Archives for category: Book Review

Published by Orion.

I have just returned from 18 days in Madagascar – a trip to the North. Of which I will probably write a post at some point or another, once I have recovered. A land of infinite variety and fascination.

There are a few disadvantages to going on holiday at this time of the year – Christmas was coming just before I left and whilst I was away, it came in like the proverbial hurricane it always is. I am astonished by how much stuff is ‘needed’ by young people, when I compare what the average Malagasy child has – it really puts ‘our’ now probably more ‘traditional’ Christmas – a season of ‘want’, in perspective…

I will stop ranting now and let you know about one of the other disadvantages. You can miss out on good books – unless you have kindly colleagues who let you know about them on your return. Young Amabel found this one whilst I was away and raved about it so much when I walked into the department on Monday I knew I would have to read it.

It has, I’m sorry to say, a rather unexciting dust jacket.

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The boards of the book though reflect the content  and are wonderful (they even have gold highlights) – with just enough flavour to indicate the darkness of this inventive and superb adventure – I am loving it – At the beginning of the book Morrigan Crow has an appointment with death. She knows when she will die – the date is in the diary. Her stepmother, however,  proposes that there is another side to death; life – and whilst her family and Morrigan sit down to her last meal – a ‘celebration’ of sorts, her stepmother informs her husband that she is pregnant – ‘It’s like…the circle of life. One life may be snuffed out, but another is being brought into the world. Why, it’s practically a miracle!’

The book is superbly complex, and filled with clever ideas… It is a new world for everyone to enjoy. It is one to savour; funny, scary and a little mystical. If you like magic – with a twist, and I suppose if you liked Harry Potter – you will almost certainly love this, and in someways Jupiter reminds me a little of Dr Who… which is frankly quite glorious…

This is a fantastic book and everyone should have a copy for Christmas.

Do not be put off by the cover, (or the majority of the pictures which illustrate the chapter headings) they do not reflect the intricacies and sophistication of the story. Then again, do not let my enjoyment of the darkness and the complexities of the tale to put you off either.

It has the right balance and is marvellous.

They just shouldn’t have published it with a dust jacket – as Amabel said, ‘naked’ it is superb. The dust jacket, just lacks a little something.

They should just have dared to go bare!

I have only one other complaint. I like to ask good authors to come for book-signings at Finchley Road O2 – Jessica Townsend lives in Australia – and even if I managed to persuade her to come, I doubt that Waterstones would be willing to cover her travel expenses. If, however, she should read this – and is coming anyway to the UK – a very warm welcome would await her in Finchley Road O2 Waterstones. Just let me know…

 

 

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Published by Simon and Schuster

This is a beautiful picture book. One to treasure. Superbly illustrated – a book of gardening magic and wonder. I have fallen quietly in love with this simple story. Everyone should have a copy. Stunning and a masterful collaboration of story telling and illustration.

Buy this.

For some reason it reminds me a little of Mr Rabbit and the Present by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Sadly now out of print.

Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd.

A book of hopes and dreams. Dreams that are so much greater than the dreamer. This is about football on the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia.

Games played by boys in the streets with anything that moves when kicked and, if they are lucky, boots that look similar to those used by professional players.

Boots that look similar.

Millions of boots.  The use of a rattan stick. Of underdogs – it is a harsh story, but one that is repeated all over the world in one form or another – the end links of a world driven by money and greed.

It is a story of friendship, bravery, families, a story of football, and so much more.

An extraordinary debut novel.

Published by Collins Modern Classics.

First published in 1964 –

I suppose I first read this in the early 1970’s and I always remember that I loved it, though I couldn’t tell you what the book was about. Somewhere at my parents’ house there is probably the copy I read amongst other old editions of classic Penguins and the like.

Recently Collins Modern Classics have published a new edition of it – copies of which I found on our shelves at work the other morning, and so, I have been reading this once more.

The book is set in America – and has many Americanisms as a result. There are parts that I found I didn’t understand. Whether I understood them when I was ten or eleven, I don’t know.

This is the story of the eponymous Harriet the spy. At the beginning of the book she lives with her busy parents, a cook and her nurse with whom she seems to have the closest relationship. She has all the material things she could need. She has friends at school, but spends most of her time alone, recording details of people’s lives in a black book. Some of which are not the kindest of observations. When her nurse leaves to get married, Harriet finds herself bereft – and her gathering of information gains pace. Even hiding as she does in people’s houses to listen and to observe them at home, the details carefully recorded.

When her book is found and read by her peers at school their reaction to what she has written is dramatic.

The book is about stories. About the truth, and whether it should be told. About lies. Friendship, families, growing up and the differences between people; backgrounds, lives and beliefs…

Parts of this reminded me of my youth. Being told that some mathematical problem was simple, and that they would show her, reminded me of being told something similar. It may have been simple for them, but never seemed to be to me. However often they tried to show me.  Then there are the episodes of Harriet’s anger at the world, and everything and everyone in it, that also resonated with me too…

An extraordinary American tale – more American ‘flavoured’ than many I have read for some time. Some terms of reference, as I said at the beginning, seemed nonsensical to me, but didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book and my return down memory lane.

 

 

 

Published by Piccadilly Press.

I am very pleased to say that my  new-ish colleague Amabel found the copy of this that I was reading…so I can now revisit my post about this. If she continues to find books I have lost, she will become an invaluable member of staff.

It is a beautifully complex book – with spikes of darkness. Several character’s perspectives are followed. There are the children (in particular one), who are sacrificed. A witch, who I am glad to say isn’t what you might expect. A carpenter, a mother bereft from loss. Babies. Paper birds, a swamp monster, a dragon and, perhaps my favourite character of all, a crow. Oh, I nearly forgot – there is a heroine and a hero too. It is as I suspected, marvellous.

I mentioned in my previous post about this that I have an affinity with witches. Last night I lay in bed, and basked in the light of the moon… I am just beginning to wonder.

Small phrases (and descriptive passages) are like decorative jewels:

Each lie they told fell from their lips and scattered on the ground, tinkling and glittering like broken glass.

“Caw,” said the crow. “I am the most excellent of crows,” the crow meant.

“Caw,” the crow whispered, abashed.

A blur of petulant green…

One day as she sat on the floor in the middle of her cell, cross-legged. She had chanced upon a handful of feathers left behind by a swallow who had decided to make her nest on the narrow windowsill of the cell, before a falcon had decided to make the swallow a snack.

“Caw,” said the crow, but what he meant was any number of unrepeatable things. “Language!” Luna admonished. “And anyway, I don’t believe I like your tone.

“What have you gotten yourself into? the shadows seemed to say, tutting and harrumphing.

Originally published in the USA, so is written in American. Piccadilly Press haven’t translated the odd Americanism which dot the book.

With thanks to Amabel – that useful new part-timer in Waterstones Finchley Road O2.

 

Published by Chicken House

I have been lying in bed this morning (04.30) reading this and have become immersed in a Tudor England that never was. Well, probably wasn’t. The book is like one of those chocolates I used to ask to try when I was small. Adult chocolates that looked so inviting after an evening meal. Dark and glossy in the box. Invariably I would take a bite and find myself wishing I hadn’t, but Dad would always do the honourable thing and eat the rest for me. This is a dark chocolate book, rich and powerful, with adult flavours. A chocolate none the less, but perhaps not for those younger readers.  I am loving it.

The proof came with a detached cover/cardboard sleeve. Many proofs come with a standard proof cover – one that is used for all proofs from a particular publishing house. The title and author being the only things that change. Sometimes these come with a separate card with the proposed cover printed on it, as this one has. Sadly they are often damaged; they are a nice addition to the parcel. I am pleased to say the one that came with this book is not only in mint condition, but is stunning – and reflects the rich tones of this wonderful volume. The illustration above doesn’t indicate the beauty that will be the final version. My cardboard sleeve has gilt letting. I trust this will be the case on the finished book.

This is glorious mix of Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, (both of whom display extraordinarily different dimensions to their lives than that are currently recorded as accepted history), John Dee, (similarly), witchcraft, witch-finders,  an acting troop,  and a young gentleman called Walter Raleigh. Within the story is a personal tale of growing love…but how that develops, I can’t say – I haven’t finished this one yet.

For those who know a little of Tudor England and the players within that chapter of our history, this is a joy. For those who know a little less, this will be a joy of another flavour all together, but a joy none the less. A little like the difference between good Madagascan chocolate with all the berry flavours and strength and those Belgium chocolates that Mum’s friend Mark Severin used to buy my mother. Both glorious, but very different.

 

I am not quite sure what is happening, but several books recently have had the theme of witches and witchcraft – this is the most intricate and in some ways, most fun, so far. Then again, each has its own value and this certainly isn’t for younger readers… Each book is a different type of chocolate – and so can’t really be compared. The Tudor period was not a safe or happy one for many, and people who were different weren’t treated in the way they should. This is a wonderful twist to my favourite period of history.

This book has the depth, colour and flavour that one might expect from an experienced author, with many volumes ‘under their belt’. It is, however, Nicholas Bowling’s debut. This is an author to watch.

I forgot – the book isn’t out yet (I have a proof), it is due out in November as a paperback. This could so easily have been put in a hardback – it would have sold easily. Buy it. Definitely a book for the winter evenings.

 

 

Published by Piccadilly Press

I have to say I’m pretty annoyed. I found a copy of this book at work today, started to read it – knew I wanted to take it home, and lost it. I know this is going to be a good one. I spent around half an hour searching after I should have left this evening. In the end, I had to order myself a fresh copy. Which I will, no doubt, devour when it comes in.

This is one of those I’m certain about, before I have got very far. Its about a witch. Not a nice witch either. At the very beginning you are told how she makes the land unhealthy…that an older brother was sacrificed…

I will continue this post, once I have finished it. In the mean while go out and find a copy and read it.

I have an affinity with witches. I am supposed to have two in my ancestry. Its a useful thing to remember when the world turns obnoxious…

Published by Walker Books

I am loving this. Even though I have only read 88 of 278 pages of my proof. This is one of those good books. Atmospheric, unique and full of character.*

At the beginning of the story Mup and Tipper are travelling back home from the hospital in the back of the car. Mup’s mam isn’t talking, singing or talking. The car is silent, with the moon shining, the colour of brass, large and strange in the sky. Tipper has fallen asleep, drooling a little on the straps of his car seat. Mup would have liked him to have been awake, just as company, even if he wasn’t able to have a conversation yet, being a little too small. She rests her head against the window, watching the trees flash by and that is when she sees the witches.

There were men witches and women  witches, and they leapt from branch to branch, racing along at tremendous speed. They were nothing but shadows among shadows, so that Mup had to strain her eyes to see them. She watched for so long that she began to fall asleep again, half convinced she was dreaming after all. Then one of the witches jumped the gap between two trunks, her silhouette dark against the fine grey of the sky. She descended in a falling arc, her clothes blown back like ragged black wings. As her pale hands reached for the branches of the next tree, she looked down into the car and met Mup’s eyes…

This is wonderful – a distraction from everything I should be doing (certainly not writing another post, or wanting to read this) – which is a sign of a very good book.

The use of language is beautiful too – which is always a bonus, small terms of phrase, little jewels of words to treasure.

As always I have’t read the blurb – I try not to, however, this does quote the Sunday Independent on the back – Ireland’s answer to J. K. Rowling. If that persuades you to buy a copy of this extraordinary volume when it comes out on the 1st of February (I know – next year, but it is September now…just five months to wait) – then all the better.

It has become a habit to compare this type of book and the authors of them with Harry Potter and J.K.R. Not necessarily a good thing. I think she could learn a great deal from Celine Kiernan – this is super.

The cover of my proof is rather lovely, but the only representation I can find of it on the Internet is not perfect, so I looked at Celine’s blog to find she has been working on the above animation – which I have stolen – so much more fun than a picture of a book. I hope she doesn’t mind…

Go out and order a copy from your nearest good bookshop.

* Just thought I would give you an update. Finished this on the train to work this morning. It is as brilliant as the first 88 pages indicated it would be.

It is the start of a trilogy – now waiting for book two.

Impatiently.

 

Published by Walker Books

This is a rather lovely unique adventure story. A fantasy novel which is a little different. The characters are intricate and well developed. It has a reflection of Charles Dickens, but is also something totally different. No 13 has no memory of anything outside the orphanage where he has grown up. Part fox, part boy he is naive and struggles to survive in an orphanage run by evil Miss Carbunkle. Things don’t look good, and they don’t look likely to change either, until another groundling persuades him that together they can escape…

It has elements of steampunk, has brilliant language and clever ideas – this is something special and like nothing else I have read. Animals that are people at the same time are well mixed into the story – each with their own abilities and idiosyncrasies. Some are more animal than others. Some are more child.  There is even an aye-aye like boy, who is similar to the character of the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  Which I suppose has meant I am even more pro this story than I might have been, having become a little infatuated with all things Madagascan…

This is a tale of bravery, mechanical beetles, adventure, and character – frankly something that will take you away from the everyday…into another world.

My proof is a fat hardback – an inch and a half or so thick, and some 450 pages. Illustrations will be prolific, and if the chapter heading devices are anything to go by, should be suitably atmospheric…Mira Bartok is both the author and illustrator.

Published by Oxford

This is, by far, my favourite book by Gill Lewis.

It is the story of two brothers. It is also the story of hen harriers and a divided community. Its about standing up for what is right, or what you believe is right. Its a story of acceptance, learning and supporting one another. Its a story of a family, and yes, a story of two brothers.

It is a wonderful book. It should be read along side A Very Good Chance by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald – it has a similar positive vibe.

The world is changing, there is nothing new in that. Sometimes it can be a good thing. We need to nurture these positives against the negatives. They may be small, but they are important.

This is brilliant – absolutely brilliant.

This superb picture is by Mark Hamlin (www.discoverwildlife.com).