Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Published by Hot Key Books

I am thoroughly enjoying reading my way through the Carnegie Winners list. This was the winner in 2013, and it is fantastic. 

Set in a dystopian future, which feels rather like the 1950s, Standish Treadwell and his family live in Zone 7 under a brutal government who have closed off the entire country, referenced only as The Motherland,  from the rest of the world. The Government is issuing enormous amounts of propaganda about a moon landing that the country is about to make, live on television. 

Standish and his friend Hector understand that it is best not to draw attention to yourself, if you do, then it is likely that you will disappear, to where, nobody knows. 

I don't want to write too much of the plot for fear of giving things away. What I will say is that it is brutal, there is violence, although nothing gratuitous. It is aimed at the Young Adult market, and I can image if I read this at say 12 or 13 years old it would have stopped me in my tracks and made me think about what is going on in the world, there really are people out there who live in a world just like the one Standish inhabits. Even as an adult it hasn't left me, weeks after I read it. If you don't know what to read next, find yourself a copy of this. It is a book you will be glad you have read. 

Incoming!

The Delightful Mr F, being the delightful individual he is, took me to Bath yesterday for a day out.   A trip to Bath can of course only mean one thing... books.  We had a lovely walk around town and then ambled up to Mr B's for some literary chat and a good old browse. 

Whenever I go to Bath, I always make a list of books I want to buy, and almost never buy from that list.  I am normally distracted by a whole Mr B's shop full of other books that look equally if not more appealing. Having had a lovely wander around, I had a nice chat with Mr B over what new books were about which I might like, and came away with a nice stack to keep me going. 

A few more books to add the shelves at Fennell Towers

A few more books to add the shelves at Fennell Towers

See You Tomorrow by Tore Renberg is my next read. Tore Renberg is, apparently, a bit of a celebrity author back in Norway, and you all know I love a bit of Scandi literature. Mr B recommended this to me, and it looks fantastic, one of those books where you can't read fast enough.  In fact I am so keen to read it, I have bumped a few other books I was looking forward to reading down the list. 

So, have any books somehow found their way onto your shelves recently?

Keep smiling!


The Pothunters by PG Wodehouse

Published by Everyman Books

Firstly, who can resist these lovely editions of the wonderful Wodehouse books? They are published by everyman as small hardbacks and look lovely sat on a book shelf.

Pothunters is the first novel that Wodehouse published. In it we are invited into the world of St Austin's, a fictional public school for boys. 

In true Wodehouse form, several silver sporting trophies (the pots of the title) are stolen from the cricket pavilion. There is a lot of stolen silver in the Wodehouse. 

Boys being boys, they set out to try and find out what happened, through a little bit of light trespass and of course, tea.

It is all very gentle and gentlemanly stuff. A light touch of daring do, oh, and don't forget the lashings of tea. 

The Owl Service by Alan Garner

Published by Harper Collins Children's Books

This won the Carnegie Medal in 1967. I am surprised that I didn't read this when I was little, but for some reason it completely passed me by. 

It is set in contemporary Wales, and according to a nice little write up in the back is based on a Welsh legend about a woman called Blodeuwedd

In the book we meet step brother and sister Alison and Roger, taken by their father to stay in a remote cottage in a Welsh valley for the summer. There they meet the handyman Huw, Nancy, the grumpy housekeeper and her son Gwyn. 

The valley seems to hold secrets from the past, and these are slowly revealed when Alison discovers stacks of dinner plates in the attic with a strange floral patter on it. 

The whole story is surrounded by myths and legend and a sense of the landscape holding onto secrets until balance is restored. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and despite parts of it being a little dated now, it is totally absorbing as the children bravely face down what history has hidden for so long. 

Heft by Liz Moore

Published by Windmill Books

Arthur Opp is a retired, morbidly obese professor, who no longer leaves his Brooklyn home. Twenty years ago he had a brief affair with a student, Charlene, whose frequent letters stopped arriving, until one day out of the blue she writes asking him to help her son Kel with his college application.

The story is has dual narratives, told from the point of view of both Arthur and Kel. Both are carrying a weight of sadness with them, and as their story lines unfold and eventually converge, the reader starts to understand their backgrounds, and motives and how they arrived at the current point in their lives.

This had the potential to be sickeningly sweet, but it isn't. It is clever, and touching, and sad and hopeful, all at once. It is long, but every scene is important and each will encourage you to wish Arthur and Kel well, whatever happens. 

 

Where In The Literary World Are You Today?

My literary locations of late have been shrouded in mystery, that is to say that I haven't posted them in a while...

Today though, I am in the office of the mysterious Mr Benedict, who keeps falling asleep. I have been through several very strange tests to get this far, including a maze, and an impossible exam. Looks like I'm a member of an elite team, but for what purpose I haven't a clue.

- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This copy published by the Folio Society

I was delighted when this was chosen as a book club read a couple of months ago. I love the Hitchhikers books, but haven't read them in a good few years. 

I have the first three of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (a trilogy in five parts) as Folio editions, and as with all Folio books, they are beautiful.

Our hero is a very ordinary human called Arthur Dent, who awakes on Thursday morning to discover his long term pal, Ford isn't Human at all and is going to rescue him from the imminent destruction of the Earth by the alien race the Vogons who need to bulldoze it to make room for Hyper-spacial express route.

From then on in, Arthur dressed in his PJs and dressing gown is introduced to an array of mad characters who take him on an adventure across the universe. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy of the title is the book which Ford is employed to do research for, so that the entries on the various places around the galaxy can be kept up to date.

Whether you have read the book or not, the characters names have entered the everyday lexicon, including Marvin the paranoid android (brain as big as a planet) and the fantastically titled Slartibartfast who won awards for designing the Fjords of Norway.

It is frankly one of the most bonkers and yet clever books I have read. The adventure is funny, and thrilling, and full of intellect and clever observations. If Steve Jobs didn't base the iPhone on the Hitchhikers Guide, I'll eat my towel.

Remember, Don't Panic!

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Published by Vintage Children's Classics

Firstly, this is one of a series of books published by Vintage Children's Classics, and who could fail to love that cover!

The story is set in a alternative Britain during the reign of Charles II. There is already a tunnel under the English Channel and this has allowed wolves from Northern Russia to make it to Britain where the climate is less severe. The Wolves roam the countryside in packs terrorising the locals. 

Bonnie lives with her parents in the grand house of Willoughby Chase, with servants and horses and all that a little girl could want. The house is a happy and contented place to be. Bonnie's Mum is ill and so her father takes her on a Mediterranean sea voyage to help her recover, leaving Bonnie and her newly arrived cousin Sylvia in the hands of a governess called Miss Slighcarp. As you have probably guessed from the name, Miss Slighcarp isn't going to win any childcare awards, and packs the girls off to a terrible workhouse. From there the girls escape and with the help of their friend Simon try to raise the alarm and prevent Miss Slighcarp and her cronies from claiming Willougby Chase as her own.

This is a fantastic adventure, with plucky children trying to beat some really rather sinister baddies. The prose is very evocative of bitingly cold winters and of evil hidden in the dark shadows of a Britain before electric lighting.  The wolves bring an added element of the wild to a perfect adventure of three young children, who entirely without adult help, set out to bring justice to those who deserve it.