Wednesday, 30 October 2013

October Book Reviews

Franky is 30, working in clothes retail where his boss is also his girlfriend. It's fair to say life is pretty easy and he's got few complaints but a weekend away camping with old friends changes all that. Holly's pregnant, Nevin's a kleptomaniac, Wayland has a major drinking problem and then there's Alek. Alek is Franky's best friend, but there's always more to the story than that.

When Franky makes friends with the gay couple on the site opposite it puts things in to perspective. Bombshells are dropped throughout the 250 pages and just when you think things are getting better someone confesses to something.

Never has a group of old friends had so many secrets nor such a deluded sense of loyalty and honour. As far as LGBT lit goes it's a solid offering with stereotypical support characters. Can't say I'm rushing to read more by Mel Bossa though.

A beautiful debut from Erin Morgenstern that I am still trying to wake from. I can't tell you too much of the plot without giving things away but suffice it to say that if you suspend belief for long enough you will be welcomed into the circus of dreams with open arms. 
Part fantasy, part love story, part mystery there is something for everyone in this story with a beautiful mix of eccentric characters. Be warned though that it isn't all happiness that befalls you at the Night Circus and sometimes it's hard to tell the light from the dark and the good from the evil.

Unfortunately there aren't plans for another book from this wonderful author yet.

The first of the Mortal Instruments trilogy introduces us to a world of shadow hunters, vampires and other (seemingly normal  for these days) other worldly characters as Clary explores a world that has been kept secret from her for the 15 years of her life. 

Unfortunately, this secret is revealed when her mother disappears one night and Clary battles her first demon. With the help of her best friend Simon and the new and handsome stranger Jace she learns of her heritage and the true identities of people she's known her whole life.

An easy teen read for those who enjoy the genre although I don't feel the need to rush out and read the next instalment straight away.

After seeing Burton and Taylor on BBC4 I felt the need to read Private Lives and I'm glad I did. A short three act play which follows the hapless activities of two newly-wed couples. Brilliant easy reading for an autumnal evening. Coward is fantastic in his wordplay and wit is present in abundance as Elyot and Amanda reminisce and rekindle their old flame whilst on honeymoon with the new partners.

As is expected chaos ensues and passion wins out but oh my do they have some fun in the mean time!

I've always been a fan of Bill Bryson and this is another of his wonderous gifts to the world. In One Summer Bryson picks out the key figures of the Summer of 1927 - names you'd recognise; Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth, Al Capone are intertwined with forgotten names of the age; Philo Farnsworth, Kenesaw Martin Landis and Jacob Ruppert. 

This was the Summer Mount Rushmore was commissioned, Babe Ruth had the season of his life, the first talking picture The Jazz Singer was shown in theatres and Charles Lindbergh navigated the Atlantic Ocean single-handed. 

Uplifting, inspirational and at times sensational Bryson's account of these four short months will keep you turning the pages and satisfying your appetite for discovery.

Rose and Joshua used to live together... their parents were in a relationship until they disappeared 5 years ago and Rose and Joshua were split up. 

Joshua was sent north but has recently moved back to London to start university... and to find his Dad and Rose's mum. 

Rose has recently returned from boarding school to start at the local college but when she witnesses two murders in the same number of weeks things start to get a little strange. Unable to let it go Rose is conducting her own investigations with the help of Joshua's room-mate Skeggsie.

All in all a simple read with underlying teenage angst.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Thank You Neil Gaiman

Earlier this month Neil Gaiman (@NeilHimself) gave the second annual Reading Agency Lecture. For his topic he chose the importance of reading for pleasure and as part of that the importance of libraries. I sat listening to the lecture with a notebook handy to jot any words of wisdom down and came away with a handful of notes from half an hour. Suffice it to say after listening to him he has probably earned a place on my wall of wisdom next to the wonder that is Michael Rosen.

Gaiman is in tune with the world of reading, rightly so you would think for an author who has been plying his trade for over thirty years. Again and again the words reading for pleasure were echoed around the lecture hall of The Barbican – as a Librarian in a public library I feel the most important part of my job, my duty if you like is to promote reading for pleasure to all and especially to those children who I interact with. Therefore I felt an affinity with “my friend Neil “as he continued to expostulate on the importance of reading for pleasure – the need to escape and empathise and the lessons reading for pleasure can teach us about basic humanity and help us to develop our own opinions.

He spoke of libraries as magical places... drawing out the words inter library loan, like a small miracle when he first heard it from his local Librarian. He spoke of the evolving nature of libraries with passion and a sense of excitement, promoting libraries not just as book repositories but a place that can help people to find out, sort and collate the masses of information that we are now buried under on a daily basis. An interesting statistic that I managed to note down was from Eric Schmidt of Google; Every two days the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of time to 2003! That totally had my mind blown... the information glut we are now living through needs these professionals to help navigate for those who are not computer literate, in a world where life is increasingly led online libraries are a free, legal and open resource for all and are as Gaiman believes the “gates to the future”.

He finished off by speaking of the obligations we have as human beings... the easy ones; to read, to use language and to daydream. But there were also subtle calls to arms; to tell MPs what we want, to use and embrace language, to use reading for pleasure as time to bond with children and show them that reading for pleasure, irrelevant of format should be embraced and celebrated.

The last sparkle of wisdom I’ll leave you with is this.... “If you don’t value libraries you don’t value culture, information or wisdom”. Now I may be biased due to my profession but reading and creating a literate society should be the top priority of a nation. A literate nation is in my opinion an informed nation with a chance to build upon the wonders of the past with the promises of the future and libraries are essential to this end. I would quite happily show this lecture in schools and universities up and down the country, along with both houses of parliament.

So thank you Neil for standing up for reading and libraries and let me know next time you’re in town. 

PS. If you want to watch the lecture just click the link at the top of the post and prepare to fall in love (only intellectually though.... don't get carried away!)

Friday, 4 October 2013

September Book Reviews

Following the fashion of gossip from below stairs Baker serves up a fresh perspective of the nation's favourite Austen created family. And as expected there's as much drama below stairs as above. The introduction of James the footman causes a stir in the comfortable household and forces Sarah to re-think her position in life and society. But much goes on that is not necessarily seen.

All the favourite characters appear Wickham, Lizzie and the insatiable Mrs Bennett but there are fresh secrets revealed in Baker's portrayal. Should Mary have married Mr Collins? Was the Hill's marriage all it seemed? Beautifully written and a good excuse to return to a world as well known as my own.

The sequel to Legend. Day and June are on the run but exactly who is the enemy? After the death of the elector it's hard to tell. One thing's for sure at least Day and June can rely on each other can't they??

Lu brings back brave and ruthless character s throwing them together and ramping up the pressure... the truth will out! An easy read for those who enjoy the dystopian genre of teen fiction.

This was recommended by a friend and reminds me a lot of Dan Brown with a bit more respect for the audience. The Sancti are clouded in mystery and never leave the security of the Citadel that is until Brother Samuel makes a rather public plea for help. The Sancti are not all they seem, they have a secret that must remain exactly that no matter who gets in their way.

A racing thriller that will have you gripped from the start with the next two instalments already published... it's going to be a good winter thanks to Mr Toyne!