Smiles All Round

So, after my pledge that I wasn't going to buy any books and would only read from my current To Be Read Pile, The Delightful Mr F took pity on me and bought me another Reading Spa at Mr B's! This will be my seventh.  These are always such wonderful days out. Lots of lovely literary chat with the Mr B's team, books to take home and lunch with The Delightful Mr F. 

Within minutes of the envelop being in my hand I had hot footed it to my laptop to email the shop and arrange an appointment. I am going in March, so lots of time to think about what sort of books I would like this time. 

The Delightful Mr F is truly delightful. 

The CLIP Carnegie Nominations for 2015

The CLIP Carnegie Nominations for 2015 have been out a little while, but I have only just had time to look at the list properly. It is quite a long list, and I haven't ready many of them, but there are some wonderful authors in there. 

Tim Bowler has been nominated for Night Runner, the story of a young man caught up in criminal gangs. Tim Bowler is a favourite of mine, although it has been a good while since I ready any of his books. Another one to add to the wants list. 

Last year's winner, Kevin Brooks is up again, but this time for The Ultimate Truth: Travis Delaney Investigates. The Bunker Diary was a top read for me last year. I haven't read this new one, but am intrigued to see if it is as dark as The Bunker Diary. 

The Maggot Moon writer, Sally Gardener is listed for Tinder, set during the 30 years war, and about magic, witches and a strange creature stalking the hero. The front cover looks amazing doesn't it?

We Were Liars by E Lockhart is also listed, another of my 2014 reads, and great for young adults out there.  The great Marcus Sedgwick's She Is Not Invisible must be in with a good chance of winning with his wonderful tale of a blind girl and her brother searching for their Dad in New York City. 

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens is there too, which I was pleased to see. A review is  scheduled for next week. It is the first of a series of Wells and Wong mysteries set in a 1930s British girls boarding school.  

On top of that lot, there are some other wonderful writers including Phillip Reave, Meg Rosoff, Neil Gaiman,  Patrick Ness, Matt Haig and Roddy Doyle. I have just added at least a dozen new titles to my want to read list...  The Delightful Mr F will need to build some more bookcases...

Have you read any of the books on the list?




She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

I'm a huge fan of Marcus Sedgwick. There aren't many writers who can move deftly between times and places with different novels and still retain quality writing.  

In this book we meet Laureate, a blind British teenager. Her father is a famous writer and he has gone missing in New York. Desperately worried about him, she sets off to Heathrow airport to fly to the US to find him. She takes her seven year old brother with her to help her navigate a world set up for the sighted. 

Once in New York they try to track down her father, who is writing a book about coincidence, or co-inky-dinks as her little brother says. The sections about about coincidences were absolutely fascinating, especially, if like me you love numbers and the tricks they can play on you.  There is even a lovely little secret revealed for the reader at the end of the book. I bet you won't be able to resist working through it. 

On the face of it, this is a straightforward thriller, two kids try to solve the mystery of their father's disappearance, but that isn't the point. There is a wonderful relationship between Laureth and her brother, as they each rely on the other in different ways. It also really made me appreciate how hard it must be to be blind and how all those little everyday things such as shaking hands can cause a problem when you can't see.  

As I was reading I felt I was getting a real sense of what it was like to be blind, as much as one can when one isn't, and I wasn't sure why that was. It was only afterwards that another reviewer pointed out that at no point are any visual descriptors used in the book as the story is told from Laureth's point of view. Every scene is built up using sounds, temperatures, smells and so on, but nothing related to sight. It is extremely clever, extremely subtle and extremely effective. 

This is another book which I won't be passing on, but has earned a permanent place on my library shelves. 

Wednesday Wishlist

I can only assume that because I have banned myself from buying books until my To Be Read Pile has diminished I am now seeing books I want to read left, right and centre. Indeed, one creeped up on me via a colleague in the office yesterday morning.

So, today's wishlist item is The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I fully admit I may be a bit late to the party on this one. In fact, so late I think the party goers have gone home and the host has cleared up the empties and got the red wine stain out of the carpet. 

For some reason this book was always in the back of my mind, but I never made the leap to  read it. Then Lorraine from Biblioaddicted suggested it as a book club read, and I realised that I didn't really know what it was about. A quick Google later and I was sold. 

So, it's on the list I carry with me should I be passing a quality book retailer, but I shall not yield... yet. 


Short Story Joy

Last year I was stuck in a terrible traffic jam. A proper “nose to tail, crawling along at a rate my speedometer couldn’t register, trying to not bump into the person in front and liberally scattering rude words to the driver behind who wasn’t offering me the same courtesy” traffic jam.

The only thing that stopped me from suffering a major sense of humour failure was that on the radio the winners of the 2014 BBC Radio 2 500 word short story competition were being announced. This week the 2015 competition has been launched, and it reminded me how good last year’s stories were.

You can find them on the dedicated website either to listen to or to read. The stories are split into two groups, 9 and under and 10 – 13. There are some absolute stunners in there, wonderful, imaginative, clever, funny, poignant. If this is the standard of writing coming through, we have some potentially great novelists in the making.

If you want to pass a happy lunch hour, then this is the place to go for some literary joy.

Commenting... Please test!

Good morning my fellow bookworms. I hope you are all OK in the snowy weather and have a stack of books and hot drinks at the ready. 

Squarespace have emailed me to say they think they have fixed the commenting problem on the blog. If you would be so kind as to test by commenting below and letting me know via email (link below on the left had side bar) if you have any problems, I would be much obliged!

Happy reading!

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

I may have found my favourite read of the year already. This novel centres around Maud, an old lady who has some form of dementia, effecting her memory. She is obsessed with buying canned peaches and is sure her friend Elizabeth is missing. The problem is that nobody will believe her. 

As Maud sets out to investigate, it becomes clear that an old compact found in Elizabeth's garden is related to another mystery which Maud was involved with after the war. Again, she can't remember what happened. 

I was worried that reading a story where the main protagonist has dementia was going to be heart wrenching, and it was. However, it was also full of wonderful humour and hope. Maud is a delightful character, and those around her do their best to cope with her memory problems. Her daughter, Helen, whilst exasperated and worried most of the time, clearly only wants to help her Mum. Maud's granddaughter is a gem too, not all teenagers are violent hoodies. 

The two mysteries are woven together beautifully, and the resolution is perfect. It took me a couple of days to read, and Maud was with me for most of that time. I started to worry about her, and hope she had remembered the notes in her pocket and that she wasn't lost or hurt. 

Many of the books I read I pass on, but this one is staying in my library. It is a perfect piece of writing gently capturing life for a suffer of dementia, as well as those who support them. 

The Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett

The Disappearance Boy of the title is Reggie Rainbow, a magician's assistant in the 1950s. Reggie works for the rather nasty Teddy Brooks, a magician famous for making his glamorous assistants disappear from a box, with Reggie's behind the scenes help of course. 

The book is mainly set in Brighton in 1953, just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Teddy has won a lucrative contract at the Brighton Grand which could lead to great things if his coronation show goes well. Teddy has recently sacked his last assistant, and taken on Pam. Pam and Reggie strike up a close friendship, which supports them both as the story progresses. 

The novel is based in the world of variety and magic, and the narrator is keen to explain how the disappearance trick is done, telling the reader all about misdirection. The story unfolds slowly, but beautifully. When we first meet Reggie we are told of his childhood polio which has left him with a dodgy left foot, and slowly it becomes clear that the lonely and solitary Reggie is also gay. Being gay in 1953, when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK, was not easy, and the art of illusion is woven into Reggie's personal and professional life. 

As I was reading this I thought it was obvious where the story was going, and where Pam and Reggie would ultimately end up, and then, in the last few chapters I was completely blindsided by the plot. Just like a perfect magic trick, I was lulled in to a false sense of security, and misdirected perfectly.

It is wonderfully written, the narrator talking directly to the reader, and it was a real pleasure to read, evoking the times, places and characters vividly. It isn't fast paced, but it doesn't need to be, it's wonderful to watch Reggie come out of his shell and discover and accept who he is.