Library Haul

Willpower is not something that I possess when it comes to books. This of course isn't news. I recently logged on to the library website to order up the book club's latest read, Regeneration by Pat Barker. Whilst I was clicking the necessary bits and pieces, I was listening to the BBC World Service World Book Club Podcast with Malorie Blackman. Noughts and Crosses had been on my list to read for ages, and for some reason I had never quite got to it and Malorie Blackman sounded like such a nice lady I thought I really should make the effort. So, a few more clicks and that one hit my reserved list too. 

At that point I consulted my "would like to read" list and ordered up a few more items, including the first Game of Thrones book. The Delightful Mr F and I became rather obsessed with the DVDs, and I have been curious to see what the books are like.  The reserve queue for most of the books I ordered was very long, but I have plenty to read and thought I might be nice to randomly have some books turn up at the library for me over the next few months. 

Fast forward to last week, and low and behold a wealth of literary joy sat waiting for me on the hallowed librarian's shelf behind the desk in my local library. It is easy to forget that libraries can get pretty much any book for you, in the past they have managed to get books from the British Library for me. It is a great, and very cheap way to have a book binge, to try books you are not sure you will like, or just to pick something randomly for a bit of a bookish lucky dip. 

Do you use your local library? What was the last thing you borrowed?

Scam on the Cam by Clementine Beauvais

ISBN: 978-1444912548

Published by Hodder's Children's Books

There has been a great deal of excited anticipation at Fennell Towers over the last few weeks. We have been waiting for months for the publication of the new Sesame Seade adventure, Scam on the Cam. This is the third mystery for our heroine to solve, and if you haven't read her first two escapades, Sleuth on Skates and Gargoyles gone AWOL, then you should. Immediately.

In this instalment there is something very dodgy going on down at the Cambridge rowing team's boathouse. The Oxford-Cambridge boat race is a short time away, and it appears as though someone is trying to nobble the Cambridge team. Sesame and her friends, Toby and Gemma, set out to discover the truth.

Sesame is a wonderful heroine, she has such a great outlook on life, believing her role in the world is to rid it of wrongdoing, although she does break a few rules to ensure that the baddies are bought to justice.

When I was about 8 years old, I read some books by Gwen Grant, Private - Keep Out! being the first.  I adored these books for the same reason I love Sesame. The heroine is brave, and funny and clever, the writing is hilarious, but with a great deal of warmth. These are stories that all children can relate to, they are not full of explosions or whizz bang technology, just kids being kids and having adventures on their skates and scooters. Whether you have any children in your life or not, get a copy and read it. If you have kids it will be a great way to share some reading time together, and if you don't, it will lift you out any gloomy work induced mood. The illustrations by Sarah Horne are superb and complement Clementine's wonderful and witty writing perfectly.

Gone on, get a copy, you'll feel better for it, I promise. 

 

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Published by Andersen

ISBN:78-1849395427

Georges (with a silent s) is coping with change. His Dad has recently been made redundant and is trying to find work, and his Mum is working double shifts as a nurse. They have had to leave the family home and downsize to a new apartment, and if all that isn't bad enough, his friend has joined the "cool table" at school, a table at which Georges is not welcome. 

Georges makes friends with Safer, a strange boy who lives in the same apartment block, and his sister Candy. Safer is convinced that a man in their block is murdering people, and taking their bodies away in a suitcase. He sets out to train Georges as a spy to see if they can catch Mr X up to no good. 

There are some lovely touches in this book, including the way that Georges communicates with his Mum via scrabble letters whilst she is at work, and a PE teacher who has an eye for the underdog.

The child characters are interesting, and many people will recognise the bullying Georges endures at school. Not physical violence, but a steady, eroding stream of snide comments which eventually become too much for him, and against which he takes a very elegant stand.  

Don't be fooled by the title, this is not an adventure full of daring-do. It is actually a subtle, gentle and clever look at what it is to be eleven years old, not be on the "cool table" and how friendships can grow, support and insulate you from life's less pleasant aspects.

 

Comfort Reading

Oh my poor, poor brain! It really is having trouble keeping up with things these days. It seems as though I don't have enough bandwidth to allow everything I need to take in to flow properly through the little grey cells, and lodge in the correct place. This is probably why I found myself almost putting the washing in the dishwasher the other day.  What happens if you put socks in the dishwasher?...

In order to take some of the strain off, I am going for some extreme comfort reading over the next few weeks. I have some excellent and high quality children's fiction on the To Be Read pile, not to mention some cosy crime and some classic Sci-Fi. So here are my comfort reads which I am hoping will give me reading joy without undue strain on my mental faculites:

The new Sesame Seade book, Scam on the Cam by Clementine Beauvais is published next week. I have been looking forward to this since I finished the previous book in the series, so much so, I have the publication date written in my diary. 

Before that arrives I have time to read The Owl Service by Alan Garner. I can't believe his books have passed me by, but this will be the first of his that I have read, and I have a feeling it may be the start of a reading binge.  

I picked up The Bell Family by Noel Streatfield a couple of weeks ago. Newly published by Vintage, it is lovely story about a vicar and his family and their day to day adventures. I loved Ballet Shoes and White Boots when I was little, so I suspect this will become a new favourite.

Under the cosy crime section I have my Christies of course, but also The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R King. This has the interesting premise of a retired Sherlock Holmes meeting a seventeen year old girl called Mary who is even sharper than he is, and together they set off to solve the most complex of crimes. 

I also have An Expert In Murder by Nicola Upson, another take on the golden age of crime, this time taking the crime writer Jopsehine Tey and setting her on the tail of a real murderer. 

I treated myself to a Folio copy of The Life, The Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams. It has been a very long time since I read any of these books, and I am looking forward to reading them again. 

Others in the comfort read pile include some Eric Ambler, Dorothy L Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, Roald Dahl, Susan Cooper, Terry Pratchett, Ian Rankin, Adrian Mole, David Walliams and Neil Gaimen. That should keep me going for a while, don't you think?

So, what are your comfort reads?


Lazy Days by Erlend Loe

Loe - Lazy Days.jpg

Apologies for the deathly silence around here this week. The residents of Fennell Towers have been somewhat distracted by another project. However, we have still been reading, in my case this fantastic, if rather odd book by Erlend Loe. 

If you are thinking, "My word, the lady on the front cover has a remarkable resemblance to Nigella Lawson", then you would be on to something. 

This is a short novella in which Nigella plays a very important part. Bror Teleman is a Norwegian theatre director, but what he really wants to be is a famous playwright. We meet Teleman and his family as they holiday in Germany, in the shadow of the Alps and he thinks about theatre... and Nigella... a lot. Teleman is obsessed by the lovely Nigella, and his mid wanders to her as he "thinks about theatre". Meanwhile, his wife and children are busy enjoying the delights of southern Germany with their German hosts. Teleman seems to be sinking into what can only be called a mid-life crisis as his daydreams about Nigella take over more and more of his thoughts.

The majority of the books is written as conversations between Teleman and his wife Nina. There are no quotation marks around the prose, so reading it take a bit of practise, but is by no means difficult. These conversations capture beautifully the low level chat which happens in a long term relationship, but Loe uses these to show the reader how things are going wrong.

There is also a running joke throughout about a mis-translation by Google of an email which the family receive from the German couple they are renting their holiday home from. This is so ridiculous, but also so very true, that it seems to give the whole book a really solid foundation of reality and hilarity.

The novella is very dark, but also very funny and very well observed and is definitely worth a few hours of your time.

 

 

The Case of the Garish Book Covers

Sunglasses on standby

Sunglasses on standby

Last week I was in my local branch of Waterstones having a little wander around before meeting a friend. I turned the corner of the bookshelves, leaving fiction (W - Z) behind me when I was faced with the garish sight of a table full of children's books. 

Now you all know I love children's fiction, there is some fabulous writing out there which can and should be enjoyed by everyone, but my goodness, trying to see what is there is like looking at the Blackpool Illuminations magnified a thousand times. 

The book covers are all so loud, each one battling the next for attention. Pick me! Pick me! I might be rubbish, but my cover is more fluorescent than the one next to me!

It seems that publishers think that children just can't understand subtle. I do have a nostalgic tendency when it comes to books, remembering the covers I loved as a child, which I am sure would now look painfully dated, but even so. 

Much better...

Much better...

There are some beautiful covers out there, including the Vintage Classics World Of Stories which give a sense of the adventure inside. Some covers earn the bright colours that adorn them, and really do reflect the characters, I'm thinking of Roald Dahl, David Walliams, and so on, but really, when did a book about a girls boarding school written in 1941 require a day-glo pink cover?