is also a success - Christopher Robin returns from school to new adventures with Pooh and Piglet - a delight, especially with the coloured illustrations by Mark Burgess (Shepherd's illustrations colourist). Rabbit is the most eminently sensible soul, Tigger dreams of Africa and Pooh can't help being growly - he is a bear after all! Children will love this as much as our well loved originals.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

NB plot spoiler below

I'm not one for reading books about football - but as with any TP book, the football is slightly skewed, and the humour and observations on life generally are what makes these books such a joy to behold.

Nutt is the slightly unusual, mysterious character we meet in Unseen Academicals - and it turns out he is an orc, but one that has been raised not knowing what he is and thus not knowing he has the potential to be a dangerous and violent character. The book has as one of its main themes the issue that race (or breed) must not be held against one, and difference should be celebrated.

The other delight of the book is Glenda Sugarbeam - a cook in Unseen University's night kitchen. She is the sensible one, the homely character and the one with the undeniable need to fall in love with Nutt.

A barnstorming football match between two universities - using the very new rules that have just been drafted makes a fitting and funny climax to another wonderful Discworld novel.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Children's Book by A S Byatt

This is a rich book that deserves you linger over every word. It starts in 1895 when 2 boys discover a third less fortunate boy living in the basement regions of the newly developing Victoria and Albert Museum. The story develops as we follow the familes and the connections between these 3 boys, their own and their adoptive families and the way the developing cultural, social and political scene develops and impacts on their worlds and their lives, culminating in the devastation of the first world war.

You need reading stamina to tackle this story but the research and imagination that has gone into it sits lightly in this enthralling but sad mammoth novel. The title derives from one of the main characters - Olive Wellwood, a children's author - who writes imaginative tales that reflect and inspire her children in their own specially constructed books - kept on a shelf in the library at their home. These are constantly added to and rewrittten over the period of the novel - with varying results.

This is a book that you want to continue reading but that you have to read quite slowly so as to savour the experiencce. Read it now!


Sunday, 5 July 2009

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

This is a cinematic presentation of a life set in a film noir type 1947. Evie, with Mum Bev and step Dad Joe set off to Palm Beach, but out of season. All is not well, but it takes the arrival of an apparently wealthy young man, Peter Coleridge, from Joe's war time past to put the cat among the pigeons and start the inexorable tragedy unrolling. This is a thriller in the best sense, full of romance and longing, treachery and double cross; but all based on some fabulously well drawn characters and situations. Do read this book!

Killing God by Kevin Brooks

Brooks always writes compelling and hard hitting teen novels and this is no exception. Dawn Bundy is a fifteen and an oddball who doesn't fit in. Her Dad walked out some time ago - seemingly in search of God and answers. How can Dawn (and her Mum) deal with this and get on with their lives...

Their is humour midst the chilling message, and this short novel is very hard to put down. The abuse at the centre of the book is handled with care and this makes for a good read with a very strong message