Archives for the month of: January, 2016

I am I suppose a bibliophile. I love books – not just reading, I like a ‘real’ book. I don’t have a Kindle because of that, (and a few other reasons that I won’t go into here), as I like the feel and often the very smell of a book. I like the fact that the battery will never run out, and if I am unlucky enough to leave it on the tube, then I can probably buy another without having to pay a large amount of money. Nor do I have to give any details to the shop from which I purchase it. I can pay cash and disappear through the bookshelves, never to be seen again, if I so desire.

Sadly, though modern books often smell of a peculiar plastic. They are often published on ‘art paper’. Sometimes they re-issue books that I have known before, with the same text, but with an artist’s rendition that is nothing like that I grew up with, or particularly like.

Sometimes too ‘they’ decide there is no longer a market for a book, and the title is no longer available and it goes Out of Print, and I cannot simply order it either from work or at home. There are also titles that have been long Out of Print. That I couldn’t, with all good consciousness expect to be In Print. Books for example about the taboos and vintana of Madagascar that were originally printed in Norway in 1960

ruud-taboo-front1I don’t think there are many people looking for that title, and yet it is one that I very much wanted to read.

So, what do we do about those books that have recently been delegated as no longer wanted by the  reading public, or that were published so long ago and are too esoteric a subject for modern publishers to think of reprinting?

You can of course go to book fairs, and search their shelves. I go to one once a month and enjoy searching the shelves and sometimes find things I have been wanting to read. At other times a trip to a fair can mean that there is a new title I’d like to read, if only I could afford it. Often though I can’t find the book I want, though sometimes there might be a small run of the series I would like, but it is the wrong edition. Or more frustratingly I can’t afford it and have to just take the opportunity to look carefully through it and know that one day, perhaps, I might be an owner of such a volume.

vialibriSo, if I know what I want, and have the title and author I will sometimes resort to using the search engine viaLibri

Without going into too much detail, the site searches bookshop data bases for the title and author along with any other specifications that you put in and often in a few moments comes back with a list of stores that have a copy. These volumes are second-hand or even antiquarian and are often rare. Each entry has details of its condition, cost and location. This last is important because of postage charges, which can severely increase the total cost of a book purchased in this fashion and also how long it will take to reach you.

Amongst other things you can specify the title, author, part title, whether you want a dust jacket, a first edition or a copy that has no ISBN assigned to it.  You also need to tick the box that designates the currency in which the price will be given.

Retailers that use the search engine include Amazon, and a company called ABE which is part of Amazon too, and depending on your views you may purchase books from them through viaLibri, or directly from the Amazon site.  Biblio are another group of booksellers advertising their stock through viaLibri and seem to be honest and their prices reasonable.

viaLibri is a very useful tool, however, it is not as much fun as searching through shelves in a book fair and suddenly coming across a book that is wanted; whether I knew I wanted it before I entered the book fair,

or not…







Published by Walker Books

This reminded me of Georgette Heyer – but Georgette Heyer with a demonic / satanic twist. Regency London and a young heiress and debutante is about to be introduced to London society. She is of course looking for that perfect marriage, after all that is what young ladies are supposed to aspire to. There are of course highly suitable men on the ‘circuit’, as it were and of course an anti-hero to set hearts a-flame.

What is the secret that surrounds Lady Helen’s mother? Did she betray England? What is the truth about Lady Helen’s ancestry?

It has lovely detail, a clever plot and is the start of a trilogy.

Something to really get your teeth into!

Sadly I don’t think the cover that this has been given gives the book its due – which is a pity and the book might be overlooked as a result.

As always, never judge a book by its cover… I thoroughly enjoyed it and await the second volume with interest.



Barrington Stoke is a publisher of thin octavo volumes specifically designed to help young people who have dyslexia to gain a love of reading. The books are written by authors who are already known in the publishing world, and include people like Michael Morpurgo, Philip Reeve, David Almond, Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Kevin Brooks, and Meg Rosoff to name just a very few.

Not only are the books slim, they are printed on off white paper, which prevents glare, and the typeface is such as to make it easy to read. They edit the text too so that as much as possible there is a reduced likelihood of words of a similar type being used in the same paragraph.

Lastly, (and possibly more importantly), the subject matter and plots are interesting and they seem to try to cover as many interests as possible.

To that end they have two indicators on the books – an Interest Age and a Reading Age – usually noted just beside the bar code.


The Interest Age, is the age of the reader – after all someone aged 5-8 is probably not going to be interested in something written for a teenager or young adult. The reverse is also true. So the Interest Age gives an indication of the type of age group for which the book has been written.

The Reading Age, however, gives an indication of the reading ability. So you may have someone who has an Interest Age of 12 or 13, but a Reading age of 7 or 8 and with the help of the codes on the back of the books you can fine tune the books that are purchased for them – so that they are both interesting and are suitable for their ability.

I am regularly astounded by the number of parents’, carers and others who are looking after young readers with dyslexia who are not made aware of this publisher. There is nothing like actually enjoying and finishing a book to encourage you to try another.

I am also beginning to suggest these books for some of my customers who have children who are just not interested at all. Not necessarily because they have dyslexia, but just because they haven’t experienced the joy of really enjoying a book and are becoming even more unwilling to try as they begin to come under pressure from their school and adults around them to at least ‘…finish one book!’

So I thought I would publish a post about it, to make people aware of this wonderful and thoughtful publisher.

The Internet site for Barrington Stoke is and is easily navigable – do take a look at the site, it may well be the start of a love affair with reading, and I sometimes think there is nothing quite like the pleasure of reading a good book.

Which on consideration, is quite astonishing.

I started to read aged 8, but that’s another story….



First published in 1954 by Harper and Brothers.

The paperback edition I read was published by the Natural History Library in 1964

Now out of print – The Internet site Vialibri may be able to trace a copy.

I was given the paperback edition of this by a very good friend of mine after my trip to Madagascar. It relates the experiences of a newly qualified American anthropologist and her first trip into West Africa to stay with and learn from the local tribes. By turn it made me laugh, horrified and charmed me. It is a fictional account, ‘An anthropological novel’, but based on real experiences.

Africa will always be close to my heart. My mother and her siblings were born there, and my favourite uncle lived there until his death.  I have had some fantastic holidays and experiences there too, both with those who are indigenous and others who are / were not and it is probably this that made me love the book as much as I have.

Apart from relating the views, philosophy, society and life of the various people she came across, it also prompted me to look at the way we behave and to wonder what an anthropologist would think of us, our beliefs, and our society.

It is and was a superb book.

Elenore Smith Bowen is the nom de plume of Laura Bohannan and she included an author’s note:

All the characters in this book, except for myself, are fictitious in the fullest meaning of that word. I knew people of the type I have described here; the incidents of the book are of the genre I myself experienced in Africa. Never-the-less, so much is fiction…Here I have written simply as a human being, and the truth I have tried to tell concerns the sea change in oneself that comes from immersion in another and savage culture.

One of the joys of second-hand, rare or antiquarian books is that sometimes they have that glorious smell that only comes with age. I think Stephen Fry did a ‘thing’ about it on QI – and if I remember correctly stated that the aroma I so enjoyed was from a fungus, that produced aphrodisiac spores.

If that isn’t the case and I either dreamt that or invented it, then it is as good a reason for me to love it as any other.

This small volume is permeated with that wonderful aroma, and is treasured all the more for that, and that my friend thought to give it to me.



Published by Oxford University Press

Not yet Published at time of going to Post – Early February 2016

This volume seemed to come from the same mini genre as My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons (see post on this blog) that was published a few months ago.

It was great fun, and had the feel of a Saturday night’s fantasy film, not least as it is partially a graphic novel as well as straight prose, which works very well. A light, but fun read…  Cathy Brett’s illustrations are just right and add a little edge to the story.



Published by Chicken House

Not yet published at time of going to post – February 2016

Another adventure from the stable of Dan Smith. This time centred around Ash McCarthy, kidnapped and seemingly alone on an island – trapped in some sort of science complex.

This is full of adrenalin and energy – Ash needs not only to escape, but there seems to be a lot more going on than he can work out… He seems also to be changing, fundamentally and fast. Will he be able to escape and find out what is going on?

This is due out early February…



Published by Walker Books

Not yet published at time of going to post – due June 2016

I haven’t finished this yet – but it’s so good, I have decided to review it now – as it has really caught my imagination. Fenn Halflin lives in a world of water and marshes – under the care of a man whom he refers to as Grandfather. His life though is uninteresting and though he feels the pull of the water, he is never allowed to swim, but does so behind his grandfather’s back…

This world of water, split between those who live on the land and others more in tune with the sea, has references to our lives too…the flotsam and jetsam often reflect our lives. The water that engulfs so much of Fenn’s world is the result of rising waters… again a reflection of what is happening in so many parts of the world…

Clever, intriguing and wonderful – a brilliant adventure. Really superb. Due out in June this year – no indication of the cover has been circulated yet – however I thought that the above picture by Turner is a good reflection of the atmosphere within the book…It’s marvellous!

I finished the book today – and the finish is exactly right. What is even more pleasing is that the book is the first of two and now I can’t wait for the second book to come. Marvellous.



Published by Bloomsbury

This post must not be read by my friend Min, till after her birthday, or Christmas this year (2016). I liked this book so much I have bought her a copy and she mustn’t read it till she had got her copy from me.

Not only is this a superb little book, with a most intriguing and slightly worrying story, it is also illustrated by Emily Gravett. It was for this reason, really that I read the only copy we had in stock. I am a great fan of Emily Gravett’s picture books (Spells, Wolves, Blue Chameleon, & Meerkat Mail amongst others) and picked this up as a result. It has those wonderful folded covers that give strength to paperbacks, and a rather fun illustration on the cover.

It is the tale of imaginary friends. It is not the usual tale of imaginary friends and is I think a little disturbing. I have never thought of their being a community of characters employed as imaginary friends for ‘real’ people, or for that matter that some of them might not be as benign as we are led to believe.

This was marvellous. If I am ever given the opportunity to purchase a signed copy of this, or a print, or even an original drawing (I would love just a print of Zinzan) I shall do so.

It is a remarkable and unique volume…

I hope Min hasn’t read it or got it…


Published by Chicken House

Alice Jones enjoys numbers. She likes the fact the numbers balance. That there is usually an answer that is final and complete. She likes to count in prime numbers when stressed, or if that doesn’t work she will switch to the Fibonacci Sequence. She is that type of girl.

Her father is a journalist and has taught his daughters that the truth is what is important with a story and it is the truth of the mystery that makes this story so good.

It is a mystery, a crime book, a story of families and of standing up for what is right, as well as a book coloured a little by numbers…

A fun and enticing story. Will we ever manage to make an invisibility suit, or is that just an idea for stories like Harry Potter?

NB – I had no idea what the Fibonacci Sequence is until I looked it up. It is a sequence of numbers where the next number is the sum of the two previous numbers. How that is useful, I really don’t know, but I have learnt what it is, which I suppose is something.



Published by Chicken House

What percentage of who we believe we are is the result of what we see in the mirror? That face that we see reflected in so many surfaces as we go about our day. That face that we know to be ‘ours’.

This is the story of one girl’s identity as she starts to recover from an accident in which a large part of her face has been destroyed. She questions who she is, even before she is given the chance of a face transplant. The question remains as to how you live with a stranger that looks back at you from the mirror.

Without doubt surgery performs miracles. There are always fundamental questions though about who we are after surgery. This relates the ‘journey’ of one such patient and that question of ‘luck’. How lucky are those of us who survive. Many would say we were unlucky to have had to have the procedures in the first place. For me, I feel that we are unbelievably lucky to have such talented surgeons out there, pushing the limits, answering impossible questions and performing such miracles as this.